US Government Shuts Down On Trump’s First Anniversary

The United States government shut down at the stroke of midnight Friday, halting all but the most essential operations and marring the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

According to Associated Press, last-minute negotiations crumbled as Senate Democrats blocked a four-week stopgap extension in a late-night vote, causing the fourth government shutdown in a quarter century.

Trump’s office issued a statement blaming opposition Democrats for the crisis.

AFP reported that spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the Democrats’ insistence that the interim measure include protection for undocumented immigrants who arrived as children killed the deal.

“Senate Democrats own the Schumer Shutdown,” she declared, referring to the minority leader, New York Senator Chuck Schumer, who met with Trump earlier Friday.

“Tonight, they put politics above our national security, military families, vulnerable children, and our country’s ability to serve all Americans.

“We will not negotiate the status of unlawful immigrants while Democrats hold our lawful citizens hostage over their reckless demands,” she warned.

US federal services and military operations deemed essential will continue, but thousands of government workers will be sent home without pay until the crisis is resolved.

The slide toward closure lacked for high drama: The Senate vote was all but predetermined, and since the shutdown began at the start of a weekend, many of the immediate effects will be muted for most Americans.

Still, it comes with no shortage of embarrassment for Trump and political risk for both parties, as they wager that voters will punish the other at the ballot box in November.

Social Security and most other safety net programs are unaffected by the lapse in federal spending authority.

Critical government functions will continue, with uniformed service members, health inspectors and law enforcement officers set to work without pay. But if no deal is brokered before Monday, hundreds of thousands of federal employees will be furloughed.

After hours of closed-door meetings and phone calls, the Senate scheduled its late-night vote on a House-passed plan. It gained 50 votes to proceed to 48 against, but 60 were needed to break a Democratic filibuster. A handful of red-state Democrats crossed the aisle to support the measure, rather than take the politically-risky vote. Four Republicans voted in opposition.

Even before the vote, Trump was pessimistic, tweeting, “Not looking good” and blaming the Democrats who he said actually wanted the shutdown “to help diminish the success” of the tax bill he and fellow Republicans pushed through last month.

Democrats balked on the measure in an effort to pressure on the White House to cut a deal to protect “dreamer” immigrants — who were brought to the country as children and are now here illegally — before their legal protection runs out in March.

Trump watched the results from his White House residence, dialling up allies and affirming his belief that Democrats would take the blame for the shutdown, said a person familiar with his conversations but not authorised to discuss them publicly.

AFP

UN Issues Forty-Eight Hours Ultimatum To Armed Groups

The UN Mission in Central African Republic (MINUSCA) has given armed groups in the north of the country 48 hours to clear out, saying it intends to clear a 50-kilometre perimeter around the town allowing displaced persons to return.

Recall that over the last three weeks, some 60,000 people, mostly women, left everything behind to escape clashes between the armed groups; Justice Riot and the National Movement for the Liberation of the Central African Republic.

“Again, civilians in Central African Republic are paying a heavy price in clashes between armed groups since the end of December 2017, fighting between armed movements.

“The displaced persons have ended up in Paoua, where some 40,000 residents took them in. Now the food and water is running out, the CAR Humanitarian Coordinator Najat Rochdi, said.

According to him, the humanitarian community is responding to the needs of tens of thousands of newly displaced people who have fled ongoing clashes between armed groups in the northern region of Paoua.

The UN and partners have provided food to displaced families and host families would also receive assistance while free healthcare services were being offered to the displaced and host families.

Humanitarian agencies are also distributing hygiene kits to contain the spread of contagious diseases, while the Government has provided soap and clothes, Rochdi said.

“Yesterday, aid workers also began the construction of community hangars to temporarily shelter those displaced who are not staying with host families.

“More displacement is expected as fighting continues. Paoua town, which previously had 40,000 inhabitants, has seen its population triple in a few weeks. Villages 50 kilometres north of Paoua are almost empty,” he said.

 

Donald Trump Finally Announces The Winners Of His ‘Fake News Awards”

The President of the United States, Donald Trump has finally announced the winners of his highly anticipated ‘Fake News Awards’.

Topping the list are CNN and New York Times emerging top on the list. Trump described them as dishonest and corrupt.

Trump crashed the Republican Party’s website on which he posted the list of the award winners moments after he tweeted the link announcing the winners, due to the high volume of traffic.

