US government shutdown: Domestic violence shelter unable to help women and children

The political impasse in Washington means that a domestic violence shelter here is about to lose access to the federal funding it so desperately relies on.

The shelter provides refuge for women and children fleeing dangerous situations from across the country.

Katie Spriggs, executive director of the Eastern Panhandle Empowerment Centre, said her agency can no longer afford to provide any financial support to its clients.

She told Sky News: “I’m concerned that we will have to lay off staff. I’m concerned that this money freeze will go on for months.

“I’m concerned that the 22 people we have here are never going to be able to transition out and then we have 27 people on our waiting list.

“So then those people will remain in a violent situation because we can’t fit them in here and there’s really no other sheltering options.”

She explained that they would normally spend about $260 (£200) on groceries a week.

But with the gridlock now reaching into its 28th day, the longest in US history, they have started rationing.

Last week, they only had enough for $26 (£20) worth of food. There are babies and toddlers running around and not enough nappies to go around.

Sarah, not her real name, 49, said she fled a violent partner in another state.

She said she finally scraped about $650 (£500) together to move into her own home.

In December, staff at the shelter offered to cover her security deposit, using a special fund for emergency client expenses.

But now they do not have that money to give and Sarah is stuck.

In answer to what that will mean for her, she replied frankly: “I’ll probably end up on the street. I’ve done half my time in here already. I may end up sleeping in my car.”

It can take many attempts before a woman finally manages to leave a violent relationship.

After plucking up the courage to go and making a detailed escape plan, Sarah is in limbo.

“The poor always get the brunt of everything,” she said.

And yet like so many in this country, she seems resigned to the political system that got them here.

She doesn’t blame President Trump either.

“Politics is just a show and tell – opposite wings of the same bird. It’s all a game,” she said.

As the staff at the shelter discussed potential layoffs in between fielding calls, Donald Trump was doing his own bit of shutdown management – cancelling the opposition House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Brussels, Egypt and Afghanistan.

It looked like swift retaliation for her arguably provocative suggestion that he cancel his State of the Union speech.

The normal political pressure points that end these standoffs are not kicking in yet. Mr Trump believes he is in the right and Democrats are refusing to cave.

As they lock horns, it is those outside the beltway bubble taking the hit.

But the financial outlook is looking increasingly grim and if it goes on much longer, the president may have to decide between two of his key election promises: building a wall and making the economy thrive.

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Greek PM Tsipras wins confidence vote, eyes Macedonia accord

ATHENS (Reuters) – Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras won a confidence vote in parliament on Wednesday, clearing a major hurdle for Greece’s approval of an accord to end a dispute over Macedonia’s name and averting the prospect of a snap election.

Tsipras called the confidence motion after his right-wing coalition partner Panos Kammenos quit the government on Jan. 13 in protest over the name deal signed between Athens and Skopje last year.

Parliament gave Tsipras 151 votes, meeting the threshold he required in the 300-member assembly. His leftist Syriza party has 145 seats in parliament while additional support was gleaned by defectors of Kammenos’s ANEL party and independents.

“I call upon you with hand on heart to give a vote of confidence to the government which gave battle, which bled, but managed to haul the country out of memorandums and surveillance,” Tsipras said, referring to Greece’s international lenders who kept the country on a tight leash for years.

He described the vote as a ‘vote of confidence in stability’.

“Our only concern is to continue to address the needs and interests of the Greek people,” Tsipras told journalists.

Greek opponents of the agreement say Macedonia’s new name – the Republic of North Macedonia, reached after decades of dispute between Athens and Skopje, represents an attempt to appropriate Greek identity.

Macedonia is the name of Greece’s biggest northern region. The deal was signed between the two countries in mid-2018, contingent on ratification of parliaments in both countries and a necessary step for the tiny Balkan state to be considered for European Union and NATO membership.

The Macedonian parliament ratified the pact last week. It has yet to be brought to a vote by Greece, though that is expected this month.

Tsipras, whose four-year term expires in October, has faced down parliament before on the Macedonia deal. He survived a no-confidence vote mounted by the opposition when the two states agreed on a compromise in June 2018.

But setting the stage for more acrimony over an issue which is a red flag for many Greeks, opposition parties have decried the deal as a national sell out, while demonstrators plan to protest in central Athens on Jan. 20. Past protests have drawn hundreds of thousands.

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  • Greek PM says winning confidence vote is vote for stabilityGreek PM says winning confidence vote is vote for stability

“This is a nationally-damaging agreement,” Kyriakos Mitsotakis, head of the main opposition New Democracy conservatives, told parliament during the confidence debate.

