Tuesday, January 30, 2007

White students 'do better' in British universities

Below is a brief summary from a Leftist newspaper of an official British government report that does not appear to be online. It is difficult to dissect the sort of "massaged" statistics one has to expect from official Britain but I expect that the following is going on:

1). Blacks do badly as usual because of their low average IQ.

2). Chinese do badly because of their poor English skills. Most Chinese probably are not born in Britain and mastering English is very difficult for Orientals -- as mastering oriental languages is for us. Most immigrant blacks, by contrast, would come from places where at least a form of English is spoken (e.g. Nigeria, The Caribbean).

3). The "whites" include Jews -- who usually perform very well indeed and who are disproportionately present in higher education.

4). The female advantage comes from the black component. Black females are normally much better motivated than black males and take full advantage of the official and unofficial favouritism that is given to blacks.

5). Amusing that South Asians (Indians etc.) are not mentioned. The obvious inference from the omission is that they did as well as whites overall. So skin colour or "xenophobia" was not a factor.

Black and Chinese students are less likely to get top university degrees than their white contemporaries, a government report has found. The study suggested that ethnic minority undergraduates faced "a considerable cost" as a result because students who get first-class degrees increasingly command higher salaries.

The Department for Education and Skills report also found that students living at home were more likely to get firsts, women performed better than men, and older students tended to get better degrees.

Analysing data for 65,000 students, the researchers predicted the odds of different ethnic groups getting first-class degrees, 2:1s, 2:2s or thirds. The gap was widest for black Caribbean, black African and Chinese students. The analysis took account of factors such as gender, prior academic performance, subject studied and deprivation levels.

"A number of studies have found that attaining a 'good' degree carries a premium in the labour market, and that this premium has been increasing over time, as the higher education system has expanded," the study said. "As a result, there is a considerable cost attached to this attainment gap identified in relation to minority ethnic students."

It cautioned that the findings did not "automatically" imply "ethnic bias". The Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell said the Government was committed to ensuring people of all backgrounds could thrive in higher education."



A Muslim doctors' leader has provoked an outcry by urging British Muslims not to vaccinate their children against diseases such as measles, mumps and rubella because it is "un-Islamic". Dr Abdul Majid Katme, head of the Islamic Medical Association, is telling Muslims that almost all vaccines contain products derived from animal and human tissue, which make them "haram", or unlawful for Muslims to take. Islam permits only the consumption of halal products, where the animal has had its throat cut and bled to death while God's name is invoked. Islam also forbids the eating of any pig meat, which Katme says is another reason why vaccines should be avoided, as some contain or have been made using pork-based gelatine.

His warning has been criticised by the Department of Health and the British Medical Association, who said Katme risked increasing infections ranging from flu and measles to polio and diphtheria in Muslim communities.

Katme, a psychiatrist who has worked in the National Health Service for 15 years, wields influence as the head of one of only two national Islamic medical organisations as well as being a member of the Muslim Council of Britain. Moderate Muslims are concerned at the potential impact because other Islamic doctors will have to confirm vaccines are derived from animal and human products. There is already evidence of lower than average vaccination rates in Muslim areas, reducing the prospect of the "herd immunity" needed to curb infectious diseases such as measles, mumps and rubella.

Katme's appeal reflects a global movement by some hardline Islamic leaders who are telling followers torefuse vaccines from the West. In Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of India, Muslims have refused to be immunised against polio after being told that the vaccines contain products that the West has deliberately added to make the recipients infertile.

Katme said he was bringing the message to Britain after analysing the products used for the manufacture of the vaccines. He claimed that Muslims must allow their children to develop their own immune system naturally rather than rely on vaccines. He argued that leading "Islamically healthy lives" would be enough to ward off illnesses and diseases. "You see, God created us perfect and with a very strong defence system. If you breast-feed your child for two years - as the Koran says - and you eat Koranic food like olives and black seed, and you do ablution each time you pray, then you will have a strong defence system," he said. "Many vaccines, especially those given to children, are full of haram substances - human parts, gelatine from pork, alcohol, animal/monkey parts, all coming from the West who do not have knowledge of halal or haram. It is forbidden in Islam to have any of these haram substances in our bodies." Katme singled out vaccines such as MMR as ones to avoid, despite doctors saying that they are essential to keep a baby healthy. Others included those for diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis and meningitis.

Dr Shuja Shafi, a spokesman for the health and medical committee of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: "In terms of ingredients in vaccines, there are so many things that are probably haram, but in the absence of an alternative we are allowed to take it for the sake of our health."


