Wednesday News: Shutdown madness


VANCE COUNTY SCHOOLS CUT BACK ON SCHOOL LUNCHES WITHOUT FEDERAL ASSISTANCE: The federal government’s budget stalemate over border security is causing lunches to shrink at one eastern North Carolina school district. Vance County Schools officials announced on Facebook late Tuesday that lunch menus “have been revised to a minimum level to conserve food and funding” starting Jan. 21. The county is about 50 miles northeast of Durham, along the Virginia state line. Fresh produce, bottled juices and water, and even ice cream are among the items being nixed. “The Vance County Schools Nutrition Program for students is self-supporting with federal funds providing meals,” says the post. “We hope that normal lunch menus can be resumed as soon as possible once the shutdown has ended.”

46,000 IRS EMPLOYEES CALLED BACK TO WORK, BUT WON'T BE PAID: The Internal Revenue Service is recalling about 46,000 of its employees furloughed by the partial government shutdown to handle tax returns and pay out refunds. For now, they'll have to work without pay. The White House tried to bypass House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in shutdown negotiations, but rank-and-file House Democrats declined an invitation to lunch Tuesday with President Donald Trump. Nine of the 15 Cabinet-level departments have not been funded, including Agriculture , Homeland Security, State, Transportation, Interior and Justice. Some iconic National Park facilities are shuttered as are the Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo in Washington. Nearly everyone at NASA is being told to stay home. Some 420,000 federal employees whose work is declared essential are working without pay, including at the FBI, TSA and other federal law enforcement offices.

42,000 U.S. COAST GUARD MEMBERS GO UNPAID FOR THE 1ST TIME IN HISTORY: The nation's 42,000 active-duty Coast Guard members missed their scheduled paycheck Tuesday, as the only military branch to work without pay during the government shutdown. Because the Coast Guard is under the Department of Homeland Security, it is getting no funding during the shutdown. All other parts of the military are under the still-funded Department of Defense. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz released a statement to active-duty members addressing the loss of pay. "To the best of my knowledge, this marks the first time in our Nation’s history that service members in a U.S. Armed Force have not been paid during a lapse in government appropriations," his statement said. He also announced a $15 million donation by USAA Bank, which serves military members and family, to the service's nonprofit relief organization, Coast Guard Mutual Assistance. The American Red Cross will aid in distributing the money to military and civilians employees of the service who need assistance.

TRUMP'S OWN ADVISORS SAY SHUTDOWN IS SEVERELY HAMPERING ECONOMIC GROWTH: The revised estimates from the Council of Economic Advisers show that the shutdown, now in its fourth week, is beginning to have real economic consequences. The analysis, and other projections from outside the White House, suggests that the shutdown has already weighed significantly on growth and could ultimately push the United States economy into a contraction. To blunt the shutdown’s effects, the administration on Tuesday called tens of thousands of employees back to work, without pay, to process tax returns, ensure flight safety and inspect food and drugs. But some people involved in the shutdown discussions in the White House have privately said they anticipate that Mr. Trump will grow anxious about the economic impact in the coming days, accelerating an end to the stalemate. Others close to the president believe Mr. Trump has leverage and are encouraging him to stand by his demands.

SHUTDOWN OF NASA AND NOAA STIFLES NOW OVERDUE CLIMATE DATA FOR 2018: One result of the government shutdown, now in its fourth week, is that NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are unable to issue their annual temperature analysis. And, because that data is so widely used, neither can some other governments. For example, Britain’s national weather and climate monitoring service, the Met Office, publishes its own global temperature estimates that incorporate NOAA data but use a slightly different analytical method. That’s important because when many different analyses show the same trend — in this case, rising global temperatures — it helps give researchers confidence that their work is sound. But, the NOAA data that the Met Office needs is currently offline. “Usually, we would have received it by now,” said John Kennedy, a scientist at the Met Office Hadley Centre, which specializes in climate research. “But this month, we haven’t.”