VIDEO: Today's Headline News from Associated Press
GOV’T MOVES BACK TO BUSINESS
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Barriers came down at federal memorials and National Park Service sites and thousands of furloughed federal workers - relieved but wary - returned to work across the country Thursday after 16 days off the job due to the partial government shutdown.
Among the sites reopening were Yosemite National Park in California, the Smithsonian Institution's network of popular museums, and the World War II memorial in Washington, which had been the scene of protests over the shutdown.
"Just to be able to get back to serving the public is so important," said Greg Bettwy, preparing to return to work with the Smithsonian's human resource department.
For other returning workers, shutdown-related frustration turned to elation at being back on the job. Some confronted backlogs of email and paperwork; others voiced concern that a gridlocked Congress might trigger another shutdown in January.
"The phrase everyone is talking about is `kicking the can down the road,'" said Richard Marcus of Silver Spring, Md., who has worked at the National Archives and Records Administration for 29 years. "We'd hate to have to live through this all over again."
National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis said all 401 national park units - from Golden Gate National Recreation Area in California to Acadia National Park in Maine - were expected to reopen Thursday. The reopenings include tour roads, trails, visitor centers and other facilities at the park sites. Educational programs will resume, and permits will again be issued for special activities, Jarvis said.
Also reopening are dozens of programs that preserve nature and historic sites and improve access to outdoor recreation in local communities. And the U.S. Forest Service started lifting a ban on national forests. American Forest Resource Council President Tom Partin said national forest campgrounds would reopen as soon as employees could visit to make sure they're clean and safe.
The federal workers who were furloughed or worked without pay during the shutdown will get back pay in their next paychecks, which for most employees come Oct. 29.
1.8M-YEAR-OLD SKULL GIVES GLIMPSE OF OUR EVOLUTION
DMANISI, Georgia (AP) -- The discovery of a 1.8-million-year-old skull of a human ancestor buried under a medieval Georgian village provides a vivid picture of early evolution and indicates our family tree may have fewer branches than some believe, scientists say.
The fossil is the most complete pre-human skull uncovered. With other partial remains previously found at the rural site, it gives researchers the earliest evidence of human ancestors moving out of Africa and spreading north to the rest of the world, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Science.
The skull and other remains offer a glimpse of a population of pre-humans of various sizes living at the same time - something that scientists had not seen before for such an ancient era. This diversity bolsters one of two competing theories about the way our early ancestors evolved, spreading out more like a tree than a bush.
Nearly all of the previous pre-human discoveries have been fragmented bones, scattered over time and locations - like a smattering of random tweets of our evolutionary history. The findings at Dmanisi are more complete, weaving more of a short story. Before the site was found, the movement from Africa was put at about 1 million years ago.
When examined with the earlier Georgian finds, the skull "shows that this special immigration out of Africa happened much earlier than we thought and a much more primitive group did it," said study lead author David Lordkipanidze, director of the Georgia National Museum. "This is important to understanding human evolution."
FACEBOOK TO LET TEENS SHARE WITH BIGGER AUDIENCE
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Facebook is now allowing teenagers to share their posts on the social network with anyone on the Internet, raising the risks of minors leaving a digital trail that could lead to trouble.
The change announced Wednesday affects Facebook users who list their ages as 13 to 17.
Until now, Facebook users falling within that age group had been limited to sharing information and photos only with their own friends or friends of those friends.
The new policy will give teens the choice of switching their settings so their posts can be accessible to the general public. That option already has been available to adults, including users who are 18 or 19.
As a protective measure, Facebook will warn minors opting to be more open that they are exposing themselves to a broader audience. The caution will repeat before every post, as long as the settings remain on "public."
The initial privacy settings of teens under 18 will automatically be set so posts are seen only by friends. That's more restrictive than the previous default setting that allowed teens to distribute their posts to friends of their friends in the network.
In a blog post, Facebook said it decided to revise its privacy rules to make its service more enjoyable for teens and to provide them with a more powerful megaphone when they believe they have an important point to make or a cause to support.
"Teens are among the savviest people using social media, and whether it comes to civic engagement, activism, or their thoughts on a new movie, they want to be heard," Facebook wrote.
The question remains whether teens understand how sharing their thoughts or pictures of their activities can come back to haunt them, said Kathryn Montgomery, an American University professor of communications who has written a book about how the Internet affects children.
"On the one hand, you want to encourage kids to participate in the digital world, but they are not always very wise about how they do it," she said. "Teens tend to take more risks and don't always understand the consequences of their behavior."
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