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The governments of Mexico and Uruguay are calling for an international meeting in Montevideo next week to discuss a peaceful solution to the crisis in Venezuela. But in another setback to the government of Nicolás Maduro, the European Parliament voted to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim president.
This comes as fear is growing that the U.S. could launch a military invasion to topple Maduro’s government and prop up Guaidó, who heads the Venezuelan National Assembly. U.S. lawmakers including Senator Marco Rubio called on the Venezuelan military to help overthrow Maduro. In a New York Times op-ed published Wednesday, opposition leader and self-declared president Juan Guaidó said he had clandestine meetings with the military and security forces to gain support for overthrowing Maduro, writing, “We have offered amnesty to all those who are found not guilty of crimes against humanity. The military’s withdrawal of support from Mr. Maduro is crucial to enabling a change in government.” On Wednesday, Guaidó said he spoke with Trump on the phone, as well as regional leaders in Latin America including the presidents of Argentina and Chile, touting his “international coalition” of support.
Meanwhile, Venezuelan citizens took to the streets of Caracas Wednesday in mass protests called by the opposition. Amid pledges of loyalty to Guaidó, some protesters called out the effects of the dire economic situation in the country.
Dr. Carlos Prosperi: “We came out to defend and demand that humanitarian aid be brought in immediately. We, as health workers, are not going to continue to allow our patients to keep dying in health centers.”
A Reuters report published Wednesday revealed that the United Arab Emirates hired over a dozen former NSA agents to spy on activists and foreign governments. According to the report, the UAE recruited the ex-intelligence agents as part of a secret mission, code-named Project Raven. The operatives reportedly worked out of a mansion in the capital Abu Dhabi, employing techniques learned during their time in the NSA. Participants in the program say they hacked into the cellphones of hundreds of activists, opposition leaders and suspected terrorists using a spy tool called Karma. At least four journalists were also spied on. The targets included U.S. citizens. The FBI is investigating whether U.S. contractors illegally targeted Americans’ communications or shared classified surveillance techniques as part of Project Raven.
On Wednesday, lawmakers in both the House and Senate reintroduced a War Powers Resolution in an attempt to halt the unauthorized U.S.-backed, Saudi-led war on Yemen. California Congressmember Ro Khanna introduced the bill for the third time in three months. In December, before newly elected Democrats took control of the House, Republican leadership blocked a vote on the bill. In the Senate, lawmakers passed the resolution 56 to 41 in a historic vote last month.
President Trump hit back at top intelligence officials a day after they offered a security assessment that directly contradicted his past statements, namely on North Korea, Iran and the threat posed by ISIS. Trump tweeted Wednesday that Iran was actively testing rockets, adding, “Perhaps intelligence should go back to school.”
In the occupied Palestinian territories, Israeli forces shot and killed a 16-year-old Palestinian girl at a checkpoint in the West Bank Wednesday. Israeli police say that Samah Zuhair Mubarak attempted to stab a security guard. Local reports say that Israeli soldiers on the scene denied medical care to the teenager after she was shot.
Thousands of Israelis of Ethiopian descent took to the streets of Tel Aviv Wednesday to protest the police killing of Yehuda Biadga. The 24-year old Israeli-Ethiopian man, who had a mental illness, was holding a knife when he was shot and killed. His family had called the police for help and informed them of his mental illness. Protesters blocked traffic on a major highway as they called out police brutality and racism.
Michal Avara Samuel: “We’re here. We had so many years of dreaming to be a part of the Israeli society, and today we are saying, 'No more violence against us.'”
In Colombia, local media is reporting that two community leaders were killed over the past week. A gunman shot and killed Dilio Corpus Guetio, a member of the local peasant association, as he was leaving his house in a rural area of the southwestern department of Cauca. In Valle del Cauca, two men shot community leader and housing activist José Jair Orozco in the doorway of his home last Thursday. Human rights groups have been sounding the alarm over the mounting violence against activists in Colombia. At least 16 activists were murdered so far this year, according to a local research and advocacy group.
In the Philippines, a grenade thrown into a mosque killed two people and wounded four Wednesday. The attack in the southern city of Zamboanga came three days after twin bombings at a Roman Catholic cathedral on a nearby island killed 21 people. The two attacks followed a local referendum last week that showed overwhelming voter support for increased autonomy for the Muslim-majority region of Mindanao.
In Thailand, hundreds of schools have closed through this week as toxic smog fills the air of the capital Bangkok. The smog comes from vehicular exhaust, construction, agricultural and factory pollution. High levels of fine particulate matter in the air have been found to cause premature death and are particularly dangerous for young children.
Over 1,000 confidential files from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation were leaked and later uploaded to a file-sharing website, according to a new court filing. The filing by Mueller’s office said the documents were shared with the lawyers of indicted Russian hackers and are believed to have been leaked by individuals in Russia.
Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn is reconsidering its plan to build flat screen TV panels at a Wisconsin plant, in the latest blow to local workers who were told the electronics giant would create 13,000 jobs. Former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who was defeated in the November midterm elections, offered Foxconn $4 billion in state and local tax credits. Reuters is reporting that an assistant to Foxconn’s CEO said the facility will focus on research and development, rather than manufacturing, which was originally expected to be the main source of new jobs. Trump was a vocal backer of the Foxconn project, saying the plant would be the “eighth wonder of the world.”
The record-breaking polar vortex gripping the Midwest United States has caused at least 10 deaths, including road accidents. A number of schools continue to be shut down, while the U.S. Postal Service has had to postpone mail delivery in 11 states. Amtrak suspended service in and out of Chicago, where windchills dipped to -50 degrees Fahrenheit Wednesday. Thousands of flights have been grounded across the region.
In health news, the American Lung Association says in a new report the government is failing to protect minors from the dangers of e-cigarettes and tobacco. The group gave an “F’” grade to the Food and Drug Administration for failing to act as the rate of e-cigarette use among high school students shot up by nearly 80 percent over the past two years. The report warns that e-cigarettes contain levels of nicotine that could cause addiction and affect brain development in young people. Meanwhile, a study published in a medical journal found that vaping is almost two times as effective as nicotine gum or patches for quitting smoking.
And Morton Sobell, who was convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage with Julius and Ethel Rosenberg at the height of the McCarthy era, has died at the age of 101. Sobell served 18 years in prison and maintained his innocence until 2008, when he told The New York Times he had been a Soviet spy, though he said he “never thought of it as that in those terms.” In a 2003 interview on Democracy Now!, Sobell compared government persecution in the past and present.
Morton Sobell: “And I say today is much, much worse. For instance, during McCarthyism, the FBI had prepared a list of 20,000 communists to be picked up overnight and put into the concentration camps where the Japanese had been kept. They also prepared a brief for the Supreme Court to suspend habeas corpus. So they wanted to keep the forms proper. They wanted a legal basis for suspending habeas corpus. The gang today doesn’t even go to court to suspend. They suspend habeas corpus without any leave of the courts. So, in that sense, it’s closer to fascism than it ever was during the McCarthy period.”