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FTR#1186 The Oswald Institute of Virology, Part 5: Context

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FTR #1186 This pro­gram was record­ed in one, 60-minute seg­ment.

Intro­duc­tion: Con­tin­u­ing dis­cus­sion and analy­sis from FTR#1185, we present dis­cus­sion of the back­ground and con­text to Pen­ta­gon and USAID fund­ing for research into bat-borne coro­n­avirus­es through Eco­Health Alliance, in and around Chi­na.

The Pen­ta­gon fund­ing for these projects must be seen against the back­ground of three over­lap­ping areas of con­sid­er­a­tion:

  1. The fact that any virus can be syn­the­sized or mod­i­fied from scratch. As detailed in a very impor­tant arti­cle from The Guardian: “ . . . Advances in the area mean that sci­en­tists now have the capa­bil­i­ty to recre­ate dan­ger­ous virus­es from scratch; make harm­ful bac­te­ria more dead­ly; and mod­i­fy com­mon microbes so that they churn out lethal tox­ins once they enter the body. . . In the report, the sci­en­tists describe how syn­thet­ic biol­o­gy, which gives researchers pre­ci­sion tools to manip­u­late liv­ing organ­isms, ‘enhances and expands’ oppor­tu­ni­ties to cre­ate bioweapons. . . . Today, the genet­ic code of almost any mam­malian virus can be found online and syn­the­sised. ‘The tech­nol­o­gy to do this is avail­able now,’ said [Michael] “It requires some exper­tise, but it’s some­thing that’s rel­a­tive­ly easy to do, and that is why it tops the list. . . .”
  2. Also fun­da­men­tal to an under­stand­ing of the Covid “op” is the dev­as­tat­ing nature of bat-borne virus­es when intro­duced into the human body. “ . . . . As Boston Uni­ver­si­ty micro­bi­ol­o­gist Thomas Kepler explained to the Wash­ing­ton Post in 2018, the bat’s unique approach to viral infec­tion explains why virus­es that trans­fer from bats to humans are so severe. . . . ‘A virus that has co-evolved with the bat’s antivi­ral sys­tem is com­plete­ly out of its ele­ment in the human,’ Kepler said. ‘That’s why it is so dead­ly — the human immune sys­tem is over­whelmed by the inflam­ma­to­ry response.’ The bat immune sys­tem responds very dif­fer­ent­ly from ours to viral infec­tion. Instead of attack­ing and killing an infect­ed cell, which leads to a cas­cade of inflam­ma­to­ry respons­es, the bat immune sys­tem can starve the virus by turn­ing down cel­lu­lar metab­o­lism. The bat ori­gin of SARS-CoV­‑2 may explain the cytokine storms that are has­ten­ing some COVID-19 deaths. . . .”
  3. Analy­sis pre­sent­ed in the lib­er­al New York Mag­a­zine by Nichol­son Bak­er takes stock of the impli­ca­tions of con­tem­po­rary biotech­nol­o­gy and what we have termed (in past broad­casts) “The Mag­ic Virus The­o­ry.” “. . . . SARS‑2 seems almost per­fect­ly cal­i­brat­ed to grab and ran­sack our breath­ing cells and choke the life out of them. . . . Per­haps viral nature hit a bull’s‑eye of air­borne infec­tiv­i­ty, with almost no muta­tion­al drift, no peri­od of accom­mo­da­tion and adjust­ment, or per­haps some lab work­er some­where, inspired by Baric’s work with human air­way tis­sue, took a spike pro­tein that was spe­cial­ly groomed to col­o­nize and thrive deep in the cil­i­at­ed, mucos­al tun­nels of our inner core and cloned it onto some exist­ing viral bat back­bone. It could have hap­pened in Wuhan, but — because any­one can now ‘print out’ a ful­ly infec­tious clone of any sequenced dis­ease — it could also have hap­pened at Fort Det­rick, or in Texas, or in Italy, or in Rot­ter­dam, or in Wis­con­sin, or in some oth­er citadel of coro­n­avi­ral inquiry.. . .”

Tak­en togeth­er and in the con­text of the full-court press against Chi­na dis­cussed in many pro­grams includ­ing FTR#’s 1089, 1090, 1091, 1092, 1103, 1143, 1144, 1145, 1178, 1179, 1180, the Pentagon/USAID fund­ing of Eco­Health Alliance and the research into bat-borne coro­n­avirus­es being con­duct­ed at the WIV and else­where in and around Chi­na, the three con­sid­er­a­tions just enu­mer­at­ed point omi­nous­ly to the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic as an “op.”

Much of the pro­gram con­sists of a syn­op­sis of key aspects of some of the above-named programs–highlighting the full-court press against Chi­na.

The Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army assumed con­trol of the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy on Jan­u­ary 26, 2020–roughly two weeks after the  genome for the SARS Cov‑2 was pub­lished: ” . . . . The Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy is China’s only biosafe­ty lev­el 4 lab. While it has always been under the con­trol of the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment, since Jan­u­ary 26, 2020, it has been under the com­mand of the People’s Lib­er­a­tion Army, specif­i­cal­ly its top bio­log­i­cal-weapons spe­cial­ist, a major gen­er­al named Chen Wei. . . .”

An arti­cle in The Asia Times pro­vides more depth on the grow­ing ten­sion between the U.S. and Chi­na.

Author Pepe Esco­bar feels that Chi­na became aware that they had been the focal point of a bio­log­i­cal war­fare attack. This dove­tails with the analy­sis we pre­sent­ed about the WIV being tak­en over by the People’s Lib­er­a­tion Army on 1/26/2020.

Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping has dropped ver­bal clues as to the Chi­nese view of the ori­gin of the Covid-19: ” . . . . Bei­jing is care­ful­ly, incre­men­tal­ly shap­ing the nar­ra­tive that, from the begin­ning of the coro­n­avirus attack, the lead­er­ship knew it was under a hybrid war attack. The ter­mi­nol­o­gy of Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping is a major clue. He said, on the record, that this was war. And, as a counter-attack, a ‘people’s war’ had to be launched. More­over, he described the virus as a demon or dev­il. Xi is a Con­fu­cian­ist. Unlike some oth­er ancient Chi­nese thinkers, Con­fu­cius was loath to dis­cuss super­nat­ur­al forces and judg­ment in the after­life. How­ev­er, in a Chi­nese cul­tur­al con­text, dev­il means ‘white dev­ils’ or ‘for­eign dev­ils’: guai­lo in Man­darin, gwei­lo in Can­tonese. This was Xi deliv­er­ing a pow­er­ful state­ment in code. . . .”

Esco­bar also notes Event 201, which we high­light­ed in FTR #‘s 1111 and 1112: ” . . . . Extra ques­tions linger about the opaque Event 201 in New York on Octo­ber 18, 2019: a rehearsal for a world­wide pan­dem­ic caused by a dead­ly virus – which hap­pened to be coro­n­avirus. This mag­nif­i­cent coin­ci­dence hap­pened one month before the out­break in Wuhan. Event 201 was spon­sored by Bill & Melin­da Gates Foun­da­tion, the World Eco­nom­ic Forum (WEF), the CIA, Bloomberg, John Hop­kins Foun­da­tion and the UN.  The World Mil­i­tary Games opened in Wuhan on the exact same day. . . .”

As not­ed by Pepe Esco­bar, Event 201–which began on the same day as the Mil­i­tary World Games in Wuhan–helped to set the PR tem­plate for Covid-19.

We sus­pect that the World Mil­i­tary Games were, indeed, among the vec­tors for the Covid-19 “op.”:  “. . . . Con­trary to the Pentagon’s insis­tence, how­ev­er, an inves­ti­ga­tion of COVID-19 cas­es in the mil­i­tary from offi­cial and pub­lic source mate­ri­als shows that a strong cor­re­la­tion exists in COVID-19 cas­es report­ed at U.S. mil­i­tary facil­i­ties that are home bases of mem­bers of the U.S. team that went to Wuhan. Before March 31, when the Pen­ta­gon restrict­ed the release of infor­ma­tion about COVID-19 cas­es at instal­la­tions for secu­ri­ty rea­sons, infec­tions occurred at a min­i­mum of 63 mil­i­tary facil­i­ties where team mem­bers returned after the Wuhan games. Addi­tion­al­ly, the U.S. team used char­tered flights to and from the games via Seat­tle-Taco­ma Inter­na­tion­al Air­port. Wash­ing­ton was one of the ear­li­est states to show a spike in COVID-19. . .”

Avril Haines was a key par­tic­i­pant in the event. For­mer Deputy CIA Direc­tor Avril Haines is Biden’s Direc­tor of Nation­al Intel­li­gence.

The cog­ni­tive tem­plate for Covid-19 was also set by Peter Daszak, who has wide­ly dis­sem­i­nat­ed the sup­po­si­tion that “Dis­ease X” would over­take the world.

It is our view that the efforts of Daszak, the Event 201 play­ers and oth­ers could be com­pared to the pro­pa­gan­diz­ing that ele­ments of the WACCFL and the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty, as well as ele­ments of the U.S. far right did in the run-up to the JFK assas­si­na­tion.

That pro­pa­gan­diz­ing was a key ele­ment in the “Paint­ing of Oswald Red.”

The pro­gram con­cludes with rumi­na­tion about the pos­si­ble sig­nif­i­cance of Dasza­k’s Ukrain­ian her­itage. This dis­cus­sion will be fleshed out in our next pro­gram, review­ing the con­stel­la­tion of covert “ops” against Chi­na and the par­tic­i­pa­tion of ele­ments of U.S. intel­li­gence and Ukrain­ian fas­cism in the desta­bi­liza­tion of Hong Kong and the prop­a­ga­tion of the Uighur myth.

1a.   An arti­cle in The Asia Times pro­vides more depth on the grow­ing media war between the U.S. and Chi­na.

Key points of dis­cus­sion and analy­sis:

  • Chi­na now open­ly views the U.S. as a threat: ” . . . . For the first time since the start of Deng Xiaoping’s reforms in 1978, Bei­jing open­ly regards the U.S. as a threat, as stat­ed a month ago by For­eign Min­is­ter Wang Yi at the Munich Secu­ri­ty Con­fer­ence dur­ing the peak of the fight against coro­n­avirus. . . .”
  • Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping has dropped ver­bal clues as to the Chi­nese view of the ori­gin of the Covid-19: ” . . . . Bei­jing is care­ful­ly, incre­men­tal­ly shap­ing the nar­ra­tive that, from the begin­ning of the coro­n­avirus attack, the lead­er­ship knew it was under a hybrid war attack. The ter­mi­nol­o­gy of Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping is a major clue. He said, on the record, that this was war. And, as a counter-attack, a ‘people’s war’ had to be launched. More­over, he described the virus as a demon or dev­il. Xi is a Con­fu­cian­ist. Unlike some oth­er ancient Chi­nese thinkers, Con­fu­cius was loath to dis­cuss super­nat­ur­al forces and judg­ment in the after­life. How­ev­er, in a Chi­nese cul­tur­al con­text, dev­il means ‘white dev­ils’ or ‘for­eign dev­ils’: guai­lo in Man­darin, gwei­lo in Can­tonese. This was Xi deliv­er­ing a pow­er­ful state­ment in code. . . .”
  • A Chi­nese For­eign Min­istry offi­cial cit­ed the Mil­i­tary World Games in Wuhan as a pos­si­ble vec­tor­ing point. (We believe this is pos­si­ble, although we sus­pect the Shin­cheon­ji cult and a USAMRIID asso­ci­a­tion with a Wuhan viro­log­i­cal insti­tute as oth­er pos­si­ble vec­tors.) IF, for the sake of argu­ment, fas­cist ele­ments (CIA, Under­ground Reich or what­ev­er) chose the US mil­i­tary ath­letes as a vec­tor, it would have been alto­geth­er pos­si­ble to do so with­out attract­ing atten­tion. Mil­i­tary ath­letes are in superb con­di­tion and, if infect­ed with one of the milder strains of Covid-19, their robust immune sys­tems might well leave them asymp­to­matic, yet still con­ta­gious, or mild­ly ill at worst. They could then com­mu­ni­cate the virus to oth­er mil­i­tary ath­letes, who would then serve as a vec­tor for oth­er coun­tries. ” . . . . Zhao’s explo­sive con­clu­sion is that COVID-19 was already in effect in the U.S. before being iden­ti­fied in Wuhan – due to the by now ful­ly doc­u­ment­ed inabil­i­ty of the U.S. to test and ver­i­fy dif­fer­ences com­pared with the flu. . . .”
  • Author Pepe Esco­bar reit­er­ates the con­tention that the vari­ants of the virus in Italy and Iran are dif­fer­ent from the vari­ants that infect­ed Wuhan, an inter­pre­ta­tion whose sig­nif­i­cance is debat­ed by sci­en­tists.
  • The arti­cle high­lights the shut­ter­ing of Ft. Det­rick, which has now been par­tial­ly re-opened. ” . . . . Adding all that to the fact that coro­n­avirus genome vari­a­tions in Iran and Italy were sequenced and it was revealed they do not belong to the vari­ety that infect­ed Wuhan, Chi­nese media are now open­ly  ask­ing ques­tions and draw­ing a con­nec­tion with the shut­ting down in August last year of the “unsafe” mil­i­tary bioweapon lab at Fort Det­rick, the Mil­i­tary Games, and the Wuhan epi­dem­ic. Some of these ques­tions had been asked– with no response – inside the U.S. itself. . . .”
  • Esco­bar also notes Event 201, which we high­light­ed in FTR #‘s 1111 and 1112: ” . . . . Extra ques­tions linger about the opaque Event 201 in New York on Octo­ber 18, 2019: a rehearsal for a world­wide pan­dem­ic caused by a dead­ly virus – which hap­pened to be coro­n­avirus. This mag­nif­i­cent coin­ci­dence hap­pened one month before the out­break in Wuhan. Event 201 was spon­sored by Bill & Melin­da Gates Foun­da­tion, the World Eco­nom­ic Forum (WEF), the CIA, Bloomberg, John Hop­kins Foun­da­tion and the UN.  The World Mil­i­tary Games opened in Wuhan on the exact same day. . . .”
  • We note that, although we have not been able to con­clu­sive­ly prove that CIA was one of the spon­sors of the event, a for­mer Deputy Direc­tor of the Agency was a key par­tic­i­pant. Hav­ing reached such a lev­el of promi­nence with­in the agency, one nev­er “leaves” alto­geth­er. It is prob­a­ble that there was Agency par­tic­i­pa­tion.
  • Fur­ther dis­cus­sion notes the pos­si­ble use of a coro­n­avirus as part of a psy-op: ” . . . . The work­ing hypoth­e­sis of coro­n­avirus as a very pow­er­ful but not Armaged­don-pro­vok­ing bio-weapon unveils it as a per­fect vehi­cle for wide­spread social con­trol — on a glob­al scale. . . .”
  • Esco­bar alleges that Cuba has devel­oped an anti-viral that is promis­ing against the virus: ” . . . . The anti-viral Heberon – or Inter­fer­on Alpha 2b – a ther­a­peu­tic, not a vac­cine, has been used with great suc­cess in the treat­ment of coro­n­avirus. A joint ven­ture in Chi­na is pro­duc­ing an inhal­able ver­sion, and at least 15 nations are already inter­est­ed in import­ing the ther­a­peu­tic. . . .” 
  • Quot­ing Ital­ian ana­lyst San­dro Mez­zadra, Esco­bar notes the Covid-19 out­break as a social Dar­win­ian psy-op: ” . . . .We are fac­ing a choice between a Malthu­sian strand – inspired by social Dar­win­ism – ‘led by the John­son-Trump-Bol­sonaro axis’ and, on the oth­er side, a strand point­ing to the “requal­i­fi­ca­tion of pub­lic health as a fun­da­men­tal tool,’ exem­pli­fied by Chi­na, South Korea and Italy. There are key lessons to be learned from South Korea, Tai­wan and Sin­ga­pore. The stark option, Mez­zadra notes, is between a ‘nat­ur­al pop­u­la­tion selec­tion,’ with thou­sands of dead, and ‘defend­ing soci­ety’ by employ­ing ‘vari­able degrees of author­i­tar­i­an­ism and social con­trol.’ . . .”
  • Like many ana­lysts, Escobar–correctly in our opinion–notes that the Covid-19 out­break threat­ens the glob­al econ­o­my and may col­lapse the deriv­a­tive mar­ket. That this may be intend­ed to mask an over­val­ued equi­ties mar­ket seems prob­a­ble to us.

Chi­na Locked in Hybrid War with U.S.” by Pepe Esco­bar [Asia Times]Con­sor­tium News; 3/18/2020.

Among the myr­i­ad, earth-shat­ter­ing geopo­lit­i­cal effects of coro­n­avirus, one is already graph­i­cal­ly evi­dent. Chi­na has re-posi­tioned itself. For the first time since the start of Deng Xiaoping’s reforms in 1978, Bei­jing open­ly regards the U.S. as a threat, as stat­ed a month ago by For­eign Min­is­ter Wang Yi at the Munich Secu­ri­ty Con­fer­ence dur­ing the peak of the fight against coro­n­avirus. 

Bei­jing is care­ful­ly, incre­men­tal­ly shap­ing the nar­ra­tive that, from the begin­ning of the coro­n­avirus attack, the lead­er­ship knew it was under a hybrid war attack. More­over, he described the virus as a demon or dev­il. Xi is a Con­fu­cian­ist. Unlike some oth­er ancient Chi­nese thinkers, Con­fu­cius was loath to dis­cuss super­nat­ur­al forces and judg­ment in the after­life. How­ev­er, in a Chi­nese cul­tur­al con­text, dev­il means “white dev­ils” or “for­eign dev­ils”: guai­lo in Man­darin, gwei­lo in Can­tonese. This was Xi deliv­er­ing a pow­er­ful state­ment in code.

When Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chi­nese For­eign Min­istry, voiced in an incan­des­cent tweet the pos­si­bil­i­ty that “it might be US Army who brought the epi­dem­ic to Wuhan” – the first blast to this effect to come from a top offi­cial – Bei­jing was send­ing up a tri­al bal­loon sig­nal­ing that the gloves were final­ly off. Zhao Lijian made a direct con­nec­tion with the Mil­i­tary Games in Wuhan in Octo­ber 2019, which includ­ed a del­e­ga­tion of 300 U.S. mil­i­tary.

He direct­ly quot­ed U.S. CDC Direc­tor Robert Red­field who, when asked last week whether some deaths by Coro­n­avirus had been dis­cov­ered posthu­mous­ly in the U.S., replied that “some cas­es have actu­al­ly been diag­nosed this way in the U.S. today.”

Zhao’s explo­sive con­clu­sion is that COVID-19 was already in effect in the U.S. before being iden­ti­fied in Wuhan – due to the by now ful­ly doc­u­ment­ed inabil­i­ty of the U.S. to test and ver­i­fy dif­fer­ences com­pared with the flu. 

Adding all that to the fact that coro­n­avirus genome vari­a­tions in Iran and Italy were sequenced and it was revealed they do not belong to the vari­ety that infect­ed

The ter­mi­nol­o­gy of Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping is a major clue. He said, on the record, that this was war. And, as a counter-attack, a “people’s war” had to be launched. Wuhan, Chi­nese media are now open­ly  ask­ing ques­tions and draw­ing a con­nec­tion with the shut­ting down in August last year of the “unsafe” mil­i­tary bioweapon lab at Fort Det­rick, the Mil­i­tary Games, and the Wuhan epi­dem­ic. Some of these ques­tions had been asked– with no response – inside the U.S. itself.

Extra ques­tions linger about the opaque Event 201 in New York on Octo­ber 18, 2019: a rehearsal for a world­wide pan­dem­ic caused by a dead­ly virus – which hap­pened to be coro­n­avirus. This mag­nif­i­cent coin­ci­dence hap­pened one month before the out­break in Wuhan.

Event 201 was spon­sored by Bill & Melin­da Gates Foun­da­tion, the World Eco­nom­ic Forum (WEF), the CIA, Bloomberg, John Hop­kins Foun­da­tion and the UN.  The World Mil­i­tary Games opened in Wuhan on the exact same day.

Irre­spec­tive of its ori­gin, which is still not con­clu­sive­ly estab­lished, as much as Trump tweets about the “Chi­nese virus,” COVID-19 already pos­es immense­ly seri­ous ques­tions about biopol­i­tics (where’s Fou­cault when we need him?) and bio-ter­ror.

The work­ing hypoth­e­sis of coro­n­avirus as a very pow­er­ful but not Armaged­don-pro­vok­ing bio-weapon unveils it as a per­fect vehi­cle for wide­spread social con­trol — on a glob­al scale.   

