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For The Record  

FTR #1119 and FTR #1120 DARPA and the Covid-19 Outbreak, Part 1 and DARPA and the Covid-19 Outbreak, Part 2

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FTR #1119 This pro­gram was record­ed in one, 60-minute seg­ment

FTR #1120 This pro­gram was record­ed in one,60-minute seg­ment. 

Intro­duc­tion: A thought-pro­vok­ing and dis­turb­ing arti­cle about DARPA research into bat-borne dis­eases, includ­ing some caused by coronaviruses–is set forth here. (We are sourc­ing the arti­cle from the orig­i­nal The Last Amer­i­can Vagabond blog, rather than a “far-right” blog accessed in the orig­i­nal audio file for FTR #1119.)

As read­ers digest this infor­ma­tion, remem­ber that DARPA can bring to bear the twined tech­nolo­gies arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence and super-com­put­ers. It has the state of the art with respect to both. Com­bined with gene edit­ing, that tech­no­log­i­cal pair­ing offers the pos­si­bil­i­ty of tru­ly hor­ri­fy­ing syn­thet­ic virus­es.

Whit­ney Webb has pro­vid­ed us with trou­bling insight into Pen­ta­gon research–some of which remains clas­si­fied:

  •  Into bat-borne coro­n­avirus­es. ” . . . . the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), began spend­ing mil­lions on such research in 2018 and some of those Pen­ta­gon-fund­ed stud­ies were con­duct­ed at known U.S. mil­i­tary bioweapons labs bor­der­ing Chi­na and result­ed in the dis­cov­ery of dozens of new coro­n­avirus strains as recent­ly as last April. Fur­ther­more, the ties of the Pentagon’s main biode­fense lab to a virol­o­gy insti­tute in Wuhan, Chi­na — where the cur­rent out­break is believed to have begun — have been unre­port­ed in Eng­lish lan­guage media thus far. . . . For instance, DARPA spent $10 mil­lion on one project in 2018 ‘to unrav­el the com­plex caus­es of bat-borne virus­es that have recent­ly made the jump to humans, caus­ing con­cern among glob­al health offi­cials.’ Anoth­er research project backed by both DARPA and NIH saw researchers at Col­orado State Uni­ver­si­ty exam­ine the coro­n­avirus that caus­es Mid­dle East Res­pi­ra­to­ry Syn­drome (MERS) in bats and camels ‘to under­stand the role of these hosts in trans­mit­ting dis­ease to humans.’  . . . For instance, one study con­duct­ed in South­ern Chi­na in 2018 result­ed in the dis­cov­ery of 89 new ‘nov­el bat coro­n­avirus’ strains that use the same recep­tor as the coro­n­avirus known as Mid­dle East Res­pi­ra­to­ry Syn­drome (MERS). That study was joint­ly fund­ed by the Chi­nese government’s Min­istry of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­o­gy, USAID — an orga­ni­za­tion long alleged to be a front for U.S. intel­li­gence, and the U.S. Nation­al Insti­tute of Health — which has col­lab­o­rat­ed with both the CIA and the Pen­ta­gon on infec­tious dis­ease and bioweapons research.. . . .”
  • At bio­log­i­cal research facil­i­ties ring­ing both Chi­na and Rus­sia. ” . . . .  One of those stud­ies focused on ‘Bat-Borne Zoonot­ic Dis­ease Emer­gence in West­ern Asia’ and involved the Lugar Cen­ter in Geor­gia, iden­ti­fied by for­mer Geor­gian gov­ern­ment offi­cialsthe Russ­ian gov­ern­ment and inde­pen­dent, inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist Dilyana Gay­tandzhie­va as a covert U.S. bioweapons lab. . . . Anoth­er U.S. gov­ern­ment-fund­ed study that dis­cov­ered still more new strains of ‘nov­el bat coro­n­avirus’ was pub­lished just last year. Titled ‘Dis­cov­ery and Char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of Nov­el Bat Coro­n­avirus Lin­eages from Kaza­khstan,’ focused on ‘the bat fau­na of cen­tral Asia, which link Chi­na to east­ern Europe’ and the nov­el bat coro­n­avirus lin­eages dis­cov­ered dur­ing the study were found to be ‘close­ly relat­ed to bat coro­n­avirus­es from Chi­na, France, Spain, and South Africa, sug­gest­ing that co-cir­cu­la­tion of coro­n­avirus­es is com­mon in mul­ti­ple bat species with over­lap­ping geo­graph­i­cal dis­tri­b­u­tions.’ In oth­er words, the coro­n­avirus­es dis­cov­ered in this study were iden­ti­fied in bat pop­u­la­tions that migrate between Chi­na and Kaza­khstan, among oth­er coun­tries, and is close­ly relat­ed to bat coro­n­avirus­es in sev­er­al coun­tries, includ­ing Chi­na. . . .”
  • Net­worked with Chi­nese research facil­i­ties in Wuhan. ” . . . . The USAMRIID’s prob­lem­at­ic record of safe­ty at such facil­i­ties is of par­tic­u­lar con­cern in light of the recent coro­n­avirus out­break in Chi­na. As this report will soon reveal, this is because USAMRIID has a decades-old and close part­ner­ship with the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wuhan’s Insti­tute of Med­ical Virol­o­gy, which is locat­ed in the epi­cen­ter of the cur­rent out­break. . . . Duke Uni­ver­si­ty is also joint­ly part­nered with China’s Wuhan Uni­ver­si­ty, which is based in the city where the cur­rent coro­n­avirus out­break began, which result­ed in the open­ing of the Chi­na-based Duke Kun­shan Uni­ver­si­ty (DKU) in 2018. Notably, China’s Wuhan Uni­ver­si­ty — in addi­tion to its part­ner­ship with Duke — also includes a mul­ti-lab Insti­tute of Med­ical Virol­o­gy that has worked close­ly with the US Army Med­ical Research Insti­tute for Infec­tious Dis­eases since the 1980s, accord­ing to its web­site. . . . ”
  • Into the DNA of both Russ­ian and Chi­nese pop­u­la­tions. ” . . . . Since the Pen­ta­gon began ‘redesign­ing’ its poli­cies and research towards a ‘long war’ with Rus­sia and Chi­na, the Russ­ian mil­i­tary has accused the U.S. mil­i­tary of har­vest­ing DNA from Rus­sians as part of a covert bioweapon pro­gram, a charge that the Pen­ta­gon has adamant­ly denied. Major Gen­er­al Igor Kir­illov, the head of the Russ­ian military’s radi­a­tion, chem­i­cal and bio­log­i­cal pro­tec­tion unit who made these claims, also assert­ed that the U.S. was devel­op­ing such weapons in close prox­im­i­ty to Russ­ian and Chi­nese bor­ders. Chi­na has also accused the U.S. mil­i­tary of har­vest­ing DNA from Chi­nese cit­i­zens with ill inten­tions, such as when 200,000 Chi­nese farm­ers were used in 12 genet­ic exper­i­ments with­out informed con­sent. Those exper­i­ments had been con­duct­ed by Har­vard researchers as part of a U.S. gov­ern­ment-fund­ed project. . . .”
  • Into “gene-driving”–a biotech­no­log­i­cal devel­op­ment that can per­ma­nent­ly alter the genet­ic make­up of entire pop­u­la­tion groups and lead to the extinc­tion of oth­er groups. ” . . . . Con­cerns about Pen­ta­gon exper­i­ments with bio­log­i­cal weapons have gar­nered renewed media atten­tion, par­tic­u­lar­ly after it was revealed in 2017 that DARPA was the top fun­der of the con­tro­ver­sial ‘gene dri­ve’ tech­nol­o­gy, which has the pow­er to per­ma­nent­ly alter the genet­ics of entire pop­u­la­tions while tar­get­ing oth­ers for extinc­tion. At least two of DARPA’s stud­ies using this con­tro­ver­sial tech­nol­o­gy were clas­si­fied and ‘focused on the poten­tial mil­i­tary appli­ca­tion of gene dri­ve tech­nol­o­gy and use of gene dri­ves in agri­cul­ture,’ accord­ing to media reports. The rev­e­la­tion came after an orga­ni­za­tion called the ETC Group obtained over 1,000 emails on the military’s inter­est in the tech­nol­o­gy as part of a Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act (FOIA) request. Co-direc­tor of the ETC Group Jim Thomas said that this tech­nol­o­gy may be used as a bio­log­i­cal weapon: ‘Gene dri­ves are a pow­er­ful and dan­ger­ous new tech­nol­o­gy and poten­tial bio­log­i­cal weapons could have dis­as­trous impacts on peace, food secu­ri­ty and the envi­ron­ment, espe­cial­ly if mis­used, The fact that gene dri­ve devel­op­ment is now being pri­mar­i­ly fund­ed and struc­tured by the US mil­i­tary rais­es alarm­ing ques­tions about this entire field.’ . . . .”
  • Into over­lap­ping tech­nolo­gies man­i­fest­ing philoso­phies of eugen­ics and eth­nic cleans­ing. ” . . . . In addi­tion, one pre­lim­i­nary study on the coro­n­avirus respon­si­ble for the cur­rent out­break found that the recep­tor, Angiotensin-con­vert­ing enzyme 2 (ACE2), is not only the same as that used by the SARS coro­n­avirus, but that East Asians present a much high­er ratio of lung cells that express that recep­tor than the oth­er eth­nic­i­ties (Cau­casian and African-Amer­i­can) includ­ed in the study. . . . the U.S. Air Force pub­lished a doc­u­ment enti­tled ‘Biotech­nol­o­gy: Genet­i­cal­ly Engi­neered Pathogens,’ which con­tains the fol­low­ing pas­sage: ‘The JASON group, com­posed of aca­d­e­m­ic sci­en­tists, served as tech­ni­cal advis­ers to the U. S. gov­ern­ment. Their study gen­er­at­ed six broad class­es of genet­i­cal­ly engi­neered pathogens that could pose seri­ous threats to soci­ety. These include but are not lim­it­ed to bina­ry bio­log­i­cal weapons, design­er genes, gene ther­a­py as a weapon, stealth virus­es, host-swap­ping dis­eases, and design­er dis­eases (empha­sis added).’ . . .”
  • Into the use of “Insect Allies” to sup­pos­ed­ly pro­vide crops with pro­tec­tion against pests and disease–a tech­no­log­i­cal pro­gram crit­ics have charged masks an offen­sive bio­log­i­cal war­fare man­i­fes­ta­tion. ” . . . . The most recent exam­ple of this involved DARPA’s ‘Insect Allies’ pro­gram, which offi­cial­ly “aims to pro­tect the U.S. agri­cul­tur­al food sup­ply by deliv­er­ing pro­tec­tive genes to plants via insects, which are respon­si­ble for the trans­mis­sion of most plant virus­es’ and to ensure ‘food secu­ri­ty in the event of a major threat,’ accord­ing to both DARPA and media reports. How­ev­er, a group of well-respect­ed, inde­pen­dent sci­en­tists revealed in a scathing analy­sis of the pro­gram that, far from a ‘defen­sive’ research project, the Insect Allies pro­gram was aimed at cre­at­ing and deliv­er­ing ‘new class of bio­log­i­cal weapon.’ The sci­en­tists, writ­ing in the jour­nal Sci­ence and led by Richard Guy Reeves, from the Max Planck Insti­tute for Evo­lu­tion­ary Biol­o­gy in Ger­many, warned that DARPA’s pro­gram — which uses insects as the vehi­cle for as hor­i­zon­tal envi­ron­men­tal genet­ic alter­ation agents (HEGAAS) — revealed ‘an inten­tion to devel­op a means of deliv­ery of HEGAAs for offen­sive pur­pos­es (empha­sis added).’ . . .”
  • Osten­si­bly aimed at pre­vent­ing pan­demics but–very possibly–masking prepa­ra­tions for offen­sive bio­log­i­cal war­fare projects. ” . . . . Many of these recent research projects are relat­ed to DARPA’s Pre­vent­ing Emerg­ing Path­o­gen­ic Threats, or PREEMPT pro­gram, which was offi­cial­ly announced in April 2018. PREEMPT focus­es specif­i­cal­ly on ani­mal reser­voirs of dis­ease, specif­i­cal­ly bats, and DARPA even not­ed in its press release in the pro­gram that it ‘is aware of biosafe­ty and biose­cu­ri­ty sen­si­tiv­i­ties that could arise’ due to the nature of the research. . . . In addi­tion, while both DARPA’s PREEMPT pro­gram and the Pentagon’s open inter­est in bats as bioweapons were announced in 2018, the U.S. mil­i­tary — specif­i­cal­ly the Depart­ment of Defense’s Coop­er­a­tive Threat Reduc­tion Pro­gram — began fund­ing research involv­ing bats and dead­ly pathogens, includ­ing the coro­n­avirus­es MERS and SARS, a year pri­or in 2017. . . .”
  • That is heav­i­ly net­worked with the U.S. health and med­ical infra­struc­tures. ” . . . . The sec­ond phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­ny that was select­ed by CEPI to devel­op a vac­cine for the new coro­n­avirus is Mod­er­na Inc., which will devel­op a vac­cine for the nov­el coro­n­avirus of con­cern in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the U.S. NIH and which will be fund­ed entire­ly by CEPI. The vac­cine in ques­tion, as opposed to Inovio’s DNA vac­cine, will be a mes­sen­ger RNA (mRNA) vac­cine. Though dif­fer­ent than a DNA vac­cine, mRNA vac­cines still use genet­ic mate­r­i­al ‘to direct the body’s cells to pro­duce intra­cel­lu­lar, mem­brane or secret­ed pro­teins.’ Moderna’s mRNA treat­ments, includ­ing its mRNA vac­cines, were large­ly devel­oped using a $25 mil­lion grant from DARPA and it often touts is strate­gic alliance with DARPA in press releas­es. . . .”
  • That is heav­i­ly net­worked with firms cho­sen to devel­op vac­cines for the Covid-19. ” . . . . the very com­pa­nies recent­ly cho­sen to devel­op a vac­cine to com­bat the coro­n­avirus out­break are them­selves strate­gic allies of DARPA. . . . For instance, the top fun­ders of Inovio Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals include both DARPA and the Pentagon’s Defense Threat Reduc­tion Agency (DTRA) and the com­pa­ny has received mil­lions in dol­lars in grants from DARPA, includ­ing a $45 mil­lion grant to devel­op a vac­cine for Ebo­la. Inovio spe­cial­izes in the cre­ation of DNA immunother­a­pies and DNA vac­cines, which con­tain genet­i­cal­ly engi­neered DNA that caus­es the cells of the recip­i­ent to pro­duce an anti­gen and can per­ma­nent­ly alter a person’s DNA. Inovio pre­vi­ous­ly devel­oped a DNA vac­cine for the Zika virus, but — to date — no DNA vac­cine has been approved for use in humans in the Unit­ed States. Inovio was also recent­ly award­ed over $8 mil­lion from the U.S. mil­i­tary to devel­op a small, portable intra­der­mal device for deliv­er­ing DNA vac­cines joint­ly devel­oped by Inovio and USAMRIID.”
  • Into vac­cines that have not been used on human beings and that use gene-alter­ing manip­u­la­tion that alarms crit­ics. ” . . . . Not only that, but these DARPA-backed com­pa­nies are devel­op­ing con­tro­ver­sial DNA and mRNA vac­cines for this par­tic­u­lar coro­n­avirus strain, a cat­e­go­ry of vac­cine that has nev­er pre­vi­ous­ly been approved for human use in the Unit­ed States. . . . Inovio’s col­lab­o­ra­tion with the U.S. mil­i­tary in regards to DNA vac­cines is noth­ing new, as their past efforts to devel­op a DNA vac­cine for both Ebo­la and Mar­burg virus were also part of what Inovio’s CEO Dr. Joseph Kim called its ‘active biode­fense pro­gram’ that has ‘gar­nered mul­ti­ple grants from the Depart­ment of Defense, Defense Threat Reduc­tion Agency (DTRA), Nation­al Insti­tute of Aller­gy and Infec­tious Dis­eases (NIAID), and oth­er gov­ern­ment agen­cies.’ . . . . ”
  • Involv­ing the U.S. Army Med­ical Research Insti­tute of Infec­tious Dis­eases, locat­ed at Fort Det­rick, Mary­land, a facil­i­ty that was closed down in August of 2019 by the CDC for mul­ti­ple safe­ty vio­la­tions. ” . . . . The U.S. Army Med­ical Research Insti­tute of Infec­tious Dis­eases (USAMRIID) facil­i­ty at Fort Det­rick, Mary­land — the U.S. military’s lead lab­o­ra­to­ry for ‘bio­log­i­cal defense’ research since the late 1960s — was forced to halt all research it was con­duct­ing with a series of dead­ly pathogens after the CDC found that it lacked ‘suf­fi­cient sys­tems in place to decon­t­a­m­i­nate waste­water’ from its high­est-secu­ri­ty labs and fail­ure of staff to fol­low safe­ty pro­ce­dures, among oth­er laps­es. The facil­i­ty con­tains both lev­el 3 and lev­el 4 biosafe­ty labs. While it is unknown if exper­i­ments involv­ing coro­n­avirus­es were ongo­ing at the time, USAMRIID has recent­ly been involved in research borne out of the Pentagon’s recent con­cern about the use of bats as bioweapons. . . .”
  • Into the appli­ca­tion of genet­ic engi­neer­ing in order to cre­ate eth­no-spe­cif­ic bio­log­i­cal war­fare weapons, as dis­cussed by the Project for a New Amer­i­can Cen­tu­ry. ” . . . . In what is arguably the think tank’s most con­tro­ver­sial doc­u­ment, titled ‘Rebuild­ing America’s Defens­es,’ there are a few pas­sages that open­ly dis­cuss the util­i­ty of bioweapons, includ­ing the fol­low­ing sen­tences: ‘…com­bat like­ly will take place in new dimen­sions: in space, ‘cyber-space,’ and per­haps the world of microbes…advanced forms of bio­log­i­cal war­fare that can ‘tar­get’ spe­cif­ic geno­types may trans­form bio­log­i­cal war­fare from the realm of ter­ror to a polit­i­cal­ly use­ful tool.’ . . .”

The pro­gram con­cludes with a sum­ma­ry of six pan­demics that struck Chi­na with­in a peri­od of a lit­tle less than two years. Are these con­nect­ed to the many-faceted desta­bi­liza­tion of Chi­na dis­cussed in past pro­grams and/or the research pro­grams high­light­ed in the Whit­ney Webb arti­cle?: 

. . . . In the past two years (dur­ing the trade war) Chi­na has suf­fered sev­er­al pan­demics:

  • Feb­ru­ary 15, 2018: H7N4 bird flu. Sick­ened at least 1,600 peo­ple in Chi­na and killed more than 600. Many chick­ens killed. Chi­na needs to pur­chase US poul­try prod­ucts.
  • June, 2018: H7N9 bird flu. Many chick­ens killed. Chi­na needs to pur­chase US poul­try prod­ucts.
  • August, 2018: out­break of African swine flu. Same strain as Rus­sia, from Geor­gia. Mil­lions of pigs killed. Chi­na needs to pur­chase US pork prod­ucts.
  • May 24, 2019: mas­sive infes­ta­tion of army­worms in 14 province-lev­el regions in Chi­na, which destroy most food crops. Quick­ly spread to more than 8,500 hectares of China’s grain pro­duc­tion. They pro­duce aston­ish­ing num­bers of eggs. Chi­na needs to pur­chase US agri­cul­tur­al prod­ucts – corn, soy­beans.
  • Decem­ber, 2019: Coro­n­avirus appear­ance puts China’s econ­o­my on hold.
  • Jan­u­ary, 2020:Chi­na is hit by a “high­ly path­o­gen­ic” strain of bird flu in Hunan province. Many chick­ens died, many oth­ers killed. Chi­na needs to pur­chase US poul­try prod­ucts.

 

1.  “Bats, Gene Edit­ing and Bioweapons: Rec­cent DARPA Exper­i­ments Raise Con­cerns Amid Coro­n­avirus Out­break” by Whit­ney Webb; The Last Amer­i­can Vagabond; 1/30/2020.

In recent weeks, con­cern over the emer­gence of a nov­el coro­n­avirus in Chi­na has grown expo­nen­tial­ly as media, experts and gov­ern­ment offi­cials around the world have open­ly wor­ried that this new dis­ease has the poten­tial to devel­op into a glob­al pan­dem­ic.

As con­cerns about the future of the ongo­ing out­break have grown, so too have the num­ber of the­o­ries spec­u­lat­ing about the outbreak’s ori­gin, many of which blame a vari­ety of state actors and/or con­tro­ver­sial bil­lion­aires. This has inevitably led to efforts to clamp down on “mis­in­for­ma­tion” relat­ed to the coro­n­avirus out­break from both main­stream media out­lets and major social media plat­forms.

How­ev­er, while many of these the­o­ries are clear­ly spec­u­la­tive, there is also ver­i­fi­able evi­dence regard­ing the recent inter­est of one con­tro­ver­sial U.S. gov­ern­ment agency in nov­el coro­n­avirus­es, specif­i­cal­ly those trans­mit­ted from bats to humans. That agency, the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), began spend­ing mil­lions on such research in 2018 and some of those Pen­ta­gon-fund­ed stud­ies were con­duct­ed at known U.S. mil­i­tary bioweapons labs bor­der­ing Chi­na and result­ed in the dis­cov­ery of dozens of new coro­n­avirus strains as recent­ly as last April. Fur­ther­more, the ties of the Pentagon’s main biode­fense lab to a virol­o­gy insti­tute in Wuhan, Chi­na — where the cur­rent out­break is believed to have begun — have been unre­port­ed in Eng­lish lan­guage media thus far.

While it remains entire­ly unknown as to what caused the out­break, the details of DARPA’s and the Pentagon’s recent exper­i­men­ta­tion are clear­ly in the pub­lic inter­est, espe­cial­ly con­sid­er­ing that the very com­pa­nies recent­ly cho­sen to devel­op a vac­cine to com­bat the coro­n­avirus out­break are them­selves strate­gic allies of DARPA. Not only that, but these DARPA-backed com­pa­nies are devel­op­ing con­tro­ver­sial DNA and mRNA vac­cines for this par­tic­u­lar coro­n­avirus strain, a cat­e­go­ry of vac­cine that has nev­er pre­vi­ous­ly been approved for human use in the Unit­ed States.

Yet, as fears of the pan­dem­ic poten­tial of coro­n­avirus grow, these vac­cines are set to be rushed to mar­ket for pub­lic use, mak­ing it impor­tant for the pub­lic to be aware of DARPA’s recent exper­i­ments on coro­n­avirus­es, bats and gene edit­ing tech­nolo­gies and their broad­er impli­ca­tions.

Exam­in­ing the Recent Wuhan-Bioweapon Nar­ra­tive

As the coro­n­avirus out­break has come to dom­i­nate head­lines in recent weeks, sev­er­al media out­lets have pro­mot­ed claims that the report­ed epi­cen­ter of the out­break in Wuhan, Chi­na was also the site of lab­o­ra­to­ries alleged­ly linked to a Chi­nese gov­ern­ment biowar­fare pro­gram.

How­ev­er, upon fur­ther exam­i­na­tion of the sourc­ing for this seri­ous claim, these sup­posed links between the out­break and an alleged Chi­nese bioweapons pro­gram have come from two high­ly dubi­ous sources.

For instance, the first out­let to report on this claim was Radio Free Asia, the U.S.-government fund­ed media out­let tar­get­ing Asian audi­ences that used to be run covert­ly by the CIA and named by the New York Times as a key part in the agency’s “world­wide pro­pa­gan­da net­work.” Though it is no longer run direct­ly by the CIA, it is now man­aged by the gov­ern­ment-fund­ed Broad­cast­ing Board of Gov­er­nors (BBG), which answers direct­ly to Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo, who was CIA direc­tor imme­di­ate­ly pri­or to his cur­rent post at the head of the State Depart­ment.

In oth­er words, Radio Free Asia and oth­er BBG-man­aged media out­lets are legal out­lets for U.S. gov­ern­ment pro­pa­gan­da. Notably, the long-stand­ing ban on the domes­tic use of U.S. gov­ern­ment pro­pa­gan­da on U.S. cit­i­zens was lift­ed in 2013, with the offi­cial jus­ti­fi­ca­tion of allow­ing the gov­ern­ment to “effec­tive­ly com­mu­ni­cate in a cred­i­ble way” and to bet­ter com­bat “al-Qaeda’s and oth­er vio­lent extrem­ists’ influ­ence.”

Return­ing to the sub­ject at hand, Radio Free Asia’s recent report on the alleged ori­gins of the out­break being linked to a Chi­nese state-linked virol­o­gy cen­ter cit­ed only Ren Rui­hong, the for­mer head of the med­ical assis­tance depart­ment at the Chi­nese Red Cross, for that claim. Rui­hong has been cit­ed as an expert in sev­er­al Radio Free Asia reports on dis­ease out­breaks in Chi­na, but has not been cit­ed as an expert by any oth­er Eng­lish-lan­guage media out­let.

Rui­hong told Radio Free Asia that:

“It’s a new type of mutant coronavirus.They haven’t made pub­lic the genet­ic sequence, because it is high­ly contagious…Genetic engi­neer­ing tech­nol­o­gy has got­ten to such a point now, and Wuhan is home to a viral research cen­ter that is under the aegis of the Chi­na Acad­e­my of Sci­ences, which is the high­est lev­el of research facil­i­ty in Chi­na.”

Though Rui­hong did not direct­ly say that the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment was mak­ing a bioweapon at the Wuhan facil­i­ty, she did imply that genet­ic exper­i­ments at the facil­i­ty may have result­ed in the cre­ation of this new “mutant coro­n­avirus” at the cen­ter of the out­break.

With Radio Free Asia and its sin­gle source hav­ing spec­u­lat­ed about Chi­nese gov­ern­ment links to the cre­ation of the new coro­n­avirus, the Wash­ing­ton Times soon took it much far­ther in a report titled “Virus-hit Wuhan has two lab­o­ra­to­ries linked to Chi­nese bio-war­fare pro­gram.” That arti­cle, much like Radio Free Asia’s ear­li­er report, cites a sin­gle source for that claim, for­mer Israeli mil­i­tary intel­li­gence biowar­fare spe­cial­ist Dany Shoham.

Yet, upon read­ing the arti­cle, Shoham does not even direct­ly make the claim cit­ed in the article’s head­line, as he only told the Wash­ing­ton Times that: “Cer­tain lab­o­ra­to­ries in the [Wuhan] insti­tute have prob­a­bly been engaged, in terms of research and devel­op­ment, in Chi­nese [bio­log­i­cal weapons], at least col­lat­er­al­ly, yet not as a prin­ci­pal facil­i­ty of the Chi­nese BW align­ment (empha­sis added).”

While Shoham’s claims are clear­ly spec­u­la­tive, it is telling that the Wash­ing­ton Timeswould both­er to cite him at all, espe­cial­ly giv­en the key role he played in pro­mot­ing false claims that the 2001 Anthrax attacks was the work of Iraq’s Sad­dam Hus­sein. Shoham’s asser­tions about Iraq’s gov­ern­ment and weaponized Anthrax, which were used to bol­ster the case for the 2003 inva­sion of Iraq, have since been proven com­plete­ly false, as Iraq was found to have nei­ther the chem­i­cal or bio­log­i­cal “weapons of mass destruc­tion” that “experts” like Shoham had claimed.

Beyond Shoham’s own his­to­ry of mak­ing sus­pect claims, it is also worth not­ing that Shoham’s pre­vi­ous employ­er, Israeli mil­i­tary intel­li­gence, has a trou­bling past with bioweapons. For instance, in the late 1990s, it was report­ed by sev­er­al out­lets that Israel was in the process of devel­op­ing a genet­ic bioweapon that would tar­get Arabs, specif­i­cal­ly Iraqis, but leave Israeli Jews unaf­fect­ed.

Giv­en the dubi­ous past of Shoham and the clear­ly spec­u­la­tive nature of both his claims and those made in the Radio Free Asia report, one pas­sage in the Wash­ing­ton Times arti­cle is par­tic­u­lar­ly telling about why these claims have recent­ly sur­faced:

“One omi­nous sign, said a U.S. offi­cial, is that the false rumors since the out­break began sev­er­al weeks ago have begun cir­cu­lat­ing on the Chi­nese Inter­net claim­ing the virus is part of a U.S. con­spir­a­cy to spread germ weaponsThat could indi­cate Chi­na is prepar­ing pro­pa­gan­da out­lets to counter future charges the new virus escaped from one of Wuhan’s civil­ian or defense research lab­o­ra­to­ries (empha­sis added).”

How­ev­er, as seen in that very arti­cle, accu­sa­tions that the coro­n­avirus escaped from a Chi­nese-state-linked lab­o­ra­to­ry is hard­ly a future charge as both the Wash­ing­ton Times and Radio Free Asia have already been mak­ing that claim. Instead, what this pas­sage sug­gests is that the reports in both Radio Free Asia and the Wash­ing­ton Times were respons­es to the claims cir­cu­lat­ing with­in Chi­na that the out­break is linked to a “U.S. con­spir­a­cy to spread germ weapons.”

Though most Eng­lish-lan­guage media out­lets to date have not exam­ined such a pos­si­bil­i­ty, there is con­sid­er­able sup­port­ing evi­dence that deserves to be exam­ined. For instance, not only was the U.S. mil­i­tary, includ­ing its con­tro­ver­sial research arm — the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), recent­ly fund­ing stud­ies in and near Chi­na that dis­cov­ered new, mutant coro­n­avirus­es orig­i­nat­ing from bats, but the Pen­ta­gon also became recent­ly con­cerned about the poten­tial use of bats as bioweapons.

In recent weeks, con­cern over the emer­gence of a nov­el coro­n­avirus in Chi­na has grown expo­nen­tial­ly as media, experts and gov­ern­ment offi­cials around the world have open­ly wor­ried that this new dis­ease has the poten­tial to devel­op into a glob­al pan­dem­ic.

As con­cerns about the future of the ongo­ing out­break have grown, so too have the num­ber of the­o­ries spec­u­lat­ing about the outbreak’s ori­gin, many of which blame a vari­ety of state actors and/or con­tro­ver­sial bil­lion­aires. This has inevitably led to efforts to clamp down on “mis­in­for­ma­tion” relat­ed to the coro­n­avirus out­break from both main­stream media out­lets and major social media plat­forms.

How­ev­er, while many of these the­o­ries are clear­ly spec­u­la­tive, there is also ver­i­fi­able evi­dence regard­ing the recent inter­est of one con­tro­ver­sial U.S. gov­ern­ment agency in nov­el coro­n­avirus­es, specif­i­cal­ly those trans­mit­ted from bats to humans. That agency, the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), began spend­ing mil­lions on such research in 2018 and some of those Pen­ta­gon-fund­ed stud­ies were con­duct­ed at known U.S. mil­i­tary bioweapons labs bor­der­ing Chi­na and result­ed in the dis­cov­ery of dozens of new coro­n­avirus strains as recent­ly as last April. Fur­ther­more, the ties of the Pentagon’s main biode­fense lab to a virol­o­gy insti­tute in Wuhan, Chi­na — where the cur­rent out­break is believed to have begun — have been unre­port­ed in Eng­lish lan­guage media thus far.

While it remains entire­ly unknown as to what caused the out­break, the details of DARPA’s and the Pentagon’s recent exper­i­men­ta­tion are clear­ly in the pub­lic inter­est, espe­cial­ly con­sid­er­ing that the very com­pa­nies recent­ly cho­sen to devel­op a vac­cine to com­bat the coro­n­avirus out­break are them­selves strate­gic allies of DARPA. Not only that, but these DARPA-backed com­pa­nies are devel­op­ing con­tro­ver­sial DNA and mRNA vac­cines for this par­tic­u­lar coro­n­avirus strain, a cat­e­go­ry of vac­cine that has nev­er pre­vi­ous­ly been approved for human use in the Unit­ed States.

Yet, as fears of the pan­dem­ic poten­tial of coro­n­avirus grow, these vac­cines are set to be rushed to mar­ket for pub­lic use, mak­ing it impor­tant for the pub­lic to be aware of DARPA’s recent exper­i­ments on coro­n­avirus­es, bats and gene edit­ing tech­nolo­gies and their broad­er impli­ca­tions.

As the ongo­ing coro­n­avirus out­break cen­tered in Chi­na has spread to oth­er coun­tries and been blamed for a grow­ing num­ber of deaths, a con­sen­sus has emerged that this par­tic­u­lar virus, cur­rent­ly clas­si­fied as a “nov­el [i.e. new] coro­n­avirus,” is believed to have orig­i­nat­ed in bats and was trans­mit­ted to humans in Wuhan, Chi­na via a seafood mar­ket that also trad­ed exot­ic ani­mals. So-called “wet” mar­kets, like the one in Wuhan, were pre­vi­ous­ly blamed for past dead­ly coro­n­avirus out­breaks in Chi­na, such as the 2003 out­break of Severe Acute Res­pi­ra­to­ry Syn­drome (SARS). 

In addi­tion, one pre­lim­i­nary study on the coro­n­avirus respon­si­ble for the cur­rent out­break found that the recep­tor, Angiotensin-con­vert­ing enzyme 2 (ACE2), is not only the same as that used by the SARS coro­n­avirus, but that East Asians present a much high­er ratio of lung cells that express that recep­tor than the oth­er eth­nic­i­ties (Cau­casian and African-Amer­i­can) includ­ed in the study. How­ev­er, such find­ings are pre­lim­i­nary and the sam­ple size is too small to draw any defin­i­tive con­clu­sions from that pre­lim­i­nary data.

Two years ago, media reports began dis­cussing the Pentagon’s sud­den con­cern that bats could be used as bio­log­i­cal weapons, par­tic­u­lar­ly in spread­ing coro­n­avirus­es and oth­er dead­ly dis­eases. The Wash­ing­ton Post assert­ed that the Pentagon’s inter­est in inves­ti­gat­ing the poten­tial use of bats to spread weaponized and dead­ly dis­eases was because of alleged Russ­ian efforts to do the same. How­ev­er, those claims regard­ing this Russ­ian inter­est in using bats as bioweapons date back to the 1980s when the Sovi­et Union engaged in covert research involv­ing the Mar­burg virus, research that did not even involve bats and which end­ed with the Sovi­et Union’s col­lapse in 1991.

Like much of the Pentagon’s con­tro­ver­sial research pro­grams, the bats as bioweapons research has been framed as defen­sive, despite the fact that no immi­nent threat involv­ing bat-prop­a­gat­ed bioweapons has been acknowl­edged. How­ev­er, inde­pen­dent sci­en­tists have recent­ly accused the Pen­ta­gon, par­tic­u­lar­ly its research arm DARPA, of claim­ing to be engaged in research it says is “defen­sive” but is actu­al­ly “offen­sive.” 

The most recent exam­ple of this involved DARPA’s “Insect Allies” pro­gram, which offi­cial­ly “aims to pro­tect the U.S. agri­cul­tur­al food sup­ply by deliv­er­ing pro­tec­tive genes to plants via insects, which are respon­si­ble for the trans­mis­sion of most plant virus­es” and to ensure “food secu­ri­ty in the event of a major threat,” accord­ing to both DARPA and media reports

How­ev­er, a group of well-respect­ed, inde­pen­dent sci­en­tists revealed in a scathing analy­sis of the pro­gram that, far from a “defen­sive” research project, the Insect Allies pro­gram was aimed at cre­at­ing and deliv­er­ing “new class of bio­log­i­cal weapon.” The sci­en­tists, writ­ing in the jour­nal Sci­ence and led by Richard Guy Reeves, from the Max Planck Insti­tute for Evo­lu­tion­ary Biol­o­gy in Ger­many, warned that DARPA’s pro­gram — which uses insects as the vehi­cle for as hor­i­zon­tal envi­ron­men­tal genet­ic alter­ation agents (HEGAAS) — revealed “an inten­tion to devel­op a means of deliv­ery of HEGAAs for offen­sive pur­pos­es (empha­sis added).”

What­ev­er the real moti­va­tion behind the Pentagon’s sud­den and recent con­cern about bats being used as a vehi­cle for bioweapons, the U.S. mil­i­tary has spent mil­lions of dol­lars over the past sev­er­al years fund­ing research on bats, the dead­ly virus­es they can har­bor — includ­ing coro­n­avirus­es — and how those virus­es are trans­mit­ted from bats to humans. 

For instance, DARPA spent $10 mil­lion on one project in 2018 “to unrav­el the com­plex caus­es of bat-borne virus­es that have recent­ly made the jump to humans, caus­ing con­cern among glob­al health offi­cials.” Anoth­er research project backed by both DARPA and NIH saw researchers at Col­orado State Uni­ver­si­ty exam­ine the coro­n­avirus that caus­es Mid­dle East Res­pi­ra­to­ry Syn­drome (MERS) in bats and camels “to under­stand the role of these hosts in trans­mit­ting dis­ease to humans.” Oth­er U.S. mil­i­tary-fund­ed stud­ies, dis­cussed in detail lat­er in this report, dis­cov­ered sev­er­al new strains of nov­el coro­n­avirus­es car­ried by bats, both with­in Chi­na and in coun­tries bor­der­ing Chi­na.

Many of these recent research projects are relat­ed to DARPA’s Pre­vent­ing Emerg­ing Path­o­gen­ic Threats, or PREEMPT pro­gram, which was offi­cial­ly announced in April 2018. PREEMPT focus­es specif­i­cal­ly on ani­mal reser­voirs of dis­ease, specif­i­cal­ly bats, and DARPA even not­ed in its press release in the pro­gram that it “is aware of biosafe­ty and biose­cu­ri­ty sen­si­tiv­i­ties that could arise” due to the nature of the research. 

DARPA’s announce­ment for PREEMPT came just a few months after the U.S. gov­ern­ment decid­ed to con­tro­ver­sial­ly end a mora­to­ri­um on so-called “gain-of-func­tion” stud­ies involv­ing dan­ger­ous pathogens. VICE News explained “gain-of-func­tion” stud­ies as fol­lows:

“Known as ‘gain-of-func­tion’ stud­ies, this type of research is osten­si­bly about try­ing to stay one step ahead of nature. By mak­ing super-virus­es that are more path­o­gen­ic and eas­i­ly trans­mis­si­ble, sci­en­tists are able to study the way these virus­es may evolve and how genet­ic changes affect the way a virus inter­acts with its host. Using this infor­ma­tion, the sci­en­tists can try to pre-empt the nat­ur­al emer­gence of these traits by devel­op­ing antivi­ral med­ica­tions that are capa­ble of staving off a pan­dem­ic (empha­sis added).”

In addi­tion, while both DARPA’s PREEMPT pro­gram and the Pentagon’s open inter­est in bats as bioweapons were announced in 2018, the U.S. mil­i­tary — specif­i­cal­ly the Depart­ment of Defense’s Coop­er­a­tive Threat Reduc­tion Pro­gram — began fund­ing research involv­ing bats and dead­ly pathogens, includ­ing the coro­n­avirus­es MERS and SARS, a year pri­or in 2017. One of those stud­ies focused on “Bat-Borne Zoonot­ic Dis­ease Emer­gence in West­ern Asia” and involved the Lugar Cen­ter in Geor­gia, iden­ti­fied by for­mer Geor­gian gov­ern­ment offi­cialsthe Russ­ian gov­ern­ment and inde­pen­dent, inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist Dilyana Gay­tandzhie­va as a covert U.S. bioweapons lab.

It is also impor­tant to point out the fact that the U.S. military’s key lab­o­ra­to­ries involv­ing the study of dead­ly pathogens, includ­ing coro­n­avirus­es, Ebo­la and oth­ers, was sud­den­ly shut down last July after the Cen­ter for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion (CDC) iden­ti­fied major “biosafe­ty laps­es” at the facil­i­ty

The U.S. Army Med­ical Research Insti­tute of Infec­tious Dis­eases (USAMRIID) facil­i­ty at Fort Det­rick, Mary­land — the U.S. military’s lead lab­o­ra­to­ry for “bio­log­i­cal defense” research since the late 1960s — was forced to halt all research it was con­duct­ing with a series of dead­ly pathogens after the CDC found that it lacked “suf­fi­cient sys­tems in place to decon­t­a­m­i­nate waste­water” from its high­est-secu­ri­ty labs and fail­ure of staff to fol­low safe­ty pro­ce­dures, among oth­er laps­es. The facil­i­ty con­tains both lev­el 3 and lev­el 4 biosafe­ty labs. While it is unknown if exper­i­ments involv­ing coro­n­avirus­es were ongo­ing at the time, USAMRIID has recent­ly been involved in research borne out of the Pentagon’s recent con­cern about the use of bats as bioweapons.

