Netanyahu Says Cannot Form Israel Govt, Asks Opponent To Try

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and retired Israeli general Benny Gantz, one of the leaders of the Blue and White (Kahol Lavan) political alliance. JACK GUEZ, Oded Balilty / AFP

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu informed Israel’s president Monday he could not form a new government following deadlocked September elections, making way for his opponent Benny Gantz to try.

The decision was an important defeat for Netanyahu as he seeks to continue his tenure as Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, but it does not mean the end of those efforts since he still has various cards to play.

Gantz will also face long odds in forming a government, with many analysts predicting he too will fail to negotiate a unity coalition.

In that case, President Reuven Rivlin could ask a majority of parliament members to agree on a candidate.

Rivlin has vowed to do all he can to prevent yet another election — a third since April — but the possibility remains that the stalemate could eventually trigger it.

Netanyahu has been battling the threat to his political survival on two fronts, also facing the possibility of corruption charges in the weeks ahead.

“A short time ago I informed the president that I was handing back my mandate to try to form a government,” Netanyahu said in a video posted on his official Facebook page.

The prime minister blamed Gantz for refusing to negotiate on Netanyahu’s preferred terms.

 ‘Simply refused’ 

Rivlin said shortly afterwards that he intended to ask ex-military chief Gantz, head of the centrist Blue and White alliance, to try to form a government.

Like Netanyahu, he will have 28 days to attempt to do so.

Rivlin can take up to three days to hear out the parties elected to parliament before officially tasking Gantz, who had no political experience before mounting his challenge to the premier he once worked with as military chief of staff.

Blue and White said in a statement: “The time of spin is over, and it is now time for action.”

“Blue and White is determined to form the liberal unity government, led by Benny Gantz, that the people of Israel voted for a month ago,” it said.

By “liberal”, it signalled it would seek to limit the influence of religious parties in forming a coalition.

Netanyahu argued that he had “made every effort to bring Benny Gantz to the negotiating table, every effort to form a broad national government, every effort to prevent further elections”.

“Unfortunately, time and time again he simply refused.”

But Gantz has repeatedly said he cannot negotiate based on the terms Netanyahu wants.

Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud has been seeking to negotiate based on a compromise set out by Rivlin that takes into account the possibility the premier will be indicted for corruption in the upcoming weeks.

It could see him remain prime minister for now, but step aside at some point later as he combats the charges.

Gantz would take over as acting premier under such a scenario.

 Who goes first? 

The Blue and White leader, however, says he should be prime minister first under any rotation arrangement since his party won the most seats in September 17 elections, finishing with 33 compared to Likud’s 32.

Gantz also says Blue and White cannot serve in a government with a prime minister facing serious indictment.

Netanyahu has added a further complication to the coalition talks.

He has pledged not to abandon the smaller right-wing and religious parties that support him in parliament, saying he represents the entire bloc in coalition negotiations.

That condition is also unacceptable to Gantz, who says it would mean Blue and White joining a Netanyahu government as a junior member.

Netanyahu received the endorsement of 55 members of parliament for the post of prime minister after the election, while Gantz received 54.

Ten of the parliament members endorsing Gantz, however, are from Arab parties and have said they will not serve in a government with the ex-military leader.

While the 70-year-old Netanyahu was yielding to his opponent at least temporarily on Monday, he has shown no sign of willingly giving up the post he has held for a total of more than 13 years.

A prime minister does not have to step down if indicted — only if convicted with all appeals exhausted — while other ministers can be forced to do so when charged.

Benue Govt Investigates Rape Allegation At IDP Camps

 

The Benue State Government says it is investigating allegations of rape of victims at the Internally Displaced Camps.

This follows the rising menace of rape and gender-based violence wrought against female IDPs often resulting in unwanted pregnancies.

A victim who craved anonymity told Channels Television said a female member of the vigilante group took her away to a waiting security official.

According to her, the security personnel ignored several pleas by some women and forcefully raped her.

Speaking in her native language, she said: “It was night, the man grabbed me and was dragging me towards his vehicle. I pleaded with him to let me go but he refused.

READ ALSO: El-Rufai Asks Air Force To End Attacks On Abuja-Kaduna Highway

“So I gestured towards the direction where I thought there will be people who would rescue me. When we got there, we met only two women in the room who had just put to birth.

