Monday, June 27, 2016

Volatility in the political marketplace-Brexit

Will the United Kingdom of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland break up, following the 52% to 48% vote for the UK to leave the European Union? (Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU...).

Ken Rogoff has a characteristically well-written article (Britain’s Democratic Failure) arguing that such momentous decisions should be taken by super-majorities, not by a simple majority.

"The real lunacy of the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union was not that British leaders dared to ask their populace to weigh the benefits of membership against the immigration pressures it presents. Rather, it was the absurdly low bar for exit, requiring only a simple majority. Given voter turnout of 70%, this meant that the leave campaign won with only 36% of eligible voters backing it.
This isn’t democracy; it is Russian roulette for republics. A decision of enormous consequence – far greater even than amending a country’s constitution (of course, the United Kingdom lacks a written one) – has been made without any appropriate checks and balances."

Scotland, of course, has voted in the past to remain part of the UK--might it vote differently in the future? By a similarly narrow margin?  

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Airbnb and racial discrimination by hosts

The NY Times follows the story: Airbnb Vows to Fight Racism, but Its Users Can’t Sue to Prompt Fairness

"SAN FRANCISCO — Brian Chesky, chief executive of Airbnb, made a vow this month to root out bigotry from his business.
His online room-sharing company has recently been grappling with claims of discrimination, with several Airbnb users sharing stories on social media about how they were supposedly denied a booking because of their race. The issue came into the open in December, when a working paper by Harvard University researchers found it was harder for guests with African-American-sounding names to rent rooms through the site.
“This is a huge issue for us,” Mr. Chesky said at a company event in San Francisco in early June. “We will be revisiting the design of our site from end to end to see how we can create a more inclusive platform.”
But even as Mr. Chesky promised to stamp out racism from Airbnb, the company’s class-action litigation policy makes it tough — if not impossible — for customers to push the start-up to make any substantive changes on the issue. Airbnb requires that people agree to waive their right to sue, or to join in any class-action lawsuit or class-action arbitration, to use the service.
That clause, known as a class-action waiver, crops up whenever someone logs into Airbnb’s site. In March, the company updated its terms of service for new users, partly tohighlight that clause. Last month, Airbnb users were unable to log in and use their accounts until they agreed to the updated terms, including the class-action waiver language.
"For Airbnb, an effective response to discrimination claims is needed to blunt any fallout on its business. The company, valued at about $25 billion, has hosts in more than 34,000 cities and 191 countries and is positioning itself as an alternative to hotels. Airbnb recently raised $1 billion in debt to help finance its growth, according to a person familiar with the deal who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the transaction is not public. The credit facility wasreported earlier by Bloomberg.
Airbnb’s expansion depends partly on whether people of different nationalities and ethnicities feel welcomed to the platform in the same nondiscriminatory way that they are welcomed at international hotel chains. Two rival room-sharing services, Innclusive and Noirbnb, are now marketing themselves as services that provide inclusive and safe short-term rentals for people of any race or ethnicity.
Ms. Murphy, the Airbnb adviser, said the company recognized that eliminating discrimination was in its best interests. She said Airbnb’s relative youth — the company was founded in 2008 — meant it could deal with the issue in a more agile way than companies with entrenched cultures that may have needed the pressure of litigation to do the right thing.
“Airbnb is part of a new area of commerce, and the conditions for transactions are still developing,” she said. “That’s why it’s important to get it right.”

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Repugnance watch: Nude photos as collateral for loans

The Guardian has the story: China's 'naked loans' force female students to bare all in return for more cash

"Shady internet lenders in China are reportedly coercing female college students to provide nude pictures of themselves as collateral – a loan-for-porn scheme that has prompted anger on the country’s internet.

Under the arrangement reported by state media this week, some college students have agreed to send photos of themselves naked, holding their identification cards, to potential lenders. In exchange, they became eligible for higher loan amounts – two to five times the normal sum, the state-run Beijing Youth Daily reported.

Lenders tell the students they will publish the photos online if the loans are not repaid on time, often at usurious interest rates.

According to state media, the loan scheme is taking place on JD Capital’s Jiedaibao website. Jiedaibao is a platform where individuals - often friends and acquaintances – can lend or borrow money, striking their own arrangements."

