Biden’s 90-day deadline for virus origins spurred by ‘unexamined intelligence’: NYT

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden speaks at the White House.

  • Earlier this week, Biden announced a revived push to determine the origins of the coronavirus.
  • The 3-month probe was prompted by a mine of unexamined intelligence, according to The New York Times.
  • The White House hopes the efforts will press US allies to probe their sources in China.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden’s Wednesday push for the intelligence community to “redouble their efforts” in determining the origins of the novel coronavirus was prompted by intelligence officials who alerted the White House to a mine of COVID-19 evidence that has still yet to be examined, according to The New York Times.

Though officials did not describe the evidence, they did tell the outlet that they expect to use an “extraordinary amount” of computer power to analyze and ascertain whether the virus originated in a Chinese laboratory leak – a cause that many experts have called “unlikely,” but one that they have also been unable to rule out completely.

The president’s three-month dash to find a conclusive answer is also meant to press US allies and intelligence agencies to reexamine relevant evidence while also pursuing new intelligence that may provide an answer as to whether the Chinese government covered up a leak, The Times reported.

A World Health Organization team conducted a month-long investigation in Wuhan and determined that the “most likely” origin of the virus was a natural jump from bats to people via an intermediary animal host. But the group was unable to definitely prove that possibility, and neither could they definitively disprove a laboratory leak.

Insider’s Aylin Woodward did a comprehensive breakdown of the evidence for each theory.

In his Wednesday announcement, Biden said two intelligence agencies think the virus was most likely naturally occurring, while at least one other believed an accidental lab leak was likely, though he noted neither were certain.

Though Biden reportedly hopes the 90-day study will bolster intelligence contributions from American allies, the effort thus far has proven mostly futile, according to The Times. Officials said it’s unlikely intercepted Chinese communications will yield a text message or email that points toward evidence of a lab leak.

Allied intelligence did, however, find that three researchers at a lab in Wuhan fell sick with COVID-19 symptoms in November 2019, prompting them to seek hospital care. The news, which was reported by The Wall Street Journal earlier this week, was included in a US intelligence report. But experts have stressed that the information does not prove evidence of a lab leak theory as the researchers could have caught the virus elsewhere and brought it into the lab.

wuhan institute of virology
Guards stand outside the Wuhan Institute of Virology on February 3, 2021.

The White House is pushing American allies to probe their sources in China for information about what might have happened in the Wuhan Institute of Virology, especially as the US continues to rebuild its own base of informants in the country, according to The Times.

China announced earlier this week that Beijing would not cooperate with any further World Health Organization investigations.

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The Senate unanimously passed a bill to declassify intel on the origins of COVID-19, including the Wuhan lab

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) questions former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein at hearing of the Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill on June 03, 2020
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) questions former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein at hearing of the Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill on June 03, 2020

  • The Senate passed a bill to declassify what the US government knows about the origins of COVID-19.
  • Earlier Wednesday, President Joe Biden gave US intel 90 days to produce a report on the matter.
  • Calls to investigate the origins of the coronavirus, especially the lab-leak theory, have grown.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Senate unanimously passed a bill Wednesday night that will require the director of national intelligence to declassify any information related to the origins of COVID-19, including on the lab at the center of the lab-leak theory.

Introduced by Republican Sens. Josh Hawley and Mike Braun, the bill received rare bipartisan support as calls grow to ramp up investigations into the origins of the virus.

“The American people deserve the truth about the origins of covid. Tonight the Senate unanimously adopted my bill w/ @SenatorBraun to declassify what US government knows,” Hawley said on Twitter after the vote.

Read more: Experts warn that fake vaccine cards are for sale on the dark web. But we found it was incredibly easy to just print them, obtaining 150 for only $50.

Earlier Wednesday, President Joe Biden said he was giving the intelligence community 90 days to produce a report on whether the coronavirus emerged from an infected animal or from a leak at a lab in Wuhan, China. The lab-leak theory, which experts have said in the past was not likely, has come under increasing scrutiny.

