Twisting Your Twisted Tales: Twins Have Identical DNA, Except When They Don’t …

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We all know how valuable DNA testing is in the worlds of paternity testing and crime-solving. In fact, DNA testing is so accurate that we’re able to determine, with just a mere microscopic fleck of doubt, the identity of a long-lost father, or mother, a name associated with remains found in areas of disaster, and we’re able to learn the names of perpetrators of crimes of various types. All from a tiny speck of blood, tissue, other body fluids, etc.

Remember, every cell in the human body has DNA except red blood cells. Therefore, almost anything a suspect handled could contain DNA. This is why crime-scene investigators locate and collect items they think a suspect may have touched—cigarette butts, bloody clothing, weapons, paper, drinking glass, etc. The evidence is then turned over for testing to a forensic lab and its scientists.

The first step in the testing process is to extract DNA from the evidence sample. To do so, the scientist adds chemicals to the sample, a process that ruptures cells. When the cells open up DNA is released and is ready for examination.

The rest of the process is pretty straightforward and not all that complicated. DNA is loaded into a genetic analyzer that produces a readout that’s specific to the individual who left the evidence (skin, blood, tissue, semen, saliva, etc.).

This is all well and good EXCEPT when twins are involved, because twins have identical DNA. And, when two people have the same DNA and one of them commits a murder, well, without other evidence to validate the charges it’s difficult to prove which twin was at the scene and which was not. A near perfect crime?

Well, scientists at University of Huddersfield, located in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, England, have devised a means distinguishing slight differences—mutations—between the DNA of identical twins.

DNA methylation, simply put, is the molecular mechanism that switches various genes on and off. Therefore, when one twin is, for example, a lifeguard who spends much of daily life in the sun but her identical twin does not, the difference in lifestyles will cause changes in the methylation status of the DNA. These changes in the DNA methylation status of the sun-loving sibling are the subtle changes that sets the twins apart. The same is true when one twin is a smoker and the other lives a tobacco-free life, and so on.

The technique used—high resolution melt curve analysis—subjects the DNA samples/evidence to increasingly high temperatures until the hydrogen bonds break. This breaking point is known as the “melting temperature.”

Again, to simplify, the difference between the melting temperatures establishes the difference between two identical twins. So, the post-methylated-tested DNA can indeed point investigators to the guilty twin.

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So there you have it, writers, a new twist for your twisted tales.

 

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Voting Rights: Your Opinions, Please

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In April of this year, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe signed an executive order restoring voting rights to more than 200,000 convicted felons, a move that circumvented the Commonwealth’s Republican-run legislature. Many of those against the order claimed the governor overstepped his legal authority by committing a transparent effort to win votes for Hillary Clinton in the November election, a move that would help sway Virginia in her direction.

Friday, the Virginia Supreme Court, in a 4-3 ruling, struck down the governor’s order, saying McAuliffe did indeed overstep his powers under the state constitution. Chief Justice Donald Lemons wrote in the majority opinion, “The assertion that a Virginia Governor has the power to grant blanket, group pardons is irreconcilable with the specific requirement in Article V, Section 12 that the Governor communicate to the General Assembly the ‘particulars of every case’ and state his ‘reasons’ for each pardon.”

Therefore, according to the state constitution (the law), the governor of Virginia does not have the legal power to issue a blanket order to restore rights to all ex-offenders who are no longer incarcerated or on probation or parole.

McAuliffe’s response? He’s he thumbed his nose at the state’s high court by vowing to sign individual orders to restore voting rights to each of the 200,000 convicted felons, starting with those who’ve already registered.

So my questions to you are:

  • Do you believe that convicted felons should be allowed to vote? Or, should their voting rights be restored after serving their sentences and probation/parole? Or, as in Virginia, should their voting rights be taken away permanently.

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Speaking of the rights of convicted felons, specifically nonviolent offenders, who’ve served their time and have returned to their communities, and have lived and functioned with no problems whatsoever … should all of their rights, or some, be forever withheld … permanently? An example of the rights and privileges withheld are:

  1. Voting
  2. Traveling abroad (some countries deny admission to convicted felons).
  3. The right to own or possess guns
  4. Jury service
  5. Employment in certain fields
  6. Public social benefits and housing – they are are not allowed to apply for federal or state grants, live in public housing, or receive federal cash assistance, SSI or food stamps, etc.
  7. Parental benefits
  8. Financial assistance for college

Heres a point to ponder – How is it possible for former offenders to live and function and survive if they’re denied housing, employment, education, and food? And there’s no dignity when someone’s learned their lesson, paid their debts to society, and is trying their best to work toward goals and to be proud of themselves once again and of their country, all when they’re denied the simple right to vote. Some people make mistakes. Some people are guilty of the same offenses, or worse, but aren’t caught. Yet they still enjoy their basic freedoms and rights. Don’t people (again, I’m speaking of people convicted of non-violent crimes) deserve a second chance?

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What say you, loyal readers?

*Please, no bashing of politicians, religion, race, gender, cops, etc. Let’s discuss this rationally since the topic affects each of us.

I know, Clinton was mentioned in the opening paragraph, but only to set the stage for the information that followed regarding the rights (lack of) of convicted felons. I am not publicly endorsing any candidate. None. Zip. Nada. So please do not read between the lines. Again, the name was mentioned merely for informational purposes.

