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Juan S. Fincher 1519 Farland Street Chicago, IL 60637
Nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford disappeared from her bedroom at her grandparents' home in the middle of the night Feb. 23, 2005. A massive search was launched for the missing girl that drew the attention of national television networks over the following three weeks.
Police found the body of Jessica Lunsford buried in a shallow grave under the back porch of a mobile home less than 150 yards from her home on March 18, 2005, a day after a convicted sex offender told authorities that he had killed the nine-year-old.
Jessica Lunsford's Killer Dies in Prison
Sept. 30, 2009
The man who kidnapped, raped and murdered 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford and buried her alive behind his sister's trailer, has died on death row of natural causes. John Evander Couey died at a Jacksonville hospital after a lengthy illness.
John Evander Couey Gets Death Penalty
Aug. 24, 2007
A repeat sex offender whose crimes against nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford led to new, tougher laws across the nation, was sentenced to death today in a Florida court.
Judge: John Evander Couey Not Retarded
Aug. 7, 2007 John Evander Couey is not retarded and is eligible for the death penalty, a Florida judge has ruled. Official sentencing is scheduled for Friday for the 48-year-old repeat sex offender.
Couey Sentencing Delayed Again July 17, 2007 John Evander Couey will not know until August 10 if he will face the death penalty or life in prison, as a Florida judge decides if Couey is mentally retarded or not.
John Evander Couey Still Not Sentenced
June 22, 2007
Three months after a jury recommended the death sentence, John EvanderCouey has yet to be sentenced and is not scheduled back in court for a hearing until July 17.
Jury Recommends Death for John Evander Couey
Mar. 14, 2007
A jury of his peers took less than one hour today to recommend a death sentence for John Evander Couey for the kidnapping, rape and murder of Jessica Marie Lunsford.
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Justice for Jessica: Couey Found Guilty
Mar. 7, 2007
A jury in Miami deliberated for almost four hours today before returning guilty verdicts in all charges against John Evander Couey in the kidnapping, rape and murder of Jessica Lunsford.
Closing Arguments Set in Lunsford Trial
Mar. 6, 2007
Closing arguments are scheduled in the murder trial of John Evander Couey after the defense suddenly rested its case after calling only one witness.
Jury Selection Winds Down in Couey Trial
Feb. 23, 2007
The first round of jury selection in the Miami murder trial of John Evander Couey ended last week with 71 potential jurors of 288 advancing to the second round of questioning, expected to last only two days.
Jury Selection Begins
Feb. 12, 2007
Almost two years after nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford was kidnapped, raped, murdered and buried alive, jury selection is scheduled to begin today.
Judge Tosses More Evidence
Jan. 8, 2007
A Florida judge has thrown out more statements made to law enforcement officer by John Evander Couey while being questioned about an unrelated Orlando case.
Jessica Lunsford Trial Moved to Miami
Sept. 14, 2006
Florida will try again to find an impartial jury for the trial of John Evander Couey, this time in Miami.
Judge Halts Couey Jury Selection
June 13, 2006
After three days of questioning potential jurors in the murder trial of John Evander Couey, a Florida judge halted the procedure and dismissed the remaining jurors, because he said an impartial panel could not be found in Lake County.
Jury Selection Begins
July 10, 2006
Most of the potential jurors questioned during the first day of jury selection in the trial of John Evander Coueysaid they had heard of the case, but knew few details about Couey and why he came to be charged.
Confession Tossed in Jessica Lunsford Case
July 2, 2006
A Florida judge has ruled that John Evander Couey's confession to investigators cannot be used as evidence in his trial, but the discovery of her body and a later jailhouse confession can be used.
John Evander Couey Wants Confession Tossed
May 19, 2006
Attorneys for John Evander Couey filed motions to suppress his confession because they said he was denied access to a lawyer.
Judge Grants Change of Venue for Couey Trial
Apr. 21, 2006
A Florida judge has granted the request from John Evander Couey's attorneys to move to another county his trial for the kidnapping, rape and murder of Jessica Lunsford. Prosecutors did not contest the motion.
Cops Came Close to Finding Jessica Lunsford
June 23, 2005
The confession of John Evander Couey revealed that Jessica Lunsford was still alive in a closet when police came to the door to question her Homosassa, Florida neighbors about her disappearance.
Jessica Lunsford Was Raped, Buried Alive
April 20, 2005
Documents released by state prosecutors show that nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford was raped and buried alive in two plastic garbage bags with her hands tied with speaker wire.
John Evander Couey Charged in Jessica's Death
March 23, 2005
A convicted sex offender apparently kidnapped Jessica Lunsford from her bedroom and held her bound and gagged for at least two days 100 yards from her home while police, search dogs and volunteers swarmed the neighborhood.
