Anne Landman's News Articles Reviews Wendell Potter's New Book, "Deadly Spin"

David Whelan blogs about the health care business for, and he's published a review of Wendell Potter's forthcoming new tell-all book about the health insurance industry, Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans. After twenty years as head of corporate public relations for two of the country's biggest for-profit health insurers, Wendell gave up his six-figure salary and cushy life as an insurance executive and decided he had to start telling people how the for-profit insurance industry manipulates the government and sticks it to Americans.

Xenophobic Email about Muslim Stamp Resurfaces

A year-old, anti-Muslim email has resurfaced and is curculating once again, riding the latest wave of U.S. anti-Muslim bigotry. The email urges people to boycott a U.S. postage stamp that recognizes the Islamic holiday of Eid. The stamp, which rumor-mongers mistakenly refer to as a "Muslim Christmas Stamp," was first issued about ten years ago, and is one of six seasonal postage stamps the United States Postal Service sells that commemorate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Eid, snowmen and music makers. The email was first sent around a year ago by John Piper, the mayor of Clarksville, Tennessee. In it, Piper urged "all patriotic Americans" to protest a U.S. postage stamp commemorating the Islamic holiday of Eid. Piper accused "Muslim Communist" President Obama of ordering the stamp's creation. The stamp was, in fact, created during the George W. Bush administration. A similar stamp, sort of an Arabic Valentine's Day stamp with hearts and a butterfly on it, is also mentioned in the email. That stamp was created on a Web site called Zazzle, that lets people create their own custom stamps, and is not issued by the USPS. recently updated its page debunking this rumor. The USPS's holiday stamps are available here.

Lauria Quit Cigarettes, But Now He's on the Bottle

Old tobacco industry PR flacks don't go away, they just defend different products for money. So it is with former Tobacco Institute spokesman Thomas Lauria, who is now defending bottled water.

Seems benign enough. After all, fighting for water -- albeit in an over-commercialized, overpriced and polluting form -- instead of cigarettes would seem to be an improvement for Lauria. But just as he battled efforts to educate people about the health hazards of secondhand smoke, Lauria is now battling efforts to educate people about the hoax that is bottled water.

American Politics is Getting All Koch'ed Up

The grassroots pressure group Americans for Prosperity (AFP), that actively fought health care reform, boasts "our citizen activists" are "the heart and soul" of the organization. So AFP wants the public and the media to believe. But an exhaustive report in the August 30, 2010 issue of The New Yorker magazine, shows that the heart and soul behind AFP are really the oil billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch of Koch Industries, whose privately-owned oil enterprise has made them among the richest men in America. In addition to petroleum interests, the Kochs also own a host of familiar products like Brawny paper towels, Dixie cups, Georgia-Pacific lumber, Stainmaster carpet and Lycra. Their massive combined wealth makes them the third richest people in the country, behind only Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, who are better known to the public. The Kochs have intentionally obscured their involvement on the American political scene through the creation of an elaborate network of front groups, think tanks, foundations and astroturf organizations, but the public is quickly getting to know the Koch brothers better. Given their extreme wealth and pervasive efforts to manipulate the American public, it is a name everyone should get to know very, very well.

Bill O'Reilly and the Fox-Comcast Crushing Machine

On May 10, 2008, the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences' Boston/New England chapter conferred its prestigious "Governor's Award" upon Bill O'Reilly, host of the Fox News Channel opinion program "The O'Reilly Factor." Some felt the choice of O'Reilly was improper given his reputation for inflammatory rhetoric and bullying of people who disagree with him. One person who took exception to the award was Barry Nolan, host of another cable show produced by Comcast called "Backstage with Barry Nolan." One month before the awards ceremony, Nolan emailed the Academy's governing board and asked them to reconsider giving the award to O'Reilly. Nolan also made public his opposition to the award. He wrote to the Boston Herald to say he was appalled at the Academy's choice. Nolan said O'Reilly was "a mental case" who "inflates and constantly mangles the truth." Nolan sought and received some support for his protest from within the higher echelons of Comcast, but in the end, the academy's vote stood. Determined to take a discreet but public stand, Nolan attended the award ceremony, bringing 100 six-page fliers he had made up listing some of O'Reilly's more outrageous quotes.

