By Alexandra Ulmer MARACAIBO, Venezuela (Reuters) - For decades, jobs at Venezuela's state-run oil giant PDVSA were coveted for above average salaries, generous benefits and cheap credit that brought home ownership and vacationing abroad within reach for many workers. Now, in Venezuela's asphyxiating economy, even PDVSA employees are struggling to pay for everything from food and bus rides to school fees as triple-digit inflation eats away incomes. They are pawning goods, maxing out credit cards, taking side jobs, and even selling PDVSA uniforms to buy food, according to Reuters' interviews with two dozen workers, family members, and union leaders. "Every day a PDVSA worker comes to sell his overall," said Elmer, a hawker at the biggest market in the oil city of Maracaibo, as shoppers eyed pricey rice and flour imported from neighboring Colombia. "They also sell boots, trousers, gloves and masks." The bulk of PDVSA's roughly 150,000 workers make from $35 to $150 a month plus some $90 dollars in food tickets, as calculated at the black market exchange rate. It is still more than many Venezuelans, but not enough, employees say. "Sometimes we let the kids sleep in until noon to save on breakfast," said a maintenance worker who works on the shores of Maracaibo Lake, Venezuela's traditional oil-producing area near the Colombian border. He said he has lost five kilos (11 lb) this year because of scrimping on food. The toll of the economic crisis is fueling worker disillusionment, absenteeism, and a brain drain and is hurting efficiency in the industry which produces more than 90 percent of Venezuela's export revenue. "Most of us aren't as productive as we used to be, because we're more focused on how to survive economically," said the maintenance worker, speaking on condition of anonymity as he said he feared reprisals. That adds to a wide array of problems caused by a cash shortfall - from underinvestment and part shortages to poor maintenance, theft and insufficient imports for blending. As a result, the OPEC member's oil output tumbled this year, dealing another blow to the unpopular government of leftist President Nicolas Maduro, already under pressure due to low international oil prices. (Graphic: http://tmsnrt.rs/2doEN3w) PDVSA [PDVSA.UL], which did not respond to a request for comment for this story, says its employees are happy and state television regularly shows crowds of cheering PDVSA workers in red overalls. The company talks of a right-wing media campaign to discredit late leader Hugo Chavez's "21st century Socialism." "While PDVSA does not escape the (oil) price situation, its workforce remains intact and ready to generate initiatives to boost major projects," it said recently. BARTERING TO EAT In Ciudad Ojeda, a hot oil town that hugs the shores of Lake Maracaibo, food lines and shuttered shops dot the city of roughly 92,000 and, for the first time, the opposition-led mayor's office is organizing soup kitchens. A former PDVSA worker, who quit earlier this year because he could earn more driving a taxi, said that over the past months he sold four overalls and one pair of boots to feed his three children. He bartered another pair of boots for meat. He also sold his furniture, including his dining table, to buy food. Further north at the massive Paraguana refining center, a mechanic and a father of two, recently offloaded new boots for roughly $7 - "cheap, so I could sell quickly and get food." Despite their anger, workers say they are scared to protest. Since Chavez opponents tried to oust him by shutting down the oil industry in a months-long strike that started in 2002, stoppages are considered sabotage. Oil workers duck out of work to stand in food lines, and people at the Petrocedeno oil upgrader in eastern Venezuela say rowdy company cafeteria queues now start an hour before lunch as workers jostle before food runs out. Maduro blames these shortages on U.S.-backed businessmen he says are hoarding products to torpedo his government, an argument that still resounds with some workers. "The situation is tough because of the 'economic war'," said PDVSA cook Moraima Reyes in Paraguana. "That's why we're defending the revolution more than ever." But many speak of leaving PDVSA or Venezuela altogether, joining a brain drain that has seen professionals flock to Colombia, Spain or Panama. "What's the point of working? It's impossible to have a good quality of life," a former automation specialist at PDVSA said in a phone interview. Last year he moved to the United States, where he has to hold several jobs, including in a restaurant and a car dealership. "I have no regrets. Whatever it takes to escape Venezuela's communism." (Additional reporting by Mircely Guanipa in Barcelona; Editing by Simon Webb and Tomasz Janowski)
- Yahoo News
Fresh off his inauguration Wednesday, President Biden began his term with executive orders on measures ranging from curbing the coronavirus pandemic to addressing racial inequality, many of which roll back measures enacted by former President Donald Trump’s administration.
