Blog

  • Katherine Eban Named as One of 32 Inaugural Andrew Carnegie Fellows
    Excerpt from the Carnegie Corporation media release (04/22/15): 

    New $6 Million Andrew Carnegie Fellows Program Supports Social Sciences and Humanities 

    The Carnegie Corporation of New York announced the names of 32 Andrew Carnegie Fellows today as the inaugural class of a major annual fellowship program that will provide support for scholars in the social sciences and humanities. The Andrew Carnegie Fellows are an exceptional group of established and emerging scholars, journalists, and authors whose work distills knowledge, enriches our culture, and equips leaders in the realms of science, law, business, public policy and the arts. The fellowships aim to provide new perspectives on the program's overarching theme for 2015: Current and Future challenges to U.S. Democracy and International Order. Winning proposals address issues including policing and race, big data and privacy, the impact of an aging population, the safety of generic drugs, and how attitudes are formed among voters.

    Read more about the Carnegie Fellowship in the New York Times (04/22/15):

    New $200,00 Carnegie Fellowships to Aid Researchers in Humanities and Social Science

     
  • Scott Z. Burns to Adapt Vanity Fair Article on Torture Cheerleaders for HBO


    The story of how psychologists helped pioneer the C.I.A.’s post-9/11 program of aggressive interrogation techniques (read: torture), first told by Katherine Eban in Vanity Fair in 2007, is being adapted into a new film by HBO, VF.com can announce.

    In the original story, titled “Rorschach and Awe,” Eban described how two psychologists,James Elmer Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, became the C.I.A.’s go-to evangelists for a new menu of abusive techniques, including waterboarding, that they reverse-engineered from an old U.S. program designed to train soldiers to withstand torture by Communist adversaries. Eban’s discoveries were later reinforced by the U.S. Senate’s torture report, released in 2014.

    The film will be written and directed by The Bourne Ultimatum writer Scott Z. Burns. Burns will also serve as executive producer alongside The Knick’s Michael Sugar, in conjunction with their respective production companies, Wandering Jew and Anonymous Content. Nathaniel Raymond, formerly of Physicians for Human Rights, will consult on the project.

    Eban’s article, available here on VF.com, explores Mitchell and Jessen’s unlikely journey from consulting psychologists to peddlers of what former F.B.I. agent Michael Reliance called a “voodoo science” that promised to wring information out of detainees by breaking their will.

    The techniques weren’t just morally bankrupt; they were also functionally useless. Mitchell and Jessen, Human Rights Watch researcher John Sifton told Eban, offered a “patina of pseudo-science that made the C.I.A. and military officials think these guys were experts in unlocking the human mind. It’s one thing to say, ‘Take off the gloves.’ It’s another to say there was a science to it.”

    Read the full text of “Rorschach and Awe” by Katherine Eban.



    Michael Hogan is Vanity Fair’s digital director, overseeing VF.com and the magazine’s tablet and iPhone editions.

     
  • How Indian pharma can clear the U.S. FDA hurdle
    Link to event webpage

    How Indian pharma can clear the U.S. FDA hurdle

    ‘India’s pharma industry has brought down the cost of medicines world-wide, and saved thousands of lives. Yet it is battling large multinationals especially in the U.S., for the development of a regime that will make healthcare affordable and keep research going. The industry faces many hurdles, including IPR issues and Food & Drug Administration regulations, which they claim, locks out Indian competition from the lucrative U.S. market.

    Linked to this is the prickly problem of spurious drugs that make their way into the market and endanger the lives of patients. It is now more critical than ever to find the right balance between providing cost-effective medication and protecting consumers.

    Is it an issue of quality standards or stringent IPR laws protecting U.S. pharmaceutical companies? Should the U.S. FDA be allowed to do unannounced inspections? To what extent are the lobbying powers of the U.S. pharmaceutical companies responsible for the FDA’s stand? Are Indian generic drugs, flouting regulation and failing to live up to GMP standards? On February 5, Katherine Eban, the highly regarded pharma reporter and expert, along with DG Shah, Secretary-General, Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance, were in conversation with Manjeet Kripalani, Executive Director, Gateway House to discuss these and other issues at Gateway House.

    Katherine Eban is a journalist and author whose articles on pharmaceutical safety, gun trafficking, and CIA interrogations, have won international attention and numerous awards. A Fortune magazine contributor, she is currently at work on a book about the generic drug revolution, to be published by Harper Collins.  Her work has been featured on national news programs, including 60 Minutes.  Her first book Dangerous Doses: a True Story of Cops, Counterfeiters and the Contamination of America’s Drug Supply was named one of the Best Books of 2005 by Kirkus Review.  Educated at Brown University and Oxford, where she was a Rhodes Scholar, she holds an M. Phil in seventeenth-century poetry.  She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her family.

