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Myanmar security forces shoot and kill at least 8 pro-democracy demonstrators

Myanmar security forces shot and killed at least eight people Wednesday, according to accounts on social media and local news reports, as authorities extended their lethal crackdown on protests against last month’s coup.

Videos from various locations showed security forces firing slingshots at demonstrators, chasing them down and even beating an ambulance crew.

Demonstrators have regularly flooded the streets of cities across the country since the military seized power on Feb. 1 and ousted the elected government of leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Their numbers have remained high even as security forces have repeatedly fired tear gas, rubber bullets and live rounds to disperse the crowds, and arrested protesters en masse.

“It’s horrific. It’s a massacre. No words can describe the situation and our feelings,” youth activist Thinzar Shunlei Yi told Reuters via a messaging app.

The intensifying standoff is unfortunately familiar in the country with a long history of peaceful resistance to military rule — and brutal crackdowns. The coup reversed years of slow progress toward democracy in the Southeast Asian nation after five decades of military rule.

14-year-old boy among the dead

On Sunday, security forces killed at least 18 protesters, according to the UN Human Rights Office. On Wednesday, there were reports of eight more deaths in four different cities, including that of a 14-year-old boy, though one human rights group put Wednesday’s death toll as high as 18 people.

Security forces have also arrested hundreds of people at protests, including journalists. On Saturday, at least eight journalists, including Thein Zaw of The Associated Press, were detained. A video shows he had moved out of the way as police charged down a street at protesters, but then was seized by police officers, who handcuffed him and held him briefly in a chokehold before marching him away.

This undated family photo provided on Wednesday shows Associated Press journalist Thein Zaw in Yangon. Authorities there charged Thein Zaw and five other members of the media with violating a public order law that could see them imprisoned for up to three years. The six were arrested while covering protests against the coup. (Thein Zaw family/The Associated Press)

He has been charged with violating a public safety law that could see him imprisoned for up to three years.

UN Security Council to discuss crisis Friday

The escalation of the crackdown has led to increased diplomatic efforts to resolve Myanmar’s political crisis — but there appear to be few viable options.

The UN Security Council is expected to hold a closed meeting on the situation on Friday, council diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized the give the information before the official announcement. The United Kingdom requested the meeting, they said.

A member of a South Korean civic group holds a sign as she attends a rally against Myanmar’s military coup in Seoul on Wednesday. Demonstrations in support of democracy in Myanmar are taking place in many countries, including South Korea and India. (Lee Jin-man/The Associated Press)

Still, any kind of co-ordinated action at the United Nations will be difficult since two permanent members of the Security Council, China and Russia, would almost certainly veto it. Some countries have imposed or are considering imposing their own sanctions.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of which Myanmar is a member, held a teleconference meeting of foreign ministers on Tuesday to discuss the crisis.

But there, too, action is unlikely. The regional group of 10 nations has a tradition of non-interference in each other’s internal affairs. A statement by the chair after the meeting merely called for an end to violence and for talks on how to reach a peaceful settlement.

Ignoring that appeal, Myanmar’s security forces on Wednesday continued to attack peaceful protesters.

Details of the crackdowns and casualties are difficult to independently confirm, especially those occurring outside the bigger cities. But the accounts of most assaults have been consistent in social media and from local news outlets, and usually have videos and photos supporting them. It is also likely that many attacks in remote areas go unreported.

Medical workers believed to be targets

In Yangon, the country’s largest city, which has has seen some of the biggest protests, three people were killed, according to the Democratic Voice of Burma, an independent television and online news service. The deaths were also mentioned on Twitter, where some photos of bodies were posted.

“I heard so much continuous firing. I lay down on the ground. They shot a lot,” protester Kaung Pyae Sone Tun, 23, told Reuters.

In addition, a widely circulated video taken from a security camera showed police in the city brutally beating members of an ambulance crew — apparently after they were arrested. Police can be seen kicking the three crew members and thrashing them with rifle butts.

