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Unruly airline passengers fined a record $1 million this year

Charlie Riedel/Associated Press


Unruly airline passengers fined a record $1 million this year

Rowdy airline passengers have now racked up a record $1 million in potential fines this year, a toll of the tumult in the sky as travelers have returned after most were grounded by the pandemic in 2020. The Federal Aviation Administration announced the latest cases Thursday, involving 34 travelers who flew between January and May. Their offenses ranged from refusing to wear a face mask, as required by a federal rule, to punching a flight attendant in the nose. Airlines have reported about 3,900 incidents of unruly passengers this year, and three-fourths involve refusal to wear a mask, according to the FAA. Alcohol is another common factor. American Airlines on Thursday extended its ban on alcohol sales in the main cabin through Jan. 18, matching the timing of the federal mask mandate. American still sells alcohol to passengers in business and first-class sections. An FAA spokeswoman confirmed that $1 million is a single-year record for proposed fines against passengers, who can appeal. The FAA has started investigations against 682 travelers this year, smashing the previous high of 310 in 2004. The latest round of cases includes two fines that could top $40,000. On a JetBlue flight in May, a man threw his carry-on bag at other passengers, grabbed a flight attendant by the ankles, and put his head up her skirt before he was restrained with plastic ties. The FAA wants to fine him $45,000. The FAA is seeking a $42,000 fine against a man who refused to wear a mask on another JetBlue flight in May and threatened other passengers, including making stabbing gestures toward some. Crew members confiscated a bag containing a substance the man was snorting, then armed themselves with ice mallets before police took him off the plane. — ASSOCIATED PRESS



Toyota to suspend production at all its Japanese plants over shortages

Toyota’s efforts to stockpile enough chips and other key components to ride out supply disruptions only protected the company so long before it too succumbed to the shortages eviscerating automakers. The manufacturer will suspend production at all of its 14 Japanese assembly plants for various lengths of time through next month. The impact of these cuts will be harshest in September, with Toyota slashing its production plan by 40 percent, though risks will carry forward beyond next month. It’s the latest sign even the best supply-chain planning is proving no match for a pandemic that virtually ground the auto industry to a halt a year ago and has plagued efforts to restore production. Toyota and BMW — two manufacturers least scathed by the semiconductor shortage in the first half — have now warned of significant blows to their operations in the coming months. — BLOOMBERG NEWS



Bank of America won a record number of patents this year

Inventors at Bank of America kept originating ideas, leading to a record-setting first half of the year, even while continuing to work from home. The US Patent and Trademark Office granted the lender 227 patents in the first six months of 2021, up 23 percent from a year earlier, Bank of America said in a statement Thursday. The Charlotte, N.C.-based company set its previous patent record in the first half of last year, when it was granted 184 amid the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. About 40 percent of the patents granted to Bank of America in the first half of the year relate to artificial intelligence or machine learning. The firm also pursued new technology related to blockchain, payment technology, and data mining and analytics. — BLOOMBERG NEWS



Bayer and others invest $45 million in startup

Bayer and other investors will funnel $45 million to an agriculture startup that claims its products can cut 30 percent of global nitrogen fertilizer use, the equivalent of removing 200 million cars from the road. Sound Agriculture, based in Emeryville, Calif., has developed an alternative to synthetic fertilizer for corn and soybeans that gives plants access to more soil nitrogen and phosphorus, as well as a breeding technique that accelerates plant development, Bayer said in an e-mailed statement. Climate activists have been pushing for years to reduce fertilizer use or change the way it’s produced. Runoff from farms can enter rivers and streams and cause problems such as coastal dead zones, while nitrogen not absorbed by crops emits a heat-trapping gas 300 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, according to the Environmental Defense Fund. — BLOOMBERG NEWS


Workers at GM plant in Mexico cancel union contract

Workers at a General Motors truck plant in Mexico voted to cancel their union contract after the United States initiated a dispute against conditions at the factory, a historic victory for the North American free trade agreement. Employees at the huge GM plant in Silao, Guanajuato, voted 3,214 for, and 2,623 against, terminating their contract, allowing them to choose a new union. In Mexico, giant labor confederations have struck deals for decades with companies that have kept worker pay low, angering Mexico’s North American partners. The vote emerged as an important test case for new labor provisions under the revamped North America trade deal, known as USMCA, which the United States cited to file its labor dispute. And as one of the three GM plants that produce highly profitable pickup trucks, the plant is critical to the company’s balance sheet. — BLOOMBERG NEWS



Chipotle launching plant-based chorizo

Chipotle is introducing a new plant-based chorizo that’s made in-house, bypassing faux-meat giants such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods. The sausage alternative created by Chipotle’s culinary team is made with pea protein — a common ingredient in meat substitutes — as well as water, olive oil, and spices including paprika and cumin. While Beyond Meat and Impossible have become frequent collaborators with restaurant chains, Chipotle said it wasn’t interested because some other plant-based foods contain too many unhealthy additives. — BLOOMBERG NEWS


Another Sackler family member offers no apology for opioid crisis

The family that owns Purdue Pharma had hoped a reformulated version of Oxycontin would help rein in the burgeoning opioid crisis a decade ago, a member of the Sackler family said Thursday in court testimony that once again stopped short of an apology or acceptance of responsibility for the epidemic. Mortimer D.A. Sackler was the third member of the wealthy family to testify in a hearing, held by videoconference, on whether a judge should accept Purdue’s plan to reorganize into a new company no longer owned by family members. — ASSOCIATED PRESS