RSS

Book Review: The Fever by Megan Abbott

The Fever

 

The Fever by Megan Abbott

Little, Brown, and Company

June 17, 2014

ISBN-10: 0316231053

ISBN-13: 978-0316231053

320 pages

“The mood, the tone, the characters, the dialog, the entire story will draw you in and hold you . . .”

Megan Abbott didn’t win an Edgar Award by accident. She writes wonderful stories with wonderful words and creates worlds and characters that stay with you long after you close the book. The Fever is just such a book. Set among high school angst, and with a dose of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll, this is a dark and sinister story that revolves around friends, several of whom suffer a mysterious illness. Is it real or simply a case of mass hysteria? Is it the result of recent HPV vaccinations or perhaps caused by a potentially toxic pond that seems to draw students to it—as such lore-filled pools seem to do. The mystery is convoluted and unfolds through the lives and social connections that only teenagers seem to live. The mood, the tone, the characters, the dialog, the entire story will draw you in and hold you until the final page. Highly recommended.

 

 
1 Comment

Posted by on March 18, 2014 in Book Review, Writing

 

Crime and Science Radio: Burning Down the House: An Interview with Fire Investigator John Lentini

CSR 300x250-72dpi

Crime and Science Radio: Burning Down the House: An Interview with Fire Investigator John Lentini, Saturday, March 15 at 10 a.m. PDT

John Lentini will educate us about scientific fire investigation, what can be learned from examining the scene of a fire, and why improved training and scientific approaches to fire investigation are so important.

John Lentini, author of Scientific Protocols for Fire Investigation, is one of the leading fire investigators in the U.S.  He is the president and chief investigator of Scientific Fire Analysis, LCC.  He is a certified by both the International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI) and the National Association of Fire Investigators (NAFI). and is a certified Diplomate of the American Board of Criminalistics, with a specialty in Fire Debris Analysis. He was a member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences 2009 President’s Panel on Scientific Integrity.  He has authored over 3000 technical reports and testified in over 200 cases since 1975.  He has testified for both Plaintiffs and Defendants, and as a neutral court-hired expert. He has appeared on Frontline, 20/20 and other television programs.

LISTEN

LINKS:

Scientific Fire Analysis: http://www.firescientist.com

ABC News: Fire Expert: How I Nearly Sent An Innocent Man to the Electric Chair:

http://abcnews.go.com/2020/john-lentinis-fire-arson-investigation/story?id=10562869

Lime Street Fire: Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lime_Street_fire

International Association of Arson Investigators: http://firearson.com/home

National Institute of Justice: A Guide for Investigating Fire and Arson: http://www.nij.gov/topics/law-enforcement/investigations/crime-scene/guides/fire-arson/Pages/welcome.aspx

Fire Investigation: Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fire_investigation

InterFIRE: The Anatomy of an Arson Case: http://www.interfire.org/res_file/arsnanat.asp

Scientific Protocols for Fire Investigation, Second Edition, by John Lentini

Scientific Fire Analysis, LLC

A Basic Explanation of How Fire Works (from HowStuffWorks.com)

“Arson Forensics Sets Old Fire Myths Ablaze” NPR interview with John Lentini

“Spark of Truth: Can Science Bring Justice to Arson Trials?” Discover Magazine

“Arson Myths Fuel Errors” Chicago Tribune

“Trial by Fire: Did Texas Execute An Innocent Man?” Story on Willingham case in The New Yorker

Trailer for Incendiary: The Willingham Case

Frontline’s Death by Fire program on the Willingham case

“Fire Expert: How I Nearly Sent an Innocent Man to the Electric Chair” 20/20 article

Link to downloadable fire science publications by John Lentini 

ABC News’s 20/20: Evidence Under Attack in Two Texas Arson Convictions

National Association of Fire Investigators

National Fire Protection Association

International Association of Arson Investigators

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Book Review: The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh

WoB Cover

 

 

The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Pub Date: March 11, 2014

ISBN-10: 0812995201

ISBN-13: 978-0812995206

320 pages

This story is convoluted and complex but the real delight is the writing, the voice, of the author.

