Category Archives: International News

News from Around the World.

Swine Flu May Be Human Error; WHO Investigates Claim

May 13 (Bloomberg) — The World Health Organization is investigating a claim by an Australian researcher that the swine flu virus circling the globe may have been created as a result of human error.

Adrian Gibbs, 75, who collaborated on research that led to the development of Roche Holding AG’s Tamiflu drug, said in an interview that he intends to publish a report suggesting the new strain may have accidentally evolved in eggs scientists use to grow viruses and drugmakers use to make vaccines. Gibbs said he came to his conclusion as part of an effort to trace the virus’s origins by analyzing its genetic blueprint.

“One of the simplest explanations is that it’s a laboratory escape,” Gibbs said in an interview with Bloomberg Television today. “But there are lots of others.”

The World Health Organization received the study last weekend and is reviewing it, Keiji Fukuda, the agency’s assistant director-general of health security and environment, said in an interview May 11. Gibbs, who has studied germ evolution for four decades, is one of the first scientists to analyze the genetic makeup of the virus that was identified three weeks ago in Mexico and threatens to touch off the first flu pandemic since 1968.

A virus that resulted from lab experimentation or vaccine production may indicate a greater need for security, Fukuda said. By pinpointing the source of the virus, scientists also may better understand the microbe’s potential for spreading and causing illness, Gibbs said.

Possible Mistake

“The sooner we get to grips with where it’s come from, the safer things might become,” Gibbs said by phone from Canberra yesterday. “It could be a mistake” that occurred at a vaccine production facility or the virus could have jumped from a pig to another mammal or a bird before reaching humans, he said.

Gibbs and two colleagues analyzed the publicly available sequences of hundreds of amino acids coded by each of the flu virus’s eight genes. He said he aims to submit his three-page paper today for publication in a medical journal.

“You really want a very sober assessment” of the science behind the claim, Fukuda said May 11 at the WHO’s Geneva headquarters.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta has received the report and has decided there is no evidence to support Gibbs’s conclusion, said Nancy Cox, director of the agency’s influenza division. She said since researchers don’t have samples of swine flu viruses from South America and Africa, where the new strain may have evolved, those regions can’t be ruled out as natural sources for the new flu.

No Evidence

“We are interested in the origins of this new influenza virus,” Cox said. “But contrary to what the author has found, when we do the comparisons that are most relevant, there is no evidence that this virus was derived by passage in eggs.”

The WHO’s collaborative influenza research centers, which includes the CDC, and sites in Memphis, Melbourne, London and Tokyo, were asked by the international health agency to review the study over the weekend, Fukuda said. The request was extended to scientists at the Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome, the World Organization for Animal Health in Paris, as well as the WHO’s influenza network, he said.

“My guess is that the picture should be a lot clearer over the next few days,” Fukuda said. “We have asked a lot of people to look at this.”

Virus Expert

Gibbs wrote or co-authored more than 250 scientific publications on viruses during his 39-year career at the Australian National University in Canberra, according to biographical information on the university’s Web site.

Swine flu has infected 5,251 people in 30 countries so far, killing 61, according to WHO data. Scientists are trying to determine whether the virus will mutate and become more deadly if it spreads to the Southern Hemisphere and back. Flu pandemics occur when a strain of the disease to which few people have immunity evolves and spreads.

Gibbs said his analysis supports research by scientists including Richard Webby, a virologist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, who found the new strain is the product of two distinct lineages of influenza that have circulated among swine in North America and Europe for more than a decade.

In addition, Gibbs said his research found the rate of genetic mutation in the new virus was about three times faster than that of the most closely related viruses found in pigs, suggesting it evolved outside of swine.

Gene Evolution

“Whatever speeded up the evolution of these genes happened at least seven or eight years ago, so one wonders, why hasn’t it been found?” Gibbs said today.

Some scientists have speculated that the 1977 Russian flu, the most recent global outbreak, began when a virus escaped from a laboratory.

Identifying the source of new flu viruses is difficult without finding the exact strain in an animal or bird “reservoir,” said Jennifer McKimm-Breschkin, a virologist at the Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organization in Melbourne.

“If you can’t find an exact match, the best you can do is compare sequences,” she said. “Similarities may give an indication of a possible source, but this remains theoretical.”

The World Organization for Animal Health, which represents chief veterinary officers from 174 countries, received the Gibbs paper and is working with the WHO on an assessment, said Maria Zampaglione, a spokeswoman.

