November 16th, 2016

A young biker from Bolton, who delivers vital blood supplies for the NHS in his spare time, has been attacked by muggers and now he can no longer ride for the Blood Biker service.

His Triumph Tiger 800 suffered significant damage, which means he is off the road and can no longer ride for NW Blood Bikers Lancs and Lakes.

Like all Blood Bikers, Niall volunteers to distribute blood supplies across the hospital network. This is a vital part of the NHS, yet blood bikers use their own bikes, in their own time.

The scum who attacked him caused significant damage to his bike. The top end of it, clocks,screen, lights etc are damaged beyond repair and will cost over £2,000 to fix.

Triumph Tiger with damaged top half
Niall’s bike is now off the road until parts can be donated

Because of his age, Niall can’t use any of the other bikes available to NW Blood Bikes due to insurance restrictions, so we need to get help him get back on the Tiger as soon as possible.

How you can help

Do you have any parts for a Triumph Tiger 800? We don’t know the year but you can get in touch with Niall’s colleagues here:

You can also donate directly to a Go Fund Me campaign set up by another volunteer from the NW Blood Bikers Lancs and Lakes group:

Learn more about becoming a Blood Biker yourself here:

Let’s see him back on the road as quickly as possible. Good luck, Niall.

This 4-year-old made an unlikely friend at the grocery store

November 2nd, 2016

Norah and Mr. Dan on his 82nd birthday


Tara Wood of Augusta, Georgia, was with two of her kids on a routine trip to the grocery store. It was Norah, her 4-year-old’s, birthday.

That’s when they ran across Dan Peterson, known as Mr. Dan.

“As Mr. Dan walked by, she (Norah) smiled and waved. ‘Hi old person! It’s my birthday!’” said Wood. “He stopped in his tracks, smiled, and said, ‘Well hello, little lady! How old are you today?’ They chatted for a couple of minutes, and we went our separate ways.”

But a few minutes later, Norah decided she really wanted a picture with him, so Wood tracked him down.

“I just walked away, and then I was coming up the bread aisle,” said Mr. Dan. “And I said, ‘OK this is almost my last aisle before I get out of here, and then here is this little girl again.’”

“And so they posed together, and then they hugged each other like they were long lost friends,” Wood said.

They thanked him for his time.

“He teared up and said ‘No, thank you. This has been the best day I’ve had in a long time. You’ve made me so happy, Ms. Norah,’” Wood said.

Mr. Dan described Norah on that day as a “light that just lit me up.”

Wood was so touched by the exchange that she went home and posted the photos on Facebook. Not only did she receive thousands of instant reactions, that’s also when something really special happened.

A friend of Mr. Dan’s reached out to let Wood know that his wife had just died and she hadn’t seen him this happy in a long time.

“She knew Mr. Dan and his late wife, Mary. She was the key to us getting in touch,” said Wood.

“So I got this phone call, and she (Wood) said, ‘Is this the Dan that talked to the little girl at the grocery store?’” said Mr. Dan. “I said, ‘Are you talking about Norah?’”

Wood decided they should probably pay him a visit, and Mr. Dan agreed.

“They came by the house, and sure enough, she grabbed me and hugged me like there was no tomorrow,” said Mr. Dan.

“Norah brought him a framed picture of the two of them in the grocery store, pictures she colored (he put them on his fridge!) and a bag full of pastries and Butterfingers,” said Wood.

After going over to visit him, Wood said, “Norah asks to visit Mr. Dan after school every single day.”

While they don’t go by every day, they make it a point to call him at least once a week, and they definitely went over to help him celebrate his 82nd birthday.


Norah brought Mr. Dan balloons, a gift and a giant cupcake for his birthday.


Norah also worries about Mr. Dan and doesn’t want him to be alone.

“Norah has been worried about Mr. Dan being alone. She wanted to know if we could buy him a dog because dogs make everything better,” said Wood.

While they didn’t get Mr. Dan an actual dog, Norah made sure to hand-deliver a stuffed puppy.

“Tara finally I think convinced Norah that I might not be in the place for a dog, but maybe if they gave me a stuffed dog,” said Mr. Dan. “And she had this bag and Norah took out a stuffed puppy for me.”

While her mother said Norah spends a lot of time thinking about Mr. Dan, he said it’s meant the world to him as well. Mr. Dan said that when he had run into Norah at the grocery store he had been having a really tough time.

“It was one of those days that I’m on my own little private pity party,” said Mr. Dan. “And I’m feeling sorry for myself and doubting my beliefs and it obviously changed my opinion that day and lifted my spirits to heights that I hadn’t known for a long time.”

Mr. Dan made sure to let Wood know.

“He said that he hadn’t had an uninterrupted night of sleep for the past several months,” said Wood. “Sadness and anxiety had made his mind wander at night, but since meeting Norah, he has slept soundly every single night. He said she healed him.”


Norah napping with her photo of her and Mr. Dan.

Wood said she wasn’t sure why Norah chose to call out Mr. Dan — she has grandfathers but seems to think of Mr. Dan as a friend.

“I don’t know, for some reason; obviously there were other old people [at the grocery store],” said Mr. Dan. “And she saw me and I was the ‘old people’ she had to talk to.”

Wood is sure that it was simply meant to be.

“I can only assume there was some divine intervention or stars aligning or she was nudged by the universe. I know we’re all better because of it, though,” said Wood.

Wood will keep updating the world on this dynamic duo.

“Mostly, she just cares about his well-being and his heart. She wants him to be happy… I guess that’s what friends are supposed to do, huh?”

Mr. Dan summed up his new friend well.

“If I didn’t have anything else to do the rest of my life,” he said, “I have her to love.”


September 26th, 2016

What follows is the text of a “sermon” that I gave as a “congregational reflection” to an all White audience at the Bethel Congregational United Church of Christ on Sunday, June 28th. The sermon was begun with a reading of The Good Samaritan story, and this wonderful quote from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah.

