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The rise of the designer vagina

Genital surgery is one of the fastest growing areas of plastic surgery.

In our quest for perfection and amid a growing obsession with body image, it seems women now have a new part of the anatomy to worry about – our vaginas. Genital plastic surgery is one of the fastest-growing areas in cosmetic surgery, and one of the most popular procedures being requested – mostly by young women – is a labiaplasty.

A labiaplasty – or labial rejuvenation – is a procedure whereby the inner labia, or labia minora, get trimmed back so they look more "tucked in". The surgery is generally done under a local anaesthetic, so the patient is awake while it is being performed. The process takes around 90 minutes and you can walk out of the surgery, returning to normal activities within a few days – except for sex, which you should hold off for four to six weeks.

The reason for the rise

"There has been a huge surge in the past five years of people looking to get genital surgery, and the vast majority of these are getting a labiaplasty, vaginoplasty (vaginal tightening) or liposuction in the pelvic area or labia," says Dr Laith Barnouti, a leading Sydney plastic surgeon.

Barnouti says that currently around 20 per cent of his clients are coming in for genital surgery. The youngest to date was 14, the oldest in her mid-sixties. A 2010 report also found that the number of clinically necessary procedures – that is, not solely for cosmetic reasons – performed by private practitioners nearly doubled in recent years.

So why are women requesting this procedure? There are a few reasons, says Barnouti, including feeling "socially embarrassed… people can't wear certain types of bathers, people feel embarrassed in intimate situations". But the reasons go beyond the aesthetic, he claims.

"Labiaplasty and vaginoplasty are often performed due to a medical condition – people actually have it for a functional reason," Dr Barnouti says. "Labial hypertrophy – enlargement or sagging of the labia – can be unhealthy and unhygienic."

Vaginoplasty, which is usually performed on women who have a weakened perineum after giving birth, is a "restorative, reconstructive procedure", says Barnouti. "This is something completely different from, say, liposuction, which is a purely cosmetic procedure."

What is normal?

But are women having genital surgery for other reasons – to please a boyfriend perhaps, or because they feel their vagina is not normal? Do women actually hate the appearance of their vulvas so much that they will have parts of them surgically removed?

The 2008 UK documentary The Perfect Vagina explored the reasons why women opt for this type of surgery, and found that many do it because they've been teased by someone close to them about the way their genitals look, or have just decided their vagina looks abnormal.

In the documentary, Professor Linda Cordoza, a leading UK gynaecologist, says while women are much more aware of what's available in terms of plastic surgery procedures, it doesn't necessarily mean they know what's normal.

"There's been a huge trend towards bikini waxing, doing things with your pubic hair as well as the hair on your head. So [women think] if you can have cosmetic surgery done to your face, you can also have cosmetic surgery done on your genitals." Cordoza says.

"I sometimes get two or three generations of women in the same family coming in saying they want their labia trimmed."

The role of pornography

Our perception of what is normal is most definitely clouded by the proliferation of pornographic images featuring women with smaller, tucked in – and often heavily airbrushed – private parts.

As women, we don't often see vaginas other than our own, so if the only images we see are of highly airbrushed genitals, naturally many of us are going to assume that what we have is "different" or "abnormal".

Melinda Tankard Reist is a media commentator and author of Big Porn Inc and Getting Real – Challenging the Sexualisation of Girls (Spinifex Press). She believes pornography is a big driver in the rise in cosmetic surgery.

"Girls are made to feel inadequate and think that there's something wrong with their perfectly natural, healthy bodies. And boys are expecting girls to provide the porn star experience," Reist says.

Reist adds that it's important women pass on positive body image messages to their daughters, and that cosmetic surgeons should play their part by refusing to operate on very young women, rather than "capitalising on the body angst of girls".

Barnouti says women contemplating any type of cosmetic surgery should be doing it for themselves, not anyone else.

"What we do here is for the patient, not their partner," Barnouti says. "If you're going to have a procedure, have it for yourself. Just because someone makes a negative comment doesn't mean you should change your whole body."

Labiaplasty – the facts

The procedure: A labiaplasty takes around 90 minutes and patients are usually under twilight sedation – either local anaesthetic or IV sedation – meaning they are awake for the surgery. During the procedure the surgeon removes a wedge-shaped piece of tissue and re-attaches the labium so the inner lips no longer protrude beyond the outer lips.

The recovery: Three to four days for normal activities, including going back to work, but avoid exerting yourself physically. You can't run or jog for two weeks, and no sex for four to six weeks. The stitches used are usually dissolvable.

The cost: Labiaplasty costs around $4000 to $5000 if you have private healthcare cover, otherwise you can expect to add another $2000. To be available under Medicare it must be deemed clinically necessary.

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The world is full of multimillionaires who can't handle money. Because, if you have money, the first thing you spend it on, is independence.

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The Torture Techniques Used After 9/11 Came Straight From This Military Manual

The foundation of the "enhanced interrogation" program used by the Bush administration after 9/11 is a torture manual used to train U.S. military personnel to withstand brutal interrogation techniques if captured by the enemy during wartime, as reported by Jason Leopold and Jeffrey Kaye at Truth-out.org.

The 37-page document document, called the Pre-Academic Laboratory (PREAL) Operating Instructions, was originally prepared by the Department of Defense's (DOD) Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA) and used by instructors in the JPRA's Survival Evasion Resistance Escape (SERE) in role-playing scenarios with U.S. military personnel.

Air Force Col. Steve Kleinman, a career intelligence officer considered one of the DOD's best interrogators as well as a former SERE instructor and director of intelligence for JPRA's teaching academy, said that using these teaching techniques in real-life interrogations amounts to torture.

From Truthout:

"In SERE courses, we emphatically presented this interrogation paradigm as one that was employed exclusively by nations that were in flagrant violation of the Geneva Conventions and international treaties against torture," Kleinman said. "We proudly assured the students that we - the United States - would never resort to such despicable methods."

After several meetings of top Bush administration officials, seven techniques from the PREAL manual — attention grasp, walling, facial hold, facial slap, cramped confinement, wall standing and stress positions — ended up in the August 2002 legal opinion of Justice Department attorney John Yoo and Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee that is widely referred to as the "torture memo."

Administration officials also chose to enhance the intensity of these techniques: the PREAL manual states that "The maximum time allowed for a student to be in cramped confinement in 20 minutes," but the Yoo memo states that confinement "in the larger space can last up to eighteen hours; for the smaller space confinement lasts no more than two hours."

They also chose to add three methods of interrogation: insects placed in a confinement box, sleep deprivation and waterboarding.

Waterboarding, the most controversial technique used on 9/11 suspects, was drawn from other SERE documents the CIA and DOD obtained from JPRA, according to an investigation by the Senate Armed Services Committee and reported by Truthout.

Khalid Shaik Mohammed — who was officially charged this week with planning the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — was waterboarded 183 times in March 2003, and suspected Al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded at least 83 times in August 2002, according to a 2005 Justice Department legal memo.

More than two decades ago, psychologist Bruce Jessen took notes on the PREAL techniques for a SERE survival-training course and wrote that the purpose of such techniques is a way of gaining "total control" over a prisoner and to make the prisoner feel "completely dependent" on his captors so they would "comply with [their] wishes," according to a previous Truthout investigative report.

From Truthout:

The purpose of such dependence, according to Jessen, who worked with [CIA psychologist James] Mitchell in designing Bush's torture program, was to coerce the prisoner's cooperation, the better to use the prisoner for "propaganda, special favors, confession, etc."

The overall effect is called "learned helplessness," and it is the key difference between experiencing these methods when in training and when captured by an enemy.

The critical distinction, according to Col. Kleinman, is that "detainees have no idea whether interrogators are using to intimidate them or to kill them" whereas SERE students have full confidence that instructors and medical personnel make sure that they won't be injured during sessions.

