Thursday, July 11, 2013

Oppressive Cyberpunk Dystopia News

Yesterday, the annual reminder about our cyberpunk reality was tweeted:
"Yearly reminder: unless you're over 60, you weren't promised flying cars. You were promised an oppressive cyberpunk dystopia. Here you go."

Well, it's not strictly true - I'm under sixty, and I was definitely promised a flying car.  The process isn't going well, though:

But the oppressive cyberpunk dystopia was definitely part of my upbringing as well, and I'm pleased(?) to confirm that it is, indeed, working out fine.

First, there's this:
Bolivia has accused European countries of an "act of aggression" for refusing to allow its presidential jet into their airspace, amid suggestions US fugitive Edward Snowden was on board.
Bolivia said France, Italy, Spain and Portugal had blocked the plane.
President Evo Morales was flying back to Bolivia from Moscow when the plane was forced to stop in Vienna.
Yes, somehow I'm managing to live in a world where an elected head of state's plane can be forced down and the president held against his will in a foreign country because the US is searching for someone who is at worst a petty criminal who stole some PowerPoint presentations and at best may even be a hero. A HEAD OF STATE'S PLANE WAS FORCED DOWN. This is serious. This didn't used to happen.

The man they were searching for, who stole the PowerPoints, says the US is spying on everyone's email, phone records and internet activities. I think we all already knew about that particular grim cyberpunk dystopia. Hardly a surprise.

But then, we also learn that the US is photographing the outside of all our mail, so they can trace all our anthrax letters. As a lawyer of my acquaintance says, this isn't a surprise either. It is, after all, the US mail. If you hand an item to the government to handle, it's hardly a shocker that they'll keep records of it.

And it's not so much cyberpunk as steampunk, copying the front of snail mail packets, is it?

But this is cyberpunk.
Advances in DNA technology have allowed investigators to link longtime suspect Albert DeSalvo to the last of the 1960s slayings attributed to the Boston Strangler, a prosecutor said Thursday. 
... authorities were able to extract DNA from a preserved semen sample that was found on [the] body. 
Officers were then assigned to follow members of the DeSalvo family and retrieved a water bottle that one of them discarded. 
"That water bottle was tested and the match came back," Davis said.
Run that by me again?
Officers were then assigned to follow members of the DeSalvo family and retrieved a water bottle that one of them discarded.
The DNA produced a "familial match" with DeSalvo 
So officers followed some innocent family members of a long-dead murderer, took a piece of trash they'd discarded that had some of their skin cells on (from saliva on a water bottle neck), and performed a DNA match against a piece of evidence preserved in a forensic case. Is that even legal? It's trash they left behind, so I guess it isn't a search and seizure. Can you be forced to incriminate a family member in this way? Who knows.

It's not admissible as evidence, of course, as there's no chain-of-custody from the sample being taken to the lab result being issued. That's why they're planning to exhume the corpse of the ex-murderer to check his actual DNA.

But, jeez, that's cyberpunk all right.

Longtime Boston Strangler suspect Albert DeSalvo's DNA tied to 1964 slaying, prosecutor says - CBS News, July 11th.

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