Posts tagged with "The Washington Post"

Who’s minding the store? As vacancies spread across Trump administration, Congress grows concerned

February 5, 2019

More than two years into President Donald Trump’s administration, Congress is becoming increasingly troubled about his lightweight leadership team—and lack of vetted, permanent power players.

There is office space available nearly everywhere inside the Beltway, and nobody is filling it: The president has an acting chief of staff, attorney general, defense secretary, interior secretary, Office of Management and Budget director and Environmental Protection Agency chief, The Washington Post reported on February 3.

Indeed, the news outlet says, in order to deal with the number of vacancies in the upper ranks of departments, agencies have been relying on novel and legally questionable personnel moves that could leave the administration’s policies open to court challenges.

The lack of permanent leaders even has started to alarm top Republicans,who are pressing for key posts to be filled.

“It’s a lot; it’s way too many,” Senator James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) said to the news outlet about the acting positions in Cabinet agencies. “You want to have confirmed individuals there because they have a lot more authority to be able to make decisions and implement policy when you have a confirmed person in that spot.”

By any standard, the Post reports, Trump’s administration lags behind its predecessors when it comes to filling top posts throughout the government — even though the president’s party has controlled the Senate for his entire time in office.

The Partnership for Public Service, which has tracked nominations as far back as 30 years, estimates that only 54% of Trump’s civilian executive branch nominations have been confirmed, compared to 77% under President Barack Obama.

“The Trump administration is slower to fill jobs and has higher turnover than any administration we have records for,” said the group’s CEO, Max Stier.

Specifically  according to an analysis conducted jointly by the Partnership for Public Service and The Washington Post,  and posted on February 4, the White House has not bothered to nominate people for 150 out of 705 key Senate-confirmed positions.

Three departments are facing a particularly high number of vacancies: Only 41% of the Interior and Justice departments’ Senate-confirmed posts are filled, and just 43% of these positions have been filled at the Labor Department.

The third-highest ranking position at Justice — which, like Interior, has been operating without a permanent secretary for weeks — has been vacant for nearly a year, with no nominee in sight.

“If you think about our government as a manager of critical risk, we’ve upped our risk,” Stier said.

One particular vacancy senators have fixated on is at the Pentagon, where former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis resigned in December after clashing with Trump over his decision to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria. Patrick Shanahan has been serving in an acting capacity since January 1.

Some Senate Republicans have lobbied on behalf of potential Mattis successors. In a private phone call shortly after Mattis announced his impending departure, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) urged Trump to nominate Heather Wilson, the current Air Force secretary who would be the first woman to head the Pentagon.

“We absolutely need to have a permanent nominee,” Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a veteran who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told the Post. “I do have great confidence in Patrick Shanahan, I know he is the acting secretary right now. But I do feel that in order to reassure allies and also to push back on our adversaries, it’s very important that we have a permanent secretary of defense.”

Trump does not share the urgency of some in his party to name permanent Cabinet secretaries, largely because he sees leaving people as interim to his benefit. The president has told others it makes the secretaries more “responsive,” an administration official said.

But how long can officials who have not been nominated, or approved by the Senate, continue to serve?

A Congressional Research Service report published in July concluded that “an action taken by any person who” is not complying with the Vacancies Act “in the performance of any function or duty of a vacant office . . . shall have no force or effect.” While this position has not been tested in court, several legal experts said that it at least raises a question about the durability of policies undertaken by officials who lack Senate approval.

Nina Mendelson, a professor of law at the University of Michigan, told the Post that the strategy Interior officials and others have taken of delegating many responsibilities to unconfirmed officials was “legally problematic” because it conflicts with the intent and language in the Vacancies Act.

“Congress specifically sought to limit this sort of strategy,” Mendelson said. As a result, she said, “Legally binding actions taken by these officials would be subject to challenge.”

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said she is concerned with the lack of a confirmed interior secretary, as well as vacancies atop the Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service.

“When you think about it, what was the big initiative at the end of last year? Let’s do something with park maintenance,” Murkowski said. “Would sure be great to have the head of the parks in order to execute this initiative. Yup. It worries me.”

For the moment, Trump’s deputies continue to come up with inventive ways to fill openings. On Monday, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue named three presidential nominees to senior leadership posts in his department, saying that the last Congress failed to act on their appointments and he wanted them to start working while they awaited action from the new Congress.

