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Airport Security-Long Lines

US airlines enlist travelers in effort to cut security lines

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. airlines have been pressing the government to act to reduce the intolerably long security lines at the nation’s airports. Now, they’re even asking passengers for help by sharing their frustration on social media. Lines during peak hours at some airports have topped 90 minutes. The airlines already are warning customers to arrive at the airport two hours in advance, and are fearful the situation will only get worse with a record number of travelers expected this summer. Earlier this week, the Transportation Security Administration said it would increase staffing at security checkpoints and boost the number of bomb-sniffing dogs to help the lines move more quickly. The agency also is asking Congress for more money to hire additional screeners and pay existing ones overtime. Both sides have encouraged travelers to enroll in the TSA’s expedited screening program called PreCheck. But the airlines also want travelers to do something that comes more naturally: complain. Airlines for America, the industry’s trade group, just launched a website called iHateTheWait.com , encouraging fliers to post photos of the lines on Twitter and Instagram along with the hashtag #iHateTheWait. Presumably this will make Congress more aware of the problem — and let fellow travelers know what they’re in for when they get to the airport. The group’s spokeswoman Jean Medina, said the campaign is “raising awareness of the issue and serving as crowd-sourced (wait time) information.” While the number of travelers is on the rise, there are fewer agents to screen them. The number of front-line screeners was cut by 10 percent in the past three years, based on the assumption that travelers would enroll in PreCheck. They did not. The airline trade group, which represents Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines, said on the iHateTheWait website that engaging in the social media campaign will “help cut wait times for everyone who flies.” TSA spokesman Michael England would not comment about the site but said the TSA’s goal is to keep all passengers safe and suggests that passengers get to the airport two hours early for domestic flights. __ Follow Scott Mayerowitz at twitter.com/GlobeTrotScott. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/scott-mayerowitz.

Trump Debt

A Trump proposal for national debt would send rates soaring

WASHINGTON (AP) — In the event that the U.S. economy crashed, Donald Trump has floated a recovery plan based on his own experience with corporate bankruptcy: Pay America’s creditors less than full value on the U.S. Treasurys they hold. Experts see it as a reckless idea that would send interest rates soaring, derail economic growth and undermine confidence in the world’s most trusted financial asset. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee suggested in a phone interview Thursday with CNBC that he would stimulate growth through borrowing. If trouble arose, he added, he could get investors to accept reduced payments for their Treasury holdings. Trump later clarified that comment to say he would offer to buy the bonds back at a discount from investors in hopes of refinancing them at lower rates. “I would borrow, knowing that if the economy crashed, you could make a deal,” Trump told CNBC. Such a move, never before attempted by the U.S. government, would likely spook investors whose trust in Treasury notes keeps global financial markets operating. The need to refinance would likely cause interest rates to spike as investors demanded a greater return for the perceived risks of non-payment. More tax dollars would have to go toward repaying the debt. Many investors would shift their money elsewhere. And the economy could endure a traumatic blow. “It seems Trump is planning to try to run the country like one of his failed business ventures, and that does not bode well,” said Megan Greene, chief economist at Manulife. The move would also end a policy introduced during the presidency of George Washington — and celebrated in the Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway musical “Hamilton"— to pay full face value on the debts incurred by the country. The government’s unfailing payments of its debt have long pleased investors and supported the economy because the country can borrow at lower rates than it otherwise could. “Defaulting on our debt would cause creditors to rightly question the ‘full faith’ commitment we make,” said Tony Fratto, a former Treasury Department official in George W. Bush’s administration. “This isn’t a serious idea — it’s an insane idea.” Trump has touted his acumen for restructuring four of his companies under bankruptcy laws. When Trump Hotels & Casinos finished a 2004 bankruptcy reorganization, it cut $500 million off $1.8 billion in debt and reduced the interest rate to 8 percent from 15 percent. “I don’t think it’s a failure’ it’s a success,” Trump told The Associated Press at the time. But countries function differently from businesses. Nations usually print their own money and service their debt through taxes, unlike corporations that can sell off assets and equity stakes to manage debt or close up shop. Interest rates would spike if a government refused to pay what it owed as investors priced in the risk of default and became resistant toward lending. “It would make a bad situation worse and increase U.S. borrowing costs on its debt going forward because we would have lost our credit rating,” said Chad Stone, chief economist at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Publicly held U.S. debt is $13.8 trillion, and taxpayers will devote likely $255 billion to interest payments this year. The market largely sets interest rates on the debt, based in part on Federal Reserve policy. The yield on a 10-year Treasury note is about 1.8 percent, a figure that would shoot up if Trump pursued this strategy. This would cause debt payments to climb at a precarious moment for the federal budget when Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid costs will likely increase the need to borrow. “There is no upside,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, an economist and president of the conservative American Action Forum. “It’s a false hope.” The federal government flirted with default risks in 2011 and 2013 when President Barack Obama and the Republican-led House of Representatives reached an impasse over raising the government’s borrowing limit. The government narrowly avoided defaulting on its debt payments in both instances. Still, these breakdowns did cause damage. The 2011 crisis led to a credit rating downgrade by Standard & Poor’s, while the 2013 crisis produced a government shutdown. The statements by Trump reflect his often conflicting statements on economic policy. Just as he floated a plan that experts say would raise interest rates, Trump separately discussed the need to be cautious about higher rates during the same CNBC interview in which he bragged about being “the king of debt.” “It’s a real dilemma, and we have to be very, very careful,” he said. “I love debt. I love playing with it, but of course now you’re talking about something very, very fragile.”

