Bizarro world

No need to even comment on this:

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. . . .

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. . . .

“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. . . .

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.

I wonder why we didn’t threaten the Russians?

Read the whole thing.



22 Responses to “Bizarro world”

  1. Gravatar of XVO XVO
    9. July 2018 at 07:13

    I was all on board the breast feeding train too, but then we actually had a baby. After near starving my kid for 3 weeks we decided to switch to formula and it made a big difference, in that my child was getting nutrition and my wife could recover some sanity. The hospitals are very pushy about breast feeding, irrationally so in some cases. There’s evidence that many of the benefits attributed to breast feeding is conflated by who breast feeds, upper class people with good genes. report on study (steer clear of the self righteous mommy firestorm in the comments):

    Why should the UN be involved in this? It’s a personal decision, very un-libertarian. It’s obvious why the US didn’t threaten Russia, because we already used up all of our leverage with them over Crimea and the Russians don’t care.

  2. Gravatar of Meets Meets
    9. July 2018 at 07:26

    The literature is far from conclusive that breast feeding is better.

    The effect of breastfeeding on 10 of the 11 outcomes is substantially attenuated when comparing siblings.

    Our results suggest that typical estimates of the impact of breastfeeding on child wellbeing may be overstated.


    Breastfeeding rates in the U.S. are socially patterned. Previous research has documented startling racial and socioeconomic disparities in infant feeding practices. However, much of the empirical evidence regarding the effects of breastfeeding on long-term child health and wellbeing does not adequately address the high degree of selection into breastfeeding.

    To address this important shortcoming, we employ sibling comparisons in conjunction with 25 years of panel data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) to approximate a natural experiment and more accurately estimate what a particular child’s outcome would be if he/she had been differently fed during infancy. Results from standard multiple regression models suggest that children aged 4 to 14 who were breast- as opposed to bottle-fed did significantly better on 10 of the 11 outcomes studied.

    Once we restrict analyses to siblings and incorporate within-family fixed effects, estimates of the association between breastfeeding and all but one indicator of child health and wellbeing dramatically decrease and fail to maintain statistical significance. Our results suggest that much of the beneficial long-term effects typically attributed to breastfeeding, per se, may primarily be due to selection pressures into infant feeding practices along key demographic characteristics such as race and socioeconomic status.

    Even the nytimes itself had opeds questioning it.

  3. Gravatar of Randomize Randomize
    9. July 2018 at 07:33

    The above commenters seem to be missing the point found in the last paragraph. It’s no secret who’s working for who.

  4. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    9. July 2018 at 08:34

    Everyone, Yes, the breastfeeding issue is very debatable, but this is still just completely insane. We are threatening Ecuador with trade retaliation because they are promoting a breastfeeding initiative at the UN? You can’t even make this stuff up, it’s too weird.

    As for sugary beverages being bad for you, is that even controversial anymore?

    And did you see that Trump is insisting on meeting with Putin with no one else in the room, not even Trump’s advisors? You’d have to be extremely dense to not see what’s going on here.

  5. Gravatar of Meets Meets
    9. July 2018 at 08:43


    The blaming of sugar is controversial. Corn syrup and sugary drinks are bad, but sugar itself is not.

    Here are the take-home points from this post:

    Sugar, including fructose, is not inherently fattening relative to other calorie sources, and unrefined sugar is compatible with fat loss in the context of simple whole food diets.

    Sugar can be fattening in certain contexts, specifically if it is added to foods and beverages to increase their palatability, reward value and energy density.

    Sugar-sweetened beverages are probably one of the most fattening elements of the modern diet.

    Fruit is not fattening, and it may actually be slimming.

    In excess, refined sugar can cause body fat to redistribute from the subcutaneous depot (under the skin, where you want it) to the visceral depots and the liver (where you don’t want it). It can also cause insulin resistance in the liver and increase blood pressure, all components of the ‘metabolic syndrome’. This is caused specifically by the fructose portion of the sugar.

    Here are the implications:
    Avoiding sugar-sweetened foods, and particularly sugar-sweetened beverages (soda, punch, sweetened coffee, cocktails, maybe fruit juice as well?) can prevent and to some extent reverse fat gain and metabolic dysfunction.

    I see no reason to believe that refined and unrefined sugars, used in the same context (e.g. muffins baked with white vs. brown sugar), would have different effects on body fatness. However, unrefined sugars may be less harmful to other aspects of health, because they contain other substances that may be protective. Mark Sisson discussed this idea in a recent post on honey (38).

    Eating fruit does not contribute to fat gain in most people, but instead probably favors leanness. Fruit is a whole food with a low energy density and a moderate palatability and reward value.

  6. Gravatar of mpowell mpowell
    9. July 2018 at 10:29

    @Meets, but with regard to labeling junk food and sugary drinks, you have no argument, right? Unless we are talking about an exceptionally expansive definition of junk food…

  7. Gravatar of XVO XVO
    9. July 2018 at 11:18

    “Under an internal code of the World Health Organisation, baby formula companies are banned from explicitly targeting mothers and their health carers. Advertising is also controlled.”

    From the WHO:

    “The Code covers not only breast-milk substitutes, but also foods and products intended for consumption as a replacement for breast milk as well as feeding bottles and teats, aimed at infants and young children. It prohibits the advertising of such products to the public; the use of baby pictures to idealise infant formula; the giving of free samples or gifts to mothers or health workers; the promotion of such products in health facilities and the contact of mothers by company representatives. Information provided to health workers must by scientific, objective and explain the benefits and superiority of breastfeeding.”

