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De Bellaigue: Eton and the Making of a Modern Elite

https://www.1843magazine.com/features/eton-and-the-making-of-a-modern-elite

ETON AND THE MAKING OF A MODERN ELITE

The world’s most famous school aspires to become an agent of social change; but, as old boy Christopher de Bellaigue learns when he goes back, it is also an increasingly effective way for the global elite to give its offspring an expensive leg up in life

CHRISTOPHER DE BELLAIGUE | AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2016

One of Simon Henderson’s first decisions after taking over last summer as headmaster of Eton College was to move his office out of the labyrinthine, late-medieval centre of the school and into a corporate bunker that has been appended (“insensitively”, as an architectural historian might say) to a Victorian teaching block. Here, in classless, optimistic tones, Henderson lays out a vision of a formerly Olympian institution becoming a mirror of modern society, diversifying its intake so that anyone “from a poor boy at a primary school in the north of England to one from a great fee-paying prep school in the south” can aspire to be educated there (so long as he’s a he, of course), joyfully sharing expertise, teachers and facilities with the state sector – in short, striving “to be relevant and to contribute”. His aspiration that Eton should become an agent of social change is not one that many of his 70 predecessors in the job over the past six centuries would have shared; and it is somehow no surprise to hear that he has incurred the displeasure of some of the more traditionally minded boys by high-fiving them. What had happened, I wondered as I left the bunker, to the Eton I knew when I was a pupil in the late 1980s – a school so grand it didn’t care what anyone thought of it, a four-letter word for the Left, a source of pride for the Right, and a British brand to rival Marmite and King Arthur?

To judge from appearances in this historic little town across the Thames from Windsor Castle, which many tourists think is worth a visit between the Round Tower and Legoland, the answer is actually not a lot. Aside from the fact that there are more brown, black and Asian faces around, the boys go about in their undertakers’ uniforms of tailcoats and starched collars, as they seem to have done for centuries, learning in the old schoolrooms and depleting testosterone on the old playing fields before being locked up for the night in houses they share with 50 of their peers (each boy has his own room). As the absence of girls demonstrates, Eton considers itself exempt from the modern belief in the integration of the sexes that so many independent schools now espouse. And it remains a boarding school – a form of education which is in decline, and which some people consider a mild form of child abuse. Add to all this the statue of Henry VI, who founded the school in 1440, amid the uneven cobbles of School Yard, and the masters cycling in their gowns to their mid-morning meeting, resembling nothing so much as a synod of ravens, and you get the opposite impression to that conveyed by Henderson: one of solidity, immobility – anything but dynamism.

To the question, “which is the ‘real’ Eton?” – the laboratory for progressive ideas about social inclusion, or an annexe to Britain’s heritage industry – the answer is of course “both”.

All schools are defined by their intake, but none more so than Eton, which for hundreds of years received the pipsqueak sons of the ruling class and disgorged them to become statesmen and administrators. (Nineteen Old Etonians – OES – including David Cameron, have served as prime minister.) This has now changed, and a new admissions policy has brought in poor clever boys, foreign boys and “new money” that the school would not have welcomed in the past. A recent parent described his surprise at finding out that the commonest name at the school was Patel.

At the same time, many elements of the timeless, traditional Eton have been preserved. They’re among the reasons new parents send their sons here, along with the belief that the school will coax and push and cajole the best out of the boy – that Eton is, as the headmaster puts it, “unashamed in its pursuit of excellence”. The school aims to educate the elite, as it always has, but it has reshaped itself in order to accommodate a new elite defined by money, brains and ambition, not pedigree, titles and acres.

A delicate relationship seems likely to exist at Eton in the coming years, between deserving boys of modest background who enter the school on bursaries, often in the face of incredulity or even opposition at home, and the poised, prepared, nutritionally optimised children of the new upper class whose parents are expected to finance all this largesse – not simply by paying their fees, but also by responding to pretty much continuous appeals for money. The latest “exciting and strictly limited opportunity” is the chance to have your name inscribed on a stone around School Yard, costing £10,000 spread over four consecutive tax years.

Eton’s rich and poor coalesce and become each other’s raison d’être in the context of the school’s ambition to be “needs-blind” in the manner of Harvard – that is to say, able to offer a boy a place regardless of his parents’ ability to pay. Eton’s big plan was evoked succinctly by William Waldegrave, the provost (head of the governing body), when he told me, “what I hope is that this school will continue to produce the prime minister, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and entrepreneurs of all sorts, but that three-quarters of them will have been here on bursaries.”

Waldegrave and Henderson may be the latest advocates of Eton’s transformation, but the process began a generation ago. Over the past quarter-century many places have opened up to poorer families, with some 270 of the pupil body of 1,300 now receiving substantial or complete fees remission and the school recently taking out a £45m loan to raise this number further. The school can also draw on a very large endowment by British standards. As of August 2014 it had investment and property portfolios worth £300m and an annual income from school fees of around £45m, not to mention all the immovable assets and art collections. For all that, many more millions need to be wrung from parents and OES if the school is to become genuinely needs-blind.

As the school mediates between the aspiring rich and the deserving poor, a third group fights for survival: old “Eton” families who have been sending boys to the school for generations. This group dominated the Eton I attended in the 1980s, when the school was still a barely-selective rite of passage for the descendants of Britain’s Edwardian upper and upper-middle classes – complacent, snobby and full of surnames recognisable from the inter-war diaries of Harold Nicolson. This tribe’s representation is shrinking. The percentage of pupils at the school with an OE father went down from 60% in 1960 to 33% in 1994 to 20% now. Eton has gone from being an heirloom handed down through the generations to a revolving door.

Rainbow education

Pupils cheer during the Eton wall game, a sport unique to the college

No elite connives in its own dethroning, however, and Eton is a living illustration of the oft-forgotten truth that social mobility cuts both ways. Having striven to get their son into a school whose fabric reeks of continuity, it would not be a surprise if the new Eton families showed tenacity in trying to hang on to their new status by forming dynasties of their own. This new elite, floating on its liquid wealth, is probably better placed to preserve itself than the old, landed one. As often as not Mum is as high powered as Dad, and the progeny are primed not to rest on inherited laurels but to go out and achieve material success.

Here, in the emergence of a new upper class – more fluid, more international, and yet revelling in its association with the old, snobbish, British continuities – lies the tension at the heart of Eton’s ambition to become a meritocracy. To borrow from the Patek Philippe advert, “You never actually own a place at Eton. You merely look after it for the next generation”.

Iperformed badly in my entrance test to Eton and squeaked in only after my mother pleaded with the admissions tutor that her father had been at the school: in those days, Eton took care of its own. The establishment I entered in the spring of 1985 looked to me like the embodiment of continuity, but across the country, the mood was turning hostile. The immediate post-war period had witnessed three Etonian prime ministers in succession (one of whom, Harold Macmillan, named no fewer than 35 OES to serve in his government), but the squall of egalitarianism in the late 1960s, aggravated in the 1980s by Margaret Thatcher’s ethos of self-help and aspiration, loosened the school’s grip on power. In 1990, when Thatcher lost the Tory-party leadership, Douglas Hurd, who stood to succeed her, found his Eton background being used against him. “I thought I was running for leadership of the Conservative Party,” he complained, “not some demented Marxist sect.” Hurd lost the election – and the keys to 10 Downing Street – to John Major, a state-educated former insurance clerk.

Tony Blair’s New Labour administration of the late 1990s and early 2000s married Thatcher’s brassy meritocracy with a social conscience. Oxford, Cambridge and the other major universities came under pressure to admit more state-educated pupils, and private schools were told to share their facilities with publicly funded neighbours or forfeit the tax breaks to which they, as charities, were entitled. In 1999, in a clear sign that the school could no longer count on its old links to parliament, almost 700 hereditary peers (many if not most of them OES) were expelled from the House of Lords.

In any case by now Eton had read the runes. There was a feeling among masters and governors that the school needed to raise standards in order to maintain market share in the new, more meritocratic Britain – to keep feeding boys to Oxford and Cambridge; to keep producing prime ministers – and a more competitive admissions system was the key. But the school had an image problem. It was widely considered a closed shop that would favour the dim and idle viscount over the up-and-coming City trader’s brilliant, motivated son, with the result that the City trader didn’t apply. The school’s policy of allowing parents to register their sons at birth for the so-called “Eton List” exemplified the school’s built-in prejudice in favour of its own. The Eton List effectively allowed an OE to sew up a place for his son while the boy was in nappies.

In 1990 the Eton List was abolished and a decade later a uniform entrance test and interview were introduced for all would-be entrants at the age of 11, under which the children of OESenjoyed no head start over the sons of people who had not been privately educated, or, for that matter, the offspring of successful Pakistani immigrants or Malaysian electronic-chip manufacturers. In time the tests got harder, the yearly intake cleverer, and the dim, idle viscounts were turned away. (Clever, industrious viscounts continued to get in.) Aided by its proximity to London, whose attractiveness as a safe deposit box for the super-wealthy was on the rise, the school became heavily oversubscribed. (In the 1950s the school had empty places.) Each year, around five and a half boys compete for each of the 260 places on offer.

Although Eton’s internal reforms were well under way by the time Tony Little, Henderson’s predecessor, took over in 2002, this former scholar (an Etonian in the 1960s, he was the first member of his family to be educated over the age of 14) introduced them to a sceptical world. He was “more foreign secretary than home secretary”, as one master recalls, giving interviews and making friends with educational reformers in the Blair government; his railing against the “deadly cloud of class awareness” rates as one of the more unexpected interventions from an Eton headmaster.

Under Little, Eton sponsored a state boarding school up the road in Ascot and a sixth-form college in the London borough of Newham. Bursary schemes were also set up by wealthy OES. At first, bringing in boys from some of the poorest parts of Britain and overseas turned out to be surprisingly difficult; heads weren’t keen on losing their brightest boys, and parents needed some convincing that Eton wasn’t another planet. A documentary about three Eton scholarship boys that was shown on the BBC’s children’s channel in 2014 led to a spike in applications, the school’s access officer told me, “not because parents saw it, but because their sons did, and thought, ‘I’d like to do that.’” Of two former bursary boys in their 20s I recently spoke to, one has gone on to become a speech-writer for a Conservative MP and aims to go into parliament; another is a rising actor.