Friday, June 24, 2016

Repugnance watch: US ceases efforts to end global trade of polar bear parts

The Guardian has the story: US ceases efforts to end global trade of polar bear parts

"The US government has quietly dropped its campaign for an international ban in the trade of polar bear parts, which would have given the practice the same outlaw status as the elephant ivory market.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service has spent several years attempting to ban the overseas trade of polar bear skins, teeth, paws and other parts from Canada, which permits the hunting of the Arctic predators.
However, the federal agency has said it won’t pursue the matter further at an international summit of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), in September. Instead, the US will focus on the threat posed to polar bears from climate change.
"The US’s bid to ban the polar bear trade has garnered support from the UK, Germany and Russia but has been opposed by Canada, which insists that hunting is sustainable and an important cultural practice of the native Inuit people. Hunting can also generate income for communities, with tourists paying up to $50,000 for the chance to shoot a polar bear."

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A skeptical view of the Iranian market for kidneys, from Shiraz

Here's an article (gated) from a recent issue of Transplantation, describing how the transplant program in Shiraz is discouraging patients from the (legal) market there for buying kidneys from living unrelated donors (they impose a six month waiting time for such transplants). Most patients who have transplants at Shiraz are receiving deceased donor kidneys.

doi: 10.1097/TP.0000000000001164
In View: Around the World

Paid Living Donation and Growth of Deceased Donor Programs

Ghahramani, Nasrollah MD

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Abstract: Limited organ availability in all countries has stimulated discussion about incentives to increase donation. Since 1988, Iran has operated the only government-sponsored paid living donor (LD) kidney transplant program. This article reviews aspects of the Living Unrelated Donor program and development of deceased donation in Iran. Available evidence indicates that in the partially regulated Iranian Model, the direct negotiation between donors and recipients fosters direct monetary relationship with no safeguards against mutual exploitation. Brokers, the black market and transplant tourism exist, and the waiting list has not been eliminated. Through comparison between the large deceased donor program in Shiraz and other centers in Iran, this article explores the association between paid donation and the development of a deceased donor program. Shiraz progressively eliminated paid donor transplants such that by 2011, 85% of kidney transplants in Shiraz compared with 27% across the rest of Iran's other centers were from deceased donors. Among 26 centers, Shiraz undertakes the largest number of deceased donor kidney transplants, most liver transplants, and all pancreas transplants. In conclusion, although many patients with end stage renal disease have received transplants through the paid living donation, the Iranian Model now has serious flaws and is potentially inhibiting substantial growth in deceased donor organ transplants in Iran.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Kidney black market arrests at Apollo hospital in Delhi

Each morning when I manage this blog I erase spam comments, and many of them relate to kidney sales. You can see typical ones on the Google+ page of the (apparently mis-spelled) Appollo Hospital in India.
So I noted with interest this recent story about arrests connected to that hospital.

Kidney Racket: At Least 3 Recipients, 5 Donors Traced
Delhi | Press Trust of India |

"NEW DELHI:  Delhi Police have traced at least three recipients and five donors in connection with the international kidney racket linked to Apollo Hospitals in Delhi, even as the investigators sought legal opinion regarding slapping charges on them.

Five persons, including two personal secretaries of a nephrologist in Apollo Hospital, have been arrested in connection with the kidney racket which is believed to have its ramifications in countries including Sri Lanka and Indonesia, an official privy to the investigation said.

Till this afternoon, three of the recipients were traced in Kolhapur, Jammu and Kashmir and Ghaziabad.

Prima facie the recipients shelled out over Rs. 40 lakh for each transplant, of which not even 10 per cent reached the donor, the official said.

He further said, the police have traced over five donors, including three women, who are presently admitted in a hospital in Delhi.

During investigation it came to light that the gang members used to prepare forged papers to establish the relationship between donors and recipients, to adhere to the law.

The police have come across five cases in Apollo Hospital, in which the donors were shown as wife, brother, father or brother-in-law (2 cases) of recipients, the official said, adding that while average time of hospital stay for the donors was six days, for the recipients it was 12 days.

Meanwhile, the police have sought legal opinion in slapping charges on the donors and recipients under relevant provisions of law. Lawyers have been consulted for the purpose, the official said.

The accused arrested so far in the case include Aditya Singh and Shailesh Saxena, who worked as personal secretaries of Apollo Hospital doctors for 3-4 years, and three touts identified as Aseem Sikdar, Satya Prakash and Devashish Moulik.

The touts used to lure financially poor people from West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and other parts of the country for donating kidney. Mr Moulik landed in the police net following a fight with his wife, whose kidney he had sold off.

Medical tests of recipient and donor were conducted and once the compatibility match was done, operations were conducted at Apollo Hospital in southeast Delhi.

"We are cooperating and providing all information required to help the police in their investigation pertaining to the alleged kidney sale racket," said a press statement by Indraprastha Apollo Hospital."