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Take a Peek Inside The Leonard Cohen Exhibit In Montreal

Visitors to Montreal still have time to see Une brèche en toute chose (“A Crack in Everything”), a multimedia art exhibit that pays tribute to the late Leonard Cohen.

More than a year after his death, Montreal is still celebrating Leonard Cohen’s life. The poet, novelist, songwriter and singer is everywhere—from the Main Deli, where he enjoyed smoked meat in the second booth against the wall, to the Jewish Public Library, with which Cohen was affiliated. But one of the largest tributes began two years before Cohen’s death—at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MAC) as part of the city’s 375th anniversary celebration. It opened one year after his passing.

The exhibit contains no artifacts belonging to Cohen; no fedoras, long black coats or guitars—only his olive-green Olivetti manual typewriter on which he composed his first novel. What there is, though, is more impressive: filmmakers, musicians, contemporary artists and their takes on how Cohen influenced society.

The exhibit—which runs until April 9, 2018— titled Une brèche en toute chose(“A Crack in Everything”) features tribute pieces from filmmakers, musicians and contemporary artists.

With Cohen’s blessing, and with his complete artistic output made available to them, curators John Zeppetelli and Victor Shiffman, compiled the museum’s most ambitious exhibition, commissioning 20 works from 40 artists representing 10 countries to bring a unique vision to Cohen’s effect on music and literature.

Consider Berlin-based Candice Breitz’s offering: the life-sized projection of 18 ardent male fans aged 65 and older encircling the viewer as they sing, “I’m Your Man,” backed by the all-male Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue Choir (the synagogue Cohen attended throughout his life).

British Columbia-based Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller pay homage to Book of Longing with an interactive sound installation called “The Poetry Machine.” Pressing a single key on the vintage Wurlitzer organ generates Cohen’s voice reading an excerpt from the book from one of the gramophone horns. Play more than one key, and the room is filled with Cohen’s voice reading several selections simultaneously.

American Taryn Simon offers a mixed media installation of the front page of the New York Times, Friday, Nov. 11, 2016, with Cohen’s obituary published beneath a photograph of the first meeting between Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump. Cohen is doffing his hat in greeting or farewell.

By ARLENE STACEY | DECEMBER 12TH, 2017

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7 Must-Read Mysteries & Thrillers

From psychological suspense that recalls the best of Hitchcock to international espionage that strikes all too close to home, these page-turners top our must-read list – but be forewarned, they may have you burning the midnight oil.

 

 

THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW: A NOVEL (William Morrow) by A.J. Finn

The unreliable female narrator (alaGirl On a Train and Gone Girl) is all the rage in “grip-lit” these days, but Finn’s smart Hitchcockian thriller takes it to another level with his story of agoraphobic former psychologist, Anna Fox. Separated from her family, she spends her days drinking copious amounts of red wine, watching old movies and spying on her neighbours. But her predictable routine is turned upside down when she witnesses a murder in a neighbour’s house. Or does she? After police find no signs of a crime –believing her judgment is impaired from prescription drugs and the aforementioned wine — even Anna questions what she saw.

Touted as one of the year’s most anticipated debut, the much-buzzed The Woman in the Window shot to the top of the New York Times bestseller list, and is already in development as a major film from Fox. A.J. Finn is a pseudonym for Daniel Mallory, an executive editor at William Morrow, the novel’s publisher.

 

THE PERFECT NANNY: A NOVEL by Leila Slimani

It’s every parent’s nightmare. The “perfect nanny” you trust to look after your children suddenly falls apart, and in the worst possible way. The prize-winning novel, which was a runaway hit in France, is inspired by the 2012 real life murder of two children in New York City by their nanny.

 

ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL (Atria) by Sarah Vaughan

The scandal in this story may sound uncomfortably familiar: A government minister, and boyhood friend of the Prime Minister, is accused of rape by his assistant, putting into motion a legal thriller that could have come straight from today’s #MeToo headlines. A riveting read about Britain’s powerful and long-entitled elite and the women caught up in their wake.

