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Trump says he'd 'be proud' to shut down the government over funding for a border wall

Arguing in public with Democratic leaders, U.S. President Donald Trump repeatedly threatened on Tuesday to shut down the government if Congress doesn't provide the money he says is needed to build a wall at the Mexican border.

He insisted the military can build it if Democrats won't vote for the funding.

Trump's comments came as he opened a contentious meeting with Democratic Senate and House leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, with the government looking at a possible partial shutdown on Dec. 21, when funding for some agencies will expire.

Schumer and Pelosi both said legislation to keep the government open and provide additional border security could pass both houses of Congress, but Trump said major wall funding was necessary.

U.S. House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi speaks with Vice-President Mike Pence and Trump during their meeting with Schumer in the Oval Office. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

"Yes, if we don't get what we want … I will shut down the government," he declared.

Constantly interrupting, Trump squabbled with the Democrats over whether wall funding could be approved in the House or Senate without Democratic votes.

"This has spiralled downwards," Pelosi said.

Watch Trump, Schumer and Pelosi argue over the wall:

Donald Trump tells Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer and Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi he'd be proud to shut down the government over funding the wall 0:54

The president asked whether Republicans had won the Senate in the November election.

"When the president brags he has won North Dakota and Indiana, he's in real trouble," retorted Schumer with a smile.

In a series of tweets earlier Tuesday, Trump said immigration and border patrol agents and thousands of active-duty service members he sent to the border have done a "FANTASTIC" job. But he said "A Great Wall would be, however, a far easier & less expensive solution."

Trump said he looked forward to meeting with Schumer and Pelosi, but claimed they don't want border security for "strictly political reasons."

"If the Democrats do not give us the votes to secure our Country, the Military will build the remaining sections of the Wall. They know how important it is!" 

Schumer and Pelosi said Monday that Republicans have the power to keep the government open since they control Congress and the White House.

"Our country cannot afford a Trump shutdown," they said in a statement, adding that Trump "knows full well that his wall proposal does not have the votes to pass the House and Senate and should not be an obstacle to a bipartisan agreement."

Watch Trump and the Democrats arguing over border security.

Donald Trump tells Democrats strong border security hinges on building a wall on the Southern U.S. border 1:15

Vice-President Mike Pence, a former House member, sat silently as Trump and the two Democrats bickered. Pence later called the meeting a "good discussion." Asked to describe the atmosphere in the private meeting that followed the public quarrel, Pence said: "Candid."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters he hasn't given up hope that a shutdown can be averted. He said "magic" sometimes happens in Congress ahead of Christmas, when lawmakers are eager to leave Washington.

"I'd like to see a smooth ending here," he said.

Republican congressional leaders have repeatedly said it's up to Trump to cut a deal with Democrats, an acknowledgment of their inability to produce spending bills with Republican votes alone.

That gave Democrats some momentum heading into the closed-door talks, which also could veer into bipartisan bills on criminal justice reform and reauthorizing farm programs.                          

We do not want to let a Trump temper tantrum govern our policies or cause the shutdown of a government, which everyone on both sides of the aisle knows is the wrong idea.– Chuck Schumer , Democratic Senate leader 

By far, the biggest unresolved issue is the border wall. Trump wants the next funding package to include at least $ 5 billion US for it, an idea Democrats have flatly rejected.

Pelosi and Schumer have urged Trump to support a bill that includes a half-dozen government funding bills largely agreed upon by lawmakers, along with a separate measure that funds the Department of Homeland Security at current levels through Sept. 30. The homeland bill includes about $ 1.3 billion for fencing and other security measures at the border.

The border wall between the United States and Mexico, as seen from Tijuana. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

If Trump rejects that, Democrats would likely urge a continuing resolution that funds all the remaining appropriations bills at current levels through Sept. 30, said an aide who was not authorized to discuss strategy by name and requested anonymity.

Trump said Friday that Congress should provide all the money he wants for the wall and called illegal immigration a "threat to the well-being of every American community."

