Wuhan Lab Theory ‘Extremely Unlikely’ Covid-19 Source, WHO Concludes—Correcting A Trump White House Claim


Topline

The World Health Organization team investigating the origins of Covid-19 has not been able to uncover the source of the virus or meaningfully change our understanding of the pandemic, the group said Tuesday, though it did rule out the idea commonly touted by former President Trump that the virus escaped from a Wuhan laboratory. 

Key Facts

In a joint press conference led by members of WHO and Chinese delegations, experts said their two weeks in the field had uncovered new information but had not dramatically changed the picture of the pandemic. 

Peter Ben Embarek, who chaired the WHO team, said the theory that the virus escaped from a Wuhan lab is “extremely unlikely” and does not merit further study, pointing to a lack of work on similar viruses “anywhere in the world” and a strong set of lab procedures making it “very unlikely that anything could escape from that place.”

Embarek said the most likely hypothesis remains the virus entering humans through an intermediary species—evidence suggests this could be bats or pangolins—but said the group was unable to identify a natural animal reservoir for the virus and further research would be needed.  

Embarek said further work was also needed to evaluate two other theories, such as whether the virus could have entered into humans from an animal reservoir directly or if frozen products were involved “in the introduction of the virus over a distance”. 

According to the Guardian, the Chinese delegation, which spoke first, heavily emphasized the latter theory, in fitting with ongoing efforts by officials to relocate the virus’ origins overseas.  

What We Don’t Know

After months of tense buildup and diplomatic back and forth to greenlight the WHO investigation, the origins of Covid-19 remain a mystery. It is unclear whether further investigations will receive approval from the authorities, and despite its continued claims of cooperation for the mission, China repeatedly refused to authorize a visit and even blocked the team’s arrival as they were leaving their home countries. It now says its side of the investigation is over, adding that this is just the “first part” of the WHO’s “global origin tracing work.”   

Key Background

Amid manifold failures and mounting criticism, China became a target for Trump and Republicans looking to cast blame for the Covid-19 crisis in the United States. Beyond the virus being first detected there, the former President and his officials repeatedly pushed, without evidence, the idea that the virus also leaked from a lab in Wuhan. Trump once said he had a “high degree of confidence” in the Wuhan lab theory, while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said there was “enormous evidence” the claim was true. 

Further Reading

Wuhan laboratory leak Covid origin theory ‘unlikely’, says WHO team (Guardian)

A Timeline Of The COVID-19 Wuhan Lab Origin Theory (Forbes)

China Finally Green Lights WHO Investigation Into Coronavirus Origins As Daily Covid-19 Cases Spike To Five-Month High (Forbes)

Full coverage and live updates on the Coronavirus

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Compound from medicinal herb kills brain-eating amoebae in lab studies — ScienceDaily


Primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), a deadly disease caused by the “brain-eating amoeba” Naegleria fowleri, is becoming more common in some areas of the world, and it has no effective treatment. Now, researchers reporting in ACS Chemical Neuroscience have found that a compound isolated from the leaves of a traditional medicinal plant, Inula viscosa or “false yellowhead,” kills the amoebae by causing them to commit cell suicide in lab studies, which could lead to new treatments.

PAM, characterized by headache, fever, vomiting, hallucinations and seizures, is almost always fatal within a couple of weeks of developing symptoms. Although the disease, which is usually contracted by swimming in contaminated freshwater, is rare, increasing cases have been reported recently in the U.S., the Philippines, southern Brazil and some Asian countries. Amphotericin B is the most common therapy given to those with the infection. It can kill N. fowleri in the lab, but it isn’t very effective when given to patients, likely because it cannot cross the blood-brain barrier. Ikrame Zeouk, José Piñero, Jacob Lorenzo-Morales and colleagues wanted to explore whether compounds isolated from I. viscosa, a strong-smelling plant that has long been used for traditional medicine in the Mediterranean region, could effectively treat PAM.