 

NEED TO KNOW (Random House) by Karen Cleveland

This domestic thriller also has a ripped-from-the-headlines story line, this time about Russian spies meddling in American affairs. While investigating a Soviet sleeper cell, CIA agent Vivian Miller is forced to face the fact her own husband may be a Russian spy, and she, his target. This debut novel from Karen Cleveland, herself a former CIA analyst, is already set to be made into a film with Charlize Theron.

 

 

 

THE UNDERTAKER’S DAUGHTER (Grand Central) by Sara Blaedel

From the author of the popular Louise Rick police procedural series (The Forgotten Girls, The Killing ForestThe Undertaker’s Daughter marks the launch of a new suspense series from Denmark’s most popular novelist. The story follows a young Danish woman who journeys to America after receiving an unexpected inheritance from a father she hasn’t heard from in three decades, only to find herself in the middle of an unsolved murder – and a killer who is very much alive.

Release date: Feb. 6, 2018

 

 

THE MITFORD MURDERS (Minotaur) by Jessica Fellowes

From the author of Downton Abbey—A Celebration: The Official Companion to all Six Seasons, it’s not surprising that Fellow’s foray into mystery fiction is rich in period detail. The story, based on the life of the famed Mitford sisters, involves a real unsolved murder in the 1920s.

 

 

DANGEROUS CROSSING: A NOVEL (Atria) by Rachel Rhys

Murder and mayhem on the high seas. In 1939, with Europe on the brink of war, a young Englishwoman running from a shadowy past boards an ocean liner in Essex, bound for Australia. But she is not the only one with a dark secret. In the tradition of Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile, the glamour of the voyage fades, setting the stage for something truly sinister.

By CYNTHIA ROSS CRAVIT | FEBRUARY 2ND, 2018

 

6 Ways to Stay Ahead of Common Online Scams

Online phishing scams
 Online phishing scams

Photo: Pixabay

Phishing scams, where fraudsters trick users into providing them with sensitive information, are one of the most common online threats. Here, six ways you can avoid becoming a victim.

You’re scanning through your inbox and see an authentic-looking email from your bank — right down to the logo. It says they’re verifying your online banking information, and so they ask you to click on a link and type in your credentials.

Sounds legitimate, no?

Unfortunately, this is a case of a “phishing” scam, a malicious attempt by a person (or program) to “lure” you into giving out personal info, such as banking info, a credit card number, or social security number — with the intent to steal your identity for financial gain.

Here are some suggestions to avoid being taken by these scams.

1. If you get an email, text message, or pop-up message that asks for personal or financial information, don’t reply and don’t click on the link in the email. Your bank, financial institution or credible online payment service (such as PayPal) will never ask for sensitive information via email. When in doubt, call your bank or credit card company.

2. Anti-malware software (which includes virus detection), a computer firewall and web browser with an anti-phishing feature can all help act as an extra line of defense from some of these malicious phishers.

3. Look at the link in your email. You’ll notice the URL it wants you to click on isn’t an official site (e.g. td.com) — instead it’s something else (like tdbank100.cc).

4. To stay ahead of these scams it’s important to know what these phishing emails and text messages look like. They often indicate a sense of urgency so it’s important to look at the language used (“we need you to confirm your information right away to avoid any problems,” etc). You may also spot spelling and grammatical mistakes as these phishing attempts are usually generated in non-English countries (but not always).

5. Stick with reputable retailers when giving out financial information, like your credit card, and always be sure to look for indicators that the site is secure, such as a little lock icon on the browser’s status bar or a URL for a website that begins with “https:” (the “s” stands for “secure”).

6. Whenever you sign up for something online, try to use a secondary email account — such as a free webmail address from Gmail, Yahoo, or Outlook.com — and not your main email address at work or from your ISP (e.g. Rogers). That way you can better manage the “spam” (and resulting phishing scams) you might expect from registering online for gaming, shopping and social networks.