Federal Lands Transfer

Trump sweep of GOP field deflates federal land transfer push

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Donald Trump’s apparent lock on the Republican presidential nomination means advocates of large-scale transfers of federal lands to states in the West likely won’t find support in the White House regardless of who wins election this November. Neither Trump nor Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders favor the wholesale transfers of federal lands, according to advisers and the candidates’ prior statements. However, chief policy adviser Sam Clovis said Trump does want to see policy changes that give states and local governments more say in land management. “All of us involved in the campaign believe in conserving the property,” Clovis said. “But there are also uses for the property that can benefit all concerned and benefit the common good, which is essentially what we need to do.” Trump supports “shared governance” of federal lands between federal agencies and state and local governments in many circumstances, Clovis said. Under such management, he said state and local government would benefit from better access to minerals on federal lands and would retain revenues coming off the properties above what’s required for maintenance of the land. “The whole federal land issue is one where we can preserve the sportsmen’s access to that land, we can preserve grazing land, and at the same time we can get to a shared governance structure on other aspects of that where state and local governments can benefit from access to minerals, from access to other things,” Clovis said. In instances where growing cities are hemmed in by federal lands, Clovis said Trump supports easing the transfer of federal lands to state and local governments to allow development. Trump supports the transfer to local and state government when it is appropriate and when proper stewardship is guaranteed, Clovis said, adding “Congress needs to get on board with that.” Clinton and Sanders, meanwhile, are both on-record opposing transfers of federal lands to the states. “We need to preserve existing public lands and add more public lands,” Clinton said at a press conference last fall in Nevada. “But we certainly should not be giving in to this ideological argument from the right that we need to put more public lands in private hands. I don’t agree with that.” According to a recent federal report, the federal government owns nearly 47 percent of the combined land mass in 11 Western states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. In Alaska, the federal government owns over 60 percent. Among the remaining states, federal ownership stands at just 4 percent. Supporters of transferring federal lands to states would give local officials who know the most about the land control over management decisions. And they say it would create better conditions for economic development. The issue turned violent earlier this year when activists upset by federal land policy and the imprisonment of two ranchers staged an armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. One of the activists was killed by law enforcement and others are facing criminal charges. U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, a leading opponent of the land-transfer movement, said culturally conservative groups such as hunters and anglers increasingly are rallying against the idea. Transferring federal lands to states would threaten public access that those sportsmen rely on, the New Mexico Democrat said. “It really is a bait-and-switch when you think about how many millions of acres a lot of these state lands offices have sold off over the years,” Heinrich said.