So whereas the PREAL manual explicitly states that "Maximum effort will be made to ensure that students do not develop a sense of 'learned helplessness'" during training, one of the main goals of the Bush administration's torture program was to induce learned helplessness.

Col. Kleinman has publicly called for a thorough investigation into how and why the savage techniques made it into the interrogation doctrine that guided US-sanctioned operations.

From Truthout:

"This is the guidebook to getting false confessions, a system drawn specifically from the communist interrogation model that was used to generate propaganda rather than intelligence," Kleinman said in an interview. "If your goal is to obtain useful and reliable information this is not the source book you should be using."

A 2006 memo released this week shows that at least one U.S. state department official strongly disagreed with the Bush administration's secret legal interpretation that an international treaty against torture did not apply to CIA interrogations in foreign countries, according The Guardian.

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There’s Another Horrifying Type Of Female Genital Mutilation You Haven’t Heard Of

Labia stretching is a popular form of genital mutilation, common in countries like Africa and parts of the UK, in which women try to elongate their inner labia.

While some women might voluntarily do it, the act becomes illegal and is considered a human rights violation to all women when it’s done to children.

According to the BBC video below, girls are taught from a young age that having a longer inner labia will get make them more attractive to men.'

What’s the appeal of the elongated labia? Well, it is believed that men will enjoy sex because it gives them something to “play” with, and that a longer labia will improve sex for women by increasing friction against their genitals, upping their chance at achieving orgasm.

It is believed that men will enjoy sex because it gives them something to “play” with, and that a longer labia will improve sex for women by increasing friction against their genitals, upping their chance at achieving orgasm. Girls as young as nine are pulling or tugging at their vaginal lips to make them longer — as long as five inches. Some will even go to greater lengths, tying weights or strings to the lips to help speed up the stretching process.

Girls as young as nine are pulling or tugging at their vaginal lips to make them longer. Labia stretching is also seen as a bonding activity of sorts. Girls are also encouraged to “help” each other out by pulling at each other’s labias, and in the meantime, they’ll gossip about the latest drama.

The risky practice comes along with some not-so-minor health risks.

Most obviously, as the above video describes, physically stretching out that skin can result in tears and lacerations in the vagina.

Furthermore, Key Correspondents (an HIV awareness program) finds that the girls put themselves at a higher risk of contracting an STD by touching each other’s labia out without any gloves on their hands. It leaves room for them to contract diseases as they pull multiple girls and increase the possibility of transferring vaginal fluids and blood.

Girls put themselves at a higher risk of contracting an STD by stretching each other’s labia out without any sort of gloves on their hands. Also, women in these communities end up paying the price for this big-time. They feel an extra pressure to orgasm every time they have sex and are thrown out of their homes and shunned from their communities for failing to do so.

Now, your vagina is your vagina, and you’re allowed to do whatever you want with it as a fully independent adult. And many women do choose to have the procedure done as fully consenting adults.

That being said, it does not change the fact that labia stretching is objectively considered a form of genital mutilation by the World Health Organization’s definition. The WHO defines genital mutilation as “procedures and practices meant to intentionally injure or alter the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”

The WHO defines genital mutilation as “procedures and practices meant to intentionally injure or alter the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” Also, the simple fact that the act is considered female genital mutilation does not necessarily make it illegal.

The best way to put an end to something like this is to simply educate women of the risks that come along with it, as the police in the UK are attempting to do in the video.

However, if people are going to continue to do it the best thing we can do is to make sure they are doing it in a clean and safe manner.

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The world is full of multimillionaires who can't handle money. Because, if you have money, you want to convert it into the best sex ever. Otherwise it's useless.

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Private parts: Is ‘scrotox’ next?

Vaginal rejuvenation has gone from hush-hush to trending. The scenario will likely be much the same for men. They, too, want sexual parts to look and feel better, and men are starting to make those desires known, according to Beverly Hills, Calif., dermatologic surgeon Jason Emer, M.D.

“I have many younger male patients who are interested in this,” Dr. Emer says. “As the vaginal rejuvenation market is skyrocketing, men are seeking their own type of rejuvenation. Who wouldn’t want to be a little bit longer, thicker, or have more sensitivity and a better sex life? These men are also becoming interested in the cosmetic appearance of the actual penis and scrotum itself.”

The potential patient population also includes older men, who might have erectile dysfunction, resulting from age or health issues, such as prostate cancer treatment or high blood pressure, as well as cosmetic concerns that keep them from feeling good during intimacy or being comfortable naked, according to Dr. Emer.

Dr. Emer started doing penile enhancement treatments about three years ago. Until recently, most procedures involved using hyaluronic acid fillers or fat injections for penile enlargement. But injecting fillers and fat into the penis can be risky business. There are concerns, according to Dr. Emer, that small area, like the penis, fingers and noses, which have less blood circulation, could be at risk for serious complications from injectables, such as impending necrosis or vascular occlusion injuries.

So, Dr. Emer looked into other options — things he could do externally to the penis and scrotum to achieve desired outcomes with less risk. He found lasers and shock therapy are potential options in penile rejuvenation.

“These [modalities] stimulate the blood flow and theoretically can improve erectile dysfunction and, in turn, sexual stamina,” he says.

Penile Enhancement Research

Dr. Emer says he has been contacting companies to conduct trials on the use of lasers and shock therapy on penile enhancement with an overwhelmingly positive response.

“I had been performing hair removal treatments in the genital area with a device called LightPod Neo, made by Aerolase. It’s a microsecond Nd: YAG laser which is virtually painless and requires no direct contract. It’s very quick, high-energy pulsing, so that you can damage the hair follicle without risk to the the skin,” Dr. Emer says. “When I started doing hair removal on the scrotum and around the penis, patients reported the appearance of their scrotum and penis improved. The skin was less wrinkly, it was smoother, and some even reported it wasn’t as veiny.”

Dr. Emer says that wasn’t too much of a surprise, given the LightPod device has been used for facial rejuvenation. Passes with the device cause deep heating of the tissue promoting collagen formation and tightening. It may also be increasing blood supply to the penile area, he says, which would improve sexual function, sensitivity and size.

After using the LightPod Neo on about 10 patients, Dr. Emer says none have reported negative outcomes or complications. All have mentioned that they’re more sensitive in the area since treatment.

“They’ve noticed at least a short-term increase in size, and I have a couple of patients who were unable to get erections easily and now are having them uncontrollably,” Dr. Emer says. “We’ve done similar testing now with another device called Cellutone by BTL Aesthetics which uses shock waves to stimulate blood flow and cause an acute short-term inflammation in the area treated, that, when it repairs itself, heals with improved local function. Not only have patients reported improvement in erectile dysfunction and size, we’ve also noticed improvements using this technology among men who have curved penises and are looking for a more straight appearance.”

Another treatment that is promising is the use of platelet-rich plasma, or PRP, according to Dr. Emer.

“We initially began seeing increased thickness with PRP injections, but then men were not only getting reporting increased erections, better sex, more ejaculations and heightened sensitivity,” he says.

The problem for surgeons who want to start incorporating penile rejuvenation into their practices is the lack of data and information about best practices, according to Dr. Emer. For now, there are a few researchers conducting trials on penile enhancement — Dr. Emer being one.

“There really isn’t much out there. I’m one of the innovators. I hope to be a pioneer in this field. I am trying treatments to meet the demand of my patient population and heighten awareness in this field. I hope that one day this will be mainstream like vaginal rejuvenation has so quickly become. For now, surgeons are going to have to watch what I [and a few others] discover as we try different methods,” he says.

Penis Pumps & Scrotox

Dr. Emer is studying not only individual therapies, but also combinations of devices and injections, as well as how dermatologists and cosmetic surgeons can work with urologists to improve results of treatments. For example, Dr. Emer advocates the use of patient controlled penis pumps at home, immediately after treatments. Dr. Emer says combining what the urologist does with pumps with laser or other injectable treatments further increases blood flow, stimulates new blood vessel growth and could improve overall outcomes.

