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Trump threatens to slash US funding to World Health Organization

US President Donald Trump threatened to freeze American funding to the World Health Organization (WHO), saying it “missed the call” on the coronavirus pandemic, which has so far killed more than 82,000 people around the world. Trump said on Tuesday the WHO was “very China-centric” in its approach, suggesting the UN agency had gone along…

Trump threatens to slash US funding to World Health Organization

US President Donald Trump threatened to freeze American funding to the World Health Organization (WHO), saying it “missed the call” on the coronavirus pandemic, which has so far killed more than 82,000 people around the world.
Trump said on Tuesday the WHO was “very China-centric” in its approach, suggesting the UN agency had gone along with Beijing’s efforts months ago to minimise the severity of the outbreak.
“The WHO really blew it,” Trump said in a Twitter post. 
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Trump declared he would cut off funding from the United States for the organisation, before backtracking and saying he would “strongly consider” such a move.
The United States is the top donor to the Geneva-based body. US contributions to WHO in 2019 exceeded $400m, almost double the second-largest member-state contribution.
China, in contrast, contributed $44m.
‘Now is not the time’
World Health Organization officials on Wednesday denied it was “China-centric” and said the acute phase of a pandemic was not the time to cut funding.

“We are still in the acute phase of a pandemic so now is not the time to cut back on funding,” Dr Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, told a virtual briefing in response to a question about Trump’s remarks.
Dr Bruce Aylward, senior advisor to the WHO director general, also defended the UN agency’s relationship with China, saying its work with Beijing authorities was important to understand the outbreak, which began in Wuhan, China.
“It was absolutely critical in the early part of this outbreak to have full access to everything possible, to get on the ground and work with the Chinese to understand this,” he told reporters. “This is what we did with every other hard hit country like Spain and had nothing to do with China specifically.”
‘Deceptive and slow’
Trump’s conservatives allies have also increasingly criticised the WHO, accusing the organisation of relying on faulty data from China about the pandemic.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a close ally of Trump, vowed there would not be any funding for the WHO in the next Senate appropriations bill.
“I’m in charge of the appropriations subcommittee. I’m not going to support funding the WHO under its current leadership. They’ve been deceptive, they’ve been slow, and they’ve been Chinese apologists,” Graham said in an interview with Fox News.
Last week, Republican Senator Marco Rubio called for the resignation of WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, saying “he allowed Beijing to use the WHO to mislead the global community”.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric rejected the criticism of the UN agency.
“For the Secretary General [Antonio Guterres] it is clear that WHO, under the leadership of Dr Tedros, has done tremendous work on COVID in supporting countries with millions of pieces of equipment being shipped out, on helping countries with training, on providing global guidelines. WHO is showing the strength of the international health system,” he told reporters.
Dujarric added the WHO also recently did “tremendous work” in putting its staff on the frontlines to successfully fight Ebola, an infectious and often fatal disease, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Voiced scepticism
The WHO has praised China for its transparency on the virus, even though there has been some reason to believe that more people died of the disease, also known as COVID-19, than the country’s official tally.
“They should have known and they probably did know,” Trump said of WHO officials.
Health experts have suggested the weekly death totals will reach a new high in the United States this week. More than 12,000 people have died from the virus in the US so far with about 370,000 confirmed infections.Nearly 800 people died on Tuesday in New York state, the epicentre of the US crisis.
Throughout his presidency, Trump has voiced scepticism towards many international organisations and has repeatedly heaped scorn on the WHO.

In its most recent budget proposal in February, the Trump administration called for slashing the US contribution to the agency to $57.9m, from an estimated $122.6m.
Jeremy Konyndyk, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development, said the last thing the US and the WHO need right now is this sort of a fight.
“It is a distraction from the need to focus on defeating this pandemic,” he told Al Jazeera.
“No virus has a nationality and it is down to how the countries have handled the threat. The core information that was needed to understand this risk was available by the end of January – and it was available through the WHO. That information still is very accurate in terms of transmissibility and lethality of this disease, so that really should have been all for any country to take it seriously,” Konyndyk said.
“In general, I think the WHO has been further ahead of the curve and understanding the risk of the virus than Trump’s own administration has, so I don’t think WHO is to be blamed for the US’s sluggish response.” 
The WHO’s current guidance does not advocate closing borders or restricting travel, although many nations, including the United States, have taken such steps.
The WHO declared COVID-19 a public health emergency on January 30, nearly a month before Trump tweeted: “The coronavirus is very much under control in the USA,” and a full 43 days before he declared a national emergency in the US.
Health experts have suggested the weekly death toll will reach a new high in the US this week. Almost 13,000 people have died from the virus in the country as of Wednesday.
Trump also played down the release of January memos from a senior adviser warning of a possible coronavirus pandemic, saying he had not seen them at the time.
Moussa FakiMahamat, chairperson of the African Union, expressed dismay at the US president’s WHO criticism.
“Surprised to learn of a campaign by the US government against the WHO’s global leadership,” he tweeted.