This story will grab you by the lapels and drag you right into the woods and hills of the Missouri Ozarks, where the novel is set. It revolves around two women, mother and daughter, separated by time and the mother’s untimely disappearance. Is mother Lila dead or alive? This is the question that haunts daughter Lucy Dane. Oh yeah, and the brutal murder and dismemberment of her childhood friend Cheri Stoddard. The story jumps between Lila’s story in the past and Lucy’s in the present. The two are similar in appearance and temperament and each tale is as scary and deeply disturbing as the other. This story is convoluted and complex and populated with a host of unusual, deeply-drawn, and deeply-flawed characters, but the real delight is the writing, the voice, of the author. It will stay with you long after you finish reading.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on March 12, 2014 in Book Review, Writing

 

Guest Blogger: Ronnie Custer: Cyber Crime: Time To Update International Laws?

Cybercrime

 

 

Universal Law against Cyber Crime Is What We Need

How are cyber crimes perpetuated?

There are many ways in which cyber crimes are perpetrated and technologically savvy attackers are indeed inventing newer ones to outwit law enforcement too. However, the main kind is as follows:

1. Unauthorized or unsolicited access to computer systems or networks with malicious intentions     or motives also termed hacking

2. Data theft of electronically stored information

3. Stratified e-mail bombardment

4. Manipulating electronic data before and after processing

5. Salami attacks mostly on financial and economic data

6. Denial of Service Attacks

7. Virus or worm attacks

8. Trojan Horse or data infiltration to cause damages, or suspension of services

How are they detected? 

Usually, cyber crimes are detected when the individual or institution notices large sums of money are unreasonably withdrawn from their accounts, or their system has become corrupted or malfunctioning. Complaints filed with the relevant Cyber Cell Departments or law enforcement are also ways of detection such genre of crimes. Many new anti cyber crime technology, tools and softwares are now being provided and installed which are able to detect cyber crimes sometimes even before the real damage sets in. Anti Virus Software (AVS) and other lingering software in computer systems are able to detect and resolve many instances of illegal entry.

Universal laws and not country- specific laws are the need of hour for addressing cyber crimes: 

Another major reason why there needs to be universal laws against cyber crimes is that there may be some different sets of cyber laws enacted and enforced by different countries of the world. While the EU may have one set of laws, the Middle East may have another and the Far East yet another, with the Americas, distinguishing itself with the fourth set of different regulatory regimes regarding cybercrimes and its treatment. Thus, enforcement of laws and bringing culprits or perpetrators before the due process of law would be a very difficult proposition, especially if this is of trans border kind with many conflicting enactment, laws and procedures. With country specific laws, it is also difficult to agree on which laws the violators could be tried and punished- the laws of the cyber crime perpetrating country, the laws of the victim’s country or the preponderance of global laws since the crimes were committed  on global internet highway.

There is every possibility that with nebulous laws, the perpetrators could stand good chance of going scot free, due to lack of evidence and even lack of law enforcement techniques.

But if there is preponderance of global set of cyber security laws and their enforcement, there is every likelihood that perpetrators would be made to stand trial and pay for their crimes.

Reasons for apparent need for globally enforceable, universal anti cyber crime 

¬ Changes in global, regional and domestic demographics have indeed warranted the need and urgency for universal laws to combat cyber crimes. Governments of various nations of the world, even involving the Interpol needs to be placed at the disposal of cyber crime fighters, wherever and whenever necessary to do so.

¬ Dramatic and major developments in online communications have indeed aided and abetted cyber criminals, some of whom may be masters of the cyber crime business. They regularly outwit law enforcing agencies and many global cyber crimes remain unsolved to this day due to lack of needed evidence and enforcement laws

¬ Since cyber crimes are now not bound to one country or state, encompassing, as it were, several States and nations through globalization, it has become imperative for States to act together and work in much closer manner to control menace of cyber crime and its after effects, on individuals, cohorts, agencies, institutions and governments. This could indeed be greater advantageous if there is a consistent, cohesive and solid set of Universal laws to which all signing countries need to adhere, abide and to enforce in a consistent, comparable and cohesive manner.