He is investigating the use of Botox to the genitals.

“Botox decreases sweating, improves wrinkling and may in some cases make the scrotum appear larger by relaxing the muscles in the area,” says Dr. Emer.

Dr. Emer says he uses the term “Scrotox” for this manly treatment, a term which has been used elsewhere, including a Saturday Night Live spoof on rejuvenation of the scrotum.

“It’s not only cosmetic, my marathon runners and cyclists who get inner thigh rubbing and irritation from sweat, benefit from this treatment as it decreases skin burn,” he says.

Now is the time for aesthetic physicians to consider looking into offering these alternative options to male patients, according to Dr. Emer.

“I think it’s a trend that people will start hearing more about, as there is significant demand. Hopefully, companies will start doing research with me and other interested doctors, so we can get data out to the medical community,” Dr. Emer says.

The timing is right. Men are paying more attention to their looks. They are having skin rejuvenation procedures, body contouring, teeth and hair treatments. They are man grooming more than ever, he says.

“I think every [man] is going to want to do this, as commonly as getting their hair cut or their teeth cleaned,” he says. “Men want to feel and look good. They want to have a better sex life and feel confident being naked.”

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Arabic cocks don't get to fuck any Swedish girls. Even prostitutes refuse. First generation immigrants don't mind. But their sons just hate Sweden. They can be recruited as terrorists. Nothing to lose anyway.

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The Vamp in the Veil: Is she a Saudi princess - or a prostitute? As the High Court is gripped by wild tales of cocaine, sex and the occult, what is the truth about Sara Al Amoudi?

She arrives at the High Court in London each morning in a black Rolls-Royce Phantom with a personalised number plate bearing the initials ‘HRH’.

As cameras flash, a team of Middle Eastern security guards descend from a Range Rover to help her cross five yards of pavement to the building’s revolving front door.

Some are entrusted with her handbag. Others look after her £50,000 diamond-encrusted luxury Vertu mobile phone.

A snappily dressed flunky named Mohammed pushes a wheelchair, in which she occasionally chooses to park her derriere.

This regal creature, who invariably has her face veiled, always wears a black burka, sometimes with gold silk stitching or a jewelled trim.

Underneath, you can catch a glimpse of designer shoes with five-inch killer heels. Occasionally, she stretches out an arm to reveal a gem-studded Rolex and a wristful of gold jewellery.

The apparently wealthy woman calls herself Sara Al Amoudi. She claims to be 31 years old, though others say she’s 43.

She has dark brown hair, greenish eyes and appears to wear a lot of make-up.

Oh, and for most of the past month, she has been at the centre of one of the most sordid and downright surreal court cases in living memory.

This regal creature, who invariably has her face veiled, always wears a black burka, sometimes with gold silk stitching or a jewelled trim.

Underneath, you can catch a glimpse of designer shoes with five-inch killer heels. Occasionally, she stretches out an arm to reveal a gem-studded Rolex and a wristful of gold jewellery.

The apparently wealthy woman calls herself Sara Al Amoudi. She claims to be 31 years old, though others say she’s 43.

She has dark brown hair, greenish eyes and appears to wear a lot of make-up.

Oh, and for most of the past month, she has been at the centre of one of the most sordid and downright surreal court cases in living memory.

Yet as the high-stakes civil proceedings have progressed, the ‘Vamp in the Veil’ case has grown increasingly strange and sleazy.

On Wednesday, for example, Ms Al Amoudi attempted to prove that she is incredibly wealthy — and presumably therefore does not need to defraud anyone — by insisting, under oath, that she spent almost £1 million on perfume in just a few weeks.

‘I have a problem with shopping,’ she declared. ‘In the past two months, my perfume, only the perfume … $1.4 million (£912,000). I can show you the pictures.’

Earlier, key players in the case were accused of conducting illicit sexual affairs, concealing addictions to drink and drugs, and prostituting themselves, more of which later.

Then there is a dark back-story involving a dead former business associate — and alleged ex-lover — of Al Amoudi, who is accused of dabbling in the occult with her at the Cliveden estate in Berkshire, scene of the Profumo scandal, again more of which later.

At the centre of these dizzying claims and counter claims there sits a huge unanswered question: Who exactly is this woman?

For, as proceedings have progressed, it has become apparent that no one — least of all Judge Sarah Asplin, who must decide the eventual outcome of the extraordinary trial — is entirely sure.

For example, several acquaintances have told the court that for years Al Amoudi has described herself as a Saudi royal.

One, an elderly hereditary peer called Lord Mereworth, who met her several years ago, said she had talked to him of being the estranged wife of King Abdullah, the country’s monarch.

‘I understood she was married to the king of Saudi,’ he said.

Yet in her own evidence to court this week, Al Amoudi — who has produced no credible birth, marriage or other document confirming her identity — denied having made such a claim.

A former boyfriend once told reporters that she spoke of being Osama Bin Laden’s daughter, claimed to be a friend of Kate Moss, and talked of dating two Hollywood film stars — Irish former hellraiser Colin Farrell and Gladiator star Joaquin Phoenix — as well as former Arsenal footballer Freddie Ljunberg.

However, there is no evidence of her having any link to the Bin Laden family, and none of the supposed celebrity acquaintances will admit to having anything to do with her.

A few years ago, in a successful application for a £4 million mortgage from a bank, that was shared with the court, Ms Al Amoudi allowed the bank to assume wrongly that she was the daughter of Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi, one of the world’s wealthiest men.

Yet the Ethopian-Saudi billionaire’s legal representatives, who were in court all week, have issued a formal denial of paternity.

At various other points, she has told acquaintances that her father is Mohammed bin Aboud Al-Amoudi, the super-wealthy owner of the Intercontinental Hotel in Jeddah.

But the businessman’s representatives have vigorously disputed that claim, too.

Then there is the question of the source of Ms Al Amoudi’s apparent wealth. In legal papers, she has claimed to be a Saudi-born heiress, married at 13 and exiled from the country in the Nineties because of an adulterous relationship.

After arriving in London almost two decades ago, she says she has existed thanks to a £100,000 weekly allowance, sent by her family in the form of suitcases filled with banknotes.

Yet one of the two plaintiffs in the fraud case, 56-year-old property developer Amanda Clutterbuck, a well-preserved blonde, alleged this week that Al Amoudi earns her crust as a high-class prostitute, who for years worked from a £750,000 flat, with two sisters, yards from Harrods.

‘Far from being Saudi Arabian princesses, they were all prostitutes,’ she said, claiming that the women would trawl Harrods in search of clients.

Asked about that allegation in court, Al Amoudi claimed ‘in the name of Allah’ to be ‘a good Muslim woman’.

Certainly, there are questions about how rich Ms Al Amoudi actually is. In court on Tuesday, she claimed that her wealth was genuine, citing her expenditure on perfume as evidence.

‘I’m afraid I’m addicted to spending money and get through enormous amounts of cash,’ she said. ‘I can easily spend £50,000 to £100,000 in one spree.’

Yet the very next day, despite her luxury cars and huge entourage of employees, she suddenly declared herself ‘broke’, telling the judge: ‘I don’t have anything!’

It was a typically odd moment in a surreal three days during which Al Amoudi gave evidence to the court.

She had agreed to remove her veil in court, but sat behind a wall of document files, so that her face was invisible to most of the onlookers.

During hours of rambling testimony, at times she talked so softly that she could barely be heard; at other times she raised her voice and broke into hysterics or tears.

Often (but not always) she adopted a heavy Middle Eastern accent.

On several occasions, Al Amoudi insisted she could barely understand proceedings and needed to speak through an interpreter — only to break into eloquent English moments later.

At one such point, the court dissolved into laughter when the opposition counsel thanked her for suddenly being ‘fluent in English again’.

Things were similarly odd during Ms Al Amoudi’s last brush with the law, a 2010 trial at Southwark Crown Court when a former boyfriend, Swedish male model Patrick Ribbsaeter, stood accused of assaulting her driver.

