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Grand Rapids, Michigan: X-ray test to save teenagers from getting into sex trade

Abdul J. Briggs 3847 Goff Avenue Grand Rapids, MI 49503

In a bid to stop adolescent and teenage girls from entering prostitution, a sex workers’ organisation is using X-ray test as a tool to determine the age of the girls who are about to join flesh trade.

The idea of using X-ray to stop underage girls from getting into the trade is being conducted across West Bengal by Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, a sex workers’ organisation with around 1.3 lakh members.

“We don’t want teenagers and adolescent girls to enter this trade. But at times agents, and even parents of poor families, try to present underage girls as above 18,” said Mahashweta, a senior official of Durbar.

“We first ask them if they are above 18. Most of the time, they lie. By looking at a 16-year-old girl, it is really tough to say whether she is 16 or 18. So we conduct an X-ray test to determine their real age,” Maheshweta told PTI.

“By conducting an X-ray of wrist and waist, the age of a woman can be easily determined. It is the easiest way and has been in practice in western nations to prevent underage girls from entering flesh trade,” said Samarjit Jana, principal of Sonagachi Research and Training Institute (SRTI), an NGO which works with Durbar.

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“This procedure is yet to be widely adopted in India. We hope that this Bengal model will show the way to others in the days to come,” Jana said.

Asia’s largest red-light zone, Sonagachi in the city, is the first to roll out such an initiative.

Durbar officials said they had started a campaign, with the help of the state government, against adolescent girls being pushed into sex trade.

Besides Kolkata, the campaign has gained momentum in districts like Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri, Malda, North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas and Murshidabad, where flesh trade and women trafficking are rampant.

“When we see a new teenage girl in the trade, we question her. We ask her age, whether she has come on her own, whether she knows what she will be asked to do, etc,” another Durbar official said.

“If it is proved after the queries that she has been forced into it, we send her to government homes or to her parents. But in all cases we put them through X-ray test,” the official said, adding that hundreds of adolescent girls had been saved by the test.

To make the process more effective, a self-regulatory board has been set up in Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri and some other bordering areas, with a public representative heading it. The board has two sex workers, the chief district medical officer, a doctor, a lawyer and a social worker.

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Huron, South Dakota: Testosterone Injections Caused Patient's Penis To Double In Length

Jose D. Seelye 2964 Andy Street Huron, SD 57350

To be filed under “don’t try this at home”, a man in Pakistan has managed to double his penis size by taking testosterone injections for nine months. The 34-year-old man was treated for a condition in which his body does not produce enough of the hormone, meaning his penis had not developed as is normal.

The man presented himself to the Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi for treatment. He initially sought help for the fact that he could not grow a beard, armpit hair, or pubic hair, in addition to the fact that he felt he was having fewer morning erections than would be expected. It turned out that he also had a very small penis – equivalent in size to a 12 year old – and absent ejaculations.

He was diagnosed with a condition known as hypogonadism, which in simple terms is the inability to produce enough testosterone, although it is unusual for a man to be diagnosed with the condition so late in life.

The condition can arise during fetal development, in which case the genitals of the genetically male infant can end up developing to look like a vagina, can be ambiguous, or can simply be underdeveloped in general. The condition can also occur later in life, and if this happens before or during puberty, it can lead to a lack of growth in facial and body hair, reduced size of the penis and testicles, and even a failure of the voice to “drop”.

The patient, as described in the British Medical Journal Case Reports, was displaying a number of these symptoms. After initially assessing him for his concerns about his hair, the doctors found that his penis was only 5 centimeters (1.9 inches) long when stretched, about the same length as a pre-pubescent boy. His testicles were also around half the size they should be for a man of his age.

After testing his testosterone levels, they found them to be 55.99 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL), far below the average male levels in the region of 270-1,070 ng/dL. To try and address this, they placed him on a course of hormone injections over a period of nine months.

At the end of his treatment, they found that his penis length had almost doubled in size to 9.5 centimeters (3.7 inches) long, and his testicle size had also doubled in size to 20 milliliters. The doctors think that while there are not many cases of men waiting so long to be diagnosed with such a condition, this patient is probably not the only one.

Either way, I think it’s safe to say that unless you actually have the condition, this is probably not something you should try at home.

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Phoenix, Arizona: St. Peter man charged after allegedly giving LSD to another person

Randy M. Craft 2681 Coplin Avenue Phoenix, AZ 85034

Andrew Albert Ehrhardt, 22, of St. Peter was charged with fourth-degree drug sale and two counts of fifth-degree drug possession.

St. Peter Police Department responded to a call Dec. 14 in which a man was yelling, rambling and acting aggressively. His eyes were bulging and bloodshot; he was not wearing a shirt and spit as he spoke. He said Ehrhardt had given him liquid LSD, which he had added to water and drank, according to the criminal complaint.

