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Venezuela opens investigation into opposition-appointed PDVSA directors: prosecutor

Venezuela opens investigation into opposition-appointed PDVSA directors: prosecutorCARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's chief state prosecutor said on Thursday an investigation had been opened into directors of state-run oil firm PDVSA, and its U.S. refiner Citgo, that the opposition-controlled congress appointed on Wednesday. Prosecutor Tarek Saab, in comments broadcast on state television, announced "the opening of an investigation against people designated illegally as directors of PDVSA and Citgo." Saab also said they would investigate foreign ambassadors named by opposition leader Juan Guaido, who on Jan 23 invoked constitutional provisions to assume an interim presidency. ...


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Putin, Erdogan Spar Over Syria Militants Amid Split on Safe Zone

While Putin urged Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at a summit on Thursday to work out ways to “completely destroy the terrorist hotbed” in the Idlib region, a joint statement after the talks referred only to the need for “concrete steps” t...

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Prince Harry jokes troops are 'weirdos' for Valentine's Day 'shrine' of Meghan inside igloo

Prince Harry jokes troops are 'weirdos' for Valentine's Day 'shrine' of Meghan inside iglooThe Duke of Sussex has celebrated Valentine’s Day 200 miles inside the Arctic Circle, in an igloo decorated with photographs from his wedding. The Duke, who made a flying visit to Bardufoss in north Norway without the Duchess, was greeted with candles, mood music and pictures of his May ceremony as he was shown around a snug snow shelter used by the military to survive in the extreme cold. Checking that the British troops stationed at the base had remembered to send cards and flowers to their wives at home, he teased them about getting into trouble as he reminisced about his days as a pilot. In a three hour visit, in his role as Captain General Royal Marines, he admitted he misses his days as an Apache helicopter pilot as he was shown Commando Helicopter Force train to survive in the extreme cold weather. For 50 years, the Navy, Army and Air force have been undertaking training in Bardufoss to provide aviation support to those who operate and fight in temperatures as low as -30C in what is known as Exercise Clockwork. The Duke of Sussex in the igloo Credit: Getty The Duke landed in a charter plane flown directly from the UK in temperatures of around -10C, greeted by Richard Wood, the British ambassador in Norway, Lt Col Dave West, officer commanding Exercise Clockwork, Lt Col Andy Walker, the UK defence attache, and Col Eirik Stueland, Bardufoss station commander. Taken inside immediately for a briefing, he met senior personnel from the base before sitting down for a lesson in the history of Exercise Clockwork and a video of the modern day training programme. It included footage of servicemen undergoing their grueling ice water plunge, which sees them drop through a hole in the ice into freezing water to learn how to climb out again. Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex (left) during a visit to Exercise Clockwork in Bardufoss, Norway Credit: Getty Afterwards, the Duke joined the troops for a hot buffet lunch in the mess, away from the cameras so he could meet men and women of all ranks to speak frankly. As the snow fell, he was then invited to inspect the four-man, ten-man and 16-man tents used during training, with avalanche rescue gear and a 45kg Bergen backpack ready for inspection. Spotting Chris Anderson, a corporal in the RAF, dressed in a white, snow-camoflaged suit over his uniform with a mask, the Duke joked: "You look as though you’re loving it."  Inside a tent, he was invited to lift the heavy bag containing rations, emergency clothing, snow shovel, survival knives, hot flask, cooking equipment and sleeping bags, torch, goggles and gloves. "I’d like to but I’m not sure…" he said, making a quick attempt before dropping it. "When you’re out here, what do you guys look forward to the most?" he asked, quizzing servicemen on how long they had served and how long they are based in Norway. "Look after yourself," he told them. "How’s morale been?" he asked, before indulging in some military banter as Captain General Royal Marines by joking: "The RAF guys will be struggling the most, will they?"  