Dear Madame Speaker... the current State of the Union is deteriorating as the U.S. government plays politics over the shutdown
American President Donald Trump grounded House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) from setting flight for multiple international destinations at taxpayer’s expense citing the need to resolve the government shutdown. He explained that Speaker Pelosi is still welcome to make her trip by flying commercial and his letter only directs that US Military resources not go toward this international trip while Federal workers wait for Congress to negotiate with President Trump and reopen the Government.
A White House official said that “as soon as the president found out about the trip today, he took immediate action” and in canceling the Speaker’s flight, the White House reasoned that the trip would keep her out of the country beyond next Tuesday night, which when the next government pay period would occur.
"If she had gone on this trip she would have guaranteed that 800,000 federal workers would not receive their second paycheck because she would not have been here to negotiate any kind of deal," said a senior White House official said Thursday, confirming all congressional delegation travel by military aircraft is now postponed.
Yesterday, Speaker Pelosi told President Trump the government shutdown and lack of funding poses "security concerns" and offered two options: either reschedule the State of The Union address, scheduled for January 29, for after the government re-opens or the President can write and send his speech instead of delivering it live in front of a joint session of Congress. The Department of Homeland Security Secretary said Secret Service is ready and able to secure the event.
In response, House Republican leaders said Speaker Pelosi should "keep her word" and asked "what is she afraid of hearing?" Republican leadership also suggested that Trump should come to the Capitol to deliver his annual update even if she decides to rescind the formal invitation.
The government has been partially shut down for 27 days and federal courts may soon halt normal operations.
Thousands of furloughed workers have been called back in to work (without pay). President Trump signed a bill guaranteeing back pay for the estimated 800,000 federal employees affected by the shutdown.
President Trump is demanding USD $5.7 billion to build more than 200 miles of his proposed southwest border wall between the US and Mexico and has refused to sign spending bills, which would reopen government, without that funding. Democrats say they won't provide any wall funds but have been willing to provide USD $1.3 billion for other types of border security, like technology and some physical barriers.
Since the shutdown began, the President cancelled planned travel over the holidays and stayed in Washington, ready to make a deal. However, Speaker Pelosi took a vacation to Hawaii days after the shutdown began, and over thirty Democratic Members of Congress took a chartered flight to Puerto Rico for a retreat with lobbyists and corporate executives.
President Trump’s letter to Speaker Pelosi in full:
Prince Phillip survives a car crash that flipped his vehicle unharmed but is ‘very shocked and shaken’
The 97-year-old Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Phillip, climbed from the wreckage of his Land Rover that had crashed and flipped on its side near Sandringham Estate. The Prince was checked by a doctor as a precaution and found to have no injuries, while two other people are in hospital with minor injuries.
Police confirmed that both the Duke and the female driver of the other vehicle had been breathalysed at the scene, which is mandatory at collisions, and neither had not been drinking. A witness said the Queen’s husband appeared “shocked and shaken” after the crash, describing the fact he was uninjured as a “miracle”. The witness said the Duke had seemed “quite distraught” in the aftermath of the incident, as police arrived at the scene. He is understood to have been helped out of his vehicle, which had flipped over, trapping the driver’s door shut.
A second car, a Kia, was left on a verge after the crash on the A149. There were conflicting reports about precisely how the crash unfolded, but locals believed the Duke was leaving a small private side road, intending to cross the A149 as he headed back to Sandringham when he collided with a car travelling south.
Norfolk Police added, “The male driver of the Land Rover was uninjured. The female driver of the Kia suffered cuts while the female passenger sustained an arm injury, both requiring hospital treatment. We can confirm both casualties were treated at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn and have since been discharged.”
Photographs of the wreckage appeared to show that the Duke’s Land Rover had been hit on its passenger side, with heavy scrapes and dents in what will have been a “reinforced” vehicle made for the Royal family.
A palace spokesman would not comment on whether the Duke had passengers, but it is likely that he was travelling with a protection officer.
A Buckingham Palace source confirmed that the Duke holds a current driving licence; the law requires those over 70 to reapply every three years.
Both the Duke and the Queen have been staying at Sandringham since before Christmas, and traditionally remain there until February 6, which marks the day the Queen’s father died.
