I offered the articles to The Guardian (twice), Open Democracy, Common Dreams, and the Morning Star. All declined to publish them as features, ( although eventually the MS did I accept a highly redacted [cut] letter.)
Today, The Washington Post, that well known conspiracy organ - remember their ludicrous story in 1973 that US President Nixon was involve din d some dastardly plot, a break in at the Watergate Office building in Foggy Bottom in downtown DC ,where the Democratic Party was then HQ'd - publishes the story below.
What do you believe now?
State Department cables warned of safety issues at Wuhan lab studying bat coronaviruses
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Two years before the novel coronavirus pandemic upended the world, U.S. Embassy officials visited a Chinese research facility in the city of Wuhan several times and sent two official warnings back to Washington about inadequate safety at the lab, which was conducting risky studies on coronaviruses from bats. The cables have fueled discussions inside the U.S. government about whether this or another Wuhan lab was the source of the virus — even though conclusive proof has yet to emerge.
In January 2018, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing took the unusual step of repeatedly sending U.S. science diplomats to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), which had in 2015 become China’s first laboratory to achieve the highest level of international bioresearch safety (known as BSL-4). WIV issued a news release in English about the last of these visits, which occurred on March 27, 2018. The U.S. delegation was led by Jamison Fouss, the consul general in Wuhan, and Rick Switzer, the embassy’s counselor of environment, science, technology and health. Last week, WIV erased that statement from its website, though it remains archived on the Internet.
What the U.S. officials learned during their visits concerned them so much that they dispatched two diplomatic cables categorized as Sensitive But Unclassified back to Washington. The cables warned about safety and management weaknesses at the WIV lab and proposed more attention and help. The first cable, which I obtained, also warns that the lab’s work on bat coronaviruses and their potential human transmission represented a risk of a new SARS-like pandemic.
“During interactions with scientists at the WIV laboratory, they noted the new lab has a serious shortage of appropriately trained technicians and investigators needed to safely operate this high-containment laboratory,” states the Jan. 19, 2018, cable, which was drafted by two officials from the embassy’s environment, science and health sections who met with the WIV scientists. (The State Department declined to comment on this and other details of the story.)
The Chinese researchers at WIV were receiving assistance from the Galveston National Laboratory at the University of Texas Medical Branch and other U.S. organizations, but the Chinese requested additional help. The cables argued that the United States should give the Wuhan lab further support, mainly because its research on bat coronaviruses was important but also dangerous.
As the cable noted, the U.S. visitors met with Shi Zhengli, the head of the research project, who had been publishing studies related to bat coronaviruses for many years. In November 2017, just before the U.S. officials’ visit, Shi’s team had published research showing that horseshoe bats they had collected from a cave in Yunnan province were very likely from the same bat population that spawned the SARS coronavirus in 2003.
“Most importantly,” the cable states, “the researchers also showed that various SARS-like coronaviruses can interact with ACE2, the human receptor identified for SARS-coronavirus. This finding strongly suggests that SARS-like coronaviruses from bats can be transmitted to humans to cause SARS-like diseases. From a public health perspective, this makes the continued surveillance of SARS-like coronaviruses in bats and study of the animal-human interface critical to future emerging coronavirus outbreak prediction and prevention.”
The research was designed to prevent the next SARS-like pandemic by anticipating how it might emerge. But even in 2015, other scientists questioned whether Shi’s team was taking unnecessary risks. In October 2014, the U.S. government had imposed a moratorium on funding of any research that makes a virus more deadly or contagious, known as “gain-of-function” experiments.
As many have pointed out, there is no evidence that the virus now plaguing the world was engineered; scientists largely agree it came from animals. But that is not the same as saying it didn’t come from the lab, which spent years testing bat coronaviruses in animals, said Xiao Qiang, a research scientist at the School of Information at the University of California at Berkeley.
“The cable tells us that there have long been concerns about the possibility of the threat to public health that came from this lab’s research, if it was not being adequately conducted and protected,” he said.
There are similar concerns about the nearby Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention lab, which operates at biosecurity level 2, a level significantly less secure than the level-4 standard claimed by the Wuhan Insititute of Virology lab, Xiao said. That’s important because the Chinese government still refuses to answer basic questions about the origin of the novel coronavirus while suppressing any attempts to examine whether either lab was involved.
Sources familiar with the cables said they were meant to sound an alarm about the grave safety concerns at the WIV lab, especially regarding its work with bat coronaviruses. The embassy officials were calling for more U.S. attention to this lab and more support for it, to help it fix its problems.The cable was a warning shot,” one U.S. official said. “They were begging people to pay attention to what was going on.”
