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From the Atlantic:

Is DNA Left on Envelopes Fair Game for Testing?

The genealogist’s dream of testing old, spit-laced artifacts is coming true—but raising questions about who controls dead people’s DNA.

SARAH ZHANG
MAR 1, 2019

Last fall, Gilad Japhet, the founder of a DNA-testing company, got up at an industry conference to talk about his grandmother Rosa’s love letters.

Japhet’s company, MyHeritage, sells cheek swabs to people interested in their family history. It now has 2.5 million people in its DNA database, making it the third largest behind 23andMe and AncestryDNA. But Japhet wasn’t satisfied with only testing the living; he wanted to test the dead. Which brings us to the love letters—or really, the envelopes they came in.

The envelopes were sealed by his grandmother, and the stamps on them presumably licked by her. “Maybe our ancestors did not realize it,” Japhet said, a smile growing on his face, “when they were licking those stamps and the envelope flaps, they were sealing their precious DNA for you forever.” Then he made the big announcement: MyHeritage would soon begin offering DNA testing on old stamps and envelopes.

He didn’t stop there. If you can test the letters of your grandmother, why not those of historical figures? Japhet is a prodigious collector of autographs, and he revealed that he possessed handwritten letters from Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill. In an intriguing if provocative PR move, he promised that “their DNA is coming to MyHeritage very, very soon.”

In a surprising coincidence, DNA testing of the envelopes has revealed that both Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill were trim women who could type 90 words per minute.

 
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  1. You are a very funny fellow, Mr S.

    • Agree: Autochthon, Bubba
  2. Moshe says:

    That’s why good researchers only trust a rectal swab.

    Academic source here: https://southpark.cc.com/full-episodes/s21e03-holiday-special

    The conclusion of the paper is an absolute triumph!

  3. Anon[159] • Disclaimer says:

    You learn early in Japan not to lick stamps or envelopes. People look at you as if you had taken a dump on the floor. Moistened pads are supplied in post offices for stamps, and envelope flaps have no glue to begin with: you need a glue stick, or tape.

    By the way, I didn’t know until recently that every single letter and package seem via the USPS has its address and return address scanned and saved.

    • Replies: @Wilkey
    , @Lugash
    , @Jack D
  4. And of course there’s Chelsea Clinton’s DNA that could confirm that Bill Clinton “Did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms Rodham”

    Plus the endless fun that could be had with Barry the Kenyan and his putative wife “Michelle”

  5. Ano says:

    Quick! Somebody Woke! Before MyHeritage DNA tests! Get somebody black to handle Churchill’s letters!

    (Ha, ha, that’ll show those (hiss) white (hiss) Churchill admirers like (hiss) Trump!)

    Oh no! Somebody messed up!… Just read The Jerusalem Post…

    Shock Revelation! Einstein had black ancestry. Israel expels all people related to him as African Infiltrators.

    • Replies: @Alden
  6. Anon[160] • Disclaimer says:

    There’s an art authenticator who controversially uses DNA tests on material in art paintings and objects. This is controversial mainly because you’re supposed to know from your training and “eye” whether a painting is authentic.

    Jackson Pollock paintings famously have cigarette butts subtly embedded in them. Even in old masters there may be hairs in the paint.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  7. Luke Lea says:

    It will be interesting to find out if Abraham Lincoln was really Thomas Lincoln’s biological son, given that his mother, herself illegitimate, was a “lascivious” woman (Lincoln’s description). If not, that would explain a lot of the conflict between them.

    • Replies: @Alden
  8. Reminds me of this classic BBT moment:

  9. TWS says:

    Good one. Really good typists are a dying breed.

  10. Mom is a noted Biblical scholar, in the belly of the beast.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sara_Japhet

    Gilad Japhet = Help jig data.

    • Replies: @Neuday
  11. Neuday says:
    @Reg Cæsar

    You have to be pretty brazen to jig boolean data. You really shouldn’t jig a boolean.

  12. Wilkey says:
    @Anon

    By the way, I didn’t know until recently that every single letter and package seem via the USPS has its address and return address scanned and saved.

    Yep. I believe the original reason they did that was simply to sort the mail by machine. The a few years ago they started offering the “service” of sending you an email with everything that was in your mailbox. My response being, “Oh, you’re saving all the information about who is sending us mail.”

    It’s a brave new world we live in. Our supposedly democratic leaders have done shit to bother asking us if it’s the one we ever wanted to live in.

  13. Lugash says:
    @Anon

    By the way, I didn’t know until recently that every single letter and package seem via the USPS has its address and return address scanned and saved.

    IIRC only for a year(supposedly). This was one of those post-Amerithrax case laws that went into effect. I wouldn’t be surprised if special cameras are used to get finger prints as well.

  14. Heard on the radio someone asking about testing the bed sheets used to cause J. Epstein’s death for DNA, under the premise that if someone else’s DNA was present on the sheets, then…

  15. Jack D says:
    @Anon

    The digital age (especially cheap modern digital storage where it is possible to store terabytes of data for pennies) offers opportunities for data gathering beyond the wildest dreams of Stalin and the Stasi. No one sends anything important in the mail anymore but they also have all of your emails, your phone calls, your whereabouts from minute to minute via your cell phone, license plate cameras and facial recognition, your conversations at home thanks to Alexa, etc. This is beyond what even Orwell imagined for Big Brother.