“So I held onto the door, but he pulled me away. One of the women in the camps heard my screams and came to plead with him to leave me alone but he wouldn’t listen. Instead, he grabbed me into another shelter where he raped me.”

Although none of the security agencies in the state has reacted to the allegation as at the time of filing this report.

But Speaking to Channels Television, the Executive Secretary of the State Emergency Management Agency, Emmanuel Shior confirmed the incident.

“I am working with security agencies to get to the bottom of the issue in terms of getting evidence against the security personnel that is accused. When we get enough evidence against them, I assure you that we will get them to face the law,” he stated

Delta Communities Decry Deplorable State Of Major Roads

 

Residents of some communities in Asaba, the Delta State capital have asked the state government to adopt proactive measures in fixing dilapidated roads around the city.

Of particular concern is a major road just by the entrance to the capital city, leading to many other communities, which according to residents has been in a deplorable state for over six years.

Speaking to Channels Television, a resident of the area, Ebere Jaga, noted that the bad roads make people wonder as it’s located in the heart of the state.

“We want the government to help us. This is the heart of Asaba. You will imagine people passing and asking what is happening. Is that a road or what? People are surprised that this type of place is in the heart of Asaba,” he stated.

Another resident, Chikwe Matthew, feared that if the government does not address the issue urgently, it might be worse considering the rains that are coming.

He said, “This is the second time we have this rain and you can see how the road looks like. It means that in the next due season of serious rain, it’s going to be terrible.”

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But reacting to the development, the state government blamed the situation on inadequate funding, noting it has been a major challenge.

According to the Director General of the State Capital Territory Development Agency, Clement Ofuani, the state government is determined to fixing the road despite being faced with the challenge of paucity of funds.

The Director-General of Delta State Capital Territory Development Agency, Clement Ofuani

“We are aware of their challenging situation and we are working day and night to see how we can ameliorate the situation.

“But the truth we cannot run away from is that the primary problem is funding constraint,” he stated.

Climate Protesters Give British Govt Conditions To Halt Demos

A climate change protesters block the road on Waterloo Bridge in London on April 21, 2019, on the seventh day of an environmental protest by the Extinction Rebellion group.  Niklas HALLE’N / AFP

 

Climate change protesters who have brought parts of London to a standstill said Sunday they were prepared to call a halt if the British government will discuss their demands.

Some 831 arrests have been made and 42 people charged in connection with the ongoing Extinction Rebellion protests.

On the seventh day of demonstrations that have occupied key spots in the British capital, organisers said they were willing to switch tactics from disruption to dialogue.

READ ALSO: Climate Demonstrators Block London Roads

“We are prepared to pause, should the government come to the negotiating table,” Extinction Rebellion spokesman James Fox told AFP.

“What the pause looks like is us stopping an escalation.

“We can discuss leaving if they are willing to discuss our demands.

“At the moment, we haven’t received a response from the government… so we’re waiting on that.”

Extinction Rebellion was established last year in Britain by academics and has become one of the world’s fastest-growing environmental movements.

Campaigners want governments to declare a climate and ecological emergency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2025, halt biodiversity loss and be led by new “citizens’ assemblies on climate and ecological justice.

“We’re giving them an opportunity now to come and speak to us,” Fox told AFP.

“If they don’t take that opportunity, and if they refuse to come and negotiate with us, then this is going to continue and this is going to escalate in different, diverse and very creative ways.”

 Mayor: time to stop 

Police said they had managed to clear the Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus junctions of protesters, who remain in place on Waterloo Bridge and Parliament Square.

“We remain in frequent contact with the organisers to ensure that the serious disruption to Londoners is brought to a close as soon as possible and that only lawful and peaceful protests continue,” the police said in a statement.

Calling for an end to the protests, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said more than 9,000 police officers had been responding to the demonstrations, which had left the force as a whole overstretched.

“This is now taking a real toll on our city — our communities, businesses and police. This is counter-productive to the cause and our city,” he said.

“I’m extremely concerned about the impact the protests are having on our ability to tackle issues like a violent crime if they continue any longer. It simply isn’t right to put Londoners’ safety at risk.

