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As of press time, many places like the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History were closed.
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Top Photo: As of press time, many places like the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History were closed.  Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons photo

Politics Shut Down Federal Government

January has been a big month in the nation’s capital and across the country.

A partial government shutdown that began onDec. 22, 2018, continued into the new year. This means that about 25 percent, or 800,000, federal employees have been in unpaid status since the shutdown. Some are FURLOUGHED, meaning they cannot go to work, while others are being required to work without pay until the shutdown is resolved.

The shutdown is not just a problem for the federal workers who aren’t receiving a paycheck. There are others who are being affected as well—from people who cannot visit the National Parks and the Smithsonian because they were forced to close due to the lack of funding to local businesses that rely on the business of government workers during the week.

The shutdown may become a bigger problem for more people if it continues to drag on. January is the time when many people start filing their taxes and some people receive a refund from the federal government. While the IRS will be accepting tax returns, refunds will be delayed during the shutdown—which could cause lots of frustration for people around the country who rely on that money to pay bills.

Our state also made big news earlier this month in the nation’s capital. On Jan. 3, two women were sworn in to represent Arizona in the Senate: Kyrsten Sinema,who won the November election, and Martha McSally, who was appointed by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to fill Sen. John McCain’s seat. Sinema is the first woman elected to represent Arizona in the Senate, but she was not the only member of Congress to make history on Jan. 3. Marsha Blackburn became the first female senator from Tennessee, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortezbecame the youngest woman ever in Congress, Kansas and New Mexico sent the first Native American women to Congress, and Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar became the first Muslim congresswomen.

Elusive Marsupial Is Spotted in Indonesi

Wondiwoi tree kangaroo

Can you imagine what it would be like to spot an animal that hasn’t been seen in nearly 100 years?

A tourist and amateur botanist from England may have done just that when he photographed what scientists believe is a rare tree kangaroo that hasn’t been seen since 1928.

The Wondiwoi tree kangaroo was assumed to be extinct until Michael Smith photographed a creature high in the trees of the Wondiwoi Mountains in Indonesia last summer. Smith and his group traveled to an elevation of more than 5,000 feet in dense forest when they started seeing signs of a tree kangaroo: scratch marks on tree trunks and dung.

Tree kangaroos are tropical marsupials and close relatives to wallabies and ground-dwelling kangaroos. They weigh up to 35 pounds and have muscular forearms to pull themselves up tree trunks. They remain surprisingly well hidden in tree canopies and are hard to spot.

Smith and his group were feeling discouraged on their search and were beginning to turn back and head down the mountain when Smith spotted what he thought might be a Wondiwoi tree kangaroo. He was able to snap a few excellent photos and reached out to several experts on tree kangaroos before he made his finding public.

Experts seem to think there is little doubt that the shy little creature is a Wondiwoi tree kangaroo. Smith’s images were clear and show a distinctive coat color. Plus, the Wondiwoi Mountains are miles away from a suitable habitat for related kangaroos. It’s thought that the Wondiwoi tree kangaroo has a very limited habitation area, perhaps just 40 to 80 square miles.

However, scientists at Global Wildlife Conservation are working to confirm the sighting. They are attempting to obtain permits to verify the critter’s identity through DNA sampling and protect it with conservation safeguards. Here’s hoping the shy and elusive little critter is in fact the Wondiwoi tree kangaroo and that it’s safe in the tree tops!