Prometheus & Pandora I: Trust the Scientists on COVID, not the Science?

Paved with good intentions

[Above: Quotation marks are the new middle finger (courtesy of Yahoo news)]

Prometheus brought fire to mankind; Pandora was sent as punishment for accepting the gift - but which one gave us COVID-19? "Follow the science" has been a popular refrain in recent years, but if the WHO investigation is any indication, we're about to find out if our leaders really mean it.

I'm only about 14,000 pages into the US RTK FOIA email dump, courtesy of one Ralph Baric, but in their 2nd article about the Daszak 'group therapy letter’ [my own personal nickname for it], it seems everyone missed an inconvenient nugget:

What does this mean? Is Dr. Fauci’s appearance in the ‘to’ section evidence that conspiracy theories are true and he’s the antichrist helping Bill Gates change the world?

No. Something can be wrong without descending into conspiracy theories - just like how someone can be stupid before they prove it beyond all doubt.

Last spring, as I first began writing about COVID-19, the symbolism of Pandora's Box seemed perfectly fitting as a backdrop from which to spark a conversation about the potential for the SARS-CoV-2 virus to have originated from a laboratory, rather than jumping to humans in a natural setting. After all, Πανδορα is the poster child for anyone who has ever misread a label, licked a frozen pole, picked the Dallas Cowboys to win a playoff game, or experimented on a virus in order to make it exponentially more dangerous and infectious.

If my goal is to present unbiased, accurate information about our global pandemic, then I must apologize to Pandora - her reputation for trouble was often just a catch-all excuse for any complaints related to the fairer sex, which conveniently ignored the fact that Zeus had created her as a punishment for mankind's acceptance of fire [as Pandora was the first human woman, the ancient author Hesiod took some time to articulate the harshness of the punishment and list the many failings of wives].

The benefit of hindsight, and the accumulation of evidence, have led me to question the Pandora metaphor, because it provides an attractive and convenient excuse while obscuring the actions of Prometheus in the background. The natural emergence of COVID-19 would be the most convenient answer [if your research/funding was centered on 'gain of function' experiments] to the question of where the SARS-CoV-2 virus came from, but compelling evidence exists for the hypothesis we can't ignore; until we know what 'gifts' Prometheus brought out of caves in Yunnan Province from 2011-2017 [among other issues], we must rely on the evidence we already have. And, as you'll see below, the tide is turning for a reason.

Recently, I've expanded my research and begun connecting with some of the authors and investigators whose own studies have driven much of the progress of the last year. This includes a few members of D.R.A.S.T.I.C., a loose collection of scientists and researchers that emerged in response to the intense suppression of any studies that questioned the zoonotic (natural) origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. I've also been poring over 80,000 emails obtained by FOIA request to investigate the connections between Ralph Baric, Zheng-Li Shi, Peter Daszak and the broader US pandemic response coordination. Daszak is one of the world's leading proponents and fundraisers for gain-of-function research, Baric is one the US's foremost coronavirus experts, and Shi likewise is a de facto head of China's own CoV studies. Shi led projects into increasing the lethality of CoV's, often using techniques she learned while visiting Baric's UNC-Chapel Hill lab a few years ago. Already, the emails have shown intense coordination among them to frame the reporting of potential lab-accident origins for SARS-CoV-2 as a conspiracy theory, an effort which was very successful until the last few weeks.

Ultimately, the conclusion of this mystery has enormous implications, because guilt would mean China is responsible for a crime against humanity. The current evidence suggests that the best case scenario for them would be that China's missteps allowed COVID-19 to become a global pandemic. Our Department of State's decision to reject the WHO investigation's initial assessment shows that President Biden has endorsed the skepticism of his predecessor's stance on China. My initial COVID-19 research was driven by a desire to spread accurate information about the pandemic, but that has shifted to the quest for answers that surround COVID-19's birth - and for justice for the millions of victims of the virus.

Protecting the Shepherd or the Flock?

The January 29th publication of a pre-print article, which claimed to have discovered elements of the HIV genome suspiciously placed within that of SARS-CoV-2, sparked a wave of concern amongst scientists after the hypothesis quickly fueled speculation about the potential for the virus to have emerged from a laboratory, rather than by crossing the species barrier (zoonoses), which certainly leads to more disturbing implications, in diplomatic terms. That first paper questioning the legitimacy of the natural origin of SARS-CoV-2 was published within a week of Zheng-Li Shi’s own paper that introduced the sequence to the world, so it isn’t terribly surprising for scientists to have been concerned about further breathless speculation that could obscure other vital research trying to reach the global audience.

What is surprising, however, is how drastic and intense the crack-down came to be, given that record-breaking numbers of articles have been published (103,012 as of 2/25/21) about COVID-19 and before 2021 less than 10 (by my count) contained arguments in support of the lab origin hypothesis.

One of the counter-arguments has been that the quantitative difference between the two sides speaks for itself, but the absence of opposing data is illusory, since most of those first articles had waited 3-6 months for publication, delaying public debate on a credible topic and emboldening the scientists under the greatest suspicion. Zheng-Li Shi didn’t bother addressing the absence of any record of a 2012-13 outbreak in Yunnan Province until November 2020, even though it directly led to a much more intensive volume of study within her lab. This would be like Fleming discovering Penicillin and waiting 7 years to announce that could it kill bacteria, or that it grew on bread.

Given the documented history of lab accidents across the globe, and the magnitude of our current pandemic, rejecting the possibility of lab escape mentions intentionally ignoring the known evidence without having a viable alternative. And yet, that’s exactly what happened after this [all documents from emails below were pulled from US Right-to-Know’s recent FOIA request]

The ‘Statement of Task’ directed the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering & Medicine to deliberate and respond with current knowledge and future discoveries related to SARS-CoV-2, to fill the gaps most likely to fuel misinformation about the ‘evolutionary/structural’ origins of the virus. Notably, the initial request did not rule out a non-natural origin for COVID-19, but Dazsak, Baric and others were determined to include specific language to that end in their response [3rd paragraph]:

Prometheus blames the flames

Kristian Anderson, Peter Dazsak, Robert Baric and others were gung-ho about putting out this statement, and a second one that was ultimately published a few days later, but in the midst of 80K+ emails [whose response chains run backwards] some of the details are out of order, and the connection to a specific meeting was never made by US Right-to-Know, who focused on the backdoor coordination between two of the scientists who would later be implicated by their publicly-available research.

But, once the 2/4 discussion is put in sequence, it turns out that the great idea for the letter didn't come from came from this NAS meeting.

Whatever happened at that meeting the previous afternoon, it’s clear that the lab hypothesis was not a fan favorite. Given that every speaker invited by the OSTP was the head of a major American research institution, highlighting the possibility of a lab escape for a pandemic pathogen that will have killed more than 3 million people is a buzz kill for scientists whose ban on gain-of function research had been lifted only 2 years earlier.

I can imagine their excitement dying down after the letter was published, since each of the direct refutations of man-made origin was removed by the three national academies of NASEM in the version sent to the White House:

We may never know who snipped those phrases out of the final product, mostly because those individuals weren’t tied to this FOIA request. But, what we do know is that after the meeting, Baric & co. were eager to pile impactful, serious language into the short document, so it would’ve been surprising to see such effort if the final speaker dismissed their contentions the previous afternoon.

I should point out that Daszak and Baric et al ended up publishing a much more explicit rejection of the lab hypothesis that same week - having apparently been healed from their fear of appearing self-serving.