Security forces are believed to single out medical workers for arrest and mistreatment because members of the medical profession launched the country’s civil disobedience movement to resist the junta.

In Mandalay, the country’s second-biggest city, two people were reportedly shot dead. Photos posted on social media showed a university student peacefully taking part in the protest, and later showed her apparently lifeless with a head wound. Accounts on social media said a man was also killed.

Riot police in the city, backed by soldiers, broke up a rally and chased around 1,000 teachers and students from a street with tear gas as gunshots could be heard.

Video from The Associated Press showed a squad of police firing slingshots in the apparent direction of demonstrators as they dispersed.

In the central city of Monywa, which has turned out huge crowds, three people were shot Wednesday, including one in the head, the Democratic Voice of Burma reported. Reports on social media said two died.

In Myingyan, in the same central region, multiple social media posts reported the shooting death of a 14-year-old boy. Photos that posters said were of his body showed his head and chest soaked with blood as he was carried by fellow protesters.

Live fire also was reported to have caused injuries in Magwe, also in central Myanmar; in the town of Hpakant in the northern state of Kachin; and in Pyinoolwin, a town in central Myanmar better known to many by its British colonial name, Maymyo.

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Kate Middleton Shares the Perfect ‘Instagram vs. Reality’ Pics From Prince Louis’ 2nd Birthday Shoot

Kate Middleton Shares the Perfect ‘Instagram vs. Reality’ Pics From Prince Louis’ 2nd Birthday Shoot | Entertainment Tonight

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Selena Gomez’s Rare Beauty Postpones Photo Shoot Over Coronavirus Fears: The Biggest Cancellations So Far

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The F-35 Is Still Broken and the F-35A Can’t Shoot Straight

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Americans don’t agree on much these days, but thankfully there’s one fact coming out of government reports that’s pretty incontrovertible: However awesome the F-35 might be in theory — whatever heights of achievement it might one day achieve — the plane as it exists today is in pretty sorry shape. Bloomberg’s Anthony Capaccio recently got a chance to preview the annual report prepared by Robert Behler, the DoD’s director of operational test and evaluation. While the latest version of the report doesn’t identify any fundamentally new failings, continued operational problems in the existing categories are more than enough to have stymied the effort to bring the aircraft to full readiness.

Behler’s office has identified 13 Category 1 “must fix” issues directly impacting safety and combat capability before the $ 22B Block 4 phase of the program commences. The problems detailed by Behler are separate from the announcement on January 22, 2020, that the aircraft’s Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) would be scrapped and replaced with a brand-new software project. ALIS was supposed to be a revolutionary parts and logistics management system, but it’s never worked properly (we’ve covered ALIS problems in years past at ET). Now that system will be replaced by a new, cloud-based solution designated ODIN (Operational Data Integrated Network). Like ALIS, ODIN will be created in partnership with Lockheed-Martin.

The big problem of Behler’s most recent report, according to Bloomberg, is that the Air Force version of the F-35 has a major problem with its 25mm cannon. The GAU-22/A cannon used by the Air Force is mounted internally. Structural cracking has been a problem for the F-35 for years, and it continues to be an issue today. The report states that “The effect on F-35 service life and the need for additional inspection requirements are still being determined.”

The externally-mounted versions of the gun used by the Marines and Navy doesn’t have the same problem, but the USAF variant has unacceptably low accuracy when used against ground-based targets. Yes, the F-35A has such poor accuracy, it can’t even hit the ground… accurately. Being made of steel and under the influence of gravity, it’s thoroughly capable of hitting the dirt at any other point. It just might do so a few feet to the left or right of where you thought it would.

No significant portion of the F-35 fleet in service with any branch of the US military was capable of achieving what then-Defense Secretary James Mattis promised to achieve in 2018: Namely, that the aircraft be mission-capable, on average, 80 percent of the time. The report doesn’t give percentages but states that all branches lagged the goal “by a large margin,” with the Air Force scoring best, the Marines ranking “roughly midway,” and the Navy’s performance being described as “particularly poor.” The gun issue is unique to the F-35A, but most of the other issues are cross-branch.

