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Sam Smith and Dua Lipa to perform with Calvin Harris at the BRIT Awards

Columbia RecordsIt’ll be a collision of talent on stage at this year’s BRIT Awards, the British equivalent of the Grammys.

Calvin Harris will be performing with not one, not two, but three of the artists he’s recently released collaborations with: Sam Smith, Dua Lipa and Rag ‘n Bone Man.  It’ll be Calvin’s debut performance on the awards show.

Dua will perform “One Kiss” with Calvin, while Sam will sing “Promises.”  Rag ‘n Bone Man, who had a big hit in 2016 with “Human,” will perform his new Calvin collab “Giant.”  Calvin, Dua and Sam are all nominated for BRITS this year.

The 2019 BRITS will take place February 20 at the O2 in London.

Dua is also nominated for several Grammy Awards, which take place February 10 in Los Angeles.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Ariana Grande reveals new album cover…and she’s still upside down

Republic RecordsAfter unveiling her thank u, next track list ahead of schedule yesterday, Ariana Grande has now revealed the album cover.

Much like her Sweetener cover, this one also features an upside-down photo of Ari. But there’s a key difference this time around.

“she still upside-down. but this time she kinda ……… f**** w it lol,” she explained in a tweet.

In the pic, a seemingly topless Ari hugs herself while sporting a fierce cat eye and a vampy dark lip. The words “thank u, next” are painted across her neck and chest.

“this is my fav album cover i think,” she wrote. “…made with tru, deep friendship and love. just like this music.”

The new album, featuring the title track as well as new single “7 Rings,” comes out February 8. That’s just six months after her previous release, Sweetener.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Gwen Stefani reveals inspirations behind new eyewear line

Todd StefaniGwen Stefani wants to improve your view.

The singer has come out with a new line of sunglasses and glasses for her “L.A.M.B. and gx by Gwen Stefani” line of eyewear. Gwen tells Entertainment Tonight what inspired her latest collection.

“I have been a huge fan of sunglasses forever and been so blessed through my lifetime [by] people sending me sunglasses,” she says. “It shows exactly what kind of personality and style [you have] when you’re wearing sunglasses.”

She adds, “But then when I started doing eyewear finally, it was right when I started needing glasses, so I was like, ‘What would I wear if I had to wear glasses?'”

Gwen also credits her 10-year-old son Zuma, who wears glasses, with giving his own input, and says spending time with boyfriend Blake Shelton in his home state also influenced her designs.

“I’ve always done stuff that reflected my mood or where I was at in my life,” she says.

“And I think that even though the last five or three years my style has changed so much just being [reflective] of my own personal journey, and where I’m at,” she adds. “Spending time in Oklahoma or being on The Voice or being in Vegas now. All those things reflect whatever I’m wearing.”

As for whether she has any music in the works, Gwen says she wants to create new songs, but she isn’t quite sure what she wants to say just yet.

Her Las Vegas residency Just a Girl returns to Planet Hollywood next month.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


D’Arcy Carden teases season finale of ‘The Good Place’, final season of ‘Broad City’

Michael Priest Photography(NEW YORK) — D’Arcy Carden is in a good place…pun intended.

The actress has been all over your TV screens as of late, with her most recognizable role being Siri-in-human-form Janet, on NBC’s hit afterlife comedy The Good Place.

Carden had a breakout season on the show, which airs its third season finale Thursday night. And the actress promises that, much like seasons past, this finale will blow fans’ minds.

“I think that’s a great tease…like, if history proves anything, [creator] Mike Schur and those writers love a twist,” she told ABC Radio ahead of her talk at the 92nd Street Y in New York City last Friday. “…We really sort of thrive on the mysteriousness and the unpredictability of this show.”

And fans thrive on Carden’s ability to make even Janet’s most emotionless lines hilarious — not to mention her knack for imitating her co-stars perfectly, as she showed in the stand-out episode “Janet(s).” Her performance drew comparisons to Tatiana Maslany’s multi-character portrayal in Orphan Black.

