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Cancer Patient Held At Airport For Missing Fingerprints 323

A 62-year-old man visiting his relatives in the US was held for four hours by immigration officials after they could not detect his fingerprints because of a cancer drug he was taking. The man was prescribed capecitabine, a drug used to treat cancers in the head, neck, breast, and stomach. Some of the drug's side-effects include chronic inflammation of the palms or soles of the feet, which can cause the skin to peel or bleed. "This can give rise to eradication of fingerprints with time," explained Tan Eng Huat, senior consultant in the medical oncology department at Singapore's National Cancer Center. "Theoretically, if you stop the drug, it will grow back, but details are scanty. No one knows the frequency of this occurrence among patients taking this drug and nobody knows how long a person must be on this drug before the loss of fingerprints," he added.


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Cancer Patient Held At Airport For Missing Fingerprints

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  • Can't be the first (Score:3, Interesting)

    by georgenh16 ( 1531259 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:04PM (#28127945) Journal
    How does someone with their extremities amputated get through an airport?
  • by BetterSense ( 1398915 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:06PM (#28128007)
    When I was getting my CCW permit, which requires fingerprinting, there was an old man there. The police fingerprinters were failing to get fingerprints from him, I assumed because of his old wrinkled skin. Since he legally cannot get a CCW permit without fingerprints on file, he was basically being discriminated against on the basis that the fancy fingerprinting machine that the police station bought happened to not do the correct song and dance when he put his fingers on it.

    It's similar to the situation with breathalyzers where if the machine beeps or not can be the difference between you going to jail or driving home. Our judges have been replaced by robotic imposters, and I imagine it will get worse in the future.

  • by internerdj ( 1319281 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:09PM (#28128085)
    I had a friend in high school whose family owned a catfish restaurant. He had been helping out at the restaurant for many years and by the time he was 17-18 had no discernible fingerprints either. It most certainly cannot be the first case where someone passed through without fingerprints. It is news because there was a single idiot working at that location and he couldn't be bothered to actually do any critical reasoning.
  • by alphaFlight ( 26589 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:10PM (#28128117)

    My wife had to get a special exemption to sit for the bar exam because the state police couldn't take her fingerprints, which were necessary for conducting the required criminal background check. She has no idea why her fingerprints are virtually nonexistent.

  • by gujo-odori ( 473191 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:30PM (#28128569)

    Sure, they were dumb. Most criminals are. Most terrorists aren't exactly the sharpest marbles in the sack, either. How dumb do you have to be for someone to convince you that blowing yourself up or flying an airplane into a building is a good idea and will help you achieve your goals?

    However, they only failed because the supplier they found was an undercover Fed rather than someone who would supply actual weapons. As for reality, the rocket was real; it was just disarmed. As for the C-4, it's probably possible to supply fake C-4 that behaves just like the real thing except it won't actually explode. It's not surprising that they didn't test the stuff; they had no reason to, believing it to be authentic, and testing C-4 is likely to attract a lot of attention.

    The bottom line is, they *are* terrorists. They did have a concrete plan to carry out attacks. They attempted to carry out that plan. They were caught by good undercover police work. To try and say they aren't terrorists because they were arrested before they could blow anything up is like trying to say somebody isn't a drug dealer because he gets arrested after selling to a narc.

  • by hondo77 ( 324058 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @04:24PM (#28129567) Homepage

    When was the last time a real terrorist was found in a border check?

    Nine years ago. []

  • by KreAture ( 105311 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @04:29PM (#28129651)

    My sister has Nethertons Syndrome. It's relevant implication for this case is that her skin is replaced faster than normal. This causes her to have weak if any fingerprints.

    When visiting Florida for christmas last year my entire family was held back for about half an hour. Only after the "security person" had consulted his superior, and that superior had consulted yet another superior, were this 16 year old obvious thread to national security allowed to pass into America. They also tried to wipe her fingertips with alcohol. Very pleasant on what you can compare to a first to second degree burn.

  • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday May 28, 2009 @05:02PM (#28130099) Homepage Journal

    INterestng to note thatb the same evidence to convict him could be used to convicet any model rocket enthusiast.

    Also note he was held for an extend time before trial, a complete violation of his do process.

    The his confessions were used to convict someone else. I would love to see the transcripts of that conversation:
    "Do you know that this man was a terrorist?
    Convict him boys, this un trustworthy terrorist said this other person was guilty.

    4 timers and nitroglycerin? I wonder why no one mention how he was transporting enough nitro to make 4 bombs gig enough to require timers?

