Fascinating history of the budget and government shutdowns:
A stickler for the rules, Carter asked his attorney general to look into the Anti-Deficiency Act. In April 1980, Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti issued a startling opinion. "The legal authority for continued operations either exists or it does not," he wrote.
When it does not, government must send employees home. They can't work for free or with the expectation that they will be paid someday.
What's more, Civiletti declared, any agency chief who broke that law would be prosecuted.
Five days later, funding for the Federal Trade Commission expired amid a congressional disagreement over limiting the agency's powers. The FTC halted operations, canceled court dates and meetings, and sent 1,600 workers packing, apparently the first agency ever closed by a budget dispute.
Embarrassed lawmakers made a quick fix. The FTC reopened the next day. The estimated cost of the brouhaha: $700,000.
Near the end of his term, Civiletti further clarified the law's meaning. In a government-wide shutdown, the military, air traffic control, prisons and other work that protects human safety or property would continue. So would things such as Social Security benefits, which Congress has financed indefinitely.
The health care overhaul provides a safety net for young adult children, who can now stay on their parents' health plans until they reach age 26. But it doesn't guarantee that their parents' plan will cover a common medical condition that many young women face: pregnancy.
Group health plans with 15 or more workers are required to provide maternity benefits for employees and their spouses under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978. But other dependents of employees aren't covered by the law, so companies don't have to provide maternity coverage for them.
Although hard numbers aren't available on how many companies don't provide dependent maternity benefits, "I would say it's common," says Dania Palanker, a senior health policy adviser at the National Women's Law Center. And the number could grow with the recent expansion of coverage to children under age 26, she says.
Dan Priga, who heads the performance audit group for Mercer, a human resources consulting company, estimates that roughly 70 percent of companies that pay their employees' health-care claims directly choose not to provide dependent maternity benefits.
According to the March of Dimes, the average cost for uncomplicated maternity care was $10,652 in 2007. That includes prenatal care, a routine delivery and three months postpartum care.
Still On Your Parents' Insurance? Great! Just Don't Get Pregnant
Under the Affordable Care Act, people up to age 26 are eligible to qualify as dependents on their parents' insurance policies. This is great news if you're one of the thousands of newly minted graduates wallowing in un- or underemployed post collegiate hell, but it's less awesome news for women who, in their prime reproductive years, might find themselves SOL if they get pregnant parental insurance plans, as a general rule, do not cover abortion or maternity costs. Better double up on both the Ortho Tri Cyclen and condoms, ladies. If you get knocked up while you're still on your parents' plan, you're both literally and figuratively fucked.
In 2008, an estimated 2.8 million women ages 15 through 25 got pregnant, 12 percent of all those in this age group, according to researchers at the National Center for Health Statistics. (That is the most recent year for which there are pregnancy estimates.)
In some states, a pregnant young woman might qualify for Medicaid, the federal-state health-care program for low-income individuals, even if she lived at home with her parents, say experts. But when Wendy and her husband, Andy, investigated, they were told that eligibility would be based on their household income, which was too high to qualify for Medicaid.
The health-care overhaul provides assistance to some young women who become pregnant while on their parents plans. Under the law, preventive health benefits that are recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a federal agency, must be covered by new plans and by plans that have changed enough to lose their status of being grandfathered under the law. The recommended services include a range of screenings for pregnant women, including those for anemia, hepatitis B and Rh incompatibility.
In addition, starting this month, when a non-grandfathered health plan begins its new plan year, it must provide certain other womens health services at no charge, including an annual well-woman visit, screening for gestational diabetes and breast-feeding support, supplies and counseling.
Starting in 2014, maternity and newborn care is one of 10 so-called essential health benefits that must be offered by all health plans in the individual and small-group markets, including those that are sold through the state-based health insurance exchanges that will be up and running then.
Large-group plans, however, are exempt from the requirement to provide the essential health benefits, now or in 2014.
TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) A Libyan security officer says unknown attackers have assassinated three army officers in the eastern city of Benghazi.
Sunday's killings are the latest to hit the security forces in Benghazi, where like much of the country the government faces a challenge from armed groups, many descended from the rebels that overthrew dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.
Col. Abdullah al-Zayedi, spokesman of joint security operations in Benghazi, said two of the officers, one a lieutenant colonel, were killed by bombs attached to their cars. He said a third, who held the rank of colonel, was shot dead by unknown gunmen.
Benghazi has been hit by a months-long wave of targeted killings. Victims have included political activists, judges and members of security agencies.
Customs & Border Protection released a new list to EFF this week that details the extensive number of times that the agency has flown its Predator drones on behalf of other agencies500 flights in total over a three-year period. This list shows, yet again, how little we know about drone flights in this country and how important it is that we place limits on drone use to protect Americans privacy rights.
EFF obtained the list of federal, state and local agencies as a result of our Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the agency. Not only does the list show the total number of flights by year between 2010 and 2012, but it shows CBP flew its drones over 100 times just for Department of Justice components including FBI, DEA and US Marshals. This is in direct contradiction to a recently released DOJ Office of Inspector General (OIG) Report (pdf) that stated DHS had flown its drones on only two occasions for DOJ law enforcement components.
We discussed some of the other agencies that benefited from CBPs Predators in a previous post, but some agencies on the list are new. These include the Grand Forks SWAT, the North Dakota Narcotics Task Force, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the Minnesota Drug Task Force, and several branches of the military.
The list also includes several county sheriffs departments. However, CBP has refused to release the names of these agencies, arguing in a recent court filing that to do so would disclose secret law enforcement techniques and would somehow reveal that CBP is aware of the illegal activities taking place in a particular location. Its hard to fathom how releasing the name of a county sheriff departmentwithout any other information about the drone flight for that departmentwould somehow let the criminals in the area know theyre being watched and help them evade detection.