“I’m such a fan of hers…let’s keep talking about how we should do something together so that maybe we can,” Carden said.

In addition to The Good Place, which was renewed for a fourth season, Carden also appears on HBO’s Barry and Comedy Central’s Broad City, which returns for its final season Thursday night as well. She plays fitness instructor Gemma on the series, created by her longtime pals Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer.

“The final season is incredible,” Carden said. “All the crazy characters come back, if [only] for a second. I would do anything for these girls. I’ve known them for 10 years and truly, if they say, ‘Jump,’ I say, ‘How high?'”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Anne Hathaway forgot her ‘Serenity’ lines because she got lost in co-star Matthew McConaughey’s eyes

ABC(NEW YORK) — Anne Hathaway has an Oscar and a slew of movies under her belt, but she never faced a scene partner like Matthew McConaughey. Specifically, she tells Good Morning America that she’s never faced a face like his.

Although she says her fellow Academy Award-winner is “like a brother to her,” she admits McConaughey is so good-looking that she once forgot her lines while filming their new thriller Serenity.

“I’m looking at him, nobody is talking, and I go, ‘Oh, it’s my line. Why did I forget my line? Because you’re handsome!'” Hathaway said on GMA, laughing. “I was just staring at him and I forgot my line because he looked like a fragrance model, which — then of course it occurred to me — he is.”

McConaughey has appeared in ads for Dolce & Gabbana’s fragrances.

In Serenity, Hathaway plays the ex-wife of McConaughey, a fishing boat captain.  She asks him to save her and their young son from her new, violent husband by taking the husband out to sea and literally throwing him to the sharks.

“I don’t really get offered things like this, to play a part like this,” she said.

 On GMA, Hathaway praised McConaughey for his true character and off-screen authenticity.

“I hope you all appreciate this — it’s all real,” she told the audience.

“It’s not like he’s doing a ‘Matthew McConaughey voice’ or telling a Matthew McConaughey story,” she continued. “That’s actually who he is, and to see someone be able to live his life with that much integrity as he does, as deep a family man as he is do his job with as much integrity as he [does], it’s left a big impression on me because I hope to do that same.”

Serenity opens Friday.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ director Bryan Singer calls new sexual misconduct allegations part of a “homophobic” writer’s “smear piece”

Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic(LOS ANGELES) — The movie he was largely responsible for has earned five Oscar nominations, but instead of celebrating, Bohemian Rhapsody director Bryan Singer is denying new sexual allegations against him.

The Atlantic published a piece in which multiple men claimed to have had sexual contact with the X-Men director when they were under than the age of consent.

Singer has issued a statement to ABC News via his lawyer which begins by referencing an earlier denial of similar allegations.

“The last time I posted about this subject, Esquire magazine was preparing to publish an article written by a homophobic journalist who has a bizarre obsession with me dating back to 1997,” Singer says. “After careful fact-checking and, in consideration of the lack of credible sources, Esquire chose not to publish this piece of vendetta journalism. That didn’t stop this writer from selling it to The Atlantic.”

Singer’s statement continues, “It’s sad that The Atlantic would stoop to this low standard of journalistic integrity. Again, I am forced to reiterate that this story rehashes claims from bogus lawsuits filed by a disreputable cast of individuals willing to lie for money or attention.”

He concludes, “It is no surprise that, with Bohemian Rhapsody being an award-winning hit, this homophobic smear piece has been conveniently timed to take advantage of its success.”

In 2017, a man named Cesar Sanchez-Guzman sued Singer, claiming he raped him in 2003, when Sanchez-Guzman was 17. Singer denied the accusations. The case is still pending.