Genetic Patterns

The WHO wants to know whether any evidence that the virus may have been developed in a laboratory can be corroborated and whether there are other explanations for its particular genetic patterns, according to Fukuda.

“These things have to be dealt with straight on,” he said. “If someone makes a hypothesis, then you test it and you let scientific process take its course.”

Gibbs said he has no evidence that the swine-derived virus was a deliberate, man-made product.

“I don’t think it could be a malignant thing,” he said. “It’s much more likely that some random thing has put these two viruses together.”

Gibbs, who spent most of his academic career studying plant viruses, said his major contribution to the study of influenza occurred in 1975, while collaborating with scientists Graeme Laver and Robert Webster in research that led to the development of the anti-flu medicines Tamiflu and Relenza, made by GlaxoSmithKline Plc.

Bird Poo

“We were out on one of the Barrier Reef islands, off Australia, catching birds for the flu in them, and I happened to be the guy who caught the best,” Gibbs said. The bird he got “yielded the poo from which was isolated the influenza isolate strain from which all the work on Tamiflu and Relenza started.”

Gibbs, who says he studies the evolution of flu viruses as a “retirement hobby,” expects his research to be challenged by other scientists.

“This is how science progresses,” he said. “Somebody comes up with a wild idea, and then they all pounce on it and kick you to death, and then you start off on another silly idea.”

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601130&sid=aShZig0Cig4g

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Qaddafi Lauds Obama, Then Launches Into Rambling Attack on U.N.

NEW YORK —  Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, declaring that “we’d be content and happy if Obama can stay president forever,” launched into a rambling assault against the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday, at one point complaining to world leaders gathered to hear him speak that he was tired and jet lagged.

Sometimes speaking in phrases mocking New York City’s security efforts during the 64th gathering of the U.N. General Assembly, Qaddafi swung between calling the Security Council a “Terror Council,” to demanding that European nations pay $7.7 trillion in compensation and apologize for colonizing Africa, at one point adding, “African nations have the right to go anyplace to get the $7.7 trillion stolen from it.”

Qaddafi spoke after President Barack Obama’s first speech to the General Assembly.

Referencing Obama as “my son,” Qaddafi said: “We are happy that a young African Kenyan was voted for and made president. Obama is a glimpse in the dark for the next four years, but I’m afraid we may go back to squar one.

“Can the U.S. guarantee after Obama that they’ll be a government? We’re happy and content if he can stay forever.”

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice left the chamber before Qaddafi took the podium and left a low-level note taker to listen.

Holding a copy of the United Nations Charter, Qaddafi said the U.N. was founded by the super powers and that now “small countries could be crushed by the super powers.” At one point, he motioned to rip up the small blue Charter booklet, but instead he paused and seemed to lose his place as world leaders and their representatives sat in stunned silence.

He then continued to rail against the “inequality” of U.N. member states, often repeating himself while quoting from a section of the Charter that calls for equality of nations. He noted that five nations hold veto power on the Security Council and can block actions contrary to their interests: the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France. He later called for an African seat on the Security Council.

Waving his hands and often turning to look at United Nation’s Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the new General Assembly President H.E. Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki — who also serves as Libya’s minister of African affairs — Qaddafi defiantly declared, “Nobody cares about the Security Council.”

He added, “this place was founded by terrorists.”

As he fumbled through hand-written notes, he mixed his attacks with rambling references to: the Kennedy and King assassinations; the U.S. Civil War; the Korean War; the Suez War; Saddam Hussein’s hanging; former dictator Manuel Noriega; jet lag; and, a defense of the Taliban and Somali pirates.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,554327,00.html

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Planning the H1N1 Flu Pandemic: Body Bags, Mass Graves, Quarantine Orders

An atmosphere of insecurity and fear is being created simultaneously in several countries in a global public health initiative under the auspices of the WHO.

We are summarising selected reports on body bags, mass graves and quarantine orders. Swine flu is acknowledged to be milder than seasonal influenza. So what is the purpose of these initiatives?

There is a consistent pattern. These reports raise serious questions as to the public health objectives of our governments, not to mention the WHO. The entire construct is politically motivated and corrupt . It serves the financial interests of the pharmaceutical industry. It justifies the militarization of public health and violates fundamental civil liberties.

CANADA
VIDEO: Preparing for the H1N1 Pandemic: Body Bag for Canada’s First Nations

“It is unfortunate that this has been linked exclusively with H1N1,” he said. “Health Canada apologizes. We all regret the alarm caused by the stocking of this particular item.”

