Boeing ousted CEO Dennis Muilenburg on Monday with no end in sight to the crisis that has engulfed the vaunted American aircraft manufacturer since the crash of two of its 737 Max airliners.
The Boeing board had supported Muilenburg for months despite calls for his resignation from lawmakers and relatives of the passengers killed. When it became clear in recent days that federal regulators would not certify the grounded Max to fly again by year's end as Muilenburg had hoped, the board finally abandoned him.
Board members decided to remove him on a conference call Sunday, according to a person familiar with the events who discussed the private deliberations on condition of anonymity.
The move came after another bad week for Boeing. The aerospace giant had announced it would temporarily halt production of the Max because it wasn't clear when it could deliver the planes. And Boeing's new Starliner space capsule went off course during a bungled, unmanned test flight to the International Space Station.
The company said Muilenburg departed immediately and its current chairman, David Calhoun, will take over as CEO on Jan. 13.
Boeing said it decided it needed new leadership to regain the confidence of regulators. The company — which has been criticized over the design of the Max, Boeing's failure to tell pilots about a new flight-control system on the plane, and its handling of the crisis after the first crash — promised a "renewed commitment to full transparency."
Boeing declined to make Calhoun or other executives available for comment.
Muilenburg had been CEO since mid-2015. The company's stock soared during most of his tenure, as Boeing benefited from strong demand for new planes to meet the growing demand for travel around the world, although the shares have fallen 24% since peaking just before the second crash.
Boeing began designing the Max in 2011 to compete with a new plane from Airbus that was cutting into sales of Boeing's venerable 737. Critics, including members of Congress, say that Boeing, with the Federal Aviation Administration's help, rushed the plane into production and minimized safety risks.
In October 2018, a brand-new Max operated by Indonesia's Lion Air crashed into the sea near Jakarta. Five months later, in March, an Ethiopian Airlines Max went down shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa. All 346 people aboard the two planes were killed.
Muilenburg was faulted for Boeing's initial response to the accidents, when he and the company seemed to blame the foreign pilots. Criticism of Muilenburg grew in recent months as news reports and congressional investigations disclosed internal Boeing documents that revealed concern within the company about key design features on the Max, especially the new automated MCAS flight-control system that investigators say played a role in the two crashes.
A faulty sensor caused the system to activate before the two disasters, pushing down the nose of both planes. Boeing had not told pilots about MCAS until after the Lion Air crash, and regulators at the FAA didn't know much about it either.
Earlier this month, the House Transportation Committee disclosed an internal FAA analysis made after the first crash, which estimated that there would be 15 more fatal crashes over 45 years until Boeing fixed MCAS. Yet the FAA did not ground the plane until the second crash.
Ababu Amha, who lost his wife, a flight attendant, in the Ethiopian Airlines crash, welcomed Muilenburg's departure.
"This is something that we have been asking and struggling for quite some time," he said. "The CEO reluctantly and deliberately kept the aircraft in service after the Lion Air crash. The Ethiopian Airlines crash was a preventable accident." He added: "What they did was a crime."
Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said the CEO's ouster was long overdue.
"Under his watch, a long-admired company made a number of devastating decisions that suggest profit took priority over safety," DeFazio said. "Furthermore, reports that Muilenburg attempted to pressure FAA into rushing the Max back into service are highly troubling."
FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson expressed concern this month that Boeing was pushing for an unrealistically quick return of the Max.
The worldwide grounding of the Max in the wake of the two crashes has undercut orders and deliveries of new planes and caused Boeing to burn cash. With Boeing in turmoil, European rival Airbus has surged far ahead of the Chicago-based company this year.
The shutdown in Max production is likely to ripple through the Pacific Northwest and Boeing's vast network of 900 companies that make engines, bodies and other parts for the plane.
The Max debacle has put the spotlight on Boeing's culture, which some current and former employees say changed from one driven by engineering to a top-down management system in which containing costs and maximizing profit — and driving the stock price higher — became an obsession.