The deci­sion to shut down USAMRIID gar­nered sur­pris­ing­ly lit­tle media cov­er­age, as did the CDC’s sur­pris­ing deci­sion to allow the trou­bled facil­i­ty to “par­tial­ly resume” research late last Novem­ber even though the facil­i­ty was and is still not at “full oper­a­tional capa­bil­i­ty.” The USAMRIID’s prob­lem­at­ic record of safe­ty at such facil­i­ties is of par­tic­u­lar con­cern in light of the recent coro­n­avirus out­break in Chi­na. As this report will soon reveal, this is because USAMRIID has a decades-old and close part­ner­ship with the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wuhan’s Insti­tute of Med­ical Virol­o­gy, which is locat­ed in the epi­cen­ter of the cur­rent out­break.

THE PENTAGON IN WUHAN?

Beyond the U.S. military’s recent expen­di­tures on and inter­est in the use of bats of bioweapons, it is also worth exam­in­ing the recent stud­ies the mil­i­tary has fund­ed regard­ing bats and “nov­el coro­n­avirus­es,” such as that behind the recent out­break, that have tak­en place with­in or in close prox­im­i­ty to Chi­na.

For instance, one study con­duct­ed in South­ern Chi­na in 2018 result­ed in the dis­cov­ery of 89 new “nov­el bat coro­n­avirus” strains that use the same recep­tor as the coro­n­avirus known as Mid­dle East Res­pi­ra­to­ry Syn­drome (MERS). That study was joint­ly fund­ed by the Chi­nese government’s Min­istry of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­o­gy, USAID — an orga­ni­za­tion long alleged to be a front for U.S. intel­li­gence, and the U.S. Nation­al Insti­tute of Health — which has col­lab­o­rat­ed with both the CIA and the Pen­ta­gon on infec­tious dis­ease and bioweapons research.

The authors of the study also sequenced the com­plete genomes for two of those strains and also not­ed that exist­ing MERS vac­cines would be inef­fec­tive in tar­get­ing these virus­es, lead­ing them to sug­gest that one should be devel­oped in advance. This did not occur.

Anoth­er U.S. gov­ern­ment-fund­ed study that dis­cov­ered still more new strains of “nov­el bat coro­n­avirus” was pub­lished just last year. Titled “Dis­cov­ery and Char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of Nov­el Bat Coro­n­avirus Lin­eages from Kaza­khstan,” focused on “the bat fau­na of cen­tral Asia, which link Chi­na to east­ern Europe” and the nov­el bat coro­n­avirus lin­eages dis­cov­ered dur­ing the study were found to be “close­ly relat­ed to bat coro­n­avirus­es from Chi­na, France, Spain, and South Africa, sug­gest­ing that co-cir­cu­la­tion of coro­n­avirus­es is com­mon in mul­ti­ple bat species with over­lap­ping geo­graph­i­cal dis­tri­b­u­tions.” In oth­er words, the coro­n­avirus­es dis­cov­ered in this study were iden­ti­fied in bat pop­u­la­tions that migrate between Chi­na and Kaza­khstan, among oth­er coun­tries, and is close­ly relat­ed to bat coro­n­avirus­es in sev­er­al coun­tries, includ­ing Chi­na.

The study was entire­ly fund­ed by the U.S. Depart­ment of Defense, specif­i­cal­ly the Defense Threat Reduc­tion Agency (DTRA) as part of a project inves­ti­gat­ing coro­n­avirus­es sim­i­lar to MERS, such as the afore­men­tioned 2018 study. Yet, beyond the fund­ing of this 2019 study, the insti­tu­tions involved in con­duct­ing this study are also worth not­ing giv­en their own close ties to the U.S. mil­i­tary and gov­ern­ment.

The study’s authors are affil­i­at­ed with either the Kaza­khstan-based Research Insti­tute for Bio­log­i­cal Safe­ty Prob­lems and/or Duke Uni­ver­si­ty. The Research Insti­tute for Bio­log­i­cal Safe­ty Prob­lems, though offi­cial­ly a part of Kazakhstan’s Nation­al Cen­ter for Biotech­nol­o­gy, has received mil­lions from the U.S. gov­ern­ment, most of it com­ing from the Pentagon’s Coop­er­a­tive Threat Reduc­tion Pro­gram. It is the Kaza­khstan government’s offi­cial depos­i­to­ry of “high­ly dan­ger­ous ani­mal and bird infec­tions, with a col­lec­tion of 278 path­o­gen­ic strains of 46 infec­tious dis­eases.” It is part of a net­work of Pen­ta­gon-fund­ed “bioweapons labs” through­out the Cen­tral Asian coun­try, which bor­ders both of the U.S.’ top rival states — Chi­na and Rus­sia.

Duke University’s involve­ment with this study is also inter­est­ing giv­en that Duke is a key part­ner of DARPA’s Pan­dem­ic Pre­ven­tion Plat­form (P3) pro­gram, which offi­cial­ly aims “to dra­mat­i­cal­ly accel­er­ate dis­cov­ery, inte­gra­tion, pre-clin­i­cal test­ing, and man­u­fac­tur­ing of med­ical coun­ter­mea­sures against infec­tious dis­eases.” The first step of the Duke/DARPA pro­gram involves the dis­cov­ery of poten­tial­ly threat­en­ing virus­es and “develop[ing] meth­ods to sup­port viral prop­a­ga­tion, so that virus can be used for down­stream stud­ies.”

Duke Uni­ver­si­ty is also joint­ly part­nered with China’s Wuhan Uni­ver­si­ty, which is based in the city where the cur­rent coro­n­avirus out­break began, which result­ed in the open­ing of the Chi­na-based Duke Kun­shan Uni­ver­si­ty (DKU) in 2018. Notably, China’s Wuhan Uni­ver­si­ty — in addi­tion to its part­ner­ship with Duke — also includes a mul­ti-lab Insti­tute of Med­ical Virol­o­gy that has worked close­ly with the US Army Med­ical Research Insti­tute for Infec­tious Dis­eases since the 1980s, accord­ing to its web­site. As pre­vi­ous­ly not­ed, the USAMRIID facil­i­ty in the U.S. was shut down last July for fail­ures to abide by biosafe­ty and prop­er waste dis­pos­al pro­ce­dures, but was allowed to par­tial­ly resume some exper­i­ments late last Novem­ber.

THE PENTAGON’S DARK HISTORY OF GERM WARFARE

The U.S. mil­i­tary has a trou­bling past of hav­ing used dis­ease as a weapon dur­ing times of war. One exam­ple involved the U.S.’ use of germ war­fare dur­ing the Kore­an War, when it tar­get­ed both North Korea and Chi­na by drop­ping dis­eased insects and voles car­ry­ing a vari­ety of pathogens — includ­ing bubon­ic plague and hem­or­rhag­ic fever — from planes in the mid­dle of the night. Despite the moun­tain of evi­dence and the tes­ti­mo­ny of U.S. sol­diers involved in that pro­gram, the U.S. gov­ern­ment and mil­i­tary denied the claims and ordered the destruc­tion of rel­e­vant doc­u­men­ta­tion.

In the post World War II era, oth­er exam­ples of U.S. research aimed at devel­op­ing bio­log­i­cal weapons have emerged, some of which have recent­ly received media atten­tion. One such exam­ple occurred this past July, when the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives demand­ed infor­ma­tion from the U.S. mil­i­tary on its past efforts to weaponize insects and Lyme dis­ease between 1950 and 1975.

The U.S. has claimed that it has not pur­sued offen­sive bio­log­i­cal weapons since 1969 and this has been fur­ther sup­port­ed by the U.S.’ rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the Bio­log­i­cal Weapons Con­ven­tion (BWC), which went into effect in 1975. How­ev­er, there is exten­sive evi­dence that the U.S. has con­tin­ued to covert­ly research and devel­op such weapons in the years since, much of it con­duct­ed abroad and out­sourced to pri­vate com­pa­nies, yet still fund­ed by the U.S. mil­i­tary. Sev­er­al inves­ti­ga­tors, includ­ing Dilyana Gay­tandzhie­va, have doc­u­ment­ed how the U.S. pro­duces dead­ly virus­es, bac­te­ria and oth­er tox­ins at facil­i­ties out­side of the U.S. — many of them in East­ern Europe, Africa and South Asia — in clear vio­la­tion of the BWC.

Aside from the military’s own research, the con­tro­ver­sial neo­con­ser­v­a­tive think tank, the now defunct Project for a New Amer­i­can Cen­tu­ry (PNAC), open­ly pro­mot­ed the use of a race-spe­cif­ic genet­i­cal­ly mod­i­fied bioweapon as a “polit­i­cal­ly use­ful tool.” In what is arguably the think tank’s most con­tro­ver­sial doc­u­ment, titled “Rebuild­ing America’s Defens­es,” there are a few pas­sages that open­ly dis­cuss the util­i­ty of bioweapons, includ­ing the fol­low­ing sen­tences:

“…com­bat like­ly will take place in new dimen­sions: in space, “cyber-space,” and per­haps the world of microbes…advanced forms of bio­log­i­cal war­fare that can “tar­get” spe­cif­ic geno­types may trans­form bio­log­i­cal war­fare from the realm of ter­ror to a polit­i­cal­ly use­ful tool.”

Though numer­ous mem­bers of PNAC were promi­nent in the George W. Bush admin­is­tra­tion, many of its more con­tro­ver­sial mem­bers have again risen to polit­i­cal promi­nence in the Trump admin­is­tra­tion.

Sev­er­al years after “Rebuild­ing America’s Defens­es” was pub­lished, the U.S. Air Force pub­lished a doc­u­ment enti­tled “Biotech­nol­o­gy: Genet­i­cal­ly Engi­neered Pathogens,” which con­tains the fol­low­ing pas­sage:

“The JASON group, com­posed of aca­d­e­m­ic sci­en­tists, served as tech­ni­cal advis­ers to the U. S. gov­ern­ment. Their study gen­er­at­ed six broad class­es of genet­i­cal­ly engi­neered pathogens that could pose seri­ous threats to soci­ety. These include but are not lim­it­ed to bina­ry bio­log­i­cal weapons, design­er genes, gene ther­a­py as a weapon, stealth virus­es, host-swap­ping dis­eases, and design­er dis­eases (empha­sis added).”

Con­cerns about Pen­ta­gon exper­i­ments with bio­log­i­cal weapons have gar­nered renewed media atten­tion, par­tic­u­lar­ly after it was revealed in 2017 that DARPA was the top fun­der of the con­tro­ver­sial “gene dri­ve” tech­nol­o­gy, which has the pow­er to per­ma­nent­ly alter the genet­ics of entire pop­u­la­tions while tar­get­ing oth­ers for extinc­tion. At least two of DARPA’s stud­ies using this con­tro­ver­sial tech­nol­o­gy were clas­si­fied and “focused on the poten­tial mil­i­tary appli­ca­tion of gene dri­ve tech­nol­o­gy and use of gene dri­ves in agri­cul­ture,” accord­ing to media reports.

The rev­e­la­tion came after an orga­ni­za­tion called the ETC Group obtained over 1,000 emails on the military’s inter­est in the tech­nol­o­gy as part of a Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act (FOIA) request. Co-direc­tor of the ETC Group Jim Thomas said that this tech­nol­o­gy may be used as a bio­log­i­cal weapon:

“Gene dri­ves are a pow­er­ful and dan­ger­ous new tech­nol­o­gy and poten­tial bio­log­i­cal weapons could have dis­as­trous impacts on peace, food secu­ri­ty and the envi­ron­ment, espe­cial­ly if mis­used, The fact that gene dri­ve devel­op­ment is now being pri­mar­i­ly fund­ed and struc­tured by the US mil­i­tary rais­es alarm­ing ques­tions about this entire field.”

Though the exact moti­va­tion behind the military’s inter­est in such tech­nol­o­gy is unknown, the Pen­ta­gon has been open about the fact that it is devot­ing much of its resources towards the con­tain­ment of what it con­sid­ers the two great­est threats to U.S. mil­i­tary hege­mo­ny: Rus­sia and Chi­na. Chi­na has been cit­ed as the great­est threat of the two by sev­er­al Pen­ta­gon offi­cials, includ­ing John Rood, the Pentagon’s top advis­er for defense pol­i­cy, who described Chi­na as the great­est threat to “our way of life in the Unit­ed States” at the Aspen Secu­ri­ty Forum last July.

Since the Pen­ta­gon began “redesign­ing” its poli­cies and research towards a “long war” with Rus­sia and Chi­na, the Russ­ian mil­i­tary has accused the U.S. mil­i­tary of har­vest­ing DNA from Rus­sians as part of a covert bioweapon pro­gram, a charge that the Pen­ta­gon has adamant­ly denied. Major Gen­er­al Igor Kir­illov, the head of the Russ­ian military’s radi­a­tion, chem­i­cal and bio­log­i­cal pro­tec­tion unit who made these claims, also assert­ed that the U.S. was devel­op­ing such weapons in close prox­im­i­ty to Russ­ian and Chi­nese bor­ders. 

Chi­na has also accused the U.S. mil­i­tary of har­vest­ing DNA from Chi­nese cit­i­zens with ill inten­tions, such as when 200,000 Chi­nese farm­ers were used in 12 genet­ic exper­i­ments with­out informed con­sent. Those exper­i­ments had been con­duct­ed by Har­vard researchers as part of a U.S. gov­ern­ment-fund­ed project.

Darpa and Its Part­ners Cho­sen to Devel­op Coro­n­avirus Vac­cine

Last Thurs­day, the Coali­tion for Epi­dem­ic Pre­pared­ness Inno­va­tions (CEPI) announced that it would fund three sep­a­rate pro­grams in order to pro­mote the devel­op­ment of a vac­cine for the new coro­n­avirus respon­si­ble for the cur­rent out­break.

CEPI — which describes itself as “a part­ner­ship of pub­lic, pri­vate, phil­an­thropic and civ­il orga­ni­za­tions that will finance and co-ordi­nate the devel­op­ment of vac­cines against high pri­or­i­ty pub­lic health threats” — was found­ed in 2017 by the gov­ern­ments of Nor­way and India along with the World Eco­nom­ic Forum and the Bill and Melin­da Gates Foun­da­tion. Its mas­sive fund­ing and close con­nec­tions to pub­lic, pri­vate and non-prof­it orga­ni­za­tions have posi­tioned it to be able to finance the rapid cre­ation of vac­cines and wide­ly dis­trib­ute them.

CEPI’s recent announce­ment revealed that it would fund two phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies — Inovio Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and Mod­er­na Inc. — as well as Australia’s Uni­ver­si­ty of Queens­land, which became a part­ner of CEPI ear­ly last year. Notably, the two phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies cho­sen have close ties to and/or strate­gic part­ner­ships with DARPA and are devel­op­ing vac­cines that con­tro­ver­sial­ly involve genet­ic mate­r­i­al and/or gene edit­ing. The Uni­ver­si­ty of Queens­land also has ties to DARPA, but those ties are not relat­ed to the university’s biotech­nol­o­gy research, but instead engi­neer­ing and mis­sile devel­op­ment.

For instance, the top fun­ders of Inovio Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals include both DARPA and the Pentagon’s Defense Threat Reduc­tion Agency (DTRA) and the com­pa­ny has received mil­lions in dol­lars in grants from DARPA, includ­ing a $45 mil­lion grant to devel­op a vac­cine for Ebo­la. Inovio spe­cial­izes in the cre­ation of DNA immunother­a­pies and DNA vac­cines, which con­tain genet­i­cal­ly engi­neered DNA that caus­es the cells of the recip­i­ent to pro­duce an anti­gen and can per­ma­nent­ly alter a person’s DNA. Inovio pre­vi­ous­ly devel­oped a DNA vac­cine for the Zika virus, but — to date — no DNA vac­cine has been approved for use in humans in the Unit­ed States. Inovio was also recent­ly award­ed over $8 mil­lion from the U.S. mil­i­tary to devel­op a small, portable intra­der­mal device for deliv­er­ing DNA vac­cines joint­ly devel­oped by Inovio and USAMRIID.

How­ev­er, the CEPI grant to com­bat coro­n­avirus may change that, as it specif­i­cal­ly funds Inovio’s efforts to con­tin­ue devel­op­ing its DNA vac­cine for the coro­n­avirus that caus­es MERS. Inovio’s MERS vac­cine pro­gram began in 2018 in part­ner­ship with CEPI in a deal worth $56 mil­lion. The vac­cine cur­rent­ly under devel­op­ment uses“Inovio’s DNA Med­i­cines plat­form to deliv­er opti­mized syn­thet­ic anti­genic genes into cells, where they are trans­lat­ed into pro­tein anti­gens that acti­vate an individual’s immune sys­tem” and the pro­gram is part­nered with U.S. Army Med­ical Research Insti­tute of Infec­tious Dis­eases (USAMRIID) and the NIH, among oth­ers. That pro­gram is cur­rent­ly under­go­ing test­ing in the Mid­dle East.

Inovio’s col­lab­o­ra­tion with the U.S. mil­i­tary in regards to DNA vac­cines is noth­ing new, as their past efforts to devel­op a DNA vac­cine for both Ebo­la and Mar­burg virus were also part of what Inovio’s CEO Dr. Joseph Kim called its “active biode­fense pro­gram” that has “gar­nered mul­ti­ple grants from the Depart­ment of Defense, Defense Threat Reduc­tion Agency (DTRA), Nation­al Insti­tute of Aller­gy and Infec­tious Dis­eases (NIAID), and oth­er gov­ern­ment agen­cies.”

CEPI’s inter­est in increas­ing its sup­port to this MERS-spe­cif­ic pro­gram seems at odds with its claim that doing so will com­bat the cur­rent coro­n­avirus out­break, since MERS and the nov­el coro­n­avirus in ques­tion are not anal­o­gous and treat­ments for cer­tain coro­n­avirus­es have been shown to be inef­fec­tive against oth­er strains.

It is also worth not­ing that Inovio Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals was the only com­pa­ny select­ed by CEPI with direct access to the Chi­nese phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal mar­ket through its part­ner­ship with China’s Apol­lo­Bio Corp., which cur­rent­ly has an exclu­sive license to sell Inovio-made DNA immunother­a­py prod­ucts to Chi­nese cus­tomers.

The sec­ond phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­ny that was select­ed by CEPI to devel­op a vac­cine for the new coro­n­avirus is Mod­er­na Inc., which will devel­op a vac­cine for the nov­el coro­n­avirus of con­cern in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the U.S. NIH and which will be fund­ed entire­ly by CEPI. The vac­cine in ques­tion, as opposed to Inovio’s DNA vac­cine, will be a mes­sen­ger RNA (mRNA) vac­cine. Though dif­fer­ent than a DNA vac­cine, mRNA vac­cines still use genet­ic mate­r­i­al “to direct the body’s cells to pro­duce intra­cel­lu­lar, mem­brane or secret­ed pro­teins.”

Moderna’s mRNA treat­ments, includ­ing its mRNA vac­cines, were large­ly devel­oped using a $25 mil­lion grant from DARPA and it often touts is strate­gic alliance with DARPA in press releas­es. Moderna’s past and ongo­ing research efforts have includ­ed devel­op­ing mRNA vac­cines tai­lored to an individual’s unique DNA as well as an unsuc­cess­ful effort to cre­ate a mRNA vac­cine for the Zika Virus, which was fund­ed by the U.S. gov­ern­ment.

Both DNA and mRNA vac­cines involve the intro­duc­tion of for­eign and engi­neered genet­ic mate­r­i­al into a person’s cells and past stud­ies have found that such vac­cines “pos­sess sig­nif­i­cant unpre­dictabil­i­ty and a num­ber of inher­ent harm­ful poten­tial haz­ards” and that “there is inad­e­quate knowl­edge to define either the prob­a­bil­i­ty of unin­tend­ed events or the con­se­quences of genet­ic mod­i­fi­ca­tions.” Nonethe­less, the cli­mate of fear sur­round­ing the coro­n­avirus out­break could be enough for the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tor to devel­op and dis­trib­ute such con­tro­ver­sial treat­ments due to fear about the epi­dem­ic poten­tial of the cur­rent out­break.

How­ev­er, the ther­a­pies being devel­oped by Inovio, Mod­ern and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Queens­land are in align­ment with DARPA’s objec­tives regard­ing gene edit­ing and vac­cine tech­nol­o­gy. For instance, in 2015, DARPA geneti­cist Col. Daniel Wat­ten­dorf described how the agency was inves­ti­gat­ing a “new method of vac­cine pro­duc­tion [that] would involve giv­ing the body instruc­tions for mak­ing cer­tain anti­bod­ies. Because the body would be its own biore­ac­tor, the vac­cine could be pro­duced much faster than tra­di­tion­al meth­ods and the result would be a high­er lev­el of pro­tec­tion.”

Accord­ing to media reports on Wattendorf’s state­ments at the time, the vac­cine would be devel­oped as fol­lows:

“Sci­en­tists would har­vest viral anti­bod­ies from some­one who has recov­ered from a dis­ease such as flu or Ebo­la. After test­ing the anti­bod­ies’ abil­i­ty to neu­tral­ize virus­es in a petri dish, they would iso­late the most effec­tive one, deter­mine the genes need­ed to make that anti­body, and then encode many copies of those genes into a cir­cu­lar snip­pet of genet­ic mate­r­i­al — either DNA or RNA, that the person’s body would then use as a cook­book to assem­ble the anti­body.”

Though Wat­ten­dorf assert­ed that the effects of those vac­cines wouldn’t be per­ma­nent, DARPA has since been pro­mot­ing per­ma­nent gene mod­i­fi­ca­tions as a means of pro­tect­ing U.S. troops from bio­log­i­cal weapons and infec­tious dis­ease. “Why is DARPA doing this? [To] pro­tect a sol­dier on the bat­tle­field from chem­i­cal weapons and bio­log­i­cal weapons by con­trol­ling their genome — hav­ing the genome pro­duce pro­teins that would auto­mat­i­cal­ly pro­tect the sol­dier from the inside out,” then-DARPA direc­tor Steve Walk­er (now with Lock­heed Mar­tin) said this past Sep­tem­ber of the project, known as “Safe Genes.”

Con­clu­sion

Research con­duct­ed by the Pen­ta­gon, and DARPA specif­i­cal­ly, has con­tin­u­al­ly raised con­cerns, not just in the field of bioweapons and biotech­nol­o­gy, but also in the fields of nan­otech­nol­o­gy, robot­ics and sev­er­al oth­ers. DARPA, for instance, has been devel­op­ing a series of unset­tling research projects that ranges from microchips that can cre­ate and delete mem­o­ries from the human brain to vot­ing machine soft­ware that is rife with prob­lems.

Now, as fear regard­ing the cur­rent coro­n­avirus out­break begins to peak, com­pa­nies with direct ties to DARPA have been tasked with devel­op­ing its vac­cine, the long-term human and envi­ron­men­tal impacts of which are unknown and will remain unknown by the time the vac­cine is expect­ed to go to mar­ket . . . .

Fur­ther­more, DARPA and the Pentagon’s past his­to­ry with bioweapons and their more recent exper­i­ments on genet­ic alter­ation and extinc­tion tech­nolo­gies as well as bats and coro­n­avirus­es in prox­im­i­ty to Chi­na have been large­ly left out of the nar­ra­tive, despite the infor­ma­tion being pub­licly avail­able. Also left out of the media nar­ra­tive have been the direct ties of both the USAMRIID and DARPA-part­nered Duke Uni­ver­si­ty to the city of Wuhan, includ­ing its Insti­tute of Med­ical Virol­o­gy.

Though much about the ori­gins of the coro­n­avirus out­break remains unknown, the U.S. military’s ties to the afore­men­tioned research stud­ies and research insti­tu­tions are worth detail­ing as such research — while jus­ti­fied in the name of “nation­al secu­ri­ty” — has the fright­en­ing poten­tial to result in unin­tend­ed, yet world-alter­ing con­se­quences. The lack of trans­paren­cy about this research, such as DARPA’s deci­sion to clas­si­fy its con­tro­ver­sial genet­ic extinc­tion research and the technology’s use as a weapon of war, com­pounds these con­cerns. While it is impor­tant to avoid reck­less spec­u­la­tion as much as pos­si­ble, it is the opin­ion of this author that the infor­ma­tion in this report is in the pub­lic inter­est and that read­ers should use this infor­ma­tion to reach their own con­clu­sions about the top­ics dis­cussed here­in.

2. The pro­gram con­cludes with a sum­ma­ry of six pan­demics that struck Chi­na with­in a peri­od of a lit­tle less than two years. Are these con­nect­ed to the many-faceted desta­bi­liza­tion of Chi­na dis­cussed in past pro­grams and/or the research pro­grams high­light­ed in the Whit­ney Webb arti­cle?: 

“Chi­na’s Coro­n­avirus: A Shock­ing Update. Did the Virus Orig­i­nate in the U.S.?” by Lar­ry Romanoff; Glob­al Research; 3/04/2020.

. . . . In the past two years (dur­ing the trade war) Chi­na has suf­fered sev­er­al pan­demics:

  • Feb­ru­ary 15, 2018: H7N4 bird flu. Sick­ened at least 1,600 peo­ple in Chi­na and killed more than 600. Many chick­ens killed. Chi­na needs to pur­chase US poul­try prod­ucts.
  • June, 2018: H7N9 bird flu. Many chick­ens killed. Chi­na needs to pur­chase US poul­try prod­ucts.
  • August, 2018: out­break of African swine flu. Same strain as Rus­sia, from Geor­gia. Mil­lions of pigs killed. Chi­na needs to pur­chase US pork prod­ucts.
  • May 24, 2019: mas­sive infes­ta­tion of army­worms in 14 province-lev­el regions in Chi­na, which destroy most food crops. Quick­ly spread to more than 8,500 hectares of China’s grain pro­duc­tion. They pro­duce aston­ish­ing num­bers of eggs. Chi­na needs to pur­chase US agri­cul­tur­al prod­ucts – corn, soy­beans.
  • Decem­ber, 2019: Coro­n­avirus appear­ance puts China’s econ­o­my on hold.
  • Jan­u­ary, 2020:Chi­na is hit by a “high­ly path­o­gen­ic” strain of bird flu in Hunan province. Many chick­ens died, many oth­ers killed. Chi­na needs to pur­chase US poul­try prod­ucts.

Discussion

11 comments for “FTR #1119 and FTR #1120 DARPA and the Covid-19 Outbreak, Part 1 and DARPA and the Covid-19 Outbreak, Part 2”

  1. Here’s a a New York Times arti­cle from 2015 that touch­es upon the top­ics of DNA-based vac­cines ref­er­enced in Whit­ney Web­b’s arti­cle about DARPA exper­i­ments and bioweapons. The arti­cle describes the emerg­ing new approach for vac­ci­na­tions called immuno­pro­phy­lax­is by gene trans­fer, or I.G.T., that are being devel­oped in part­ner­ship with the US’s Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health (NIH). The tech­nique involves basi­cal­ly cre­at­ing a retro­virus that encodes for anti­bod­ies, inject­ing that virus into the mus­cles of indi­vid­u­als, and allow­ing the virus to incor­po­rate its DNA into the genome of those mus­cle cells. The incor­po­rat­ed DNA results in those select­ed anti­bod­ies being cre­at­ed by the mus­cles. Per­ma­nent­ly. Or at least as long as those mus­cle cells live (skele­tal mus­cles cells live 10–16 years). It’s a poten­tial­ly pow­er­ful approach to vac­cines but it’s also obvi­ous­ly going to cause alarm since it involves inject­ing new DNA into the genomes of some­one’s cells. The hope is that this tech­nol­o­gy could avoid some of the com­pli­ca­tions found with devel­op­ing vac­cines for virus­es that come in a wide vari­ety of strains and have defied tra­di­tion­al vac­cine approach­es, like HIV. Instead of expos­ing the body’s immune sys­tem to a virus and hop­ing that prompts the body to cre­ate the required anti­bod­ies and con­fer immu­ni­ty for the indi­vid­ual as is the case with tra­di­tion­al vac­cines, thie I.G.T. approach allows the intro­duc­tion of pow­er­ful anti­bod­ies that are known to act against a broad array of viral strains. The idea for I.G.T. was report­ed­ly devel­oped by researchers work­ing on an HIV vac­cine who dis­cov­ered these pow­er­ful anti­bod­ies that could work against a vari­ety of HIV strains. So the hope is that sim­i­lar tech­niques can be applied to oth­er viral dis­eases.

    Now, it’s impor­tant to note that we’re not talk­ing about alter­ing the DNA of every sin­gle cell in some­one’s body using this I.G.T. tech­nique. It should just be the mus­cle cells that the virus is inject­ed into (or what­ev­er tis­sue). So these mod­i­fi­ca­tions should­n’t, in the­o­ry, be passed along to chil­dren and per­ma­nent­ly alter the DNA of the pop­u­la­tion. That would required alter­ing the DNA of men’s testis and/or the eggs in wom­en’s ovaries. Still, those mod­i­fied mus­cle cells are going to be gen­er­at­ing the new pro­teins that can get dis­trib­uted in the blood­stream through­out the body so it’s not like this isn’t a tech­nol­o­gy with plen­ty of scary sci-fi dystopia poten­tial if abused. That’s the key fac­tor here, as with all tech­nol­o­gy: it’s poten­tial­ly pow­er­ful and wondrous...but it also obvi­ous­ly could be abused and be extreme­ly pow­er­ful of abused. Imag­ine releas­ing an infec­tious retro­virus with a design­er DNA pay­load.

    And since we’re talk­ing about a tech­nol­o­gy that would pre­sum­ably be on vir­tu­al­ly every­one, poten­tial­ly at a very young age, it’s also the kind of tech­nol­o­gy where mis­takes could be poten­tial­ly dis­as­trous, as is already the case with tra­di­tion­al vac­cine tech­nol­o­gy. Now, in the­o­ry, if we dis­cov­ered that the gene insert­ed by the I.G.T ther­a­py has unknown side-effects and we want to remove that insert­ed gene that should be even­tu­al­ly pos­si­ble, espe­cial­ly with the emer­gence of CRISPR tech­nol­o­gy. And as we’ll see in the arti­cle below, the researchers work­ing on this I.G.T. tech­nol­o­gy are also inves­ti­ga­tion how to uti­lize the reg­u­la­to­ry mech­a­nisms of mus­cles cells to either mod­i­fy the dosage lev­el of the expressed anti­body or even shut it off entire­ly.
    It’s also impor­tant to note that while Web­b’s arti­cle talks about DARPA pro­grams done with com­pa­nies like Inovio to devel­op vac­cines that can per­ma­nent­ly alter a per­son­’s DNA, the par­tic­u­lar vac­cine Inovio is report­ed­ly devel­op­ing for use against the COVID-19 virus — the INO-4800 vac­cine — is indeed a DNA vac­cine but it does­n’t appear to be the type of DNA vac­cine that per­ma­nent­ly alters some­one’s DNA. Instead, it relies on cre­at­ing plas­mids — enclosed rings of DNA — with the desired anti­body genes and inject­ing them into cells. Like with the I.G.T. method, the genes encod­ed in those plas­mids will, in the­o­ry, get expressed by the cells and pro­duce the desired anti­body (or the desired pro­tein that con­tains pieces of a virus that spark an immune response). But the nov­el genes aren’t actu­al­ly incor­po­rat­ed into the genomes of those cells. Even­tu­al­ly the plas­mid will be degrad­ed by the cell and that will be the end of the nov­el gene pro­duc­tion for that cell. So plas­mid-based DNA vac­cines are like a tem­po­rary addi­tion of a new set of genes to cells.

    Sim­i­lar­ly, the mRNA vac­cines being devel­oped, like the COVID-19 vac­cine Mod­er­na is plan­ning on test­ing on humans, should only cause cells to tem­porar­i­ly gen­er­ate the genes encod­ed by the mRNA vac­cine. And those genes encod­ed by the mRNA vac­cine are typ­i­cal­ly going to be genes for the pro­tein that con­tains the tar­get viral anti­gen (the piece of the virus that gets rec­og­nized by the immune sys­tem and trig­gers an immune response), so mRNA vac­cines are much more like tra­di­tion­al vac­cines. The mRNA vac­cines are by far the least con­tro­ver­sial tech­nol­o­gy in this emerg­ing area sim­ply because they are going to be even more tran­sient than the plas­mids. Of course, some­one could in the­o­ry cre­ate an mRNA vac­cine or DNA plas­mid that encodes the genes that do actu­al­ly incor­po­rate the insert­ed genet­ic infor­ma­tion into a cel­l’s genome, effec­tive­ly turn­ing them into I.G.T. treat­ments. So these tech­nolo­gies aren’t nec­es­sar­i­ly only going to func­tion tem­porar­i­ly inside a cell. If some­one want­ed to make them per­ma­nent they pre­sum­ably could do so, but it would at least be detectable since the mRNA or plas­mid would have to con­tain the genes for incor­po­rat­ing the pay­load into a cel­l’s genome. It could­n’t real­ly done in secret (although that secret might only be dis­cov­ered after the fact).

    Thus far, there don’t appear to be calls for using I.G.T. tech­nol­o­gy on COVID-19. That’s not a sur­prise. It’s still very new tech­nol­o­gy and inevitably far more con­tro­ver­sial than the plas­mid-based DNA or mRNA vac­cines. But it’s only a mat­ter of time before I.G.T. tech­nol­o­gy becomes a read­i­ly avail­able option for future pan­demics. And don’t for­get that key fea­ture of this tech­nol­o­gy that’s going to make it par­tic­u­lar­ly appeal­ing for deal­ing with nov­el viral out­breaks: the abil­i­ty to intro­duce anti­bod­ies known to be broad­ly effec­tive against a wide range of virus­es. That is pre­cise­ly what is required to deal with nov­el virus­es and some­thing tra­di­tion­al vac­cines can’t do. So this kind of tech­nol­o­gy that intro­duces nov­el genes is kind of tai­lor made for deal­ing with not just this cur­rent COVID-19 out­break but future out­breaks. Imag­ine if COVID-19 starts aggres­sive­ly mutat­ing and dif­fer­ent new strains show up year after year. That’s the kind of sit­u­a­tion where a broad­ly tar­get­ing anti­body would be ide­al. So we real­ly should expect this tech­nol­o­gy to be deployed at some point, espe­cial­ly now that the globe is going to have PTSD from the COVID-19 civ­i­liza­tion­al lock­down. Peo­ple are going to be A LOT more amenable to I.G.T. approach­es to address­ing inevitable future pan­demics once this is over. So we had bet­ter start col­lec­tive­ly think­ing about the poten­tial costs and ben­e­fits of this tech­nol­o­gy now because oth­er­wise it’s prob­a­bly going to get rolled out to the mass­es dur­ing some future pan­dem­ic pan­ic:

    The New York Times

    Pro­tec­tion With­out a Vac­cine

    By Carl Zim­mer
    March 9, 2015

    Last month, a team of sci­en­tists announced what could prove to be an enor­mous step for­ward in the fight against H.I.V.

    Sci­en­tists at Scripps Research Insti­tute said they had devel­oped an arti­fi­cial anti­body that, once in the blood, grabbed hold of the virus and inac­ti­vat­ed it. The mol­e­cule can elim­i­nate H.I.V. from infect­ed mon­keys and pro­tect them from future infec­tions.

    But this treat­ment is not a vac­cine, not in any ordi­nary sense. By deliv­er­ing syn­thet­ic genes into the mus­cles of the mon­keys, the sci­en­tists are essen­tial­ly re-engi­neer­ing the ani­mals to resist dis­ease. Researchers are test­ing this nov­el approach not just against H.I.V., but also Ebo­la, malar­ia, influen­za and hepati­tis.

    “The sky’s the lim­it,” said Michael Farzan, an immu­nol­o­gist at Scripps and lead author of the new study.

    Dr. Farzan and oth­er sci­en­tists are increas­ing­ly hope­ful that this tech­nique may be able to pro­vide long-term pro­tec­tion against dis­eases for which vac­cines have failed. The first human tri­al based on this strat­e­gy — called immuno­pro­phy­lax­is by gene trans­fer, or I.G.T. — is under­way, and sev­er­al new ones are planned.

    “It could rev­o­lu­tion­ize the way we immu­nize against pub­lic health threats in the future,” said Dr. Gary J. Nabel, the chief sci­en­tif­ic offi­cer of Sanofi, a phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­ny that pro­duces a wide range of vac­cines.

    Whether I.G.T. will suc­ceed is still an open ques­tion. Researchers still need to gauge its safe­ty and effec­tive­ness in humans. And the prospect of genet­i­cal­ly engi­neer­ing peo­ple to resist infec­tious dis­eases may raise con­cerns among patients.

    “The real­i­ty is we are touch­ing third rails, and so it’s going to take some expla­na­tion,” said Dr. David Bal­ti­more, a Nobel Prize recip­i­ent and virol­o­gist at Cal­tech who is test­ing I.G.T. against a num­ber of dis­eases.

    Con­ven­tion­al vac­cines prompt the immune sys­tem to learn how to make anti­bod­ies by intro­duc­ing it to weak­ened or dead pathogens, or even just their mol­e­c­u­lar frag­ments. Our immune cells pro­duce a range of anti­bod­ies, some of which can fight these infec­tions.

    ...

    But against oth­er dis­eases, con­ven­tion­al vac­cines often fail to pro­duce effec­tive anti­bod­ies. H.I.V., for exam­ple, comes in so many dif­fer­ent strains that a vac­cine that can pro­tect against one will not work against oth­ers.

    I.G.T. is alto­geth­er dif­fer­ent from tra­di­tion­al vac­ci­na­tion. It is instead a form of gene ther­a­py. Sci­en­tists iso­late the genes that pro­duce pow­er­ful anti­bod­ies against cer­tain dis­eases and then syn­the­size arti­fi­cial ver­sions. The genes are placed into virus­es and inject­ed into human tis­sue, usu­al­ly mus­cle.

    The virus­es invade human cells with their DNA pay­loads, and the syn­thet­ic gene is incor­po­rat­ed into the recipient’s own DNA. If all goes well, the new genes instruct the cells to begin man­u­fac­tur­ing pow­er­ful anti­bod­ies.

    The idea for I.G.T. emerged dur­ing the fight against H.I.V. In a few peo­ple, it turned out, some anti­bod­ies against H.I.V. turn out to be extreme­ly potent. So-called broad­ly neu­tral­iz­ing anti­bod­ies can latch onto many dif­fer­ent strains of the virus and keep them from infect­ing new cells.

    Dr. Philip R. John­son, chief sci­en­tif­ic offi­cer of The Children’s Hos­pi­tal of Philadel­phia and a virol­o­gist at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia, had an idea: Why not try to give broad­ly neu­tral­iz­ing anti­bod­ies to every­body?

    At the time, Dr. John­son and oth­er researchers were exper­i­ment­ing with gene ther­a­py for dis­or­ders like hemo­phil­ia. Researchers had fig­ured out how to load genes into virus­es and per­suade them to invade cells, and it occurred to Dr. John­son that he might be able to use this strat­e­gy to intro­duce the gene for a pow­er­ful anti­body into a patient’s cells.

    After the cells began pro­duc­ing anti­bod­ies, the patient in effect would be “vac­ci­nat­ed” against a dis­ease.

    The idea rep­re­sent­ed a rad­i­cal new direc­tion for gene ther­a­py. Until then, researchers had focused on cur­ing genet­ic dis­or­ders by pro­vid­ing work­ing ver­sions of defec­tive genes. I.G.T., on the oth­er hand, would pro­tect healthy peo­ple from infec­tious dis­eases.

