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By now you have heard the news: On October 3rd, 2011, Amanda Knox and former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, won their appeal in an Italian court and were acquitted and freed for the murder of British student, Meredith Kercher. Despite a previous trial and guilty verdict based on supposed DNA evidence, both convicted parties won an appeal and a deeper trial over the evidence occurred.

While we could pick over all of the details of the case, we’ll leave that for another organization to discuss. Instead, allow us to focus alone on genetic evidence.

With no obvious motive, no independent witnesses and no confessions, the Italian prosecutors had to rely on genetic evidence found at the crime scene to convict Knox and Sollecito. This makes sense as genetic evidence is supposed to be iron clad.  Or is it?

The original conviction relied on traces of Sollecito’s DNA being found on the victim’s (Kercher) brassiere clasp, together with traces of DNA from both defendants being found on the knife allegedly used to slash Kercher’s throat. However, similar to our famous U.S. tales of botched crime scene evidence (ie. the Jon Benet Ramsey or OJ Simpson cases), the prosecutions evidence has been marred with rumors of bad police work and possible fabricated evidence. Furthermore, not only did the defendants know Meredith Kercher, but Amanda Knox lived with her.This complicates matters on an enormous level.

The first issue is called “contamination”. Unlike crimes where the victim and perpetrator don’t know each other, and therefore a genetic link is most likely an obvious connection, it is hard to do the same with roommates and their visiting friends – there will always be matching DNA present. And although DNA evidence puts a person ‘at the scene of the crime’; it does not necessarily prove they committed the crime.

Secondly, although DNA evidence can match the scene of a crime, it does not allow for “time-based evidence”. There is no telling if a match occurs because a victim or perpetrator was present at the time of the incident or exists because they were present at some other point in history.

Finally, although many people have been successfully prosecuted on DNA evidence, it is not failsafe or full proof. Typically, a DNA sample found on a murder weapon will be said to match the DNA of the suspect to the extent that only one person in one million would have the same profile. However, if a particular genetic profile is held by one person in, say, one million this means that in a country with a population of 60m will have 60 people that give a perfect mach for the DNA evidence and even more would match a partial profile of that evidence.

In the U.S., a man called Kerry Robinson was convicted a few years ago of gang rape. In an independent investigation last year DNA evidence from the crime scene plus Robinson’s DNA profile was shown to 17 ‘blind’ analysts with no contextual information: the 17 experts were hugely divided – 12 said the suspect could be excluded.

Although no one can or should doubt the genetic evidence is a powerful tool for solving crime, it is not perfect and it has it’s weakness, from false positives to human error.  One thing is for certain – this legal matter and it’s evidence will be scrutinized for a long time to come. Let’s hope that we can learn from it.



Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2044935/As-Amanda-Knox-walks-free-DNA-evidence-trial.html#ixzz1ZlPcRlgY


The idea of creating genetic passports for, plants, animals, microorganisms was a very hot topic between 2007 and looked like it was on it’s way to becoming a common, standard practice. However, at this time, for the most part, these burgeoning ideas seem to have been put on hold.

The idea to create genetic passports was suggested by the Technical Expert Group of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Lima, Peru and was backed by a group of experts from over 25 countries. The proposal, which stated that 150 countries, who signed a 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) treaty, would have sovereignty over the genetic resources originating within their borders and could control the use of their genetic resources outside of their borders. They would do so by providing specific information such as the material’s origin, its characteristics and the institutions responsible for providing and/or using it.

While the proposal was widely praised and supported, it does not appear that it was ever adapted by the Convention on Biological Diversity.  In fact, in a paper entitled “Genetic Diversity and Conservation and Utilization of Plant Genetic Resources” the author(s) state that:

Accurate passport and characterization data are the first requirements, but users of plant genetic resources, particularly plant breeders, have also emphasized the need for improved evaluation of accessions. Evaluation is a complex process and there is serious backlog in most collections.

However, you can be assured that genetic passports for non-human organisms is on it’s way even if it is not currently implemented. Were there is a will, there is a way.


