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The origin of the virus
Publisher's Note: Occasionally we publish a piece of such immediate importance that we invite our members to share it freely, without requiring notification. This is such an issue. - mra
By Mark Anderson
This may be one of the shortest Global Reports we have ever published.
What is the most important question facing the world today? Perhaps - aside from all of our personal answers - given its existential, global nature, the origin story of the Covid-19 virus is the answer. (As before, in this issue we will refer to it as the Wuhan virus, as a direct response to the massive global propaganda campaign by the Chinese Communist Party to place its point of release outside of China. That does not mean, as you will see, that its actual origins are not multiple, and do not to some degree lie elsewhere.)
Understanding how the virus came into being provides a critical foundation for the much-asked question of how we may avoid similar crises in the future. Once this question is resolved, we need to make sure our institutions have properly learned from this terrible excursion, before we return our attention elsewhere.
This discussion is the result of a great deal of research; members who have read prior Global Reports on this subject (including "SNS: Special Alert: Why the Wuhan Coronavirus Could Easily Be Manmade," 2/24/20; "SNS: Corona: The Missing Data," 3/2/20; and "SNS: The President and the Bug," 1/4/21) will be properly prepared for this wrap-up, which consolidates and provides a thread through prior reports. Our first work on this question appeared on February 4, 2020, and, assuming we now have properly laid out the answer, we are proud to have been among the first to do so.
Having said this, it is extremely important to underline the caveats around everything published here, and in past issues of SNS. While we gather facts assiduously from many sources, our goal is not (and has never been) to provide the type of evidence required in a court proceeding. Our goal has always been much simpler, more difficult, and more straightforward: to find the patterns inherent to these found facts, and use these patterns to make accurate predictions. In this case, we are predicting what the ultimate reality will be, when it is at last discovered by those whose job it is to do so.
To that end, please bear with us when we overuse such phrases as "it appears" in front of statements. Often we do not have direct evidence, or, almost equally often, that evidence has been destroyed or hidden, successfully keeping normal investigators at bay. This is exactly the CCP's program.
On that subject, all of the Chinese Communist Party's behavior in this instance, from preventing access to the sites for a year to shutting down the wet market, scrubbing the Wuhan Virology Lab, firing (removing to unknown locations) many of its research staff, and likely cleaning out the bio samples therein - have the single purpose of preventing the world from answering this key question.
China's political control over the WHO, including insisting on veto power over the membership, access rights, and information inputs of the team now finally in China virtually assure that this path will fail. That is, whatever the WHO team tells the world about this question, while not necessarily being untrue, will certainly not be the whole truth. The world needs the whole truth.
Finally, for all of the above reasons, it is important to say that, with some very important exceptions listed below, there is little or no evidence that most of the persons involved in this origin story did anything illegal or wrong (in a legal sense), or therefore were or are legally guilty.
Given our 25-year accuracy rate of 95% in using patterns to predict events, it may well end up that this is the only technique available, at least as a starting point, for getting to the truth of the matter.
What you are about to read should be the most likely answer.
In this section, we won't rehash all of the facts involved; rather, we refer members to the SNS publications noted above, and references contained therein. The purpose of this issue is to draw upon all of these to provide one terse, simple, accurate assessment of the origins of the Wuhan virus.
The origin story begins with the gathering, in China, of a bat virus in a mine in Yunnan. This collection occurred after a number of miners were reported to have fallen ill, and it was made by Dr. Shi of the Wuhan Virology Lab, whose career at that point consisted largely of bringing such viruses to the lab for research purposes.
(The Wuhan Institute of Virology was the first BSL-4 - having the highest safety requirement - virus lab in China. Under other names, it has operated at that site since 1956, but the BSL-4 unit was only certified in January 2018. A US scientist expressed concern at the time regarding the speed of training, certification, and facility opening. This was done at a cost of $44M, which was partially paid for by the French, who also trained technicians in procedures at Lyon. The WIV had prior alliances with the French CIRI lab, the Canadian National Microbiology Lab, and the US Galveston National Lab.)
It appears that at WIV, and at one or more other locations - including in the US - what is called "gain of function" (GoF) work was performed on this same (Yunnan mine bat) virus, with the intended purpose of creating more human-deadly forms, with the idea of anticipating (and perhaps creating) defenses and vaccines to combat it.
Such work included a patented technique by a US researcher addressing how to force a virus to quickly mutate and adapt when moving from animals - including bats - to humans, without leaving any evidence of human intervention in the process.
At this time, researchers from China, the US, and Canada were all involved in such GoF work, on this virus.
(Canada ejected Chinese WIV virologists from the Canadian lab for undisclosed reasons in July 2019.)
It appears that this GoF work was done to accelerate evolution, in a sense - to push the virus variants into mutations that would increase effectiveness against human targets, with a special focus on the protein spikes that mediate attachment to human cells, together with any related mutations that perform synergistic functions for lethality and transmission.