    And there was no guar­an­tee that it would suc­ceed. For one thing, the best virus Dr. John­son had for deliv­er­ing genes worked only to invade mus­cle cells — which nor­mal­ly would nev­er make anti­bod­ies.

    In 2009, Dr. John­son and his col­leagues announced that the approach worked after all. In their exper­i­ment, they sought to pro­tect mon­keys from S.I.V., a pri­mate ver­sion of H.I.V. To do so, they used virus­es to deliv­er pow­er­ful genes to the mon­keys’ mus­cles.

    The mus­cle cells pro­duced S.I.V. anti­bod­ies, as Dr. John­son and his col­leagues had hoped. Then they infect­ed the mon­keys with S.I.V. The mon­keys pro­duced enough anti­bod­ies in their mus­cles to pro­tect them from S.I.V. infec­tions, the sci­en­tists found. With­out the I.G.T. pro­ce­dure, mon­keys dosed with the virus died.

    Dr. Johnson’s study per­suad­ed Dr. Farzan that I.G.T. has great promise. “I start­ed drink­ing the Kool-Aid,” he said. Dr. Farzan and his col­leagues have been mod­i­fy­ing H.I.V. anti­bod­ies to devel­op more potent defens­es against the virus.

    Mean­while, in 2011, Dr. Bal­ti­more and his col­leagues showed that anti­bod­ies deliv­ered into cells with virus­es could pro­tect mice against injec­tions of H.I.V., sug­gest­ing that I.G.T. could pro­tect peo­ple against H.I.V. in con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed nee­dles.

    But most H.I.V. infec­tions occur through sex. So Dr. Bal­ti­more and his col­leagues also infect­ed female mice with H.I.V. through their vagi­nal mem­branes. Last year, they report­ed that the tech­nique also pro­tect­ed mice from infec­tion in this way.

    “We’re going around the immune sys­tem, rather than try­ing to stim­u­late the immune sys­tem,” Dr. Bal­ti­more said. “So what we’re doing is pret­ty fun­da­men­tal­ly dif­fer­ent from vac­ci­na­tion, although the end result is pret­ty sim­i­lar.”

    Gary W. Ket­ner, a micro­bi­ol­o­gist at the Johns Hop­kins Bloomberg School of Pub­lic Health, was intrigued by Dr. Baltimore’s results and won­dered if I.G.T. could be mar­shaled against anoth­er major dis­ease that has elud­ed vac­cines: malar­ia.

    Dr. Ket­ner, Dr. Bal­ti­more and their col­leagues found a potent anti­body against malar­ia and used a virus to deliv­er the gene for mak­ing it into mice. Last August, they report­ed that when malar­ia-laden mos­qui­toes bit the mice, up to 80 per­cent of the treat­ed ani­mals were pro­tect­ed.

    “It is encour­ag­ing,” Dr. Ket­ner said. “It’s good for a first shot of an unproven method, but it should be bet­ter.” Now Dr. Ket­ner is search­ing for bet­ter anti­bod­ies that pro­vide more pro­tec­tion in a small­er dose.

    These exper­i­ments sug­gest that anti­bod­ies cre­at­ed by I.G.T. could help against dis­eases that have resist­ed vac­cines for decades. Oth­er stud­ies sug­gest that I.G.T. might also help against sud­den out­breaks in the future.

    Dr. James M. Wil­son, a pathol­o­gist at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia, and his col­leagues have inves­ti­gat­ed using gene ther­a­py to treat cys­tic fibro­sis by deliv­er­ing genes into the cells lin­ing patients’ air­ways. It occurred to him that many fast-spread­ing virus­es, such as influen­za and SARS, also attack the same cells.

    In 2013, Dr. Wil­son and his col­leagues report­ed that virus­es car­ry­ing anti­body genes into air­way cells can enable mice and fer­rets to fight off a wide range of flu strains. Since then, he and his col­leagues have test­ed I.G.T. against oth­er virus­es caus­ing dead­ly out­breaks — includ­ing Ebo­la.

    Dr. Wil­son and his col­leagues teamed with Mapp Bio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal, a com­pa­ny that has devel­oped an anti­body against Ebo­la called ZMapp. The sci­en­tists have syn­the­sized a gene for the ZMapp anti­body and have deliv­ered the gene into mouse mus­cles. The exper­i­ments are only in their ear­ly stages, but “we have encour­ag­ing data,” Dr. Wil­son said.

    For Dr. John­son, the grow­ing inter­est­ing in I.G.T. is grat­i­fy­ing. “It’s catch­ing on, but it’s cer­tain­ly not main­stream,” he said. That seems like­ly to change, and soon.

    Last Feb­ru­ary, Dr. John­son began the first clin­i­cal tri­al of I.G.T. in humans. His team has placed H.I.V. anti­body genes into the mus­cles of vol­un­teers to see if the treat­ment is safe. The researchers expect to fin­ish gath­er­ing the results this spring. “We’re opti­mistic. We’re hope­ful,” Dr. John­son said.

    Dr. Bal­ti­more is col­lab­o­rat­ing with the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health to start a sim­i­lar tri­al of an I.G.T.-engineered virus against H.I.V. Dr. Wil­son is prepar­ing to test I.G.T. against the flu lat­er this year.

    There is no guar­an­tee that the suc­cess­es in the ani­mal tri­als can be repli­cat­ed in humans. “Humans are not just big mice,” said Dr. Ronald G. Crys­tal, chair­man of genet­ic med­i­cine at Weill Cor­nell Med­ical Col­lege.

    Human immune sys­tems may attack the arti­fi­cial anti­bod­ies or the virus­es deliv­er­ing them, destroy­ing their pro­tec­tion. Or mus­cle cells might make too many anti­bod­ies, because they do not have the built-in reg­u­la­tion that immune cells do.

    Dr. Farzan and oth­er researchers are inves­ti­gat­ing mol­e­c­u­lar switch­es that can turn off the pro­duc­tion of anti­bod­ies, or just adjust their dose. “If we real­ly want to see this blos­som, we need reg­u­la­to­ry ‘off’ switch­es,” he said.

    Despite the lin­ger­ing con­cerns about I.G.T., Dr. Nabel says he remains opti­mistic. “There are safe­ty con­cerns that have to be addressed, but there are log­i­cal ways to approach them,” he said.

    Bioethi­cists do not fore­see major eth­i­cal hur­dles to I.G.T., because it is based on gene ther­a­py, which has been devel­oped for more than 30 years. “It doesn’t strike me as a rad­i­cal depar­ture,” said Jonathan Kim­mel­man, an asso­ciate pro­fes­sor at McGill Uni­ver­si­ty.

    Still, Dr. Bal­ti­more says that he envi­sions that some peo­ple might be leery of a vac­ci­na­tion strat­e­gy that means alter­ing their own DNA, even if it pre­vents a poten­tial­ly fatal dis­ease.

    “But my feel­ing, as a basic sci­en­tist, is that it’s our respon­si­bil­i­ty to take things into the clin­ic that we feel will make a dif­fer­ence,” he said.

    ———–

    “Pro­tec­tion With­out a Vac­cine” by Carl Zim­mer; The New York Times; 03/09/2015

    But this treat­ment is not a vac­cine, not in any ordi­nary sense. By deliv­er­ing syn­thet­ic genes into the mus­cles of the mon­keys, the sci­en­tists are essen­tial­ly re-engi­neer­ing the ani­mals to resist dis­ease. Researchers are test­ing this nov­el approach not just against H.I.V., but also Ebo­la, malar­ia, influen­za and hepati­tis.”

    It’s not a vac­cine. And kind of the oppo­site of a vac­cine. Instead of intro­duc­ing a virus or viral frag­ments into the body and let­ting the immune sys­tem do its nor­mal work, this approach actu­al­ly inserts a whole new anti­body into the genomes of tar­get cells:

    ...
    Dr. Farzan and oth­er sci­en­tists are increas­ing­ly hope­ful that this tech­nique may be able to pro­vide long-term pro­tec­tion against dis­eases for which vac­cines have failed. The first human tri­al based on this strat­e­gy — called immuno­pro­phy­lax­is by gene trans­fer, or I.G.T. — is under­way, and sev­er­al new ones are planned.

    ...

    Con­ven­tion­al vac­cines prompt the immune sys­tem to learn how to make anti­bod­ies by intro­duc­ing it to weak­ened or dead pathogens, or even just their mol­e­c­u­lar frag­ments. Our immune cells pro­duce a range of anti­bod­ies, some of which can fight these infec­tions.

    ...

    But against oth­er dis­eases, con­ven­tion­al vac­cines often fail to pro­duce effec­tive anti­bod­ies. H.I.V., for exam­ple, comes in so many dif­fer­ent strains that a vac­cine that can pro­tect against one will not work against oth­ers.

    I.G.T. is alto­geth­er dif­fer­ent from tra­di­tion­al vac­ci­na­tion. It is instead a form of gene ther­a­py. Sci­en­tists iso­late the genes that pro­duce pow­er­ful anti­bod­ies against cer­tain dis­eases and then syn­the­size arti­fi­cial ver­sions. The genes are placed into virus­es and inject­ed into human tis­sue, usu­al­ly mus­cle.

    The virus­es invade human cells with their DNA pay­loads, and the syn­thet­ic gene is incor­po­rat­ed into the recipient’s own DNA. If all goes well, the new genes instruct the cells to begin man­u­fac­tur­ing pow­er­ful anti­bod­ies.
    ...

    But it’s not sim­ply the intro­duc­tion of an anti­body gene that makes this approach so pow­er­ful. It’s that these are genes for “broad­ly neu­tral­iz­ing “anti­bod­ies that are known to act against a wide vari­ety of viral strains. That’s the game-chang­er in terms of address­ing infec­tious dis­eases like HIV that have defied tra­di­tion­al vac­cines so far. And that makes this tech­nol­o­gy it’s par­tic­u­lar­ly well-suit­ed for address both nov­el virus­es and virus­es that have yet to emerge:

    ...
    The idea for I.G.T. emerged dur­ing the fight against H.I.V. In a few peo­ple, it turned out, some anti­bod­ies against H.I.V. turn out to be extreme­ly potent. So-called broad­ly neu­tral­iz­ing anti­bod­ies can latch onto many dif­fer­ent strains of the virus and keep them from infect­ing new cells.

    Dr. Philip R. John­son, chief sci­en­tif­ic offi­cer of The Children’s Hos­pi­tal of Philadel­phia and a virol­o­gist at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia, had an idea: Why not try to give broad­ly neu­tral­iz­ing anti­bod­ies to every­body?

    ...

    These exper­i­ments sug­gest that anti­bod­ies cre­at­ed by I.G.T. could help against dis­eases that have resist­ed vac­cines for decades. Oth­er stud­ies sug­gest that I.G.T. might also help against sud­den out­breaks in the future.
    ...

    And note how some of the exper­i­ments with I.G.T. involved using virus­es that tar­get the cells in your lungs and air­ways to deliv­er genes that might pro­tect against virus­es that attack the lungs like SARS (which is close­ly relat­ed to COVID-19). It’s an exam­ple of how this tech­nol­o­gy could be used on dif­fer­ent parts of our body. Per­haps air­way cells will get one set of new anti­bod­ies intro­duced, mus­cle cells get a dif­fer­ent set, and who knows what oth­er tis­sues might get anoth­er set. These are the kinds of pos­si­bil­i­ties with this tech­nol­o­gy:

    ...
    Dr. James M. Wil­son, a pathol­o­gist at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia, and his col­leagues have inves­ti­gat­ed using gene ther­a­py to treat cys­tic fibro­sis by deliv­er­ing genes into the cells lin­ing patients’ air­ways. It occurred to him that many fast-spread­ing virus­es, such as influen­za and SARS, also attack the same cells.

    In 2013, Dr. Wil­son and his col­leagues report­ed that virus­es car­ry­ing anti­body genes into air­way cells can enable mice and fer­rets to fight off a wide range of flu strains. Since then, he and his col­leagues have test­ed I.G.T. against oth­er virus­es caus­ing dead­ly out­breaks — includ­ing Ebo­la.
    ...

    It might even be pos­si­ble to mod­u­late the expres­sion of these anti­bod­ies fol­low­ing I.G.T. and even shut the anti­body expres­sion off entire­ly. It’s a pret­ty neat pos­si­bil­i­ty, although if it’s pos­si­ble to induce these mod­i­fi­ca­tions with, for exam­ple, a dif­fer­ent virus, you could imag­ine a sce­nario where some­one first releas­es a virus that shuts down the pro­duc­tion of these anti­bod­ies in a pop­u­la­tion and only then releas­es their killer virus. Isn’t tech­nol­o­gy fun?

    ...
    There is no guar­an­tee that the suc­cess­es in the ani­mal tri­als can be repli­cat­ed in humans. “Humans are not just big mice,” said Dr. Ronald G. Crys­tal, chair­man of genet­ic med­i­cine at Weill Cor­nell Med­ical Col­lege.

    Human immune sys­tems may attack the arti­fi­cial anti­bod­ies or the virus­es deliv­er­ing them, destroy­ing their pro­tec­tion. Or mus­cle cells might make too many anti­bod­ies, because they do not have the built-in reg­u­la­tion that immune cells do.

    Dr. Farzan and oth­er researchers are inves­ti­gat­ing mol­e­c­u­lar switch­es that can turn off the pro­duc­tion of anti­bod­ies, or just adjust their dose. “If we real­ly want to see this blos­som, we need reg­u­la­to­ry ‘off’ switch­es,” he said.
    ...

    Final­ly, note that the researchers inves­ti­gat­ing this tech­nol­o­gy have been col­lab­o­rat­ing with the NIH. That sig­nals that once this tech­nol­o­gy is actu­al­ly devel­oped there’s prob­a­bly not going to be a huge resis­tance to its usage at the fed­er­al lev­el:

    ...
    Last Feb­ru­ary, Dr. John­son began the first clin­i­cal tri­al of I.G.T. in humans. His team has placed H.I.V. anti­body genes into the mus­cles of vol­un­teers to see if the treat­ment is safe. The researchers expect to fin­ish gath­er­ing the results this spring. “We’re opti­mistic. We’re hope­ful,” Dr. John­son said.

    Dr. Bal­ti­more is col­lab­o­rat­ing with the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health to start a sim­i­lar tri­al of an I.G.T.-engineered virus against H.I.V. Dr. Wil­son is prepar­ing to test I.G.T. against the flu lat­er this year.
    ...

    Might we see I.G.T. tech­nol­o­gy deployed in response to the COVID-19 out­break? Prob­a­bly not. At least not for this out­break. After all, both mRNA and plas­mid DNA vac­cines, which are also unfa­mil­iar scary sound­ing new tech­nolo­gies, are already being intro­duced to the pub­lic for the first time in response to this. Throw­ing I.G.T. into the mix is prob­a­bly a bridge too far.

    But if it turns out the vac­cines in devel­op fail and civ­i­liza­tion remains in a state of fear and pan­ic there’s inevitably going to be a much clos­er look at whether or not we can duse an I.G.T. solu­tion. Per­haps some time in 2021. Of course, we would have to have a known broad­ly neu­tral­iz­ing anti­body that works against COVID-19 for an I.G.T. approach to even work and it’s unclear if that’s been iden­ti­fied yet.

    Still, it’s unde­ni­able that this tech­nol­o­gy is going to all sorts of uses beyond fight­ing nov­el coro­n­avirus­es going for­ward. And while that’s prob­a­bly going to gen­er­ate a vig­or­ous debate about whether or not we should be insert­ing genes into our cells, it’s impor­tant to keep in mind that the era of syn­thet­ic biol­o­gy might effec­tive require that tech­nol­o­gy like this gets wide­ly used soon­er or lat­er. Because we real­ly are head­ing into a future where it’s going to become so easy to cre­ate and dis­trib­ute design­er virus­es that, even­tu­al­ly, every­one from ter­ror­ists to sullen teenagers who just hate the world might be able to cre­ate theri own dooms­day virus­es. Don’t for­get the capa­bil­i­ties we saw from Ralph Bar­ic’s lab: they took the DNA sequence of the SARS-CoV­‑2 virus — the virus that caus­es COVID-19 — and cre­at­ed a live work­ing virus that was capa­ble of infect­ing human cells. They did­n’t need a live work­ing copy. The DNA sequence alone was enough. At some point the tech­nol­o­gy to do that is inevitably going to be much more wide­ly avail­able and sim­pler to use. Imag­ine if the Incels had their hands on this. Incels would be cre­at­ing and releas­ing new dooms­day virus­es every month, espe­cial­ly virus­es that specif­i­cal­ly tar­get women. Or virus­es that tar­get par­tic­u­lar eth­nic pop­u­la­tions. Just wait for the Nazis to get their hands on that. So we real­ly could be look­ing at a future where our bod­ies are just get­ting rou­tine­ly bom­bard­ed with all sorts of design­er virus­es and hav­ing an arse­nal of broad­ly neu­tral­iz­ing anti­bod­ies already avail­able in our cells might be the only real­is­tic defense. That’s the oth­er side of syn­thet­ic biol­o­gy tech­nol­o­gy when it comes to virus­es: much of the good it pro­vides is in the form of coun­ter­act­ing the evil it enables. It’s anoth­er big reminder that the fun­da­men­tal dis­ease we have to address if we’re going to sur­vive a future where the pow­er to wage mass destruc­tion becomes wide­ly acces­si­ble is that dis­ease of the soul that caus­es indi­vid­u­als to want to destroy whole pop­u­la­tions or the world.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 19, 2020, 2:51 pm
  2. There was a report fas­ci­nat­ing ear­li­er this month about a fas­ci­nat­ing study of the SARS-CoV­‑2 virus fam­i­ly trees and chronol­o­gy that sure sounds like a con­fir­ma­tion of the find­ings of an ear­li­er Chi­nese team about the two dis­tinct strains they found from the sam­ples of the ear­ly out­break in Wuhan. But this new research out a Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty sug­gests that the more ‘vir­u­lent’ strain iden­ti­fied by those researchers might actu­al­ly be more vir­u­lent against East Asians than oth­er races. As the researchers describe it, the strain of the virus that over­took Wuhan appears to be immuno­log­i­cal­ly com­fort­able deal­ing with East Asian immune sys­tems and was­n’t fac­ing evo­lu­tion­ary stress in that pop­u­la­tion but it did start mutat­ing in response to the immune sys­tems of oth­er pop­u­la­tions as it spread around the world. So the strain that explod­ed in Wuhan real­ly does appear to have some sort of eth­nic pref­er­ence accord­ing to their find­ings.

    Now, that could obvi­ous­ly be by design and pre­cise­ly the type of eth­nic-spe­cif­ic bioweapon we have long been warned about. But there is a nat­ur­al expla­na­tion for how a strain opti­mized for East Asians hit Wuhan: it was just evo­lu­tion in action, with an old­er strain (Type A) hav­ing spread around in Chi­na for some months before the more vir­u­lent Type B strain erupts in Wuhan some time by late Decem­ber and soon becomes the dom­i­nant strain. They con­clud­ed that Type A may have been cir­cu­lat­ing in Chi­na as far back as Sep­tem­ber. In oth­er words, the virus may have had a lot of time to get opti­mized for East Asians since that was the pop­u­la­tion it was qui­et­ly cir­cu­lat­ing in for months. That kind of of sce­nario would cer­tain­ly help explain one of the biggest anom­alies with this virus: we’re told is has just jump from ani­mals to humans recent­ly and yet it’s already seem­ing­ly opti­mized for human trans­mis­sion. If the virus has been cir­cu­lat­ing in Chi­na for months ear­li­er than pre­vi­ous­ly believed that would at least present a sce­nario where the virus could have had time to evolve.

    Still, it is kind of odd that the only evo­lu­tion we’ve seen so far in the virus is a muta­tion that appar­ent­ly made it extra bad for East Asians. If the virus jumps from ani­mal to human we would expect some muta­tions as the virus becomes more adapt­ed for infect­ing humans but it’s pret­ty bad luck for the Chi­nese that the only func­tion­al evo­lu­tion we’ve seen so far in this virus that appears to be opti­mized for human trans­mis­sion is one that makes the virus extra bad for East Asians. It’s not like the virus is still stuck in Chi­na. It’s still like the orig­i­nal Type A strain is still basi­cal­ly opti­mized for humans and then a strain erupts in Wuhan that is extra opti­mized for infect­ing East Asians.

    As we’ll see, the two research teams are indeed talk­ing about the same strains when they refer to an old­er less vir­u­lent strain (“S‑Type” in the ear­li­er study and “Type A” in the new study) and the more vir­u­lent new­er strain that appeared to emerge in Wuhan in Decem­ber (“L‑Type” in the ear­li­er study and “Type B” in the new study). Recall how the Chi­nese team called the two strains “S‑Type” and “L‑Type” in ref­er­ence to dif­fer­ent amino acids cre­at­ed by one of the muta­tions, with a Ser­ine in the S‑Type and Lysine in the L‑Type. This dif­fer­ence in a sin­gle amino acid was the basis for the spec­u­la­tion by the researchers that the L‑Type strain might actu­al­ly be more vir­u­lent than the S‑Type strain as an expla­na­tion for why the L‑Type dropped emerged and became the dom­i­nant strain. So the Type A and Type B strains in the new study have that same amino acid dif­fer­ence as the S‑type and L‑type strains in the ear­li­er study. And when it comes to pro­teins, a sin­gle amino acid dif­fer­ence can poten­tial­ly make a huge impact on the func­tion of the pro­tein. It isn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly a huge impact but it can be.

    There’s a third dis­tinct strain iden­ti­fied in the new study. They con­clud­ed the Type C strain emerged from Type B, but out­side of Chi­na in Sin­ga­pore. Based on their analy­sis, Europe was pri­mar­i­ly hit by Types B and C.

    The US got hit by both Type A and B, with Type A hit­ting the US West Coast from Chi­na and Type B hit­ting the US East Coast from Europe. Type A strains were the most preva­lent found in the US and Aus­tralia, although the researchers not­ed that rel­a­tive mea­sured pro­por­tion of Type A over Type B in the US would have been impact­ed by the loca­tions of where the sam­ples were col­lect­ed and most of the US sam­ples in the study came from the West Coast.

    But anoth­er rea­son Type A might be more preva­lent in the US is that it appears the US West Coast was infect­ed much ear­li­er than thought, prob­a­bly going back to Decem­ber. That’s accord­ing to infor­ma­tion com­ing out of San­ta Clara Coun­ty, CA, where an autop­sy of two peo­ple who died on Feb­ru­ary 17th and 6th show they both test­ed pos­i­tive, putting the first COVID-19 deaths in the US weeks ear­li­er than pre­vi­ous­ly thought. And accord­ing to San­ta Clara Coun­ty chief exec­u­tive Dr. Jeff Smith, data col­lect­ed by the CDC and local health depart­ments sug­gest the virus was spread­ing in Cal­i­for­nia like most­ly since back in Decem­ber but was missed because of the severe flu sea­son. So the more we’re learn­ing about the out­break of the virus in the US the more it’s look­ing like there was a ear­ly out­break of the less vir­u­lent Type A strain on the West Coast months before the more vir­u­lent Type B strain that sud­den­ly emerged in Wuhan in Decem­ber made to the US East Coast from Europe. If the Type B strain real­ly did only emerge in Wuhan in late Decem­ber it’s pos­si­ble the Type A virus was spread­ing across the US West Coast even before the Type B strain exist­ed. Has this dif­fer­ence in strains and the per­haps con­tribute to the rel­a­tive­ly less severe impact of the pan­dem­ic on the West Coast com­pared to places like New York?

    Ok, first, here’s the Dai­ly Mail arti­cle about the find­ings by the team at Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty that there are three dis­tinct strains (Types A, B, and C) and Type B appears to have emerged in Wuhan in Decem­ber and is bet­ter adapt­ed at infect­ing East Asians than oth­er pop­u­la­tions:

    The Dai­ly Mail

    There are THREE dis­tinct strains of the nov­el coro­n­avirus in the world and while Chi­na’s epi­dem­ic was dri­ven by an ear­ly muta­tion that quick­ly spread in the UK, the US is suf­fer­ing from an orig­i­nal vari­a­tion

    Type A is clos­est to the one found in bats and pan­golins and has two sub-clus­ters

    * One sub-clus­ter linked to Wuhan and the oth­er is com­mon in US and Aus­tralia
    * Type B is derived from type A and has become the most preva­lent in Wuhan
    * Type C is the ‘daugh­ter’ of type B and was spread to Europe via Sin­ga­pore

    By JOE PINKSTONE FOR MAILONLINE

    PUBLISHED: 10:12 EDT, 9 April 2020 | UPDATED: 04:24 EDT, 10 April 2020

    Three types of the dead­ly coro­n­avirus are spread­ing around the world — and the US is being rocked by the orig­i­nal strain from Chi­na.

    Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty researchers mapped the genet­ic his­to­ry of the infec­tion from Decem­ber to March and found three dis­tinct, but close­ly relat­ed, vari­ants.

    Analy­sis of the strains showed type A — the orig­i­nal virus that jumped to humans from bats via pan­golins — was not Chi­na’s most com­mon. Instead, the pan­demic’s ground-zero was main­ly hit by type B, which was in cir­cu­la­tion as far back as Christ­mas Eve.

    Results showed type A was the most preva­lent in Aus­tralia and the US, which has record­ed more than 400,000 COVID-19 cas­es. Two-thirds of Amer­i­can sam­ples were type A — but infect­ed patients most­ly came from the West Coast, and not New York.

    Dr Peter Forster and team found the UK was most­ly being bom­bard­ed with type B cas­es, with three quar­ters of sam­ples test­ing as that strain. Switzer­land, Ger­many, France, Bel­gium and the Nether­lands were also dom­i­nat­ed by type B.

    Anoth­er dis­tinct vari­a­tion, type C, descend­ed from type B and spread to Europe via Sin­ga­pore.

    Sci­en­tists believe the virus — offi­cial­ly called SARS-CoV­‑2 — is con­stant­ly mutat­ing to over­come immune sys­tem resis­tance in dif­fer­ent pop­u­la­tions.

    The study has thrown up an odd­i­ty that the orig­i­nal A strain spread through West Coast USA despite not being being the most preva­lent in Chi­na, the B strain.

    How­ev­er because both strains were in exis­tence by Jan­u­ary, when US got its first case, it does not mean it arrived any ear­li­er and was not detect­ed. The researchers said the study was too small to draw any firm con­clu­sions.

    The aca­d­e­mics’ pub­lished work — which has been scru­ti­nised by fel­low sci­en­tists — only traced the sam­ples of 160 patients across the world, includ­ing many of the first cas­es in Europe and the US.

    Meth­ods used to trace the pre­his­toric migra­tion of ancient humans were adapt­ed to track the spread of the SARS-CoV­‑2 virus, which caus­es COVID-19.

    The team have now updat­ed their analy­sis to include more than 1,000 COVID-19 cas­es up to the end of March to pro­vide a clear­er snap­shot. It has not yet been peer-reviewed.

    The small­er snap­shot, pub­lished in the jour­nal PNAS, ini­tial­ly sug­gest­ed that type C was the most com­mon in Europe.

    But the data now shows type B is spread­ing more ram­pant­ly — all but one of 31 SARS-CoV­‑2 sam­ples tak­en from patients in Switzer­land were of the sec­ond clus­ter.

    It comes after two sep­a­rate genet­ic stud­ies found most of New York’s out­break came from Europe, and revealed the infec­tion was being spread in mid-Feb­ru­ary — weeks before the city’s first con­firmed case.

    Researchers at Icahn School of Med­i­cine at Mount Sinai NYU sci­en­tists stud­ied DNA from thou­sands of sam­ples of coro­n­avirus patients to con­clude trav­ellers from Europe brought the virus to the Big Apple.

    But they also found that the strand of the virus that arrived in Wash­ing­ton state came from Chi­na, echo­ing the find­ing of Dr Forster and team.

    The Cam­bridge sci­en­tists found that two thirds of the 310 virus sam­ples sequenced in the US were type A.

    And all of the Amer­i­can cas­es linked to cruise ships had type B strains. It is not clear what ships they caught the virus on — but the Dia­mond Princess, quar­an­tined off the coast of Japan for weeks, record­ed more than 700 infec­tions.

    Data showed Eng­land’s first two cas­es — thought to be a Uni­ver­si­ty of York stu­dent and his moth­er at the end of Jan­u­ary — had type A, sug­gest­ing they caught it in Chi­na.

    No oth­er sam­ples from Eng­land, Scot­land or Wales were type A, with almost 30 of the 40 virus­es shown to be type B.

    Dr Forster told MailOn­line it was pos­si­ble the UK’s out­break could be traced back to Italy but that the data was too lim­it­ed to make any con­clu­sion.

    The oth­er cas­es record­ed across Britain were type C, which is also like­ly to be traced back to East Asia.

    The UK’s first ‘super-spread­er’ — father-of-two Steve Walsh — was known to have went to a busi­ness con­fer­ence in Sin­ga­pore and infect­ed scores of patients in Sus­sex.

    Dr Forster told MailOn­line that type A orig­i­nal­ly mutat­ed into type B with­in Chi­na — but type C, the ‘daugh­ter’ of B, evolved out­side of the nation.

    He admit­ted sci­en­tists are clue­less as to how type B ‘pushed aside’ its pre­de­ces­sor to become more com­mon in Chi­na — but the ques­tion will be answered ‘one day’.

    Type B was found to be com­fort­able in the immune sys­tems of peo­ple in Wuhan and did not need to mutate to adapt.

    How­ev­er, out­side of Wuhan and in the bod­ies of peo­ple from dif­fer­ent loca­tions, the vari­a­tion mutat­ed much more rapid­ly.

    This indi­cat­ed it was adapt­ing to try and sur­vive and over­come resis­tance among oth­er pop­u­la­tions, such as West­ern­ers.

    Data analy­sis sug­gests the orig­i­nal strain of the virus could have been cir­cu­lat­ing in Chi­na as far back as Sep­tem­ber.

    And Dr Forster said the type B strain was ‘alive and kick­ing’ by Christ­mas Eve, their analy­sis revealed.

    It means the virus had already mutat­ed before Chi­na record­ed any COVID-19 cas­es — Wuhan first described an out­break of a mys­te­ri­ous virus on Decem­ber 31.

    He told MailOn­line: ‘The major­i­ty of cas­es in Wuhan are B type while a derived C type lat­er emerged and spread ini­tial­ly via Sin­ga­pore.’

    And he sug­gest­ed type C was not mutat­ing — but called for cau­tion over his find­ing, say­ing the sam­ple was very small.

    Dr Forster added that the data used was just a snap­shot and did not include tens of thou­sands of con­firmed cas­es record­ed in each coun­try.

    For exam­ple, Chi­na’s out­break may main­ly con­sist of type A — but the data analysed sug­gests that is not the case.

    Type A is the clos­est to the one found in bats and pan­golins and is con­sid­ered to be the ‘root’ of the out­break.

    Type A has two sub-clus­ters and the first, labelled as the T‑allele, has sub­stan­tial links to East Asia as it was found in Amer­i­cans that lived in Wuhan.

    How­ev­er, the sec­ond A type sub-clus­ter, called the C‑allele, is slight­ly dif­fer­ent due to a string of muta­tions.

    In the study, the sci­en­tists said: ‘Near­ly half of the types in this sub­clus­ter, how­ev­er, are found out­side East Asia, main­ly in the US and Aus­tralia.’

    The orig­i­nal study had access to 93 type B genomes and 74 were in either Wuhan (22), oth­er parts of east­ern Chi­na (31) or neigh­bour­ing Asian coun­tries (21).

    A smat­ter­ing were iden­ti­fied else­where, but type B had a strong affin­i­ty for Wuhan and is derived from type A via two muta­tions, at T8782C and C28144T.

    The sci­en­tists argue that these meth­ods could help pre­dict future glob­al hot spots of dis­ease trans­mis­sion and surge.

    ...

    ———-

    “There are THREE dis­tinct strains of the nov­el coro­n­avirus in the world and while Chi­na’s epi­dem­ic was dri­ven by an ear­ly muta­tion that quick­ly spread in the UK, the US is suf­fer­ing from an orig­i­nal vari­a­tion” by JOE PINKSTONE; The Dai­ly Mail; 04/09/2020

    “Analy­sis of the strains showed type A — the orig­i­nal virus that jumped to humans from bats via pan­golins — was not Chi­na’s most com­mon. Instead, the pan­demic’s ground-zero was main­ly hit by type B, which was in cir­cu­la­tion as far back as Christ­mas Eve.”

    It’s the same find­ing as that pre­vi­ous Chi­nese team’s “S‑Type” and “L‑type” analy­sis: The orig­i­nal “Type A” strain (“S‑type”) in Chi­na isn’t Chi­na’s most com­mon strain. Instead, the Type B (“L‑Type”) emerged in Wuhan and sud­den­ly came to dom­i­nate the num­ber of new cas­es. Whether or not this is due to a func­tion­al dif­fer­ence in the vir­u­lence of the two strains or if the dif­fer­ences were sim­ply due to the ran­dom­ness of how virus­es spread remains an open ques­tion. But it’s an open ques­tion that rais­es oth­er ques­tions about why it is that Type A end­ed up dom­i­nat­ing the cas­es in the US (along with West Coast) and Aus­tralia. If Type B can spread more effec­tive­ly than Type A why would Type A dom­i­nate the ear­ly cas­es in the US? One obvi­ous pos­si­bil­i­ty is that it was qui­et­ly cir­cu­lat­ing to the US before the Type B strain emerged in Wuhan:

    ...
    The study has thrown up an odd­i­ty that the orig­i­nal A strain spread through West Coast USA despite not being being the most preva­lent in Chi­na, the B strain.

    How­ev­er because both strains were in exis­tence by Jan­u­ary, when US got its first case, it does not mean it arrived any ear­li­er and was not detect­ed. The researchers said the study was too small to draw any firm con­clu­sions.

    ...

    The Cam­bridge sci­en­tists found that two thirds of the 310 virus sam­ples sequenced in the US were type A.

    And all of the Amer­i­can cas­es linked to cruise ships had type B strains. It is not clear what ships they caught the virus on — but the Dia­mond Princess, quar­an­tined off the coast of Japan for weeks, record­ed more than 700 infec­tions.

    ...

    Type A has two sub-clus­ters and the first, labelled as the T‑allele, has sub­stan­tial links to East Asia as it was found in Amer­i­cans that lived in Wuhan.

    How­ev­er, the sec­ond A type sub-clus­ter, called the C‑allele, is slight­ly dif­fer­ent due to a string of muta­tions.

    In the study, the sci­en­tists said: ‘Near­ly half of the types in this sub­clus­ter, how­ev­er, are found out­side East Asia, main­ly in the US and Aus­tralia.’
    ...

    Then there’s the very inter­est­ing find­ings that the Type B strain does­n’t appear to have con­tin­ued mutat­ing much inside Chi­na, but as its trav­eled around the world to dif­fer­ent pop­u­la­tion its muta­tion rate sped up. That led Dr. Forster to sug­gest that the Type B strain is well adapt­ed to East Asian immune sys­tems but was forced to adapt in response to the immune sys­tems of oth­ers:

    ...
    Dr Forster told MailOn­line that type A orig­i­nal­ly mutat­ed into type B with­in Chi­na — but type C, the ‘daugh­ter’ of B, evolved out­side of the nation.

    He admit­ted sci­en­tists are clue­less as to how type B ‘pushed aside’ its pre­de­ces­sor to become more com­mon in Chi­na — but the ques­tion will be answered ‘one day’.

    Type B was found to be com­fort­able in the immune sys­tems of peo­ple in Wuhan and did not need to mutate to adapt.

    How­ev­er, out­side of Wuhan and in the bod­ies of peo­ple from dif­fer­ent loca­tions, the vari­a­tion mutat­ed much more rapid­ly.

    This indi­cat­ed it was adapt­ing to try and sur­vive and over­come resis­tance among oth­er pop­u­la­tions, such as West­ern­ers.

    Data analy­sis sug­gests the orig­i­nal strain of the virus could have been cir­cu­lat­ing in Chi­na as far back as Sep­tem­ber.

    And Dr Forster said the type B strain was ‘alive and kick­ing’ by Christ­mas Eve, their analy­sis revealed.

    It means the virus had already mutat­ed before Chi­na record­ed any COVID-19 cas­es — Wuhan first described an out­break of a mys­te­ri­ous virus on Decem­ber 31.
    ...

    Now, keep in mind that if the ele­vat­ed muta­tion rates of the Type B strain out­side of Chi­na do indeed reflect the virus strug­gling to adapt to dif­fer­ent immune sys­tems, we would expect those addi­tion­al muta­tions to be the kind of muta­tions that actu­al­ly change the pro­tein struc­ture of the virus. Not all muta­tion to the DNA or RNA of a virus actu­al­ly change the amino acid sequence of a pro­tein. So Dr. Forster’s hypoth­e­sis is just that: a hypoth­e­sis. But dif­fer­ent muta­tion rates inside and out­side of Chi­na is cer­tain­ly an inter­est­ing find­ing, espe­cial­ly if it turns out that this virus is some­how more vir­u­lent for East Asians than oth­er pop­u­la­tions.

    Final­ly, just note that the Type A and B strains do def­i­nite­ly cor­re­spond to the S‑Type and L‑Type strains found by the pre­vi­ous Chi­nese team. The two muta­tions that dis­tin­guish Type A and B — at T8782C and C28144T — are the same two muta­tions the Chi­nese team iden­ti­fied in their paper. And one of those muta­tions hap­pens change an amino acid in the pro­tein struc­ture of one of the viral pro­teins which is why it’s so tempt­ing to spec­u­late that the Type B/L‑Type strain real­ly is some­how more vir­u­lent than the Type A/S‑Type strain:

    ...
    The orig­i­nal study had access to 93 type B genomes and 74 were in either Wuhan (22), oth­er parts of east­ern Chi­na (31) or neigh­bour­ing Asian coun­tries (21).

    A smat­ter­ing were iden­ti­fied else­where, but type B had a strong affin­i­ty for Wuhan and is derived from type A via two muta­tions, at T8782C and C28144T.
    ...

    Ok, now here’s a Newsweek arti­cle about this same study that includes anoth­er impor­tant find­ing: they esti­mat­ed the date when the virus first emerged in Chi­na (or was intro­duced) and arrived at a date range of some time between Sep­tem­ber 13 and Decem­ber 7, 2019. It’s worth not­ing that the mid­dle of that date range is the last week of Octo­ber which is the time of those Mil­i­tary Games ath­let­ic event in Wuhan that are seen as a pos­si­ble source for the virus if it did­n’t emerge in Chi­na. So that’s inter­est­ing that the esti­mate of the first infec­tion cen­ters around the week of that inter­na­tion­al mil­i­tary ath­let­ic event in Wuhan.

    As the fol­low­ing arti­cle also notes, the offi­cial first COVID-19 case that’s been iden­ti­fied by Chi­nese offi­cials has been pushed back to Novem­ber 17, a few weeks after those games. Hav­ing the first iden­ti­fi­able case show up a few weeks after those games would be con­sis­tent with the ~2 week incu­ba­tion time of the virus. So this Cam­bridge team­s’s find­ings large­ly con­cur with the ear­li­est found case. Now, if Chi­na sub­se­quent­ly finds a case from ear­li­er in Octo­ber that would pre­clude the pos­si­bil­i­ty that the mil­i­tary games were the source of the infec­tion. But for now, the more we’re learn­ing the more the evi­dence is point­ing to the week of those games as the time Chi­na got its first infec­tion:

    Newsweek

    Coro­n­avirus Out­break May Have Start­ed as Ear­ly as Sep­tem­ber, Sci­en­tists Say

    By Han­nah Osborne On 4/17/20 at 10:41 AM EDT

    The coro­n­avirus out­break could have start­ed as ear­ly as mid-Sep­tem­ber, and the Chi­nese city of Wuhan may not be where it began, a sci­en­tist look­ing at the ori­gins of the dis­ease has said.

    Geneti­cist Peter Forster, from the U.K.‘s Uni­ver­si­ty of Cam­bridge, is lead­ing a research project to under­stand the his­tor­i­cal process­es that led to the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic. Ulti­mate­ly, they hope to iden­ti­fy the first per­son who got the virus and served as the source for the ini­tial out­break. By ana­lyz­ing net­works, they have so far been able to chart the spread of the virus, includ­ing the genet­ic muta­tions, as it moved from Chi­na to Aus­tralia, Europe and the rest of the world.