The newest in your child’s athletic careers might just be a genetic test to see what sports they may be suited for. The parent simply swabs the inside of the child’s mouth and sends the cotton swab off to the company for analysis. The tests are reported to be able to:

• Give coaches and parents early information about their child’s predisposition for success in team or individual sports.
• Can be used to help developing a personalized training and conditioning program necessary for athletic and sport development.

The real question is are these claims fact or fiction? What makes an athlete?  When evaluating athletes, amateurs or professional, you need to look at combination of physical, mental and social attributes. Unfortunately these test can cause children or their parents to push for extreme sports regiments with out looking at the mental and physical effects on the child.

Some of the long term effects are due to life-long injuries to areas like back, knee and hip which are often the end result of extreme forms of exercise or adult obesity and the probability of heart disease which can be an unfortunate outcome of the misguided concept of “bulking up.” Rapid weight gain at any age is associated with dramatic increases in abdominal fat, which is linked to diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

We continue to believe that now we have discovered the human genome sequence we are able understand how the human body works, and we would be even crazier to think that knowing about a few genes can let us shape the future of a child for any reason not just for sports.

By Briana R.

Multiple sources have confirmed that Arnold Schwarzenegger never asked for a DNA test to prove he was the father of Mildred Baena’s child.  In addition, Mildred Baena has yet to establish paternity which typically requires a DNA test.

Sources state that Baena’s husband was out of the country when the child was conceived and that he did not return until shortly before the baby was born.  In addition it is said that the child bears a striking resemblance to Schwarzenegger and to Schwarzenegger’s youngest son Christopher.

According to the American Association of Blood Banks an agency that also monitors DNA Paternity Testing, 3.5 out of 10 Paternity Test comes back as a negative.

Is Arnold Schwarzenegger safe to assume Mildred Baena’s child is his with out a DNA Test? Appearances can be deceiving especially when it comes to a persons DNA. Do you think Arnold Schwarzenegger should insist on a DNA test?


By Briana R.

When President Obama announced Sunday evening, May 1st,  that Osama Bin Laden had been killed in a United States military operation, many wanted physical proof that the person killed and taken into custody was in fact Mr. Osama Bin Laden.

At this time reports are confirming 3 ways the remains were identified: 1) Facial recognition software was used to match the remains with facial photos of Osama Bin Laden. 2) There was apparently a personal identification of the body by someone inside the complex (exactly who identified the remains is unclear).  3) DNA testing of the remains took place within hours of death.

DNA Testing is now fast and accurate. It no longer takes weeks but can be done in the matter of hours and has a 99.9% or better accuracy rate.  At least one question remains – who, how or what did they test to confirm that it was Osama Bin Laden?  Did they test a family member against his DNA? There is speculation that they could they have tested the purported Osama Bin Laden sample against DNA from his sister, which (according to reports) had been held at Massachusetts General Hospital after her death in Boston last year. Or did they somehow already have Osama Bin Laden’s DNA on file and test against that?

According to Dr. M. Al Salih, who works at DNA Reference Laboratory in San Antonio, TX, he is sure that the results are accurate.  “You can come up with a very solid and absolute certainty that that is him and nobody else. If you identify that individual through those markers, and you can compare and you can say, ‘They match,’ or ‘They don’t match.’” Salih went on to state that the technology is very precise and results are 99.9 percent accurate.

However, on the other side is Dr. Greg Hampikian, a biology professor at Boise State University, says if they can get DNA from one of his kids and their mother then they do a reverse paternity test to confirm his identity and he suspects that is the type of DNA testing that was done. However even with a 99.9 percent identification Hampikian says that this case is not closed. As a scientist, Hampikian says 99.9 percent does not equal a positive identification.

As is the case with most major events such as this, skeptics speculate that we have not received enough proof and conspiracy abounds. One thing is for certain, we love conspiracies and we will never really know the truth.