Singer was fired from Bohemian Rhapsody two weeks before the scheduled end of shooting on Bohemian Rhapsody over what the studio called “unexplained absences.” After a hiatus in filming, actor/director Dexter Fletcher took the reins, but due to union regulations, Singer remains the only credited director on the project.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Patriots owner Robert Kraft prays for one more season with Tom Brady

ABC News(NEW YORK) — New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is Super Bowl bound for the 10th time in his 25-year tenure, but with one game between the Pats and a sixth NFL title, he’s holding onto the winning attitude he’s had since day one.

He also had a message amid some recent controversy: “I love the refs,” he said in an exclusive interview on ABC News’ Good Morning America Wednesday, noting with a strategic smile that he’s still got one more game left in the season.

As the Patriots prepare to take on the Los Angeles Rams in Atlanta, Kraft said that despite what happened with the blown pass interference call that cost the Saints a trip to SB53, he thinks the referees “actually do a great job.”

“I’ll tell you in our game in K.C., there were a number of controversial calls that they had to get right and they got them all right,” he said. “They have a tough job.”

“In life, I learned things happen, nothing is perfect. No excuses, you make it happen, you do your best,” Kraft said on GMA. “We have human errors sometimes, but we have to move on. And it’s unfortunate, and we have to be diligent about trying to get it corrected.”

This week marks the 25th anniversary of Kraft’s then-NFL record $175 million purchase of the Patriots in 1994, and at the time he vowed to turn them into league champions.

“My objective in doing this is to help bring a championship to New England,” he said in his first press conference as the owner.

Kraft has clearly surpassed his goal and become by far the most successful franchise in the league during his time at the helm with five Super Bowl championships in 10 appearances.

Nine of Kraft’s trips to the Super Bowl have been with head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, who Kraft said despite changes in physical appearance is still the exact same player he drafted 19 years ago.

“The thing that’s most impressive to me, he is still the same guy that he was when he came out of Michigan and I met him, that skinny beanpole coming down the steps with that great physique,” Kraft joked about the QB’s slim stature.

“He’s the same person today as he was when he was fourth on the depth chart back there in 2000,” Kraft said.

Kraft added that when his wife passed away nearly eight years ago, Brady “was there for me in a way only my sons were.”

All that to say, he would do anything to keep Brady, 41, around for another season.

“Once you have good people, the trick is to try to have continuity,” Kraft said. “But please God, one more season that Tommy and Bill Belichick, who are the best at what they do in my opinion, will be with us for 20 years — two decades.”

The team is headed back to the championship this year after falling short to the Philadelphia Eagles in their Super Bowl appearance last year.

But Kraft is confident that Brady’s leadership, hard work and “selflessness” is the “key” to continuing the team’s winning culture on Super Bowl Sunday.

“In anything in life the key is getting good people around you and creating a culture where everyone is open to disagree, but keep it in the family, which is hard sometimes, especially in the business that’s so public,” Kraft said.

As for any outside factors that could shake the team — like a fan who attempted to shine a laser pointer at Brady during the AFC Championship game on Sunday — Kraft said he is “laser focused.”

“I just hear the word laser and I think of Tommy and his eyes — he was laser focused, and so whatever it was, I think it was a positive influence,” he said. “But I think part of the security check has to be sure those kinds of things don’t happen.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Australian Open: Serena Williams ousted by Karolina Pliskova in quarterfinals

Fred Lee/Getty Images(MELBOURNE, Australia) — Serena Williams’ quest to win her eighth Australian Open title and 24th Grand Slam tournament has come to an end.

The 37-year-old American tennis star fell to the Czech Republic’s Karolina Pliskova in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open Wednesday, despite having match point four times. Williams lost 6-4, 4-6, 7-5.

“I can’t say that I choked on those match points,” Williams told reporters after the match.

“She literally played her best tennis ever on those shots,” she added, referring to Pliskova, the No. 7 seed in the world.