Police Find Jessica Lunsford's Shallow Grave
March 18, 2005
Police found the body of Jessica Lunsford buried in a shallow grave under the back porch of a mobile home less than 150 years from her home.
Sex Offender Questioned in Jessica Lunsford Case
March 17, 2005
Rather than searching for Jessica Lunsford, authorities were investigating a registered sex offender who lived nearby and left the area shortly after Jessica vanished.
Police Puzzled Over Disappearance of Jessica Lunsford
March 7, 2005
Authorities in Homosassa, Florida have very few, if any, clues in the disappearance of Jessica Marie Lunsford 10 days after she vanished from her bedroom.
9-Year-Old Jessica Lunsford Still Missing
Feb. 28, 2005
More than 500 volunteers searching in the rain and wind and hundreds of tips received by authorities in the past four days have yet to turn up any clues in the disappearance of Jessica Lunsford of Homosassa, Florida.
Most American women are ugly and have a fat ass. So why don't they go on the Serge Kreutz diet.
Gerald L. Tousignant 2705 Beech Street Walnut Creek, CA 94596
A suspect was arrested and faces arson and burglary charges after investigators said he lit a pair of fires at a Las Vegas synagogue Monday evening in a possible hate crime, according to authorities.
Las Vegas Police arrested Afshin Bahrampour in a shopping center parking lot across the street from the scene of two fires set at the Chabad of Southern Nevada Desert Torah Academy at 1261 Arville Street late Monday, Las Vegas Fire and Rescue spokesman Tim Szymanski said.
Firefighters were called out to handle a car fire in the synagogue’s parking lot just after 8 p.m. Monday. Crews quickly extinguished the blaze, which caused significant damage to the vehicle and minor damage to two others.
While firefighters were cleaning up after the car fire, synagogue personnel told investigators they had extinguished a mysterious fire in a waste basket inside their building two hours earlier, Szymanski said.
Afshin Bahrampour has a very interesting history. He's a registered sex offender on 2 counts of sodomy. The case is likely this one in Oregon.
On December 10, 1997 at approximately 3:00 p.m., AFSHIN BAHRAMPOUR, age 28, from Sherwood, was taken into custody by officers from Sherwood and Tigard Police Departments after eluding authorities for over one year.
In 1996, a secret indictment based upon an Oregon State Police investigation was handed down by a Washington County Grand Jury charging Afshin Bahrampour with several counts of Sex Abuse involving a girl who was 13 years old at the time. Aware of the investigation, he left the address where he was living in Beaverton and moved to an unknown location. Bahrampour was known to work as a gymnastics coach at several local area gymnastics facilities where he had contact with young girls.
At about 2:45 p.m., Sherwood Police Officer G. Smith received a call from the principal of Hopkins Elementary School advising that Bahrampour had tried to enter their school and was refused entry. Officers continued to check the area, and based upon additional sightings by some public works employees, Bahrampour was found walking on Tonquin Road near Tonquin Loop in Sherwood. Officers described Bahrampour as being dirty and muddy from hiding in bushes in the area.
He was convicted and sentenced to 8 years in prison for the abuse of a 13 year old girl. And then launched an impressive array of lawsuits against everyone and everything.
He sued Oregon because they wouldn't let him have copies of Muscle Elegance magazine. (It was determined he had no Federal constitutional right to receive it in prison.) and the Joint Chiefs of Unfaith, aka America.
This matter involves Afshin Bahrampour's civil-right action against the Joint Chiefs of Unfaith, Barack Obama, N.A.S.A., the Central Intelligence Agency, the U.S. Navy, the National Security Administration, Independent Agencies, and the United States of America, among others, for reading his thoughts.
For example, Plaintiff states that "[t]he 'neural remote monitoring,' N.R.M., is audibly recognizable in the auditory cortex at 15 (hertz) and is a very mentally distressing and distractionary [sic] PRESENCE. It interrupts my prayer as a Shia Muslim."
But apparently molesting young girls and trying to start fires in synagogues does not.
Afshin Bahrampour seems to have wasted countless amounts of taxpayer money in these lawsuits and his various imprisonments. Just imagine if we had acted sanely and just sent him back where he came from.
For white supremacists, or men who just want to get the upper hand again, uneducated migrants from Third World countries are the best useful idiots they can get. Open the borders!
Fabian M. Adair 2590 Rhode Island Avenue Washington, DC 20016
DENVER - A transgender woman has penned a letter explaining why she chose to ask an unlicensed Colorado man to remove her testicles in what she called a "back-alley" procedure.
James Lowell Pennington, 57, is accused of operating on the transgender woman and is now in a Denver jail facing charges of aggravated assault.