Credit for this speech goes to Chaédria LaBouvier, whose “Why We Left” inspired me to speak out about racism; to Robin DiAngelo, whose “White Fragility” gave me an understanding of the topic; and to Reni Eddo-Lodge who said “Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race” long before I had the courage to start doing it again.

couple weeks ago, I was debating what I was going to talk about in this sermon. I told Pastor Kelly Ryan I had great reservations talking about the one topic that I think about every single day.

Then, a terrorist massacred nine innocent people in a church that I went to, in a city that I still think of as home. At that point, I knew that despite any misgivings, I needed to talk about race.

You see, I don’t talk about race with White people.

To illustrate why, I’ll tell a story:

It was probably about 15 years ago when a conversation took place between my aunt, who is White and lives in New York State, and my sister, who is Black and lives in North Carolina. This conversation can be distilled to a single sentence, said by my Black sister:

“The only difference between people in the North and people in the South is that down here, at least people are honest about being racist.”

There was a lot more to that conversation, obviously, but I suggest that it can be distilled into that one sentence because it has been, by my White aunt. Over a decade later, this sentence is still what she talks about. It has become the single most important aspect of my aunt’s relationship with my Black family. She is still hurt by the suggestion that people in New York, that she, a northerner, a liberal, a good person who has Black family members, is a racist.

This perfectly illustrates why I don’t talk about race with White people. Even — or rather, especially — my own family.

love my aunt. She’s actually my favorite aunt, and believe me,
I have a lot of awesome aunts
to choose from. But the facts
are actually quite in my sister’s favor on this one.

New York State is one of the most segregated states in the country. Buffalo, New York, where my aunt lives, is one of the 10 most segregated school systems in the country. The racial inequality of the area she inhabits is so bad that it has been the subject of reports by the Civil Rights Action Network and the NAACP.

Those, however, are facts that my aunt does not need to know. She does
not need to live with the racial segregation and oppression of her home.
As a white person with upward mobility, she has continued to improve
her situation. She moved out of the area I grew up in– she moved to an
area with better schools. She doesn’t have to experience racism, and so
it is not real to her.

Nor does it dawn on her that the very fact that she moved away from an increasingly Black neighborhood to live in a White suburb might itself be an aspect of racism. She doesn’t need to realize that “better schools” exclusively means “whiter schools.”

I don’t talk about race with White people because I have so often seen it go nowhere. When I was younger, I thought it was because all white people are racist. Recently, I’ve begun to understand that it’s more nuanced than that.

understand, you have to know
that Black people think in terms
of Black people.

We don’t see a shooting of an innocent Black child in another state as something separate from us because we know viscerally that it could be our child, our parent, or us, that is shot.

The shooting of Walter Scott in North Charleston resonated with me because Walter Scott was portrayed in the media as a deadbeat and a criminal — but when you look at the facts about the actual man, he was nearly indistinguishable from my own father.

Racism affects us directly because the fact that it happened at a geographically remote location or to another Black person is only a coincidence, an accident. It could just as easily happen to us — right here, right now.

Black people think in terms of we because we live in a society where the social and political structures interact with us as Black people.

White people do not think in terms of we. White people have the privilege to interact with the social and political structures of our society as individuals. You are “you,” I am “one of them.” Whites are often not directly affected by racial oppression even in their own community, so what does not affect them locally has little chance of affecting them regionally or nationally. They have no need, nor often any real desire, to think in terms of a group. They are supported by the system, and so are mostly unaffected by it.

What they are affected by are attacks on their own character. To my aunt, the suggestion that “people in The North are racist” is an attack on her as a racist. She is unable to differentiate her participation within a racist system (upwardly mobile, not racially profiled, able to move to White suburbs, etc.) from an accusation that she, individually, is a racist. Without being able to make that differentiation, White people in general decide to vigorously defend their own personal non-racism, or point out that it doesn’t exist because they don’t see it.

The result of this is an incessantly repeating argument where a Black person says “Racism still exists. It is real,” and a white person argues “You’re wrong, I’m not racist at all. I don’t even see any racism.” My aunt’s immediate response is not “that is wrong, we should do better.” No, her response is self-protection: “That’s not my fault, I didn’t do anything. You are wrong.”

Racism is not slavery. As President Obama said, it’s not avoiding the use
of the word Nigger. Racism is not white water fountains and the back of
the bus. Martin Luther King did not end racism. Racism is a cop severing
the spine of an innocent man. It is a 12 year old child being shot for playing with a toy gun in a state where it is legal to openly carry firearms.

But racism is even more subtle than that. It’s more nuanced. Racism is
the fact that “White” means “normal” and that anything else is different. Racism is our acceptance of an all white Lord of the Rings cast because
of “historical accuracy,” ignoring the fact that this is a world with an
entirely fictionalized history.

Even when we make shit up,
we want it to be white.

And racism is the fact that we all accept that it is white. Benedict Cumberbatch playing Khan in Star Trek. Khan, who is from India.
Is there anyone Whiter than Benedict fucking Cumberbatch? What?
They needed a “less racial” cast because they already had the
Black Uhura character?

That is racism. Once you let yourself see it, it’s there all the time.

Black children learn this when their parents give them “The Talk.”
When they are sat down at the age of 5 or so and told that their best
friend’s father is not sick, and not in a bad mood — he just doesn’t
want his son playing with you. Black children grow up early to life in
The Matrix. We’re not given a choice of the red or blue pill. Most white people, like my aunt, never have to choose. The system was made for
White people, so White people don’t have to think about living in it.

But we can’t point this out.

Living every single day with institutionalized racism and then having to argue its very existence, is tiring, and saddening, and angering. Yet if we express any emotion while talking about it, we’re tone policed, told we’re being angry. In fact, a key element in any racial argument in America is the Angry Black person, and racial discussions shut down when that person speaks. The Angry Black person invalidates any arguments about racism because they are “just being overly sensitive,” or “too emotional,” or– playing the race card. Or even worse, we’re told that we are being racist (Does any intelligent person actually believe a systematically oppressed demographic has the ability to oppress those in power?)

But here is the irony, here’s the thing that all the angry Black people know, and no calmly debating White people want to admit: The entire discussion of race in America centers around the protection of White feelings.