The researchers first made an ethanol extract from the herb’s leaves, finding that it could kill N. fowleri amoebae. Then, they isolated and tested specific compounds from the extract. The most potent compound, inuloxin A, killed amoebae in the lab by disrupting membranes and causing mitochondrial changes, chromatin condensation and oxidative damage, ultimately forcing the parasites to undergo programmed cell death, or apoptosis. Although inuloxin A was much less potent than amphotericin B in the lab, the structure of the plant-derived compound suggests that it might be better able to cross the blood-brain barrier. More studies are needed to confirm this hypothesis, the researchers say.

The authors acknowledge funding from the European Regional Development Fund, the Spanish Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation, the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities, the University of La Laguna and the Augustin de Betancourt Foundation.

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‘Growing body of evidence’ that COVID-19 leak from Chinese lab a ‘credible possibility,’ Trump official claims


A top Trump administration national security official recently claimed there was a “growing body of evidence” to support the theory that COVID-19 leaked from a Chinese government-run lab in Wuhan.

Deputy National Security Adviser Matthew Pottinger made the claim in a recent virtual conference call with British lawmakers regarding China. During the call, Pottinger asserted that officials within China have rejected the theory that the virus originated from a wet market in Wuhan.

“There is a growing body of evidence to say that a laboratory leak or accident is very much a credible possibility,” Pottinger said during the call. “Even establishment figures in Beijing have openly dismissed the wet market story.”

Scientists have yet to trace the exact origins of the pandemic, though it is widely believed to have been spread through human contact with infected animals. President Trump and other top officials have floated the theory that the virus leaked from a lab. To date, no evidence has emerged to support that claim.

The Daily Mail was first to report on Pottinger’s remarks.

Efforts to identify the origins of the virus are a key element of the U.S. government’s plan to prevent future pandemics, a senior administration official told Fox News when asked for further comment on Pottinger’s remarks. The official noted the administration’s stance that China has failed to share reliable information about the pandemic since its onset and that Beijing engaged in an “extensive disinformation campaign” regarding its origins.

The virtual call with British officials was held days before investigators from the World Health Organization were expected to travel to China to further investigate the pandemic’s origins. The WHO investigation was expected to begin in Wuhan, where the first cases of COVID-19 were reported, according to Reuters.

Last month, an Associated Press investigation found that Chinese authorities were “strictly controlling” research into the pandemic’s origins.

U.S. officials have repeatedly accused China of withholding critical information about the pandemic’s severity. President-elect Joe Biden has signaled the U.S. will rejoin the WHO after the Trump administration signaled plans to withdraw its support of the body due to concerns about China’s influence over its operations.

Pottinger reportedly said lawmakers “have a moral role to play in exposing the WHO investigation as a Potemkin exercise,” or a probe conducted under false pretenses.

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Officials within the Trump administration have pursued the possibility that the virus leaked from a government-run lab for months. Pottinger directed U.S. intelligence agencies to search for a potential link supporting the theory as early as last January, the New York Times reported.

More than 352,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the U.S. alone, according to Johns Hopkins University data. U.S. authorities have reported more than 20.7 million cases.

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Clandestine lab dismantled in the Hunter; two charged – 16 News


Two men have been charged with drug offences after officers dismantled a clandestine lab in the Hunter.

Last month, officers attached to the Port Stephens-Hunter Police District commenced an investigation into the alleged manufacture and supply of methylamphetamine in the Maitland area.

Following extensive inquiries, Port Stephens-Hunter Police – assisted by officers from the Northern Region Operational Support Group – executed a crime scene warrant at a home on Hunter Street, Maitland, at 2.30pm on Tuesday (1 December 2020).

Police located a clandestine laboratory at the rear of the property, including equipment and chemicals consistent with the supply and manufacture of prohibited drugs.

Officers from the State Crime Command’s Drug and Firearm Squad Chemical Operations Unit attended to dismantle the lab and continued yesterday (Wednesday 2 December 2020).

Other items seized during the warrant include liquid believed to be a precursor for the manufacture of prohibited drugs, an electronic stun device, two pistols, a rifle scope, and a set of nunchucks.

Two men – aged 47 and 39 – were arrested at the home and taken to Maitland Police Station.

