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tv   Alina Chan and Matt Ridley Viral  CSPAN  February 23, 2022 6:18pm-7:02pm EST

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>> i'm john waters presents ceo. i'm very very happy to be joined today by the authors of this new book by robust search for the origin of covid-19. if you're interested as i think we all suffer through this topic and where this pathogen came from this is the book that has been written to date its their own explains the science and it
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tells you something about the actors that have been a part of the search for the origin and also gives you a chance to think about what the factors are that will help us understand it. we are very pleased and happy to be joined by the authors. i want to say something aboutut them. a leyna chan is the post-doctorate at harvard university. i'm going to ask the authors about how this started. letnd me first introduce matt ridley who is an author a businessman a biologist and a member of the united kingdom. i think that's as close to a renaissance as you can get in this day and age to want to thank him for joining us and my colleague david ascher at hudson and some of the people of singer brad cass before now was involved in the trump administration at the end in the state department looking at the
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question of origins and has testified before congress that i'm going to ask him at the end to make comments about the presentation so thank you all for joining us and thank you for the work you have done on this important issue. i'm going to cut right to the substance of this. to begin i would ask briefly starting with the origins of this book, viral. why did the two of you undertake this -- undertake this investigation how did you become co-authors? >> i was writing for "the wall street journal"be and they came across the work of a leyna chan and found it to be very insightful with her comments and i had the cheek to ask her to join me in writing a book because i felt a book length
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project was necessary. ii thought it was good to have someone who could be an expert on this topic and was way ahead of me in understanding some of the issues and they think we both felt the number different strands of evidence and argument that were developing needed to be properly examined at length we didn't know where the story would end. >> and how did you start writing? >> about the book? >> about the topic and how did you decide to join in the effort? >> foro me it started with this striking observation that is
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well adapted for human transmission in wuhan and over the next year after put out my first paper in me i started looking into a lot of these mysterious findings related to sars and the virology. at the l end of 2020 i'd been speaking with him and many other investigators on the origin of covid for several months and i realized social media and the news are quite. even if you delete 10,000 times all those are washed away with time so i knew it was imperative for a book to be written on this topic that would stand the test of time and this book would be written by an amazing science writer and scientist and what's
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being written papers. >> thankn you. i want to make sure we get time to describe the basis for your conclusions. you are very careful and said gerald ideas for alternative explanations any discuss the weight of eminent discuss what he called the movement of the burden of proof among different patterns of analysis and conclusions. let me just ask you what are the possible origin scenarios for covid-19 and where do you think the evidence currently appoints? >> if i can jump on this and please alina jump and if i'm talking too much. i think we can rule out a number of scenarios like probably that it came from frozen food from a different continent and indeed we can probably rule out that it's a deliberate bioweapon or
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there's very little evidence for that and none at all in fact. so that leaves us with two strong theories and they are equally plausible. there's no reason to decide one is more likely than the other. one is that it -- we know it came from a bat. it's a bat virus naturally and how it went from bats to humans is the question. one is through the food chain and catching wildlife to serve in markets to customers or possibly through farm animal. the other possibility is there research, through the extensive research that was happening in focused on the wuhan institute of virology in southern and collecting viruses from that to bring them to wuhan to study.
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these are the two obvious groups that we are looking at. in your reference to -- it's a wonderful phrase that came from the philosopher. he said people often argue the burden of proof is on your side and the other says it's ont. yor side of thehe net and we found n this case an lot of people assumed and still assume the default assumption must be it's a market event because that's what happened before in the case of sars unless we find evidence that it's -- we don't think that's fair. are plausible and should bedi treated equally in terms of its form. >> alina? >> the burden is on -- because they have a year and a half
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searching for the animal source of this virus and they found nothing. they have taken tens of thousands of animal samples and track people in wuhan prior to december of 2019 and have yet to find any sign of this virus in an original animal source. many say they are surprising leaks and the freedom of information act obtained documents that have quite extensive coronavirus collection and manipulation and analogy i like to use is in one document they propose putting a -- on a horse and the unicorn appears in that study. the burden is on the natural origin site toto show the this collection of thousands, tens of thousands of high-risk pathogens on both humans and animals across the countries and doing
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these experimental modifications did not lead to the emergence of sars covid two. >> i guess one way to follow tthat is to ask does the search for theiv origin of covid-19 require a scientific or forensic investigation and that is is it a analysis or is this more like what you think about in terms of the way detectives investigate activities and i don't want to say a crime. we are familiar with that kind of investigative w technique in what would an ideal investigation look like and who should play a leading role in the investigation. what would they pandemic treaty look like to ensure persian on this in the future? >> do you want to take that
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first alina? >> i think at the beginning of this pandemic c everyone assumed it was a purely scientific question so we knew that there was a -- going on because whether the virus could spread was very delayed even the genomic sequence was delayed so we know the chinese authorities already had the four genomes of sars covid two in december of 22 and the rest of the world got a two weeks later on january 10 or 11th so two weeks we could have been making diagnostics and making vaccines. the problem is this an early 2020 a lot of scientists rush to say that this was a national virus and condemned origin is a conspiracy theory. we lost a lot of time but it still possible to find this. to do so we need a real investigation.
