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  #81  
Old 20.04.2020, 09:10
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Re: Conspiracy beliefs on the rise...

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No. And his health was never really reported as such. But I do believe he was seriously ill and the action taken was appropriate. I don't care about him, but I do think it's a good thing that the elected leader of a powerful nation didn't snuff it.
Now that it wouldn't seem cruel to speculate, since the little precious is out of danger, if worst case scenario had happened, honest questions:
- who would have replaced him?
- why would have that been more catastrophic for a "powerful" nation and not for say a less powerful nation?

UK is powerful but not that powerful. I think it would be really bad if this kind of scenarios would have happened in the USA, Russia, China....I don't even want to think of Middle East.
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  #82  
Old 20.04.2020, 10:03
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Re: Conspiracy beliefs on the rise...

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- why would have that been more catastrophic for a "powerful" nation and not for say a less powerful nation?
The more powerful a nation, the greater the harm that could be caused to others. Of course for the nation itself it approximate equally bad.
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  #83  
Old 20.04.2020, 10:07
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Re: Conspiracy beliefs on the rise...

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And the peak of Mt. Everest is not the furthest point from the earth’s centre. That honour goes to to the peak of Mount Chimborazo in the Andes.
Geometric centre or centre by mass? (and does it make a difference?)

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  #84  
Old 02.06.2021, 10:46
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Re: Conspiracy beliefs on the rise...

Conspiracy or......?
What out Sherlock Holmes(es) here think of this?


Why Wuhan lab-leak theory is taken seriously
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-57268111


https://www.ft.com/content/923e0256-...e-64c066b8b70b

The belief that Covid escaped a Chinese laboratory is no longer dismissed as a Trump provocation

When Joe Biden ordered US intelligence last week to intensify efforts to determine the origins of Covid-19, he gave fresh life to the theory that the virus may have leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

The US president said that US intelligence had “coalesced around two scenarios” — that the virus had either emerged naturally or was the result of a lab accident.

It was the first time that the president had given credence to the possibility that the virus had leaked from a lab — a notion widely slammed as a conspiracy theory when Donald Trump first made the claim.

Current and former officials said there were several reasons why the Biden administration was willing publicly to entertain a theory that Democrats had once dismissed.

A crucial factor was that critics were more open to the lab-leak theory now that Trump, who was viewed as wanting to vilify China to deflect blame for his handling of the pandemic, was out of office.

They also said that Biden was reacting to what the intelligence had found. He is now under political pressure to find answers.

“The Biden administration has now studied the mountain of disturbing evidence that we were confronted with in the last few months of the Trump administration,” said David Asher, who led a state department investigation into the origins of Covid. “It is jaw dropping. And as they have noted, a great deal more needs to be assessed.”

Days before Biden was sworn in, the state department issued a fact sheet on the Wuhan institute which said that several researchers had fallen ill with Covid-like symptoms before the first publicly known case. It also said that the institute had worked secretly with the Chinese military.

Critics did not take the claim seriously because of the view that Mike Pompeo, secretary of state, tended to politicise intelligence. People were also focused on the aftermath of the riots on January 6 and the inauguration.

“We assumed the fact sheet wasn’t going to make immediate headlines. We wanted to put the information into the record so that people could reckon with these facts when tensions and fevers had dropped,” said David Feith, a former state department official who was involved in the release.

In March, Asher said publicly that some Wuhan staff were so sick that they were admitted to hospital. That and a recent Wall Street Journal story that three staff were hospitalised helped focus attention on the lab-leak theory.

But one person familiar with the debate said the driving factor was a shift among scientists who had been wary of helping Trump before the election or angering influential scientists who had dismissed the theory. He said this had helped make Democrats more willing to consider the theory.

“The most important thing that has happened is that prominent virologists have since spoken out,” he said.

In a letter to the Science journal, a group of 18 prominent scientists said that both theories were “viable” and should be taken “seriously” until sufficient data were obtained. They said the recent investigation that the World Health Organization conducted with China had not given balanced consideration to both scenarios.

