Trump’s Failed Leadership On Full Display At Coronavirus Briefing

29 Jul

During last night’s briefing, Trump continued to spread misinformation, he complained about his poll numbers, he doubled down on unproven and potentially dangerous coronavirus treatments, and even defended a doctor who claimed diseases are caused by demon sex. Trump made it clear there is no “new tone,” just the same failed leadership.

The White House brought back Trump’s coronavirus briefings to show his leadership against the virus. No surprise, but it’s not working out.

CNN: “After largely ignoring the pandemic for weeks and denying its severity, the White House revived the briefings last week to demonstrate presidential leadership. But the approach has hit early stumbling blocks.”

The headlines from last night’s briefing make it clear that Trump is still failing to lead in response to this virus and he is not going to change.



New York Times:

New York Times:

Mother Jones:

New York Daily News:

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Ahead of Texas Visit, DNC Launches Digital Homepage Takeover of Odessa American Newspaper to Call Out Trump’s Failed Coronavirus Response

29 Jul

Ahead of Donald Trump’s trip to Texas today, the Democratic National Committee launched a daylong digital advertising campaign taking over the homepage of the Odessa American newspaper to call out Trump’s catastrophic coronavirus response. The paper reaches voters in the Midland-Odessa area, where Trump is set to hold events later today, including a photo op and a high-dollar fundraiser.

Later today, at 1 p.m. CT, the Texas Democratic Party will also host a press call with U.S. Representatives Veronica Escobar, Sylvia Garcia, and Vicente Gonzalez to highlight how Trump’s failed leadership has hurt Latinx communities and working families across Texas.

“Donald Trump can’t spin the devastating consequences of his failed pandemic response with another photo op,” said DNC Chair Tom Perez. “As coronavirus cases spike and Texas’ economy craters, Trump has stuck his head in the sand while leaving working families in the dust. Now, he’s parachuting into Texas in yet another desperate attempt to distract himself from his ineffective and incompetent leadership. Leave it to Trump to rub elbows with his wealthy, well-connected friends at a high-dollar fundraiser while nearly 3 million Texans are out of work and fighting to make ends meet.”

Texas is currently one of the biggest coronavirus hotspots in the nation, with hospitals facing a ‘tsunami’ of patients and severe staff shortages, and some even being forced to pick and choose between who lives and who dies. The Midland-Odessa area that Trump is set to visit has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic. This week in Midland, COVID-related deaths over the past four months surpassed annual deaths from the flu. Meanwhile in Ector County, which is home to Odessa, confirmed coronavirus cases just surpassed 3,000 earlier this week.

Today’s digital ‘homepage takeover’ advertising campaign comes on the heels of the DNC’s television ad airing in the El Paso media market, which was announced earlier this month. The digital ads will appear on the Odessa American’s homepage — including multiple banner ads — and will run for 24 hours. See images of the ads below.



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DNC on Trump’s Latest Attempt to End DACA

29 Jul

In response to the Trump administration refusing to accept new DACA applications and openly defying court orders, DNC Chair Tom Perez released the following statement:

“So much for Trump’s promise of ‘law and order.’ The Supreme Court saw through this administration’s lies last month when it ruled against Trump’s attempts to destroy DACA. Now Trump is defying court orders and violating the law of the land. Instead of focusing on saving lives and jobs in the middle of a pandemic and economic crisis, Trump is trying once more to upend the lives of hundreds of thousands of Dreamers. His cruelty and pettiness know no bounds.

“We have a message for this administration: Dreamers are here to stay. They will no longer be forced into the shadows and used as political pawns. These are our classmates and co-workers, our friends and neighbors. They are American in every way but on paper, and they deserve the chance to stay in the only country they call home.”

“Democrats will continue to stand with Dreamers in the fight against fear and hate. We’ve won this fight before and we’re going to do it again – in court and at the ballot box. The stakes of this election could not be higher. America needs compassionate leadership. We need Joe Biden.”

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Trump Finally Admits He Never Challenged Russia Over Bounties on U.S. Troops

29 Jul

In a new interview, Trump finally admitted what we knew all along: he never challenged Russia for paying bounties to the Taliban to kill U.S. service members in Afghanistan. Trump had multiple opportunities to warn against targeting U.S. troops, but he refused. Instead, he actually went out of his way to defend Russia. This is a complete failure of leadership and a dereliction of his duty as commander in chief to protect American troops.