Peter Lemme, an engineer at Boeing for 16 years before leaving in 1997, said the shift began more than two decades ago, culminating with the 1997 acquisition of McDonnell Douglas.
"It was really the Douglas management that infiltrated the Boeing philosophy," Lemme said.
Pilot unions, still seething over being kept in the dark about MCAS, said they want more openness from the new Boeing leadership.
"It's the perfect time to step back from the spreadsheet and focus on the reason airplanes fly, and that's to safely carry human beings around the globe," said Dennis Tajer, a 737 pilot and spokesman for the pilots union at American Airlines.
Boeing stock gained 2.9% following the news of Muilenburg's departure.
Muilenburg was eligible for $39 million in cash severance, stock and bonuses based on Boeing's stock price of $322.50 at the end of last year, according to a Boeing securities filing. The stock closed Monday at $337.55.
Analysts said it was unclear whether the change in CEOs will make any difference in how quickly Boeing can win approval to get the Max flying again.
The grounding has led airlines around the world to cancel tens of thousands of flights. In the U.S., Southwest has been hit the hardest; its pilots union is suing Boeing. Without the planes, airlines had to scale back on plans for more flying.
Boeing has estimated it will spend at least $9 billion to compensate airlines and adjust the Max production schedule. Analysts suspect that figure will go much higher.
Many analysts believe that when the Max is allowed to fly again, the sudden increase in planes and seats will cause fares to dip.
To rebuild trust, Boeing has to repair its relationship with the FAA and other authorities and must be transparent with the traveling public, said Mark Dombroff, an aviation expert and partner with the law firm Fox Rothschild.
"I've heard it said that 'If it ain't Boeing, I ain't going,'" Dombroff said. "I think that's something Boeing's taken great pride in, in my view justifiably, and I think they can get there again if they address these priorities."
Replacing Muilenburg will help Boeing distance itself from some of the problems, he added. "Mr. Muilenburg had become, rightly or wrongly, something of a lightning rod for controversy," Dombroff said.
Calhoun, 62, formerly ran General Electric's jet-engine business and later was CEO of Nielsen, the television-ratings company. He has been a Boeing board member since 2009 and became chairman in October, when the board stripped Muilenburg of that title.
As for whether passengers will feel comfortable flying the Max, that remains to be seen.
"As long as they figured out what caused the crashes and they can solve that, then I'm fine with that, I guess," Southwest passenger Troy Brasher said at the Oakland, California, airport.
The House Judiciary Committee held open the possibility Monday of recommending additional articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump as it pressed anew for the testimony of former White House counsel Don McGahn.
The committee wants a federal appeals court to order McGahn to testify as it examines potential obstruction of justice by the president during special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. The committee says McGahn's testimony could also be useful for any Senate impeachment trial.
A judge last month directed McGahn to comply with the House Judiciary Committee subpoena, and a Washington-based appeals court is scheduled to hear arguments Jan. 3.
In a court filing Monday, lawyers for the committee said McGahn's testimony remains essential even though the House has already voted to impeach Trump on two charges related to his interactions with Ukraine rather than on actions uncovered during Mueller's Russia probe.
"If McGahn's testimony produces new evidence supporting the conclusion that President Trump committed impeachable offenses that are not covered by the Articles approved by the House, the Committee will proceed accordingly — including, if necessary, by considering whether to recommend new articles of impeachment," lawyers for the Democratic-led committee wrote.
The committee also said McGahn's testimony is important for the committee's oversight role of the FBI and the Justice Department, "including in determining whether those agencies are operating free from improper political interference."
Democrats on the Judiciary Committee subpoenaed McGahn well before the start this fall of an impeachment inquiry centered around Trump's request to Ukraine's president that he investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden and his son, as well as an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory alleging Ukraine's interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The Justice Department has asked the appeals court to dismiss the case, saying there's no reason for judges to become involved in a political dispute.
The department also says the need for resolving the case is less urgent now that the House has moved ahead with impeachment articles even without McGahn's testimony.
But the committee disagrees.
