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Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert and member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, rejected the notion that the CCP virus, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, is man-made.

Fauci made the remarks to The National Geographic in an in-depth interview that ranged from virus origin theories to lighter topics prompted by questions like “Wow, how do you unwind?”

Asked whether he believed the virus was made in—or accidentally released from—a Chinese lab, Fauci said there was overwhelming evidence it came from the wild.

“If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats, and what’s out there now is very, very strongly leaning toward this [virus] could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated,” he said, adding that the mutation pattern of the virus is highly suggestive of a natural origin.

“A number of very qualified evolutionary biologists have said that everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicates that it evolved in nature and then jumped species,” the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Deborah Brix, White House coronavirus response coordinator, listen to President Donald Trump speak at the daily briefing of the coronavirus task force at the White House in Washington on April 16, 2020. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

A widespread theory, reiterated by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday, is that the virus made the leap from animal to human at one of Wuhan’s wildlife wet markets.

Some claim the virus occurred naturally but was brought into the Wuhan lab for study, from where it escaped, a theory Fauci dismissed as a “circular argument.”

“That means it was in the wild to begin with. That’s why I don’t get what they’re talking about [and] why I don’t spend a lot of time going in on this circular argument,” he said.

The Trump administration is investigating whether negligence or wilful action on China’s part fanned the flames of the pandemic.

Both President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have in recent weeks blamed Beijing for concealing early data about the spread of the virus in China, something they say wasted precious response time and hamstrung efforts to fight the pandemic.

President Donald Trump addresses the daily CCP virus task force briefing at the White House in Washington on April 23, 2020. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Trump said on April 30 that he had seen convincing evidence that the deadly bug originated at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, while Pompeo told ABC News on Sunday there was “enormous evidence” the virus originated in the Wuhan lab. Pompeo did not disclose specifics, saying only that “China has a history of infecting the world, and they have a history of running substandard laboratories.”

A recent report by The Epoch Times concludes, based on expert interviews, that the CCP virus pandemic highlights a history of mismanagement, corruption, and lack of ethics in China’s virology labs.

Meanwhile, America’s intelligence agencies said in a rare public statement that they agreed with “the widespread scientific consensus” that the virus was “not manmade or genetically modified” but are still looking into whether the Wuhan lab played any role in its transmission.

“The IC [intelligence community] will continue to rigorously examine emerging information and intelligence to determine whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan,” the Office of Director of National Intelligence said in an April 30 statement.

Besides accusing the Chinese Communist Party of hiding facts about the outbreak, Pompeo hinted at future steps to hold it “accountable” for the economic and social fallout of the pandemic.

“I’m still concerned that the Chinese Communist Party is not telling us about all of what’s taking place in all of the labs, in fact each of the labs, all across China today,” he said in an interview with Fox News.

“What the Chinese Communist Party did here, in not preventing the spread of this around the world, they are responsible for. America needs to hold them accountable,” Pompeo added.

Correction: The headline has been updated to more accurately reflect Fauci’s comments. The Epoch Times regrets the error.

Follow Tom on Twitter: @OZImekTOM

Author: Tom Ozimek

Source: The Epoch Times: Fauci Says Evidence ‘Very Strongly’ Shows Virus Is Not Man-Made

The U.S. Treasury announced that Social Security recipients won’t have to file a tax return to receive a federal government payment to help offset the economic effects of the CCP virus outbreak.

“Social Security recipients who are not typically required to file a tax return need to take no action, and will receive their payment directly to their bank account,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in an April 1 statement.

The Treasury’s statement reverses guidance from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on March 30 that said seniors would have to file a “simple” tax return to receive the money.

The Internal Revenue Service building in Washington on Feb. 19, 2014. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

The payments, as much as $1,200 for individuals, are part of a roughly $2.3 trillion economic relief package signed into law by President Donald Trump last week.

“The IRS will use the information on the Form SSA-1099 and Form RRB-1099 to generate $1,200 Economic Impact Payments to Social Security recipients who did not file tax returns in 2018 or 2019,” the Treasury said in a statement.

“Recipients will receive these payments as a direct deposit or by paper check, just as they would normally receive their benefits,” the agency stated.

The change comes after pushback from lawmakers and advocacy groups, who argued that people such as senior citizens or the disabled shouldn’t have to file a tax return just to get stimulus checks.

A group of 41 senators on April 1 sent a letter to Mnuchin and Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul saying this would burden the vulnerable and disadvantaged.

“This [IRS] filing requirement would place a significant burden on retired seniors and individuals who experience disabilities, especially given the current unavailability of tax filing assistance from Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs during the COVID-19 crisis,” the senators wrote. “We strongly urge you to ensure that economic stimulus payments are automatically sent to vulnerable seniors and individuals who experience disabilities, without these individuals needing to file a tax return.”

Chuck Marr, director of federal tax policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a think tank, said the concept should be expanded to other groups.

“Now it’s imperative that the administration use its authority and the information it already has to do the same for very low-income seniors and people with disabilities who receive Supplemental Security Income as well as low-income veterans who receive certain benefits from the Veterans Administration,” Marr told CNBC in a statement.

