FAA Launches New Plan To Keep Air Traffic Controllers From Sleeping On The Job

After several well-publicized reports of air traffic controllers falling asleep in recent months, the Federal Aviation Administration and the controllers union began discussing new fatigue regulations. In one of the cases, a medical flight carrying a patient had to delay its landing at the airport in Reno, Nevada because the one controller on duty had fallen asleep.

This month the FAA announced an agreement that eliminates single staffing on the midnight shift and requires controllers to be well-rested and mentally alert when they show up for work.

“Air traffic controllers have the responsibility to report rested and ready to work so they can safely perform their operational duties,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt in a news release. “But we also need to make sure we have the right policies in place to reduce the possibility of fatigue in the workplace.”

As part of the agreement, controllers will be allowed to listen to the radio between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. and to peruse "appropriate reading material" in order to help keep them awake.

But some sleep science researchers warn that those measures do no go far enough, saying that controllers should be allowed to nap during breaks. "Given the structural realities of scheduling, the solution to this problem may lie in sanctioned, scheduled on-shift napping when working the night shift," Dr. Gregory Belenky, director of the Sleep and Performance Research Center at Washington State University, testified to Congress in May.

New Pro-Regulatory Site Profiles FDR's War Against Big Business

Today marks the launch of the Cry Wolf Project Website, which seeks to push back against deregulation zealots by cataloging industry statements that "falsely predicted economic disaster if health, safety and environmental protections became law." Featured on the front page is a report co-written with Public Citizen that examines how business leaders tried to block FDR's New Deal reforms.

“Through the great banking houses of Manhattan last week ran wild-eyed alarm,” Time wrote. “Big bankers stared at one another in anger and astonishment. A bill just passed by both houses of Congress would rivet upon their institutions what they considered a monstrous system of guaranteeing bank deposits. Such a system, they felt, would not only rob them of their pride of profession but would reduce all U. S. banking to its lowest level. They saw their deposits which they had spent a lifetime to build up and protect with their good names confiscated by the government to pay for the mistakes and dishonesty of every smalltown bankster.”

What burdensome regulation made the bankers so apoplectic? The creation of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

The Powerful Lobbyists Who Sought To 'Reform' Financial Reform

The battle by lobbyists to influence Dodd-Frank's rules and regulations is nicely chronicled in a multimedia presentation by The New York Times posted Thursday. It includes a penetrating profile of Financial Roundtable chair Scott Bartlett. One of the most powerful Wall Street lobbyists, Bartlett helped convince Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) to delay efforts to limit debit card fees, sent 100 letters to regulators pushing to soften proposed rules and appeared to influence the language used by the SEC in its final regulation on whistleblowers. One interesting biographical detail: as a member of Congress in the 1980s, Bartlett supported legislation that allowed banks to invest in private mortgage-backed securities, which helped fuel the housing bubble.

Pentagon's Brain-Injury Program Is Dysfunctional: GAO

The Pentagon's special program to help brain-injured veterans may be in jeopardy due to the unit's inability to define and justify its mission to auditors from the Government Accountability Office.

The Defense Center for Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCOE) is intended to help the 44,000 service members suffering from these serious conditions.

“[DCOE was] not able to explain to us in any clarity what they’re about, what they intend to do in the future, how much it’s going to cost and what value will come out of that spending,” Denise Fantone, a GAO director who helped supervise the investigation, told NPR.

Since they are not able to explain its purpose, lawmakers may be more prone to cut its budget, notes

Oil, Gas Bad Boys May Be Banned From Offshore Drilling

The government's offshore drilling regulator may adopt aggressive new rules that allow it to stop poorly-performing oil and gas companies from operating offshore. Michael Bromwich, the director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, said he is studying how to treat "operators who may have behaved badly in the past and whether they should be allowed to continue operating in the future," reports the Houston Chronicle.

It's part of a long process by the beleaguered agency, which was renamed in the wake of the BP disaster last year, to create new rules, which will likely include updated requirements for well design and cement barriers. Bromwich said the review has been lengthened to give more people time to offer their views.

Homeland Security To Spend $300M On Untested Radiation Detectors

The Department of Homeland Security plans to spend $300 million on radiation detectors which have not been fully tested, reports the Washington Post.

The Advanced Spectroscopic Portal machines have been in the works since the Bush administration and are intended to detect radioactive materials that could be used in a nuclear or dirty bomb. But the National Academy of Sciences found in January that it was not possible to determine if the machines worked.

Insurance Exchanges Stacked With Industry Insiders, Says Watchdog

Insurance exchanges created as part of health care reform are run by boards largely stocked by insurance executives and not consumer advocates, reports Former insurance industry exec Wendell Potter writes that he was surprised to see that Democratic Colorado governor John Hickenlooper appointed five of nine board members who have direct or indirect ties to the insurance industry.

"Only two of the nine have been active proponents of reform and champions of consumer interests," writes Potter.

NSA Not Required To Disclose Relationship With Google After Hacking Scandal

In a ruling that is sure to raise eyebrows, a federal judge ruled that the National Security Agency is not required to disclose its relationship with Google in the wake of reports that the pair teamed up to help investigate Chinese hackers who cyberattacked U.S. government agencies.

In 2010, the Electronic Privacy Information Center requested records "concerning an agreement or similar basis for collaboration" and "Google's decision to fail to routinely encrypt" Gmail messages and Google Docs. The NSA denied the FOIA request for the documents and U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon agreed with the secretive security agency, reports Courthouse News.

Last year, Google enlisted the help of the NSA to help secure its electronic assets, reported the Washington Post. "The sources said the deal does not mean the NSA will be viewing users' searches or e-mail accounts or that Google will be sharing proprietary data."