In the millions of articles, opinion pieces, and news stories written about Covid there is one topic that is more important than all the others. It’s more important than masks, vaccines, or lockdown measures. The origin of the virus is critical because no matter how many people die from covid, or how many businesses are wiped out, it’s critical that IF the next virus can be stopped, it mu st be.
A science writer named Nicholas Wade has written the most thorough study on the origins of Covid to be released to the public. Wade has worked with Nature, Science, and the New York Times, but this article was released on the public platform Medium. In this article Wade goes through three possible scenarios and then draws the most likely conclusion. This is a long read, but it might be the most important article yet written during this pandemic.
Here is the beginning of this extensive article from Medium. Click here to read the full article on Medium.
Origin of Covid — Following the Clues
Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan?
The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted lives the world over for more than a year. Its death toll will soon reach three million people. Yet the origin of pandemic remains uncertain: the political agendas of governments and scientists have generated thick clouds of obfuscation, which the mainstream press seems helpless to dispel.
In what follows I will sort through the available scientific facts, which hold many clues as to what happened, and provide readers with the evidence to make their own judgments. I will then try to assess the complex issue of blame, which starts with, but extends far beyond, the government of China.
By the end of this article, you may have learned a lot about the molecular biology of viruses. I will try to keep this process as painless as possible. But the science cannot be avoided because for now, and probably for a long time hence, it offers the only sure thread through the maze.
The virus that caused the pandemic is known officially as SARS-CoV-2, but can be called SARS2 for short. As many people know, there are two main theories about its origin. One is that it jumped naturally from wildlife to people. The other is that the virus was under study in a lab, from which it escaped. It matters a great deal which is the case if we hope to prevent a second such occurrence.
I’ll describe the two theories, explain why each is plausible, and then ask which provides the better explanation of the available facts. It’s important to note that so far there is no direct evidence for either theory. Each depends on a set of reasonable conjectures but so far lacks proof. So I have only clues, not conclusions, to offer. But those clues point in a specific direction. And having inferred that direction, I’m going to delineate some of the strands in this tangled skein of disaster.
A Tale of Two Theories
After the pandemic first broke out in December 2019, Chinese authorities reported that many cases had occurred in the wet market — a place selling wild animals for meat — in Wuhan. This reminded experts of the SARS1 epidemic of 2002 in which a bat virus had spread first to civets, an animal sold in wet markets, and from civets to people. A similar bat virus caused a second epidemic, known as MERS, in 2012. This time the intermediary host animal was camels.
The decoding of the virus’s genome showed it belonged to a viral family known as beta-coronaviruses, to which the SARS1 and MERS viruses also belong. The relationship supported the idea that, like them, it was a natural virus that had managed to jump from bats, via another animal host, to people. The wet market connection, the only other point of similarity with the SARS1 and MERS epidemics, was soon broken: Chinese researchers found earlier cases in Wuhan with no link to the wet market. But that seemed not to matter when so much further evidence in support of natural emergence was expected shortly.
Wuhan, however, is home of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a leading world center for research on coronaviruses. So the possibility that the SARS2 virus had escaped from the lab could not be ruled out. Two reasonable scenarios of origin were on the table.
From early on, public and media perceptions were shaped in favor of the natural emergence scenario by strong statements from two scientific groups. These statements were not at first examined as critically as they should have been.
“We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin,” a group of virologists and others wrote in the Lancet on February 19, 2020, when it was really far too soon for anyone to be sure what had happened. Scientists “overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife,” they said, with a stirring rallying call for readers to stand with Chinese colleagues on the frontline of fighting the disease.
Contrary to the letter writers’ assertion, the idea that the virus might have escaped from a lab invoked accident, not conspiracy. It surely needed to be explored, not rejected out of hand. A defining mark of good scientists is that they go to great pains to distinguish between what they know and what they don’t know. By this criterion, the signatories of the Lancet letter were behaving as poor scientists: they were assuring the public of facts they could not know for sure were true.
It later turned out that the Lancet letter had been organized and drafted by Peter Daszak, president of the EcoHealth Alliance of New York. Dr. Daszak’s organization funded coronavirus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. If the SARS2 virus had indeed escaped from research he funded, Dr. Daszak would be potentially culpable. This acute conflict of interest was not declared to the Lancet’s readers. To the contrary, the letter concluded, “We declare no competing interests.”
Virologists like Dr. Daszak had much at stake in the assigning of blame for the pandemic. For 20 years, mostly beneath the public’s attention, they had been playing a dangerous game. In their laboratories they routinely created viruses more dangerous than those that exist in nature. They argued they could do so safely, and that by getting ahead of nature they could predict and prevent natural “spillovers,” the cross-over of viruses from an animal host to people. If SARS2 had indeed escaped from such a laboratory experiment, a savage blowback could be expected, and the storm of public indignation would affect virologists everywhere, not just in China. “It would shatter the scientific edifice top to bottom,” an MIT Technology Review editor, Antonio Regalado, said in March 2020.
