China’s Xi meeting Putin in boost for isolated Russia leader
Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin enter a hall for talks in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, June 5, 2019. The Chinese government said Xi would visit Moscow from March 20, to March 22, 2023, but gave no indication when he departed. The Russian government said Xi was due to arrive at midday and meet later with Putin.(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool, File)
By Emily Wang Fujiyama And Joe Mcdonald in Beijing
BEIJING (AP) — Chinese leader Xi Jinping is due to meet Vladimir Putin in Moscow in a political boost for the isolated Russian president after the International Criminal Court charged him with war crimes in Ukraine.
Xi’s government gave no details of what the Chinese leader hoped to accomplish. Xi and Putin declared they had a “no-limits friendship” before the February 2022 attack on Ukraine, but China has tried to portray itself as neutral. Beijing called for a cease-fire last month, but Washington said that would ratify the Kremlin’s battlefield gains.
The Chinese government said Xi would visit Moscow from Monday to Wednesday but gave no indication when he departed. The Russian government said Xi was due to arrive midday and meet later with Putin.
China looks to Russia as a source of oil and gas for its energy-hungry economy and a as partner in opposing what both see as American domination of global affairs.
The meeting gives Putin and Xi a chance to show they have “powerful partners” at a time of strained relations with Washington, said Joseph Torigian, an expert in Chinese-Russian relations at American University in Washington.
“China can signal that it could even do more to help Russia, and that if relations with the United States continue to deteriorate, they could do a lot more to enable Russia and help Russia in its war against Ukraine,” Torigian said.
Beijing’s relations with Washington, Europe and its neighbors are strained by disputes over technology, security, human rights and the ruling Communist Party’s treatment of Hong Kong and Muslim minorities.
Some commentators have pointed to a possible parallel between Russia’s claims to Ukrainian territory and Beijing’s claim to Taiwan. The Communist Party says the self-ruled island democracy, which split with China in 1949 after a civil war, is obliged to unite with the mainland, by force if necessary. Xi’s government has been stepping up efforts to intimidate the island by flying fighter jets nearby and firing missiles into the sea.
Taiwan voters will choose a new president next year, and in an apparent bid to sway sentiment, former president Ma Ying-jeou of the opposition Nationalist Party will visit China next week.
Ma presided over a period of warm ties with Beijing, but left office under a cloud after China’s legislature rejected a trade deal amid the country’s largest protests since the 1990s.
China’s campaign of diplomatic isolation and military threats have prompted a backlash against Chinese companies overseas and growing support for Taiwan in the U.S. House and European parliaments.
In the latest in a chain of delegations, Bob Stewart, chair of the British-Taiwanese All-Party Parliamentary Group, arrived Sunday in Taipei. Other members of the delegation include Members of Parliament Rob Butler, Sarah Atherton, Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, Afzal Khan, and Marie Rimmer.
Along with India and other countries who claim neutrality in the Ukraine conflict, China has stepped up purchases of Russian oil and gas, helping to top up the Kremlin’s revenue in the face of Western sanctions.
Beijing appears largely to have complied with U.S. warnings not to give military support.
This week’s meeting follows the ICC announcement Friday of charges that Putin is personally responsible for the abductions of thousands of children from Ukraine. Governments that recognize the court’s jurisdiction would be obligated to arrest Putin if he visits.
Putin has yet to comment on the announcement, but the Kremlin rejected the move as “outrageous and unacceptable.”
In a show of defiance, Putin over the weekend visited Crimea and the occupied Ukrainian port city of Mariupol to mark the ninth anniversary of Russia’s seizure of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine. Russian news reports showed him chatting with Mariupol residents and visiting an art school and a children’s center in Sevastopol in Crimea.
Xi said in an article published Monday in the Russian newspaper Russian Gazette that China has “actively promoted peace talks” but announced no initiatives.
“My upcoming visit to Russia will be a journey of friendship, cooperation and peace,” Xi wrote, according to text released by the official Xinhua News Agency.
“A reasonable way to resolve the crisis” can be found if “all parties embrace the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security,” Xi wrote.
The trip follows the surprise announcement of a diplomatic thaw between Iran and Saudi Arabia following a meeting in Beijing, a diplomatic coup for Xi’s government.
Xi wants to be seen as a global statesman who is “playing a constructive role” by talking about peace but is unlikely to press Putin to end the war, said Torigian.