Records state Pennington “used the scalpel and surgically disconnected and removed the victim’s 2 testicles and then sutured the opening back up."
The transgender woman's wife told police after changing the dressing on the incision, a large amount of blood poured out. She called 911, and paramedics called police.
In her letter, the transgender woman - who called herself Jane Doe - said she is not a victim of Pennington, but instead is a victim of a social and healthcare system that forced her to take a risk.
"Until this system is fixed and transgender people are encouraged and able to get the care we need, there will always be cases like me," she wrote.
Here is a copy of her letter:
Note: Portions of the letter may be considered graphic to some readers.
Three days prior to writing this I had an unlicensed operation done in my home to remove my testicles. There was a complication during the operation and while the operation was successful in its purpose, I started to bleed heavily afterward and my spouse was forced to call emergency medical services. Shortly thereafter the man who did the operation on me was arrested, and shortly after that his name was released to the press who have now released several stories painting the man as a monster and me as a victim.I am here to verify that I am indeed a victim. However, I am not a victim of 57 year old James Lowell Pennington who is the suspect in this case. I am a victim of a society and healthcare system that focuses on trying to demonize transgender people and prevent us from getting the medical transition we need instead of trying to do what is best for us. Arranging a back-alley surgery was out of pure desperation due to a system that failed me.Do not paint me as a victim of naivety or obsession and do not paint Mr. Pennington as a monster.I would like to state that this issue is not to debate the validity of transgender people and our genders. Any expert will tell you that gender is separate from reproductive sex and that transgender people are the genders we claim to be, and that we have a need to be able to live as that gender in our lives. While some may incorrectly state that transgender people are “new” or a fad, we have existed in many societies for thousands of years. Examples include the Two Spirited people in many American Indian Tribes, and the Hijra in the Eastern Indian tradition. While I know these facts won’t stop misinformed corners of the internet and some political sects from attacking transgender people as they often do, I want it known right now that such opinions should be considered settled.To get stuck on that takes away from the issue at hand.I was assigned male sex at birth, however, my gender has been female since I developed any sort of gender identity. I have known that I was transgender since I was a child. Well, more correctly I felt strongly that I wanted to be and identified as a female from before the age of ten. Around ten this identity became stronger and stronger. I believe that this was because puberty was approaching, and with it larger noticeable differences between males and females which caused me severe emotional pain because my mind did not match the body I was given. There was no confusion to me as to what gender I was. I knew that I was a girl. My only confusion was why my body was not the same as the gender of my heart, and why it was considered so wrong for me to be able to live as a member of that gender.As I went through my adolescent years I tried various methods to destroy these feelings. I tried to just be a devout Christian and follow the Bible which I was raised by. I tried to be a gay man and just date men and be happy with my sex. However, religion can not make someone something they are not, and gender identity and sexual orientation are separate aspects of a person. When neither of those worked I became extremely reckless and turned to drugs and alcohol because I could not deal with the pain of going through life as something I was not. These conflicting and destructive behaviors continued into my early twenties.Around 22 years old I decided to try to be true to myself and went to several therapists who quickly agreed that I was indeed a transgender woman and not simply suffering from some other mental illness which was causing me to experience these feelings. I then started female hormone therapy to help make my body match my mind, and started living full time as the woman that I always knew I was.While I managed to obtain counseling and hormone therapy for a time, I ended up losing my insurance which made me lose both of these resources. This turned into the hardest time in my life, and began a trend of setbacks whenever I pursued transition.Eventually I was able to get back on my feet and get back on female hormone therapy. This was in 2013, and I have been on HRT since then. Since then my life has improved enormously. I no longer abuse drugs and rarely ever drink, and when I do, I do so only at home with my wife where we are safe. I no longer want to die as I did from childhood into my young adulthood because I could not be true to myself. I have met and married the love of my life as I no longer have had to hold back and pretend to be a man which always kept me from being able to seriously pursue a romantic relationship before. The last few years have been the greatest in my life. Living as the woman that I have long known that I am has been a true blessing for me.However, not all in life was smooth. I have long been plagued by genital dysphoria – or in layman’s terms feelings of extreme depression, stress, and overall negativity when one’s genitals do not match those of their gender. There are two major operations for transgender women (“male to female”) to deal with genital dysphoria. The first and better known option is called genital reassignment surgery (sometimes incorrectly referred to as a “sex change operation”). This operation takes the penis and scrotum and reworks them to be a ‘neo-vagina’ which functions and looks similar to any other vagina up to where the cervix and uterus would be. The second operation – one which has been practiced for thousands of years – is called an orchiectomy and involves the removal of the