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More than 60 lawmakers in France questioned the origin of organ transplants in China, urging health organizations in both China and France to comply with professional ethics.

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Biden administration

Wuhan Lab Eligible to Receive US Taxpayer Funding Through 2024, NIH Confirms

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The Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) is authorized to receive taxpayer funding for animal research until January 2024, the National Institute of Health told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

The WIV is at the center of widespread speculation that COVID-19 could have entered the human population in China due to an accidental lab leak. Researchers at the lab were studying bat-based coronaviruses prior to the outbreak, a project partially backed by $600,000 in U.S. taxpayer funds routed to the lab through the nonprofit group EcoHealth Alliance.

The president of EcoHealth Alliance, Peter Daszak, was the sole U.S. member of the World Health Organization (WHO) delegation that investigated the origins of the pandemic on the ground in China in January and February. While the WHO delegation has yet to release a report on their findings, Daszak said the White House should blindly accept their conclusion that it’s highly unlikely the virus could have leaked from the WIV.

Daszak also said American intelligence, which indicates researchers at the WIV became infected with COVID-like symptoms before the first known cases in December 2019, shouldn’t be trusted.

EcoHealth Alliance’s work researching bat-based coronaviruses in China was funded by a $3.7 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in 2014, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The grant was terminated by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in April amid criticism over EcoHealth Alliance’s relationship with the WIV. The NIH said in a letter the nonprofit’s work in China did not align with “program goals and agency priorities.”

Security-personnel
Security personnel gather near the entrance of the Wuhan Institute of Virology during a visit by the World Health Organization team in Wuhan in China’s Hubei province, China, on Feb. 3, 2021. (Ng Han Guan/AP Photo)

The NIH told EcoHealth Alliance in July it would restore the grant if it met certain conditions, one of which was to arrange for an independent team to investigate the WIV to determine if it had possession of the SARS-COV-2 virus prior to the first known cases in December 2019.

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Daszak told NPR that the NIH’s conditions were “preposterous.”

“I’m not trained as a private detective,” Daszak said. “It’s not really my job to do that.”

However, the WIV still has an active Foreign Assurance on file with the NIH Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare, which enables it to continue receiving taxpayer funds to engage in animal research, according to the NIH Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare.

A NIH spokeswoman told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the WIV’s Foreign Assurance was approved on Jan. 9, 2019, and is currently set to expire on Jan. 31, 2024.

The spokeswoman did not confirm whether the WIV is currently receiving direct or indirect taxpayer funding for research activities involving animals. EcoHealth Alliance’s last known subgrant to the WIV was in May 2019, according to USASpending.Gov.

EcoHealth Alliance received a new $7.5 million grant from the NIH to help establish a Centers for Research in Emerging Infectious Diseases. Daszak told NPR that the funds his organization received from the new grant will not be used for any research in China.

The president of the nonpartisan watchdog group White Coat Waste Project, Anthony Bellotti, told the DCNF that EcoHealth Alliance should be defunded entirely for funding “reckless gain-of-function animal experiments that may have led to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“We’re urging Congress and the White House to defund EcoHealth now and secure independent investigations into whether their treacherous gain-of-function animal experiments at the Wuhan Institute of Virology led to the COVID outbreak.”

By Andrew Kerr

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China

Mike Pompeo’s pricey pens: Ex-secretary of State spent $10K in taxpayer funds on China-made swag for dinners

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Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spent more than $10,000 of taxpayer money on China-made pens for attendees at private dinner parties he hosted, including CEOs, conservative media figures and Republican donors, according to State Department records.

The pens Pompeo handed out to his Madison Dinner guests cost an average of more than $26 apiece, according to the records, first reported Thursday by the advocacy group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

CREW noted that at the same time the top U.S. diplomat was doling out 400 of the expensive pens, he was publicly bashing China for “trade abuses that cost American jobs and strike enormous blows to economies all across America.”

In a tweet Thursday, he said: “We must remain tough on China.”

Pompeo’s then-boss, now-former President Donald Trump, ran for the White House as a Republican on an “America First” platform and also often stuck out at China.

In addition to the cost of the pens, which in a classy touch were engraved with the words “Madison Dinner,” taxpayers footed the bill for $40,000 or so in other expenses related to the soirees, according to CREW, which received documents about the pens through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

Records show that the pens were purchased from Madden Branded Goods, a Florida-based company that bills itself as “a team of creative thinkers and team players who are passionate about logo’d swag.”

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In all, the State Department forked over at least $10,433 for the pens.

A spokeswoman for Pompeo, who is considered a potential candidate for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Pompeo named the dinners after the fifth American secretary of State, James Madison, who was elected president after serving as the nation’s leading diplomat.

NBC News, which first reported details of the dinners, previously said that State Department officials involved in the dinners “raised concerns internally that the events were essentially using federal resources to cultivate a donor and supporter base for Pompeo’s political ambitions.”

Only around 14% of the attendees were diplomats or foreign officials.

Pompeo is a former CIA director and GOP congressman from Kansas.”

That report was published in May, days after the State Department’s inspector general, Steve Linick, was fired by Trump even as the internal watchdog was investigating Pompeo’s alleged misuse of a political appointee at the department to perform personal tasks for himself and his wife.

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Biden administration

Biden warns China will ‘eat our lunch’ on infrastructure spending

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US President Joe Biden has warned that China will “eat our lunch” if America doesn’t “step up” its infrastructure spending.

Mr Biden was speaking on Thursday with a group of senators about the need to upgrade infrastructure in the US.

His warning comes the day after his first phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

On the call, Mr Xi took a hard line on human rights saying a confrontation would be a disaster for both countries.

Mr Biden made the comments after meeting with members of the Environment and Public Works committee.

“If we don’t get moving, they are going to eat our lunch,” President Biden told senators.

“They’re investing billions of dollars dealing with a whole range of issues that relate to transportation, the environment and a whole range of other things. We just have to step up.”

During the campaign, Mr Biden proposed spending $2tn (£1.45tn) over four years to create jobs and invest in clean energy infrastructure.

A widely cited American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) “report card” from 2017 gave the country’s infrastructure a grade of “D+”.

The ASCE estimated that the total “infrastructure gap” needed $2tn by 2025 to fix, but would cost the economy twice as much if it went unaddressed.

The World Economic Forum’s 2019 Global Competitiveness Report ranked the US 13th in a broad measure of infrastructure quality, down from fifth place in 2002.

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China has been investing heavily in its infrastructure, pouring money into high-speed rail, metro systems, apartment buildings, electricity grids and mobile networks.

“They have a major, major new initiative on rail and they already have rail that goes 225 miles an hour with ease,” Mr Biden noted.

Human rights and diplomacy

President Biden also discussed several other points of friction with the Chinese President during his call.

The White House said he voiced “fundamental” concerns about Beijing’s “coercive and unfair” trade practices, as well as concerns over China’s crackdown in Hong Kong and treatment of Muslims in Xinjiang.

He also raised China’s increasingly assertive posture toward Taiwan and the country’s lack of transparency over Covid-19, said White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

Mr Xi maintained a hard line on Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Taiwan, calling them matters of “sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

He told Mr Biden confrontation would be a “disaster” and the two sides should re-establish the means to avoid misjudgements, China’s foreign ministry said.

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