Posts Tagged ‘murder’

‘Gattaca’ portrays a chilly, chilling future in which one’s fate is decoded from DNA

February 11, 2013

Literature and film are full of tales of people who steal, borrow or exchange identities. Few have been as carefully thought out as Gattaca, the futuristic 1997 drama written and directed by Andrew Niccol.

The protagonist is one Jerome Morrow, né Vincent Freeman. His parents chose to conceive him without using genetic engineering to select helpful traits and weed out unhelpful ones. A heart defect, detected nearly instantaneously by genetic scanners that seem to be ubiquitous in Gattaca’s near-future setting, prevents Freeman from realizing his dearest dream, which is to be an astronaut.

But Freeman finds a way to cheat. One Jerome Morrow sells his genetic identity to Freeman; having been paralyzed from the waist down, there’s no other way for Morrow to fund his decadent lifestyle.

The two become uneasy roommates and doppelgängers; Freeman mimics Morrow’s hairstyle and has surgery to lengthen his legs to match the recorded height of the man he is impersonating. Morrow diligently collects dead skin, blood and urine that Freeman dispenses as needed to pass for a man with a princely genome.

But Freeman’s subterfuge is jeopardized just days before he is scheduled to depart for a year-long mission to explore one of Saturn’s moons. When an official at Freeman’s organization, Gattaca, is murdered, cops arrive to vacuum up physical evidence. A loose eyelash indicates the presence of Freeman, who isn’t officially cleared to be on site. Thus the protagonist becomes the target of a most inconvenient manhunt.

To complicate matters, Freeman strikes up a flirtation with a co-worker, Irene Cassini, that heats up quickly. At the very moment Freeman should be most eager to shed his Earthly ties, his heart finds itself moving on an unexpected trajectory.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Facts and figures from the 2009 almanac of American death, part 4

December 25, 2012

Last week, I wrote about different ways that Americans die, with a focus on what role guns play compared to other causes of death.

Much of the post was based on a report, Deaths: Final Data for 2009, that spans 119 pages and is supplemented by 11 pages of additional tables. As previously noted, the Centers for Disease Control has sliced and diced the data in multiple ways.

Because this information can be difficult for readers to digest in bulk, this is the fourth and likely final post in a series presenting excerpts from these Centers for Disease Control publications. (The first two entries appeared on Thursday and Friday of last week; the third, on Monday of this week.)

Please enjoy these data on 2009 American deaths:

• There were 5,005 deaths listed as having unspecified intent, meaning authorities could not determine whether the fatalities were intentional or accidental. Of those, 232 involved gunfire.

• Of 25,562 falling deaths, 18 were homicides and 67 had undetermined intent.

• There were 4,211 drownings, most accidental. Read the rest of this entry »

Facts and figures from the 2009 almanac of American death, part 3

December 24, 2012

Last week, I wrote about different ways that Americans die, with a focus on what role guns play compared to other causes of death.

Much of the post was based on a report, Deaths: Final Data for 2009, that spans 119 pages and is supplemented by 11 pages of additional tables. As previously noted, the Centers for Disease Control has sliced and diced the data in multiple ways.

I found a number of fascinating facts and figures in this almanac of American death. Because this information can be difficult for readers to digest in bulk, this is the third post in a series presenting excerpts from the report. (Here are links to Thursday’s and Friday’s fatality fact roundups.) I’ll probably put up one final fact-filled entry on Tuesday.

Without further delay, we now present the following 2009 death data:

• Murder claimed 5.5 lives per 100,000 Americans. The three highest rates are for these age brackets: 15 to 24 (11.3 deaths per 100,000), 25 to 34 (10.2) and, astonishingly, those younger than 1 (7.4). Those aged 5 to 14 were least vulnerable (0.8).

• The District of Columbia had the nation’s highest homicide rate, with 135 killings translating to 22.5 deaths per 100,000 residents. The national rate of 5.5 was less than a fourth of the district’s tally.

• D.C.’s 111 gun deaths, including suicides, homicides and accidents, also made for the nation’s highest rate, with 18.5 deaths per 100,000 residents. The national rate was 10.2. Read the rest of this entry »

Facts and figures from the 2009 almanac of American death, part 2

December 21, 2012

Yesterday, I wrote about different ways that Americans die, with a focus on what role guns play compared to other causes of death.

