Washington, Apr 6 (AP/UNB) -Boeing will cut production of its troubled 737 Max airliner this month, underscoring the growing financial risk it faces the longer that its best-selling plane remains grounded after two deadly crashes.
The company said Friday that starting in mid-April it will cut production of the plane to 42 from 52 planes per month so it can focus its attention on fixing the flight-control software that has been implicated in the crashes.
The move was not a complete surprise. Boeing had already suspended deliveries of the Max last month after regulators around the world grounded the jet.
Preliminary reports into accidents in Indonesia and Ethiopia found that faulty sensor readings erroneously triggered an anti-stall system that pushed the plane's nose down. Pilots of each plane struggled in vain to regain control over the automated system.
In all, 346 people died in the crashes. Boeing faces a growing number of lawsuits filed by families of the victims.
Boeing also announced it is creating a special board committee to review airplane design and development.
The announcement to cut production comes after Boeing acknowledged that a second software issue has emerged that needs fixing on the Max — a discovery that explained why the aircraft maker had pushed back its ambitious schedule for getting the planes back in the air.
A Boeing spokesman called it a "relatively minor issue" and said the plane maker already has a fix in the works. He said the latest issue is not part of flight-control software called MCAS that Boeing has been working to upgrade since the first crash.
Chairman and CEO Dennis Muilenburg described the production cut as temporary and a response to the suspension of Max deliveries.
Boeing has delivered fewer than 400 Max jets but has a backlog of more than 4,600 unfilled orders. The Chicago-based company had hoped to expand Max production this year to 57 planes a month.
Indonesia's Garuda Airlines has said it will cancel an order for 49 Max jets. Other airlines, including Lion Air, whose Max 8 crashed off the coast of Indonesia on Oct. 29, have raised the possibility of canceling.
A Boeing official said Friday's announcement about cutting production was not due to potential cancellations. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because Boeing does not publicly discuss those details.
In a statement, Muilenburg said the reduction was designed to keep a healthy production system and maintain current employment — in effect, slowing down production now to avoid a deeper cut later, if fixing the plane takes longer than expected.
Analysts say the absence of deliveries will eat into Boeing's cash flow because it gets most of the cost of a plane upon delivery.
Boeing declined to provide figures, but undelivered Max jets have been stacking up at its Renton, Washington, assembly plant.
Airlines that operate the Max will be squeezed the longer the planes are grounded, particularly if the interruption extends into the peak summer travel season.
They could buy used 737s, but that would be costly because the comparably sized Boeing 737-800 was very popular and in short supply even before the Max problems, according to Jim Williams, publisher of Airfax, a newsletter that tracks transactions involving commercial aircraft.
Williams said that if the Max grounding appears likely to extend into summer it will cause airlines to explore short-term leases, which could push lease rates higher, something that airline analysts say is already happening.
Boeing shares closed at $391.93, down $3.93. In after-hours after news of the production cut, they slipped another $8.98, or 2.3%, to $382.85.
Calexico, Apr 6 (AP/UNB) — Declaring "our country is full," President Donald Trump on Friday insisted the U.S. immigration system was overburdened and illegal crossings must be stopped as he inspected a refurbished section of fencing at the Mexican border.
Trump, making a renewed push for border security as a central campaign issue for his 2020 re-election, participated in a briefing on immigration and border security in Calexico before viewing a 2-mile (3.2-kilometer) see-through steel-slat barrier that was a long-planned replacement for an older barrier — and not new wall.
"There is indeed an emergency on our southern border," Trump said at the briefing, adding that there has been a sharp uptick in illegal crossings. "It's a colossal surge and it's overwhelming our immigration system, and we can't let that happen. ... We can't take you anymore. We can't take you. Our country is full."
As Air Force One touched down in the state, California and 19 other states that are suing Trump over his emergency declaration to build a border wall requested a court order to stop money from being diverted to fund the project. But Trump, who ratcheted up his hard-line immigration rhetoric in recent weeks, declared that his move, which included vetoing a congressional vote, was necessary.
Also on Friday, House Democrats filed a lawsuit preventing Trump from spending more money than Congress has approved to erect barriers along the southwestern border. Congress approved just under $1.4 billion for work on border barricades. Trump has asserted he can use his powers as chief executive to transfer an additional $6.7 billion to wall construction.
Trump, who earlier in the week threatened to shut down the border over the high numbers of migrants trying to enter the U.S., appeared to walk back his comments Thursday. He said Friday that it was because Mexico had gotten tougher in stopping an influx of immigrants from moving north.
"Mexico has been absolutely terrific for the last four days," the president said as he left the White House. "I never changed my mind at all. I may shut it down at some point."
The president's visit came a day after he withdrew his nominee to lead U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Longtime border official Ron Vitiello appeared to be cruising toward confirmation, but Trump said Friday that he wanted to go in a "tougher direction."
Trump, as he so often does, mixed fact with fiction when warning of the threat at the border. When complaining about the Flores legal settlement that governs treatment of migrant children and families, he blamed "Judge Flores, whoever you may be." But Flores was an unaccompanied 15-year-old girl from El Salvador.
He also downplayed the claims of people seeking asylum at the border, declaring without evidence that many are gang members while comparing some of their efforts to find safety in the U.S. to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
"It's a scam, it's a hoax," Trump said. "I know about hoaxes. I just went through a hoax."
As the president showed off the renovated section of the barrier to reporters, a balloon depicting Trump as a baby floated further down the border. And as Trump landed in California, the state's governor ripped the president's push for Congress to pass legislation that would tighten asylum rules to make it harder for people to qualify.
"Since our founding, this country has been a place of refuge — a safe haven for people fleeing tyranny, oppression and violence. His words show a total disregard of the Constitution, our justice system, and what it means to be an American," said Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Trump has been increasingly exasperated at his inability to halt the swelling number of migrants entering the U.S., including thousands who have been released after arriving because border officials have no space for them. Arrests along the southern border have skyrocketed in recent months, and border agents were on track to make 100,000 arrests or denials of entry in March, a 12-year high. More than half of those are families with children, who require extra care.
The southern border is nearly 2,000 miles (3,200 kilometers) long and already has about 650 miles (1,050 kilometers) of different types of barriers, including short vehicle barricades and tall steel fences that go up to 30 feet (9 meters) high. Most of the fencing was built during George W. Bush's administration, and there have been updates and maintenance throughout other administrations.
Trump has yet to complete any new mileage of fencing or other barriers anywhere on the border, though he declared Friday that at least 400 miles (650 kilometers) of the border barrier would be erected over the next two years. His administration so far has only replaced existing fencing. Construction for that small chunk of fencing cost about $18 million, began in February 2018 and was completed in October. Plans to replace that fence date back to 2009, during President Barack Obama's tenure.
Administration officials had been studying ways to minimize the economic impact of a potential border closure in case Trump went through with his threat, including keeping trucking lanes open or closing only certain ports.
But even absent that extraordinary step, delays at border stations have been mounting after some 2,000 border officers were reassigned from checking vehicles to deal with migrant crowds.
After the border visit, Trump traveled to Los Angeles for a pair of fundraisers in the deeply liberal city. He was then set to travel to Las Vegas for another re-election fundraiser and an address to the Republican Jewish Coalition, which is backed by GOP mega-donor Sheldon Adelson.
Washington, April 5 (AP/UNB) — President Donald Trump said Thursday that the U.S. and China are "rounding the turn" in a lengthy negotiation over trade and predicted that "something monumental" for both countries could be announced in a matter of weeks.
"We have a ways to go but not very far," Trump said during an Oval Office appearance with both countries' negotiating teams.
Vice Premier Liu He, China's top trade negotiator, agreed, telling Trump that "because of your direct involvement, we do have great progress." The talks resume Friday.
China and the U.S. are working to end a standoff that has shaken financial markets and darkened the outlook for the world economy.
