California Tech Firms Move to Texas for Its “Laissez-Faire Environment”

(p. B1) Moves by high-profile companies to Texas from California are likely to improve the personal finances of executives and offer employees more affordable housing—but make little difference to the firms’ tax bills.

Oracle Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Co. are the latest big corporations to announce moves to the Lone Star State. Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla Inc., is also moving to Texas, and the electric car company is expanding there.

The announcements have highlighted the vastly different tax and regulatory systems in the country’s two most populous states. California relies more on taxing personal income, particularly of high-income households, and operates a growing regulatory structure. Texas leans on more regressive property and sales taxes and boasts a more laissez-faire environment. The biggest difference: High-paid executives who move can see their state income-tax bills go from 13.3% to nothing.

. . .

(p. B2) Changing addresses or even moving people and facilities doesn’t necessarily change a company’s tax costs on its own.

. . .

The bigger factor—outweighing any change in business taxes—is likely to be the lower cost of employing workers in the state. For most people, that calculation is more about housing costs, said Darien Shanske, a tax law professor at the University of California, Davis. Housing scarcity and land-use regulations are bigger drivers of payroll costs than taxes.

“Moving a headquarters to Austin where people can afford a place to live, that dominates whether they pay the personal income tax, for most people,” Mr. Shanske said.

For the full story, see:

Richard Rubin and Theo Francis. “Lower Costs Draw Tech Firms to Texas.” The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., Dec 17, 2020): B1-B2.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date December 16, 2020, and has the title “Texas’ Tax Advantage Is All About Individuals, Not Business Taxes.”)

Communists Want Chinese to Forget the Millions Who Starved Due to Mao’s “Great Leap Forward”

(p. A1) Modern lore has it that Mao Zedong’s eldest son, who was killed in a United Nations airstrike during the Korean War, had given away his position by firing up a stove to make egg fried rice.

That story didn’t sit right with the Chinese Academy of History, launched two years ago by Chinese leader Xi Jinping to counter negative views of the ruling Communist Party’s past.

In November [2020], on the 70th anniversary of Mao Anying’s death, the academy served up another version. Citing what it said were declassified telegrams and eyewitness accounts, the academy said in a social-media post that Mao was killed after enemy forces detected radio transmissions from his commander’s headquarters.

“These rumormongers have tied up Mao Anying with egg fried rice, gravely dwarfing the heroic image of Mao Anying’s brave sacrifice,” said the post, which has attracted about 1.9 million views. “Their hearts are vicious.” The academy attributed the egg fried rice story to the 2003 edition of a Chinese military officer’s memoir. It didn’t mention the book was published by the Chinese military’s official press.

The history academy is run by Gao Xiang, a 57-year-old historian turned propaganda official who has mixed traditional scholarship with viral marketing techniques to repackage the past in support of Mr. Xi’s vision for a resurgent China.

Mr. Gao and his academy are part of Mr. Xi’s push to harness history in the run-up to the Communist Party’s 100th anniversary this summer. Those efforts have culminated in a national propaganda campaign to promote party history, launched in February [2021], that experts describe as China’s largest (p. A10) mass-education drive since the Mao era.

. . .

Officials commissioned concerts with orchestral renditions of patriotic songs such as “Without the Communist Party, There Would Be No New China.” Bureaucrats and students competed in quizzes testing their knowledge of party trivia. Authorities revised books to play down Mao’s despotic missteps. The education ministry added questions on party history to this year’s college-entrance exams, to “guide students to inherit red genes.”

. . .

At Mr. Xi’s behest, the history academy was set up in January 2019 under the aegis of both the party’s propaganda department and the state-run Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, or CASS, giving party theorists direct control over its output.

. . .

Last year, it launched a journal, “Historical Review,” that offers commentary on current affairs and invokes history to counter criticism of Beijing’s policies.

In July, the journal featured two articles by Chinese researchers that promoted party narratives about China’s history in denouncing Georgetown University history professor James Millward, a critic of Beijing’s forced-assimilation campaign against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang. One article accused Mr. Millward of having “sinister motives” and smearing “vocational-education training centers” in Xinjiang as “political-training centers.”

Mr. Millward said the criticism distorted his writings and echoed how Beijing often mischaracterized foreign censure of its human-rights record as challenges to Chinese sovereignty.

. . .

Outside the academy, too, party historians are rewriting the past in ways that support Mr. Xi’s views. Past editions of “A Short History of the Chinese Communist Party,” an authoritative text for general audiences, devoted hefty passages to Mao’s “Great Leap Forward,” a disastrous economic program that led to one of history’s deadliest famines.

The revised version, published in February [2021], excises the earlier edition’s conclusion about the program and its fallout: “This bitter historical lesson shouldn’t be forgotten.” The new version also dropped detailed discussions of Mao’s mistakes in launching the Cultural Revolution, a series of purges against “counterrevolutionary elements” that ravaged Chinese society and left as many as millions of people dead. Instead, it focuses mainly on China’s industrial, technological and diplomatic achievements during that decade.

Also gone are well-known quotations from Deng Xiaoping, including his advice that China should “hide our light and bide our time,” or keep a low profile while accumulating strength. Another was a remark he made in 1989 as he prepared to relinquish his last official leadership post: “Building a nation’s fate on the reputation of one or two people is very unhealthy and very dangerous.”

Meanwhile, chapters were added that describe Mr. Xi as a visionary statesman whose authority as the party’s “core” leader must be upheld.

“Amid ten thousand majestic mountains, there must be a main peak,” reads the updated book, which devotes more than one-quarter of its 531 pages to Mr. Xi’s policies and achievements.

For the full story, see:

Chun Han Wong and Keith Zhai. “China Repackages History In Support of Xi’s Vision.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, June 16, 2021): A1 & A10.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed years, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date June 15, 2021, and has the title “China Repackages Its History in Support of Xi’s National Vision.”)

Federal Central Planners (and Cronies) Spent Hundreds of Millions of Strategic National Stockpile Funds on Emergent’s Outdated, Marginal Anthrax Vaccine, Leaving N95 Masks Unfunded

(p. 1) WASHINGTON — A year ago, President Donald J. Trump declared a national emergency, promising a wartime footing to combat the coronavirus. But as Covid-19 spread unchecked, sending thousands of dying people to the hospital, desperate pleas for protective masks and other medical supplies went unanswered.

Health workers resorted to wearing trash bags. Fearful hospital officials turned away sick patients. Governors complained about being left in the lurch. Today the shortage of basic supplies, alongside inadequate testing and the slow vaccine rollout, stands as a symbol of the broken federal response to a worldwide calamity that has killed more than a half-million Americans.

Explanations about what went wrong have devolved into partisan finger pointing, with Mr. Trump blaming the Obama administration for leaving the cupboard bare, and Democrats in Congress accusing Mr. Trump of negligence.

An investigation by The New York Times found a hidden explanation: Government purchases for the Strategic National Stockpile, the country’s emergency medical reserve where such equipment is kept, have largely been driven by the demands and financial interests of a handful of biotech firms that have specialized in products that address terrorist threats rather than infectious disease.

Chief among them is Emergent BioSolutions, a Maryland-based company now manufacturing Covid-19 vaccines for AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. Last year, as the pandemic raced across the country, the government paid Emergent $626 million for products that included vaccines to fight an entirely different threat: a terrorist attack using anthrax.

Throughout most of the last decade, the government has spent nearly half of the stockpile’s half-billion-dollar annual budget on the company’s anthrax vaccines, The Times found. That left the government with less money to buy supplies needed in a pandemic, despite repeatedly being advised to do so.

Under normal circumstances, Emergent’s relationship with the federal stockpile would be of little public interest — an obscure contractor in an obscure corner of the federal bureaucracy applying the standard tools of Washington, like well-connected lobbyists and campaign contributions, to create a business heavily dependent on taxpayer dollars.

Security concerns, moreover, keep most information about (p. 18) stockpile purchases under wraps. Details about the contracts and inventory are rarely made public, and even the storage locations are secret.

But with the stockpile now infamous for what it doesn’t have, The Times penetrated this clandestine world by examining more than 40,000 pages of documents, some previously undisclosed, and interviewing more than 60 people with inside knowledge of the stockpile.

Former Emergent employees, government contractors, members of Congress, biodefense experts and current and former officials from agencies that oversee the stockpile described a deeply dysfunctional system that contributed to the shocking shortages last year. Their accounts were confirmed by federal budget and contracting records, agency planning documents, court filings, corporate disclosures and transcripts of congressional hearings and investor presentations. Continue reading “Federal Central Planners (and Cronies) Spent Hundreds of Millions of Strategic National Stockpile Funds on Emergent’s Outdated, Marginal Anthrax Vaccine, Leaving N95 Masks Unfunded”

“All Seasons Press” Will Publish Books Cancelled by Mainstream

(p. B4) Two veteran book-publishing executives have teamed up to launch a conservative publishing house called All Seasons Press LLC as ideological debates roil a book industry increasingly fueled by demand for political titles.

