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In their first face-to-face encounter under Biden, the US and China spar.

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In their first face-to-face encounter under Biden, the US and China spar.
In their first face-to-face encounter under Biden, the US and China spar.

In their first face-to-face encounter under Biden, the US and China spar.

 

Top US and Chinese officials are expected to meet again on Friday after their first face-to-face talks since President Joe Biden took office, in which they expressed sharply divergent views on each other and the world.

Following the opening on Thursday, the two sides exchanged barbs, with the US accusing the Chinese delegation of “grandstanding” for domestic consumption in China, and Beijing retaliating on Friday, alleging the room had a “heavy smell of gunpowder and drama” that was entirely the fault of the Americans.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese Communist Party foreign relations head Yang Jiechi traded jabs at each other’s countries’ policies in unusually sharp remarks for a staid diplomatic conference. The acrimonious tone of their public statements hinted that the private conversations would be even more tumultuous.

The meetings in Anchorage, which will end on Friday, were a new test in increasingly strained ties between the two countries, which are at odds over a variety of issues ranging from trade to human rights in Tibet, Hong Kong, and China’s western Xinjiang region, as well as Taiwan, China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea, and the coronavirus pandemic.

Blinken reported that the Biden administration is working together with its allies to fight China’s rising authoritarianism and assertiveness at home and abroad. Yang then laid out a laundry list of Chinese grievances against the United States, accusing the US of hypocrisy for condemning Beijing on human rights and other issues.

China’s activities in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, as well as cyber attacks on the US and economic coercion against US allies, all challenge the rules-based order that keeps the world stable, according to Blinken. “That’s why these aren’t just internal problems, and why we feel compelled to put them up here today.”

China has engaged in a “attack on fundamental principles,” according to National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

“We don’t want war, but we do love a good fight,” he said.

Yang retaliated furiously, demanding that the US stop promoting its own version of democracy at a time when the country is experiencing domestic unrest. He also accused the US of failing to resolve its own human rights concerns, and he chastised Blinken, Sullivan, and other US officials for what he termed “condescension.”

He said, “We believe it is important for the United States to change its appearance and avoid promoting its own democracy in the rest of the world.” “Many people in the United States have no faith in the country’s democracy.”

“China will not embrace unjustified claims from the United States,” he said, adding that recent events had thrown ties “into an extraordinary period of difficulty” that had “harmed the interests of our two peoples.”

He said, “There is no way to strangle China.”

The tone and length of the comments, which lasted more than 15 minutes, seemed to irritate Blinken. He said that his experiences from speaking with world leaders and his recent trip to Japan and South Korea were diametrically opposite to China’s stance.

Blinken retorted, “I’m hearing deep happiness that the United States is back, that we’re reengaged.” “I’m also getting a lot of concern about some of your government’s actions.”

The State Department blasted the Chinese delegation for breaching a two-minute time limit for opening remarks, saying it “seemed(ed) to have arrived bent on grandstanding, based on public theatrics and dramatics over substance,” underscoring the enmity.

“America’s strategy will be underpinned by trust in our dealings with Beijing — which we are doing from a position of power — as well as the humility to recognize that we are a nation that is forever aspiring to become a more perfect union,” it stated.

Later in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Blinken and Sullivan had provoked Chinese officials to respond with a “solemn response” after US officials made “baseless attacks” against China.

“Because it was the United States that sparked the dispute in the first place, the two sides had a heavy odor of gunpowder and intrigue from the start of their opening remarks. Zhao told reporters at a regular briefing that this was not the Chinese side’s original plan.

Despite the acrimonious public airing of disagreements, a senior Biden administration official said the initial closed-door talks were “substantive, urgent, and straightforward” and lasted much longer than the two hours scheduled.

Links between the United States and China have been strained for years, and the Biden administration has yet to signal whether it is ready or able to reverse Donald Trump’s hard-line policies.

Blinken had just declared fresh sanctions against Beijing for its crackdown on pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong the day before the conference. As a result, China increased its rhetoric opposing US intervention in domestic affairs and expressed its displeasure directly.

“Was this a strategic decision by the US to achieve an edge in dealing with China?” Wang Yi, the State Councilor, inquired. “Obviously, this was miscalculated, and it only represents the insecurity and weakness within the US; it will not sway China’s stance or resolve on those issues.”

Trump had prided himself on forging a close friendship with Chinese President 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.

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Boosters still protect against coronavirus variants, new Minnesota health data shows

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Boosters still protect against coronavirus variants, new Minnesota health data shows

Timely booster doses of coronavirus vaccine continue to protect Minnesotans from severe illness and death, even as new strains of the virus emerge, according to new data released Monday by the Department of Health.

