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Winter Olympics 2022: US to stage diplomatic boycott of Beijing Games over China human rights abuses | US News – Prime News Now
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Winter Olympics 2022: US to stage diplomatic boycott of Beijing Games over China human rights abuses | US News

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The US will stage a diplomatic boycott against the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics to protest against human rights abuses in China.

Earlier this month, President Joe Biden said the move was something the administration was “considering” but it has now been confirmed by the White House press secretary.

Speaking to reporters, Jen Psaki said: “US diplomatic or official representation would treat these games as business as usual in the face of the PRC’s egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang, and we simply can’t do that.”

US athletes will continue to compete, with Ms Psaki saying they will have the “full support” of the White House.

'We have a fundamental commitment to promoting human rights'
Image:
Jen Psaki: ‘We have a fundamental commitment to promoting human rights’

“We have a fundamental commitment to promoting human rights. And we feel strongly in our position and we will continue to take actions to advance human rights in China and beyond,” Ms Psaki added.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez described the boycott as “a necessary step to demonstrate our unwavering commitment to human rights in the face of the Chinese government’s unconscionable abuses”.

He called on “other allies and partners” to take the same action against the Games.

Human rights advocates and lawmakers in the US have cited China’s poor human rights record as justification for the boycott, adding the country is using the games to whitewash its ill-treatment of civil rights activists, political dissidents, and ethnic minorities.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian accused US politicians of grandstanding over the issue of not sending dignitaries to attend events that China hopes will showcase its economic development and technological power.

'If the US side is bent on going its own way, China will take firm countermeasures'
Image:
‘If the US side is bent on going its own way, China will take firm countermeasures’

Speaking to reporters, Mr Zhao said: “Without being invited, American politicians keep hyping the so-called diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics, which is purely wishful thinking and grandstanding.

“If the US side is bent on going its own way, China will take firm countermeasures.”

In a statement, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said: “The presence of government officials and diplomats is a purley political decision for each government, which the IOC in its political neutrality fully respects.”

It said it welcomed the decision to allow athletes to compete, saying it shows their participation is “beyond politics”.

Later this week, Joe Biden is due to host a White House Summit for Democracy, which will see a virtual gathering of leaders and civil society experts from more than 100 countries.

The administration has said that Mr Biden intends to use the meeting on Thursday and Friday “to announce both individual and collective commitments, reforms, and initiatives to defend democracy and human rights at home and abroad”.

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Up to 350 people trapped on roof as fire breaks out at Hong Kong’s World Trade Centre, police say | World News

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Up to 350 people are trapped on the roof of Hong Kong’s World Trade Centre after a major fire broke out in the skyscraper, police have said.

The fire started to rip through the 38-story building, which houses both offices and a mall, in the bustling commercial and shopping district of Causeway Bay early on Wednesday afternoon.

A firefighter rescues people trapped in a fire that broke out at the World Trade Centre in Hong Kong, China, December 15, 2021. REUTERS/Lam Yik
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A firefighter rescues people trapped in a fire that broke out at the World Trade Centre in Hong Kong

Rescue workers evacuate people from the site after a fire broke out at the World Trade centre in Hong Kong, China, December 15, 2021. REUTERS/Lam Yik
Image:
Rescue workers evacuate people from the site

At least one person has been injured and taken to hospital.

Police also said 150 people are currently awaiting rescue.

Other people were said to be trapped in restaurants in the mall, according to the local South China Morning Post newspaper.

The blaze was also upgraded to a level three incident on a scale of one to five.

Hong Kong’s government said firefighters were battling the fire with two water jets and had deployed breathing apparatus.

A firefighter rescues a victim trapped in a fire that broke out at the World Trade centre in Hong Kong, China, December 15, 2021. REUTERS/Lam Yik
Image:
A firefighter rescues a victim trapped in the fire

Firefighters operate an extendable ladder to rescue people trapped in a fire that broke out at the World Trade Centre in Hong Kong, China, December 15, 2021. REUTERS/Lam Yik
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Firefighters operate an extendable ladder to rescue people trapped in the fire

Firefighters also used an extendable ladder to rescue several people who were trapped on the lower floors of the building.

The emergency services cordoned off the area outside the building.

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COVID-19: US coronavirus deaths top 800,000, with more than 25% coming after vaccines became available | US News

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COVID-19 deaths in the United States have topped 800,000, with more than 25% of fatalities coming after vaccines became available earlier this year.

The number of deaths hit what President Joe Biden called a “tragic milestone” on Tuesday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

More than 200,000 COVID-19 fatalities have occurred since April, by which time all adults were able to get the vaccine.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is joined by bipartisan House and Senate members to hold a moment of silence for 800,000 American lives lost to COVID-19 on the step of the Capitol. Pic: AP
Image:
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is joined by bipartisan House and Senate members to hold a moment of silence for 800,000 American lives lost to COVID-19 on the steps of the Capitol. Pic: AP

The overall death toll is roughly equal to the population of Atlanta and St Louis combined – or Minneapolis and Cleveland put together.

It is also roughly equivalent to how many Americans die each year from heart disease or stroke.

The US also has the highest reported toll of any country, accounting for approximately 4% of the world’s population but about 15% of the 5.3 million known deaths from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

The true number of deaths in the US and around the world is believed to significantly higher because of cases that were overlooked or concealed.