Economy

Hiring slowdown in April may signal caution about US economy

WASHINGTON (AP) — American employers signaled their caution about a sluggish economy by slowing their pace of hiring in April after months of robust job growth. At the same time, companies raised pay, and their employees worked more hours — a combination that lifted income and, if sustained, could quicken the U.S. expansion. As a whole, the government’s report Friday pointed to an American job market that continues to generate steady hiring, though at a rate that may be starting to slow. Employers added 160,000 jobs in April, well below the average gain of 243,000 in the prior six months. But the unemployment rate remained a low 5 percent, roughly where it’s been since last fall. “Employment was never going to continue rising at more than 200,000 a month indefinitely,” said Paul Ashworth, an economist at Capital Economics, a consulting firm. “Those monthly gains are simply unsustainable” at a time of tepid economic growth. Over the past six months, the economy has expanded at an annual pace of just 1 percent. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some employers have become concerned that sluggish growth could weaken customer demand and limit the need for more employees. Still, most economists said they were not worried about the weaker hiring in April. In large part, it reflected declines in retail and construction hiring, an expected pullback after hiring in those areas surged in the first quarter of 2016. And job gains have slipped before — most recently in January — without signaling any persistent slump. “The figures are a yellow light, not a red flag,” said Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at Glassdoor, an employment website. April’s hiring slowdown may also reflect a long-expected shift to a more sustainable pace of job creation. The job market has added 200,000-plus jobs a month for more than three years. That’s harder to achieve once unemployment falls to 5 percent, consistent with a nearly recovered economy. “The good news is that more people were employed, they worked longer hours and got paid more for it,” said Robert Dye, chief economist at Comerica Bank. The slowdown in economies in the United States and overseas has led to volatility in financial markets and complicated the Federal Reserve’s plans to gradually raise interest rates. Many analysts had expected the Fed to raise the short-term rate it controls as early as June. But Friday’s figures may make that less likely. Market-based measures suggest that the Fed will raise rates just once this year. Its first hike in nine years occurred in December. Jon Cooper, president of Spectronics, a maker of fluorescent dyes and ultraviolet equipment based in Westbury, New York, says weakness in China and Europe has posed problems for his business. The company makes ultraviolet lights used in counterfeit detection and crime-scene investigations. Its dyes are used by automotive and industrial companies to detect leaks. Half of its sales are overseas. “There’s certainly headwinds blowing at us as the global economy slows,” he said. But the company still wants to hire more engineers, machinists and customer-service workers because newer products are offsetting losses overseas. Most of the economy’s new jobs require higher education or skilled training. In April, workers without college degrees suffered job losses. The unemployment rate for college graduates is now just 2.4 percent, less than half the national average. Employers have hired 2.3 million college graduates in the past 12 months while letting go of 425,000 workers with a high school diploma or less. Despite last month’s pullback, hiring at April’s pace should over time be enough to keep up with population growth and lower the unemployment rate, economists said. It should also help heal some underlying scars from the Great Recession in part by encouraging people who had stopped looking for work to resume their job hunts, Chamberlain said. For four straight months, strong hiring increased the proportion of adults who either had a job or were looking for one. That was an encouraging sign because it meant Americans were more optimistic about their prospects. But that figure dipped to 62.8 percent last month from 63 percent in March. Higher-paying industries led the way in job growth in April. Professional and business services, which includes engineers, accountants and management consultants, added 65,000 jobs. Financial services added 20,000. That helped boost incomes: Average hourly pay rose 2.5 percent in April from a year earlier, above the sluggish 2 percent annual pace that has been typical for the past six years. Iric Wexler, an executive at The Cleaning Authority in Columbia, Maryland, said lower unemployment has forced his company to raise pay to attract and keep workers. So far, the company has managed to raise prices to offset the costs. In the meantime, the U.S. job market is outperforming most of its counterparts overseas. The overall unemployment rate in the 19 European nations that share the euro currency, for example, is 10.3 percent. Japan’s economy contracted in the final quarter of last year, though its jobless rate is also below that of the United States. China’s growth slowed last year, but has shown signs of leveling off in 2016. AP economics writers Josh Boak and Paul Wiseman contributed to this report.

