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Celebrated Abroad, Juan Guaidó Faces Critical Test in Venezuela

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BOGOTÁ, Colombia — When the leader of Venezuela’s opposition landed in Caracas this week following a world tour meant to drum up support for regime change, his country’s authoritarian ruler handed him neither an arrest, which would have galvanized supporters, nor the chance for a hero’s welcome at the airport.

Instead, President Nicolás Maduro appeared to greet his rival, Juan Guaidó, with the same policy of slow strangulation that has drained the opposition of much of its momentum over the past year, cracking down on his movement enough to wear down its members, but without going so far as to spur the world to action.

Moments before Mr. Guaidó arrived, Mr. Maduro’s supporters attacked journalists who were there to cover his arrival, punching them and dragging at least one woman by the hair. Once Mr. Guaidó landed, government backers chased him out of the airport, cutting off any plans he had to make a speech, and then attacked his car with traffic cones and at least one metal pole.

And as Mr. Guaidó slipped through, authorities arrested his uncle, accusing him, without presenting evidence, of bringing explosives into the country.

Hours later, Mr. Guaidó stood with a few hundred supporters in a plaza in an opposition stronghold in eastern Caracas and declared victory.

“I defied the dictatorship and I entered the country,” he said. “Venezuela is going to be democratic and free.”

Mr. Guaidó also said he would be announcing the creation of a “Venezuela Fund,” a multilateral program meant to help the country recover from its long and devastating economic crisis.

But he offered no other plan to remove Mr. Maduro. That, along with his chaotic arrival and the growing frustration among his base caused by the glacial pace of change, spoke eloquently about the challenges Mr. Guaidó is facing at home.

On Tuesday, as Mr. Guaidó arrived in Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, Mr. Maduro’s most powerful ally, Diosdado Cabello, mocked the size of the crowd that had come to receive him at the airport and belittled his movement.

Mr. Guaidó issued a direct challenge to Mr. Maduro a year ago, when he pointed to irregularities in Mr. Maduro’s re-election and claimed to be the country’s interim president, earning the support of millions of Venezuelans and dozens of foreign governments, including the United States.

Since then, despite the United State’s use of crippling sanctions to hurt the country’s economy and try to force the ouster of Mr. Maduro, Mr. Guaidó has not managed to seize power and call new presidential elections — his stated goals.

On Jan. 19, he left the country to shore up greater support abroad, defying a travel ban imposed by Mr. Maduro’s government. On his trip, he made headlines when he sat down with President Trump and was given a prominent place at the state of the union address. There, Mr. Trump championed the opposition leader’s efforts.

Mr. Guaidó also met with Angela Merkel of Germany and Emmanuel Macron of France, and was welcomed by thousands of Venezuelans and Venezuelan-Americans in Florida.

Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, Robert C. O’Brien, signaled that substantive action could be on the way, including sanctions on Russia’s state-owned oil company, Rosneft.

Oil buoys the Venezuela economy, and Rosneft has been the country’s main shipper of crude.

Internationally, Mr. Guaidó looked strong.

But at home, nothing had changed, and Mr. Maduro remained firmly in control of the country, playing what appears to be a long game of attrition.

Mr. Guaidó is also barreling toward a crisis point that poses a critical threat to the opposition, and to his claim to being the country’s interim president.

The National Assembly, the legislature, is the last major political body in the country that the opposition claims to control. But 2020 is an election year for the assembly, and Mr. Maduro’s opponents are divided over whether to participate.

If the opposition does take part, they risk legitimizing a potentially rigged election. If they don’t, they risk handing control to Mr. Maduro.

Mr. Guaidó, so far, has not declared a position.

Phil Gunson, a Caracas-based analyst for the International Crisis Group, said no matter what the opposition decides, Mr. Maduro is likely to take over the assembly this year.

But if Mr. Guaidó does not make a decision — and soon — he risks irrelevancy.

“There can be no more beating around the bush,” Mr. Gunson said. “He has to be a leader.”



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Centerville included in CBS News’ segment politics, economy

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In the small town of West Union, Ohio, on the edge of Appalachia, Mike’s Family Restaurant serves up breakfast to a staple of loyal customers.

