NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — U.S. Coast Guard medics have stopped using military contractors who intentionally injure sedated animals so that medics can practice treating combat wounds.
Spokeswoman Lisa Novak said in a phone interview Thursday that the practice was suspended in January. A working group will decide if the training will continue.
The so-called “live tissue training” involved anesthetized goats.
Novak said she didn’t know what led to the suspension. In 2012, activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, released a video of a goat’s legs being removed with tree trimmers during what it said was Coast Guard training.
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, a California Democrat, wrote in The Hill newspaper on Thursday that she had raised concerns with the Coast Guard. She said most Americans are against the practice.
NEW YORK (AP) — “Keep the Change,” a romance about a couple who meet at a community for people on the autistic spectrum, and “Bobbi Jene,” a documentary about an American dancer in the Israeli dance company Batsheva, were the top winners at the 16th Tribeca Film Festival.
In the awards, announced in a ceremony Thursday night, Rachel Israel’s debut feature, “Keep the Change,” won the Founders Award for best narrative feature. The jury called it “a heartwarming, hilarious and consistently surprising reinvention of the New York romantic comedy, which opens a door to a world of vibrant characters not commonly seen on film.”
Tribeca co-founder Jane Rosenthal happily noted that all five feature film awards went to movies directed by women. The festival also gives an award, named after Nora Ephron, to a female director. That prize went to Petra Volpe, writer-director of “The Divine Order,” a drama about women’s suffrage in Switzerland.
“Bobbi Jene,” which follows the dancer Bobbi Jene Smith as she moved back the U.S., took the best documentary award and honors for its cinematography and editing. The jury praised director Elvira Lind’s film for “pushing nonfiction intimacy to bold new places.”
Best international feature went to Elina Psykou’s Greek drama “Son of Sofia.”
The director of the best narrative short, Kaveh Mazaheri, for “Retouch,” said he was unable to attend the festival because of Republican President Donald Trump’s proposed travel ban. Mazaheri, an Iranian filmmaker, said in a video message that he and his crew were unable to get visas for Tribeca. He said his absence was “a pity” due to Trump’s “fascinating decisions.”
Courts have halted Trump’s bid to stop immigration from six predominantly Muslim counties: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Trump has appealed the courts’ rulings, saying he’s trying to keep the United States safe.
DALLAS (AP) — United Airlines moved to staunch criticism — and any customer defections — by reaching a settlement Thursday with a passenger dragged off one of its planes two weeks ago and issuing new policies designed to prevent similar customer-service failures.
On April 9, Kentucky physician David Dao was forcibly removed from a flight after refusing to give up his seat to a crew member. The incident ignited a debate about poor service and a lack of customer-friendly policies on U.S. airlines.
United and lawyers for Dao declined to disclose financial terms of the settlement Thursday. Earlier, United announced steps it would take to reduce overbooking of flights. Among other things, the airline said it will raise the limit on payments to customers who give up seats on oversold flights to $10,000, and it will improve training of employees.
Dao’s lead attorney, Thomas Demetrio, praised the airline and its CEO, Oscar Munoz, for accepting responsibility and not blaming others, including the city of Chicago, whose airport security officers yanked Dao from his seat and dragged him off the United Express plane.
Dao never filed a lawsuit against United, but Demetrio had said legal action was likely.
Dao was waiting to fly to Louisville, Kentucky, an April 9 when the airline decided it needed four seats for Republic Airline crew members who needed to travel to work another United Express flight in Louisville the next morning. When Dao and his wife were selected for bumping, he refused to leave.
Video of the incident has sparked more than two weeks of withering criticism and mockery of United. Munoz initially blamed Dao, but later said he was horrified by the event and called it a failure on United’s part.
On Thursday, United released a report on the incident that outlined new policies to prevent a repeat. The airline vowed to reduce, but not eliminate, overbooking — the selling of more tickets than there are seats on the plane.
United won’t say whether ticket sales have dropped, but the airline’s CEO acknowledged the Dao incident could be damaging.
“I breached public trust with this event and how we responded,” Oscar Munoz told The Associated Press. “People are upset, and I suspect that there are a lot of people potentially thinking of not flying us.”
To head off customer defections, United had already announced that it will no longer call police to remove passengers from overbooked flights, and will require airline crews traveling for work to check in sooner. On Thursday, it added several other new policies including:
— Raising the limit on compensation to $10,000 for customers who give up their seats starting Friday. That is a maximum — it’s unclear how many, if any, passengers would see that much. The current limit is $1,350. Delta Air Lines earlier this month raised its limit to $9,950.