Much of the post was based on a report, Deaths: Final Data for 2009, that spans 119 pages and is supplemented by 11 pages of additional tables. As previously noted, the Centers for Disease Control has sliced and diced the data in multiple ways.

I found a number of fascinating facts and figures in this almanac of American death. Because this information can be difficult for readers to digest in bulk, this is the second post in a series presenting excerpts from the report.

I’m planning to post more items containing 2009 death data on Monday and Tuesday of next week; the first item went live Thursday evening. And now, some additional fatality facts:

• A child born in 2009 had an expected life span of 78.5 years. The rate was 76 years for males and 80.9 years for females. For all races, females have longer expected life spans than males.

• A black child born in 2009 was expected to live 74.5 years; a white child, 78.8 years; a Hispanic child, 81.2 years; a non-Hispanic black child, 74.2 years.

• Alzheimer’s disease was first recognized as a cause of death in the late 1970s. It is now the nation’s sixth-leading taker of lives, claiming 79,003 victims in 2009. Read the rest of this entry »

Facts and figures from the 2009 almanac of American death, part 1

December 20, 2012

Earlier today, I wrote about different ways that Americans die, with a focus on what role guns play compared to other causes of death.

The report, Deaths: Final Data for 2009, spans 119 pages and is supplemented by 11 pages of additional tables. As noted, it slices and dices the data in multiple ways.

I’ve selected some additional facts and figures from this almanac of American death, chosen simply because I found them interesting. Because this information can be difficult for readers to digest in bulk, I’ll put up at least one more post featuring excerpts from these Centers for Disease Control publications in coming days.

On with the fatality facts:

• In 2009, 10.2 Americans out of every 100,000 were killed by firearms, whether by suicide, homicide or accident. From 1999 through 2009, the rate ranged from 10.1 to 10.5. These rates, like other gunshot fatality rates, have varied only slightly over the previous decade. Read the rest of this entry »

On firearms and firearm fatalities

December 20, 2012

Author’s note: This entry was initially posted on the afternoon of Dec. 20. It was extended and re-posted later the same afternoon. Slight edits were also made to the original text. Thank you for reading! MEM

***

The 117-page report compiled by the federal government’s Centers for Disease Control provides detailed breakdowns by age, race and sex for more than 100 different causes of death in the 2009 calendar year.

The nation tallied 2,437,163 deaths that year, with a number of predictable causes leading the way. Heart disease was the top culprit, claiming nearly 600,000 people. Malignant neoplasms, or cancers, finished in second place by ending just shy of 568,000 lives. Chronic lung disease and various ailments that stop or limit blood flow to the brain respectively notched 137,353 and 128,842 deaths.

Accidents or unintentional injuries were responsible for 118,021 fatalities, ranking fifth on the list. Eight of the next 10 causes are diseases, except for suicide (No. 10, 36,909) and assault or homicide (No. 15, 16,799).

Incidentally, the government’s catch-all category, covering all but the top 15 causes of death, accounted for 469,367 deaths, or around 19.3 percent of the total.

These rather dry tables drew my interest because of the Sandy Hook Elementary School slaughter, which claimed the lives of 20 children and six staff members. They were all killed by multiple gunshot wounds, like victim No. 27, the shooter’s mother, who was slain in her own bed. (The suspect also dispatched himself with a bullet.)

This horrific event has prompted Americans to begin debating gun safety with a fervor that has perhaps never been matched. It’s resuscitated a great deal of argument over this old saw: “Guns don’t kill people, people do.”

Yet a superficial reading of government statistics indicates that guns do in fact kill.

Read the rest of this entry »

In the aftermath of murder, small lessons emerge

December 14, 2012

Author’s note: This is the third and probably final of three posts that I’ve written this week about my reaction to homicide. The earlier entries appeared on Wednesday and Thursday. Also, this item provides a little context for this story. Thank you for your interest in my blog!

***

I rarely take well to sudden or significant changes. Adjusting to someone’s new haircut; preparing to move to another city, or even another house; embarking on a new job, or departing an old one — all these transitions stress me in different ways.