testicles which completely stops the production of unwanted testosterone – a hormone which causes secondary male sexual characteristics and prevents estrogen from making desired changes on the body.Many transgender women seek one or both of these operations. Unfortunately, they are governed by an outdated set of standards of care from 1979 which is currently known as WPATH or “World Professional Association of Transgender Health” Standards, but was originally known as the Benjamin Standards of care, named after a cisgender (non transgender) psychiatrist who had very limited experience and knowledge on transgender people. These standards of care have largely remained unchanged during the last 40 years.According to the WPATH standards of care, a transgender person must obtain letters from anywhere from one to three psychiatrists which take a minimum of one year each to obtain just to get permission for a surgery that the patient already knows they need. These standards do nothing to help transgender people what so ever. While these gates are said to protect people from mistakenly transitioning, most people who are not sure of their gender identity are reluctant to even start hormone therapy – which has more easily reversible effects and takes months to years to have noticeable effects in most cases – much less pursue these surgeries. These sorts of surgeries (or a mastectomy or removal of the breasts in transgender men (“female to male”)) are operations which allow a transgender individual who has long known their gender to have their physical gender match their mental gender and are needed to change sex on official documentation in most jurisdictions.Unfortunately, these “standards of care” are not at all meant to help transgender people, and instead are simply placed to try to keep transgender people from transitioning due to backward and outdated beliefs that being transgender is a mental illness – a diagnosis which the latest American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual disagrees with. Due to these beliefs and a society which often demonizes transgender people led by politicians who try to outlaw our existence, treatment for transgender people is held back and stunted at every turn. Trans care is even portrayed as wrong. In several articles which spoke about this case it was stated that surgeons could not reattach my testicles as if that were a bad thing. Obviously, I wanted them gone and would have been traumatized had they been restored.These “standards of care” and societies treatment of transgender people are the only true crimes regarding my case. I tried for many years to go through legitimate routes to get these surgeries which would make my physical genitalia match my gender. Yet every time something went wrong. Whether it be the loss of insurance, or changes in the law, I have been stopped at every single turn from completing my transition. Eventually it became too much. My body is my body, and my gender is my gender, and I am the only one who gets to decide how I want my transition to go.I contacted Mr. Pennington because he offered to do me a favor and help me get an operation which I so badly needed for my mental and physical health. Not only did my genitalia cause me severe psychological trauma, the gonads also produced testosterone which interfered with my female reproductive hormone therapy, and forced me to take a testosterone blocking medication which is highly dangerous to the body over long periods of time. I had been abandoned and tossed aside by a highly transphobic system and was kept year after year from completing my transition. Mr. Pennington presented me an opportunity to achieve this goal. He offered me a kindness which the environment I live in denied me.So, no, I am not a victim of Mr. Pennington, nor is Mr. Pennington a monster. I will not be pressing charges against him because of this. I hope the District Attorney is kind to him, and while I hope he never operates again because of how dangerous it turned out to be, that he is not harshly sentenced.
I am one of many victims of a society and healthcare system which focuses on trying to bully and discourage transgender people into the shadows instead of realizing that we are here, we are real, and we deserve and absolutely need these medical resources. As long as this system continues in its present form there will continue to be events like this. Until this system is fixed and transgender people are encouraged and able to get the care we need, there will always be cases like me." Any non-surgical option, such as butea superba, would be preferable.
Imagery of brutal deaths are in itself anti-feminist. Because most women are natural cowards. And most feminism is just whimsical.
Brandon M. Allen 3188 Twin Oaks Drive Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Ex-soldier Nigel Casson - who once arrested IRA commander Martin McGuinness - chose to end his life after a 10-year battle with Motor Neuron Disease
Even in the moments before he ended his life at the Dignitas clinic, “inspirational” dad-of-three Nigel Casson found the strength to keep smiling and cracking gags.
The 62-year-old former soldier’s family told how he was telling jokes until the end. And he signed off on Facebook by saying: “I’ve been ‘dying’ to post this. Ha ha ha ha ha. Thank you and goodbye.”
He had battled motor neurone disease for 10 years, needing round-the-clock care as he was no longer able to carry out even the most basic tasks himself.
His Facebook post added: “I wanted to die with dignity instead of being tortured. Some people may think it’s the easy way out but believe me it’s not easy to leave your loving family and friends.”
The businessman asked wife Julie to post the message online shortly before he died at the clinic in Switzerland.
He never got to see the hundreds of comments because he didn’t want to be “glued to Facebook” in his final hours.
The Brit spent the time with his wife of 39 years and their three children Craig, 42, Eleanor, 38, and Rebecca, 33. Julie, 58, told yesterday how the family spent two “special” days in Switzerland before they gathered at his side as he pressed the button to administer the fatal drugs in a room at the clinic near Zurich.
