Statement on the fifth meeting of the International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee regarding the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic

30 Oct

The fifth meeting of the Emergency Committee convened by the WHO Director-General under the International Health Regulations (IHR) (2005) regarding the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) took place on Thursday, 29 October 2020 from 12:30 to 16:05 Geneva time (CEST).

Proceedings of the meeting

Members and advisors of the Emergency Committee were convened by videoconference. 

The Director-General welcomed the Committee, highlighted global advances and challenges in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, and expressed his appreciation to the Committee for their continued support and advice. 

Representatives of the legal department and the Department of Compliance, Risk Management, and Ethics (CRE) briefed the members on their roles and responsibilities. The Ethics Officer from CRE provided the Members and Advisers with an overview of the WHO Declaration of Interest process. The Members and Advisers were made aware of their individual responsibility to disclose to WHO, in a timely manner, any interests of a personal, professional, financial, intellectual or commercial nature that may give rise to a perceived or direct conflict of interest. They were additionally reminded of their duty to maintain the confidentiality of the meeting discussions and the work of the committee. Each member who was present was surveyed and no conflicts of interest were identified. 

The Secretariat turned the meeting over to the Chair, Professor Didier Houssin. Professor Houssin also welcomed the Committee and reviewed the objectives and agenda of the meeting. 

The WHO Assistant Directors-General for Emergency Response and for Emergency Preparedness and International Health Regulations provided an overview of the current context and an update on the implementation of the 1 August 2020 Temporary Recommendation. WHO continues to assess the global risk level of the COVID-19 pandemic as very high.

The Committee expressed strong appreciation for WHO’s leadership and activities throughout the global response. In particular, the Committee appreciated WHO’s critical role in developing evidence-based guidance and recommendations; providing countries with technical assistance and operational support; communicating clear information and addressing misinformation; and convening the Solidarity Trials and the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator. The Committee commended WHO’s sustained efforts to strengthen national, regional, and global responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

After ensuing discussion, the Committee unanimously agreed that the pandemic still constitutes an extraordinary event, a public health risk to other States through international spread, and continues to require a coordinated international response. As such, the Committee considered the COVID-19 pandemic to remain a public health emergency of international concern and offered advice to the Director-General.

The Director-General determined that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to constitute a PHEIC. He accepted the advice of the Committee to WHO and issued the Committee’s advice to States Parties as Temporary Recommendations under the IHR (2005). 

The Emergency Committee will be reconvened within three months, at the discretion of the Director-General. The Director-General thanked the Committee for its work.

Advice to the WHO Secretariat


Leadership and Coordination 
1. Continue to coordinate global and regional multilateral organizations, partners, and networks and share best practices for responding to the pandemic. 

2. Provide States Parties with a mechanism including templates and processes to report on national progress in implementing the temporary recommendations; collect, analyze, and provide regular updates to the Committee on this progress. 

Evidence-Based Response Strategies
3. Continue to provide evidence-based guidance for COVID-19 readiness and response. This guidance should include sustainable long-term response strategies, mitigation approaches for different levels of transmission, refined indicators for risk management and pandemic response, a meta-analysis of the effectiveness of public health and social measures for COVID-19 response, and lessons learned including from intra-action reviews. 

Research 
4. Continue to convene multi-disciplinary experts to agree on consistent language for and to further explain: all potential modes of transmission and virulence of SARS-CoV-2; severity risk factors and epidemiology of COVID-19; and the striking diversity of the pandemic dynamics globally.

5. Continue intersectoral collaborations to understand the origin of SARS-CoV-2, the role/impact of animals, and provide regular updates on international research findings. 

6. Continue to work with partners to refine mathematical models that can inform policy decisions on how best to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.

Surveillance and Contact Tracing  
7. Continue to work with partners and networks to provide guidance, tools, and trainings to support countries in strengthening their robust public health surveillance, comprehensive contact tracing, and cluster investigation. 

8. Encourage and support countries to understand and report on their epidemiological situation and relevant indicators including through leveraging existing influenza sentinel surveillance systems for COVID-19. 

Risk communications and community engagement
9. Continue to work with partners to counter the ongoing infodemic and provide guidance on community mobilization to support effective public health and social measures.  

Diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines
10. Continue to support development of and equitable access to diagnostics, safe and effective therapeutics and vaccines, through the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator; continue to work with all ACT Accelerator partners to provide countries with additional clarity on the processes to enable equitable and timely access to diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines, including in humanitarian settings. 

11. Accelerate support to enhance countries’ readiness for COVID-19 vaccine introduction by providing guidance, tools, and technical assistance for critical areas such as vaccination strategies, vaccine acceptance and demand, training, supply and logistics with a focus on cold chain, and monitoring uptake and vaccine safety. 

Health Measures in Relation to International Traffic
12. Continue to work with partners to update and review evidence-based guidance for international travel consistent with IHR (2005) provisions. This guidance should focus on effective, risk-based, and coherent approaches (including targeted use of diagnostics and quarantine) that consider transmission levels, response capacities in origin and destination countries, and relevant travel-specific considerations.

Essential Health Services
13. Work with partners to support countries in strengthening their essential health services, with a particular focus on mental health, public health prevention and control systems, and other societal impacts, as well as preparing for and responding to concurrent outbreaks, such as seasonal influenza. Special attention should continue to be provided to vulnerable settings. 

Temporary Recommendations to State Parties


Leadership and coordination 
1. Continue to share with WHO best practices, including from intra-action reviews, and apply lessons learned for mitigating resurgence of COVID-19; invest in implementing National Action Plans for sustainable preparedness and response capacities in compliance with the IHR requirements. 

2. Report to WHO on progress in implementing the Temporary Recommendations, particularly major achievements, milestones, and obstacles. This information will empower countries, WHO, partners, and the Committee to continue to make informed decisions as the pandemic evolves.   

Evidence-Based Response Strategies
3. Avoid politicization or complacency with regards to the pandemic response which negatively impact local, national, regional, and global response efforts. National strategies and localized readiness and response activities should be driven by science, data, and experience and should engage and enable all sectors using a whole-of-society approach. 

4. Implement a dynamic risk management approach using appropriate indicators to inform time-limited, evidence-based public health and social measures. 

Research 
5. Conduct research and share information on transmission, including role of aerosols; presence and potential impact of SARS-CoV-2 in animal populations; and potential sources of contamination (such as frozen products) to mitigate potential risks through preventative measures and international cooperation.

Surveillance and Contact Tracing 
6. Sustain efforts to strengthen public health surveillance systems and investments in a trained workforce for active case finding, comprehensive contact tracing, and cluster investigations. 

7. Continue timely and consistent reporting to WHO, including through platforms such as GISRS, on all recommended indicators for COVID-19 epidemiology and severity, response measures, and concurrent outbreaks, to enhance global understanding of the pandemic’s evolution. 

Risk Communications and Community Engagement
8. Engage and empower individuals and communities to strengthen confidence in the COVID-19 response and promote sustained adherence to public health and social measures underpinned by the principles of solidarity and human rights; monitor and address rumours and misinformation.   

Diagnostics, Therapeutics, and Vaccines
9. Establish a national multi-disciplinary taskforce, assess progress using the COVID-19 Vaccine Introduction Readiness Assessment Tool (VIRAT), and prepare the National Deployment and Vaccination Plan, which can serve as the holistic operational plan for COVID-19 vaccine introduction. A strong emphasis should be placed on communication with communities to prepare for COVID-19 vaccination.  

Health Measures in Relation to International Traffic
10. Regularly re-consider measures applied to international travel in compliance with Article 43 of the IHR (2005) and continue to provide information and rationales to WHO on measures that significantly interfere with international traffic. Ensure that measures affecting international traffic (including targeted use of diagnostics and quarantine) are risk-based, evidence-based, coherent, proportionate and time limited. 

11. Continue to strengthen capacity at points of entry to manage potential risks of cross-border transmission and to facilitate international contact tracing. 

Essential Health Services
12. Maintain essential health services with sufficient funding, supplies, and human resources; strengthen health systems to cope with mental health impacts of the pandemic, concurrent disease outbreaks, and other emergencies.
 

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Start of 1st WHO infodemic management training

30 Oct

The 1st WHO Infodemic Management Training programme kicks off next week, and participants will come together during 8 sessions that will take place over the course of the next four weeks.The training programme received over 650 applications from 83 countries, and this very competitive selection process resulted in a cohort of 270 trainees. 

