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7.1 million Venezuelans vote in opposition referendum

Published: Sunday, July 16, 2017 @ 12:02 AM
Updated: Sunday, July 16, 2017 @ 12:02 AM


            Opposition members shout slogans against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro as they waits for the results of a of a symbolic referendum in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, July 16, 2017. Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans lined up across the country and in expatriate communities around the world Sunday to vote in a symbolic rejection of President Maduro's plan to rewrite the constitution, a proposal that's raising tensions in a nation battered by shortages and anti-government protests. (AP Photo/Jesus Hernandez)
Opposition members shout slogans against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro as they waits for the results of a of a symbolic referendum in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, July 16, 2017. Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans lined up across the country and in expatriate communities around the world Sunday to vote in a symbolic rejection of President Maduro's plan to rewrite the constitution, a proposal that's raising tensions in a nation battered by shortages and anti-government protests. (AP Photo/Jesus Hernandez)

Venezuelan's opposition said more than 7.1 million people responded to its call to vote Sunday in a symbolic rejection of President Nicolas Maduro's plan to rewrite the constitution, a proposal that has raised tensions in a nation suffering through widespread shortages and months of anti-government protests.

A 61-year-old woman was killed and four people wounded by gunfire that erupted after government supporters on motorcycles swarmed an opposition polling site in a church in the traditionally pro-government Catia neighborhood of western Caracas.

Analysts said the vote for the opposition across Venezuela and the country's far-flung diaspora was an impressive show of support. However, it fell short of the opposition's 7.7 million-vote showing in 2015 legislative elections and the 7.5 million votes that brought Maduro to power in 2013. Opposition leaders said that was because it was only able to set up 2,000 polling places in a largely symbolic exercise that the government labeled as illegitimate. Still, some supporters said they were disappointed.

"I thought it was going to be more," said Mariela Arana, a 56-year-old school counselor. "But these seven million people spoke and it was plenty."

David Smilde, a Tulane University expert on Venezuela, said Sunday's results would likely rally the international community even more strongly against the July 30 vote Maduro has called to elect members of the assembly that will retool Venezuela's 1999 constitution.

The opposition says that vote has been structured to pack the constitutional assembly with government supporters and allow Maduro to eliminate the few remaining checks on his power, creating a Cuba-style system dominated by his socialist party.

Canada and Mexico were among the countries that issued statements Sunday evening lauding the opposition vote.

"Overall this vote, I think, makes it difficult for the government to just proceed as planned," Smilde said. "I think it's going to embolden the international community to reject it."

Late Sunday Foreign Minister Samuel Moncada said on Twitter that he was declaring former Mexican President Vicente Fox persona non grata and banning him from the country for conspiring to promote violence and foreign intervention. Fox traveled to Venezuela Saturday with a group of Latin American former presidents to show support for the opposition referendum. Moncada offered no evidence to support his accusations.

The day was marred by violence when pro-government paramilitary groups attacked voters outside the Our Lady of Carmen Church around 3 p.m., according to the opposition mayor of the Caracas borough of Sucre, Carlos Ocariz. The chief prosecutor's office said Xiomara Soledad Scott, a nurse, had been killed and four others wounded in the incident.

Video posted to social media showed massive crowds outside the church, then hundreds of people running in panic outside the church as motorcycle-riding men zoomed past and shots rang out.

Maduro made no mention of the incident in comments on state television shortly after the official close of opposition polls at 4 p.m., but he called for an end to violence that he blamed on the opposition.

"I'm calling on the opposition to return to peace, to respect for the constitution, to sit and talk," Maduro said. "Let's start a new round of talks, of dialogue for peace."

In what appeared to be smaller numbers in many parts of the capital, government supporters went to polling stations in a rehearsal for the July 30 vote.

"Our president Chavez supported the poor, the people," said Yveth Melendez, a 41-year-old homemaker waiting outside a school in the south Caracas neighborhood of El Valle, a stronghold of government support that has been weakening in recent years. "Today we're following his legacy, with President Nicolas Maduro ... The constitutional assembly is something that benefits the people."