National Business

APTOPIX Financial Markets Wall Street-1

Stocks shake off earlier loss to close higher

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks closed modestly higher on Friday, ending three days of losses, after the U.S. government’s disappointing jobs report added to speculation that the Federal Reserve might keep interest rates low for another year. Investors were also weighing tepid U.S. earnings reports and persistent weakness in the global economy. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 79.92 points, or 0.5 percent, to 17,740.63. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 6.51 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,057.14 and the Nasdaq composite rose 19.06 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,736.16. The three major indexes ended the week slightly lower, despite Friday’s gains. Stocks started the day lower after the Labor Department said U.S. employers created just 160,000 jobs last month, significantly below the 200,000 that economists were expecting. While one month does not make a trend, there have been a few reports this week from around the world that suggested weakness in the global economy. A closely watched Chinese manufacturing survey showed production contracted last month, and European Union officials trimmed their forecasts for growth across the 19 countries that use the euro. “Once again, we received evidence that the U.S. economy is just bumbling along and will most likely remain so until after the U.S. presidential election,” said Tom di Galoma, a managing director of fixed income at Seaport Global. As the day progressed, stocks turned higher in the early afternoon and stayed there the rest of the day. In a way, the bad news of the jobs report is good news for stock market investors, who have benefited from more than seven years of extremely low interest rates. Low interest rates make stocks look cheaper when compared to bonds. Di Galoma and others said that the April jobs report significantly reduces the possibility that the Federal Reserve will interest rates in June or even later this year. “In my view, a rate hike potential this year is nearing zero probability,” he said. That view appears to be widely held. Fed fund futures, which are securities that allow traders to bet on which way the Fed will move interest rates, show that a majority of investors do not expect the Fed to raise rates until February 2017. “The weakening of jobs growth, should it persist as we think it will, will make the Fed’s job more challenging this year, and any rate hikes will occur at a much slower pace than originally anticipated at the start of the year, and may not happen at all,” said Rick Rieder, BlackRock’s chief investment officer of fixed income. Immediately after the release of the jobs report, bond prices jumped and interest rates moved sharply lower, but as the day wore on, the market reversed course. U.S. government bond prices ended lower, and the yield on the benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasury note rose to 1.78 percent from 1.74 percent the day before. The euro rose to $1.1401 from $1.1398 and the dollar declined to 107.13 yen from 107.25 yen. In company news, payment processor Square sank $2.83, or 22 percent, to $10.22. The company, run by Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, reported a larger than expected quarterly loss and reported sharply higher expenses. In commodities, benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 34 cents to close at $44.66 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, climbed 36 cents to close at $45.37 a barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline rose less than 1 cent to $1.496 a gallon, heating oil rose 1 cent to $1.337 a gallon and natural gas rose 2.5 cents to $2.101 per thousand cubic feet. Gold rose $21.70 to $1,294 an ounce, silver rose 20 cents to $17.53 an ounce and copper was unchanged at $2.15 a pound.

