FOR SAFETY'S SAKE
There She Goes, Flying Off to Japan
It's Black Friday, the end of a dark week for the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which issued more hazardous-product recalls, fended off continuing criticism and issued its own guide to an ever-shorter list of safe holiday gifts for children.
And where was Nancy Nord, the agency's acting chairman, during all this? In Japan, on "gift travel."
Nord has resisted calls for her resignation since The Washington Post disclosed that she and her predecessor, Hal Stratton, have taken nearly 30 trips funded by industries that the agency regulates. The agency has said that the travel is legal and, in its lawyers' view, did not constitute a conflict of interest. Nord has pointed out that Stratton took most of the trips.
Last Friday, as the agency prepared for this week's onslaught, Nord was airborne, beginning her weekend with a trip to Japan, which ended Tuesday.
Nord spokeswoman Julie Vallese said the trip was "at the invitation of the Japanese government, paid for by the government of Japan." She said Nord's husband did not attend.
Nord gave "a keynote address at a Japanese government-sponsored safety conference . . . on the U.S. experience in dealing with the safety aspects of imported products," Vallese said in an e-mail -- which was pretty much what agency staff members were up to their eyeballs in back at home.
Vallese added that Nord gave a seminar for safety officials at the Japanese National Institute of Technology and Evaluation (NITE), and held "in-depth" talks with safety officials of the Ministry of Economy, Technology and Industry (METI).
Vallese punted a request for an itinerary and other documents related to the trip to the agency's Freedom of Information Act office, which takes months to respond. Other document requests by The Post since the travel article appeared have been handled similarly.
Quin Dodd, Nord's chief of staff, wrote in an e-mail: "I am confident your FOIA requests will be responded to promptly and in good faith (which, if you're unfamiliar with the phrase, means honesty)."
-- Elizabeth Williamson