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Venezuela’s adversaries seek to show resolve in crisis
CARACAS, Venezuela — Appearing a day after his rival returned home to a tumultuous welcome, President Nicolas Maduro denounced his opponents in a speech Tuesday at a military ceremony but did not refer by name to opposition leader Juan Guaido. The man who says he is the rightful president, meanwhile, escalated his campaign to topple Maduro with an appeal for support from state unions, long reliant on government handouts.
The dueling scenes, evidence of the rift in a country in crisis, came as Venezuelans and the world awaited the next moves of two adversaries maneuvering for an edge in what could be a protracted struggle. The Maduro government’s decision not to move against Guaido upon his return to Venezuela on Monday reflects the intense pressure Maduro faces and, possibly, a calculation that restraint is the best tactic for now.
Still, Maduro was defiant during a ceremony marking the sixth anniversary of the death of his predecessor and mentor, Hugo Chavez, belittling a “minority of opportunists and cowards.” He said government supporters would hold a rally on Saturday, a “day of anti-imperialism” in his words, and a counter to U.S.-backed Guaido’s plans to hold nationwide protests the same day.
Maduro also pinned medals on members of the security forces involved in a crackdown on Guaido’s failed Feb. 23 attempt to bring humanitarian aid into Venezuela from Brazil and Colombia. Maduro has described the attempt, backed by the U.S. and its allies, as part of a plot to overthrow his government.
Hours earlier, Guaido said police officials were among those at a meeting that he held with leaders of public employee unions, which rely heavily on subsidies from Maduro’s government to get by in a country suffering from hyperinflation and shortages of food and other necessities.
Ex-NYC Mayor Bloomberg won’t run for president in 2020
WASHINGTON — Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former New York City mayor, announced Tuesday that he will not join the crowded field of Democrats running for president in 2020.
Instead, Bloomberg said he planned to focus his energy and considerable resources on outside efforts aimed at defeating President Donald Trump, as well as on combating climate change and addressing gun violence.
Bloomberg spent months weighing a White House run, traveling to early voting states and building a team of experienced political advisers. But aides said internal polling suggested Bloomberg’s path to the Democratic nomination was narrow, particularly if Vice President Joe Biden — who shares some of Bloomberg’s moderate positions — decides to run.
In an editorial for Bloomberg News — the media company Bloomberg owns — he said he was “clear-eyed about the difficulty of winning the Democratic nomination in such a crowded field.”
Bloomberg has flirted with a presidential run before, but as an independent. He registered as a Democrat last fall and began pitching himself to primary voters as a political centrist. But as an older white man with strong ties to Wall Street, he may have struggled to win over the Democratic Party’s energized liberal base that’s increasingly embracing diversity.
AMA: Trump family-planning abortion rule risks health crisis
The American Medical Association and Planned Parenthood filed a federal court lawsuit Tuesday challenging a new Trump administration rule changing criteria for family-planning grant money in ways sought by anti-abortion activists.
The new rule, announced last week by the Department of Health and Human Services, would prohibit family planning clinics funded by the federal Title X program from making abortion referrals — a provision that critics denounce as a “gag rule.”
Clinics that receive Title X grants also would be barred from sharing office space with abortion providers — a requirement that would in many cases boost costs for providers like Planned Parenthood that offer abortions and other services, including family planning.
The result of the rule, if implemented, “will be a national public health crisis in short order,” the lawsuit said.
“Pregnancies that are unintended, and thus riskier, will increase. The number of abortions will also increase. And there will be fewer tests for sexually transmitted infections and cancer screens — putting patients and their partners at great health risk,” the lawsuit said.
Record-breaking family migration overwhelming border agency
WASHINGTON — The number of migrant families crossing the southwest border is again breaking records, and the crush is overwhelming border agents and straining facilities, officials said Tuesday.
More than 76,000 migrants crossed the U.S.-Mexico border last month, more than double the number from the same period last year. Most were families coming in ever-increasingly large groups — there were 70 groups of more than 100 people in the past few months, and they cross illegally in extremely rural locations with few agents and staff. There were only 13 large groups during the previous budget year, and only two the year before.
The system “is well beyond capacity, and remains at the breaking point,” U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said a press conference Tuesday.
The new figures reflect the difficulties President Donald Trump has faced as he tries to cut down on illegal immigration, his signature issue. But it could also help him make the case that there truly is a national emergency at the border — albeit one built around humanitarian crises and not necessarily border security. The Senate is expected to vote next week and join the House in rejecting his national emergency declaration aimed at building border walls, but Trump would almost certainly veto the measure and the issue is likely to be settled in the courts.
After the deaths of two migrant children in Border Patrol custody, Customs and Border Protection stepped up medical screenings. They also announced sweeping changes including more rigorous interviews as migrants come into the system.
Counterterror police examine 3 explosive devices in London
LONDON — Three small explosive devices in plastic mailing bags arrived at offices for two London airports and at a train station Tuesday, and Irish police said they were helping British counterterrorism police with the investigation.
London’s Metropolitan Police Service said the devices found near London’s Heathrow and City airports and at Waterloo Station “appear capable of igniting an initially small fire when opened.” A staff member did unseal the bag sent to an office building on Heathrow’s grounds, “causing the device to initiate,” the police department said.
Part of the package burned, but no one was injured, police said. The Compass Centre was evacuated as a precaution. The building is not close to passenger terminals at Heathrow, Britain’s busiest airport, and flights were not affected.
The Heathrow property is where the first of the three explosive devices was discovered at about 9:55 a.m.
Transportation police received a call at 11:40 a.m. after another suspicious package turned up in the mail room at busy Waterloo Station. The last was found just after noon at the administration building for City Airport, a much smaller commercial airport. No one had opened either of those packages.
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