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Shut Down Creating Headaches For Scientists

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The federal shutdown is creating headaches for scientists by hindering research planning and putting an abrupt halt to travel for some academics. However, the worst effects is expected to materialize in the coming weeks.

Lawmakers last year passed legislation funding the majority of federal agencies, including the Education Department and the National Institutes of Health. But they left town before resolving a dispute over a border wall demanded by President Trump and without funding several agencies that are big supporters of research at colleges across the country — among them the National Science Foundation, the Department of Agriculture, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

For academics whose work is supported by the federal government, the shutdown means they can’t communicate with most employees at those affected agencies. Moreover, some federal data will be unavailable to researchers or the public. The shutdown also creates uncertainty over the next round of research funding awards, as proposals aren’t processed and peer-review committees aren’t meeting. As it persists, unanswered questions over funding will have a ripple effect on the status of professors, postdocs and graduate students. New funding uncertainty means many of the hard science programs whose work is funded by agencies like NSF may be less likely to offer positions to graduate students and postdoctoral researchers.

For academics who rely on federal funding, government shutdowns are becoming somewhat familiar. The shutdown that began in December is the third since the beginning of 2018. By Tuesday, it will enter its 18th day. The last multi week shutdown, in 2013, lasted 16 days. The longest ever federal shutdown lasted 21 days, spanning from 1995 to 1996.

The Shut down

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More than 400,000 federal employees are working without pay, trash is overflowing in our National Parks, and the presidents of labor unions—one of which is suing President Trump—have said that requiring workers to punch in without pay is “nothing short of inhumane.”

There were still faint glimmers of civilization left in a divided, deadlocked Washington: the 19 Smithsonian Institution museums and galleries along the National Mall remained opened to the public for free due to unused “prior-year funds”; and the National Gallery of Art remained open as well. Even without a paycheck, government employees could check out the Apollo 11 command module at the National Air and Space Museum, the contemporary art in the permanent collection of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Chuck Berry’s sparkling Cadillac Eldorado at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, or Barack and Michelle Obama’s new portraits at the National Portrait Gallery.

The Library of Congress and the U.S. Botanic Garden—and the Capitol Visitor Center and Capitol Building, ironically—are operating as normal, since they were funded by the 2019 Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill.

List of federal shutdowns

1980

On May 1, 1980, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was shut down for one day after Congress failed to pass an appropriations bill for the agency

1981, 1984, and 1986

On November 23, 1981, 241,000 federal employees were furloughed for one day.The shutdown occurred because President Ronald Reagan vetoed a spending bill that contained a smaller set of spending cuts than he had proposed. The shutdown was estimated to cost taxpayers $80–90 million in back pay and other expenses Not all government departments shut down during the funding gap.

On October 4, 1984, 500,000 federal employees were furloughed for one afternoon.This shutdown occurred due to the inclusion of a water projects package and a civil rights measure that Reagan opposed. The bill was passed the following day after Congress removed these programs, and also included a compromise on funding of the Nicaraguan Contras.

On October 17, 1986, 500,000 federal employees were furloughed for one afternoon over a wide range of issues. The cost was estimated at $62 million in lost work.

1990

The 1990 shutdown occurred over Columbus Day weekend, from Saturday, October 6 through Monday, October 8. The shutdown stemmed from the fact that a deficit reduction package negotiated by President George H. W. Bush contained tax increases, despite his campaign promise of “read my lips: no new taxes”,leading to a revolt led by then House Minority Whip Newt Gingrich that defeated the initial appropriations package

1995–1996

The two shutdowns of 1995 and 1995–96 were the result of conflicts between Democratic President Bill Clinton and the Republican Congress over funding for Medicare, education, the environment, and public health in the 1996 federal budget. The government shut down after Clinton vetoed the spending bill the Republican Party-controlled Congress sent him. Government workers were furloughed and non-essential services suspended during November 14–19, 1995 (for 5 days), and from December 16, 1995, to January 6, 1996 (for 22 days), in total 27 days.

2013

Letter from President Barack Obama to US Government employees affected by the shutdown in 2013

The 2013 shutdown lasted 16 days, beginning on Tuesday, October 1, 2013. During the shutdown, approximately 800,000 federal employees were furloughed for 16 days, while another 1.3 million were required to report to work without known payment dates

January 2018

The first shutdown of 2018 began at midnight EST on Saturday, January 20. On January 19, a bill failed to pass the Senate 50–49 with the majority of Democrats voting “no”.Five Republicans voted “no” and five Democrats voted “yes” in the Republican majority senate (60 votes were required for passage). Senate Democrats insisted that the issue of immigration, specifically the funding of DACA, be addressed in the budget.

February 2018

A related funding gap occurred during the first 9 hours of Friday, February 9, 2018 EST. The funding gap was widely referred to in media reports as a second shutdown, although no workers were furloughed and government services were not disrupted because the funding gap occurred overnight and was resolved close to the beginning of the workday.

December 2018–January 2019

The third shutdown of 2018 began at midnight EST on Saturday, December 22 with a House-passed continuing resolution to fund the United States Government awaiting a full floor vote in the Senate. The point of contention was the inclusion of $5.7 billion in funding for a border wall that was a core Trump campaign promise.Under pressure from vocal members of his political base such as Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh for failing to secure the funding, Trump claimed ownership of the shutdown while in a televised meeting with Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.This shutdown is ongoing as of January 2019.