Both men were charged with possess precursor intend to use in manufacture/production, supply large commercial quantity prohibited drug and possess unauthorised pistol.

They were refused bail to appear at Maitland Local Court yesterday (Wednesday 2 December 2020), where they were formally bail refused to reappear at the same court on Thursday 21 January 2021.



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Another Drug Lab Scandal — One That Took Kids From Their Parents — Ends In Prison Time


from the behold-the-motherfuckery-of-your-tax-dollars-at-work dept

Another horror story involving the government and a drug-testing lab is finally coming to a close. And the owner of the drug lab is going to jail.

Unlike others we’ve covered, this drug lab didn’t contain employees who falsified drug tests that landed people in jail. But the outcome for the innocent was nearly as miserable. Faked drug tests performed by Brandy Murrah, the owner of A & J Lab Collections, resulted in parents losing their children.

As Ozark police continue to investigate reports of falsified drug and paternity cases involving a company contracted by the Department of Human Resources, families are coming forward with claims forged documents impacted their homes.

Jennifer Seavers is one of them.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t cry, and I just want to bring my babies home as any parent would want to do,” Seavers said.

Seavers says she used the Department of Human Resource’s Pike County drug testing vendor, Brandy Murrah of A & J Lab Collections, as part of her custody battle for her youngest girls, Madilyn and Jennifer Grace.

Seavers said Murrah provided false positive drug tests, which prompted a judge to order restrictions on her access to her children – further complicating the custody battle.

This victim dug into the lab work supposedly performed by Murrah and found her test had been faked. The doctor that supposedly signed off on it had never seen the paperwork or reports generated by Murrah, who forged the doctor’s signature on the documents.

The county also began digging into Murrah’s drug testing and found more of the same.

Murrah had an agreement with the Dale County Department of Human Resources to perform drugs test on individuals involved in dependency, or custody, cases. She was not involved in any criminal cases.

Investigators said they launched their probe May 2 after evidence of drug screening reports that were provided to the Dale County Department of Human Resources by Murrah were found to be falsified. Ozark police Sgt. Cody Evans said multiple other drug screening reports provided to DHR are also believed to have been forged by Murrah.

It’s unclear whether Murrah’s actions were prompted by animosity towards her victims or just plain laziness. It really doesn’t matter. Her actions ripped families apart and destroyed people’s futures. But in the end, at least some justice was served.

Judge William Filmore decided Murrah, the former owner of an Ozark lab test collection company, will spend 15 years in prison after hearing testimony from those who said she falsified lab reports that led to their children being taken away.

Murrah pleaded guilty in September, agreeing to 15 years on a felony charge of perjury and 12 months on each of 16 misdemeanor counts of forgery to run concurrently.

This will give victims some closure. But it will only provide limited comfort. Their lives went through serious upheaval. Seavers isn’t the only victim. Grace Newton went through the same nightmare. She fought through her drug problems to get her kids back only to have the state take away her three-month-old infant after a drug test handled by Murrah came back positive. This was reversed after a negative drug test, but for three weeks, the state became her baby’s new parent, thanks to Murrah.

But here’s the thing: it shouldn’t take citizens wronged by a government contractor to suss out malfeasance and wrongdoing. The system residents are paying for with their tax dollars needs to be more proactive with its oversight. Rigorous oversight is difficult. But, ultimately, it’s worth the time and effort. It’s better to be perceived as skeptical than as a group of public servants willing to throw the public to the subcontracted wolves.

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Filed Under: brandy murrah, drug testing lab, forged results, law enforcement
Companies: a&j lab collections



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The Muscle Lab is Open


 

Cody Haun is the epitome of a 21st century strength scientists. As he ventures out on his own, leaving academia for private practice, he is set up to track, analyze, and assess every aspect of your training and nutrition.

 

 

In this episode, we geek out about:

 

  • Inter-individual heterogeneity and response to training and nutrition
  • Starting a research and training practice
  • Case studies, database processes, and accountability to trainees
  • Ultrasound units, portable metabolic analyzers, and the tools of the trade

 

If you enjoyed this podcast and took value from it, please rate and review to help us spread the word to motivate and inspire others to take their performance to the next level.

