Blaming the Victim: The Shoddy Press Coverage of the Dali Destroying the Francis Scott Key Bridge

I’ve noticed a nasty trend in the way the press is covering the recent destruction of the Francis Scott Key Bridge when a freighter named the Dali crashed into it. The most recent example I’ve seen of this trend is this Politico story, titled “Outmoded bridge design likely contributed to catastrophic loss in Baltimore”. The lede continues to blame the victim this way:

The collapse of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge Tuesday after a collision with a massive container ship could have been mitigated with simple “fenders” that have been standard issues on new bridges since the 1990s.

Outmoded bridge design likely contributed to catastrophic loss in Baltimore, Politico, March 27, 2024

The way the author writes this, you’d think the bridge jumped in front of the ship like a defender trying to draw a charge during a basketball game. Apparently, designers of the bridge in the 1970s were supposed to anticipate that freighters going in and out of that harbor would quadruple in size over the subsequent half century. Later on in the story, they quote an attorney in Florida who defended a freighter captain whose ship hit the Sunshine Skyway Bridge during a storm, resulting in the deaths of 35 people.

If you look at the Baltimore bridge pictures, you’ll see the piers are unprotected,” Yerrid said in an interview. “That occurred in 1980, our horrific accident. So what I’m saying is, they didn’t learn. And for 44 years–I’m not saying they should have rebuilt their whole bridge, but they certainly should have taken safety measures.”

Outmoded bridge design likely contributed to catastrophic loss in Baltimore, Politico, March 27, 2024

Nowhere in the entire Politico piece is there any accountability placed on the people responsible navigating the ship. Not a single question posed about the wisdom of a ship that size (which launched in late 2014) having just one propeller and rudder. This USA Today piece smartly questions the practice of not requiring tug escorts for such large ships. It even mentions the Exxon-Valdez oil spill, the oil tanker-caused ecological disaster that resulted in double-hulled construction being mandated for all such ships in the future.

Most of the radio coverage I’ve heard focuses far more on the collapse of the bridge than on the massive ship which caused it. But a bit of searching yielded this foreign press story, which talks not only about the Dali’s previous crash at the Port of Antwerp, but about previous sanctions from the Australian government against the owner of the ship, Grace Ocean.

Overall, the coverage of this disaster reminded me a lot of how survivors of Hurricane Katrina were called refugees in and by the press. The implication that these people didn’t belong here couldn’t have been more obvious. Nor was it a coincidence that the vast majority of those dead and displaced by the storm were poor and black. Social media has been predictably filled with derisive commentary from so-called conservatives about the black governor of the state, Wes Moore, not wearing a suit during a 3 am press conference responding to the disaster. They’ve called Brandon Scott a “DEI” mayor, ignoring the fact that he was elected by a majority of the citizens of Baltimore in 2020. Right-wing pundits have blamed everything from COVID to border policy for the bridge collapsing–nevermind the fact that any bridge hit by something the size and weight of a skyscraper was going to fall down. Nearly 20 years after Katrina, the sort of implicit bias we saw in mainstream news coverage of that disaster seems no less prevalent today.

How the U.S. Waged a Global Campaign Against Baby Formula Regulation

The following story was originally published by ProPublica, written and photographed by the contributors listed below.  I’ve been donating to ProPublica for a number of years and encourage those who read this blog to do so as well.  ProPublica can be followed on social media at BlueSky (, Mastodon (@ProPublica), and on Twitter (@propublica)

by Heather Vogell, ProPublica, photography by June Watsamon Tri-yasakda, special to ProPublica

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.

LOPBURI, Thailand — When Gustun Aunlamai arrived at school at age 4, he was so overweight that his teacher worried he’d have trouble breathing during naptime. His arms and legs were thick. His mouth peeked out from two ballooning cheeks. He moved slowly.

Throughout his toddler years, Gustun had regularly asked his parents to refill his bottle with his favorite “milk” — a type of formula made especially for kids his age. And they were happy to oblige. Sumet Aunlamai and Jintana Suksiri, who lived in a rural province north of Bangkok, had carefully chosen the brand.

Like other Thai parents, they’d been bombarded by formula advertising on television, online and in grocery stores, where a rainbow of boxes and canisters of powdered toddler milk featured teddy bears in graduation caps and giveaways like toys or diapers. It cost far more than cow’s milk but promised to make Gustun stronger and smarter.

What Jintana didn’t know, as Gustun chugged the formula and his weight neared 70 pounds, was that her son’s choice drink had sparked an international feud.

In 2017, Thai health experts tried to stop aggressive advertising for all formula — including that made for toddlers. Officials feared company promotions could mislead parents and even persuade mothers to forgo breastfeeding, depriving their children of the vital health benefits that come with it. At the time, Thailand’s breastfeeding rate was already among the lowest in the world.

But the $47 billion formula industry fought back, enlisting the help of a rich and powerful ally: the United States government.

Over 15 months, U.S. trade officials worked closely with formula makers to wage a diplomatic and political pressure campaign to weaken Thailand’s proposed ban on formula marketing, a ProPublica investigation found.

U.S. officials delivered a letter to Bangkok asking pointed questions, including whether the legislation was “more trade restrictive than necessary.” They also lodged criticisms in a bilateral trade meeting with Thai authorities and on the floor of the World Trade Organization, where such complaints can lead to costly legal battles.

Thai officials argued the new regulation would protect mothers and babies. In the end, though, the Thai government backed down. It banned advertising for infant formula but allowed companies to market formula for toddlers like Gustun — one of the industry’s most profitable and dubious products. The final law also slashed penalties for violators.

“Our law is really weak and enforcement is really weak,” said Dr. Siriwat Tiptaradol, who championed the proposed ban as a former adviser to Thailand’s health minister, in an interview in Bangkok. “I was upset and disappointed.”

The U.S. endeavor in Thailand was part of a decadeslong, global effort to protect the United States’ significant formula production and export business. ProPublica reviewed thousands of pages of emails and memos by U.S. officials, letters to foreign ministries, correspondence from industry groups and academic research. We also interviewed health experts and government leaders in nearly two dozen countries, including former U.S. officials.

Together, the reporting shows the U.S. government repeatedly used its muscle to advance the interests of multinational baby formula companies, such as Mead Johnson and Abbott, while thwarting the efforts of Thailand and other developing countries to safeguard the health of their youngest children.

Just last March, at a meeting in Dusseldorf, Germany, U.S. officials opposed a reference to formula advertising bans in a new international food standard for toddler milk. The move came after industry lobbying.

