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April 27, 2018


For some reason it seems less objectionable for police to search a DNA database they already have than to go out and search a private genealogical database that people have sent samples to for their own purposes.

Although I am more worried about using such databases for other purposes.

Separately, collecting DNA samples for people merely arrested, as provided for under California law as noted in the wikipedia article, also seems to me wrong.

DNA has been helpful both in solving crimes and in absolving the innocent.

The criminal law needs a lot of reform, especially in sentencing, the prison system, and the way we treat people who commit crimes. But figuring out who actually committed the crime? DNA evidence has been a huge step forward.


Also noteworthy: the Golden State Killer has been apprehended after 40 years, due in part to DNA that will I think wind up to have been collected in a like manner.

Sometimes the wheels of justice grind slowly indeed.

In the case of the Golden State Killer, what seems to have happened is that a distant relative used one of the DNA ancestry services (not 23andme or ancestry.com, but they didn't say which of the others). And the police (or FBI?) somehow got the info and found a partial match. So they knew they were looking for a relative, albeit not a close one.

The stories I have seen haven't said how that DNA profile info got to the authorities; although the reporters clearly did ask. But my take on the legal situation would be that, if you share information with another party, your presumption of privacy is gone. Like if you tell your attorney something, but tell him with someone else present, attorney-client privilege doesn't apply.

However they got it, that vastly narrowed the field of possible suspects -- since before they had essentially no clue. But then, once they had a pretty good idea who they were after, they didn't move until they had collected some "discarded DNA" -- a term which I take to mean something like a tossed cigarette butt.

And now I see in the news that the DNA information

came on a no-frills, “open-source” genealogy website that allows users to share their genetic profiles for free.

So apparently no active notification of the authorities by the DNA outfit.

From what I read, a policeman disguised himself as a fast food employee and cleaned up after the man (and the pizza he had got excluded from the list of suspects, so it was just about separating the two DNA wise).

came on a no-frills, “open-source” genealogy website that allows users to share their genetic profiles for free.

Sounds like Gedmatch.

It was, indeed, GEDmatch.

Or, more correctly, GEDmatch.

Yeah. I decided to hit the link only after commenting. I get what I deserve.

-- Open thread (I was going to use this as an Open Thread anchor. but lj types faster than I do.)

I've been observing the Admiral Jackson and the VA story. It's pretty clear that Jackson was massively unqualified, by lack of management experience, to run the VA. But what seems to have move Congress, at least the Republican members, are the various other allegations against him.

And it occurs to me to wonder. Maybe some or all of the allegations are true. And if so, he probably also needs to be removed from his White House assignment.

But then again, it could be that what we are seeing is Swift Boat redux. Only with the parties swapped. Just a thought.

Funny this would come up, though. Just a couple weeks ago I got a very close DNA match I couldn’t identify. Turns out, a very close female relative sold some eggs back in college. Strange times.

I decided to hit the link only after commenting. I get what I deserve.

Hey, if I'd actually read the whole article before posting, I could have said which company it was. So at least partly my fault.

Quasi-tangentially. As someone who works in molecular biology, I generally agree with sapient's of 10:18. Nonetheless:


One of the things that's interesting, in a distressing way, about this is that the reasons for some of the failures discussed are not necessarily corruption or incompetence but because the science wasn't well enough understood regarding how much cells can get around.

But then again, it could be that what we are seeing is Swift Boat redux. Only with the parties swapped. Just a thought.

except: the Dems have basically no power to block nominees. if they had the power to drive a story like the one that grew up around Jackson, we'd have seen a lot more failed nominees.

the only people i heard talking about Jackson were GOP. of course, i listen to NPR, and they're not going to let a Democrat talk about something as serious as a nomination.

Important and interesting caveat, JakeB. Thanks.

"Police believe that they have nabbed the notorious "Golden State Killer," a man who committed a series of rapes and murders in California in the 1970s and '80s. Their suspect is former police officer Joseph James DeAngelo, age 72, who has lived for many years in Sacramento. DNA evidence played the main role in identifying him."
The Golden State Killer and Your Genetic Privacy: Do you have a reasonable expectation of genetic privacy under the Fourth Amendment?

Charles, the article looks pretty good.

The essence is, you have NO expectation of genetic privacy relative to items that you discard in public. Nor, for that matter, in trash that you have put out on the curb for pick-up.

Likewise, if you put your DNA on a public website, you have no complaint if the someone who looks at it happens to be law enforcement.

It's true that, as in this case, you can come under suspicion based on the DNA of someone else, if that someone else is a relative. But relatives have downsides of lots of kinds. That's nothing that anybody is going to be able change, no matter what the law says.

Almost 25 years ago I was writing white papers inside the giant telecom company where I worked about the end of privacy. The basic idea was that we should tell our customers that any data they put on a machine connected to the network should be considered public -- at some point, either maliciously or through error, it would be copied into wrong places and get loose.

Legal wouldn't let me publish them.

My DNA data is on record on about six different websites. I guess I, and my relatives, had better keep our noses clean. And pocket the tissues.

Your DNA is exclusively yours. It's even a ID code than social security card. It should be used as the ID reference of choice by It We all should grow up and demand that our DNA be used as personal proof of ID.
How many crimes would be solved if it were so? It could make identity theft virtually impossible.

a 1.5GB ID code is surely more secure than an wimpy 30-bit SSN.

the fact that it's not stable over time is a problem, though.

Not stable over time is a problem. So is the size of the key. For most applications, having to have a computer (no way you can check manually!) store a copy of the data for comparison is going to rapidly become a problem.