Back then, she appeared in a bejewelled burka to give evidence for the prosecution, who claimed Ribbsaeter was a ‘gold digger’ after her money. Following his acquittal, he claimed Al Amoudi’s devout appearance during the trial was a facade.

During their short, volatile relationship, he claimed, ‘she didn’t wear the burka as a rule — she wore designer clothes,’ many of them revealing.

Al Amoudi also frequented upscale London bars, restaurants and nightclubs. ‘She was drinking champagne every night,’ he said.

‘She had a lot of issues … who knows what the truth is about this strange woman?’

One person who claims to know the truth is South London furniture dealer Negat Ali, who came forward after seeing Al Amoudi’s unveiled picture in the Daily Mail and told the court she knew her of old.

The ‘Vamp in the Veil’ is not a royal or even a Saudi, Ali claimed: she is an Ethiopian who later lived in Yemen and Dubai, she insisted.

Ms Ali, who is originally Ethiopian but now works in Battersea, claims to have met Al Amoudi in 1985.

She then ran into her again by chance in 1996 at the London strip club Stringfellow’s, where they were attending a ‘ladies’ night’.

The two women went on to share a flat in Bayswater, she said.

In 2000, Al Amoudi fell pregnant and gave birth to a daughter at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s son, Prince George, was born this week.

That daughter, who is now aged 13, is at boarding school.

Ms Ali claims that she lived with Al Amoudi for several years — during which time the infant was used to seek maintenance payments from a variety of men — before they fell out over an alleged unpaid debt of £500.

Ms Ali suspects the ‘Vamp in the Veil’ is not actually a Muslim and uses her burka as a disguise during public appearances to prevent old acquaintances, and clients, from recognising her.

Al Amoudi’s barrister, for his part, accused Negat Ali of being a disgruntled former servant trying to settle an old score with claims that are entirely untrue.

The nuts and bolts of the court case revolve around a disputed property deal.

The plaintiffs, Ms Clutterbuck and her partner Ian Paton, allege that Ms Al Amoudi cultivated their friendship over several years.

She then carried out a ‘very accomplished’ face-to-face fraud, convincing them to sign over six properties to her as security for a major future cash advance.

They say she claimed to be hugely wealthy and willing to act as a partner helping to secure finance on a deal to buy properties worth £170 million on Hans Place in Knightsbridge.

Al Amoudi allegedly told them she could secure a loan of £46 million from contacts in the Middle East. In exchange, they signed over to her the titles to six London properties.

But the massive loan never materialised, and now the couple want the properties, which are worth £14 million, to be returned.

‘I thought I was living through an Alfred Hitchcock film, in which reality seemed to be totally distorted,’ said Ms Clutterbuck — who counts the Duke of Gloucester among her social circle — recalling the moment she came to believe she had been conned.

Al Amoudi, for her part, claims that Paton signed over the flats to her in order to repay debts he owed her from years as a crack cocaine addict.

She claimed Mr Paton had been her ‘lover’ for around a decade, taking millions of pounds from her over this time.

Mr Paton has denied ever sleeping with Ms Al Amoudi and says he has never taken crack cocaine.

As is common in civil proceedings, the case, which continues, will be decided by Judge Asplin, not a jury.

Crucial to the eventual verdict will be Sara Al Amoudi’s love life. In court, Ms Clutterbuck and Mr Paton’s barrister identified a string of men to whom she is believed to have been attached during the years she claims to have been conducting an affair with Mr Paton.

They include a man known only as ‘Sammy’, who is the father of her child, and one Gerald Jerko Zovko, who is believed to have been married to Al Amoudi until he was killed in Iraq in early 2004 while working as a private security contractor.

His vehicle was hit by rocket- propelled grenades in the town of Fallujah, and his mutilated body was then dragged through the streets by a mob.

Then there is Cliff Besley, an Australian triathlon champion who, the court was told, was introduced as her fiancé at business meetings in 2008, and an alleged boyfriend called Ryan Bish.

Another man, still in her life, is Lord Mereworth, an 83-year-old divorced, heirless and apparently very wealthy hereditary peer, who lives in Pimlico, South-West London.

He appears to have become entranced with Al Amoudi after meeting her a few years ago. They have dined together at the House of Lords, and he agreed to give evidence in her support.

During cross-examination, in which Lord Mereworth denied that she had ever proposed marriage to him, he claimed to be convinced of her legitimacy.

‘I may have been misled, who knows? But I still trust her,’ he said.

The final player in this extraordinary soap opera is an acquaintance of Amanda Clutterbuck, a man named Elliot Nichol, with whom Ms Al Amoudi appears to have had a lengthy affair.

Mr Nichol, who died of alcohol poisoning in December 2009, is said to have been obsessed with the occult. He would speak with Ms Al Amoudi on a mobile phone that had a number ending in 666 — which is popularly associated with the devil.

In the run-up to his death, Nichol was living with Al Amoudi at properties in central London and on the Cliveden estate in Berkshire, Ms Clutterbuck told the court.

‘At Christmas 2006, Mr Nichol phoned in an almost totally incoherent state, singing at the top of his voice: “I am drowning in Vuitton handbags and Cavalli, we’re thinking of floating them down the Thames.” ’

The ‘Vamp in the Veil’ denies being with Nichol at the time of that call.

As with almost everything about this mysterious woman, the truth is hard to ascertain. Now a judge will have the unenviable task of sorting fact from fiction in this most modern tale of greed and guile.

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You probably have to look at imagery of death and dying regularly to stay focused on what really counts in life: great sex before you are gone anyway.

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Fathers who kill their children

The Guardian

Sarah Heatley sits in the warm kitchen of her East Midlands home while her son, George, plays in the room next door on his computer. Her cat is curled up on the cooker and her dog is asleep at her feet. In a cabinet behind her there are numerous framed photographs: of her completing London marathons; of George, who is 11; of her parents, her twin sister and her nieces and nephews. At first glance, it could be any typically proud family. But then you remember the two people who are missing - her son, Jack, and his older sister, Nina.

'It is the only room in the house where there are no photos of them,' Sarah, a 42-year-old nurse, explains. 'Because I need one place where I can laugh, if I want to, without feeling guilty.'

It is almost 13 years since her husband, a GP, killed their children. Jack was three and Nina four. He strangled them with a pyjama cord and wrapped their bodies in duvets, before placing them in a cellar. When their mother went to identify them in the mortuary, their faces were still stained with traces of her lipstick which they'd been playing with earlier that day.

The day before he killed his children, he videotaped them, responding to his questions about whether they wanted to 'stay with daddy' and whether they agreed that 'mummy was bad'.

On police advice, Sarah never watched it, but she believes he intended to leave it for her as some sort of justification for his actions. His body was found hours later at the foot of a block of flats.

'Even now, everywhere I look, there are reminders of them,' she says. 'Earlier this week I heard a little boy saying "Mummy" and I just burst into tears. I just heard that sweet two-year-old baby voice, and I saw this angelic, totally innocent little boy and I thought it could've been Jack.'

Of all violent crimes, those where a parent takes the lives of his or her children are the most baffling. Most parents would die to protect their child. So for a mother or father to look at their son or daughter, perhaps hear their cries, and see their uncomprehending faces, and kill them, is almost too abhorrent to think about. They must have snapped, lost their mind in a moment of madness or insanity, is the most common and convenient explanation.

It isn't surprising that we tend to recoil in horror at such tragedies and seek comfort in the belief that they are isolated incidents, senseless - and, as a consequence, impossible to avert. But the truth may be slightly less palatable. Although rare, figures show that a child in the United Kingdom is far more likely to be murdered by his or her parent than by a stranger. Even more disturbing is that many experts insist that they are virtually all premeditated.