At the center of many efforts was the Office of the United States Trade Representative, which advises the president on trade policy. Emails show its staff in regular contact with formula makers and their industry groups through meetings, calls and position papers — which the industry used to hammer its objections to regulations around the world. “Mead Johnson and other infant formula producers have been very vocal, expressing concerns to the Thai and U.S. governments about what they feel is the imminent passage of this measure,” U.S. officials wrote in 2016 as Thailand considered its formula marketing ban.

Officials with the USTR and other trade-focused agencies, including those within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, then echoed those positions in communications with other countries or in international forums like the WTO, the documents showed.

“The U.S. is highly influential,” said Dr. Robert Boyle, a doctor at Imperial College London who has researched international formula use.

In many places, the lobbying appeared to succeed. Hong Kong, for example, watered down some of its formula regulations after objections from U.S. trade officials, who said in a draft letter that the rules “could result in significant commercial loss for U.S. companies.” And a proposal in Indonesia stalled after questions from the U.S. at the WTO.

Notably, such advocacy has not only hindered local attempts to stop formula marketing that critics say is misleading or even predatory, but it has also undermined the work of U.S. foreign aid and health officials, who have long supported breastfeeding across the globe. They call it “one of the highest returns on investment of any development activity” because of its well-documented benefits for babies’ health and cognitive growth.

“I think it is shocking,” said Jane Badham, an independent nutrition consultant and expert in child feeding who works internationally. “One doesn’t realize how much this kind of interference is happening.”

The meddling broke into public view in 2018, when officials from the Trump administration were accused of threatening to withhold military aid from Ecuador if the country didn’t drop its proposed resolution in support of breastfeeding at the World Health Organization; the U.S. ambassador later denied making threats. But ProPublica’s investigation found that the scope of the interference far exceeded that incident and continues today under the Biden administration. In fact, Ecuador and Thailand were just two stops on a worldwide crusade against regulation that has spanned Republican and Democratic presidential administrations and touched more than a dozen countries, including South Africa, Guatemala and Kenya, as well as Southeast Asian nations such as the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Neither Abbott nor Mead Johnson responded to requests for interviews or to detailed questions from ProPublica. The latter’s parent company, Reckitt, also did not respond to our request for comment.

USTR officials declined to be interviewed for this story. In response to written questions, an agency spokesperson said in a statement that under President Joe Biden, the trade agency has emphasized respecting the role of foreign governments in deciding the appropriate regulatory approach, including with respect to infant formula. USTR has been committed “to making sure our trade policy works for people — not blindly advancing the will of corporations,” the statement said.

That has meant moving the office “away from the formerly standard view that too often deemed legitimate regulatory initiatives as trade barriers,” the spokesperson said, adding that the move has “enervated” corporate players who have been used to “getting their way at USTR for decades.”

The spokesperson, however, declined to provide examples of the new approach in relation to formula. She also declined to respond to questions about government documents that show the trade office under Biden working with other federal agencies to pursue the same playbook on formula as prior administrations.

In 2021, for example, officials complained to Filipino trade authorities about stricter formula marketing rules they considered “overkill,” and expressed fears about regulatory “spillover” elsewhere in Southeast Asia. In Kenya, they sought to strike a provision in a proposed formula advertising ban after an industry group sent USTR a paper seeking its deletion.

Public health officials are increasingly raising concerns about toddler milk, especially as companies deploy advertising for products using bold — and, critics say, often unsupported — health claims.

In October, the American Academy of Pediatrics published a new report warning about the marketing for toddler formula. “Products that are advertised as ‘follow-up formulas,’ ‘weaning formulas’ or ‘toddler milks and formulas’ are misleadingly promoted as a necessary part of a healthy child’s diet,” said Dr. George Fuchs III, a lead author of the study. The drinks are worse than infant formula for babies under 1 year, he said, and “offer no benefit over much less expensive cow’s milk in most children older than age 12 months.”

Unlike infant formula, toddler milks are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Nutrition experts have warned about hefty doses of sweeteners and sodium in some brands.

The Infant Nutrition Council of America, a formula industry group, defended toddler drinks, saying they “can contribute to nutritional intake and potentially fill nutrition gaps for children 12 months and older.”

Toddler milk made up just 11% of all formula sales in the United States in 2023, but it was much more popular abroad, according to Euromonitor, which tracks sales data. Worldwide, it made up 37% of sales. In Thailand, it accounted for more than half.

The country is now struggling to address the consequences of the law’s weakening, researchers and officials say. More than 1 in 10 Thai children under 5 years old face what researchers call a “double burden of malnutrition” that leaves some struggling with obesity and others lagging behind growth targets. Increased breastfeeding could help address both problems.

“You go to school and see a lot of kids are overweight,” said Dr. Somsak Lolekha, president of the Royal College of Pediatricians of Thailand and the Pediatric Society of Thailand. “We have a big problem in Thailand.”

Targeting “the Sippy Cups of the World”

Formula is one of only two products with international recommendations to prohibit its marketing. The other is tobacco.

The warning dates to 1981, when the nations that make up the governing body of the WHO passed the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes. It aimed to stop all promotion of drinks meant to replace breast milk.

The move followed reports in the 1970s that thousands of infants in impoverished countries were falling ill and dying after drinking formula.

Not only were mothers using costly formula to replace breast milk, which would have given their babies better immunity, but the water parents mixed milk powder with was sometimes contaminated, leading to life-threatening bacterial infections and diarrhea. Overdiluted formula was causing severe malnutrition, too. Activists called for a boycott of the world’s biggest formula maker, Nestlé, which had heavily promoted its products in developing countries.

During the height of the controversy, an average 212,000 babies in low- and middle-income countries died preventable deaths linked to formula use annually, an academic paper circulated by the National Bureau of Economic Research estimated last year. (Nestlé disputed the research and said it was the first formula company to incorporate the WHO recommendations into its marketing policy in 1982.)

The United States cast the sole “no” vote against the international code, with the Reagan administration citing First Amendment protections on advertising. The Washington Post quoted a senior federal official who resigned over the decision, saying it would be “seen in the world as a victory for corporate interests.”

To be sure, formula was crucial for babies who didn’t have access to breast milk. But for those who did, public health experts feared aggressive advertising and free samples would derail a critical cycle. Once babies start drinking formula regularly, research shows, their mothers’ breast milk supply can drop.