Changes to the admissions policy have seen the school’s non-Anglo-Saxon intake rise considerably, though for all the foreign names one sees on pigeon holes in each house, Eton remains a “British” school, and its policy of diversifying its intake seems aimed at preventing it from being captured by any particular sub-group of the global elite. Traditionalists have chafed at the more international atmosphere, however, and Little described how one “finger-jabbing” OE accused him of being a “socialist who won’t rest until you have built a mosque on the school playing fields”.

Visiting Eton this spring, I spent an hour in College Library, watching the school’s Arabic master show three 16-year-old Palestinians some medieval manuscripts that the school had recently purchased, among them a page from a ninth-century Kufic Koran. Born in refugee camps in Lebanon, these boys had been flown to Britain for interview. Come September, two of them will be in tails.

Little’s memorial at Eton is a shiny research complex, the donor-funded Tony Little Centre for Innovation and Research in Learning, which joined forces with Harvard to advance research into the adolescent brain – all synaptic pruning and neural pathways. The centre’s mission statement is a slightly laboured attempt to establish Britain’s poshest school as a public good: “we want Eton and the wider UK to be at the forefront of new developments in teaching and learning, for the benefit of all.”

The new Eton – friendly to the international plutocracy while also containing strong elements of political correctness – naturally went down badly with the established Eton families whose names adorn the war-memorial plaques and the sporting cups, and whose sons have been rejected in big numbers. In 2009, at a reunion I attended, Waldegrave delivered a speech lauding diversity of intake and beating the drum for an appeal. “They want our money,” my neighbour growled, “but not our sons.” In the main, however, the old guard seems resigned to its demotion, in part because, however exercised they are by the newcomers, many OES would be unable to afford the school even if their sons were admitted.

My father paid around £6,000 per year (around £14,500 today) for me to go to Eton in the late 1980s. The annual fees are now £34,000 ($50,000, or about £7,000 more than the average annual wage in Britain). The merely well off – the country solicitors and provincial landowners who once formed the school’s backbone – have been priced out. In the words of one OE, “many people in my circle have decided that it’s not worth it, and that a good state school will do just as well.”

To say that there is a cultural divide between the old Eton and the new one would be an understatement. Traditional parents wince as they describe corporate-hospitality tents and sushi bars being erected by brash parvenus for the Fourth of June, the school’s annual shindig (which is not, of course, held on June 4th). Back in the 1980s it was hard-boiled eggs and wine out of a box, consumed while rocking on one’s haunches on a picnic blanket.

For all the talk of 270 bursary boys and rising, furthermore, the vaunted egalitarianism of the new Eton is not always obvious. “We tried to identify the bursary boys who are with my son,” remarked a pupil’s mother, “but his year group includes two oligarchs’ sons and a family with four children all at different English boarding schools. Our suspicions fell on the parents of an Indian boy but then we bumped into them while skiing in Val d’Isère.”

Some newcomers feel that change hasn’t gone far enough. As an American mother said, “you still get some students who would have been there 100 years ago, and they’re not always the cleverest. But”, she went on with evident relief, “they don’t dominate.” Her only regret is that Little didn’t bring in girls. Henderson is rumoured to want to abolish tails, though that would face opposition from the boys, who are attached, in quite a sweet way, to Etonian traditions.

Master plan

Simon Henderson, the current headmaster

Inevitably, the cultural divisions felt by parents are less important to the pupils, in part because the uniform has the advantage of flattening socio-economic disparities. One former bursary boy told me, “Only after I left the school, and visited my friends in the amazing flats they had been given by their parents, did I realise just how rich they were.”

With every place at Eton so keenly contested, enterprising parents sometimes try the back door. The recently retired head of admissions, Charles Milne, was visited by a famous Russian oligarch whose son had been placed on a waiting list after failing to win a place in the entrance test. “They crowded into my little office,” Milne explained, “the Russian and his two bodyguards – one of them eight foot tall. I began explaining how the system works, that other boys would have to give up their places for his son to get in.” Milne had not got far before the oligarch raised a hand to silence him. “Mr Milne,” he said, “I won’t waste your time. When you have decided what needs to be done for my son to get his place, you will tell me.” The boy ended up at another school. Another very rich foreigner, whose son had been rejected, phoned Milne to tell him he was a “fucking bastard”. It became an in-joke between Milne and Little. “When I went to see the headmaster, he would greet me, ‘hello, fucking bastard’.”

Given the intense competition to get a place, it’s no wonder that the waiting room before the test (much harder than the one I took) is like the Russian roulette scene in “The Deer Hunter”. Children sit ashen-faced while their parents confer in whispers. No one speaks to anyone else; the tension is palpable. Some boys burst into tears when they get into the interview room.

The contest isn’t simply between candidates. It’s a battle of wits between a school whose proclaimed intention is to identify deserving talent and ambition, and parents who will do everything to stack things in their child’s favour. Well-off, well-organised parents prepare their sons ruthlessly, hiring tutors, making the boys do ceaseless verbal and non-verbal reasoning tests and sending them to interview classes to learn how to be sparky and empathetic. The school is wise to these constantly evolving efforts to game the system, however, and a lot of boys who have done brilliantly in the computerised test are turned down because they aren’t “interesting” at inter­view. “If a boy makes me laugh,” says one of the school’s interviewers, “he stands a good chance of getting in.”

The battle to enter Eton is the first exchange in a relationship between parents, boys and school that is characterised by high expectations. The rich parents want their kids to flourish and go on to an excellent university, preferably Oxford or Cambridge. The school wants these parents to show their appreciation in five figures. The bursary boys need to validate the decision to give them bursaries. Meanwhile the OES bite their fingernails and hope that the 20% figure won’t go down or the fees rise even further.

The story of Eton’s reconquest of the commanding heights of Britain is one of gradual rehabilitation. With the weakening of the hard left, the prospect of private schools being abolished receded, while Eton’s efforts to present itself less as a throwback to an earlier age than a guarantor of achievement in the current one began to pay dividends. Though confessing to an Eton education remains a conversation-stopper in liberal-left north London, in general the school has become less of a lightning rod for class resentment. And over the past decade OES have become more pervasive than ever.

Back in the 1950s it was the fact of having been to Eton, more than the education you received there, which set you up for success. Now the inverse is true. The teaching is superb, the facilities unparalleled, the results impressive. This year 85 Etonians were offered places at Oxford or Cambridge. St Paul’s, Westminster and Winchester have higher Oxbridge admission rates, but then those schools always specialised in cultivating clever boys. What’s interesting about Eton is the way it changed its focus from class to brains. The school has seen off the threats to its continued relevance by taking in clever boys, and sending out cleverer young men into a world that no longer defers to inherited privilege, and prizes cleverness and ambition above all.

This shift in strategy has changed the culture of the school. The ordeal of the entrance test; the upwardly mobile parents; the fact that the boys know they got into the school on their own merits, not because their fathers are OES – all this militates against the studied unconcern, the famous “entitlement”, that was the default pose of Etonians in the 1980s. Just as it was intensely uncool to be industrious then, now the opposite is the case. “It’s the boy who doesn’t take advantage of all the opportunities at Eton who’s considered odd,” a current Etonian told me, “not those who do.”

A strong work ethic comes naturally in a school that opts in to the hardest public exams and fosters competitive relationships between pupils. One recent Etonian noticed this cultural peculiarity while observing a debate at St Paul’s, Concord, a posh American boarding school. (Eton’s debating teams often sweep the board at inter-school competitions.) “The Americans were elaborately polite to each other,” he recalled, “whereas at Eton we could be brutal, saying, ‘that’s an incredibly stupid thing to say’.”

Not a sushi bar in sight

The Fourth of June in the 1980s

More than schools with higher Oxbridge acceptance rates, Eton stresses activities outside the classroom. Drama, one of its particular strengths, is an opportunity for collective endeavour that also contributes to the legendary Etonian self-assurance. The production budget at the 400-seat Farrer Theatre is higher than that at one of Britain’s top drama schools. No wonder scouts and agents are often to be spotted there, looking for the next Eddie Redmayne – one of Eton’s many recent showbiz alumni.

The investment in a wide range of extra-curricular interests may help explain why, when it comes to success defined more broadly than through exam results, Eton comes top. According to the Sutton Trust, a charity which works to widen opportunity, the school educates just 0.04% of Britain’s secondary school population, but some 4% of nearly 8,000 “leading people” whose education the trust tracked were OES. Eton produces more than three times as many big cheeses as its nearest rival, Winchester (Henderson’s alma mater). Taking into account Eton’s larger student body, its high-achiever output rate is 50% higher.

And that figure underplays Eton’s success, for OES cluster at the very pinnacle of British life. The closer you get to power and achievement, in other words, the more likely you are to run into one. David Cameron and his rival for the soul of the Conservative Party, Boris Johnson, the former mayor of London, both attended the school. So did Prince William and Prince Harry, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the actors Tom Hiddleston and Damian Lewis as well as Redmayne, the adventurers Bear Grylls and Ranulph Fiennes and the Nobel prize-winning biologist Sir John Gurdon. The law, business and banking fester with Old Etonians.

It’s very likely that Eton has a higher “strike rate” than it did in the 1980s, when for every top banker or ambassador there were one or two who conspicuously failed to enter well-paid careers (or indeed careers of any sort), and ended up cultivating marijuana or running a small country estate into the ground. No father of an Etonian in the 1980s would have admitted to thinking about anything so crass as a “return” on his investment, nor were we boys party to our parents’ financial affairs. This too has changed. A recent bursary boy who attended the school with a third of his fees remitted told me that his parents, both teachers at state schools, had sold the family home in order to afford the other two-thirds.

Britain no longer has a ruling class, and the boys who enter Eton are anyway too varied to constitute one. Yet by the time they leave they belong to something like an emerging global elite. They have in common brains, determination and, in many cases, an aspirational family that sets great store by worldly success. These qualities got them to Eton, and they are deployed again and again to ensure they get the most out of the experience. Whether it’s arranging holiday internships with City law firms, Skype tutorials in the run-up to a geography exam, or a reels refresher course before the Caledonian Ball, parents are constantly (and expensively) bolting on all kinds of optional, mini-advantages to the considerable advantage of an Eton education. The great project of modern elite parenting is all about leaving nothing to chance.

There is, of course, a natural tension between the school’s role in this enterprise and its ambition to be an engine of social mobility – just as there is at the American Ivy League universities that Eton’s admissions system seeks to emulate. A small number of Etonians are poor; some are only modestly well-off; but the majority of them are seriously wealthy by the standards of most of the world. One of the consequences of Eton’s transformation is thus to ensure that the children of the very rich stay that way.

