World News

U.S. Government Begins Shutdown

The U.S. government has enacted a partial shutdown for the first time in 17 years, after the two branches of Congress failed by the October 1st deadline to agree on a single spending bill to keep the government operating.

Thousands of federal workers are arriving at their jobs and being told they are on furlough and being sent home.

Other federal workers, considered essential, are being told to stay on the job but there is no guarantee when they will be payed.

The shutdown comes on the first day of open enrollment for health care plans according to the Affordable Care Act, the controversial U.S. health care reform nicknamed "Obamacare."

Three times on Monday, the Republican-led House of Representatives approved a spending bill that would delay enactment of the new health plan, and in all three cases, the Democratic-controlled Senate rejected it minutes later.

Shortly before midnight, White House Budget Director Sylvia Burwell issued a directive to federal agencies to "execute plans for an orderly shutdown."

While the shutdown will not affect the schedule of Voice of America broadcasts, it does mandate the furlough of an estimated 800,000 U.S. federal workers. Agencies affected will include national parks, traffic safety agencies, and the Defense Department -- mainly the furlough of its civilian employees. Homeland Security agents and border security offices will remain open, as well as other law enforcement agencies. Enrollment for "Obamacare" will also begin as scheduled.

In a video statement early Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama said members of the U.S. military will remain on duty and ongoing military operations like those in Afghanistan will continue. He said he plans to sign into law a bill that will ensure members of the military are paid on time. Mr. Obama also pledged to work to get Congress to reopen the government.

Experts say a shutdown of more than two weeks is likely to slow down an already sluggish economy, through reduced tourism cash flow and furloughed federal workers curtailing their personal spending.

Later Tuesday, President Obama will speak about provisions of the health care program that are being activated despite the shutdown. Many Americans who lack healthcare insurance will be able to sign up for subsidized policies on newly created insurance exchanges.

Earlier, the president said shutting down the government is the height of irresponsibility and throws a wrench into the gears of a recovering economy.

He accused House Republicans who want to defund his health care program of appealing to the right-wing Tea Party faction and re-fighting the 2012 presidential election.

The president said the entire country would feel the effects of a government shutdown -- not just federal employees who would not get paid, but citizens who rely on sometimes life-saving government services.

Mr. Obama stressed that his health care program is the law of the land -- passed by Congress, approved by voters, and upheld by the Supreme Court. He said the law will be implemented Tuesday no matter what Congress does.

He rejected proposals to postpone Obamacare, saying it would lead to another fight just a few months from now.

Democrats say the health care law gives low-income families and people without health insurance the chance to buy a low-cost, federally subsidized policy to prevent financial ruin in case of serious illness.

Republicans say the program is confusing and not ready. They also say the law hurts the economy by imposing more taxes and by forcing small businesses to provide coverage for their employees.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs