NEWARK — Nearly two days after losing her job, former Orange teacher Marylin Zuniga vowed on Thursday to continue fighting against her termination for allowing her third-grade students to write "get well" letters to an inmate convicted of killing a police officer. "The fight is not over," Zuniga told several dozen supporters at Abyssinian Baptist Church…
US President Joe Biden said Monday he would lay down "red lines" to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at their upcoming meeting, after rallying NATO allies to face up to challenges from Moscow and Beijing.
Speaking after his first NATO summit since being elected, Biden insisted: "I'm not looking for conflict with Russia, but that we will respond if Russia continues its harmful activities."
Biden also called Putin "tough" and "a worthy adversary" ahead of their hotly anticipated meeting in Geneva on Wednesday.
The warning to the Kremlin leader came as Biden pressed to renew Washington's transatlantic ties with allies after years of tensions under his predecessor Donald Trump.
At Biden's urging, NATO leaders agreed to work together against the "systemic challenges" posed by China's aggressive policies as the alliance fleshed out its nascent approach to Beijing.
China's increasingly assertive actions in building a nuclear arsenal as well as space and cyber warfare capabilities threatens the international order, they said in a statement.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the allies would seek to cooperate with China on global issues like climate change, as European capitals wanted.
But, in a nod to Washington's growing concern, he warned: "China's growing influence and international policies present challenges to Alliance security."
"Leaders agreed that we need to address such challenges together as an alliance, and that we need to engage with China to defend our security interests," he said.
In the summit communique, the leaders told Russia that there would be no quick return to "business as usual".
Russia's military build-up and provocative behavior on NATO's eastern frontier "increasingly threaten the security of the Euro-Atlantic area and contribute to instability along NATO borders and beyond".
On China, Biden is picking up from where Trump left off by getting NATO to start paying attention to Beijing.
But European allies have been wary that an increase of focus on China could distract NATO from its major priority -- Russia.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted that alliance members should not "overestimate" the dangers posed from Beijing.
"We have to find the right balance," she said. "China is a rival on many issues, but at the same time it is also a partner on many issues."
French President Emmanuel Macron insisted that NATO should not spread itself too thin and "skew" the relationship with China.
"NATO is a military organization, the subject of our relationship with China is not only military," he said, stressing NATO's north Atlantic focus.
Looming large in the background for the summit was also the scramble to complete NATO's hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan after Biden surprised partners by ordering US troops home by September 11.
Biden discussed with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan an offer from Ankara to keep troops in the country to secure Kabul airport -- provided the US gave support.
Erdogan announced no firm deal on the issue -- or any progress on the thorny dispute over Turkey's purchase of Russia's S-400 missile system.
But Erdogan insisted that he had held "fruitful and sincere" talks with his US counterpart.
The final NATO summit statement did not mention Turkey's role at the airport, but did stress that the alliance would continue to pay to keep the facility open.
Much of the summit Monday was dedicated to trying to forge a way forward by greenlighting a 2030 reform plan to revitalize an alliance that Macron warned in 2019 was undergoing "brain death".
Allies endorsed a new cyber defense policy to tackle rising threats and agreed for the first time that an attack in space could trigger the Article 5 collective defence clause.
They also committed to increasing the alliance's budget and spending more on "common funding" -- but details remained sparse after opposition to increased spending led by France.
Republican legislators in states won by Donald Trump are now asking for Arizona-style audits.
Arizona's GOP-led state Senate has been examining ballots cast in Maricopa County in hopes of uncovering evidence to show Trump actually won there, but Republicans in states the former president did win are focusing on fraud claims to raise money and draw attention to themselves, reported The Daily Beast.
"This is about two things, and these are symbiotic," said former Republican National Committee communications director Doug Heye. "The continued fealty for all things Trump, and placating the base or the portion of the base that still can't accept a clear loss."
For example, Trump won Utah by more than 20 percent, but GOP state Rep. Steve Christiansen wants an audit after traveling to Arizona to witness the ongoing investigation happening there, although he couldn't really explain why it's necessary.
"I wanted to make sure I got to Arizona while the audit was being conducted," Christiansen told The Daily Beast. "For me, it's all about making sure we have free and fair elections."
Republicans in North Carolina, which Trump won by one percentage point, are now asking for an inspection of the voting machines used in November to see whether they could have been subverted somehow, and to investigate claims by the right-wing hoax blog Gateway Pundit about "strange food trucks at polling places."
"[I'll ask] the hard question to these guys about what is going on with the machines," state Rep. Keith Kidwell promised in a Facebook post.
New York is to stage a ticker-tape parade to pay homage to essential workers who have distinguished themselves during the coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Monday.
In grand New York City tradition, the procession will roll out at the south end of Broadway in Manhattan, also known as the Canyon of Heroes, on July 7.
Participants will honor health care workers, employees of local authorities and the public transport network, teachers, grocery store staff and delivery drivers.
The event is about celebrating "the people who kept us alive, that helped to keep this city going no matter what," de Blasio told reporters, hailing "the heroes who often go unsung."
The announcement came with 64.8 percent of adults having received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine in New York.
The statewide positivity rate -- the proportion of tests coming back positive -- fell on Monday to 0.59 percent, the lowest since the authorities began recording the data.
The US financial hub of 8.4 million people has seen more than 33,000 deaths related to Covid-19 during what de Blasio described as "the biggest crisis in the history of New York City."
"We were knocked down but we got back up and that's something to celebrate about this city," he said.
The first New York ticker-tape parade -- held in 1886 to mark the dedication of the Statue of Liberty -- passed through Wall Street, where financial workers threw rolls of paper showing stock prices.
What looked like a shower of confetti has since become a tradition for subsequent parades, which have honored government leaders, religious dignitaries, military chiefs, sports figures and celebrities of all stripes.
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