Trump administration may keep national parks open even if government shuts down

Visit The Boston Globe Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Comment on this Scroll to top of page By Lisa Rein and Juliet Eilperin The Washington Post  January 18, 2018 WASHINGTON - The Trump administration is drawing up plans to keep hundreds of national parks and monuments open to the public if the government shuts down this weekend, a precedent-setting change aimed at blunting anger over the disruption of federal services.With government funding set to expire at midnight Friday, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was still working with White House and National Park Service officials to develop a plan for keeping parks open from the District to Montana without rangers or other staff on site.Many parks are in peak season, with thousands of visitors heading to warmer sites including the Everglades and Death Valley or to Yosemite for cross-country skiing. Advertisement The shuttering of iconic parks proved to be a political flash point during two previous government shutdowns, in 1995 and 2013. On both occasions, Republicans controlled Congress and a Democratic president sat in the White House; both times, Republicans shouldered much of the blame for ruining people’s vacations. Get This Week in Politics in your inbox: A weekly recap of the top political stories from The Globe, sent right to your email. Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here This time, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney proposed keeping the parks open in the event of a budget impasse, according to an administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. That triggered discussions between top officials at the Interior Department and the Park Service and administration lawyers to determine whether and how to preserve public access to national parks.Late Thursday, as lawmakers labored to forge an agreement to avert a shutdown, administration officials said they were laying plans to keep many Continue Reading

Trump officials weigh keeping national parks open even if government shuts down

WASHINGTON - As a Friday deadline for a government shutdown approached, the Trump administration began setting plans in motion to halt scores of federal functions - even as it scrambled to keep hundreds of national parks and monuments open to the public to minimize anger over the disruption of services. With government funding set to expire at midnight Friday, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was still working out details of a plan to permit the parks to function without rangers or other staff on site. With many parks in peak season, drawing thousands of visitors, the lack of finality was causing wide confusion across the park system. Officials from three sites said Thursday they were unsure how to proceed. “We don’t have a plan yet,” said Abby Wines, spokeswoman for Death Valley National Park in California, which is currently seeing 80,000 visitors a month. “We just got a memo about this yesterday. Today’s the first day we’re seriously thinking about this.” Other federal agencies were preparing plans to close. Across Washington, senior officials were pulling out the detailed manuals that tell them who to send home and who to keep on the job if the government runs out of money, either because their mission is essential or funded by a source other than Congress. About 800,000 federal workers were furloughed during the last shutdown in 2013, which lasted 16 days. Roughly the same number would be affected today. The full impact of a shutdown would not be apparent until Monday. In the District of Columbia, the Smithsonian’s 19 museums and the National Zoo would remain open Saturday and Sunday, using funds from previous appropriations. They would close on Monday - though the zoo animals would still receive food and care. The National Gallery of Art also is planning to stay open this weekend, to accommodate crowds flocking to its popular “Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry” exhibit, Continue Reading

Professor Amy Bishop charged with capital murder after 3 shot, killed at U. of Alabama-Huntsville

A biology professor went on a bloody rampage after being denied tenure Friday, gunning down three colleagues and wounding three others during a faculty meeting, police said. "I heard three shots and screaming," said Melanie Gates, an engineering student at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. A Harvard University-trained neuroscientist, Amy Bishop, was charged with one count of capital murder, which means she could face the death penalty if convicted. As she was taken in handcuffs from a police precinct to the county jail she screamed, "It didn't happen. There's no way ... they are still alive." Bishop returned to the faculty meeting shortly after being denied tenure around 4 p.m. and opened fire in a third-floor meeting room at the Shelby Center for Science and Technology, university officials and witnesses told WAFF-TV. The three killed were Gopi K. Podila, the chairman of the Department of Biological Sciences, and faculty members Maria Ragland Davis and Adriel Johnson, said university spokesman Ray Garner. Two others were in critical condition, and a third who was wounded was upgraded to fair condition, Garner said. Davis' husband, Sammie Lee Davis, told the Associated Press his wife, a researcher at the university, was at a meeting to discuss the tenure status of a faculty member who got angry and started shouting. He said his wife had mentioned the shooter before, describing the woman as "not being able to deal with reality" and "not as good as she thought she was." Andrea Bennett, a sophomore majoring in nursing, was in one of Bishop's classes Friday morning. Bennett said nothing seemed unusual, but she described Bishop as being "very weird" and "a really big nerd." "She's well-known on campus, but I wouldn't say she's a good teacher. I've heard a lot of complaints," Bennett said. "She's a genius, but she really just can't explain things."Bennett, an athlete at UAH, said her coach told her Continue Reading

