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She Was Charged With Murder After Her Baby Was Stillborn. Now California’s AG Has Stepped In.

She Was Charged With Murder After Her Baby Was Stillborn. Now California’s AG Has Stepped In.For more than nine months, five of them during a global pandemic, a 26-year-old woman named Chelsea Becker has been sitting in Kings County Jail, under a $ 2 million bail, for giving birth to a stillborn baby.Becker has been there since November, when police arrested her and prosecutors charged her with murder. The District Attorney argued that Becker’s methamphetamine addiction had caused the stillbirth, citing a 50-year-old law that civil rights advocates say was never supposed to apply to pregnant women. It has put Becker at the heart of a national debate over criminalizing fetal death. On Friday, however, California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra intervened. In an amicus brief to end the case against Becker, Becerra argued the prosecution’s legal interpretation would lead to “absurd—and constitutionally questionable—results.”“We believe the law was misapplied and misinterpreted,” Becerra said in a statement about the brief. “Our laws in California do not convict women who suffer the loss of their pregnancy, and in our filing today we are making clear that this law has been misused to the detriment of women, children, and families.” An American Surrogate Had His Baby. Then Coronavirus Hit.Back in September, Becker, then 25, was eight and a half months pregnant when she thought her water broke, only to discover it was blood. Becker’s mother called an ambulance to her home in the San Joaquin Valley, according to The Los Angeles Times. Three hours later, Becker gave birth in Adventist Health Hanford hospital to a boy with no pulse, whom she had planned to name Zachariah.Suspicious that the fetus suffered from drug exposure, hospital employees alerted the Kings County Medical Examiner’s Office, which conducted an autopsy. The exam found methamphetamine in the fetus’ system, a Times report states, that amounted to more than five times the level thought to be toxic. They ruled the case a homicide. Becker had grown up in Hanford, a working class town in Kings County, that serves as a trading hub in the agrarian San Joaquin Valley. The nearly half Hispanic town recently made headlines when 183 meatpacking workers came down with COVID-19. According to the Census Bureau, 18 percent of residents live below the poverty line. Before the pandemic, county unemployment levels hovered at 7.9 percent—they have since soared to 14.6 percent.Becker told the Times that as a teen, she spent some time living with her father in Minnesota, where she became addicted to methamphetamine. She came home to Hanford at 19, where she had two other children, both of whom were removed from her care. In early November, prosecutors charged Becker with murder, holding the mother on a $ 5 million bail, later reduced to $ 2 million. Their case hinged on an amendment, passed in 1970, to the state’s murder statute: Penal Code section 187. Earlier that year, the California Supreme Court had overturned the murder conviction of man who had assaulted his pregnant wife, causing the death of their fetus. The code, the court had concluded, only addressed the killing of “a human being,” making the man ineligible for a murder charge. In response, the legislature amended the statute to include the “unlawful killing” of a “fetus.” That was the language prosecutors seized on to charge Becker with murder.“The conduct of the defendant resulted in the death of a fetus, which is a crime in California,” said District Attorney Keith Fagundes told The Los Angeles Times. He did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment on Saturday.At her arraignment, Becker pleaded not guilty, and later filed a motion calling the code’s application to a pregnant woman unconstitutional. The amendment had been made to protect victims of domestic violence, Becker’s lawyers argued, not criminalize women who miscarried, had stillbirths, or sought abortions. “Penal Code 187(b)(3) by its own plain terms,” they wrote, “precludes the prosecution of a woman for the consensual acts in which she may engage while pregnant.” Becker’s attorney, Roger Nuttall, and Becerra did not immediately return requests for comment. “Ms. Becker had experienced a stillbirth that the prosecutor claims (without scientific basis) was caused by her methamphetamine use during pregnancy,” the National Advocates for Pregnant Women wrote in a statement on Becker’s case. “Ms. Becker was charged with this crime despite the fact that §187 does not authorize, nor has it ever been interpreted to authorize prosecution of a woman in relation to her own pregnancy or any outcome of a pregnancy.”https://www.facebook.com/NationalAdvocatesforPregnantWomen/photos/a.190808107181/10157715445342182/?type=3&theaterIn the decades since 1970, California prosecutors have tried to charge women for stillbirths, but none has secured a conviction until 2018, when another woman was arrested for the same crime in the same town of Hanford.Like Becker, Adora Perez was in her late 20s and addicted to methamphetamine when she gave birth to a stillborn baby at Adventist Health. Also like Becker, hospital employees alerted the Medical Examiner’s Office when the fetus tested positive for the drug, according to reports in The Fresno Bee. Fagundes charged her with murder. Perez, however, took a plea deal. Now 32, she is serving an 11-year sentence in state prison for voluntary manslaughter—the first time in decades that a charge of this kind ended in jail time. The unprecedented charges against Becker and Perez have alarmed pregnancy advocates, medical professionals, drug policy organizations, and civil rights groups across the country. In April, the American Civil Liberties Union filed an amicus brief in support of Becker. The same day, a coalition of 15 organizations, from the Drug Policy Alliance to California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, filed another.“Broadly accepted medical, public health, and scientific evidence supports the Legislature’s drafting of the statute to avoid criminalizing women with respect to their pregnancies,” the coalition wrote. “Pregnancy and use of controlled substances is a medical and public health issue, not an issue that should be subject to state intervention and control.”Attempts to criminalize pregnant women who suffer from addiction have backfired in the past. In 2014, Tennessee passed a wildly controversial bill, attempting to target what they called “fetal assault.” The bill allowed prosecutors to bring charges against women with drug addictions, if their fetuses were born still or disabled. It proved so polarizing that it was given a two-year trial phase and then, in 2016, deemed a failure and discontinued. “As a result of the law,” the National Advocates for Pregnant Women wrote in a statement, “women steered clear of prenatal care and drug treatment and avoided delivering their babies in hospital settings.”Nevertheless in June, the superior court denied Becker’s motion to have the case declared unconstitutional. The next month, she filed a writ of prohibition––a motion to stop the court proceedings––arguing that “a woman cannot be prosecuted for murder as a result of her own omissions or actions that might result in pregnancy loss.” In his amicus brief on her case, Becerra agreed: “The superior court erred in concluding otherwise.” “The Legislature’s purpose in adding the killing of a fetus to Penal Code section 187 was not to punish women who do not—or cannot, because of addiction or resources—follow best practices for prenatal health,” Becerra wrote. “The courts should not assume that the Legislature intended such a sweeping and invasive change to the criminal law affecting women’s lives without clear evidence of that intent. And such evidence is absent here.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.



