By Ana Isabel Martinez CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's government struck back at self-declared interim president Juan Guaido on Tuesday, with the Supreme Court imposing a travel ban and freeze on his bank accounts despite a warning from Washington of "serious consequences" if it did so. The court also said prosecutors could investigate Guaido, in apparent retaliation for sweeping U.S. sanctions on oil firm PDVSA, announced on Monday. The sanctions mean the state-run company may not be able to fulfill contracts with North American buyers, the government of President Nicolas Maduro said. Aimed at driving Maduro from power, the sanctions were the strongest measures yet against the 56-year-old former union leader, who has overseen economic collapse and an exodus of millions of Venezuelans in recent years. The measures triggered higher global oil prices, angry responses from China and Russia and the first serious moves against Guaido since he challenged Maduro's claim on the presidency last week. The Supreme Court approved a request from Venezuelan Attorney General Tarek Saab to open a preliminary investigation into Guaido based on accusations he helped foreign countries to interfere in internal matters. The court also imposed a travel ban on the 35-year-old leader and froze his bank accounts. As a lawmaker who heads the National Assembly, Guaido has immunity from prosecution unless ordered by a top court. But the 32-member Supreme Court is loyal to Maduro and moved quickly to open the investigation. In response to news earlier of the attorney general's plan, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton warned of "serious consequences for those who attempt to subvert democracy and harm Guaido," in a tweet that described Saab as the "illegitimate former Venezuelan Attorney General." The United States and several other countries have recognized Guaido as Venezuela's legitimate head of state and denounced Maduro as a usurper. Maduro, sworn in on Jan. 10 for a second term after disputed elections last year, accuses Guaido of staging a U.S.-directed coup against him. Maduro is backed by a number of countries, including Russia. Maduro's inauguration sparked protests throughout Venezuela. Over 40 people are believed to have been killed in political violence last week, including 26 shot by pro-government forces, five killed in house raids and 11 during looting, U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said on Tuesday. He said more than 850 people were detained between Jan. 21 and Jan. 26, including 77 children, some as young as 12. Guaido said on Tuesday he did not underestimate the threat of imprisonment but did not believe it was "anything new." Many opposition leaders have been imprisoned in the South American nation. "We are here. We will keep acting and working to confront the humanitarian crisis," Guaido told a news conference. Most experts believe the sanctions and other measures against Maduro will encourage him to step down only if he loses the support of the powerful military, which until now has been mostly loyal to the leftist ruling party founded by late President Hugo Chavez. Maduro appeared on a television broadcast from a military base on Tuesday, praising the soldiers' loyalty. The U.S. State Department said on Tuesday it had certified Guaido's authority to control certain assets held by U.S.-insured banks, including government and central bank accounts. U.S. military invention is seen in Washington as highly unlikely, but President Donald Trump has repeatedly said "all options are on the table" and notes Bolton held at a Monday briefing containing the words "5,000 troops to Colombia" have raised questions. SIDESTEPPING SANCTIONS Oil minister and PDVSA head Manuel Quevedo said on Tuesday that PDVSA was considering declaring partial force majeure on its contractual obligations in the United States. The company would not allow the opposition to take control of its U.S. refinery unit Citgo, Venezuela's key foreign asset, he said. All oil tankers leaving Venezuelan ports would have to pay for crude before departing, he said. "We can't allow Venezuelan oil to be stolen," he said in a speech on state television. PDVSA is also seeking to sidestep the sanctions by asking major buyers, including U.S. refiners, to renegotiate contracts, sources said. International Brent crude oil futures rose over 2 percent on Tuesday in reaction. Venezuela is among the world's largest heavy crude oil producers. [O/R] The Kremlin condemned the sanctions as illegal interference, while China said they would lead to suffering for which Washington would bear responsibility. The sanctions could cause problems for Venezuela when it comes to servicing its sovereign debt to Russia, which stands at $3.15 billion, Russian Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak told reporters on Tuesday. In Geneva, senior U.S. and Venezuelan diplomats traded jibes at a disarmament conference. Venezuela's ambassador, Jorge Valero, said the Trump administration was preparing a "military invasion" and questioned whether Washington had the moral authority to "impose a diktat" on Caracas. Venezuela has sunk into economic and political turmoil under Maduro's socialist government, with inflation seen rising to 10 million percent this year. The loss of revenue from the United States, the No. 1 buyer of Venezuelan crude, is sure to further hamper the government's ability to import basic goods like food and medicine, exacerbating a humanitarian crisis that has prompted more than 3 million people to leave the country in recent years. (Reporting by Ana Isabel Martinez, Mayela Armas and Deisy Buitrago in Caracas; Stephanie Nebehay and Tom Miles in Geneva; Shadia Nasralla in London; Susan Heavey and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Michael Martina in Beijing; and Darya Korsunskaya in Moscow; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel and Cynthia Osterman; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien and Lisa Shumaker)
Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler approved an operation to capture or kill murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, according to U.S. intelligence released on Friday as the United States imposed sanctions on some of those involved but spared the crown prince himself in an effort to preserve relations with the kingdom. Khashoggi, a U.S. resident who wrote opinion columns for the Washington Post critical of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's policies, was killed and dismembered by a team of operatives linked to the prince in the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul. The Saudi government, which has denied any involvement by the crown prince, issued a statement rejecting the U.S. report's findings and repeating its previous statements that Khashoggi's killing was a heinous crime by a rogue group.