    They have cre­at­ed a net­work analy­sis using over 1,000 coro­n­avirus genomes. This includes patient infec­tion date and the “type” of virus the per­son was infect­ed with. There are three types—A, B and C. A is clos­est to the coro­n­avirus found in bats and is thought to be the orig­i­nal human virus genome. This type was found in Chi­nese and Amer­i­can indi­vid­u­als, with mutat­ed ver­sions in patients from Aus­tralia and the U.S.

    How­ev­er, A was not the virus type found in most cas­es in Wuhan, the city in Chi­na where COVID-19 was first iden­ti­fied. Instead, most peo­ple there had type B. Researchers sug­gest there was a “founder event” for type B in Wuhan. Type C, the “daugh­ter” of type B, is what was iden­ti­fied in ear­ly cas­es in Europe, as well as South Korea, Sin­ga­pore and Hong Kong—but appears absent from main­land Chi­na.

    Based on the data Forster and his col­leagues have col­lect­ed, the coro­n­avirus out­break appears to have start­ed between Sep­tem­ber 13 and Decem­ber 7. “This assumes a con­stant muta­tion rate, which is admit­ted­ly unlike­ly to be the case, and the time esti­mate could there­fore be wrong,” he told Newsweek. “But it is the best assump­tion we can make at the moment, pend­ing analy­sis of fur­ther patient sam­ples stored in hos­pi­tals dur­ing 2019.”

    He said it is pos­si­ble the out­break did not orig­i­nate in Wuhan, as until Jan­u­ary 17, almost all the iso­lates were type B. In Guang­dong, a province about 500 miles from Wuhan, sev­en of the 11 iso­lates were type A. “These case num­bers are small because few genomes are avail­able for the ear­ly stage of the out­break, before the Chi­nese New Year trav­el pre-Jan­u­ary 25 would have start­ed mix­ing pat­terns up geo­graph­i­cal­ly,” Forster said.

    The first known coro­n­avirus case has been traced back to Novem­ber 17. Accord­ing to a report in the South Chi­na Morn­ing Post, gov­ern­ment data shows a 55-year-old from the Hubei province, which Wuhan is the cap­i­tal of, was the first known case of COVID-19.

    It is thought the virus jumped from an animal—likely a bat—into humans at some point. When and where this hap­pened is not known. In Decem­ber, the first clus­ter of cas­es was traced back to a seafood mar­ket in Wuhan, lead­ing some to sug­gest this is where the virus first emerged. But as we learn more about the virus, this ver­sion of events appears less like­ly. A study pub­lished in the Lancet showed some of the first peo­ple infect­ed with the virus did not have direct con­tact with the mar­ket.

    ...

    ——–

    “Coro­n­avirus Out­break May Have Start­ed as Ear­ly as Sep­tem­ber, Sci­en­tists Say” by Han­nah Osborne; Newsweek; 04/17/2020

    Based on the data Forster and his col­leagues have col­lect­ed, the coro­n­avirus out­break appears to have start­ed between Sep­tem­ber 13 and Decem­ber 7. “This assumes a con­stant muta­tion rate, which is admit­ted­ly unlike­ly to be the case, and the time esti­mate could there­fore be wrong,” he told Newsweek. “But it is the best assump­tion we can make at the moment, pend­ing analy­sis of fur­ther patient sam­ples stored in hos­pi­tals dur­ing 2019.””

    Sep­tem­ber 13 to Decem­ber 7. That’s the date range. And right in the mid­dle of that range is the last week of Octo­ber when the world mil­i­tary games took place. And then a few weeks lat­er we have the first iden­ti­fied case of COVID-19:

    ...
    The first known coro­n­avirus case has been traced back to Novem­ber 17. Accord­ing to a report in the South Chi­na Morn­ing Post, gov­ern­ment data shows a 55-year-old from the Hubei province, which Wuhan is the cap­i­tal of, was the first known case of COVID-19.
    ...

    Ok, now, regard­ing the obser­va­tion that the US’s cas­es are pre­dom­i­nant­ly Type A cas­es, despite Chi­na being rapid­ly over­tak­en by the Type B strain in Decem­ber, here’s an arti­cle about some find­ings by the San­ta Clara Coun­ty med­ical exam­in­er who found that the first COVID-19 death in that coun­ty took place on Feb­ru­ary 6, weeks before the pre­vi­ous­ly thought. And as the arti­cle notes, Dr. Jeff Smith, a physi­cian who is the chief exec­u­tive of San­ta Clara Coun­ty gov­ern­ment, has already stat­ed that the data col­lect­ed by the CDC, local health depart­ments and oth­ers sug­gest that the first infec­tions in Cal­i­for­nia took place was “a lot longer than we first believed” — most like­ly since “back in Decem­ber.”. Dr. Smith fur­ther spec­u­lates that the virus was missed due to the serv­er flu sea­son. It rais­es the obvi­ous ques­tion of just how much of that severe flu sea­son was due to this virus and, in turn, how long the virus had been cir­cu­lat­ing in the US. Were there just a hand­ful of coro­n­avirus cas­es being hid­den by severe flu or was that severe flu a reflec­tion of a more wide­spread unrec­og­nized coro­n­avirus out­break? That’s one of the big ques­tions raised by these find­ings. Also recall that Dr. Forster has con­clud­ed that the Type B strain emerged in Wuhan as least by Christ­mas Eve. So based on the cur­rent­ly avail­able evi­dence, it’s pos­si­ble the virus was float­ing around in Cal­i­for­nia (and the broad­er US) pos­si­ble before Type B even showed up in Wuhan:

    The Los Ange­les Times

    Autop­sies reveal first con­firmed U.S. coro­n­avirus deaths occurred in Bay Area in Feb­ru­ary

    By MATT HAMILTON, PAIGE ST. JOHN, RONG-GONG LIN II
    APRIL 21, 2020 9:23 PM

    SAN FRANCISCO — Two coro­n­avirus-infect­ed peo­ple died in San­ta Clara Coun­ty on Feb. 6 and Feb. 17, the med­ical exam­in­er revealed Tues­day, mak­ing them first doc­u­ment­ed COVID-19 fatal­i­ties in the Unit­ed States.

    Until now, the first fatal­i­ty was believed to have occurred in Kirk­land, Wash., on Feb. 29.

    Offi­cials pre­vi­ous­ly had said the first Sil­i­con Val­ley death was March 9. But the San­ta Clara Coun­ty med­ical exam­in­er revealed Tues­day that peo­ple who died Feb. 6, Feb. 17 and March 6 also died of COVID-19.

    “These three indi­vid­u­als died at home dur­ing a time when very lim­it­ed test­ing was avail­able only through the [U.S. Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion]. Test­ing cri­te­ria set by the CDC at the time restrict­ed test­ing to only indi­vid­u­als with a known trav­el his­to­ry and who sought med­ical care for spe­cif­ic symp­toms,” the coun­ty said in a state­ment. “As the Med­ical Exam­in­er-Coro­ner con­tin­ues to care­ful­ly inves­ti­gate deaths through­out the coun­ty, we antic­i­pate addi­tion­al deaths from COVID-19 will be iden­ti­fied.”

    Sil­i­con Val­ley was an ear­ly cen­ter of the coro­n­avirus out­break. So far it has report­ed near­ly 2,000 cas­es and eight deaths.

    There have been grow­ing con­cerns that the new coro­n­avirus has been in Cal­i­for­nia longer than experts first believed.

    Dr. Jeff Smith, a physi­cian who is the chief exec­u­tive of San­ta Clara Coun­ty gov­ern­ment, said ear­li­er this month that data col­lect­ed by the CDC, local health depart­ments and oth­ers sug­gest it was “a lot longer than we first believed” — most like­ly since “back in Decem­ber.”

    “This wasn’t rec­og­nized because we were hav­ing a severe flu sea­son,” Smith said in an inter­view. “Symp­toms are very much like the flu. If you got a mild case of COVID, you didn’t real­ly notice. You didn’t even go to the doc­tor. The doc­tor maybe didn’t even do it because they pre­sumed it was the flu.”

    ...

    ———–

    “Autop­sies reveal first con­firmed U.S. coro­n­avirus deaths occurred in Bay Area in Feb­ru­ary” by MATT HAMILTON, PAIGE ST. JOHN, RONG-GONG LIN II; The Los Ange­les Times; 04/21/2020

    “Dr. Jeff Smith, a physi­cian who is the chief exec­u­tive of San­ta Clara Coun­ty gov­ern­ment, said ear­li­er this month that data col­lect­ed by the CDC, local health depart­ments and oth­ers sug­gest it was “a lot longer than we first believed” — most like­ly since “back in Decem­ber.”

    The more we learn about this virus the more it appears that this virus has been float­ing around for a lot longer than we rec­og­nized. And yet it’s only in recent months that we’ve seen hos­pi­tal sys­tems col­laps­ing under the weight of a flood of patients. So how is it that a virus that his hyper-infec­tious­ness as one of its key traits was able to cir­cu­late for months with­out shut­ting down health sys­tems? Is the Type B strain that crushed places like Wuhan, Italy, and New York City some­how more dead­ly? Or per­haps only more dead­ly for cer­tain eth­nic groups? Is the case fatal­i­ty rate for Type A less than Type B for East Asians? And if it turns out that the Type B/L‑Type strain is indeed more adapt­ed to East Asian immune sys­tems as Dr. Forster sug­gests as an expla­na­tion for the high­er rates of muta­tion out­side of Chi­na, have any of those addi­tion­al muta­tions made Type B bet­ter adapt­ed for, say, Euro­pean immune sys­tems? These are just some of the remain open ques­tions about the nature of the virus. Open ques­tions that would be a lot eas­i­er to answer if we actu­al­ly had ade­quate test­ing data from ear­ly on in the out­break. It points to the impor­tance of these kinds of ret­ro­spec­tive autop­sy stud­ies which are going to be the only way to col­lect some of this data that was lost for­ev­er. It’s going to be inter­est­ing to see how much enthusiasm/resistance there is to more wide­spread autop­sy stud­ies like this. This kind of data could end up being extreme­ly reveal­ing about the ear­ly ori­gins of this virus and not every­one is nec­es­sar­i­ly going to want that revealed. It obvi­ous­ly depends on the ori­gins.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 23, 2020, 1:44 pm
  3. @Pterrafractyl–

    With the pas­sage of time, the more it becomes appar­ent that peo­ple sim­ply CANNOT wrap their minds around this. As I have said MANY times: this does NOT take place in a vac­u­um!

    A quick aside: San­ta Clara Coun­ty, with the high­est RECORDED instance of infec­tion in the Bay Area, has a very large Asian-Amer­i­can pop­u­la­tion. Fac­tor that in to the infor­ma­tion about East Asians being infect­ed at a greater rate.

    What the aca­d­e­mi­cians do NOT men­tion:

    1.–The infor­ma­tion in the con­sum­mate­ly impor­tant Whit­ney Webb arti­cle that is the focal point of these pro­grams: as impor­tant as any­thing I have read in almost 50 years of doing the research. DARPA has been research­ing these damn things!

    2.–Ft. Det­rick was shut down for safe­ty vio­la­tions in ear­ly August of last year. (I sus­pect that word of what was going on leaked and some whis­tle blow­ers sound­ed off. What we have seen in the media is the “mod­i­fied lim­it­ed hang­out.”)

    3.–The out­break occurs in the mid­dle of an all-out desta­bi­liza­tion effort against Chi­na, coor­di­nat­ed by Steve Ban­non and involv­ing the NED–a CIA cutout. Hong Kong, Uighurs and Trump’s all-out trade war against Chi­na.

    4.–Bannon takes his cues from Julius Evola, a Mus­soli­ni acolyte who felt Mus­soli­ni was too mod­er­ate and grav­i­tat­ed to the Nazi SS, who were financ­ing his work by the end of the war. Just WHAT do you expect from the likes of this sack of Fresh Fer­til­iz­er?

    5. Ban­non is net­worked with J. Kyle Bass (and prob­a­bly oth­ers) who are asym­met­ri­cal­ly invest­ed to the Chi­nese and Hong Kong economies and have undoubt­ed­ly made a huge amount of mon­ey off of this. J. Kyle Bass was the guy who brought down Bear Stearns in 2007–2008.

    6. Bass and Ban­non, in turn, are net­worked with Tom­my Hicks, Jr., who is at the epi­cen­ter of the inter­a­gency gov­ern­men­tal net­works being coor­di­nat­ed in the anti-Chi­na effort.

    7. The out­break is being accom­pa­nied by an out­break every bit as vir­u­lent as the virus–the “Yel­low Jour­nal­ism” Per­il. Our media and much of the West are froth­ing at the mouth against Chi­na and any­one else they can link with Chi­na. A Fox News inter­view fea­tured an “ex” CIA offi­cer stat­ing that lead­ing mem­bers of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty were tied to Chi­nese intel­li­gence. Out­right lies are becom­ing accept­ed as truth.

    8. The “Bio-Psy-Op Apoc­a­lypse Now” series I am doing and will be doing for some time high­lights the many over­lap­ping lev­els of this “op”: “The Democ­ra­cy-Killing Virus”; “The Eugenic Virus;” “The Con­cen­tra­tion-of-Wealth Virus;” “Walkin’ the Coro­n­avirus;” “The Chi­na-Killing Virus; “The Yel­low-Jour­nal­ism Per­il Virus;” “Pinch­back­’s Per­spec­tive;” “The Nazi Virus.”

    9.–None of these wiz­ards seem to be able to take stock of the gain-of-func­tion exper­i­ments, includ­ing Ralph Bar­ic’s mod­i­fi­ca­tion of a coro­n­avirus native to the Chi­nese horse­shoe bat, com­bined with a SARS-like virus and producing–drum roll, fan­fare please–a coro­n­avirus that infects human lung tis­sue.

    10.–Most importantly–ANY god­damn virus can be syn­the­sized FROM SCRATCH, in its ENTIRETY in a lab­o­ra­to­ry. It is the microbiological/genomic equiv­a­lent of the 3‑D print­ers, which can fash­ion a work­ing firearm.

    ALL of these things must be tak­en together–the damn virus does NOT exist and did NOT man­i­fest in a god­damn VACUUM!

    I could go on and on but I have work to do.

    I am an enthu­si­as­tic sub­scriber to George Bernard Shaw’s dic­tum that “Those who can, do. Those who can’t teach.”

    Best,

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | April 23, 2020, 4:49 pm
  4. @Dave: It’s worth not­ing one of the aspects of the research from Dr. Forster’s team at Cam­bridge that could pro­vide one of the motives for why it is the Trump admin­is­tra­tion has been seem­ing­ly so lack­adaisi­cal about hav­ing ade­quate num­bers of COVID-19 test kits avail­able, espe­cial­ly ear­ly on in the out­break. It specif­i­cal­ly relates to the sce­nario where the virus was intro­duced to Chi­na dur­ing the Mil­i­tary World Games in Wuhan, with infect­ed mil­i­tary ath­letes poten­tial­ly serv­ing as vec­tors:

    As we saw, Dr. Forster’s team had a date range esti­mate for the emer­gence of the virus in Chi­na of Sep­tem­ber 13-Decem­ber 7, with the last week of Octo­ber being right in the mid­dle of that range. That was the week of the Mil­i­tary World Games. Dr. Forster also found that the old­er Type A strain was almost entire­ly over­tak­en by a new­er Type B strain that appeared to emerge in Wuhan. We don’t know if Type B is more med­ical­ly dan­ger­ous than Type A yet but it appears to be much more effec­tive at spread­ing for what­ev­er rea­son. We are also offi­cial­ly told the virus arrived as the Type A strain on the US West Coast first, with cur­rent evi­dence point­ing to it the first infec­tions in Cal­i­for­nia at least as far back in Decem­ber. Type A has been qui­et­ly cir­cu­lat­ing for months before being detect­ed, masked in part by a severe flu sea­son. And this kind of analy­sis done by Dr. Forster’s team and oth­er teams around the world is only pos­si­ble via the vol­un­tary sub­mis­sions of viral genom­ic sequence sam­ples to glob­al data­bas­es like GISAID. Recall how both Dr. Forster’s team and the ear­li­er Chi­nese team that found the S‑Type and L‑Type strains (cor­re­spond­ing to Type A and Type B) depend­ing on GISAID data. That data was used to con­struct­ing phy­lo­ge­net­ic fam­i­ly trees from viral sequences to infer their spread and evo­lu­tion around the world. So the sequences in that data­base will dri­ve the results of any phy­lo­ge­net­ic analy­sis and there­fore our under­stand­ing of the ori­gins of the virus.

    Now here’s where that reliance on the viral genom­ic sequence data­bas­es relates to the sce­nario of infect­ed sol­diers at the Mil­i­tary World Games before the wit­ting or unwit­ting vec­tors for the intro­duc­tion of the virus into Chi­na: If infect­ed ath­letes were the vec­tor it’s entire­ly pos­si­ble there were Type A infec­tions spread among mil­i­taries around the world at those games and then qui­et­ly intro­duced into pop­u­la­tions from those infect­ed sol­diers. Specif­i­cal­ly the ‘orig­i­nal’ Type A strain. And if that’s the case and there real­ly were infec­tions of the orig­i­nal Type A qui­et­ly spread­ing in pock­ets of the world from the mil­i­tary, it’s also very pos­si­ble that there are entire­ly dif­fer­ent phy­lo­ge­net­ic fam­i­ly trees of Type A strains float­ing around out there. And if there are those dif­fer­ent fam­i­ly trees of Type A float­ing around out there that would be the kind of evi­dence that strong­ly rais­es ques­tion about the emer­gence of the dis­ease in Chi­na. Steve Ban­non and the GOP can’t turn this pan­dem­ic into an anti-Chi­na cud­gel if phy­lo­ge­net­ic data points towards Type A infec­tions that don’t appear to be from the cur­rent­ly known Type A fam­i­ly tree.

    As is, the avail­able data of genom­ic sequences in data­bas­es like GISAID in the US were almost entire­ly from cer­tain loca­tions and not at all geo­graph­i­cal­ly rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the US. Dr. Forster’s team pro­vides an Excel file of the 1000+ sequences they ana­lyzed that con­tains the geo­graph­ic loca­tions so we can see the exact geo­graph­ic dis­tri­b­u­tion of their sam­ple: The data from pulled from GISAID on March 3, 2020 and the US sam­ples were pri­mar­i­ly Wash­ing­ton State and the Amer­i­can Cruise ship pas­sen­gers (the pas­sen­gers were all Type B as expect­ed), some from Cal­i­for­nia, some from New York (also Type B), and then a smat­ter­ing from states like Utah, Ari­zona, and Wis­con­sin. Forster’s team would pre­sum­ably have used a more geo­graph­i­cal­ly rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ple of sequences if they were avail­able but that’s all that was avail­able for analy­sis at the time of their March 3 data pull. And based on what we know about the out­break in the US, the out­break in Wash­ing­ton State real­ly was trig­gered by an infec­tion brought back from US cit­i­zens who had been in Wuhah. So we have strong rea­son to sus­pect the Type A strains in that data­base real­ly are from the same phy­lo­ge­net­ic fam­i­ly tree of the Type A strain that was cir­cu­lat­ing in Chi­na in the Fall of 2019 and, in turn, that the bulk of the West Coast cas­es were prob­a­bly derived from that same Type A fam­i­ly tree. In oth­er words, all of the viral sequences from the West Coast sam­ples in the GISAID data­base like­ly had the same muta­tion that Type A had already acquired in Chi­na before trav­el­ing to the Wash­ing­ton State.

    But if there Type A strains that arrive in the US ear­li­er as a result of infec­tions in the mil­i­tary, there could very well be Type A strains float­ing around in the US that don’t have those same muta­tions that were acquired in Chi­na and that would be a big red flag that the nar­ra­tive about it spon­ta­neous­ly erupt­ing in Chi­na does­n’t hold up. A nar­ra­tive that the US gov­ern­ment is absolute­ly ded­i­cat­ed to at this point. So if the Trump admin­is­tra­tion had rea­son to sus­pect (or know) that Type A strains that did­n’t arrive from Chi­na were already float­ing around in the US that would have pro­vid­ed a HUGE incen­tive for the incred­i­bly con­sis­tent viral test­ing screw ups at the fed­er­al lev­el. After all, if we aren’t test­ing for the virus in an area we can’t col­lect viral sequences for upload to GISAID.

    Now here’s where the appar­ent­ly abil­i­ty of Type B to out­com­pete Type A comes into this sce­nario: The exist­ing of an out­break of old­er non-Chi­nese-ori­gin Type A strains in an area could be effec­tive­ly masked by wait­ing for the Type B strain to move in and dom­i­nate the new cas­es. Espe­cial­ly if Type B real­ly is more med­ical­ly dan­ger­ous and leads to high­er rates of severe cas­es. We don’t know yet if Type B real­ly is more med­ical­ly dan­ger­ous than Type A yet but evi­dence is point­ing in that direc­tion. So if you have Type B sweep into an area that already had an old­er non-Chi­na-ori­gin Type A strain float­ing around, most of the peo­ple who get test­ed will prob­a­bly be Type B and the Type A strain could remain hid­den, espe­cial­ly if test­ing is lim­it­ed to the most sick due to a lack of ade­quate test­ing kit sup­plies. Through­out this entire expe­ri­ence the Trump admin­is­tra­tion has been act­ing like it active­ly does­n’t want to know where the virus is spread­ing and this has long been attrib­uted to Trump’s per­son­al desire to just wish the virus away. But what if ensur­ing that that data that could reveal alter­na­tive non-Chi­na-ori­gin Type A strains does­n’t get col­lect­ed was part of the motive for that incred­i­ble test­ing blun­der?

    But if there are non-Chi­na-ori­gin Type A strains float­ing around, at some point they’ll prob­a­bly be detect­ed whether you delay cas­es are not. Those strains aren’t just going to get extin­guished, at least not less there’s mass vac­ci­na­tions or mass heard immu­ni­ty. But the lat­er they’re dis­cov­ered the more eas­i­ly they can be dis­missed as evo­lu­tion­ary noise. Some sort of expla­na­tion like “the rea­son the strains did­n’t have the same muta­tions found in the Chi­na-ori­gin strains is because those ear­ly muta­tions mutat­ed back to the orig­i­nal” would suf­fice to explain the anom­alies away.

    It’s sce­nario worth keep­ing in mind when try­ing to make sense of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s coro­n­avirus response, or lack there­of. But it would­n’t just be lim­it­ed to the Trump admin­is­tra­tion. If we’re look­ing at a sce­nario were, say, Steve Ban­non and inter­na­tion­al fas­cist net­work was involved in the devel­op­ment and dis­burse­ment of this virus they’re going to have an incen­tive in ensur­ing that data that could poten­tial­ly reveal non-Chi­na ori­gins nev­er gets col­lect­ed, espe­cial­ly since turn­ing this into a weapon for regime change in Chi­na is clear­ly a top objec­tive of that crowd. In oth­er words, the far right has its desired nar­ra­tive: it’s the “Chi­na virus” and Chi­na must pay dear­ly as a con­se­quence. Any­thing that dis­rupts that nar­ra­tive is going to have to be squashed and that poten­tial­ly means squash­ing our abil­i­ty to find the signs of ear­ly out­breaks out­side of Chi­na that don’t fit with that nar­ra­tive.

    So with all that in mind, here’s anoth­er arti­cle describ­ing how the protests that sud­den­ly popped up in a num­ber of states last week to reopen the econ­o­my real­ly were orches­trat­ed by the GOP and front groups for the bil­lion­aire GOP mega-donors like the Koch net­work. And it describes anoth­er bil­lion­aire GOP mega-donor who appears to be behind the protest. It’s a name we should have expect­ed by now: Robert Mer­cer.

    It turns out one of right-wing groups orga­niz­ing the protests was the Con­ven­tion of States project launched in 2015 by Robert Mer­cer. That a group ded­i­cat­ed to get­ting enough states to invoke Arti­cle 5 of the US Con­sti­tu­tion and call a Con­sti­tu­tion­al Con­ven­tion of the States, where the entire US con­sti­tu­tion can be com­plete­ly rewrit­ten. As we’ve seen, this is a project also heav­i­ly backed by the Koch net­work and has a far right cor­po­ratist over­haul of the Con­sti­tu­tion as its goal. When the project held a mock con­ven­tion they basi­cal­ly gut­ted the abil­i­ty of the gov­ern­ment raise tax­es or reg­u­late busi­ness.

    That’s one of the key groups behind these ‘reopen the econ­o­my’ protests. Protests that have large­ly tak­en place the states that have been hit the least hard and there­fore have had the least amount of test­ing. So if there are an non-Chi­na-ori­gin Type A fam­i­ly trees float­ing around in these states a pre­ma­ture reopen­ing would be a great way to let the Type B strains flood in and over­take and obscure those Type A strains.

    And while it’s not hard to imag­ine that a group of far right bil­lion­aires would want to reopen the econ­o­my regard­less of the pos­si­ble pub­lic health risks to their work­ers, it’s worth keep­ing in mind that this same group is going to be very heav­i­ly invest­ed in “Chi­na must pay for its viral crimes” nar­ra­tive are keen on not see­ing any evi­dence emerge that could chal­lenge that nar­ra­tive. Might ensur­ing the max­i­mal ongo­ing spread of the virus in the US in order to obscure any phy­lo­ge­net­ic evi­dence of an ear­li­er non-Chi­na-ori­gin out­break be part of the motive for these protests? Who knows, but the cast of fas­cist char­ac­ters that should be the prime sus­pects for a far right viral psy-op are the same cast of char­ac­ters tak­ing steps to ensure the virus spreads as much as pos­si­ble so we prob­a­bly should­n’t rule it out:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    The anti-quar­an­tine protests seem spon­ta­neous. But behind the scenes, a pow­er­ful net­work is help­ing.

    By Isaac Stan­ley-Beck­er and Tony Romm
    April 22, 2020 at 6:00 AM EDT

    The ads on Face­book sound­ed pop­ulist and pas­sion­ate: “The peo­ple are ris­ing up against these insane shut­downs,” they said. “We’re fight­ing back to demand that our elect­ed offi­cials reopen Amer­i­ca.”

    But the posts, fund­ed by an ini­tia­tive called Con­ven­tion of States, were not the prod­uct of a grass-roots upris­ing alone. Instead, they rep­re­sent­ed one sal­vo in a wide-rang­ing and well-financed con­ser­v­a­tive cam­paign to under­mine restric­tions that med­ical experts say are nec­es­sary to con­tain the coro­n­avirus — but that pro­test­ers call overkill and whose eco­nom­ic fall­out could dam­age Pres­i­dent Trump’s polit­i­cal prospects.

    A net­work of right-lean­ing indi­vid­u­als and groups, aid­ed by nim­ble online out­fits, has helped incu­bate the fer­vor erupt­ing in state cap­i­tals across the coun­try. The activism is often organ­ic and the frus­tra­tion deeply felt, but it is also being ampli­fied, and in some cas­es coor­di­nat­ed, by long­time con­ser­v­a­tive activists, whose robust oper­a­tions were ini­tial­ly set up with help from Repub­li­can megadonors.

    The Con­ven­tion of States project launched in 2015 with a high-dol­lar dona­tion from the fam­i­ly foun­da­tion of Robert Mer­cer, a bil­lion­aire hedge fund man­ag­er and Repub­li­can patron. It boasts past sup­port from two mem­bers of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion — Ken Cuc­cinel­li, act­ing direc­tor of U.S. Cit­i­zen­ship and Immi­gra­tion Ser­vices, and Ben Car­son, sec­re­tary of hous­ing and urban devel­op­ment.

    It also trum­pets a pri­or endorse­ment from Ron DeSan­tis, the Repub­li­can gov­er­nor of Flori­da and a close Trump ally who is pur­su­ing an aggres­sive plan to reopen his state’s econ­o­my. A spokesman for Car­son declined to com­ment. Cuc­cinel­li and DeSan­tis did not respond to requests for com­ment.

    The ini­tia­tive, aimed at cur­tail­ing fed­er­al pow­er, is now lever­ag­ing its sweep­ing nation­al net­work and dig­i­tal arse­nal to help stitch togeth­er scat­tered demon­stra­tions across the coun­try, mak­ing oppo­si­tion to stay-at-home orders appear more wide­spread than is sug­gest­ed by polling.

    “We’re pro­vid­ing a dig­i­tal plat­form for peo­ple to plan and com­mu­ni­cate about what they’re doing,” said Eric O’Keefe, board pres­i­dent of Cit­i­zens for Self-Gov­er­nance, the par­ent orga­ni­za­tion of the Con­ven­tion of States project.

    A long­time asso­ciate of the con­ser­v­a­tive activist Koch fam­i­ly, O’Keefe helped man­age David Koch’s 1980 bid for the White House when he served as the No. 2 on the Lib­er­tar­i­an tick­et.

    “To shut down our rur­al coun­ties because of what’s going on in New York City, or in some sense Mil­wau­kee, is dra­con­ian,” said O’Keefe, who lives in Wis­con­sin.

    Polls sug­gest most Amer­i­cans sup­port local direc­tives encour­ag­ing them to stay at home as covid-19, the dis­ease caused by the new coro­n­avirus, rav­ages the coun­try, killing more than 44,000 peo­ple in the Unit­ed States so far. Pub­lic health offi­cials, includ­ing epi­demi­ol­o­gists advis­ing Trump’s White House, agree that sweep­ing restric­tions rep­re­sent the most effec­tive mit­i­ga­tion strat­e­gy in the absence of a vac­cine, which could be more than a year away.

    Still, some activists insist that states should lift con­trols on com­mer­cial activ­i­ty and pub­lic assem­bly, cit­ing the effects of mass clo­sures on busi­ness­es. They have been encour­aged at times by Trump, whose attor­ney gen­er­al, William P. Barr, said in an inter­view with radio host Hugh Hewitt on Tues­day that the Jus­tice Depart­ment would con­sid­er sup­port­ing law­suits against restric­tions that go “too far.”

    Fur­ther afield, the protests have been encour­aged by some of the president’s allies out­side the White House, includ­ing Stephen Moore, once con­sid­ered for a top post at the Fed­er­al Reserve.

    The swelling frus­tra­tion on the right coin­cides with major pol­i­cy changes in some states, espe­cial­ly those with Repub­li­can gov­er­nors. Geor­gia, South Car­oli­na and Ten­nessee have begun relax­ing their restric­tions in recent days after bow­ing to pres­sure and impos­ing far-reach­ing guide­lines.

    The protests are rem­i­nis­cent in some ways of the tea par­ty move­ment and the demon­stra­tions against the Afford­able Care Act that erupt­ed in 2010, which also involved a mix of home­grown activism and shrewd behind-the-scenes fund­ing.

    For the Con­ven­tion of States, pub­lic health is an unusu­al focus. It was found­ed to push for a con­ven­tion that would add a ­bal­anced-bud­get amend­ment to the Con­sti­tu­tion. That same anti-gov­ern­ment impulse is now ani­mat­ing the group’s cam­paign against coro­n­avirus pre­cau­tions.

    “Heavy-hand­ed gov­ern­ment orders that inter­fere with our most basic lib­er­ties will do more harm than good,” read its Face­book ads, which had been viewed as many as 36,000 times as of Tues­day evening.

    Ask­ing for a $5 dona­tion “to sup­port our fight,” the paid posts are part of an online blitz called “Open the States,” which also includes new­ly cre­at­ed web­sites, a data-col­lect­ing peti­tion and an omi­nous video about the eco­nom­ic effects of the lock­down.

    The group’s pres­i­dent, Mark Meck­ler, said his aim was to act as a “clear­ing­house where these guys can all find each oth­er” — a role he learned as co-founder of the Tea Par­ty Patri­ots. Free­dom­Works, a lib­er­tar­i­an advo­ca­cy group also active in the tea par­ty move­ment, is seek­ing to play a sim­i­lar func­tion, cre­at­ing an online cal­en­dar of protests.

    “The major need back in 2009 was no dif­fer­ent than it is today — some easy cen­tral­iz­ing point to list events, to allow peo­ple to com­mu­ni­cate with each oth­er,” he said.

    Meck­ler, who draws a salary of about $250,000 from the Con­ven­tion of States par­ent group, a tax-exempt non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tion, accord­ing to fil­ings with the Inter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice, hailed the “spon­ta­neous cit­i­zen groups self-orga­niz­ing on the Inter­net and protest­ing what they per­ceive to be gov­ern­ment over­reach.”

    So far, the protests against stay-at-home orders in states includ­ing Wash­ing­ton and Penn­syl­va­nia have cap­tured head­lines and drawn rebukes from some gov­er­nors and epi­demi­ol­o­gists. Experts say a sud­den, wide­spread reopen­ing of the coun­try is like­ly to wors­en the out­break, over­whelm­ing hos­pi­tals and killing tens of thou­sands.

    The pro­test­ers so far have not aimed their ire at Trump, though it is his administration’s experts whose guide­lines under­lie many of the states’ actions.

    Trump’s pub­lic com­ments — includ­ing his recent tweets call­ing for sup­port­ers to “lib­er­ate” states includ­ing Michi­gan, a coro­n­avirus hot spot — have cat­alyzed some of the broad­er pub­lic reac­tion. Fol­low­ing those tweets, tens of thou­sands of peo­ple joined Face­book groups call­ing for protests in states includ­ing Penn­syl­va­nia and Ohio, where the efforts are coor­di­nat­ed by a trio of broth­ers who typ­i­cal­ly focus their efforts on fight­ing gun con­trol.

    In recent days, con­ser­v­a­tives have set their sights on Wis­con­sin, where a few dozen pro­test­ers turned out at the Capi­tol to air their frus­tra­tions with Gov. Tony Evers, a Demo­c­rat, after he extend­ed his state’s stay-at-home order until late May. Ahead of the demon­stra­tion, Moore, the Trump ally, revealed on a live stream that he was “work­ing with a group” in the state with the goal of try­ing “to shut down the cap­i­tal.”

    Moore, who served as a Trump cam­paign advis­er in 2016, said he had locat­ed a big donor to aid in the effort, though he nev­er elab­o­rat­ed. “I told him about this, and he said, ‘Steve, I promise to pay the bail and legal fees for any­one who gets arrest­ed,’?” Moore said in the video. He likened his quest to the civ­il rights move­ment, adding, “We need to be the Rosa Parks here and protest against these gov­ern­ment injus­tices.”

    ...

    In Michi­gan, among those orga­niz­ing “Oper­a­tion Grid­lock” was Meshawn Mad­dock, who sits on the Trump campaign’s advi­so­ry board and is a promi­nent fig­ure in the “Women for Trump” coali­tion. Funds to pro­mote the demon­stra­tions on Face­book came from the Michi­gan Free­dom Fund, which is head­ed by Greg McNeil­ly, a long­time advis­er to the fam­i­ly of Edu­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Bet­sy DeVos.

    McNeil­ly said the mon­ey used to advance the anti-quar­an­tine protests came from “grass-roots fundrais­ing efforts” and had “noth­ing to do with any DeVos work.”

    Many of the seem­ing­ly scat­tered, spon­ta­neous out­bursts of cit­i­zen activism reflect deeply inter­wo­ven net­works of con­ser­v­a­tive and lib­er­tar­i­an non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tions. One of the most vocal groups oppos­ing the lock­down in Texas is an Austin-based con­ser­v­a­tive think tank called the Texas Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Foun­da­tion, which also hails the demon­stra­tions nation­wide.

    “Some Amer­i­cans are angry,” its direc­tor wrote in an op-ed pro­mot­ed on Face­book and placed in the local media, telling read­ers in Texas about the achieve­ments of pro­test­ers in Michi­gan.

    The board vice chair­man of the Texas Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Foun­da­tion, oil exec­u­tive Tim Dunn, is also a found­ing board mem­ber of the group pro­mot­ing the Con­ven­tion of States ini­tia­tive. And the foundation’s for­mer pres­i­dent, Brooke Rollins, now works as an assis­tant to Trump in the Office of Amer­i­can Inno­va­tion.

    Nei­ther Dunn nor Rollins respond­ed to requests for com­ment.

    The John Han­cock Com­mit­tee for the States — the name used in IRS fil­ings by the group behind the Con­ven­tion of States — gave more than $100,000 to the Texas Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Foun­da­tion in 2011.

    The Con­ven­tion of States project, mean­while, has received back­ing from DonorsTrust, a tax-exempt finan­cial con­duit for right-wing caus­es that does not dis­close its con­trib­u­tors. The same fund has helped bankroll the Ida­ho Free­dom Foun­da­tion, which is encour­ag­ing protests of a stay-at-home order imposed by the state’s Repub­li­can gov­er­nor, Brad Lit­tle.

    “Dis­obey Ida­ho,” say its Face­book ads, which use an image of the “Join or Die” snake wood­cut emblem­at­ic of the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War and lat­er adopt­ed by the tea par­ty move­ment.

    In 2014, the year before it launched the Con­ven­tion of States ini­tia­tive, Cit­i­zens for Self-Gov­er­nance received $500,000 from the Mer­cer Fam­i­ly Foun­da­tion, a dona­tion Meck­ler said helped jump-start the cam­paign. Mer­cer declined to com­ment.

    While groups and indi­vid­ual activists asso­ci­at­ed with the Koch broth­ers have boost­ed this far-flung net­work, Emi­ly Sei­del, the chief exec­u­tive of the Koch-backed Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­i­ty advo­ca­cy group, sought to dis­tance the orga­ni­za­tion from the protest activ­i­ty, which she said was “not the best way” to “get peo­ple back to work.”

    “Instead, we are work­ing direct­ly with pol­i­cy­mak­ers, to bring busi­ness lead­ers and pub­lic health offi­cials togeth­er to help devel­op stan­dards to safe­ly reopen the econ­o­my with­out jeop­ar­diz­ing pub­lic health,” Sei­del said.

    But oth­ers see link­ages to groups push­ing anti-quar­an­tine upris­ings.

    “The involve­ment of the Koch insti­tu­tion­al appa­ra­tus in groups sup­port­ing these protests is clear to me,” said Robert J. Brulle, a soci­ol­o­gist at Drex­el Uni­ver­si­ty whose research has focused on cli­mate lob­by­ing. “The pres­ence of allies on the board usu­al­ly means that they are deeply engaged in the orga­ni­za­tion and most like­ly a fun­der.”

    Brulle said the blow­back against the coro­n­avirus pre­cau­tions car­ries echoes of efforts to deny cli­mate change, both of which rely on hos­til­i­ty toward gov­ern­ment action.

    “These are extreme right-wing efforts to dele­git­imize gov­ern­ment,” he said. “It’s an anti-gov­ern­ment cru­sade.”

    ————-

    “The anti-quar­an­tine protests seem spon­ta­neous. But behind the scenes, a pow­er­ful net­work is help­ing.” by Isaac Stan­ley-Beck­er and Tony Romm; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 04/22/2020

    The Con­ven­tion of States project launched in 2015 with a high-dol­lar dona­tion from the fam­i­ly foun­da­tion of Robert Mer­cer, a bil­lion­aire hedge fund man­ag­er and Repub­li­can patron. It boasts past sup­port from two mem­bers of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion — Ken Cuc­cinel­li, act­ing direc­tor of U.S. Cit­i­zen­ship and Immi­gra­tion Ser­vices, and Ben Car­son, sec­re­tary of hous­ing and urban devel­op­ment.”

    An orga­ni­za­tion found­ed by fas­cist bil­lion­aire Robert Mer­cer work­ing in coor­di­na­tion with the Trump admin­is­tra­tion and state-lev­el GOP offi­cials. That’s one of the key dri­ving forces behind the dri­ve to reopen state economies no mat­ter what...in par­tic­u­lar the economies of states that haven’t real­ly had a whole of test­ing or viral genom­ic sequenc­ing yet thus ensur­ing that evi­dence of non-Chi­na-ori­gin Type A strain out­breaks can be nice­ly con­cealed by the Type B strains that will inevitably move into those states.

