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The first US ministerial visit to Japan under Biden will be focused on China.

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The first US ministerial visit to Japan under Biden will be focused on China.
The first US ministerial visit to Japan under Biden will be focused on China.

The first US ministerial visit to Japan under Biden will be focused on China.

 

 

Concerns about China’s growing influence in the region is expected to be a main focus when two ministers of President Joe Biden’s administration visits Japan for their first in-person talks with their Japanese counterparts.

U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are on their way to Tokyo to meet their counterparts and other top officials as they try to reaffirm America’s commitment to the region and their alliance following Donald Trump’s temperamental approach.

The two secretaries are holding so-called “two plus two” diplomatic and security talks with their Japanese counterparts, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi on Tuesday.

“The United States is now making a big push to revitalize our ties with friends and partners — both in one-to-one relationships and in multilateral institutions — and to recommit to our shared goals, values, and responsibilities,” Blinken and Austin said in a piece published Monday in the Washington Post.

Despite the U.S. and others that share the values and principles to keep an open Indo-Pacific region, China is “all too willing to use coercion to get its way,” the two ministers said. “Here again, we see how working with our allies is critical.”

The U.S. will lead with diplomacy, while maintaining America’s military might “and renew our alliances and ensure they’re fit for purpose to address the threats and opportunities of our time,” Blinken and Austin wrote. Together they can hold China accountable for its human rights abuses and other problems in Xinjiang, Tibet, as well as Hong Kong and Taiwan, they said.

Signaling the U.S. return to the Asia-Pacific region, Biden on Friday held a first summit of the leaders from Australia, Japan, India and the U.S. known as the “Quad” virtually and emphasized Washington’s commitment to the region.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato on Monday welcomed the outcome of the talks as “a good opportunity for the four countries to confirm their strong commitment as a driving force to achieve ‘a free and open Indo-Pacific.’” Kato praised the “quad” summit held early in the Biden administration.

Japan considers China’s growing presence in the region a security threat. Beijing has built militarized manmade islands in the South China Sea and is pressing its claim to virtually all of the sea’s key fisheries and waterways. Japan is concerned about China’s claim to the Japanese-controlled Sekaku Islands called Diaoyu in China, in the East China Sea and its increased activity in the disputed area.

China has denied it is expansionist and said it is only defending its territorial rights.

On the Biden administration’s first Cabinet-level trip abroad, Blinken and Austin are also expected to discuss the coronavirus pandemic and climate change, as well as the nuclear threat posed by North Korea and the situation in Myanmar after its military coup.

While in Tokyo, they plan to have virtual meetings with business leaders, civil-society members, business leaders and others while in Tokyo before heading to South Korea, another key ally in the region, Wednesday.

China is not on Blinken’s itinerary, but he is set to meet senior Chinese officials in Anchorage, Alaska, on his way back to Washington. Austin will go from Seoul to New Delhi for meetings with Indian leaders.

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Secret boyfriend: A Missouri family’s outrageous con that ended with a 2015 murder

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Secret boyfriend: A Missouri family’s outrageous con that ended with a 2015 murder

ST. LOUIS, Mo. – In October 2005, after Hurricane Katrina destroyed multiple areas of New Orleans, Claudine “Dee Dee” Blanchard and her daughter Gypsy Rose Blanchard moved to a home in Aurora, Missouri. Dee Dee claims Gypsy’s medical records were destroyed in the flooding.

According to Blanchard, Gypsy was diagnosed with leukemia and muscular dystrophy. She was wheelchair-bound, used a feeding tube, and had an oxygen tank. This would later be discovered as untrue.

Taking advantage of charities

In March of 2008, Habitat for Humanity built a small house in Springfield for the Blanchards. The home was specifically designed with accessibility features like lower light switches, a large bathtub, wide doorways, and a wheelchair ramp.

During this time, news outlets, the public, friends, and neighbors were fooled by their con. An outpouring of support came from charity organizations, donations, and even celebrities. They received free flights, lodging, and trips.

The Blanchards went on charity trips to Disney World and through the Make-a-Wish Foundation met Miranda Lambert. According to Tara Sullins, a friend of Blanchard, they received a large sum of money from Lambert and Blake Shelton for medical treatment in Paris.

Dee Dee’s legal name was Clauddine Blanchard. She uses various aliases and misspellings over the years such as DeDe, Claudine, and Deno. According to Michelle Dean’s BuzzFeed article, Dee Dee Wanted Her Daughter To Be Sick, Gypsy Wanted Her Mom Murdered, by the time she reached Missouri, she went be Clauddinnea and always added an “e” to her last name.

