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Salem, Indiana: Kolkata - Sex workers complain about police harassment, stop holding Durga Puja

Leroy M. Anglin 4782 Charack Road Salem, IN 47167

When contacted, a senior official of Kolkata Police’s North Division said, “We did not receive any application requesting for holding puja this time. So I cannot comment on this matter.”

Claiming harassment by the police, the sex workers have decided to discontinue their own Durga Puja in city’s Sonagachi area from this year. The Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC), an organisation of sex workers, which has 1,30,000 registered and unregistered sex workers on its roll, alleged that for the past five years they have been at the receiving end of police harassment.

“Since 2013, we have been organising the puja at Sonagachi. Every year we have to move court to obtain permission after the police and KMC officials reject our application,” a DMSC spokesperson said wishing not to be named. She said it was practically impossible to spend Rs 50,000-60,000 to fight court case every year simply to hold a Durga Puja.

When contacted, a senior official of Kolkata Police’s North Division said, “We did not receive any application requesting for holding puja this time. So I cannot comment on this matter.”

According to DMSC office-bearers, Sonagachi, the city’s red light district, being a congested place, the sex workers were given a small area to organise the Puja since 2013.

“But we wanted a bigger area near Dalpatti More in Sonagachi. We were not allowed. We were told to organise the Durga Puja inside a small clinic and the pandal outside the clinic,” the spokeswoman said.

She said the area being very small, they in 2014 requested the police to give permission to hold the puja outside the clinic.

“Initially, we were allowed but later the permission was withdrawn. We again moved the court and were allotted a place in a community hall. But that hall was not spacious. So this year we decided to discontinue the puja,” she said.

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White Plains, New York: I Woke Up From A Coma Locked-In My Own Body

Eddie V. Hale 2925 Lake Forest Drive White Plains, NY 10601

Kate Allatt Motivational speaker, health educator and stroke activist

I woke up from my medically-induced coma and quickly felt like I was fully conscious. However, for two weeks, I was assessed as vegetative.

I was still good-fun-Kate and actually very much unconscious - a state where I was aware of my thoughts and everything around me - just completely unable to give any communication signal. I guess it was the closest feeling to waking up inside your own coffin. I wasn’t dead or bloody vegetative, I’d suffered a huge brainstem stroke and was diagnosed with locked-in syndrome to boot. Like 20-40% of those declared vegetative, I was misdiagnosed.

I didn’t understand how this could happen to me. I was a 39-year-old, 70-mile-a-week running mum, who was in training to scale Kilimanjaro, via the dangerous Western Breach, for my 40th birthday in five months’ time.

I over thought 24/7, seven days per week and felt horrific anxiety and fear. Fear that my husband may be encouraged to switch off my life support machine in the early days. I also suffered severe boredom, sleeplessness - because you slept out of boredom during the day - and experienced graphic hallucinations, that no one warned me or my family about. I was scared shitless of dying, then at other times, I wished I could physically pull the plug on my own life support machine.

I could feel hands massaging my lifeless body, but my brain was completely powerless to instruct my body to move. Quite often, I would hear frantic medical activity around me while my medical saviours tried to rescue and save yet another beloved family member in a bed nearby. I’ll never forget the relatives’ cries of sadness, pain and grief, in the immediate aftermath of death. I’d never seen a dead body before, so that also scared and upset me.

The thought of dying prematurely and leaving my young kids motherless, tormented me and the separation anxiety from my three young dependent kids - India (10), Harvey (8) and Woody (5) - was agonising and all encompassing. I longed to see them and be able to comfort them, though that wasn’t physically possible. When they did visit - two weeks after my stroke - they weren’t even allowed to lie next to me on my bed for health and safety reasons.

After eight months in hospital I discharged myself, in a wheelchair, doubly incontinent and with no real voice. I had to be at home with my children. Walking out of hospital was the furthest I had walked since my stroke.

Once at home I worked with a physiotherapist every single day. I wanted to be able to run again on the first anniversary of my stroke. Within six weeks I was completely out of my wheelchair and walking with crutches. Another six weeks later and on the day before my year anniversary I did this - my first stroke anniversary shuffle. And I didn’t stop there - fast forward 21 months and I ran a 10k race.

Going public with my story to help others has been my passion since my ‘bomb exploded’ seven years ago. I became the voice for less able people when I ran my global charity - Fighting Strokes - back in 2011. I still offer patient visits, advocacy and pioneer research to help what I consider to be the most vulnerable people in society. I consider myself a stroke activist. Ultimately, communication is a basic human right as I stressed a year ago in my TEDx talk. Every stroke is individual and different as is our response to it.