Pliskova will now move on to face Japan’s Naomi Osaka, the No. 4 seed, in the semifinals of the Australian Open.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Scoreboard roundup — 1/22/19

iStock(NEW YORK) — Here are the scores from Tuesday’s sports events:

Toronto 120, Sacramento 105
Oklahoma City 123, Portland 114
Dallas 106, L.A. Clippers 98
Minnesota 118, Phoenix 91

OT San Jose 7, Washington 6
Arizona 3, Ottawa 2
SO Chicago 3, NY Islanders 2
Detroit 3, Edmonton 2
OT Calgary 3, Carolina 2

(2) Duke 79, Pittsburgh 64
(3) Virginia 68, Wake Forest 45
(5) Michigan 59, Minnesota 57
(8) Kentucky 76, (22) Mississippi St. 55
Kansas St. 58, (14) Texas Tech 45
N. Illinois 77, (15) Buffalo 75
South Carolina 80, (16) Auburn 77
(18) Villanova 80, Butler 72
Alabama 74, (20) Mississippi 53

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Extremist-related killings in 2018 ‘overwhelmingly linked to right-wing’ movements: ADL

ChiccoDodiFC/iStock(NEW YORK) — At least 50 people were killed at the hands of domestic extremists in 2018, an increase of 35 percent from the previous year, a new report from the Anti-Defamation League has found.

That total makes 2018 the fourth deadliest year for extremist killings since 1970, and 2018 also saw the highest percentage of right-wing extremist-related killings since 2012, according to the ADL.

The report from the ADL, a Jewish organization focused on fighting anti-Semitism, claims that in 2018, “every single extremist killing — from Pittsburgh to Parkland — had a link to right-wing extremism.” The group details the alleged ties — ranging from white supremacist and racist or misogynistic or Nazi ties — of some suspects that ABC News had not previously reported on or confirmed.

However, some of the incidents the ADL includes have been reported by ABC News as having anti-Semitic motivations or as hate crimes.

One of the deadliest examples on their list is the shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, where 11 people were killed by a man who prosecutors say had “made statements regarding genocide and his desire to kill Jewish people.”

“The white supremacist attack in Pittsburgh should serve as a wake-up call to everyone about the deadly consequences of hateful rhetoric,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement released with the report.

The stabbing of Blaze Bernstein in Orange County, California, the criminal case that includes hate crime charges, is also included on the ADL’s list.

John Cohen, a former counter-terrorism coordinator for the Department of Homeland Security and a current ABC News consultant, said that part of the difficulty in identifying suspects as white supremacists or other types of extremists comes from a shift in the way that individuals choose to associate with such groups. Someone may espouse those views online but hide them from their family and friends, for example.

“It’s difficult to know what’s in someone’s mind,” Cohen said. “In the past, investigative efforts focused on a person’s membership to extremist organizations as an illustration of what their ideological beliefs are. Today, fewer people are actually joining groups and are becoming inspired by what they see online so investigators increasingly are looking at what people put online and their social media footprint to better understand their ideological beliefs.”

Based on the 17 incidents that the ADL included in their report, which resulted in 50 deaths, the group concludes that right-wing extremists killed more people in 2018 than any year since 1995 when the Oklahoma City bombings took place.

“Every one of the perpetrators had ties to at least one right-wing extremist movement, although one had recently switched to supporting Islamist extremism,” the report found.

Additionally, the organization found 42 of the 50 deaths were the result of guns, according to the report.

Cohen said that the report “reaffirms what we’ve been hearing from law enforcement, which is that we are seeing an increase in this country in mass shootings and targeted attacks in which the perpetrator is motivated by some ideological belief or perceived grievance against the victim.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

At least 5 dead in shooting at Florida bank, suspect in custody: Police

Fedorovekb/iStock(SEBRING, Fla.) — At least five people were killed when a gunman opened fire in a SunTrust Bank in Sebring, Florida, on Wednesday, police said.

The 21-year-old suspect, Zephen Xaver, barricaded himself inside before later surrendering to authorities, police said.

The suspect had contacted authorities and told them that he fired shots inside the bank, sending officers rushing to the scene around 12:30 p.m., the Sebring Police Department said.

