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A 16-year-old boy was beheaded by the notorious fundamentalist organization Islamic State for not attending mandatory Friday prayer services in the border town of Jarabulus, Syria

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Assessing Libya's Chemical Weapons Threat

Jihadist groups have long fixated on chemical and biological weapons, from al Qaeda's pre-9/11 programs, in places such as the Deronta training camp in Afghanistan, to its 2003 plot to deploy improvised cyanide weapons on subways. Now there are growing fears that Islamic State militants in Libya have access to such weapons and could use them in battle or in terrorist attacks in the West. However, these fears are overblown. Chemical weapons have been an ineffective tool for terrorists in the past, and the challenges of transporting large quantities of chemical materials — though surmountable — nearly always outweigh the benefits for terrorist groups.

Recent concern over Libya's chemical weapons stems from the Islamic State's capture of several sites where former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi reportedly produced and stockpiled chemical agents. Specifically, observers fear that militants will find and use sarin, a clear, unassuming liquid that when vaporized acts as a nerve agent that can cause paralysis and respiratory failure. When inserted into rocket warheads and artillery shells and properly employed, the chemical agent could help the Islamic State decimate opponents in its battle for control over the region.

But while the group has used some chemical weapons in Iraq and Syria, where it manufactures small amounts of low-quality chlorine gas and mustard agent, there is no indication at all that it has access to sarin. Nor has there been any sign that the Islamic State is trying to export chemical weapons out of Syria and Iraq — perhaps in part because it has had such mixed success with chemical weapons closer to home. In 2007, Islamic State predecessor al Qaeda in Iraq deployed several large truck bombs laced with chlorine, but the attack inflicted few casualties. The Islamic State's own chemical attacks against rebel opponents have been only marginally successful and have not produced the mass casualties the group hoped for.

In Libya, No Sign of Chemical Weapons

Unlike their counterparts in Iraq and Syria, Islamic State militants in Libya have not used any chemical weapons so far. They did manage to take over numerous sites where Gadhafi's government allegedly stored sarin, but the facilities may well have been empty or destroyed before their arrival. During the multilateral intervention in Libya, the United States and its allies heavily targeted sites associated with the country's chemical weapons program. And what Western powers could not bomb, they may have bought. After the revolution, U.S. and other foreign intelligence services purchased weapons in the country to keep them out of regional arms markets. Regardless, even in the midst of incredibly brutal battles against the government and other jihadist groups, the Islamic State has not used any lingering remnants of the Gadhafi administration's chemical weapons program.

If some of the former government's sarin stockpiles did survive, they would likely be useless by now. Sarin degrades quickly, and countries often wait to produce it until just before an attack. In fact, U.S. chemical warheads had separate chambers to keep the chemicals apart until deployment. Any sarin mixed before Gadhafi's fall has long since expired, and after being stored in half-ruined facilities for five years, any precursor chemicals — and the equipment needed to mix them — may be just as useless.

If the Islamic State in Libya did have access to sarin or other chemical agents, we believe it would use them on the battlefield in Libya before attempting to export them abroad as its counterparts in Iraq and Syria have done.

Little Potential for Attacks in the West

If the Islamic State could transport enough chemical agent into Western countries for an attack, the group would no doubt use it. However, a mass-casualty chemical weapons attack would require a large amount of nerve agent. Beyond the difficulties the Islamic State would face transporting it, once in the target country militants would have trouble formulating an effective plan for using it. In Iraq, al Qaeda used some old chemical artillery rounds filled with sarin in improvised explosive devices; more recently in Iraq and Syria, the group used mortar rounds filled with mustard agent and chlorine. But an attack in a Western country would require a new and unfamiliar method.

In fact, no sarin attack in the West would be worth the effort: While a small quantity of an agent such as sarin can theoretically kill many people, using it to cause mass casualties is a challenge. There is a reason military attack plans involving chemical weapons include extensive barrages of artillery or rocket artillery carrying large quantities of agents such as sarin to generate a thick, choking cloud. Small releases of chemical agents are far less effective, and it is difficult to administer a lethal dose of something like sarin, which is a very volatile substance that dissipates quickly.

