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Ask Amy: Friend’s husband is a bull in her china shop

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Ask Amy: Woman should leave abusive relationship

Dear Amy: My husband and I are retired. We have a good life in a city that we moved to about seven years ago.

We’ve been able to make lots of new friends. I’m so pleased by the variety of people in our friend group.

What I’m not pleased about is that one of my dearest women friends, “Meg,” has a husband, “Mike,” who seems to insert himself into all kinds of situations where I would prefer that he not be.

Mike spends more time on Facebook than Meg does, and he seems to be “friends” with everybody in our social circle, which is pretty large.

The problem is that this guy has no filters at all. He comments on absolutely everything, is often loud and inappropriate, and is sometimes vulgar.

I think he thrives on being the center of attention.

I really don’t believe there is a mean bone in his body, but there are days when just seeing his name on Facebook makes me want to shut my phone off.

Meg and I are close enough that we have talked a lot about our marriages, and we both agree that our spouses have their good and their bad points. She knows that Mike can be a nuisance.

There is at least one other woman in our social community who had similar feelings about Mike. She told Meg how she felt, and I’m pretty certain it has damaged their own long-term relationship.

Do you have any advice for me?

I just don’t know if I have the patience to put up with Mike for the long run.

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China says US diplomatic boycott violates Olympic spirit

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China says US diplomatic boycott violates Olympic spirit

BEIJING (AP) — China accused the United States of violating the Olympic spirit on Tuesday after the Biden administration announced a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Games over human rights concerns.

Rights groups have pushed for a full-blown boycott of the Games, accusing China of rights abuses against ethnic minorities. The U.S. decision falls short of those calls but comes at an exceptionally turbulent time for relations between the powerhouse nations and was met with a barrage of criticism from China.

The U.S. is attempting to interfere with the Beijing Games “out of ideological prejudice and based on lies and rumors,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters.

The boycott “seriously violates the principle of political neutrality of sports established by the Olympic Charter and runs counter to the Olympic motto ‘more united,’” Zhao said.

As he did the previous day, Zhao vowed that China would respond with “resolute countermeasures” but offered no details.

“The U.S. will pay a price for its practices. You may stay tuned for follow-ups,” Zhao said.

On Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that the Biden administration will fully support U.S. athletes competing at the Games but won’t dispatch diplomats or officials to attend.

Psaki said the U.S. has a “fundamental commitment to promoting human rights” and that it “will not be contributing to the fanfare of the Games.”

The diplomatic boycott comes as the U.S. attempts to thread the needle between stabilizing difficult relations with Beijing and maintaining a tough stance on trade and political conflicts. The U.S. has accused China of human rights abuses against Muslim Uyghurs in northwest Xinjiang province, suppressing democratic movements in Hong Kong, committing military aggression against the self-ruled island of Taiwan and more.

Beijing has denounced U.S. criticisms and punitive sanctions as interference in its internal affairs and slapped visa bans on American politicians it regards as anti-China.

Zhao warned the U.S. to “stop politicizing sports” and cease what he said were actions undermining the Beijing Winter Olympics, “otherwise it will undermine the dialogue and cooperation between the two countries in a series of important areas and international issues.”

The Chinese Embassy in Washington dismissed the move as posturing in a tweet.

“In fact, no one would care about whether these people come or not, and it has no impact whatsoever on the #Beijing2022 to be successfully held,” the embassy said.

China’s mission to the United Nations called the boycott a “self-directed political farce.”

Even the ruling Communist Party’s notoriously opaque Central Commission for Discipline Inspection issued a response in the form of a lengthy screed on its website entitled “The Spirit of the Olympic Charter Cannot be Tarnished.”

“Some Western anti-China politicians” have shown a “defensive Cold War mentality aimed at politicizing sport,” the article said, calling that a “clear violation of the Olympic spirit and a challenge to all people who love the Olympic movement.”

People on the streets of Beijing were overall dismissive of the U.S. move.