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- The Independent
Republican gathering began in 1974 and sees American conservatives debate social worries but has struggled with position on 'alt-right' in recent years
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Saudi Arabia's crown prince likely approved the killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, according to a newly declassified U.S. intelligence report released Friday that instantly ratcheted up pressure on the Biden administration to hold the kingdom accountable for a murder that drew worldwide outrage. It leaves no doubt that as the prince continues in his powerful role and likely ascends to the throne, Americans will forever associate him with the brutal killing of a journalist who promoted democracy and human rights.
- The Independent
Controversial congresswoman previously said the Republican party belong to former president
U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday told Saudi King Salman he would work for bilateral ties "as strong and transparent as possible," the White House said, ahead of the expected release of a sensitive U.S. intelligence report on the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The report is a declassified version of a top-secret assessment that sources say singles out the 85-year-old king's son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for approving the murder of Khashoggi in the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul. Saudi Arabia denies that the 35-year-old crown prince, the de facto ruler of the kingdom, approved the killing.
- Associated Press
Less than a month after excoriating Donald Trump in a blistering floor speech, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday that he would “absolutely” support the former president again if he secured the Republican nomination in 2024. “I've got at least four members that I think are planning on running for president, plus governors and others,” McConnell said. McConnell's remarks underscore an awkward balancing act he sought to maintain since Trump lost the election, reflecting the reality that McConnell’s own path back to power in the Senate hinges on enthusiasm from a party base that still ardently supports Trump.
- USA TODAY
Acting Capitol Police chief tells lawmakers militia groups seek to 'blow up the Capitol,' targeting Biden speech
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Kyle Connor scored twice and the Winnipeg Jets spoiled Dominique Ducharme's debut as Montreal's coach, rallying to beat the Canadiens 6-3 on Thursday night to open a two-game series. The Jets rallied after Montreal took a 2-0 lead into the second period.
- Reuters Videos
Thailand has a new attraction to tout to tourists: 'golf quarantine.'International visitors can now chip away at their two weeks in isolation on the putting green, as part of a new program devised by the government to boost its ailing tourism sector.Heo Kwang-eum is a businessman and one of the dozens of South Korean visitors taking up the offer, at a resort an hour north of Bangkok."I'm grateful to the Thai government for starting this program. We are at the starting point. From my four-day experience (of isolating in a hotel room), it would be torture if we stayed in a room and did nothing for two weeks."Visitors undergo three tests throughout their stay.The package costs around $2,240 - a reasonable price for these golfers compared with the cost of a regular quarantine, cooped up in a hotel room.Ku Jung-keun is the general manager of the Artitaya Country Club."The golf quarantine offers three safe tests and time to enjoy golfing. Doctors provide daily health check-ups for the guests too while they are staying here, and it's not an expensive program."With bars and other resort facilities closed, there's no prospect to thrash out the missed birdies, bogeys and shanks of the day. But spirits remain high.[Visitor Heo Kwang-eum, saying:] "It's huge, the golf course is almost over one square kilometre with 36 holes. Think of 41 Koreans golfing as you roam around the field, served by over 100 employees. It's like emperor's golfing. As you know, it's extremely hard to go golfing in Korea these days because of the crisis. Here it's a golf paradise."
- The State
“Her daddy got to heaven just before she did.”
- Charlotte Observer
This is the shocking story of the alleged sexual abuses that led to the January arrest of Sandra Hiler — aka Charlotte piano teacher Keiko Aloe — as told by her 21-year-old daughter.
- Business Insider
Federal investigators zeroed in on the assailant after video footage showed the suspect attacking officers with bear spray, The Times reported.
Residents of an Indian slum thought they were getting vaccinated like everyone else but were unknowingly part of a clinical trial
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- Business Insider
Ted Cruz rants about comedians, late-night TV, and mask-wearing before shouting at people to 'just have fun' in wild CPAC speech
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Ben Affleck says his divorce from Jennifer Garner and other 'life experience' shaped him into a better actor
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- Business Insider
Ted Cruz's colleagues mocked him by putting memes of his Cancun trip in the Senate gym locker room: 'Bienvenido de Nuevo, Ted!'
Those who turned up to the Senate gym Wednesday morning were welcomed by color printouts of Cruz's Cancun trip that read "Bienvenido de Nuevo, Ted!"
Former Sen. Kelly Loeffler is out as owner of WNBA team, and the new owners include former star player who retired to fight for social justice
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A Florida daycare is under fire after giving a 7-month-old baby away to a stranger. When Trinity McCoggle arrived at the Orient Road Child Development Center on January 25 to pick up her 7-month-old son, Adonis, she was left distraught when told her baby had been accidentally given to someone assumed to be the child’s parent, ABC2 News reports. Describing what happened, McCoggle said the daycare worker “went to the back to get him, and when she came back, she said, He’s not here.”
Prince Harry knew he and Meghan Markle had something 'pretty special' by their second date. Here's a complete timeline of their relationship.
The couple's royal love story began in 2016 when they were set up on a blind date by a mutual friend.