Category Archives: book reviews

A new book you may want to know about

There’s one thing we can all agree on:  Trying to stay healthy.

That’s why you may want to know about a new book, Killer diseases, modern-day epidemics:  Keys to stopping heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity in their tracks, by Swarna Moldanado, PhD, MPH, and Alex Moldanado, MD.

In this extraordinary book, the authors have pulled together an invaluable compendium of both evidence and advice on how to stop the “killer diseases” they call “modern-day epidemics.”

First, using their accumulated wisdom and experience in public health, nursing science, and family medical practice, Swarna and Alex Moldanado offer the reader a wide array of scientific evidence.  Next, they present their well-thought-out conclusions on how this evidence supports their theories of how to combat the killer diseases that plague us today.

Their most compelling conclusion:  Lifestyle choices have an overwhelming impact on our health.  So although some individuals may suffer from diseases that are unavoidable, evidence points to the tremendous importance of lifestyle choices.

Specifically, the authors note that evidence “points to the fact that some of the most lethal cancers are attributable to lifestyle choices.”  Choosing to smoke tobacco or consume alcohol in excess are examples of the sort of risky lifestyle choices that can lead to this killer disease.

Similarly, cardiovascular diseases–diseases of the heart and blood vessels–share many common risk factors.  Clear evidence demonstrates that eating an unhealthy diet, a diet that includes too many saturated fats—fatty meats, baked goods, and certain dairy products—is a critical factor in the development of cardiovascular disease. The increasing size of food portions in our diet is another risk factor many people may not be aware of.

On the other hand, most of us are aware of the dangers of physical inactivity.  But knowledge of these dangers is not enough.  Many of us must change our lifestyle choices.  Those of us in sedentary careers, for example, must become much more physically active than our lifestyles lend themselves to.

Yes, the basics of this information appear frequently in the media.  But the Moldanados reveal a great deal of scientific evidence you might not know about.

Even more importantly, in Chapter 8, “Making and Keeping the Right Lifestyle Choices,” the authors step up to the plate in a big way.  Here they clearly and forcefully state their specific recommendations for succeeding in the fight against killer diseases.

Following these recommendations could lead all of us to a healthier and brighter outcome.

Kudos to the authors for collecting an enormous volume of evidence, clearly presenting it to us, and concluding with their invaluable recommendations.

No more excuses!  Let’s resolve to follow their advice and move in the right direction to help ensure our good health.





Does Jury Duty Matter?

Have you ever served on a jury?  As a lawyer, I’ve observed juries over the years and found the whole process fascinating.  But although I’ve been called and questioned for jury service several times, I’ve never actually sat on a jury.

A few years ago, I wrote a book review recounting one juror’s experience sitting on the jury in a particularly salacious trial in New York City (please see my review in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin in 2002 of A Trial by Jury by D. Graham Burnett).

More recently I read another book about jury duty.  Conceding that many of us try to avoid serving on a jury whenever we can, it makes a compelling argument that jury duty is absolutely vital in our democracy.

Here’s a review I’ve written of this new book, Why Jury Duty Matters.


by Andrew Guthrie Ferguson 

         Does jury duty matter?  Anyone who’s seen the 1957 film “12 Angry Men” can answer that.  In that film, a single member of the fictional jury derails the conviction of a murder defendant when he persuades the other jurors that there’s reasonable doubt of the defendant’s guilt.

Real-world jury duty may not have the impact it does in that film, but it still matters—a lot.  In “Why Jury Duty Matters:  A Citizen’s Guide to Constitutional Action,” Andrew Ferguson tells us just how consequential jury duty is.

Ferguson writes from his perspective as a former public defender with the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, where for seven years he represented adults and juveniles in serious felony cases.  Now a professor of law at the David A. Clarke School of Law at the University of the District of Columbia, he has focused on how vital jury duty is to our democracy.

Ferguson notes that the significance of the jury was enshrined from the beginning of our country in the United States Constitution.  He points out that jury duty is “one of the last unifying acts of citizenship”—our “recurring civil obligation to head down to the courthouse and participate in resolving a criminal or civil case involving members of the community.”

He skillfully weaves in references to history, tracing the evolution of juries, first in England and later in the U.S.  For example, the unfair proceedings during the 1603 treason trial of Sir Walter Raleigh led to the right to confront witnesses, later enshrined in our Sixth Amendment.  Likewise, the 1735 libel trial of John Peter Zenger probably inspired the Sixth Amendment’s right to a public jury trial, as well as the First Amendment’s protection of free speech and press.  And the revolt against much unfairness by the British, which led to the American Revolution, led in turn to this theme in the Constitution:  protection against arbitrary police power.  The jury is a bulwark against that power.

Ferguson carefully reviews the many roles that jurors play:

  • deliberating—reviewing the evidence  and making a collective decision; thinking together, using reason and informed discussion to reach a decision
  • protecting dissenting voices—allowing each juror to dissent from the majority’s conclusion
  • judging accountability—assuming the responsibility to hold someone accountable
  • giving equal treatment to information and ideas, and above all,
  • ensuring fairness.

The key is fairness.

As Ferguson emphasizes, each of these roles, when taken to heart by jurors, leads to faith in our jury system.  And the faith we have in our juries is the cornerstone of our democracy.