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Congo Questions Apple Over Knowledge Of Conflict Minerals In Its Supply Chain

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The location is Cape Town, South Africa. The Congolese government is interrogating Apple on the tech company’s awareness of “blood minerals” originating from a conflict zone in the African nation. These minerals have the potential to be illicitly incorporated into Apple’s supply chains. The government has set a deadline of three weeks for Apple to provide satisfactory responses.

A consortium of global legal practitioners representing the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has recently dispatched correspondences to Apple’s Chief Executive Officer, Tim Cook, and its French subsidiary. The purpose of these letters is to express apprehensions regarding the infringement of human rights associated with the extraction of minerals from the volatile eastern region of the DRC, which could potentially find their way into Apple’s merchandise.

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Congo Questions Apple Over Knowledge Of Conflict Minerals In Its Supply Chain

The list of questions demanded that Apple demonstrate its monitoring practices in a territory where over 100 armed rebel factions are active, some of whom have been accused of committing large-scale massacres of people.

In their correspondence to Cook, the attorneys assert that Apple has consistently marketed and sold technological products that are manufactured using minerals obtained from a location where the local population is enduring severe human rights abuses, a fact that has become evident over time.

The lawyers stated that the supply networks used by Apple to sell iPhones, Mac computers, and accessories to clients worldwide are too opaque and contaminated with the blood of the Congolese people.

Eastern Congo is renowned for its abundant mineral resources, making it one of the most geologically prosperous areas globally. However, it is also plagued by a colossal humanitarian catastrophe. Armed factions have been engaged in prolonged conflicts to dominate the mines and exploit the lucrative minerals withinConsequently, millions of individuals have been uprooted and adversely impacted by the escalating violence. The situation has significantly worsened in recent months.

With a market capitalization of over $2.6 trillion, Apple has refuted allegations of sourcing minerals from mines and locations associated with human rights abuses. The company asserts that it runs its business ethically and responsibly and procures minerals from Congo and surrounding nations.

According to the company, the minerals it purchases do not provide financial support to conflict or armed groups. The attorneys for the Congo government stated that the assertions do not seem to be grounded in tangible, corroborated proof.

The Congolese government has expressed concerns regarding the potential smuggling of tin, tungsten, tantalum, and gold, collectively referred to as the 3TG essential minerals, sourced by Apple from vendors. It is suspected that these minerals may be illicitly transported from Congo to Rwanda and thereafter integrated into the global supply chain. 3TG minerals play a crucial role in the composition of electronic devices.

Apple referred to a specific part in their business filing on conflict minerals when asked for a remark.

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Congo Questions Apple Over Knowledge Of Conflict Minerals In Its Supply Chain

The report said that after doing a lot of research, looking at data from third-party audit programs, upstream traceability programs, and our suppliers, we have found no proof that any of the 3TG smelters or refiners in our supply chain as of December 31, 2023, helped armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or any neighboring country by giving them money or other things of value.

“Illegal mining in Congo has caused fatalities for three decades,” stated Patrick Muyaya, spokesperson for the Congolese government. “We seek clarification regarding the supply sources of major technology companies, specifically Apple, to ascertain whether they are obtaining minerals that are produced under entirely illegal conditions.”

According to him, Rwanda is portrayed as the primary source of several minerals, although having little reserves of its own.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has alleged that Rwanda is providing financial support and strategic guidance to the infamous armed rebel faction known as M23 in the eastern region of Congo, with the aim of facilitating the illicit extraction of minerals. The United Nations has also asserted that M23 receives support from Rwanda.

Rwanda refutes these claims. Nonetheless, there is a growing escalation of hostilities between the countries. Human Rights Watch has accused M23 and other factions of frequently perpetrating attacks, which involve the murder and sexual assault of people.

The attorneys representing the government of Congo cited a 2022 study from the nonprofit organization Global Witness, which alleged that Apple had implemented insufficient controls to prevent the use of illicitly obtained minerals.

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Congo Questions Apple Over Knowledge Of Conflict Minerals In Its Supply Chain

The lawyers stated that the Congo government is currently pursuing “effective redress” against individuals or entities who exploit blood minerals worldwide.

The request was made to Apple to provide a response to inquiries regarding its supply chain controls within a period of three weeks. Additionally, it was mentioned that a report on the illicit trade of minerals from Congo by Rwanda and private entities has been compiled and will be released to the public this month.

The letter stated that they will also consult the Congo government for guidance on the legal actions they are contemplating against Apple.

SOURCE – (AP)

Kiara Grace is a staff writer at VORNews, a reputable online publication. Her writing focuses on technology trends, particularly in the realm of consumer electronics and software. With a keen eye for detail and a knack for breaking down complex topics, Kiara delivers insightful analyses that resonate with tech enthusiasts and casual readers alike. Her articles strike a balance between in-depth coverage and accessibility, making them a go-to resource for anyone seeking to stay informed about the latest innovations shaping our digital world.

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Boeing Whistleblower Died By Suicide, Police Investigation Reveals

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Boeing whistleblower John Barnett committed suicide, according to a police report released on Friday, bringing an investigation into the shocking death of a longtime employee who raised concerns about the airplane manufacturer’s safety and production standards – and who sued the company, alleging illegal retaliation against him.

