Corpses are always in style for the queens of current crime fiction

Category: In The News
Published: Friday, 26 December 2014
Written by Admin

Make that big Y cut on the corpse#x2019;s chest. Hoist its lifeless #xa0;organs onto the scale.

Detailed post-mortems have been showing up pretty regularly in crime lit these days. And if an author can put a female in charge of the wielding the instruments that dig up the grisly, often smelly #xa0;bits in order to help find the bad guy, the book may well reach the heights.

For better or for worse it seems, the days of detecting over a genteel cuppa with the likes of Agatha Christie#x2019;s magnificent Jane Marple are definitely in the past. We won#x2019;t even talk about Nancy Drew.

Which brings us to more current Mystery Queens, Patricia Cornwell and Kathy Reichs #x2013; each has a new book out this year. But then - what else is new?

Both women are ultra-prolific, capably churning out winners since the #x2019;90s. They each write a series featuring a professional female examining bodies and microscopic evidence. And #x2013; trust me on this #x2013; neither Dr. Kay Scarpetta (Cornwell) or Dr. Temperance Brennan (Reichs) have ever seen an autopsy they didn#x2019;t like.

Strong-fingered, strong-stomached, sharp-brained #x2013; nothing ever bothers them,

Both series cover the same grisly turf and deal with a remarkably similar group of personalities. Loutish cop assistants are a very big deal. And feckless younger sisters turn up too. Both protagonists seem to deal with a bewildering number of government agencies, operating under even more bewildering acronyms. But neither author seems to feel embarrassed about this. Or even go so far as to admit to any rivalry.

Yeah sure.

But never mind. And so what, anyway? Seems to be plenty of room (and bucks) in this field for the two of them. (I should mention that both the books reviewed below are better if read in series and might be even more enjoyable that way. But each can certainly stand on its own.)

...

Flesh and Blood: A Scarpetta Novel

By Patricia Cornwell

William Morrow

369 pages,$28.99

This is the 22nd Scarpetta novel, and the humorless Dr. Kay is now based in Cambridge as the chief medical examiner to the State of Massachusetts with connections to the Pentagon and#xa0; many #xa0;military institutions that, frankly I have never been able to quite figure out. But I digress.

On a beautiful June morning when President Obama is expected to visit Cambridge, she discovers seven brightly shined pennies, neatly arranged heads up on her brick garden wall. They are all dated 1981, the year of her niece Lucy#x2019;s birth. Previously, Scarpetta recalls, she had received a mysterious#xa0; Mother#x2019;s Day Tweet#xa0;from someone who calls himself Copperhead. What can this mean?

Suddenly she hears of the murder of a high school music teacher in her neighborhood, He was shot at long range#xa0; with#xa0;a bullet wrapped in#xa0; brightly polished copper. The victim had been in the news when he was falsely accused of being a terrorist and invited to the White House as a kind of apology. There, he happened to run into Scarpetta (don#x2019;t ask) and insulted her, claiming she was selling body parts. The president, standing by (again, please don#x2019;t ask) was amused.

Murders begin to mount, all involving #x201c;frags#x201d; of copper. Yet none of the victims seem to be connected. We travel to New Jersey, to Marblehead, Scarpetta#x2019;s irritating genius niece comes under suspicion. Scarpetta dives down to a shipwreck off Fort Lauderdale. And all is revealed.

It#x2019;s interesting to note that as the books go on, our heroine is becoming more human. We hear of her childhood helping her fatally ill father in the family grocery store, of her love for her FBI analyst husband. Not to mention, how her medical training comes in handy in that regard.

Here#x2019;s a love scene: #x201c;I trace the second cervical vertebra#xa0;down to C7, gently, slowly digging my fingertips into the Longus colli muscle feeling him relax, sensing his mood turning languid as he floats in a sensation of physical pleasure.#x201d; The new Kay Scarpetta!

Not only that, she#x2019;s also a gourmet cook.

...

Bones Never Lie

By Kathy Reichs

Bantam

336 pages, $27

This is the 16th Temperance Brennan, but Kathy Reichs is not just a novelist, she#x2019;s an industry. A forensic anthropologist in real life, she teaches at the University of North Carolina, serves on the National Police Services Advisory Council in Canada and testifies on high-profile cases in court. Her life forms the basis for her novels as well as the show #x201c;Bones#x201d; on Fox TV. Not only that, two of her children are writers too.

Feeling slightly inadequate? Who wouldn#x2019;t but then Reichs#x2019; protagonist, Temperance Brennan, is no slouch either. In the books, forensic anthropologist Brennan works in both Charlotte and Montreal.

Now she has become involved with two child murders, one in Vermont and one in Charlotte, both disturbingly similar to a series of earlier murders in Canada where Brennan apprehended psychopath Anique Pomerleau, killer and murderer of several young girls.