“At USDA, we’ve been engaged in fulfilling our mission without all of our players on the field, so we want to get these strong, qualified leaders in the game,” Perdue said.

Research contact: juliet.eilperin@washpost.com

Getting all your ducts in a row? Don’t’ clean them!

January 30, 2019

Today, when many of us are eating clean and trying to live green, we feel very virtuous about getting rid of the “gunk” in our bodies and our lives. Therefore, when a company calls and offers to eliminate the accumulated dust, soot, pollen, mold, and debris in our residential air ducts, we may jump at the deal as a way to banish indoor pollution (and address secondary issues such as allergies, headaches, fatigue, and respiratory illnesses).

After all, if our ducts are clean, all that air flowing out of those vents should come out clean, too, right? Well, actually, no, according to a recent report by The Washington Post.

Although duct-cleaning companies may insist that what it offers is essential for your health, the evidence does not support the claims.

Even if your ducts truly are dirty, cleaning them probably won’t provide any measurable benefits. In fact, the little independent research performed on duct cleaning indicates that the process stirs up so much dust that it creates a bigger problem than it solves.

Indeed, a study conducted by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency measured dust levels and HVAC system efficiency in test homes during a one-week period during the cooling season and found duct cleaning did not significantly improve dust levels or system performance.

Based on that report and other independent research, the EPA’s official advisory on duct cleaning concludes: “Duct cleaning has never been shown to actually prevent health problems. Neither do studies conclusively demonstrate that particle (e.g. dust) levels in homes increase because of dirty air ducts. This is because much of the dirt in air ducts adheres to duct surfaces and does not necessarily enter the living space….Moreover, there is no evidence that a light amount of household dust or other particulate matter in air ducts poses any risk to your health.”

The fact is, the Post says, that dust that settles in your ventilation system generally stays where it is—unlikely to become airborne unless disturbed. Under most circumstances, the dust is inert and harmless, and stirring it up with cleaning equipment actually creates bigger issues.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), a government agency, conducted a similar study in the 1990s. After testing 33 homes in Montreal before and after duct cleaning, the researchers found that there was no significant improvement in air quality—and that duct cleaning, alone, did not improve airflow or energy efficiency.

In some cases, measured particle levels actually increased immediately after a cleaning. In other cases, particle levels decreased immediately after cleaning but returned to previous levels within weeks.

Like the EPA, the CMHC concluded that duct cleaning is unnecessary: “Ideally, the inside surface will be shiny and bright after cleaning. Duct cleaning may be justifiable to you personally for that very reason: you may not want to have your house air circulated through a duct passage that is not as clean as the rest of the house. However, duct cleaning will not usually change the quality of the air you breathe, nor will it significantly affect air flows or heating costs.”

Instead, experts recommend frequently changing air filters as the best way to keep dust, allergens, and other particles out of your home. With a newly installed system, or a system in a home you’ve just moved into, check your filter monthly to determine how quickly it gets dirty at different times of the year. Most should be replaced every two or three months.

In general, consider duct cleaning only in response to specific, identifiable problems. For example, the EPA suggests having air ducts cleaned if there is visible evidence of:

  • Substantial mold growth,
  • Infestation of insects or rodents, or
  • Substantial deposits of dust or debris (if registers were not sealed during a renovation project, for example).

If anyone in your household has specific health concerns, such as allergies or asthma, consult your physician first. It’s important to identify the problem so your doctor can suggest alternatives to duct cleaning. Start by identifying whether your ducts are part of the problem (they probably aren’t) and whether getting them cleaned will help (it probably won’t).

Finally, if you suspect a mold problem—either because of visible growth or a musty smell consistently coming from supply vents — the experts generally recommend  tracking down and eliminating moisture problem, itself, whether it originates under a sink or part of a heating and cooling system.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Dems vow to ‘get to the bottom’ of allegations that Trump directed Cohen to lie to Congress

January 21, 2019

President Donald Trump directed his longtime former personal  attorney and “fixer” Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter, BuzzFeed reported late on January 17.

The story, which invalidates Trump’s ongoing claim that he had no business deals with Russia—and apprehends him in a maneuver to mislead federal legislators—exposes the president to criminal culpability, like he has never been before.

Indeed, according to The Washington Post, Democrats in Congress vowed on January 18 to thoroughly investigate the new report—with Representative Jerry Nadler (D-New York), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee,  vowing that his panel would “get to the bottom” of the allegations.