Trump had on January 2, said: “I will be announcing THE MOST DISHONEST & CORRUPT MEDIA AWARDS OF THE YEAR on Monday at 5 p.m. Subjects will cover Dishonesty & Bad Reporting in various categories from the Fake News Media. Stay tuned!”

However, on January 7, he said: “The Fake News Awards, those going to the most corrupt & biased of the Mainstream Media, will be presented to the losers on Wednesday, Jan. 17, rather than this coming Monday. The interest in, and importance of, these awards is far greater than anyone could have anticipated!”

Out of the 11 ‘fake news reports’ listed on the award, CNN won four, New York Times clinched two, while TIME magazine, ABC News, Newsweek and Washington Post won an award each.

The full list of the website read: “The New York Times’ Paul Krugman claimed on the day of President Trump’s historic, landslide victory that the economy would never recover”.

“ABC News’ Brian Ross CHOKES and sends markets in a downward spiral with false report”.

“CNN FALSELY reported that candidate Donald Trump and his son Donald J. Trump, Jr. had access to hacked documents from WikiLeaks.

“TIME FALSELY reported that President Trump removed a bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. from the Oval Office.

“Washington Post FALSELY reported the President’s massive sold-out rally in Pensacola, Florida was empty. Dishonest reporter showed picture of empty arena HOURS before crowd started pouring in.

“CNN FALSELY edited a video to make it appear President Trump defiantly overfed fish during a visit with the Japanese prime minister. Japanese prime minister actually led the way with the feeding.

“CNN FALSELY reported about Anthony Scaramucci’s meeting with a Russian, but retracted it due to a ‘significant breakdown in process’.

“Newsweek FALSELY reported that Polish First Lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda did not shake President Trump’s hand.”

“CNN FALSELY reported that former FBI Director James Comey would dispute President Trump’s claim that he was told he is not under investigation.

“The New York Times FALSELY claimed on the front page that the Trump administration had hidden a climate report.”

“And last, but not least: “RUSSIA COLLUSION!” Russian collusion is perhaps the greatest hoax perpetrated on the American people. THERE IS NO COLLUSION!”

The post also went on to list 10 Trump administration’s major successes, adding “while the media spent 90 per cent of the time focused on negative coverage or fake news, the President has been getting results”.

 

Food Supply Needed Urgently For South Sudan

Unless food is procured and distributed to millions of people urgently in South Sudan, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) says that South Sudan’s food security situation will worsen in 2018 compared to 2017.

WFP Deputy Country Director Simon Cammelbeek told journalists on Tuesday that the UN agency needs to urgently procure and distribute food by air drops to six million people in hard-to-reach areas before the coming rainy season.

“The food security situation is not good and the indication we get is that the harvest last year (2017) was less than the year before,” he revealed in Juba.

South Sudan in December 2017 had launched humanitarian appeal estimated at 1.72 billion dollars.

A report released by the Integrated Food Security Classification (IPC) in 2017 said an earlier-than-normal start of the lean season will result in an estimated 5.1 million people (48 per cent of the total population) being classified as severely food insecure in January-March 2018.

“It’s very important that we also take this opportunity in the current month to procure food and distribute food to those areas which will not be reachable during the rainy season.

“So as much as we have to wait for the final (IPC) assessment the indications are clear it (food situation) is worse than last year,” Cammelbeek said.

Violence continues unabated in the world’s youngest nation despite repeated stern warning of consequences to the warring parties by the international community and regional East African leaders after several cease-fire violations.

Cammelbeek said that the humanitarian needs continue to worsen in the country where donors have been supportive of WFP and other partners’ efforts.

He said that additional resources are urgently required to help mount an effective and timely response to tackle hunger.

He said that the planting season begins in February and they will liaise with the government on how to extend support to farmers.

“Whereas famine conditions were averted in 2017 thanks in part to the extensive and large scale response by WFP and partners, some 6 million people are unable to meet their daily food needs already in January this year.

“We must do everything in our power and work jointly to ensure food and nutritional assistance for all,” Cammelbeek said.

South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013 after political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy turned rebel chief Machar to split within the SPLA, leaving soldiers to fight alongside ethnic lines.

The 2015 peace agreement to end the conflict was weakened after outbreak of renewed fighting in July 2016 caused the SPLA-in opposition rebel leader Machar to flee the capital.

