|Animated News Week 73|
Science News This Week:
1) Brain chip enables injured rats to control movements:
Prosthesis bypasses damaged area to connect distant neurons. BRIDGE THE GAP Injured rats can grab food normally when a newly created device, implanted in the brain, bypasses the damaged motor cortex to send messages to other parts of the brain.With a futuristic brain patch, brain-injured rats regained the ability to reach out and grab a bit of food. The results, in which a newly created electrical device bypasses a damaged brain area, may ultimately lead to ways to repair damage from stroke, blast injuries and diseases such as Parkinson’s.
The findings, published December 9 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “open the door for new experiments and new ways of approaching brain repair after injury,” says S. Thomas Carmichael of UCLA.In the latest advance in cyborg technology, scientists have replaced the dysfunctional part of a rat’s brain with electrodes and a computer chip. It’s the part of the brain that coordinates movement, so when the chip is off the rat can’t perform a simple movement task. But power up the chip and it performs perfectly. The newest member of the Rat Borg Collective could lead to treatments for people who have impaired movement due to brain damage caused by trauma or stroke.
Scientists at Tel Aviv University first damaged the rat’s cerebellum, the part of the brain involved in the coordination and timing of movements. The researchers then tried to train the impaired rat to blink in response to a tone. Rats with damaged cerebellums were unable to learn the task. When they plugged in the brain implant, however, the rats learned the task just fine.The tone that failed to make the brain-damaged rats blink was picked up by electrodes and processed in a chip sitting on the rat’s scalp. By bypassing the damaged brain area, the chip not only processed the incoming signals but sent out signals to areas in the brainstem that sent signals to the eye to blink. By replacing brain circuitry with microchip circuitry the researchers were able to return normal behavior to the rats.Other chip implants have proven successful in mimicking brain function. Cochlear implants help the deaf to hear by transforming sounds into electrical impulses, which then stimulate neurons that pass the signal on to the brain. Robotic prosthetic limbs can now detect neuronal signals in the limbs to control movement. But these implants only process information in one direction. The cerebellar implant, however, represents a major advance in electronic prosthetics as it not only processes incoming sensory information (tone), but it uses that information to generate an output (blink).
“It’s proof of concept that we can record information from the brain, analyze it in a way similar to the biological network, and return it to the brain,” the study’s lead author, Matti Mintz, told New Scientist. He presented the work last month at the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) Conference in the UK. As its name somewhat implies, the SENS Foundation supports research that slows or reverses the aging process. Computer chips could not only restore function to an aging part of the brain, but they might one day improve normal functions such as memory. As far as brain systems go, the processing involved in the cerebellum and Mintz’s implant are relatively simple. The cerebellum is largely made up of repeating microcircuits that make it one of the better understood areas of the brain. “We know its anatomy and some of its behaviors almost perfectly,” said Mintz.Extending their “proven concept” to other brain areas or even just cerebellar tasks that are more complicated will no doubt prove challenging. Mintz and his colleagues say they plan to expand their chip’s processing to include areas of the cerebellum involved in other movements. An important detail in the current study is that the rat was anesthetized. With the circuity intact, it wasn’t necessary for the rat to be awake to connect tone with eye blink. For more complex movements, however, they’re going to have to wake the rat up. That poses a major technical challenge as the precise sensory signals that the chip needs to process to generate a proper output are easily disrupted by a moving rat. It’s a catch-22 in which they want to study movement but they don’t want the rat to move. Overcoming this obstacle may require the development of new technologies, but Dr. Francesco Sepulva of the University of Essex – who was not involved in the study – has faith. “It will likely take us several decades to get there,” he told the New Scientist, “but my bet is that specific, well-organized brain parts such as the hippocampus or the visual cortex will have synthetic correlates before the end of the century.”
2) Mars was habitable longer, more recently than thought:
Warmer, wetter conditions lasted until 3.5 billion years ago. The dried-up Martian lakebed where NASA’s Curiosity rover landed last year could have supported microbial life for millions of years, ending as recently as about 3.5 billion years ago. The findings, described in six studies published December 9 in Science, expand what scientists thought was a very brief window of time during which life could have thrived on the Red Planet.
Curiosity, an SUV-sized rover, landed on Mars in August 2012 in a region full of rocks that resemble weathered clays on Earth. In March, researchers announced that minerals in a sample drilled in an area known as Yellowknife Bay had formed long ago in a lake that was neither salty nor acidic. The lake’s water may have been hospitable to bacteria (SN Online: 3/12/13). Now, after finding multiple layers of clays in the area and determining the chemical composition and ages of several samples, researchers are confident that this temperate era was prolonged, perhaps giving simple life a chance to take hold.
Curiosity hasn’t detected complex organic chemicals that are essential for life. But project scientist John Grotzinger of Caltech notes that many of the ancient rocks Curiosity analyzed reached the surface relatively recently, so their molecules haven’t been severely battered by solar radiation. He adds that the rocks are about the same age as the oldest rocks on Earth with signs of life, possibly allowing researchers to compare the planets’ early life-friendly environments.
3) A corsage that bites:
The orchid mantis uses a flowery subterfuge to lure prey. Orchid mantises have evolved into a fake flower that out-flowers the real thing. The insects don’t seem to be mimicking any real flower found so far, but have invented something even fancier.Among the many oddly shaped mantises of the world, only the petal-legged, corsage-worthy orchid mantis (Hymenopus coronatus) comes close to counterfeiting a whole blossom, says James O’Hanlon of Macquarie University in Sydney.
Which can be a nuisance. Searching rainforests for orchid mantises to study is “very frustrating,” O’Hanlon says. “Every time you see a flower you go nuts thinking you’ve found one, and then it’s just a flower.”This resemblance led Alfred Russel Wallace, the largely forgotten also-ran of evolutionary theory, to propose that the phony flowers lure a pollinator close enough to grab in an eye-blink strike. (They can rip apart a butterfly thrice their size.)
