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In Trump era, the watchwords for product safety are 'consumer beware' 

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Grand Rapids, Mich., on March 28. Credit: AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta

When the wheels come off

Should we look to government to keep unsafe products off the market or put more of our trust in the companies selling them? The Trump administration chooses Door Number 2.

President Donald Trump's across-the-board determination to deregulate has come under renewed scrutiny in the wake of the two Boeing 737 Max crashes and questions over whether the FAA ceded too much of its oversight role to Boeing.

In the case of aviation, that's a trend that began before Trump. But two unsettling stories in The Washington Post illustrate how the Trump administration has pushed deregulation to new frontiers in diverse corners of government.

One describes how Trump appointees on the Consumer Product Safety Commission thwarted an effort to recall a model of three-wheeled jogging strollers that would lose its front wheel. The staff's investigation found nearly 100 children and adults were injured in the resulting mishaps. The Trump-chosen commissioner who cast a deciding vote in favor of the stroller-maker came from a law firm that defended companies against product liability claims.

The Post also reports that the Trump administration plans to shift much of the power and responsibility for food safety inspections in hog plants to the pork industry as early as May, cutting the number of federal inspectors by about 40%. More of the duties for identifying diseased and contaminated pork would shift to plant employees and it would be left to plant owners to decide how much training they need.

Pat Basu, the chief veterinarian with the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service from 2016 to 2018, refused to sign off on the new pork system because of concerns about safety for both consumers and livestock. He explained how pork chops could become ticking time bombs.

“Look at the FAA. It took a year or so before the crashes happened,” Basu told the Post. “This could pass, and everything could be OK for a while, until some disease is missed, and we have an outbreak all over the country. It would be an economic disaster that would be very hard to recover from.”

Biden: I won't be loose with lips

Joe Biden acknowledged Wednesday in a tweeted video that his penchant for physical displays of affection have made some women uncomfortable, and he promised to be "much more mindful" of that.

"Social norms have begun to change. They've shifted," the 76-year-old Biden said after several women went public with complaints including an uninvited kiss on the back of the head and non-consenual nose-rubbing. "And the boundaries of protecting personal space have been reset. And I get it. I get it. I hear what they are saying. I understand." 

He didn't outright apologize, but offered an explanation for his past behavior. "In my career, I’ve always tried to make a human connection," he said. Hinting he will announce a presidential run soon, Biden said he will "be talking to you about a whole lot of issues." 

Janison: Mar-a-Lago Mata Hari?

The 32-year-old woman from China arrested after carrying four cellphones and a thumb drive infected with malware into Mar-a-Lago wasn't the craftiest at spycraft, as a criminal complaint describes her. But Yujing Zhang succeeded at bluffing her way past layers of security before the flimsiness of her cover story raised the suspicions of a receptionist. What would a seasoned pro up to no good be able to get away with?

The incident raises worries of vulnerability to cybersecurity breaches, or worse, because Trump has chosen his resort property business as the venue for his regular presidential getaways, writes Newsday's Dan Janison. It fits a broader pattern of laxity in security matters, such as when Trump sat in an open dining area at the resort discussing a North Korean missile test launch with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as club members watched.

A statement from the Secret Service said it can't control who is allowed onto the property. “The Secret Service does not determine who is invited or welcome at Mar-a-Lago; this is the responsibility of the host entity,” it said.

Democrats want to see it all

House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) has formally requested the IRS provide six years of Trump's personal and business tax returns as Democrats pore over his financial dealings and look for potential conflicts of interest.

The move came after the House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to authorize a subpoena requiring Attorney General William Barr to release special counsel Robert Mueller’s entire report and its underlying documents without redactions.

Some of Mueller’s investigators have told associates that Barr failed to adequately portray the findings of their inquiry and that they were more troubling for Trump than Barr indicated, The New York Times reported.

Rep. Jerry Nadler, the  judiciary chairman, said he had urged Barr to work with the committee to go to court for obtaining access to legally protected grand jury materials in the report. But Barr has so far refused, Nadler said. The decision, said the Manhattan Democrat, "should be up to a judge — not the president or his political appointee." For more, see Tom Brune's story for Newsday.

Windmills of his mind

When it comes to hating on wind turbines, Trump's mind spins in weird ways.

Previously, he has knocked the green-power source with a claim that if the winds are calm, the electricity goes out. No, there are batteries storing the power generated on the breezier days.

At a campaign fundraising event Tuesday night, Trump declared that noise from wind turbines causes cancer. There's no such evidence.

A Republican senator, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, said Wednesday that Trump's comments "were first of all idiotic, and it doesn’t show much respect for Chuck Grassley as the grandfather of the wind energy tax credit.”

Beto's call for racial justice

Beto O’Rourke — one of 11 contenders for the Democratic 2020 nomination due to speak at the Rev. Al Sharpton's annual National Action Network convention — called for upending a system that has "suppressed some communities soled based on the color of their skin."

The former Texas congressman said he would, if elected president, sign a bill by fellow Texas Democrat Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee to form a commission to consider reparations to African Americans as a form of compensation and atonement for generations of slavery. As he spoke, his presidential campaign announced it had raised $9.4 million in 18 days, which places him third among those who have disclosed the numbers.

For more, see Newsday's story by Emily Ngo.

Quiz: Who said this?

"Quite frankly, I don't want someone with the temperament of a middle school pubescent boy in the president's office."

If you guessed a woman who had a too-close encounter with Biden, you're wrong.

That's a 2016 quote about Trump from former Fox News contributor Morgan Ortagus, picked  to become the next State Department spokeswoman, CNN reports. After Trump secured the nomination three years ago, Ortagus reinvented herself as a Trump supporter. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted Wednesday night that she's got the job.

What else is happening:

  • China's Vice Premier Liu He is due to meet with Trump in the Oval Office on Thursday afternoon as trade talks continue.
  • Trump tweeted Wednesday that he never planned to push Congress to replace Obamacare before the 2020 election. But that's what he was saying until Republicans in Congress freaked out, leading Trump to claim, "I wanted to delay it myself." See Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.
  • Trump's got his work cut out for him if he wants the Republicans to be known as "the party of health care." Asked in a Morning Consult/Politico poll how much trust they placed in Trump or the GOP in Congress to protect or improve the health care system, nearly 3 in 5 voters said “not much” or “none at all." By contrast, 53% said they had “a lot” or “some” trust in Democrats.
  • Mexico's approach to Central American migrants is a hot subject for the latest Trump falsehoods, a fact-check reveals.
  • Trump didn't invent this practice, but at least 14 major donors to his inaugural fund were nominated to become ambassadors, NBC News reported. Among them is Doug Manchester, a San Diego real estate magnate ticketed for the Bahamas, who told a confirmation hearing that the country was a U.S. protectorate. The former British colony has never been a U.S. territory.
  • While the Democratic National Committee has blacklisted Fox News Channel from hosting party presidential debates, the network says Sen. Bernie Sanders will appear on a televised town hall on April 15.
  • Two high-profile members of the Democrats' progressive wing — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar — have joined noninterventionist Republican Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee in a joint letter praising Trump for his plans to withdraw from Syria, Politico reported.
  • A 76% to 18% majority of New York City voters think Mayor Bill de Blasio should not run for president in 2020, a Quinnipiac University Poll found.

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