 

Indian Army Chief Calls For Restrictions On Internet And Social Media

Indian army chief Bipin Rawat has called for restrictions on the internet and social media use to counter terrorism.

The army chief said this while speaking at the Raisina Dialogue — a conference hosted by an Indian think tank in collaboration with India’s foreign ministry.

“I understand that in a democratic country people might have issues when we put curbs in place. But it is important to restrict the use of social media to tackle terrorism.

“Put some checks and curbs on internet, social media that terrorist organisations always resort to,” Rawat said.

Rawat also listed the severity of biological chemical weapons and the threat that it poses.

“The threat of nuclear and chemical weapons falling in the hands of terrorists can be a disaster for humanity,” he said.

Recall in June 2017, it was reported that social media giants Facebook, Google’s YouTube, Twitter and Microsoft said on they were forming a global working group to combine their efforts to remove terrorist content from their platforms.

Responding to pressure from governments in Europe and the United States after a spate of militant attacks, the companies said they would share technical solutions for removing terrorist content, commission research to inform their counter-speech efforts and work more with counter-terrorism experts.

The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism “will formalise and structure existing and future areas of collaboration between our companies and foster cooperation with smaller tech companies, civil society groups and academics, governments and supra-national bodies such as the EU and the UN,” the companies said in a statement.

 

US Secretary Of State Comes To Trumps Rescue Over “Shithole Country Saga”

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has in a bid to help US president Donald Trump out of his shocking words referring to African countries as Shit Hole Countries said that the U.S has built strong relationships with African Countries and is interested in having such ties with them in future

Recall that on Thursday, U.S. media reported that President Trump behind closed doors made a statement, in which he called Haiti and African states “shithole countries.”

“We have very positive relationship with African nations, we share a number of security issues.

“We share a number of economic development issues and I think those leaders know that the United States wants that relationship to continue to be strong,” Tillerson said at a news conference in Vancouver, answering a question on impact of Trump’s reported statement on Washington’s ties with Africa.

The diplomat expressed hope that the African nations also want to maintain the relationship with Washington.

 

Pope Francis In Tears Over Sexual Abuse Scandal In Chile

Spokesman Greg Burke has reported that Pope Francis wept bitterly as he met with victims of child molestation and abuse by priests in Chile on Tuesday.

The private meeting took place during a packed first day of the pontiff’s week long trip to South America where he will also visit Peru.

Greg Burke said, ‘No one else was present. Only the Pope and the victims, ‘This was so they could speak of their suffering to Pope Francis, who listened to them and prayed and cried with them.’

It was only the second time on his overseas trips that the Pope has met victims of sexual abuse, although he has met some at the Vatican. The last meeting on a trip was in Philadelphia in 2015.

Burke declined to give details, but his statement came at the end of an intense day for the pope, during which he spoke of sexual abuse twice, once asking forgiveness for abuses he said had done “irreparable damage” to victims.

During his first public address of the tour Francis begged forgiveness and said he feels ‘pain and shame’ over the sex abuse scandal.

Pope Francis is facing protests as he travels around Chile over his appointment as Bishop of Osorno of Juan Barros, who is accused of covering up the abuse of the notorious paedophile priest Fernando Karadima.

 

Myanmar Police Opens Fire On Protesters Killing Seven

Myanmar police opened fire at hundreds of protesters angry about a ban on a local festival. The action by the police has left at seven people dead.

The protesters in Rakhine state marched through the ancient city of Mrauk-U and ransacked a government building on Tuesday after authorities banned the anniversary celebration of the founding of the old kingdom, saying they were not informed about it beforehand.

Deputy director of the regional government Tin Maung Swe said police warned the mob to stop but they were being physically attacked and officers had to respond after initially using rubber bullets.

The protest involved Rakhine Buddhists. Rakhine is also home to minority Rohingya Muslims, who have long faced persecution that has seen about 650,000 people driven away from their homes into Bangladesh since August.

 

Minister For Loneliness Appointed In Memory Of Murdered MP Jo Cox

Following the murder of Ms Cox by a far-right extremist in her constituency in June 2016, a minister for loneliness has been appointed in her honor as she was passionate about issues relating to loneliness in her lifetime. She was reportedly shot and stabbed multiple times in Birstall, West Yorkshire.

Ms Cox was a British Labour Party Member of Parliament for Batley and Spen.