Ask any Black person and they’ll tell you the same thing. The reality of thousands of innocent people raped, shot, imprisoned, and systematically disenfranchised are less important than the suggestion that a single White person might be complicit in a racist system.

This is the country we live in. Millions of Black lives are valued less than a single White person’s hurt feelings.

White people and Black people are not having a discussion about race. Black people, thinking as a group, are talking about living in a racist system. White people, thinking as individuals, refuse to talk about “I, racist” and instead protect their own individual and personal goodness. In doing so, they reject the existence of racism.

But arguing about personal non-racism is missing the point.

Despite what the Charleston Massacre makes things look like, people are dying not because individuals are racist, but because individuals are helping support a racist system by wanting to protect their own non-racist self beliefs.

People are dying because we are supporting a racist system that justifies White people killing Black people.

see this in how one Muslim killer is Islamic terror; how one Mexican thief points to the need for border security; in one innocent, unarmed Black man shot in the back by a cop, then sullied in the media as a thug and criminal.

And in the way a white racist in a state that still flies the confederate flag is seen as “troubling” and “unnerving.” In the way people “can’t understand why he would do such a thing.”

A white person smoking pot is a “hippie” and a Black person doing it is a “criminal.” It’s evident in the school to prison pipeline and the fact that there are close to 20 people of color in prison for every white person.

There’s a headline from The Independent that sums this up quite nicely: “Charleston shooting: Black and Muslim killers are ‘terrorists’ and ‘thugs’. Why are white shooters called ‘mentally ill’?”

I’m gonna read that again: “Black and Muslim killers are ‘terrorists’ and ‘thugs’. Why are white shooters called ‘mentally ill’?”

Did you catch that? It’s beautifully subtle. This is an article talking specifically about the different way we treat people of color in this nation and even in this article’s headline, the white people are “shooters” and the Black and Muslim people are “killers.”

Even when we’re talking about racism, we’re using racist language to make people of color look dangerous and make White people come out as not so bad.

Just let that sink in for a minute, then ask yourself why Black people are angry when they talk about race.

The reality of America is that White people are fundamentally good, and so when a white person commits a crime, it is a sign that they, as an individual, are bad. Their actions as a person are not indicative of any broader social construct. Even the fact that America has a growing number of violent hate groups, populated mostly by white men, and that nearly *all* serial killers are white men can not shadow the fundamental truth of white male goodness. In fact, we like White serial killers so much, we make mini-series about them.

White people are good as a whole, and only act badly as individuals.

People of color, especially Black people (but boy we can talk about
“The Mexicans” in this community) are seen as fundamentally bad.
There might be a good one — and we are always quick to point them
out to our friends, show them off as our Academy Award for “Best Non-Racist in a White Role” — but when we see a bad one, it’s just proof that
the rest are, as a rule, bad.

This, all of this, expectation, treatment, thought, the underlying social system that puts White in the position of Normal and good, and Black
in the position of “other” and “bad,” all of this, is racism.

And White people, every single one of you, are complicit in this racism because you benefit directly from it.

This is why I don’t like the story of the good samaritan. Everyone likes to think of themselves as the person who sees someone beaten and bloodied and helps him out.

That’s too easy.

If I could re-write that story, I’d rewrite it from the perspective of Black America. What if the person wasn’t beaten and bloody? What if it wasn’t so obvious? What if they were just systematically challenged in a thousand small ways that actually made it easier for you to succeed in life?

Would you be so quick to help then?
Or would you, like most White people, stay silent and let it happen?

Here’s what I want to say to you: Racism is so deeply embedded in this country not because of the racist right-wing radicals who practice it openly, it exists because of the silence and hurt feelings of liberal America.

That’s what I want to say, but really, I can’t. I can’t say that because I’ve spent my life not talking about race to White people. In a big way, it’s my fault. Racism exists because I, as a Black person, don’t challenge you to look at it.

Racism exists because I, not you, am silent.

But I’m caught in the perfect Catch 22, because when I start pointing out racism, I become the Angry Black Person, and the discussion shuts down again. So I’m stuck.

All the Black voices in the world speaking about racism all the time do not move White people to think about it– but one White John Stewart talking about Charleston has a whole lot of White people talking about it. That’s the world we live in. Black people can’t change it while White people are silent and deaf to our words.

White people are in a position of power in this country because of racism. The question is: Are they brave enough to use that power to speak against the system that gave it to them?

So I’m asking you to help me. Notice this. Speak up. Don’t let it slide. Don’t stand watching in silence. Help build a world where it never gets to the point where the Samaritan has to see someone bloodied and broken.

As for me,
I will no longer be silent.

I’m going to try to speak kindly, and softly, but that’s gonna be hard. Because it’s getting harder and harder for me to think about the protection of White people’s feelings when White people don’t seem to care at all about the loss of so many Black lives.

The Horror of “Obesity Autopsy”

September 10th, 2016

Bad Doctor

Yes, the BBC is airing the autopsy of a fat person. No, it’s not ok. I can see the meeting now, someone stands up and says “how can we create programming that plays on and sensationalizes the social stigma against fat people, makes no medical sense, helps no one, and does tremendous harm?”  And thus “Obesity Autopsy” was born, eclipsing “Sharknado” as possibly the most ridiculous idea to get produced and aired but, of course, far more harmful.

Let’s start with the basics. They have flown the body of a “nearly” 238 pound woman, who died in her sixties of heart disease and donated her body to science, from Long Beach, California 5,000 miles to London so that Mike Osborn, a consultant for the Royal College of Pathologists, and Carla Valentine, an assistant pathology technician can perform an autopsy which will first be aired as part of a one hour program on BBC Three, an online service focused on the youth demographic, and then on a late-night slot on either BBC One or Two. The program will also include a panel of “obese young contributors,” who will explore the causes of obesity, and how it affects their day-to-day lives.

Before I get into this, let’s remember that fat people have the right to live and thrive in fat bodies without shame, stigma, bullying, or oppression and it doesn’t matter why we’re fat, what the consequences of being fat may or may not be, and if we could – or even want to- become less fat or not fat. Any suggestion otherwise will be some combination of sizeist, ableist, and/or healthist. The rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are not size (or health) dependent.

