Gruesome Torture Methods Of Execution

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First federal case under female genital mutilation ban spurs efforts for harsher penalties

Minnesota state Rep. Mary Franson received a note from a friend last year urging her to draft stricter legislation against female genital mutilation. The state had banned the practice in 1994, so the Republican worried that a new law would seem ­“Islamophobic,” given its target audience.

One case changed her mind.

Federal prosecutors last month charged a Michigan doctor and his wife in connection with performing the procedure on two Minnesota girls. The parents of one girl — believed to have been involved in arranging the procedure — lost custody “for a whopping 72 hours,” Franson told lawmakers on the floor of the Minnesota statehouse last week.

Another Michigan doctor, ­Jumana Nagarwala of Detroit, has been charged in a separate case.

Now Franson wants Minnesota to pass a bill that would send perpetrators to prison for up to 20 years, targeting parents as well as doctors.

“We’re saying that if you harm your child in this way, you’re going to be held responsible,” she said.

Female genital mutilation has been a federal crime in the United States for more than two decades, carrying a maximum sentence of five years in prison. But the three doctors are the first to be charged under the law. The case has set off a flurry of new bills across the country, with a growing number of states moving to extend penalties to the parents and hit them with lengthy prison terms.

The issue has been a lightning rod in right-wing political circles for years, with anti-Muslim and anti-immigration activists linking it explicitly to Islam. In fact, there is no mention of female genital mutilation in the Koran, and the procedure is rare in most Muslim countries. But attorneys for the doctors, all three of whom are Muslim, say their trial defense next month is likely to invoke religious freedom, a move that is sure to lend the case even more political ammunition.

Republican-authored bills are pending in Michigan, Minnesota, Texas and Maine, and activists say Massachusetts is also weighing legislative action.

In Minnesota, which is among the 25 states that ban female genital mutilation, state representatives on May 15 voted 124 to 4 in favor of expanding the penalties. The bill will go to the state Senate for consideration, but it will probably be signed into law before the fall.

Female genital mutilation (FGM), sometimes called female genital cutting or circumcision, refers to the ancient, ritual practice of cutting off parts of a girl’s genitalia, and sometimes sewing shut the vaginal opening. It has no health benefits and can result in serious complications, including hemorrhaging and death, the lifelong loss of sexual pleasure, painful intercourse, and chronic infections.

The World Health Organization says more than 200 million women and girls living in 30 countries have experienced FGM. Most of those countries are in Africa.

The practice spans an array of ethnic and religious groups despite nearly universal national bans. Although the rationale for the practice varies, experts say it is often driven by social pressures to control women’s sexuality and ensure girls’ virginity before marriage. Some practitioners also believe that it serves a religious mandate, although the practice has no root in religious doctrine.

Some Muslim clerics have endorsed the practice, but a number of major Muslim leaders have condemned it. The three doctors in Michigan and the girls whom investigators say they cut are from the tiny Dawoodi Bohra sect of Shiite Islam, in which the practice is common and clerics are said to endorse it. The doctors’ trial is set for next month.

There’s no reliable data on how common the practice is in the United States, according to the authors of a 2016 Government Accountability Office report. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 513,000 women and girls in the United States either had the procedure or are at risk of experiencing it in the future, based on immigrant populations from countries where the practice is prevalent, including Somalia, Ethi­o­pia and Sudan.

The Maine law would make parents who consent to FGM liable for up to 10 years behind bars. This month, the Texas state Senate unanimously approved a similar bill that would allow the state to prosecute people “who transport or permit the transport of a person for the purpose of FGM,” said the bill’s author, state Sen. Jane Nelson (R).

In Michigan, where the state Senate unanimously approved a package of bills on female genital mutilation May 17, perpetrators and accomplices would face up to 15 years in prison.

“We want to send the message that Michigan is not the place to bring your daughter for this evil, horrific, demonic practice,” state Sen. Rick Jones (R) told his colleagues during a recent hearing on the measure.

The Department of Homeland Security, which is responsible for criminal investigations under the federal ban, is set to launch a pilot program next month that aims primarily to reduce FGM abroad by warning travelers of its illegality. The practice of taking girls abroad to be cut, sometimes called “vacation cutting,” was banned in 2013.

The program, Operation Limelight USA, will be limited to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, although officials said they are still drafting specifics on how it will work.

The fresh wave of attention has been bittersweet for the U.S.-based activists who have spent years campaigning to end a practice that they say is poorly understood and generally ignored by the public, law enforcement and U.S. officials.

“When things like this happen, people just want to focus on getting all states to penalize it. But there’s a bigger picture out here that we’re not focusing on,” said Jaha Dukureh, the founder of the Atlanta-based Safe Hands for Girls, a leading advocacy group against FGM.

