Federal Breastfeeding Ads Toned Down

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The Skinny is Keach Hagey's take on the top news of the day and the best of the Internet.


Remember former Surgeon General Richard Carmona's testimony last month that the Bush administration repeatedly allowed political considerations to interfered with this efforts to promote public health? The Washington Post has a doozy of an investigative story this morning that adds a heap of fuel to that political bonfire.

Apparently, the powerful infant formula lobby didn't like the public service ad campaign that the Health and Human Services Department designed a few years ago to try to bring up America's notoriously low breastfeeding rate.

So lobbyists for the formula makers - mostly divisions of large pharmaceutical companies - launched a "full court press to reach top political appointees at HHS, using influential former government officials, now working for the industry, to act as go-between," the Post reports.

It worked.

Babies who aren't breast fed are several times more likely to suffer diabetes and respiratory diseases. To bring home this message to expectant mothers, the orginal ads featured striking photos of insulin syringes and asthma inhalers topped with rubber nipples.

The revised ads showed a dandelion and a milder, more positive message that breastfeeding reduces risks for those illnesses.

The mellower ads had "no discernable impact" on the nation's breastfeeding rate, which lags behind that of many European countries, the Post reported. In fact, the U.S. breastfeeding rate actually plunged from 70 percent in 2002 to 63.6 percent in 2006. The ads ran from 2003-05.

Congressman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., heads a committee that is investigating allegations that then-Surgeon General Carmona was blocked from participating in the breastfeeding advocacy effort, and that those designing the ads were overruled by their superiors at the formula industry's insistence.

Rupert's Wall Street Journal

Some might argue that the first evidence of media mogul Rupert Murdoch's influence over his new prize appeared the day Paris Hilton's face graced the pages of the Wall Street Journal. But it can also be argued that the downslide began today - the day the Journal gets its top story from celebrity blogger Perez Hilton.

Ostensibly, the story's about how Fidel Castro appears to be killed off almost daily lately in the rumor mills of Miami's Cuban community and the blog run by Cuban-American Hilton (whose real name is Mario Lavandeira). But much of the front-page real estate is taken up by descriptions of the peculiar mechanics of Hilton's wildly popular blog. (For the uninitiated, he posts photos of celebrities and then usually draws naughty scribbles over them.)

It's meant to be one of those zany middle box stories (before the size changed) to send us off into a holiday weekend, but it cuts just a little to close to fears for the paper. Rumors of Castro's death may be greatly exaggerated -- but what about rumors of the Journals'?

Coral Gables Man Sues For Right To Park His Truck

For years, beautifully manicured Coral Gables, Fla., kept itself that way with strict zoning rules, including one banning the overnight parking of pickup trucks in driveways or streets. Now, the New York Times reports, at least that last rule will no longer fly, having been struck down last week by a state appeals court.

The law will change because an aspiring lawyer with a Ford F150 sued for the right to park his truck outside. Lowell Kuvin said complained that Florida was one of the most culturally diverse areas in the entire United States, "and yet Coral Gables is telling certain people they can't act out their cultural values."

Naturally the recent law school grad, who is waiting to hear whether he passed the bar, is thrilled about his court victory, and plans to keep his truck "forever" for sentimental reasons. However, the town residents "can send me a station wagon if they'd like."

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