Time to evict official anti-racism

The row over Britain's Celebrity Big Brother shows that hysterically witch-hunting 'racists' is a new British sport

Jade Goody may have been evicted from the Celebrity Big Brother house on Friday, yet the bizarre controversy surrounding her rows with Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty continues to rumble on and reverberate. And the acres of handwringing commentary in the tabloids and broadsheets suggest that Ms Goody is not the only one who is firing-off ill-judged opinions.

Trevor Phillips, head of the Commission for Racial Equality, waded in on Sunday with demands that Channel 4 be overseen by supernanny-in-waiting, Tessa Jowell. In his eyes the refusal of Channel 4 chairman Luke Johnson to describe the Goody/Shetty fallout as `racist' should be a sackable offence. Elsewhere, the granddaddy of race monitoring, London mayor Ken Livingstone, sought to slap Channel 4's wrists. And according to Guardian columnist Jackie Ashley, apparently the Big Brother freakshow is all New Labour's fault anyway - or at least Tony Blair's, whom she accuses of nurturing a public culture as cruel as any that existed under Thatcher.

It is a measure of the disrepair of political and public life that so many public figures, including Blair and the PM-in-waiting Gordon Brown, feel compelled to comment on Celebrity Big Brother. As Brendan O'Neill has pointed out, the speed with which commentators (over)reacted to Goody and her sidekicks' outbursts reveals their own blinkered prejudices about the white working class as a whole (1). Pundits have gleefully pounced on this incident as insurmountable `proof' that nasty racial prejudice is alive and kicking among the great unwashed.

In fact, the most striking thing about Celebrity Big Brother is that it simultaneously tells us very little about British society and an awful lot about brass-necked opinion makers. It is clear to anyone with eyes and ears that race no longer has the same corrosive impact it once had in British society. Indeed, many of my students who have Indian backgrounds say that Goody's clanking comments are hardly representative of their experience of living in Britain in the twenty-first century. They can shrug off the Goody v Shetty row precisely because race doesn't impinge on their lives. However, high-minded pundits cannot shrug off the idea that Big Brother exerts great `influence' on all the `couch potatoes' out there. Germaine Greer thinks the masses who watch the programme were probably cheering on Goody's taunts, seeing Shetty as just another `Paki bird'. Leaving aside the risible `monkey say/monkey do' implications here, it's worth questioning whether Big Brother is as popular or influential as pundits claim.

Prior to this year's race controversy, viewing figures were down to a paltry 1.4 million, before climbing to a still unremarkable four million. Even at the height of the non-celebrity Big Brother `mania' during the summer months, viewing figures hover around the seven million mark. If soap operas or flagship dramas like Prime Suspect pulled in those kind of viewing figures, they would be deemed as failures and possibly dropped. So why is Big Brother seen as `required viewing' for the mass of the population, when, in fact, relatively speaking not that many people watch it?

The truth is that Big Brother's core audience is teenage girls, students, and fashionistas/style journalists who can't let go of irony. It is this (largely) youthful audience that makes BB appealing to advertisers, as well as celebrity magazines and tabloids and broadsheets seeking a new generation of readers. For older generations of working people, Big Brother is largely irrelevant and a somewhat bizarre spectacle. Ironically enough, it is because Big Brother is a media rather than social phenomenon that all kinds of outlandish claims can be projected on to it. And in the Goody v Shetty debacle, reams of half-baked rubbish have been spouted about the `Vicky Pollards' who supposedly populate both the show and its audience.

The response to this year's Celebrity Big Brother shows how forceful official anti-racism has become as a conforming mechanism. Whether it is through televised autopsies or wankathons, Channel 4 has long courted rather prurient `controversy'. But engineering racial and cultural tensions has been a step `too far' for even staunch supporters of this increasingly idiotic channel. It seems Channel 4 can dabble with any taboo it likes, apart from the new orthodoxies surrounding race. There is a baying hysteria in contemporary `anti-racism'. As Goody herself said after the eviction: `I've never been so terrified in all my life.'

Far from striking a blow for racial equality and freedom, official and tyrannical anti-racism nurtures fresh divisions and fosters a culture of unfreedom. This was reflected by one anti-racist group's statement that `private utterances should be viewed in the same light as public ones' - that is, what people say behind closed doors, or presumably even think in their own minds, should be subject to rules and regulations in the same way that public speech too often is. The reaction to the Goody/Shetty farce has popularised such a dangerous and nonsensical idea, with its blurred distinction between a private argument between two people (filmed and aired, of course) and the wild claims made about what this reveals about our public culture.