“Even those of us working the issue inside the government were not well aware of how much scientific opinion was on our side because scientists were generally not speaking up, but you have had certain dams break over the past few months,” said Feith, referring to developments including the letter and the WHO investigation.

Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also appeared to change his stance. Last year, he said the science “strongly indicates” that the virus emerged naturally, but he recently said he was “not convinced” and backed an investigation.

While Biden was just outlining the view of the intelligence community in his highly unusual statement, his willingness to make their tentative conclusions public also shone more attention on the lab-leak theory.
..................................................

Mathew Burrows, a former senior intelligence official, said he could not remember a president making such a statement, saying that they have historically not wanted to be viewed as trying to force a conclusion.

“There are obviously Republicans who are trying to criticise anything that would seem to be a weak response to China, so I think Biden wants to show that he will not shy away from charging them [China] if there is united agreement in the intelligence community on the fact that the virus came out of the Wuhan lab,” Burrows said.

Mike Gallagher, a Republican congressman who has introduced a bill to declassify all the intelligence related to the investigation, also said that Biden appeared to be responding to political pressure, particularly after members of his team called on China to allow a transparent investigation — something few experts believe Beijing will allow.

“Biden was feeling the pressure,” said Gallagher. “They felt a little bit of blowback . . . but it’s a good move.”

One person familiar with the situation said the National Intelligence Council, which collates information from the entire intelligence community, produced two reports last year assessing US intelligence on the origins of Covid-19. The director for national intelligence declined to comment.

Those efforts, coupled with a third “scrub” of the intelligence this year, led to Biden saying last week that two of the 18 branches of the intelligence community leaned towards the natural origin scenario, while a third was more inclined towards the lab-leak theory.

Biden said the three had only “low or moderate confidence” in their conclusions while the other branches did not have enough evidence. That has sparked concern that 90 days is not sufficient for intelligence officials to reach any solid determination.

“The community as a whole is far away from reaching anything that we could call even a halfway firm conclusion,” said Paul Pillar, a former senior CIA official. “The fact that many of the agencies involved have not reached a consensus even for a ‘low confidence’ judgment tells you they’re a long way away from anything conclusive.”
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  #85  
Old 02.06.2021, 10:49
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Re: Conspiracy beliefs on the rise...

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Conspiracy or......?

Why Wuhan lab-leak theory is taken seriously



https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-57268111
If irrefutable proof is somehow discovered that showed that this covid-sars-2 pandemic was caused by a lab containment problem (or worse), I wonder how the world's leaders will deal with China.

Economic sanctions or something else?
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  #86  
Old 02.06.2021, 11:24
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Re: Conspiracy beliefs on the rise...

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If irrefutable proof is somehow discovered that showed that this covid-sars-2 pandemic was caused by a lab containment problem (or worse), I wonder how the world's leaders will deal with China.

Economic sanctions or something else?
That's a very interesting question. I personally doubt they will.
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  #87  
Old 02.06.2021, 11:26
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Re: Conspiracy beliefs on the rise...

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If irrefutable proof is somehow discovered that showed that this covid-sars-2 pandemic was caused by a lab containment problem (or worse), I wonder how the world's leaders will deal with China.

Economic sanctions or something else?
Some countries can get away with polluting rivers that flow into other countries and cannot be held to account.

Some countries can get away with polluting the air and causing problems for other countries and cannot be held to account.

So why should there be sanctions if it turns out a virus was accidentally released out of a research laboratory?

Unless somebody is already looking for a reason to pick a fight with China. But then they would sooner or later have found another reason anyway.
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  #88  
Old 02.06.2021, 11:31
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Re: Conspiracy beliefs on the rise...

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If communism had had better cars (or cars at all) and better TV-shows, things might have turned out differently.
If it was the quality of TV shows that saved the West, I hate to think what those in the East were like.

Actually no, as youtube has preserved some for our pleasure. And the ideological stuff aside, I don't think they were inferior to the stuff in the West.

Although that's not putting the bar very high.
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Old 02.06.2021, 11:38
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Re: Conspiracy beliefs on the rise...

On behalf of EF community, I apologize to those who were mentioning the possibility way back and catching major flak. That would be me, too.