Russia: ‘Forget’ Georgian territorial integrity; Gates issues warning

TBILISI, Georgia - The foreign minister of Russia said Thursday that Georgia could "forget about" getting back its two breakaway provinces, and the former Soviet republic remained on edge as Russia sent tank columns to search out and destroy Georgian military equipment. Uncertainty about Russia's intentions and back-and-forth charges clouded the conflict two days after Russia and Georgia signaled acceptance of a French-brokered cease-fire, and a week after Georgia's crackdown on the two provinces drew a Russian military response. Diplomats focused on finalizing a fragile cease-fire between the two nations and clear the way for Russian withdrawal. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was heading Friday for Georgia to press the president to sign the deal. Georgian officials accused Russia of sending a column of tanks and other armored vehicles toward Kutaisi, the second-largest city in Georgia, then said the convey stopped about 35 miles out. "We have no idea what they're doing there, why the movement, where they're going," Georgian Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze said in a telephone briefing. "One explanation could be they are trying to rattle the civilian population." The U.S. said a move toward Kutaisi would be a matter of great concern, but two defense officials told The Associated Press the Pentagon did not detect any major movement by Russia troops or tanks. There was no immediate response from Russia itself. "I think the world should think very carefully about what is going on here," Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said. "We need to stop everything that can be stopped now." The Russian president met in the Kremlin with the leaders of the provinces, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, a clear sign Moscow could absorb the regions even though the territory is internationally recognized as being within Georgia's borders. And Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov issued a blunt message to Georgia and the world that appeared to challenge President Continue Reading

Defense Secretary Gates: Afghanistan, not Iraq, is ‘greatest military challenge’

WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Robert Gates put Iraq on the strategic back burner Tuesday, calling Afghanistan the "greatest military challenge" faced by U.S. troops. In line with Gates' warning, an Army brigade from New York's 10th Mountain Division was diverted from Iraq to begin deploying south and west of the Afghan capital of Kabul as Task Force Spartan. "We spent well over a year preparing to deploy into the region of East Baghdad," said force commander Col. David Haight. "Once we found out we were being rerouted, we very quickly replicated our training for Afghanistan." The 10th Mountain troops are part of a surge approved by President Obama that will add more than 17,000 U.S. combat and support troops by late summer to the 33,000 already in Afghanistan, Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee. Gates said Obama will join him and the Joint Chiefs at the Pentagon today to flesh out troop withdrawals from Iraq and the Afghan buildup. In candid testimony, Gates also warned against expectations of quick success from the troop buildup in the fight against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. If Congress was looking to transform Afghanistan into "some sort of central Asian Valhalla over there, we will lose," said Gates, whose left arm was in a sling from a torn tendon. "We need to keep our objectives realistic and limited in Afghanistan. Otherwise, we're setting ourselves up for failure," Gates added. Gates agreed with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) that the fight in Afghanistan will be tougher than the simmering conflict in Iraq, and said a spike in U.S. casualties was "likely." Gates said he was counting on intensified diplomacy from Secretary of State Clinton to pressure the Pakistanis to stamp out Taliban safe havens in their tribal region. Facing two wars abroad and a deep recession at home, Gates said he was bracing for cuts in Pentagon big-ticket items such as new aircraft and nuclear subs. "We will not be able to do everything, buy Continue Reading

The season’s hottest rooftop openings

Late spring brings new rooftop destinations pairing spirits and skylines in Chicago, D.C., Denver, Las Vegas, Minneapolis and New York. Counter the capital's heat with Hawaiian shave ice and views of the Potomac at Watergate Hotel's Top of the Gate, open for its first full season; or watch the weather over Manhattan's skyline with a Dark & Stormy in hand at 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge's seasonal 1 Rooftop. It may be hard to distinguish spring from summer this month, but it's definitively rooftop season, and there are a dozen new (or remodeled) destinations to toast to it.Browse the photos above for the latest rooftop openings, and see more of the year's dining debuts below. Continue Reading

Pinal Airpark: Once-secretive aircraft boneyard slowly opens its gates

For motorists on the way to Tucson from Phoenix, little interrupts the desert's color scheme.Then, a flicker of white, red and blue draw eyes to the west, where a cluster of tail fins pokes over the horizon.As tires chew asphalt with a hypnotic thrum, the sleek metallic bodies connected to those fins emerge.Passenger jets, too many to count at 75 mph, sit wing to wing. The 747s are easy to pick out, thanks to their immense size and bulbous noses. The other jets are noted only for their sheer number, as dozens comprise a tableau one would expect at an airport, not in a solitary patch of land bounded by desert on one side and cotton fields on the other.The next exit offers a partial explanation: Pinal Airpark Road.Adventurous travelers who just a few years ago followed the two-lane road past the sand and gravel pit would have encountered an armed guard at the airpark's gate. The alarmed barks of guard dogs emphasized the point — visitors were not welcome.Today, however, the small guard shack is empty. Concrete pads are all that remain of the kennels where guard dogs awaited orders.Stand outside Pinal Airpark's chain-link fence for a good view of its 100-plus airliners in varying states of decay. From here it appears little more than a boneyard, a tattered tableau of jetliner history.RELATED: How mysterious Casa Grande crosses helped fight the Cold War | Live-in caretakers keep remote Arizona rest areas clean | Look inside the world's unlikeliest magic shop | Valley of the Moon: Magical piece of Tucson historyBut something is out of place, like those gleaming white 747s. It begs a closer look.Jim Petty agrees, and he has the keys to this once-mysterious airline kingdom.Petty opens the door to Pinal Airpark's headquarters — a double-wide trailer that didn't exist a few years ago — and offers an enthusiastic handshake.The few who know where to find him are fortunate to find him within, as he splits his time among the Continue Reading