Trump finally admitted that he did not raise the issue of Russian bounties on U.S. troops with Putin.

TRUMP: “I have never discussed it with him, no.”

Trump tried to change the subject away from Russia instead of challenging them over bounties when pressed.

TRUMP: “You know it’s interesting, nobody ever brings up China. They always bring Russia, Russia, Russia.”

Trump then went out of his way to repeatedly defend Russia when asked about Russia arming the Taliban.

TRUMP: “Well we supplied weapons when they were fighting Russia too.”

TRUMP: “Russia doesn’t want anything to do with Afghanistan… The last thing that Russia wants to do is get too much involved with Afghanistan.”

The White House has refused to say whether Trump pressed Putin on interference after new warnings from the U.S. intelligence community.

ABC News: “Stephanopoulos also challenged the chief of staff on warnings issued by the U.S. intelligence community this week of potential foreign interference in the election, including by Russia, and whether it was a topic of conversation between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Meadows did not answer the latter question, but pointed to the ‘hundreds of millions of dollars’ invested in intelligence and election security and attempted to differentiate between attempts to impact the campaign and successful efforts.”

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Appointment of U.S. Coordinator for the Arctic Region

29 Jul

Office of the Spokesperson

The Department of State has appointed Jim DeHart as the U.S. Coordinator for the Arctic Region.  Serving as the principal advisor to the Secretary and the Deputy Secretary on all Arctic matters, DeHart will lead and coordinate the Department’s policy-making and diplomatic engagement on Arctic-related issues to advance U.S. interests in the region related to safety and security, sustainable economic growth, and cooperation among Arctic States to support and strengthen the rules-based order in the region.

Mr. DeHart holds the rank of Minister Counselor and is a 28-year career member of the Senior Foreign Service.  He most recently served as the Senior Advisor for Security Negotiations and Agreements from 2019-2020, where he led the negotiation of status of forces, defense cooperation, and burden-sharing agreements worldwide.  Mr. DeHart served previously as Deputy Chief of Mission in Oslo, Norway, with extended periods as Chargé d’Affaires.  He brings significant experience in regional security, civilian-military cooperation, and international negotiations.  A hallmark of his career has been close collaboration with U.S. allies and partners to advance our shared interests and values.

The United States plays a critical leadership role on Arctic issues within the international community and remains committed to ensuring a peaceful region where U.S. interests are safeguarded, the U.S. homeland is protected, and Arctic States work cooperatively to address shared challenges.  The Department of State works across the federal government and with state and local government and Arctic indigenous communities to maintain U.S. leadership in the region to ensure a safe, secure, and prosperous future for all Arctic peoples.  The appointment of Jim DeHart reaffirms the commitment of the United States to that mission.



WHO, WIPO, WTO launch updated study on access to medical technologies and innovation

29 Jul

On 29 July, the Directors-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the WTO presented a new edition of the Trilateral Study on Access to Medical Technologies and Innovation. Building on the first edition launched in 2013, the publication seeks to strengthen the understanding of the interplay between the distinct policy domains of health, trade and intellectual property (IP), and how they affect innovation and access to medical technologies, such as medicines, vaccines and medical devices. The second edition provides an improved, evidence-based foundation for policy debate and informed decision-making at a critical time for global health.

In a video message released on the day of the launch, WTO Director General Roberto Azevêdo emphasized the need for policy coherence and collaboration. Recognizing the close link between the health, trade and IP dimensions, he noted that “coherent approaches to vital medical technologies that bring together the key determinants for innovation as well as access” were required and needed “to span the entire process, from research to development to manufacturing and delivery to those in need”. 

DG Azevêdo said: “Close collaboration between our three specialized agencies has yielded important practical benefits. Similar benefits could be replicated at the domestic level by mirroring this integrated approach.” He expressed the hope “that the revised material will support policy debate and help build governments’ capacity to deal with health challenges”. DG Azevêdo recalled that “it is only through joint efforts at the global level that we can achieve our shared public health goals” and that “cooperation is also necessary to prepare for future health crises”, a goal to which the study contributes.

WIPO Director General Francis Gurry said in a video message that the new edition of the trilateral study is an important example of the three international organizations bringing their separate expertise together to address core issues at the intersection of health, trade and innovation. He observed that the original study, published in 2013, was well received precisely because it provided a factual account of the landscape on access to medical technologies and innovation, and of the multiplicity of actors involved. 

