On February 12th, the New York Times headlined “On W.H.O. Trip, China Refused to Hand Over Important Data” and reported that
Chinese scientists refused to share raw data that might bring the world closer to understanding the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, independent investigators for the W.H.O. said on Friday. … Chinese officials told the team that they did not have enough time to compile detailed patient data and only provided summaries. The W.H.O. scientists said they were continuing to press their counterparts in China for the raw data and other information. … The news that Chinese officials did not share raw data with the W.H.O. experts was reported earlier by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and The Wall Street Journal. … It is unclear how fully the Chinese government — which remains in firm control of research into the origins of the virus — will cooperate.
Facts that contradict those assertions were simply ignored by the NYT.
Four members of the WHO team were quoted, Two were Thea Kølsen Fischer and Peter Daszak.
On February 13th, the Moon of Alabama blogger reposted tweets that day from both:
Linking the NYT propaganda piece Peter Daszak refuted its basic tone:
Peter Daszak @PeterDaszak – 11:27 UTC · Feb 13, 2021
This was NOT my experience on @WHO mission. As lead of animal/environment working group I found trust & openness w/ my China counterparts. We DID get access to critical new data throughout. We DID increase our understanding of likely spillover pathways.
New data included env. & animal carcass testing, names of suppliers to Huanan Market, analyses of excess mortality in Hubei, range of covid-like symptoms for months prior, sequence data linked to early cases & site visits w/ unvetted live Q&A etc. All in report coming soon!
Quoting Daszak’s tweet Thea Fischer pitched in:
Thea K Fischer, Prof. i PH Virus Inf. og Epidemier @TheaKFischer – 14:03 UTC · Feb 13, 2021
This was NOT my experience either on the Epi-side. We DID build up a good relationsship in the Chinese/Int Epi-team! Allowing for heated arguments reflects a deep level of engagement in the room. Our quotes are intendedly twisted casting shadows over important scientific work.
To which Daszak responded:
Peter Daszak @PeterDaszak – 14:07 UTC · Feb 13, 2021
Replying to @TheaKFischer
Hear! Hear! It’s disappointing to spend time w/ journalists explaining key findings of our exhausting month-long work in China, to see our colleagues selectively misquoted to fit a narrative that was prescribed before the work began. Shame on you @nytimes!
Furthermore, the Times’s dishonesty about what the WHO team said wasn’t the Times’s only problem, because there have been at least two scientifically credible findings that have been reported alleging that this coronavirus had actually occurred in Europe before December 2019. (As will be noted below, the Wall Street Journal’s article noted that “WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the U.N. agency hadn’t ruled out any hypothesis. ‘I want to clarify that all hypotheses remain open and require further study,’ he said in a meeting with diplomats on Thursday.” But the NYT seems to have been determined to provide its readers a contrary impression.)
The Times’s article stated that
Chinese commentators have seized on that finding to build on the government’s mantra that it was possible that China was not the source of the outbreak, and to urge the W.H.O. to look elsewhere.
The W.H.O. team said it would look, but that they were skeptical.
“I think it started in China,” Dr. Dwyer said after the trip. “There is some evidence of circulation outside China, but it’s actually pretty light.”