Now that we’ve got that crystal clear, let’s start with the many ways that this is medically unsound:

I can’t imagine why they would fly a body 5,000 miles unless the UK has laws that require greater respect for the dead than this debacle, or that they want to make a spectacle of the transport as well as the autopsy.

The idea that one can extrapolate information about all fat people from the autopsy of one fat person is patently ridiculous.  This is taking what I’ll call the “Dr. Oz Fallacy” (wherein he tried to claim that all fat people have bad hearts based on the fact that the fat people who had come to him for heart surgery had bad hearts – as if the thin people who came to him for heart surgery were actually fine…) to whole new lows.

The autopsy can’t even tell us everything about this woman’s body (let alone everything about all fat people’s bodies, let alone how they do or don’t relate to thin people’s bodies.) For example:

It can’t tell us about her genetics in terms of body size or cardiac issues. It cannot tell us if her autopsy results are due to her body size, or something else entirely.  The  entire premise is completely bereft logic and I absolutely question the ethics of the pathologist and the assistant pathology technician participating.

It can’t tell us how she was affected by the culture of fat hate (Peter Muennig’s studies have found that the diseases that are correlated with “obesity” are also correlated with the stress of constant stigma, and that women who feel they are too heavy have more physical and mental illnesses than women who are fine with their size, regardless of their size.)

It can’t tell us if she was affected by the chronic dieting (and subsequent weight cycling) that is almost never successful and yet is prescribed throughout our lives to fat people by our healthcare providers.

It can’t tell us if she was affected by taking extremely dangerous drugs that doctors suggest fat people should take for a very tiny chance to get thin, despite the risk of death (often from heart problems,) or if she was affected by the tendency to prescribe to fat people what we diagnose in thin people.

It can’t tell us if her actual health problems were ignored by doctors who prescribed manipulation of body size instead of the evidence-based interventions that a thin person with the same symptoms would have received. It also can’t tell us if she avoided the doctor  or delayed seeking treatment because of their tendency to substitute shame and diets for actual evidence-based care.

It can’t tell us if her healthcare was compromised by the epidemic of fat bias among doctors.  It can’t tell us if doctors would have worked harder to save her if she was a thin person on the table.

What it can tell us is that instead of using this woman’s donation of her body to science to advance the care that fat people receive (for example giving future surgeons a chance to work on a fat cadaver rather than seeing their first fat body when they are working on it) they are exploiting her life and death. I can’t imagine how I, or my loved ones, would feel if I donated my body to science and instead it was used in a mockery of science for television ratings.  It is inexcusable, it is unjustifiable, it is disrespectful, it is wrong.

And for everything this autopsy won’t tell us about this woman, it tells us exponentially less about every other fat person. And the people behind this are so utterly ignorant about that, that it’s embarrassing.  According to the Telegraph (not linking because of headless fatty picture) “Damian Kavanagh, the controller of BBC Three, said young people needed to be shown the impact of unhealthy eating.”

Body size is not the same thing as “unhealthy eating.” Fat people have behaviors around eating (and everything else) as varied as any other group of people. Speaking of questionably drawn conclusions,  I’m concerned about a panel of “obese young contributors  exploring the causes of obesity, and how it affects their day-to-day lives.”

First I’m concerned with the effect on these panelists. Even if one believes that “determining the causes of obesity” is a noble pursuit, it should follow that the pursuit should be undertaken with scientific rigor, not by asking fat people (who live in a fatphobic society and get messages like the one from Damian Kavanagh that suggest that “obesity” is the same as “unhealthy eating”) to speculate wildly – even if they weren’t handpicked to agree with the stigmatizing premise of this show.

I’m also concerned that they are asking about the effects of obesity on these kids’ lives, when it’s so common to try to convince us to blame on body size what is actually the effect of fat stigma.

Not to mention that even if this autopsy could draw medically sound conclusions about fat people (and let’s be super clear that it cannot) that wouldn’t change the fact that fat people should be able to live without sizeist, healthist, ableist stigma, nor would it change the fact that there is not a single study where more than a tiny fraction of people have maintained significant long term weight loss, so if the suggestion is that being smaller would make us healthier than it’s as useful as telling us that being taller would make us healthier.

This show is an abomination that can only serve to disrespect the dead and stereotype and stigmatize fat people, and it has no place on the air.

If you want to give feedback you can Send them your thoughts using their online form

Edit:  I wanted to share with you this response from Daniel Goldberg, a bioethicist at the Center for Bioethics & Humanities at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus:

Having just taught several sessions on the “Cadaver as First Patient” to medical students, I can suggest that there are enormous power issues that are involved in dissection. The learners generally feel this, and it can be overwhelming — to their infinite credit, most students I’ve encountered intuitively get this and apply a huge amount of respect and even reverence for the cadaver that marks the beginning of their entry into medicine.

Moreover, many learners, albeit not all, humanize their cadaver by giving them a name and even a narrative backstory — to symbolize their belief that the cadaver on the table is more than just a thing. This was a person, with hands that held and eyes that cried. The abomination described here countermands all of these ideals — it encourages seeing the body as an object, and as one that exists purely to explore pathology, disease, and dysfunction. A more offensive, stigmatizing, and structurally harmful display would be difficult to divine. FWIW, this bioethicist finds it utterly transgressive and reprehensible.

If you want to get more information and community support around making sure that stuff like this stops happening, join us at the Fat Activism Conference:


This year we have a kick ass line up of speakers talking about everything from Re-Imagining Fashion from an Inclusive Framework” to “Activism for the Introverted and Anxious” to “Building Fat Patient Power While Accessing Healthcare” and moreThis is a virtual conference so you can listen by phone or computer wherever you are, and you’ll receive recordings and transcripts of each talk so that you can listen/read on your own schedule.  We also offer a pay what you can afford option to make the conference accessible to everyone. The Conference will be held September 23-25, 2016

Click Here to Register!