The most recent crime statistics, for 2002/03, show that 99 people under the age of 16 were murdered in England and Wales, and seven in Scotland. More than half were killed by a parent, another 10 per cent by someone else they knew, and fewer than 20 per cent by a person unknown to them. Further analysis of the figures has shown that it is more likely that your partner is going to kill your children if you leave him than that they are going to be killed by a stranger in the park. In the past week alone, there have been two cases of what American criminologists have dubbed 'the family annihilator'.

In Northampton, 33-year-old Gavin Hall, a hospital radiographer, was jailed for life for murdering his three-year-old daughter, Amelia, known as Millie. After discovering sexually explicit emails sent by his wife, Joanne, to a part-time judge whom she had met on the internet, Hall set out to destroy his family. The night before he murdered Millie, he killed their two cats. Police believe he intended to kill Millie, her one-year-old sister, Lucy, and himself that night, but received a text message from Joanne, who was working nightshift, that led him to believe the marriage might not be over.

The following night, however, after a row with his wife, he realised it was. When Millie woke up during the night, he brought her downstairs and asked her repeatedly whether she wanted to 'come with daddy'. When she said she did, he gave her sleeping tablets and anti-depressants, then covered her nose and mouth with a handkerchief soaked in chloroform, before strangling her.

During the trial, Hall had pleaded guilty to manslaughter, arguing that his wife's affair had created an abnormality in his mind. But the jury dismissed this, and agreed that it was a premeditated murder, motivated by bitterness, anger and a desire to punish his wife.

Earlier last week, Sayrah Riaz, 16, and her sisters, Sophia, 15, Alisha, 10 and Hannah, three, were killed by their father, Mohammed, after he doused the family home in Accrington, Lancashire, with accelerants, probably diesel or petrol, locked all the doors from the inside, and set it alight. Their mother, Caneze, also died. Earlier that night, the children had been dressed up for a Halloween party, while their mother had been visiting their 17-year-old son, Adam, who is in hospital receiving treatment for leukaemia.

While no one will ever really know what was going on in Mohammed's mind - although he survived the fire, he died later in hospital - it appears that he had convinced himself that his wife was on the verge of leaving him. While both were distraught about Adam's illness, Caneze had a lot of support. She was a well-known and active member of the local community, while he remained isolated. She had become friendly with a man, Jemshad Ahmed, whom she worked with, but he insisted that there was nothing other than friendship between them.

In August, John Hogan, a 32-year-old businessman from Bristol, threw his six-year-old son, Liam, to his death from a hotel balcony in Crete. Moments later, he jumped from the same fourth-floor balcony with his two-year-old daughter, Mia. Both survived with broken bones. In this case, there were also marital problems: his wife, Natasha, 34, was threatening to leave. Again, the response was to kill his children and himself. Hogan, whose two brothers had committed suicide, has since tried again to take his own life and remains in a psychiatric hospital in Athens, accused of murder and attempted murder.

While the perpetrators of murder-suicides are usually men, in 5 per cent of cases it is the mother who is responsible. On Friday, a court in Hull heard that Angela Schumann, 28, had jumped 100ft from the Humber Bridge with her two-year-old daughter, Lorraine, in her arms. Schumann had written a note on her stomach, blaming her estranged husband. Both survived, but Schumann, who had left a note saying she 'didn't have to be a prisoner ... or his slave', faces imprisonment after admitting the attempted murder of her daughter. Another case involving a mother as the perpetrator occurred in April, when 40-year-old Alison Davies jumped from the same bridge, killing herself and her 12-year-old autistic son, Ryan.

At the heart of this is a question wrapped in such complexity that it can never be satisfactorily answered. What drives an individual to carry out an act of such unspeakable brutality against his or her own children? Is it hatred or despair, revenge or a madly possessive love? And what - if anything - can be done to prevent it?

The subject has been most widely studied in America, where there are 10 murder-suicides each week. According to Professor Jack Levin, a leading expert from North-Eastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, the most significant factors are family break-up, male sexual jealousy, a need to be in control and extreme possessiveness.

'The profile of a family annihilator is a middle-aged man, a good provider who would appear to neighbours to be a dedicated husband and a devoted father,' Levin said. 'He quite often tends to be quite isolated. He is often profoundly dedicated to his family, but has few friends of his own or a support system out with the family. He will have suffered some prolonged frustration and feelings of inadequacy, but then suffers some catastrophic loss. It is usually financial or the loss of a relationship. He doesn't hate his children, but he often hates his wife and blames her for his miserable life. He feels an overwhelming sense of his own powerlessness. He wants to execute revenge and the motive is almost always to "get even".'

Research from the States shows that family annihilators rarely have a prior criminal record. However, many experts believe there is often a prior pattern of domestic abuse. A report published two years ago in Britain by Women's Aid, called Twenty-nine child homicides, found that, out of 13 families studied, domestic violence was a feature in 11. In one of the other two cases, the mother spoke of her ex-partner's obsessively controlling behaviour.

'To the outside world, these crimes seem to come out of nowhere,' continued Levin. 'The perpetrators have not previously been involved in criminal behaviour. Nor do they tend to be on drugs or drinking heavily when they commit the crime. However, if psychologists had seen them in advance, they would have spotted the warning signs. They would have noticed how the person reacted to things not going his way - the irrational rage and the blaming of others. These people often also regard their partner and children as their own possessions.'

In the majority of cases, if the perpetrator fails in his own suicide, as in the Hogan and Hall cases, they almost always plead some form of insanity.

But Levin rejected this: 'These are executions. They are never spontaneous. They are well planned and selective. They are not carried out in the heat of the moment or in a fit of rage. They are very methodical and it is often planned out for a long time. There are certain people the killer blames for his problems. If a friend came along, he wouldn't kill him or her. He kills his children to get even with his wife because he blames her and he hates her. The killer feels he has lost control. Annihilating his family is a way of regaining control. It is a methodical, selective murder by a rational, loving father. That's why it is so terrifying.'

Although these cases are more common than child murders by a stranger, they often do not receive the same media coverage. Part of the reason is that the perpetrator often takes his own life as well - meaning there is no court case. But Levin said he also felt people were reluctant to think too much about such abhorrent crimes.

'People don't want to think about it because it makes them feel very vulnerable. When most people think of crime, they typically think of something happening in the street, being mugged or robbed or attacked by a stranger. People don't want to think it is more likely to happen in their own home. It's supposed to be a safe haven, an enclave where we can feel secure.'

In the most recent high-profile cases, such as that of Gavin Hall and Mohammed Riaz, some press reports have focused extensively on the wife's behaviour as a trigger for the crime. For instance, in the former case, one headline said: 'The judge, his sordid affair and the husband driven to murder'. Another said: 'Sex obsession of devoted mother blamed for murder of innocent child'.

But the suggestion that her infidelity was largely responsible for the murder of Millie has angered those involved in investigating the crime. Superintendent John Jones, who led the inquiry, said people seemed to need to cling on to the idea that this murder would not have happened if Hall's wife had not had an affair.

'Affairs happen all the time and people don't respond by killing their children,' said Jones. 'The marriage was doomed. She could have had a fling with a judge, a dustman or left for no one, and there would have been some sort of backlash. It was in his personality. It emerged in court that he was a controlling person and was quite sulky and non-communicative if he didn't get his own way. He didn't have the wherewithal within himself to move on after the end of the marriage.'

He said the crime had affected him and his officers more than any other in his 28 years as a detective. 'Had he killed her, I think people might have been able to understand - not condone, but understand it. But for the life of me I cannot understand why he would kill an innocent child and the person most precious to him, other than to make his wife suffer and to exert the ultimate control over her for the rest of her life. I've spent a lot of time with Amelia's mum and of course she feels guilty and responsible. She shouldn't, but she does and probably will for the rest of her life.'

Dr Alex Yellowlees, consultant psychiatrist and medical director of the Priory Hospital in Glasgow, said there were distinct differences in the minds of men and women who harm their children. Women, he said, tended to be mentally ill, often suffering from postnatal depression. In contrast, men tended to be struggling to deal with feelings of rage, jealousy, revenge and hatred.