Barnett, 62, was discovered dead in a vehicle on March 9 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in Charleston, South Carolina. Officers were summoned to perform a welfare check on Barnett at a Holiday Inn after he failed to appear for a deposition in his complaint against Boeing, according to his lawyers and a police incident report.

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Boeing Whistleblower Died By Suicide, Police Investigation Reveals

When responding officers arrived, they discovered Barnett deceased in the driver’s seat of a truck in the parking lot. He was clutching a firearm. The initial police report also stated a message in the truck.

However, in a statement released after his death, Barnett’s lawyers stated that his deposition was nearing completion and that he appeared to be in high spirits.

“We saw no sign that he would commit suicide. “No one can believe it,” his attorneys, Robert Turkewitz and Brian Knowles, stated in a statement on March 12. “The Charleston police need to investigate this fully and accurately and tell the public what they find out.”

The Charleston Police Department announced Friday that the Charleston County Coroner’s Office had decided that Barnett had committed suicide.

The inquiry revealed that Barnett was shot in the head at close range, with the firearm located in his right hand. A notebook was also discovered in the front seat of the car, indicating that “he was going through a period of serious personal distress,” according to a police press statement.

Police provided CNN with a photograph of a note left in the car, which had several nasty statements addressed at Boeing.

“As this investigation comes to a close, we should not forget it represents the loss of Mr. Barnett’s life,” police stated. “We extend our deepest sympathies to his family during this difficult time and hope they continue to find the strength to persevere in absence.”

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Boeing Whistleblower Died By Suicide, Police Investigation Reveals

Boeing did not immediately respond to requests for comment. In March, the firm expressed its sadness at Barnett’s death.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends,” the business stated.

Barnett, a former quality manager who had worked at Boeing for decades, told the New York Times in 2019 that he had uncovered dangerous wiring clusters in Boeing’s manufacturing procedures that could have resulted in an aircraft’s catastrophic failure if severed by surrounding metal slivers.

“As a quality manager at Boeing, you’re the last line of defense before a defect makes it out to the flying public,” Barnett told the New York Times. “And I haven’t seen a plane out of Charleston yet that I’d put my name on saying it’s safe and airworthy.”

In a message issued to the facility’s employees and sent to CNN at the time, Brad Zaback, a site leader at the plant and general manager of the 787 program, stated that the Times’ coverage “paints a skewed and inaccurate picture of the program and of our team (at the plant).”

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Boeing Whistleblower Died By Suicide, Police Investigation Reveals

Zaback, who said the Times denied an invitation to tour the company, stated that “quality is the bedrock of who we are” and that the plant produces “the highest-quality airplanes.”

Since Barnett’s original public warnings about Boeing, the corporation has had multiple high-profile safety and quality issues, including the explosion of a door stopper on a 737 Max shortly after takeoff last January. This prompted the US Justice Department to announce that Boeing could face criminal charges for its history of safety issues.

SOURCE – (AP)

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Bike Shops Boomed Early In The Pandemic. It’s Been A Bumpy Ride For Most Ever Since

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For the nation’s bicycle stores, the last several years have certainly felt like the business version of the Tour de France, with innumerable twists and turns testing their stamina.

Early in the pandemic, a surge in interest in cycling drove sales up 64% to $5.4 billion in 2020, according to Circana, the retail tracking firm. It wasn’t uncommon for some stores to sell 100 or more bikes in a few days.

The boom did not last. Due to pandemic-related supply chain challenges, the retailers sold out of bikes and struggled to replenish. Inventory has caught up, but fewer people require new bicycles. Bicycle manufacturers have started lowering prices to clear off excess inventory. It all adds up to a challenging climate for retailers, with a few bright areas such as dirt and e-bikes.

“The industry had a hard time keeping up with demand for a couple of years, but then demand slowed as the lockdowns ended, and a lot of inventory started showing up,” said Stephen Frothingham, editor-in-chief of Bicycle Retailer & Industry News. “So now for the last, a year and a half, the industry has struggled with having too much inventory, at the supplier level, at the factory level, at the distributor level, at the retail level.”

Circana reports that bike sales will reach $4.1 billion in 2023, up 23% from 2019 but down 24% from 2020. The recovery from the epidemic has been uneven, with large businesses such as REI and Scheels recovering faster than independent bike shops, according to Matt Tucker, director of client development for Circana’s sports equipment business.

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Bike Shops Boomed Early In The Pandemic. It’s Been A Bumpy Ride For Most Ever Since

John McDonell, owner of Market Street Cycles on San Francisco’s famed Market Street, says the pandemic’s shift to hybrid labor has been especially difficult for business. During the summer, 3,000 bikes would pass by his shop each day. With fewer individuals commuting to work, that number has dropped to less than 1,000.

According to Pacer.ai, which tracks people’s activities based on smartphone usage, San Francisco falls behind all other major cities regarding workers returning to work, with office visits down 49% from April 2019.

“Our downtown is still a wasteland,” McDonell explained.

