Apple wins dismissal of lawsuit over MacBook logic boards

Apple Inc won the dismissal on Thursday of a lawsuit accusing it of defrauding consumers by selling MacBook laptop computers that contained "logic boards" it knew were defective, and which routinely failed within two years.U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco said the plaintiffs, Uriel Marcus and Benedict Verceles, failed to show that Apple made "affirmative misrepresentations," despite citing online complaints and Apple marketing statements calling the laptops "state of the art" or the "most advanced" on the market."Plaintiffs have failed to allege that Apple's logic boards were unfit for their ordinary purposes or lacked a minimal level of quality," Alsup wrote. "Both plaintiffs were able to adequately use their computers for approximately 18 months and two years, respectively."Alsup gave the plaintiffs until Jan. 22 to amend their lawsuit, which sought class-action status, against the Cupertino, California-based company. Omar Rosales, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Apple did not immediately respond to a similar request.The plaintiffs claimed that Apple's sale of MacBooks since May 20, 2010, violated consumer protection laws in California and Texas, where the lawsuit began last May before being moved.They also contended that Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook was told about the defective logic boards in 2011, but did nothing. Logic boards contain computer circuitry and are sometimes known as motherboards.A separate and still pending lawsuit in California accuses Apple of defrauding consumers by selling MacBook Pro laptops in 2011 that contained defective graphic cards, causing screen distortions and system failures. MacBooks are part of Apple's Mac line of desktop and laptop computers. The company reported unit sales in that business of 18.91 million in its latest fiscal year.The case is Marcus et al v. Apple Inc, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 14-03824. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York. Editing by Andre Grenon) Read more

Opponents target North Carolina transgender bathroom law

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. For 20-year-old Payton McGarry, a transgender man and college student, the North Carolina law barring him from using public bathrooms consistent with his gender identity means a routine part of life now dictates his day.He limits how much he drinks to avoid using a bathroom away from home. He looks for gender-neutral restrooms at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he attends, but has missed instruction time when he cannot find one in his classroom buildings."There is a lot of insecurity about being in public spaces," the accounting and business major said in a telephone interview. "If I know I’m going to be out an extended period of time, I just don’t drink a lot."On Monday, McGarry and other opponents of the law, known as House Bill 2, or HB 2, will ask a federal judge in Winston-Salem to block enforcement of its bathroom provisions while the legal fight against the full measure, enacted in March, plays out.North Carolina is the only state in the country to mandate that people use multiple-occupancy public restrooms and changing facilities that correspond with the sex on their birth certificate rather than their gender identity, placing it at the forefront of the latest civil rights frontier in America.The restrictions put transgender people, particularly students at public schools, in an untenable position, said Chris Brook, one of the American Civil Liberties Union lawyers challenging the measure."It forces all trans kids in our state to choose between breaking the law and using the correct restroom or using the wrong restroom, which could put them in a perilous situation," he said.Republican lawmakers have not been persuaded by such arguments, or boycotts of the state by corporations, conventions, entertainers and the National Basketball Association, which this month said it was pulling its 2017 all-star game from Charlotte in protest of the law, which has been decried by critics as discriminatory. Lawyers for Republican Governor Pat McCrory argue the measure protects the safety and privacy expectations of the state's residents."Plaintiffs purportedly seek to overturn a single state statute, but in reality they seek to overturn millennia of accepted practice by which men and women utilize separate facilities for using the restroom, bathing, and changing clothes," the governor's lawyers said in a court filing opposing efforts to block HB 2.McCrory's office did not reply to a request for comment ahead of Monday's hearing. The University of North Carolina, also named as a defendant, welcomes "resolution of these difficult issues by the court so that we can refocus our efforts on our primary mission - educating students," President Margaret Spellings said in a statement. TELLING THEIR STORIESKaty and Mac Schafer hope their family's story will help change minds. Their eldest child, 17-year-old Hunter, was assigned the gender of male at birth but now lives and identifies as female.She attends high school at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, where until HB 2 passed she used the women's restroom in keeping with the guidance given to her by medical professionals.Her mother felt sick when lawmakers took that option away. "All that we had done right as parents to love and support our kid and everything the medical community was telling us was important to have our teenager thrive in the world ... none of that was considered," said Katy Schafer, who joined her daughter and McGarry as plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed by the ACLU and Lambda Legal advocacy groups.The case is due to go to trial on Nov. 14. North Carolina also has been sued by the U.S. Justice Department over the law, while McCrory and other public officials in turn have sued the U.S. government.The legal battles have thrust Joaquin Carcano, a 28-year-old transgender man and another plaintiff in the ACLU's case, into the national debate over bathroom access.Court documents tell how the only gender-neutral bathroom available to him in the office where he works as an HIV project coordinator at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill requires riding a service elevator to a part of the building used for housekeeping.Carcano said he feels a responsibility to speak for the transgender community. But being in the spotlight on such a personal matter is not always easy."Having your identity and body being a point of public conversation can be really exhausting," he said. (Editing by Steve Orlofsky) Read more

