Category Archives: U.S


Maduro warns of civil war: Venezuela crisis:

Miraflores press office shows Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro during an event with members of the military, in Turiamo, Venezuela, 3 February 2019
Nicolás Maduro has retained the support of the Venezuelan military

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has said he cannot rule out the possibility of civil war as pressure mounts on him to stand down.

In a TV interview, he warned that US President Donald Trump would leave the White House “stained with blood” if he intervened in the crisis.

He also defiantly rejected the EU’s Sunday deadline to call snap elections.

Opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared himself interim president last month and won US backing.

He said on Sunday he would build an international coalition to deliver humanitarian aid to Venezuelans but Mr Maduro has accused him of organising a coup.

What did Maduro say?

In the interview with Spanish television programme Salvados, broadcast on Sunday, Mr Maduro was asked if the crisis in Venezuela could result in civil war.

“Today no-one could answer that question with certainty,” he said.

Masked anti-Maduro protesters in Caracas, 2 February
Masked anti-Maduro protesters could be seen in Caracas on Saturday

“Everything depends on the level of madness and aggressiveness of the northern empire [the US] and its Western allies.

Peru landslide kills at least 15 at hotel wedding party

“We ask that nobody intervenes in our internal affairs… and we prepare ourselves to defend our country.”

President Trump has told US broadcaster CBSthe use of military force remains “an option” .

But Mr Maduro warned the US leader he risked a repeat of the Vietnam War if he intervened.

Who is really in charge in Venezuela?
Who is really in charge in Venezuela?

“Stop. Stop. Donald Trump! You are making mistakes that are going to stain your hands with blood and you are going to leave the presidency stained with blood,” he said.

“Let’s respect each other, or is it that you are going to repeat a Vietnam in Latin America?”

Sunday saw the expiry of a deadline set by several European countries – including France, the UK, Austria, Germany and Spain – for Mr Maduro to call early presidential elections. They said that they would recognise Mr Guaidó as interim president if no such pledge was forthcoming.

On Monday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Mr Guaidó had the “legitimacy to organise presidential elections.”

“People are on the streets, people want change,”he told broadcaster France Inter.

But Mr Maduro responded: “We don’t accept ultimatums from anyone. It’s like if I told the European Union: ‘I give you seven days to recognise the Republic of Catalonia, and if you don’t, we are going to take measures’.

Venezuela crisis: White House ‘will respond to threats against diplomats’

“No, international politics can’t be based on ultimatums. That was the era of empires and colonies.”

What is the situation in Venezuela?

Thousands took to the streets of the capital Caracas on Saturday for protests in support of both President Maduro and Mr Guaidó.

Mr Maduro retains the support of the military, but ahead of the demonstrations Mr Guaidó received a boost when an air force general – Francisco Yanez – became the highest-ranking military official yet to pledge support for him.

Mr Guaidó says he has held private meetings with the military to win support for ousting Mr Maduro. He says he has also reached out to China, one of Mr Maduro’s most important backers.

What is Guaidó’s aid plan?

He does not control any territory in Venezuela, so instead he plans to set up collection centres in neighbouring countries where Venezuelans have fled to.

He said he wanted to set up an international coalition to gather aid at three points, and press Venezuela’s army to let it into the country.

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido waves to supporters in Caracas, Venezuela February 2, 2019
Juan Guaidó is head of Venezuela’s National Assembly

US National Security Adviser John Bolton said on Twitter that plans were being advanced over the weekend.

Mr Maduro has rejected letting aid into the country, telling supporters on Saturday “we’ve never been nor are we a country of beggars”.

What’s the background?

Venezuela has suffered economic turmoil for years, with hyperinflation and shortages of essentials such as food and medicine. Millions have fled.

Why Venezuela matters to the US... and vice versa
Why Venezuela matters to the US… and vice versa

In January, Mr Maduro was sworn in for a second term following disputed elections which many opposition leaders did not contest because they were in jail or boycotting them.

Mr Guaidó, who is head of Venezuela’s National Assembly, declared himself president on 23 January.

He says the constitution allows him to assume power temporarily when the president is deemed illegitimate. On Saturday he said protests would continue until his supporters had achieved “freedom”.

Map shows where countries stand on Venezuela presidency

How have you been affected by the government shutdown? Emailing your Stories

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U.S. should counter Russia and China hacking with its own influence operations, think tank says.


Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Jan. 30. (Maxim Shemetov/AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Jan. 30. (Maxim Shemetov/AP)

A right-of-center Washington think tank has a novel recommendation for how the Trump administration can push back on Russian and Chinese hacking and disinformation campaigns: Strike back with its own information warfare operations.