Independent bike stores now compete not only with national chains but also with bike manufacturers such as Specialized and Trek. These companies have been buying bike shops and selling their bikes directly to customers, thus eliminating the middleman. According to Frothingham, there are now over 1,000 bike shops in the country that are either owned by Trek or Specialized.

“They’ve got the money to absorb the fact that bike stores, you know, are not a super profitable thing, and in the process, they’ve also been able to cut us out of it,” McDonell stated.

McDonell has been obliged to use a skeleton team of himself and another employee, down from five earlier. His desire to sell his shop to a younger bike enthusiast when he retires is diminishing. He might close his store when his lease expires in a few years.

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Bike Shops Boomed Early In The Pandemic. It’s Been A Bumpy Ride For Most Ever Since

“Now I am just trying to land it with both engines on fire and trying not to lose money on my way out,” he stated

Douglas Emerson’s bike business, University Bicycles, in Boulder, Colorado, is doing better, thanks to its placement in one of the country’s most popular biking destinations. He’s owned the shop for 39 years and employs 30 people.

University Bicycles, like other bike retailers, experienced a surge in bike sales due to the pandemic. Emerson recalls selling 107 bicycles in 48 hours. However, immediately following the boom, sales fell considerably due to a lack of inventory, and rentals declined because no one was traveling.

“It became a struggle right after the boom,” Emerson explained. “Since then, manufacturers have overproduced.” In addition, they have significantly reduced prices, which benefits consumers. However, tiny retailers generally cannot take advantage of those discounts.”

Emerson claims the shop hit a “saturation point” when everyone who wanted a bike purchased one. He now sells these consumer items such as jackets, helmets, and locks. His store has returned to its 2019 sales figures.

University Bicycles has also benefited from some of the changes in purchasing trends. The continued strong demand for e-bikes and the increased need for children’s bikes have contributed. Gravel bikes, which can be ridden on both paved and dirt routes, are displacing road cycles as a top seller.

John Ruger, a 50-year biker and faithful University Bicycles client, hasn’t purchased a bike in ten years but intends to buy a gravel bike at present costs. He says a top gravel bike he’s interested in, which would normally cost $12,000 to $14,000, is presently on sale for $8,000.

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Bike Shops Boomed Early In The Pandemic. It’s Been A Bumpy Ride For Most Ever Since

“The timing is good,” he remarked. “I can get a bike now because they’re less expensive and my bikes are getting old.”

Shawna Williams, the owner of Free Range Cycles in Seattle, Washington, did not see the same sales boom as others because her 700-square-foot business was so small that she only accepted customers by appointment from March 2020 to May 2021.

However, Williams did have to deal with the coming shortages. She spent a great deal of time “checking in with other shops to see if we could buy something, even at retail, from them, just in order to get a repair done or a build done.”

She expanded her service offerings, such as repairs and maintenance, to compensate for decreasing bike sales. Despite the epidemic, the maneuvering allowed her to maintain consistent overall sales.

“Bike sales, the way that I have kind of framed the shop, are an awesome bonus, but we really need to be sustaining the shop through repair and, like, thoughtful accessory sales,” Williams stated. “A bike sale to me, if we do things well, that means creating a customer for life.”

SOURCE – (AP)

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OpenAI, Reddit Teaming In Deal That Will Bring Reddit’s Content To ChatGPT

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OpenAI and Reddit have partnered to deliver the social media platform’s content to ChatGPT.

Reddit’s share price increased by more than 10% before the market opened on Friday.

Reddit stated in a blog post that the partnership will grant OpenAI access to its data application programming interface, which provides real-time, structured, and unique content from the platform.

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OpenAI, Reddit Teaming In Deal That Will Bring Reddit’s Content To ChatGPT

Reddit users and moderators will also have access to new artificial intelligence-powered services, and OpenAI will be a Reddit advertising partner.

“Reddit has become one of the internet’s largest open archives of authentic, relevant, and always up-to-date human conversations about anything and everything,” co-founder and CEO Steve Huffman stated. “Including it in ChatGPT upholds our belief in a connected internet, helps people find more of what they’re looking for, and helps new audiences find community on Reddit.”

Reddit stated that the agreement is consistent with prior content arrangements and does not modify its data API or developer rules. These rules state that content obtained via Reddit’s data API cannot be utilized for commercial reasons without the platform’s approval.

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OpenAI, Reddit Teaming In Deal That Will Bring Reddit’s Content To ChatGPT

Reddit says API access remains free for non-commercial use under the published level.

“We are thrilled to partner with Reddit to enhance ChatGPT with uniquely timely and relevant information, as well as to explore the possibilities of enriching the Reddit experience with AI-powered features,” Brad Lightcap, OpenAI’s chief operating officer, said in a statement.

Reddit made its Wall Street debut in March, with investors driving the company’s worth to nearly $9 billion seconds after it started trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

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OpenAI, Reddit Teaming In Deal That Will Bring Reddit’s Content To ChatGPT

Reddit has a sizable audience that visits the site regularly to debate a wide range of topics, from stupid memes to existential concerns, and receive suggestions from like-minded individuals.

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman invested in Reddit early on, becoming one of the company’s largest owners.

SOURCE – (AP)

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