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    United Airlines reported Tuesday that its fourth-quarter profit slipped 20 percent due to higher fuel and labor costs, but its profit and revenue both beat analysts' expectations. Shares of United's parent rose in after-hours trading. United is adding seats faster than its rivals Delta and American, but it has filled most of them, and at higher prices. A key measure of pricing power, revenue for each seat flown one mile, climbed 5 percent in the three months that ended Dec. 31. Total revenue jumped 11 percent. Chicago-based United expects more modest revenue growth in the first three months of this year, however. It predicted that the revenue-per-seat figure would be flat to up 3 percent. The partial government shutdown might play a role. Delta officials said earlier Tuesday that they expect to lose $25 million in revenue this month because of less travel by government workers and contractors. United didn't comment on the subject. United predicted that 2019 earnings will be between $10 and $12 a share this year, in line with analysts' forecast of $10.98 per share, according to FactSet. In financial performance, United lagged Delta and American for several years. Under a strategy outlined more than a year ago, United has been trying to win back customers it lost by improving its on-time performance, reducing canceled flights, and offering new routes between its big U.S. hubs and smaller airports. United launched 93 new routes last year, more than its rivals. CEO Oscar Munoz said in a statement that the financial results showed that the strategy is working. He said United had succeeded despite higher-than-expected fuel costs in 2018. United earned $462 million, down from $579 million a year earlier. United said profit excluding special items worked out to $2.41 per share, handily beating the mean forecast of $2.01 per share among 19 analysts surveyed by FactSet. Revenue was $10.49 billion, also beating analysts' expectations. Profit was dragged down by sizeable increases in the airline's two biggest expenses. Its fuel bill jumped 27 percent from a year earlier — an extra $500 million in spending — while wages and benefits increased about 9 percent, or nearly $250 million. Company executives are scheduled to discuss the results with analysts and reporters on Wednesday. Shares of United Continental Holdings Inc. closed up $1.29 to $81.20 before the earnings report. In after-hours trading following the release of the earnings report, they climbed $4.70, or 5.8 percent, to $85.90.
  • A day after travelers waited nearly 90 minutes in snail-speed security lines at the world's busiest airport, Atlanta's mayor is concerned about the waits that could result when the city hosts the 2019 Super Bowl. The ongoing partial government shutdown is 'uncharted territory' amid planning for one of the world's biggest sporting events, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said Tuesday. 'Obviously, we are in uncharted territory with the shutdown that's gone on this long, and we are preparing as best we can from our vantage point,' Bottoms said. The mayor and others at a Tuesday news conference said two years of planning have them well-prepared to protect the public. 'Our goal is for our officers to be visible, for the public to feel safe, be safe, and be able to position ourselves so that we can react immediately to whatever scenario we are confronted with,' Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields said. 'I think that with anything you can go in with a spirit of confidence if you have prepared, and we have prepared well.' But the government shutdown is a wild card that arose relatively late in that planning process. 'Certainly there are factors that we don't control such as what's happening with our federal government shutdown and with the long TSA lines,' Bottoms said. 'We are continuing to encourage people to get to the airport very early.' The expected crush of travelers is significantly more than normal. On a typical day, 60,000 to 80,000 passengers are screened at Atlanta's airport before departing, airport statistics show. On Feb. 4, the day Bottoms calls 'Mass Exodus Monday,' about 110,000 passengers are expected to be departing from Atlanta's airport one day after the Super Bowl. The partial government shutdown has meant missed paychecks for Transportation Security Administration screeners at airports nationwide. TSA workers have been calling in sick at a rate that's been more than double what it normally is, the agency has said. That's led to a shortage of screeners at some airports across the country. No-shows among screeners jumped Sunday and again Monday. The TSA had a national absence rate of nearly 7 percent Monday, compared to 2.5 percent on a comparable day a year ago, the agency reported Tuesday after getting complete numbers on the absences. A chaotic scene unfolded at Atlanta's airport on Monday, the first business day after screeners did not receive a paycheck for the first time. Mondays are typically busy for the airport as Atlanta business travelers depart for the work week, and some security lanes went unstaffed as lines backed up. Atlanta passengers led the nation Monday in terms of longest screening delays: The 'maximum standard wait time' was 88 minutes, the TSA reported. Passengers who went through TSA PreCheck — an expedited screening program which is typically faster than regular lines — waited 55 minutes, statistics showed.