Cuba Ris­es as Biotech Pow­er

Just as a ful­ly masked Xi vis­it­ing the Wuhan front­line last week was a graph­ic demon­stra­tion to the whole plan­et that Chi­na, with immense sac­ri­fice, is win­ning the “people‘s war” against COVID-19, Rus­sia, in a Sun Tzu move on Riyadh whose end result was a much cheap­er bar­rel of oil, helped for all prac­ti­cal pur­pos­es to kick-start the inevitable recov­ery of the Chi­nese econ­o­my. This is how a strate­gic part­ner­ship works.

The chess­board is chang­ing at break­neck speed. Once Bei­jing iden­ti­fied coro­n­avirus as a bio-weapon attack the “people’s war” was launched with the full force of the state. Method­i­cal­ly. On a “what­ev­er it takes” basis. Now we are enter­ing a new stage, which will be used by Bei­jing to sub­stan­tial­ly recal­i­brate the inter­ac­tion with the West, and under very dif­fer­ent frame­works when it comes to the U.S. and the EU.

Soft pow­er is para­mount. Bei­jing sent an Air Chi­na flight to Italy car­ry­ing 2,300 big box­es full of masks bear­ing the script, “We are waves from the same sea, leaves from the same tree, flow­ers from the same gar­den.” Chi­na also sent a hefty human­i­tar­i­an pack­age to Iran, sig­nif­i­cant­ly aboard eight flights from Mahan Air — an air­line under ille­gal, uni­lat­er­al Trump admin­is­tra­tion sanc­tions. 

Ser­bian Pres­i­dent Alek­san­dar Vucic could not have been more explic­it: “The only coun­try that can help us is Chi­na. By now, you all under­stood that Euro­pean sol­i­dar­i­ty does not exist. That was a fairy tale on paper.” 

Under harsh sanc­tions and demo­nized since for­ev­er, Cuba is still able to per­form break­throughs – even on biotech­nol­o­gy. The anti-viral Heberon – or Inter­fer­on Alpha 2b – a ther­a­peu­tic, not a vac­cine, has been used with great suc­cess in the treat­ment of coro­n­avirus. A joint ven­ture in Chi­na is pro­duc­ing an inhal­able ver­sion, and at least 15 nations are already inter­est­ed in import­ing the ther­a­peu­tic.  

Now com­pare all of the above with the Trump admin­is­tra­tion offer­ing $1 bil­lion to poach Ger­man sci­en­tists work­ing at biotech firm Cure­vac, based in Thuringia, on an exper­i­men­tal vac­cine against COVID-19, to have it as a vac­cine “only for the Unit­ed States.”

Social Engi­neer­ing Psy-Op?

San­dro Mez­zadra, co-author with Brett Neil­son of the sem­i­nal “The Pol­i­tics of Oper­a­tions: Exca­vat­ing Con­tem­po­rary Cap­i­tal­ism,” is already try­ing to con­cep­tu­al­ize where we stand now in terms of fight­ing COVID-19.   

We are fac­ing a choice between a Malthu­sian strand – inspired by social Dar­win­ism – “led by the John­son-Trump-Bol­sonaro axis” and, on the oth­er side, a strand point­ing to the “requal­i­fi­ca­tion of pub­lic health as a fun­da­men­tal tool,” exem­pli­fied by Chi­na, South Korea and Italy. There are key lessons to be learned from South Korea, Tai­wan and Sin­ga­pore.

The stark option, Mez­zadra notes, is between a “nat­ur­al pop­u­la­tion selec­tion,” with thou­sands of dead, and “defend­ing soci­ety” by employ­ing “vari­able degrees of author­i­tar­i­an­ism and social con­trol.” It’s easy to imag­ine who stands to ben­e­fit from this social re-engi­neer­ing, a 21st cen­tu­ry remix of Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death.”

Amid so much doom and gloom, count on Italy to offer us Tiepo­lo-style shades of light. Italy chose the Wuhan option, with immense­ly seri­ous con­se­quences for its already frag­ile econ­o­my. Quar­an­tined Ital­ians remark­ably react­ed by singing on their bal­conies: a true act of meta­phys­i­cal revolt. . . .

. . . . Not even tril­lions of dol­lars rain­ing from the sky by an act of divine Fed mer­cy were able to cure Covid-19. G‑7 “lead­ers” had to resort to a video­con­fer­ence to real­ize how clue­less they are – even as China’s fight against coro­n­avirus gave the West a head start of sev­er­al weeks.

Shang­hai-based Dr. Zhang Wen­hong, one of China’s top infec­tious dis­ease experts, whose analy­ses have been spot on so far, now says Chi­na has emerged from the dark­est days in the “people’s war” against Covid-19. But he does not think this will be over by sum­mer. Now extrap­o­late what he’s say­ing to the West­ern world.

It’s not even spring yet, and we already know it takes a virus to mer­ci­less­ly shat­ter the God­dess of the Mar­ket. Last Fri­day, Gold­man Sachs told no few­er than 1,500 cor­po­ra­tions that there was no sys­temic risk. That was false.

New York bank­ing sources told me the truth: sys­temic risk became way more severe in 2020 than in 1979, 1987 or 2008 because of the huge­ly height­ened dan­ger that the $1.5 quadrillion deriv­a­tive mar­ket would col­lapse.

As the sources put it, his­to­ry had nev­er before seen any­thing like the Fed’s inter­ven­tion via its lit­tle under­stood elim­i­na­tion of com­mer­cial bank reserve require­ments, unleash­ing a poten­tial unlim­it­ed expan­sion of cred­it to pre­vent a deriv­a­tive implo­sion stem­ming from a total com­mod­i­ty and stock mar­ket col­lapse of all stocks around the world.

Those bankers thought it would work, but as we know by now all the sound and fury sig­ni­fied noth­ing. The ghost of a deriv­a­tive implo­sion – in this case not caused by the pre­vi­ous pos­si­bil­i­ty, the shut­ting down of the Strait of Hor­muz – remains.

We are still bare­ly start­ing to under­stand the con­se­quences of Covid-19 for the future of neolib­er­al tur­bo-cap­i­tal­ism. What’s cer­tain is that the whole glob­al econ­o­my has been hit by an insid­i­ous, lit­er­al­ly invis­i­ble cir­cuit break­er. This may be just a “coin­ci­dence.” Or this may be, as some are bold­ly argu­ing, part of a pos­si­ble, mas­sive psy-op cre­at­ing the per­fect geopolitl­cal and social engi­neer­ing envi­ron­ment for full-spec­trum dom­i­nance.

Addi­tion­al­ly, along the hard slog down the road, with immense, inbuilt human and eco­nom­ic sac­ri­fice, with or with­out a reboot of the world-sys­tem, a more press­ing ques­tion remains: will impe­r­i­al elites still choose to keep wag­ing full-spec­trum-dom­i­nance hybrid war against Chi­na?  

2.   Oth­er broad­casts have explored the Wuhan Mil­i­tary World Games–a mil­i­tary sports competition–as a pos­si­ble vec­tor­ing vehi­cle. We update that path of inquiry with dis­cus­sion of the U.S. del­e­ga­tion as a pos­si­ble vec­tor­ing agent for the spread of the dis­ease in the U.S. We also note that the U.S. del­e­ga­tion con­tained: ” . . . . nine pub­lic-affairs offi­cers . . . and two State Depart­ment per­son­nel, accord­ing to DOD doc­u­ments. . . .” “Pub­lic affairs offi­cer” is a com­mon cov­er for CIA per­son­nel.

“Did the Mil­i­tary World Games Spread COVID-19?” by Tom Squitieri; The Amer­i­can Prospect; 06/30/2020.

 . . . . Con­trary to the Pentagon’s insis­tence, how­ev­er, an inves­ti­ga­tion of COVID-19 cas­es in the mil­i­tary from offi­cial and pub­lic source mate­ri­als shows that a strong cor­re­la­tion exists in COVID-19 cas­es report­ed at U.S. mil­i­tary facil­i­ties that are home bases of mem­bers of the U.S. team that went to Wuhan. Before March 31, when the Pen­ta­gon restrict­ed the release of infor­ma­tion about COVID-19 cas­es at instal­la­tions for secu­ri­ty rea­sons, infec­tions occurred at a min­i­mum of 63 mil­i­tary facil­i­ties where team mem­bers returned after the Wuhan games. Addi­tion­al­ly, the U.S. team used char­tered flights to and from the games via Seat­tle-Taco­ma Inter­na­tion­al Air­port. Wash­ing­ton was one of the ear­li­est states to show a spike in COVID-19. . . .

3. In ear­ly Novem­ber of last year, there was an inter­na­tion­al work­shop about man­ag­ing and oper­at­ing Biosafe­ty labs, held at the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy. At this work­shop there were invi­tees who includ­ed per­son­nel who might have served as vec­tor­ing agents. Bear in mind, again, that bio­log­i­cal war­fare requires a very small num­ber of oper­a­tional per­son­nel to do some very effec­tive and destruc­tive work. ” . . . . The work­shop is designed for lab­o­ra­to­ry man­agers and direc­tors, research and lab­o­ra­to­ry staffs main­ly from devel­op­ing coun­tries who plan to car­ry out infec­tious dis­ease research in biosafe­ty facil­i­ties. The work­shop will address key aspects of biosafe­ty and pro­vide prac­ti­cal train­ing in high lev­el biosafe­ty lab­o­ra­to­ries (BSL). This work­shop will invite a group of well-known schol­ars and experts from relat­ed fields at home and abroad to pro­vide the the­o­ret­i­cal and prac­ti­cal cours­es. . . .”

“Inter­na­tion­al Work­shop on Biosafe­ty Lab Man­age­ment and Tech­niques: Novem­ber 3–9, 2019 Wuhan, Chi­na”; Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy, Chi­nese Acad­e­my of Sci­ences; 05/09/2020 Inter­net Archive cap­ture

With the devel­op­ment of glob­al­iza­tion, indus­tri­al­iza­tion and mod­ern­iza­tion, and the changes in the envi­ron­ment and cli­mate, dif­fer­ent infec­tious dis­eases and var­i­ous pub­lic health emer­gen­cies are pos­ing seri­ous threats to human health. In addi­tion, as the glob­al pace of build­ing lab­o­ra­to­ries has been accel­er­at­ed sig­nif­i­cant­ly, lab­o­ra­to­ry safe­ty issues have become increas­ing­ly promi­nent. Thus, the glob­al com­mu­ni­ty is fac­ing new chal­lenges in pub­lic health. Two ses­sions of the Inter­na­tion­al Work­shop on Biosafe­ty Lab­o­ra­to­ry Man­age­ment and Tech­niques were suc­cess­ful­ly held in 2017 and 2018. The series of work­shops, as the first offer sub­mit­ted by Chi­na to the Bio­log­i­cal Weapons Con­ven­tion (BWC) Assis­tance and Coop­er­a­tion Data­base, con­sti­tutes China’s major con­tri­bu­tion to the imple­men­ta­tion of BWC.

In 2019, the work­shop will be host­ed by the Min­istry of For­eign Affairs of the People’s Repub­lic of Chi­na and the Chi­nese Acad­e­my of Sci­ences (CAS), and orga­nized by Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy (WIV), CAS, and will be held from Novem­ber 03–09, 2019 in Wuhan, Chi­na.

The work­shop is designed for lab­o­ra­to­ry man­agers and direc­tors, research and lab­o­ra­to­ry staffs main­ly from devel­op­ing coun­tries who plan to car­ry out infec­tious dis­ease research in biosafe­ty facil­i­ties. The work­shop will address key aspects of biosafe­ty and pro­vide prac­ti­cal train­ing in high lev­el biosafe­ty lab­o­ra­to­ries (BSL). This work­shop will invite a group of well-known schol­ars and experts from relat­ed fields at home and abroad to pro­vide the the­o­ret­i­cal and prac­ti­cal cours­es. The par­tic­i­pants will be sup­posed to dis­cuss bioethics and biosafe­ty poli­cies, under­stand key com­po­nents (risk recog­ni­tion, risk assess­ment and risk mit­i­ga­tion) of a biorisk man­age­ment sys­tem, acquire hands-on expe­ri­ence of safe oper­a­tions in biosafe­ty lab­o­ra­to­ries and know basic design prin­ci­ples of biosafe­ty lab­o­ra­to­ries.

4a. As not­ed by Pepe Esco­bar, Event 201–which began on the same day as the Mil­i­tary World Games in Wuhan–helped to set the PR tem­plate for Covid-19.

Avril Haines (see below) was a key par­tic­i­pant in the event.

“Event 201 Play­ers: Avril Haines;” centerforhealthsecurity.org

Avril Haines is a Senior Research Schol­ar at Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty; a Senior Fel­low at the Johns Hop­kins Uni­ver­si­ty Applied Physics Lab­o­ra­to­ry; a mem­ber of the Nation­al Com­mis­sion on Mil­i­tary, Nation­al, and Pub­lic Ser­vice; and a prin­ci­pal at Wes­t­Ex­ec Advi­sors.

Dur­ing the last admin­is­tra­tion, Dr. Haines served as Assis­tant to the Pres­i­dent and Prin­ci­pal Deputy Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advi­sor. She also served as the Deputy Direc­tor of the Cen­tral Intel­li­gence Agency and Legal Advis­er to the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil.

Dr. Haines received her bachelor’s degree in physics from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go and a law degree from George­town Uni­ver­si­ty Law Cen­ter. She serves on a num­ber of boards and advi­so­ry groups, includ­ing the Nuclear Threat Initiative’s Bio Advi­so­ry Group, the Board of Trustees for the Voda­fone Foun­da­tion, and the Refugees Inter­na­tion­al Advi­so­ry Coun­cil.

4b. A key par­tic­i­pant in Even 201, for­mer Deputy CIA Direc­tor Avril Haines is Biden’s direc­tor of nation­al intel­li­gence.

“Intel­li­gence Chief Picks a For­mer Bush Aide to Lead Brief­in­gs for Biden” by Julian E. Barnes and Adam Gold­man;” The New York Times; 1/30/2021; p. A17 [West­ern Print Edi­tion].

 The new direc­tor of nation­al intel­li­gence [Avril Haines] has been reshap­ing the office, installing a new offi­cial to lead Pres­i­dent Biden’s dai­ly brief­in­gs by tap­ping a vet­er­an of the last Bush admin­is­tra­tion, accord­ing to cur­rent and for­mer gov­ern­ment offi­cials. . . .

5. Peter Daszak voiced the (self-ful­fill­ing?) opinion/prophecy that Covid-19 is indeed “Dis­ease X.”

The cog­ni­tive tem­plate for Covid-19 was par­tial­ly set by Peter Daszak, who has wide­ly dis­sem­i­nat­ed the sup­po­si­tion that “Dis­ease X” would over­take the world.

It is our view that the efforts of Daszak, the Event 201 play­ers and oth­ers could be com­pared to the pro­pa­gan­diz­ing that ele­ments of the WACCFL and the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty, as well as ele­ments of the U.S. far right did in the run-up to the JFK assas­si­na­tion.

That pro­pa­gan­diz­ing was a key ele­ment in the “Paint­ing of Oswald Red.”

“We Knew Dis­ease X Was Com­ing. It’s Here Now.” by Peter Daszak; The New York Times; 02/27/2020

In ear­ly 2018, dur­ing a meet­ing at the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion in Gene­va, a group of experts I belong to (the R&D Blue­print) coined the term “Dis­ease X”: We were refer­ring to the next pan­dem­ic, which would be caused by an unknown, nov­el pathogen that hadn’t yet entered the human pop­u­la­tion. As the world stands today on the edge of the pan­dem­ic precipice, it’s worth tak­ing a moment to con­sid­er whether Covid-19 is the dis­ease our group was warn­ing about.

Dis­ease X, we said back then, would like­ly result from a virus orig­i­nat­ing in ani­mals and would emerge some­where on the plan­et where eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment dri­ves peo­ple and wildlife togeth­er. Dis­ease X would prob­a­bly be con­fused with oth­er dis­eases ear­ly in the out­break and would spread quick­ly and silent­ly; exploit­ing net­works of human trav­el and trade, it would reach mul­ti­ple coun­tries and thwart con­tain­ment. Dis­ease X would have a mor­tal­i­ty rate high­er than a sea­son­al flu but would spread as eas­i­ly as the flu. It would shake finan­cial mar­kets even before it achieved pan­dem­ic sta­tus.

In a nut­shell, Covid-19 is Dis­ease X. . . .

6.  We present an obvi­ous­ly speculative–but very important–element of dis­cus­sion.

In FTR #‘s 1157, 1158, 1159, 1170, 1183 and 1184 we exam­ined Peter Dasza­k’s Eco­Health Alliance, which looks dis­turbing­ly like a bio­log­i­cal war­fare front. (Dasza­k’s last name is pro­nounced “Daysh-ak,” BTW.)

The Eco­Health Alliance–financed by USAID–partnered with the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy and Dr. Ralph Bar­ic of the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na at Chapel Hill to research bat-borne coro­n­avirus­es. A “chimeric” virus was cre­at­ed by Bar­ic under this pro­gram in 2015, and Bar­ic was sub­se­quent­ly select­ed to cre­ate the SARS Cov‑2 virus from scratch.

We have learned that Daszak is of Ukrain­ian her­itage, with his father Bohdan hav­ing (appar­ent­ly) been born in Ukraine and being 19 years old in 1945.

Par­ents — Father is Bohdan Daszak (born March 21, 1926)

Moth­er’s maid­en name was “Wal­ton” — [HL0043][GDrive] , born in Eng­land (Ash­ton dis­trict)

Sib­lings — John Daszak”

We won­der if Daszak, Sr. might be part of the OUN/B dias­po­ra which we have cov­ered exten­sive­ly, and which is at the foun­da­tion of a glob­al res­ur­rec­tion of fas­cism?

Discussion

6 comments for “FTR#1186 The Oswald Institute of Virology, Part 5: Context”

  1. This next Dai­ly Mail arti­cle by  Megan Sheets and Geoff Ear­le, on May 23 2021  is very impor­tant because the Dr. Antho­ny Fau­ci, the Direc­tor of Nation­al Insti­tute of Aller­gy and Infec­tious Dis­eases made a very impor­tant state­ment response to a ques­tion from the man­ag­ing edi­tor of Poli­ti­Fact, Katie Sanders at a May 11, 2021 event on May 11 enti­tled: Unit­ed Facts of Amer­i­ca: A Fes­ti­val of Fact-Check­ing. Dr. Fau­ci was asked a about SARS-CoV­‑2 (the dis­ease that caus­es COVID-19) ‘are you still con­fi­dent that it devel­oped nat­u­ral­ly?’ to which he replied ‘I am not con­vinced about that, I think we should con­tin­ue to inves­ti­gate what went on in Chi­na until we con­tin­ue to find out.’ Fau­ci con­tin­ued ‘Cer­tain­ly, the peo­ple who inves­ti­gat­ed it say it like­ly was the emer­gence from an ani­mal reser­voir that then infect­ed indi­vid­u­als, but it could have been some­thing else, and we need to find that out.’

    This answer is aston­ish­ing giv­en that the main stream press and report­ing has dis­cred­it­ed peo­ple who believe that SARS-CoV­‑2 is man­made are con­spir­a­cy the­o­rists and has strong­ly empha­sized that it is not like­ly due to some­thing oth­er than nat­ur­al caus­es. 

    Dr. Fau­ci emphat­i­cal­ly denied that ‘the NIH and NIAD cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly has not fund­ed gain of func­tion research to be con­duct­ed in the Wuhan Insti­tute.’ Dr. Fauci’s state­ment may be true if he is claim­ing that the NIH fund­ed gain of func­tion research else­where and that did not include the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy. How­ev­er, the arti­cle reports that USA Today found that “In 2014, NIH approved a grant to Eco­Health Alliance des­ig­nat­ed for research into ‘Under­stand­ing the Risk of Bat Coro­n­avirus Emer­gence.’ The project involved col­lab­o­rat­ing with researchers at the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy to study coro­n­avirus­es in bats and the risk of poten­tial trans­fer to humans.”  Based on this infor­ma­tion, it involved coro­n­avirus­es in bats but not gain of func­tion research.

    It is also sur­pris­ing that this is being pub­lished in the News media almost 2 weeks after the May 11 event. I added an arti­cle con­firm­ing this from CNN at the bot­tom and demon­strat­ing Fau­ci’s change in orig­i­nal posi­tion that “is very, very strong­ly lean­ing toward this could not have been arti­fi­cial­ly or delib­er­ate­ly manip­u­lat­ed”.

