If bill passes, feds will have to say, `And that's not really the way it is'
Walter Cronkite had one. And Edward R. Murrow's is so well-known that it's now the title of a popular movie co-written, directed and starring George Clooney.
Television news correspondents and anchors use their trademark sign-offs to better connect with viewers. Think Murrow's "Good night and good luck," or Dan Rather's one-word goodbye, "Courage."
Now Karen Ryan is going to have to change hers.
She is the real-life public relations flack turned faux reporter, who famously parroted the Bush administration's company line on the attributes of the Medicare Modernization Act in a series of fake news segments that were aired as the real thing by some local stations around the country. Viewers could understandably be confused when she signed off, "In Washington, I'm Karen Ryan reporting."
But under legislation reported out of the Senate Commerce Committee on Oct. 20, those types of videos would require a disclaimer that identifies the U.S. government as the source-something the original Ryan segments did not do.
The legislation, sponsored by Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.), requires any prepackaged reports from the administration to "clearly state that they were, in fact, paid for and (are) the property of the federal government," says Lautenberg spokesman Alex Formuzis.
Even so, some media watchers say that a series of last-minute amendments blunt the original intent of the bill.
The Center for Media and Democracy, a Madison, Wis.-based watchdog group that has tracked the legislation, says that in its original form, the bill would have required a continuous, on-screen disclosure by the government-a requirement nixed in a series of amendments by Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska).
Instead of a stinging rebuke to the Bush administration, the bill moved from "being very specific to being very vague," says Diane Farsetta, senior researcher for the center. Still, the amendments offer the legislation a better chance of passing the House and Senate, she admits.
In the words of Walter Cronkite: "And that's the way it is."
Four-alarm cholesterol ignites change
Firehouses are justifiably famous for their fatty fare, and Austin (Texas) Fire Station No. 2 is no exception. Huge steaks, burgers and sausage pizza dominate the larder. But two years ago one firefighter, James Rae, got a cholesterol reading of 335, putting him at severe risk for cardiac arrest.
Rae says he got off his "redneck" diet and then was persuaded by a fellow firefighter, Rip Esselstyn, to become, of all things, a vegetarian, at least while on the job. A triathlete, Esselstyn goes further, eschewing all animal products. The pair got two other firefighters to go all veggie while on duty, though all but Esselstyn eat some meat at home.
The men see the results of bad eating habits-people debilitated or dying from heart attacks and diabetes-all the time on fire calls, Esselstyn says, which makes sticking to healthy eating easier.
The diet switch has other Austin firefighters amused. "They don't need a lawn mower. Just put them on a leash and let them graze awhile," says Zane Carson, who works at another station.
For those worried about firehouse tradition, the other 11 firefighters at the station still keep the fridge stocked with bacon cheeseburgers and pizza.
Newt-ists show themselves in Nashville
Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker who now heads the for-profit Center for Health Transformation in Washington, was a hit last week at the Medical Group Management Association's annual meeting in Nashville.
The man who would be president drew a standing-room-only crowd early Monday morning to the main ballroom of the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, where he delivered his usual prescription for reducing costs and improving quality in medical care.
Afterward, a throng of attendees formed a long, winding queue that stretched for what seemed like a half block through the interior of the massive convention center, waiting patiently for almost two hours for Newt's signature on his recent books.
Of course, with about 2,900 paid attendees at the four-day confab, not everyone was enthusiastic about the appearance of a politician who once ranked among the most polarizing figures in the nation's capital.
Complained one medical-practice administrator from Georgia: "This year, we've got Gingrich-who're they going to get next year, Karl Rove?"
Writing contest is in another vein altogether
There are essay contests by the thousands across the country, but DaVita is sponsoring what may be the first in which the winner will receive a free seven-day sea cruise and dialysis.
The promotion is an effort to remind patients of the service, which has been provided by Dialysis at Sea Cruises since 1977 and was featured in Outliers in 1996. The cruises allow patients usually tethered to medical facilities to travel in style with physicians, nurses, dietitians and other medical professionals in tow.
El Segundo, Calif.-based DaVita is asking visitors to its Web site, davita.com, to nominate their Kidney Idol by Nov. 4.
Nominees can be patients, caregivers or "anyone in the chronic kidney disease or dialysis community who makes a difference."
An essay no longer than 250 words must accompany the nomination. The four best essays will be subject to an online vote to determine the winner.