Commentary

A Little History and a Reality Check on GM Safety Scandal

A Little History and a Reality Check on GM Safety Scandal

When General Motors CEO Mary Barra appeared before Congress in early April to apologize for the company’s 10-year cover-up of a lethal safety defect, it was a headline-grabbing moment. But it was not unprecedented. Hovering over  Barra was the ghost of another momentous GM mea culpa, delivered to Congress nearly half a century ago. On […]

It’s Time to Accelerate the Shift to a Low-Carbon Future

In the struggle to solve the climate crisis, a powerful, largely unnoticed shift is taking place. The forward journey for human civilization will be difficult and dangerous, but it is now clear that we will ultimately prevail. The only question is how quickly we can accelerate and complete the transition to a low-carbon civilization. There […]

The GM Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan. Photo courtesy Carlos Osorio, AP Photo.

GM Ignition Switch Scandal Echoes Infamous Fire-Prone Pickups Case

Recent disclosures about the ignition switch defect in millions of General Motors cars–and the company’s early and secret knowledge of the hazard–are disturbing by themselves. But they are also an eerie echo of the terrible carnage from an earlier, even bigger safety scandal involving millions of fire-prone GM pickup trucks. Thanks to a bailout from […]

GM Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra testifies during a House Energy and Commerce hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington April 1, 2014. Congress is trying to establish who is to blame for at least 13 auto-related deaths over the past decade, as public hearings are held over two days on General Motors Co's slow response to defective ignition switches in cars.

Like Them or Hate Them, Injury Lawsuits Sometimes Expose Health and Safety Hazards

The scandal over General Motors’ concealment for more than a decade of dangerously defective ignition switches in some of its cars highlights an often-overlooked fact: Injury lawsuits sometimes reveal health and safety hazards that would otherwise remain secret. As Ben Kelley notes, the deadly ignition defects were not exposed by engineers for GM or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but by an engineer for plaintiffs in a wrongful-death suit.

American gun use is out of control. Shouldn’t the world intervene?

Last week, Starbucks asked its American customers to please not bring their guns into the coffee shop. This is part of the company’s concern about customer safety and follows a ban in the summer on smoking within 25 feet of a coffee shop entrance and an earlier ruling about scalding hot coffee. After the celebrated […]

‘Chemical brain drain’ endangers generations of children

According to some scholars, toxic exposures contributed to the collapse of the Roman Empire. Roman rulers were poisoned by water cisterns and food containers fashioned from lead. These extreme exposures could have gradually made the Patrician families deranged and infertile – leaving no competent leaders to run the Empire. A similar fate seems to have […]

The Tobacco Problem in U.S. Trade

Should tobacco be like any other product in U.S. trade? The question bedeviled U.S. policymakers for decades, but it has now arisen again, with much controversy, in the context of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the pending trade deal between the United States and eleven other countries. The White House has tried to finesse the issue, […]

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From Childhood Tragedy, a Success Story

Linda Ginzel and Boaz Keysar experienced the worst horror that can befall parents — the death of their 16-month-old son in a crib accident. That and similar tragedies led to regulations aimed at stopping the scourge of dangerous cribs, toys and other children’s products. Now, on the fifth anniversary of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, Ginzel and Keysar describe the law as a success story.

Silencing the Whistle-Blowers

Last week Pfc. Bradley Manning returned to court for his final pretrial hearing in the WikiLeaks case, an appearance that has renewed debate about how to balance the imperatives of national security against the rights of whistle-blowers. But while Private Manning’s ordeal has received exhaustive news coverage, it may ultimately have a less profound bearing […]

Counter-demonstrator at March rally against gun violence in Annapolis, Md. (iStockphoto)

An Open Letter to Gun Owners:

David Hemenway, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, calls on gun owners to work side by side with non-owners to fight the scourge of gun violence. “If, as many of you say, you disagree with the gun lobby’s positions,” Hemenway writes, “please do something about it.”