“The Story of the Decade?”: The Lab Leak Theory Acquires A Smoking Gun.

In the last few days, new and crucial evidence has emerged with respect to the Lab Leak theory of COVID-19 origin.  I am no friend of Nicholas Wade, who was science editor of the New York Times from 1990 to 1996 and who, as I recall, made some disparaging remarks about the OPV theory at the end of the Royal Society meeting.  But I would acknowledge that he has wide experience as a science writer and a good nose for a story.   And five days ago he published a barn-storming article headed “The Story of the Decade”, which blew the COVID origins story wide open.   Published on-line in the City Journal, its sub-title was “New documents strengthen – perhaps conclusively – the lab-leak hypothesis of Covid-19’s origins.”https://www.city-journal.org/article/new-documents-bolster-lab-leak-hypothesis

Initially I decided not to post on this story, fully expecting it to be picked up within a day or two by the mainstream media. However, for some reason this has not happened. This may be because the COVID origins story has got lost amongst the many powerful stories being filed from places such as Gaza, Yemen, the Syrian/Jordanian border and Ukraine, combined with important domestic stories from the US and UK.

But the fact that the story has been ignored by the mainstream media does not mean that it is not one of huge importance. For in reality the latest revelations mark a quantum leap forward for the plausibility of the lab leak theory. 

The story starts with a judicious FOIA investigation by Emily Kopp, who for many months has been following the origins story for the on-line site “U.S. Right To Know”, whose strap-line is “Investigating truth and transparency for public health”.   Her FOIA requests finally produced some vital new documents, and on January 18 she posted a feature titled “US Scientists proposed to make viruses with unique features of SARS-CoV-2 in Wuhan”.  For Emily Kopp’s article, see:

https://usrtk.org/covid-19-origins/scientists-proposed-making-viruses-with-unique-features-of-sars-cov-2-in-wuhan/

And for the latest FOIA documents, see the following, though be aware that they total over 1,400 pages:

https://usrtk.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/USGS-DEFUSE-2021-006245-Combined-Records_Redacted.pdf

The new documents relate to a $14 million research proposal called DEFUSE which the President of EcoHealth Alliance, Peter Daszak, submitted to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, DARPA, in 2018.  The proposal also involved the University of North Carolina virologist Ralph Baric, who is an expert in the genetic manipulation of sections of virus such as spike proteins.  The DEFUSE proposal involved Gain Of Function (GOF) research, and the genetic manipulation of freshly discovered bat coronaviruses.  At one point the FOIA documents reveal that the grant applicants described the viruses to be studied in the grant as posing “a clear-and-present danger of a new SARS-like pandemic”.

What the latest FOIA documents also provide, in my opinion, is the previously missing link in the chain of evidence. As explained by Emily Kopp, they show that the scientists behind the DEFUSE proposal “sought to insert furin cleavage sites at the S1/S2 junction of the spike protein; to assemble synthetic viruses in six segments; to identify coronaviruses up to 25% different from SARS [which caused the first, much smaller, human coronavirus epidemic in 2003]; and to select for receptor binding domains adept at infecting human receptors.”   Kopp adds: “The genome of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that caused COVID-19, matches the viruses described in the research proposal.”   Indeed, the six segments of the genome were of almost exactly the same length, an outcome which would only be expected in one in a million instances if the virus had originated naturally.

Moreover, these viral manipulations comprised exactly the sort of genetic engineering work that three eminent viral researchers (Valentin Bruttel, Alex Washburne and Antonius VanDongen) had forecast, back in 2022, as the pattern that would be revealed if the virus turned out to have had a synthetic or artificial origin.

DARPA apparently rejected the proposal, believing it to be too dangerous (which is exactly what Baric himself concluded, although it is not clear how many of the experiments he had already carried out before he released this mea culpa statement).  But Wade surmises that maybe the Chinese, realising the potential importance of this research, sought local funding in order to carry it out, but without telling their former US collaborators.  In fact, this is one small element that Wade and Kopp appear to have missed, for it has been reported by the Sunday Times Insight team that by 2017 at latest the Wuhan lab of Professor Shi Zhengli was already collaborating with the Chinese military, some of whose members were allegedly interested in the potential use of such artificial viruses as bioweapons, and in the development of vaccines against these viruses.  [See my previous blog of June 14, 2023: “Covid-19 origins: If it was a lab leak, was it caused by biowarfare research?”]  This would seem to provide a ready answer to the question of who might have provided the funds to proceed with the extended GOF research proposed in the DEFUSE programme. It would also help explain China’s intransigent stance on refusing to allow further investigation into COVID’s origins.