Early on Friday, Nadler tweeted, “We know that the President has engaged in a long pattern of obstruction. Directing a subordinate to lie to Congress is a federal crime. The @HouseJudiciary Committee’s job is to get to the bottom of it, and we will do that work.”

Representative Adam B. Schiff (D-California), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, released a formal statement, asserting, ““It is now alleged that the president … directed Michael Cohen to lie under oath to Congress about these matters in an effort to impede the investigation and to cover up his business dealings with Russia. These allegations may prove unfounded, but, if true, they would constitute both the subornation of perjury as well as obstruction of justice.

“Our committee,” said Schiff, “is already working to secure additional witness testimony and documents related to the Trump Tower Moscow deal and other investigative matters. As a counterintelligence concern of the greatest magnitude, and given that these alleged efforts were intended to interfere with our investigation, our Committee is determined to get to the bottom of this and follow the evidence wherever it may lead.”

In his first public comments on the report, Trump went on Twitter on Friday morning to quote a Fox News reporter, Kevin Corke, as saying, “Don’t forget, Michael Cohen has already been convicted of perjury and fraud, and as recently as this week, the Wall Street Journal has suggested that he may have stolen tens of thousands of dollars….”

“Lying to reduce his jail time!” Trump added in his own words.

According to the BuzzFeed report, the special counsel’s office learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and what BuzzFeed described as “a cache of other documents.”

Cohen then acknowledged those instructions during his interviews with the special counsel’s office, BuzzFeed reported.

In a statement, Lanny J. Davis, a legal communications adviser to Cohen, said that both he and Cohen are declining to respond to reporters’ questions “out of respect for Mr. Mueller’s and the Office of Special Counsel’s investigation.”

Research contact: jason.leopold@buzzfeed.com

Going nowhere fast? Trump and Bolton tell different stories on Syria

January 8, 2019

On Monday morning, January 7, President Donald Trump clapped back against reports that National Security Adviser John Bolton had contradicted him the day before during an interview from Israel. While Bolton said that American troops would be withdrawn from Syria at “a proper pace,” and that “objectives” must be achieved before that happens, the president continued to insist that the United States would pull out of the war-torn country immediately.

Referring to a story in The New York Times in which Bolton “told reporters that American forces would remain in Syria until the last remnants of the Islamic State were defeated and Turkey provided guarantees that it would not strike Kurdish forces allied with the United States,” Trump shot off a tweet, saying:

The Failing New York Times has knowingly written a very inaccurate story on my intentions on Syria. No different from my original statements, we will be leaving at a proper pace while at the same time continuing to fight ISIS and doing all else that is prudent and necessary!…..”

The “original statements”—about which Trump refused to backpeddle—were made in December. At that time the president emerged from a telephone conversation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and abruptly announced that he was pulling U.S. troops out of Syria—without consulting with the Defense Department, the U.S. Congress, or America’s longtime allies.

The move prompted the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, as well as strong rebukes from several Republican lawmakers.

According to a report by The Washington Post, the president actually has backed off on his original intent: While officials said Trump had initially ordered a 30-day departure, the White House later agreed to an exit within 120 days, which would permit troops more time to break down bases and safely remove equipment and personnel.

In another twist, Bolton also suggested that the United States might not withdraw all American forces after all, and instead could leave some at a garrison in southeast Syria, the Post said.

Research contact: @SangerNYT

Mitt Romney: Trump has not risen to ‘mantle of the office’

January 3, 2019

In a Washington Post opinion piece that ran on Wednesday, Mitt Romney, a former G.O.P. presidential candidate who will be sworn in today as U.S. Senator for Utah, delivered a searing attack on President Donald Trump—perhaps signaling that he will become the first “conscientious objector” in the 116th Congress.

In doing so, he would follow in the footsteps of Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, both of whom served as Republicans from Arizona.

In the op-ed, Romney flatly asserted that, “… on balance, [President Trump’s] conduct over the past two years, particularly his actions last month, is evidence that the president has not risen to the mantle of the office.

Specifically, Romney noted that “The Trump presidency made a deep descent in December. The departures of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, the appointment of senior persons of lesser experience, the abandonment of allies who fight beside us, and the president’s thoughtless claim that America has long been a ‘sucker’ in world affairs all defined his presidency down.”

As a member of the president’s own party, the new senator admitted, “It is well-known that Donald Trump was not my choice for the Republican presidential nomination. After he became the nominee, I hoped his campaign would refrain from resentment and name-calling. It did not.”