For all its inbuilt advantages, the task facing Eton at the turn of the millennium was a tricky one. It needed to entrench its position at the top of British life while carrying out controversial and difficult reforms. Few would argue that the changes have been anything but necessary and skilfully accomplished, but they have come at an intangible price. A recently retired master complained that teaching has got more boring because boys constantly harp on the need to stick to the syllabus: “are we going to need this for the exam, sir?”

Eton used to have a strong sideline in rebels and oddballs. My time there was enriched by exposure to some truly unusual characters, both masters and boys, which engendered a tolerance of human foibles and acted as vital redress from a hierarchical, rules-based institution. Inevitably, as the school has grown more concerned with outcomes and assessments and ever keener to maximise the use to which its facilities are put, the eccentrics have been purged from the institution.

The value of such people is hard to quantify; their achievement doesn’t show through in the exam results, but in the diffusion of a spirit of irreverence and scepticism. One boy in my house, William Sinclair, was a brilliant subversive and satirist of the school; his lampooning of the authorities and disrespect for conventional hierarchies among the boys punctured the pretension and self-regard to which Eton is easily prone. William’s planting of a live chicken in our housemaster’s bathtub was the least of his misdemeanours.

My tutor over my final years was Michael Kidson, a lop-shouldered historian who terrorised us in thrilling, beautiful, confident English, threw blackboard rubbers at boys who offended against syntax and grammar – I got one in the head for pluralising “protagonist” – and defended his oversexed spaniel for trying to solace itself against our thighs. (“Nothing wrong with a young man wanting a wank!”) Above all, Kidson was loyal and would fight fiercely for you if you got into trouble; several boys escaped expulsion thanks to his efforts. On all sorts of levels it is hard to imagine either Sinclair or Kidson being welcomed to today’s Eton, but back then they were among the school’s best-loved figures and knowing them seems as useful to me now as any City internship would have been.

Eton isn’t alone among reformed institutions to have got duller as it has got better, and few of the current boys’ families will rue the absence of eccentrics if their son gets his Oxbridge place. The school has gone from being a rite of passage for a now-defunct upper class to a coalition of different sorts of people who have signed up to an ambitious agenda that may not, in fact, be their own. If Eton hasn’t quite become the liberal, socially transformative institution the reformists seek, it is undeniably more discerning in allocating one of the best starts in life that money (or brains, or ambition) can get you.

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Karpinski: Hyper Brain, Hyper Body: The Trouble With High IQ

http://neurosciencenews.com/iq-hyper-brain-body-7720/

Hyper Brain, Hyper Body: The Trouble With High IQ

Summary: A new study reveals an increased risk of psychological and physiological disorders in high IQ people compared to national averages. Researchers report 20% of Mensa members, with an IQ of 130 and over, have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, compared to 10% of the general public.

Source: Pitzer College.

A new study in the journal Intelligence reports that highly intelligent people have a significantly increased risk of suffering from a variety of psychological and physiological disorders.

Lead author of the study, Ruth Karpinski, says the findings have implications both for the study of intelligence and for psychoneuroimmunology, which examines how stress responses to the environment influence communication between the brain and immune system.

“Our findings are relevant because a significant portion of these individuals are suffering on a daily basis as a result of their unique emotional and physical overexcitabilities. It is important for the scientific community to examine high IQ as being front and center within the system of mechanisms that may be at play in these dysregulations,” she says.

Karpinski and her colleagues developed a hyper brain / hyper body theory of integration. It posits that individuals with high cognitive ability react with an overexcitable emotional and behavioral response to their environment. Due in part to this increased awareness of their surroundings, people with a high IQ then tend to experience an overexcitable, hyperreactive central nervous system.

“A minor insult such as a clothing tag or an unnatural sound may trigger a low level, chronic stress response which then activates a hyper body response. When the sympathetic nervous system becomes chronically activated, it finds itself in a continuous fight, flight, or freeze state that triggers a series of immune changes in both the body and the brain-altering behavior, mood, and functioning,” explains Dr. Nicole Tetreault, co-author.

To explore the premise, Karpinski and her colleagues surveyed 3,715 members of American Mensa, Ltd. whose documented IQ scores fall at or above 130. Each was asked to self-report their experiences of both diagnosed and/or suspected mood and anxiety disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and physiological diseases that include autoimmune disease, environmental and food allergies, and asthma. The team compared the survey data against the statistical national average for each disease or disorder.

“If high intelligence was not a risk factor for these diseases and disorders, we would see a similar prevalence rate between the two groups,” explains Audrey Kinase Kolb, co-author. “However, in this study, the Mensa population had significantly higher rates across the board. For example, just over 10% of the US has a diagnosed anxiety disorder, compared to 20% for Mensans. For these conditions, having a high intelligence is related to having between 2 to 4 times the chance of having a diagnosis compared to the average American.”

“While falling within the extreme right tail of the Bell Curve is generally touted as a ‘gift’ leading to exceptional outcomes, this is not always the case,” says Karpinski. “Those with high IQ possess unique intensities and overexcitabilities which can be at once both remarkable and disabling on many levels.”

Image shows a brain.

The results are surprising given that previous studies have shown high intelligence to be a protective factor for many health outcomes including heart disease, stroke, smoking-related cancers, respiratory disease, and dementia. However, these disorders and conditions are not specifically rooted in immune dysregulation. Additionally, these studies looked at increases in IQ, but stopped short of including participants with gifted intelligence in their samples.

“We know that for many of the examined conditions there must be a combination of genetics and environment for them to manifest,” says Karpinski. “The results of this study support our hyper brain/hyper body theory, and may help direct future studies regarding high intelligence as a potential genetic piece of a psychoneuroimmunological puzzle.”

Drenth: INTJ Relationships, Love, and Compatibility

https://personalityjunkie.com/intj-relationships-dating-love-compatibility/

INTJ Relationships, Love, & Compatibility

By Dr. A.J. Drenth

Despite their status as Introverts and Thinkers, INTJs are as interested in relationships as most other personality types. In order to better understand how INTJs approach dating and romantic relationships, it is necessary to consider the potential impact and implications of their four primary personality functions (Ni, Te, Fi, Se).

Introverted Intuition in INTJ Love & Relationships

INTJs’ dominant function is Introverted Intuition (Ni). As I have previously explained, since Ni is a Perceiving function, INTJs are best understood as dominant Perceivers. Although not afraid to assert themselves via their auxiliary function, Extraverted Thinking (Te), the INTJ is naturally more passive, even somewhat phlegmatic in his or her presentation. More proactive types, such as ENTJs, might even consider the INTJ a bit lazy or apathetic. Of course, INTJs would be the first to tell you that how we define lazy is entirely relative. Because their first job is to function as Intuitive Perceivers rather than as Judgers or actors, operating in a passive mode of perception is actually the sort of “work” they are meant to be doing, work that can ultimately benefit society.

As INTJs intuitively form impressions about the world, they naturally want to express them via their auxiliary Te. And because INTJs often prefer expressing themselves orally rather than in writing, they seek out others interested in hearing their knowledge and insights (they resemble INFJs in this respect). In fact, one of the primary reasons INTJs seek relationships is to have someone to share ideas with. As David Keirsey put it, for INTJs, love often comes (and arguably should come) in the form of a “mindmate.”

Extraverted Thinking in INTJ Relationships

Unfortunately, finding a suitable mindmate is rarely an easy task for the INTJ. When it comes to forming and developing relationships, INTJs often have a few factors working against them. For one, they express themselves via their auxiliary Te rather than Fe. Consequently, like other TJ types, they can come across as blunt, mechanical, or lacking a certain degree of tact or social know-how. Their reputation as arrogant know-it-alls can also be attributed, in part, to misperceptions involving their Te.

intj relationships

While INFJs are strong in extraverting their judgments, INTJs can be even more so because they lack the peacemaking, people-pleasing, and socially sensitive elements of Fe. This is why INTJs are often perceived as “brutally honest,” a trait that can be off-putting and misunderstood by types preferring a softer or more sensitive approach.

INTJs may also be labeled as excessively stubborn or rigid, although this too relates to Te-related misunderstandings. As we’ve seen, INTJs are best viewed as dominant Perceivers, so while they may appear stubborn in a moment of judgment, their preferred state is one of inner openness. It is therefore important for partners to remember that INTJs’ first priority is accuracy of perception, so if the INTJ happens to be wrong, there is a good chance he will eventually come to recognize it.

In order to compensate for such misunderstandings, INTJs might reason that if they could only understand people better they could overcome their relational difficulties. This may inspire them to gather as many facts and self-help strategies as they can regarding human psychology and relationships. While there is certainly nothing wrong with doing so, it may not always remedy their predicament in the way they might expect. For one, INTJs with a history of relational difficulties can be prone to attribute those failures to psychological problems in their partners, thereby failing to see their own shortcomings. But the truth is that even if INTJs’ intentions and motives were entirely pure, they may still lack some of the necessary skills for effective functioning in relationships. While not necessarily their fault, this should comprise at least as much of their relational attention as trying to see and diagnose problems in their partners. To be fair, accurate self-evaluation can be a problem for all J-types, since their preferred mode of Judging (Fe or Te) is directed outwardly rather than inwardly. This is one reason why typology can be so useful for INTJs, as well as other types.

Introverted Feeling in INTJ Relationships

INTJs’ tertiary function is Introverted Feeling (Fi). One of the hallmarks of Fi is a desire to preserve and defend the uniqueness of the individual. This is why some INTJs (as well as IFPs) can seem fairly dismissive of or even hostile toward typology.

Related to a strong concern for the individual is the Fi desire to aid the weak, helpless, and marginalized of society. This is why IFPs, for instance, can often be found helping the homeless, working with children with special needs, protecting endangered species, etc. With that being said, it is important to remember that INTJs’ Fi is in the tertiary position, which means it’s fairly unconscious. Therefore, INTJs are generally less consciously concerned about Fi matters than FP types are.

One way in which Fi may influence INTJs’ relationships is by inspiring a sort of “savior complex” in the INTJ. We’ve already seen how, as J types, INTJs are prone to seeing and diagnosing problems outside themselves. Once we add Fi into the mix, it is not hard to see how INTJs might be attracted, even if unconsciously, to rescuing and fixing those who seem needy or helpless. The relationship then becomes a sort of psychotherapeutic forum, with the INTJ working to analyze, diagnose, and treat his wounded partner.