The murder of Mohammed Arfan Sundal, the smiling man whose Indian restaurant was near my house, was the most sudden and significant change possible. As I tried to come to grips with the news the morning after his killing, I could feel my hands trembling. I spent much of Friday doing what I normally do — tweeting, reading, shopping for groceries — but nothing really felt normal.

I’ve written earlier about my work as a daily newspaper reporter and how it connected me, for the first time in my life, to various shocking and tragic murders. But the difference between the slayings I covered and the one at the Kabab and Curry House was that I’d never known any of those victims when they’d been alive.

I didn’t spend much time wondering about why or how Mohammed had been killed, or by whom. Reporters frequently seem to solve murders in movies or TV shows, but I never had. The truth, hopefully, would come out after the police made an arrest.  Read the rest of this entry »

Death and the cub reporter: My life and murder

December 13, 2012

Author’s note: This is the second entry in a series of related posts that began on Wednesday. I also posted this prologue the previous week. Thank you very much for reading!

***

I had lived a few relatively comfortable decades before I first got involved with murder. Then I changed careers and became a reporter for a small-town North Carolina newspaper.

I wasn’t officially the crime reporter at the paper. Then again, the paper was so small that sometimes I had to handle whatever kind of news story broke. The three-county area that we covered wasn’t home to that many people, but unfortunately, it seemed to have more than its share of crime.

And actually, one of my assignments was covering an entire county. Usually, that meant covering the local governing council and school board. But sometimes, it meant covering crime — and typically, the kind of crime we were interested in was murder. One of the years I worked the beat was astonishingly bloody: If memory serves, there were eight slayings in a county of about 20,000 people.

One night a man, apparently made paranoid by cocaine, starting shooting the folks on his driveway. Two died; one managed to escape despite a serious wound. It was the county’s first multiple homicide in many years. Read the rest of this entry »

Remembering the man behind the counter

December 12, 2012

Author’s note: This entry, the first of a few related posts, is self-explanatory. However, the preceding this earlier item provides a little additional background. Thanks for your interest in my blog!

***

Mohammed was his name — I think.

I don’t remember precisely when I met him or under what circumstances. But my memory, too often elastic and elusive, produces this recollection.

The first time I went into Kabab and Curry House, I think, one table was occupied and another recently had been. I could tell that there had been customers at the other table because the used items remained there. There was one server, a woman who seemed to have little English, but she had little interest in clearing up after customers. I remember waiting a little longer than I’d have preferred to get my food.

I met and slowly got to know Mohammed over the course of my next few visits to the restaurant. I always ordered takeout, since the interior was so drab and my house was so close.

I quickly learned that Mohammed was the main man at Kabab and Curry House. He spoke excellent English, unlike the rather withdrawn servers I encountered. Mohammed often ran the register. He also cooked the food, which I hadn’t initially realized. Read the rest of this entry »

Welcome to my neighborhood: A highly selective guided tour of the place where I live

December 7, 2012

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 7, 2012

Author’s note: I edited this entry slightly on Dec. 11, 2012, to correct the spelling of kabab (not kabob, as I originally had it) in a restaurant name. I’ll link to follow-up posts to this item once they’re online. Thanks for reading! MEM 

***

In the fall of 2011, I moved out of a very nice but bug-ridden old two-bedroom house in a lovely neighborhood. My new home, which was a much smaller and somewhat more affordable two-bedroom house, was just a mile away. Naturally, the neighborhood was…not quite as nice.

Not that there’s anything wrong with my neighbors, I hasten to add. The only ones I have spoken to live to one side of my house and across the street, and they’re fine. There are some other folks nearby whom I’ll wave at, but to whom I’ve really not spoken. Everyone seems pleasant. It’s basically a lower-middle class or working-class area.

A few families seem to be on their way up. Many are basically holding in place, including some older folks and people whom I see often enough that they may be on disability or else unemployed. A few might be on their way down. Some of the houses look lovely; rather more of them have a certain air of neglect and subtly advancing chaos that are at the least less elegant. There is a house near mine that appears to be vacant but has not been boarded up or vandalized.

The foot traffic that passes my house is much more diverse than the folks I used to see in my old home. There are definitely some sketchy people about. But I’ve never felt particularly nervous in my neighborhood.  Read the rest of this entry »

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