Scared thin: The obesity autopsy

September 10th, 2016

Graffiti on a bathroom door celebrating fat people.

At some point in the recent past, a roughly 60-year-old woman died in Southern California, and generously donated her body to science. 5,000 miles away, her body is about to be cut open for the titillation of British viewers on BBC3 in a horrific spectacle being performed in the name of science, but really it’s about sensationalism. Jane Doe, as I’ll call her, weighed 238 pounds at the time of her death, and she’s the posthumous star of the ‘obesity autopsy,’ to be performed by Mike Osborn and Carla Valentine. Viewers have been informed that the hour-long special will be an educational journey about the effects of clinical obesity on the body, but it sounds a lot more like something else: The cartoonish ‘scared straight’ lectures used to terrorise youth into staying on the straight and narrow.

This act of infotainment is a travesty, and on multiple levels.

The body

We don’t know very much about Jane Doe, as is common with people who donate their bodies to science. Typically, people don’t have a lot of choice when it comes to how their bodies are going to be used, because death is unpredictable, and though people can make dedicated anatomical gifts to medical schools (or the body farm), they don’t have much control over how their bodies will be used. While medical schools do use cadavers in anatomy classes and training, bodies are also used for anthropological research, safety research, and a number of other things. Your body might be slowly taken apart by medical students over the course of a semester, or it might be blown up by the Army.

It’s possible that Doe found out about the programme and specifically willed her body for this purpose. That seems unlikely.

Because people are sensitive about human remains, a lot of regulations as well as contracts and agreements surround body donation and the use of cadavers. For example, the faces, or at least the eyes, of cadavers are often covered in scientific publications to obscure their identities. There is educational value in performing full or partial dissections, or displaying prosections, for the public, but someone has to arbitrate that value. In this case, those responsible thought that literally flaying the body of a dead fat woman to terrify people into thinking that obesity is a monster was educational.

It’s very odd that a body from California was chosen for this programme, given that there are presumably plenty of dead fat people in the UK as well. Was it done to further sensationalise the event, by dramatising the journey? Are there restrictions and caveats on body donation in the UK that made it difficult or impossible to use someone from London or the surrounding area for this purpose?

The medicine

We’ve been repeatedly told that fat is unhealthy, and that fat bodies are inherently damaged. That’s the angle being used here, as Jane Doe died of heart disease, and the promotion for the feature repeatedly stresses ‘the effects of obesity on the body’ and provides images designed to evoke horror, like deposits of adipose tissue and changes in Doe’s skeletal structure. Yet, we know nothing about Doe’s background, and legally, many of the details of her life must be obscured. Does she have a family history of heart disease? A genetic condition? An underlying illness? Can anything be definitively attributed to her weight? Ragen Chastain wrote at length about her concerns with the autopsy, with a specific focus on the bad medicine and bad science involved.

The context

Researchers who work with bodies, especially in educational settings, treat them with profound respect in many cases. They develop connections and relationships with them, whether it’s a deceased patient being autopsied to look for cause of death, a body being dissected in a medical school lab, or a body being allowed to decay under natural conditions to advance the causes of forensic science. People often name their bodies, and come to develop a kind of appreciative affection for them.

At medical schools in particular, it’s common to hold a ceremony at the end of the year. The families of donors may be thanked, particularly in regions where body donation is stigmatised. The thought of exposing a dead body this way is chilling, with no respect for the former person who dwelt within it. Doe’s very body is becoming an object lesson — is that something she consented to? Even if it was, does that make it appropriate? What kinds of thoughts are going through the minds of the organisers of this event?

A panel of fat people will apparently be accompanying the autopsy, but it’s unclear what context, if any, they will provide. It seems unlikely that the panel will include fat activists who push back on bad science and bad medicine, who challenge people to rethink fat. It seems unlikely that the show will discuss fat stigma and medical discrimination experienced by fat people, let alone larger social stigma leveled at fat people. It seems probable instead that the panel will affirm the opinions presented as fact, the perpetuation of the myth that being fat is unhealthy, but a miserable and terrible fate.

The audience

This programme is being aimed at young adults and youth — BBC3 is an online network. While it may be picked up for broadcast on late night, because evidently the content is explicit enough to upset primetime, it’s quite clear that this is intended to scare young people. To bring things back, for a moment, to ‘scared straight,’ it’s notable that the Department of Justice actually came down against the use of fear tactics to cultivate healthy habits in youth. If the organisers genuinely believe that fat is unhealthy and that they need to trigger youth to be ‘healthier’ (i.e. less fat), it seems strange indeed to use a tactic that doesn’t work, and has in fact been shown to have the opposite effect.

Is this science in the public interest? Or is it a freak show, trafficking upon a group of already marginalised people to spin a grotesque, yet fascinating, narrative? This isn’t research: Examining a single cadaver without context provides no real contribution to science. And it’s not education: The goal isn’t to teach people about anatomy and physiology, but specifically to terrify people with a ‘gross’ body.

What it does is guarantee ratings and riveted viewers. And it perpetuates the stigma that surrounds fat people, who are likely to have an even worse go of it than usual in the UK as this airs. Children will taunt each other on the playground. Adults will feel emboldened to make hateful remarks. Physicians will find new reasons to discriminate against fat patients. Employers, thinking of the flayed innards of Jane Doe, will shudder when reviewing fat job applicants. This isn’t just a fiendish mockery of dissection and anatomical research, but something that will do very direct social harm.

Recently, I’d been thinking about anatomical gifts and whether I might like to donate by body for the betterment of society and my fellow humans. This has made up my mind against it, and I’m not the only one.

Three arrested over human trafficking after raid in Highcliffe

September 9th, 2016

THREE men have been arrested on suspicion of people trafficking offences after a raid at a Highcliffe home.

Officers from Dorset Police and the Home Office’s UK Visas and Immigration team – formerly known as the Border Agency – swooped on the detached house in Lymington Road on Wednesday afternoon.

Three men – a 54-year-old and a 48-year-old, both from Lymington, as well as a 43-year-old from Poole – have now been released on bail until the middle of next month pending further enquiries.
A further three men aged 41 and two aged 52, all of whom are from China, have also been detained.