Hong Kong Gucci Afterlife Warning

Gucci sorry for warning to Hong Kong funeral offering shops

HONG KONG (AP) — Gucci and its parent company apologized Friday after drawing heavy criticism for warning some Hong Kong shops not to sell paper offerings for the deceased that resembled the fashion brand’s luxury products. The brand and its Paris-based owner, Kering, also said in a statement that they regretted any misunderstanding caused by the letters, which were sent to six shops last month. After meeting with the shop owners, “Kering and Gucci would like to reiterate their utmost respect with regards to the funeral context,” the statement said. In Hong Kong and some other parts of Asia, people burn paper offerings at funerals and during grave-sweeping festivals for deceased relatives to “use” in the afterlife. Specialty shops near funeral parlors sell a diverse array of paper offerings, including bundles of “hell money,” mansions, iPhones, cars, cigarettes and designer handbags, cans of beer and soda, mahjong tables and dogs and cats. The letters, which were sent as part of the companies’ global intellectual property protection efforts, did not suggest legal action or compensation because they did not believe the shop owners intended to infringe on the Gucci trademark, the statement said. Gucci operates 11 boutiques in Hong Kong and is one of the brands most coveted by shoppers, including many visiting from mainland China, where luxury goods are more expensive because of higher taxes.

Financial Markets Wall Street

Asian shares lower ahead of closely watched US jobs report

TOKYO (AP) — Asian markets were mostly lower in nervous trading Friday ahead of a closely watched U.S. jobs-report that may influence interest rate decisions and the value of the U.S. dollar. KEEPING SCORE: Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 edged down 0.8 percent to 16,014.19 as Tokyo resumed trading after the three-day “Golden Week” national holidays. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 edged 0.1 percent higher to 5,349.50, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index slipped 1 percent to 20,247.21. The Shanghai Composite inched down 0.1 percent to 2,995.01. Markets were closed in South Korea for a national holiday. WALL STREET: The Dow Jones industrial average rose 9.45 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 17,660.71. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 0.49 of a point, less than 0.1 percent, to 2,050.63 and the Nasdaq composite lost 8.55 points, or 0.2 percent, to 4,717.09. U.S. JOBS: The market’s focus is turning to the U.S. jobs report for April due out later in the day. Investors are watching to see if it might affect the Federal Reserve’s plans for raising interest rates at its next policy meeting in June. Economists expect the report to show jobs grew by 200,000 last month while the unemployment rate stayed at 5 percent. THE QUOTE: “The key theme this week has been that the U.S. dollar managed to hold on to its gains across major currencies,” said Alex Wijaya, senior sales trader & institutional sales at CMC Markets Singapore of the U.S. dollar. “The biggest question is how the U.S. dollar will perform tonight in light of the U.S. non-farm payrolls announcement.” ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil lost 8 cents to $44.24 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained 54 cents on Thursday to $44.32 a barrel. Brent crude, used to price international oils, was down 3 cents at $44.98 a barrel in London. CURRENCIES: The euro fell to $1.1405 from $1.1490 and the dollar rose to 107.13 yen from 107.10 yen. Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter at https://twitter.com/yurikageyama Her work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/yuri-kageyama

