June 25, 2019

Gen. Manuel Ricardo Cristopher Figuera, once Hugo Chávez's head of security and later Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's spy chief, is telling all about what he says he witnessed while serving as one of the government's top officials.

Figuera was named the head of SEBIN, Venezuela's intelligence police, last October, which landed him on a U.S. sanctions list in February. A month later, Figuera was approached by the opposition and joined the plot to push out Maduro, he told The Washington Post in an interview conducted last week and released Monday. He said that working as head of SEBIN made him realize "Maduro is the head of a criminal enterprise, with his own family involved," and he was ready to defect.

Figuera told the Post he learned that an assistant to Maduro's son ran a company that had a monopoly on gold, buying it from miners for a steal and selling it for much more to Venezuela's central bank, among other high-level corruption. The government also looked the other way as groups like Hezbollah and the Colombian guerrilla organization ELN operated inside the country, he said. "I found that the cases of narco-trafficking and guerrillas were not to be touched."

The uprising against Maduro was launched April 30, but it ultimately failed. Figuera told the Post he's not the only top official who joined the effort; he named the chief justice of Venezuela's supreme court, who has publicly denied being part of the plot. Maduro was nervous during the uprising, Figuera said, and once Maduro summoned him to the country's most infamous prison, he knew he had to flee. He went to Colombia, and on Monday, arrived in the United States. "I'm proud of what I did," Figuera told the Post. "For now, the regime has gotten ahead of us. But that can quickly change." Read more on the plot to oust Maduro and Figuera's story at The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia

7:08 p.m.

President Trump delivered a briefing on the coronavirus epidemic on Wednesday evening, telling Americans that the "risk remains really low" and "we're very, very ready for this."

Trump also announced that Vice President Mike Pence will lead the government's response to the coronavirus. During Pence's time as governor of Indiana, the state reported the first case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in the United States, and Trump said he has "a certain talent" for dealing with health emergencies.

The White House has asked Congress for $1.8 billion to fight coronavirus, with Democrats saying more is needed. Trump said he hopes "we're not going to have to spend so much," and he'll be "satisfied" with whatever amount is received. He also brought up the flu, saying he was surprised to learn that "the flu in our country kills from 25,000 people to 69,000 people a year. That was shocking to me, and so far if you look at what we have with the 15 people, they're recovering. One is pretty sick but will hopefully recover, but the others are in great shape."

There are 81,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus worldwide, with 15 in the United States. Nearly 3,000 people have died from the virus. Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Americans to prepare for an outbreak in the United States. Catherine Garcia

6:30 p.m.

Several people were killed on Wednesday during a shooting at the Molson Coors campus in Milwaukee, the city's mayor said.

"There are multiple people who have died, I believe including the shooter, and we will have more information in the next several hours," Mayor Tom Barrett said. Police are asking people to stay away from the area, but there is no longer an active threat. During the incident, schools and businesses in the area were on lockdown.

About 600 people work on the campus, which has offices and brewing facilities. Molson Coors owns the Miller and Coors brands of beer. Catherine Garcia

5:24 p.m.

Israel on Wednesday became the first country to officially warn its citizens to avoid any international travel amid fears over the coronavirus outbreak.

Several airlines have canceled flights to China, where the respiratory virus originated, and governments have issued warnings about travel to certain countries, but no country has actively urged their citizens avoid traveling abroad at large until now. "If you don't genuinely have to fly — don't do so," Israel's health ministry said in a statement.

Although the majority of cases remain in China, the virus has spread to several other countries. In response to criticism that the country was stoking panic and could cause both economic and diplomatic damage, the health ministry said they'd rather deal with the inconveniences now than be sorry later, The Times of Israel reports.

The only confirmed Israeli cases so far involve people who were on a cruise ship that was quarantined in Japan, although South Korea — which is experiencing one of the larger outbreaks beyond China — reportedly informed Israel over the weekend that a members from a group of pilgrims returned to South Korea from Israel and tested positive for the disease. Read more at The Times of Israel. Tim O'Donnell

4:58 p.m.

Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the award-winning Directer of the Center for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, has worked in the public health sector since 1995. But, for some people apparently, her accomplishments and experience pale in comparison to the fact she's the sister of former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Messonnier reportedly angered President Trump on Tuesday when she said it's not a question of if, but when and how fiercely, the coronavirus will hit the United States. "She never should have said that," a senior administration official told CNBC. "It's bad."

But some of President Trump's supporters, like conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, have taken things a step further. Limbaugh, who has said the coronavirus is nothing more than the common cold and a scare tactic meant to send the stock market into a frenzy and weaken Trump in the process, doubled down on his conspiracy theory Wednesday by tying Messonnier to her brother, who is, to put it gently, not viewed favorably by Trump and his allies thanks to his role overseeing former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into 2016 Russian election interference.

Limbaugh baselessly suggested Messonnier was part of the deep state perpetuating the lie about the coronavirus to bring down Trump.

Perhaps not shockingly, others have followed suit. Tim O'Donnell

4:47 p.m.

In today's edition of this is why we can't have nice things, the Federal Communications Commission reported Wednesday that it received a whopping 1,312 complaints over Jennifer Lopez and Shakira's halftime show at the Super Bowl earlier this month, per Fox Business.

The performance — which paid homage to the women's Latina roots — was described as "completely inappropriate," "obscene," and a "strip club act" by irate viewers, with objections arriving from every state except Vermont.

The most baffling news of all, though, was that somehow only around 50 people filed complains when Maroon 5's frontman, Adam Levine, performed topless at Super Bowl LIII in 2019 and subjected all of us to his unfortunate tattoo collection. Jeva Lange

4:44 p.m.

No Time to Die should have been called No Time for a Bathroom Break, because rumor has it the film is going to be the longest James Bond movie ever made.

According to unofficial run times posted on AMC and Regal Cinemas' websites, Daniel Craig's fifth and final installment in the 007 franchise will take 163 minutes, or nearly three hours, to watch, reports Esquire.

If that turns out to be the case, it would make No Time to Die an entire quarter of an hour longer than the next-longest Bond movie, Spectre, and almost a full hour longer than the shortest (but still also somehow the longest?) Bond movie, Quantum of Solace. Jeva Lange

4:22 p.m.

Billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg twice compared Social Security to a Ponzi scheme when he was in office, CNN reports, which is a far cry from his current stance as a Democratic presidential candidate.

Nowadays, Bloomberg has vowed to to strengthen entitlement programs, but he used to see them as a major hurdle in the effort to shrink the United States' deficit. During appearances on his old radio program "Live from City Hall," which were reviewed by CNN's KFile, Bloomberg made the Ponzi scheme comparison once in 2006 and again in 2009. The latter instance was in relation to Bernie Madoff, who was arrested in December 2008 and later pleaded guilty to a massive Ponzi scheme.

"I don't know if Bernie Madoff got his idea from there, but if there's ever a Ponzi Scheme, people say Madoff was the biggest? Wrong," Bloomberg said. "Social Security is, far and away."

Stu Loeser, a spokesman for Bloomberg, attempted to explain Bloomberg's comments to CNN. "The Social Security Administration itself gives out detailed actuarial tables on when and how payments will exceed income, and the issue needs attention because we're running the cushion between them down," he said. "Mike believes that between now and that time, we will need to boost receipts by raising contributions from those who can best afford it, which is what he'll do as president." Read more at CNN. Tim O'Donnell

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