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Wuhan lab leak: “I’m not naive enough to absolutely write this off”

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Australian scientist Danielle Anderson was the only foreign researcher at the Wuhan virology lab. Now, she’s speaking out for the first time.

Australian scientist Danielle Anderson was the only foreigner to undertake research at the notorious Wuhan Institute of Virology’s BSL-4 lab. She worked at the lab until November 2019, just months before the initial outbreak of Covid.

The Covid pandemic has been rife with conspiracy theories since its emergence. The most popular of these theories is that Chinese scientists manufactured the virus in the lab.

Some theorise it either leaked out by accident, or as an act of biological warfare. China’s lack of transparency over Covid’s origins have only fuelled these rumours.

Virologist Danielle Anderson

“It was just a regular lab”

Anderson says that inaccurate reporting has given the public and false perception of the Wuhan lab.

“It’s not that it was boring, but it was a regular lab that worked in the same way as any other high-containment lab,” Anderson says. “What people are saying is just not how it is.”

Anderson also says she was ‘impressed’ with the institute’s maximum biocontainment lab which has the highest biosafety rating.

There were strict protocols and requirements aimed at containing the pathogens being studied, Anderson says researchers needed to train for 45 hours before being certified to work independently in the lab.

“It’s very, very extensive,” she said.

“The pandemic is something no one could have imagined on this scale,” she said. “The virus was in the right place at the right time and everything lined up to cause this disaster.”

The US and Europe are among countries questioning the lab’s safety.

Anderson said no one she knew at the Wuhan institute was ill toward the end of 2019. Moreover, there is a procedure for reporting symptoms that correspond with the pathogens handled in high-risk containment labs.

“If people were sick, I assume that I would have been sick—and I wasn’t,” she said. “I was tested for coronavirus in Singapore before I was vaccinated, and had never had it.”

Last month, 18 scientists writing in the journal Science called for an investigation into Covid-19’s origin amid rumours of the virus leaking from the lab.

Anderson says that while unlikely, it’s not entirely impossible that the virus escaped the facility.

If presented with evidence that such an accident spawned Covid-19, Anderson “could foresee how things could maybe happen,” she said. “I’m not naive enough to say I absolutely write this off.” 

Although she remains firm in her belief that the virus emerged from ‘natural sources’ Anderson does think China should assist with an investigation to nail down Covid’s origin.

She said she’s dumbfounded by the portrayal of the lab by some media outside China, including attacks on scientists who worked at the lab.

Anderson herself has also been the victim of violent threats and misinformation, which led her to filing a police report last year.

Natasha is an Associate Producer at ticker NEWS with a Bachelor of arts from Monash University. She has previously worked at Sky News Australia and Monash University as an Online Content Producer.

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U.S. House passes $95 billion Ukraine, Israel aid package

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The U.S. House of Representatives on Saturday with broad bipartisan support passed a $95 billion legislative package providing security assistance to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, over bitter objections from Republican hardliners.

The legislation now proceeds to the Democratic-majority Senate, which passed a similar measure more than two months ago.
U.S. leaders from Democratic President Joe Biden to top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell had been urging embattled Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson to bring it up for a vote.
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The Senate is set to begin considering the House-passed bill on Tuesday, with some preliminary votes that afternoon. Final passage was expected sometime next week, which would clear the way for Biden to sign it into law.

The bills provide $60.84 billion to address the conflict in Ukraine, including $23 billion to replenish U.S. weapons, stocks and facilities; $26 billion for Israel, including $9.1 billion for humanitarian needs, and $8.12 billion for the Indo-Pacific, including Taiwan.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy expressed his thanks, saying U.S. lawmakers moved to keep “history on the right track.”

“The vital U.S. aid bill passed today by the House will keep the war from expanding, save thousands and thousands of lives, and help both of our nations to become stronger,” Zelenskiy said on X.

It was unclear how quickly the new military funding for Ukraine will be depleted, likely causing calls for further action by Congress.