The United States could hack and release embarrassing information about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s personal wealth, for example, as a bargaining chip to convince him to halt digital attacks against the United States, David Maxwell and Annie Fixler with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies told me.

U.S. officials could also release information about corrupt business practices by Chinese Communist Party officials or Iran’s theocratic rulers with similar goals, Maxwell and Fixler said.

“This generated from our thinking about where our adversaries are weak and we’re strong,” Fixler told me.

The idea, which comes from the think tank’s “Midterm Assessment” of the Trump administration’s foreign and national security policies, is aimed at giving the United States more leverage in cyberspace where it is routinely pummeled by adversaries that are highly aggressive and don’t fear U.S. retaliation. 

The report may also may hold sway with the Trump administration. The Midterm Analysis includes a foreword by Trump’s former national security adviser H.R. McMaster, who says the report “transcended the vitriolic and shallow partisan discourse that dominates much of what passes for commentary on foreign policy and national security.”

Yet the United States has not previously used hacking and information operations as a tool to shame adversaries — or at least, it hasn’t publicly acknowledged releasing hacked information about other leaders in the way the researchers describe. Doing so would mark a major escalation from typical U.S. responses to hacking campaigns,which have focused on escalating sanctions, indictments and calling out foreign government-backed hackers on the world stage.

Those diplomatic and law enforcement responses have the benefit of giving the United States a clear moral high ground about what is and isn’t acceptable in cyberspace.

But they haven’t actually deterred U.S. adversaries from playing dirtier, the researchers note. With Russian, Chinese, Iranian and North Korean hackers unbowed two years after Russian hacking upended the 2016 elections, it’s time for a bolder response, Fixler and Maxwell told me. 

The non-profit think tank is known for its focus on robust American engagement abroad. Funded by conservative luminaries includingcasino magnate Sheldon Adelson, it employs numerous former Republican officials including John Hannah, who advised former vice president Dick Cheney on the Middle East. McMaster is now chairman of its board of advisers at their center on military and political power. 

Hacking and releasing compromising information about adversary nations’ leaders plays into U.S. adversaries’ weaknesses, Fixler and Maxwell told me. Unlike U.S. citizens, Russians, Chinese and Iranians aren’t used to a free press that publishes lots of detailed and often embarrassing information about their leaders, they said.

“We can use that to our advantage by providing more information to their public about corruption, about where their leaders have money, things that can be very damaging for authoritarian countries,” Fixler told me.

That idea carries its own set of dangers, cautions Chris Painter, the former State Department cyber coordinator under former president Obama who’s now a fellow at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation— especially if the United States falls into a tit-for-tat exchange releasing hacked information with a far more unscrupulous adversary.

“The worry is you have this escalating cycle with false and manipulated information that Russia has shown a great proclivity and ability to use,” Painter said. “But, on the other hand, they’re using it anyway, so we need to counter that.”

U.S. officials should make clear that the ultimate goal of any information operation is to make cyberspace more peaceful rather than simply to punch back in anger, Painter said. “You need to communicate very clearly that we’re using these tools and we’ll stop using them when you stop what you’re doing,” he told me.

Still, the idea of using information operations against adversaries is not a novel concept. U.S. intelligence officials considered but rejected such a plan to release damaging information about Russian officials, including bank account data, in response to Russia’s release of Democratic political emails before the 2016 election, according to a New Yorker report. And similar plans were widely discussed by analysts outside government after the election. 

Fixler and Maxwell aren’t advocating releasing false or misleading information like Kremlin operatives did before the 2016 elections, they were quick to note.

They also don’t want the United States to abandon other methods of punishing adversaries that hack U.S. targets and launch disinformation campaigns, such as sanctions and indictments targeting companies and individuals that benefit from those operations.

But, so far, those methods have done little to change the willingness of Russia, China and Iran to hack U.S. targets or to engage in disinformation operations.

Just Thursday, in fact, Facebook and Twitter removed thousands of malicious accounts originating from Russia, Iran and Venezuela that spread false information about the 2018 U.S. election. On Wednesday, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team revealed a Russian disinformation effort using documents the team shared with a Russian company that it had indicted on a charge of 2016 disinformation operations.

“What we’re saying is that, to date, [U.S. adversaries] haven’t felt the pain and we need to demonstrate that there’s a real cost to these actions that will change their calculations,” Fixler told me.

