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Uyghur genocide accusations prompts calls for diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics from US lawmakers

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Beijing Olympics

Concerns over the safety of U.S. athletes in the Winter Olympics in Beijing are mounting as President Joe Biden mulls a “diplomatic boycott” and questions about the disappearance of tennis star Peng Shuai remain unanswered.

Driving the news: Biden confirmed last week that the U.S. is “considering” a diplomatic boycott of the event, which is scheduled to take place in the Chinese capital and nearby towns from Feb. 4-20, 2022. The move is intended to protest the government’s human rights abuses, primarily its alleged genocide of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

  • “There are areas that we do have concerns: human rights abuses,” White House spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters last Thursday. “We have serious concerns.”
  • A diplomatic boycott would result in U.S. officials skipping the Games, according to Reuters. Since a decision has not been finalized, the full scope of such a boycott remains unclear.

What leaders are saying: The decision for a diplomatic boycott has won support from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, according to CNN. Some Republicans, however, are pushing for a total boycott, citing safety concerns for U.S. athletes.

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D- Calif.) first called for a diplomatic boycott in May while slamming corporate sponsors who “look the other way” on China’s abuses. “For heads of state to go to China, in light of a genocide that is ongoing while you’re sitting there in your seats, really begs the question: What moral authority do you have to speak about human rights any place in the world if you’re willing to pay your respects to the Chinese government as they commit genocide?” she asked during a hearing on the Games, according to CNBC.
  • Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), on the other hand, has called for a full boycott while accusing the Chinese Communist Party of having “no value for life.” She cited the disappearance of tennis star Peng Shuai — whose reappearance this week only raised more questions — as enough indication to warrant a complete pass on Beijing 2022.
  • “If you’re not going to toe the line, then they’re going to disappear you. And this is why we think it is unsafe for our athletes to go to the Olympics in Beijing,” Blackburn said on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures.” “This is something that seems to be happening more regularly. So why would the US Olympic Committee send our athletes into this type of environment?”
  • Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) supports a diplomatic boycott. Speaking on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” he expressed his hopes for America’s participation in the Games. “It’s important we do two things at the Olympics in China: Number one, that we actually show the courage the Women’s Tennis Association is showing to call out the murder, the genocide, the torture, the lies, the complicity in COVID-19 of the Chinese Communist government, to speak the truth. ,” Cruz said. “And then number two, I really hope our young men and women — that they go over there and kick their commie asses — we need to win in the Olympics.”
  • Cruz stressed that a full boycott would be a mistake, citing a similar decision made by President Jimmy Carter in the 1970s. “All it did was punish a generation of athletes,” he said. “We’ve got young men and young women — Americans who spent their whole lives practicing for this moment. I don’t want to punish those young athletes.”

China’s response: China has long denied allegations of abuse in Xinjiang, claiming that its actions were meant to deter terrorism and “re-educate” Uyghurs. On Tuesday, state-backed Global Times published an editorial commenting on the diplomatic boycott, saying China finds the idea unworthy of its attention and that it should only focus on its own path.

  • “The elites of the US and other Western countries do not matter much whether they are envious, jealous, hateful, fearful or angry. It’s not worthy for China to spend energy and resources to care about their emotions and attitudes and even attempt to reverse their negative thoughts toward China,” Global Times noted.
  • The editorial pointed out that China will only lose if it cared about such concerns. Still, the piece acknowledged that the Winter Olympics will serve as a ground for a “severe ideological clash” between China and “the U.S.-led West.”
  • “If the US wants to lead its allies in using the Beijing Winter Olympics as a stage to showcase such divergences, China needs only to morally expose their attempts and oppose them, while completely disregarding their superficial attacks toward China, as China no longer anticipates that the US and its allies would cooperate with China in such international events. As a result, we will make most of the ideological tools of the West useless,” the editorial said.

Featured Image via Beijing 2022

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US: Swift, severe response if Russia sends troops to Ukraine

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US: Swift, severe response if Russia sends troops to Ukraine

By MATTHEW LEE and FRANK JORDANS

BERLIN (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Thursday that there would be a “swift, severe” response from the United States and its allies if Russia sends any military forces into Ukraine.

Blinken’s comments in Berlin appeared to be another effort to clear up any confusion about the position of the U.S. and its NATO allies after U.S. President Joe Biden was heavily criticized for saying a “minor incursion” by Russia would elicit a lesser response.

“If any Russian military forces move across the Ukrainian border and commit new acts of aggression against Ukraine, that will be met with a swift, severe, united response from the United States and our allies and partners,” Blinken told a news conference with his German counterpart.