¬ Criminals do take advantage of weak and inconsistent laws to wreck havoc with apparent impunity. They know that current laws are insufficient to indict or even charge them. Global law enforcement with strong legal armory could indeed stop many varieties of online crimes dead on their tracks

Conclusion: Global cyber crime can only be effectively apprehended, prosecuted and eradicated if all nations of the world join together in a determined manner to try and wipe out this scourge from the face of the earth through Universal laws, that act and impact on every nation on earth which is in dire need of robust anti cyber crime fighting mechanism.

Author Bio: I am Ronnie Custer and I am intended on writing academic cases for the past several years that are assisted me to gain knowledge in writing grading assignments for all sorts of students. I have worked in different companies in writing industry.

Links for further reading:

FBI Cyber Crime: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/cyber

Computer Crime, Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_crime

Cybercrime: Is It Out of Control?: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2011/sep/21/cybercrime-spam-phishing-viruses-malware

James Lynn on TED: Everyday Cybercrime: http://www.ted.com/talks/james_lyne_everyday_cybercrime_and_what_you_can_do_about_it

 

 

Do Identical Twins Have Different DNA?

twins-1

 

DNA profiling is considered the gold standard for individual identification. DNA-containing bodily fluids found at crime scenes can often be linked to the perpetrator with a high degree of accuracy, often measured in one per billions. It is highly individual and therefore highly accurate for identifying a given individual.

But since identical twins begin as the same fertilized egg, they have identical genetic material (DNA). After fertilization, the fertilized egg divides into two cells. To produce identical twins, these two cells separate and then each progresses forward to produce an individual. This results in two identical individuals with identical DNA. Or does it?

Twins egg:sperm

 

Standard DNA testing uses the concept of Short Tandem Repeats (STR’s). STR’s are simply short segments of DNA that repeat in certain areas of the very long DNA strand found in all of us. The number of these repeats in the various locations are what allow DNA profiling to distinguish individuals so accurately. This is a complex, though not really difficult to understand, technique which is discussed in great detail in two of my books: Forensics For Dummies and Howdunnit: Forensics.

DNA Profile

But scientists have known for years that the DNA of identical twins is not perfectly identical. It might or might not start out that way at that first cell division but for sure as the cells divide and the individual grows within the uterus, minor DNA changes can occur. These are on the level of the base pair sequences that make up the DNA chain.

Another DNA technique called Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) actually looks at each base in the DNA strand and uses this for comparison with another strand to determine if they came from the same individual. This is the direction that DNA testing is going but for now STR remains the method of choice.

Identical twins would look the same using STR analysis but a deeper analysis using SNP would reveal variations, thus allowing identification and separation of two identical twins. Let’s say, blood is left at a crime scene and that blood is matched to a particular individual. Let’s further say that this individual is an identical twin. STR DNA analysis would not distinguish between these two brothers, But if SNP is employed, the one who left the blood at the scene can be distinguished from his identical twin.

The recent French serial rape investigation involving identical twins Yohan and Elwin would be a case in point. Applying the SNP technique in this situation would likely solve the case.

Pretty cool stuff.

Howdunnit Forensics Cover

 

From HOWDUNNIT: FORENSICS:

SINGLE NUCLEOTIDE POLYMORPHISM

Single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) is a new technique that will likely see increased use in the future. The major problem at present is that it is expensive. We saw that RFLP fragments were fairly long, a drawback that lessens their value in degraded or damaged samples (discussed later). This problem was circumvented by the discovery of STRs, which are very short fragments. But, what if the DNA examiner could use single nucleotide bases as the standard for matching? This would increase the discriminatory power of DNA even further. This is what SNP does.

Let’s say that two sequenced DNA strands looked like this:

CGATTACAGGATTA and CGATTACAAGATTA

If we searched for an “ATTA” STR repeat, these two strands would be indistinguishable

since both have two ATTA repeats. But, with single nucleotide analysis the strands differ by a single base: The ninth base in the first sequence is guanine (G), while it is adenine (A) in the second one. SNP can be used with restriction enzymes in the RFLP technique, or with PCR, where it can be easily automated. Theoretically, this will allow for discriminating two DNA samples based on a single nucleotide difference.