“Our first duty,” DG Gurry said, “always is to survey what the situation actually is” before determining the best way to improve it. He noted that while the new edition coincides with the current global health crisis, it was completed prior to the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. The study nonetheless includes a separate section on this hugely challenging and complex subject matter.  DG Gurry underscored the importance of interdisciplinary approaches and of cooperation amongst international organizations as “the COVID-19 pandemic is showing the need for health, trade and innovation policy to come together to provide the answers that we need to confront this huge challenge for humanity”.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said in his video message: "Barriers to access must be removed, including unaffordable prices, intellectual property barriers, unjustified tariffs and challenges in ensuring effective and efficient regulatory review." 

"We have seen over the past months how countries have mobilized unprecedented investments in collaborative, not-for-profit research and development. The COVID-19 pandemic is showing what we can do when we come together to face a shared global health threat. That’s the kind of collaboration that can save lives and transform the health of billions of people globally," he added.

What’s new in the revised edition?

The study discusses key factors determining access to medical technologies and innovation, including regarding medicines, vaccines and other medical technologies, such as medical devices and diagnostics. The second edition draws practical lessons from experiences regarding the intersections between public health, IP and trade within the broader perspectives established by the human rights dimension of health and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The study records numerous significant developments since 2013 when the first edition was launched. Among the new topics covered are antimicrobial resistance and cutting-edge health technologies. The revised edition provides updated data on health, innovation trends in the pharmaceutical sector, and trade and tariffs regarding medical products. It also includes an updated overview of access to medical technologies globally and key provisions in regional trade agreements. In addition, it takes account of developments in IP legislation and jurisprudence.

A COVID-19 section at the start of the publication provides a factual overview of the developments and measures taken to address this extraordinary public health crisis, which began after the work on the second edition of the study had been completed. The section guides the reader to parts of the study that are of direct relevance to the issues that have been raised during the pandemic.

Who should read the study?

The study is designed to serve as a reference tool for policy-makers in the widest sense – lawmakers, government officials, delegates to international organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), researchers, and all others who seek a compendium of the issues at the intersection of global health, innovation and intellectual property and trade. It is also designed to serve as a factual resource for the three organizations’ technical cooperation activities.


INFOSAN Quarterly Summary, 2020 #2

29 Jul

Food safety incidents

During the second quarter of 2020, the INFOSAN Secretariat has been involved in 29 food safety incidents with 59 WHO Member States and two territories of WHO Member States. There were 13 biological hazard incidents (Salmonella [5], Listeria monocytogenes [3], Clostridium botulinum [2], Vibrio cholerae [1], and two involving an unspecified biological hazard), six with a chemical hazard (methanol [3], histamine [2] and patulin [1]), five involving an undeclared allergen (cashew and pistachio [1], sesame [1], wheat (1),  mustard [1] and peanuts [1]), three including a physical hazard (glass [3]), and two with unspecified hazards.  

The food categories most commonly involved in the 29 incidents during the second quarter of 2020 were fish and other seafood (5), alcoholic beverages (3), meat and meat products (3), composite food (3), fruit and fruit products (3), milk and dairy products (3), cereals and cereal-based products (2), food for infants and small children (1), herbs, spiced and condiments (1), nuts and oilseeds (1), products for special nutritional use (1), snacks, desserts and other products (1), vegetable and vegetable products (1), and legumes and pulses (1).

During such international food safety incidents, the INFOSAN Secretariat relies on the swift action of national INFOSAN Emergency Contact Points to respond to requests for information. Rapid sharing of information through INFOSAN enables members to implement appropriate risk management measures to prevent illness.

Geographic scope

Food safety incidents in this quarter involved countries from all WHO regions: Europe (34), followed by Western Pacific (11), Americas (6), Africa (5), South-East Asia (2), and finally Eastern Mediterranean (2).

Multi-country outbreak of Listeriosis linked to enoki mushrooms imported from the Republic of Korea

During the second quarter of the year, the INFOSAN Secretariat continued following up on this food safety incident following the reports of cases of listeriosis linked to the consumption of enoki mushrooms from the Republic of Korea (RoK) in the United States of America (USA) (n=36), and in Canada (n=6) which are related by whole genome sequencing (WGS) to the cluster of cases in the USA. Moreover, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) pursued their food safety investigation and collected additional enoki mushroom samples in which Listeria monocytogenes was detected. These findings subsequently triggered the recall of the implicated products in Canada in March 2020. The L. monocytogenes isolates from these samples were also genetically associated with the cluster of cases.

In April 2020, the INFOSAN Secretariat was made aware of six listeriosis cases in Australia, notified between October 2017 and March 2020. The cases had been linked through phylogenetic analysis of WGS to the USA outbreak of listeriosis which was related to the consumption of enoki mushrooms imported from the Republic of Korea (the USA cases were reported between 2016 and 2019). Investigations in Australia identified enoki mushrooms imported from a single Korean supplier, which were also identified as having been distributed to the USA. These were confirmed to be contaminated with the outbreak sequence of Listeria monocytogenes through phylogenetic analysis. As a result, a recall of the implicated enoki mushrooms was implemented in Australia on 10 April 2020. Australia also reminded consumers of the risks of listeriosis and more specifically advised that enoki mushrooms should be cooked before consumption. 

Through engagement with the INFOSAN Emergency Contact Point (ECP) in RoK, the INFOSAN Secretariat was made aware of the results of the local investigations regarding the international distribution of the implicated enoki mushrooms. The ECP in RoK confirmed that implicated enoki mushrooms were distributed by a single exporter to Australia, Canada, Hong Kong SAR (China), Indonesia, Myanmar, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Singapore and the United States of America. A series of actions to mitigate the risk were implemented by authorities in RoK, such as food safety education to farmers and the inclusion of a notice on the package of enoki mushrooms to alert consumers of the need to cook the products before consumption.

The INFOSAN Secretariat notified the ECPs in recipient countries of the distribution of the implicated enoki mushrooms and referred them to the WGS details that had been previously shared on the INFOSAN Community Website to assist them in the identification of related clinical or food isolates that may have been previously identified. Besides the cases reported in Australia (n=5), Canada (n=6) and the USA (n=36), French authorities confirmed that five isolates from enoki mushrooms from RoK collected in 2017 and distributed via the Netherlands, shared the same core genome multilocus sequence typing (cgMLST).

No additional illnesses linked to the consumption of the implicated mushrooms were reported to the INFOSAN Secretariat.

Methanol poisoning outbreaks linked to the consumption of adulterated alcoholic beverages

Outbreaks of methanol poisoning often occur when methanol is used to adulterate illegally produced alcoholic beverages. In the second quarter of 2020, the INFOSAN Secretariat was made aware of three such outbreaks in Mexico, Dominican Republic and Cambodia. While the events appear to be localized and not linked to one another in terms of the adulterated products, they highlight a common issue whereby fraudsters may be taking advantage of opportunities where legal alcohol sales have been restricted in order to boost their own sales. Such opportunities appear to be occurring more frequently during the COVID-19 pandemic where alcohol sales have been reduced or restricted in some jurisdictions.

In May and June 2020, more than 100 deaths in Mexico were linked to the consumption of fraudulent alcoholic beverages adulterated with methanol. The INFOSAN Secretariat engaged with the ECP in Mexico and was informed that the implicated alcoholic beverages were not distributed internationally. Investigations are ongoing to identify further fraudulent alcoholic beverages potentially linked to the outbreak.

In addition, the ECP in Dominican Republic notified the INFOSAN Secretariat of an outbreak of methanol poisoning in the country in June linked to the consumption of adulterated alcoholic beverages. It was reported that 215 fatalities and 340 cases of methanol poisoning were registered in Dominican Republic.

The authorities in the Dominican Republic carried out an operation in coordination with the Office of the Attorney General for Crimes and Offenses against Health, the General Directorate of Drugs, Food, and Health Products, the National Police, and the Provincial Health Directorate of Santiago. As a result, three people have been arrested within the facilities of the clandestine factories and 2,864 bottles were confiscated. More details can be found in the press release from the Ministry of Public Health of the Dominican Republic.

Also in June 2020, the INFOSAN Secretariat was informed of an outbreak of methanol poisoning in Cambodia, suspected to be linked to the consumption of wine. A total of 43 cases and 7 deaths have been reported in relation to the outbreak. The INFOSAN Secretariat has contacted the INFOSAN Emergency Contact Point in Cambodia to seek information on possible international distribution of the affected products. Investigations are ongoing.

News & activities

Food Sector and the COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19 and the measures taken to mitigate the global impact of the pandemic have disrupted food production and food supply chains worldwide. However, ensuring continuous and safe food supply is a critical issue for the health of all people, everywhere. Two FAO/WHO guidance documents have been developed in collaboration with the INFOSAN Secretariat and published in April 2020. These are titled, COVID-19 and Food Safety: Guidance for competent authorities responsible for national food safety control systems, and COVID-19 and food safety: guidance for food businesses. These documents provide advice and recommendations for national food safety authorities to optimize food control functions and prioritize critical services that preserve the integrity of food safety systems and also highlight additional measures that food businesses need to take so that the integrity of the food chain is maintained, and adequate and safe food supplies are available for consumers. The INFOSAN Secretariat has been working with partners to support network members during the COVID-19 pandemic and has delivered multiple webinars in different languages to discuss the recommendations contained within these guidance documents.

Commemoration of the second World Food Safety Day

On 7 June 2020, the second World Food Safety Day highlighted the theme, ‘Food Safety is Everyone’s Business’. This year, a presentation to describe what everyone can do to ensure Safe Food in Markets was jointly prepared by FAO and WHO. The INFOSAN Secretariat delivered this presentation during three webinars in English, French and Spanish to discuss the topic with INFOSAN Members and the sessions were attended by more than 250 participants.

The INFOSAN Secretariat also encouraged members to commemorate this World Food Safety Day and shared available materials prepared by FAO/WHO for the date, along with a list of online activities in which to participate. Further details on how countries celebrated this day are available on the World Food Safety Day website.

INFOSAN Working Group

Following input from several INFOSAN members on the need to maintain a working group with the members that are most often involved in food safety incidents communicated through INFOSAN, and in line with the INFOSAN Strategic Plan 2020-2025, the INFOSAN Secretariat set out a plan to host a series of working groups with these most frequently engaged members. The INFOSAN Working Group (WG) aims to increase the active participation of members, to share common ideas and approaches to better participate in the network and to offer a resource to support countries (e.g. buddying system, etc.)

The first meeting of the WG was held online in two sessions on 28 May and 12 June to accommodate different time zone across regions. The first WG identified eleven themes which are critical for the entire network and agreed to create clear and tangible outputs which at a later stage should be shared with the entire INFOSAN network.


Voice of an active network member

INFOSAN Quarterly Summary voice-2-2020


Framework for the evaluation of new tests for tuberculosis infection

29 Jul

WHO and the Stop TB Partnership’s New Diagnostics Working Group (NDWG) launched today a framework for the evaluation of new tests for tuberculosis infection. The document provides details on study design, populations, reference standards, sample size calculation and data analysis to guide the future development of these tests.

Approximately a quarter of the world’s population is estimated to be infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Treatment of TB infection, also known as tuberculosis preventive treatment (TPT), aims to prevent the development of TB disease, and is one of the critical components to achieve the ambitious targets of the WHO End TB Strategy.  At the United Nations High-level Meeting (UNHLM) on TB in 2018, countries committed to provide TPT to at least 30 million people in 2018-2022. 

"We urgently need new tests for TB infection to expand access to TB preventive treatment for the millions in need, to stop the onset of disease, avert suffering and save lives," said Dr Tereza Kasaeva, Director, WHO Global TB Programme. "New tests with better operational characteristics which can be easily scaled up in the community are vital to overcome the current challenges of fragile supply lines, high cost, cold-chain requirements, uncertainty about quality-assurance, and appropriate laboratory infrastructure."

This framework for evaluation of new tests for the detection of TB infection has been produced to direct research and to facilitate a standardized evaluation, thus accelerating the adoption of the tests into global and national policy and subsequent scale-up. The document covers technical issues that should be considered when evaluating new tests for TB infection, such as evaluation of the safety of skin tests, costs to the health system and its users, preferred features and operational characteristics. It is intended for manufacturers of diagnostics, researchers, research funders, regulators, TB programme coordinators, civil society and other stakeholders.

"We will not be able to progress towards ending TB without reliable tests to confirm TB infection," said Dr Alberto Matteelli, University of Brescia, Italy and coordinator of the Task Force that prepared the framework document. "Although currently testing for TB infection is not always required before starting TPT, a positive test result will help direct TPT to those would benefit most from treatment and avoid unnecessary medication."



Limited Cross-Border Access into North-West Syria Placing Strain on Humanitarians to Reach Many in Need, Aid Worker Tells Security Council

29 Jul

The closure of the Bab al-Salam border crossing is making it harder for humanitarians to access certain areas of Syria, an aid worker told the Security Council during a 29 July videoconference meeting, while the representative of a permanent Council member argued that it is possible to handle increased deliveries through a single crossing that remains open.