Formulating an Accord
A 6-year-long boycott of Nestlé was terminated in January, when the Infant Formula Action Coalition ("Infact")—the boycott's organizers—finally agreed that the company was following the infant-formula marketing code set out by the World Health Organization in 1981. The boycott organizers had charged that Nestlé's aggressive marketing of its formula to Third World peoples endangered infants' lives by encouraging mothers to stop breast feeding their babies and instead use the formula, which must be mixed with water that may be polluted. In order to reach the accord, Nestlé made certain concessions to Infact; but the boycotters' position was largely undercut when an investigative commission, headed by Edmund Muskie, last year found Nestlé to have been abiding by the marketing code. In "Infant Formula: WHO Mixes It Up" (Dec. 1982), James Hickel showed that many of the claims regarding the supposed evils of infant-formula and its makers were not based on any compelling scientific data.
In interesting juxtaposition to the news about the boycott was medical-writer Harry Schwartz's Wall Street Journal op-ed piece of January 12. Discussing UNICEF's recent report "The State of the World's Children 1984," Schwartz noted several contradictions within the United Nations' Third World health policies. For example, the UNICEF report holds out "oral rehydration" therapy—giving diarrhetic children, who face death by dehydration, drinks containing water, sugar, and salt—as an effective way to avoid childhood deaths; but Schwartz then wonders why "the mother who bottle feeds her child with infant formula, we were told, often is killing the child by giving it polluted water," while "this same murderous water is perfectly fine if given with salt and sugar in oral rehydration."
Moreover, Schwartz points out a correlation—not articulated in the UNICEF report but borne out by its own data—between increased use of bottle feeding and infant formula, on one hand, and sharp drops in infant mortality, on the other, in Brazil, the Philippines, and South Korea. It may turn out, then, that UN agencies could be charged, with great cause, with acting irresponsibly in their campaign against bottle feeding and the use of infant formula.
Private ATC Soaring
REASON's article "Towering Entrepreneurs" (May 1983) marked the first time a general-interest magazine looked at the phenomenon of privatizing air traffic control (ATC). Since then, the idea of private operators taking over control towers from the Federal Aviation Administration has caught on both journalistically and politically.
Airline Pilot magazine subsequently asked the article's author, John Doherty, to write a report on the subject. And at press time, NBC's Today show was planning to air a feature on ATC privatization, having completed filming in Owensboro, Kentucky (one of the private tower locations Doherty had reported on), and in Washington, D.C.
Political and bureaucratic support for further ATC privatization is growing at a fairly steady pace. In January, Doherty reported that the Federal Aviation Administration no longer calls it a pilot program—it is now the National Contract Tower Program. More importantly, the FAA has slated six more airport towers for contracting out by the end of spring, and 20–30 more by this fall.
Unfortunately, the Labor Department has put one stumbling block in the way of private ATC firms. It recently decreed that controllers working for private firms must be paid the same wages as controllers employed by the government. This cuts the savings that can be realized by contracting with private firms from 50 percent to a mere 20 percent—but those savings are still substantial.
• Fee education. Come September, California's "free" community-college system—the only remaining tuitionless system in the country—will be no more (see "An Education about a Subsidy," Trends, March). The state legislature voted in January to implement a $50-per-semester tuition at the schools.
• Private satellites recommended. Private international-communications satellites would be in the interest of the United States, according to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Two firms, Orion Satellite and International Satellite, have applied to launch satellites for transatlantic communication, a service that, under international agreement, the federal government allows only the international governmental consortium Intelsat to offer in this country (see Trends, Jan., p. 22).
• Olympian controls routed. In last August's REASON, Robert St. Yves recounted his experiences as a motel owner contending with state controls during the 1980 Winter Olympics in New York ("Tyranny Takes the Gold"). Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, who evidently missed that REASON issue, subsequently proposed that Los Angeles pols establish a ceiling on hotel and motel room rates during the Olympics there, thus repeating New York's mistakes—but in January, a City Council committee unanimously rejected his proposal.
• Dover woes. In February, Further & More reported that the prospects for a private fire-fighting service in Dover, New Hampshire, had gone up in smoke when voters there approved a charter revision that bans contracts with private companies for any city services. Now, in the wake of the charter revision, a local union representing city workers says it is "very likely" that it will challenge long-standing city contracts with private companies for snow plowing and rubbish removal. As the New Hampshire Times said, "The other shoe has dropped in Dover."