100-year global study finds world's tallest are Dutch, Latvians

LONDON Dutch men and Latvian women are the planet's tallest people but Iranian men and South Korean women have grown the fastest in the last century, according to the largest ever study of height around the world.Americans, once among the world's tallest people, have dropped from having men and women at 3rd and 4th in the global height rankings a 100 years earlier, to placing 37th and 42nd respectively in 2014.The research, led by scientists at Imperial College London and published in the journal eLife, also found some nations have stopped growing over the past 30 to 40 years, despite having spurts at the start of the century studied. The United States was one of the first wealthy countries to plateau, followed by others including Britain, Finland, and Japan. Meanwhile, people in Spain and Italy and many countries in Latin America and East Asia are still gaining height.In contrast, some nations in sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and the Middle East have seen average heights decline over the past three to four decades.Human height is strongly influenced by nutrition and environmental factors, although genetic factors can also play a role in individuals. Children and teens who are better nourished and live in better environments tend to be taller.Research suggests a mother's health and nutrition during pregnancy may also play a role in how tall her children grow. Height also has lifelong consequences. Some studies have found that taller people tend to live longer, get a better education and earn more. But being tall may also increase some health risks, with studies linking height to a higher risk of developing ovarian and prostate cancers."This study gives us a picture of the health of nations over the past century," said Majid Ezzati, an Imperial professor of public health. He said the findings underlined the need "to address children and adolescents' environment and nutrition on a global scale."The 800-strong research team, which worked with the World Health Organization, used data from various sources including military conscription figures, health and nutrition population surveys and epidemiological studies. The scientists use these to generate height information for 18-year-olds in 1914 through to 18-year-olds in 2014. They found that Iranian men have gained an average of 16.5 centimeters (cm) in height, and South Korean women 20.2 cm. The height of men and women in Britain has increased by around 11 cm over the past century, while the height of U.S. men and women has risen by 6 cm and 5 cm. Chinese men and women have gained around 11 cm and 10 cm.The study also found that: *Dutch men are the tallest, with an average height of 182.5 cm. Latvian women are the tallest, with an average height of 170 cm.• Men from East Timor were the smallest in the world in 2014, with an average height of 160 cm. Women from Guatemala were the smallest in 2014, with an average height of 149 cm.• The difference between the tallest and shortest countries in 2014 was about 23 cm for men – an increase of 4 cm on the height gap in 1914. The height difference between the tallest and shortest countries for women has remained the same across the century, at about 20 cm.• The height difference between men and women has on average remained largely unchanged over 100 years – the average height gap was about 11 cm in 1914 and 12 cm in 2014.• Australian men in 2014 were the only non-European nationality in the top 25 tallest in the world. The nations with the tallest men in 2014 (1914 ranking in brackets): 1. Netherlands (12) 2. Belgium (33) 3. Estonia (4) 4. Latvia (13) 5. Denmark (9) 6. Bosnia and Herzegovina (19) 7. Croatia (22) 8. Serbia (30) 9. Iceland (6) 10. Czech Republic (24) The nations with the tallest women in 2014 (1914 ranking in brackets): 1. Latvia (28) 2. Netherlands (38) 3. Estonia (16) 4. Czech Republic (69)  5. Serbia (93) 6. Slovakia (26) 7. Denmark (11) 8. Lithuania (41) 9. Belarus (42) 10. Ukraine (43) (Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Tom Heneghan) Read more

