US shutdown now the longest in history
The partial government shutdown over President Trump’s insistence over funding for a border wall is now the longest in history, entering its 24th day. Friday was also the first day that around 800,000 federal employees missed their monthly salary, which will particularly affect employees who live paycheck to paycheck. Trump has said he has “no idea” if he will be able to strike a deal, but also posted a series of tweets insisting he did, in fact, have a strategy.
On Tuesday night, President Trump addressed the nation from the Oval Office to discuss the “emergency” on the border. For those of you who don’t have the 9 minutes to watch the full speech, it consisted mostly of Trump listing examples of crimes committed by illegal immigrants. Many accused it of being a blatant attempt to drum up fear.
Some had predicted that the president would use the speech to declare a national emergency on the border and use military funds to begin building the wall (although it is unclear whether that course of action would be legal, and would certainly be subject to a series of lawsuits). It is also worth pointing out that illegal border crossings are way down, and the majority of illegal immigration into the US is the result of visa overstay — when immigrants enter the country legally, but then overstay their visas. Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer gave their own response to Trump’s speech, prompting comparisons to disappointed parents.
As if that wasn’t enough US news, the New York Times also published a bombshell report that the FBI had been investigating whether Trump was working on behalf of Russia against American interests. On Fox News that evening, the president was asked on air whether he was a Russian agent, and he said the accusations were “insulting.” (We do note that that’s not exactly an answer….)
Many, many Democrats thinking about running for president
It’s that season again (election season). Does election season really ever end? A number of Democrats have or are expected to announce that they’re throwing their hats in the ring for the Democratic primary for president. Elizabeth Warren announced on December 31 the formation of her exploratory committee for president, and then immediately went to Iowa. Julian Castro, the Democratic former mayor of San Antonio, announced his run yesterday. He is the most high profile latino to run for the Democratic candidacy.
Joe Biden is also considering running, although critics point out that he is 76 years old. California Senator Kamala Harris (who conveniently is on a book tour for her biography and children’s book) is widely expected to announce her candidacy on Martin Luther King day. Other potential contenders include Beto O’Rourke — who is also conveniently on a road trip across the country, instagramming interviews with people (and his dental cleaning, which we thought was weird) — and Senator Kristen Gillibrand. We’re sure more democrats will show up to this party over the coming weeks.
Brexit deal still in doubt; Corbyn speaks
It was also a wild week in the world of Brexit (when is it not, though?). Theresa May still does not seem to have the support for her Withdrawal Agreement to get through parliament on Tuesday. Meanwhile, a furious row around Commons Speaker John Bercow was sparked off after he allowed a controversial amendment to go to a vote. The amendment, tabled by former attorney general Dominic Grieve, said that if May’s deal is rejected, she must put forward a “Plan B” within three days, as opposed to three weeks. (The amendment passed.)
Meanwhile, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn actually did something this week, calling again for a general election “at the earliest opportunity” to “break the deadlock” over Brexit. Corybn said that a government with a fresh mandate would be able to negotiate a better Brexit deal with the EU (we assume this means that Article 50 would be extended, but who knows). Corbyn said, “So I say to Theresa May: if you are so confident in your deal, call that election, and let the people decide.”
Yellow Vest protests in Belfast
Yesterday, about 200 left-wing activist staged a “yellow vest” protest at Belfast city center. The protest was inspired by the gilet jaunes movement in France, named after the high visibility vests motorists in France are required to keep in their cars, highlighting the class divisions in the country. In Belfast, the campaigners demanded “a halt to public-sector cuts, the abolition of zero-hour contracts and a reversal of contentious changes to the welfare and benefits system” as well as change on a number of social issues, such as abortion and same-sex marriage.
Girl fleeing Saudi Arabia granted asylum in Canada
In some happy news, Saudi citizen Rahaf Mohammed Al-qunun was granted asylum in Canada. The 18-year-old had barricaded herself in a Thai hotel room, after fleeing from her family on vacation in Kuwait and gained worldwide attention through her tweets. The Saudi state, notoriously oppressive towards women, has strict guardianship laws which prevent women from traveling without the consent of their ‘guardian’ (husband, brother or even son). Al-qunun has said that her family, who had previously been abusive and violent towards her, would kill her if she returned.
After Australia dragged its feet on her asylum application, Canada stepped in. With help from the UNHCR, Al-qunun arrived in Toronto and was greeted personally by Canada’s foreign minister Chrystia Freeland. Canada and Saudi Arabia’s relations are already bad, as Canada is has previously been vocal about speaking out against human rights violation in Saudi Arabia. “Where we can save a single person, where we can save a single woman, that is a good thing to do,” said Freeland, “And I’d like to also emphasize, this is part of a broader Canadian policy of supporting women and girls in Canada and around the world.”
We also think it’s adorable that Al-qunun was wearing a Canada sweatshirt and a UNHCR hat. Apparently Freeland assured the teen that it does in fact get warmer in Canada.
Originally published at Northern Slant.