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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.

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United States Employment Rate will fall further: Fed

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Washington, April 16 (IANS) Economic activity “contracted sharply and abruptly” across all regions in the US as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Reserve said on Wednesday.

“The hardest-hit industries – because of social distancing measures and mandated closures – were leisure and hospitality, and retail aside from essential goods,” the Fed said in its latest survey on economic conditions, known as the Beige Book, based on information collected from its 12 regional reserve banks before April 6, Xinhua reported.

“All Districts reported highly uncertain outlooks among business contacts, with most expecting conditions to worsen in the next several months,” the Fed said.

The survey showed that employment declined in all districts as the COVID-19 pandemic affected firms in many sectors.

“Employment cuts were most severe in the retail and leisure and hospitality sectors, where most Districts reported widespread mandatory closures and steep falloffs in demand,” the survey said, adding severe job cuts were also widespread in the manufacturing and energy sectors.

“Contacts in several Districts noted they were cutting employment via temporary layoffs and furloughs that they hoped to reverse once business activity resumes. The near-term outlook was for more job cuts in coming months,” the survey said.

The survey noted that no district reported upward wage pressures, with most citing “general wage softening and salary cuts” except for high-demand sectors such as grocery stores.

“These trends were seen as reflecting weaker demand for many goods and services in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the survey said.

The survey came after the Commerce Department reported earlier on Wednesday that US retail sales plunged in March by the most on record as the COVID-19 pandemic is starting to take a big toll on the US economy.

The US economy is expected to contract by 5.9 per cent this year, according to the World Economic Outlook (WEO) report released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Tuesday.

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New York statewide COVID-19 deaths surpass 10,000

Meanwhile, indicators including the rates of ICU admissions and intubations have gone down and the three-day-average rate of hospitalization basically reached a plateau, according to the governor.

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New York, April 14 : Governor of the US state of New York Andrew Cuomo said statewide deaths from COVID-19 rose to 10,056, adding “the worst is over if we continue to be smart” in coping with the novel coronavirus.

Cuomo on Monday said at his daily briefing that a total of 671 people passed away on Sunday due to the disease, a number much lower than in the past few days, Xinhua news agency reported.

Meanwhile, indicators including the rates of ICU admissions and intubations have gone down and the three-day-average rate of hospitalization basically reached a plateau, according to the governor.

“We are controlling the spread,” said Cuomo. “I believe the worst is over if we continue to be smart. I believe we can start on the path to normalcy,” he said.

He said he would be joined by several other governors of neighbouring states later on Monday to discuss how to reopening the economy in a coordinated way.

On Twitter, the governor said that any plan to reopen society must be driven by data and experts, not opinion and politics.

He said the objective is to ease isolation and increase economic activity without increasing the infection rate.

“We will learn from the warning signs from other countries. We will take every precaution. We will work together as a region,” he added.

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US now has highest COVID-19 deaths, surpasses Italy: Johns Hopkins

A total of 20,071 people have died of the disease among 519,453 confirmed cases in the country as of 4 p.m. local time (2000 GMT) on Saturday

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Washington, April 12 : The UnS has surpassed Italy as the country with the highest number of coronavirus deaths in the world as the fatalities as of Sunday reached 20,604, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

As of Sunday morning, Italy has reported 19,648 coronavirus deaths, placing it in the second position after the US, the data published by the university’s enter for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) revealed.

The US also accounts for the highest number of confirmed cases with 529,887. Spain, where the number of confirmed infections stands at 163,027, is a distant second, followed by Italy with 152,271 cases.

New York state, the epicentre of the pandemic in the US, has recorded the most deaths in the country, 8,627, which is followed by New Jersey and Michigan with 2,183 and 1,276, respectively, the CSSE data showed.

A total of 32,001 patients in the country have recovered, it added.

US President Donald Trump’s administration, which earlier estimated that the pandemic would cause anywhere from 100,000 to 240,000 deaths in the US, revised its projection downward this week to 60,000, reports Efe news.

Members of the White House coronavirus task force credit the more optimistic forecast to the success of the stay-at-home orders issued by 42 of the 50 states, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, covering around 316 million people.

Trump, who has repeatedly decried the economic cost of closing schools and businesses to contain the virus, said late last month that he hoped to re-open the country by Easter Sunday.

During Friday’s news briefing by the task force, Trump sought to reassure Americans that he would guided by medical experts as well as by recommendations from the “Opening Our Country Council” he plans to install next week.

“I want to get it open as soon as possible. The facts are going to determine what I do,” the president said.

“I’m going to have to make a decision, and I only hope to God that it’s the right decision. But I would say, without question, it’s the biggest decision I’ve ever had to make,” Trump said.

As of Sunday, the number of global coronavirus cases stood at 1,777,517, with 108,862 deaths, while 404,236 people have recovered.

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