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Robert K. Davis 1821 Holt Street West Palm Beach, FL 33409
For ornithologist Richard Prum, manakins are among the most beautiful creatures in the world. He first started studying these small South American birds in 1982, and he’s been privy to many of their flamboyant performances. One species has a golden head and moonwalks. Another puffs up a white ‘beard’ and hops about like a “buff gymnast.” Yet another makes alarmingly loud noises with its club-shaped wing bones. Each of the 54 species has its own combination of costumes, calls, and choreography, which males use in their mating displays. To Prum, this is a great example of “aesthetic radiation,” where a group of animals has evolved “54 distinctive ideals of beauty.”
That’s not a common view among evolutionary biologists. Most of Prum’s colleagues see outrageous sexual traits as reliable advertisements. The logic goes that only the fittest manakins could coordinate their movements just so. Only the healthiest peacocks could afford to carry such a cumbersome tail. Their displays and dances hint at their good genes, allowing females to make adaptive decisions.
But Prum says that view is poorly supported by years of research, and plainly makes no sense when you actually look at what birds do. How could there be adaptive value in every single minute detail of a manakin’s plumage and performance? And why have some species replaced certain ancestral maneuvers (like pointing one’s tail to the sky) with new moves (like pointing one’s bill to the sky) that surely provide no better information? “It’s clearly arbitrary,” says Prum. “I wrote that in a 1997 paper, but the reviewers hated it. They said you can’t claim that unless you falsify every adaptive hypothesis we can imagine. And if you can’t find an adaptive explanation, you haven’t worked hard enough to discover it.”
That struck him as absurd. Worse, it’s stubbornly cold. It’s a theory of aesthetics that tries to shove aesthetics under the rug, implicitly denying that manakins and other animals could be having any kind of subjective experience. It has even crept into our understanding of ourselves: Evolutionary psychologists have put forward poorly conceived adaptive explanations for everything from female orgasms to same-sex preferences. “These ideas have saturated the popular culture. In the pages of Vogue, and in cosmetic surgery offices, you read that beauty is a revealing indicator of objective quality,” says Prum. “That’s why I had to write the book.”
The book in question, which publishes tomorrow, is The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin's Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World—and Us. It’s a “natural history of beauty and desire”—a smorgasbord of evolutionary biology, philosophy, and sociology, filtered through Prum’s experiences as a birdwatcher and his diverse research on everything from dinosaur colors to duck sex. Through compelling arguments and colorful examples, Prum launches a counterstrike against the adaptationist regime, in an attempt to “put the subjective experience of animals back in the center of biology” and to “bring beauty back to the sciences.”
The central idea that animates the book is a longstanding one that Prum has rebranded as the “Beauty Happens hypothesis.” It starts with animals developing random preferences—for colors, songs, displays, and more—which they use in choosing their mates. Their offspring inherit not only those sexy traits, but also the preference for them. By choosing what they like, choosers transform both the form and the objects of their desires.
Critically, all of this is arbitrary—not adaptive. Songs and ornaments and dances evolve not because they signal good genes but because animals just like them. They’re not objectively informative; they’re subjectively pleasing. Beauty, in other words, just happens. “It’s a self-organizing process, by which selection will arrive at some standard of beauty all by itself, in the absence of any adaptive benefit—or, indeed, despite maladaptive disadvantage,” says Prum.
The Beauty Happens idea isn’t an anthropomorphic one; Prum’s arguing that animals have evolved to be beautiful to themselves, not to him. It’s not a new idea either. A century ago, geneticist Ronald Fisher wrote about extreme traits and the desire for those traits co-evolving in a runaway process. “But [Fisher’s hypothesis] has been viewed as a curious idea that’s irrelevant to nature—that’s the status in most textbooks,” says Prum. He’s on a mission to re-emphasize it, and to show that aesthetics and beauty aren’t mushy subjects that science should shy away from.
It’s been an uphill struggle, partly because the arbitrary nature of the idea is so distasteful to some. Prum recalls discussing his ideas with a “well-respected, center-of-the-road, evolutionary biologist,” who took it all in and said: But that’s nihilism! “That’s when I realized that I had a marketing problem,” he says. “This is what fills me with joy to study, what literally gives me goosebumps in the office, and when I express it to my colleague, he doesn’t have a reason to get out of bed in the morning.”
The originator of these ideas—Charles Darwin himself—suffered from similar problems. In The Descent of Man, he put forward an explicitly aesthetic view of sexual selection, in which animal beauty evolves because it’s pleasurable to the animals themselves. And despite the book’s title, Darwin spent many of its pages focusing on the choices of females, casting them as agents of their own evolution and arguing that their preferences were a powerful force behind nature’s diversity.
