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Venezuela floats chance of gasoline price hike

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Venezuela on Monday floated the idea of raising gasoline prices, in one of the least expensive fuel markets in the world.

“We have to have big debates in Venezuela,” Vice President Jorge Arreaza said Monday in a meeting with business leaders.

“For example, we have to talk about budget issues, for example the price of gasoline, starting to charge for it since it is given away almost for free,” he added.

In this OPEC member state sitting atop the world’s largest proven reserves of crude, cheap gasoline is seen as basically a birthright. Politically, it has been taboo even to bring up price hikes.

Arreaza said the idea would be studied in consultation with “the people, in neighborhood councils, with businesses and with all Venezuelans.”

A liter of gasoline in Venezuela costs less than 0.10 bolivar; the bolivar officially trades at 6.3 to the dollar.

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Filling up one’s tank typically costs less than a candy bar would. The price has not gone up in over 20 years.

Economic reforms are needed to “balance the situation once and for all in Venezuela,” which has 54 percent inflation, Latin America’s highest, and very sluggish growth.

Venezuela loses an estimated $1.4 billion a year just on gasoline smuggled to neighboring Colombia where it is costlier.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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Dear NeverTrumpers: Please quit lecturing actual Democrats about how to win

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As I write this, we are just hours away from the first debate of the presidential primary season. It's hard to believe that four years have passed since the last round of primary debates. It feels like 40. But here we are, getting ready to embark on yet another presidential campaign featuring Donald Trump. Everyone on the planet has advice for the Democratic candidates about what they need to do to beat him. It may be the most annoying conversation in all of politics, and that's saying something.

The pundits are all dully blathering on about "lanes" again, extending the horse race metaphor to ridiculous lengths, as they did in the GOP primaries in 2016. So far they've declared the lanes to be "establishment," "insurgent," "youth," "black vote" and "working class." And yes, they are meaningless, since the person who wins the nomination will have to take up big parts of all these "lanes" and more. But it makes it easy for pundits and analysts to drone on endlessly about polling, despite the fact that there is very little chance this campaign will end up going the way they predict.

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US protests to Russia over arrest conditions of alleged spy

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The United States on Wednesday formally protested over the arrest in Russia of former US marine Paul Whelan, who has been jailed on charges of espionage since December.

The US embassy in Moscow has asked that allegations of mistreatment in pre-trial detention be investigated and Whelan's safety guaranteed, according to spokeswoman Andrea Kalan.

"We have protested to the (foreign ministry) Paul Whelan's mistreatment while in custody," Kalan wrote on Twitter.

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Donald Trump Jr shamed for sucking up to his dad on Twitter: ‘Ivanka is still his favorite’

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President Donald Trump retweeted about a half dozen posts early Wednesday from his wife and children, but not one particularly approval-seeking tweet from his namesake son.

The president's namesake son hyped his father's promotion of the "American Dream" late Tuesday, but Trump didn't include that one among several others posted by Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump and Melania Trump, as well as another touting son-in-law Jared Kushner's Middle East peace plan.

"For the last 50 years our biggest net export has been The American Dream, but because of @realDonaldTrump we’ve brought that American Dream home, where it belongs," tweeted Donald Trump Jr. "He’s doing this for you, your children, and for your grandchildren. Let’s Keep America Great! #2020"

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