- Yahoo News
Republicans built up QAnon backer Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, but now are they afraid of what they created?
On the eve of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the combative Georgia Republican known for her association with QAnon, was back on Twitter after a 12-hour suspension, and back to making waves.
- CBS News
Vice presidents since Vice President Walter Mondale have been living in the residence at the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C.
- The Week
One of former President Donald Trump's last acts in office was issuing a directive extending free Secret Service protection to his four adult children and two of their spouses for the next six months, three people with knowledge of the matter told The Washington Post.It's not just his adult children benefiting — Trump also directed that former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, and former National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien continue to receive Secret Service protection for six months, two people familiar with the matter told the Post. This 24-hour security, funded by taxpayer money, is expected to cost millions.Under federal law, only Trump, former first lady Melania Trump, and their 14-year-old son, Barron, are entitled to Secret Service protection now that they have left the White House; while Donald and Melania can receive protection for the rest of their lives, Barron is only entitled to it up until his 16th birthday.The Post notes that presidents have the ability to order Secret Service protection for anyone they want, but it is extremely unusual for an outgoing president to order this type of security for their children who are well into adulthood. It is also unclear if there is precedent for ordering security for former aides. Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush requested security extensions for their daughters, who were in college when their presidencies ended. Once former President Barack Obama was out of office, his daughters — one in high school, the other on a gap year from college — received a short extension of security.During Trump's presidency, his adult children took more than 4,500 trips, including vacations and business travel for the Trump Organization, the Post reports. Taxpayers paid millions of dollars for Secret Service agents to accompany them on those jaunts.More stories from theweek.com The Proud Boys and QAnon conspiracists are starting to dump Trump Bernie Sanders steals the inauguration with his grumpy chic outfit Biden tells new White House hires he'll fire them 'on the spot' if they disrespect colleagues or constituents
Capt. Scott Moss, who led the NOSC in Knoxville, was relieved of command by Capt. Dale Maxey.
- The Independent
Former first lady seemed delighted to greet members of the Biden family
Russian forces have killed a Chechen separatist guerrilla commander believed to have been involved in a deadly bombing at Moscow's Domodedovo airport in 2011, authorities said on Wednesday. Aslan Byutukayev was one of six militants killed during a special operation in the village of Katyr-Yurt, about 1,500 km (930 miles) south of Moscow, Chechen regional leader Ramzan Kadyrov said. Byutukayev is supected of being behind a bombing that killed nearly 40 people in the arrivals hall of Domodedovo airport in 2011.
- Architectural Digest
Mercedes-Benz’s Hyperscreen, General Motors’ Bright Drop, and Jeep’s Electric Wrangler were among the unveils that turned headsOriginally Appeared on Architectural Digest
- Associated Press
China imposed sanctions on nearly 30 former Trump administration officials moments after they left office on Wednesday. In a statement released just minutes after President Joe Biden was inaugurated, Beijing slapped travel bans and business restrictions on Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, national security adviser Robert O’Brien and U.N. ambassador, Kelly Craft. Others covered by the sanctions include Trump’s economic adviser Peter Navarro; his top diplomat for Asia, David Stilwell; health and human services secretary, Alex Azar; along with former national security adviser John Bolton and strategist Stephen Bannon.
- Yahoo News Video
Alejandro Mayorkas, President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to head the Department of Homeland Security, said during his Senate confirmation hearing that he would execute Biden’s plan to stop building the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Mayorkas also said that CBP and ICE play “critical roles” in the federal government and that he wouldn’t abolish them.
