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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

The mystery remains

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Friday, February 19, 2016 08:10 am

Rats.

I was enticed by those ancestry.com commercials in which the guy thought he was German and discovered he was really Scottish. I thought it might be fun to explore my own background, so I ordered one of their kits, which turned out to a be a little vial I was supposed to fill up with spit. So I did, and filled out the form, and sent everything in. Several weeks later I got a notice in the mail that my spit sample was unusable for the purposes of getting DNA. I have defective spit?

They included a replacement kit, and I dutifully went through all the steps again and mailed the stuff away again. And, several weeks later, got another letter saying my spit was unusable. They included a third kit, which has been on the back of my couch for about a month and a half. I've been working up the courage to have my spit rejected again — three strikes, and I'm out, probably was sent here as a child from another planet.

And then yesterday, I see this article: "Genetic Ancestry Is Basically a Horoscope."

But while testing one's DNA to uncover ancient family links may be popular, that doesn't make it accurate.Many scientists say the tests are about as meaningful as a horoscope.

Think about it. As you travel back in time though your family history, the number of ancestors you have roughly doubles with every generation. Using the most conservative estimate of generation time — 32 years — in the year 1152, you had as many as 134,217,728 potential ancestors. And since genes are scrambled with every generation, it's very likely you share little to no genetic relation to most of them. They might as well be strangers!

The article linked to sites in which lots of scientists cast doubt on ancestry mapping. One points out that if you take a mitochondrial DNA test, you learn something about your mother's mother;s mother's lineage and if you go back just 10 generations you're learning something about only one out of more than 1,000 ancestors. Another notes that "Almost everyone... has Julius Caesar as a common ancestor. Half of you can probably claim Charlemagne, too. That’s because they lived a long time ago and went about the business of forefathering con gusto. You are probably also descended from every sniveling peasant who ever managed to replicate in ancient times."

Oh, well. The third kit will probably stay on the back of the couch or get thrown in the trash so it doesn't stay around as a reminder of the way I let hype overcome common sense. And the thing is, I probably already have a better handle on my ancestry than one of those websites can give me, because of genealogical research already done on my family. We're a lot Scotch an Irish with a few other things thrown in.

There was just something enticing about the possibility of getting a report back with a little pie chart that showed my background in percentages. Must be from reading USA Today for so long.

ELSEWHERE IN THE NEWS

This election being what it is, we just had to have a feud between the pope and Donald Trump, didn't we? Someone who builds walls instead of bridges isn't a very good Christian, the pope said, in an analogy so banal I'm sure the Clinton campaign will snap it right up. Many commentators have pointed out that Vatican City has a wall all around it. The pope isn't just a spiritual leader, he's also the head of state of the Vatican, which as a government has possibly the most restrictive immigration and citizenship policies in the world.

Virginia is looking at bringing back the electric chair. That's what can happen when anti-capital punishment crusaders make it more and more difficult to get the drugs for lethal injections. States won't stop executing, they'll just revert to more primitive methods.

Caitlyn Jenner says she gets more grief for being a conservative Republican than she has for being a trans. That's just cause of where you live and who you hang out with, honey. Come to the heartland, and put that grief in proper perspective for you.

Yikes. This guy envisions a scenario in which it takes until 2012 before we choose a replacement for Justice Scalia. Of course, that would require the Democrats to win the White House this year but not retake the Senate until 2020.

I think Kid Rock and I missed each other in our journeys through pop culture, so I couldn't even tell you what one of his songs is. But I'm guessing he might have lost a fan or two when he was asked who his heroes are, and he said, Jesus, George Washington, anybody that's had the balls to go and fight for this country "And hardworking people that come from not having a lot, that keep a strong family and pull themselves up from their bootstraps and make something of themselves in life, you know?

Can we just cool it with the conspiracy theories about Justice Scalia's death? They don't add up and, furthermore, detract from the seriousness with which we should be contemplating his replacement.

Heh. The new Bernie Sanders ice cream: It's $3.99 a carton, but with tax, $200 million.

This is what we're fighting against: A top spiritual leader in the Palestinian territory of Gaza told a television audience last week how and when men can beat their wives, advising not to hit them in a way that "makes the face ugly."

Susan Sarandon on backing Bernie Sanders: "I don't vote with my vagina." I will resist the urge to make the obvious cheap joke here. Even though I'm not crazy about whom she supports, she's right to use her own criteria for awarding her vote.

WORD OF THE DAY

menage (mey-NAHZH). n. — a domestic establishment; household; the persons of a household, as in: "The mysterious origins of the Morris menage may be forever hidden."

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