Judge dismisses Pennsylvania woman's lawsuit against Bill Cosby

A U.S. federal judge on Thursday dismissed a defamation lawsuit brought by a Pennsylvania woman against Bill Cosby, which contended the comedian smeared her character when he accused her of lying in claiming he had sexually assaulted her in the 1980s.Renita Hill, 48, had claimed she was defamed her when the comedian and his representatives called her a liar and extortionist as he defended himself after she went public in 2014 with allegations of decades-old sexual misconduct.Hill, a Pittsburgh resident, sued in October over three comments made by Cosby and his representatives. The three statements in question "do not support a claim for defamation as defined by Pennsylvania law," U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab said in his dismissal ruling, court documents showed.Hill's attorneys have said Cosby mentored her when she was a young woman, and paid for her education at Temple University and Spelman College. They said he also arranged meetings in Atlantic City, New York and Denver, where he sexually assaulted her. Hill's first public accusation of sexual assault came in a 2014 interview with a Pittsburgh TV station. Her lawsuit concerned statements Cosby and his representatives made in response to that interview. Schwab said the remarks were protected under free speech rights, and that Hill did not prove the comments harmed her. More than 50 women have come forward to accuse Cosby, 78, of sexual assault. The allegations date back as far as the 1960s, making most of them too old for criminal prosecution. Hill and several other women have sued Cosby.Cosby's attorneys welcomed the judge's decision in a statement and said they hoped it would influence the outcome of other pending lawsuits. "The Court found opinionated speech by a defendant's attorney is protected and not actionable as defamatory," the attorneys said. "It is our hope that courts in other jurisdictions with similar matters will respond in like manner."The drumbeat of accusations has toppled Cosby from his cultural status as one of America's most-admired comedians. He built his career on family-friendly humor and was best known as the loving but often befuddled father in the 1980s television hit, "The Cosby Show."The only criminal charges against Cosby were filed last month, over the alleged sexual assault of Andrea Constand in 2004.Cosby, who has repeatedly denied wrongdoing, is free on $1 million bail. His lawyer has said he is not guilty and will not consider a plea bargain. (Editing by Scott Malone, Frances Kerry and David Gregorio) 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

Lowry, DeRozan lead Raptors past Trail Blazers

(The Sports Xchange) - Guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan combined for 59 points as the Toronto Raptors beat the Portland Trail Blazers 110-103 at the Moda Center on Thursday.Lowry scored 30 points with eight assists while DeRozan added 29 points for the Raptors (34-16), who won for the 13th time in their last 14 outings. Center Jonas Valanciunas chipped in 14 points and 11 rebounds for Toronto, which won for only the second time in the last 13 trips to Portland and first since December 2006.Guard Damian Lillard collected 27 points and 11 assists while guard CJ McCollum had 21 points for the Trail Blazers (24-27), who lost for only the third time in 12 games. Guard Allen Crabbe added 17 points off the Portland bench.DeRozan and Lowry combined for 25 points to stake Toronto to a 59-51 lead at halftime. DeRozan scored 14 points and Lowry 11 in the first half while Valanciunas had 10 points and seven rebounds. Toronto increased its lead to 66-54 but the Blazers rallied to get within four points before the Raptors took an 82-75 advantage into the final period.Portland trimmed the margin to 84-81 but Lowry scored eight points in a 10-0 Toronto run to hike the lead to 94-81 with 6:52 remaining. The Blazers cut the difference to 101-93 after a Lillard trey with 3:12 to play. His jumper got them to within 106-99 with 1:19 to go, and a pair of foul shots by Crabbe made it a five-point game with 55.3 seconds left. Lillard stole a pass but McCollum missed a jumper, and Valanciunas converted a pair at the line for a 108-101 Toronto advantage with 33.9 seconds remaining.DeRozan (12) and Lowry (six) combined for all of the points as Toronto took a 18-12 lead to start the game. The Raptors upped the margin to 37-23. It was 37-25 at the first-quarter break and 43-27 early in the second quarter before the Blazers used a 7-0 run to close the gap to 43-34.Portland trimmed the difference to 53-47, and the Raptors settled for an eight-point bulge at the half. (Editing by John O'Brien) Read more