“I don’t think it matters at all if they would come or not. The Olympic Games are not about one country or a couple of countries,” said coffee shop employee Deng Tao.

“Such remarks from someone we never invited are simply a farce. And I don’t think it will have much impact on the holding of the Winter Olympics,” Lu Xiaolei, who works in trade.

It wasn’t clear which officials the U.S. might have sent to Beijing for the Games and Zhao said Monday that no invitation had been extended by China.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia, whose relations with China have nosedived in recent years, said Wednesday his government would join the U.S. in the diplomatic boycott.

New Zealand said Tuesday it won’t be attending the games at a diplomatic level, but that it made the decision earlier due mostly to pandemic travel restrictions.

The country told China in October about its plans not to send government ministers, Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said.

“But we’ve made clear to China on numerous occasions our concerns about human rights issues,” Robertson said.

The attitudes of other U.S. allies were less clear.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Tuesday that the country would make its own decision “from the perspective of national interests, taking into consideration the significance of the Olympic Games and the significance of Japan’s diplomacy.”

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said a decision on officials attending would be made “at an appropriate time.”

“In any case, Japan hopes that the Beijing Winter Games will be held as a celebration of peace in line with the principles of the Olympic and Paralympic Games,” Matsuno said.

South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesperson Choi Young-sam declined to comment on the U.S. decision and said the ministry had not received any request from its ally not to send officials.

South Korea hopes the Beijing Olympics will “contribute to peace and prosperity in Northeast Asia and the world and help improve relations between South and North Korea,” Choi said.

The dispatching of high-level delegations to each Olympics has long been a tradition among the U.S. and other leading nations. Then-President George W. Bush attended the opening of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Summer Games. First lady Jill Biden led the American contingent to the Summer Olympics in Tokyo this year and second gentleman Doug Emhoff led a delegation to the Paralympic Games.

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Judge finds segregated schools do not violate Minnesota constitution if Cruz-Guzman plaintiffs can’t prove intent, causation

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Judge finds segregated schools do not violate Minnesota constitution if Cruz-Guzman plaintiffs can’t prove intent, causation

The plaintiffs in a major school segregation lawsuit have failed to persuade a judge that racial and socioeconomic imbalances in Twin Cities area school enrollment amount to a violation of Minnesota’s constitution.

Hennepin County District Judge Susan Robiner this week denied the plaintiffs’ motion for partial summary judgment in Cruz-Guzman v. State of Minnesota.

However, Robiner asked the state Court of Appeals for an immediate review of her decision, writing that she had little legal precedent to work from, that the case is important, and that there’s a fair chance the appellate court will overturn her order.

The lawsuit, filed in 2015 against state education officials and lawmakers, alleged that state laws and policies on open enrollment, integration and charter schools have caused segregation in Twin Cities and suburban schools.

State officials early this year agreed to a settlement that would have created $63 million a year in ongoing obligations for the state, including an integrative busing program, new magnet schools and new orders for charter schools to desegregate.

But when the state Legislature declined to act on the settlement, plaintiffs attorney Dan Shulman asked the judge to decide key parts of the case in his favor without going to trial.

THE FOOTNOTE

Shulman argued in his motion that the simple fact that many metro schools are segregated is enough to find the state’s education system unconstitutional.

His argument relied in large part on a footnote from the 2018 state Supreme Court decision that revived the Cruz-Guzman case after an appeals court panel dismissed it.

The footnote said that it’s “self-evident that a segregated system of public schools is not ‘general,’ ‘uniform,’ ‘thorough,’ or ‘efficient’” — quoting words found in the education clause of the Minnesota constitution.

Robiner this week described Shulman’s argument as an “over-interpretation” of the footnote.

In her view, the segregation must be “intentional” in order to find a constitutional violation. If she’s wrong and Shulman is right, she wrote, then the only remedy would be to redistribute Twin Cities students to different schools according to their race, which the U.S. Supreme Court has clearly said violates the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.

