‘What can we do?’ Chinese discuss role of climate crisis in deadly floods


Media and citizens have begun asking if China has properly prepared for climate emergency

People ride in the front of a loader to cross a flooded street in Zhengzhou, Henan province
People ride in the front of a loader to cross a flooded street in Zhengzhou, Henan province. Photograph: Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images

Vincent Ni China affairs correspondentMon 26 Jul 2021 11.19 EDT

At about 5pm last Tuesday, as heavy rainfall continued to pound her apartment building in Zhengzhou, the climate policy researcher Zhang Jin headed out to her local supermarket. But the buns and vegetables were all gone, and the queue in the supermarket was “over a hundred metres’ long”, she later recalled.

<img src="https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/161aaddeb9c4d254f1b711069c238628f64f0124/0_449_4740_2844/master/4740.jpg?width=460&quality=85&auto=format&fit=max&s=18ba1b748a3dd1df6f6ab9b3c50ec761" alt="China Henan Xinxiang Rainfall Rescue – 22 Jul 2021

After learning that some of her relatives were trapped elsewhere in the city, she decided to drive out to help them. But she was surprised to discover other drivers abandoning their vehicles. Zhang realised something was very wrong, and turned back.

“Even though I have knowledge of climate change, I wasn’t fully aware that natural disasters triggered by climate change could arrive at any time,” the 32-year-old said. “Let alone non-specialists [in climate], or government officials.”

The Chinese government appears to have been caught equally by surprise. Heavy rains and floods in the past week have so far cost at least 63 lives in one of China’s most agriculture-focused and populous provinces, Henan, affecting more than 11 million people, many of them in Zhengzhou, the provincial capital. The government estimated the economic cost to be at least ¥65bn (£7.3bn).

Sinkholes have opened on some road surfaces, raising concerns about the quality of their construction, while others have questioned the disaster response.

A flooded street sinks into a hole at Mihe town on July 21, 2021 in Gongyi, Henan Province of China. Mihe town in Gongyi city, which is administered by Zhengzhou, is one of the hardest-hit areas
A sinkhole in a flooded street in Gongyi, Henan province. Photograph: VCG/Getty Images

Local meteorological authorities claimed that they had issued the highest-level alert. However, China had yet to develop a coordinated emergency response mechanism for such situations, said Cheng Xiaotao, a member of the China national committee on disaster reduction.Advertisementhttps://1594d1ed2c07b712b6700d9756db1d63.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

“For example, after the warnings, under what circumstance should we halt work and manufacturing? How should various [government] departments coordinate with each other?  How to despatch various disaster relief resources? And what are the actual emergency actions to take in response?” Cheng asked in Chinese media.

The media and ordinary citizens have begun to discuss the role of the climate crisis in the disaster, and asking to what extent the government is prepared for future climate emergencies.

Shortly after the heavy rainfall made national headlines, official Chinese media outlets began to publish articles asking whether the floods, and recent disasters elsewhere in the world, were related to the climate crisis.

“As extreme weather occurs in many parts of the world of late, is there anything common behind them?” asked an article published on Thursday on several official Chinese-language websites, including the official news agency Xinhua and the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. “What can we do when facing such natural disasters?”

Quoting Petteri Taalas, the secretary general of the World Meteorological Organisation, the article noted: “Had it not been [for] climate change, we wouldn’t have observed such high temperatures in Canada and on the west coast of the United States. This is an obvious sign of climate change.”

The next day, Jia Xiaolong, the deputy head of the national climate centre, told China News Agency that the heavy rainfalls in Henan occurred “against the backdrop of global warming”.Advertisementhttps://1594d1ed2c07b712b6700d9756db1d63.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

“This year, whether it’s in China or elsewhere in the world, the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events are all closely related to global warming,” he said.

It is not the first time Jia spoke of the danger of the climate crisis. Last summer, he told the national broadcaster CCTV that extreme weather events “will occur more frequently in China as a result of global warming – something the country is particularly vulnerable to”.

People wade across a flooded street in the city of Zhengzhou in China’s Henan province.

Awareness of the climate emergency has been growing in China over the last decade, in part due to Beijing’s involvement in high-profile international initiatives such as the Paris agreement. In a China Center for Climate Change Communication survey in 2012, 55% of the respondents said the climate crisis was mostly caused by human activities. In 2017, 75.2% believed they had already experienced impacts of the climate emergency, and nearly 80% were worried about it.

But to Zhang, last week’s massive flooding and its devastating human costs – which some Chinese media have described as “unseen in 1,000 years” – is a reminder that the impact of extreme weather events can only be minimised with a better emergency response mechanism and the public’s engagement.

“It’s absolutely necessary to strengthen the public’s knowledge [of the climate crisis],” she said. “We cannot wait until the arrival of disasters to face them.”

Biden Promised Diplomacy, But He’s Overseeing Military Buildup Against China

Joseph Robinette Biden squints into the sun, having forgotten his signature aviator sunglasses
President Joe Biden walks to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, on July 16, 2021, in Washington, D.C.

BYAnn WrightTruthoutPUBLISHEDJuly 21, 2021SHAREShare via FacebookShare via TwitterShare via Email

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Shortly after Joe Biden took office, the president delivered a speech at the U.S. Department of State, declaring, “I want the world to hear today: America is back…. Diplomacy is back at the center of our foreign policy…. By leading with diplomacy, we must also mean engaging our adversaries and our competitors diplomatically, where it’s in our interest, and advance the security of the American people.”