USA Today Drinks the Tea

  • Topics: Media
  • The front page of USA Today August 13 was consumed with an extensive article titled "Faces of the Tea Party: Tea Party members offer ground-level view," which featured anecdotal interviews with ordinary people who agree with the movement. But the article offered no information putting the Tea Party movement in the context of the larger political picture in the U.S. For example, it points out that Tea Party candidates were victorious in primary elections in Colorado, Kentucky, Nevada and Utah, and, while it questions the ability of the candidates to win in the general election in November, it fails to mention that these candidates' victories boost the possibilities that Democrats will prevail in these states. Another significant omission is that article also fails to mention how remarkably far out of the mainstream the many Tea Party candidates' views are. Nevada's victorious Tea Party Senate candidate, Sharron Angle, seeks to dismantle Medicare and Social Security and hand their functions to the private sector. Kentucky's Tea Party Senate candidate, Rand Paul, belongs to a group of physicians who deny the link between HIV and AIDS and argue that Barack Obama controls his audiences through a covert form of hypnosis. Colorado's victorious gubernatorial Tea Party candidate, Dan Maes, told a crowd of supporters that Denver's new bicycle sharing program is really part of a hidden United Nations plot to "rein in American cities," put the environment above citizens' rights, and curtail personal freedoms.

    Eat, Prey, Spend

    The movie "Eat, Pray, Love" is the story of a woman who travels the world in search of personal fulfillment, enlightenment and love. Despite the noticeably non-materialistic theme, though, Sony Pictures and Home Shopping Network (HSN) inked a deal to use the movie as a vehicle to hype an amazing amount of female-targeted merchandise. In the run-up to the film's August 13 release, HSN staged a three-day shopping event that showcased over 400 "Eat, Pray, Love" movie-related products including kitchenware, teas, jewelry, clothing, spices, shower gel, bed sheets, furnishings and cookware. Moviegoers are invited buy Eat, Pray, Love "I deserve Something Beautiful" T-shirts for a whopping $39.90 apiece, or an "Eat, Pray, Love" Sony Pocket Edition E-Reader with case for $229.95 (in three easy payments), a gelato maker, Sony laptop computers in movie-themed colors, gourmet candies, flat-panel TVs and much more.

    Beware This "Constitutional Convention"

    An organization called the "Save America Foundation" is putting on conferences around the country that it promotes to host communities as "Constitutional Conventions." John Michael Chambers, the Save America Foundation's founder and spokesman, is telling local press that these events are intended to "stress the Constitution, not current politics," but Chambers is stingy on the details. He doesn't say exactly how these gatherings will "stress the Constitution," or describe specific goals the gatherings hope to achieve.

    Investigation reveals that these so-called "Constitutional Conventions" are part of a wave of hysterical fear and scapegoating currently sweeping the country, and that the "Save America Foundation" has overtones of an apocalyptic cult that relies on fear to motivate susceptible audiences. John Michael Chambers, the Clearwater, Florida radio talk show host and financial planner who founded the group, believes the United States is being overtaken by a "New World Order" perpetrated by "elitists." He writes on the organization's Web site that:

    The Struggle Behind the Scenes Over Health Care Reform

    CMD's Senior Fellow on Health Care, Wendell Potter, spoke at the Armand Hammer Museum in Los Angeles about the ongoing struggle over the implementation of the new health care legislation. Coverage of the new law has been minimal lately, pushed off the front pages by the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, but a lot has been going on behind the scenes. Even though Congress passed, and the president signed the new healthcare legislation, we still don't know how it's going to be implemented, because the legislation only lays out Congressional intent. Numerous regulations must now be written to govern the business of healthcare in America. Parts of the new law could still be invalidated by the courts, or repealed by future members of Congress. So what is going on behind the scenes, anyway? Big insurers are quietly working very hard to preserve the status quo, just as the big banks are doing with financial reform.

    Everything's Okay in the Gulf -- Or Is It?

    Suddenly BP's oil disaster is getting an unusually high amount of positive publicity. Media reports are concluding that most of the oil has disappeared. The static kill has been successful at holding back the oil pressure, and the U.S. government issued a scientific report suggesting that 75 percent of the 4.9 million barrels of oil that gushed into the Gulf as been burned, dispersed or evaporated. But even if you assume that all of the dispersed oil has been degraded, there are still an estimated 1.3 million barrels out in the environment -- five times the amount of oil released during the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989. People observing beaches in southern coastal states of Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Florida say they are still covered with oil and Corexit 9500, the chemical dispersant BP sprayed to break up the oil and remove it from view. Vast areas of ocean that used to be abundant with sea life show little signs of life anywhere. Plastic bags full of dead sea birds and oil are filling landfills in the south. If millions of gallons of oil have evaporated, what are the consequences for the air quality in the Gulf? Residents have reported that in areas normally besieged by mosquitos, there is now little need for repellant. Despite the rosy reports suddenly filling the airways, damage still appears to be ongoing. There is still plenty of oil in the Gulf that cannot, and will not, be cleaned up, and that will continue to wreak damage on the environment and the economies of Gulf states.

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