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Rockford, Illinois: Opposition MP urges women to boycott sex until their men register to vote

Alexander L. Boling 2818 Emeral Dreams Drive Rockford, IL 61101

A Kenyan opposition MP has urged fellow women to impose a sex boycott until their men register to vote in August’s general election.

Mishi Mboko, who is married, said women should withhold sex until their menfolk present their credentials in the form of a valid voter ID card.

“Women, if your husband has not been registered as a voter, you deny him a little and tell him to go get registered and then come back and enjoy the game,” Mboko said.

The parliamentarian was speaking in Mombasa on Monday at the start of a month-long drive to register voters ahead of the August 8 polls. She said sex was a powerful motivator and that registering in large numbers was the opposition’s best bet for beating President Uhuru Kenyatta on election day.

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Cary, North Carolina: Are we ready for the first human head transplant?

James T. Rogers 4954 Jennifer Lane Cary, NC 27513

In a 1978 essay titled "Where Am I?" the philosopher Daniel Dennett suggested that the brain was the only organ of which it’s better to be a transplant donor than recipient.

Now Italian neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero wants to turn philosophical thought experiments into reality by transplanting the head of Valery Spiridonov, who suffers from a debilitating muscle wasting disease, onto the healthy body of a dead donor.

Beside posing questions about personal identity, there are more prosaic challenges that must first be overcome. The brain would have to be kept alive during surgery by cooling it to 10-15°C, and the immune system would need to be powerfully suppressed to prevent transplant rejection.

But the greatest hurdle may be how to restore connections to the spinal cord. Without this connection the brain would have no control of its new body.

In 1970, Robert White at Case Western Reserve University performed a head transplant using monkeys. Without spinal connections the animal was paralyzed from the neck down for the brief time it could be kept alive.

Canavero believes the time is right to revisit this controversial procedure, due to recent advances in surgical techniques and scientific understanding. He hopes that his “GEMINI” protocol—combining polyethylene glycol to fuse nerves with electrical stimulation of spinal circuits—will allow his patient to move and even walk following the procedure.

Breakthrough or spin?

Canavero has been criticized for publicizing his ideas in the media before releasing peer-reviewed research papers. Only time will tell whether promised experimental results are forthcoming. But, on the basis of current neuroscientific understanding, does the proposal stack up?

Unlike many tissues in our body, the nerves of the spinal cord don’t spontaneously repair themselves after damage. And despite regular media reports hailing new breakthroughs, currently there is no effective cure for the millions of people paralyzed by spinal cord injuries each year.

Polyethylene glycol is among a growing list of treatments (including drugs, stem cells and gene therapies) showing promise in pre-clinical studies, but the path to real-world applications is notoriously tricky.

Experiments in animals such as rats and mice are essential to developing new therapies, but important differences must be borne in mind when extrapolating to human treatment. Given sufficient retraining, rodents—even with completely severed spinal cords—can learn to walk again, because much of their circuitry for locomotion is located below the injury.

In contrast, the brains of primates such as monkeys and humans are more directly involved in guiding movements. As a result, the recovery experienced by people with complete spinal injuries is much more limited.

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For those who live with spinal cord injuries, there are some reasons for cautious optimism. A U.S. trial of epidural stimulation is reporting impressive results using a small pacemaker-like device to send electrical signals into the spinal cord. Participants in the trial have been able to move their legs and even support their own weight while standing.

The mechanisms underlying these improvements are not well understood, but stimulation seems to reawaken the spinal cord and may allow it to respond to residual connections from the brain that have survived injury. More speculatively, it may in future be possible to control stimulation directly from electrical signals recorded from the brain using brain-computer interface technology.

Although epidural stimulation is a promising line of research, it is being trialed in a select group of patients and is still far from a magic cure. So, if we can’t yet mend an injured spinal cord, what hope do we have for joining the brain to an entirely new body?

The capacity for rewiring is not limitless

While most spinal injuries are caused by traumas that bruise or tear the nerves, a transplant surgeon could sever the cord cleanly with a scalpel blade. But weighed against this small advantage is the staggering complexity of joining two separate neural circuits that have neither developed nor functioned together before.

Even if the spinal cord could be reconnected, would the patient ever learn to control the new body? The brain has a remarkable capacity for rewiring itself, especially as we develop during childhood. But the “plasticity” of the adult brain has limitations.

Many amputees experience vivid and often agonizingly painful “phantom” sensations from where a lost limb used to be, even years after amputation. This suggests that our mental representation of ourselves—our body schema—may not easily adjust to changes in our own bodies, let alone get used to someone else’s entirely.