Instead of de-escalation with China, we are witnessing an enormous U.S. military buildup through massive military exercises in the Pacific.https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X2hvcml6b25fdHdlZXRfZW1iZWRfOTU1NSI6eyJidWNrZXQiOiJodGUiLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfX0%3D&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1416155682978467842&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Ftruthout.org%2Farticles%2Fbiden-promised-diplomacy-but-hes-overseeing-military-buildup-against-china%2F&sessionId=06d7aca25ebc522bdeba48f35bd7e7c13868d33d&siteScreenName=truthout&theme=light&widgetsVersion=82e1070%3A1619632193066&width=550px

A huge, 17,000 personnel, U.S. military land exercise named Talisman Sabre is now going on in Australia, causing much concern to many people there. Talisman Sabre 2021 involves practice for amphibious assaults, movement of heavy vehicles, use of live ammunition, and the use of U.S. nuclear-powered and nuclear-weapon-capable vessels.

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Annette Brownlie, chairperson of the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network said:

Talisman Sabre is a threat to the [Great Barrier] reef and to the environment…. The objective of Talisman Sabre is to integrate the Australian military further into the U.S. military, which is ranked among the world’s worst polluters and is the world’s greatest organizational consumer of oil…. Let us not forget that during Talisman Sabre in 2013, the U.S. jettisoned four unarmed bombs on the Great Barrier Reef when they had difficulty dropping them on their intended target, Townshend Island.

Additionally, in mid-July, 25 F-22 stealth jet fighters (a remarkable number), 10 F-15 E Strike Eagles and two C-130J cargo planes have flown into Guam, a U.S. territory, and Tinian Island in the Northern Marianas, one of two U.S. commonwealths, as a part of “Pacific Iron 2021.” This maneuver is described by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser newspaper as a key part of the “kick down the door” force for a possible conflict with China. Retired Lt. General Dan Leaf, a former deputy commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, said he was not aware of a previous exercise using this many F-22s.

The Pacific Air Force command in Honolulu said that Iron Pacific 2021 will have more than 35 aircraft and 800 personnel. They will have operations at three airports on Guam and one airport on Tinian, 100 miles north of Guam. U.S. aircraft that dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki 76 years ago flew from Tinian. Runways on Tinian, had fallen in disrepair until recently when major U.S. Air Force construction began to create an alternate air base to Guam.

Currently, Guam is also the site of the U.S. Army’s land war maneuvers called Forager 2021. About 4,000 U.S. personnel from the U.S. Army’s First Corps will be involved in various aspects of an airborne operation with the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force and 1st Special Forces Group, and an Apache attack helicopter live fire exercise. The war maneuvers also include eight-wheeled armored fighting vehicles called Strykers; lightweight, highly mobile, easily transportable surface-to-air missile fire unit with eight Stinger missiles in two missile pods named Avengers; and High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems. Forager 2021 tests the Army’s capability to rapidly deploy personnel and equipment in order to counter enemy forces.

Activists in Guam are mobilizing against the military buildup. Lisa Natividad, professor of social work at the University of Guam and primary convener of the Guahan Coalition for Peace and Justice, told Truthout that the change has been stark: “Our concrete houses have been shaken from the military maneuvers by aircraft we have never seen before.”

Natividad described Guam’s vulnerability as a staging ground for U.S. military exercises.

“Guam is being overwhelmed by the number of U.S. military war maneuvers that are taking place on our land, ocean and airspace,” Natividad said. “Military maneuvers are so frequent that they’re ongoing and continuous. These exercises take place on Guam and throughout the Mariana Islands and in civilian spaces like the airport and hospitals. The destruction of our land for the construction and expansion of military bases is heartbreaking, and underscores how we as a U.S. territory truly have no political rights or voice to make decisions in our own homeland.”

According to The Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the U.S. Army has been moving Patriot batteries around the Pacific in a message to China, with upcoming plans to test the system in Hawaii. “Next month we are moving another (Patriot battery) from Okinawa to Hawaii for another exercise,” said Army Col. Matt Dalton. “We are trying to demonstrate our ability to quickly move our units around the Indo-Pacific to be able to counter any threat that is out there (with) our ability to move to different locations quickly, set up and establish defense of a particular asset.”

So much for the highly touted diplomacy in the Biden administration.

Military Ships Vie for Space in a Crowded South China Sea

These U.S. military forces come in addition to the two dozen ships in the U.S., French, Dutch, Japanese, South Korean and Australian armada that are patrolling the South China Sea and the Taiwan Straits in “Freedom of Navigation” maneuvers. The U.S. aircraft carrier USS America and its numerous security vessels steaming in close proximity make for a crowded South China Sea. In July 2021, the naval exercise Pacific Vanguard includes U.S. Australian, Japanese and South Korean ships.

With the “Western” armada in the waters off China, the Chinese navy has added its vessels to the mix. The Trump administration increased tensions with China by sending the highest-ranking U.S. officials in over 40 years to Taiwan, and the Chinese government responded with the largest naval exercises in its history and sent numerous flights of up to 28 aircraft to the edge of Taiwan’s air defense zone.

Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach, commander of Pacific Air Forces with headquarters at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, described a new operational strategy called “agile combat environment” (ACE), of disbursing air assets to many small locations and spokes “so that we would be moving between the hubs and spokes multiple times per day, multiple times per week. Creating a targeting problem for an adversary that would have to target many locations instead of one or two large bases, dilutes the firepower the adversary can put on any one location.”

A Pacific Air Force spokesperson said the goal is to create targeting challenges for enemy hypersonic, ballistic and long-range cruise missile threats, thereby increasing survivability for U.S. forces by having outposts on small islands where refueling of aircraft can take place instead of relying on large bases, which are easily identified targets.