Beijing is worried about “potential Russian losses on the battlefield” but doesn’t want to be seen to “enable Russia’s aggression,” said Torigian.
“They won’t spend political capital” on pressing Moscow to make peace, “especially if they don’t think it will get them anything,” he said.
Cynthia Weil, Grammy winning lyricist who teamed husband Barry Mann, dead at 82
NEW YORK (AP) — Cynthia Weil, a Grammy-winning lyricist of notable range and endurance who enjoyed a decades-long partnership with husband Barry Mann and helped write “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” “On Broadway,” “Walking in the Rain” and dozens of other hits, has died at age 82.
Her death was confirmed Friday by Interdependence Public Relations, which represents Mann’s daughter, Dr. Jenn Mann. A spokesperson did not immediately have further details.
Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, married in 1961, were one of popular music’s most successful teams, part of a remarkable ensemble recruited by impresarios Don Kirshner and Al Nevins and based in Manhattan’s Brill Building neighborhood, a few blocks from Times Square. With such hit-making combinations as Carole King and Gerry Goffin and Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, the Brill Building song factory turned out many of the biggest singles of the ’60s and beyond.
Weil and Mann were key collaborators with producer Phil Spector on songs for the Ronettes (“Walking in the Rain”), the Crystals (“He’s Sure the Boy I Love”) and other performers, and also provided hits for everyone from Dolly Parton to Hanson. “Don’t Know Much,” a Linda Ronstadt-Aaron Neville duet they helped write, was a top 5 hit that won a best pop performance Grammy in 1990.
Their most famous song, a work of history overall, was “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” an anthem of “blue-eyed soul” produced by Spector as if scoring a tragedy and sung with desperate fury by the Righteous Brothers. “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” topped the charts in 1965 and was covered by numerous other artists. According to Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), no other song was played more on radio and television in the 20th century.
But when Weil and Mann first played “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” for the Righteous Brothers, the response from singers Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield was “dead silence.”
“Bill said, ‘Sounds good for The Everly Brothers not the Righteous Brothers,'” she told Parade magazine in 2015. “We thought ‘Oh, God.’ Then Bobby said, ‘What am I supposed to do while the big guy’s singing?’ and Phil (Spector) said “You can go to the bank.'”
While many of Weil’s peers struggled once the Beatles caught on, she continued to make hits, sometimes with Mann, or with such partners as Michael Masser, David Foster and John Williams, with whom she wrote “For Always” for the soundtrack to Steven Spielberg’s “A.I. Artificial Intelligence.” Mann helped write Parton’s pop breakthrough “Here You Come Again”; the Peabo Bryson ballad “If Ever You’re In My Arms Again”; James Ingram’s “Just Once”; the Pointer Sisters’ “He’s So Shy”; and Lionel Richie’s “Running With the Night.” In 1997, she was in the top 10 again with Hanson’s “I Will Come to You.”
“When they are successful, songs are like little novels. They have a beginning, a middle and an end. You feel what the person is feeling who’s singing it and it paints a picture of the human condition,” Weil, who eventually published the novel “I’m Glad I Did,” told Parade.
Her talents reached well beyond love ballads. She and Mann wrote one of rock’s first anti-drug songs, “Kicks,” a hit for Paul Revere and the Raiders in 1966. She also had a knack for lyrics about ambition and aspiration, such as “On Broadway” and its unforgettable opening line, “They say the neon lights are bright/on Broadway.” The Animals had a hit with her tale of working class frustration, “We’ve Got to Get Out of This Place.” The Crystals’ “Uptown” was a 1961 hit that touched upon race and class in ways not often heard in rock’s early years.
Downtown he’s just one of a million guys
He don’t get no breaks
And he takes all they got to give
‘Cause he’s got to live
But then he comes uptown
Where he can hold his head up high
Uptown he knows that I am standing by
Weil and Mann were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2010, with King introducing them at the Rock Hall ceremony. Mann and Weil were supporting characters in the hit Broadway musical about King, “Beautiful,” which opened in 2013 and documented the intense friendship and rivalry between the two married couples. Mann and Weil’s musical “They Wrote That?” had a brief run in 2004.
Weil, the daughter of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, was born in New York City and studied piano and ballet as a child. She majored in theater at Sarah Lawrence University, but was encouraged by an agent to try songwriting. By age 20, she was working for the publishing company of “Guys and Dolls” composer Frank Loesser, and would soon meet her future husband.
