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News and insights in the world of DNA and genetics for paternity, immigration and forensics

Archive for December, 2009 Monthly Archives

By Alvaro Castillo
Lawmakers hope a new bill being enacted this year will reduce California’s gang violence. Here are the Facts First:

• The Parental Accountability Act allows courts to order parents of young gang members to attend parenting classes.
• Courses will teach parents how to identify gang and drug activity in their kids.
• They will also learn better communication skills with their children.

Gang violence has been in the forefront in Santa Barbara this year. Police have identified 700 gang members living in the city. The new law will hold parents of gang members accountable for their children’s actions.

Every day Tere Torres walks down San Pascual Street, she is reminded of the gang violence that killed a 16-year-old boy she once knew.

Torres met Lorenzo Carachure two weeks before he died. She remembers her conversation with him. “I said you know what? Only one advice, don’t get involved with gangs and doing all this stuff, drugs and this and that, and you’ll see you’re going to be doing, very, very well,” she recalls.  Torres’ advice came too late.

According to police, Carachure was involved in a gang and stabbed by a rival member as he walked home. “I couldn’t believe it. It was very sad, very, very sad,” Torres says. This year, a new state law will hold parents of gang members accountable for their children’s actions. The law will allow juvenile court judges to send gang parents to parenting classes.

Torres thinks the law will be a good wake up call to some moms and dads. “I think parents, they don’t know what they are doing. Most of them they’re working all day and they don’t know what the kids are doing,” she says. The new law will also force parents to meet face to face with the families who have lost loved ones to gang violence.

“It’s a good idea because it will get parents to be more responsible for their kids actions,” says Martin Medina, a father in Santa Barbara with his kids. The parenting program will be funded by requiring parents to pay for the classes. The law also allows juvenile court judges to dismiss the costs for families with extreme financial difficulties.

The controversy surrounding Adolf Hitler’s skeletal remains is embarrassing for the Russian secret services. In 2000 the Russian secret service presented a skull fragment and a piece of jawbone that they claimed were the remains of the Adolf Hitler the Nazi leader. It was an attempt to quash the rumors that he had escaped Germany alive at the end of World War II.

But this October US researchers presented the results of DNA tests on the skull fragments.  The results conclude that the skull fragments definitely did not belong to Hitler because the fragments were from a female.  Scientists had already harbored doubts about the authenticity of the piece of bone because it was thinner than a male’s usually is.  Nick Bellantoni of the University of Connecticut said, “The bone seemed very thin — male bone tends to be more robust. It corresponds to a woman between the ages of 20 and 40.”  In addition the position of the exit wound at the back of the skull also made scientists suspicious because eyewitnesses said Hitler had committed suicide by firing into his right temple.

Russia’s intelligence service, has rejected these doubts. Vasily Khristoforov, the director of the FSB archives (the FSB is the successor to the KGB), told the newspaper Izvestiya that the bones are definitely Hitler’s. “These researchers never got in contact with us,” Khristoforov said, adding, “with what could they have compared the DNA? Moscow is the only place with the remains of Hitler”

Bellantoni said he was allowed to work on the skull for an hour. When he flew home from Moscow he had two samples in his luggage: a sample from the skull fragment and one sample of blood from the sofa on which Hitler is said to have shot himself.

Bellantoni was able to compare the bloodstains on the blood-stained fabric with photos the Soviets took after they seized Hitler’s bunker in Berlin. The stains had matched those in the photos. The research showed that the sofa blood DNA did not match the skull DNA. The sofa blood was male and the skull belonged to a woman, claims Bellantoni.

Khristoforov insists that Soviet leader Joseph Stalin had ordered an investigation of the bone pieces because he was not convinced Hitler was dead. The comparison of the jaw bones with X-ray photos of Hitler made in 1944 had satisfied Stalin that Hitler was dead.

Khristoforov said that the corpses of Hitler and Eva Braun, Joseph Goebbels and his wife and their six children had been destroyed on April 4, 1970. “The order came from KGB chief Yuri Andropov, the later state and party leader.”  The remains of Hitler and Eva Braun had been stored in the eastern German city of Magdeburg but on the orders of Andropov they were incinerated and the ash was scattered in the river. “That was probably the right solution. Otherwise the burial site would have become a pilgrimage site for fascists who exist everywhere.”

Even within Russian officials don’t all agree on whether the bones are really Hitler’s. After the US research was revealed in October, the vice president of the Russian state archive, Vladimir Kozlov, said: “No one claimed that was Hitler’s skull.

ABC News

In an article published May 19th, 2009 Scientists released data that shows that this fossil could be, “the first link to all humans … truly a fossil that links world heritage,” said Norwegian paleontologist Jørn Hurum of the University of Oslo Natural History Museum.

