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Free at Rio Olympics: 9 million forest-friendly condoms

XAPURI, Brazil Brazil's government will hand out 9 million condoms for free around Rio de Janeiro during the Olympics in August, a push meant to encourage safe sex and also defend the Amazon rainforest. Rio's local Olympic organizing committee said about 450,000 of the sustainably-produced condoms will be destined for athletes and staff housed in the Olympic Village.The rest will be made widely available to the many visitors who will be arriving in the city in just a few weeks, the Health Ministry said.All the condoms to be distributed are produced by Natex, a factory in the western Amazonian state of Acre, deep in the rainforest near Brazil's border with Bolivia.The factory, run by the Acre state government, uses latex gathered from Amazon rubber trees by tappers who are employed by a government-run program designed to protect their traditional livelihood, foster sustainable use of the rainforest and deter illegal loggers. The tappers see themselves as guardians of the rainforest. On a recent outing, Raimundo Mendes de Barros, a 71-year-old lifelong rubber tapper with a stark white beard, gathered the milky-white latex dripping into metal buckets hooked at the base of countless trees. Above, the tropical sun was filtered by the Amazon canopy.Barros spoke with pride about the fierce fight he and other sustainable rubber tappers wage to maintain their craft. "Our condom factory, aside from guaranteeing a fair price for the rubber, employs hundreds," he said. "It gives the world a product - the condom - that will be very present there in Rio, to fight disease and help with birth control." For decades, tappers like Barros have been on the front line of pushing Brazilian leaders to do more to halt deforestation, which is mostly caused by the illegal clearing of forest for ranching, soy farms and timber extraction. The fight has sometimes come at a heavy cost as farmers and loggers have sometimes retaliated with hired guns. Scores of people have been killed over the years trying to protect the forest, most notably the internationally known environmentalist and rubber tapper Chico Mendes.His 1988 murder in Xapuri, where the condom factory now stands, helped galvanize the government to take serious measures to battle deforestation and the violence against Amazon defenders. For several years Brazil's Health Ministry has distributed millions of condoms from the factory for free at big events around Brazil - most notably the annual bacchanal of Carnival. (Reporting by Ricardo Moraes; Writing by Brad Brooks; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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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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EPA says filtered Flint, Michigan drinking water safe to drink

DETROIT Federal officials said on Thursday it is safe for anyone to drink properly filtered water in Flint, Michigan, where a public health crisis erupted after residents were exposed to dangerously high levels of lead.The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said in a statement that the most recent testing at nearly 50 locations in the city showed lead levels far below the levels considered dangerous.But the city's mayor said some homes in Flint cannot be fitted with filters, so bottled water is still needed.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's and caused more lead to leach from aging pipes. Lead can be toxic, and children are especially vulnerable. The crisis has prompted lawsuits by parents who say their children have shown dangerously high levels of lead in their blood. The EPA, which worked in coordination with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the testing, said properly filtered water is safe even for pregnant and nursing women, and children, groups more susceptible to the effects of lead poisoning."Residents can be confident that they can use filtered water and protect their developing fetus or young child from lead," U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary Dr. Nicole Lurie said in a statement. Lurie has led federal support efforts for the Flint crisis.The EPA said the filters distributed by the state of Michigan effectively remove lead or reduce it to levels well below the level of 15 parts per billion at which federal officials say action is needed. In the testing, nearly all filtered water tested below 1 part per billion. In January, water samples tested above 150 parts per billion. The state began offering free water filters in Flint in January."This good news shows the progress we are making with overall water quality improving in Flint," Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said in a statement. Snyder has been criticized for the state's poor handling of the crisis.Flint Mayor Karen Weaver noted that some homes have faucets where the filters do not fit. "This is not the ultimate solution," she said in a statement. "We still need new infrastructure, replacing the lead-tainted pipes in the city remains my top priority." (Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by David Gregorio)

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Las Vegas lands expansion franchise as NHL adds 31st team

