Trump threatens permanent freeze on WHO funding

Trump tells WHO chief he will reconsider US membership unless health agency demonstrates independence from China.

US President Donald Trump has threatened to permanently halt funding for the World Health Organization (WHO) if it does not commit to “substantive improvements” within 30 days.

In a letter to Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the WHO, Trump criticised what he said were repeated “missteps” in the global health agency’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak. The “only way forward for the [WHO] is if it can actually demonstrate independence from China,” Trump wrote.

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“If the WHO does not commit to major substantive improvements within the next 30 days, I will make my temporary freeze of United States funding to the WHO permanent and reconsider our membership,” he said in the letter posted on Twitter.

Trump suspended the US’s contributions to the WHO last month, accusing it of promoting China’s “disinformation” about the coronavirus outbreak. Officials at the United Nations health agency have denied the accusations and China says it has been transparent and open.

In his letter, Trump listed what he said were examples of the WHO’s shortcomings in managing the pandemic, including ignoring early reports of the emergence of the virus.

He accused the UN body of caving in to Chinese pressure by declining to declare the new coronavirus a global health emergency in the initial days of the outbreak. He went on to criticise the WHO for praising China’s “transparency”, despite reports Beijing had punished several doctors in Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, for speaking out about the viral infection in late December. 

Bitter dispute

The US and China are locked in an increasingly bitter dispute about the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 300,000 people and brought the global economy to a standstill. Critics say Trump who had earlier praised China’s response, is trying to divert attention from his handling of the pandemic in the US, which has suffered by far the highest death toll.

The WHO has now bowed to calls from most of its member states to launch an independent probe into how it managed the international response to the pandemic. The probe is expected to shed light on the origins of the virus and China’s early handling of the outbreak.

During a virtual meeting of the WHO’s annual assembly earlier on Monday, Tedros acknowledged there had been shortcomings and told the assembly he welcomed calls for a review.

“We all have lessons to learn from the pandemic. Every country and every organisation must examine its response and learn from its experience. WHO is committed to transparency, accountability and continuous improvement,” Tedros said. 

The review must encompass responsibility of “all actors in good faith”, he added. 

But he also emphasised that the WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak to be a global health emergency on January 30, its highest level of alert, at a time when there were fewer than 100 cases outside of China. In the following weeks, the WHO warned countries there was a narrowing “window of opportunity” to prevent the virus from spreading globally.

The WHO declared the outbreak to be a pandemic on March 11, after the virus had killed thousands globally and sparked large epidemics in South Korea, Italy, Iran and elsewhere.

‘Wake-up call’

The agency’s seven-member internal oversight body also issued its first report of the organisation’s pandemic response on Monday, saying the WHO had “demonstrated leadership” in handling the pandemic between January and April.

The report backed a probe into the global response, but said conducting it during the heat of the pandemic “could disrupt WHO’s ability to respond effectively”.

The panel also defended the organisation, saying “an imperfect and evolving understanding” is not unusual during the early phase of a novel disease’s emergence and, in an apparent rejoinder to Trump, said “rising politicisation of pandemic response” was hindering the effort to defeat the virus.

China’s President Xi Jinping, in a speech to the World Health Assembly on Monday, fiercely defended his country’s response to the outbreak, saying: “All along we have acted with openness and transparency and accountability.”

Xi also pledged $2bn over two years to help with the COVID-19 response and said any vaccines developed against the disease by China would be made for the public good. 

Antonio Guterres, UN secretary-general, called for greater unity and solidarity, saying the COVID-19 crisis should serve as a “wake-up call”. 

“We have seen some solidarity, but very little unity, in our response to COVID-19. Different countries have followed different, sometimes contradictory, strategies and we are all paying a heavy price,” he said. 

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Trump supports Pompeo using government staff to wash his dishes if ‘his wife isn’t there’

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The Secretary of State has faced dual investigations by the department watchdog into whether he had staffers perform personal chores, and whether he looked to circumvent Congress in accelerating an arms deal with Saudi Arabia.

Trump spoke to reporters at the White House about the allegations of misuse of state employees.
He said: “Look, he’s a high quality person, Mike.

