- Created on 14 October 2013
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The government shutdown is slowing the wheels of justice in federal courts by delaying civil cases, forcing prosecutors to operate with skeleton staffs and raising uncertainty about the system's immediate future if the stalemate continues past Thursday.
That's when federal courts officials expect the reserve funds they have been using since the Oct. 1 start of the shutdown will run out.
Criminal cases, which are required by law to go to a speedy trial, are still moving ahead, as are most bankruptcy cases and appeals. Civil cases and those in immigration court, however, are feeling the greatest impact from the shutdown.
"The Constitution tells us what we have to do and we can't control our workload. It walks in the door, whether we're funded or not funded," said U.S. District Court Chief Judge Loretta Preska in New York, who has put all civil cases except those already in trial on hold at the request of the U.S. Attorney there.
She said the nearly 450 district court employees that serve the New York metro area will report to work to keep criminal cases on track even if funds run out. Officials at courts based in San Francisco, Philadelphia and St. Louis, Mo., also say their employees will work.
Prosecutors, staff and experts from other federal agencies such as the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Drug Enforcement Agency needed to help try civil cases have been furloughed. U.S. attorneys requested judges to temporarily set aside some cases, while a few districts have requested a blanket halt to all civil cases.
In Los Angeles, 51 federal prosecutors and nearly 50 staff working civil cases have been sent home, leaving the Justice Department to file stay requests as deadlines approach. Some requests have been granted, others denied, U.S. Attorney André Birotte Jr. said.
In Montana, U.S. Attorney Mike Cotter has requested stays in more than a dozen civil cases, with more to come.
Just over half of Cotter's staff has been furloughed, and while those who have been sent home are eligible for unemployment benefits, some of those who are working without a paycheck are considering borrowing money or dipping into retirement savings to make ends meet, he said.
"We all have bills, car payments, mortgages and medical payments to make," Cotter said.
Immigration court proceedings are largely shut down, too.
Rafael Sanchez has been waiting two years to make his case for a green card after he and his family from Bogota, Colombia, overstayed their U.S. tourist visa in 1997. Their New Hampshire court hearing scheduled for Wednesday (Oct. 9) was canceled because of the shutdown.
Sanchez's daughter Karina, a high school senior, is not sure how she'll be able to go to college. Without a green card, she won't qualify for financial aid.
Her father said that after coming from a country with so much corruption and violence, he doesn't understand why the leaders of this country of plenty can't work together. "At what point do the politicians think about how many lives are dependent on them?" he said.
Decisions on whether to delay civil cases vary district by district, and often, case by case.
— In New York, Preska issued an order stopping all civil cases, except civil forfeiture cases. An exception is the government's suit against Bank of America Corp. over high-risk mortgages sold before the financial crisis by Countrywide Financial, which the bank acquired in 2008.
— In Washington, the Justice Department was recently denied a request prompted by the shutdown to push back a November trial in its antitrust lawsuit aimed at blocking the merger of American Airlines and US Airways.
— In Pennsylvania, Justice Department attorneys have asked a judge to delay Geneva College's lawsuit challenging federal health care reform mandates that would require the Christian school to provide employee health insurance that covers forms of birth control it finds objectionable.
Attorneys for Geneva College say a delay is unfair unless the government also delays the reforms from taking effect Jan. 1.
If the shutdown goes on into the second half of October, juror reimbursement funds could run out — which would force courts to issue IOUs to jurors for their service. Courts may have to grapple with security issues: the U.S. Marshal service has been working without pay, but it's unclear how long that can continue, said Charlie Hall, a spokesman for the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.
Federal public defenders also are feeling the crunch, deferring an increasing number of cases to private attorneys — a practice that had already been in the rise due to cuts from the automatic budget cuts earlier this year.
But the fund to pay those attorneys ran out in September and the shutdown has made the situation worse, Hall said.
