Where did SARS-CoV-2 come from?


I’ve been seeing some wild speculation that this pandemic is the product of genetic engineering — that it’s a biowarfare weapon that escaped from a lab somewhere. This is nonsense. I’ll refer you to an article in Nature Medicine, The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2, which discusses a systematic analysis of the structure of SARS-CoV-2 in comparison to other coronaviruses.

It is improbable that SARS-CoV-2 emerged through laboratory manipulation of a related SARS-CoV-like coronavirus. As noted above, the RBD of SARS-CoV-2 is optimized for binding to human ACE2 with an efficient solution different from those previously predicted. Furthermore, if genetic manipulation had been performed, one of the several reverse-genetic systems available for betacoronaviruses would probably have been used. However, the genetic data irrefutably show that SARS-CoV-2 is not derived from any previously used virus backbone. Instead, we propose two scenarios that can plausibly explain the origin of SARS-CoV-2: (i) natural selection in an animal host before zoonotic transfer; and (ii) natural selection in humans following zoonotic transfer. We also discuss whether selection during passage could have given rise to SARS-CoV-2.

A little translation: the virus has a spike protein that binds to an enzyme on the surfaces of cells, called angiotensin converting enzyme, or ACE. This enzyme is important in regulating blood pressure, and is expressed by cells in lung capillaries (fun fact: your lungs play an endocrine role in sending out signals that maintain blood pressure). This is one reason the virus has such a dangerous respiratory effect — the lungs are the primary targets, where it can use the spike protein to bind to cells that express ACE and drill into them.

The RBD is the Receptor Binding Domain of the viral spike, and is the most variable part of the virus. This makes sense: the RBD is the key the virus uses to get access to your cells, and it varies because it confers target specificity. So there are all these different varieties of coronavirus, most of which don’t bother humans because they lack the human key — they are adapted to invade other animals’ cells. SARS-CoV-2 has acquired a spike with a human unlock code. Could some cunning super-villain have modified the spike?

Not likely, for several reasons. The virus has other similarities to coronaviruses in other animals; it’s not a de novo construct, but is a member of a large family of viruses. The modification to the spike protein is unusual. It works, but it’s not one that scientific experts would have used — they would have used something that would have been previously modeled. Then also bioengineers have lots of clever tools that could be used to stuff a desired sequence into a virus, but they all leave tool marks, little scraps of the molecule used to do the replacement. Those marks aren’t there. The best explanation is that we’re just seeing natural selection amplifying random variations in the spike.

While the analyses above suggest that SARS-CoV-2 may bind human ACE2 with high affinity, computational analyses predict that the interaction is not ideal and that the RBD sequence is different from those shown in SARS-CoV to be optimal for receptor binding. Thus, the high-affinity binding of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein to human ACE2 is most likely the result of natural selection on a human or human-like ACE2 that permits another optimal binding solution to arise. This is strong evidence that SARS-CoV-2 is not the product of purposeful manipulation.

Yeah, see, if I were a nefarious super-villain, we already have an even better RBD we could yank out of other viruses, and I would have used that to build a deadly virus. But instead, the SARS-CoV-2 RBD is some clunky variation that came out of nowhere, by accident, without any other signs of intentional manipulation.

They also consider the possibility that this was an accidental variation acquired in a lab — if you pass a virus through a lot of host cells in a cell culture system, it will continue to evolve, and you might imagine the RBD might acquire a random variation that allows it to thrive in those cells, and then it accidentally escapes the lab. This is also unlikely, because it shares a lot of similarities with the pangolin coronaviruses. It’s more likely to have arisen from an existing pool of related viruses in the wild, then either acquired its novel binding site there, or after infecting humans and experiencing selection for better binding to human cells.

The best strategy is to look for intermediates in animals, or in the sequences of humans who were infected early in the pandemic.

The identification of a potential intermediate host of SARS-CoV-2, as well as sequencing of the virus from very early cases, would similarly be highly informative. Irrespective of the exact mechanisms by which SARS-CoV-2 originated via natural selection, the ongoing surveillance of pneumonia in humans and other animals is clearly of utmost importance.

Sorry, conspiracy theorists. The best explanation is evolution and natural selection, not Evil Intelligent Design.

The viral spike protein. The RBD is in green.

Comments

  1. nomadiq says

    I think the similarities to the Pangolin Coronaviruses is interesting. Even one of the amino acid mismatches between pangolin and covid19 can be explained by a single base pair change (I forget the amino acid change, I’m up a hill hiking – can’t dig it out right now).

