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As Donald Trump continues to have tantrums (which he denies of course, because no one has a more even temper than President ShoutyMcRagepants) over WALL, some 800,000 federal employees are facing their first missed paycheck tomorrow, plus Crom only knows how many contract workers -- custodians, food service workers and others working for private firms -- who are out of work. And unlike federal employees, folks employed by contractors are just plain out of luck. When the shutdown's over, they won't get a cent of back pay. Thank goodness government agencies are offering helpful assistance like the Coast Guard, which advised furloughed staff they could always try having a garage sale, babysitting for people not in the Coast Guard, or turning their hobbies into paying work, assuming the market's primed for jobs in watching Netflix and masturbating. Let's see just how the government shutdown is freeing Americans from the heavy hand of health, safety, and other stuff that you'd never have to worry about in Galt's Gulch.


Check Your Own Damn Lettuce For E. Coli

The Food and Drug Administration has had to stop routine food inspections, not that there's anything to worry about there, as the New York Times reported yesterday.

F.D.A. inspectors normally examine operations at about 160 domestic manufacturing and food processing plants each week. Nearly one-third of them are considered to be at high risk of causing food-borne illnesses. Food-borne diseases in the United States send about 128,000 people to the hospital each year, and kill 3,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Agriculture Department, on the other hand, is continuing to inspect meat and poultry, although its inspectors are working without pay. Yes, we divide up food inspection duties strangely thanks to odd turf battles around the turn of the last century, as you fans of The Jungle might know. But for now, the 80 percent of food production FDA is responsible for is going uninspected. FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb wants to get about 150 food inspectors back to work (without pay) as soon as he can, but there are, of course, challenges:

"These are people who are now furloughed and can collect unemployment insurance or take a second job," he said. "If we pull them in and tell them they have to work, they can't collect. I have to make sure I'm not imposing an undue hardship."

Not all food inspectors have been sidelined; inspections of overseas products have continued, and domestic producers who pose an especially high risk because of recent violations are still being watched closely, if that makes you feel any better. Public health and consumer advocacy nonprofits are, naturally enough, worried the lack of inspections could lead to an outbreak, especially seeing as how we've had some dandy food scares even when the inspections were happening as normal.

Of special interest to Wonkette readers, one public health expert says you may want to be careful of fresh seafood:

Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said he was concerned about contaminated shellfish ending up on store shelves during the shutdown.

In particular, he said, consumers should watch out for clams, mussels, oysters and other bivalves that may come from contaminated water. "It can be very nasty stuff," said Dr. Rosenberg[.]

Look for an inspection certificate (like you'd know!), he warned. So hey, kids, may be time to throw basic human decency to the winds and go with canned clams.

Also too:


Your National Parks: Full Of Garbage And Corpses

Unlike in other shutdowns, Team Trump has brilliantly decided to keep national parks and recreation areas open, but largely unstaffed, because Donald Trump doesn't know much, but he remembers how all of rightwing media screamed at Barack Obama for tyrannically shutting down parks in 2013. And so most parks remain open, although some are rapidly filling up with garbage and shit (not the euphemism for "stuff" -- we mean shit, because restrooms are locked). The damage will cost millions to repair, but hey, the parks are open at least, and so far, only seven people have died in national parks during the shutdown. Not to worry, though -- people do die in parks during regular times, too; it's just that now sometimes the parks don't have anyone to announce the news, so step carefully.

The FBI's Hurting, So Maybe The Deep State Can Be Stopped

Trump has to be glad to hear that the FBI has taken a hit during the shutdown, with 5,000 agents and other workers (out of a workforce of 35,000) furloughed and some crime lab operations curtailed. Sadly for him, the Mueller investigation has not been affected, leading to sad headlines at Fox News. Where's the fairness in that?

Small Business Loans Screwed, Big Oil Doing GREAT

The Small Business Administration stopped processing all loan paperwork on December 23, leading to all sorts of disruption, like businesses losing money they've put into expansion plans that depended on normal approval of loans. The overall damage to the economy amounts to about $1.5 billion in losses per week, according to an estimate by JP Morgan. Hey, maybe someone should point that out to Trump and tell him that reopening the government would result in $1.5 billion in growth per week, which would magically pay for WALL, and he'd congratulate himself for winning.

Speaking of winners, while small businesses waiting on loans may be in trouble, the administration took extra special care to insulate the oil and gas industries from any shutdown unpleasantness, because fossil fuels are what America is really all about. The Bureau of Land Management is approving oil and gas drilling applications like clockwork and says it anticipates no slowdown at all, and by golly, the American Petroleum Institute is pleased as punch at how well the government continues to meet the industry's needs. Of course, the Interior Department has had to suspend some of its less important functions:

But elsewhere the department says it is not even accepting other sorts of filings — such as public-records requests from journalists, activists and other members of the public made under the Freedom of Information Act — due to the shutdown.