“I was writing with a young Italian boy singer, the Frankie Avalon of his day, named Teddy Randazzo, when Barry came in to play him a song,” she told the Los Angeles Times in 2016. “I asked the receptionist, ‘Who is this guy? Does he have a girlfriend?’ She said, ‘He’s signed to a friend of mine, Don Kirshner, and if I call Donny, maybe you can go up there to show him your lyrics and meet Barry again.’ So that’s what she did. And that’s what I did. He didn’t have a chance.”
Hillel Italie, The Associated Press
Why are people in Britain talking about Boris Johnson’s WhatsApp messages?
LONDON — Critics accuse the British administration of running “government by WhatsApp” because of the popularity of the messaging app with politicians and officials.
So it feels inevitable that a tussle over WhatsApp messages is at the heart of Britain’s official inquiry into how the country handled the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thousands of messages exchanged during the pandemic between then Prime Minister Boris Johnson and government ministers, aides and officials form key evidence for the investigation chaired by retired judge Heather Hallett. The Conservative government, now led by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, wants to be able to edit the messages before handing them over, saying some are personal and irrelevant to the inquiry. It has filed a legal challenge against Hallett’s order to surrender the unredacted messages.
WHAT IS THE INQUIRY INVESTIGATING?
More than 200,000 people have died in Britain after testing positive for COVID-19, one of the highest tolls in Europe, and the decisions of Johnson’s government have been endlessly debated. Johnson agreed in late 2021 to hold an investigation after pressure from bereaved families.
Hallett’s inquiry is due to scrutinize the U.K.’s preparedness for a pandemic, how the government responded and whether the “level of loss was inevitable or whether things could have been done better.”
Public hearings are scheduled to begin June 13 and last until 2026, with the former prime minister and a host of senior officials due to give evidence.
WHAT’S UP WITH WHATSAPP?
The Meta-owned messaging service has become a favorite communications tool among U.K. government officials and the journalists who cover them. It’s easy to use for both individual and group chats, and its end-to-end encryption offers users a sense of security that messages will be private.
That confidence has sometimes proved misguided. Former Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who helped lead Britain’s response to the virus, gave tens of thousands of his messages to a journalist who was helping him write a memoir. The journalist passed them to a newspaper, which splashed embarrassing details in a series of front-page stories.
Hallett has asked to see messages exchanged between Johnson and more than three dozen scientists and officials over two years from early 2020. She also wants to see Johnson’s notebooks and diaries from the same period.
WHAT’S THE GOVERNMENT’S POSITION?
The government of Sunak, who took office after Johnson resigned amid scandals in mid-2022, argues that some of the messages are “unambiguously irrelevant” to the COVID-19 inquiry. It says publishing them would be “an unwarranted intrusion into other aspects of the work of government,” and into individuals’ “legitimate expectations of privacy and protection of their personal information.”
On Thursday, the government’s Cabinet Office filed court papers seeking to challenge Hallett’s order for the documents. The next step will be a hearing at the High Court in the coming weeks.
Many lawyers think the government will lose the challenge. Under the terms of the inquiry, agreed upon with the government at the outset, Hallett has the power to summon evidence and question witnesses under oath.
“The government has an uphill task,” Jonathan Jones, a former head of the government legal service, wrote in a blog post for the Institute for Government. “The likelihood is that the court will say the inquiry chair should be the one to decide how she goes about it, and what material she needs to see for that purpose.”
WHAT DOES BORIS JOHNSON SAY?
Johnson has a history of friction with successor Sunak, whose resignation from the government in July 2022 helped topple Johnson from power.
Johnson has distanced himself from the government’s stance by saying he is happy to hand over his messages. On Friday, he said he has sent the WhatsApp messages directly to Hallett’s inquiry.
But — in another twist — they cover only part of the requested period. Johnson hasn’t passed on any messages from before April 2021. That period includes the early days of the pandemic — when the government made fateful and still-contested decisions — as well as three periods of national lockdown and the dates of rule-breaking parties in government buildings that led to scores of people, including Johnson, being fined by police.
Johnson says the messages are on a phone he was ordered to stop using after journalists noticed that his number had been publicly available online for 15 years.
Johnson says the security services told him to quit using the phone and never to turn it on again. He told Hallett on Friday that he had “asked the Cabinet Office for assistance in turning it on securely so that I can search it for all relevant material. I propose to pass all such material directly to you.”
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