    For the entire arti­cle see below:
    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9610069/Dr-Fauci-says-hes-not-convinced-COVID-19-formed-naturally.html

    Three Wuhan lab researchers were hos­pi­tal­ized in Novem­ber 2019
    By MEGAN SHEETS FOR DAILYMAIL.COM  and GEOFF EARLE, DEPUTY U.S. POLITICAL EDITOR ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE
    PUBLISHED: 13:37 EDT, 23 May 2021 | UPDATED: 23:24 EDT, 23 May 2021 

    Three researchers from Chi­na’s Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy (WIV) sought hos­pi­tal care in Novem­ber 2019, months before Chi­na dis­closed the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, the Wall Street Jour­nal report­ed on Sun­day, cit­ing a pre­vi­ous­ly undis­closed U.S. intel­li­gence report.

    The news­pa­per said the report — which pro­vides fresh details on the num­ber of researchers affect­ed, the tim­ing of their ill­ness­es, and their hos­pi­tal vis­its — may add weight to calls for a broad­er probe of whether the COVID-19 virus could have escaped from the lab­o­ra­to­ry.

    The report came on the eve of a meet­ing of the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion’s deci­sion-mak­ing body, which is expect­ed to dis­cuss the next phase of an inves­ti­ga­tion into the ori­gins of COVID-19.

    Pho­to Cap­tion: Three researchers from Chi­na’s Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy (WIV) sought hos­pi­tal care in Novem­ber 2019, months before Chi­na dis­closed the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic

    Pho­to Cap­tion: A pre­vi­ous­ly undis­closed U.S. intel­li­gence report adds weight to grow­ing calls for a fuller probe of whether the Covid-19 virus may have escaped from the lab­o­ra­to­ry

    A Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil spokes­woman had no com­ment on the Jour­nal’s report but said the Biden admin­is­tra­tion con­tin­ued to have ‘seri­ous ques­tions about the ear­li­est days of the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, includ­ing its ori­gins with­in the Peo­ples Repub­lic of Chi­na.’

    She said the U.S. gov­ern­ment was work­ing with the WHO and oth­er mem­ber states to sup­port an expert-dri­ven eval­u­a­tion of the pan­demic’s ori­gins ‘that is free from inter­fer­ence or politi­ciza­tion.’

    ‘We’re not going to make pro­nounce­ments that pre­judge an ongo­ing WHO study into the source of SARS-CoV­‑2, but we’ve been clear that sound and tech­ni­cal­ly cred­i­ble the­o­ries should be thor­ough­ly eval­u­at­ed by inter­na­tion­al experts,’ she said.

    The Jour­nal said cur­rent and for­mer offi­cials famil­iar with the intel­li­gence about the lab researchers expressed a range of views about the strength of the report’s sup­port­ing evi­dence, with one unnamed per­son say­ing it need­ed ‘fur­ther inves­ti­ga­tion and addi­tion­al cor­rob­o­ra­tion.’ 

    Pho­to Cap­tion: Chi­na’s for­eign min­istry not­ed that a WHO-led team had con­clud­ed a lab leak was extreme­ly unlike­ly after a vis­it in Feb­ru­ary to the virol­o­gy insti­tute. Pic­tured, an aer­i­al view shows the P4 lab­o­ra­to­ry at the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy in Wuhan in Chi­na’s cen­tral Hubei province

    The Unit­ed States, Nor­way, Cana­da, Britain and oth­er coun­tries in March expressed con­cerns about the WHO-led COVID-19 ori­gins study, and called for fur­ther inves­ti­ga­tion and full access to all per­ti­nent human, ani­mal and oth­er data about the ear­ly stages of the out­break.

    Wash­ing­ton is keen to ensure greater coop­er­a­tion and trans­paren­cy by Chi­na, accord­ing to a source famil­iar with the effort.

    The Chi­nese Embassy in Wash­ing­ton did not imme­di­ate­ly respond to a request for com­ment on Sun­day.

    On Sun­day, Chi­na’s for­eign min­istry not­ed that a WHO-led team had con­clud­ed a lab leak was extreme­ly unlike­ly after a vis­it in Feb­ru­ary to the virol­o­gy insti­tute. ‘The U.S. con­tin­ues to hype the lab leak the­o­ry,’ the min­istry said in response to a request for com­ment by the Jour­nal. ‘Is it actu­al­ly con­cerned about trac­ing the source or try­ing to divert atten­tion?’

    The Trump admin­is­tra­tion had said it sus­pect­ed the virus may have escaped from a Chi­nese lab, which Bei­jing denies.

    A State Depart­ment fact sheet released near the end of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion had said ‘the U.S. gov­ern­ment has rea­son to believe that sev­er­al researchers inside the WIV became sick in autumn 2019, before the first iden­ti­fied case of the out­break, with symp­toms con­sis­tent with both COVID-19 and com­mon sea­son­al ill­ness­es.’ It did not say how many researchers.

    Chi­na refused to give raw data on ear­ly COVID-19 cas­es to the WHO-led team prob­ing the ori­gins of the pan­dem­ic, accord­ing to one of the team´s inves­ti­ga­tors, Reuters report­ed in Feb­ru­ary, poten­tial­ly com­pli­cat­ing efforts to under­stand how the out­break began.

    Pho­to Cap­tion: The World Health Orga­ni­za­tion’s deci­sion-mak­ing body is expect­ed to dis­cuss the next phase of an inves­ti­ga­tion into the ori­gins of COVID-19 at a meet­ing lat­er this week

    Ear­li­er on Sun­day, Dr Antho­ny Fau­ci revealed he is ‘not con­vinced’ that COVID-19 devel­oped nat­u­ral­ly and called for an open inves­ti­ga­tion into its ori­gins as Chi­na faces mount­ing pres­sure to pro­vide trans­paren­cy on the issue. 

    Fau­ci, the nation’s lead­ing expert in infec­tious dis­eases, explained his uncer­tain­ty dur­ing a Poli­ti­Fact event on May 11 enti­tled: Unit­ed Facts of Amer­i­ca: A Fes­ti­val of Fact-Check­ing. 

    ‘There’s a lot of cloudi­ness around the ori­gins of COVID-19 still, so I want­ed to ask, are you still con­fi­dent that it devel­oped nat­u­ral­ly?’ Poli­ti­Fact man­ag­ing edi­tor Katie Sanders asked Fau­ci.  

    ‘No actu­al­ly,’ he replied. ‘I am not con­vinced about that, I think we should con­tin­ue to inves­ti­gate what went on in Chi­na until we con­tin­ue to find out to the best of our abil­i­ty what hap­pened.’

    Pho­to Cap­tion: Dr Antho­ny Fau­ci revealed he is ‘not con­vinced’ the nov­el coro­n­avirus devel­oped nat­u­ral­ly dur­ing a Poli­ti­Fact event on May 11 (pic­tured)

    Fau­ci con­tin­ued: ‘Cer­tain­ly, the peo­ple who inves­ti­gat­ed it say it like­ly was the emer­gence from an ani­mal reser­voir that then infect­ed indi­vid­u­als, but it could have been some­thing else, and we need to find that out. 

    ‘So, you know, that’s the rea­son why I said I’m per­fect­ly in favor of any inves­ti­ga­tion that looks into the ori­gin of the virus.’ 

    Fau­ci’s appear­ance at the event came hours after he was grilled on the same top­ic dur­ing a tense Sen­ate hear­ing.  

    ‘Will you in front of this group cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly say that the COVID-19 virus could not have occurred by ser­i­al pas­sage in a lab­o­ra­to­ry?’ Sen Rand Paul (R — Ken­tucky) had asked Fau­ci. 

    The NIH direc­tor replied: ‘I do not have any account­ing of what the Chi­nese may have done, and I’m ful­ly in favor of any fur­ther inves­ti­ga­tion of what went on in Chi­na.’ 

    Fau­ci also unequiv­o­cal­ly refut­ed Paul’s sug­ges­tion that the NIH had fun­neled mon­ey to the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy — the Chi­nese lab accused of play­ing a role in the COVID-19 out­break.  

    Pho­to Cap­tion: Repub­li­cans have claimed to have ‘sig­nif­i­cant cir­cum­stan­tial evi­dence’ link­ing COVID-19 to the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy (pic­tured). Sen­a­tor Rand Paul clashed with Fau­ci over the ori­gins of COVID-19 at a hear­ing a Sen­ate hear­ing on May 11. Paul accus­es Dr Fau­ci of fund­ing the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy

    Dur­ing his seg­ment at the Poli­ti­Fact event Fau­ci slammed Paul for ‘con­flat­ing… in a way that’s almost irre­spon­si­ble’ Chi­nese sci­en­tists with col­lab­o­ra­tive research into Sars-Cov­‑1, which emerged in Chi­na in the ear­ly 2000s. 

    Fau­ci’s appear­ance at the event received lit­tle media atten­tion at the time but was pulled back into the spot­light over the week­end after the White House renewed its call for an inde­pen­dent and ‘trans­par­ent’ inves­ti­ga­tion into the ori­gins of the COVID. 

    White House Press Sec­re­tary Jen Psa­ki on Thurs­day called for explor­ing the ‘root caus­es’ of the pan­dem­ic after Repub­li­cans issued an inter­im report say­ing there was ‘sig­nif­i­cant cir­cum­stan­tial evi­dence’ that the virus emerged from the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy.

    ‘I would cau­tion you against dis­prov­ing a neg­a­tive there which is nev­er the respon­si­ble approach in our view when it comes to get­ting to the bot­tom of the root caus­es of a pan­dem­ic that has killed hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple in the Unit­ed States,’ she said in response to a ques­tion about the report.

    Pho­to Cap­tion: White House Press Sec­re­tary Jen Psa­ki called for a trans­par­ent inves­ti­ga­tion into the ori­gins of the coro­n­avirus

    White House calls for trans­par­ent inves­ti­ga­tion into ori­gins of COVID

    ‘Our view con­tin­ues to be that there needs to be an inde­pen­dent, trans­par­ent inves­ti­ga­tion,’ she said.

    She said the inves­ti­ga­tion required the ‘coop­er­a­tion and data pro­vid­ed from the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment’ – which has denied admin­is­tra­tion requests to ful­ly share it. 

    ‘We don’t have enough info at this point to make an assess­ment,’ she con­tin­ued.

    Fact check on fund­ing for Wuhan lab 
    USA Today found it ‘false’ that any US fund­ing led to the COVID out­break. 

    In 2014, NIH approved a grant to Eco­Health Alliance des­ig­nat­ed for research into ‘Under­stand­ing the Risk of Bat Coro­n­avirus Emer­gence.’ The project involved col­lab­o­rat­ing with researchers at the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy to study coro­n­avirus­es in bats and the risk of poten­tial trans­fer to humans. 

    In total, $3,378,896 in NIH fund­ing was direct­ed from the gov­ern­ment to the project.
    Over the course of the two grants approved by the NIH for Eco­Health Alliance, the Wuhan Insti­tute received about $600,000 from the NIH, accord­ing to Robert Kessler, a spokesper­son for Eco­Health Alliance. 

    The fund­ing was a fee for the col­lec­tion and analy­sis of viral sam­ples, the group said. It was direct­ed toward SARS research.

    In the grant approved in 2014, about $133,000 was sent to the insti­tute in the first four years and about $66,000 in the past year. In the sec­ond grant approved in 2019, about $76,000 was bud­get­ed for the Wuhan Insti­tute, though no mon­ey was sent before the grant’s ter­mi­na­tion.

    The grant was ter­mi­nat­ed in April 2020. 
    — USA Today fact check 

    Asked when Biden would call Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping, Psa­ki respond­ed that ‘We have made that call pub­licly many times’ and ‘con­veyed that pri­vate­ly. And we have cer­tain­ly com­mu­ni­cat­ed that they were not trans­par­ent from the begin­ning.’

    The Repub­li­cans on the pan­el made their claim after infec­tious Fau­ci clashed with Sen Paul over his claims about a Chi­nese lab leak – and state­ments about a con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry that US back­ing was involved. 

    Many top sci­en­tists, while not rul­ing out the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a human-caused event, point to the like­li­hood of the virus mutat­ing and jump­ing form ani­mals to humans, as has hap­pened with numer­ous pre­vi­ous coro­n­avirus­es.

    The report says U.S. agen­cies and aca­d­e­m­ic insti­tu­tions ‘may have fund­ed or col­lab­o­rat­ed in’ gain of func­tion research – after Fau­ci specif­i­cal­ly denied gov­ern­ment back­ing.

    ‘Based on pub­licly avail­able infor­ma­tion, the pos­si­bil­i­ty that the out­break orig­i­nat­ed from an acci­den­tal expo­sure at the WIV has not been dis­proven,’ it says. 

    It cites com­pet­ing the­o­ries – includ­ing the virus orig­i­nat­ing from a Chi­nese wet mar­ket, jump­ing over from human con­tact with a bat or oth­er species, or even through han­dling of import­ed frozen food  – but then says it focus­es on just one.

    ‘While Com­mit­tee Repub­li­cans acknowl­edge there are dif­fer­ing the­o­ries on the ori­gins of COVID-19, this review focus­es on the WIV as a pos­si­ble ori­gin source,’ it says, ref­er­enc­ing the Wuhan lab.

    The report was released pub­licly Wednes­day after first being obtained by Fox News. 

    The report, though cites ‘sig­nif­i­cant cir­cum­stan­tial evi­dence rais­es seri­ous con­cerns that the COVID-19 out­break may have been a leak from the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy,’ with­out pro­vid­ing any direct evi­dence that it did.

    It says Chi­na has a ‘his­to­ry of research lab leaks result­ing in infec­tions’ and says the lab con­ducts ‘dan­ger­ous research,’ which risks the ‘acci­den­tal out­break of a pan­dem­ic.’

    The report fol­lows repeat­ed attacks by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Chi­na after the virus out­break. He fre­quent­ly called covid-19 the ‘Chi­na virus’ in the run-up to the elec­tion and called it the ‘kung flu.’ 

    It cites pub­lic report­ing that Chi­nese researchers were sick­ened in the fall of 2019 with ‘COVID-10-like symp­toms.’

     ‘By con­trast, lit­tle cir­cum­stan­tial evi­dence has emerged to sup­port the PRC’s claim that COVID-19 was a nat­ur­al occur­rence, hav­ing jumped from some oth­er species to human’ accord­ing to the report, although it is not just the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Par­ty mak­ing the claim.  

    Pho­to Cap­tion: Chi­nese virol­o­gist Shi Zhengli (L) is seen inside the P4 lab­o­ra­to­ry in Wuhan, cap­i­tal of Chi­na’s Hubei province on Feb­ru­ary 23, 2017. Two Chi­nese labs are locat­ed close by a wet mar­ket in Wuhan that sci­en­tists believe allowed covid-19 to pro­lif­er­ate

    CDC Direc­tor says it is ‘pos­si­ble’ COVID escaped from Wuhan Lab

    Ear­li­er this month, Paul and Fau­ci got in a tense exchange dur­ing a Sen­ate hear­ing, where Paul accused the US of poten­tial­ly fund­ing ‘gain-of-func­tion’ research bats that could have gone awry.

    ‘This gain-of-func­tion research has been fund­ed by the NIH. … Dr. Fau­ci, do you still sup­port fund­ing of the NIH fund­ing of the lab in Wuhan?’ 
    ‘Sen­a­tor Paul, with all due respect, you are entire­ly and com­plete­ly incor­rect that the NIH has not nev­er and does not now fund gain-of-func­tion research in the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy,’ shot back Fau­ci.

    ‘Could you rule out a lab­o­ra­to­ry escape? The answer in this case is prob­a­bly not. Will you in front of this group cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly say that the COVID-19 could not have occurred through ser­i­al pas­sage in a lab­o­ra­to­ry,’ Paul asked Fau­ci.

    ‘I do not have any account­ing of what the Chi­nese may have done and I’m ful­ly in favor of any fur­ther inves­ti­ga­tion of what went on in Chi­na,’ Fau­ci, the head of the Nation­al Insti­tute of Aller­gy and Infec­tious Dis­eases, respond­ed.

    ‘How­ev­er I will repeat again, the NIH and NIAD cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly has not fund­ed gain of func­tion research to be con­duct­ed in the Wuhan Insti­tute.’ 

    Fau­ci also told him: ‘I ful­ly agree that you should inves­ti­gate where the virus came from. But again, we have not fund­ed gain of func­tion research on this virus in the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy. No mat­ter how many times you say it, it did­n’t hap­pen.’

    A report by the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion with the col­lab­o­ra­tion from Chi­na called a ‘zoonot­ic trans­mis­sion’ from ani­mals to humans ‘like­ly to very like­ly’ as the cause, although the admin­is­tra­tion has fault­ed the report as incom­plete. 

    CNN offers the expla­na­tion as to how Dr. Fauci’s posi­tion changed from May 2020 where he stat­ed to Nation­al Geo­graph­ic “If you look at the evo­lu­tion of the virus in bats and what’s out there now, [the sci­en­tif­ic evi­dence] is very, very strong­ly lean­ing toward this could not have been arti­fi­cial­ly or delib­er­ate­ly manip­u­lat­ed ... Every­thing about the step­wise evo­lu­tion over time strong­ly indi­cates that [this virus] evolved in nature and then jumped species.”

    The CNN arti­cle con­cludes “The ori­gins of the virus remain not ful­ly known. Trac­ing that is, at root, a med­ical and pub­lic health ques­tion — not a polit­i­cal one.”

    Here is the arti­cle:

    https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/24/politics/fauci-donald-trump-coronavirus/index.html

    Why is Antho­ny Fau­ci hedg­ing on the ori­gins of the coro­n­avirus?
    Analy­sis by Chris Cil­liz­za, CNN Edi­tor-at-large Updat­ed 12:29 PM ET, Mon May 24, 2021

    (CNN) — Antho­ny Fau­ci, the direc­tor of the Nation­al Insti­tute of Aller­gy and Infec­tious Dis­eases, admit­ted ear­li­er this month that he is no longer con­vinced that the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic orig­i­nat­ed nat­u­ral­ly.

    “I am not con­vinced about that, I think we should con­tin­ue to inves­ti­gate what went on in Chi­na until we con­tin­ue to find out to the best of our abil­i­ty what hap­pened,” Fau­ci told Poli­ti­Fac­t’s man­ag­ing edi­tor Katie Sanders.

    “Cer­tain­ly, the peo­ple who inves­ti­gat­ed it say it like­ly was the emer­gence from an ani­mal reser­voir that then infect­ed indi­vid­u­als, but it could have been some­thing else, and we need to find that out. So, you know, that’s the rea­son why I said I’m per­fect­ly in favor of any inves­ti­ga­tion that looks into the ori­gin of the virus,” he con­tin­ued.

    Which is, quite clear­ly, a change from Fau­ci’s pre­vi­ous view that the dis­ease very like­ly came about after ani­mal to human trans­mis­sion. Here’s Fau­ci in an inter­view with Nation­al Geo­graph­ic last May:

    “If you look at the evo­lu­tion of the virus in bats and what’s out there now, [the sci­en­tif­ic evi­dence] is very, very strong­ly lean­ing toward this could not have been arti­fi­cial­ly or delib­er­ate­ly manip­u­lat­ed ... Every­thing about the step­wise evo­lu­tion over time strong­ly indi­cates that [this virus] evolved in nature and then jumped species.”

    Fau­ci’s dis­missal of the idea that the virus orig­i­nat­ed in a lab in Chi­na’s Wuhan province fol­lowed vague asser­tions by then-Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump that he had a “high degree of con­fi­dence” that the virus had come from a lab. Pressed for details on that asser­tion, which ran counter to US intel­li­gence on the virus’ ori­gins, Trump offered only this: “I can’t tell you that. I’m not allowed to tell you that.”

    Giv­en that his­to­ry, con­ser­v­a­tives leaped on Fau­ci’s recent hedg­ing as proof pos­i­tive that Trump was, in fact, right all along. (Worth not­ing: Fau­ci made his com­ments at a fact-check­ing sym­po­sium on May 11, but they were large­ly ignored at the time. Con­ser­v­a­tive pub­li­ca­tions began writ­ing about the remarks over the week­end.)

    “Fau­ci must answer for his role in Wuhan’s COVID lab,” tweet­ed for­mer New York Rep. Nan Hay­worth ®.