On a more positive note, Fi also contributes a strong sense of loyalty to one’s partner and offspring. It zeroes in on the unique features of the individual and grows deeply attached to those qualities. While INTJs may not experience the consistent strength of feeling that FP types do, they are nonetheless influenced by the less conscious workings of Fi, which helps inspire loyalty, love, and commitment.

Extraverted Sensing in INTJ Relationships

INTJs’ inferior function is Extraverted Sensing (Se). Despite its inferior position, Se can profoundly impact INTJ relationships. The reason for this, as I’ve described elsewhere, is the inferior function represents a sort of Holy Grail for psychological wholeness and individuation. This makes it a highly alluring function, powerful enough to inspire a fierce and protracted tug-of-war with the dominant function.

One of the most salient ways Se may impact INTJ relationships is concerns about money. Like INFJs, INTJs can have a love-hate relationship with money. They love it because it grants them access to life’s Se pleasures—fine meals, accommodations, automobiles, etc. Money also relates to status, another Se-related desire. When caught up in Se, INTJs may display similar desires as ESTPs with respect to wealth, status, and sensory stimulation.

The “hate” element of INTJs’ view of money is feeling they have to compromise their Ni interests or integrity in order to get it. They may, for instance, feel forced to perform unfulfilling work that fails to utilize their Ni-Te gifts. Or, they may struggle when the quality of a product or accuracy of information is compromised for the sake of marketability. INTJs also hate having to act before their intuition has prompted them to do so. All of this can make the work life of INTJs rather miserable as they struggle to find a compromise between their Ni and Se concerns. Even the idea of compromise can be loathsome to INTJs, since their idealism and perfectionism are so pronounced.

As is true for INFJs, the issue of perfectionism cannot be ignored in INTJ relationships. INJs’ perfectionism can be understood as stemming from their desire to see their Ni visions perfectly manifest in physical reality (Se). This perfectionism tends to be most acute when they attempt to directly control Se outcomes, such as when making art, performing, or obsessing over money or status. When functioning healthily in Ni, however, they rarely fall into the obsessive grip of perfectionism.

In sum, if both INTJs and their partner can understand the potential pitfalls of their respective inferior functions, they can proceed with greater awareness and understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

INTJ Compatibility with Other Personality Types

With Se as their inferior function, INTJs can be spellbound by the beauty or physical prowess of ESFPs and ISFPs. Psychologically speaking, SFPs embody INTJs’ less conscious Fi and Se functions, which as I’ve said, are integral to their quest for wholeness. With that said, pairing with an SFP rarely brings lasting satisfaction to INTJs, since, as introverts, their wholeness must come from the inside out, rather than vice-versa. In many cases, the INTJ will develop a similar same love-hate relationship with an SFP partner that he has with his own inferior function, making such pairings less than ideal for INTJs.

Typically, INTJs aren’t as drawn to SJs (ESFJs, ISFJs, ESTJs, ISTJs) as they can be to SPs. And because Si and Ni are often at odds with each other, SJs and NJs may find themselves having to “agree to disagree.” Therefore, longstanding SJ-NJ pairings are fairly uncommon.

Because NJ types are the rarest of all types, INTJs may enjoy few opportunities to pair with another NJ. However, in today’s Internet age, this is certainly more likely than it would have been in past. INTJs may also happen upon other NJs in their work settings, especially in scientific, academic, or tech-related fields. Of these types, pairing with ENTJs or another INTJ is probably their best bet. Overall, ENTJs may be somewhat preferable, bringing a degree of typological variety to the relationship. This pairing can enjoy great discussions and INTJs may appreciate ENTJs’ willingness to actively implement the INTJ’s insights and ideas. Moreover, neither type needs worry about accidentally hurting the other’s feelings through customary use of their Te. They can simply be themselves and feel comfortable employing their normal modes of communication. One potential drawback of this pairing is neither ENTJs nor INTJs are particularly good listeners. This could feasibly produce a situation in which the INTJ feels overrun or stifled by the more dominant ENTJ.

INTJs may not enjoy the same ease of relations with INFJs or ENFJs. Because NFJs use Fe rather than Te, their mode of communication, as well as their way of seeing and understanding the world, often diverges from the INTJ’s. And when this is combined with the natural power struggles of J pairings, such relationships may fail to get out of the starting gates.

NP types are another solid option for INTJs. Since they are more common than NJs, INTJs can encounter NPs nearly anywhere. In my view, INTJs can enjoy satisfying relationships with any NP type, with ENTPs, INTPs, ENFPs, or INFPs. However, of these, the INTJ-INFP pairing seems to be the most common. There are a few reasons for this.

One reason is that most INTJs are males and most NTPs are also males. Therefore, heterosexual INTJs may rarely only rarely encounter an available NTP female. If they are fortunate enough to meet, INTJs can enjoy great compatibility with either INTPs or ENTPs. Such pairings have a good balance of differences and similarities and, again, are less likely to struggle with issues pertaining to hurt feelings or emotional sensitivities.

Another reason INTJs commonly end up with INFPs is some ENFPs may seem too distracted or flighty for the INTJ. INTJs want a partner who can partake in lengthy and focused discussions. They can therefore grow frustrated if they feel their partner appears distracted or incapable of sustaining her focus. With that said, some ENFPs have greater powers of focus and can match up quite well with INTJs.

Finally and most importantly, INTJ-INFP relationships are common because these types complement each other so well. Both INTJs and INFPs enjoy abstract discussions, including potential ways of improving the world. INFPs are great listeners and enjoy taking in new ideas and information via their Ne. This complements INTJs’ love of dispensing information a la Te. Moreover, both types use the Fi-Te function pair, which can significantly improve communication and reduce the likelihood of misunderstandings. INFPs are less apt to be scared off by INTJs’ Te, since INFPs also use Te in their communication. For these reasons and more, this pairing seems to have unlimited potential for growth, depth, and intimacy.

Greenspan: The Myth of Ponce de León and the Fountain of Youth

http://www.history.com/news/the-myth-of-ponce-de-leon-and-the-fountain-of-youth

The Myth of Ponce de León and the Fountain of Youth

// April 2, 2013

On April 2, 1513, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León and his crew became the first recorded Europeans to set eyes on Florida. Legend holds that they made this discovery while searching for the Fountain of Youth, a magical water source supposedly capable of reversing the aging process and curing sickness. A closer look, however, reveals that the fountain likely provided little to no motivation for their voyage. In fact, no surviving documents from the time, including letters from Ponce de León himself, ever mention such a fountain. Only later did Spanish and U.S. writers connect the two, thereby turning Ponce de León into a poster boy for gullibility.

Tales of sacred, restorative waters existed well before the birth of Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León around 1474. Alexander the Great, for example, was said to have come across a healing “river of paradise” in the fourth century B.C., and similar legends cropped up in such disparate locations as the Canary Islands, Japan, Polynesia and England. During the Middle Ages, some Europeans even believed in the mythical king Prester John, whose kingdom allegedly contained a fountain of youth and a river of gold. “You could trace that up until today,” said Ryan K. Smith, a history professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. “People are still touting miracle cures and miracle waters.”

Spanish sources asserted that the Taino Indians of the Caribbean also spoke of a magic fountain and rejuvenating river that existed somewhere north of Cuba. These rumors conceivably reached the ears of Ponce de León, who is thought to have accompanied Christopher Columbus on his second voyage to the New World in 1493. After helping to brutally crush a Taino rebellion on Hispaniola in 1504, Ponce de León was granted a provincial governorship and hundreds of acres of land, where he used forced Indian labor to raise crops and livestock. In 1508 he received royal permission to colonize San Juan Bautista (now Puerto Rico). He became the island’s first governor a year later, but was soon pushed out in a power struggle with Christopher Columbus’ son Diego.

Having remained in the good graces of King Ferdinand, Ponce de León received a contract in 1512 to explore and settle an island called Bimini. Nowhere in either this contract or a follow-up contract was the Fountain of Youth mentioned. By contrast, specific instructions were given for subjugating the Indians and divvying up any gold found. Although he may have claimed to know certain “secrets,” Ponce de León likewise never brought up the fountain in his known correspondence with Ferdinand. “What Ponce is really looking for is islands that will become part of what he hopes will be a profitable new governorship,” said J. Michael Francis, a history professor at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. “From everything I can gather, he was not at all interested or believed that he would find some kind of miraculous spring or lake or body of water.” At least one historian suggests that perhaps Ferdinand, who had recently married a woman 35 years his junior, told Ponce de León to keep his eye out for it. But other experts dispute this.

Either way, Ponce de León set sail in March 1513 with three ships. According to early historians, he anchored off the eastern coast of Florida on April 2 and came ashore a day later, choosing the name “La Florida” in part because it was the Easter season (Pascua Florida in Spanish). Ponce de León then journeyed down through the Florida Keys and up the western coast, where he skirmished with Indians, before beginning a roundabout journey back to Puerto Rico. Along the way he purportedly discovered the Gulf Stream, which proved to be the fastest route for sailing back to Europe.

Eight years later, Ponce de León returned to Florida’s southwestern coast in an attempt to establish a colony, but he was mortally wounded by an Indian arrow. Just before leaving, he sent letters to his new king, Charles V, and to the future Pope Adrian VI. Once again, the explorer made no mention of the Fountain of Youth, focusing instead on his desire to settle the land, spread Christianity and discover whether Florida was an island or peninsula. No log of either voyage has survived, and no archaeological footprint has ever been uncovered.

Nonetheless, historians began linking Ponce de León with the Fountain of Youth not long after his death. In 1535 Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés accused Ponce de León of seeking the fountain in order to cure his sexual impotence. “He was being discredited [as] an idiot and weakling,” Smith explained. “This is machismo culture in Spain at the height of the Counter-Reformation.” The accusation is almost certainly untrue, Smith added, since Ponce de León fathered several children and was under 40 years old at the time of his first expedition.

Hernando de Escalante Fontaneda, who lived with Indians in Florida for many years after surviving a shipwreck, also derided Ponce de León in his 1575 memoir, saying it was a cause for merriment that he sought out the Fountain of Youth. One of the next authors to weigh in was Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas, the Spanish king’s chief historian of the Indies. In 1601 he penned a detailed and widely read account of Ponce de León’s first voyage. Although Herrera only referred to the Fountain of Youth in passing, writing that it turned “old men to boys,” he helped solidify it in the public’s imagination. “They are really more entertainment than attempts to write a true history,” Francis said of these works.

