On shutdown, Trump vows to wait as long as it takes for wall funding

Border wall prototypes stand in San Diego near the Mexico US border, seen from Tijuana. The US federal government remains partially closed in a protracted standoff over President Donald Trump’s demand for money to build a border wall with Mexico. (AP)
Updated 27 December 2018

On shutdown, Trump vows to wait as long as it takes for wall funding

AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq: President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he is prepared to wait as long as it takes to get $5 billion from taxpayers for his U.S.-Mexico border wall, a demand that has triggered a partial shutdown of the federal government that is now in its fifth day.
With no immediate end to the shutdown in sight, Trump made his remarks during a surprise visit to Iraq and blamed the shutdown on Democrat Nancy Pelosi, who was expected to become speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives on Jan. 3.
Trump had previously said he was prepared for a lengthy shutdown and when asked on Wednesday how long he would wait to get what he wants, he said, "Whatever it takes."
"Nancy is calling the shots," said the Republican president, suggesting that her opposition to his demand for wall funding had to do with Pelosi's need for votes to become speaker.
Pelosi largely locked up the speakership weeks ago.
"The American public is demanding a wall," Trump said while on the ground at Al Asad Air Base in Iraq.
During a televised Dec. 11 meeting with Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, Trump had said he would be "proud to shut down the government for border security" but has since shifted the blame to Democrats.
During his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly promised Mexico would pay for his proposed wall. After Mexico repeatedly refused to do so, he began seeking U.S. taxpayer funding for the wall, which he sees as vital to controlling illegal immigration.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll in late November found that improved border security was a top-three priority for only about 31 percent of Americans surveyed.
Even with both chambers of Congress and the White House under Republican control for the past two years, former real estate developer Trump has not gained full funding for his wall.
Democrats and some Republicans view it as a costly, unneeded and ineffective project, but some Republicans support the idea and back Trump's demand for $5 billion in partial funding.
"His resolve is very firm," Representative Mark Meadows, a conservative Republican, told CNN.
Following weeks of failed talks between Trump and congressional leaders, parts of the U.S. government shut down on Saturday, affecting about 800,000 employees of the Departments of Homeland Security, Transportation and other agencies.
Most of the federal government, which directly employs almost 4 million people, is unaffected. The Defense Department and other key agencies are fully funded through Sept. 30.
Congress was scheduled to reconvene after a holiday break on Thursday and resume debate on the matter.


Somalia struggles after worst flooding in recent history

Updated 19 min 53 sec ago

Somalia struggles after worst flooding in recent history

  • At least 10 people went missing when their boat capsized after the Shabelle river burst its banks
  • More than 250,000 people across Somalia were displaced by the recent severe flooding
MOGADISHU, Somalia: Ahmed Sabrie woke up to find his house half-submerged in fast-rising flood waters.

Frightened and confused, he herded his sleepy family members onto the roof of their home in central Somalia as scores of thousands of people in the town, Beledweyne, scrambled for their lives. Clinging to an electric power pylon by the edge of their roof, the family watched as their possessions were washed away.

“I could hear people, perhaps my neighbors, screaming for help but I could only fight for the survival of my family,” the 38-year-old Sabrie, the father of four, recalled.

As one of his children, unfed, wailed the family waited for more than 10 hours before a passing rescue boat spotted them.

Authorities have not yet said how many people died in the Somalia flooding last month, the country’s worst in recent history and the latest reminder that the Horn of Africa nation must prepare for the extremes expected to come with a changing climate.

At least 10 people went missing when their boat capsized after the Shabelle river burst its banks. Local officials have said at least 22 people in all are presumed dead and that toll could rise.

“This is a catastrophic situation,” Mayor Safiyo Sheikh Ali said. President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, who visited the town and waded through submerged areas, called the devastation “beyond our capacity” and pleaded for more help from aid groups.

With no proper emergency response plan for natural disasters, local rescuers used rickety wooden dhows to reach trapped people while helicopters provided by the United Nations plucked people from rooftops. African Union and Somali forces have joined the rescue operations and the Somali government airlifted food.

“Many people are still trapped in their submerged houses and we have no capacity and enough equipment to cover all areas,” said Abdirashakur Ahmed, a local official helping to coordinate rescue operations. Hundreds are thought to still be stuck.

With more heavy rains and flash flooding expected, officials warned thousands of displaced people against returning too quickly to their homes.

More than 250,000 people across Somalia were displaced by the recent severe flooding, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Beledweyne town was the worst affected. Several thousand people were sheltering under trees or in tents.

“Floods have destroyed more than three-quarters of Beledweyne and submerged many surrounding villages,” said Victor Moses, the NRC’s country director.

Aid groups said farms, infrastructure and roads in some areas were destroyed. The destruction of farmland near rivers is expected to contribute to a hunger crisis.

The possibility of further damage from heavy rains in the coming days remains a concern, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Parts of the Lower Juba, Gedo and Bay regions, where IOM has supported displaced populations for years, have been affected. Many displaced people were stranded without food, latrines or shelter.

“In Baidoa, people have moved to high ground where they are in immediate need of support,” said Nasir Arush, the minister for humanitarian and disaster management for South West State.

Survivors like Sabrie now must struggle to rebuild their lives.

“We’re alive, which I am thankful to Allah for, but this flood disaster wreaked havoc on both our livelihoods and households so I see a tough road ahead of us,” he said from a makeshift shelter built on higher ground outside town.