Marble Halls & Silver Screens With Sarah Lee Ep. 87: The 'COVID Origin, Sound of Metal, and Musk Hosts SNL' Edition

If you haven’t yet read the amazing piece posted at Medium detailing and examining the theories behind the origin of the COVID virus, you should really set aside several minutes — it’s quite long, but very much worth the read — and do so. It goes through the scientific debate about whether the virus could have mutated in the wild, or if it had to have a little help in a petri dish; whether or not the Wuhan lab was the potential source of a leak due to lax safety precautions; and what role the U.S. had in funding the research that could have led to the outbreak assuming a leak is the source of the pandemic.

A fairly decent twitter thread that hits the high points is here:

Prepare yourselves: this is not the last time these questions will be posed. The entire world will begin expecting more information soon. And we’ll have to answer for this:

The responsibility of the NIAID and NIH is even more acute because for the first three years of the grant to EcoHealth Alliance there was a moratorium on funding gain-of-function research. Why didn’t the two agencies therefore halt the Federal funding as apparently required to do so by law? Because someone wrote a loophole into the moratorium.

The moratorium specifically barred funding any gain-of-function research that increased the pathogenicity of the flu, MERS or SARS viruses. But then a footnote on p.2 of the moratorium document states that “An exception from the research pause may be obtained if the head of the USG funding agency determines that the research is urgently necessary to protect the public health or national security.”

This seems to mean that either the director of the NIAID, Dr. Anthony Fauci, or the director of the NIH, Dr. Francis Collins, or maybe both, would have invoked the footnote in order to keep the money flowing to Dr. Shi’s gain-of-function research.

“Unfortunately, the NIAID Director and the NIH Director exploited this loophole to issue exemptions to projects subject to the Pause –preposterously asserting the exempted research was ‘urgently necessary to protect public health or national security’ — thereby nullifying the Pause,” Dr. Richard Ebright said in an interview with Independent Science News.

I cover the piece at length in the podcast today, as well as a short digression on the truly excellent “Sound of Metal” (trailer below), which gives us an absolutely beautiful performance by Riz Ahmed as a heavy metal drummer dealing with hearing loss. Sounds boring, right? It’s not. Oh and there’s some stuff about Musk and SNL in there, too.

Cheers to the weekend!


The show lives below on Spotify and you can also find me at iHeartRadio, Apple PodcastsFCB Radio’s Spreaker, and Deezer.