“The evidence is strong,” a WHO and UNICEF report explains. “Formula milk marketing, not the product itself, disrupts informed decision-making and undermines breastfeeding and child health.”

In the years since the international code was adopted, at least 144 countries have sought to enshrine its voluntary restrictions into laws that bar formula marketing in stores, hospitals and elsewhere. Despite poor enforcement in many places, the laws have had measurable benefits. Studies have shown that countries that adopted marketing bans saw their breastfeeding rates rise, and more breastfeeding is in turn linked to fewer infant deaths. It also reduces mothers’ risk of certain cancers.

Baby formula manufacturers responded to slower growth in infant formula sales by creating products for older babies and toddlers — age groups that fell outside most regulations.

“We have a proven global demand-creation model,” Greg Shewchuk, Mead Johnson’s head of global marketing, told investors in 2013. “Capture baby very early on, often before it’s born, hold onto them through feeding and their feeding challenges and extend them as long as possible.”

Mead, which was based in the United States until a British company bought it in 2017, termed the strategy A-R-E: Acquisition, Retention, Extension.

To make toddler products more attractive to parents, who usually just gave their kids cheaper cow’s milk beginning at age 1, formula makers began adding nutritional supplements like DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish and algae with purported benefits for brain and eye health.

The claims, however, are unproven. Studies have found no definitive link between babies’ brain and eye development and DHA supplementation, a 2017 meta-analysis of 15 studies found, according to Cochrane, a nonprofit that supports systematic reviews of health research. In fact, breastfed babies perform better on intelligence tests.

Still, formula companies used additives like DHA “as a hook to expand their market share,” said Peter Buzy, CFO and treasurer of Martek Biosciences Corp., which produced DHA, at an analysts’ meeting in 2004. “Really targeting, you know, the sippy cups of the world.”

A spokesperson for the Infant Nutrition Council of America defended the health and nutrition claims, saying they “are based on science and medical research and meet all legal, regulatory and nutritional science requirements.”

The marketing worked. Toddler milk has overtaken infant formula in worldwide sales, according to Euromonitor. Global toddler milk sales have grown by 25% since 2013, to almost $20 billion. A little less than two gallons of toddler milk can cost $30 or more, compared with around $3.94 a gallon for regular milk in the U.S.

For formula manufacturers, the popularity of the product had another benefit: It helped them circumvent local rules against marketing infant formula. By using similar logos, colors or fonts across product lines, legal advertisements for toddler milk effectively promoted baby formula too, even in places where it was subject to a marketing ban. Nutrition experts and advocates called the tactic “cross-promotion.”

During the past decade, sales of regular infant formula grew about 10% worldwide, to $15 billion.

A Focus on Developing Nations

In 2014, Jintana gave birth to the couple’s first child, whom they nicknamed “Captain” after a soccer player.

The family lived in military housing in Lopburi, a rural province two hours north of Bangkok whose capital city is world famous for its flourishing monkey population. With Sumet serving in the Army, Jintana took time off from her job in customer relations to care for the newborn.

She breastfed Captain until it was time to return to work three months later. The couple shopped for formula. Health claims formula makers listed on packages were “very important,” Sumet said through a translator. They settled on a product called Dumex that promised to strengthen Captain’s brain, immunity and eyes. It was made by the French giant, Danone, which boasts that the brand “has happily raised generations of Thais.”

Millions of women like Jintana had been entering the workforce in developing regions such as Southeast Asia. The big six transnational companies that make most of the world’s baby formula saw this as a boon.

For Mead Johnson, the maker of Enfamil, the benefits of developing economies were twofold. “Firstly, in most countries, breastfeeding is incompatible with women participating fully in the workforce,” CEO Kasper Jakobsen said in a 2013 earnings call. “And, secondly, as women participate in the workforce, that creates a rapid increase in the number of dual-income families that can afford more expensive, premium nutrition products.”

By then, Thailand was Mead’s fifth-biggest market worldwide. And Southeast Asia was well on its way to becoming more important to the formula industry than the U.S. and European markets combined.

As business boomed, advocates lambasted the industry for its practices. Mead employees, for example, allegedly bribed health care workers at government hospitals in China so they would recommend the company’s formula to new mothers — charges the company ultimately resolved with a $12 million settlement in 2015; the company did not admit or deny regulators’ findings in the agreement. Danone faced similar allegations from Chinese media related to the brand Captain and Gustun drank, Dumex. Danone said at the time that it accepted responsibility for the lapses and suspended the program involved, according to the BBC.

The industry maintained close relationships with the medical establishment in Thailand, too. One pediatrician and advocate for breastfeeding, Dr. Sutheera Uerpairojkit, told ProPublica that two decades ago, she saw formula companies offer doctors and medical staff trips abroad in exchange for giving patients free samples and collecting their data. Some took the trips. Sutheera did not participate.

Thailand adopted the international code in 1984 — but only as a voluntary measure. Over the years, Siriwat and others pushed for tougher formula marketing restrictions without success. In one meeting, he and colleagues at the Thai health ministry pressed formula companies to comply with the voluntary rules, which they’d routinely broken. The businesses resisted. “One company said, ‘If I do not violate, I cannot compete with other companies,’” Siriwat recalled in September.

“That makes me very angry,” he said, remembering how he stormed out of the room.

By 2014, with Thailand’s breastfeeding rate at only 12%, according to one survey, Siriwat persuaded the health minister to seek legislation to formally ban marketing infant and toddler formula. He wanted the new law to include enforcement and penalties for violators.

The WHO, a United Nations agency promoting health, wanted more countries to pursue such measures. Its staff in 2016 released new recommendations on ending the promotion of formula products for toddlers, as well as infants. In theory, that guidance could help countries like Thailand fend off trade complaints about new marketing bans. And an endorsement by the WHO’s member nations would underscore the recommendations’ importance.

But public health wasn’t the only concern as nations prepared to vote.

U.S. Intervention on a Global Stage

The WHO effort alarmed formula makers, which worried that it would kick off a new round of laws against formula marketing. “That’s what’s at stake by a new measure that’s being proposed by the WHO, without any scientific evidence,” Audrae Erickson, a Mead Johnson lobbyist, told a trade association crowd.

Industry groups scrambled to arrange meetings with high-level officials in Washington. “Clearly, the potential economic and international trade implications from this proposed draft guidance are quite significant,” the pro-industry Infant Nutrition Council of America said in a letter to an FDA official in 2016.