— Sending displaced passengers or crew members to nearby airports, putting them on other airlines or arranging for car transportation to get them to their destinations.
— Giving gate agents annual refresher training in dealing with oversold flights. Munoz said he also wants agents and flight attendants to get more help at de-escalating tense situations.
While not a factor in this month’s incident, United also said that starting in June it will pay customers $1,500 with no questions asked if the airline loses their bag.
For United, the timing of the viral video could hardly have been worse. The airline struggled badly after a 2010 merger with Continental, enduring several technology breakdowns that angered customers. In the past year, however, the airline has flown more on-time flights and lost fewer bags. It recently rolled out plans for expanding service this summer.
Instead of being commended for those signs of progress, United has been pilloried. Munoz apologized again and faulted his own initial response, in which he defended airline employees and called Dao belligerent.
“That first response was insensitive beyond belief,” Munoz said. “It did not represent how I felt,” saying that he got “caught up in facts and circumstances” that weren’t initially clear, instead of expressing his shock.
United said it will reduce overbooking, particularly on flights with a poor track record of finding volunteers to give up their seats, but won’t end the practice. Munoz said if airlines can’t overbook there will be more empty seats and fares will rise.
Earlier Thursday Southwest Airlines, which bumped the most passengers off its planes in 2016, announced plans to stop overbooking flights, citing the United incident as a catalyst.
David Koenig can be reached at http://twitter.com/airlinewriter
The CEO of United Airlines acknowledges he “messed up” with his initial response to the April 9 incident where a passenger was dragged off a plane after refusing to give up his seat.
United issued a report Thursday about the incident on a United Express plane, and detailed several new policies to deal with overbooked flights, including increasing the amount of compensation that can be offered as an incentive so passengers volunteer to be bumped off an overbooked flight.
A 69-year-old passenger who was already seated on the plane refused to leave when told to make room for airline crew members who were traveling for work. Cellphone video of David Dao being dragged off the plane by airport security officers lit up the internet.
Oscar Munoz, the CEO of United Continental Holdings Inc., initially defended his airline’s actions and criticized the passenger. He has subsequently apologized numerous times. On Thursday, Munoz talked to The Associated Press about the incident and the new policies designed to deal with overbooking.
Here are excerpts from the interview. Answers have been edited for length.
Q: People have been complaining about airline service for years. Why did it take video of a passenger being violently removed from a plane for United to make these changes?
A: Clearly the event certainly accelerated our focus on this … We’ve been on a pretty nice trajectory with regards to our reliability, with regards to our friendliness. We hear that from customers. Progress has been made, and this event a couple weeks ago was a failure.
Q: Is this hurting ticket sales?
A: We have such big numbers that I suspect there are places where things have fallen off a little bit … It’s a little too early to tell. We will watch that and closely monitor. My going-in perspective is one of paranoia. I breached public trust with this event and how we responded. People are upset, and I suspect that there are a lot of people potentially thinking of not flying us. We have to re-earn their trust. Today’s announcements are a first step in that.
Q: Are you worried that Congress or the Department of Transportation might ban overbooking or take other steps opposed by the airlines?
A: I suspect that this event will generate some enthusiasm for any of those items.
Q: Do you regret anything you personally did in responding to this incident? Maybe the letter to employees? (In that letter he blamed Dao and called him “disruptive and belligerent.”)
A: That first response was insensitive beyond belief. It did not represent how I felt. Like most people, I got caught up in facts and circumstances because clearly the event was more complicated than other recent ones at other airlines. I messed up, plain and simple.
SAO PAULO (AP) — Seven Latin American countries are asking Brazil to share information on the dozens of plea bargains made by executives of Brazilian construction company Odebrecht, and many more could follow soon, a Brazilian prosecutor said Thursday.
Odebrecht was one of the companies at the center of a kickback scheme involving state oil company Petrobras.
Vladimir Aras, the head of international cooperation at the attorney general’s office, told The Associated Press that Mexico, Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic have made 19 requests related to the case so far.
Revelations from the Odebrecht plea bargain deals have rocked Brazilian politics in recent weeks. Hundreds of hours of video testimony has implicated President Michel Temer and hundreds of other politicians in corruption and illegal campaign financing accusations.
The corruption unmasked by the so-called Car Wash investigation has shocked Brazilians for both the vast amounts that traded hands and the way in which it has spared no party.