I think what made me sceptical was early journalism on WHO's political interest linked to China and all the effort of China and WHO to brush any links under the carpet. Letting whistleblowers die.

I think should WHO held China accountable right away, we could have had the SARS outcome. Not Covid-19 outcome. I can be wrong, of course, it's just an opinion. (non-peer reviewed).

I would like to see the entire WHO completely changed. I wonder if Switzerland has any power to investigate this, considering that WHO resides in Geneva. The EU also reacted wrongly, telling countries to leave the countries' borders permeable and not be selfish, at the beginning, share the infection solidarily. But we pointed that out early here. They lost a lot of credit and it shows, I think, now. The current CH attitude towards the EU, I assume, is linked. It is not just fmop or business protection linked.
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  #90  
Old 02.06.2021, 14:05
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Re: Conspiracy beliefs on the rise...

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Some countries can get away with polluting rivers that flow into other countries and cannot be held to account.

Some countries can get away with polluting the air and causing problems for other countries and cannot be held to account.

So why should there be sanctions if it turns out a virus was accidentally released out of a research laboratory?

Unless somebody is already looking for a reason to pick a fight with China. But then they would sooner or later have found another reason anyway.
Why sanctions?
The costs of covid-19 have to be covered by China, if proven they caused them. Causative principle.
On the other hand nobody mentioned (or I didn't see it) that a) shit happens and b) China sure did everything possible to control the problem once it occured. The way China dealt with covind-19 in manners absolutely unthinkable in our area. The pictures of people being locked in their houses with their doors being weld shut are burnt in my brain for ever, I'm afraid!
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  #91  
Old 02.06.2021, 14:15
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Re: Conspiracy beliefs on the rise...

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Why sanctions?
The costs of covid-19 have to be covered by China, if proven they caused them. Causative principle.
On the other hand nobody mentioned (or I didn't see it) that a) shit happens and b) China sure did everything possible to control the problem once it occured. The way China dealt with covind-19 in manners absolutely unthinkable in our area. The pictures of people being locked in their houses with their doors being weld shut are burnt in my brain for ever, I'm afraid!
Are critics simultaneously accusing China of being too harsh and overreacting to an emerging problem, while at the same time accusing them of not doing enough?

The question of expecting China to pay some sort of reparation is an interesting one.

Only that sort of solution has not worked well in the past. It could well end up totally crippling China economically. And I don't like to pay Godwin lightly but the example of what excessive and punitive reparations did to inter-war Germany should surely be a warning and not a model to be imitated.
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  #92  
Old 02.06.2021, 14:28
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Re: Conspiracy beliefs on the rise...

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Are critics simultaneously accusing China of being too harsh and overreacting to an emerging problem, while at the same time accusing them of not doing enough?
I can't talk for others. I used the term "not possible here" which I guess you can call too harsh. It's not a matter of harsh or weak - it would be illegal! And rightly so.

What I will accuse China of - should it turn out to be the case - is experimenting with viruses and let them leak. And I would want to know why they experimented with it in the first place - not that I really expect them to tell us that.
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Old 02.06.2021, 14:34
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Re: Conspiracy beliefs on the rise...

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I can't talk for others. I used the term "not possible here" which I guess you can call too harsh. It's not a matter of harsh or weak - it would be illegal! And rightly so.

What I will accuse China of - should it turn out to be the case - is experimenting with viruses and let them leak. And I would want to know why they experimented with it in the first place - not that I really expect them to tell us that.
Because research.

Ask researchers in GMO for example why they create plants that resist pesticides, or stuff like that, and ask who would pay for the damage if that gene crossed out into wild plants and created a super weed. And farmers are suddenly unable to feed the world's population because their fields are infested with weeds and mass starvation looms.

They'll probably reply that you don't understand and that that would never happen.

Until one day under a very special set of circumstances that they didn't foresee or adequately control, precisely that does happen.

Maybe in analogy to the effects of a major tsunami. we tend to underestimate events that are highly improbable but also highly disruptive should they occur nevertheless.
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  #94  
Old 02.06.2021, 14:52
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Re: Conspiracy beliefs on the rise...