Marine F-35B Joint Strike Fighter aircraft and the Navy destroyer The Sullivans will deploy as part of the strike group.
President Biden warned dozens of staffers and appointees Wednesday to treat everyone with respect, or else “I will fire you on the spot.” What he's saying: Everyone, regardless of their background, is "entitled to be treated with decency and dignity. That’s been missing in a big way the last four years," Biden said at the virtual swearing-in ceremony for incoming administrators. "I expect you to do that for all the folks you deal with."Get smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here. * "I’m not joking when I say this: If you’re ever working with me and I hear you treat another colleague with disrespect, talk down to someone, I promise you I will fire you on the spot," he added. "On the spot. No ifs or buts." * He also emphasized that as government officials, they work for the people.The big picture: Biden's comments reinforce his vision of unity and equity for the U.S. as expressed in his inauguration address earlier in the day — starting with his very own administration. What to watch: Biden signed an order on Wednesday launching a "whole-of-government" initiative designed to root out systemic racism and prioritize equity across the federal government.Go deeper: Biden embarks on a consequential presidencyBe smart: sign up FREE for the most influential newsletter in America.
- The Telegraph
South Korean president under fire for saying adoptive parents should be able to 'change' their child
Children’s rights groups in South Korea have condemned comments by President Moon Jae-in suggesting that adoptive parents who do not get along with a child should be able to “change” it for another one. Mr Moon was responding to a question at a press conference on Monday about the government’s efforts to prevent child abuse in light of the death late last year of a 16-month-old girl, allegedly at the hands of her adoptive parents. The case has provoked outrage in South Korea, with the adopted mother of Jung-in charged with murder on January 13. The woman, identified only by her family name, Jang, was originally charged with fatal child abuse and neglect in December. Commenting on the case, Mr Moon said, “Even after adoption, the adoptive parents need to check if the adoption is working out for them. So there should be measures allowing them to cancel the adoption or, if they still want to adopt a child, then they should be able to change the child." The press conference, which was being broadcast live on national television, triggered an immediate response, with critics saying the president was suggesting that children were “goods” that could be returned for a refund. Groups representing adoptees and parents who have given homes to children staged a protest in front of the presidential Blue House the same day, demanding an apology from the president and changes to the system of adoptions in Korea. “Mr Moon’s comments are no different from those of adoption agencies, who treat adoption as a business," Jeon Young-soon, head of an association of parents, told The Korea Herald. Na Kyung-won, a member of the opposition People Power Party, also condemned the president’s comments, saying, “For adopted children, the horrific ordeal is being abandoned again by their adoptive parents. Mr Moon has made a serious error." A petition has also been started on the president’s website, stating, “Adoption is not like shopping for a child. When people have made up their minds to care for a child for his or her whole life, they adopt the child with love that is beyond comparison”. Government officials insist the president’s comments have been misunderstood and taken out of context. South Korea traditionally has low levels of domestic adoption, in part due to the importance of blood relations and the stigma attached to children born out of wedlock. Many Korean children find adoptive parents overseas.
Beijing is touting a state programme that gives Taiwanese in China priority for COVID-19 vaccines, prompting concern within Taiwan's government which sees it as the latest Chinese tool to win over the island's population. China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory, is making the free-of-charge offer at a time when the democratic island has yet to begin vaccinations of its own, with Chinese government departments and state media quoting Taiwanese in China in support of the programme. "This shows the mainland's warmth and affection towards us," a Taiwanese teacher surnamed Wang was quoted as saying in a post this month by China's United Front Work Department, which is in charge of co-opting overseas Chinese and non-communists.