By Alvaro Castillo

Learning begins in the home.  The most important lessons are learned at home and parents are the first teachers. Children learn about their world and how to be a good person starting the day they are born. A child’s sense of self comes from how their parents treat them and respond to them and each other.

Experts in child development often advise parents to tune in to their children from an early age. Children’s self-esteem is nurtured early in life as they interact with their parents in a positive environment. When a child gets into trouble, parents often blame themselves for being too lenient or too strict with them. Some parents will even blame the child for being naughty or disobedient.

The truth is, children are the products of either good parenting or bad parenting.  This does not mean that their parents are good or bad people. We make mistakes with our children, and often we are not aware of better ways to teach our children because we are also the products of good or bad parenting.

Often parents can do a better job with their children when they understand the different stages of a child’s development. As children mature, parents need to manage their children’s behaviour differently. You cannot talk to your teenager as you talked to your six year old. Listen to what your child says and find ways to support them.

Communication plays a vital role in our daily interactions with all family members. We need to understand what they hear and see, and be able to send messages in ways that they can understand and accept. Children need adults to guide them in choosing the right words to express themselves. Teaching by example is the most effective tool for parents.

Many parents have found that their words fall on deaf ears when they do not act in a manner that is consistent with what they say. A mother of two school-aged boys remarked that today’s teenagers are easily influenced by their peers. She feared for her children’s welfare. She wondered how she can protect her sons from negative influences.

Children tend to draw closer to their peers when their parents refuse to acknowledge them or listen to them. Their peers, on the other hand, make them feel accepted and loved. They never question them or belittle their ideas.

Self-esteem is how a person feels and thinks about themselves. Feeling loved, valued, wanted and respected will make children feel good about who they are. Parents can create such an environment for their children to grow up in. Once your children are confident, they can try new things and explore their world.

Parents must allow their children to make mistakes so that they can learn what they can do to succeed. Just like when a toddler learns to walk, they will fall many times before they achieve success. Once they manage to walk, they will experience an overwhelming sense of pride.   Many children feel unloved because they are scolded or punished frequently.

The foundation of their relationship with their parents is built on fear and violence. While parents consider their acts of punishments as a form of discipline, their children do not share this understanding. They cannot accept the fact that their parents inflict pain on them to teach them a lesson.

As children grow, parents must be prepared to allow them to take charge of their behavior. When parents respect their children for their sense of independence, children will live up to parental expectations.

In today’s world, our children need to know that being different is acceptable. We do not want our children to be carbon-copies. We want them to have their own likes and dislikes. They should not feel the need to submit to societal pressure to look the same and talk the same way.

I just came across an article distributed by the Slate discussing the above topic. This brought my thinking to the use of DNA and the idea of anonymity in general.

DNA testing makes them easy to trace
By Rachel Lehmann-Haupt Last Updated Monday, March 1, 2010, at 9:36 AM ET

When Donor 3066 signed up with the California Cryobank, he offered some basic information about himself on a piece of paper: that he had a BA in theater; that his mother was a nurse and his father was in the Baseball Hall of Fame; that his birthday was Sept. 18, 1968. He made it clear that he didn’t want to be found by signing a waiver of anonymity…

Donor 3066 was being sought out by Michelle Jorgenson, a 39-year-old waitress from Sacramento, Calif., whose daughter, Cheyenne, was born in 1998.  When her daughter turned 5, Jorgenson joined the Donor Sibling Registry and began searching for other mothers and donor offspring who used Donor 3066. She was concerned because her daughter was sensitive to sounds and walked on her toes, and she wanted to know if other half-siblings were displaying similar behavior. Through the registry, she met a number of other mothers and half-siblings. She discovered that two had autism and two others showed similar signs of sensory disorder…