“You must now let London return to business as usual.”

In the blazing sunshine on Waterloo Bridge, police lifted protesters and carried them off to waiting for police vans.

“I’m genuinely terrified. I think about it all the time. I’m so scared for the world. I feel like there is going to be calamity in my lifetime,” student Amber Gray told AFP.

“I don’t even feel comfortable bringing children into this world knowing that that is coming.

“And I don’t want people in the future to say to me, ‘why didn’t you do anything?'”

Retiree Kathy Hayman said politicians were “ignoring and denying”.

“I’m amazed really at the lack of consciousness that they have and the lack of responsibility.”

AFP

IMF Awaits Decision On Venezuela Govt Recognition

US Seeks UN Draft Resolution Calling For Venezuela Elections
Juan Guaido (L)                                                                 President Nicolas Maduro (R)/ AFP

 

 

World governments are working on recognizing a Venezuelan government, a key step before international aid can flow into the crisis-stricken country, IMF chief Christine Lagarde said Thursday.

The South American oil-producer is facing an economic and humanitarian crisis that resembles the collapse of a country at war.

But without a recognized government, after Venezuela’s national assembly leader Juan Guaido in late January challenged the legitimacy of embattled leader Nicolas Maduro, the IMF, World Bank and other institutions cannot help with financing.

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“We are really very, very concerned about the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding in front of our eyes in Venezuela,” Lagarde said.

“We are waiting to be guided by our membership and I know that it is in process at the moment as we speak from quite a few members. As soon as that happens we will follow through.”

The IMF has had no direct access to events on the ground as the global crisis-lender had not been welcome in Venezuela for about 15 years, she said.

However, “We have done as much preparatory work as we could… in order to be prepared to act as quickly and as swiftly as we can,” Lagarde said.

The IMF estimates that Venezuela’s economy will contract by one-fourth in 2019, and a further 10 per cent in 2020 — a greater collapse than projected in the October 2018, along with unprecedented hyperinflation of 10 million per cent.

She stressed that the international response to the Venezuela crisis — which is facing shortages of food and medicine, power outages, and an exodus of its citizens — would have to be a “multi-pronged effort” by many institutions.

Her comments echoed those of newly-installed World Bank President David Malpass, who also told reporters that the institution’s shareholders would decide when and how to engage with Caracas.

Malpass also said Venezuela was of “deep concern” and was facing a “humanitarian crisis.”

“As far as the political side, we will be guided by the international community and the views of our shareholders,” he added. “This is something that is not chosen by the bank but by the shareholders of the bank.”

The IMF said Wednesday it would have no contact with Caracas, and would not allow the country access to its IMF-held reserves until the international community recognized a government in Caracas.

The United States is among about four dozen countries to recognize Guaido, and Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday called on the UN to do so as well.

The Organization of American States’ permanent council and the Inter-American Development Bank have recognized Guaido’s representative.

AFP

Kajuru Killings: Kaduna Govt Establishes IDP Camp For Victims

Kajuru LG Chairman, Cafra Caino.

 

The Kaduna State Government has established a camp for the Internally displaced persons recently affected by gunmen attacks in Kajuru Local Government Area of the state.

The development comes a few weeks after Iri, Dogon Noma and Ikirimi communities in the LGA were attacked.

Following the violence, over 3,000 persons have been displaced as a result of the clashes between the Adara people and Fulanis with hundreds of lives and properties worth millions of naira destroyed.

Speaking to journalists while inaugurating the camp located at Maraban Kajuru, the Chairman of the Council, Mr. Cafra Caino, said the state government decided to establish a new camp for the victims to ameliorate their sufferings.

According to him, the government is also trying to prevent them from falling victims of child labour and trafficking.

READ ALSO: Over 3,000 Persons Reportedly Displaced Following Kajuru Attacks

“The local government and the state government through the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) has provided relief materials to the IDPs in identified locations around Kajuru Local Government.

“Some of the displaced persons have been absolved by their host communities and the government is working assiduously to begin the reconstruction of the destroyed settlements to enable the communities to return to their homes.

“When the attacks happened, there were various camps, but currently the local government has collapsed the camps into one camp at KADP building in Maraba, Kajuru which will be the only approved camp.