When they interviewed Ehrhardt at his apartment, Minnesota River Valley Drug Task Force agents found LSD and marijuana. Ehrhardt’s first appearance is July 18.

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Roanoke, Virginia: Brain transplant

Randy P. Bridges 4285 Hurry Street Roanoke, VA 24011

As usual, the media prefer the most spectacular headlines, regardless of whether they misrepresent the meaning of the article. In this case, for example, the headline was taken from a rather secondary part of the interview. The following:

Is there an organ, today irreplaceable, but that will be [transplanted] in the future?

The brain.

Will it be viable?

To make it replaceable, we should know how to connect with the bone marrow the fibers leaving the central nervous system, otherwise... We are still far away, although we would like to be able to do it, for that would mean being able to cure quadriplegia and paraplegia. ...

Can you give me an example?

Consider what it would mean to people like Stephen Hawking, with a privileged brain, which you could transplant into a healthy body. Or many vegetative diseases that spoil the motor part of a body, with a healthy brain. It could be an unbeatable form of treatment, but we are far from it. Conceptually it would be the panacea.

Science fiction, obviously, but as usual, the writers of this literary genre had anticipated it. In 1928, Edgar Rice Burroughs (the author of Tarzan of the Apes) published The Master Mind of Mars, sixth in the series about John Carter of Mars. In this novel, he tackles brain transplantation as follows:

Ras Thavas is the mastermind of Mars, the man who has managed to solve the problem of brain transplant. In his laboratory, hidden in an almost inaccessible Martian place, Ras Thavas has found a practical application for his discovery by means of a new form of commerce: the sale of young bodies to rich old people. To do this, he organizes a slave buying and a kidnapping network, to obtain healthy bodies to be sold to his clients. Then he extracts the brain in the body and replaces it by his client’s brain, so that the latter recover their youth (according to Ras Thavas, or rather Burroughs, the brain does not age). But the mastermind of Mars has a problem: he is old and would like to use his own rejuvenating procedure, but cannot operate on himself and does not trust any of his assistants, who could cause his death in order to replace him. Just then Captain Ulysses Paxton, of the United States Army, arrives in Mars. He has no relation to any Martian, and therefore should be exempt from local ambitions. Ras Tha vas decides to instruct him, so that he will be able to perform the operation. Unfortunately, Paxton falls in love with a beautiful Martian girl whose body has been sold to a rich old woman, and promises her to recover it...

In a masterly way, Burroughs predicts in this novel almost all the ways in which brain transplant, if possible, could be misused. For instance, experimenting with mixed beings, partially human and partially animals, to which just half of the brain would have been transplanted. One of them, half ape and half man, becomes one of Paxton’s best helpers, when Paxton promises to return him his original body and his missing half brain.

What is the main scientific failure of the novel? That the brain also ages, and while a transplant to a healthier body could help an incapacitated person (as Matesanz suggests), it would not help to reach immortality.

Fortunately, brain transplantation, if possible, is so far away in time that we can forget about it, at least for the rest of the 21st century. It will be noticed that none of the futurologists who promise immediate immortality resort to this procedure to make it possible.

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Jersey City, New Jersey: Fire as a Weapon in Terrorist Attacks

James G. Goss 1060 Hilltop Haven Drive Jersey City, NJ 07304

The use of fire for criminal, gang, and terrorist activities, as well as targeting first responders, is not new. During the past four decades, the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) has faced hundreds of intentionally set fires that would often target people. On March 25, 1990, however, the unthinkable happened. An arsonist, with a plastic container of gasoline, spread the fuel on the exit stairs of the “Happy Land Night Club” in the Bronx intentionally killing 87 people, foreshadowing even larger events to come.

The attacks of September 11, 2001, are remembered as the first to employ airplanes as weapons of mass destruction, resulting in the deaths of almost 3,000 people. It was the resultant fires, however, that brought down Towers 1 and 2 of the World Trade Center in the deadliest attack on U.S. soil. Seven years later, in what is described as a “paradigm shift,” 10 terrorist operatives from Lashkar-i-Tayyiba (LeT) carried out attacks over three days in Mumbai, India, in November 2008, using a mix of automatic weapons, explosives and fire.[1] Each of these attacks is remembered for something other than fire, yet in each it was the fire that complicated rescue operations and drastically increased the lethality of the attacks.

A full understanding of fire as a weapon and implications for response are essential for homeland security, as it requires new policies and partnerships to address this emerging threat. Fire is an attractive weapon for terrorists for several reasons. Igniting a fire requires little to no training. Fire and associated smoke can penetrate defenses with alarming lethality. Fire makes tactical response more difficult. The images of fire also increase media coverage, capturing world attention.[2] The FDNY has been studying this terrorist trend closely and, as a result of those efforts, is leading the national fire service on this issue.

