On the menu today: A Japanese publication notices that the Biden administration appears to have lost interest in investigating the origins of COVID-19, and contends that this represents a deliberate U.S. effort to placate Beijing; DARPA rejected the proposal from Peter Daszak to genetically alter viruses in partnership with the Wuhan Institute of Virology because DARPA concluded the research raised ethical and legal concerns; the Daily Telegraph quotes a researcher theorizing why we haven’t found SARS-CoV-2 in an animal yet; and apparently, the OSHA rule for employer vaccine mandates is being delivered by Godot.
The Japan Times notices what the American media do not. President Biden ordered the U.S. intelligence community to investigate the origins of COVID-19 more thoroughly, but after 90 days, that review offered almost nothing; just a publicly released summary that was barely a page and a half. But Biden didn’t seem to mind, and the lack of follow-up from the Biden administration worked out exceptionally well for Xi Jinping and the Chinese government.
The Japan Times sees this as Biden making a deliberate effort to placate Beijing by choosing to lose interest in tracking down how the pandemic started:
Biden appeared to bow to another Chinese demand — that the U.S. stop tracing the origins of the COVID-19 virus, even though the world has a right to know if China caused the worst disaster of our time that has already killed more than 4.5 million people worldwide. Biden announced on Aug. 27 — 12 days after Kabul’s fall — that the intelligence inquiry he initiated had ended, despite the fact that it failed to uncover the genesis of the pandemic.
Xi’s regime, involved in perhaps one of the greatest cover-ups ever seen, doesn’t appear to want the truth to come out. After all, if China’s alleged negligence or complicity spawned the world’s worst public-health catastrophe in more than a century, it would constitute a crime against humanity. Biden should have ordered the U.S. intelligence community to keep searching for the true origins of the virus until a definitive conclusion could be reached. By not extending the inquiry’s 90-day deadline, Biden in effect gave the Chinese what they wanted.
Autumn is here, which means that we are approaching the two-year anniversary of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Way back in January 2020, the medical journal The Lancet dated the onset of symptoms in the first patient to December 1, 2019. One study analyzed the DNA of the virus and calculated the mutation rate, and estimated that the range of possible dates for the “origin” of SARS-CoV-2 runs from October 6, 2019, to December 11, 2019. Italian researchers have poured cold water on the theory that the virus was spreading around northern Italy starting in November 2019.
Nearly two years have passed, and The Lancet has given up on its investigation, the World Health Organization is restarting its investigation after the first effort couldn’t come to any conclusions, and as mentioned above, the U.S. intelligence community shrugged its shoulders and declared it couldn’t find out anything.
Do you ever get the feeling that a lot of powerful people would rather not know the origins of COVID-19? Do a bunch of big and powerful institutions whose duties specifically includes investigating issues like this seem particularly unmotivated and easily deterred lately?
Yesterday in the Wall Street Journal, Richard Muller and Steven Quay made a point that is obvious, but that is largely unmentioned in public discussion of the origins of the virus. If this virus came from a bat or other animal somewhere in nature, and it’s a virus that spreads so easily, it should be fairly easy to find that animal somewhere in nature. Almost two years later, we haven’t found a single one — despite Chinese health authorities testing “tens of thousands” of animals:
Within months of the SARS-1 and MERS outbreaks, scientists found animals that had hosted the viruses before they made the jump to humans. More than 80 percent of the animals in affected markets were infected with a coronavirus. In an influential March 2020 paper in Nature Medicine, Kristian Andersen and co-authors implied that a host animal for SARS-CoV-2 would soon be found. If the virus had been cooked up in a lab, of course, there would be no host animal to find.
