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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
S. Lochlann Jain is a Canadian Professor of Anthropology based at Stanford in California, and a Professor of Social Medicine at King’s College, London. In 2013 she published a nicely-titled book called “Malignant: How Cancer Becomes Us” [Berkeley: University of California Press], based on her own experiences with breast cancer. The book was well-received and won several awards.
In 2017 Lochlann approached me for an interview: she was interested in writing a book about the Royal Society [RS] meeting in 2000 on the “Origins of HIV and the AIDS epidemic”. She explained that she had read Brian Martin’s writings on the subject such as “The Politics of a Scientific Meeting”, but was interested in another aspect, namely “why it was so seemingly easy to dismiss the detailed well-conceived challenge you made to science/virology” at the London meeting. That December Lochlann came to visit me at my home, and we spent 24 hours in quite extensive conversation. She also interviewed certain other contributors to the meeting, notably Hilary Koprowski’s former deputy, the vaccinologist Stanley Plotkin, the co-organiser of the meeting, virologist Robin Weiss, and another virologist, Preston Marx.
Welcome to the new AIDS Origins site: May 18th, 2020
First of all, let me offer my sincere thanks to the Webmaster for yet again reorganising this site. This has taken a great deal of work, all of which has been done in his own time, and without any financial recompense. The reorganisation has necessitated the site being down for a short time, and we apologise to those readers who may have been inconvenienced. The benefits of the new system include a new, clear design, a simplified and far more accessible layout of articles, a better search mechanism within the site, and a direct link to the full-length (91 minute) YouTube version of the documentary film “The Origins of AIDS”, which was originally released in 2003.
There is much to be gained from learning how new diseases emerge. This applies to the origins of the AIDS pandemic, which has now killed over 50 million people globally. I (and to my knowledge many scientists) believe that a full and convincing explanation of how AIDS began has still not been provided by the scientific community, despite claims to the contrary by many prominent figures. The COVID-19 pandemic is even more worrying in its potential impact on global health, and so there is even more need for a prompt and open-minded investigation into its origin.