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CJN: Nigerians storm streets of New York, urge US, UN to back Buhari

Barely 24 hours after some concerned Nigerians trooped out en mass in the United Kingdom to support President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption fight, their counterparts in the United States (US) have followed suit.

These Nigerians, under the auspices of Restore Nigeria Coalition (RNC) were spotted in the streets of Washington, chanting ‘Sai Baba’ as they urged the Donald Trump-led government and the United Nations to support President Buhari in flushing out corruption.

Cosmas Collins, President of RNC, speaking on behalf of the group, believes Nigeria has made tremendous progress in the anti-corruption fight as witnessed in the case of embattled Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen.

Breaking: I am Justice Walter Onnoghen, I have not resigned

“They are sufficing to note that since 2015, the present administration has initiated measures aimed at reducing corrupt practices in the conduct of government business at all tiers of governance. This effort has yielded positive results to the admiration of the bulk of Nigerians and the consternation of a select few that have benefited from the rot in the system,” he said.

“Undeterred, the government of President Muhammadu Buhari has carried on with enthusiasm and a determination to see that structural defects are fixed to curb the rot in the system for the betterment of Nigeria as a country.

Breaking: CCT declines to stop Onnoghen’s trial

“You may also wish to note that the bane of underdevelopment in Nigeria is as a result of the lackadaisical attitude of previous governments in the fight against corruption that has resulted in the wanton disregard for accountability and transparency in the conduct of government businesses and by extension governance in Nigeria.

“Since 2015 when the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari took over the affairs of the state in Nigeria, Nigeria has recorded tremendous progress in governance evident in the dividends of democracy trickling down the ladder.

“However, the present administration has encountered numerous challenges from individuals and organisations that have subverted the system through nefarious ways and means all in the quest to portray the Muhammadu Buhari administration in poor light in an attempt to pitch the populace against the government to fulfil their personal agenda of causing unrest and disaffection in the country.

“The recent case of the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, who violated the law in declaring his assets as stipulated by the law has further emphasized the level of rot in the system.

“A particular segment of the Nigerian society has cried wolf where none exist and painted a picture of political persecution, forgetting that Nigeria was on the brinks of imminent collapse due the activities of a few that have benefitted from the rot in the system.

“We are through this medium soliciting for assistance from the United States and United Nation in the war against corruption in Nigeria as initiated by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari in recent times.

Onnoghen: It’s unfortunate FG has no regard for rule of law- Ohanaeze

“A vivid example can be seen in the instance where the Chief Judicial Official in Nigeria, either by omission or commission failed to declare a part of his assets running into millions of dollars.

“The Chief Justice of Nigeria as the number one judicial officer in the country for inexplicable reasons did not declare a part of his assets before the Code of Conduct Bureau in Nigeria. The CJN cited “forgetfulness and mistake” as the reasons for the non-declaration.

“The non-declared items are bank accounts with balances that runs into millions of pounds sterling and dollars. This is too much to be right in our considered opinion. As the number one judicial officer in the country, it is wholly untenable for such an excuse, unless for deliberate reasons.”

Trump says US-China trade talks ‘going well’

President Donald Trump on Wednesday touted the chances of success as US-China trade negotiations entered a second day, saying Beijing was eager to make a deal.

President Donald Trump

President Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018

Sarah Sanders’ also said it was “very hard” to take morality lessons from the Democratic 

In a morning series of tweets, he also said a final deal would leave “NOTHING” unresolved but such a bargain could only be struck after he met with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping “in the near future.”

The meetings are “going well,” Trump said on Twitter.

“China does not want an increase in Tariffs and feels they will do much better if they make a deal. They are correct.”

US shutdown: National press see a defeat for Donald Trump

The two sides have just a month remaining in a 90-day truce declared in December. Should the talks fail, US import duties on $200 billion in Chinese imports are due to more than double on March 2 — something economists say could help knock the wind out of the global economy’s sails.

President Donald Trump 

But Washington’s aggressive prosecution of the Chinese telecoms firm Huawei — which federal prosecutors accused this week of industrial espionage, sanctions violations and fraud — threatened to upend the talks, drawing irate objections from Beijing.

Trump ally Roger Stone hedges bets on cooperation with Robert Mueller

“No final deal will be made until my friend President Xi, and I, meet in the near future to discuss and agree on some of the long standing and more difficult points. Very comprehensive transaction,” Trump said.

“China’s representatives and I are trying to do a complete deal, leaving NOTHING unresolved on the table. All of the many problems are being discussed and will be hopefully resolved. Tariffs on China increase to 25% on March 1st, so all working hard to complete by that date!”