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If irrefutable proof is somehow discovered that showed that this covid-sars-2 pandemic was caused by a lab containment problem (or worse), I wonder how the world's leaders will deal with China.

Economic sanctions or something else?
There are several biosafety level 4 labs (BSL-4) around the world. FWIW China has 2, Switzerland 3, UK 9, USA 14. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biosaf...safety_level_4

Safety is chain that fails at the weakest link: humans. Since all labs are operated by humans, containment failures are things that happen in spite of the best security policies and work methods. A bit like plane crashes, it's never been safer than today but planes keep crashing.

Before covid19 there was already a discussion on putting limits to research on viruses. Some scientists say there's a benefit in modifying virus to make them more contagious, so they can set experiments and learn from them to plan for future pandemics. Other scientist say making already dangerous virus more contagious is unacceptable risk. So a story from some years ago.

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In 2011, Fouchier and Kawaoka alarmed the world by revealing they had separately modified the deadly avian H5N1 influenza virus so that it spread between ferrets. Advocates of such gain of function (GOF) studies say they can help public health experts better understand how viruses might spread and plan for pandemics. But by enabling the bird virus to more easily spread among mammals, the experiments also raised fears that the pathogen could jump to humans. And critics of the work worried that such a souped-up virus could spark a pandemic if it escaped from a lab or was intentionally released by a bioterrorist. After extensive discussion about whether the two studies should even be published (they ultimately were) and a voluntary moratorium by the two labs, the experiments resumed in 2013 under new U.S. oversight rules.
https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019...-poised-resume

Containment failures have happened and will happen again. But, the pathogen that escapes can be something that already exists in nature, or something new and more dangerous developed for research purposes. Is that research worth? Lots of scientists and bureaucrat review panels around the world say yes.

This issue might be similar to nuclear atmospheric tests. There's no way to make a safe one and there's no point in raising a finger to point others while continuing the same research at home. Maybe scientist in biological research need to raise a warning like the doomsday clock.

China looks a bit bad these days because lack of transparency. But transparency is borderline useless if something else escapes from another lab around the world. Bad things will happen anyway.
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Old 02.06.2021, 17:51
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Re: Conspiracy beliefs on the rise...

British intelligence have raised the possibility from unlikely to feasible. Of course, feasible doesn't mean definitely the case.

The fact is, it really could have arisen naturally (and with current evidence, that's more likely), and that's exactly the scenario that the world governments have been planning for.

Conspiracy theories are simply how gullible/stupid people get to feel intellectual.
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Old 02.06.2021, 18:39
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Re: Conspiracy beliefs on the rise...

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British intelligence have raised the possibility from unlikely to feasible. Of course, feasible doesn't mean definitely the case.

The fact is, it really could have arisen naturally (and with current evidence, that's more likely), and that's exactly the scenario that the world governments have been planning for.

Conspiracy theories are simply how gullible/stupid people get to feel intellectual.
I thought it was just an EF-er trying to "up" the thread. After your post I did a quick test - very superficially only checking "did any news-channel I actually take seriously report about this?". To my surprise, SRF bothered to do a report about it! (Yes, I quiet like their way of reporting).

So, it's apparently being looked into by non-nutters.

First thought I had was that I'd actually prefer it to be an accident in a laboratory. WHAT? I hear you shout. An accident due to human failure is less worrying to me than random natural mutations and transmissions being able to cause such a world-wide disaster.

Should this turn out to be the case, it will not happen again for a long time, controls will be tougher, laboratories will be too worried to lose their reputation and more so their subsidies.
Chances would be good that this was my first, only and last lock-down while I'm alive.
However, I let them do their job. It would be helpful if China lent a helping hand to figure it all out quicker. If it did happen in their laboratory, it will be found out some day anyway. Why stall any longer? Let's get this over and done with.
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Old 02.06.2021, 20:16
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Re: Conspiracy beliefs on the rise...

I remember when that lunatic Alex Jones was claiming that the Clintons were involved in human trafficking, notably under age sex slaves.
Now we know for a fact that yes this is a conspiracy, but it was not a theroy.
Bill is on flight records of the "Lolita Express" 26 times!!! :eek
Bill Gates, Prince Andrew, und, und, und.

