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Apple touts its environmental bona fides in new promotional video

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Days after announcing new sustainability projects in the U.S. and China, Apple on Monday unveiled a new two-minute video highlighting the company’s commitment to environmental responsibility.

Entitled “Better Starts Here,” the video begins with a list of chemicals and additives — BFRs, PCG, phthalate, beryllium, arsenic, lead, and mercury — that the company leaves out of its products, a list likely familiar to anyone who has watched an Apple keynote. Apple goes on to say that its smaller, more efficient devices use up to 59 percent less power now than they did in the past, though the scope of that timeline is not precisely defined.

“We think about power, and how to power that power,” the narrator says, segueing from products to Apple’s rollout of renewable energy. “Because our ecosystem is part of a larger one.”

The video shows Apple’s new 40-megawatt solar plant in Hongyuan, China, which the company says will provide enough energy to power all of its stores and offices throughout the country. It also calls out Apple’s hydroelectric plant in Oregon and the recently-announced purchase of 35,000 acres of forest for sustainable packaging strategies.

“We’re learning more and more about new place where we can be better,” the video concludes. “With renewable energy, hydropower, and forest preservation — new ways in which we can leave the world better than we found it.”

Apple began the “Better” environmental awareness campaign in April of last year, with a video narrated by company chief Tim Cook.

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Independent Nokia Technologies aiming to return to phone market

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Although Nokia’s original mobile phone division was sold to Microsoft in 2013, one of the company’s three remaining divisions — Nokia Technologies — is planning to re-enter the phone world, a report revealed on Monday.

The Re/code information is said to come chiefly from two sources familiar with Nokia’s plans. Technologies is actually the smallest Nokia division, but critically controls over 10,000 patents. It has only released two products of its own, namely an Android app called Zlauncher, and the N1, an Android tablet design that’s being licensed to another manufacturer and sold in China.

The report said that phones are likely to follow the same strategy used with the N1. Nokia Technologies is also allegedly exploring a number of other projects however, including some connected to virtual reality. The VR industry has seen a sudden resurgence in the past two years, with headsets released or in development by companies like HTC, Samsung, Sony, and Oculus VR. Unlike the first VR wave in the 1990s, sensor and display technologies are beginning to make the technology practical.

Any new Nokia phones will have to wait until the third quarter of 2016 though, owing to terms of the Microsoft deal. Re/code added that in the meantime the company has been engaged in hiring and development for products shipping in 2016 and beyond.

Nokia was once the leader the global cellphone industry. But the company was slow to respond to the advent of the iPhone and Android, and saw its share of the market quickly erode.

It’s not clear what platform a new Nokia phone would use, but given the N1, Android is a likely candidate. Around the time of the Microsoft acquisition, Nokia was reliant on Windows Phone, owing to a previous deal forged in 2011.

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Apple triples retail renewable energy rollout, 360 outlets worldwide go green

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Apple’s plan to power its expansive retail operation entirely with renewable energy has taken a significant leap forward, the company revealed on Monday, as more than 360 Apple Store locations around the world now run on green power.

Every Apple Store in the U.S., UK, Germany, Australia, Italy, and Spain is powered by energy from renewable sources, according to Apple’s latest environmental responsibility report. That number is up three fold from the 120 U.S.-only outlets that had already converted to renewable energy last April.

Apple says that it mostly purchases renewable energy from third-party providers for its retail stores, but participates in other programs — like utility green tariff programs — if that option is unavailable. For stores in buildings that Apple doesn’t own, the company works with landlords to source renewable energy on Apple’s behalf or to purchase renewable energy certificates.

Fewer than 100 first-party Apple retail stores remain powered by fossil fuels or nuclear plants, and that number is set to dwindle even further in the coming months. Apple’s latest solar facility in China will provide enough energy to power all of the 20-plus Apple Stores expected to operate in that country by the end of 2015.

Apple has already achieved ubiquitous renewable energy usage for its offices and data centers around the world. The company relies primarily on a combination of solar, wind, and hydropower, either from local utilities or via infrastructure projects that it owns.

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Apple’s 2015 Enviromental Responsibility Report shows larger carbon footprint

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Apple on Monday issued the 2015 edition of its Environmental Responsibility report, trumpeting attempts to reduce the company’s contributions to problems like climate change and resource depletion, while admitting gaps in managing its carbon footprint.

As with last year’s report, Apple stated in the new document that it has three main priorities: limiting climate change through renewable energy and power efficiency, conserving resources, and pioneering the application of “greener” materials in products and processes.

The company reiterated, for instance, that all of its datacenters are powered by renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, biogas, geothermal, and “micro-hydro” power. In terms of efficiency, the company claims to have reduced the average total greenhouse gas emissions during product use by 61 percent since 2008.

One highlight of the report is the recent announcement of its deal with The Conservation Fund to buy 36,000 acres of forest in Maine and North Carolina for sustainable paper and packaging manufacturing. The company also draws attention to the iPhone 6, iPad Air 2, and 12-inch MacBook dropping beryllium from their list of included chemicals, and a deal with SunPower for twin solar plants in China’s Sichuan province.

