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Trump's America sinks to a new low…

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Author Topic: Trump's America sinks to a new low…  (Read 52 times)
Admin Staff
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Having fun in the hills!

« on: July 09, 2018, 08:32:30 pm »

…attempting to be a bully-boy and coerce countries to support infant-formula manufacturers instead of supporting breast-feading.

from The New York Times…

U.S. Opposition to Breast-Feeding Resolution Stuns World Health Officials

Trade sanctions. Withdrawal of military aid. The Trump administration used both to try to block
a measure that was considered uncontroversial and embraced by countries around the world.

By ANDREW JACOBS | 7:49PM EDT — Sunday, July 08, 2018

A Brooklyn mother unable to nurse fed her child donated breast milk. The $70 billion infant formula industry has seen sales flatten in wealthy countries in recent years. — Photograph: James Estrin/The New York Times.
A Brooklyn mother unable to nurse fed her child donated breast milk. The $70 billion infant formula industry has seen sales flatten in wealthy countries in recent years.
 — Photograph: James Estrin/The New York Times.

A RESOLUTION to encourage breast-feeding was expected to be approved quickly and easily by the hundreds of government delegates who gathered this spring in Geneva for the United Nations-affiliated World Health Assembly.

Based on decades of research, the resolution says that mother's milk is healthiest for children and countries should strive to limit the inaccurate or misleading marketing of breast milk substitutes.

Then the United States delegation, embracing the interests of infant formula manufacturers, upended the deliberations.

American officials sought to water down the resolution by removing language that called on governments to “protect, promote and support breast-feeding” and another passage that called on policymakers to restrict the promotion of food products that many experts say can have deleterious effects on young children.

When that failed, they turned to threats, according to diplomats and government officials who took part in the discussions. Ecuador, which had planned to introduce the measure, was the first to find itself in the cross hairs.

The Americans were blunt: If Ecuador refused to drop the resolution, Washington would unleash punishing trade measures and withdraw crucial military aid. The Ecuadorean government quickly acquiesced.

The showdown over the issue was recounted by more than a dozen participants from several countries, many of whom requested anonymity because they feared retaliation from the United States.

Health advocates scrambled to find another sponsor for the resolution, but at least a dozen countries, most of them poor nations in Africa and Latin America, backed off, citing fears of retaliation, according to officials from Uruguay, Mexico and the United States.

“We were astonished, appalled and also saddened,” said Patti Rundall, the policy director of the British advocacy group Baby Milk Action, who has attended meetings of the assembly, the decision-making body of the World Health Organization, since the late 1980s.

“What happened was tantamount to blackmail, with the U.S. holding the world hostage and trying to overturn nearly 40 years of consensus on the best way to protect infant and young child health,” she said.

In the end, the Americans' efforts were mostly unsuccessful. It was the Russians who ultimately stepped in to introduce the measure — and the Americans did not threaten them.

The State Department declined to respond to questions, saying it could not discuss private diplomatic conversations. The Department of Health and Human Services, the lead agency in the effort to modify the resolution, explained the decision to contest the resolution's wording but said H.H.S. was not involved in threatening Ecuador.

“The resolution as originally drafted placed unnecessary hurdles for mothers seeking to provide nutrition to their children,” an H.H.S. spokesman said in an email. “We recognize not all women are able to breast-feed for a variety of reasons. These women should have the choice and access to alternatives for the health of their babies, and not be stigmatized for the ways in which they are able to do so.” The spokesman asked to remain anonymous in order to speak more freely.

The United States ambassador to Ecuador, Todd C. Chapman, left, in Quito's historical center with a guide, center, and the undersecretary of state for political affairs, Thomas A. Shannon. — Photograph: Jose Jacome/European Pressphoto Agency/Shutterstock.
The United States ambassador to Ecuador, Todd C. Chapman, left, in Quito's historical center with a guide, center, and the undersecretary
of state for political affairs, Thomas A. Shannon. — Photograph: Jose Jacome/European Pressphoto Agency/Shutterstock.