“Plaintiffs argue that racial imbalance alone establishes an Education Clause violation. Therefore, whether explicitly or implicitly, Plaintiffs are asking this Court to order Defendants to eliminate the challenged racial imbalances,” Robiner wrote.

“This Court has concluded that it cannot issue such an order in the absence of de jure segregation; because without de jure segregation, a race-conscious remedy would place Defendants squarely in front of the propeller blade of an Equal Protection claim.”

INTENT, CAUSATION

Even if the Court of Appeals upholds Robiner’s latest ruling, the lawsuit will move forward, and Shulman will have the opportunity to try other arguments.

He already has offered evidence that some of the state’s policies on school integration were written with intent to segregate, which could be unconstitutional.

At this point, though, “The factual record is wholly inadequate to establish intentional de jure” — intentional — “segregation by Defendants as a matter of undisputed material fact,” Robiner wrote.

Robiner wrote that the plaintiffs also must prove the state’s laws and policies actually have caused school segregation, calling the counterargument “antithetical to basic legal principles.”

The plaintiffs, hoping that the numerical imbalances would be enough to win the case, so far have made little effort to demonstrate causation.

Indeed, the judge wrote, the plaintiffs’ experts have offered explanations for why someone besides the state defendants may be to blame for segregated schools. She cited “intransigent contributors … including housing and poverty patterns, and in the case of charter school enrollment and open enrollment, the fact that parents opt into these schools.”

The judge canceled a Friday status hearing on the case in light of her request that the Court of Appeals review her order.

Specifically, she’s asking the appellate court to determine whether a racially imbalanced system of schools violates the state’s education clause, even in the absence of intent or proof that the state’s actions caused the segregation.

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Biden, Putin square off as tension grows on Ukraine border

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Biden, Putin square off as tension grows on Ukraine border

By AAMER MADHANI and DASHA LITVINOVA

WASHINGTON (AP) — Face to face for over two hours, President Joe Biden and Russia’s Vladimir Putin squared off in a secure video call Tuesday as the U.S. president put Moscow on notice that an invasion of Ukraine would bring sanctions and enormous harm to the Russian economy.

With tens of thousands of Russian troops massed on the Ukraine border, the highly anticipated call between the two leaders came amid growing worries by the U.S. and Western allies about Russia’s threat to its neighbor.

Putin, for his part, came into the meeting seeking guarantees from Biden that the NATO military alliance will never expand to include Ukraine, which has long sought membership. The Americans and their NATO allies said that request was a non-starter.

There appeared to be no immediate breakthroughs to ease tensions on the Ukraine question, as the U.S. emphasized a need for diplomacy and de-escalation, and issued stern threats to Russia on the consequences of an invasion.

Biden “told President Putin directly that if Russia further invades Ukraine, the United States and our European allies would respond with strong economic measures,” U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said after the call.

He added that Biden said the U.S. would also “provide additional defensive materiel to the Ukrainians … and we would fortify our NATO allies on the eastern flank with additional capabilities in response to such an escalation.”

That could include additional deployments of U.S. troops to eastern European NATO allies, the adviser said.

A top U.S. envoy, Victoria Nuland, said a Russian invasion of Ukraine also would jeopardize a controversial pipeline between Russia and Germany. She told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday that if Russia invaded, “our expectation is that the pipeline will be suspended.”

Putin’s foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov dismissed the sanctions threat during a conference call with reporters.

“While the U.S. president talked about possible sanctions, our president emphasized what Russia needs,” Ushakov said. “Sanctions aren’t something new, they have been in place for a long time and will not have any effect.”

He described the presidents’ video conference as “candid and businesslike,” adding that they also exchanged occasional jokes.

In a brief snippet broadcast by Russia state television, the two leaders offered friendly greetings to each other.