O’Hanlon was shocked to discover, though, that this oft-mentioned idea had never been tested. He and his colleagues began scouring Malaysian rainforests for wild orchid mantises.“As far as we can tell, they’re fantastically rare,” O’Hanlon says. People living in the rainforest brought some to the researchers, he says, but “it took over a month to find one myself.”That fits with theory, which suggests deceitful mimics should be rare or else their victims would catch on. Other evidence also fits Wallace’s idea, O’Hanlon and his colleagues report in the January 2014 American Naturalist.Orchid mantises’ colors fall within the range of 13 local flower species, according to computer models that simulate what colors bees actually see. And when researchers set orchid mantises out in the forest, local bees, flies and butterflies flew fatally close. The mantises, in fact, attracted more pollinators than real flowers did.O’Hanlon has yet to find a flower that the mantis looks very much like. Yet it fooled Australian journalist James Hingsley so thoroughly in 1879 that he reported it as a real orchid “that catches and feeds upon live flies.”
4) The Mystery of Lizard Breath: One-Way Air Flow May Be 270 Million Years Old:
Air flows mostly in a one-way loop through the lungs of monitor lizards -- a breathing method shared by birds, alligators and presumably dinosaurs, according to a new University of Utah study. The findings -- published online Dec. 11 in the journal Nature -- raise the possibility this breathing pattern originated 270 million years ago, about 20 million years earlier than previously believed and 100 million years before the first birds. Why remains a mystery.
"It appears to be much more common and ancient than anyone thought," says C.G. Farmer, the study's senior author and an associate professor of biology at the University of Utah. "It has been thought to be important for enabling birds to support strenuous activity, such as flight. We now know it's not unique to birds. It shows our previous notions about the function of these one-way patterns of airflow are inadequate. They are found in animals besides those with fast metabolisms."But Farmer cautions that because lizard lungs have a different structure than bird and alligator lungs, it is also possible that one-way airflow evolved independently about 30 million years ago in the ancestors of monitor lizards and about 250 million years ago in the archosaurs, the group that gave rise to alligators, dinosaurs and birds. More lizard species, such as geckos and iguanas, must be studied to learn the answer, she says.
Farmer conducted the study with two University of Utah biologists -- first author and postdoctoral fellow Emma Schachner and doctoral student Robert Cieri -- and with James Butler, a Harvard University physiologist.The research was funded by the American Association of Anatomists, the American Philosophical Society, the National Science Foundation and private donor Sharon Meyer.
Tidal Versus One-Way Airflow in the Lungs
Humans and most other animals have a "tidal" breathing pattern: Air flows into the lungs' branching, progressively smaller airways or bronchi until dead-ending at small chambers called alveoli, where oxygen enters the blood and carbon dioxide leaves the blood and enters the lungs. Then the air flows back out the same way.
Birds, on the other hand, have some tidal airflow into and out of air sacs, but their breathing is dominated by one-way airflow in the lung itself. The air flows through the lung in one direction, making a loop before exiting the lung.In 2010, Farmer published a study showing that a mostly one-way or "unidirectional" airflow controlled by aerodynamic valves exists in alligators. That means the breathing pattern likely evolved before 250 million years ago, when crocodilians -- the ancestors of alligators and crocodiles -- split from the archosaur family tree that led to the evolution of flying pterosaurs, dinosaurs and eventually birds.
The new study found a mostly one-way, looping air flow in African savannah monitor lizards, Varanus exanthematicus -- one of roughly 73 species of monitor lizards -- although there was some tidal airflow in regions of the lungs. That means one-way airflow may have arisen not among the early archosaurs about 250 million years ago, but as early as 270 million years ago among cold-blooded diapsids, which were the common, cold-blooded ancestors of the archosaurs and Lepidosauromorpha, a group of reptiles that today includes lizards, snakes and lizard-like creatures known as tuataras.
One-way airflow may help birds to fly without passing out at high altitudes, where oxygen levels are low. Before the new study, Farmer and others had speculated that the one-way airflow may have helped dinosaurs' ancestors dominate the Earth when atmospheric oxygen levels were low after the Permian-Triassic mass extinction -- the worst in Earth's history -- 251 million years ago."But if it evolved in a common ancestor 20 million years earlier, this unidirectional flow would have evolved under very high oxygen levels," she says. "And so were are left with a deeper mystery on the evolutionary origin of one-way airflow."
How the Study was Performed
As in her earlier research on alligators, Farmer and colleagues demonstrated predominantly one-way airflow in the lungs of monitor lizards in several ways. They performed CT scans and made 3-D images of lizard lungs to visualize the anatomy of the lungs. They surgically implanted flow meters in the bronchi of five monitor lizards to measure airflow direction.Using lungs removed from 10 deceased lizards, the researchers measured air flow as they pumped air into and out of the lungs. They also pumped water laden with sunflower pollen particles or plastic microspheres through lizard lungs, and the movement of the pollen and spheres also showed the unidirectional airflow.
Savannah monitor lizards were used in the research because they are relatively large and thus easier to study, weighing about a pound and measuring roughly 15 inches from head to tail tip. Monitor lizards also have some of the highest rates of oxygen consumption, partly because they breathe using not only their trunk muscles and ribs, but also using "gular pumping," which is when the lizards flare out their throat and pump air into their lungs.Monitor lizards' lungs have more than a dozen chambers or bronchi in each lung. The primary airway runs the length of the lung, with lateral bronchi branching off of it.The study showed that air enters the lizard's trachea or windpipe, then flows into the two primary airways, which enter the lung. But then, instead of flowing tidally back out the same way, the air instead loops back in a tail-to-head direction moving from one lateral airway to the next through small perforations between them.The walls containing perforations that allow air to flow from one chamber to the next "are like lace curtains," Farmer says.There appear to be no mechanical valves or sphincters, so the one-way airflow appears "to arise simply from jetting," or aerodynamic valves created when air flows around bends within the lung airways. That is supported by the fact that one-way airflow was observed even in lungs removed from dead lizards.
5) New finding shows that mother sharks 'home' to their birthplace to give birth, like salmon and sea turtles:
Research conducted in Bimini in The Bahamas spanning almost two decades shows that female lemon sharks that were born there returned 15 years later to give birth to their own young, confirming this behavior for the first time in sharks. The study began in 1995, and has resulted in the capture, tagging, and release of more than 2,000 baby sharks over the 19-year, ongoing project. This article, published online on December 5 in the journal Molecular Ecology, entitled, "Two decades of genetic profiling yields first evidence of natal philopatry and long-term fidelity to parturition sites in sharks," was a collaborative effort involving scientists from The Field Museum, Bimini Biological Field Station Foundation, University of Miami and Stony Brook University (SBU). Results suggest that local and international efforts can make a big difference in the struggle to recover the world's coastal shark populations. Sharks have been heavily exploited to supply the Asian restaurants and banquet halls with shark fins, the main ingredient in a highly prized soup of great cultural significance but of no nutritive value.