    I’m no virologist, so maybe this is naive, but is it possible for a human host to be exposed to two zoonotic Coronaviruses and then have them recombine? – the sequence from Pangolin is just so close. And iirc it has bat virus elements too. Live Pangolins are found in the wet markets (illegally) were the virus allegedly originated as are bats.

  2. blf says

    One of the mildly deranged penguin’s “theories” is the virus was deliberately “designed” by the impeached hair furor in Wacko House — so yeah, not intelligently designed, but nonetheless evil, very evil — to be branded TrumpCures!™ and marketed by Jared Kushner, with a “presidential” decree (and the help of fox) that everyone must buy some or else he’ll keep on twittering. We can’t have the cure be worse than the problem was, she claims, one of the early marketing / placement eventsbellows. She suspects he needs the money to pay the interest he owes to Putin.

    She claims he rambled the early tests were to be in the Big Wahoonie, which someone deciphered to mean Big China’s Wuhan. She thinks he’s probably mad the Patrician hinted he’d appoint Obama ambassador.

  3. says

    I’m no virologist, so maybe this is naive, but is it possible for a human host to be exposed to two zoonotic Coronaviruses and then have them recombine? –

    Also not a biologist, but I do know this is possible. How frequently does this happen? How probable is it? How reasonable an explanation for the SARS-CoV-2 viral features would that make? Those questions I can’t answer, and it might be that in this particular case such recombination literally can’t possibly explain the features and can be excluded from the set of hypotheses that exhibit the minimal possible threshold of plausibility. I’m saying nothing about this virus, since I don’t know.

    But in general, can that kind of thing happen? Yep.

    Take flu viruses for example:

    Antigenic Shift

    Antigenic shift is a process by which two or more different types of influenza A combine to form a virus radically different from the ancestor strains. The virus that results has a new HA or NA subtype. Antigenic shift may result in global disease spread, or pandemic, because humans will have few or no antibodies to block infection. However, if the new influenza A subtype does not easily pass from person to person, the disease outbreak will be limited.

    Antigenic shift occurs in two ways. First, antigenic shift can occur through genetic recombination, or reassortment, when two or more different influenza A viruses infect the same host cell and combine their genetic material. Influenza A viruses can infect birds, pigs, and humans, and major antigenic shifts can occur when these virus types combine. For example, a pig flu virus and a human flu virus could combine in a bird, resulting in a radically different flu type. If the virus infects humans and is efficiently transmitted among them, a pandemic may occur.

    There are important differences between corona viruses and influenza viruses, and from what I’ve heard (and this may not be reliable, remember IANAVirologist) the flu virus is apparently especially adept at swapping out proteins through recombination. This is why you can have a couple of viruses, say, one with HA group 1 and NA group 3 (making it an H1N3 flu) combine with an H7N1 flu inside a host and, at least in theory, end up with three viral forms as the two combine, taking the H1 from the first virus and the N1 from the second virus to become a third strain, in this hypothetical an H1N1 flu.

    Now, if the original two types were not particularly virulent, you might end up with the new variant being more transmissible and eventually one person coming into contact with the recombinant host is successfully infected with the new strain but not successfully infected by the two originating strains. Now you have a pure H1N1 infection that can be passed on as a single type of flu without the others and you wouldn’t necessarily (without a lot of work and a far better understanding of virology than my tidbits of half-baked knowledge) be able to know which strains of flu produced it – just that one of them had an H1 protein and another had an N1 protein. The NA-protein of the first and the HA-protein of the second could (at least in theory) be forever unknown.

    So your conjecture isn’t laughably impossible, at least not from the point of view of viruses in general. Whether coronaviruses are able to do this might be a separate question from whether or not viruses in general might sometimes have this capacity.

    My best guess, however, would be that coronaviruses do have this capability, but not to the degree that influenza viruses have it (since I’ve heard science journalists say that influenza is more capable than the average virus of such recombination, and without specific evidence we’d be best assuming that coronaviruses only exhibit an average ability for viruses to do this, which would be non-zero, but less than flu viruses).

    Hope that helps. If you want real info though, i suggest digging through google scholar a bit. There’s always good stuff to find there.

  4. KG says

    I hadn’t known about the similarities to pangolin coronaviruses – only those of bats – although I’d heard the idea that pangolins were an intermediate host. That perhaps makes it more likely the Wuhan “wet market” was indeed the source (although I’ve read the very first cases had no known connection to it, rather than an accidental escape from one of the two nearby research labs that have, apparently, been working on bat coronaviruses. Either way, the Chinese government can’t escape a degree of responsibility – it has been encouraging peasant farmers to farm wildlife for sale in these markets.