- The Week
Biden urges unity in inaugural speech: 'Politics doesn't have to be a raging fire destroying everything in its path'
President Biden returned to a recurring theme Wednesday after he was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, calling for unity in his inaugural address."Let's start afresh," Biden said. "Let's begin to listen to one another again. Hear one another. See one another. Show respect to one another."He then added that politics "doesn't have to be a raging fire destroying everything in its path" and that while he understands many Americans "view the future with fear and trepidation," the "answer is not to turn inward, to retreat into competing factions ... We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts." > President Biden: "Politics doesn't have to be a raging fire destroying everything in its path. Every disagreement doesn't have to be a cause for total war. And we must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated, and even manufactured." https://t.co/1LntlB7T7E pic.twitter.com/Wb8GD7qL3U> > -- CBS News (@CBSNews) January 20, 2021> US President Joe Biden: "We must end this uncivil war, that pits red against blue" | https://t.co/PhIqa0n91w pic.twitter.com/gPeKpKBgVG> > -- RTÉ News (@rtenews) January 20, 2021More stories from theweek.com The Proud Boys and QAnon conspiracists are starting to dump Trump Bernie Sanders steals the inauguration with his grumpy chic outfit Biden tells new White House hires he'll fire them 'on the spot' if they disrespect colleagues or constituents
- The Independent
Ms Harris is expected to move into the 128-year-old residence once a number of repairs have been made
- The Telegraph
Donald Trump spent his first night as a private citizen settling into his new home at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, where he has reportedly already begun preparing for his upcoming impeachment hearing. Mr Trump’s final engagement in Washington DC as president was attending his farewell at Joint Base Andrews in DC, which was attended only by some 250 of his most loyal aides and supporters. Notably absent were close White House aides and his own vice president Mike Pence. The former president then left for Florida as President Joe Biden was being sworn in, where he received a much warmer welcome. Supporters lined Mr Trump’s route to Mar-a-Lago, waving “Trump 2020” flags and signs reading “welcome home!”, while others screamed “I love you” as his motorcade drove past. Some still refused to accept the results of the election.
- NBC News
The charges say he was one of the first to enter the building, through a door that was opened by a small group that got in by breaking a window.
President-elect Joe Biden is expected to sign 15 executive actions upon taking office Wednesday, immediately reversing key Trump administration policies. Why it matters: The 15 actions — aimed at issues like climate change and immigration — mark more drastic immediate steps compared with the two day-one actions from Biden's four predecessors combined, according to incoming White House press secretary Jen Psaki.Get smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.What they're saying: The actions are the first of many, Psaki said in a news release, as Biden works "to address the four crises that he's laid out" — COVID-19, the economic crisis, racial injustice and climate change. * "In the coming days and weeks we will be announcing additional executive actions that confront these challenges and deliver on the President-elect's promises to the American people," Psaki said, "including revoking the ban on military service by transgender Americans, and reversing the Mexico City policy." Highlights * Moving to rejoin Paris Climate Agreement * Asking the Department of Education to extend student loan relief * An executive order to rescind Keystone XL pipeline permit * Rejoining the World Health Organization * Asking the CDC to "immediately" extend eviction restrictions * Reversing Trump's travel ban on several Muslim-majority countries * Temporarily halting oil and gas leasing in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge * An initiative on advancing racial equity in federal policymakingGo deeper: See the full listSupport safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
- The Telegraph
Eric Trump says he will 'never forget Buckingham Palace' as family seen in tears at farewell ceremony
Eric Trump said he will "never forget Buckingham Palace" as he looked back on his father's four years in office after a tearful farewell ceremony. The president's second eldest son said it had been the honour of his life to have had a "front row seat to the most remarkable and consequential presidencies in American history". He went on to enumerate his father's achievements in office, listing his tax cuts, support for the second Amendment and Middle East peace deals. He singled out his visit to the UK, which included a State banquet hosted by the Queen in 2019. "I will never forget Buckingham Palace and the beaches of Normandy," he said in a tweet. "It's truly a journey I will never forget," he said.