Mother Jones Daily: Briefing


Burying the Bad News
Shunning the Formula Code

POLITICS
Burying the Bad News

Every year, the EPA releases a report on the fuel efficiency of America’s cars and trucks. Every year, the news gets worse, as the latest statistics show declining mileage and the increasing dominance of gas-guzzling SUVs. This past year, however, the report went missing, and no one — at the EPA, at the White House, in Detroit — will say what happened to it for attribution. Off the record, it’s a different story: the White House buried it.

All of which makes The American Prospect‘s Eli Kintisch deeply suspicious. With an invasion of Iraq on the horizon and steep hikes in oil prices likely, the call for better fuel efficiency is growing louder — despite the White House’s best efforts to ignore it. Given the stakes, Kintisch wonders: what is Washington trying to hide?

“One could chalk the delay up to good old government ineptitude — if it weren’t for the Bush administration’s track record of holding back government environmental studies that might have unwanted political implications.

Why would the administration be holding up the report? For one, the numbers over the last few years have shown what we all figure to be true but what the White House probably doesn’t want put out by the media: that automotive technology innovations are increasingly going into making cars more powerful and luxurious rather than more fuel efficient.”

HEALTH
Shunning the Formula Code

For over 20 years, companies that produce baby formula have been forbidden — by way of international code — from promoting their products in a way that undermines natural breastfeeding in the Third World. Now, according to Jeremy Laurance of The Independent, Nestlé, Danone, and several other companies have openly violated the code, aggressively marketing dozens of products and withholding information about the pros and cons of formula use. This intentional lack of cooperation, say campaigners, contributes to the death of a baby every 30 seconds from contaminated bottles.

Helen Keller International, a New York-based charity, found that the companies distributed free samples of infant formula throughout health clinics, along with leaflets that failed to mention the advantages of breastfeeding. And, a survey published in the British Medical Journal concluded that formula use in West Africa was pushing Burkina Faso and Togo toward infant mortality rates that are among the highest in the world. Laurance adds that,

“One of the major problems facing health workers in the developing world is that breast feeding is seen as backward, and bottle feeding is regarded as more modern and sophisticated, a result of the successful marketing of breast milk substitutes. Breast feeding has long been known to be the safest way of raising infants, providing them with the nutrition they need and protecting them from infection at a crucial stage of development. Bottle feeding carries greater risks from contaminated water used to make up the feed and unsterilised equipment.”

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