The role was one of the suggestions of the Jo Cox commission, which called for a national strategy in response to an “urgent crisis”.

Her sister, Kim Leadbeater, said loneliness was one of the issues she had been passionate about during her life.

Theresa May is to host an event in Downing St later today, to celebrate Ms Cox’s life.

Mrs May said: “For far too many people, loneliness is the sad reality of modern life.

“I want to confront this challenge for our society and for all of us to take action to address the loneliness endured by the elderly, by carers, by those who have lost loved ones, people who have no one to talk to or share their thoughts and experiences with.

“Jo Cox recognised the scale of loneliness across the country and dedicated herself to doing all she could to help those affected.

“So I am pleased that Government can build on her legacy with a ministerial lead for loneliness who will work with the Commission, businesses and charities to shine a light on the issue and pull together all strands of Government to create the first ever strategy.

“We should all do everything we can to see that, in Jo’s memory, we bring an end to the acceptance of loneliness for good.”

The cross-party commission was chaired by Rachel Reeves and Seema Kennedy and worked with 13 charities to help find solutions to the problem.

The two MPs welcomed the appointment and added: “Jo Cox said that ‘young or old, loneliness doesn’t discriminate’.

“Throughout 2017 we have heard from new parents, children, disabled people, carers, refugees and older people about their experience of loneliness.”

The Office for National Statistics is to help devise a method for measuring loneliness and there will be a fund set up for Government and charities to tackle it.

South Africans Burn Nigerian Shops, Four Hospitalized

 

The Nigerian Community in South Africa says four members are in critical condition in the hospital while some shops have been burnt in renewed attacks by South Africans.

 

Paul Nwanedo, chairman, Nigerian Union, North West Province chapter told the News Agency of Nigeria on the telephone from Rustenburg that the attacks against Nigerians began on Sunday.

 

He said that taxi drivers in Rustenburg alleged that a Nigerian abducted and raped a 16-year-old South African girl and also alleged that Nigerians sold drugs to a local gang that attacked their members.

 

“This is absolutely untrue. We have investigated and found out that the allegations are false. The union is worried about the safety of our members in Rustenburg,” he said.

 

Mr. Nwanedo said that four Nigerians caught by the taxi drivers were beaten and are in critical condition in the hospital while some shops belonging to Nigerians had been torched.

 

“As I speak to you, we are afraid because the attacks have continued and our members are still in hiding.

 

“We have reported to the police and our national secretariat. We want the safety of lives and property of our people,” he said.

 

Adetola Olubajo, President of the union, said that the national secretariat had been informed about the incident at Rustenburg.

 

“Investigation by the union shows that no Nigerians abducted or raped a South African girl. Indeed, no Nigerian has been arrested for the offence and we are worried about the turn of events.

“The lives and property of our citizens in Rustenburg are in danger and there is an urgent need for intervention. We appeal to our mission and Federal government to intervene urgently and save the situation,” Mr. Olubajo said.

 

The spokesman of the police in Rustenburg, Sabata Mokgwabone, said the reason for the violent protest was unclear but confirmed that “the burnt houses are those occupied by foreign nationals,”

 

North West Provincial Commissioner of Police, Baile Motswenyane, called on the public to work with law enforcement officials.

 

“Those who are doing this must know that they are committing a crime and drastic action will be taken, including against our own members who are involved in criminal activities,” he said.

 

(NAN)

 

Cholera Outbreak Forces Zambian Government To Suspend Travel Activities

The Zambian Government has placed a temporary suspension on issuance of passports and national identity cards in Lusaka, the country’s capital following an outbreak of cholera.

Minister of Home Affairs, Stephen Kampyongo said the suspension was necessitated by the escalating cases of cholera in the city and to aid the government’s ban on public gatherings in some parts of the city.

He said the issuing office would only attend to emergency travels.

“There is no need to panic as this will be temporal to allow for efforts to prevent the spread of cholera,’’ he told reporters during a news briefing.

The cholera outbreak which mainly affected Lusaka since Oct. 2017 has prompted the government to ban public gathering as well as defer opening of schools.

According to figures from the health ministry, cholera cases in Zambia have surpassed 2,800, while the death toll presently stands at 64.

Zambian President Edgar Lungu expressed optimism that the measures put in place by the government to contain the water-borne disease were adequate but highlighted the need to clean up cities to improve hygiene.