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President Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018

Trump tells US spy chiefs: ‘Go back to school’

President Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018

President Donald Trump has called US intelligence agencies “naive” on Iran and also dismissed their assessment of the threat posed by North Korea.

“Be careful of Iran. Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!” Mr Trump tweeted.

The testy response came after a US intelligence report said Iran was not making nuclear weapons.

It also said that North Korea remained “unlikely to give up” its weapons stockpiles and production abilities.

National intelligence director Dan Coats and other intelligence chiefs presented the Worldwide Threat Assessment report to the Senate on Tuesday.

Last year, the US pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, triggering widespread criticism from Washington’s allies.

Mr Trump also launched a diplomatic push to improve relations with North Korea, meeting the country’s leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore last June to discuss denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

At the time, Mr Trump said this meeting had ended the North Korean nuclear threat – a claim questioned by a number of US politicians and experts.

N Korea’s leaders ‘view nuclear as key to regime survival’

The US intelligence report also warned that cyber threats from China and Russia were a growing concern, and both countries may be seeking to influence the 2020 US presidential elections.

What did Trump say about Iran?

In a series of tweets, Mr Trump said US intelligence officials “seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran. They are wrong!”

Iran, he continued, was “making trouble all over the Middle East, and beyond” in 2016, but had been “much different” since the US pullout from the “terrible” Iran nuclear deal.

However, Mr Trump warned that Tehran remained “a source of potential danger and conflict”, referring to reported recent Iranian rocket tests.

At the Senate hearing, CIA director Gina Haspel said Iran was “technically… in compliance” with the nuclear deal, despite the US withdrawal and the imposition of stricter sanctions against Tehran.

However, the intelligence report warned that Iran’s “regional ambitions and improved military capabilities” would probably threaten US interests in the future.

What about Trump’s remarks on North Korea?

The president wrote that “time will tell what will happen with North Korea, but at the end of the previous administration, relationship was horrendous and very bad things were about to happen.

“Now a whole different story. I look forward to seeing Kim Jong Un shortly. Progress being made – big difference!”

The US intelligence report earlier concluded that North Korea was “unlikely to give up” its weapons stockpiles and production abilities while it tried to negotiate “partial denuclearisation steps to obtain key US and international concessions”.

Having nuclear weapons was seen as “critical to regime survival”, the report added.

In Singapore, Mr Trump and Mr Kim signed an agreement pledging to “work toward complete denuclearisation” – but there was no agreed pathway and little progress has been made since then on the issue.

The White House has said there will be a second summit in February but no date or location has yet been confirmed.

For Trump and intelligence chiefs, a gaping chasm is normal

Analysis by BBC Security Correspondent Gordon Corera

It used to be that finding the tiniest gap between the statements of a political leader and his intelligence chiefs would make for front-page news.

Yet these days a gaping chasm between President Trump and the heads of his intelligence agencies has almost become a new normal.

The willingness of Donald Trump to attack intelligence assessments began after his election and before he took office, when the intelligence community at the tail end of the Obama administration produced an assessment that said Russia had interfered in the 2016 election.

Rather than see the legitimacy of his victory undermined, he targeted the credibility of the spies.

That trend has continued in office even with intelligence chiefs who now serve at his pleasure.

They have to tread a thorny path (easier walked together than alone) between being seen to maintain their integrity in telling “truth to power”, and not risking the wrath of a president which in turn could undermine their work.

Is this the first time Trump has clashed with US intelligence bosses?


Last year, Mr Trump faced a barrage of criticism from both Democrats and Republicans after he defended Russia over claims it meddled in the 2016 US presidential elections.

US intelligence agencies concluded in 2016 that Russia was behind an effort to tip the scales of the US election against Hillary Clinton, with a state-authorised campaign of cyber attacks and fake news stories planted on social media.

But after face-to-face talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki in July 2018, Mr Trump said there had been no reason for Russia to interfere.

“President Putin says it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be,” Mr Trump told a news conference.

Just 24 hours later, the US president said he misspoke and should have said, “I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be” Russia.

Trump says he “misspoke” at Putin summit, but is it too late? Anthony Zurcher explains

US special counsel Robert Mueller is continuing his investigation into alleged Russian collusion in the 2016 US election.

President Trump has repeatedly described the investigation as a “witch-hunt”.

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Roger Stone: Trump ally arrested on seven Mueller probe charges

By emmanuel Justices

Political strategist Roger Stone, a long-time ally of President Trump, has been arrested in Florida, charged with seven counts in the Mueller probe.