A closely watched forecasting model from the University of Washington projects a total of more than 880,000 reported deaths in the US by March.

Steve Grove, a chaplain at Hennepin County Medical Center, prays in a COVID-19 patient in Minneapolis. Pic: AP
Image:
Steve Grove, a chaplain at Hennepin County Medical Center, prays with a COVID-19 patient in Minneapolis. Pic: AP

Mr Biden on Tuesday reiterated calls for unvaccinated Americans to get jabs for themselves and their children and urged the vaccinated to get booster shots.

He said: “I urge all Americans: do your patriotic duty to keep our country safe, to protect yourself and those around you, and to honour the memory of all those we have lost.

“Now is the time.”

Maya Goode, a COVID-19 technician, left, talks with Sami Perez, 12, after he received a COVID-19 test outside Asthenis Pharmacy in Providence, Rhode Island. Pic: AP
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Maya Goode, a COVID-19 technician, left, talks with Sami Perez, 12, after he received a COVID-19 test outside Asthenis Pharmacy in Providence, Rhode Island. Pic: AP

Health experts also lamented the number of deaths, saying many were especially heartbreaking because they were preventable by way of the vaccine, which became available around a year ago and was thrown open to all adults by mid-April.

Around 200 million Americans are fully vaccinated – or just over 60% of the population, which is well short of what scientists say is needed to keep the virus in check.

“Almost all the people dying are now dying preventable deaths,” said Dr Chris Beyrer, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

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US President Joe Biden said the new variant, Omicron, was a cause for concern, but not a cause for panic, adding that America has more tools to fight it today than ever before.

“And that’s because they’re not immunised. And you know that, God, it’s a terrible tragedy.”

When the vaccine was first rolled out, the country’s death toll stood at about 300,000. It hit 600,000 in mid-June and 700,000 on 1 October.

The US crossed the latest threshold with cases and hospitalisations on the rise again in a spike driven by the highly contagious Delta variant, which arrived in the first half of 2021 and now accounts for practically all infections.

Now the Omicron variant is gaining a foothold in the country.

Dr Beyrer recalled that in March or April 2020, one of the worst-case scenarios projected upwards of 240,000 American deaths.

“And I saw that number, and I thought that is incredible – 240,000 American deaths?” he said. “We’re now past three times that number.”

“I think it’s fair to say that we’re still not out of the woods.”

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The Christians release Christmas single Naz Don’t Cry to support imprisoned Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe | UK News

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An unusual contender for the Christmas No 1 is released today.

Thirty years ago the pop group The Christians released a song to support British hostage John McCarthy kidnapped for five years in Lebanon.

Today they rereleased a refashioned version of the song Man Don’t Cry to send a message of hope and support to British Iranian woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe currently being held against her will in Iran.

waghorn nazanin
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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (right) is being against her will in Iran

Singer Gary Christian says the plight of Nazanin and her husband Richard’s hunger strike outside the Foreign Office inspired the band to make the move.

He said: “When you see something like this you feel so impotent, you can’t do anything, you’re sitting there kind of in tears watching this and you think what can we do.”

The Christians invited Richard Ratcliffe and the couple’s daughter Gabriella to Liverpool to record the song retitled Naz Don’t Cry.

He’s urging people to buy it in solidarity with Nazanin and family. All proceeds go to charity.

“I hope people just, even if they don’t like the song, they don’t like me, the Christians or anything, forget that just download,” he says. “We want to raise money, we want to get Nazanin back, back home.”

The song is accompanied by a moving video featuring some of the more emotional moments of the five-year effort to get Nazanin home.

waghorn nazanin. Pic: The Christians
Image:
Gary Christian is urging people to download the single. Pic: The Christians

Former hostage John McCarthy told Sky News he welcomed the song being used again and said the video is a powerful watch.

“Looking at the video, it’s taken me back to seeing things after I came back,” he says.

“And you know it’s slow-moving seeing Richard out in Westminster Square on his hunger strike … it’s very powerful, you know. After a couple of viewings one is in tears.”

Nazanin is being held in Tehran against her will and faces being returned to jail on more trumped-up charges.

waghorn nazanin
Image:
Richard Ratcliffe’s hunger strike is featured in the video. Pic: The Christians

She was able to join the recording by video call to hear what’s being done in her name.

Her husband Richard told Sky News he hopes it helps raise her spirits.

“It’s a lovely song,” he says. “It’s a nice uplifting song. It’s a song that says don’t be sad, we’re still thinking of you, we’re still battling for you, your husband’s still going, there will be a tomorrow.”

waghorn nazanin
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Richard Ratcliffe said he hopes the song will raise Nazanin’s spirits

The star of the video is Gabriella, Richard and Nazanin’s daughter, who appears to play the guitar and dreams as well as playing to the cameras.

Mr Ratcliffe said: “Coming up to Christmas she was asking yesterday when’s she coming back, and also why does it have to be my Mummy – and there are no easy answers to that.”

This will be Nazanin’s sixth Christmas apart from her family. Efforts to secure her release are not making progress.

John McCarthy
Image:
John McCarthy said he was moved by the song

Richard has now done two hunger strikes to highlight her plight.

Her family hope music might make a difference where diplomacy has so far failed.

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