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The Morning Briefing: Fact-Checkers Are Not Going to Like This MIT Story About Origins of That Virus From You-Know-Where

Cheng Min/Xinhua via AP

Good Morning, Kruiser Morning Briefing friends! The regular proprietor of this establishment is enjoying his last day of vacation, but we’ll continue to muddle through together in his absence, won’t we?

We all know the approved narrative: The COVID-19 virus originated in a wet market in China, a country that is not in any way responsible for the virus that originated within its borders and migrated to the rest of the world, through no fault of the Chinese, who only mean Americans well and who are not in any way culpable for the worst global pandemic in most of our lifetimes.

Claiming otherwise will get you bounced off Facebook and Twitter quicker than you can say “China virus.” (But don’t actually say that, or you will be accused of killing Asians.)

But now, some prominent scientists and researchers are calling into question both the wet market theory and the notion that the China virus transnational, post-racial, non-sectarian virus accidentally escaped from a lab in W&*%n, a city in no particular geographic region.

In an article titled “Did the coronavirus leak from a lab? These scientists say we shouldn’t rule it out,” MIT Technology Review reports that “A group of 26 scientists, social scientists, and science communicators… have now signed their own letter arguing that WHO investigators lacked ‘the mandate, the independence, or the necessary accesses’ to determine whether or not SARS-CoV-2 could have been the result of a laboratory incident.” The letter was in response to a letter from 27 other scientists published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet, insisting that SARS-CoV-2 had a natural origin, and dismissing any alternate theories as conspiracy theories that create “fear, rumors, and prejudice.”

The article centers on Nikolai Petrovsky, a professor at Flinders University and founder and chairman of a company called Vaxine that develops immunizations for infectious diseases. Petrovsky has received tens of millions of dollars in grant funding from the NIH to support vaccine development over the years, so it’s not like he’s some fringe nutjob. But for the sin of positing that there’s a chance the virus escaped from a Wuhan lab, he’s been called a conspiracy theorist, ridiculed, and shunned by some in the scientific community.

I’m not here to debate the origins of the virus—you’ll want to click through to the MIT article for that discussion—but it’s important to understand the depths of the politicization of the pandemic and the scientific community.

David Relman, a microbiologist at Stanford University, says a lab leak was never the subject of a “fair and dispassionate discussion of the facts as we know them.” Instead, tempers soon began to flare as those calling for a closer look at possible lab origins were dismissed as conspiracy theorists spouting misinformation. Election-year politics and growing Sinophobic sentiments only added to the tensions. Attacks on Asian-Americans had been escalating since the pandemic began, and with then-president Trump fuming about a “Chinese virus,” many scientists and reporters became “cautious about saying anything that might justify the rhetoric of his administration,” says Jamie Metzl, a senior fellow at the Washington, DC–based Atlantic Council, an international affairs think tank.

[…]

But in late April 2020, as Petrovsky’s group was thinking about where to publish their work, “Trump blurted out” that he had reason to believe the virus came out of a Chinese lab, Petrovsky says. And at that point, he adds, much of “the left-wing media” decided “they were going to paint the whole lab thing as a conspiracy theory to bring down Trump.”

In other words, Trump Derangement Syndrome began to trump science.

Efforts to determine the origins of the virus, according to Relman, “have become mired in politics, poorly supported assumptions and assertions, and incomplete information.” Metzl, meanwhile, fears that going against the narrative could result in “career suicide.”

Petrovsky, commenting on that politicization of science, said his researchers were “dealing with global forces that are way more powerful than a scientist trying to tell a science-based story.”

“If we are at the point where all science is politicized and no one cares about truth and only being politically correct,” Petrovsky lamented, “we may as well give up and shut down and stop doing science.”

That’s a terrifying thought. We may never know the origins of the COVID-19 virus, nor will we ever find out how many needless deaths around the world were the result of the politicization of the scientific community in cooperation with the Approved Media.

Everything Isn’t Awful

An employee at a Red Lobster restaurant in Akron, Ohio, found a one-in-two-million blue lobster in one of the eatery’s tanks and donated the rare crustacean to the Akron Zoo, where “Clawdia” is settling in nicely.

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Bee Me

The Kruiser Bolyard Kabana

Legendary Northeast Ohio rocker Michael Stanley died of lung cancer on March 5th. Today, on what would have been Stanley’s 73rd birthday, Cleveland will honor its hometown favorite by playing the Michael Stanley Band hit “My Town” at 10:35 in the Heartland.

Stanley’s music was the soundtrack of my teen years — I attended his concerts in venues large and small, boisterous and intimate. Though Stanley never quite made it out of the Cleveland music market, he broke attendance records at just about every venue in the area, thanks in part to his gritty, blue-collar vibe, authenticity, and electrifying stage presence. Oh, and those swaying hips that made us all swoon in the early ’80s. MSB’s sellouts included a record 20,320 at the Richfield Coliseum in 1979 and a record 40,529 for two Coliseum concerts on December 31, 1981 and January 1, 1982 (I was at that January 1 concert). The band also recorded a total attendance of 74,404 during a four-night stand at Blossom Music Center on August 25, 26, 30 and 31, 1982, a record MSB still holds 30 years later. I was at one of those concerts too. My friends and I paid something like eight bucks for lawn seat tickets and swayed to the music in the summer Ohio heat—hopped up on 3.2 beer. When the band played “Lover,” it seemed that everyone in Ohio simultaneously shouted, “thank God for the man who put the white lines on the highway.” The best band you’ve probably never heard of. Rest in peace, Michael.

On a Lighter Note…

May be an image of text that says 'A wife printed the face of her husband's newly discovered lover, glued it to a watermelon and put it in fridge This one deserves the Oscar for special effects and makeup. The husband is hospitalized after suffering a heart attack.'

(HT: Bearing Arms’ Tom Knighton)

Kruiser will be back in the driver’s seat tomorrow. We’ll be meeting at his house at 4 p.m. tonight to decorate for the welcome home party.