Sunday, April 12, 2015

From Missiles to Mother's Milk

Once around the Internet:

It should come as no surprise that almost anything imaginable is for sale online these days.

In exploring the topic while providing my readers with content guaranteed to educate and enlighten, I have discovered everything from a Hughes AIM-4D Falcon Missile (warhead not included) to not-so-gently used underwear to Titanic-shaped ice cubes available at the click of the mouse.

I was nonetheless surprised to see a story the other day warning consumers about the dangers of purchasing breast milk online.

According to a story in the Los Angeles Times, researchers who tested 102 samples of breast milk purchased from popular milk-sharing websites found that one in 10 contained substantial amounts of cow DNA.

Further tests ruled out the possibility that the cow DNA was the result of minor or incidental contamination and suggested that the tainted breast milk had probably been mixed with cow-milk-based baby formula.

Disturbing news. On the other hand, who buys breast milk from anonymous Internet sites? In fact, who buys it at all?

Some 21% of parents who seek breast milk online are doing it for a child with a preexisting medical condition, the story said. In addition, 16% of those looking to purchase breast milk say that their child has a formula intolerance. 

That means 63% of purchases fall into other categories. A look at the breast milk websites shows that many are made by women who simply can’t produce enough milk. And, yes, there are a lot of male purchasers out there, most claiming they use it for health or fitness reasons.

Although both the Food and Drug Administration and the American Academy of Pediatrics frown on purchasing milk over the Internet, the trend is growing. 

Based on published figures, in 2011 there were 13,000 people participating in these transactions. Today, the number has grown to 55,000.

While I understand I’m wading into emotionally charged waters here, buying breast milk from an anonymous donor seems like a really bad idea, like buying a used toothbrush.

For all we know, Mother’s Little Helper may knock back a fifth of vodka a day or suffer from some loathsome disease.

Then there is the cost.  One website which runs classified ads offering breast milk, the asking price runs $1 to $2.50 an ounce although kosher breast milk was going for $3.50 an ounce.

Given that a 6-month-old baby consumes about 30 ounces a day, and figuring a cost of $2 an ounce, that could run to more than $1600 a month.

So much for the milk of human kindness.

Latest dispatches from the drought front:

Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times: “So people who eat nuts live longer and nuts are using all of California's water so we'll all die of either thirst or of not eating nuts.”

In the meantime, the Los Angeles Times is trying to drought-shame us by running graphics which disclose how much water it takes to produce our meals. Example: eight ounces of beef with six ounces of pasta and eight ounces of cherries will take 1,000 gallons.

Stay tuned for the “Drought Cookbook” coming soon to a store near you.

I am not immune from drought hysteria. I reached for a can of almonds at the market the other day and immediately felt pangs of guilt. Just think: the amount of water it took to produce those almonds could help fill a pool in Beverly Hills.

It’s Masters Week, when the whole world watches the most famous golf tournament of them all at Augusta National in Georgia.

The whole world that is except China.

It seems Chinese authorities recently announced the closure of 66 "illegal" golf courses -- roughly 10% of all courses in the country -- in an apparent attempt to start enforcing a long-ignored ban on golf-related construction.

The following day, the Commerce Ministry announced that one of its senior officials was under investigation for "participating in a company's golf event," thus putting him on the wrong side of President Xi Jinping's rules against extravagance among government officials, according to CNN.

You can bet that “under investigation” means we won’t be getting a Christmas card from him this year.

China has never really embraced golf. Mao Zedong banned it, denouncing golf as the "sport for millionaires." Even after China opened up and golf re-emerged in the mid-1980s, largely as a way to attract foreign investment, the sport was saddled with serious image problems, CNN reported.

It seems the construction and maintenance of golf courses is particularly resource intensive. China is home to 20% of the world's population, yet just 7% of its fresh water and 9% of its arable land, one-fifth of which is polluted.

Golf also remains prohibitively expensive in China where it is seen as a self-indulgent and elitist. In a nation of 700 million peasant farmers, a new set of Titleist clubs isn’t on many “must have” lists.

It sounds like getting a foursome together might be tough.

Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com.

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