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By Daniel Barnes

WASHINGTON — The federal government is well into its third week of a partial shutdown, and President Donald Trump appears no closer to a deal with Democratic leaders to reopen several key agencies.

As a result, more and more government functions are faltering, and an estimated 800,000 federal employees are facing the prospect of missing their first paychecks of 2019,

With negotiations at a standstill, Trump has threatened to keep key agencies shuttered for months or even a year if Democrats don’t agree to fund his desired border wall, and he is considering declaring a national emergency to try to get it done without them.

Here are some of the ways the country has already been affected by the shutdown:

National parks are filled with trash

National parks have remained largely open during the shutdown, but visitors have been left to their own devices with thousands of park employees furloughed. Trash removal and general maintenance have been put on hold, leaving parks to fill up with trash and bathrooms to overflow with human waste.

Volunteers have tried their best to keep the parks clean, spending hours removing litter and cleaning bathrooms, but they are fighting an uphill battle.

On Tuesday, the National Park Service announced that Joshua Tree National Park in California would temporarily close because unsupervised tourists had been damaging the park’s land and its iconic Joshua trees.

The National Zoo and Smithsonian museums in Washington have also closed after initially remaining open until January 1. Even the zoo’s beloved panda cam was not spared, going dark the morning after the zoo locked its gates.

Uncollected trash sits on the National Mall in Washington on Dec. 31, 2018.Erik S. Lesser / EPA

Unpaid TSA workers are calling out sick

Transportation Security Administration employees have remained at work during the shutdown and are now set to miss their paychecks, which would normally be issued Friday. That has raised concerns that more TSA employees could call in sick to find alternative sources of income.

Last Friday, 5.5 percent of TSA employees at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport called out sick — two percent more than normal, according to an agency spokesman. If there’s an increase in call-outs, it could lead to longer lines and increased wait times for passengers.

Some TSA employees are even taking the desperate step of quitting their jobs to find a guaranteed paycheck, Hydrick Thomas, president of the American Federation of Government Employees’ TSA Council.

“Every day I’m getting calls from my members about their extreme financial hardships and need for a paycheck,” Thomas said in a statement Tuesday. “Some of them have already quit and many are considering quitting the federal workforce because of this shutdown.”

Coast Guard members continue to work without pay

About 42,000 active-duty members of the Coast Guard have continued to work without pay because, unlike other military personnel, their agency is part of the Department of Homeland Security, which has seen its funding lapse. The Department of Defense, in contrast, will remain fully funded through September 2019.

Most of the Coast Guard’s civilian workforce has been furloughed, leaving the active-duty members without their full network of support staff. Because of those limitations, the Coast Guard is providing only essential operations that protect life and property or national security, a spokesperson told NBC News.

Low-income housing subsidies not being renewed

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has been especially hard hit by the shutdown — 95 percent of HUD employees are furloughed. With a skeleton staff and no funding, HUD has been unable to renew more than 1,000 contracts that provide federal subsides to landlords who own and operate Section 8 housing. Hundreds more contracts could expire if the shutdown continues into February. The situation could delay critical repairs and place poor families at risk of eviction, advocates and landlords say.

HUD has advised landlords to use reserve funds to cover costs until the shutdown ends and contracts can be renewed. For many landlords who own low-income housing buildings, that means limited funds to deal with building maintenance and emergencies that may arise.

Food stamps at risk if the shutdown goes past February

The tens of millions of Americans on food stamps will receive their benefits for February, but that aid could be cut off if the shutdown continues into March.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced Tuesday that his department would issue February’s benefits a little early to take advantage of a clause in the stopgap spending bill that expired in December that allows the government to distribute required payments within 30 days of the bill’s expiration.

The food stamps program has only $3 billion in emergency reserves — not enough to pay for a full month’s assistance — and because of the shutdown, the Department of Agriculture has no money to pay for the program in the ensuing months.

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CANCEL BREXIT: Brexit petition update – will Britain EVER leave the EU?



A PETITION to cancel Brexit continues to gather momentum, with more than 5.5 million signatures to date. So will Brexit ever really happen?

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New Jersey Senate postpones vote on legal recreational pot



Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

By Associated Press

TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey lawmakers dealt a blow to the prospects of legal recreational marijuana use Monday, when the state Senate president postponed a vote after his and the governor’s lobbying campaign failed to muster enough support in the chamber.

But Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney said the issue isn’t going away, and though he didn’t specify when a vote would happen again, he promised to hold one.

“We’ll be back at this, so anybody that thinks this is dead — they’re wrong. We’re gonna get back, and one way or another we’ll get this passed,” Sweeney said at a news conference Monday.

Legal recreational pot has been widening its footprint across the country despite a federal prohibition. New Jersey would join the District of Columbia and 10 other states if the measure succeeds.

But it’s not clear when or if that will happen despite the strong backing of legislative leaders and the Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy.

The delay is a setback for the first-term governor, who campaigned on legalizing recreational weed and comes even though his party controls both chambers of the Legislature as well.

Murphy had said he was burning up phone lines leading up to the vote trying to persuade enough lawmakers to back the measure that would have made New Jersey the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana.

After the delay in the Senate, the Democrat-led Assembly also decided to postpone a vote on the measure, according to Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin’s spokeswoman Liza Acevdeo.

In a statement, Coughlin said he was “disappointed” the measure didn’t get enough support and said he’s committed to continue working to get it passed.

“We moved closer to the goal than ever before,” Coughlin said.

New Jersey’s Statehouse was a hive of supporters, opponents and TV cameras covering the stalled vote on the measure to allow those 21 and over to possess or buy up to an ounce (28 grams) of marijuana, as well as to expunge the records of many people convicted of marijuana crimes.

Opponents declared the canceled vote a win and took credit for “flooded phones and email boxes” among lawmakers.

“This is a huge victory for us,” said Kevin Sabet, the president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana Act. “They told us legalization was inevitable, and this action proves them wrong.”

Supporters downplayed the significance of the delay. Scott Rudder, the head of the state’s pro-legalization CannaBusiness Association, said he was confident that lawmakers would eventually come to support legalization and that they needed more time to understand the intricacies of the bill.

New Jersey’s bill calls for a tax of $42 per ounce, setting up a five-member regulator commission and expediting expungements to people with marijuana-related offenses.

The bill would also let towns that host retailers, growers, wholesalers and processors levy taxes as well, up to 3 percent in some cases.

Tax revenue would go into a fund for “development, regulations, and enforcement of cannabis activities,” including paying for expungement costs.

The expungement provisions, which Murphy says would set New Jersey apart from any other state with legal weed, waive any fee for expungement processing and permit clearing of records for possession up to 5 pounds (2.3 kilograms).

That unsettled some lawmakers, including Republican state Sen. Michael Doherty. The change appeared to permit felons, and not just low-level offenders, to qualify for expungement, he said.

Under earlier versions of the bill, the expungement provision covered people convicted of possession roughly 2 ounces (57 grams) of marijuana.

Lawmakers said during hearings that while 5 pounds sounds like a lot, it’s necessary to allow for an expedited expungement process because the statute covering possession for small amounts of cannabis goes up to 5 pounds.

The measure calls for an investigation on the influence of cannabis on driving and for funding drug-recognition experts for law enforcement.

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EU reacts after anti-Brexit campaigners march through London – 'VERY TELLING IMAGES'



THE European Commission has described the images of a reported one million people marching through the streets of London against Brexit as “very telling” as the UK continues to stumble over its withdrawal from the European Union.

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