Darwin’s contemporaries were having none of it. They believed that animals didn’t have rich subjective worlds, lacking the mental abilities that had been divinely endowed to humans. And the idea of female animals making fine-grained choices seemed doubly preposterous to the Victorian patriarchy. One scientist wrote that female whims were so fickle that they could never act as a consistent source of selection. Alfred Russel Wallace, the co-discoverer of evolutionary theory, also rejected Darwin’s ideas, insisting that beauty must be the result of adaptation, and that sexual selection is just another form of natural selection. In a feat of sheer chutzpah, he even claimed that his view was more Darwinian than Darwin’s in a book called Darwinism. “I can still remember wanting to throw Wallace around the room when I read that,” says Prum, who accuses the man of turning sexual selection into an ‘intellectually impoverished theory.’”
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That legacy still infects evolutionary biology today. Consider orgasms, which Prum does at length in a later chapter. “There’s an entire field on the evolution of orgasm that’s devoid of any discussion of pleasure,” he says. “It’s stunningly bad science, and once more, it places male quality at the causal center.” For example, some researchers suggested that contractions produced during female orgasm are adaptations that allow women to better “upsuck”—no, really—the sperm of the best males. Others theorists suggested that female orgasm is the equivalent of male nipples—an inconsequential byproduct of natural selection acting on the opposite sex. Both ideas trivialize the sexual agency of women, Prum says, and completely fail to engage with the thing they’re actually trying to explain--women’s subjective experiences of sexual pleasure.
“It should come as no surprise that science does such a poor job of explaining pleasure because it’s left the actual experience of pleasure out of the equation,” he writes. That is, when biologists think about mate choice, whether in manakins or people, they focus only on the outcomes of the choice, and neglect the actual act of choosing. The result is a sexual science that’s bizarrely sanitized—an account of pleasure that’s totally anhedonic.
His counter-explanation is simple: women preferred to have sex with men who stimulated their own sexual pleasure, leading to co-evolution between female desire and male behaviors that met those desires. That’s why, compared to our closest ape relatives, human sex is much longer, involves a variety of positions, and isn’t tied to fertility cycles. Its also why female orgasm isn’t necessary for actual procreation. “It may be the greatest testament to the power of aesthetic evolution,” Prum writes. “It’s sexual pleasure for its own sake, which has evolved purely as a consequence of women’s pursuit of pleasure.”
By his admission, this is speculative. He hopes that his book—which also includes hypotheses about human bodies, cultural standards of attractiveness, sexual identity, and more—will spur more research that’s grounded in an appreciation of aesthetics. But he also notes that there are other species in which experiments have confirmed the power of female choice.
In 2005, a woman named Patricia Brennan joined Prum’s lab with an interest in animal genitals—and in ducks. Most birds don’t have penises, but male ducks have huge, corkscrew-shaped ones that they extrude into females at high speed. But Brennan showed that female ducks have equally convoluted vaginas, which spiral in the opposite direction and include several dead-end pockets. Why?
Duck sex is intense and violent. Several males will often try to force themselves onto a female, and they use their ballistic penises to deposit sperm as far inside their mates as possible. But Brennan, by getting drakes to launch their penises into variously shaped glass tubes, showed that a female’s counter-spiraling vagina can stop the progress of her partner’s phallus. If she actually wants to mate, she can change her posture and relax the walls of her genital tract to offer a male easy passage. As a result, even in species where 40 percent of sexual encounters are forced, more than 95 percent of chicks are actually sired by a female’s chosen partner.
I wrote about Brennan’s work back in 2009, and I’ve since heard it repeatedly called “that duck penis study.” But really, it’s a duck vagina story. It’s a story of females asserting their agency, even in the face of persistent violence. “And when females get sexual autonomy, what do they do with it?” says Prum. “They make aesthetic choices, and the result is this aesthetic explosion over time.” By retaining their capacity to choose, female ducks force male plumage, displays and songs to continually evolve to court those choices. Sexual autonomy is an evolutionary engine of beauty.
“That research was transformative for me,” says Prum. It’s one of several reasons why The Evolution of Beauty is an explicitly feminist book. It’s disdainful about the male biases that characterize much of evolutionary psychology. Instead, it consistently centers female choice and repeatedly draws on feminist scholarship.
“If you say anything about a feminist science, you get a lot of negative blowback immediately,” says Prum. “But this isn’t a science that accommodates itself to feminist principles. It’s about the discovery of feminist concepts in biology itself.” By his reckoning, freedom of choice isn’t a matter of ideology. It arises from evolution, and it shapes subsequent evolution—and it’s about time that biologists recognized that.