The Islamic State would not be the first terrorist group to find the use of chemical weapons a daunting and ineffective way to wreak havoc on civilian populations. In the 1980s, Aum Shinrikyo, a Japanese terrorist group, used sarin in multiple attacks and poured millions of dollars into biological and later chemical weapons production programs, with few results. In addition to sarin, the group used hydrogen cyanide gas, anthrax and botulinum toxin in its largely failed attempts to orchestrate dramatic mass casualty attacks. For example, in Aum Shinrikyo's 1995 strikes against the Tokyo subway system, group members on five different subway trains punctured 11 plastic bags filled with sarin, yet killed only 12 people.

It is far easier, cheaper and more deadly to plan and execute attacks using explosives or firearms than it is to attempt to smuggle chemical agents into a Western country. This has been proved time and again by chemical weapons terrorist attacks such as those conducted by Aum Shinrikyo and al Qaeda in Iraq. All are relative failures compared with bombing operations, such as the Madrid or London train attacks in 2004 and 2005, and with armed assaults such as the November Paris attack. In the end, the real-world simplicity and effectiveness of simple bombs and jihadist armed assaults will prevail over the attraction of chemical weapons.

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How men from Africa and Asia can easily migrate to Europe: Western Mediterranean route

In 2015, some 885,000 migrants arrived in the EU via the Eastern Mediterranean route – 17 times the number in in 2014, which was itself a record year. The vast majority of them arrived on several Greek islands, most on Lesbos. The numbers increased gradually from January to March, but began to climb in April, peaking at 216 000 in October. The numbers eased slightly in November and December with the onset of winter, but were still well above the figures from the same months of 2014.

Throughout 2015 Frontex deployed an increased number of officers and vessels to the Greek islands to assist in patrolling the sea and registering the thousands of migrants arriving daily. In December, the agency launched Poseidon Rapid Intervention after the Greek authorities requested additional assistance at its borders.

Most of the migrants on this route in 2015 originated from Syria, followed by Afghanistan and Somalia. There are also increasing numbers of migrants coming from sub-Saharan Africa. Most of the migrants continued their journeys north, leaving Greece through its border with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Frontex also deploys officers at Greece’s northern land border to assist in registering exiting migrants.

Trends prior to 2015

The Eastern Mediterranean has been under pressure from irregular migration for many years. Even in 2008-2009, more than 40 000 people entered using this route, accounting for some 40% of all migrants arriving in the European Union.

The sea route to the Aegean islands is far from being the only one used in the region. The air route remains popular with those who can afford it, with migrants flying directly to European cities from Istanbul. Others have entered Greece via the land border, or else exited Turkey directly into southern Bulgaria. There are other sea routes, though significantly less prominent, such as via Cyprus.

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What Science Reveals About Pedophilia

As pedophilia cases rivet the nation, psychiatrists uncover new details about the mental illness, Casey Schwartz reports.

Daily Beast

Amid the past month's disturbing revelations about child sexual abuse at Penn State and Syracuseóand the debates over morality and complicity and punishmentóit can be easy to forget that pedophilia is a mental illness, and that legally, it only becomes a crime when acted upon. Yet the key to preventing and treating the disorder may lie in its clinical details.

Among psychiatrists, views on pedophilia differ. Some researchers liken it to an addiction, others to sexual orientation; still others put their faith in brain scans. Yet pedophilia is consistent in the criteria that define it: erotic desire directed wholly or partially towards pre-pubescent children, typically under the age of thirteen. And for reasons not definitively established, there are undeniably more male than female pedophiles; by some estimates, men perpetrate as many as 94 percent of sexual offenses against children. Studying the disorder is complicated by the fact that, in the U.S., laws that went into effect in the 1990s require therapists and physicians to report to child protective services (and other authorities that vary by state) anyone they believe poses a threat to a child. The legislation trumps patient-doctor confidentiality in these circumstances. Since reporting a potential pedophile results in legal action, the law has deterred many pedophiles from voluntarily seeking psychiatric helpówhich troubles some researchers, since the disorder can be easier to prevent than treat.

As a result, almost all research on pedophiles is based on convicted sex offendersóthose who have already acted on their desiresómost of whom are or have been in prison. As Judith Herman, a psychologist who works with abused children at the Victims of Violence clinic in Boston told The Daily Beast in an e-mail: Truthfully, I don't think the psychiatric profession has much of a clue about pedophiles. Most studies are based onÖthe 5 percent who get caughtóa very unrepresentative group. In other words, most pedophilia research subjects are outliers.

Still, a small community of psychiatrists is working to better understand the disorderówork that could ultimately help to prevent the kind of suffering we've recently come to hear all too much about.

