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Ben H
12:27 PM ET (US)
I've seen images of alignments of the SARS genome with other coronaviruses and it is definitely not an artificial hybrid. Which is probably a good thing.

If I were the North Koreans, I would be looking to develop something nasty to release into South Korea in the event of a US invasion. I'm quite surprised that the Iraqis didn't do the same (unless, of course, they *don't* have any WMDs - but that's way too far-fetched, right?).
David Bilek
05:33 AM ET (US)
Ah, well, I wouldn't give him any credence. He claims (as quoted) that SARS is caused by a hybrid measles/mumps virus which, from everything I've read, is completely baseless. Coronavirus is the most likely culprit while metapneumoviruses, paramyxoviruses and Chlamydia are also being looked at.

The guy appears to be pulling the measles+mumps thing out of his, uh, hat.
Charlie StrossPerson was signed in when posted
04:17 AM ET (US)
Well, no: the 'evidence' I was citing was a fairly senior Russian microbiologist saying that in his opinion it looked very like a bioweapon escape. What I was doing was guessing at whose bioweapon it might be, if indeed it isn't just a mutant cold virus. (Points in favour of it being a mutant cold virus: follow the population density.)
David Bilek
10:14 PM ET (US)
That this virus first appeared in Asia (likely China) is evidence of nothing. Most of these new human-transmittable viruses appear in Asia because that's where you find hundreds of millions of people living next to pigs and other animals, often in extremely unsanitary conditions.

And those conditions are what make the jump to human transmission possible.

Obviously this is not evidence against SARS being a bioweapon, but it is a refutation of the only piece of evidence that Charlie cites.
Martin SutherlandPerson was signed in when posted
04:57 PM ET (US)
At the start of the war I wondered if SARS might not have been cultured and released by the USA, as a contingency plan for recalling troops from Iraq if things started to go really badly. An ordinary retreat would have been politically impossible for Bush. But what if the army was needed to keep order back home in the case of a 1-in-10 killer virus turned epidemic?

North Korea does sound more plausible, though.
Charlie StrossPerson was signed in when posted
12:21 PM ET (US)
We got a bellyful of Tom Clancy on 11/9/01. I wouldn't want to rule out the risk of us getting another real soon now. (Not, you understand, that I want us to. I'd much prefer to get a name for crying "wolf" rather than for identifying real threats. But you never know.)
11:24 AM ET (US)
Hmmmm.... It all sounds a bit Tom Clancy.
Duncan Lawie
04:43 PM ET (US)
Referring to the nearness of humanity to the water's edge reminds me of Sean McMullen's 'Greatwinter' trilogy. His science fiction is full of such fantastically strong ideas that you soon forgive his complete inability to write characters. Just the fact that 2/3s of the trilogy is set in Australia makes it exotic.
David Bell
02:30 PM ET (US)
A lot of this depends on just how big the Indian and Pakistani nuclear weapons really are. It would be optimistic to assume they were the monsters dropped on Japan (which is the assumption the aircraft designers of a half-century ago had to make, but I could imagine them being awkwardly large for sticking onto an IRBM or for external carriage on a fighter.

So a bomber able to carry a lot of conventional bombs internally, or a tanker aircraft, might be a bigger strategic worry than it seems. Though, in the fifties, Chuck Yeager was commanding USAF fighter-bombers, with a nuclear commitment, which couldn't carry enough fuel to get back from their targets.
Martin WissePerson was signed in when posted
06:27 AM ET (US)
India already has nuclear capable bombers: Mirage 2000s.

The article is only talking about one Tu-22 bomber, which is less then impressive as a nuclear bomber force.... I suspect India wants Backfires as maritime patrol/attack planes to supplement/replace the tu-95 Bears they already have operating.
Edited 12-12-2002 06:28 AM
08:13 PM ET (US)
 Re: India buying Tu-22 bombers.
Both sides in the Kashmir dispute either have or are developing nuclear-capable IRBMs with enough reach to get deep into the other side's territory.


 to see what Pakistan could do to the region, and remember that india has a functional native satellite launch capability, which means effectively it has ICBMs in its arsenal.

 The Tu-22s give India a conventional large bomber capability which it currently lacks. It is still prone to interception by SAM systems or fighters and without a standoff capability it would not be a truly useable nuclear-delivery mechanism.
Mike Scott
02:25 AM ET (US)
The US's policies are about stable oil prices and reliable supply, not abut getting the lowest price right now. Hence the threats of war, to stop Iraq from attacking the Kuwaiti or Saudi oil fields at a later date. Hence the restrictions on Iraqi oil production, ditto. And hence the opposition to an oil pieline through Iran, which could be cut off at any time.
Neel Krishnaswami
11:43 AM ET (US)
"War on People Who Won't Sell the USA Oil Cheaply"? For some reason, variations of this idea -- I'll call it the Oil Conspiracy -- apparently have infinite traction with leftish types, much like the gold standard has with a certain kind of libertarian. It's just as completely, ludicrously, wrong, too, as econ 101 and ten minutes with Google can disprove it.

First the econ. Oil is nearly a perfect commodity; it's almost perfectly fungible. Russian and Mexican and Saudi oil are all pretty much perfect substitutes for one another. (A refinery engineer might quibble, but it really would just be quibbling.) You can get a pretty good model for how oil markets work by imagining all of the world's oil producers pouring their oil into a giant tank, and then having an auctioneer auction off the oil. Then the oil is auctioned off, and each producer's take is equal to the share they poured in. The US can't get favorable terms from any one nation, because effectively the oil comes from one big pot. The best it can do is to convince/bully producer nations into increasing production, which lowers prices across the board.

Has the US been doing that? Here's where Google comes in handy. First, it's been threatening war. That increases uncertainty about future supplies, which drives up prices. Okay, strike #1. Second, it's been the foremost supporter of restrictions on Iraqi oil sales, which would reduce the total supply and increase prices. Strike #2. Third, it's opposed building a oil pipeline from the Caspian through the short cheap route via Iran, favoring the longer, more expensive route running through Georgia. Strike #3.

The Oil Conspiracy is a theory that doesn't merely lack evidence, it's actively contradicted by the evidence. Whatever the US govt's strategic aims are, we can be sure that they are not about oil at the cheapest possible price.
Steve GloverPerson was signed in when posted
05:20 AM ET (US)
Flip side of using QuickTopic, I guess, as oppposed to one of the "in situ" commenting methods. I thought (for long enough to go back and check the Observer link) that you meant that the NY Times first had the story of the Kashmire problem overflowing into the UK... I think the next time I comment on something here (rather than commenting on a comment here), I shall include a link back to the blog item itself.
Gary FarberPerson was signed in when posted
02:36 AM ET (US)
Actually, as unclearly indicated at the bottom of the Guardian posting, that's Tom Friedman's regular bi-weekly New York Times <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/31/opinion/31FRIE.html">. I bother to mention this only because I went to see why the Guardian seemed to be writing about Friedman's piece, and if they credited him, only to find that it was the same piece, semi-credited, in the sense that it says "New York Times" at the bottom of the Guardian posting, but no mention that it's his regular column. And if they'd made that clearer, and you'd therefore had identified it as such, I wouldn't have bothered to go through all this.... :-)
Steve Glover
01:59 PM ET (US)
I'd hoped I was being paranoid, but it seems I have company according to The Observer...
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