The Fountain of Youth legend was now alive and well. It did not gain much traction in the United States, however, until the Spanish ceded Florida in 1819. Famous writers of the time such as Washington Irving then began portraying Ponce de León as hapless and vain. Artists also got in on the act, including Thomas Moran, who painted an oversize canvas of Ponce de León meeting with Indians. By the early 20th century, a statue of the explorer had been placed in the central plaza of Florida’s oldest city, St. Augustine, and a nearby tourist attraction pretended to be the actual Fountain of Youth. To this day, tens of thousands of visitors come every year to sample the sulfur-smelling well water. “It does not taste good,” said Smith, who worked there for four days in college. “Imagine what you would think the Fountain of Youth would taste like. It doesn’t taste like that.” Meanwhile, some grade school textbooks continue to present Ponce de León’s search for the fountain as historical fact.

In 2013, Ponce de León was back in the spotlight. In celebration of the 500th anniversary of his landing, reenactments took place in St. Augustine and Melbourne Beach, Florida, both of which claim to be the site where he first dropped anchor. There was also a Catholic mass in St. Augustine featuring a replica of the 15th-century font used to baptize him in Spain and a mass in Melbourne Beach, along with the unveiling of more statues and a commemorative stamp.

What would Ponce de León make of all this attention, not all of it positive? “My take on that is that no publicity is bad publicity,” Smith said. “He’s a household name, and maybe in the end that’s what he was looking for.”

Zug: Fifteen Seconds: Baset Chaudhry Exit

http://squashmagazine.ussquash.com/2010/03/fifteen-seconds-baset-chaudhry-exit-from-collegiate-squash/

Upon clinching a 11-6, 11-6, 11-4 win in his match against Yale, Baset Chaudhry stooped down and for three or four seconds yelled at Kenny Chan. He then left the court, without shaking Chan’s hand, and hugged some teammates and his parents. It was the clinching fifth match in the finals of the nationals. The senior co-captain had just secured Trinity’s twelfth straight national title and 224th consecutive win.

Seeing Chan exiting the court behind him, Chaudhry turned and bumped him back into the court. Immediately, his teammates and supporters, led by Simba Muhwati, a 2009 graduate, jumped in between him and Chan. The celebration moved away from the court’s door and Chan soon exited.

The whole incident lasted about fifteen seconds, including the elapsed time of hugging and celebrating.It ruined Chaudhry’s life.

Baset Ashfaq Chaudhry was the most celebrated recruit in the history of American intercollegiate squash.

Chaudhry grew up in Lahore. His father is a merchant: he has imported chemicals for the textile industry and now runs plastic factories. Chaudhry played squash at the Punjab Sports Complex. When he was eighteen, Chaudhry won the 2003 Asian junior championships and then played No. 4 on the Pakistani boys team that won the 2004 world junior team championship. In January 2005 he captured the British Junior Open to claim the Drysdale Cup, squash’s oldest junior title. He finished high school just before the British Junior Open triumph, and upon his return to Pakistan he started playing the pro tour. For a year and a half he had a go, traveling to India, Malaysia and Egypt for tournaments. He was taking university-level courses and living at home. In June 2006 he was ranked sixty-first in the world.

No Drysdale Cup winner had ever played American collegiate squash, except Anil Nayar at Harvard in the 1960s. (Marcus Cowie, the Trinity star of the 1990s, had been up 2-1 in the finals against Ahmed Faizy in 1996 before losing in five.) Chaudhry was considered beyond American collegiate squash—too talented, too old (he is now twenty-four) and, frankly, too Pakistani (not a single top Pakistani had ever played college squash in America, even before 9/11). But he was tiring of the tour. One incident stuck in his craw. He was in Cairo trying to get a taxi at rush hour with Amr Shabana. No one knew him in the streets. Here Shabana was, the greatest Egyptian squash player in three generations and yet he couldn’t catch a cab.

The team aspect of intercollegiate squash is almost always foreign to the overseas players when they arrive at college campuses. But Chaudhry had an instinctive appreciation of what was important at Trinity—the team. The first time he came to Paul Assaiante’s office, when he flew in from Pakistan, the telephone rang. It was his father. They talked for a couple of minutes in Urdu, a labyrinth of consonants and glottal stops. As Chaudhry stood at Assaiante’s desk, he saw a bowl in which lay the Trinity national championship rings. While he talked, he mindlessly fiddled with the shiny baubles: the gold, diamonds, the slogans (“Too Strong” “Never Fear, Never Retreat” emblazoned in diamonds), the finger-dropping weight.

Then he stopped, and put his hand on the phone’s mouthpiece.

“What are these, coach?” he asked.

“Those are the eight national championship rings,” Assaiante replied. “We make one after winning the national team title.”

“Order four more.”

He had a long transition to collegiate life. He was a practicing Muslim and had gone to Friday prayers and ate halal, so it took a while for him to find out how his beliefs meshed with living on an American college campus. On court, he was clearly a fantastic player, but his confidence slowly seeped away. He lost in a qualifying match at the 2006 U.S. Open in Boston to Tom Richards, a player he had always beaten before. After that he never played in another PSA tournament again.

He started losing challenge matches. After reaching No. 1 on the Trinity ladder, he lost in quick succession to Shaun Johnstone at No. 2 and Gustave Detter at No. 3. The best recruit in history and he’s playing No. 3? He managed beat the No. 4 player, Supreet Singh, and a month later had challenged back to the No. 1 spot.

It wasn’t until the finals of the 2007 nationals against Princeton that he showed his true form. He lost the first game to Maurico Sanchez 9-4. Sanchez had gone undefeated all year. All of a sudden Chaudhry rolled the next three games, 9-2, 9-2, 9-1. He was playing pro squash rather than college squash. He kept his drives super-air-lock tight, no matter how much duress Sanchez put him under and detonated the ball with unprecedented velocity. It was little noted in Trinity’s dual-match victory, but his match with Sanchez was a seminal moment in Chaudhry’s ascendance.

A week later, he fell in the semis of the intercollegiates. He played well in the morning, dispatching a pugnacious Kimlee Wong in the quarters. But that Saturday night in the semis against Siddharth Suchde of Harvard, he was out of sorts. In the middle of the first game, Sid coughed up a loose ball. Chaudhry stepped up and crushed it. Sid asked for a let. He got it. All of a sudden, Chaudhry was confused. It was not a let, at least in the way that international players would have expected. He did not take it in stride. He had to make an adjustment—it was like a pitcher learning to adapt to an umpire’s strike zone—and it rattled him. Sid took over, winning convincingly 9-7, 9-5, 9-6 and taking the title the next day over Sanchez.

His sophomore year, he was a different guy, more mature and settled. Moreover, he figured out college squash, that he would be pushed and battered and hacked, that although he cleared well, he would be accused—because of his size—of clogging the lanes. He became used to lesser skilled players getting physical with him.

He spent his summer back in Pakistan eating his mother’s food and training and came back to campus having lost twenty pounds. For a guy who was 6’5”, this was enormously encouraging, as he needed all the help he could get in accelerating around the court. He seemed stronger mentally too. His country was falling apart. He called home every day, even if he couldn’t afford it. Benazir Bhutto was assassinated a couple of blocks from his house. Yet, he seemed tougher with an inner maturity. He was always the gentle giant type, but now he was spreading beyond his roots. He started to see himself staying in the States after graduation. He began to eat non-halal meat and stopped going to Friday prayers. His studies were on track: he was majoring in economics. He trained ferociously.

He went undefeated. In the dual match against Princeton, Chaudhry faced Maurico again and destroyed him in three, 9-2, 9-2, 9-0. It was the most lopsided win I have ever seen at a No. 1 match between the two top-ranked teams in the country. Those guys had enormous egos to go with their talent and they simply never let a match deteriorate that completely. At the nationals, Chaudhry beat him 3-1. Down at Annapolis for the intercollegiates, he beat Gustav Detter in an anticlimactic final.

As a junior, Chaudhry steamrolled the rest of the country, except for Maurico, with whom he endured three titanic matches, battles a la Frazier v. Ali. In the dual match, he lost 9-7, 9-5, 6-9, 9-10, 9-2. It was a good match, but Maurico was just the better, more forceful player. Trinity won the dual match 5-4, but it was 5-3 going into the final game of the Chaudhry v. Sanchez match, so there was less tension in the fifth.

Eight days later Trinity and Princeton were in a terrific, six-hour showdown, perhaps the greatest collegiate squash match in history. In two matches, Princeton came within a couple of points of clinching a fifth win and the dual-match victory. It went to 4-4. Then Sanchez, down 2-1, went up 5-0 in the fourth. Chaudhry bounced back to 5-2 and then Sanchez stepped on the pedal and cruised to 9-2 in an eleven-minute game. In the fifth, he dashed to a 5-0 lead again. Chaudhry had lost nine points in a row and had just scored two in the face of Sanchez’s fourteen. It was a meltdown of epic proportions.

There is some disagreement over whether Chaudhry knew that the dual-match was at 4-4. Both Paul Assaiante, head coach, and his assistant James Montano recall telling him after the fourth game that they needed him to win. Chaudhry tells me that he misheard them and thought Trinity had already clinched at 5-3 and that only at the awards ceremony did he learn that it had been 4-4. When he won his match at the nationals his freshman year, everyone stormed the court (Trinity had won 9-0), so he thought the wild celebration was the same. “I honestly thought it was the same,” he says. “I thought, ‘It’s Maurico’s last game, his senior year and I don’t want to be beaten twice on his home court.’”

Either way, he made one of the most storied comebacks in college squash history. Down 0-5 in the fifth, he won three points in eighty seconds, then four more. The match got becalmed at 7-5, with errors, lets and more lets. Serving, Chaudhry smacked a rail that clung to the wall. At match point, he hit only crosscourts and passed Sanchez on a well-placed volley.

A week later he took his second straight intercollegiate title. Again, it was Maurico Sanchez in the finals. Again, it went to five games: 9-6, 9-10, 9-4, 5-9, 9-3.

This past season, he went undefeated, taking his career record to 55-2, which is pretty good for a #1 player. His toughest match was against Princeton’s freshman, Todd Harrity, in the dual match: 4-11, 11-9, 4-11, 11-7, 11-9. When he faced Harrity a week later, he put him away with a whoompingly brutal three games.

With the team winning the nationals at Yale, Chaudhry was headed towards a seventh national collegiate title, which only one other person has ever reached. In discussing the best collegiate player ever, you must ask how many titles did he or she win. Did he play #1 on the #1 team—a target on the target of everyone else? Did he lead? Did he come through in the clutch?