“It’s a sad thing that, given the promise of evolutionary biology, we’ve really failed to lead culture in any meaningful way, whether in thinking about racism, sexism, or economic disparity,” says Prum. “We’re just hanging at the rear end. And there’s a real prospect for that to change because of all the power of evolutionary theory to be relevant to people and people’s lives.”
Medical records released. talin had a micropenis.
Stuart B. Garcia 2528 Moonlight Drive Medford, NJ 08855
Torture techniques conjured up in medieval times, especially the gruesome methods employed during the Crusades, took a giant leap forward thanks to Dr. Shiro Ishii's diabolical imagination. The human suffering he was responsible for remains unimaginable and incomprehensible. He is infamous for being the director of a biological warfare research and testing program of the Imperial Japanese Army that existed from 1937 to 1945 during the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II.
Dr. Ishii studied medicine at Kyoto Imperial University in Japan and was a microbiologist by trade. He spent his professional career as a medical officer in the Imperial Japanese Army, beginning as a surgeon in 1921, and by 1945, reaching the position of surgeon general. To attain that pinnacle, Ishii left behind a trail of human blood, body parts, and entrails and committed horrifyingly wicked inhumane acts along the way to reach the top echelon of military medicine in Japan.
Early in his career, Ishii extensively researched the effects of biological and chemical warfare that took place during World War I. He was obsessed with building upon this base of knowledge, and the Japanese army obliged. Ishii's military medical career began to blossom in 1932 when he was chosen to head up the biological warfare division. His mission was to conduct covert experiments on human test subjects at a secret prison camp. In 1936, some escapees spread the word of Ishii's crimes against humanity and the Japanese were forced to destroy the camp. They subsequently moved their medical testing operations to Pingfang, an area outside the city of Harbin, China, and again appointed Ishii as director. Funded by the Japanese government, Ishii had more than 150 buildings constructed across a huge compound covering over 2 square miles and able to house up to 400 prisoners. This prison camp was known as Unit 731. Its operations were conducted under the guise of its official name: the Epidemic Prevention and Water Purification Department of the Kwantung Army of Japan, which was supposed to be researching contagious diseases and water supplies.
A Killing Field
From 1942 through 1945, Dr. Ishii unleashed a barrage of the most shockingly cruel experiments perpetrated on human beings the civilized world has ever known. Ishii thought up many hideous medical experiments spontaneously. All atrocities were in the name of medical research meant to defeat Japan's wartime enemies, as the effects of Ishii's torture were studied and recorded.
Chinese prisoners of war were not the only test subjects imprisoned at Unit 731. Ishii wanted a wider cross section of human guinea pigs, so he had the Kempeitai military police round up imprisoned criminals from surrounding areas, anti-Japanese political prisoners, as well as people determined to be conducting "suspicious activities," which just happened to include men, women, pregnant women, elderly, children, and even infants. The Kempeitai arrested thousands of victims and delivered them to Unit 731. Ishii showed no mercy and did not discriminate, experimenting on every single one of his captives.
Unit 731 had a freezer that could be set to 50°F below zero. Hands and arms were frozen to create frostbite; some frozen limbs were thawed to study the rotting of human flesh. Other victims were dehydrated to the point of death. Prisoners were shot in the stomach so that Japanese surgeons could practice removing bullets. Legs and arms were amputated without administering anesthesia. People were injected with seawater to determine if it could be used as a substitute for saline solution. Parts of livers were removed to determine how long one could live with only a partial organ.
To study blood loss, some had their limbs amputated. Sometimes researchers would reattach body parts in novel ways. For example, a stomach would be surgically removed, and then the esophagus would be attached directly to the intestines.
To determine the length of time until death, subjects were placed into high-pressure chambers, placed into centrifuges and spun to death, deprived of food and water, or exposed to lethal doses of x-rays. To determine the relationship between temperature, burns, and length of survival, prisoners were torched with flame throwers or exposed to phosphorus or chloride gas. Some were injected with animal blood. Some were buried alive.
Viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens were created in the laboratory at Unit 731 so that prisoners could be injected with bubonic plague, anthrax, cholera, gangrene, typhoid, tuberculosis, syphilis, gonorrhea, dysentery, smallpox, and botulism; the victims were told the injections were vaccinations. Vivisections were performed on the infected prisoners without administering anesthesia. These experiments were conducted while the prisoners were still alive because it was thought that decomposing flesh would skew results.
To test the effects of shrapnel, prisoners were chained to stakes in open fields and grenades were exploded at varying distances from the victims. Other mind-boggling experiments included forced spontaneous abortions, heart attack and stroke simulations, and forced hypothermia. To test the effects of bombs containing bubonic plague and other aforementioned diseases, similar tactics were used. Researchers wearing protective suits would walk the killing field and examine the dying victims.