"We used each shark's individual DNA fingerprint to construct a large family tree," explained Dr. Kevin Feldheim, the A. Watson Armour III Manager of the Pritzker Laboratory for Molecular Systematics and Evolution at The Field Museum and the lead author of the study."We found that newborn sharks captured in the mid-1990s left the safety of the islands when they were between five and eight years old. Yet, despite leaving and visiting many other islands in their travels, these sharks 'remember' where they were born after a decade of roving, and are able to find the island again when they are pregnant and ready to give birth," Dr. Feldheim added.
Many researchers had speculated that female sharks have this ability to home back to their birthplace to give birth, but it had never been proven because it is very difficult to keep track of sharks from birth to maturity. Many hundreds of student volunteers came to the Bahamas to help with the 19-year ongoing research effort to finally prove that the speculation was true."The lagoon in Bimini is almost like a lake," said project founder Dr. Samuel Gruber, president and director of the Bimini Biological Field Station Foundation. "I realized that we had a chance to capture nearly every shark born into the lagoon each year, and this gave us the unique opportunity to see if the females actually come back to give birth. However it took us nearly two decades and countless hours in the field and laboratory, but we finally answered this long-standing question and many others with this paper."
Sharks live a long time and take many years to mature, which is one reason why they are extremely vulnerable to overfishing. Evidence that sharks utilize the same nursery areas across generations underscores the critical importance of preserving local nursery habitats and can provide strong input in designating inshore marine reserves that would protect sharks of future generations. The fact that some sharks are tightly connected to certain places as opposed to being ocean wanderers also indicates that individual countries or cooperative groups of neighboring countries can take action themselves to protect sharks that are, in a sense, theirs.
The study's coauthor, Dr. Demian Chapman, assistant professor at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and assistant director for science at the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at SBU, said he started out 17 years ago as a volunteer researcher at Bimini charged with catching sharks for tagging."When we tagged the first baby sharks in Bimini, Bill Clinton was President of the United States," said Dr. Chapman. "When they started to mature and return to give birth, Barack Obama was President. If you think of all that has happened in the world over that period, just consider that is the amount of time it takes for many large sharks to reach maturity."Many nations have awakened to the threats posed to sharks by unregulated fishing. The Bahamas recently enacted a law to fully protect all sharks in its waters, which will, among other benefits, sustain an annual $80 million shark tourism industry. "National efforts to reign in the shark fishing industry by many countries are likely to benefit homing shark species, like lemon sharks," added Dr. Chapman.
6) How mosquitoes are drawn to human skin and breath:
Female mosquitoes, which can transmit deadly diseases like malaria, dengue fever, West Nile virus and filariasis, are attracted to us by smelling the carbon dioxide we exhale, being capable of tracking us down even from a distance. But once they get close to us, they often steer away toward exposed areas such as ankles and feet, being drawn there by skin odors. Why does the mosquito change its track and fly towards skin? How does it detect our skin? What are the odors from skin that it detects? And can we block the mosquito skin odor sensors and reduce attractiveness?Recent research done by scientists at the University of California, Riverside can now help address these questions. They report on Dec. 5 in the journal Cell that the very receptors in the mosquito's maxillary palp that detect carbon dioxide are ones that detect skin odors as well, thus explaining why mosquitoes are attracted to skin odor -- smelly socks, worn clothes, bedding -- even in the absence of CO2.
"It was a real surprise when we found that the mosquito's CO2 receptor neuron, designated cpA, is an extremely sensitive detector of several skin odorants as well, and is, in fact, far more sensitive to some of these odor molecules as compared to CO2," said Anandasankar Ray, an associate professor in the Department of Entomology and the project's principal investigator. "For many years we had primarily focused on the complex antennae of mosquitoes for our search for human-skin odor receptors, and ignored the simpler maxillary palp organs."Until now, which mosquito olfactory neurons were required for attraction to skin odor remained a mystery. The new finding -- that the CO2-sensitive olfactory neuron is also a sensitive detector of human skin -- is critical not only for understanding the basis of the mosquito's host attraction and host preference, but also because it identifies this dual receptor of CO2 and skin-odorants as a key target that could be useful to disrupt host-seeking behavior and thus aid in the control of disease transmission.To test whether cpA activation by human odor is important for attraction, the researchers devised a novel chemical-based strategy to shut down the activity of cpA in Aedes aegypti, the dengue-spreading mosquito. They then tested the mosquito's behavior on human foot odor -- specifically, on a dish of foot odor-laden beads placed in an experimental wind tunnel -- and found the mosquito's attraction to the odor was greatly reduced.
Next, using a chemical computational method they developed, the researchers screened nearly half a million compounds and identified thousands of predicted ligands. They then short-listed 138 compounds based on desirable characteristics such as smell, safety, cost and whether these occurred naturally. Several compounds either inhibited or activated cpA neurons of which nearly 85 percent were already approved for use as flavor, fragrance or cosmetic agents. Better still, several were pleasant-smelling, such as minty, raspberry, chocolate, etc., increasing their value for practical use in mosquito control.Confident that they were on the right track, the researchers then zeroed in on two compounds: ethyl pyruvate, a fruity-scented cpA inhibitor approved as a flavor agent in food; and cyclopentanone, a minty-smelling cpA activator approved as a flavor and fragrance agent. By inhibiting the cpA neuron, ethyl pyruvate was found in their experiments to substantially reduce the mosquito's attraction towards a human arm. By activating the cpA neuron, cyclopentanone served as a powerful lure, like CO2, attracting mosquitoes to a trap.
