The WHO is both stupid and immoral

Update:  On second thought, the post should have been entitled “This WHO official is both stupid and immoral”.  I didn’t mean to suggest that everyone who works at the WHO falls into that category.

The video where a WHO official refuses to mention the word “Taiwan” has gone viral.

The immorality of his action is obvious.  Less obvious is the stupidity.  You might think that he caved in to China’s demand that the WHO not recognize Taiwan.  But China does not demand that people refuse to recognize the existence of Taiwan.  Indeed China itself recognizes Taiwan, as a province of China.  (As does Taiwan’s constitution.)  People talk about Taiwan all the time in China.  The weather reports I used to watch on Beijing TV show forecasts for each provincial capital city, including Taipei.  The Chinese don’t act like Taiwan doesn’t exit; they officially regard it as just another province of China.  All the WHO official had to do is say, “The Chinese province of Taiwan has done a very fine job in controlling the epidemic.”  What a dummy.

And then there’s this:

On Jan. 14, the World Health Organization sent a tweet that turned out to be one of the most significant statements in the world’s fight against the virus now known as Covid-19. Based on information from China, the global health agency wrote, the new coronavirus didn’t appear to spread via human-to-human transmission.

Two weeks earlier, health authorities in Taiwan had reached the opposite conclusion. Not only did Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control surmise that people were passing the disease to each other, they notified the WHO of their suspicions through the UN agency’s International Health Regulations reporting window, a platform for sharing information and updates.

“We tried to get clarification from the IHR on what’s going on in Wuhan,” Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told me. “But the response from the WHO was, ‘OK, we’ll take it from here.’” The Taiwanese never heard back.

BTW, the epidemic is finally slowing in Europe, and there are even a few signs that the curve might be beginning to bend in the US.  This is a very positive sign:

Austria has set out plans to become the first country in Europe to ease its lockdown against the coronavirus pandemic, with shops due to reopen as early as next week.

I’d expect the following from the GOP.  But the Democrats?

“We are concerned that Treasury Department’s recent guidance on the ‘Airline Industry Payroll Support’ Program does not fully reflect the intent of Congress,” they wrote in the letter, which also was signed by House Transportation Chairman Peter DeFazio and Sherrod Brown, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee.

Pelosi and DeFazio have previously said that demands for airline equity stakes in exchange for the $25 billion in grants designed to save jobs are onerous and could prompt carriers to decline the help.

It’s bad enough that both parties want to throw money at the airlines (more specifically airline stockholders like me), but now the Democrats seem to oppose any provision that would allow taxpayers to claw back some of that reckless spending.

Wouldn’t it be so sad if the airlines refused the $25 billion we were trying to give them. . . .



28 Responses to “The WHO is both stupid and immoral”

  1. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    6. April 2020 at 09:42


    The problem is saying “the Chinese province of Taiwan” then angers the Taiwanese the same way the reverse angers the Chinese. Taiwan is much smaller and less important of course, but you seem to be advocating that their feelings don’t matter and the CCP’s do. Which is why many accuse you of being a Chinese apologist. Not me, but that’s how they get confused.

    Basically it’s a tricky situation for anyone with a global audience, how to refer to Taiwan in a way that doesn’t piss off anyone.

  2. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    6. April 2020 at 09:44


    Agreed 100% on the airline bailout. Equity stakes that allow the taxpayers to get their money back (or even a profit, like with TARP) are the way to go.

  3. Gravatar of Romeo Stevens Romeo Stevens
    6. April 2020 at 09:46

    expect many places to try to reopen too early and needing to lock down again.

  4. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    6. April 2020 at 10:01


    Not necessarily, if they reopen with distancing and decontamination measures still in place. Also, better testing means outbreaks can be more locally contained.

    Yes there is uncertainty but it’s worth trying some things.

  5. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    6. April 2020 at 10:31

    msgkings. But that’s the official position of the WHO, the UN, the USA, China, Taiwan, etc. The Taiwanese need to deal with the fact that this is the view of most countries.

    It may be unfortunate for Taiwan, but it’s far less bad than pretending that Taiwan does not exist. That looks cowardly.