At an appearance in Kansas City, Mo., Trump accused Democrats of playing a political game and said he ultimately would win.

Pelosi, who is seeking to become House speaker when the new Congress convenes in January, said she and many other Democrats consider the wall "immoral, ineffective and expensive," and noted that Trump promised during the 2016 campaign that Mexico would pay for the wall, an idea Mexico has repeatedly rejected.

A woman carries her son near the border between the United States and Mexico, in Tijuana. Trump is fighting with Democrats over funding for the wall he promised to build on the southern U.S. border. (Mohammed Salem/Reuters)

Schumer said Democrats want to work with Trump to avert a shutdown, but said money for border security should not include the concrete wall Trump has envisioned. Instead, the money should be used for fencing and technology that experts say is appropriate, he said.

Using military 'doesn't make any sense'

"We do not want to let a Trump temper tantrum govern our policies or cause the shutdown of a government, which everyone on both sides of the aisle knows is the wrong idea," Schumer said.

If Trump "wants to shut down the government over Christmas over the wall, that's his decision," he said.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat and incoming House Homeland Security chairman, said Tuesday that using the military to build the wall "just doesn't make any sense. I can think of a lot more important things we can do with the military than build a fence."

Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, the top Democrat on the Senate appropriations committee, said Trump is the only obstacle between fully funding the government and a shutdown.

"Time and again, President Trump has used the government of the American people as a bargaining chip for his fabricated solution to his manufactured crisis," Leahy said Monday in a Senate speech.

Trump "wants to score a made-for-reality-TV moment and he doesn't care how many hardworking Americans will suffer for it," Leahy said. "This is not about border security. This is about politics, pure and simple."

House majority whip Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican, said Democrats were the ones playing politics.

If Democrats have a better way to secure the border than Trump's $ 5-billion plan, "they need to come with an alternative," Scalise said Monday on Fox News Channel.

"They can't come and say they want to shut the government down for no reason because they don't want border security. They'll lose that argument with the American people."

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Trump fires off explosive threat to Iran's leader: 'BE CAUTIOUS!'

U.S. President Donald Trump warned Iranian President Hassan Rouhani late Sunday that he will face dire consequences for threatening the United States.

Trump tweeted about the dangers to Iran of making hostile threats after Rouhani said Sunday "America must understand well that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace and war with Iran is the mother of all wars." Trump responded with this tweet:

Within hours, Iranian state-owned news agency IRNA dismissed Trump's tweet, describing it as a "passive reaction" to Rouhani's remarks.

The agency, a government mouthpiece, also said Monday that Trump's comment was only mimicking and copying Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif who had in the past warned the West to "never threaten an Iranian."

Trump earlier this year pulled the United States out of the international deal meant to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon and ordered increased American sanctions.

Rouhani had warned Trump Sunday to stop "playing with the lion's tail" and threatening Iran, "or else you will regret it."


Trump has suggested Iranian leaders are "going to call me and say 'let's make a deal"' but Iran has rejected talks.

Rouhani has previously lashed out against Trump for threatening to re-impose the sanctions, as well as for moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and banning travel to the U.S. from certain Muslim-majority countries.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani cautioned Trump on Sunday about pursuing hostile policies against Tehran. (Ronald Zak/Associated Press)

Trump has a history of firing off heated tweets that seem to quickly escalate long-standing disputes with leaders of nations at odds with the U.S.

'Hypocritical holy men'

In the case of North Korea, the public war of words cooled quickly and gradually led to the high-profile summit and denuclearization talks.

On Sunday in California, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was strongly critical of Iran.

He called the religious leaders of Iran "hypocritical holy men" who amassed vast sums of wealth while allowing their people to suffer, part of a highly critical broadside issued as the republic approached the 40th anniversary of its Islamic revolution and the U.S. prepared to reimpose the economic sanctions.

