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'All options are on the table' for Trump to go after Venezuela, but the side effects could be severe

'All options are on the table' for Trump to go after Venezuela, but the side effects could be severePresident Donald Trump in the Oval Office, July 21, 2017. Thomson Reuters

On Monday, President Donald Trump threatened to take "strong and swift economic actions" if Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro proceeded with his plan to create a super-legislative body to rewrite the country's constitution.

Trump's remark came a day after Venezuelans overwhelmingly rebuked Maduro in an unofficial referendum.

Despite those admonishments, Maduro has vowed to proceed, saying on Tuesday,  "Here in Venezuela, Venezuelans give the orders, not Trump."

White House officials reiterated Trump's comments on Tuesday, saying " all options are on the table " for penalizing the Maduro government, even sanctions targeting Venezuela's oil sector, which powers the South American country's economy.

Trump administration officials have said that Venezuela's energy sector and its state oil company, Pdvsa, could be targeted as part of " sectoral " sanctions, which would be a significant escalation of Washington's efforts to pressure the embattled Maduro government.

Those efforts have been largely limited to sanctions targeting high-ranking Venezuelan officials implicated in wrongdoing , and the Trump administration is still considering sanctioning additional officials.

'All options are on the table' for Trump to go after Venezuela, but the side effects could be severeA woman waves a Venezuelan flag during a women's march to protest President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, May 6, 2017. Thomson Reuters

"U.S. sanctions on the Venezuelan oil sector could include: financial sanctions on PDVSA, limitations on U.S. firms doing business with PDVSA, banning of oil and/or product exports from the United States to Venezuela and banning of U.S. crude imports from Venezuela," Francisco Monaldi, a fellow in Latin American energy policy at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy, wrote for The Inter-American Dialogue's Latin America Advisor newsletter.

Venezuela sends an average of 700,000 barrels of oil a day to the US — about half of Venezuela's exports and about 10% of US imports. Much of it is bought by Citgo, Pdvsa's US-based refiner and retailer, which employs about 46,000 people in the US. Venezuela has also been a major supplier to Phillips 66, Valero Energy, and Chevron.

"The move will likely cripple PDVSA-owned Citgo, which would be forced to buy higher-priced crude on the spot market for its refineries," Joe McMonigle, an oil analyst and former Energy Department chief of staff under George W. Bush, said in a note Tuesday. "But US refiners, who oppose the sanctions, would also be impacted as it would force Gulf refiners to find replacements for heavier grades of Venezuelan crude."

'All options are on the table' for Trump to go after Venezuela, but the side effects could be severeA Pdvsa oil tank at the El Palito refinery in Puerto Cabello, in the state of Carabobo, March 2, 2016. Thomson Reuters

US fuel prices would probably rise, Monaldi writes , though supply would likely come from elsewhere. Venezuela could find other buyers for some of the oil shunned by the US, but cutting into Venezuela's


2 British submariners reportedly asked Theresa May to make it easier to download porn while at sea

Theresa MayPrime Minister Theresa May outside 10 Downing Street after returning from Buckingham Palace on June 9, 2017, in London, England. Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images

Modern advances have made it so many of life's creature comforts can be found at even far-flung military outposts.

For submariners plying the ocean depths, austere conditions remain the name of the game, however.

But two British submarine crewmen reportedly asked UK Prime Minister Theresa May to help them get some relief.

According to The Times of London , the two sailors encountered May at a reception for LGBT community members held at the garden of the prime minister's office on Downing Street. ( May was criticized for holding the event after making a deal with the conservative hardliner Democratic Unionist Party.)

May reportedly spoke with the submariners about improving day-to-day life while at sea. They raised the issue of poor internet bandwidth. May replied that it was something "we can certainly look into improving."

"Thank you," one of the submariners said, according to The Times, before his friend offered an explanation that may have gone too far.

"The problem is we can't download any porn," the seaman explained. "We have to take it with us on our hard drives."

May quickly moved on, The Times said, and what impact the revelation will have on British submarines' internet speed remains to be seen.

UK submarineHMS Astute, the first of the biggest ever hunter-killer submarines ordered by Britain's Royal Navy, sails into the River Clyde and up the Gareloch to her new home at HM Naval Base Clyde in Faslane, near Glasgow, November 20, 2009. David Moir/Reuters

The US military has its own formal policy regarding pornography access for service members. The Pentagon has a board of military and civilian officials who review the material to determine whether it's " sexually explicit ," as it's illegal for hardcore pornography to be sold or rented on US military bases.

The US military doesn't ban all material with nudity — just material that presents nudity in a " lascivious " manner. That term is left open to interpretation, and critics have said the board, which costs the Defense Department $5,500 a year , is a waste of resources and legally questionable.

In the UK, the government is pursuing a controversial policy to limit access to online pornography.