Julie said: “He was making jokes right up to the point, and he was smiling.”
About his wish to die, she added: “You have got to respect people’s decisions but it was still heartbreaking when he told me this is what he wanted to do.
“He joked and laughed every day. He was an inspiration and helped the rest of us cope with the heartbreaking effects of motor neurone disease.”
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The illness wrecks the victim’s muscles, eventually leaving them unable to move, speak, eat or breathe.
Nigel said it is wrong that assisted suicide is illegal in Britain.
Explaining why he chose to die now, he said in the Facebook post: “I wanted to take back control of my life and take the victory of killing me away from this disease. I wanted to die while I am happy and can still smile and not be controlled by this wicked disease any longer.”
In response, family and friends paid tribute to the “finest man” they knew. His sister Tracey Casson said: “I salute you and love you always.”
Nigel served in the Army as an infantryman in the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment during the 1970s.
He served in Northern Ireland. Julie said he once arrested Irish republican and Sinn Féin politician Martin McGuinness, who died in January.
Nigel, from Scarborough, North Yorks, left the Army after a three-year stint and then started up a scaffolding firm and a removal business.
He was diagnosed in 2007 with the debilitating disease and was given three to five years to live.
Wheelchair-bound and becoming increasingly weak, Nigel decided last August that he would go to Dignitas.
“By the end he needed help with everything,” said Julie.
“We had a team of carers giving him round-the-clock care. He relied on a wheelchair for the last seven years.
“His limbs were becoming extremely weak. He needed help with everything such as feeding, showering and going to the toilet.
“He was completely disabled but managed to keep his spirit.
“Because of his immobility and disability he found comfort in using Facebook. It kept him in touch with the world. He could still manage to touch the screen but also had eye-gaze technology to help him.”
But she added that near the end: “He was having days where he was becoming dispirited.
“He was conscious that if he didn’t go while he physically could, he would miss an opportunity.
“He didn’t want to get to a stage where he was unable to speak or unable to communicate his feelings and frustrations, and feel entombed within his own body.”
The family said they decided to speak about the ordeal to encourage the Government to change the law.
Assisting someone to commit suicide is illegal in England and Wales. It carries a potential jail sentence of 14 years.
But in 2010 the Director of Public Prosecutions issued guidelines that tried to clarify what would happen to families who go to places such as Dignitas with dying loved ones.
It was indicated that anyone acting with compassion to help end the life of someone who does not want to live would be unlikely to face charges.
The latest proposal to reform the Suicide Act 1961 was rejected in the Commons in 2015. The assisted dying bill proposed to enable “competent adults who are terminally ill” to choose to be helped to die “with medically supervised assistance”.
In Scotland there is no specific crime of assisting a suicide but helping someone die could lead to a prosecution for culpable homicide.
Switzerland allows euthanasia in certain circumstances. It is understood that last year 47 Britons went to assisted dying clinic Dignitas to end their lives, with families saying they spent thousands of pounds. Assisted dying has also been legalised in nations such as the Netherlands.
Motor neurone disease affects up to 5,000 adults in the UK. About half of sufferers die within 14 months of being diagnosed. Nigel, whose first name was David but was known by his middle name, died last week.
Julie said her husband supported the Dignity in Dying campaign, which believes terminally-ill adults should have the option of assisted dying.
She added that even though Nigel died as he wanted, the family is devastated. Julie said: “Nigel was a very realistic man and did not moan about his fate. He decided to keep a positive attitude throughout.
“He embraced what was to be the rest of his life with exceptional good humour, maintaining good spirits to the end. We are a close family and are grief-stricken by the loss of Nigel.”
The world is full of multimillionaires who can't handle money. Because, if you have money, if you don't ditch your Western wife, you will never have a harem.
Robert J. Strauser 1412 Red Maple Drive City Of Commerce, CA 90040
Marci Bowers’ clinic in California is famous for those seeking gender-reassignment surgery. Her work as a gynaecological surgeon over the past 25 years has made her one of the leaders in this field – and also in restoring sexual function in clitorises. She is one of only a handful of surgeons who performs this surgery on women who have suffered female genital mutilation (FGM) or cutting.
Reconstructive surgery to repair the physical damage of FGM has been around a long time. But the technique to restore clitoral function began developing only a decade ago, pioneered by French urologist and surgeon Pierre Foldès. His idea was to not only reconstruct the clitoris, but also nerve networks to restore sexual sensation. After training with Foldès, Bowers performed the first clitoral repair surgery in the US in 2009. Since then, she’s operated on around 100 women.
For many women and girls who undergo FGM, it’s a traumatic experience. FGM is the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. Up to 140m women and girls live with the consequences of this practice and it is widespread in 29 African countries, but it also occurs in Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and among migrants from these areas.