Also beginning in 1942, Unit 731 developed dispersion techniques for germ warfare via bio-warfare weapons, which were operationally tested on civilians in Chinese cities. Bio-warfare weapons containing bubonic plague, cholera, anthrax, and other deadly diseases were dropped by low-flying airplanes on innocent residents of these cities. In addition, Unit 731 bred plague-infested fleas in their labs and devised "flea bombs" and other devices designed to spread germs and parasites, which were dropped on Chinese military personnel and civilians throughout World War II. In addition, Ishii had water sources contaminated and crops infected. He poisoned food and candy and distributed them to unsuspecting victims who were living in poverty and welcomed what they thought was kindness from Japanese soldiers; after consumption, victims were then examined.
Death toll estimates from the deadly pathogens released under Ishii's orders, which caused epidemics, range from 200,000 to 580,000; most of the dead were Chinese. Estimates of the total number of men, women, children, and infants who were tortured and slaughtered at Unit 731 are between 3000 and 12,000. Nearly 30% of those who died at Unit 731 were captured Soviet soldiers. Other unfortunates included Southeast Asians and Pacific Islanders. It's estimated that close to 200 American and British allies also perished at the death camp.
"How Many Logs Fell Today?"
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At Unit 731, the diabolical doctor referred to his victims as "logs" because after he tortured them to death with his hideous medical tests, he had their bodies burned to ashes. Throughout his reign of horror, Ishii was praised by the Japanese government and even was decorated with the coveted Order of the Golden Kite.
The Living Hell Ends but Not Without Dr. Ishii's Final Acts of Terror and Devastation
On August 15, 1945, Japanese Emperor Hirohito surrendered unconditionally, which ended Japan's involvement in World War II as well as the war with the Chinese. Immediately after surrender, the Japanese demolished Unit 731 in order to erase all evidence and memory of the atrocities committed at the despicable death camp. Ishii ordered the remaining 150 subjects to be executed. Bodies and body parts were buried. Inexplicably, as the camp was being demolished, the Japanese released thousands of plague-infested rats into the surrounding provinces. In addition, the Japanese released millions upon millions of plague-infested fleas into the area. As a result, an additional 20,000 to 30,000 Chinese died from plague and other diseases over the following 3 years.
Realizing he would be prosecuted for war crimes, Dr. Ishii faked his own death and went into hiding to evade justice. He was found in 1946 and turned over to American occupation forces for interrogation. The US was desperate not to have Ishii's knowledge of biological weapons fall into the hands of Russia, including the results of his myriad medical experiments on humans. The US also wanted to supplement its own germ warfare program knowledge base with the results of the biological warfare experiments conducted at Unit 731.
After his capture, Dr. Ishii offered to reveal details of the experiments conducted at Unit 731 in exchange for immunity from all of the war crimes he committed. The US agreed to the plea bargain, which also included immunity for top-level members of Ishii's medical research team. In addition to the promise of not being prosecuted for war crimes, these researchers were enticed with money and other gifts from the US to share what was learned at Unit 731. Dr. Shiro Ishii was never punished for his crimes; he succumbed to throat cancer in 1960 at the age of 67.
Many of Dr. Ishii's staff (dubbed the Devil's Doctors) went on to obtain high-profile and influential careers in politics, medicine, and business. They took on leadership roles at such institutions as the Japanese Medical Association, National Institute for Health, and National Cancer Center; others secured high-level positions at pharmaceutical companies.
The immunity deal granted to Dr. Ishii and members of his senior medical staff was kept secret from the public for years (with the assistance of the British government), until details of the atrocities finally appeared in the media in the 1980s. In 2001, a documentary titled Japanese Devils was released that was created from first-hand accounts of the death camp by members of Unit 731 who had been taken prisoner by the Chinese and later released. To this day, Japan denies what happened at Unit 731, explaining that many of the accounts were exaggerated or did not take place at all.
James J. Sartain 1800 Felosa Drive Los Angeles, CA 90071
When Carol Weiher was having her right eye surgically removed in 1998, she woke up hearing disco music. The next thing she heard was "Cut deeper, pull harder."
She desperately wanted to scream or even move a finger to signal to doctors that she was awake, but the muscle relaxant she'd received prevented her from controlling her movements.
"I was doing a combination of praying and pleading and cursing and screaming, and trying anything I could do but I knew that there was nothing that was working," said Weiher, of Reston, Virginia. Weiher is one of few people who have experienced anesthesia awareness. Although normally a patient does not remember anything about surgery that involves general anesthesia, about one or two people in every 1,000 may wake up during general anesthesia, according to the Mayo Clinic. Most of these cases involve the person being aware of the surrounding environment, but some experience severe pain and go on to have psychological problems.