Gypsy’s father, Rod Blanchard, met Dee Dee while in high school. He was 17 years old and she was 24 when she got pregnant. They would soon get married, but he left the marriage before Gypsy was born. He remained involved with his daughter early on. He would later remarry and continue to make monthly child support payments, sent gifts, spoke to her on the phone. But according to Michelle Dean from BuzzFeed News, Dee Dee told neighbors Rod was an abusive drug addict and alcoholic who had never come to terms with Gypsy’s health issues and never sent them any money.

Dee Dee was convinced Gypsy suffered from a wide range of health issues. They spent a lot of time with various specialists throughout Louisiana. With her insistence, she managed to get treatment for her daughter’s ailments, including prescriptions for anti-seizure medication and surgeries.

Dr. Bernardo Flasterstein, Gypsy’s neurologist, became suspicious of her muscular dystrophy diagnosis. He ordered MRIs and blood tests, which found no abnormalities. After contacting Gypsy’s doctors in New Orleans, he learned that Gypsy’s original muscle biopsy had come back negative, which undermined Dee dee’s self-reported diagnosis as well as the claim that all of Gypsy’s records had been destroyed by flooding.  

He suspected the possibility of Munchausen syndrome by proxy. A condition in which a caregiver creates the appearance of health problems in another person, typically their child. 

Flasterstein did not report Blanchard to social services. He said he had been told by other doctors to treat the pair with ‘golden gloves’ and doubted the authorities would believe him anyway. 

A secret boyfriend

According to Michelle Dean’s BuzzFeed article, in 2012, Gypsy Blanchard met Nicholas Godejohn online. He was from Big Bend, Wisconsin, and had been diagnosed with autism.

The pair met online on a Christian singles dating site. They hit it off immediately. Blanchard and Godejohn spoke of eloping, naming future children they would have together, and sexual exchanges.

In HBO’s documentary, Mommy Dead and Dearest, Blanchard revealed Godejohn was into BDSM, sexual activity involving such practices as the use of physical restraints, the granting and relinquishing of control, and the infliction of pain. Blanchard was taught how to roleplay characters each with names and personas. Using secret social media accounts, she would dress up in costumes and share photos of herself with Godejohn.

In 2013, Godejohn pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct for allegedly viewing pornography on his laptop at a McDonald’s and touching himself inappropriately.

Their relationship would be a secret for two and half years before confiding to Blanchard’s friend, Aleah Woodmansee in 2014. Woodmansee found their relationship alarming due to the sexual nature and that she believed Blanchard was still a minor. She tried to talk her out of continuing contact with Godejohn, but Blanchard appeared to be completely smitten.

Blanchard confessed she wanted to be more like girls her age and date but knew Dee Dee would have to approve first.

At Godejohn’s trial, Blanchard revealed she arranged and paid for him to meet her mother in Springfield. She hoped that Dee Dee might allow them to date if she thought they met for the first time in person. They decided to meet at a movie theater to see Cinderella. Blanchard said her mother hated him. Regardless, she was able to sneak away and lose her virginity to Godejohn in a bathroom stall.

The murder

In an interview with 20/20, Blanchard said her mother got jealous that she was giving Godejohn too much attention and ordered her to stay away from him. They fought for weeks over the event. Gypsy said her mother called her names like slut and whore.

After the failed attempt, Blanchard and Godejohn began planning Dee Dee’s murder. “It was not because I hated her. It was because I wanted to escape her,” she said.

On June 2015, the day of the murder, per ABC News, Godejohn traveled to Missouri, checked into a motel, and waited for a confirmation text from Blanchard. Once Dee Dee fell asleep, he went to their home where Blanchard gave him a knife. She hid in the bathroom with her hands over her ears while Godejohn stabbed Dee Dee to death.

In an interview with 20/20, she said, “I honestly thought he would end up not doing it. I heard her scream once, and there was more screaming but not like the kind in a horror film. Just like a startled scream, and she asked, ‘Who was it that was in the bedroom?’ And she called out to my name about three or four times, and at that point, I wanted to go help her so bad, but I was so afraid to get up. It’s like my body wouldn’t move. Then everything just went quiet.”

Blanchard and Godejohn admitted they had sex immediately after the murder, according to ABC News.

On June 14th, 2015, a pair of disturbing posts appeared on Dee Dee’s Facebook page. Many wondered if the account had been hacked, but the second message made it clear something was wrong. 

On the run from the law

Blanchard and Godejohn stayed overnight in his motel in Springfield. They left on a bus to Big Bend, Wisconsin, on June 14th.

It was that afternoon when she made Godejohn create the Facebook posts. “I couldn’t stand the thought of her just there because what happens if it would have taken months to find her, so I wanted her found so she could have a proper burial,” Blanchard told 20/20.

In Springfield, when police found Dee Dee’s body, Woodmansee told police about Blanchard’s secret online relationship with Godejohn. With help from Facebook, authorities were able to find his IP address and track him and Blanchard down in Wisconsin.