Health Canada regularly re-stocks body bags every three or four months, he said. But especially in the case of Wasagamatch First Nation, which received roughly 30 of the bags, the number of bags delivered “was excessive.”

“In this case, we overestimated,” he said. “Our apology is to all First Nations.” (see H1N1 Swine Flu: Health Canada apologizes, says body bags were ‘routine restocking’, Globe and Mail September 18, 2009)

Source CBC

THE UNITED KINGDOM

Mass Graves. Increased Mortuary Capacity

Àccording to an Official Home Office Report, see below. (See Michel Chossudovsky, Fear, Intimidation & Media Disinformation: U.K Government is Planning Mass Graves in Case of H1N1 Swine Flu Pandemic, Global Research, August 2009)

The mass graves, according to the report, “are being planned to deal with the rising death toll from swine flu if the pandemic escalates”:

“The grim revelation will see the mass burial sites dug in advance to cope with any potential crisis.

The Government is planning to create a series of communal graves to cope with the second outbreak expected in the autumn and through the winter.

A Home Office document published earlier this year sets out plans for how local councils should deal with a high death toll – estimates of the number of deaths range from 55,000 to as high as 750,000 from the H1N1 killer virus – including setting up temporary mortuaries.

So far, 44 people in England have been confirmed as dying after contracting swine flu and another five have died in Scotland. The document says that while most cemeteries have sufficient burial capacity for a number of years, this could be put to the test at the peak of a pandemic. (Daily Express, August 19, 2009)

Concepts:

increasing mortuary capacity,

chilled storage area,

body hoists, deposit/exit the deceased, etc (see above)

UNITED STATES
US Homeland Security. Quarantine Orders

The following Report was released at the very outset of the crisis in Mexico by CBS News regarding the implementation of nationwide quarantines.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has sent a memo to some health care providers noting procedures to be followed if theswine flu outbreak eventually makes quarantines necessary.

DHS Assistant Secretary Bridger McGaw circulated the swine flu memo, which was obtained by CBSNews.com, on Monday night. It says: “The Department of Justice has established legal federal authorities pertaining to the implementation of a quarantine and enforcement. Under approval from HHS, the Surgeon General has the authority to issue quarantines.”

McGaw appears to have been referring to the section of federal law that allows the Surgeon General to detain and quarantine Americans “reasonably believed to be infected” with a communicable disease. A Centers for Disease Control official said on Tuesdaythat swine flu deaths in the U.S. are likely.

Federal quarantine authority is limited to diseases listed in presidential executive orders; President Bush added “novel” forms of influenza with the potential to create pandemics in Executive Order 13375. Anyone violating a quarantine order can be punished by a$250,000 fine and a one-year prison term.

A Homeland Security spokesman on Tuesday did not have an immediate response to followup questions about the memo, which said “DHS is consulting closely with the CDC to determine appropriate public health measures.”

The memo from McGaw, who is DHS’ acting assistant secretary for the private sector, also said: “U.S. Customs and Coast Guard Officers assist in the enforcement of quarantine orders. Other DOJ law enforcement agencies including the U.S. Marshals, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives may also enforce quarantines. Military personnel are not authorized to engage in enforcement.” (See Department of Homeland Security Guidelines For Possible Swine Flu Quarantines, CBS, April 28, 2009)

IOWA

The FACILITY QUARANTINE ORDER document posted on the website of the CDC, a federal government agency, envisages quite explicitly “forced confinement” in the case of the H1N1 swine flu:

“The Department has determined that it is necessary to quarantine your movement to a specific facility to prevent further spread of this disease. The Department has determined that quarantine in your home and other less restrictive alternatives are not acceptable because [insert the reason home quarantine is not acceptable, the person violated a previously issued home quarantine order, the person does not have an appropriate home setting conducive to home quarantine, etc.] The Department is therefore ordering you to comply with the following provisions during the entire period of quarantine:

1. Terms of confinement. You are ordered to remain at the quarantine facility, _____________________ [insert name and address of facility], from ___________ to ____________ [insert dates of quarantine].

….

4. Legal authority. This order is issued pursuant to the legal authority contained at Iowa Code chapters 135, 139A and 641 Iowa Administrative Code chapter 1, a copy of which is labeled Attachment B and is attached to this order for your review. The Department shall comply with the principles for quarantine contained in subrule 1.9(3) of this attachment when issuing and implementing this order.

