Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
By Juhie Bhatia
Health authorities in China reported this week that nearly 53,000 children have become sick after consuming tainted infant formula. As the effects of these contaminated dairy products become more widespread, many are discussing the alternative to formula — breastfeeding.
The scandal erupted earlier this month when Sanlu, China’s top-selling infant formula manufacturer, publicly recalled its products. The baby formula was deliberately contaminated with melamine, an industrial chemical that can cause kidney problems. Since then, thousands of children have become sick and the milk powder has been blamed for the deaths of four infants. The crisis has not only raised questions about food safety, but also about why so many children are being fed formula in the first place, instead of being breastfed.
Thanks to its numerous health benefits, the World Health Organization recommends that children be breastfed exclusively for the first six months of life. However, despite a long tradition of breastfeeding in China, rates have declined as more mothers turn to milk formula. The rates of exclusive breastfeeding during an infant’s first four months decreased from around 76 percent in 1998 to 64 percent in 2004. At six months, the percentage of babies being exclusively breastfed is only 51 percent.
First on Zimbabwe, now on Darfur, Western countries have lost out at the U.N. Security Council to African states backed by China and Russia.
A Western attempt to get sanctions imposed on Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s government flopped on July 11. Three weeks later, when it came to renewing the mandate of peacekeepers in Darfur, Western countries bowed to demands to include wording that made clear the council would be ready to freeze any International Criminal Court indictment of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for genocide. The United States abstained, but that made no difference to the vote.
What’s with farming these days? The humble, even if slightly romantic vocation, is attracting a new breed of participants as investing in farmland and agriculture becomes the latest fad in the world of investments.
With financial markets in tumoil and commodity prices at record highs, traditional financial players such as investment banks and hedge funds, and even sovereign wealth funds of cash-rich emerging economies are increasingly looking at farm land as the next major investment avenue.
The motivations are varied — from pure financial punting to concerns about food security. Underlying all this is the belief that the rapid economic expansion of China and India could add more than a billion people between them to the ranks of consumers of meat and wheat-based products. And then there is the growing demand for land to grow crops for biofuels.
China’s surprise decision late on Thursday to slash subsidies on fuel prices has been welcomed as a sign that Beijing is intent on reducing the pace of oil demand growth in the world’s second biggest energy consumer.
That, in theory, should help contain the upward spiral in world oil prices that took crude to a high of nearly $140 a barrel last week. Nine out of 10 analysts polled by Reuters immediately after the news took that line. But there is a contrarian view.