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Wuhan lab-leak theory fuels Trump comeback rally



The belief that Covid-19 originated in a Wuhan lab, once dismissed as a conspiracy theory, has gained respectability although it still remains unproven. Now former President Donald Trump is using this shift in scientific thinking to energise his supporters.

Trump gloated at a rally in Ohio on Saturday evening, and said he had been proved right.

He spoke of his belief that the coronavirus was scientifically engineered, in a laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

“I said it comes out of Wuhan – it comes out of the lab,” he told his supporters, men and women dressed in red Make America Great Again hats, gathered at the rally, southwest of Cleveland.

People “went crazy” when he said it, he told his supporters. But not any more. “Now they’re saying: Most likely it came out of the Wuhan lab.” At this, the crowd roared their approval.

Until a few months ago, some media treated the lab-leak theory in a dismissive manner. So did some US scientists.

In April 2020, Trump, while serving as president, said that people were looking closely at the theory of a lab leak.

At the time, the virus was wreaking havoc in the US, and would soon upend the economy and destroy Trump’s political prospects. More than 600,000 people in the US have died of the virus, and it continues to inflict a horrific toll across the country, and around the world.

The origins of the virus remain unknown, and the theory about a lab leak is still just an idea, a hypothesis that has not been proven. Yet for many the theory has become more plausible, partly because no evidence has emerged to back alternative theories.

With the theory now considered plausible, Trump supporters say they feel vindicated

A classified US intelligence report – saying three researchers at the Wuhan laboratory were treated in hospital in November 2019, just before the virus began infecting humans in the city – began circulating in US media in May.

Members of the World Health Organization team travelled to Wuhan earlier this year, and afterwards, scientists began to talk about the possibility that the virus had come from a lab.

But Trump is overstating it when he says he has been proved right.

Anthony Fauci, the president’s coronavirus response coordinator, told BBC World News America he thinks it is “much more likely that this a natural occurrence… but we’ll all keep an open mind that until you nail down completely that connection… But most scientists believe… that this was a natural occurrence”.

In May, President Joe Biden ordered an intelligence inquiry into the origins of the virus. Results from the inquiry will be presented later this summer.

Those who work at the Wuhan lab in China have denied that a leak occurred from the facilities. Chinese officials have expressed outrage at the accusations against them, and said that no-one knows where the virus came from. But China itself was accused of impeding investigations, early on.

The hypothesis about a leak in the Chinese lab is emotionally charged here in the US, and abroad. Trump’s critics said that he was trying to shirk his own responsibility for the pandemic by blaming Chinese officials for the catastrophe.

Most scientists in the US rejected the idea of a lab leak, at least initially. They spoke instead of the possibility that the virus had come from an animal, perhaps a bat. But months later, that link has not been proven.

Yet conservative commentators picked up on Trump’s idea that the virus leaked from a lab in Wuhan, the city where the first cases were reported. Scientists had conducted research on bats at a lab, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and Trump claimed that the virus had leaked from a scientific facility.

Stories about the lab-leak theory were aired regularly on conservative media. As a result, Republicans were more likely to be familiar with the theory than Democrats were, according to Morning Consult polling. About 46% of Republicans said they had often heard about the theory, compared to less than a quarter of Democrats.

Trump has been capitalising on his early assessment of the virus, in political terms. As David Cohen, a political science professor at University of Akron explains: “He wants to say, ‘Look, I was right about this. People didn’t listen to me [about the lab leak], and it’s all turning out to be true’.”

Supporters at the rally

Trump is using the controversy over the origins of the virus to spur on his supporters

Trump is unlikely to convince many of his critics that he is a reliable source when he has got a lot wrong about the virus, making a staggering number of false claims, ones that journalists have documented.

He remains deeply unpopular in many parts of the US. Yet he is using the controversy over the origins of the virus to show his supporters he has triumphed over those who once attacked him. His supporters love it, and him.

One of his supporters, engineer Paul Rickey from Grafton, Ohio, was in high spirits at the rally and expressed his enthusiasm for Trump and his theory about the virus.