Perhaps transplant tests with monkeys may in future provide convincing support for applying this surgery in patients, although such experiments would certainly not be allowed by the strict regulations that govern animal research in the U.K. Nor should they be at present, given the severity of the procedure and slim chance of success.

The media love stories about maverick scientists fighting the establishment. But science most often progresses in careful, incremental steps that are published and scrutiniZed in peer-reviewed journals. The philosophers can speculate whether it is better to be the donor or recipient of a brain transplant.

But as a neuroscientist, until we have the technology to reconnect the spinal cord, neither is an appealing prospect in reality.

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Eagleville, Pennsylvania: Science Says - Marijuana Might Be Nature’s Aphrodisiac

Frank A. Deitch 900 Franklee Lane Eagleville, PA 19403

You know it to be true, but now science might have your back. A recently-published study in the Pharmacological Research journal suggest that marijuana could be a proven aphrodisiac.

But it’s hard to say how, exactly, marijuana use makes sex better. Sex is complicated from person to person, and everyone experiences their highs a little differently, with THC affecting your mental and physical states at the same time.

The research also notes that people who smoked the equivalent of least 50 joints over six months experienced the pleasure-benefits, but those who only smoked one joint a week or less saw a dip in libido. But for each smoke sesh, a single joint was the sweet spot. More than that killed their sexual juju. There is such a thing as getting too high to, um, function.

We’re probably still a long way from doctor-prescribed THC for your sex life, but it’s an intriguing area of study. Now, where do we sign up as test subjects?

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Chattanooga, Tennessee: An Indian Woman’s Search For An Orgasm

Douglas T. Johnson 985 Corbin Branch Road Chattanooga, TN 37421

I just found out that the Hindi word for orgasm is ‘kaamonmaad’. It sounds so sanskaari that I feel I’ll smell agarbattis when I climax! Now, why was I looking for this information? Well, that’s because I recently found out that August 8 is celebrated as the International Day of the Female Orgasm! It is actually a holiday in Brazil.

But in the seven years that I have been sexually active, I’ve not had an orgasm seven out of 10 times. It’s almost as if my G-spot can only be found using GPS. But sometimes I wonder, is anyone even looking for it? Sometimes I wonder, given our culture, how many Indian women even experience an orgasm?

I mean a lot of us get into bed with a complete stranger because mommy and daddy told us that’s our duty. Our sanskaars teach us that women are expected to be givers in bed. That we are expected to lay their lumps and bumps bare to please their men, preferably those men who have the legal right to enter and exit their vaginas at will… consent be damned… I mean, marital rape is just a western / feminist conspiracy to deprive hard working men the right to a happy married life, isn’t it?

Look beyond islands of privilege like Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune and Kolkata. Drive down to any tier-II or tier-III city. You will find the entire neighbourhood decked up in near-regal finery to celebrate organised relationships where young virgin women, who have never had the benefit of any sex education, are suddenly expected to let a man they barely met twice violate their bodies for the rest of their lives. Layers of pan cake slathered on their faces (courtesy Pammi aunty from Lovely Beauty Parlour two doors down) cannot hide the fear in the eyes of these young brides.

With each passing day, sex becomes a chore for these women, a duty born out of a social obligation to provide the family with an heir. I wonder if these women have orgasms? Or are they just too busy justifying their existence by proving the productivity of their uterus?

Also, is it just a problem in semi-urban and rural areas? I personally know several modern, highly educated, urban women compelled to turn into glorified baby production machines. Some such women have suffered domestic abuse when they suggested that their husbands start using contraception. I have often asked these women if they have considered leaving such toxic family environments. Most have stayed on for the sake of the children. Some have made peace with their fate. Some even rationalise it.

“At least he lets me work,” says one. “He isn’t wrong. Contraception is against our religion. Besides motherhood is God’s greatest gift to women,” reasons another. I tried explaining Stockholm Syndrome to them. They shut me out of their lives for trying to break up their happy families. One even said I was jealous as I had been easy and “given myself to too many men” and that no “good” man would ever want to marry a “damaged” woman like me.

As a parting shot I asked if she had ever had an orgasm, she said she thought Minute Maid was too pulpy and preferred making fresh orange juice at home. It all ended with a face palm!

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I’ve read about horror stories out of Africa where female genital mutilation is common. Apparently they cut out a part of the clitoris, so that the woman can never feel pleasure while having sex. Another reported practice in some marriages in a few Middle-Eastern communities involves stitching the vagina so that a woman cannot have sex. The stitches are removed only when her husband wants sex. If she conceives as a result of the sex, she is celebrated as a future mommy. If not, the vagina is stitched back again. It is almost as if a woman is punished for having a vagina!