Louise Burke, the former president and publisher of Simon & Schuster’s Gallery Books Group, and Kate Hartson, whom Hachette Book Group dismissed as editorial director of its Center Street imprint earlier this year, said conservative authors are finding it harder to get published in the post-Trump era.

“I’m increasingly concerned and somewhat outraged about what’s going on in terms of free speech and free press,” said Ms. Burke, who retired in August 2017 after a 40-year career.

. . .

The company’s launch comes as some conservatives allege that much of the nation’s news media, publishers and mainstream social-media platforms are biased against them. They are looking to set up alternatives that they say better support free speech.

For the full story, see:

Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg. “Book Imprint to Serve Conservative Voices.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, June 16, 2021): B4.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated June 15, 2021, and has the title “New Book Publisher Caters to Conservative Voices.”)

Shi Modified Bat Coronaviruses in Low Biosafety Wuhan Labs

(p. A1) Shi Zhengli, a top Chinese virologist, is once again at the center of clashing narratives about her research on coronaviruses at a state lab in Wuhan, the city where the pandemic first emerged.

The idea that the virus may have escaped from a lab had long been widely dismissed by scientists as implausible and shunned by others for its connection with former President Donald J. Trump. But fresh scrutiny from the Biden administration and calls for greater candor from prominent scientists have brought the theory back to the fore.

. . .

(p. A8) The Wuhan Institute of Virology employs nearly 300 people and is home to one of only two Chinese labs that have been given the highest security designation, Biosafety Level 4. Dr. Shi leads the institute’s work on emerging infectious diseases, and over the years, her group has collected over 10,000 bat samples from around China.

Under China’s centralized approach to scientific research, the institute answers to the Communist Party, which wants scientists to serve national goals. “Science has no borders, but scientists have a motherland,” Xi Jinping, the country’s leader, said in a speech to scientists last year.

Dr. Shi herself, though, does not belong to the Communist Party, according to official Chinese media reports, which is unusual for state employees of her status.

. . .

. . . some of her most notable findings have since drawn the heaviest scrutiny. In recent years, Dr. Shi began experimenting on bat coronaviruses by genetically modifying them to see how they behave.

In 2017, she and her colleagues at the Wuhan lab published a paper about an experiment in which they created new hybrid bat coronaviruses by mixing and matching parts of several existing ones — including at least one that was nearly transmissible to humans — in order to study their ability to infect and replicate in human cells.

Proponents of this type of research say it helps society prepare for future outbreaks. Critics say the risks of creating dangerous new pathogens may outweigh potential benefits.

The picture has been complicated by new questions about whether American government funding that went to Dr. Shi’s work supported controversial gain-of-function research. The Wuhan institute received around $600,000 in grant money from the United States government, through an American nonprofit called EcoHealth Alliance. The National Institutes of Health said it had not approved funding for the nonprofit to conduct gain-of-function research on coronaviruses that would have made them more infectious or lethal.

Dr. Shi, in an emailed response to questions, argued that her experiments differed from gain-of-function work because she did not set out to make a virus more dangerous, but to understand how it might jump across species.

“My lab has never conducted or cooperated in conducting GOF experiments that enhance the virulence of viruses,” she said.

. . .

Concerns have centered not only on what experiments Dr. Shi conducted, but also on the conditions under which she did them.

Some of Dr. Shi’s experiments on bat viruses were done in Biosafety Level 2 labs, where security is lower than in other labs at the institute. That has raised questions about whether a dangerous pathogen could have slipped out.

Ralph Baric, a prominent University of North Carolina expert in coronaviruses who signed the open letter in Science, said that although a natural origin of the virus was likely, he supported a review of what level of biosafety precautions were taken in studying bat coronaviruses at the Wuhan institute. Dr. Baric conducted N.I.H.-approved gain-of-function research at his lab at the University of North Carolina using information on viral genetic sequences provided by Dr. Shi.

Dr. Shi said that bat viruses in China could be studied in BSL-2 labs because there was no evidence that they directly infected humans, a view supported by some other scientists.

For the full story, see:

Amy Qin and Chris Buckley. “Chinese Scientist Under Pressure As Lab-Leak Theory Flourishes.” The New York Times (Tuesday, June 15, 2021): A1 & A8.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date June 14, 2021, and has the title “A Top Virologist in China, at Center of a Pandemic Storm, Speaks Out.”)