The commentary on Goody/Shetty has become a vehicle for expressing a broader anti-human sentiment. If some pundits are sceptical that Goody is consciously `racist', nearly all agree that she is a `bully'. For Jackie Ashley, it is bullying rather than overt racism that is the single defining characteristic of contemporary British society. So much so that even `Jade-the-bully is then vigorously bullied and abused by the same newspapers that so recently found her funny' (2). In this light, Celebrity Big Brother is portrayed as a reflection on how rotten the (unregulated) human subject really is. Apparently if you put humans together the essential desire to dominate `the other' will always win through. And for many, racism naturally follows bullying as the primeval urge lurking within us all. Celebrity Big Brother popularises the idea that, in the words of actor/director Gary Oldman, `we all need therapy'.

For many pundits, the problem with Goody is that because of her `poor breeding', she is apparently more pathologically prone to hateful outbursts than others. Goody's blubbering, confessional interviews with both Davina McCall and the News of the World shows how quickly she has internalised the therapeutic mode.

The furore over Goody's crass behaviour towards Shetty has been a heaven-sent opportunity for half-witted commentators to obsess over an imaginary underclass. In truth, the tantrums inside the CBB house say nothing about what's happening in multi-racial Britain, though the furore reveals much about the nasty prejudices of certain commentators. If the Goody/Shetty incident reveals anything about the state of Britain, it is that official anti-racism has become an hysterical and authoritarian force. Far from fretting about Goody and Co's infantile behaviour, isn't it time we put that up for eviction instead?


Child obesity

Is the next generation of Brits facing an epidemic of ill-health?

Panic: The UK House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts has published a new report lambasting the government for failing to tackle child obesity. The report notes that `obesity is a serious health condition', `a causal factor in a number of chronic diseases and conditions', and that `overall, it reduces life expectancy by an average of nine years'. According to the report, `there has been a steady rise in the number of children aged 2 to 10 who are obese - from 9.9 per cent in 1995 to 13.9 per cent in 2004.'

Don't panic: If the committee wishes to attack the government, and demand ever-greater intervention against parents, schools and companies, it had better get its facts straight. Obesity is not a serious health condition. It is a category of body morphology. The definition employed by the committee, the standard one in health circles, is that someone is `obese' if they have a body mass index (BMI) above 30; essentially, if the ratio of their weight to height is above a certain level. Aside from the fact that this ratio can just as easily describe excess muscle as excess fat, being fat does not necessarily imply ill-health. The majority of fat people are pretty healthy. In fact, it is those who, under today's abitrary categories, would be defined as `overweight' or moderately obese (with a BMI between 25 and 32) who seem to have the best life expectancy.

We do not know to what extent, if at all, obesity is a causal factor in chronic disease. We do know that obesity - particularly morbid obesity - is associated with increased risks of heart disease and type-2 diabetes, for example, but causation is a different matter. Given that fat people who are also fit seem to have very similar health profiles to thin but sedentary people, it may well be that lack of exercise not fatty tissue is the most important factor. In any event, untangling all the potential confounding factors makes the simple `obesity=disease/death' equation far too simplistic.

Specifically, the figure given for years of life lost is wrong. It appears to be repeating a statistic from a National Audit Office (NAO) report in 2001. However, what that report actually says is: `On average, each person whose death could be attributed to obesity lost nine years of life.' While this kind of attribution is fraught with problems, it is also very different from the statement in the latest report. The NAO report said six per cent of deaths were due to obesity - suggesting that most obese people die because of some other factor. Therefore, simple maths suggests the average number of years lost due to obesity is substantially lower than the nine years suggested by the new report.

As for child obesity, there is much dispute about what is an appropriate measure - BMI, for example, is even less relevant in children than in adults. But, according to the Health Survey for England in 2002: `About one in 20 boys (5.5 per cent) and about one in 15 girls (7.2 per cent) aged 2 to 15 were obese in 2002, according to the international classification.' While children have got a bit fatter in recent years, average weights for children have changed little.

We are facing an epidemic, it's true: an epidemic of regulation, intervention and fear-mongering. And it will all be based on reports like this one from the Committee of Public Accounts. While the motivations of these politicians may be sincere, their role in the obesity panic is likely only to make us more unhealthily obsessed with food and weight.