5. Ensuring compliance. In order to ensure that you strictly comply with this Quarantine Order the Department or persons authorized by the Department may regularly inspect the quarantine facility.

6. Violations of order. If you fail to comply with this Quarantine Order you may be ordered to be quarantined in a more restrictive facility. In addition, failure to comply with this order is a simple misdemeanor for which you may be arrested, fined, and imprisoned.” Michel Chossudovsky, H1N1 Swine Flu Pandemic: Iowa Contemplates “Forced Confinement” in a “Quarantine Facility”, Global Research, August 2009)

This is an official document of the Iowa State government, which has also been endorsed by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC). If it were a preliminary or internal draft, it would not have been published by the CDC. The question is whether similar quarantine procedures are being replicated in other states across America.

MASSACHUSETTS

“A new law just passed in Massachusetts imposes fines of up to $1000 per day and up to a 30 day jail sentence for not obeying authorities during a public health emergency. So if you are instructed to take the swine flu vaccine in Massachusetts and you refuse, you could be facing fines that will bankrupt you and a prison sentence on top of that.” (See VIDEO; Compulsory Vaccination in America?)

The legislation for forced vaccination in Massachusetts  (Mass. Senate Bill)

http://www.mass.gov/legis/bills/senate/186/st02pdf/st02028.pdf

or

http://www.scribd.com/doc/17532372/Massachusetts-S18-Swine-Flu-Home-Entry

The announcement of the Mass Public Health Council

http://www.scribd.com/doc/18523710/MA-Public-Health-Council-Swine-Flu-Emergency-Dec

VIDEO featuring Bob Dwyer, discusses the legislation approved by the Mass. Senate

THE MILITARIZATION OF PUBLIC HEALTH

According to CNN, the Pentagon is “to establish regional teams of military personnel to assist civilian authorities in the event of a significant outbreak of the H1N1 virus this fall, according to Defense Department officials.”

“The proposal is awaiting final approval from Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

The officials would not be identified because the proposal from U.S. Northern Command’s Gen. Victor Renuart has not been approved by the secretary.

The plan calls for military task forces to work in conjunction with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. There is no final decision on how the military effort would be manned, but one source said it would likely include personnel from all branches of the military.

It has yet to be determined how many troops would be needed and whether they would come from the active duty or the National Guard and Reserve forces.

Civilian authorities would lead any relief efforts in the event of a major outbreak, the official said. The military, as they would for a natural disaster or other significant emergency situation, could provide support and fulfill any tasks that civilian authorities could not, such as air transport or testing of large numbers of viral samples from infected patients.

As a first step, Gates is being asked to sign a so-called “execution order” that would authorize the military to begin to conduct the detailed planning to execute the proposed plan.

Orders to deploy actual forces would be reviewed later, depending on how much of a health threat the flu poses this fall, the officials said.” (CNN, Military planning for possible H1N1 outbreak, July 2009, emphasis added)

The implications are far-reaching. The decision points towards the militarization of civilian institutions, including law enforcement and public health. (See Michel Chossudovsky, H1N1 Pandemic: Pentagon Planning Deployment of Troops in Support of Nationwide Vaccination, Global Research, July 31, 2009)

Military and Civilian Planning; International Swine Flu Conference in Washington

There is evidence of international coordination, The military and Intelligence agencies are involed in planning  (click the program below to enlarge)

Excerpts from the Program, click to enlarge:

Topics include (quoted in the program)

Mass Fatality Management Planning

When 50% or more of employees are out sick or taking care
of their sick ones

When H1N1 fl u pandemic unfold in two or three successive
waves in a calendar year

Disruptions to public, private and critical infrastructure undermining
your essentials functions

Direct fatality management tactical operations

Activate fatality management operations

Conduct morgue operations

Manage ante-mortem data

Conduct final disposition

Continuity of Operations (COOP) and Continuity
of Government Planning

Public’s distress of exposure and safety

Breakdown of public services, utilities

Medical supplies shortage

Effectively undertake mass vaccinations

Enforce quarantines

Protect public works first responders from falling ill or being hurt in civil disturbances

For detailed review of the H1N1 Flu Pandemic, see GlobalResearch.ca – Centre for Research on Globalization  h1N1 Flu Pandemic News Dossier (60 plus articles and reports)

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=15307

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Mystery Gollum-type beast terrifies town

What in the world is this thing?  Some say it looks like a turtle out of it’s shell, but I don’t know.  The kids said that it came walking toward them, like it was going to attack them.  One thing that I don’t like is why the parents (when they came back the next day) didn’t they take the body so it could be studied?  Then we could find out exactly what it is, instead of just having pictures!!!