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Pelosi calls Barr 'despicable' after contentious appearance before House panel

Pelosi calls Barr 'despicable' after contentious appearance before House panelHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) believes Attorney General William Barr accomplished one thing during his appearance before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.Barr "demonstrated to the American people the contempt that he has for our democracy," Pelosi told MSNBC's Ari Melber. Throughout the hearing, Barr was on the defensive, as Democrats accused him of intervening in the criminal cases of people close to President Trump and questioned him about his role in sending federal agents to cities where anti-racism and anti-police brutality protests are taking place.Pelosi was not impressed by anything Barr had to say, telling Melber, "I just thought he was despicable and so beneath the dignity of the attorney general." Pelosi called Barr out for his "inconsistencies" in "not sending law enforcement in when people invaded the legislature in Michigan" while carrying guns, but saying that in cities where "demonstrators are out on the streets, that's violent."She also said Barr should be "answering for what he did at Lafayette Square," when he ordered that peaceful protesters be pushed out of the Washington, D.C., park ahead of a Trump photo op at St. John's Episcopal Church. Barr denied that tear gas was used against the protesters, and Pelosi called the entire incident "a disgrace. He was like a blob, just a henchman for the president of the United States, instead of the attorney general of the United States of America."Pelosi told Melber she paid particular attention to questions "related to upholding the Constitution of the United States," and felt Barr "fell very short in that regard. He is there to support the president of the United States, Donald Trump, no matter what. He's not the president's lawyer, that was Michael Cohen, and you know what happened to him." > WATCH: @SpeakerPelosi hits back at AG Barr for criticizing her "stormtrooper" comment. pic.twitter.com/iYQ0y6OyD5> > — The Beat with Ari Melber on MSNBC (@TheBeatWithAri) July 29, 2020More stories from theweek.com Rep. Louie Gohmert told his staff he tested positive for coronavirus in person Even mild coronavirus cases can cause lasting cardiovascular damage, study shows Michelle Obama's podcast sounds suspiciously like a stump speech