    Sounds like climate science level bs, under ideal conditions breast feeding is probably better, but why shouldn’t companies be allowed to promote their products? Especially one that is actually useful and good for many people, this isn’t tobacco, alcohol or opiates.

  8. Gravatar of XVO XVO
    9. July 2018 at 11:19

    It is bizarre/intriguing that we would threaten Ecuador so strongly. Even as a Trump supporter I can’t rationalize that this would be some big stand for freedom, seems like there are other battles that should be fought first.

  9. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    9. July 2018 at 11:23

    Meets, You said:

    “sugary drinks are bad”

    Sorry, but what’s your point? Isn’t that pretty much what I said?

    XVO, I’m not saying they shouldn’t be able to. Aren’t you missing the elephant in the room. Hint, this post is not about breastfeeding.

  10. Gravatar of SnoopBillTwinkle SnoopBillTwinkle
    9. July 2018 at 12:29

    Of course, the benefits of breastfeeding are mixed but this absolutely sends the wrong message. While I disagree with coercion in decision making (except in certain circumstances), I believe in nudge theory, where health experts can “nudge” people in making better choices for themselves and their families, like breastfeeding. Of course, a serious opposition to the promotion of breastfeeding is one thing (a slap in the face to mothers who do breastfeed their children), but holy s**t, did the US take things way too far by threatening trade sanctions and holding back on military aid. I’m convinced that Putin needed good PR and one way to do it was ordering Trump to get the US delegates to oppose this resolution.

  11. Gravatar of Anon Anon
    9. July 2018 at 12:54


    I always have loved this blog and will continue to do so in the future. Perhaps a break from the big T would do you some good though?

  12. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    9. July 2018 at 14:09

    Anon, Sorry, I’m having too much fun.

  13. Gravatar of D.O. D.O.
    9. July 2018 at 14:10

    Yeah, this looks like a clear diplomatic mistake. But usually, it is wrong to attribute to ill will something that can be explained by incompetence. So far, there is no evidence that the more usual explanation is wrong.

  14. Gravatar of Anon Anon
    9. July 2018 at 14:14

    What I don’t like about TDS is seeing people not be charitable to their opponents. It’s understandable, as people don’t like to show charity to those who are not charitable themselves.

    But we should hold ourselves to a higher standard.

    Always argue with the best possible version of your opponent’s argument, and don’t engage in ad hominem attacks.

  15. Gravatar of XVO XVO
    9. July 2018 at 15:49

    I’m not entirely sure what the elephant is.

    Am I close with one of these:

    -He did it to raise Russia’s prestige at the expense of the US, that’s corrupt and proves he’s working for Putin.

    -Bullying Ecuador was wrong, this is breaking convention and breaking convention is bad. (And by bullying we mean threatening to take away benefits the US gives Ecuador)

    -It was actually not at the behest of companies that make formula (and their customers) but for the crap food companies (and their victims), thus proving he’s evil, sacrificing people’s health in the name of US jobs (and economic freedom).

  16. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    9. July 2018 at 21:03

    I wonder why we didn’t threaten the Russians?

    Russians can’t be bullied by Americans. Russia is already hit with punishing trade measures. The U.S. does not provide it any military aid. Thus, Russia is a truly independent power. That’s why Trump and the rest of the U.S. political sphere hates them (and recognizes the limits of bullying them). Any even remotely sensible Republican president would have done the same.

    You can’t even make this stuff up, it’s too weird.

    This behavior has been typical of Republican presidents over the past two centuries.

    And did you see that Trump is insisting on meeting with Putin with no one else in the room, not even Trump’s advisors? You’d have to be extremely dense to not see what’s going on here.

    Yes; Trump is behaving like literally every other president in American history. I, for one, can’t believe you don’t recognize this.

  17. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    9. July 2018 at 21:05

    Sumner, do you actually believe Trump hasn’t been hostile enough to Russia, Iran, Syria, and North Korea? I thought you opposed sanctions on these countries.

  18. Gravatar of Robbie Robbie
    10. July 2018 at 02:00

    I think it’s adorable when prof Sumner gets his panties in a knot over Trump.

    Makes me want to pinch his cheeks.

  19. Gravatar of Meets Meets
    10. July 2018 at 07:07


    My problem is they aren’t labeling just sugary drinks, but also junk foods (and it’s unclear how they define those).

    Why do we need to label them anyway? People know they are bad and it raises prices on the poor

  20. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    10. July 2018 at 08:06


    Do you know how fascists respond to charitable behavior? Give me a break. The Trump movement is fascist. Scott’s been correct in his opinions about Trump all along.

    The only thing I’m concerned he’s wrong about is how well our institutions will hold up. I hope he’s right.

  21. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    10. July 2018 at 10:38


    Didn’t you predict Hillary would win by ten points?

  22. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    12. July 2018 at 10:49

    XVO, If you can’t see the problem with threatening trade sanctions against a country that proposes a breastfeeding initiative in the UN, then I can’t help you. Let me make it very simple. If you don’t like the Ecuador proposal, THEN VOTE AGAINST IT.

    Robbie, I’ve argued that Trump has the emotional maturity of an 8th grader. How would you rate his maturity? Given your age, you’re probably in a better position to judge than I am.

    Meets, You said:


    My problem is they aren’t labeling just sugary drinks, but also junk foods (and it’s unclear how they define those).”

    Your problem? You must have a lot of problems if you view Canada’s decision to put warning label on sugary drinks and junk food as your problem. Speaking for myself, however Canada chooses to label its soda is NOT MY PROBLEM.

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