“I think Trump feels vindicated, and certainly everyone out here feels vindicated,” says Rickey.

Many of the people at the rally said they wished that scientists had taken Trump’s idea about a lab leak seriously much earlier.

“It came from a lab. Where else would it come from?” says James Cropp, a factory worker who lives in Wellington, looking exasperated. He walked across the grass, while songs by Elton John, one of Trump’s favourite musicians, played. “Why would you not pursue this disease’s origins?” Cropp wonders.

Cropp and others at the fairgrounds discussed various theories about the virus, mulling over “gain-of-function” research, laboratory efforts to intensify a virus, a level of scientific discussion that is rarely heard at a political rally. Nearly all agreed on one point: Trump had been right, but the media just ignored him.

Jeff and Hope Baros, with Michael Barnes

Hope Baros, centre, says Trump was “dead on” right about the theory

“He was dead on,” says Hope Baros, who had travelled from Knox, Indiana, with her husband Jeff, a union labourer, to attend the rally, while discussing Trump’s theory about the virus. “Absolutely,” her husband says, standing close to her. “One-hundred percent.”

A moment later Michael Barnes, a general contractor who lives in Valparaiso, Indiana, wearing a white jumpsuit that evoked the rock singer Elvis Presley, stepped closer to them. “The media likes to make up their own facts,” Barnes says, “and not rely on the science.”

Others at the rally said that they were glad to see that science has caught up with Trump’s analysis of the virus, and its origins.

Hayley Keith, a barber who works in Wellington, says that liberals mocked Trump for his views about the virus: “Before it was, ‘Oh, he’s crazy,’ with all of them pointing fingers and saying we’re crazy too. And I don’t want to say I told you so, but… “. She fell silent. She knew she had made her point, just as Trump did that night, loudly, from the stage, while his supporters cheered.


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US Navy officer ‘bribed by cash and prostitutes’



A ship in the US Navy 7th fleet, from which dozens of officers were bribed

A US Navy Commander has pleaded guilty to receiving $250,000 in cash and prostitution services from a foreign defence contractor in exchange for state secrets.

Information Commander Stephen Shedd provided to the firm helped it defraud the navy of $35m (£26.1m).

The plea is the latest in the ‘Fat Leonard’ case, considered one of the worst corruption scandals faced by the navy.

Dozens of officials have been ensnared.

Shedd is one of nine members of the Japan-based 7th US fleet indicted by a federal grand jury in March 2017 for their role in the scandal, and the third officer to plead guilty.

According to the Justice Department, Shedd and the other officers received “sex parties with prostitutes and luxurious dinner and travel” in exchange for military secrets and “substantial influence” for the Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA) company, a Singapore-based firm founded by a Malaysian national, Leonard Glenn Francis.

The scandal became widely known as the “Fat Leonard” scheme due to Francis’s then-corpulent figure. He was arrested in California after being lured there by US officials in 2013. He has since pleaded guilty to bribery and conspiracy charges and has remained in prison or home detention.

According to prosecutors, information Shedd and others provided helped GDMA to win and maintain contracts and overbill the Navy by $35m for services such as providing tugboats, security and waste removal to ships at port.

As part of a plea deal, Shedd admitted that he and the other defendants gave Francis schedules of naval movements and other information, and lobbied on behalf of GDMA to other naval officials.

The defendant knew these efforts would result in the service paying GDMA’s claims, the Justice Department said.

A total of 34 naval officials, defence contractors and GDMA employees, including Francis, have been charged with crimes related to the scheme. Of these, 28 have pleaded guilty, including two other 7th fleet officers.

Shedd is scheduled to be sentenced on 21 July in a California federal court, while the trial of the remaining six 7th fleet officers is due to begin on 28 February.

“Fat Leonard” himself is expected to testify in the February trial of the officers.


