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US shutdown: Thousands of federal workers miss paycheques | Trump News





Thousands of federal workers won’t receive a paycheque on Friday as the partial US government shutdown stretches into its 21st day, rivalling the longest on record. 

More than half of the 800,000 federal employees affected are still on the job, while the others were furloughed when key federal departments and agencies shut down on December 22 after Donald Trump, his fellow Republicans and Democrats failed to come to an agreement on whether to allocate more than $5bn in funding to the president’s border wall project. 

On Thursday, during a visit to the US-Mexico border, Trump renewed his threat to declare a national emergency to circumvent Congress and find funds for the border wall, a move that, if he were to take it, would likely be challenged in the courts. 

Democrats, who oppose the wall, blame Trump, who has so far refused to back down on his demand for $5.7bn in funding, for the shutdown. They have instead said they will provide more than $1.3bn for border security measures, which do not include a wall.  

“I don’t even know if Trump wants the wall, I think he just wants to debate on the wall,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, told reporters on Thursday, suggesting that a meeting between her party and the president a day prior was a “setup” so Trump “could walk out”. 

At that meeting, Trump abruptly left after Pelosi told him Democrats would not fund the wall in exchange for his ending the shutdown. 

National emergency

Trump, who initially said he would be “proud” to shut down the government for border security, blames the Democrats, saying the wall is necessary to stem irregular immigration and stop the flow of illegal drugs into the US. Critics have pointed out that most drugs cross between official ports of entry. 

With workers missing their first paycheque and increased impacts on national parks, the economy and federal programmes, Republicans are feeling the pressure to find a way to end the shutdown. But Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, has so far refused this year to bring any legislation that Trump won’t sign to a vote. 

Trump speaks to reporters as he visits the banks of the Rio Grande River with Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz and US Customs and Border Patrol agents during his visit to the US-Mexico border [Leah Millis/Reuters] 

Meanwhile, Trump appeared to be inching closer to declaring a national emergency. US media, citing unnamed sources, reported that the White House had asked the US Army Corps of Engineers to look to divert money from its budget towards the wall and explore how fast construction could begin under an emergency declaration. 

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said in a statement that it was “time for President Trump to use emergency powers to fund the construction of a border wall/barrier”. But other Republicans have expressed doubts, given the potential legal hurdles such a move may face. 

‘How in the hell are we going to eat?’

On Thursday, federal workers across the country rallied against the shutdown. 

At the Washington, DC rally, Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO, a federation of unions, called the shutdown a “lockout”. 

“Shame on the Senate. Shame on the White House,” he told the crowd. “This lockout has to end, and it has to end now.”

In Detroit, federal worker Gregory Simpkins told the Associated Press, “Next week, it’s going to be a panic mode. How are we going to pay rent? How are we going to pay out bills? How in the hell are we going to eat?”

In New York, furloughed Park Ranger Kathryn Gilson said if the shutdown goes much longer it will probably cause her to go into a depression. “I’m kind of just sitting and staring at the wall and trying not to lose my mind,” she said. 

Union members and Internal Revenue Service workers rally against the partial government shutdown in Covington, Kentucky [John Minchillo/AP Photo]

Another furloughed park ranger, Sean Ghacala, said he hopes “this can get resolved and we can get past all of this … putting precious federal funding towards things that will only make … division worse … What we need is to reopen the government and get past this racism and xenophobia.” 

Also on Thursday, the Senate approved a bill to ensure that all federal employees will be paid retroactively after the shutdown ends. 

The bill requires that all employees – including those who have been furloughed – be paid as soon as possible once the government reopens. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives. 

The Democrat-controlled House has also passed several bills that would fund specific government departments. The bills would still need to be passed by the Senate, where Republican leaders have vowed not to bring them to a vote. 

Federal air traffic controller union members rally against the partial US federal government in Washington, DC [Jonathan Ernst/Reuters] 


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Ottawa families give mixed reviews for online schooling





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





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





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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