MARC SALTZMAN | FEBRUARY 6TH, 2018

The Surprising Thing Flight Attendants Say You Should Never Do on an Airplane (Though You’ve Probably Done It Many Times)

f you’re like me, you’ve probably lost count of how many times you’ve flown in an airplane from one place to another. And if you’re like me, you’ve probably also lost count of all the different things you’ve had to eat and drink along the way.

But, according to flight attendants — the men and women who should know — there’s one thing you might want to think twice about consuming on your next flight.

That one thing?

A hot cup of coffee or any other drink that uses water from the airplane’s onboard water system.

A flight attendant for a major airline, who was quoted anonymously to protect her job, explained in an interview for Vice:

Don’t drink the coffee on airplanes. It’s the same potable water that goes through the bathroom system. We recently had a test for E. coli in our water and it didn’t pass, and then maintenance came on and hit a couple buttons and it passed. So, avoid any hot water or tea. Bottled and ice is fine, of course.

Another flight attendant told Business Insider,

Flight attendants will not drink hot water on the plane. They will not drink plain coffee, and they will not drink plain tea.

You’d think that an airplane’s water storage and plumbing systems would be designed in a way that would prevent any possibility of contamination from occurring, and according to the airlines, that is the case. However, some flight attendants claim that these systems are not cleaned on a regular basis. According to a flight attendant interviewed by Travel + Leisure magazine, airplane water tanks “are probably only cleaned out every six months to a year.”

Indeed, when the EPA tested water from a variety of commercial airlines in 2012, the agency found that 12 percent of aircraft in the U.S. had at least one positive for coliform bacteria, which are found in the waste of humans and animals and are an indicator of the presence of pathogens, such as E. coli, that can cause illness and even death.

Surprisingly, this is about the same figure as eight years earlier, when the EPA tested the drinking water from 158 randomly selected domestic and international passenger airplanes and found that 12.6 percent did not meet EPA drinking water quality standards.

An investigation by Dallas-based television news station NBC 5 found that some airlines do better than others. In 2012, 13 percent of American Airlines planes were found to have coliform bacteria in their onboard water supplies (with fewer than half of 1 percent testing positive for E. coli), while only 3 percent of Southwest Airlines planes tested positive for coliform (with no tests positive for E. coli).

So, the next time you’re thinking of asking for a hot cup of coffee or tea on a commercial airline flight, think again. Or even better, grab a cup of Starbucks in the terminal and bring it on board with you. And if you’re going to drink water at all, make sure it’s poured out of a bottle — or bring your own.

Why Do We Need to Sleep?

An illustration of animals sleeping while researchers inspect them

At a shiny new lab in Japan, an international team of scientists is trying to figure out what puts us under.

TSUKUBA, JapanOutside the International Institute for Integrative Sleep Medicine, the heavy fragrance of sweet Osmanthus trees fills the air, and big golden spiders string their webs among the bushes. Two men in hard hats next to the main doors mutter quietly as they measure a space and apply adhesive to the slate-colored wall. The building is so new that they are still putting up the signs.

The institute is five years old, its building still younger, but already it has attracted some 120 researchers from fields as diverse as pulmonology and chemistry and countries ranging from Switzerland to China. An hour north of Tokyo at the University of Tsukuba, with funding from the Japanese government and other sources, the institute’s director, Masashi Yanagisawa, has created a place to study the basic biology of sleep, rather than, as is more common, the causes and treatment of sleep problems in people. Full of rooms of gleaming equipment, quiet chambers where mice slumber, and a series of airy work spaces united by a spiraling staircase, it’s a place where tremendous resources are focused on the question of why, exactly, living things sleep.

Ask researchers this question, and listen as, like clockwork, a sense of awe and frustration creeps into their voices. In a way, it’s startling how universal sleep is: In the midst of the hurried scramble for survival, across eons of bloodshed and death and flight, uncountable millions of living things have laid themselves down for a nice, long bout of unconsciousness. This hardly seems conducive to living to fight another day. “It’s crazy, but there you are,” says Tarja Porkka-Heiskanen of the University of Helsinki, a leading sleep biologist. That such a risky habit is so common, and so persistent, suggests that whatever is happening is of the utmost importance. Whatever sleep gives to the sleeper is worth tempting death over and over again, for a lifetime.

