There have been 20 previous US government shutdowns over budget disputes, but there’s never been one as long as this.
As of midnight, 800,000 federal employees are entering their 22nd day without pay. They have either been laid off, or are working for free – in the hope that they will eventually get back pay.
Understandably, they are angry, fearful of missing payments for their homes, cars, and healthcare. Some are struggling to pay for food. Everyone agrees it is not their fault and they should not have to suffer. But their increasingly desperate pleas for the standoff to be resolved are not pushing political rivals towards a compromise.
The president cannot risk a defeat on his key campaign promise to build a wall on the Mexican border. And Democrats will not back down and spend taxpayers money on a project they believe is unnecessary and ineffective. Some have gone as far as calling it immoral. As Senator Chuck Schumer said in his rebuttal to Donald Trump’s address to the nation: “The symbol of America should be the Statue of Liberty, not a 30ft wall”.
Mr Trump has shifted his rhetoric, but has not retreated on his promise of a physical barrier along the border. He now calls it a “humanitarian crisis”, and would accept a steel fence rather than a concrete wall.
He has even backtracked on his assurance that Mexico would pay for the wall, a pledge repeated over and over again. Apparently we all misunderstood the nuances of this financial transaction. He now explains that he was not expecting the Mexican government to write a cheque for billions of dollars but that the money will come as a result of a new trade deal (which has not yet been fully signed). His words have naturally been greeted with derision, and replays of his original promise.
So if the wall is to be built it will be funded by American taxpayers. And there is a way of making that happen which the Democrats can do little to stop: Mr Trump can declare a national emergency and raid the Department of Defence coffers. All week, Pentagon planners and accountants have been drawing up contingency measures in case the emergency is declared.
Friday afternoon seemed a likely time for that to happen. Mr Trump was holding an immigration and border security meeting in the White House, and what better time to announce a major escalation in the dispute, just as members of the Senate and House of Representatives were heading home for the weekend.
But the president held back, saying it would be too easy a solution, and he still wanted Democrats in Congress to see the light and agree to his border funding demands. He is also wary of the long legal battle that would result, even if he is publicly confident that the Supreme Court, with a fresh conservative majority, would ultimately rule in his favour.
Declaring national emergencies to free funding is not uncommon, and usually uncontroversial. Waiting for congressional approval could delay the response to a genuine, unexpected emergency. But border security has been an issue for decades, and the number of illegal immigrants has been falling steadily over that time.
In this case, say critics, it is simply a way of circumventing the very heart of America’s Constitution. In the system of checks and balances which were supposed to stop a president wielding too much power, Congress has to agree on the budget. If that principle was overturned it would set a dangerous precedent that Republicans may regret when a Democrat is next in the White House.
‘I can’t say I’m sorry’: Trump hat teen Nick Sandmann defends himself over Native American encounter | US News
A US high school student has said he wished he “walked away and avoided” his encounter with a Native American protester.
Nick Sandmann was filmed apparently smirking while standing just a few feet from Nathan Phillips at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington on Friday in a video that has gone viral.
But the teenager said he did not intend to be disrespectful, insisting “I’d like to talk to [Mr Phillips]”
“I mean, in hindsight, I wish we could’ve walked away and avoided the whole thing. But I can’t say that I’m sorry for listening to him and standing there,” he told NBC’s Today programme.
Asked if he felt he owed anyone an apology or has assumed fault for the clash, he instead blamed a group of black men styling themselves as Hebrew Israelites who were also there.
The men were filmed taunting and insulting both the indigenous people gathered with Mr Phillips and the boys, many of whom, including Sandmann, wore red hats bearing President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.
“They started shouting a bunch of homophobic, racist, derogatory comments at us. I heard them call us incest kids, bigots, racists. They called us f*****s,” Nick Sandmann said.
The Covington Catholic High School students, who were in Washington for an anti-abortion rally, outnumbered their aggressors but the teenager said he “definitely felt threatened.”
Nathan Phillips, a tribal elder, activist and Vietnam War veteran, was singing and playing a drum as he took part in an indigenous people’s march.
He locked eyes with Nick Sandmann while around them some of the teenager’s classmates from the private, all-male school in Kentucky, were seen dancing and jumping around, apparently mocking Mr Phillips.
Some were also wearing “Make America Great Again” hats and sweatshirts and one removed his top.
President Trump’s press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Wednesday the White House has “reached out and voiced our support” to Nick Sandmann and his fellow students.
She said no one understands better than Donald Trump when the media jumps to conclusions and “attacks you for something you may or may not have done.”
On Tuesday, Mr Trump defended the students, tweeting that they had been “smeared by the media” and had become “symbols of Fake News and how evil it can be”.
Pilot of missing plane carrying Cardiff footballer named as Dave Ibbotson | UK News
The private pilot flying the plane which has gone missing with footballer Emiliano Sala on board has been named as David Ibbotson.
Mr Ibbotson has been missing since the plane disappeared from radar over the English Channel on Monday night.
Guernsey harbour master Captain David Barker confirmed it was Mr Ibbotson, who was from Crowle, near Scunthorpe.
A “visibly upset” woman declined to comment near the home according to The Grimsby Telegraph.
He has been associated with skydiving company Target Skysports, based in Hibaldstow, North Lincolnshire.
