Giant panda cub born in Vienna after zoo sets the right mood

VIENNA A naturally conceived giant panda cub has been born in Vienna, the city's main zoo announced on Monday, a rare event that it said is unique in Europe to the Austrian capital.Getting the shy, bamboo-eating mammals to mate is a famously difficult task, so much so that breeding centers usually turn to artificial insemination instead."As far as giant pandas are concerned, Vienna is obviously fertile ground," Vienna's Schoenbrunn Zoo, set in the landscaped gardens of a former imperial summer residence, said in a statement.Pictures and video footage released by the zoo showed the tiny pink newborn clinging to its mother Yang Yang, who has given birth to three other naturally conceived cubs before, all of which are now in China. The latest arrival, born on Sunday at 5:05 a.m. local time (0305 GMT), is just 10 cm (four inches) long and weighs 100 grams (3.5 ounces), so small that zookeepers have been unable to determine its gender. "Yang Yang is an experienced mother and is taking great care of her offspring," the zoo's director, Dagmar Schratter, said. "But one must bear in mind that the mortality rate of giant pandas within their first year is roughly 40 percent."The zoo said its panda area would remain closed for the time being to ensure that Yang Yang and her cub are not disturbed. (Reporting by Francois Murphy)

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

New Zealand satisfied with Rio Village after remedial work

New Zealand's Olympic team said they were satisfied with their accommodation for the Rio de Janeiro Games on Sunday, despite their trans-Tasman Sea neighbors Australia refusing to move in.The Australian Olympic team have declined to take up their apartments in the village with Chef de Mission Kitty Chiller saying the accommodation was "not safe or ready". The Italian team also said some areas of the village were not ready and that they had been forced to hire workmen to carry out emergency repairs. The New Zealand Chef de Mission Rob Waddell said, however, he was happy with the accommodation, even if the advance team had needed to work with organizers to get it up to standard.Waddell and his 10-strong advance party arrived in Rio last week and also found plumbing and electrical issues, but managed to fix them in time."We were disappointed the village wasn't as ready as it might have been when we arrived and it hasn't been easy," the Sydney Olympics rowing champion said. "Our team has had to get stuck in to get the job done."We're pleased to say that thanks to the New Zealand team's planning, strong relationships and a bit of hard work were ready for the first athletes to arrive." Italy's team leader Carlo Mornati said on Sunday some parts of the village were not ready to host athletes when it opened for business on Sunday. "Among the unfinished areas are a few apartments in block 20, the one to be used by Italy, and we have had to hire laborers, electricians, plumbers and bricklayers over the last few days so that the athletes' accommodation can be brought up to normal conditions as soon as possible," the Chef de Mission said in a statement.'TEETHING TROUBLES' The newly-built village will host more than 18,000 athletes, officials, staff and volunteers in 31 buildings and more than 3,600 apartments over the Aug. 5-21 Olympics and Sept. 7-18 Paralympics.Organizers have conceded there have been "teething troubles" and promised that crews would be "working 24 hours a day until the issues are resolved".Australia's Chiller cited problems including "blocked toilets, leaking pipes and exposed wiring." Some apartments had water running down the walls and "a strong smell of gas," while stairwells were unlit and floors were in need of a thorough clean. The Australians are hoping to move athletes into the village on Wednesday.London Olympics rowing champion Mahe Drysdale was the first New Zealand athlete to arrive in the village on Sunday and declared himself pleased with the standard of accommodation."We are in Rio! Already taken ownership of the Village being the very first Athlete from any country to arrive and get through the gates!" Drysdale wrote on his Instagram account. "All is good, few finishing touches still to be made but when you arrive at 5am on opening day you can't expect it to be perfect. Next stop the Rowing Venue." (Reporting by Greg Stutchbury,; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)

Read more

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

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
Older Post