    But the Con­ven­tion of States project isn’t just a Mer­cer project. It appears to have the broad back­ing of the GOP mega-donor net­works like the Koch net­work. And why not? Over­haul­ing the US Con­sti­tu­tion to turn the US into a cor­po­ra­toc­ra­cy that’s a democ­ra­cy in name only has long been a goal of the this donor net­work. The Con­ven­tion of States is like a man­i­fes­ta­tion of the far right bil­lion­aires’ social engi­neer­ing wish list:

    ...
    The ini­tia­tive, aimed at cur­tail­ing fed­er­al pow­er, is now lever­ag­ing its sweep­ing nation­al net­work and dig­i­tal arse­nal to help stitch togeth­er scat­tered demon­stra­tions across the coun­try, mak­ing oppo­si­tion to stay-at-home orders appear more wide­spread than is sug­gest­ed by polling.

    “We’re pro­vid­ing a dig­i­tal plat­form for peo­ple to plan and com­mu­ni­cate about what they’re doing,” said Eric O’Keefe, board pres­i­dent of Cit­i­zens for Self-Gov­er­nance, the par­ent orga­ni­za­tion of the Con­ven­tion of States project.

    A long­time asso­ciate of the con­ser­v­a­tive activist Koch fam­i­ly, O’Keefe helped man­age David Koch’s 1980 bid for the White House when he served as the No. 2 on the Lib­er­tar­i­an tick­et.

    ...

    The protests are rem­i­nis­cent in some ways of the tea par­ty move­ment and the demon­stra­tions against the Afford­able Care Act that erupt­ed in 2010, which also involved a mix of home­grown activism and shrewd behind-the-scenes fund­ing.

    ...

    The group’s pres­i­dent, Mark Meck­ler, said his aim was to act as a “clear­ing­house where these guys can all find each oth­er” — a role he learned as co-founder of the Tea Par­ty Patri­ots. Free­dom­Works, a lib­er­tar­i­an advo­ca­cy group also active in the tea par­ty move­ment, is seek­ing to play a sim­i­lar func­tion, cre­at­ing an online cal­en­dar of protests.

    ...

    The Con­ven­tion of States project, mean­while, has received back­ing from DonorsTrust, a tax-exempt finan­cial con­duit for right-wing caus­es that does not dis­close its con­trib­u­tors. The same fund has helped bankroll the Ida­ho Free­dom Foun­da­tion, which is encour­ag­ing protests of a stay-at-home order imposed by the state’s Repub­li­can gov­er­nor, Brad Lit­tle.

    “Dis­obey Ida­ho,” say its Face­book ads, which use an image of the “Join or Die” snake wood­cut emblem­at­ic of the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War and lat­er adopt­ed by the tea par­ty move­ment.

    In 2014, the year before it launched the Con­ven­tion of States ini­tia­tive, Cit­i­zens for Self-Gov­er­nance received $500,000 from the Mer­cer Fam­i­ly Foun­da­tion, a dona­tion Meck­ler said helped jump-start the cam­paign. Mer­cer declined to com­ment.
    ...

    And keep in mind that when we hear that Ron DeSan­tis is also a Con­ven­tion of States ini­tia­tive backer, odds are that almost every elect­ed Repub­li­can in office today would prob­a­bly back the idea if asked. That’s just the nature of the mod­ern day Repub­li­can Part. Also recall that it was DeSan­tis who actu­al­ly asked Trump to impose a fed­er­al quar­an­tine on the tri-state area as part of his bid to blame Flori­da’s explo­sion of cas­es on flee­ing New York­ers. Trump then open­ly con­sid­ered exact­ly that sce­nario. So as the reopen­ing schemes start to get under­way keep in mind that the same dynam­ic of peo­ple trav­el­ing from high-infec­tion states to the reopened states and poten­tial­ly spread­ing the virus is going to be play­ing out which means the same dynam­ic of GOP gov­er­nors being tempt­ed to ask Trump for fed­er­al quar­an­tines against is also going to be play­ing out. In oth­er words, the odds of DeSan­tis see­ing his fed­er­al quar­an­tine of New York wish come true are only ris­ing:

    ...
    It also trum­pets a pri­or endorse­ment from Ron DeSan­tis, the Repub­li­can gov­er­nor of Flori­da and a close Trump ally who is pur­su­ing an aggres­sive plan to reopen his state’s econ­o­my. A spokesman for Car­son declined to com­ment. Cuc­cinel­li and DeSan­tis did not respond to requests for com­ment.
    ...

    Anoth­er aspect of this whole night­mare sce­nario worth keep­ing in mind is that many of the same dynam­ics at work in the cyber­war­fare realm are going to apply to this kind of sit­u­a­tion and that includes viral false flags. Just as it’s triv­ial to leave “I’m a Russ­ian (or Chi­nese or US)” hack­er signs in pieces of mal­ware to com­pli­cate the attri­bu­tion or cre­ate a provo­ca­tion, there’s noth­ing stop­ping some­one from effec­tive­ly cre­at­ing and dis­trib­ut­ing man-made phy­lo­ge­net­ic trees of viral sam­ples to throw off inves­ti­ga­tors con­duct­ing the kind of phy­lo­ge­net­ic analy­sis used by Dr. Forster’s team.

    If, for exam­ple, we’re look­ing psy-op that involves first plac­ing the blame and lat­er impli­cat­ing the US — a great sce­nario for trig­ger­ing WWIII between the two super-pow­ers — it would be pos­si­ble for a gov­ern­ment (or pri­vate fas­cist net­work) to gen­er­ate a phy­lo­ge­net­ic fam­i­ly of Type A virus­es that are entire­ly dif­fer­ent from the strain that emerged in Chi­na and then dis­trib­ute them in the mid­dle of US, for exam­ple, after the out­break. Wait and see what fam­i­lies nat­u­ral­ly emerge from Chi­na and then retroac­tive­ly cre­ate dif­fer­ent fam­i­lies and spread them around. You could lim­it it to muta­tion that’s don’t change the virus’s pro­tein struc­ture so there aren’t any func­tion dif­fer­ences between your man-made fam­i­ly and the exist­ing pan­dem­ic strains. A psy-op that assumes an ini­tial round of extreme scape­goat­ing of Chi­na fol­lowed up with a rev­e­la­tion of non-Chi­na-ori­gin strains in the US that result in an esca­la­tion of brinks­man­ship. We’ve already seen from Ralph Bar­ic’s lab how made-to-order virus­es can be acti­vat­ed to infect cells. If phy­lo­ge­net­ic analy­sis becomes a more and more impor­tant tool for under­stand­ing the ori­gin of virus­es as we enter this age of syn­thet­ic biol­o­gy it stands to rea­son that steps for trick­ing that phy­lo­ge­net­ic analy­sis will be employed dur­ing a real psy-op if it can achieve a desired result. This isn’t just pos­si­ble but tech­ni­cal­ly triv­ial for those with suf­fi­cient resources which includes almost every gov­ern­ment on the plan­et and count­less pri­vate indi­vid­u­als and orga­ni­za­tions. That’s prob­a­bly not the sce­nario we’re look­ing at with COVID-19 but it’s some­thing else we have to take into account for future pan­demics: in addi­tion to inten­tion­al steps to obscure and hide real data that could reveal the ori­gins of the virus there could also be mis­in­for­ma­tion effec­tive­ly being inject­ed into the envi­ron­ment via man-made viral fam­i­ly trees also intend­ed to obscure those ori­gins.

    So that’s all some­thing to keep in mind as the bat­tle of reopen­ing state economies unfolds: if the reopened states end up flood­ing them­selves with new cas­es, in par­tic­u­lar new cas­es of the Type B vari­ety from the East Coast that can out­com­pete the Type A strains, we could effec­tive­ly be obscur­ing the avail­abil­i­ty of phy­lo­ge­net­ic evi­dence of non-Chi­na-ori­gin Type A strains. And that might be just fine with folks like Steve Ban­non and Robert Mer­cer.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 25, 2020, 3:29 pm
  5. And now we have a new study about even more COVID-19 symp­toms that relates to the sto­ries about the abil­i­ty of the virus to direct­ly attack and kill immune cells, reports of high num­bers of blood clots, and the reports of the virus attack­ing more organs than pre­vi­ous­ly real­ized like the brain: A study was just pub­lished that eval­u­at­ed the symp­toms in 214 patients in Wuhan. They found neu­ro­log­i­cal symp­toms in 45% of patients with severe infec­tions and 36% of patients with a mild infec­tion. Yep, even in mild infec­tions a third of peo­ple were hav­ing their ner­vous sys­tem attacked to the point where peo­ple actu­al­ly exhib­it­ed some kind of symp­tom. This isn’t the first we’ve heard about neu­ro­log­i­cal symp­toms but it looks like one of the first sur­veys of the range of symp­toms found in mild­ly ill patients. And it’s quite a range of symp­toms.

    Of that 36% mild­ly ill patients with neu­ro­log­i­cal symp­toms, about a quar­ter had cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem (CNS) symp­tom which includes the brain and spinal cord, with like dizzi­ness and headaches being the most com­mon and anoth­er 10% had periph­er­al ner­vous sys­tem symp­toms like impaired taste or smell. All of these are symp­toms that can also be cre­at­ed by a cold or flu ill­ness and man­i­fest­ed with­in 1–2 days of the onset of the dis­ease and some patients arrived at the hos­pi­tal only man­i­fest­ing neu­ro­log­i­cal symp­toms so this find­ing was­n’t par­tic­u­lar­ly stun­ning.

    The most severe neu­ro­log­i­cal symp­toms like ischemic and hem­or­rhag­ic strokes and impaired con­scious­ness took place lat­er on in the course of the dis­ease. Strokes were also more com­mon in old­er and more severe­ly ill patients. But as we’re going to see in the sec­ond excerpt below, the strokes are by no means exclu­sive to the old­er and severe­ly ill patients. Younger mild­ly patients are expe­ri­enc­ing strokes and they turn out to be very unusu­al strokes. Patients with severe infec­tion were found to have high­er lev­els of a pro­tein frag­ment asso­ci­at­ed with high lev­els of blood clot for­ma­tion and break­down. So in the case of the most severe neu­ro­log­ic symp­toms like strokes the symp­toms aren’t caused by a direct attack by the virus on the ner­vous sys­tem but instead on the propen­si­ty of the virus to induce blood clots. Whether or not the ele­vat­ed lev­els of blood clot­ting com­pounds in severe­ly ill patients is a direct or indi­rect con­se­quence of the virus’s attack on the body remains to be seen.

    Now, relat­ing this to the immune sys­tem, it’s long been known that the immune sys­tem and inflam­ma­tion in par­tic­u­lar can play a role in the man­i­fes­ta­tion of all sorts of dif­fer­ent neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­or­ders. And that rais­es the ques­tion of whether or not these neu­ro­log­i­cal symp­toms are the con­se­quence of the immune sys­tem’s response to the dis­ease or the virus direct­ly attack­ing the ner­vous sys­tem. The study also found low lev­els of lym­pho­cytes (which includes T cells) in the most severe­ly ill patients who were man­i­fest­ing CNS symp­toms. So the col­lapse of T cells lev­els caused by the virus appears to be cor­re­lat­ed to the devel­op­ment of the CNS symp­toms in the severe­ly ill patients, although we don’t know if it’s a causal rela­tion­ship. Is it the immune sys­tem’s response to the virus that’s indi­rect­ly caus­ing CNS symp­toms? Is the virus’s attack on the immune sys­tem caus­ing some sort of immuno­log­i­cal dys­func­tion that’s caus­ing the symp­toms? These remain very open ques­tions and based on what we’ve learned so far about this virus the answer is prob­a­bly “all of the above”. As one neu­rol­o­gist puts it, “while the exact mech­a­nism of neu­ro­log­i­cal involve­ment remains uncer­tain, it is like­ly a com­bi­na­tion of direct viral inva­sion as well as the sec­ondary effects of the immuno­log­ic and inflam­ma­to­ry respons­es direct­ed towards the ner­vous sys­tem.” And that’s part of what’s poten­tial­ly going to make the neu­ro­log­i­cal symp­toms one of the most dif­fi­cult areas of this dis­ease to under­stand: both the virus itself and the body’s immune response can poten­tial­ly induce a neu­ro­log­i­cal con­di­tion, espe­cial­ly when the virus is also attack­ing the immune sys­tem:

    Forbes

    Viral Brain Attack: Neu­ro­log­ic Man­i­fes­ta­tions Of COVID-19

    Lipi Roy, MD, MPH
    Apr 27, 2020,06:57pm EDT

    Ear­ly on in the nov­el coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic, we were warned about three car­di­nal symp­toms asso­ci­at­ed with COVID-19: fever, cough and short­ness of breath – symp­toms com­mon­ly con­nect­ed to most res­pi­ra­to­ry viral ill­ness­es. But no longer. As each day goes by, we learn more and more about how this pathogen attacks the human body. Neu­ro­log­i­cal signs and symp­toms are among a grow­ing list of clin­i­cal man­i­fes­ta­tions asso­ci­at­ed with SARS-CoV­‑2 which, at the time of this article’s pub­li­ca­tion, has result­ed passed the 1 mil­lion mark in cas­es and has claimed 56,000+ lives in the U.S.

    “It’s cer­tain­ly clear that patients with COVID-19 expe­ri­ence gener­ic con­sti­tu­tion­al symp­toms such as dizzi­ness and headache which are fair­ly com­mon,” said Christa Swish­er, MD, neu­rol­o­gist and neu­r­o­crit­i­cal care spe­cial­ist at the Duke Uni­ver­si­ty Depart­ment of Neu­rol­o­gy . Dr. Swish­er added: “There’s also a sub­set of patients that expe­ri­ence periph­er­al ner­vous sys­tem man­i­fes­ta­tions such as rhab­domy­ol­y­sis and anos­mia.”

    A recent case series pub­lished in JAMA Neu­rol­o­gy from Wuhan, Chi­na eval­u­at­ed 214 patients with lab­o­ra­to­ry-con­firmed COVID-19. Researchers observed neu­ro­log­ic symp­toms in 36% of patients who had mild COVID-19 infec­tion, and as high as 45% in patients with severe infec­tion, based on res­pi­ra­to­ry sta­tus. Of the patients stud­ied, the mean age was 52.7 years and 40.7% were male.

    What are Neu­ro­log­ic Symp­toms Asso­ci­at­ed with COVID-19?

    Of the 36% of patients with neu­ro­log­ic man­i­fes­ta­tions, 24.8% had cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem (CNS) symp­toms, 8.9% had periph­er­al ner­vous sys­tem (PNS) symp­toms and 10.7% had skele­tal mus­cle injury symp­toms. The CNS con­sists of the brain and spinal cord where­as the PNS includes all the nerves out­side the brain and spinal cord. Among CNS man­i­fes­ta­tions, the most com­mon symp­toms were dizzi­ness (16.8%) and headache (13.1%); the most com­mon PNS symp­toms were impaired taste (5.6%) and smell (5.1%).

    Ner­vous sys­tem issues were more com­mon among patients with severe infec­tions who tend­ed to be old­er and more like­ly to have an under­ly­ing ill­ness, often hyper­ten­sion. These patients expe­ri­enced acute cere­brovas­cu­lar dis­ease (i.e. ischemic and hem­or­rhag­ic strokes), impaired con­scious­ness and seizure. Most neu­ro­log­ic symp­toms – oth­er than strokes and altered con­scious­ness – occurred ear­ly in the dis­ease course, medi­an of 1–2 days. The authors also not­ed that some patients pre­sent­ed to the hos­pi­tal only with neu­ro­log­ic symp­toms as opposed to the typ­i­cal tri­ad of fever, cough or dys­p­nea.

    What’s the Mech­a­nism?

    The exact patho­phys­i­ol­o­gy is unclear. The authors hypoth­e­size that SARS-CoV­‑2 is attack­ing the ner­vous sys­tem in a man­ner sim­i­lar to that of the SARS and MERS virus­es. Low lev­els of lym­pho­cytes – a sub­set of white blood cells that fight infec­tion – among patients with COVID-19 and CNS symp­toms sug­gests immuno­sup­pres­sion, par­tic­u­lar­ly among those with severe infec­tion.

    “While the exact mech­a­nism of neu­ro­log­i­cal involve­ment remains uncer­tain, it is like­ly a com­bi­na­tion of direct viral inva­sion as well as the sec­ondary effects of the immuno­log­ic and inflam­ma­to­ry respons­es direct­ed towards the ner­vous sys­tem,” accord­ing to Thomas Pitts, MD, a neu­rol­o­gist and clin­i­cal neu­ro­phys­i­ol­o­gist and Direc­tor of Neu­rol­o­gy at New York City’s Hud­son Med­ical.

    Patients with severe infec­tion were also found to have high­er lev­els of d‑dimer, a pro­tein frag­ment asso­ci­at­ed with high lev­els of blood clot for­ma­tion and break­down. These find­ings are con­sis­tent with recent a phe­nom­e­non described by the Amer­i­can Soci­ety of Hema­tol­ogy as COVID-19-asso­ci­at­ed coag­u­lopa­thy. In oth­er words, patients with COVID-19 are exhibit­ing a high bur­den of clots in var­i­ous parts of their body: low­er extrem­i­ties, lungs and the brain, with the lat­ter two pre­sent­ing as pul­monary emboli and ischemic strokes, respec­tive­ly.

    Study Lim­i­ta­tions

    The authors of the study acknowl­edged that the find­ings would be strength­ened by inclu­sion of patients beyond Wuhan and Chi­na. In addi­tion, all clin­i­cal data were obtained from elec­tron­ic med­ical records, so mild symp­toms such impaired taste and smell could have been over­looked. Last­ly, in an attempt to reduce the risk of cross-infec­tion among an influx of COVID-19-infect­ed patients, diag­nos­tic pro­ce­dures (e.g. lum­bar punc­ture and elec­tromyo­g­ra­phy) and advanced neu­roimag­ing (e.g. MRI) were avoid­ed. As a result, most symp­toms were based on a patient’s sub­jec­tive find­ings. More­over, the researchers could not deter­mine if the neu­ro­log­ic find­ings were caused direct­ly by SARS-CoV­‑2, lung dis­ease or oth­er organ dam­age.

    While these ner­vous sys­tem find­ings are fas­ci­nat­ing, we do not know how – if at all – they will impact patients with oth­er neu­ro­log­ic con­di­tions such as Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s and Myas­the­nia Gravis, accord­ing to Robert Car­ruthers, MD, neu­rol­o­gist and clin­i­cal assis­tant pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­si­ty of British Colum­bia Divi­sion of Neu­rol­o­gy.

    “We don’t know how these find­ings will impact patients tak­ing immuno­sup­pres­sive med­ica­tions for autoim­mune dis­eases such as mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis who may be at a high­er risk for devel­op­ing com­pli­ca­tions,” added Dr. Car­ruthers.

    So, What’s Next?

    COVID-19-asso­ci­at­ed neu­ro­log­ic find­ings should prompt clin­i­cians to con­sid­er SARS-CoV­‑2 infec­tion in patients pre­sent­ing with headache, seizures, dizzi­ness, slurred speech, uni­lat­er­al weak­ness or oth­er ner­vous sys­tem man­i­fes­ta­tions. These find­ings have also moved neu­rol­o­gists to the front­lines, and they should expect to face infect­ed patients in the com­ing months. Some are involved in nation­wide con­ver­sa­tions about these clin­i­cal find­ings.

    ...

    ———–

    “Viral Brain Attack: Neu­ro­log­ic Man­i­fes­ta­tions Of COVID-19” by Lipi Roy; Forbes; 04/27/2020

    “A recent case series pub­lished in JAMA Neu­rol­o­gy from Wuhan, Chi­na eval­u­at­ed 214 patients with lab­o­ra­to­ry-con­firmed COVID-19. Researchers observed neu­ro­log­ic symp­toms in 36% of patients who had mild COVID-19 infec­tion, and as high as 45% in patients with severe infec­tion, based on res­pi­ra­to­ry sta­tus. Of the patients stud­ied, the mean age was 52.7 years and 40.7% were male.”

    A third of mild cas­es and near­ly half of severe cas­es exhibit­ing neu­ro­log­i­cal symp­toms. It’s dis­turb­ing, in part because we don’t under­stand what exact­ly is caus­ing it. But the authors of the study hypoth­e­size that SARS-CoV­‑2 is attack­ing the ner­vous sys­tem in a man­ner sim­i­lar to SARS and MERS. Recall how MERS is also known to attack and kill T cells. So the best guess at this point is that the attack on the ner­vous sys­tem is a mul­ti-pronged attacked: direct­ly against the ner­vous sys­tem (like the virus infect­ing the brain) and indi­rect­ly from the immune response:

    ...
    The exact patho­phys­i­ol­o­gy is unclear. The authors hypoth­e­size that SARS-CoV­‑2 is attack­ing the ner­vous sys­tem in a man­ner sim­i­lar to that of the SARS and MERS virus­es. Low lev­els of lym­pho­cytes – a sub­set of white blood cells that fight infec­tion – among patients with COVID-19 and CNS symp­toms sug­gests immuno­sup­pres­sion, par­tic­u­lar­ly among those with severe infec­tion.

    “While the exact mech­a­nism of neu­ro­log­i­cal involve­ment remains uncer­tain, it is like­ly a com­bi­na­tion of direct viral inva­sion as well as the sec­ondary effects of the immuno­log­ic and inflam­ma­to­ry respons­es direct­ed towards the ner­vous sys­tem,” accord­ing to Thomas Pitts, MD, a neu­rol­o­gist and clin­i­cal neu­ro­phys­i­ol­o­gist and Direc­tor of Neu­rol­o­gy at New York City’s Hud­son Med­ical.

    ...

    Study Lim­i­ta­tions

    The authors of the study acknowl­edged that the find­ings would be strength­ened by inclu­sion of patients beyond Wuhan and Chi­na. In addi­tion, all clin­i­cal data were obtained from elec­tron­ic med­ical records, so mild symp­toms such impaired taste and smell could have been over­looked. Last­ly, in an attempt to reduce the risk of cross-infec­tion among an influx of COVID-19-infect­ed patients, diag­nos­tic pro­ce­dures (e.g. lum­bar punc­ture and elec­tromyo­g­ra­phy) and advanced neu­roimag­ing (e.g. MRI) were avoid­ed. As a result, most symp­toms were based on a patient’s sub­jec­tive find­ings. More­over, the researchers could not deter­mine if the neu­ro­log­ic find­ings were caused direct­ly by SARS-CoV­‑2, lung dis­ease or oth­er organ dam­age.
    ...

    And while the man­i­fes­ta­tion of neu­ro­log­i­cal symp­toms is large num­bers of mild cas­es is pret­ty dis­turb­ing, at least many of those symp­toms were rel­a­tive­ly benign and expect­ed like a headache. But it’s the neu­ro­log­i­cal con­di­tions like strokes — which aren’t caused by a direct viral attack on the ner­vous sys­tem but are a side-effect of some sort of pro-coag­u­la­tion prop­er­ty of the virus — that are tru­ly ter­ri­fy­ing. And while strokes are more com­mon the severe­ly ill who tend­ed to be old­er, they weren’t entire­ly in that cat­e­go­ry. Younger more mild­ly impact­ed patients did get them too:

    ...
    Ner­vous sys­tem issues were more com­mon among patients with severe infec­tions who tend­ed to be old­er and more like­ly to have an under­ly­ing ill­ness, often hyper­ten­sion. These patients expe­ri­enced acute cere­brovas­cu­lar dis­ease (i.e. ischemic and hem­or­rhag­ic strokes), impaired con­scious­ness and seizure. Most neu­ro­log­ic symp­toms – oth­er than strokes and altered con­scious­ness – occurred ear­ly in the dis­ease course, medi­an of 1–2 days. The authors also not­ed that some patients pre­sent­ed to the hos­pi­tal only with neu­ro­log­ic symp­toms as opposed to the typ­i­cal tri­ad of fever, cough or dys­p­nea.

    ...

    Patients with severe infec­tion were also found to have high­er lev­els of d‑dimer, a pro­tein frag­ment asso­ci­at­ed with high lev­els of blood clot for­ma­tion and break­down. These find­ings are con­sis­tent with recent a phe­nom­e­non described by the Amer­i­can Soci­ety of Hema­tol­ogy as COVID-19-asso­ci­at­ed coag­u­lopa­thy. In oth­er words, patients with COVID-19 are exhibit­ing a high bur­den of clots in var­i­ous parts of their body: low­er extrem­i­ties, lungs and the brain, with the lat­ter two pre­sent­ing as pul­monary emboli and ischemic strokes, respec­tive­ly.
    ...

    And now here’s a Wash­ing­ton Post piece from a few days ago about the high­ly unusu­al nature of the strokes being observed in young COVID-19 vic­tims many of whom did not have severe symp­toms. Not only are the cas­es unusu­al in terms of the age of the stroke vic­tims but they’re also unusu­al in how the strokes actu­al­ly man­i­fest. Most of the strokes are of the most severe vari­ety that cause large block­ages and dam­age the parts of the brains asso­ci­at­ed with speech and move­ment. In addi­tion, while most strokes typ­i­cal­ly occur in arter­ies doc­tors are see­ing COVID patients with clots in their veins which are more dif­fi­cult to treat. Alarm­ing, one doc­tor report­ed see­ing new clots form­ing in real-time while he was treat­ing the exist­ing clot in a patient. They had the patient hooked up to machine that could visu­al­ize the clot­ting and yet, the clots were lit­er­al­ly form­ing in real-time. The doc­tor has nev­er seen this before.

    Adding to the dis­turb­ing nature of this find­ing is the spec­u­la­tion as to why we might now be see­ing younger patients com­ing in with stokes after an ini­tial wave of pri­mar­i­ly old­er and more severe­ly ill stroke vic­tims: the younger patients might be suc­cess­ful­ly fight­ing off the lung infec­tion that would have oth­er­wise killed an old­er patient, so the virus is mov­ing on to attack­ing oth­er parts of the body even­tu­al­ly result­ing in the stroke. In oth­er words, the surge in strokes in younger patients could be reflec­tion of the our grow­ing under­stand­ing that this virus does­n’t just attack lungs and res­pi­ra­to­ry tract but the entire body. This would be in keep­ing with the find­ing that abil­i­ty to attack T cells appears to be asso­ci­at­ed with an abil­i­ty to infect cells whether or not they’re express­ing high amounts of the ACE2 recep­tor, giv­ing the virus the abil­i­ty to poten­tial­ly infect (and kill) vir­tu­al­ly any cell in the body.

    So while there’s all sorts of under­stand­able con­cern about a “sec­ond wave” of the pan­dem­ic hit­ting in the fall, it sounds like there might actu­al­ly be a “sec­ond wave” under­way right now in the form of patients who don’t get killed off by the ini­tial lung infec­tion but even­tu­al­ly suc­cumb the virus’s attack on the rest of the body:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    Young and mid­dle-aged peo­ple, bare­ly sick with covid-19, are dying of strokes
    Doc­tors sound alarm about patients in their 30s and 40s left debil­i­tat­ed or dead. Some didn’t even know they were infect­ed.

    By Ari­ana Eun­jung Cha
    April 25, 2020 at 2:12 PM EDT

    Thomas Oxley wasn’t even on call the day he received the page to come to Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hos­pi­tal in Man­hat­tan. There weren’t enough doc­tors to treat all the emer­gency stroke patients, and he was need­ed in the oper­at­ing room.

    The patient’s chart appeared unre­mark­able at first glance. He took no med­ica­tions and had no his­to­ry of chron­ic con­di­tions. He had been feel­ing fine, hang­ing out at home dur­ing the lock­down like the rest of the coun­try, when sud­den­ly, he had trou­ble talk­ing and mov­ing the right side of his body. Imag­ing showed a large block­age on the left side of his head.

    Oxley gasped when he got to the patient’s age and covid-19 sta­tus: 44, pos­i­tive.

    The man was among sev­er­al recent stroke patients in their 30s to 40s who were all infect­ed with the coro­n­avirus. The medi­an age for that type of severe stroke is 74.

    As Oxley, an inter­ven­tion­al neu­rol­o­gist, began the pro­ce­dure to remove the clot, he observed some­thing he had nev­er seen before. On the mon­i­tors, the brain typ­i­cal­ly shows up as a tan­gle of black squig­gles — “like a can of spaghet­ti,” he said — that pro­vide a map of blood ves­sels. A clot shows up as a blank spot. As he used a needle­like device to pull out the clot, he saw new clots form­ing in real-time around it.

    “This is crazy,” he remem­bers telling his boss.

    Stroke surge

    Reports of strokes in the young and mid­dle-aged — not just at Mount Sinai, but also in many oth­er hos­pi­tals in com­mu­ni­ties hit hard by the nov­el coro­n­avirus — are the lat­est twist in our evolv­ing under­stand­ing of the dis­ease it caus­es. The num­bers of those affect­ed are small but nonethe­less remark­able because they chal­lenge how doc­tors under­stand the virus. Even as it has infect­ed near­ly 2.8 mil­lion peo­ple world­wide and killed about 195,000 as of Fri­day, its bio­log­i­cal mech­a­nisms con­tin­ue to elude top sci­en­tif­ic minds. Once thought to be a pathogen that pri­mar­i­ly attacks the lungs, it has turned out to be a much more for­mi­da­ble foe — impact­ing near­ly every major organ sys­tem in the body.

    Until recent­ly, there was lit­tle hard data on strokes and covid-19.

    There was one report out of Wuhan, Chi­na, that showed that some hos­pi­tal­ized patients had expe­ri­enced strokes, with many being seri­ous­ly ill and elder­ly. But the link­age was con­sid­ered more of “a clin­i­cal hunch by a lot of real­ly smart peo­ple,” said Sher­ry H‑Y Chou, a Uni­ver­si­ty of Pitts­burgh Med­ical Cen­ter neu­rol­o­gist and crit­i­cal care doc­tor.

    Now for the first time, three large U.S. med­ical cen­ters are prepar­ing to pub­lish data on the stroke phe­nom­e­non. There are only a few dozen cas­es per loca­tion, but they pro­vide new insights into what the virus does to our bod­ies.

    Coro­n­avirus destroys lungs. But doc­tors are find­ing its dam­age in kid­neys, hearts and else­where.

    A stroke, which is a sud­den inter­rup­tion of the blood sup­ply, is a com­plex prob­lem with numer­ous caus­es and pre­sen­ta­tions. It can be caused by heart prob­lems, clogged arter­ies due to cho­les­terol, even sub­stance abuse. Mini-strokes often don’t cause per­ma­nent dam­age and can resolve on their own with­in 24 hours. But big­ger ones can be cat­a­stroph­ic.

    The analy­ses sug­gest coro­n­avirus patients are most­ly expe­ri­enc­ing the dead­liest type of stroke. Known as large ves­sel occlu­sions, or LVOs, they can oblit­er­ate large parts of the brain respon­si­ble for move­ment, speech and deci­sion-mak­ing in one blow because they are in the main blood-sup­ply­ing arter­ies.

    Many researchers sus­pect strokes in covid-19 patients may be a direct con­se­quence of blood prob­lems that are pro­duc­ing clots all over some people’s bod­ies.

    Clots that form on ves­sel walls fly upward. One that start­ed in the calves might migrate to the lungs, caus­ing a block­age called a pul­monary embolism that arrests breath­ing — a known cause of death in covid-19 patients. Clots in or near the heart might lead to a heart attack, anoth­er com­mon cause of death. Any­thing above that would prob­a­bly go to the brain, lead­ing to a stroke.

    Robert Stevens, a crit­i­cal care doc­tor at Johns Hop­kins Hos­pi­tal in Bal­ti­more, called strokes “one of the most dra­mat­ic man­i­fes­ta­tions” of the blood-clot­ting issues. “We’ve also tak­en care of patients in their 30s with stroke and covid, and this was extreme­ly sur­pris­ing,” he said.

    Many doc­tors expressed wor­ry that as the New York City Fire Depart­ment was pick­ing up four times as many peo­ple who died at home as nor­mal dur­ing the peak of infec­tion that some of the dead had suf­fered sud­den strokes. The truth may nev­er be known because few autop­sies were con­duct­ed.

    Chou said one ques­tion is whether the clot­ting is because of a direct attack on the blood ves­sels, or a “friend­ly-fire prob­lem” caused by the patient’s immune response.

    “In your body’s attempt to fight off the virus, does the immune response end up hurt­ing your brain?” she asked. Chou is hop­ing to answer such ques­tions through a review of strokes and oth­er neu­ro­log­i­cal com­pli­ca­tions in thou­sands of covid-19 patients treat­ed at 68 med­ical cen­ters in 17 coun­tries.

    Thomas Jef­fer­son Uni­ver­si­ty Hos­pi­tals, which oper­ates 14 med­ical cen­ters in Philadel­phia, and NYU Lan­gone Health in New York City, found that 12 of their patients treat­ed for large blood block­ages in their brains dur­ing a three-week peri­od had the virus. Forty per­cent were under 50, and they had few or no risk fac­tors. Their paper is under review by a med­ical jour­nal, said Pas­cal Jab­bour, a neu­ro­sur­geon at Thomas Jef­fer­son.

    In the vast major­i­ty of younger adults, covid-19 appears to result in mild ill­ness with the risk of more severe con­se­quences ris­ing with every decade of age. Accord­ing to Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion data, 0.8 per­cent of U.S. deaths as of Apr. 18 were in peo­ple ages 25 to 34; 2 per­cent among those 35 to 44; and 5.4 per­cent among those 45 to 54.

    Jab­bour and his co-author Eytan Raz, an assis­tant pro­fes­sor of neu­ro­ra­di­ol­o­gy at NYU Lan­gone, said that strokes in covid-19 patients chal­lenge con­ven­tion­al think­ing. “We are used to think­ing of 60 as a young patient when it comes to large ves­sel occlu­sions,” Raz said of the dead­liest strokes. “We have nev­er seen so many in their 50s, 40s and late 30s.”

    Raz won­dered whether they are see­ing more young patients because they are more resis­tant than the elder­ly to the res­pi­ra­to­ry dis­tress caused by covid-19: “So they sur­vive the lung side, and in time devel­op oth­er issues.”

    Jab­bour said many cas­es he has treat­ed have unusu­al char­ac­ter­is­tics. Brain clots usu­al­ly appear in the arter­ies, which car­ry blood away from the heart. But in covid-19 patients, he is also see­ing them in the veins, which car­ry blood in the oppo­site direc­tion and are trick­i­er to treat. Some patients are also devel­op­ing more than one large clot in their heads, which is high­ly unusu­al.

    “We’ll be treat­ing a blood ves­sel and it will go fine, but then the patient will have a major stroke” because of a clot in anoth­er part of the brain, he said.

    The 33-year-old

    At Mount Sinai, the largest med­ical sys­tem in New York City, physi­cian-researcher J Moc­co said the num­ber of patients com­ing in with large blood block­ages in their brains dou­bled dur­ing the three weeks of the covid-19 surge to more than 32, even as the num­ber of oth­er emer­gen­cies fell. More than half of were covid-19 pos­i­tive.

    It isn’t just the num­ber of patients that was unusu­al. The first wave of the pan­dem­ic has hit the elder­ly and those with heart dis­ease, dia­betes, obe­si­ty or oth­er pre­ex­ist­ing con­di­tions dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly. The covid-19 patients treat­ed for stroke at Mount Sinai were younger and most­ly with­out risk fac­tors.

    On aver­age, the covid-19 stroke patients were 15 years younger than stroke patients with­out the virus.

    “These are peo­ple among the least like­ly sta­tis­ti­cal­ly to have a stroke,” Moc­co said.

    Moc­co, who has spent his career study­ing strokes and how to treat them, said he was “com­plete­ly shocked” by the analy­sis. He not­ed the link between covid-19 and stroke “is one of the clear­est and most pro­found cor­re­la­tions I’ve come across.”

    “This is much too pow­er­ful of a sig­nal to be chance or hap­pen­stance,” he said.

    In a let­ter to be pub­lished in the New Eng­land Jour­nal of Med­i­cine next week, the Mount Sinai team details five case stud­ies of young patients who had strokes at home from March 23 to April 7. They make for dif­fi­cult read­ing: The vic­tims’ ages are 33, 37, 39, 44 and 49, and they were all home when they began to expe­ri­ence sud­den symp­toms, includ­ing slurred speech, con­fu­sion, droop­ing on one side of the face and a dead feel­ing in one arm.

    One died, two are still hos­pi­tal­ized, one was released to reha­bil­i­ta­tion, and one was released home to the care of his broth­er. Only one of the five, a 33-year-old woman, is able to speak.

    Oxley, the inter­ven­tion­al neu­rol­o­gist, said one strik­ing aspect of the cas­es is how long many wait­ed before seek­ing emer­gency care.

    The 33-year-old woman was pre­vi­ous­ly healthy but had a cough and headache for about a week. Over the course of 28 hours, she noticed her speech was slurred and that she was going numb and weak on her left side but, the researchers wrote, “delayed seek­ing emer­gency care due to fear of the covid-19 out­break.”

    It turned out she was already infect­ed.

    By the time she arrived at the hos­pi­tal, a CT scan showed she had two clots in her brain and patchy “ground glass” in her lungs — the opac­i­ty in CT scans that is a hall­mark of covid-19 infec­tion. She was giv­en two dif­fer­ent types of ther­a­py to try to break up the clots and by Day 10, she was well enough to be dis­charged.

    Oxley said the most impor­tant thing for peo­ple to under­stand is that large strokes are very treat­able. Doc­tors are often able to reopen blocked blood ves­sels through tech­niques such as pulling out clots or insert­ing stents. But it has to be done quick­ly, ide­al­ly with­in six hours, but no longer than 24 hours: “The mes­sage we are try­ing to get out is if you have symp­toms of stroke, you need to call the ambu­lance urgent­ly. ”

    ...

    ———–

    “Young and mid­dle-aged peo­ple, bare­ly sick with covid-19, are dying of strokes” By Ari­ana Eun­jung Cha; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 04/25/2020

    “As Oxley, an inter­ven­tion­al neu­rol­o­gist, began the pro­ce­dure to remove the clot, he observed some­thing he had nev­er seen before. On the mon­i­tors, the brain typ­i­cal­ly shows up as a tan­gle of black squig­gles — “like a can of spaghet­ti,” he said — that pro­vide a map of blood ves­sels. A clot shows up as a blank spot. As he used a needle­like device to pull out the clot, he saw new clots form­ing in real-time around it.

    That’s some seri­ous coag­u­la­tion capac­i­ty! It’s like a cas­cade of clot­ting, some­thing this neu­rol­o­gist has nev­er seen before. And then there’s there clots found in veins, not just arter­ies, and mul­ti­ple LARGE clots in their heads :

    ...
    Jab­bour said many cas­es he has treat­ed have unusu­al char­ac­ter­is­tics. Brain clots usu­al­ly appear in the arter­ies, which car­ry blood away from the heart. But in covid-19 patients, he is also see­ing them in the veins, which car­ry blood in the oppo­site direc­tion and are trick­i­er to treat. Some patients are also devel­op­ing more than one large clot in their heads, which is high­ly unusu­al.

    “We’ll be treat­ing a blood ves­sel and it will go fine, but then the patient will have a major stroke” because of a clot in anoth­er part of the brain, he said.
    ...

    And the pre­cise cause of these high­ly unusu­al strokes remains a mys­tery, in part because strokes are the type of event that can have many dif­fer­ent com­plex caus­es and pre­sen­ta­tions. And this dis­ease is now known to attack the entire body, not just the lungs. In oth­er words, there’s no rea­son to assume there’s one par­tic­u­lar way this virus is trig­ger­ing strokes because there are so many dif­fer­ent pos­si­ble caus­es for a stroke and this virus attacks the body in so many dif­fer­ent ways that we have yet to under­stand. But one very dis­turb­ing expla­na­tion is that if you fight off the infec­tions in the lung the virus is still attack­ing the rest of the body in ways that can result in a stroke:

    ...
    Reports of strokes in the young and mid­dle-aged — not just at Mount Sinai, but also in many oth­er hos­pi­tals in com­mu­ni­ties hit hard by the nov­el coro­n­avirus — are the lat­est twist in our evolv­ing under­stand­ing of the dis­ease it caus­es. The num­bers of those affect­ed are small but nonethe­less remark­able because they chal­lenge how doc­tors under­stand the virus. Even as it has infect­ed near­ly 2.8 mil­lion peo­ple world­wide and killed about 195,000 as of Fri­day, its bio­log­i­cal mech­a­nisms con­tin­ue to elude top sci­en­tif­ic minds. Once thought to be a pathogen that pri­mar­i­ly attacks the lungs, it has turned out to be a much more for­mi­da­ble foe — impact­ing near­ly every major organ sys­tem in the body.