In July 2013, the "Homesafe" system proposed by then-Prime Minister David Cameron to block access to internet pornography was found to be run by a subsidiary of Chinese company Huawei, which allegedly had ties to that country's government. Intelligence committees in the US have labeled Huawei a threat to national security.

The UK said this month that plans to put online pornography behind an age-verification wall would be " fully in place " by


Here's what comes after ISIS

Here's what comes after ISISA Peshmerga soldier plants a Kurdish flag in Iraq. John Moore / Getty Images

The Islamic State stands on the brink of a twin defeat. Mosul, the largest city under its control, has almost entirely fallen from its grasp, and Kurdish-led forces are advancing into its de facto capital of Raqqa.

Now, as the saying goes, comes the hard part. The Islamic State's territorial setbacks have introduced new questions about the basic future of the Middle East.

Foreign Policy has assembled a group of policymakers and regional experts to answer them.

The United States can't retreat from the Middle East by Elliott Abrams

The defeat of the Islamic State as a "state" will leave two serious questions facing the United States. The first is: Who will fill the spaces from which the jihadi group is driven? There is a clear effort by the new Iran-Hezbollah-Shiite militia-Russia coalition to reply: "We will."

That is an answer the United States should reject. Such a development would cement an anti-American coalition in place, threaten Jordan and Israel, and leave Iran the dominant power in much of the region. To reject this challenge verbally would be a joke, however; it must be resisted on the ground, through the use of force by a coalition that must be built and led by the United States.

The conflict in Syria has destroyed any possibility of an easy formula for putting that country back together, but in the medium term, one can envision a discussion with Russia of how our interests and theirs can be accommodated while bringing the violence down to a level that allows many refugees to return home. But that discussion will achieve nothing unless American power first gains Russian respect and the Russians come to realize that compromise is necessary.

Even in the best-case scenario, with the Islamic State defeated and losing its control over a "state," it may continue to exist as a terrorist group — and in any event al Qaeda and other jihadi groups will not disappear. So the second question is: How do we proceed against Sunni jihadis who continue to plot against the United States? It should be clear that Shiite domination of the region will help fuel these Sunni groups and assist in their recruiting at home and in distant Sunni lands. And the perception of American acquiescence or complicity in that domination will help make the United States a larger target.

All of this leads to an unwelcome conclusion — unwelcome surely in the White House and to many Americans. The defeat of the Islamic State will not end our involvement in Middle East conflicts and may in fact lead it to increase. There will be no repeat of the Iraq wars, with vast American armies on


Harvard may end fraternities, sororities, and final clubs by punishing students who join them

harvardHarvard is cracking down. EllenSeptember/flickr

(Slate) —  An official Harvard University committee has recommended that the administration prohibit all students from joining exclusive, traditionally single-gender social clubs like fraternities, sororities, and so-called “final clubs.”

After a damning report found that Harvard final clubs enabled a culture of sexual violence, the school moved last spring to force all final clubs —centuries-old, usually all-male institutions—to admit women or risk having members barred from leadership positions and fellowship recommendations.

Now, writes a committee of students, staff, and faculty members, that’s not good enough. “Even if all of these organizations adopted gender-neutral membership in a timely fashion, there would remain a myriad of practices of these organizations that go against the educational mission and principles espoused by Harvard University,” reads the committee’s report , sent to university community members on Wednesday. Harvard has been trying to push these clubs to go all-gender since the mid-‘80s; in response, the clubs officially disaffiliated themselves from the school.

The new recommendation is the strictest and furthest-reaching policy the school has ever presented on the issue. For now, the committee’s recommendation to phase out single-gender and exclusive groups (or phase in sanctions for joining them) is still just a suggestion. Committee members expect the final policy to be unveiled in the fall, probably modeled on prohibitions against sororities and fraternities instated at Williams College and Bowdoin College.

According to the report, final clubs and Greek organizations dominate the school’s social scene, such that even students who want nothing to do with them find their social lives affected. The sense of belonging some students derive from these groups “comes at the expense of the exclusion of the vast majority of Harvard undergraduates,” the committee wrote. “Of course, that is the definition of selective-membership clubs: some belong, some don’t.

However, it is the invidious manner in which such clubs form their memberships and generate their guest lists (in the case of those that host parties) that makes them incompatible with the goals and standards of Harvard University.” Since the organizations aren’t formally connected to the university, the school can’t outright ban them. Instead, the committee proposes to whittle away their memberships by sending students who join them to an administrative board that will mete out unspecified disciplinary measures. The policy would see the groups “phased out” over the next five years.

HarvardThe report criticized the clubs for gender discrimination. Reuters

Some students and alumni have said that it isn’t fair to target all single-gender groups just because a number of them


Actor John Heard, of 'Home Alone' movies, dies at 72

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Actor John HeardHe earned an Emmy nomination for a guest role as a corrupt police detective in "The Sopranos."

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