February 13, 2018

In the two decades Venezuela has been ruled by Hugo Chavez and his successor, Nicolas Maduro, fully one in 10 Venezuelans — about 3 million people — have fled the country to escape chronic shortages of food and other necessities. Nearly half that number, 1.2 million, have left Venezuela in the past two years alone, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Many of those who leave simply cross the border into Colombia, which saw its Venezuelan population grow by 62 percent to 550,000 last year. In the first month and a half of 2018, another 50,000 have already taken refuge in the neighboring country. "By world standards Colombia is receiving migrants at a pace that now rivals what we saw in the Balkans, in Greece, in Italy in 2015, at the peak of [Europe's] migrant emergency," Joel Millman of the United Nations' International Organization for Migration told the Journal.

Venezuelans are eager to flee because food has become so expensive and scarce that children are dying of hunger. The Maduro regime has restricted food imports, trafficked limited supplies for personal profit, and arrested bakers for allegedly making the wrong bread. Runaway inflation is expected to reach 13,000 percent this year. Read The Week's breakdown of the crisis here. Bonnie Kristian

1:34 p.m.

Following a report that former Vice President Joe Biden is signaling he'd likely not run for re-election in 2024, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) suggests that's not true — but there's a curious caveat.

Politico on Wednesday reported that Biden has been signaling to aides that he'd only serve one term if elected president. His deputy campaign manager and communications director, Kate Bedingfield, responded to the report by saying "this is not a conversation our campaign is having and not something VP Biden is thinking about."

Coons, who has endorsed Biden, also responded by saying "just the opposite" is true and that Biden "has made it clear to me that he is ready and able and willing to serve two terms if necessary," per CBS News' Alan He.

Readers immediately took note of this "if necessary" asterisk, which is similar to a quote from a Biden adviser in the Politico report suggesting the former vice president's thinking is, "I want to find a running mate I can turn things over to after four years but if that's not possible or doesn't happen then I'll run for re-election."

Coons says he has "not had a specific conversation with [Biden] about serving one or two terms," per Politico's Burgess Everett, but that he's sure Biden would be "able" to run again "if at the end of his first term the country is still in a place that called for his leadership."

Politico also noted that Biden suggested to The Associated Press in October he wasn't necessarily committed to seeking a second term, and the reporter who asked him that question weighed in on Wednesday. "I can assure you. Biden told me - on the record - he would not commit to two terms," AP's Meg Kinnard tweeted. "And I didn't come up with the question out of thin air." Brendan Morrow

12:40 p.m.

President Trump and his defenders have latched onto the fact that two FBI employees involved in the bureau's investigation into 2016 Russian election interference — agent Peter Strzok and lawyer Lisa Page — exchanged text messages criticizing Trump while the probe was ongoing. But Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz may have poked a hole in that argument during his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday.

Horowitz discovered quite a few things wrong with the investigation, but his team concluded that political bias didn't hinder their efforts, which he reiterated while testifying. He also confirmed that other FBI employees were also discovered to have sent politically-charged text messages. And at least some of those conversations were supportive of Trump.

So, while it's clear individual agents were harboring specific sentiments about the commander-in-chief, things apparently didn't go down exactly the way Trump thought. Tim O'Donnell

12:19 p.m.

Pete Buttigieg has some very presidential explaining to do.

As the South Bend, Indiana, mayor and 2020 Democrat began talking about his consulting work with McKinsey Co., former health insurance executive turned Medicare-for-all advocate Wendell Potter suspected Buttigieg worked with a client that would be "very significant in this campaign." And when Buttigieg's client list came out, Potter's hunch proved true: Buttigieg had worked with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan just before it hiked its insurance premiums and axed nearly 1,000 employees.

Potter first shared his theory in a Monday Twitter thread, saying the health insurance company he'd previously worked for "had McKinsey on retainer," and that the consulting firm was brought in "when one division or another wasn't making enough profit." Buttigieg described his work for BCBS as "identifying savings in administration and overhead costs," which to Potter are "code words" meaning "cutting costs through layoffs, restructuring, and potentially denying health coverage." Buttigieg spent three months with the health insurance provider in 2007 — a year BCBS reported a 27 percent drop in net earnings. That exact loss was mentioned by BCBS exectuives when, two years later, the provider announced layoffs of up to 1,000 workers and double-digit premium increases.

