The Morning Jolt


No Remorse: China Now Says the Wuhan Lab Deserves a Nobel Prize

The Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) Hubei province, Wuhan, China May 15, 2020 (Stringer/Reuters)

On the menu today: The Chinese Foreign Ministry argues that the Wuhan Institute of Virology deserves to win the Nobel Prize for Medicine; a look at the blatant contradictions in China’s propaganda about vaccine diplomacy; a senator shrugs off his membership in an all-white private beach club; and apparently progressives can’t find anything to enjoy this summer.

China: The Wuhan Institute of Virology Deserves the Nobel Prize in Medicine

Late last week, the Chinese Academy of Sciences nominated the Wuhan Institute of Virology for its Outstanding Science and Technology Achievement Prize, specifically naming Shi Zhengli, a.k.a. “Bat Woman,” and Yuan Zhiming, director of the WIV’s Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory.

Chinese state-run media explained that, “The award is mainly given to individuals or research groups who have made or demonstrated significant achievements in the past five years . . . China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson stressed at Thursday’s press conference that scientists working at the WIV should be awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine, rather than being blamed for being the first to discover the gene sequence of the novel coronavirus.”

We must admit, the Institute’s work really has touched all of our lives, hasn’t it? And just think how many medical breakthroughs we’ve seen in the past 18 months from Pfizer and Moderna and Oxford and Johnson & Johnson that never would have occurred if hadn’t been for the earlier work of the Wuhan Institute of Virology? The WIV’s work literally brought the world to a screeching halt. It even made late-night television funny again.

Snark aside, the fact that the Chinese government insists the Wuhan Institute of Virology deserves celebration is another indicator that it intends to change nothing in the aftermath of the pandemic. In her recent brief interview with the New York Times, Shi Zhengli said that “bat viruses in China could be studied in BSL-2 labs because there was no evidence that they directly infected humans.” (Biosafety-level-2 laboratories are designed to work with moderately dangerous viruses such as staph infections, hepatitis, or HIV. Biosafety-level-4 facilities work with the most dangerous viruses, particularly contagious pathogens such as Ebola and Marburg.)

Shi’s argument wants it both ways. Part of the argument in support of the zoonotic theory of SARS-CoV-2’s origins is that new viruses jump from animals to people all the time, and thus that is what most likely happened in this case. (Note that past research by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, studying the people who lived closest to the known habitats of horseshoe bats in Yunnan Province, found that just 2.7 percent of people have antibodies indicating past exposure to bat viruses.)

One option is that indeed, it’s extremely unusual for bat viruses to infect human beings — which makes SARS-CoV-2 extremely different from most viruses found in horseshoe bats, suggesting something about the virus may have changed or been altered to make it more contagious among human beings. Or another option is that it isn’t so rare for bat viruses to infect human beings, which would suggest that these viruses shouldn’t be studied in BSL-2 laboratories. Pick one.

Note all of the extra equipment, expense, and precautions required for BSL-4 labs:

In addition to BSL-3 considerations, BSL-4 laboratories have the following containment requirements:

  • Personnel are required to change clothing before entering, shower upon exiting
  • Decontamination of all materials before exiting
  • Personnel must wear appropriate personal protective equipment from prior BSL levels, as well as a full body, air-supplied, positive pressure suit
  • A Class III biological safety cabinet

A BSL-4 laboratory is extremely isolated — often located in a separate building or in an isolated and restricted zone of the building. The laboratory also features a dedicated supply and exhaust air, as well as vacuum lines and decontamination systems.

You read that and wonder why anyone would want to build a BSL-4 laboratory in the middle of a city with 11 million people that’s an international trade and commerce hub.

Oh, and you know who the Chinese Academy of Sciences did not nominate as an “individual who has made or demonstrated significant achievements in the past five years”? Dr. Li Wenliang, the Wuhan ophthalmologist who desperately tried to warn his colleagues about the danger of COVID-19, and was charged with a crime for it, and ultimately died of the disease.

China: See, Our Vaccine Exports Are Better, Because . . .

How the state-run China Daily covers China’s sending vaccine doses overseas:

Many rich nations now sit on vaccine surpluses so large that they could treat their populations several times over. Around 1.8 billion vaccines have been administered across the globe, and close to one-third of those have gone to people living in the G7 group of wealthy economies, while just 0.3 percent have been distributed in countries classed as low-income, according to Our World in Data . . . Chinese vaccines went global several months ago. China has already sent more than 350 million doses abroad, including exports to more than 50 countries and donations to more than 80 countries, according to Zeng Yixin, vice-minister of National Health Commission.

How the state-run Global Times covers the U.S.’s sending vaccines overseas:

Regarding the entry of these anti-epidemic supplies into Taiwan, both the US and Taiwan’s statements are blatant political operation. They have given themselves away by conspicuously and hypocritically pretending their innocence.

From where I sit, one of the key differences is that the U.S. is shipping Taiwan 2.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, which is 50 percent effective two weeks after the first dose and approximately 94.1 percent effective two weeks after the second dose. Meanwhile, China is sending the Sinopharm vaccine, which is proving so unreliable that in Bahrain, high-risk individuals who are fully vaccinated with the Sinopharm vaccine are being encouraged to get the Pfizer one. The other Chinese vaccine, Sinovac, had an efficacy rate of just over 50 percent in a study conducted by Brazil’s Butantan Institute.

Still, I’m sure there’s nothing wrong with that vaccine that a creative marketing department can’t fix. Something like, “Sinovac™: Because risk is what makes life exciting.”

Whitehouse’s Club Lives Up to the First Five Letters of His Name

A U.S. senator’s choosing to remain a member of an all-white beach club isn’t the biggest story in the world, but it’s not exactly a minor story, either, in the era of Black Lives Matter.

Somehow, I get the feeling that if Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island had an “R” after his name instead of a “D,” his membership in the private, all-white Bailey’s Beach Club in Newport would be national news. As it is though, it’s just a minor local-news story: “It’s a long tradition in Rhode Island and there are many of them and I think we just need to work our way through the issues, thank you,” said Whitehouse as he was ushered away by a staffer.

Think that explanation would fly if he were a Republican?

ADDENDUM: If you happen to take a look at the cultural-review offerings over at other publications…

Vox: “In the Heights exemplified the ugly colorism I’ve experienced in Latinx communities.”
CNN: “Why Rita Moreno’s comment about ‘In the Heights’ was terribly wrong”
NPR: “
Tom Hanks Is a Non-Racist. It’s Time For Him To Be Anti-Racist.”
AV Club: “Anthony Mackie seems pretty unhappy with people who want Sam and Bucky to be gay

When Lin Manuel Miranda, Rita Moreno, Tom Hanks, and Anthony Mackie are under fire or being knocked for insufficient tolerance or commitment to diversity, the obvious snarky rejoinder here is, “You’re never woke enough.”

But really, do progressives ever get tired of writing, or reading, “This thing that seems diverse isn’t diverse enough. This thing that seems good isn’t good enough. This thing that lots of people are enjoying shouldn’t be enjoyed”? Remember when our side was supposed to be the downer prudes?


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