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The strained US-China partnership will be put to the test at a meeting in Alaska.

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The strained US-China partnership will be put to the test at a meeting in Alaska.
The strained US-China partnership will be put to the test at a meeting in Alaska.

The strained US-China partnership will be put to the test at a meeting in Alaska.

 

When top officials from both countries meet in Alaska, their increasingly strained ties will be put to the test once again.

Relations between the world’s two largest economies have been strained for years, and the Biden administration has yet to signal that it is ready or able to reverse President Donald Trump’s hard-line stances. China has also made no suggestion that it is ready to ease the strain it has applied. As a result, the stage has been set for a tense first face-to-face meeting on Thursday.

In Anchorage, Alaska, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan will meet with China’s top diplomats, State Councilor Wang Yi and Chinese Communist Party foreign relations head Yang Jiechi. Trade, human rights in Tibet, Hong Kong, China’s western Xinjiang region, Taiwan, Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea, and the coronavirus pandemic are all expected to be contentious topics.

There will be no settlements reached.

“This is a one-time meeting,” a senior administration official said. “This is not the start of a negotiation phase or the resumption of a specific dialogue mechanism.” On the condition of anonymity, the official briefed reporters ahead of the conference.

Blinken will attend the meeting after recently returning from Japan and South Korea, where he and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin promoted the Biden administration’s commitment to Asia’s treaty allies.

Blinken announced fresh sanctions on officials the day before the meeting in response to China’s crackdown on pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong. As a result, China’s rhetoric against US intervention in domestic affairs has become more strident.

China, predictably, slammed US criticism of a decision to grant a pro-Beijing committee the power to nominate more of Hong Kong’s legislators, essentially reducing the proportion of those directly elected and ensuring that only those willing to be genuinely loyal to Beijing are eligible to run for office, effectively locking out opposition figures from the political process.

At a regular briefing on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said the imposition of sanctions “completely exposes the US side’s sinister intention to intervene in China’s internal affairs, disrupt Hong Kong, and impede China’s stability and growth.”

The White House has low hopes for Blinken and Sullivan’s meeting, which officials hope would be a first step toward resolving their deep differences.

The talks, according to a senior administration official, are an opportunity for the two sides to “take stock” of their relationship. According to the official, the two sides will not issue a joint statement following the meeting, and no significant announcements are planned.

In comments to Chinese media on Wednesday, China’s ambassador to the United States downplayed hopes for the Alaska meeting, but expressed hope that it would pave the way for better communication.

Cui Tiankai said in a transcript of his remarks posted on the embassy’s website, “Naturally, we don’t anticipate one round of dialogue to address all of the problems between China and the United States, and we don’t hold excessively high expectations.”

“My hope is that this will be the beginning of a candid, positive, and practical dialogue between the two sides,” Cui said. “I assume this exchange will be good if we can achieve that.”

Before traveling to South Korea and Alaska, Blinken said in Japan that the US “will fight back if necessary when China uses intimidation or violence to get its way.”

“Our relationship with China is extremely complicated,” he said. “It has adversarial elements, competitive elements, and cooperative elements. But the common denominator in dealing with both of them is to ensure that we approach China from a position of power, which begins with our alliance, with our unity, because it is truly a unique advantage that we have that China does not.”

The Chinese are not going down without a fight.

They blasted the US human rights record at the United Nations on Wednesday, citing “hundreds of thousands of lives” lost as a result of US failures against COVID-19, as well as racial inequality, police violence, and a “evil history of genocide.” Jiang Duan, a counselor at the Chinese mission in Geneva, made the remarks at the conclusion of a U.N. Human Rights Council hearing on the United States’ human rights record.

Before participating in high-level talks with China, the administration held a series of talks with Pacific partners, including Biden’s virtual summit with the representatives of the Quad — Australia, India, Japan, and the United States.

Trump had prided himself on forging a close partnership with Xi Jinping. The partnership fell apart after the coronavirus pandemic spread from Wuhan province to the rest of the world, wreaking havoc on public health and the economy.

Biden faces other thorny problems in the relationship, in addition to pushing back on China’s aggressiveness in the Indo-Pacific and its human rights record.

However, he has so far refused to rescind Trump’s tariffs against China, which totaled hundreds of billions of dollars, or to lift the bans on Chinese software.

Biden, on the other hand, is seeking China’s support in pressuring North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over his country’s nuclear program.

