The Times West Virginian

Headline News

October 2, 2013

Government shutdown closes parks

PHILADELPHIA — Visitors arrived to find “CLOSED” signs at the Statue of Liberty, the Smithsonian and other parks and historic sites across the country. Callers looking for help from the government reached only voicemail. And federal employees were left to wonder when they would return to work.

The first government shutdown in 17 years took hold Tuesday in ways large and small.

About 800,000 federal employees were sent home — a number greater than the combined U.S. workforces of Target, General Motors, Exxon and Google.

“After next week, if we’re not working, I’m going to have to find a job,” said Robert Turner, a building mechanic at the Smithsonian’s American History museum in the nation’s capital. He was called in for part of the day to take out the trash, turn off the water and help close up the place.

The effects played out in a variety of ways, from scaled-back operations at federal prosecutors’ offices and the FBI to revoked permits for dozens of weddings at historic sites in Washington.

Campers and hikers at the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone and other national parks were given two days to pack up and leave, and new visitors were being turned away. St. Louis’ landmark 630-foot-high Gateway Arch was off-limits as well.

In Philadelphia, Paul Skilling of Northern Ireland wanted to see the Liberty Bell up close but had to settle for looking at the symbol of democracy through glass. And he wasn’t optimistic about the chances of visiting any landmarks in Washington, the next stop on a weeks-long visit.

“Politics is fantastic, isn’t it?” he said ruefully.

In New York, tourists who had hoped to see the Statue of Liberty were instead offered an hour harbor cruise.

“There has to be better ways to run the government than to get to a standstill like this,” said Cheryl Strahl, a disappointed visitor from Atascadero, Calif. “Why take it out on the national parks?”

The government closings did not stop the launch on Tuesday of the enrollment period for the online insurance marketplaces established under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul — the program at the very heart of the dispute that produced the shutdown.

The two federal employees in orbit around the Earth — NASA astronauts Karen Nyberg and Michael Hopkins — carried on as usual aboard the International Space Station, with essential employees at Mission Control in Houston supporting the lab and its six inhabitants.

There were no TV or Web updates, however, as most of NASA’s workforce was furloughed.

Anglers headed to the highly anticipated first day of the fall fishing season on North Carolina’s Outer Banks found they could not drive onto the beach at Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

Dozens of goats were taken off ivy-eating duty at Fort Hancock, a recreation area in Sandy Hook, N.J. A KKK rally planned for the Gettysburg battlefield in Pennsylvania this weekend was canceled.

Out West, Thora Johannson and her sister wanted to spend one more night at a campground at the Grand Canyon. But they packed up their things and headed home Tuesday, Johannson to San Francisco and her sister to Vancouver, Canada.

“It’s a terrible thing to hold the national parks hostage to bickering parties,” Johannson said. “This is really sad. People have been saving to come here. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

In Utah, rafting outfitters were not allowed on major rivers, and the state’s five national parks closed during what is normally a busy time of year.

“We’re dealing with a broken system, a broken Congress,” said John Wood, president of Holiday River Expeditions. “They couldn’t be doing more to run me out of business.”

In the nation’s capital, fountains were being turned off on the National Mall and the National Zoo closed. Its beloved panda cam went dark.

But more than 125 veterans from Iowa and Mississippi walked past barricades at the National World War II Memorial after members of Congress cut the police tape and moved barriers for them.

The IRS suspended audits for the duration of the shutdown, and call centers were left unmanned. In St. Paul, Minn., the voicemail warned callers they “should file and pay their taxes as normal.”

The 12 million people who got six-month extensions must still file their returns by Oct. 15. But the agency will not issue tax refunds until the government resumes normal operations.

1
Text Only
Headline News
  • Senate changes House bill for highway funds

    The Senate on Tuesday voted to change the funding and timing of a House bill to keep federal highway funds flowing to states in an effort to force Congress to come to grips with chronic funding problems that have plagued transportation programs in recent years.

    July 29, 2014

  • State close to national average in credit card debt

    Credit card debt may have reached its lowest level in a decade, but according to a recent study on personal debt vs. income, just as more people are paying off their credit card debt monthly, nearly the same number of people are being reported for unpaid bills.

    July 29, 2014

  • New VA secretary confirmed by Senate

    The Senate on Tuesday unanimously confirmed former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald as the new Veterans Affairs secretary, with a mission to overhaul an agency beleaguered by long veterans’ waits for health care and VA workers falsifying records to cover up delays.

    July 29, 2014

  • W.Va. man arrested after child found in hot car

    A Wheeling man faces charges that he left his 18-month-old daughter in a hot car while he was asleep on a couch.

    July 29, 2014

  • Board to meet on dangerous animals list

    CHARLESTON (AP) — A board tasked with compiling a list of animals that are illegal to keep as pets in West Virginia will consider one that’s shorter than a list suggested earlier.

    July 28, 2014

  • Clinton impeachment shadows GOP lawsuit against Obama

    The last time Republicans unleashed impeachment proceedings against a Democratic president, they lost five House seats in an election they seemed primed to win handily.

    July 28, 2014

  • Study: Fist bumps less germy than handshakes

    When it comes to preventing the spread of germs, maybe the president is on to something with his fondness for fist bumps.

    July 28, 2014

  • Obama Exporting Pollu_time.jpg ‘Not in my backyard’: U.S. sending dirty coal abroad

    As  the Obama administration weans the U.S. off dirty fuels blamed for global warming, energy companies have been sending more of America’s unwanted energy leftovers to other parts of the world where they could create even more pollution.
    This fossil fuel trade threatens to undermine President Barack Obama’s strategy for reducing the gases blamed for climate change and reveals a little-discussed side effect of countries acting alone on a global problem. The contribution of this exported pollution to global warming is not something the administration wants to measure, or even talk about.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • U.S.: Russia fired rockets into Ukraine

    Stepping up pressure on Moscow, the U.S. on Sunday released satellite images it says show that rockets have been fired from Russia into neighboring eastern Ukraine and that heavy artillery for separatists has crossed the border.
    The images, which came from the U.S. Director of National Intelligence and could not be independently verified by The Associated Press, show blast marks where rockets were launched and craters where they landed. Officials said the images show heavy weapons fired between July 21 and July 26 — after the July 17 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

    July 28, 2014

  • Plan to simplify health renewals may backfire

    If you have health insurance on your job, you probably don’t give much thought to each year’s renewal. But make the same assumption in one of the new health law plans, and it could lead to costly surprises.
    Insurance exchange customers who opt for convenience by automatically renewing their coverage for 2015 are likely to receive dated and inaccurate financial aid amounts from the government, say industry officials, advocates and other experts.
    If those amounts are too low, consumers could get sticker shock over their new premiums. Too high, and they’ll owe the tax man later.

    July 28, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads