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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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Columbia alumni are also anti-Israel, threaten to withhold $77 million in donations



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2,000 people claiming to be Columbia University alumni have signed a letter pledging to “withhold all financial, programmatic, and academic support” from the institution until it meets the demands of anti-Israel protesters. The result is $77 million in donations is at risk.

National Review reports that the letter, addressed to Columbia president Minouche Shafik and the school’s trustees, expresses support for the protesters who oppose the university’s “continued collaboration with the Israeli government’s ongoing genocidal violence against Palestinians.”

“The movement for Palestinian liberation, on campus and globally, is often led by Jewish people of many nations,” the letter says. “Weaponizing claims about antisemitism to silence student speech is based on faulty logic, harms Jewish students, and distracts from true antisemitism, including the attempts by a craven American right to tokenize, exploit, and appropriate Jewish trauma and resilience.”

There does not appear to be a process to verify that people who sign the letters are, in fact, Columbia alumni. It allows people to sign anonymously.

The letter condemns the “administration’s brutal repression of student speech and assembly,” specifically president Shafik’s decision to call in the New York Police Department Strategic Response Group on protesters. Hundreds of anti-Israel protesters were arrested at Columbia and at the City College of New York on April 30, including some who barricaded themselves inside a campus admissions building.

Signatories of the letter are pledging to withhold donations until the university meets 13 demands, including: that it divests from companies that “fund or profit from Israeli apartheid, genocide, and occupation of Palestine”; calls for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war; removes Shafik as president; bans the NYPD from campus; and drops charges against student activists, reverses disciplinary measures against them, and finances the healthcare for students who were “brutalized” by the police.

The website where the letter is shared claims that the signatories have previously provided over $67 million in financial contributions to Columbia, and that over $77 million in donations are now at risk.

The letter also claims that the university “failed to hold accountable the former Israeli soldiers who carried out a chemical attack on protesting students in January 2024.” That seems to be a reference to an incident involving anti-Israel protesters who told the student-run Columbia Spectator that during a demonstration earlier this year they were sprayed with “skunk,” a chemical developed by the Israeli Defense Forces.

While this letter is from supporters of the anti-Israel protesters, Columbia has also received pushback from opponents who say the school is allowing protesters to break the law, disrupt the educational environment, and harass Jewish students, adds National Review.

On Monday, 13 federal judges sent a letter to Columbia leaders saying they will no longer hire the school’s students as clerks due to their behavior and the school’s mismanagement of anti-Israel protests, writing that “Columbia has disqualified itself from educating the future leaders of our country.”

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, a Columbia alumnus, said in April that he would withhold donations from the university due to the anti-Israel protests.

“I am deeply saddened at the virulent hate that continues to grow on campus and throughout our country,” Kraft said in a statement. “I am no longer confident that Columbia can protect its students and staff and I am not comfortable supporting the university until corrective action is taken.”





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