    Fau­ci has become a light­ning rod for con­ser­v­a­tive crit­i­cism of how the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty has han­dled the ongo­ing pan­dem­ic. Trump sought to vil­lainize Fau­ci for his alleged­ly too-cau­tious approach to a return to nor­mal from the virus, and the likes of Geor­gia Rep. Mar­jorie Tay­lor Greene have tak­en up the cause; last month she tweet­ed a video of her­self work­ing out that includ­ed this text: “This is my Covid pro­tec­tion #MakeAm­er­ic­a­HealthyA­gain It’s time to #Fire­Fau­ci”

    So, how much “there” is actu­al­ly there? Well, on Sun­day, the Wall Street Jour­nal wrote this:

    “Three researchers from Chi­na’s Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy became sick enough in Novem­ber 2019 that they sought hos­pi­tal care, accord­ing to a pre­vi­ous­ly undis­closed U.S. intel­li­gence report that could add weight to grow­ing calls for a fuller probe of whether the Covid-19 virus may have escaped from the lab­o­ra­to­ry...
    “...The dis­clo­sure of the num­ber of researchers, the tim­ing of their ill­ness­es and their hos­pi­tal vis­its come on the eve of a meet­ing of the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion’s deci­sion-mak­ing body, which is expect­ed to dis­cuss the next phase of an inves­ti­ga­tion into Covid-19’s ori­gins.”

    It’s worth not­ing here that, accord­ing to CNN report­ing, US intel­li­gence offi­cials are not cer­tain what the researchers were actu­al­ly sick with. And Direc­tor of Nation­al Intel­li­gence Avril Haines told Con­gress last month that “the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty does not know exact­ly where, when, or how Covid-19 virus was trans­mit­ted ini­tial­ly.”

    Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for Chi­na’s For­eign Min­istry, denied the WSJ report and said that the US is “hyp­ing up the lab leak the­o­ry.”

    What’s clear is that Fau­ci is sig­nif­i­cant­ly more open to the idea of the lab the­o­ry than he was a year ago. While he did leave him­self some wig­gle room in his state­ments about the ori­gins last year (he said he was “very, very strong­ly lean­ing toward this could not have been arti­fi­cial­ly or delib­er­ate­ly manip­u­lat­ed,”) there was no doubt about where Fau­ci stood on the ques­tion.

    The issue, then, is not whether Fau­ci has moved his posi­tion on the pos­si­ble ori­gins of the virus but rather why he is doing so. Fau­ci defend­ers will insist that he is sim­ply evolv­ing his view based on infor­ma­tion that has come out over the last year. Fau­ci oppo­nents will insist he knew all along that the lab the­o­ry was a pos­si­bil­i­ty and down­played it sole­ly to make Trump look bad.

    In the midst of that debate, it’s impor­tant to remem­ber that Trump nev­er pro­vid­ed any evi­dence for his vague claims about the ori­gins of the virus. “Some­thing hap­pened,” was as far as he would go.

    It’s also crit­i­cal to remem­ber that there would be a major dis­tinc­tion — even with­in the lab the­o­ry — between the virus acci­den­tal­ly get­ting out and it being pur­pose­ly released as a sort of weapon. Trump and his allies have long flicked at the lat­ter expla­na­tion but with­out any fur­ther expla­na­tion or proof.

    As CNN wrote on Mon­day:
    “The cur­rent intel­li­gence rein­forces the belief that the virus most like­ly orig­i­nat­ed nat­u­ral­ly, from ani­mal-human con­tact, the sources said. But that does not pre­clude the pos­si­bil­i­ty that the virus was the result of an acci­den­tal leak from the Wuhan Insti­tute, where coro­n­avirus research was being con­duct­ed on bats.”

    Here’s the point: The ori­gins of the virus remain not ful­ly known. Trac­ing that is, at root, a med­ical and pub­lic health ques­tion — not a polit­i­cal one.

    Posted by Mary Benton | May 24, 2021, 4:25 pm
  2. The WSJ just put out an arti­cle that, at least on its sur­face, appears to indica­tive of an ongo­ing bat­tle of nar­ra­tives tak­ing place with­in the US intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty right now regard­ing the ori­gins of the SARS-CoV­‑2 virus. The arti­cle is about a pre­vi­ous­ly undis­closed US intel­li­gence report about three Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy (WIV) researchers who got sick enough to be sent to the hos­pi­tal with a viral res­pi­ra­to­ry ill­ness in Novem­ber of 2019. The report report­ed­ly flesh­es out what was a State Depart­ment fact sheet on the lab leak the­o­ry was issued in the final days of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion. It’s the kind of report that is obvi­ous­ly quite cir­cum­stan­tial­ly tan­ta­liz­ing to the grow­ing push in the West to for­mal­ly blame the WIV with devel­op­ing the virus.

    We’re learn­ing about this report because unnamed cur­rent and for­mer US offi­cials are now talk­ing about it to the press. But was we’ll see, there’s dis­agree­ment about the strength of the report. Some offi­cials describe it as com­pelling cir­cum­stan­tial evi­dence.

    One offi­cial who is pub­licly mak­ing these asser­tions is Davis Ash­er, a for­mer U.S. offi­cial who led a State Depart­ment task force on the ori­gins of the virus for then-Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo, told a Hud­son Insti­tute sem­i­nar back in March, “I’m very doubt­ful that three peo­ple in high­ly pro­tect­ed cir­cum­stances in a lev­el three lab­o­ra­to­ry work­ing on coro­n­avirus­es would all get sick with influen­za that put them in the hos­pi­tal or in severe con­di­tions all in the same week, and it didn’t have any­thing to do with the coro­n­avirus,” and char­ac­ter­ized it as “the first known clus­ter” of COVID-19 cas­es. At the same time, as the arti­cle points out, Novem­ber is the nor­mal cold and flu sea­son for Chi­na and it isn’t unusu­al for peo­ple in Chi­na to go straight to the hos­pi­tal when they get sick, either for bet­ter care or bet­ter access to a gen­er­al prac­ti­tion­er. Also note that we don’t know if the three researchers were actu­al­ly work­ing on coro­n­avirus­es or some oth­er pathogen.

    Over­all, it sounds like the hunt for the ori­gin of the virus is inten­si­fy­ing, but inten­si­fy­ing exclu­sive­ly around Wuhan, with all oth­er sce­nar­ios being pre­emp­tive­ly tossed aside. It rais­es the ques­tion of how ques­tions relat­ed to the numer­ous reports of mil­i­tary ath­letes arriv­ing in Wuhan with a mys­te­ri­ous viral ill­ness in the last week of Octo­ber 2019. It’s already clear that there’s no real inter­est in mean­ing­ful­ly inves­ti­gat­ing this sce­nario. And yet, as the arti­cles notes, the WHO-led inves­tiga­tive team has stat­ed that their Chi­nese coun­ter­parts have iden­ti­fied 92 poten­tial COVID-19 cas­es a month ~76,000 peo­ple who fell sick between Octo­ber and ear­ly Decem­ber 2019, although they haven’t yet shared the raw data that assess­ment is based on with the larg­er group. And Chi­nese author­i­ties have agreed to grant access to a Wuhan blood bank to test sam­ples from before Decem­ber 2019 for anti­bod­ies. So it’s going to be inter­est­ing to see how many ear­li­er clus­ters might be found from that data set, but keep in mind that if the three sick WIV researchers real­ly were the source of the out­break, we prob­a­bly should­n’t expect to find any evi­dence at all of COVID-19 out­breaks any­where else in the world before Novem­ber of 2019. So while prov­ing this WIV ori­gin the­o­ry — that three sick researchers were ‘Patients 0, 1, and 2’ for this dis­ease — is quite a chal­lenge, dis­prov­ing it should be quite easy. Just find old­er evi­dence of SARS-CoV­‑2. Any­where. Recall how stud­ies have hint­ed at evi­dence of SARS-CoV­‑2 long before Novem­ber of 2019, with Span­ish researchers find­ing signs of the virus in Span­ish sewage sam­ples as far back as March 2019. Those are the kinds of stud­ies that will need to be sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly avoid­ed and ignored for the ‘WIV leak ori­gin’ sce­nario to hold up.

    Final­ly, while we don’t have much infor­ma­tion on what exact­ly that pre­vi­ous­ly undis­closed US intel­li­gence analy­sis was based on, recall ear­li­er reports about sep­a­rate analy­ses — some com­mer­cial and some con­duct­ed by US intel­li­gence — that sug­gest­ed a surge in hos­pi­tal uti­liza­tion rates in the fall of 2019 based the satel­lite images of Wuhan area hos­pi­tals. And in on study that exam­ined inter­net search results for signs of of surge in COVID-relat­ed symp­toms, they found signs of some sort of viral out­break as far back as August of 2019 in the Wuhan area. But as we saw, it was­n’t just Wuhan that was see­ing signs of an unusu­al­ly severe flu sea­son. The whole world, includ­ing the US, expe­ri­enced a high­ly unusu­al Fall of 2019. All of that will have to con­tin­ue to not be ade­quate­ly inves­ti­gat­ed for the WIV-leak nar­ra­tive to take hold. That’s part of what makes this emerg­ing nar­ra­tive bat­tle with­in the US intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty so inter­est­ing to watch play out: as the advo­cates for the WIV-leak the­o­ry inves­ti­ga­tion con­tin­ue to grow loud­er, there’s an implic­it call to NOT inves­ti­gate a whole range of oth­er sce­nar­ios that also grows loud­er. Qui­et­ly loud­er:

    The Wall Street Jour­nal

    Intel­li­gence on Sick Staff at Wuhan Lab Fuels Debate On Covid-19 Ori­gin
    Report says researchers went to hos­pi­tal in Novem­ber 2019, short­ly before con­firmed out­break; adds to calls for probe of whether virus escaped lab

    By Michael R. Gor­don, War­ren P. Stro­bel and Drew Hin­shaw
    May 23, 2021 2:57 pm ET

    WASHINGTON—Three researchers from China’s Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy became sick enough in Novem­ber 2019 that they sought hos­pi­tal care, accord­ing to a pre­vi­ous­ly undis­closed U.S. intel­li­gence report that could add weight to grow­ing calls for a fuller probe of whether the Covid-19 virus may have escaped from the lab­o­ra­to­ry.

    The details of the report­ing go beyond a State Depart­ment fact sheet, issued dur­ing the final days of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, which said that sev­er­al researchers at the lab, a cen­ter for the study of coro­n­avirus­es and oth­er pathogens, became sick in autumn 2019 “with symp­toms con­sis­tent with both Covid-19 and com­mon sea­son­al ill­ness.”

    The dis­clo­sure of the num­ber of researchers, the tim­ing of their ill­ness­es and their hos­pi­tal vis­its come on the eve of a meet­ing of the World Health Organization’s deci­sion-mak­ing body, which is expect­ed to dis­cuss the next phase of an inves­ti­ga­tion into Covid-19’s ori­gins.

    Cur­rent and for­mer offi­cials famil­iar with the intel­li­gence about the lab researchers expressed dif­fer­ing views about the strength of the sup­port­ing evi­dence for the assess­ment. One per­son said that it was pro­vid­ed by an inter­na­tion­al part­ner and was poten­tial­ly sig­nif­i­cant but still in need of fur­ther inves­ti­ga­tion and addi­tion­al cor­rob­o­ra­tion.

    Anoth­er per­son described the intel­li­gence as stronger. “The infor­ma­tion that we had com­ing from the var­i­ous sources was of exquis­ite qual­i­ty. It was very pre­cise. What it didn’t tell you was exact­ly why they got sick,” he said, refer­ring to the researchers.

    Novem­ber 2019 is rough­ly when many epi­demi­ol­o­gists and virol­o­gists believe SARS-CoV­‑2, the virus behind the pan­dem­ic, first began cir­cu­lat­ing around the cen­tral Chi­nese city of Wuhan, where Bei­jing says that the first con­firmed case was a man who fell ill on Dec. 8, 2019.

    The Wuhan Insti­tute hasn’t shared raw data, safe­ty logs and lab records on its exten­sive work with coro­n­avirus­es in bats, which many con­sid­er the most like­ly source of the virus.

    ...

    The Biden admin­is­tra­tion declined to com­ment on the intel­li­gence but said that all tech­ni­cal­ly cred­i­ble the­o­ries on the ori­gin of the pan­dem­ic should be inves­ti­gat­ed by the WHO and inter­na­tion­al experts.

    “We con­tin­ue to have seri­ous ques­tions about the ear­li­est days of the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic, includ­ing its ori­gins with­in the People’s Repub­lic of Chi­na,” said a spokes­woman for the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil.

    “We’re not going to make pro­nounce­ments that pre­judge an ongo­ing WHO study into the source of SARS-CoV­‑2,” the spokes­woman said. “As a mat­ter of pol­i­cy we nev­er com­ment on intel­li­gence issues.”

    Bei­jing has also assert­ed that the virus could have orig­i­nat­ed out­side Chi­na, includ­ing at a lab at the Fort Det­rick mil­i­tary base in Mary­land, and called for the WHO to inves­ti­gate ear­ly Covid out­breaks in oth­er coun­tries.

    Most sci­en­tists say they have seen noth­ing to cor­rob­o­rate the idea that the virus came from a U.S. mil­i­tary lab, and the White House has said there are no cred­i­ble rea­sons to inves­ti­gate it.

    China’s Nation­al Health Com­mis­sion and the WIV didn’t respond to requests for com­ment. Shi Zhengli, the top bat coro­n­avirus expert at WIV, has said the virus didn’t leak from her lab­o­ra­to­ries. She told the WHO-led team that trav­eled to Wuhan ear­li­er this year to inves­ti­gate the ori­gins of the virus that all staff had test­ed neg­a­tive for Covid-19 anti­bod­ies and there had been no turnover of staff on the coro­n­avirus team.

    Mar­i­on Koop­mans, a Dutch virol­o­gist on that team told NBC News in March that some WIV staff did fall sick in the autumn of 2019, but she attrib­uted that to reg­u­lar, sea­son­al sick­ness.

    “There were occa­sion­al ill­ness­es because that’s nor­mal. There was noth­ing that stood out,” she said. “Maybe one or two. It’s cer­tain­ly not a big, big thing.”

    It isn’t unusu­al for peo­ple in Chi­na to go straight to the hos­pi­tal when they fall sick, either because they get bet­ter care there or lack access to a gen­er­al prac­ti­tion­er. Covid-19 and the flu, while very dif­fer­ent ill­ness­es, share some of the same symp­toms, such as fever, aches and a cough. Still, it could be sig­nif­i­cant if mem­bers of the same team work­ing with coro­n­avirus­es went to hos­pi­tal with sim­i­lar symp­toms short­ly before the pan­dem­ic was first iden­ti­fied.

    David Ash­er, a for­mer U.S. offi­cial who led a State Depart­ment task force on the ori­gins of the virus for then-Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo, told a Hud­son Insti­tute sem­i­nar in March that he doubt­ed that the lab researchers became sick because of the ordi­nary flu.

    “I’m very doubt­ful that three peo­ple in high­ly pro­tect­ed cir­cum­stances in a lev­el three lab­o­ra­to­ry work­ing on coro­n­avirus­es would all get sick with influen­za that put them in the hos­pi­tal or in severe con­di­tions all in the same week, and it didn’t have any­thing to do with the coro­n­avirus,” he said, adding that the researchers’ ill­ness may rep­re­sent “the first known clus­ter” of Covid-19 cas­es.

    Long char­ac­ter­ized by skep­tics as a con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry, the hypoth­e­sis that the pan­dem­ic could have begun with a lab acci­dent has attract­ed more inter­est from sci­en­tists who have com­plained about the lack of trans­paren­cy by Chi­nese author­i­ties or con­clu­sive proof for the alter­nate hypoth­e­sis: that the virus was con­tract­ed by humans from a bat or oth­er infect­ed ani­mal out­side a lab.

    Many pro­po­nents of the lab hypoth­e­sis say that a virus that was car­ried by an infect­ed bat might have been brought to the lab so that researchers could work on poten­tial vaccines—only to escape.

    While the lab hypoth­e­sis is being tak­en more seri­ous­ly, includ­ing by Biden admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials, the debate is still col­ored by polit­i­cal ten­sions, includ­ing over how much evi­dence is need­ed to sus­tain the hypoth­e­sis.

    The State Depart­ment fact sheet issued dur­ing the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, which drew on clas­si­fied intel­li­gence, said that the “U.S. gov­ern­ment has rea­son to believe that sev­er­al researchers inside the WIV became sick in autumn 2019, before the first iden­ti­fied case of the out­break, with symp­toms con­sis­tent with both Covid-19 and sea­son­al ill­ness­es.”

    The Jan. 15 fact sheet added that this fact “rais­es ques­tions about the cred­i­bil­i­ty” of Dr. Shi and crit­i­cized Bei­jing for its “deceit and dis­in­for­ma­tion” while acknowl­edg­ing that the U.S. gov­ern­ment hasn’t deter­mined exact­ly how the pan­dem­ic began.

    The Biden admin­is­tra­tion hasn’t dis­put­ed any of the asser­tions in the fact sheet, which cur­rent and for­mer offi­cials say was vet­ted by U.S. intel­li­gence agen­cies. The fact sheet also cov­ered research activ­i­ties at the WIV, its alleged coop­er­a­tion on some projects with the Chi­nese mil­i­tary and acci­dents at oth­er Chi­nese labs.

    But one Biden admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial said that by high­light­ing data that point­ed to the lab leak hypoth­e­sis, Trump admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials had sought “to put spin on the ball.” Sev­er­al U.S. offi­cials described the intel­li­gence as “cir­cum­stan­tial,” wor­thy of fur­ther explo­ration but not con­clu­sive on its own.

    Asked about the Jan. 15 state­ment, State Depart­ment spokesman Ned Price said: “A fact sheet issued by the pre­vi­ous admin­is­tra­tion on Jan­u­ary 15 did not draw any con­clu­sions regard­ing the ori­gins of the coro­n­avirus. Rather, it focused on the lack of trans­paren­cy sur­round­ing the ori­gins.”

    Though the first known case was Dec. 8, sev­er­al analy­ses of the virus’s rate of muta­tion con­clud­ed that it like­ly began spread­ing sev­er­al weeks ear­li­er.

    The WHO-led team that vis­it­ed Wuhan con­clud­ed in a joint report with Chi­nese experts in March that the virus most like­ly spread from bats to humans via anoth­er ani­mal, and that a lab­o­ra­to­ry leak was “extreme­ly unlike­ly.”

    How­ev­er, team mem­bers said they didn’t view raw data or orig­i­nal lab, safe­ty and oth­er records. On the same day the report came out, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghe­breye­sus said the team hadn’t ade­quate­ly exam­ined the lab leak hypoth­e­sis, and called for a fuller probe of the idea.

    The U.S., Euro­pean Union and sev­er­al oth­er gov­ern­ments have also called for a more trans­par­ent inves­ti­ga­tion of Covid-19’s ori­gins, with­out explic­it­ly demand­ing a lab probe. They have called in par­tic­u­lar for bet­ter access to data and sam­ples from poten­tial ear­ly Covid-19 cas­es.

    Mem­bers of the WHO-led team said Chi­nese coun­ter­parts had iden­ti­fied 92 poten­tial Covid-19 cas­es among some 76,000 peo­ple who fell sick between Octo­ber and ear­ly Decem­ber 2019, but turned down requests to share raw data on the larg­er group. That data would help the WHO-led team under­stand why Chi­na sought to only test those 92 peo­ple for anti­bod­ies.

    Team mem­bers also said they asked for access to a Wuhan blood bank to test sam­ples from before Decem­ber 2019 for anti­bod­ies. Chi­nese author­i­ties declined at first, cit­ing pri­va­cy con­cerns, then agreed, but have yet to pro­vide that access, team mem­bers say.

    ————

    “Intel­li­gence on Sick Staff at Wuhan Lab Fuels Debate On Covid-19 Ori­gin” by Michael R. Gor­don, War­ren P. Stro­bel and Drew Hin­shaw; The Wall Street Jour­nal; 05/23/2021

    “The details of the report­ing go beyond a State Depart­ment fact sheet, issued dur­ing the final days of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, which said that sev­er­al researchers at the lab, a cen­ter for the study of coro­n­avirus­es and oth­er pathogens, became sick in autumn 2019 “with symp­toms con­sis­tent with both Covid-19 and com­mon sea­son­al ill­ness.”