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“The Neighbor’s Secret” and other mysteries to read in October

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“The Neighbor’s Secret” and other mysteries to read in October

A few mysteries to recommend this month:

“The Neighbor’s Secret,” by L. Alison Heller (Flatiron Books)

The Neighbor’s Secret (Flatiron Books)

Colorado author L. Alison Heller uses a book group as the setting for a complicated story of women and their secrets. At times, “The Neighbor’s Secret” almost reads like an interconnected collection of stories that come together in an Oh-My-God ending.

On a whim, Annie invites the reclusive and very wealthy Lena to join her book group. Lena was widowed years before when her drunken husband killed a young man in a hit-and-run accident. The husband then conveniently died of a heart attack in jail. Lena reluctantly attends the club, only to find she bonds with the women. Lena isn’t totally comfortable with them, however, and there is a sense that she is hiding something from her new friends.

Among them is Jen, who secretly fears that her son is a sociopath. He’s been kicked out of several schools, the last time for stabbing a girl. Now he attends an off-beat religious institution, where he’s tutored by a seemingly innocuous intern. That intern, of course, has a secret.

Even Annie, who appears the most normal, worries that there is some genetic defect that affects Rachel, her eighth-grade daughter. First, Rachel embarrasses the family with her drunken antics at a town festival. Then she becomes obsessed with running. Turns out Rachel isn’t the only one in the family with a secret: Annie’s turns out to be the most surprising of all.

“The Neighbor’s Secret” is a complicated book — you almost need a scorecard to keep the characters straight. Still, it is a first-rate Colorado mystery set around the challenges mothers face.

“Last Girl Ghosted,” by Lisa Unger (Park Row Books)

1635250352 495 The Neighbors Secret and other mysteries to read in October
Last Girl Ghosted By Lisa Unger (Park Row)

Adam, who Wren Greenwood meets on a dating website, is handsome, educated, shares her love of Rilke and is after a long-term relationship, not just a hookup. He seems almost too good to be true. You know what that means.

Just as Wren is ready to commit herself to him, Adam ghosts her. He fails to show up for a dinner, disconnects his phone and social media accounts and disappears. It’s certain that he’s not who Wren thought he was. But then, Wren has a number of secrets herself, including that made-up name.

Adam texts her: “Something’s happened. I have to go. I’m sorry.” As Wren tries to face the fact that she’s been dumped, a private eye shows up, claiming Adam is suspected in the disappearance of not one but three other women he met on the dating site. Wren refuses to accept that. It was clear that Adam loved her, and she thinks she catches glimpses of him hovering nearby. Moreover, there are cryptic text messages. As she learns more about the women, and as her own ugly past is exposed, she reluctantly agrees to help the P.I.

As Wren becomes more involved in a dangerous game, she’s not sure who is hunting whom.

“As the Wicked Watch,” by Tamron Hall with T. Shawn Taylor (William Morrow)

1635250352 331 The Neighbors Secret and other mysteries to read in October
As the Wicked Watch (William Morrow)

Jordan Manning is a beautiful, sophisticated, driven Black television reporter with a cool name. (Sounds a little like talk show host — and the book’s author — Tamron Hall, doesn’t it?)

Jordan covers crime and takes a personal interest when the mutilated body of a young Black girl is found. Police had the girl pegged as a runaway. Black groups protest the lack of police interest. “If the victim had been a white girl …,” Jordan insists.

Jordan gets into the middle of things when she interviews the mother and relatives of the girl, along with a community activist and the police. That leads to her uncovering clues to the murder, and, to no one’s surprise, she finds herself in danger.

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Broncos Mailbag: Why didn’t Vic Fangio turn to Drew Lock at halftime of Cleveland game?

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Broncos Mailbag: Why didn’t Vic Fangio turn to Drew Lock at halftime of Cleveland game?

Denver Post Broncos writer Ryan O’Halloran posts his Broncos Mailbag periodically during the season. Submit questions to Ryan here.

Humor us, please. In your time in Jacksonville, were the Jaguars ever this incompetent and incapable?

— Kris H., Grand Prairie, Texas

Well, yes. The Jaguars teams I covered went 2-14, 4-12, 3-13, 5-11, 3-13 and 10-6. Included were losing streaks of seven (2012), eight (’13), six (’14) and nine (’16) games.