David Ellison Took Flak for Hiring Cancelled Animation Innovator

(p. 1) Mr. Ellison, the son of Larry Ellison, a co-founder of Oracle, sure looked like “dumb money.” That is the Hollywood term for a gullible, affluent outsider bitten by the movie bug, the type of investor that studios have long counted on to keep their assembly lines running, despite it almost always ending poorly (for the newcomer). The young Mr. Ellison couldn’t stop talking about his love of cinema, in particular big-budget spectacles. He had just dropped out of the University of Southern California to act in a $60 million movie called “Flyboys,” a World War I aerial combat tale.

Partly financed with Ellison money, “Flyboys” arrived to a disastrous $6 million in ticket sales. But no matter: The scion was on Hollywood’s radar.

Along with his wallet.

Soon enough Mr. Ellison had given up acting and by 2010 had become a financier and producer for Paramount Pictures, pouring $350 million of equity and debt into movies like “Star Trek Into Darkness” and “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol.” But Hollywood snickered at his effort to be taken seriously as a creative force, as did the news media.

. . .

(p. 10) Mr. Ellison . . . enraged half of Hollywood by abruptly announcing in January 2019 that John Lasseter, co-founder of Pixar, would join Skydance as animation chief. Mr. Lasseter (“Toy Story,” “Cars”) was radioactive at the time, having resigned seven months earlier as Disney’s chief creative officer amid #MeToo complaints about unwanted workplace hugging and imperious behavior. (Mr. Lasseter had apologized for “missteps” that made some Disney-Pixar staff members feel “disrespected or uncomfortable.”)

People like Mr. Ellison typically sulk off to some luxury hideaway at this point in the script to nurse their wounds. (Lanai, the Hawaiian island owned by his father, would do nicely.) Accustomed to floating through life, they seem unable to cope with anything less, especially if it means admitting missteps.

Instead, Mr. Ellison served up a major plot twist.

He raised $275 million by selling 10 percent of Skydance to investors like RedBird Capital, a private investment firm, and CJ Entertainment, the Korean company behind the Oscar-winning “Parasite.” He lined up $1 billion in revolving credit through JPMorgan Chase. And Skydance made a sharp turn toward streaming, selling attention-getting content to whichever service wanted to pay the most.

So far, the result has been nothing short of remarkable, in part because Mr. Ellison’s timing was fortuitous. The pandemic supercharged home entertainment.

For the full story, see:

Brooks Barnes. “Not Such ‘Dumb Money’ After All.” The New York Times, SundayBusiness Section (Sunday, June 20, 2021): 1 & 10-11.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date June 16, 2021, and has the title “Dumb Money No More: How David Ellison Became a Hollywood High Flier.”)

“No Sign” That World’s Largest Iceberg Is Due to Global Warming

(p. 16) An iceberg nearly half the size of Puerto Rico that broke off the edge of Antarctica last week is now the world’s largest, researchers said.

The iceberg, known as A76, following a naming convention established by the National Ice Center, naturally split from Antarctica’s Ronne Ice Shelf into the Weddell Sea through a process known as calving, the center said.

It measures about 1,668 square miles (4,320 square kilometers), making it larger than A23a, an iceberg that formed in 1986 and had a total area of more than 1,500 square miles (4,000 square kilometers) in January [2021].

Researchers sought to put the formation of A76 in context, saying that the forces that severed it from the Ronne Ice Shelf were part of the shelf’s normal life span and may not be directly related to climate change.

The iceberg will not add to sea level rise as it melts; as floating ice, it is already displacing the same volume of water it will add as it melts.

Christopher A. Shuman, a research professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, likened the Ronne Ice Shelf’s calving process to a manicure: If it’s the white part of your fingernail that gets clipped off, it’s not a problem.

“There is really essentially no sign that this is an unusual event with climate significance,” Dr. Shuman said.

For the full story, see:

Claire Fahy. “World’s Largest Iceberg May Not Be a Result of Climate Change, Experts Say.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, May 23, 2021): 16.

(Note: bracketed year added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date May 20, 2021, and has the title “Iceberg Splits From Antarctica, Becoming World’s Largest.”)

Government Cover Ups

(p. 230) It’s hard enough to find out about the things the universe prefers to keep hidden without our government, which somebody you know must have voted for, covering up what has already been found. Sometimes, of course, it hides things to save its own neck and sometimes seemingly just for the hell of it.