Also: Jeffery Epstine did not kill himself.
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Old 03.06.2021, 13:41
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Re: Conspiracy beliefs on the rise...

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British intelligence have raised the possibility from unlikely to feasible. Of course, feasible doesn't mean definitely the case.

The fact is, it really could have arisen naturally (and with current evidence, that's more likely), and that's exactly the scenario that the world governments have been planning for.

Conspiracy theories are simply how gullible/stupid people get to feel intellectual.
Uhm, conspiracy is quite insulting to those who brought up the possibility of having a lab "leak" pandemic. And they are not nutters.

I would like to know the truth about this pandemic because it put on hold our lives for almost year and a half. Other people suffered much more.
Perhaps, if we know the truth, it won't happen again.


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As Petrovsky considered whether SARS-CoV-2 might have emerged in lab cultures with human cells, or cells engineered to express the human ACE2 protein, a letter penned by 27 scientists appeared suddenly on February 19 in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet. The authors insisted that SARS-CoV-2 had a natural origin, and they condemned any alternate hypotheses as conspiracy theories that create only “fear, rumors, and prejudice.”

Petrovksy says he found the letter infuriating. Conspiracy theorists is “the last thing we were,” he says, “and it looked to be pointing at people like us.”

Last month, a team of international scientists completed a month-long visit to Wuhan to investigate SARS-CoV-2’s origins. Convened by the WHO, and closely monitored by Chinese authorities, the team concluded initially that a lab leak was so unlikely that further investigations of it were unnecessary. The WHO’s director general later walked that statement back, claiming that “all hypotheses remain open and require further analysis and studies.” A group of 26 scientists, social scientists, and science communicators—Petrovksy among them—have now signed their own letter arguing that WHO investigators lacked “the mandate, the independence, or the necessary accesses” to determine whether or not SARS-CoV-2 could have been the result of a laboratory incident.

The WHO investigation follows a year during which debates over SARS-CoV-2’s origins turned increasingly acrimonious. Chinese officials were, and still are, unwilling to provide information that might settle lingering questions about where the virus came from, and in the absence of critical data, expert views coalesced around two competing scenarios: one that a lab leak was plausible and needed more scrutiny, and another that SARS-CoV-2 had almost certainly spilled over from nature and that the odds of a lab leak were so remote that the possibility could essentially be taken off the table. Those insisting on a natural origin say the virus lacks genetic features that would show it to have been deliberately engineered. But it’s also possible that SARS-CoV-2 evolved naturally in the wild before it was brought into a lab to be studied, only to subsequently escape. The Wuhan Institute of Virology, which many see as the likeliest site of a breakout, houses one of the largest collections of coronaviruses in the world.

David Relman, a microbiologist at Stanford University, says a lab leak was never the subject of a “fair and dispassionate discussion of the facts as we know them.” Instead, tempers soon began to flare as those calling for a closer look at possible lab origins were dismissed as conspiracy theorists spouting misinformation. Election-year politics and growing Sinophobic sentiments only added to the tensions. Attacks on Asian-Americans had been escalating since the pandemic began, and with then-president Trump fuming about a “Chinese virus,” many scientists and reporters became “cautious about saying anything that might justify the rhetoric of his administration,” says Jamie Metzl, a senior fellow at the Washington, DC–based Atlantic Council, an international affairs think tank.



It could have been career suicide for scientists to voice suspicions about a possible lab leak, says Metzl, especially when there was already a long history of viral disease outbreaks spilling over from nature. Alina Chan, a postdoctoral fellow specializing in gene therapy and cell engineering at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, echoes that view. Chan says the risk of challenging the orthodoxy that SARS-CoV-2 has natural origins—an entirely plausible hypothesis, she maintains—is greatest for established scientists in infectious disease with supervisory roles and staffs to support. She herself has spent much of the last year calling for more scrutiny of a potential lab leak, claiming that as a postdoc, she has less to lose.

The vitriol also obscures a broader imperative, Relman says, which is that uncovering the virus’s origins is crucial to stopping the next pandemic. Threats from both lab accidents and natural spillovers are growing simultaneously as humans move steadily into wild places and new biosafety labs grow in number around the world. “This is why the origins question is so important,” Relman says.