Regarding climate charge, Apple said that it generated about 34.2 million metric tons of greenhouse gases in 2014, an increase from 33.8 million in 2013. The vast majority, 24.8 million, came from its third-party manufacturing partners. Another 7 million is estimated to have been produced by consumers, while 1.6 million was created by transportation. Half a million tons stemmed from recycling efforts, while Apple’s own facilities accounted for roughly 400,000 tons.

Apple blamed the slip on high sales, particularly of the iPhone, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air, as well as increased memory and storage production. Manufacturing emissions jumped 5 percent, It also claimed increased carbon efficiency however, pointing to a 7 percent drop in emissions from product use.

As of last year, all of Apple’s US operations and 87 percent of its international facilities are based on renewable energy, lowering carbon output — the company’s eventual aim is to power all of its buildings with renewables, including every Apple Store, whether through onsite sources or deals with suppliers. Between its 2011 and 2014 fiscal years, Apple lowered its net Scope 1 and 2 CO2 equivalent emissions 48 percent to less than 100,000 metric tons.

Apple facilities that are being built or undergoing “major” renovations will now use LED lighting, as well as HVAC and plumbing equipment picked for lifecycle cost rather than the initial one. Those efficiency efforts were first put into place last year, and are affecting buildings in the US, Europe, and Asia.

On the subject of resources, Apple said that more than 80 percent of the paper and corrugated cardboard used for iPhone, iPad, iPod, Mac, and Apple TV packages in 2014 came from sustainable forest, controlled wood, or recycling sources. The company is hoping to eventually eliminate all virgin fiber sources — the Conservation Fund deal is said to be equivalent to “nearly half” the virgin fiber Apple used in fiscal 2014.

To go with the report, Apple released a two-minute promotional video summarizing its achievements.

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US Department of Justice expected to block Comcast-Time Warner merger

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As Apple is said to be in talks with content owners for its own upcoming streaming television service, the U.S. Department of Justice appears poised to block a proposed Comcast acquisition of Time Warner Cable.

U.S. antitrust lawyers are said to be leaning against the proposed Comcast-Time Warner deal, according to sources who spoke with Bloomberg. Reacting to the news, Minnesota Sen. Al Franken penned an op-ed reiterating his own opposition to the potential merger, which he believes would be bad for consumers.

Comcast hopes to buy rival cable operator Time Warner Cable for $45.2 billion, making the nation’s largest Internet and TV company even bigger. Such a deal could have major implications for Apple and others who cut deals for content, and also require home Internet use for services like iTunes and Apple TV.

Franken was also an opponent of Comcast in the net neutrality debate, and helped to successfully convince the Federal Communications Commission to regular Internet service providers under the Communications Act. This prevents ISPs like Comcast and Time Warner from creating so-called “Internet fast lanes.”

In his latest scathing critique, Franken calls Comcast “greedy and dishonest,” noting that the cable provider has prioritized its own content and networks it owns over rivals. In one example, after its purchase of NBCUniversal, Comcast prioritized its own CNBC network over rival Bloomberg.

While the NBCUniversal deal went through, he’s hoping that public opposition to a Comcast-Time Warner merger could help convince the DOJ to block it.

“No company should be entrusted with the kind of dominant market position Comcast is seeking in this deal, especially when the company in question has proven that they simply can’t be trusted,” Franken said.

Scrutiny of the proposed Comcast-Time Warner deal comes as Apple is said to be in talks with content providers for a forthcoming subscription TV service, which is rumored to launch this fall for between $20 and $40 per month.

Apple is reportedly in talks with Disney, CBS, 20th Century Fox, Discovery, and Viacom to bring their content to a new streaming service that would bow this fall. Pricing is thought to fall between $20 and $40 per month, and the company is reportedly offering to share viewership data with content owners to entice them to cooperate.

Potential content talks with Comcast over its NBCUniversal programming were said to have stalled, but the DOJ could force Comcast to ink a deal with Apple per the terms of its purchase of NBCUniversal. Under the regulatory concessions agreed to by Comcast in 2011, the company must treat online video services as essentially equal to cable companies.

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Manhattan district attorney grabs attention saying iPhone will become ‘device of choice’ for terrorists

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In a weekend conversation on radio station WNYM/970 AM, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. called the iPhone “the terrorists’ communication device of choice,” owing to the default disk encryption present in iOS 8.

“Apple has created a phone that is dark, that cannot be accessed by law enforcement even when a court has authorized us to look at its contents,” Vance said during The Cats Roundtable, according to the New York Post. “That’s going to be the terrorists’ communication device of choice.”

Vance further argued that because the issue hasn’t raised widespread attention, it’s up to police to pressure politicians into undoing the encryption efforts of both Apple and Google. Google has yet to implement default full-disk encryption in Android, likely because of reported issues for the performance of the Nexus 6 with full-disk protection on.

Developed in the aftermath of leaks by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden — revealing mass surveillance programs, often with the collusion of tech companies — and general concerns about smartphone theft and hacking, iOS 8′s encryption is so tough that Apple claims even it can’t help a law enforcement agency crack a device.

This has resulted in complaints from a number of politicians and law enforcement offcials, including US Attorney General Eric Holder, and British Prime Minister David Cameron. Some have argued that companies like Apple and Google must implement back doors for police and spy agencies, and that dire consequences could arise without surveillance being an at-hand tool.

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