He repeatedly called the administration “a ragbag government” clutching at straws to stay in power.

“Elections are the only solution for the country to move ahead … for Greeks to take their fate into their hands. Just leave.” he said.

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Greek PM set to squeak through confidence motion over Macedonia deal

ATHENS (Reuters) – Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras made an impassioned appeal to parliament for support on Tuesday, the eve of a confidence vote he is expected to survive by a whisker with the support of a handful of opposition lawmakers.

Tsipras called the confidence vote following the resignation of Defence Minister Panos Kammenos and his right-wing Independent Greeks’ party over an accord to end a long dispute between Greece and Macedonia by changing Macedonia’s name.

As parliament opened two days of debate, Tsipras said it was a “patriotic duty” to proceed with the agreement, knowing it would have a political cost. He called on lawmakers to support him, saying that his government had pulled Greece from international bailouts and a debt crisis and has more work to do in the nine months that remain before its term ends in October.

“There are times that one is judged not for his words but for his acts. There are times of critical decisions and of responsibilities,” Tsipras said.

“Addressing you all, I urge you to speak clearly and with honesty, listen to your conscience and respect the people’s interest. I call on you to give a clear response: Do you trust this government to continue?,” Tsipras said.

The vote is expected on Wednesday night.

The prime minister said last week he could call a snap election if he failed to win a majority of 151 votes.

His leftist Syriza party has 145 seats in the 300-seat chamber and the support of one independent lawmaker. Despite the resignation of Kammenos, four lawmakers from the right-wing Independent Greeks have said that they will still back Tsipras.

On Tuesday, he received another endorsement from a member of parliament from the centrist To Potami party, reaching the 151 MP mark.

The fate of the Macedonia name deal hinges on the outcome of the confidence vote, as the opposition has vowed to reject it.

The deal, reached last year, is intended to resolve a dispute that has kept Greece’s northern neighbor excluded from the EU and NATO over its name.

Greece argues that the name Macedonia represents a territorial claim over a Greek province by the same name, and has blocked the former Yugoslav republic from joining Western institutions. Under the deal, Macedonia will change its name to the Republic of North Macedonia, and Greece will accept it.

Macedonia’s parliament last week passed an amendment to the constitution to rename the country, leaving it up to Greece to ratify the deal.

Greek opponents of the agreement say Macedonia’s new name still represents an attempt to appropriate Greek identity. Groups opposing the deal will rally in central Athens on Sunday.

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Government shutdown leaves White House guests dining on take away burgers

After all, the White House kitchen has five full-time chefs and can serve dinner to as many as 140 guests and hors d’oeuvres to more than 1,000.

The Clemson Tigers from South Carolina might understandably have expected some top-class cuisine. They had just won the College Football Playoff National Championship, after all.

But as the government shutdown enters its 24th day, around 800,000 federal workers are on mandatory leave or working without pay.

Among those affected are the White House chefs.

With members of the football team due to visit for dinner, Donald Trump needed to save the day somehow.

So he thought about the type of “all American” feast footballers would enjoy and came up with…McDonald’s, Wendy’s and pizza.

Burgers were piled high on the elaborate silver trays, various sauces were housed in the silver holders and White House cups bearing the presidential seal held the fries.

Before the meal, the president told reporters: “Because of the shutdown, as you know… we went out and we ordered American fast food paid for by me.”

“I think they’d like it better than anything we could give.

“We have pizzas, we have 300 hamburgers, many, many French fries, all of our favourite foods – I want to see what’s here when we leave, because I don’t think it’s going to be much,” the president mused.

“We want to make sure that everything is right, so we sent out, we got this.”

Mr Trump is well-known to be a fan of fast food, reportedly enjoying cheeseburgers in bed, but when asked which was his favourite, he was remaining neutral: “I like them all,” he said.

“If it’s American, I like it. It’s all American stuff.”

Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed much of the staff in the White House residence had been furloughed because of the shutdown “so the president is personally paying for the event to be catered with some of everyone’s favourite fast foods”.

The unorthodox choice appeared to go down well with the team, however, with several young men seen chomping their way through multiple burgers.

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Government Shutdown, Moon Landing, Captain and Tennille: Your Thursday Briefing

(Want to get this briefing by email? Here’s the sign-up.)

Good morning,

The 116th Congress convenes today, and one of its first orders of business will be the government shutdown. We’re also looking at harassment complaints during the 2016 Sanders campaign, and at China’s space milestone.

New Congress begins during a partial shutdown

The 116th Congress convenes today, and one of its first challenges will be reaching a budget deal. President Trump and Democratic leaders held a contentious meeting on Wednesday over the partial government shutdown, which is nearing the two-week mark and has affected 800,000 federal employees.

