An illuminating, up-to-the-minute testimonial sure to garner widespread attention and controversy.



A former health-care PR executive blows the whistle on the industry.

Born in rural North Carolina to hardworking parents struggling through lean times, Center for Media and Democracy senior fellow Potter was the first in his family to earn a college degree, after which he became an investigative reporter at a Memphis newspaper. A gig as a political lobbyist led him into the public-relations field, where he accepted a prestigious position at managed-care behemoth Humana. In 1993, he signed on with CIGNA, a highly respected, for-profit health insurer, earning a six-figure salary as a senior PR executive. But as Potter ascended the corporate ranks, disillusionment became commonplace alongside the pressures to increase profitability at any cost while callously disregarding the basic principles of ethics. His conscience buckled. The author recalls working on an aggressive, exorbitant campaign (using health-plan premiums) to discredit filmmaker Michael Moore, whose 2007 documentary Sicko detailed the dire state of American health care. Potter experienced firsthand the destitute situations of those without health care when he visited a “clinic day” on public fairgrounds in Virginia. The author backs up his claims with historical perspectives, industry dissection, consumer profiles and the hard evidence of documented Congressional investigations. He now considers the insurance industry “an evil system built and sustained on greed”—an opinion he maintained after being asked to testify on behalf of an investigation spearheaded by Democratic senator Jay Rockefeller. Potter officially addressed the U.S. Senate on June 24, 2009, exposing the “spin machine” used by companies like CIGNA to confuse unsuspecting consumers. The author concludes optimistically with the passage of President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, which he considers a positive, proactive leap toward health-care reform.

An illuminating, up-to-the-minute testimonial sure to garner widespread attention and controversy.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-60819-281-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2010

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...


A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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


“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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