US partial government shutdown the longest in history
Caused by President Trump’s demand for over $5 billion toward a border wall, the partial shutdown of the federal government has now reached 22 days — the longest in U.S. history. The shutdown has left hundreds of thousands of federal workers without pay, many of whom are still expected to show up to work or face termination.
Nine out of the 15 departments of government are not being funded during the time of the shutdown. The shutdown has caused the FDA to stop routine food inspections, as well as the closing of national parks and the Smithsonian museums. About 420,000 federal workers are expected to continue working without pay, while 380,000 are currently furloughed. On Friday, Congress signed a bill that will retroactively pay furloughed workers for their time during the shutdown. The shutdown has caused double the number of TSA agents to call in sick, and allowed for tourists to cut down protected trees in Joshua Tree state park, along with other acts of vandalism.
Protesters killed by Sudanese police
Protests that initially started on Dec. 19 over the government tripling the price of bread have broken into more general demonstrations over President Omar al-Bashir’s rule. Hundreds of protesters on Friday demonstrated at the capital Khartoum and twin city Omdurman, calling for the resignation of al-Bashir, who has held office for almost three decades.
The widespread protests lead to Sudanese police firing volleys of tear gas into the crowds. According to the Sudanese government, 22 people have been killed since the beginning of the protests. However, Human Rights Watch puts that number to at least 40 people, including children and medical staff. They also estimate that more than 1,000 people, including activists and journalists, have been arrested since Dec. 19.
Tensions are growing higher as Sudan faces an economic crisis that has caused food and fuel shortages and costs for medicine and food to skyrocket. While both sides refuse to back down, protesters fear that the repercussions for demonstrating will become more and more brutal as time continues.
Subject of #SaveRahaf campaign arrives safely to Canada
Teenager Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun has safely arrived in Canada after being stranded in a Bangkok airport when a Saudi diplomat seized her passport. Qunun was fleeing her family in Saudi Arabia after renouncing Islam, which can be punishable by death in Saudi Arabia.
Fearing for her life, and about to be returned to her family, Qunun captured international attention by explaining her situation on Twitter. Pleading for help, she wrote, “I’m the girl who ran away to Thailand. I’m now in real danger because the Saudi embassy is trying to force me to return.” She tweeted in Arabic to her 24 followers. As retweets flew, the hashtag #SaveRahaf caught the attention of Human Rights Watch, and the Deputy Asia Director tweeted about the campaign. They also engaged in direct messaging with Qunun to give her advice, telling her never to give up her phone under any circumstances. She refused to board the flight home to Kuwait and boarded herself in her room. The Twitter campaign went viral in Thailand, and Qunun was officially declared a legitimate refugee by the U.N. She was granted asylum in Canada and has safely landed.