  • A wheeled robot named Marty is rolling into nearly 500 grocery stores to alert employees if it encounters spilled granola, squashed tomatoes or a broken jar of mayonnaise. But there could be a human watching from behind its cartoonish googly eyes. Badger Technologies CEO Tim Rowland says its camera-equipped robots stop after detecting a potential spill. But to make sure, humans working in a control center in the Philippines review the imagery before triggering a cleanup message over the loudspeaker. Rowland says 25 of the robots are now operating at certain Giant, Martin's and Stop & Shop stores, with 30 more arriving each week. Carlisle, Pennsylvania-based Giant says it has two robots now working at stores in the state, and plans to expand to all 172 Giant stores by the middle of this year. The chains are all part of Dutch parent company Ahold Delhaize. The robots move around using laser-based 'lidar' sensors and pause when shoppers and their carts veer into their path. The googly eyes are fake, but each robot has eight cameras — some directed down at the floor and others that can see shelves. Rowland said the robots can eventually be repurposed to help monitor a store's inventory. A robot observed Tuesday at a Stop & Shop store in Seekonk, Massachusetts, alerted store associates to a price tag that had fallen in one aisle, and a tiny sprig of herbs in another. After moving along for a few minutes, it returned to the scene of each spill and waited until an employee pushed a button to acknowledge that the debris was picked up. It's not the only robot that U.S. shoppers might spot this year. Walmart and Midwestern supermarket chain Schnucks have deployed robots that help monitor inventory. A union that represents Giant and Stop & Shop workers says it's keeping an eye on Marty. It remains to be seen what the groceries will ultimately use the technology for. UFCW President Marc Perrone said in an emailed statement that the 'aggressive expansion of automation in grocery and retail stores is a direct threat to the millions of American workers who power these industries and the customers they serve.
  • Washington state's lieutenant governor declined to preside at Gov. Jay Inslee's State of the State speech Tuesday, saying he was concerned people might bring concealed weapons to the joint session of the Legislature. Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib, a Democrat, noted that the state House of Representatives, where the speech was given, does not have a policy banning concealed weapons, The Daily Herald newspaper of Everett reported . 'There is no specific threat to me. There is no specific threat we know of, period,' Habib said. 'It's about the policy.' The House and Senate ban openly carried weapons in their galleries, and in the Senate, where Habib is the presiding officer; he extended that ban to cover concealed weapons as well. Habib, who is blind, said he was concerned the House policy leaves elected officials vulnerable. Other statewide elected officials, from the nine Washington Supreme Court justices to the commissioner of public lands, attended. In an emailed response, the office of the chief House clerk, Bernard Dean, called Habib's decision regrettable. 'Washington state law is clear: Properly licensed concealed carry permit holders are allowed to carry concealed weapons on the state capitol campus, including the galleries,' the statement said. 'Absent any specific security issue, and in accordance with the law, the House kept the galleries open so that the public could see its government in action.' Democratic Rep. John Lovick, of Mill Creek, the speaker pro tem in the House, presided over the joint legislative session for Inslee's speech in Habib's absence. Inslee, who is mulling a possible 2020 Democratic presidential bid, highlighted climate as his top issue in his annual address to lawmakers, who started their 105-day legislative session this week. ___ Information from: The Daily Herald, http://www.heraldnet.com
  • The White House says Ivanka Trump will take part in the nomination process for a new head of the World Bank. The senior adviser was asked to participate by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin because she has worked with World Bank leaders on a variety of projects. The White House said she is not a contender for the post. Jim Yong Kim, the current president of the World Bank, announced last week that he is resigning. With Kim's exit, President Donald Trump will have the opportunity to nominate his own choice to fill the position. The leaders at the 189-nation World Bank have all been Americans. But other countries have complained about this pattern. Kim's permanent successor will be decided by the World Bank's board of directors.