  5. says

    I just had a spat with one of my friends who started to spout conspiracy nonsense at me. He complained that there are no scientists who explain this in plain language, so I sent him links to some. Those were immediately dismissed as USA-paid influencers. After that I have told him to stop pestering me with his idiocy, because it is obvious that I cannot say or do anything that would change his mind and any discussion is therefore a waste of time.

  6. yannoupoika says

    Thank you for the information. My wife thinks it’s some conspiracy started in Harvard. I totally disagreed with her.

  7. Mark says

    The conspiracy theories I’ve read so far include 1) China created the virus to attack the US 2) China created the virus to reduce its own population. Both have the obvious effect of damaging the Chinese and world economies. And can’t population reduction can be achieved without murdering people in such an elaborate and indiscriminate fashion? Conspiracy theories are based on the premise that the conspirators are morons who leave clues sitting around like breadcrumbs for amateur, Google detectives to follow. We all know China created the virus because bats and pangolins are Scientologists. Enough said.

  8. spinynorman8 says

    A few science notes:

    1) The cell surface protein that SARS-CoV2 binds to is ACE2 (not ACE). They both function to regulate blood pressure, but play different roles. ACE converts angiotensinogen to angiotensin 1 (Agt1), which has the effect of constricting blood vessels. This is why ACE inhibitors are prescribed for people with hypertension. ACE2 converts Agt1 to Agt2, which dilates blood vessels.

    This also means that if you are currently on an ACE inhibitor you shouldn’t have anything to worry about, and the recommendation from health care professionals is to stay on the drug. Uncontrolled hypertension may be a risk factor for SARS-CoV2 infection, as it turns out, and this may be explained by compensatory changes that the body enacts under these circumstances…an upregulation of ACE2, which has anti-hypertensive effects.

    The basic idea is that anything that enhances the binding of SARS-CoV2 to ACE2 can elevate your risk, including increased levels of ACE2 protein, or other co-factors that may promote the interaction.

    2) ACE2 is indeed expressed in airway epithelial cells but also on many other cells of the body. Among these are those lining the gut, and also in the brain and other organs. There is some recent evidence that the anosmia associated with infections in some patients has to do with the effect on olfactory neuroepithelial cells in the nasal cavity, for example.

  9. says

    Charly (#7) –

    The worst conspiracy “theory” types are the ones who should know better. I’ve met some with the education to understand PZM’s explanations but still cling to fictions. Ignorance is one thing, wilful ignorance another.

  10. unclefrogy says

    in this case at least I think some people reach for the conspiracy theory because it offers a degree of safety or security. No matter how complicated , implausible and contradictory the conspiracy may be it is of human design or even alien design and thus it is something we can identify and fight. It gives a focus of human scale to it. It is not indifferent nature over which we have little power or control. That kind of reality is too frightening for many people. The idea that we are that fragile and precarious is something to avoid thinking about at all costs. Not thinking about it does not however change the reality any.
    The understanding of the path that this virus took to get to us and how it spread is very interesting while not changing our own vulnerable position it recognizes it and offers the possibility of understanding how nature works and allowing us to work with it better.
    uncle frogy

  11. chrislawson says

    My COVID-19 conspiracy theory is that it was released by Amazon and Netflix.

  12. chrislawson says

    unclefrogy@16–

    I don’t think a desire for security can be the answer because most conspiracy theories posit a world that is less safe. Others have said it’s a desire for certainty, but that doesn’t explain the many conspiracy theories that reject knowledge that is as certain as we can ever get. Possibly it’s something to do with the human psychological trend to see our successes as our own work and our failures due to external forces, but even then I don’t see why people have to construct such ridiculous stories when there are far more coherent ones to choose from.

    The funny thing is I have known myself to occasionally construct minor conspiracy theories to explain things — I suspect everyone does to some extent — although never anything as bizarre as flat-earthism or as harmful as dissing victims of school massacres. And when I look back, I can’t see what the psychological benefit was to myself, the person who was feeling it.

  13. chrislawson says

    Instransitive@15–

    Yes. One of my family members worked in science and high-tech industry his whole life, and yet he was forwarding patently ridiculous COVID-19 hoax emails to everyone in his address book.

  14. wzrd1 says

    @6, there are two ACE receptors, ACE inhibitors target ACE1, which would if activated, increase blood pressure.
    ACE2, when activated, lowers blood pressure and also lowers inflammation and alas, ACE2 is what the virus binds to.
    So, keep taking your ACE inhibitors, hypertension isn’t a solution to a possible infection or anything else.
    I take a beta blocker and calcium channel blocker, plus antithyroid medication to keep my blood pressure something survivable. As I’m out of work and have no health insurance, that means no BP or thyroid meds, so I’m severely hypertensive.
    Based upon modeling that I’ve read on the effects of infection with COVID-19 strain, hypertension and inflammation go through the roof and with elders with poor BP control, the effects of infection are devastating.