That year, companies and trade groups connected to commercial milk formula, including Abbott Laboratories and Nestlé, spent almost $7 million lobbying U.S. officials about WHO matters, after a decade in which their lobbying disclosures had not mentioned the organization at all, a study found.

The industry’s outreach spanned Washington. The Infant Nutrition Council of America, for instance, lobbied the Senate, House and USTR — as well as the commerce, state, agriculture and health departments, lobbying records show. The efforts attracted the attention of leaders in both parties, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, who called President Barack Obama about the issue, according to records obtained by ProPublica.

Inside the administration, USTR took up the formula industry’s cause. “USTR does not support issuance of the guidance or resolution” on toddler milk, wrote Jennifer Stradtman, a USTR official, in an email to other federal officials. Furthermore, she wrote, her office “will not be able to accept” any resolution that encouraged WHO member countries to convert any of the guidance into law.

It wasn’t the first time the USTR sided with industry despite public health concerns: In 2013, a group of Democratic senators scolded U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman for a proposal to help tobacco companies use trade law to “subvert” tobacco control measures — a stance the lawmakers called “deplorable and a serious threat to global public health.”

In the debate over toddler milk, officials from Froman’s office repeatedly questioned science, prompting a fight with public health officials, internal documents show.

In one exchange, then-USTR lawyer Sally Laing objected to a sentence from the guidance that said research suggests food preferences are established early in life.

“Unsupported,” Laing wrote.

Health officials pushed back on that, as well as other USTR edits. “MUST NOT DELETE,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protested in all caps, arguing that key language in the resolution was, in fact, backed by scientific evidence. But such concerns appeared to get lost in the debate, as those sentences were ultimately struck from the text.

Meanwhile, as WHO member nations gathered to vote in Geneva, formula lobbyists had U.S. officials “on speed dial” and urged them to weaken the WHO resolution, said Jimmy Kolker, who led the negotiations for the U.S. as an assistant secretary in the Health and Human Services Department.

And the industry’s agents appeared to have inside knowledge. A baby-formula industry association lobbyist cornered Kolker. “From her approach, it was obvious to me that she had been forwarded an internal, very-limited-distribution USG email,” he wrote in an email to other U.S. government officials. “This is unacceptable and makes our job as negotiators significantly more difficult.”

In the end, the United States delegation persuaded WHO nations not to “endorse” their staffs’ own recommendations. Instead, the body voted only that it “welcomes with appreciation” the guidance — language that undercut its utility. The resolution, lacking the weight of an official endorsement, left many nations puzzled over whether it would help neutralize trade complaints.

“That has caused a lot of confusion,” said Laurence Grummer-Strawn, a WHO official who focuses on child feeding and former nutrition chief for the CDC. “What does that really mean?”

Stradtman and Laing could not be reached for comment. Froman did not respond to requests for comment, and a USTR spokesperson declined to comment on the office’s actions during the WHO debate. In a general statement, the spokesperson said that “with regard to infant formula, USTR, in conjunction with others in the interagency, work to uphold and advocate for policy and regulatory decisions that are based on science.”

The practical impact of the resolution’s weakened wording became clear within months, when the U.S. and other dairy producers like Australia and Canada accused Thailand of attempting to obstruct trade with its marketing ban. Thai officials argued their country had a “strong need for a regulation,” saying the “sales promotion” of milk formula for babies and toddlers contributed to the nation’s low rate of breastfeeding. But when it referenced the WHO’s guidance and resolution to support its position at the WTO, the U.S. countered that those measures did not amount to “an international standard.”

When the Thai National Legislative Assembly finally passed its formula marketing measure in April 2017, the provisions that the U.S. and its allies — plus some Thai doctors and industry lobbyists — had complained about most loudly were either watered down or gone entirely. Lawmakers had reduced the maximum criminal penalty for violations from three years in prison to one year in prison and the maximum fine from about $8,730 to $2,910, a USDA document shows.

The law banned the marketing of infant formula and outlawed cross-promotion, but it still allowed advertising on products for 1- to 3-year-olds.

At a June 2017 meeting of the WTO, the U.S. called the changes “a welcome modification.”

“Addicted to the Bottle”

The next year, Sumet and Jintana celebrated the birth of their second child, Gustun. As she had with her firstborn, Jintana breastfed Gustun until he was 3 months old, then started him on formula so she could go back to work.

The couple diligently followed the “stages” prescribed by Dumex, which came in a cheery red package: Stage 1 formula when Gustun was an infant, Stage 2 when he was an older baby and Stage 3 when he became a toddler. He craved formula, and his parents, believing it was healthy, always gave him more. By the time he was 3, he reached his peak weight of about 66 pounds — the same as an average9-year-old. He was drinking six or seven bottles a day, each holding about 12 ounces of toddler milk.

Jintana wasn’t worried at first as Gustun grew pudgy. His brother, Captain, had been big, too — almost 60 pounds — at the same age. But when Gustun started school in person after the pandemic, his teachers were concerned. They had seen others arrive, as one put it, “addicted to the bottle.” The weight slowed Gustun down during movement time, his teacher Tida Rakrukrob said through a translator. “He would move slowly and was less active compared to other children,” she said.

When another teacher posted a video on TikTok showing herself comforting and talking with Gustun one day, it went viral — receiving 732,000 likes and many comments about how cute he was. But his teacher’s concern with his difficulty moving led his parents to bring him to see a doctor, who tested him for a hormone imbalance and checked him for diabetes. The tests came back negative. The parents reduced the fried food, dessert and snacks Gustun ate.

The biggest change the family made, though, was eliminating toddler formula from his diet. His school gave him cow’s milk instead, as it did for other children.

Gustun’s extra weight began to disappear.

Looking back, Jintana said she thinks he gained so much “because of the toddler milk.”

Today at age 6, Gustun is no longer on a restricted diet — he can eat fried food and dessert — and weighs 35 pounds, about half of what he weighed at the peak of his Dumex consumption. He is more outgoing at school, Jintana said, and plays soccer with his older brother every day. Captain lost a similar amount of weight after switching to cow’s milk at school and is now 9 and slim, weighing around 51 pounds.

One Monday in September, the brothers — both in soccer jerseys — kicked a ball back and forth in the driveway of the family’s brightly painted red house. Gustun, who has a lightning bolt shaved into his hairline, chased the ball and tried to get it away from his brother, who darted about quickly, tapping it from foot to foot.

“Now, his movement is perfect,” his mother said.

