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Trump Freezes U.S. Funding to the World Health Organization as Pandemic Rages On

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  • President Donald Trump announced Tuesday that he would freeze funding to the World Health Organization for 60-90 days as his administration looks into the agency.
  • The move comes after Trump announced he would consider cutting the agency’s funds last week.
  • Trump has criticized the W.H.O. for being “China-centric,” a criticism it has also faced from other Republican lawmakers over the course of the pandemic.
  • A total halt on contributions from the U.S. could run deep, as it makes up nearly 15% of the W.H.O.’s funding.

Trump Freezes Funding to the W.H.O.

Exactly one week after announcing that he was considering cutting United States funding to the World Health Organization, President Donald Trump moved to do just that Tuesday afternoon.

“I’m instructing my administration to halt funding of the World Health Organization while a review is conducted to assess the World Health Organization’s role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus,” Trump said from the White House. “Everybody knows what’s going on there.”

During his press conference, Trump also repeated his stance that the W.H.O. took China’s claims about the coronavirus “at face value.”

“One of the most dangerous and costly decisions from the WHO was its disastrous decision to oppose travel restrictions from China and other nations,” Trump said.

“They were very much opposed to what we did. Fortunately, I was not convinced and suspended travel from China, saving untold numbers of lives. Thousands and thousands of people would have died. Had other nations likewise suspended travel from China, countless more lives would have been saved.” 

Trump went on to say that the freeze to W.H.O. funding would continue for 60 to 90 days. A potential two to three-month freeze is notable because as many people have pointed out, the U.S. and the world are still in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Fighting a global pandemic requires international cooperation and reliance on science and data,” Patrice Harris, president of the American Medical Association, said. “Cutting funding to the WHO – rather than focusing on solutions – is a dangerous move at a precarious moment for the world.”

On behalf of the AMA, Harris went on to urge Trump to reconsider this decision.

The secretary general of the United Nations said Tuesday night that while “it is possible that the same facts have had different readings by different entities,” the W.H.O.“must be supported, as it is absolutely critical to the world’s efforts to win the war against COVID-19.”

Early Wednesday morning, billionaire Bill Gates tweeted, “Halting funding for the World Health Organization during a world health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds. Their work is slowing the spread of COVID-19 and if that work is stopped no other organization can replace them. The world needs @WHO now more than ever.”

After the U.S.—which contributes to nearly 15% of the W.H.O.’s funding—the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the W.H.O.’s next-biggest contributor. According to the W.H.O., the Gates’ charity makes up almost 10% of its funding.

Still, a reduction of 15% of its funding would mean a deep cut for the international health agency. Currently, the U.S. has committed $893 million during the W.H.O.’s current two-year funding period. According to international security professor Adam Kamradt-Scott at the University of Sydney, if the U.S. were to pull both member dues and voluntary contributions, that could end up bankrupting the W.H.O.

Will the W.H.O. See U.S. Funding Again?

One of the major unanswered questions regarding Trump’s decision is whether or not the W.H.O. might get that funding back and how long it could take. 

According to Evan Hollander, a spokesperson for House Appropriations Committee Democrats, “The President does not have the unilateral authority to withhold the United States’ contribution to the World Health Organization. Even if he did, refusing to fund the WHO would only weaken the international tools to fight this pandemic and future global health emergencies.”

On that note, it’s unclear when payments to the W.H.O. will stop and how much authority Trump even has to suspend them. That’s because they’re actually authorized by Congress, and Congress has already ignored his administration’s proposal to slash W.H.O. funding in recent years. 

Still, Trump may likely see a surge of support from his party. Senator Rick Scott (R-Fl.) has repeatedly pushed Congress to investigate the W.H.O’s response to COVID-19 and its relationship with China. Both he and Senator Martha McSally (R-Az.) have called for the W.H.O. Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to step down.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC.) has also pledged to support a W.H.O. funding cut in the Senate’s next appropriations bill.

Why Is Trump Defunding the W.H.O.?

Over the last week, Trump has repeatedly accused the W.H.O., an agency of the United Nations, of being “China-centric,” this seemingly for two main reasons.

The first is because on January 14, the W.H.O. referenced a preliminary investigation from Chinese authorities who said there was “no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel #coronavirus.” Notably, health officials now know that not to be true. 

The second has to do with Trump’s decision to restrict travel with China, a decision made at the end of January. 

At that time, the W.H.O.—though not directly referencing the United States—said it did not recommend limiting trade and travel with China.

“In fact, we oppose it,” Ghebreyesus said. 

“In general, evidence shows that restricting the movement of people and goods during public health emergencies is ineffective in most situations and may divert resources from other interventions,” the agency added.

On Feb. 11, the W.H.O. did revise its travel restriction recommendations somewhat by saying that such restrictions “…may have a public health rationale at the beginning of the containment phase of an outbreak, as they may allow affected countries to implement sustained response measures, and non-affected countries to gain time to initiate and implement effective preparedness measures. Such restrictions, however, need to be short in duration, proportionate to the public health risks, and be reconsidered regularly as the situation evolves.” 

During this time and even up until late February, Trump had actually been praising the W.H.O., saying it had been working “very hard and very smart.” 

Trump’s shift in tone, however, came last week when he seemingly announced he would be freezing W.H.O. funding, though he later backtracked when talking to reporters, saying he was only looking at freezing it.

“They actually criticized and disagreed with my travel ban at the time I did it,” Trump said, “and they were wrong. They’ve been wrong about a lot of things. They had a lot of information very early and they didn’t to want to — they seemed to be very “China-centric.” 

“They called it wrong,” he added. “They called it wrong. They really, they missed the call. They could have called it months earlier. They would have known, and should have known, and they probably did know.” 

Following that, the W.H.O. defended itself and its relationship with China, Ghebreyesus’ senior adviser Bruce Aylward saying, “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.” 

“This is what we did with every other hard hit country like Spain and had nothing to do with China specifically,” he added.

Aylward also defended the W.H.O.’s January recommendation to keep borders open, saying that Beijing had worked hard to identify and detect early cases and their contacts, ensuring they didn’t travel.

Since Trump’s move Tuesday to suspend W.H.O. funding, China has also criticized the president, a foreign ministry spokesperson saying, “This U.S. decision will weaken the WHO’s capabilities and undermine international cooperation. China will as always support the WHO in playing an important role in international public health and global anti-epidemic response.”

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Reuters) (Bloomberg)

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Kathy Griffin, Ethan Klein, More Suspended From Twitter Over Elon Musk Impersonations

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Many have pretended to be Musk in an attempt to highlight the potential issues paid-for verifications could cause on the platform.


Musk Takes on Impersonations

Comedian Kathy Griffin and internet personality Ethan Klein are among the many Twitter users that have been permanently suspended for impersonating the platform’s new CEO, Elon Musk.

Impersonation has long been against Twitter’s rules, but on Sunday, the billionaire took the policy a step further by announcing that “any Twitter handles engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying ‘parody’ will be permanently suspended.”

“Previously, we issued a warning before suspension, but now that we are rolling out widespread verification, there will be no warning,” Musk explained. “This will be clearly identified as a condition for signing up to Twitter Blue.”

Musk also said that any user who changes their name will temporarily lose their verification check mark. 

The announcement came as many verified users began mocking Musk by changing their name and photo to match his, then tweeting jokes that were either absurd or out of character for the business mogul. Many did this to protest Musk’s plan to charge an $8 monthly subscription fee that would allow any Twitter user to become verified. 

Klein was one of many who changed his name to “Elon Musk” and made a photo of the CEO his profile image. The podcast host sent out several jokes, including one referencing the increased use of the N-word on the platform since Musk’s takeover, and another referencing Jeffrey Epstein.

“Even though Jeffrey Epstein committed horrible crimes, I do still miss him on nights like this for his warmth and camaraderie. Rest In Peace old Friend,” he wrote. 

His account was quickly banned, but Klein defended himself on TikTok, arguing that both his cover photo and bio labeled his account as “parody” and therefore should be acceptable under Musk’s guidelines. 

“What more do you want from me?” he asked. “Comedy is dead. And Elon Musk dug the grave.” 

Protests of Musk’s Twitter Control

For her part, Griffin likewise tweeted while masquerading as Musk, writing that after “spirited discussion with the females in my life, I’ve decided that voting blue for their choice is only right.”

Musk joked that she was actually “suspended for impersonating a comedian” and added that she can have her account back if she pays for the $8 subscription. Griffin, however, found another way around the ban.

The comedian logged into her late mother’s Twitter account and began using the hashtag #FreeKathy while calling out Musk. 

“Mad Men” actor Rich Sommer and podcaster Griffin Newman have also had their accounts suspended for tweeting as Musk. Other celebrities, including TV producer Shonda Rhimes, musician Sara Bareilles, and model Gigi Hadid have protested Musk’s Twitter reign by leaving the platform altogether.

“For a long time, but especially with its new leadership, it’s becoming more and more of a cesspool of hate & bigotry, and it’s not a place I want to be a part of,” Hadid wrote on Instagram over the weekend. 

See what others are saying: (NBC News) (Variety) (The Verge)

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AOC Says Twitter Notifications “Conveniently” Disabled After Criticizing Musk

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“What’s good? Doesn’t seem very free speechy to me,” she tweeted at the new CEO.


AOC Vs. Elon Musk

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said several of her Twitter features are “conveniently not working” after feuding with the platform’s new owner, billionaire Elon Musk.

Ocasio-Cortez has never been shy about her views on Musk. After he officially took charge of Twitter last week, the congresswoman began criticizing his new proposals for the social networking site, specifically his plan to charge an $8 subscription fee for verification. 

“Lmao at a billionaire earnestly trying to sell people on the idea that ‘free speech’ is actually a $8/mo subscription plan,” she wrote on Tuesday.

“Your feedback is appreciated, now pay $8,” Musk replied the following day.

Around an hour later, the business mogul sent another tweet appearing to call Ocasio-Cortez out for selling $58 sweatshirts. 

“Proud of this and always will be,” she shot back. “My workers are union, make a living wage, have full healthcare, and aren’t subject to racist treatment in their workplaces. Items are made in USA. Team AOC honors and respects working people. You should try it sometime instead of union-busting.”

In a follow-up tweet, she noted that proceeds go to community organizing programs, including one that tutors students who are falling behind because of COVID-19.

AOC’s Mentions Not Working

On Wednesday evening, just hours after her back-and-forth with Musk, Ocasio-Cortez told her followers that her “Twitter mentions/notifications conveniently aren’t working tonight.”

“I was informed via text that I seem to have gotten under a certain billionaire’s skin,” she added. “Just a reminder that money will never [buy] your way out of insecurity, folks.” 

The issue seemingly continued into Thursday morning when the Democrat tweeted a screenshot of her notifications page, which loaded no results. 

Why should people pay $8 just for their app to get bricked when they say something you don’t like?” she tweeted at Musk. “This is what my app has looked like ever since my tweet upset you yesterday. What’s good? Doesn’t seem very free speechy to me.”

Musk has repeatedly claimed that one of his primary motives to buy Twitter was to protect free speech. Once taking the reigns as CEO, though, he did say he would start a content moderation council and make decisions jointly with them.

See what others are saying: (The Hill) (Insider)

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South Carolina County Votes Against Moving LGBTQ+ Friendly Books Away from Children’s Section

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Efforts to limit LGBTQ+ content in libraries first began over the summer.


Attempts to Restrict LGBTQ+ Displays

The county council in Greenville County, South Carolina this week voted against discussing a resolution that would move all books “promoting sexuality” to the adult section.

This resolution is the culmination of months of turmoil in Greenville County. In June, libraries in the county removed Pride displays at the direction of library officials. Then in September, the county’s Republican Party executive board passed a resolution to call on the County Council to restrict access to books with LGBTQ+ themes and characters. 

The resolution was proposed by Joe Dill, an outgoing council member, as well as a member of the county’s Republican Party executive board. It proposed the council “officially order that no books or content, including digital copies or online accessible materials, promoting sexuality be allowed in the Children’s Sections of our public libraries.” 

Resolution Rejected

However, the resolution required the council to suspend its regular rules in order to discuss it as it was not submitted to the council via committee. The final vote was 9 to 3 against the suspension of the rules and effectively killed the resolution. 

Those that voted against it viewed the resolution as an overreach.

“We just do not believe that’s our job to get involved in the library’s business,” Council member Ennis Fett said to a local news outlet. “We appoint a board. We can not set a precedent of micromanaging the library board, because if we do that, then, we will be micromanaging all boards and commissions that we appoint.” 

Although the council decided not to get involved, the library still has the final decision to make regarding these books. Their meeting to discuss the matter is scheduled for December 5. 

See what others are saying: (Greenville News) (The Post and Courier) (7 News)

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