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Latvia, Estonia leave China-backed East Europe forum – wrde.com

Clear skies. Low 63F. Winds NNE at 5 to 10 mph..
Clear skies. Low 63F. Winds NNE at 5 to 10 mph.
Updated: August 12, 2022 @ 6:11 pm

BEIJING (AP) — Latvia and Estonia say they have left a Chinese-backed forum aimed at boosting relations with Eastern European countries, in what appears to be a new setback for China’s increasingly assertive diplomacy.
The move follows China’s boosting of its relations with Russia, whose invasion of Ukraine is seen as a possible first step in a series of moves against countries that were once part of the Soviet Union. China has refused to criticize Russia and has condemned punishing economic sanctions imposed on Moscow by the West.
Weeks before the invasion, Chinese President and Communist Party leader Xi Jinping hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin in Beijing and declared their bilateral relations had “no limits” in a joint statement.
The move also comes after Beijing launched economic and diplomatic retaliation against another Baltic state, Lithuania, in retaliation for its expanded ties with the self-governing island democracy of Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory and threatens to annex by force. China’s increasing assertiveness and recent threatening military exercises near Taiwan have brought a sharp backlash from the U.S., the EU, Japan, Australia and others.
“In view of the current priorities of Latvian foreign and trade policy, Latvia has decided to cease its participation in the cooperation framework of Central and Eastern European Countries and China,” Latvia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Thursday.
The country “will continue to strive for constructive and pragmatic relations with China both bilaterally, as well as through EU-China cooperation based on mutual benefit, respect for international law, human rights and the international rules-based order,” the statement said.
Estonia issued a similar statement, saying it would “continue to work towards constructive and pragmatic relations with China, which includes advancing EU-China relations in line with the rules-based international order and values such as human rights.”
“Estonia participated in the cooperation format of Central and Eastern Europe and China from 2012. Estonia has not attended any of the meetings of the format after the summit last February,” the statement said.
China set up the forum to strengthen relations with members of the EU as well as Serbia and others, partly to further Xi’s signature Belt and Road campaign to build bridges, railways, power plants and other infrastructure across the Eurasian continent.
China originally styled the forum as a “17 plus one” arrangement, but the number of European partners has now fallen to 14. Critics say the forum was an attempt to exploit differences among those states as part of a larger campaign to join with Russia in undermining the current rules-based international order dominated by the U.S. and its allies.
Along with its stance on Ukraine, China has come under strong criticism for firing missiles and sending ships and warplanes off the coast of Taiwan in response to a visit there by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. China strongly opposes all government-to-government contacts between Taiwan and countries which, like the U.S., maintain only informal ties with the island in deference to Beijing.
China issued no immediate comment on the move by Latvia and Estonia, but Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin on Friday again defended the threatening military exercises.
“To defend our sovereignty and territorial integrity … China has every right to take resolute countermeasures in response to the U.S. provocations, and such measures are absolutely necessary under those circumstances,” Wang said at a daily briefing.
Britain summoned China’s ambassador to register its over the “increasingly aggressive behavior and rhetoric from Beijing in recent months, which threaten peace and stability in the region,” Foreign Secretary Liz Truss was quoted as saying. “The United Kingdom urges China to resolve any differences by peaceful means, without the threat or use of force or coercion.”
Beijing’s threats against Taiwan are a major contributing factor in the deterioration of U.S.-China relations to their lowest level in decades. China has also engaged in a lengthy feud with Australia and its firing of missiles last week drew condemnation from Japan, whose exclusive economic zone includes waters where the projectiles landed.
In another rejection, South Korea on Wednesday said it will make its own decisions about strengthening its defenses against North Korean threats amid Chinese calls that it continue the polices of Seoul’s previous government that refrained from adding more U.S. anti-missile batteries, which are strongly opposed by Beijing.
Asked about the developments, U.S. State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel said “we respect and support Estonia and Latvia’s sovereign decision to no longer participate.”
“Estonia and Latvia are important and valued NATO allies and key U.S. partners across a number of issues, including through our strong defense ties, our strong economic ties, as well as the promotion of democracy and human rights,” Patel told reporters.
“Over the past year, we’ve seen countries around the world express deep concern about the PRC’s strategic alignment with Russia as well as Beijing’s support for Moscow’s war against Ukraine,” Patel said. “There is a growing convergence about the need to approach relations with Beijing with more realism,” he said, citing previous comments from Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Concluding a five-day visit to Taipei on Thursday, Lithuanian Deputy Minister of Transport and Communications Agne Vaiciukeviciute emphasized the importance of economic ties with Taiwan and endorsed a statement issued by the Group of Seven industrialized nations criticizing the Chinese military exercises surrounding Taiwan. The European Union issued a similar statement, prompting China to summon the group’s ambassadors to register a protest.
“Lithuania is a democracy. Taiwan is our very close friend, and Taiwan is a booming economy,” Vaiciukeviciute said.
“Lithuania chooses to cooperate with countries that are willing to cooperate with us. So, Taiwan is one of those countries and they are reliable partners,” she said.
In response to her visit, China’s Foreign Ministry on Friday announced it was suspending “all forms of interaction” with her ministry as well as “exchanges and cooperation with Lithuania in the area of international roadway transport.”
China has already banned trade with Lithuania, with little apparent effect on the country that is a member of both the EU and NATO. The EU has raised a complaint over the Chinese action with the World Trade Organization.
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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Meet Brian Ilheu, the Training and Nutrition Expert Who Takes His Clients to Success in the Fitness World