Jorgenson began her search by approaching a mother in her group with a son named Joshua and suggested he do a cheek swab so she could explore his paternal roots through a Y chromosome test. The mother agreed. Through the test, Michelle learned about some of Joshua’s genetic markers. A few weeks of searching on the Family Tree DNA Web site using these markers led to two families with matching DNA. Through one of the families, she met a woman who mentioned that she found the obit of a relative who was a former baseball manager, and three children were listed. Michelle suspected that this might be her donor’s father, so she looked up the phone number of his listed son. When Michelle called the number, the deceased man’s son answered the phone. She began to ask him questions: Was your father in the Baseball Hall of Fame? Were you born in Illinois? Did you ever donate sperm? When the man said yes, she asked him if his birthday was Sept. 18, 1968. When he answered yes, she burst into tears. “You’re the biological father of my daughter,” she said. He was shocked but agreed to talk to Cheyenne on the phone—and eventually allowed the two to come visit him in Los Angeles.

Although in this case there appears to be a happy out come for all parties this is not always the case.  What about the request for privacy that Donor’s sign up for when they choose to remain anonymous?  Is that even something that clinic should offer since there is no guarantee that the donor can’t be found?  What are the options for men who do become donors?  There are many questions that are raised in this article and very few answers, partly because technology is growing at such a fast rate and party because it appears in the article many clinics are ignoring this issue of privacy.  Let us know what you think about this issue.

Over 200 pairs of eyes are glued to me as my willful child screams, “ORDER ME MY MEAL NOW!”

My child has refused to order her own hamburger (as she has done many times before) and when I calmly tell her she can either order it herself, or go home without her burger, she goes completely berserk. Yes, I have entered into a “food fare nightmare”—with my formidable opponent, my eight year old child.  I feel my cheeks flush as public onlookers wait in complete stunned silence to see who will win—the big one or the little one?  What is worse is that some where I know that many of the people now staring at us have been here and have felt just like I have at some point in time.

The Four Parenting Keys to Taming Your Willful Child

Surprisingly, over my years as a family counselor, I have come to love working with willful children. These children have a fire in their belly, a spark in their eye and a feisty attitude that assures their future in walking to the beat of their own drum instead of blindly following the crowd—a trait many parents hope for during the teen years. Yet that day in the food fare I was worn out, embarrassed and on the verge of saying “I quit!”

Raising your willful child can be exhausting. Fortunately for me, I learned some commonsense parenting tools that eliminated nearly all future fights. Allow me to share some of these parenting tips that can support your efforts in taming your willful child.

Raising your willful child with these four parenting tips can help you navigate the emotional mine field successfully:

1. Use consistency. Follow through on EVERYTHING you say. Willful children are gifted at manipulating “chances” and finding loopholes to obtaining exactly what they want. Hold your ground as calmly and firmly as possible—whatever you do, don’t back down.

2. Develop patience. Waiting out a fight without saying anything (especially if a temper tantrum erupts in public) can be one of the most difficult, yet important, things you ever do as a parent. Willful children are bright—they know that the biggest weapon in their arsenal is to push your embarrassment button. Swallow your pride—do not cave in just because you think you look bad in public. Remember if you cave in, your child will learn to use this trump card every time they want their way in a public setting.

3. Talk less and act more. This works well, because when you get into a debate with a willful child you are certain to lose! This is why in my “food fare nightmare” example above I gave two simple options; to order the hamburger or go home without it (the talking less part); and then silently waited (the action part).

4. Take time out for yourself. Parenting children is exhausting (especially a feisty child). Find little ways to take time out yourself (share child care with a friend, hire a babysitter more, use extra hours at daycare) so you will have more energy and patience to draw from during the trying situations.

What Does the Future Hold for Your Willful Child?

These commonsense parenting tools tame the negative opposition, but let their beautiful spirit flourish. If you attempt to use traditional discipline practices and make your child do what you want, you face an un-winnable uphill battle.

Fortunately, commonsense parenting does not mean letting your child get away with murder! A commonsense approach uses firm boundaries, mutual respect and discipline—teaching a child to naturally learn and grow from their mistakes rather than fight you every step of the way.

In the midst of your next fight, you may wonder if there will be an end to the madness. I am here to tell you that there will be a resolution to your current dramas. In my case, these tips allowed me to triumph and actually enjoy raising a willful child.