Chinese scientists searched for a host in early 2020, testing more than 80,000 animals from 209 species, including wild, domesticated and market animals. As the WHO investigation reported, not a single animal infected with SARS-CoV-2 was found. This finding strongly favors the lab-leak theory. We can only wonder if the results would have been different if the animals tested had included the humanized mice kept at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
A coronavirus adapts for its host animal. It takes time to perfect itself for infecting humans. But a pathogen engineered via accelerated evolution in a laboratory using humanized mice would need no additional time after escape to optimize for human infection. In their Nature Medicine paper, Mr. Andersen and colleagues pointed to what they considered the poor design of SARS-CoV-2 as evidence of zoonotic origin. But a team of American scientists mutated the stem of the coronavirus genome in nearly 4,000 different ways and tested each variation. In the process they actually stumbled on the Delta variant. In the end, they determined that the original SARS-CoV-2 pathogen was 99.5 percent optimized for human infection — strong confirmation of the lab-leak hypothesis.
This newsletter noted on September 27 that the independent investigative group DRASTIC found a March 2018 grant proposal from EcoHealth to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) proposing an effort to “introduce appropriate human-specific cleavage sites” into SARS-like viruses; in other words, to take existing bat viruses and make them more likely to infect human beings.
What hasn’t gotten nearly as much attention is the rejection letter from DARPA: “The proposal does not mention or assess potential risks of Gain of Function (GoF) research. Nor does the proposal mention or assess Dual Use Research of Concern issues, and thus fails to present a DURC risk mitigation plan. The proposal hardly addresses or discusses ethical, legal, and social issues. . . . It is clear that the proposed DEFUSE project led by Peter Daszak could have put local communities at risk by failing to consider the following issues.”
Credit the smart guys at DARPA for recognizing that an attempt to build a new, more virulent and more contagious kind of virus might represent some ethical issues!
Meanwhile, over in the Daily Telegraph, an unidentified World Health Organization expert elaborated on the EcoHealth proposal:
Explaining the proposal, a WHO collaborator, who has asked not to be named for fear of reprisals, said: “This means that they would take various sequences from similar coronaviruses and create a new sequence that is essentially the average of them. It would be a new virus sequence, not a 100 per cent match to anything.”
“They would then synthesize the viral genome from the computer sequence, thus creating a virus genome that did not exist in nature but looks natural as it is the average of natural viruses. Then they put that RNA in a cell and recover the virus from it. This creates a virus that has never existed in nature, with a new ‘backbone’ that didn’t exist in nature but is very, very similar as it’s the average of natural backbones.”
The source said it was noteworthy that the cut-off for generating such an average sequence was viruses that only had five per cent genetic divergence from each other.
Last year, scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology said they had found a strain named RaTG13 in bat droppings in a cave in Yunnan province in 2013 which was a 96.1 per cent match to Sars-CoV-2. It means RaTG13 could have been included in a set of viral genomes to help create an average sequence.
The WHO source added: “If Sars-CoV-2 comes from an artificial consensus sequence composed of genomes with more than 95 per cent similarity to each other… I would predict that we will never find a really good match in nature and just a bunch of close matches across parts of the sequence, which so far is what we are seeing.”
The natural-origin scenario requires us to believe that EcoHealth and its partners in China had proposed genetically altering naturally occurring coronaviruses found in bats through gain-of-function research to be conducted at the Wuhan Institute of Virology that visiting scientists had already determined was at considerable risk for an accident, and that they wanted to take an existing virus and create a new version that was more contagious among human beings but about 95 percent similar to naturally occurring viruses . . . and entirely coincidentally, about a year later, a novel coronavirus that deadly and really contagious among human beings, that is 96.1 percent similar to a sample that we know was taken to the Wuhan Institute of Virology a few years earlier, just happens to emerge in the city of Wuhan, not far from the lab?
If that is a coincidence, just how astronomical are the odds against that scenario occurring?
ADDENDUM: On September 9, President Biden announced his vaccine mandate for employers with 100 or more employees. The situation was deemed so pressing, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration would not need to go through the standard public comment and review process.
And yet . . . four weeks later, OSHA has not yet issued the regulation.