The raid took place at a quiet stretch of Lymington Road just minutes away from Highcliffe Castle.

Officers parked outside the Lord Bute Hotel and Restaurant before making the arrests at the private property.

The four-bed house is believed to have been bought for more than half a million pounds in September last year.
Owners are completing extensive renovations works to the property, which has a heated 30-foot swimming pool and pump house in the back garden, as well as two summer houses.

Estates agents described it as a “secluded plot”.

A security guard employed by firm Securitas was standing outside of the property throughout Wednesday night and into yesterday morning.

Neighbours have spoken of their shock.

One said: “Some people moved into the house around six or seven months ago I think.

“It’s set back from the road and it’s very private.

“There used to be a five-bar farm gate over the entrance, but the new owners have built a new fence, so it makes it even more isolated.”

A spokesperson from Dorset Police said the men from Lymington and Poole have been arrested on suspicion of human trafficking.

The Chinese nationals have been detained under immigration laws.

They will be dealt with by UK Immigration Services, the spokesperson said.

No one required medical treatment.

Man survives shotgun blast to chest in street shooting in Brixton

September 8th, 2016

A man was shot in the chest in broad daylight in an attempted gang hit on a south London street busy with schoolchildren.

The victim, 21, was blasted in the chest from a few yards away with a shotgun, suffering a punctured lung and a severely damaged windpipe.

A schoolboy, 16, who was making his way to the library, was also wounded in the arm after the shooting on the corner of Marcella road in Brixton on May 12.

The 21-year-old only survived thanks to emergency surgery. He went on to make a full recovery. The schoolboy was taken to a south London hospital and later discharged.

The victim dives for his life behind a parked car

Police today released CCTV footage of the victim’s attempt to dive for cover behind a parked car as they hunt three suspects on suspicion of attempted murder.

In the shocking footage, the gunman can be seen taking the sawn-off shotgun off an accomplice, before opening fire from the middle of the street.

The suspects are dressed in black hooded jackets and wearing face masks. After the shooting at 7pm, all three men fled the scene on foot down Ferry Mews towards Brixton road.

The suspected gunman fled on a bicyle while his accomplices fled on foot.

Police are hunting three men who opened fire on a man in the street in Brixton

Police are keen to trace two passers-by who were threatened at gunpoint as the man made his escape.

Detective Constable Jo Ross said: “The 21-year-old victim was fortunate to recover from what were potentially life-threatening injuries at the time of the incident.

“Other passers-by were threatened by having a shotgun pointed at them – these are dangerous people.

The second suspect being hunted by police

“We are keen for the public to give us any information in relation to this appeal, who witnessed the incident or who recognises the suspects.

“It happened in broad daylight and in an area full of schoolchildren.”

The suspects are all described as black men in their 20s wearing dark clothing.

Police also want to trace this man, seen on cctv wearing a baseball cap with a white mark on the peak

Suspect one is of medium build, with a dark coloured bag over his shoulder and wearing black and white gloves.

Suspect two is described as slim, with a dark top with a large white Franklin and Marshall logo across the front, fur-lined hat with ear flaps, dark grey bandana and black trousers.

Suspect three is described as slim, wearing a baseball cap with a white mark on the peak and black gloves.

Anyone with any information is asked to contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Terrifying moment man chased by mob and stabbed in Hackney street

September 8th, 2016

This is the terrifying moment a man was chased by a mob and stabbed in a vicious street attack in Hackney.

The dramatic CCTV footage shows a man swinging a knife around wildly as the victim, who is in his mid-twenties, flees the gang.

More than 10 people are seen running behind the attackers, kicking and shoving each other as the victim runs for his life.

One of the men police want to speak to is seen running into the brawl, knifing the fleeing victim with a vicious downward strike.

The end of the footage, released by police, shows the two suspects speaking with two women whose faces are blurred. One of the suspects then hugs a woman.

Suspects: The two men police want to speak to following the stabbing. (Met Police)

Police have today stepped up the hunt to find the two men, following the attack on Sunday, May 1.

The victim ran into two on-patrol police officers by chance after being chased down the street by the two suspects.

Detectives today released video of the attack, on Gillett Street at around 5.10am, and photos of the two men they want to speak to.

The first suspect is a black man of average build with his hair tied back on top of his head.. He was wearing a grey hooded top with a yellow ‘A&Fitch’ logo on the front, jeans and dark shoes.

The other suspect is described by police as a bald black man of large build and wearing a light hooded top with a print on the front, dark coloured trousers and light shoes.

Detectives from the Met Police’s specialist gang violence unit – Trident and Area Crime Command – are investigating the assault.

They want to hear from anyone who might recognise the men or who saw the incident.

Anyone with any information is asked to please contact police via 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.

Keep calm and Brexit on: History suggests leaving Europe is great for Britain

July 14th, 2016

The exit of Great Britain from the European Union is a clear demonstration that history is not linear. Countries may go in one direction and then in another. Many people also believe Brexit shows that countries can retrogress after having reached the pinnacle of civilization. This is certainly true. It happened with Rome, for instance. But I argue that this is not the case of Britain with Brexit. In fact, it might be the best thing for Great Britain in the long run.

Certainly, what the British voted for goes against the grain of conventional wisdom. For many centuries, we have believed that countries get better as they become bigger, or part of a bigger political entity. In this way, many people think that modernization in Europe began in the 17th century with the integration of the many feuds of France into a unified kingdom under Louis XIV.

The unification of the United States created a country that was not just big, but great. Germany became a power to reckon with only after its unification, carried out in the Palace of Versailles in 1871. And Europe had seemed to be reestablishing the grandeur it lost during the course of two world wars by coming together in the European Union. Now Britain spoiled the inexorable march of progress by voting itself out of the European Union. Or, at least, that is what the overwhelming majority of people in the world seem to be thinking.

Is the majority right?

What did Britain vote for?

