Explained: What does a partial shutdown of the U.S. government mean? – National


WASHINGTON — As President Donald Trump and Congress bicker over Trump’s call for $5 billion to build a border wall with Mexico, government agencies are preparing for a partial government shutdown set to begin at midnight Friday.

U.S. House approves $5.7 billion in spending for Trump’s border wall

The dispute could affect nine of 15 Cabinet-level departments and dozens of agencies, including the departments of Homeland Security, Transportation, Interior, Agriculture, State and Justice, as well as national parks and forests. More than 800,000 federal employees would see their jobs disrupted, including more than half who would be forced to continue working without pay.

WATCH: The American people do not want a wall: Democrats argue against ‘fence in the desert’

Work goes on

Social Security checks will still go out. Troops will remain at their posts. Doctors and hospitals will get their Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements. In fact, virtually every essential government agency, like the FBI, the Border Patrol and the Coast Guard, will remain open. Transportation Security Administration officers will continue to man airport checkpoints.

But hundreds of thousands of federal workers will be forced off the job, and some services will go dark. Even after funding is restored, the political repercussions could be enduring.

According to a report by Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee, more than 420,000 federal employees deemed essential would continue to work without pay during a partial shutdown, including about 41,000 law enforcement and corrections officers and nearly 150,000 Homeland Security employees. Those working without pay — three days before Christmas — would include about 53,000 TSA workers, 54,000 Customs and Border Protection agents and officers and 42,000 Coast Guard employees.

READ MORE: Trump appears to back off $5B demand for border wall to avoid government shutdown

As many as 5,000 Forest Service firefighters and 3,600 National Weather Service employees also would continue working, with the expectation that they will be paid back in full once the government reopens.

Meanwhile, more than 380,000 employees will be furloughed — including nearly all of NASA and Housing and Urban Development and 41,000 Commerce Department employees. About 16,000 National Park Service employees — 80 per cent of the agency’s workforce — would be furloughed, and many parks would close. Some parks already are closed for the winter.

Among those set to be furloughed: 52,000 staffers at the Internal Revenue Service, slowing analysis and collection of hundreds of thousands of tax returns and audits.

Who works and who doesn’t

The rules for who works and who doesn’t date back to the early 1980s and haven’t been significantly modified since. The Trump administration is relying mostly on guidance left over from former President Barack Obama.

Under a precedent-setting memorandum by Reagan budget chief David Stockman, federal workers are exempted from furloughs if their jobs are national security-related or if they perform essential activities that “protect life and property.”

The air traffic control system, food inspection, Medicare, veterans’ health care and many other essential government programs would run as usual. The Federal Emergency Management Agency could continue to respond to disasters.

WATCH: ‘President is plunging the nation into chaos’: Schumer on shutdown

On the other hand, the Washington Monument and many other iconic park service attractions would close, as would museums along the National Mall. In the past, the vast majority of national parks were closed to visitors and campers, but during the last government shutdown in January the Interior Department tried to make parks as accessible as possible despite bare-bones staffing levels. It was not clear Monday if that effort will be repeated.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who greeted visitors at the World War II Memorial and other sites in downtown Washington during the last shutdown, said Saturday he is stepping down at the end of the year.

Federal workers still get paid (eventually)

While they can be kept on the job, federal workers can’t get paid for days worked while there is a lapse in funding. In the past, however, they have been repaid retroactively even if they were ordered to stay home.

Rush hour in downtown Washington, meanwhile, becomes a breeze. Tens of thousands of federal workers are off the roads.

Shutdowns happen

Way back in the day, shutdowns usually weren’t that big a deal. They happened every year when Jimmy Carter was president, averaging 11 days each. During Reagan’s two terms, there were six shutdowns, typically just one or two days apiece. Deals got cut. Everybody moved on.