Sure, storage has gotten more compact over our lifetimes. And processing power is unbelievably increased. But this just isn't going to be viable (no pun intended) any time soon.

Open Thread!
This little video is just way, way cool! The scenery is quite real. Only the people (and human artifacts) are not . . . for the moment.

Way, way cool indeed, wj! Many thanks for that.

I don't think you would have to use the entire gnome, would you? IIUC the vast bulk of it - over 99% - is the same for everyone.

Besides, the gnome would object.

wj: great apod link.

byomtov: groan.........

I'm somehow picturing the gnome wandering around saying "I am Groot!"


Fr while I was blocked form posting--- some obscure computeresque message...but the problem seems to have cured itself.

apparently typepad has hired out its hosting to HAL

HAL, crossed with Cheech and Chong: ". . . Dave's not here . . . "

Since it's an open thread, allow me to pass along this. Money quote:

"I'm still a Republican. I didn't leave the Republican Party. The Republican Party left me," Kasich said on CNN's "State of the Union." "In my state we have balanced budgets, surplus, we're up half a million jobs and then people say, 'Well Kasich's not a conservative.' What does that mean?"
"Kasich's not a conservative"??? In what universe? Just tells you how far detached from reality some people have gotten.

Still, good to know that I'm not the only one feeling like this. For all that Kasich is, on a number of points (especially social issues), substantially more conservative than I am.

your mistake is in thinking that the definition of conservatism is fixed, or at least slow to change.

but it's not. it's quite volatile.


Sorry. That's the kind of thing that can happen when you forget to use preview.

Kasich isn't a conservative?

I'm having a hard time finding even a few people who are saying that. But Rolling Stone says he's terrifying, so maybe he ought not to have been elected.

Kasich is completely Republican when it comes to respect for facts. A quick look at this BLS page shows Ohio's economy steadily improving since 2010. Remember that the nasty old guvmint under the Kenyan usurper bailed out the car companies in mid-2009. That may or may not have something to do with Ohio's rebound since then. After all, California shows similar results despite its librul debauchery. But why let a commie pinko deep-state outfit like the Bureau of Labor Statistics confuse things?

Republican ideologues deserve credit for the general economic recovery under Obama, and if they manage to crash The Economy under He, Trump it will of course be Obama's fault.


California shows similar growth results to Ohio. But Kansas, for example, does not. So maybe Kasich is a nasty liberal after all....

A nasty liberal AND terrifying.

But I repeat myself.

"Che Fidel" Rubio:


Grover Norquist's favorite house organ and FOX and Sinclair affiliate, called "Gall Stone", finds HIM terrifying too.

They are going to run Fulgencio Batista against him after the second Bay of Pigs invasion of Florida.


Just this once, he could have changed the lyrics to "We're in the money, we're in the money .. let's lend it, pay our taxes, and spend it on employee wages."

But, no.

Could have been worse, I suppose.

The last memorable musical he'd seen might have been "Sweeney Todd":


I'd still like to produce a musical version of "Atlas Shrugged", but the arias are so long and predictable.

I'd still like to produce a musical version of "Atlas Shrugged", but the arias are so long and predictable.

I'll go ahead and write the review in advance:

"It's better than it sounds"

(stealing from Twain, as Twain himself advocated)

Considering the kind of person who would be inspired to write a musical of Atlas Shrugged, I think my review would be,
"It manages to be even worse than it sounds. Which is a challenge met."


“By definition supply and demand will equate,” Mnuchin said. “I’m not concerned about that. I think that there are still a lot of buyers for U.S. Treasuries,” he said when asked about the risks of reduced demand for Treasuries and increased supply.

Fiscal responsibility! (I'm no deficit hawk, but the hypocrisy burns.)

Returning to the original topic, it turns out that the DNA trail was a lot more roundabout that I, at least, originally assumed.
"Great-great-great grandparents"!?!?! Followed by creating an enormous family tree from those and checking out each branch. Amazing.

But it does reaffirm something I heard a long time ago. Police (specifically detective) work rarely involves the kind of rapid action you see on TV. Mostly, it's "lousy legwork": grinding thru piles of irrelevant evidence and useless interview transcripts to find the few nuggets that matter.

"Great-great-great grandparents"!?!?! Followed by creating an enormous family tree from those and checking out each branch. Amazing.

I wonder if any of his cousins, distant or otherwise, are into genealogy. If so, they just got a lot of free help.

"Investigators cited a rare genetic marker, which the Oregon man shared with the killer, to get the judge to issue the order. The Oregon City man is in extremely poor health in a rehabilitation facility and was unable to answer questions Friday.

His daughter said his family was not aware that authorities took a DNA sample from him while he was lying in bed at the rehabilitation center until she was contacted by the FBI in April 2017 and asked to help expand the family's genetic tree in the search for suspects.

The woman, an amateur genealogist, cooperated, but ultimately investigators determined none of her relatives were viable suspects, she said. The woman spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because she did not want the family's name publicly linked to the case."
Earlier Search For California Serial Killer Led To Wrong Man

By definition supply and demand will equate

"By definition atmospheric pressure will seek equilibrium", he said while being carried aloft by a tornado.

That statement by Mnuchin is frightening on a lot of levels. Supply and demand don't just miraculously equate.

Here's a hint, Steve: What makes them equate is a change in the price. In this case the relevant price is the interest the US has to pay on the securities. It goes up and now the miracle happens - there are buyers. But of course not only does the rate the Treasury has to pay go up - bad enough - but lots of other rates pegged to Treasury rates go up too. That includes almost everything - mortgage rates, rates for business loans, corporate and municipal bond issues, etc.

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