Surprised to learn of a campaign by the US govt against @WHO’s global leadership. The @_AfricanUnion fully supports @WHO and @DrTedros. The focus should remain on collectively fighting #Covid19 as a united global community. The time for accountability will come.
— Moussa Faki Mahamat (@AUC_MoussaFaki) April 8, 2020

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firing

Turkey threatens ‘response’ if EU imposes sanctions |NationalTribune.com

Turkey will respond if the European Union imposes further sanctions on Ankara, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday after meeting the EU’s top diplomat. France’s foreign minister said last week EU ministers would discuss Turkey on July 13 and said new sanctions on Ankara could be considered in addition to steps taken over Turkey’s…

Turkey threatens ‘response’ if EU imposes sanctions |NationalTribune.com

Turkey will respond if the European Union imposes further sanctions on Ankara, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday after meeting the EU’s top diplomat.
France’s foreign minister said last week EU ministers would discuss Turkey on July 13 and said new sanctions on Ankara could be considered in addition to steps taken over Turkey’s drilling in the Cyprus economic zone.
“If the EU takes additional decisions against Turkey, we will have to respond to this,” Cavusoglu told a news conference with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell in Turkey’s capital.
As relations deteriorated between the bloc and Ankara, the European Union imposed a travel ban and asset freezes on two people in February for their role in Turkey’s drilling in Cyprus’ maritime economic zone off the divided island.

Cavusoglu berated the EU for failing to fulfil promises and linking issues such as the Cyprus dispute and a 2016 migrant deal. He said Turkey would not allow itself to be held hostage by Greece and Cyprus and called on the EU to be an “honest broker”.
“We want to work with the EU … [but] if the EU takes additional decisions against Turkey, we will be forced to reciprocate. The situation will become more tense and this will serve no one. Our expectation is for the EU not to be a party to the problem but to be a part of the solution,” said Cavusoglu.
Libya conflict
Earlier this year, tens of thousands of migrants tried to cross into Greece via land and sea borders after Ankara said it would no longer stop them. The flow has slowed since then, but Cavusoglu said Turkey “will continue to implement its decision”.
Cavusoglu also repeated a call for France to apologise after an incident between Turkish and French warships in the Mediterranean, which prompted Paris to request a NATO investigation.
Last week, France temporarily suspended its role in a NATO maritime security operation after Paris accused Turkey of violating a UN arms embargo in Libya, where the two countries support different warring sides.
France’s temporary withdrawal from the Sea Guardian mission follows a dispute on whether a Turkish naval targeting radar “lit up” a French frigate in the Mediterranean in June.
“France was not honest,” Cavusoglu said. “It needs to apologise to Turkey and it needs to apologise to the EU and to NATO for deceiving them.”

Relations between the NATO members have soured over the Libya conflict, where Turkey supports the internationally recognised government and accuses Paris of backing the eastern-based forces of Khalifa Haftar, who tried to capture the capital Tripoli for 14 months but was forced to retreat last month.
France has denied backing Haftar’s offensive on the capital, and accused Turkish warships of aggressive behaviour.
‘Positive trajectory’
Turkey dispatched warship-escorted vessels off Cyprus to drill for gas, insisting it is acting to protect its interests and those of Turkish Cypriots to the area’s natural resources.
The Greek Cypriot government of the ethnically split island has slammed Turkey for encroaching in its waters and economic rights. The EU has rallied to the defence of its member states, Greece and Cyprus.
Borrell said Turkey was a key partner for the EU even though relations are “not passing through the best moment”, and called for increased dialogue to overcome tensions.
“Currently, the situation is far from being ideal … We have a mutual interest to get out of this situation and chart a new and positive trajectory,” Borrell said.
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MoveOn

MoveOn threatens to ditch Democrats who take cops’ cash

Liberal advocacy group MoveOn is considering withholding support for any candidate who raises cash from police officers, which could deny key resources to Democratic campaigns in the run-up to November. The liberal group, which has pledged to spend $20 million to block President Trump and Senate Republicans’ reelection in 2020, is now taking aim at…

MoveOn threatens to ditch Democrats who take cops’ cash

Liberal advocacy group MoveOn is considering withholding support for any candidate who raises cash from police officers, which could deny key resources to Democratic campaigns in the run-up to November.

The liberal group, which has pledged to spend $20 million to block President Trump and Senate Republicans’ reelection in 2020, is now taking aim at Democrats who do not side with the Black Lives Matter movement.

MoveOn’s “No Cash for Cops” campaign directs all candidates running in 2020 to reject donations from the Fraternal Order of Police and redirect or reinvest any funding the candidates have already collected from police associations. Failure to reject the police will result in ostracization from the liberal group and its network of activists and donors.

“Along with their direct interventions in cases of police violence, each election cycle, police associations donate generously to candidates across the country, all the way from the president to local city council seats. A large portion of that money is given to Democrats,” wrote Rahna Epting, MoveOn Political Action director, in an open letter to candidates running in 2020. “Senators Amy Klobuchar and Chris Coons and [House] Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer are just a few of the high-profile Democrats whose campaigns or affiliated PACs have accepted money from police associations. It’s time to get that money and influence out of our politics.”

