May 14th, 2010

[LINK] "USSR planned nuclear attack on China in 1969"

This news isn't surprising, given the intensity of the Sino-Soviet border disputes/conflicts of 1969. The Nixon-Kissinger reaction likewise isn't a surprise.

Liu Chenshan, the author of a series of articles that chronicle the five times China has faced a nuclear threat since 1949, wrote that the most serious threat came in 1969 at the height of a bitter border dispute between Moscow and Beijing that left more than one thousand people dead on both sides.

He said Soviet diplomats warned Washington of Moscow's plans "to wipe out the Chinese threat and get rid of this modern adventurer," with a nuclear strike, asking the US to remain neutral.

But, he says, Washington told Moscow the United States would not stand idly by but launch its own nuclear attack against the Soviet Union if it attacked China, loosing nuclear missiles at 130 Soviet cities. The threat worked, he added, and made Moscow think twice, while forcing the two countries to regulate their border dispute at the negotiating table.

He quotes Soviet ministers and diplomats at the time to bolster his claim.

On 15 October 1969, he quotes Soviet premier Alexei Kosygin as telling Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev that Washington has drawn up "detailed plans" for a nuclear war against the USSR if it attacked China.

"[The United States] has clearly indicated that China's interests are closely related to theirs and they have mapped out detailed plans for nuclear war against us," Kosygin is said to have told Brezhnev.

That same day he says Anatoly Dobrynin, the Soviet ambassador to Washington, told Brezhnev something similar after consultations with US diplomats. "If China suffers a nuclear attack, they (the Americans) will deem it as the start of the third world war," Dobrynin said. "The Americans have betrayed us."

[LINK] "Ancestry Gene Tests Need Firmer Science, Report Says"

This Bloomberg article on home genetic testing does make all the expected (and valid) points, and certainly the field needs to be regulated. I wonder, though, about the extent to which ancestry-related tests are undertaken for the purposes of wish-fulfillment ("Look, I'm part-Neanderthal!") and whether the science actually matters all that much to some users.

Ancestry.com Inc. in Provo, Utah, Pathway Genomics Corp. in San Diego, and 23andMe Inc. in Mountain View, California, are among almost 40 companies worldwide that sell such products. Officials from these enterprises should meet with geneticists, physicians and U.S. agencies to “brainstorm” about ways to improve their tests and databases, seven scientists said today in a report published in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

Scientists analyze DNA from mitochondria, the cells’ power-producing machinery, to study ancestry because it is passed down through generations directly from mother to child. That may lead to inaccuracies, because an exact genetic mitochondrial DNA match doesn’t tell scientists how closely related two people are, or where they came from, the authors wrote. Gene-based ancestry research has “intrinsic uncertainties” and needs “improved and enforced” standards, the researchers said.

“The time is now for no-holds-barred discussions among the players, particularly among scientists who must more purposefully and constructively critique one another’s premises, methodologies, findings, and interpretations of findings,” said the authors, led by Charmaine Royal, an associate research professor at Duke’s Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy, in Durham, North Carolina.

Consumers shouldn’t jump to conclusions about lineage, or where ancestors might have lived, on the basis of genetic ancestry tests, said Joann Boughman, executive vice president of the American Society of Human Genetics, the Bethesda, Maryland- based organization that sponsored the study.

“It’s not that we don’t think ancestry is important or interesting -- we think it is,” Boughman said yesterday in an interview. “But these tests are complex, and there may be more variation” in a person’s roots “than is implied.”