News Wrap: Tensions over Ukraine run high ahead of Biden-Putin call

In our news wrap Monday, U.S.-Russian tensions over Ukraine are running high ahead of Tuesday's video call between Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin. Three more members of a U.S. missionary group were freed in Haiti, after being held hostage since October. A Myanmar court convicted ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi of incitement and violating COVID restrictions. She was given 2 years in prison.

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  • Amna Nawaz:

    The United States will conduct a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing. The White House announced today that American officials will not attend the Games in February to protest human rights abuses in China.

    But American athletes are still free to compete.

  • Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary:

    I don't think that we felt it was the right step to penalize athletes who have been training, preparing for this moment. And we felt that we could send a clear message by not sending an official U.S. delegation

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Earlier, China warned that a boycott would trigger what it called — quote — "firm countermeasures."

    U.S./Russian tensions are — over Ukraine are still running high ahead of tomorrow's video call between President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russian troops have massed along the Ukrainian border. Today, the State Department warned of severe economic consequences if the Russians invade.

    In Moscow, a Kremlin spokesman said that, as things stand, bilateral relations with the U.S. are in — quote — "quite a lamentable state."

    Three more members of a U.S. missionary group have been freed in Haiti after being held hostage since October. The group, based in Ohio, says the three were released on Sunday. A violent gang had abducted 17 people in all. Twelve remain captives. The kidnappers have demanded $1 million ransom apiece, but it is unclear if anything has been paid.

    In Myanmar, a court today convicted Aung San Suu Kyi of incitement and violating COVID restrictions. She was given two years in prison. Suu Kyi had been the country's civilian leader before being ousted by the military in February. Today's ruling sparked new protests and a chorus of international criticism, including from the United Nations.

    Ravina Shamsadani, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights: The military is attempting to use any means, including the judiciary, including the courts, to remove all political opposition.

    However, it's quite impressive that, tonight in Myanmar, you are still seeing the banging of pots and pans by people in the country in opposition to the military.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Suu Kyi is 76 years old. She faces a number of other criminal charges with penalties totaling more than 100 years in prison.

    Back in this country, New York City ordered all private sector employers to require that workers get vaccinated. The mandate allows for religious and medical exemptions and takes effect on December 27. It's the most sweeping move by any state or big city in the country.

    We will return to the pandemic after the news summary.

    The U.S. Justice Department sued Texas today over its new congressional district maps. The suit says most of the state's population growth in the last decade came among minorities. But it says Republican state lawmakers crammed them into weirdly shaped districts to create safe seats for the GOP.

    Republican Devin Nunes of California will quit Congress within weeks to run former President Trump's new social media company. He informed constituents today that he's giving up his House seat. Nunes was first elected in 2002. He chaired the House Intelligence Committee and at one point accused the FBI of conspiring against Mr. Trump in the Russia investigation.

    Former Senate Majority Leader and Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday. That announcement today followed his death on Sunday at the age of 98.

    And on the Senate floor, leaders from both parties paid tribute to Dole.

  • Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY):

    After his election to the Senate, Senator Dole quickly won the admiration of his colleagues with his candor, his sharp wit, his penchant for good-natured ribbing. But beneath all that was an unquenchable desire to get things done in this chamber.

  • Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY):

    With Bob Dole, what you saw was what you got. And from his comrades in the 10th Mountain Division, to his constituents in Kansas, to the whole Senate, and the entire country, what we got was extraordinary.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    We will look back on Bob Dole's life and legacy later in the program.

    In Chicago today, actor Jussie Smollett testified in his own defense, denying that he staged a hate crime on himself. He said — quote — "There was no hoax." Two Black men have testified that Smollett paid them to take part, but he said the money was for nutrition and training advice. Smollett says two white men beat him in January 2019, shouting racist anti-gay slurs and pro-Trump slogans.

    A federal investigation of the lynching of Emmett Till is ending with no charges filed. News accounts today said the Justice Department informed the family. Till was lynched in Mississippi in 1955, when he was just 14 years old after a white woman claimed he whistled at her. No one was ever convicted of the murder. The case was reopened after a book quoted the woman as saying she had lied.

    The first Black police chief in Minneapolis has announced he's retiring. Medaria Arradondo was promoted to the role in 2017. After police killed George Floyd in 2020, he fired the four officers involved. He's also faced rising crime and the loss of a number of officers.

    And Wall Street rallied today on hopes that COVID-19's latest variant may be less dangerous than first feared. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 647 points, nearly 2 percent, to close at 35227. The Nasdaq rose 139 points. And the S&P 500 added 53.

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