A spokesman for the business referred inquiries to the UK’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch when contacted by Press Association.
The Channel Islands Air Search has confirmed the search has moved from a rescue to a recovery operation.
Guernsey Police said it had searched 280 square miles using multiple aircraft over five hours on Wednesday, but there was “as yet no trace” of the missing plane.
“The search is ongoing and a decision whether to continue will be taken later today,” a spokesman for the force said.
Guernsey Police had earlier said it was looking at four possibilities for the fate of the plane – including that it landed on water, with Sala and the pilot making it onto a life raft known to be on board.
The other possibilities being explored included that the plane had landed elsewhere but had not made contact, that Sala and the pilot landed on water and were picked up by a passing ship, or that the plane broke up on contact with the water – leaving them in the sea.
Rescuers have also reviewed satellite images and mobile phone data in the hope of finding the pair.
Police had previously warned that the chances of Sala and Mr Ibbotson surviving were “slim” if the aircraft landed on water.
John Fitzgerald, chief officer of Channel Islands Air Search, said: “I can’t see how anybody could survive in such temperatures for that length of time.
“Looking at the sea conditions today it’s very rough out there, there’s a good strong wind blowing, with sea conditions [that] are pretty horrendous.”
The footballer reportedly voiced fears about the safety of the missing plane in a WhatsApp audio message he sent to friends while on board.
In the message, a voice – reported to be Sala’s – is heard saying: “I am here in the plane that seems is about to fall to pieces.”
He later adds: “I’m scared.”
Addressing the media in his home country of Argentina, the footballer’s father said he was “beginning to think the worst”.
Horacio Sala said: “The hours pass and I am just beginning to think the worst.
“We were in touch on Sunday. He was so happy that he was going there, to an even bigger club.”
Concerns were raised when the 28-year-old failed to respond to messages on social media after reports he had been travelling to the UK on Monday.
The Argentinian forward, who had played in France since 2012, made Cardiff City history when he was bought for a record fee of £15m on a three-and-a-half year deal from Nantes at the weekend.
The search for the missing aircraft was suspended overnight on Tuesday, with rescue teams finding “no signs” of the plane.
Cardiff City chairman Mehmet Dalman confirmed the club had not booked the aircraft for the trip and Sala had “made his own arrangements”.
The PA-46 Malibu, a single turbine engine aircraft, left Nantes for Cardiff at 7.15pm on Monday and after requesting to descend, it lost contact with Jersey air traffic control.
The AAIB said the plane’s registration number was N264DB and it is investigating the loss of the plane, working with authorities in Argentina, France and the US.
The plane’s registered owner is Suffolk-based Southern Aircraft Consultancy (SAC) according to the US Federal Aviation Administration.
An SAC spokesman said: “We learnt of the missing aircraft yesterday and are deeply concerned for those who are missing. Our thoughts are with their family and friends at this difficult time.”
Nantes’ next Coupe de France match was postponed following Sala’s disappearance and fans gathered in the city’s Place Royale on Tuesday night to sing songs and lay tributes.
Cardiff’s next match against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday, 29 January is expected to go ahead as planned.
Human mutation rate slowing behind that of primate relatives, study finds | Science & Tech News
New research has discovered that the human mutation rate is slowing significantly behind that of our closest primate relatives.
Genomic mutations play a key part in evolution, but new work by researchers from Aarhus University and Copenhagen Zoo in Denmark have found that humanity’s genome is not changing very much at all.
The scientists found that over the past million years, humanity’s genome has been lagging behind that of chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans.
By sequencing the entire genome of families, researchers attempted to identify new mutations by spotting genetic variations which were only present in the children and not the parents.
“Over the past six years, several large studies have done this for humans, so we have extensive knowledge about the number of new mutations that occur in humans every year,” said Spren Besenbacher of Aarhus University.
“Until now, however, there have not been any good estimates of mutation rates in our closest primate relatives.”
The study examined 10 families’ parents and offspring: seven chimpanzee families, two gorilla families and one orangutan family.
Researchers found more mutations in all of the families than expected compared to existing studies of human genomic variations – meaning human’s annual mutation rate is roughly a third lower than that of apes.
This has significant repercussions on the length of time previously thought to have passed since the most recent common ancestor of both humans and chimpanzees – because the genetic differences between the two species will have accumulated over a shorter period.
Applying the higher mutation rate for apes, scientists estimate that humans and chimpanzees separated roughly 6.6 million years ago – compared to 10 million years ago going by the mutation rate for humans.
“The times of speciation we can now calculate on the basis of the new rate fit in much better with the speciation times we would expect from the dated fossils of human ancestors that we know of,” explained Mikkel Heide Schierup from Aarhus University.
This reduction in the human mutation and thus evolution rate could also mean that humans and Neanderthals could have split more recently than currently estimated.
Christina Hvilsom from Copenhagen Zoo added that the findings could have major repercussions on great ape conservation projects.
“All species of great apes are endangered in the wild,” she said.
“With more accurate dating of how populations have changed in relation to climate over time, we can get a picture of how species could cope with future climate change.”
The study, “Direct estimation of mutations in great apes reconciles phylogenetic dating”, has been published in Nature Ecology and Evolution.
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