    ...

    Coro­n­avirus destroys lungs. But doc­tors are find­ing its dam­age in kid­neys, hearts and else­where.

    A stroke, which is a sud­den inter­rup­tion of the blood sup­ply, is a com­plex prob­lem with numer­ous caus­es and pre­sen­ta­tions. It can be caused by heart prob­lems, clogged arter­ies due to cho­les­terol, even sub­stance abuse. Mini-strokes often don’t cause per­ma­nent dam­age and can resolve on their own with­in 24 hours. But big­ger ones can be cat­a­stroph­ic.

    The analy­ses sug­gest coro­n­avirus patients are most­ly expe­ri­enc­ing the dead­liest type of stroke. Known as large ves­sel occlu­sions, or LVOs, they can oblit­er­ate large parts of the brain respon­si­ble for move­ment, speech and deci­sion-mak­ing in one blow because they are in the main blood-sup­ply­ing arter­ies.

    ...

    Jab­bour and his co-author Eytan Raz, an assis­tant pro­fes­sor of neu­ro­ra­di­ol­o­gy at NYU Lan­gone, said that strokes in covid-19 patients chal­lenge con­ven­tion­al think­ing. “We are used to think­ing of 60 as a young patient when it comes to large ves­sel occlu­sions,” Raz said of the dead­liest strokes. “We have nev­er seen so many in their 50s, 40s and late 30s.”

    Raz won­dered whether they are see­ing more young patients because they are more resis­tant than the elder­ly to the res­pi­ra­to­ry dis­tress caused by covid-19: “So they sur­vive the lung side, and in time devel­op oth­er issues.”
    ...

    And as the case of the 33-year-old woman demon­strates, we should­n’t nec­es­sar­i­ly expect that some­one has a vis­cious lung infec­tion before expe­ri­enc­ing a stroke. The oth­er­wise healthy woman mere­ly had a cough and headache for a week. That was the extent of her symp­toms until, sud­den­ly, she start­ed expe­ri­enc­ing slurred speech and numb­ness. It’s the kind of very dis­turb­ing case that points to the virus itself some­how active­ly pro­mot­ing the for­ma­tion of blood clots as oppose to the clots form­ing as a con­se­quence of the the body’s response to a severe infec­tion:

    ...
    Oxley, the inter­ven­tion­al neu­rol­o­gist, said one strik­ing aspect of the cas­es is how long many wait­ed before seek­ing emer­gency care.

    The 33-year-old woman was pre­vi­ous­ly healthy but had a cough and headache for about a week. Over the course of 28 hours, she noticed her speech was slurred and that she was going numb and weak on her left side but, the researchers wrote, “delayed seek­ing emer­gency care due to fear of the covid-19 out­break.”
    ...

    And that’s per­haps the most dis­turb­ing report we’ve heard so far about the abil­i­ty of the virus to cause prob­lems with the ner­vous sys­tem: strokes from some sort of mys­te­ri­ous blood clot­ting prop­er­ty we have yet to under­stand and can impact the young bare­ly exhibit­ing symp­toms. And not mini-strokes but the largest most sig­nif­i­cant strokes. Sig­nif­i­cant strokes often caused by mul­ti­ple large clots in the brain, which is high­ly unusu­al. And when doc­tors remove them they might observe new clots form­ing in real-time. That’s what doc­tors have now report­ed. So we are learn­ing that this virus can kill the brain with a cas­cade of sur­prise super-clots. It’s one hel­lu­va attack on the ner­vous sys­tem.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 28, 2020, 3:13 pm
  6. Fol­low­ing up on the reports that the Trump admin­is­tra­tion is engaged in “con­clu­sion shop­ping” with the US intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty to find an intel­li­gence report that will con­clude that the SARS-CoV­‑2 virus escaped from a lab in Wuhan, here’s the lat­est indi­ca­tion that the Trump admin­is­tra­tion is absolute­ly com­mit­ted to that nar­ra­tive: Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo dou­bled down on Pres­i­dent Trump’s cryp­tic hint­ing that evi­dence that the virus had indeed come from the Wuhan lab. He also dou­bled-down on Trump’s refusal to elab­o­rate at all on the nature of the intel­li­gence. All he said was, “I can tell you that there is a sig­nif­i­cant amount of evi­dence that this came from that lab­o­ra­to­ry in Wuhan.” And while Pom­peo is stick­ing to the cur­rent intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty assess­ment that hte virus was NOT man-made, when asked whether or not the release was acci­den­tal or inten­tion­al Pom­peo said he could­n’t answer that ques­tion “because the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Par­ty has refused to coop­er­ate with world health experts.” So the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s nar­ra­tive around the ori­gins of the virus appears to be that the Chi­nese found this virus in the wild and were study­ing it in the lab and then the virus escaped, pos­si­bly inten­tion­al­ly:

    ABC News

    Pom­peo says ‘enor­mous evi­dence’ for unproven the­o­ry that coro­n­avirus came from lab
    Chi­nese state media called Sec­re­tary Pom­peo an “ene­my of mankind” last week.

    By Ash­ley Brown, Conor Finnegan and Jack Arn­holz
    May 3, 2020, 2:00 PM

    Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo said there are “enor­mous” signs that the nov­el coro­n­avirus out­break orig­i­nat­ed a bio­med­ical lab­o­ra­to­ry in Wuhan, Chi­na — the city where cas­es first explod­ed.

    “I can tell you that there is a sig­nif­i­cant amount of evi­dence that this came from that lab­o­ra­to­ry in Wuhan,” Pom­peo said on ABC’s “This Week” Sun­day.

    “Do you think they inten­tion­al­ly released that virus, or it was an acci­dent in the lab?” Co-Anchor Martha Rad­datz pressed.

    “I can’t answer your ques­tion about that,” he said, “because the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Par­ty has refused to coop­er­ate with world health experts.”

    NEW: Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo tells @MarthaRaddatz Chi­na “did all that it could to make sure the world didn’t learn in a time­ly fash­ion” about COVID-19.“It was a clas­sic com­mu­nist dis­in­for­ma­tion effort,” he adds and they will be held “account­able.” https://t.co/EKV20Fhx2H pic.twitter.com/YrQRGkeYNk— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) May 3, 2020

    The White House last week ordered U.S. intel­li­gence agen­cies to look into whether Chi­na con­cealed infor­ma­tion ear­ly on about the nov­el coro­n­avirus, two admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials told ABC News last week.

    Pom­peo on Sun­day agreed the virus was not man­made.

    A recent press release from the Office of the Direc­tor of Nation­al Intel­li­gence (ODNI) that said, “The Intel­li­gence Com­mu­ni­ty also con­curs with the wide sci­en­tif­ic con­sen­sus that the COVID-19 virus was not man­made or genet­i­cal­ly mod­i­fied.”

    Pom­peo said that he has “no rea­son to dis­be­lieve” the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty, adding, “I’ve seen their analy­sis. I’ve seen the sum­ma­ry that you saw that was released pub­licly. I have no rea­son to doubt that that is accu­rate.”

    The ODNI state­ment said the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty was inves­ti­gat­ing whether the out­break was the result of a lab acci­dent.

    The announce­ment that the ODNI is inves­ti­gat­ing a pos­si­ble lab acci­dent as the source of the pan­dem­ic is a boost for the unproven the­o­ry that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, Pom­peo and many senior U.S. offi­cials have pushed for weeks now, even as epi­demi­o­log­i­cal experts say its like­li­hood is rare.

    Sev­er­al pub­lic health and epi­demi­o­log­i­cal experts have told ABC News it is “vast­ly more like­ly” that the first infec­tion — what’s called “zoonot­ic spillover” — occurred in the wild, giv­en the “huge bar­ri­ers between peo­ple and virus­es in the lab­o­ra­to­ry set­ting,” accord­ing to Dr. Chris­tine John­son, direc­tor of the U.S. Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­men­t’s Pre­dict project and a pro­fes­sor at UC Davis School of Vet­eri­nary Med­i­cine.

    Pom­peo has been cen­tral to the administration’s push­back against the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment for weeks, earn­ing him vit­ri­ol from Chi­nese state media, which called him an “ene­my of mankind” last week.

    “Chi­na behaved like author­i­tar­i­an regimes do, attempt­ed to con­ceal and hide and con­fuse,” Pom­peo said.

    Xin­hua, Chi­na’s state-run news, report­ed late Sat­ur­day that there are nei­ther ratio­nal nor legal grounds for U.S. politi­cians’ accu­sa­tions regard­ing Chi­na’s response, “it is only an absurd claim fea­tur­ing typ­i­cal U.S. bul­ly­ing.”

    “Like the rest of the world, Chi­na is a vic­tim of the pan­dem­ic, not an accom­plice with the virus,” the report said.

    Chi­na said they have done what “should be and needs to be done” in the face of a pan­dem­ic.

    A report from the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty claims that “the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment inten­tion­al­ly con­cealed the sever­i­ty of COVID-19 from the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty in ear­ly Jan­u­ary while it stock­piled med­ical sup­plies by both increas­ing imports and decreas­ing exports.”

    “Chi­na like­ly cut its exports of med­ical sup­plies pri­or to its Jan­u­ary WHO noti­fi­ca­tion that COVID-19 is a con­ta­gion,” accord­ing to the report, which was shared with law enforce­ment and gov­ern­ment agen­cies on Fri­day.

    ...

    ———-

    “Pom­peo says ‘enor­mous evi­dence’ for unproven the­o­ry that coro­n­avirus came from lab” by Ash­ley Brown, Conor Finnegan and Jack Arn­holz; ABC News; 05/03/2020

    ““I can tell you that there is a sig­nif­i­cant amount of evi­dence that this came from that lab­o­ra­to­ry in Wuhan,” Pom­peo said on ABC’s “This Week” Sun­day.”

    A “sig­nif­i­cant amount of evi­dence” that the virus came from that lab. That’s now the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s offi­cial line on this mat­ter. And then Pom­peo went fur­ther and remained open to the idea that it was inten­tion­al­ly released from the lab:

    ...
    Do you think they inten­tion­al­ly released that virus, or it was an acci­dent in the lab?” Co-Anchor Martha Rad­datz pressed.

    I can’t answer your ques­tion about that,” he said, “because the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Par­ty has refused to coop­er­ate with world health experts.”
    ...

    Did Chi­na bio­log­i­cal­ly nuke itself for some mys­te­ri­ous rea­son? Mike Pom­peo seems to think it’s pos­si­ble.

    And yet despite hint­ing that Chi­na may have inten­tion­al­ly released the virus, Pom­peo remains wed­ded to the assess­ment that it could­n’t have been man-made:

    ...
    Pom­peo on Sun­day agreed the virus was not man­made.

    A recent press release from the Office of the Direc­tor of Nation­al Intel­li­gence (ODNI) that said, “The Intel­li­gence Com­mu­ni­ty also con­curs with the wide sci­en­tif­ic con­sen­sus that the COVID-19 virus was not man­made or genet­i­cal­ly mod­i­fied.”

    Pom­peo said that he has “no rea­son to dis­be­lieve” the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty, adding, “I’ve seen their analy­sis. I’ve seen the sum­ma­ry that you saw that was released pub­licly. I have no rea­son to doubt that that is accu­rate.”

    The ODNI state­ment said the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty was inves­ti­gat­ing whether the out­break was the result of a lab acci­dent.

    The announce­ment that the ODNI is inves­ti­gat­ing a pos­si­ble lab acci­dent as the source of the pan­dem­ic is a boost for the unproven the­o­ry that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, Pom­peo and many senior U.S. offi­cials have pushed for weeks now, even as epi­demi­o­log­i­cal experts say its like­li­hood is rare.

    Sev­er­al pub­lic health and epi­demi­o­log­i­cal experts have told ABC News it is “vast­ly more like­ly” that the first infec­tion — what’s called “zoonot­ic spillover” — occurred in the wild, giv­en the “huge bar­ri­ers between peo­ple and virus­es in the lab­o­ra­to­ry set­ting,” accord­ing to Dr. Chris­tine John­son, direc­tor of the U.S. Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­men­t’s Pre­dict project and a pro­fes­sor at UC Davis School of Vet­eri­nary Med­i­cine.
    ...

    So it’s going to be inter­est­ing to see how the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s nar­ra­tive evolves on this sto­ry because right now they seem to be absolute­ly com­mit­ted to the idea that the virus escaped from the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy but only hint­ing that the idea that it was inten­tion­al­ly released and com­plete­ly down­play­ing the idea that it was man-made. And it’s sim­ply not all that wild­ly scan­dalous if a virus that was nat­u­ral­ly occur­ring acci­den­tal­ly escaped from a lab. Yeah, it’s not great for Chi­na if that hap­pened but that’s sim­ply not a com­pelling enough nar­ra­tive for the Trump admin­is­tra­tion to real­ly pin this all on Chi­na the way it clear­ly wants to. They’re going to have to even­tu­al­ly open­ly charge Chi­na with either cre­at­ing the virus and/or inten­tion­al­ly releas­ing it to make this pro­pa­gan­da cam­paign worth it. Espe­cial­ly since the research tak­ing place in that lab on nat­u­ral­ly occur­ring bat coro­n­avirus­es was research the US has been con­duct­ing in part­ner­ship with those exact same Chi­nese virol­o­gists for years.

    So how is the Trump team plan­ning on address­ing that long­stand­ing part­ner­ship between US Chi­nese virol­o­gists on coro­n­avirus research? Well, we just got a big hint from a Rupert Mur­doch-owned Aus­tralian pub­li­ca­tion The Dai­ly Tele­graph, which just had a big report on an alleged 15-page research doc­u­ment that pur­ports to be a inves­ti­ga­tion into the ori­gins of the virus by West­ern gov­ern­ments.

    The dossier focus­es on the lead coro­n­avirus researcher at the Wuhan lab, Shi Zhengli and dis­cuss­es her team’s past work on bat coro­n­avirus­es. It also men­tions “gain-of-func­tion” exper­i­ments, and notes that the US banned fund­ing for such research in 2014 but lift­ed that ban in 2017. It also men­tions Dr. Shi’s 2015 work paper cre­at­ing chimeric coro­n­avirus, some­thing that was done in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Ralph Bar­ic’s lab at the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na. Anoth­er exam­ple in the dossier of the ties between the Wuhan virol­o­gist and west­ern researchers is how Dr Shi’s pro­tégé, Peng Zhou — now the head of the Bat Virus Infec­tion and Immu­ni­ty Project at the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy — spent three years at the Aus­tralian Ani­mal Health Lab­o­ra­to­ry bio-con­tain­ment facil­i­ty between 2011 and 2014. So it appears that the West­ern researchers who have been col­lab­o­rat­ing with their Chi­nese coun­ter­parts on this area of study are now under scruti­ny, at least in this dossier. And yet, despite that dis­cus­sion of “gain-of-func­tion” exper­i­ments and the cre­ation of chimeric virus­es, the dossier is stick­ing with the assess­ment that the virus is nat­ur­al and not man-made.

    It’s going to be inter­est­ing to see how the exten­sive West­ern col­lab­o­ra­tion with the exact teams of Chi­nese researchers who are being declared the like­li­est sus­pects for the release of this virus end up being treat­ed by the Trump admin­is­tra­tion as we watch this pro­pa­gan­da cam­paign play out. It’s an evolv­ing nar­ra­tive and it’s going to have to evolve in a man­ner to address that West­ern-Chi­nese col­lab­o­ra­tion that’s been encour­aged at the high­est lev­els of gov­ern­ment. Study­ing bat coro­n­avirus­es has long been char­ac­ter­ized as an inter­na­tion­al pub­lic health issue since the SARS out­break and these inter­na­tion­al col­lab­o­ra­tions were a result of that. How will the Trump admin­is­tra­tion get around that fact? Well, the con­tent that dossier is prob­a­bly the biggest hint we’re going to get of how the Trump admin­is­tra­tion is plan­ning on han­dling this nar­ra­tive. Because as we’re going to see in the final Guardian arti­cle below, it does­n’t actu­al­ly sound like this dossier is tru­ly an intel­li­gence agency dossier. Instead, the Guardian is being told by intel­li­gence sources that the dossier was like­ly built from open-source mate­ri­als and came from the US for the pur­pose of nar­ra­tive-build­ing.

    So when we read about this 15-page dossier that was some­how obtained by Rupert Mur­doch’s Dai­ly Tele­graph, keep in mind we’re prob­a­bly actu­al­ly read­ing some sort of Trump-admin­is­tra­tion open-source pro­pa­gan­da chimera:

    The Dai­ly Tele­graph

    Coro­n­avirus NSW: Dossier lays out case against Chi­na bat virus pro­gram

    Shar­ri Mark­son,
    May 4, 2020 12:21am

    Chi­na delib­er­ate­ly sup­pressed or destroyed evi­dence of the coro­n­avirus out­break in an “assault on inter­na­tion­al trans­paren­cy’’ that cost tens of thou­sands of lives, accord­ing to a dossier pre­pared by con­cerned West­ern gov­ern­ments on the COVID-19 con­ta­gion.

    The 15-page research doc­u­ment, obtained by The Sat­ur­day Tele­graph, lays the foun­da­tion for the case of neg­li­gence being mount­ed against Chi­na.

    It states that to the “endan­ger­ment of oth­er coun­tries” the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment cov­ered-up news of the virus by silenc­ing or “dis­ap­pear­ing” doc­tors who spoke out, destroy­ing evi­dence of it in lab­o­ra­to­ries and refus­ing to pro­vide live sam­ples to inter­na­tion­al sci­en­tists who were work­ing on a vac­cine.

    It can also be revealed the Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment trained and fund­ed a team of Chi­nese sci­en­tists who belong to a lab­o­ra­to­ry which went on to genet­i­cal­ly mod­i­fy dead­ly coro­n­avirus­es that could be trans­mit­ted from bats to humans and had no cure, and is now the sub­ject of a probe into the ori­gins of COVID-19.

    As intel­li­gence agen­cies inves­ti­gate whether the virus inad­ver­tent­ly leaked from a Wuhan lab­o­ra­to­ry, the team and its research led by sci­en­tist Shi Zhengli fea­ture in the dossier pre­pared by West­ern gov­ern­ments that points to sev­er­al stud­ies they con­duct­ed as areas of con­cern.

    It cites their work dis­cov­er­ing sam­ples of coro­n­avirus from a cave in the Yun­nan province with strik­ing genet­ic sim­i­lar­i­ty to COVID-19, along with their research syn­the­sis­ing a bat-derived coro­n­avirus that could not be treat­ed.

    Its major themes include the “dead­ly denial of human-to-human trans­mis­sion”, the silenc­ing or “dis­ap­pear­ing” of doc­tors and sci­en­tists who spoke out, the destruc­tion of evi­dence of the virus from genom­ic stud­ies lab­o­ra­to­ries, and “bleach­ing of wildlife mar­ket stalls”, along with the refusal to pro­vide live virus sam­ples to inter­na­tion­al sci­en­tists work­ing on a vac­cine.

    Key fig­ures of the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy team, who fea­ture in the gov­ern­ment dossier, were either trained or employed in the CSIRO’s Aus­tralian Ani­mal Health Lab­o­ra­to­ry where they con­duct­ed foun­da­tion­al research on dead­ly pathogens in live bats, includ­ing SARS, as part of an ongo­ing part­ner­ship between the CSIRO and the Chi­nese Acad­e­my of Sci­ences.

    This part­ner­ship con­tin­ues to this day, accord­ing to the web­site of the Wuhan ­Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy, despite con­cerns the research is too risky.

    Politi­cians in the Mor­ri­son gov­ern­ment are speak­ing out about the nation­al secu­ri­ty and biose­cu­ri­ty con­cerns of this rela­tion­ship as the con­tro­ver­sial research into bat-relat­ed virus­es now comes into sharp focus amid the inves­ti­ga­tion by the Five Eyes intel­li­gence agen­cies of the Unit­ed States, Aus­tralia, NZ, Cana­da and the UK.

    RISKY BAT RESEARCH

    In Wuhan, in China’s Hubei province, not far from the now infa­mous Wuhan wet mar­ket, Dr Shi and her team work in high-pro­tec­tive gear in lev­el-three and lev­el-four bio-con­tain­ment lab­o­ra­to­ries study­ing dead­ly bat-derived coro­n­avirus­es.

    At least one of the ­esti­mat­ed 50 virus sam­ples Dr Shi has in her lab­o­ra­to­ry is a 96 per cent genet­ic match to COVID-19. When Dr Shi heard the news about the out­break of a new ­pneu­mo­nia-like virus, she spoke about the sleep­less nights she suf­fered wor­ry­ing whether it was her lab that was respon­si­ble for the out­break.

    As she told Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can mag­a­zine in an arti­cle pub­lished this week: “Could they have come from our lab?” Since her ini­tial fears, Dr Shi has sat­is­fied her­self the genet­ic sequence of COVID-19 did not match any her lab was study­ing.

    Yet, giv­en the extent of the People’s Repub­lic of China’s lies, obfus­ca­tions and angry refusal to allow any inves­ti­ga­tion into the ori­gin of the out­break, her lab­o­ra­to­ry is now being close­ly looked at by inter­na­tion­al intel­li­gence agen­cies.

    The Aus­tralian government’s posi­tion is that the virus most like­ly orig­i­nat­ed in the Wuhan wet mar­ket but that there is a remote pos­si­bil­i­ty — a 5 per cent chance — it acci­den­tal­ly leaked from a lab­o­ra­to­ry.

    The US’s posi­tion, accord­ing to reports this week, is that it is more like­ly the virus leaked from a lab­o­ra­to­ry but it could also have come from a wet mar­ket that trades and slaugh­ters wild ani­mals, where oth­er dis­eases includ­ing the H5N1 avian flu and SARS orig­i­nat­ed.

    CREATING MORE DEADLY VIRUSES

    The West­ern gov­ern­ments’ research paper con­firms this.

    It notes a 2013 study con­duct­ed by a team of researchers, includ­ing Dr Shi, who col­lect­ed a sam­ple of horse­shoe bat fae­ces from a cave in Yun­nan province, Chi­na, which was lat­er found to con­tain a virus 96.2 per cent iden­ti­cal to SARS-CoV­‑2, the virus that caused COVID-19.

    The research dossier also ref­er­ences work done by the team to syn­the­sise SARS-like coro­n­avirus­es, to analyse whether they could be trans­mis­si­ble from bats to mam­mals. This means they were alter­ing parts of the virus to test whether it was trans­mis­si­ble to dif­fer­ent species.

    Their Novem­ber 2015 study, done in con­junc­tion with the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na, con­clud­ed that the SARS-like virus could jump direct­ly from bats to humans and there was no treat­ment that could help.

    The study acknowl­edges the incred­i­ble dan­ger of the work they were con­duct­ing.

    “The poten­tial to pre­pare for and mit­i­gate future out­breaks must be weighed against the risk of cre­at­ing more dan­ger­ous pathogens,” they wrote.

    You have to be a sci­en­tist to under­stand it, but below is the line that the gov­ern­ments’ research paper ref­er­ences from the study.

    “To exam­ine the emer­gence poten­tial (that is, the poten­tial to infect humans) of cir­cu­lat­ing bat CoVs, we built a chimeric virus encod­ing a nov­el, zoonot­ic CoV spike pro­tein — from the RsSH­CO14-CoV sequence that was iso­lat­ed from Chi­nese horse­shoe bats — in the con­text of the SARS-CoV mouse-adapt­ed back­bone,” the study states.

    One of Dr Shi’s co-authors on that paper, Pro­fes­sor Ralph Bar­ic from North Car­oli­na Uni­ver­si­ty, said in an inter­view with Sci­ence Dai­ly at the time: “This virus is high­ly path­o­gen­ic and treat­ments devel­oped against the orig­i­nal SARS virus in 2002 and the ZMapp drugs used to fight ebo­la fail to neu­tralise and con­trol this par­tic­u­lar virus.”

    A few years lat­er, in March 2019, Dr Shi and her team, includ­ing Peng Zhou, who worked in Aus­tralia for five years, pub­lished a review ­titled Bat Coro­n­avirus­es in Chi­na in the med­ical jour­nal Virus­es, where they wrote that they “aim to pre­dict virus hot spots and their cross-species trans­mis­sion poten­tial”, describ­ing it as a mat­ter of “urgency to study bat corona­viruses in Chi­na to under­stand their poten­tial of caus­ing anoth­er out­break. Their review stat­ed: “It is high­ly like­ly that future SARS or MERS like coro­n­avirus out­breaks will orig­i­nate from bats, and there is an increased prob­a­bil­i­ty that this will occur in Chi­na.”

    It exam­ined which pro­teins were “impor­tant for inter­species trans­mis­sion”.

    Despite intel­li­gence probes into whether her lab­o­ra­to­ry may have been respon­si­ble for the out­break, Dr Shi is not hit­ting pause on her research, which she argues is more impor­tant than ever in pre­vent­ing a pan­dem­ic. She plans to head a nation­al project to sys­tem­i­cal­ly sam­ple virus­es in bat caves, with esti­mates that there are more than 5000 coro­n­avirus strains “wait­ing to be dis­cov­ered in bats glob­al­ly”.

    “Bat-borne coro­n­avirus­es will cause more out­breaks,” she told Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can. “We must find them before they find us.”

    AUSTRALIA’S INVOLVEMENT

    Dr Shi, the direc­tor of the Cen­tre for Emerg­ing Infec­tious Dis­eases at the Chi­nese Acad­e­my of Sci­ences’ Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy, spent time in Aus­tralia as a ­vis­it­ing sci­en­tist for three months from Feb­ru­ary 22 to May 21, 2006, where she worked at the CSIRO’s top-lev­el Aus­tralian Ani­mal Health Lab­o­ra­to­ry, which has recent­ly been ­renamed.

    The CSIRO would not com­ment on what work she under­took dur­ing her time here, but an archived and trans­lat­ed biog­ra­phy on the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy web­site states that she was work­ing with the SARS virus.

    “The SARS virus anti­bod­ies and genes were test­ed in the State Key Lab­o­ra­to­ry of Virol­o­gy in Wuhan and the Ani­mal Health Research Lab­o­ra­to­ry in Gee­long, Aus­tralia,” it states.

    The Tele­graph has obtained two pho­tographs of her work­ing at the CSIRO lab­o­ra­to­ries, includ­ing in the lev­el-four lab, in 2006.

    Dr Shi’s pro­tégé, Peng Zhou — now the head of the Bat Virus Infec­tion and Immu­ni­ty Project at the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy — spent three years at the bio-con­tain­ment facil­i­ty Aus­tralian Ani­mal Health Lab­o­ra­to­ry between 2011 and 2014. He was sent by Chi­na to com­plete his doc­tor­ate at the CSIRO from 2009–2010.

    Dur­ing this time, Dr Zhou arranged for wild-caught bats to be trans­port­ed alive by air from Queens­land to the lab in Vic­to­ria where they were euthanised for dis­sec­tion and stud­ied for dead­ly virus­es.

    Dr Lin­fa Wang, while an Hon­orary Pro­fes­sor of the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy between 2005 and 2011, also worked in the CSIRO Office of the Chief Exec­u­tive Sci­ence Leader in Virol­o­gy between 2008 and 2011.

    Fed­er­al Lib­er­al Sen­a­tor Sarah Hen­der­son said it was “very con­cern­ing” that Chi­nese sci­en­tists had been con­duct­ing research into bat virus­es at the CSIRO in Gee­long, Vic­to­ria, in joint­ly fund­ed projects between the Aus­tralian and Chi­nese gov­ern­ments.

    “We need to exer­cise extreme care with any research projects involv­ing for­eign nation­als which may com­pro­mise our nation­al secu­ri­ty or biose­cu­ri­ty,” she said.

    While the US has cut all fund­ing to the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy, the CSIRO would not respond to ­ques­tions about whether it is still col­lab­o­rat­ing with it, say­ing only that it col­lab­o­rates with research organ­i­sa­tions from around the world to pre­vent dis­eases.

    “As with all part­ners, CSIRO under­takes due dili­gence and takes secu­ri­ty very seri­ous­ly,” a spokesman said. “CSIRO under­takes all research in accor­dance with strict biose­cu­ri­ty and leg­isla­tive require­ments.”

    IS THE RESEARCH WORTH THE RISK?

    The US with­drew fund­ing from con­tro­ver­sial exper­i­ments that make pathogens more potent or like­ly to spread dan­ger­ous virus­es in Octo­ber 2014, con­cerned it could lead to a glob­al pan­dem­ic.

    The pause on fund­ing for 21 “gain of func­tion” stud­ies was then lift­ed in Decem­ber 2017.

    Despite the con­cerns, the CSIRO con­tin­ued to part­ner and fund research with the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy.

    The CSIRO refused to respond to ques­tions from The Sat­ur­day Tele­graph about how much mon­ey went into joint research col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Chi­nese Acad­e­my of Sci­ence and its Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy.

    The Wuhan Insti­tute still lists the CSIRO as a part­ner while the US has cut ties since the coro­n­avirus out­break.

    The argu­ment is whether it is worth devel­op­ing these virus­es to antic­i­pate and pre­vent a pan­dem­ic when a leak of the virus could also cause one. Debate in the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty is heat­ed.

    There have also been seri­ous con­cerns about a lack of ade­quate safe­ty prac­tices at the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy when deal­ing with dead­ly virus­es.

    A ‘‘Sen­si­tive but Unclas­si­fied’’ cable, dat­ed Jan­u­ary 19, 2018, obtained by The Wash­ing­ton Post, revealed that US embassy sci­en­tists and diplo­mats in Bei­jing vis­it­ed the lab­o­ra­to­ry and sent warn­ings back to Wash­ing­ton about inad­e­quate safe­ty prac­tices and man­age­ment weak­ness­es as it con­duct­ed research on coro­n­avirus­es from bats.

    “Dur­ing inter­ac­tions with sci­en­tists at the WIV lab­o­ra­to­ry, they not­ed the new lab has a seri­ous short­age of ­appro­pri­ate­ly trained tech­ni­cians and inves­ti­ga­tors need­ed to safe­ly oper­ate this high-con­tain­ment lab­o­ra­to­ry,” the cable stat­ed.

    UNLIKELY CLAIMS VIRUS CREATED IN LAB

    Sci­en­tif­ic con­sen­sus is that the virus came from a wet­mar­ket. But the US’s top spy agency con­firmed on the record for the first time yes­ter­day that the US intel­li­gence com­mit­tee is inves­ti­gat­ing whether COVID-19 was the result of an acci­dent at a Wuhan lab­o­ra­to­ry.

    The Office of the Direc­tor of Nation­al Intel­li­gence act­ing direc­tor Richard Grenell said the virus was not cre­at­ed in a lab­o­ra­to­ry.

    “The entire Intel­li­gence Com­mu­ni­ty has been con­sis­tent­ly pro­vid­ing crit­i­cal sup­port to US pol­i­cy­mak­ers and those respond­ing to the COVID-19 virus, which orig­i­nat­ed in Chi­na,” he said.

    “The Intel­li­gence Com­mu­ni­ty also con­curs with the wide sci­en­tif­ic con­sen­sus that the COVID-19 virus was not man-made or genet­i­cal­ly mod­i­fied. As we do in all crises, the Community’s experts respond by surg­ing resources and pro­duc­ing crit­i­cal intel­li­gence on issues vital to US nation­al secu­ri­ty. The IC will con­tin­ue to rig­or­ous­ly exam­ine emerg­ing infor­ma­tion and intel­li­gence to deter­mine whether the out­break began through con­tact with infect­ed ani­mals or if it was the result of an acci­dent at a lab­o­ra­to­ry in Wuhan.”

    Despite Mr Grenell’s state­ment and sci­en­tif­ic con­sen­sus that the virus was not cre­at­ed in a lab­o­ra­to­ry, based on its genome sequence the gov­ern­ments’ research paper obtained by The Tele­graph notes a study that claims it was cre­at­ed.

    South Chi­na Uni­ver­si­ty of Tech­nol­o­gy researchers pub­lished a study on Feb­ru­ary 6 that con­clud­ed “the killer coro­n­avirus prob­a­bly orig­i­nat­ed from a lab­o­ra­to­ry in Wuhan. Safe­ty lev­el may need to be rein­forced in high-risk bio­haz­ards lab­o­ra­to­ries”.

    “The paper is soon with­drawn because it ‘was not sup­port­ed by direct proofs’, accord­ing to author Botao Xiano,” the dossier not­ed, con­tin­u­ing to point out that: ‘“No sci­en­tists have con­firmed or refut­ed the paper’s find­ings’, schol­ar Yanzhong Huang wrote on March 5.”

    The Sat­ur­day Tele­graph does not claim that the South Chi­na Uni­ver­si­ty of Tech­nol­o­gy study is cred­i­ble, only that it has been includ­ed in this gov­ern­ment research paper pro­duced as part of the case against Chi­na.

    CHINA’S COVER-UP OF EARLY SAMPLES

    The paper obtained by The Sat­ur­day Tele­graph speaks about “the sup­pres­sion and destruc­tion of evi­dence” and points to “virus sam­ples ordered destroyed at genomics labs, wildlife mar­ket stalls bleached, the genome sequence not shared pub­licly, the Shang­hai lab clo­sure for ‘rec­ti­fi­ca­tion’, aca­d­e­m­ic arti­cles sub­ject­ed to pri­or review by the Min­istry of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­o­gy and data on asymp­to­matic ‘silent car­ri­ers’ kept secret”.

    It paints a pic­ture of how the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment delib­er­ate­ly cov­ered up the coro­n­avirus by silenc­ing doc­tors who spoke out, destroy­ing evi­dence from the Wuhan lab­o­ra­to­ry and refus­ing to pro­vide live virus sam­ples to inter­na­tion­al sci­en­tists work­ing on a vac­cine.

    The US, along with oth­er coun­tries, has repeat­ed­ly ­demand­ed a live virus sam­ple from the first batch of coro­n­avirus cas­es. This is under­stood to have not been forth­com­ing despite its vital impor­tance in devel­op­ing a vac­cine while poten­tial­ly pro­vid­ing an indi­ca­tion of where the virus orig­i­nat­ed.

    ...

    ————

    “Coro­n­avirus NSW: Dossier lays out case against Chi­na bat virus pro­gram” by Shar­ri Mark­son; The Dai­ly Tele­graph; 05/04/2020

    “The 15-page research doc­u­ment, obtained by The Sat­ur­day Tele­graph, lays the foun­da­tion for the case of neg­li­gence being mount­ed against Chi­na.”

    Yes, this 15-page dossier appears to lay the foun­da­tion for the case of neg­li­gence being mount­ed against Chi­na. And yet the dossier is filled with ref­er­ences to these Chi­nese researchers close­ly col­lab­o­rat­ing with US and Aus­tralian researchers. Because of course they were...this was an inter­na­tion­al coop­er­a­tive effort. An inter­na­tion­al coop­er­a­tive effort that includ­ed “gain-of-func­tion” col­lab­o­ra­tions too. And Aus­trali­a’s nation­al sci­ence agency, the CSIRO, is still work­ing in part­ner­ship with the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy. How are these very incon­ve­nient facts going to play into this build­ing nar­ra­tive?

    ...
    AUSTRALIA’S INVOLVEMENT

    Dr Shi, the direc­tor of the Cen­tre for Emerg­ing Infec­tious Dis­eases at the Chi­nese Acad­e­my of Sci­ences’ Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy, spent time in Aus­tralia as a ­vis­it­ing sci­en­tist for three months from Feb­ru­ary 22 to May 21, 2006, where she worked at the CSIRO’s top-lev­el Aus­tralian Ani­mal Health Lab­o­ra­to­ry, which has recent­ly been ­renamed.

    The CSIRO would not com­ment on what work she under­took dur­ing her time here, but an archived and trans­lat­ed biog­ra­phy on the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy web­site states that she was work­ing with the SARS virus.

    “The SARS virus anti­bod­ies and genes were test­ed in the State Key Lab­o­ra­to­ry of Virol­o­gy in Wuhan and the Ani­mal Health Research Lab­o­ra­to­ry in Gee­long, Aus­tralia,” it states.

    The Tele­graph has obtained two pho­tographs of her work­ing at the CSIRO lab­o­ra­to­ries, includ­ing in the lev­el-four lab, in 2006.

    Dr Shi’s pro­tégé, Peng Zhou — now the head of the Bat Virus Infec­tion and Immu­ni­ty Project at the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy — spent three years at the bio-con­tain­ment facil­i­ty Aus­tralian Ani­mal Health Lab­o­ra­to­ry between 2011 and 2014. He was sent by Chi­na to com­plete his doc­tor­ate at the CSIRO from 2009–2010.

    Dur­ing this time, Dr Zhou arranged for wild-caught bats to be trans­port­ed alive by air from Queens­land to the lab in Vic­to­ria where they were euthanised for dis­sec­tion and stud­ied for dead­ly virus­es.

    Dr Lin­fa Wang, while an Hon­orary Pro­fes­sor of the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy between 2005 and 2011, also worked in the CSIRO Office of the Chief Exec­u­tive Sci­ence Leader in Virol­o­gy between 2008 and 2011.

    Fed­er­al Lib­er­al Sen­a­tor Sarah Hen­der­son said it was “very con­cern­ing” that Chi­nese sci­en­tists had been con­duct­ing research into bat virus­es at the CSIRO in Gee­long, Vic­to­ria, in joint­ly fund­ed projects between the Aus­tralian and Chi­nese gov­ern­ments.

    “We need to exer­cise extreme care with any research projects involv­ing for­eign nation­als which may com­pro­mise our nation­al secu­ri­ty or biose­cu­ri­ty,” she said.

    While the US has cut all fund­ing to the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy, the CSIRO would not respond to ­ques­tions about whether it is still col­lab­o­rat­ing with it, say­ing only that it col­lab­o­rates with research organ­i­sa­tions from around the world to pre­vent dis­eases.

    “As with all part­ners, CSIRO under­takes due dili­gence and takes secu­ri­ty very seri­ous­ly,” a spokesman said. “CSIRO under­takes all research in accor­dance with strict biose­cu­ri­ty and leg­isla­tive require­ments.”

    IS THE RESEARCH WORTH THE RISK?

    The US with­drew fund­ing from con­tro­ver­sial exper­i­ments that make pathogens more potent or like­ly to spread dan­ger­ous virus­es in Octo­ber 2014, con­cerned it could lead to a glob­al pan­dem­ic.

    The pause on fund­ing for 21 “gain of func­tion” stud­ies was then lift­ed in Decem­ber 2017.

    Despite the con­cerns, the CSIRO con­tin­ued to part­ner and fund research with the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy.

    The CSIRO refused to respond to ques­tions from The Sat­ur­day Tele­graph about how much mon­ey went into joint research col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Chi­nese Acad­e­my of Sci­ence and its Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy.

    The Wuhan Insti­tute still lists the CSIRO as a part­ner while the US has cut ties since the coro­n­avirus out­break.
    ...

    And now here’s the Guardian arti­cle where UK intel­li­gence sources are claim­ing that the 15-page dossier did­n’t come from a Five Eyes intel­li­gence assess­ment at all and was like­ly based on open-source mate­ri­als and put for­ward by the US as “a tool for build­ing a counter-nar­ra­tive and apply­ing pres­sure to Chi­na”:

    The Guardian

    Five Eyes net­work con­tra­dicts the­o­ry Covid-19 leaked from lab

    No cur­rent evi­dence to sug­gest coro­n­avirus leaked from Wuhan research lab, agen­cies say

    Dan Sab­bagh Defence and secu­ri­ty edi­tor

    Mon 4 May 2020 15.36 EDT
    Last mod­i­fied on Mon 4 May 2020 15.37 EDT

    There is no cur­rent evi­dence to sug­gest that coro­n­avirus leaked from a Chi­nese research lab­o­ra­to­ry, intel­li­gence sources have told the Guardian, con­tra­dict­ing recent White House claims that there is grow­ing proof this is how the pan­dem­ic began.

