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In the Loop: U.S. lawmakers visit Haiti and its president . . . that guy

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These are obviously difficult, even dangerous, times for State Department employees. And the agency is trying to help its workers deal with the stress sparked by the constant struggles with enemies -- and "frenemies," as comedian Stephen Colbert would say -- all over the world.

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The effort appears to employ nontraditional methods, judging from this invite we got last week.

"The Deployment Stress Management Program is pleased to welcome State Department employees to attend the Meditation Practice held every Friday at 12:00 -- 1:00 p.m." at headquarters in Foggy Bottom.

"Each session will begin with a guided or silent meditation," the invitation says, and then "the group peers will offer a few remarks to seed a discussion aimed at helping individuals incorporate a regular meditation practice into their individual lives."

Why try this? The answer, we're told: "Meditation provides a possibility for self- transformation through self-observation. It focuses on the observation of the self on the interplay between mind and body, experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical and mental sensations that form the life of the body and that continuously feedback and condition the life of the mind."

At a minimum, it's a good way to relax on Fridays in preparation for a weekend with the kids.

Peak employment

The Obama administration, with top officials starting to leave and more almost surely going after the elections, may have reached what now passes for full employment in the senior ranks of the government. According to Head Count, The Washington Post's online interactive tracker of the top 526 officials in the executive branch (excluding judges, ambassadors, prosecutors, federal marshals and certain other posts), the administration has filled 413, or 78.5 percent, of those jobs; 29 more nominees (5.5 percent) are pending Senate confirmation; and the White House has announced the nominations of five (1 percent) more people.

That may be close to the high-water mark for this year in terms of filling positions. It could be tough to increase the percentage, given likely departures in the next five months and with the Senate now gone, back briefly in September, then in for a short lame-duck session after the election and then gone until the end of January.

Graphics guru Karen Yourish contributed to this column.


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