Here are two such instances “outside China,” and they were not “pretty light”:
On 26 June 2020, Reuters headlined “Coronavirus traces found in March 2019 sewage sample, Spanish study shows” and reported that a Barcelona sample, which had been stored on 12 March 2019, contained the virus. It had been in someone’s body there, at that time, in Barcelona. Moreover, that University of Barcelona team had “first found the virus was present in Barcelona on Jan. 15, 2020,” which was four days after the first known death from the virus, which had occurred on January 11th in Wuhan. The 12 March 2019 sample indicated that the virus had actually been spreading in Barcelona even before January 15th of 2020. And, on the same date as that Reuters article, the NYT itself headlined “Study Suggests Coronavirus Emerged Much Earlier Than Thought. Some Are Skeptical.” and they reported that “‘I don’t trust the results,’ said Irene Xagoraraki, an environmental engineer at Michigan State University.” However, “the lead author [of the Barcelona study, was], Albert Bosch, a professor in the Department of Microbiology of the University of Barcelona who has been studying viruses in wastewater for more than 40 years.” And, furthermore, “Dr. Bosch said that his team would not be able to repeat the experiments in the positive sample from March 2019 because it was depleted during the first test. ‘We proved it from this sample but we cannot repeat it,’ he said. But contamination was unlikely, he said. ‘The way we work, when there is contamination, we notice it.’” Moreover, he was no mere “environmental engineer,” who was commenting about virology, but instead he was “President of the Spanish Society for Virology”. This field was Bosch’s specialty, and he was prominent in it. (A common way for propagandistic ’journalists’ — such as those the NYT hires — to raise a reader’s doubts about an authentic scientific finding that disproves the ‘journalist’s propagandistic agenda — in the NYT’s case, an agenda that China is to blame for anything that Russia isn’t being blamed for — is to find someone who doesn’t specialize in the given scientific field, but who is nonetheless willing to express a contrary opinion to that which was found in the specialized study that the ‘journalist’ is being employed or assigned to discredit.)
Also casting doubt that this virus originated in China, is — though less clear — this report, from a “contributor” to Wired, in Italy, on 16 November 2020
Even if experts are quite inclined to believe that the new virus circulated well before its official recognition, they do discuss the conclusions of a study by the National Cancer Institute of Milan (Int): from the analyses on 959 samples of healthy people, collected before the outbreak of the epidemic in Italy, it emerged that over 10% seem to have antibodies against Sars-Cov-2 . Data very different from those of the seroprevalence survey conducted by the Ministry of Health, and the experts do not hide some doubts about the interpretation of the results. …
959 blood samples from healthy volunteers, collected between September 2019 and February 2020 as part of a research on lung cancer screening, were analyzed for the presence of antibodies against Sars-Cov-2: 111 were positive. A truly surprising figure because in projection it would mean that more than 10% of the Italian population would have had antibodies against Sars-Cov-2 already at the end of summer 2019, when the coronavirus that would have emerged in China was not suspected at all, and therefore the pathogen was already circulating in our country.
The National Cancer Institute of Milan “is the Italian coordinator of numerous national and international clinical trials also with early phase studies.”
If “more than 10% of the Italian population … had antibodies against Sars-Cov-2 already at the end of summer 2019,” then it was already an epidemic in Italy — and this was months before the virus was even so much as being first noticed in China.
Were Spain or Italy where the virus had actually originated?
As-of 1 April 2020, the countries that had the highest “Tot cases/1M pop” (Covid-19 intensity) were all micro-states, under 700,000 population and highly dependent upon tourists: Vatican 7,491; San Marino 6,955; and Andorra 4,866. All of those are micro-nations within Italy. The number for Italy itself was 1,750. The number for Spain was 2,052. Luxembourg — a micro-nation between Belgium, France, and Germany — was 3,479. By the time of 1 May 2020, these numbers had become: Vatican 13,733; San Marino 16,769; and Andorra 9,642. Italy was 3,398. Spain was 5,125. Luxembourg was 6,045. The number for China was only 58. If the virus had been spreading first undetected in China late in 2019, then why was it spreading like wildfire now only in European micro-nations — especially Italian ones — early in 2020? Could it have been spreading first in Europe, but only detected first in China? Not if the owners of the New York Times and other U.S.-and-allied propagandists are ‘reporting’ about the matter.
The Times’s allegation that “the Chinese government … remains in firm control of research into the origins of the virus” is a bald-faced lie, to be accepted (or assumed) only by ignorant and misinformed (perhaps willingly misinformed) people. If the virus originated outside of China, then (obviously) “the Chinese government … [cannot even possibly be] in firm [or any] control of research into the origins of the virus.” ‘News’-reporting like the NYT does there is deceptive trash that’s clearly designed to mislead.