But it seemed like every year except for ’12, there was something interesting going on. New coach/new GM in ’13. Rookie quarterback in ’14. Free-agent money spent in ’16. This Broncos team, right now, is, well, boring.

Why do the Broncos stink? Why has this organization taken a drastic dive into the football abyss?
— Ricky Lopez, Cedaredge

The same answer applies to both questions.

1. Quarterback play. Period. No stability at the sport’s most important position — last month, Teddy Bridgewater was the fifth Week 1 starter in as many years.

2. And look at the last five first-round picks. Left tackle Garett Bolles needs to pick it up. Outside linebacker Bradley Chubb and receiver Jerry Jeudy have been injured. Tight end Noah Fant has yet to get going. And cornerback Pat Surtain II has been fine as a rookie.

Why is Vic Fangio still there? How many losing seasons does it take to say enough is enough?
— Robert Rivers, Powdersville, S.C.

Hey, the Broncos believe they’re still in it even though they are 3-4 and are 12th out of 16 teams in the AFC.

Moving Fangio out at this juncture is pointless. In baseball, hockey and basketball, you see interim coaches occasionally spark their team to a new height. Not so much in the NFL, where the only reason to make a change is to get a head start at vetting the next coach.

If it’s three losing seasons in as many years, that will likely be it.

Vic Fangio said all camp long how close the race was between Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock. If that were the case, wouldn’t it had made sense to switch to Lock with Bridgewater hurt and ineffective in the first half of the Browns game? Do you think Fangio is being influenced by George Paton not to switch since Bridgewater is his guy?
— Brandon Brown, Rogers, Minn.

Watching Bridgewater go through pre-game warm-ups last week in Cleveland, the thought among a lot of us media-folk was he wouldn’t make it to the finish line.

But Bridgewater gutted it out. Lock was warming up between offensive series throughout the first half.

I go back to Lock’s poor performance in the second half of the Baltimore loss. Was that enough to convince Fangio that a not-that-healthy Teddy is better than a completely healthy Drew? It might have been. Remember, the sentiment before the season was Bridgewater would keep his job so long as the team was winning. The Broncos have lost four consecutive games but Fangio remains committed to Bridgewater.

I don’t believe Paton is getting involved with start-him-or-bench-him quarterback decisions in-season.

How many of the failures are from this coaching staff? Remember when we had Rich Scangarello as the offensive coordinator and Drew Lock started to win games, so how different would things be if we had the right coaching?
— Christopher G, Gunnison

The blame should be passed around to every part of the football operation — management, coaches and players.

The Scangarello firing, which happened two weeks after the 2019 season, will always be viewed as weird because Lock went 4-1 in his cameo, but he was drafted to play in a very specific offense. Then, poof, after one year, Lock had to start over.

When will the obvious flaws in coaching be addressed?
— Shaun Haynes, Tulsa, Okla.

Jan.10? The Broncos’ regular season ends the day before against Kansas City. The day 1/10/22 could be monumental in franchise history. The team may be put up for sale and there could be a coaching change.

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How Tyler Matzek conquered the yips and became the MLB postseason’s most dominant reliever: “He’s all heart and courage”

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How Tyler Matzek conquered the yips and became the MLB postseason’s most dominant reliever: “He’s all heart and courage”

Lauren Matzek still can’t quite believe it.

Her husband, Atlanta Braves left-handed reliever Tyler Matzek, a pitcher once so haunted by performance anxiety and a case of the yips that his baseball career had turned to ashes, is in the World Series.

“I’m immensely proud of him,” Lauren said Monday on the eve of Tuesday’s Game 1 between the Braves and Astros at Minute Maid Park. “It’s been incredible to see the time and effort and all of the heart and efforts he’s put in. And now we’re here.

“To make it back to the big leagues was always the goal for him. But now, to see him in the World Series and being so dominant… exceeds anything I ever imagined.”

Matzek, the former Rockies starter who was selected with the 11th overall pick in the 2011 draft, has pitched in nine of the Braves’ 10 postseason games this fall, posting a .118 opponents’ average with 17 strikeouts and four walks in 10 1/3 innings. His eight scoreless appearances in the postseason are one behind Mark Wohlers’ franchise record in the 1996 postseason.

“It’s all been pretty unbelievable,” Matzek said via phone from his hotel room in Houston. “It was always the dream, just to get back to the majors and show what I could do. I’ve wanted to be as aggressive as I can and help my team win.