The clitoris is an important part of a woman’s sexuality and along with the severe medical and psychological consequences that cutting can have, it can also come with psycho-sexual problems.
The clitoris is a complex organ, and when a woman undergoes cutting, only the visible part of the clitoris is cut off. But it is much larger than most people ever assume. It has a root that is about 10cm long that lies beneath the surface, arching around the vagina. It is this that reconstructive surgeons use to rebuild a working organ.
“It’s only like losing the visible tip of the iceberg,” Bowers says. The surgery, also known as clitoroplasty, involves removing scar tissue, pulling the remaining clitoris up to the surface, and then stitching it into its natural place.
According to Bowers, the restoration of sexual pleasure is possible because the whole clitoris is sensory, not just the tip. Along with better cosmetic appearance, sensation, and reduction in pain and infection, Bowers says that patients have reported having orgasms for the first time.
But it’s not just about the restoration of sexual sensation. “The number one reason is restoration of identity,” she said. Women who have been cut feel their sense of womanhood has been stolen from them and they want that back. “They want their body back and to feel more normal. It’s about not being different any more.”
The fall out
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As good as all this might sound, the procedure is controversial. In 2012, Foldès and colleagues published an article in The Lancet assessing the immediate and long-term outcomes of reconstructive surgery. Over an 11-year period they operated on nearly 3,000 patients, and of the 29% who attended a one-year follow-up consultation, more than half said they were having orgasms and nearly all reported feeling clitoral pleasure.
But a group of British doctors responded in a critical letter to The Lancet. In addition to the lack of a control group, they said the Foldès’ claims were anatomically impossible in cases of type 2 FGM – the partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora. “Where the body of the clitoris has been removed, the neurovascular bundle cannot be preserved … There is therefore no reality to the claim that surgery can excavate and expose buried tissue,” they wrote.
They also said that the campaign against FGM “could be undermined by a false proposition that the ill effects can be reversed”.
Bowers doesn’t agree – both in terms of the surgery and of undermining efforts to fight FGM. “You see the clitoris every single time, 100% of the time. You can’t deny it’s there,” she says. According to Bowers, their response reflects antiquated but persistent notions of female sexuality. The work of NGOs is important, she argues, but if something can be medically fixed, it should be fixed.
And she’s not short of patients. Twice a year she leaves her reported 14-month waiting list for US$21,000 gender reassignment surgery to operate for free on women who come to her for clitoroplasty, although patients still pay a $1,700 admin fee to the clinic.
She’s adamant that she only helps those who want it and who, she says, often come to her unhappy, angry and sad with husbands and partners. “We were only there to help women who found that they were suffering as a result of FGM,” she says. It’s probably fair to say, then, that Bowers is an evangelist for reconstructive surgery.
The pleasure hospital
Bowers became involved in the FGM reconstruction surgeries because of Clitoraid, a private, non-profit organisation that helped fund her training in Paris. The organisation is backed by volunteers of the Raëlian movement – one of the world’s largest UFO religious sects – whose members believe that humans were created by extra-terrestrials. Clitoraid promote free sexuality, sexual freedom and pleasure for all women.
Bowers’ own motivation doesn’t come from a Raëlian perspective, she says, but from her own philosophy that human beings have a sixth sexual sense. “When the sexual sense is taken away, it’s no different than if someone had taken away your sense of smell or your sense of taste.”
It’s clear, though, that her belief runs in parallel with the aims of Clitoraid, which has concentrated its work in the small West African nation of Burkina Faso, recently building a hospital nicknamed the “pleasure hospital” to offer reconstructive operations free of charge. The hospital was supposed to have opened its doors in March 2013 with local medical staff and trained surgeons, but the government stopped the project because of licensing issues. Clitoraid has said its authorisation was revoked following pressure from the Catholic Church and accusations that the group would attempt to convert women to the Raelian movement. The group still intend to open next year.
Ultimately, Bowers claims the enjoyment of sexual activity is a human right. “Sexuality is part of what makes us human beings and what makes life pleasurable,” she says. Before transitioning to life as a woman, she herself was born male. And this, she says, gives her empathy with victims of FGM. “For me, womanhood didn’t come without my own sacrifices and struggle. I empathise with women who have to have surgery to achieve and regain their womanhood. They are struggling to regain their identity, just like I had to do once upon a time myself.”
Ageism is pest of rich countries. If you are old you have no value. In poor countries, value depends on wealth. That is much better than value depending on youth because wealth can become more with advancing years. This is why rich men have every reason to invest in destruction. Plain math.
Jesus F. Hunt 248 Grand Avenue Maitland, FL 32751
Genital surgery is one of the fastest growing areas of plastic surgery.