“He’s a very high quality, he’s a very brilliant guy.

“And now I have you telling me about dog walking, washing dishes and, you know what, I’d rather have him on the phone with some world leader than have him wash dishes because maybe his wife isn’t there or his kids aren’t there, you know.”

Despite Trump’s implication of multiple children, Pompeo and his wife only have one son.

It comes after Steve Linick, the State Department inspector general, was fired by President Trump last week.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday said that he asked President Donald Trump to remove State Department Inspector General Steve Linick because the independent watchdog was “undermining” the department and wasn’t performing in a way that the top US diplomat wanted him to.

Pompeo told the Washington Post: “I went to the President and made clear to him that Inspector General Linick wasn’t performing a function in a way that we had tried to get him to, that was additive for the State Department, very consistent with what the statute says he’s supposed to be doing

“The kinds of activities he’s supposed to undertake to make us better, to improve us.”

Mr Linick was investigating whether Pompeo made a White House staffer perform personal errands, such as walking his dog and picking up dry cleaning.

The alleged investigation was revealed by a Democratic aide to CNN on Sunday.

A senior State Department official previously confirmed to CNN that Pompeo recommended Linick be removed, but they did not know the reasons why.

Pompeo also refused to sit for an interview with Linick’s office as part of its probe into the administration’s move to bypass Congress and expedite last year’s $8 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia by declaring an emergency, a congressional aide told CNN Monday.

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Trump also said on Monday that he didn’t “know anything about” investigations into Pompeo, looking to dismiss the probe’s gravity in comparing it to the nation’s recovery efforts from coronavirus.

Trump said of Pompeo: “You mean he’s under investigation because he had somebody walk his dog from the government? “I don’t know, doesn’t sound, I don’t think it sounds like that important.”

“Maybe he’s busy, and maybe he’s negotiating with Kim Jong Un, OK, about nuclear weapons. So that he’d say, ‘Please, could you walk my dog? Do you mind walking my dog? I’m talking to Kim Jong Un.’

”Or, ‘I’m talking to President Xi about paying us for some of the damage they’ve caused to the world and to us, please walk my dog.’

“To who, a Secret Service person or somebody, right?”

In May 2019, the Trump administration declared emergency to bypass Congress and expedite arms sales worth billions of dollars.

The countries included Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and cited the need to deter “the malign influence” of Iran in the Middle East.

When pressed on whether Pompeo tried to subvert Congress’ will concerning the Saudi arms deal, Trump said: “I don’t think so.

“I mean, I think that when somebody pays us a fortune for arms, we should get the deal done, I will tell you that.”

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DJ says elderly should ‘sacrifice themselves to coronavirus’ to save economy

A DJ has said elderly people should "sacrifice themselves to coronavirus" to save the economy.

Glenn Beck, 56, says they should carry on as normal and keep working to ensure the economy survives.

His comments come despite repeated warnings that they are the most at risk of the deadline COVID-19 bug.

Speaking from his home in Dallas, he said: "I would rather have my children stay home and all of us who are over 50 go in and keep this economy going and working.

"Even if we all get sick, I would rather die than kill the country. Because it’s not the economy that’s dying, it’s the country."

The anti-abortion campaigner, who sees abortion as "evil", is in the high risk category himself.

He said: "In Italy they’re saying if you’re sick and you’re 60, don’t even come in. So I’m in the danger zone."

President Donald Trump has vowed to reopen the US by April 12 in time for Easter after stating that "the cure (for coronavirus) cannot be worse than the solution."

Despite warnings from health experts President Trump, aims to boost the economy by opening the US within a few weeks.

So far there have been 65,797 cases and 935 deaths.

Currently the USA has placed a lockdown in a number of states – a growing number of places have a "shelter in place" order.

Mr Trump has banned all travel from from Europe in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The ban covers all of mainland Europe and is in place for the next 30 days.

The UK government has advised all citizens who are over the age of 70 to stay indoors, which could possibly be for up to four months.

This is in a bid to protect them from the outbreak and to prevent spreading of the disease that has gripped the world.

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