    Dilip G Shah graduated from the premier business school in India, The Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmedabad.  He has 47 years of varied experience in the pharmaceutical industry, besides representing Indian pharmaceutical industry at several international meetings and conferences.  He has participated in several WTO workshops on TRIPS and was a Member of the official Indian Delegation to WTO Ministerial Conference at Cancun. Currently, he is the Secretary-General of the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance. He is also a Member of the Board of Advisors of Pharmabiz.com; and Member, Expert Review Committee of Access to Medicine Index.

    Manjeet Kripalani is the former India Bureau chief of Businessweek magazine. During her extensive career in journalism (BusinessWeek, Worth and Forbes magazines), she has won several awards, including the Gerald Loeb Award, the George Polk Award, Overseas Press Club and Daniel Pearl Awards. Kripalani was the 2006-07 Edward R. Murrow Press Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, New York, which inspired her to found Gateway House. Her political career spans being the deputy press secretary to Steve Forbes during his first run in 1995-96 as Republican candidate for US President, to being press secretary for the Lok Sabha campaign for independent candidate Meera Sanyal in 2008. She holds two bachelor’s degrees from Bombay University and a master’s degree in international affairs from Columbia University. She sits on the board of the International Centre for Journalists, the Overseas Press Club, and the Indian Liberal Group, which are all non-profit organizations.

     
  • The Big Question: What is the greatest scam of all time?
    Link to original article





    Graham Roumieu


    Mark Seal, contributing editor, Vanity Fair, and author, The Man in the Rockefeller Suit

    Ponzi. Madoff. The shysters who sold the Mona Lisa and the Brooklyn Bridge. All bow to this: 1626. A letter from New York. Purchased the Island Manhattes from the Indians for the value of 60 guilders,” wrote a Dutch merchant, referring to the 22,000 acres now called Manhattan. The price? Roughly $25. Suckers? Wait! Some say the tribe didn’t even own the island. Reverse switch. Gotcha. The long con always wins.

    John Steele Gordon, business and economic historian

    In the early 1700s, John Law, a Scottish financier, finagled his way to becoming the French equivalent of chairman of the Fed, secretary of the Treasury, and trade representative. He ran the stock of the Mississippi Company from 500 to 15,000 livres before it all crashed, ruining thousands, and he fled. The “Mississippi Bubble” crippled French royal finances for the rest of the ancien régime.

    Robert Whitaker, author, Anatomy of an Epidemic

    During the 1920s, John R. Brinkley harnessed the power of radio to tout an amazing new surgery for restoring a man’s virility: the placing of goat gonads into the testicular sac. He charged $750 for the 15-minute operation, which brought thousands of men to his office in tiny Milford, Kansas.

    Michael Lewis, author, Flash Boys

    God knows the biggest, but my favorite is Richard Whitney’s. The trusted head of the New York Stock Exchange and the face of American finance in the late 1920s and early 1930s, he ran his business and private life on loans he could never repay, from fellow financial elites who apparently never imagined they might be conned by one of their own. Whitney doesn’t even seem to have been all that clever. He just became so important to the financial system that the system couldn’t afford not to trust him.

    Apollo Robbins, gentleman thief

    In the 1930s, the De Beers diamond cartel sold the idea that a diamond engagement ring should be the iconic symbol of true love. A great scam requires you to sell the impossible while leaving the mark feeling warm and fuzzy.

    Katherine Eban, investigative reporter, Fortune

    In the 1980s, the Bank of Credit and Commerce International redefined full-service banking. It allowed terrorists and drug traffickers to hide their assets, and allegedly financed assassinations and arms purchases, including the CIA’s arming of the Nicaraguan Contras. Meanwhile, its “special duties” department falsified paper trails. To investigators, it became known as the Bank of Crooks and Criminals.

    Matt Taibbi, journalist, First Look Media

    Dreamed up in the ’90s by Russian gangster-pols and their Western advisers, the privatization “auctions” of the loans-for-shares scheme were actually crudely rigged pantomimes in which cronies of Boris Yeltsin were handed some of the world’s largest energy companies—like Yukos and Sibneft—for pennies on the dollar, instantly creating an oligarch class.

