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Trump threatens to close southern border amid govt shutdown

Shutdown could prevent farmers hurt by Trump’s trade war from getting their aid

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Washington, Dec 29 (IANS) US President Donald Trump on Friday threatened to close the southern border amid an ongoing partial government shutdown, resuming his push for the funding of a long-promised US-Mexico border wall.

“We will be forced to close the Southern Border entirely if the Obstructionist Democrats do not give us the money to finish the Wall and also change the ridiculous immigration laws that our Country is saddled with,” Trump tweeted on Friday morning, reports Xinhua.

“We build a Wall or close the Southern Border,” the president said, accusing Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador of “taking advantage” of his country for years.”

“No end in sight to the President’s government shutdown,” Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois tweeted Thursday. “He’s taken our government hostage over his outrageous demand for a $5 billion border wall that would be both wasteful and ineffective.”

Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi, tweeted on Thursday, “Democrats have offered Republicans three options to re-open government that all include funding for strong, sensible, and effective border security — but not the President’s immoral, ineffective and expensive wall.”

The US Senate convened briefly Thursday afternoon before adjourning until next week, with no signs of a deal to end the budget impasse that has shut down a quarter of the federal government.

The upper chamber will convene on Monday, December 31, for a pro forma session only, and then return to the Capitol Hill to renew budget deliberations on Wednesday, January 2, a day before Democrats are set to take control of the House.

“We will vote swiftly to reopen government and show that Democrats will govern responsibly in stark contrast to this chaotic White House,” Pelosi, the incoming House Speaker, has said in a statement.

In an earlier tweet, Trump accused the Democrats of opposing his border wall just for political gain. “This is only about the Dems not letting Donald Trump and the Republicans have a win,” he said.

Trump’s approval rating dropped slightly to 44 per cent in December amid the shutdown, a two-point fall from last month, according to a Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll survey, The Hill reported on Friday.

According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Thursday, 47 per cent of Americans hold the president responsible for the shutdown, while 33 per cent blame Democrats in Congress. Seven percent of Americans blame congressional Republicans.

The shutdown, currently in its seventh day, has affected nine federal agencies, forcing about 420,000 federal employees, who are deemed essential, to work without pay, while 380,000 others are expected to take unpaid leave.

The Environmental Protection Agency, which had enough funding to remain open for a week after the shutdown, is prepared to begin furloughing employees midnight Friday, US media reported.

Coast Guard officials said earlier this week that they need emergency legislation by the end of Friday in order to process paychecks on time for their regular release on January 1.

The Office of Personnel Management issued draft letters Thursday for federal employees to hold off creditors during the shutdown. The office’s guidance suggests that workers call their landlord, mortgage company or creditor to speak about their situation before sending a letter.

The Smithsonian, which has been operating on prior-year funds, said Thursday that all of its museums, research centers and the National Zoo will close starting January 2 unless the stalemate is resolved.

Trump has cancelled his New Year’s plans in order to stay in Washington DC until a deal over border wall funding is reached, White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told “Fox & Friends” on Friday.

America

US unemployment rate falls to 50-year low

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The U.S. unemployment rate fell in September to a new five-decade low of 3.5%, while employers added a modest 136,000 jobs.

The Labor Department says that despite the ultra-low unemployment rate, which was down from 3.7% in August, average hourly wages slipped by a penny. Hourly pay rose just 2.9% from a year earlier, lower than 3.4% at the beginning of the year.

Hiring has slowed this year as the U.S.-China trade war has intensified, global growth has slowed, and businesses have cut back on their investment spending. Still, hiring has averaged 157,000 in the past three months, enough to lower the unemployment rate over time.

The unemployment rate for Latinos fell to 3.9%, the lowest on records dating from 1973.

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Trump embarrassed by TV channel

As Trump was speaking to the media after meeting Zelensky to clarify his position, MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace cut into it, saying: “We hate to do this but the President isn’t telling the truth.”

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New York, Sep 26 : US President Donald Trump was subjected to an embarrassment when the MSNBC news channel cut away from his press conference while he was speaking on the controversy surrounding him over the Ukrainian probe against former Vice President Joe Biden.

Trump on Wednesday was addressing the press conference against the backdrop of impeachment proceedings announced against him by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi following allegations that he put pressure on the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to order a probe against Biden whose family has business interests there.

The allegation against Trump came to light because of a whistleblower and a transcript of the conversation between him and Zelensky in July, which has become public.

As Trump was speaking to the media after meeting Zelensky to clarify his position, MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace cut into it, saying: “We hate to do this but the President isn’t telling the truth.”

She added that Trump was trying to do it to deflect the attention from his impeachment.

According to the transcript of the telephonic conversation that has gone public, Trump is heard asking Zelensky to “do us a favour”, after the latter expresses gratitude for the military aid the US provided to his country.

Trump’s words of “do us a favour” is seen as a quid pro quo for the American military aid, because of which the impeachment proceedings have been announced.

After Wallace cut the press conference, her guest on the programme, justice and security analyst Matthew Miller, rebuked Trump for saying that Biden and his son had done wrong.

“This story has been looked at and thoroughly debunked by everyone involved,” Miller said, adding the real issue was whether Trump’s conduct is “impeachable”.

Trump is facing problem at a time when he is in New York to attend the UN General Assembly.

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Kim Jong-un receives ‘excellent’ letter from Trump

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Pyongyang, June 23 North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has received a personal letter with “excellent” and “interesting” content from US President Donald Trump, Pyongyang’s state media said on Sunday.

“After reading the letter, the Supreme Leader of the Party, the state and the armed forces said with satisfaction that the letter is of excellent content,” the Korean Central News Agency said, referring to its leader.

“Appreciating the political judging faculty and extraordinary courage of President Trump, Kim Jong-un said that he would seriously contemplate the interesting content,” it added.

The KCNA did not disclose when and how the letter was delivered to Kim, reports Yonhap News Agency.

The letter appears to be in response to the one Kim sent to Trump recently in time for the anniversary of their first-ever summit in Singapore last June.

Trump had described Kim’s letter as “beautiful” and “very warm”. He also emphasized that the relationship between them remains strong and that “something will happen that’s going to be very positive”.

The exchange of correspondence between the leaders renewed hopes for a resumption of denuclearization talks which have stalled since the breakdown of their second summit in February.

The summit collapsed as Pyongyang wanted sanctions relief as a corresponding measure in exchange for dismantling its Yongbyon nuclear complex, while Washington insisted that sanctions should remain in place until the North completely gives up its nuclear weapons programme.

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