Brian Ilheu, also known as Toro Trainer, is one of the most renowned fitness trainers in South America. Born on September 2 in Comodoro Rivadavia, Chubut, Argentina, Brian started training and specializing in fitness at the young age of 17. By the time he was 23, he opened his first gym and then moved to Buenos Aires to better specialize in his career as a trainer.

Brian traveled and learned from some of the best bodybuilding experts in the world, including Kevin Levrone, Shawn Ray, Roelly Winklar, Branch Warren, Manuel Romero, Fernando Márquez, Carol Vaz, Geraldine Morgan, Big José, Raúl Carrasco, and Pannain. He went on to win a national championship as an athlete and then dedicated himself to training female category athletes, winning 12 gold medals at the Arnold Classic Brazil, 6 South American titles, 4 Mr. Olympia titles, and 4 Pro Cards.

As a businessman, Brian patented his own brand of Fit TORO clothing and accessories after opening two gyms in his city. He also held seminars, bringing world-renowned athletes like Francielle Mattos, Vivi Winkler, Carol Vaz, Vanesa Garcia, and Ricardo Pannain to his country for the first time and filling up all available tickets. His goal now is to grow his brand worldwide and take his athletes to the highest level, helping all of his clients achieve their fitness goals through healthy habits.

Brian offers a wide range of services on his website, www.torotrainercoach.com, including personalized training plans. He emphasizes the importance of training, nutrition, supplementation, and rest as the key factors to achieving real change and reaching fitness goals.

Brian is certified as a personal trainer by the European Center for Physical Education (C.E.E.F) and holds two other personal trainer titles from other academies. He is also a certified muscle building monitor and instructor (C.E.E.F), with expertise in pharmacology, nutrition, supplementation in sports, and physical preparation for combat sports (ARM). He has attended seminars by world-renowned experts such as Kevin Levrone, Shawn Ray, Roelly Winklar, Branch Warren, Manuel Romero, and Fernando Márquez, among others.

Brian can be found on Instagram under the handle @torotrainercoach, where he shares his extensive knowledge and training tips with his followers. With his passion for fitness and dedication to helping his clients achieve their goals, Brian Ilheu is a name to remember in the world of fitness.

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The Last of Us Levels Up Its Opening News Today January 30, 2023

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The Last of Us takes its time revving up. The HBO video-game adaptation opens on a 1960s TV interview program (hosted by Bighead!) featuring two epidemiologists discussing the possible end of humanity via disease. John Hannah plays the more portentous of the duo, laying out the mechanics of what will eventually drive the apocalypse in this universe: mind-controlling fungus, previously a phenomenon contained to the insect world, pushed by climate change to evolve such that it makes the jump into human beings. As he speaks of how the infection would ravage billions, the camera repeatedly cuts to the audience; faces blank, heightened, a mass. The scene is brief, but the tone is set.

