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Paying the ultimate price on Mount Everest

KATHMANDU/NEW DELHI On his way down from the top of Mount Everest, Indian mountaineer Nava Kumar Phukon saw the woman sway from side to side - a classic sign of severe mountain sickness - as snow and fog reduced visibility to less than 10 feet (3 meters). Phukon's sherpa guide later told him the woman was 34-year old Australian Maria Strydom, who died last Saturday on the high slopes of Everest after making a failed push for the summit. "The sherpa who was trying to help her told me: 'She is going to die'," Phukon said after returning to Kathmandu from his own exhausting but successful summit bid. "I did not have any extra oxygen, clothes or food, not even water to offer to her," Phukon said. "I was so weak myself."Reuters could not independently confirm that it was the same woman, although both the sherpa guides worked for the same agency Seven Summit Treks and knew each other. Three deaths in as many days on the world's tallest mountain have renewed safety concerns after eager climbers flocked to the 8,850-metre (29,035-foot) summit for the first time since last year when an avalanche triggered by a magnitude-7.8 earthquake struck Base Camp, and all expeditions ground to a halt.A Dutch national, also with Seven Summit Treks, died last Friday in the notorious 'death zone' where the air is so thin that only the fittest can survive without bottled oxygen, while an Indian perished on Sunday due to exhaustion. Two other Indian climbers have been missing since Saturday, and are feared dead.Officials from Seven Summit Treks said 13 sherpas bringing Strydom's body down the mountain had encountered heavy snowfall at about 7,700 meters on Tuesday. When the weather improves they will resume the rescue, and her body will be flown to Kathmandu later this week, before the spring climbing season shuts with the onset of the monsoon. Deaths are not uncommon on Everest and the number of fatalities this year is close to average. But experts say the lure of reaching the highest point on Earth is increasingly attracting less experienced climbers served by agencies hungry for business. "Climbers are careless and confused about their strength and preparedness," said 30-year old Indian Ratnesh Pandey after summiting Everest on Saturday, without naming anyone. He said temperatures plummeted to minus 30 degrees Celsius (minus 22 Fahrenheit) near the top, while fierce winds closed many of the "weather windows" in the upper reaches, making this year's journey particularly tough. EXPONENTIAL GROWTHScaling Everest is far from the world's most treacherous climb from a technical perspective. Mountaineering expert Alan Arnette estimates deaths at about 3 percent of attempts, against one in four on Annapurna, a Nepalese massif with its main peak surpassing 8,000 meters. But less skilled climbers keen to conquer the highest points on each of the world's continents often fail to appreciate how much more difficult Everest is than the other six, people in the climbing community say. Competition among low-cost local companies chasing a business that has boomed in recent years and is no longer dominated by international outfits has meanwhile undermined safety standards, they say.Some companies, charging around $30,000 a climb, or half that of high-end firms, are known to have sent relatively inexperienced climbers up the mountain without medically trained guides. "There is this exponential growth in organizations offering guiding services on Everest and because there are so few internationally qualified guides in Nepal, it means the companies are engaging less and less in skilled workers," said veteran climber Andrew Lock, the first Australian to lead a commercial expedition up Everest. Climbing is big business in Nepal, earning the government $3.1 million from 289 Everest permit fees this year. Critics accuse Kathmandu of failing to enforce rules requiring past experience of high climbs, but Tourism Department official Bishnu Regmi said the government was committed to safety.Arnold Coster, who led the expedition for Seven Summit Treks, said his agency was as prepared as any. He said he had personally selected climbers, and that Strydom and her husband Robert Gropel had three experienced sherpas between them.His team tried their best to evacuate Strydom when she got into difficulty, he said, but her condition deteriorated fatally before she reached a helicopter evacuation point. An extra sherpa was sent up to help Dutchman Eric Ary Arnold when he complained of weakness but he died later that day."As far as I am concerned, we were one of the stronger teams on the mountain. It proves how unpredictable this sport is," Coster told Reuters by telephone from Base Camp. He acknowledged that the industry needed better regulation."People can just sign up like it's tourism," he said. "There are a lot of people who still have a valid permit from 2015 and didn't show up this year. I think next year is going to be extremely busy." (Additional reporting by Matt Siegel in SYDNEY; Writing by Tommy Wilkes; Editing by Ryan Woo)

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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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Medical records search warrant carried out in Prince case

A search warrant affidavit obtained by the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday revealed that a doctor who saw the late pop star Prince twice just weeks before his death and was at the musician's home when Prince's body was found had prescribed him medication.The document said Dr. Michael Todd Schulenberg was at the star's Paisley Park Studios compound in suburban Minneapolis to drop off test results when Prince's body was found in an elevator on April 21. The affidavit said Schulenberg had also prescribed Prince medication, but did not specify what those medications were or whether the prescription had been filled. The search warrant was carried out on May 5 at North Memorial Medical Center.Health system spokeswoman Lesa Bader told the Los Angeles Times that Schulenberg no longer works for the system. Barb Stevenson, a spokeswoman reached by Reuters, said she could provide no information on the case. Schulenberg, whose name was misspelled in the documents according to the Los Angeles Times, also could not be reached for comment on Tuesday night.Detectives also revisited Paisley Park on Tuesday as "a component of a complete investigation," the Carver County Sheriff's Office said in a statement on Twitter, without providing further details. Prince died one day before he was scheduled to meet another doctor who specializes in addiction treatment for a "life-saving mission," that doctor's lawyer said at a news conference last Wednesday.California doctor Howard Kornfeld was first contacted by Prince's representatives on April 20, one day before the singer's body was discovered at his home, attorney William Mauzy told reporters. Prescription opioid medication was found at the scene, according to a law enforcement source with knowledge of the investigation but who is not authorized to speak publicly. (Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Additional reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Paul Tait)

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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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One winning ticket sold in $429 million Powerball lottery

One winning ticket matched the numbers drawn on Saturday night for the multi-state Powerball jackpot for a payout estimated at $429.6 million, the ninth-highest U.S. lottery prize in history, officials said.The winning numbers selected just before 11 p.m. EDT were 25 66 44 5 26 with the Powerball 9. Lottery officials said one ticket, purchased in New Jersey, had the winning combination, according to media reports.The winner was not identified. Winners of huge lottery payouts sometimes do not come forward publicly for months.It was the largest jackpot for any U.S. lottery since January, when three Powerball tickets split a record $1.6 billion. The odds of winning at Powerball are one in 292 million. Statistics experts say that means an American is roughly 25 times more likely to become the next president of the United States than to win the game. Kelly Cripe, a Texas-based lottery spokeswoman, said Saturday's Powerball followed 17 consecutive draws without a winner.A spate of late ticket-buying on Saturday increased the jackpot by some $15 million, to an estimated $429.6 million. Powerball is played in 44 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. (Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles and Chris Michaud; Editing by Digby Lidstone, Eric Meijer and Paul Tait)

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