"Such compounds can play a significant role in the control of mosquito-borne diseases and open up very realistic possibilities of developing ways to use simple, natural, affordable and pleasant odors to prevent mosquitoes from finding humans," Ray said. "Odors that block this dual-receptor for CO2 and skin odor can be used as a way to mask us from mosquitoes. On the other hand, odors that can act as attractants can be used to lure mosquitoes away from us into traps. These potentially affordable 'mask' and 'pull' strategies could be used in a complementary manner, offering an ideal solution and much needed relief to people in Africa, Asia and South America -- indeed wherever mosquito-borne diseases are endemic. Further, these compounds could be developed into products that protect not just one individual at a time but larger areas, and need not have to be directly applied on the skin."Currently, CO2 is the primary lure in mosquito traps. Generating CO2 requires burning fuel, evaporating dry ice, releasing compressed gas or fermentation of sugar -- all of which is expensive, cumbersome, and impractical for use in developing countries. Compounds identified in this study, like cyclopentanone, offer a safe, affordable and convenient alternative that can finally work with surveillance and control traps.
Ray was joined in the study by the three UCR co-first authors Genevieve M. Tauxe, Dyan MacWilliam and Sean Michael Boyle; and Tom Guda. Boyle is now a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University.The team tested the efficacy of ethyl pyruvate in the lab on Aedes aegypti using an arm-in-cage set-up (the experimenter's hand was gloved and not exposed to mosquito bites or the test chemicals). The researchers tested the efficacy of cyclopentanone as a lure on C. quinquefasciatus, the mosquito that spreads West Nile virus and filariasis, using traps in a modified greenhouse at UC Riverside.
Movie Release This Week:
From Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson comes “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” the second in a trilogy of films adapting the enduringly popular masterpiece The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien.
The three films tell a continuous story set in Middle-earth 60 years before “The Lord of the Rings,” which Jackson and his filmmaking team brought to the big screen in the blockbuster trilogy that culminated with the Oscar®-winning “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.”
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” continues the adventure of the title character Bilbo Baggins as he journeys with the Wizard Gandalf and thirteen Dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield, on an epic quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain and the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor.
Having survived the beginning of their unexpected journey, the Company continues East, encountering along the way the skin-changer Beorn and a swarm of giant Spiders in the treacherous forest of Mirkwood. After escaping capture by the dangerous Wood-elves, the Dwarves journey to Lake-town, and finally to the Lonely Mountain itself, where they must face the greatest danger of all — a creature more terrifying than any other; one which will test not only the depth of their courage but the limits of their friendship and the wisdom of the journey itself — the Dragon Smaug.
Ian McKellen returns as Gandalf the Grey, with Martin Freeman in the central role of Bilbo Baggins, and Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield. The international ensemble cast is led by Benedict Cumberbatch, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Ken Stott, James Nesbitt, and Orlando Bloom as Legolas. The film also stars (in alphabetical order) John Bell, Manu Bennett, Jed Brophy, Adam Brown, John Callen, Ryan Gage, Mark Hadlow, Peter Hambleton, Stephen Hunter, William Kircher, Lawrence Makoare, Sylvester McCoy, Graham McTavish, Dean O’Gorman, Mikael Persbrandt, and Aidan Turner.
The screenplay for “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” is by Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson & Guillermo del Toro, based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien. Jackson also produced the film, together with Carolynne Cunningham, Zane Weiner and Fran Walsh. The executive producers are Alan Horn, Toby Emmerich, Ken Kamins and Carolyn Blackwood, with Philippa Boyens and Eileen Moran serving as co-producers.
The creative behind-the-scenes team is led by director of photography Andrew Lesnie, production designer Dan Hennah, conceptual designers Alan Lee and John Howe, editor Jabez Olssen, and hair and makeup designer Peter Swords King. The costumes are designed by Bob Buck, Ann Maskrey and Richard Taylor. Taylor is also overseeing the design and production of armour, weapons, creatures and special makeup, which are once again being made by the award-winning Weta Workshop. Weta Digital is taking on the visual effects for the film, led by senior visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri. The visual effects supervisor is Eric Saindon, with David Clayton and Eric Reynolds serving as animation supervisors. The music is by Howard Shore.
Under Jackson’s direction, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” was shot in 3D 48 frames-per-second and will be released in High Frame Rate 3D (HFR 3D) in select theaters, other 2D and 3D formats, and IMAX®. Production took place at Jackson’s own facilities in Miramar, Wellington, and on location around New Zealand. Post production took place at Park Road Post Production in Wellington.
New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Present a WingNut Films Production, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.” “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” is a production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), with New Line managing production. The film opens nationwide on December 13, 2013. Warner Bros. Pictures is handling worldwide theatrical distribution, with select international territories as well as all international television distribution being handled by MGM.
Two-time Academy Award®–winner Emma Thompson and fellow double Oscar®-winner Tom Hanks topline Disney’s “Saving Mr. Banks,” inspired by the extraordinary, untold backstory of how Disney’s classic “Mary Poppins” made it to the screen.
When Walt Disney’s daughters begged him to make a movie of their favorite book, P.L. Travers’ “Mary Poppins,” he made them a promise—one that he didn’t realize would take 20 years to keep. In his quest to obtain the rights, Walt comes up against a curmudgeonly, uncompromising writer who has absolutely no intention of letting her beloved magical nanny get mauled by the Hollywood machine. But, as the books stop selling and money grows short, Travers reluctantly agrees to go to Los Angeles to hear Disney’s plans for the adaptation.
For those two short weeks in 1961, Walt Disney pulls out all the stops. Armed with imaginative storyboards and chirpy songs from the talented Sherman brothers, Walt launches an all-out onslaught on P.L. Travers, but the prickly author doesn’t budge. He soon begins to watch helplessly as Travers becomes increasingly immovable and the rights begin to move further away from his grasp.
It is only when he reaches into his own childhood that Walt discovers the truth about the ghosts that haunt her, and together they set Mary Poppins free to ultimately make one of the most endearing films in cinematic history.
Micky is a fun-loving photographer, living a party lifestyle in London until a chance encounter with a childhood friend changes her world forever. The opposite to life-and-soul Micky, Do is a quiet bank clerk, with little by way of a social life. Yet much to the annoyance of her DJ boyfriend Jake, Micky is all too delighted to reacquaint herself with Do, embracing her old friend with typical gusto. But when they return to the tranquil French villa where they spent so many happy summers in their youth, tragedy strikes. A fire engulfs the building, leaving Do dead and Micky badly burnt and blighted by amnesia. Unable to even recall her own name, Micky is forced on a shocking journey of self-discovery. For nothing – friends, relatives, lovers and even herself – is as she remembers it.
