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Oil prices jump as U.S. threatens sanctions against Venezuela

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Oil prices rose by more than one percent on Friday as turmoil in Venezuela triggered concerns that its oil exports could soon be disrupted.

Washington on Thursday signaled it could impose sanctions on Venezuela’s crude exports as Caracas descends further into political and economic turmoil.

International Brent crude oil futures were at $61.89 a barrel at 0246 GMT, 80 cents, or 1.3 percent, above their last close.

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U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $53.90 per barrel, up 77 cents, or 1.5 percent.

Amid violent street protests, Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim president earlier this week, winning backing from Washington and large parts of Latin America, prompting Nicolas Maduro, the country’s leader since 2013, to break relations with the United States.

Fundamentally, however, global oil markets are still well supplied, thanks in part to surging output in the United States, where crude production rose by more than 2 million barrels per day (bpd) last year to a record 11.9 million bpd.

Record U.S. production would likely offset any short-term disruptions to Venezuelan supply due to possible U.S. sanctions, Britain’s Barclays on Thursday said in a note. The bank cut its 2019 average Brent crude oil forecast to $70 a barrel, down from $72 previously.

The surge in U.S. output has resulted in swelling U.S. fuel inventories.

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(U.S. oil output and storage levels: tmsnrt.rs/2GYfhAi)

Gasoline stocks rose for an eighth consecutive week in the week to Jan. 18, by 4.1 million barrels to a record 259.6 million barrels, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in a weekly report on Thursday.

Crude inventories rose by 8 million barrels.

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Reporting by Colin Packham and henning Gloystein; editing by Richard Pullin

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Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
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Japan’s prime minister calls for nationwide closure of schools for a month over coronavirus

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Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday urged schools nationwide to close for several weeks to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, as authorities reported the country's fourth death linked to the outbreak.

The move comes as crew members from the Diamond Princess, a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship quarantined off Japan, began leaving the vessel where more than 700 people have tested positive for the disease.

"The government considers the health and safety of children above anything else," Abe said.

"We request all primary, junior high and high schools... across the nation to close temporarily from March 2 next week until their spring break."

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The Constitution prohibits Trump from pardoning Roger Stone: law professor

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President Donald Trump has been dropping hints for a long time that he will pardon ally Roger Stone, the man who lied to Congress and obstructed justice to conceal the truth about his efforts to acquire emails that Russian hackers stole from Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign.

Corey Brettschneider, a professor of political science at Brown University and visiting professor of law at Fordham Law School, argues in an editorial for Politico that the Constitution might prohibit Trump from issuing this particular pardon, despite the fact that the president's clemency powers are generally seen as very broad.

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A historian points out a startling fact about the current racial divisions in the Trump era

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America is a deeply divided nation. That fact may be the only thing that Americans of all racial, ethnic, and political groups can agree about. A Washington Post-University of Maryland poll conducted in late 2017 indicated that 70 percent of the American people think the country is “as divided as during the Vietnam War.”

This division manifests itself in political ways exemplified by the partisan impeachment proceedings and gridlock. The Democratic-led House of Representatives passed 298 bills in 2019, yet the Republican-led Senate refused to consider hardly any of that legislation.

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