Later, Blinken accused Russia of threatening the foundations of world order with its buildup of an estimated 100,000 troops near Ukraine. He said Russia must face a concerted and severe global response if it invades.

The stark warning was delivered in Berlin, the city that symbolized the Cold War split between East and West, as Blinken prepares to meet Friday in Geneva with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in a high-stakes bid to ease tensions that appears likely to fail.

“These are difficult issues we are facing, and resolving them won’t happen quickly,” Blinken said. “I certainly don’t expect we’ll solve them in Geneva tomorrow.”

He said Russia’s actions toward Ukraine are an attempt to subvert international norms and just the latest in a string of Moscow’s violations of numerous treaties, agreements and other commitments it has made to respect the sovereignty and territory of other countries.

“To allow Russia to violate those principles with impunity would drag us all back to a much more dangerous and unstable time, when this continent -– and this city -– were split in two, separated by no-man’s-lands patrolled by soldiers, with the threat of all-out war hanging heavily over everyone’s lives,” Blinken told an audience at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences. “It would also send a message to others around the world that these principles are expendable.”

“We will not treat the principles of sovereignty or territorial integrity as negotiable,” he said, adding that the situation is “bigger than a conflict between two countries, and it’s bigger than a clash between Russia and NATO. It’s a crisis with global consequences. And it requires global attention and action.”

The speech came after Blinken and top diplomats from Britain, France and Germany met in Berlin to project a united front over concerns that Russia may be planning to invade Ukraine. A day earlier, he met Ukraine’s president in Kyiv.

Biden said Wednesday he thinks Moscow will invade and warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that his country would pay a “dear price” in lives lost and a possible cutoff from the global banking system if it does.

But Biden also prompted consternation among allies after saying the response to a Russian invasion “depends on what it does.” “It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and then we end up having a fight about what to do and not do, et cetera,” he said.

Biden said Thursday that “Russia has a long history of using measures other than overt military action to carry out aggression — paramilitary tactics, so-called gray zone attacks and actions by Russian soldiers not wearing Russian uniforms.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was among those expressing concern about Biden’s “minor incursion” remark.

“We want to remind the great powers that there are no minor incursions and small nations. Just as there are no minor casualties and little grief from the loss of loved ones,” he tweeted.

Blinken took pains Thursday to stress the U.S. and its partners were united, noting that American diplomats have held more than 100 meetings with allies in recent weeks “to ensure that we are speaking and acting together with one voice when it comes to Russia.”

“That unity gives us strength, a strength I might add that Russia does not and cannot match,” he said. “It’s why we build voluntary alliances and partnerships in the first place. It’s also why Russia recklessly seeks to divide us.”

Russia denies it is planning an invasion and, in turn, accused the West of plotting “provocations” in Ukraine, citing the delivery of weapons to the country by British military transports in recent days.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova alleged Ukrainian and Western talk of an imminent Russian attack was a “cover for staging large-scale provocations of their own, including those of military character.”

Russia wants binding security guarantees, including a permanent prohibition on Ukrainian membership in NATO, to which Kyiv aspires, and the removal of most of the U.S. and allied military presence in eastern Europe.

The U.S. and its European partners say they are willing to consider certain less-dramatic gestures but that the Russian demands are out of the question and that Putin knows they are nonstarters. That, Blinken said, is proof of Putin’s ulterior motive.

“So far, our good-faith gestures have been rebuffed -– because, in truth, this crisis is not primarily about weapons or military bases,” he said. “It’s about the sovereignty and self-determination of Ukraine and other post-Soviet states. And at its core, it’s about Russia’s rejection of a post-Cold War Europe that is whole and free.”

Russia on Thursday announced sweeping naval maneuvers through February, some apparently in the Black Sea, involving over 140 warships and more than 60 aircraft. Separately, Spain’s defense minister said the country was sending two warships to the Black Sea with NATO approval.

Amid concerns that Putin may not be moved by threats of sanctions and that an invasion will not draw as strong an international response as the U.S. believes is warranted, Blinken made a direct appeal to the Russian people to oppose any intervention.

“You deserve to live with security and dignity, like all people everywhere, and no one -– not Ukraine, not the United States, not the countries of NATO -– is seeking to jeopardize that. But what really risks your security is a pointless war with your neighbors in Ukraine, with all the costs that come with it -– most of all, for the young people who will risk or even give their lives to it,” he said.

