Mystery readers may know Ruth Rendell for her popular Inspector Wexford books, or else the procedurals she authors as Barbara Vine. But she’s also a member of the British peerage, and is now using her authority to go after some of the hardest crimes to solve:

Lady Rendell, a long-term campaigner against the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), spoke out as the police prepared to announce a new initiative against it later this week.

She said that it would be classified “not as a quaint custom but as child cruelty, as child abuse, because that’s what it is”.

“Even if it may be committed without child abuse or cruelty in mind, that’s what it is. I think that if we can persuade the Home Office to do more when the police are doing so much, I see that at last there has been a breakthrough and things are going to change. I hope so.”

Rendell helped introduce tough new laws in 2004 that made it an offence to send a child abroad for the procedure, banned in the UK since 1985.

This also increased the maximum sentence from five to 14 years – but there has not been a single prosecution brought under the new powers.

“Sweden has prosecuted. So has Italy. Well, I think the government is not doing enough yet,” the peer told More4 News in an interview to be broadcast tonight.

“I just hope that it’s going to change and that there will be more effort made to do the only thing I think which can really be done, which is to get into the communities and talk to people. I think if we could have one successful prosecution, and the attendant publicity it would get, that would work wonders.”

Tens of thousands of young girls in this country are believed to be at risk of FGM, but the peer conceded cultural sensitivities made it difficult to tackle. “You have to ask yourself, often I do: if these were little white girls would this ever have gone to the extent that it has?

Is that what they mean about testosterone poisoning? “Metabolic syndrome” is the medical term for  a group of symptoms — including high blood sugar, low HDL cholesterol and all that belly fat — that are often precursors to heart disease.  Now, a new study reveals that the syndrome often takes hold during menopause. And most researchers appear to pin much of the blame on testosterone:

As testosterone progressively dominates the hormonal milieu during the menopausal transition, the prevalence of metabolic syndrome increases according to a new study by researchers at Rush University Medical Centre. The study suggests this may be a pathway by which cardiovascular disease increases during menopause. The study is published in the 28 July issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Cardiovascular disease is the primary cause of death in women in Western countries. Women tend to develop the disease about 10 years later than men with a marked increase through the menopausal years. Cardiovascular disease is rare among women younger than 45 years, but women older than 55 years are more likely than men to have cardiovascular disease.

Metabolic syndrome is a summary measure of important cardiovascular disease risk factors that frequently coexist. The syndrome is evident in 20% to 30% of middle-aged women and has been linked to the development of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

The longitudinal, 9-year-study of 949 participants in the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) shows that the incidence of metabolic syndrome increased progressively from six years before to six years after the final menstrual period, independent of ageing and other known cardiovascular disease risk factors. The increase is steeper during the menopausal transition compared to the post menopausal years.

‘Menopause-related testosterone predominance appears to be implicated as a key hormonal change that is associated with the incidence of metabolic syndrome,’ said lead investigator Imke Janssen, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Preventive Medicine at Rush University Medical Centre.

Finding the limelight on the “Frozen River.” Film and TV viewers have seen 47-year-old Melissa Leo, who stars in the new film Frozen River, in  scores of roles over the past 30 years. She’s made her living in independent films like Stephanie Daly
and TV crime dramas from “Law and Order” and “CSI” to her high-profile
role on “Homicide.” Reporting this week on the new film, in which Leo’s
character gets into the immigrant-smuggling business, the New York
Times calls Leo “an actor’s actor, which is to say, immensely talented
and insufficiently famous.”

The women’s scary
night trips across the ice in Ray’s beaten-up car could justify some of
that hyperbole. But the biggest thrill for many fans will be watching
Ms. Leo perform with enough room to explore one of the complicated,
surprising women she’s so good at sketching in smaller roles. Ray is
vulnerable to life’s punches, but she’s no sentimental construct. For
one thing she’s a bigot, though not overtly — at least toward most of
the people she and Lila shovel into the trunk of her car. But she’s
furious at having to transport a Pakistani couple she suspects of being
Muslim terrorists and soothes her conscience by treating them horribly.
At the same time she embodies the almost invisible heroism of someone
continually pecked at by poverty. She not only keeps going, but her
dogged problem-solving concentration also makes it clear that the
thought of quitting doesn’t enter her mind.

The role that put her
on the map, though, was in the groundbreaking NBC police drama
“Homicide: Life on the Street.” Always in man-tailored pants but
sporting a curly, light-red mane halfway down her back, Ms. Leo’s wry,
sardonic cop, Kay Howard, was the squad’s avenging angel. Ms. Leo
appeared in 76 episodes from 1993 to ’97, only to have network
executives replace her with a series of more glamorous female
characters. Fans still gripe about this on the Internet. At the time
she issued a statement saying she was “surprised and saddened,” adding,
“There were not enough women like Kay on TV, and now there are none.”

By Chris Lombardi

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