This same child who gave award-winning temper tantrum performances in public and could bring me to my knees is now a responsible, respectful and enjoyable 17 year old college student whose year ahead is completely paid by scholarships won. For me and her, we both won in the end. May it also be the same for you.

When taming your willful child remember to keep the faith, learn commonsense parenting tips and know that eventually if you follow the basic principles above “this too shall pass.”

A blood test that can determine the gender and genetic abnormalities in a unborn baby as early as five weeks has proven to be successful according to Dutch researchers.  The researchers claim that the test has almost 100 per cent accuracy in determining the fetus’s gender.

The blood test uses the mother’s plasma to extract Genetic information about their unborn baby.  The test can be used to determine if the unborn baby carries specific genetic abnormalities, such as muscular dystrophy, this test can be conducted shortly after conception.

Currently, testing for genetic abnormalities and gender cannot be carried out until at least 9 weeks and as late as 24 weeks.  The current methods of testing are either through a Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS) or an Amniocentesis.

Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS) is a medical procedure conducted by an OBGYN that is typically performed between 9 – 13 weeks gestational age, which is often mistakenly referred to Chronic Villus (or Villi) Sampling. CVS is a vaginal procedure that removes a very small portion of the placenta.

Amniocentesis is a medical procedure conducted by an OBGYN that is typically performed between 14 – 24 weeks gestational age. The amniocentesis procedure involves insertion of a needle into the womb and drawing out approximately 10cc’s of amniotic fluid, which surrounds the unborn baby.

Professor Michael Chapman, head of women’s and children’s health at the University of NSW, said that this new testing method was the “holy grail” of research.  “Scientists have been chasing this for about 25 years,” he said. “The biggest advantage of this in a wanted pregnancy is there is no risk of miscarriage during testing.”

The research team from the University Medical Center, in The Netherlands, used the test on 200 women. Only in 10 cases could the gender not be determined.  The procedure works by taking a sample from the mother’s blood plasma and extracting fetal DNA, which circulates in the mother’s blood. Looking for a specific gene sequence, doctors can then determine if the baby is a boy or a girl and is a carrier of specific disorders.  In most cases, the test will be performed on a seven-week-old fetus.

But Australian obstetricians warn the medical breakthrough is unlikely to be used in Australia because it could be used for gender selection and due to “ethical and moral” dilemmas.

The test did not address the fact that fetal DNA that is found in a mother’s blood can be from previous pregnancies even years later.  The research have not address how to determine if the DNA is from the current fetus.  While their are some DNA testing companies that have offered to use “simple” blood test to determine paternity for several years.  These test can often be unreliable.   While this new test promise great answer at no risk there are still some very big questions that haven’t been answered.


This canine mystery solver is quickly becoming a popular within the dog community and in the media. Both ABC and NBC, as well as other mainstream media, bloggers and animal lovers with websites, have run stories on breed testing over the last few years.

NBC’s story ran 10/20/06 When Today’s hostess Meredith tested her own dog using the Canine Heritage™ XL Breed Test. This test uses cheek swabs. For step by step instructions see: http://www.dog-dna.com/tests/instructions-results.php. To see the full show visit http://video.msn.com/?mkt=en-us&brand=msnbc&fg=&vid=e1ce80dc-75f9-4456-ad3c-d63a56e4aa9c&from=00

ABC’s story ran 5/20/2007 they tested Becky and Alex Shelton’s dog Sol using a blood test. This is a test that needs to be preformed at a Veterinarian’s office. Vets do charge fees for drawing the blood sample that would be in addition to the testing fees. For the full story see http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=3193494

Both tests were very informative and it appears the breeds that made up these two dogs were identifiable. There are some times were this is not the case. For example many labs don’t test for “Pit Bull” and any dogs that include this breed would show as unidentified breed or something similar, or just not show up at all.

It is important to do your research on which ever type of testing you decide to move froward with. Most labs will have email addresses or phone numbers where you can verify which breeds are tested.