More Congressional Funding for the Pacific Region

In addition to the military war maneuvers, the House Appropriations Committee of the U.S. Congress recently advanced the 2022 defense budget that includes $2.2 billion for the Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Plan at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard as a part of the 20-year, $21 billion U.S. Navy project to upgrade four government-operated shipyards.

The defense appropriation bill includes $62.4 million for a missile defense system for Guam against ballistic, hypersonic and cruise missiles. A letter from a bipartisan congressional group had requested $350 million for the Guam defense system. Admiral Phil Davidson, the former chief of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, requested $4.68 billion for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative for fiscal year 2022.

In one of the most controversial budget allocations, despite the Pentagon zeroing out funding requests from the Hawaii congressional delegation for a Homeland Defense Radar (indicating that the U.S. military does not want the radar), the appropriations committee, acting on a radar request from the Hawaii delegation, allocated $75 million. The radar is intended to track North Korean intercontinental ballistic missiles, but the Department of Defense shelved the Homeland Radar and a separate radar as they could not track hypersonic missiles, reviving a focus on space-based sensors to identify these threats.

Due to residents’ formidable opposition to the radar on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, the Defense Missile Agency is now looking at the Barking Sands Missile Test Facility, located on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, for the site of the massive 85-foot-tall structure sitting atop a 25-foot foundation. Yet opposition on Kauai, too, is growing as the scale of the project becomes clearer. Questions are mounting about whether Kauai’s infrastructure, roads and bridges can handle the heavy equipment and massive amount of concrete needed to construct the radar. Local officials are concerned about housing the hundreds of new employees on an island that already has chronic housing shortages and a homeless population that has an encampment just outside the fence of Barking Sands.

Added to those issues is the disturbing Notice to Airmen, issued by the Federal Aviation Administration about “electromagnetic radiation continuously existing at the Pacific Missile Range Facility (on the island of Kauai) from June 1, 2021, to June 1, 2022.” The notice, which was recently discovered by local citizens, states that, “Aircraft within the above airspace will be exposed to direct radiation which may produce harmful effects to personnel and equipment.”

There has been no response to inquiries from local citizens or local news outlets from the U.S. Navy Public Affairs office, which handles inquiries for the Pacific Missile Range Facility about the source of the electromagnetic radiation and why the public was not notified of this dangerous situation.

Where Is U.S. Diplomacy in the Pacific?

In March 2021, the first face-to-face meeting between the Biden administration and Chinese officials got off to a heated start in Anchorage, Alaska. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s statement that the Biden administration would bring up “deep concerns” about some of China’s actions around the world was met with immediate pushback from Chinese counterparts, sparking an unusually public exchange of diplomatic barbs.

Four months later, not much has changed on the diplomatic front. On July 11, Blinken called on China to stop its “provocative behavior” in the South China Sea. Blinken followed on July 13, in his first meeting with ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) foreign ministers and on the fifth anniversary of a ruling by an arbitration tribunal rejecting China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, with a statement that the United States stands with Southeast Asian countries and rejects China’s unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea. China does not accept the arbitration ruling, and claims much of the waters within a so-called Nine Dash Line, which is also contested by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

As more U.S. funding is allocated toward military buildup in the Pacific, those of us who oppose war, militarism and imperialism must be vocal in our concerns to the Biden administration, as well as our congressional delegations who vote for military instead of peaceful resolutions of economic and political disputes in the region.

New Data Leads To Rethinking (Once More) Where The Pandemic Actually Began


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July 19, 20214:39 PM ETHeard on All Things Considered

Michaeleen Doucleff 2016 square


New Data Leads To Rethinking (Once More) Where The Pandemic Actually Began

Audio will be available later today.

Back in May, a group of scientists — many at the top of the virology field — shifted the debate about the origins of COVID-19. They published a letter in the journal Science saying the lab-leak theory needs to be taken more seriously by the scientific community.

Given the current evidence available, the scientists wrote, the outbreak is just as likely to have originated from a laboratory — specifically the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which studies coronaviruses — as from an infected animal. “We must take hypotheses about both natural and laboratory spillovers seriously until we have sufficient data,” they concluded.

Now one of the scientists who signed that letter says new data has come to light. And that information, summarized in an online review, has changed his thinking.


“I do think transmission from another species, without a lab escape, is the most likely scenario by a long shot,” says evolutionary biologist Michael Worobey at the University of Arizona.

In fact, Worobey thinks, the most likely scenario, given the current information, is that the pandemic began at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, even though the World Health Organization says it’s unlikely to have started there. “The data are very consistent with it starting at the market — very consistent,” Worobey says.

A Sherlock Holmes in the world of pandemics

Over the past decade, Worobey has become a bit like the Sherlock Holmes of pandemic origins. His work has helped explain how the 1918 flu emerged and how HIV came to the U.S. earlier than people thought. “It got to New York City pretty darn early, probably around 1970, 1971, somewhere in there,” Worobey told NPR in 2016.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Worobey has been studying how SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19, spreads around densely populated cities such as Wuhan, China, where the outbreak is thought to have begun. Using this information, he built computer simulations to model how SARS-CoV-2 may have transmitted through Wuhan early in the outbreak, before doctors detected the first cases, likely in December 2019. The models could estimate key aspects of the early outbreak, such as when the first case occurred, how long the virus spread in the city before doctors noticed it and how many cases were in the city at that point.Article continues after sponsor message

A few months ago, Worobey says, his models couldn’t differentiate between the lab-leak theory and the alternative theory — that the virus jumped directly from an animal into people. Both theories were consistent with the data. “So I was on that Science letter,” he says, “asserting that more investigation is needed of both possibilities.”