CBS News’ Adriana Diaz spent a couple of days last week in Ohio traveling to three different communities to three different restaurants talking to local folks about life.

The day started with manners and a morning prayer, but the conversation quickly turned to politics.

Kenny Moles, who is a retired business owner, said, “I’m thinking the Democrats don’t have a chance.” “Why is that?” Diaz asked.

Moles said, “They don’t have – well, they’re going in the wrong direction, for one thing. We’re capitalists and they’re socialists. And this is not a socialist country.” 

Moles has been voting Republican since Richard Nixon was in office.

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Across the room, cousins Dennis and Terry Grooms were lifelong Democrats until 2016. “The more we followed him, the more we liked what we heard. He has delivered on his promises, referring to President Trump.”

They said the president has boosted morale for the American worker, which is a big selling point here in one of Ohio’s poorest counties, where both unemployment and opioid addiction are high.
Terry Grooms said, “First, they’d give me Vicodin, then they moved it to Percocet then they moved it to OxyContin. Next thing you know I was a drug addict.” Terry said he has been clean for over six years. But he said his life is better now under the Trump Administration.

“Before Trump, you know, I’m not ashamed of it. I had to get food stamps and stuff, And after, you know, I got a job,” Terry Grooms said.Diaz asked, “Do you credit the president for the fact that you were able to find work?” Terry Grooms said, “yeah, he kind of motivated me”

So, Diaz and her crew left West Union and headed toward the suburbs of Dayton, Ohio. The suburb that was chosen was Centerville, Ohio, fitting because it’s actual county is politically in the center.

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In 2008 and 2012, voters in Montgomery County leaned ever so slightly for Obama, but in 2016, President Trump won by 7 percent.
At Famous Restaurant, boy was it split down the middle. Small business owner Debbie Miller credits President Trump for a strong economy. “You’ve got to admit, the jobs have come back,” she said.

However, Miller’s niece Samantha Dains, who also voted for President Trump, no longer thinks he’s fit to be president. “It doesn’t even matter about the economy, I feel like he’s going to put us in a world war,” Dains said.

Entrepreneur Dave Paprocki agrees the economy shouldn’t be the only metric of success. He’s still undecided.

“There’s still other issues that need to be solved. And, the important thing is that we have someone who is reaching across the aisle and thinking about, like, how we are actually going to get there,” Paprocki said,
From Centerville, Diaz and her crew head to Columbus. Folks in this county have voted for the Democratic presidential nominee.

Columbus is the state’s capital and most populous city. It’s actually known as America’s test city because a lot of companies choose Columbus to test out their products because of the city’s demographic makeup.

CBS’ Diaz caught up with the happy hour crowd at Bakersfield Short North.

Medic Isaiah Taylor said, “Me, personally, I haven’t seen nothing.” He said he hasn’t felt the strong economy personally.
“And, all I’ve seen is just, you know, bills get higher, taxes get raised a little bit more and that’s more money out of my pocket,” Taylor said.
Renee Holton, who’s still paying off her bachelor’s and master’s degrees wants a candidate with a plant to tackle student debt.

“I have debt that I don’t, I mean, I make my payments, but it’s just the interest rates are so high on it,” Holton said. 
There were several co-workers talking about health care bills before Diaz and her crew even approached them. 
Jackie Lloyd said, “It was just very eye-opening for me to see what a minor medical event can cost you if you don’t have insurance, let alone, I mean, I spent several thousand dollars out of pocket with great health insurance. So, it was kind of a scary wake-up call.”



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How Ford bungled the 2019 launch of its bestselling Explorer

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Ford has had its share of struggles lately, including last year’s launch of its bestselling 2020 Explorer, a popular sport utility vehicle thought to be a bit of a cash cow for the automaker.

Ford said in February that its president of automotive, Joe Hinrichs, would retire. Hinrichs oversaw operations for the automaker. Some automotive industry analysts viewed the move as fallout from the Explorer launch. Sales of the vehicle had fallen year over year in both the third and fourth quarters of 2019.

