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

California firefighters struggle to slow Big Sur blaze

CARMEL-BY-THE-SEA, Calif. Firefighters struggled on Sunday to slow a deadly wildfire that has raged for 10 days near California's Big Sur coast, destroying dozens of homes and forcing the evacuation of hundreds of residents and campers, authorities said.The so-called Soberanes Fire, which erupted on July 22 just south of Carmel-by-the-Sea, has grown to 40,000 acres (16,187 hectares) of parched chaparral and timberland in and around the Los Padres National Forest."Firefighters are meeting challenges due to topography, fuel load, and dry humidity," said Katherine Garver, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire). "The fire is making runs into inaccessible areas."Officials ordered evacuations for the famous Tassajara Zen Mountain Center in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and other areas on Sunday afternoon.They had hoped that favorable weather conditions would allow progress to be made in containing the blaze, with strong winds that had been driving the fire for days starting to abate. By Sunday night, 18 percent of the fire's perimeter was contained, a slight increase from earlier in the day, officials said.Extremely hot, dry weather is still hampering the efforts of some 5,300 firefighters, 16 helicopters, a half dozen air tankers and 500 fire engines. Officials do not expect the fire to be fully contained until the end of August because parts of it are burning in steep and inaccessible terrain. Its cause is under investigation. Flames have already destroyed 57 homes and 11 outbuildings, with at least five other structures damaged, according to the latest tally. Another 2,000 structures were threatened, with an estimated 350 residents displaced by evacuations unrelated to those in the area of the Zen Center, officials said.The fire threat has prompted authorities to close a string of popular California campgrounds and recreation areas along the northern end of the Big Sur coastline, including Point Lobos Natural Reserve. The blaze took a deadly turn on Tuesday when a bulldozer operator hired by property owners to help battle the flames was killed when his tractor rolled over. It was the second California wildfire-related death in a week.Another fire broke out on Saturday in grass and brush about 30 miles (48 km) northeast of Fresno, in central California, and has since spread to 1,500 acres (607 hectares), threatening 200 homes, according to Cal Fire. (Writing and additional reporting by Frank McGurty in New York, Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles, California; Editing by Sandra Maler, Paul Simao and Paul Tait) Read more