A government shutdown could furlough as many as 800,000 of the nations 2.1 million federal workers. It could hit as early as Tuesday if a bitterly divided Congress fails to approve a temporary spending bill to keep the government running.
Supervisors at government agencies began meetings Thursday to decide which employees would continue to report to work and which would be considered nonessential and told to stay home under contingency plans ordered by the Office of Management and Budget, or OMB.
Details about shutdown plans for each agency were expected to be posted on the OMB and individual agency websites by Friday afternoon, according to union officials briefed on the process. Formal furlough notices would be sent on Tuesday, the beginning of the new fiscal year.
The Office of Personnel Management has a furlough guide to help answer questions about a government shutdown.
So, how will a government shutdown affect you?
WHAT STAYS OPEN:
U.S. Postal Service.
Active-duty military will keep working, but will not get paid until the funds are available.
Emergency and disaster assistance.
Federal law enforcement.
IRS can still process electronic returns and payments only.
Any federal agency thats subject to appropriations. Each agency has the discretion to decide who is excepted or emergency, and who is furloughed.
All National Parks.
All federally-funded museums, including Smithsonian and the National Zoo.
All federal government websites.
Research by Health and Human Services stops. So does the grant process. Depending on how long it lasts, that will also impact medical research at hospitals and universities.
Applying for Social Security. If youre a new retiree, your application wont be processed.
IRS walk-in centers. Your paper tax return will not be processed.
Loan applications for small businesses, college tuition, or mortgages.
All Library of Congress buildings. All public events will be cancelled and web sites will be inaccessible.
Federal contractors will be out of work.
Federal workers (except excepted or emergency personnel) will not be allowed to work, not even from home. No blackberry, no smartphone, no laptop. Not even allowed to check work email.
D.C. Government would also shut down, as it is subject to congressional appropriations and is considered a federal agency. But the mayor sent a letter to OMB saying that all D.C. Workers are declared essential.
BURLINGTON, Vt. Bernie Sanders, in his first bid for Congress in 1971, ran as a member of the nonviolent, socialist Liberty Union Party. He has maintained his antiwar stance since, first as a member of the House, then the Senate.
Now, in one of the most unlikely turns in his career, Sanders is chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, casting himself as a champion of those who fought in wars he battled to prevent.
Sanderss role comes at an important juncture for the Department of Veterans Affairs: A new generation of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan is straining resources, while aging Vietnam veterans seek long-delayed compensation for exposure to Agent Orange, the chemical defoliant sprayed by US forces. The combination has led to a backlog of hundreds of thousands of claims, prompting outcries from veterans groups and demands that Congress step in to fix what many say is a broken system.
As a result, the Vermont independent has spent much of his time since becoming chairman in January working to fix the problems, especially the claims backlog, which the Obama administration has pledged to overcome by 2015.
Illinois said that Cognizant has assigned 13 workers, all U.S. citizens or permanent U.S. residents with Medicaid experience and expertise, to work on the project. Seven of the staff members are former state of Illinois employees with extensive knowledge of the state's Medicaid system, according to spokeswoman Kelly Jakubek, communication manager for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services.
Cognizant has submitted paperwork to hire 60 or more visa holders to work on the project -- a proposal that the state wasn't aware of, Jakubek said.
Computerworld sent Illinois officials emails with copies of the paperwork that Cognizant filed with the U.S. Department of Labor to hire 60 senior system analysts at a pay rate of $76,814. The documents, known as Labor Condition Applications (LCA), are part of the H-1B approval process and are used in salary determinations. As a general rule, though, the filing of an LCA doesn't mean that a visa worker in on the way.
The state controls the hiring process for the project, said Jakubek, though she could not say whether it will require the contractor to exclude temporary visa workers from the effort.
Asked about the paperwork filed with the Labor Department, Cognizant said it would take on visa workers if needed.
Since the modern congressional budgeting process took effect in 1976, there have been a total of seventeen separate government shutdowns (or "spending gaps" in Hill jargon). Given that we appear to be headed for another one imminently, let's look back at those experiences, the political circumstances around them and what happened as a consequence. Most of the specifics were drawn from The Washington Post print archives, which you can access for a modest sum here.
It's also important to note that not all shutdowns are created equal. Before some 1980 and 1981 opinions issued by then-Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti, a failure to fund some part of the government didn't necessarily mean that that part of government would stop functioning. Civiletti's opinions interpreted the Antideficiency Act, a law passed in 1884, as meaning that a failure to pass new spending bills required government functioning to shut down in whole or in part. So the "shutdowns" listed below that happened between 1976 tand 1979 did not always entail an actual stop to government functioning; they were often simply funding gaps that didn't have any real-world effect.
Marissa Alexander, the African-American woman who was sentenced to 20 years for discharging a firearm in Florida despite pleading Stand Your Ground against her husband, will get a new trial. Alexander, 32, said she fired a bullet at the ceiling because she was afraid of her husband. No one was injured. It took 12 minutes for the jury to convict her.
We reject her contention that the trial court erred in declining to grant her immunity from prosecution under Floridas Stand Your Ground law, wrote Judge James H. Daniel, but we remand for a new trial because the jury instructions on self-defense were erroneous.
The appeals court judge ruled that the lower court judge improperly put a burden on Alexander to prove that the firing was in self-defense. The defendants burden is only to raise a reasonable doubt concerning self-defense, Daniel wrote. The defendant does not have the burden to prove the victim guilty of the aggression defended against beyond a reasonable doubt. He ordered a retrial. A separate proceeding would determine whether Alexander could be released on bail pending that trial.
It's not meant to be able to fight for 11 years straight (plus Syria and Iran).
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