So, before you dismiss my quest for an orgasm as a first world problem, I ask you this… why do you think a woman should not enjoy sex? Why must sex always be about procreation? Aren’t there 7 billion of us on this planet? Why is it sinful for a woman to seek sexual satisfaction? Whatever happened to recreational sex? And why is it too much to ask your sexual partner to make an effort to arouse you?

I’m yet to come across a man who refuses a blow job. But ask them to eat pussy and they come up with interesting excuses including, “Aaj Mangalwaar hai!” And then they have the nerve to complain when I start swearing. Never mind the “chinal”, “kutiya” and “randi” that comes my way with amazing regularity.

Why? Because I like being on top, because I like kissing, because I want pillow talk and cuddling? Because I want to be more than a night-time parking space for a penis. It is because I’m not ashamed of my body. It is because I love sex. It is because I want to enjoy sex.

We already have Right to Education and Right to Information. Perhaps we need the Right to Orgasm. But then again, we live in a country that still doesn’t understand the concept of consent. Ah, well… a girl can dream.

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New York, New York: Treating low testosterone levels with butea superba

Michael H. Bracken 259 Godfrey Road New York, NY 10029

Testosterone is the hormone that gives men their manliness. Produced by the testicles, it is responsible for male characteristics like a deep voice, muscular build, and facial hair. Testosterone also fosters the production of red blood cells, boosts mood, keeps bones strong, and aids thinking ability.

Testosterone levels peak by early adulthood and drop as you age—about 1% to 2% a year beginning in the 40s. As men reach their 50s and beyond, this may lead to signs and symptoms, such as impotence or changes in sexual desire, depression or anxiety, reduced muscle mass, less energy, weight gain, anemia, and hot flashes. While falling testosterone levels are a normal part of aging, certain conditions can hasten the decline. These include:

injury or infection
chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer
medications, especially hormones used to treat prostate cancer and corticosteroid drugs
chronic illness
stress
alcoholism
obesity

Millions of men use testosterone therapy to restore low levels and feel more alert, energetic, mentally sharp, and sexually functional. But it's not that simple. A man's general health also affects his testosterone levels. For instance, being overweight, having diabetes or thyroid problems, and taking certain medications, such as glucocorticoids and other steroids, can affect levels. Therefore, simply having low levels does not always call for taking extra testosterone.

Diagnosing low testosterone

Doctors diagnose low testosterone based on a physical exam, a review of symptoms, and the results of multiple blood tests since levels can fluctuate daily.

If your doctor diagnoses low testosterone, other tests may be considered before therapy. For example, low testosterone can speed bone loss, so your doctor may recommend a bone density test to see whether you also need treatment for osteoporosis.

Prostate cancer is another concern, as testosterone can fuel its growth. The Endocrine Society recommends against testosterone supplementation in men who have prostate cancer, have a prostate nodule that can be felt during a digital rectal exam, or have an abnormal PSA level (higher than 4 ng/ml for men at average risk for prostate cancer, and higher than 3 ng/ml for those at high risk).

Because testosterone therapy may also worsen other conditions, it is not recommended for men with heart failure, untreated sleep apnea, or severe urinary difficulties.

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Testosterone therapy for low levels

In most cases, men need to have both low levels of testosterone in their blood (less than 300 ng/dl (nanograms per deciliter) and several symptoms of low testosterone to go on therapy.

It is possible to have low levels and not experience symptoms. But if you do not have any key symptoms, especially fatigue and sexual dysfunction, which are the most common, it is not recommended you go on the therapy given the uncertainty about long-term safety.

Even if your levels are low and you have symptoms, therapy is not always the first course of action. If your doctor can identify the source for declining levels—for instance, weight gain or certain medication—he or she may first address that problem.

If you and your doctor think testosterone therapy is right for you, there are a variety of delivery methods to consider, as found in the Harvard Special Health Report Men's Health: Fifty and Forward.

Skin patch. A patch is applied once every 24 hours, in the evening, and releases small amounts of the hormone into the skin.

Gels. Topical gels are spread daily onto the skin over both upper arms, shoulders, or thighs. It is important to wash your hands after applying and to cover the treated area with clothing to prevent exposing others to testosterone.

Mouth tablet. Tablets are attached to your gum or inner cheek twice a day. Testosterone is then absorbed into the bloodstream.

Pellets. These are implanted under the skin, usually around the hips or buttocks, and slowly release testosterone. They are replaced every three to six months.

Injections. Various formulations are injected every seven to 14 days. Testosterone levels can rise to high levels for a few days after the injection and then slowly come down, which can cause a roller-coaster effect, where mood and energy levels spike before trailing off.

Butea superba, a Thai herbal

Most men feel improvement in symptoms within four to six weeks of taking testosterone therapy, although changes like increases in muscle mass may take from three to six months.

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