At an opposition site nearby, Juan Madriz, a 45-year-old insurance company employee, said he didn't object to rewriting the constitution per se, but rejected Maduro's decision to do so without putting that decision to a vote, as his predecessor Hugo Chavez did.

"If they're forcing us, it isn't democracy," Madriz said.

Isabel Santander, a 67-year-old retired auditor, said she was voting against the constitutional assembly as a protest against the country's economic collapse.

"I signed because there's no medicine, no food, no security," she said. "There's no separation of powers, no freedom of expression."

Maduro and the military dominate most state institutions but the opposition controls the congress and holds three of 23 governorships. The country's chief prosecutor has recently broken with the ruling party.

The opposition called backers to 2,000 sites across the country to fill out ballots featuring three yes-or-no questions. Do they reject the constitutional assembly? Do they want the armed forces to back congress? Do they support the formation of a government comprised both of Maduro backers and opponents?

Opponents of Venezuela's government blame it for turning one of the region's most prosperous countries into an economic basket case with a shrinking economy, soaring inflation and widespread shortages. The government blames the crisis on an economic war waged by its opponents and outside backers. The petroleum-rich nation has been hit hard by falling world oil prices.

Clashes between protesters and police have left at least 93 people dead, 1,500 wounded and more than 500 behind bars.

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Fabiola Sanchez on Twitter: https://twitter.com/fisanchezn

Michael Weissenstein on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mweissenstein

Want better sleep? Cut down on binge-watching, study suggests

Published: Tuesday, August 15, 2017 @ 4:44 PM

It's important to get a good night's sleep, and these eight tips will help you catch some serious Z's. Powder down electronics Block the clock Beds are for sleep Avoid caffeine Eat right before bed No pets allowed

Love to binge-watch? Be cautious, because tuning in to your favorite shows for hours at a time could contribute to poor quality of sleep, according to new research

Scientists from the University of Leuven in Belgium conducted a study to determine the link between television viewing habits and quality of sleep. 

To do so, they handed out a survey to 423 people ages 18 to 25. The questionnaire was designed to record symptoms of insomnia and fatigue and the amount of time participants spend watching TV. 

On average, a binge-watching session lasted for three hours and eight minutes, and 52 percent of respondents viewed three to four episodes in a single sitting. 

After analyzing the data, researchers found that binge-watchers had more symptoms of fatigue, insomnia and greater alertness right before bed. Additionally, binge-watchers were more likely to have a poorer quality of sleep compared to non binge-watchers.

"The narrative structure that characterizes “bingeable” television shows involves a larger number of more diverse storylines that extend beyond one episode...As such, the narrative complexity in these shows leaves viewers thinking about episodes and their sequel after viewing them,” the study said. "This prolongs sleep onset or, in other words, requires a longer period to “cool down” before going to sleep, thus affecting sleep overall.”

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Scientists, however, did note their study did not factor in the different types of television content and television viewing behavior, which could introduce further variables.

“It would be interesting to study whether, for instance, relaxing media content does the opposite,” the study said. 

In the meantime, analysts believe there is one primary way to combat poor sleep caused by binge-watching. They suggest that streaming services allow users to set their “optimal viewing duration” beforehand. 

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An American tourist gave the Nazi salute in Germany - so a stranger beat him up, police say

Published: Sunday, August 13, 2017 @ 3:10 PM



German Federal Archives/Bundesarchiv
(German Federal Archives/Bundesarchiv)

An American tourist in Germany was beaten up by a passerby after he began giving the Nazi salute outside a cafe in Dresden, police said Sunday.

The incident occurred about 8:15 a.m. Saturday as the man left a cafe called Europe in the Neustadt district of Dresden, police said in a statement. The district is known to be a liberal part of the town and a popular meeting spot for students.

The tourist was identified only as a 41-year-old American man who was "severely drunk," according to police. He suffered minor injuries, while the stranger who assailed him fled the scene, police said.

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Police said the U.S. national is under investigation for violating German laws prohibiting Nazi symbols and that they are still seeking the passerby for causing personal injury, according to the Associated Press.

