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Another Lie from China about COVID-19 and the U.S.

Microbiologist Milagros Sola processes coronavirus tests in a lab at Madigan Army Medical Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., April 14, 2020. (David Ryder/Reuters)

On the menu today: Chinese-state-run media spin a wildly implausible tale contending that COVID-19 is the result of a lab accident at Fort Detrick in Maryland; why reports of people being hospitalized with lung issues across the U.S. in the summer of 2019 do not indicate earlier outbreaks of COVID-19; and perhaps one of the greatest op-eds in New York Times history.

No, a U.S. Army Research Base Wasn’t Shut Down in 2019 Because It Leaked COVID-19

China Daily, one of the English-language wings of Beijing’s state-run global-propaganda networks, continues to insist that the most likely cause of the COVID-19 is a leak from the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, four months before the onset of symptoms in the first recorded infected patient:

Too many suspicions have been aroused, too many mysteries are exposed, and too many questions are to be answered. The more data and evidence we obtain, the more urgent we feel to have a thorough investigation into the pandemic in the US, which has the most confirmed cases and fatalities. Yet, while the US politicians are busy clamoring investigation into other countries for the origins of COVID-19, they all fall eerily silent when inquired about the reason why Fort Detrick was closed right before the pandemic outbreak, and whether all the labs are in good operation status. They refuse to respond to a possible “WHO-convened global study of COVID-19 origins — the US part”. They are caught by another overbearing virus called “America exceptionalism”.

It is indeed true that in August 2019, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, in Fort Detrick, Md., halted its research operations, after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined it had failed a safety inspection. The CDC determined that no infectious pathogens, viruses, bacteria, or other potential disease-finding material had been found outside authorized areas at the facility. “The suspension was due to multiple causes, including failure to follow local procedures and a lack of periodic recertification training for workers in the biocontainment laboratories. . . . The wastewater decontamination system also failed to meet standards set by the Federal Select Agent Program.”

The local Frederick News Post, which broke the story, reported:

At the time of the cease-and-desist order, USAMRIID scientists were working with agents known to cause tularemia, also called deer fly or rabbit fever, the plague and Venezuelan equine encephalitis, all of which were worked on in a biosafety level 3 laboratory. Researchers were also working with the Ebola virus in a biosafety level 4 lab, Vander Linden said.

The CDC restored Fort Detrick to full operating status in April 2020.

Hearing that a U.S. military lab that researches dangerous pathogens failed a safety inspection is never reassuring. But what the researchers at Fort Detrick were working on is considerably different from SARS-CoV-2. Rabbit Fever and plague are caused by bacteria, not a virus. Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus is a mosquito-transmitted tropical fever that attacks the nervous system. And the Ebola virus, as terrifying as it is, is not a respiratory virus, and there is no evidence it is spread by coughing or sneezing — it is spread by bodily fluids such as blood, sweat, and urine. There is no indication that USAMRIID scientists were ever working with novel coronaviruses found in bats. And contending that one of these other pathogens spontaneously mutated into SARS-CoV-2 is like suggesting that a particular rabbit may have suddenly and spontaneously evolved into a tiger.

The Maryland Department of Health, the Virginia Department of Health, 15 other states, and the CDC were paying attention to an outbreak of lung problems in August 2019, saying patients “reported a gradual start of symptoms including breathing difficulty, shortness of breath, and/or chest pain before hospitalization. Some cases reported mild to moderate gastrointestinal illness including vomiting and diarrhea and fatigue as well.” But the problem with claiming a connection to COVID-19 is that these were almost entirely young people and there’s no indication that their lung problems were contagious. The final report on the phenomenon in the New England Journal of Medicine described “98 case patients, 79 percent of whom were male; the median age of the patients was 21 years, and 89 percent of the patients reported having used tetrahydrocannabinol products in e-cigarette devices, although a wide variety of products and devices was reported.” Many of the patients were adolescents. If this was an early outbreak of COVID-19, the elderly people around those patients would have exhibited symptoms as well.

There’s also absolutely no evidence to support China’s claim that U.S. or other countries’ athletes imported the virus when they arrived for the World Military Games held in Wuhan in October 2019. (That said, several members of Congress are calling for an investigation into whether Wuhan had any cases of coronavirus at that time, and whether the international athletic competition may have been a super-spreader event.)

As for the claim that COVID-19 represents a U.S. bioweapon, President Richard Nixon issued an executive order unilaterally and unconditionally ending America’s bioweapons program in 1969, and all U.S. stockpiles were destroyed by 1972. All of the research done at Fort Detrick is designed to protect U.S. forces and civilians from biological weapons used by opposing hostile forces. (A quick history of the U.S. government’s appalling record of secretly testing biological agents on or near unsuspecting civilians before 1969 can be found on page 261 of Hunting Four Horsemen.)

But to the Chinese government, it is plausible to contend that U.S. military officials somehow secretly snuck COVID-19 into Wuhan without sickening any American personnel and set off the global pandemic, but not plausible to contend that Chinese researchers studying novel coronaviruses in bats accidentally released a novel coronavirus most similar to those found in bats into the middle of the city that experienced the first outbreak.

Earlier this week, this newsletter studied statements from U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines indicating that a month into the presidentially directed review of the pandemic’s origins, the U.S. intelligence community still has no clear answers. Curiously, the rest of that China Daily editorial suggests the Chinese government completely expects the Biden administration’s review to definitively state the COVID-19 pandemic is the result of a lab leak:

A most rigorous research which ought to be carried out by experts and scientists has been handed over to special agents. Whether or not the agents have the expertise to do such complicated scientific research as tracing the origins, their job description has already put a big question mark on the integrity and fairness of the report due to be released in 70 days or so. This pure political motive is unrelated to — if not contradictory with — the fact-based, evidence-supported, politics-immune and unbiased scientific work. By refocusing attention on the Wuhan Institute of Virology as the target of probe into COVD-19 origins, the US would be able to further demonize China by mounting a disinformation campaign by its intelligence community notorious for disseminating lies in pursuit of US foreign policy goals.

Almost as if the Chinese government has a suspicion or fear of what the U.S. intelligence community is finding, huh?

The Coverup Is Proven, Even If the Preceding Crime Is Not

Zeynep Tufekci has an epic op-ed in today’s New York Times. Take the time to read the whole thing, but this is a particularly important passage:

On Feb. 3, 2020, Dr. Shi and co-authors announced in Nature that they had found a virus in their database, RaTG13, whose genome sequence was 96.2 percent identical to SARS-CoV-2 and was previously detected in horseshoe bats of Yunnan.

Suspicious internet sleuths combed through genomic databases and found that RaTG13 was an exact match for a bat coronavirus called 4991 retrieved from a cave implicated in an unexplained outbreak of pneumonia in 2012 among miners who collected bat guano from a mine in Yunnan. Three of the six miners died.

In May 2020, a former science teacher from India, with the Twitter pseudonym TheSeeker268, found a 2013 master’s thesis, as well as a 2016 Ph.D. thesis, supervised by George Fu Gao, the current director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The master’s thesis hypothesized that the miners’ illness was caused by direct transmission of a SARS-like coronavirus from a horseshoe bat. The Ph.D. thesis was more cautious but still called the outbreak “notable.” It also revealed that a team from the Wuhan Institute of Virology had collected bat samples from the cave. The dissertation noted that all four of the miners who were tested for SARS antibodies had them in their blood a few weeks after they became ill.

None of those crucial facts — the name change or the link to the previous fatal outbreak possibly from a SARS-like coronavirus — were mentioned in the original paper about RaTG13. In an interview published in March 2020s, Dr. Shi said fungus was the pathogen that had sickened the miners, not a coronavirus.

In other words, we already know that Dr. Shi Zhengli and the Wuhan Institute of Virology have lied to the world several times during this pandemic. The question is: Why? And what are they covering up?

ADDENDA: The editors observe that if Senate Democrats pass the popular parts of their infrastructure agenda through a bipartisan deal and the unpopular parts of their infrastructure agenda through reconciliation . . . then Senate Republicans will be the ones making all of the concessions. Why would you agree to give the opposition party something for nothing?

. . . How the heck does Rhode Island Democratic senator Sheldon Whitehouse have membership in three all-white clubs and escape any serious political consequences?

Ten years of Charlie Cooke, a great free-agent signing for both National Review and the U.S. as a whole.

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