Monthly Archives: February 2011

The Luncheon Society/Richard Panek and “The 4% Universe, Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality”/San Francisco—Palio D’Asti/January 27, 2011

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In Richard Panek’s latest book, “The 4% Universe,” he asks, “What if everything we knew about the universe was wrong?” Who will solve the riddle? Somebody is going to figure this out and will win the Nobel Prize to become the Einstein of their age. We have only just begun to understand what’s “out there.”  

Richard Panek, who has also written “Invisible Century: Einstein, Freud, and the Search for Hidden Universes” and “Seeing and Believing: How the Telescope Opened our Eyes and Minds to the Heavens,” has an unerring knock of explaining complex scientific concepts to the rest of us.

There are times that somebody else can better describe a gathering than me. On January 27th, we had a mind-blowing conversation with New York Times Science writer Richard Panek surrounding the glue that keeps our universe together, most notably Dark Matter and Dark Energy. Continue reading

The Luncheon Society/Healthcare Whistleblower Wendell Potter on his book “Deadly Spin”/San Francisco—Fior D’Italia/December 10, 2010

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There’s an old joke that says, “there are two sides to every story—but the bad side pays better.” If a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged, perhaps a liberal might just be a conservative who has been hung out to dry by the health insurance industry.

For nearly two decades, Wendell Potter served as the top Public Relations executive at CIGNA and an health insurance industry insider until he resigned in 2007.  Wendell Potter’s career as an insurance industry whistleblower began in June 2009 as an expert witness in front of a US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, while the healthcare debate was still in full bloom.

His testimony began:

“Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to be here this afternoon. My name is Wendell Potter and for 20 years, I worked as a senior executive at health insurance companies, and I saw how they confuse their customers and dump the sick — all so they can satisfy their Wall Street investors.

I know from personal experience that members of Congress and the public have good reason to question the honesty and trustworthiness of the insurance industry. Insurers make promises they have no intention of keeping, they flout regulations designed to protect consumers, and they make it nearly impossible to understand — or even to obtain — information we need. As you hold hearings and discuss legislative proposals over the coming weeks, I encourage you to look very closely at the role for-profit insurance companies play in making our health care system both the most expensive and one of the most dysfunctional in the world. I hope you get a real sense of what life would be like for most of us if the kind of so-called reform the insurers are lobbying for is enacted.

When I left my job as head of corporate communications for one of the country’s largest insurers, I did not intend to go public as a former insider. However, it recently became abundantly clear to me that the industry’s charm offensive — which is the most visible part of duplicitous and well-financed PR and lobbying campaigns — may well shape reform in a way that benefits Wall Street far more than average Americans.” Continue reading