TERRIFIED townsfolk are running scared after a strange creature they describe as “Gollum” crawled out of a lake and charged schoolkids.

The beast — which has “sparked fear and confusion” in the small town of Cerro Azul, Panama — was spotted on Saturday when four 14 to 16-year-olds were playing by the waterfront.

A strange hairless creature reportedly beaten to death by a group of teenagers in Panama is the subject of much speculation on the web.

A strange hairless creature reportedly beaten to death by a group of teenagers in Panama is the subject of much speculation on the web.

According to their account, reported by Panamanian news service Telemetro, the youngsters “screamed” when the five-foot creature emerged from a cave and started clambouring over rocks towards them “as if to attack them”.

n a “desperate bid to defend themselves” the four terrified boys said they hurled rocks at the strange creature to kill it, before throwing its corpse in the water and running away.

Their disbelieving parents returned to the lake the following day — and were stunned to discovered the beast’s body washed up on the shore.

Gallery: Yeti fever

Experts have yet to examine the images — or make any statements regarding their discovery.

But locals told Panama news channels, who ran the story, that the water-monster was “Gollum from Lord of the Rings”.

One said: “I have only seen that creature once before – and it was in the Tolkien film.”

The fictional Gollum — originally known as Smeagol — was a hobbit whose later name was derived from the “disgusting gurgling, choking cough he made”.

JRR Tolkien — who wrote the Middle Earth adventures — said of the character: “He had become deformed and twisted in both body and mind by the corruption of the Ring.

“His only desire was to possess the Ring which had enslaved him, and he pursued it for many years after he lost it.”

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/world/mystery-gollum-type-beast-terrifies-town/story-e6frev00-1225776437459

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Ranking the U.S. Health-Care System

It is curious that the United States ranked below Europe in the World Health Organization’s 2000 World Health Report, which rated 191 countries’ medical systems. In his documentary Sicko, socialist Michael Moore makes hay out of the fact that the United States placed 37th, behind even Morocco, Cyprus, and Costa Rica. This ranking is used to “prove” that state-controlled health care is superior to the “free market.”

This ranking is curious because the actual life expectancy of the average American differs very little from that of the average European. At birth, average life expectancy in the European Union is 78.7. For the average American it is 78. And this doesn’t adjust for factors that can affect the averages which are unrelated to health care, such as lifestyle choices, accident rates, crime rates, and immigration. Health isn’t entirely about longevity but it certainly is a major component.

What is not mentioned by Moore, or others citing the WHO report, are the measures being used to rate the various countries and who is doing the measuring. There are many ways to nudge ratings in one direction or another that are not directly related to the actual item being measured.

For instance, one might produce a study on transportation. The purpose of transportation is to get people from where they are to where they wish to be. You might rate how quickly people can move, how cheaply they can move relative to their income, how conveniently they can move, and how free they are to move.

You would think the United States would rate high in such a study. Americans tend to be wealthier than the rest of the world. There is widespread ownership of cars. Gasoline prices are lower than in most other countries. On average, the typical American can travel quicker, cheaper, and more conveniently than people in most parts of the world. But what if this index included other factors as well? For instance, if a major component was the percentage of commuters who use public transportation, that would push the United States far down in the ranking. A larger percentage of the people in other countries have no other option but public transportation.

In 2000, when the report was issued, WHO was run by Gro Harlem Brundtland, a former prime minister of Norway and a socialist. She doesn’t think the results of a health system alone are important. Rather, she wants to know if the system is “fair.” In introducing the WHO report she wrote that while the goal of a health system “is to improve and protect health,” it also has “other intrinsic goals [that] are concerned with fairness in the way people pay for health care.” She is clear about the ideological factors she thinks are important: “Where health and responsiveness are concerned, achieving a high average level is not good enough: the goals of a health system must also include reducing inequalities, in ways that improve the situation of the worst-off. In this report attainment in relation to these goals provides the basis for measuring the performance of health systems.”

True to her ideological roots, Brundtland prefers socialized medicine over private care. Drawing her first conclusion about what makes a good medical system, she declares: “Ultimate responsibility for the performance of a country’s health system lies with government. The careful and responsible management of the well-being of the population—stewardship—is the very essence of good government. The health of people is always a national priority: government responsibility for it is continuous and permanent.”