Fred Berlin, a psychiatrist and director of the sexual behavior unit at Johns Hopkins, is one of the country's best known and respected researchers on pedophilia. In his view, knee-jerk moral condemnation is beside the point. We don't know why we experience the sexual desires that we do. For so long, we've looked at it as if it's simply a moral issueópeople are supposed to have certain attractionsóand often society said if you experience a different kind of sexual temptation or feelings, you're not as morally worthy a person, he said. It's not someone's fault they have the condition, but it is their responsibility to do something about it. Telling me that someone has pedophilia is like someone saying about me that I'm heterosexual. It doesn't tell you whether I'm kind or cruel, introverted or extroverted, caring or not caring, intelligent or not intelligent.

Berlin stresses the diversity of the pedophiles he's worked with. There are people with pedophilia that are often in denial, the way some alcoholics deny having a drinking problem, he said. There are some who believe that society should change, and that we shouldn't insist that they not act on their attractions. In my experience, that's been a minority. There are others who are desperately looking for help to try and make sure they stay in control, and many of them are very pleased to learn that there's a medicine that might help.

Indeed, one of the few treatments these patients can seek out is medication that lowers testosterone levels, to blunt the intensity of the erotic desire. Clinicians also sometimes prescribe anti-depressants, both to address co-existing psychiatric problems and for the common side effect of lowering sex drive. They also often recommend psychotherapy that involves cognitive-behavioral methods, to challenge patients' skewed belief systems.

Judith Becker, a psychiatrist and professor at the University of Arizonaówho has evaluated more than a thousand pedophilesóconducts this kind of therapy. She commonly asks her patients to consider how old they felt when they were engaging in sexual acts with kids. For some, she says, this question has been an aha moment, helping them realize that, in their involvement with children, they've actually regarded themselves as being of the same age as their victims. During these encounters, Becker said, it's as if they slipped back to a much earlier phase in their own developmentóor perhaps never graduated beyond it in the first place.

Becker has also studied how this perception plays into the so-called grooming of victims widely reported in the media in the wake of the Penn State scandal. Pedophiles will often spend months insinuating themselves into a child's life, taking them to ball games, showering toys and gifts on them and becoming a part of the child's universeóto the point where a child can't recognize that a clear transgression has occurred when the interaction turns sexual. Or if the child does feel uncomfortable, he or she may still feel entangled with the adult and fear losing the relationship.

Yet according to Becker, the elaborate process isn't exclusively about the sexual gratification they expect to gain from the effort. The bonding itself is a source of satisfaction, since many pedophiles identify so strongly with children. During therapy, Becker will attempt to facilitate relationships between pedophiles and other adults, helping them gain the social skills they often lack.

Becker also points out that many pedophiles don't operate with cold clarity about the ethics of what they're doing. Instead, they weave cognitive distortions, absolving themselves of guilt or responsibility. For example, they might tell themselves, The child didn't say no when I started, or somebody did it to me when I was a child, and I thought it was okay for me to do it too, or I truly love the child.

Mark Deantonio, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at UCLA, echoes friends and neighbors of pedophiles who stress how normal offenders can seem; how functional and unassuming. The erotic fixation on pre-pubescent children that defines pedophilia is "one area of horrible deviance in someone who can otherwise maintain a normal existence, he said. Their sexual desires are completely compartmentalized.

Yet this doesn't necessarily accord with the findings of James Cantor, an associate professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of Toronto, who is one of the few researchers in the world studying pedophilia from a biological perspective, searching for brain-based and other physical differences that distinguish pedophiles from non-pedophiles.

Notably, Cantor has found that, on average, pedophiles have an IQ that is 10 points lower than the average population, they are 2.5 centimeters shorter, and they are significantly more likely not to be right-handed (i.e., they're left-handed or ambidextrous). Non-right handedness has been shown to occur more often among people with both autism and schizophrenia, two clearly biologically based psychiatric conditions.

Cantor's most potentially consequential finding, however, is his most recent one, published in a 2008 study. Using brain-scanning technology, he discovered significant differences in the white matteróthe substance that connects one brain region to anotheróof pedophile versus non-pedophile brains (both groups were composed of convicted criminals, to rule out the confounding variable of criminality). In the pedophile group, Cantor found significantly less white matter in two different regions, suggesting a connection deficit.

