- - Thursday, March 24, 2011

FAA

Air traffic tower supervisor suspended

The nation’s top aviation official says he has suspended a control tower supervisor while investigating why no controller was available to aid two planes that landed at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport this week.

Federal Aviation Administration Administrator J. Randolph Babbitt said Thursday in a statement that the controller has been suspended from his operational duties. He said he was “personally outraged” that the supervisor — the lone controller on duty in the airport tower at the time — failed to meet his duties.

An aviation official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because an investigation is under way, said the supervisor fell asleep.

NRC

Defects at nuclear plants unreported

Companies that operate U.S. nuclear power plants are not telling the government about some equipment defects that could create safety risks, according to a report released Thursday.

The inquiry by the inspector general of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission also raised questions about the agency’s oversight, saying reporting guidelines for the nuclear industry are “contradictory and unclear.”

Questions are being raised about the safety of U.S. nuclear facilities in the wake of the nuclear crisis in Japan. The NRC voted Wednesday to conduct two safety reviews of the 104 nuclear reactors operating in the U.S.

Unless the NRC takes steps to improve its reporting guidelines, “the margin of safety for operating reactors could be reduced,” the report said.

NRC inspectors found at least 24 instances where potential equipment defects were identified but not reported to the agency from December 2009 through September, according to the study.

NRC staff reviewed a draft of the report but opted not to provide formal comments. An NRC spokesman declined to comment.

STATE

Carter plans trip to North Korea

Government officials say former President Jimmy Carter is planning to travel to North Korea as early as next month.

Spokesman Mark Toner said Thursday that the State Department had been “made aware of the trip” but had no further details.

He referred questions to the Carter Center, which declined to comment.

Mr. Carter, who was president from 1977 to 1981, is well-regarded in North Korea despite the longtime animosity between the U.S. and the secretive communist government.

He has visited several times in a private capacity, most recently in August, to secure the release of an imprisoned American.

Multination disarmament talks with North Korea have been on hold for the past two years amid growing concerns over the North’s nuclear programs.

KENTUCKY

Rand Paul mulls presidential bid

LOUISVILLE | Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, says he is considering a run for the presidency in 2012 if his father decides not to make another White House bid.

Rand Paul told the Associated Press in an interview Thursday that supporters in several states are urging him to make a run if Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Republican, skips the presidential campaign trail.

Rand Paul said his father, who ran in 2008, has not made up his mind. The freshman senator, a tea party sensation, said the only decision he has made is that he will not run against his father.

Rand Paul made his comments outside a local civic club meeting where he was scheduled to give a speech.

MINNESOTA

May debate ‘a factor’ in Bachmann decision

ST. PAUL | Rep. Michele Bachmann, Minnesota Republican and tea party favorite, is likely to begin a White House bid as early as May, one of her top advisers said Thursday.

Mrs. Bachmann, a third-term member of Congress, was eyeing a June start to a presidential campaign but could be persuaded to enter the race sooner, given the first pair of televised debates scheduled for the first week of May, said Ed Brookover, a Bachmann adviser.

“I’m not sure the debate is what’s going to make our final decision,” he said. “Is it a factor? Yes.”

Other Republicans familiar with Mrs. Bachmann’s thinking said all signs point to a White House run. They insisted on anonymity to discuss private conversations with Mrs. Bachmann and her advisers.

Bachmann spokesman Doug Sachtleben would say only that the congresswoman would make a decision about a White House run by summer.

“There is a natural timeline to these events and they will run their course,” he said in a statement and refused to elaborate.

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