Mr. Trump was adamant in his demands for $5.6 billion in funding for a border wall, and he rejected Democrats’ proposals to fund the government while the two sides negotiated further. The Democrats refused to increase their offer of $1.3 billion for border security.

Mr. Trump asked congressional leaders to return to the White House on Friday to resume talks, an official said.

Go deeper: Nancy Pelosi is poised to reclaim the title of speaker of the House today. How she deals with Mr. Trump will define her tenure.

The Daily: In today’s episode, Senator Chuck Schumer discusses the shutdown and the era of divided government.

Claims of sexual harassment on the Sanders campaign

Women who worked for Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign in 2016 say that complaints of sexual harassment, demeaning treatment and pay disparities went unaddressed. One former staffer said she was marginalized after refusing a manager’s invitation to his hotel room.

Asked if he knew about the staff complaints, Mr. Sanders told CNN, “I was a little bit busy running around the country trying to make the case.” He added: “I certainly apologize to any woman who felt she was not treated appropriately, and of course if I run we will do better the next time.”

Why it matters: The Vermont senator’s perceived failure to address the issues could hinder any potential plans for another run in 2020.

Chinese make history on the moon

China has reached a milestone in space exploration, landing a vehicle on the far side of the moon for the first time in history, the country’s space agency announced this morning. The probe, called Chang’e-4 after the moon goddess in Chinese mythology, made the first in a series of planned missions to make China a contender in the space race.

Experts say the country is quickly catching up in its capacity for space exploration, and could soon challenge the U.S. for supremacy in artificial intelligence, quantum computing and other fields.

Looking ahead: The side of the moon we never see from Earth contains secrets about our solar system’s early days. Here’s what China and the world hope to find.

Apple cuts its outlook over China’s slump

The Silicon Valley giant cut its revenue forecast for the first time in 16 years on Wednesday, citing poor iPhone sales in China. The company said it expected revenue of about $84 billion in the quarter that ended Saturday, down from a previous estimate of $89 billion to $93 billion. That would be a decline of nearly 5 percent from the same quarter a year earlier.

What it means: The surprise announcement highlighted the slowing Chinese economy and raised fears of further turmoil in global markets.

Yesterday: The markets reacted to uncertainty at Tesla, too. The automaker said sales of its Model 3 sedan increased 13 percent, but it announced a price cut that sent shares plunging.

If you have 24 minutes, this is worth it

The killing of a Gaza medic

Rouzan al-Najjar, 20, was killed in June while she treated the wounded at protests over Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. To Palestinians, she was an innocent martyr, killed in cold blood. To Israelis, she was part of a violent demonstration aimed at destroying their country.

Our investigation found realities even more complicated.

Here’s what else is happening

A rash of child cancers: A growing number of pediatric cancers in Johnson County, Ind., led residents to an old industrial site, where tests revealed a carcinogenic plume spreading underground. The discovery prompted residents to confront the Trump administration over its rollbacks of health and environmental regulations.

Turks take their assets and go: As President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has tightened his grip on Turkey, more than a quarter of a million people have left the country, 42 percent more than the previous year.

Let down by legalization: One year after marijuana was legalized in California, sales are down, tax revenues are below forecasts, and the black market is thriving.

A Manhattan apartment, now yours for $999,000: The median price for apartments in the borough dipped below $1 million for the first time since 2015.

In memoriam: Daryl Dragon, one half of the soft-rock duo Captain and Tennille whose 1970s hits included “Love Will Keep Us Together” and “Muskrat Love,” died at 76.

Snapshot: Above, icebiking and icechairing — poling along while seated — are wintertime passions in northern China. Here, Beijing’s frozen Houhai Lake.

What we’re listening to: This podcast from Glamour. It tells “the horrific tale of two women who adopted six children and then apparently drove four of them and themselves off a cliff,” writes Jodi Rudoren, an associate managing editor. “The meticulous and empathetic storytelling, by my friend Elisabeth Egan and her co-host, Justine Harman, unspools the devastating mystery at the perfect pace.”

Now, a break from the news

Cook: Salmon marinated in miso paste and maple syrup, a quick, delicious meal.

Plan: Our critics highlight 10 things — performances, movies, albums and books — worth looking forward to this year, including a novel by Marlon James and Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s return to the stage in a new production of “Fleabag.”

Watch: “Leave No Trace” and “Support the Girls,” two of the best movies streaming this month. For Canadian Netflix subscribers, check out “A Quiet Place” and “Loving.”