    Criss Angel, magician

    Training in magic allowed Harry Houdini to expose so-called psychics and mediums, who had successfully fooled many scientists and academics. He also served on a committee that offered a cash prize—never collected—to anyone who could demonstrate supernatural abilities. (He kept an open mind, telling his wife that if he were able to communicate posthumously, he would send her the message “Believe.” She held séances for 10 years after his death.) Earlier this year, I offered $1 million of my own in a challenge to a Long Island psychic. She declined.

    Frank Abagnale Jr., security consultant and author, Catch Me If You Can

    Bitcoin will make you the target of hackers who will steal your money. More expensive than other forms of payment, Bitcoin is a way to rob people of their life savings. Most important, if something goes wrong, the money may never be recovered.
     

  • "Schoolkids Write Book to Help Save Rhinos," National Geographic
    Link to original article

    By Katherine Eban
    for National Geographic

    A photo of the rhinoceros, Andatu, looking at the book "One Special Rhino: The Story of Andatu" by Katherine Egan.


    A new children's book, One Special Rhino: The Story of Andatu, written and illustrated by fifth graders at the P.S. 107 John W. Kimball Learning Center in Park Slope, Brooklyn, celebrates the 2012 birth of a Sumatran rhino—and takes up his cause.

    If there's a rhino that deserves his own memoir, then surely it's Andatu, born at the Way Kambas sanctuary in Indonesia. It's almost impossible to overstate his importance. After extensive breeding efforts, he was the first Sumatran rhino to be born in captivity in Indonesia, and he offers hope for his species.

    Since 2007, an exploding black market for rhino horn, mistakenly coveted by Asian cancer sufferers and virility seekers, has led to rampant poaching.

    The Sumatran is the most critically endangered of the five remaining rhino species. Scientists estimate that there may be no more than a hundred left in the world, a decrease of 50 percent in 20 years.

    "Andatu's not one in a million—he's one in a hundred," says Bill Konstant, program officer for the International Rhino Foundation (IRF), which is dedicated to survival of rhinos through conservation and research. "He [represents] one percent of the population. If you do the math, his importance is very high."

    Our school's embrace of Andatu and the Sumatran rhino cause began in 2012, when I caught sight of a notice about the IRF's annual Cinco de Rhino fund-raising event.

    I have a kindergartner enrolled in P.S. 107, and although a full-time journalist, I had a lull between deadlines, so I spent a morning and afternoon outside the school, with a primitively designed rhino collection jar.

    By day's end, I had more than $500 in change. That effort attracted another parent. In short order we were running a PTA committee called Beast Relief, which had the slogan "Be part of something big."

    We also had a goal: to take concrete steps to help animals near and far, while teaching P.S. 107 children about the importance of wildlife conservation.

    A photo of a captive Sumatran rhinoceros and her calf feeding on tree branches.A captive Sumatran rhinoceros and her calf enjoy a meal of tree branches.

    PHOTOGRAPH BY JOEL SARTORE, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE

    Pitching In

    The parents who joined us included a senior writer for the Wildlife Conservation Society, a former volunteer with the Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals, and savvy designers and marketers.

    We began doing art projects that involved the whole school. The children made Javan rhino piggy banks out of recycled coffee cups and holders. We made a video, The Secret Lives of Rhinos, available on YouTube, with Andatu as the narrator (a fourth grader serves as his voice).

    The IRF's Konstant came to our school for a viewing and to address the children.

    "We don't get contacted by a lot of schools, so this stood out right from the start," he said, adding, "Hundreds of elementary school kids [in Brooklyn] think that saving Sumatran rhinos has to be done. That's inspirational."

    Given how much the kids loved Andatu, Konstant and I agreed that a book was next.

    Though every moment of the school day is taken up with teaching and testing demands, our animal-loving principal Eve Litwack and a dedicated fifth-grade teacher Dominique Freda managed to carve out the time.

    We divided up all 84 fifth graders into groups of writers, illustrators, and designers. The IRF provided research materials. And we parceled out the topics: poachers, Indonesia, Andatu's extended family.

    A photo of a muddy captive Sumatran rhinoceros and her calf.After wallowing in mud, a captive Sumatran rhinoceros and her calf take a stroll.

    PHOTOGRAPH BY JOEL SARTORE, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE

    Kids'-Eye View

    We encouraged the children to write from Andatu's perspective, to put themselves in his hooves. Quickly, Andatu's plight gripped their imaginations and transformed their viewpoints from skeptical to passionate.