Over the years I’ve written about the F-35, there’s been a lot of back-and-forth about whether it’s the “right” design to fight against America’s enemies in the engagements we will face in the future. The more practical question seems to genuinely be whether this aircraft can ever achieve the expectations that have been placed on it. It’s not the most tortured vehicle to ever move through the Pentagon procurement process — I’m pretty sure that dubious honor still belongs to the Bradley Fighting Vehicle — but the cost of the F-35’s development blows the BFV’s price tag out of the water. At least, it blows the BFV out of the water if you have the good sense to aim with a missile. Nineteen years after Lockheed’s X-35 beat Boeing’s X-32 to win the JSF program, that whole “gun” thing is looking a little sketchy.

F-35 wind testing

The F-35 undergoing wind testing.

Every time I look at the F-35, I wonder how the Air Force’s drone programs are coming along. Even if we eventually fix the plane, how long it will be before its replaced in many roles by drone fighters? I’m not claiming that’s going to happen in the next year or two, but the F-16 first entered service in 1980. Forty years later, it’s one of the most popular (and least expensive) fighter jets to operate in the world. There seems little chance of the F-35 achieving the same recognition.

I don’t expect the drone aircraft of 2022 to be punching holes in the F-35’s raison d’etre, but I’d be downright surprised if it’s still flying sorties in 2050. The plane is already scheduled to spend an extra year in testing trying to iron out these bugs, but the number of software flaws has only fallen slightly in 14 months, from 917 in September 2018, to 873 in November 2019.

At this point, has anyone considered a seance to contact Wilbur and Orville Wright?

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Hong Kong police shoot protester as activists block streets

A Hong Kong protester was shot by police Monday in a dramatic scene caught on video as demonstrators blocked train lines and roads during the morning commute.

The shooting is likely to inflame anger further in this semi-autonomous Chinese territory after a student who fell during an earlier protest succumbed to his injuries Friday and police arrested six pro-democracy lawmakers over the weekend.

The video shows a police officer shooing away a group of protesters at the intersection, then drawing his gun on a masked protester in a white hooded sweatshirt who approaches him.

As the two struggle, another protester in black approaches, and the officer points his gun at the second one. He then fires at the stomach area of the second protester, who falls to the ground. The officer appeared to fire again as a third protester in black joined the tussle.

A man is helped by volunteer medic after police used pepper spray in a shopping mall during a demonstration in Hong Kong on Sunday. (Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)

The protester in white manages to flee, bounding up a nearby stairway, and the officer and a colleague pin the two in black to the ground.

Police said that only one protester was hit and he was undergoing surgery. A spokesperson for the Hong Kong hospital authority said the person shot was in critical condition but gave no further details.

6th month of protests

Hong Kong is in the sixth month of protests that began over a proposed extradition law and have expanded to include demands for greater democracy and police accountability. Activists say Hong Kong’s autonomy and Western-style civil liberties, promised when the former British colony was returned to China in 1997, are eroding.

The video of Monday’s shooting was posted on Facebook by Cupid Producer, an outlet that started last year and appears to post mostly live videos related to local news.

The shooting occurred in a crosswalk at a large intersection strewn with debris that had backed-up traffic in Sai Wan Ho, a neighbourhood on the eastern part of Hong Kong Island.

Riot police stand guard in Wong Tai Sin district in Hong Kong on Monday. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

Protesters blocked intersections around the city and disrupted subway and commuter rail service. The rail operator, MTR, suspended service on several lines, and public broadcaster RTHK reported that a fire had been set inside a train at Kwai Fong station.

Police draw guns in 2 other neighbourhoods

In a news release, the Hong Kong government said police had been responding to vandalism and disruptions to traffic, including protesters throwing heavy objects onto roads from above.

“During police operations, one police officer has discharged his service revolver, one male was shot,” the release said, adding that officers also drew their guns in the Shatin and Tung Chung neighbourhoods.

