Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Back in the News, April Omnibus Edition

Several issues I previously reported on are now back in the news. Here are the latest headlines, along with the novels I recommended:  

Genome Patents
Bestseller Crichton (Jurassic Park) once again focuses on genetic engineering in his cerebral new thriller, though the science involved is a lot less far-fetched than creating dinosaurs from DNA. In an ambitious effort to show what's wrong with the U.S.'s current handling of gene patents and with the laws governing human tissues, the author interweaves many plot strands, one involving a California researcher, Henry Kendall, who has mixed human and chimp DNA while working at NIH.

Sister John's cloistered life of peace and prayer has been electrified by ever more frequent visions of God's radiance, leading her toward a deep religious ecstasy. Her life and writings have become examples of devotion. Yet her visions are accompanied by shattering headaches that compel Sister John to seek medical help. When her doctor tells her an illness may be responsible for her gift, Sister John faces a wrenching choice: to risk her intimate glimpses of the divine in favor of a cure, or to continue her visions with the knowledge that they might be false-and might even cost her her life.

Bird Flu
Right now, in a remote corner of rural China, a farmer and his family are sharing their water supply with their livestock: chickens, ducks, pigs, sheep. They share the same waste-disposal system, too. Bird viruses meet their human counterparts in the bloodstreams of the swine, where they mix and mutate before spreading back into the human population. And a new flu is born.... Dr. Noah Haldane, of the World Health Organization, knows that humanity is overdue for a new killer flu, like the great influenza pandemic of 1919 that killed more than twenty million people in less than four months. So when a mysterious new strain of flu is reported in the Gansu Province of mainland China, WHO immediately sends a team to investigate...

Food Safety
1906 bestseller shockingly reveals intolerable labor practices and unsanitary working conditions in the Chicago stockyards as it tells the brutally grim story of a Slavic family that emigrates to America full of optimism but soon descends into numbing poverty, moral degradation, and despair. A fiercely realistic American classic that will haunt readers long after they've finished the last page.

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