Daszak was clearly an enthusiastic supporter of extending the viral work, and went to great lengths to encourage its progress which, according to Wade, “included deceiving the Defense Department into thinking the bulk of the research would be done by Baric in the United States”. By contrast, Wade writes that Daszak had “planned…to have much of the work undertaken by Shi’s team in Wuhan”. In partial explanation, Wade writes that “Daszak is a research manager, not a virologist, and perhaps did not fully understand the consequences of this decision.”    Increasingly, Daszak comes across as a naive and Tiggerish enthusiast, a man who fails to think through the potential impact of his actions.

The consequences were doubly dramatic because (quite apart from the reported involvement of the military) Shi, unlike Baric, believed that this extension to the COVID research could be carried out in a lab with BioSafety Level 2 (BSL2) protection, such as the headquarters building of the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), 8 miles south of downtown Wuhan.   Previously members of the natural origin lobby have insisted that the epidemic could not have had an artificial source in Wuhan, because the new WIV laboratory with maximum (BSL4) biosafety containment (where they presumed that the COVID research had been staged) lay some 20 miles to the south of central Wuhan, where they insisted that the epidemic had started around the wet market in December 2019.  But as reported in my blog of June 14, 2023, a much larger cluster of early cases appears around the WIV HQ than around the wet market.  This suggests that the repeated insistence of Michael Worobey that there was an early epicentre of COVID-19 infection at the Wuhan wet market is in fact a red herring, one which has no relevance to the origins of the disease. What Worobey and other supporters of natural origin, such as Eddie Holmes and Andrew Rambaut, fail to acknowledge is that there may have been an initial outbreak in November 2019 among staff at the WIV headquarters, which means that the outbreak starting in December 2019 at the wet market would have been merely a secondary outbreak.  The important information is that Shi’s team appear to have been actively pursuing their genetic manipulations into coronaviruses in 2018 and 2019 at the WIV HQ building, which had only BSL2 containment.

Several observers believe that this latest evidence represents a smoking gun. For instance the eminent science writer Matt Ridley, co-author of “Viral: The Search for the Origin of Covid-19”, concludes that it is now “Game over” for the COVID origins debate.  Nicholas Wade reports that Ridley believes that “every suspicious feature of SARS2 is explained by the methods called for in the DEFUSE documents”. 

The last section of Nicholas Wade’s article is worth reprinting in full. It begins by summarising the latest evidence: He writes: “SARS2 possesses a furin cleavage site, found in none of the other 871 known members of its viral family, so it cannot have gained such a site [naturally,] through the ordinary evolutionary swaps of genetic material within a family. The DEFUSE proposal called for inserting one. As is now known, the DEFUSE procedure was to assemble the viral genome from six DNA sections, which would account for the even spacing of the restriction enzyme recognition sites in SARS2. Despite intensive search, no precursors for SARS2 have been found in the natural world. Given the 2018 date of the DEFUSE proposal, the researchers in Wuhan could have synthesized the virus by 2019, accounting perfectly for the otherwise unexplained timing of the Covid-19 pandemic as well as its place of origin. It all fits.”

But it is Wade’s concluding analysis which is most telling. He goes on: “Both Beijing and Washington have covered up information about the origin of SARS2. Washington’s obfuscation has been aided by the puzzling inability of its 17 intelligence agencies to discover documents in the U.S. government’s own possession, and by a mainstream press too opinionated and ignorant of science to understand the story of the decade. U.S. responsibility lies in having allowed two senior health-research officials, Anthony Fauci and Francis Collins, to promote gain-of-function research (enhancing natural viruses) for years without adequate safety oversight or scientific consensus.”

“Though Washington may be complicit, the bulk of the blame for the pandemic surely rests with Beijing. No one but China is responsible for regulating the safety of virology research at Wuhan. Chinese researchers apparently chose to race ahead with a project that DARPA, perhaps because of the manifest risks, had refused to fund. When the virus escaped its lax containment, if that is indeed what happened, the Chinese government did everything possible to bury the truth.”

“But that truth is enciphered in a place where, once decoded, no one can hide it: the genetic structure of the SARS2 virus itself.”

Chapeaux to Ms Kopp and Mr Wade, as our Francophile American friends are wont to say.