Dukureh, who underwent the procedure as an infant in Gambia, said she would rather see education and outreach aimed at preventing the practice than punishment alone.

For instance, many activists, doctors and lawmakers have said they want better training for medical professionals so they can address the issue with pregnant women who have experienced FGM before they give birth to girls. And they want to see efforts to spread awareness of the procedure’s dangers in vulnerable schools and communities, enlisting the support of neighborhood and religious leaders in condemning it.

Somali American activists have been pushing legislators for funds to prevent the practice through education and outreach, said Minnesota state Rep. Susan Allen of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party.

“They have not gotten resources,” she said.

The United States banned female genital mutilation in 1997, and in 2003 banned the transport of a minor abroad to have the procedure. But there have been only two other FBI investigations into the practice over the past two decades. In both cases, the FBI was unable to find victims, and only one of the cases, in California, led to charges, according to the GAO report.

Experts say a culture of shame and secrecy — or even ignorance of having undergone a procedure that they might have been too young to remember — keeps many from talking about FGM in the United States.

Deborah Thorp, who is an ­obstetrician-gynecologist in Minneapolis, said she sees at least one patient a day who has undergone FGM. Many are older refugees from Somalia, where the prevalence rate is 98 percent.

But she said she doubts that the practice is common for Somali American children who are born in the United States.

“I’m seeing a lot of moms who are so angry that it got done to them that I have a hard time thinking that they would ever have anything to do with it,” she said.

Some activists and Democratic lawmakers have argued — in lieu of hard data about the prevalence of FGM — that racism, Islamophobia and anti-immigrant sentiments have played a role in fueling enthusiasm for the new policies.

Far-right blogs and news websites have long perpetuated the myth that FGM is a common Islamic practice by immigrants who are fundamentally at odds with American society.

FGM and honor killings “would not exist in the U.S. without mass immigration bringing its practitioners into U.S. communities,” Breitbart reporter ­Katie McHugh wrote in March. Stephen Miller, a top aide to President Trump, has voiced the same sentiment.

In Minnesota last week, some dissenting lawmakers worried that meting out “draconian” punishment for a poorly understood crime might make it worse. The Minnesota law would make it easier and more likely for the state to take custody of a child whose parent is suspected of involvement in FGM. For suspects who are not yet U.S. citizens, the crime would probably mean deportation.

“When you start removing children from their families, increasing penalties for families,” Allen, the state lawmaker, said, “it’s likely that it may deter them from reporting the violence. They may not cooperate with police.”

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A new study suggests marijuana could be a miracle drug in the bedroom

Marijuana in small doses may be a miracle drug in the bedroom.

Some researchers think the Schedule I drug could double as an aphrodisiac, according to a new study published in the Pharmacological Research journal on November 21.

People who light up before getting busy report feeling "aphrodisiac effects" in approximately half of cases, while 70% of users say they experienced "enhancement in pleasure and satisfaction," according to a review of preclinical trials and studies that used human subjects.

Researchers from the University of Catania in Italy and Charles University and Masaryk University in the Czech Republic did not find major discrepancies between men and women in these reports, which means marijuana could be a libido-booster regardless of a person's sex.

Weed is the most commonly used illicit substance, and for thousands of years, people have documented the plant's effect on sexual functioning. However, it has attracted little interest from the scientific community, in part because marijuana remains illegal under US federal law and is difficult to research.

We don't know exactly what role cannabis plays in sex. The mechanisms that make your toes curl are governed by complicated psychological, neurological, and endocrinological systems.

When a user ingests marijuana, chemicals in the plant ride the nervous system to the brain and latch onto molecules called cannabinoid receptors. Those little holding cells influence pleasure, memory, coordination, and cognition, among other functions, which is why getting high affects thinking and behavior. So it's possible the endocannabinoid system influences sexual behavior.

For the purposes of this study, researchers evaluated several investigations into the effects of cannabis on sexual intercourse that were conducted in the 1970s and '80s.

In 1970, Erich Goode, a former professor of sociology at Stony Brook University and an author, suggested that frequent, but not heavy marijuana use was associated with aphrodisiac effects in roughly 50% of users surveyed and increased pleasure in about 70% of subjects.

In a 1983 study published in The Journal of Sex Research, researchers interviewed a pool of mostly heterosexual, sexually active people on the perceived effects of marijuana use on sexual behavior. What they found supported Goode's results. About one-half of users reported an increased desire for a sexual partner they knew, and over two-thirds of subjects said they experienced increased sexual pleasure and satisfaction after using marijuana.

"Many felt marijuana was an aphrodisiac," the paper's authors wrote.