The courts' problems aren't bad news for everybody. In Montana, the environmental group Alliance for the Wild Rockies has seen three lawsuits delayed, including two challenging logging projects in national forests.
That suits alliance executive director Mike Garrity just fine. After all, if the courts can't operate, those forests won't be touched.
"Logging isn't occurring, so that is a good thing," he said.
- Created on 14 October 2013
BOSTON (AP) — In late May, Mery Daniel went back to Boylston Street.
Six weeks before, on April 15, she had joined the throng of spectators at the Boston Marathon. She'd treated herself to hot chocolate and a pancake at a cafe before heading alone to the finish line to cheer runners at the end of America's most famous race.
"This is where I was," she said, her wheelchair gliding to a stop outside the Marathon Sports store.
It was on this spot that everything changed — where twin pressure cooker bombs exploded, killing three people and injuring more than 260 others, including at least 16 people who lost a limb or limbs. It was on this spot where the world came to regard Daniel, a 31-year-old medical school graduate and Haitian immigrant, as a victim.
"God bless you," a young guitarist told Daniel outside Marathon Sports, before quickly taking his song somewhere else on the street.
Before the bombing, she had loved to roam and explore Boston, the city where she had become an American citizen five years earlier.
"Please save my legs," she had begged the doctors before blacking out in the operating room.
But they amputated her left leg above her knee before she woke up. It was the price she paid for her life. Her heart had stopped twice after she lost consciousness.
Daniel's wheelchair stood out when she returned to Boylston Street. Strangers saw her on the street, and a question flickered in some of their eyes: Was she one of the marathon bombing amputees?
She no longer could blend easily into a crowd, or go where she wanted when she wanted. But Daniel was determined to go forward without fear, and to see herself as a survivor, not a victim. To do that, she knew she would have to walk again.
Daniel heard the boom seconds after staking out a spot across from Boston Public Library's central branch.
Suddenly, she was on the ground, her lower left leg dangling by skin, its bone split open and arteries and nerves blown to bits. A pancreatic laceration left Daniel bleeding on the inside. Projectiles ravaged the rear of her right calf, and doctors had to cut away ruined muscles and tendons and graft skin from elsewhere on her body to repair what they could.
Daniel did not cry when she awoke from surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital. And she did not cry on all the days after, even when she went back to Boylston Street.
The kind of determination she would show in the aftermath of the bombing was not new. She had emigrated from Haiti just before turning 17, graduating from Brockton High School before attending University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She headed to Europe for medical school after college, doing some traveling when she wasn't studying.
Before the marathon, the international medical graduate had been studying for the last part of her medical boards so she could qualify to work as a doctor in the United States. She'd been thinking about pursuing psychiatry as her specialty.
But now, she turned all that energy to her recovery.
After leaving Massachusetts General, Daniel spent about three weeks at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, where she exercised for three hours a day.
But when the time came to leave, she couldn't go home. Before the marathon, Daniel had lived in a second-story apartment with her husband, Richardson, their 5-year-old daughter, and her husband's parents in Boston's Mattapan section. But the location wouldn't work with a wheelchair, forcing Daniel and her husband to move to a hotel near Spaulding for a while.
Without a permanent home, Daniel worked to transition from using a wheelchair to crutches, refusing to use a walker to smooth the way from one to the other. Going down stairs was especially tricky.
Sometimes she forgot her leg was gone and tried to get up. She also suffered constant phantom pains, sensations experts say start in the nervous system and cause discomfort that feels like it's coming from a missing limb. Sometimes she felt itchy on toes she didn't have anymore.
Daniel craved mobility and she wanted her family back together, and neither could come soon enough.
In late May, prosthetists made a plaster mold of her left leg above where her knee had been to help fashion her first artificial limb. A team from United Prosthetics worked on the casting at Spaulding on a day when some other marathon bombing amputees had the same procedure.
"I'm hoping you'll be back for prosthetic training in three to four weeks," said Spaulding physiatrist David Crandell, who'd treated 15 marathon amputees.