Before sunrise on August 29, 2005, Nolan Hayes (Walker) arrives at a New Orleans hospital with his pregnant wife, Abigail (Rodriguez), who has gone into early labor. What should be one of the happiest days of Nolan's life quickly spirals out of control when the birth goes tragically wrong and Hurricane Katrina ravages the hospital, forcing an evacuation. Nolan and his newborn baby are soon cut off from the world by power outages and rising flood waters. With his baby completely dependent on a ventilator Nolan faces one life-and-death decision after another, fighting to keep his daughter alive, as minute by agonizing minute passes...becoming unimaginable hours.
When two children who went missing while exploring a cave are found, it quickly becomes apparent something evil has come home with them.
Political News This Week:
1) Assembly Elections 2013 Results
Seats Declared: 39/40
Parties Won Total
(L + W)
Cong 0 31 31
MPC 0 0 0
MNF+ 1 7 8
Others 0 1 1
Mizoram election result 2013: Lal Thanhawla Cong's lone face saviour
Parties Won Total
(L + W)
Cong 0 8 8
BJP 0 31 31
AAP 0 28 28
Others 0 3 3
Delhi Elections 2013: President's Rule appears imminent in Delhi
Parties Won Total
(L + W)
Cong 0 21 21
BJP 0 162 162
BSP 0 1 1
Others 0 15 15
Rajasthan assembly election results: 'Maharani' brings BJP back to power
Seats Declared: 230/230
Parties Won Total
(L + W)
Cong 0 58 58
BJP 0 165 165
BSP 0 4 4
Others 0 3 3
Shivraj Chouhan's son of the soil image proves to be winner
Seats Declared: 90/90
Parties Won Total
(L + W)
Cong 0 39 39
BJP 0 49 49
BSP 0 1 1
Others 0 1 1
Raman Singh sworn in as CM of Chhattisgarh
Raman Singh was sworn in as chief minister of Chhattisgarh's third consecutive BJP government at a glittering public ceremony.
2) 11 MPs caught in sting op issuing letters to fake oil company:
In its latest undercover investigation, codenamed Operation Falcon Claw, Cobrapost has reportedly exposed a bunch of parliamentarians willing to not only write recommendation letters but also lobby with the petroleum ministry for a foreign company to help it secure oil exploration and rigging rights in the Northeast.
In all 11 MPs from the Congress Party, the BJP, the JDU, AIADMK and BSP were reportedly caught on camera willing to help the company set up shop in India. However, none of them bothered to check the antecedents of the company or check if the company was real.
The parliamentarians who allegedly stand exposed are K Sugumar and C Rajendran from AIADMK; Lalu Bhai Patel, Ravindra Kumar Pandey and Hari Manjhi from BJP; Vishwa Mohan Kumar, Maheshwar Hazari and Bhudeo Chaudhary from JDU; Khiladi Lal Bairwa and Vikrambhai Arjanbhai from Congress; and Kaiser Jahan from BSP.
The 6 MPs allegedly gave the undercover journalists letters of recommendation in favour of Mediterranean Oil Inc for a sum ranging from Rs 50,000 to Rs 75,000.
'Others wont settle for less than Rs 5 lakh for a single letter, and in one case an MP quoted a ridiculously high price for a single letter, at Rs 50 lakh. There was no point giving them so much money,' Cobrapost claimed.Assuming a fake identity, Ashish Jadon, representing an equally fake foreign oil company, the Mediterranean Oil Inc of Queensland, Australia, complete with a website, brochure and company profile, Cobrapost reporter K Ashish approached these parliamentarians.
Introducing himself as a consultant working for Mediterranean Oil Inc entrusted with the onerous task of rallying support from MPs across the political spectrum for its oil exploration bid in the Northeast, pegging the project at Rs 1000 crore, he requested the MPs he met to write a recommendation letter.
But far from being turned down, all parliamentarians reportedly agreed to help.'If some of them wrote letters of recommendation addressing the joint secretary with the petroleum ministry, others offered to either lobby directly with the ministry mandarins or get the project sanctioned with help from the most mighty among the ruling party,' Cobrapost claimed.
When Cobrapost reporter, for instance, suggested Lalu Bhai Patel to pursue our case with the ministry, the BJP MP from Daman and Diu reportedly said, “Haan bhai (Yes, brother)!”The reporter paid him Rs 50, 000 for a recommendation letter, as he also agreed to lobby for them. His fellow party leader Hari Manjhi from Gaya, Bihar, would come along for lobbying to the oil ministry: “Jayenge … chalenge (Will go … will come along).”
Similarly, Maheshwar Hazari, the JD-U MP from Samastipur, Bihar, reportedly reassured them: “Jab tak hain tab tak aapki company ki madad karenge ... yahan se lekar mantralay tak, jahan tak kahiyega (Will help your company till my term lasts … from this level up to the ministry, wherever you ask).”
3) 'Butcher of Mirpur' will hang: Bangladesh SC:
Bangladesh's Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a death sentence for top Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdul Quader Mollah for 1971 crimes against humanity, rejecting his review petition two days after his execution was dramatically put on hold in a last-minute reprieve.
"Rejected," Chief Justice Muzammel Hossain ruled at a packed courtroom after two days of hearing on the maintainability of the review prayers.
The verdict removes the last barrier for the execution of 65-year-old Mollah, who has been lodged at the high security Dhaka Central Jail.A war crimes tribunal had sentenced Mollah to life imprisonment on February 5. The Appellate Division revised the verdict on September 17 and raised it to death penalty.
Based on the highest court's verdict, the tribunal issued the death warrant for Mollah.For his atrocities and for siding with Pakistani troops during the 1971 Liberation War, Mollah was dubbed as the "Butcher of Mirpur".
The execution of the death penalty of Mollah was stayed less than two hours before he was set to be hanged on Tuesday.The stay order came as jail officials prepared to hang Mollah at one minute past midnight.