  15. unclefrogy says

    @20
    I think conspiracy theories have a similar root to anthropomorphizing nature such as the habit of creating gods.
    it is an attempt to put reality into an understandable order often without enough information to actually understand what is actually happening. Often helped along with fear which adds determination to the belief.
    I often catch myself creating liberate scenarios about how someone came into the yard and stolled my tool that was right over here when in reality I forgot where I left it. In this case I deflected it outside of me to some shadowy some else and my fear of some of the people around me made the idea appealing.
    not all conspiracies theories but most
    uncle frogy

  16. lemiserable says

    Covid-19 RAPES the cell which it infects.

    Donald trump RAPES 50 women and runs for president!. Is elected!

    Joe Biden RAPES Tara Reade (and others?) and runs for president!

    We voted for rapists. We VOTED FOR COVID-19!

    Casting your ballot for Joe Biden? Casting your ballot for Donald Trump? Then you vote for rape.

    Write in Bernie! Write in Yang! Write in your mother! Lets be done with all of this.

    I hope I am understood. I love you all.

  17. DanDare says

    Chrislawson@20 and uncle froggy @23 there is also the desire to be the person who holds esoteric knowledge. ‘I am in control and important because I know stuff you don’t ‘

  18. unclefrogy says

    @27
    absolutely
    also in promoting it it helps to identify “us” who understand apart from those who are part of the conspiracy or just victims
    uncle frogy

  19. hemidactylus says

    As if we ain’t got enough to freak out about nature is seriously fucking with a bunch of states using a scary tornado outbreak. But as we know that is intentionally engineered using HAARP because interdimensional asshats love their schadenfreude. No lizards…nature sucks!

    https://www.spc.noaa.gov/products/outlook/day1otlk_2000_prt.html

    BTW I’ve always thought pangolins were really interesting mammals. Sad they may have got wrapped up along with some oblivious bats in this catastrophic mess 😞

    Pandemic plus tornadoes. Not cool. Not looking forward to hurricane season if COVID is still kicking around and people gotta risk evacuating into protective shelters. That’s really gonna be a shitshow if CAT 4-5 storms come knocking while sickness is widespread. Worst case scenario ever. I hate my pessimistic consequence oriented outlook.

  20. lemiserable says

    #25 logicalcat

    Did the cell consent to be penetrated? No.

    Did Tara Reade consent? No.

    Did the dozens of Trumps victim’s consent? No.

    Listen carefully to things which you do not want to hear. They will help you grow.

    Joe Biden is the rapist virus which has infiltrated the Democratic Party. We, the membrane attack complex, will destroy Joe Biden by sacrificing the Democratic Party with our C9 complement proteins. We will drive our beta barrels Into the heart of DNC corruption.

  21. says

    I read the Nature Medicine article when it first came out but missed the (very personal) sting in it. The virus attaches to ACE2 so it locks onto human cells expressing the ACE2 enzyme on their surface. These particularly occur in the lungs hence the severe respiratory problems. I have sarcoidosis and one of its symptoms is high levels of ACE along with significant lung fibrosis. In my case the levels are well above normal even for sarcoidosis sufferers. I need a deeper bunker.

  22. logicalcat says

    @30

    I never even heard of Tara Reade until your post. I hope its not true since its fucked up.

    At the same time I find it crass to apply the label of rape for what viruses do to cells. Cells cannot consent. Viruses cannot think. Its belittling a real problem and applying it where its not needed. You got something to say about Biden, go ahead. You don’t need to compare viruses to rapists to do that.

  23. jrkrideau says

    @ 12 Mark
    The conspiracy theories I’ve read so far …
    You missed the one where the virus was introduced accidentally or on purpose by the US contingent which was participating in the 2019 Military World Games held in Wuhan in late October 2019.

  24. KG says

    Ever have bison? Our local grocery stores have it for sale. – robertbaden@8

    No: I’m a vegetarian, and also a non-American. What was your point? There are good reasons to deplore the wildlife farming that the Chinese government has encouraged, quite apart from the enhanced risk of zoonoses – such as the suffering of the animals involved, and the effect on ecosystems and threatened species; and there are many Chinese critics of the practice. But as far as zoonoses are concerned, SARS-CoV (the 2003 virus) appears to have emerged from the same sources, and that should have been enough of a warning to the Chinese government. Here is an informative article on the wider context: agribusiness (again, encouraged by the Chinese government, although also involving foreign corporations) has pushed small farmers in China out of their traditional markets, and even of their land into marginal areas closer to wildlife, and the wildlife farming has transformed what was a source of subsistence for the rural poor into a luxury trade in cities.