A second statement which had enormous influence in shaping public attitudes was a letter (in other words an opinion piece, not a scientific article) published on 17 March 2020 in the journal Nature Medicine. Its authors were a group of virologists led by Kristian G. Andersen of the Scripps Research Institute. “Our analyses clearly show that SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus,” the five virologists declared in the second paragraph of their letter.
Unfortunately this was another case of poor science, in the sense defined above. True, some older methods of cutting and pasting viral genomes retain tell-tale signs of manipulation. But newer methods, called “no-see-um” or “seamless” approaches, leave no defining marks. Nor do other methods for manipulating viruses such as serial passage, the repeated transfer of viruses from one culture of cells to another. If a virus has been manipulated, whether with a seamless method or by serial passage, there is no way of knowing that this is the case. Dr. Andersen and his colleagues were assuring their readers of something they could not know.
The discussion part their letter begins, “It is improbable that SARS-CoV-2 emerged through laboratory manipulation of a related SARS-CoV-like coronavirus”. But wait, didn’t the lead say the virus had clearly not been manipulated? The authors’ degree of certainty seemed to slip several notches when it came to laying out their reasoning.
The reason for the slippage is clear once the technical language has been penetrated. The two reasons the authors give for supposing manipulation to be improbable are decidedly inconclusive.
First, they say that the spike protein of SARS2 binds very well to its target, the human ACE2 receptor, but does so in a different way from that which physical calculations suggest would be the best fit. Therefore the virus must have arisen by natural selection, not manipulation.
If this argument seems hard to grasp, it’s because it’s so strained. The authors’ basic assumption, not spelt out, is that anyone trying to make a bat virus bind to human cells could do so in only one way. First they would calculate the strongest possible fit between the human ACE2 receptor and the spike protein with which the virus latches onto it. They would then design the spike protein accordingly (by selecting the right string of amino acid units that compose it). But since the SARS2 spike protein is not of this calculated best design, the Andersen paper says, therefore it can’t have been manipulated.
But this ignores the way that virologists do in fact get spike proteins to bind to chosen targets, which is not by calculation but by splicing in spike protein genes from other viruses or by serial passage. With serial passage, each time the virus’s progeny are transferred to new cell cultures or animals, the more successful are selected until one emerges that makes a really tight bind to human cells. Natural selection has done all the heavy lifting. The Andersen paper’s speculation about designing a viral spike protein through calculation has no bearing on whether or not the virus was manipulated by one of the other two methods.
The authors’ second argument against manipulation is even more contrived. Although most living things use DNA as their hereditary material, a number of viruses use RNA, DNA’s close chemical cousin. But RNA is difficult to manipulate, so researchers working on coronaviruses, which are RNA-based, will first convert the RNA genome to DNA. They manipulate the DNA version, whether by adding or altering genes, and then arrange for the manipulated DNA genome to be converted back into infectious RNA.
Only a certain number of these DNA backbones have been described in the scientific literature. Anyone manipulating the SARS2 virus “would probably” have used one of these known backbones, the Andersen group writes, and since SARS2 is not derived from any of them, therefore it was not manipulated. But the argument is conspicuously inconclusive. DNA backbones are quite easy to make, so it’s obviously possible that SARS2 was manipulated using an unpublished DNA backbone.
And that’s it. These are the two arguments made by the Andersen group in support of their declaration that the SARS2 virus was clearly not manipulated. And this conclusion, grounded in nothing but two inconclusive speculations, convinced the world’s press that SARS2 could not have escaped from a lab. A technical critique of the Andersen letter takes it down in harsher words.
Science is supposedly a self-correcting community of experts who constantly check each other’s work. So why didn’t other virologists point out that the Andersen group’s argument was full of absurdly large holes? Perhaps because in today’s universities speech can be very costly. Careers can be destroyed for stepping out of line. Any virologist who challenges the community’s declared view risks having his next grant application turned down by the panel of fellow virologists that advises the government grant distribution agency.
The Daszak and Andersen letters were really political, not scientific statements, yet were amazingly effective. Articles in the mainstream press repeatedly stated that a consensus of experts had ruled lab escape out of the question or extremely unlikely. Their authors relied for the most part on the Daszak and Andersen letters, failing to understand the yawning gaps in their arguments. Mainstream newspapers all have science journalists on their staff, as do the major networks, and these specialist reporters are supposed to be able to question scientists and check their assertions. But the Daszak and Andersen assertions went largely unchallenged.