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Police throw 15-year-old boy to ground after he allegedly blocked traffic and tried to flee

Police throw 15-year-old boy to ground after he allegedly blocked traffic and tried to fleeA teenage boy allegedly resisting and attempting to flee police was grabbed by the neck and pulled to the ground in a video that has gone viral across social media.While the video showed a shortened version of the exchange, police said the boy was part of a larger group of bicyclists riding through New Jersey that were blocking traffic and causing a safety hazard.



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After fatal UK crash, 'anomaly' over U.S. diplomatic immunity is removed

After fatal UK crash, 'anomaly' over U.S. diplomatic immunity is removedBritain has agreed with the United States to remove an “anomaly” which allowed the wife of a U.S. official to claim diplomatic immunity from criminal prosecution after she was involved in a road accident in which 19-year-old Briton Harry Dunn was killed. The crash last August has caused friction between London and Washington after Britain criticised the United States for refusing to extradite Anne Sacoolas.



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President says he’s ‘saddened’ by John Lewis’ death after Barack Obama led heartfelt tributes for the civil rights hero

President says he’s ‘saddened’ by John Lewis’ death after Barack Obama led heartfelt tributes for the civil rights heroDonald Trump said he was "saddened" to hear the news of Congressman John Lewis' death after the civil rights leader died on Friday. Earlier on Saturday, Congresswoman Karen Bass, the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, told the president he should not issue a statement so people could "mourn in peace".The president ordered earlier for the flags to be flown at half-staff at the White House and other public buildings for the remainder of the day.



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Giant protests in Russia after popular governor's arrest

Giant protests in Russia after popular governor's arrestAt least 10,000 protesters marched through the eastern Russian city of Khabarovsk Saturday in support of a popular local governor arrested this week for allegedly ordering several murders. A court in Moscow on Friday ruled to hold 50-year-old Sergei Furgal for two months pending trial for the murders of several businessmen 15 years ago. Furgal’s nationalist Liberal-Democratic Party has thrown its weight behind the governor, and on Saturday said “35,000 people came out to the streets” in Khabarovsk to protest his arrest.



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CDC says guidelines for reopening schools are 'not requirements' after Trump calls them 'impractical'

CDC says guidelines for reopening schools are 'not requirements' after Trump calls them 'impractical'After President Trump on Tuesday lashed out at what he called “impractical” and “expensive” guidelines for reopening schools published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the agency’s director stressed that they are just guidelines, “not requirements.”



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Finland's air force drops swastika emblem after century in use

Finland's air force drops swastika emblem after century in useFinland’s air force has quietly removed the last swastikas from unit emblems after over a century in use. Until recently the country’s Air Force Command emblem depicted a pair of wings around a swastika, a symbol which pre-dates its associations with Nazism. The change was first observed by Teivo Teivainen, a politics professor at the University of Helsinki, who argued its negative associations made the swastika's ongoing use politically fraught. Professor Teivainen, who has written widely on the issue, said using the swastika could cause difficulties for the Nato-aligned country, particularly if worn on the uniforms of deployed personnel. “I have not found many reasonable arguments to support its military usefulness,” Mr Teivainen wrote on Twitter on Thursday. The symbol’s association with Finland’s air force dates to its founding in 1918, when Swedish count Eric von Rosen donated a plane painted with swastikas to the newly independent country. The German Nazi Party adopted the swastika as its logo in 1920. Finland removed the swastika from its aircraft following a postwar armistice with the Soviet Union, but until recently the symbol remained on Air Force Command emblems and some flags and decorations. A spokesman for Finland’s air force told the BBC, "as unit emblems are worn on uniform, it was considered impractical and unnecessary to continue using the old unit emblem, which had caused misunderstandings from time to time."



