The Washington Post on A1 writes that a tough new European law regulating the chemical industry is affecting the way U.S. products will be made—and its sounds like that’s a good thing.

The new regulations will force companies to prove chemicals are safe before they start selling them, as opposed to how it is in the U.S., where “where regulators must prove that a chemical is harmful before it can be restricted or removed from the market.” It’s of course “adamantly” opposed by the chemical industry and President Bush, whose administration has used industry talking points in its arguments.

This is a good story with great context, including a broadening paragraph that says the move is the latest example of how tougher European regulations, which tend to focus more on protecting consumers, are forcing American companies to adapt.

We didn’t know this, but it’s so hard to ban chemicals in the U.S. that asbestos is still legal here. The Post quotes an expert showing how American-style regulation works. Remember, we’re talking about man-made chemicals here:

“If you ask people whether they think the drain cleaner they use in their homes has been tested for safety, they think, ‘Of course, the government would have never allowed a product on the market without knowing it’s safe,’ ” said Richard Denison, senior scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund. “When you tell them that’s not the case, they can’t believe it.”


Good reporting by the Post.

If the Belgians brewed Bud…

Belgian brewer InBev made an unasked-for bid for Anheuser-Busch yesterday, offering more than $46 billion to take over the King of Beers and other brands.

The New York Times on C1 focuses on its prediction that the bid will probably set off a “bitter battle” for Anheuser-Busch, and scooping that the company is forming something called Project Aluminum, “an army of bankers, lawyers and other advisers” to help it fend off the foreigners.

The Wall Street Journal doesn’t focus much on the likelihood of a fight over the company, at least until low in its A1 piece. The Financial Times notes up high on page one the potential political fallout, reporting that the governor of Missouri came out against a sale.

The NYT mentions that, too, saying “the battle may stir a national debate filled with patriotic fervor over a company ingrained in the American consciousness.” You Euros better keep your hands off our weak beer! The Journal reports that the Belgian company will try to head off political fallout by taking the Anheuser-Busch name, putting a North American headquarters in St. Louis, and pledging not to close any American breweries.

If completed, it would be one of the biggest deals in a year that’s had a relative dearth of them after the credit-fueled frenzy of 2006 and 2007 fizzled with the bursting of that bubble. The Journal says a deal would be the third biggest ever of an American company being purchased by one from overseas, and that getting the financing arranged shows that banks will still lend to good-credit companies despite the crunch.

We think a better angle for the business press would be to focus less on the (admittedly good copy) struggles of Anheuser-Busch’s fifth generation to hang on to the company and more on the implications of further consolidation of a company that already controls about half the beer market in the U.S. (The St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the deal is likely to go through and that the combined company would sell one in every four beers globally.)

That’s too much as it is. Adding Stella Artois, Bass, and Beck’s to Anheuser’s stable of Clydesdales is just going to make it worse.

SEC gets tough with credit-raters

The Securities and Exchange Commission proposed big changes in the conflict-riddled credit-ratings industry, the Journal says on C2.

Among the proposals, the SEC would require credit-rating firms to make more information about ratings publicly available, would ban some practices and would require firms to clearly distinguish between corporate or government debt and the more complex structured products at the heart of the financial crisis.

The paper says Wall Street is concerned that the changes could trigger widespread dumping of structured debt assets and quotes a Wall Street group saying it would come “at a time when our financial markets can ill afford such an unnecessary shock.”

The new rules would prohibit firms like Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s from rating debt they helped structure and ban gifts above $25.

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.