Police from Waukesha County, Wisconsin, were dispatched to Godejohn’s family home. He and Blanchard were taken into custody on charges of murder and felony armed criminal action. The pair were extradited back to Missouri and were held on a one million dollar bond.  

Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott held a press conference to warn the public about donating money to any of the fundraiser accounts associated with the Blanchards.

Gypsy’s trial

While the charge of first-degree murder can carry the death penalty under Missouri law or life without parole, county prosecutor Dan Patterson announced he would not seek the death penalty for either Blanchard or Godejohn, calling the case, “extraordinary and unusual”.

Investigations into the crime revealed a series of texts between them that appeared to discuss and plan Dee Dee’s death. It read, “Honey, you forget I am ruthless, and my hatred of her will force her to die,” Godejohn texted Blanchard. “It’s my evil side doing it. He won’t mess up, because he enjoys killing.”   

According to BuzzFeed, prosecutors also said they found social media evidence of Blanchard directly asking Godejohn to kill her mother, though these have never been made public. Documents from pretrial discovery show him telling a friend about Blanchard’s desire to murder her mother as early as May 2014.

On June 29th, Gypsy Blanchard pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder and armed criminal action.

Mike Stanfield, Blanchard’s attorney, said he was able to uncover decades worth of abuse that Dee Dee inflicted on Blanchard as a part of an elaborate fraud scheme. For months, he traveled to Lousiana to try to recover her medical records. 

After the disclosure of how Dee Dee had treated Blanchard all those years, sympathy for her as the victim of a violent murder quickly shifted to her daughter as a long-term victim of child abuse.   

Blanchard revealed everything about the financial fraud scheme. She admitted she had been lying for years and that her mom made her do it. But even she didn’t know everything that happened. When Blanchard first spoke with the police she told them she was 19. Gypsy’s father, Rod Blanchard, had to clarify she was actually 23.  

According to the HBO documentary, Dee Dee told her she suffered from asthma, epilepsy, hearing and vision impairments, had to be fed with by a feeding tube, was paralyzed from the waist down, and suffered from intellectual disabilities. During medical visits gypsy was told to not move her legs and to just play with the dolls she would bring with her as Dee Dee did all of the talking.  

Gypsy kept the facade for years, but as she became older, she expressed feelings of wanting freedom and love.

Attorney Mike Stanfield told BuzzFeed that Gypsy was so undernourished that during the year she was in the county jail, she gained 14 pounds, in contrast to most of his clients who lose weight in that situation.

In July 2015, she accepted a plea bargain agreement of second-degree murder and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Speaking with various media outlets, Blanchard says she was able to research Munchausen syndrome by proxy and said her mother had every symptom.

She also says she feels freer in prison than she was before with her mother.

Blanchard is now serving her sentence in Missouri’s Chillicothe Correctional Center.

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Bo Byram is back. Nathan MacKinnon is returning. The Avalanche’s NHL-leading scoring clip is bound to surge.

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Bo Byram’s return sparks Avalanche in victory over Nashville Predators

Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said if rookie Bo Byram had shot quicker a couple of times on Saturday night, the dynamic young defenseman would have had three goals against Nashville.

Following Colorado’s 6-2 victory, Bednar also could have said if star center Nathan MacKinnon was in the lineup, the Avs could have reached seven goals for the fourth time in eight games.

Bottom line: Colorado proved in November that it is loaded offensively, and has the ability to become more dangerous when MacKinnon rejoins Byram in the lineup on Wednesday at Toronto. The Avs are 7-1 in MacKinnon’s latest absence and 5-1 without both MacKinnon and Byram this month.

They have averaged 5.4 goals in the past eight games to lead the NHL in scoring at 4.00. And their .750 winning percentage in November (7-2-1) is a club record.

What happens when MacKinnon follows Byram in rejoining the lineup in the next game on Wednesday at Toronto? Perhaps MacKinnon will realize he doesn’t have to be the superstar for this team to score more goals than it allows, and that diminished pressure will add to the team’s chemistry.

“He’s one of the best players in the world,” Mikko Rantanen, who had three goals and four points against the Preds, said of MacKinnon. “Getting one of the best players back to the team is only going to help us.”

Byram is certainly an important side piece, and he adds to what already is the NHL’s most multi-faceted blue-line corps.

Byram, who settled for the game-winning goal and four shots in logging 22:00 after missing six games with another concussion, was the second coming of Cale Makar against the Preds. That’s a big statement as Makar, the 2021 Norris Trophy finalist who is on an offensive tear, had seven goals and 12 points in his career-high six-game points streak.

Bednar had high praise for Byram for how quickly the 20-year-old returned to his dominant nature while coming off at least his third concussion of 2021.

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WATCH: Broncos’ Javonte Williams’ 9-yard touchdown run against Chargers

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WATCH: Broncos’ Javonte Williams’ 9-yard touchdown run against Chargers

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