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January 31, 2019

In a New York Times op-ed published late Wednesday, Venezuelan opposition leader and U.S.-backed interim president Juan Guaidó made his case that he, rather than President Nicolas Maduro, is the constitutionally legitimate leader of Venezuela. The opposition's plan to manage Maduro's "exit with the minimum of bloodshed," he wrote, is to shore up the opposition-led National Assembly, "consolidate the support of the international community," form "a transitional government," and hold "free elections." Guaidó added:

The transition will require support from key military contingents. We have had clandestine meetings with members of the armed forces and the security forces. We have offered amnesty to all those who are found not guilty of crimes against humanity. The military's withdrawal of support from Mr. Maduro is crucial to enabling a change in government, and the majority of those in service agree that the country's recent travails are untenable. [Juan Guaidó, The New York Times]

Guaidó "did not say who in the military he had been speaking with or what their positions were," BBC News reports. "Venezuela's top military representative to the U.S., Col. José Luis Silva, has defected — but senior military figures in Venezuela have supported Mr. Maduro," and many of them hold influential posts in his government. So far, the U.S. and more than 20 other nations have recognized Guaidó as interim president and the European Union says it will do so if Maduro doesn't announce new elections by Sunday, while Russia, China, Iran, and Turkey are among the countries that back Maduro.

Maduro told Russia's RIA news agency that he is prepared to hold talks with the opposition "for the good of Venezuela," but Guaidó writes in the Times that while "Maduro and his henchmen disingenuously propose 'dialogue'" when repression fails, "we have become immune to such manipulation. There are no more stunts left for them to pull." Read the entire op-ed at The New York Times. Peter Weber

3:43 p.m.

Of the many mysteries of the beloved former planet Pluto, the likely presence of a liquid ocean under its icy surface is one of the biggest. Now, a new study is offering up a theory on how its ocean has avoided freezing along with the rest of the dwarf planet.

The new research, published on Monday in Nature Geoscience, used data from NASA's New Horizon spacecraft, which collected data from Pluto and its moon Charon back in 2015. That data, combined with computer simulations, determined that Pluto's ocean is probably insulated from the well-below-freezing temperatures of its surface and atmosphere by a layer of gas, CNN reported.

Methane, which would likely be released from Pluto's core back while it was still forming, "would be thick and have low thermal conductivity," which would allow it to act as an insulator between the large amounts of ice on the dwarf planet's surface and the liquid water underneath.

It's possible that similar insulating layers of gas exist elsewhere in our galaxy and beyond, hiding similar oceans from the extreme cold of outer space. This would make "the existence of extraterrestrial life more plausible," said Shunichi Kamata, the study's lead author. Read more at CNN. Shivani Ishwar

3:42 p.m.

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) is back with another scorching Twitter thread.

On Saturday, Amash, a common critic of Trump, became the first sitting Republican congressmember to call for the president's impeachment. His GOP colleagues predictably had a big problem with that, but Amash still spelled out why he thinks Trump's impeachment defenders "are resting their argument on several falsehoods" in a series of Monday tweets.

According to Amash's reasoning, Trump's defenders "say there were no underlying crimes," "say obstruction of justice requires an underlying crime," claim Trump should be able to end a "frivolous investigation," and attempt to redefine "high crimes and misdemeanors." But there were "many" crimes — not that obstruction of justice charges require them, Amash continues in his thread. The "high crimes and misdemeanors" portion of impeachment proceedings aren't even "defined in the constitution," Amash also said, adding that a president just has to commit "conduct that violates the public trust."

Amash's Saturday tweetstorm has already led Michigan state Rep. Jim Lower (R) to announce he'll primary Amash next year. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told Fox News that Amash "just want to have attention," though as CNN's Haley Byrd said in a tweet, that doesn't usually seem to be Amash's top priority. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:22 p.m.

The Game of Thrones finale might have been highly controversial among fans, but the show's leads are defending it as a fitting conclusion.

Several cast members have begun to weigh in with post-finale interviews, including Emilia Clarke, who spoke with Entertainment Weekly and called Daenerys' final scene "beautiful and touching." While admitting she initially had a difficult time processing her character's fate, she ultimately concluded that it was the "logical" outcome.

In an interview with The New Yorker, Clarke also defended the finale as "the only way it could end," adding she's "not sure it could" have gone differently for Daenerys.

Kit Harington similarly defended Daenerys' ending, telling Entertainment Weekly "this has been building" for many seasons and that there's "nothing done in this show that isn't truthful to the characters." While he didn't comment on Jon Snow's own conclusion, Harington previously said he was "maybe not happy, but very satisfied" with how things wrapped up.

Recently, comments from Clarke, Harington, and other Thrones stars appearing to express negative feelings about season eight have gained traction online, with one such compilation racking up nearly 12 million YouTube views. But based on these new quotes, it's clear those clips don't exactly paint the full picture, showing Clarke appearing to laugh nervously while attempting to not give away whether her character has a happy ending and Harington being sarcastic when he calls the ending "disappointing" before clarifying he actually thought it was "epic."

Isaac Hempstead-Wright also wrote in a Monday essay that he was thrilled with the finale, which he argued is fitting because "life doesn’t have neat, happy endings," while Sophie Turner similarly praised it and slammed the fan petition to remake the season as "disrespectful."