    The symp­toms of these three researchers were indeed con­sis­tent with COVID-19. But also sea­son­al ill­ness. It’s far from con­clu­sive evi­dence and real­ly most­ly use­ful as one data point in a much larg­er assess­ment of the avail­able facts on hand. After all, note the obser­va­tion from the WHO team that the fact that these three WIV work­ers got sick and went to the hos­pi­tal isn’t actu­al­ly unusu­al at all. Espe­cial­ly for Chi­na dur­ing flu sea­son:

    ...
    Mar­i­on Koop­mans, a Dutch virol­o­gist on that team told NBC News in March that some WIV staff did fall sick in the autumn of 2019, but she attrib­uted that to reg­u­lar, sea­son­al sick­ness.

    “There were occa­sion­al ill­ness­es because that’s nor­mal. There was noth­ing that stood out,” she said. “Maybe one or two. It’s cer­tain­ly not a big, big thing.”

    It isn’t unusu­al for peo­ple in Chi­na to go straight to the hos­pi­tal when they fall sick, either because they get bet­ter care there or lack access to a gen­er­al prac­ti­tion­er. Covid-19 and the flu, while very dif­fer­ent ill­ness­es, share some of the same symp­toms, such as fever, aches and a cough. Still, it could be sig­nif­i­cant if mem­bers of the same team work­ing with coro­n­avirus­es went to hos­pi­tal with sim­i­lar symp­toms short­ly before the pan­dem­ic was first iden­ti­fied.
    ...

    But it’s also the kind of evi­dence that can also be latched onto and repeat­ed­ly ham­mered to ampli­fy a narrative...as long as the broad­er body of evi­dence is ignored. It’s part of what makes the duel­ing inter­pre­ta­tions of the report we’re hear­ing from these sources so inter­est­ing. Because as David Ash­er, the US offi­cial who led the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s State Depart­ment task force on the ori­gins of the pan­dem­ic, char­ac­ter­ized it, these three researchers could be the first known COVID clus­ter. But if these researchers are the ori­gin of a viral leak, they should­n’t just be the first known clus­ter. They should be the first actu­al clus­ter. Mean­ing no ear­li­er clus­ters should be found any­where:

    ...
    The dis­clo­sure of the num­ber of researchers, the tim­ing of their ill­ness­es and their hos­pi­tal vis­its come on the eve of a meet­ing of the World Health Organization’s deci­sion-mak­ing body, which is expect­ed to dis­cuss the next phase of an inves­ti­ga­tion into Covid-19’s ori­gins.

    Cur­rent and for­mer offi­cials famil­iar with the intel­li­gence about the lab researchers expressed dif­fer­ing views about the strength of the sup­port­ing evi­dence for the assess­ment. One per­son said that it was pro­vid­ed by an inter­na­tion­al part­ner and was poten­tial­ly sig­nif­i­cant but still in need of fur­ther inves­ti­ga­tion and addi­tion­al cor­rob­o­ra­tion.

    Anoth­er per­son described the intel­li­gence as stronger. “The infor­ma­tion that we had com­ing from the var­i­ous sources was of exquis­ite qual­i­ty. It was very pre­cise. What it didn’t tell you was exact­ly why they got sick,” he said, refer­ring to the researchers.

    Novem­ber 2019 is rough­ly when many epi­demi­ol­o­gists and virol­o­gists believe SARS-CoV­‑2, the virus behind the pan­dem­ic, first began cir­cu­lat­ing around the cen­tral Chi­nese city of Wuhan, where Bei­jing says that the first con­firmed case was a man who fell ill on Dec. 8, 2019.

    ...

    China’s Nation­al Health Com­mis­sion and the WIV didn’t respond to requests for com­ment. Shi Zhengli, the top bat coro­n­avirus expert at WIV, has said the virus didn’t leak from her lab­o­ra­to­ries. She told the WHO-led team that trav­eled to Wuhan ear­li­er this year to inves­ti­gate the ori­gins of the virus that all staff had test­ed neg­a­tive for Covid-19 anti­bod­ies and there had been no turnover of staff on the coro­n­avirus team.

    ...

    David Ash­er, a for­mer U.S. offi­cial who led a State Depart­ment task force on the ori­gins of the virus for then-Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo, told a Hud­son Insti­tute sem­i­nar in March that he doubt­ed that the lab researchers became sick because of the ordi­nary flu.

    “I’m very doubt­ful that three peo­ple in high­ly pro­tect­ed cir­cum­stances in a lev­el three lab­o­ra­to­ry work­ing on coro­n­avirus­es would all get sick with influen­za that put them in the hos­pi­tal or in severe con­di­tions all in the same week, and it didn’t have any­thing to do with the coro­n­avirus,” he said, adding that the researchers’ ill­ness may rep­re­sent “the first known clus­ter” of Covid-19 cas­es.
    ...

    And it’s that log­i­cal man­date to either find, or not find, ear­li­er COVID-19 clus­ters that makes the ongo­ing ret­ro­spec­tive search to find old­er unde­tect­ed COVID-19 cas­es so fas­ci­nat­ing to watch. There’s the obvi­ous big ques­tion of whether or not old­er cas­es will be found in Wuhan:

    ...
    The U.S., Euro­pean Union and sev­er­al oth­er gov­ern­ments have also called for a more trans­par­ent inves­ti­ga­tion of Covid-19’s ori­gins, with­out explic­it­ly demand­ing a lab probe. They have called in par­tic­u­lar for bet­ter access to data and sam­ples from poten­tial ear­ly Covid-19 cas­es.

    Mem­bers of the WHO-led team said Chi­nese coun­ter­parts had iden­ti­fied 92 poten­tial Covid-19 cas­es among some 76,000 peo­ple who fell sick between Octo­ber and ear­ly Decem­ber 2019, but turned down requests to share raw data on the larg­er group. That data would help the WHO-led team under­stand why Chi­na sought to only test those 92 peo­ple for anti­bod­ies.

    Team mem­bers also said they asked for access to a Wuhan blood bank to test sam­ples from before Decem­ber 2019 for anti­bod­ies. Chi­nese author­i­ties declined at first, cit­ing pri­va­cy con­cerns, then agreed, but have yet to pro­vide that access, team mem­bers say.
    ...

    And then there’s the ques­tion of whether or not old­er cas­es might be found else­where in the world, along with the ques­tion of whether or that ques­tion will even be asked. A lot of ques­tions. It’s one of the more dis­turb­ing themes of the world’s inves­ti­ga­tion into the ori­gin of this virus: the biggest ques­tion through­out this entire inves­ti­ga­tion is what ques­tions will inves­ti­ga­tors be allowed to actu­al­ly ask.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 24, 2021, 4:39 pm
  3. Now that the Biden admin­is­tra­tion has ordered the US intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty to pro­vide a new assess­ment on the lab leak hypoth­e­sis in the wake of the WSJ report on the three Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy (WIV) employ­ees who got sick enough to go the hos­pi­tal in Novem­ber 2019, it’s worth not­ing that this also comes less than two weeks after a group of sci­en­tists pub­lished a let­ter in Sci­ence demand­ing a more vig­or­ous inves­ti­ga­tion into the lab leak pos­si­bil­i­ty. The sign­ers of the let­ter include some names we should expect at this point, like Ali­na Chan. But it notably also includes Ralph Bar­ic, the fig­ure who could be seen as the glob­al grand mas­ter of coro­n­avirus ‘gain-of-func­tion’ exper­i­men­tal tech­niques. When asked about his sig­na­ture appear­ing on this let­ter, Bar­ic said that while he “per­son­al­ly believe[s] in the nat­ur­al ori­gin hypoth­e­sis,” the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion (WHO) should arrange for a rig­or­ous, open inves­ti­ga­tion.

    Over­all, the lab leak hypoth­e­sis is clear­ly being giv­en a new look glob­al­ly. Of course, that grow­ing glob­al spec­u­la­tion around a lab leak sce­nario is still exclu­sive­ly spec­u­la­tion around a leak from the WIV, with­out any con­sid­er­a­tion of the oth­er obvi­ous pos­si­bil­i­ties or the glob­al con­text of the the West­’s ongo­ing Chi­na desta­bi­liza­tion cam­paign. So it’s worth not­ing a few very inter­est­ing updates regard­ing what the globe knew about the clos­est known coro­n­avirus cousin to SARS-CoV­‑2, RaTG13. First, recall how Ali­na Chan observed how Shi Zhengli’s lab at the the WIV had accessed the RaTG13 viral sam­ple mul­ti­ple times through­out 2017–2018, con­trary to Shi’s ini­tial state­ments, based on the date time­stamps in the viral genom­ic sequence files Shi uploaded to the NIH’s data­bas­es in May of 2020. It raised the ques­tion of why Shi did­n’t remove that time­stamp infor­ma­tion infor­ma­tion in the sequence files.

    Well, here’s what is per­haps at least a par­tial answer for why Shi did­n’t both­er obscur­ing the time­stamps in those sequence files: It turns out RaTG13 was already par­tial­ly sequenced and includ­ed in a 2016 study pub­lished by Shi’s lab that com­pared the rel­a­tive evo­lu­tion­ary rela­tion­ship of 150 bat coro­n­avirus­es found in a cave in Yun­nan Province dur­ing sur­veil­lance mis­sions con­duct­ed in 2012–2013. Impor­tant­ly, these sur­veil­lance mis­sions to col­lect bio­log­i­cal sam­ples were con­duct­ed after three men work­ing in the cave got sick and died with a pneu­mo­nia-like ill­ness. So these 150 bat coro­n­avirus­es sur­veyed in this 2016 paper were top can­di­dates for a poten­tial­ly SARS-like virus that could jump to humans. Cru­cial­ly, of all the virus­es sam­pled, only two were beta­coro­n­avirus­es: RaTG13 (which was called Ra4991 at that time) and HpBtCoV/3740–2. These two virus­es clear­ly stand out as the evo­lu­tion­ary out­liers in the study, with the authors char­ac­ter­ize Ra4991 as arguably a new strain of the bat Sars-Like coro­n­avirus­es (SL-CoVs) and part of what could be a nov­el beta­coro­n­avirus species. Recall that SARS-CoV­‑2 is a mem­ber of the beta­coro­n­avirus fam­i­ly. So this 2016 study informed the world that what is now the clos­est known viral cousin to SARS-CoV­‑2, RaTG13/Ra4991, was at that point a mem­ber of a nov­el beta­coro­n­avirus fam­i­ly. In oth­er words, this 2016 paper told any­one in the world inter­est­ed in design­ing new human SARS-like virus­es that RaTG13/Ra4991 is poten­tial­ly a real­ly great can­di­date for con­sid­er­a­tion.

    Note that the entire viral sequence did­n’t need to be obtained for this 2016 paper. They were instead just com­par­ing the sequences of one spe­cif­ic gene, but it’s a gene for a ubiq­ui­tous pro­tein that is high­ly sta­ble from an evo­lu­tion­ary per­spec­tive, mak­ing it a use­ful gene for con­struct­ing phy­lo­ge­net­ic trees of genet­ic relat­ed­ness. Recall how the study of the phy­lo­ge­net­ic trees of SARS-CoV­‑2 has been a basic tool for under­stand­ing where the virus came from and how it’s evolv­ing. This 2016 study relies on sim­i­lar tech­niques, but was com­par­ing more dis­tant­ly relat­ed coro­n­avirus sam­ples to each oth­er instead. The fact that they only need­ed to sequence a sin­gle gene is note­wor­thy in the con­text of Ali­na Chan’s obser­va­tion that date time­stamps of the sequence files sug­gest­ed the sequenc­ing was tak­ing place from 2017–2018. It’s pos­si­ble just a sin­gle RaTG14/Ra4991 gene was pub­lished in 2016 and the rest of the sequenc­ing was done lat­er. But, impor­tant­ly in the con­text of the hunt for the ori­gins of SARS-CoV­‑2, the pub­li­ca­tion of this 2016 paper informed the world that the sequenc­ing of RaTG14/Ra4991 has already begun. As we’ll see, the sequence for the gene used in this study was actu­al­ly sub­mit­ted to the NIH’s data­bas­es in 2015, so tech­ni­cal­ly the world learned the sequenc­ing began on this virus at that point. But the sequenc­ing of this gene for Ra4991 was actu­al­ly first men­tioned in a May 2014 paper that appears to be an ear­li­er attempt to sur­vey the virus­es from the Yun­nan cave. So the world actu­al­ly offi­cial­ly learned about the sequenc­ing of Ra4991/RaTG13 in May of 2014, but did­n’t real­ly learn about the evo­lu­tion­ary sig­nif­i­cance of the virus until 2016.

    And, lo and behold, when we look at the acknowl­edge­ments for this 2016 paper, we find them cit­ing Peter Dasza­k’s USNIAID grant (R01AI110964). So, like much of Shi’s lab’s work on bat coro­n­avirus­es, this paper was fund­ed, in part, by the US gov­ern­ment. This fun fact of the USNIAID grant financ­ing this study actu­al­ly came up dur­ing con­gres­sion­al hear­ings last year. As we’ll see below, when pressed about his grant’s fund­ing of this 2016 paper in August of 2020, Peter Daszak replied that, yes, his grant like­ly paid the salaries of the peo­ple who wrote that paper, but insist­ed that the NIH has no con­trol over the actu­al sam­ple or how it was used or sequenced. Which is prob­a­bly tech­ni­cal­ly true, but kind of beside the point. You don’t expect col­lab­o­ra­tors to nec­es­sar­i­ly share con­trol over every­thing in their col­lab­o­ra­tion.

    Final­ly, it’s also been dis­cov­ered in recent weeks that stu­dents in Shi Zhengi’s lab have been pub­lish­ing dis­ser­ta­tions with ref­er­ences to RaTG13, includ­ing a dis­ser­ta­tion pub­lished in June of 2019 that appears to have been relied on the entire sequenced RaTG13 genome. That genome does­n’t appear to have been pub­lished along with the dis­ser­ta­tion but, at a min­i­mum, the dis­ser­ta­tion informed the world that the entire genome for the virus had been sequenced by Shi’s lab.

    Ok, first, here’s the para­graph from that 2016 paper describ­ing Ra4991 (RaTG13) as rep­re­sent­ing a new strain of the Sars-like beta­coro­n­avirus­es, with acknowl­edge­ments thank­ing Peter Dasza­k’s USNIAID grant:

    VIROLOGICA SINICA
    2016, 31 (1): 31–40

    Coex­is­tence of mul­ti­ple coro­n­avirus­es in sev­er­al bat colonies inan aban­doned mine­shaft

    Xing-Yi Ge1#, Ning Wang1#, Wei Zhang1, Ben Hu1, Bei Li1, Yun-Zhi Zhang2,3, Ji-Hua Zhou2,Chu-Ming Luo1, Xing-Lou Yang1, Li-Jun Wu1, Bo Wang1, Yun Zhang4, Zong-Xiao Li4, Zheng-Li Shi1*

    1. Key Lab­o­ra­to­ry of Spe­cial Pathogens, Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy, Chi­nese Acad­e­my of Sciences,Wuhan 430071, Chi­na
    2. Yun­nan Provin­cial Key Lab­o­ra­to­ry for Zoono­sis Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion, Yun­nan Insti­tute of EndemicDis­eases Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion, Dali 671000, Chi­na
    3. School of Pub­lic Health, Dali Uni­ver­si­ty, Dali 671000, Chi­na
    4. Mojiang Cen­ter for Dis­eases Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion, Mojiang 654800, Chi­na

    ...

    Beta­coro­n­avirus­es detect­ed in bats

    Only two sequences detect­ed in this study were homol­o­gous to beta­coro­n­avirus­es. One of them (RaBtCoV/4991) was detect­ed in a R. affi­nis sam­ple and was relat­ed to SL-CoV. The con­served 440-bp RdRp frag­ment of RaBt-CoV­/4991 had 89% nt iden­ti­ty and 95% aa iden­ti­ty with SL-CoV Rs672 (Yuan et al., 2010). In the phy­lo­ge­net­ic tree, RaBtCoV/4991 showed more diver­gence from human SARS-CoV than oth­er bat SL-CoVs and could be con­sid­ered as a new strain of this virus lin­eage (Figure2). Anoth­er sequence (HpBtCoV/3740–2) was detect­ed in a H. pomona sam­ple and shared the clos­est similarity(81% and 89.1% iden­ti­ties at nt and aa lev­els, respec­tive­ly, based on the 816-bp sequence) with a Hip­posideros bat coro­n­avirus Hipposideros/GhanaBoo/348/2008discovered in Ghana (Quan et al., 2010). These two strains, togeth­er with Zaria bat ZBCoV (host Hip­posideros com­mer­soni) and Thai­land bat BtCoV/B56054 (host Hip­posideros lar­va­tus) (Tong et al., 2009; Wachara­plue-sadee et al., 2015), formed an inde­pen­dent lin­eage dis­tant­ly relat­ed to SL-CoVs (Fig­ure 2, 3). The par­tial RdRp sequences of this lin­eage shared less than 90% aa iden­ti­ty com­pared to the clos­est CoVs in lin­eage B and thus, this lin­eage may rep­re­sent a nov­el beta­coro­n­avirus species.

    ...

    ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

    This work was joint­ly fund­ed by the Nation­al Nat­ur­al Sci­ence Foun­da­tion of Chi­na (81290341) and Sci­en­tif­ic and Tech­no­log­i­cal Basis Spe­cial Project (2013FY113500), and Chi­na Mega-Project for Infec­tious Dis­ease (2014ZX10004001-003) from the Min­is­ter of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­o­gy of the People’s Repub­lic of Chi­na, and USNIAID (R01AI110964). We are very grate­ful to Adam Niti­do for help in lan­guage edit­ing.

    ...

    ———–

    “Coex­is­tence of mul­ti­ple coro­n­avirus­es in sev­er­al bat colonies inan aban­doned mine­shaft” by Ge et al.; VIROLOGICA SINICA; 2016, 31 (1): 31–40;

    Be sure to view Fig­ure 2 in the paper and notice how Ra4991 is a clear evo­lu­tion­ary out­lier in the phy­lo­ge­net­ic plot. That plot, com­bined with the para­graph describ­ing Ra4991/RaTG13 as a new strain of this viral lin­eage, had to be quite an intrigu­ing piece of infor­ma­tion to the biowar­fare research com­mu­ni­ty. The glob­al biowar­fare research com­mu­ni­ty. Which rais­es the obvi­ous ques­tion of who else may have had access to that bio­log­i­cal sam­ple and/or the sequenc­ing infor­ma­tion when it became avail­able. It’s part of what makes the fund­ing of Dasza­k’s grant on this paper poten­tial­ly so sig­nif­i­cant. Did any of Shi’s col­lab­o­ra­tors pri­vate­ly get access to that sequence data? We don’t know, although was force to address this in a Twit­ter thread he start­ed back in August 20, 2020, where he lament­ed the White House­’s can­cel­la­tion of his grant in the wake of the con­gres­sion­al uproar over his work’s poten­tial con­nec­tion to WIV’s coro­n­avirus research. Daszak final­ly admit­ted that, yes, his grant paid for the research but insist­ed that he and the NIH had no author­i­ty over the actu­al bio­log­i­cal sam­ple. Which is like­ly tech­ni­cal­ly true, but it does­n’t real­ly address the ques­tion of whether or not the sequence for Ra4991/RaTG13 was ever shared with Shi’s col­lab­o­ra­tors like Daszak:

    “It under­mines bio­med­ical sci­ence to give in to pol­i­tics. I think that’s a fail­ure, & I think that Dr. Collins (@NIHDirector) fell at the first hur­dle. When chal­lenged by the White House to can­cel this grant he just gave in.” https://t.co/LZCqddgdM7— Peter Daszak (@PeterDaszak) August 20, 2020

    Here are some of the oth­er ‘out­ra­geous’ con­di­tions demand­ed by @NIHDirector — straight out of the con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry play­book. It makes a mock­ery of our basic process of bio­med­ical research fund­ing that con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries are being re-hashed in this way. pic.twitter.com/FBpasZWBnc— Peter Daszak (@PeterDaszak) August 20, 2020

    Re. point #5: Staff at Office of @NIHDirector did­n’t both­er to Google authorship/acknowledgements in paper describ­ing RaTG13 or its ear­li­er name BtCoV/4991. We were not part of this work. Sam­ples col­lect­ed pri­or to our grant so clear­ly out­side NIH’s remit. https://t.co/78Plo71s90— Peter Daszak (@PeterDaszak) August 20, 2020

    Now here is where some­one inter­rupts Daszak and and men­tions that Dasza­k’s grant was cit­ed in the paper. Daszak responds by point­ing out that the col­lec­tion date for the sam­ples pre­ced­ing his team’s col­lab­o­ra­tion with Shi (which start­ed in Jun of 2014), mak­ing the case that his grant had noth­ing to do with the col­lec­tion of the sam­ple:

