USDA: Food stamps will be funded through February

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration says benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, will be funded through February should the government shutdown continue. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is asking states to issue the February benefits on or before Jan. 20 so that they can be paid to the nearly 40 million Americans in the program. SNAP is already fully funded for January. The administration announced its plans as the White House worked to limit Republican defections on spending bills in the House this week, which Democratic leaders have scheduled in hopes of driving a wedge between GOP lawmakers on the shutdown. Democrats set a vote… Read More

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Joshua Tree National Park closing over shutdown problems

JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. — Destruction of its signature trees and driving off-road during the partial government shutdown have added to problems that will force popular Joshua Tree National Park to temporarily shut down this week. Closure of the vast desert park is set for 8 a.m. Thursday and will allows staff to address sanitation, safety and resource protection issues that have occurred, the National Park Service said in a statement Tuesday. “While the vast majority of those who visit Joshua Tree National Park do so in a responsible manner, there have been incidents of new roads being created by motorists and the destruction of Joshua trees in recent… Read More

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Trump, Democrats taking border wall fight to prime-time TV

WASHINGTON — Ready to make his case on prime-time TV, President Donald Trump is stressing humanitarian as well as security concerns at the U.S.-Mexico border as he tries to convince America he must get funding for his long-promised border wall before ending a partial government shutdown that has hundreds of thousands of federal workers facing missed paychecks. Trump is delivering his first Oval Office address Tuesday night, and then visiting the southern border on Thursday, as he tries to put pressure on resistant Democrats. Trump’s evening remarks will be followed by a televised rebuttal from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who strongly oppose the wall… Read More

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Thai, Saudi officials meet over case of young Saudi woman

BANGKOK — Thailand’s immigration police chief met Tuesday with officials from the Saudi Embassy in Bangkok, as Saudi Arabia tried to distance itself from accusations that it attempted to block a young woman’s effort to flee from her family and seek asylum abroad. Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun arrived in Bangkok from Kuwait late Saturday after slipping away from her family, whom she accused of abusing her. The 18-year-old was stopped by officials in Thailand who confiscated her passport. Her urgent pleas for help over Twitter from an airport hotel room garnered tens of thousands of followers and the attention of the U.N.’s refugee agency, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Public… Read More

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Growing opioid crisis adds to Puerto Rico’s problems

HUMACAO, Puerto Rico — Jose Carlos Laviena emptied his pockets, took off his shoes and waited to die. He had just injected himself with a new type of heroin that his dealer was promoting, but the high was so strong that Laviena thought he had overdosed. The 35-year-old was preparing his body for how he wanted to be found. “It’s truly something super strong,” he said, referring to what he believes was heroin mixed with fentanyl. “I felt death at that moment.” Laviena’s near-fatal experience in an abandoned trailer in southeast Puerto Rico is one of many signs that the island hasn’t been spared from the opioid crisis that has… Read More

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Registering to vote brings out emotions among Florida felons

ORLANDO, Fla. — The normally humdrum bureaucracy of registering to vote brought tears to the eyes of some Floridians on Tuesday when most felons regained their right to vote under a state constitutional amendment. “I’ll be a human being again. I’ll be an American citizen again,” Robert Eckford said, choking up and weeping after filling out an application at the elections supervisor’s office in Orlando. The ballot measure went into effect Tuesday, overturning a ban that netted Florida the highest number of disenfranchised felons in the nation. It potentially increases the pool of eligible voters by as many as 1.4 million people in a battleground state infamous for its narrow… Read More

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Turkey slams US request for assurances on Syrian Kurds

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the U.S. national security adviser of making “a very serious mistake” Tuesday by demanding that Ankara guarantee the safety of Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria before the U.S. withdraws its troops from the war-torn country. A strained morning of negotiation in Turkey ended without assurances of protection for forces that fought alongside U.S. troops against the Islamic State group, and indeed brought them fresh new threats from Turkey. The diplomatic setback raised fresh questions about how the U.S. would protect its allies in the fight against IS and about the pace of the drawdown of U.S. forces in Syria. “John Bolton… Read More

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Senate GOP’s 1st bill on Israel boycotts divides Democrats

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans’ first bill of the new Congress aims to insert the legislative branch into President Donald Trump’s Middle East policy — but also tries to drive a wedge between centrist and liberal Democrats over attitudes toward Israel. The bipartisan package backed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had initially drawn widespread support ahead of Tuesday’s vote. It includes measures supporting Israel and Jordan and slapping sanctions on Syrians involved in war crimes. But Democrats are split over the addition of Republican Sen. Marco Rubio’s “Combatting BDS Act,” which seeks to counter the global Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement against Israel over its treatment of Palestinians and… Read More

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Turkey appears to snub US; no assurances on Syrian Kurds

ANKARA, Turkey — A senior U.S. official trying to negotiate the safety of Kurdish allies in northeastern Syria was apparently rebuffed by Turkey’s president who said Tuesday there would be “no concession” in Ankara’s push against what he describes as terror groups in the war-torn country. White House national security adviser John Bolton met for roughly two hours with his Turkish counterpart Ibrahim Kalin and other senior officials at Ankara’s presidency complex but got no assurances on the safety of Syrian Kurdish allies — a condition for President Donald Trump’s planned withdrawal of U.S. troops from northeastern Syria. Bolton relayed Trump’s insistence that Turkey refrain from attacking Kurdish forces that… Read More

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No word on progress after 2nd day of China-US trade talks

BEIJING — Talks between the U.S. and China on ending their tariff war were ending their second day Tuesday without word on whether they’ve made any progress, as an official newspaper warned not to push Beijing too hard. China is strong and has its own needs, said the Global Times, published by the ruling Communist Party. Washington “cannot push China too far” and must avoid a situation that “spins out of control.” Negotiators began the talks Monday on the trade war launched by President Donald Trump in July with tariff hikes on Chinese goods in response to complaints that Beijing steals or pressures companies to hand over technology. Trump and… Read More

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