Where do fishermen hide their location? A new model for the spread of AIS disabling and its impact on finding the direct descendant of SARS
When fishing vessels hide their locations, they sometimes reveal a wealth of information. The modelling study found gaps in tracking data to suggest illegal activity. It’s called sci. It was Adv. 8 eabq2109.
The team found that 82% of time lost to AIS disabling happened on ships flagged from Spain, the United States, Taiwan and the Chinese mainland. Middle and upper-income countries tend to be where most vessels that use AIS come from.
It narrowed the time between the start of the epidemic in bats and the jump to people. But it also highlights how difficult it will be to find the direct ancestor of SARS‑CoV-2 in bats, given how often coronaviruses recombine. Edward has an opinion on the chances of finding a direct descendant.
The Plan for a Commission to Investigate Covid-19 and the Impact of China’s Reputation in the 21st Century
The updated UN population estimate has a long-term projection of less than 10 billion people by the year 2100, down from its July estimate of 11 billion.
Although approximate, this could be the most reliable estimate that the UN has produced so far. The organization has changed how it analyses data, switching from five-yearly to annual intervals. And there has been a steady improvement in recent decades in the ability and capacity of many countries to collect statistics.
The most significant factor in the UN’s updated forecast is that China has been more reliable since the end of the one-child policy. The UN predictions suggest that China’s population has already peaked, and will now shrink year-on-year until at least the end of the century.
Significant blind spots remain, however, particularly for countries that are experiencing humanitarian crises and conflicts, such as Somalia, Yemen and Syria.
Some scientists argue that the lab leak theory needs more study because of the lack of answers about the origins of Covid-19. If only China was cooperating.
House Foreign Affairs Chairman Michael McCaul said Sunday he was “pleased” the Energy Department “has finally reached the same conclusion that I had already come to.” (The Texas Republican had released a 2021 report that concluded that “the preponderance of the evidence” showed the pandemic originated with a leak from the Wuhan lab.)
Some experts believe a broad-based examination of the infectious disease is too daunting. Even if a commission were established, it would be difficult to overcome the partisanship surrounding Covid-19. The nation was so deeply divided after Sept. 11 that “partisan pressures almost tore apart our commission,” said Philip D. Zelikow, a University of Virginia historian and former government official who was the executive director of the Sept. 11 panel. The problem is even worse today, he said.
The vision we showed in the early-2000s of creating an architecture with fixes that we got wrong then addresses things we didn’t think of when we’ve gone through it, which is why there’s no substitute for showing that.
Mr. Zelikow now leads the Covid Commission Planning Group, a privately funded effort involving about three dozen independent experts who have spent the better part of the past two years conducting research to lay the groundwork for a national inquiry. The group, which has held several hundred interviews, grew tired of waiting for Congress and plans to publish its findings in a book this spring, Mr. Zelikow said. He wouldn’t discuss details.
The WHO member states requested in May of 2020 that the agency put together a science-led effort to identify how the epidemic started, during a time of simmering hostility between the two powers. After the WHO group left for China, engagement with China deteriorated quickly and tensions spiraled out of control.
The entire Biden administration should join the Dept. of Energy, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the majority of Americans in concluding that the COVID-19 pandemic originated from a lab leak in China, said McCaul.
In July, the WHO sent a memo to member states about how to advance origins studies. The first cases were identified in the area around Wuhan and the farms and labs that supplied those markets should be assessed.
The Chinese rejected the WHO’s plan to investigate lab breeches. The WHO proposal was not agreed to by all member states, and the second phase should not focus on pathways the mission report had already determined to be extremely unlikely, says the Chinese foreign ministry.
The origins investigation was mishandled by the global community, says Gerald Keusch, associate director of the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Lab Institute at Boston University in Massachusetts. It was poorly handled by China. It was handled poorly by the WHO. Keusch says that the WHO should have been honest with the Chinese authorities if they were stonewalling.
For some lab-leak theorists, the fact that so many prominent experts converged so rapidly on a declaration of natural origin so soon after expressing their doubts is proof of a “zoonotic conspiracy” — a coordinated effort to suppress discussion of the possible lab origins of SARS-CoV-2. Many of the participants have described the conference call as an honest exchange of perspectives and the true result of scientific reflection and debate, that came about because of further consideration and discussion.
A study by researchers from China has found evidence of the coronaviruses in the Huanan seafood market in the city of Wuhan in January and February 2020. There were samples taken from sewage, drain, market stalls, doors, and the ground. The researchers concluded that the virus was probably shed by humans, but Rasmussen and others are keen to take a closer look at the raw data, which included swabs from a defeathering machine, to see whether they can identify animal species.
