This is why federal corrections officers, unpaid during shutdown, worry for their safety

Corrections officer Francis J. Lindsay Sr. has been working — and sleeping — at the Los Angeles federal prison in Downtown L.A. for the past three days.

With the government shutdown in its fourth week, some of Lindsay’s coworkers, lacking paychecks, have had to leave for other jobs or take sick days — and are struggling to survive. So Lindsay has volunteered to help pick up the extra shifts, though he, too, is working without pay.

About 800,000 federal employees have been furloughed or forced to work without pay since Dec. 22 because of the partial government shutdown. Congress and President Donald Trump have yet to fund multiple federal departments and agencies, such as Homeland Security, as they grapple over whether to fund Trump’s proposed border wall.

More than 41,000 federal law enforcement and correctional officers are considered essential, meaning they have to work for free during the shutdown — including 16,742 employees with the Bureau of Prisons, according to the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations.

The workers will likely get back pay once the shutdown ends. But in the meantime, many are struggling to make ends meet, according to prison union leaders with the American Federation of Government Employees.

During a press conference Thursday morning, Jan. 17, at the federal prison on Terminal Island, those leaders spoke about the effects of the shutdown on the prison system.

“We don’t care what happens,” said Rich Rust, who works at the Terminal Island prison, in San Pedro. “We just want the (two sides) to get together, get something done, so we can get paid for the work we’re doing.”

The Bureau of Prisons did not respond to a request for comment. But an email sent to the agency received an automatic reply:

“Due to the partial government shutdown,” it read, “responses to inquiries will be delayed. We appreciate …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Politics


TSA: More workers are staying home as shutdown drags on

By Michael Laris and Ashley Halsey III | Washington Post

Faced with growing numbers of call-outs by its workers – and images of some of them lining up for food donations – leaders of the Transportation Security Administration acknowledged Wednesday that “many employees are reporting that they are not able to report to work due to financial limitations.”

Significant numbers of TSA agents have not been coming to work, either because of financial hardship or to underscore their opposition to being forced to work without pay.

And the agency said the call-outs are rising.

TSA officials would not provide specific employee totals, citing security concerns. But “the number of people calling out because of financial concerns is increasing,” said Michael Bilello, TSA’s assistant administrator for public affairs.

“We’re certainly not in denial that as we go further and further away from having a missed paycheck and going into unknowns, it’s going to start to affect people. And people will have to make a decision: ‘Can I afford to go to work today?’ ” Bilello added. “People aren’t just pretending to be sick. . . . What we’re hearing from the workforce is the increasing reason they’re calling out is, financially, they can no longer make it to work.”

Numbers from the agency, covering Tuesday and Wednesday, show 6.1 percent of employees did not come to work on each of those days. That’s nearly 1 out of every 16 workers.

And for the thousands of those continuing to work, anxiety is building.

“My heart literally hurts, not just because I’m struggling at home, but because everyone that I work with out there is struggling with me,” said TSA officer Rosa Valdovinos-Guzman, her voice cracking at a union rally at Los Angeles International Airport on Wednesday. She said her fellow officers are “out there working, they’re putting their lives on …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Politics


Trump: US will be able to shoot down missiles ‘anytime, anyplace’

By Paul Sonne | Washington Post

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Thursday channeled President Ronald Reagan’s dream from the “Star Wars” era of the Cold War, pledging in a speech at the Pentagon to “detect and destroy any missile launched against the United States anywhere, anytime, anyplace.”

The vast vision Trump articulated – which included shielding every city in the country and protecting against all types of missile threats, regardless of type or origin – went far beyond the more modest plans the Pentagon set out in a new missile defense strategy released at the same time.

In his remarks, Trump promised an expansive and likely impossible system that harked back to Reagan’s initial goal of rendering missiles essentially obsolete with technologies that would intercept and destroy them.

“The system will be monitored and we will terminate any missile launches from hostile powers or even from powers that make a mistake,” Trump said. “It won’t happen, regardless of the missile type or geographic origins of the attack.”

But the Pentagon stopped far short of those towering goals in the Missile Defense Review it released Thursday. The first comprehensive update to U.S. missile defense policy in nine years, the review pushed to expand the scope and sophistication of American missile defenses but didn’t set out plans that would achieve the Cold War-era vision.

The Pentagon added hypersonic weapons and cruise missiles to the list of systems the military wants to be able to shoot down and proposed a range of new options to counter North Korean missiles. It approved a constellation of sensors in space aimed at “birth-to-death tracking” of missile launches and called for studies of lasers and space weapons to intercept missiles.

The review expanded the mission of U.S. missile defense beyond countering “rogue states” such as North Korea and Iran to protecting U.S. forces …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Politics


Puerto Rico governor slams White House over aid claim

By Jeff Stein | Washington Post

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló ripped the Trump administration Thursday for rejecting food stamp funding for the island and reportedly plotting to cut its emergency aid, as tensions escalate over the ongoing struggle to recover from Hurricane Maria more than a year ago.

With the food stamp funding expected to run out by March, the Democratic-controlled House approved an additional $600 million for the program Wednesday. But in a public letter, the Trump administration called that allocation “excessive and unnecessary,” vowing to sink the package even if it passes the Senate.

The feud comes amid the resignation of a top Housing and Urban Development official, widely regarded as one of the most capable administrators in the agency, after the White House’s attempt to block disaster recovery money for Puerto Rico.

The White House had also already angered Puerto Rican officials by directing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this month to determine how much of the $13.9 billion in emergency funds for Puerto Rico could be redirected to build President Donald Trump’s border wall with Mexico.

In response to the disaster, Congress has appropriated nearly $20 billion in HUD disaster-relief funds, only $1.5 billion of which has been approved for spending. That money has been delayed because of the government shutdown, now in its 27th day with no end in sight.

“The bulk of the reconstruction money hasn’t made it, more than a year after the hurricane,” said Federico de Jesús, principal of FDJ Solutions, a consulting firm, and the former deputy director of the Puerto Rico governor’s office in Washington. “We should be past the relief effort and into the reconstruction effort.”

Rosselló, a Democrat, has for the most part largely resisted sharply criticizing the White House over its response to the disaster, said Ramón Luis Nieves, a former state …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Politics


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