The U.S. and Chinese negotiators on Wednesday began their ninth round of talks to resolve the dispute over American allegations that Beijing is using predatory tactics in a campaign to challenge U.S. technological dominance. China has denied the allegations. These tactics, the U.S. says, include cybertheft and forcing American companies to turn over trade secrets in exchange for access to the Chinese market.
Trump has slapped tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese products. In retaliation, China has targeted $110 billion in American imports.
The two countries have made considerable progress on the issues that divide them. China, for example, last month passed a law that loosens restrictions on foreign investment and aims to prevent Chinese officials from forcing foreign firms to hand over technology. Beijing is also expected to agree to sharply increase purchases of U.S. goods, putting a dent in America's massive trade deficit with China, which came to a record $379 billion last year.
The U.S. has "already gotten concessions that probably go beyond what China has been willing to do in the past," said Erin Ennis, senior vice president at the U.S.-China Business Council.
Still, analysts say the talks are unlikely to end long-standing tensions between America's mostly open, capitalist economy and a Chinese economy in which the Communist Party and the central government play a dominant role.
"The optimism about prospects for a looming deal has run into the reality that a gulf still exists between the two sides on a range of key issues," said Eswar Prasad, a Cornell University economist and former head of the International Monetary Fund's China division.
The two countries are still sparring, for instance, over ways to make sure that China lives up to its commitments and whether the United States would keep tariffs on Chinese imports to maintain leverage over Beijing. Trump said Thursday that he'd discuss the future of tariffs with Liu.
Still, Trump said, "We've agreed to far more than we have left to agree to."
The president also said he still wants to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping. "If we have a deal, then we're going to have a summit," Trump said.
Economic forecasters at the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and elsewhere have downgraded the outlook for the global economy, saying the U.S.-China standoff is reducing trade and creating uncertainty for businesses trying to decide where to make investments.
"A trade deal between the two economic giants would help alleviate global growth concerns, provide a much-needed global confidence boost and lift markets," Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics, said in a report Thursday.
Caracas, Apr 3 (AP/UNB) — Maduro loyalists stripped Venezuela's Juan Guaidó of immunity Tuesday, paving the way for the opposition leader's prosecution and potential arrest for supposedly violating the constitution when he declared himself interim president.
But whether the government of President Nicolas Maduro will take action against the 35-year-old lawmaker remains unclear. Guaidó has embarked on an international campaign to topple the president's socialist administration amid deepening social unrest in the country plagued by nearly a month of power outages .
He declared himself Venezuela's interim president in January, and vowed to overthrow Maduro. So far, however, Maduro has avoided jailing the man that the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump and roughly 50 other nations recognize as Venezuela's legitimate leader.
The Trump administration has threatened the Maduro government with a strong response if Guaido is harmed and Florida Senator Marco Rubio — who has Trump's ear on Venezuela policy — said before the vote that nations recognizing Guaidó as his country's legitimate leader should take any attempt by Maduro's government to "abduct" him as a coup.
"And anyone who cooperates with this should be treated as a coup plotter & dealt with accordingly," Rubio said on Twitter.
However, the vote against Guaido was unanimous, and Constituent Assembly president and socialist party boss Diosdado Cabello accused the opposition of naively inviting a foreign invasion and of inciting a civil war.
"They don't care about the deaths," Cabello said. "They don't have the slightest idea ??what the consequences of war are for a country."
The Constituent Assembly, which is made up entirely of Maduro loyalists, met a day after Maduro ally and Venezuela Supreme Court of Justice Maikel Moreno ordered it to strip Guaidó's immunity for violating an order banning him leaving the country while under investigation by the attorney general. The opposition leader is also accused of inciting violence through street protests, and of receiving illicit funds from abroad.
The Constitution guarantees immunity for elected officials, and says that in order to withdraw immunity the accused lawmaker must be given a preliminary hearing before the Supreme Court. The action must be approved by the National Assembly — steps that weren't taken in Guaidó's case.
The Constitutional Assembly was created two years ago, when Maduro became frustrated by the democratically elected and opposition-dominated National Assembly rejected the president's policies. Its creation essentially replaced the National Assembly, rendering it powerless.