The surgical tools didn't cause Weiher pain -- only pressure -- but the injections of a paralytic drug during the operation "felt like ignited fuel," she said. "I thought, well, maybe I've been wrong about my life, and I'm in hell," she said. The entire surgery lasted five-and-a-half hours. Sometime during it she either passed out or fell unconscious under the anesthetic. When she awoke, she began to scream.
"All I could say to anyone was, 'I was awake! I was awake!' " she said.
The use of general anesthesia is normally safe and produces a state of sedation that doesn't break in the middle of a procedure, doctors say. The patient and anesthesiologist collect as much medical history as possible beforehand, including alcohol and drug habits, to help determine the most appropriate anesthetic.
You may think of it as "going to sleep," but in terms of what your body is doing, general anesthesia has very little in common with taking a nap.
During sleep, the brain is in its most active state; anesthesia, on the other hand, depresses central nervous system activity. On the operating table, your brain is less active and consumes less oxygen -- a state of unconsciousness nothing like normal sleep.
Doctors do not know exactly how general anesthesia produces this effect. It is clear that anesthetic drugs interfere with the transmission of chemicals in the brain across the membranes, or walls, of cells. But the mechanism is the subject of ongoing research, Dr. Alexander Hannenberg, anesthesiologist in Newton, Massachusetts, and president of the American Society of Anesthesiologists.
Patients who remember falling unconscious under the anesthesia generally have a pleasant experience of it, Hannenberg said, and the period of "waking up" is also a relaxed state, Hannenberg said. Anesthesia awareness may relate to human error or equipment failure in delivering the anesthetic, Hannenberg said.
There are patients for whom doctors err on the side of a lower dose because of the nature of their condition, Hannenberg said. Someone who is severely injured and has lost a lot of blood, a patient with compromised cardiac function, or a woman who needs an emergency Caesarean section would all be at risk for serious side effects of high doses of anesthetic.
Heart or lung problems, daily alcohol consumption, and long-term use of opiates and other drugs may put patients at higher risk for anesthesia awareness, according to the Mayo Clinic.
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Weiher started a campaign called the Anesthesia Awareness Campaign that seeks to educate people about the perils of waking up during surgery. She has spoken with about 4,000 people worldwide who have also had anesthesia awareness experiences.
The American Society of Anesthesiologists is engaged in an Anesthesia Awareness Registry, a research project through the University of Washington to examine cases of the phenomenon. One of the goals of the Anesthesia Awareness Campaign is to make brain activity monitoring a standard of care.
There has been controversy about the use of brain function monitors in general anesthesia. Advocates such as Dr. Barry Friedberg, anesthesiologist and founder of the nonprofit Goldilocks Anesthesia Foundation, say brain monitoring is essential for ensuring the patient achieves the appropriate sedation so as to not wake up. The monitors use a scale of 0 to 100 to reflect what's going on in the brain: 0 is a total absence of brain activity, 98 to 100 is wide awake, and 45 to 60 is about where general anesthesia puts the patient, Friedberg said.
But a 2008 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found no benefit in using brain function monitoring to prevent anesthesia awareness. The American Society of Anesthesiology has said the monitoring is not routinely indicated for general anesthesia, but may have some value and be appropriate for specific patients. The downsides are that they are expensive, and should not be used in place of heart rate and breathing signals when regulating the anesthesia.
Research does not consistently demonstrate a benefit from using brain function monitors, and the decision to use them should be made on an individual basis, Hannenberg said.
The anesthesiologist carefully monitors the patient's breathing and blood pressure, which can rise and fall, while the person is under the anesthetic, Hannenberg said. The treatment is tailored to the patient -- a young, healthy athlete will tolerate fluctuations in blood pressure better than someone with a serious condition, Hannenberg said.
As with surgical procedures themselves, anesthesia can result in stroke, heart attack and death. Such complications are more likely in people who have serious medical problems, and elderly people. Over the last two decades, anesthesiologists have made significant strides in reducing those risks, Hannenberg said.
A 6-year-old boy in Richmond, Virginia, recently died after going into cardiac arrest during a routine dental procedure that involved general anesthesia, CNN affiliate WTVR reported. Weiher had to have subsequent surgeries, including an operation on her other eye and a hysterectomy, and the experiences were terrifying. She is still taking medication for post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of her anesthesia awareness experience.
It's not that we would be madly in love with Donald Trump. Yeah, he may not be the brightest one. Not even bright enough for political correctness. But hey, that's a plus, not a minus. Fuck that political correctness.