  25. Steve Caldwell says

    A reader wrote to the Electoral Vote news/commentary web site asking for their views on the Tara Reade story.

    The Electoral Vote site (electoral-vote.com) is an excellent resource run by two college professors — one who works in the field of computer science/statistics and the other who is a historian. A recurring feature on their web site is fielding reader questions on Saturdays.

    Here is what they said about this on the Electoral Vote site on Saturday (content warning — description of a sexual assault):

    Just so everyone is on the same page, the story being referenced is Tara Reade’s claim that she was sexually assaulted by Joe Biden back in 1993, while she was working for him. Here is the key portion of her narrative:

    He just had me up against the wall. I was wearing like a skirt, a business skirt. I wasn’t wearing stockings. It was kind of a hot day that day, and I was wearing heels…I remember I was wearing a blouse, and he just had me up against the wall. And the wall was cold. It happened all at once…his hands were on me and underneath my clothes. Yeah, and he went down my skirt but then up inside it, and he penetrated me with his fingers, and he was kissing me at the same time, and he was saying something to me. He said several things. I can’t remember everything he said.

    Biden, of course, has denied this.

    It does not appear to be centrally coordinated; in fact, it started on one end of the political spectrum and then jumped to the other. You’re right that the story definitely did not gain traction, despite the fact that many mainstream outlets took a look at it. Here are some guesses as to why:

    ** The “#MeToo Moment” Has Passed: There was a period of time there, right after the Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby stories broke, that the mere whiff of sexual impropriety was career-ending. Perhaps the most obvious person caught up in this was former senator Al Franken, who was compelled to resign his office before an investigation could be conducted. It is the case that sexual assault claims are taken much more seriously these days than they used to be, as well they should. But we seem to have exited the time in which a mere accusation was seen as proof of guilt.

    ** Is Reade Trustworthy?: The general progression of events does not increase confidence in Reade’s account. The first problem is that she didn’t tell anyone at the time that she was assaulted, and she did not come forward with the story until a quarter-century had passed. Second, she came forward previously, and was one of the women who accused Biden of inappropriate hugging/touching, but didn’t mention anything beyond that. Third, she has been an outspoken anti-Biden and pro-Sanders voice on social media (and, in fact, when she made the assault allegations, she did so to a staunchly left-leaning website, The Intercept). None of this proves she is lying, but it certainly does raise some concerns about her veracity and her motivations.

    ** Out of Character for Biden: There is no question that Biden grew up with a 1950s/1960s sense of boundaries, a sense out of step with where we’re at today. But, unlike Bill Clinton, Brett Kavanaugh, Anthony Wiener, and other plausibly accused alleged perpetrators of sexual assault, Biden’s never been associated with any misconduct beyond that. There is a huge chasm between “inappropriate hug” and “violent sexual assault.” It’s highly unusual for someone to jump over that chasm with no intermediate/gateway steps. It’s even more unusual for it to happen exactly one time. And thus far, nobody else has come forward with claims like Reade’s.

    ** Right Wing Framing: After The Intercept ran the story, right-wing media grabbed it and ran with it. Interestingly, most of them had a headline or a lede that included the formulation “Joe Biden Said He Believes All Women. Does He Believe Tara Reade?” That’s a very unusual framing, one that downplays the more serious crime of sexual assault, and plays up Biden’s alleged hypocrisy (which is, of course, not a crime). Framing things in that way certainly makes it seem like even the right-wingers don’t really think Biden assaulted Reade, and instead they’re trying to use this as a “gotcha.”

    ** Going to the Well Too Many Times: Shamefully, a number of folks (most commonly hacky right-wing operatives) have tried to use 100% fabricated claims of sexual misconduct to smear political opponents. The most notable case of this is probably the comically inept Jacob Wohl, who tried to smear special counsel Robert Mueller in this manner, and then tried it again with Pete Buttigieg. This has undoubtedly put the idea in people’s minds that when a sexual assault claim seems like in might fail the smell test, it might just be a political hit job.

    Anyhow, these are our guesses. We think it’s instructive that Donald Trump has yet to deploy this against Biden. If there was any chance it could stick, and was going to become an element of the 2020 campaign, surely the President would have tossed it out there already.

    And yes, propaganda is best ignored.

    Source — https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2020/Pres/Maps/Mar28.html

    There was a reader response to their commentary on the Tara Reade story today (Sunday is the day they run reader comments). Here is what one reader said in response:

    I really appreciate you answering the question about Tara Reade and the anti-Biden propaganda push. You make excellent points, but I have two comments.