To many observers, Kenton Jernigan is the greatest of all time Yes, Jernigan went 42-0 in dual matches, which is the best percentage ever for a guy playing #1 all four years. But his Harvard teams were so much better than everyone else (the closest dual match they had was 7-2) that the pressure was not nearly as fierce as it was for Trinity: in Chaudhry’s career he led them through three 5-4 nailbiters, including the famous one he saved last February.

This made it all the more tragic when he came off the court at Payne Whitney.

Chaudhry is unfailingly polite. He has a luminescent smile. The first time he meets any adult, he called them “Mr.” or “Mrs.” When he was introduced to Preston Quick, who graduated from Trinity just ten years ago, he said, “Nice to meet you, Mr. Quick.” He is a heroic sleeper and can rack over a dozen hours at a clip. He loves ice cream. He’ll have it on pancakes for breakfast. He is forgetful. He loses his sweats. He loses his glasses (he wears contacts on the court).

He is definitely not the most talented player on the Trinity team. He was not gifted with great genetics. He’s just too tall and too big. He has had injuries: as a freshman he had shin splints and then a week before the team nationals sprained his right ankle and wore a boot all week. He hurt his wrist a year later. He also endured a socially difficult disease. It was an unusual skin condition called non-segmental vitiligo. A few years ago parts of his knees, hands and eyes started to lose their pigmentation. The pale pink patches spread so that both his kneecaps were almost complete pink and his eyesockets gave him a slightly raccoon-ish look. His father has it too.

He is the hardest worker on a squad bursting with training addicts. He practices for hours. He is a co-captain, along with Supreet Singh, and talks every morning on the telephone with Assaiante, plotting and discussing the team. He has a 3.5 average, majoring in economics. He has been dating a Trinity woman who grew up outside Philadelphia. He is probably the most well-known person on Trinity’s campus.

No one saw it coming. “In life the dots connect,” Assaiante said. “What happened, I just didn’t see coming. The dots didn’t connect. It was just an abhorrent moment of loss of composure. I just didn’t see any way that that would happen and when it was on top of us, we were just in the middle of damage control. I love this boy.”

The story went viral. Once the video of the match reached ESPN (don’t ask how), it went onto YouTube and reached millions instantly in a way that poor behavior in the past never did. People commented. People commented on the comments. It reached local news broadcasts, newspapers, radio. It snowballed. At one point Trinity was receiving a hundred emails an hour about it. In the first sixty hours after the incident, Assaiante got more than five hundred emails from people he didn’t know. Assaiante and Dave Talbott went onto ESPN. USA Today ran stories. It was national news.

For about five hours on the Friday night after the incident, there were just four items on the ESPN crawl at the bottom of the screen: one about Tiger Woods, another about Lindsay Vonn, a third about the USA hockey team and a fourth simply saying “Baset Chaudhry withdraws from singles championship.” That was it. He had become such a household name that ESPN assumed its viewers knew who he was.

Why did Chaudhry explode? We had a long conversation after the incident and he didn’t know for sure.

It was his last team match and he loved the team and was much more focused on winning a national team title than an individual one. If it had not been the clinching match, perhaps there would have been less emotion.

Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 9.57.07 AMHe was playing in front of his father, mother and two younger sisters. They had flown over that week and for the first time in his collegiate career they were watching him. His father had been a strong influence on him. Perhaps this put him on edge.

Moreover, all the taunting and yelling that he heard that afternoon, he was slightly unhappy that his family was having to listen to it. Over the years, fans had chanting of “USA, USA,” and “Go back and bomb Osama Bin Laden” and  “Terrorist” and “Al Qaeda.” They had booed when he asked for a let. This was standard fare at collegiate matches these days (such harassing in Hanover at the Dartmouth v. Harvard match made headlines this winter). He had heard all that at matches before but he hadn’t heard anything like that with his mother and sisters and father present.

No doubt some of it came from the fact that he was exhausted by the expectations: being the #1 of the #1 fifty times is tough. He was aware of the history that awaited him. Another tight match won—it was cathartic and he wanted to yell.

He yelled also because he doesn’t like squash. He was kind of 

pushed into it—cricket was his first love—and unlike the majority of the elite collegiate players in the past decade, he is not planning to play professional squash on the PSA tour. He is going to New York to work at Barclays Bank. In fact, he tells me that he might not pick up a racquet at all again—“they are locked up now,” he says. He might eventually join a club in New York, but squash is something that he will leave behind once his college career is finished.

Chan also provoked him. I watched their match in the Trinity v. Yale dual match in January at Payne Whitney. It was nothing out of the ordinary. Chaudhry chopped him up 11-2, 12-10, 11-5. But when Chan got off court, he commented loudly, “That guy’s got the biggest ass I’ve ever seen.” Then three or four players overhead Chan claiming that if he had won the third game, the match would have been his. People came up after to Chaudhry, asking him, “were you tired in the third? Was it a struggle?” It was so absurd, Chaudhry dismissed it.

At the nationals, there was more silliness. In the second game at the nationals, with the score at 2-2, Chan taunted Chaudhry after winning a point, coming up to his face, yelling and fist-pumping. Throughout the match, when Chaudhry would tin, he would sometimes audibly moan, “No.” Chan would then reply, “Yes.” “It was disrespectful,” Chaudhry told me. “No one had ever disrespected me like that, ever. Maurico, Sid, Harrity—these were tough matches, but they always played with class.”

Yet, it was bad sportsmanship and he made the right decision in stepping down from the intercollegiates. “It was very disappointing,” he says. “I am not going to try to defend my actions. It was such a pity it ended that way and I am truly sorry. It was the heat of the moment.”

But the oversized reaction says a lot—about the people who verbally sprayed him with obscenities after the match, about the hundreds of people who condemned him in chat rooms and blogs and comment spaces. Would we have felt this way if this had been a couple of preppy St. Grottlesex boys? Was this insane reaction derived in part subconsciously, because he was non-white, from a country where the U.S. is fighting a war?

We have seen this kind of misbehavior for decades in collegiate squash. No need to name names, but you know who you are. And flagrantly bad sportsmanship occurred just this season: there was some serious pushing and shoving—perhaps a punch thrown—in one of the Yale v. Harvard matches at their dual match. Two Ivy coaches got into each other’s grills and yelled at a dual match.

Is this a surprise? Today all sorts of athletes and fans behave much worse than Chaudhry did and they do it on television and in front of audiences of thousands. That doesn’t make it acceptable, just more understandable.

Interestingly, it doesn’t have to be this way. The College Squash Association doesn’t have a usable discipline system like they do in intercollegiate tennis, where warnings, points, game and match penalties are assessed. Many observers, Yale’s coach Dave Talbott in particular, long lamented the fact that the sportsmanship was so awful in the mid-1990s that the CSA had to resort to having referees for matches. When the players had to police themselves, by and large they behaved well. Now they pour vitriol on the refs (their teammates and opponent’s teammates), fling racquets, moan and curse. Perhaps the CSA should adopt what they do in tennis and have a roving umpire at dual matches who can do what coaches and players are not comfortable doing and actually apply penalties to poorly behaved players (or fans)?

In the meantime, a man’s life has been changed forever. He lost his chance at squash history. His fifteen seconds of bad behavior is now imprinted in the minds of millions; with the Internet, a fifteen-minutes of infamy is now permanent in a way. Barclays, it was rumored, was contemplating rescinding its job offer. He has received hate email. For a while he was worried about getting suspended or expelled from school.

Afterwards, Chaudhry did the right thing. Minutes after the incident, he apologized to the Yale team, Chan and the crowd at the trophy ceremony. The next day he decided to email a letter to all sixty-three CSA men’s team coaches which was forwarded to every one of their players: “For the last four years I have worked so very hard to be a perfect representative of the college game. I have won 6 championships, been a scholar athlete and have always tried to keep my contribution to our game positive. Yesterday in the heat of the moment with some of the contributing factors I lost my composure, and sadly it is being played out in a multitude of venues. This is heartbreaking for me, as I have never seen myself in that light, and am saddened to have to see over and over. I am a college student just like you. I am human and I hope to learn from this experience so that I can be a better man in the future

When you think of me as I leave college please try to remember my body of work and not just the last 15 seconds.” And he voluntarily stepped down from the intercollegiates.

Now Baset Chaudhry is walking away, perhaps the greatest player in intercollegiate history, with his head hung low.

Placenta popularity on the rise

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/lifestyle/news/article.cfm?c_id=6&objectid=11193666

Placenta popularity on the rise

1 Feb, 2014 9:00am
New Zealanders may not be ready to try placenta injections and pig placenta smoothies but placentophagy is rapidly finding favour. Veronica Schmidt catches up on the trend.

After our daughter was born, my husband cried for three days. It wasn’t because he had just watched his wife spend 41 tortured hours trying to dislodge something the size of a Christmas turkey from her abdomen. It was, as he repeated endlessly, because he loved his new baby so much.

He dabbed at his eyes each time he peered into the bassinet. He sobbed when I hung her small socks on the clothes line. He finally snapped out of it when I asked him to help me recover the pieces of my memory obliterated by anaesthetic gas and sleep deprivation, and he was nudged into remembering the appearance of the placenta. The tender looks of the past three days vanished, his face contorted with disgust and he said, through gritted teeth: “It was repulsive. It looked like a really old man’s balls.”

Until recently, in Western cultures, his reaction would have been considered quite normal. Other than revulsion, what was there to feel for a lump of meat whose job was now done?

At best you might follow Maori tradition and bury the placenta, reinforcing your child’s connection to the land, but more likely you would order the thing hurled into a bin labelled “clinical waste” and never think of it again.

But now, with its range of nutrients, proteins and minerals, placenta is fast becoming the organ du jour. Animal or human, placentas are avoiding the incinerator and finding life after birth as health and beauty treatments.

Spice Girl-turned-fashion arbiter Victoria Beckham is reportedly a fan of sheep placenta facials.

Mad Men star January Jones saved her son’s afterbirth and swallowed it in capsule form to boost her post-natal health. In Switzerland you can pay for placenta injections, while in Japan you can drink pig placenta smoothies.
In New Zealand we are catching up fast.

Megan Exelby’s partner is an obliging man.

After the Hamilton woman gave birth to their second child, he carried out her wishes by chopping up the placenta and freezing it in bite-size pieces.

