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Controversial Wuhan Lab Seeks To Staff New Facility With CCP Members

Controversial Wuhan Lab Seeks To Staff New Facility With CCP Members

Authored by Frank Fang via The Epoch Times,

China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), the lab at the center of intense scrutiny over whether it was the source of the…

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Controversial Wuhan Lab Seeks To Staff New Facility With CCP Members

Authored by Frank Fang via The Epoch Times,

China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), the lab at the center of intense scrutiny over whether it was the source of the COVID-19 pandemic, earlier this year launched a new research facility and has sought to staff it with workers loyal to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The new facility, called the Jiangxia Laboratory, will focus on studying emerging and highly pathogenic pathogens, biosafety technologies, and drugs on biosafety defense, according to China’s state-run media. Located in central China’s Hubei Province, the new lab was formally unveiled in a ceremony in February.

According to the WIV website, the facility is headed by Xiao Gengfu, who is currently the CCP secretary attached to the WIV.

In China, most companies, schools, institutions, and other entities have party branches or party cells embedded in them—a way for the communist regime to maintain a tight grip on their operations and staff.

Since May, the WIV has published several job listings on its website for positions at the new facility. At least two listings had one specific qualification requirement—being a CCP member.

A May 17 job post looked for a CCP member who could fill a “comprehensive management post.” The person would need to handle administrative duties such as coordinating and organizing important meetings and major events.

Additionally, the person would be tasked to handle “Party affairs management,” including having the responsibility of “Party branch construction and daily management of Party members,” according to the job post.

On Aug. 25, the WIV published a post seeking a CCP member to fill a human resources position. The person would be in charge of hiring and other duties such as managing contracts.

Jiangxia Laboratory is one of seven new labs established in Hubei this year, as part of an initiative by the provincial authorities to turn Hubei into a province with strong technology sectors. According to China’s state-run media, one of the labs focuses on optoelectronics, the study of electronic devices that use light, and is run by the Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, Hubei’s capital.

Of the remaining five new labs, one dedicated to researching aerial technology is run by Wuhan University, while another lab focusing on biological breeding is located in Wuhan-based Huazhong Agricultural University.

The Chinese regime has vehemently denied that the CCP virus, the pathogen causing the disease COVID-19, escaped from the WIV, despite a growing body of circumstantial evidence raising questions about the potential role of the lab in causing the pandemic. Instead, the communist regime has argued that the virus has a natural origin.

In January, the U.S. State Department released a fact sheet stating that several researchers at the WIV fell ill with symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illnesses in autumn 2019. The assertion contradicts a claim by a researcher at the institute who said there was “zero infection” among lab staff and students.

The WIV has been doing research on bat coronaviruses for over a decade and is located a short drive from a local market in Wuhan where the first reported cluster of infection cases emerged.

Australian investigative reporter Sharri Markson, in a recent episode of EpochTV’s “American Thought Leaders,” said “evidence quite clearly points to a leak” at the WIV. Among the evidence she cited included how a WIV database containing 22,000 viruses went offline unexpectedly in September 2019, and that the institute spent $500,000 to boost its security before the onset of the pandemic. 

Tyler Durden Thu, 10/21/2021 - 17:30

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International

Are We Falling As Rome Did?

Are We Falling As Rome Did?

Authored by Julie Ponese via The Epoch Times,

3, 2, 1… Timber! A Philosopher’s Take on the Collapse of Our…

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Are We Falling As Rome Did?

Authored by Julie Ponese via The Epoch Times,

3, 2, 1... Timber! A Philosopher’s Take on the Collapse of Our Civilization

The clock seems to be ticking.

Growing disparities in wealth, a housing and gas crisis, transhumanism galloping over the horizon, heroized incivility, and the constant threat of viruses, the “cures” for which may be worse than the diseases. Global politics feels eerily apocalyptic these days and, in our own little worlds, many of us are so lost, so unmoored from the comforts of our pre-pandemic lives, that we don’t know which end is up or what the future will hold. Investigative journalist Trish Wood recently wrote that we are living the fall of Rome (though it’s being pushed on us as a virtue).

I wonder, are we falling as Rome did? Is it possible that our civilization is on the verge of collapse? Not imminent collapse, perhaps, but are we taking the initial steps that civilizations before ours took before their eventual downfalls? Will we suffer the fates of the Indus, the Vikings, the Mayans, and the failed dynasties of China?

As a philosopher, I need first to understand what we mean by “civilization” and what it would mean for that thing to collapse.

This is a significant conceptual hurdle. “Civilization” (from the Latin civitas, meaning a body of people) was first used by anthropologists to refer to a “society made up of cities” (Mycenae’s Pylos, Thebes, and Sparta, for example). Ancient civilizations were typically non-nomadic settlements with concentrated complexes of persons who divided labor. They had monumental architecture, hierarchical class structures, and significant technological and cultural developments.