Evolutionary biologist Michael worobey has been a leader in the hunt for the origins of the Pandemic. He tracked down the origin of some of the world’s deadliest diseases, including the 1918 flu and HIV.
Thea was a member of the mission to Wuhan and she still hopes for progress.
The Science behind COVID-19: A Congressional Report to the Secretary of Energy and the House of Representatives to the U.S. Senate
Intelligence agencies can make assessments with either low, medium or high confidence. A low confidence assessment is when the information isn’t reliable enough, isn’t enough fragmented, or isn’t enough to make a definitive judgement.
What exactly changed for the Department of Energy officials involved in the assessment has not convinced the majority of intelligence agencies.
The Department of Energy supports the intelligence professionals who are looking into the origins of COVID-19, as the President ordered, according to a statement.
The Department of Energy’s Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence is one of 18 government agencies that make up the intelligence community, which are under the umbrella of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
The latest intelligence assessment has been given to Congress, which is being accused of playing down the possibility of the theory.
McCaul said that the Department of Energy has reached the same conclusion he had already come to.
The Texas Republican said that he had asked for a complete and thorough briefing from the administration on the report.
McCaul said that the administration should begin work immediately with partners and allies around the world to hold the Chinese Communist Party accountable and put in place updated international regulations to make sure something like this never happens again.
There needs to be extensive hearings. I hope our Democratic colleagues in the Congress can support that. The senator said that the Republicans in the House were very supportive of that.
What do we really know about the origins of the flu pandemics? The U.S. intelligence community has been divided since the Biden administration
“Think about what just happened over the last three years, one of the biggest pandemics in a century. A lot of evidence that it’s coming from the Chinese,” Sullivan said.
The committee was reviewing the classified information provided by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in response to a letter requesting information, said a statement from a spokesman for the chairman.
Sullivan told CNN that there is not a definitive answer for the question at the moment. Some elements of the intelligence community have made conclusions on both sides. A lot of them think they don’t have enough information to be sure.
Those words, from Dr. David Relman, an infectious disease expert and microbiologist at Stanford University, reflected the national conversation around the origins of Covid-19 in 2021.
The US Energy Department assessment adds to the confusion about what really happened in China in the middle of 2019, three years since the start of the flu epidemic.
A letter from public health experts published in February 2020 in The Lancet, an influential scientific journal, also set the tone early by declaring the virus to have a natural origin.
Three other intelligence community elements were unable to coalesce around either explanation without additional information, the community’s report said.
The lab leak theory had to fight against claims that they were being racist and/or anti-Semitic due to anti- Chinese rhetoric from Donald Trump, who embraced the theory.
An inquiry launched by Trump’s State Department, which sought to investigate whether China’s biological weapons program could have had a greater role in the pandemic’s origin in Wuhan, was shut down early on in the Biden administration.
“Some elements of the intelligence community have reached conclusions on one side, some on the other. A number of them don’t have enough information to be sure
But at the end of the day, the origin of the pandemic is also a scientific question. Virologists, who study pandemic origins, are much less divided than the U.S. intelligence community. They say there is “very convincing” data and “overwhelming evidence” pointing to an animal origin.
The Competitive Committee on the Uyghur Genocide: a bipartisan perspective on the recent Covid-19 scandal in Washington-Beijing
The economy, public health and the relationship with the other are all affected by this relationship. It spans the challenges faced by the US military, which are amid the great geopolitical clashes of the early 21st century, to risks posed by the Chinese-designed apps on the electronic devices everyone carries everywhere. It’s fueling the dangerous possibility that the US and China are locked into a potentially disastrous slide toward conflict. And it poses serious challenges for a polarized US political system that struggles to have a rational debate on these issues without descending into a partisan game of who can be tougher on China. The one-upmanship only increases the cycle of escalation between the two sides.
The new disagreements are so fraught that the recent unprecedented diplomatic showdown over a suspected Chinese spy balloon that floated across the continental US is not even the most recent or intense cause of strife.
The GOP controlled House is introducing a new bipartisan Select Committee on Competition with China during a night time hearing on Tuesday as Washington-Beijing tensions have rarely been worse.
Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher, the new committee’s chairman, told CNN’s Manu Raju that Tuesday’s hearing would not focus specifically on the latest drama – after the Department of Energy assessed with low confidence that the Covid-19 pandemic originated with a lab leak in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The finding, which is a minority view among US intelligence agencies, could be examined in a future hearing but he wanted to show Americans that the threat from China was just as serious as the over there problem.