The order was issued after Mollah's lawyers filed a plea seeking the hearing of their petition for a review of the Apex court's judgement that handed down the death penalty to the Jamaat leader.Mollah was arrested on July 13, 2010, while the tribunal indicted him on May 28, 2012, on six specific charges for actively participating, facilitating, aiding and substantially contributing to the attacks on unarmed civilians, "causing commission of the horrific genocides, murders and rapes".
Mollah, the fourth-highest Jamaat leader, was the first politician to be found guilty by the Supreme Court after it rejected an appeal to acquit him of all charges.
4) Gay sex verdict: Govt could take legislative route:
With the Supreme Court pronouncing gay sex as illegal, the government on Wednesday indicated that it will take the legislative route to deal with the issue.
The Apex court in its verdict put the ball in Parliament's court to decide on the desirability of deleting the relevant section from Indian Penal Code.
"It is the prerogative of the Supreme Court under the Constitution to test the constitutionality of a law. They are exercising their prerogative. We have the prerogative to make laws. We shall exercise our prerogative," Law Minister Kapil Sibal told media persons in New Delhi.
He was replying to questions on the apex court order setting aside a Delhi high court verdict decriminalising gay sex between consenting adult partners.
Asked 'how soon' the government will bring the matter in Parliament, Sibal said: "Well, if Parliament runs, we shall take it up."
To a question on 'selective judicial activism' that while the apex court gives verdict on use of red beacons but puts the ball on the issue of gay sex in court of the legislature, he said the Supreme Court is the "final arbiter" on the validity of the law and its opinion must be respected by the government
"Legislature is the final arbiter of what law should be. I am not going to extend my comment beyond that. I cannot comment on the positions a judge takes in one matter or another matter."
Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said the government will definitely take into cognisance the verdict of the Supreme Court.
"As far as the government is concerned, if I recall correctly, in 2009 or 2010 when M Veerappa Moily was the law minister, he had said that section 377 of IPC should be decriminalised. But since a decision has come, the government will take cognisance of it and let you know," he said.
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5) Parliament proceedings paralysed for the third day:
Proceedings in Parliament were paralysed for the third day running over a number of issues, including Telangana and death of 40 children in Muzaffarnagar relief camps, preventing the notices for a no-confidence motion from being taken up on Wednesday.
The issue of scheduled caste status to 17 backward castes was raised in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha by Samajwadi Party, apparently to counter the Muzaffarnagar issue being repeatedly raised by the Bahujan Samaj Party, the main detractor of the ruling SP in Uttar Pradesh.
In the Lok Sabha, placard-carrying Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam members were vociferous on the issue of seeking KatchathivuIsland back from Sri Lanka and provide safety to Indian fishermen from the Lankan navy, as they shouted slogans in the Well.Raghuvansh Prasad Singh (Rashtriya Janata Dal) demanded removal of the UPSC Chairman and relaxation of certain norms for civil services examinations, while members from Seemandhra carried posters which said 'Save Andhra Pradesh'.
At one point, YSR Congress leader Y S Jaganmohan Reddy was also seen in the aisle, joining the cause. The House could not take up three notices of no-confidence motion, given by R Sambasiva Rao (Cong) and five party MPs from Seemandhra region, M Venugopal Reddy (Telugu Desam Party) and YSR Congress member M Rajamohan Reddy, as part of their attempt to stall division of Andhra Pradesh.
This was because the House witnessed constant din and all attempts by Speaker Meira Kumar to bring it to order failed.She said she was "duty bound" to bring the three notices of the no-confidence motion before the House but could not do so as the House was not in order.Kumar then adjourned the House for the day.Amid din, papers listed for the day were laid and Finance Minister P Chidambaram presented the Supplementary Demands for Grants (General) for 2013-14.
Functioning of Rajya Sabha was also disrupted as SP and BSP demanded Centre's nod for inclusion of 17 Other Backward Castes of Uttar Pradesh in the SC list, an issue that led to the adjournment of the House till 2 pm.SP, which had made the promise during UP Assembly polls last year, is pressing hard for it months before the general elections are scheduled in an apparent bid to shore up its vote base.As soon as the House re-assembled at noon after an hour-long adjournment following uproar over various issues, members from BSP and SP trooped into the Well shouting slogans in favour of the demand.BSP members at the same time kept shouting slogans for dismissal of the SP government in the state over the death of children in Muzaffarnagar relief camps.Amid uproar, the House was adjourned till 2 pm. When it reassembled, similar scenes were witnessed and the proceedings were adjourned for the day.The effort for inclusion of 17 OBCs in the SC list was initiated way back in 2005, when the then SP government headed Mulayam Singh Yadav had amended the UP Public Services (Reservation for Schedule Castes, Schedule Tribes and Other Backward Castes) Act, 1994, to include these Most Backward Castes in the SC category.They include Banjara, Kahar, Kashyap, Kewat, Nishad, Bind, Bhar, Prajapati, Rajbhar, Batham, Gaur, Tura, Majhi, Mallah, Kumhar, Dheemar and Machhua.
6) A nippy bowler, perfectionist, and the common man's maharaja:
Senior journalist N Niranjan Nikam recalls his childhood friend Srikanta Datta Narasimharaja Wadiyar, the maharaja of Mysore who passed into the ages on Tuesday.
The mischievous smile, the hearty laughter, the childlike innocence, the utter simplicity and humility, are all gone now. All that is left are the memories.
The shocking news of the sudden passing away of the last scion of the Mysore royal family, Srikanta Datta Narasimharaja Wadiyar (60), came as a shock this Tuesday afternoon for the entire state of Karnataka. It was equally shocking for me as I had moved very closely with Wadiyar and the innocent face is what comes in front of me. He was literally larger than life but also like a true maharaja a very private person.
Growing up in Mysore as contemporaries, the first image of Srikant, as he was fondly called by his father Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar and his immediate family members and friends, is that of him playing on the Maharaja’s College Cricket grounds. The crowd would come in large numbers to watch the “Prince”, as he was addressed by the common people. He would surprise everyone with his ability to play the game in spite of his girth. He was an opening batsman and also a medium pace bowler, and according to a few who faced him he was surprisingly nippy. Of course, he would be fielding in the slips all the time and there was lot of mirth doing the rounds about his inability to move to pick the ball in any other position.It was years later that I came to know him very closely, when he one day called me to talk about the politics and the way people were thinking about him. By then of course he had won a few elections and also lost. Entering into the world-famous AmbaVilasPalace was a great privilege and honour, and sitting in the big drawing room that overlooks the Eastern Gate even as I passed the famous palace library with a great collection of books was an unforgettable experience.