One WHO discussion paper states, regarding “fairness” in financing, “we consider only the distribution, not the level, as there is no consensus on what the level of health spending should be.” Equal results, not necessarily good results, are the focus.

When Moore or others refer to the WHO index as proof that private health care doesn’t work, they aren’t being totally honest because they fail to disclose that the index lowers the scores of systems that don’t satisfy socialist presumptions.

A Second Rigged Study

The New York Times in August editorialized that American health care “lags well behind other advanced nations.” The newspaper relied in part on the WHO rankings as proof. For the rest, it relied on a more recent study by the Commonwealth Fund. But that study, which compared the United States to five other wealthy countries, has weaknesses similar to the WHO study.

The Commonwealth Fund marked down the United States partly because “All other major industrialized nations provide universal health coverage, and most of them have comprehensive benefits packages with no cost-sharing by the patients.” Again the American system loses points because it doesn’t provide socialized medicine. And the Times neglected to note that “no cost-sharing” means the people have paid through taxes whether they receive the care or not.

Non-Emergency Visits

The United States also was penalized because seeing a physician for non-emergency reasons is harder to do on nights and weekends than in the other five nations. The Fund said “many report having to wait six days or more for an appointment with their own doctors.”

The survey didn’t look at the treatment of serious conditions. Waiting weeks or months for chemotherapy is not held against a health-care system, but waiting a few days to have a check up is. Waiting time for “elective” surgery is counted (the United States was a close second to Germany), but waiting time for non-elective, serious surgery did not count, though that is precisely where socialist systems do the worst.

This issue is not unknown to the Commonwealth Fund. In 1999 it published The Elderly’s Experiences with Health Care in Five Nations, which found significant delays for “serious surgery.” Only 4 percent of the American seniors reported long waits for serious surgery. The rate was 11 percent in Canada and 13 percent in Britain. For non-serious surgery the differences were more obvious: 7 percent in the United States, 40 percent in Canada, and 51 percent in Britain.

In the latest survey, the United States came in dead last for health “safety,” but many of the scores were only a few points apart. For instance, 15 percent of American patients said they “believed a medical mistake” had been made in their treatment within the last two years. Notice this is merely patient perception and nothing objective. But the best score was in Britain, where 12 percent said this.

The United States is also marked down because 23 percent of patients report delayed or incorrect results on medical tests they took. That is far worse than the best country, Germany, at 9 percent. But what constitutes a delay? If a result is expected in a week but takes two, that is a delay. But if it is expected in three weeks and arrives then, that isn’t a delay. Thus what constitutes a delay depends on expectations, leading to counter-intuitive results.

The United States also lost credit because fewer Americans report having a regular doctor for five years or more. But Americans are more mobile than many other people. CNN reports that Americans move every five years on average. In comparison, Britain has a moving rate of 10 percent a year, or an average of once a decade. And 60 percent of those move about three miles.

Freer to Change Doctors

Americans are also freer to change doctors if they wish. Britain requires patients to sign up with physicians, and once they do so, they are pretty much stuck unless they want to end up on the waiting list of another physician. Patients often have to wait to get on the books of a physician and only then can they be treated; that is, they wait to get on a wait list. This is true even for heart transplants. The inevitable waiting is a disincentive to change doctors.

Another measure used by the Commonwealth Fund is centralization of medical records. If a country has a system that allows doctors anywhere to tap into the patients’ records, it is rated higher. The United States has no centralized database and so is rated lower. Many Americans may prefer to have their records private and dispersed. When the Clinton plan was proposed in 1993, one of the rallying points that helped defeat it was the centralization of health records.

Out-of-pocket expenses were counted against a system as well. In socialized health care these expenses are zero or very low but are replaced with taxes. Taxes, however, don’t lower a country’s score because the care “is free.”

Countries were also judged on the number of patient complaints. But different cultures have different attitudes toward complaining. Jeremy Laurance wrote in the Belfast Telegraph recently that the National Health Service needs “a healthy dose of American belligerence.”

Finally, the United States is ranked last among the six nations surveyed  in infant mortality. What is not discussed is that nations define infant mortality differently. Any infant, regardless of size or weight or premature status, who shows sign of life is counted as a live birth in the United States. Germany, which ranks number one in the Commonwealth Fund survey, doesn’t count as a live birth any infant with a birth weight under 500 grams (one pound). How valuable is a comparison under those circumstances?