    First, you left out what happened with the Time’s Up fund, who declined to fund legal and PR fees for Reade because the appearance of them being political would threaten their 501(c)(3) status. In response, some sites have cried “cover-up.” However, Time’s Up could have safely helped Tara Reade (despite Joe Biden being a presidential candidate) as long as they used their normal procedure to decide whether to help. Doesn’t it make more sense that they used their normal procedure to evaluate Reade’s claims, and (they, like you) found them unconvincing?

    Second, you say that this story did not gain traction, and you also say that it is instructive that Trump has not deployed this against Biden, but you ignore something important. Does Trump know a better way to harm Biden with this than using it against him directly (and appearing to be the pot calling the kettle black).

    In the last week, I have been inundated with messages from my relatives and friends who are Sanders supporters, all of them saying exactly the same thing: that because of this one accusation of sexual assault, they refuse to vote for Biden for president. So this is splintering the Democrats, which can only help Trump. I have no idea who is spreading this, but it seems to be working, and there are plenty of actors (Republicans, Sanders supporters, Russians, etc.) who would benefit. Plus, this is eerily similar to the way that fear, uncertainty, and doubt was used against Clinton during the 2016 election.

    Source — https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2020/Pres/Maps/Mar29.html

    I’m not saying that the mainstream media (NY Times, Washington Post, AP, BBC, etc) is always right but it’s instructive that they haven’t touched this story about Biden.

  26. logicalcat says

    Trigger warning discussing rape and rape denial-ism, just in case.

    Ive never been a victim of sexual assault, but after hearing many accounts Ive noticed that it never went from “He touched me inappropriately” to “He raped me” in regards to recalling what happened. I know from reading accounts that memory of the event is not reliable, but that’s with the details. Never seen a victim not recall the actual attack or recall it as something that was a lot milder. Especially not during MeToo when the accusations were made public.

    I’ll be blunt here. I don’t believe her. I understand why the whole must believe women is a thing from reading this blog. I understand that not believing women is why so many rapists get away with what they did. Its why I included the trigger warning because I don’t want to upset people who’ve been through this bullshit. But I also think enough time has passed with MeToo for it to be weaponized. And Ive hung around Sanders supporters long enough to know that the more zealous among us are perfectly capable of doing this. For fucks sake, with Hillary Clinton, a common nickname for her was Killary. They accused her of both assassinating Seth Rich, and of committing a war crime which is impossible since she doesn’t command the armed forces and never have.

    It doesn’t pass the smell test. And its one of the many reasons why I’ve grown a dislike for “progressives”.

  27. says

    @36
    Steve Caldwell I’m responding to the quote you provided, and I understand the author is passing on info in some of this
    But we seem to have exited the time in which a mere accusation was seen as proof of guilt.<\q>
    That’s a big red flag to me. When getting an investigation is like pulling teeth I always want to see the reality to go with what they think “seen as proof of guilt” is.

    The first problem is that she didn’t tell anyone at the time that she was assaulted, and she did not come forward with the story until a quarter-century had passed.<\q>
    In a system that doesn’t take sexual harassment and assault seriously this isn’t surprising.

    Second, she came forward previously, and was one of the women who accused Biden of inappropriate hugging/touching, but didn’t mention anything beyond that. <\q>
    So what? This person must not have actually listened to the interview because they explained why they didn’t tell the rest, they didn’t think they were being taken seriously so they didn’t go on to the more difficult material.

    Third, she has been an outspoken anti-Biden and pro-Sanders voice on social media (and, in fact, when she made the assault allegations, she did so to a staunchly left-leaning website, The Intercept).<\q>
    A person’s politics don’t mean they weren’t a sexual assault victim. I was hoping for better from the left.

    Going to the Well Too Many Times: Shamefully, a number of folks (most commonly hacky right-wing operatives) have tried to use 100% fabricated claims of sexual misconduct to smear political opponents.<\q>
    Anyone using false claims to judge uninvestigated claims is prejudiced.

    They can be as upset as they want but it’s not the accusers fault if some people can’t let an investigation happen while being willing to vote for the accused until the investigation is done.

  28. says

    @logicalcat 37

    <

    blockquote>Ive never been a victim of sexual assault, but after hearing many accounts Ive noticed that it never went from “He touched me inappropriately” to “He raped me” in regards to recalling what happened.<\blockquote>
    Can you expand on this? I’m not quite sure what you mean.

  29. logicalcat says

    @40 Brony.