The Duke, who retired from official royal engagements in August 2017 and had a hip replacement in April 2018, is regularly seen driving his car and a carriage.
“The Duke looked distraught. He looked quite shocked and shaken. It was extraordinary to see the Duke of Edinburgh. He looked at me as I approached the junction. Police were already on the scene, helping him. There’s a police station not far away. The fact anybody walked away from that is incredible. If a 30-year-old had walked away from that unhurt it would be a miracle. For a 97-year-old man, that is something else,” said an eyewitness, who added that the Duke looked to have been turning right on to the main road when the collision happened.
“I drove past about 10 minutes after it happened, if that. I’m surprised he wasn’t hurt. On that stretch of road the sunlight was causing major visibility issues for me so I’m sure it was for other drivers too – maybe they should consider that due to this the poor visibility was more of a cause for the collision rather than speed,” said local driver Natalie Courtney Ely on a Facebook page.
Report finds one in three Christians face persecution in Asia with situation in China worst in a decade
The annual report of the Open Doors World Watch List, a global monitoring body, says Asia is “the new hotbed of persecution of Christians,” with one in three in the region, or nearly 140 million people, facing high levels of persecution.
The harshest criticism in the report released on Wednesday was reserved for China, which rose to 27th place from 43rd. The report said the repression of Christianity was at its worst since the Cultural Revolution as about 20 million people faced persecution last year and an estimated 50 million are expected to experience some form of repression this year as the ruling Communist Party continues a severe crackdown on religion.
They ranked North Korea the most anti-Christian country in the world for the 18th consecutive year.
The atheist dictatorship was followed by Muslim-majority Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, and Pakistan.
India entered the top ten for the first time in the report’s history after its researchers found “extreme” levels of Christian persecution under the Hindu-nationalist government.
The officially atheist Communist Party does allow religion to be practiced at state-sanctioned institutions, which has over the years led to a rise of two churches, a government-approved one, and an underground one.
Open Doors is a British charity that has long been involved in pushing religious freedoms in China, smuggling one million outlawed Bibles into the country in 1981. The report also said Christian women are subject to sexual violence, rape, and forced marriage, particularly in the top five countries called out as the worst offenders. The release of the annual report comes three weeks after UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt ordered an independent review of the persecution of Christians around the world.
Many independent churches have closed in China after Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed to “sinicise” religion. He has presided over a massive crackdown on organised religion, affecting Christians, Buddhists, and Muslims.
In September the Vatican signed a provisional deal with Beijing on the appointment of Catholic bishops, though critics have said the deal will only lead to greater repression and government control over worshippers. Before the deal China refused to recognise bishops appointed by the Vatican and instead named its own.
“The heightened power of the Chinese government is being wielded to remove any challenges to the absolute authority of President Xi Jinping, even if those challenges are related to personal faith in a god other than the State. New regulations and government crackdowns have made open worship for unregistered churches increasingly risky, particularly in certain regions of the country,” said Open Doors said in a statement.
Africa’s regional powers call an emergency summit as new evidence emerges that the Congo election was rigged
Southern African governments have called an emergency summit to discuss the disputed election in the Democratic Republic of Congo as further evidence emerged that the official results were falsified to hand a fraudulent victory to Felix Tshisekedi over Martin Fayulu.
Analysis of two sets of voting data by the Financial Times show that Mr. Fayulu was the rightful winner of the election to replace outgoing president Joseph Kabila.
A diplomatic adviser to outgoing president Joseph Kabila said the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which include the DRC, will meet on Thursday. It was not immediately clear who else from Congo would be present or what action, if any, the bloc might decide to take.
Congo's electoral commission initially announced that Mr. Tshisekedi, a marginal opposition leader had won with 38.57 percent of more than 18 million ballots cast. The announcement contradicted consistent polling that suggested Mr. Tshisekedi would win the election.
Data covering 86 percent of total votes cast across the country showed Mr. Fayulu won 59.4 percent of the vote while Mr. Tshisekedi, who was declared the surprise winner on Thursday, took 19 percent.
The findings tally with data gathered by 40,000 observers working for the Catholic Church, which gave Mr. Fayulu a 62.8 percent victory among a sample accounting for 43 percent of votes cast. They will reinforce a claim of electoral fraud that Mr Fayulu's campaign filed on Saturday.
