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Accidents show need for law to protect children

Ikea — the world’s largest furniture seller — bills itself as “The Life Improvement Store.” That moniker is impossible to embrace after the Swedish company with U.S. headquarters outside Philadelphia agreed to pay $50 million to settle three cases where boys died after being crushed by Ikea dressers that toppled on them.

The payments may end the legal saga, but the hurt and horror for the families of the three boys — each no more than 2 years old — endures. Nor does the settlement clear the way for Ikea to go back to business as usual.

“These were three very preventable deaths,” said Alan M. Feldman, a Philadelphia attorney who represented the victims’ families. The deaths might have been prevented had Ikea designed its dressers to pass the industry’s national voluntary safety test, developed to ensure dressers meet a minimum standard for stability.

Instead, Ikea was slow to respond to safety concerns after scores of accidents dating back to 1989. In February, a 22-month-old Minnesota boy died after a six-drawer chest fell on him.

But it was not until June that Ikea agreed stop selling dressers that were found to tip over too easily and offer refunds to customers that bought the 29 million dressers sold over the course of more than a decade.

Ikea finally took some action after increased scrutiny that included a series of stories by Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Tricia L. Nadolny. Too bad it took public shaming and legal action to force the company to do the right thing.

Initially, Ikea tried to address the safety concerns by reminding consumers to attach their dressers to the wall and offering free anchoring kits. In court documents, the company argued the parents were negligent for not anchoring the dressers to the wall, as the assembly instructions indicated.

This is a serious public safety issue. The lives of defenseless children are at stake. Not every owner of the dangerous dressers may be aware of the safety threat. That is why more sunshine is needed.

Corporations should always do the right thing, but too often they don’t. Now, is the time to act before another child dies needlessly.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, Jan. 11

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Donald Trump is failing presidential tests

President-elect Donald Trump held his first news conference in nearly six months the day after blockbuster reports that intelligence leaders gave him and President Barack Obama information last week that Russia has been collecting damaging information on Trump. The dossier includes unsubstantiated allegations — now all over the internet — of scandalous personal behavior and sordid business dealings. It may be Russian disinformation.

But the reason the report is being taken seriously — and needs to be fully investigated — is that it could explain Trump’s dangerous friendliness toward Russia and his bewildering admiration for its president, Vladimir Putin.

Trump is taking some good steps to avoid conflicts of interest. He said he turned down a $2 billion deal with a developer in Dubai over the weekend. As many 30 pending deals were terminated, there will be no new foreign deals, and any new domestic deals will have to be cleared by an ethics adviser.

But his personal financial plan is flimsy at best. The only foolproof solution would be for his businesses to be sold and the assets put into a blind trust over which neither he nor his family has any control, ethics experts say.

His attorney said it’s unfair to expect full divestment, which she said would destroy the company he built. But putting the nation first is what Trump signed up for when he decided to seek the presidency.

The Sacramento Bee, Jan. 12

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