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Gross gains

"Gross gains" Continued...

Issue: "2010 Books Issue," July 3, 2010

The pervasiveness of greed and incompetence should come as no surprise to readers of the Bible. What's to be done? A 24-year-old Harvard graduate, A.K. Barnett-Hart, who Lewis credits in his acknowledgements, wrote her thesis in 2009 on Wall Street's failures and now works for a Wall Street bank. She wrote to The Wall Street Journal, "How would Wall Street ever change, I thought, if the people that work there do not change?"

Another untold story: HeLa lives on

By Emily Belz

Let's leave the world of credit default swaps and floating interest rates for the story about cell cultures and petri dishes told in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (Crown, 2010). Henrietta Lacks, the great-granddaughter of a slave and slave owner, died of cervical cancer in 1951, but while she underwent radiation treatment, a doctor took a slice of her cancerous tissue without her knowledge and sent it to his lab for experimentation. It became the first cell line to grow continuously in culture, useful for research that developed the polio vaccine and gene mapping, cells cited everywhere as simply HeLa.

Not until 20 years later did the Lacks family find out that companies were selling batches of this immortal cell line to labs all over the world and making millions. Given the history between the medical community and African-Americans-think of the Tuskegee experiments that began in the 1930s, where researchers recruited black men with syphilis to watch how they died, even after treatment became available-Lacks' family was livid. The story is so good, bursting with themes of death, resurrection, betrayal, and redemption, you can't believe so many years have passed before someone like Skloot, a contributing editor at Popular Science magazine, told it.

Emily Belz
Emily Belz

Emily, who has covered everything from political infighting to pet salons for The Indianapolis Star, The Hill, and the New York Daily News, reports for WORLD from New York City. Follow Emily on Twitter @emzleb.

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