Business in Brief: United joins Delta in tightening rules for comfort animals

In this Saturday, April 1, 2017, file photo, a service dog named Orlando rests on the foot of its trainer, John Reddan, while sitting inside a United Airlines plane at Newark Liberty International Airport during a training exercise, in Newark, N.J. United Airlines wants to see more paperwork before passengers fly with an emotional-support animal. United says the changes won't affect owners of legitimate service animals with special training. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

In this Saturday, April 1, 2017, file photo, a service dog named Orlando rests on the foot of its trainer, John Reddan, while sitting inside a United Airlines plane at Newark Liberty International Airport during a training exercise, in Newark, N.J. United Airlines wants to see more paperwork before passengers fly with an emotional-support animal. United says the changes won't affect owners of legitimate service animals with special training. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

United joins Delta in tightening rules for comfort animals

DALLAS (AP) — United Airlines wants to see more paperwork before passengers fly with emotional-support animals — and don’t even try to bring a peacock on board.

The airline announced Thursday that it will tighten rules starting March 1. The changes are similar to those coming at Delta Air Lines.

United said owners will have to confirm that their animal is trained to behave in public, and they will need a vaccination form signed by a veterinarian. The vet will have to vouch that the animal isn’t a health or safety threat to other people.

The airline said the number of comfort animals has jumped 75 percent in the last year and there has been a big increase in animal-related incidents.

On Sunday, United bounced a passenger who showed up at the airport with a peacock for emotional support.

United already bans exotic animals and non-household birds. Still, the fact that a passenger tried to bring a peacock on board “helped illustrate why we needed to revise our policy,” said United spokesman Charles Hobart.

A spokeswoman for American Airlines said the carrier was still studying the issue, adding that untrained animals can lead to safety issues for employees and passengers.

Guide dogs have been occasional flyers for years, but recently there has been a surge of emotional-support animals. Federal regulations allow them — if they’re not too big or exotic — but airlines can ask for a doctor’s note verifying that the passenger needs the animal.

Airlines are convinced that scofflaws abuse the rules. Passengers often have to pay up to $125 each way to bring a small pet on board, but comfort animals fly free.

Google’s AI push comes with plenty of people problems

MENLO PARK, Calif. (AP) — Google CEO Sundar Pichai recently declared that artificial intelligence fueled by powerful computers was more important to humanity than fire or electricity. And yet the search giant increasingly faces a variety of messy people problems as well.

The company has vowed to employ thousands of human checkers just to catch rogue YouTube posters, Russian bots and other purveyors of unsavory content. It’s also on a buying spree to find office space for its burgeoning workforce in pricey Silicon Valley.

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In this Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016, file photo, Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks during a product event in San Francisco. Pichai has declared artificial intelligence more important to humanity than fire or electricity. And yet the search giant is increasingly having to deal with messy people problems: from the need for human checkers to catch rogue YouTube posters and Russian bots to its efforts to house its burgeoning workforce in pricey Silicon Valley. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

For a company that built its success on using faceless algorithms to automate many human tasks, this focus on people presents something of a conundrum. Yet it’s also a necessary one as lawmakers ramp up the pressure on Google to deter foreign powers from abusing its platforms and its YouTube unit draws fire for offensive videos , particularly ones aimed at younger audiences.

In the latest quarter alone, Google parent Alphabet Inc. added 2,009 workers, for a total of 80,110. Over the last three years, it hired a net 2,245 people per quarter on average. That’s nearly 173 per week, or 25 people per day.

Some of the extra workers this year will be part of Google’s pledge to have 10,000 people across the company snooping out videos and other material that violate the company’s policies — but which computers can’t catch on their own. That program will lead to what Google calls “significant growth “ in personnel.

Google will take on even more workers in the current quarter now that it has closed its $1.1 billion purchase of part of hardware maker HTC, bringing onboard the 2,000-plus engineers who worked on the Pixel smartphone line.

Apple, once again, has a bad case of the iPhone jitters

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Apple is making more money than ever, but it still doesn’t seem to be enough to keep everyone happy. Not with conspiracy theories swirling around Apple’s secret slowdown of older iPhones while a cloud of uncertainty looms over its high-priced iPhone X.

It’s a reality check for a company accustomed to an unflinchingly loyal customer base. Apple expected buyers to embrace the iPhone X as a revolutionary device worth its $1,000 price, but it’s still not clear how many people are willing to ante up, especially with other recently released models selling for $200 to $300 less.

The first clues about consumers’ interest in the iPhone X emerged Thursday with the release of Apple’s fiscal first-quarter earnings report. That period covered the final three months of last year, including the early November debut of the iPhone X.

Apple sold 77.3 million iPhones in the quarter, about 1 million fewer than at the same time in the previous year.