While expressing their own approval, prior to the finale airing, a number of stars did predict it would be divisive, which turned out to be even more accurate than they might have had in mind. Brendan Morrow

2:30 p.m.

Artificial intelligence is officially joining the fight against cancer.

Google on Monday announced new research in training an AI tool to recognize the signs of lung cancer from a CT scan of a patient's chest. The research, which began in late 2017, has culminated in an AI capable of diagnosing lung cancer with better accuracy than certified radiologists.

In order to test the AI, Google showed it 45,856 chest CT scans, comparing the AI's diagnoses with those of six board-certified radiologists, Engadget reported. Google's AI was able to detect cancer in 5 percent more of these screenings than the radiologists; it also reduced false diagnoses by "more than 11 percent."

Radiologists typically have to view up to hundreds of images from a single CT scan in order to make a successful diagnosis for lung cancer; Google's AI is able to generate a three-dimensional image instead of 2-D ones, as well as detecting specific areas of malignant tissue in the lungs, which radiologists are often unable to do from images alone.

This AI modeling technique represents a breakthrough in the ability to diagnose cancers early on. Lung cancer, which accounts for more than 1.7 million deaths every year around the world, is often not caught until later stages, when treatment has a much lower chance of success. Google's technology will have to undergo further research and testing before becoming available as a diagnosis tool, but the company hopes to "make early detection more accessible." Shivani Ishwar

2:24 p.m.

President Trump's trade war with China is about to go global.

Trump has spent pretty much his entire presidency trying to negotiate a trade deal with China, with both countries levying tit-for-tat tariffs all the while. And while those tariffs have mainly hurt American farmers so far, a new Morgan Stanley analysis published by Reuters suggests they could turn into a problem for the whole world.

After a brief hibernation, trade talks with China started up again earlier this month. And in the middle of those discussions, Trump upped a 10 percent tariff on $200 billion worth of Chinese exports to 25 percent, leading China to, of course, retaliate. If that pattern continues, specifically "if talks stall, no deal is agreed upon, and the U.S. imposes 25 percent tariffs on the remaining circa $300 billion of imports from China," then "we see the global economy heading towards recession," a Morgan Stanley analyst wrote in a Monday memo. The Federal Reserve Board would then have to cut interest rates down to zero, the analyst predicted.

Back in the states, the Peterson Institute for International Economics estimates Trump's current tariffs translate to an average tax hike of $550 for each American family, Politico reports. Extending that tariff to $500 billion worth of goods could lead to a $2,200 tax spike for a family of three. That effectively erases the $800 average tax cut U.S. families saw under Trump's Tax Cuts & Jobs Act. Making matters even worse, companies including Walmart are warning that ongoing tariffs will just lead to higher consumer prices. Read more about the everyday negatives of Trump's tariffs at Politico. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:32 p.m.

The hosts of Fox & Friends aren't happy with South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg's criticism of their network.

Buttigieg during a town hall event on Sunday night had called out Fox hosts, blasting "what goes on with some of the opinion hosts on this network" while criticizing some specific comments from Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson. "There is a reason why anyone has to swallow hard and think twice about participating in this media ecosystem," he said. He also said that a lot of people tune into Fox in good faith, even if "some of those hosts are not there in good faith."

In response, Fox & Friends' Brian Kilmeade scolded Buttigieg on Monday, telling him, "Don't hop on our channel and continue to put down the other hosts on the channel, or the channel. If you feel that negative about it, don't come."

Kilmeade went on to say that Buttigieg taking "shots" at the network's prime time lineup without going on the prime time shows "shows, to me, absolutely no courage."

Buttigieg had decided to participate in a town hall with Fox News after the Democratic National Committee had previously chosen not to partner with the network for 2020 debates, and after other Democratic candidates for president had turned Fox down for a similar event. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) recently did so while labeling Fox a "hate-for-profit racket." At his town hall, Buttigieg noted, "A lot of folks in my party were critical of me of even doing this with Fox News," to which moderator Chris Wallace joked, "I've heard that." Brendan Morrow

12:58 p.m.

Former Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has a problem with the 20-something-strong Democratic primary field.

The ex-Senate majority leader retired in 2017 and is currently fighting pancreatic cancer, but that hasn't stopped him from taking shot after shot at President Trump over the past two years. Now Reid has broadened his view to Democratic targets, particularly those 2020 contenders he thinks should've run for the Senate instead, he tells The New York Times.

While Democrats have piled into the presidential race, the party has recently faced a "recruitment problem" when it comes to drawing Senate candidates, as the Times puts it. Reid suggests this stems from "a feeling that the Senate ... is not dignified like it used to be," and then said it was "a shame that someone like [2020 contender and Montana Gov.] Steve Bullock would not run for the Senate."

Reid particularly wanted to see failed Texas Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke try again in 2020, this time for Sen. John Cornyn's (R-Texas) seat. O'Rourke "came to see me at my home" and "I told him I thought he should've run" for Senate instead of the presidency, Reid said. O'Rourke said "nothing" in return.

Still, Reid won't declare a favorite 2020 candidate just yet. "Everybody knows my affection for Joe Biden," Reid told the Times, but he added that Biden "knows — I've told him I can't endorse him." Then again, he did tell Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to seriously consider a 2020 run back in 2017 — and she listened. Read Reid's whole interview at The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

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