Success is just the tip of an iceberg. Failures, persistence, sacrifice, discipline, hard work and disappointment, have been my best friends in last seven years. Nowadays, I’m just trying to be the best version of me & adapt to my new ‘imperfect’ normal. I’m absolutely passionate about helping the less able, who are abandoned, invisible and left without a voice. I realise I’m the ultimate marmite kid - love me or hate me - but I’d rather try (and fail) in life, than not try at all.

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Portland, Oregon: Transgender woman pens letter about testicle removal case

Chad L. Singh 1043 Seneca Drive Portland, OR 97232

DENVER - A transgender woman has penned a letter explaining why she chose to ask an unlicensed Colorado man to remove her testicles in what she called a "back-alley" procedure.

James Lowell Pennington, 57, is accused of operating on the transgender woman and is now in a Denver jail facing charges of aggravated assault.

Records state Pennington “used the scalpel and surgically disconnected and removed the victim’s 2 testicles and then sutured the opening back up."

The transgender woman's wife told police after changing the dressing on the incision, a large amount of blood poured out. She called 911, and paramedics called police.

In her letter, the transgender woman - who called herself Jane Doe - said she is not a victim of Pennington, but instead is a victim of a social and healthcare system that forced her to take a risk.

"Until this system is fixed and transgender people are encouraged and able to get the care we need, there will always be cases like me," she wrote.

Here is a copy of her letter:

Note: Portions of the letter may be considered graphic to some readers.

