Solid, eye-opening public health journalism.

BIG CHICKEN

THE INCREDIBLE STORY OF HOW ANTIBIOTICS CREATED MODERN AGRICULTURE AND CHANGED THE WAY THE WORLD EATS

An investigative journalist specializing in public health and food policy delves into the implications of chicken becoming the most consumed source of protein in the American diet.

When chickens are raised or processed poorly, serious or fatal food poisoning can result. Indeed, McKenna (Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA, 2010, etc.) opens her exposé with the story of a near death from salmonella poisoning (the cause of 1 million instances of illness each year in the United States) linked to mass-produced chicken. However, the focus of the investigation is not specifically food poisoning. The author is most concerned about how the overuse of antibiotics to prevent or treat human diseases, and in animal feed, has led to drug-resistant bacteria. When antibiotics can no longer neutralize certain bacteria, fatalities can occur. A strength of McKenna’s reporting is her inclusion of valuable historical context, as she shows how the antibiotic crisis has evolved over the decades. She divides the roughly chronological narrative into three parts: “How Chicken Became Essential,” “How Chicken Became Dangerous,” and the somewhat-hopeful section, “How Chicken Changed.” Each part contains lessons derived from visits to poultry processing operations both small and large (think Perdue and Tyson), farms where chickens grow only to a certain size, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and private science laboratories. McKenna learned not only from sources in the United States—Georgia is now, in many ways, the center of the chicken industry—but also from speaking with experts in the Netherlands, France, and England. Throughout the narrative, the author also unravels medical mysteries, such as why some urinary tract infections are not responding to treatment with antibiotics. McKenna’s ideas for reform seem practical, but she warns in clear, urgent prose that it will take years to fully conquer bacterial resistance to antibiotics.

Solid, eye-opening public health journalism.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4262-1766-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: National Geographic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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