Referring to his own time in the army, where he served as an Apache pilot, he empathised with the need to constantly update their training, usually waiting until it was down to the last moment to do so. The Duke was then invited inside the Quincey Shelter, a version of an igloo dug out and used in emergencies to stay alive in the snow. This time, the shelter had been decked out to welcome Prince Harry, with pictures of the Royal Wedding printed out and pinned on the walls, candles and ambient mood music. Spotting the photographs, the Duke laughed: "You weirdos! Nice. It's very kind of you to invite into your private, err, shrine," he added, proclaiming it "romantic". The picture of the Duke and his wife on his wedding day inside the igloo Credit: Getty "Homely in there isn’t it,” he said, as he stepped out into the fresh air. "It starts to get a little bit weird after a while." "They’re not always that comfortable,” he was told. Sergeant Ads Lesley said the Duke had asked some practical questions about the shelters, before moving on to personal questions about the troops’ welfare. "He was really keen to engage,” he said. "He asked if they had got their girlfriends or wives or partners flowers for Valentine’s Day - he was keen to make sure no-one was in trouble. "He liked to compare what we’re doing out here, how amazing it is, with what we’re doing back in the UK. He was really happy that we’re in a beautiful environment and to see how happy we are. "There was a little light humour: he saw people in sleeping bags and said ‘oh, have you just woken up?"  In the shelter, Sgt Lesley said, "he had a smile on his face. We had some chill-out music on, just to show how creative you can be."  The wedding photo decorations, he said, seemed "almost a bit of a shock" for the Duke, who "had a chuckle to himself". Moving into a large hanger, where the Wildcat and Apache helicopters were on show alongside their pilots, the Duke confessed: "I miss my pilot days."  "How is it?" he asked young pilots, noticing they were reticent. "You can be honest with me. I’m not going to get anything out of you, am I? Guys, well done. Make the most of it."  Major Huw Raikes, from the Army Air Corps, said the Duke had spoken of how he misses flying the aircraft. “It was a fun period for him,” he said. "He misses the experience he had flying it, he misses the brotherhood. It’s quite poignant to have him here, he’s got a very special relationship with the Army Air Corps."  Offered a chance to get in, the Duke resigned himself to patting the Apache fondly before moving on to meet the teams with the Wildcat and, back outside in the snow, the Merlin. “Did you all get your other halves a card and some flowers?” Prince Harry checked, as he was introduced to a group of Royal Navy and Royal Marine personnel. Mock-grimacing, he added: "There were a few guys out there who said they don’t bother any more..." Before leaving, the Duke was asked to cut a cake celebrating the 50th anniversary of Exercise Clockwork, which featured a helicopter made from rice crispies and marshmallows. Quizzing Leading Chef Matt Roberts, he learned the troops in Bardufoss had a larger daily food budget to account for the extra calories they need in the cold, joking: "No wonder you’re all so happy."  Wielding a sword, he ceremonially cut the cake, shouting "Happy Birthday" to dozens of men and women gathered in the hanger. "It’s really nice to see you all and know that you’re having a good time out here,” he told them. “Use every single day as an experience, and bring that back. I hope you can make the most of it. "I know lots of you have left your families at home to be out here. It’s hugely appreciated. And you still have a smile on your face.  Congratulations on your 50th anniversary."  After the three hour visit, the Duke climbed back into the small charter plane to fly home: back at Kensington Palace in time for the Valentine’s dinner. Prince Harry’s trip marked the 50th anniversary of Commando Helicopter Force and Joint Helicopter Command deploying to the remote base, where military personnel are taught how to survive, operate and fight in the sub-zero conditions, as well as gaining experience of operating aircraft in severe cold weather and mountainous environments. The multinational exercise, hosted by the Norwegian Armed Forces, comprises environmental flying qualifications, cold weather survival, and snow and ice driving courses. Duke of Sussex speaks with British and Norwegian troops  Credit: AFP The Duke was appointed Captain General Royal Marines in December 2017, taking over the role from his grandfather the Duke of Edinburgh, who held the appointment for 64 years. The duke already has experience of colder climates, facing temperatures as low as -35C on charity expeditions to the North Pole in 2011 and South Pole in 2013 with Walking With The Wounded. Lieutenant Colonel David West, Officer Commanding Exercise Clockwork, said: "We are celebrating 50 years of Exercise Clockwork today and are honoured to be able to welcome the Captain General of the Royal Marines to Bardufoss to mark the occasion. "Clockwork continues to deliver vital training for our people. It provides essential experience in flying and surviving in the extreme cold hundreds of miles inside the Arctic Circle. "For 50 years Commando Helicopter Force and its predecessors have operated in this region and the skills learnt here are more relevant than ever."