Roughly 380,000 federal workers were placed on unpaid leave, while some 420,000 “essential” personnel were required to work without pay, including tens of thousands of workers in federal law enforcement and national security positions, such as FBI, Border Patrol, Secret Service and Transportation Security Administration agents. Hundreds of TSA agents at major airports called in sick during the second week of the shutdown, reportedly in protest or to pick up income elsewhere. The Washington Post reported on 4 January 2019 that the Trump administration had not anticipated the shutdown would be prolonged and were now grasping the consequences of an extended shutdown, including sharp reductions in SNAP payments and delays of $140 billion in tax refunds

Political Page Turners Tell All

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New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt has a Mueller-oriented project in the works.  Schmidt has blown the lid off some of the most consequential stories about the Russia investigation, and he now has a deal with Random House—brokered by Gail Ross of the Ross Yoon Agency. James Stewart is writing a book about the relationship between the White House, the F.B.I. and the Justice Department. Stewart, whose longtime agent is Amanda Urban at I.C.M., is working with Ann Godoff at Penguin on the as-yet-untitled work, which he said is tentatively slated for a fall 2019 release. It appears that the big political books of the Trump era have been minting big bucks. Jeremy Peters’s Insurgency: The Inside Story of the Battle for the Soul of the Republican Party, sold at auction in the high six figures. Earlier this year, Michael Wolff saw nearly 2 million copies of Fire and Fury fly off shelves in a matter of three weeks.

Microsoft Says, Russia-Linked Hackers Target US Think Tanks & Political Organizations

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Microsoft’s president Brad Smith wrote in a blog It’s clear that democracies around the world are under attack. Foreign entities are launching cyber strikes to disrupt elections and sow discord.

Click Here for more

Senate To vote For Net Neutrality By June 12, 2018

Enlarge / WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 09: Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) (L) is flanked by Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) while speaking about a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to preserve net neutrality rules.

 

There may be enough Democratic  votes in Senate—but the House is a another story.

Today Senate Democrats filed a long-promised petition to prevent the repeal of net neutrality rules in a move that will force a vote of the full Senate by a deadline of June 12.

The Senate will have to vote on a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution of disapproval, which would nullify the Federal Communications Commission’s December 2017 vote to repeal the nation’s net neutrality rules. The CRA was filed in February, and Democrats today filed the discharge petition that will force the full Senate to vote on it.

This is the same mechanism that Congressional Republicans used to eliminate broadband privacy rules last year.

If successful, the Democrats’ resolution would prevent the deregulation of the broadband industry and maintain rules that prohibit blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization.

“The CRA resolution would fully restore the rules that ensure Americans aren’t subject to higher prices, slower Internet traffic, and even blocked websites because the big Internet service providers want to pump up their profits,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said at a press conference today. “By passing this resolution, we can send a clear message that this Congress won’t fall to the special interest agenda of President Trump and his broadband baron allies but will rather do right by the people who sent us here.”

The Internet Association said it is weighing its legal options for “a lawsuit against today’s Order” but would also accept a strong net neutrality law imposed by Congress.

Plenty of organizations might appeal, said consumer advocate Gigi Sohn, who was a top counselor to then-FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler when the commission imposed its rules.

Workforce Shortage due To Opioid Addiction

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First there’s a shortage due to lack of technological skills now it’s opioid addiction.

A provision in a bipartisan Senate package, the Opioid Crisis Response Act, addressing the workforce shortage created by the addiction crisis was secured Tuesday.

The provision is based on legislation U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) introduced earlier this month called the Collectively Achieving Recovery and Employment (CARE) Act. The bipartisan package passed out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Tuesday.

The Opioid Crisis Response Act is a wide-ranging, bipartisan package aimed at stemming the tide of the nationwide opioid crisis. The bill includes a provision based on Brown and Capito’s CARE Act that targets federal workforce training grants to address the workforce shortages and skill gaps caused by the opioid epidemic.

Florida Attorney-General Pam Bondi with Mr Donald Trump at a meeting with local and state officials on school safety on Thursday. Mr Trump has suggested arming a significant portion of the educator workforce - between 10 and 40 per cent of teachers -Florida Attorney-General Pam Bondi with Mr Donald Trump at a meeting with local and state officials on school safety on Thursday. Mr Trump has suggested arming a significant portion of the educator workforce – between 10 and 40 per cent of teachers – using federal resources.

 United States educators have expressed frustration at a proposal by US President Donald Trump for teachers to take up arms to defend their classrooms against school shooters.

Many teachers expressed concerns about scenarios in which they could face shooters on a hectic campus – or even, potentially, draw a gun to confront an armed and dangerous student. 

Mr Trump suggested arming a significant portion of the educator workforce – between 10 and 40 per cent of teachers – using federal resources. He said military veterans who teach would be prime candidates for these roles. 

Many schools already hire police officers or armed guards to patrol campuses with the help of federal money. About 57 per cent of public schools in the 2015/2016 school year had security staff on campus at least once a week and nearly 43 per cent were patrolled by armed law enforcement officers, according to federal data.

 Dr Dewey Cornell, a University of Virginia professor who studies school safety said, “The proposal to arm teachers might be emotionally appealing after a school shooting, but it is not practical or realistic,” said 

“We should place more emphasis on preventing shootings than preparing for shootings. Prevention must start long before a gunman shows up at school. Instead of more guards, we need more counselors.”

 

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