Thursday, July 24, 2014

MH17: no link to Kremlin in plane downing - US intelligence officials say no evidence of direct Russian government involvement

The report below is probably the best informed yet and should go some way towards damping down the hysteria about President Putin.  The plane was clearly shot down by Ukrainians -- Russian speaking ones.  Given that Ukraine has resisted their demands for independence and attacked them instead (have we forgotten that Americans also once fought for their independence?), they were clearly entitled to shoot back, and, equally clearly that was what they thought they were doing in attacking the plane.  The launcher appears to have been an early model, a BUK 1 so all they may have seen on their radar was a blip that could have been Ukrainian.  As far as I can see, the only guilt lies with the Malaysian managers who sent their plane into airspace where planes were already being shot down

Senior US intelligence officials have said that Russia was responsible for "creating the conditions" that led to the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, but they offered no evidence of direct Russian government involvement.

The intelligence officials were cautious in their assessment, noting that while the Russians have been arming separatists in eastern Ukraine, the U.S. had no direct evidence that the missile used to shoot down the passenger jet came from Russia.

The officials briefed reporters on Tuesday under ground rules that their names not be used in discussing intelligence related to last week's air disaster, which killed 298 people.

The plane was likely shot down by an SA-11 surface-to-air missile fired by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, the intelligence officials said, citing intercepts, satellite photos and social media postings by separatists, some of which have been authenticated by U.S. experts.

But the officials said they did not know who fired the missile or whether any Russian operatives were present at the missile launch. They were not certain that the missile crew was trained in Russia, although they described a stepped-up campaign in recent weeks by Russia to arm and train the rebels, which they say has continued even after the downing of the commercial jetliner.

In terms of who fired the missile, "we don't know a name, we don't know a rank and we're not even 100 percent sure of a nationality," one official said, adding at another point, "There is not going to be a Perry Mason moment here," a reference to a fictional detective who solved mysteries.

White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said the U.S. was still working to determine whether the missile launch had a "direct link" to Russia, including whether there were Russians on the ground during the attack and the degree to which Russians may have trained the separatists to launch such a strike.

"We do think President Putin and the Russian government bears responsibility for the support they provided to these separatists, the arms they provided to these separatists, the training they provided as well and the general unstable environment in eastern Ukraine," Rhodes said in an interview with CNN.

He added that heavy weaponry continues to flow into Ukraine from Russia following the downing of the plane.

The intelligence officials said the most likely explanation for the downing was that the rebels made a mistake. Separatists previously had shot down 12 Ukrainian military airplanes, the officials said.

The officials made clear they were relying in part on social media postings and videos made public in recent days by the Ukrainian government, even though they have not been able to authenticate all of it. For example, they cited a video of a missile launcher said to have been crossing the Russian border after the launch, appearing to be missing a missile.

But later, under questioning, the officials acknowledged they had not yet verified that the video was exactly what it purported to be.

Despite the fuzziness of some details, however, the intelligence officials said the case that the separatists were responsible for shooting down the plane was solid. Other scenarios - such as that the Ukrainian military shot down the plane - are implausible, they said. No Ukrainian surface-to-air missile system was in range.

From satellites, sensors and other intelligence gathering, officials said, they know where the missile originated - in separatist-held territory - and what its flight path was. But if they possess satellite or other imagery of the missile being fired, they did not release it Tuesday. A graphic they made public depicts their estimation of the missile's flight path with a green line. The jet's flight path was available from air traffic control data.

In the weeks before the plane was shot down, Russia had stepped up its arming and training of the separatists after the Ukrainian government won a string of battlefield victories. The working theory is that the SA-11 missile came from Russia, although the U.S. doesn't have proof of that, the officials said.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Powers said last week that "because of the technical complexity of the SA-11, it is unlikely that the separatists could effectively operate the system without assistance from knowledgeable personnel. Thus, we cannot rule out technical assistance from Russian personnel in operating the systems," she said.

