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News Briefs

U.S. Transportation Secretary Rips Ford for Inaction in Firestone Saga


Ford Motor Co. should have notified the federal government when it began to replace Firestone tires on sport utility vehicles in foreign countries last year, U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater said.

In his sharpest remarks on the tire safety controversy that has tarnished the reputations of two major companies and his own department’s consumer watchdogs, Slater also said he is considering asking Congress to mandate that manufacturers report problems earlier.

Slater’s comments came as two congressional committees are proceeding with plans for hearings into how the companies and the government handled the tire safety problem.

The Senate Commerce Committee, led by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., announced it will hold hearings on Sept. 6. And the House Commerce Committee said it is sending investigators to Ford’s headquarters in preparation for its own hearings. House and Senate staffers have said the panels want to determine whether the system for handling auto safety problems needs to be fixed.

Firestone voluntarily recalled 6.5 million 15-inch ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT tires on Aug. 9, in response to complaints that the tire treads were coming off, often while consumers were driving at highway speeds. Most of the tires were installed as factory equipment on the popular Ford Explorer SUV.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said it is also scrutinizing other Firestone models to see if there is a problem, leaving open the possibility of further recalls.

Clinton Moves to Leave Marks on Environment and Food Safety


Mindful that Republicans could occupy the White House in less than six months, the Clinton administration is working feverishly to issue a host of new regulations supported by environmentalists and other liberal-leaning groups but opposed by many business and industry organizations.

The proposed rules would set tougher standards on a variety of topics from food labeling and diesel exhaust to the regulation of federal contractors. Taken as a group, they could account for a major chapter in Bill Clinton’s presidency.

In some cases, the White House is battling Congress to overcome Republican opposition to initiatives that require legislative approval. In other cases, however, the administration is moving aggressively to take executive actions that could regulate a wide range of activities long after Clinton has left office.

At the Environmental Protection Agency alone, officials have listed 67 regulatory decisions looming before Clinton’s second term expires in January. Environmentalists, who generally have supported the Clinton-Gore administration, are pressing the officials to take utmost advantage of their remaining months.

“If they were to accomplish all their goals, it would cement Clinton’s legacy as one of the nation’s great environmental presidents,” said Daniel Weiss, a political director with the Sierra Club.

Supporters recognize that Clinton must use executive powers to institute measures too unpopular to pass the House and Senate. “Because he’s got a Republican majority in Congress, he clearly, in my opinion, is looking for avenues to go around them,” said Bruce Josten, executive vice president for government affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.