Norman Maclean’s musings, quoted above, are from his wonderful prize-winning account of the Mann Gulch fire in which Wag Dodge spontaneously invented a way to save his life from the wall of fire speeding toward him:

Maclean, Norman. Young Men and Fire. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017 [first edition 1992].

Entrepreneur Pan Leaves Communist China After Xi Arrests Human Rights Defender and Friend

(p. B1) China’s economy is on a tear. Factories are humming, and foreign investment is flowing in. Even so, the wealthy and powerful people atop some of the country’s most prominent companies are heading for the exits.

The latest are Pan Shiyi and Zhang Xin, the husband-and-wife team that runs Soho China, a property developer known for its blobby, futuristic office buildings. In striking a deal this week to sell a controlling stake to the investment giant Blackstone for as much as $3 billion, Mr. Pan and Ms. Zhang are turning over the company as high-profile entrepreneurs come under public and official scrutiny in China like never before.

. . .

(p. B5) “For big tycoons in China, nowadays they need to be careful in general,” said Ling Chen, who studies state-business relations in China at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

. . .

Mr. Pan was . . . one of the first Chinese business leaders to recognize the power of the internet in marketing and public relations. He wrote a popular blog in the 2000s. Then, when the Twitter-like social media platform Weibo came along, he quickly became one of its most influential voices, amassing more than 20 million followers.

. . .

He was never too pointed in expressing his opinions. But he wanted China to learn from its mistakes, such as its cruel treatment of the moneyed and educated classes during the Cultural Revolution.

After Mr. Xi took office as China’s top leader in 2013, the authorities began going after businesspeople and intellectuals with big online followings. The police that year arrested Wang Gongquan, a friend of Mr. Pan’s and supporter of human rights causes, on charges of disrupting public order.

Mr. Pan and Ms. Zhang began selling off property holdings in China and spending more time in the United States.

For the full story, see:

Raymond Zhong. “A Chinese Power Couple Cashes Out.” The New York Times (Friday, June 18, 2021): B1 & B5.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date June 17, 2021, and has the title “As China Scrutinizes Its Entrepreneurs, a Power Couple Cashes Out.”)

To Extort U.S. Firms, Xi Passes Laws that Firms Cannot Obey

(p. B1) Doug Guthrie spent 1994 riding a single-speed bicycle between factories in Shanghai for a dissertation on Chinese industry. Within years, he was one of America’s leading experts on China’s turn toward capitalism and was helping companies venture East.

Two decades later, in 2014, Apple hired him to help navigate perhaps its most important market. By then, he was worried about China’s new direction.

China’s new leader, Xi Jinping, was leaning on Western companies to strengthen his grip on the country. Mr. Guthrie realized that few companies were bigger targets, or more vulnerable, than Apple. It assembled nearly every Apple device in China and had made the region its No. 2 sales market.

So Mr. Guthrie began touring the company with a slide show and lecture to ring the alarm. Apple, he said, had no Plan B.

“I was going around to business leaders, and I’m like: ‘Do you guys understand who Xi Jinping is? Are you listening to what’s going on here?’” Mr. Guthrie said in an interview. “That was my big calling card.”

His warnings were prescient. China has taken a nationalist, au-(p. B3)thoritarian turn under Mr. Xi, and American companies like Apple, Nike and the National Basketball Association are facing a dilemma. While doing business in China often remains lucrative, it also increasingly requires uncomfortable compromises.

That trend raises the question of whether, instead of empowering the Chinese people, American investment in the country has empowered the Chinese Communist Party.

. . .

Mr. Guthrie’s career arc and evolving view of China tell the story of Western industry’s complicated dance with the country over the past three decades. Mr. Guthrie and many executives, politicians and academics had bet that Western investment in China would lead the country to liberalize. It is now clear that they miscalculated.

“We were wrong,” said Mr. Guthrie, who left Apple in 2019. “The wild card was Xi Jinping.”

In recent years, China shut down Marriott’s website after it listed Tibet and Taiwan as separate countries in a customer survey. It suspended sign-ups to LinkedIn after the site failed to censor enough political content. And the Communist Party urged a boycott of Western apparel companies that criticized forced-labor practices in Xinjiang, a Chinese region where the government is repressing Uyghurs, the country’s Muslim ethnic minority.

. . .

In 2014, China’s so-called dispatch labor law went into effect, limiting the share of temporary workers in a company’s work force to 10 percent. From Day 1, Apple and its suppliers were in violation.