The precise benefits of sleep are still mysterious, and for many biologists, the unknowns are transfixing. One rainy evening in Tsukuba, a group of institute scientists gathered at an izakaya bar manage to hold off only half an hour before sleep is once again the focus of their conversation. Even simple jellyfish have to rest longer after being forced to stay up, one researcher marvels, referring to a new paper where the little creatures were nudged repeatedly with jets of water to keep them from drifting off. And the work on pigeons—have you read the work on pigeons? another asks. There is something fascinating going on there, the researchers agree. On the table, dishes of vegetable and seafood tempura sit cooling, forgotten in the face of these enigmas.

Biologists call this need “sleep pressure”: Stay up too late, build up sleep pressure. Feeling drowsy in the evenings? Of course you are—by being awake all day, you’ve been generating sleep pressure! But like “dark matter,” this is a name for something whose nature we do not yet understand. The more time you spend thinking about sleep pressure, the more it seems like a riddle game out of Tolkien: What builds up over the course of wakefulness, and disperses during sleep? Is it a timer? A molecule that accrues every day and needs to be flushed away? What is this metaphorical tally of hours, locked in some chamber of the brain, waiting to be wiped clean every night?

In other words, asks Yanagisawa, as he reflects in his spare, sunlit office at the institute, “What is the physical substrate of sleepiness?”

Biological research into sleep pressure began more than a century ago. In some of the most famous experiments, a French scientist kept dogs awake for more than 10 days. Then, he siphoned fluid from the animals’ brains, and injected it into the brains of normal, well-rested canines, which promptly fell asleep. There was something in the fluid, accumulating during sleep deprivation, that made the dogs go under. The hunt was on for this ingredient—Morpheus’s little helper, the finger on the light switch. Surely, the identity of this hypnotoxin, as the French researcher called it, would reveal why animals grow drowsy.

In the first half of the 20th century, other researchers began to tape electrodes to the scalps of human subjects, trying to peer within the skull at the sleeping brain. Using electroencephalographs, or EEGs, they discovered that, far from being turned off, the brain has a clear routine during the night’s sleep. As the eyes close and breathing deepens, the tense, furious scribble of the waking mind on the EEG shifts, morphing into the curiously long, loping waves of early sleep. About 35 to 40 minutes in, the metabolism has slowed, the breathing is even, and the sleeper is no longer easy to wake. Then, after a certain amount of time has passed, the brain seems to flip a switch and the waves grow small and tight again: This is rapid eye movement, or REM, sleep, when we dream. (One of the first researchers to study REM found that by watching the movements of the eyes beneath the lids, he could predict when infants would wake—a party trick that fascinated their mothers.) Humans repeat this cycle over and over, finally waking at the end of a bout of REM, minds full of fish with wings and songs whose tunes they can’t remember.

Sleep pressure changes these brain waves. The more sleep-deprived the subject, the bigger the waves during slow-wave sleep, before REM. This phenomenon has been observed in about as many creatures as have been fitted with electrodes and kept awake past their bedtimes, including birds, seals, cats, hamsters, and dolphins.

If you needed more proof that sleep, with its peculiar many-staged structure and tendency to fill your mind with nonsense, isn’t some passive, energy-saving state, consider that golden hamsters have been observed waking up from bouts of hibernation—in order to nap. Whatever they’re getting from sleep, it’s not available to them while they’re hibernating. Even though they have slowed down nearly every process in their body, sleep pressure still builds up. “What I want to know is, what about this brain activity is so important?” says Kasper Vogt, one of the researchers gathered at the new institute at Tsukuba. He gestures at his screen, showing data on the firing of neurons in sleeping mice. “What is so important that you risk being eaten, not eating yourself, procreation … you give all that up, for this?