    Fifth grader Owen Bryson recalled thinking, "This is going to be terrible. I have to do every homeroom period just to write a stupid book." But as he delved into it, he came to a different conclusion: "Rhinos are just like us. They liked their mamas and wanted to play with them. To think they were going extinct, it was just sad, and we wanted to help them."

    Whimsical and poignant, the book offers a kids'-eye view of the poaching crisis. With photographs and illustrations, the book also details the everyday pleasures of rhino life: eating, wallowing in mud, hanging out with mom, and eating some more. "I ate so much, in a year I went from 60 pounds at birth to over 900 pounds," Andatu says in the book.

    "When there are so few of us," Andatu says, "it's hard to find friends to play with. This is sad to me. So I'm here to tell you about my life and ask for your help."

    "If I could tell Andatu something, I'd tell him how many people are trying to save him," says Katy Tanzer, a fifth grader who helped write and illustrate the book.

    Inspiring Advocates

    The enthusiasm extended even to the neighborhood. For several years, Chris Eastland, a cofounder of Zooborns, had been passing by our Beast Relief committee's Cinco de Rhino signs and was intrigued. He ended up helping to design and format the book.

    In the run-up to our now annual Cinco de Rhino spare-change drive in May, to benefit IRF, a number of schoolkids ran lemonade stands to raise extra money. This year, we cleared more than $3,000.

    We hope the book will inspire other students and schools to join the fight to save rhinos and endangered wildlife. Children can be powerful wildlife advocates: They have curiosity and compassion in abundance, know an injustice when they see it, and love the animals without compromise.

    "It's refreshing to read a non-political, non-bureaucratic account about a species that is really on the brink of extinction," Konstant says. "Too often we're dealing with the inertia of governments, of cultures, of populations that don't allow us to express the essence of our feelings about these animals. When kids speak, they speak from the heart and get to the point quickly."

    Read other interesting stories in National Geographic's Book Talk series.



  • The impact of "Dirty Medicine" to date
    “Dirty Medicine” has made waves across the globe since it was published on May 15.   In India, it sparked a national dialogue about corruption and drug quality.  It led the country’s main drug regulator to require Indian drug companies to immediately report adverse findings by foreign regulators, and caused  India's most prominent hospital and largest pharmacy chain to suspend use of Ranbaxy drugs.  In Japan, it prompted Ranbaxy’s majority owner Daiichi Sankyo to sue former CEO Malvinder Singh and his brother, alleging that they concealed and misrepresented critical information when they sold their 34% share for $2 billion in 2008. See here for Singh's response. In the U.S., citing the Fortune article, Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) has called on Health and Human Services' inspector general to examine the FDA’s oversight of foreign generic drugs, and the Oregon pharmacy board has announced it will investigate the safety of Ranbaxy’s drugs.

    In Africa, outrage over the article has led one young tech entrepreneur to turn from a possible job with Google to a startup, mPharma, monitoring the quality and safety of the continent’s drugs.

     
  • Technically Speaking: Overcoming the Challenges of Reporting a Highly Technical Article
    Original article
    For "Reporting on Health," I describe some of the reporting challenges in "Dirty Medicine" and make suggestions for those embarking on similar projects. 

     
  • "The NRA and GOP's Fast and Furious Lies" in The Nation
    Read The Nation’s smart piece on the contradictions of the Fast and Furious investigation.

     
  • The Latest on "The Truth about the Fast and Furious Scandal," Fortune Magazine
    The response to “The Truth About the Fast and Furious Scandal” has been enormous.  Readers shared it 59,000 times on Facebook, tweeted it 6,000 times and sent over 4,000 comments to fortune.com. Amid blanket media coverage, Rep. Darrell Issa denounced the story as a “fantasy,” while commentator Jonathan Alter declared it a “triumph of journalism.”  At The Daily Beast,  David Frum noted, “Katherine Eban does not merely debunk but positively crushes the paranoid theory of the Fast & Furious case."

    A few selected examples of the coverage include: TELEVISION: MSNBC's Martin Bashir (6/27); MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show (6/27); Current TV's Viewpoint with Eliot Spitzer (6/28); CNN's Anderson Cooper (6/29) RADIO: NPR's The Brian Lehrer Show (7/3); NPR's On Point with Tom Ashbook (7/2); NPR'S To the Point (6/29) PRINT AND BLOGS: Reuters; Daily Kos; National Review; Main Justice; Town Hall

     
  • Dangerous Doses on e-reader
    Dangerous Doses: A True Story of Cops, Counterfeiters, and the Contamination of America's Drug Supply now available on e-reader.  http://amzn.to/wLcU3v

     
  • "The Hidden Dangers of Outsourcing Radiology," in SELF Magazine
    You can check out my  latest article "The Hidden Dangers
    of Outsourcing Radiology
    ," in SELF Magazine

     
  • What’s a consumer to do about getting safe drugs?
    That was the question posed to me recently by Lisa McKenzie,  a smart, vibrant woman – and fiercely good writer – who suffers from relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis.  She explores this question in her blog, mslabrat.com, which chronicles her journey through a pharmaceutical wilderness, and her switch from an FDA-approved therapy to an off-label drug.