One could easily design a survey that would rank American health care high and other nations low. But this does not mean the American system is what it should be. Its successes and innovation can be attributed to the vestiges of freedom, but government has saddled the system with so much intervention that it is far from market oriented. Instead of worrying about irrelevant international rankings, we should be working toward freeing the medical market.

http://www.thefreemanonline.org/featured/ranking-the-us-health-care-system/

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White House czar urged ‘resistance’ against U.S.

When are our Congresspeople going to start asking questions about these czars???  They are slowly taking power away from them!  And they are communists…right in our White House!!!

Main speaker at rally sponsored by organization associated with Revolutionary Communist Party

JERUSALEM – President Obama’s environmental adviser, Van Jones, was the main speaker at an anti-war rally that urged “resistance” against the U.S. government, WND has learned.

The rally was sponsored by an organization associated with the Revolutionary Communist Party, which calls for the overthrow of the U.S. government and its replacement with a communist dictatorship.

http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=108553

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Was Russia’s ‘Hijacked’ Ship Carrying Missiles to the Mideast?

In July, the Russian-manned cargo ship the Arctic Sea disappeared on its way to take timber from Finland to Algeria, sparking reports of the first incident of piracy in European waters since the days of the buccaneers. Experts and observers weighed in with their theories: the ship had been snatched in a commercial dispute; it was being used to run drugs; it was carrying something more precious — or dangerous — than timber.

Since then, the Russian navy has found the ship, and the alleged hijackers who boarded it on July 24 have been charged with kidnapping and piracy. The ship’s captain, his crew and whatever cargo the ship was carrying have also been detained. An initial search of the hull turned up nothing suspicious, and now Russia’s official explanation of what happened will likely become the final one — this was a hijacking thwarted by its navy without a shot being fired. But there are baffling details still left unexplained, leading some experts to claim that the truth is much more sinister: the Arctic Sea, they say, was intercepted by Israel as it carried a secret cargo of weapons to the Middle East. (See pictures of dramatic pirate-hostage rescues.)

The highest-ranking official to put forward this version of events is the European Union’s rapporteur on piracy and former commander of the Estonian armed forces, Admiral Tarmo Kouts. In an interview with TIME, he says only a shipment of missiles could account for Russia’s bizarre behavior throughout the month-long saga. “There is the idea that there were missiles aboard, and one can’t explain this situation in any other way,” he says. “As a sailor with years of experience, I can tell you that the official versions are not realistic.”

Kouts says that an Israeli interception of the cargo is the most likely explanation. But this theory, which some Russian analysts have put forward in the days since the Arctic Sea was rescued and which Kouts agreed with in his interview with TIME, has been vehemently denied by Russia’s envoy to NATO, Dmitri Rogozin, who says Kouts should stop “running his mouth.” (Read “Girding for the Pirates’ Revenge.”)

The official explanation coming out of Moscow is simple enough: The Arctic Sea set sail from Finland under a Maltese flag on July 22, manned by a Russian crew and destined for Algeria, carrying less than $2 million worth of timber. Then a group of eight Russian and former Soviet hijackers boarded the ship on July 24. The ship’s tracking device was disabled in the last days of July, as it passed through the English Channel into the Atlantic, and the ship disappeared. On Aug. 12, the Russian navy sent out a search party. A week later, Russia declared that the ship and its crew had been rescued. (Read “Has Piracy Spread to Europe’s Waters?”)

But as details of the hijacking emerged, the tale got murkier, and Moscow’s explanation does little to clear things up. Why, with so many other ships carrying much more valuable cargo, would the hijackers target the Arctic Sea and its small load of timber? How come the ship never sent out a distress signal? Why did Israeli President Shimon Peres pay a surprise visit to Russia one day after the ship was rescued? Why did Russia wait so long to send its navy to find the ship? And what did the brother of one of the alleged hijackers, Dmitri Bartenev, mean when he told Estonian TV on Aug. 24 that his brother and the other suspected pirates had been “set up … They went to find work and ended up in a political conflict. Now they are hostage to some kind of political game?” Bartenev’s lawyer tells TIME that his client was “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

There are also questions surrounding the Arctic Sea‘s rescue. On orders from the Kremlin, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov sent a completely disproportionate force, including destroyers and submarines, to look for the vessel. It took five days for them to find it, the defense ministry said, even though the foreign ministry later announced that it was fully aware of the Arctic Sea‘s coordinates the entire time. To fly the alleged pirates and the crew back to Moscow — a group of only 19 men — Russia dispatched two enormous military cargo planes. And then on their arrival, the ship’s crew was detained along with the alleged hijackers for days of questioning, with no access to their families or the media.