In our quest for perfection and amid a growing obsession with body image, it seems women now have a new part of the anatomy to worry about – our vaginas. Genital plastic surgery is one of the fastest-growing areas in cosmetic surgery, and one of the most popular procedures being requested – mostly by young women – is a labiaplasty.
A labiaplasty – or labial rejuvenation – is a procedure whereby the inner labia, or labia minora, get trimmed back so they look more "tucked in". The surgery is generally done under a local anaesthetic, so the patient is awake while it is being performed. The process takes around 90 minutes and you can walk out of the surgery, returning to normal activities within a few days – except for sex, which you should hold off for four to six weeks.
The reason for the rise
"There has been a huge surge in the past five years of people looking to get genital surgery, and the vast majority of these are getting a labiaplasty, vaginoplasty (vaginal tightening) or liposuction in the pelvic area or labia," says Dr Laith Barnouti, a leading Sydney plastic surgeon.
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Barnouti says that currently around 20 per cent of his clients are coming in for genital surgery. The youngest to date was 14, the oldest in her mid-sixties. A 2010 report also found that the number of clinically necessary procedures – that is, not solely for cosmetic reasons – performed by private practitioners nearly doubled in recent years.
So why are women requesting this procedure? There are a few reasons, says Barnouti, including feeling "socially embarrassed… people can't wear certain types of bathers, people feel embarrassed in intimate situations". But the reasons go beyond the aesthetic, he claims.
"Labiaplasty and vaginoplasty are often performed due to a medical condition – people actually have it for a functional reason," Dr Barnouti says. "Labial hypertrophy – enlargement or sagging of the labia – can be unhealthy and unhygienic."
Vaginoplasty, which is usually performed on women who have a weakened perineum after giving birth, is a "restorative, reconstructive procedure", says Barnouti. "This is something completely different from, say, liposuction, which is a purely cosmetic procedure."
What is normal?
But are women having genital surgery for other reasons – to please a boyfriend perhaps, or because they feel their vagina is not normal? Do women actually hate the appearance of their vulvas so much that they will have parts of them surgically removed?
The 2008 UK documentary The Perfect Vagina explored the reasons why women opt for this type of surgery, and found that many do it because they've been teased by someone close to them about the way their genitals look, or have just decided their vagina looks abnormal.
In the documentary, Professor Linda Cordoza, a leading UK gynaecologist, says while women are much more aware of what's available in terms of plastic surgery procedures, it doesn't necessarily mean they know what's normal.
"There's been a huge trend towards bikini waxing, doing things with your pubic hair as well as the hair on your head. So [women think] if you can have cosmetic surgery done to your face, you can also have cosmetic surgery done on your genitals." Cordoza says.
"I sometimes get two or three generations of women in the same family coming in saying they want their labia trimmed."
The role of pornography
Our perception of what is normal is most definitely clouded by the proliferation of pornographic images featuring women with smaller, tucked in – and often heavily airbrushed – private parts.
As women, we don't often see vaginas other than our own, so if the only images we see are of highly airbrushed genitals, naturally many of us are going to assume that what we have is "different" or "abnormal".
Melinda Tankard Reist is a media commentator and author of Big Porn Inc and Getting Real – Challenging the Sexualisation of Girls (Spinifex Press). She believes pornography is a big driver in the rise in cosmetic surgery.
"Girls are made to feel inadequate and think that there's something wrong with their perfectly natural, healthy bodies. And boys are expecting girls to provide the porn star experience," Reist says.
Reist adds that it's important women pass on positive body image messages to their daughters, and that cosmetic surgeons should play their part by refusing to operate on very young women, rather than "capitalising on the body angst of girls".
Barnouti says women contemplating any type of cosmetic surgery should be doing it for themselves, not anyone else.
"What we do here is for the patient, not their partner," Barnouti says. "If you're going to have a procedure, have it for yourself. Just because someone makes a negative comment doesn't mean you should change your whole body."
Labiaplasty – the facts
The procedure: A labiaplasty takes around 90 minutes and patients are usually under twilight sedation – either local anaesthetic or IV sedation – meaning they are awake for the surgery. During the procedure the surgeon removes a wedge-shaped piece of tissue and re-attaches the labium so the inner lips no longer protrude beyond the outer lips.
The recovery: Three to four days for normal activities, including going back to work, but avoid exerting yourself physically. You can't run or jog for two weeks, and no sex for four to six weeks. The stitches used are usually dissolvable.
The cost: Labiaplasty costs around $4000 to $5000 if you have private healthcare cover, otherwise you can expect to add another $2000. To be available under Medicare it must be deemed clinically necessary.