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Heavy rain forces Californians to flee, triggers mudslide

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Waves of heavy rain pounded California on Thursday, filling normally dry creeks and rivers with muddy torrents, flooding roadways and forcing residents to flee their homes in communities scorched by wildfires.

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Iran's Rouhani blames U.S., Israel for attack on elite Guards: TV

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani blamed the United States and its regional allies on Thursday for a suicide bombing in southeastern Iran that killed 27 members of the country's elite Revolutionary Guards, Iranian state TV reported. The force said on W...

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What El Chapo can expect inside the 'Alcatraz of the Rockies'

What El Chapo can expect inside the 'Alcatraz of the Rockies'His tunneling out of prison cells and safe houses has given him almost mythical status. So there is little doubt that when Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is sentenced in June he’ll be sent to the most secure prison in the United States’ arsenal. Guzman, 61, is almost certain to be sent to the Colorado “Supermax” prison, in the mile-high desert outside of Florence, two hours from Denver. It’s a facility so secure it’s known as “Alcatraz of the Rockies”. The complex is guarded by razor-wire fences, gun towers, heavily armed patrols and attack dogs. The 400 prisoners, including Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 1993 World Trade Center attacker, Ramzi Yousef, and Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, are kept in concrete cells for 23 hours a day. Abu Hamza, the British hate preacher, has been at the Supermax since October 2015, and in December 2017 took legal action to try and be returned to a British prison, claiming the conditions in the US were too harsh. He said in legal documents he would go back to Belmarsh "in a second", and argued unsuccessfully that his conditions at the Supermax breached his human rights under Article 3 of the European Convention, which protects people from "inhuman and degrading treatment". The typical cell is a seven-foot-by-12-foot concrete box with concrete fittings, and a four-inch window, leaving its occupants unable to see the sky. El Chapo's fellow inmates will include Abu Hamza and Richard Reid, the shoe bomber Prisoners are normally allowed television and newspapers, but given Guzman’s status he may be only given old issues, to keep him isolated from the world. Prisoners generally get an hour outside a day together in a small caged-in area, but Bob Hood, a former warden in the prison, said Guzman may not even get that. “He’s such a high-profile person that, in my opinion, he’ll never be allowed on the yard with other prisoners for the rest of his life," he said. Furthermore, prisoners can only receive visitors through thick Perspex barriers, and often go days “with only a few words spoken to them,” an Amnesty International report found. Guzman looks out of the window of his plane as he is extradited from Mexico to the US, in January 2017 Human interaction is minimal, and prisoners eat all meals in the solitude of their own cells. “Other than when being placed in restraints and escorted by guards, prisoners may spend years without touching another human being,” the Amnesty report found. One former prisoner described it as a “high-tech version of hell, designed to shut down all sensory perception.” The US authorities are less concerned about his tunnelling out – something believed to be impossible – or his bribing guards, which certainly aided his legendary Mexican prison escapes. Instead they are worried that his money and mythical status will enable him to win over fellow inmates, or order hits on some of the cooperating witnesses who testified against him. For that reason he may be placed in the prison’s most isolated area, Range 13, Mr Hood said, where inmates rotate between four identical cells. “If ever there were an escape-proof prison, it’s the facility at Florence,” said Burl Cain, the former warden of the maximum-security Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. “It’s the prison of all prisons.”