Mr Stone will appear in court later in the city of Fort Lauderdale.

Roger Stone is a political lobbyist and an ally of President Donald Trump
Roger Stone is a political lobbyist and an ally of President Donald Trump

The indictment includes one count of obstruction of an official proceeding, five counts of false statements, and one count of witness-tampering .

The charges are linked to an alleged Russian-led hack into the emails of Democratic Party officials.

The information contained in the emails was released by WikiLeaks during the 2016 US election campaign.

Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign chairman John Podesta, who was targeted in the hack, accused self-described “dirty trickster” Mr Stone of knowing about it beforehand.

According to investigators, Mr Stone said he had “communicated” with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange before the emails’ release and had described the contact as “perfectly legal”.

Roger Stone at a Trump rally
Mr Stone has worked on Republican political campaigns since the 1970s

Mr Stone was detained in a pre-dawn arrest.

His campaign activities have long been under scrutiny by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating allegations of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

In 2016, US intelligence agencies concluded that Russia had tried to turn the election in Mr Trump’s favour through a state-authorised relay of cyber attacks and fake news stories planted on social media.

Mr Trump has branded the Mueller inquiry a political “witch-hunt”. The Kremlin has always denied meddling in the US election.

US shutdown: Trump delays State of the Union address

Trump-Kim summit: Second meeting by end of February

Buzzfeed’s Trump lawyer report not accurate – Mueller’s office

Mr Stone is the 34th person to be charged as part of the Mueller investigation. Those indicted include 12 Russian military officers and 13 Russian nationals accused of leading a campaign to interfere in the US election.

Another three Russian entities, including the notorious Internet Research Agency “troll farm”, have also been charged.

Several people connected directly with Mr Trump have been indicted, including his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and Paul Manafort, the former chairman of his election campaign, who is in jail.

Who is Roger Stone?

A long-time friend of Donald Trump, Roger Stone has worked on Republican political campaigns since the 1970s.

The 64-year-old favours three-piece suits and reportedly refuses to wear socks.

He began his career working on Richard Nixon’s 1972 re-election bid, and has a tattoo of the 37th president across his shoulder blades.

Mr Stone published a book, The Making of the President 2016, after helping Mr Trump to power.

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@Shut down Stories: The impact of the government shutdown.;

A woman wearing a “hungry hostage” headband protests on Capitol Hill

President Donald Trump’s standoff with Democrats over funding for his proposed border wall has resulted in the longest government shutdown in US history. How has it affected American life so far?

Mr Trump insists the government will stay closed until he gets that funding, and as the shutdown enters day 34, Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have remained equally firm that there will be no congressional funding for a wall.

A quarter of the federal government has been unfunded since 22 December, leaving 800,000 employees without pay.

Here is some of the misery Washington’s political gridlock is inflicting on the nation at large.

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‘Unprecedented’ flight risks

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers, who oversee airport security, have been calling in sick or quitting as the shutdown drags on, though the agency insists standards have not been compromised.

Flight traffic controllers are also feeling the effects of the shutdown, working long shifts to cope with with record low numbers of fully-certified staff to handle over 43,000 daily flights.

On Wednesday, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association the Air Line Pilots Association, and the Association of Flight Attendants released a bleak joint statement.

“We cannot even calculate the level of risk currently at play, nor predict the point at which the entire system will break. It is unprecedented.”

President Sara Nelson of the flight attendant’s association has also called for a general nationwide worker’s strike to end the shutdown.

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FBI resources at ‘breaking point’

Resources at the Federal Bureau of Investigation are quickly running out, according to a new report comprised of agent stories from across the nation.

Thomas O’Connor of the FBI Agents Association said in a statement: “The resources available to support the work of FBI agents are currently stretched to the breaking point and are dwindling day by day.”

The report reveals the shutdown has impacted criminal, counter-terrorism and intelligence work, delaying sensitive investigations and compromising many basic operations.

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Coast Guard families pick up groceries at a food pantry
Coast Guard families pick up groceries at a food pantry

Coast Guard food shortages

As federal workers are due to miss their second paychecks of 2019, Coast Guard commandant Adm Karl Schultz said it was “unacceptable that USCG members must rely on food pantries and donations to get through day-to-day life”.

“You, as members of the armed forces, should not be expected to shoulder this burden.”

On Wednesday, Democratic Representative Derek Kilmer of Washington state told The Hill a food pantry for Coast Guard members in his district has already run out of food.

Around 8,500 Coast Guard civilian employees were offered a “managing your finances during a furlough” tip sheet earlier this month, including budgeting suggestions like having a garage sale or monetising hobbies.