Danone, the company that makes Dumex, said in a statement that while breast milk offers children the best nutritional start, “50 years of scientific research into nutritional needs in early life underpins our products, and we do not make claims that have not been backed up by scientific research.” The company said that research has shown that toddler milk can provide nutrition and help improve the diet of children age 1 and older, reducing the risk of iron and vitamin D deficiency.

“We encourage parents to follow the guidelines on pack when using our products, which are carefully calibrated so that babies and infants receive the right amount of nutrients they need each day from our products,” the company said.

“The Tactic is ‘I Will Violate Your Law’”

Thailand’s marketing restrictions have done little to curb practices like cross-promotion, said Nisachol Cetthakrikul, who has worked in the Thai health ministry and studied the law.

Indeed, at two supermarkets in Bangkok, shiny walls of powdered formula boxes seven shelves high greeted shoppers on a warm day in September. There were few differences between packages for products intended for babies and those intended for toddlers.

Formula makers and stores offered steep discounts for toddler milk, calling one a “Mommy Fair Shock Deal.” An offer on one shelf told parents if they spent about $87 on Hi-Q1 toddler formula, made by Danone, they could receive a free yellow and blue swing set worth about $27. Other offers included a clay “pizza dough cooking fun set,” a toy keyboard and microphone, and even a pushable “speedcar trolley” that a toddler could sit in.

A 2022 study led by Nisachol found 227 instances of formula marketing that violated the law.

The government has levied fines for violations, but Thailand’s health ministry doesn’t name offenders. “The tactic is ‘I will violate your law,’” Siriwat said, “‘and prepare the budget for the fine.’”

Thai health authorities have tried to fight back by raising parents’ awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding. The health ministry, for example, erected billboards saying “breast milk is medicine” and called doctors to a meeting to urge them to promote breastfeeding among their patients. But these campaigns are no match for the formula companies’ massive spending on marketing, Siriwat said.

While Thailand’s exclusive breastfeeding rate for babies six months or younger rebounded to about 29% in 2022, UNICEF found, it is still far short of the WHO’s target of at least 50% by 2025. The country’s rates of obesity and stunting for children 5 and under are higher today than they were in 2016, the year before the watered-down formula law passed.

Dr. Somsak Lolekha, president of the Thai pediatric society, said formula isn’t the only reason for children’s weight problems. But it plays a big role, he said, because it’s so easy to drink — a point that tracks with studies showing that babies who breastfeed longer are less likely to become obese and develop diabetes than those who drink formula.

Last summer, Thailand joined more than 100 nations at the WHO’s headquarters in Geneva to explore ways to fight unethical formula marketing. Attendees sat at long tables in a sleek, modern auditorium. Like other nations’ representatives, Dr. Titiporn Tuangratananon, an official with Thailand’s health ministry, declared her intentions on brightly colored paper posted at the front of the room: “Fully control” the marketing of formula to young children, and “Increase + expand enforcement.”

In an interview, Titiporn said health officials are trying to update the country’s marketing rules — including making some forms of toddler formula advertising, such as giveaways, discounts and free samples, illegal.

But that could ultimately prove difficult in a country that is now the seventh-largest market in the world for formula.

In fact, according to Titiporn, the government has already been deluged by public comments critical of its regulatory efforts. She suspected the pro-marketing remarks, some of which had been repeatedly copied and pasted, came from representatives of the formula industry.

“We know that it’s not real,” Titiporn said. “It’s not the real mothers.”

Farewell to the Last of My 40s

Today is my 50th birthday, and looking back on my 40s from this vantage point, they were *a lot*.

I became a dad (to twins). They’re now in 3rd grade. In their 8 years, we’ve taken them to Disneyworld and to Atlanta to visit family and friends. COVID resulted in the twins spending their kindergarten year on Zoom. Our son (who has special needs requiring speech and occupational therapy) handled the Zoom year surprisingly well. Our daughter had a very rough time with the Zoom year. She desperately needed to be around children her own age.

On the work front, I went from being gifted President’s Club seats to Nationals games and box seats to the infamous “You Like That!” game at FedEx Field by my employer, to laid off from that same company and out of work for four months (the longest I’ve ever been out of work in my entire career). Over 6 years later, I still work for the same company that hired me out of unemployment, have been promoted twice, and helped a handful of my direct reports get promoted as well (the most successful of them went to Amazon, and is now a senior manager at Microsoft).

My 40s included a good amount of domestic and foreign travel (though the pandemic stole a few years of it). We kicked off my 40s with a trip to Europe that included Barcelona, Nice, Monaco, Dolceacqua (for the bridge there Monet painted), and London. Another trip to Europe included Amsterdam and Paris. Domestic travel has taken my wife and I to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Scottsdale, New York, and Minneapolis. While the pandemic isn’t really over, I started taking an annual solo trip for brief break from parenting and other family responsibilities. Philadelphia and Boston were the destinations the past couple of years. And while a change in my work portfolio toward the end of last year has added a bit of work travel to my schedule, a trip entirely for me will get onto my itinerary for 2024 somehow.

Recent Grenadian History Revisited

Going deeper down the Grenada rabbit hole I fell into just a week ago, I recently learned of a limited series podcast titled The Empty Grave of Comrade Bishop. I’m only two episodes in (episode 5 released on November 15) and I am completely absorbed. The title of the podcast isn’t clickbait–it’s literally the truth. Forty years after he and members of his cabinet were lined up against a wall and machine gunned to death the whereabouts of their remains is still unknown.

It has been fascinating to revisit the early 1980s as this podcast does and hear just how often Ronald Reagan talked about this little island in speeches, as well as animosity at least one leader of Grenada’s revolution had for Reagan. The episodes I’ve listened to so far went into some depth regarding Eric Bishop’s predecessor as prime minister, Sir Eric Gairy. His iron-fisted rule of Grenada, which stretched back before it achieved independence from Great Britain, was enforced by the Mongoose Gang. The descriptions of this group of thugs with police powers reminded me of the Tonton Macoutes of Haiti under Jean-Claude Duvalier.

Listening to episode 2 in particular, it was sad to see how quickly Bishop adopted the rhetoric of Gairy, even if he didn’t go as far as forming a secret police. Bishop’s rule in Grenada ultimately ends in gunfire either as a result of unwillingness to share power, not being extreme enough in his embrace of Cuba and the Soviet Union, rivalry and jealous within the New Jewel Movement, or some combination of all of the above. I’m very much looking forward to the rest of the series and what else I can learn from it.