At a Foxconn plant in Zhengzhou, China, the world’s biggest iPhone factory, temporary workers made up as much as half of the work force, according to a report by China Labor Watch, an advocacy group. After the report, Apple confirmed that the factory broke the law.

Apple executives were concerned and confused, Mr. Guthrie said. They knew the company couldn’t comply because it needed the extra workers to meet periods of intense demand, such as the holidays.

. . .

“‘This is the point. You are supposed to be out of compliance,’” he said he had told them. “‘Not so they can shut you down, but so you’ll figure out what they want you to do and figure out how to do it.’”

Mr. Guthrie, who is often tucking his long, graying hair behind his ears, began giving his lecture on Apple’s risk in China around that time. Its extreme reliance on the country left it with little leverage to resist.

Apple continued to grapple with demands from the government.

. . .

To measure the success of their lobbying, Apple executives looked to the government’s annual corporate social responsibility scores, a proxy for the Communist Party’s view of a company.

. . .

Apple’s score steadily improved. From 2016 to 2020, its ranking among all companies in China rose from No. 141 to No. 30.

Apple didn’t always successfully resist the government’s demands. Over that period, Mr. Cook had agreed to store his Chinese customers’ private data — and the digital keys to unlock that data — on computer servers owned and run by the Chinese government.

For the full story, see:

Jack Nicas. “A Warning On China Is Prescient For Apple.” The New York Times (Friday, June 18, 2021): B1 & B3.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date June 17, 2021, and has the title “He Warned Apple About the Risks in China. Then They Became Reality.”)

Labrador Noses May Be Cheaper and More Accurate Than Rapid Antigen Test at Detecting Covid-19

(p. A1) . . . three Labradors, operating out of a university clinic in Bangkok, are part of a global corps of dogs being trained to sniff out Covid-19 in people. Preliminary studies, conducted in multiple countries, suggest that their detection rate may surpass that of the rapid antigen testing often used in airports and other public places.

. . .

(p. A6) . . . as a group, the dogs being trained in Thailand — Angel, Bobby, Bravo and three others, Apollo, Tiger and Nasa — accurately detected the virus 96.2 percent of the time in controlled settings, according to university researchers. Studies in Germany and the United Arab Emirates had lower but still impressive results.

Sniffer dogs work faster and far more cheaply than polymerase chain reaction, or P.C.R., testing, their proponents say. An intake of air through their sensitive snouts is enough to identify within a second the volatile organic compound or cocktail of compounds that are produced when a person with Covid-19 sheds damaged cells, researchers say.

“P.C.R. tests are not immediate, and there are false negative results, while we know that dogs can detect Covid in its incubation phase,” said Dr. Anne-Lise Chaber, an interdisciplinary health expert at the School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences at the University of Adelaide in Australia who has been working for six months with 15 Covid-sniffing dogs.

Some methods of detection, like temperature screening, can’t identify infected people who have no symptoms. But dogs can, because the infected lungs and trachea produce a trademark scent. And dogs need fewer molecules to nose out Covid than are required for P.C.R. testing, Thai researchers said.

The Thai Labradors are part of a research project run jointly by Chulalongkorn University and Chevron. The oil company had previously used dogs to test its offshore employees for illegal drug use, and a Thai manager wondered whether the animals could do the same with the coronavirus.

. . .

Dogs, whose wet snouts have up to 300 million olfactory receptors compared with roughly six million for humans, can be trained to memorize about 10 smell patterns for a specific compound, Dr. Kaywalee said. Dogs can also smell through another organ nestled between their noses and mouths.

Some research has suggested that dogs of various breeds may be able to detect diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, malaria and certain cancers — that is, the volatile organic compounds or bodily fluids associated with them.

Labradors are among the smartest breeds, said Lertchai Chaumrattanakul, who leads Chevron’s part of the dog project. They are affable, too, making them the ideal doggy detector: engaged and eager.

Mr. Lertchai noted that Labradors are expensive, about $2,000 each in Thailand. But the cotton swabs and other basic equipment for canine testing work out to about 75 cents per sample. That is much cheaper than what’s needed for other types of rapid screening.

For the full commentary, see:

Hannah Beech. “The Best Rapid Covid-19 Test Adores Treats and Belly Rubs.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, June 1, 2021): A1 & A6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date May 31, 2021, and has the title “On the Covid Front Lines, When Not Getting Belly Rubs.”)