The December 30 election had been intended as Congo's first democratic transfer of power in six decades, but instead threatens to reawaken violence in the huge and tumultuous nation where millions have died during civil wars since the 1990s.
Mr. Fayulu immediately denounced the result, calling it “rigged, fabricated and invented." Amid claims that Mr. Kabila and Mr. Tshisekedi had reached a secret deal to share power, he claimed that he had been denied power by an "electoral coup."
His campaign released its own analysis saying he had taken 61.51 percent of the vote. His supporters say authorities rigged the result in a deal to protect members of Mr. Kabila's outgoing administration and maintain his influence over security forces.
Survey finds that most people who think they have a food allergy actually don’t
A new study revealed that 19 percent of American adults believe they have a food allergy, whilst only 11 percent actually do. The study, which surveyed 40,443 US adults, also found that nearly half of the food-allergic adults had had at least one allergy transpire in adulthood.
In the UK National Health Service figures show that 5,357 admissions of critically ill patients due to a food reaction took place last year compared to 4,673 in 2016. Dr. Sara Kayat, a Founding GP at GPDQ, has noticed the incline over the last four to five years, saying, "There are many theories being hypothesised to try and explain this including the use of chemicals in food production or changes to agricultural practices. A popular theory which I think is plausible is 'the hygiene hypothesis', suggesting that as our society becomes ‘too clean’ and obsessed with good hygiene to prevent ourselves from getting sick, our immune system is not getting the exposure it needs to strengthen it and to develop resistance to diseases."
She continues, “Psychology and society plays a considerable factor in the rise of perceived food intolerances. The gut-brain axis is real, and we know that mental health conditions like anxiety and depression can alter our gastrointestinal functioning."
In a population-based survey study of 40 443 US adults, an estimated 10.8% were food allergic at the time of the survey, whereas nearly 19% of adults believed that they were food allergic. Nearly half of food-allergic adults had at least 1 adult-onset food allergy, and 38% reported at least 1 food allergy–related emergency department visit in their lifetime.
The findings suggest that food allergies are common and severe among US adults, often starting in adulthood.
Food allergy is a costly, potentially life-threatening condition. Although studies have examined the prevalence of childhood food allergy, little is known about prevalence, severity, or health care utilization related to food allergies among US adults.
These data suggest that at least 10.8% (>26 million) of US adults are food allergic, whereas nearly 19% of adults believe that they have a food allergy. Consequently, these findings suggest that it is crucial that adults with suspected food allergy receive appropriate confirmatory testing and counseling to ensure food is not unnecessarily avoided and quality of life is not unduly impaired.
Food intolerances, however, do not involve your immune system and are not considered life-threatening. "They tend to generate less severe reactions, with symptoms such as bloating or abdominal pain, and these set in more slowly, sometimes several days after eating a problem food," says Dr. Kayat. "There is no way to accurately test for an intolerance other than through an elimination diet. This is when you try cutting out the suspected food that is causing the symptoms from your diet for two to six weeks and see if your symptoms improve."
The most common food allergies according to Allergy UK include celery; gluten; eggs; sesame; fish; sulphites; tree nuts; peanuts; lupin; crustaceans; and milk. By comparison, the top three intolerances are gluten, dairy, and histamine.
"As this study suggests, many people think or claim to have a food allergy when they don’t, often because they have misdiagnosed themselves. Severe food allergies are quite rare with only 3 percent of the UK being diagnosed with one, whereas food intolerance, particularly to household staples such as dairy, eggs, wheat, gluten, soy and corn, is more common and on the rise. Allergies involve a reaction within the immune system where it mistakes the proteins found in certain food as a threat, triggering off a number of symptoms which in extreme cases can be life-threatening. Symptoms usually kick in within minutes of eating the problem food, and can include vomiting, lip swelling, a rash and wheeze," said Dr. Kayat.
"It’s become quite trendy to have an intolerance. With the rise of ‘free-from’ products, people are jumping on a wagon without understanding the difference between allergy and intolerance. It might be neither, but rather they’re not digesting their food properly or they have irritated gut bacteria. We are living such fast-paced lifestyles in stressful environments and that can create a really irritated gut. It might just need a little bit of TLC," says nutritionist Jenna Hope (ANutr), who advises against home tests.