The U.S. and its NATO allies face a difficult task on Ukraine. Biden has said he is not planning to send combat troops in the case of a further Russian invasion. But he could pursue less-dramatic yet still risky military options, including supporting a post-invasion Ukrainian resistance.

The rationale for not directly joining a Russia-Ukraine war is simple. The U.S. has no treaty obligation to Ukraine, and war with Russia would be an enormous gamble. But doing too little has risks, too.

___

Associated Press writers Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow and Vanessa Gera in Warsaw, Poland, contributed.

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Two winners will split a $25 million Colorado Lotto+ jackpot

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Two winners will split a $25 million Colorado Lotto+ jackpot

Two people will split a $25 million jackpot after purchasing prize-winning tickets in the Colorado Lotto+.

The $25 million prize is the second-highest Colorado Lotto+ jackpot; a $27 million jackpot was won in 1992 by a single player.

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Mel Kiper’s mock draft has Jets taking a safety and a wide receiver with Top 10 picks

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Mel Kiper’s mock draft has Jets taking a safety and a wide receiver with Top 10 picks

Gang Green needs all the help they can get this offseason.

And the Jets will fill two major areas of need with their two Top 10 picks in April’s NFL Draft, according to veteran ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper.

The Jets have a wealth of assets to play with as GM Joe Douglas looks to keep adding talent to his rebuilding team, but the two most valuable pieces are the No. 4 and No. 10 overall picks.

Kiper didn’t win over many Jets fans with the player he had pegged for Gang Green at No. 4 — Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton — but the Jets do have a major need at safety.

The pushback from the fans likely stems from the fact that the Jets used a Top 10 pick in 2017 on Jamal Adams (No. 6 overall) only to trade him away to the Seattle Seahawks in his prime after back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons.

So why go that route again? Why select another safety after you weren’t willing to pay the last one. Toss in the fact that safeties just aren’t viewed as valuable as defensive ends or cornerbacks.

But it is a real position of need. Their best safety Marcus Maye is an unrestricted free agent after playing last year on the franchise tag before tearing his Achilles midway through the season. Lamarcus Joyner tore his triceps Week 1 against the Panthers and was out of the season after joining the team on a one-year deal.

As a result, the safety spot was a revolving door with Sharrod Neasman, Ashtyn Davis, Elijah Riley, Will Parks, Adrian Colbert and Sheldrick Redwine all taking snaps.

So the position needs an infusion of talent, and the Jets are looking for their version of San Francisco 49ers standout Jimmie Ward in Robert Saleh’s scheme.

A guy with cover skills to guard slot receivers and tight ends, but who can also be physical in the run game as the safety spot in Saleh’s defense must be able to get downhill to help stop the run.

Hamilton is viewed by experts as a player that can play around the line of scrimmage but also possesses the range to cover down the field. He had eight career interceptions at Notre Dame. The 6-4, 220-pound versatile safety suffered a knee injury during the 2021 season, but he should be ready to work out at the NFL combine, according to reports.

So, if the Jets went with Hamilton, it would be justifiable. But with free agency approaching, don’t be surprised if the Jets go the money route to fill the need. There are solid options hitting the market in Marcus Williams of the Saints, Jessie Bates of the Bengals, the Vikings’ Xavier Woods and Quandre Diggs of the Seahawks.

With the No. 10 overall pick, Kiper sent USC wide receiver Drake London to the Jets. This is where things get interesting.

While there have been reports that the Jets may prefer to trade this pick — whether for an established player or more draft capital — if they stay put Drake is a receiver that would complement what they have with Corey Davis and Elijah Moore.

The Jets believe Moore will become a stud. The 2020 second-rounder flashed promising potential and finished with 43 catches for 538 yards with six total touchdowns in 11 games. But the Jets want another big body receiver, who can consistently make contested catches. The Jets receiver group had only 24 contested catches (Davis led with six), according to Pro Football Focus.

In comparison, Washington Football Team receiver Terry McLaurin had 25 contested catches.

The Jets want a receiver who can consistently win in those situations to help Zach Wilson’s development.

London’s skillset matches up with the Jets’ desire. He’s 6-5 and 210 pounds and is lauded for his ball skills as he has the ability to consistently catch the ball in traffic. And he can secure the ball in contested catch situations.  He’s also physical in the run blocking game.

In 2021, London had 88 catches for 1,084 yards with seven touchdowns. He had five games where he caught 10 or more passes. But he also didn’t escape last season unscathed as he fractured his ankle against Arizona on Oct. 31.

Hamilton and London both fit the bill for what the Jets are looking for, but a lot can happen between now and draft day.

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