People 65 and older benefit the most, breakthrough data from the last 60 days shows. Among seniors who got COVID-19, the unvaccinated have been more than four times as likely to die and nearly five times as likely to need hospital care compared to their boosted peers.

Getting the initial shots of vaccine without boosters provides some protection, but as the coronavirus mutates into new strains, that initial protection is not as strong as it was when vaccination began in December 2020. The latest data is the first time state health officials have provided specific information showing the increased protection from additional COVID-19 shots.

“We are still seeing a substantial benefit in the 65 and up category with boosters,” said Stephanie Meyer, epidemiologist supervisor at the health department. But she noted there were still a lot of questions about how the timing of booster shots and different coronavirus variants impacts vaccine protection.

Variations of the omicron strain of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, have dominated Minnesota infections since mid-December. The latest breakthrough data shows the various omicron variants are having better success infecting the vaccinated and are more likely to cause severe disease than some of the previous strains.

However, other factors also are at play, most notably patients’ underlying health conditions that may put them at higher risk. In recent months, Minnesota’s COVID-19 deaths again have been concentrated among older residents who tend to have other medical conditions.

“The comorbidity piece is something we cannot account for in these data. It is a really important factor,” said Keely Morris, senior epidemiologist. She noted that federal data continues to show vaccines offer protection to people who are high-risk because of other health conditions.

Morris also added that as more people get vaccinated, the share of new cases that affect vaccinated people is expected to climb. About 67 percent of the state’s 5.7 million residents have gotten their initial doses of vaccine, but only about 46 percent are up-to-date on their shots.

Meyer and Morris said state health officials continue to study breakthrough cases and the impact of vaccines and the timing of boosters.

CASES LEVEL OFF

There was some evidence released Monday that Minnesota’s latest spike in cases, driven by four different omicron sub-variants, may have stalled. The 2,152 new cases reported from last Friday is a week-over-week decline of about 11 percent.

However, case counts offer an increasingly limited view of the state’s outbreak because more people test at home and those results are not reported to the state. Health officials more closely watch hospitalization data and the prevalence of coronavirus genetic material in wastewater.

And last week, the Metropolitan Council reported a 58 percent increase in coronavirus DNA in Twin Cities sewage. The data was from the week ending May 16 and suggests cases could continue to rise.

Rates of hospitalization and death have ticked up in recent weeks but remain much lower than the state’s last big winter surge.

There are 422 patients hospitalized in the state with COVID-19, including 36 in intensive care. Critical cases have remained relatively flat as overall hospitalizations have fluctuated.

Another nine COVID-19 deaths also were reported Monday. They ranged in age from their early 60s to their 90s with six residing in private homes and three in long-term care.

Since the pandemic began in March 2020, 12,596 Minnesotans are known to have died from COVID-19. About 82 percent were seniors and about 46 percent residents of long-term care.

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Timberwolves reach agreement with Tim Connelly to make Denver’s top decision maker Minnesota’s new president of basketball operations

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Timberwolves reach agreement with Tim Connelly to make Denver’s top decision maker Minnesota’s new president of basketball operations

At the start of each of his business ventures, serial entrepreneur Marc Lore puts an intense focus on three facets – vision, capital and people.

And people, he’s often noted, are the most important component.

“Bringing in the very best people in the world,” Lore said last fall, “and letting them do their thing.”

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that, when it came time to select a president of basketball operations for the Timberwolves – of whom Lore became a minority stake holder in 2021 and, along with Alex Rodriguez, is slated to become a majority owner by the end of 2023 – Lore’s search started at the very top, and ended with one of the game’s most lauded executives joining the organization.

Tim Connelly has agreed to join the Timberwolves as their new basketball boss, a source confirmed Monday, leaving the same role in Denver to come to Minnesota.

Connelly is largely credited with Denver’s ascension to a consistent Western Conference force. He drafted two-time, reigning MVP Nikola Jokic – whom he flew out to Serbia this month to meet and hand-deliver Jokic’s 2021-22 MVP trophy – Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. to construct the Nuggets’ formidable big three. That was supplemented by later selection gems like Bones Hyland and Monte Morris, and Aaron Gordon, who Denver acquired at the trade deadline in 2021.

Denver reached the Western Conference Finals in the bubble in 2020, and has seemingly only been derailed by significant injury losses the last two postseasons. The Nuggets’ future looks as bright as anyone’s in the NBA moving forward.

So why would Connelly leave Denver? It seems as though the decision — which he took a couple days to make — came down to compensation. Lore has said the pursuit of the best people is made without concern for cost. You don’t cheap out, particularly not when filling your most critical positions.