Around 2015, or soon thereafter, the US government became concerned about risks to humans in the case of accidental release, expressed both in a published paper and privately, with the result that this work was continued but transferred to the WIV from the US.
It appears that, up to that point, this research had been funded by multiple countries, including China, Canada, and the US. On the US side, it appears that funding came from the Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health. It also appears that a US nonprofit called the EcoHealth Alliance provided funding to the WIV and later orchestrated a letter campaign published in the Lancet objecting to the idea that the virus was manmade. It appears that one of the board members of EHA may be, or may have been, from the US bioweapons facility at Fort Detrick, Maryland. (The Chinese have recently suggested that this is where the virus originated.)
Finally, it appears that, in late 2019, not long after the WIV's first certification for safety to work with such dangerous material, it was released from that lab - with a slight possibility that the release occurred at the nearby Chinese CDC lab.
In general, the confusion around the origin story of the Wuhan virus has two main sources: a) everyone has been asking where it came from in black vs. white, either/or terms; and b) those involved are either lying and destroying evidence (China) or staying quiet.
Who, after all, wants to raise their hand for this one, regardless of detail?
The good news for researchers on the origin question is that, in general, you are right. That is:
1. Yes, the virus has zoonotic roots: it began in the bats of the mine in Yunnan, China.
2. Yes, the Wuhan virus was the result of human manipulation, intentionally designed to be more lethal and more contagious than the original bat virus, and not to show human intervention.
3. Yes, the modified virus was released in Wuhan by Chinese researchers, most likely from the WIV (or possibly from the Chinese CDC lab nearby, and nearer to the wet markets).
It is at this point that actual, as opposed to circumstantial, guilt for the pandemic arises. The point has been made here in earlier issues, and by many others, that even should the release have been accidental, those who have subsequently contributed to global contagion, with foreknowledge of consequences, will ultimately be found legally guilty. We understand that China's primary goal is for this never to happen - something underlined by Xi Jinping's likely involvement at some stage of obfuscation or destruction of evidence.
Unless the CCP fails to capture, kill, or imprison all potential whistleblowers (a process under way), the world will likely never find out the answer to this part of the question of origin.
In either case, the subsequent actions by Chinese officials, at the highest provincial and national levels, are directly contributory to millions of deaths worldwide. There will be no escaping this guilt, regardless of how the Wuhan virus was released.
(It is for this reason that the CCP recently has been working so diligently to claim the virus started in Italy, Spain, Brazil, the US - anywhere but China.)
In the near term, it is unlikely that these individuals will ever be identified publicly, or punished, as this would pose a direct threat to the CCP and to Xi himself.
The CCP is directly responsible for the pandemic. The US and Canada appear to share responsibility with China for the creation of the virus.
It is unclear how Canada, France, and the US came to be working on what were essentially bioweapons, in collaboration with China. This lack of judgement is the root cause of the pandemic today. Did they know the Chinese were already doing GoF work at the WIV on bat viruses? If so, were they involved to make sure they were aware of what the Chinese were achieving?
In some ways, I hope so, because there is no other excuse. Perhaps, given what we know today, there is no excuse at all.
While China propagandizes the superiority of its dictatorship model for suppressing the virus and supercharges its global political reach by tying vaccinations to politics, the larger lesson is that China cannot be trusted to handle bioweapons. Ceasing and preventing such future programs inside China would be a benefit to the planet.
The same is likely true for many other "emerging" nations: bioweapons need to be treated differently than, say, missiles and nuclear weapons.
A complete ban makes good sense.
Assuming the above origin story is true, the world could now stop arguing over natural vs. manmade histories and move on to how to deal with China over behavior that has led, today, to 2.1M deaths and the destruction of the global economy, with all of the resultant human suffering accompanying this event.
What will the global death toll be, say, a decade after the virus's release? The WWI toll was about 20M, WWII was about 75M. On the other hand, the US lost 291,557 lives in WWII. To date, the Wuhan virus has claimed 462,000 lives.
If China was intentional in the creation of the pandemic through its actions, regardless of whether the release itself was accidental or intentional, what should the response of other nations be? What response will help, or will ensure, that neither China nor any other country does this again?
Certainly, that would be a response that all other nations could agree upon.
Your comments are always welcome.
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* On March 25 at 2:00-4:00 PT / 5:00-7:00 ET, Mark will be interviewing economist and author Bill Janeway on "The Use and Abuse of Machine Learning" at the SNS FiReSide virtual intelligence event. SNS members can register at no charge using the member code FUTUREPROOF. (Friends and colleagues can also purchase tickets here.)
In between times, he will be building out his Covid Cafe, balancing open outdoor ventilation and three sources of heat with Churchill's bust, a humidor, various pieces of an aircraft carrier, and, of course, mood lighting.
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