Posted by Edward Hooper, January 30, 2024.

COVID-19 Origins: If it was a lab leak, was it caused by biowarfare research?

Some three and a half years have passed since the start of the COVID pandemic, and we now see the first serious article arguing that COVID-19 was the result of biowarfare experiments in Wuhan. 

And it comes from a reputable source: the “Insight” investigative team at the Sunday Times in the UK, whose past successes have included their study of the thalidomide scandal in the 1970s, the background story of the Falklands War and, more recently, investigations into FIFA corruption and doping in world athletics.   That team now consists of Insight editor Jonathan Calvert (a former winner of Journalist of the Year at the British Press Awards, and three-time winner of Scoop of the Year) and his deputy George Arbuthnott, (a former winner of Investigation of the Year and Scoop of the Year ).  They have co-written 11 articles on COVID in the last 3 years, including four on its origins, two of them in the last three months.   As far as I can make out neither man is a science specialist, but they are careful and experienced journalists representing what is generally recognised as the leading investigative team in British newspapers (indeed, the only such investigative team that remains in the mainstream British press), which encourages confidence in their findings.

Continue reading “COVID-19 Origins: If it was a lab leak, was it caused by biowarfare research?”

SWAT Teams and Copycat Cover-ups on the Origins of Pandemics

More and more evidence indicates that the widespread debunking that the lab leak hypothesis of the origins of COVID-19 has experienced in recent times may represent a re-run of the debunking that the OPV theory of the origin of AIDS experienced some twenty-odd years ago.  Indeed, several of the same members of the scientific community have taken part in both campaigns of vilification.  One of the latest articles about the origins of COVID-19 describes a “SWAT team” that was set up early on to discredit the hypothesis that the pandemic could have been caused by a viral leak from a laboratory.  The tactics used by the SWAT teams that have taken part in the debates about how COVID and AIDS got started are characterised by ruthless attempts to disparage, discredit and deny.  This commentary will focus on what increasingly look like two significant cover-ups of how recent pandemics got started. and examine the remarkable similarities between them.  

For those who are not familiar with the OPV theory, it proposes that an experimental polio vaccine which, uniquely, was administered in the Belgian territories of central Africa in the late 1950s, and batches of which were prepared in the cells of the common chimpanzee (which is naturally infected with the ancestral virus to the AIDS virus, HIV-1), introduced that virus into humans, and was the source of the AIDS pandemic. Initially rejected by many in the scientific mainstream, many now believe that the OPV theory has become increasingly plausible as time goes by and new knowledge about the AIDS pandemic is processed. 

Continue reading “SWAT Teams and Copycat Cover-ups on the Origins of Pandemics”

The River, A Journey to the Source of HIV and AIDS [2021 edition], by Edward Hooper

 We hereby announce the release of a new, free, searchable on-line version of the book.

It’s strange how events sometimes unfold.   Some 14 years ago I became the sole copyright holder for both the UK and US editions of The River, originally published in August 1999 by Little, Brown in the US and by Penguin in the UK, with two paperback editions published the following year.  However, being something of a technophobe, I never personally bothered to obtain an electronic version of the entire text.  What I had, of course, were files of the individual chapters, plus originals of the various photos, maps and charts.

Continue reading “The River, A Journey to the Source of HIV and AIDS [2021 edition], by Edward Hooper”

Sensational New Evidence Strongly Supports the COVID-19 Lab Leak Theory

A new article on The Intercept web-site (“New Details Emerge About Coronavirus Research at Chinese Lab” by Sharon Lerner and Myra Hvistendahl, posted September 7, 2021), reveals some startling new information about the Gain Of Function (GOF) research carried out on bat coronaviruses by Chinese and American scientists from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) and Peter Daszak’s EcoHealth Alliance.

https://theintercept.com/2021/09/06/new-details-emerge-about-coronavirus-research-at-chinese-lab/

The Intercept used FOIA litigation against the National Institutes of Health in order to gain access to 900 pages of documents about the work carried out on bat coronaviruses by EcoHealth Alliance.  Lerner and Hvistendahl report that: “The documents contain several critical details about the research in Wuhan, including the fact that key experimental work with humanized mice was conducted at a biosafety level 3 lab at Wuhan University Center for Animal Experiment – and not at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, as was previously assumed.”  