    If the WHO wants to use some other language, then do so. If they don’t want to talk about Taiwan out of fear of angering the Chinese, then say they don’t want to talk about Taiwan for fear of angering the Chinese. But don’t just hang up on the poor reporter!

    Again, the Chinese media talk about Taiwan quite frequently. It can be done.

    Romeo, That’s very possible. But it’s still nice to see the Austrians attempting this experiment, to give the world a better sense of what’s possible.

  6. Gravatar of Mark Mark
    6. April 2020 at 11:47

    While I agree that the WHO should have included Taiwan in this process, I don’t think the criticism of its January 14th tweet is quite fair. The WHO tweet did not say that human-to-human transmission had been ruled out, only that there had been “no clear evidence” of it. I interpreted those statements in January to mean “the jury’s still out,” which for all we know was a fair interpretation of the facts as they stood at the time. We don’t want health authorities to be jumping to conclusions before all the evidence is in, especially when those authorities can be criticized for stoking panic and causing disruption by jumping to conclusions too quickly (as the WHO was in the 2009 swine flu pandemic).

    The WHO is not the only organization that is conservative in its reporting either. Look at the CDC’s tracker: This tracker still says that community transmission is “undetermined” in states with thousands of cases including Indiana and Kentucky. When I checked last week, it was saying community transmission was “undetermined” in many more states too. Of course, it is a good bet that community transmission is indeed occurring in Indiana, but that doesn’t mean the CDC is doing anything nefarious by saying “undetermined” until conclusive evidence is in.

  7. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    6. April 2020 at 11:57

    WHO’s on first?

  8. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    6. April 2020 at 13:11

    Mark, Fair point, but I think we agree that this was uncalled for:

    “We tried to get clarification from the IHR on what’s going on in Wuhan,” Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told me. “But the response from the WHO was, ‘OK, we’ll take it from here.’” The Taiwanese never heard back.”

  9. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    6. April 2020 at 16:07

    If you are going to go to a lockdown strategy, it appears to be a dead end. Hong Kong tried to come out of a lockdown and then went back in. I hope the best for Austria, but the logic for a lockdown is compelling, as long as you have a novel virus and a naive population.

    Unfortunately, sometimes in life there is nothing but bad options and you have to take the least-bad option.

    The lockdowns appear to kick the can down the road, but at fantastic expense.

  10. Gravatar of Bob Bob
    6. April 2020 at 16:07

    There’s all kinds of money being thrown at random: My small business, which is doing absolutely fine, can claim 6 figures worth of forgivable loan. So we are talking about a bunch of employees who make too much money for IRS checks, but as a company, we get tens of thousands per employee. It’s hilarious and tragic.

  11. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    6. April 2020 at 16:18

    On Pelosi-Defazio, I think their plan does not require taxpayer equity stakes as it involves a shuffle through of money directly to airline workers.

    In Europe the approach has been to pay companies to keep people on payroll.

  12. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    6. April 2020 at 18:02

    I agree with Benjamin, at first glance Airline Industry Payroll Support looks indeed a bit like Kurzarbeit in Germany — but for Airlines only, how unfair is that?

    Specific aid for the American oil industry is also being discussed. Here too, the question arises whether individual industries should really be helped just because they have the most annoying lobby organisations with the most bribe money.

    Not to mention that both industries destroy our climate. If a few companies in this sector go under, then they go under, what is the worst thing that can happen? That our climate gets a little break?

  13. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    6. April 2020 at 18:09

    I obviously do not agree with your comment on the WHO Taiwan video. In the video you see Bruce Aylward, he knows China quite well, he was the leader of the WHO group who was the first (and only?) to get permission from the CCP to visit Wuhan.

    The fact that the WHO behaves so immorally towards Taiwan is only due to massive pressure from the CCP. You always seem to “forget” this part. Your criticism is essentially that Aylward does not hide CCP propaganda “cleverly” enough, that he is too brusque and that he is causing a PR disaster for the WHO and the CCP so that the whole world can see what rotten, immoral pieces of shit WHO and CCP are.

    Well, this PR disaster is just right, and it is thanks to the great merit of the Hong Kong reporter that she has documented and published this immoral collaboration between the CCP and the WHO at great personal risk.