The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that US intelligence discovered three researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were hospitalized in November 2019 with COVID-19 symptoms.

A month-long investigation by a team formed by the World Health Organization concluded earlier this year that transmission from an animal to a human was the “most likely” origin, but said a lab leak could not be ruled out.

Other experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have also said the lab-leak theory is possible and should be investigated further.

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A former intelligence official says an upcoming government report will detail ‘difficult to explain’ UFO sightings

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe
Former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe.

  • A former intelligence official said the government is preparing to release a report on UFOs.
  • The report will detail UFO sightings, former National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe said.
  • Many of the sightings are “difficult to explain,” he said, speaking to Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A top intelligence official under former President Donald Trump said on Friday that the government plans to release a report declassifying numerous UFO sightings.

“There are a lot more sightings than have been made public,” former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe told Fox News host Maria Bartiromo.

“Some of those have been declassified. And when we talk about sightings, we are talking about objects that have seen by Navy or Air Force pilots, or have been picked up by satellite imagery that frankly engage in actions that are difficult to explain,” he continued. “Movements that are hard to replicate that we don’t have the technology for. Or traveling at speeds that exceed the sound barrier without a sonic boom.”

Ratcliffe’s remarks come months after the Pentagon released three videos of “unidentified aerial phenomena” – more commonly referred to as UFOs – after years of speculation about them.

The videos, captured on Navy aircraft cameras with infrared targeting systems, show black shapes floating and sometimes accelerating at incredible speeds against the wind as baffled pilots watch.

Former Sen. Harry Reid, who funneled $22 million into the government’s UFO investigations, said in a tweet that the Pentagon’s release of the videos “only scratches the surface” of what the government has on file.

flir gimbal gofast pentagon releases ufo videos
Left to right, stills from FLIR, GIMBAL and GOFAST videos released by the Pentagon of unidentified aerial phenomena

“The U.S. needs to take a serious, scientific look at this and any potential national security implications,” Reid said. “The American people deserve to be informed.”

Ratcliffe said Friday there have been reports of sightings “all over the world.”

“When we talk about sightings, the other thing I will tell you is, it’s not just a pilot or just a satellite, or some intelligence collection,” Ratcliffe continued. “Usually we have multiple sensors that are picking up these things, and so again some of these are just unexplained phenomenon, and there is actually quite a few more than have been made public.”

Ratcliffe also added that intelligence officials try to look for a “plausible explanation” behind all unidentified flying aircrafts. But sometimes, he said, officials aren’t able to justify their presence.

“Weather can cause disturbances, visual disturbances,” he said. “Sometimes we wonder whether or not our adversaries have technologies that are a little bit further down the road than we thought or that we realized. But there are instances where we don’t have good explanations for some of the things that we have seen.”

The Pentagon is expected to release the report by June 1, Bartiromo said during the interview.

The Department of Defense did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment.

Additional reporting by Mia Jankowicz

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Cuttlefish passed a version of the marshmallow test, a cognitive study for humans designed to test self-control

Cuttlefish delayed gratification
Research published on March 3 shows cuttlefish like this one can display self-control.

  • Cuttlefish can show the same amount of self-control as bigger-brained animals, a test found.
  • The cephalopods resisted taking food immediately to get a better reward later.
  • Similar tests are used on humans, usually children, to test cognitive development.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Cuttlefish can be as good at controlling their urges as animals like chimpanzees, crows and parrots, researchers have said. 

In a new study published Wednesday, scientists put six cuttlefish in conditions that would test whether they could delay gratification for a bigger reward.

The test was an underwater variant of what is commonly known as the marshmallow test, where participants can get a food reward straightaway, or hold out for something better like a marshmallow.

The cuttlefish were presented either with a piece of king shrimp or a more appealing live grass shrimp. 

If they decided not to immediately take the piece of dead shrimp, the more appealing live shrimp would be offered after a delay. 

This video was filmed by Dr. Alexandra Schnell, lead scientists on the study and a researcher of the University of Cambridge’s Department of Psychology. It shows how her cuttlefish prefer the live shrimp, here on the left, over the king prawn, on the right: 

Schnell found that even the most impatient cuttlefish could wait 50 seconds before the live grass shrimp was released.

