Six killed in Texas floods as severe weather lashes central U.S.

AUSTIN, Texas A grandmother and four of her grandchildren were killed and another person also died in floods in Texas caused by storms that unleashed tornadoes, damaging hail and torrential rains on several central U.S. states, officials said on Saturday.The woman and her grandchildren died in Palestine, Texas, 100 miles (160 km) southeast of Dallas, after escaping a house where flood waters had reached the roof line. They were then swept away, Palestine police Captain James Muniz said."They were able to get out but they were washed away," he said, adding their bodies were recovered on Saturday. Those killed were identified as Jamonicka Johnson, 6, Von Johnson Jr., 7, Devonte Asberry, 8, Venetia Asberry, 9, and Lenda Asberry, 64, the city said. Palestine police took the bodies to Tyler, Texas, for autopsies, officials said. A Palestine man, Giovani Olivas, 30, was swept under flood waters around Anderson County Road 370. His body was found late Saturday afternoon, according to Anderson County Sheriff Greg Taylor.Seven homes were evacuated and temporary shelters were established, officials said. The city received 7.5 inches (19 cm) of rain in less than an hour, which caused the floods."I don't recall ever seeing this much water rise so fast and in such a short period of time," Palestine Mayor Bob Herrington said in a statement where he also offered condolences to the family of the five victims. The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch extending from east Texas into much of Mississippi and a severe thunderstorm watch for New Orleans and the southern Louisiana region."Strong to severe thunderstorms are expected today into this evening across the lower Mississippi Valley, Tennessee Valley, Ozarks and the Ohio Valley," it said. Strong winds in the Houston area downed trees and cut power lines, the service said. As of 10:30 a.m. local time, more than 4,200 customers in the region were without power, CenterPoint Energy reported.There were seven reported tornadoes from the storm system on Friday in Texas and Oklahoma, it said. A twister caused damage to several structures and ripped through mobile homes in Ninnekah, about 50 miles (80 km) southwest of Oklahoma City, local news reports said. (Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Andrew Roche, Susan Thomas, Marguerita Choy and Jacqueline Wong)

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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)

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Investor network says utilities should face climate change stress tests

LONDON Electric utilities should undergo stress tests to show how their business models are in line with limiting global warming, a global network of investors said on Friday.In a guide published on Friday, a network of more than 270 institutional investors with assets worth more than 20 trillion euros ($23 trillion) said they were concerned that utilities' strategies are not consistent with a global target to limit the planet's average temperature rise, compared with pre-industrial times, to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit).With renewable energy generation expected to increase, and overall demand low due to efficiency improvements and modest economic growth, traditional centralized power generation is being pushed out of the merit order. The report said such plants would ultimately need to be shut down or retained to provide emergency backup in return for state payments.New entrants such as Google are emerging as competitors with power management solutions. So electric utilities need to design new business plans and focus on cleaner energy, networks, new services and keeping customers, it said. "As investors, we need to know how electric utilities will deal with the vast shift already underway within their industry, how they will address the considerable risks posed by these trends and how they plan to profit from emerging opportunities," the report said.Utilities need to set long-term strategies for managing climate-related risks and opportunities, it added. Even though fossil fuels would continue to have a role in power generation for years to come, utilities needed a clear long-term strategy for lowering their emissions and dealing with a future higher carbon price. "It is vital that utility companies undertake comprehensive under 2 degree stress testing of their business activities and disclose to investors how their business model will fare in the face of climate change," said Emma Herd, chief executive at the Investor Group on Climate Change Australia and New Zealand. (Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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In Damascus, young Syrians try to revive their lives

