The United States is "deeply concerned" over the harassment and intimidation of foreign correspondents covering deadly floods in China, a State Department spokesman said Thursday.
His remarks came less than 24 hours after Beijing accused the BBC of broadcasting "fake news" about last week's devastating flooding in the central province of Henan, and as the British broadcaster said its journalists had been subjected to hostility.
"The United States is deeply concerned with the increasingly harsh surveillance, harassment, and intimidation of US and other foreign journalists in the People's Republic of China (PRC), including foreign journalists covering the devastation and loss of life caused by recent floods in Henan," State Department spokesman Ned Price in a statement.
"The PRC government claims to welcome foreign media and support their work, but its actions tell a different story," Price said.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian had earlier on Thursday called the BBC a "Fake News Broadcasting Company" that has "attacked and smeared China, seriously deviating from journalistic standards."
The BBC has said its reporters covering the deluge had been subjected to online vitriol, while other outlets had been harassed on the ground in "attacks which continue to endanger foreign journalists."
The BBC reported on last week's floods in the city of Zhengzhou which left 14 people dead and more than 500 commuters trapped when the city's subway system flooded during rush hour just as sensitivity towards any negative portrayal of China mounts.
Reporters from AFP were forced by hostile Zhengzhou residents to delete footage and were surrounded by dozens of men while reporting on a submerged traffic tunnel.
Zhao on Thursday said foreign correspondents "enjoy an open and free reporting environment in China."
But press freedom groups say the space for overseas reporters to operate is tightening, with journalists followed on the streets, suffering harassment online and refused visas.
In his statement Thursday, Price urged China to not curtail press access to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
"We call on the PRC to act as a responsible nation hoping to welcome foreign media and the world for the upcoming Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games," his statement said.
The Republican leaders of each house of Congress are diverging on how to deal with former President Donald Trump, New Yorker columnist Susan Glasser explained on Thursday.
"In the House these days, Trump and Trumpism remain the dominant reality, and the polarizing grievance that he has inspired seems to be sending the place ever closer to all-out conflict between the parties. As Speaker Nancy Pelosi presses forward with an investigation of the pro-Trump riot at the Capitol on January 6th, calling the inquiry a 'patriotic duty,' virtually the entire House Republican Conference has elevated Trump's conspiracy theories about the 'rigged' 2020 election and the 'peaceful people' who participated in the insurrection to the level of party catechism," she wrote.
She noted that House Republicans spent the week complaining about the he House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol while Senate Republicans joined with Democrats to advance the bipartisan infrastructure deal.
"In the Senate, many Republicans are no less outwardly Trumpist, reflecting the fact that they represent a thoroughly Trumpified Republican electorate. But there remains a significant G.O.P. faction, led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell himself, that seems to hope the Party might finally be moving on from its truculent master. Or at least not be talking about him so much," Glasser explained. "Certainly, McConnell has taken a different approach than [House GOP Leader] McCarthy to the dilemma of post-Trump Republicanism."
In comparing Trump to President Joe Biden, she noted the House actions represented Trump's approach while the Senate actions reflect Biden's approach to politics.
"In the perennial war between the House and the Senate, between Trump-style confrontation and Biden-style consensus, of course, there are no permanent winners. And there are already many losers. Trump-inspired January 6th denialism and vaccine denialism are ripping the country even wider apart. In a speech about the worsening pandemic, on Thursday afternoon, Biden practically begged Americans not to succumb anymore to this destructive cycle of division," Glasser wrote. "It was certainly not lost on anyone in Washington that Mitch McConnell was among those whom Biden praised for their efforts to overcome the partisan vaccine divide."
Pentagon to order service members comply with Biden federal employee vaccination requirements: report
The Pentagon said Thursday evening it will order members of the military to comply with President Joe Biden's requirement that all federal employees get vaccinated against the coronavirus or face a regime of regular testing, social distancing, mask wearing, and travel restrictions.
"Although those steps fall short of a mandate," The New York Times reports, "Mr. Biden also ordered the Defense Department to move rapidly toward one for all members of the military, a step that would affect almost 1.5 million troops, many of whom have resisted taking a shot that is highly effective against a disease that has claimed the lives of more than 600,000 Americans."
It was not clear how far the requirement for Pentagon employees would reach.
While estimates vary, the Pentagon noted on its website around 2016 it employs "over 1.4 million men and women on active duty, and 718,000 civilian personnel," along with 1.1 million who serve in the National Guard and Reserve forces.
The news comes as The Washington Post published a disturbing leaked CDC report on the delta variant that, coincidentally in military terms, "argues officials must 'acknowledge the war has changed.'"
It reveals the delta variant is "so contagious that it acts almost like a different novel virus, leaping from target to target more swiftly than Ebola or the common cold."
It also refers to unpublished data that finds "vaccinated individuals infected with delta may be able to transmit the virus as easily as those who are unvaccinated. Vaccinated people infected with delta have measurable viral loads similar to those who are unvaccinated and infected with the variant."
Given the new information about the delta variant mandating the vaccine would appear to be a matter of national security.
Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Raw Story Investigates and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.
$95 / year — Just $7.91/month
I want to Support More
$14.99 per month