Cantor doesn't shy away from talking about causality. The brain has a network that's responsible for detecting what in the environment is a potentially sexual object, he said. And when there's not enough white matter, that network doesn't function like it's supposed to. He theorizes that, due to abnormal functioning in these networks, the instinct that children provoke in pedophiles is erotic, rather than the typical urge to nurture and protect. He also believes that the finding is one more piece of evidence for the case that pedophilia is caused by a biological susceptibility that starts before birth.

Cantor believes that prevention, more than treatment, is the great hope for this disorderóand that pinpointing the point when things go awry, as he put it, could allow for intervention. He emphasizes what many outside the field might find difficult to accept: Pedophilia is a medical condition, rather than a moral failing, he said. Nobody chooses to be a pedophile.

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Would You Inject Your Penis With This? (Hint: It Will Make It Bigger)

The Alternative Daily

Some men would try anything to increase the size of their member, from penis stretching to enlargement surgery. Now, one doctor claims that a patient can increase their penis size by having it injected with blood. Would you go to this length (pun intended) for a bigger bulge?

How injecting the penis works

Forget the little blue pill, there’s a new remedy in town. Dr. Norman Rowe, a certified surgeon in New York, told the Daily Mail he can increase penis size by 1.5 inches in just 10 minutes. The Botox-style procedure involves injecting the penis with a patient’s own blood for immediate results.

The method of injecting platelet-rich plasma (blood plasma enriched with platelets) is commonly used in sports medicine in order to rejuvenate muscles and fix injuries. That’s precisely where the doctor got his inspiration for this unusual size-boosting method. And unlike painful surgeries, “There is no recovery period,” said Rowe. “You come in, get the injection, 20 minutes later you’re walking out.”

In addition to increasing size, Rowe says he’s been able to cure erectile dysfunction for some patients. What do you think — would you try this method to increase the size of your penis and fix erectile dysfunction? If not, try these foods and let us know how it goes.

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A forgotten Darwinian theory upends everything biologists thought about the female orgasm

Richard Prum spends most of his time studying birds. But this year, the award-winning evolutionary ornithologist has also produced an unexpected feminist manifesto.

In his new book, The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin’s Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World—And Us, Prum, an evolutionary ornithologist at Yale, challenges the dominant narrative among evolutionary biologists: that beauty and sexual ornaments, such as a peacock’s plumage, a deer’s antlers, or the size of a man’s penis, evolve for adaptive reasons. Traditional theory holds that these ornaments are designed to display good genes, attract females, and help the species reproduce. It also tends to characterize the female orgasm as either a tool for genetic subterfuge, or an evolutionary mistake.

Per the adaptive theory, the male orgasm motivates men to seek out more opportunities for ejaculation, and subsequently, reproduction. The female orgasm, meanwhile, has remained something of a mystery. Some evolutionary biologists theorized that it evolved to literally “upsuck” the sperm of genetically superior men. (This would have let women raise their children with kind, reliable, not-so-hot partners, while passing on the superior genes of the men they mated with on the side.) The other dominant theory, championed by anthropologist Donald Symons in his 1979 book The Evolution of Human Sexuality, holds that the female orgasm, like male nipples, evolved as a byproduct of natural selection.

Prum posits a different—and coincidentally, far more appealing—explanation: that female sexual pleasure is in fact the central force behind the mating process. Basically, the female orgasm exists because it feels good, and women naturally sought out partners who could provide them with pleasurable feelings.

“The aesthetic proposal is that human female sexual pleasure and orgasm have evolved because females have preferred to mate, and remate, with males who stimulated their own sexual pleasure,” writes Prum, and that “females have thereby also selected indirectly for those genetic variations that contributed to the expansion of their own pleasure.” In other words, women had the ability to evaluate the experience of sex, and chose (naturally enough) to have sex with men who gave them orgasms. This led male mating behavior to coevolve with female desire. As male behavior evolved to meet women’s preferences, so did women’s capacity for sexual pleasure, becoming more complex, intense, and satisfying.

In this scenario, “female orgasm is not an adaptation to accomplish any extrinsic, naturally selected function,” writes Prum. “Rather, female sexual pleasure and orgasm are the evolutionary consequences of female desire and choice, and they are ends unto themselves.”

Prum puts forth several points to back up his theory about how pleasure influences evolution. For one thing, women’s orgasms are highly variable. If they are the result of indirect sexual selection, rather than direct natural selection, it makes sense that female orgasms would be more inconsistent.

