- The Washington Times - Friday, May 31, 2002

Asbestos lawsuits are hazardous to economic health

I share your newspaper's belief that it is a welcome change to see a group of responsible trial lawyers teaming up with business interests to address a serious problem facing our economy, namely out-of-control asbestos litigation ("Asbestos lawyers on the march," Editorial, May 26).
A report we just concluded, "The Asbestos Threat," found that asbestos lawsuits have hit 85 percent of U.S. industries. The number of claims against corporations is expected to reach 3.1 million, at a total cost of $275 billion. As a result, 50 major corporations already have filed for bankruptcy.
This is money taken out of the economy, making small businesses and American workers the losers.
The sad thing is, many of those receiving asbestos settlement awards show no sign of illness, while many who are sick are not receiving one thin dime.
I urge Congress and the general public to read our report at www.sbsc.org. The first step toward solving a problem is recognizing that it exists.

Chief economist
Small Business Survival Committee

What does it take for heads to roll at the FBI?

With respect to your editorial about the actions being taken to "fix" the FBI ("Rowley's risk," Op-Ed, May 30), the thing that amazes me is that no one seems angry that the hierarchy of the agency has remained virtually unchanged, even as the rights of citizens are being further circumscribed to supposedly combat future terrorism.
There is a systemic problem in the FBI, which has given us Robert Hanssen's spying, John Connolly's mafia collaboration in Boston and the driving out of agent Robert O'Neil, an anti-terrorism expert described in a recent Times article ("Why the FBI failed to pick up the scent") as "the one person who might have anticipated the [September 11] attacks on America." These three examples are just a few of the latest revelations of dishonesty, apathy and treachery in the FBI.
So why have no heads rolled? A memorandum in July from an agent in Phoenix to investigate Middle Eastern students in flight schools was ignored by the powers that be. A terrorist connection explored by another midgrade agent in Minneapolis, Coleen Rowley, was largely ignored by her superiors. Now she is afraid of reprisal for blowing the whistle on their negligence. Again, why have no heads rolled?
What does this tell us about the FBI and, by extension, the civilians who are charged with its oversight? Either they are incompetent to exercise the responsibility with which they have been entrusted, or this is another example of the "we protect our own" mentality endemic to bureaucracies.
It is a disgrace. It is dangerous. And it is not limited to the FBI.

Centerville, Mass.

Senator barks up wrong tree

Sen. Larry E. Craig's Op-Ed column about trade remedy laws in the United States ("The truth about the Dayton-Craig amendment," May 28) repeats a false line familiar to Canadians.
He states that hundreds of U.S. lumber mill jobs have been lost since March 2001 when the Canada-U.S. Softwood Lumber Agreement expired. He goes on to say that Canada dumped lumber relentlessly into the United States, even though the value of that lumber already was low, causing U.S. timber prices to be further depressed.
This is a refrain Canadians have heard time and again from U.S. congressmen from the Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports (CFLI). Constant repetition of these myths through the years has done nothing to improve their veracity.
Canada has one-third of the U.S. lumber market not because of unfair trade procedures but because the U.S. industry has been unable to meet domestic lumber demands for decades. Imports from Canada play a vital and important role in the U.S. market, serving needs that U.S. mills simply cannot satisfy. Lumber exports from other countries also have been gaining market share in the United States.
Of the 133 mills cited by the CFLI in its submission to the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), only seven companies publicly attributed the closure of their mills to foreign imports.
More than twice that many U.S. mills were closed due to a timber shortage where the mills operated. Other mills closed for reasons such as their inefficiency or the difficult market in Japan. A number of the mills cited by the CFLI were not even actually closed.
In fact, on May 2, the United States' ITC categorically rejected the U.S. lumber industry's argument by saying that Canadian lumber has not harmed the United States so far. This decision by a U.S. agency completely puts to lie Mr. Craig and the U.S. industry's arguments that Canadian lumber imports have caused U.S. mills to close down and put lumber laborers out of work.
Finally, it should be noted that the use of anti-competitive trade law in the case of softwood lumber will result in harm to U.S. consumers without providing the support to U.S. lumber mills that Mr. Craig hopes it will. Restrictions on Canadian imports are designed to, and will, increase prices for U.S. consumers. Mr. Craig really should be explaining why he supports higher lumber prices for Americans, not to mention his own constituents in Idaho.

B.C. Lumber Trade Council
Vancouver, British Columbia

Don't conflate McGovern's politics with his person

Two days after Memorial Day, columnist Arnold Beichman referred to former Sen. George McGovern as "unmemorable." Though not surprised by yet another gratuitous slap at a liberal Democrat, I was taken aback by both the timing of the comment and Mr. Beichman's use of the word "unmemorable."
Perhaps I can jog Mr. Beichman's memory. Forty years before The Times began publication, Mr. McGovern was flying over Europe in a B-17 into flak barrages that killed thousands of his brother airmen. For his bravery during those 50-plus missions, he won the Distinguished Flying Cross. I find that memorable, as I do his decision during the 1972 presidential campaign to forbid his campaign managers from referencing his wartime heroism.
I hope these facts remind Mr. Beichman that honor, valor and decency are not determined by one's political ideology.

Vienna, Va.

Give Few a little credit

Yesterday's article on Fire Chief Ronnie Few ("Chief Few resigns") noted a litany of criticisms that led to his resignation, i.e., "for not addressing the department's problems with aging trucks and malfunctioning communications equipment, for obsessing over regulations governing facial hair and sleepwear, and for a deterioration in the department's emergency response times."
All but one of these criticisms may be legitimate. Although it may sound petty to a layman to obsess over facial hair, facial hair can break the seal on the face mask that protects a firefighter against inhaling air that can french-fry his or her lungs. On that count, outgoing Fire Chief Few had the best interest of his firefighters in mind.

Survival Counts Inc.
Middletown, Md.

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