"Two to three weeks," Daniel told the doctor.
She was in a hurry, but the changes she wanted would not come fast or easily.
"Talk to me and breathe. I need you to breathe, OK?"
Prosthetist Paul Martino was trying to keep Daniel comfortable. It was early June and the time had come for her to stand on her own again.
Inside United Prosthetics in the city's Dorchester section, Martino helped her slide into the kind of socket that would encase the top of her left leg and connect to a replacement knee and foot to form her first artificial limb.
The fit was awkward at first and Daniel cringed with pain. She hadn't put any weight on her injured limb until then.
"Could I walk funny? I feel funny," she said.
Prosthetist Julianne Mason helped tweak the fit so Daniel could try some practice steps in a narrow hallway with support bars on both walls. When Martino closed a door, Daniel saw her new reflection in a mirror.
"That's you, standing up," he said.
"Hmmm," she said softly. "The bionic woman."
The prosthetists had her try two different knees, and Martino guided Daniel as she learned to shift her weight back and forth and begin to walk.
"Oh, I took a tiny step," Daniel said as she started down the hallway.
Still, even the most advanced technology was clumsy compared with the leg Daniel lost.
"I had one that worked perfectly," she'd told Martino.
"Yeah," he said. "You did."
But Daniel was getting messages of support from near and far. She'd met war veterans who'd had amputations and pro athletes who honored her before their games. President Barack Obama had come to her bedside at Massachusetts General, telling her not to lose hope.
The day after Daniel's first steps, children who rode the Weymouth school bus her father drove took part in a walkathon on her behalf that raised $8,275.
Daniel's custom-made prosthetic leg wasn't ready yet and she hadn't brought her crutches to the event. But she borrowed a pair and rose from her wheelchair that morning to lead hundreds of students for the first quarter-mile of their walk.
"Mery strong!" they shouted, pumping their small fists in the air.
As summer started, Daniel moved into an apartment in the city's South End. The first-floor unit was just steps from Cathedral of the Holy Cross, where the president rallied Bostonians three days after the marathon bombings and spoke about the recovery that survivors like Daniel would face.
"We will all be with you as you learn to stand, and walk, and yes, run again ...," Obama had said. "Your resolve is the greatest rebuke to whoever committed this heinous act."
As she exercised to build strength, Daniel tried to put distance between her journey and any thoughts about the bombing suspects, immigrants like herself. For her, the American way of life was about freedom. The evil she'd seen on Boylston Street was nothing she could understand. She'd leave it to the justice system to deal with innocence or guilt and to mete out punishment.
Sometimes, when Daniel and her husband went out, strangers recognized her from news reports and thanked her for serving as an inspiration. As she grew used to the new shape of her body, Richardson saw another change, too.
"She's more humble and accepts life the way it is and tries to move on," he said. "I like that."
Richardson had worked as a dermatologist in Haiti, and had a job helping autistic children in the Boston area. With his wife coping with physical challenges, more household and parenting duties fell to him. She still couldn't maneuver well enough to give their 5-year-old a bath, and Richardson's parents pitched in to help raise their grandchild.
Daniel's focus was two-fold: growing comfortable with her new, custom-made prosthetic and finding a job in the medical field that could help her land a residency after she passed her medical boards.
She went to Spaulding for two weeks of inpatient training on the man-made limb. It had a computerized knee, and Daniel's stride was robotic as she learned how to rebalance her body. The bulk also added 10 pounds to her frame.
But the device was what prosthetist Paul Martino had called a starter model, and Daniel tried to keep her expectations low. What mattered was she was walking again.
By the time autumn arrived, Daniel was leaving her crutches behind when she left her apartment.
She was venturing into Boston by herself in taxis and even considering riding mass transit again as the six-month anniversary of the bombings grew near. She also had participated in road races, riding a handcycle powered with her arms.
"A lot of the things that I used to do, I can no longer do them," Daniel said. "I don't say permanently, but for now. I'm still learning how to do little things, step by step."