“We want to understand what we got wrong about the Chinese Communist Party and what we need to understand about it going forward in order to get our policy right,” the Wisconsin Republican said.
On CBS News on Sunday, Gallagher warned: “We may call this a strategic competition, but it’s not a tennis match. This is about what type of world we want to live in. Are we going to live in the free world or in the Xinjiang-lite? He was referring to the Chinese region where the US has accused China of causing genocide against the Uyghur minorities, a charge that China continues to deny.
The committee may be one of the few areas where a divided Congress – and potentially the White House – can find common ground. The Biden administration has reinforced the already tough stance toward China that ex-President Donald Trump adopted later in his presidency. The economic race between the US and China is expected to go on for a long time, thanks to a law that President Joe Biden signed last year that will allow the government to spend $200 billion in an effort to take over the leadership of the chip industry.
The Time for Russia to Fail: US-China Relations in Washington after the Wall Street Journal and the Censorship of Covid-19
One of the Science papers was contributed to by a researcher and she claims that the DOE’s conclusion doesn’t undermine the affirmative evidence for zoonotic or animal origin.
The Wall Street Journal report that new intelligence led the Department of Energy to believe that a lab leak was to blame was immediately claimed by the Republicans as political victory. Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has been accused of spreading conspiracy theories about the pandemic, tweeted, “Conspiracy theorists – 100 Media – 0.”
Republican Senator from Arkansas, Tom Cotton, shared a picture of himself. Being proven right doesn’t matter, China’s lab leak. The Chinese Communist Party needs to be held accountable so this doesn’t happen again.
It doesn’t mean that the rest of the world was deliberately exposed or that the virus came from a laboratory.
But in Washington this week, the issue has again degenerated into an excuse for Republicans to target scientists and government health experts and to twist a narrative about Covid-19 that still has massive gaps.
No costs for China’s support for Russia have been incurred. This (would be) the first time – it is a very important crossroads,” Andrea Kendall-Taylor, a former deputy national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia at the National Intelligence Council, said on CNN Monday.
The new front in US-China antagonism is starting to make it into US politics. While being tough on Beijing is a bipartisan position, the idea of a broadened conflict in Ukraine conflicts with the more limited view of US power projection abroad among “America First” Republicans. Traditional hawks like Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell strongly support even more US aid for Ukraine, but some conservatives like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis – a likely 2024 contender – have warned against escalating conflict. He specifically mentioned potential Chinese involvement in a foreign policy comment.
The comments made by him showed that everything in Washington is political. There are very few issues that are politicized as much as US relations with China.
Why should the 9/11 Commission be called on the 11/11 deadline? – Dr. Ranney, deputy dean at Brown University, an advisor to the FBI and the Department of Energy
Three elements of the intelligence community did not believe there was enough evidence to make a determination. CNN says that the FBI had medium confidence in the lab leak theory.
The Department of Energy assessment was reported on by the US lawmakers who have pushed the lab leak theory.
The senator demanded more information regarding the assessment from the Department of Energy and promised to push for it to be de-classified.
Dr. Anthony Fauci – the former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases whom Republicans have told they will call before Congress to testify about the origins of the disease – has consistently repeated he believes the virus most likely occurred naturally, since other, similar viruses have evolved that way.
The 9/11 Commission is the strangest commission we have ever had. I think we need it. Because more Americans have died of Covid than have died in every American war since the American Revolution, which is an astonishing number; that is a major national security issue.”
At this point, where the virus came from, why is it important to Dr. Megan Ranney, deputy dean at Brown University?
We know what the next step is. “While we’re focusing on where Covid-19 started, we’re not spending time about how to keep America from ever having to go through the last three years again.”
Is the Covid-19 pandemic really the result of a lab leak? — Mr. King, M. Sanner, Director of National Intelligence for Mission Integration
King also talked to Beth Sanner, the former deputy director of national intelligence for mission integration during the Trump administration, about the report.
The Chinese government seems to have been trying to impede the work here, the bureau director said. Our US government and close foreign partners are doing work. And that’s unfortunate for everybody.”
“We don’t just take information or just take a feeling and turn it into analysis,” she said. “We’re actually doing a rigorous process and that’s why we don’t know yet. The evidence is not there.
FBI Director Christopher Wray on Tuesday acknowledged that the bureau believes the Covid-19 pandemic was likely the result of a lab accident in Wuhan, China.