Esther Mairiga, Kajuru Attack Victim.

“This is due to reports of possible child labour or child trafficking and to avoid the politicisation of the humanitarian situation through propaganda as some individuals have reported picking in children as some domestic workers,” he stated.

Again, Gunmen Attack Three Kajuru Villages In Kaduna

Reacting to the development, Esther Mairiga, who spoke to journalists in Hausa revealed that she is a mother of five and is among the thousands of people affected by the recent attacks in the area.

She escaped the deadly reprisal attack in her village about a month ago.

While taking refuge at Kufana, a neighboring village, she was delivered of triplets, all of them female.

State Govt Commences Demolition Of Marked Buildings In Lagos Island

The Lagos State Government has commenced the demolition of buildings marked on Freeman Street at the Ita Faji area of Lagos Island.

This follows the collapse of a three-storey building on Massey Street in the same area on Wednesday, killing school children and some other occupants of the building, while many others were left injured.

During an assessment tour of the site, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode had vowed to demolish all illegal school buildings in the area.

The Acting General Manager of the State Building Control Agency, Omotayo Fakolujo, told Channels Television that officials were acting based on the governor’s directives.

He explained that most owners of some illegal structures were evading arrest despite disobeying the government’s order.

“I can say that the owners and tenants are recalcitrant, in as much as we try to evict them, they continue to evade arrest and go through the back door and we feel that this structure might go down as soon as possible and that is why we have to bring it down today.

“There is a lot of legal tussles that relate to demolition. For this one, we just had a clearance from the court last week. We are moving to Smith, Palm church and Adeniji Adele where we have marked over 20 structures for demolition.

Fakolujo added that the government was also trying to evacuate occupants of most of the structures about to collapse.

READ ALSO: Lagos Building Collapse: Rescue Operations Concluded – State Govt

“Like we have said, we have been carrying out a lot of integrity tests on the buildings in this neighborhood and as you can see, some of them have been marked for demolition but we get resistance from landlords. But we must continue to save lives and we would intensify our efforts to see that those have failed our integrity test, we would ensure that they are quickly evacuated and we bring the structures down,” he said.

The collapsed building, said to be 30 years old, caved in at about 9:45 am on Wednesday, triggering outrage across the country and condemnation of the inability of the government to enforce its rules regarding structures considered to have failed integrity test.

Twenty-four hours after the disaster, the rescue agencies said they had reached ‘ground zero’ on the site, meaning that all the rubbles had been excavated and there was no evidence that anyone was still trapped.

 

Taraba Govt Relaxes 24-Hour Curfew In Jalingo

CAN Decries Alleged Plot To Disrupt Elections In Taraba

 

The Taraba State Government has relaxed the 24 hours curfew imposed on Jalingo, the state capital.

In a statement issued on Wednesday by Hassan Mijinyawa, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Darius Ishaku, the curfew now runs 6:00 pm to 4:00 am.

According to him, business activities are expected to resume as normal.

The development comes barely 48 hours after the state government imposed a curfew in the capital.

READ ALSO: Taraba Govt Imposes Dusk To Dawn Curfew On Jalingo

Mijinyawa had earlier stated that the curfew that began on March 11 would be reinforced until further notice.

All business activities are expected to resume and civil servants should report to their duty posts.

The government also announced that some INEC officials, key agents of political parties and observers involved in the collation of election results are exempted.

READ FULL STATEMENT HERE:

PRESS STATEMENT

The Taraba State Government has relaxed the 24 hours curfew imposed on Jalingo the state capital.

The curfew now runs from 6:00 pm to 4:00 am.

All business activities are expected to resume and civil servants should report to their duty posts.

Signed

Hassan Mijinyawa

CPS

Trump Asked To Delay State Of Union Until Government Reopens

 

The top Democrat in Congress on Wednesday urged President Donald Trump to postpone his upcoming annual State of the Union address, citing security shortcomings due to the ongoing partial government shutdown.

Trump was due to deliver his speech, in which a president lays out his legislative agenda and provides an economic status report to the nation, on January 29.

“Sadly, given the security concerns and unless government re-opens this week, I suggest that we work together to determine another suitable date after government has re-opened for this address or for you to consider delivering (it) in writing to the Congress on January 29th,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a letter to the president.