Meet “Ida,” the small “missing link” found in Germany.  The 47-million-year- old fossil suggests that Ida is a critical missing-link species in primate evolution.  This fossil is thought to bridge the evolutionary split between higher primates such as monkeys, apes, and humans and their most distant relatives such as lemurs.

Ida, properly known as Darwinius masillae has lemur-like skeleton features and primate-like aspects such as grasping hands, opposable thumbs, nails instead of claws.

At least one aspect of Ida is unquestionably unique: her incredible preservation, unheard of in specimens from the Eocene era, when early primates underwent a period of rapid evolution.  “From this time period there are very few fossils, and they tend to be an isolated tooth here or maybe a tailbone there,” said Brian Richmond, a biological anthropologist at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., who was not involved in the study with Jørn Hurum

For Jørn Hurum full publications see:

Jørn Hurum Full Publication

Paternity for many is a tough issue, both emotionally and legally. Paternity is assigned to men and boys in a few ways. The first is by marriage. Men are automatically assumed to be the father if they are married to the mother or in many states if they attempted to marry the mother and did not do so in a legal manner. The second is by voluntary acknowledgment. This is a typically a form that is signed in the hospital prior to the release of the mother and child. The third is by court judgment.

Most if not all states have a law that looks something like this:

(1) A man is presumed to be the father of a child if:

(a) He and the mother of the child are married to each other and the child is born during the marriage;

(b) He and the mother of the child were married to each other and the child is born within three hundred days after the marriage is terminated by death, annulment, dissolution of marriage, legal separation, or declaration of invalidity;

(c) Before the birth of the child, he and the mother of the child married each other in apparent compliance with law, even if the attempted marriage is, or could be, declared invalid and the child is born during the invalid marriage or within three hundred days after its termination by death, annulment, dissolution of marriage, legal separation, or declaration of invalidity; or

(d) After the birth of the child, he and the mother of the child have married each other in apparent compliance with law, whether or not the marriage is, or could be declared invalid, and he voluntarily asserted his paternity of the child, and:

(i) The assertion is in a record filed with the state registrar of vital statistics;

(ii) Agreed to be and is named as the child’s father on the child’s birth certificate; or

(iii) Promised in a record to support the child as his own.

(RCW 26.26.116 Presumption of paternity in context of marriage. on leg.wa.gov)

While this law might seem reasonable to many it does not take into account that it is estimated that 40% of wives will have an affair at some point in their marriage (www.caughthercheating.com) What if that child is not the husbands?

The second way is for the father and mother to sign Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form at the hospital when you have your baby. The hospital staff will give you this form and help you complete it. When you and the child’s father sign the Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form, the father’s name will be placed on the birth certificate.

If you and the baby’s father are unable to sign the Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form at the hospital, you may complete it at home. Your signature must be witnessed by someone over 18 years old, and by a person not named on the voluntary acknowledgment.

You don’t have to be the biological father to sign this form there is no proof required you are stating you are the father and will be responsible the moment you sign this from. Most states but not all have laws that allow you to challenge paternity that is assigned based on the Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity. They typically have a set time period with in which you can contest your paternity.

The third way is to have paternity assigned to you by a court. This can happen if the alleged father does not responded to a woman’s claim for paternity or if the Judge or Jury feels that it is in the best interest of the child. For example a section of Missouri’s bill requires courts to balance the best interests of the child and the hardships of the man who is contesting paternity regardless of a DNA test proving that he is not the father.

“James McClendon knows he’s not the biological father of his ex-girlfriend’s 16-year-old son. He’s got a DNA test to prove it. But his wages are trimmed each month to pay thousands in child support debt. McClendon, who lives in St. Louis, has been fighting a 10-year legal battle to overturn a paternity ruling that says he’s the child’s father. Between legal bills, supporting his three biological children and several failed jobs, he’s built up $25,000 in child support debt.” (States move to allow DNA paternity challenges, By LEE LOGAN The Associated Press www.kansascity.com)

Stories like this are not all that uncommon unfortunately and have been a leading reason why in over 30 states laws are being or have been enacted to allow men to challenge paternity with a DNA test. A major force lobbying for changes to paternity laws is Carnell Smith, an engineer in Atlanta. Smith successfully lobbied for a Georgia law that allows men to challenge paternity at any time. Smith who calls himself a victim of “paternity fraud,” used this same law to erase his own paternity ruling in 2003. Carnell Smith has formed a national organization lobbing for similar laws in other states.

by Sarah Grainger

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) – For three years Olga Lopez desperately searched for her baby daughter who was snatched from her home in Guatemala, until her face appeared in government paperwork for an international adoption.

