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On Relief and Risks: Cadmium v. Earthquakes

Wednesday, January 13, 2010  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

The pictures from Haiti make clear that the devastation there is immense.

The New York Times’ The Lede blog has regular updates on conditions in the country.

World Vision is already delivering relief to the island nation.

The Salvation Army has been a force for good in the impoverished country for years, and is also accepting donations for immediate earthquake relief via their website or via phone at 1-800-SAL-ARMY. The press release on damage done to the Army’s operations by the earthquake is here.

Some day a similar-size or even much larger earthquake will hit the United States, and we will regret all the years in which warnings went by unnoticed or even undelivered.

Which brings me to cadmium.

In this Dec. 17, 2009 photo, Jeff Weidenhamer, professor of chemistry at Ashland University, holds a "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer", charm in Ashland, Ohio. Barred from using lead in children's jewelry because of its toxicity, some Chinese manufacturers have been substituting the more dangerous heavy metal cadmium in sparkling charm bracelets and shiny pendants being sold throughout the United States, an Associated Press investigation shows. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Claire’s has joined Wal-Mart in pulling children’s jewelry from its shelves for fear of the content level of cadmium in the products.

New York’s Charles Schumer immediately called for a legislative ban on cadmium in products, and the Consumer Products Safety Commission is investigating.

Cadmium is indeed a nasty substance, a known carcinogen, and taking steps to limit exposure to it makes sense.

But the sudden rush to recall, regulate and ban is just the latest example of the increasing inability of the public to judge relative levels of risk because of a political system that allies with needy media to turn everything into panic.

I have covered the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act fiasco extensively here and on my radio show. My law partners Gary Wolensky and Liz McNulty have spent a great deal of time in the last 18 months advising companies on how to comply with its onerous requirements of the CPSIA which have actually forced the bankruptcy of many small companies and the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs. Gary and Liz are no doubt right now at the office trying to figure out how to keep their clients out of cadmium-related trouble. The expense of compliance with all these rules is immense.

What do you think is the net benefit to safety?

If even a fraction of the cost of compliance with CPSIA and the soon-to-arrive cadmium law and rules was spent on earthquake preparedness in any of our high risk zones, which is the better expenditure?

That question won’t get asked by camera-hungry politicians looking for a hearing subject that will get them some press. So look for the Congress to take up a cadmium exposure protection statute even as we watch the unfolding horror in Haiti. It isn’t rational to overprotect against cadmium and underprotect against the inevitable massive quake in California.

But that’s what we are going to do.

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Helping Haiti and the Dominican Republic

Tuesday, January 12, 2010  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Here are links to two orphanages in Haiti:

God’s Littlest Angels

Mercy & Sharing

Longer term relief in the form of a sponsorship of a child over the border in the Dominican republic can be done through Children Internasttional. More that 1,200 listeners of the program have sponsored a child in the DR, and CI does an extraordinary job of bringing hope to these poverty stricken communities, which are of course home to many refugees from Haiti.

“Just 36 Percent Of Americans Approve Of Mr. Obama’s Handling Of Health Care.” The Cost of Combining Chicago-style Politics and San Francisco-style Policies

Tuesday, January 12, 2010  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

The CBS polling data underscores what every objective analyst knows: The voters hate Obamacare. They know it will slash Medicare benefits while jacking up taxes, and the impact to existing health insurance policies will be dire, even if delayed by a couple of years.

The president’s overall numbers are also in the tank:

With the unemployment picture unlikely to improve significantly in 2010, and Democrats finding even Massachusetts a tough political environment, House Democrats generally and some endangered Senate Democrats –even Evan Bayh in Indiana?– have to wonder whether Obamacare is worth it. The White House warns that not passing anything will be worse than passing a deeply flawed bill, but would it be?

If enough House Democrats just say no, they will force the president into convening a genuinely bipartisan effort to salvage the agreed-upon insurance reforms while dumping the radical portions of his proposals and especially the tax hikes that could not arrive at a worse time. The president will not willingly agree to such a set-back, but Democrats watching Scott Brown raise $1.3 million in one day yesterday must know what is headed at them if they persist in using Chicago-style politics to achieve San Francisco-style policies.

FYI: Brown has released a new ad that answers the negative attacks fromCoakley. Brown is demonstrating to GOP candidates across the country how to run this year, and his disciplined messaging and online presence are models to be studied. Every Republican should be trying to sign his management team asap.

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