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HOUSTON (AP) — A Houston-area woman whose mother and three children were killed last week during the state’s widespread power outages says she hopes to use money from a fundraising campaign to increase awareness about fire safety.

Jackie Nguyen, 41, said that amid frigid conditions she was using a fireplace to keep the family warm in their home in Sugar Land, Texas.

Nguyen, the only survivor from her house fire, lost her three kids, Olivia, 11, Edison, 8, and Colette Nguyen, 5, and her mother, the children’s grandmother, Loan Le, on Feb. 16, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Sugar Land firefighters responded to a fire at around 2 a.m. at the family’s red-brick home engulfed in flames. The fire was reported by a neighbor, said Doug Adolph, a city spokesman.

“Obviously they were trying to stay warm,” Adolph said at the time. “We can’t say that’s what the cause was, we just think we know they were using a fireplace.”

Nearly a week after the fire, there are no updates on the investigation into the cause of the blaze.

Nguyen said she hopes to use the money fundraised by her school community at Rice University where she expects to finish her MBA program, to honor her children and either start a foundation or give contributions to existing charities.

Her family also launched a GoFundMe page with the “aim to to create a foundation in the children’s honor to provide tuition assistance at St. Laurence Catholic School and to raise awareness about fire safety.”

The separate fundraisers had taken in a total of more than $528,000 as of Monday evening.

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Exclusive: Biden in No Rush To Lift Venezuela Sanctions, Seeks Serious Steps by Maduro

Reuters February 28, 2021 0 Comments

President Joe Biden’s administration is in “no rush” to lift U.S. sanctions on Venezuela but would consider easing them if President Nicolas Maduro takes confidence-building steps showing he is ready to negotiate seriously with the opposition, a White House official told Reuters.

Signaling that the new U.S. president may be unlikely to loosen the screws on Venezuela anytime soon, the official emphasized that existing sanctions have enough special provisions to allow for humanitarian aid shipments to help Venezuelans cope with economic hardships and the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Maduro’s Socialist government has been “actively preventing the delivery of humanitarian assistance.”

This suggests that for now Biden is prepared to stick with the specific sanctions, including crippling oil-sector penalties, imposed by former President Donald Trump on the OPEC nation, despite the failure to force Maduro from power.

But Biden, by contrast, intends to move away from the mostly unilateral approach of Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign and enlist more countries to help seek a diplomatic solution, the official said in an interview.

Biden’s administration has made clear it will continue to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president. Dozens of countries have backed Guaido’s claim following Maduro’s re-election in 2018 in a vote Western governments called a sham, though cracks recently have appeared in Guaido’s international support.

“We’re in no rush to lift sanctions,” the official said. “If the regime undertakes confidence-building measures that show that they’re ready and willing to engage in real conversations with the opposition … if they’re ready to take serious steps, then we will consider the alleviation of sanctions.”

The official did not specify what steps Maduro would need to make but said he could not be allowed to use negotiations as a “delaying tactic” to consolidate power and divide the opposition, as he has been accused of doing in the past.

Maduro, who calls Guaido a U.S. puppet, has shown no signs of giving ground. Having retained support of the military as well as Russia, China, Cuba and Iran, he has rejected or ignored previous demands for such concessions.

The Biden administration also appears to have little sense of urgency for major gestures toward Cuba despite hopes for a softer approach after Trump, often citing its support for Maduro, rolled back historic Obama-era détente with Havana.

Some Biden advisers had suggested earlier that he could start by loosening up the flow of remittances from Cuban Americans and ease restrictions on family travel to the Communist-ruled island.

But while acknowledging such changes could have a positive impact, the official said a Cuba policy shift was not currently among Biden’s top priorities, which include the coronavirus pandemic, economic recovery and rebuilding alliances abroad.

“Frankly, first things first,” the official said.

There has also been no sign of any immediate plans to rescind Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism, though Biden officials have said Trump’s last-minute decision to return Havana to the U.S. blacklist is under review.

(Reporting By Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Mary Milliken and Nick Zieminski)

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