“Even from the basic facts, without assumptions, it is clear that this was not just piracy,” says Mikhail Voitenko, editor of the Russian maritime journal Sovfrakht, which has been tracking unusual incidents on the high seas for decades. “I’ve never seen anything like this. These are some of the most heavily policed waters in the world. You cannot just hide a ship there for weeks without government involvement.”

Read: “Russia’s Moves Raise Doubts About Obama’s ‘Reset’.”

See pictures of Somali pirates.

According to Voitenko and other experts, a secret cargo could have been hidden inside the ship during the two weeks it spent in Kaliningrad for repairs, just before it picked up its Finnish haul of timber. Not contiguous with the rest of Russia, Kaliningrad is the country’s westernmost enclave on the coast of the Baltic Sea, and is known as a hub for Russian smugglers. “Personally, I don’t care about any missiles,” Voitenko tells TIME. “I care about what they’re doing with those sailors.”

There are many governments, however, that would be more concerned about a possible missile shipment, especially if it were destined for the Middle East. Chief among them is Israel. In recent years, the Israeli government has consistently raised alarms about Russia’s plans to sell MiG-31 fighter planes to Syria, and its construction of a nuclear power station in southwestern Iran. Negotiations with Moscow have been tough on these issues and relations often icy, as the Israeli president pointed out during his visit to Russia on Aug. 18, just as the mysteries behind the Arctic Sea‘s disappearance began to unfold. (Read “Medvedev and Obama: Sunshine in Moscow.”)

“The most likely explanation is that the Israelis intercepted this cargo, which had been meant for Syria or Iran,” says Yulya Latynina, a prominent political commentator and radio host on Echo of Moscow, a station owned by state-controlled gas giant Gazprom. “They will now use the incident as a bargaining chip with Russia over weapons sales in the region, while allowing Russia to save face by taking its empty ship back home.” When contacted by TIME, both the Israeli Prime Minister’s office and Mossad, Israel’s secret service, declined to comment. (See pictures of 60 years of Israel.)

But in an Aug. 18 statement, the Israeli foreign ministry said that Peres had discussed “the sale of Russian weapons and military hardware to countries hostile to Israel” with his Russian counterpart, Dmitri Medvedev, on that day during four hours of closed-door talks in the Russian city of Sochi. According to the statement, Peres “stressed that Israel has concrete proof of Russian weapons being transferred to terrorist organizations by Iran and Syria, especially to Hamas and Hizballah.” A spokeswoman for the Israeli president declined to elaborate on any connection with the Arctic Sea. In a parallel statement, the Kremlin did not mention weapon sales, saying only that after the meeting, “We more clearly and precisely understand each other’s positions.”

But Russia’s chief investigator, Alexander Bastrykin, told official state newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta that a band of new-age pirates, possibly in connivance with the crew, is all that lies behind the Arctic Sea mystery. He did concede, though, that there are still questions that need answering. “We don’t rule out the possibility that [the ship] was carrying more than just timber,” he said, without elaborating further.

Speaking to TIME, NATO envoy Rogozin backed up the investigator’s statement: “The cargo has to be checked to see if there was something illegal, something being smuggled.” But he declined to comment on the theory of Israeli interception. “This is no longer a question for diplomats or for the military,” he said. “It is now a question for the investigators, and they are carrying on with their work. We are also very curious to hear their findings.” (See pictures of the face of modern piracy.)

When asked by TIME about the possibility that the Arctic Sea may have been carrying a secret cargo, Vladimir Voronov, deputy head of Oy Solchart Management, the Helsinki-based, Russian-run company that operates the ship, replied: “I don’t know anything about a secret cargo. We’re just a simple shipping firm and from what we understand, our ship was hijacked.”

According to investigator Bastrykin, a full search of the vessel will be carried out when the ship arrives at a Russian port in the next few weeks. But observers don’t expect any revelations. “The versions we are getting from the Russian government do not fit into any logical parameters, and I don’t think that will change,” commentator Latynina says. “When people lie, they tend to lie consistently.”

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1919342,00.html?xid=rss-topstories

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