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Federal shutdown forces closure of Homestead National Monument

The prairie surrounding Homestead National Monument of America is quiet this week after the ongoing federal shutdown forced the park to close its facilities.

The National Park Service site west of Beatrice is closed as a result of the ongoing partial federal government shutdown.

Homestead Park Superintendent Mark Engler said on Wednesday that Homestead’s outdoor trails and parking lots are still accessible, but the buildings are closed.

“During the shutdown National Parks will remain as accessible as possible while still following applicable procedures,” Engler said. “With us, specifically, the parking lots will remain open and the trails will remain open. If there’s a snow event or anything like that we will not be maintaining those things, except for emergency situations.”

Wednesday was the first full business day of the shutdown prompted by a budgetary stalemate between President Donald Trump and Congress.

Trump said Tuesday that the closed parts of the government will remain that way until Democrats agree to wall off the U.S.-Mexico border to deter criminal elements. He said he's open to calling the wall something else as long as he ends up with an actual wall.Democrats oppose spending money on a wall, preferring instead to pump the dollars into fencing, technology and other means of controlling access to the border. Trump argued that Democrats oppose a wall only because he is for one.

The stalemate over how much to spend and how to spend it caused the partial government shutdown that began Saturday following a lapse in funding for departments and agencies that make up about 25 percent of the government. Some 800,000 government workers are affected. Many are on the job but must wait until after the shutdown to be paid again.


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Deputies arrest man for drug offenses

Gage County deputies arrested a man in Blue Springs for drug offenses after they responded to reports of a protection order violation.

Dustin Bartels, 23, was arrested for violating a domestic protection order, possession of a controlled substance and distribution of a controlled substance.

The incident began shortly before 10 p.m. on Monday when a woman called the sheriff’s office to report that Bartels was in her back yard in the 300 block of East Main Street in Blue Springs and wouldn't leave her alone.

The woman, who had an active protection order against Bartels, was able to leave the residence and called 911, Gage County Court documents state.

As a deputy pulled up at the residence, he noticed someone in the back yard with a flashlight.

The suspect, identified as Bartels, went under a tarp in the backyard and the deputy waited for other officers since they were unsure if he was armed.

Bartels was approached and deputies verified he didn't have any weapons.

Bartels was searched when he was placed under arrest and deputies found a bag with 4.4 grams of a crystal substance that tested positive for methamphetamine.

Court documents state Bartels was out on bond form a Lancaster County criminal case for possessing methamphetamine.

Bond was set at $10,000 with a 10 percent deposit. Bartels' next hearing is set for Jan. 15.


Patrick Ethridge / Tony Avelar 

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) drives between Golden State Warriors' Kevon Looney (5) and Andre Iguodala during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2018, in Oakland, Calif.


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Closing government actually costs taxpayers money

WASHINGTON — Even though paychecks stop going out to hundreds of thousands of workers, shutting down the federal government actually costs money — and the longer it goes on, the more it will cost.

Museums and parks can’t collect entry fees or sell souvenirs, the Internal Revenue Service collects less in taxes, and it costs money for federal workers to mothball and restart operations. Plus hundreds of thousands of thousands of furloughed workers are likely, ultimately, to get back pay — for not working.

"The amount of money we are going to spend on furloughed workers who aren’t going to do anything but will get paid is pure waste," said Gordon Gray, director of fiscal policy at American Action Forum, which describes itself as a center-right policy institute.

After the 16-day shutdown in 2013, Congress authorized an estimated $2.5 billion in back pay and other compensation for as many as 850,000 furloughed workers, according to an Office of Management and Budget report. The event also cost the government $7 million in revenue lost from entrance fees at national parks and a halt to IRS enforcement collections that averaged $1 billion a week.

"Diminished staffing levels lead to diminished government services," Gray said. "Museums are closed, so the government doesn’t sell freeze-dried ice cream."

In contrast to 2013, three-quarters of the government, including the Department of Defense Department of Labor and Department of Health and Human Services, have already been funded and are not affected by the shutdown — limiting the impact. Nevertheless, about 350,000 other workers are to be sent home. Federal grants, loans and purchases have ceased for the areas of the government affected.

About 400,000 "essential" employees like border guards and airport screeners continue to work without pay. Some operations will continue with prior-year funding, such as the Smithsonian museums that will stay open through Jan. 1.

President Donald Trump warned last week of a "very long shutdown" if Senate Democrats refuse to back a government funding bill that includes billions to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The partial shutdown is into its third day, and could continue into the new year. He reiterated that threat early this week.

A prolonged shutdown could impact the broader economy, experts say.

"A week or longer will mean that businesses that depend on these federal employees will start to lose sales," said Stan Collender, a longtime congressional budget aide who’s now editor-in-chief of thebudgetguy blog in Washington. "Everything from groceries to cars will be affected."

Government services that grind to a halt have costs too.

During the 2013 shutdown, U.S. liquor sat at ports awaiting export certificates, and the Alaskan king crab fishing season, already short, was delayed because the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration hadn’t apportioned harvest levels and issued permits.

S&P Global Ratings said the 2013 shutdown shaved at least 0.6 percent from fourth-quarter 2013 gross domestic product growth, taking some $24 billion out of the economy.