Obama sips Flint water, urges children be tested for lead

2016-05-06 00:49:05

FLINT, Mich. President Barack Obama sipped filtered water in Flint, Michigan, on Wednesday and assured angry residents that their children would be fine in the long term despite the "complete screw-up" that contaminated their drinking water with lead.Obama made the trip to the mostly African-American community to demonstrate that the water there was safe even as he predicted it would take more than two years to replace the city's aging pipes.Flint, with a population of about 100,000, was under control of a state-appointed emergency manager in 2014 when it switched its water source from Detroit's municipal system to the Flint River to save money. The city switched back in October.The river water was more corrosive than the Detroit system and caused more lead to leach from its aging pipes. Lead can be toxic, and children are especially vulnerable."This was a man made disaster. This was avoidable. This was preventable," Obama told a crowd at a local high school. "Flint's recovery is everybody's responsibility, and I'm going to make sure that responsibility is met."The president urged parents to ensure their children were tested for lead and said residents should run their taps frequently to flush out remaining pollutants. DRINKS THE WATERAfter coughing repeatedly during his remarks, he asked for a glass of water, and drank it in front of the crowd. Earlier he sipped from a glass of filtered Flint water during a meeting with regulators. The White House had said that it did not know if the president would drink filtered Flint water.Obama said the crisis had resulted from government officials at all levels not paying attention. Questions linger over whether environmental regulators could have acted more urgently to help the city, where more than 40 percent of its residents live in poverty. Susan Hedman, the EPA's Midwest chief and an Obama appointee, resigned in February amid concern that she had not acted quickly on a June 2015 memo from agency scientist Miguel Del Toral that said tests showed high lead levels in water from Flint homes.Last month, lawyers representing residents of Flint filed a $220.2 million damages claim alleging that negligence on the part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had contributed to dangerous lead levels in the city's water.Three Michigan state and local officials were criminally charged in April in an investigation into lead levels in Flint's water, and the state attorney general said there would be more charges.Many residents have blamed Michigan's Republican governor, Rick Snyder, who was greeted by boos from the crowd. "You didn't create this problem, government failed you," Snyder said. Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker and Flint native Michael Moore disputed Obama's assurances about the quality of the water. "A number of experts are still saying this water is not safe. It’s still going through the same corroded lead pipes," he said on CNN, describing Obama's visit as "too little, too late."Obama, going off his prepared remarks, told members of the community that their anger was understandable, but he urged them not to let their children believe they would be hurt for life."You should be angry, but channel that anger. You should be hurt, but don't sink into despair," he said. "Do not somehow communicate to our children here in this city that they're going to be saddled with problems for the rest of their lives. Because they will not. They’ll do just fine."The EPA, whose budget has been squeezed by Congress, acknowledges there are issues with its lead and copper rule that need to be addressed to prevent similar crises in other cities. The agency has said it would propose changes to the rule early next year. (Additional reporting by Jeff Mason and Eric Walsh; Editing by Leslie Adler, Toni Reinhold)

World's biggest diamond to be auctioned in London

2016-05-05 00:17:05

NEW YORK "Lesedi la Rona," the largest gem-quality rough diamond discovered in more than 100 years, will be auctioned in London next month and is expected to sell for $70 million, international auction house Sotheby's said on Wednesday.Ahead of the auction on June 29, the 1,190-carat diamond, its name in Botswana's Tswana language translates as "Our Light," was on display at Sotheby's New York headquarters.David Bennett, worldwide chairman of Sotheby's jewelry division, said the size of the Lesedi la Rona amazed experts."It really just soared off the scale of rare into something just, one off, it's just unique," he said. Unearthed in Botswana in November 2015 by Canadian mining company Lucara Diamond Corp., the gigantic gem is about the size of a tennis ball and is believed to be between 2.5 billion to more than three billion years old. The Lesedi La Rona's color and transparency are typical of a rare and coveted subgroup called Type IIa diamonds, according to a study by the Gemological Institute of America.Bennett said it was second only in size to the Cullinan Diamond, which was discovered in 1905 in South Africa and weighed more than 3,000 carats. The Cullinan Diamond was later cut into several smaller stones. The reputation of diamonds mined in Africa has been tarnished in recent decades by rebels in strife-torn countries who forced people to mine them and then sold the so-called "blood diamonds" to raise money to buy arms.But the Kimberley Process Certification System, a United Nations-backed program that was set up in 2002 following devastating civil wars in Angola, Sierra Leone and Liberia, has made trafficking in conflict diamonds much more difficult. Sotheby's said independent reports by experts showed the Lesedi la Rona could have the potential to yield the largest, top-quality diamond ever seen once it has been cut and polished."It's worthwhile for people to come and look at it because you probably won't be seeing it again in two or three year's time," Bennett said. "It may very well be cut up into all these wonderful famous stones." (Editing by Daniel Wallis and Bernadette Baum)