  14. Gravatar of Brian Brian
    6. April 2020 at 18:42

    Professor Knut Wittkowski seems to be saying China almost had herd immunity and but they did a lock-down because they didn’t know what they were dealing with. Too bad the film makers have him sitting in front of a bottle (Grolsh ?).

  15. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    6. April 2020 at 19:14

    Here is a non-PC topic. This COVID-19 novel coronavirus is “zoonotic” meaning it passes between species.

    “domestic cats and dogs testing positive for the virus after their owners became sick with COVID-19. A 17-year-old Pomeranian in Hong Kong tested “weakly positive” in February and died in March, but the dog might have simply died of old age, according to reporting from the South China Morning Post. A two-year-old German shepherd in Hong Kong tested positive after its owner came down with the disease, while another dog that lived in the same home didn’t. A cat in Hong Kong and another cat in Belgium have also tested positive. The cat in Belgium “showed clinical signs of digestive and respiratory disease,” according to information from the National Veterinary Services of Belgium.”


    And the zoo tigers in NYC. Maybe bats in China.

    So…how about squirrels and rats?

    Can we lockdown the animals too? Will infections commonly travel back and forth from pets to people and other animal populations?

    So, we come out of lockdowns…and people start getting sick from COVID-19 again. Then what? Is it from animals, or other people?

    Sure, a squirrel-sneeze is not likely to infect a human. But if it happens, it is back to the races….

    What if COVID-19 becomes endemic to animal populations everywhere?

  16. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    6. April 2020 at 19:32

    He can only mean herd immunity in Wuhan. That’s why the real death toll from Wuhan would be interesting. Are the numbers from there real or not? For example, the curve from Wuhan indeed looks a bit like the infection there almost burnt out.

    He also speaks of 500 deaths per day for 4 weeks. The US had 1255 deaths yesterday alone. I always don’t know exactly what the herd immunity theorists are so excited about. First of all, according to their theories, we are on a “good” track as it is, with all those dead people, and secondly, what would they do differently? Should all hospitals be completely overrun for weeks? What is their point? If herd immunity has been achieved in Wuhan, then this will also happen in Madrid, NYC, Lombardy.

  17. Gravatar of ChrisA ChrisA
    6. April 2020 at 22:21

    Maybe I am too much optimistic, but doesn’t the recent rapidly falling NY admission data give cause for great hope this epidemic is controllable with only minor behavior modifications? Share markets seem to share this optimism as well. How could this be so quick? Maybe it is around then thing with the aged unfit people being most susceptible. Are they not the most easiest of people to protect since they usually won’t be in the workforce? If they had made sure this was done in Italy the fatality rate would have been much much lower (not zero though). Maybe this wasn’t done in Italy in time, but NY and the rest of the US should surely have learned this lesson at an individual level if not enforced by the state. If that has been done, as any sensible person would do, maybe we are seeing the result of this in NY?

  18. Gravatar of Jens Jens
    6. April 2020 at 23:27

    Good “update” statement!

  19. Gravatar of dtoh dtoh
    7. April 2020 at 02:30

    More on TB vaccinations — Finland

  20. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    7. April 2020 at 03:41

    “The COVID-19 pandemic can only be prevented from resurging when at least half the world’s population has become immune to the new virus. And that can happen in only one of two ways: After enough people have been infected and have recovered, or have been inoculated with a vaccine,” wrote Gabriel Leung, an infectious disease epidemiologist and dean of medicine at the University of Hong Kong, in a New York Times op-ed, today.

    Gee, that sounds like herd immunity.

  21. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    7. April 2020 at 04:39

    Scott——I won’t pile on too much, but your consistent posture (not “posturing”) on China is hard to understand. Maybe China’s current numbers, even if adjusted on a ratio basis (under the assumption they have 300-400k cases), are accurate you lean too far toward them. Their degree of truth telling is far down the list.

    I have said before, I hope for the future that China can be better than it is (US too—even New Zealand) but they are absolutely untrustworthy. Taiwan is a province—-like HK is a city—-of China—-and like South Korea, they would like a United country—-as did West Germany. But they abhor the current government—-and few other provinces of any country has its own military.