    She was horrified to learn of what actually goes on in our drug supply, a topic taken up today by the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.  So nine years after counterfeit Epogen, four years after tainted Heparin, two years after mishandled insulin harmed American patients, the issue gets another airing in Congress.

    Lisa has got some eminently practical ideas for fixing the mess.  How about telling patients where their drug came from and what’s in it?  For her, it’s personal, a matter of life and death.  And she finds the corruption of our drug supply, as laid out in Dangerous Doses,  “absolutely terrifying, scarier than any horror flick.”  Read her review here.

     
  • Lola, 2003-2011

    On Tuesday night, we said a final goodbye to our big beautiful Newf.

    Her enormous benign presence drew friends and admirers, literally stopped traffic and came to define a beloved neighborhood and an era in our lives.

    In the annals of dog-hood, Lola was supremely relaxed.  She rarely barked, or even ran. What she did best of all was sit.  And she always opted for the middle of anywhere.  She sat at the bank, on the sidewalk, in the park, in any doorway, in the street, with total disregard for traffic.  At 130 lbs, she was uniquely unmovable.  She ignored steak, batted away physical coercion.  Around our neighborhood, she came to be known as the dog that refused to move.

    Some say Newfies are the "hippies” of the dog world.  Lola had perfected an Abbie-Hoffman style of civil disobedience.  Faced with any duress, she'd shift from sit to slouch, to lying down, to deep collapse and finally, coma.  Passersby would ask, “Is she okay?  Can I help?”  For years, our answer was:  “She’s fine, thanks.  She does this all the time."For eight years, we worked on the word “Come.”  We told her, "Walking is the new sitting."  Only the prospect of abandonment made a dent.  We would say a ritual “bye-bye,” then walk away, and disappear conspicuously.  She’d rise and follow -- ten to fifteen minutes later (as we watched and waited from around a corner).  The serene and seemingly abandoned Newfoundland became a fixture on Park Slope's streets.Most often, you could find her slumbering at her lifeguard post on our stoop, keeping a half-opened eye on the street.  She was, after all, a working dog, slated for water rescue.  Only deep into her tenure did we realize that we did all the work.  Then in late July, after two difficult knee surgeries, came the diagnosis of bone cancer. The vet told us we’d need to put her down once her lifestyle changed, once she’d stopped running, leaping, playing football.  We explained, she’d actually been asleep for the last three years.  It was hard to tell the difference between Lola sick and Lola well.  But soon enough, she couldn’t walk, even if she’d wanted to.  We carried her in and out over the last several months.  And this time, when passersby asked, "Is she okay?"  The answer, sadly, was no.

    On her last weekend, we took her upstate and watched, breath held, as she hobbled to a nearby pond and stood in the water, weightless for a moment and almost home, it seemed.

     
  • A shout out to Susan Gregory Thomas...
    A shout out to Susan Gregory Thomas on her new book “In Spite of Everything”

     
  • My new article, "The War Over Lipitor"
    My new article, "The War Over Lipitor" in the Fortune 500 issue hits newsstands next week.

     
  • Great book, "The Genius in All...
    Great book, "The Genius in All of Us," by my friend Dave Shenk, on bookshelves now: http://bit.ly/a9T6SP.
     
     
  • Feb. 5: Michael Carlow (of Dan...
    Feb. 5: Michael Carlow (of Dangerous Doses) gets 9 years after pleading guilty to racketeering, fraud, and theft. http://bit.ly/aqFEGY

     
  • Another diverter goes down. Ar...
    Another diverter goes down. Arnesto Segredo gets 70 mos. prison for diverting prescription drugs, some counterfeit. http://bit.ly/aTjauG

     
  • Latest piece about the "Medica...
    Latest piece about the "Medical Mafia" in Las Vegas: http://bit.ly/18W2dh

     
  • Your lawyer and doctor plottin...
    Your lawyer and doctor plotting against you? http://bit.ly/18W2dh.