U.S. lawmakers chastise officials at all levels over Flint crisis

WASHINGTON U.S. lawmakers criticized environmental officials at a hearing on Wednesday for not acting sooner when they saw a report that drinking water in Flint, Michigan was polluted with dangerously high levels of lead."I never thought this could happen in America," and in a state, "surrounded by fresh water of the Great Lakes," Brenda Lawrence, a Democrat of Michigan, said at a House Oversight panel examining the water crisis in Flint, a city of 100,000.The panel issued subpoenas to officials who did not show up to testify about water found to have lead levels that hamper brain development and cause other health problems. Thousands of children are believed to have ingested the polluted water in Flint, a mostly African American and Latino suburb near Detroit.Lawrence asked Keith Creagh, head of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, why his agency did not act on a report by a federal Environmental Protection Agency expert that showed the water was polluted. She did not get a clear answer."We all share responsibility in the Flint water crisis, whether it is the city the state or the federal government, we all let the citizens of Flint down," said Creagh, who took the job last month.Marc Edwards, a water engineer who first raised the issue of Flint's lead contamination, told the panel the EPA broke laws by not notifying the public about a report of tainted water. "If it's not criminal, I don't know what is."EPA water official Joel Beauvais said he did not know why his agency did not tell the public.Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the committee, complained that the Republican-led panel did not invite Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, a Republican, to testify at the hearing. Representative Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania criticized Snyder and his hand-picked emergency managers for Flint who were responsible for switching the source of Flint's tap water from Detroit's system to the Flint River, a dumping area, in April 2014.Flint is grappling with the health and political fallout over the switch after the more corrosive river water leached lead from old pipes into the system."He got caught red handed poisoning the children of Flint," Cartwright, a Democrat, said of Snyder. "There's no two ways about it. That's the headline here."A Snyder spokesman responded in an email: "It's unfortunate when people who are not working toward a solution inject partisan politics and incendiary rhetoric into an emergency that can best be addressed by people working together."Snyder will ask state lawmakers in his next budget proposal to approve a $30 million water payment relief plan for Flint residents to keep their water service on and reimburse them for lead-contaminated water they cannot drink, his office said. A busload of Flint residents traveled to Washington to attend the hearing. "We're serious about making sure that the people responsible for this manmade disaster are held accountable," said Bernadel Jefferson, a bishop.Lawmakers also slammed the EPA for not sending Administrator Gina McCarthy to Flint until this week, even though the agency has known about the crisis for months. An EPA spokeswoman said the agency had formed a Flint task force last October, and has had a team there for weeks.The head of the oversight panel, Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah, a Republican, said he subpoenaed EPA's Susan Hedman to appear at a deposition in Washington later this month.Hedman, who announced last month that she would resign on Feb. 1, had played down the memo by the EPA's Miguel del Toral that said tests had shown high levels of lead, telling Flint and Michigan administrators it was only a draft report. The EPA has agreed to provide all of Hedman's emails by the end of the week, Chaffetz said. Chaffetz said his panel had also issued a second subpoena to Darnell Earley, who was Flint's state-appointed emergency manager when the city switched from Detroit's system.A. Scott Bolden, Earley's lawyer, said his client has not been given enough time to respond to the initial subpoena, which was served last night. Bolden said Earley is "not hiding anywhere" and will honor a subpoena issued with a reasonable response time.Earley only implemented the plan to change the city's water source that others had put in place before he started, Bolden said. "There was nothing put before him by the environmental folks, the water testers or anyone connected to ensuring the quality of the water to suggest in any way that a water disaster was looming."Political fallout over the crisis could also hold up a wide-ranging bill on energy. Democrats in the Senate threatened to block a bipartisan energy bill if it fails to include immediate aid for Flint. Federal authorities including the FBI have started a criminal probe into the contamination. (Additional reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit and Richard Cowan in Washington) Read more

European lawmakers back limited reduction in car emissions

BRUSSELS European lawmakers on Wednesday backed a compromise deal to reduce car emissions that will still allow vehicles to exceed official pollution limits, defying calls for more radical reform following Volkswagen's emissions-test cheating scandal. The vote, which narrowly rejected a proposal to block the compromise, had been scheduled for January, but was delayed by bitter arguments between members of the European Parliament and fierce lobbying.Volkswagen's (VOWG_p.DE) admission in September that it cheated U.S. diesel emissions tests created a political storm in Europe where around half of vehicles are diesel. Diesel is particularly associated with emissions of nitrogen oxide linked to lung disease and premature deaths.The European Commission, the EU executive, had already begun trying to close a known gap between laboratory testing of new vehicles and the real world, where toxic emissions have surged to more than seven times official limits. However, the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (ACEA) said in a position paper seen by Reuters that the Commission's reform plans were too challenging for current diesel models and could threaten the technology as a whole, jeopardizing jobs across the region. At a closed-door meeting in October, EU member states agreed a compromise -- now backed by the European Parliament -- that would cut emissions but still allow a 50 percent overshoot of the legal ceiling for nitrogen oxide of 80 milligrams/kilometer.Mayors from cities including Copenhagen, Paris, Madrid, Milan and Naples had urged the European Parliament, meeting in Strasbourg, to reject the plan. "If such a decision would be confirmed, we fear that our commitment to reduce air pollution in cities will become meaningless," a letter from eight city mayors to members of parliament said. Green lawmakers and liberals also pressed for a rejection, saying the compromise was an illegal weakening of already agreed limits."Unfortunately, clean air, fair competition and the rule of law did not get a majority today," Dutch Liberal politician Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy said. But the dominant center right grouping, the European People's Party (EPP), backed the compromise It said rejecting the plan would delay a reduction in vehicle emissions, as a new proposal would have to be agreed and the car industry would lack regulatory certainty to invest in cleaner technology.The European Commission welcomed Wednesday's vote as a step in the right direction and urged manufacturers to start designing vehicles "for full compliance with the legal emissions limit" when measured in real driving conditions. (Editing by Mark Potter) Read more

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