    The Ge et al. Virol. Sini­ca 2016 paper men­tions fund­ing from USNIAID grant R01AI110964 to Eco­Health Alliance in the acknowl­edge­ments, https://t.co/fppAiGuT8i. Is that not the NIH grant in ques­tion?— Tom Wense­leers (@TWenseleers) August 22, 2020

    Cor­rect, but 2 papers: Nature paper (RaTG13 genome) w/ no US authors, no NIH grant; Ge et al. paper (BtCoV/4991) clear­ly shows col­lec­tion dates were pri­or to our grant start (06.2014) & no US authors. Ge prob. acknowl­edged NIH for sup­port dur­ing draft­ing paper. Fur­ther­more... pic.twitter.com/mm1Xu21Cj1— Peter Daszak (@PeterDaszak) August 22, 2020

    ...NIH are ask­ing specif­i­cal­ly about 2012 clin­i­cal study of min­ers that’s also before our grant start­ed, pub­lished in the­sis w/ clear­ly no involve­ment from us. They state that the virus was iso­lat­ed, which is incor­rect. It is clear­ly out­side their remit to demand this.— Peter Daszak (@PeterDaszak) August 22, 2020

    Now this per­son men­tions that the sequence for the gene used in the 2016 study was actu­al­ly sub­mit­ted to the NIH’s MCBI data­bas­es in March of 2015, which would sug­gest the sequenc­ing of this gene in the Ra4991/RaTG13 sam­ple was done at least in part under Dasza­k’s grant. Daszak acknowl­edges that the grant did sup­port the staff salaries as they wrote up the paper, but returns to his point that the NIH has no con­trol over the bio­log­i­cal sam­ple:

    But RdRp sequence of RaTG13/BtCov/2991 sub­mit­ted to NCBI in March 2015, https://t.co/EnhZ5oHqR4, so prob­a­bly part­ly fund­ed by grant? In which case pro­vid­ing access to that sam­ple for inde­pen­dent ver­i­fi­ca­tion might be a rea­son­able request. Oth­er con­di­tions over the top though.— Tom Wense­leers (@TWenseleers) August 26, 2020

    Nev­er heard of fun­der demand­ing PI pro­vide expla­na­tion about, or access to sam­ple col­lect­ed by a for­eign govt, in a for­eign coun­try, before grant began, based on a con­spir­a­to­r­i­al ratio­nale. But respect­ful­ly, I need to dis­cuss details w/NIH now — I believe they know this already!— Peter Daszak (@PeterDaszak) August 26, 2020

    I also saw you men­tion­ing this in this inter­view in the NYT, https://t.co/niFIo4turA, where you seem to imply that Eco­Health Alliance did help to col­lect this sam­ple. Or was that part of anoth­er ini­tia­tive? pic.twitter.com/YT1PzH6DRs— Tom Wense­leers (@TWenseleers) August 26, 2020

    As per above, we did not col­lect this sam­ple. We did sup­port salaries of staff as they wrote up the paper, I believe that’s why the grant was cit­ed. That means, yes, our col­lab­o­ra­tion report­ed clos­est virus to SARS, but no, nei­ther I, nor NIH have any author­i­ty over the sam­ple!— Peter Daszak (@PeterDaszak) August 26, 2020

    So Dasza­k’s ulti­mate expla­na­tion for ques­tion about the rela­tion­ship between his long-stand­ing work­ing rela­tion­ship with Shi’s lab and the work on Ra4991/RaTG13 is that the NIH did­n’t con­trol the bio­log­i­cal sam­ple the work was based on...it mere­ly fund­ed the work on that sam­ple. It’s an dis­tinc­tion of ques­tion­able rel­e­vance.

    Now here’s a twit­ter thread by a “TruthSeeker268” from a cou­ple weeks ago that Ali­na Chan has been pro­mot­ing. This appears to be where the June 2019 dis­ser­ta­tion the­sis out of Shi’s lab indi­cat­ing the full sequenc­ing of Ra4991/RaTG13 was first noticed. The twit­ter thread starts off by point­ing out a May 2014 study pub­lished by Shi’s lab that appears to be sim­i­lar an ear­li­er ver­sion of the 2016 sur­vey of viral sam­ples obtained from the Yun­nan cave. It’s in that paper where we first see the sequenc­ing of the sin­gle gene for Ra4991 men­tioned in pub­li­ca­tion. So by May of 2014, the sequenc­ing of Ra4991/RaTG13 had begun.

    ?????? Gear up. Reveal­ing three the­ses from Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy which pro­vides new details on Mojiang sam­pling, 4991 genome, 7896-clade, unpub­lished CoVs, coro­n­avirus reverse genet­ics and more! All the­ses were super­vised by Shi Zhengli. Links at the end of the thread.— The Seek­er (@TheSeeker268) May 12, 2021

    Here’s is the tweet intro­duc­ing the 2014 paper were Ra4991 is first men­tioned:

    1/ Sero­log­i­cal Cross-Reac­tiv­i­ty Analy­sis of Coro­n­avirus Based on Nucle­o­cap­sid Pro­teins (by Ning Wang, May 2014) pic.twitter.com/2KM3ddxqmN— The Seek­er (@TheSeeker268) May 12, 2021

    Here are some key take­aways:• It is the 1st time a WIV study men­tions the min­ers out­break: “Three min­ers died from pneu­mo­nia in Mojiang..we inves­ti­gat­ed the virus car­ried by bats in this cave..it is like­ly that the six min­ers were infect­ed with the pathogen car­ried by bats.”— The Seek­er (@TheSeeker268) May 12, 2021

    • This very obvi­ous­ly — and for the third time — flies in the face of WIV’s claim that the miner’s ill­ness were thought to be relat­ed to fun­gal infec­tion. https://t.co/Rp3xVVTXKJ— The Seek­er (@TheSeeker268) May 12, 2021

    • What I find most fas­ci­nat­ing: In this study, “fever patient sera were obtained from a hos­pi­tal in Yun­nan Province.” 30 sera were obtained in total, and all marked MJ (almost cer­tain­ly Mojiang).Note: Shi’s @nature adden­dum men­tions only 13 sera col­lect­ed from 4 patients. pic.twitter.com/1OPrRf7ewY— The Seek­er (@TheSeeker268) May 12, 2021

    • A total of 170 bat sam­ples were col­lect­ed from Mojiang in 2012, of which 109 were pos­i­tive for coro­n­avirus, with a pos­i­tive rate of 64%! Seems the mine was indeed a holy grail for virus hunters! pic.twitter.com/lQvOApsVJ6— The Seek­er (@TheSeeker268) May 12, 2021

    • The author notes: “The full-length sequences of N and RdRp genes of sev­er­al coro­n­avirus­es have been suc­cess­ful­ly ampli­fied, but only a small num­ber of full-length sequences of S genes have been ampli­fied.”— The Seek­er (@TheSeeker268) May 12, 2021

    • On S gene sequences, the author notes: “there are still some urgent tech­ni­cal bar­ri­ers to the ampli­fi­ca­tion of the S gene sequences, espe­cial­ly the full-length sequences, and it is urgent to accom­plish the rel­e­vant tech­ni­cal break­throughs in future stud­ies”— The Seek­er (@TheSeeker268) May 12, 2021

    • In the acknowl­edge­ment sec­tion, the author thanks Lin­fa Wang for his “guid­ance” on the project. This con­firms my long held sus­pi­cion that Lin­fa Wang knew about the min­ers outbreak.“If three peo­ple died and it was con­trolled would we know it?“https://t.co/qibMjKb5YC— The Seek­er (@TheSeeker268) May 12, 2021

    And here’s the tweet that iden­ti­fies where in the 2014 paper we see the first ever ref­er­ence to Ra4991, which had at least one gene sequenced for this com­par­i­son study:

    • And final­ly the study reports, for the first time ever, Ra4991: “Over­lap PCR was per­formed on the ampli­fied bat coro­n­avirus N gene, of which 4991, 3740(ß)-N was ampli­fied by lab­o­ra­to­ry asso­ciate” pic.twitter.com/kf5e8aHNQR— The Seek­er (@TheSeeker268) May 12, 2021

    Now they point out a 2017 the­sis out of Shi’s lab that describes a num­ber of meth­ods that sure sound a lot like ‘gain-of-func­tion’ method­olo­gies:

    2/ Reverse Genet­ic Sys­tem of Bat SARS-like Coro­n­avirus­es and Func­tion of ORFX (by Lei-Ping Zeng, April 2017) pic.twitter.com/LPyRQUtK7s— The Seek­er (@TheSeeker268) May 12, 2021

    A few illus­tra­tive quotes from the the­sis:• “In this study, we com­bined the advan­tages of two main­stream coro­n­avirus reverse genet­ics meth­ods, estab­lished a new effi­cient and cost-effec­tive method”, and “a scheme to replace the S gene with­out traces”.— The Seek­er (@TheSeeker268) May 12, 2021

    • The reverse genet­ics sys­tem estab­lished in this study “can be used to res­cue virus­es whose sequences have only been iden­ti­fied, to study the func­tion of virus-encod­ed pro­teins, to help assess their path­o­genic­i­ty, and to explore their evo­lu­tion­ary and trans­mis­sion mech­a­nisms.”— The Seek­er (@TheSeeker268) May 12, 2021

    • The author also points out: “It can also help to eval­u­ate the effec­tive­ness of exist­ing anti­bod­ies and drugs against SARS against these bat-derived SL-CoV.”— The Seek­er (@TheSeeker268) May 12, 2021

    • And: “deter­min­ing in the lab whether recom­bi­na­tion occurs after co-infec­tion with dif­fer­ent SL-CoV strains and what new strains may arise..is ben­e­fi­cial for study­ing the evo­lu­tion­ary pat­tern of SL-CoV and pro­vid­ing a basis for pre­vent­ing pos­si­ble future out­breaks..” pic.twitter.com/i81D07pHgS— The Seek­er (@TheSeeker268) May 12, 2021

    • The author sum­ma­rizes the out­look as: “At this point, our lab­o­ra­to­ry can estab­lish a com­plete sys­tem from viral pathogen dis­cov­ery, pathogen res­cue and pathogen path­o­genic­i­ty assess­ment to deep­en and accel­er­ate the epi­demi­o­log­i­cal study of emerg­ing virus­es.”— The Seek­er (@TheSeeker268) May 12, 2021

    • Zeng also men­tions new meth­ods that have emerged recent­ly: “yeast recom­bi­na­tion or in vit­ro recom­bi­na­tion”, which “applied to the reverse genet­ics of coro­n­avirus­es could devel­op more effi­cient and eco­nom­i­cal method” for virol­o­gy research. What hap­pened to this line of study?— The Seek­er (@TheSeeker268) May 12, 2021

    And here’s the tweet that iden­ti­fies the June 2019 dis­ser­ta­tion the­sis that involved the full sequenc­ing of 170 coro­n­avirus­es, includ­ing Ra4991:

    3/ Geo­graph­ic Evo­lu­tion of Bat SARS-relat­ed Coro­n­avirus­es (by Yu Ping, June 2019) pic.twitter.com/mGWoX1hPik— The Seek­er (@TheSeeker268) May 12, 2021

    • “This study con­duct­ed large-scale detec­tion and analy­sis of SARS-like coro­n­avirus in bat sam­ples col­lect­ed from twen­ty regions in Chi­na from 2011 to 2016.” A total of 9261 sam­ples were col­lect­ed (2815 from Yun­nan), and 170 SARS-like coro­n­avirus were detect­ed (92 from Yun­nan). pic.twitter.com/TgDwDrCDtE— The Seek­er (@TheSeeker268) May 12, 2021

    • “In this study, the full-length RdRp sequence (2757 bp) was ampli­fied for phy­lo­ge­net­ic analy­sis of the virus, and final­ly 60 full-length RdRp sequences of SARS-like coro­n­avirus­es were obtained from pos­i­tive sam­ples.”— The Seek­er (@TheSeeker268) May 12, 2021

    • This is impor­tant: “SL-CoVs with­out dele­tions in the RBM region are able to uti­lize ACE2 recep­tors.. where­as SL-COVs with dele­tions in this region are not able to uti­lize ACE2 recep­tors.. Cur­rent­ly, bat SL-CoVs with­out dele­tions in the RBM region are only found in Yun­nan.”— The Seek­er (@TheSeeker268) May 12, 2021

    • Based on the phy­lo­ge­net­ic analy­sis of the coro­n­avirus­es, the author con­cludes: “bat SARS-like coro­n­avirus­es tend to clus­ter togeth­er more by geo­graph­ic loca­tion than by host species, sug­gest­ing that space plays a greater bar­ri­er role.”— The Seek­er (@TheSeeker268) May 12, 2021

    Here’s the tweet where they point out the whole genome of Ra4991 was sequenced for this dis­ser­ta­tion:

    • In this study they sequenced the whole genome of Ra4991, and three oth­er SARS-like coro­n­avirus­es. (The table could hold impor­tant clues.) pic.twitter.com/a68U6N9V3f— The Seek­er (@TheSeeker268) May 12, 2021

    • And this is big: The study con­firms, for the first time, that the 7896-clade from the mojiang mine were sequenced way before the covid out­break. And more than just the RdRp frag­ment: i.e. the Spike of 7896; ORF8 of 7896, 7909 & 7952; and the RBD+NTD of 7905, 7909, 7924 & 7931. pic.twitter.com/iw8K4yZUly— The Seek­er (@TheSeeker268) May 12, 2021

    • So just to be clear: WIV had all these sequences at the time most close­ly relat­ed to SARS-CoV­‑2 and they chose not to dis­close it in Jan 2020, and even after 15 months. pic.twitter.com/4GhdbPySt2— The Seek­er (@TheSeeker268) May 12, 2021

    And that’s a wrap! Here is the link for the the­ses and their trans­la­tions: https://t.co/LdbHBBzgJeCopy-edit­ed and trans­lat­ed by: @francsicodeasis (thank you so much!) and me, with gen­er­ous help from Google, Adobe and DeepL.— The Seek­er (@TheSeeker268) May 12, 2021

    Once this dis­ser­ta­tion was pub­lished in June of 2019, there could be no deny­ing that Shi’s lab at the WIV had entire­ly sequenced RaTG13/Ra4991 before the out­break of the pan­dem­ic. About 6 months before the out­break was first rec­og­nized. And yet we can be con­fi­dent that groups around the world with an inter­est in biowar­fare had to be at least inter­est­ed in RaTG13/Ra4991 since at least the pub­li­ca­tion of that 2016 paper. These are some of the key con­tours of this his­to­ry that should be inves­ti­gat­ed if there’s any gen­uine inter­est in inves­ti­gat­ing the ori­gins of this virus. Key con­tours that will like­ly be sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly ignored. With that like­ly out­come in mind, here’s a report on the recent pub­li­ca­tion of a let­ter in Sci­ence call­ing for a new lab leak inves­ti­ga­tion. Signed by none oth­er than Ralph Bar­ic:

    and
    KHN

    To the Bat Cave: In Search of Covid’s Ori­gins, Sci­en­tists Reignite Polar­iz­ing Debate on Wuhan ‘Lab Leak’

    By Arthur Allen
    May 19, 2021

    Once dis­missed as a con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry, the idea that the covid virus escaped from a Chi­nese lab is gain­ing high-pro­file atten­tion. As it does, rep­u­ta­tions of renowned sci­en­tists are at risk — and so is their per­son­al safe­ty.

    At the cen­ter of the storm is Peter Daszak, whose Eco­Health Alliance has worked direct­ly with Chi­nese coro­n­avirus sci­en­tists for years. The sci­en­tist has been pil­lo­ried by Repub­li­cans and lost Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health fund­ing for his work. He gets floods of threats, includ­ing hate mail with sus­pi­cious pow­ders. In a rare inter­view, he con­ced­ed that he can’t dis­prove that the dead­ly covid-19 virus result­ed from a lab leak at the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy — though he doesn’t believe it.

    “It’s a good con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry,” Daszak told KHN. “For­eign­ers design­ing a virus in a mys­te­ri­ous lab, a nefar­i­ous activ­i­ty, and then the cloak of secre­cy around Chi­na.”

    But to attack sci­en­tists “is not only shoot­ing the mes­sen­ger,” he said. “It’s shoot­ing the peo­ple with the con­duit to where the next pan­dem­ic could hap­pen.”

    Yet what if the mes­sen­gers were not only bear­ing bad news but also acci­den­tal­ly unleashed a virus that went on to kill more than 3 mil­lion peo­ple?

    The gen­er­al­ly accept­ed sci­en­tif­ic hypoth­e­sis holds that the covid virus arose through nat­ur­al muta­tions as it spread from bats to humans, pos­si­bly at one of China’s numer­ous “wet mar­kets,” where caged ani­mals are sold and slaugh­tered. An alter­na­tive expla­na­tion is that the virus some­how leaked from the Wuhan Insti­tute, one of Daszak’s sci­en­tif­ic part­ners, pos­si­bly by way of an infect­ed lab work­er.

    The lab leak hypoth­e­sis has picked up more adher­ents as time pass­es and sci­en­tists fail to detect a bat or oth­er ani­mal infect­ed with a virus that has covid’s sig­na­ture genet­ics. By con­trast, with­in a few months of the start of the 2003 SARS pan­dem­ic, sci­en­tists found the cul­prit coro­n­avirus in ani­mals sold in Chi­nese mar­kets. But sam­ples from 80,000 ani­mals to date have failed to turn up a virus point­ing to the ori­gins of SARS-CoV­‑2 — the virus that caus­es covid. The virus’s ances­tors orig­i­nat­ed in bats in south­ern Chi­na, 600 miles from Wuhan. But covid con­tains unusu­al muta­tions or sequences that made it ide­al for infect­ing peo­ple, an issue explored in depth by jour­nal­ist Nicholas Wade.

    Sci­en­tists from the Wuhan Insti­tute have col­lect­ed thou­sands of coro­n­avirus spec­i­mens from bats and reg­is­tered them in data­bas­es closed to inspec­tion. Could one of those virus­es have escaped, per­haps after a “gain of func­tion” exper­i­ment that ren­dered it more dan­ger­ous?

    Daszak, who finds such the­o­ries spe­cious, was the only Amer­i­can on a 10-mem­ber team that the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion sent to Chi­na this win­ter to inves­ti­gate the ori­gins of the virus. The group con­clud­ed its work with­out gain­ing access to data­bas­es at the Wuhan Insti­tute, but dis­missed the lab leak hypoth­e­sis as unlike­ly. WHO Direc­tor-Gen­er­al Tedros Adhanom Ghe­breye­sus, how­ev­er, said the hypoth­e­sis “requires fur­ther inves­ti­ga­tion.”

    On Fri­day, 18 virus and immunol­o­gy experts pub­lished a let­ter in the jour­nal Sci­ence demand­ing a deep­er dive. “The­o­ries of acci­den­tal release from a lab and zoonot­ic spillover both remain viable,” they said, adding that the Wuhan Insti­tute should open its records. One of the sig­na­to­ries was a North Car­oli­na virol­o­gist who has worked direct­ly with the Wuhan Institute’s top sci­en­tists.

    That demand is “def­i­nite­ly not accept­able,” respond­ed Shi Zhengli, who directs the Cen­ter for Emerg­ing Infec­tious Dis­eases at the Wuhan Insti­tute. “Who can pro­vide evi­dence that does not exist?” she told MIT Tech­nol­o­gy Review. Shi has said that thou­sands of attempts to hack its com­put­er sys­tems forced the insti­tute to close its data­base.

    Many lead­ing virol­o­gists con­tin­ue to believe that “zoonot­ic trans­mis­sion” — from a bat or some oth­er ani­mal to a human — remains the most like­ly ori­gin sto­ry. Yet the lack of evi­dence for that is trou­bling, 17 months after the emer­gence of covid, said Stan­ley Perl­man, a Uni­ver­si­ty of Iowa virol­o­gist who was not among the Sci­ence let­ter sig­na­to­ries.

    The fact that no bat or oth­er ani­mal has been found infect­ed with any­thing resem­bling the covid virus, which sud­den­ly swept through Wuhan at the end of 2019, “has put the lab leak hypoth­e­sis back on the table,” although there is no evi­dence sup­port­ing that the­o­ry either, he said.