MoveOn’s activist network saw a surge in support earlier this year when the coronavirus crisis obstructed typical in-person and door-to-door campaigning. Between March 1 and April 9, MoveOn said it gained more than 1 million new members and said it saw more advocacy on its platforms than in several previous years.

To strip police donations from Democrats, MoveOn said it intends to run paid ads, have its activists make constituent calls, and engage in other unspecified tactics to apply pressure as well.

The Fraternal Order of Police declined to comment on MoveOn’s campaign.

In response to questions about MoveOn’s criticism, Mr. Hoyer’s spokesperson indicated that the congressman would not be intimidated by political activists.

“Mr. Hoyer votes his conscience and his district and his record makes it clear political contributions do not impact his decision to support or oppose legislation,” said Mariel Saez, spokesperson for Mr. Hoyer, in an email. “He believes there is a great deal to be done to address systemic racism, including comprehensive police reform and accountability, and looks forward to bringing the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act to the House Floor for consideration this week.”

Representatives for Ms. Klobuchar and Mr. Coons did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Pentagon

Pentagon threatens retaliatory strike after deadly attack in Iraq

United States military leaders on Thursday threatened a retaliatory strike against Iranian-backed Shia militia in Iraq, saying they know who launched the rockets in Iraq that killed and wounded US and coalition troops.  US President Donald Trump gave the Pentagon the authority to respond after a rocket barrage killed two US troops and a British…

Pentagon threatens retaliatory strike after deadly attack in Iraq

United States military leaders on Thursday threatened a retaliatory strike against Iranian-backed Shia militia in Iraq, saying they know who launched the rockets in Iraq that killed and wounded US and coalition troops. 
US President Donald Trump gave the Pentagon the authority to respond after a rocket barrage killed two US troops and a British soldier, again raising tensions with Iran after the two countries came to the brink of war earlier this year. 
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Military leaders said they know who launched the rockets and the Shia militia group responsible will be held accountable.
“I have spoken with the president. He’s given me the authority to do what we need to do, consistent with his guidance. And, you know – if that becomes the case …” defence chief Mark Esper told reporters at the Pentagon, adding he and Trump had a “good conversation”.
Asked what he meant, Esper suggested he was not going to telegraph any US response.

Iraq: ISIL attacks return amid uncertain security situation

Asked if the US response could include strikes inside Iran, Esper said: “I’m not going to take any option off the table right now, but we are focused on the group – groups – that we believe perpetrated this in Iraq.
“We’re going to take this one step at a time, but we’ve got to hold the perpetrators accountable,” Esper said. “You don’t get to shoot at our bases and kill and wound Americans and get away with it.”
‘Indirect fire’ 
Two US troops and one British service member were killed and 18 other personnel wounded at Camp Taji north of Baghdad on Wednesday night in the rocket fire.
US Marine General Kenneth McKenzie earlier did not blame any specific militia, but noted only Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah had been known to wage such attacks on coalition forces in the past.
“While we are still investigating the attack, I will note that the Iranian proxy group Kataib Hezbollah is the only group known to have previously conducted an indirect fire attack of this scale against US and coalition forces in Iraq,” McKenzie told a US Senate hearing on Thursday.
The attack marked a dramatic uptick in violence less than three months after rockets killed a US contractor in northern Iraq, unleashing a round of tit-for-tat attacks between Washington and Tehran on Iraqi soil.
Within hours of the attack on the Taji air base north of Baghdad – the deadliest in years on a base used by US forces in Iraq – an air strike killed more than two dozen Iran-aligned fighters in neighbouring Syria.
Fearing an even bloodier flare-up this time, Iraqi officials and the United Nations were quick to condemn the deaths.

Analysis: 50 US troops face brain injuries after Iran strikes

‘Terrorist attack’
Iraqi President Barham Salih and parliament speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi condemned the “terrorist attack” that targeted “Iraq and its security”.
The UN mission in Iraq called for “maximum restraint on all sides”.
“These ongoing attacks are a clear and substantial threat to the country, and the risk of rogue action by armed groups remains a constant concern,” the UN mission said. “The last thing Iraq needs is to serve as an arena for vendettas and external battles.”
The rocket attack was the 22nd against US military interests in the country since late October, an Iraqi military commander said.
In late December, the US accused Iran-aligned faction Kataib Hezbollah of killing a US contractor at a base in northern Iraq. It responded with air strikes in western Iraq that killed 25 of the group’s fighters.
Days later, a US drone killed senior Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani and militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis near Baghdad airport.
Iran then launched its own strikes on a western Iraqi base, leaving dozens of US troops suffering from brain trauma.
Iraq has years of close ties with both Iran and the US, and has been put in an increasingly difficult position by the spiralling tensions between the two.
In January, Iraqi lawmakers voted to oust all foreign troops from Iraq in reaction to the killing of Soleimani and Muhandis.
Some 5,200 US troops are stationed in Iraq as part of the coalition formed in 2014 to fight the armed group ISIL (ISIS).
While ISIL has lost all of the vast territory it once held in Iraq and Syria, sleeper cells remain capable of carrying out attacks on both sides of the border.
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