Security personnel and emergency responders must rethink the way that they prepare and respond to incidents and anticipate the use of fire as a weapon, especially when combined with other attack methods. This article examines the terrorist use of fire as a weapon, the complexities of responding to multi-modality attacks involving fire, and the role the FDNY can play in national homeland security efforts.

Understanding Fire as a Weapon

The devastating 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India, represented a game-changer. Over three days, a city of nearly 14 million was held hostage while 166 people were murdered in multiple locations across the city, introducing a new model for terrorist attacks. The nature of the Mumbai attack confused those providing tactical response, rescue operations, fire extinguishment and mass casualty care. The attackers employed multiple means of attack, including: improvised explosive devices, assassination, hostage barricade, building takeover, active shooter, kidnapping and fire. Despite all of the violence, the most iconic images from that event remain the fire at Taj Mahal Hotel. The pictures of people hanging out of the windows of the hotel to escape the fire are reminiscent of 9/11.

Brian Jenkins notably stated in 1974 that “terrorist attacks are often carefully choreographed to attract the attention of the electronic media and the international press…Terrorism is theater.” Directing the Mumbai attack from Pakistan, the mastermind asked the terrorists, “Are you setting the fire or not?”[3] He understood that the fire would capture the attention of the television cameras outside the hotel and would create an image the world would watch. In this case, fire was used as a strategic weapon. Yet it also created a condition that complicated the rescue planning and challenged the first responders to deal with not only an active shooter threat inside a hostage barricade situation, but also one where fire and smoke created a second layer of obstacles to the rescue force—one for which they were not prepared.

On September 11, 2012, the first murder of an American ambassador since 1988 took place in Benghazi, Libya. Although firearms, IEDs and military ordinance were used, it was not bullets or explosives that killed the U.S. ambassador, but rather smoke from an arson fire. During the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, which killed four Americans,[4] terrorists reportedly linked to Ansar al-Shari`a and al-Qa`ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) used fuel from jerry cans to start a fire in the main villa, where Ambassador Christopher Stevens was sheltering in the designated location with two members of his diplomatic security detail. As the three men attempted to escape the untenable atmosphere—filled with choking, blinding smoke—the ambassador was separated from the one member of the detail who was able to escape through a window. Unfortunately, Ambassador Stevens and the other agent did not follow. Similar to 9/11 and Mumbai, the world was left with another image of a building ablaze during a terrorist attack. Following this incident, similar arson attacks took place days after Benghazi against the UN Multinational Force in the Sinai Peninsula as well as at the U.S. Embassy in Tunis, Tunisia.

While successful attacks are instructive, it is equally important to study unrealized terrorist plots as they reveal a great deal about adversary intentions, motivations, target selection and desired tactics.

– Arriving in the United States from the United Kingdom, al-Qa`ida operative Dhiren Barot carried out reconnaissance for terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. Part of his research focused on exploiting building vulnerabilities, including gaps in fire protection. He determined that he could cause significant damage to the Prudential Building in Newark, New Jersey, and the Citi Corp Building in New York by ramming a loaded gas tanker truck into the lobby and then igniting the fuel.

– Another al-Qa`ida operative, Brooklyn-born Jose Padilla, determined that a “dirty bomb” attack might be too difficult to execute, so instead he planned to set wildfires, as well as ignite high-rise buildings by damaging the gas lines in apartments.

– An al-Qa`ida cell in the United Kingdom researched means to disable fire suppression systems to increase the impact of a plot that was ultimately disrupted by authorities.

These failed plots point to a strong interest in the use of fire as a weapon by terrorist groups and those they influence. In its widely disseminated English-language Inspire magazine, al-Qa`ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has repeatedly urged aspiring homegrown violent extremists to carry out low tech, high impact attacks in the United States or other Western countries. In one issue of Inspire, the readers were introduced to various methods of conducting an attack, including the use of simple “ember bombs” to ignite forest fires.[5] Equally important, the images from attacks like Mumbai serve as a model for others to follow.

These events reveal that a group does not need a great deal of training to conduct a dramatic terrorist attack. In April 2013, two men at the Boston Marathon killed three people, injured 275 others and paralyzed the city. The Boston attacks serve as an important reminder that attacks need not be sophisticated to be deadly. Indeed, a survey of terrorists’ attack plots in the United States over the past decade reveals a trend remarkable for the simplicity of attack plans. Fire as a weapon, by itself or along with other tactics, presents significant challenges that first responders and security forces must contend with in planning, preparation and drills.

