SEIZED IN SOMALIA
BY OSCAR RICKETT
PHOTOS COURTESY OF ROLF HELMRICH
For the past 20 years, UN security officer Rolf Helmrich has conducted operations in Somalia, one of the most dangerous countries in the world. He’s a tough son of a bitch and an old-school gentleman. We talked to him about his cheery time as a hostage in Somalia in 2004.
VICE: You worked in Somalia for a while. That doesn’t sound like it could have been too much fun.
Rolf Helmrich: There is a Somali proverb: “Somalia against the world. My clan against Somalia. My family against my clan. My brother and me against my family. Me against my brother.” Somalia was never peaceful. The people are pastoralist and nomadic, constantly in search of water. As a baby you sleep with a dagger in your cradle. You always have a weapon.
So how did you get kidnapped?
Me and my UN colleagues were stopped at a bridge near a village, and we were met by a militia. Initially they tried to get money from us, but since I was trying to help the people in the area they changed their tactics. My five Somali colleagues were told to find their way back to Kismayo. I was alone with 15 militiamen with AK-47s. They squeezed into the vehicle and drove me deep into the desert.
How long were you there?
About ten days. We moved around a lot at night. I was very tense. They would throw hand grenades to each other and I would follow the grenade left to right, right to left. The worst part was not having a bathroom. I stank.
How did your kidnapping end?
Ahmed, my guard, came to me and said, “Get your shoes.” We walked 300 yards into the darkness, and two gentlemen from the same subclan as my captors came out with a bodyguard. A ransom of $18,000 had come from the business community to cleanse the name of the subclan, which had lost face because of my kidnapping. I was picked up and taken back in a 27-vehicle convoy. I spent an hour in the shower.
Did you blame them for kidnapping you?
No, I understood why they did it. I was a target because I worked for the UN. A week before, Somalis working for a UN agency were also stopped and asked for money. They agreed to pay but then broke their promise and threatened the militia. That agreement is important. Things are sealed with a handshake, like in the Middle Ages. You can’t break a handshake. I like that. I like Somalis.
ALBANIA LOVES BUSH
BY WILBERT L. COOPER
PHOTO BY FISNIK LAMA
The Balkans sure know how to treat a cowboy. In Albania, the village of Fushe Kruja recently erected a 9.5-foot-tall bronze statue of George W. Bush in the town square, celebrating the 43rd president’s first and only visit to Albania in 2007. They like Bush so much over there that his name has been immortalized as the moniker for a bakery, a café, and a street. It’s understandable that Albanians feel pretty pro-US, considering theClinton administration’s 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia on behalf of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo and the country’s admission to NATO under Obama in 2009. But in light of the presidential alternatives, how does Bush warrant a statue in Fushe Kruja? Apparently, he touched an elderly woman’s soul there by comparing her to his mother.
WORDS AND PHOTO BY HARRY CHEADLE
ILLUSTRATION BY HANNAH KUNKLE
Fearmongering terrorism experts now want us to believe that Al-Qaeda bombers have started stuffing their bodies with explosives, be it through surgery or the old-fashioned “stick it up your ass” technique. We wanted to run this by someone who knew the ins and outs of removing foreign objects from body cavities, so we called up Dr. Nageswara Mandava, the chairman of the Department of Surgery at Flushing Hospital in Queens, New York, who wrote a paper on removing packets of coke and dope from drug mules.
VICE: Could a potential body-cavity bomber use the same techniques as a drug mule?
Dr. Nageswara Mandava: Typically they’d have some kind of operation, like an appendectomy, and a large package would be put in the empty space between the bowel and the abdominal wall, alongside the organs. No one really has the data on how large the packets are or how powerful the explosives are. Unlike drugs, bombs aren’t going to get out on their own.
So it would probably be harder for you, say, to get bombs out than it would be to remove drugs.
It’s a different mind set. If a drug mule’s pellets of heroin are leaking into his stomach, he’s willing to have the pellets removed and live. But the goal of a terrorist is to set it off and kill himself. So it’d be a harder sell to persuade him to have surgery.
Do you think you could remove a bomb from somebody’s body, even if they didn’t want you to?
I don’t know that you could actually do it safely. You could do an X-ray or a CAT scan to identify the problem and then quarantine the person and figure out a way to remove it without detonating it. Or you might just quarantine them and see what happens.
A SHORT HISTORY OF ORIFICE WEAPONS
Just before being executed, anarchist Louis Lingg commits suicide by exploding a blasting cap in his mouth.
The CIA designs a kit of tools and knives that could be carried inside an agent’s anus and retrieved in case of capture.
A corpse burning in a funeral pyre in Nepal explodes from a bomb implanted by Maoist rebels.
Cops at LAX stop a man who has wires and a rock in his ass, in what they decide was possibly a “dry run” for an attack.