The cuttlefish with the most self control “could wait for over two minutes for a better snack”, Schnell said in a press release.

This is comparable to what is seen in animals with larger brains such as chimpanzees, crows, and parrots.

This is quite “sophisticated behaviour”, Prof. Nicola Clayton of Cambridge University, one of the scientists on the paper said in a press release.

“Self-control requires an understanding that ‘less is sometimes more’- that avoiding temptation now might lead to a better future outcome”, she said.

This original version of this is the Stanford marshmallow test, a experiment where children are told they can decide to either get a small reward immediately, such as a pretzel stick, or wait 15 minutes for a bigger reward, such as a marshmallow. 

The scientists also tested whether smarter cuttlefish were better at waiting. 

“We found that cuttlefish with better learning performance – an indicator of intelligence – also showed better self-control”, Shnell said.

This is similar to what has been shown in humans and chimpanzees, but it is the first time it has been shown in a non-primate species, Schnell said.

The intelligence of cuttlefish is often studied by scientists. Their highly complex brains can control a set of pixels on their skin to change color and blend into their surroundings.

See how another type of cuttlefish can change skin colours in this video: 

A study published in 2016 showed that cuttlefish has a sense of numbers, as they can tell the difference between different numbers of shrimp.

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An intelligence report by Capitol Police warned ‘Congress itself’ could be targeted, days before the deadly siege on the US Capitol, according to The Washington Post

US Capitol riots aftermath
The aftermath of the US Capitol Building riots.

  • In a report produced days before the deadly siege on the US Capitol, Capitol Police intelligence warned “Congress itself” could be the target of an attack by pro-Trump protesters.
  • The January 3 report, obtained by The Washington Post, said Trump supporters saw January 6 “as the last opportunity to overturn the results of the presidential election” and that this “sense of desperation and disappointment may lead to more of an incentive to become violent.”
  • Following the attack, US Capitol Police has come under scrutiny for failing to prevent the breach of the Capitol building.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

In a report produced days before the deadly siege on the US Capitol, Capitol Police intelligence warned “Congress itself” could be the target of an attack by pro-Trump protesters.

“Supporters of the current president see January 6, 2021, as the last opportunity to overturn the results of the presidential election,” a portion of the report, obtained by The Washington Post, says. “This sense of desperation and disappointment may lead to more of an incentive to become violent.”

“Unlike previous post-election protests, the targets of the pro-Trump supporters are not necessarily the counter-protesters as they were previously, but rather Congress itself is the target on the 6th,” the report says.

A Capitol Police spokesperson did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Since a violent mob attacked the Capitol building, causing lawmakers to evacuate and leaving five people dead, the US Capitol Police has come under scrutiny for failing to prevent the breach.

Read more: There’s a reckoning coming for the congressional police force that allowed the worst breach of the US Capitol since the British burned the building down in 1814

The day after the attack, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi called for the resignation of Steven Sund, chief of the Capitol Police. Sund announced his resignation hours later.

One Capitol Police officer told Insider’s Ashley Collman that he and others expected to work Wednesday due to the planned protest rallies, but were told to go home. Meanwhile, reports have emerged that law enforcement anticipated violence on the Capitol that day.

An FBI report, also obtained by the Post, warned of “war” at the US Capitol a day before the insurrection occurred.

The 12-page report from Capitol Police intelligence warning of a threat to Congress was produced January 3, three days before the attack. 

The report clearly spells out the possibility of violence by supporters of President Donald Trump on January 6, citing multiple protests that were scheduled to take place on Capitol grounds that day.

It noted the “Stop the Steal” protest was promoted by the president himself and could draw thousands of people, as high-profile speakers – including members of Congress – were expected to attend.

“This combined with Stop the Steal’s propensity to attract white supremacists, militia members, and others who actively promote violence, may lead to a significantly dangerous situation for law enforcement and the general public alike,” the report said.

Expanded Coverage Module: Capitol-Siege-Module

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