    Ali­na Chan, a Broad Insti­tute post­doc­tor­al researcher who signed the Sci­ence let­ter, agrees that there is no “dis­pos­i­tive” evi­dence either way for covid’s emer­gence. But a net­work of ama­teur sleuths have put togeth­er evi­dence, she said, that the Wuhan Insti­tute has covid-like virus­es in its col­lec­tion that it has not deposit­ed in glob­al data­bas­es, as would be cus­tom­ary dur­ing a glob­al pan­dem­ic. Chan and oth­ers are par­tic­u­lar­ly curi­ous about a bunch of SARS-like virus­es that the insti­tute col­lect­ed from a cave in Yun­nan province where guano min­ers suf­fered a dead­ly out­break of res­pi­ra­to­ry dis­ease in 2012.

    “We don’t have access to that data,” Chan said. She and oth­er sci­en­tists won­der why the covid virus was so ide­al­ly suit­ed to human-to-human trans­mis­sion from the onset with­out signs of an inter­me­di­ate host or cir­cu­la­tion in the human pop­u­la­tion before the Wuhan out­break.

    In a paper post­ed to a virol­o­gy forum last week, Robert Gar­ry of Tulane Uni­ver­si­ty, who doubts the lab leak hypoth­e­sis, brought forth a new frag­ment of “spillover” evi­dence: The WHO report shows that some of the first 168 cas­es of covid were linked to two or more ani­mal mar­kets in Wuhan, he said, with strains from dif­fer­ent mar­kets show­ing slight dif­fer­ences in their genet­ic sequence. “Maybe one ani­mal was in a truck with a bunch of cages and then it spread it to anoth­er species and that’s where the shift took place,” Gar­ry said.

    Gar­ry and oth­er inter­na­tion­al sci­en­tists have worked with Shi and her lab for years. The evi­dence for Garry’s sup­po­si­tion isn’t air­tight, he admit­ted, but it’s more con­vinc­ing than “con­triv­ing some­thing where some of the world’s lead­ing virol­o­gists are cov­er­ing up at the behest of the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Par­ty,” he said.

    Shi has no greater defend­er in the Unit­ed States than Daszak, whose Eco­Health Alliance was a wildlife pro­tec­tion orga­ni­za­tion when he joined it two decades ago. The group has since expand­ed its goals from pro­tect­ing endan­gered ani­mals to pro­tect­ing humans endan­gered by the pathogens traf­ficked with those ani­mals. The more than $50 mil­lion Eco­Health Alliance had received in U.S. fund­ing since 2007 includes con­tracts and grants from two NIH insti­tutes, the Nation­al Sci­ence Foun­da­tion and the U.S. Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­ment, as well as Pen­ta­gon funds to look for organ­isms that could be fash­ioned into bioter­ror weapons.

    Daszak has co-authored at least 21 research papers on bat coro­n­avirus­es since 2005, find­ing hun­dreds of virus­es capa­ble of infect­ing peo­ple. He esti­mat­ed that about 1 mil­lion peo­ple a year are infect­ed with bat virus­es — a num­ber that’s grown as humans encroach on bat habi­tats.

    He recalled a 2019 vis­it to a cave filled with mil­lions of bats. “Tourists were going in there in shorts, and we were in there in full PPE. They asked us, ‘What are you doing?’ and we told them, ‘We’re look­ing for virus­es like SARS.’’’

    In April 2020, cit­ing what he said was evi­dence of the virus’s link to the Wuhan lab, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ordered the NIH to can­cel a five-year, $3.7 mil­lion grant for Eco­Health Alliance’s bat virus research. But about 70% of the group’s annu­al $12 mil­lion bud­get con­tin­ues to come from the U.S. gov­ern­ment, Daszak said.

    When the NIH grant was frozen, Daszak called the lab leak hypoth­e­sis “pure baloney,” say­ing he was con­fi­dent his Chi­nese sci­en­tif­ic part­ners were not hid­ing any­thing. But he admits it is impos­si­ble to dis­prove.

    “There are plen­ty of rea­sons to ques­tion China’s open­ness and trans­paren­cy on a whole range of issues includ­ing ear­ly report­ing of the pan­dem­ic,” he told KHN. “You can nev­er defin­i­tive­ly say that what Chi­na is telling us is cor­rect.”

    Daszak said he thinks it more like­ly that Chi­na is cov­er­ing up the role of the country’s wildlife mar­kets in covid’s ori­gin. Farm­ing of these ani­mals employs 14 mil­lion peo­ple, and the gov­ern­ment has closed and reopened the mar­kets since SARS. Fol­low­ing the covid out­break, the Chi­nese author­i­ties’ inves­ti­ga­tion of Wuhan’s ani­mal mar­kets, where the virus could have mutat­ed after pas­sage through dif­fer­ent species, was incom­plete, Daszak said.

    “Peo­ple don’t real­ize how sen­si­tive Chi­na is about this,” he said. “It’s plau­si­ble that they rec­og­nized there were cas­es com­ing out of a mar­ket and they shut it down.”

    A Con­tro­ver­sy With Roots

    The sci­en­tif­ic con­flict over the lab hypoth­e­sis is part­ly root­ed in a debate over gain-of-func­tion exper­i­ments, work that in the­o­ry could lead to the cre­ation and release of more infec­tious or dead­ly organ­isms. In such exper­i­ments, sci­en­tists in a lab can, for exam­ple, test a virus’s abil­i­ty to mutate by expos­ing it to dif­fer­ent cell types or to mice genet­i­cal­ly engi­neered with human immune sys­tem traits.

    At least six of the 18 sig­na­to­ries of the Sci­ence let­ter are part of the Cam­bridge Work­ing Group, whose mem­bers wor­ry about the release of pathogens from the grow­ing num­ber of virus labs around the world.

    In 2012, Dr. Antho­ny Fau­ci, who leads NIH’s Nation­al Insti­tute of Aller­gy and Infec­tious Dis­eases, came out in sup­port of a mora­to­ri­um on such research, pos­ing a hypo­thet­i­cal sce­nario involv­ing a poor­ly trained sci­en­tist in a poor­ly reg­u­lat­ed lab: “In an unlike­ly but con­ceiv­able turn of events, what if that sci­en­tist becomes infect­ed with the virus, which leads to an out­break and ulti­mate­ly trig­gers a pan­dem­ic?” Fau­ci wrote.

    In 2017, the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment lift­ed its pause on such exper­i­ments but has since required some be approved by a fed­er­al board.

    In his ques­tion­ing of Fau­ci in the Sen­ate last week, Sen. Rand Paul (R‑Ky.) cit­ed a 2015 paper writ­ten by Shi, Ralph Bar­ic of the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na and oth­ers in which they fused a SARS-like virus with a nov­el bat virus spike pro­tein and found that it sick­ened research mice. The exper­i­ment pro­vid­ed evi­dence of the per­ils that lurked in Chi­nese bat caves, but the authors also raised the ques­tion of whether such stud­ies were “too risky to pur­sue.”

    .@RandPaul: “Dr. Fau­ci, do you still support...NIH fund­ing of the lab in Wuhan?” Dr. Antho­ny Fau­ci: “Sen­a­tor Paul, with all due respect, you are entire­ly and com­plete­ly incorrect...“Full video: https://t.co/ILTKlTSQdC pic.twitter.com/t0HxwsWXmm— CSPAN (@cspan) May 11, 2021

    Crit­ics have jumped on this paper as evi­dence that Shi was con­duct­ing “gain of func­tion” exper­i­ments that could have cre­at­ed a super­bug, but Shi denies it. The research cit­ed in the paper was con­duct­ed in North Car­oli­na.

    Using a sim­i­lar tech­nique, in 2017, Baric’s lab showed that remde­sivir — cur­rent­ly the only licensed drug for treat­ing covid — could be use­ful in fight­ing coro­n­avirus infec­tions. Bar­ic also helped test the Mod­er­na covid vac­cine and a lead­ing new drug can­di­date against covid.

    Research into covid-like virus­es is vital, Bar­ic said. “A ter­ri­ble truth,” he said, “is that mil­lions of coro­n­avirus­es exist in ani­mal reser­voirs, like bats, and unfor­tu­nate­ly many appear poised for rapid trans­mis­sion between species.”

    Bar­ic told KHN he does not believe covid result­ed from gain-of-func­tion research. But he signed the Sci­ence let­ter call­ing for a more thor­ough inves­ti­ga­tion of his Chi­nese col­leagues’ lab­o­ra­to­ry, he said in an email, because while he “per­son­al­ly believe[s] in the nat­ur­al ori­gin hypoth­e­sis,” WHO should arrange for a rig­or­ous, open inves­ti­ga­tion. It should review the biosafe­ty lev­el under which bat coro­n­avirus research was con­duct­ed at the Wuhan Insti­tute, obtain­ing detailed infor­ma­tion on the train­ing and safe­ty pro­ce­dures and efforts to mon­i­tor pos­si­ble infec­tions among lab per­son­nel.

    Fau­ci also told KHN, in an email, that “we at the NIH are very much in favor of a thor­ough inves­ti­ga­tion as to the ori­gins of SARS-CoV­‑2.”

    Scal­ing the Wall of Secre­cy

    U.S.-China ten­sions will make it very dif­fi­cult to con­clude any such study, sci­en­tists on both sides of the issue sug­gest. With their anti-Chi­na rhetoric, Trump and his aides “could not have made it more dif­fi­cult to get coop­er­a­tion,” said Dr. Ger­ald Keusch, asso­ciate direc­tor of the Nation­al Emerg­ing Infec­tious Dis­eases Lab­o­ra­to­ry Insti­tute at Boston Uni­ver­si­ty. If a dis­ease had emerged from the U.S. and the Chi­nese blamed the Pen­ta­gon and demand­ed access to the data, “what would we say?” Keusch asked. “Would we throw out the red car­pet, ‘Come on over to Fort Det­rick and the Rocky Moun­tain Lab?’ We’d have done exact­ly what the Chi­nese did, which is say, ‘Screw you!’”

    Still, while Chi­na has shut off its lab­o­ra­to­ries to out­side inquiry, that doesn’t mean all inves­tiga­tive avenues are closed, Chan said. Many Chi­nese sci­en­tists were in con­tact with col­leagues and jour­nals out­side the coun­try as the pan­dem­ic emerged. Those com­mu­ni­ca­tions may con­tain clues, Chan said, and some­one should method­i­cal­ly inter­view the con­tact­ed indi­vid­u­als.

    ...

    ———-

    “To the Bat Cave: In Search of Covid’s Ori­gins, Sci­en­tists Reignite Polar­iz­ing Debate on Wuhan ‘Lab Leak’” by Arthur Allen; KHN; 05/19/2021

    “Bar­ic told KHN he does not believe covid result­ed from gain-of-func­tion research. But he signed the Sci­ence let­ter call­ing for a more thor­ough inves­ti­ga­tion of his Chi­nese col­leagues’ lab­o­ra­to­ry, he said in an email, because while he “per­son­al­ly believe[s] in the nat­ur­al ori­gin hypoth­e­sis,” WHO should arrange for a rig­or­ous, open inves­ti­ga­tion. It should review the biosafe­ty lev­el under which bat coro­n­avirus research was con­duct­ed at the Wuhan Insti­tute, obtain­ing detailed infor­ma­tion on the train­ing and safe­ty pro­ce­dures and efforts to mon­i­tor pos­si­ble infec­tions among lab per­son­nel.”

    You have to won­der if, when Bar­ic called for an inves­ti­ga­tion into the lab leak hypoth­e­sis, he was includ­ing an inves­ti­ga­tion of his own lab in that call. Because it would be a non­sense inves­ti­ga­tion if it was­n’t includ­ed, and yet there’s no indi­ca­tion at all that any future lab leak inves­ti­ga­tions will include the inves­ti­ga­tion of any labs out­side of the WIV. So when Ali­na Chan points out that evi­dence sug­gests that Shi’s lab has COVID-like virus­es in its col­lec­tion that it has­n’t deposit­ed in glob­al data­bas­es and laments that “we don’t have access to that data”, we real­ly have to ask and answer the ques­tion: did any­one else on the plan­et get access to this pri­vate col­lec­tion of virus sequences? Glob­al col­lab­o­ra­tors per­haps?

    ...
    Ali­na Chan, a Broad Insti­tute post­doc­tor­al researcher who signed the Sci­ence let­ter, agrees that there is no “dis­pos­i­tive” evi­dence either way for covid’s emer­gence. But a net­work of ama­teur sleuths have put togeth­er evi­dence, she said, that the Wuhan Insti­tute has covid-like virus­es in its col­lec­tion that it has not deposit­ed in glob­al data­bas­es, as would be cus­tom­ary dur­ing a glob­al pan­dem­ic. Chan and oth­ers are par­tic­u­lar­ly curi­ous about a bunch of SARS-like virus­es that the insti­tute col­lect­ed from a cave in Yun­nan province where guano min­ers suf­fered a dead­ly out­break of res­pi­ra­to­ry dis­ease in 2012.

    “We don’t have access to that data,” Chan said. She and oth­er sci­en­tists won­der why the covid virus was so ide­al­ly suit­ed to human-to-human trans­mis­sion from the onset with­out signs of an inter­me­di­ate host or cir­cu­la­tion in the human pop­u­la­tion before the Wuhan out­break.
    ...

    It’s also worth tak­ing a step back and not­ing that the big scan­dal here, if it is a scan­dal, is that Shi’s lab was­n’t read­i­ly pub­licly releas­ing the viral sequences of virus­es like Ra4991/RaTG13 with the world and only did so belat­ed­ly in 2020. It rais­es the ques­tion: so would we pre­fer that Shi’s lab had just gone ahead and pub­lished every viral genome­ic sam­ple it comes across? Is that actu­al­ly a good idea in an era when any­one can take a viral sequence and turn it into a live virus? After all, as the 2016 paper demon­strat­ed, it was­n’t a huge chal­lenge to iden­ti­fy Ra4991/RaTG13 as a tempt­ing can­di­date for some­thing nasty. It stuck out from the rest. Should they have just imme­di­ate­ly pub­lished it?

    Keep in mind that these are the exact same debates that result­ed in the Eco­Health Alliance’s col­lab­o­ra­tion with Shi’s lab and the ‘gain-of-func­tion’ approach to virus hunt­ing. The whole idea behind the ‘gain-of-func­tion’ approach to this type of research is to deter­mine whether or not a virus is close to becom­ing dan­ger­ous to humans is to take those can­di­date virus­es, like Ra4991/RaTG13, mod­i­fy them, and test their new vir­u­lence. So if we learn that Shi’s lab was con­duct­ing ‘gain-of-func­tion’ exper­i­ments on Ra4991, keep in mind that this would be exact­ly what they are expect­ed to do as part of their Eco­Health Alliance col­lab­o­ra­tion. Which, again, rais­es the ques­tion of whether or not any of this infor­ma­tion on Ra4991/RaTG13 or oth­er yet-to-be-pub­lished coro­n­avirus­es has been pri­vate­ly shared with Daszak or any of Shi’s oth­er inter­na­tion­al col­lab­o­ra­tors. It’s arguably one of the most impor­tant ques­tions in the con­text of a lab leak inves­ti­ga­tion, which is why it prob­a­bly won’t be asked.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 27, 2021, 4:30 pm
  4. @Pterrafractyl–

    Good Job!

    Note, in pass­ing, that there is NO dis­cus­sion by ANY of the peo­ple about the state-of-the-art in BW and syn­the­siz­ing microor­gan­isms.

    Once the genome is public–and you have illus­trat­ed that that is indeed the case–the organ­ism can be recre­at­ed and/or tweaked at will.

    That is why the con­text I will be dis­cussing in the next pro­gram is so fun­da­men­tal to an under­stand­ing of what is going on.

    Best,

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | May 27, 2021, 6:41 pm
  5. @Dave: It turns out there was a very recent write up in a Nor­we­gian pub­li­ca­tion, Min­er­va, about the the­sis dis­ser­ta­tion by a stu­dent in Shi Zhengli’s lab pub­lished in June of 2019 that involved the clos­est known viral cousin to SARS-CoV­‑2, RaTG13/Ra4991. And this write up includes a rather sig­nif­i­cant detail about this the­sis work: The the­sis involved the cre­ation of chimeric virus­es and test­ing how these chimeric virus­es infect­ed human cells. In oth­er words, the the­sis was describ­ing gain-of-func­tion work on the clos­est known viral cousin to SARS-CoV­‑2. So that con­firms that, yes, gain-of-func­tion work on the RaTG13/R4991 was being con­duct­ed at the WIV in the peri­od lead­ing up to the pan­dem­ic.

    But it also con­firms anoth­er rather cru­cial fact relat­ed to this whole inves­ti­ga­tion of the ori­gins of the virus: this gain-of-func­tion work was not a secret. They pub­lished about it in a #@%& dis­ser­ta­tion! Beyond that, it sounds like some of the work in this dis­ser­ta­tion was pub­lished in a 2017 paper in PLOS. Guess who is a co-author on that paper: Peter Daszak. The study was fund­ed in part by his USNIAID grant. So we can be pret­ty con­fi­dent that the work that went into these dis­ser­ta­tions was work the Eco­Health Alliance was famil­iar with.

    And as we already saw, a 2017 the­sis pub­lished by anoth­er one of Shi’s stu­dents sure sound­ed like it was employ­ing gain-of-func­tion tech­niques on these bat coro­n­avirus­es. So there was gain-of-func­tion research on bat coro­n­avirus­es tak­ing place in Shi’s lab since at least 2017 and it was not at all a secret to the world. And why would it be? Recall the now-noto­ri­ous 2015 paper co-authored by Shi Zhengli and Ralph Bar­ic involv­ing the cre­ation of chimeric coro­n­avirus­es. This is just how this research was con­duct­ed by the glob­al research com­mu­ni­ty. Not just in Chi­na. Grant­ed, the US tem­porar­i­ly banned gain-of-func­tion work in 2014 before Pres­i­dent Trump restart­ed the work, so there was a pause on this kind of research in the US due to the broad­er con­tro­ver­sy of gain-of-func­tion meth­ods. But with­in the coro­n­avirus research com­mu­ni­ty, these have become stan­dard tech­niques. That’s what what makes the admis­sions of gain-of-func­tion method­olo­gies in the June 2019 the­sis, or the ear­ly 2017 the­sis, so sig­nif­i­cant. The report­ing of these tech­niques in these the­ses is sig­nif­i­cant because it high­lights how ulti­mate­ly insignif­i­cant these tech­niques are with­in the research com­mu­ni­ty.

    And sure, the glob­al pub­lic is unlike­ly to take note of the con­tents of a dis­ser­ta­tion pub­lished in a Chi­nese research lab. But in terms of the biowar­fare research com­mu­ni­ty, what are the odds that a stu­dent is going to pub­lish a the­sis from Shi Zhengli’s lab and NOT have this dis­ser­ta­tion read by biowar­fare experts around the world. Shi’s lab isn’t your nor­mal lab. She’s the ‘bat woman’ of Chi­na and the glob­al fear of bat coro­n­avirus­es trig­ger­ing a pan­dem­ic has only been grow­ing since the orig­i­nal SARS out­break.

    So while we can’t say who exact­ly was aware of this gain-of-func­tion research being con­duct­ed at the WIV, we should be able to con­clude with pret­ty high con­fi­dence that some­one around the globe in the biowar­fare research com­mu­ni­ty was tak­ing note of the con­tent of these dis­ser­ta­tions. It would almost be scan­dalous if some­one was­n’t pay­ing atten­tion.

    And that’s also part of why the oth­er main point in the fol­low­ing arti­cle made by crit­ics of the WIV needs to be con­sid­ered with­in the con­text of this glob­al aware­ness of the gain-of-func­tion research tak­ing place at the WIV: evi­dence in the dis­ser­ta­tions sug­gests this work was being done under BSL‑2 con­di­tions. If so, that’s cer­tain­ly a lapse in stan­dard safe­ty pro­to­cols. But lets not for­get that the WIV’s BSL‑4 sta­tus was an inter­na­tion­al project. The WIV was only accred­it­ed as Chi­na’s first BSL‑4 lab in 2017, with most of their staff hav­ing been trained in France. So if researchers there were con­duct­ed gain-of-func­tion exper­i­ments under BSL‑2 con­di­tions, when that kind of work calls for at least BSL‑3 con­di­tions, that prob­a­bly was­n’t a secret to the WIV’s inter­na­tion­al part­ners either.

    So as we hear all the glob­al out­rage over the gain-of-func­tion meth­ods pub­lished in the June 2019 the­sis or BSL‑2 con­di­tions these exper­i­ments were con­duct­ed under, keep in mind that if these are con­sid­ered out­ra­geous then it’s even more out­ra­geous that none of this was like­ly a secret:

    Min­er­va

    Chi­nese researchers cre­at­ed new coro­na virus­es under unsafe con­di­tions
    A new­ly sur­faced PhD dis­ser­ta­tion from the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy rais­es new ques­tions regard­ing biosafe­ty prac­tices at the insti­tute.