James S. Johnson 4142 West Fork Drive Hollywood, FL 33024
Mustard agents are usually classified as "blistering agents" owing to the similarity of the wounds caused by these substances resembling burns and blisters. However, since mustard agents also cause severe damage to the eyes, respiratory system and internal organs, they should preferably be described as "blistering and tissue-injuring agents". Normal mustard agent, bis-(2-chloroethyl)sulphide, reacts with a large number of biological molecules. The effect of mustard agent is delayed and the first symptoms do not occur until 2-24 hours after exposure.
Mustard agent was produced for the first time in 1822 but its harmful effects were not discovered until 1860. Mustard agent was first used as a CW agent during the latter part of the First World War and caused lung and eye injuries to a very large number of soldiers. Many of them still suffered pain 30-40 years after they had been exposed, mainly as a result of injuries to the eyes and chronic respiratory disorders.
During the war between Iran and Iraq in 1979-88, Iraq used large quantities of chemical agents. About 5 000 Iranian soldiers have been reported killed, 10-20 per cent by mustard agent. In addition, there were 40 000 to 50 000 injured. A typical result of warfare with mustard agent is that the medical system is overloaded with numerous victims who require long and demanding care.
Incidents are still occurring annually in the neighbourhood of Sweden where people risk injury from mustard agent. This largely involves fishermen who are exposed to mustard agent brought to the surface by fishing nets. The background is found in the dumping of chemical weapons after the Second World War in waters off the Danish and Swedish coasts. Many fishing ports in south Sweden and Denmark have resources to care for injured people and to decontaminate equipment contaminated by mustard agent. Certain resources are also available on the fishing vessels.
Mustard agent is very simple to manufacture and can therefore be a "first choice" when a country decides to build up a capacity for chemical warfare.
Apart from mustard agent, there are also several other closely related compounds which have been used as chemical weapons. During the 1930's, several reports were published on the synthesis of nitrogen mustard agent and its remarkable blistering effect. The mechanism of action and symptoms largely agree with those described for mustard agent. Germans and Americans started the military production of nitrogen mustard agent in 1941 and 1943, respectively, whereas the development in England was abandoned following an explosion. There is no verified use of nitrogen mustard agents as chemical weapons and their usefulness is restricted by these types of agents being unsuitable for storage.
Physical and Chemical Properties
In its pure state, mustard agent is colourless and almost odourless. The name was given to mustard agent as a result of an earlier production method which yielded an impure mustard-smelling product. Mustard agent is also claimed to have a characteristic smell similar to rotten onions. However, the sense of smell is dulled after only a few breaths so that the smell can no longer be distinguished. In addition, mustard agent can cause injury to the respiratory system in concentrations which are so low that the human sense of smell cannot distinguish them.
At room temperature, mustard agent is a liquid with low volatility and is very stable during storage. The melting-point for pure mustard agent is 14.4 oC. In order to be able to effectively use mustard agent at lower temperatures, it has been mixed with lewisite in some types of ammunition in a ratio of 2:3. This mixture has a freezing-point of -26 oC. During the Second World War, a form of mustard agent with high viscosity was manufactured by means of the addition of a polymer. This is the first known example of a thickened CW agent.
Mustard agent can easily be dissolved in most organic solvents but has poor solubility in water. In aqueous solutions, mustard agent decomposes into non-poisonous products by means of hydrolysis. This reaction is catalyzed by alkali. However, only dissolved mustard agent reacts, which means that the decomposition proceeds very slowly. Bleaching-powder and chloramines, however, react violently with mustard agent, whereupon non-poisonous oxidation products are formed. Consequently, these substances are used for the decontamination of mustard agent.
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Mechanism of Action
The toxic effects of mustard agent depend on its ability to covalently bind to other substances. The chlorine atom is spiked off the ethyl group and the mustard agent is transferred to a reactive sulphonium ion. This ion can bind to a large number of different biological molecules. Most of all it binds to nucleophiles such as nitrogen in the base components of nucleic acids and sulphur in SH-groups in proteins and peptides. Since mustard agent contains two "reactive groups", it can also form a bridge between or within molecules. Mustard agent can destroy a large number of different substances in the cell by means of alkylation and thereby influence numerous processes in living tissue.
In the form of gas or liquid, mustard agent attacks the skin, eyes, lungs and gastro-intestinal tract. Internal organs may also be injured, mainly blood-generating organs, as a result of mustard agent being taken up through the skin or lungs and transported into the body. The delayed effect is a characteristic of mustard agent. Mustard agent gives no immediate symptoms upon contact and consequently a delay of between two and twenty-four hours may occur before pain is felt and the victim becomes aware of what has happened. By then cell damage has already been caused.