No extra assistance to the labs was provided by the U.S. government in response to these cables. The cables began to circulate again inside the administration over the past two months as officials debated whether the lab could be the origin of the pandemic and what the implications would be for the U.S. pandemic response and relations with China.
Inside the Trump administration, many national security officials have long suspected either the WIV or the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention lab was the source of the novel coronavirus outbreak. According to the New York Times, the intelligence community has provided no evidence to confirm this. But one senior administration official told me that the cables provide one more piece of evidence to support the possibility that the pandemic is the result of a lab accident in Wuhan.
“The idea that it was just a totally natural occurrence is circumstantial. The evidence it leaked from the lab is circumstantial. Right now, the ledger on the side of it leaking from the lab is packed with bullet points and there’s almost nothing on the other side,” the official said.
As my colleague David Ignatius noted, the Chinese government’s original story — that the virus emerged from a seafood market in Wuhan — is shaky. Research by Chinese experts published in the Lancet in January showed the first known patient, identified on Dec. 1, had no connection to the market, nor did more than one-third of the cases in the first large cluster. Also, the market didn’t sell bats.
REVEALED: U.S. government gave $3.7million grant to Wuhan lab at center of coronavirus leak scrutiny that was performing experiments on bats from the caves where the disease is believed to have originated
- The US National Institutes of Health, a government agency, awarded a $3.7million research grant to the Wuhan Institute of Virology
- The lab is the center of several conspiracy theories that suggest it is the original source of the coronavirus outbreak
- The institute experimented on bats from the source of the coronavirus
- They were captured more than 1,000 miles away in Yunnan
- Sequencing of the Covid-19 genome has traced it to bats to Yunnan's caves
- The U.S. government funded research on coronavirus transmission in the lab over the past decade
- Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID
The Chinese laboratory at the centre of scrutiny over a potential coronavirus leak has been using U.S. government money to carry out research on bats from the caves which scientists believe are the original source of the deadly outbreak.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology undertook coronavirus experiments on mammals captured more than 1,000 miles away in Yunnan which were funded by a $3.7 million grant from the US government.
Sequencing of the COVID-19 genome has traced it back to bats found in Yunnan caves but it was first thought to have transferred to humans at an animal market in Wuhan.
The revelation that the Wuhan Institute was experimenting on bats from the area already known to be the source of COVID-19 - and doing so with American money - has sparked further fears that the lab, and not the market, is the original outbreak source.
Lawmakers and pressure groups were quick to hit out at U.S. funding being provided for the 'dangerous and cruel animal experiments at the Wuhan Institute'.
A laboratory at the center of scrutiny over the coronavirus pandemic has been carrying out research on bats from the cave which scientists believe is the original source of the outbreak
Workers are seen next to a cage with mice inside the P4 laboratory in Wuhan. It has been revealed that the lab also carried out research on bats from the source location of COVID-19
The institute is located only 20 miles from the food market where it was originally believed that the outbreak began. Experts continue to say the virus was transmitted from animal to human and was not lab engineered in China as some conspiracy theories have claimed
US Congressman Matt Gaetz said: 'I'm disgusted to learn that for years the US government has been funding dangerous and cruel animal experiments at the Wuhan Institute, which may have contributed to the global spread of coronavirus, and research at other labs in China that have virtually no oversight from US authorities.'
On Saturday, Anthony Bellotti, president of the US pressure group White Coat Waste, condemned his government for spending tax dollars in China, adding: 'Animals infected with viruses or otherwise sickened and abused in Chinese labs reportedly may be sold to wet markets for consumption once experiments are done.'
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The $37million Wuhan Institute of Virology, the most advanced laboratory of its type on the Chinese mainland, is based twenty miles from the now infamous wildlife market that was thought to be the location of the original transfer of the virus from animals to humans.
According to documents obtained by The Mail on Sunday, scientists there experimented on bats as part of a project funded by the US National Institutes of Health, which continues to licence the Wuhan laboratory to receive American money for experiments.
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Congressman Gaetz, (Rep,.Fla)as criticized U.S. funding of research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology after it emerged that experiments were being conducted on bats from Yunnan, the location experts believe to be the original source of deadly COVID-19
Anthony Bellotti, the founder and National Campaign Manager of the White Coat Waste Project, slammed the use of US funding to perform experiments on bats in Wuhan
China clamps down on research into the origins of coronavirus as officials demand the right to vet scientific papers
China is clamping down on research into the origins of the coronavirus after officials have demanded the right to inspect its scientific papers before they are made pubic.
Two websites for leading Chinese universities have allegedly recently published and then removed pages that discuss a new policy which requires academic papers about Covid-19 to undergo extra checks before they are published, according to The Guardian.