Years later, he shifted to Bangalore, disappointed with the way things were happening in politics. He settled down comfortably in the BangalorePalace and the first thing he did was renovate the office. He had an artistic eye and his knowledge about history and politics was remarkable.Wadiyar’s memory was also truly phenomenal. He shared the reason about this unique trait with me. “As a child my memory was not very good. My father understood this and when I was nearing 10, one day he administered the ‘Shakti Mantra Beeja’ in my ears. From that day on my memory power improved vastly,” he recalled.Asked why he always kept his finger close to his eyes all the time, he told me, “My eyes are very powerful. It can even turn people to ashes if they try to misbehave with me. I always keep it half closed to see that they are not harmed unwittingly.”
He was a perfectionist in everything he did and this was in evidence every time he threw a party. He celebrated his 50th birthday in the Mysore palace in the year 2003 in a grand way. That was the first time his interest in fashion became public. Thereafter every year he used to hold the fashion shows where he would display the saris designed by him and his wife Pramoda Devi Wadiyar.Speaking once to me about the Curse of Talakad, he had said he was in constant communion with the soul of Alamellamma and the effect of the curse had worn off. A strong believer in astrology, he himself had studied it quite closely.But it is very sad that his death was so unexpected that it has plunged everyone into deep grief even as the cute face of Wadiyar sitting in the golden howdah on the elephant’s back during the world famous Dasara procession as a boy along with his father in the front and his uncle by his side lingers hauntingly.
7) Supreme Court grants bail to RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav; politicians welcome move
The Supreme Court on Thursday granted bail to RJD chief Lalu Prasad in a fodder scam case, in a relief to the politician who is behind the bars for the last two months after being awarded a five-year jail term.
A bench headed by Chief Justice P. Sathasivam granted bail after noting that several other similarly placed convicts have already been granted bail in the case. The bench also comprising Justice Ranjan Gogoi, however, left it to the trial court to decide the bail bonds, sureties and other conditions to be imposed on the former Member of Parliament. CBI, which is the prosecuting agency in the case, did not oppose Prasad's bail plea.
Pleading for bail, Prasad, who lost his membership of Parliament after being convicted in the case, submitted that of the 44 persons convicted along with him, 37 have been granted bail and no one's, except his bail plea has been rejected.
Senior advocate Ram Jethmalani, appearing for the politician, submitted Prasad has already spent 12 months behind bars, including two months of his five-year sentence, and sought bail, saying the Jharkhand High Court before which his appeal is pending will take at least seven to eight years to decide the case. Prasad had moved the apex court challenging the order of the Jharkhand High Court which had dismissed his bail plea.
The RJD chief, another former Bihar Chief Minister Jagannath Mishra and 43 others were on September 30 convicted by a special CBI court in the fodder scam case involving fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 37.7 crore from Chaibasa Treasury during the Prasad-led RJD regime.
The CBI court had pronounced varying prison terms for the convicted persons on October 3. In his bail petition, the RJD chief had said, "No reason has been given by the court for the rejection of bail. The petitioner has been treated differently in the matter of grant of bail in as much as some of the co-accused, who are similarly situated, have been granted bail."
Sport New This Week:
1) I have grown up a lot during these three knocks against India: Quinton de Kock:
Describing his hundred in the washed out third and final ODI against India as the toughest of the series, young South African batsman Quinton de Kock said his work ethic and confidence has improved manifold in the three matches.
At the Supersport Park, in skipper AB de Villiers' company, he scored his third successive ton in the series and took South Africa to 301 for 8, before incessant rain didn't allow India to reply."It was a tough wicket to bat on. We had to fight for runs and the scoring was tough after we lost quick wickets. So probably it was one of the harder hundreds in these last three," said the man-of-the-series.
"But I have grown up a lot during these three knocks. My confidence is up, at a level it has never been before. My work ethic has improved as well," he added.
For sure, since Kock scored 342 runs, the most ever in a three-match ODI series. In doing so, he emulated Herschelle Gibbs and AB de Villiers' record of scoring three consecutive ODI hundreds.
India's Ishant Sharma put it down to luck, which the youngster, who considers former Australian opener-cum keeper
Adam Gilchrist as his role model, was quick to laugh off."Of course, Ishant is right, I was lucky," he joked.
"Today I was dropped twice and I was angry with the chances I had given to them."Even so, despite his purple patch, de Kock will not be part of the Test side and as such it comes as a relief to the Indian team."Anybody will like to be part of the South African Test team. But everything happens for the good. So I will go back to playing four-day cricket and hopefully get some runs there," he signed off
2) SA are blessed that they have so many seam bowling all-rounders: Dhoni:
India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni sought to take the positives from India's 0-2 ODI series loss against South Africa, saying that playing limited overs format first would help his side do better in dealing with pace and bounce in the Test series starting December 18.
"Playing the ODIs before the Tests is good to get used to the pace and bounce. That is the positive we can take from the ODI series," Dhoni said after the third and final one-dayer was washed out due to rains at the innings break.Electing to bat, South Africa scored an imposing 301 for eight in their allotted 50 overs, riding on Quinton de Kock's 101 and captain A B de Villiers' 109, before rains denied India to go for the run chase.
"We were looking positive at the break. This was one of the best pitches for the batsmen. We exposed their middle order to some extent and we were able to capitalise with the new ball," Dhoni rued He was happy that pacer Ishant Sharma, who was struggling for form of late, was among the wickets with figures of 4/40 from 10 overs.
"If tall bowlers bowl the right lengths you can get wickets. He (Ishant) worked hard with the bowling coach and played a few domestic games after recent loss of form. He bowled brilliantly today."Asked about the South African side, Dhoni said the strong point for the Proteas was the availability of quality all-rounders.
"South Africa have quality all-rounders. Like Jacques Kallis who can be specialist batsman as well as bowler. So they have the luxury to go for five specialist bowlers. South Africa are blessed that they have so many seam bowling all-rounders."Man-of-the-Series Quinton de Kock, who became the only fifth batsman ever to score a century in three successive ODI innings, said his relaxed approach was the key to his brilliant show. "I just got to keep working hard to get a couple of more (tons). I'm quite relaxed and happy on the inside. More happy that we won the series. I switched to another mode to try and survive and push on later. I'm not sure how this series will impact my career."