 

For more podcasts like this, visit the Breaking Muscle Six Pack of Knowledge page. Find all out podcasts on most streaming services available including: iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, YouTube, Stitcher, PlayerFM, and PodBean.

 

I am the host, Tom MacCormick and I am a personal trainer and online coach whose goal is to be the curator of the greatest hypertrophy experts on the planet. If you are interested in working with me or finding out more about me then follow me on Instagram @tommaccormick.





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China launches mobile COVID-19 testing lab


BEIJING, Oct. 23 (Xinhua) — The following are the updates on the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

– – – –

CANBERRA — Leaders of seven of Australia’s eight states and territories have agreed in principle to a plan to open their borders by the end of this year.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday chaired a meeting of the National Cabinet at which the local leaders, with the exception of West Australian Premier Mark McGowan, agreed to open up the country by Christmas on Dec. 25.

– – – –

BEIJING — Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus epidemic, waiting in long queues for a COVID-19 test has been a major hurdle in getting tested. However, the advent of a mobile laboratory may help alleviate the problem.

A team of researchers from Tsinghua University and the university-affiliated Beijing CapitalBio Technology Co., Ltd has developed a mobile testing van, called COVID-19 Mobile Laboratory. The lab can analyze nucleic acid samples on the spot immediately, allowing people to obtain results within 45 minutes, much faster than before.

– – – –

MOSCOW — Russia registered 17,340 COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, a new daily record as the pandemic resurges, the country’s COVID-19 response center said Friday.

Russia’s cumulative number of coronavirus cases has grown to 1,480,646, including 25,525 deaths and 1,119,251 recoveries, the center said in a statement.

– – – –

JAKARTA — The COVID-19 cases in Indonesia rose by 4,369 within one day to 381,910, with the death toll adding by 118 to 13,077, the health ministry said on Friday.

According to the ministry, 4,094 more people were discharged from hospitals, bringing the total number of recovered patients to 305,100.



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Two men charged over ‘sophisticated’ drug lab


Both men were taken to Liverpool police station where Mr Jolley was charged with manufacturing a large commercial quantity of prohibited drugs.

Mr El Badar was charged with taking part in manufacturing a prohibited drug.

The alleged drug lab, located in Sydney’s south-west, will take police several days to dismantle given the size of the set-up.Credit:NSW Police

Following Mr Jolley’s arrest, investigators searched the Moorebank property and three homes, in Minto Heights, Lugarno and Mount Hunter, all in Sydney’s south-west.

During the search at the Moorebank property, officers allegedly seized more than 4.5 kilograms of methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA), which had the potential to produce upwards of 200,000 pills, with an estimated street value of more than $4 million.

MDA is part of the ecstasy drug family, which also includes MDMA.

Police also allegedly seized more than 200 items, including a significant quantity of chemicals, precursors and solvents, as well as equipment used to manufacture prohibited drugs.

NSW Police drug and firearms squad commander Detective acting Superintendent Jayne Doherty said the drugs were commonly used at music festivals or nightclubs.

Given the size of the set-up, she added it would take police a number of days to dismantle it.

“Initial inquiries into the clandestine laboratory suggests the operations of these men were planned and well-established,” she said.

“The laboratory itself was sophisticated in its design and contained significant quantities of chemicals and solvents used to manufacture prohibited drugs – in particular MDA.”

“The efforts of investigators have disrupted what could have led to the large-scale supply of prohibited drugs in the community and, together with officers across the state, we will continue to target drug supply on all levels.”

During the search of the homes in Minto Heights and Lugarno, police allegedly seized a firearm, an electronic stun device and ammunition. They also allegedly seized electronic devices, documentation and an amount of methylamphetamine.

All items will undergo further examination.

Acting Superintendent Doherty said police would allege Mr Jolley and Mr El Badar were involved in the manufacturing of prohibited drugs from the Moorebank unit.

She added that investigations were continuing and further arrests could be made.

