China has said a diplomatic boycott of the forthcoming Beijing Winter Olympics by the Biden administration would be “a stain on the spirit of the Olympic charter” and “sensationalist and politically manipulative”, in what appears to be a further rift in the already strained bilateral relations.
The last time the US staged a full boycott of the Olympics was during the cold war in 1980, when the former president Jimmy Carter snubbed the Moscow summer Games along with 64 other countries and territories.
China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, on Monday accused Washington of “hyping a ‘diplomatic boycott’ without even being invited to the Games”.
“I want to stress that the Winter Olympic Games is not a stage for political posturing and manipulation,” Zhao said. “It is a grave travesty of the spirit of the Olympic charter, a blatant political provocation and a serious affront to the 1.4 billion Chinese people.”
The US diplomatic boycott comes amid escalating tensions between China and many western countries. It was first raised by Joe Biden last month when he said he was considering a “diplomatic boycott” as pressures grew in the US Congress over its concerns about China’s human rights record, including over the treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities.
Politicians including Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives, have advocated a boycott as protest.
Washington Post announces death of Fred Hiatt
The Washington Post has announced the death of Fred Hiatt, its editorial page editor, this morning. He was 66.
Hiatt died in New York, where he suffered a heart attack while visiting his daughter in late November.
A statement from Post publisher Fred Ryan, widely shared by Post staffers, said in part: “All of us who worked with Fred know what a deep loss this is and how profoundly he’ll be missed.
“Over the past two decades, Fred’s leadership made the Post editorial page into the most consequential in the news industry. Nearly every person in the department was hired by Fred a great testament to his ability to identify and retain top talent.
“A 40-year veteran of the post, he built friendships through the company and made immense contributions as a writer and editor and a mentor to so many.”
Among responses, Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent of the rival New York Times wrote: “Devastating news. Fred was a first-rate journalist, smart and incisive, gentle but strong, open minded and thoughtful but never fooled by the propagandists of Washington or Moscow. Most of all, he was the epitome of decency and principle in an indecent and unprincipled age.”
US not seeking ‘direct use of military force’ over Ukraine – report
Details of a briefing call on the Biden administration’s options in regards to a feared and expected Russian invasion of Ukraine are beginning to come out.
Joe Biden and Vladmir Putin are due to talk tomorrow.
We’ll have more soon. In the tweeted words of Olivier Knox of the Washington Post, the options involve sanctions and other non-lethal moves:
“On a conference call organised by the White House, a senior administration official (anonymously) said this when asked whether Biden will warn Putin tomorrow that the US might respond militarily to a Russian invasion of Ukraine:
I don’t want to use a public press call to talk about the particular sensitive challenges that President Biden will lay out for President Putin, but I would say the United States is not seeking to end up in a circumstance in which the focus of our countermeasures is the direct use of American military force (as opposed to support for Ukraine’s military and Nato partners, new sanctions).
Knox adds: “Biden has been speaking to European allies, and will continue to do so. He’ll speak to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy after the call to Putin. But Secretary of State [Tony] Blinken will speak to Zelenskiy before the call to Putin, the official said.”
The Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, has teed up a big couple of weeks in the chamber with a statement about Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Act, the $2tn package of domestic spending priorities which passed the House after a lengthy wrangle and must now survive the Senate.
“Our goal in the Senate is to pass the legislation before Christmas and get it to the president’s desk,” he said this morning.
“Of course, there are other priorities we plan to address before the end of the year as well, including voting rights, debt limit, NDAA…
“I will continue to remind you that there are more long days and nights, and potentially weekends, that the Senate will be in session this month.”
Donald Trump’s penchant for four-letter words is well-known, to the extent that his four-year presidency prompted soul-searching among some US media outlets about which words could properly be printed.
The Guardian has long had few such scruples.
With that in mind, here’s our report on remarks at Mar-a-Lago on Saturday night in which the former president called reporters “crooked bastards” and Gen Mark Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, a “fucking idiot”:
For years, Helen Butler has been on a mission to increase voter turnout, especially among Black voters, in Georgia and across the south. She’s used to the skepticism. People she meets wonder why they should bother, because their vote won’t matter. No matter who’s in office, longstanding problems won’t get solved.
Last year, she listened as Joe Biden promised he would protect the right to vote if he was elected president. “One thing the Senate and the president can do right away is pass the bill to restore the Voting Rights Act … it’s one of the first things I’ll do as president if elected. We can’t let the fundamental right to vote be denied,” he said in July last year.
And so, after Biden was inaugurated, Butler and many others expected that voting rights would be one of the first things the president and Democrats addressed.
Instead, during the president’s first year in office, Butler has watched with dismay as Biden and Democrats have failed to pass any voting rights legislation. Meanwhile, Republicans in Georgia passed sweeping new voting restrictions, one of several places across the country that made it harder to vote.
“It is disheartening, I can tell you, out of all the work we’ve put in to have fair elections, to get people engaged, and to have the Senate that will not act to protect the most sacred right, the right to vote, is unheard of,” Butler said.
The largest oil and gas companies made a combined $174bn in profits in the first nine months of the year as gasoline prices climbed in the US, according to a new report.
The bumper profit totals, provided exclusively to the Guardian, show that in the third quarter of 2021 alone, 24 top oil and gas companies made more than $74bn in net income.
From January to September, the net income of the group, which includes Exxon, Chevron, Shell and BP, was $174bn.
Exxon alone posted a net income of $6.75bn in the third quarter, its highest profit since 2017, and has seen its revenue jump by 60% on the same period last year.
The company credited the rising cost of oil for bolstering these profits, as did BP, which made $3.3bn in third-quarter profit. “Rising commodity prices certainly helped,” Bernard Looney, chief executive of BP, told investors at the latest earnings report.
Gasoline prices have hit a seven-year high in the US due to the rising cost of oil, with Americans now paying about $3.40 for a gallon of fuel compared with around $2.10 a year ago.