Negotiations to get the barricaded suspect to leave weren’t successful, police said, so a SWAT team was sent in. Negotiations then continued, police said, and the “suspect eventually surrendered.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis tweeted, “Please continue to keep the victims and their families in your prayers.”

Police said the situation was “confined to the bank and there is no danger to the surrounding area.”

Sebring is located about 90 miles south of Orlando.

SunTrust CEO Bill Rogers said in a statement, “We are deeply saddened by the tragic shooting at our Sebring, Florida branch this afternoon.”

“We are working with officials and dedicating ourselves to fully addressing the needs of all the individuals and families involved,” Rogers said. “Our entire team mourns this terrible loss.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Striking LA teachers return to class as Denver teachers prepare to walk out

Ridofranz/iStock(LOS ANGELES) — Teachers and students in Los Angeles returned to their classrooms on Wednesday after a deal was reached, ending the city’s landmark teacher strike.

Though a deal was reached in Los Angeles, a similar conflict seems set to unfold in Denver as teachers there voted in favor of a strike.

The Denver teachers’ strike can legally start as of Monday, Jan. 28, after 93 percent of unionized teachers voted for the strike on Tuesday night.

“They’re striking for better pay. They’re striking for our profession. And they’re striking for Denver students,” Rob Gould, the union’s lead negotiator, said at a press conference Tuesday, according to The Denver Post.

Those demands echo the ones called for in Los Angeles.

Teachers in California’s most populous city went on strike over teacher pay, class size and funding for school support staff, among other issues.

A deal was reached Tuesday, Jan. 22, which marked the ninth day of the strike that took 30,000 teachers out of classrooms.

The contract that was reached included a 6 percent pay increase and a plan to lower class sizes over the next four years.

The Los Angeles mayor, the schools superintendent and the head of the teachers union announced at a joint news conference Tuesday that a tentative deal was reached, and the member teachers voted on it Tuesday evening, formalizing the deal.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Kim Jong Un praises President Donald Trump and his ‘good personal letter’ ahead of second summit

ronniechua/iStock(WASHINGTON) — Kim Jong Un has received another letter from President Donald Trump, one that prompted the young leader to express “great satisfaction,” according to North Korean state media and confirmed by a senior administration official.

The two leaders have exchanged a series of letters before and after their historic meeting in Singapore last June. Now, the U.S. and North Korea are preparing for a second summit — with Kim and Trump once again communicating directly through letters.

These letters have built a strong rapport between the two men, with Trump at one point saying they led to them falling “in love.”

“I was really being tough, and so was he, and we would go back and forth — and then we fell in love, OK? No, really,” he told supporters at a political rally in West Virginia on Sept. 29. “He wrote me beautiful letters, and they’re great letters. We fell in love.”

Trump’s most recent letter to Kim was hand-delivered by North Korea’s top nuclear negotiator and former spy chief Kim Yong Chol, who met with Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the Oval Office last Friday. It was the first high-level meeting since he abruptly canceled a meeting with Pompeo in early November, leaving talks quiet and at a stalemate.

While Pompeo and his counterpart spent 40 minutes or less together, Kim Yong Chol spent over 90 minutes at the White House with the president. It’s part of a strategy, analysts said, to work directly with Trump, who speaks warmly of Kim.

North Korea has “never written letters like that,” Trump said in early January of another missive. “This is a great letter … We really established a very good relationship. A lot of good things are happening.”

North Korea seemed as pleased with Trump’s most recent response. Korean Central News Agency, the country’s state media, called it a “good personal letter” from Trump, saying Kim “expressed great satisfaction” after reading it.

“He spoke highly of President Trump for expressing his unusual determination and will for the settlement of the issue with a great interest in the second DPRK-U.S. summit,” it added.

Kim also ordered staff to begin making “technical preparations” for that second summit, according to KCNA.