Once in a while, she cracked open her books and did some studying for her medical boards. She'd had a job interview at a city hospital, and was hunting for a house for her family. Three siblings who also had lived in Haiti had come to live with Daniel and her husband, including a 14-year-old sister she'd enrolled in a Boston public high school.
The timing wasn't perfect, but Daniel took on the responsibility. They needed her, she said.
Others had been there for Daniel. Some of that support came by way of donations — including more than $1 million from The One Fund — to help her cope her injuries.
Daniel still went to physical therapy at Spaulding, working out both alone and with other marathon bombing amputees with whom she'd found fellowship and friendship.
And she returned to United Prosthetics, determined to swap the bulky socket of her prosthetic for a sleeker model that might let her wear skinny jeans again.
The prosthetists made another plaster cast of what remained of her left leg to make a second custom socket. Then they adjusted the microprocessor in her artificial knee to loosen her stride. Daniel even picked out a cosmetic cover for the metallic parts of her prosthetic that was designed to match her complexion.
"That's very important to me," she said.
Later, Daniel decided to stop for something to eat before she headed home. Her ride dropped her off near her apartment, and she walked a block to a South End cafe she'd come to like.
Then Daniel snagged a table out on the sidewalk, where she dined by herself as she took in the view, just another Bostonian enjoying a fine September afternoon.
- Created on 11 October 2013
In this Oct. 7, 2013, photo. the U.S. Capitol is reflected during rain in Washington. Americans are finding little they like about President Barack Obama or either political party, according to a new poll that suggests the possibility of a "throw the bums out" mentality in next year's midterm elections. (AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite)
WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans are fed up with Washington and spreading derision around to President Barack Obama and both political parties, according to a new poll that could sound a warning for incumbents of all political stripes going into next year's midterm election.
Negativity historically hurts the party in power — particularly when it occurs in the second term of a presidency — but this round seems to be hitting everyone, and Republicans even harder. The AP-GfK poll finds about 7 in 10 view the Republican Party and the tea party movement unfavorably, while about half have an unfavorable view of the president and his Democratic Party.
The numbers offer warning signs for every lawmaker running for re-election, and if these angry sentiments stretch into next year, the 2014 elections could feel much like the 2006 and 2010 midterms when being affiliated with Washington was considered toxic by many voters. In 2006, voters booted Republicans from power in the House and Senate, and in 2010, they fired Democrats who had been controlling the House.
"There needs to be a major change," said Pam Morrison, 56, of Lincoln, Neb., among those who were surveyed. "I'm anxious for the next election to see what kind of new blood we can get."
The poll taken Oct. 3-7 finds few people approve of the way Obama is handling most major issues, and most people say he's not decisive, strong, honest, reasonable or inspiring.
In the midst of the government shutdown and Washington gridlock, the president is faring much better than his party, with large majorities of those surveyed finding little positive to say about Democrats. The negatives are even higher for the Republicans across the board, with 4 out of 5 people describing the GOP as unlikeable and dishonest and not compassionate, refreshing, inspiring or innovative.
More people now say they see bigger differences between the two parties than before Obama was elected, yet few like what either side is offering. A big unknown: possible fallout from the unresolved budget battle in Washington.
Morrison describes herself as a conservative Republican and said she is very concerned about how her adult children are going to afford insurance under Obama's health care law. She places most of the blame for the shutdown on the president, but she also disapproves of the job Congress is doing. "I don't think they're working together," Morrison said.
"Congress needs to take a look at their salaries, they need to take a cut to their salaries and they need to feel some of the pain the American people are feeling," said Morrison, who is married to a government worker who, she said, has been deemed essential and is still on the job.
People across the political spectrum voiced disappointment.
Suzanne Orme, a 74-year-old retiree and self-described liberal who lives in California's Silicon Valley, says the shutdown is more the Republican Party's fault. "The Republicans seem to be a bunch of morons who aren't going to give in for anything. I just don't get it with them. They are just crazy," she said.