    Basically Biden’s accuser accused him of being creepy with respect to boundaries during the CreepyJoe controversy about Biden’s inappropriate touching and lack of respect to boundaries. And then now during the primary that same accusation now turned to “Actually he raped me”. Ive never seen a victim of rape change her story in such a way. I find it suspect primarily because Ive never seen this before. Ive never seen a victim of sexual assault downplay their own assault during MeToo era. Maybe it is true, but its suspect. Especially now late into the primary, where a lot of Sanderites are still fighting for their candidate, and still believe he can win. I fully admit that I might be wrong as I’ve never been a victim of this.

    And yes I did read the entire interview. Saying “I didn’t think anyone would believe me” during a time when most people would believe you with “believe all women” doesn’t sound convincing. Especially during a time when the pressure on Biden’s inappropriateness was not just highlighted but national conversation. Saying she didn’t think anyone would take her seriously during a time when Biden’s inappropriateness was national conversation is not convincing. And as a Sanders supporter I know the worst among us are perfectly capable of false allegations. This is why I mention Seth Rich conspiracy and “Killary Clinton”.

    I think as a leftist this person understands rape culture enough to use it effectively. Its what I would have done if I wanted to take down Biden.

  30. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    The problem with today’s hyper-partisan politics is that there are lots of actors who will lie through their teeth to help their candidate or hurt a candidate they don’t like. We had people telling us that decorated war veteran John Kerry was a coward. We had people telling us that Barrack Obama was a radical Muslim Kenyan socialist.
    We had people telling us that Hillary Clinton was a murderer and a cannibal.
    We’ve had people telling us that Liz Warren was keeping a sex slave boy toy, the Pete Buttigieg was a rapist, that Bernie Sanders was at deaths door.

    We do not have any way of definitively proving or disproving any of this. What we do have is Donald Trump’s own voice bragging about sexual assault and perving on under-age beauty contestants. And more important, we have 3 years of evidence of what an unmitigated disaster this man has been for the country.

    Anyone would be better.

  31. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    That is just it–we cannot know her motivations. We cannot assess her veracity. We know that several similar falsehoods have been advanced in this campaign and before. Without independent evidence, we have no way to assess the claims.

    Kavanaugh’s accuser was supported by several consistent accounts that supported her account.

    DJT has confessed.

    WRT Biden, we have one accusation, but we also have several folks saying that “Yes, Biden is sometimes clueless, but this doesn’t sound like him.”

    And even if it were true, he still isn’t as vile a predator as the current occupant.

  32. says

    @40 Brony

    For starters you’re using a back slash \ not a forward slash / in the closing tags, secondly you’re hitting some other key (enter?) after the opening tag bracket before the b. Preview is your friend.

  33. says

    @a_ray_in_dilbert_space 46
    Past falsehoods do not affect independent accusations.

    Biden’s accuser is not affected by those other people. You need to be talking about Biden’s accuser if you see a problem.

    The investigation is to get the evidence.

    Your paraphrases are not an acceptable replacement for what people actually complain about. Donald Trump is irrelevant to Biden’s accuser.

  34. logicalcat says

    @ Brony

    here’s the original allegation. https://www.theunion.com/news/local-news/nevada-county-woman-says-joe-biden-inappropriately-touched-her-while-working-in-his-u-s-senate-office/

    You cant just say other accusations have no bearing on this one because these things don’t happen in a vacuum. When the “left progressives” are actively accusing candidates they don’t like of murder without evidence, they’ve poison the well. False rape allegations would be the next step. People already tried to do it, but not leftists. It was only a matter of time considering the conspiracy theories they delve with.

    And lets me be clear, I’m no centrist (though Ive been called one by these people) and I don’t care for Biden. I voted Sanders. Even voted early. My problem is that since last election Ive viewed progressives as a whole negatively through my experience being among them. Many of them prefer a right wing president over an establishment democrat. Their anti-establishmentarianism is less about making the world better than it is a dogmatic mantra that must be upheld. This wouldn’t be uncharacteristic of that bunch.

    At the end of the day there’s no way of knowing whether the accusation was true or not. This is a case involving politics now. Not Hollywood, or academia, or other institutions of power where false allegations of anything are rare and false allegations of rape specifically are even rarer still. No, false allegations here are the norm. Pizzagate, her emails, Seth Rich, dnc rigging the primary, Hillary committing war crimes somehow, Benghazi, I could go on and on.

    To paraphrase someone from Biden’s staff “Women have the right to tell their story, and reporters have the obligation to vet those claims.” So vet away. If more evidence that he did it surfaces, then we know the truth now. Right now as it stands, she has a lot going against her. The changing the story for one, and the fact that her past tweets before 2016 election about Biden have been positive. Those are two things working against her. On a personal level, her being pro Sanders is a red flag, but thats on me and my experience.