Doubts about natural emergence
Natural emergence was the media’s preferred theory until around February 2021 and the visit by a World Health Organization commission to China. The commission’s composition and access were heavily controlled by the Chinese authorities. Its members, who included the ubiquitous Dr. Daszak, kept asserting before, during and after their visit that lab escape was extremely unlikely. But this was not quite the propaganda victory the Chinese authorities may have been hoping for. What became clear was that the Chinese had no evidence to offer the commission in support of the natural emergence theory.
This was surprising because both the SARS1 and MERS viruses had left copious traces in the environment. The intermediary host species of SARS1 was identified within four months of the epidemic’s outbreak, and the host of MERS within nine months. Yet some 15 months after the SARS2 pandemic began, and a presumably intensive search, Chinese researchers had failed to find either the original bat population, or the intermediate species to which SARS2 might have jumped, or any serological evidence that any Chinese population, including that of Wuhan, had ever been exposed to the virus prior to December 2019. Natural emergence remained a conjecture which, however plausible to begin with, had gained not a shred of supporting evidence in over a year.
And as long as that remains the case, it’s logical to pay serious attention to the alternative conjecture, that SARS2 escaped from a lab.
Why would anyone want to create a novel virus capable of causing a pandemic?
I’m a science writer and have worked on the staff of Nature, Science and, for many years, on the New York Times. [email protected]
By the way.. Medium is a fascinating place. If you haven’t checked it out yet here’s a link to medium.com.
From About Medium:
We’re an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Our purpose is to spread these ideas and deepen understanding of the world.
Whistleblower shares his role in “Covert military operation observing UK citizens during the pandemic”
In his video presentation Monday, British Health Researcher Dr. John Campbell took a break from his daily dive into the data. Instead he highlighted a breaking news story in the UK about a secret military operation.
A former member of the “77th Brigade” told Britain’s Daily Mail he was brought in to serve on the unit during the pandemic. Although their official task was to uncover foreign interference, the whistleblower says they spent their time monitoring “our own concerned citizens” who were criticizing lockdown policies and other government responses to the pandemic.
While there may have actually been some foreign social media campaigns attempting to sway opinions in Britain, the 77th Brigade instead “compiled dossiers on public figures such as ex-Minister David Davis”, as well as journalists Peter Hitchens and Toby Young.
The information compiled by the 77th Bridage was “reported back to No 10.” The whistleblower says government ministers then pushed social media platforms to remove or downplay this information and “promote Government-approved lines.”
This is all very disconcerting for Dr. Campbell who has found some of his own posts during the pandemic have been deleted. Campbell finds the government’s effort to thwart a healthy learning environment extremely disturbing.
Dr. John Campbell’s presentation notes with links
The 77th Brigade is part of the British Army
77th Brigade is an agent of change; through targeted Information Activity and Outreach we contribute to the success of military objectives
Mail on Sunday and Big Brother Watch, official government admission
Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir Nick Carter https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRRGQ…
Up front I would say that our role has been entirely in support of the heroic health care workers on the front line, with humility being very much our watchword in how we give that support.
Last year, Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir Nick Carter revealed that, 77th Brigade was involved in countering misinformation online relating to Coronavirus
The Army’s “information warfare” unit Monitored covid lockdown critics
The 77th Brigade, specialist to counter disinformation, and other online activity deemed harmful to the UK, assisted other government units Such as The Counter Disinformation Unit, was part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS)
The Cabinet Office’s Rapid Response Unit, launched in March 2020
Social media posts were scrutinised for accuracy
Mail on Sunday (whistleblower) It is quite obvious that our activities resulted in the monitoring of the UK population … monitoring the social media posts of ordinary, scared people These posts did not contain information that was untrue or co-ordinated – it was simply fear I developed the impression the Government were more interested in protecting the success of their policies than uncovering any potential foreign interference
A government spokesman
Online disinformation is a serious threat to the UK, which is why during the pandemic we brought together expertise from across Government to monitor disinformation about Covid. They did not target individuals or take any action that could impact anyone’s ability to discuss and debate issues freely.
Targeted politicians and high-profile journalists
They compiled dossiers on public figures, such as ex-Minister David Davis, who questioned the modelling behind alarming death toll predictions, as well as journalists such as Peter Hitchens and Toby Young.
Their dissenting views were then reported back to No 10.
Military operatives compiled dossiers on journalists including the Mail’s Peter Hitchens Mr Davis, (member of the Privy Council)
It’s outrageous that people questioning the Government’s policies were subject to covert surveillance
Questioned the waste of public money.
Preston Manning stepping away from National Citizen’s Inquiry to focus on the Alberta Public Health review
From the National Citizen’s Inquiry
The National Citizen’s Inquiry (NCI) – a citizen-led inquiry into Canada’s response to COVID-19 – is finalizing plans to hold hearings across the country. With two of five commissioners now in place, the inquiry has booked its first two events – in Atlantic Canada and Central Canada.