"The House's vote on the Articles of Impeachment against President Trump underscores the Committee's urgent need for expedited consideration of this appeal," lawyers for the panel wrote.
"As discussed above, McGahn's testimony is critical both to a Senate trial and to the Committee's ongoing impeachment investigations to determine whether additional Presidential misconduct warrants further action by the Committee," they added.
Queen Elizabeth II plans to acknowledge that both Britain and her family have endured a difficult year by saying during her Christmas message that it has been a "bumpy" time.
The pre-recorded message will be broadcast in Britain and the Commonwealth nations on Christmas Day. It was recorded before the queen's husband, Prince Philip, was hospitalized in London as a precautionary measure.
Excerpts released by Buckingham Palace before the speech show the queen admits difficulties during the course of the year.
Talking about the need for reconciliation and forgiveness, Elizabeth says: "The path, of course, is not always smooth, and may at times this year have felt quite bumpy, but small steps can make a world of difference."
She is thought to be referring both to Britain's tortuous path out of the European Union, which led to a lengthy political stalemate broken only earlier this month when voters gave the pro-Brexit Conservative Party a comfortable majority in Parliament, and to the royal family's setbacks.
The problems facing the queen's family this year included Prince Andrew's retreat from public duties because of a disastrous TV interview in which he defended his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
The family has also endured a public rift between Prince William and Prince Harry, who has traveled with his wife Meghan and young son Archie to Canada rather than spend the Christmas holidays at Sandringham Estate — the queen's rural retreat, as has long been customary for senior royals.
Both Harry and Meghan have complained about constant scrutiny by the media as they settle into family life with 7-month-old Archie.
The health of 98-year-old Philip has been a constant concern. He has been hospitalized in London for several days, but may still be able to return to Sandringham in time for Christmas. Details about his condition haven't been made public.
When Prince Charles was asked about Philip's health during a visit to a flooded visit in South Yorkshire, Charles said Monday his father was, "Alright. When you get to that age things don't work so well."
Joe Biden's presidential bid got a boost Monday from one of the leading Latinos in Congress, with the chairman of the Hispanic Caucus' political arm endorsing the former vice president as Democrats' best hope to defeat President Donald Trump.
"People realize it's a matter of life and death for certain communities," Rep. Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif., told The Associated Press in an interview, explaining the necessity of halting Trump's populist nationalism, hard-line immigration policies and xenophobic rhetoric that the California congressman called cruel.
Cárdenas' is the chairman of Bold PAC, the political arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
His announcement follows presidential candidate Bernie Sanders' weekend of mass rallies with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a freshman congresswoman from New York who has become a face of the progressive movement and a key supporter for the Vermont senator's second White House bid.
The dueling surrogates highlight a fierce battle for the Hispanic vote between Sanders and Biden, whose campaigns each see the two candidates as the leading contenders. Biden leads the field among Democratic voters who are non-white, a group that includes Democratic voters who are Hispanic, with Sanders not far behind, according to national polling. Another top national contender, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, draws less support from non-white voters. There are few recent national polls with a sufficient sample of Hispanic Democratic voters to analyze them independently.
The dynamics also demonstrate the starkly different approaches that Biden and Sanders take to the larger campaign. Biden is capitalizing on his 36-year Senate career and two terms as Barack Obama's vice president to corral Democratic power players across the party's various demographic slices. Cárdenas joins four other Hispanic caucus members who've already backed Biden, a show of establishment support in contrast to some Latino activists who've battered Biden over the Obama administration's deportation record. Sanders, true to his long Capitol Hill tenure as an outsider and democratic socialist, eschews the establishment with promises of a political revolution, just as he did when he finished as runner-up for Democrats' 2016 nomination.
Together, it's an argument on politics and policy at the crux of Democrats' 2020 nominating fight.
Sanders and his supporters like Ocasio-Cortez argue that existing political structures cannot help working-class Americans, immigrants or anyone else. That argument, they insist, can draw enough new, irregular voters to defeat Trump in November.
