Has the shutdown ruined our ability to detect asteroids? Not really. But that hasn’t stopped publications around the Web from running alarmist headlines suggesting as much.
“NASA Shuts Down ‘Asteroid Watch’ In Wake Of US Government Crisis” reads a story published by HuffPost UK. “NASA asteroid watch closes due to government shutdown,” reads another. “If an asteroid starts hurtling toward Earth,” wrote one Fox News reporter in a recent story ““¦ well “¦ good luck.”
The alarmist stories are based on a single tweet from NASA’s Near Earth Object Office’s @AsteroidWatch twitter account.
In the event of government shutdown, we will not be posting or responding from this account. We sincerely hope to resume tweets soon.— Asteroid Watch (@AsteroidWatch) October 1, 2013
While some of those posts make clear lower down in the story that their headlines are actually about nothing more than the temporary closing of a twitter account, others never get there or maybe don’t even realize it. The fact of the matter is that the office remains operational with the exception of social media.
“The NASA-funded surveys, which are tasked with discovery of near-Earth objects, continue to operate,” DC Agle, spokesperson for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told National Journal in an email. “The NASA-funded Minor Planet Center (which is the clearinghouse of information about new discoveries) remains in operation. The Near-Earth Object Program Office, at JPL, which determines near-Earth object orbits, remains operational as well.”
Anderson Cooper had an excellent segment on Sunday, highlighting a larger problem: the fact that scientists say there are more than a million near-Earth objects in space big enough to destroy a city but that they only know where 1 percent of them are. And it’s true, as Cooper’s segment notes, that sometimes meteors are spotted by amateurs, as was the case in February when a 150-foot-wide rock passed within a mere 17,000 miles of Earth’s surface. And the fact that 18,000 NASA employees, or 97 percent of its work force, were furloughed on last week certainly doesn’t help matters. However, you can’t make any kind of argument based on NASA’s “Asteroid Watch” program (read: twitter account) without being disingenuous.
There’s a serious conversation to be had about securing more government funds for asteroid-watch programs so that researchers aren’t so reliant on privately funded projects, and lots of people are already making it. But phony headlines about NASA supposedly closing its Near Earth Object Office don’t make the cut.
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"Even if House Republicans manage to get enough members of their party on board with the latest version of their health care bill, they will face another battle in the Senate: whether the bill complies with the chamber’s arcane ... Byrd rule, which stipulates all provisions in a reconciliation bill must affect federal spending and revenues in a way that is not merely incidental." Democrats should have the advantage in that fight, "unless the Senate pulls another 'nuclear option.'”
The House has passed a one-week spending bill that will avert a government shutdown which was set to begin at midnight. Lawmakers now have an extra week to come to a longer agreement which is expected to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year in September. The legislation now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to pass before President Trump signs it.
President Trump’s portrayal of an effort to funnel more Medicaid dollars to Puerto Rico as a "bailout" is complicating negotiations over a continuing resolution on the budget. "House Democrats are now requiring such assistance as a condition for supporting the continuing resolution," a position that the GOP leadership is amenable to. "But Mr. Trump’s apparent skepticism aligns him with conservative House Republicans inclined to view its request as a bailout, leaving the deal a narrow path to passage in Congress."
Democrats in the House are threatening to shut down the government if Republicans expedite a vote on a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, said Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer Thursday. Lawmakers have introduced a one-week spending bill to give themselves an extra week to reach a long-term funding deal, which seemed poised to pass easily. However, the White House is pressuring House Republicans to take a vote on their Obamacare replacement Friday to give Trump a legislative victory, though it is still not clear that they have the necessary votes to pass the health care bill. This could go down to the wire.