Author: Tom Ozimek

Source: The Epoch Times: Social Security Recipients Will Automatically Get Virus Relief Checks

The United States’ November 2019 trade deficit fell to its lowest point in more than three years, suggesting the Trump administration’s agenda to recalibrate international flows of goods and services is having an impact.

The trade deficit fell 8.2 percent to $43.1 billion, the lowest since October 2016, the Commerce Department said on Jan. 7 (pdf).

“As of this morning’s figures, the total U.S. trade deficit is heading for its first year-over-year decline since 2013, when U.S. growth was a good deal lower than what’s likely for this year,” trade expert Alan Tonelson told The Epoch Times.

The goods trade deficit with China, the focus of the White House’s “America First” agenda, decreased 15.7 percent to $26.4 billion, with imports decreasing 9.2 percent and exports increasing by 13.7 percent.

Tonelson argued that the trade figures, which pertain to November flows of goods and services, “show that Trump’s China hard line is working.” He urged the administration to maintain its pressure in the trade dispute and take further steps to decouple the two countries’ economies.

“Decoupling the U.S. economy from China’s is crucial for U.S. prosperity because the pre-Trump policy of expanding trade and commerce with the People’s Republic has been such a net loser for the American economy,” Tonelson said.

“And it’s crucial for U.S. national security because the pre-Trump policies recklessly transferred so much in the way of resources and defense-related technology to an increasingly hostile and aggressive China.”

The Commerce Department figures also show that the goods trade gap with the European Union fell 20.2 percent to $13.1 billion.

Though Washington and Beijing in December hammered out a “phase one” trade deal, uncertainty remains about the details of the agreement. Trump wrote on Twitter on Dec. 31, 2019, that the partial deal would be signed on Jan. 15 at the White House.

While the 18-month-long U.S.–China trade war is widely reported as having dampened business investment, the new Commerce Department figures show a slight rise in capital expenditures.

“Thanks to the new November final numbers, U.S. core capex turned positive again year-over-year,” Tonelson said. “The increase is just 0.4 percent, but the monthly improvement was the second straight and the eighth this year, despite all the trade war uncertainty caterwauling.”

U.S. financial markets were little moved by the decline in the trade deficit, which was flagged in an advance report published on Dec. 30, 2019.

Trump has made reducing the trade deficit a major priority of his administration.

Economists expect trade will add at least 1.5 percentage points to GDP growth in the fourth quarter after being a drag for two straight quarters.

The Atlanta Federal Reserve is forecasting GDP increasing at a 2.3 percent annualized rate in the fourth quarter. The economy grew at a 2.1 percent pace in the third quarter.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Follow Tom on Twitter: @OZImekTOM

Author: Tom Ozimek

Source: The Epoch Times: US Trade Deficit Hits 3-Year Low: ‘Trump’s China Hard Line Is Working,’ Expert Says

A former NFL player and current Georgia business owner was arrested after allegedly trashing his own restaurant and ice cream shop to make it look like he was the victim of a hate crime by a supporter of the president.

Edawn Coughman, 31, of Buford, was taken into custody on Sept. 13 on charges of false reporting a burglary, insurance fraud, and concealing a license plate, Gwinnett County police said in a press release.

Police responded just before 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 11, after a 911 call reporting apparent break-ins at the Create and Bake Restaurant and Coughman’s Creamery in unincorporated Lawrenceville. The caller said the suspect was still inside one of the businesses and was committing acts of vandalism.

Officers attending to the scene confronted a suspect, who, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post, was wearing gloves and a hoodie. Officers then learned that the suspect—Coughman—owned the businesses. He told them he was the victim of a burglary earlier in the day and had returned to tidy up.

“Edawn told officers that he noticed the damage and theft of equipment earlier in the day. He said that he called his insurance company to report the incident, but he did not call 911,” police said.

This undated photo shows the interior of properties owned and allegedly defaced by Edawn Louis Coughman. (Gwinnett County Police)

Upon further investigation, police concluded the former tackle for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers “conjured a premeditated plan to damage his own property, attempt to make it appear as a hate crime, file a claim with his insurance company, and sell off the undamaged appliances and electronics.”

Coughman allegedly used a yellow crow bar to simulate the effects of a break-in, and used black spray paint to scrawl “racially-motivated words, swastikas, and ‘MAGA’” on the walls, referring to President Donald Trump’s 2016 slogan, “Make America Great Again.” Police noted in the release that “the back door to one of the businesses had yellow pry marks.”

Investigators later recovered the yellow crow bar and spray paint from Coughman’s pickup truck, along with several televisions that appeared to have been ripped off walls.

“The TVs were still attached to the brackets with damaged drywall,” police said.

“It’s possible he was trying to stage this as a hate crime,” Cpl. Michele Pihera told the Gwinnett Daily Post. “We don’t know if he was trying to get attention for this. What we do know is, if that witness had not called us and if those officers had not responded as quickly as they did, we would probably be sitting here talking about a completely different crime in which Mr. Coughman would be trying to say he’s a victim.”

Police said Coughman has bonded out of jail.

Follow Tom on Twitter: @OZImekTOM

Author: Tom Ozimek

Source: The Epoch Times: Ex-NFL Player Accused of Staging ‘MAGA’ Hate Crime For Insurance Fraud

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