Then two new pieces of information came to light. First, Woroby started to look more closely at the geography of early known COVID-19 cases — cases that occurred in December 2019. He took data from the World Health Organization’s report from March and plotted the date on a map if where people with confirmed cases lived in Wuhan.

Why the location of the market and the lab matters

Then he did something that the WHO didn’t: He added to the map the location of the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market and the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where scientists studied bat coronaviruses. “It’s a very simple thing to do,” Worobey says. “But it really paints a pretty clear picture, right?”

The dots show the cases starting right near the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market and then radiating out from there. “The Huanan market seems like the bull’s-eye of this outbreak. It’s pretty extraordinary.”

What about cases near the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), which is more than 10 miles from the market? “There are no cases around the WIV,” Worobey says. “If the outbreak did start in the lab, the bottom line is, it would be odd for it not to be spreading from there rather than from elsewhere.”

The other piece of data, which helped shift Worobey’s thinking, concerns the products sold at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. Was there anything at the market that has been previously known to spread SARS coronaviruses?

Since the pandemic began, the Chinese government claimed the vendors at the market didn’t sell any illegal wildlife. “They said the market was operating completely legally,” says biosecurity expert Gigi Gronvall at Johns Hopkins University. “And just on the face of it, you just know, that’s not correct.

“And lo and behold, it’s not,” she adds.

Last month, researchers published a study showing that the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market was one of four markets in Wuhan selling illegal wildlife, including palm civets and raccoon dogs, which are both known to spread SARS-CoV-2. Scientists believe civets triggered the first SARS coronavirus pandemic, in 2003.

The researchers, from China West Normal University in Nanchong, surveyed 17 markets across Wuhan between May 2017 and November 2019. They found more than 47,000 live animals across 38 different species for sale, including 31 species protected under Chinese law.

This new information about the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, along with the maps and modeling data, don’t prove an animal origin for the pandemic by any means, Gronvall says. Nor do they disprove the lab-leak theory, she says: “There are lots of pieces to still fill in, but this report [from Worobey and his colleagues] ties a lot of the pieces together that say, ‘There is a really credible story for an animal origin of SARS-CoV2.’ “

What we do know — and still don’t know — about cases

Now, of course, all the data presented to support Worobey’s hypothesis come with caveats — big caveats. The Chinese government tightly controlled and managed the information coming from China, especially information concerning the early days of the pandemic. The reported COVID-19 cases in December 2019 are only a small fraction of the actual number circulating in Wuhan at the time. The government refuses to release the raw data for patients in 2019 or allow researchers to search for even earlier cases through the analyses of blood bank samples or epidemiological interviews.

In addition, the Huanan market sits in the middle of a densely populated part of the city, where many elderly people live, points out Alina Chan, a molecular biologist at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Mass., who has promoted the lab-leak theory online.

“There are many more people living north of the river, and there are a lot of elderly folk living there in a lot of care homes there,” said Chan, as she showed me a population density map of Wuhan, published in February 2020. “So it doesn’t surprise me that the early outbreak doesn’t map to the [WIV] lab. People don’t live at the labs.”

But, Worobey says, a closer look at the population density in Wuhan indicates the early cases aren’t in the densest part of the city. “It is certainly worth considering the degree to which population densities might play a role in explaining early cases,” Worobey wrote to NPR in an email. “But there does seem to be a pattern in the early data … of considerable numbers of cases both to the north and south of the Huanan Market, whereas the large patch of really high numbers of elderly people in Wuhan is in the very southern extent of the central cluster shown.”

Furthermore, he notes, the earliest known cases skewed young. The highest number of cases occurred in people ages 29 to 49 and then in people ages 50 to 65. The vast majority were under 65, a study found.

And so, given the data available right now, he believes the most likely scenario is that the pandemic started at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, not the lab. “It does seem a pretty weird coincidence that [a big outbreak occurs] at one of four places in Wuhan that sells things like civets and raccoon dogs, which are the likely suspects as intermediaries to SARS-CoV-2.”

But if new data comes to light tomorrow, his thinking may shift again, Worobey says. That, in many ways, is the way science works.

Wuhan markets sold mink, civets long before Covid-19 emerged, says study


A security guard stands outside the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, on Jan 24, 2020.
A security guard stands outside the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, on Jan 24, 2020.PHOTO: AFP
  • UPDATEDJUN 8, 2021, 4:11 PM


WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG, REUTERS) – Chinese markets linked to some of the earliest Covid-19 cases were illegally selling a range of wildlife from which the coronavirus may have spread, according to a study published less than two weeks after US President Joe Biden ordered a deeper probe into the pandemic’s genesis.

Mink, masked palm civets, raccoon dogs, Siberian weasels, hog badgers and Chinese bamboo rats were among 38 animal species sold live at markets in Wuhan from May 2017 to November 2019, researchers said on Monday (June 7) in a paper in the journal Scientific Reports originally submitted last October.

The hunt for Covid-19’s origins has become increasingly political amid criticism that the Chinese government has not been open and transparent with key information, including activities in a Wuhan lab studying coronaviruses.

The new findings support the conclusions of a World Health Organisation-led research mission in early 2021 that concluded that Sars-CoV-2 most likely spilled over to humans from animals – either directly from a bat or via another mammal, possibly one sold at the Huanan seafood and fresh produce market in central Wuhan.