Before the vote, Guaidó dismissed the Maduro-stacked high court and Constituent Assembly as illegitimate, and continued his calls for Maduro to step down.
"This is not even persecution," Guaido said. "This is inquisition."
Guaido has come under increasing pressure in recent weeks, and Tuesday night's vote was but the latest instance of that. Officials have jailed his chief of staff, Roberto Marrero, and accused him of involvement in a "terrorist" scheme to overthrow the government. Maduro's government also barred Guaidó from holding public office for 15 years for allegedly hiding or falsifying data in his sworn statement of assets.
The opposition leader, however, has drawn masses of Venezuelans into the streets and garnered broad international support, demanding Maduro give up rule of the crisis-wracked nation.
Defying the court order, Guaidó left the country in late February for a ten-day tour of South America, meeting with foreign leaders who support the Venezuelan opposition and who reject Maduro's election last year for a second six-year term.
Maduro blames Washington of attempting a coup to overthrow him and install Guaidó's puppet government aimed at seizing Venezuela's vast oil reserves.
Washington, Apr 2 (AP/UNB) — Aides to Joe Biden are striking a more aggressive tone as the former vice president faces scrutiny over his past behavior toward women.
In a statement Monday, Biden spokesman Bill Russo blasted "right wing trolls" from "the dark recesses of the internet" for conflating images of Biden embracing acquaintances, colleagues and friends in his official capacity during swearing-in ceremonies with uninvited touching.
The move came on a day in which a second woman said Biden had acted inappropriately, touching her face with both hands and rubbing noses with her in 2009. The allegation by Amy Lappos, a former aide to Democratic Rep. Jim Hines of Connecticut, followed a magazine essay by former Nevada politician Lucy Flores, who wrote that Biden kissed her on the back of the head in 2014.
The developments underscored the challenge facing Biden should he decide to seek the White House. Following historic wins in the 2018 midterms, Democratic politics is dominated by energy from women. The allegations could leave the 76-year-old Biden, long known for his affectionate mannerisms, appearing out of touch with the party as the Democratic presidential primary begins.
Lappos told The Associated Press that she and other Himes aides were helping out at a fundraiser in a private home in Hartford, Connecticut, in October 2009 when Biden entered the kitchen to thank the group for pitching in.
"After he finished speaking, he stopped to talk to us about how important a congressional staff is, which I thought was awesome," Lappos said.
She said she was stunned as Biden moved toward her.
"He wrapped both his hands around my face and pulled me in," said Lappos, who is now 43. "I thought, 'Oh, God, he's going to kiss me.' Instead, he rubbed noses with me." Biden said nothing, she said, then moved off. She said the experience left her feeling "weird and uncomfortable" and was "absolutely disrespectful of my personal boundaries."
The Hartford Courant first reported Lappos' assertion.
Russo didn't directly respond to Lappos, instead referring to a Sunday statement in which Biden said he doesn't believe he has acted inappropriately during his long public life. The former vice president said in that statement: "We have arrived at an important time when women feel they can and should relate their experiences, and men should pay attention. And I will."
Biden hasn't made a final decision on whether to run for the White House. But aides who weren't authorized to discuss internal conversations and spoke on condition of anonymity said there were no signs that his team was slowing its preparations for a campaign.
Asked by the AP about the accusations against Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, "I don't think that this disqualifies him from running for president, not at all." She declined to elaborate.
Biden's potential Democratic rivals haven't rushed to back him up. Over the weekend, presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand came closest to calling out the former vice president. Warren said Biden "needs to give an answer" about what occurred. Gillibrand said, "If Vice President Biden becomes a candidate, this is a topic he'll have to engage on further."
Ultraviolet, a women's advocacy group, tweeted: "Joe Biden cannot paint himself as a champion of women and then refuse to listen and learn from a woman who says his actions demeaned her. Good intentions don't matter if the actions are inappropriate. Do better, Joe. And thank you @LucyFlores for coming forward."