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What doesn't add up here, IMO, is that it is perfectly possible to take a branch of Debian (normally testing or unstable) and patch it for your own needs without forking. Even the heavily criticized Linspire is still 98% Debian compatible (I dist-upgraded it to Sid with very few problems).
Because Ubuntu uses it's own repositories (with packages existing in their own "namespace"), not the offcial Debian ones, which is the only reasonable way to release a "freeze" of the unstable branch that can then be maintained with security patches over the course of the 18 months Canonical has committed to.
Sorry, while I wrote my comment you posted your reply. I type very slowly.