“This report clearly places Sars-CoV-2 susceptible animals smack in the middle of Wuhan,” said microbiology and immunology expert Robert Garry from Tulane University in New Orleans, who was not involved in the research. It is a major revelation, he said in an e-mail.

Access to the detailed data in the study was serendipitous, the researchers said.

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The findings were based on routine monthly surveys of shops selling live wild animals as pets or for food across Wuhan in the years before Covid-19 emerged at the end of 2019, the authors said. That unrelated study was intended to identify the source of a tick-borne disease.

“While we caution against the mis-attribution of Covid-19’s origins, the wild animals on sale in Wuhan suffered poor welfare and hygiene conditions and we detail a range of other zoonotic infections they can potentially vector,” lead author Xiao Xiao, from the Lab Animal Research Centre at Hubei University of Chinese Medicine in Wuhan, and colleagues wrote.

Both wild-caught and farmed non-domesticated species were sold – alive, caged, stacked and in poor condition – by 17 vendors, the researchers said. None posted an origin certificate or quarantine certificate, “so all wildlife trade was fundamentally illegal”, they said.

The WHO-led research team reported that market authorities claimed all live and frozen animals sold in the Huanan market were acquired from farms officially licensed for breeding, and it found no verified reports of live mammals being sold around 2019. The market was shut down at 1am on Jan 1, 2020.https://fd67ec0c283365cde45cdab7fefd7669.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

“This paper is affirmative evidence that there was obfuscation regarding which animals were being sold at the wet markets in Wuhan,” Professor Garry said.

China temporarily banned all wildlife trade on Jan 26, 2020, and permanently banned eating and trading terrestrial wild animals for food a month later.

Before the ban, most stores offered butchering services, done on site, with considerable implications for food hygiene and animal welfare. Marmots – large ground squirrels – selling for more than US$25 (S$33) a kilogram, were the most expensive, while raccoon dogs and badgers were priced at about US$15-US$20 a kg, the researchers said.

“This group was able to learn a huge amount from vendors in these stalls, who were even willing to discuss openly that they were selling illegal wildlife,” said Dr Michael Worobey, head of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona in Tucson, who was not involved in the study.

“It is hard to imagine them being so transparent with government authorities or even the WHO. This serves as a reminder that less ‘official’ investigations can play a huge role,” he said.


US agencies examine reports of early Covid-19 infections in Wuhan lab

WHO rechecks research on when coronavirus first surfaced in Italy

While the prevailing theory among virologists is that Covid-19 originated in bats and made its way into humans via an intermediary animal, efforts to pin down the details or identify any infected animals have been unsuccessful for the past year and a half. In part because of that futile attempt, combined with restrictions from China in the effort to gather information, some scientists have started calling for a more detailed investigation into the lab-leak theory.

President Biden directed his intelligence agencies to delve deeper into the issue last month, after he received a report on the origins earlier in May that detailed the scientific divide over whether Sars-CoV-2 arose naturally in animals or if it was leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, one of the world’s foremost laboratories working on coronaviruses.

Mr Biden asked for another update in 90 days.

Any finding of a coronavirus closely related to Sars-CoV-2 circulating in wild animals would likely quell suspicions that the pandemic virus was created in a lab, said Associate Professor Joel Wertheim from the University of California, San Diego, who studies viral molecular epidemiology. Still, there is no guarantee that such a virus will ever be found.

“We don’t even know, if there’s an intermediate species, which one we’re looking for,” he said over Zoom. “And also, if it was in a market beforehand, it’s not any more.”

The Wuhan Institute of Virology. A report on the origins of Covid-19 by a US government national laboratory concluded that the hypothesis of a virus leak from a Chinese lab in Wuhan is plausible and deserves further investigation, the Wall Street Journal said. PHOTO: AFP

Meanwhile, a report on the origins of Covid-19 by a US government national laboratory concluded that the hypothesis of a virus leak from a Chinese lab in Wuhan is plausible and deserves further investigation, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) said on Monday (June 7), citing people familiar with the classified document.

The study was prepared in May 2020 by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and was referred to by the US State Department when it conducted an inquiry into the pandemic’s origins during the final months of the Trump administration, the WSJ report said.

Lawrence Livermore’s assessment drew on a genomic analysis of the Covid-19 virus, the Journal said. Lawrence Livermore declined to comment on the Wall Street Journal report.

Mr Biden said last month he had ordered aides to find answers to the origin of the virus.

US intelligence agencies are considering two likely scenarios – that the virus resulted from a laboratory accident or that it emerged from human contact with an infected animal – but they have not come to a conclusion, Mr Biden said.


Aussie expert on WHO team defends Covid-19 origin findings, amid speculation about ‘lab leak’ theory

Search for Covid-19 origin ‘poisoned by politics’, says WHO expert

A still-classified US intelligence report circulated during former president Donald Trump’s administration alleged that three researchers at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology became so ill in November 2019 that they sought hospital care, US government sources have said.

US officials have accused China of not being transparent about the virus’ origins, a charge Beijing has denied.

Separately, Dr Mike Ryan, a top World Health Organisation official said on Monday the WHO cannot compel China to divulge more data on Covid-19’s origins, while adding that it will propose studies needed to take understanding of where the virus emerged to the next level.

Earlier this month, US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci called on China to release the medical records of nine people whose ailments might provide vital clues into whether Covid-19 first emerged as the result of a lab leak.