Read: Josh Malerman’s “Bird Box,” the basis of the Netflix film starring Sandra Bullock, is new this week on our combined print and e-book fiction best-seller list. (But don’t, Netflix begs you, get lured into doing the birdbrained Bird Box Challenge.)

Smarter Living: Worried about your job? Asking for direct feedback — “What can I do to make it easier to work with me?” — can help you figure out if your concerns are grounded. And be ready to hit the ground running by keeping your medical appointments up-to-date and your necessary contacts copied over.

We also have tips on getting better at dealing with your money.

And now for the Back Story on …

“Roger that.”

How do you acknowledge a colleague’s message? After a recent digital exchange, this writer looked into the history of one of his favored responses: “Roger that.”

In the days of Morse code, an R was sent to indicate that a message had been received.

That system evolved with the introduction of radio communications. Early transmissions were often of poor quality, so, to avoid misunderstandings, spelling alphabets were developed. Also called phonetic alphabets, they replaced letters with words that started with the corresponding letter.

By World War II, the U.S. and British militaries had settled on a standard: Able for A, Baker for B … and Roger for R. (Previously, the British had used Robert.)

In the 1950s, a new alphabet — commonly referred to as the NATO phonetic alphabet — was adopted, and is now the most widely used. It replaced Roger with Romeo. (I’m planning to stick with Roger.)

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Jillian

Thank you
To Aisha Harris for the cultural planning, Chris Harcum for the reading guidance and Kenneth R. Rosen for the Smarter Living smarts. Chris Stanford, our regular Morning Briefing writer, wrote today’s Back Story instead. You can reach the team at [email protected]

P.S.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” In today’s episode, Senator Chuck Schumer discusses his newly emboldened approach in a divided Washington.
• Here’s today’s mini crossword puzzle, and a clue: J'adore perfume maker (4 letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Each day, our editors collect interesting or delightful facts from articles throughout the paper. Here are their highlights for 2018.

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Job cuts ahead: Layoff protection for Manitoba’s civil servants about to end

More public-sector job cuts appear to be coming in Manitoba and a long-standing ban on civil service layoffs is about to expire.

Premier Brian Pallister, in his third year of a promise to eliminate the deficit by 2024, says he is not planning any large-scale layoffs, but some trimming remains to be done, largely by not filling vacant positions when someone retires or quits.

“Senior management is still heavy outside of core government, in the so-called MUSH sector (municipalities, universities, school boards and hospitals) and in the Crowns,” Pallister said in a year-end interview with The Canadian Press.

“(It’s) heavier than we would like, and so there is that aspect that has to be dealt with.”

Pallister was elected in 2016 on a promise to end a string of deficits that started under the former NDP government.

He has already cut civil service jobs by eight per cent through attrition and has ordered Crown agencies to reduce management positions.

Some 13,000 civil servants have been protected from outright layoffs by a special clause the NDP agreed to in the last five-year collective agreement.

That deal expires in March, and the Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union expects the axe could fall on many workers.

“Our members themselves are very nervous and very scared of what is going to happen,” union president Michelle Gawronsky said.

“These people have mortgages to pay and they’ve got children to feed.”

The government already has served notice about a small number of potential layoffs for when the collective agreement expires – up to 11 workers in real estate services, up to eight employees in government translation services and some others.

Pallister said the layoffs are a small fraction of the provincial workforce and spending restraint is needed to end years of red ink that led to two credit downgrades by bond-rating agencies.

The province’s annual deficits have dropped, but this year’s is forecast to come in at $518 million. Rising interest rates and uncertainty over global trade agreements are also threats, Pallister said.

“Apart from management trim at the top of the organization, there’s been virtually no layoffs,” the premier said.

“Any Manitoban who has to manage money and has to get value out of their paycheque will appreciate the fact that this is a government that is keeping its word and stabilizing our finances in the province.”

Gawronsky said Pallister also made promises to protect front-line jobs and services.

Since the 2016 election, some hospital emergency rooms have closed, services such as forest-fire water bombers have been privatized and subsidies for things such as chiropractic care have been reduced.

“It was a promise this premier and his government made, that they were going to … protect the services Manitobans rely on,”she said.

“We’re not seeing that in any way, shape or form.”

With files from: Steve Lambert / The Canadian Press

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U.S. hopes Lebanon's next government will work with it: State Department official

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States hopes Lebanon’s next government will work with it on areas of mutual interest, a State Department official said on Tuesday, and expressed concern over Iran-backed Shi’ite Muslim group Hezbollah’s rising clout in the country.

“We hope Lebanon’s next government will build a stable and secure Lebanon that is committed to peace, responsive to the needs of the Lebanese people, and working with the United States on areas of mutual interest,” the official told Reuters.