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Jimmy Kimmel Hits Donald Trump Jr. With The 2024 Campaign Ad Of His Nightmares




Porn star Stormy Daniels testifies ex-lawyer Michael Avenatti ‘lied to me’

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Adult film actress Stormy Daniels told jurors at her former lawyer Michael Avenatti’s criminal fraud trial on Thursday that he “stole from me and lied to me” by diverting proceeds from a book she wrote. Testifying as a prosecution witness, Daniels said in Manhattan federal court that Avenatti – whom she had retained to help her escape a non-disclosure agreement with then-U.S. President Donald Trump – told her he would “never take a penny” from the 2018 memoir, titled “Full Disclosure.” But Avenatti embezzled nearly $300,000 of proceeds intended for Daniels, prosecutors have said, in part by forging her signature on instructions to the publisher about where to send the funds.


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Fox News’ Tomi Lahren told officers at a policing conference that prominent police killings could have been avoided if people ‘would just comply’



Tomi Lahren in Pasadena, California.Colin Young-Wolff/Invision/AP

  • Tomi Lahren was among several who spoke at a police training conference in Atlantic City in October.

  • Lahren described Black Lives Matter as “thugs, felons, and criminals” and as a “terrorist organization.”

  • She went on to say police shootings could be avoided if people “would just comply with police.”

Fox News personality Tomi Lahren told police officers that significant numbers of police brutality cases could have been avoided “if people would just comply with police, would follow orders, and not resist arrest.”

The Washington Post reported that Lahren, a political commentator for the Fox Nation shows “Final Thoughts” and “No Interruption,” made the comments in October at the Street Cop Training Conference in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

More than 1,000 police officers from departments across New Jersey and other states attended the conference, The Post reported. During her speech, Lahren described Black Lives Matter as “thugs, felons, and criminals” and a “terrorist organization.”

“If I’m wrong, please point it out,” Lahren said, according to a sound clip of her remarks shared by The Post. “But all these major headline incidents that we’ve had in this country involving law enforcement in the last, at least, five years could have all been prevented if people would just comply with police, would follow orders, and not resist arrest.”

The audience can be heard applauding and cheering in the clip.

Her comments were consistent with previous statements she has made on her shows and social media.

The Post’s investigation found Lahren’s sentiments were typical of those made in commercial police training settings, even as calls for reform grow. The outlet spoke with 18 trainers and experts in addition to watching or attending conferences in New Jersey and Idaho, many of whom balked at police reform.

Several blamed the media for overplaying the public’s desire for reform and dismissed reformers as a small cohort, The Post found. The outlet also said many portrayed violence as an inherent part of policing.

“The curriculum is that you are a good person and reveling in violence and being an expert in violence is not morally wrong,” Michael Sierra-Arévalo, a sociology professor at the University of Texas at Austin who attended the Street Cop Conference, told The Post. “In fact, it’s your moral duty because you’re a paladin. You are this kind of warrior.”

Calls for police reform grew during the racial justice protests in the summer of 2020 after the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

Congress engaged in bipartisan talks about a potential police reform bill last summer, but they fell apart without reaching a deal.

Sources told NBC News that President Joe Biden plans to sign executive orders on police reform as early as this month.

Read the original article on Business Insider


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Family who died in freezing cold by US-Canada border identified



Police used snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles to navigate the deep snow

Canadian authorities believe the deaths of four Indian nationals found steps away from the Canada-US border are connected to a human smuggling scheme.

Jagdish Patel, 39, Vaishailben Patel, 37, and their children Vihangi, 11, and Dharkmik, 3, died from exposure due to the frigid cold near Manitoba, Canada.

Temperatures dropped to -35C (-31F) on the night the Patel family attempted to cross into the US on foot.

The family was found in a field north of the border on 19 January.

Their identities were announced by Canada’s High Commission of India and later confirmed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

Speaking at a news conference on Thursday, RCMP superintendent Rob Hill said the Patel family first arrived in Canada on 12 January, on a flight from Toronto. From there, they made their way west to Manitoba, before travelling to Emerson – a border town – on or around 18 January. Their bodies were found the next night.