Protesters block roads with barricades laid on the surface in Wong Tai Sin district on Monday. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

The release denied what it called online rumours saying police had been ordered to “recklessly use their firearms,” calling the allegation “totally false and malicious”

“All police officers are required to justify their enforcement actions,” the statement said.

Dozens arrested

A patch of what looked like dried blood could be seen in a cordoned-off area after the shooting, as onlookers shouted insults at the police.

Masked protesters continued to try to block other intersections in the area. Police chased them away with pepper spray, hitting some bystanders as well.

On Sunday, police fired tear gas and protesters vandalized stores at shopping malls in anti-government demonstrations across Hong Kong. They targeted businesses whose owners are seen as pro-Beijing and also damaged the Sha Tin train station.

Police said they arrested at least 88 people on various charges, including unlawful assembly, possession of an offensive weapon, criminal damage and wearing masks at an unlawful assembly.

Council elections this month

In a sign of growing frustration on behalf of Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and her backers in Beijing, the administration on Saturday announced the arrest of six lawmakers on charges of obstructing the local assembly during a raucous May 11 meeting over the extradition bill. All were freed on bail.

The city has also been rocked by the death Friday of a university student, Chow Tsz-Lok, who fell from a parking garage when police fired tear gas at protesters.

The territory is preparing for Nov. 24 district council elections that are viewed as a measure of public sentiment toward the government.

Pro-democracy lawmakers accuse the government of trying to provoke violence to justify cancelling or postponing the elections.

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Police fatally shoot man who attacked Washington state migrant detention centre

A man armed with a rifle and throwing incendiary devices at a migrant detention centre in Washington state early Saturday morning died after four police officers arrived and opened fire, authorities said.

The Tacoma Police Department said the officers responded at about 4 a.m. local time to the privately run Tacoma Northwest Detention Center, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security detention facility that holds migrants pending deportation proceedings.

The detention centre has also held immigration-seeking parents separated from their children under President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy, an effort meant to deter illegal immigration.

The shooting took place about six hours after a peaceful rally in front of the detention centre, police spokesperson Loretta Cool said. She said another rally was planned for later Saturday, but it would have to be held in a different area because of the investigation into the police shooting.

Police said the man caused a vehicle to catch fire and that he attempted to ignite a large propane tank and set buildings on fire. Police said that besides the rifle, he had a satchel and flares.

Police said officers called out to the man, and shots were fired.

Cool said all four officers fired their weapons, but she didn’t have specific details of what took place. She said the officers weren’t wearing body cameras, but the area is covered by surveillance cameras from the detention centre. She said she didn’t know if the man fired at the officers.

After the gunfire, officers took cover, contained the area and set up medical aid a short distance away, police said.

Officers then located the man and determined he had been shot and was dead at the scene. His name hasn’t been released.

Authorities say investigators are processing the scene and police are continuing to investigate. No law enforcement officers were injured. The four Tacoma police officers who fired their weapons have been placed on paid administrative leave as is standard in officer-involved shootings.

A motive for the man’s actions hasn’t been determined, Cool said.

‘Misplaced aggression’

GEO Group, which runs the 1,575-bed Northwest Detention Center, in an email to The Associated Press said baseless accusations about how detainees are treated at its facilities “have led to misplaced aggression and a dangerous environment for our employees, whose safety is our top priority. Violence of any kind against our employees and property will not be tolerated. We are thankful for the quick and brave action by the Tacoma Police Department, which prevented innocent lives from being endangered.”

GEO Group said the detention centre in Tacoma has modern amenities with air conditioning, recreational activities, a bed for every individual and medical care available at all hours.

Last year, a federal judge ruled that Washington state could pursue its lawsuit seeking to force GEO Group to pay minimum wage for work done by detainees at the detention centre.

In November, a Russian asylum-seeker who conducted a hunger strike to protest the conditions at the detention centre died by suicide, the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled.

Mergensana Amar, 40, was taken off life support after attempting to kill himself while in voluntary protective custody on Nov. 15, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said.