Pomerleau escaped.

The big question now obviously: has the psychopath moved her operations a thousand miles away?

Not a tough guess, no. But there#x2019;s plenty of suspense anyhow. And some well-written psychological background. And even a bit of a surprise.

Admittedly, both books require a considerable suspension of disbelief but keep your eye on the forecast #x2013; there#x2019;s plenty of snow on the way. Plenty of cold also.

You could do a whole lot worse on a long winter night.

Janice Okun is the News#x2019; former Food Editor and Restaurant Critic as well as as a devoted lifelong reader of crime fiction.



Ibuprofen may improve longevity, study suggests

Category: In The News
Published: Tuesday, 23 December 2014
Written by Admin

We first used bakers yeast, which is an established aging model, and noticed that the yeast treated with ibuprofen lived longer, researcher Dr. Michael Polymenis, an AgriLife Research biochemist in College Station, said in a news release. Then we tried the same process with worms and flies, and saw the same extended lifespan. Plus, these organisms not only lived longer but also appeared healthy.
Healthiness in worms was observed as thrashing a lot and faster pumping when swallowing.

The three-year project showed that ibuprofen interferes with yeast cell's ability to pick up tryptophan-- an amino acid found in every cell of every organism and that is essential for humans, who get it from protein sources. Researchers aren't sure why the ibuprofen worked, but noted that it's worth further exploration.

This study was a proof of principle to show that common, relatively safe drugs in humans can extend the lifespan of very diverse organisms. Therefore, it should be possible to find others like ibuprofen with even better ability to extend lifespan, with the aim of adding healthy years of life in people, Polymenis, who is also a professor in the biochemistry and biophysics department at Texas AM University, said in the news release.

Ibuprofen was created in England in the early 1960s and first made available by prescription before becoming available over-the-counter in the 1980s. The nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug is used to relieve pain, help with fever and reduce inflammation.

Polymenis collaborated with Dr. Brian Kennedy, president and CEO of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, in Novato, Calif., along with several researchers from Russia and the University of Washington.

According to Kennedy, the Buck Institute's research is also beginning to identify other drugs that affect aging. The studies were done in his lab after Polymenis reached out, wanting to see how his cell cycle analysis corresponded with the Buck Institute's aging studies.

Our institute is interested in finding out why people get sick when they get old. We think that by understanding those processes, we can intervene and find ways to extend human health span, keeping people healthier longer and slowing down aging. Thats our ultimate goal," Kennedy said in the news release.

Looking deeper into the common drugs that target individual diseases may shed light on understanding the aging process, lead study author Chong He, a postdoctoral fellow at Buck Institute, said in the news release.

Ibuprofen is something that people have been taking for years, and no one actually knew that it can have some benefits for longevity and health span," he said.

However, consumers should keep in mind that, while widely-used, ibuprofen can have side effects and isn't for everyone, Josie Znidarsic, DO, integrative medicine specialist at Cleveland Clinic's Wellness Institute, told FoxNews.com. There is a risk for gastrointestinal issues, such as bleeding ulcers, as well as cardiovascular side effects such as increased clotting, heart attack and stroke.

Znidarsic noted it's likely that the longevity effect comes from the anti-inflammatory properties of the drug, but that there are healthier ways to lower inflammation without side effects, such as having a healthier diet.

"I don't think anybody would argue that fact that we know inflammation in the body, which comes from a lot of different sources, is the basis for a lot of chronic health problems, so by controlling that, we would expect to see increased life expectancy ... but if we're not changing those things and just taking ibuprofen, I don't know if we're really going to make any headway in that," Znidarsic said.

"I feel like there are probably a lot of factors that we could change without medicating with risk," she said.

FoxNews.com's Nicole Kwan contributed to this report.



In the News: Onboard race footage successfully live-streamed

Category: In The News
Published: Saturday, 20 December 2014
Written by Admin
The view from inside the peloton is chaotic, impressive, and unquestionably entertaining.

Live-streaming video footage from onboard cameras in the middle of a bike race has leapt from merely plausible to clearly possible.

Australian website CyclingTips.com collaborated with tinkerers Tom Reynolds and Andy Richardson, both of whom come from motorsport backgrounds where onboard cameras are widely used, to successfully live-stream video from inside the elite men's race at the St. Kilda Cycling Club Shimano SuperCrit last Sunday. The test was far from perfect, but it proved that live onboard footage is technically possible.

Reynolds and Richardson borrowed and hacked drone video technology to get the project off the ground. The Shimano SuperCrit was the first test event, and though the duo ran into issues, including battery life, signal dropouts, an overheated laptop, and camera vibration, the project was proven viable.

