Trust is the Coin of the Realm
September 18, 2019
“I’m a success today because I had a friend who believed in me and I didn’t have the heart to let him down.”
“Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren’t very new after all.”
– Abraham Lincoln
The ILSI: Food Spies And Large Fries
The hidden hand of industry lobbyists is often at work formulating public policy. One example is the International Life Sciences Institute, an American nonprofit founded four decades ago by a top Coca-Cola executive and funded almost entirely by heavy-hitters in the agribusiness, food and pharmaceutical industries. With branches in 17 countries, the organization’s representatives have quietly infiltrated government health and nutrition bodies around with world.
During the 1980s and 1990s ILSI championed tobacco interests in the US and Europe. It is now especially active in China, India and Brazil, the world’s first, second and sixth most populated nations and responsible for a growing share of food company profits.
After operating below the radar for years, ILSI has come under increasing scrutiny. Health advocates in the US and abroad say the organization is little more than a front group advancing the interests of the 400 corporate members — including Coca-Cola, DuPont, PepsiCo, and General Mills — that provide its $17 million budget.
Obesity rates have been soaring in India, so last year the government proposed putting strict red warning labels on unhealthy packaged food. But then the government bowed to powerful food companies and agreed instead to create a committee to review the proposed labeling system.
The man chosen to head the committee was a former adviser to Nestle; health advocates were enraged. The coordinator of India Resource Center put it this way: “To have a covert food lobby group deciding public health policy is wrong and a blatant conflict of interest.”
Let’s Be Crystal Clear On Crystal Healing
- In the last five years the demand for ‘healing crystals’ has soared and become a consumer phenomenon, thanks to the lucrative combination of social media-friendly aesthetics, cosmic spirituality and celebrity advocates like Gwyneth Paltrow and Kim Kardashian extolling their wellness capabilities.
- The US demand for overseas crystals and gemstones has doubled just in the past three years, and high-end dealers are making multi-millions.
- But the industry has not had close scrutiny; there is little in the way of fair-trade certification for crystals, and none of the industry-wide transparency schemes developed for commodities such as gold and diamonds. What consumers may not know is that many of the crystals are mined in deadly conditions in one of the world’s poorest countries, Madagascar. (Guardian)
Trump’s Submissive Subtweet
- On Monday, in a showing of remarkable deference to the Saudi royal family, President Trump tweeted his declaration that the US was ready to strike back at Iran — the presumptive culprit responsible for blowing up Saudi oil fields over the weekend — but he would wait for the Saudis to tell him “under what terms we would proceed.”
- The tweet touched off a torrent of criticism from those who have long accused the president of doing Riyadh’s bidding while ignoring Saudi violations of human rights and international norms.
- Former assistant secretary of state and current House member Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) said: “What struck me about that tweet was not just that it’s obviously wrong to allow Saudi Arabia to dictate our foreign policy, but that the president doesn’t seem to be aware of how submissive it makes him look to say that.” (NYT)
- What’s Behind the World’s Biggest Climate Victory? Capitalism (Bloomberg)
- U.S. Satellites Detected Iran Readying Weapons Ahead Of Saudi Strike, Officials Say (NPR)
Do Israel’s Exit Polls Mean Netanyahu’s Exit?
- Following the second general election Tuesday, an exit poll released by Israel’s public broadcaster Kan early Wednesday projected that the centrist Blue and White alliance of former military chief Benny Gantz would win 32 seats, and PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party would win 31 in the 120-seat Knesset.
- In third place was the Israeli Arab Joint List with 13 seats; followed by the secular nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party with nine; the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties with nine and eight respectively; the right-wing Yamina party with seven, and the left-wing Labour-Gesher and Democratic Union alliances with six and five respectively.
- Netanyahu had called the snap vote after failing to form a governing coalition in April’s election.
- The BBC’s Tom Bateman says that if the polls are correct Netanyahu has no simple route to government. In fact, the figures put him in an even weaker position than after April’s election, when coalition talks collapsed. (BBC)
- With Israel Election Results Too Close to Call, Netanyahu Appears in Peril (NYT, $)
The City That Never Sleeps Until Trump Complies
- Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance issued subpoenas Monday to President Trump’s accountants that would require them to produce eight years of Trump’s personal and corporate tax returns.
- Vance is investigating hush money payments made to porno actress Stormy Daniels during the 2016 election campaign.The accounting firm, Mazars USA, said it would “fully comply with its legal obligations.”
- Trump is the first US president in nearly 40 years not to release his tax information, despite having promised to do so during his campaign. Trump has been able to obstruct efforts to obtain his federal tax returns; Vance’s office is investigating whether the Trump Organization falsely listed its reimbursement of Cohen for the $130,000 payment to Daniels as a legal expense, which is illegal under New York law. (Guardian)
Chaos Under Chao
- The House Oversight and Reform Committee sought documents Monday from Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao as it investigates what it calls “troubling questions” into whether the Trump appointee misused her position for personal and family benefit.
- Since being appointed in 2017, Chao has been the subject of numerous media reports about her efforts to include relatives in meetings with Chinese officials, appearances with her father in interviews that featured the DOT’s seal, and allegations that her father had “touted [Chao’s] influence within the United States government and boasted about his access to President Trump on Air Force One.”
- Chao’s father has given millions to his daughter and her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky). Chao’s brother-in-law was nominated to direct the Labor Department’s pension agency, and the Transportation Department directed federal projects to her husband’s state of Kentucky; McConnell is up for reelection in 2020.
- Under Chao’s leadership the department’s budget also proposed slashing millions from US domestic shipping funding, a move that could help her family’s foreign-flagged shipping company, Foremost Group. The Chinese government has given the firm millions in loans. (WaPo)
Like Father, Like Son & Other Son & Daughter & And Other Daughter
- An Illinois mother is living with an outcome of one of the most complex legal cases in the modern-day fertility industry. Three years ago, while researching treatment options for her now 6 and 7 year old sons, she discovered the boys were part of an autism cluster involving at least a dozen children scattered across the US, Canada and Europe, all conceived with sperm from the same donor. Many of the children have secondary diagnoses of ADHD, dyslexia, mood disorders, epilepsy and other developmental and learning disabilities.
- Donor H898’s sperm was offered through multiple sources, and his profile, including a master’s degree and a clean bill of health, read like a dream come true. In reality, it was all a lie.
- Donor H898 had no college degrees, had been diagnosed with ADHD, and “went to a school for children with learning and emotional disabilities.”
- Sperm banks generally do not verify their donors’ medical and educational backgrounds; clinics are only required to test for cystic fibrosis.
- There are labs still selling Donor H898’s sperm. (WaPo)
- Why This Scientist Keeps Receiving Packages of Serial Killers’ Hair (NYT, $)
- Do Cash Rewards For Crime Tips Work? (NPR)
- This drawing explains a surprising amount about your political views: The link between modern art and modern politics. (Vox)
- The truth about eating eggs: Are eggs helpful to our health… or a cause of heart disease? BBC Future examines the evidence. (BBC)
- The Evolutionary Benefit of Friendship (Farnam Street)
- Equifax Doesn’t Want You to Get Your $125. Here’s What You Can Do.: Consumers have a few options for dealing with the data breach settlement. (NYT, $)
- MATH or why Citizens need to know numbers: A single statistic, or its misuse, can help upend a nation. Civic life depends on a basic level of statistical literacy (Aeon)
“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” – John F. Kennedy