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>> i would address away right to distinguish between a forensic investigation of scientific investigation and there has been very interesting forensic investigations in the broader sense of the term. which you describe in the book, for example the piecing together of which samples were collected from which sites at which times mainly done by open source analyst.ou at the same time we are in the unusual situation here where there is genomes of the virus and genomes of related viruses and comparing those is a scientific enterprise from which you can reach surprising things. .. um what do you think the experience of
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covid-19 should teach us what do you think the experience of cove 19 should teach us about the future regarding research, research oversight, international protocol for pandemic diseases. [inaudible] it is showing us a lot of shortcomings that can be exploited in both the research community and the publishing community including journalism. it seems that a very tightknit community of people who control the type of news that comes out. even scientific news that comes out. there's a lot of censorship much of it in the "new york times" and other places that editors were telling writers. the top generals there's a lot
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of pushback we have to fix those shortcomings before the next pandemic happens. there is no guarantee it will take a century to the merge here with a lot of increasing natural risk because the pleural oproliferation engaging in this type of virus and manipulationn work. make it happen in the next two years we do not know. >> i was going to ask you in that regard, it seems to me what you are partly saying is if our institutions behaved as they claim they intend to behave both the scientific ones, journalistic, even the institutions of government, we would have had a much less dangerous situation arise and we would've had much less confusion. it is not so much a gap, but a
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emfailure to act as people have committed themselves to act in these various segments, is that fair? >> i think that is fair. the various actors have a let down the public who are relying on them. so start with chinese authorities effectively covered up and delayed the release of vital information about human transmission and so on. but then the organization amounted an investigation long with the chinese that took a very long time to organize. was frankly rather superficial and produced poor results in terms of investigating the outcomes. but its existence has prevented other organizations amounting their own inquiries. and in the u.s. government has
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not been as forthcoming with informationn. it has funded relevant research and is basic. but the institutions of scientific publishing have not been as transparent as they should be. which have conflicts of interest. they're prematurely ruling out one hypothesis on the basis to give a political preference and then journalism as alina says the main stream media has surprisingly little curiosity about this. conversation about hypotheses. facebook made it impossible for anyone to discuss at all whereas twitter was better in that respect.