Further, he said that U.S. presidents are role models who should “unite and inspire” a nation and display “honesty and integrity.” However, he wrote, “… it is in this province where the incumbent’s shortfall has been most glaring.”

Romney’s attack did not go unanswered. The president immediately tweeted, “Here we go with Mitt Romney, but so fast! Question will be, is he a Flake? I hope not. Would much prefer that Mitt focus on Border Security and so many other things where he can be helpful. I won big, and he didn’t. He should be happy for all Republicans. Be a TEAM player & WIN!”

Trump was backed up by his 2020 Campaign Manager Brad Parscale, who tweeted, “The truth is @MittRomney lacked the ability to save this nation. @realDonald Trump has saved it. Jealously is a drink best served warm and Romney just proved it. So sad, I wish everyone had the courage @realDonaldTrump had.”

In addition, TIME magazine reported, Republican National Committee Chairperson Ronna McDaniel—who just happens to be a member of Romney’s family—reviled him, saying, “POTUS is attacked and obstructed by the MSM [mainstream] media and Democrats 24/7. For an incoming Republican freshman senator to attack @realdonaldtrump as their first act feeds into what the Democrats and media want and is disappointing and unproductive.”

All of which made it just another day inside the Beltway.

Research contact: @MittRomney

President’s good-will trip incites rancor

December 31, 2018

What was supposed to be a surprise good-will stopover on December 26 at Al Asad Air Base has created hard feelings instead — both in Iraq and in the United States—after President Donald Trump politicized his holiday message to the troops; tweeted photos of a top-secret Navy SEAL team; and failed to visit the nation’s prime minister, Adel Abdul-Mahdi.

On the U.S. side, both pundits and politicians pushed back after the president autographed MAGA hats and claimed in his address to the troops that American forces were “suckers” for their service in Syria.

“As long as the message from the president is how wonderful it is that they are doing a service for the country, that’s great,” Charles Blanchard, a former general counsel for the Army and the Air Force during the Clinton and Obama administrations, told The Washington Post. “But when it turns into a political rally, what do people see? They see enthusiastic soldiers clapping and yelling for a partisan message.”

Robert Dallek, a presidential historian, told the DC-based news outlet that there’s always an element of politics when presidents visit troops overseas but that Trump transgressed the line.

“Lyndon Johnson went to Vietnam and visited the troops,” Dallek said.“Did he attack the Republicans? Did he attack his Democratic critics? No. It’s inappropriate. But, once again, what you have with Trump is someone who bends the rules and violates the norms in order to make himself look special or exceptional.”

And in reference to the SEAL team photos, an unnamed Defense Department official told Newsweek that the “deployments of special operation forces—including Navy SEALs—are almost always classified events, as to protect those men and women that are on the front lines of every overt and covert conflict.”

The source added, “I don’t recall another time where special operation forces had to pose with their faces visible while serving in a war zone.”

What’s more, The New York Times reported, a range of Iraqi politicians criticized President Trump’s visit the following day, and some called for a parliamentary debate on whether American forces should leave. The rebukes underscored the political sensitivities surrounding the U.S. military’s deployment in the country, 15 years after the American-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein and led to his execution in 2006.

Plans for the visit had been shared in advance with the government of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi. Still, the Times reported, representatives from rival parties in Parliament said that the visit, which lasted three hours and did not include a face-to-face meeting with Mahdi, was an arrogant affront.

American forces left Iraq in 2011, but returned three years later at the Iraqi government’s request to help reverse the Islamic State’s rapid spread in the country, including its takeover of Mosul, once Iraq’s second-largest city. But calls for the Americans to leave have grown in Iraq since the Islamic State was largely routed from the country last year.

One spokesperson called on the nation’s Parliament to “play its role … and put an end to the frequent violations to the Iraqi sovereignty by the American government and to issue a decision to get the American forces out of Iraq.”

President Trump said at Al Asad that he had no plans to order the roughly 5,200 U.S. service members in Iraq to come home. He also spoke from Al Asad by phone with Mahdi and invited him to visit the White House. Plans for the two to meet in person at the base were canceled for security and logistical reasons, according to Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary.

This was President Trump’s first visit to vist the troops. In response to all of the criticism, he tweeted on December 27, “CNN & others within the Fake News Universe were going wild about my signing MAGA hats for our military in Iraq and Germany. If these brave young people ask me to sign their hat, I will sign. Can you imagine my saying NO? We brought or gave NO hats as the Fake News first reported!”