Although lobbyists from the baby food industry attended the meetings in Geneva, health advocates said they saw no direct evidence that they played a role in Washington's strong-arm tactics. The $70 billion industry, which is dominated by a handful of American and European companies, has seen sales flatten in wealthy countries in recent years, as more women embrace breast-feeding. Over all, global sales are expected to rise by 4 percent in 2018, according to Euromonitor, with most of that growth occurring in developing nations.

The intensity of the administration's opposition to the breast-feeding resolution stunned public health officials and foreign diplomats, who described it as a marked contrast to the Obama administration, which largely supported W.H.O.'s longstanding policy of encouraging breast-feeding.

During the deliberations, some American delegates even suggested the United States might cut its contribution the W.H.O., several negotiators said. Washington is the single largest contributor to the health organization, providing $845 million, or roughly 15 percent of its budget, last year.

The confrontation was the latest example of the Trump administration siding with corporate interests on numerous public health and environmental issues.

In talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Americans have been pushing for language that would limit the ability of Canada, Mexico and the United States to put warning labels on junk food and sugary beverages, according to a draft of the proposal reviewed by The New York Times.

During the same Geneva meeting where the breast-feeding resolution was debated, the United States succeeded in removing statements supporting soda taxes from a document that advises countries grappling with soaring rates of obesity.

The Americans also sought, unsuccessfully, to thwart a W.H.O. effort aimed at helping poor countries obtain access to lifesaving medicines. Washington, supporting the pharmaceutical industry, has long resisted calls to modify patent laws as a way of increasing drug availability in the developing world, but health advocates say the Trump administration has ratcheted up its opposition to such efforts.

The delegation's actions in Geneva are in keeping with the tactics of an administration that has been upending alliances and long-established practices across a range of multilateral organizations, from the Paris climate accord to the Iran nuclear deal to NAFTA.

Ilona Kickbusch, director of the Global Health Centre at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, said there was a growing fear that the Trump administration could cause lasting damage to international health institutions like the W.H.O. that have been vital in containing epidemics like Ebola and the rising death toll from diabetes and cardiovascular disease in the developing world.

“It's making everyone very nervous, because if you can't agree on health multilateralism, what kind of multilateralism can you agree on?” Ms. Kickbusch asked.

A Russian delegate said the decision to introduce the breast-feeding resolution was a matter of principle.

“We're not trying to be a hero here, but we feel that it is wrong when a big country tries to push around some very small countries, especially on an issue that is really important for the rest of the world,” said the delegate, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

He said the United States did not directly pressure Moscow to back away from the measure. Nevertheless, the American delegation sought to wear down the other participants through procedural maneuvers in a series of meetings that stretched on for two days, an unexpectedly long period.

The opening of the World Health Assembly in May. After American officials pressured Ecuador, it was Russia that introduced a resolution in support of breast-feeding. — Photograph: Peter Klaunzer/European Pressphoto Agency/Shutterstock.
The opening of the World Health Assembly in May. After American officials pressured Ecuador, it was Russia that introduced a resolution
in support of breast-feeding. — Photograph: Peter Klaunzer/European Pressphoto Agency/Shutterstock.

In the end, the United States was largely unsuccessful. The final resolution preserved most of the original wording, though American negotiators did get language removed that called on the W.H.O. to provide technical support to member states seeking to halt “inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children.”

The United States also insisted that the words “evidence-based” accompany references to long-established initiatives that promote breast-feeding, which critics described as a ploy that could be used to undermine programs that provide parents with feeding advice and support.

Elisabeth Sterken, director of the Infant Feeding Action Coalition in Canada, said four decades of research have established the importance of breast milk, which provides essential nutrients as well as hormones and antibodies that protect newborns against infectious disease.