But just what is our civilization? There isn’t a tidy line between it and the next in the way the Mayans’ and the Greeks’ coexistence was defined by the ocean between them. Is the concept of Western civilization—rooted in the culture that emerged from the Mediterranean basin over 2,000 years ago—still meaningful, or has globalization made any distinction between contemporary civilizations meaningless? “I am a citizen of the world,” wrote Diogenes in the fourth century B.C. But of course, his world wasn’t quite as vast as our own.

Now for the second issue: civilization collapse. Anthropologists typically define it as a rapid and enduring loss of population, socio-economic complexity, and identity.

Will we suffer a mass loss of population or socio-economic complexity? Perhaps. But that isn’t what concerns me. What I really worry about is our loss of identity. I worry that we’ve lost the plot, as they say, and that with all our focus on the ability of science to save us, we’ve lost our ideals, our spirit, our reasons for being. I worry we are suffering what Betty Friedan called “a slow death of the mind and spirit.” I worry that our nihilism, our façadism, our progressivism are incurring a debt that we may not be able to pay.

As the eminent anthropologist Sir John Glubb wrote (pdf), “The life-expectation of a great nation, it appears, commences with a violent, and usually unforeseen, outburst of energy, and ends in a lowering of moral standards, cynicism, pessimism and frivolity.”

Think of a civilization as the top step on a staircase, with each stair below having fallen away. Western civilization today is built largely on the foundational ideals of ancient Greece and Rome that endure long after their physical structures and governments disappeared. But they endure because we find them meaningful. They endure through literature and art and conversation and ritual. They endure in how we marry, how we write about one another, and how we care for our sick and aging.

One lesson history tries to teach us is that civilizations are complex systems—of technology, economics, foreign relations, immunology, and civility—and complex systems regularly give way to failure. The collapse of our civilization is almost certainly inevitable; the only questions are when, why, and what will replace us.

But this brings me to another point. Early in its usage, anthropologists started using “civilization” as a normative term, distinguishing “civilized society” from those who are tribal or barbaric. Civilizations are sophisticated, noble, and morally good; other societies are uncivilized, backward, and unvirtuous.

But the old distinction between civilization and barbarism has taken on a new form in the 21st century. It is from within our own “civilized” culture that emerges an inversion of the concepts of civility and brutishness. It is our leaders, our journalists, and our professionals who ignore the standards of rational discourse, who institutionalize hatred and incite division. Today, it is the elites who are the true barbarians among us.

Taking a cue from Walt Whitman, who thought his own 19th century America was waning, “We had best look our times and lands searchingly in the face, like a physician diagnosing some deep disease.”

If our civilization collapses, it won’t be because of an outside attack, like Bedouin charging in from the desert. It will be because of those among us who, like parasites, destroy us from within. Our civilization may collapse and it could be due to any number of factors—war, the economy, natural disasters—but the silent killer, the one that may get us in the end, is our own moral catastrophe.

The ultimate problem, therefore, is not interpersonal; it’s inner-personal. If our civilization is collapsing, it’s because something in each of us is collapsing. And we need to rebuild ourselves first, brick by brick, if we are to have a chance of rebuilding ourselves together.

Tyler Durden Wed, 09/28/2022 - 22:20

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Economics

DryEyeRhythm: A reliable, valid, and non-invasive app to assess dry eye disease

Dry eye disease (DED) is a condition characterized by an array of different symptoms, including dryness, ocular discomfort, fatigue, and visual disturbances….

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Dry eye disease (DED) is a condition characterized by an array of different symptoms, including dryness, ocular discomfort, fatigue, and visual disturbances. This condition has become increasingly common in recent years owing to an aging society, increased screen time, and a highly stressful social environment. There are about 1 billion people, worldwide, who have DED. Undiagnosed and untreated DED can lead to a variety of symptoms, including ocular fatigue, sensitivity to light, lower vision quality, and a lower quality of life. Given the widespread prevalence of the condition, this can further lead to reduced work productivity and economic loss.

Credit: Juntendo University

Dry eye disease (DED) is a condition characterized by an array of different symptoms, including dryness, ocular discomfort, fatigue, and visual disturbances. This condition has become increasingly common in recent years owing to an aging society, increased screen time, and a highly stressful social environment. There are about 1 billion people, worldwide, who have DED. Undiagnosed and untreated DED can lead to a variety of symptoms, including ocular fatigue, sensitivity to light, lower vision quality, and a lower quality of life. Given the widespread prevalence of the condition, this can further lead to reduced work productivity and economic loss.

 

Despite the obvious disadvantages of DED, a large portion of the population remains undiagnosed, which ultimately leads to increased disease severity. DED is currently diagnosed through a series of questionnaires and ocular examinations (which can be invasive). But this method of diagnosis is not ideal. DED examinations do not always correspond with  patients’ subjective DED symptoms. Furthermore, non-invasive and non-contact dry eye examinations are required in the COVID-19 pandemic. These flaws point to a need for a simple, reliable, and accessible screening method for DED to improve diagnosis and prognosis of the disease.