The training has been co-sponsored by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and RCCE collective service. Technical expertise is being provided by First Draft, a non-profit that works globally to tackle misinformation. 

Organizing the training programme has been a complicated logistical exercise. The number and location of this first cohort means the sessions will be repeated twice per day to allow everyone to join the sessions live to ask questions and to interact with their fellow learners. During the 34 hours of programming, there will be 46 different speakers sharing their expertise with the participants.

The training programme has been driven by a recognition of the harm being caused by false and misleading health information circulating in online spaces, low quality news outlets and in peer to peer discussions. By the end of the training, participants will have a thorough grounding in infodemic management. This includes an understanding that public health professionals need to share accurate, engaging, sharable content as well as using techniques to counter misinformation when it starts to cause harm to communities. 

The course includes practical training on tools for monitoring rumors, fact-checking and verification, as well as learning how to respond effectively and testing interventions to slow down the spread of misinformation. There are also guest speakers from UNICEF, Google and Facebook and most importantly representatives from country based Ministries of Health who will be talking about their current challenges with the infodemic and the lessons they have learned.

At the first welcome event, 188 learners interacted over Zoom sharing experiences and hopes for the upcoming weeks. The session included an information ‘crisis’ simulation, where participants played the role of a public health communications officer in a major North American city and had to make decisions based on a fictional public health incident, where rumors were swirling all over social media. Would they hold a press conference? Or debunk rumors directly on the different social media platforms? Or would they wait for more information? The simulation was designed to highlight the different challenges involved in infodemic management today, and to preview some of the key elements of the training programme.

As one of the participants posted during the simulation: “This feels like a ‘choose your own adventure game.” The training has been designed to be interactive, engaging and practical. By the end of the training, participants who will successfully pass the assessment will join the WHO roster of infodemic managers to be deployed to countries, where they will be thrust into real-life situations that will feel far from an adventure game.

The training team are very excited to work with these experienced professionals from the fields of epidemiology, risk communication, health service delivery/health care workers, digital health, policy making, and others who are responding to the current COVID-19 and overlapping infodemics at country level. 

 

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DNC Battleground Brief

30 Oct

This is the DNC’s Battleground Brief — a weekly wrap-up of Trump’s broken promises and everything you need to know across the path to 270. 

“AMERICA CAN’T AFFORD FOUR MORE YEARS OF DONALD TRUMP.” As we kick off the final weekend before Election Day, Democrats aren’t leaving anything to chance. Across the battlegrounds, we’re continuing to hammer Donald Trump on his incompetent, chaotic pandemic response — from the streets to the airwaves. See for yourself:

  • (AZ) Mohave Valley Daily News: DNC coincides digital campaign with Trump visit. “The Democratic National Committee is countering [Trump’s] visit less than a week before Election Day by presenting an argument against Trump’s reelection with a digital ad campaign today aimed at online readers of the Mohave Valley Daily News and Laughlin Nevada Times … The DNC already has placed mobile billboards in Arizona and stationary billboards in Nevada to coincide with other Trump visits.”

  • (FL) ABC News: DNC running mobile billboards around Trump’s rally that focus on COVID-19 cases. “With both Trump and Biden hitting the trail in Tampa this afternoon, Democrats — hoping to divert attention from Trump’s rival rally — are circling the president’s venue with counterprogramming highlighting what they view as his failed response to the coronavirus pandemic. In new billboards that are set to be unveiled at the Raymond James Stadium, the Democratic National Committee blames the president for his handling of the virus, which it contends has led to more than 16,500 deaths in Florida alone and more than a million lost jobs in the state. ‘COVID cases are spiking. This administration failed us,’ a mobile billboard deployed by the Democratic National Committee reads. The DNC also set up a digital billboard two miles south of the stadium to target a wider swath of potential Democratic voters.”

  • (FL) Creative Loafing Tampa Bay: ‘This Administration Failed Us’: New Tampa billboards slam Trump ahead of Thursday visit. “New billboards in Tampa are targeting Donald Trump’s COVID-19 response, and they are located directly outside of today’s rally at Raymond James Stadium. This morning, the Democratic National Committee unveiled the new billboards, which read ‘COVID cases are spiking’ in white, followed by giant black lettering that says ‘This Administration Failed Us.’ A digital billboard that is located two miles south of the stadium, while a similar mobile billboard will circle today’s event. Both billboards contain a link to IWillVote.com.”