 

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Friday’s Heroes: Remembering the Fallen

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Captain Robert David Melton, 46

Kansas City Kansas Police Department

July 19, 2016 – Captain Dave Melton was shot and killed after responding to a “shots fired” call. When he encountered one of the men involved, the suspect immediately opened fire fatally wounding Captain Melton.

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Officer Kristopher D. Moules, 25

Luzerne County Pennsylvania Correctional Facility

July 18, 2016 – Officer Kristopher Moules was killed during a struggle with an inmate when the two crashed through and elevator door and fell several floors to the bottom of the shaft. The inmate was also killed.

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Corporal Montreal Lyle Jackson, 32

Baton Rouge Louisiana Police Department

July 17, 2016 – Corporal Montreal Jackson was shot and killed by ambush while responding to “man with a gun” call. Two other officers were also killed and three were wounded, including one who was critically wounded.

He is survived by his wife and infant son.

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Officer Matthew Lane Gerald, 41

Baton Rouge Louisiana Police Department

July 17, 2016 – Officer Matthew Lane Gerald was shot and killed by ambush while responding to “man with a gun” call. Two other officers were also killed and three were wounded, including one who was critically wounded.

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Deputy Sheriff Brad Allen Granola, 45 

East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, Louisiana

July 17, 2016 – Deputy Brad Allen Granola was shot and killed by ambush while responding to “man with a gun” call. Two other officers were also killed and three were wounded, including one who was critically wounded.

He is survived by his wife and four children.

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Officer Calvin Mark McCullers

Southern Methodist University Police Department, Texas

July 5, 2016 – Officer Mark McCullers drowned when his patrol vehicle was swept away during torrential flooding. He is survived by his wife and six children.

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The Dreaded Traffic Stop: What’s He Doing Back There???

You look in your rear-view mirror and there it is, a patrol car.

It’s so close you can see the reflection of your tail-lights in the officer’s sunglasses.

You see him pick up the mic and start talking. He’s a big, burly man who looks as if he’s capable of crushing diamonds with his teeth. Yes, he’s definitely scary.

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You read his lips. “10-4. I got me a real danger to society this time. I’m goin’ in.” Well, at least that’s what your imagination told you.

What’s he 10-4ing? What’d you do wrong? You run down the list. Insurance is paid. License was renewed on time. Didn’t run the red light. Seat belt on. Didn’t roll through the stop sign. Then, WHAT? WHY HAS HE BEEN FOLLOWING ME FOR SO LONG? WHAT COULD HE POSSIBLY BE DOING BACK THERE?

He just looks so doggone evil. And you’re not positive, but you think you can read his badge number. So you embed it into your memory, just in case …

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JUST TURN ON THE BLUE LIGHTS AND GET IT OVER WITH!

And there it is. The traffic stop. He’s pulling you over and here he comes, right up to your window.

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When he leans over to peek into your window, for some odd reason you sense that he’s looking deep into your soul.

He’s evil in a uniform.

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Sure traffic stops are sometimes a bit unnerving, but once you settle down you’ll quickly realize that officers are just like you … human. Well, sort of.

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So, there are several things the officer could be doing back there.

  • It’s possible that he’s simply heading in the same direction you’re going and is no more than the next car in line. Also, you might be so worried about having a police car behind you that you’re driving ten miles per hour under the speed limit. He’d like to pass, but can’t because you’re driving in a lane that doesn’t permit it. The latter occurs quite often.

But, you just may be the target of a traffic stop. In that case, here’s what’s likely going on back there in Lucifer’s vehicle.

  • The officer is calling in your license plate numbers to dispatch. Those busy folks will let the officer know if your registration is current, if the plates on the car are supposed to be on the car, the make and model of the car, the owner’s name and address, and if the car is stolen, which is a whole new bucket of worms.

Dispatch could also run the owner’s name to see if they’re wanted for any crimes, past DUI’s, have a valid driver’s license, etc.

Of course, the officer could be running the information himself using the in-car computer.

  • Your car could match the description of a car that was used in a crime. Therefore, the officer could be calling for backup. If so, he’ll follow you until back up is nearby, or on the scene. This is the time when you could see the business end of one of those shiny Sig Sauers.
  • The officer may have seen you commit a traffic infraction (crossing over the center line, running off the road, didn’t dim your lights when you should have, weave within your lane, etc.) and he’s staying behind you to see if that error was a simple mistake, or if you could possibly be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

  • He could be following you until he’s reached an area where he feels it’s safe enough to conduct a traffic stop. Officers should be vigilant about their surroundings. They should always plan ahead, making traffic stops in areas where they won’t be boxed in should a shootout take place. The stop area should have a shoulder that’s wide enough to safely pull off the roadway, out of traffic. And they should never make a stop in an area where radio communication is hindered by things such as barrier walls and electrical interference. If the radio doesn’t work, don’t make the stop. Wait!
  • The officer might be watching your reaction to having a police car behind you. Your actions may give him reason to believe that you’re up to no good. Unusually nervous glances in the mirror coupled with erratic movements (fidgeting with something under the seat or console) could mean the driver is reaching for a weapon or hiding contraband.

  • Finally, it could be time for a bathroom break and you’re just in the way. Or, they might be on the way to pick up some lawbreaking clown …

So drive safe, buckle up, and keep your hands and feet inside the car at all times. You never know who, or what, might be following you.

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