 

To answer this need, a research group, led by Professor Akira Murakami and Associate Professor Takenori Inomata of the Juntendo University Graduate School of Medicine, developed a smartphone application called DryEyeRhythm. “DryEyeRhythm leverages the cameras in smartphones to measure users’ blink characteristics and determine maximum blink interval (MBI)—a substitute for tear film breakup time, an important diagnostic criterion of DED,” explains Associate Prof. Inomata. “The app also administers Ocular Surface Disease Index (OSDI) questionnaires, which are also a crucial component of DED diagnosis.

 

To validate the usefulness of the app, the research team conducted a prospective, cross-sectional, observational, single-center study, the results of which have been published in

The Ocular Surface (available online on 25 April 2022 and published in volume 25 in July 2022).

 

For their study, the team recruited 82 patients, aged 20 years or older, who visited the ophthalmology outpatient clinic at the Juntendo University Hospital between July 2020 and May 2021. The participants completed the Japanese version of the OSDI questionnaire (J-OSDI) and underwent examinations for MBI, both via the app and via other analysis techniques.

 

The study revealed that the J-OSDI collected with DryEyeRhythm showed good internal consistency. Moreover, the app-based questionnaire and MBI yielded significantly higher discriminant validity. The app also showed good positive and negative predictive values, with 91.3% and 69.1%, respectively. The area under the Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve—a measure of clinical sensitivity and specificity—for the concurrent use of the app-based J-OSDI and MBI was also high, with a value of 0.910. These results demonstrate that the app is a reliable, valid, and moreover non-invasive, instrument for assessing DED.

 

Non-contact and non-invasive DED diagnostic assistance, like the kind provided by DryEyeRhythm, could help facilitate the early diagnosis and treatment of patients, as well as, DED treatment through telemedicine and online medical care,” says Associate Prof. Inomata. The research team plans to further validate its results by conducting a multi-institutional collaborative study in the future. They are also planning to obtain medical device approval and insurance reimbursement for the smartphone application.

 

The development of DryEyeRhythm is crucial step forward toward the management of DED and improving vision and quality of life among the population.


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Spread & Containment

A rapid, highly sensitive method to measure SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater

Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) has been shown to be an excellent means of understanding the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in communities. It is now used in…

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Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) has been shown to be an excellent means of understanding the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in communities. It is now used in multiple areas across the world to track the prevalence of the virus, serving as a proxy for determining the status of COVID-19. Of particular importance is that WBE can be used to estimate the prevalence of COVID-19, including asymptomatic cases. However, one of the major drawbacks of WBE for SARS-CoV-2 has been that the traditional method was not very sensitive, and low viral loads could not be reliably detected.

Credit: Hiroki Ando, et al. Science of the Total Environment. August 8, 2022

Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) has been shown to be an excellent means of understanding the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in communities. It is now used in multiple areas across the world to track the prevalence of the virus, serving as a proxy for determining the status of COVID-19. Of particular importance is that WBE can be used to estimate the prevalence of COVID-19, including asymptomatic cases. However, one of the major drawbacks of WBE for SARS-CoV-2 has been that the traditional method was not very sensitive, and low viral loads could not be reliably detected.

A team of scientists from Hokkaido University and Shionogi & Co, Ltd., have developed a simple, rapid, highly sensitive method for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater. The method, EPISENS-S, which does not require specialised equipment, was described in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Japan has had the lowest number of cases per capita. Thus, the viral loads in sewage have also been lower, and much more difficult to evaluate using established WBE methods—due to their low sensitivity. Prior work by the research team showed that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was associated with solids in sewage, so they focused on developing a method to analyse the solid phase of wastewater.

The method they developed, EPISENS-S, involves centrifuging collected wastewater samples to separate all the solids in the samples. The solids were then treated with a commercially available kit to extract all the RNA; the RNA was then reverse transcribed and amplified to obtain a substantial amount of DNA copies. A separate set of samples was subjected to treatment with polyethylene glycol followed by RNA extraction and reverse transcription to synthesize DNA: the method that is currently widely implemented in Japan. The DNA obtained from each of these methods was subjected to quantitative PCR (qPCR).

The team found that the EPISENS-S method is approximately 100 times more sensitive than the polyethylene glycol method. They used EPISENS-S to conduct a long-term analysis of wastewater from two sewage treatment plants in Sapporo city, and found that there was a high correlation between changes in RNA concentrations in the collected samples and changes in the number of reported cases in the city. EPISENS-S can also detect and quantify the Pepper mild mottle virus (PMMoV), which is associated with fecal matter and is used as an internal control.

EPISENS-S provides a way to track COVID-19 cases that are asymptomatic, as well as those that have not been clinically confirmed. In addition, it has great potential to continue tracking the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 as vaccination rates increase. Finally, EPISENS-S could also be adapted to track other viral diseases with low infection numbers and viral loads.


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