  • President Donald Trump's pick to become the next attorney general said Tuesday that he would 'not go after' marijuana companies in states where cannabis is legal, even though he personally believes the drug should be outlawed. In his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, William Barr said he would not use limited government resources to target cannabis businesses that are complying with state laws. Businesses in the marijuana industry relied on Obama-era guidance that kept federal authorities from cracking down on the pot trade in states where the drug is legal, but those guidelines were rescinded by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions last year. Pointing to the growing marijuana industry and investments in cannabis companies, Barr said he didn't want to 'upset settled expectations.' 'To the extent that people are complying with the state laws, distribution and production and so forth, we're not going to go after that,' Barr said. Despite his affirmation that he would not target cannabis businesses, Barr said he would personally support a federal law that 'prohibits marijuana everywhere.' The largely hands-off approach to marijuana enforcement set forth during former President Barack Obama's administration allowed the marijuana industry to flourish into a sophisticated, multimillion-dollar market that helps fund some state government programs. Days after California's broad marijuana legalization went into effect, Sessions rescinded the Justice Department's guidance — known as the Cole Memo — and decried it as allowing a 'safe harbor' for marijuana by allowing states to flout federal law. Since the guidance was rescinded, there has been concern about the future of the growing cannabis industry. Despite medical and so-called recreational cannabis legalization in dozens of states, federal law prohibits the possession and sale of marijuana. But Barr said the current system is 'untenable' and 'almost like a backdoor nullification of federal law.' He called for members of Congress to come up with a way to handle marijuana enforcement across the U.S. 'I think it's incumbent on the Congress to make a decision as to whether we are going to have a federal system,' he said. 'Because this is breeding disrespect for the federal law.' ___ Michael Balsamo is a member of AP's marijuana beat team. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MikeBalsamo1 . Find complete AP marijuana coverage here: www.apnews.com/tag/LegalMarijuana
  • Somali immigrants can testify at the sentencing this month of three militia members convicted of plotting to bomb their apartment complex in a southwest Kansas city, a federal judge ruled Tuesday. Defense attorneys had hoped to block the 20 short videos of victim testimony from being played at the Jan. 25 sentencing hearings. In a 34-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren also allowed sentencing enhancements for hate crimes and terrorism. Patrick Stein , Gavin Wright and Curtis Allen were each convicted in April of one count of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and one count of conspiracy against civil rights. Wright was also found guilty of lying to the FBI. The weapon of mass destruction charge carries a possible maximum sentence of life in prison, while the civil rights violation could add a decade more behind bars. Prosecutors are seeking life terms for all three. The sentencing enhancements for terrorism and hate crimes bolster the government's recommendations. The attack , planned for the day after the 2016 general election in Garden City, was thwarted by another member of the group who tipped off authorities about escalating threats of violence. Garden City is about 220 miles (350 kilometers) west of Wichita. Prosecutors said the men formed a splinter group of the right-wing, anti-immigrant militia Kansas Security Force that came to be known as 'the Crusaders.' Defense attorneys argued that the Somalis weren't victims because no one was hurt. Prosecutors countered that the defendants are trying to de-personalize their crimes and that federal law guarantees every victim the right to be heard at sentencing. Melgren found that their testimony is relevant at sentencing to determine the overall impact of the crimes, saying he would not be unduly influenced by them since he heard all the evidence at trial. He said the intended victims are entitled to have their statements heard. 'Defendants have not demonstrated that, even if the residents are not entitled to testify, that the Court is stripped of its discretion to hear the testimony,' according to the ruling.
  • At first glance, this year's edition of the North American International Auto Show might look like any other from the past: Gleaming vehicles, bright lights and flashy displays trying to lure spectators to their offerings. But after traversing Cobo Center's massive exhibition space and ticking off the automakers, you'll notice what's not there: namely BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, Audi or Mazda. Those brands had been mainstays of the Motor City's celebration of the auto industry, which opens to the public on Saturday. But they are pulling out not just from Detroit but shows worldwide because of a bad date for their vehicle launch cycle, a declining bang for their buck, or bigger buzz from solo events or digital campaigns that go straight to consumers. In response, auto shows are retooling to remain relevant: moving their events on the calendar or amping up the customer experience by offering test tracks and collecting data on visitors. Detroit auto show chairman Bill Golling is helming the city's last winter show before NAIAS prepares its move next year to the more weather-friendly month of June. Warmer temperatures will allow for test drives of new vehicles and autonomous and vehicle-to-vehicle technologies, as well as reduced time and costs for setup and teardown. 'We can now give additional time and give that experience to the consumers,' Golling said. 'Not only test drives of the product itself but the technology will be available to test drive it, the autonomy, the connected cars. They can't get that over the internet.' As companies have left, so have automotive reporters. The show had just under 4,600 journalists this year, but normally has more than 5,000, organizers said. As for public attendance, Detroit has drawn around 800,000 for the past several years. Representatives for the auto shows in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago say they don't release attendance figures. A spokesman for the New York show would only say that it has drawn more than a million attendees every year for the past 15 years, and Los Angeles says hundreds of thousands attend annually. Chicago Auto Show General Manager Dave Sloan says attendance is 'pretty consistent,' but BMW and Mercedes-Benz have pulled out of next month's show. He's quick to add that others, such as Jaguar Land Rover, are increasing their show floor space. 