“We need a much better sense about where to place our resources and effort,” he adds. And if a lab release for SARS-CoV-2 looks plausible, Relman says, “then it absolutely deserves a whole lot more attention.”

If SARS-CoV-2 did spill over into humans from the wild, how and where did that happen? A year into the pandemic, these remain open questions. Scientists still speculate about whether the virus passed directly into humans from infected bats (known reservoirs for hundreds of different coronaviruses) or through an intermediary animal species. The Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan was initially thought to be the originating site of a potential spillover, since that's where the first cluster of covid-19—the disease caused by the virus—was detected. But newer evidence suggests that animal or human infections may have been circulating elsewhere for months beforehand, and the focus has since broadened to other markets in the city, wildlife farms in southern China, and other possible scenarios, such as consuming virally contaminated frozen meat originating in other provinces.

Importantly, the virus’s immediate ancestors have yet to be identified. The closest known relative, a coronavirus dubbed RaTG13, is genetically 96% similar to SARS-CoV-2.

A lab-escaped virus, meanwhile, would have been introduced to the world by a researcher or technician who became infected with it. These sorts of lab leaks have happened before, and were implicated in several cases of community transmission during SARS outbreaks in the early 2000s. In 2017, the Wuhan Institute of Virology became the first lab in mainland China to receive a Biosafety Level 4 (BSL-4) designation, the highest security status for a research space. But the institute also has a history of questionable safety practices. The lab’s scientists reported a lack of appropriately trained technicians and investigators at the facility, prompting US diplomatic scientists who visited in 2017 and 2018 to alert the State Department. At the same time, many scientists have pointed out, particularly in the aftermath of a recent, and for some, contentious, examination of the lab-leak hypothesis in New York magazine, that coronaviruses have typically been handled at BSL-2 or BSL-3—lower security levels.

Such caveats aside, a prevailing theory among lab-leak proponents has been that SARS-CoV-2 was not simply brought into the Wuhan lab but was somehow engineered there, given that many of its scientists routinely perform genetic research on coronaviruses and may also have “collaborated on publications and secret projects with China’s military,” according to a US State Department fact sheet released during the last week of the Trump administration. On March 9, a Washington Post columnist, citing an unnamed State Department official, suggested that the Biden administration—while stopping well short of endorsing any particular theory regarding the origin of the virus—did not dispute many of the points made in that fact sheet.

Still, skeptics who doubt the lab-leak hypothesis say SARS-CoV-2 doesn’t look anything like an engineered virus. Instead of appearing in discrete chunks, as would be expected with a genetically engineered microbe, the differences with RaTg13 are distributed randomly throughout the viral genome. In an email to Undark, University of Chicago emeritus virology professor Bernard Roizman wrote that “we are many, many years away from a complete understanding of viral gene functions and regulation—the key elements critical for construction of lethal viruses.”

The virus does have an inexplicable feature: a so-called “furin cleavage site” in the spike protein that helps SARS-CoV-2 pry its way into human cells. While such sites are present in some coronaviruses, they haven’t been found in any of SARS-CoV-2’s closest known relatives. “We don’t know where the furin site came from,” says Susan Weiss, a microbiologist who co-directs the Penn Center for Research on Coronaviruses and Other Emerging Pathogens at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. “It’s a mystery.” Although Weiss says SARS-CoV-2 is unlikely to have been engineered, she adds that the possibility that it escaped from a lab can’t be ruled out.

David Relman
Stanford microbiologist David Relman believes the lab-leak hypothesis was never given a fair hearing.
ALBERTO E. RODRIGUEZ/GETTY IMAGES
Relman says it’s also possible that scientists working with undisclosed and even more closely related coronaviruses—perhaps one with a furin cleavage site and another with the SARS-CoV-2 gene backbone—may have been tempted to create a recombinant virus so they could study its properties. Indeed, researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology initially failed to disclose that eight other SARS-like coronaviruses had been detected in samples collected from the same mine cave where RaTG13 was found. Workers who cleaned bat feces in that cave, located in Yunnan Province near the border with Laos, went on to develop severe respiratory disease, and at least one of them—and, perhaps more—died.