Though many ‘news’-media simply assume that the virus somehow became created in China, whether or not that assumption is correct is scientifically an open question, at present. To imply otherwise is deceptive, in a way that suggests an ulterior motive (for aggression — sanctions, military invasion, etc. — against China). ‘News’-media such as the New York Times serve as propaganda-operations to provide the U.S. Government with excuses for neoconservative actions, examples of which have been America’s actions against and destroying Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, and other countries that have been targeted for U.S. take-over or control. ‘News’-media like this might as well be controlled by the same investors who control corporations such as Lockheed Martin or ExxonMobil — the main beneficiaries of U.S. aggressions.
The Wall Street Journal’s article about the WHO team’s findings was far more careful and circumspect in its reporting, though just as propagandistic (against China) as the NYT was in the WSJ’s headline, which was “China Refuses to Give WHO Raw Data on Early Covid-19 Cases”. Like the New York Times, their article was slanted against China’s existing Government, but it didn’t distort quite so blatantly. They reported:
The WHO team wasn’t allowed to view the raw underlying data on those retrospective studies, which could allow them to conduct their own analysis on how early and how extensively the virus began to spread in China, the team members said. …
“They showed us a couple of examples, but that’s not the same as doing all of them, which is standard epidemiological investigation,” said Dominic Dwyer, an Australian microbiologist on the WHO team. …
China’s reluctance to provide the data adds to concerns among many foreign governments and scientists about a lack of transparency in China’s approach to the hunt for the pandemic’s origins. The U.S. State Department said this week it wants to see data underlying the WHO probe. … About 90 hospital patients had Covid-19-like symptoms in central China in the two months before the Wuhan outbreak was identified, according to WHO investigators, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday. …
The WHO lacks the power to compel member governments — who elect the leaders and fund the budgets of the United Nations agency — to furnish it with data. That leaves it dependent on cooperation from China to help the WHO in its hunt for the origin of the pandemic.
The refusal of the Chinese authorities to provide raw, personalized data on the 174 early Covid-19 cases, and on potential earlier cases such as pneumonia patients in the months before December 2019, led to heated discussions between the WHO team and their Chinese counterparts during the mission, said Dr. Dwyer.
“Sometimes emotions have run really high,” Thea Fischer, a Danish epidemiologist among the WHO investigators, said on Tuesday. “I am a scientist and I trust data. I trust documented evidence based on data, I don’t just trust what anyone tells me.” …
The U.S. said it saw no alternative source [in other words: the U.S. wants pretext for sanctions or even war against China.] and called for greater transparency from China [but ONLY from China].
Liang Wannian, head of the Covid-19 expert panel for China’s National Health Commission, said Tuesday that Chinese authorities had tested blood samples for antibodies and checked medical records from 233 hospitals and clinics but hadn’t found evidence of the virus spreading around Wuhan before early December 2019.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the U.N. agency hadn’t ruled out any hypothesis. “I want to clarify that all hypotheses remain open and require further study,” he said in a meeting with diplomats on Thursday. …
WHO team members said they are still seeking access to other potential sources of information in China, including blood banks and stored samples from patients with respiratory diseases, which could reveal if the virus was spreading before December 2019.
They had sought wastewater samples from central China to check if the virus could be detected in sewage from late 2019, but were told those had been discarded, per standard policy, after a month, said Dr. Koopmans.
Dr. Dwyer said Chinese authorities had provided influenza surveillance data from before December 2019 but only from one children’s hospital and one general hospital. The authorities told the WHO team that its hospitals generally didn’t store physical samples from patients with respiratory diseases.
“They said they were destroyed and so on. You know, I guess one accepts that on face value,” Dr. Dwyer said.
WHO faces a hostile U.S. Government, which is seeking reasons to turn the screws against China even harder than Trump had done. Whereas the New York Times is 100% behind the U.S. Government — just as it was regarding the invasions against Iraq 2003, Syria, the 2014 coup against Ukraine, etc. — the Wall Street Journal isn’t quite that untrustworthy and sanctions-and-war-mongering. But, still, it’s propaganda, not entirely trustworthy, as mainstream news-reporting needs to be in any authentic democracy. It needs to be authentically independent of the Government, no mere propaganda-agency for it. If it has any slant, that needs to be against the Government — not for it. If the public aren’t skeptical of their Government, then it’s no democracy, and accountability for bad rulers is non-existent.
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.