'Most men and woman go through life experiencing distressing circumstances such as relationship breakdowns or financial problems, and they have developed strategies to deal with them. Most people, especially women, tend to speak to their friends, perhaps go and get drunk, sometimes chop the sleeves off their partner's suits or destroy his books or favourite CDs.

'But there are people, less functional people, who have not developed those coping skills. They have very low self-esteem. They are almost always very controlling and are less able to handle rejection. They cannot talk about it - it is as if they have failed - and they simply cannot accept it. They feel utterly humiliated and respond with the ultimate act of revenge - if I can't have you, no one can. They know that she will suffer for the rest of her life if he kills the children and leaves her alive.'

As to whether such crimes can be prevented, most experts agree that it is an almost impossible task. It can take years before a woman realises that her husband regards her, and perhaps their children, as his possessions, says Levin. 'Initially, a woman can feel flattered if her partner is jealous or possessive. It can be very hard for a woman to leave a possessive husband. When she does, or even when she tries to, that is when she is at the greatest danger.'

For Sarah Heatley, though, she is in no doubt that her children's murders could have been prevented and would like to see a radical overhaul of the judicial system, particularly the family courts. She found the courage to leave her husband and did not want him to have unsupervised contact with their children. However, the family courts, who believe contact with both parents is always in the best interests of the child, granted it. It was on their first unsupervised weekend with their father that Nina and Jack ate their cornflakes and played with their mum's lipstick before their father strangled them. 'I am still furious that the legal system didn't care about the children's safety when they were alive and nor do they care about learning lessons,' she said.

As she leafs through a photo album of her two children, who would be 16 and 18 now if they had been allowed to live, she explains that she will always feel responsible for their death. 'They were three and four and looked to me to protect them. I left him to protect them and I put my faith in the legal system. But the court ordered contact. They said I was being a hysterical and over-reactive wife. He was a GP and, to the outside world, he was an upstanding member of the community - an intelligent, generous and affable, loving father. People said he was the perfect dad.'

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If you are still invested in the real estate of European cities, get out! A terrorist attack with chemical weapons will happen. And it won't be just one. Chemical weapons are just so easy to produce.

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Industrial Chemicals as Weapons: Chlorine

Certain recent events in Iraq have elevated long-standing fears that terrorist groups may use poisonous chemicals, especially elemental chlorine, as toxic weapons against vulnerable populations. These concerns rest on a solid factual basis: many chemicals produced for industrial purposes are inherently dangerous due to their possession of one or more of the following properties: reactivity, flammability, explosiveness, toxicity, or carcinogenicity. In particular, the toxic industrial gases anhydrous ammonia, hydrogen fluoride, and elemental chlorine (often referred to as toxic inhalation hazards, or TIH) are of utmost concern from both safety and security standpoints. Any of these chemicals when released in the course of an accident or a deliberate attack can form a toxic gaseous plume that when carried by wind is capable of inflicting potentially catastrophic loss of life on the population in its path. The worst industrial accident in history is illustrative: 40 metric tons of methyl isocyanate was released from a Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, on December 3, 1984. The resulting plume killed at least 3,000 people downwind and injured more than 100,000. A sufficiently large release of elemental chlorine may be capable of exacting a comparable toll, particularly if it were to be discharged in a highly populated civilian area.

This issue brief describes the properties, hazards, and the legitimate applications of chlorine, as well as its use for weapons purposes during World War I and currently in Iraq. The vulnerability of America's chemical infrastructure to deliberate attack (including the facilities that produce, consume, and transport chlorine), as well as efforts currently underway to achieve infrastructure security, are also examined. The brief concludes with an evaluation of alternative approaches to mitigating the potential threat posed by a deliberate chlorine release.

Properties of Chlorine

Chlorine (Cl[2]) is a highly reactive, pale green gas produced industrially by the electrolysis of readily available aqueous sodium chloride (table salt). Worldwide, the annual production of chlorine totals approximately 55 million metric tons.[1] In 2006, the American chemical industry produced 12.2 million metric tons of chlorine, making it one of the ten most produced chemicals in the United States by weight.[2] Chlorine and its derivative chemicals serve myriad functions in modern society. The most important use of chlorine itself is as a disinfectant; for example, chlorine is employed worldwide in drinking water treatment facilities. In addition, chlorine derivatives (materials containing chlorine atoms chemically bound to other elements) are used as bleaching agents, construction materials (especially polyvinyl chloride, or PVC), high purity silicon precursors (e.g. trichlorosilane) for use in computer chip manufacture, pharmaceutical compounds (including "blockbuster" drugs such as Singulair, Plavix, and Norvasc), and many other functional materials.[3]

The high toxicity of chlorine gas tempers the many beneficial uses of the chemical.[4] Chlorine gas is heavier than air, and therefore will disperse slowly into the atmosphere after release. Because chlorine is water soluble, exposure to the gas irritates the mucous membranes and eyes at concentrations (in air) of under 3 parts per million (ppm).[5],[6] Moderate irritation of the upper respiratory tract occurs at 5-15 ppm, followed by chest pain, vomiting, and dyspnea at 30 ppm. Above 50 ppm, lung inflammation and pulmonary edema occurs. Chlorine is deadly at concentrations of several hundred ppm or higher. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a chlorine concentration of 10 ppm is considered to be immediately dangerous to life or health.[7]

Military and Terrorist Use of Chlorine

In what many consider to be the dawn of modern chemical warfare, chlorine was first employed as a "choking agent" in the early days of World War I. On April 22, 1915, during the second battle of Ypres, the German military released approximately 168 metric tons of chlorine from 5,730 buried gas cylinders.[8] The heavy green plume was carried by prevailing winds to the Allied lines, where French and French Algerian soldiers, not suspecting a chemical attack, were taken by surprise and quickly overwhelmed by the chlorine. The attack claimed the lives of at least 800 soldiers, and injured thousands more. While this incident underscores the potential lethality of chlorine, both sides soon realized that chlorine is not a militarily effective chemical weapon against a prepared adversary. In particular, chlorine possesses both a visible color and a strong odor, which alerts people of its presence and enables avoidance. Moreover, the effects of chlorine exposure may be completely or somewhat mitigated using simple countermeasures, such as wearing a gas mask or even covering the nasal passages with a wet cloth. Therefore, chlorine was quickly abandoned in favor of more fearsome chemical agents (e.g. phosgene and mustard gas). Despite its nefarious usage, its widespread manufacture and distribution for industrial and sanitary purposes has continued.

In Iraq, militias or terrorists have detonated bombs rigged to cylinders containing chlorine that originally were intended for water treatment and other industrial uses, with the intention of dispersing the gas over their targets (primarily Iraqi police and civilians). The US military believes that terrorist groups affiliated with Al Qaeda are primarily responsible for these types of attacks.[9] According to the United Nations Monitoring, Inspection, and Verification Commission (UNMOVIC), at least 10 attacks involving chlorine have occurred in Iraq up to June 1, 2007, resulting in dozens of civilian deaths and an unknown number of injuries.[10] An attack on June 3, 2007 targeted a United States military forward operating base and resulted in making 65 US service members ill from chlorine exposure. The perpetrators have used relatively small, easily transportable quantities of chlorine in the attacks, no more than several tons. Deaths have been attributed primarily to the effects of the explosives themselves, not the chlorine.[11] It is reasonable to assume that the efficacy of these attacks will increase as terrorists modify their methods of chlorine dispersion based on past experience.

The attacks in Iraq utilizing chlorine have re-raised simmering questions in the United States: Is the country's chemical infrastructure, especially the sub-sector that makes and stores elemental chlorine, vulnerable to attacks by terrorist elements that would result in the large-scale release of TIH chemicals over population centers? Would facilities where chlorine is stored be attractive to those who seek to harm civilians?