When a user ingests marijuana, chemicals in the plant ride the nervous system to the brain and latch onto molecules called cannabinoid receptors. Those little holding cells influence pleasure, memory, coordination, and cognition, among other functions, which is why getting high affects thinking and behavior. So it's possible the endocannabinoid system influences sexual behavior.

For the purposes of this study, researchers evaluated several investigations into the effects of cannabis on sexual intercourse that were conducted in the 1970s and '80s.

In 1970, Erich Goode, a former professor of sociology at Stony Brook University and an author, suggested that frequent, but not heavy marijuana use was associated with aphrodisiac effects in roughly 50% of users surveyed and increased pleasure in about 70% of subjects.

In a 1983 study published in The Journal of Sex Research, researchers interviewed a pool of mostly heterosexual, sexually active people on the perceived effects of marijuana use on sexual behavior. What they found supported Goode's results. About one-half of users reported an increased desire for a sexual partner they knew, and over two-thirds of subjects said they experienced increased sexual pleasure and satisfaction after using marijuana.

"Many felt marijuana was an aphrodisiac," the paper's authors wrote.

Consumers shouldn't expect to find Pfizer’s Blue-branded marijuana behind pharmacy counters anytime soon. The studies investigated in the Pharmacological Research journal are few and decades old. Further research is necessary to understand how cannabis and sex mix.

Should cannabis join ginseng and the maca root vegetable in the razor-thin category of proven aphrodisiacs, it could majorly disrupt the multi-billion dollar erectile dysfunction drug market.

That would be good news for women, who have been largely ignored in the sexual dysfunction arena. A little pink pill known as the "female Pfizer’s Blue" received approval by the Food and Drug Administration in 2015, but it has yet to take hold among consumers.

Time will tell if marijuana can become nature's Pfizer’s Blue.

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Feminism, by creating artificial scarcity of sexual resources, is responsible for much of the deadly infighting among men, as well as male suicides.

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Finding flying foxes and aphrodisiacs on Pangkor island

Mention Pangkor, and you'd probably think of the seaside resorts and satay fish snacks that are so often associated with this small island, just off Lumut, Perak.

Nobody could've imagined that in mid-July, over 115 researchers from 14 different institutes in Malaysia would have convened here for the Pangkor Island Scientific Expedition 2017 (PISE 2017). They were joined by 300 local primary school pupils.

Only a 10 minute boat ride from the mainland, this island is home to over 82 species of reptiles and amphibians (herpetofauna).

PISE 2017 was a seven-day event hosted by the Ecotourism and Conservation Society of Malaysia (Ecomy) and supported by Vale Minerals Sdn Bhd. Its aim was to document the local flora and fauna, and help the local community better appreciate the rich biodiversity on the island.

The PISE also aimed to build on the knowledge that the Forestry Department of Peninsular Malaysia had collected from an expedition in 2009.

Another major aim was to promote ecotourism. The Malay saying "tak kenal maka tak cinta" was emphasised time and again by Ecomy co-founder and CEO, Andrew Sebastian, as a reminder that only through getting to know the island can one appreciate its beauty.

I was introduced to Ismadi Din, a local naturalist who was interested in becoming a certified nature guide. Sebastian explained that the main eco-tourism issue that he had identified when visiting Pangkor was that there are many locals who take tourists trekking, but are unable to provide their guests with knowledge on the flora and fauna seen during treks.

This led to the birth of the Vale & Ecomy Mentorship Scheme for locals interested in becoming certified Pangkor Nature Guides.

In 2015, Sebastian and a few other leading scientists including Dr Manohar Mariappan (Mano) from Universiti Putra Malaysia, had educated and trained four local people on the history of Pangkor, its flora and fauna (on land and sea) and nature photography.

By 2016, there were five more guides who wanted to be trained and certified as well.

"Ecomy will just be in Pangkor temporarily, but the locals who have been trained as guides will stay and benefit the local economy, making it self sustainable," said Sebastian.

Another important reason for the scientific expedition was to emphasise the importance of the island's biodiversity on land.

Usually tourists visit Pangkor for the sea activities such as banana boating, jet skiing and kayaking. However, they are often blissfully unaware of the beautiful trails scattered around the island.

Both Sebastian and Mano highlighted the fact that a rare tree called Shorea lumutensis exists in only three places in the world, all of them along the west coast of Malaysia, and mostly on Pangkor.

Sebastian also mentioned that he wished there were more local heroes discovering new species, instead of waiting for foreigners to come to the island and discover them.

The purpose of PISE was to address all these issues and produce high quality scientific evaluations of the island that will be useful for the Pangkor Nature Guides and the local community.

