Following the money becomes easier in this thoroughly researched, if dispiriting, work of investigative journalism.

DARK TOWERS

DEUTSCHE BANK, DONALD TRUMP, AND AN EPIC TRAIL OF DESTRUCTION

A deep-reaching look at the inner workings of Deutsche Bank, Donald Trump’s lender of choice.

At the heart of this aptly titled book is the suicide of a Deutsche executive in 2014 and the subsequent quest of his son to find out the reasons for it. That story, well rendered by New York Times finance editor Enrich (The Spider Network: How a Math Genius and Gang of Scheming Bankers Pulled Off One of the Greatest Scams in History, 2017), takes many twists and turns, but its outlines are familiar: A corporation with a dodgy history (including financing the construction of Nazi death camps) goes straight for a time, guided by people of conscience who are eventually overwhelmed by executives willing to let ethics slide in the quest for profit. The latter category includes a banker who sat onstage at Trump’s inauguration—and without whose legally problematic help, Enrich suggests, Trump would never have attained office. While many financial institutions refused to lend to Trump because of his habit of reneging, Deutsche was “the only mainstream bank consistently willing to do business” with him—and at the time of the presidential election, he owed the bank $350 million. But did he really, or was the bank merely a front for funding from other sources headquartered in Moscow? The author works his way through a spaghetti tangle of leads with all sorts of unsavory connections, including the family of Trump’s son-in-law, members of whom “were moving money to the Russians at the same time that Russia was interfering in the American presidential election.” The implications are more than suggestive. What is inarguable, by Enrich’s account, is that Deutsche suffered through a clash of corporate cultures by which one side strived to comply with such things as financial stress tests while worrying that a newly elected Trump would default, leaving it “the ugly choice between seizing the president’s personal assets or not enforcing the loan terms,” even as the other continued corrupt practices for nearly two decades.

Following the money becomes easier in this thoroughly researched, if dispiriting, work of investigative journalism.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-287881-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Custom House/Morrow

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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