'We're concerned about it,' he conceded. 'We're doing everything we can to try and show them that performance.' Those efforts include installing indoor test tracks and outdoor test drives, he said, because 'butts in seats is a great way to show off your vehicles.' Still, the overall trend continues for companies to explore other promotional paths, and 'not just for auto shows but globally in all different industries,' said Sam Abuelsamid, a senior analyst with Navigant Research. 'Big companies are increasingly moving toward getting away from announcing new products, making major announcements ... where they're fighting for attention with 15-20 other companies and (instead) doing standalone events.' Many automakers reject an all-or-nothing proposition. Detroit-based General Motors got good exposure for the 2016 Chevrolet Equinox small SUV outside of any auto show. GM President Mark Reuss said 'it's hard to get the right exposure in the right medium' at an auto show, but he sees a balance. 'I don't think it goes away,' he said of the shows. 'It's important that we're here and doing big things in Detroit.' Luxury makes Volvo Cars and Jaguar Land Rover are skipping the Geneva auto show in March. Volvo said it's continuing to 'move away from traditional auto industry events to focus on bespoke activities to introduce its new cars, technologies and services to media and consumers.' Last year, Volvo unveiled the new model of its V60 wagon — not at an exhibition center, but in the driveway of a home in suburban Stockholm. Björn Annwall, Volvo's senior vice president of strategy, brand and retail, said last year that 'automatic attendance at traditional industry events is no longer viable — we must tailor our communications based on how the options complement our messaging, timing and the nature of the technology we are presenting.' 'We are not saying never to car shows. We expect industry events like the Geneva Motor Show to continue evolving and we may return in future.' Volkswagen officials say it was important to be in Detroit this year, even though its Audi and Porsche were not. 'For us, it's a must,' VW CEO Herbert Diess said. He acknowledged that 'shows are declining' globally, but affirmed the automaker's decision to stick with the Motor City. 'I just had a walkthrough the show — I had a good impression,' he added. 'There's a lot of new product being shown here, so why not?' ___ Associated Press writers David McHugh in Frankfurt, Germany, and Mike Householder in Detroit contributed to this story.
  • Amid increasing tensions with Beijing, the Pentagon on Tuesday released a new report that lays out U.S. concerns about China's growing military might, underscoring worries about a possible attack against Taiwan. Speaking to reporters, a senior defense intelligence official said the key concern is that as China upgrades its military equipment and technology and reforms how it trains and develops troops, it becomes more confident in its ability to wage a regional conflict. And Beijing's leaders have made it clear that reasserting sovereignty over Taiwan is their top priority. The official added, however, that although China could easily fire missiles at Taiwan, it doesn't yet have the military capability to successfully invade the self-governing island, which split from mainland China amid civil war in 1949. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in order to provide more detail on intelligence findings in the report, which was written by the Defense Intelligence Agency. Its release comes just a week after Chinese President Xi Jinping called on his People's Liberation Army to better prepare for combat. China has warned the U.S. against further upgrading military ties with Taiwan and has threatened to use force against the island to assert its claim of sovereignty. Under President Donald Trump, the U.S. has taken incremental moves to bolster ties with the island, including renewed arms sales and upgraded contacts between officials. U.S.-China tensions have become increasingly frayed on the military and economic fronts over the past year. Trump imposed tariff increases of up to 25 percent on $250 billion of Chinese imports over complaints Beijing steals or pressures companies to hand over technology. Xi responded by imposing penalties on $110 billion of American goods. And last year the Pentagon disinvited China to a major, multinational Pacific exercise, citing Beijing's militarization of man-made islands in the South China Sea. The ongoing rise of China, in fact, has triggered greater U.S. military attention on the Indo-Pacific region over the last several years. And last year's release of the U.S. National Defense Strategy emphasized the importance of great power competition with Russia and China. And it asserted that China's rapidly expanding military and Russia's increasing aggression are threatening America's military advantage around the world. Just after taking over as the acting defense secretary, Pat Shanahan told his military service leaders on Jan. 2 that their focus should be 'China, China, China.' The DIA report talks broadly about the steps China is taking to modernize its military and expand its operations around the globe. The worry, said the defense intelligence official, is that China will reach the point where leaders will decide that using military force for a regional conflict such as Taiwan is more imminent. 'Beijing's longstanding interest to eventually compel Taiwan's reunification with the mainland and deter any attempt by Taiwan to declare independence has served as the primary driver for China's military modernization,' the report says. 'Beijing's anticipation that foreign forces would intervene in a Taiwan scenario led the PLA to develop a range of systems to deter and deny foreign regional force projection.' Over time, the report said, the PLA is 'likely to grow even more technologically advanced, with equipment comparable to that of other modern militaries.' That would include advanced fighter aircraft, ships, missile systems and space and cyberspace capabilities. Cyberthreats from China have long been a major U.S. concern, stretching from massive data breaches and the theft of trade secrets to Beijing's campaign to improve its ability to conduct cyberattacks. The U.S. official said China has been working very hard on developing ways to combine cyberattack capabilities with other kinetic weapons that can be used in combat. Still, the official said Beijing will face a significant challenge as it tries to bring generational change to its military. Until now, China has mainly done tightly controlled regional operations and some counterpiracy missions. It will be more difficult, the official said, to create a joint force capable of conducting large, complex combat operations far abroad.