Buttigieg's mysterious work for McKinsey had been a subject of criticism throughout his campaign, especially after a New York Times report showed McKinsey's work with U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement led to severe cuts in detainee care. Buttigieg said he wasn't able to release the details of his work until Tuesday. After speaking with Buttigieg, The Atlantic reported he said he'd worked on "nothing having to do with policy or premium costs" at BCBS. "I don't know what the conclusions were or what it led to," Buttigieg said of his three months at BCBS when asked about the subsequent cuts. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:38 a.m.

Robert De Niro has once again been snubbed at a key Oscars precursor, putting his chances of a best actor win in doubt.

The nominations for the 2020 Screen Actors Guild Awards were announced Wednesday, and in the lead actor category, De Niro was surprisingly not nominated for his performance in The Irishman. That's not a great sign considering the winner of the best actor award at the Oscars is almost always at least nominated in this equivalent category the SAG awards.

Instead, the nominees for the SAG best actor prize this year are Christian Bale for Ford v Ferrari, Leonardo DiCaprio for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Adam Driver for Marriage Story, Taron Egerton for Rocketman, and Joaquin Phoenix for Joker. DiCaprio, Driver, and Phoenix were all widely expected to get nominations, though Egerton's nod for some came as a surprise.

De Niro will be honored by SAG with a Life Achievement Award this year, however, and The Irishman itself earned a nomination for best cast, so Gold Derby wonders if "perhaps voters thought he'd be duly rewarded there."

Still, this snub comes after De Niro was also conspicuously left out in the cold at the Golden Globe Awards, where Bale, DiCaprio, Driver, Egerton, and Phoenix all received nominations, although in separate fields since the Golden Globes divides its awards into drama and musical or comedy categories.

De Niro isn't the only actor whose Oscars prospects are looking worse this week than last, with Uncut Gems' Adam Sandler also getting snubbed at both the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards, while Dolemite Is My Name's Eddie Murphy got nominated at the Golden Globes but missed at the SAG Awards.

After these two snubs, when it comes to picking up an Oscar nomination let alone a win, The Washington Post's Thomas Floyd observes it seems De Niro now "faces an uphill climb." Brendan Morrow

11:31 a.m.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) just spent more than 40 minutes tearing into the FBI for its handling of the 2016 investigation into Russian election interference.

In his opening statement before Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz's testimony before the Senate panel on his report on the probe, Graham said FBI agents were "biased" against President Trump and questioned whether the agency had selected its top individuals. Graham did say he respects the FBI as a whole, but is still troubled by Horowitz's report.

Several observers noted that during his oration, Graham didn't mention that Horowitz — despite finding several issues with the probe — also concluded that it was justified and free from political bias when launched.

Graham also surprised a few people when he mused over whether the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court should continue unless it's reformed. That's because he's been an ardent supporter in the past. Tim O'Donnell

10:25 a.m.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is giving the media the cold shoulder.

Johnson made an early-morning visit to a dairy business in England on Wednesday when a producer for Good Morning Britain, hosted by Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid, walked up and asked if he'd go live with the show. "I'll be with you in just a minute," Johnson said, before turning and walking into a giant fridge full of milk.

Jonathan Swain, the Good Morning Britain producer, made several attempts to get Johnson on the air. His first one was rebuffed by Johnson's press secretary, who can be seen mumbling an expletive. Swain then continues trying to milk Johnson for an interview, asking him to "deliver on your promise to talk to Piers and Susanna" and telling him he has an earpiece ready. But Johnson stays glued to his tour, lifts some milk crates, and eventually escapes into the fridge. Watch the whole chilling scene below. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:07 a.m.

The sanctions keep on coming.

The U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control on Wednesday announced sanctions on Iran's largest shipping company and airline in an attempt to stop the development and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the Financial Times reports.

The shipping company, the Islamic Republican of Iran Shipping Lines, has been accused of smuggling weapons into Yemen on behalf the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps; OFAC said the U.S. seized weapons on a small boat last month believed to be on their way to Houthi rebels. OFAC also said Mahan Air has aided the IRGC and has also "moved weapons and personnel for Hezbollah" and the Assad regime in Syria.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. will continue a maximum pressure campaign of sanctions against Iran. Tim O'Donnell

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