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Watchdog group begins China Apple inspections
by Staff Writers
New York (AFP) Feb 13, 2012

Apple, following reports of harsh working conditions, said the watchdog Fair Labor Association began inspections Monday at a Foxconn plant in China that makes products for the California gadget-maker.

"We believe that workers everywhere have the right to a safe and fair work environment, which is why we've asked the FLA to independently assess the performance of our largest suppliers," Apple chief executive Tim Cook said.

"The inspections now underway are unprecedented in the electronics industry, both in scale and scope," said Cook, who took over as chief executive last year from Apple's late co-founder Steve Jobs.

Apple agreed last month to allow inspections by the independent labor watchdog association following reports that employees were overworked and underpaid at Foxconn factories in China.

The Taiwan-owned Foxconn is the largest manufacturer of Apple products.

Apple said the first inspections began Monday morning at a facility in Shenzhen known as Foxconn City. They were carried out by a team of labor experts led by FLA president Auret van Heerden.

Apple said the FLA will "interview thousands of employees about working and living conditions including health and safety, compensation, working hours and communication with management."

"The FLA's team will inspect manufacturing areas, dormitories and other facilities, and will conduct an extensive review of documents related to procedures at all stages of employment," the company said.

The Cupertino, California-based Apple said its suppliers have pledged "full cooperation with the FLA, offering unrestricted access to their operations."

Apple said the FLA's findings and recommendations will be posted on its website, fairlabor.org, in early March.

Besides Foxconn plants, FLA teams will also inspect factories owned by two other Taiwan-owned manufacturers, Quanta and Pegatron, which also make Apple products.

"When completed, the FLA's assessment will cover facilities where more than 90 percent of Apple products are assembled," Apple said.

Apple joined the FLA last month and divulged for the first time a list of its suppliers.

Last week, petitions were delivered to Apple stores in several countries denouncing working conditions at Chinese factories making Apple gadgets.

In 2010, Apple was accused of abetting poor worker conditions after a rash of worker suicides at a Foxconn plant in China.

The New York Times reported last month that workers assembling iPhones, iPads and other devices at Foxconn facilities in China "often labor in harsh conditions" and work "excessive overtime."

According to the newspaper, two explosions at iPad factories last year killed four people and injured 77.

The recent criticism of working conditions in China has done little to dent Apple sales and shares of the company surged past $500 for the first time on Wall Street on Monday.

Apple reported blockbuster quarterly earnings last month with net profit more than doubling to a record $13.06 billion and revenue soaring to an all-time high of $46.33 billion.

Shares of Apple have risen steadily over the past few years on the release of a string of hit products starting with the iPod in 2001, followed by the iPhone in 2007 and the iPad in 2010.

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EU approves Google's $12.5-bn Motorola takeover
Brussels (AFP) Feb 13, 2012 - European Union regulators approved on Monday the $12.5 billion takeover of Motorola Mobility by Google, judging the move unlikely to impact on the market for smartphone operating systems.

"We have approved the acquisition of Motorola Mobility by Google because, upon careful examination, this transaction does not itself raise competition issues," said Joaquin Almunia, the EU's anti-trust commissioner.

An investigation centred on whether Google might make it harder for big-selling handset manufacturers such as Samsung or HTC to use the operating system Google developed, Android.

"It is unlikely that Google would restrict the use of Android solely to Motorola, a minor player in the European Economic Area (EEA)," the Commission concluded.

The Commission said that Google "already had many ways in which to incentivise customers to take up its services and that the acquisition of Motorola would not materially change this."

US antitrust regulators are still examining the deal.

Google welcomed the EU move and said it is "now just waiting for decisions from a few other jurisdictions before we can close this transaction."

"We're happy that today the European Commission approved our proposed acquisition of Motorola Mobility, which we announced in August," Google's deputy general counsel Don Harrison said in a blog post.

"This is an important milestone in the approval process and it moves us closer to closing the deal," Harrison said.

"As we outlined in August, the combination of Google and Motorola Mobility will help supercharge Android," he said. "It will also enhance competition and offer consumers faster innovation, greater choice and wonderful user experiences."


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Samsung can continue selling Galaxy tabs in Germany: court
Frankfurt (AFP) Feb 9, 2012
South Korea's Samsung Electronics can continue to sell its Galaxy Tab 10.1N tablet computer in Germany, a German court ruled Thursday, rejecting a bid by arch-rival Apple to have them banned. In the third such blow to United States giant Apple, the regional court in Duesseldorf ruled that Samsung's redesigned tablet computer - which Apple had claimed infringed on its patent rights - was no ... read more

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