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7 Things We Learned at Cardi B’s Fashion Nova Photo Shoot (Exclusive)

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Japan’s Hayabusa 2 Probe Is About to Shoot an Asteroid

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Japan’s Hayabusa 2 probe has been staking out the asteroid Ryugu for several months now, and the time has almost arrived for the spacecraft to start taking shots at the surface. In a few hours, Hayabusa 2 will launch a small projectile at Ryugu to dislodge material from the surface, which it will then attempt to scoop up.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) originally wanted to start up its outer space shooting gallery last year, but the conditions on Ryugu were a surprise. Upon reaching the asteroid, Hayabusa 2 deployed two small drum-like robots (MINERVA-II1A and MINERVA-II1B) to bounce around the surface. Images relayed by the landers showed that Ryugu wasn’t covered with a fine layer of dust as expected. Instead, the surface is strewn with craggy rocks that will require a precision landing.

After scouting a location, JAXA is ready to move Hayabusa 2 in for a landing. It will fire the probe’s thrusters at about 6 PM EST (8 AM on Feb. 22 for Japan). The team already deployed a small target marker on the surface to help guide Hayabusa 2 in for a landing. After coming in contact with the surface, the spacecraft will launch its titanium slug and try to scoop up material from the ejecta with its sample container. The tweet below has a YouTube stream of the event.

Later this spring, Hayabusa 2 will stop going easy on Ryugu. After moving to a safe distance, the probe will launch a small explosive projectile. The hope is the detonation will create a small crater and expose subsurface material that hasn’t been bombarded by solar radiation for billions of years. Hayabusa 2 carries a second impactor like the first, which JAXA can use to excavate some material from the crater.

JAXA hopes to collect about 100 milligrams of material from Ryugu and then send it back to Earth for analysis. Even if the collection goes off without a hitch, the sample return container won’t be back on Earth until late 2020.

Ryugu is one of a class of objects called c-type asteroids. They’re ancient, and most likely composed of the same material that coalesced into the sun and planets billions of years ago. In addition to the bulky carbon-containing compounds, these asteroids may also have trace amounts of water from the early solar system. Getting the samples back to Earth could help scientists learn about the earliest history of our solar system.

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'I won't shoot my people': Soldier reflects on Venezuela's political crisis

Just after dawn, in a cinder block house on a steep and winding street of a poor Caracas barrio, a self-composed young soldier takes a risk in talking to CBC News.

"If they find out I'm doing this, they're going to charge me with treason to the nation, and the consequences for that are torture," he said. The charge also carries a 30-year prison sentence.

The man who is being referred to as Pablo is a senior non-commissioned officer in the Venezuelan Army. 

As the oil-rich nation's political crisis continues with two men claiming to be the rightful president amid an economic meltdown, the allegiances of soldiers like Pablo have become increasingly important.

Nicolas Maduro, the man who sits in the presidential palace but is considered an illegitimate leader by the U.S., Canada and most countries in South America, has been showcasing his support from the armed forces in recent weeks. 

Juan Guaido, the opposition leader who was declared interim president last month by the National Assembly, has been trying to convince members of Venezuela's armed forces to reject Maduro, who the opposition considers a dictator. 

Guaido was recognized as Venezuela's legitimate interim leader by Western and Latin American nations, while most of the military has backed Maduro.

Peeling away that support, from generals through rank-and-file soldiers, is arguably the opposition's most pressing task in their bid to oust Maduro. 

'A lot of hunger'

Venezuela is in the midst of a profound economic crisis involving hyperinflation and shortages of basic food, medicine and other products. The oil industry, the key driver of the South American country's economic gains, is in shambles.

"There isn't enough to live," Pablo said. "Many of us have children and we can't take care of them." Two other soldiers arrive while he speaks and sit quietly. All had to report to barracks later that morning.

Watch as a Venezuelan soldier describes life amid an economic crisis: 

A Venezuela soldier tells CBC News he could never open fire on his own people. 3:04

"The scarcity, the insecurity, [affect] us as much as the civilians in the street," Pablo said. Venezuela has one of the highest murder rates in the world. 