Al-Qaeda sews bombs into a pair of dogs in an attempt to blow up a plane, but the dogs die before takeoff, possibly from having bombs sewn into them.
An Al-Qaeda terrorist explodes a bomb in his butt in a botched attempt to kill the Saudi head of counterterrorism—the first and so far only true case of a human body-cavity bomber.
BY WILBERT L. COOPER
So, more than 50 percent of the squishy gunk that makes up butt plugs and rubber vaginas contain phthalates and other carcinogenic plasticizers, which are toxic enough to cause hormonal imbalances, diabetes, and even infertility. Because of this, manufacturers in developed countries like the US are starting to phase out plasticizers in all products; however, noxious toy cocks are still widely used, especially in Germany, where the consumer-safety study that came up with this figure was conducted and where the country’s Green Party is demanding that the government regulate these pestilent penises. Until manufacturers stop using phthalates, you can practice safe masturbation by buying 100 percent silicone sex toys or just using your fucking hands.
THE ORDEALS OF THE MASTER
BY CHRIS O’NEILL
PORTRAIT BY SADIE SEZ
Raven Kaldera is a polite, mild-mannered farmer in rural Massachusetts who is also one of the world’s most prominent voices on paganism, BDSM, polyamory, and shamanism. He’s also a self-styled “Ordeal Master,” which… we’ll let him tell you about.
VICE: So what is the job of an Ordeal Master?
Raven Kaldera: People come to me asking for me to design ordeals and perform them. Often they’ll want to face up to and relive something that’s happened in their life, like child abuse, although it’s not always sexual. The process is basic role-playing, but it’s more like ritual theater with real pain. We talk beforehand about who we’re going to be and what will be done with them. Whether they’ll be beaten, branded, cut, or something like that. Will there be a permanent mark that will remind them of this or just something that will fade?
Probably the longest and most involved ordeal I’ve ever done was for a guy dedicated to Odin—the god of wisdom. Part of why Odin gained such wisdom was that he gave up one of his eyes, lived as a woman for a year to learn their mysteries, and then was hung on Yggdrasil, the world tree, for nine days. This guy wanted to re-create this.
On the first day, he was sent to sleep in a park. The next morning, we hosed him down, dressed him in skirts, and he spent all day being forcibly feminized and slapped when he wasn’t learning fast enough. In the evening when he came home, three guys threw him on the floor and had their way with him as if he were a woman. The first two were pretty rough, but the third was gentle. The next day, we taped one eye shut, then in the evening we stitched his lips shut so the words would build up but he wouldn’t be able to talk. The next day we took the stitches out and untaped his eye. Then I whipped him and sang Norse runes as I beat him, to get the energy of each rune into his body. Then we put hooks in his flesh and hung him from a tree. But not for nine days, only for about an hour. The whole ordeal lasted for four days. As an Ordeal Master, you go into it with the mind set that you’re helping this person have the experience they want. We are embodying the sacred darknesses that one has to go through.
Did he gain the wisdom he wanted to, after all of this?
It seemed to do the trick. He said he learned many, many things. I keep encouraging him to write about it, but he’s too shy.
IN EGALIA, EVERYONE PEES SITTING DOWN
BY MILÈNE LARSSON
PHOTO BY EVAN LONG
Egalia, the world’s first gender-neutral preschool, is exactly where you’d expect it to be: in the socialist paradise of Sweden. The institution discourages the use of third-person pronouns “him” and “her” (all the kids are called “friend”) and believes that giving girls dolls and boys toy cars is a form of gender oppression. This means making sure that toys and books are free from traditional gender roles and letting the girls enjoy ball games and the boys play dress up. Egalia is either years ahead of its time, an Orwellian nightmare, or both. “They think we’re trying to turn boys into girls and girls into boys and that they’ll all end up homosexual,” says Lotta Rajalin, Egalia’s principal. “It’s clearly written into the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child that all kids should have equal rights and opportunities. Twenty years from now, we’ll look back and wonder why all schools didn’t share our values and education plan.” Incidentally, Lotta is a woman. Not that that should matter.
THE CATALAN CRAZY
BY TONI L. QUEROL
PHOTO BY RAFA CASTELLS
On the northeast coast of Spain lives 74-year-old Josep Pujiula. Over the past four decades he’s torn down and rebuilt a psychedelic labyrinth in the Catalan countryside at least three times. There’s a tower made of fallen branches and chicken wire that’s more than 100 feet high, a deerskin-clad E.T. surrounded by crucifixes and shotguns, a museum cave hidden underneath a maze, and enough other wacky shit to pique the interest of tourists, pill heads, gang members, and LSD fans. It seems Joseph can do anything—even tame a wild ram. He told us, “I grabbed him by the balls, threw him to the ground, and shouted, ‘I’m the boss here!’”