Across the country, we are seeing more and more clear signals that Canadians are not only ready to ask the hard questions about how our governments reacted to this pandemic, but also require the answers.
Another Liberal minister has said the quiet part out loud. Former Finance Minister Bill Morneau joined his one-time colleagues Joel Lightbound, Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, Marcus Powlowski, John McKay and Yves Robillard in expressing dismay that the Trudeau Liberals used vaccine mandates as a political wedge issue, an approach that “stigmatizes and divides people” as Lightbound put it.
In fact, after two years of vaccine distribution, the state broadcaster this week also published one of its first articles chronicling widespread vaccine injuries. The article acknowledged that those suffering from adverse effects also deal with “silence” and “stigma” as a result of the overly politicized tone set by Ottawa.
In Ontario, 164 former health care workers rallied to let the public know that, while the provincial health care system buckles under immense pressure and nurses are shipped in from other parts of Canada, there are hundreds of workers that were terminated because of vaccination mandates – and to the surprise of most – they are still not permitted to resume their careers.
In Alberta, Premier Danielle Smith has commissioned a Public Health Emergencies Governance Review Panel which will “review the legislation that guided Alberta’s response to COVID-19 and recommend changes to improve the handling of future public health emergencies for Albertans.”
On that note, Preston Manning will be stepping away from his role as spokesperson for the NCI to chair the Alberta review. The NCI welcomes this positive initiative by Premier Smith and believes the people of Alberta will be well-served by the appointment of Mr. Manning as Chair. Taking over for Manning is acclaimed investigative journalist Trish Wood. Wood worked for 10 years on CBC’s Emmy Award-winning Fifth Estate before exposing the heartbreaking stories of Iraq War veterans in What Was Asked of Us and later pioneering the modern renaissance of true-crime storytelling. This experience has allowed her to hone the kind of unapologetic critical thinking and investigative skills that she will bring to bear in this role.
Plans for the Inquiry’s in-person hearings – supplemented by virtual participation – are now being finalized. The first hearings will be in Atlantic Canada e.g. Truro/Nova Scotia, March 16,17,18 and Montreal/Quebec, 22, 23, and 24 of March.
Additionally, the Inquiry has appointed its first two commissioners. They are Bernard Massie and Ken Drysdale.
Invitations will soon be sent to government officials at all levels across the country. These individuals will be invited to provide their perspectives and reflect on the decisions that were made.
Invitations are also extended to experts in the areas of economics; health care; mental and physical wellbeing; constitutional expertise; learning; and any other area significantly affected by pandemic response at any level. The Inquiry is also welcoming non-experts with personal stories that will help illuminate any unarticulated and overlooked shortcomings in the government responses. As demonstrated in the article reference above, there are many Canadians who feel silenced and stigmatized.
Take the example of Christian and Margarita
Immigrants from Mexico, they chose to start a life and a family here in Canada. Christian holds a PhD and was a lecturer at a prominent Canadian university. His wife was a program manager for a regional health authority.
After soberly considering their risk profile against the available data, as well as suspecting that the mRNA vaccination was incompatible with aspects of their faith, they chose to wait.
And in their situation, we see the unfortunate cascading effects of these poorly considered policies, developed in bureaucratic silos.
Christian and his wife – who worked from home, incidentally – were both put on indefinite administrative leave by their employers. Both streams of household income effectively removed.
And because of the Federal government’s policies, they were also deemed ineligible for any employment insurance.
Being immigrants, they also did not have family around them. In fact, their main community connections were from a church they attended. Unfortunately, they were also no longer allowed to attend worship services because of the imposition of the vaccine passport program by the provincial government.
At the time this happened, Christian and Margarita were also living on an island. Federal travel mandates left them effectively stranded.
In the span of a month, these highly skilled individuals – who had made Canada their new home – lost all income; were disqualified from any social assistance; lost their primary community support system; and could not even get on a plane to leave.
Now Christian and Margarita are in the process of returning to Mexico, where they have more confidence that the government will leave them in peace.
It is stories like this that will not be heard at an internal meeting between government officials and senior bureaucrats. It is stories like this that demand a citizen’s inquiry.
About the National Citizen’s Inquiry
NCI is a citizen-led and citizen-funded initiative that is completely independent from government. In early 2023, the NCI will hear from Canadians and experts and investigate governments’ COVID-19 policies in a fair and impartial manner. The NCI’s purpose is to listen, to learn, and to recommend. What went right? What went wrong? How can Canadians and our governments better react to national crises in the future in a manner that balances the interests of all members of our society?
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