The search for the hypnotoxin was not unsuccessful. There are a handful of substances clearly demonstrated to cause sleep—including a molecule called adenosine, which appears to build up in certain parts of the brains of waking rats, then drain away during slumber. Adenosine is particularly interesting because it is adenosine receptors that caffeine seems to work on. When caffeine binds to them, adenosine can’t, which contributes to coffee’s anti-drowsiness powers. But work on hypnotoxins has not fully explained how the body keeps track of sleep pressure.

For instance, if adenosine puts us under at the moment of transition from wakefulness to sleep, where does it come from? “Nobody knows,” remarks Michael Lazarus, a researcher at the institute who studies adenosine. Some people say it’s coming from neurons, some say it’s another class of brain cells. But there isn’t a consensus. At any rate, “this isn’t about storage,” says Yanagisawa. In other words, these substances themselves don’t seem to store information about sleep pressure. They are just a response to it.

Sleep-inducing substances may come from the process of making new connections between neurons. Chiara Cirelli and Giulio Tononi, sleep researchers at the University of Wisconsin, suggest that since making these connections, or synapses, is what our brains do when we are awake, maybe what they do during sleep is scale back the unimportant ones, removing the memories or images that don’t fit with the others, or don’t need to be used to make sense of the world. “Sleep is a way of getting rid of the memories in a way that is good for the brain,” Tononi speculates. Another group has discovered a protein that enters little-used synapses to cause their destruction, and one of the times it can do this is when adenosine levels are high. Maybe sleep is when this cleanup happens.

There are still many unknowns about how this would work, and researchers are working many other angles in the quest to get to the bottom of sleep pressure and sleep. One group at the Tsukuba institute, led by Yu Hayashi, is destroying a select group of brain cells in mice, a procedure that can have surprising effects. Depriving mice specifically of REM sleep by shaking them awake repeatedly just as they’re about to enter it (a bit like what happens to the parents of crying babies) causes serious REM sleep pressure, which mice have to make up for in their next bout of slumber. But without this specific set of cells, mice can miss REM sleep without needing to sleep more later. Whether the mice get away totally unscathed is another question—the team is testing how REM sleep affects their performance on cognitive tests—but this experiment suggests that where dreaming sleep is concerned, these cells, or some circuit they are part of, may keep the records of sleep pressure.

Yanagisawa himself has always had a taste for epic projects, like screening thousands of proteins and cellular receptors to see what they do. In fact, one such project brought him into sleep science about 20 years ago. He and his collaborators, after discovering a neurotransmitter they named orexin, realized that the reason the mice without it kept collapsing all the time was that they were falling asleep. That neurotransmitter turned out to be missing in people with narcolepsy, who are incapable of making it, an insight that helped trigger an explosion of research into the condition’s underpinnings. In fact, a group of chemists at the institute at Tsukuba is collaborating with a drug company in an investigation of the potential of orexin mimics for treatment.

These days, Yanagisawa and collaborators are working on a vast screening project aimed at identifying the genes related to sleep. Each mouse in the project, exposed to a substance that causes mutations and fitted with its own EEG sensors, curls up in a nest of wood chips and gives in to sleep pressure while machines record its brain waves. More than 8,000 mice so far have slumbered under observation.

When a mouse sleeps oddly—when it wakes up a lot, or sleeps too long—the researchers dig into its genome. If there is a mutation that might be the cause, they try to engineer mice that carry it, and then study why it is the mutation disrupts sleep. Many very accomplished researchers have been doing this for years in organisms like fruit flies, making great progress. But the benefit to doing it in mice, which are extremely expensive to maintain compared to flies, is that they can be hooked up to an EEG, just like a person.

A few years ago, the group discovered a mouse that just could not seem to get rid of its sleep pressure. Its EEGs suggested it lived a life of snoozy exhaustion, and mice that had been engineered to carry its mutation showed the same symptoms. “This mutant has more high-amplitude sleep waves than normal. It’s always sleep-deprived,” says Yanagisawa. The mutation was in a gene called SIK3. The longer the mutants stay awake, the more chemical tags the SIK3 protein accumulates. The researchers published their discovery of the SIK3 mutants, as well as another sleep mutant, in Nature in 2016.