  • Sense of touch (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AlpineR ( 32307 ) <> on Thursday May 28, 2009 @05:33PM (#28130619) Homepage

    I wrote about this in my cancer blog [] a few months back:

    I lost some feeling in my hands and feet due to the various chemotherapy drugs I've taken over the past five years. I also lost my fingerprints thanks to Xeloda, which irritates the palms and soles in a reaction called hand-foot syndrome [].

    When I went to Disney World in 2007 I found that the entry gates use fingerprint scanners to ensure that the person using an electronic ticket is the same one who registered it. The scanner choked when I tried to register and an attendant had to override it. I bet that enough of the population has similar issues that it's in their training manual. I suppose it also means that people like me are a headache for anyone else trying to use fingerprints for identification.

    Some of the numbness is nerve damage, particularly from the platinum-based drugs. The nerves do slowly heal, so I am getting some feeling back. In fact, now that I've been off of systemic chemo for four months I have enough feeling to realize that I lost more than I appreciated. Except for a period after a massive dose in 2005, the numbness hasn't been enough to interfere with tasks like holding a pen or buttoning a shirt. It's just been a dullness of sensation.

    Today I learned that there's another explanation. According to research published in Science [], fingerprints enhance the sense of touch. The ridges vibrate as they encounter bumps on a surface and transmit stronger signals to the nerve endings. So part of my numbness to texture is not just the nerve damage but the lack of fingerprints. I wonder if they, too, will regrow over time.

  • by ivan256 ( 17499 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @05:36PM (#28130647)

    Yes, based on your anecdotal sample size of one, clearly I'm making this up.

    She has a mild case of Eczema [], which is commonly aggrivated by excessive washing. It causes cracking peeling, swelling and scarring. Her thumb prints have *not* grown back.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 28, 2009 @05:41PM (#28130693)
    No When your mothers and daughters are wearing a hijab, and you aren't allowed to drink beer or eat pork, then the terrorists have one. It's not their goal to just take our freedoms away, that is an effect of the real goal, of implementing the totalitarian rule of Islam world wide.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 28, 2009 @06:06PM (#28131033)

    I get the feeling that we are going to see more and more of this security theatre crap. From what I understand there is no independent scientific evidence that fingerprints are a unique identifying feature, no mater how much the government wishes it was. I recall several attempts by law enforcement to create "infailable methods" (the only one I can remember at the moment is "gait ID", something to do with how people walk) to identify people but eventually all of them were proven to be nothing more than an inpetus for convicting/harassing people on little to no evidence. Even the DNA methods used by the FBI have been proven to be imperfect, being vastly less accurate than the FBI claimed. Law enforcement/government/security needs to get over the falacy that there is some magical perfect ID method for finding "the bad people". (forgive my spelling errors, some moron removed OO from the PC)

  • America: A Dialogue (Score:5, Interesting)

    by QuoteMstr ( 55051 ) <> on Thursday May 28, 2009 @06:33PM (#28131353)

    Based on a true story and submitted for your critical evaluation, dear reader, I present "America: A Dialogue".

    Alice: I can't believe people want to bring the 9/11 terrorists into the US.

    Bob: Well, it's the right thing to do. We need to stop torturing them and give them fair trials.

    Alice: But not here. They're too dangerous to bring into the country.

    Bob:: If our prisons can hold Timothy McVeigh, they can hold anyone. And they're being tortured over there.

    Alice: McVeigh is one thing, but if we hold Al Qaeda terrorists, their supporters will come down through Canada and bail them out of Fort Leavenworth. I think they're just too dangerous to keep here, and an island is much more secure anyway.

    Bob: But our soldiers are behaving like monsters and torturing these people.

    Alice: They deserve it anyway. They attacked us on 9/11. And the real monsters are on top*. Don't criticize our troops who are just trying to do their job. It must hard dealing with those people.

    Bob: We don't know they've done anything. They've never been tried. And our troops are responsible for what they do. Didn't we decide that at Nuremberg?

    Alice: We know they attacked us. These things happen during war. They happen all the time. My friend's father told me of some nasty stuff that happened in Korea. This is no big deal.

    Bob: [dramatic facepalm, exit stage left]

    [Curtain drops, Alice appears from behind it]

    Alice: I'm so glad we elected someone who can rehabilitate our image in the world.

    [House lights]

    * Note the slight improvement over the past few years

  • by nbauman ( 624611 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @11:54PM (#28134495) Homepage Journal

    You show me a person who says "Yeah, sure" to an offer of blowing up a Synagogue for cash and I'll show you a person with a predisposition to do that anyway.