“I welcome you, Mr. President,” Putin said, speaking with a Russian flag behind him and a video monitor showing Biden in front of him. “Good to see you again!” Biden replied with a chuckle. He noted Putin’s absence from the recent Group of 20 summit in Rome – Putin took park by video link because of concerns about COVID-19 – and said, “I hope next time we meet to do it in person.”

At the White House, Sullivan said, “It was a useful meeting,” allowing Biden to lay out in candid terms where the US stands.

As the U.S. and Russian presidents conferred, Ukraine grew only more anxious about the tens of thousands of Russia troops that have been deployed near its border. Ukrainian officials charged Russia had further escalated the smoldering crisis by sending tanks and snipers to war-torn eastern Ukraine to “provoke return fire” and lay a pretext for a potential invasion.

U.S. intelligence officials have not been able to independently verify that accusation, according to an administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive matter. But the official said that the White House has directly raised concerns with the Russians about “resorting to their old playbook” by trying to provoke the Ukrainians.

The Kremlin, in a post-call readout, said, “Putin emphasized that it’s wrong to put the responsibility on Russia, since it is NATO that has been making dangerous attempts to expand its presence on the Ukrainian territory and has been expanding its military potential near Russian borders.”

The Russian leader also proposed to lift all mutual restrictions on diplomatic missions and help normalize other aspects of bilateral relations, the Kremlin said. Sullivan said the leaders would direct their staffs to continue negotiations on that.

The leader-to-leader conversation — Biden speaking from the White House Situation Room, Putin from his residence in Sochi —was one of the most important of Biden’s presidency and came at a perilous time. U.S. intelligence officials have determined that Russia has massed 70,000 troops near the Ukraine border and has made preparations for a possible invasion early next year.

Sullivan said the U.S. believes that Putin has not yet made a final decision to invade.

Biden was vice president in 2014 when Russian troops marched into the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea and annexed the territory from Ukraine. Aides say the Crimea episode — one of the darker moments for President Barack Obama on the international stage — looms large as Biden looks at the smoldering current crisis.

Politically in Washington, Republicans are framing this moment as a key test of Biden’s leadership on the global stage. Biden vowed as a candidate to reassert American leadership after President Donald Trump’s emphasis on an “America first” foreign policy. But Republicans say he’s been ineffective in slowing Iran’s march toward becoming a nuclear power and has done too little to counter autocratic leaders including China’s Xi Jinping and Putin.

“Fellow authoritarians in Beijing and Tehran will be watching how the free world responds,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said from the Senate floor before the Biden-Putin meeting.

Sullivan said Biden and Putin had a “good discussion on the Iran issue” and called it an area where the two countries could cooperate.

“The more Iran demonstrates a lack of seriousness at the negotiating table,” the more there will be a sense of unity among the U.S. and the parties to the 2015 nuclear accord including Russia and the European Union, he said.

Trump, who showed unusual deference to Putin during his presidency, said in a statement that “Vladimir Putin looks at our pathetic surrender in Afghanistan, leaving behind dead Soldiers, American citizens, and $85 billion worth of Military equipment. He then looks at Biden. He is not worried!”

Ahead of the Putin call, Biden on Monday spoke with leaders of the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy to coordinate messaging and potential sanctions. He also to spoke with them again following his call to brief them out the outcome. Biden is also expected to speak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday.

Putin apparently sees the current situation as a moment to readjust the power dynamic of the U.S.-Russia relationship, analysts agree.

Beyond Ukraine, there are plenty of other thorny issues on the table, including cyberattacks and human rights. Before the call, Kremlin spokesman Peskov said U.S.-Russian relations are overall in “a rather dire state.”

“Russia has never planned to attack anyone,” Peskov said. He characterized the Biden-Putin call as a “working conversation during a very difficult period,” when “escalation of tensions in Europe is off the scale, extraordinary.”

___

Litvinova reported from Moscow. Associated Press writers Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow and Robert Burns, Zeke Miller and Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.

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