The Muscle Memory of Surrender: A Brief History of the Modern GOP

All of these smart Republicans who frankly did not understand how thoroughly corrupted their party had become, or the fact that if you cave in over and over again, you develop a muscle memory of surrender, and it’s hard to get back.

Charlie Sykes, The Bulwark Podcast, November 9, 2023

The quote above effectively summarizes the modern history of the GOP. Given his pre-Bulwark history in Wisconsin, perhaps he should have explicitly included himself in that collection of smart Republicans. Syke’s interview with McKay Coppins just one week earlier on his new book Romney: A Reckoning served as a speed run of recent GOP history of how far and how quickly the party moved away from those so-called smart Republicans many years before they actually realized it. Syke’s interview with Coppins actually jogs his own memory around 17 minutes into the interview that he actually had Donald Trump on his radio show at the time back in 2004.

When I listened to the interview, Romney’s book sounded like an extended attack of conscience regarding his own role in paving the way for the GOP to move even further to the right. To me, Mitt’s father George looks much better than his son by comparison because at every possible point, Mitt looked at the choices his father made (and the negative political consequences of those choices) and decided not to follow his father’s example. George Romney turned around a struggling automaker in Detroit in the 1950s. George Romney supported the civil rights movement, even trying and failing to prevent the GOP from surrendering to the likes of Barry Goldwater and his ultimately successful efforts to push black voters out of the GOP. George Romney served the Nixon administration as HUD secretary, trying to increase the supply of housing available to the poor and to desegregate the suburbs, but was deliberately undermined by Nixon in many cases.

His son Mitt by contrast wrote a New York Time op-ed titled Let Detroit Go Bankrupt in 2008. In his 2012 run for president, he famously told a private audience of wealthy campaign donors that “Obama backers will vote for the president ‘no matter what.’ Romney said that they account for ’47 percent’ of voters and he does not ‘worry about those people.'” Also during that campaign, Romney actively solicited the endorsement of Donald Trump–who was still actively fueling the birther conspiracy about Barack Obama at the time. Coppins cites numerous earlier examples of choices he consciously made in the interest of political expediency. A couple that stand out (though not as baldly and badly as seeking Trump’s endorsement):

  • taking a pro-choice position to win the gubernatorial race in Massachusetts despite his personal opposition to abortion
  • talking about “repealing the death tax” as an applause line to an audience filled with people who would never have to pay it

The interview goes on to talk about Romney bowing the knee to Trump in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to be appointed Secretary of State (effectively because he didn’t bow the knee far enough and publicly repudiate all the negative things he had said about Trump).

Perhaps the clearest indicators of the lack of understanding of the so-called smart Republicans that Sykes would criticize the following week can actually be found in the part of his interview with Coppins when they talk about who wins the GOP nomination in 2012 and 2008. Coppins expresses the belief (and Sykes seems to agree) that the turn of the GOP was a sudden one when in fact it was not. Here’s what Sykes says per the transcript:

You know, it occurs to me that his nomination in 2012 in many ways was a false indicator because, the party had already begun to change dramatically, but we were able to tell ourselves as conservatives that the center would hold that this was still the party that would nominate George Bush and John McCain and Mitt Romney. So it’s not the party of Pat Buchanan. It’s not the party of Don[ald] Trump. I mean, they’re there, but there’s a reason why, you know, people like Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich don’t ultimately win. Yes.

Charlie Sykes, The Bulwark Podcast, November 2, 2023

Sykes is at minimum 4 years too late in identifying the “false indicator” election for the GOP nomination. The John McCain who won the GOP nomination in 2008 was a far cry from the man who ran in 2000. The John McCain of 2000 who specifically (and correctly) named Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell as agents of intolerance on the political right was replaced in 8 years by a version who made peace with them, and cemented their support by choosing Sarah Palin as his vice president. What I was not aware of at the time, was that Palin was known commodity among the ardently pro-life in the GOP. Mitt Romney placed a distant third in pledged delegates in the 2008 GOP primary, behind Mike Huckabee. In 2012, Romney would follow McCain’s playbook in staking out hard right positions (for political expediency) to beat his contenders for the GOP presidential nomination only to be defeated when voters didn’t buy his attempts to move back to the center for the general election. As Romney (and others in the GOP) would demonstrate again and again in subsequent years (through the Trump presidency to the present day), having power was more important than having integrity.

Now, even one of those in the GOP who briefly showed sufficient spine to vote in favor of impeaching Trump for his role in the January 6th insurrection has begun to develop his muscle memory for surrender. Peter Meijer, one of 10 House Republicans who did so (and was ultimately defeated for re-election as a result), has pledged to support the Republican nominee for president in his current run for the Senate–going even further to say that Joe Biden had done more to disgrace the office of the presidency than the man he voted to impeach just a couple of years ago.

Meijer is no worse than the current pretenders for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024. Nearly all remaining contenders pledged to support Trump even if he is convicted on one (or many) of the 91 different felonies he has been charged with. One angry social media outburst from Trump and the House speaker candidacy of Tom Emmer (notable for his relative lack of surrender to Trumpist priorities) went down in flames. His replacement–Mike Johnson–is unknown and inexperienced as a legislator, but was one of the key advocates of the Big Lie regarding the 2020 election and still to this day refuses to acknowledge that Joe Biden won the election. Even as Trump-backed candidates and priorities continue to cost them victory after victory in ballot initiatives (like the one in Ohio that put the right to abortion into the state constitution) and in elections (like the ones in Virginia that saw Democrats retake full control of the General Assembly and the Kentucky gubernatorial election that kept the Democrat Andy Beshear in power and rejected the Republican state attorney general Daniel Cameron), the GOP’s muscle memory for surrender to its most extreme elements is too strong for them to break.

Postmarks Revisited

Since my initial post on Postmarks, I made two minor changes to my bookmarking site:

  • I edited src/pages/layouts/main.hbs to eliminate the Login link from the header and the footer
  • I also removed the About link from the header
  • I moved the divider in the footer after the About link from outside the {{#if loggedIn}} to inside

This gives the site a slightly cleaner look I prefer.

Digging into the admin functionality a bit, I noticed the input textbox hid most of the JavaScript for the bookmarklet, so I replaced it with a readonly textarea and gave it the same id as the textbox I removed. This preserved the functionality while making all of the javascript visible. The bookmarklet itself works nicely, opening a pop-up that autofills the New Bookmark page with the URL, title, and description fields. When adding a bookmark, I forgot that multi-word tags weren’t allowed and got an error message like the one below:

invalid tags: tag must be in , tag name supports a-z, A-Z, 0-9 and the following word separators: -_.