Symptoms of mustard agent poisoning extend over a wide range. Mild injuries consist of aching eyes with abundant flow of tears, inflammation of the skin, irritation of the mucous membrane, hoarseness, coughing and sneezing. Normally, these injuries do not require medical treatment. Severe injuries which are incapacitating and require medical care may involve eye injuries with loss of sight, the formation of blisters on the skin, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea together with severe respiration difficulty.
Acute mortality arising from exposure to mustard agent is low. The dose needed to directly kill a person upon inhalation is, e.g., about 50 times larger than the dose giving acute mortality upon poisoning with the nerve agent soman. People who die after exposure to mustard agent usually do so after a few days up to one or more weeks.
Minor skin damage may be caused by mustard agent in the gaseous state whereas the most severe injuries are caused after contact with liquid mustard agent. Skin damage first appears as a painful inflammation. Depending on the level of exposure, the injury may develop into pigmentation, which flakes-off after a couple of weeks, small surface blisters or deep liquid-filled blisters with subsequent skin necrosis. In extreme cases, the skin necrosis may be so comprehensive that no blisters occur. Skin injuries are more severe in humid and warm climates. Similarly, the injuries will be more severe where the skin is moist and warm, e.g., in the groin and armpits.
Experience has shown that even extremely extensive skin damage, 80-90 %, can be cured if the patient is kept free of infection. However, injuries to the skin require a very long period of recuperation, much longer than thermal burns, and may require care and plastic surgery over a period of several months.
Injury to the eyes appear initially as irritation with eye inflammation and a strong flow of tears. Depending on exposure, the symptoms thereafter may successively develop to sensitivity to light, swollen eyelids, and injury to the cornea. Severe damage to the eye may lead to the total loss of vision. Victims suffering damage to the eyes may encounter problems persisting up to 30-40 years following exposure.
The most common cause of death as a result of mustard agent poisoning is complications after lung injury caused by inhalation of mustard agent. Lung injuries become apparent some hours after exposure and will first appear as a pressure across the chest, sneezing and hoarseness. Severe coughing and respiration difficulties caused by pulmonary oedema will gradually occur and after a couple of days, a "chemical pneumonia" may develop. Most of the chronic and late effects are also caused by lung injuries.
The effect on inner organs which is most pronounced is injury to the bone marrow, spleen and lymphatic tissue. This may cause a drastic reduction in the number of white blood cells 5-10 days after exposure, a condition very similar to that after exposure to radiation. This reduction of the immune defence will complicate the already large risk of infection in people with severe skin and lung injuries.
Antidotes and Methods of Treatment
There is no treatment or antidote which can affect the basic cause of mustard agent injury. Instead, efforts must be made to treat the symptoms. By far the most important measure is to rapidly and thoroughly decontaminate the patient and thereby prevent further exposure. This decontamination will also decrease the risk of exposure to staff. Clothes are removed, the skin is decontaminated with a suitable decontaminant and washed with soap and water. If hair is suspected to be contaminated then it must be shaved off. Eyes are rinsed with water or a physiological salt solution for at least five minutes.
In medical treatment, efforts are made to control infections by means of antibiotics. Pain can be eased by local anesthetics. After skin injuries have healed, it may be necessary to introduce plastic surgery. Lung injuries are treated with bronchodilatory treatment. Medicine to relieve coughing and also cortisone preparations may be used. Eye injuries are treated locally with painkillers and with antibiotics if required. Despite treatment, inflammation and light sensitivity may remain for long periods.
Modern knowledge on the mechanisms behind mustard agent injuries may lead mainly to new ways of treatment. The first step, alkylation, takes place extremely rapidly and is probably very difficult to influence. Future treatment may concentrate on suppressing and alleviating the development of symptoms and thereby improve the opportunities for good recovery.
Types of Injury Caused by Mustard Agent
It is impossible to identify a single mechanism for the damage caused by mustard agent. However, two possible important mechanisms can be mentioned where the first step in both is the formation of a reactive sulphonium ion. One such mechanism is the bonding of mustard agent to the base compounds in DNA (alkylation). The bonding may induce breakages of strands and the formation of bridges between the two strands in the DNA molecule. Bridges of this kind prevent DNA from functioning normally during cell division which may lead to severe injury and possibly cell mortality. Damage to the DNA may also lead to mutations and disturbance to the natural repair mechanisms of DNA. The influence on DNA can cause the increased frequency of cancer observed after exposure to mustard agent.
The other mechanism of action is interaction between mustard agent and intracellular glutathion. Glutathion is a small peptide molecule which, among other things, takes care of the free radicals formed during cell respiration. If too large an amount of glutathion is bound by mustard agent, then the regulation of these free radicals no longer functions. Since free radicals are extremely toxic, this may lead to a number of processes in the cell being severely disturbed.