    I also want to hear the opinions of victims on this. Maybe I’m being an idiot, I don’t know. I’m a man whose never been sexually assaulted. Physically and emotionally abused yes, but not sexually. My opinion on the accusations doesn’t carry much weight.

  35. says

    @logicalcat 50
    Are you kidding me?
    Quote the problems with the accusers before and after story. Either you’ve seen something of you haven’t. I’m not taking your word for what you see.

    <

    blockquote>You cant just say other accusations have no bearing on this one because these things don’t happen in a vacuum. When the “left progressives” are actively accusing candidates they don’t like of murder without evidence, they’ve poison the well. False rape allegations would be the next step.<\blockquote>
    I can and I will because that’s your bearing to show. It’s prejudice to bring that up without a reason. Independent accusers aren’t necessarily part of something nefarious and without evidence the process of investigation needs to be started.

    My problem is…

    You can stop there because an accuser shouldn’t have to care about your problems before they have their claims heard. Your position on the political spectrum doesn’t change the fact that your political difficulty is yours.

    <

    blockquote>At the end of the day there’s no way of knowing whether the accusation was true or not.<\blockquote>
    Rejected. That’s your assertion and you are politically motivated against collecting evidence.

    <

    blockquote>The changing the story for one, and the fact that her past tweets before 2016 election about Biden have been positive. Those are two things working against her. On a personal level, her being pro Sanders is a red flag, but thats on me and my experience.<\blockquote>
    You haven’t shown a changed story. You asserted it and link dropped.
    I seen countless stories from victims who have had to pretend to be fine because they were dependant or would be risking their careers if they spoke out.
    And your suspicion about the sexual assault claims of an in-group political opponent are rejected.

    This is pathetic and sad.

  36. says

    Something between my phone and the site is messed up. Those spaces in the blockquote formatting weren’t in the comment box on my phone. Preview still shows the problem, but those spaces aren’t there. Wtf.

  37. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Brony and Logicalcat,

    This should be investigated. I am less concerned by her being pro-Sanders than I am by her being pro-Putin.

  38. blf says

    Brony@51/@52, I suspect there are two different things going:

    1st,  In several (but not all) places the closing blockquote tag seems to be <\blockquote> — with a backslash (\). It should be a forward slash (/); e.g., </blockquote>.

    2nd, In all(?) the other cases, there is no closing blockquote tag at all.

    The “spaces” are an opaque warning there is an HTML problem; specifically, a matching closing </blockquote> is not present.

  39. logicalcat says

    @a Ray In Dilbert Space

    Never did I say her claims shouldn’t be heard nor shouldn’t be investigated. In my last comment I pretty much said investigate away. If he did it we will know soon enough.

    @Brony

    My link is the link for her original accusation. Compared to the recent one she changed it significantly. Your failure to piece that together is your failure not mines. I didn’t quote them directly side by side because one of them is graphic. Do I need to quote them in full? Or are you capable of reading two articles?

    She also tweeted positively about Biden prior to 2016 (when all this purity politics nonsense gained traction). This was all years after she stopped working on the Hill, so there wouldn’t be any fear of her jeopardizing her career. I’m very much aware of rape culture. Learned most of it through this website and the commentariat especially.

    Whats sad and pathetic is that you accused me of being politically motivated against collecting evidence when in my last post I strictly said investigate away, if he’s found guilty we will know. You are clearly projecting here. The evidence is not on her side and you don’t like that.

    You say its my bearing to show? I did. Or did you forget I mentioned pizzagate, her emails, Seth Rich, dnc rigging the primary, and so many other false allegations intended for political reasons. You conveniently ignored this. If you believe this accusation exists in a vacuum independent of those, then you do not believe in reality. These are all examples that the political landscape of today is one where false allegations and conspiracies are the norm, especially towards the establishment by Sandernistas. Thus, poisoning the well. When Trumpers do the same shit we call it out immediately, but when its one of our own our hypocrisy are bare for all to see. To repeat: when Trumpers do the same shit we call it out, but when its our own we behave like hypocrites. Ive also never insinuated she made it up precisely because of this, only that it makes it suspect and that I, me myself and I, don’t believe her personally. You do believe her. Great. Let the investigation show who was right. But if there’s not an investigation, we will know why. Its because of all the shit I just mentioned poisoning it all.

  40. Porivil Sorrens says

    @56
    Yikes, please never imply that we’re on the same political side again. I don’t want to be grouped in with people bending over backwards to defend geriatric rapists.

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