Outside the Bubble 11/7/13

 Shooting in Los Angeles Airport

On Friday, Nov. 1, 23-year-old Paul Ciancia entered Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) with a .223-caliber assault rifle disguised in his luggage, according to CNN. After killing one man and wounding three others, Ciancia was shot four times by LAX police officers and remained hospitalized in critical condition on November 3 (CNN, “LAX shooting: Latest on suspect, victims and warning that may have come too late”, 11.4.13).

On the departure level of LAX’s Terminal 3, near the ticket counters, Ciancia removed his weapon and shot Transport Security Administration (TSA) Officer Gerardo Hernandez, 39, twice, killing him. Hernandez is the first TSA officer ever to die in the line of duty. The El Salvador native was known by friends as a family man and leaves behind a widow and two children (Associated Press, Gerardo Hernandez, slain TSA officer, remembered as a family man, 11.3.13).

Ciancia went upstairs, looking for TSA officers and asking the travelers who had not been able to run away, “Are you TSA?” (CNN, LAX shooting: Latest on suspect, victims and warning that may have come too late, 11.4.13). While TSA officers are unarmed, airport police officers responded in one minute, wounding and arresting Ciancia. A wounded traveler, Brian Ludmer, 29, was reported to be hospitalized in fair condition on November 3. Two wounded TSA officers (Tony Grigsby, 36, and James Speer, 54) have both been released from the hospital. (CBS News, The LAX shootings, as they happened, 11.4.13).

Although Ciancia has no history of mental illness, his family in New Jersey became concerned on the morning of the shooting after receiving vague but disturbing text messages from Ciancia. They contacted police, who did not arrive at Ciancia’s home until after he had left (CNN, LAX shooting: Latest on suspect, victims and warning that may have come too late, 11.4.13).

Investigators are still looking for a motive. President of the American Federation of Government Employees, J. David Cox, stated that he was opposed to arming TSA officers who are not recruited or trained for firearms skills. TSA Administrator John Pistole says that the TSA will continue to evaluate their policies to prevent these violent incidents.

 

Healthcare Website Opens

On Oct. 1, HealthCare.gov opened to the public, allowing those from the 36 states which didn’t create their own online healthcare exchanges to shop for health insurance and take advantage of the Affordable Care Act, nicknamed “Obamacare”. Since the website became available to the public, the federal government has faced criticism over the various glitches and malfunctions on the website. (Washington Post, What went wrong with HealthCare.gov, 10.24.13).

Problems in using the website may have stemmed from the use of so many contractors, as well as from its need to get information from the computer systems of a myriad of governmental and private agencies for purposes like identity verification and financial information. The issues include the inability to shop for plans without creating an account, intermittent break downs, and incorrect information. These lapses in service have caused headaches for the Obama administration, which has received criticism from frustrated users and Republican opponents of the Affordable Care Act.

The Department of Health and Human Services announced on November 3 that the website will go offline every night between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. to be repaired. (Time Magazine, Obamacare Website to go Offline Every Night for Fix, 11.4.13). In the meantime, paper applications are available to consumers. However, the paper versions still require some use of the HealthCare.gov system and will not necessarily speed the process (Wall Street Journal, Obamacare Notes Show Worries About Pushing Paper Applications, 11.4.13). Despite the possible false sense of progress instilled by paper applications, HealthCare.gov seems to be becoming more vocal about the alternatives to the most troublesome parts of the website.

On Nov. 4, Health and Human Services spokeswoman Joanne Peters told the Wall Street Journal that significant progress has been made toward improving HealthCare.gov since its launch. Citizens across the nation continue to enroll via phone, paper and the internet.

 

—Elizabeth Dean, Guest Reporter

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