That opening scene is specific to the TV show, and it immediately forecasts an intent to move this story at its own pace. As someone long familiar with the source material, the choice is exciting: the HBO version places a premium on leaving room to breathe. The narrative patiently settles into a pre-apocalypse world, introducing Pedro Pascal’s Joel Miller, his daughter Sarah (Nico Parker), and his younger brother Tommy (Gabriel Luna) on Joel’s birthday, as Sarah embarks on a quest to get his old watch fixed. You get the drift of Joel’s situation fairly briskly: single parent, tight relationship with Sarah, she’s a good kid. It’ll be another ten minutes of show before shit hits the fan, and when it does, you’re fully baked into their family and the effect of catastrophic implosion and chaos hits more clearly and holistically.

This wasn’t necessarily the case in the source material. The original video game arrived in 2013, a moment when big-budget AAA-studios were deep into a yearslong effort to aesthetically replicate a sense of cinematic spectacle. In many ways, this ran parallel to a similar movement in television; The Walking Dead had premiered three years before, and HBO’s own Game of Thrones followed a year after that. Indeed, what made the original Last of Us particularly interesting was how it seemed to emulate prestige television more than anything else: Besides its visual realism, there was an episodic nature to the grim, heady story, which usually takes around 15 hours of gameplay to complete.

However, back in 2013, the game was still doing its best with the tools it had within the context of its medium. Its opening sequence had to do more economical narrative work in order to get you into play as soon as possible, opening just hours before the outbreak with a scene that also appears in the show — albeit 15 minutes in — in which Sarah gifts Joel that watch for his birthday. This cut scene does some expository labor, but the work of grounding you in the world chiefly happens through environmental storytelling, which is something that isn’t entirely possible with television or movies. (Though one could possibly argue Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men, which does a ton of world-building through background elements that the camera often glides by, came quite close.) The very first character you control is Sarah, whom you guide through a splendid sequence that evokes the feeling of being a child alone at home. Details like soccer trophies or a weirdly placed Stairmaster around the house communicate to you, the player, the circumstances of their lives — but it’s dark, Joel isn’t around, and the world is ending.

The game and the HBO show converge when the three Millers get into the car. For those with a strong attachment to the original work, the last decade was essentially building up to this moment, and what transpires in the TV adaptation is something close to a shot-for-shot remake. The camera assumes a view from the back seat, mimicking Sarah’s perspective as the family tries to get out of Dodge. (In the game, you control where Sarah is looking, meaning you can miss whole images like their neighbor’s burning home or an overrun hospital.) Many lines from the game are preserved (“They have a kid, Joel. “So do we.), while distinct tweaks have been made to further enhance the onscreen drama. The plane crash, for example, is an invention for the show; in the video game, Sarah and Joel are knocked out when another car slams into theirs.

The HBO remake of the outbreak sequence is striking in how it fully realizes what the original work was simulating. Playing the game, you can feel The Last of Us strain to use its elemental tools to achieve the kind of cinematic storytelling it’s going for, even as it’s ultimately successful. While you control Joel navigating the chaotic streets, Sarah in tow, it’s not uncommon to spot the seams of the technology of the time: Tommy’s pathfinding blocking you in strange ways, the artificially intelligent crowd not quite swarming in a manner that tracks organically. (The remake with more modern tech, released last fall, is only somewhat better.) Since this is a game, it’s also a sequence with a fail state. If you don’t run fast enough, Joel gets bitten, the screen blacks out, and you have to begin again. This cultivates a sense of urgency in the player, but it opens up the possibility of some meaningful cost to the narrative momentum. Such a trade-off is endemic to video games.

It’s really something to see a prestige TV show literally translate a scene from a game that was, in its own way, already emulating a prestige TV show. The promise of an adaptation — and this adaptation in particular — is the possibility of expansion: to more deeply explore, or perhaps even subvert, the narrative themes of the widely beloved story that powered this wildly successful video game. It’s a dramatic act of imagining, taking an original text and finding new life. But as the first half of HBO’s spectacular pilot episode shows, you still gotta play the hits.
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Colorado plans to send more migrants to New York

NEW YORK — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis plans to send migrants to major cities including New York, Mayor Eric Adams said Tuesday, warning that the nation’s largest city is already struggling to deal an influx of people sent from Texas and other Republican-led states.