A diet of misinformation

John Luik, co-author of Diet Nation, tells Rob Lyons that the obesity panic is being fattened by savvy interest groups and junk science

`More than any other government, the UK government has bought into it. The UK leads the world in bad obesity policy.' I'm sitting in the offices of the Advertising Association discussing the obesity panic with John Luik, co-author of Diet Nation: Exposing the Obesity Crusade. Luik is a genial American policy analyst who's gunning for the `relatively small group of people around the world who have decided, manufactured, this as a problem, and who have sold it to governments.'

`If we had gotten paid by the advertising industry to write this book - which we didn't - people would say, "You guys are on the take". But you can have people on the other side who get hundreds of thousands of pounds from those who have a deliberate interest in making people think they're fat, and no-one thinks that is a question of corruption.'

In Diet Nation, Luik and his co-authors, Patrick Basham and Gio Gori, show that the fear of expanding waistlines is nothing new. But they argue that the modern hysteria about getting fat has little to do with real dangers to our health, or that of our children; rather it has become the obsession of an unholy alliance of sophisticated lobby groups and junk science.

This is perfectly illustrated by a report published by the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts this week, which leaps from making plainly untrue statements about the problem of obesity to berating the government for not doing enough to address it, by clamping down on the food industry, for example, or frightening parents and stigmatising children.

Fretting over our waistlines has a long history. There was already medical discussion about the problem of obesity in the late nineteenth century, but as a `product rather than a cause' of the prejudice against excess weight. Within a few years, this issue started impacting on popular culture. In 1907 a popular American play called Nobody Likes a Fat Man was staged, and in 1913 Edith Wharton described one of her characters fretting about being anything more than `perpendicular'. As the authors of Diet Nation note, in one respect `the century-long European and American preoccupation with thinness and the rejection of fat is very much a social construct in which obesity is increasingly associated with the morally unacceptable' (p33).

The first obesity crusade took off in the Fifties, and was particularly inspired by the work of Louis Dublin, a biologist working for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in the US. He was a man on a mission. He wrote hundreds of articles on the subject and produced just the kind of research that is the mainstay of obesity discussions today: he rather dubiously compared the weight of individuals (often self-reported) with mortality many years later. There were many obvious limitations, especially the fact that the subjects were self-selected (insurance buyers were not typical of the population then), and that their weight was not regularly measured over the period of study; in fact, it was often not measured independently at all. And yet, Dublin tried to persuade America using this shaky data that not only was being morbidly obese bad for your health, but even levels of weight 10 per cent above his `ideal' could shorten your life.

While much of the medical profession supported Dublin, others were puzzled to find his results difficult to replicate. Anyway, his worst fears were not realised, as Diet Nation notes: `As the 1960s and 70s came and went, Americans did not lose significant amounts of weight, though they dieted continuously. They enjoyed better health, while the prevalence of most major diseases declined and longevity increased.' (p42)

For Luik et al, while the modern obesity crusade - which began in earnest in the 1990s - still has a moralising tone to it, the message coming from the crusaders emphasises another message just as much: `obesity is no longer a moral failing of bad fat people, but a sickness, acquired in large measure from a "toxic food environment", that requires medical treatment' (p34). It is true that contemporary campaigners against obesity talk about `evil corporations' as much as they do feckless individuals. So, much of the debate increasingly focuses on processed food (like the infamous Turkey Twizzler), fast-food restaurants like McDonald's, agonised debates about labelling, and bans on adverts.

However, it would be wrong to understate the powerful moralistic streak in discussions of obesity and food. In the focus on junk-food restaurants, for example, there is often a barely concealed contempt for the largely working-class people who eat there, who are presumed to be lazy, unthinking and not sufficiently concerned with healthy cooking and physical exercise. They are seen as `junk' people. At a time when it is unfashionable to pass strictly moral judgements on people's lifestyles, the lower orders tend to be maligned through the coded issue of food and health.

The crusaders have maintained a clear and oft-repeated message, according to Luik and his co-authors: `Overweight/obesity equals death; weight loss is possible and necessary; the sources of the problem are to be found in corporate misbehaviour, not individual gluttony or sloth; and personal responsibility is insufficient, as significant governmental action is required.' (p43) While the authors concede that many campaigners may be sincere, `the existence of an obesity epidemic offers enormous commercial, financial and power-maximising opportunities for. the medical profession, academic researchers, the public health community, the government health bureaucracy, the pharmaceutical industry, the fitness industry and the weight-loss industry' (p44).