50 years and then 15 minutes of fame - No Peer Reviews for the Peerless

I can assume that no one present on 2/3 was thinking that Dr. Fauci was about to become one of the most recognizable people on the planet, but his willingness to buck President Trump assured that he would receive a fawning welcome on TV ever after. The Office of Science & Technology Policy falls under the executive branch, and feeds into the NSTC, chaired by the VP. The OSTP Director, National Academy of Sciences Director & Fauci got together with our friendly neighborhood skeptics, and magically, the OSTP requested an emergency response to a 1/29 controversial pre-print; that letter was also accompanied by an article called The Proximal Origin of SARS-CoV-2, which remains one of the 2 most-cited COVID-19 articles on the planet. It’s blistering rejection of any non-zoonotic transfer theory succeeded in setting the tone early, thereby giving Daszak the confidence to maneuver onto the WHO’s investigative team - with China making that one of the required pre-conditions of any investigation.

Dr. Fauci has been the target of so much conspiracy talk simply by being the key cog in funding questionable studies [well, to the less invested Americans {98%}, he became the face of the Anti-Trump pandemic experts], which has put him into frequent contact with the WHO, Bill Gates, the CDC, etc. He’s less well known for his groundbreaking research and leadership of the effort to combat the AIDS epidemic from its very start, or the effort to develop vaccines to fight H1N1 in 2009 [I was among the first to get that vaccine, as a Marine guinea pig].

I hate mindless speculation, and I don't think Dr. Fauci is part of some unholy trinity with Bill Gates as the antichrist, but it looks pretty obvious that he was protecting his legacy and the NIH's funding circus, while actively working to undermine the lab hypothesis at the start. How influential was this effort? It’s hard to know specifics, but while the National Security Council was passing along intel to Trump about the WIV, the clinical side of our federal government was absolving itself of any scrutiny by rejecting the thesis. Sadly, this arrangement had the added benefit of elevating a voice critical of Trump’s decisions, making it difficult for the media to scrutinize other actions of the NIH’s operations.

No wonder Peter Daszak has been so cocky, probably thinking he just had to skate by until the election, which also happened to be the time when Fauci would fade in importance for anti-Trump Republicans and Democrats. My guess is that Ol’ Pete wasn’t expecting the Biden administration to the stay the course, with regards to the COVID-19 origin investigation that recently returned. It’s time for America to pull off the bandages and take out the IV, and accept that it’s going to sting a little bit.

A Fauci Ouchie

1) It’s time for Dr. Fauci to provide some insight into the decision-making process that led to Peter Daszak being deeply connected with our nation’s planning for and response to the emergence of COVID-19. Ralph Baric was involved in virtually all of the calls and meetings with the government agencies working to prepare for the pandemic, and yet both he and Daszak sometimes had Zheng-Li Shi attached to email threads or contributing to a Zoom working group.

-If there was ever a time or person to distance yourself from in a pandemic that kills 3 million people, it would’ve been Zheng-Li Shi in January 2020, when suspicions first appeared that China was attempting to erase evidence. Shi was the one whose first action after hearing about an unknown pneumonia in Wuhan was to edit and delete files from her Institute’s genome database. China wouldn’t even release early patient info to the World Health Organization, including the hospitals they first went to and to where they lived, which serves no legitimate purpose and prevents the investigators from even knowing where to start looking.

2) It’s time for Dr. Fauci to explain the logic of gain-of-function research to the American people directly, and why his Institutes felt comfortable approving incredibly reckless experiments with China, who has long been suspected of violating the Biological Weapons Convention. Who gains from these studies? We now know exactly what can happen, and who loses - even if COVID-19 was natural.

3) I call on Dr. Fauci to publicly state his role and reasoning in the decision to silence proponents of a lab origin for COVID-19 - an act that silenced published dissent in the scientific community, especially when his commander in chief was presumably receiving more intelligence briefings than Fauci. Furthermore, why would he continue to keep Daszak and Baric directly connected to the heart of our national safety apparatus, long after incriminating evidence about them began to surface? Daszak’s selection to serve on both investigative teams wasn’t surprising, since the US had pulled out of the WHO.