There were no polling results yet on the president’s initial opportunity to have “boots on the ground” in a combat zone.

Research contact: @nytimes

‘Knock it off,’ says Williams-Sonoma in suit alleging Amazon is selling copies of its furniture

December 24, 2018

Some furniture being sold on Amazon this holiday season is not “sitting well” with housewares designer and retailer Williams-Sonoma. The San Francisco-based home furnishing chain brought suit against Amazon on December 14 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, asking for damages and injunctive relief.

The basis for the legal complaint? Williams-Sonoma claims that the online merchant has used its proprietary designs, patents, and common law trademarks to sell copies of its “home goods, lamps, chairs, and other furniture and lighting products”

Specifically, the suit alleges that Amazon’s line of Rivet furniture includes products that are “strikingly similar” to those made by Williams-Sonoma’s West Elm unit—among them,  a $300 Orb Upholstered Dining Chair that the household goods maker introduced two years ago,  SF Gate reported on December 18,

According to a report by The Washington Post, “It’s widely known that third-party vendors sell counterfeit products on Amazon, but the company has sidestepped blame in the past by claiming it merely provides the platform and can’t control those vendors. This complaint is different. The knockoff Williams-Sonoma products are being sold and marketed by Amazon itself, putting Amazon in direct competition with Williams-Sonoma, according to the company’s lawyers.”

Although Williams-Sonoma doesn’t license its branded products to other online retailers, Amazon markets some merchandise on its website as Williams-Sonoma products “in a confusing manner that is likely to lead, and has led, customers to believe” that they are buying licensed Williams-Sonoma goods, the complaint says.

Williams-Sonoma notes in its legal filing that, “Among the harm caused by Amazon’s infringing acts, consumers may come to associates [our] Williams-Sonoma [trademark] with overpriced, low-quality, or potentially unsatisfactory goods or services.”

The company claims that, already, “Many of these products have been the subject of customer complaints on the Amazon website, are not subject to WSI’s quality control measures, and/or have been damaged or altered such that the Williams-Sonoma mark no longer properly applies.”

The Post also reports that Amazon has marketed the knockoff Williams-Sonoma products through targeted emails—and to make matters worse, one such email was sent to the president of Williams-Sonoma, Janet Hayes. Court documents show an email Hayes received with the subject line “Janet: Williams-Sonoma Peppermint Bark 1 Pound Tin and more items for you,” which linked to a holiday candy priced at almost double what Williams-Sonoma sells it for.

Williams-Sonoma is requesting damages of up to $2 million per counterfeit item being sold by Amazon, as well as legal costs.

Putin praises Trump’s precipitous decision to extract U.S. troops from Syria

December 21, 2018

“Dah.” Russian President Vladimir Putin certainly is no “yes-man,” so President Trump had to be pleased when news emerged from the Kremlin this week that he approved of the U.S. leader’s decision to “immediately” withdraw troops from Syria.

Trump made the unanticipated announcement on Twitter on December 19: “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.”

Neither the U.S. Department of Defense nor the Senate’s Armed Services Committee knew of the decision—nor had the State Department, the National Security Council, the nation’s allies, or even the White House Press Office been informed of the move.

According to a report by The Washington Post, Putin told journalists at his annual year-end news conference that the Islamic State had suffered “serious blows” in Syria.

“On this, Donald is right. I agree with him,” Putin said. 

But Putin, along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei Iran, may be among the few who support the move.

The Post reports that analysts say the militant group remains a deadly force. Russia —which remains Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s most powerful ally—turned the tide of the civil war in Assad’s favor in 2015 and has maintained its military presence there.

The United States and many of its allies denounced Russia’s military intervention in Syria. But Trump’s withdrawal is viewed by many —including some Republican Trump backers — as an indirect boost for Moscow and its status as the main foreign power in Syria.

Putin said the U.S. troop deployment to Syria had been illegitimate because neither Assad’s government nor the United Nations had approved the U.S. mission.

“If the United States decided to withdraw its force, then this would be right,” Putin said.

Russia has been negotiating a political settlement to the civil war in Syria with Assad, neighboring Turkey, and Russia’s ally Iran. The presence of U.S. troops was not helpful for achieving such a settlement, Putin said.

Putin, however, said nothing about the future of Russia’s extensive military presence in Syria, which includes a Mediterranean port used by Russian warships, according to the Post.