Lopez, along with two other mothers who also believe their children were stolen and put up for U.S. adoption, pushed Guatemala to ask the U.S. Department of Justice to track down the babies and give them DNA tests so they can be returned.

“I recognized my daughter from her photo in the adoption files but there’s always the possibility that it’s not her. I don’t want to live in doubt. I want a DNA test,” Lopez said.

So far there has been no response from U.S. authorities, Lopez says. U.S. officials would not confirm they had received a formal request from Guatemala.

Guatemala, a small Central American country of 13 million people, used to have the world’s highest per capita adoption rate, with 5,000 children sent abroad each year. Private lawyers charged up to $50,000 to handle an adoption and sometimes forged papers or paid mothers to sell their children.

In December 2007, Guatemalan authorities introduced tough new rules to crack down on baby traffickers. A newly created adoption authority has not allowed a single international adoption since.

Some 3,000 cases that started under the previous adoption system are still in progress, with prosecutors promising to meticulously examine the files for fraud. So far, about half have been completed successfully, and the rest will likely be resolved by the end of January, said a spokesman for the new adoption authority.

But Loyda Rodriguez suspects the new system has cracks. Her 2-year-old daughter, Anyeli, was playing on the porch in the outskirts of Guatemala City when a woman grabbed her and sped off in a waiting taxi. Like other mothers whose babies were taken, she began scouring government adoption records to look for her daughter. She believes the baby was adopted by a couple in Missouri in December 2008.

Guatemala’s Attorney General’s office asked the United States in April of this year to test the three children, all adopted under the old system, after activist Norma Cruz went on a hunger strike to draw attention to the mothers’ plight.

Cruz wants Guatemalan courts to nullify the adoptions.

STOLEN CHILD FOUND

The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala requires couples to have records of two matching DNA tests to issue a visa for an adopted child, but DNA results are sometimes faked by laboratories colluding with child traffickers, said Cruz’s organization of mothers, called the Survivors Foundation.

The new government adoption agency prioritizes local adoptions over international ones. But Guatemala said last month it would start sending babies abroad again on a limited basis, since some children have not found local homes.

Cruz says that problems persist despite the new controls.

“The networks behind illegal adoptions haven’t been disbanded and they’re still operating because they’ve been making exorbitant amounts of money. This is a million dollar business,” said Cruz.

Cruz began her campaign after Ana Escobar found her 8-month-old daughter, who had been kidnapped at gunpoint, in a government office in charge of handling adoptions about to be sent off to the United States.

Escobar recognized her daughter Esther by the crooked little fingers on both her hands and confirmed her identity with a DNA test in 2008 and got her baby back.

Classic autism strikes boys four times more often than girls, with the inclusion of milder variations (Asperger syndrome) boys are ten times more likely than girls to be diagnosed than girls.

UCLA Scientists link genetic variant to autism risk. This discovery may explain the gap in autism cases between boys and girls. Dr. Stanley Nelson, professor of human genetics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and his team narrowed their research on a region of chromosome 17 that previous studies have tied to autism. In that region they discovered a variant of a gene (a gene that is essentially the same as another, but has mutational differences) called CACNA1G. Dr. Stanley Nelson and his team looked at the DNA of 1,046 members of families with at least two sons affected by autism for common gene variants.

According to Dr. Stanley Nelson, “We wanted to identify what was happening in this region of chromosome 17 that boosts autism risk. When the same genetic markers kept cropping up in a single region of the DNA, we knew we had uncovered a big clue.”

The researcher team traced the genetic markers to CACNA1G. CACNA1G helps move calcium between cells. They discovered a common variant that appears in the DNA of nearly 40 percent of the population studied.

“This alternate form of CACNA1G consistently increased the correlation to autism spectrum disorders, suggesting that inheriting the gene may heighten a child’s risk of developing autism,” Nelson said, but he emphasized that it cannot be considered a risk factor on its own. “This variant is a single piece of the puzzle,” he said. “We need a larger sample size to identify all of the genes involved in autism and to solve the whole puzzle of this disease.”

This study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and Cure Autism Now. The DNA samples were provided by the Los Angeles–based Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE).

For more information see:

UCLA Newsroom

In 2001, based in large part on DNA evidence, the King County Prosecuting Attorney charged the defendant Gary Leon Ridgway with four of the Green River murders over the course of the next few years Gary Ridgway was convicted of over 60 murders.

Over the years use of DNA to break the case was attempted. In 1988, detectives sent evidence associated with several victims to a laboratory for DNA typing; however, based upon the existing technologies, no DNA profiles could be obtained.

