December 28, 2018

VOA news. I'm David Byrd in Washington.

It looks as if a partial U.S. government shutdown will continue until at least next week after both houses of Congress briefly reconvened and then adjourned Thursday.

As AP's Sagar Meghani reports, President Trump blamed Democrats for the impasse with neither party appeared ready to end the shutdown.

The shutdown is now in its sixth day and the dispute remains the money President Trump wants for border security.

Yesterday in Iraq, he vowed to hold the line.

"Whatever it takes, I mean, we're gonna have a wall. We're gonna have safety."

This morning, he's urging Democrats to fund the wall, arguing the shutdown's hurting their supporters.

He tweets "Do the Dems realize that most of the people not getting paid are Democrats?"

Lawmakers away from Washington for the holidays have been told they will get 24 hours' notice before having to come back for a vote. But negotiations yesterday dragged, dimming hopes for a quick end.

Sagar Meghani, Washington.

U.S. consumer confidence tumbled in December as Americans began to worry that economic growth will moderate next year.

But as AP's Ben Thomas reports, consumer spirits are still high by historic standards.

The Conference Board's consumer confidence index measures consumers' assessment of current economic conditions and their outlook for the next six months.

After hitting an 18-year high of 137.9 in October, it backed up a little in November and dropped another 8 points this month to 128.1.

There have been same dramatic swings and heavy losses in the stock market this month. Global growth is slowing while the Federal Reserve has been slowly raising interest rates.

Nonetheless, with economic growth clocking in at a 3.4 percent annual rate in the third quarter and unemployment at just 3.7 percent, consumer spirits can still be considered upbeat.

Ben Thomas, Washington.

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The spokesman for the Islamic State terror group's branch in Afghanistan has been killed in a U.S. airstrike. A U.S. military official confirmed Thursday that IS-Khorasan's Sultan Aziz Azam was killed Sunday in Afghanistan's Nangarhar province.

The attack against the IS-Khorasan's spokesman comes as U.S. President Donald Trump is considering a partial withdrawal from Afghanistan. That would see nearly half of 14,000 troops in the country return home.

Saudi Arabia's King Salman has made some changes to his cabinet after international outage over the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi nearly three months ago.

AP's Ed Donahue has details.

The moves follow the killing of writer Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Turkey. It includes the naming of a new foreign minister and a shakeup of the country's Supreme Council, which oversees security. The council is headed by the king's son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also deputy Prime Minister and defense minister. It's a sign the crown price is getting a tighter grip on power.

But he is having trouble convincing many in the U.S. and other Western countries he had nothing to do with Khashoggi's killing. The writer was critical of the crown prince in columns for The Washington Post before he was killed.

I'm Ed Donahue.

Police in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo fired live ammunition and tear gas Thursday to disperse demonstrators who were protesting a decision to effectively exclude them from Sunday's presidential election.

Dozens of demonstrators burned tires and attacked Ebola centers in the city of Beni after Congo's electoral commission said it will delay voting until March in Beni, Butembo and surrounding areas because of a deadly Ebola outbreak.

The commission also postponed voting in the western city of Yumbi because of ethnic violence.

A late day rally on Wall Street kept stocks in positive territory by the close on Thursday. However, as AP's Warren Levinson reports, the major indices were off by more than 2 percent before coming back in the last hour of trading.

Taken by itself, the stock market's performance seemed ordinary up 1 percent, 260 points on the Dow Jones Industrials. It was the second straight day share prices rose. They were up 1,000 Wednesday.

But for most of the day, prices were in the red and deepened the red down 600 Dow points until they staged to rebound in the final hour of trading.

Retail stocks fell, but materials companies, banks and health care issues all rose. The NASDAQ Composite added a third of a percent, the S&P three quarters.

The market is still on pace to record its biggest December price drop since 1931.

Warren Levinson, New York.

And organizers are getting the Crystal Ball ready for next week's New Year's Eve celebrations in New York City. One hundred ninety-two of the more than 2,600 crystal triangles this year make up the theme of the gift of harmony.

I'm David Byrd, VOA news.