  • (FL) Sun Sentinel: ‘Lie, cheat and steal’ is Democrats’ description of Trump in TV ad airing in South Florida. “The Democratic Party is making a withering assault on President Donald Trump in a closing-argument TV ad that starts airing Thursday in South Florida. The Democratic National Committee said the 60-second ad, titled ‘Deserves,’ is designed to show “who Trump really is: someone with a long record of lying, cheating, and stealing his way through life and whose failed leadership has plunged Florida into crisis.”

  • (IA) Quad City Times: “The national Democratic Party launched digital display ads to coincide with the event. The ads were to reach voters in Des Moines and contained criticisms of the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic. ‘Nothing Pence will say today changes the fact that Iowans are sick and tired of his broken promises and incompetence that is threatening their lives and livelihoods,’ Tom Perez, chairman of the national Democratic Party, said in a statement.”

  • (MI) MLive: “Michigan Democrats criticized Trump for holding a campaign rally as COVID-19 cases and deaths rise across the country. The Democratic National Committee launched digital ads in the Lansing area criticizing Trump for ‘holding dangerous campaign rallies that threaten to worsen the spread of coronavirus.’”

  • (NE) Omaha World-Herald: “Democrats also will be driving a mobile billboard near the Trump campaign rally and running digital ads highlighting the president’s record on COVID-19, including 225,000 Americans lost to the virus.”

  • (NV) KUNR: DNC Blasts Trump Administration As Pence Visits Reno. “Democrats also have announced another round of ad buys in Washoe County ahead of election day. That includes billboards and a TV ad critical of the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic.”

  • (OH) Columbus Dispatch: “The Democratic National Committee unveiled an anti-Trump billboard west of Ohio Stadium on Saturday, the day of the Buckeyes’ COVID-delayed season opener.”

  • (PA) Politics PA: Exclusive: DNC Closing Ad Slams Trump on Philly TV. “The ad continues to accuse Trump of ‘stoking the fire of racism and division, losing a trade war with China, pushing millions off their healthcare,’ while blaming his response to COVID-19 for the aftermath in the United States. ‘Standing back and standing by as over 225,000 Americans died from COVID,’ a voiceover says towards the end of the ad. ‘I don’t take responsibility at all,’ a clip from Trump is played during the spot. ‘America can’t afford four more years of Donald Trump,’ the ad closes with.”

ON THE TRAIL! DNC Chair Tom Perez continued barnstorming across the country this week, calling out Donald Trump’s broken promises and encouraging voters in Colorado and Nevada to make a plan to cast their ballots.

In Colorado: 

Loveland Reporter-Herald: “U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse and Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez also visited to talk with voters and help distribute promotional materials … ‘There’s a lot of healthcare voters here in Colorado,’ [Perez] said. ‘And they understand that Joe Biden is going to protect their healthcare and Donald Trump wants to take it away, real simple. They’re looking for leadership on COVID. The president’s given up. He has no plan, and we need a plan.’”

  • KDVR: “We know the race is going to be close, but I think right now for people this is all about the pandemic, all about health care, it’s all about the president’s failed responses to these things. And voters want a leader who can lift us out of these crises.”

In Nevada:

  • KRNV: “In response to the Vice President’s visit, the Nevada State Democratic Party hosted a press event with Tom Perez … ‘This president has no plan. He keeps telling us that we’re rounding the corner. What corner is he referring to? Because so many people in this state and across the country, they come home at night now to an empty seat at the kitchen table because they’ve lost a loved one.’”

  • KOLO: “Earlier today, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez was in town urging people to vote. Perez says the message for residents is to get out and vote early here in Washoe County… ‘I think voters should ask themselves the following question: how can an administration who can’t even get a handle on coronavirus within the West Wing of the White House get a handle on the coronavirus across America?’”

STORIES FROM TRUMP’S ECONOMY. Trump’s failed handling of the pandemic continues to inflict devastating economic impacts on working families across the country. Read about the kitchen table issues that are top of mind as Americans cast their ballots.

HOLDING THEM ACCOUNTABLE. Wherever Trump, Pence, and their cronies go, Democrats are calling out their broken promises. See for yourself:

In Arizona:

Arizona Republic: “Ahead of Trump’s visit to Bullhead City, Arizona Democrats highlighted the suffering by Arizonans and Nevadans on the public-health and economic fronts … Signa Oliver, a U.S. Army veteran from Goodyear, said veterans, in particular, are bearing the brunt of Trump’s ‘lack of leadership’ compared to previous presidents … ‘His complete ineptitude in handling this virus that is just ravaging this country is unthinkable.’”

In Florida: 

Florida Politics: ‘All of this chaos has cost livelihoods’: Tampa Democrats tout Joe Biden ahead of Donald Trump visit. “The Florida Democratic Party hosted Congresswoman Kathy Castor and Florida Rep. Fentrice Driskell virtually ahead of President Donald Trump’s afternoon visit to Tampa … ‘All of this chaos has cost livelihoods, it’s costing jobs, and we know that unless we get control of the coronavirus, it’s gonna continue to wreak havoc,’ Castor said. ‘What this all springs from, of course, is the complete and utter failure of Donald Trump to control coronavirus.”

In Iowa:

Des Moines Register: “In a news conference, Iowa Democrats also criticized Pence for not listening to experts on the White House coronavirus task force, which the vice president leads. ‘His experts are telling and have consistently pretty much been telling us don’t gather in crowds, wear a mask, stay apart, and yet his actions today are not showing that,’ said state Rep. Jo Oldson, D-Des Moines.”

In Minnesota:

Star Tribune: “The state DFL held an event at the Duluth Labor Temple on Sunday blasting the visit and the administration’s handling of the pandemic. ‘The reality is, anyone that is responsible for 220,000 deaths should not remain as President of the United States,’ said DFL Chairman Ken Martin. ‘President Trump says that we’re learning to live with this virus. But as Joe Biden says, ‘No, we’re learning to die with it.’’”

  • WDIO: “United Steelworkers Local 1938 President John Arbogast spoke at the DFL’s event, saying he feels Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will better support miners. ‘Republicans like to walk around and make signs and say: ‘We support mining.’ But, what they don’t do is they don’t support the miners—the men and women that work in the mines,’ Arbogast said.”

In Maine:

Bangor Daily News: Janet Mills says Trump ‘doesn’t care about’ Maine working people as he visits Bangor area. “Three of Maine’s top Democrats greeted President Donald Trump with sharp criticism for his last-minute visit to the Bangor area on Sunday, with Gov. Janet Mills saying the president ‘doesn’t care about’ everyday Maine people and chiding him for only showing up in Maine during election years … Mills said Trump was ‘desperate for every electoral vote’ and blasted his response to the coronavirus pandemic on the day Trump’s chief of staff said, ‘We’re not going to control the pandemic.’ ‘We’ve seen this pandemic spread in every county in the state and this president has done nothing to stop it,’ Mills said.”

  • Portland Press Herald: Democrats rally in advance of Trump’s Bangor visit. “In 2017, Mills said, she was willing to give Trump ‘a shot’ at governing after his election. ‘I am not willing to give him the benefit now, and no one should,’ she said. Her voice rising to stir an animated crowd, Mills assailed Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, saying the president had repeatedly ‘lied about’ the seriousness of the virus and his response to it. Mills accused the president of being indifferent toward working Mainers and people working long hours to pay for health care or to put food on the table.”

In Michigan:

WJBK: Michigan Democrats criticize President Trump’s campaign rally in Lansing. “‘We’re not seeing that we are turning the corner. We’re seeing numbers go up and we’re seeing a second wave,’ said Lansing mayor Andy Schor. ‘He just tries to wish it away. He’s hoping we don’t talk about it anymore,’ Sen. [Debbie] Stabenow said.”

  • Detroit News: “‘I find it continually shocking to see what he’s doing,’ Stabenow said. Lansing Mayor Andy Schor said Michigan is seeing a second wave of COVID-19 and it needs to be taken seriously. ‘Lansing needs a president right now who supports us,’ said Schor, a Democrat. ‘We need a president with a plan for COVID response.’”

In Nebraska:

Omaha World Herald: “‘The pandemic is spiraling out of control in Nebraska because of Donald Trump’s failed leadership, and instead of taking steps to control the virus, Trump is renewing his relentless attacks on the Affordable Care Act and protections for people with preexisting conditions,’ [Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb] said.”

In Nevada:

Las Vegas-Review Journal: “Ahead of the rally, Nevada Rep. Dina Titus and Arizona Rep. Ruben Gallego released the following joint statement… ‘Trump has openly called for the Affordable Care Act to be terminated, leaving health care coverage for hundreds of thousands of Arizonans and Nevadans hanging in the balance. And by giving up on containing the pandemic, Trump is abandoning our small businesses and working families who desperately need economic relief and leadership in the White House.’”

  • KTVN: “Ahead of Mike Pence’s rally in Reno, Nevada State Democratic Party Chair William McCurdy II released the following statement: ‘Pence’s reckless rally in Reno today can’t spin the truth about Trump: Nevadans are paying the price for his ineffective pandemic response with our lives and our livelihoods — especially in communities of color. While the Trump Administration has openly admitted that it’s waving the white flag on controlling the virus and claimed that we’re ‘rounding the corner’ on the pandemic, Washoe County just hit a record high for hospitalizations and active COVID cases.”

In North Carolina:

Fayetteville Observer: Democrats criticize COVID-19 response as Trump plans return to Fayetteville. “President Donald Trump’s mishandling of the coronavirus has wreaked havoc on the Fayetteville community and the rest of the nation, local Democratic Party leaders said at a news conference Thursday afternoon. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has a plan to contain the spread of the virus, which in turn will help the economy rebound and fix the mess Trump has created, the officials said.”

  • The News & Record: Mayor Nancy Vaughan: Greensboro doesn’t need a rally with Mike Pence — it needs COVID relief. “Everyone wants this crisis to be over as quickly as possible, but we can’t do that without real leadership at the federal level. As a former governor, yourself, you know how critical strong partnerships are across all levels of government. We want full employment. We want our children back in school. Defeating this virus will take more than the efforts of Greensboro or any other single city or state. It will require all of us working together with a president who follows the science and facts.

In Pennsylvania:

WFMZ: Pa. Democrats blast president ahead of Trump visit to the Lehigh Valley. “U.S. Sen. Bob Casey joined Lehigh Valley Congresswoman Susan Wild, who is running for re-election against Republican Lisa Scheller, and Pennsylvania Democratic chair Nancy Patton Mills to denounce President Donald Trump’s rallies in the Keystone State, including a visit Monday to the Lehigh Valley. ‘People in Pennsylvania are hurting from this economic crisis,’ Wild said. ‘Frankly, they were hurting as a result of the Trump administration’s policies even before this pandemic ever hit our shores.’”

  • Lehigh Valley Live: Democrats time criticism of President Trump’s record with Lehigh Valley rally. “As President Donald Trump arrived Monday in the Lehigh Valley for one of three planned rallies in Pennsylvania, state Democrats criticized the incumbent’s record on the COVID-19 pandemic, economic development and the Affordable Care Act … ‘What I’d hope the president would do today, or maybe any day between now and Election Day, is finally — finally — tell us what is his plan to tackle the virus, but it sounds like that’s not gonna be forthcoming. Not only because he doesn’t have one, but because his chief of staff basically waived the white flag of surrender in the last 24 hours,’ Casey said.”

In Wisconsin:

WKBT: La Crosse Democrats push back on President Trump visit. “Members of the La Crosse County Democratic Party are voicing their concerns about President Trump’s visit. 94th Assembly district representative Jill Billings and the Wisconsin Farmers Union President spoke during the virtual press conference.”

  • Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “‘Looking at what it’s really doing for us — not a whole lot,’ Darin Von Ruden, a Westby dairy farmer and president of the Wisconsin Farmers Union, said. ‘The current administration is just making it worse, and we need to get to a point where we can actually trust what’s coming out of the White House.’”

THE STATE OF PLAY, 4 DAYS OUT. While Trump continues alienating voters on the campaign trail, Democrats are focused on getting out the vote and building our momentum in the final stretch. Check out some of the most important battleground trends defining the final hours of this campaign:

FINALLY, YOUR WEEKEND READING. Roll Call: Trump’s worst possible closing message. “By arguing that the country is ‘rounding the corner’ on COVID-19 in the face of irrefutable data that the coronavirus is surging, Donald Trump risks appearing more and more out of touch with reality. Critics of the president will joke that he has been out of touch for the last four years. But Trump’s argument in the final weeks of the campaign could alienate any remaining undecided voters, possibly causing some of his weakest supporters to stay home.”

Make sure to follow the DNC’s War Room (@DNCWarRoom) to get real-time updates on Trump’s abuses of power and broken promises.

Happy Friday!

The DNC Comms Team

The post DNC Battleground Brief appeared first on Democrats.

United States Sanctions Entities Related to Iran’s Petroleum Industry

30 Oct

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

The United States will continue to prevent the Iranian regime from using the Iranian people’s natural resources to fund terror and support oppression.  Yesterday, the Department of State, Department of the Treasury, and Department of Justice have taken important actions to constrain the regime’s oil and petrochemical sales.  The Justice Department announced the filing of a complaint to seek the forfeiture of two shipments of Iranian missiles the U.S. Navy seized in transit from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to militant groups in Yemen, as well as the sale of approximately 1.1 million barrels of Iranian petroleum the U.S. previously took custody of from four foreign-flagged oil tankers bound for Venezuela.  These actions represent the U.S. government’s largest-ever forfeiture actions for fuel and weapons shipments from Iran.

The State Department imposed sanctions on Arya Sasol Polymer Company, Binrin Limited, Bakhtar Commercial Company, Kavian Petrochemical Company, and Strait Shipbrokers PTE. LTD, pursuant to section 3(a)(ii) of Executive Order (E.O.) 13846.  These entities based in Iran, China, and Singapore, have knowingly engaged in a significant transaction for the purchase, acquisition, sale, transport, or marketing of petroleum products from Iran.  In addition, the State Department imposed sanctions on Amir Hossein Bahreini, Lin Na Wei, Murtuza Mustafamunir Basrai, Hosein Firouzi Arani, and Ramezan Oladi for being principal executive officer of the aforementioned entities, or performing similar functions and with similar authorities as a principal executive officer, for purposes of Section 5(a)(vii) of E.O.13846.

Moreover, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control designated eight entities related to involvement in the sale and purchase of Iranian petrochemical products brokered by Triliance Petrochemical Co. Ltd., a U.S-designated entity, pursuant to E.O.13846.

Instead of providing for their people, the Iranian regime’s brutal leaders continue to use Iran’s revenues to support destabilizing activities in the Middle East and support terrorism around the world.  The United States will not waver in our efforts to pursue any entity or individual helping the Iranian regime evade our sanctions.

For more information about the Departments of the Treasury’s and Justice’s actions, please see Treasury’s press release and DOJ’s press release.

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Leveraging public financial management for better health – Video Podcasts

30 Oct

 

In 2019, WHO organized a webinar series of public financial management (PFM) in health issues. The series included six sessions on key PFM topics – from budget formulation, to budget execution and monitoring  – and involved a range of well-established experts from WHO, World Bank, OECD, International Budget Partnership and Results for Development, as well as country experts from health and finance authorities. The webinar series was successfully followed by 500 registrants working on country health system and financing.

In 2020, WHO made the recorded sessions of the webinar series available for the public. With the permission of the different contributors, the files have been transformed into 30 minute-video podcasts. They cover the six following PFM topics:

 

1)      Introduction - Role of PFM functions and reforms from a health sector perspective

2)      Budget formulation issues in the health sector: key issues for policy makers

3)      Budget execution issues in the health sector: challenges and policy responses

 

 

4)      Links between budget reforms and provider payment systems: what is at stake?

5)      Budget accountability: financial transparency and accountability towards sector outputs

6)      Budgeting for health in devolved settings.

The six podcasts are available above to watch and listen. 

 

 

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Secretary Pompeo’s Meeting with Vietnamese Prime Minister Phuc

30 Oct

Office of the Spokesperson

The below is attributable to Principal Deputy Spokesperson Cale Brown:‎

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo met today with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in Hanoi, Vietnam.  Secretary Pompeo expressed condolences over the loss of life due to significant flooding as a result of Tropical Storm Linfa and Typhoon Molave and was pleased to announce an additional $2 million in USAID assistance to support response efforts, bringing total funding from the U.S. Government to more than $2.1 million to date.  The Secretary congratulated the Prime Minister on Vietnam’s superb chairmanship of ASEAN during a challenging year. Acknowledging the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries, Secretary Pompeo and Prime Minister Phuc reaffirmed the strength of the U.S.-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership and reiterated our shared commitment to a free and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.

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Secretary Pompeo’s Meeting with Vietnamese Minister for Public Security Lam

30 Oct

Office of the Spokesperson

The below is attributable to Principal Deputy Spokesperson Cale Brown:‎

Secretary of State Michael R Pompeo met today with Vietnamese Minister for Public Security To Lam in Hanoi, Vietnam.  Secretary Pompeo and Minister Lam emphasized the importance of growing bilateral security cooperation in the Mekong region and the benefits that a strengthened U.S. – Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership can bring to both of our nations.

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The United States Partners with Australia and Japan to Expand Reliable and Secure Digital Connectivity in Palau

30 Oct

Office of the Spokesperson

The United States, in partnership with the governments of Australia, Japan, and Palau, will finance the construction of an undersea fiber optic cable to the Republic of Palau valued at approximately $30 million. The project will connect to a new U.S. International Development Finance Corporation-financed undersea cable, the world’s longest, spanning from Singapore to the United States. The new spur cable—Palau’s second—will help ensure reliable, secure digital connectivity in Palau, and marks the first project to be delivered under the Trilateral Partnership for Infrastructure Investment in the Indo-Pacific between the United States, Australia and Japan.

Expanding Digital Connectivity in Palau

As a nation in free association with the United States, Palau has made substantial strides rebuilding and modernizing its telecommunications infrastructure with U.S. support. In December 2017, with a loan provided by the Asian Development Bank, Palau connected to the Southeast Asia-United States fiber optic submarine cable that also connects Guam to Indonesia and the Philippines, increasing available bandwidth by around seven times providing more than half of the population with internet connectivity.

However, Palau has no service connection back-up in times of fiber outages or service disruptions, an impediment to development. Connection to a second submarine cable will provide Palau with the redundancy it needs to realize the economic and development benefits of increased and strengthened digital connectivity.

The U.S. Government is providing $4.6 million for the project, including $3.8 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development and $800,000 from the U.S. government’s Transaction Advisory Fund.

In addition, the Republic of Palau is using $7 million in U.S. Government funding made available under the Palau Compact Review Agreement between the United States and Palau.

Belau Submarine Cable Corporation, a wholly owned Palauan state-owned enterprise, will contribute nearly $1 million and will lead the spur cable’s construction.

The Government of Australia will contribute approximately $10 million (USD) to the project, including $1.4 million already invested in the marine survey and branching unit, and a loan of approximately $9 million from the Australia Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific.

The Government of Japan is close to finalizing approval of their financing package through the Japan Bank for International Cooperation and Nippon Export and Investment Insurance.

Trilateral Infrastructure Partnership: Commitment to the Pacific Region

The Trilateral Infrastructure Partnership was established by a memorandum of understanding between the United States, Japan, and Australia in November 2018. The Partnership furthers the three countries’ shared commitment to promote an Indo-Pacific region that is free, open, inclusive, prosperous, and secure, through support for infrastructure projects that adhere to international standards and principles. The Palau spur project is a practical demonstration of the partners’ commitment to meeting the infrastructure needs of the region and promoting secure, resilient, and trustworthy communications networks worldwide.

  • It furthers the United States’ Pacific Pledge, a commitment to partner with the Pacific Islands on their most pressing challenges, including on economic and environmental resilience, maritime security, and good governance.
    • Since the Pacific Pledge was announced last year, the United States has committed more than $300 million in assistance to the Pacific Islands.
  • The project highlights Australia’s strong commitment to the Pacific, as demonstrated by the Pacific Step-up, its AU$1.44 billion (US – $1 billion) of aid committed to the region in 2020-21, and its AU$2 billion (US – $1.4 billion) Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific.
    • As a Pacific country and the region’s largest donor, Australia has a strong interest in supporting the region’s prosperity, stability, sovereignty, and sustainability.
  • Japan is committed to expanding cooperation with the Pacific Island countries through “All-Japan” efforts in pursuit of a free and open Indo-Pacific, as demonstrated by its contribution of approximately 61 billion Yen (USD – 580 million) in development assistance for the Pacific Island Countries since the 8th Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM 8) in 2018. This project is another manifestation of that commitment.

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