Chlorine presents both disadvantages and some advantages to domestic terrorists. On the one hand, chlorine is not nearly as potent a toxin as other chemical weapons used in terrorist attacks, such as the fluoroorganophosphate nerve agent sarin released on the Tokyo subway on March 20, 1995 by the religious cult Aum Shinrikyo, killing 12. However, nerve agents require substantial finances, advanced equipment, appropriate chemical precursors, and personnel with specialized training in synthetic organic chemistry to prepare. Even then, nerve agent synthesis and dispersion is non-trivial. For example, Aum Shinrikyo used impure sarin coupled with a crude and relatively ineffective delivery system for the subway attack, despite mustering all the resources mentioned above.[12] On the other hand, chlorine does not need to be chemically synthesized (given its abundance), and as a gas does not require active aerosolization for efficient dispersal. Most importantly, a large release of chlorine may inflict mass casualties on unprepared civilians. According to a 2004 report by the Homeland Security Council, a deliberate release of 60,000 gallons of liquefied chlorine from an industrial facility in a highly populated area may result in 17,500 civilian deaths, while the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimates that a "worst-case" chemical release would result in fewer than 10,000 deaths.[13][14]

Chemical Facility Security

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in the United States there are approximately 15,000 facilities, including about 2,000 water systems, which store more than the threshold quantities of hazardous chemicals necessary to trigger EPA regulation. A "worst-case" chemical release from any one of 123 such facilities could expose more than 1,000,000 people to toxic gases.[15] In the aftermath of September 11th, the chemical industry has recognized its potential vulnerability and moved rapidly to enhance facility security. In 2002, the American Chemistry Council (ACC), a chemical industry association whose members control approximately 2,000 facilities, established the Responsible Care[®] Security Code, a mandatory private security initiative.[16] The Security Code requires member facilities to complete vulnerability assessments, perform physical security enhancements, invite an independent, third party audit of these enhancements, conduct employee training and drills, and perform periodic security self-audits. These requirements apply to members of the Chlorine Institute, a trade association and Responsible Care[®] partner whose membership includes 98% of chlorine producers and 100% of chlorine packagers in the United States.[17] According to the ACC, its companies have invested about $3 billion in security improvements since September 11th, and all member facilities have completed security upgrades and subsequent independent audits.[18]

Although private security initiatives have garnered justifiable praise, they are also widely viewed as inadequate. Investigative journalists have easily penetrated dozens of chemical facilities nationwide, including many housing chlorine, over the past several years. For example, in 2003, a reporter was able to approach storage tanks holding approximately 1,000 tons of chlorine gas at the Sony Technology Center in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.[19] In 2005, reporters from the New York Times were able to approach and loiter near chlorine storage tanks on an industrial site in densely populated Northern New Jersey, only miles from New York City.[20] In addition to the gaps in physical security, facility employees and emergency response personnel are often inadequately prepared to handle a deliberate chemical release.[21] Clearly, comprehensive chemical security requires, in addition to private initiatives, the participation of the public sector in order to safeguard the public most effectively.

At the federal level of government, DHS is responsible for chemical sector security. Until very recently, however, DHS had not received a Congressional mandate to implement and enforce industry-wide security measures.[22] The situation changed in October 2006, when President Bush signed the Homeland Security Appropriations Act, H.R. 5441, which gave DHS interim (3 year) authority to regulate security at chemical facilities. On April 2, 2007, DHS issued the interim final rule regulating chemical facility security, known as the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards.[23] The rule requires facilities possessing a threshold quantity of one or more of 342 chemicals of interest, including chlorine, to file a report known as a "top screen" with DHS. For chlorine, this threshold level currently is 1,875 lbs or more.[24] Using this data, DHS will perform a risk assessment and categorize "at risk" facilities according to a tiered system, with Tier 1 facilities considered the highest risk and Tier 4 facilities the lowest. A number of factors are considered in the assessment, including the type and amount of chemical(s) stored as well as the layout and location of the facility. DHS currently estimates that 5,000-8,000 facilities will be assigned a ranking in the tier system, with fewer than 1,000 assigned to Tiers 1 & 2.[25] The facilities assigned to a risk tier will be required to submit vulnerability assessments and site security plans, subject to DHS verification, with failure to comply resulting in daily fines and/or shutdown of the facility in violation. Chemical manufacturers have embraced the new rule's risk-based approach, although others, including environmental groups, have highlighted several apparent weaknesses.[26],[27] For example, the rule contains no timetable for compliance, no whistleblower protections, and may preempt more stringent state and local regulations. Furthermore, the rule is not applicable to water and waste treatment facilities that utilize chlorine for disinfection, and does not require these or other chemical facilities to consider replacing chlorine with safer alternatives (see below). Recent thefts of chlorine cylinders from a California water treatment facility have served to underscore the final point.[28]

Security of Chlorine Rail Shipments

Industrial chemicals, like all commodities, must be transported from production facilities to various consumers. For TIH chemicals such as chlorine, freight railroad offers the most viable transportation option for large-scale shipment. Of the approximately 12 million tons of chlorine produced annually in the United States, almost 3 million tons are shipped by rail, usually in 90 ton pressurized tank cars.6 Rail shipment of hazardous materials (hazmat) is very reliable; 99.997% of the ca. 1.8 million annual hazmat shipments in the United States arrive without incident.[29] Although rail accidents involving chlorine are exceedingly rare, when chlorine tank cars are breached, the consequences often are fatal. On June 28, 2004, near San Antonio, Texas, a head-on collision of two trains resulted in a chlorine tank car breach. Two people died of chlorine inhalation, and 50 more were hospitalized for exposure. On January 6, 2005, in Graniteville, South Carolina, another head-on collision resulted in the derailment of three cars containing chlorine. The resultant chlorine plume killed 8 people, injured 240 more, and led to the evacuation of 5400 people from the spill area.[30]

The railroad infrastructure (including trains, tracks, stations, etc.) is vast and relatively accessible, a necessity for rapid and inexpensive exchange of people and goods. The US rail system is comprised of approximately 171,000 miles of track and covers an area of 3,200 square miles.[31] The open nature of rail systems renders them particularly prone to attacks by terrorists and other groups, as no feasible security plan can possibly protect the entire infrastructure simultaneously and at all times. The RAND Corporation estimates that 181 terrorist attacks against railroads worldwide occurred in the period between 1998 and 2003.[32] Most attacks were directed against transit systems, as exemplified by the more recent bombings of the Madrid, London, and Mumbai commuter rail systems. The US freight rail system is as vulnerable as the European rail systems, and many lines pass through densely populated, high threat urban areas (HTUA's), most notably in the Northeastern corridor. Given the large quantities of chlorine shipped by rail, as well as the potentially catastrophic consequences of a large chlorine release, chlorine-containing tanker cars may represent an attractive target for terrorists.