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Goodbye, Opportunity: 5 times the mighty Mars rover delighted the galaxy

Goodbye, Opportunity: 5 times the mighty Mars rover delighted the galaxyIt's a dark, sad day for space fans the world over.NASA has officially said goodbye to the Mars Opportunity rover, one of its greatest achievements, who's watch has come to an end. In late January, Opportunity officially marked 15 years on the surface Mars, but it's been over seven months since the rover was last heard from on June 10, 2018. NASA believes that a planet-wide dust storm that blanketed Mars during that time blocked out the sun so thoroughly that the solar-powered Opportunity was unable to recharge.SEE ALSO: How NASA recorded the eerie Martian wind, without a microphoneRepeated attempts to contact Opportunity have failed in recent months and days, and NASA called an end to the mission on Wednesday. For fans, it's a day of sorrow but also of celebration. Like its counterpart, Spirit, Opportunity's journey continued well beyond its planned 90-sol (days on Mars) mission, a monumental achievement. Along the way, Opportunity didn't just survive; the scrappy rover delivered historic discoveries and amazing feats. As its mission is officially brought to a close, it's the perfect time to revisit a few of its biggest moments. 1\. Sticking the landingOne of Opportunity's most memorable feats was, appropriately, its first. Even now we treat the landing of a rover on Mars as a pretty big deal but it was an especially epic event 15 years ago -- particularly because Opportunity's landing came just 20 days after the successful landing of the Spirit rover.As if a back-to-back rover landing wasn't impressive enough, Opportunity's touch down took place inside a small impact crater measuring just 66 feet across, a perfect place for Opportunity to search for traces of water on Mars. The exact landing spot was so impressive that one mission scientist, Steve Squyres, called it "a 300 million mile interplanetary hole in one."A view from one of Opportunity's camera of its landing site on its 2nd sol on Mars.Image: NASA/JPL-CalTech 2\. Finding delicious "blueberries"One of Opportunity's first big finds, in April 2004 was small, round "spherules," photographed by its microscopic imager near Fram Crater. The spherules are iron-heavy "concretions formed by action of mineral-laden water inside rocks," according to NASA. They're referred to as "blueberries" thanks to the color that NASA's false color images assign them and they're also good evidence that Mars was once a wet planet.  The "blueberry" spherules discovered by Opportunity in 2004.Image: NASAOver 8 years later, though, Opportunity would discover a completely different type of spherule at the Endeavour Crater that were likely older and not as iron-heavy as the original "blueberries" the rover found in its early days.The set of spherules that Opportunity came across in 2012.Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./ USGS/Modesto Junior CollegeThat the discoveries came eight years apart is a testament to not only Opportunity's tools but the longevity of its mission.  3\. Visiting Victoria CraterA view of Victoria Crater as seen by Opportunity before its descent.Image: NASA/JPLIn late 2006, already rumbling well past its expected end date, Opportunity visited the half-mile-wide Victoria Crater to examine the exposed levels of rock that gave NASA a look at Mars' geological history. It would take a year of circling the crater before scientists found a safe way for Opportunity to begin its descent into the crater in November 2007. After it finally made its way down, the rover spent almost a year exploring the crater before leaving in August 2008.  4\. Surviving a dust stormThough a planet-wide dust storm has finally brought Opportunity's mission to a close, it survived another severe weather event early on, riding out a dust storm that blocked most of the light from the Martian sky in July 2007 while the rover was looking for way in to Victoria Crater.The view of the 2007 dust storm as seen by Opportunity on the Mars surface.Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/CornellThe rover survived through low power mode and warmed back up by September 2007 as the skies slowly cleared, paving the way for it to eventually enter Victoria Crater a few months later, as noted above. 5\. An off-world record roverOne more testament to the scrappy, spunky rover's longevity: In July 2014, Opportunity set a new record for the longest off-world drive (i.e., not on Earth) ever, surpassing the previous record (24.2 miles) set by Russia's Lunokhod 2 moon rover in 1973. That's a lot of roving.Image: NASA/JPL-CaltechAll told, Opportunity journeyed just a hair over 28 miles before NASA lost contact with the rover in June 2018. A view of Mars' "Spirit of St. Louis" crater, taken by Opportunity in April 2015.Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State UnivAnd now the time has come to say farewell, dear Opportunity. Thank you so much for your discoveries, your toughness, your shrewdness. We'll miss the hell out of you and you've left quite the legacy for rovers that follow. Until we see you in the next life, goodbye.


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