The two leaders are scheduled to meet “near” the end of February, according to the White House — with one U.S. official telling ABC News that Vietnam is the most likely choice.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Green Beret killed in Afghanistan is identified

scyther5/iStock(WASHINGTON) — The Pentagon identified U.S. Army Special Forces Sgt. 1st Class Joshua “Zach” Beale as the U.S. service member who was killed in combat in Afghanistan on Tuesday.

The 32-year-old Green Beret was killed in Afghanistan’s Uruzgan Province while conducting combat operations.

Beale was the second U.S. military death in Afghanistan in a week and in this year.

A statement from the U.S. Army Special Operations Command said that Beale succumbed to wounds sustained from small arms fire. He was assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

“Joshua was a smart, talented and dedicated member of 3rd SFG (A) and the special operations community,” said Col. Nathan Prussian, the commander of the 3rd Special Forces Group. “He will be greatly missed by everyone who had the fortunate opportunity to know him. We extend our deepest condolences to his family for this tragic loss.”

Beale, a native of Carrollton, Virginia, enlisted in the Army in 2011. He graduated from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia in 2008 with a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice.

He is survived by his wife and two children.

Beale was on his third tour of duty in Afghanistan, his fourth overseas deployment overall.

His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star (3rd award), Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, NATO Medal, Overseas Service Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Special Forces Tab, Ranger Tab, Parachutist Badge and Combat Infantry Badge.

Beale was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart and the Meritorious Service Medal. He was posthumously promoted to sergeant first class.

Last Thursday, U.S. Army Ranger Sgt. Cameron Meddock died from injuries he had suffered during a combat action on Jan. 13. Meddock succumbed to his injuries at the U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany where he had been transferred for medical care.

There are currently about 14,000 American troops in Afghanistan, most of whom are serving in an advisory and assist mission helping Afghan security forces in their fight against the Taliban and the Islamic State affiliate in eastern Afghanistan.

ABC News has reported that the Trump administration is planning to halve the number of American troops in Afghanistan sometime this year.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

In escalation of tensions, Trump to recognize Venezuela’s opposition leader as head of government

YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — As Venezuelans commemorated the 61st anniversary of an uprising that saw one of the country’s worst dictators dethroned, U.S. President Donald Trump declared Nicolas Maduro’s presidency “illegitimate” on Wednesday and encouraged other Western Hemisphere countries to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaidó as interim president.

The announcement comes amid some measure of chaos in Venezuala, where people all over the country are taking to the streets to protest Maduro’s presidency — days after his second term in office began following elections that were criticized by Venezuelans and the international community as illegitimate.

In the Oval Office on Wednesday, Trump warned that his administration had “all options” on the table on how to further respond.

“We’re not considering anything, but all options are on the table,” Trump told reporters. “All options, always. All options are on the table.”

Earlier in the day, the White House released a statement by him calling Venezuela’s National Assembly “the only legitimate branch of government duly elected by the Venezuelan people.”

“The people of Venezuela have courageously spoken out against Maduro and his regime and demanded freedom and the rule of law,” the statement said. “We continue to hold the illegitimate Maduro regime directly responsible for any threats it may pose to the safety of the Venezualan people.”

Maduro responded by breaking relations with the U.S. and ordering all American diplomats to leave the country within 72 hours. Given that the U.S. no longer recognizes Maduro’s authority, it is unclear whether they would comply.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but a senior administration official told ABC News, “The order is meaningless.” That could set up a standoff — U.S. diplomats refusing to leave with Maduro’s security forces aiming to push them out.

“Trust me on this one, if Maduro is stupid enough to test @realdonaldtrump by harming any U.S. diplomat, the consequences would be swift & severe,” warned Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, who met with Trump and other Florida lawmakers on Tuesday to discuss Venezuela.

For his part, Guaidó tweeted earlier that as the new acting president, he called on all U.S. diplomats to stay in the country and maintain diplomatic ties. He later tweeted his thanks to Trump, too, writing in Spanish, “On behalf of all Venezuela I thank you for your commitment to support the will of the Venezuelan people.”