Obama visits Flint as questions linger on EPA role in water crisis

2016-05-04 16:11:06

WASHINGTON President Barack Obama on Wednesday will visit Flint, Michigan, a city struggling with the effects of lead-poisoned drinking water, as questions linger over whether his environmental regulators could have acted more urgently to address the crisis.Obama will get updates from federal officials on the response in Flint, a mostly African-American city where more than 40 percent of the city's 100,000 people live in poverty. He will also listen to residents and speak at a high school during his visit, the first since the crisis came to light."Like you, I'll use my voice to call for change and help lift up your community," Obama wrote last week to Amariyanna Copeny, an eight-year-old Flint girl who has marched in protests about the crisis and had asked to meet him. While under control of a state-appointed emergency manager in 2014, the financially-strapped city switched from Detroit's water system to the Flint River to save money. The more caustic water caused lead, a toxin that harms brain development, to leach from aging city pipes. After blood tests of children showed high lead levels, the city switched back to Detroit's system last October but residents still must filter their water. The White House points out that Michigan brought charges against three state and local officials last month for misleading regulatory officials and manipulating water tests. The Michigan attorney general said more charges were to follow.Critics say the federal Environmental Protection Agency shares blame for not reacting more urgently. Susan Hedman, the EPA's Midwest chief, and an Obama appointee, resigned in February amid scrutiny for not acting quickly to a memo from agency scientist Miguel Del Toral in June 2015 that said tests showed high lead levels in water from Flint homes.Last week, Flint residents filed a damage claim for $220 million against the EPA alleging that negligence led to the injuries of more than 500 people. The complaint cites a Del Toral memo that said it would border on criminal neglect not to warn Flint residents about lead contamination. The EPA has said it will look into the complaint.The Federal Bureau of Investigation said in February it was joining a criminal investigation with the EPA's Office of the Inspector General and federal prosecutors in Michigan to explore whether laws were broken by a range of officials.White House spokesman Josh Earnest has refrained from commenting at length on whether federal officials could have acted faster, citing ongoing investigations. The EPA, which has seen its budget squeezed by Congress, acknowledges that there are issues with its lead and copper rule that need to be addressed to prevent similar crises in other cities. The agency will propose changes to the rule early next year, it says. The rule would be finalized later, likely after Obama leaves office on Jan. 20.After Obama declared a state of emergency in January, freeing up to $5 million in funds, officials distributed water filters, clean water, and other aid. The White House also expanded access to Medicaid and urged Congress to approve more federal aid to Flint. (Reporting by Timothy Gardner)

Apple wins dismissal of lawsuit over MacBook logic boards

2016-05-03 12:24:05

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)

U.S. Supreme Court rejects appeal in shareholder suit against BP

2016-05-02 21:34:05

WASHINGTON The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined a request from shareholders seeking to revive their class action lawsuit against BP claiming the British oil company misrepresented its safety procedures prior to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.The court left in place a September 2015 ruling by the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that refused to certify the lawsuit filed by investors who bought shares in the 2-1/2 years before the spill. BP's (BP.L) share price plummeted after the disaster, which has cost the company more than $55 billion.BP said in court papers the lawsuit should not be allowed to proceed because the plaintiffs were improperly seeking damages for the entire decline in stock price as a result of the spill.The appeals court said some of the investors might have bought the stock even knowing the risk, and these investors may still sue BP individually. In the same ruling, the appeals court allowed claims by investors who bought shares after the spill to move forward. Those claims were not at issue in the appeal."BP has long argued that all the plaintiffs’ securities claims are meritless and will continue to defend vigorously against them," BP spokesman Geoff Morrell said. Lawyers for the investors did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment.The April 20, 2010, Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion and Macondo oil well rupture killed 11 workers and caused the largest offshore environmental disaster in U.S. history, polluting large parts of the Gulf, killing marine wildlife and harming businesses. It took 87 days to plug the leak on the ocean floor. In total, BP has incurred about $55 billion in losses as a result of the spill, including $18.7 billion to settle federal, state and local claims.The case is Ludlow v. BP, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 15-952. (Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Additional reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Will Dunham)

Older Post
Apple wins dismissal of lawsuit over MacBook logic boards
Smell test for Indonesia's motorcycle taxi candidates
Abstract painter, sculptor Ellsworth Kelly dies at 92