“We will have even a higher number of requests for information coming Latin American countries, African nations and the United States…,” Aras said. “We have prosecutors telling us that more requests are about to come.”
So far Peru is the country that made most requests for information, with nine so far, Aras said.
Dozens of plea bargain testimonies of current and former executives of Odebrecht caused alarm in Brazilian politics over the last two weeks, with investigations reaching eight government ministers, twelve governors, hundreds of public officials and lawmakers and all of the country’s five living former presidents.
“This has been going for 30 years,” company CEO Emilio Odebrecht said in one of the 1,000 videos released by Brazil’s top court. “At some point it became a normal thing to pay all these people.”
Prosecutor Aras said other Latin American countries are being inspired by the Brazilian probe and have adopted plea bargains to fight corruption at home too. He also said international treaties with the U.S. and Switzerland were also key for the investigations to reach so high up.
“Without these deals it wouldn’t be possible to get evidence abroad, that’s one of the big reasons why this investigation is so important, he said.
NEW YORK (AP) — One of Comcast’s fastest-growing businesses hasn’t been selling cable or internet subscriptions — or making movies and TV shows, or selling TV ads. It’s been theme parks.
Since 2011, when Comcast first took over NBCUniversal’s film and TV studios, cable and broadcast networks, TV stations and theme parks, the parks have been one of its biggest revenue drivers. It was, of course, a smaller business to begin with, leaving more room for growth, but that isn’t the whole explanation.
Cable subscriptions dropped for a decade before growth resumed last year (although cable revenue still inexorably ticked higher). TV advertising faces a threat from digital giants Facebook and Google, who can target ads precisely to users. Films are an up-and-down business.
And the company is bullish on the parks. “We’re expecting a big year,” said Comcast CEO Brian Roberts at an investor conference in February. It continues to spend on them. NBCUniversal’s capital expenditures will rise 10 percent this year to about $1.6 billion, largely because of parks investment.
The Universal parks in Orlando, Florida, and Hollywood, California, were “probably the last thing on our list” in acquiring NBCUniversal, the entertainment conglomerate’s head, Steve Burke, recounted at a September 2011 investor conference.
Disney was then the reigning king of theme parks. But the Florida Universal park had opened a Harry Potter attraction in 2010, before Comcast took control, and it was a smashing success. Since then Comcast has spent billions of dollars refurbishing and expanding its park empire, moving into Asia and adding rides and attractions to its California and Florida destinations.
That included a second Harry Potter area in Florida and a Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened last April in California. This latest witches-and-wizards attraction “shattered attendance records,” the company said in January. Harry Potter is also in the Osaka, Japan, park, of which Comcast bought a stake in 2015.
Parks revenue has grown roughly 150 percent from 2011 to 2016, and it contributed more profit than the film unit and broadcast TV — NBC and Telemundo — last year.
In the first quarter, parks revenue grew 9 percent to $1.12 billion, and a key profit measure rose 6 percent to $397 million. Harry Potter attendance kept rising in Orlando, and visitors to the parks overall spent more.
“A GLOBAL PLATFORM”
Comcast, the biggest U.S. cable company, is doing quite well stateside. It added video and internet customers in the January-March quarter and will launch a wireless service for its customers soon. It stands to benefit from a deregulatory attitude in Washington, including the likely upending of net neutrality rules detested by broadband providers. Comcast’s net income rose 20 percent to $2.57 billion, or 53 cents per share, in the most recent quarter; revenue grew 9 percent to $20.46 billion.
To reach international markets, however, Comcast relies on NBCUniversal. Universal’s big-budget movies do well overseas — the eighth “The Fast and the Furious” movie is expected to cross $1 billion in global box office this week; film revenue soared 43 percent to $1.98 billion during the January-March period.
The theme parks also provide Comcast with international customers. Comcast is spending $2.3 billion to take full control of Universal Studios in Japan. There’s also a Universal attraction in Singapore that Comcast doesn’t own, and it has a Beijing theme park that’s long been in the works with Chinese state-owned companies. “We’ve used this to be a global platform for us,” Roberts has said.
You can’t talk about theme parks, of course, without mentioning Disney, which is busily upgrading its parks to compete for consumers’ dollars.
In Asia, there are already Disney-brand parks in Tokyo, Shanghai and Hong Kong. And Disney also has iconic destinations in California and Florida.
Attractions based on Marvel Comics superheroes and the James Cameron blockbuster film “Avatar” are opening in May in California and Florida parks, respectively. And Star Wars attractions at the California and Florida parks are pegged for 2019.