Fauci’s silence on gain-of-function (GOF), on the other hand, is surprising. In 2012, he wrote the following, during the debate that placed a moratorium on GOF Research:

“The voluntary moratorium on gain-of-function research related to the transmissibility of highly pathogenic H5N1 influenza virus should continue, pending the resolution of critical policy questions concerning the rationale for performing such experiments and how best to report their results. The potential benefits and risks of these experiments must be discussed and understood by multiple stakeholders, including the general public, and all decisions regarding such research must be made in a transparent manner.”

3) I call on Dr. Fauci to push for the full ban of all research funds, sponsored academics, and joint research partnerships related or to with any scientist who is a citizen of China - with research, subject to replacement if other qualified individuals can be found.

My reasoning for these actions is simple, just like the remedy. China has refused to provide more than token cooperation to the WHO’s investigation of the pandemic. The quality of their mitigation efforts has exponentially improved since the first SARS pandemic in 2002-03, but their cooperation and communication with WHO efforts has declined. China already has enough evidence to exonerate themselves, and yet has refused to release this data, even to the investigation team whose composition it dictated as a term of negotiation. If they refuse to cooperate during the middle of a global pandemic, then the United States should restrict access to our national treasure until a satisfactory answer is received.

Dr. Fauci helped set the tone of treating China as ‘innocent until proven guilty,’ but it doesn’t protect against being a suspect. He has also based his conclusions on GOF and COVID-19, in part, on the input of individuals who are STILL energetically attempting to prevent a broad scientific inquiry into the origin of the greatest human tragedy in generations.

If he still believes that the ‘general public’ deserves a chance for informed input, he should prove it. If skeptical scientists reject a lab escape, then they should make their case - and then defend it publicly. Americans may not catch every nuance, but we deserve an open debate, and our 500,000 victims have families who deserve closure. Peter Daszak has been paid millions of dollars to facilitate research that taxpayers also pay for, and so his condescension and twisting of words today is a slap in the face, regardless of how just he perceives his crusade to be.

Requiem for a Steam……….ing pile of BS

If Daszak truly believes in his cause of fighting disease emergence, then he should understand the skepticism that arises when a global pandemic begins in a city, less than 3 miles from the lab working on CoV’s under a program partly funded by his firm, led by a long-time collaborator and friend, that contains the closest known viral relative and happens to be one of the foremost [and few] labs on earth with the ability to perform the steps necessary to mold a unique virus, that’s highly contagious, in a city of 11 million people that exhibits no evidence of seroconversion, and a virus perfectly adjusted to multiple types of human tissue, a spike protein that was 99% perfect for humans from the very first human, with scant mutations, evidence of vero cell passaging, whose progenitor was found floating in a microbiome unlike any of its chronological cousins, whose furin cleavage site appears in a random place of frequent recombination but not in any strains that could actually recombine with it, and……..

I could keep going, but Dazsak has now heard most of this before and never answered, and certainly doesn’t think we’re smart enough to understand it.

So, in honor of the Chinese regime he has faithfully served, I’ll encourage him with a quote from Ren Zhiqiang, a very wealthy businessman who disappeared days after writing a scathing review of a Xi Xinping speech in early March. I’ve only ever found one complete, translated copy online [link coming], but the quote was powerful, especially coming from someone who reappeared for a 1-day trial, followed by 18 years in prison for ‘corruption.’ I sincerely hope that you’re right, Petey Prometheus, and COVID-19 was just a horrible coincidence; it would still serve you well to care more about the millions of dead people than your lost opportunities to find more viruses after the NIH pulled your funding.

Ren Zhiqiang on Xi Xinping: c. 3/1/2020:

“But this kind of cover-up propaganda, it can basically only cheat those who want to be cheated; there's no way it can cheat those who believe in facts and reality.”

(R. Zhiqiang - NBC News)

The Prometheus analogy fits him a lot better - A man who crept into the darkness to steal a flame of wisdom and share it with mankind, only to be punished by the gods.

C. H. Rixey

[My ‘living and breathing’ list of 250+ sources is here....]