"We need to be honest here," retorted Texas Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, a Biden supporter whose congressional district includes part of the U.S.-Mexico border. "If Joe Biden loses the primary, Democrats will lose in 2020."
It's impossible for polling almost a year ahead of a general election to affirm that view, but the contention echoes Biden's consistent arguments about Electoral College math.
Texas Rep. Filemon Vela, also a border-district congressman who backs Biden, was not so absolute. But he said Biden is best positioned for a general election on immigration because of his plans to roll back Trump's immigration restrictions and boost the asylum process, while stopping short of decriminalizing all border crossings. Sanders supports making all border crossings civil offenses, rather than criminal, a position first pushed by the lone Hispanic presidential candidate and former Obama housing secretary Julian Castro.
"In some swing states, that might not go over well," Vela said, even as he, Gonzalez and Cárdenas said the distinction is more important to political pundits than to Hispanic voters.
Said Cárdenas: "There is activist language and there are litmus tests; and there are hard-working people around the country who just want fairness."
He added another key plank of Biden's case: that meaningful change, from reversing Trump's migrant family separation policy to expanding health care coverage, requires not only winning in November but then achieving some semblance of consensus in Congress.
Hispanic voters are a rapidly growing portion of the U.S. population and electorate, though they have consistently had lower election-participation rates than African Americans and non-Hispanic whites. At the least, Hispanics will play key roles in the Nevada caucus (third in the Democratic nominating process) and the Texas and California primaries, the two largest sources of delegates on the March 3 Super Tuesday slate.
Sanders leads Biden among younger voters generally, according to national polling, and Biden aides say that could carry over to Hispanics. The variable is seemingly on display when comparing Biden's campaign crowds with those like Ocasio-Cortez drew this weekend in California and Nevada.
Immigrants-rights advocates picketed outside Biden's Philadelphia campaign headquarters shortly after its opening. Castro used Democratic debates to challenge Biden on why he didn't stop more deportations when he was vice president.
Last month, members of the Movimiento Cosecha, which describes itself as an immigrant-led group pushing for "permanent, protection and respect" for immigrants, confronted Biden during a campaign event in South Carolina. One of them, Carlos Rojas, asked Biden to answer for deportations under Obama and to commit to an outright moratorium on all deportations — a position Sanders supports. Biden declined. After Rojas pressed him, Biden said, "You should vote for Trump."
Gonzalez called it "ridiculous" to question Biden's commitment to immigrants, but said the skepticism demonstrates that the Latino community vote is not monolithic, with a range of national origins and philosophical differences.
Vela agreed, adding that Sanders' rallies and Ocasio-Cortez's social media following shouldn't obscure Biden's standing among the "traditionalist Democrats" he said constitute the majority of Hispanic voters. Vela recalled an unplanned campaign stop he made recently with Biden at Mi Tierra, an iconic restaurant in San Antonio, Texas, after a campaign event with several hundred people.
"He went table to table," Vela said, "people getting up, 'Joe Biden is here' and 'There's Joe Biden.' The response was overwhelming."
Baba Ram Dass, the 1960s counterculture spiritual leader who experimented with LSD and traveled to India to find enlightenment, returning to share it with Americans, has died. He was 88.
Dass' foundation, Love Serve Remember, announced late Sunday that the author and spiritual leader died peacefully at his home earlier in the day. No cause of death was given.
He had suffered a severe stroke in 1997 that left him paralyzed on the right side and, for a time, unable to speak. More recently, he underwent hip surgery after he was injured in a fall in November 2008, according to his website.
"I had really thought about checking out, but your love and your prayers convinced me not to do it. ... It's just beautiful," he told followers in a videotaped message at the time from his hospital bed in Hawaii.
Over the years, Ram Dass — born Richard Alpert — associated with the likes of Timothy Leary and Allen Ginsberg. He wrote about his experiences with drugs, set up projects to help prisoners and those facing terminal illness and sought to enlighten others about the universal struggle with aging.
But he was best known for the 1971 book "Be Here Now," written after his trip to India. The spiritual primer found its way into thousands of backpacks around the world.