Lab Leaks And Covid-19: Why The Lab Leak Hypothesis Doesn’t Mean The Virus Was Engineered



https://2a398f8536a61d54b16160ced29c40bd.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.htmlJun 13, 2021,07:39am EDT|625 views

Steven SalzbergContributorHealthFollow

Security personnel stand guard outside the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan as members of the … [+] AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

The “lab leak” hypothesis about the origin of Covid-19 has been getting a lot of attention lately, and deservedly so. This is the idea that the SARS-CoV-2 virus accidentally escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan, China, that conducts research on coronaviruses. Just a few weeks ago, a group of highly respected virologists and epidemiologists published a letter in the journal Science calling for a more thorough investigation, stating that the lab leak hypothesis was not taken seriously enough in earlier investigations.

The coincidence of having a major virus research facility, the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), just a short distance from the live animal food market that was originally believed to be the source of the outbreak is too great to ignore. Even more curious is that WIV was actively doing research on coronaviruses in bats, including the bats that carry a strain of SARS-CoV-2 that is the closest known relative to the Covid-19 virus itself.

From the beginning of the outbreak, attention was focused on WIV, and various conspiracy theorists suggested, without any evidence, that the Covid-19 virus was either intentionally engineered, intentionally released, or both. Let me just say right off the bat that I don’t believe either of those claims.


However, I do think the lab leak hypothesis is credible, and it’s also possible that “gain of function” research (more about this below) might be responsible.

In arguing against (unsupported) claims that the Chinese released the virus on purpose, a group of virologists published a paper very early in the pandemic, in March 2020, which looked at the genome sequence of the virus and concluded that “SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus.” Other studies since then have come to similar conclusions: the virus is very similar to naturally-occurring coronaviruses, and it is possible that it simply evolved naturally in the wild, probably in bats.https://2a398f8536a61d54b16160ced29c40bd.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

Even so, the lab leak hypothesis remains highly credible, regardless of whether or not the virus was genetically engineered. Here’s why. First, we know that lab accidents can happen and viruses can escape, even if these accidents are rare. We also know that the Wuhan Institute of Virology had thousands of viruses, including coronaviruses, in its facility. And despite claims that viruses couldn’t possibly have escaped accidentally, a 2017 Nature article describing the then-new Wuhan Institute reported, perhaps prophetically, that “worries surround the [Wuhan Institute of Virology], too. The SARS virus has escaped from high-level containment facilities in Beijing multiple times.”MORE FROM FORBES VIDEOhttps://www.youtube.com/embed/Cc6_3uNXcqc?enablejsapi=1

The secrecy of the Chinese government, which has not yet allowed independent, outside scientists full access to WIV to investigate, hasn’t helped matters. We need to know if any viruses in WIV are similar to the Covid-19 virus, and at this point we can’t trust the Chinese government’s assurances on this question. Of course, even if they allow outsiders to investigate now, we cannot know that they have preserved all the viruses that were present in the lab in the winter of 2019-2020.

Now let’s talk about gain-of-function research. Gain of function, or GoF, refers to research that tries to make viruses or bacteria more harmful, by making them more infectious. This seems crazy, right? And yet it’s been going on for years, despite the efforts of many scientists to stop it. In the past, GoF research focused on the influenza virus, and in particular on a small number of scientists (highly irresponsible ones, in my view) who were trying to give avian influenza–bird flu–the ability to jump from birds into humans. I wrote about this in 2013, and in 2017, and again in 2019, each time calling on the US government to stop funding this extremely dangerous work. The NIH did put a “pause” on gain-of-function research for a few years, but the work resumed in 2019.

Now, let me explain why GoF research does not require artificially engineering a virus. Viruses mutate very rapidly all by themselves, and RNA viruses like influenza and SARS-CoV-2 mutate even more rapidly than DNA viruses. So a GoF experiment doesn’t need to engineer a virus to make it more infectious: instead, scientists can simply grow a few trillion viral particles, which is easy, and design experiments to select the ones that are more infectious. For example, some GoF research on bird flu simply sprays an aerosol mixture of viruses into a ferret’s nose (influenza research often uses ferrets, since you can’t ethically do this with people), and waits to see if the ferret comes down with the flu. If it does (and this has been done, successfully), the strain that succeeds now has a new function, because it can infect mammals. The viruses that are artificially selected (as opposed to natural selection) in these experiments will appear completely natural; no genetic engineering required.

We know that WIV was conducting gain-of-function experiments, and we know that its work included coronaviruses. Was the Wuhan Institute of Virology running GoF experiments on SARS-CoV-2 viruses from bats? Possibly. And if it was, these experiments could easily have produced a strain that infected humans. If a lab employee was accidentally infected with such a strain, that could have started the pandemic. And even if SARS-CoV-2 wasn’t the subject of GoF experiments, a naturally-occurring strain being studied at WIV could still have infected one of their scientists and thereby leaked out into the population.

I’m not saying that any of these events is likely. I am, however, agreeing with the scientists who, in their recent letter to Science, called for a deeper investigation into the cause of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Finally, let me echo a sentiment they expressed in their letter, which is best said by simply quoting them: “in this time of unfortunate anti-Asian sentiment in some countries, we note that at the beginning of the pandemic, it was Chinese doctors, scientists, journalists, and citizens who shared with the world crucial information about the spread of the virus—often at great personal cost.” Rather than seeking to cast blame, we need to uncover the origin of the Covid-19 pandemic, and any behaviors that led to it, as a means to help all societies prevent future pandemics.

Fauci, Biden administration asking China for medical records of sick lab workers and miners


Fauci, Biden administration asking China for…



Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, listens as he speaks with reporters in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, listens as he speaks with reporters in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

By ALEXI COHAN | alexi.cohan@bostonherald.com | Boston HeraldPUBLISHED: June 4, 2021 at 8:43 p.m. | UPDATED: June 4, 2021 at 8:45 p.m.

