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Top Venezuela court tightens noose on opposition chief Juan Guaido

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Venezuela’s Supreme Court called Monday for Juan Guaido to be stripped of his legislative immunity, tightening the noose on the opposition chief just days after authorities announced a ban on him holding public office.

Guaido — recognized as Venezuela’s interim president by some 50 countries — is locked in a power struggle with President Nicolas Maduro that has drawn in neighboring states as well as superpowers such as the US and Russia.

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As the political battle plays out, the country has been hit by a series of devastating blackouts that have left millions without water, prompting the government to replace the country’s energy minister and institute power rationing in a bid to address the outages.

The decision by the Supreme Court — which is controlled by Maduro loyalists — to call on the ruling Constituent Assembly legislature to strip Guaido of his immunity could open the way for the opposition chief to be prosecuted.

                                              Venezuelan Presidency/AFP / HO Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has replaced his energy minister in the wake of repeated power outages

The court ruling cited Guaido’s violation of a ban on his travel outside Venezuela when he visited Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Paraguay from late February to early March.

The move came after Venezuela’s auditor general’s office announced Thursday that it had stripped Guaido of the right to hold public office for 15 years, a decision he rejected as invalid.

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Three major blackouts hit Venezuela in March, worsening already dire living and economic conditions in the country, and prompting authorities to take steps aimed at curbing the outages.

Maduro — whose government has blamed “terrorists” for alleged attacks that have damaged the country’s main hydroelectric power plant — announced that he was Igor Gavidia Leon to replace retired general Luis Motta Dominguez as energy minister.

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The new minister “is an electrical industry worker with 25 years of experience, an engineer who had many responsibilities,” Maduro said.

– Electricity rationing –

 AFP / Federico Parra People draw water from a spring water tank to be used in their toilets in Caracas

On Sunday, Maduro announced 30 days of electricity rationing, after his government said it was shortening the workday and keeping schools closed due to blackouts.

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The measures are a stark admission by the government that there is not enough electricity to go around, and that the power crisis is here to stay.

With no electricity, pumping stations can’t work, so water service is limited.

Street lights and traffic lights go dark, pumps at fuel stations stand idle, and cell phone and internet service is non-existent.

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But people try to find water wherever they can: from springs, leaky pipes, gutters, government-provided tankers and the little that flows through the Guiare River in Caracas.

“We fill up from a well near here but we don’t know if its drinkable. But we’re using it,” said Erimar Vale, who lives in the capital.

Angel Velazquez said he bathed at work because he did not have water at home.

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– ‘Brain drain’ –

AFP/File / CRISTIAN HERNANDEZ People walk along a dark street during a power outage in Caracas, on March 30, 2019

Crippled infrastructure, little investment in the power grid and poor maintenance have all contributed to the country’s electricity woes.

A “brain drain” of qualified personnel has also hit the industry, with about 25,000 people in the electricity sector among the 2.7 million Venezuelans who have emigrated since 2015.

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Guaido has asked his supporters to protest each time there is a blackout.

“This is going to continue. The situation is very serious, there will be more blackouts and rationing,” said Winton Cabas, president of the Venezuelan Association of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering.

Jose Aguilar, a Venezuelan consultant living in the United States, said the problems with the power grid run deep.

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“Over the past 20 years, the infrastructure has been abused due to a lack of maintenance and the postponing of upgrade plans,” he told AFP.

Another problem was the “de-professionalization” of the sector when Chavez nationalized the power company in 2007 — a move that led to pro-government loyalists taking positions as managers and engineers.

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Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.



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The language gives it away: How an algorithm can help us detect fake news

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Have you ever read something online and shared it among your networks, only to find out it was false?

As a software engineer and computational linguist who spends most of her work and even leisure hours in front of a computer screen, I am concerned about what I read online. In the age of social media, many of us consume unreliable news sources. We’re exposed to a wild flow of information in our social networks — especially if we spend a lot of time scanning our friends’ random posts on Twitter and Facebook.

My colleagues and I at the Discourse Processing Lab at Simon Fraser University have conducted research on the linguistic characteristics of fake news.

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2020 Election

Trump furious with Steve King for crippling his re-election chances in Iowa: CNN’s April Ryan

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Sitting in with CNN's Victor Blackwell on Sunday morning, contributor April Ryan relayed that Rep. Steve King (R-IA) is in big trouble not only with his party over his latest comments about rape and incest, but that Donald Trump is aggravated with him too because he may impact the president's chances in Iowa in the 2020 election.

With King reeling from the fallout from his own comments made during an appearance earlier in the week, Ryan said that his days may be numbered because senior Republicans want him gone too.

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Trump White House tried to stop immigrant kids from attending public schools

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Led by President Donald Trump's xenophobic top adviser Stephen Miller, the White House reportedly spent months attempting to devise a way to stop undocumented immigrant children from attending public schools in the United States.

According to Bloomberg, which first reported on the effort on Saturday, top Trump aides sought to hand states the "power to block undocumented immigrant children from enrolling in public schools."

"Using children like this as political pawns is another low point for the Trump administration."—Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers

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