“When baseball gets taken away from you, then you get moments like this, it’s incredible. One thing I have learned through all of it is this: you learn to embrace the moment. If you do something good, embrace it. If you do something bad, OK, you’ll do better the next time. Now, instead of just dwelling on the bad things, all of the time, I celebrate the good things.”

Matzek, 31, credits two people for his baseball resurrection. His wife, of course, and Jason Kuhn, a former Navy SEAL, who once had his own ambitions of being a major league pitcher before the yips ended his dreams.

On Saturday night, Kuhn sat alone in the living room of his home in Gallatin, Tenn., watching TV, transfixed by Game 6 of the National League championship series.

Provided by Jason Kuhn

Jason Kuhn

It was the seventh inning and the Los Angeles Dodgers had cut the Braves’ lead to 4-2 and had runners on second and third, with nobody out. The crowd of 43,060 was getting antsy.

Into the game came Matzek.

Four years ago, he was out of baseball and told his wife it was time to quit. She wouldn’t let him.

Three years ago, he was living in an RV, pitching for the Texas AirHogs of the Independent American Association. He was lobbing 83 mph fastballs because when he cut loose, he tended to throw the ball to the backstop. Two years ago, he was all but begging for an invitation to spring training.

But Saturday night, Matzek was all about the mission at hand: getting the Braves to the World Series for the first time since 1999.

Whistling 96-99 mph fastballs, and mixing in a sharp-breaking 85-86 mph slider, he struck out future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols on four pitches. Then he struck out Stephen Souza Jr. on four pitches and fanned the dangerous Mookie Betts with three consecutive fastballs. Matzek came back out for the eighth, getting a three-pitch strikeout of Corey Seager and two soft groundball outs. Closer Will Smith took care of the Dodgers in the ninth and the NL pennant belonged to the Braves.

“His stuff was electric,” Kuhn said. “For him to get up there and strike out three guys, then strike out another in the eighth, was amazing. I was laughing, I was crying. I was just so incredibly happy for him.”

So was Braves all-star first baseman Freddie Freeman.

“It’s got to be one of the greatest pitching performances there’s ever been in the postseason,” Freeman told reporters after the game. “That was unbelievable. If they score, they’re starting to feel good about themselves. The fact they didn’t, that was a huge deflator right there.”

Matzek and Kuhn first hooked up in 2017 when former Rockies catcher Michael McKenry suggested Kuhn could help Matzek overcome the yips. McKenry and Kuhn both played baseball at Middle Tennessee State, though at different times.

“I really thought I had the stuff to pitch pro ball,” Kuhn recalled. “But in my senior season, I threw six wild pitches in one inning. The record for a game in our league was seven, and to be honest, I threw a lot more wild pitches than that, but they took pity on me and they stopped moving runners on me. That was the last competitive game I ever pitched.”

Then came Sept. 11, 2001, and Kuhn joined the military with the goal of becoming a Navy SEAL. He made it, and along the way, he learned about himself.

“Courage creates freedom,” said Kuhn, who founded Stonewall Solutions, a company that counsels clients to create team-building, mental toughness, and leadership. “I learned that I could be imprisoned by the opinions of others and the odds, or I learn from my failures and keep moving forward.”

When “Hell Week” began for Kuhn and the others wishing to become Navy SEALS, there were 135 in the group. By the end, 20 were left.

“I never would have been one of them without failing in baseball,” he said.

And, as Kuhn got to know Matzek, he became convinced that he could get the pitcher back to the majors.

“Jason changed my perspective on life, on everything,” Matzek said. “From the point that I started working with him, the goal of getting back to the big leagues became realistic.”

Adds Kuhn, “We connected. I knew exactly what he was feeling. I had the yips. It’s a very lonely and confusing and devastating place to be.”

Matzek and Kuhn talked extensively on the phone, and Matzek journeyed to Tennessee to train. Fixing the pitcher was both a mental and physical process. When Matzek was on the mound, Kuhn would sometimes blare an airhorn in an attempt to rattle Matzek and break his concentration. Little by little, Matzek regained his confidence.

“Tyler had tried everything else, and I said to him, ‘It’s not working, is it?’ He said no. I told him, “I know how to beat this and it’s a step-by-step process.

“I don’t believe you just think they yips away, you have to train it away.”

There was a lot to “train away.”

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