Both Fudan University and the China University of Geosciences (Wuhan) allegedly posted notices saying that research on the origins of the coronavirus will be subject to government checks.
The director of the SOAS China Institute in London, Professor Steve Tsang, said that the Chinese government is more concerned with 'controlling the narrative' surrounding coronavirus than public health or economic fallout.
The source who found the cached versions of the websites said they were concerned at what appeared to be a governmental coverup.
The NIH is the primary agency of the United States government responsible for biomedical and public health research.
The Wuhan Institute lists them on their website as a partner as well as several other American academic institutions.
Other U.S. partners include the University of Alabama, the University of North Texas, Harvard University, and the National Wildlife Federation.
As part of the NIH research at the institute, scientists grew a coronavirus in a lab and injected it into three-day-old piglets.
The news that COVID-19 bats were under research there means that a leak from the Wuhan laboratory can no longer be completely ruled out.
According to one unverified claim, scientists at the institute could have become infected after being sprayed with blood containing the virus, and then passed it on to the local community.
A second institute in the city, the Wuhan Centre for Disease Control – which is barely three miles from the market – is also believed to have carried out experiments on animals such as bats to examine the transmission of coronaviruses.
The Wuhan Institute, which keeps more than 1,500 strains of deadly viruses, specializes in the research of 'the most dangerous pathogens', in particular the viruses carried by bats.
Chinese officials decided to build the institute after the country was ravaged by an outbreak of SARS in 2002 and 2003.
SARS, another kind of coronavirus, killed 775 people and infected more than 8,000 globally in an epidemic.
Since an outbreak of the novel coronavirus emerged in the city in December, it has been at the centre of conspiracy theories which suggest that the bug originated there.
While scientists believe that the virus jumped to humans from wild animals sold as food in a market in Wuhan, conspiracy theorists promote different assumptions.
Some of them claim that the virus, formally known as SARS-CoV-2, could be a biological warfare weapon engineered there. Others suspect that it escaped from the lab.
China has repeatedly denied the allegations.
· Biosafety Level 4 Laboratory, Wuhan Institute of Virology. The institute is at the center of several controversial conspiracy theories that claim it is to blame for the coronavirus outbreak
Shi Zhengli, a deputy director of the institute, told the press in February that she 'guaranteed with her own life' that the outbreak was not related to the lab.
She admits that when summoned back from a conference to investigate the new disease, she wondered at first if a coronavirus could have escaped from her unit.
She has warned about the danger of epidemics from bat-borne viruses.
But she says she did not expect such an outbreak in Wuhan, in the center of China, since her studies suggested subtropical areas in the south had the highest risk of such 'zoonotic' transmission to humans.
Shi told the respected science journal Scientific American last month of her relief when, having checked back through disposal records, none of the genome sequences matched their virus samples.
'That really took a load off my mind. I had not slept a wink for days,' she said.
American biosecurity expert Professor Richard Ebright, of Rutgers University's Waksman Institute of Microbiology, New Jersey, said that while the evidence suggests COVID-19 was not created in one of the Wuhan laboratories, it could easily have escaped from there while it was being analyzed.
Prof Ebright said he has seen evidence that scientists at the Centre for Disease Control and the Institute of Virology studied the viruses with only 'level 2' security – rather than the recommended level 4 – which 'provides only minimal protections against infection of lab workers'.
He added: 'Virus collection, culture, isolation, or animal infection would pose a substantial risk of infection of a lab worker, and from the lab worker then the public.'
He concluded that the evidence left 'a basis to rule out [that coronavirus is] a lab construct, but no basis to rule out a lab accident'.
Results of the U.S-funded research at the Wuhan Institute were published in November 2017 under the heading: 'Discovery of a rich gene pool of bat SARS-related coronaviruses provides new insights into the origin of SARS coronavirus.'
Many international experts have also dismissed such theories.
Dr Keusch, Professor of Medicine and International Health at Boston University's Schools of Medicine and Public Health, stressed that no release of viruses from a high-level lab, such as the one in Wuhan, 'has ever happened'.
He defended his peers in the Chinese city as he said: 'The Wuhan lab is designed to the highest standards with redundant safety systems and the highest level of training.
'Many of its research faculty trained at a similar laboratory in Galveston, Texas. So we know the Wuhan team is as qualified as the Texas group…
'This means the assertion of a leak, rather than being highly likely, instead is highly unlikely.'
Last week, further doubt was cast on the animal market theory, however, after Cao Bin, a doctor at the Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital, highlighted research showing that 13 of the first 41 patients diagnosed with the infection had not had any contact with the market.
'It seems clear that the seafood market is not the only origin of the virus,' he said.