But she also said she strongly disapproves of the way Obama is handling his job and doesn't find him likable, decisive, strong, honest, compassionate, refreshing, ethical, inspiring or reasonable. The only positive attribute she gave him was innovative.
"It sounds like he's kind of weak. He says one thing and does another," Orme said after taking the survey. For example, she said Obama hasn't made good on his promise to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and changed his position on whether people should be penalized for failing to get health insurance.
"I voted for him, and he's turned out to be a big disappointment," she said. "I mean, what's the alternative?" Orme said it just seems to her that Washington is run by lobbyists and consumed by financial greed.
A bad sign for Democrats is that Obama has bled support among independents — 60 percent disapprove of the way Obama is handling his job, while only 16 percent approve. As he began his second term in January, independents tilted positive, 48 percent approved and 39 percent disapproved.
Obama has held onto support from Carol Cox, a 59-year-old independent from Hartville, Ohio, who says she feels the president helps people in need. She is happy to see his health care law that offers coverage to the uninsured and to people with pre-existing conditions, although she thinks the rollout could have been better. "I think he's doing an OK job," she said of the president.
But she is not happy with either party in Congress. She said the shutdown is affecting her family's investments, and she's concerned about the future of Social Security. "I'm really angry and frustrated. I can't believe how mad I am about this."
As for next year's congressional election, she said, "I would love to see just a total turnover."
The AP-GfK Poll was conducted Oct. 3-7, 2013, using KnowledgePanel, GfK's probability-based online panel. It involved online interviews with 1,227 adults and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points for all respondents.
The survey was designed to be representative of the U.S. population. Respondents to the survey were first selected randomly using phone or mail survey methods and later interviewed online. Those who didn't otherwise have access to the Internet were provided with the ability to get online at no cost.
- Created on 11 October 2013
(CNN) – Dr. Ben Carson, a renowned neurosurgeon enjoying recent popularity in the conservative movement, compared the federal health care law to "slavery" during a speech Friday at the Values Voter Summit, an annual conservative gathering in Washington.
"Obamacare is really, I think, the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. And it is – in a way, it is slavery, in a way," he said. "Because it is making all of us subservient to the government."
At the heart of his criticism is the law's requirement, beginning next year, for individuals to obtain health insurance or else face a penalty.
A longtime critic of the Affordable Care Act, Carson rose to fame earlier this year when he bashed Democratic policies on taxes and health care as he gave the keynote address at the National Prayer Breakfast. President Obama was sitting just feet away while he openly chided some of Obama's positions.
He argued Friday that the president's signature law "was never about health care."
"It was about control," he continued. "That's why when this administration took office it didn't matter that the country was going off the cliff economically. All forces were directed toward getting this legislation passed."
He said the Obama administration was 'neglecting' the Constitution and imposing "their own will" by picking and choosing which provisions of the health care law to enforce.
"When they give businesses exemptions but the common people they say, 'No, you have to do it, you know, that's not America," he said. "That's Russia. That's someplace else. How did we allow that to happen in this nation?"
He was referring to the administration's decision to delay for a year the employer mandate for businesses with more than 50 full-time employees. The individual mandate, however, is still scheduled to take effect in 2014.
As Carson gained more attention for his political views this year, some speculated he could run for public office–an option he hasn't ruled out.
But he sparked strong backlash in March when he equated homosexuality with pedophilia and bestiality during a television interview centered on same-sex marriage. Facing loud opposition, he apologized and withdrew from speaking gigs at Johns Hopkins medical school and an event for the American Academy of Physicians Assistants.
- Created on 10 October 2013
In an agony of stupidity, the government shuts down.
Only some of it shuts down, of course. The part that stays open is the part that's at war. "Those of you in uniform will remain on your normal duty status," the president said. "The threats to our national security have not changed, and we need you to be ready for any contingency. Ongoing...