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there is been a surprising lack of transparency and the lack of accountabilityo. just to go to the heart of the matter exists in wuhan a database of 22000 samples most of which are from bats. some specimens and sequences. that database went off-line just before the pandemic. it has never been put back online. we don't have any idea what is in it. i could tell us a lot of information about the viruses they were working on in that institution after 2016 about which we knowg nothing. it may be irrelevant. it may prove there is nothing there of any is quite extraordinary to develop a large database as part of an effort to prevent pandemics and then not release it when a pandemic comes along. >> on the things thatt struck me and bring some of the accounts
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your book really brought home to me is the failure of established institutions designed to promote inquiry, protection, the sharing of critical information, failure of those institutions. but the resiliency of individuals who communicated privately at considerable risk in some cases as you know. on so overcame this. it's's in failure to the contrat of the individual heroism and yourselves,ncluding frankly, to put your own reputations. we can all remember when some of the things you investigated and said were a source of ridicule and professional attack. i am struck by it i it's hard to think we have multiple institutions to fail, how to reformat. it's not creating just something new. you have to do what you say gyou're going to do which is a
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moral issue more than an institutionals issue. but also it seems to me the challenge is to allow individual questions. and in some ways the individual contact social media and electronic media allowed you and them to do that in ways that would not have been possible with less open connectivity even in the environment we i faced. one last question to you, you rightly pointed out we are not only additional pathogens here, but as you know and others have noted, david as well synthetic biology isgr a growing very rapidly the possibility of there being more naturallyt occurring pathogens that are discovered but also the modification and
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creation of a pathogen the danger here iss increasing. given what happened here and where we are now and you know more about this than i do, what are the first steps we should do to better detect and prepare for these dangers in the future? and not fail to learn from this experience it has been so terrible. >> can i jump in. she has been thinking very hard about how we do develop a pandemic treaty and move forward to open up research and make it better. want to emphasize a point in your preamble to that question which is the importance of courageous individuals here. i am towards the end of my career. i am self-employed, i do not worry about what people think ov me. but it's very, very brave for someone like alina who is the start of a career in these
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institutions to devote a lotot f time to what is an uncomfortable story for a lot of established science. we did come to rely and depend heavily on the whole story extraordinarily brave and persistent individuals who look into sources of information are not secret but they are hard to find. and piece together information of great value. does it feel to meet like quite an interesting case of citizen science. avoid the big well-funded institutions did not devote much effort to finding out the answer to your i question think that'sn important aspect of it where we go from here to improve these
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aspects? >> i want to talk about the pandemic. i think it is important to acknowledge this search for the origin was corrupted pretty early in 2020. it was eight racist things to ask and it put a lot of burden on the citizen journalist and scientist because they had to push back against all of these accusations of racism. and being anti- scientific but even as a scientist for me they're calling me anti- scientific, racist. a scientific became corrupted. being unable to ask this question being unable to get evidence and discuss your analysis in the face of all of this abuse that anyone who
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questions whether it could leak from a lab in asia must be racist. we have to learn from that and not jump to these conclusions the next time. we could possibly have a future were only be investigated. versus anything that comes from asia, africa, south america cannot be investigated because it might be racist or anti- scientific. that is crazy. that has to be solved. also global of a complete lack of preparation for what happens outbreak occurs there is no whistleblower challenge is no way to go into the country and find out for yourself. when covid-19 occurs it was only leaked messages went viral on social media goes through leaked messages. all this critical information
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about transmission, whether it could spread without symptoms that also had to be leaked. this cannot be in the future there has to be a pandemic treaty where each country the moment they hear about and they pick a person that person goes into gather evidence. the stakes are extremely high here. we are seeing an estimated 15 or 16 million deaths and hundreds of millions of infections. atthere is no space for countris to say this is a private matter. that time we went to tell you. >> thank you i'm going to let david say a few things about what you said, about the book and any other observations you want to make on this. >> thank you john. i cannot thank them sufficiently for what they have done. it reallyen reads to me like an
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indictment. but is not an indictment with the government of china. it is a global indictment of how we erased evidence, how it covered up amazing amounts of information of public disclosure. and worked in financial community to make money. as a capitalist i cannot understand the sort of degree literally the biggest disaster to befall the country and the world since world war ii and relate the great depression combined if you look at the economic impact of covid-19 is
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about 20% of gdp that's more than the entire great depression nearly. so the question is really what is going on are they acting like this and what happened on february 1 of last year when there is a series of e-mail exchanges that are now becoming a public and will be very public soon between doctor fatty who i have great respect for. he did great work that on earth the aids epidemic and what was causing it. but what is going on at the national institutes of health? i really do not know. we've got a situation where we have an adequate disclosure.