Wray said in the interview that the FBI has a team of experts who focus specifically on the risk of biological threats that come into the “wrong hands,” including by a “hostile nation state.”
Wray said that most details of the FBI’s investigation remain classified, and that it has been difficult to work with the Chinese government on investigating the pandemic’s origin.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs pushed against the Department of Energy’s updated assessment during the briefing, with the spokesman saying that the parties concerned should stop politicizing the issue of the virus origin.
To believe that there is a conspiracy in the emails, or that the conference call participants were acting in bad faith, isn’t necessary. You don’t need to believe that the pandemic came out of a lab, when there is plenty of good reason to suspect it didn’t. You just need to take those scientists at their word: In the early days of the pandemic, knowing nearly as much as anyone in the world about the SARS-CoV-2 genome and the nature of research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, they believed a lab leak was possible. It is scary to know that fact. After all, more than 20 million people have died.
Yes. And I don’t understand how anyone could not be moved, at least somewhat, by that data and then take this idea [of an animal origin] seriously, especially given the other things we’ve found in these studies.
NPR: What do you think? So what is the likelihood of that coincidence happening — that the first cluster of cases occurs at a market that sells animals known to be susceptible to SARS-CoV-2, but the virus didn’t actually come from the market?
The data in the 2022 studies paints an incredibly detailed picture of the early days of the pandemic. Photographic and genetic data pinpoint a specific stall at the market where the coronavirus likely was transmitted from an animal into people. A genetic analysis estimates the time after one or two spillovers occur. It calculates that the coronavirus jumped into people once in late November or early December and then again few weeks later.
For example, our new genetic analysis tells us that this virus was not around for very long when the cases occurred at the market. For example, the earliest known patient at the market had an onset of symptoms on Dec. 10, 2019. And we can estimate that at that point in time, there were only about 10 people infected with the virus in the world and probably fewer than 70.
It’s clear-cut these wild, live animals, including raccoon dogs and red foxes, were in the market. We have photographic evidence from December 2019. A concerned customer took photos and videos of the market and posted them on Weibo, because it was illegal to sell live animals. The photos were scrubbed before they were published. A CNN reporter spoke directly to the person who took the photos. I was able to speak with the reporter and they passed on the photos from the source. We do not verify the photos completely.
We discovered that one stall had five positive samples, five of which were viruses. The samples were very animal-y and even better, that stall was very animal-y. For example, scientists found virus on a feather/hair remover, a cart of the sort that we see in photographs that are used for transporting cages and, best of all, a metal cage in a back room.
And at the end of our sleuth work, we checked the GPS coordinates on his camera, and we find that he took the photo at the same stall, where five samples tested positive for SARS-CoV-2.
With a virus, such as SARS-CoV-2, that causes no symptoms or mild symptoms in most people, you don’t have any chance of linking all the early cases to the site where the outbreak started. The virus will quickly spread to other people outside of where it started.
And yet, from the clinical observations in Wuhan, around half of the earliest known COVID cases were people directly linked to the seafood market. There is a closer geographical association to the market for the other cases that aren’t linked through epidemiological data. That’s what we show in our paper.
Thousands or even tens of thousands of other places are more likely to be the spot where a new pathogen arrives. Out of 10,000 places, four of them sell live animals, which is why the first cluster of cases happened to be one of them. If you’re not surprised by that, then I don’t think you’re understanding the unlikelihood that that presents.
Remember, where is the first cluster of a new respiratory infections going to appear in this city? It could appear at a market. It could also be at a meatpacking plant.
I think the odds are 1 in 10,000. It’s interesting. One analysis shows that there is a chance of a pattern of cases being clusters around the market. [if the market isn’t a source of the virus]. We consider that strong evidence in science.
And the data zeroing in on the Huanan market, to me, is as compelling as the data that indicated to John Snow that the water pump was poisoning people who used it. [John Snow was a doctor in London who helped launch the field of outbreak investigations by figuring out the source of a cholera outbreak in the city in the mid-19th century].
Sometimes there are times where you are maybe the only person in the world who has access to that kind of information. As I just started to figure out that there were more cases around the market than you can expect randomly — I felt that way. Those kinds of moments bring a tear to your eye.
Why is COVID so strange? A counterexample to the U.S. intelligence agencies that have tried to obstruct and suppress the work
“I will just make the observation that the Chinese government seems to me has been doing its best to try to thwart and obfuscate the work here … and that’s unfortunate for everybody.”
And the FBI’s assessment is far from universal. Four other U.S. intelligence agencies as well as the National Intelligence Council say, with low confidence, that COVID emerged through natural transmission.