Petrovsky leans towards another potential scenario, namely that SARS-CoV-2 might be evolved from coronaviruses that snuck into lab cultures. Related viruses in the same culture, he explains, such as one optimized for human ACE2 binding and another not, can swap genetic material to create new strains. “We’ve had this sort of thing happen in our own lab,” he says. “One day, you’re culturing flu, and then one day you sequence it, and you go, ‘Holy shit, where did this other virus come from in our culture?’ Viruses are evolving the whole time, and it’s easy for a virus to get into your culture without you knowing it.” Petrovsky and several coauthors speculated in a paper published as a non-peer-reviewed preprint in May of last year as to whether the virus was “completely natural” or whether it originated with “a recombination event that occurred inadvertently or intentionally in a laboratory handling coronaviruses.” The team wasn’t “saying this is a lab virus,” Petrovsky emphasizes, but rather “just presenting our data.”

But in late April 2020, as Petrovsky’s group was thinking about where to publish their work, “Trump blurted out” that he had reason to believe the virus came out of a Chinese lab, Petrovsky says. And at that point, he adds, much of “the left-wing media” decided “they were going to paint the whole lab thing as a conspiracy theory to bring down Trump.” When Petrovsky approached administrators of the preprint server bioRxiv, the paper was refused. BioRxiv staff replied that it would be more appropriately distributed after peer review, “which stunned us,” Petrovksy says. “We thought the whole point of preprint was to get important information out quickly.”

The paper was subsequently posted on a different preprint server called arXiv.org, based out of Cornell University. Soon reporters came calling, but most were from right-wing news outlets representing what Petrovsky calls “the Murdoch press.” Petrovsky says he had to work at stopping some tendentious reporters from distorting his paper’s findings to shape a narrative that SARS-CoV-2 had unequivocally been manufactured. And at the same time, he says, other media tried “to make a mockery of the whole possibility of the lab thing.”



Petrovsky describes himself as politically neutral, and according to sources, he is highly regarded in the vaccine world. Maria Elena Bottazzi, a microbiologist at Baylor College of Medicine, in Houston, says Petrovsky doesn’t make scientific claims that aren’t fully supported by evidence. And yet, simply following the science, Petrovsky suggests, had become too politically fraught. They were “dealing with global forces,” he says, “that are way more powerful than a scientist trying to tell a science-based story.”

The Australian findings were also caught up in a backlash against papers claiming evidence of lab origins by scientists who had jumped opportunistically into the field. Many of these scientists had little relevant experience and no understanding of “how molecular evolution actually works,” says Rasmus Nielsen, an evolutionary biologist and coronavirus expert at the University of California, Berkeley.

Nielsen cites as one example a JanuRY 31 paper posted on bioRxiv by researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology, in New Delhi, that suggested there was an “uncanny similarity” between aspects of SARS-CoV-2 and HIV. In response to a deluge of criticism, the authors withdrew the paper only days after it had been posted. Because of the HIV manuscript and other poor-quality preprints, says Nielsen, the lab-leak idea “became associated with these sorts of crackpot hypotheses and very, very, very shoddy science.”

In an email to Undark, John Inglis, a bioRxiv cofounder, acknowledged that “an extensive network of non-mainstream websites trafficking in theories about the man-made origin of the coronavirus” had amplified the HIV manuscript. From then on, any papers claiming a human-made origin for SARS-CoV-2 would be turned down, not as “a judgment of the investigations or their interpretations,” but ”because such papers require peer review that only journals have the time and resources to do.”