  16. Alden says:
    @Ano

    Well, his hair was awful kinky for a White person. Or maybe he had a permament to add to his eccentric saintly persona.

  17. nymom says:

    Yes, I agree mailing a letter is going the way of the dinosaurs…except for Christmas cards I still think people send those by mail. I know I do.

    They are actually looking at some proposals to start charging people for sending emails since the Post Office is losing so much money…probably it will be charged to your internet carrier and then be added to your bill every month…

    More money.

  18. Alden says:
    @Luke Lea

    It’s conventional wisdom among historians that Nancy Hanks was pregnant by her employer Abram Emloe when she married Thomas Lincoln with a decent dowry from Emloe which was the custom of the times.

    She was an orphan placed with the Emloe family as a child servant. Her pregnancy was another custom of the times.

    Abraham Lincoln physically resembled Emloe in size rather than Thomas Lincoln.

    • Replies: @dearieme
  19. This is beyond what even Orwell imagined for Big Brother.

    Well said. Here in the Peoples’ Republic, we get charged personal property tax on our vehicles. For years, you got a windshield decal, after paying a $35 decal “fee”, and then the cops would give you a ticket if you didn’t have a current decal.

    Now there is no decal, but (suprise!) there is still the $35 decal “fee”. Enforcement is now done with license plate readers on police cars.

    I must have missed the election where I gave the state permission to collect all this data on me.

  20. Michael S says:

    Surely you mean trim women of color.

  21. FAMED BALD EAGLE MASCOT “OLD ABE” CONFIRMED AS MALE DNA TESTING OF MASCOTS FEATHERS ANSWERS 150 YEAR OLD DEBATE

    Old Abe, eagle who was Civil War mascot, was indeed male, tests confirm

    I know what you’re all thinking, but too late, that joke has already been done:

    But as we all now know, whether the bird was male or female has nothing to do with its DNA.

    In compliance with the new social view on sexuality, the bird’s gender wasn’t based on its anatomy or its biology. Regardless of science, its gender was based on how it felt.

    So it seems we’ll never know. Pity.

    WAR EAGLE “OLD ABE” DNA TESTED, BUT SCIENTIFIC RESULTS ARE WRONG

  22. dearieme says:
    @Alden

    There was some doubt whether Slick Willie’s father (as distinct from his step-father) is the chap who it was always claimed to be. Has the matter been settled?

    • Replies: @Art Deco
  23. Anonymous[347] • Disclaimer says:
    @Anon

    Jackson Pollock paintings famously have cigarette butts subtly embedded in them

    That’s ninja level passive aggressiveness. “Watch people fall for this sh__! They’ll pay a fortune for my disgusting garbage.

  24. Anon[286] • Disclaimer says:

    OT: Immigrants enriching the US again. Twitter employees have been arrested because of spying for Saudi Arabia. Naturally, they’re from the Mideast. It’s amazing how many employees in the US that have been arrested for crimes are non-white or non-natives. I bet five bucks that Nadella is busy selling Microsoft secrets to India and that Pichai is stuffing Google data down India’s throat as fast as he can.

    There’s no way that a hippy-dippy like Jack Dorsey has any clue what his employees are up to. A lot of tech CEOs are like him. If he were a Greatest Generation CEO, he’d expect a certain amount of skullduggery would naturally be going on inside his company at any point in time, and he’d keep watch for it. Companies, like ships, don’t stay in good trim by themselves. As C. Northcote Parkinson once said, when companies run well, it’s usually because someone is working constantly (and mostly out of sight) fixing one problem after another in a never-ending stream.

    Guys like Dorsey and Bezos are not good at keeping their companies shipshape. Being a visionary, and a good maintenance man too, are traits not often found in the same person.

  25. Art Deco says:
    @dearieme

    The contention was that he couldn’t have been in Arkansas when BC was conceived. If BC was born full term, the best guess as to the date of his conception would be around 12 November 1945. WJ Blythe was recorded as having mustered at headquarters, 4th battalion, 12th Marines, 3d Marine division, ‘in the field’ in October 1945. The 12th Marines were located on Guam when Japan surrendered. A history of the regiment here:

    https://archive.org/stream/ABriefHistoryOfThe12thMarines/ABriefHistoryOfThe12thMarines_djvu.txt

    The salient passage says the following

    “Once the celebrative atmosphere had cleared, training
    schedules were revised allowing more time for recreation and
    educational activities. As the 12th Marines waited on Guam as
    a reserve force for the occupation of China (Operation BELEAGUER) ,
    (104) the Marine Corps point system geared up for demobilization,
    and many in the 12th rotated back to the United States. By
    31 October, rotation had taken its toll and the 3d Battalion
    was disbanded, and the remaining personnel redistributed
    throughout the regiment. (105)

    On 1 December, the regiment was detached from the 3d Marine
    Division and sailed for San Diego on board the USS Hampton
    (APA-115) and five LSMs (6, 181, 240, 32_3, 4_47 ) , arriving 29
    December. (106) With the armed forces being demobilized, more
    and more men were discharged or transferred from the regiment.
    The long hard march by artillerymen of the 12th Marines along
    the road to victory over Japan ended on 8 January 1946, when
    the regiment was formally disbanded at Camp Pendleton, Cali-
    fornia. (107) ”

    It’s conceivable he returned to the states early and it’s conceivable BC was born prematurely. Does cut it rather close, though.

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