Asked about evidence, one of the senior U.S. intelligence officials said it was conceivable that Russian paramilitary troops are operating in eastern Ukraine, but that there was no direct link from them to the missile launch.

Asked why civilian airline companies were not warned about a possible threat, the officials said they did not know the rebels possessed SA-11 missiles until after the Malaysian airliner was shot down.



Israel's shoes


How to Control Soaring Health Costs

The US healthcare system is in crisis and everything points in the wrong direction. The population is rapidly aging and will thus consume ever larger amounts of healthcare while the tax base supporting these benefits shrinks. Meanwhile the definition of "medical problem" expands so tribulations once judged moral failings. e.g., alcoholism, are legally treatable illnesses.

And let's not forget the growing tide of gender disorders that might require state-paid wienerectomies and the influx of illegals, many who are already sick, happy to use "free" ER's and hospitals. Modern medicine has also shown a knack for uncovering new problems that were once judged normal, for example, Attention Deficit Disorder. Further add Obamacare and similar insurance measures encouraging the over-use of medicine for self-inflicted problems like obesity. Then there are the modern plagues of AIDS, SARS and various super-bug illnesses. Conceivably, Washington may eventually become little more than a health provider.            

Alas, no solutions exist on today's agenda. Forget about rationing-unthinkable politically ("death panels"). Nor will technological fixes suffice-too costly-while future bargain basement medical breakthroughs are pure fantasy.        

Fortunately, there is a cost effective, politically popular solution to our healthcare woes. Just reinvigorate medical practices that do not entail scientific medicine. We are speaking of what is often called "alternative medicine" and the advantages here are immense.

Most important, compared to science-based practices, the "alternative" options are always cheaper. No need to spend years and huge sums training practitioners, conducting tedious laboratory research, funding million dollar FDA trials or building high-tech facilities. I probably could sample every elixir in my local Chinese herb shop for less than a single overnight stay at Mt. Sinai Hospital.  All and all, these non-traditional interventions will save billions, lighten the caseloads of doctors and hospitals while simultaneously allowing Washington to address other issues such as a stronger military. The only fly in the ointment is expanding their use but compared to all the other cost-saving measures, obstacles here are minor.

Promoting alternative medicine is not all that difficult. Dr. Paul Offit's Do You Believe in Magic? reveals the great allure of non-scientific treatments. Why not? Given a choice of making an appointment, visiting the doctor, waiting for an hour or so, forced to strip prior to being examined, shipped off to multiple invasive tests, anxiously awaiting the telephone call ("the doctor would like to see you I can't say why") and then navigating all the resulting paperwork, a web search for some inexpensive magic pill ("that Big Pharma doesn't want you to know about") is less time- consuming and far more pleasant.

Moreover, "folksy" approaches are already appreciated regardless of what the men in the white coats say. One survey found that 88% of the public agreed that "...there are some good ways of treating sickness that medical science does not recognize."  Belief in miracles abound. Steve Jobs, hardly Mr. Stupid and a man who could pay for the best modern medicine money could buy, put off surgery that would have successfully treated his cancer in favor of nine months of acupuncture, fruit juices, bowel cleansing, and various herbs.

Add some seductive verbiage about the putative cures being rooted in ancient Egyptian wisdom, cures favored by disease-free Amazon jungle Indians, or remedies endorsed by sundry mystical swamis. It's hard to imagine why any man would schedule a hospital visit for a potentially risky prostate biopsy when a half dozen or more "improve prostate health" pills are available at Walgreens, all endorsed by the 18 year-old clerk. Then there's homeopathy, naturopathy, aroma therapy and energy medicine (magnets). Or maybe try crystal therapy or just wearing a copper bracelet or religious options-prayer, lighting candles, visiting holy shrines, holy water, and on-the-spot cures from faith healers. It is not that these remedies are useless-perhaps some do perform as advertised-but it is the cost that concerns us here.