    If you had read psychologists like Stanley Milgram [] you'd know that most people could be manipulated to do exactly what the Nazis did by someone who is a skillful manipulator -- and informers are skillful manipulators. If you read testimony at these trials, you'll see that the defendants made innocent decisions that would have seemed reasonable at the time, and one thing led to another.

    If you had been in that situation, an undercover agent might have manipulated you into going along with the plot.

    Prejudice against Muslims? Hardly. You *have* noticed that the people going around doing this are primarily young, primarily Muslim, primarily male, right?

    Prejudice unsupported by facts. The Israelis commit just as much terrorism as Arabs and Muslims. [] [] And the U.S. has supported many terrorist movements against Cuba, Nicaragua, etc.

    If moderate Muslims want Islam to be respected rather than suspected, they need to stand up and denounce terror and denounce terrorists. Even when those terrorists are state actors.

    That is such bullshit I don't want to go through the details. You'll have to look up Gershom Gorenberg's articles yourself. Let's just say that I was working to free Muslims from jail who were imprisoned for denouncing terrorism.

    What's my race and religion? You can call me Irish Catholic. In some parts of the world, that might have gotten me some extra scrutiny once upon a time and I wouldn't call it unfair. People with names like mine and a religion like mine were planting bombs in London, and some here in the US were helping to finance them. If our terrorism problems here were with people of Irish ancestry and Catholic religion, I'd be quite understanding if that got me secondary screening when I fly, and I wouldn't be whining that it's racism or prejudice.

    There's at least one case that I can remember of a group of innocent Irish people who were convicted of terrorism charges in England and who served decades in jail, where one of them died, until it turned out that the scientific evidence against them, of nitrates, was faulty and they were released.

    According to this article in Slate, [] entrapment requires 3 things:

    1. The idea of committing the crime came from law enforcement officers, rather than the defendant.

    2. The law enforcement officers induced the person to commit the crime.

    3. The defendant was not ready and willing to commit this type of crime before being induced to do so.

    Many of these terrorist cases meet all 3 requirements.

    Repeatedly, an informer went to American residents who had previously had no contact with Islamic terrorism.

    Repeatedly, the informer came up with the plot, and encouraged the defendant to participate by offering him substantial amounts of money.

    Repeatedly, the defendant had never participated in this kind of activity before, and would never have done so if the informer hadn't suggested it and facilitated it, often by providing bogus "weapons."

    The prosecutors claim that the defendants would or might have some day participated in terrorism anyway. That's speculation which would only convince jurors who are prejudiced to believe that Muslims or Arabs are terrorists.

    For example, listen to the case of Hemant Lakhani on This American Life. [] .

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 29, 2009 @12:17AM (#28134633)

    Bullcrap. For one thing, they didn't detain him for "whatever they wanted". He was detained because they couldn't scan his fingerprints. For another thing, he is a foreigner. For foreigners, entering the United States is a privilege. They have no right to be here. If they want to enter this country, they have to abide by our laws. If they don't like it, don't come here.

  • by coolsnowmen ( 695297 ) on Friday May 29, 2009 @02:44AM (#28135453)

    I've fried a turkey; I guess I'm just smart enough not to fuck up my fingers (I use a digital thermometer so it is easy to tell when oil is too hot to touch). Also, the parent said nothing about fried catfish; I just figured it was some fresh fish place down by a lake.

  • by maglor_83 ( 856254 ) on Friday May 29, 2009 @03:43AM (#28135765)

    How on Earth is fingerprinting me going to tell you if I am who I say I am? You have nothing to compare it to, because nobody knows what my fingerprints look like.

  • by Nutria ( 679911 ) on Friday May 29, 2009 @05:21AM (#28136239)

    Well, my response is "if I am innocent then why am I being treated like a criminal"?

    But getting fingerprinted does not and never has treated you like a criminal. (I first got fingerprinted 30+ years ago for a passport.)

    It in only about Authentication. Nothing more, nothing less.

  • by bemymonkey ( 1244086 ) on Friday May 29, 2009 @05:33AM (#28136293)

    So because they only fingerprint criminals in your country, fingerprinting someone anywhere else is "treating them like a criminal"?

    Sure, it's a hassle, but the only reason I'd feel like a criminal while being fingerprinted would be from watching too much bad TV (being as the only people who get fingerprinted on TV shows or in movies are criminals :P)...

"The way of the world is to praise dead saints and prosecute live ones." -- Nathaniel Howe