Bugle may play a digital taps
These days, the mournful sound of taps at military funerals is usually a digital rendition piped through a bugle "played," lip-synch style, by someone pretending to be the real thing. The passing of the vast World War II generation, combined with the accelerating aging of the Korean and Vietnam vets, has outstripped the ranks of uniformed buglers. Of the 236,000 funerals for military vets conducted in 2010, just 25,000 were accompanied by an actual military bugler, according to the Pentagon. Another 15,000 funerals were conducted with a real bugler sponsored by the American Legion or other veterans' service organizations, which in recent years have stepped in to help fill the growing official military-bugler void. But at 185,000 military funerals, the emblematic 24 notes came from what are called "ceremonial bugles," which consist of standard bugles fitted with special electronic devices in their bells.
App helps gauge surgery risks
It's a question that some patients are afraid to ask: What are my chances of dying on the operating table? Now, believe it or not, there's an app for that. "My Heart Surgery Risk" was created by Dr. Edward Bender, a heart surgeon in Cape Girardeau, Mo. Answer a series of yes-or-no questions on your iPhone or iPad, and it calculates your risk of making it through heart bypass surgery. Bender said the app, which is free on the Apple iTunes store, was adapted from the website of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, which has its own "risk calculator" based on hundreds of thousands of patients. As operations go, heart bypass surgery is relatively safe, Bender says. But the risks — having a stroke, ending up on a breathing machine, dying — go up or down depending on the patient's sex, age, weight and other factors. The app shouldn't replace a heart-to-heart talk with your surgeon, he says; it's meant to start one.