Clean Energy Dominance

GOP states benefiting from shift to wind and solar energy

WASHINGTON (AP) — If there’s a War on Coal, it’s increasingly clear which side is winning. Wind turbines and solar panels accounted for more than two-thirds of all new electric generation capacity added to the nation’s grid in 2015, according to a recent analysis by the U.S. Department of Energy. The remaining third was largely new power plants fueled by natural gas, which has become cheap and plentiful as a result of hydraulic fracturing. It was the second straight year U.S. investment in renewable energy projects has outpaced that of fossil fuels. Robust growth is once again predicted for this year. And while Republican lawmakers in Washington have fought to protect coal-fired power plants, opposing President Barack Obama’s efforts to curtail climate-warming carbon emissions, data show their home states are often the ones benefiting most from the nation’s accelerating shift to renewable energy. Leading the way in new wind projects are GOP strongholds Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, home to some of the leading critics of climate science and renewable energy incentives in Congress. Republican-dominated North Carolina trails only California in new solar farms, thanks largely to pro-renewables polices enacted years ago under a Democratic legislature. The most dramatic change has been seen in the plummeting cost of emissions-free wind energy, which has declined by two-thirds in the last six years thanks to the availability of cheaper, more efficient turbines. An annual analysis by the investment firm Lazard determined that wind energy is now the lowest-cost energy source, even before federal green-energy tax incentives are factored in. “We are entering the era of renewables,” former Vice President Al Gore said Thursday at the Climate Action 2016 conference in Washington. “It’s a very exciting new reality.” Billions of dollars in private equity are going to construct massive new renewables projects, especially in the Sun Belt and Great Plains. Thousands of miles of new high-voltage transmission lines are also under construction to send power from the wind and sun from the sparsely populated areas where it is collected to the urban centers where it’s needed. Even with the surge in new projects, energy from such renewable sources as wind, solar and water accounted for only about a tenth of total U.S. power generation last year. Still, the U.S. leads the world in wind energy with about 48,800 utility-scale turbines operating across the country, generating enough electricity to power about 20 million homes. By 2030, the Energy Department estimates wind will provide a fifth of the nation’s electricity. “Wind energy is very low-cost and not subject to the fuel price risk that both natural gas and coal face,” said Michael Goggin, senior director of research at the American Wind Energy Association, an industry trade group. “Adding wind is cheaper than new gas or new coal. It is by far the lowest-cost resource.” Coal has dropped over the last decade from providing half of all U.S. electricity to about one-third. Peabody Energy, the world’s largest coal company, last month joined a growing list of major mining firms forced to seek bankruptcy protection. Wall Street appears to also be writing coal’s financial obituary. JPMorgan Chase recently announced it will no longer finance new coal mines or coal-fired power plants, following similar announcements from other big banks. While new clean-air regulations and tax incentives for renewables are having a negative impact on coal, the plummeting cost of cleaner-burning natural gas made possible by fracking is largely driving the closure of many old coal-fired power plants. Exports of coal to foreign customers such as China also are down. “We didn’t see the decline coming this fast and this deep,” said Luke Popovich, spokesman for the National Mining Association, an industry trade group. Meanwhile, the long-promised potential of Clean Coal technology has yet to be realized. A model power plant in Mississippi designed to capture the carbon dioxide generated from burning coal has encountered repeated delays and multibillion-dollar cost overruns. Closures mean America’s coal mines now employ about only about 56,700 people, down from a peak of more than 10 times that. By contrast, the fast-growing solar industry now employs more than 210,000 workers. Wind energy accounts for another 77,000 by federal estimates. Political giving by the big coal companies and their executives has declined, but the industry still spends heavily to protect its interests in Washington. Pro-coal interests spent at least $11 million to influence the 2014 Congressional midterm elections, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. More than 95 percent of that went to support Republican candidates. Among them is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who rarely misses an opportunity to blame Obama’s “War on Coal” for killing mining jobs. Nearly all of the 27 states that have sued to stop the administration’s carbon emissions-cutting Clean Power Plan have GOP governors. For Republicans from areas benefiting from renewable energy, the political calculus can be complicated. An increasing number of them try to balance criticizing Obama’s environmental efforts with quietly supporting the federal tax incentives helping drive investment in renewables. GOP leaders compromised with Democrats and a growing number of pro-renewables Republicans to include a five-year extension of tax breaks for wind and solar projects as part of a federal budget agreement approved in December. Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, among the earliest boosters of government support for wind power, points out that fossil fuels and nuclear plants have long benefited from tax credits. Last month, MidAmerican Energy announced plans to invest another $3.6 billion to add new turbines in Iowa, which already gets about a third of its electricity from the wind. “We’ve seen the economic success story behind renewables up close and personal,” Grassley said as the new project was announced. “There are more than 6,000 good wind jobs in Iowa.” Follow Michael Biesecker on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mbieseck and find his work at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/michael-biesecker