When you get that error, the bookmark isn’t created. I updated line 11 of src/pages/partials/edit_bookmark.hbs to add the following reminder:

Remember: multi-word tags must be separated by dash (-) or underscore (_).

A nicer way to handle this might be to prevent the save attempt and allow the bookmarker to correct the bad tag. If I figure that out at some point and implement it, the new capability will be available for everyone who opts to remix my version of Postmarks.

Remembering 9/11

It’s hard to believe 22 years have passed since the terrorist attacks of that day. I still remembering being on the way to work when I heard the news on the radio of the first tower being hit by a plane. I still remember a lot of my coworkers with children in school leaving the office early to pick them up and go home. I still remember how soon afterwards letters laced with anthrax started showing up in the mail.

I personally didn’t lose any family or friends in the attacks. But a girl I was seeing at the time lost her older sister, who worked at Cantor Fitzgerald—a firm noted often in the news at the time for just how much of their staff they lost. I remember spending a lot of time on the road between DC and New York visiting her, and supporting her and her family at the memorial service.

The intervening years have made certain memories fuzzy—fuzzy enough that some people engage in mythmaking when it comes to the country being unified by the attacks. But Spencer Ackerman remembers the way things really were–particularly in New York City. This piece I read yesterday is a stark reminder of how our nation actually treated Muslim Americans in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. He plans to post follow-up pieces that I am looking forward to with great interest.

I wrote last year about how this country’s response to 9/11 would ultimately pave the way for insurrection on January 6th. Were I to update that piece today, I would certainly connect Trump’s various (and ultimately successful) attempts at Muslim bans to the surveillance, harassment, intimidation, and discriminatory treatment inflicted on Muslims in Brooklyn by the NYPD, INS, and FBI in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Years after it happened, I recalled that Trump’s initial Muslim ban kept the spouse of one of my co-workers at the time from joining him. A second co-worker at the same job was married to a man from Somalia, one of the seven countries subject to that ban. Ending birthright citizenship (in direct opposition to the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution) is another idea that gained currency on the political right during Trump’s term, but has had advocates among so-called conservatives before then.

Other anti-democratic impulses unbound by terrorist attacks of 9/11 threaten every American today, but especially those of us more traditionally and more easily “othered”. The Department of Homeland Security was a bipartisan creation, certain of whose component parts were responsible for civil rights abuses of protesters ordered by Trump, others who were responsible for the vile child separation policy at our southern border. The moral outrage that is Guantanamo Bay remains open, despite the end of US troop deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. Even if Biden wins the 2024 presidential election (which is by no means a certainty), small-d democracy remains under threat in this country.

What The End of Affirmative Action in Higher Education Means (and Doesn’t): Addendum

Finally (for now), the end of affirmative action is far from the end of anti-black rulings from this court. Affirmative action in employment will almost certainly be the next thing to be ruled unconstitutional.

June 29, 2023 blog post at

The corpse of affirmative action (except the carve-out for U.S. military academies) is barely cold, and already (July 3, 2023) the anti-woke hounds are baying at the heels of diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in the workplace.

But as a brief glance at the historical record will show, complaints about black people getting “special treatment” originating from people who aren’t black have a rather long history in this country. On March 27, 1866, President Andrew Johnson gave an entire speech regarding why he was vetoing civil rights legislation passed by both houses of Congress. Among his many objections were that black people would receive “Federal citizenship” immediately while 11 states were not represented in Congress. The 11 states (of course) were the ones that started (and lost) the Civil War. Having “just emerged from slavery into freedom”, President Johnson questioned whether or not black people “possess the requisite qualifications to entitle them to all the privileges and immunities of citizens”. But here is the passage that perhaps best explains and exemplifies the sense of entitlement—both then and now—that some have when compared to the black people who built and fought for this country:

The bill in effect proposes a discrimination against large numbers of intelligent, worthy, and patriotic foreigners, and in favor of the Negro, to whom, after long years of bondage, the avenues to freedom and intelligence have just now been suddenly opened.

Paragraph 4 of the transcript of President Andrew Johnson’s March 27, 1866 speech vetoing civil rights legislation

If there is any meaningful difference between the logic President Johnson applied to reject civil rights legislation and the logic the conservative majority on the Supreme Court used to end affirmative action, it is not readily apparent. Within President Johnson’s objections to the granting of “Federal citizenship” to black people and the states right argument he advances to separate “State citizenship” from it are the seeds of modern arguments against birthright citizenship that we hear today from the same people who find common cause with the Confederates of that day. Should this country put the wrong person in the White House yet again, perhaps birthright citizenship will be among the many rights at risk.

Salman Rushdie Talks Writing, Democracy, History & More

I recently listened to David Remnick’s interview of Salman Rushdie–his first since barely surviving attempted murder by a young man not even born at the time Ayatollah Khomeini issued his fatwa calling for Rushdie’s assassination in 1989. He took the opportunity primarily to talk about his latest book, Victory City, but along the way talked about the attack on him, the impact of the fatwa on him, and democracy and history in India, England, and the United States. There are many places to listen to and/or watch the full interview, as well as reading Remnick’s piece in The New Yorker

Toward the end of the interview, Rushdie’s response to one of Remnick’s questions did an excellent job of summarizing the danger democracy faces in all the places he is connected to by birth, education, and citizenship. I’ve attempted to transcribe Rushdie’s spoken words below, emphasizing what stood out most to me:

The problem in India is this, that the current government, which to people of my way of thinking is alarming, is very popular. It’s the difference for example between India and Trump. Trump was only just about popular. And his level of unpopularity was at least as high as his popularity, that’s not so in India because the Modi government is very popular in India, has huge support. And that makes it possible for them to get away with it.  To create this very autocratic state which is unkind to minorities, which is fantastically oppressive of journalists, where people are very afraid. Which in a way it’s getting to be difficult to call it a democracy.

A democracy is not just who wins the election, it’s whether you feel safe in the country whether you voted for the government or not. India has a problem. The way in which this book just marginally engages with it is that it takes on the subject of sectarianism, and tries to say this is not the history of India. The history of India is much more complicated than that.  It’s not that there was an ancient culture that another culture came in and destroyed, that’s a false description of the past.