The almost universal disdain for what Britain did on June 23 is based on four mistaken perceptions. First, most people seem to believe that the country voted against free trade and globalization. This voters did not do. They voted against being members of the European Union (EU), an institution bent on creating something like the United States of Europe, establishing a common European sovereignty over all its members. Voters have not said that they want to isolate Britain. On the contrary,they have said that they want to remain a globalized country and very close to Europe.

The British tycoon who sleeps in Hitler’s BED

July 12th, 2016


  • Kevin Wheatcroft, 55, from Leicestershire is reportedly worth £120million
  • His father fought for Britain in the war and returned with a German wife 
  • Kevin started his collection with stormtrooper’s helmet when he was five
  • He is often accused of being a Nazi but says he likes the items because every one has a story 


When he was five, Kevin Wheatcroft received an unusual birthday present from his parents: a bullet-pocked SS stormtrooper’s helmet. He had requested it especially.
The next year, at a car auction in Monte Carlo, he asked his multi-millionaire father for a Mercedes: the G4 that Hitler rode into the Sudetenland in 1938. Tom Wheatcroft refused to buy it and his son cried all the way home.
Kevin Wheatcroft is now 55, and according to the Sunday Times Rich List, worth £120 million. He lives in Leicestershire, where he looks after his late father’s property portfolio and oversees the management of Donington Park Racetrack and motor museum (which he also owns).

Tycoon: Kevin Wheatcroft, owner of the world's biggest collection of Nazi memorabilia reportedly worth in excess of £100million although no-one knows the true value
Tycoon: Kevin Wheatcroft, owner of the world’s biggest collection of Nazi memorabilia reportedly worth in excess of £100million although no-one knows the true value
Forgotten army: The tycoon keeps uniforms form an era of history that many find too shocking to amire
Forgotten army: The tycoon keeps uniforms form an era of history that many find too shocking to amire

The ruling passion of his life, though, is what he calls the Wheatcroft Collection — widely regarded as the world’s largest accumulation of German military vehicles and Nazi memorabilia.
The collection has largely been kept private, under heavy guard, in industrial buildings Wheatcroft owns near Market Harborough, or at his homes in Leicestershire, south-west France and south-west Germany. There is no official valuation, but some estimates put the worth at more than £100 million.
Among the internet tribes of World War II enthusiasts, the Wheatcroft Collection is spoken about as a near-mythical trove. Now he is guardedly opening it up to a wider audience, launching a rather creaky website and putting a handful of vehicles on display at his motor museum.
Wheatcroft’s father, Tom, a building site worker from Castle Donington, returned from World War II a hero. He also came back with a wife, Wheatcroft’s mother, Lenchen, whom he had first seen from a tank turret as he pulled into her village in Lower Saxony.
Tom, who died in 2009, made millions in the post-war building boom, then spent the rest of his life indulging his zeal for motor cars.
Exact figures are hard to come by, but the annual global turnover of the market for Nazi memorabilia is estimated to be in excess of £30 million. The trade is either banned or strictly regulated in Germany, France, Austria, Israel and Hungary. No major auction house will handle Nazi memorabilia and neither will eBay.

Aiming high: Mr Wheatcroft started his collection with a stromtrooper's helmet that his parents bought him for his fifth birthday and has built it into what is believed to be the world's biggest hauls of German military vehicles and Nazi memorabilia
Aiming high: Mr Wheatcroft started his collection with a stromtrooper’s helmet that his parents bought him for his fifth birthday and has built it into what is believed to be the world’s biggest hauls of German military vehicles and Nazi memorabilia
Still, the business flourishes, with interest from buyers in Russia, America and the Middle East.
When I went to see the collection, Wheatcroft met me off the train at Market Harborough. ‘I want people to see this stuff,’ he told me. ‘There’s no better way to understand history. But I’m only one man and there’s so much of it.’
He recently purchased two more barns and a dozen shipping containers to house his collection. As we made our way into the first warehouse, he stood back for a moment, as if shocked by the scale of it all.
‘Every object has a story,’ Wheatcroft told me as we stepped over U-boat torpedoes and V2 rockets. He owns a squadron of 88 tanks — more than the Danish and Belgian armies combined. We stood beside a Panzer IV, patched with rust and freckled with bullet holes.
Wheatcroft scratched at the paintwork to reveal layers of colour: its current livery, the duck-egg blue of Christian Phalangists from the Lebanese civil war, the green of the Czech army who used the vehicles in the Sixties, and finally the original German taupe. The tank was abandoned in the Sinai desert until he shipped it home to Leicestershire. The value of his machines is dazzling. ‘The Panzer IV cost me $25,000. I’ve been offered two-and-a-half million for it.’
Trying to work out the value of the objects around me, I gave up somewhere north of £50 million. Wheatcroft has made a fortune, almost without realising it. ‘Everyone assumes I’m a spoilt rich kid who wants to indulge in these toys,’ he said. ‘It’s not like that at all. My dad supported me, but only when I could prove that the collection would work financially.’

Whiter than white: Mr Wheatcroft tries to avoid questions about why he keeps the collection as people often accuse him of being a Nazi himself. He says he likes the items because every one tells a story
Whiter than white: Mr Wheatcroft tries to avoid questions about why he keeps the collection as people often accuse him of being a Nazi himself. He says he likes the items because every one tells a story

In one of the warehouses, I spotted a dark wooden door, heavy iron bolts on one side.
‘That’s the door to Hitler’s cell in Landsberg Prison,’ he said. ‘Where he wrote Mein Kampf. I was in the area when the prison was being pulled down. I drove there, parked and watched the demolition.
‘At lunch, I followed the builders to the pub and bought them a round. I did it three days in a row and by the end I drove off with the door, some bricks and the iron bars from his cell.’
Near the door sat a trio of rusty wine racks. ‘They were Hitler’s. We pulled them out of the ruins of the Berghof [Hitler’s home in Berchtesgaden] in May 1989. The place was dynamited in ’52, but my friend and I climbed through the ruins of the garage and down air vents to get in.’
Later, I came across a massive bust of Hitler. ‘I have the largest collection of Hitler heads in the world,’ he said. ‘This one came from a ruined castle in Austria. I bought it from the town council.’
Wheatcroft’s huge, modern home sits behind high walls and heavy gates. A Krupp submarine deck gun stands sentry outside the back door. One outer wall is set with maroon half-moons of iron work, inlaid with runic symbols.
‘They were from the officers’ gates to Buchenwald [concentration camp],’ he told me in an offhand manner. ‘I’ve got replica gates to Auschwitz — [embellished with the words, Work Brings Freedom] Arbeit Macht Frei — over there.’
The immense, two-storey barn conversion behind his house wore fresh paint and shiny new locks. ‘I have to have strict rules,’ he said, ‘I don’t show many people the collection, because not many can understand the motives behind it, people don’t understand my values.’ He kept making tentative passes at the stigma attached to his obsession, as if baffled by those who might find his collection distasteful, yet desperately keen to defend himself, and it.