In 2001, Detective Jensen the sole remaining detective on the case, hoping to take advantage of recent developments in DNA typing, sent biological evidence from several victims to the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory (WSPCL) for DNA typing.  Using what were at the time new modes of DNA analysis called the polymerase chain reaction (P.C.R.) test and the short tandem repeat (S.T.R.) test.  Which allow scientists to sequence and copy very short fragments of DNA taken from crime scenes.  A profile was developed: it matched Gary Leon Ridgway.  WSPCL Forensic Scientist compared this Profile against vaginal swabs from victim. This DNA comparison linked Ridgway to only one dump-site and one lone victim.

The evidence used in 2001 had been collected on April 8, 1987, as the result of a warrant on Ridgway’s residence, his work locker, and several vehicles. Detectives seized hundreds of items of evidence, such as carpet fibers, ropes, paint samples and plastic tarps.  None of the evidence collected at that time linked Ridgway with any particular scene or victim. However, one item of evidence seized would prove to be significant: a saliva sample taken from Ridgway during the execution of the warrant.

On June 13, 2003, the King County Prosecuting Attorney and Ridgway entered into an agreement where, in exchange for avoiding the possibility of execution, Ridgway agreed to provide complete, truthful, and candid information concerning his crimes in King County and answer all questions during interviews conducted by the police or the Prosecuting Attorney.

In June, 2003, and continuing over the next five months, the Task Force interviewed Ridgway extensively. Detectives confronted him with all of the Green River murders and similar unsolved homicides. In all, Ridgway claimed that he killed over sixty (60) women in King County.

Gary Ridgway Incarcerated at Washington Sate Penitentiary in Walla Walla, Washington.

For More information see:Link to Prosecutor’s Summary of the Evidence

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.

In order to do a hair test for paternity, you need to have hair that still has the roots and follicles still attached. This means, cutting hair and often even taking strands from a brush will not work, you need to pull the hair from your head and look to make sure the hair follicles and roots come attached to the sample. In most cases of a paternity test, five to ten strands of hair with the root and follicles still attached are required in order to do the DNA testing. Hair test for paternity costs more than most other DNA testing and is not as reliable because it is more difficult to extract enough DNA from the follicles.

Genetic DNA paternity testing allows courts and individuals to confirm paternity of a child. Most tests do hold up in court and do provide for accurate results. In most cases tests using hair samples are not legal tests and do not hold up in court as the DNA testing company can not guarantee from whom the sample came. Most people use a clinical facility which offer legal tests, but some receive a home test kit in the mail and send the sample out for testing which are for peace of mind but are not usable in court.

Why do people need a DNA test for paternity? In some cases, genetic DNA paternity testing is done to determine the parentage of a child. This procedure allows courts, parents and other concerned individuals to know who the parents are, whether it is for the mother or the father. This information allows the custodial parent to receive support of the said child. In most states, if you receive any kind of support from the government, you need to know the paternity of the father.

Why do people need a hair test for paternity? In most cases people are trying to determine paternity without the alleged parent knowing. They want to send in a sample of the alleged parent and are unsure of what will work. TV shows make testing with hair seem simple and do not show any of the down sides of using hair. There are many types of samples that can be used and while hair is the most well know it is not necessarily the best. Some more reliable options are Band Aids, Fingernail or Toenail clippings, Dental Floss or a Toothbrush. While the results will likely not be court admissible, unless collected by a third party investigator, they do offer peace of mind.

Before genetic DNA paternity testing helped to identify a father, men who were said to be a father were just that, determined and appointed the father. Today, a simple paternity test will reveal if the individual is the legal father or not. This procedure has also aided in the overturning of many rulings by the courts when confirming that someone was a father, they have been found not to be the father, which leads to hardship for many. Check your state laws on to see what the statutes of limitations are for changing paternity.

Earlier tests conducted used the blood type of the mother and father to determine if the baby belonged to the father. Due to technological advancements the most common from of paternity testing is DNA testing, which is done by using cheek swabs from all parties concerned. Some people feel this could cause a big problem with child support agencies, as they try to collect from the real father after collecting support from the wrong father for years. In many states there are laws limiting the amount of time allowed to change the paternity of a child for that exact reason.

With the advancement of DNA testing, the entire process has helped in many areas as people use the genetic DNA paternity testing to find lost children and find missing fathers. Technology keeps advancing and so does paternity testing.

In conclusion, a home DNA test is a relatively simple and painless procedure and usually involves taking a swab of the inner cheek of both the suspected father as well as the child and, if possible, it’s mother. When choosing a home DNA test kit you should look for a kit that is AABB accredited and which offer a 99% inclusion and 100% exclusion rate. If you need or want to use the results for any legal purposes you should talk to the company offering the test and make sure the test option you choose is a legal test.