No vehicle was found near the Canada-US border in Emerson, suggesting that someone drove the Patel family to a drop-off point before they began their journey on foot.

“This is an extended period of time for a family who is unfamiliar with Canada to be travelling across the country”, Mr Hill said. It is believed that someone may have facilitated the family’s travel.

The RCMP would not comment on whether the Patels’ case was connected to a group of seven other Indian nationals also found by border agents on the evening of 19 January. Steve Shand, a 47-year-old Florida resident, has been charged with human smuggling after authorities found him driving a 15-person van along the border, on the same night the Patels were found. Mr Shand had two Indian nationals as passengers in his car, and cases of food and water in his boot.

The deaths of the Patel family have rocked the Indian community in Manitoba.

“There’s a common sense of feeling guilty, like something has gone wrong,” Ramandeep Grewal, president of the India Association of Manitoba, told the BBC.

Questions remain as to why the Patel family set out on foot in the dark, in Canada’s punishing winter weather.

Mr Grewal said he heard rumours the family walked for 11 hours. “You don’t expose yourself to that degree of cold for minutes, let alone hours,” he said.

Such questions have consumed Indian communities in Winnipeg, said Hemant Shah, an Indian ex-pat, who organised a virtual prayer for the Patel family this week.

“There are lots of Patel families here, lots of Indo-Canadians,” he said. “Everybody’s talking, making their own theories.”

While perilous border crossings have become typical to the United States’ southern border, this type of journey is less common from the north.

“I’ve never seen this in Canada,” Mr Shah said. “This is unheard of.”

The RCMP has launched an “extensive” investigation into how the Patels made their way to Canada, co-ordinating with the US and India. It is so far unknown if the Patels had family in Canada or the US.

A special team led by a senior Indian consular officer was dispatched to Manitoba to help Canadian authorities with the investigation. The Consulate General of India in Toronto has been in touch with relatives to provide support.

Last week, a US Homeland Security official said they were also investigating the Patel case, alongside a “larger human smuggling operation of which [Steve] Shand is suspected of playing a part”.

There had been three other recent incidents of human smuggling in December and January in the same location where Mr Shand was apprehended, according to court documents.

The India Association’s Mr Grewal said he hopes other families contemplating a similar journey may now reconsider.

“If there’s anybody else who’s in the same boat, who’s trying to cross… Don’t go, don’t listen to people who are telling you they can help.”


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Gallup's Mohamed Younis- Foreign Policy Interventionism A 'Low Desire' For Americans



Gallup's Mohamed Younis- Foreign Policy Interventionism A 'Low Desire' For Americans


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Palestinian children play in the snow-covered West Bank city of Ramallah



Palestinian children play in the snow-covered West Bank city of Ramallah


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U.S. Capitol Riot Made 1 Chilling Thing ‘Impossible To Deny’



University of California professor Barbara Walter, an expert on civil conflicts, said the U.S. Capitol riot had “made it impossible to deny and ignore that there really was this cancer growing” of anti-democratic sentiment in America.

Walter, after CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan showed her footage of Donald Trump supporters repeating the former president’s 2020 election lies and claiming democracy in the United States was dead, said her response to such rhetoric only 10 years ago “would have been shock and disbelief.”

“I would have thought, ‘Well she’s an outlier and she’s not representative of anything larger than a fringe movement maybe,’” Walter said. “But of course, that’s not the case anymore.”

Experts on civil wars had been talking about the warning signs in the U.S. “but nobody wanted to believe it,” she said.

“Citizens do believe what they are hearing and if they hear it long enough and consistently enough and if that’s all they hear, they absolutely don’t think it’s a lie, they think it’s the truth,” she continued, referencing falsehoods spouted by Trump, right-wing politicians and conservative media, before slamming cynical leaders for “feeding them lies consistently.”

“They’re priming their supporters to believe that democracy isn’t worth defending because they don’t want democracy anymore,” she added.

Watch the video here:

This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.



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