Photo of the Day

Close up of passport photo: What is known is she took the name of a child who died in Fife. She may have known the family or she may have walked past the little girl's grave. On the other hand, she could have obtained this information through other channels.

Close up of passport photo: What is known is she took the name of a child who died in Fife. She may have known the family or she may have walked past the little girl’s grave. On the other hand, she could have obtained this information through other channels.

Lori Erica Ruff Kept Her Past Locked Up in a Secret Safe

Marriage is a sacred act between two people that care deeply for one another. Different cultures define matrimony in different ways and tie the knot for various reasons. Whatever the motivation behind one?person?entering wedlock to another, both parties usually do know each other intimately. Or at least they should. But nobody in the world knew Lori Erica Ruff.

Six years after a heartbroken Texas man buried his wife and the mother of his little girl, he still doesn’t know exactly who she was.

Such is the mystery of Lori Erica Ruff, a woman who managed to fool everyone, including federal and private investigators, about her true identity before committing suicide, taking her twisted secrets to the grave.

To her husband, the tall, slender brunette was Lori Kennedy, a woman born in Arizona who had a rough childhood and didn’t want to discuss her past. To anyone else who knew her before, she was Becky Sue Turner.

Both names are false.

She created a false identity for the sole purpose of getting lost in America,” stumped Social Security investigator Joseph Velling, who has been painstakingly investigating her case for the last six or so years.

Velling calls her Jane Doe.

Officials have ruled out that she was in the witness protection program. Her photo was run in every facial recognition database. Her fingerprints were run. Both to no avail. Her DNA is on file incase they?can find someone to match it to. Velling has been digging into her case ever since. He says he will not give up. Until her real identity is found or someone recognizes her, the Ruff family cannot tell her little girl who her mother really was.

“It must have been for some horrific reason … either she was running away from a crime or an abusive family or relationship,” he said.

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Face of the day

Baroness Shreela Flather, 2005

Baroness Shreela Flather Photo: Nigel R. Barklie/Rex 2005

…Baroness Flather, a former Tory who now sits as a cross-bencher, said in the House of Lords that it is “absolutely appalling” that first cousin marriages in Pakistani communities are leading to “so much disability among children”.

…”You go to any such family and there will be four or five children, at least one or two of whom will have some disability. That is absolutely unacceptable, and if we cannot do anything about it, is it fair to the children?”

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Should we be able to genetically modify our children?

British researchers have been given permission to genetically modify human embryos, which has some people excited and others concerned. Those who support genetic editing admit that it is allowing scientists to play God. Its opponents point out that it is a slippery slope that can lead to designer babies. Abortion, when it was first made legal, was tightly controlled and difficult to obtain. Now we have abortion on demand, and an abortion can be performed even at the time of birth (as long as part of the baby is still inside the mother when the doctor kills it). Genetic editing is currently intended for fixing nature’s errors, but will it only be used for that? The contraceptive pill was only invented after scientists looked into how to improve a woman’s fertility. Once scientists have this power over our DNA where will it lead?

The new genetic editing technique, known as Crispr or Crispr-Cas9, lets researchers perform cut-and-paste operations on DNA, the hereditary material, with unprecedented ease and precision. Unlike most types of gene therapy, a longstanding approach that aims to alter only adult human tissues that die with the patient, the Crispr technique could be used to change human eggs, sperm and early embryos, and such alterations would be inherited by the patient?s children. Because changing the human germ line is perceived to hold far-reaching consequences, the leading scientific academies of the United States, Britain and China issued a joint statement?in December asking researchers around the world to hold off on altering human inheritance.


So, what are the arguments for and against this new God like power?

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Could farming our rare species ensure their survival?

Stephen Franks thinks that with the advances in technology and DNA testing we could protect our wild but rare species by farming them.

This would have a two-fold success. Firstly it would provide the market with legal product, ending poaching, and secondly it would ensure the survival of the species that are threatened.

Our outdated laws against trading wildlife had a simple worthy purpose ? to make it unprofitable to steal animals from the wild. The prohibition is intended to prevent scarcity in the wild. Unfortunately it guarantees scarcity in the market, and therefore assured profits for thieves from wild populations.

Using DNA tests to legalise revenue for breeding can make anti-poaching laws more practically enforceable. Farmed breeding populations can be conclusively distinguishable from wild populations. DNA identification is now fine grained and cheap enough to eliminate any need for GM tags or other alterations of the farmed population.

DNA testing does not end all complications. For example if kereru farming was licenced it might be difficult to prevent wild birds from mating with farmed birds. Such species could need periodic re-profiling and re-licencing of the breeding line. Science offers a back up though. Diet oriented stable isotope tests on a feather, for example, can support DNA fingerprinting. They can show whether a bird was reared on a wild diet or a farm diet.

It will need law changes ? New Zealand is always the ?goody good? in these matters and we have diligently reflected in our law the international prohibitions on trading (CITES) to which many other countries pay lip service. ? Read more »

WANTED: Canine Fecal Technician


Spain’s northeastern city of Tarragona plans to use DNA analysis of dog droppings to track down errant owners who fail to clear up their pet’s mess.

The coastal Mediterranean city will work with a local university to create a DNA database of registered dogs that could be used to identify its owner, Ivana Martinez, the city’s city councillor for public spaces, told news radio Cadena Ser on Monday (local time).

Droppings found on the street or in parks can then be matched through the DNA database to a registered pet and its owner issued with a fine, she said.

“Right now, unless the police is at the scene and the right moment, it is very difficult to know who is breaching the rules,” Martinez said. Read more »


Here’s the flaw in Trevor’s Moa Plan

Defrosting ancient poo could reintroduce some age-old bugs to the modern world, scientists say.

An extremely infectious and deadly ancient virus, released from a frozen slumber by warming climates, could play havoc with immune systems that have no experience of such germs.

A team of international biologists, including the University of Canterbury’s Arvind Varsani, has proven that such an incident is theoretically possible, after they resurrected an ancient virus from the 700-year-old frozen droppings of Canadian caribou.

With a little reconstruction, the DNA virus, christened the “caribou faeces-associated virus”, has gone on to infect modern-day plants, according to a paper published yesterday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Varsani said the team had proved ancient viruses were as worthwhile to study as today’s versions – as both may make up tomorrow’s germs.

The virus was also identified as a relative of a modern one, giving valuable insight into how the microbes evolved, he said. “Through this work we might be able to understand where they are going and what they are doing if they become pathogenic.”

The elephant in the room is of course the dinosaurs in the Labour Caucus. ?Is?their poo a risk factor in infecting more modern Labour politicians? ? Read more »


Face of the day

A plan so cunning you could put a feather on it and call it a Moa.

A plan so cunning you could put a feather on it and call it a Moa.

Thanks to Trevor Mallard the era of? reconstructing new life from recovered DNA is upon us. No longer is it in the realms of Science fiction to bring Dinosaurs back. He wants the Moa brought back but why stop there?

Think of the possibilities Trev.

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Sunday nightCap

and the solution to this morning’s brain teaser is ? Read more »

Bugger! I was hoping it would happen

It seems that Jurassic Park will remain just a movie with a bad pinko actor in it.

Ancient dinosaur DNA is unlikely to survive inside the bodies of insects encased in amber according to a new study that will dash the hopes of fans of Jurassic Park that it may be possible to one day resurrect the giant prehistoric reptiles.

The title of the fourth instalment in the Jurassic Park series may have just been announced, but already scientists have poured cold water on any hopes that dinosaurs can be resurrected in the way they are in the films.? Read more »

What DNA looks like