The Nazi salute - the right arm straight and angled slightly up, palm down - was used as a greeting and a way of expressing devotion to Adolf Hitler under the Third Reich. Germany outlawed the salute after World War II, along with Holocaust denial and other symbols and signals associated with the Nazis. A conviction can carry a prison sentence of up to three years, although courts often impose fines instead.

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The Dresden incident occurred just a week after two Chinese tourists were detained for giving Nazi salutes outside Berlin's Reichstag, once home to the Imperial Diet. The two tourists were fined nearly $600 each but were permitted to leave the country with their tour group, police said. Similarly, a 30-year-old Canadian tourist was detained in 2011 after being photographed giving the Nazi salute outside the Reichstag. He, too, got off with a fine.

Germany is not the only European country to ban the salute. Earlier this month, Switzerland's Supreme Court upheld the conviction of a man who appeared in 2013 photos making the Nazi salute outside a Geneva synagogue.

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The Washington Post's Isaac Stanley-Becker contributed to this report.

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Hungry sea lice likely attacked, bloodied teen's legs at Australian beach

Published: Monday, August 07, 2017 @ 3:20 AM
Updated: Monday, August 07, 2017 @ 3:59 AM

Hungry Sea Lice Likely Attacked, Bloodied Teen's Legs At Australian Beach

An Australian teen is recovering after tiny creatures – likely sea lice – attacked his legs at a beach in Brighton, a Melbourne suburb.

According to a report by the Guardian and the Australian Associated Press, 16-year-old Sam Kanizay of Melbourne went to the beach Saturday to soak his legs after a soccer game. But when he got out of the water 30 minutes later, his legs were numb, bloody and "covered in what his family said were tiny marine creatures eating his legs," the article said.

Sam's father, Jarrod Kanizay, took Sam to the hospital for the wounds, which the teen described to 3AW as "hundreds of little pin-sized bites" on his feet and ankles.

"There was a massive pool of blood on the floor," Jarrod Kanizay said, adding that "no one" at the hospital "knows what the creatures are." 

Marine experts say parasitic sea lice may be to blame.

>> Read more trending news

"They're scavengers who'll clean up dead fish and feed on living tissue," University of Melbourne marine biologist Michael Keough told The Age. "They're mostly less than a centimeter long, and so the bites they make are pretty small, and so that's more consistent with pinprick size marks."

He added: "It's just food for them. Especially if he's been standing around for a long time, it's the chance for more of them to come in and start biting. Just be attracted to a little bit of blood. And if he's standing in the water and he's cold and may not notice a whole lot of little bites."

University of New South Wales Associate Professor Alistair Poore, an authority on marine invertebrates, echoed the sentiment.

"If it is sea lice, then it is a pretty dramatic example of it," he told the Guardian.

In an effort to solve the mystery, Jarrod Kanizay said he returned to the spot where his son was attacked and caught some of the creatures using a net filled with meat. He then recorded the creatures eating the meat in a now-viral – and nauseating – video.

>> See the clip here (WARNING: Graphic content.)

Read more here or here.

Sea Lice and the Rash They Cause

Vladimir Putin bares chest, goes spearfishing

Published: Saturday, August 05, 2017 @ 8:40 AM

Vladimir Putin - Fast Facts

Russian president Vladimir Putin took a short vacation to begin August, heading to Tuva in southern Siberia to fish, swim and catch some rays.

In images and footage released by Russian state television, Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu can be seen enjoying the outdoors, The Associated Press reports. Putin is seen swimming and fishing, including spending two hours hunting a pike while spearfishing.

>> Read more trending news

Most of the images of Putin feature him bare-chested, except for the photos where Putin dons a wetsuit.

Putin is known for his love of adventure and the outdoors, and has taken active vacations since becoming Russia's president, The Associated Press reports.

In this photo released by Kremlin press service on Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin holds a fish he caught while fishing during a mini-break in the Siberian Tyva region, a few days ago.(Alexei Nikolsky/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)