Denver adds gates to accommodate fast-growing Southwest

Southwest's rapid growth in Denver is spurring the Denver International Airport to build five new gates to accommodate the low-cost giant.Most of Southwest's Denver flights operate from the airport's C Concourse, but the carrier's presence there has spilled over into the A Concourse. The Denver Post reports "those gates will be relocated to C when the $46 million, 39,000-square-foot extension is finished by November 2014."ARCHIVES: Southwest Airlines prepares for opening day in Denver (January 2006) ARCHIVES: Southwest Airlines now No. 2 at Denver airport (April 2011) ARCHIVES: Southwest Airlines opening crew quarters in Denver (February 2012)Southwest resumed Denver service in 2006, 20 years after it pulled out of Denver and its now-closed Stapleton International Airport because of what the airline said were high costs. The carrier has grown at a breakneck pace, however, since its return to the city."Denver International Airport is vibrant, strong and growing. Our gates are fully leased, and in order to accommodate Southwest Airlines' quick and steady growth in Denver, we need to add five gates," Kim Day, Denver's Manager of Aviation, says in a release. "Denver ranks as Southwest Airline's fastest-growing station in the carrier's history. They have grown their business from January 2006, when they offered 13 daily flights to three destinations to a Denver network today of more than 160 daily flights to nearly 60 nonstop destinations."Southwest has accounted for more than a quarter (25.6%) of Denver's passenger traffic through the first seven months of 2013, according to the Denver Business Journal.Denver International points out in a release that the project will be paid for using Airport Capital Improvement Project funds, which are generated through airport revenues – not the city's general fund or taxpayer money. TWITTER: You can follow me at Continue Reading

Qatar’s massive new airport hub opens to soft launch

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - A vast new airport in the Qatari capital opened for business following years of delays Wednesday as the natural-gas rich Gulf nation works to transform itself into a major aviation hub and prepares to host one of sporting's biggest events.A ceremonial Qatar Airways flight landed and was welcomed by aviation's traditional salute of fire engines spraying water overhead to mark the official opening of Hamad International Airport, which shares its name with the Qatari emir who abdicated in favor of his son last year.It is part of a multibillion-dollar building boom that is transforming the skyline of the Qatari capital, Doha, as it prepares to host soccer's World Cup in 2022. PHOTOS: First flights land at massive new hub airport in Doha, Qatar BOOKMARK : Stay on top of the latest aviation news via Today in the SkyAbdul Aziz Mohammad al-Noaimi, who chairs the airport steering committee, hailed the new complex as "a source of pride and joy" for all Qataris. He said it can accommodate 30 million passengers annually for now, with plans for further expansion slated over the next several years."It will deliver a memorable experience to all passengers that will travel through its gates, an experience that reflects Qatar's status and importance on the world travel and tourism map," he said.Like the nearby United Arab Emirates, Qatar has invested heavily in its aviation sector in recent years. It has emerged as a major transit center for flights from around the world, competing at times uncomfortably with traditional European and Asian hubs for lucrative long-haul travelers' dollars.The new airport is only partially operational for now, with ten mainly discount and South Asian airlines operating flights during an initial low-key opening period.Flag carrier Qatar Airways, its main Gulf rivals Emirates and Etihad Airways, and other international carriers such as Lufthansa and United Airlines are expected to move to the new airport once Continue Reading

Ottawa is a capital idea for a trip to Canada, manageably large and sophisticated

ON THE 20-minute drive from the airport, Ottawa looks like any prosperous midsize city — boxy buildings, superstores, well-kept homes. But as you ascend a ramp downtown, the majestic Gothic Revival towers of Parliament Hill, the seat of Canada’s government, rise into view. It’s a breathtaking sight — and an apt metaphor for Canada’s capital. This is a place where history and ceremony practically breathe from the bricks. But today’s Ottawa has also grown into a bustling burg whose once-staid character has given way to worldly poise. For every first-rate museum, there’s a hip eatery that wouldn’t feel out of place in Brooklyn or Berlin. For every somber national monument, there’s a smart boutique showcasing local designers. And the colorful contrasts make for a wonderful weekend getaway. The hotel that best captures old-new Ottawa is the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, a regal limestone colossus whose guest list reads like a world-history textbook — think Winston Churchill, Charles deGaulle and Queen Elizabeth. My jaw dropped every time I returned to the Rococo lobby, with its chandeliers, ornately painted ceilings and carved wood walls. The hotel also situates you steps away from Parliament (, whose impressive grounds boast 14 bronze statues of prime ministers and monarchs. An eternal flame burns in a circular fountain close to the gates. Inside, a free tour takes you inside the cathedral-like Senate chamber, a highlight for its plush red seating and ornate carvings . Look up to catch the eight haunting paintings of war scenes that loom over the room. Despite last year’s shocking murder of a soldier here, there’s still an openness and friendliness you don’t find at U.S. government sites. One of the capital’s A-list restaurants sits around the corner. Play Food & Wine (1 York St.,, is where Ottawans impress out-of-towners. Climb up to Continue Reading