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WHO official lied about spiked COVID report: Italian prosecutors

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Italian prosecutors have alleged that a high-ranking World Health Organization (WHO) official lied to them about a spiked WHO report into Italy’s coronavirus response, the Associated Press reported Friday. They also revealed private communications Friday with potential to embarrass the United Nations health agency.

This follows the international scrutiny the WHO received for its report investigating the origins of COVID-19 inside China, whose authoritarian government was accused, among other things, of not providing full enough access to data for the WHO-led team of experts.

RELATED: U.S., other countries express ‘concerns’ about WHO report on COVID origins

Prosecutors in the northern city of Bergamo placed Dr. Ranieri Guerra under investigation for allegedly making false statements to them when he was questioned in November, at the time serving as the WHO’s assistant director-general, according to the news outlet. Guerra was the U.N. agency’s intermediary with the Italian government after the country early last year became the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe.

Prosecutors are looking into the massive COVID-19 death toll in Bergamo and whether the country’s unpreparedness entering the pandemic was a factor, according to the AP. Their investigation expanded to include the spiked WHO report into Italy’s COVID-19 response, which revealed that the Italian government hadn’t updated its pandemic preparedness plan since 2006. Guerra was a high-ranking Italian health ministry official during 2014 to 2017, when the plan should have been updated to comply with E.U. directives.

On May 14, the day after the report was published, the WHO removed it from its website and never reuploaded it, according to the AP. The report’s disappearance, the news outlet noted, suggested that the agency removed it to spare the Italian government criticism, embarrassment, and liability.

When asked at the time whether Guerra or the Italian government had intervened to spike the report, the WHO said it was taken down by its regional office in Copenhagen due to “factual inaccuracies,” according to the AP.

However, documentation gathered by the prosecutors—initially reported by the state-run RAI Report—indicated that Guerra maneuvered to have the report removed because the Italian government was upset with it, per the AP.

In one of the private WhatsApp chats between Guerra and Dr. Silvio Brusaferro included in the documentation, Guerra wrote on May 14, 2020 to the high-ranking Italian public health official: “In the end I went to Tedros and got the document removed,” referencing WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

According to the AP, the WHO press office—in an email to the news outlet on Friday—denied that Tedros was involved in spiking the report and insisted the decision-making about the report was done by the Copenhagen office.

“The Director-General was not involved himself in the development, publishing or withdrawal of the report,” the email reportedly said, reiterating that it was taken down because it “contained inaccuracies and inconsistencies” and had been published prematurely. Guerra, the email added, was no longer an assistant director-general but rather a “special adviser.”

Read the full original Associated Press report, here, to learn more about the story.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @DouglasPBraff.

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Cruz warns Biden Admin is weaponizing DOJ against Israel in death of journalist

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Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), warned on Tuesday that weaponizing the Department of Justice against Israel – a staunch allied nation of the United States – is unacceptable in the investigation of the death of a Palestine journalist. Cruz stated that Attorney General Merrick Garland’s actions should end with his impeachment and that the FBI must never be used as a tool against our allies.

Reports surfaced that the U.S. is launching an investigation into the fatal shooting of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Israel confirmed the information Monday in multiple media outlets. Israeli officials noted that such an investigation is a “grave mistake.”

NPR Reports:

A Justice Department spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Gantz’s statement. It was not immediately clear when the investigation might have begun and what it would entail. But a probe by the U.S. into Israeli actions was a rare step that could shake the strong alliance between the two countries.

Palestinian officials, Abu Akleh’s family and Al Jazeera accuse Israel of intentionally targeting and killing the 51-year-old journalist, who was wearing a helmet and a protective vest marked with the word “press” when she was shot last May in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, however, said on Twitter Monday, “that we won’t cooperate with any external investigation” conducted by the FBI.

“We will not allow interference in Israel’s internal affairs,” he added. According to reports Abu Akleh is a  Palestinian but also a U.S. citizen.

Cruz, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Senate Judiciary Committees, was responding to recent reports that the Biden administration seeks to open an FBI investigation into Israel. He stated, “everyone involved with this debacle should be fired or impeached – all the way up to Attorney General Garland.”

Joe Biden and his administration view Israel and Prime Minister-elect Benjamin Netanyahu as political enemies, and so they are responding to them the way they respond to all their political enemies: by unleashing the FBI,” Sen. Cruz stated. “Our Israeli allies have, since the very beginning, cooperated closely with the United States in investigating this incident, and the State Department and Defense Departments had already drawn their conclusions.”

He warned “this outrage underscores how corrupt and blatantly politicized the Justice Department has become, and how entirely beholden to the radical left-wing Squad Democrats really are. This administration has spent its time in office weaponizing the DOJ to target their political enemies as a matter of policy, and now they have allowed that tactic to bleed into their obsession with undermining our Israeli allies.”

The Senator went on Twitter saying that Biden and the administration has weaponized the DOJ “to target their political enemies as a matter of policy, and now they have allowed that tactic to bleed into their obsession with undermining our Israeli allies.”

It’s a fact and we’ve seen how the DOJ, as well as other agencies, have been used against political opponents in the United States, particularly since President Donald Trump took office in 2016. Targeting Israel so openly is all-together new and something that has lawmakers, as well as intelligence officials deeply concerned.

You can follow Sara A. Carter on Twitter @SaraCarterDC

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