From this point of view, it's the persistence, brilliance and deviousness of the campaigners, backed by the attitude-distorting presence of very sizeable amounts of money and influence, that have driven the current panic. There is no doubt much truth in this. Often, it is the same relatively small band of experts who conduct research, get paid to be consultants for industry, sit on the boards of specialist journals, and are asked to give evidence to, or advise, governments on public health policy.

The mechanics of how power and influence are grabbed are intriguing, especially when the players involved occasionally make a hash of it. Consider the report of the House of Commons Health Committee published in May 2004, which focused on the effect of obesity on children. The report made a huge splash with the case of a three-year-old girl who had died `from heart failure where obesity was a contributory factor'. The doctor giving evidence on the case described children on her own ward as `choking on their own fat'. However, as spiked revealed at the time, this was not a case of parents negligently feeding a child to death; rather the little girl suffered from a rare genetic disorder (see Choking on the facts, by Brendan O'Neill).

Then there is the case of the US report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2004, which proclaimed that obesity was causing 400,000 deaths a year. This immediately sparked calls for massive government intervention. However, the authors of Diet Nation note how the report was prepared, not by the CDC's top experts on the subject, but by the CDC's director and other researchers attached to her office. After what appears to have been considerable internal criticism of the report, another group of CDC researchers reviewed it, and their review eventually found its way into the public domain under a Freedom of Information request. This second report suggested that a more accurate figure for excess obesity deaths was about 25,000 - 94 per cent lower than the original estimate. Strikingly, the original report was produced under pressure to `get the right result' because a range of groups had an interest in reaching the highest possible figure.

Such methods of securing influence may be increasingly common; yet there is something slightly unsatisfactory in using this as an explanation for the obesity panic. Are governments and the public simply being suckered? Or have there been social and political changes that have left individuals more open to being spooked about their health, and politicians more enthusiastic about interfering in areas of our lives that were previously off-limits? These questions aren't really answered in Diet Nation.

Too often the debate about obesity ends up in a mud-slinging contest over which side is the more corrupted. This provides little illumination into the facts of the matter, and it feeds the cynical outlook that suggests anyone's position can be evaluated by those who have paid to support it. On that basis, Luik and his co-authors could easily be pigeonholed as `free market libertarians' or something similar, as a means of dismissing them. But they clearly have a great deal more to say about obesity than the question of who-paid-who.

The chapter on the science of obesity will surprise many. Luik tells me about a presentation he gave recently at the offices of a major international bank in London. Having discovered that the audience's main concern was with the possibility of dying young from being overweight, he told them: `You'll probably find this astonishing but the people who are most long-lived in these studies are people who I would call "pleasantly plump" or overweight. In fact, even moderately obese live longer those who are the "norm".' The reaction he received shows how deeply imbued the panic has become: `People look at you like you're someone who has two heads.'

Yet Diet Nation claims that in the arbitrary weight categories set by the health authorities and their supporters today, those who are `overweight' - officially `ill', according to today's standards - live longer than those whose weight is apparently `ideal'. This would seem to highlight the ridiculous nature of the Body Mass Index and weight charts that are so popular now. Even those who are morbidly obese are likely to be able to reduce many of the risks associated with their weight by simply taking moderate exercise, even if they fail to lose any weight at all. And the usual prescription for losing weight - dieting - is, by any sensible medical standards, a failure. Weight loss is very difficult to sustain; around 96 per cent of dieters are at least as heavy as their starting weight five years later.

The myth of dieting is a subject that Luik and his colleagues are keen to return to in another book. Having looked at 28 separate papers on the long-term effects of dieting, Luik tells me that 24 show no benefit to losing weight. Even where a benefit is found, it's small. `Here's an example. One study concluded that if you were successful in losing 50 pounds and keeping it off for the rest of your life, you would have a longevity increase in the order of 11 hours.'

Another area where the science is pretty much the opposite of what we've been led to believe is the effect of advertising on children - a topical issue in the UK since Ofcom's recent decision to ban the advertising of `unhealthy' foods during children's TV programmes. Luik sums up the evidence pithily: `We're saying that kids that can operate computers from the time they're three, and have immense media literacy, are so unaware of advertising up to the age of 16 that they can be convinced to buy a packet of crisps by seeing an advertisement, or that a cartoon character is going to convince them to buy a breakfast cereal.' All of which explains why I'm meeting Luik at the offices of Advertising Association: he's just given a talk to the association about why they must tackle the dubious claims made about obesity and the draconian measures being proposed to deal with it.

