July 14, 2007
CPSC Proposal to Strengthen Efforts Against Unsafe Imports
Article in the Wall Street Journal -- Product Safety Commission Aims to Strengthen Ability to Combat Unsafe Imports, by Christopher Conkey. Here's an excerpt:
The Consumer Product Safety Commission says it has a new proposal to strengthen its ability to combat unsafe imports. But the measure faces limited resources and challenges from lawmakers.
Nancy Nord, the CPSC's acting chairman, plans to present Congress on Monday with several measures that would beef up the agency's ability to impose safety requirements and sanctions, such as by increasing its authority to stop unsafe imports at the border. Her plan also would increase the maximum fine for violations more than fivefold, to $10 million.
The proposals, which would need Congress's approval, come at a time of heightened concern over the hazards posed by Chinese-made products ranging from pet food to children's toys.
But Ms. Nord's plan wouldn't seek more funding, which many critics see as a central problem for the agency. The CPSC currently has about 400 full-time employees, and its work force has steadily declined in recent years, even as globalization has made product safety more challenging.
July 10, 2007
Former Surgeon General Carmona Testifies About Administration Pressure on His Health Statements
Article in the New York Times -- Surgeon General Sees 4-year Term as Compromised, by Gardiner Harris. Here's an excerpt:
Former Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona told a Congressional panel Tuesday that top Bush administration officials repeatedly tried to weaken or suppress important public health reports because of political considerations.
The administration, Dr. Carmona said, would not allow him to speak or issue reports about stem cells, emergency contraception, sex education, or prison, mental and global health issues. Top officials delayed for years and tried to “water down” a landmark report on secondhand smoke, he said. Released last year, the report concluded that even brief exposure to cigarette smoke could cause immediate harm.
Dr. Carmona said he was ordered to mention President Bush three times on every page of his speeches. He also said he was asked to make speeches to support Republican political candidates and to attend political briefings.
July 9, 2007
Anti-Smoking Pill Chantix May Be Used to Curb Drinking
Article in the New York Times -- Anti - Smoking Pill May Help Curb Drinking, by the Associated Press. A prior post on Chantix on the Mass Tort Litigation Blog lead to numerous posted comments noting negative health effects from taking Chantix. Here's an excerpt:
A single pill appears to hold promise in curbing the urges to both smoke and drink, according to researchers trying to help people overcome addiction by targeting a pleasure center in the brain.
The drug, called varenicline, already is sold to help smokers kick the habit. New but preliminary research suggests it could gain a second use in helping heavy drinkers quit, too.
Much further down the line, the tablets might be considered as a treatment for addictions to everything from gambling to painkillers, researchers said.
Several experts not involved in the study cautioned that there is no such thing as a magic cure-all for addiction and that varenicline and similar drugs may find more immediate use in treating diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Pfizer Inc. developed the drug specifically as a stop-smoking aid and has sold it in the United States since August under the brand name Chantix. Varenicline works by latching onto the same receptors in the brain that nicotine binds to when inhaled in cigarette smoke, an action that leads to the release of dopamine in the brain's pleasure centers. Taking the drug blocks any inhaled nicotine from reinforcing that effect.
David Bershad of Milberg Weiss & Bershad to Plead Guilty
Article on cnnmoney.com -- Defendant to plead guilty today in Milberg case, by Roger Parloff. Here's an excerpt:
Defendant David J. Bershad, 67, a named partner at the indicted class-action law firm now known as Milberg Weiss & Bershad, is expected to plead guilty to conspiracy to obstruct justice at 2 p.m. PT today in Los Angeles federal court.
By pleading guilty to non-fraud counts, Bershad will limit his sentencing exposure under the guidelines. By cooperating with the government, as he is also understood to be doing, he will be eligible for a “downward departure” from those guideline recommendations.
According to a person familiar with the situation, Bershad’s plea will relate to the core allegations of the indictment: misleading judges into believing that plaintiffs were being paid by Milberg Weiss, when in fact the firm was paying them. A “factual statement” accompanying the plea is also expected to unveil new details of the government’s allegations against the still unindicted “Partner A” and “Partner B,” who are widely assumed to be, respectively, name partner Melvyn Weiss and former name partner William Lerach. Lerach and the San Diego-based west coast office of Milberg Weiss split away from Milberg Weiss in 2004 to found Lerach Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins.