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Don’t Leave the W.H.O. Strengthen It.

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The world is fighting the most serious pandemic in a century, and the United States is in the process of withdrawing from the only international organization equipped to lead that effort.

President Trump has accused the World Health Organization, which is made up of 194 member countries (including the United States), of failing to sound the alarm about the coronavirus quickly enough, of helping the Chinese government cover up the severity of the virus’s threat, and of being too deferential to China in general. He froze federal funding for the organization in April. In May, he gave the W.H.O.’s leaders 30 days to make unspecified improvements, and then — before that time was up, and as the American death toll from Covid-19 topped 100,000 — he decided to withdraw from the group altogether.

It remains to be seen whether Mr. Trump can withdraw from the organization without congressional approval, but a senior administration official recently told Politico that the decision was final.

There are several problems with the president’s critiques. First, his charge that W.H.O. officials abetted a cover-up is false. The organization first warned the world of a mysterious outbreak in China on Jan. 4, following up with a larger report the next day. In the following weeks, it sent a delegation from the W.H.O. Asia office to Wuhan and warned that the virus might be spreading from human to human. By the end of January, officials had declared a global emergency, the strongest warning the W.H.O. can issue.

Mr. Trump downplayed the severity of the threat, repeatedly and publicly, long after the W.H.O. had sounded those alarm bells.

Second, the W.H.O.’s deference to China is no different than its deference to the United States — or any other member country. The W.H.O. is a convening body and a technical resource, not a global regulator or enforcer. Its members, the United States chief among them, designed the organization that way.

But the bigger problem is this: Mr. Trump’s withdrawal from the organization will leave the United States and the rest of the world in a much worse position to tackle health threats like this coronavirus.

The World Health Organization was founded in 1948, when the memory of global war was fresh and the importance of global cooperation so evident it needed no justification. The group boasts an impressive roster of achievements, including the eradication of small pox, the near-eradication of polio and a massive expansion of basic health care services in low-income countries.

Its track record of responding to emergencies is uneven, to be sure. The agency’s slow-footed and uncoordinated response to the West African Ebola outbreak of 2014 was largely to blame for that outbreak’s severity (more than 11,000 people died in the space of two years). But the organization has worked to correct its course in recent years, under the stewardship of Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

While the group has certainly made mistakes in its response to the coronavirus pandemic, those mistakes are a far cry from the dark and deliberate obfuscations that the administration has accused it of. Earlier this week, for example, W.H.O. officials mistakenly asserted that asymptomatic transmission of the virus was “very rare.” But the group remedied the situation exactly as one would hope: by acknowledging the error quickly and openly, and by correcting it promptly.

Some global policy experts say that because the United States joined the W.H.O. by treaty, the president will need congressional approval to leave it. But previous presidents have withdrawn from treaties without lawmakers’ approval. The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has argued that withholding funds earmarked for the W.H.O. is as illegal as it was, last year, for Mr. Trump to temporarily withhold funds from Ukraine. But most of the $400 million or so that the United States gives each year to the W.H.O. is discretionary and could go to any global health endeavor that the president chooses. As the journal Nature notes, the Trump administration has already proposed a new initiative under the auspices of the State Department, the President’s Response to Outbreaks, that would presumably serve this purpose.

But just because Mr. Trump may have legal standing to take the country out of the W.H.O. doesn’t mean he should. Any new program his administration comes up with would be no substitute for the existing global agency. Further siloing public health efforts will only add confusion and complexity to a crisis response that’s already desperate for better coordination.

There are also some things that the United States cannot do on its own. It was only through the W.H.O., for example, that American scientists were able to visit China to see the country’s coronavirus response firsthand. The United States Agency for International Development has funneled much of its pandemic response funding through the W.H.O. for exactly this reason.

The White House seems to understand this: According to ProPublica, even as the administration was freezing W.H.O. funds and contemplating a full withdrawal from the organization, it was still leaning on W.H.O. officials for expert guidance. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was worried enough about the impact of funding freezes that he asked the president to exempt several countries, including Libya, Syria, Sudan and Egypt. State Department officials also warned the president that defunding W.H.O. programs could be disastrous, not only for efforts to contain the coronavirus, but for other longer-standing efforts, including to eradicate polio, in which the U.S. already has invested hundreds of millions of dollars. If those efforts falter now, all of that investment will be lost. Pulling out of the W.H.O. also will severely limit the administration’s ability to influence international drug pricing regimes and vaccine distribution efforts, including for the coronavirus.

The W.H.O. does have problems that ought to be addressed. The scope of its mission has long since outgrown its budget, which is increasingly made up of donations from member countries that can only be used for specific programs. The organization’s split directives — it is both an agency of impartial scientific experts and one whose business is inherently political — continue to undermine its successes. And it is still, for all it has achieved in the past 70 years, a creaking bureaucracy.

But withdrawing from the W.H.O. in the middle of a global pandemic is a terrible solution to those problems. Instead, the United States and other member nations — like Brazil, which also recently threatened to leave the organization — should try seeing the W.H.O. for what it is: a reflection of the countries that created it and that wrote its bylaws. If they don’t like what they see, they should work to improve that reflection.

They might start by strengthening the international health regulations that guide the W.H.O.’s response to infectious disease outbreaks. Those regulations are sensible on their face: In exchange for openness about emerging disease threats within a country’s borders, that country is guaranteed certain protections, including that other nations will refrain from cutting off the affected region from travel and trade. But such rules are effectively unenforceable. Individual countries routinely violate the edicts that don’t suit them, and the W.H.O. has almost no recourse when that happens. If the organization had more sticks to wield — if there were penalties for defying its previously agreed-upon rules — it might not have to meet the duplicity and delay it sometimes encounters with so much patient praise.

The nations critical of the W.H.O. might also consider investing more money, instead of less. The organization’s two-year budget of $4.85 billion is inadequate for the tasks it will face in that time. The United States currently covers roughly 15 percent of that budget. If the president is truly worried about China’s influence on the organization — and on the global stage — he should not leave such an easy spot for that country to step into.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/13/opinion/sunday/trump-world-health-organization-who.html

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Security and Sustainability Forum-With Hazel Henderson and Claudine Schneider. 10/22/2020

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Steering Societies Beyond GDP to the SDGs

With Hazel Henderson and Claudine Schneider

October 22, 2020

1:15 pm to 2:15 pm EDT

The next webinar in the SSF series, with ecological economist and futurist Hazel Henderson, will address how the UN SDGs can and should replace GDP as the basis for valuing society leading to an economy based on planet protection and human wellbeing. Claudine Schneider is Hazel’s guest.

GDP accounts for all the public expenditures as “debt” while ignoring the value of the assets they created. If GDP were to be corrected by including the missing asset account, these debt-to-GDP ratios would be cut by up to 50% — with a few keystrokes! Learn why money isn’t what you think it is and why that matters to life on Earth in the next two webinars with Hazel and guests.

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Claudine Schneider is a former Republican U.S. representative from Rhode Island. She was the first, and to date only, woman elected to Congress from Rhode Island. She is founder of Republicans for Integrity, which describes itself as a network of “Republican former Members of Congress who feel compelled to remind Republican voters about the fundamentals of our party and to provide the facts about incumbents’ voting records.”

October 22nd webinar with Claudine Schneider and Hazel

Sincerely,

Ed.

Edward Saltzberg, PhD

Executive Director

Security and Sustainability Forum

www.ssfonline.org

[email protected]

Sincerely,

Ed.

Edward Saltzberg, PhD

Executive Director

Security and Sustainability Forum

www.ssfonline.org

Source: https://www.ethicalmarkets.com/63564-2/

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The Briefing: RVShare raises over $100M, Google disputes charges, and more

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Here’s what you need to know today in startup and venture news, updated by the Crunchbase News staff throughout the day to keep you in the know.

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RVShare raises over $100M for RV rentals

RVShare, an online marketplace for RV rentals, reportedly raised over $100 million in a financing led by private equity firms KKR and Tritium Partners.

Akron, Ohio-based RVShare has seen sharp growth in demand amid the pandemic, as more would-be travelers seek socially distanced options for hitting the road. Founded in 2013, the company matches RV owners with prospective renters, filtering by location, price and vehicle types.

Previously, RVShare had raised $50 million in known funding, per Crunchbase data, from Tritium Partners. The company is one of several players in the RV rental space, and competes alongside Outdoorsy, a peer-to-peer RV marketplace that has raised $75 million in venture funding.

Funding news

  • BrightFarms closes on $100M: Indoor farming company BrightFarms said it secured more than $100 million in debt and new equity capital to support expansion plans. The Series E round of funding was led by Cox Enterprises, which now owns a majority stake in the company, and includes a follow-on investment from growth equity firm Catalyst Investors.
  • Anyscale inks $40MAnyscale, the Berkeley-based company behind the Ray open source project for building applications, announced $40 million in an oversubscribed Series B funding round. Existing investor NEA led the round and was joined by Andreessen Horowitz, Intel Capital and Foundation Capital. The new funding brings Anyscale’s total funding to more than $60 million.
  • Klar deposits $15M: Mexican fintech Klar closed on $15 million in Series A funding, led by Prosus Ventures, with participation from new investor International Finance Corporation and existing investors Quona Capital, Mouro Capital and Acrew. The round brings total funding raised to approximately $72 million since the company was founded in 2019. The funds are intended to grow Klar’s engineering capabilities in both its Berlin and Mexico hubs.
  • O(1) Labs rakes in $10.9M: O(1) Labs, the team behind the cryptocurrency Mina, announced $10.9 million in a strategic investment round. Co-leading the round are Bixin Ventures and Three Arrows Capital with participation from SNZ, HashKey Capital, Signum Capital, NGC Ventures, Fenbushi Capital and IOSG Ventures.
  • Blustream bags $3M: After-sale customer engagement company Blustream said it raised $3 million in seed funding for product usage data and digital transformation efforts for physical goods companies via the Blustream Product Experience Platform. York IE led the round of funding for the Worcester, Massachusetts-based company with additional support from existing investors.Pillar secures another $1.5M: Pillar, a startup that helps families protect and care for their loved ones, raised $1.5 million in a seed extension to close at $7 million, The round was led by Kleiner Perkins.

Other news

  • Google rejects DOJ antitrust arguments: In the wake of a widely anticipated U.S. Justice Department antitrust suit against Google, the search giant disputed the charges in a statement, maintaining that: “People use Google because they choose to, not because they’re forced to, or because they can’t find alternatives.”
  • Facebook said to test Nextdoor rival: Facebook is reportedly testing a service similar to popular neighborhood-focused social Nextdoor. Called Neighborhoods, the feature reportedly suggests local neighborhood groups to join on Facebook.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

Venture investors and leaders in the fintech space can visualize a future where such startups will move toward again rebundling services.

Root Inc., the parent company of Root Insurance, launched its initial public offering and is looking at a valuation of as much as $6.34 billion.

Clover Health posted rising revenues and a narrower loss in its most recent financial results, published in advance of a planned public market debut.

Crunchbase News’ top picks of the news to stay current in the VC and startup world.

Source: https://news.crunchbase.com/news/briefing-10-21-20/

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Syte Sees $30M Series C For Product Discovery

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Online shopping has become the norm for most people in 2020, even coaxing traditional retail brands to up their presence to stay competitive. However, now that shoppers can’t see and touch products like they used to, e-commerce discovery has become a crucial element for customer acquisition and retention.

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Enter Syte, an Israel-based company that touts creating the world’s first product discovery platform that utilizes the senses, such as visual, text and voice, and then leverages visual artificial intelligence and next-generation personalization to create individualized and memorable customer experiences, Syte co-founder and CEO Ofer Fryman told Crunchbase News.

To execute on this, the company raised $30 million in Series C funding and an additional $10 million in debt. Viola Ventures led the round and was joined by LG Technology Ventures, La Maison, MizMaa Ventures and Kreos Capital, as well as existing investors Magma, Naver Corporation, Commerce Ventures, Storm Ventures, Axess Ventures, Remagine Media Ventures and KDS Media Fund.

This brings the company’s total fundraising to $71 million since its inception in 2015. That includes a $21.5 million Series B, also led by Viola, in 2019, according to Crunchbase data.

Fryman intends for the new funding to be put to work on product enhancements and geographic expansion. Syte already has an established customer base in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and will now focus expansion in the U.S. and Asia-Pacific.

Meanwhile, Syte has grown 22 percent quarter over quarter, as well as experienced a 38 percent expansion of its customer base since the beginning of 2020.

“Since we crossed $1 million annual recurring revenue, we have been tripling revenue while also becoming more efficient,” Fryman said. “We can accelerate growth as well as build an amazing technology and solution for a business that needs it right now. We plan to grow further, and even though our SaaS metrics are excellent right now, our goal is to improve them.”

Anshul Agarwal, managing director at LG Technology Ventures, said Syte was an attractive investment due in part to its unique technology.

“They have a deep-learning system and have created a new category, product discovery that will enable online shopping in a way we never had the ability to do before,” Agarwal said. “The product market fit was also unique. We believe in the strong execution by the team and the rapid growth in SaaS. We looked at many different companies, and the SaaS metrics that Syte showed are the strongest we’ve seen in a while.”

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

Venture investors and leaders in the fintech space can visualize a future where such startups will move toward again rebundling services.

Root Inc., the parent company of Root Insurance, launched its initial public offering and is looking at a valuation of as much as $6.34 billion.

Clover Health posted rising revenues and a narrower loss in its most recent financial results, published in advance of a planned public market debut.

Crunchbase News’ top picks of the news to stay current in the VC and startup world.

Source: https://news.crunchbase.com/news/syte-sees-30m-series-c-for-product-discovery/

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