3) After shattering loss, picking up pieces:
Coach Gregg Clark was looking behind the advertising hoardings and Baljit Singh Saini was searching underneath the dugout bench as the support staff hunted for a lost ball after Wednesday's practice session with some urgency. "We don't miss them in practice," said assistant coach BJ Cariappa. "We only miss them in matches."
The remark, more in jest than it was caustic, summed up the mood in the camp. A day after being knocked out of the Hockey Junior World Cup quarterfinal race following a 3-3 draw with Korea, there weren't slumped shoulders or long faces. Quite to the contrary, the players, who were in tears after the match on Tuesday, oozed joie de vivre as 20-year-olds do.During their light training ahead of Thursday's 9-12th place qualification match against Argentina, the players were in a mood more cheerful than they have been in during such sessions over the last two week or so. They played a bit of what was a variation of rugby to warm up before proceeding to some penalty stroke and penalty corner practice.
For the first time in the tournament, it was palpable they were playing for fun. The result had knocked them out all right, but it also seemed to have liberated them.Take for example Sushant Tirkey.In the first two matches, India went ahead with Harjot Singh, the number one junior goalkeeper. However, for Tuesday's must-win game against Korea, the think tank opted to play Tirkey under the bar.
Tirkey, even though a talented goalkeeper, has a suspect temperament when it comes to handling big-match pressure. During the India U-21 team's tour of Europe earlier this summer, he let in nine goals against Belgium and later admitted to have panicked on the field.Against Korea, he was beaten on the near side, on the far side and though the legs by dragflicker Seungju You. To blame Tirkey may also mean taking some credit away from the tournament top-scorer You (seven goals), but then the Indian goalkeeper allowed himself to be out-thought very easily.
4) Last-eight, top clash: Germany versus Australia:
Courtesy of it featuring the host nation, the India-Argentina match is scheduled for primetime telecast. The match of the day though is undoubtedly the quarterfinal clash between Germany and Australia. The former are defending champions but face a stern test against the 2001 winners on Thursday if they hope to repeat their feat. The two teams previously met in the semifinals of the 2009 Junior World Cup, with Germany edging 3-2 in extra time.
While Australia advanced to the quarterfinal with an all win record, the Germans were unexpectedly bumped to second spot in their group after losing 3-1 in their opening game, against Belgium. At a practice session on Wednesday ahead of the encounter, Australia's coach Paul Gaudoin admitted the match would be a tough one.
"It's a happy moment for the boys to have entered the quarterfinals but we realise that tomorrow's game against Germany is the decisive match and will decide our future in the tournament. Both teams will fight hard tomorrow to win and I hope we play better hockey and enter the next level."
But while Germany appear to have the poorer record going into the clash, they have improved steadily since the loss in the opener. They pushed the pace relentlessly against Pakistan to finish 6-1 winners and almost took it easy with another 6-0 win against Egypt. Christopher Ruhr is second on the goal scorers' list with five including, perhaps, the effort of the tournament against Pakistan.
The European side have dominated ball possession and been tight defensively, allowing few chances. Even their solitary loss was a case of Belgian strikers making the most of limited opportunities.Australia meanwhile, after a 5-2 triumph against Argentina, were less than impressive against Spain and France with 2-0 wins in both matches, all goals coming in the second half. The Australian squad attacks relentlessly but if unable to open their account quickly, tend to fall apart in the midfield. Robert Bell has been dogged in the defense but mistakes have occurred nevertheless. There were a number of lose passes and unforced errors in the game in the game against Spain and early in the match against France. While they were not punished for them, Germany are unlikely to be as forgiving. In other quarterfinals, European Champions Belgium play France, Netherlands take on New Zealand and in a clash of styles, a defensive Korea will play an attacking Malaysia.
5) Subrata Roy blames Srinivasan for split with BCCI:
Sahara India Pariwar chairman Subrata Roy on Friday blamed Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president N Srinivasan for the bitter row that led to his company withdrawing its sponsorship of the Indian cricket team.
"We enjoyed a very cordial relation with BCCI earlier but the current president has a different mindset. He never keeps his promises and commitments. He has lot of egos and why should we bear anyone's ego," Roy asked while speaking to reporters.
With its sponsorship of the Indian cricket team expiring in December, Roy said he was not keen to renew the deal, which the company had withdrawn in February along with the ownership of Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise Pune Warriors due to differences with the board. Roy also attacked Srinivasan over IPL franchise Chennai Super Kings' (CSK) former team principal and son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan for his alleged involvement in betting and fixing.
"The case is on his team but nothing has happened. Had the principal of any other team been involved in something, that team would have been scrapped by now. But that is not happening. So we don't want to work in that environment," said Roy.
Roy also said the Indian cricketers though would "come after me" as they do not want any other company's name on their jerseys."I have been told that some BCCI officials and Indian cricketers would attack me for not continuing the deal," he said with a chuckle.Regarding Pune Warriors' termination, Roy blamed BCCI's "arbitrary" reduction in the total number of IPL matches from that stipulated originally.
"They had said that 94 matches will be held every season but then arbitrarily reduced the number to 74. We had made the bid for the IPL franchise based on the representations of BCCI which were false," Roy said, adding that the market value of the IPL as well as sponsorship value of the Indian team will drastically come down after his company's departure.
Book Of This Week:
Innocence: A Novel by Dean Koontz:
He lives in solitude beneath the city, an exile from society, which will destroy him if he is ever seen.She dwells in seclusion, a fugitive from enemies who will do her harm if she is ever found.
But the bond between them runs deeper than the tragedies that have scarred their lives. Something more than chance—and nothing less than destiny—has brought them together in a world whose hour of reckoning is fast approaching.In Innocence, #1 New York Times bestselling author Dean Koontz blends mystery, suspense, and acute insight into the human soul in a masterfully told tale that will resonate with readers forever.
Dean Koontz, the author of many #1 New York Times bestsellers, lives in Southern California with his wife, Gerda, their golden retriever Anna, and the enduring spirit of their golden, Trixie.