A 2016 study in The Lancet found that universal breast-feeding would prevent 800,000 child deaths a year across the globe and yield $300 billion in savings from reduced health care costs and improved economic outcomes for those reared on breast milk.

Scientists are loath to carry out double-blind studies that would provide one group with breast milk and another with breast milk substitutes. “This kind of ‘evidence-based’ research would be ethically and morally unacceptable,” Ms. Sterken said.

Abbott Laboratories, the Chicago-based company that is one of the biggest players in the $70 billion baby food market, declined to comment.

Nestlé, the Switzerland-based food giant with significant operations in the United States, sought to distance itself from the threats against Ecuador and said the company would continue to support the international code on the marketing of breast milk substitutes, which calls on governments to regulate the inappropriate promotion of such products and to encourage breast-feeding.

In addition to the trade threats, Todd C. Chapman, the United States ambassador to Ecuador, suggested in meetings with officials in Quito, the Ecuadorean capital, that the Trump administration might also retaliate by withdrawing the military assistance it has been providing in northern Ecuador, a region wracked by violence spilling across the border from Colombia, according to an Ecuadorean government official who took part in the meeting.

The United States Embassy in Quito declined to make Mr. Chapman available for an interview.

“We were shocked because we didn't understand how such a small matter like breast-feeding could provoke such a dramatic response,” said the Ecuadorean official, who asked not to be identified because she was afraid of losing her job.


Wesley Tomaselli contributed reporting to this article from Colombia.

• Andrew Jacobs, a reporter with the Health and Science desk of The New York Times based in New York, previously reported from Beijing and Brazil. He also worked as a Metro reporter, with stints at the Style section and the National desk, covering the American South. His reporting for The N.Y. Times has included such varied topics as the presidential campaign, the aftermath of the earthquake in China and the lead up to the 2008 Summer Olympics. Before coming to The N.Y. Times, Mr. Jacobs spent a year teaching English in China, another year traveling around Asia and several years working odd jobs, including stints as an architectural preservationist, an English teacher and the sole reporter for such esteemed weekly newspapers as The Villager and the Brooklyn Phoenix (now extinct).  He was briefly employed as press secretary for New York City Council candidate Tom Duane, now a state senator.  He later edited such New York City weeklies as Our Town, Manhattan Spirit and The Chelsea-Clinton News.  A frustrated linguist, Mr. Jacobs speaks Mandarin, French, Spanish and diminishing amounts of Japanese, Portuguese and Italian.  His other passions include gentleman farming and landscaping design (activities which take place on a 135-acre farm in the Catskills). Mr. Jacobs is a 2011 Gerald Loeb Award finalist in the category of Breaking News for his work with Miguel Helft, John Markoff, Keith Bradsher, David Barboza, David E. Sanger and Brad Stone on “Google in China”. A native of New Jersey, Mr. Jacobs graduated in 1984 from New York University, where he majored in architectural history and urban design.

• A version of this article appears in The New York Times on July 9, 2018, on Page A1 of the New York print edition with the headline: “U.S. Delegation Disrupts Accord On Breast Milk”.


Related to this topic:

 • The Baby Is Getting Fed — but What?

 • Malnutrition and Obesity Coexist in Many Countries, Report Finds

 • Studies Offer Hope for Malnourished Children

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« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2018, 07:37:21 pm »

from The New York Times…

EDITORIAL: Why Breast-Feeding Scares Donald Trump

It comes down to public health abroad could hurt American companies’ profits.

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD | Monday, July 09, 2018

Photograph: Getty Images.
Photograph: Getty Images.

THE PUSH by United States delegates to the World Health Organization to water down or scrap a simple resolution meant to encourage breast-feeding in underdeveloped countries was many things — bullying, anti-science, pro-industry, anti-public health and shortsighted, to name a few.

But it was not surprising. In fact, it's just one of several recent examples of the administration's zeal for badgering weaker countries into tossing public health concerns aside to serve powerful business interests. The baby formula industry is worth $70 billion and, as breast-feeding has become more popular in more developed countries, it has pinned its hopes for growth on developing ones.