In addition to pay, these employees are missing federal housing subsidies that help offset their expensive coastal housing, according to the Washington Post.

people get their groceries from the Crowder Owens Food Pantry in Washington, D.C
Some furloughed workers have been using food pantries to keep their families fed as they go unpaid during the shutdown

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US shutdown: ‘My son wants to sell art to pay our bills’

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Government websites insecure

Security certificates for dozens of official websites have not been renewed. Affected websites include the US Department of Justice, the Court of Appeals and Nasa.

According to internet services website Netcraft, more than 80 security certificates used by .gov websites have expired.

Rahaf Mohammed: Saudi teen says women ‘treated like slaves’

Food safety fears

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has suspended all non-essential work, causing nationwide concerns over unsafe food as most inspections have stopped.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb on Wednesday said the agency was working to ensure “high risk” facility checks continue.

He said about one third of the FDA’s food inspections are considered high risk, looking at goods like cheese, fresh produce and seafood.

“It’s not business as usual, and we are not doing all the things we would do under normal circumstances,” Mr Gottlieb told NBC News.

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Graphic showing the lengths of various government shutdowns

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42,000 immigration cases delayed

According to a report by Syracuse University, over 42,000 immigration hearings have been cancelled as of 11 January.

That number will go up by 20,000 cases each week, researchers estimate. The current backlog is already over 800,000.

Immigration courts have been dealing with high numbers of cases and these indefinite delays will have a “devastating impact”, Judge Dana Leigh Marks told PBS.

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Parks struggle to stay open

Faced with deteriorating and increasingly hazardous conditions, including waste buildup and unsafe roads, National Parks across the country are struggling to stay open during the shutdown.

With a skeleton staff unable to respond quickly to emergencies, at least seven people have died in parks since the shutdown, the Washington Post reported.

In Joshua Tree, with ranger numbers down to just eight, vandals have cut down trees and used protected lands as campsites.

On an administrative level, the parks are also facing issues: one couple told CBS News their wedding reservation at a park was abruptly cancelled “due to administration”.

A volunteer cleans a restroom at Joshua Tree National Park
So-called “toilet angels” have been volunteering to clean facilities at Joshua Tree National Park

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Hurricane prep takes a hit

Following a brutal hurricane season, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has been forced to delay next year’s preparations.

Forecast model updates, emergency trainings, and field experiments have all been halted.

“People keep saying it doesn’t matter because hurricane season is so far away – dead wrong,” National Hurricane Center scientist Eric Blake tweeted.

NYC funds to keep Statue of Liberty open

Without federal employees to keep national landmarks clean, cities have had to use their own funds.

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser has been using the district’s local resources to keep the capital clean at a cost of $46,000 (£36,500) per week.

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo has committed to paying $65,000 a day to ensure the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island stay rubbish-free and open for tourists.

People walk past a sign announcing that New York funds are keeping the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island open for visitors on January 5, 2019, in New York
New York is paying for Statue of Liberty upkeep from local funds

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Utah town gone quiet

Across the country, small towns built around federal institutions are bracing for long-term effects thanks to the shutdown.

In Ogden, Utah, restaurants and small businesses have slashed hours after losing the patronage of thousands of federal employees in the area, the Washington Post reported.

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People participate in the "Occupy Hart" protest against the partial government shutdown
Federal workers have started protests on Capitol Hill

Science setbacks

As many federally employed scientists stop working at agencies like the National Science Foundation, labs across the country are facing repercussions.

One woman told the BBC her husband’s work with cancer drug trials could see delays. “Timing can literally be life or death,” she said of the trial participants.

Hundreds of Nasa staff missed presenting their work at US astronomy’s biggest conference this year due to no funding.

Nasa is also unable to fix the Hubble Space Telescope, which broke this week, as key employees are furloughed.

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A young girl reads a sign posted on the door of The National Museum of African American History stating that all Smithsonian Museums are closed due to the partial shutdown of the US government
All Smithsonian museums, one of DC’s tourist highlights, are closed

Smithsonian shuttered

DC tourists have been shut out of all the popular Smithsonian museums since the shutdown as well as the Gallery of Art and Arboretum.

Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St Thomas told the BBC an estimated 1.2 million visitors will be turned away if the shutdown continues through January and two thirds of Smithsonian employees are furloughed.

Thanks to an earlier appropriations bill, the Capitol Building is still open.

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Native tribes hurting

Native American tribes receive substantial federal funding for essential services like healthcare and food as part of a deal negotiated decades ago in exchange for Native lands.