Pablo said he earns about 24,000 bolivars, or about $ 8 a month at the widely used black market exchange rate. "It's impossible with that to cover the needs of even one person, never mind two or three," he said. "We go through a lot of hunger."

One result, he said, is that many soldiers are seeking furloughs to try to help their families.

Maduro and his supporters blame Venezuela's problems on an "economic war" launched by business elites, and frequently accuse external actors like the U.S. of trying to sabotage their economy. Maduro, who has recently faced increased economic pressure from the Trump administration, has also accused the U.S. of stoking unrest in a bid to control Venezuela's oil and other natural resources.

'They have all the luxuries'

Pablo speaks of the senior ranks of the forces with bitterness.

"They live happily, they live in three-storey houses, they have all the luxuries, they get ahold of all the things you can't get in this country," he said. 

From private medical clinics, to international travel, he said senior members of the military are doing just fine under Maduro. 

"We are the majority but we have no-one to represent us as such," he said of lower-ranking soldiers who aren't happy with the current situation. 

"Nobody can do anything because automatically they accuse you of treason."

Maduro takes part in a military exercise in Valencia, Venezuela, on Jan. 27. He has appeared regularly on state television participating in military events amid the current political standoff. (Miraflores Palace via Reuters)

Once highly respected in Venezuela, Pablo said the military's prestige has been dropping as many opposition supporters blame senior members of the armed forces for keeping Maduro in power. 

Maduro has said he won a fair election to become president and the opposition is attempting to usurp power by undemocratic means. The European Union, Canada and others have said Venezuela's most recent election last year was not free or fair. 

'Always loyal! Never traitors!'

Since Guaido swore the oath of office to be declared Venezuela's acting interim president on Jan. 11, the armed forces have been involved in almost daily ceremonies to show their loyalty to Maduro.

Soldiers are constantly being called upon to shout the slogan: "Always loyal! Never traitors!"

Pablo said he's tired of it. "We're forced to swear that we have devotion to them, we're forced to shout those propaganda slogans they invent." 

"This government tried to implant a swindle," he continues. "Here in Venezuela, they talked about capitalism versus socialism. They talked about a lot of things but what we got was a dictatorship, just like they have in Cuba."

A schism between the ranks

Rocio San Miguel, a Caracas-based lawyer and military analyst, has monitored the Venezuelan armed forces for years as director of the non-profit group Citizen Control. 

"Of the different branches of the armed forces, the Air Force and Navy are seen as the most problematic by the government. That's historically been true."

She describes a military split between the higher ranks, particularly the 24 generals and admirals who hold regional commands, and those from the rank of lieutenant-colonel down.

Venezuela's National Assembly head and self-declared interim president Juan Guaido speaks to the crowd during a mass opposition rally against Maduro in Caracas on Jan. 23. (Federico Parra/AFP/Getty Images)

"There is great discontent in the lower ranks of the military, particularly about pay. A major makes just a few dollars a month and it's increasingly difficult for him to earn any money on the side."

San Miguel confirmed what some recently retired officers told CBC News: counterintelligence efforts aimed at catching disloyal members of the military are heavily focused on the lieutenant-colonel level.

It is no coincidence that former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez himself held that rank when he staged his first putsch attempt in 1992, part of the country's reoccurring history with military coups. Chavez went on to win the presidency in what were widely considered fair elections. 

"At lieutenant-colonel level, an officer can have a significant amount of force and firepower under his command," said San Miguel.

However, the military has experienced only nine public defections since the arrival of Juan Guaido, and only four of them were in command positions, she said.

Cubans backing Maduro

As part of its security policies, Venezuela's socialist government has brought Cuban troops into the country to support Maduro. 

There aren't a huge number of Cuban forces in Venezuela, San Miguel said, but the ones who are there mostly focus on military intelligence. "They are also in the strategic operations room of the armed forces and have been since the time of Chavez," she said of the populist leader who died in 2013.

