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Inside the Beltway

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 7, 2010

'O' RATIONS

"The decision is not whether or not we will ration care. The decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open," Dr. Donald Berwick told a National Institutes of Health publication about a year ago, back when he was simply president and CEO of the Institute for Health Care Improvement. Now that President Obama has appointed Dr. Berwick to serve as the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services - an instrumental role in implementing health care reform - the worries have begun.

"Donald Berwick is a one-man death panel. While Americans may not remember the agency he heads, he will quickly become known as Obama's rationing czar," predicts David N. O'Steen, executive director of the National Right to Life, where medical ethicists fret that Dr. Berwick's policies could ultimately deny lifesaving care to aging, ailing Americans.

"Dr. Berwick is another example of President Obama's extreme liberal agenda," says Tom McClusky of FRC Action, the legislative arm of the Family Research Council - who is wary of Dr. Berwick's professed admiration for British-style socialized medical services.

"Americans should keep their eyes open to guard their health from Donald Berwick's extreme view of medicine. He will only bring America's high standards for health care services down, and hurt Americans through rationing and lower standards of medical treatment," Mr. McClusky adds.

DR. WHO?

President Obama's deft "recess" appointment of the aforementioned physician while Congress is out presumably swimming and boating has been ignored by broadcasters for the most part.

"It had to be big news, right? Well, not according to NBC, CBS and ABC, as there was no mention of the President's decision Tuesday night," says Media Research Center analyst Geoffrey Dickens, who adds that the "embargo on the information" continued into Wednesday, save for a 20-second mention on NBC's "Today" show.

"They were much more enthusiastic about the news that actress Lindsay Lohan was sentenced to 90 days in jail for her run-ins with the law as they devoted 21 minutes and 37 seconds to the starlet," Mr. Dickens adds.

ANOTHER APOLOGY TOUR

Levi Johnston, former swain of Bristol Palin and father of Sarah Palin's grandson, is at the 14 minutes and 50 seconds marker of his 15 minutes of fame. He has flaunted his notoriety, posed nude and criticized all things Palin, but has switched to sincere mode, issuing a carefully worded mea culpa to the family, published in People magazine.

"Did the Palins get to him? Did they sit him down?" asks ABC News anchor Jeremy Hubbard, pining for a whiff of conspiracy.

Mr. Johnston's curtain call combines trite press and happenstance, yielding a teachable moment.

"Johnston publicly apologizes to the Palins, but will the mainstream media do the same?" asks Mike Opelka, a BigJournalism.com contributor.

"People magazine's latest piece on that rapidly dimming Northern Light known as Levi Johnston is no surprise to people who know and respect Sarah Palin. The only ones astonished to discover that a 17-year-old boy lied in order to get famous are the professional journalists who would rather interview TinaFey pretending Sarah Palin than to be forced to actually speak with the former vice-presidential candidate herself," Mr. Opelka says.

THERE ARE LIMITS

"We believe that her credibility in her position as senior editor for Middle Eastern affairs has been compromised going forward," said Parisa Khosravi, CNN International's senior vice president for newsgathering, on announcing that correspondent Octavia Nasr had lost her job by revealing via Twitter that she was upset over the death of Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, a member of Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group.

WARMITUS

Beware. Sound the alarms. Get out the face masks. Climate change makes people sick, says the Union of Concerned Scientists - including researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and NOAA - which will reveal all at a Thursday press conference to address "the serious effects of climate change on public health."

Indeed, among the many to speak: Purdue University earth sciences professor Matt Huber, who will offer evidence that climate change "could make parts of the Earth - including the eastern half of the United States - essentially, uninhabitable because of heat and humidity."

FAT AND HAPPY

They must be many miles from the alarmists. And the food police. The Orange County Fair, which opens next week in Costa Mesa, Calif., proudly announces the addition of the Heart Attack Cafe to its roster of visitor features. The eatery specializes in spirited deep-fried fair fare. On the menu: the new deep-fried Klondike Bar, deep-fried butter (don't ask), deep-fried cheese quesadillas and, of course, the regulars: deep-fried Twinkies, Oreos, S'mores and frogs' legs.

Chocolate-covered bacon returns, a spokeswoman says, along with the Krispy Kreme Chicken Sandwich, Colossal Curly Fry Cones and the new 11-inch-wide Belly Buster Burger.

POLL DU JOUR

  • 85 percent of Americans have heard of the federal government's food "pyramid" guidelines; 71 percent have not used it.
  • 77 percent of Americans are trying to lose weight.
  • 77 percent are not meeting the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services guidelines for physical activity.
  • 69 percent are "changing" the amount of food they eat.
  • 63 percent are changing "the type" of food they eat.
  • 19 percent are tracking their calories.
  • 12 percent can accurately estimate the calories they consume daily.

Source: International Food Information Council Foundation 2010 Food & Health Survey of 1,024 American adults conducted in April and May.

Standing by for murmurs, asides, cumbersome press releases at jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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