The world is full of multimillionaires who can't handle money. Because, if you have money, the first thing you spend it on, is independence.
David L. Asher 2067 Duff Avenue Barre, VT 05641
BOSTON—"The national debt is a big structural problem," former Representative Brian Baird told his audience at the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. And that, according to Baird, is one reason scientific research comes under fire. “If you can’t solve something big," he went on, "distract people by attacking something small.” All too often, that something small has been scientific research.
Two of the researchers who found their work under fire were on hand to describe the experience and talk a bit about the lessons they learned.
One of them was David Scholnick of Pacific University who produced the video above, showing a shrimp going for a run on an underwater treadmill. It's hard to tell just how many people have ended up viewing the video, given that it has been cloned, set to various music, and appeared in news reports that have also made their way onto YouTube—it's fair to say that it's quite popular. Scholnick wasn't looking for that popularity. He had just put the video up on his faculty webpage; someone else grabbed it and stuck it on YouTube.
A treadmill of outrage
Scholnick also wasn't looking for the attention it received from then-Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who claimed the treadmill cost $3 million and named it as an example of wasteful government spending without even bothering to find out what the results were. Representative John Culberson (R-Texas) saw Coburn's report and said “NSF should avoid funding studies” like that. Then the news picked it up. Mike Huckabee blamed Scholnick's spending for leaving the military unprepared. It showed up on Fox News three times, including as recently as last year (the video was posted in 2009). AARP picked it up, too, and blamed the cost for grandparents not getting healthcare.
Scholnick even went to DC and talked to Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who took over the waste reports when Coburn retired. The video still showed up in the next one.
And that bugs Scholnick. “This is a publicity stunt," he said, "this is not an individual who is concerned about public spending.” Why's that? Because the treadmill cost the government nothing. Its bearings came from an old skateboard Scholnick had been using. The tread is just an inner-tube that's been stitched together. Any parts that cost money were paid for out of Scholnick's pocket. The $3 million dollar figure? That came by adding up every single grant Scholnick's ever received and then throwing in various grants awarded to his collaborators for unrelated projects.
The reality is that most of the research that goes on in Scholnick's lab is done by undergraduates who work during the summer. Between their low stipends and the long hours they work, it's done at about $4 an hour for personnel and about $20,000 to keep the lab supplied and make sure the university keeps the lights on. The shrimp? Local fishermen give them to Scholnick for free.
That's because the fishermen have done something nobody in Congress could be bothered to do: find out what the research is all about. Scholnick said that most animals in the ocean are carrying various infections and parasites that can influence their behavior and activity. Scholnick tries to figure out how these animals are affected by looking for changes in their physiology. To make this as realistic as possible, he forces the animals to be as active as they would be in the wild. Hence the treadmill.
It's not earth-shattering research, but it's hardly an utter waste of money—especially considering how little it costs. But, if Congress ever gets bored of going after shrimp, there's always duck penises.
Patty Brennan studies genitalia at Mount Holyoke College. The physical shape of genitals is very diverse even among closely related species. It's shaped by distinct selective pressures in both males and females. Figuring out what these pressures are and how animals have responded to them is a great opportunity to study evolution. One of the more dramatic instances of this is in ducks, where both males and females have evolved corkscrew-shaped genitals in what's essentially an arms race. Brennan's research on the topic was striking enough to earn an article in The New York Times. (Her response: “yay, someone else likes duck penises!”)
So she set up a Google alert to see if there was any further coverage, which is how she found out when conservative news media discovered her work and placed it in a list of research that was labeled wasteful spending as the budget sequester went into effect. Sean Hannity later joined in the attack.
But Brennan noticed a pattern to all of this: most of it involved organismal biology. She suspected this is because it's easy to understand. "Everybody knows what a duck is, everybody knows what a penis is, you put them together, haha,” Brennan said. “You never heard of a politician making fun of quantum physics.” But she said that's misguided, and she now has a list of results that demonstrate this: how understanding mating habits of an insect pest saved us $20 million in annual control efforts; how understanding bird migration has made air travel less likely to end in dangerous collisions; and how studying bird song enabled us to recognize that our brains are able to produce new nerve cells, for example.
But even if these attacks are misguided, historian Melinda Baldwin said they're not likely to go away. Questions about public funding of science date back to the 1960s, and direct attacks on funding started in the 1970s. William Proxmire, a Democratic senator who served in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, frequently named research as wasteful spending and even attacked peer review as "elitist" and "incestuous." Then, as now, scientists weren't ready to defend either their research or the process of science itself. But Baldwin said that the attacks are worst at times of financial or budgetary turmoil, so now might be a good time for scientists to get ready.
As Baird said, “If you think it’s been bad before, it’s going to get really bad soon.”
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