  • The Trump administration is considering ways to expand U.S. homeland and overseas defenses against a potential missile attack, possibly adding a layer of satellites in space to detect and track hostile targets. Details on how far the administration intends to press this in a largely supportive Congress are expected to be revealed when the Pentagon releases results of a missile defense review as early as Thursday. The release was postponed last year for unexplained reasons, though it came as President Donald Trump was trying to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. A review might have complicated the talks. The Trump approach is expected to include emphasis on stopping missiles either before they are launched or in the first few minutes of flight when their booster engines are still burning. Congress already has directed the Pentagon to push harder on this 'boost-phase' approach, which might include the use of drones armed with lasers. Any expansion of the scope and cost of missile defenses would compete with other defense priorities, including the billions of extra dollars the Trump administration has committed to spending on a new generation of nuclear weapons. An expansion also would have important implications for American diplomacy, given longstanding Russian hostility to even the most rudimentary U.S. missile defenses and China's worry that longer-range U.S. missile defenses in Asia could undermine Chinese national security. Senior administration officials have signaled their interest in developing and deploying more effective means of detecting and tracking missiles with a constellation of satellites in space that can, for example, use advanced sensors to follow the full path of a hostile missile so that an anti-missile weapon can be directed into its flight path. Space-based sensor networks would allow the U.S. to deal with more sophisticated threats such as hypersonic missiles. 'I think that makes a lot of sense,' said Frank Rose, a former Pentagon and State Department official and now a senior fellow for security and strategy at the Brookings Institution. 'This could make a real improvement in our missile defense capabilities.' Current U.S. missile defense weapons are based on land and aboard ships. Republican presidents starting with Ronald Reagan, who proposed a 'Star Wars' system of anti-missile weapons in space, have been more enthusiastic about missile defense than Democrats. In recent years, however, both parties have argued that better defenses are needed, if only against emerging nuclear powers such as North Korea. Trump's detailed views on this are not well-known. The national security strategy he unveiled in December 2017 called 'enhanced' missile defense a priority, but it also said it was not intended to disrupt strategic relationships with Russia or China, whose missile arsenals the U.S. sees as the greatest potential threat. John Rood, the undersecretary of defense for policy, said last year that a space-based layer of missile-tracking sensors would not mark a big shift in American policy or as a security threat to others like Russia or China. 'It watches, it detects what others are doing. I don't regard it as a provocative act to observe the missile flights of missiles that are potentially threatening to the United States,' Rood said in September. 'I don't think having a sensor capability is a sea change for the United States,' he added, without stating directly that the Trump administration will pursue this. Such a system is different than the more provocative idea of putting missile interceptors aboard satellites in space, which is not expected to be part of the Trump strategy. Congress has ordered the Pentagon to study it and some senior Pentagon officials have said recently that space-based interceptors are feasible and affordable. However, Rood in September strongly suggested that that Pentagon is not ready to move ahead with that. 'Those are bridges yet to be crossed, some time away,' he said. Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said he expects the missile defense review to endorse an expanded role for missile defenses to counter certain Russian and Chinese missiles, especially those that could threaten U.S. allies in Asia and Europe. 'This is likely to stimulate them to accelerate offensive missile programs, like hypersonic vehicles, that can evade our missile defense,' Kimball said.