However, the Democratic governor told  shortly afterward that the state has been helping asylum seekers reach their final destinations — including New York City — for weeks. The only change has been a recent winter storm and ensuing travel catastrophe that created a backlog of migrants wanting to leave Denver, which is now being cleared.
Adams made his comments during a radio appearance Tuesday morning.

“We were notified yesterday that the governor of Colorado is now stating that they are going to be sending migrants to places like New York and Chicago,” Adams said during a radio appearance. “This is just unfair for local governments to have to take on this national obligation.”

An aide to Adams said the mayor’s administration was told about the influx Monday evening.
Like many major cities around the country, Denver has been struggling to provide services for a surge of people who have fled their home countries in Central and South America, crossed the southern border and sought asylum in the United States. Over the past month, more than 3,500 migrants have arrived in Denver, according to the city, and each night around 1,800 asylum seekers have sought shelter in the city.

In response, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock declared a state of emergency and later appealed to the local Catholic archdiocese for assistance. He and Polis — both Democrats — also launched a fund to raise money to support services for migrants.

In total, Polis said the state has recently made $5 million available to assist with expenses. And while roughly 70 percent of asylum seekers who arrive in Denver are traveling to other destinations, the cost of helping them purchase bus tickets constitutes a fraction of the overall pot of cash.

In light of the recent winter storm that snarled holiday travel — with Southwest Airlines’ logistical meltdown leading to a rush on bus tickets — the Denver mayor’s office reached out to the Adams administration to let them know that more migrants than usual may be arriving by bus, according to Polis, who expected levels to moderate within a week or two.

“There is a lot of pent-up demand right now and a lot of frustration among our migrants who have been trapped for a week or two in a place they didn’t want to be through no fault of their own,” he said.

On Tuesday, Polis announced a partnership including the state, the city and local nonprofits designed to beef up transportation services for asylum seekers trying to get out of Colorado — an initiative welcomed by Hancock’s office.
“I appreciate [Polis] and the State for leaning in to support those coming to our city to reach their preferred destinations, and to help reduce the number of people in our shelters and more quickly connect them with community supports and other options,” Hancock said in a statement Tuesday. “I’ve talked with other mayors around the country and we’re united in our call for Congress to work with the Biden Administration to provide the assistance we need to manage this situation.”

Thousands of migrants have attempted to cross into the U.S. from the southern border in recent weeks, in part because a Trump administration border policy, known as Title 42, was set to expire in December. The Supreme Court last week blocked the lifting of the policy, which allows the U.S. to expel migrants to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott over the spring and summer bused thousands of migrants from the border to blue strongholds like New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago, while Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis flew nearly 50 mostly Venezuelan migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard. He claimed it was to bring attention to the border situation.

But in recent weeks, the dilemma at the border has become worse. El Paso’s Democratic mayor, Oscar Leeser, declared a state of emergency in December after migrants began pouring into the city. Abbott also deployed hundreds of Texas national guard and state troopers to the border to stop people from entering the U.S.

The migrants are coming to Colorado on buses from border towns including El Paso, Texas though it’s unclear whether any government officials have paid for those trips north.

A spokesperson for Abbott said in an email, “We are still only busing to DC, NYC, Chicago, and Philadelphia.” The El Paso mayor’s office similarly said they had not coordinated any travel to Denver, though a host of entities, from the county to individual nonprofits, are all involved in assisting migrants with transport out of Texas.

Polis said that most officials dealing with an influx of migrants have been acting in good faith.
“Too many people, in our opinion, view this through a political lens or as playing politics — and it’s terrible that in some places, people have been used as political props,” he said. “But what we are doing here is just honoring our values by treating people with dignity and respect.”

Adams said Tuesday around 30,000 asylum seekers have arrived in New York City since the spring in need of food, shelter and education — a surge that has has stretched the city’s social service infrastructure to the breaking point and opened up huge risks for the municipal budget. Adams, along with the two Colorado leaders, have called on the federal government to provide assistance to localities dealing with the influx.

“No city should have to make a decisions if they’re going to provide for their citizens — particularly coming out of Covid — or if they’re going to deal with an onslaught of migrants and asylum seekers,” he said.

 

 

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