Against China’s Objections, Ted Cruz and Texas Governor Meet with Taiwanese President
Amy B Wang, THE WASHINGTON POST
Against the objections of Chinese officials, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) met with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in Texas on Sunday during her much-scrutinized overseas trip. Tsai had departed Taiwan on Saturday and made a planned stopover in Houston en route to Central America. Before her trip, China had urged the United States not to allow Tsai to transit through the United States to avoid “sending the wrong signal to Taiwanese independence forces,” the Associated Press reported.
Artisanal Charcoal: Cuba’s First Legal Export to US in More Than 50 Years
Artisanal charcoal will become the first legal Cuban export to the United States in decades under a deal between Cuba’s government and the former lawyer for imprisoned US government contractor Alan Gross. Attorney Scott Gilbert, who has sought to build economic ties between the two countries since Gross’s release, said a company that he founded will buy 40 tons of charcoal made from the invasive woody plant marabu.
North Korea Official Says ICBM Launch Could Come at “Any Time”
A North Korean official said Sunday that Pyongyang could launch an ICBM at “any time” and reserves the right to conduct a test wherever it sees fit. North Korea’s state news agency quoted an anonymous foreign ministry spokesman in a report, adding that the timetable would be determined by the “supreme headquarters of the DPRK.” DPRK stands for the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Russian Prisoner Dadin Contacts Relatives After Monthlong Silence
RADIO FREE EUROPE
A Russian political activist serving a 2 1/2-year sentence for participating in illegal demonstrations has been located after not being heard from for more than one month. Ildar Dadin has telephoned his wife, Anastasia Zotova and reported that he is being held in penal colony No. 5 in Altai Krai, Zotova reported on social media on January 8. In November, Dadin issued an open letter complaining of torture and other abuse at the prison in Karelia where he’d formerly been incarcerated.
Venezuela Bribery Scandal in US Widens
Patrick Gillespie, CNN MONEY
US prosecutors filed new criminal charges against a Venezuelan man living in the United States who they allege bribed officials at Venezuela’s state-run oil company, PDVSA. The bribes—free hotel rooms, meals and cash—were meant to help get lucrative contracts for US energy companies owned by Venezuelans, according to prosecutors. Earlier this year, two Venezuelan oil barons living in the United States pled guilty to being part of a bribery ring valued at about $1 billion.
Venezuela Minimum Wage to Rise by 50% “To Combat Inflation”
Venezuela’s government has announced a 50% increase in the minimum wage and pensions amid runaway inflation. President Nicolás Maduro says the move will protect jobs and incomes. Critics say it may worsen the crisis. The opposition accuses Mr. Maduro of mismanaging oil-rich Venezuela’s crumbling economy. But he says he faces an economic war by political foes and hostile businessmen.