Are raccoon dogs really to blame for Covid?
The latest origin theory for the virus doesn't hold much water
Last week, the Atlantic published an article entitled “The strongest evidence yet that an animal started the pandemic”.
It concerns a new analysis of genetic samples taken from a wet market in Wuhan, which is supposedly where the Covid pandemic started. The study shows DNA from the virus was found in the same place as DNA from a fox-like mammal called a raccoon dog. So, could this be the missing link between SARS-CoV-2 and a host population of wild animals?
That’s the implication of the Atlantic scoop and many subsequent pieces in the American mainstream press. But just how conclusive is the new research? And does it really strengthen the case for a natural origin of the pandemic, as opposed to the politically explosive lab leak theory? ...
The Dutch farmers’ party victory is a warning to the green movement
People across Europe are fed up with unfair environmental policies
Last week, Dutch voters went to polls to elect their provincial councils and the country’s Senate. The full results are now in — and show that the populist Farmer-Citizen Movement (BBB) has won an even bigger victory than expected.
With over 19% of the vote, the BBB finished clearly out in front in a very crowded field. What makes this triumph all the more remarkable is that the party didn’t even exist four years ago. It has come out of nowhere to redefine the political landscape.
The dramatic rise of the BBB is a warning to the green movement. That’s because the party was formed in opposition to anti-pollution laws that threaten the livelihoods of thousands of small farmers. For this kind of movement to make so much headway in so little time in such a progressive country shows what can happen when green laws go wrong. ...
Dr Fauci is still downplaying the lab-leak hypothesis
The former chief medical advisor gave an evasive interview this weekend
Anthony Fauci — America’s recently retired Covid supremo — has played an influential role in the debate over the how the pandemic started. Though he’s previously claimed to have an open mind as to the possibilities, his past statements have leaned strongly in favour of a natural origin for the virus.
However, in an interview with CNN over the weekend, Fauci appears to be more open-minded than ever — as well he might be, given that some parts of the US Government now believe that a leak from a laboratory is the likeliest explanation. However, he’s still not confronting this possibility with the gravity it demands. ...
In defence of Russell Brand
Free societies need mavericks, heretics and ranters
It’s all over for Russell Brand. He’s been regarded with suspicion by the Left for a few years now, but with today’s denunciation by George Monbiot in The Guardian the process of excommunication is complete.
Monbiot begins his piece by admitting his previous admiration for his current bête noire. Indeed, in 2014, he nominated Brand as his hero of the year. One can only imagine his disappointment when the wildly anarchic stand-up comedian turned out not to be completely reliable.
But what is Brand supposed to have done wrong? According to Monbiot’s charge sheet it’s his “endless iterations of the alleged evils” of such individuals and institutions as the World Economic Forum, Nancy Pelosi, Anthony Fauci and big pharmaceutical companies. ...
National conservatism has a future in Britain
The ideology can provide a principled case for lower immigration
The national conservatives are coming to town. A National Conservatism conference — organised by the Edmund Burke Foundation — will take place in London from the 15th to the 17th May.
The Rome conference in 2020 caused a stir because the speakers included controversial figures like Marion Maréchal (of the Le Pen family) and Hungary’s Viktor Orbán. This roster isn’t quite so troublesome — the most senior politician announced so far is Michael Gove.
One also gets the impression that the national conservative movement is doing more to police its Rightward borders. For instance, when the leading ‘nat con’ thinker Yoram Hazony spoke at UnHerd’s Westminster HQ last year, he made it clear that Putin fans were not welcome — nor racists, fascists or all the other horrors lurking in the outer darkness. ...
The danger in Keir Starmer appointing Sue Gray
The civil service must be independent from party politics
According to a report from Sky News, Sue Gray is being considered for the role of Keir Starmer’s chief of staff. As yet, neither Gray nor the Labour Party have commented publicly on Joe Pike’s scoop, but both sides should deny it without delay — because any such appointment would be extremely unwise.
Gray is a senior civil servant — currently the Second Permanent Secretary at the Cabinet Office — and as such is required to be scrupulously neutral with regard to party politics. However, the role of chief of staff — whether to a leader of the Opposition or a prime minister — is a political appointment. ...
Is Mexico’s President right to think that elves exist?
Andrés Manuel López Obrador claimed an elf was captured on camera
The Daily Star is not a newspaper known for its in-depth coverage of Latin American politics, but yesterday its front page featured the Mexican President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (‘AMLO’). That’s not because of his highly controversial changes to Mexico’s election law, but because he tweeted out a photograph of what is supposed to an elf. Yes, really.
Taken at night, the image shows what looks like an otherworldly creature crouching halfway up a tree. AMLO identifies it as an alux — which is a Mayan word translating roughly to ‘elf’. As surprising as it might be for a world leader to indulge in this sort of thing, he wouldn’t be the first president or premier to dabble in the ‘unexplained’. For instance, in 1977 then-Prime Minister of Grenada Sir Eric Gairy used a speech to the UN General Assembly to call for an international investigation into UFOs. Ronald Reagan regularly took advice from an astrologer during his presidency. Even a politician as hard-nosed as Margaret Thatcher was a fan of ‘alternative’ therapies, including her infamous electric baths (don’t try this one at home). ...
Is the Ukraine war about to spread to Moldova?
The tiny state is vulnerable to Putin's territorial ambitions
Given the sheer scale of the carnage, it seems wrong to describe the war in Ukraine as ‘limited’. But in one important respect it is. Despite the involvement of other countries in providing support to either Kyiv or Moscow, all of the fighting so far has been between Ukrainian defenders and Russian invaders.
Further, aside from the occasional Ukrainian strike on Russian infrastructure, the military action is confined to Ukraine’s sovereign territory. Thus, since the start of the invasion a year ago, only one international border has been violated.
However, that might be about to change. For weeks, tensions have been mounting between Russia and Moldova, which borders Ukraine. Earlier this month, the Moldovan President, Maia Sandu, accused Moscow of plotting a coup against her country’s pro-Western government. This week Vladimir Putin cancelled a foreign policy decree that recognises Moldovan independence. ...