Mustard agent can also bind to different proteins in the cell. However, it is not known how much this contributes to the injuries caused. The binding takes place at the functional groups, e.g., the sulphydryl or amino groups. If the binding is made to, for example, the active site of enzymes, then their activity is inhibited which could lead to metabolic disorders. If, on the other hand, membrane proteins are bound, the result can be a modified uptake of substances and the inner environment of the cell will become disturbed.
The best investment a rich man can do, is one into destruction. Destruction of the surrounding world, near and far, makes his wealth more valuable.
Dr. Melvin Levine apparently committed suicide on Friday, the same day that a class-action suit was brought against him by Carmen Durso. Durso, some may remember, was the lawyer who became famous for bringing the first suit by Boston-area victims of pedophilia against the Catholic Church. That story, first reported in the Boston Globe, ultimately influenced victims around the world to come forward.
“Word of Levine’s death came one day after about 40 of his former patients filed a medical malpractice and sexual abuse suit against him,” reported The New York Times. While a doctor at Children’s Hospital Boston from 1966 to 1985, Levine allegedly “stroked, massaged, and manipulated the genitals of his patients in a manner which was not medically necessary.” The former patients, all now adults, were between the ages of 4 and 17 when abused, according to the lawsuit, which seeks class-action status and unspecified damages for pain and suffering.
Dr. Levine was Professor of Pediatrics at the University of North Carolina Medical School in Chapel Hill and the Director of the University’s Clinical Center for the Study of Development and Learning. He’s also the co-founder of All Kinds of Minds, a nonprofit Institute for the study of differences in learning; and co-chairs the Institute’s Board of Directors with Charles R. Schwab. He is the author of A Mind at a Time, The Myth of Laziness, and Ready or Not, Here Life Comes.
Charges of pedophilia initially emerged in 2008, but Dr. Levine and his organizations, including Children’s Hospital in Boston, denied all wrongdoing.
We asked a source—one of the very first victims to step forward in the Catholic Church pedophilia scandal, who prefers to remain anonymous—what he thought about the timing of Dr. Levine’s death and the class-action suit. “Pedophiles rarely commit suicide for the same reason they don’t respond well to therapy,” he told us. “They don’t think they did anything wrong.”
“I always tell people that from the moment a kid gets up in the morning until he goes to sleep at night, the central mission of the day is to avoid humiliation at all costs,” Dr. Levine.
Richard A. Vance 1244 Hilltop Haven Drive Franklin Boro, NJ 07416
PHAYAO - A woman who cut off her husband’s penis with a kitchen knife in a fit of jealous rage has taken her own life by drinking pesticide at their house in Pong district.
Kawinnart Sae Zong, 33, of Santisuk village in tambon Khunkhuan, was declared dead on Monday morning after being admitted to a local hospital, according to Pol Capt Narin Cherdchu, duty officer at Pong police station.
Kawinnart cut off her husband Niran Sae Wang’s penis while the 38-year-old was sleeping at their house in Santisuk village about 2am on Saturday. She was furious after discovering he had repeatedly cheated on her.
Her husband suffered severe bleeding and neighbours rushed him to Pong Hospital, which later transferred him to Lampang Hospital where his penis was re-attached.
After the attack, Kawinnart locked herself in a room and drank pesticide, Pol Capt Narin said. Relatives immediately took her to Pong Hospital, which later transferred to Chiang Kham Hospital in the same province, where she died.
Surgeons said the operation on her husband was successful and at this stage he could urinate, but would have to remain under doctors' care for a while longer.
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An Indian woman cut off the penis of a Hindu holy man who tried to rape her and who she accused of sexually assaulting her for the past eight years, police said.
The 24-year-old law student was at home in the Kerala state capital of Thiruvananthapuram when she was allegedly attacked by Gangeshananda Theerthapada, who claims to be a spiritual healer.
The 54-year-old was reported to be in a stable condition after reconstructive surgery.
Police officer G Sparjan Kumar said the woman fled her home after the attack on Friday night and called police.
When he again visited her home on Friday night and tried to force himself on her, she got hold of a knife and attacked him, Mr Kumar said.
The New Delhi Television news channel said the woman's family knew Theerthapada, who used to visit their home to cure her bed-ridden father.
She told police he would rape her whenever he had an opportunity.
Pinarayi Vijayan, the state's chief minister, told reporters it was brave of the woman to take such action.
"It's a courageous and strong act by the woman," he said.
Violent crimes against women have been on the rise in India despite tough laws enacted by the government.
Islamic State strategists are amateurs. They haven't recognized the power of arson. Setting Third World cities like Kairo or Lagos on fire will drive millions of refugees to Europe, and finally islamize it.
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