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Shutdown spawns national Internet glitches

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013 1:15 a.m. CST

WASHINGTON – Gaps in the national government’s web presence rippled through the world wide web Tuesday, from the Library of Congress and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to NASA and the National Park Service.

Some websites were shuttered completely. Many were operating at reduced capacity. Blunt messages and apologies were the order of the day.

“Due to the temporary shutdown of the federal government, the Library of Congress is closed to the public and researchers beginning October 1, 2013 until further notice,” the library website’s home page announced. “All public events are cancelled and web sites are inaccessible except the legislative information sites THOMAS.gov and beta.congress.gov.”

NASA was just as direct.

“Sorry, but we won’t be tweeting/responding to replies during the government shutdown,” the space agency’s Twitter feed announced. “Be back as soon as possible.”

Practically irrelevant during the government shutdown some 17 years ago, it was a different story with many federal websites Tuesday.

Evie Polsley felt the Internet glitches in her professional and personal lives.

Polsley, media specialist for Loyola University Health System, found that the Centers for Disease Control’s website was not updating its flu surveillance, a service that helps physicians and other medical professionals track the disease’s movement nationally.

“What it affects is the longer term,” Polsley said. “We’re not going to have that knowledge of, ‘this is what’s coming; this is what’s affecting other states.’ It’s the overall big picture.”

Like many, Polsley also was concerned about national landmarks that may remain closed if the shutdown extends for several weeks. She, her husband, and the couple’s 5-year-old daughter, Ellie – a “huge fan of Abraham Lincoln” – are planning a trip to Washington, D.C., later this month. Ellie has been anticipating a visit to the Lincoln Memorial.

The family had begun detailed planning of what they will visit and when. But that preparation has nearly ground to a halt, Polsley said.

The National Park Service closed its 401 parks and monuments, as well as its web pages, where curious travelers normally can research their next destinations and view park alerts. After a short note, nps.gov redirects to the Interior Department’s website.

Visitors to whitehouse.gov were greeted with a notice that information on the site might not be up to date. “Some submissions may not be processed,” it read, “and we may not be able to respond to your inquiries.”

People researching on the Census Bureau’s website also were stopped short.

“Due to the lapse in government funding, census.gov sites, services, and all online survey collection requests will be unavailable until further notice,” it read.

Social Security’s website was up but certain services were black, including a page for sending health and school records electronically.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics flashed a special notice that read: “This website is currently not being updated due to the suspension of Federal government services. During the shutdown period BLS will not collect data, issue reports, or respond to public inquiries. Updates to the site will start again when the Federal government resumes operations.”

The Smithsonian’s web presence was available but offered an alert that all museums and the National Zoo were closed. A popular feature on the zoo’s website, its live animal cameras, showed an error message in place of video of the zoo’s baby giant panda.

“The cams require federal resources, primarily staff, to run and broadcast,” a message on the site read. “They’ve been deemed non-essential during the shutdown.”

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(Clemons is a reporter for the Tribune Washington Bureau; Gregory for the Chicago Tribune.)

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©2013 Tribune Co.

Visit Tribune Co. at www.latimes.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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Topics: t000003086,t000012820,t000043897

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