By late spring of 2020, scientists in the natural-origins camp had taken the upper hand in shaping opinions. Only a few researchers have looked deeply into SARS-CoV-2’s origins, and according to the Broad Institute’s Chan, the vast majority of those who did not investigate the question simply accepted what they perceived to be the prevailing view. If scientists were unwilling to challenge the orthodoxy for fear of the consequences, Metzl adds, then that “made it hard for journalists to write credible stories about origins, particularly in the absence of evidence.“

Perhaps no one played a greater role in galvanizing scientific opinions in support of natural origins than Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance, a New York–based environmental health nonprofit. A longtime Wuhan Institute of Virology collaborator, Daszak—who, in what many sources described as a conflict of interest, was a member of the WHO-led team that visited China earlier this year—received grant funding from the National Institutes of Health to collaborate on research at the Chinese lab. (The Trump administration abruptly cut off this funding in April 2020, but it was later reinstated with new restrictions.) Daszak is purported to have written a first draft of the Lancet statement condemning hypotheses other than natural origins as conspiracy theories. After repeated requests for an interview, the EcoHealth Alliance and Daszak declined to comment for this story.

Stanley Perlman, a microbiologist and professor at the University of Iowa, in Iowa City, is listed as a coauthor of the statement. In an email to Undark, he wrote that the lab-leak idea “has several aspects, ranging from the statement that the virus was designed in a lab to ones that state the virus leaked from a laboratory but was not engineered.” The Lancet piece, he says, focused more on engineering, which “would presumably be for a nefarious reason, but fortunately is impossible with our present knowledge.” The actual text of the Lancet statement, however, never makes this distinction.

Charles Calisher, an emeritus professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Pathology at Colorado State University, is also listed as a coauthor. He says the conspiracy-theory phrase was, in his opinion, over the top. “Unfortunately for me, [Daszak] listed everyone alphabetically, and I was first,” he says. With his phone constantly ringing, Calisher says, he told people he couldn’t say much until more information is available.
.................................................. ...............................

In Australia, Petrovksy says he is trying to stay above the fray. He says he was warned to avoid speaking publicly about his modeling findings. “A lot of people advised us, ‘Even if it’s good science, don’t talk about it. It will have a negative impact on your vaccine development. You will get attacked; they will try to discredit you.’” But in the end, that’s not what happened, says Petrovsky. Last year, amid the origins debate, his team became the first in the Southern Hemisphere to take a vaccine for covid-19 into human clinical trials.

“If we are at the point where all science is politicized and no one cares about truth and only being politically correct,” he says, “we may as well give up and shut down and stop doing science.”

https://www.technologyreview.com/202...ts-conspiracy/

Last edited by greenmount; 03.06.2021 at 13:54.
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Old 03.06.2021, 13:48
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Re: Conspiracy beliefs on the rise...

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Should this turn out to be the case, it will not happen again for a long time, controls will be tougher, laboratories will be too worried to lose their reputation and more so their subsidies.
What about laboratories sponsored by people who want to cause harm?

If China can do it, how can we be sure that given enough time, a country like Iran or North Korea can't do something similar?

There was a time that only very powerful countries like the USA could build atomic bombs. These days there are quite a few somewhat poor countries who have the capability or are close.
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Old 03.06.2021, 14:12
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Re: Conspiracy beliefs on the rise...

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Containment failures have happened and will happen again. But, the pathogen that escapes can be something that already exists in nature, or something new and more dangerous developed for research purposes. Is that research worth? Lots of scientists and bureaucrat review panels around the world say yes.

This issue might be similar to nuclear atmospheric tests. There's no way to make a safe one and there's no point in raising a finger to point others while continuing the same research at home. Maybe scientist in biological research need to raise a warning like the doomsday clock.

China looks a bit bad these days because lack of transparency. But transparency is borderline useless if something else escapes from another lab around the world. Bad things will happen anyway.
What a cavalier attitude with this seriously horrifying stuff. IMHO...of course.

Well, I guess to each their own. It's just funny in the EF context.

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Some countries can get away with polluting rivers that flow into other countries and cannot be held to account.

Some countries can get away with polluting the air and causing problems for other countries and cannot be held to account.

So why should there be sanctions if it turns out a virus was accidentally released out of a research laboratory?

Unless somebody is already looking for a reason to pick a fight with China. But then they would sooner or later have found another reason anyway.
The sanctions, I guess, should not be for accidentally realising the virus but for trying to cover this up. I might look for some interviews with the scientists who were upset because of that. It's like in a hit and run case - if you want an analogy.
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