- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 14, 2005

A trust fund for asbestos victims

FreedomWorks’ position on the trust-fund solution to the asbestos litigation crisis has further complicated the issue on Capitol Hill (“Wrong approach on asbestos,” Commentary, March 6). As a former co-chairman of FreedomWorks, I have a different viewpoint on this vital topic.

Having studied the issue, I think it is clear that a medical criteria bill, which FreedomWorks is advocating, simply will not provide justice to the thousands of asbestos victims, nor will it bring relief to the growing number of companies (including many small businesses) that face the increasing risk of bankruptcy because of asbestos liability.

To date, asbestos lawsuits have driven more than 75 businesses into bankruptcy, more than half of which have occurred since 2000. Thousands of jobs have been lost, and many more remain at risk.

It is estimated that as many as 8,400 companies, representing nearly all 83 of the nation’s industrial sectors, have been named as defendants in asbestos lawsuits. Both Fortune 500 companies and “mom and pop” businesses have become targets of asbestos litigation.

It is evident that the asbestos litigation crisis is taking an ever-increasing toll on asbestos victims and the U.S. economy. Victims will continue to suffer, more companies will go bankrupt and more jobs will be lost if Congress doesn’t soon take action to resolve the problem.

In my view, a national asbestos victims’ trust fund is the most workable solution to this appalling problem. The trust fund, by immediately pre-empting the current system, will not only ensure fair and certain compensation for victims, but also will bring much-needed relief to businesses, workers and our nation’s economy.

I support the current version of Senate Bill 852, the FAIR (Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution) Act of 2005, because it represents a fair and equitable compromise for the multitude of interests involved. The FAIR Act has bipartisan support, and I encourage the leaders in the Senate to pass this bill to provide immediate relief for truly needy victims.

JACK KEMP

Founder and chairman

Kemp Partners

Washington

Biotech growth and stem-cell research

The story “Biotech companies leave Montgomery” (Page 1, yesterday) illustrates a mundane but important fact: While political activists declare that states not engaged in embryonic stem-cell research and human cloning will suffer a brain drain to areas pursuing those avenues, real biotech companies are choosing where to locate based on such things as real-estate prices and tax advantages.

The article mentions, for example, that Sioux Falls, S.D., is “emerging as a biotech hub” because of low property costs, although South Dakota has the strictest laws in the nation (and perhaps the world) against harmful embryo research or use of embryonic stem cells. The fastest-growing biotech sector in continental Europe is in Germany, which also has the strictest laws in the area on embryo research.

States seeking to attract biotech growth may want to review their economic incentives instead of discarding their moral norms.

RICHARD DOERFLINGER

Silver Spring

Taiwan needs U.S. support

Don Feder is correct in warning Americans about China (“What China wants,” Commentary,Monday). China’s attempts to isolate Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian for the past few years are acts, at best, of brutal interference in social-political harmony in Taiwan. In effect, China tried to undermine Saturday’s upcoming voting in Taiwan for the legal right to hold a referendum on the constitution, which China views as moving toward independence, and therefore illegal.

The right of referendum is one way to achieve a peaceful transition from a totalitarian government to a democratic one in Taiwan and is one of human rights for which the Taiwanese people have been working. The Bush administration should have been supporting it, but has not.

More to the point, what does Taiwan want? The Taiwanese need support to decide their own future without depending on the United States. Taiwan does not want to wait until the United States has to send troops when China attacks. It will be too late then. Taiwan needs national defense, but not to the point of exhausting its resources. Taiwan wants to work with international communities for a peaceful world, especially in Asia.

What Taiwan needs is moral support, loud and clear, from the Bush administration that the United States supports democracy in Taiwan. It needs to know that the United States supports an open society, that it respects human rights and that the people can coexist in harmony. This support is similar to what President Bush expressed during his trip to the countries of the former Soviet Union.

PHIL LIU

Winchester, Mass.

Muhammad, Malvo and Gansler

What is the point of bringing John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo to Maryland for a trial (“Snipers will be tried in Maryland,” Page 1, Wednesday)? Is this merely political grandstanding by Montgomery County State’s Attorney Douglas F. Gansler? Will he attempt shamelessly to exploit a series of personal tragedies to further his political career?

Maryland has a thug-friendly climate, and this is especially true in liberal bastions such as Montgomery County and Baltimore, where no crime has been deemed appropriate for the death penalty in the memory of most residents. We also have Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., who opposes both the death penalty and the rights of citizens to legally own the tools of self-defense. Montgomery County juries are notorious for their disdain for victims and police testimony. Lenience shown in a high-profile and brutal Ocean City murder and dismemberment case shocked most people outside of that jurisdiction.

Our state judiciary has been packed with bleeding-heart judges who regularly obstruct the execution of the worst of the worst. Our legislature does not help, and serial killing is not defined as an aggravating circumstance that merits a one-way trip to death row.

We also should fear that Maryland might not return Muhammad to Virginia for a well-deserved execution after his conviction but might allow him to spend a lifetime of indolence at taxpayers’ expense. This could well occur if the “progressives” are able to sabotage the efforts of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to restore sanity in government. Liberal Mario Cuomo performed such a trick during his term as governor of New York when he expended more than $1 million to “save” a killer then on death row in Oklahoma. Mr. Cuomo’s Republican successor returned the criminal to face his fate after the voters of New York retired Mr. Cuomo from public office, but the ploy might be repeated by other thug-huggers.

Let Virginia justice be imposed rather than play tawdry political games.

ARTHUR DOWNS

Severna Park, Md.

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