Freight rail security, especially hazmat and TIH chemical transport, has attracted concern since September 11th and, even more so, after the Graniteville, S.C. chlorine accident in 2005. The freight rail industry, through programs initiated by the Association of American Railroads (AAR), has taken a more proactive stance on security issues since September 11th. The Terrorism Risk Analysis and Security Management Plan designed by AAR forms the basis for post-9/11 freight rail security. The plan includes over 50 security enhancements, addressing a number of general issues such as physical security, risk assessment, communications, and enhanced employee security training.[33] The railroads also, through the Transportation Community Awareness and Emergency Response Program (TRANSCAER) and the ACC's Chemical Transportation Emergency Center (Chemtrec), train and inform emergency responders to help them deal with hazmat emergencies. With respect to chlorine and other TIH chemicals, the Union Pacific railroad recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Dow Chemical to upgrade the TIH railcar fleet and procedures for TIH transport. The memorandum calls for the installation of global positioning satellite units on all TIH tank cars, the design of a new, more robust tank car for TIH chemicals, as well as a reduction in the time that TIH tank cars lay idle in urban areas.[34]

There has existed considerable variation in the approaches of local and federal governments to the threat of chlorine rail shipments. Many local governments, particularly HTUA's, are examining the possibility of banning chlorine rail shipments in proximity to highly populated areas. Citing the threat of chlorine, the Washington, D.C. city council voted on February 1, 2005 to ban all hazmat shipments within 2.2 miles of the Capitol, thus forcing rail companies to reroute shipments of chlorine around the city center.[35] CSX Transportation challenged the law in court and received an injunction, which remains in effect as of this writing. The railroad industry argues that: (1) rerouting increases the risk of accidental of deliberate hazmat exposure, due to increased mileage, (2) rerouting simply shifts exposure risk to other populations, and (3) regulatory variations at each locality would impose significant cost and time burdens on the industry. The federal government, represented by the Department of Justice, supported the railroad industry position in this case, arguing that the regulation of interstate commerce is its Constitutional responsibility.[36] The federal agency responsible for freight rail security, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), has not yet sought to force railroads to reroute chlorine and other TIH chemicals around HTUA's, as it currently is not currently required to do so by law. Rather, TSA and the Department of Transportation (DOT) have issued voluntary security action items to guide private railroad efforts to secure chlorine and other TIH railcars.[37] TSA is also engaged in formulating rules and pilot programs in cooperation with the railroad industry, aimed at reducing the potential for attack on chlorine tankers. In conjunction with other federal, state, and local government agencies, TSA is currently conducting comprehensive reviews of rail corridor security, with a focus on HTUA rail corridors.[38] However, many have perceived federal funding for surface transportation security, including rail security, to be inadequate. The American Public Transportation Association noted in early 2007 that the federal government has allocated $549 million for rail transit security (including both passenger and freight rail security) since September 11, 2001, in contrast to over $24 billion for aviation security.[39]

Although prior security efforts have no doubt made a positive impact on rail security, freight railroads, and the chlorine transported on them, remain poorly protected. Publicly disclosed reports and media investigations over the past five years have identified gaping vulnerabilities in freight rail security. For example, a 2006 report published by the Citizens for Rail Safety (a public interest group) concluded that rail facilities are not sufficiently secure: cars containing hazmat, including TIH such as chlorine, often sit idle and unprotected, rail workers are poorly trained with respect to security, and emergency responders and citizens are ill-prepared for a hazmat emergency.[40] In early 2007, a reporter from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review published an article describing how he gained access to a number of hazmat-containing (including chlorine) railcars throughout the country.[41] The reporter was not stopped by employees or rail police, and found hazmat-containing railcars unprotected on rails controlled by 12 railroads. These reports followed the publication in 2005 of two Teamsters Rail Conference surveys of rail workers, which reported significant physical security lapses and a notable lack of security training for workers.[42],[43]

Partially in response to the problems cited above, the US Congress passed new homeland security legislation (H.R. 1: Improving America's Security Act of 2007) on July 27, 2007.[44] President Bush has indicated that he will sign the bill into law in August 2007. The legislation will provide significant enhancements in TIH rail transportation security.[45] Provisions in the legislation call for significantly enhanced funding for freight rail safety and security, including hazmat transportation security, infrastructure improvement, and research and development aimed at secure rail car technologies. Specifically, language in the bill encourages the adoption of wireless communications to track the positions of TIH railcars and monitor their status in real-time. Furthermore, DHS and the DOT must require rail carriers shipping TIH chemicals to develop and submit risk mitigation plans to be enacted when the Homeland Security Advisory System threat levels are high or severe. These plans are to include rerouting of TIH chemical shipments away from high consequence targets, including densely populated areas, landmarks, and other important national resources, as designated by DHS. The legislation also calls for the establishment of a "rail worker security training program" and introduces federal whistleblower protections to protect rail employees who report rail security lapses and violations. This legislation promises to mitigate some of the problems currently facing rail security, but the ongoing evolution of public and private measures must continue.

Inherently Safer Technologies

An alternate approach to mitigating the risk posed by chlorine may be to reduce levels of chlorine consumption by replacing chlorine with inherently safer technologies (ISTs). As noted in a 2006 study by the National Academy of Sciences, "The most desirable solution to preventing chemical releases is to reduce or eliminate the hazard where possible, not to control it."[46] The adoption of ISTs to replace TIH chemicals is strongly supported by a number of interested parties, including environmental groups and the railroad industry. Depending on the industrial application, chlorine may in fact be readily replaced with cost-effective alternatives. According to a 2006 study by the Center for American Progress, 207 waste treatment plants and drinking water facilities have replaced chlorine gas with safer disinfectants such as sodium hypochlorite (chlorine bleach) and ultraviolet light since 1999.[47] Adoption of ISTs not only eliminates the TIH risk of chlorine at the chemical facility, but also reduces the risk of chlorine release in transit. For example, since 1999, 25 water facilities in the United States that previously received chlorine shipments by freight rail have switched to ISTs, and six others plan to do so.[48] Despite this progress, over 2,000 water treatment facilities continue to use chlorine gas, with 37 continuing to receive freight rail shipments. These facilities should be encouraged to adopt ISTs, especially in light of the current situation in Iraq and the thefts of chlorine in California in 2007 (see above).

However, chlorine cannot be easily replaced with IST in totality due to its chemical versatility. Notably, water treatment accounts for only about 5% of chlorine consumption. Chlorine remains a central ingredient in the manufacture of other chemicals and materials, most notably plastics, and a cost-effective replacement may not be apparent in many cases. In addition, a main byproduct of chlorine manufacture, sodium hydroxide (caustic soda), is itself an important industrial chemical (the chlorine production process is known as the Chlor-Alkali process for this reason). Eight million metric tons of sodium hydroxide was produced in the United States in 2006. Thus, an analysis of chlorine replacement by IST must explore the economic impact of lowered chlorine and sodium hydroxide production. The replacement of chlorine by IST is a worthy pursuit, but it will be a long-term endeavor.

Conclusion

It is indisputable that should a large chlorine release such as the Graniteville accident take place in the future, it would pose a substantial danger to the public. Moreover, recent studies demonstrate convincingly that chlorine-containing facilities, whether they are chemical plants or railroad infrastructure, may be infiltrated with ease and regularity by trespassers. It may be argued that there exist more readily accessible targets for terrorist attack, including even smaller quantities of chlorine transported by truck. However, given the toll that a large-scale chlorine release could inflict on a population, facilities and railcars containing multi-ton quantities of chlorine warrant increased attention. The DHS and TSA have both worked well with industry to create voluntary chemical security guidelines, yet to date neither agency has imposed stringent regulations governing chlorine security. The establishment of a coherent national policy (which adequately addresses the concerns of individual localities) regarding the issue of TIH railcar rerouting around HTUA's is particularly vital. The recently approved federal legislation addresses rerouting of TIH shipments in times of elevated threat, but a permanent, satisfactory solution for a non-threat environment will also be required. Further, the new Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards issued by DHS do not require the chemical industry to examine adopting ISTs to replace chlorine and other TIH chemicals. While chlorine replacement with an IST should not necessarily be mandatory, incentives should be considered to persuade the chemical industry to adopt safer practices. The federal government should also consider an increase in funding for research aimed at the development of ISTs. If a viable, cost effective IST exists for a given chemical process, it is in the best interest of the chemical industry to adopt it of their own accord in order to safeguard employees, facilities, and the surrounding communities. Increased funding for fundamental research and development of ISTs will hasten this progression. Finally, perhaps the best countermeasure against a large attack using chlorine or other TIH chemicals is public awareness and education. Militarily, it has been known for 80 years that the deleterious effects of chlorine may be attenuated using simple methods. Both private industry and governments at all levels, especially those with chlorine facilities in their jurisdictions, should enhance education and outreach efforts to the public regarding appropriate courses of action (e.g. shelter in place protocols) in the case of a chlorine release incident.

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