Mr Wheatcroft's father returned from the war a hero. He also returned with a wife, Kevin's mother, whom he had first seen from a tank turret as he pulled into her village in Lower Saxony 
Mr Wheatcroft’s father returned from the war a hero. He also returned with a wife, Kevin’s mother, whom he had first seen from a tank turret as he pulled into her village in Lower Saxony
In-house: Mr Wheathouse keeps his most precious memorabilia in his own home but the collection is so large that he keeps hauls of items in various secure locations
In-house: Mr Wheathouse keeps his most precious memorabilia in his own home but the collection is so large that he keeps hauls of items in various secure locations

The lower level housed the Mercedes G4 that Wheatcroft saw as a child in Monaco. ‘I cried and cried because my dad wouldn’t buy me this car. Now, almost 50 years later, I’ve finally got it.’
Upstairs, in a long, gabled hall were dozens of mannequins in Nazi uniform — Hitler Youth, SS officers, Wehrmacht. One wall was plastered with sketches by Hitler, Albert Speer and some rather good nudes by Göring’s chauffeur.
On cluttered tables sat a scale model of Hitler’s Kehlsteinhaus mountain eyrie, a twisted machine-gun from Rudolf Hess’s crashed Bf110 (in which he flew to Scotland), the commandant’s phone from Buchenwald, Enigma machines.
We were standing in front of signed photographs of Hitler and Göring.
‘I think I could give up everything else,’ he said, ‘the cars, the tanks, the guns, as long as I could still have Adolf and Hermann. They’re my real love.’
I asked whether Wheatcroft was worried about what people might read into his fascination with Nazism. ‘I try not to answer when people accuse me of being a Nazi,’ he said. ‘I tend to turn my back and leave them looking silly. I think that Hitler and Göring were such fascinating characters in so many ways. Hitler’s eye for quality was just extraordinary.
‘More than that, though, I want to preserve things. I want to show the next generation how it actually was. This collection is a memento for those who didn’t come back.’
His most treasured pieces are kept in his house. In the drawing room sat Eva Braun’s gramophone and record collection in a handsome walnut case. The cluttered snooker room housed a selection of Hitler’s furniture, picked up at a guesthouse in Linz

Famous faces: The collection includes busts of prominent Nazi figures, including numerous examples of Hitler himself. Mr Wheatcroft boasts he has the largest collection of Hitler heads in the world
Famous faces: The collection includes busts of prominent Nazi figures, including numerous examples of Hitler himself. Mr Wheatcroft boasts he has the largest collection of Hitler heads in the world

‘The owner’s father’s dying wish had been that a certain room should be kept locked. I knew Hitler had lived there and finally persuaded him to open it and it was exactly as it had been when Hitler slept in the room. On top of the desk was a blotter covered in Hitler’s signatures in reverse, the drawers were full of signed copies of Mein Kampf. I bought it all. I sleep in the bed, though I’ve changed the mattress.’ A shy, conspiratorial smile.
In the galleried dining room was fugitive SS physician Josef Mengele’s grandfather clock, topped with a depressed-looking bear. ‘I had trouble getting that out of Argentina. I finally had it smuggled out as tractor parts going to the Massey-Ferguson factory in Coventry.’
By a spiral staircase, Wheatcroft paused beneath a full-length portrait of Hitler. ‘This was his favourite painting of himself, used for stamps and official reproductions.’ In an unexceptional bedroom, Wheatcroft reached into a cupboard and with careful hands pulled out Hitler’s white dress suit.
‘I was in Munich with a dealer,’ he said, showing me the tailor’s handwritten label: Reichsführer Adolf Hitler. ‘We had a call to visit a lawyer, who had some connection to Eva Braun.
‘In 1944, Braun had deposited a suitcase in a fireproof safe. He quoted me a price, contents unseen. The case was locked.
‘We drove to Hamburg and had a locksmith open it. Inside were two full sets of Hitler’s suits, two Sam Browne belts, two pairs of shoes, two bundles of love letters written by Hitler to Eva, two sketches of Eva naked, sunbathing, two self-propelling pencils. A pair of AH-monogrammed eyeglasses. A pair of monogrammed champagne flutes. A painting of a Vienna cityscape by Hitler that he must have given to Eva.

Mein Kampf: The famous and extremely controversial book that Hitler wrote while in prison
Mein Kampf: The famous and extremely controversial book that Hitler wrote while in prison

‘I was in a dream world. The greatest find of my collecting career. Now, it’s hard to know what to do with all the stuff. I feel I’m a caretaker until the next person comes along, but I must display it, I must get it out into the public.’
Many would question whether such artefacts ought to be preserved at all, let alone exhibited.
It is, perhaps, their very darkness that attracts collectors. In the conflicting narratives and counter-narratives of history, there is something satisfyingly simple about the evil of the Nazis.
The strange thing about my visit was not its weirdness, but its normality. I had expected a wild-eyed goose-stepper; instead I met a man wrestling with a hobby that became an obsession and was now a millstone.
Collecting was like a disease for him. If he was mad, it wasn’t the madness of the anti-Semite, rather the mania of the collector.
n ALEX PRESTON is the author of In Love And War (Faber & Faber, £7.99). A version of this article first appeared in The Guardian.
Signed copy of Mein Kampf recently sold at auction