    The sources also insist­ed that a “15-page dossier” high­light­ed by the Aus­tralian Dai­ly Tele­graph which accused Chi­na of a dead­ly cov­er up was not culled from intel­li­gence from the Five Eyes net­work, an alliance between the UK, US, Aus­tralia, New Zealand and Cana­da.

    British and oth­er Five Eyes agen­cies do believe that Bei­jing has not nec­es­sar­i­ly been open about how coro­n­avirus ini­tial­ly spread in Wuhan at the turn of the year. But they are ner­vous about get­ting involved in an esca­lat­ing inter­na­tion­al sit­u­a­tion.

    On Sun­day Mike Pom­peo, the US sec­re­tary of state, said: “I can tell you that there is a sig­nif­i­cant amount of evi­dence that this came from that lab­o­ra­to­ry in Wuhan.”

    No evi­dence was offered by Pom­peo to back up his asser­tion but infor­ma­tion has been cir­cu­lat­ing over the last month in the UK, US and Aus­tralia aimed at rais­ing ques­tions about the high secu­ri­ty Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy, which has long spe­cialised in research­ing coro­n­avirus­es in horse­shoe bats.

    Sto­ries have sug­gest­ed that work­ers in the lab may not have always used full pro­tec­tive equip­ment, and that in one instance a bat uri­nat­ed on a researcher who did not sub­se­quent­ly become ill.

    But there is noth­ing to indi­cate a leak from the lab could have caused the pan­dem­ic, sources say.

    Claims are even made that the virus was genet­i­cal­ly engi­neered in Wuhan, although there is both sci­en­tif­ic and intel­li­gence agency agree­ment that there is no evi­dence for this.

    Amer­i­can sci­en­tists who have worked with the Wuhan Insti­tute add its safe­ty stan­dards are com­pa­ra­ble to West­ern equiv­a­lents and the pre­vail­ing the­o­ry is that the virus was passed onto humans via one of the country’s live ani­mal mar­kets.

    Australia’s Dai­ly Tele­graph – a Syd­ney tabloid owned by Rupert Mur­doch – has been focus­ing on the Wuhan lab for sev­er­al days, cul­mi­nat­ing in a week­end report which cit­ed a 15-page dossier com­piled, it said, by “con­cerned West­ern gov­ern­ments” amid an inves­ti­ga­tion by British and oth­er mem­bers of the Five Eyes intel­li­gence agen­cies.

    Intel­li­gence sources in Aus­tralia were quick to say they believed it was based on open source, pub­lic domain mate­r­i­al. One told the Guardian they believed the infor­ma­tion that appeared in the News Corp title was most like­ly to have orig­i­nal­ly come from the US: “My instinct is that it was a tool for build­ing a counter-nar­ra­tive and apply­ing pres­sure to Chi­na. So it’s the intent behind it that’s most impor­tant. So pos­si­bly open source leads with a clas­si­fi­ca­tion slapped on it.”

    Down­ing Street said that the UK did not com­ment on intel­li­gence mat­ters – although British sources also said they did not recog­nise the dossier as based on clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion pro­vid­ed by the country’s spy agen­cies.

    Down­ing Street said it would not com­ment on intel­li­gence mat­ters, but a No 10 spokesman said: “Clear­ly there are ques­tions that need to be answered about the ori­gin and spread of the virus, not least so we can ensure we are bet­ter pre­pared for future glob­al pan­demics.”

    Neil O’Brien, a Con­ser­v­a­tive MP and sec­re­tary of the Chi­na Research Group, said that Bei­jing could help fend off spec­u­la­tion with greater trans­paren­cy: “If their gov­ern­ment were less secre­tive and author­i­tar­i­an they would coop­er­ate more and so poten­tial­ly put to bed wilder ideas about the ori­gins of the virus.”

    Last week, the New York Times report­ed that White House offi­cials, led by deputy nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er Matthew Pot­tinger, a for­mer Chi­na reporter with the Wall Street Jour­nal, pressed the US agen­cies to gath­er infor­ma­tion that could sup­port any lab the­o­ry.

    A report in the Wash­ing­ton Post two weeks lat­er high­light­ed a leak of US diplo­mat­ic cables from 2018, claim­ing that a site vis­it showed the WIV had insuf­fi­cient appro­pri­ate­ly trained tech­ni­cians for the high secu­ri­ty work.

    The lab itself says it is dis­tressed by talk of leaks. Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can re-edit­ed an inter­view with the virol­o­gist Shi Zhengli last week to address “the ten­u­ous sug­ges­tion” of the lab the­o­ry, and not­ed the “genet­ic sequence” of Sars-CoV­‑2, the schol­ar­ly term for coro­n­avirus, “does not match any her lab had pre­vi­ous­ly stud­ied”.

    ...

    ———-

    “Five Eyes net­work con­tra­dicts the­o­ry Covid-19 leaked from lab” by Dan Sab­bagh; The Guardian; 05/04/2020

    The sources also insist­ed that a “15-page dossier” high­light­ed by the Aus­tralian Dai­ly Tele­graph which accused Chi­na of a dead­ly cov­er up was not culled from intel­li­gence from the Five Eyes net­work, an alliance between the UK, US, Aus­tralia, New Zealand and Cana­da.”

    The 15 page report was­n’t culled from Five Eyes intel­li­gence. So where did it come from? Well, since vir­tu­al­ly all of its asser­tions can be found in news reports there’s a good chance it’s sim­ply open source. That’s what intel­li­gence sources in Aus­tralia were telling the Guardian, with one source say­ing they believe it orig­i­nat­ed in the US as a nar­ra­tive-build­ing tool:

    ...
    Australia’s Dai­ly Tele­graph – a Syd­ney tabloid owned by Rupert Mur­doch – has been focus­ing on the Wuhan lab for sev­er­al days, cul­mi­nat­ing in a week­end report which cit­ed a 15-page dossier com­piled, it said, by “con­cerned West­ern gov­ern­ments” amid an inves­ti­ga­tion by British and oth­er mem­bers of the Five Eyes intel­li­gence agen­cies.

    Intel­li­gence sources in Aus­tralia were quick to say they believed it was based on open source, pub­lic domain mate­r­i­al. One told the Guardian they believed the infor­ma­tion that appeared in the News Corp title was most like­ly to have orig­i­nal­ly come from the US: “My instinct is that it was a tool for build­ing a counter-nar­ra­tive and apply­ing pres­sure to Chi­na. So it’s the intent behind it that’s most impor­tant. So pos­si­bly open source leads with a clas­si­fi­ca­tion slapped on it.”

    Down­ing Street said that the UK did not com­ment on intel­li­gence mat­ters – although British sources also said they did not recog­nise the dossier as based on clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion pro­vid­ed by the country’s spy agen­cies.
    ...

    So if this dossier was a nar­ra­tive-build­ing tool, how exact­ly is the Trump admin­is­tra­tion going to main­tain the “it was­n’t man-made” nar­ra­tive with the acknowl­edge­ment of inter­na­tion­al “gain-of-func­tion” exper­i­ments? We’ll see, but it’s hard to see the Trump admin­is­tra­tion stick­ing to a nar­ra­tive that rais­es sus­pi­cions about the virus com­ing from a lab in Wuhan by focus­ing on all of these past exper­i­ments on coro­n­avirus­es while stick­ing to the con­clu­sion that the virus was man-made. At the same time, if the Trump admin­is­tra­tion does decide to start sug­gest­ing the virus was man-made, there’s no avoid­ing all of the past US-spon­sored research on mak­ing man-made coro­n­avirus­es. How is the Trump admin­is­tra­tion going to nav­i­gate this fac­tu­al land­scape? We’ll see, but based on the sud­den emer­gence of this 15-page ‘Five Eyes’ dossier it’s look­ing like fake dossiers will be part of that nar­ra­tive build­ing effort.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 4, 2020, 2:06 pm
  7. Here’s a pair of arti­cle relat­ed to the ongo­ing push by the Trump admin­is­tra­tion and GOP to make blam­ing Chi­na the pri­ma­ry focus of the US COVID response:

    First, relat­ing to the grow­ing num­ber of alle­ga­tions by Trump admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials, led by Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo, that the coro­n­avirus escaped from a lab in Wuhan, here’s an arti­cle about anoth­er Trump fig­ure who has been aggres­sive­ly push­ing the these ideas in recent weeks. That would be Trump’s per­son­al attor­ney Rudy Giu­liani, a man who has man­aged to turn cre­ate an entire new career for him­self as Trump’s go-to guy for foment­ing con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries against Trump’s ene­mies and this case he’s using anoth­er new career to do it. Giu­liani is now doing an at-home radio call-in show/podcast called “Com­mon Sense” and it sounds like he’s turn­ing his show into a plat­form for some seri­ous­ly vile anti-Chi­nese rants that goes well beyond cri­tiquing the gov­ern­ment and well into gross stereo­typ­ing about the Chi­nese being an amoral peo­ple.

    And Rudy is going well beyond sug­gest­ing the virus escaped from the lab and is now argu­ing that Chi­na inten­tion­al­ly took steps spread the virus around the world as much as pos­si­ble after they dis­cov­ered the out­break to ensure the West suf­fered more if not more so. He’s also mak­ing claims like mil­lions of peo­ple were sent out of Wuhan to the rest of the world when, in fact, it was only thou­sands who flew out of Wuhan inter­na­tion­al­ly which would be entire­ly expect­ed for a city that size with that many inter­na­tion­al peo­ple liv­ing there. And he’s also sug­gest­ing that, yes, maybe it was a delib­er­ate release too. So Giu­liani is real­ly ‘going there’ in terms of mak­ing the case that the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic was actu­al­ly a planned attack on the West which, in Trum­p­land, is trans­lat­ed as a planned attack on Trump.

    Keep in mind that we are almost undoubt­ed­ly going to see a nar­ra­tive from the Trump reelec­tion cam­paign that Chi­na wants Joe Biden to win. Trump said pre­cise­ly that last week. So we real­ly should expect at this point that the 2020 cam­paign is going to involved a mas­sive mes­sag­ing mael­strom that sug­gest­ing that COVID was released by Chi­na to help Joe Biden win. Or some­thing like that. It does­n’t have to be a pre­cise mes­sage or make sense. It just needs to give vot­ers the sense that the viral cat­a­stro­phe was part of a Chinese/Democratic con­spir­a­cy against Trump.

    But as the fol­low­ing piece also notes, it’s not just crank fig­ures like Rudy Giu­liani sug­gest­ing that Chi­na has inten­tion­al­ly been pro­mot­ing the spread of the virus as part of an attack on the West. Long­time Chi­na-hawk Gor­don Chang recent­ly appeared on Rudy’s show where he not only con­curred with the idea that Chi­na’s gov­ern­ment inten­tion­al­ly set out to spread the virus glob­al­ly but he went on to call it a crime against human­i­ty. So we not only have the Trump admin­is­tra­tion and GOP allies in con­gress pro­mot­ing the ‘Chi­na spread it inten­tion­al­ly’ line but we have more tra­di­tion­al Chi­na haws in the DC estab­lish­ment like Change dou­bling down on that asser­tion and call­ing it a crime against human­i­ty. It’s a sign that Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s drum beat for a glob­al con­fronta­tion with Chi­na that’s going to grow loud­er and loud­er the longer the clos­er we get to the elec­tion But as the fol­low­ing piece also notes, it’s not just crank fig­ures like Rudy Giu­liani sug­gest­ing that Chi­na has inten­tion­al­ly been pro­mot­ing the spread of the virus as part of an attack on the West. Long­time Chi­na-hawk Gor­don Chang recent­ly appeared on Rudy’s show where he not only con­curred with the idea that Chi­na’s gov­ern­ment inten­tion­al­ly set out to spread the virus glob­al­ly but he went on to call it a crime against human­i­ty. So we not only have the Trump admin­is­tra­tion and GOP allies in con­gress pro­mot­ing the ‘Chi­na spread it inten­tion­al­ly’ line but we have more tra­di­tion­al Chi­na haws in the DC estab­lish­ment like Change dou­bling down on that asser­tion and call­ing it a crime against human­i­ty. It’s a sign that Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s drum beat for a glob­al con­fronta­tion with Chi­na that’s going to grow loud­er and loud­er the longer the clos­er we get to the elec­tion is going to have a lot of oppor­tunis­tic fel­low trav­elors in the Chi­na hawk fac­tion of the DC for­eign pol­i­cy estab­lish­ment who have been pin­ing for war against for years:

    ProP­ub­li­ca

    The Big­ot­ed, Con­spir­a­to­r­i­al Rants of Rudy Giuliani’s Radio Show
    Rudy Giu­liani has base­less­ly spec­u­lat­ed that the coro­n­avirus could be a plot by the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment, and that “life doesn’t mean” to them what it means in West­ern civ­i­liza­tion. It’s one of sev­er­al rants we found while lis­ten­ing to his broad­casts.

    By Alice Wilder, WNYC
    May 4, 2020 12:45 p.m. EDT

    Pres­i­den­tial lawyer and for­mer New York City May­or Rudy Giu­liani has large­ly fall­en out of the pub­lic eye since his star­ring role in Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s impeach­ment. But Giu­liani hasn’t gone silent.

    Instead, he’s in his home, doing a call-in radio show and a pod­cast — “Com­mon Sense” — dur­ing which he has repeat­ed­ly gone on big­ot­ed rants about Chi­na and its gov­ern­ment.

    “They have no morals,” he said on his April 28 radio show. “They’re amoral in the sense that human life means some­thing in West­ern civ­i­liza­tion, it means a lot. Human life doesn’t mean the same thing to them.”

    Giu­liani has also spec­u­lat­ed that the spread of the coro­n­avirus may be a plot by the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment.

    For exam­ple, Giu­liani has raised the pos­si­bil­i­ty that Chi­na pur­pose­ly released the virus from a bio­log­i­cal lab in Wuhan. “We have to say acci­den­tal­ly,” Giu­liani said in a recent radio broad­cast. “But I don’t think as respon­si­ble inves­ti­ga­tors we can rule out that it wasn’t done delib­er­ate­ly.”

    Experts say there’s no pub­lic evi­dence the virus came from the lab. Amid a report­ed White House push, U.S. intel­li­gence agen­cies have said they are inves­ti­gat­ing the ori­gins of the virus.

    Giu­liani is also fix­at­ed on the idea that the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment sent sick peo­ple over­seas. In an April 27 episode of his pod­cast, he said that Chi­na allowed “over a mil­lion peo­ple from Wuhan trav­el to us, to the Unit­ed States, to Eng­land to France to Italy to Ger­many.” He added, “I hope the peo­ple there have the same reac­tion we have to the val­ue of human life and the loss of human life.”

    “When they found out about this ter­ri­ble virus that escaped, assum­ing they didn’t do it on pur­pose,” Giu­liani said a day lat­er on his radio show, “they were going to make sure the West suf­fered as much if not more than they did and jumped on top of an oppor­tu­ni­ty, it’s not a big assump­tion to make. And there isn’t a con­trary expla­na­tion.

    The New York Times found that thou­sands, not mil­lions, of peo­ple flew inter­na­tion­al­ly out of Wuhan.

    ...

    The com­ments by Giu­liani have come as dis­crim­i­na­tion against Asian Amer­i­cans has spiked. And they rein­force the White House’s emerg­ing push to blame Chi­na for the pan­dem­ic.

    Giu­liani has said he’s spo­ken to the pres­i­dent a num­ber of times about the coro­n­avirus. Two days after Giu­liani said he was sure the virus came from the Wuhan lab, Trump said he has evi­dence of the same. (The pres­i­dent declined to give the evi­dence, say­ing it’s secret.)

    Giu­liani appears to have found a recep­tive wider audi­ence too. An adver­tis­ing exec­u­tive at 77 WABC, which airs Giuliani’s radio show, said “feed­back has been amaz­ing” and online lis­ten­ing has “sky­rock­et­ed.”

    ...

    In an April 23 radio show, Giu­liani inter­viewed Gor­don Chang, a con­ser­v­a­tive pun­dit who fre­quent­ly pre­dicts the col­lapse of the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment. Chang said if Chi­na released the virus acci­den­tal­ly — for which, again, there’s no evi­dence — it then decid­ed to cre­ate a glob­al pan­dem­ic. “I think what Xi Jin­ping did was he decid­ed he was going to spread the virus so that he would lev­el the play­ing field so that Chi­na would not be in such a hole,” Chang said, refer­ring to China’s pres­i­dent.

    “Wow,” Giu­liani respond­ed. “So he saw an oppor­tu­ni­ty, if that the­o­ry is cor­rect, and it wasn’t a bioweapon to start with, he saw an oppor­tu­ni­ty that was sort of acci­den­tal­ly pre­sent­ed to him, and then he took advan­tage of it. It was oppor­tunis­tic.”

    Chang acknowl­edged, “We can’t know what was in Xi Jinping’s mind for sure.” But then he went on, “It looks more like they were delib­er­ate and mali­cious and that means Mr. May­or … this is a crime against all of human­i­ty.”

    Giu­liani end­ed the inter­view by invit­ing Chang to be a guest on his oth­er show, the pod­cast.

    Giu­liani has also said he’d use his access to help guests on his show move ahead with explorato­ry treat­ments. Talk­ing with one phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal exec­u­tive on his show in late March, Giu­liani told his guest, “I’ll use what­ev­er my yelling and scream­ing can do to do it faster, to help you.”

    As the Times report­ed, the executive’s com­pa­ny received ini­tial tri­al approval from the Food and Drug Admin­is­tra­tion soon after. (The FDA has said the appli­ca­tion was sub­ject to “inter­nal sci­en­tif­ic review.” And Giu­liani has said he has no busi­ness con­nec­tion to the com­pa­ny.)

    “I don’t lob­by the gov­ern­ment,” Giu­liani emailed in response to a request for com­ment. “I do hope, how­ev­er, that they and oth­ers are suc­cess­ful.”

    Giu­liani appears to have strong feel­ings about the government’s process for approv­ing drugs.

    In an April 23 broad­cast, Mark, a phar­ma­cist from New Jer­sey, called in to report on his “infor­mal study” of the patients who have used a drug cock­tail that includes hydrox­y­chloro­quine — the anti-malar­ia drug that Trump long has tout­ed.

    Giu­liani was excit­ed when Mark report­ed that none of his patients had been hos­pi­tal­ized: “Why doesn’t this count with all these genius­es in Wash­ing­ton? The dou­ble blind study and the triple blind study and this study and that study, we don’t have time for that, we’ve got to go to peo­ple like Mark in New Jer­sey!”

    In fact, the FDA has warned against wide­spread use of the drug, not­ing that it can cause heart prob­lems.

    The dis­cus­sions with his lis­ten­ers, though, often come back to Chi­na.

    One caller to Giuliani’s radio show, iden­ti­fy­ing him­self as “George from Bay Ridge,” went on a rant against Chi­nese peo­ple, liken­ing them to ser­i­al killers with “no con­science” who are attempt­ing to take over busi­ness­es all over the world.

    Giu­liani respond­ed, “George, I’ve been get­ting com­plaints about this for a long time.” He added: “It almost reminds me of the Mafia. You know, they say, if you do busi­ness with Amer­i­ca it’s one thing. If you do busi­ness with Chi­na you don’t real­ize, all of a sud­den you start owing them too much and they believe they own you.”

    ———

    “The Big­ot­ed, Con­spir­a­to­r­i­al Rants of Rudy Giuliani’s Radio Show” by Alice Wilder; ProP­ub­li­ca; 05/04/2020

    “For exam­ple, Giu­liani has raised the pos­si­bil­i­ty that Chi­na pur­pose­ly released the virus from a bio­log­i­cal lab in Wuhan. “We have to say acci­den­tal­ly,” Giu­liani said in a recent radio broad­cast. “But I don’t think as respon­si­ble inves­ti­ga­tors we can rule out that it wasn’t done delib­er­ate­ly.””

    We can’t rule out a delib­er­ate release of the virus by Chi­nese author­i­ties. That’s the meme Giu­liani is push­ing on his pod­cast. Pre­sum­ably that’s how lit­tle Chi­na cares about human life. The gov­ern­ment is just fine with releas­ing a dan­ger­ous virus in its own major met­ro­pol­i­tan area with the intent of spread­ing it around the world, espe­cial­ly the US to tar­get Trump so he los­es reelec­tion. And even if the ini­tial release was an acci­dent the Chi­na gov­ern­ment soon decid­ed “they were going to make sure the West suf­fered as much if not more than they did and jumped on top of an oppor­tu­ni­ty”. That’s the idea Rudy Giu­liani is push­ing on his pod­cast:

    ...
    Giu­liani is also fix­at­ed on the idea that the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment sent sick peo­ple over­seas. In an April 27 episode of his pod­cast, he said that Chi­na allowed “over a mil­lion peo­ple from Wuhan trav­el to us, to the Unit­ed States, to Eng­land to France to Italy to Ger­many.” He added, “I hope the peo­ple there have the same reac­tion we have to the val­ue of human life and the loss of human life.”

    “When they found out about this ter­ri­ble virus that escaped, assum­ing they didn’t do it on pur­pose,” Giu­liani said a day lat­er on his radio show, “they were going to make sure the West suf­fered as much if not more than they did and jumped on top of an oppor­tu­ni­ty, it’s not a big assump­tion to make. And there isn’t a con­trary expla­na­tion.

    The New York Times found that thou­sands, not mil­lions, of peo­ple flew inter­na­tion­al­ly out of Wuhan.
    ...

    But it’s not just Trump admin­is­tra­tion cronies like Giu­liani pro­mot­ing the “Chi­na is spread­ing it inten­tion­al­ly” meme. Gor­don Change, a long-stand­ing Chi­na-hawk in the DC for­eign pol­i­cy estab­lish­ment, dou­bled down on the idea and went on to call it a crime against human­i­ty:

    ...
    In an April 23 radio show, Giu­liani inter­viewed Gor­don Chang, a con­ser­v­a­tive pun­dit who fre­quent­ly pre­dicts the col­lapse of the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment. Chang said if Chi­na released the virus acci­den­tal­ly — for which, again, there’s no evi­dence — it then decid­ed to cre­ate a glob­al pan­dem­ic. “I think what Xi Jin­ping did was he decid­ed he was going to spread the virus so that he would lev­el the play­ing field so that Chi­na would not be in such a hole,” Chang said, refer­ring to China’s pres­i­dent.

    “Wow,” Giu­liani respond­ed. “So he saw an oppor­tu­ni­ty, if that the­o­ry is cor­rect, and it wasn’t a bioweapon to start with, he saw an oppor­tu­ni­ty that was sort of acci­den­tal­ly pre­sent­ed to him, and then he took advan­tage of it. It was oppor­tunis­tic.”

    Chang acknowl­edged, “We can’t know what was in Xi Jinping’s mind for sure.” But then he went on, “It looks more like they were delib­er­ate and mali­cious and that means Mr. May­or … this is a crime against all of human­i­ty.”
    ...

    So the Trump admin­is­tra­tion and the Chi­na hawks in the DC for­eign pol­i­cy estab­lish­ment appear to have joint­ly arrived at a con­ve­nient nar­ra­tive: Chi­na inten­tion­al­ly set out to infect the world and must pay for its crimes against human­i­ty.

    Less con­ve­nient, of course, is the real­i­ty that the Chi­na’s virol­o­gy research in Wuhan has for years been con­duct­ed in coor­di­na­tion with the US gov­ern­ment. It’s one rea­son the Trump admin­is­tra­tion has to con­tin­ue assert­ing that the virus could­n’t have been man-made because once we go down that path of inquiry there would obvi­ous­ly be ques­tions about the exten­sive ‘gov­ern­ment-backed coor­di­na­tion between US, Aus­tralian, and Chi­nese researchers in lit­er­al­ly mak­ing new coro­n­avirus­es as part of the “gain-of-func­tion” line of exper­i­ments. Or ques­tions about the fact that it was the Trump admin­is­tra­tion that lift­ed the 2014 US ban on “gain-of-func­tion” exper­i­ments in 2017.

    These are just some of very awk­ward ques­tions that are inevitably going to be raised as the Trump admin­is­tra­tion con­tin­ues its push “Chi­na did it on pur­pose” nar­ra­tive, which is prob­a­bly why the Trump admin­is­tra­tion just pulled the NIH grant for coro­n­avirus research to the var­i­ous US labs that have been col­lab­o­rat­ing with the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy researchers. That’s accord­ing to the Eco­Health Alliance, the non-prof­it that was con­duct­ing this research and has a part­ner­ship with the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy. As the fol­low­ing arti­cle notes, the Eco­Health Alliance has worked with the Wuhan insti­tute for more than a decade as part of the USAID PREDICT project, receiv­ing $5.6 mil­lion in grants from the NIH over the past 12 years. That col­lab­o­ra­tive work that has long focused on bat coro­n­avirus­es and clear­ly had the offi­cial back­ing of the US gov­ern­ment until now is sud­den­ly now offi­cial­ly on Trump’s naughty list:

    ABC News

    Trump admin pulls NIH grant for coro­n­avirus research over ties to Wuhan lab at heart of con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries
    Despite Trump’s attacks, the US group doing the research defend­ed the Wuhan lab.

    By Conor Finnegan
    May 1, 2020, 4:08 AM

    The Trump admin­is­tra­tion has pulled fund­ing for a group of sci­en­tists study­ing coro­n­avirus­es in bats and the risk of their spillover into humans — the very kind of infec­tion that start­ed the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic — accord­ing to Eco­Health Alliance, the New York-based non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tion con­duct­ing the research.

    The can­cel­la­tion of the grant after more than a decade of work in this field seems to be tied to Eco­Health Alliance’s part­ner­ship with the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy, the bio­med­ical lab at the heart of con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries that the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment cre­at­ed or unleashed the virus or the unproven the­sis that the out­break start­ed with an acci­dent because of faulty safe­ty stan­dards in the lab.

    Either way, the group expressed regret at the deci­sion by the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health to ter­mi­nate fund­ing, say­ing its work has helped in “design­ing vac­cines and drugs to pro­tect us from COVID-19 and oth­er coro­n­avirus threats” and point­ing out the Wuhan Insti­tute’s par­tic­i­pa­tion had been approved by the NIH for years, includ­ing just last year under Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

    The pres­i­dent has tak­en a hard­er line on Chi­na in recent days, say­ing Thurs­day he has seen evi­dence that the Wuhan Insti­tute is respon­si­ble for the out­break, although he was­n’t clear whether he believes it was some­how man­u­fac­tured in the lab or the result of an acci­dent. Most experts have told ABC News the first human infec­tion — what’s known a “zoonot­ic spillover” — is much more like­ly to have hap­pened in the wild, where that kind of trans­mis­sion occurs increas­ing­ly often.

    “It’s a ter­ri­ble thing that hap­pened,” Trump told reporters at the White House Thurs­day evening. “Whether they made a mis­take or whether it start­ed off as a mis­take and then they made anoth­er one, or did some­body do some­thing on pur­pose?

    The U.S. intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty agrees with the sci­en­tif­ic con­sen­sus that the virus is “not man-made or genet­i­cal­ly mod­i­fied,” the Office of the Direc­tor of Nation­al Intel­li­gence said in a rare state­ment Thurs­day, but it announced its intel agen­cies are inves­ti­gat­ing whether the out­break could be “the result of an acci­dent at a lab­o­ra­to­ry in Wuhan.”

    Eco­Health Alliance has worked with that lab for over a decade, accord­ing to a source famil­iar with the grant, as has the U.S. Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­men­t’s PREDICT project, which for over 10 years has also stud­ied virus­es in ani­mals and pre­pared local part­ners around the world to detect that kind of “spillover.”

    But in a let­ter last Fri­day, the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health informed the Eco­Health Alliance it was ter­mi­nat­ing the grant and deny­ing it access to the remain­ing $369,819 in its account for Fis­cal Year 2020.

    “At this time, NIH does not believe that the cur­rent project out­comes align with the pro­gram goals and agency pri­or­i­ties,” Michael Lauer, NIH’s deputy direc­tor for out­side research, wrote, accord­ing to a copy obtained by Politi­co, which first report­ed the news.

    Lauer’s let­ter made no direct ref­er­ence to the pres­i­dent, accord­ing to the source famil­iar with the grant, but just one week pri­or, Trump said he would ter­mi­nate it “very quick­ly” and blamed the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion for it, even though his admin­is­tra­tion also approved the fund­ing.

    Last Fri­day’s ter­mi­na­tion let­ter came after NIH asked Eco­Health Alliance not to send any more fund­ing to the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy ear­li­er this month, accord­ing to the source. The group had halt­ed fund­ing, but large­ly because the pan­dem­ic had put a halt to near­ly all its research oper­a­tions.

    ...

    Eco­Health Alliance has received NIH fund­ing for this work since 2008, amount­ing to $5.96 mil­lion over 12 years, accord­ing to NIH data. That work has helped “devel­op pre­dic­tive mod­els of glob­al ‘hot spots’ for the future emer­gence of bat virus­es” and used its “large repos­i­to­ry of bat bio­log­i­cal sam­ples to con­duct tar­get­ed sur­veil­lance in these ‘hot spots’ for known and undis­cov­ered bat pathogens,” accord­ing to the group.

    That work is now at risk, accord­ing to the source, who said U.S. access to those sam­ples and at least some of that data held by the Wuhan Insti­tute would be cut off.

    Since Fis­cal Year 2014, that work has been award­ed to Eco­Health Alliance’s “Under­stand­ing the Risk of Bat Coro­n­avirus Emer­gence” project in par­tic­u­lar, which is explic­it­ly focused on Chi­na and done in part­ner­ship with the Wuhan Insti­tute and oth­ers.

    “This project aims to under­stand what fac­tors increase the risk of the next CoV [coro­n­avirus] emerg­ing in peo­ple by study­ing CoV diver­si­ty in a crit­i­cal zoonot­ic reser­voir (bats), at sites of high risk for emer­gence (wildlife mar­kets) in an emerg­ing dis­ease hotspot (Chi­na),” the group’s NIH-approved research abstract said.

    Sci­en­tists have deter­mined that the nov­el coro­n­avirus that caus­es COVID-19 orig­i­nat­ed in a bat, although there’s been no con­clu­sion yet about how it jumped from bats to humans. Many of the ear­li­est cas­es were con­nect­ed to a wet mar­ket in Wuhan, where live and fresh­ly killed ani­mals are sold, but some sci­en­tists have cast doubt on it being the orig­i­nal source. The Wuhan munic­i­pal gov­ern­ment closed the mar­ket on Jan. 1 and cleaned it, poten­tial­ly mak­ing the inves­ti­ga­tion more dif­fi­cult.

    But while U.S. intel­li­gence agen­cies look for clues of a poten­tial lab acci­dent, epi­demi­o­log­i­cal experts say it’s high­ly unlike­ly the first trans­mis­sion hap­pened that way. Virus sam­ples in labs are almost nev­er still infec­tious, after being frozen in nitro­gen dur­ing the col­lec­tion process and then inac­ti­vat­ed in the lab to pre­serve their genet­ic sequence.

    “It’s an unlike­ly prob­a­bil­i­ty because the lab­o­ra­to­ry is a con­trolled set­ting and peo­ple wear per­son­al pro­tec­tive equip­ment. I’ve seen hearsay that they maybe did­n’t have enough or they weren’t skilled enough, but there are bar­ri­ers, huge bar­ri­ers between peo­ple and virus­es in the lab­o­ra­to­ry set­ting,” said Dr. Chris­tine John­son, prin­ci­pal inves­ti­ga­tor with USAID’s PREDICT project, which will end this Sep­tem­ber after 10 years and two six-month exten­sions as USAID launch­es a new project that applies the data PREDICT col­lect­ed.

    The prob­a­bil­i­ty of infec­tion “is so much high­er in the real world, where there are more peo­ple and more bats. It’s vast­ly more like­ly than the poten­tial for a human-bat inter­ac­tion in the lab,” added John­son, a pro­fes­sor of epi­demi­ol­o­gy and ecosys­tem health at UC Davis School of Vet­eri­nary Med­i­cine and direc­tor of its Epi­Cen­ter for Dis­ease Dynam­ic.

    In the face of that, Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo has now start­ed to call into the ques­tion of Chi­na’s bio­med­ical labs, demand­ing that they pro­vide inter­na­tion­al inspec­tors access to them, although it’s unclear if the admin­is­tra­tion has for­mal­ly request­ed that of the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment. Many of the sci­en­tists at the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy have been trained by the U.S. gov­ern­men­t’s PREDICT project.

    Some experts believe there was like­ly an inter­me­di­ary ani­mal infect­ed by a bat that then infect­ed a human, such as a pan­golin, a scaly-skinned mam­mal that resem­bles an armadil­lo and is sold for meat and tra­di­tion­al med­i­cine, or a civet, a slinky cat-like mam­mal eat­en as a del­i­ca­cy and believed to be the inter­me­di­ary respon­si­ble for the 2003 SARS out­break.

    But it could also be from direct expo­sure to a bat. A 2017 report by Eco­Health Alliance’s project, whose authors include Wuhan Insti­tute sci­en­tists, was pub­lished in the research jour­nal Viro­log­i­ca Sini­ca and warned that “some bat SARSr-CoVs [severe acute res­pi­ra­to­ry syn­drome-relat­ed coro­n­avirus­es] are able to direct­ly infect humans with­out inter­me­di­ate host.”

    ———

    “Trump admin pulls NIH grant for coro­n­avirus research over ties to Wuhan lab at heart of con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries” by Conor Finnegan; ABC News; 05/01/2020

    Eco­Health Alliance has worked with that lab for over a decade, accord­ing to a source famil­iar with the grant, as has the U.S. Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­men­t’s PREDICT project, which for over 10 years has also stud­ied virus­es in ani­mals and pre­pared local part­ners around the world to detect that kind of “spillover.””

    The Eco­Health Alliance and USAID have been work­ing with the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy for over a decade explic­it­ly for the pur­pose of study­ing bat coro­n­avirus­es. That sure is an awk­ward fun-fact now that we have an admin­is­tra­tion com­mit­ted to the idea that the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment either inten­tion­al­ly released one of those bat coro­n­avirus­es from that lab or inten­tion­al­ly decid­ed to spread it around the world fol­low­ing an acci­den­tal release. And so just over a week ago the NIH sends a let­ter to the EcoAl­liance inform­ing them that the remain­der of the cur­rent grant has been ter­mi­nat­ed. That’s fol­low­ing an NIH request ear­li­er in April ask­ing the EcoAl­liance not to send any more fund­ing to the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy. Yep, the NIH-fund­ing EcoAl­liance has been par­tial­ly fund­ing the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy. In addi­tion, many of the researchers at the Wuhan lab were actu­al­ly trained by the PREDICT pro­gram. So the US was train­ing the sci­en­tists at the Wuhan insti­tute and send­ing it mon­ey. But that can’t hap­pen any­more now that the Trump admin­is­tra­tion and Chi­na hawks want to por­tray this pan­dem­ic as a Chi­nese crime against human­i­ty:

    ...
    But in a let­ter last Fri­day, the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health informed the Eco­Health Alliance it was ter­mi­nat­ing the grant and deny­ing it access to the remain­ing $369,819 in its account for Fis­cal Year 2020.

    “At this time, NIH does not believe that the cur­rent project out­comes align with the pro­gram goals and agency pri­or­i­ties,” Michael Lauer, NIH’s deputy direc­tor for out­side research, wrote, accord­ing to a copy obtained by Politi­co, which first report­ed the news.

    Lauer’s let­ter made no direct ref­er­ence to the pres­i­dent, accord­ing to the source famil­iar with the grant, but just one week pri­or, Trump said he would ter­mi­nate it “very quick­ly” and blamed the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion for it, even though his admin­is­tra­tion also approved the fund­ing.

    Last Fri­day’s ter­mi­na­tion let­ter came after NIH asked Eco­Health Alliance not to send any more fund­ing to the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy ear­li­er this month, accord­ing to the source. The group had halt­ed fund­ing, but large­ly because the pan­dem­ic had put a halt to near­ly all its research oper­a­tions.

    ...

    Eco­Health Alliance has received NIH fund­ing for this work since 2008, amount­ing to $5.96 mil­lion over 12 years, accord­ing to NIH data. That work has helped “devel­op pre­dic­tive mod­els of glob­al ‘hot spots’ for the future emer­gence of bat virus­es” and used its “large repos­i­to­ry of bat bio­log­i­cal sam­ples to con­duct tar­get­ed sur­veil­lance in these ‘hot spots’ for known and undis­cov­ered bat pathogens,” accord­ing to the group.

    ...

    In the face of that, Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo has now start­ed to call into the ques­tion of Chi­na’s bio­med­ical labs, demand­ing that they pro­vide inter­na­tion­al inspec­tors access to them, although it’s unclear if the admin­is­tra­tion has for­mal­ly request­ed that of the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment. Many of the sci­en­tists at the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy have been trained by the U.S. gov­ern­men­t’s PREDICT project.
    ...

    So at the same time we’re see­ing the Trump admin­is­tra­tion tran­si­tion to for­mal­ly claim­ing the coro­n­avirus was an inten­tion­al act by Chi­na we’re see­ing some ‘clean­ing up’ of any US gov­ern­ment pro­grams that might com­pli­cate that nar­ra­tive. A nar­ra­tive that essen­tial­ly amounts to a dec­la­ra­tion of war. After all, the Trump team’s prox­ies like Giu­liani are say­ing that Chi­na inten­tion­al­ly set out to infect the US with DC Chi­na hawks like Gor­don Change con­cur­ring. How is that not effec­tive­ly a dec­la­ra­tion of war when Trump him­self and fig­ures like Mike Pom­peo back the idea?

    And don’t for­get that, as we saw, the US labs that have been close­ly col­lab­o­rat­ing with the researchers at the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy includes Ralph Bar­ic’s lab in the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na where they were joint­ly con­duct­ing “gain-of-func­tion” exper­i­ments involv­ing chimeri­ca coro­n­avirus­es. And it seems like just a mat­ter of time before the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s nar­ra­tive shifts from “Chi­na inten­tion­al­ly released this nat­ur­al bat coro­n­avirus to harm us” to “Chi­na inten­tion­al­ly released this man-made super virus to harm us”. So while we’re see­ing the Trump team back away from the lega­cy of inter­na­tion­al “gain-of-func­tion” coro­n­avirus col­lab­o­ra­tions right now, at some point we’re prob­a­bly going to see the Trump team open­ly attack­ing those US research teams that were con­duct­ing those exper­i­ments because that’s what’s going to be required for the even­tu­al “Chi­na released a man-made super virus to attack us and we need revenge” nar­ra­tive that they’re work­ing up to. And, of course, these researchers who are about to get thrown under the bus by the Trump team are going to have their own side of this sto­ry to share. The side of the sto­ry where they were giv­en copi­ous gov­ern­ment financ­ing to car­ry out research that was long laud­ed as cru­cial to pre­vent­ing future pan­demics. So this his­to­ry of US gov­ern­ment fund­ing of “gain-of-func­tion” research that has been large­ly sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly ignored by the coro­n­avirus media cov­er­age thus far just might end up get­ting a lot more atten­tion. Atten­tion in the form of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion aggres­sive­ly try­ing to rewrite a very incon­ve­nient his­to­ry.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 5, 2020, 12:46 pm
  8. Here’s a pair of arti­cles that under­score an impor­tant aspect of the grow­ing right-wing pro­pa­gan­da cam­paign to por­tray the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic as a kind of bio­log­i­cal attack by Chi­na: It’s not just a “Chi­na attacked us” meme cam­paign. It’s a “Chi­na attacked us in coor­di­na­tion with WHO and Bill Gates and left-wing Glob­al­ists who all want to force upon you poi­so­nous vac­cines and 5G wifi tech­nol­o­gy” com­bined meme cam­paign.