DAMASCUS By a military checkpoint in Damascus's Old City, just a mile from the battered frontline between government and rebel-held territory, young Syrians sit on a garden wall smoking, drinking beer or soft drinks, and talking about anything but the war. It is a week night, but the Damascenes are keen to head out to a strip of new bars that have opened in the last few months -- some to socialize and others to work in the venues.The revival of activity in this once-vibrant quarter is part of efforts to project an air of normality in the Syrian capital, even as the five-year-old war that has killed more than 250,000 people and created 5 million refugees continues to rage nearby.To the east and southwest, opposition-held Ghouta remains under blockade and bombardment by government forces. In Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp, to the south, residents have recently faced starvation as rival jihadist groups al Qaeda and Islamic State battle for control.Shells were hitting Damascus's city center late last year, including near Bab Sharqi gate. Now, people smoke water pipes outside Pub Sharqi -- a play on words that reads the same in Arabic -- or watch football at noisier bar "80's" next door."This is something you certainly wouldn't see two years ago, and it's picked up even more recently," said Nicolas Rahal, a 23-year-old graphic designer, speaking over loud music in a bar.The number of people going out has grown as venues have opened one after the other and employed more people, Rahal said."I can now go to this pub or that nightclub. Places opened and people came."The war is still felt inside the capital. Soldiers carrying assault rifles sweep vehicles for bombs at army roadblocks, causing traffic jams throughout the city, while distant artillery fire can sometimes be heard.Young people in the city are apprehensive about the future. They have lost loved ones to violence and displacement, rampant inflation is making life impossibly expensive, and some young men are anxious to avoid army enlistment.But encouraged by improved security after Russia's intervention strengthened the government's position and a partial truce in February brought some calm, these Damascus residents want to enjoy life where possible."People are tired of war and just want to live a normal life, so they go out, they socialize," said bartender Dana Daqqaq, a 21-year-old with bleached-blonde hair who works at night while studying for her fine art degree."In the last few months it's not just at the weekends, it's every day. Places are crammed. You practically see a cross-section of society coming out." 'I STAYED HERE'Daqqaq said bar life was more than just a way to forget the war, but all the revelers had traumatic personal stories."Family on my dad's side serving in the army were killed under siege in Homs," said Dana Ibrahim, 21, sitting at the same bar as Rahal. "My mum and four sisters live close to the military airport in Mezze." The air base in western Damascus has come under shellfire and is next to the suburb of Daraya, which is besieged by the government side."At times there's been bombing every day. Once a rocket hit right next to the house. I was out of town and didn't hear any news for two days. I thought my family was hit," she said.Ibrahim had thought of leaving, like many friends who have fled for Europe or neighbouring countries. But now, able to socialize, she would rather stay put. "When I started to see life I stayed here. I don't want to be a refugee," she said.Rahal also wants to stay, despite his experiences of conflict. "More than once, near my house, I've seen people get blown apart by shells," he said.He was arrested for protesting in 2011, near the start of the uprising that shifted into a full-scale civil war, and his political views have cost him friendships. Facebook arguments have turned into physical fights on the street, Rahal said."In the early days of the crisis, I had to hang out with other people. I know two brothers who don't talk to each other anymore."COST OF LIVINGOne factor might push him to leave, however. "I haven't done military service. It could happen, I could get called up, and you've no idea where they'll send you or how long you'll be there. I have friends and relatives in the army, Aleppo, Palmyra, for example," Rahal said."If they call me up I'll leave the country. I could try and find work in Beirut."Across the frontlines, young residents have even less choice.Maher Abu Jaafar, a 23-year-old agricultural engineering student living in Western Ghouta, said escalating violence and a siege by government forces mean he cannot leave the town. "At the moment I work at a street stall selling household items. My family is big, we can't guarantee getting essential supplies," he said via an Internet message. "And things are getting worse because of the cost of living."Inflation has seen the Syrian pound lose 90 percent of its value since 2011.In the Old City bar, Rahal tossed notes worth 550 Syrian pounds, or just over $1, onto the table."The situation has improved perhaps a bit for work, but the economic situation is bad. Things are expensive, living standards have fallen," he said.At night, generators whirr outside homes, while blocks are plunged into darkness after perhaps half a day with electricity.Daqqaq, the bartender, said a packet of cheap cigarettes which cost 250 Syrian pounds a few months ago now costs 450.Tonight, though, she and her friends and customers are preoccupied not with the war, the economy or thoughts of migration. They want to drink, listen to the Levantine-Western fusion of "Shamstep", and enjoy life. (Additional reporting by Omar Sanadiki; Editing by Samia Nakhoul and Catherine Evans)

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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)

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