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Editor of the Reformer:

New York Magazine recently published a long article entitled “The Lab-Leak Hypothesis” by Nicholson Baker. It is a long article, detailing so-called "gain of function" (GOF) work in laboratories on corona and other viruses, especially in Ralph Baric’s lab at Chapel Hill, N.C. GOF work seeks to enhance pathogenicity and/or transmissibility. In other words, it seeks to make pathogens nastier. The article covers a lot of information along the lines of that which I examined in a long article I wrote entitled “Scouring the Globe for Viral Fragments and Making Them Whole Again,” which was published early on in the pandemic by vermontindependent.net.

Baker writes: “We need to hear from the people who for years have contended that certain types of virus experimentation might lead to a disastrous pandemic like this one. And we need to stop hunting for new exotic diseases in the wild, shipping them back to laboratories, and hot-wiring their genomes to prove how dangerous to human life they might become.”

Around the time that I was doing the research for my article, I wrote to State Rep. Mike Mrowicki, D-Windham-4, asking him to work on banning GOF research in this state. I was hoping that, by such an action, Vermont might lead the nation forward once again and other states would follow suit.

This, from Baker’s article, sums up the issue:

“Perhaps viral nature hit a bull’s-eye of airborne infectivity, with almost no mutational drift, no period of accommodation and adjustment, or perhaps some lab worker somewhere, inspired by Baric’s work with human airway tissue, took a spike protein that was specially groomed to colonize and thrive deep in the ciliated, mucosal tunnels of our inner core and cloned it onto some existing viral bat backbone. It could have happened in Wuhan, but — because anyone can now 'print out' a fully infectious clone of any sequenced disease — it could also have happened at Fort Detrick, or in Texas, or in Italy, or in Rotterdam, or in Wisconsin, or in some other citadel of coronaviral inquiry. No conspiracy — just scientific ambition, and the urge to take exciting risks and make new things, and the fear of terrorism, and the fear of getting sick. Plus a whole lot of government money.”

“Plus a whole lot of government money,” much of it hurled after 9/11, for "biopreparedness" — which Baker also details. (I have called this pandemic the 9/11 boon for pharmaceutical companies, as opposed to the military-industrial complex. So yes, this could be more fallout from our response to 9/11, the forever gift that spawned forever wars and forever economic and migration crises.)

Anyway, I put it to every American whether it is worth considering that perhaps American tax dollars paid for this pandemic. And whether all science deserves an uncritical eye and a free pass.

By the way, Baric’s lab and Zhengli-Li Shi of the Wuhan Institute of Virology began collaborating in 2015. And Baric has written a long paper entitled “Synthetic Viral Genomics: Risks and Benefits for Science and Society, in which he writes: “Counterterrorism think-tanks anticipate that these particular [biological warfare] threats will ameliorate [i.e., improve, not go away] over the next decade because of medical countermeasures (e.g., drugs, vaccines, diagnostics) ...” In other words, lucky for us that maybe we can be vaccinated and cared for by the same people, who have been working on making biowarfare as easy as ordering bits of synthetic DNA from a catalog and creating designer viruses (as you can find William McEwan describing in a conversation at edge.org).

Jacqueline Brook

Putney, Jan. 8


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