In Michigan, a Chippewa tribe has already been forced to use their own funds to pay some $100,000 (£79,400) to keep clinics and food pantries open, the New York Times reported.

Similar stories have cropped up across the country. Some Navajo tribes in New Mexico, Arizona and Utah are trapped in their homes without access to groceries and medicine due to unploughed roads.

In Minnesota, police officers on the Boise Forte Indian Reservation are already working without pay.

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Loading soybeans into bins after harvesting in Jarrettsville, Maryland, USA.
Soybean farms, pictured, have been hit hard by the trade war with China

Farm finance troubles

With the Department of Agriculture unfunded, farmers across the country are facing troubles applying for federal assistance.

Farmers were promised aid as President Trump’s trade war with China continues, but the offices handling applications has been closed since 28 December.

Federal loan applications and information sites for farmers are also going unmaintained.

Government reports – including some supply-and-demand estimates farmers rely on – will also not be released on time, even if the shutdown ends soon.

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E-verify down

Operated by the Department of Homeland Security, the E-verify programme allows employers to confirm that potential hires are able to work legally in the US.

It has been offline since 22 December, which could make it easier for illegal immigrants to get jobs if employers bypass verification.

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Prison guards unhappy as inmates feast

Thanks to meals scheduled prior to the shutdown, federal inmates feasted on holiday treats like grilled steak and pies while their guards worked without pay.

“You are seeing prisoners getting steak, roast beef and Cornish hens, and you can’t put that kind of food on the table for your own family,” Eric Young, president of the national prison workers union, told USA Today.

Unsurprisingly, tensions are high between staff and prisoners.

“The inmates know what’s going on, they know about the shutdown, and they are laughing at us,” one prison chief told the paper.

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Sex assault victims lose out

An organisation that helps US citizens overseas who have suffered sexual assault or domestic violence told the BBC they would close on 13 January, having run out of funds.

Pathways to Safety International’s funding comes through the US Department of Justice, and that money ran out on 6 January.

Executive Director Paula Lucas told the BBC that it would cause “an emergency situation for Americans stranded abroad without critical services.”

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Funds almost out for federal courts

The Administrative Office of the US Courts says it has enough funding to operate until 1 February, at which point all non-essential staff at 94 federal district courts and other top courts nationwide will join the furloughed.

This could mean civil cases are suspended, and hearings and filings are rescheduled, Bloomberg reported.

Criminal cases will be prioritised, but with courts operating on minimum staffing, there could still be delays in proceedings.

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UK starts returning cross-Channel migrants to France

By emmanuel Justices

The UK has begun returning migrants, who cross the Channel in small boats, to France in a bid to deter others from doing the same, the Home Office said.

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On Thursday, a small number of failed asylum seekers, who landed on UK shores in October, were sent back to France.

The Home Office said it wanted to provide “a strong deterrent against the dangerous crossings”.

The move is part of a new plan agreed by France and the UK which will see the UK spend an extra £3m on security.

It is understood fewer than five were returned to France on Thursday morning. The Home Office said it could not say where the migrants were from, nor whether they had travelled to the UK together in a small boat.

UK starts returning cross-Channel migrants to France

The measures come after a small spike in the number of migrants crossing the English Channel towards the end of last year.

Channel migrants numbers chart

Following talks with French ministers, Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Today’s joint action plan strengthens our already strong relationship and increases joint action around keeping both our borders secure and discouraging these dangerous journeys.”

Previously, the UK announced an extra £44.5m would be spent on strengthening Channel border security.

The home secretary has agreed now to spend £6m (of which £3m is new) on CCTV, night goggles and number plate recognition capability.

Extra security cameras will be placed at French ports and areas where migrants embark from, with a live feed viewable in the UK-France Coordination and Information Centre, in Calais, which is staffed by British and French agencies.

The Home Office said there would also be increased surveillance of the Channel by air and boat patrols, and more foot patrols on beaches and coastal areas.

Last week, UK Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron,

signed the Sandhurst Treaty, which committed them to reducing the time taken to process migrants.

It means it would take one month, rather than six, to process a migrant hoping to come to the UK from Calais – and 25 days to process children.

Over the whole of last year, 539 people attempted to travel to the UK on small boats – 434 (around 80%) made their attempts in the last three months of the year, according to the Home Office.

A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.