The United States is in the grips of its longest-ever government shutdown, with about 25 percent of federal agencies and offices shuttered.

The US Secret Service, which is charged with the protection of the president, provides security for what are known as national special security events, including the State of the Union.

“However, both the US Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security have not been funded for 26 days now -– with critical departments hamstrung by furloughs,” Pelosi noted in her letter.

She also said that “since the start of modern budgeting in Fiscal Year 1977, a State of the Union address has never been delivered during a government shutdown.”

The notion that Trump, a billionaire businessman who dramatically boosted his national prominence through his reality television show “The Apprentice,” would send in a written version of his address seems quaint in today’s screen-dominated digital era.

But Pelosi pointed out that up until Woodrow Wilson’s presidency in the early 20th century, “these annual State of the Union messages were delivered to Congress in writing.”

AFP

No Emergency Declaration To End US Govt Shutdown, Says Trump

 

President Donald Trump said he was holding off on declaring a state of emergency to end the partial US government shutdown that dragged into a 23rd day Sunday, as he insisted on $5.7 billion to build a Mexico border wall that congressional Democrats oppose.

Asked by Fox News why he didn’t immediately declare a national emergency to secure the funds without congressional approval, Trump said he wanted to give opposition Democratic lawmakers more time to strike a deal.

“I want to give them the chance to see if they can act responsibly,” he told Fox in an interview late Saturday.

The US government shutdown became the longest on record at midnight Friday when it overtook a 21-day stretch in 1995-1996 under president Bill Clinton.

Trump fired off a series of tweets Saturday in an effort to defend his stance and good Democrats to return to Washington and end what he called “the massive humanitarian crisis at our Southern Border.”

“Democrats could solve the Shutdown in 15 minutes!” he said in one tweet, adding in another, “We will be out for a long time unless the Democrats come back from their ‘vacations’ and get back to work. I am in the White House ready to sign!”

But most lawmakers left town on Friday and will not return before Monday, leaving little chance for any solution to the stalemate before then.

The impasse has paralyzed Washington — its impact felt increasingly around the country — with the president refusing to sign off on budgets for swaths of government departments unrelated to the dispute.

As a result, 800,000 federal employees — including FBI agents, air traffic controllers and museum staff — received no paychecks on Friday.

 Retreat from ’emergency’ 

At a White House meeting, Friday Trump described an emergency declaration as the “easy way out,” and said Congress had to step up to the responsibility of approving funding for the wall.

“If they can’t do it… I will declare a national emergency. I have the absolute right,” he said.

Trump, however, acknowledged that such a move would likely trigger a legal battle ending in the Supreme Court.

Opponents say such a unilateral presidential move would be a constitutional overreach and set a dangerous precedent in similar controversies.

 ‘Under Siege’ 

Trump pushed back Saturday on a media report that his White House was “chaotic” with no plan or strategy to end the shutdown.

To understand the plan “you would have to understand the fact that I won the election, and I promised… a Wall at the Southern Border. Elections have consequences!” he tweeted.

Both Democrats and Republicans agree that the US-Mexican border presents challenges, but Trump has turned his single-minded push for more walls into a crusade that opponents say is a stunt to stoke xenophobia in his right-wing voter base.

For the president, who visited the Texas border with Mexico on Thursday, the border situation amounts to an invasion by criminals. Only in recent days has he begun describing the problem as “humanitarian.”

Some studies show that illegal immigrants commit fewer crimes than people born in the United States.

And most narcotics are smuggled through heavily guarded checkpoints in vehicles, the government’s Drug Enforcement Administration said in a 2017 report.

AFP

US Shutdown Sends Economy Into Uncharted Waters

A plane passes the control tower as it lands at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport during the 22nd day of the US government shutdown January 12, 2019 in Arlington, Virginia.
Brendan Smialowski / AFP

 

The US government shutdown on Saturday became the longest in history and is taking a growing bite out of the world’s largest economy with each passing day, economists say.

While most of the 21 “lapses” in government spending since 1976 left barely a scratch on economic growth, the length of this shutdown makes it harder to say just how bad the impact could get.