    It is easy for you to criticize the maggot who runs WHO——and you do criticize the CCP—-but the most angry we have seen you be is with regard to the Uyghurs—-good—-but you seem to not want to lean too heavily into them. Xi and the party are worst.

  22. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    7. April 2020 at 05:44

    Scott Sumner again is right on all counts; his critics snip at his heels. List, Rulle, msgkings, Ben Cole, little men, little minds. As for country names, the whole issue is ridiculous. In Greece they had a fit over Macedonia as a name, which I found absurd.

    Internet: “Japan is one of the few countries to outright refuse to use the name Chinese Taipei, and directly refer to Taiwan as Taiwan, much to the dismay and disapproval by the PRC. Due to the similarities between the ROC flag and others s…uch as Samoa and the previous flag of Myanmar (Burma), many Taiwanese have flown these flags in support of their teams, especially during the 2008 Beijing Olympics where flying an ROC flag would have been a punishable offence”

    OT–how much of the recent stock market rally is due to hope the world has turned the corner on Covid-19 and how much is due to Fed buying of stock ETF and future via the announcement on March 13? I am willing to convert to a strong view on monetarism if it’s the latter. Otherwise, I’m going back to my old self. Time will tell.

  23. Gravatar of Robert Robert
    7. April 2020 at 06:50

    Airline bailout….

    A government dictates a lockdown
    Endangering survival of airlines
    Offers bailout money
    If it can take ownership
    Even though it can borrow money at negative rates and need not worry about paying it back

    Thinks……. Robber Barons. Just give the money.

  24. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    7. April 2020 at 07:00


    The robber barons are the taxpayers. I’m cool with that.

    Like I said, why do only Bain and KKR get to be distressed investors?

  25. Gravatar of Big Al Big Al
    7. April 2020 at 07:41

    @ChrisA How is shutting down the economy minor behavior modification? And once we open things up, at what point will it begin flaring up again? Fact of the matter is until we have at least a good therapy to treat the infected and/or vaccine, we cannot get back to normal. What Taiwan did works if you do it soon enough and have the appropriate state capacity and compliant population to make it work. I don’t see it happening here even if we are able to get to a low enough level of new infections to make test and trace work.

  26. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    7. April 2020 at 09:49

    ChrisA, Well obviously it is controllable, East Asia shows that. The question has always been whether or not it will be controlled. Still an open question, but the past two days offer a glimmer of hope.

    Thanks Jens, that was a stupid post title on my part.

    dtoh, This is also interesting:

    But it’s suggests only a moderate effect, as I read the graphs. Still better than nothing.

    Robert, So if we pass an environmental law than endangers certain companies, should we also bail them out?

  27. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    7. April 2020 at 12:47

    Arguably a bailout of an airline is no different than a bailout of a bank, both are ‘essential’ industries that cannot afford to be placed in a protracted bailout. That said, airlines have gone into and out of bankruptcy a lot, so they can quickly reorganize and be back in business fast, and there’s enough redundancy that a bankruptcy of an airline won’t be so disruptive to an economy as a bankruptcy of a major bank (maybe). I like the bailout with an equity interest by the taxpayer, it bails out investors like Warren Buffet who deserve better than to lose all their money (I was surprised how Buffet violated his own rule never to invest in an airline and recently lost it seems when he sold shares).

    PS–stock market opened up bigly and closed in the red…hmm.

  28. Gravatar of ChrisA ChrisA
    7. April 2020 at 20:23

    Hi Scott (and Big Al) – sorry for not being more clear, what I mean by minor restrictions is that stay at home restrictions were only imposed on 20 March in NY. But we are already seeing a very substantial drop in hospital admissions. It means that Wuhan style restrictions won’t be necessary (like people isolated in apartment blocks). This is good news. If going forward we can ensure the most vulnerable people are protected we can loosen the restrictions for less vulnerable people. Again if you look at Italy, if the older people had all been properly protected then the death toll would have been much much less, perhaps similar to a normal flu season. We can protect older people without destroying the economy as typically they are not workers. All it takes is some extra precautions by older people and their carers.

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