LONDON (AP) — British prosecutors said Thursday they have charged actor Kevin Spacey with four counts of sexual assault against three men.

The Crown Prosecution Service said Spacey “has also been charged with causing a person to engage in penetrative sexual activity without consent.”

The alleged incidents took place in London between March 2005 and August 2008, and one in western England in April 2013. The alleged victims are now in their 30s and 40s.

Rosemary Ainslie, head of the service’s Special Crime Division, said the charges follow a review of evidence gathered by London’s Metropolitan Police.

Spacey, a 62-year-old double Academy Award winner, was questioned by British police in 2019 about claims by several men that he had assaulted them. The former “House of Cards” star ran London’s Old Vic Theatre between 2004 and 2015.

Spacey won a best supporting actor Academy Award for the 1995 film “The Usual Suspects” and a lead actor Oscar for the 1999 movie “American Beauty.”

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His celebrated career came to an abrupt halt in 2017 when actor Anthony Rapp accused the star of assaulting him at a party in the 1980s, when Rapp was a teenager. Spacey denies the allegations.

The charges were announced as Spacey was testifying in a courtroom in New York City in the civil lawsuit filed by Rapp. He was on the witness stand Thursday and not immediately available for comment.

A criminal case brought against him, an indecent assault and battery charge stemming from the alleged groping of an 18-year-old man at a Nantucket resort, was dismissed by Massachusetts prosecutors in 2019.

LONDON (AP) — The number of new coronavirus cases and deaths are still falling globally after peaking in January, the World Health Organization said.

In its latest weekly assessment of the pandemic, the U.N. health agency said there were more than 3.7 million new infections and 9,000 deaths in the last week, drops of 3% and 11% respectively. COVID-19 cases rose in only two regions of the world: the Americas and the Western Pacific. Deaths increased by 30% in the Middle East, but were stable or decreased everywhere else.

WHO said it is tracking all omicron subvariants as “variants of concern.” It noted that countries which had a significant wave of disease caused by the omicron subvariant BA.2 appeared to be less affected by other subvariants like BA.4 and BA.5, which were responsible for the latest surge of disease in South Africa.

Salim Abdool Karim, an infectious diseases expert at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said it appeared that South Africa had passed its most recent wave of COVID-19 caused by the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants; the country has been on the forefront of the pandemic since first detecting the omicron variant last November.

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Karim predicted that another mutated version of omicron might emerge in June, explaining that the large number of mutations in the variant meant there were more opportunities for it to evolve.

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Meanwhile in Beijing, authorities in the Chinese capital ordered more workers and students to stay home and implemented additional mass testing Monday as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise. Numerous residential compounds in the city have restricted movement in and out, although lockdown conditions remain far less severe than in Shanghai, where millions of citizens have been under varying degrees of lockdown for two months.

China is vowing to stick to a “zero-COVID” policy despite the fact that the WHO describes the policy as “unsustainable,” given the infectious nature of omicron and its subvariants.

In a speech outlining the administration’s China policy, Blinken laid out a three-pillar approach to competing with Beijing in a race to define the 21st century’s economic and military balance.

While the U.S. sees Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine as the most acute and immediate threat to international stability, Blinken said the administration believes China poses a greater danger.

“Even as President Putin’s war continues, we will remain focused on the most serious long-term challenge to the international order — and that is the one posed by the People’s Republic of China,” Blinken said.

“China is the only country with both the intent to reshape the international order — and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to do it,” he said. “Beijing’s vision would move us away from the universal values that have sustained so much of the world’s progress over the past 75 years.”

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Thus, Blinken laid out principles for the administration to marshal its resources, friends and allies to push back on increasing Chinese assertiveness around the world. Although he made clear that the U.S. does not seek to change China’s political system, rather it wants to offer a tested alternative.

“This is not about forcing countries to choose, it’s about giving them a choice,” he said.

However, he also acknowledged that the U.S. has limited ability to directly influence China’s intentions and ambitions and will instead focus on shaping the strategic environment around China.

“We can’t rely on Beijing to change its trajectory,” Blinken said in the speech, delivered at George Washington University. “So we will shape the strategic environment around Beijing to advance our vision for an open and inclusive international system.”

The speech followed President Joe Biden’s just-concluded visits to South Korea and Japan, where China loomed large in discussions. Biden raised eyebrows during that trip when he said that the United States would act militarily to help Taiwan defend itself in the event of an invasion by China, which regards the island as a renegade province.

The administration scrambled to insist that Biden was not changing American policy, and Blinken restated that the U.S. has not changed its position. Blinken said Washington still holds to its “One China” policy, which recognizes Beijing but allows for unofficial links with and arms sales to Taipei.

“Our approach has been consistent across decades and administrations. The United States remains committed to our ‘One China’ policy. We oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo from either side,” he said, adding that “we do not support Taiwan independence.”

Blinken said that while U.S. policy on Taiwan has remained consistent, China’s had become increasingly belligerent.

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