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Chinese coronavirus vaccine approved for use in country's military after clinical trials

Chinese coronavirus vaccine approved for use in country's military after clinical trialsChina's military has approved a coronavirus vaccine developed by its own research staff and a Chinese biotech firm, it was announced on Monday. The vaccine was given the green light for use by troops after trials proved it was both safe and effective, said CanSino Biologics, the biotech firm involved. However, its use for the time being will be restricted to military personnel, who offer a tighter medical control group than the general public. The vaccine candidate, named Ad5-nCoV, was developed jointly by CanSino and the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology in the Academy of Military Medical Sciences. It has been in development since March. CanSino said the results showed the vaccine candidate has potential to prevent diseases caused by the coronavirus, which has killed half a million people globally. The company added that it was not yet possible to say if it could be a commercial success, which would depend on being able to produce the vaccine cheaply as well as safely.



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3 North Carolina police officers were fired after they were heard on camera making racist comments, including one threatening to 'slaughter' Black people in a new civil war

3 North Carolina police officers were fired after they were heard on camera making racist comments, including one threatening to 'slaughter' Black people in a new civil warJames Gilmore, Jesse Moore II, and Kevin Piner had been on the force for more than 20 years. Their conversations were caught on an in-car camera.



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Kazakhstan's ex-president is asymptomatic after positive coronavirus test, report says

Kazakhstan's ex-president is asymptomatic after positive coronavirus test, report saysKazakhstan’s powerful former president Nursultan Nazarbayev is feeling well and showing no symptoms associated with coronavirus despite a positive test, his spokesman told local news website Tengrinews on Saturday. Nazarbayev, 79, who resigned last year, remains an influential figure in the oil-rich nation of 19 million where he is seen as a guarantor of stability. “The disease is asymptomatic,” Ukibay told Tengrinews.



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Venezuela's Guaido reappears after claim he hid in French embassy

Venezuela's Guaido reappears after claim he hid in French embassyVenezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido reappeared in the street in videos distributed Saturday by his team and parliamentary allies, after foreign minister Jorge Arreaza claimed he had taken refuge in the French embassy in Caracas. Guaido, the parliamentary speaker who is recognized as interim president of Venezuela by 50 countries, was referring to the accusation by the United States of “narcoterrorism” against the socialist government of Nicolas Maduro. The videos — which did not specify the date or location they were filmed — were released after Arreaza on Thursday said Guaido was hiding in the French embassy, and demanded he be handed over to “Venezuelan justice.”



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Forrest Fenn confirms $1m treasure chest found in Rocky Mountains after decade-long hunt

Forrest Fenn confirms $  1m treasure chest found in Rocky Mountains after decade-long huntThe decade-long hunt for a treasure chest containing $ 1m (£790,000) in gold and jewels has ended with its discovery in the Rocky Mountains.Art dealer Forrest Fenn sparked the search for the loot after publishing clues pointing to its location in his 2010 autobiography “The Thrill of the Chase.”



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Minneapolis mayor jeered after refusing to support abolishing police department

Minneapolis mayor jeered after refusing to support abolishing police departmentMayor Jacob Frey, a former civil rights attorney who took office two years ago vowing to repair the police department’s strained relations with minorities, was showered with angry chants of “Go home, Jacob, go home,” and “Shame, shame,” as he stalked away through the crowd, head bowed. Onlookers’ video of the spectacle went viral on social media on a day when tens of thousands of demonstrators in cities across the country staged a 12th straight day of protests demanding an end to racial bias and brutality in America’s criminal justice system. Within days, as street protests raged amid a storm of arson and looting that went largely unchecked by police, Frey drew criticism from some, including U.S. President Donald Trump, for doing too little to restore order.