“Our investigations don’t stop at the arrest, so we continue to look at the supply chain that they were involved in and any other persons that were involved in the manufacturing, or prior to that, in supplying the chemicals and the reaction vessels,” she said.

Both men appeared in Liverpool Local Court on Thursday.

They did not apply for bail and it was formally refused.

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IBM has built a new drug-making lab entirely in the cloud


The news: IBM has built a new chemistry lab called RoboRXN in the cloud. It combines AI models, a cloud computing platform, and robots to help scientists design and synthesize new molecules while working from home.

How it works: The online lab platform allows scientists to log on through a web browser. On a blank canvas, they draw the skeletal structure of the molecular compounds they want to make, and the platform uses machine learning to predict the ingredients required and the order in which they should be mixed. It then sends the instructions to a robot in a remote lab to execute. Once the experiment is done, the platform sends a report to the scientists with the results.

The online platform lets scientists draw the skeletal structure of the molecular compounds they want to make.

IBM RESEARCH

Why it matters: New drugs and materials traditionally require an average of 10 years and $10 million to discover and bring to market. Much of that time is taken up by the laborious repetition of experiments to synthesize new compounds and learn from trial and error. IBM hopes that a platform like RoboRXN could dramatically speed up that process by predicting the recipes for compounds and automating experiments. In theory, it would lower the costs of drug development and allow scientists to react faster to health crises like the current pandemic, in which social distancing requirements have caused slowdowns in lab work.

Not alone: IBM is not the only one hoping to use AI and robotics to accelerate chemical synthesis. A number of academic labs and startups are also working toward the same goal. But the concept of allowing users to submit molecules remotely and receive analysis on the synthesized molecule is a valuable addition of IBM’s platform, says Jill Becker, the CEO of one startup, Kebotix: “With RoboRXN, IBM takes an important step to speed up discovery.”



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NFL Has 77 Apparently False Positive COVID-19 Tests from Lab



NEW YORK (AP) — The NFL had 77 positive COVID-19 tests from 11 teams re-examined by a New Jersey lab after false positives, and all those tests came back negative.

The league asked the New Jersey lab BioReference to investigate the results, and those 77 tests are being re-tested once more to make sure they were false positives.

Among teams reporting false positives, the Minnesota Vikings said they had 12, the New York Jets 10 and the Chicago Bears nine.

The Jets canceled a walk-through Saturday night but had a full practice Sunday morning after the previously positive tests came back negative. The Bears moved their practice scheduled for Sunday morning to the afternoon.

The Detroit Lions had a player with a false positive test from the same lab in New Jersey and he was held out of practice Sunday, a league source told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the league and team were not disclosing test results.

The Pittsburgh Steelers said they had six false positives and those players will be back at practice Monday. The Philadelphia Eagles held out four players from working out Sunday. The Cleveland Browns initially canceled practice, but after re-testing turned up negative tests they decided to have their workout.

There are five labs nationwide that service the 32 teams, with only the New Jersey facility having the false positives this weekend.

The number of positive COVID-19 tests from a specific facility that might actually be false demonstrates the precarious position the NFL is in less than three weeks from the regular-season opener.

“Definitely probably better that this happened now than three weeks from now,” said Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane, whose club had some of those positive results. “But it seems like every few weeks, or even every week, something’s going on. Who know what the next curveball will be?”

Beane said tests in the Northeast had gone “haywire,” and called it “a lab issue and not a true issue with our guys currently” after several Bills were held out of practice.

Anyone testing positive for COVID-19 — even a false positive upon a retest — is required to have two more negative tests before being cleared to return.

The NFL uses BioReference for all of its COVID-19 testing, though tests are handled by labs throughout the nation to ensure teams get results quickly — hopefully within 24 hours. Heading into this weekend, there had been four confirmed positive tests for players who were at training camps.

“Clubs are taking immediate precautionary measures as outlined in the NFL-NFLPA’s health and safety protocols to include contact tracing, isolation of individuals and temporarily adjusting the schedule, where appropriate,” the NFL said in a statement. “The other laboratories used for NFL testing have not had similar results.”



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