 

Crime and Science Radio Tomorrow at 10 a.m. PST: Interview With Forensic Specialist Lisa Black

CSR 300x250-72dpi

Working the Crime Scene: An interview With Forensic Specialist Lisa Black

Join Jan Burke and DP Lyle as they discuss working the crime scene with forensic specialist and crime fiction author Lisa Black, a forensic specialist who is a member of the American Academy of Forensic Scientists, the International Association for Identification, the International Association of Bloodstain Pattern Analysts, and is certified by the American Board of Criminalistics. She has testified in court over 50 times. And, oh yeah, an excellent fiction writer.

LISTEN: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/suspensemagazine/2014/02/06/crime-and-science-radio-with-special-guest-lisa-black

 

Lisa photo

 

LINKS:

Lisa Black Website: http://www.lisa-black.com

Crime Scene Investigator Network: http://www.crime-scene-investigator.net

How Crime Scene Investigation Works: http://science.howstuffworks.com/csi.htm

The Crime Scene Investigator: http://www.feinc.net/csi.htm

Criminalistics Information from CAC: http://www.cacnews.org/membership/criminalistics.shtml

How Blood Stain Pattern Analysis Works: http://science.howstuffworks.com/bloodstain-pattern-analysis2.htm

Bloodstain Tutorial: http://www.bloodspatter.com/bloodstain-tutorial

A Simplified Guide to Bloodstain Pattern Analysis: http://www.crime-scene-investigator.net/SimplifiedGuideBloodstainPatterns.pdf

Crime Library: Trace Evidence: http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/criminal_mind/forensics/trace/1.html

FBI Trace Evidence Lab: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/lab/scientific-analysis/trace

A Simplified Guide to Trace Evidence: http://www.crime-scene-investigator.net/SimplifiedGuideTraceEvidence.pdf

Forensic Science Central: Trace Evidence: http://forensicsciencecentral.co.uk/traceevidence.shtml

Smithsonian Institue: Catching Killers: Trace Evidence:

http://www.smithsonianchannel.com/sc/web/series/1003122/catching-killers/3375550/trace-evidence

Trace Evidence Powerpoint: http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=6&ved=0CFcQFjAF&url=http%3A%2F%2Fphs.psdr3.org%2Fscience%2Fforensics%2Fforensicppt%2FTraceEvidence.ppt&ei=qGfMUsjMCNjmoASWjoKACQ&usg=AFQjCNEbGhd8x0QLHhl8oCPkIpjW7IbGVA&sig2=MDnlZM7IZBLM1CykZuztIw&bvm=bv.58187178,d.cGU

price of 1

 

Does a PTSD Vaccine Exist?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an increasingly recognized disorder not only among returning military personnel but in others who have suffered ongoing highly stressful situations. The various forms of psychotherapy that have been used for this disorder have led to mixed results and the numerous medications available have side effects that often prevent their use. Not to mention that they don’t always work.

But what if there was a vaccine that eliminated or reduced the effects of PTSD? One that lessened the fight or flight response these memories often illicit?

A group at MIT believes they might have developed just such a treatment. They discovered that a stomach hormone called ghrelin, which has been implicated in helping generate anxiety responses, is released during highly stressful situations, and the more stressful the situation, the more hormone released. The new “vaccine” tends to block the receptors for this hormone and therefore lessen its effects. It is important to note, that the goal of this treatment is not to alter the person’s personality or memories but rather to blunt the psychological and physiological responses to these stress and panic-producing memories. Hopefully with further study this new form of treatment will pan out.

 

SFCover 432X648

 

Stress Fracture, the first in my Dub Walker thriller series, dealt with PTSD and new drugs for its treatment. Not vaccines but rather spinoffs of current forms of treatment. Of course the drug in my fictional story is itself fictional but new drugs are continually being produced for this disorder. If this “vaccine” does indeed prove to be effective and with acceptable side effects, the need for developing new drugs would be decreased. We’ll see.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on February 27, 2014 in Forensic Psychiatry, Medical Issues

 
 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 358 other followers