Complexities in Responding to Multi-Modality Attacks Involving Fire

FDNY research and preparedness efforts on fire as a weapon have centered on what is now known as the “Mumbai-style attack method.” The salient features of a Mumbai-style attack include:

– multiple attackers,
– multiple targets and
– multiple weapon types (guns, explosives and fire)
– deployed over a prolonged operational period leveraging media attention to amplify the effects of the attack.

These factors create unique challenges for first responders beginning with the ability to quickly and accurately gain situational awareness of the nature and extent of the attack, the need for several command posts to address multiple attack sites and tactics, and techniques and procedures to deal with attacks deploying both fire and other attack modalities (e.g., active shooter).

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Fire presents a qualitatively different type of attack when used in conjunction with other attack means. Fire, and its associated smoke, can prove disorienting to a responding force, inhibit ingress to the target, create structural dangers and potentially increase the number of casualties that the security forces will encounter while trying to resolve the situation. These factors present significant challenges to counterterrorism operations.

To address these complex challenges, the FDNY has reaffirmed its relationships with established partners like the NYPD, and forged new partnerships that add essential expertise to develop effective techniques, tactics and procedures. The results of these initiatives are jointly published intelligence bulletins, forward-looking joint exercises and information exchanges that are pushing response models forward.

Several partnerships are worthy of mention: FDNY began meetings with FBI’s New York SWAT team to explore the idea of joint tactical teams simultaneously facing armed terrorists, fire and smoke, victims and mass casualties. Discussions and tabletop exercises led to two full-scale exercises that tested this concept. The insights gained from this one-year collaboration with the FBI culminated in the Interagency Tactical Response Model released in June 2012.

In May 2012, FDNY began collaboration with a group from the U.S. Army that specialize in rapid solutions to current and anticipated problems on the battlefield. As with the FBI, a series of meetings, training modules and tabletop exercises led to the group’s February 2013 “Red Team” paper on Fire and Smoke as a Weapon, envisioning a Mumbai-style attack in a hypothetical Manhattan office building in an attempt to gauge emergency responder preparedness related to this novel attack method.

After the Benghazi attacks, the Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service leveraged the FDNY to provide advice to its high-threat response team—the Mobile Security Deployment. Diplomatic Security Service agents were briefed on the most critical features of fire as a weapon. Agents were then put through firefighting training at the FDNY training academy, including extrication of fortified vehicles and a walk-through exercise of a Mumbai-style scenario.

Finally, the FDNY has worked closely with the London Fire Brigade on counterterrorism measures since the 7/7 bombings in 2005. In preparation for the 2012 Olympics, FDNY discussed with London’s fire service and the Metropolitan Police Service possible response scenarios to active shooter attacks involving fire in multiple locations.

Leading Role of FDNY in National Homeland Security Efforts

As consumers of intelligence, and the first line of defense when terrorist attacks occur, emergency responders require the best intelligence to carry out their duties across all mission areas. The understanding of the threat environment drives training initiatives, general awareness, safety protocols, operating procedures and risk management.

The fire service, however, is more than a consumer of intelligence. It is also a producer of intelligence as a non-traditional intelligence partner to the intelligence community. Firefighters and emergency medical personnel offer unique perspectives to more established intelligence partners and law enforcement, adding richness and insights in the understanding of the vulnerabilities and consequences related to varying threat streams. For more than five years, the FDNY has produced a weekly intelligence product called the Watchline, balancing a strategic focus with operational relevance to its primary readership: emergency responders. Fire service intelligence serves not only the response community but its intelligence partners with the delivery of tailored intelligence on the latest threats, trends, events and innovations that affect these groups, including the use of fire as a weapon on the world stage.

FDNY has also sent one of its officers to the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) on a one-year detail where the officer not only receives the latest intelligence and threat data, but also provides the intelligence community with fire service subject matter expertise on a broad range of issues related to emergency responders. NCTC has committed to providing first responders with the best threat intelligence so they can operate safely in performing their life saving mission, and recognizes the intrinsic value of this non-traditional partnership.

In addition, the FDNY collaborates with other partners throughout the intelligence community on the production of intelligence products. In May 2012, the Department of Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis released Terrorist Interest in Using Fire as a Weapon, written in close consultation with the FDNY. Key findings centered on the advantages of using fire over other terrorist tactics, potential for mass casualties, economic damage and emergency resource depletion.

Working with the Department of Defense’s Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office and New Mexico Tech’s Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center, the FDNY wants to examine the vulnerability of high-rise building fire suppression systems. This interagency group hopes to construct a fire protection system and building mock-up for the purpose of testing blast effects on standpipes and sprinklers. Test results could then be used to inform first responders, Homeland Security and the State Department of the level of vulnerability of a combination attack of IEDs and fire.

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