This theory could also explain why human copulation, which lasts several minutes on average, is significantly longer than gorillas’ and chimpanzees’ seconds-long sex. Copulating for a longer period of time doesn’t increase the likelihood that the female will get pregnant—but humans may have evolved to have longer sexual encounters to enhance pleasure. The diversity of humans’ sex positions, compared to gorilla and chimpanzees’ consistent mounting from behind, also suggests that we’ve evolved toward the goal of servicing female clitoral stimulation and pleasure, says Prum.

Last, the pleasure theory completely aligns with the fact that female orgasm is unnecessary for procreation: “The female orgasm might have evolved to be so expansive and prodigious because it has no evolved function,” writes Prum. “It is sexual pleasure for its own sake, which has evolved purely as a consequence of women’s pursuit of pleasure.” The same cannot be said of male orgasm, which is limited in magnitude, frequency, and duration because of the link between orgasm and ejaculation.

Perhaps the most astounding element of Prum’s feminist evolutionary theories is that he’s not the first to think of them. In an under-cited passage of The Descent of Man, Charles Darwin, the revered father of evolutionary biology, proposed that sexual displays in animals evolve precisely because animals select for pretty things—or, in his words “through appreciation of the beautiful … and through the exertion of a choice.” This passage—ignored by centuries of biologists who fervently sidelined the influence of subjective pleasure—is the driving force behind Prum’s narrative.

For too long, evolutionary biologists have ignored the subjective experience of pleasure. With any luck, Prum’s book will expose the ways in which patriarchal thinking shapes scientific research—and help the public to understand that evolution is the result of women’s choice.

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Donald Trump Lowering the Age of Sexual Consent to 13 Is Fake News

March 1, 2017

Reports that President Donald Trump signed a law lowering the age of sexual consent in the United States to 13 years old are false. This story was recycled from a similar fake article published under former President Barack Obama’s tenure.

According to Snopes, the fake claim originated on Now8News website, a fake news website with no disclaimer to help discern the difference between fact and fiction. The article claimed that the new law changed the age of consent in all 50 states. It purported:

An announcement was made on Wednesday by the Trump Administration which states a new law that will take effect April 1, 2017 and Americans are shocked and disappointed. According to the announcement, the law concerning the age of consent will be changed across all 50 states and D.C. Currently the law varies in each state with the age of consent being 16, 17, and 18 years old with age provisions and mistake of age defense clauses. Currently, according to lawyers and court officials across the US, these varying laws cause confusion from state to state. This new law is looking to create a uniformed, understood age of consent factor across the entire country.

This new law will make any and all contact legal as long as the child is 13 years of age or older. Now that they have done away with the age-gap provision, a 19-year-old boy can legally have sex with a 13-year-old girl without suffering any legal consequences as long as they both consent to the act.

In the U.S., there is an age of consent between 16 and 18 years old, depending on the state. The same fake article about lowering the age to 13 was published in 2015 about Obama signing the bill. That, too, was false.

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How men from Africa and Asia can easily migrate to Europe: Western Balkan route

The record number of migrants arriving in Greece had a direct knock-on effect on the Western Balkan route, as the people who entered the EU in Greece tried to make their way via the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia into Hungary and Croatia and then towards western Europe. This led to unprecedented numbers of migrants seeking to re-enter the EU through Hungary’s borders with Serbia. After Hungary completed the construction of a fence on its border with Serbia in September, the flow of migrants shifted to Croatia. In all of 2015, the region recorded 764 000 detections of illegal border crossings by migrants, a 16-fold rise from 2014. The top-ranking nationality was Syrian, followed by Iraqis and Afghans. Earlier in the year, unprecedented numbers of Kosovo* nationals crossed the Serbian-Hungarian border illegally.

*This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.

Trends prior to 2015

The route became a popular passageway into the EU in 2012 when Schengen visa restrictions were relaxed for five Balkan countries – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia and former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

In 2013, some 20,000 people crossed the Hungarian border illegally. Nearly all of them applied for asylum after crossing. They were encouraged by a change to Hungarian law that allowed asylum seekers to be transferred to open holding centres, which they absconded soon after. In July, the Hungarian authorities further amended asylum legislation and strengthened their border controls. Migrant flows from Greece tailed off, but overall numbers rose dramatically again in 2014.

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