Pompeo talked about increasing the media outreach to the Iranian people. He said the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors is taking new steps to help Iranians get around internet censorship and is launching a new 24/7 Farsi-language channel across television, radio, digital, and social media formats, "so that ordinary Iranians inside Iran and around the globe can know America stands with them."

U. S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Sunday in Simi Valley, Calif. (Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

In a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, Pompeo castigated Iran's political, judicial and military leaders, too, accusing several by name of participating in widespread corruption. He also said the government has "heartlessly repressed its own people's human rights, dignity and fundamental freedoms."

He said despite poor treatment by their leaders, "the proud Iranian people are not staying silent about their government's many abuses," Pompeo said.

"And the United States under President Trump will not stay silent either. In light of these protests and 40 years of regime tyranny, I have a message for the people of Iran: The United States hears you," he said. "The United States supports you. The United States is with you."

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Melania Trump launches 'Be Best' campaign for kids

​Melania Trump on Monday gave her multipronged effort to promote the well-being of children a minimalist new motto: "Be Best."

The wife of the U.S. president formally launched her long-awaited initiative after more than a year of reading to children, learning about babies born addicted to drugs and hosting a White House conversation on cyberbullying.

"As a mother and as first lady, it concerns me that in today's fast-paced and ever-connected world, children can be less prepared to express or manage their emotions and often times turn to forms of destructive or addictive behaviour such as bullying, drug addiction or even suicide," she said in prepared remarks.

"I feel strongly that as adults, we can and should 'be best' at educating our children about the importance of a healthy and balanced life."

Trump said early on that she would focus on child well-being. The goal of her public awareness campaign is to encourage parents and other adults to teach children how to be good citizens, including being kind, not bullying on social media or anywhere else, staying away from drugs and taking care of themselves.

The campaign will focus on the issues of well-being, social media and opioid abuse, she said.

"If we truly listen to what our kids have to say, whether it be their concerns or ideas, adults can provide them the support and tools they need to grow up to be happy and productive adults who contribute positively to society and their global communities," said Trump, who made the announcement in the White House Rose Garden as her husband, Donald Trump, looked on from the audience.

Trump, centre right, seen here during an April 23 tree-planting ceremony, has recently been more visible around the White House. (Steve Holland/Reuters)

High visibility

Monday's announcement followed a period of high visibility for a presidential wife who once had a scant public presence around the White House. Last month, she joined her husband to host the prime minister of Japan at the Trumps' Florida estate and the president of France at the White House. She also represented the administration at the April funeral of former first lady Barbara Bush.

Her announcement also came as President Trump remains under intense legal pressure from a special counsel's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and is facing questions over $ 130,000 in hush money paid by one of his attorneys to a porn actress who says she had sex with him in 2006. He denies the accusation.

Children should be both seen and heard.— Melania Trump

During nearly 16 months as first lady, Mrs. Trump demonstrated her interest in children by visiting with young hospital patients in the U.S. and during overseas trips with the president, often reading to them and encouraging them to do their best.

Her interest in the opioid drug crisis, developed during the presidential campaign, has taken her to care centres and hospitals in West Virginia and Ohio to learn about the epidemic's effect on babies born to mothers addicted to the powerful painkillers. She also convened a White House roundtable on the issue last fall.

In March, she hosted representatives of major online and social media companies at the White House to discuss cyberbullying and internet safety.

That meeting came more than a year after she promised to use her White House platform to discourage cyberbullying. Her choice was ridiculed almost immediately, given her husband's longtime habit of calling people names on Twitter, but she said the criticism wouldn't discourage her from doing what she thinks is right.

Personal causes 

She said Monday that social media is too often used in negative ways and that it is important for children to learn positive online behaviours at a young age.

"I do believe that children should be both seen and heard, and it is our responsibility as adults to educate and remind them that when they are using their voices — whether verbally or online — they must choose their words wisely and speak with respect and compassion," she said.

Modern first ladies typically highlight personal causes, from Nancy Reagan's campaign to get kids to "Just say no" to drugs to the emphasis the late Barbara Bush and her daughter-in-law Laura Bush placed on literacy and education to Michelle Obama's signature "Let's move" campaign against childhood obesity, which she launched about a year after moving into the White House.

