hazy
Friday May 29th, 2015 6:15AM

US government shutdown closes parks, monuments

By The Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- 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.
  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Business News, Politics
© Copyright 2015 AccessNorthGa.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
S&P 500 index has its best year since 1997
The stock market closed out a record year with more all-time highs on Tuesday, giving U.S. indexes their biggest annual gains in almost two decades.
6:56PM ( 1 year ago )
Colorado readies for 'Green Wednesday' pot sales
Police were adding extra patrols around pot shops in eight Colorado towns that plan to allow recreational sales to anyone over 21 on Jan. 1.
1:52PM ( 1 year ago )
Kerry seeks framework for Mideast peace talks
A senior State Department official says Secretary of State John Kerry will try this week to get Israel and the Palestinians to agree on a framework for negotiating a final peace agreement, yet cautions against raising expectations for Kerry's latest round of shuttle diplomacy.
1:35PM ( 1 year ago )
U.S. News
Missing Ga. bank director arrested in Brunswick
A bank director accused of losing millions of investors' dollars before vanishing last year was arrested Tuesday during a traffic stop in a city in south Georgia.
7:00PM ( 1 year ago )
Amtrak to suspend some Crescent service in Jan., Feb.
Amtrak service will shut down in parts of the Southeast for several days in January and February for rail maintenance by Norfolk Southern Railway.
9:00AM ( 1 year ago )
Lung cancer scans urged for some smokers, not all
Certain current or former heavy smokers should start getting yearly scans for lung cancer to cut their risk of death from the nation's top cancer killer, government advisers said Monday - even as they stressed that the tests aren't for everyone.
7:26AM ( 1 year ago )
Business News
Feeling US snub, Saudis strengthen ties elsewhere
Increasingly vocal in its frustration over U.S. policies in the Mideast, Saudi Arabia is strengthening ties elsewhere, seeking out an alignment that will bolster its position after it was pushed to the sidelines this year.
4:34PM ( 1 year ago )
NSA reportedly intercepts computer deliveries
A German magazine has lifted the lid on the operations of the National Security Agency's hacker unit, revealing how American spies intercepted computer deliveries, exploited hardware vulnerabilities, and even hijacked Microsoft's bug report system to spy on their targets.
12:31PM ( 1 year ago )
Rockets fired from Lebanon into Israel
Rockets from Lebanon struck northern Israel on Sunday, causing no injuries but sparking an Israeli reprisal shelling in a rare flare-up between the two countries.
12:26PM ( 1 year ago )
Politics
Federal prosecutors indict ex-US Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert on bank-related charges
CHICAGO (AP) — Federal prosecutors indict ex-US Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert on bank-related charges.
5:08PM ( 13 hours ago )
Homeowners clean up in Texas; death toll climbs to 21
HOUSTON (AP) — Homeowners dragged soggy carpet to the curb and mopped up coffee-colored muck Wednesday after a barrage of storms and floods in Texas and Oklahoma left at least 21 people dead and 11 ot...
11:09PM ( 1 day ago )
US rejects nuclear disarmament document over Israel concerns
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United States on Friday blocked a global document aimed at ridding the world of nuclear weapons, saying Egypt and other states tried to "cynically manipulate" the process by...
9:33PM ( 6 days ago )
Obama again avoids calling 1915 Armenian killings 'genocide'
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama will once again stop short of calling the 1915 massacre of Armenians a genocide, prompting anger and disappointment from those who have been pushing him to ful...
1:00PM ( 1 month ago )
Ex-NFL star Hernandez convicted of murder, sentenced to life
FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) — Former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison Wednesday for a deadly late-night shooting, sealing the d...
8:54PM ( 1 month ago )