Now for the good news. "Alternative medicine" is on the rise. The federal government's The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine is now part of the National Institute of Health. Its research has shown, for example, the benefits of mindfulness meditation in reducing suicide. The world famous Cleveland Clinic now has a center for Integrative Medicine that is exploring acupuncture, massage therapy and Chinese herbs. Many medical schools and hospitals now teach alternative medicine. Medical marijuana is quickly becoming legal everywhere and the cost is trivial compared to what Big Pharma can offer.

So, what is to be done to push yet more people away from budget-busting science-based medicine? The first step is to enhance legitimacy and let me suggest wrapping it in multiculturalism. Now, for example, the Afro-Caribbean SanterĂ­a ceremonies to drive out the devils, even if it demands sacrificing a chicken or two, should be viewed as no different from seeing a doctor. And, with official recognition as a "valid cultural expression," government money will arrive just as it funds culturally diverse art exhibitions, theater groups and similar celebrate-our- differences activities.

These more culturally attuned healthcare programs should be ongoing 24/7 and be conveniently located to help the sick, no different than current expensive neighborhood convenient care clinics. Surely many inner-city churches would gladly rent their basements to Sharmans and Voodoo priests to work their magic on those suspicious of regular doctors. Upscale neighborhoods would now have $5.00 co-pay centers for transcendental meditation, multiple therapeutic yoga's, deep breathing, macrobiotic body cleansing regimens and the ancient Tibetan medicinal Ggso ba rig pa.  Muslims would of course have their own alternatives. Again, it is a matter of cost, not efficacy per se.

Now for the bottom line: let Washington pay for it, every last secret potion and animal sacrifice of it. I'd guess that each of these alternative medical treatments would cost one-tenth of what the average Medicare- paid doctor visit costs. A brilliant bi-partisan political ploy, to boot-it saves tons of money while giving millions just what they want. Just what the doctor ordered.    



Does your race determine your biological age? Controversial research claims black people age more quickly - and are up to THREE YEARS older in health terms

Africans mature earlier too, by about two years

Black people age more quickly than white people, a controversial new study has claimed.

Researchers say that the researcher could shed new light on higher mortality rates in black people.  They say the biological age differences by race increase up until ages 60-69, and then decline.

The current study uses data on 7,644 black and white participants, ages 30 and above, from the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

The researchers calculated each participant’s 'biological age' by looking at 10 biomarkers that have been linked to aging, including C-reactive protein, serum creatinine, glycosylated hemoglobin, systolic blood pressure, and total cholesterol.

The team compared then compared biological ages of blacks and whites as indicated from the biomarkers.

'Our results showed that, on average, blacks tend to be more than three years older biologically than whites,' Morgan Levine and Eileen Crimmins of the University of Southern California’s Davis School of Gerontology. wrote in the journal Social Science and Medicine.

'Blacks experience morbidity and mortality earlier in the life course compared to whites.'  'This is consistent with findings from previous studies reporting that blacks tend to have levels of biological risk factors that are indicative of someone significantly older chronologically.'  'Such premature declines in health may be indicative of an acceleration of the aging process.'

The researchers calculated each participant’s 'biological age' by looking at 10 biomarkers that have been linked to aging, including C-reactive protein, serum creatinine, glycosylated hemoglobin, systolic blood pressure, and total cholesterol.

The study uses data on 7,644 black and white participants, ages 30 and above, from the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

'On average, the biological age for blacks was 53.16 years,' compared to 49.84 years for whites, the researchers report.

The team say the cause could be stress-related.

'Everyday stressors associated with being black may negatively impact physiological functioning and, under chronic exposure, accumulate over the lifespan and contribute to growing disparities in biological risk,' the authors wrote.

'Furthermore, if such environmental, behavioral, and mental factors contribute to an acceleration of the aging process, we would expect that persons who are aging the fastest should have the highest risk of mortality, and thus (have a) lower life expectancy.'



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