“He wasn’t keen on doing it,” Exelby says. “But he did it.”

The 26-year-old ate a few of the placenta portions each day, hiding them in spoonfuls of yoghurt to make it more palatable.

Exelby, a politics student, decided to eat her afterbirth after reading about the growing practice – placentophagy – online.

Proponents of placentophagy point out that almost all other mammals eat their placentas, that afterbirth has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine, and that anecdotal evidence – and some sketchy science – suggests that consuming placenta can prevent post-natal depression, reduce post-partum haemorrhage, help maintain energy levels, boost milk production and replace lost iron.

Conclusive research, however, is non-existent and medical experts say the practice is pointless.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’ vice-president of women’s health, Stephen Robson, says positive responses are most likely attributable to the placebo effect.

“Animals may have nutritional deficiencies at the time of birth, and eating the placenta is similar to their normal diet and helps maintain nutrition. And there is absolutely no evidence that it has any benefit in humans.”

After weighing up the arguments Exelby felt that the relentlessly positive feedback from mothers who had taken the leap was enough to give it a try herself.

“The main claims for me were that it helped with production of breast milk and it helped prevent post-natal depression,” she says.

“I had some issues breastfeeding my first child and because I already had one young child at home I was worried about getting post-natal depression.”

Exelby suffered neither problem and if she ever has another child, placenta will be back on the menu.

Few fans of placentophagy are as brave. They might want the touted benefits of the practice but the thought of swallowing afterbirth makes them queasy. Professional placenta encapsulators are popping up to solve the problem.

At North Shore Midwives, Wendy Lee opens a black suitcase full of equipment. Latex gloves, bleach and baking paper lie on the top.

The willowy British expat midwife trained as an afterbirth encapsulator last year and has since transformed about 30 into inoffensive capsules for Auckland women.

She charges between $180 and $240 for the process, depending on whether the client wants the encapsulation carried out at her own home or at Lee’s clinic. Each placenta makes between 100 and 200 capsules.

“I clean it – empty and drain it of blood,” she says. “I wash it lots and lots. It can take 30 to 40 minutes.”

“Then I steam it, usually with ginger, depending on what the woman wants, for seven or eight hours.”

She pulls out a portable dehydrator. “I just pop a baking sheet on here,” she says sliding out one of the drawers, “and put the placenta, which I’ve sliced really thinly, in.”

A coffee and spice grinder is plonked on to a table. “After seven or eight hours I grind it.”
She hands me a bag of empty capsules, still divided into halves, waiting to be filled by the next ground afterbirth. “They’re vegetarian,” she says.

How big is placentophagy? There is no way of quantifying but there is also no doubt that the taboo surrounding it is receding and the practice growing.

In 1998, the British chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall featured placenta on an instalment of his show TV Dinners. The episode saw the cook collaborate with new mother Rosie Clear. They threw a party to celebrate the birth of her daughter and served Clear’s placenta.

Fearnley-Whittingstall fried the afterbirth with shallots and garlic, flambeed it, pureed it and then served it to 20 relatives and friends as pate on focaccia bread.

Clear’s husband had 17 helpings. The other guests’ appetites were more subdued.
Shocked viewers complained and Britain’s Channel 4 was severely reprimanded by the Broadcasting Standards Commission, which found that the programme had “broken a taboo”. The commission upheld the complaints “on the grounds of taste”.

Fast-forward 15 years and the mainstream media is peppered with stories about, and references to, placentophagy. Reality star Kim Kardashian, who recently gave birth to her first child, was filmed for her high rating TV show telling an obstetrician that she wanted to eat her placenta.

“There are whole cookbooks for placentas,” the specialist told her.

“I really want to do it,” she said.

Kim Kardashian said she wanted to eat the placenta after giving birth to North West. Photo / AP

Kim Kardashian said she wanted to eat the placenta after giving birth to North West. Photo / AP

Mad Men

star January Jones has spoken about having her placenta encapsulated after the arrival of her son in 2011 and advised other women to do the same.

“It’s a very civilised thing that can help women with depression or fatigue. It’s not gross or witchcrafty. I was never depressed or sad or down after the baby was born, so I’d highly suggest it to any pregnant woman,” she said.

An American Playboy model and one-time girlfriend of Hugh Hefner, Holly Madison, followed suit this year, blogging and tweeting about her encapsulation plans.

Placentophagy is now so widely discussed that Birthcare, a major provider of maternity services in Auckland and Huntly, can no longer run an antenatal class without addressing the practice.

“It’s not that I’m up there recommending it,” says Barbara Taunton-Clark, Birthcare’s manager of childbirth education services. “It’s that every time we talk about the placenta it’s brought up by someone.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a mainstream thing but it’s definitely being talked about.”
When Dunedin mother Emily Sterk, 34, gave birth to her son at the beginning of 2011 she had never heard of the practice. She froze her placenta so she could bury it later but within a year she heard talk of placentophagy and removed the afterbirth from the freezer and had it encapsulated.

The change in her milk supply, she says, was instant. Naturopathy student Sian Hannagan, who processed Sterk’s placenta, learned how to encapsulate 18 months ago after realising demand for the service was growing but that Dunedin women were struggling to find local providers and were having to courier their placentas to encapsulators in other parts of the country.

“I don’t view it as a business and I don’t promote it,” says the mother of two, who offers the service on a koha basis. “I do it for women who want it because I feel they deserve it.

“It’s about people having the right to choose what they want to do with their own placenta.”

Why are Kiwi women so willing to experiment with an unproven practice? Jo Jackson of Timaru business Baby Tree Placenta Services, which offers everything from afterbirth prints to placenta chocolates, drops and capsules, says the growth in demand is largely down to word of mouth.

“I’ve noticed a big increase in people lately,” she says. “I can do up to three a week now and there’s a lot of good feedback. Someone will have it done and then tell someone else.”
Back in Auckland, Wendy Lee suspects there is more to the spike in interest. She wonders if New Zealand’s large Chinese population, accustomed to the use of placenta as medicine, has influenced demand but she also speculates that the growing trend towards natural health remedies is a factor.

“I think it’s the natural aspect. People are saying ‘I don’t want to take medication for mood swings or antidepressants for post-natal depression’. For them this is an option. They want natural solutions.”

Television’s Simon Cowell is not one to miss a trend. He might not be able to grow a placenta or discover one on a TV talent show but the music mogul has joined the ranks of afterbirth enthusiasts by indulging in sheep placenta facials.

A therapist from Cowell’s dermatologist’s clinic let the secret slip when she appeared on the British TV show, Lorraine. “He loves it,” she blurted.

Cowell is in good company. Victoria Beckham is widely reported to visit the same clinic – Lancer Dermatology in Beverly Hills – for the treatment, while former Bond Girl Denise Richards endorsed the facial on the TV network E!

The animal placenta facials, and a host of other animal afterbirth beauty products, have risen in popularity as rapidly as placentophagy.

Angela Payne, director of the Hawkes Bay company Agri-lab, thinks and talks animal afterbirth every day but she still seems slightly in awe of its rise in status. Her company, which supplies a range of unusual animal parts (who knew you could buy brain glands and nasal septum?) to the pharmaceutical, nutraceutical and cosmetics industry, began selling sheep placenta 11 years ago before adding horse and pig varieties to the range.
“In 2002 we exported 11 tonnes of placenta [mostly in powdered form],” says Payne. “We’re now doing the equivalent of 200 tonnes.”

Afterbirth now accounts for 80 per cent of the company’s business with most ending up as dietary supplements and a small amount being turned into a serum for use in face creams.

Most of the company’s ovine placentas go to Japan, a country where pig placenta smoothies have hit the market and intravenous human placenta is available at the Tokyo IV spa Tenteki 10.

New Zealanders are not as daring but the animal placenta market is growing. Kiwi-produced sheep and deer placenta supplements, which promise youthful skin, are widely available and ovine placenta face and body creams are on the shelves and on Trade Me.

But if you want pampering with your placenta, head to Peak Appearance in Napier, where you can lie back, relax and have sheep afterbirth rubbed into your face.
If anyone is going to convince you that this is a good idea, it is the clinic’s owner, Lara Molloy. She is impossibly glamorous and and has been offering placenta facials, at $150 a pop, since August 2012.

“Placentas are rich in growth factors,” she says. “It definitely makes a difference. People are a little bit more radiant and the benefits last for a month.”
But being this on-trend can have its downsides.

“It’s a little bit whiffy, so I combine it with some other products. But you can still smell it a bit,” she says. “My ladies are quite rural though, so they’re not too bothered by it.”

Nature: China’s embrace of embryo selection raises thorny questions

http://www.nature.com/news/china-s-embrace-of-embryo-selection-raises-thorny-questions-1.22468

Nature | News Feature

China’s embrace of embryo selection raises thorny questions

Fertility centres are making a massive push to increase preimplantation genetic diagnosis in a bid to eradicate certain diseases.

16 August 2017 Corrected:

Getting time with Qiao Jie is not easy. At 7:30 a.m., the line coming out of the fertility centre that she runs blocks the doorway and extends some 80 metres down the street. Inside, about 50 physicians on her team are discussing recent findings, but Qiao, a fertility specialist and president of Peking University Third Hospital in Beijing, is still in an early-morning consult.

When she finally emerges, she jumps to the topic at hand: spreading awareness of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), a procedure that helps couples undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) to avoid passing on genetic mutations that could cause disease or disability in their children. Qiao typically refuses interview requests, but she’s concerned that people aren’t getting the message about PGD fast enough. “Now, more and more diseases can be stopped — if not immediately, in the generation after next,” she says.

Early experiments are beginning to show how genome-editing technologies such as CRISPR might one day fix disease-causing mutations before embryos are implanted. But refining the techniques and getting regulatory approval will take years. PGD has already helped thousands of couples. And whereas the expansion of PGD around the world has generally been slow, in China, it is starting to explode.

The conditions there are ripe: genetic diseases carry heavy stigma, people with disabilities get very little support and religious and ethical push-back against PGD is almost non-existent. China has also lifted some restrictions on family size and seen a subsequent rise in fertility treatments among older couples. Genetic screening during pregnancy for chromosomal abnormalities linked to maternal age has taken off throughout the country, and many see this as a precursor to wider adoption of PGD.