Research contact: anton.troianovski@washpost.com

Behind Barr: Trump announces choice for attorney general

December 10, 2018

During a week when former President George H.W. Bush’s legacy has been validated and his choices lauded, President Donald Trump confirmed that he will nominate former Attorney General William P. Barr—who served in same role in the Bush administration from 1991 to 1993— to lead the Justice Department again, telling reporters on December 7 that Barr was “my first choice since day one.”

Barr is, perhaps, best known for successfully urging the elder Bush in 2001 to pardon a number of key figures involved in the Iran-Contra scandal, including former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. He also has been critical of the Mueller investigation—perhaps explaining why Trump is so enamored of this candidate.

According to a December 7 report by The Washington Post, “Barr is likely to face tough questions at his confirmation hearing about how he will handle the ongoing special counsel investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election.”

Assuming that the nomination is confirmed by the Senate, Barr would replace Acting AG Matthew Whittaker, whom Trump elevated to that role after requesting the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions early in November.

That move—which leapfrogged the DOJ professional who actually was next in line for the job, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein—has been widely criticized on the grounds that Whittaker is not qualified; is under investigation, himself; and has said that the president “made the right call” when he fired FBI Director James Comey.

In another round of musical chairs in the administration, Chief of Staff John Kelly was reportedly expected to resign on Friday night, December 7. Kelly had worn out his welcome with the POTUS, who stopped talking to him in recent days in hopes that we would take the hint and depart the White House.

Finally, Trump also has said, according to The Washington Post, that he will nominate Heather Nauert to replace Nikki Haley as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, describing the State Department spokesperson, a relative novice on foreign policy, as “very talented, very smart, very quick.” Haley announced her pending resignation in October.

Research contact: matt.zapotosky@washpost.com

Scoot over, Bird and Lyme: Superpedestrian to offer ‘self-repairing’ electric scooters

December 5, 2018

Emergency rooms are seeing even more cases involving broken noses, wrists, and shoulders; facial lacerations and fractures; and blunt head trauma than they have in the past—especially on the West Coast, where electric-scooter use is trending.

Although no data on scooter injuries has been compiled to date, The Washington Post reports that the handy, scaled-down urban vehicles—which really are a juiced-up version of what used to be a child’s toy—seem to be exposing users to danger.

Indeed, the news outlet says that, as use of the scooters continues surge—and to spread nationwide—manufacturers and marketers of the vehicles have been criticized for deploying models that break apart in use, catch fire, and lull vulnerable riders into a false sense of safety. Many riders do not even use helmets while they are negotiating bumper-to-bumper city traffic.

But now, the Post reported on December 3, a transportation robotics company claims it may have the solution.

Superpedestrian—a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based micro-mobility company that began producing electric bicycles in 2013—told the D.C.-based news outlet this week that it plans to begin producing an “industrial grade e-scooter” capable of operating on a single charge for several days, self-diagnosing mechanical problems and removing itself from circulation using “vehicle intelligence” in 2019.

The average e-scooter life span is about three months, but Assaf Biderman, the company’s founder and CEO—as well as associate director of the MIT Senseable City Laboratory (where the concept for the company’s bike and its innovative Copenhagen Wheel was born)—says Superpedestrian’s e-scooters will be able to remain in circulation for as long as 18 months.

“Shared scooters must be super-robust, require minimal charging and be smart enough to sustain themselves on city streets for prolonged periods of time, all while costing a few hundreds of dollars to produce,” Biderman told the newspaper.

The company’s scooter tops out at around 17 mph but is slightly larger than models available through major companies such as Bird, Lime, Skip, and Lyft. The scooter can travel up to 60 miles on a single charge, the company informed the Post.

Biderman said the larger wheel size and rider base improves safety and sets the model apart from most e-scooters on the market.

What’s more, Superpedestrian’s scooter is capable of self-diagnosing mechanical problems using “vehicle intelligence”—a tool designed to monitor battery voltage and temperature, as well as the device’s motor.

When the scooter encounters a mechanical problem, Biderman said, its scooter performs automated maintenance. If that fails, he added, the scooter opens a support ticket and takes itself offline, making it impossible for customers to ride. Once that occurs, he said, a human mechanic would be alerted to fix the scooter on the ground.

“Compare this to how things currently work, where you rely on users to report that a vehicle has an issue, but if they fail to do so, people can keep riding and be at risk.”

Research contact: peter.holley@washpost.com