Connelly’s compensation from Minnesota is expected to be large, as the Timberwolves will empower him to run their basketball operations as he sees best fit. Connelly met with current Timberwolves majority owner Glen Taylor over the weekend to earn the final, most important stamp of approval.

Now he takes over a Minnesota roster filled with promise, starting at the top with Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns and Jaden McDaniels. There are other young pieces and other key players that Connelly will now be tasked to determine whether or not they fit into the Timberwolves’ puzzle.

Recently-extended head coach Chris Finch and his coaching staff are certain to work under Connelly for the foreseeable future. Will Sachin Gupta, who ran the basketball operations for the last eight months after Gersson Rosas was fired?

Gupta was a candidate to take the position permanently, but now the question is whether he wants to stick around in a No. 2 role, and if Connelly also finds that scenario attractive. If he does, Minnesota will feature one of the top executive tandems in the NBA.

A number of important decisions face Minnesota’s new head man at the start of what’s already proving to be a transformational offseason for the Timberwolves.

Both his track record as Denver’s shot caller since 2013, and Lore’s track record of tabbing decision makers, suggests Connelly is up to the task.

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Dolphins Q&A: What can we expect of Josh Boyer as defensive coordinator without Brian Flores?

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Dolphins Q&A: What can we expect of Josh Boyer as defensive coordinator without Brian Flores?

Here’s the latest installment of our Miami Dolphins Q&A, where South Florida Sun Sentinel writers David Furones and Omar Kelly answer questions from readers.

Q: Without [Brian] Flores being part of the defensive play-calling, what can we assume or expect with how well Josh Boyer will be now that this is his defense moving forward? — Dan Giunta on Twitter

A: Much like how it’s a “prove-it” year for quarterback Tua Tagovailoa because he has everything he should need to succeed heading into his third season, this could also be viewed as the season when the pressure is on Josh Boyer as defensive coordinator.

This will be the true test for him — with defensive personnel that offers him all the tools he needs — to show he can do it without leaning on ex-Dolphins coach Brian Flores, whom he’s had a longstanding relationship with going back to their decade-plus together as assistants with the New England Patriots.

As new coach Mike McDaniel reshaped the Dolphins’ offensive staff, he retained Boyer in his same defensive coordinator role as last season, along with other defensive assistants in linebackers coach Anthony Campanile and defensive line coach Austin Clark.

With all 11 starters and several rotational pieces on defense returning, if the Dolphins defense takes a step back in 2022, the blame will land on Boyer, who no longer has Flores with him or former defensive backs coach Gerald Alexander. Alexander, according to Sun Sentinel sources, took on added responsibilities in leading the defense in the second half of last season as the unit turned the team’s fortunes around for eight wins in the last nine games following a seven-game losing streak.

Early on upon being named head coach, McDaniel pursued former Denver Broncos coach Vic Fangio for the defensive coordinator role, as the Sun Sentinel reported, but a deal couldn’t be reached. With Boyer retained, maintaining as much continuity as possible on a successful defense became the evident goal.

With the defense now nearly entirely his, Boyer already has the blueprint of what makes it work.

Bring exotic blitzes. Let cornerbacks Xavien Howard, Byron Jones and Nik Needham play man coverage. Allow safeties Jevon Holland and Brandon Jones to be versatile. Utilize multiple defensive fronts with the versatility that many in the front seven possess. And the addition of Melvin Ingram as another pass rusher helps.

Boyer, speaking recently with media at team facilities, said “a lot” of his time is consumed with the internal debate of how much to keep the same with the defense and what he’ll tinker with.

“Even the things that we do and we’ve done consistently, you’re always trying to tweak or do it better,” Boyer said. “There’s always variables that go into that: What teams are doing to you and what you’re looking to do to teams.”

One aspect that McDaniel, offensively, can facilitate for Boyer and the defense is to take some of the pressure off by installing an effective run game in Miami. The better the Dolphins can run the football under McDaniel, who led a consistent rushing attack for years in San Francisco, the more Miami can win the time of possession battle, keeping the defense fresh and not having to get run back out onto the field time and time again following three-and-outs from the offense.

Have a question?

Email David Furones, or tag @OmarKelly or @DavidFurones_ on Twitter.

Previously answered:

Where will Dolphins add another veteran free agent?

Is Christian Wilkins next for multi-year extension?

What could Dolphins’ draft strategy be?

How should Dolphins fill out O-line around Armstead?

Could AFC’s young guns at QB affect Dolphins’ commitment to Tua?

Why not throw downfield to Waddle more?

What do Dolphins think of practice squad rookie RB Gerrid Doaks?

Can Tua still be a top-10 quarterback?

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