Biden, who had urged Congress since last year to approve the additional aid to Ukraine, said in a statement: “It comes at a moment of grave urgency, with Israel facing unprecedented attacks from Iran and Ukraine under continued bombardment from Russia.”

The vote on passage of the Ukraine funding was 311-112. Significantly, 112 Republicans opposed the legislation, with only 101 in support.

“Mike Johnson is a lame duck … he’s done,” far-right Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene told reporters afterward.

She has been a leading opponent of helping Ukraine in its war against Russia and has taken steps that threaten to remove Johnson from office over this issue. Greene stopped short of doing so on Saturday, however.

During the vote, several lawmakers waved small Ukrainian flags as it became clear that element of the package was headed to passage. Johnson warned lawmakers that was a “violation of decorum.”

Meanwhile, the House’s actions during a rare Saturday session put on display some cracks in what generally is solid support for Israel within Congress. Recent months have seen progressive Democrats express anger with Israel’s government and its conduct of the war in Gaza.

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AI tracks enigmatic cancers back to origins in new study

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In a groundbreaking development, scientists have unveiled a remarkable AI tool that promises to revolutionise the detection and treatment of metastatic cancers.

These elusive cancers often evade detection until they have already spread to distant organs, posing a significant challenge for diagnosis and treatment. Published in Nature Medicine, the study showcases an AI model developed by researchers at Tianjin Medical University (TMU) in China, led by Tian Fei and Li Xiangchun. Trained on a vast dataset of 30,000 images from 21,000 individuals, the AI model demonstrated an unprecedented accuracy rate of 83% in identifying the origins of metastatic cancer cells found in fluid samples from abdominal or lung regions.

Impressively, the model’s top three predictions included the tumour’s source with a staggering 99% accuracy.

This breakthrough not only surpasses the capabilities of human pathologists but also offers a beacon of hope for the 300,000 people annually diagnosed with cancer at TMU-affiliated hospitals, where approximately 4,000 cases rely on such image-based diagnoses.

By significantly reducing the need for invasive tests and providing timely and accurate predictions, this AI tool could potentially extend the lives of late-stage cancer patients. Faisal Mahmood of Harvard Medical School praises the study’s findings, highlighting the potential of AI as an indispensable assistive tool in healthcare.

Looking ahead, the integration of AI with tissue samples and genomic data holds the promise of further enhancing outcomes for individuals battling metastatic cancers of unknown origins, ushering in a new era of precision medicine and personalised care.

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Surprising Netflix subscriber surge despite price hikes

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Netflix Surpasses Expectations with 9.33 Million New Subscribers in Q1 2024

Netflix stunned analysts and the industry alike with its first-quarter 2024 earnings report, revealing a remarkable surge of 9.33 million paid subscribers, soaring past the anticipated 3.93 million additions and bringing its total subscriber count to an impressive 269.60 million.

This surge follows a record-breaking fourth quarter of 2023, where Netflix added 13.1 million subscribers. Despite this remarkable growth streak, Netflix announced it would cease reporting quarterly subscriber totals from 2025 onward, signalling a significant shift in industry dynamics. Notable contributors to this growth included high-profile releases like the live-action adaptation of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and “3 Body Problem” by the show-runners behind “Game of Thrones.”

Regionally, the U.S. and Canada saw a growth of 2.53 million paid subscribers, while Europe, the Middle East, and Africa added 2.92 million, Latin America saw an increase of 1.72 million, and the Asia-Pacific market experienced a rise of 2.16 million.

Alongside surpassing subscriber expectations, Netflix exceeded financial projections, reporting a 15% increase in revenue from Q1 2023, with diluted earnings per share of $5.28 on $9.37 billion in revenue.

Looking ahead, Netflix forecasts robust financial performance for Q2, with expectations of $9.49 billion in revenue and diluted EPS of $4.68, aiming for revenue growth of 13% to 15% for the full year 2024, reflecting a bullish outlook on its operational margin.

 

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