U.S. Senate passes legislation to avoid shutdown — it doesn’t include $5B in border wall money

Before a three-day lapse in January, caused by Democrats’ insistence that any budget measure come with protections for young immigrants known as “dreamers,” the most recent significant shutdown was a 16-day partial shuttering of the government in 2013. That one came as tea party conservatives tried to block implementation of Obama’s health care law. The government also shut for a few hours last February amid a partisan dispute over deficit spending.

Long-lasting political repercussions

In a 1995-96 political battle, Democratic President Bill Clinton bested Speaker Newt Gingrich and his band of budget-slashing conservatives, who were determined to use a shutdown to force Clinton to sign onto a balanced budget agreement. Republicans were saddled with the blame, but most Americans suffered relatively minor inconveniences like closed parks and delays in processing passport applications. The fight bolstered Clinton’s popularity and he sailed to re-election that November.

WATCH: Trump says he doesn’t want ‘concrete’ border wall, he wants ‘artistically designed steel slats’

In 2013, the tea party Republicans forced the shutdown over the better judgment of GOP leaders like Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. Republicans tried to fund the government piecemeal, but a broader effort faltered. Republicans eventually backed down and supported a round of budget talks led by Paul Ryan, R-Wis., then the House Budget Committee chairman.

Now, as House speaker himself, Ryan is struggling to head off a shutdown just days before his long-announced retirement. Democrats led by California Rep. Nancy Pelosi take over the House on Jan. 3.


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All the Types of Cinnamon, Explained


From here on out, your life will be split into two periods: the time before you read this article and the time after. Before, you were young and naive, an amateur in the world of cinnamon. After, well, after you read this, you’re going to be a cinnamon professional, a walking, talking cinnamon encyclopedia. You’ll know that all cinnamon isn’t the same. That there are different types of cinnamon that originate from and grow in different places. And they all taste a bit different from one another.

Cinnamon is separated into two main categories: cassia cinnamon and Ceylon cinnamon. While both are harvested in sheets found beneath the bark of trees belonging to the same scientific family, they produce distinctly different products. The two types of cinnamon are differentiated by the way they are harvested, their taste, their smell, and the chemical compounds found within them. Let’s start with the most commonly available version: cassia cinnamon.

Cassia cinnamon is what you probably know as cinnamon, the ground red-brown powder that’s found in spice cabinets and suburban grocery stores across the country and the world. Before it’s ground, when it’s in bark-like form, cassia cinnamon is rougher in texture, darker in color, and rolled in thicker sheets than Ceylon cinnamon. Cassia cinnamon’s potency is what made it the go-to for home cooks and industrial producers—it has a more intense flavor, so a little bit of that special powder goes a long way.

There are three specific types of cassia cinnamon—Indonesian, Chinese, and Saigon—all with different levels of flavor and situations that they are best suited for. Indonesian cassia is the sweetest and most mild of the cassia cinnamons, and is the most common in America. Chinese cassia, on the other hand has a strong, bitter flavor. Chinese cassia isn’t as common in the States, and is mainly used medicinally in China. And then there’s Saigon cassia, which is intensely fragrant and flavorful, almost spicy, and generally our preferred cassia variety.

morning buns lede beauty

Photo by Alex Lau

Ceylon cinnamon really shines in spice-forward baked goods like morning buns.

Now, let’s talk about Ceylon cinnamon, a variety sometimes referred to « true » cinnamon » and native to Sri Lanka. If you ask us, this is the good stuff, and like most good things, it’s a little more expensive and a little harder to find at your standard-issue grocery store. When Ceylon cinnamon is harvested, the sheets that are taken from the tree are usually processed by hand and rolled into flat layers that are much thinner and finer in texture than those rolled from cassia cinnamon.

And then there’s the taste. Ceylon cinnamon’s flavor and aroma are extremely mild and delicate—it definitely reads as « cinnamon, » but with subtle, almost floral notes in there. Tasting Ceylon cinnamon is like listening to your favorite vinyl record on a $4,000 stereo system, from the comfort of a leather Eames lounge chair, while cassia cinnamon is like listening to an mp3 version of the same album on the stereo in your friend Steve’s 1993 Honda Civic. You can still appreciate the music in the car, but…the chair. That’s where you want to be.