Which is fine, because when have FOIA requests ever been any good for the oil business anyway? Maybe we should let Exxon/Mobil run the government and never process another of those pesky do-gooders' requests again.

Jet Planes And Beer, Too

The aviation industry has faced its own troubles with the shutdown. Not only are TSA agents going without pay (and staging sick-outs in protest), the nation's air traffic controllers are also working without pay as well. Get ready for photos of these pay stubs on the news everywhere:

Pay stubs reading a net pay of zero dollars were distributed Thursday morning, including one for a controller at a major air traffic control hub outside of Washington, D.C. shared with POLITICO.

Beyond workers going unpaid and calling in sick and making airports even more hellish, the FAA isn't inspecting new jets coming off assembly lines, so airlines can't put them into service. New pilots and air traffic controllers can't be certified, either. (Don't worry, existing jets are still getting safety inspections -- that's one of those "essential" but unpaid operations.) Bummer for airlines that had planned to start new routes and services, though -- with new jets sitting uninspected at manufacturers, both Southwest and Delta say they'll have to delay some new routes.

Oh, but the beer. Stories about the plight of breweries unable to roll out new varieties of beer -- a big deal in the very competitive and seasonal craft beer biz -- are all over the place. As Vice (finally true to its name) points out, this is bad for beer lovers, because ATF's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) is of course shut down, and that means

TTB will not be approving labels for new beers or processing any permits, so there will be NO NEW BEERS for the duration of the shutdown. (Beers produced by small breweries or brewpubs that won't be shipped outside of the state where they're produced don't require the TTB's approval...BUT STILL.)

On top of that, many small brewers may also be hit by the freeze in processing those small business loans, putting their businesses at even greater risk. Brewers who were looking for new lines to cover much of their sales in January will just plain be out of luck, and dear god, does this mean some people will have to drink Coors? (No. Things can never get that dire.)

Fortunately, Donald Trump is heading out to Texas for a border visit he actually resents being talked into, so at least that teetotalling fucker will suffer a little, too.

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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We want to say right here at the outset that we hate Julian Assange. Aside from the sexual assault allegations against him, and aside from the fact that he's just a generally stinky and loathsome person who reportedly smeared poop on the walls at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, while reportedly not taking care of his cat, an innocent creature, he acted as Russia's handmaiden during the 2016 election, in order to further Russia's campaign to steal it for Donald Trump. All signs point to his campaign being a success!

So we are justifiably happy when bad things happen to Julian Assange. We are happy his name is shit the world over, and that any reputation WikiLeaks used to have for being on the side of freedom and transparency has been stuffed down the toilet where it belongs. We are happy he looked like such a sad-ass loser when the Ecuadorian embassy finally kicked him out and he was arrested.

And quite frankly, we were OK with the initial charge against him recently unsealed in the Eastern District of Virginia. If you'll remember, he was charged with trying to help Chelsea Manning hack a password into the Defense Department, which is not what journalists do. Journalists do not drive the get-away car for sources. Journalists do not hold their sources' hair back while they're stealing classified intel. Assange is essentially accused of doing all that.

Now, put all that aside. Because -- and this is key -- journalists do publish secrets they are provided by sources. That's First Amendment, chapter and verse, American as fucking apple pie and fast-food-induced diabetes. And that is what much of the superseding indictment of Assange unsealed yesterday was about. (And nope, it wasn't about anything regarding Assange's ratfucking the 2016 election or Hillary's emails. Why would the Trump Justice Department prosecute anything about that? It's all about the older Chelsea Manning stuff, the stuff the Obama Justice Department considered charging Assange with, but ultimately declined, because of that little thing called the First Amendment.)

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The pharmaceutical giant Gilead Sciences, Inc. -- heck of a name for these times -- recently announced US sales of a generic version of its HIV prevention drug Truvada would begin a year earlier than originally planned. The stepped-up schedule for the generic was at least in part the result of pressure from activists, who have made a lot of noise about the fact that Gilead's huge revenues from Truvada -- about $3 billion annually -- came only after the basic research for the drug was done at taxpayer expense, largely through grants from the Centers for Disease Control, which holds the patent on the drug.

At a House Oversight Committee hearing last week, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez let one of the witnesses, Gilead CEO Daniel O'Day, know she wasn't personally blaming him or his greed for the high cost of the drug, which prevents the spread of HIV through "pre-exposure prophylaxis" (PrEP). No, that's all a result of the terrible incentives that come from the fact that the US, alone among developed countries, treats healthcare as a commodity, not a right for all. Which is why a monthly supply of Truvada costs nearly $1800 here, and roughly eight dollars in Australia.

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