And as we know we live in a world in which false descriptions of the past are being used everywhere to justify terrible behavior in the present. England pretending there’s a golden age before any foreigners showed up, and completing ignoring the fact that they were <expletive> over foreigners in their countries in order to make possible their wealth and affluence at home.  America, talking about being great again. I want to know when was that? What was the date? It was obviously before the Civil Rights Act. Was it before women had the vote? Was it when there was still slavery? What are we hark[en]ing back to? A fantasy past becomes a way of justifying bad behavior today.

David Remnick interview with Salman Rushdie from February 6, 2023

India’s Ministry of Finance searching the offices of the BBC in New Delhi and Mumbai and accusing them of tax evasion so soon after their airing of a show critical of Prime Minister Modi is exactly the point Rushdie was making about oppression of journalists. Shireen Abu Aqla was shot in the head and killed in the West Bank, likely by a soldier in the Israeli military (according to their own investigation). Here in the U.S., police arrested, shot, and tear-gassed numerous journalists covering protests that occurred in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police. Ali Velshi and his team of journalists were shot by rubber bullets from police during a live broadcast. A photojournalist named Lindo Tirado was shot by police with a non-lethal round and lost sight in one eye as a result. At least one journalist was arrested, handcuffed, and taken away while in the middle of a live broadcast. Nearly three years later, I haven’t seen any evidence of disciplinary action against the cops who did all this shooting.

Rushdie’s definition of democracy was an especially interesting one to me. My parents’ native Jamaica has a long history of political violence where the party you supported could have the most serious consequences for your physical well-being. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has written about mob violence and vigilantism occurring w/ the knowledge and consent of political parties not just in India, but elsewhere in southern Asia ( Here in the U.S., video from some of these school board meetings, heavily-armed people protesting COVID restrictions, threats and harassment of election workers, voter intimidation, and the insurrection at the Capitol in 2021 make me worry that we’re returning to the sort of political violence which was once the stuff of history books.  

What Rushdie says about false or fantasy pasts being used to justify bad behavior in the present resonated the most strongly with me because of how much present bad behavior it explains. Putin comparing himself to Peter the Great as he rationalizes his continuing invasion of Ukraine is a present example. The MAGA movement led by Donald Trump (though leadership of that movement is being quite vigorously contested now) is certainly another. The conservative Christian groups I’ve written about previously are certainly harkening back to a pre-Civil Rights Movement point in American history as the place to which they want the entire country to return. In retrospect, even some of the rulings of the conservative majority on the Supreme Court are explained by this framing. As I wrote last year after the leak of Alito’s draft opinion which would ultimately overturn Roe vs Wade, black men and women had no rights the government was bound to respect and (white) women were scarcely better off than that. I’m old enough now to remember a culture warrior from decades earlier, Pat Buchanan, harkening back to what (in my memory at least) was probably the Revolutionary War with his “ride to the sound of the guns” catchphrase.

Beyond Rushdie’s clear-eyed views of India, England, and the United States, his life speaks volumes regarding how petty and small what we call “cancel culture” today really is. The list of detractors regarding his novel The Satanic Verses is quite long, and included Prince (now King) Charles, John le Carré, Roald Dahl, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the British Foreign Secretary, and Jimmy Carter, among others. Cat Stevens (now Yusuf Islam) agreed with the fatwa calling for Rushdie to be murdered. Remnick’s piece includes the following shameful remark from the historian Hugh Trevor-Roper:

I would not shed a tear if some British Muslims, deploring his manners, should waylay him in a dark street and seek to improve them. If that should cause him thereafter to control his pen, society would benefit, and literature would not suffer.”

The Defiance of Salman Rushdie, by David Remnick, The New Yorker, February 13 & 20, 2023 Issue

Trevor-Roper’s remark can only be seen as more gruesome in the light of attempted and successful murders of translators of the book into Italian and Japanese, the attempted murder of the book’s Norwegian publisher, and the firebombing of bookstores that carried it. In light of the rough reception his book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid would receive less than two decades later, I wonder if former president Carter ever revisited and revised his opinion of Rushdie’s book. Rushdie proves far more gracious to at least one of his critics than they were to him:

Meanwhile, the New York Times published a defense of J.K. Rowling–using Rushdie as an example of what could happen to her if she continued to be criticized–just a day after hundreds of current and former New York Times contributors published an open letter critical of the paper’s coverage of trans people. Rowling, like Rushdie, was a signatory of the Letter on Justice and Open Debate published in Harper’s Magazine a couple of years ago. The ways in which the two signatories choose to use their free speech (one to attack trans people, the other to write novels) couldn’t be more different, but the New York Times (predictably, in my view) treats them as the same. I still believe, as I wrote then, that the signatories of the Harper’s letter were asking that “controversial” speech be somehow more privileged than other speech. But Rushdie has paid a far higher price for his art–from other artists and his own government (beyond the one that actually issued the fatwa)–than Rowling has paid (or will ever pay) for using her substantial platform to punch down at a community that has been, and continues to be under siege.

Exploring Mastodon Continued: Moving to

After almost 4 months of using Mastodon, I found the community on (and its administrator, Kris Nóva) so interesting that I decided to move from the larger instance I initially joined ( The advice in my first post about sticking with a larger server unless you come across a particular server/community that really interests you still holds. The specific way I applied it is tied to a Mastodon feature I didn’t fully grasp the utility of back then: the Local timeline. I wrote about timelines later, but what only became clear after creating an account on and using Local timeline was that because the vast majority of people there are techies like me, there was a much higher volume of interesting toots there than on a large instance like

One of my Mastodon mutuals switched from to due to racist harassment being directed at his account from a domain they don’t block. Not only does proactively block that domain, they do things like give you a chance to review certain follow requests even if your account isn’t locked, as shown below:

Screenshot of follow request approval on

The actual steps I followed to migrate were a combination of this article, and this post from Eugen Rochko (in that order). Migrating doesn’t delete the old account, but it does disable the old account so it looks like this:

My disabled account on

Migrating to a new account meant updating my account metadata as well to verify that new account belongs to me.

Only the posts from my original Mastodon account can’t make the move to–but only because I don’t control the instance. If I were willing to run my own Mastodon server, it might be possible to import the archive I downloaded from my previous account and republish them there.

In addition to migrating to, I provided a small donation to the administrator through In addition to the charitable giving I’m doing this year, I’ll be putting more into these tip jars for online services that I find valuable. I contribute a bit to the main Mastodon project through Patreon.