About a dozen other countries followed the U.S. lead and also recognized Guaido as the new head of state, including a collection of Western Hemisphere countries known as the Lima Group that includes Canada, Chile, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, and Peru. Mexico was the only member of the Lima Group not to sign a statement of support for Guaidó.

Since Maduro took power after Chavez’s death, Venezuela has experienced a rapid decline in what was already a struggling economy.

Venezuela has been undergoing an unprecedented crisis, with hyperinflation hitting 80,000 percent by the end of 2018, according to Forbes. Since 2014, more than three million people have left the country amid the deepening economic crisis, and food and medicine shortages continue, according to the United Nations.

Maduro’s reign has also been plagued by political oppression and crackdowns on activism and protest activity. More than 12,500 people have been arrested while attending a protest, according to Foro Penal, a Venezuelan human rights watchdog organization.

The U.S. has responded to that crackdown with increasingly-sharp sanctions — even sanctioning Maduro himself. But a senior administration official warned Wednesday that there would be more pressure to come.

“We’ve barely scratched the surface of what actions the United States can take from an economic sanctions front,” the official told reporters during a background briefing, adding, “If they choose the route of violence and seek to usurp the constitutional order and democracy, let us be clear that we have a host of options and we will take every one of those options seriously.”

But the country’s opposition has been emboldened by Guaidó, the new president of the National Assembly who, with only six days in office, said he was ready to become acting president of the country until legitimate elections could be held. He also asked for military support to do so.

Venezuela’s opposition has been broadcasting Wednesday’s planned protests for weeks. In parts of the country, people took to the streets as early as Monday, leading to the arrest of 43 people in just 48 hours.

Alfredo Romero, executive director of Foro Penal, confirmed the arrests to ABC News, adding that some of those detained are injured.

While the crisis in Venezuela has spiraled into chaos in the last several months, Guaidó has emerged as a leader of the opposition after being elected president in December 2018.

The National Assembly voted to declare Maduro illegitimate and remove him from office this month, allowing Guaidó to be chosen as acting head of state.

In his own statement released on Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo already brushed Maduro aside, saying the U.S. will now work with the “new” Venezuelan government on free and fair elections and possibly even to administer aid — something Maduro has blocked the U.S. from doing.

“The Venezuelan people have suffered long enough under Nicolas Maduro’s disastrous dictatorship,” Pompeo’s statement said. “We call on Maduro to step aside in favor of a legitimate leader reflecting the will of the Venezuelan people..”

“We will work closely with the legitimately elected National Assembly to facilitate the transition of Venezuela back to democracy and the rule of law, consistent with the Inter-American Democratic Charter,” he added, calling on the Venezuelan military and security forces “to support democracy and protect all Venezuelan citizens.”

“The new Venezuelan government carries the flame of democracy on behalf of Venezuela. The United States pledges our continued support to President Guaidó, the National Assembly, and the Venezuelan people,” Pompeo concluded.

Trump’s and Pompeo’s declarations come a day after Vice President Mike Pence made a similar statement, addressing the people of Venezuela through a video posted to Twitter.

“Nicolas Maduro is a dictator with no legitimate claim to power,” Pence said in his address. “He has never won the presidency in a free and fair election and has maintained his grip of power by imprisoning anyone who dares to oppose him.”

“The United States joins with all freedom-loving nations in recognizing your National Assembly as the last vestige of democracy in your country, for it is the only body elected by you, the people,” Pence said.

“As such, the United States supports the courageous decision by Juan Guaidó, the President of the National Assembly, to assert that body’s constitutional powers, declare Maduro a usurper, and call for the establishment of a transitional government.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Magic104.9’s Top Tracks







  1. “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran
  2. “Havana” by Camila Cabello feat. Young Thug
  3. “Thunder” by Imagine Dragons
  4. “Bad At Love” by Halsey
  5. “How Long” by Charlie Puth

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