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Germany's infection rate rises above one after lockdown eased

Germany's infection rate rises above one after lockdown easedGermany’s coronavirus reproduction rate – the crucial measure shows how widely the virus is spreading in the community – has risen to 1.1, giving rise to fears that a second wave of infections may be imminent. The findings come just days after the country begun the first phase of relaxing its coronavirus lockdown measures, while anti-lockdown protests have been building across the country. Germany has been lauded internationally for its coordinated response to the virus and its corresponding low death rate, with 7,549 having fallen victim to the disease there until Saturday, compared with 31,587 in the UK, which has a much smaller population. But the rise in infections suggests that the lockdown relaxations may have been premature, and is a headache for Chancellor Angela Merkel who has limits on her powers in Germany's decentralised system. Britain will be watching the developments closely as it begins to move towards easing lockdown. When she announced a relaxation of lockdown measures on Wednesday, Germany’s reproduction rate was at 0.65, before rising to 0.81 on Friday and 1.1 on Saturday. A rate of 1 or more means that each carrier of the virus infects at least one more person, ensuring it continues to spread. Germany’s Robert Koch Institute which compiled the figures, said it that while the rate has been increasing rapidly since Wednesday, at this stage it cannot be determined whether the relaxed lockdowns were responsible. It said: “The increase in the estimated (reproduction) value makes it necessary to watch the development very carefully over the next few days.|" The findings come from data compiled on Saturday, and show that the infection rate has now effectively doubled in the three days since the relaxation of lockdown restrictions. On Saturday, outbreaks at several meatpacking plants in North Rhine-Westphalia – the country’s most populous state – prompted the state leadership to promise to test each of the estimated 18-20,000 meatworkers in the state. In the western town of Coesfeld, where 151 of 200 slaughterhouse workers tested positive for the virus, authorities decided to suspend lockdown relaxations. Despite the outbreaks, Armin Laschet, Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, called for the country’s border with France to be reopened in order to foster European solidarity. Merkel struck a different tone when announcing the first phase of relaxations midweek, reminding the German public “we still have a long fight against the virus ahead of us”. It was a rare example of contradicting sentiments between the German leader and the man favoured to succeed her as leader of the Christian Democrats when she steps down next year. Despite the continued danger posed by Covid-19, protesters took to the streets across Germany at the weekend to criticise the lockdown measures. Thousands gathered in Berlin, Frankfurt, Stuttgart and other German cities, saying their rights were being infringed and complaining that the government and medical workers were spreading panic. In Munich, more than 3,000 people – many without masks and not respecting social distancing rules – gathered in the city’s central Marienplatz, with signs critical of “health fascism” and proclaiming: “We want our lives back”. Although there have been consistent protests against the measures since they were first put in place in March, the weekend’s demonstrations were the biggest seen so far since the outbreak of the virus. The German Press Agency reports that although the group was well over the maximum of 50 people allowed to attend demonstrations under the government’s coronavirus restrictions, police decided not to break up the largely peaceful demonstration in the interests of “proportionality”. Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter was heavily critical of the protesters on Sunday. Despite saying he empathised with their desire “to return to a certain normality”, Reiter told German media "I have absolutely no understanding of actions or demonstrations that, due to the lack of distance and mouth / nose protection, counteract any positive developments in the infection and more likely to jeopardise further loosening than to enable it." Reiter also said he found it “absolutely unbearable” that the protests had a heavy presence from known far-right groups.



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Sheriff’s Deputy Charged After Leading Armed Mob to Home of Black Teen: DA