Dr. Anthony Fauci and members of the Biden administration are asking China to release medical records of lab workers and miners who fell ill prior to the coronavirus outbreak, as they may provide clues about the origins of the virus, according to reports.

“I have always felt that the overwhelming likelihood — given the experience we have had with SARS, MERS, Ebola, HIV, bird flu, the swine flu pandemic of 2009 — was that the virus jumped species,” Fauci told the Financial Times. “But we need to keep on investigating until a possibility is proven.”

The medical records in question are from three researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology who reportedly fell ill in November 2019 and six miners who got sick after entering a bat cave in 2012. Two of the miners died.

Scientists from the Wuhan Institute of Virology later visited the cave to collect samples from the bats.https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.463.0_en.html#goog_1263257357PauseNext video0:29Full-screenRead Morehttps://c14deb9db86ee93aaa37abb094336ae7.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

“It is entirely conceivable that the origins of SARS-CoV-2 was in that cave and either started spreading naturally or went through the lab,” Fauci said.

President Biden’s chief medical adviser called on China to release the medical records, according to the Financial Times report. China’s foreign ministry declined to say whether it would consider releasing the records at a press briefing on Friday.

Biden last week ordered U.S. intelligence to come to a conclusion within 90 days about what started the pandemic. Speculation about a lab leak has ramped up in recent weeks, but public health professionals have said it is highly unlikely.

Last month, the World Health Organization released a report in which it stated a lab leak, “was considered to be an extremely unlikely pathway.”

Fauci has said several times he believes coronavirus was first transmitted to humans via animals.

China confirms first human case of bird flu strain


  Published On 01 June,2021 01:26 pmChina confirms first human case of bird flu strain

BEIJING (AFP) – China reported the world’s first human infection of the H10N3 bird flu strain on Tuesday but said the risk of it spreading widely among people was low.

A 41-year-old man was admitted to hospital with fever symptoms in the eastern city of Zhenjiang on April 28 and was diagnosed with H10N3 a month later, China’s National Health Commission (NHC) said in an online statement.

“The risk of large-scale spread is extremely low,” the NHC said, adding that the man was in a stable condition and his close contacts had reported no “abnormalities.”

It described H10N3 as low pathogenic — less likely to cause death or severe illness — in birds.

The NHC said there had been no human cases of H10N3 previously reported in the world.

Several strains of bird flu have been found among animals in China but mass outbreaks in humans are rare.

The last human epidemic of bird flu in China occurred in late 2016 to 2017, with the H7N9 virus.

The H7N9 has infected 1,668 people and claimed 616 lives since 2013, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization.

Following recent avian flu outbreaks in Africa and Eurasia, the head of China’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention last week urged stricter surveillance in poultry farms, markets and wild birds.

Covid-19 was first detected at a food and animal market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019. 

More related articles:




Biden sends Xi, Putin warning while remembering son Beau, fallen troops in Memorial Day speech


3 hours ago

Biden also paid tribute to his late son Beau

By Evie Fordham | Fox News


Why the media dismissed Wuhan theory

Many mocked lab scenario, until now

President Biden sent a warning to the presidents of China and Russia during his Memorial Day address on Sunday.

“I had a long conversation for two hours recently with [Chinese] President Xi [Jinping], making it clear to him we could do nothing but speak out for human rights around the world because that’s who we are,” Biden said. “I’ll be meeting with [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin in a couple weeks in Geneva making it clear that we will not stand by and let him abuse those rights.”


Biden spoke at a Memorial Day service in Delaware on Sunday morning, where he offered comfort to the families of fallen service members and paid tribute to his late son Beau Biden, who served in the Iraq War. 

“It’s also an important tradition in our family. As many of you know, this is a hard day for us. Six years ago today … I lost my son. In the first year of his passing back in 2016, Gen. [Frank] Vavala did a great honor in inviting us to a ceremony renaming the Delaware National Guard headquarters in Beau’s honor.”

President Joe Biden speaks with priests as he departs after attending Mass at St. Joseph on the Brandywine Catholic Church, Sunday, May 30, 2021, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

President Joe Biden speaks with priests as he departs after attending Mass at St. Joseph on the Brandywine Catholic Church, Sunday, May 30, 2021, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

“We’re honored, but it’s a tough day, brings back everything,” Biden continued. “So I can’t thank you enough for your continued service to the country and your sons, your daughters, they live on in your hearts and in their children as well. And we have to carry on without them. But I know how hard it is for you. Beau didn’t die in the line of duty, but he was serving in Delaware National Guard unit in Iraq for a year. That was one of the proudest things he did in his life. So thank you for allowing us to grieve together today.”

Beau Biden, the former attorney general of Delaware, died in 2015 from cancer. The president has previously suggested that Beau Biden’s cancer could have been linked to toxins he was exposed to through military burn pits while serving in the Iraq War.https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X2hvcml6b25fdHdlZXRfZW1iZWRfOTU1NSI6eyJidWNrZXQiOiJodGUiLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X3R3ZWV0X2VtYmVkX2NsaWNrYWJpbGl0eV8xMjEwMiI6eyJidWNrZXQiOiJjb250cm9sIiwidmVyc2lvbiI6bnVsbH19&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=true&id=1399012184655552513&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.foxnews.com%2Fpolitics%2Fbiden-xi-jinping-putin-memorial-day-warning&sessionId=8654e0e91e142a4cb600cfb66ad5941a52e0f8c8&siteScreenName=foxnews&theme=light&widgetsVersion=82e1070%3A1619632193066&width=550px

This is President Biden’s first Memorial Day weekend as commander-in-chief.