The Cubans are concentrated in the DGCIM, a feared military intelligence unit that is leading the hunt for traitors to the United Socialist Party, she said, confirming a point made to CBC News by two recently retired officers. 

The two retired officers said they are dislike having Cuban forces on Venezuelan soil.

Another source of friction has been Nicolas Maduro's decision last month to incorporate the Bolivarian Militia of the socialist party into the armed forces.

Career soldiers were unhappy about the move which the government has been trying to make since opposition protests in 2017, San Miguel said. 

Venezuelan Defence Minister Gen. Vladimir Padrino Lopez (C) speaks during a press conference at Fort Tiuna in Caracas in 2017. The military has experienced only nine public defections since the arrival of Guaido, with four of them from command positions. (Federico Parra/AFP/Getty Images)

This week's "Angostura 2019" exercises meant to showcase the militia in their new role, have shown instead that they are not ready for combat, she said. 

Militia members were seen training with Russian surface-to-air missiles to try and give the impression they are a serious fighting force, but they lack basic operational effectiveness, she said. 

One recently retired military officer told CBC News the militias will be used as "cannon fodder" for the government. 

The government has said Venezuela mobilized the militias simply to defend the country from a possible attack by U.S. or Colombian forces.

'I won't shoot my people'

Pablo, who believes Guaido to be the country's rightful leader, said he hopes Venezuela's future will be different. More job opportunities. Better security. Ready access to medicine and food rather than having to depend on the CLAP box of the government's monthly ration package delivered to millions of Venezuelan households. 

As he speaks, Caracas is bracing for another round of large street protests. It's unclear whether the government will react as it did on Jan. 23, shooting and arresting people, or as it did at protests a week later, when it took a hands-off approach.

But Pablo is very clear on what he intends to do.

"They can charge me with treason against the fatherland, but I'm incapable of opening fire on my own people," he said. "And my comrades? I'd say that the great majority would do the same. I don't think any of them would be capable of gunning down people who can't defend themselves."

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Taylor Swift Talks Her Muses and Songwriting Process in New Rocker Cover Shoot

Taylor Swift is opening up about what prompts her to write a song.

The 28-year-old singer covers the August issue of Harper’s BAZAAR, where she interviews Pattie Boyd — the British model who was married to rock icon Eric Clapton and Beatles member George Harrison — to discuss what it’s like to inspire iconic songs and to be the one that draws on that inspiration. 

“There are definitely moments when it’s like this cloud of an idea comes and just lands in front of your face, and you reach up and grab it,” Swift tells Boyd, 74. “A lot of songwriting is things you learn, structure, and cultivating that skill, and knowing how to craft a song. But there are mystical, magical moments, inexplicable moments when an idea that is fully formed just pops into your head. And that’s the purest part of my job.”

The “Delicate” singer continues: “It can get complicated on every other level, but the songwriting is still the same uncomplicated process it was when I was 12 years old writing songs in my room.”

Taylor Swift

Alexi Lubomirski

Though she can’t put her finger on “what it is that makes some people really creatively inspiring,” Swift reveals that time spent together doesn’t necessarily breed great source material.

“There have been people I’ve spent a lot of time with who I just couldn’t write about,” Swift shares. “… It’s just that some people come into your life and they have this effect on you.”

Taylor Swift

Alexi Lubomirski

Swift recently skipped her used-to-be annual Fourth of July bash for the second year in a row, instead opting for an intimate vacation with her British boyfriend, Joe Alwyn

The pair, who have been linked since last May, were spotted splashing in the ocean and taking a walk on the beach in Turks and Caicos. The two looked incredibly in love, holding hands and snuggling up to each other in the ocean.

Watch the video below for more on their romantic trip:


Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn Show PDA on Romantic Turks and Caicos Getaway: Pic

Here’s How Taylor Swift Spent Fourth of July Instead of Throwing a Huge Party

Taylor Swift Beams in Selfies With Adele and JK Rowling

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