Sheriff’s Deputy Charged After Leading Armed Mob to Home of Black Teen: DAA white sheriff’s deputy in North Carolina is facing criminal charges after allegedly leading an armed mob to the home of a black teenager and trying to force their way inside as part of a botched vigilante mission.New Hanover & Pender County District Attorney Ben David on Friday announced the charges against Jordan Kita, a New Hanover Sheriff’s Office detention officer accused of wearing his uniform while leading the group of people—one of whom was allegedly packing an AR-15—to confront a high school student at his home. Kita has since been fired from the sheriff's office. The teenager, Dameon Shepard, was playing video games late one evening when the group of men arrived at his door, demanding to know the whereabouts of a 15-year-old girl named Lekayda Kempisty who had been reported missing. Three in the group were said to be armed, carrying a shotgun, a semi-automatic rifle, and a handgun. Kita wore his New Hanover County Sheriff’s deputy uniform and gun, though he had not come to Shepard’s house on official business. The group said they were going to enter the house and question him, the Port City Daily reports. But in addition to having no legal authority to question or detain Shepard, they also had the wrong guy. The mob was in search of a man whose first name was Josiah. Josiah had reportedly previously lived in the neighborhood, but the only thing he apparently had in common with Shepard was being African-American in the predominantly white neighborhood. The armed group reportedly did not believe Shepard when he told them he wasn't who they were looking for. “There’s one in a police uniform, and he speaks to me first,” Shepard told the Port City Daily. “He says, ‘We’re looking for a missing girl. We were given this address, we were given your name, and we were told that she’s here. So we’re going to enter,’” Shepard was quoted as saying. He said he told the group they could not come inside and tried to shut the door, but Kita planted his foot so the door could not close. According to a letter from the Shepards’ attorney, James Lea, “Dameon became very frightened and hysterical, and kept repeating that his name was Dameon and that he attended Laney High School.”Shepard’s mother, awoken by the confrontation, then came to the front door. “The crowd was angry, and I still did not know what was going on,” Monica Shepard told the Port City Daily. “[Kita] kept saying, ‘I’m going to step inside, close the door, and talk to you,’ and I said, ‘No, you’re not.’”She told the vigilantes that her son was not named Josiah. Kita is said to have insisted he be allowed inside, but the mob eventually left. The missing girl, who had run away from home, was located later that evening.“The whole time, I was worried the worst would happen,” said Monica Shepard. “I’m still in shock. I don’t sleep well.” When Pender County sheriff’s deputies arrived later that night to investigate, they made no arrests and, according to Lea, took no names. Monica Shepard said, “Coming to the door like that with a mob of people with guns, what do we expect? What were their intentions? What if he was the person they were looking for or what if I was not home? What would’ve happened? I don’t want to have that conversation. I don’t want him to be a statistic. It’s scary.”Dameon and his mother Monica plan to file a civil lawsuit, according to their attorney. Lea called the sheriff’s department’s conduct an “outrageous and egregious violation.” “We obviously cannot have armed groups of citizens patrolling the streets of Pender County or New Hanover County terrorizing innocent families,” the lawyer wrote.Kita has been fired from the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office, and the office is conducting an internal affairs investigation, The News & Observer reports. He’s charged with breaking and entering, forcible trespassing, and failure to discharge duties. A second man, Austin Wood, is charged with “going armed to the terror of the public.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.



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Venezuela: Two US citizens arrested after beach invasion aimed at capturing Nicolas Maduro, says regime

Venezuela: Two US citizens arrested after beach invasion aimed at capturing Nicolas Maduro, says regimeVenezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said on Monday that authorities have captured 13 "terrorists", including two US citizens he described as mercenaries, over allegations that they were involved in a failed plot to invade the country and oust him. In a state television address, Maduro showed what he said were the passports and other identification cards of Airan Berry and Luke Denman, who he described as employees of Silvercorp, a Florida-based company whose owner has claimed responsibility for the invasion attempt. Venezuelan authorities said on Monday that they arrested another eight accused "mercenaries" in a coastal town and showed images on state TV of several unidentified men handcuffed and lying prone in a street. The Venezuelan government said that more than 25,000 troops have been mobilised to hunt for other rebels operating in the country. Diosdado Cabello, the vice-president of the ruling party, posted on his Twitter account a video of a Venezuelan identified as Josnars Adolfo Baduel, who was also detained, and claimed that two US citizens were among those arrested. Mr Baduel is shown responding to a security official who asks him about the Americans captured. Venezuelan state television broadcast the video but did not identify the Americans. But Jordan Goudreau, a Florida-based former Green Beret, said he was working with the two men in a mission launched early Sunday to "liberate" Venezuela.



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