The National Hockey League decided on Wednesday to roll the dice on expanding to Las Vegas, making the league the first to put a major professional sports team in the resort city known primarily for gambling.The unanimous decision to award a 31st franchise, which required approval from a two-thirds majority of the owners, was announced by Commissioner Gary Bettman and marks the first expansion since 2000 when Columbus and Minnesota began play.Bettman also said the board decided to defer Quebec City's application for expansion due in large part to the volatility of the Canadian dollar."We think this is a tremendously exciting opportunity not just for Las Vegas but for the league as well," Bettman told news conference in Las Vegas."This expansion comes at a time when our league is more competitive than ever, ownership is stronger than ever, the talent base is more talented than ever and the business and future opportunities for the business are greater than ever."The Vegas team, which will begin play in the 2017-18 NHL season, is being headed by billionaire businessman Bill Foley, who is the chairman of U.S. title insurance services provider Fidelity National Financial (FNF.N).Foley, who is gambling a $500 million franchise fee that Las Vegas will support an NHL team, got plenty of interest when a ticket drive launched last year secured over 14,000 season-ticket deposits."Well Las Vegas we did it. Wasn't easy was it?" said Foley. "Our great sports town now has a major league franchise, the NHL. "I played hockey as a kid in Canada, called shinny hockey on the ponds, I want all of our kids here in Las Vegas to enjoy hockey the way I enjoyed it."The yet-to-be named team will play out of the T-Mobile Arena, a sparkling new multipurpose building on the south end of the famous Las Vegas Strip that can seat 17,500 for hockey.The average NHL team is worth $505 million, according to a survey released by Forbes last November. [ID:nL1N13J1KT]The long term viability of a major sports team in Southern Nevada has long been a topic of debate with casinos along the Las Vegas Strip offering stiff competition with entertainment acts ranging from Britney Spears to David Copperfield.While Las Vegas is one of the world's most popular tourist destinations, it is also a growing city with a population of over 2 million in the metropolitan area viewed by many as a lucrative sports market waiting to be tapped. But building a local fan base in non-traditional hockey markets can be difficult as the Arizona Coyotes, often the subject of relocation talk, continue to struggle.The NHL could soon also face fierce competition for the sports dollar with the National Football League's Oakland Raiders reportedly considering relocation to Las Vegas.For the moment, the NHL considers Las Vegas to be the safer bet than Quebec City as the Canadian city's bid is being put on hold for now.Las Vegas and Quebec City, which has not had an NHL team since the Nordiques left for Denver and became the Colorado Avalanche in 1995, both submitted expansion bids last July. But a weak Canadian dollar was considered the key obstacle standing in the way of prospective ownership group Quebecor Inc (QBRb.TO) landing a team."There is no doubt as to the passion for hockey, particularly NHL hockey in Quebec City," said Bettman."The decision to defer was based on elements over which the Quebec City group had no control over whatsoever, significantly the fluctuation of the Canadian dollar, including its decline to a low of 68 (U.S.) cents earlier this year."Canada's seven NHL teams earn ticket and concession revenue in Canadian dollars while salaries, which account for half of the league's hockey-related revenue, are paid in U.S. dollars.But Quebecor chief executive Pierre Dion said he remains committed to bringing an NHL team back to Quebec City and will continue a dialogue with the league."Bringing the Nordiques back to Quebec City remains a priority for Quebecor," said Dion. "We will continue to work with determination to achieve this goal." (Editing by Frank Pingue)

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From green slime to jet fuel: algae offers airlines a cleaner future

OTTOBRUN, Germany As airlines struggle to find cleaner ways to power jets and with an industry-wide meeting on CO2 emissions just months away, scientists are busy growing algae in vast open tanks at an Airbus site at Ottobrun, near Munich.The European aerospace group is part-financing the Munich Technical University project to grow algae for biofuel and, although commercial production is a long way off, hopes are high. Thomas Brueck, Munich TU's associate professor of industrial biocatalysis, says that the biofuel from algaculture could cater for 3-5 percent of jetfuel needs by about 2050. Algae can grow 12 times faster than plants cultivated on soil and produces an oil yield about 30 times that of rapeseed. However, although aviation biofuel made from feedstocks such as flax or used cooking oil is already available, limited stocks and low oil prices mean only a few airlines, including Lufthansa and KLM, are using it on a trial basis. "To substitute 100 percent of the kerosene use today, we will not do it with algae alone. We need a combination of different technologies to actually enable that substitution," Brueck said. Airbus also says the technology, in which it and the Bavarian government are investing more than 10 million euros ($11 million) between them, is still at an early stage and is not financially viable for airlines just yet. "But we are sure that over time, we will make it possible to offer kerosene made of algae for a competitive price," an Airbus spokesman said. (Reporting by Reuters TV; Additional reporting by Victoria Bryan; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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