“It’s not a hard stretch to say that initially it’s smaller and then it expands, the pain starts to widen,” Beth Ann Bovino, chief US economist at S&P Global Ratings, told AFP. “Think of it as a butterfly effect.”

With about a quarter of the federal workforce affected, the shutdown is currently squeezing an estimated $1.2 billion a week out of the economy, Bovino said, but that figure could grow if it drags on.

At the current rate, within two weeks it will have cost America more than the $5.7 billion US President Donald Trump is demanding for a wall on the border with Mexico, the dispute with Congress that led to the failure to pass funding for government operations.

Following extended closures in 1995 and 2013, the US economy continued to grow while stock markets mainly went sideways.

And GDP growth lost in one quarter can rebound in the next as the government springs back to life and workers recoup lost salaries. But some losses can never be recovered.

In myriad but often unseen ways, the $4 trillion federal budget is felt in the daily lives of all Americans, well beyond the 800,000 government workers now going without pay — many of whom missed their first paychecks on Friday.

Switching off even a part of the government means that life force quickly begins to bleed away.

Payments to farmers and poor families, craft beer labels, food inspections and economic data all have fallen victim to the budget impasse.

Meanwhile, tax refunds and borrower income verifications crucial to the mortgage industry were briefly up in the air with billions at stake.

“The tentacles start to touch many avenues of life and that’s a very sad thing,” Bovino said.

US Coast Guard cutters, their crews working without pay, on Monday began icebreaking at commercial ports in the frigid waters of Great Lakes near the Canadian border so local steel mills can remain supplied with iron ore.

Meanwhile, farmers cannot collect aid payments designed to help ease the pain caused by Trump’s trade war with China.

 Hurting the poorest most

Small Business Administration loans to help mom-and-pop businesses trying to invest, hire and grow have been delayed.

There are no government loans for seeds or cattle feed and none of the regular Agriculture Department data about crop yields and commodity prices that farmers depend on to plan for the coming year.

Permits from some oil and gas drilling — which feeds into GDP calculations — are delayed.

Bloomberg estimates that government contractors are losing $200 million a day, cutting revenues for defense industry giants like Boeing, General Dynamics and Leidos.

Tourism at the country’s 400 national parks normally generates a reported $18 million a day, but with some parks unattended and many services halted, local restaurants, hotels and shops are losing customers.

Government assistance to feed the poorest Americans is funded through next month only.

None of this includes the hardships felt by the 380,000 federal workers who have been furloughed or the 420,000 who are deemed “essential” but are working without pay.

They owe an estimated $438 million a month in rent and mortgage payments, according to the real estate firm Zillow.

Around the Washington region, home to about 20 percent of the federal work force, restaurants are sitting empty, taxis are idled and traffic increasingly moves with eerie ease along the capital’s choked boulevards.

Yingrui Huang, an engineer for a defense contractor at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, told AFP his company is normally at work building weather satellites and telescopes for the government but is shuttered until further notice.

To fight boredom, he is now driving for the mobile ride-hailing service Lyft but said he was most concerned hourly employees like janitors, cafeteria workers and secretaries.

“Their salaries are definitely lower than most of the engineering staff. They don’t get the limelight. We don’t think about them,” he said.

Economic research on the last major shutdown in October 2013 found many federal workers were largely able to avoid sinking into debt — delaying mortgage payments and shifting balances between credit cards.

But that shutdown lasted for barely two weeks — one pay cycle — and lawmakers at the time had quickly promised workers would receive back pay.

“It’s possible that the effects will be greater for this shutdown,” University of Chicago economist Constantine Yannelis, who studied the 2013 shutdown, told AFP.

“The longer a shutdown lasts, the more persistent a change in habits you could see.”

AFP

Trump May Skip Davos Conference Over US Govt Shutdown

 

President Donald Trump said Thursday he will skip the annual international conference at Davos, Switzerland if a government shutdown caused by the row over his demand for a US-Mexico wall isn’t resolved.

Trump is planning to attend the Davos meeting in just under two weeks, but said “if the shutdown continues, I won’t go.”

Swaths of the US government have already been without funding for three weeks while Trump rows with opposition Democrats over his demand for them to authorize construction of hundreds of miles of wall along the Mexican border.

AFP