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Massive power cut in Venezuela plunges Caracas into darkness

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Venezuela’s socialist government is blaming a nationwide blackout on an “electromagnetic attack” against the nation’s hydroelectric system.

Communications Minister Jorge Rodríguez read a statement broadcast on social media Monday in which he said authorities were working to restore service as quickly as possible.

He appealed for calm and said contingency plans had been activated so that medical facilities would not be affected. He said security forces were also being deployed to guarantee peoples’ safety.

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Authorities attributed an almost week-long outage across Venezuela in March to a U.S.-sponsored electromagnetic attack on the Guri dam, source of around 80% of the nation’s power.

But government opponents laid bare years of underinvestment in the nation’s grid by corrupt officials who mismanaged an oil bonanza in the nation sitting atop the world’s largest crude reserves.

Caracas plunged into darkness

The lights went out in most of Caracas at 4:41 pm (2041 GMT) on Monday while people in other parts of the country took to social media to report the power had gone out there too.

The state-owned power company CORPOELEC only reported a breakdown affecting sectors of Caracas.

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The capital was hit by huge traffic jams due to the traffic lights losing power while the sidewalks were full of pedestrians walking home as the metro had stopped running.

An even bigger power outage in March affected all 23 states in Venezuela and lasted a week, paralysing basic services such as the water supply and forcing the working day and school classes to be suspended.

Government blames “terrorists”

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President Nicolas Maduro had blamed unnamed “terrorists” for that near-nationwide blackout, claiming they had attacked the Guri hydroelectric plant in the south of the country that supplies power to 80 percent of Venezuela’s 30 million inhabitants.

Another huge outage in April left large parts of the country, including Caracas, in darkness, although it lasted hours rather than days.

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Experts blame poor management and corruption

“I’m fed up. Necessary repairs weren’t carried out. It’s always the same thing,” Eurimar Guere, 36, told AFP after leaving her office in Caracas.

“Maybe this power cut will be worse than the previous ones.”

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Blackouts are a common occurrence in Venezuela, especially in remote western regions.

The government usually blames them on sabotage but experts say that a lack of investment, poor management and corruption are the more likely culprits.

“They tried to hide the tragedy by rationing throughout the country, but the failure is clear,” said opposition leader Juan Guaido on Twitter.

“They’ve destroyed the electricity system and they don’t have any answers.”

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Academic experts analyze Johnson and Corbyn’s claims in first 2019 UK election debate

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Boris Johnson, the UK prime minister, and Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, have answered questions from the public in a head-to-head debate as they prepare for the country’s general election on December 12.

A court ruling earlier in the day upheld ITV’s decision not to offer podiums to either the SNP or the Liberal Democrats. On stage, though, Johnson and Corbyn appeared strangely dwarfed in front of a set that appeared borrowed from Blade Runner.

The two candidates levelled numerous accusations at each other during their hour on stage – but which are to be believed? Conversation articles by academic experts provide informed perspectives, grounded in research. Here’s what they’ve had to say on the issues that arose.

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Gay Saudi journalists detained in Australia after asylum bid

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Two gay Saudi journalists who sought asylum in Australia after being threatened at home over their relationship have been held for weeks at an immigration detention centre, their lawyer said Wednesday.

The couple arrived in Australia in mid-October on tourist visas but was singled out by airport customs officials -- then taken into detention -- when they admitted plans to seek asylum, lawyer Alison Battisson told AFP.

"Australia being very well known for being... a safe place for LGBTI people, they were incredibly surprised and distressed," she said.

One of the men -- who worked for Saudi Arabia's media ministry and regularly assisted visiting international news organisations -- said they came under pressure from authorities after a dissident leaked sensitive documents to foreign media.

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Johnson and Corbyn clash over Brexit in first UK election debate

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Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn traded blows Tuesday over Brexit and the health system as they vied for votes during the first ever head-to-head TV debate.

The prime-time event, held in Manchester and broadcast on ITV, presented an opportunity for a potentially game-changing moment in an election campaign so far characterised as lacklustre.

But neither candidate appeared to land a knockout blow in the first of several planned televised debates, some also involving other smaller parties' leaders, ahead of the December 12 poll.

Frontrunner Johnson, who took over as the leader of the ruling Conservatives in July, relentlessly tried to keep the focus on his plan to finally take the country out of the European Union, reiterating his campaign mantra to "get Brexit done".

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