Some people will tell you that that cassia cinnamon is « fake » cinnamon and Ceylon cinnamon is real cinnamon. This is not true. They are both real types of cinnamon, but we’re inclined to think that Ceylon is a higher quality spice across the board. Using cassia cinnamon is totally fine, but Ceylon cinnamon is definitely worth seeking out, especially if you’re a cinnamon-flavored dessert enthusiast. For the sake of your taste buds, your food, and the speakers in your friend Steve’s Honda Civic. Everyone wins.

And then use that cinnamon in some banana pudding:



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Ticketmaster’s ‘TradeDesk’ scalper tool explained


Days after two senior U.S. senators asked the world’s biggest entertainment monopoly to answer pointed questions about its role in the mass scalping of tickets — in response to a Toronto Star/CBC investigation — Ticketmaster’s president has provided the first public mea culpa to the “explosive” revelations.

“The allegations of the harms to consumers made in this piece are serious and deserve immediate attention,” wrote senators Jerry Moran and Richard Blumenthal in a letter to the CEO of Ticketmaster’s parent company, Live Nation, on Friday. “Given our ongoing interest in protecting consumers from unfair and deceptive practices, we seek clarification on the use of this program.”

In an interview with Billboard magazine published Monday, Ticketmaster president Jared Smith conceded his company isn’t effectively policing its TradeDesk platform.
In an interview with Billboard magazine published Monday, Ticketmaster president Jared Smith conceded his company isn’t effectively policing its TradeDesk platform.  (Ticketmaster)

In an interview with Billboard magazine published Monday, Ticketmaster boss Jared Smith conceded his company isn’t effectively policing its TradeDesk platform, where scalpers with multiple Ticketmaster accounts can upload and resell industrial-scale inventories of seats to major sports and concert events — in breach of the company’s own rules.

“There’s clearly some things that we’re not doing well enough,” said Smith.

Ticketmaster has never granted the Star and CBC an on-the-record interview despite multiple requests. But company executives have embarked on a public relations offensive to quell widespread consumer anger as the story spreads into the U.S. media.

In response to the congressmen’s questions, the Star has gathered company records and public comments — along with the investigation’s hidden camera findings — to detail what we know so far.

Here are the senators’ four questions:

1. Describe the event ticket-purchasing limits that Ticketmaster currently employs for sales on its primary ticket sales platform. Additionally, how does the company identify computer programs used to circumvent these purchasing limits?

Ticketmaster’s general terms of use prohibit customers from buying “a number of tickets for an event that exceeds the stated limit for that event.” That limit, posted when tickets go on sale, is typically six or eight seats per buyer.

“If we identify breaches of these limits … we reserve the right to cancel any such orders … Use of automated means to purchase tickets is strictly prohibited,” the rules state.

On Monday, Smith, who is Ticketmaster’s president of North American operations, said: “We spend a ton of money and a ton of time doing things like building software that prevents bots from buying tickets … We have gotten pretty effective at blocking people from buying lots of tickets, and we take it seriously.”

In the past, Ticketmaster has said it blocked more than five billion purchase attempts by bots in 2016. In short, Ticketmaster says it is rigorous about limiting box office sales to ensure fans get a fair shot at seeing the sports teams and artists they love.

2. Do Ticketmaster’s ticket-purchasing limits and associated detection practices apply to users of its online program, TradeDesk? If not, please explain.

“We probably don’t do enough to look into TradeDesk,” Smith said. “The reality is, yeah, (TradeDesk users) could have more than their ticket limit.”