Lebanon is expected to form a new national unity government in the next few days, politicians said on Tuesday, raising hopes for an end to more than seven months of wrangling that has darkened the outlook for its struggling economy.

Hezbollah is expected to get three ministries in the upcoming cabinet for the first time, instead of two, including the health ministry.

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Fractured Australian government sets stage for May election with early budget

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday his government will deliver its annual budget early as it prepares for an election due by May, but suffered an immediate setback when one of his MPs said she was quitting his party.

Morrison said his conservative Liberal-National coalition government would deliver Australia’s first budget surplus since 2007/2008. The budget, for the financial year beginning July 1, will be delivered on April 2, about a month earlier than usual.

His government must call an election by May and opinion polls suggest the coalition is on course for a heavy defeat by the center-left Labor opposition.

“It will be a surplus budget. It will be a budget which is the product of the years of hard work of our government,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra.

The promise of a healthy budget comes as Morrison seeks to repair his government’s standing with voters, who were angered by a party-room revolt in August that ousted former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

The toppling of Turnbull pushed the government into minority when it lost the former prime minister’s seat, normally a Liberal stronghold, in a by-election this month.

That minority status came into effect on Monday, a disadvantage that immediately forced Morrison’s government into an embarrassing climb-down when it sided with Labor over setting up an anti-corruption body because it did not have the numbers to oppose the move.

Already relying on the support of independent lawmakers to progress his legislative agenda, Morrison suffered another major blow on Tuesday when backbench MP Julia Banks said she was quitting the Liberal party immediately to sit as an independent.

The Liberals are the senior partner in the governing coalition.

Banks said she was quitting the party over disunity, its treatment of women and its policies on energy and climate change. She referred to Turnbull’s toppling as “the dark days of August” and said the party was riven by personal ambition.

“The Liberal Party has changed largely due to the actions of the reactionary and aggressive right-wing who talk about and talk to themselves rather than listening to the people,” Banks told parliament.

However, Banks said she would support the government on matters of confidence and supply until the election.

While promising not to bring down the government, Banks could vote with Labor on issues such as a likely move to refer Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton to the High Court for a ruling on whether Dutton is eligible to remain in parliament.

Dutton, who has financial interests in daycare centers that receive government funding, risks falling foul of Australia’s constitution, which bans lawmakers from benefiting from state funds. He was also a prime mover behind Turnbull’s ousting.

The government’s most senior legal adviser said earlier this year Dutton was eligible, although Labor is pressing independents to support a court referral.

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Government ordered to repay £1m to trafficking victims after High Court ruling

It follows a successful challenge by two claimants, a 19-year-old asylum seeker and a victim of sex trafficking, against the cuts.

Their case was supported by charities for victims of trafficking.

At the beginning of March, almost two months before Savid Javid became home secretary, the weekly cash amount payable to more than 1,000 potential victims of human trafficking was slashed by 42%.

Their weekly allowance fell from £65 to £37.75, but they will now be repaid the missing £27.25 per week after the court ruling, at an estimated cost of more than £1m.

Mr Justice Mostyn found the government failed to comply with obligations under the 2010 Equality Act.

The judge had been told how the teenage asylum seeker had fled persecution and severe exploitation at the hands of traffickers.

The reduction in payments was said to have damaged his mental health and exposed him to a risk of falling back into the hands of traffickers.

Silvia Nicolaou Garcia, a solicitor from law firm Simpson Millar who represented the teenager, said the payment cut forced her client into an “increasingly untenable and, frankly, inhumane situation”.

“He couldn’t afford the travel necessary to meet with his solicitors, which he is required to do on a regular basis, he had accrued debt and he could no longer afford to buy clothes, food, or mobile credit to allow him to keep in touch with his professional support network or his friends,” she said.

“We hope that the reversal of the cuts, and a back payment to cover losses, will help to provide stability and, importantly, safety for him.”

The other claimant, known as “K” and described as suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder after being sex trafficked, said after the ruling: “I was so low because I was not able to do the activities which had been helping me before my money was cut.

“Now that I can afford to re-engage with my support network and activities, it makes me hopeful for my future.”

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Sir Ed Davey attacked the prime minister, who has long championed efforts to tackle modern slavery, over the case.

He said: “Theresa May once rightly called modern slavery the great human rights issue of our time, but her government cut support for victims by 40%, leaving them vulnerable to further exploitation.

“Now that the court has ruled those cuts unlawful, the government must reverse them and ensure that victims receive the help they need to escape the terrible bonds of slavery.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “We accept the court judgement and will set out our response in due course.”

The spokesman added that ministers are committed to ensuring victims of modern slavery got the support they needed.

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