    That’s the com­bined mes­sage cam­paign that emerges when we look at the fol­low­ing pair of sto­ries about the viral spread of a new video, “Plan­dem­ic”, that fea­tures anti-vac­ci­na­tion icon Dr. Judy Mikovits and push­es the idea that the dam­age caused to immune sys­tems by vac­cines and 5G wifi are the under­ly­ing cause of the pan­dem­ic. And as the fol­low­ing New York Times arti­cle describes, the video has been seized upon by move­ments like QAnon or Reopen Amer­i­ca (one of the anti-lock­down groups that’s popped up), and the Epoch Times. Part of what makes the Epoch Times so notable as an out­let pro­mot­ing fig­ures like Mikovits is that, as we’ve seen, the group behind Epoch Times is Falun Gong, a move­ment ded­i­cat­ed to the col­lapse of the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment. And memes like “COVID-19 is caused by vac­ci­na­tions that Bill Gates and the WHO want to impose on you” don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly pro­mote the par­al­lel meme of “the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment inten­tion­al­ly spread this dis­ease”, but as we’re see­ing with the Epoch Times cov­er­age of this issue those two memes can be com­bined into one giant meme of “The Chi­nese gov­ern­ment and the WHO and the lib­er­al Glob­al­ists are all con­spir­ing to force vac­cines and 5G on you with this virus”.

    Keep in mind that this com­bined meme of “Chi­na and the WHO are plot­ting togeth­er” has been aggres­sive­ly pushed by the Trump admin­is­tra­tion for a while now. For exam­ple, when Trump cut off US fund­ing to the WHO a month ago it was osten­si­bly due to Trump charg­ing the WHO of cov­er­ing up the out­break for Chi­na. And then there’s Rudy Giu­liani pro­mot­ing the idea that Chi­na inten­tion­al­ly sent infect­ed peo­ple around the world. In the case of Plan­dem­ic, Dar­la Shine — the wife of for­mer Fox News exec­u­tive Bill Shine who also hap­pens to be a for­mer top aide to Trump — pro­mot­ed Mikovits’s book in a tweet last month.

    Dr. Mikovits also report­ed­ly makes the case in the “Plan­dem­ic” video that the virus could have been cre­at­ed in a lab, which is dis­missed as implau­si­ble of course in the fol­low­ing arti­cles since that sce­nario has been “offi­cial­ly” declared to be high­ly unlike­ly. As we’ve seen, not only is it 100 per­cent tech­ni­cal­ly plau­si­ble and alarm­ing­ly fea­si­ble for the virus to have been engi­neered but joint researchers have been engi­neer­ing coro­n­avirus­es for years, includ­ing researchers work­ing under inter­na­tion­al research efforts joint­ly fund­ed by coun­ties like the US, Aus­tralia, and Chi­na. But offi­cial­ly it’s being declared that there’s no pos­si­ble way this virus could have been man-made and so we should­n’t be sur­prised that fig­ures like Dr. Mikovits pro­mot­ing the idea is now being used to fur­ther dis­cred­it it. It’s an exam­ple of how far right con­spir­a­cy media is used to not only pro­mote absur­di­ties but then use those pro­mot­ed absur­di­ties to dis­cred­it through asso­ci­a­tion legit­i­mate ideas idea.

    And as we’ll see in the sec­ond arti­cle below, the Epoch Times is now using Plan­dem­ic for direct out­reach to new audi­ences by mail­ing phys­i­cal spe­cial edi­tions of the Epoch Times straight into mail­box­es. The spe­cial edi­tions have been focused on the idea that the virus was a Chi­nese bioweapon and should be called the “CCP virus” and deliv­ered to spe­cif­ic neigh­bor­hoods through­out Cana­da, prompt­ing com­plaints from some recip­i­ents and mail car­ri­ers that it was foment­ing ani­mos­i­ty against Canada’s Chi­nese com­mu­ni­ty. So the Epoch Times, which has emerged as a top dis­sem­i­na­tor of far right con­spir­a­cy con­tent and is increas­ing­ly aligned with the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, appears to be lead­ing the way on com­bin­ing the “COVID is a Chi­nese biowar­fare attack on us” meme with the “COVID is caused by Glob­al­ist vac­ci­na­tions and wifi” memes, now now includes the pro­mo­tion of “Plan­dem­ic”:

    The New York Times

    Virus Con­spir­acists Ele­vate a New Cham­pi­on

    A video show­cas­ing base­less argu­ments by Dr. Judy Mikovits, includ­ing attacks on Dr. Antho­ny Fau­ci, has been viewed more than eight mil­lion times in the past week.

    By Dav­ey Alba
    May 9, 2020

    In a video post­ed to YouTube on Mon­day, a woman ani­mat­ed­ly described an unsub­stan­ti­at­ed secret plot by glob­al elites like Bill Gates and Dr. Antho­ny Fau­ci to use the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic to prof­it and grab polit­i­cal pow­er.

    In the 26-minute video, the woman assert­ed how Dr. Fau­ci, the direc­tor of the Nation­al Insti­tute of Aller­gy and Infec­tious Dis­eases and a lead­ing voice on the coro­n­avirus, had buried her research about how vac­cines can dam­age people’s immune sys­tems. It is those weak­ened immune sys­tems, she declared, that have made peo­ple sus­cep­ti­ble to ill­ness­es like Covid-19.

    The video, a scene from a longer dubi­ous doc­u­men­tary called “Plan­dem­ic,” was quick­ly seized upon by anti-vac­ci­na­tors, the con­spir­a­cy group QAnon and activists from the Reopen Amer­i­ca move­ment, gen­er­at­ing more than eight mil­lion views. And it has turned the woman — Dr. Judy Mikovits, 62, a dis­cred­it­ed sci­en­tist — into a new star of virus dis­in­for­ma­tion.

    Her ascent was pow­ered not only by the YouTube video but also by a book that she pub­lished in April, “Plague of Cor­rup­tion,” which frames Dr. Mikovits as a truth-teller fight­ing decep­tion in sci­ence. In recent weeks, she has become a dar­ling of far-right pub­li­ca­tions like The Epoch Times and The Gate­way Pun­dit. Men­tions of her on social media and tele­vi­sion have spiked to as high as 14,000 a day, accord­ing to the media insights com­pa­ny Zig­nal Labs.

    The rise of Dr. Mikovits is the lat­est twist in the virus dis­in­for­ma­tion wars, which have swelled through­out the pan­dem­ic. Con­spir­a­cy the­o­rists have used the uncer­tain­ty and fear around the dis­ease to mint many vil­lains. Those include Dr. Fau­ci after he appeared to slight Pres­i­dent Trump and Mr. Gates, a co-founder of Microsoft, as some­one who start­ed the dis­ease. They have also pushed the base­less idea that 5G wire­less waves can help cause the dis­ease.

    On the flip side, they have cre­at­ed their own heroes, like Dr. Mikovits.

    The con­spir­a­cy the­o­rists “recast a push­er of dis­cred­it­ed pseu­do­science as a whis­tle-blow­ing coun­ter­point to real exper­tise,” said Renee DiRes­ta, a dis­in­for­ma­tion researcher at the Stan­ford Inter­net Obser­va­to­ry.

    ...

    Judy Mikovits has a degree in biol­o­gy from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Vir­ginia and a Ph.D. in mol­e­c­u­lar biol­o­gy from George Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty. From 1992 to 2001, she worked at the Nation­al Can­cer Insti­tute as a post­doc­tor­al fel­low, a staff sci­en­tist and a lab direc­tor, then served as research direc­tor of the Whit­te­more Peter­son Insti­tute for Neu­ro-Immune Dis­ease from 2006 to 2011. In 2011, after her research into chron­ic fatigue syn­drome was dis­cred­it­ed, she was fired from Whit­te­more.

    Dr. Mikovits’s rise to inter­net noto­ri­ety has been sud­den. Accord­ing to data from Zig­nal Labs, she was rarely men­tioned on social media plat­forms in Feb­ru­ary.

    By April, cov­er­age of Dr. Mikovits rose to 800 men­tions a day. That month, Dar­la Shine, the wife of Bill Shine, a for­mer Fox News exec­u­tive and for­mer top aide to Mr. Trump, pro­mot­ed Dr. Mikovits’s book in a tweet. Videos by The Epoch Times, a pub­li­ca­tion with ties to the Falun Gong, and the con­ser­v­a­tive out­let “The Next News Net­work” inter­viewed Dr. Mikovits about the pan­dem­ic, gen­er­at­ing more than 1.5 mil­lion views on social net­works.

    Then came the video from “Plan­dem­ic,” which made men­tions of Dr. Mikovits on social media spike far high­er. The video was pro­duced by Mik­ki Willis, who was involved in mak­ing “Bernie or Bust” and “Nev­er Hillary” videos dur­ing the 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

    Her argu­ments also began to spill over into the real world, includ­ing her base­less asser­tion that “wear­ing the mask lit­er­al­ly acti­vates your own virus.” There is no evi­dence that wear­ing a mask can acti­vate virus­es and make peo­ple sick. On Thurs­day in Sacra­men­to, Calif., a woman bran­dished a sign in front of the state Capi­tol build­ing that read, “Do you know who Dr. Judy Mikovits is? Then don’t tell me I need a sil­ly mask.”

    YouTube and Face­book have removed the “Plan­dem­ic” scene, say­ing that it spread inac­cu­rate infor­ma­tion about Covid-19 that could be harm­ful to the pub­lic. But the video con­tin­ues to cir­cu­late, as peo­ple post new copies. Twit­ter added an “unsafe” warn­ing on at least one link fea­tur­ing Dr. Mikovits on the social net­work, and blocked the hash­tags #Plague­Of­Cor­rup­tion and #Plan­demic­movie from trends and search.

    Dr. Mikovits has attacked Dr. Fau­ci online since at least 2018. But her claims did not gain much trac­tion until this year, when the nar­ra­tive that Dr. Fau­ci was secret­ly plot­ting to under­mine and dis­cred­it the pres­i­dent start­ed spread­ing.

    Dr. Mikovits says Dr. Fauci’s attacks on her work date back to the 1980s, when she con­tributed research to the Nation­al Can­cer Insti­tute as a grad­u­ate stu­dent. In the video being shared, Dr. Mikovits alleges that Dr. Fau­ci inter­cept­ed her research on H.I.V. to make mon­ey off patents, threat­ened her and then took unde­served cred­it for mov­ing the field of H.I.V. treat­ment for­ward.

    She also ties her pro­fes­sion­al down­fall to Dr. Fau­ci. In 2009, Dr. Mikovits pub­lished research in the jour­nal Sci­ence claim­ing to show that a mouse retro­virus caused chron­ic fatigue syn­drome and oth­er ill­ness­es. That research gained sig­nif­i­cant media atten­tion, but it was dis­cred­it­ed a cou­ple of years lat­er, includ­ing with a retrac­tion by the jour­nal. Dr. Mikovits was briefly jailed in Cal­i­for­nia on charges of theft made by Whit­te­more. The charges were lat­er dropped.

    Dr. Mikovits has sought to reframe the scan­dal as part of a broad­er cam­paign of per­se­cu­tion, aimed at silenc­ing her work ques­tion­ing the safe­ty of vac­cines.

    There is no evi­dence that Dr. Fau­ci and Dr. Mikovits inter­act­ed. This week, in a state­ment to the fact-check­ing web­site Snopes, Dr. Fau­ci denied ever hav­ing threat­ened Dr. Mikovits. “I have no idea what she is talk­ing about,” he wrote.

    The Nation­al Can­cer Insti­tute referred an inquiry about Dr. Mikovits’s claims to the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health, the agency that over­sees the N.C.I.’s can­cer research and train­ing. Dr. Fau­ci came to the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health as a clin­i­cal asso­ciate in 1968, and was appoint­ed direc­tor of the Nation­al Insti­tute of Aller­gy and Infec­tious Dis­eases at the N.I.H. by 1984.

    In a state­ment, the agency said, “The Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health and Nation­al Insti­tute of Aller­gy and Infec­tious Dis­eases are focused on crit­i­cal research aimed at end­ing the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic and pre­vent­ing fur­ther deaths. We are not engag­ing in tac­tics by some seek­ing to derail our efforts.”

    Dr. Ian Lip­kin, the direc­tor of the Cen­ter for Infec­tion and Immu­ni­ty at Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty, said in an inter­view on Sat­ur­day morn­ing that Dr. Fau­ci had asked him in 2011 to design a study that would address whether Dr. Mikovits and oth­ers could repro­duce her research show­ing an asso­ci­a­tion between XMRV, the mouse retro­virus, and chron­ic fatigue syn­drome. He point­ed to a Sep­tem­ber 2012 news con­fer­ence at Colum­bia in which Dr. Mikovits admit­ted the link her orig­i­nal research had made between the mouse retro­virus and chron­ic fatigue syn­drome was “sim­ply not there.”

    “Now is the time to use” the inval­i­dat­ing results that came out of the effort to repro­duce her research “and move for­ward,” Dr. Mikovits said at the time. “And that’s what sci­ence is all about.”

    Ivan Oran­sky, a co-founder of the aca­d­e­m­ic watch­dog Retrac­tion Watch, which has fol­lowed Dr. Mikovits’s work close­ly, said that when he sees videos like the one post­ed in the past week, “they tend to coa­lesce around cer­tain kinds of sub­jects, then the tra­jec­to­ry turns to mar­tyr­hood real­ly quick­ly.”

    There is some evi­dence that promi­nent mem­bers of con­spir­a­cy groups have tried to give her name and her sto­ry a lift online.

    Zach Vorhies, a for­mer YouTube employ­ee who has recent­ly pro­mot­ed QAnon con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries, post­ed a GoFundMe cam­paign on April 19 titled “Help me ampli­fy Phar­ma Whistle­blow­er Judy Mikovits.” The cam­paign was first spot­ted by Ms. DiRes­ta, of the Stan­ford Inter­net Obser­va­to­ry.

    A day before the GoFundMe cam­paign began, a new­ly cre­at­ed account for Dr. Mikovits tweet­ed for the first time. “A big thanks goes out to Zach Vorhies (@Perpetualmaniac) for help­ing me get on Twit­ter!” It was retweet­ed 400 times and liked more than 2,200 times. The account has gained over 111,000 fol­low­ers in less than a month.

    GoFundMe removed the page on Fri­day, stat­ing that the cam­paign vio­lat­ed the website’s terms of ser­vice for “cam­paigns that are fraud­u­lent, mis­lead­ing, inac­cu­rate, dis­hon­est, or impos­si­ble.”

    ...

    Dr. Mikovits’s new­found noto­ri­ety has also lift­ed sales of her new book. This week, “Plague of Cor­rup­tion” shot to No. 1 on Amazon’s print best-sell­er list. The book was out of stock on Fri­day. Ama­zon said that the book did not vio­late the company’s con­tent guide­lines.

    Sky­horse, the inde­pen­dent pub­lish­ing com­pa­ny behind the book, defend­ed its deci­sion to print Dr. Mikovits. “The world should dis­cuss the ideas in this book, rather than allow cen­sor­ship to pre­vail,” a spokes­woman for Sky­horse said.

    Dr. Peter J. Hotez, dean of the Nation­al School of Trop­i­cal Med­i­cine at Bay­lor Col­lege of Med­i­cine, said her rise illus­trat­ed how the anti-vac­ci­na­tion move­ment had “tak­en a new omi­nous twist” with the coro­n­avirus.

    “They’ve now aligned them­selves with far-right groups,” Dr. Hotez said, “and their weapons of choice are YouTube, Face­book and Ama­zon.”

    ———–

    “Virus Con­spir­acists Ele­vate a New Cham­pi­on” by Dav­ey Alba; The New York Times; 05/09/2020

    “The video, a scene from a longer dubi­ous doc­u­men­tary called “Plan­dem­ic,” was quick­ly seized upon by anti-vac­ci­na­tors, the con­spir­a­cy group QAnon and activists from the Reopen Amer­i­ca move­ment, gen­er­at­ing more than eight mil­lion views. And it has turned the woman — Dr. Judy Mikovits, 62, a dis­cred­it­ed sci­en­tist — into a new star of virus dis­in­for­ma­tion.

    Meet the lat­est far right social media star: Dr. Judy Mikovits, the new dar­ling of out­lets like the Epoch Times. And all that pro­mo­tion has clear­ly made an impact: her book shot up to #1 on the Ama­zon best-sell­er list:

    ...
    Her ascent was pow­ered not only by the YouTube video but also by a book that she pub­lished in April, “Plague of Cor­rup­tion,” which frames Dr. Mikovits as a truth-teller fight­ing decep­tion in sci­ence. In recent weeks, she has become a dar­ling of far-right pub­li­ca­tions like The Epoch Times and The Gate­way Pun­dit. Men­tions of her on social media and tele­vi­sion have spiked to as high as 14,000 a day, accord­ing to the media insights com­pa­ny Zig­nal Labs.

    The rise of Dr. Mikovits is the lat­est twist in the virus dis­in­for­ma­tion wars, which have swelled through­out the pan­dem­ic. Con­spir­a­cy the­o­rists have used the uncer­tain­ty and fear around the dis­ease to mint many vil­lains. Those include Dr. Fau­ci after he appeared to slight Pres­i­dent Trump and Mr. Gates, a co-founder of Microsoft, as some­one who start­ed the dis­ease. They have also pushed the base­less idea that 5G wire­less waves can help cause the dis­ease.

    ...

    Judy Mikovits has a degree in biol­o­gy from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Vir­ginia and a Ph.D. in mol­e­c­u­lar biol­o­gy from George Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty. From 1992 to 2001, she worked at the Nation­al Can­cer Insti­tute as a post­doc­tor­al fel­low, a staff sci­en­tist and a lab direc­tor, then served as research direc­tor of the Whit­te­more Peter­son Insti­tute for Neu­ro-Immune Dis­ease from 2006 to 2011. In 2011, after her research into chron­ic fatigue syn­drome was dis­cred­it­ed, she was fired from Whit­te­more.

    Dr. Mikovits’s rise to inter­net noto­ri­ety has been sud­den. Accord­ing to data from Zig­nal Labs, she was rarely men­tioned on social media plat­forms in Feb­ru­ary.

    By April, cov­er­age of Dr. Mikovits rose to 800 men­tions a day. That month, Dar­la Shine, the wife of Bill Shine, a for­mer Fox News exec­u­tive and for­mer top aide to Mr. Trump, pro­mot­ed Dr. Mikovits’s book in a tweet. Videos by The Epoch Times, a pub­li­ca­tion with ties to the Falun Gong, and the con­ser­v­a­tive out­let “The Next News Net­work” inter­viewed Dr. Mikovits about the pan­dem­ic, gen­er­at­ing more than 1.5 mil­lion views on social net­works.

    Then came the video from “Plan­dem­ic,” which made men­tions of Dr. Mikovits on social media spike far high­er. The video was pro­duced by Mik­ki Willis, who was involved in mak­ing “Bernie or Bust” and “Nev­er Hillary” videos dur­ing the 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

    ...

    Dr. Mikovits’s new­found noto­ri­ety has also lift­ed sales of her new book. This week, “Plague of Cor­rup­tion” shot to No. 1 on Amazon’s print best-sell­er list. The book was out of stock on Fri­day. Ama­zon said that the book did not vio­late the company’s con­tent guide­lines.
    ...

    But as the fol­low­ing CBC arti­cle describes, the Epoch Times isn’t just pro­mot­ing Dr. Mikovits and COVID con­spir­a­cies over social media. It’s direct­ly mail­ing spe­cial edi­tions unso­licit­ed to peo­ple’s mail box­es. Spe­cial edi­tions focused on push­ing the idea that the virus was a bioweapon cre­at­ed in a Chi­nese lab and should be called the “CCP virus”.

    The arti­cle includes the oblig­a­tory state­ment from a Cana­di­an virol­o­gist, Jason Kin­dra­chuk, about how the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty has con­clud­ed that the virus was almost cer­tain­ly nat­ur­al in ori­gin, say­ing, “There is an unbe­liev­ably high con­sen­sus with­in the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty at this point that there is, there is a very close to zero, if not zero, chance that the virus was ever engi­neered”. It’s the kind of state­ment that was per­haps unin­ten­tion­al­ly accu­rate. The con­sen­sus that there is a close to zero prob­a­bil­i­ty that the virus was cre­at­ed in a lab real­ly is unbe­liev­ably high in the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty. It’s an unbe­liev­ably stu­pid and inde­fen­si­ble con­sen­sus posi­tion that has seem­ing­ly been blind­ly adopt­ed by almost the entire sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty — experts defer­ring to more spe­cial­ized experts ped­dling garbage — that is only going to fuel the agen­das behind the Plan­dem­ic video by mak­ing it easy to make it look like experts are cov­er­ing things up. Blan­ket denials of the unde­ni­able aren’t great for under­cut­ting garbage con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries.

    At the same time, we can’t pre­tend like acknowl­edg­ments by the experts that, of course, this virus could have been cre­at­ed in a lab would­n’t also be used by groups like the Epoch Times and far right to even more aggres­sive­ly push the idea that this is a Chi­nese bioweapon attack. The real­i­ty is that we live in age where a dizzy­ing array of actors are capa­ble of cre­at­ing and dis­burs­ing dan­ger­ous virus­es and that real­i­ty is almost unimag­in­able for most peo­ple to psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly grap­ple with, includ­ing the broad­er sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty, appar­ent­ly. No one wants to even con­sid­er this grim real­i­ty and, more impor­tant­ly, few appear even capa­ble of effec­tive­ly nav­i­gat­ing this fac­tu­al land­scape whether they want to or not because they lack the back­ground knowl­edge and are forced to defer to some­one else. Nav­i­gat­ing these issues gets dis­tilled down to choose which expert to blind­ly trust instead of actu­al­ly try­ing to grap­ple with the facts at hand. The real­i­ty that this virus could have been built in a lab with tech­nol­o­gy read­i­ly acces­si­ble to vir­tu­al­ly any gov­ern­ment or pri­vate group with ade­quate resources is the kind of fact that is going to be psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly unac­cept­able to a large num­ber of peo­ple. It’s just too ter­ri­fy­ing. And yet that’s our world. A unac­cept­ably ter­ri­fy­ing world. So this while this fol­low­ing arti­cle is focused on the Epoch Times’s direct mail cam­paign pro­mot­ing the the idea that it was a Chi­nese bioweapon, keep in mind that the sto­ry about the inabil­i­ty to accept that the virus could have been man-made at all is the flip side of this hor­ri­ble dis­in­for­ma­tion envi­ron­ment we find our­selves in:

    CBC News

    Some Cana­di­ans who received unso­licit­ed copy of Epoch Times upset by claim that Chi­na was behind virus

    Spe­cial edi­tion deliv­ered to homes to attract new sub­scribers

    Andrea Belle­mare, Jason Ho, Katie Nichol­son
    Post­ed: Apr 29, 2020 4:00 AM ET | Last Updat­ed: May 1

    The Epoch Times, a news­pa­per that has polar­ized peo­ple over its con­tent, is com­ing under fire for advanc­ing a con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry about the ori­gin of the coro­n­avirus — and hav­ing it deliv­ered straight into peo­ple’s mail­box­es unso­licit­ed.

    Some Cana­di­ans who received it by mail and a postal car­ri­er who says he is forced to deliv­er it are angry over a spe­cial eight-page edi­tion of the paper explor­ing the idea that the virus that caus­es COVID-19 was cre­at­ed as a bio­log­i­cal weapon and argu­ing it should be called “the CCP virus,” a ref­er­ence to the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Par­ty.

    Peo­ple in Oakville, Eto­bi­coke, Markham, and Toron­to, Ont. all report­ed get­ting copies of a spe­cial edi­tion of the Epoch Times, as did res­i­dents in Van­cou­ver, Kelow­na, B.C., and Win­nipeg. Some of them expressed con­cerns to CBC News over the con­tent. Com­plaints have also sur­faced on social media.

    It’s not clear whether or not all the spe­cial edi­tion copies were deliv­ered by Cana­da Post.

    Lisa Arm­strong in Kelow­na found a copy in her rur­al mail­box.

    “That’s when I got annoyed or sus­pi­cious. It’s like, why is this in my mail­box? You expect to see those kind of things online on social media,” she said.

    “It did seem to allude to con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries like, you know, maybe it was man­u­fac­tured, this virus was man­u­fac­tured in the lab. Well, no. We know sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly that’s just not true.”

    Sci­en­tists have repeat­ed­ly said the evi­dence points to the coro­n­avirus hav­ing a nat­ur­al ori­gin.

    Jason Kin­dra­chuk, a Cana­da research chair in emerg­ing virus­es at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Man­i­to­ba, says that through study­ing the genome of the SARS-CoV­‑2 virus, sci­en­tists can see it is sim­i­lar to oth­er bat coro­n­avirus­es and that it like­ly evolved nat­u­ral­ly.

    “There is an unbe­liev­ably high con­sen­sus with­in the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty at this point that there is, there is a very close to zero, if not zero, chance that the virus was ever engi­neered,” Kin­dra­chuk said.

    Arm­strong was also wor­ried the issue’s anti-Com­mu­nist Par­ty mes­sag­ing could inflame racial ten­sions in Cana­da dur­ing the pan­dem­ic.

    “It real­ly feels racist and inflam­ma­to­ry,” Arm­strong said. “And right now, we’re all scared. We’re all vul­ner­a­ble. We don’t know what’s going to hap­pen next. Then some­body that starts play­ing on those fears, [it’s] a very dan­ger­ous thing to do at this time.”

    Issue sent to ‘spe­cif­ic neigh­bour­hoods’

    It’s not clear how many house­holds in Cana­da received the paper.

    Cindy Gu, the pub­lish­er of the Epoch Times, declined to say how many copies of that issue were dis­trib­uted. In an email to CBC News, Gu said the pub­li­ca­tion had been deliv­er­ing copies to “spe­cif­ic neigh­bour­hoods.”

    “The Epoch Times has recent­ly been ‘sam­pling’ copies of a spe­cial edi­tion on Bei­jing’s coverup that led to a glob­al pan­dem­ic in select areas because we con­sid­er that infor­ma­tion to be impor­tant to Cana­di­ans. We regard this sam­pling as an act of good cit­i­zen­ship,” she wrote.

    “This is a stan­dard way of rais­ing brand aware­ness and recruit­ing new sub­scribers.”

    Gu dis­agrees that the paper will fuel racism against peo­ple of Chi­nese back­ground.

    “Some peo­ple may have erro­neous­ly con­flat­ed crit­i­cism of the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Par­ty (CCP) with crit­i­cism of the Chi­nese peo­ple,” she wrote.

    “Under­stand­ing the dif­fer­ence is vital and will elim­i­nate racial ten­sion, as peo­ple come to under­stand that the crit­i­cism of the han­dling of the virus is of the CCP, not the Chi­nese peo­ple.”

    Who’s behind the Epoch Times

    The Epoch Times, head­quar­tered in New York, is part of a group of orga­ni­za­tions under the Epoch Media Group umbrel­la, which also includes the New Tang Dynasty TV chan­nel. It says it oper­ates in 23 lan­guages in 35 coun­tries.

    A soci­ol­o­gy pro­fes­sor says the Epoch Media Group is affil­i­at­ed with the Falun Gong move­ment, a reli­gious group that began in Chi­na and was declared ille­gal and a “cult” by the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment in 1999. Its fol­low­ers say the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment per­se­cutes them and oppress­es their reli­gious rights.

    “Falun Gong fol­low­ers start­ed to orga­nize large-scale protest[s] against the Chi­nese gov­ern­men­t’s attempt to sup­press the prac­tice. So, it just evolved into this very antag­o­nis­tic rela­tion­ship between the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment and this reli­gious group,” said Xiaop­ing Li, a pro­fes­sor at Okana­gan Col­lege who stud­ies media out­lets that serve the Chi­nese-Cana­di­an dias­po­ra.

    “There are many sto­ries about how group mem­bers were per­se­cut­ed in Chi­na. There could be cer­tain exag­ger­a­tions but … def­i­nite­ly, there is per­se­cu­tion, and there are vio­la­tions of human rights.”

    As for the Epoch Times, Li says it’s not clear where the group gets its fund­ing, but it can afford to employ reporters who speak Eng­lish and Chi­nese in the many coun­tries where it oper­ates.

    “Typ­i­cal­ly, what hap­pens is it’s fund­ed prin­ci­pal­ly by dona­tions, in a Chi­nese dis­si­dent com­mu­ni­ty, in a giv­en local con­text,” said Stephen Noakes, a senior lec­tur­er at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Auck­land who stud­ies Chi­nese cul­ture.

    “The peo­ple who staff the paper itself are nor­mal­ly also drawn from that con­text or are third-par­ty acquain­tances of the local Falun Gong com­mu­ni­ty.”

    Noakes said that Falun Gong has been “enor­mous­ly adept” at using its var­i­ous media plat­forms “to its advan­tage to call atten­tion to its own plight as a major human rights issue the world needs to know about.”

    The Shen Yun dance troupe, cre­at­ed by Falun Gong prac­ti­tion­ers, is anoth­er such plat­form.

    “I think the local report­ing is gen­er­al­ly trust­wor­thy. It does report what’s hap­pen­ing in, for exam­ple, in Van­cou­ver, in Toron­to or New York,” said Li.

    But Li says its report­ing on Chi­na is less reli­able. The Epoch Times is “an anti-Chi­nese gov­ern­ment media out­let, so you have to be care­ful that there could be some exag­ger­a­tions.”

    The head of a non-prof­it that stud­ies mis­in­for­ma­tion and dis­in­for­ma­tion says the Epoch Times is using a well-known tech­nique to sow doubt in peo­ple’s minds.

    ‘Ker­nel of truth’

    “The most effec­tive dis­in­for­ma­tion is that which has a ker­nel of truth to it, is that which kind of flies under the radar, does­n’t real­ly break any guide­lines,” said Claire War­dle of First Draft, which edu­cates jour­nal­ists and oth­ers about what mis­in­for­ma­tion is and how to spot it.

    “It’s much more hyper-par­ti­san. It’s much more mis­lead­ing than com­plete­ly out­right-false false­hoods.”

    The Epoch Times has shared mis­in­for­ma­tion and con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries in the past, and was banned from adver­tis­ing on Face­book for try­ing to bypass polit­i­cal spend­ing rules — though it is not alone in accus­ing Chi­na of coro­n­avirus coverup.

    War­dle says peo­ple who read the spe­cial edi­tion of the Epoch Times may not be com­plete­ly con­vinced about its find­ings, but will have been left with ques­tions about what their gov­ern­ments are telling them.

    “That is a tech­nique of dis­in­for­ma­tion actors who want peo­ple to ques­tion as much as pos­si­ble author­i­ta­tive sources,” she said.

    “Ulti­mate­ly, you’re no longer going to your trust­ed news site or the WHO or your gov­ern­ment even for infor­ma­tion. You’re left think­ing, ‘I can’t trust any­body.’ ”

    Car­ri­er objects to deliv­er­ing the paper

    It was an arti­cle about a pos­si­ble bioweapons link to coro­n­avirus that set off alarm bells for a Toron­to mail car­ri­er when he saw the spe­cial edi­tion appear in his mail sta­tion on Fri­day.

    ...

    “They’re say­ing the coro­n­avirus is part of a bio-war­fare agen­da by the Chi­nese peo­ple. That’s over the line for me,” he said.

    “I saw the head­lines on the thing, and my heart sank because I thought, the world right now is full of fear and con­fu­sion, and the last thing that peo­ple need is ... this kind of hatred.”

    The car­ri­er told CBC News that his super­vi­sors decid­ed that car­ri­ers would­n’t have to deliv­er it and that the sta­tion super­in­ten­dent sup­port­ed the deci­sion. But then, accord­ing to the car­ri­er, the super­in­ten­dent was told Cana­da Post Com­mu­ni­ca­tions had deemed the paper a polit­i­cal mail­ing and that car­ri­ers who did­n’t deliv­er it would be dis­ci­plined.

    “To be hon­est, it makes me feel like ... human­i­ty is fac­ing an exis­ten­tial cri­sis. And I’m being forced to hand out weapons in a cage fight,” said the car­ri­er.

    Cana­da Post said in an email to CBC News, “We under­stand the reac­tion to this pub­li­ca­tion. How­ev­er, as Canada’s postal sys­tem, we are legal­ly required to deliv­er it. The con­tent is the sole respon­si­bil­i­ty of the pub­lish­er.

    “Any­one con­cerned with its con­tents should con­tact the pub­lish­er, file a com­plaint against the pub­li­ca­tion through the appro­pri­ate insti­tu­tions or place the item in the recy­cling box.”

    ————–

    “Some Cana­di­ans who received unso­licit­ed copy of Epoch Times upset by claim that Chi­na was behind virus
    ” by Andrea Belle­mare, Jason Ho, Katie Nichol­son; CBC News; 04/29/2020

    “Some Cana­di­ans who received it by mail and a postal car­ri­er who says he is forced to deliv­er it are angry over a spe­cial eight-page edi­tion of the paper explor­ing the idea that the virus that caus­es COVID-19 was cre­at­ed as a bio­log­i­cal weapon and argu­ing it should be called “the CCP virus,” a ref­er­ence to the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Par­ty.

    A spe­cial eight-page edi­tion that ‘explores’ the idea that the SARS-CoV­‑2 virus should be called the CCP virus because it was cre­at­ed in a Chi­nese lab as part of a bio-war­fare agen­da by the Chi­nese peo­ple:

    ...

    It was an arti­cle about a pos­si­ble bioweapons link to coro­n­avirus that set off alarm bells for a Toron­to mail car­ri­er when he saw the spe­cial edi­tion appear in his mail sta­tion on Fri­day.

    ...

    “They’re say­ing the coro­n­avirus is part of a bio-war­fare agen­da by the Chi­nese peo­ple. That’s over the line for me,” he said.

    “I saw the head­lines on the thing, and my heart sank because I thought, the world right now is full of fear and con­fu­sion, and the last thing that peo­ple need is ... this kind of hatred.”

    The car­ri­er told CBC News that his super­vi­sors decid­ed that car­ri­ers would­n’t have to deliv­er it and that the sta­tion super­in­ten­dent sup­port­ed the deci­sion. But then, accord­ing to the car­ri­er, the super­in­ten­dent was told Cana­da Post Com­mu­ni­ca­tions had deemed the paper a polit­i­cal mail­ing and that car­ri­ers who did­n’t deliv­er it would be dis­ci­plined.

    “To be hon­est, it makes me feel like ... human­i­ty is fac­ing an exis­ten­tial cri­sis. And I’m being forced to hand out weapons in a cage fight,” said the car­ri­er.
    ...

    And then we have the oblig­a­tory state­ment from a sci­en­tist con­fi­dent­ly declar­ing the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty’s near con­sen­sus that there’s almost zero chance the virus could have been made in a lab. A con­sen­sus that’s less reflec­tive of the evi­dence that the virus was or was­n’t made in a lab and more reflec­tive of a reflex­ive def­er­ence to exper­tise even when plen­ty of peo­ple who don’t have that exper­tise know enough to know the experts are speak­ing non­sense:

    ...
    Jason Kin­dra­chuk, a Cana­da research chair in emerg­ing virus­es at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Man­i­to­ba, says that through study­ing the genome of the SARS-CoV­‑2 virus, sci­en­tists can see it is sim­i­lar to oth­er bat coro­n­avirus­es and that it like­ly evolved nat­u­ral­ly.

    “There is an unbe­liev­ably high con­sen­sus with­in the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty at this point that there is, there is a very close to zero, if not zero, chance that the virus was ever engi­neered,” Kin­dra­chuk said.
    ...

    Very close to zero, if not zero, odds the virus came from a lab. That real­ly is the con­sen­sus and it real­ly is col­lec­tive­ly insane. But it is what it is.

    Now, if pro­pa­gan­da push­ing the idea that the virus was a Chi­nese bioweapon is irre­spon­si­ble at the same time sci­en­tif­ic dis­missals of the idea that it could be man-made at all art irre­spon­si­ble, what’s the respon­si­ble way to approach this top­ic? Well, if we’re goin to talk about the pos­si­bil­i­ty of it being a man-made virus we would obvi­ous­ly have to describe the known his­to­ry of biowar­fare research (Nazis and all) and the more recent his­to­ry joint US-Chi­na coro­n­avirus research involv­ing the cre­ation of virus­es. And in describ­ing that his­to­ry we would have to make it abun­dant­ly clear that if this virus was made in a lab in would­n’t have to have been a Chi­nese lab. It could have come from US or Aus­tralian labs. Or, yes, even a Russ­ian lab. That should get the Rus­sia hawks excit­ed but it’s true, the virus could have been devel­oped in a Rus­sia lab. Or Brazil­ian lab. Or a lab Steve Ban­non or Robert Mer­cer hired. Or some oth­er fas­cists. Falun Gong could have done it if they want­ed to. That’s our hor­ri­ble real­i­ty and describ­ing that hor­ri­ble real­i­ty is a require­ment for respon­si­bil­i­ty dis­cussing the pos­si­bil­i­ty that the virus came from a Chi­nese lab. The list of pos­si­ble actors is immense and that will always be the case for any nov­el virus­es as long as human­i­ty has access to this syn­thet­ic biol­o­gy tech­nol­o­gy. In oth­er words, the only way to respon­si­bil­i­ty dis­cuss the pos­si­bil­i­ty that it came from a Chi­nese lab is to also respon­si­bly dis­cuss the pos­si­bil­i­ty that it came from a non-Chi­nese lab and respon­si­bil­i­ty dis­cuss the pos­si­bil­i­ty that we’re look­ing at a biowar­fare attack that had Chi­na as one of its tar­get. But that kind of con­ver­sa­tion basi­cal­ly can’t hap­pen in the broad­er media mak­ing respon­si­ble cov­er­age of this top­ic effec­tive­ly impos­si­ble. Along with respon­si­ble cov­er­age of pret­ty much any biowar­fare top­ic or oth­er his­tor­i­cal­ly sen­si­tive issues involv­ing unpleas­ant chap­ters of his­to­ry many would rather we all for­get. So as we con­tin­ue to see sto­ries about how wild unground­ed expla­na­tions for what’s hap­pen­ing today con­tin­ue to go viral it’s going to be impor­tant to keep in mind that our col­lec­tive inabil­i­ty to respon­si­bly assess what’s going on today is deeply inter­twined with our col­lec­tive inabil­i­ty to respon­si­bly assess what hap­pened before and how we got here.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 11, 2020, 3:43 pm
  9. @Pterrafractyl–

    Two very impor­tant addi­tions to your men­tion of Falun Gong–

    1.–They are part of Steve Ban­non’s anti-Chi­na orches­tra.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/20/us/politics/china-red-scare-washington.html

    2.–They are get­ting financ­ing from the BBG–a CIA “deriv­a­tive.”

    https://spitfirelist.com/for-the-record/ftr-1089-fascism-2019-world-tour-part-4-goose-hopping-in-hong-kong-with-pepe-the-frog/?preview_id=71507&preview_nonce=13004cbea2&preview=true

    Very inter­est­ing.

    Best,

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | May 11, 2020, 4:27 pm
  10. Posted by Roberto Maldonado | May 11, 2020, 4:47 pm
  11. @Roberto Mal­don­a­do–

    Good find–however the key is the fol­low­ing pas­sage from the arti­cle you passed along:

    ” . . . . Anoth­er for­mer admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial told “The Post” that Ban­non nev­er real­ly left the White House after he was fired, main­tain­ing con­tacts and keep­ing up reg­u­lar chan­nels of com­mu­ni­ca­tions with offi­cials there. . . .”

    I believe the same can be said about Ban­non’s sup­posed “break” with Robert Mer­cer, whose Renais­sance Tech­nolo­gies hedge fund is heav­i­ly invest­ed in Gilead Sci­ences (mak­er of remde­sivir.)

    After the Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca affair pre­cip­i­tat­ed tes­ti­mo­ny by Zucker­berg in front of both the U.S. Con­gress and U.K. Par­lia­ment, some “offi­cial” dis­tanc­ing between them pro­vid­ed plau­si­ble deni­a­bil­i­ty.

    I believe that is also the rea­son behind Mer­cer step­ping down as Renais­sance CEO at the end of 2017, although the fund remains his “baby.”

    Best,

    Dave Emory

    Posted by Dave Emory | May 11, 2020, 5:38 pm

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