big business
July 9, 2018

The delegates to this spring's World Health Assembly, the annual gathering of the United Nations' World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, expected that a resolution to promote breastfeeding would pass easily. Then the U.S. delegation tried to water down the resolution, siding with the $70 billion infant formula industry, and when that failed, the State Department threatened Ecuador, which had planned to introduce the resolution, The New York Times reports, citing interviews with more than a dozen participants from several countries.

"The Americans were blunt: If Ecuador refused to drop the resolution, Washington would unleash punishing trade measures and withdraw crucial military aid," the Times reports. "The Ecuadorean government quickly acquiesced." Other Latin American and African nations declined to step in, fearing reprisal from the U.S., and the U.S. also reportedly threatened to withdraw its funding for the WHO. "In the end, the Americans' efforts were mostly unsuccessful," the Times says. Why?

It was the Russians who ultimately stepped in to introduce the measure — and the Americans did not threaten them. ... A Russian delegate said the decision to introduce the breast-feeding resolution was a matter of principle. "We're not trying to be a hero here, but we feel that it is wrong when a big country tries to push around some very small countries, especially on an issue that is really important for the rest of the world." [The New York Times]

Decades of research shows that breast milk is the healthiest food for infants, providing nutrition as well as hormones and antibodies, and a 2016 study in the British medical journal The Lancet estimated that universal breastfeeding would prevent 800,000 child deaths a year and save $300 billion in global health-care costs. Infant formula sales have flatlined in wealthy nations but are still growing in the developing world. Read more about the saga at The New York Times. Peter Weber

February 14, 2018

AT&T is trying to prove that President Trump personally intervened to stop a proposed merger with Time Warner, Bloomberg reported Wednesday. AT&T reportedly believes there are documents tracing correspondence between the White House and Justice Department that could prove Trump wanted the $85 billion merger killed.

Last November, the DOJ announced that it would initiate an antitrust lawsuit to block the merger between AT&T and Time Warner, claiming the deal would "substantially lessen competition." When news of the suit surfaced, The New York Times reported that the DOJ had insinuated the deal would be approved if Time Warner sold off Turner Broadcasting — which owns the president's least favorite news network, CNN.

Various sources within AT&T and Time Warner told Vanity Fair that the demand for Time Warner to shed Turner Broadcasting, and CNN by proxy, reeked of politics. The antitrust lawsuit is set to begin in March, and Bloomberg says that AT&T is also hoping to get the head attorney for the DOJ's antitrust division to testify.

As a presidential candidate, Trump expressed his opposition to the AT&T and Time Warner merger, saying that it would result in "too much concentration of power in the hands of too few." Bloomberg notes that the White House has long denied allegations that their opposition to the sale is politically motivated. Both the Justice Department and AT&T declined to comment on Bloomberg's story. Kelly O'Meara Morales

December 20, 2017

AT&T announced Wednesday that it was making a $1 billion investment in U.S. operations as well as giving $1,000 bonuses to over 200,000 workers in response to the passage of the Republican tax bill. "This tax reform will drive economic growth and create good-paying jobs," AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said in a statement Wednesday. "In fact, we will increase our U.S. investment and pay a special bonus to our U.S. employees."

But it didn't take long before reporters noticed a peculiar detail: The telecommunications company had planned on making some of those investments even before both chambers of Congress passed the GOP tax bill Wednesday. In fact, AT&T outlined a similar initiative last week:

An AT&T spokesman told Reuters' David Shepardson that the bonuses announced Wednesday are "unrelated" to the union agreement publicized last week. But the company had already announced its $1 billion investment plan, too — back in November, pending the tax bill's passage.

President Trump gleefully touted AT&T's decision, saying Wednesday, "That's because of what we did." Bloomberg's Scott Moritz pointed out that AT&T is currently embroiled in a dispute with Trump's Justice Department over a planned merger with Time Warner, who owns Trump's least favorite news network, CNN. Boeing, Comcast, Fifth Third Bancorp, and Wells Fargo also announced worker bonuses or domestic investments in response to the tax bill's passage — but a few of those companies may have reasons aside from generosity to celebrate Trump's tax victory, as The Boston Globe's Astead Wesley noted. Kelly O'Meara Morales

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