Mrs. Trump took a little more time to pull her initiative together. She did not live in the White House for the first five months of the administration to avoid having their son, Barron, 12, change schools during the year. She has a smaller staff than her predecessors and only hired her policy director in January of this year.

The first lady tours an opioid addiction centre in Huntington, W.Va., in October 2017. Her interest in the drug crisis developed during the 2016 presidential campaign.(Chris Dorst /Charleston Gazette-Mail/Associated Press)

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'Be more cautious' in prescribing off-label drugs for chronic back pain, review says

Doctors are prescribing anti-seizure and nerve pain medications for a common type of chronic low-back pain, a non-licensed use, despite a lack of studies supporting their effectiveness for that purpose, according to a new review.

The drugs, known as gabapentinoids, include gabapentin (originally marketed under the brand name Neurotonin) and pregabalin (previously sold as Lyrica alone). Health Canada approved gabapentin to treat epilepsy that isn’t controlled by conventional therapy, and pregablin is indicated for types of nerve pain. 

Both medications are also prescribed for non-licensed uses, including non-specific chronic lower back pain that doesn’t involve nerves in the legs and whose cause can’t be traced. About 90 to 95 per cent of adults experience low back pain at some point.

In Tuesday’s issue of the journal PLOS Medicine, Dr. Harsha Shanthanna, an anesthesiologist and professor in the anesthesia department at McMaster University in Hamilton, and his team analyzed eight randomized controlled trials on use of the drugs among adults with chronic low back pain.

“There are very few studies that allow physicians to make informed decisions. That’s probably one of the most important findings,” Shanthanna said in an interview. “Whatever studies do exist do not support its use or do not show a benefit in the form of pain relief.”

In 2004, after Neurotonin’s patent expired, Pfizer admitted to fraudulently marketing gabapentin. In 2012, Pfizer settled over its misleading promotional claims of pregabalin.

The other main finding, Shanthanna said, was that four side-effects were common with these medications:

  • Dizziness.                                                                                                                  
  • Fatigue.
  • Difficulties with thinking or mental activity.
  • Visual disturbances.

Family doctors, neurologists and chronic pain physicians prescribe the medications.

Shanthanna said physicians are thoughtful and careful when choosing pain medications for individual patients, which tends to be based on trial and error. “What we emphasize in our review is we’ve got to be more cautious.”

He called for more research to guide physicians.

“This should actually make us do more studies so that we can more definitely and more conclusively inform ourselves rather than getting a skewed picture.” 

Canada’s Patented Medicine Prices Review Board notes that between 2011 to 2013, about one-third of new gabapentin users had used opioids just before switching.

The Canadian site notes increasing misuse of gabapentin, as does Ohio’s Substance Abuse Monitoring. In 2014 in England, the National Health Service’s advisory warned of misuse potential for both gabapentin and pregabalin, along with suggestions on using the medicines.

Alternatives to drugs needed

Earlier this month, Dr. Christopher Goodman and Dr. Allan Brett of the South Carolina School of Medicine wrote a commentary in the New England Journal of Medicine about increased prescribing of gabapentin and pregabalin for pain.

“We suspect that clinicians who are desperate for alternatives to opioids have lowered their thresholds for prescribed gabapentinoids to patients with various types of acute, subacute, and chronic non-cancer pain,” Goodman and Brett wrote.

They said indiscriminate off-label use of gabapentinoids reinforces the tendency of clinicians to view pain treatment through a pharmacologic lens.

Rather, the pair wrote, for clinicians to manage both acute and chronic pain appropriately, they need to spend time assessing how the patient’s pain affects their activity and function to mitigate it, not necessarily eliminate it.

But non-pharmacologic approaches, such as cognitive behavioural therapy or referrals to multidisciplinary pain clinics, may be unavailable or unaffordable, they said.

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