Back in the tower. Around noon today, the House voted to end furloughs instituted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), authorizing the agency to use funds from other accounts to pay for staffing expenses. The Senate passed the measure late Thursday. The FAA started telling air traffic controllers to stay home on Monday as part of cost-cutting measures required under the federal budget cuts known as the sequester. The furloughs caused runway backups and angry outbursts from passengers stuck on the tarmac. Republicans accused the agency of purposely making the delays worse than necessary to make a political point. Although the furloughs will end as soon as President Barack Obama signs the measure into law, it’s not clear how quickly the FAA can change schedules and get staffing levels back to normal levels.
Immigrants on juries. According to a report on Fox News, California could soon become the first state in the nation to allow legal immigrants who aren’t yet citizens to serve on juries. The California Assembly passed the bill on Thursday. It’s sponsor claims the state needs to expand the jury pool. Under federal law, only citizens can serve on federal juries. But local jurisdictions have more leeway in who they allow to pass judgment in criminal and civil cases. Other qualifications, including age and proficiency in English, would remain in place if the bill is voted into law.
Closing Kaesong. South Korean officials announced today they would withdraw the country’s remaining staffers from a jointly run industrial facility just across the border in North Korea. The Kaesong complex was a symbol of peacetime cooperation between the two countries, but as tensions escalated in the last few months, North Korea used it as a bargaining chip in its attempt to force the West to lift sanctions imposed after the country conducted a forbidden nuclear test. The North blocked South Korean workers from entering the plant weeks ago. And officials have refused the remaining 175 Southern workers access to fresh food and medical supplies. South Korean officials had hoped talks on the issue would prevent the facility’s complete closure, but North Korea refused to come to the negotiating table.
Tsunami debris. A small fishing boat that washed ashore in Northern California earlier this month is part of the tons of debris swept from Japan during the March 2011 tsunami. Federal officials confirmed Thursday they had traced the 20-foot vessel back to Takata High School, where it was used in the marine sciences program. The massive wave that followed a devastating earthquake destroyed the school and much of the town around it, Rikuzentakata in the Iwate prefecture. Experts expected some of the debris swept into the ocean would eventually end up on the West Coast of North America. But so far, only 27 items have been confirmed as tsunami debris.
Slow going. Economic growth during the first quarter of this year failed to meet expectations, heightening fears of a nationwide economic slowdown. Economists expected the Gross Domestic Product index to rise by 3 percent. It only grew 2.5 percent. Consumer spending also grew but at the expense of saving, which could spell trouble in future months.