Australia hails quick fix of problems in athletes' Village

RIO DE JANEIRO Australia's Olympic delegation in Rio de Janeiro said on Monday organizers had made "fantastic" progress in fixing problems with unfinished housing at the athletes' village, after complaints from several countries about shoddy electricity and plumbing. Just under two weeks before the games begin on Aug. 5, Australia's delegation had said on Sunday it would not move into the Olympic Village because it was "not safe or ready", citing deficiencies like "blocked toilets, leaking pipes and exposed wiring."The litany of grievances from Australia, which moved members of its delegation into nearby hotels, revived concern over Brazil's readiness to host a major sporting event in the midst of its worst recession in decades and a deep political crisis.New Zealand and Italy's delegations both said they had been forced to fix problems with electricity and plumbing, while Argentina said on Monday it had reserved accommodation outside the Village for part of its delegation.However, the head of the Australian Olympic team, Kitty Chiller, thanked organizers on Monday for responding promptly to her concerns by deploying hundreds of maintenance people and cleaners. "There was fantastic progress made today," Chiller told a news conference in the Olympic media center. "It's looking like, according to our plan, we will be able to move everybody in on Wednesday."The newly-built village will host more than 18,000 athletes, officials, staff and volunteers over the Aug. 5-21 Olympics and the Sept. 7-18 Paralympics, the first Games to be held in South America. Chiller said that her team had identified some 200 problems with the accommodation at the weekend - including water running down the walls, dirty floors and a strong smell of gas - but the list was now down to single figures. Australia, which finished eighth in the medals table in London four years ago, is to bring 410 athletes for the games. It received three of its floors in the athletes accommodation on Monday and it expects to receive the rest of the 15 floors by Wednesday, Chiller said.Australian Shelley Watts, competing in the 60-kg female boxing category, said she had been impressed by the official accommodation when she arrived on Monday.“It looks absolutely amazing. I haven’t had to concern myself with any of the leakages of the water or anything but walking in there I just couldn’t wipe the smile off my face,” she said. “What Rio has done to be able to create this facility is amazing.” MEMORIES OF WORLD CUPAs many as 500,000 visitors are expected to travel to Brazil for the Games, many of them from the United States. Worries about security, the Zika virus and Brazil's economic crisis might discourage some travelers and VIP guests and around 28 percent of Olympic tickets have yet to be sold.The problems at the Village are not unlike those before other big spectacles in Brazil, like the 2014 World Cup, for which stadium crews were still wielding paintbrushes and screwdrivers even minutes before kickoff. The new subway line, which will connect the popular seaside neighborhoods of Copacabana and Ipanema to the Olympic facilities in Barra de Tijuca, has suffered repeated delays and is still undergoing tests despite a scheduled inauguration next Saturday. Chiller said that a group of around 10 national Olympic committees - including Great Britain, New Zealand, Japan and Germany - had worked together to alert the local organizers and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to problems at the village.Rio's outspoken Mayor Eduardo Paes pledged to fix the problems but had appeared to make light of the Australians' complaints by saying he would place a kangaroo in front of their accommodation to make them feel at home."The mayor and I have a date on Wednesday and I believe there will be a ceremonial handing over of the keys. I have arranged a little present for the mayor as well," Chiller said. "I still say that it will be the best village that I have ever been in once these issues are complete."Chiller said the Australian team had paid the cost of putting its members in hotels and some initial cleaning costs to make its accommodation habitable. "We'll work out who pays the bill later on," she added. (Editing by Mary Milliken) 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

Philistines were more sophisticated than given credit for, say archeologists

ASHKELON, Israel Philistines were no "philistines", say archaeologists who unearthed a 3,000-year-old cemetery in which members of the biblical nation were buried along with jewelry and perfumed oil.Little was known about the Philistines prior to the recent excavation in the Israeli port city of Ashkelon. The famed arch enemies of the ancient Israelites -- Goliath was a Philistine -- flourished in this area of the Mediterranean, starting in the 12th century BC, but their way of life and origin have remained a mystery.That stands to change after what researchers have called the first discovery of a Philistine cemetery. It contains the remains of about 150 people in numerous burial chambers, some containing surprisingly sophisticated items.The team also found DNA on parts of the skeletons and hope that further testing will determine the origins of the Philistine people.We may need to rethink today's derogatory use of the word philistine, which refers to someone averse to culture and the arts, said archaeologist Lawrence Stager, who has led the Leon Levy Expedition to Ashkelon since 1985. "The Philistines have had some bad press, and this will dispel a lot of myths," Stager said.Stager's team dug down about 3 meters (10 feet) to uncover the cemetery, which they found to have been used centuries later as a Roman vineyard.On hands and knees, workers brushed away layers of dusty earth to reveal the brittle white bones of entire Philistine skeletons reposed as they were three millennia ago. Decorated juglets believed to have contained perfumed oil were found in graves. Some bodies were still wearing bracelets and earrings. Others had weapons. The archeologists also discovered some cremations, which the team say were rare and expensive for the period, and some larger jugs contained the bones of infants. "The cosmopolitan life here is so much more elegant and worldly and connected with other parts of the eastern Mediterranean," Stager said, adding that this was in contrast to the more modest village lifestyle of the Israelites who lived in the hills to the east.Bones, ceramics and other remains were moved to a tented compound for further study and some artifacts were reconstructed piece by piece. The team mapped the position of every bone removed to produce a digital 3D recreation of the burial site.Final reports on the finds are being published by the Semitic Museum at Harvard University. (Editing by David Goodman) Read more

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