Iraq's marshes, once drained by Saddam, named world heritage site

BAGHDAD A wetland in southeast Iraq, thought to be the biblical Garden of Eden and almost completely drained during Saddam Hussein's rule, has become a UNESCO world heritage site, Iraqi authorities said on Sunday.Fed by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the marshlands of Mesopotamia are spawning grounds for Gulf fisheries and home to bird species such as the sacred ibis. They also provide a resting spot for thousands of wildfowl migrating between Siberia and Africa.Saddam Hussein, who accused the region's Marsh Arab inhabitants of treachery during the 1980-1988 war with Iran, dammed and drained the marshes in the 1990s to flush out rebels hiding in the reeds.After his overthrow by the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, locals wrecked many of the dams to let water rush back in, and foreign environmental agencies helped breathe life back into the marshes.The marshes, which covered 9,000 square kilometers (3,500 square miles) in the 1970s, had shrunk to just 760 sq km by 2002 before regaining some 40 percent of the original area by 2005. Iraq has said it aims to recover a total of 6,000 sq km. Vast, remote and bordering Iran, the marshes have been used in recent years for drugs and arms smuggling, receiving stolen goods and keeping hostages for ransom.The Marsh Arabs have lived in the wetlands for millennia, but are on the fringes of Iraqi society. A study put their population at 400,000 in the 1950s but several hundred thousand fled Saddam's repression or become economic migrants. Estimates of the numbers returning vary wildly. Many Marsh Arabs are illiterate and have struggled to find work outside the marshes.Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Sunday praised UNESCO's decision, which he said "coincides with the consecutive military victories in the war against" Islamic State. The militant group, which has been pushed back from about half the territory it seized in 2014, controls some of the world's richest archaeological sites in northern Iraq but has not come close to the country's south. (Reporting by Stephen Kalin; Editing by Helen Popper) Read more

German prosecutors say won't be lenient with VW

HAMBURG German prosecutors will grant Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) no mitigation for a record vehicle emissions settlement it faces in the United States and want VW to pay them a separate fine, a spokesman said.Prosecutors in Braunschweig, near Volkswagen's (VW) Wolfsburg headquarters, are demanding VW be fined based on the level of the profits it made from selling about 11 million cars equipped with illicit engine software.VW last month agreed with the U.S. government and regulators to pay $15.3 billion to get about half a million emissions-cheating diesel cars off U.S. roads. But the scale of U.S. penalties is no reason to exercise leniency on VW's regulatory offence, a spokesman for the Braunschweig prosecutor's office said on Monday."We cannot pay heed to what VW may have to pay in other countries when we go about setting the fine," he said. "We cannot say: 'VW is already requested to pay a lot in the U.S., so let's not be so strict.' That's not possible." Under Germany's law on regulatory offences, prosecutors are assessing the "economic advantage" VW enjoyed from using cheating software, rather than expensive exhaust filter systems, to manipulate pollution tests, the spokesman said, adding it will be difficult to determine the level of profits VW has reaped from its wrongdoing.Industry observers in Germany estimate this could result in a fine of several hundreds of millions of euros. Braunschweig prosecutors, which last month started probing former VW Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn and VW brand chief Herbert Diess over suspicion of market manipulation, declined comment. Europe's largest automaker confirmed on Monday it has been notified by prosecutors about the latest probe but declined further comment.The proposed U.S. settlement would move VW close to the 16.2 billion euros ($18 billion) it has set aside to cover the costs of the scandal. VW still faces criminal probes in the United States, Germany and South Korea as well as lawsuits from investors around the world suing the carmaker for what they describe as losses incurred after the manipulations were disclosed in September.($1 = 0.9053 euros) (Reporting by Jan Schwartz and Andreas Cremer; Editing by Ruth Pitchford) Read more

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