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News Briefs, part 2

Whitewater Figure Pleads Guilty, Agrees to Aid Starr

Los Angeles Times

A Little Rock land appraiser who created phony evaluations of real estate projects involved in the Whitewater investigation Monday pleaded guilty and agreed to provide evidence to independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr.

Robert W. Palmer, 44, entered his plea before a federal judge as part of an agreement with Starr, who has been investigating President Clinton's investment in the Ozarks resort development known as Whitewater.

His plea is expected to be followed Tuesday by the announcement of another plea agreement between Starr and former Associate Attorney General Webster L. Hubbell, a close friend of the president and former law partner to first lady Hillary Clinton.

It is unlikely that Palmer can provide Starr with any direct evidence to support the central allegation in the Whitewater case that money from the now-defunct Madison Guaranty Savings & Loan was diverted illegally into Clinton's Whitewater real estate investment or his gubernatorial campaign fund.

Nevertheless, because Palmer was responsible for drafting false appraisals for loans to real estate projects by friends of Madison owner James McDougal, he is certain to provide insight into a wide range of financial transactions - perhaps including some aspects of the joint Clinton-McDougal investment in Whitewater.

Medical Institute Calls Obesity A ŒDegenerative Disease'

Los Angeles Times

The Institute of Medicine Monday called for a fundamental change in public thinking about obesity, saying that the condition should be regarded not as a cosmetic problem but as "an important, chronic, degenerative disease that debilitates individuals and kills prematurely."

Treatment goals and programs should be aimed toward long-term weight management, rather than weight loss alone - with the goal of achieving and maintaining the appropriate weight for an individual's overall health, instead of for appearance only, the institute said.

Anti-obesity medications and surgery, for example, "deserve a new look as potentially powerful and effective weight-management treatments, if used properly, for some people," specifically those who have failed with other approaches, the report said.

Specifically, the panel urged health professionals to consider changing the way anti-obesity drugs are administered - typically they are limited to several months use - so that such medications "are treated similarly to those used for the treatment of other medical problems, such as hypertension."

The institute, part of the National Academy of Sciences, is a private nonprofit organization chartered by Congress that provides health policy advice to the federal government. While its recommendations are not binding, they typically wield considerable influence among decision-makers.

Meanwhile, former Surgeon Gen. C. Everett Koop launched a new campaign timed to coincide with the document on obesity, urging Americans to "eat sensibly, exercise regularlyŠ (and) shape up."