There have been at least four recalls of the Explorer since Ford began delivering the vehicle in the middle of 2019 and another three recalls for the Lincoln Aviator, a higher-end vehicle built on the same platform. Ford told CNBC that most of those recalls were handled before vehicles left sales lots.

Reports have surfaced of customers saddled with troubles in newly purchased Explorers and Aviators. The Detroit Free Press reported that unnamed sources inside the company worried that the company has not taken steps to fix “chronic manufacturing issues” and worry Ford “lost track of quality control.”

Ford acknowledged difficulties with the launch on conference calls with investors in 2019, but the automaker said the launch was an unusual situation.

The launch of the Escape compact SUV went far better, the company said, and it expects the roll-out of its Mustang Mach-E electric SUV to go smoothly as well. The company plans to launch some key products over the next several quarters, including a new version of its F-Series full-size pickup, which is widely considered Ford’s primary profit machine.



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NOAA warns of risks from relying on aging space weather missions

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WASHINGTON — The head of NOAA’s space weather office used a recent hearing to caution that a failure of an aging spacecraft in the next few years could leave the agency “hurting a little bit” in its ability to monitor solar activity.

At a Feb. 12 hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee on “space missions of global importance,” Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), ranking member of the committee, asked if NOAA should accelerate plans for its Solar Weather Follow-On mission, a spacecraft scheduled for launch in 2024 to collect solar wind data and take images of the sun’s corona from the Earth-sun L-1 Lagrange point.

NOAA currently uses the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) and NASA’s Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) spacecraft to collect solar wind data, and uses the ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spacecraft to observe the solar corona, using those data to forecast solar storms that can affect satellites and terrestrial infrastructure such as power grids.

However, SOHO, launched in December 1995, is well past its design life. In addition, DSCOVR has been offline since June 2019 because of technical problems, forcing NOAA to depend solely on ACE, which launched in 1997.

William Murtagh, director of NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center, said at the hearing that DSCOVR should return to service soon. “We had an issue with it, but fortunately it will be back in operations by the beginning of next month,” he said. NOAA said in September it expected DSCOVR to resume operations in the first quarter of 2020 after implementing a “software fix” to the spacecraft.

He added that NASA has assured NOAA that ACE should remain operational until about 2025. “So we’ve got two spacecraft up there now providing us this key information” on the solar wind, he said.

A bigger issue, though, is SOHO, for which there is no immediate replacement should it fail. “Our biggest concern is the SOHO spacecraft,” he said, citing its age. “It is a single-point failure to some degree.”

Murtagh said that NASA’s twin Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO, spacecraft could eventually serve as a backup. The two were launched in 2006 into orbit around the sun, going in different directions, and equipped with an instrument suite that includes a coronagraph. In a few years, the spacecraft will drift back towards the vicinity of the Earth. While one of the two spacecraft, STEREO-B, has been out of service since 2014, STEREO-A is still functioning and could fill in for SOHO if needed.

“We won’t be blind, but we’ll be hurting a little bit,” he said of a failure of SOHO.

He reiterated that point later in the hearing. “The observations that we rely on to provide alerts and warnings are critical,” he said. “Should we lose some of those key spacecraft that we talked about, I won’t say we’re blind, but we’re darn close. It will impact our ability to support this nation’s need for space weather services.”

Eventually, all those satellites will be replaced by the Solar Weather Follow-On mission, which will have a coronagraph and solar-wind instruments. NOAA also plans to place a coronagraph on the GOES-U geostationary orbit weather satellite, scheduled for launch in 2024.

Congress has pushed to speed up work on that mission, despite NOAA’s assurances about the availability of data from other spacecraft. NOAA sought about $25 million for the mission in its fiscal year 2020 budget request, but Congress appropriated $64 million. NOAA has yet to release its fiscal year 2021 budget request, more than a week after the White House published the overall federal government budget proposal.

Cantwell did not sound convinced by Murtagh’s argument that the Solar Weather Follow-On mission did not need to be accelerated. “Mark me down as somebody who wants to be more aggressive,” she said. “We should be as aggressive as we can possibly be.”



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