Continue reading “Sensational New Evidence Strongly Supports the COVID-19 Lab Leak Theory”

Latest update on COVID origins and a review of the performance of flip-flopping scientists

Just last night I was able to view the excellent Channel Four documentary “Did COVID Leak from a Lab in China?”, directed by David Malone for DNA Productions, and first broadcast on Sunday August 22nd

In the space of 47 minutes, this documentary made a compelling case for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which has caused the COVID-19 pandemic, having an artificial origin, after escaping from a lab in Wuhan, China. 

However, I note that much of the content of the documentary was based on an impressively detailed 83-page report entitled “The Origins of COVID-19: An Investigation of the Wuhan Institute of Virology”  that was issued by the Minority Staff of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, led by Republican Michael T. McCaul,  and posted on-line as a PDF on August 2nd, at https://gop-foreignaffairs.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/ORIGINS-OF-COVID-19-REPORT.pdf

This appears to be the contribution made by the Republican side of the House to the debate initiated by Joe Biden in May, in which he requested a report from Congress within 90 days on the likely origins of the pandemic virus. Whatever opinions one might have on the current performance of the Republican Party, as most GOP members of Congress cluster around Trump’s fiction that he won the 2020 election, this comes across as an impressive report, clearly compiled by people who know how to do proper research.  I recommend it.

Since there has already been much discussion of these issues on-line, let me attempt to briefly summarise the present state of the debate, with particular reference to these two sources.

Continue reading “Latest update on COVID origins and a review of the performance of flip-flopping scientists”

Blunders and Blunderbusses

As the COVID-19 origins debate increasingly comes to resemble an eighteenth century battle-field, more and more scientists now believe that the pandemic virus was the result of a catastrophic lab escape.

For several weeks now people have been sending me links to a variety of articles which offer strong support to the theory that COVID-19, which was first recognised in the Chinese city of Wuhan, originated as a result of a pathogen escaping from a virus lab, rather than through a “natural process”, one which did not involve scientific researchers.  Normally one might write “a process that did not involve human hands”, but in this instance such a description would be misleading, for the leading version of the “natural process hypothesis” involves a new viral variant evolving as a result of different species being placed in close proximity at the Wuhan Seafood Market, and it is clear that this too would have involved the participation of human hands.   So let me stress that in this particular blog about COVID-19 origins the distinction is between the lab leak hypothesis, and the natural spillover hypothesis.

Continue reading “Blunders and Blunderbusses”

Warning: Fake Version of The River on Kindle.

I have heard from one of our correspondents that there is now a pirated version of The River being offered on-line, and readers are hereby warned to avoid it. Apparently this version is badly formatted, with lots of errors, and my informant tells me “I wouldn’t download it if I were you.  Might have spyware or something on it…”

I own the copyright to The River, and hopefully there will be a proper ebook version available in the future.

Ed Hooper    May 18th, 2021.

Blaine F. Elswood: 1948-2020

Blaine Elswood in southern Africa, circa 1973

I recently learned from Blaine Elswood’s daughter, Elise, that he had died of prostate cancer in Costa Rica in August 2020.  I am sorry to hear this, for I consider Elswood, as he always preferred to be known, to be one of the heroes of the early investigation into the OPV theory of AIDS origin.   (Another unsung hero was Louis Pascal who, like Elswood, was a highly unusual man.)

I only knew Elswood through our mutual interest in the origins of the pandemic, and never met him.  Apart from the various emails that we exchanged down the years, the following eulogy therefore relies on large amounts of information from his family and friends.

Elswood was born in September 1948 into a Mormon family living in Salt Lake City; he had two sisters and a brother, and was the youngest sibling.  He was still young when his father moved in with another woman, leaving the four children to be raised by their mother, Edith.  Apparently Elswood never quite fitted in with “his very Mormon family”, and was teased for being “sensitive”.  None the less, he was a strict adherent to Latter Day Saint doctrines, and during the late 1960s spent two years as a Mormon missionary in Ireland. 

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A cause for celebration: the eradication of wild poliovirus from Africa.

In these difficult and ill-starred days it is always good to have something genuine to celebrate, and the announcement earlier this week that wild poliovirus has been eradicated from Africa is definitely an event worthy of celebration.   On the face of it, this leaves just Pakistan and Afghanistan to go before the global eradication of polio can be announced. However, it is not quite that simple, because the fact that wild polioviruses have been eradicated from Africa does not mean that all polioviruses have been expunged from the continent. 

Continue reading “A cause for celebration: the eradication of wild poliovirus from Africa.”