Hornbills, rare trees Hornbills and aphrodisiacs

When I arrived on Pangkor island, I was greeted by the smell of the salty sea and the view of pink taxis all ready to shuttle passengers around the island.

As I pulled up at the Panville Resort, I was warmly welcomed by Andrew Sebastian, the organiser of the Pangkor Island Scientific Expedition 2017 (PISE 2017), and his team.

After unpacking, I went out to explore the surroundings. One of the Pangkor Nature Guides, Mohammad Pin, who is a hornbill expert, told me that every day at 6.30pm in front of the Sunset View Chalet, there would be a hornbill feeding session. Of course I had to go and see it.

The hornbills were waiting along phone lines and even right at my feet, eager to be fed. Although it was a great way to gather these majestic birds at one spot for tourists to see, I was upset that their natural diet had been altered. However, Sebastian clarified that they don't actually agree with this feeding practice.

That night, I met two very interesting scientists: Dr Manohar Mariappan (or Mano), an academic who specialises in nature interpretation, and Dr Vincent Teo, a sports scientist and passionate snake specialist. I made up my mind to follow them the next day.

Next morning, we headed to the Sungai Pinang trail. It was steep and slippery at first, but as we ascended, it levelled out. The air was cool at the top and a clear path, a remnant of the logging activities from the 1960s, lay ahead of us.

The group sat down for a quick break, and that's when Mano started telling us the stories of the forest. It started with a small tongkat ali (well known as an aphrodisiac) tree that he had identified.

"Here, taste the leaf. When you try to crumple it, it wont break apart," he said.

The leaf was indeed bitter and the aftertaste stayed in my mouth for the rest of the trek. As we trudged along the trail, I realised I didn't know where we were headed.

"Are we going to the peak?" I asked Mano.

"No, we're going to find a special tree, the Shorea lumutensis," he replied.

This rare tree is found in only three places in the world, all in the state of Perak, and most abundantly on Pangkor island. It is characterised by its distinct bark that contains resin.

When we finally arrived in front of a specimen, its tall woody trunk towered above me and I arched my neck to see the top.

"See the bark? As the tree grows older, it stretches and the leaves develop patterns. This is like cellulite on humans!" exclaimed Mano as we all looked at the massive tree in awe.

The trek took around 90 minutes in total but everyone felt satisfied after finally finding the lumutensis.

That night, while the scientists would be presenting their first day's findings, I followed Teo to find snakes. We went back to the Sungai Pinang trail, and walked along a small river.

The night trek felt like an Amazonian experience, with vines dangling over my head and only the sound of the river and cicadas ringing in my ears. The perfect setting for a python?

With my feet drenched in water, I prayed that no leeches would bite me, while also hoping that I could get a glimpse of a magnificent python.

Unfortunately, after an hour or so of trekking, we gave up - there was not a snake in sight. Still, we managed to see a few common geckos and a posing toad, much to my amusement. I went to sleep absolutely exhausted.

Next morning, we headed to Teluk Ketapang, named after the Terminalia catappa tree, that is famous for its small seeds that taste like almonds.

We walked along the paved, coastal trail and I enjoyed the cool breeze and shade provided by the overhead canopy. It was a picturesque and easy trek, enhanced by the stories told by Mano.

The last day of my adventure was a trip to Paksu's famous salted fish and spicy squid snack shop. While I sat on the ferry back, I realised that the expedition was not only about enjoying the beautiful beach and sea of Pangkor, but also to experience the richness of the jungle.

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Childhood Sexuality: Normal Sexual Behavior and Development

What is normal sexual behavior in a child?Childhood sexuality is an often neglected field in sex research. There is very little literature about what one might call normal child sexual behavior. The existing literature on child sexuality gives the impression that the only way in which children figure in sexological research is as objects of sexual abuse. The child, as a subject learning about sexuality and capable of experiencing sexual pleasures, doesn't seem to exist in scholarly papers.Childhood Sexuality: Normal Behavior and Development does not focus on sexual abuse but instead deals with what can be described as normal sexual behavior and development in children under age 12. This valuable book offers information about the relationship between age and sexual development, both mental and physical, in both males and females. Childhood Sexuality: Normal Behavior and Development explores several issues, including: what children ages two to six think or know about sexuality the ways that children learn about sexuality and procreation the process of body discovery among children what normal sexual behaviors to expect in children of various ages the importance of growing up in a positive environment the differences in sexual development between children of the same age and gender ways to get honest answers from children and parents about sexualityComprehensive and enlightening, Childhood Sexuality examines the difficulties of gathering this information from children and gives insight into questions that need to be answered in the future. This guide delivers a diverse look at the complex and intriguing topic of normal child sexuality and the progress that is being made in this area of research. "

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