"Invasion of the Body Snatchers"

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Kidneys are the most popular — bought and sold on the global black market at a rate of at least 20,000 per year. Blood, tissue, skin, corneas and eggs are also highly valued. Human bones are a centuries-old mainstay.

The demand outstrips the supply, and so millions of variations on that old urban legend — some unsuspecting victim waking up in a bathtub in Vegas, missing a kidney — actually exist: People snatched off the street in India and China, held for years as chained-up blood donors. Prisoners in China forced to donate body parts, plucked apart, sometimes alive, sometimes without anesthesia. Entire villages, like the Baseco slum in the Philippines, where the bulk of inhabitants have only one kidney — having sold the other off for a few hundred dollars to pay rent or buy food or medicine for a sick relative.

Read Maureen Callahan’s full story at the NY Post


NPR: Blood, Bones And Organs

Journalist Scott Carney figures he’s worth about $250,000, but that number isn’t based on his savings or his assets; it’s what Carney thinks his body would fetch if it were broken down into individual parts and sold on what he calls the “red market.” In his new book, also called The Red Market, Carney explores the shadowy but lucrative global marketplace for blood, bones and organs. He tells NPR’s Melissa Block that despite being underground, there’s no question the red market is thriving. “It’s really hard to get accurate figures on what the illegal market is on body parts, but I’m figuring it’s definitely in the billions of dollars,” Carney says.

‘When You’re At Your Most Desperate Place … The Brokers Come In’ As part of his research, Carney visited an Indian refugee camp for survivors of 2004’s massive tsunami. Today, the camp is known by the nickname Kidneyvakkam, or Kidneyville, because of how common it is for the women who live there to sell their kidneys. “The women are just lined up,” Carney says. “They have their exposed midriffs and there are all these kidney extraction scars because when the tsunami happened, all these organ brokers came in and realized there were a lot of people in very desperate situations and they could turn a lot of quick cash by just convincing people to sell their kidneys.”

Listen to the story on NPR


Photos from The Red Market

For six years I didn’t only collect stories from people who supplied their flesh on the red market. I also took pictures. Here is a small set of photos that appeared in the book. Above is Fatima whose daughter Zabeen was kidnapped from a slum in Chennai and sold to an Australian family through a network of unwitting adoption agencies. Please don’t reproduce these without my permission.   Click here to see the gallery.


India's Maoists

Since 2000 more than 10,000 people have died and 150,000 displaced by a Maoist insurgancy in India. In 2007 I traveled to Chhattisgarh, India with Jason Miklian to report how a police-funded civilian counter insurgency called “Salwa Judum” had only made the conflict worse. Now with warlords, communist ideologues and out of control military forces there are few places for civilians to find safety. While this story never appeared in a major publication, a later version that traced the connections between the mining industry and Maoism appeared in Foreign Policy in September 2010 under the title “Fire in the Hole

Click here to see the photo gallery


Thai Protection Tattoos

Can a tattoo stop a bullet? A centuries old thai tattoo tradition teaches that indeed, the sacred scriptures can have protective powers.  In 2007 I traveled to the remote wat bang pra temple to interview the artistic masters who have spent their lives perfecting the art. I reported the story for National Public Radio which you can listen to here. But what what is a radio story without great photos?

Click here to see the gallery of photos here.


Salon Review: Flesh for sale

During the mid-2000s, Scott Carney was living in southern India and teaching American anthropology students on their semester abroad when one of his charges died, apparently a suicide. For two days, he watched over her body while the provincial police investigated her death, reporters bribed their way into the morgue to photograph the newsworthy corpse, local doctors performed an autopsy, and ice had to be rounded up to retard decomposition. Finally, his boss asked Carney to take pictures of the girl’s mangled remains for analysis by forensic experts back in the States. (review by Laura Miller)

Read the rest of the review on Salon


Border Wars

Bangladesh shares a border with only two other countries: the republic of India and the dictatorship of Burma. With climate change threatening much of the low-lying country refugees will have to go somewhere. And India has decided to prepare for the influx by building a wall and shooting anyone who tries to cross it. In January 2011 I traveled to Bangladesh and India with Jason Miklian and Kristian Hoelscher on an assignment for Foreign Policy.  Click here to see some of the photos that we took.



The Last Calligraphers

The age of calligraphy died when British soldiers toppled the Mughal courts. It’s hard to remember that there was a time before the age of computers when penmanship was considered one of the highest art forms. Outside of a some particularly ornate wedding invitations and hand-written copies of the Koran there is little need for formally trained Urdu calligraphers. That is, except for one small ink-stained corner of Chennai where the world’s last hand written newspaper still churns out 20,000 broad sheets a day.


Radio Appearances

The Red Market hits shelves on Tuesday May 31st. For the next three or four weeks I’ll be giving interviews on radio and television stations across America.  Here’s the week’s schedule so far:

Tuesday May 31:

12:30 PM EST –  New Hampshire Public Radio (NHPR)  “Word of Mouth”

10:30 AM PST – KPCC  “Air Talk with Larry Mantle”

12:00 AM PST – KPFA “Against the Grain”

Wednesday June 1:

WAMC (New York) “Round Table”

WVUM (Florida) “News”

Thursday June 10:

NPR : “All Things Considered”