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Shutdown to continue for days as US Senate adjourns with no deal | News

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The US Senate adjourned on Saturday with no deal to end a partial government shutdown, which is now expected to last until at least Thursday. 

US President Donald Trump, who is demanding Congress allocated $5bn for his border wall, and Democrats played the blame game as negotiations got under way earlier in the day. 

Trump warned that the shut down “could be a long stay” on Twitter early on Saturday, while Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer continued talks to try to overcome the impasse. 

But with the full Senate not scheduled to meet again until Thursday, the shutdown is expected to continue through the holiday weekend.  

The partial shutdown began early on Saturday after Trump threw a wrench into the works earlier in the week by refusing to agree to a short-term funding deal cut by Democratic and Republican senators because it did not include funds for his border wall.

The US House of Representatives, where Republicans have a majority until Democrats take over on January 3, passed a bill that included the $5bn, but it ran aground in the Senate. 

Blame game

Democrats place blame on Trump for being unwillingly to compromise, reminding the president and voters that he said last week he would be “proud” to shut the government down in order to get wall funding.

“President Trump has thrown a temper tantrum and now has us careening toward a ‘Trump shutdown’ over Christmas,” Schumer said on the Senate floor on Friday.

Trump took to Twitter to blame the Democrats, saying there was nothing Republicans could do because they needed “Democrats to give us their votes”. 

About three-quarters of federal government programmes are funded through to September 30 next year, but the financing for all others – including the departments of Homeland Security, Justice and Agriculture – expired at midnight on Friday.

Federal parks are closed and more than 400,000 federal “essential” employees in those agencies will work without pay until the dispute is resolved. Another 380,000 will be “furloughed”, meaning they are put on temporary leave.

The US National Parks will generally remain open with a skeleton staff, though an alert posted on the website of the National Park Service said some parks are closed completely. Republican governors in at least two states were working to make sure public restrooms get cleaned and visitor centres stay open.

Law enforcement efforts, border patrols, mail delivery and airport operations will keep running.

For the shutdown to end, both the House and the Senate will have to approve any deal negotiated between Trump’s team and Republican and Democratic leaders. 

In a joint statement on Saturday, Schumer and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said that if the shutdown continues, the new House Democratic majority will quickly pass legislation to re-open government when it takes office in January.

The shutdown comes at the end of a perilous week for the president, with Defense Secretary James Mattis resigning in protest after Trump’s sudden decision to pull US troops out of Syria. The Syria move was widely criticised, even by senior Republicans in Congress. On Saturday, US media reported that Brett McGurk, the top US envoy to the global anti-ISIL coalition, resigned on Friday due to Trump’s decision. 

The political turmoil added to fears about the economy plaguing investor sentiment, helping fuel continued heavy losses in the stock market on Friday.


SOURCE:
Al Jazeera and news agencies

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Ottawa families give mixed reviews for online schooling

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So, how’s it going with online school? Families reached by CBC Ottawa seem to have mixed reviews. 

Masuma Khan is a mother of two. Her seven-year-old, Hana Wyndham in Grade 2, is attending French immersion virtual school. Masuma is grateful it’s an option, but can’t help notice a lot of down time.

“There’s a lot of, ‘are you on mute?’ In terms of the amount of learning that’s actually happening, it does seem to be not that high,” said Masuma.

Parents who kept their children at home this fall are in the minority, but they still form a significant chunk of families in Ottawa.

In the city’s largest school board, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), about 27 per cent of elementary students and 22 per cent of high school students chose online learning. The Ottawa Catholic School Board says roughly a quarter of its students are online.

For Masuma, the decision to keep her daughter home was complex: extended family members are immunocompromised and she worried the in-person learning environment would be unpleasant because of precautions. She also felt her daughter might benefit from being supported at home.

“She doesn’t necessarily enjoy school. I also found out during the pandemic that she was being bullied [last year],” said Masuma. “So I thought, why not try from home?”

To help her daughter socialize face-to-face with other kids, Masuma enrolled Hana in Baxter Forest School, an alternative education program where kids spend most of their time outside, one day a week. Hana also attends virtual Arabic classes two days a week after school. 

Masuma’s husband and Hana share the living room work space, and Masuma admits he does the lion’s share of helping their daughter stay on task. There is a possibility that he’ll be required to return to his office in the new year.

“When he goes back to work … it’s probably going to be a little bit more difficult.”

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No school closures after Christmas holiday break, says Ontario education minister

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Ontario elementary and secondary schools will not close for an extended winter break, says Education Minister Stephen Lecce.

Closures aren’t needed given Ontario’s “strong safety protocols, low levels of (COVID-19) transmission and safety within our schools,” Lecce announced Wednesday afternoon. He said he had consulted with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams and the province’s public health measures advisory table.

That ended speculation about school buildings remaining closed in January for a period of time after the Christmas break.

Earlier in the week, Lecce told reporters the government was considering having students spend “some period out of class” in January, perhaps switching to online learning.

In a statement, Lecce said that even though rates of community transmission of COVID-19 are increasing, “schools have been remarkably successful at minimizing outbreaks to ensure that our kids stay safe and learning in their classrooms.”

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Windy start to the week in Ottawa

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OTTAWA — It’s a blustery Monday in the capital with wind gusts of up to 50 km/hour expected throughout the day.

Environment Canada is forecasting a high of 4 C with a 60 per cent chance of showers or flurries before the wind dies down later this evening.

There’s a chance of flurries on Tuesday as well with a high of -1 C. The overnight low will dip to an unseasonal -9 C.  

Wednesday’s high will be just -5 C with lots of sunshine.

Seasonal temperatures return for the rest of the week..

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