Although Chinese fertility doctors were late to the game in adopting the procedure, they have been pursuing a more aggressive, comprehensive and systematic path towards its use there than anywhere else. The country’s central government, known for its long-term thinking, has over the past decade stepped up efforts to bring high-quality health care to the people, and its current 5-year plan has made reproductive medicine, including PGD, a priority, an effort that Qiao is leading. Researchers are hunting down various mutations in the Chinese population that might be screened for in PGD. And well-equipped and powerful clinical-research groups, including Qiao’s, are stepping up efforts to improve the technology, increase awareness and bring down costs.

LISTEN

Why is preimplantation genetic diagnosis is taking off in China?

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Comprehensive figures are difficult to come by, but estimates from leading PGD providers show that China’s use of the technique already outpaces that in the United States, and it is growing up to five times faster. Qiao’s clinic alone now performs more procedures with PGD each year than all of the United Kingdom.

“Looking over the development in China over the past 10 years, they might start to think it’s possible to get rid of these diseases,” says Kangpu Xu, a Chinese-born reproductive biologist at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.

Such systematic efforts raise thorny questions for bioethicists. Some worry that pushes to eliminate disabilities devalue the lives of those who already have them. The cost and accessibility of the procedure raises concerns about genetic traits further widening the divide between rich and poor people. Then there are concerns about the push to select for non-disease-related traits, such as intelligence or athletic ability. The ever-present spectre of eugenics lurks in the shadows. But in China, although these concerns are considered, most thoughts are focused on the benefits of the procedures. “There are ethical problems, but if you bring an end to the disease, I think it’s good for society,” says Qiao.

Heyday for PGD

Physicians in the United Kingdom pioneered PGD in humans about 30 years ago, initially to help genetic carriers of a disorder that affects mainly boys. Thanks to the procedure, the parents were able to select for girls. Generally, the process involves removing one or a few cells from an embryo created during IVF and then using various techniques to test the structure and number of chromosomes and even the sequence of individual genes. Physicians typically discard embryos that don’t pass the tests.

Uncertain about the procedure’s safety, and wary of its potential for abuse (selecting for males in China is illegal, for example), the Chinese government restricted the practice to hospitals with a licence. By the end of 2004, only four centres in the entire country had such a licence. By 2016, the number had risen to 40.

The clinics are huge and growing. Qiao’s centre carried out 18,000 IVF procedures in 2016. The biggest clinic, the Reproductive and Genetic Hospital CITIC-Xiangya in Changsha, recorded 41,000 IVF procedures in the same year. That’s roughly one-quarter of the annual number for the entire United States. One reason for the dramatic rise is China’s policy change last year that now allows families to have two children. This has led to a huge number of older women seeking fertility treatment. Another factor is the changing culture in China. Ten years ago, people who couldn’t conceive would take traditional Chinese medicine, or they might adopt a child. “Now they know assisted reproductive technologies can help,” says Qiao.

And the centres with licences to do PGD have created a buzz in their race to claim firsts with the technology. In 2015, CITIC-Xiangya boasted China’s first “cancer-free baby”. The boy’s parents had terminated a prior pregnancy after genetic testing showed the presence of retinoblastoma, a cancer that forms in the eyes during early development and often leads to blindness. In their next try, the couple used PGD to ensure that the gene variant that causes retinoblastoma wasn’t present. Other groups have helped couples to avoid passing on a slew of conditions: short-rib-polydactyly syndrome, Brittle-bone disease, Huntington’s disease, polycystic kidney disease and deafness, among others. Qiao, working with biochemist Sunney Xie at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has also introduced a method that can do both chromosomal analyses and next-generation genetic analyses on a single cell. China might have got a slow start, but it is now overtaking Western nations in its use of PGD.

Qiao’s clinic screened embryos for individual disease-causing genes about 100 times last year. It screened for abnormal chromosome counts, such as that associated with Down’s syndrome, in another 670 cases. For comparison, 578 such procedures were done in the entire United Kingdom in 2014, the latest year for which numbers are available. And China’s uptake is growing fast. At CITIC-Xiangya, the number of preimplantation testing procedures rose by 277% over just 2 years, from 876 in 2014 to 2,429 in 2016, and 700 of these were for single-gene disorders.

What’s more, many fertility centres in China have the capacity for high-quality research. Qiao is interested in safety and is studying whether extracting the cells for PGD causes subtle damage to the embryo. She is in the middle of compiling data from all IVF clinics in China for a 10-year study on such effects.

Qiao is also working with Xie and Sijia Lu, the chief technology officer of Shanghai-based Yikon Genomics, to develop a technique to do all the necessary sequencing without removing cells, by sampling free-floating DNA in the media the embryos are cultured in. Such an advance could make PGD safer and easier to do.

Joe Leigh Simpson, a medical geneticist at Florida International University in Miami, and former president of the Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis International Society, is impressed by the quality and size of the Chinese fertility clinics. They “are superb and have gigantic units. They came out of nowhere in just 2 or 3 years,” he says.

Chinese researchers are also looking for more disease-associated gene variants, specifically to expand the impact of PGD. The most concentrated efforts are being orchestrated by He Lin, a geneticist at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. He has set out an ambitious project: to pin down all the mutations in all the genes that cause diseases and put them into a single database. “We just do them one by one until we get the whole set,” he says, referring to the roughly 6,000 known genetic diseases. As disease–gene links are verified, they could be added to the list of things that PGD can screen for.

The first target, He says, is deafness. Wang Qiuju, a hearing-loss specialist at the Chinese PLA General Hospital in Beijing and head of the project, says that she plans to get up to 200,000 samples from 150 hospitals throughout China to identify associated mutations.

The large numbers are needed because there are a handful of genes involved in hearing loss, and each of them have dozens, even hundreds, of mutations. “When we have big databases, we can see the contribution of each gene more clearly. Then it’s easy to do PGD,” says Wang.

Culture clash

Such efforts, for hearing loss in particular, can seem jarring because many people in the West do not consider it a problem to be avoided. In the United States, some deaf couples have used PGD to select for congenital deafness, in an effort to preserve Deaf culture. Such sentiments wouldn’t make sense to many parents in China, says Wang, because there is little support for them: “If they have a deaf child, they feel the need to have a normal child to help them take care of the deaf child.”

People in China seem more likely to feel an obligation to bear the healthiest child possible than to protect an embryo. The Chinese appetite for using genetic technology to ensure healthy births can be seen in the rapid rise of pregnancy testing for Down’s syndrome and other chromosomal abnormalities. Since Shenzhen-based BGI introduced a test for Down’s syndrome in 2013, it has sold more than 2 million kits; half of those sales were in the past year.

Although such testing has become routine in the United Kingdom and United States, many in the West won’t terminate a pregnancy just because of Down’s syndrome.

Jiani Chen, a genetic counsellor at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City, says that this isn’t the case in China. “In China, if you want to abort a baby with Down’s syndrome, no one will scold you.” Since moving from her native Taiwan to Oklahoma, Chen herself says that she is no longer sure what she would do.

“There are ethical problems, but if you bring an end to the disease, I think it’s good for society.”

In the West, PGD still raises fears about the creation of an elite genetic class, and critics talk of a slippery slope towards eugenics, a word that elicits thoughts of Nazi Germany and racial cleansing. In China, however, PGD lacks such baggage. The Chinese word for eugenics, yousheng, is used explicitly as a positive in almost all conversations about PGD. Yousheng is about giving birth to children of better quality. Not smoking during pregnancy is also part of yousheng.

This is not to say that the Chinese haven’t thought about abuses of the technology. The Chinese government was worried, as were many Western governments, that PGD would be used to select physical characteristics, such as height or intelligence. The clinics licensed to do PGD can use it only to avoid serious disease or assist infertility treatments. And sex selection through PGD is off the table. Yikon’s Lu says that some families ask to weed out the mutation that renders many Asians unable to process alcohol, something that could affect the ability to take part in the often alcohol-fuelled Chinese business lunches. “They want their son to be able to drink,” says Lu. “We say no.” Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s He has made training genetic counsellors — people versed in the risks, benefits and ethical issues related to PGD — a priority. Currently, they are almost non-existent in China.

The UK Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority also tightly regulates PGD — limiting its use to 400 conditions. But in the United States, clinics have fairly free rein. Sex selection, for example, is acknowledged as controversial by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, but its ethics committee largely leaves it to individual clinics to decide what is permissible.

To many fertility specialists, what’s most striking about China’s adoption of PGD is the speed and organization of its uptake. China already seems to provide more procedures than the United States, and with growth estimated at 60–70% per year, is on target to catch up in per capita terms in the next few years.

This could be a boon for the country, given the economic arguments for PGD. For instance, one study has compared the average costs of the PGD procedure needed to avoid cystic fibrosis — US$57,500 — with the medical costs incurred in a lifetime by an average patient, which amounted to $2.3 million (I. Tur-Kaspa et al. Reprod. Biomed. Online 21, 186–195; 2010). The authors calculated net savings on health care of all patients born in a year over the average patient’s lifespan of 37 years to be $33.3 billion. That is just for one of hundreds of diseases that can be avoided with PGD.

But PGD has not been an easy sell in the West. The Catholic Church, for example, opposes embryo manipulation, including the removal of cells for testing, as well as the destruction of embryos. “The idea that scientists are playing god is always a theme,” says Natasha Bonhomme, chief strategy officer at Genetic Alliance, a lobbying group in Washington DC that focuses on genetic diseases.

There are also social and economic concerns. Some parents of affected children argue that reducing the number of children with those diseases would reduce government funding for research into treatments. Others object to the idea that they are being discouraged from conceiving children the usual way.

The debate has made physicians and scientists wary. “The scientific community is not interested in getting too forward out in front of public opinion,” says Simpson, even though he thinks that the evidence is on the side of employing more PGD. “With every reproductive-biology advance,” he says, “we get the same questions: ‘won’t there be a slippery slope that leads to abuse?’ But it never happens.”

The upshot is that there has never really been advocacy organized around PGD in the United States, says Bonhomme. And without government support, it remains for many a prohibitively expensive procedure. Insurance coverage is “pitiful”, says Svetlana Rechitsky, director of the genetic-testing firm Reproductive Genetic Innovations in Northbrook, Illinois. Sitting at her desk, sorting through letters from insurers — mostly refusals to offer coverage for PGD — she says, “It’s getting worse and worse.”

Already the procedure is much cheaper in China — about one-third of what it costs in the United States. Cheaper tests will make it more palatable for national insurance coverage, something Qiao has already started pushing for. “Before I retire, I want to get the government involved. I have 12 years,” she says.

Nature
548,
272–274
(17 August 2017)
doi:10.1038/548272a