Toronto Star reporter Robert Cribb went undercover at a ticket scalper convention in Las Vegas in July.
Toronto Star reporter Robert Cribb went undercover at a ticket scalper convention in Las Vegas in July.  (CBC)

When undercover reporters from the Star and CBC asked TradeDesk sales representatives if they could use multiple Ticketmaster accounts — a violation of Ticketmaster’s rules — they were told TradeDesk does not monitor or care how their users obtain their tickets.

“We don’t spend any time looking at your Ticketmaster.com account. I don’t care what you buy. It doesn’t matter to me,” said one TradeDesk employee at the Ticket Summit 2018 scalper conference in Las Vegas. “I have a gentleman who’s got over 200 Ticketmaster.com accounts right into the point of sale, who syncs his tickets in every day.”

Smith distanced the company from statements made by two of his TradeDesk salespeople on separate occasions.

“We absolutely do not turn a blind eye to the misuse of our products,” he said. “We absolutely don’t condone what he said. What he said doesn’t represent our policies. It doesn’t represent … who we are.”

But he also acknowledged the company needs to be more vigilant about ensuring TradeDesk clients aren’t gaming the system.

Scalpers who use multiple Ticketmaster accounts — each with a different name and credit card number — can circumvent ticket purchasing limits.

“Do some individuals have too many accounts? That’s where we need to make sure that we’re diligent and regularly checking on the backside … to ensure that 100 per cent of those tickets are sourced cleanly and within our policy.”

Smith did not explain why Ticketmaster built into its TradeDesk tool a way to circumvent its own rules — a feature that allows resellers to synchronize multiple Ticketmaster accounts for quick and efficient resale in the secondary marketplace.

“If you’ve got 100 Ticketmaster.com accounts and you’re out there buying inventory, the system is automatically going to sync them and move them over to create the (resale) listing,” said the TradeDesk sales executive in Las Vegas. “It’s pushing it over for you … That’s the way we’re going. That’s what we’re investing our money in.”

3. What are the specific rules and processes of compliance for participating TradeDesk users as it relates to ticket purchasing limits and other relevant consumer protection priorities? Please share any documents and guidance materials that are provided to TradeDesk users.

It appears that Ticketmaster’s rules don’t apply to those using TradeDesk, the Star/CBC investigation found.

“We’ve spent millions of dollars on this tool, so the last thing we’d want to do is, you know, get brokers caught up to where they can’t sell inventory with us,” a different TradeDesk staffer told Star and CBC reporters who signed up as scalpers for a TradeDesk demonstration last March.

In Las Vegas, undercover reporters asked a sales executive how many TradeDesk users have multiple Ticketmaster accounts.

Robert Cribb explains why and how reporters get hidden camera footage.

“I’d say pretty damn near every one of them. I can’t think of any of my clients that aren’t using multiple (accounts),” the sales representative said. “I don’t care what you buy. It doesn’t matter to me. I’m more concentrating on, are you getting good sell-through.”

“The policing of bots, going after those types of things, falls completely on the primary side. We have no input on it, no involvement with it …” he said.

In the Billboard interview, Smith vowed to review all TradeDesk accounts.

“Can we do more? Yes, we can do more. We’re going to look at all of those accounts and make sure that we’ve got tighter practices in place to identify suspicious activity.”

4. What role does Ticketmaster’s professional reseller handbook play in deterring its resellers from engaging in illegal ticket purchasing activities?

A copy of the handbook, obtained by the Star and CBC, does not contain the terms “ticket limit” or “purchase limit.”

There is no mention of any penalties for breaking ticket buying limits, nor is it even clear that the general terms and conditions for Ticketmaster.com apply to TradeDesk.

In the discipline section, the only transgressions mentioned are inaccurate description of a seat, failure to deliver a ticket and customer complaints.

In addition, Ticketmaster rewards mass sales with discounts on its commission for scalpers who reach $500,000 and $1 million in sales.

Robert Cribb is a Toronto-based investigative reporter. Follow him on Twitter: @thecribby

Marco Chown Oved is a Toronto-based investigative reporter. Follow him on Twitter: @marcooved


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