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Border wall: U.S. Senate succumbs to Trump’s demand

By mr ben rory

The U.S. President Donald Trump’s demand for appropriation of funds for the construction of wall along the U.S.-Mexico border seems to have seen the light of day as Senate Appropriations Committee has unveiled legislation that will provide $5.7 billion for the construction of the wall. Also appropriated is fund that will see the federal government run its activities through Sept. 30.

The 1,301-page bill is the latest bid for a breakthrough that would end the partial government shutdown that has dragged on for about a month.

Border wall: U.S. Senate succumbs to Trump’s demand
U.S President Donald trump

However, it is doubtful the legislation will reach the usual 60-vote threshold needed for bills to advance in the Senate.

The bill is in line with President Trump’s offer, announced over the weekend, to extend temporary protections for three years for immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children and those escaping disaster zones, in exchange for wall funding. Democrats said that the proposal for a three-year extension didn’t go nearly far enough, and that Trump was using as leverage programs that he had targeted. Meanwhile, some critics on the right, including conservative commentator Ann Coulter, accused Trump of offering “amnesty.” Despite the opposition to Trump’s proposal on both sides of the aisle, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.,

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announced Saturday he would move to bring legislation to the floor “this week.” “With bipartisan cooperation, the Senate can send a bill to the House quickly so that they can take action as well. “The situation for furloughed employees isn’t getting any brighter and the crisis at the border isn’t improved by show votes. But the President’s plan is a path toward addressing both issues quickly,” McConnell said.

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The Senate bill also provides $12.7 billion in supplemental disaster relief for victims of last year’s hurricanes in the southeastern U.S. and wildfires in California, among other events. It also provides funding for nine of the 15 Cabinet-level departments — including Agriculture, Homeland Security, State, Transportation, Interior and Justice — that have not been funded since the partial shutdown began Dec. 22. Both houses of Congress are scheduled to be back in session Tuesday, but senators who will be given 24 hours’

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notice ahead of any vote, have yet to be recalled to Washington. House Democrats, for their part, plan to push ahead with votes on their own legislation to re-open the government and add $1 billion for border security including 75 more immigration judges and infrastructure improvements, but no funding for the wall. The office of Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., reiterated Monday that Democrats were unwilling to negotiate any border security funding until Trump re-opens the government. “Nothing has changed with the latest Republican offer,” said Schumer spokesman Justin Goodman. “President Trump and Senate Republicans are still saying: ‘Support my plan or the government stays shut.’ That isn’t a compromise or a negotiation — it’s simply more hostage taking.” Meanwhile, the president took rhetorical shots at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Twitter.

Trump says he is not looking to declare a national emergency ‘right now’ for border wall, urges Democrats to vote again on funding

“If Nancy Pelosi thinks that Walls are ‘immoral,’ why isn’t she requesting that we take down all of the existing Walls between the U.S. and Mexico,” he wrote Monday. “Let millions of unchecked ‘strangers’ just flow into the U.S.” Trump later tweeted: “Democrats are kidding themselves (they don’t really believe it!), if they say you can stop Crime, Drugs, Human Trafficking and Caravans without a Wall or Steel Barrier. “Stop playing games and give America the Security it deserves. A Humanitarian Crisis!”

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US Supreme Court allows Trump military transgender ban

By Emmanuel Justices

The United States Supreme Court has allowed President Donald Trump to enforce his policy of banning certain transgender people from the military.

The court voted 5-4 to grant a Trump administration request to lift injunctions blocking the policy while challenges continue in lower courts.

The four liberal judges on the court opposed the ruling.

The policy prohibits “transgender persons who require or have undergone gender transition” from serving.

The president announced on Twitter in 2017 that the country would no longer “accept or allow” transgender Americans to serve in the military, citing “tremendous medical costs and disruption”.

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Former defence secretary Jim Mattis refined the policy to limit it to transgender individuals with a history of gender dysphoria, and it makes exceptions for several hundred transgender people already serving openly or willing to serve “in their biological sex”.

Several trial judges around the country had issued injunctions blocking it.

The move is a reversal of an Obama administration policy that ruled transgender Americans could serve openly in the military as well as obtain funding for gender re-assignment surgery.

Gender dysphoria is when a person’s biological sex and identity does not match.

There are currently some 8,980 active duty transgender troops,

according to Department of Defence data analysed by the Palm Center, a public policy nonprofit.

While Mr Trump’s rationale for banning transgender troops was financial, according to estimates by the RAND Corporation, a policy think tank working with the US Armed Forces, transition-related healthcare costs are between $2.4m (£1.8m) and $8.4m per year.

In 2017, defence data viewed by the Palm Center indicates that cost was in fact lower, at $2.2m.

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