This isn't just a concern for advertisers, though. The lessons of the campaign against tobacco illustrate that a tactical move to attack industry will sooner or later lead to further attacks on our individual freedoms. Having convinced the world that cigarettes were an evil brought down upon us from on high by Big Tobacco, smokers now find themselves banned in public places; some agencies now ban smokers from lighting up in their own homes if they are being visited by health or social workers; and doctors are increasingly feeling free to refuse treatment to those who won't give up. In turn, the obesity panic is already leading to parents being instructed about how they should feed their children, while hospitals are also turning away the obese.

For the moment, Big Food or the advertising industry might be the fall guys; but it's in all of our interests to oppose the stringent measures being implemented on the basis of this junk panic. Diet Nation has its flaws, but it is an important contribution to our understanding, cutting through the flabby debate that has taken place so far.


NHS patients need to buy organs from Third World to survive

British doctors had written "Joseph" off, saying he was too old to be treated on the National Health Service. But, at 72, he flew to Asia for a double-lung transplant and now claims to be the oldest man in Britain to have survived the operation. Joseph - not his real name - is one of a growing number of Britons who, frustrated with NHS waiting lists, are venturing into the murky world of organ brokers offering kidneys and livers harvested from the poorest quarters of the world, sometimes illicitly. Buying an organ is illegal in Britain, but generally not in Asia.

A former factory worker, Joseph is far from wealthy. He owes his life to his two daughters who used their savings and sold a holiday home to pay the 220,000 pound bill. "Without their sacrifice I would probably have been dead by now," said Joseph. He remains unsure where his new lungs came from. The Singapore surgeons told him only that they had been donated by the family of a much younger man who died from an unspecified head trauma.

His daughters are delighted with his recovery. "You cannot guarantee the success of any major operation. But now he is out hiking," said the eldest last week. "Just looking at him, smiling, brings tears to my eyes."

The family acknowledges its debt to James Cohan, a self-styled "organ transplant co-ordinator" from California who spoke for the first time last week about his pioneering role in the booming organ trade. Cohan has been "matchmaking" dangerously ill Europeans and Americans with Asian and African hospitals for 20 years. He says that over the past decade British inquiries have grown from a trickle into a flood.

Cohan, a tall, slim 66-year-old who lives in the hills outside Los Angeles, works like a stock-market day trader - with a phone and internet connection in a bedroom. He says he has seldom left home since he was arrested in Italy in 1998 for allegedly dealing in stolen body parts from South Africa, charges that were later dismissed. He says he breaks no American laws and deals with 15 hospitals that he has verified are using only legally donated organs.

A cultural and legal mismatch between Asia and the West has led to the current "grey market" where criminal gangs thrive and the sick die on waiting lists, he claimed. "Nightmarish tales of children snatched from streets for their organs will carry on until supply and demand are balanced. Right now there are 300,000 people on waiting lists whose lives could be saved with a more open approach to donation," he said.

This week David Kilgour, a former Canadian MP, will publish a follow-up report to his 2006 investigation that forced China to admit its hospitals sold organs taken from executed prisoners. Kilgour is concerned that executions are timed to coincide with operations, and that surging demand may even influence sentencing.

In May, Nancy Scheper-Hughes, professor of medical anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, will publish The Ends of the Body, which will expose the horrors of the 300m-a-year trade. She will name Asian towns known as "kidney zones", where hundreds of locals bear a diagonal scar marking the removal of an organ for 300 pounds, and have suffered ill health ever since. "This is a cruel, unfair trade," she said. "Technology and greed have far outstripped any government's abilities to regulate it. It's out of control."

Doctors at the Aadil hospital in Lahore, Pakistan, which charges 7,500 for a kidney transplant and deals with up to 30 western organ brokers at a time, say they seek healthy organs from dozens of countries. "Our priority is health, not politics," said a spokesman last week. "We always abide by current laws."

However, surgeons have warned that the failure rate of overseas operations is high and have called for the trade to be banned. Professor Nadey Hakim, president of the International College of Surgeons, said that more than half such operations end up with a bad transplant or the patients die. "The donors get paid very little. The recipient who gets the organ is not treated well either and they get sent back in a very bad condition," he said. I am betting that patients get BETTER treatment in Singapore than they do in the filthy NHS. Han Chinese surgeons are often brilliant and Singapore is immaculate.


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