He brought up his issues with Chinese leaders as his administration refuses to commit to punishing China should the coronavirus lab leak theory be proven true.https://a83c3ce184b4746ff8af8b66c9f5b066.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

“We haven’t ruled out anything yet,” principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters during Wednesday’s press briefing when asked whether the virus had emerged in a manner that was “deliberate or not an accident.”

“Would the president seek to punish China?” Fox News’ Peter Doocy asked Jean-Pierre.


“We’re not going to go there just yet,” Jean-Pierre replied, “We have to go through the 90-day review. And once we have the 90-day review, will we be able to reassess.”  

Biden previously said he had asked the intelligence community to “redouble their efforts” to “bring us closer to a definitive conclusion” and get back to him within 90 days. 

Fox News’ Lucas Y. Tomlinson, Morgan Phillips and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

China’s annual emissions surpass those of all developed nations combined, report finds


By Laura Smith-Spark and Ivana Kottasová, CNN

Updated 9:38 AM ET, Fri May 7, 2021

China’s annual emissions exceeded those of all developed nations combined in 2019, the first time this has happened since national greenhouse gas emissions have been measured, according to a new report from the Rhodium Group.Chinese President Xi Jinping has vowed to make his country carbon neutral by 2060, and climate policy is seen as a major area of cooperation — and even competition — between the United States and China.But the new report highlights how difficult reducing China’s impact on the climate could be.

According to the researchers, global emissions reached 52 gigatons of CO2-equivalent in 2019, an increase of 11.4% over the past decade. And China’s share is growing fast.

While China’s emissions were less than a quarter of developed country emissions in 1990, they have more than tripled over the past three decades, the report said. In 2019, they exceeded 14 gigatons of CO2-equivalent for the first time.

https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X2hvcml6b25fdHdlZXRfZW1iZWRfOTU1NSI6eyJidWNrZXQiOiJodGUiLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfX0%3D&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1390329650249756678&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cnn.com%2F2021%2F05%2F07%2Fworld%2Fclimate-emissions-china-developed-nations-intl%2Findex.html&sessionId=9f2d78934b52daa6f9cd32570e62e94c1a712b12&theme=light&widgetsVersion=82e1070%3A1619632193066&width=550px”China alone contributed over 27% of total global emissions, far exceeding the US — the second highest emitter — which contributed 11% of the global total,” the report said. “For the first time, India edged out the EU-27 for third place, coming in at 6.6% of global emissions.”Enter your email to sign up for the Wonder Theory newsletter.close dialog

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Want the week’s science news summarized?We’ve got you.Sign Me UpBy subscribing you agree to ourprivacy policy.China is a large country, with a population of 1.4 billion, and up to now its per capita emissions have remained considerably lower than those in the developed world, the researchers note. But that, too, is changing fast.

“In 2019, China’s per capita emissions reached 10.1 tons, nearly tripling over the past two decades,” the report said.While they remained lower in 2019 than the US — 17.6 tons a person — the report predicts that when full 2020 data is available, China’s per capita output will have overtaken the OECD average of 10.5 tons, even as the emissions “from almost all other nations declined sharply in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.”In this June 2017 file photo, a state-owned coal-fired power plant is seen in Huainan, China.In this June 2017 file photo, a state-owned coal-fired power plant is seen in Huainan, China.Nonetheless, China still has a way to go before it catches up with the total amount of carbon dioxide that has been spewed into the atmosphere by developed nations. The report notes that “since 1750, members of the OECD bloc have emitted four times more CO2 on a cumulative basis than China.”Greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere like a blanket, trapping radiation that would otherwise escape into space. This causes temperatures on Earth to rise, which is linked to more extreme weather, ice melt and a rise in sea levels. And the more carbon emitted into the atmosphere, the more the planet will warm.Reinhard Steurer, a climate scientist and associate professor at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna, told CNN that those in the West shouldn’t be congratulating themselves just yet.

“A lot of the stuff we [in the West] consume is produced in China and the emissions are counted into the Chinese carbon emissions record,” he said.”If you take into account those consumption-based emissions, our record isn’t that good… We should never really blame China as the worst emitter on earth, because quite a lot of their emissions go into our consumption.”

CNN’s Nectar Gan and James Griffiths contributed to this report.

China’s Population Increased in 2020, Government Says


Statistics bureau offers no details, saying only that detailed data would be released in its coming once-a-decade census report

China’s population first exceeded 1.4 billion in 2019.PHOTO: KEVIN FRAYER/GETTY IMAGES

By Jonathan ChengUpdated April 29, 2021 4:43 am ET

  • TEXT

Listen to this article1 minute00:00 / 01:101x

BEIJING—China’s population increased in 2020, the nation’s statistics bureau said in a brief statement Thursday.

The National Bureau of Statistics didn’t elaborate, saying only that detailed data would be released in its coming census report, according to the one-sentence statement published on its website.

The release of the once-in-a-decade census results has been delayed for several weeks.

In recent years, economists have raised concerns over China’s rapidly aging population, which they warn could raise a variety of social issues and cloud the future for the world’s second-largest economy.

The Financial Times reported on Wednesday that Beijing’s census would show the country’s first population decline in five decades.TO READ THE FULL STORYSUBSCRIBESIGN IN

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POLITICSCensus Shows South and Mountain West Gain Political Power From Population Growth