Reynolds wrote about the project on CyclingTips.com on Thursday. He provided a five-point list of technical hurdles that would need to be overcome to bring such coverage to traditional road races like the Tour de France:

1. We'd need a system not too far different to what we currently have, but with a bespoke smaller camera system with on-board recording and a slightly better transmitter system. Costly, but it would work.
2. Footage from the cameras would be beamed to a helicopter above or perhaps to a motorcycle and then on to the chopper.
3. Due to battery issues, a software system to "wake" the camera up and then send it to sleep is important. You could perhaps get 90 minutes of live broadcast at best with existing smaller batteries. "Wake-up" software would mean you could "check in" with a rider and then sleep the system so you are good to go for the finish.
4. The bike build might have to be unique to reduce ballast, run custom wiring and aerial locations. Weight would be down to 500gms in total.
5. On mountain stages it might even be possible to get the rider to change bikes. It was done in the Tour de France in the past.

The UCI, which legalized the use of onboard cameras in racing this year, had no involvement in the project, but is actively considering how to bring live onboard footage into cycling coverage.

Read more on CyclingTips gt;gt;



The fall and rise of the news bundle

Category: In The News
Published: Friday, 19 December 2014
Written by Admin

The bundle is dead; long live the bundle. But this isn’t the familiar 20th-century package of paper and ink. It’s a bundle that lives as code, often assembled by other bits of code, and almost invariably run by people who write code, not words.

The bundle used to be that daily paper delivered to the doorstep. The newspaper evolved as a collection of the important and the worthy alongside the amusing and entertaining, mixed in with display ads and classifieds. As a physical delivery system, it’s a historical artifact of the technology, audience, and business of a particular time.

The Internet brought about the great unbundling of the printed product. As news moved online, readers could pick and chose stories of interest, ignoring the rest. Worse for media outlets, digital also disconnected news from its traditional life-support systems -- real estate, autos, and classifieds, to name just a few.

But the newspaper bundle was more than a business model or a product of the technology and delivery systems of the time. It brought order to countless things happening daily, with people relying on professionals to select a handful of events and include them in the stable and fixed format of the printed page. By packaging the world, the newspaper (and later the newscast) brought a sense of harmony to the cacophony of the everyday.

The bundle is back, enjoying a renaissance as people realize that they need it more than ever before. The promise of the seemingly infinite Internet, where news from everywhere in the world is just a click away, has run into the reality of life, when time and attention are finite.

The idea of the bundle isn’t broken -- it never really went away. Rather, the packaging of the news is morphing into multiple forms as the established ways of stuffing the news into the one-size-fits-all newspaper didn’t work so well in a networked society. Instead, there are examples of media organizations rethinking what this bundle looks like when people access the news throughout the day on multiple devices and in varied environments. Consider NYT Now from The New York Times or the Circa news app.

These bear some resemblance to collections of news of the past, assembled by professionals with expertise in journalism. But the bundle is also remerging in new forms that have little in common with the newspaper and are the product of technology, rather than journalists.

The news is being packaged in four broad ways: by apps, devices, social signals, and algorithms. As more and more people get their news on mobile devices, apps are one of the entries into news, with the stories curated or aggregated by people or algorithms. Many of these apps are from companies who are not in the news business, such as Twitter, Instagram, or WhatsApp. But news is part of the mix of the important, amusing, and mundane on these services -- news is incidental to the main reason for using these services and apps. They provide news organizations with new ways to distribute their material and reach audiences, but with little control.

Moreover, the device itself is becoming the gateway to the news and not just in terms of the apps that make it onto the first homescreen of the device. The lock screen, with its notifications, is the new gateway into what matters at any particular moment. The notifications from news apps that make it onto that lock screen are in prime position to capture attention. The lock screen is the new bundle.

Then there are the social signals that have been increasing in importance as social networks like Facebook (and perhaps Twitter in the future) tap into them to decide what people see. The collective actions of friends, contacts, and loose acquaintances produce individualized bundles of news, assembled by invisible algorithms. These algorithms, written by software engineers, are the new gatekeepers, drawing on the editorial decisions of our social circles.

It turns out there is a need for someone or something to select, filter, sort, and package the news into some sort of bundle. Given a choice, people tend to opt for convenience. The newspaper was a convenient way of getting the news. The new ways of bundling the news make it easy to stay informed, or at least, appear to be informed. Increasingly, these will become the main way people experience the news.

For news organizations, the risks of the reemergence of the bundle may outweigh the benefits of reaching new audiences. The story is disconnected from the original source with the brand fading into the background. A news outlet ends up playing by someone else’s rules in terms of what makes it to the new front page. There is little certainty as who is prominent today will still be visible tomorrow. When social signals and algorithms shape the bundle, news choices end up being impermanent, transient, and ephemeral, with no guarantees that today’s audience for a particular news organization’s work will be there tomorrow.