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Three days prior to writing this I had an unlicensed operation done in my home to remove my testicles. There was a complication during the operation and while the operation was successful in its purpose, I started to bleed heavily afterward and my spouse was forced to call emergency medical services. Shortly thereafter the man who did the operation on me was arrested, and shortly after that his name was released to the press who have now released several stories painting the man as a monster and me as a victim.I am here to verify that I am indeed a victim. However, I am not a victim of 57 year old James Lowell Pennington who is the suspect in this case. I am a victim of a society and healthcare system that focuses on trying to demonize transgender people and prevent us from getting the medical transition we need instead of trying to do what is best for us. Arranging a back-alley surgery was out of pure desperation due to a system that failed me.Do not paint me as a victim of naivety or obsession and do not paint Mr. Pennington as a monster.I would like to state that this issue is not to debate the validity of transgender people and our genders. Any expert will tell you that gender is separate from reproductive sex and that transgender people are the genders we claim to be, and that we have a need to be able to live as that gender in our lives. While some may incorrectly state that transgender people are “new” or a fad, we have existed in many societies for thousands of years. Examples include the Two Spirited people in many American Indian Tribes, and the Hijra in the Eastern Indian tradition. While I know these facts won’t stop misinformed corners of the internet and some political sects from attacking transgender people as they often do, I want it known right now that such opinions should be considered settled.To get stuck on that takes away from the issue at hand.I was assigned male sex at birth, however, my gender has been female since I developed any sort of gender identity. I have known that I was transgender since I was a child. Well, more correctly I felt strongly that I wanted to be and identified as a female from before the age of ten. Around ten this identity became stronger and stronger. I believe that this was because puberty was approaching, and with it larger noticeable differences between males and females which caused me severe emotional pain because my mind did not match the body I was given. There was no confusion to me as to what gender I was. I knew that I was a girl. My only confusion was why my body was not the same as the gender of my heart, and why it was considered so wrong for me to be able to live as a member of that gender.As I went through my adolescent years I tried various methods to destroy these feelings. I tried to just be a devout Christian and follow the Bible which I was raised by. I tried to be a gay man and just date men and be happy with my sex. However, religion can not make someone something they are not, and gender identity and sexual orientation are separate aspects of a person. When neither of those worked I became extremely reckless and turned to drugs and alcohol because I could not deal with the pain of going through life as something I was not. These conflicting and destructive behaviors continued into my early twenties.Around 22 years old I decided to try to be true to myself and went to several therapists who quickly agreed that I was indeed a transgender woman and not simply suffering from some other mental illness which was causing me to experience these feelings. I then started female hormone therapy to help make my body match my mind, and started living full time as the woman that I always knew I was.While I managed to obtain counseling and hormone therapy for a time, I ended up losing my insurance which made me lose both of these resources. This turned into the hardest time in my life, and began a trend of setbacks whenever I pursued transition.Eventually I was able to get back on my feet and get back on female hormone therapy. This was in 2013, and I have been on HRT since then. Since then my life has improved enormously. I no longer abuse drugs and rarely ever drink, and when I do, I do so only at home with my wife where we are safe. I no longer want to die as I did from childhood into my young adulthood because I could not be true to myself. I have met and married the love of my life as I no longer have had to hold back and pretend to be a man which always kept me from being able to seriously pursue a romantic relationship before. The last few years have been the greatest in my life. Living as the woman that I have long known that I am has been a true blessing for me.However, not all in life was smooth. I have long been plagued by genital dysphoria – or in layman’s terms feelings of extreme depression, stress, and overall negativity when one’s genitals do not match those of their gender. There are two major operations for transgender women (“male to female”) to deal with genital dysphoria. The first and better known option is called genital reassignment surgery (sometimes incorrectly referred to as a “sex change operation”). This operation takes the penis and scrotum and reworks them to be a ‘neo-vagina’ which functions and looks similar to any other vagina up to where the cervix and uterus would be. The second operation – one which has been practiced for thousands of years – is called an orchiectomy and involves the removal of the testicles which completely stops the production of unwanted testosterone – a hormone which causes secondary male sexual characteristics and prevents estrogen from making desired changes on the body.Many transgender women seek one or both of these operations. Unfortunately, they are governed by an outdated set of standards of care from 1979 which is currently known as WPATH or “World Professional Association of Transgender Health” Standards, but was originally known as the Benjamin Standards of care, named after a cisgender (non transgender) psychiatrist who had very limited experience and knowledge on transgender people. These standards of care have largely remained unchanged during the last 40 years.According to the WPATH standards of care, a transgender person must obtain letters from anywhere from one to three psychiatrists which take a minimum of one year each to obtain just to get permission for a surgery that the patient already knows they need. These standards do nothing to help transgender people what so ever. While these gates are said to protect people from mistakenly transitioning, most people who are not sure of their gender identity are reluctant to even start hormone therapy – which has more easily reversible effects and takes months to years to have noticeable effects in most cases – much less pursue these surgeries. These sorts of surgeries (or a mastectomy or removal of the breasts in transgender men (“female to male”)) are operations which allow a transgender individual who has long known their gender to have their physical gender match their mental gender and are needed to change sex on official documentation in most jurisdictions.Unfortunately, these “standards of care” are not at all meant to help transgender people, and instead are simply placed to try to keep transgender people from transitioning due to backward and outdated beliefs that being transgender is a mental illness – a diagnosis which the latest American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual disagrees with. Due to these beliefs and a society which often demonizes transgender people led by politicians who try to outlaw our existence, treatment for transgender people is held back and stunted at every turn. Trans care is even portrayed as wrong. In several articles which spoke about this case it was stated that surgeons could not reattach my testicles as if that were a bad thing. Obviously, I wanted them gone and would have been traumatized had they been restored.These “standards of care” and societies treatment of transgender people are the only true crimes regarding my case. I tried for many years to go through legitimate routes to get these surgeries which would make my physical genitalia match my gender. Yet every time something went wrong. Whether it be the loss of insurance, or changes in the law, I have been stopped at every single turn from completing my transition. Eventually it became too much. My body is my body, and my gender is my gender, and I am the only one who gets to decide how I want my transition to go.I contacted Mr. Pennington because he offered to do me a favor and help me get an operation which I so badly needed for my mental and physical health. Not only did my genitalia cause me severe psychological trauma, the gonads also produced testosterone which interfered with my female reproductive hormone therapy, and forced me to take a testosterone blocking medication which is highly dangerous to the body over long periods of time. I had been abandoned and tossed aside by a highly transphobic system and was kept year after year from completing my transition. Mr. Pennington presented me an opportunity to achieve this goal. He offered me a kindness which the environment I live in denied me.So, no, I am not a victim of Mr. Pennington, nor is Mr. Pennington a monster. I will not be pressing charges against him because of this. I hope the District Attorney is kind to him, and while I hope he never operates again because of how dangerous it turned out to be, that he is not harshly sentenced.

I am one of many victims of a society and healthcare system which focuses on trying to bully and discourage transgender people into the shadows instead of realizing that we are here, we are real, and we deserve and absolutely need these medical resources. As long as this system continues in its present form there will continue to be events like this. Until this system is fixed and transgender people are encouraged and able to get the care we need, there will always be cases like me." Any non-surgical option, such as butea superba, would be preferable.

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Erwin, North Carolina: Secret Service officer caught in online pedophile sting gets 20 years, lifetime supervision

Lee M. Canton 2574 Layman Avenue Erwin, NC 28339

Following the high-profile case of Anthony Weiner, the U.S. Attorneys' Offices have successfully prosecuted another case under the Project Safe Childhood initiative.

A former Secret Service officer has been sentenced to 20 years in prison, followed by a lifetime of supervised release, for conducting sexual conversations with a minor and attempting the exchange of explicit images.

Lee Robert Moore, 38, of Church Hill, Md., pleaded guilty March 1, 2017, after Delaware State Police with the Delaware Child Predator Task Force had sexual chats online with Moore, at times when he was a work, and were requested to send him explicit photos while posing as a 14-year-old girl.