While it isn’t exactly clear yet how SIK3 relates to sleepiness, the fact that tags build up on the enzyme, like grains of sand pouring to the bottom of an hourglass, has the researchers excited. “We are convinced, for ourselves, that SIK3 is one of the central players,” says Yanagisawa.

As researchers probe outward into the mysterious darkness of sleepiness, these discoveries shine ahead of them like flashlight beams, lighting the way. How they all connect, how they may come together into a bigger picture, is still unclear.

The researchers hold out hope that clarity will come, maybe not next year or the next, but sometime, sooner than you might think. On an upper story at the International Institute for Integrative Sleep, mice go about their business, waking and dreaming, in row after row of plastic bins. In their brains, as in all of ours, is locked a secret.

Genes remain active after death

Image captionTranscriptomics might one day help forensic scientists predict time of death

Cells continue to function even after an individual dies.

That’s according to a scientific study published in Nature Communications.

Analysing post-mortem samples, an international team of scientists showed that some genes became more active after death.

As well as providing an important dataset for other scientists, they also hope that this can be developed into a forensic tool.

Inside the cells of our bodies, life plays out under the powerful influence of our genes; their outputs controlled by a range of internal and external triggers.

Understanding gene activity provides a perfect insight into what an individual cell, tissue or organ is doing, in health and in disease.

Genes are locked away in the DNA present in our cells and when these are switched on, a tell-tale molecule called an RNA transcript is made.

Some of the RNA directly controls processes that go on in the cell, but most of the RNA becomes the blueprint for proteins.

It’s the RNA transcripts that scientists often measure when they want to know what’s going on in our cells, and we call this analysis transcriptomics.

Inner workings

But obtaining samples for study isn’t an easy thing.

Blood is relatively easy to get, but lopping off an arm or sticking a needle into a living person’s heart or liver is no trivial undertaking.

So, scientists rely on a relatively abundant source of samples – tissues and organs removed after death.

Whilst studies of post-mortem samples can provide important insights into the body’s inner workings, it isn’t clear if these samples truly represent what goes on during life.

The other confounding factor is that samples are rarely taken immediately after death, instead a body is stored until post-mortem examination and sampling can take place and its impact is unclear.

And it’s this reliance on stored post-mortem samples that concerned Prof Roderic Guigó, a computational biologist based at the Barcelona Institute for Science and Technology and his team.

“You would expect that with the death of the individual, there would be a decay in the activity of the genes,” he explained.

And this decay might affect proper interpretation of transcriptomics data.

Post-death throes

To see if this was the case the team used next generation mRNA sequencing on post-mortem specimens collected within 24 hours of death and on a subset of blood samples collected from some of the patients before death and, as Prof Guigó explained, what they discovered was surprising:

“There is a reaction by the cells to the death of the individual. We see some pathways, some genes, that are activated and this means that sometime after death there is still some activity at the level of transcription,” he said.

Although the exact reason the genes remained active was unclear, Prof Guigó does have one possible explanation: “I would guess that one of the major changes is due to the cessation of flow of blood, therefore I would say probably the main environmental change is hypoxia, the lack of oxygen, but I don’t have the proof for this.”

What the study did provide was a set of predictions of post-death RNA level changes for a variety of commonly studied tissues against which future transcriptomic analyses could be calibrated.

And the understanding of the changes in RNA levels that occur after death might also be pivotal in future criminal investigations.

“We conclude there is a signature or a fingerprint in the pattern of gene expression after death that could eventually be used in forensic science, but we don’t pretend we have now a method that can be used in the field,” said Prof Guigó.

Whilst the data was consistent across different cadavers, and accurate predictions of time since death could be estimated from the RNA levels, Prof Guigó explained that extra work would be needed before its application in forensics could become a reality:

“It requires further investigation, longer post-mortem intervals, not only 24 hours, the age of the individual, the cause of death – all of these will need to be taken into account if we are to convert this into a useful tool.”

13 February 2018