"I want to share with you the parts of the internal journey that never get written up in the mass media," he wrote. "I'm not interested in what you read in the Saturday Evening Post about LSD. This is the story of what goes on inside a human being who is undergoing all these experiences."
Among his other books were "How Can I Help?" and "Compassion in Action" and "Still Here: Embracing Aging, Changing, and Dying."
"In the '60s, I was an uncle for a movement," he told The Associated Press in 1998. "I was always showing people where they could go. I went east, and then there was a big movement east."
Now, he said, "the baby boomers are getting old — and I'm learning how to get old for them. That's my role."
The Boston-born son of a prominent attorney, Ram Dass entered the public sphere in the early 1960s as a young Harvard psychology professor. Alpert, as he was then known, earned a doctorate at Stanford University.
He and Leary, a Harvard colleague, began a series of experiments with hallucinogenic mushrooms and LSD, giving the drugs to prisoners, philosophers and students to study their effects.
Ram Dass later wrote that he tried psilocybin, the compound found in hallucinogenic mushrooms, in Leary's living room.
"I peered into the semidarkness and recognized none other than myself in cap and gown and hood," he wrote. "It was as if that part of me, which was a Harvard professor, had separated or dissociated itself from me."
The experiments got him and Leary kicked out of Harvard in 1963.
"It was a little too sensational," Ram Dass said in 1998. "We were the starters of it."
He and Leary retreated to an upstate New York mansion that drew Beat Generation figures Ginsberg, William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac.
By the late 1960s, LSD and other hallucinogens had become part of pop culture and a rite of passage for many young Americans.
But Alpert eventually sought a way to reach a state of enlightenment without drugs. Following Ginsberg's advice, he headed to India in 1967, where he met the man who became his guru, Neem Karoli Baba.
There, his guru introduced him to yoga, meditation, Buddhism and Sufism, and gave him the name Ram Dass, Hindi for "servant of God." (He is often called Baba Ram Dass; "baba" is an honorary title.)
Ram Dass wrote "Be Here Now" when he returned to the United States. Around the same time, he told The New York Times that he had turned away from drugs, saying: "I don't want to break the law, since that leads to fear and paranoia."
In 1974, Ram Dass founded the Hanuman Foundation, which set up programs such as the Prison Ashram Project to introduce inmates to spirituality. He also helped create the Seva Foundation, which works to prevent blindness and helps community groups in developing countries. His Love Serve Remember Foundation is dedication to preserving his teachings and those of Neem Karoli Baba.
Ram Dass lived for many years in the quiet town of San Anselmo, California, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) north of San Francisco, surrounded by the markers of his life straddling East and West: Japanese prints and statues of Buddha, seashells from the South Pacific and a well-used player piano.
In later years, he moved to Woodside, California. More recently, he was based in Maui.
He said his 1997 stroke brought physical and spiritual suffering, but that he came to see the suffering as a source of insight that he could share with others facing their own battles with illness and aging.
"It's brought out new aspects of myself and aspects of my relationship to the world," he said in 1998. The stroke has gotten me into a stage of life — this is a stage close to death, a stage which is inward."
After regaining his speech, Ram Dass returned to the lecture circuit, starting by touring Northern California sharing tales of what he called his state of "heavy grace."
"All illnesses are part of the passing show," he told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2004. "You are not just your body. You are the witness of your body."
He had a falling out with Leary in the 1970s after rumors surfaced that the latter, jailed on drug and prison-break charges, offered to provide authorities with information on others involved in the drug culture in exchange for a lighter sentence.
But the pair had reconciled in the years before Leary's death in 1996, joking back and forth and praising one another as they made joint appearances at lectures. When Leary was on his deathbed, Ram Dass came to visit after Leary asked for advice on how best to let go of life.
"The mythic level that Timothy and I lived at was that we were adventurers," he said in the 2014 documentary, "Dying to Know: Ram Dass & Timothy Leary."
Although speaking of Leary, Ram Dass added an epithet that also could be his own: "If you have identified with your soul when you are alive, death is just another moment."