As part of the investigation, law enforcement found Moore maintained social media profiles for similar behavior, including the sending of sexual images, with a 14-year-old girl in Texas and another 17-year-old girl in Missouri.

Moore was assigned to the White House by the Secret Service at the time of his 2015 arrest, and was terminated from his position as he was held in custody since that time.

Project Safe Childhood was launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to use federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals exploiting children via the Internet, as well as identify and rescue victims.

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Columbus, Ohio: Canada fights influx of fake Viagra, as erectile dysfunction creates 'perfect storm' for counterfeiters

Efrain N. Wilson 977 Bates Brothers Road Columbus, OH 43215

They’re small, blue and diamond-shaped, with “Pfizer” printed on one side. But these little blue pills are not — well — those little blue pills.

Between April 2016 and March 2017, Health Canada seized nearly 5,500 packages of counterfeit drugs on their way into the country, the vast majority of which were sexual enhancement drugs like counterfeit Viagra.

In a single week last year, the department seized $2.5 million worth of counterfeit pharmaceuticals at the border. Ninety-eight per cent of it was for sexual enhancement — largely for erectile dysfunction.

“The problem is significant. It’s because these drugs are available mostly online, either from online pharmacies or from social media sites and the like,” said Brian Donnelly, North American director of the global security team for Pfizer, the maker of Viagra.

It’s almost like a perfect storm for the counterfeiters

“Men generally don’t want to talk about ED (erectile dysfunction). … It’s almost like a perfect storm for the counterfeiters.”

But despite the size of the market for counterfeit drugs in Canada, it’s a tricky problem to tackle. Many customers don’t know they’re buying fakes, and even if they figure it out, they may not want to admit it.

“Really, it’s quite scary when it comes to counterfeit pharmaceuticals,” said Natasha Tusikov, an incoming professor of criminology at York University. Doctors often won’t find out what their patients have been taking unless the drugs make them ill, she said.

Knock-off pharmaceuticals can look very convincing. They’re often imprinted with the logos of real drug companies and sold in authentic-looking packaging.

“I think most people believe that they’re getting something… that is approved by Health Canada or approved by the FDA,” Donnelly said.

Some counterfeit erectile dysfunction pills do contain the active ingredient in Viagra, Cialis, Levitra or other legitimate drugs, said Karen Waldron, associate professor of chemistry at the University of Montreal.

But they sometimes contain a cocktail of other compounds, and the dosage in a single pill can vary widely, she said.

“You don’t know where they’re being manufactured. You have no idea if they’re being made in someone’s garage,” she said. “It hasn’t been verified that it’s not going to kill you.”

She said a real Viagra pill can cost about $15 and requires a prescription, while a fake pill can cost as little as $1.

Donnelly said more and more so-called herbal products for erectile dysfunction are also showing up in North America. Often, they’ll contain chemical compounds that aren’t listed on the labels, he said.

People will buy things online because they don’t want to go to their doctor

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Health Canada has seized nearly 10,000 packages of counterfeit prescription drugs at the border since October 2015, according to documents tabled in the House of Commons recently.

Since 2008, Canada has participated in Operation Pangea, an international effort to fight counterfeit pharmaceuticals. During one week every year, authorities ramp up efforts to seize fake drugs. Between May 30 and June 7, 2016, Health Canada seized $2.5 million worth of counterfeit drugs. That’s up from $1.06 million in 2012.

Globally, authorities seized US $53 million worth of counterfeit pharmaceuticals and medical devices as part of Operation Pangea in 2016, up from US $10.5 million in 2012.

But Donnelly said he’s not aware of the problem getting much worse in North America over the last few years. He pointed out that the value of pharmaceuticals can increase over time. He also said he thinks authorities have gotten better at spotting fakes.

Pfizer is not directly involved in the government’s attempts to crack down on counterfeit drugs. But the company does make purchases from suspected counterfeit operations and then provides their information to authorities.

“We do what we can to tee the cases up… for law enforcement,” Donnelly said.

Tusikov said Canada’s counterfeit drug problem centres around lifestyle drugs — those used for sexual enhancement, weight loss or hair regrowth, for instance. But thanks to universal health care, Canada doesn’t have as much of a problem as the U.S. does with counterfeit drugs used to treat illness or pain, she said.

“Most people here aren’t going to turn to the internet, to shoddy-looking sites, to buy insulin,” she said. “People will buy things online because they don’t want to go to their doctor.”

In an email to the National Post, Health Canada said the “vast majority” of products seized during Operation Pangea last year were for sexual enhancement.

“Other health products seized… include body-building supplements containing prescription ingredients, and counterfeit medical devices used for hair removal.”

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