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we have a sort of cover up mentality. we are dealing with basically a global disaster. it is to me it needs to be defined. we should not blame, certainly not the people of china. when each of blame ourselves to a great extent for failure to understand what is going on. and failure to act. and now we need some sort of truth telling. we cannot allow this things you can create a bio weapon whether it is a bio weapon i would never contend that itt is. you could do it very easily. it could cause a global disaster. i thank you for your book. it is really important. people need to read it and i'll
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stop there. >> let's pick up on what you said. i think it's a really interesting story. it became apparent to us partly through book by jeremy of the wellcome trust that the senior biologist looking at this the end of january 2020 strongly suspected this virus showed signs of being genetically manipulated. innate shared concerns about this on e-mail for several days. and then a phone call was organize a transatlantic lady the uk linking up with tony fauci in a number of senior violent virologist mainly in the
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u.s. a what they decided at that meeting must have dramatically changed their minds. because within a few days there drafting the letter in the paper for nature medicine which rules out not just genetic manipulation but any lab -based scenario. we are very, very confident in doing so they would put forward very tenuous arguments as to why they were so confident. something change these people's minds too the point they felt they could rule something out as a conspiracy theory which was quite likely a few days before. we would like to know what happened and that meeting? we would like a full transcript of it. would also like to see the e-mails they exchange before and after the meeting. freedom of information request for those e-mails have resulted
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in them being published with almost total reduction on both sides of the atlantic by thesese e-mails are basically dear fred, lots of black lines, you are sincerely bill or whatever it might be. this just isn't good enough when you as you say we have millions dea'. like we have not seen and a century or so. it is quite extraordinary to us that vital insights into what people think might have happened at an early stage are not being properly shared with the public. what i like to answer that. this makes w the form of public trust in science and how they can be jeopardized when scientists are found repeatedly withholding information on what know.t for the public to i think scientists should not be hiding information or telling people the wrong information to
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persuade them to act in a particular way. when people find out even telling that masks don't work and they by mass how can they believe you with anything else if yo' tell people the virus is spreadrf through surfaces how do people protect themselves? similarly with the origins i who aresome scientists fearful of talking about origin there were the public would panic and their beat racism in all these things yes these terrible things happened. but think about what happened when the public finds out you lied to them in the long term effects of that. i think it was just a mistake for some scientist to do that in there studying all these e-mails because they've been litigated to the freedom of information act is very discouraging to see the top virologist speculates elsome saying it's more likely t came from a lab than the market.
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>> two points here. the first is, you have done a great job of summarizing the book. i want to emphasize to the people who watch this how important it is and how careful this book is in going through each and every one of the bits of evidence. how they were related, sometimes they were distorted. and how critical parts were missing. we talked in more general terms here because of the circumstance of a conversation like this. but i want to emphasize to everyone, if you want to understand what just happened to in some sophisticated detail, this is the book to read. you can read it. you can read it electronically. it is available as a kyndell book is also available as an audiobook.
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i am not part of the publisher. i just want to say i do think the story you tell us is about the need for an informed problem the whole part of this was to tell the public just do what we tell you. just listen to what we say. do not ask questions. you give people the tools in fact in more detail than most people are going to be able to kind of sort out. you sort out for them whatan really happened. and you sort out a lot of malfeasance. i'm not trying to damage anyone's career further than the risk you've already taken. multiple institutions that you have touched on not only scientific lengths but scientific publishing as well ay journalists, i really joined the chorus of shut up and sit down. there's the old saying in washington and may be other places is not the crimell it's e cover-up.
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again near careful this was not a bio weapon that wased released intentionally, okay. you make a strong case the evidence is not there for that. but the real problem is okay, but why is there this massive cover-up? rifrom scientists some of home e not even connected with this, but some who are connected with it and the institutions in the united states and in china. the real outrage here is the harm that is happening and the unwillingness to come forward, be frank and provide not just blaming but information thatan would help save lives, save lives sooner, contain spread and help us prepare for variations in other things. some of that evidence still is not out as you point out. that is something we should insist on being more demanding
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about in the future. it's kind of shocking now theoo lowell in looking for origins your book shows is so important. i know their efforts and david has been involved in them to create a commission to do that in the united states that is not partisan and not subject to distortion itself. it is really a global issue. and the unwillingness of countries to come forward. is like the idea my only questin is who is going to be honest this time? once everybody takes responsibility and fails that it is like how do we know were going to get people who are going to keep their word and carry out their responsibilities? i guess that's always a problem with human beings. do you have any thoughts about what should happen next? what could i commit on a couple of points. you are kind enough to say some nice things about the book.