    Aksel Frid­strøm
    Nyhet­sredak­tør
    Pub­lis­ert tors­dag 27. mai 2021 — 11:00 Sist opp­datert tors­dag 27. mai 2021 — 13:25

    As world lead­ers gath­er this week for the WHO’s annu­al con­fer­ence, the World Health Assem­bly in Gene­va, doc­u­ments that raise ques­tions about the role of Wuhan’s virus lab­o­ra­to­ries as a pos­si­ble source of the pan­dem­ic con­tin­ue to emerge.

    One of many top­ics that will be dis­cussed at this year’s con­fer­ence is the enhance­ment of lab­o­ra­to­ry biosafe­ty, but this debate will now take place in an extreme­ly intense polit­i­cal cli­mate.

    Ear­li­er this week, the Wall Street Jour­nal report­ed on sick­ness among staffers at the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy (WIV) in Novem­ber 2019, cit­ing doc­u­ments from the US Intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty. The infor­ma­tion was first dis­closed in a fact sheet pub­lished dur­ing the last days of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, but with­out much detail. This time around, WSJ refers to spe­cif­ic intel­li­gence not­ing that three employ­ees at the insti­tute not only got sick, but were hos­pi­tal­ized “with symp­toms con­sis­tent with both Covid-19 and com­mon sea­son­al ill­ness”. Chi­na has already dis­missed the US claim of sick lab employ­ees as «com­plete lies».

    Sev­er­al lead­ing US experts in virol­o­gy, biosafe­ty and genet­ics have recent­ly spo­ken out to exam­ine China’s lab­o­ra­to­ries as a pos­si­ble source of the pan­dem­ic. Among them is Ralph Bar­ic, a for­mer col­lab­o­ra­tor of WIV and a world-lead­ing author­i­ty in coro­n­avirus research. Direc­tor of the Nation­al Insti­tute of Aller­gy and Infec­tious Dis­eases Antho­ny Fau­ci has also spo­ken out in sim­i­lar terms.

    Per­haps even more notable are recent state­ments from Ian Lip­kin. Lip­kin is a world-lead­ing epi­demi­ol­o­gist who ear­ly on in the pan­dem­ic dis­missed the pos­si­bil­i­ty of lab­o­ra­to­ry leak as a co-author of the arti­cle The prox­i­mal ori­gin of SARS-CoV­‑2, which more than per­haps any­thing else pushed the lab­o­ra­to­ry hypoth­e­sis out of the main­stream debate. Now, he says he has changed his mind.

    Lip­kin refers to arti­cles pub­lished by researchers at WIV that describe work on coro­n­avirus­es that were con­duct­ed at a safe­ty lev­el below what is rec­om­mend­ed: “It shouldn’t have hap­pened. Peo­ple should not be look­ing at bat virus­es in BSL‑2 labs. My view has changed”, he told Don­ald G. McNeil Jr., a for­mer sci­ence jour­nal­ist at the New York Times.

    BSL‑2 is the sec­ond-low­est lev­el of lab­o­ra­to­ry biosafe­ty, which ranges from lev­el 1 to 4. Work per­formed at lev­el 2 requires the use of gloves and a mask, but does not require the use of full-cov­er­age suits. The Amer­i­can mol­e­c­u­lar biol­o­gist Richard Ebright has repeat­ed­ly point­ed out that the BSL‑2 lev­el has no more secu­ri­ty than a US dentist’s office.

    The WHO is not in a posi­tion to review indi­vid­ual instances of research, but high­lights the need for reg­u­la­to­ry over­sight

    Lab safe­ty rose high up on the agen­da at WHO after the first SARS virus, which cre­at­ed an epi­dem­ic in 2003, escaped lab­o­ra­to­ries on mul­ti­ple occa­sions after the ini­tial epi­dem­ic was con­tained. In 2003 the orga­ni­za­tion issued new guide­lines where they “strong­ly rec­om­mend­ed Biosafe­ty Lev­el 3 (BSL3) as the appro­pri­ate con­tain­ment lev­el for work­ing with live SARS-CoV mate­r­i­al”.

    The WHO also not­ed that “the pos­si­bil­i­ty that a SARS out­break could occur fol­low­ing a lab­o­ra­to­ry acci­dent is a risk of con­sid­er­able impor­tance, giv­en the rel­a­tive­ly large num­ber of lab­o­ra­to­ries cur­rent­ly con­duct­ing research using the SARS-CoV or retain­ing spec­i­mens from SARS patients. These lab­o­ra­to­ries cur­rent­ly rep­re­sent the great­est threat for renewed SARS-CoV trans­mis­sion through acci­den­tal expo­sure asso­ci­at­ed with breach­es in lab­o­ra­to­ry biosafe­ty.”

    Min­er­va for­ward­ed Lipkin’s state­ments and the research arti­cle under scruti­ny to the WHO, ask­ing whether they con­sid­er these works to be a breach of the rec­om­mend­ed biosafe­ty guide­lines. The WHO respond­ed that the orga­ni­za­tion is not in a posi­tion to com­ment on or review indi­vid­ual instances of research.

    “The ques­tions raised in the arti­cle, how­ev­er, high­light the ongo­ing need for appro­pri­ate reg­u­la­to­ry over­sight of bio­med­ical research and coher­ent imple­men­ta­tion of inter­na­tion­al­ly-rec­og­nized exem­plary prac­tices to reduce bio­log­i­cal risks inher­ent to com­plex stud­ies employ­ing high-con­se­quence pathogens in the era of tech­nol­o­gy evo­lu­tion,” a WHO spokesper­son said.

    A new­ly dis­cov­ered dis­ser­ta­tion yields new infor­ma­tion on Chi­nese lab work

    The research arti­cle quot­ed by Lip­kin is, how­ev­er, not the only doc­u­men­ta­tion of risky research con­duct­ed at a low­er-than-rec­om­mend­ed safe­ty lev­el. Coin­ci­den­tal­ly, the PhD dis­ser­ta­tion of one of the authors of the research arti­cle was pub­lished online by the anony­mous Twit­ter user Seek­er just a few days before Lip­kin stat­ed that his view had changed.

    The the­sis describes work sim­i­lar to that pre­sent­ed in the pub­lished research arti­cle Lip­kin quot­ed from, but it also con­tains infor­ma­tion on oth­er works con­duct­ed at the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy. Of par­tic­u­lar inter­est are descrip­tions of work where ele­ments from virus­es dis­cov­ered in nature were insert­ed into oth­er virus­es in order to cre­ate chimeric virus­es for fur­ther research. These chimeric virus­es were then used to infect cell lines from mon­keys and humans, some of which showed the abil­i­ty to repli­cate in human cells.

    Parts of this research have also been pub­lished by WIV in 2017, but in the pub­lished research arti­cle the safe­ty lev­el of the exper­i­ments is not stat­ed.

    Min­er­va has pre­sent­ed both the pub­lished research arti­cle and the dis­ser­ta­tion to Stig Frø­land, a pro­fes­sor in med­i­cine at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Oslo. He thinks it is rep­re­hen­si­ble that the research arti­cle does not con­tain infor­ma­tion about the lev­el of safe­ty at which the exper­i­ments were per­formed:

    “When the BSL lev­el is not men­tioned in the arti­cle, it can either be due to the fact that the exper­i­ments were per­formed at a low­er lev­el, or that one has not actu­al­ly been so con­cerned with the lev­el of safe­ty at WIV. It is also sur­pris­ing that the jour­nal has not request­ed this infor­ma­tion. This is actu­al­ly a mis­take from the edi­tors and ref­er­ees”, he says.

    The PhD dis­ser­ta­tion, how­ev­er, clear­ly states that the pro­lif­er­a­tion and cell infec­tion exper­i­ments of live virus­es (includ­ing recom­bi­nant virus­es) were per­formed in a BSL2 (Biosafe­ty lev­el 2) lab­o­ra­to­ry.

    “This is a vio­la­tion of inter­na­tion­al reg­u­la­tions for work with SARS-Cov­‑2. This is not an adver­tise­ment for the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy, and def­i­nite­ly indi­cates that the safe­ty reg­u­la­tions have not been enforced at the insti­tute,” Frø­land explains.

    Frø­land under­lines that the doc­u­ment itself does not con­sti­tute evi­dence that there is any con­nec­tion between WIV and the SARS-CoV­‑2 pan­dem­ic, but adds:

    “It does not exact­ly reduce the like­li­hood of lab­o­ra­to­ry leak­age as a back­ground for the pan­dem­ic either”.

    He also empha­sizes that the work pre­sent­ed in the doc­u­ment are not on the SARS-CoV­‑2 virus, and that the BSL require­ments for SARS-CoV­‑2 nat­u­ral­ly did not exist when the work pre­sent­ed in the dis­ser­ta­tion was car­ried out.

    “How­ev­er, there were already rules for the coro­n­avirus­es SARS-CoV­‑1 and the MERS virus with require­ments for BSL‑3 lev­el, which should of course also be the case for these works. In any case, the BSL lev­el was obvi­ous­ly too low for this work,” he con­cludes.

    Min­er­va has sent an inquiry to the jour­nal PLOS Pathogens, which pub­lished the arti­cle in ques­tion, to ask whether they have addi­tion­al and unpub­lished infor­ma­tion from the authors about the lev­el of safe­ty at which these works have been car­ried out. The inquiry has not yet been answered.

    The insti­tute was instruct­ed to improve safe­ty

    Min­er­va has pre­vi­ous­ly also uncov­ered that pos­si­ble safe­ty fail­ures were dis­cussed at the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy dur­ing late autumn in 2019.

    In a meet­ing 40 days before Chi­na announced that there was an epi­dem­ic in Wuhan it appears that an inter­nal review of safe­ty at the lab­o­ra­to­ry had revealed pos­si­ble safe­ty defi­cien­cies, and that improv­ing oper­a­tional safe­ty was an impor­tant pri­or­i­ty in the future oper­a­tion of the lab­o­ra­to­ry.

    The infor­ma­tion that appears in a news arti­cle pub­lished by the insti­tute describes a safe­ty exer­cise where “depart­ment heads and all safe­ty per­son­nel from Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy par­tic­i­pat­ed”.

    Dur­ing the meet­ing, the deputy direc­tor of secu­ri­ty at WIV pre­sent­ed “a num­ber of com­mon prob­lems that were dis­cov­ered dur­ing the secu­ri­ty check in the last year”. He also stressed the dan­ger of poten­tial secu­ri­ty breach­es and “that the cor­rec­tion of hid­den dan­gers must take place in a thor­ough man­ner”.

    At the same meet­ing, the safe­ty offi­cers in all depart­ments were «required to strength­en the trans­paren­cy and imple­men­ta­tion of safe­ty laws and reg­u­la­tions, fur­ther improve the oper­a­tional process, pre­vent var­i­ous safe­ty risks and ensure the depart­men­t’s research and pro­duc­tion safe­ty».

    Ji Changzheng, direc­tor of the Depart­ment of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­o­gy at the Chi­nese Acad­e­my of Sci­ences, also attend­ed the train­ing. He “con­veyed the instruc­tions and demands of the party’s cen­tral com­mit­tee and gov­ern­ment relat­ed to secu­ri­ty work, and the need to imple­ment impor­tant secu­ri­ty instruc­tions from Sec­re­tary-Gen­er­al Xi Jin­ping and Prime Min­is­ter Li Keqiang.”

    Dur­ing the WHO’s vis­it to the insti­tute ear­li­er this year, the group of WHO sci­en­tists were told by their chi­nese coun­ter­parts that the insti­tute had “a strong biosafe­ty man­age­ment sys­tem; the biosafe­ty lab­o­ra­to­ry comes under dif­fer­ent author­i­ties, with inde­pen­dent assess­ments for the Nation­al Health Com­mis­sion”.

    Dur­ing a lat­er inter­view on 60 min­utes Peter Daszak, who par­tic­i­pat­ed in the WHO’s inves­ti­ga­tion and is also a long-term col­lab­o­ra­tor of the insti­tute that was inves­ti­gat­ed, stat­ed that they could not inves­ti­gate inde­pen­dent­ly, but had to trust what their chi­nese coun­ter­parts said on these issues when assem­bling the WHO report.

    Curi­ous­ly, Peter Daszak is also list­ed as a co-author of the arti­cle pub­lished in PLOS Pathogens that fails to describe the secu­ri­ty lev­el.

    The arti­cle also lists fund­ing from two US sources “the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health (NIAID R01AI110964)”, and the “USAID Emerg­ing Pan­dem­ic Threats (EPT) PREDICT pro­gram”. The fun­ders, how­ev­er, had “no role in study design, data col­lec­tion and analy­sis, deci­sion to pub­lish, or prepa­ra­tion of the man­u­script”, the arti­cle states.

    The Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy has repeat­ed­ly denied all alle­ga­tions imply­ing that the SARS-CoV­‑2 virus orig­i­nat­ed at their lab­o­ra­to­ry.

    ...

    ————

    “Chi­nese researchers cre­at­ed new coro­na virus­es under unsafe con­di­tions” by Aksel Frid­strøm; Min­er­va; 05/27/2021

    “Lip­kin refers to arti­cles pub­lished by researchers at WIV that describe work on coro­n­avirus­es that were con­duct­ed at a safe­ty lev­el below what is rec­om­mend­ed: “It shouldn’t have hap­pened. Peo­ple should not be look­ing at bat virus­es in BSL‑2 labs. My view has changed”, he told Don­ald G. McNeil Jr., a for­mer sci­ence jour­nal­ist at the New York Times.”

    Yes, experts who were pre­vi­ous­ly skep­ti­cal of a lab ori­gin of the virus are start­ing to come around to the idea, includ­ing Ian Lip­kin an expert in tick-borne dis­eases who was also one of the authors of that April 2020 let­ter to Nature by a group of promi­nent biol­o­gists who insists there was no evi­dence at all of a lab ori­gin. As Lip­kin sees it, it’s the fact that the research pub­lished by the WIV has indi­cat­ed BSL‑2 con­di­tions is what changed his mind. As Lip­kin told for­mer Times sci­ence jour­nal­ist Don­ald G. McNeil Jr, it was see­ing pub­li­ca­tions like this 2016 pub­li­ca­tion show­ing dan­ger­ous work in BSL‑2 con­di­tions that changed his mind. And who do we find co-author­ing that 2016 pub­li­ca­tion along­side Shi Zhengli? Peter Daszak, also cit­ing his USNIAID grant. So Daszak and the Eco­Health Alliance were pre­sum­ably at least some­what aware of the safe­ty pro­to­cols that went into that work.

    Flash for­ward to 2019, and we have the dis­ser­ta­tion pub­lished describ­ing clear gain-of-func­tion research on human cell lines and in that dis­ser­ta­tion it clear­ly states these exper­i­ments were con­duct­ed under BSL‑2 con­di­tions. It’s as if Shi’s lab felt like it had noth­ing to hide...because it had­n’t been hid­ing this all along to its inter­na­tion­al part­ners and no one com­plained:

    ...
    The research arti­cle quot­ed by Lip­kin is, how­ev­er, not the only doc­u­men­ta­tion of risky research con­duct­ed at a low­er-than-rec­om­mend­ed safe­ty lev­el. Coin­ci­den­tal­ly, the PhD dis­ser­ta­tion of one of the authors of the research arti­cle was pub­lished online by the anony­mous Twit­ter user Seek­er just a few days before Lip­kin stat­ed that his view had changed.

    The the­sis describes work sim­i­lar to that pre­sent­ed in the pub­lished research arti­cle Lip­kin quot­ed from, but it also con­tains infor­ma­tion on oth­er works con­duct­ed at the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy. Of par­tic­u­lar inter­est are descrip­tions of work where ele­ments from virus­es dis­cov­ered in nature were insert­ed into oth­er virus­es in order to cre­ate chimeric virus­es for fur­ther research. These chimeric virus­es were then used to infect cell lines from mon­keys and humans, some of which showed the abil­i­ty to repli­cate in human cells.

    ...

    The PhD dis­ser­ta­tion, how­ev­er, clear­ly states that the pro­lif­er­a­tion and cell infec­tion exper­i­ments of live virus­es (includ­ing recom­bi­nant virus­es) were per­formed in a BSL2 (Biosafe­ty lev­el 2) lab­o­ra­to­ry.

    “This is a vio­la­tion of inter­na­tion­al reg­u­la­tions for work with SARS-Cov­‑2. This is not an adver­tise­ment for the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy, and def­i­nite­ly indi­cates that the safe­ty reg­u­la­tions have not been enforced at the insti­tute,” Frø­land explains.

    Frø­land under­lines that the doc­u­ment itself does not con­sti­tute evi­dence that there is any con­nec­tion between WIV and the SARS-CoV­‑2 pan­dem­ic, but adds:

    “It does not exact­ly reduce the like­li­hood of lab­o­ra­to­ry leak­age as a back­ground for the pan­dem­ic either”.

    He also empha­sizes that the work pre­sent­ed in the doc­u­ment are not on the SARS-CoV­‑2 virus, and that the BSL require­ments for SARS-CoV­‑2 nat­u­ral­ly did not exist when the work pre­sent­ed in the dis­ser­ta­tion was car­ried out.

    “How­ev­er, there were already rules for the coro­n­avirus­es SARS-CoV­‑1 and the MERS virus with require­ments for BSL‑3 lev­el, which should of course also be the case for these works. In any case, the BSL lev­el was obvi­ous­ly too low for this work,” he con­cludes.
    ...

    Final­ly, note how this 2019 dis­ser­ta­tion work was pre­vi­ous­ly pub­lished in a PLOS arti­cle in 2017. A PLOS arti­cle that once again had Peter Daszak as a co-author and his USNIAID grant as a co-fun­der of the study:

    ...
    Parts of this research have also been pub­lished by WIV in 2017, but in the pub­lished research arti­cle the safe­ty lev­el of the exper­i­ments is not stat­ed.

    ...

    Dur­ing a lat­er inter­view on 60 min­utes Peter Daszak, who par­tic­i­pat­ed in the WHO’s inves­ti­ga­tion and is also a long-term col­lab­o­ra­tor of the insti­tute that was inves­ti­gat­ed, stat­ed that they could not inves­ti­gate inde­pen­dent­ly, but had to trust what their chi­nese coun­ter­parts said on these issues when assem­bling the WHO report.

    Curi­ous­ly, Peter Daszak is also list­ed as a co-author of the arti­cle pub­lished in PLOS Pathogens that fails to describe the secu­ri­ty lev­el.

    The arti­cle also lists fund­ing from two US sources “the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health (NIAID R01AI110964)”, and the “USAID Emerg­ing Pan­dem­ic Threats (EPT) PREDICT pro­gram”. The fun­ders, how­ev­er, had “no role in study design, data col­lec­tion and analy­sis, deci­sion to pub­lish, or prepa­ra­tion of the man­u­script”, the arti­cle states.
    ...

    So was this gain-of-func­tion research at the WIV being car­ried out in a dan­ger­ous man­ner with­out prop­er pre­cau­tions that vio­lat­ed inter­na­tion­al stan­dards? It sounds like that’s quite pos­si­bly the case, which would be pret­ty scan­dalous if true. Scan­dalous for the WIV. And scan­dalous for all of the WIV’s many inter­na­tion­al part­ners who were clear­ly work­ing close­ly with Shi Zhengli’s lab this entire time on this dan­ger­ous research for years now. But also keep in mind that we are talk­ing about rev­e­la­tions that were pub­lished to the world years ago. It’s only now that peo­ple are rec­og­niz­ing the research pub­lished in 2016 or 2017 was con­duct­ed under dan­ger­ous con­di­tions?! What took so long?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 28, 2021, 3:43 pm
  6. @Pterrafractyl–

    Notice that none of the com­men­ta­tors appear to be up to speed on con­tem­po­rary tech­nol­o­gy.

    Once the genome is published–away we go.

    “Escape” and “unsafe” are ante-cham­bers to the “lab-leak/Chi­na did it” meme.

    Giv­en the Pentagon/USAID fund­ing of Eco­Health Alliance and giv­en that for­mer Ft. Det­rick com­man­der David Franz is an advis­er to Daszak, it can be safe­ly assumed that U.S. BW ele­ments were absolute­ly up to speed on this.

    “Gain-of-Func­tion” exper­i­ments were cer­tain­ly being per­formed. It is the ones we don’t know about that are most impor­tant.

    Best,

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | May 28, 2021, 6:25 pm

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