As The New York Times reported on Sunday, the resolution in question stated, simply, that breast milk is the healthiest option for infants, and that steps should be taken to minimize inaccurate marketing of substitutes.

President Trump's contention on Twitter on Monday, that women need access to formula because of malnutrition, defies both science and common sense: the overwhelming balance of evidence tells us that breast milk is the most nutritious option for infants, by far. Among many other benefits, it has the potential to ward off diarrheal diseases and respiratory infections, both of which are prevalent in low-income countries.

Unethical marketing practices on the part of formula makers is a long-standing and well-established problem that has contributed to a decline in breast-feeding in low-income countries. As of 2015, less than 40 percent of babies younger than 6 months old were being breast-fed in developing countries. Doubling that proportion could save hundreds of thousands of lives.

Of course, for certain families, formula can be essential. But it is also nutritionally inferior to breast milk in every way. Among other things, it contains none of the antibodies available in a mother's milk. In the developing world, those shortcomings can be far more devastating to a child's health.

Ecuador was set to introduce this uncontroversial measure when the United States threatened “punishing trade measures” and a withdrawal of crucial military aid unless the country dropped it.

Common sense ultimately triumphed in this round of bullying, and the measure passed without much alteration — thanks, oddly enough, to Russia. But American officials are using the same tactics in other, similar situations, and there's still concern that they could succeed on those fronts.

In March, United States trade representatives threatened to withdraw American support for the Colombian peace accord and Colombian ascension into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, unless Colombian health officials dropped several efforts to cut prescription drug prices. The measures Colombia is considering have all been sanctioned by the World Trade Organization, but pharmaceutical companies have pressured countries not to employ them, often by acting through American trade representatives.

Federal officials have proposed changes to global trade policy that would prohibit such measures, and that would also thwart other efforts to expand access to newly developed and urgently needed tuberculosis medications. Tuberculosis is still at epidemic levels in many low- and middle-income countries, claiming a total of 1.7 million lives in 2016 alone, according to the World Health Organization.

It's tempting to call this approach to public health Trumpian, simply because it has all the key hallmarks: an obvious bow to rich and powerful companies, disregard for the needs of people who are poor or sick or both and zero attention to potential long-term consequences. But, while they might not have gone so far when it comes to baby formula, previous administrations are just as guilty as the current one when it comes to drugs.

Both the Obama and Clinton administrations also sought to keep drug prices high in low-income countries — the former by preventing generic markets in India and elsewhere, and the latter by supporting policies that kept the prices of H.I.V. medications much higher than they needed to be.

In the case of H.I.V., persistent global protest ultimately turned public opinion and, as it happens, the course of medical history. The United States carved exceptions out for H.I.V. medications and allowed a generic market to emerge, which in turn dramatically curbed the epidemic itself.

Should American officials prevail in the current case, the outcome will be easy enough to guess: People will suffer. Industry profits will not.


The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.

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« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2018, 02:28:08 pm »

from The Seattle Times....

Trump's formula for success

Trump favors industry over breastfeeding mothers in poorer countries.

By DAVID HORSEY | 2:23PM PDT — Wednesday, July 11, 2018

THE World Health Organization was all set to pass an innocuous resolution to encourage mothers in developing countries to breastfeed their babies when, catering to the interests of the companies that sell baby formula on the international market, Trump administration representatives tried to scuttle the resolution. President Trump weighed in with a tweet erroneously stating that formula was necessary to fight malnutrition. Trump and his team failed in their effort, perhaps because everyone else involved knew how the formula makers have engaged in unethical marketing practices to protect their $70 billion industry. Apparently, that did not matter to the Trump administration. For them, as usual, the interests of industry rank far higher than the concerns of poor people.


• See more of David Horsey's cartoons at The Seattle Times HERE.

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