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we hope this book sells a huge number of copies but that's not because were trying to make a fortune. in fact we've already agreed will give away half of the proceeds to charity in both of our cases. but, the region we are at a commercial publisher rather than academic one is not many people as possible to engage in this conversation. we want this story widely known and went to open it up as you say. ed has been frustrating to us that so much of this debate has not beent allowed to happen and it badly needs to happen. there is a parallel i like to draw with thehe airline industry is out of the i last few decades which is to make sure we learn lessons from every crash. it is not so much about blame as it is about learning lessons. and in that way what you get out of a black box and everybody must have a black box and every
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piece of information of that is shared with everybody so everyone designing and operating airplanes can make sure they learn as many lessons about what happens anywhere in the world. that should be the same in this case. whether it is a market spillover or a laboratory leak, we want to be able to pin down the lessons the world has to learn ensure them as widely as possible. there are markets selling animals all over southeast asia and africa. there are laboratories doing research on highly dangerous animal viruses all over asia, africa, north america and so on. we are playing russian roulette with something here. we don't knowd. which of those two. but something has to be learned.
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we went to joe to say anything else? >> a discharge of their some collaborators who, they check their records and e-mails went south korea t was first detected for relatives several viruses related too and they were synthesizing completely new viruses putting in the type of unique geneticn modifications we see in sars covey two and have been collecting thousands of samples fromg not just china and even seven southeast asian companies another very close relative. concentrating all these animal and human samples in wuhan city. we're only finding that out in the fall of 2021. almost two years since his virus emerged in wuhan. the lack of transparency and the lack of forthcoming this just leaves people to this perception
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that scientists are hiding things. this reflects entirely on the scientific community. on those who make these decisions of negligence or self-preservation. i think moving forward there are many ways we can introduce structural changes to ensure that research is more transparent. that has to do with general as well as their baseo, managers. but when you publish anything no i'm not going to publish your papers because time and again are publishing data that does nott exist. those are problems have to be so before the next pandemic happens. we cannot keep making the same mistakes again and again they are very costly. lexis or they are prone to think both of you the book and the courage you have had. iov want to thank david for the book work he has done for our government and continues to do with our congressmen want to say to her audience one last time,
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look at is the holiday season. stget out your copy of dickens christmas carol. enjoy the memories. watch it is a wonderful life. but for t the sake of being a better citizen next year, by this book and readd it. in addition to questioning among institutions we need people w wo are good. you need to be informed about and you do not know enough about to be informed citizens to ask your own and support your own government officials who do the right thing. because at thehe end of the day, our democracies are based on the strength of the people who are the members of the democracy. this allows you to better citizen. thank you both for joining us thank you for your work. and thank my colleagues here at hudson but i hope the book is a great, great bestseller. i hope you have a follow-on to help a structure some of the institutions and reform them in the future pray to thank you
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all. >> at least six presidents recorded conversations while in office. here many of those conversations on c-span's new podcast presidential recordings. >> isn't one focuses on the presidency of lyndon johnson. you'll hear about the 1964 civil rights act per the 1964 presidential campaign, the gulf of tonkin incident in march on selma in the war in vietnam. not everyone knew they were being recorded. >> certainly johnson secretaries new because they were tasked with transcribing many of those conversations. in fact they were the ones that made sure the conversations were taped as a johnson would signal to them through an open door between his office and theirs. >> you also are some blunt talk. >> jim? >> yes, sir. >> outer part of the number of people that were assigned to kennedy the day he died and the number assigned to me now.
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and if mine aren't i want the right quick if i can't ever go to the bathroom i won't go. i promise you i will not go anywhere i will stay right behind these black gates. >> presidential recordings find it on the c-span now mobile app or wherever you get your podcast. ♪ : : hearing from u.s. congres, the white house events the court, campaigns and more plus analysis from the world of politics, their informative podcast. cspan is available at the apple store and google play downloaded for free today. cspan now coming proceed to washington, anytime anywhere. >> book tv continues tomorrow
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when we focus on topics that are in the news including a conversation with authors of book in elections and also hearing from abc news chief washington correspondent jonathan carl, on his book betrayal, the final act of the truck show and author john mcwhorter talks about new religion and betrayed black america and books on current affairs all day tomorrow, here and "c-span2". and we continue with our look at technology and science. >> , reported the new york times and really happy to be here tonight to talk with brendan borrell, my friend and fellow journalist about his new book, "the first shots". >> either. >> it is amazing it to have you with us and your telling of what happened behind the scenes and learned so much reading the book and tell me a little bit about how you gotot started


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