Trump says halting World Health Organization funding over its handling of virus

US President Donald Trump stands with Healthcare CEOs during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, in the Rose Garden of the White House on April 14, 2020, in Washington, DC. (AFP)
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Updated 15 April 2020

Trump says halting World Health Organization funding over its handling of virus

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he would halt funding to the World Health Organization over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic while his administration reviews its response to the global crisis.
Trump, at a White House news conference, said the WHO had “failed in its basic duty and it must be held accountable.” He said the group had promoted China’s “disinformation” about the virus that likely led to a wider outbreak of the virus than otherwise would have occurred.
The United States is the biggest overall donor to the Geneva-based WHO, contributing more than $400 million in 2019, roughly 15% of its budget.
The hold on funding was expected. Trump has been increasingly critical of the organization as the global health crisis has continued, and he has reacted angrily to criticism of his administration’s response.
The decision drew immediate condemnation. American Medical Association President Dr. Patrice Harris called it “a dangerous step in the wrong direction that will not make defeating COVID-19 easier” and urged Trump to reconsider.
Democratic Representative Nita Lowey, who heads the US House of Representatives Committee that sets government spending, said Trump was making a mistake.
“The coronavirus cannot just be defeated here in the United States, it has to be defeated in every conceivable location throughout the world,” she said in a statement.
The Republican president recently accused the WHO of being too lenient with China in the earliest days of the crisis, despite having himself praised China in January for its response and transparency.
Trump has made frequent use of scapegoats during his short political career. He often lashes out at the media, Democrats, or other when he feels attacked or under pressure.
Trump said the WHO failed to investigate credible reports from sources in China’s Wuhan province that conflicted with Beijing’s accounts about the coronavirus’ spread and “parroted and publicly endorsed” the idea that human to human transmission was not happening.
“Had the WHO done its job to get medical experts into China to objectively assess the situation on the ground and to call out China’s lack of transparency, the outbreak could have been contained ... with very little death,” Trump said.
Trump said the US review of the WHO was likely to take 60-90 days.
Illness, death and economic chaos

The US death toll from COVID-19, the highly contagious respiratory illness caused by the virus, topped 25,700 on Tuesday, out of more than 600,000 known US infections, according to a running Reuters tally.
Millions of Americans have lost their jobs, and the US economy has been crippled as citizens have stayed home and businesses closed, casting a shadow over Trump’s hopes of being re-elected in November.
The World Health Organization is a UN specialized agency — an independent international body that works with the United Nations. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Tuesday it was “not the time” to reduce resources for the World Health Organization.
“Now is the time for unity and for the international community to work together in solidarity to stop this virus and its shattering consequences,” he said.
Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, said the WHO does make mistakes and may need reform, but that work needs to take place after the current crisis has passed.
“It’s not the middle of a pandemic that you do this type of thing,” he said.
Adalja said the WHO collects information about where the virus is active in every county in the world, which the United States needs to help guide decisions about when to open borders.
The WHO has been appealing for more than $1 billion to fund operations against the pandemic. The agency needs more resources than ever as it leads the global response against the disease.
Trump said Washington would discuss with global health partners what it will do with the millions of dollars that would normally go to the WHO and said the United States would continue to engage with the organization.
Trump has long questioned the value of the United Nations and scorned the importance of multilateralism as he focuses on an “America First” agenda. Since taking office, Trump has quit the UN Human Rights Council, the UN cultural agency UNESCO, a global accord to tackle climate change and the Iran nuclear deal.
Under the WHO’s 2018-19 biennium budget, the United States was required to pay $237 million — known as an assessed contribution, which is appropriated by Congress — and also made some $656 million in voluntary contributions that were tied to specific programs.
Voluntary US funding for the WHO has been used to address such health issues as polio eradication, vaccines, combat HIV, hepatitis and tuberculosis and the health of women, newborns and children.


Law to protect soldiers would be ‘dangerous’ to UK forces’ reputation, PM warned

Updated 30 min 58 sec ago

Law to protect soldiers would be ‘dangerous’ to UK forces’ reputation, PM warned

  • “This bill would be a stain on the country’s reputation,” military and political figures said
  • “To create de facto impunity for such crimes would be a damaging signal for Britain to send to the world,” the letter added

LONDON: A bill that aims to repress claims against British troops was “dangerous and harmful” to the reputation of the UK’s armed forces and the safety of its personnel, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been warned.
Military and political figures have encouraged the British premier to reconsider the “ill-conceived” legislation, which will return to the House of Commons next week, The Times reported.
Former head of the armed forces , Field Marshal Charles Guthrie, ex-defense secretary, Malcolm Rifkind, and former attorney-general, Dominic Grieve, sent a letter to Johnson on Thursday sharing their concerns about the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill, the British newspaper said.
The draft law seeks to limit false and old allegations against personnel through measures including a statutory presumption against criminal prosecution five years after an alleged crime.
Compelling new evidence must be presented, and the attorney-general’s consent secured in order for the presumption to be overruled. The bill is only applicable to overseas operations.
In the letter, Guthrie and other signatories said: “We find it disturbing that the government’s approach … creates a presumption against prosecution of torture and other grave crimes (with only rape and sexual violence excepted) after five years.
“We believe that the effective application of existing protocols removes the risk of vexatious prosecution. To create de facto impunity for such crimes would be a damaging signal for Britain to send to the world.
“This bill would be a stain on the country’s reputation. It would increase the danger to British soldiers if Britain is perceived as reluctant to act in accordance with long-established international law,” they added.
Britain’s most senior military judge had warned defense secretary, Ben Wallace, that the legislation could leave British troops more likely to face prosecution for war crimes at the International Criminal Court at The Hague, The Times revealed in June.
As the legislation sets out protections relating only to domestic crimes, it could encourage police and prosecutors to focus on pursuing war-crime charges, Judge Jeffrey Blackett said.
The Ministry of Defense has said that the legislation “strikes the right balance” between the rights of victims and “fairness to those who defend this country.”