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Apple’s chief apologizes to China over warranty policy

SHANGHAI — Apple’s chief executive, Tim Cook, took the unusual step Monday of apologizing to Chinese customers over the company’s warranty policy and said he would improve customer service in the country.

Apple’s apology Monday was the latest twist in a strange spectacle that has unfolded in recent weeks in China over Apple’s warranty policies and underscored the challenges the company is facing as the country becomes an important market for its products.

Apple’s problem began on International Consumers’ Day, when China`s biggest state-run television network, as is its tradition, broadcast an investigative report on how companies operating in China cheat or mistreat consumers. This year, on March 15, one of the targets was Apple.

China Central Television criticized the American company’s after-sales iPhone customer service in China because it gave only a one-year warranty, while in China the law is two years. It also said that phone owners had to pay about $90 to replace a faulty back cover.

Apple did not immediately respond to some of the accusations, but other state media outlets stepped up their criticism over the next two weeks, raising the stakes for Apple in China, which is now the company’s second-biggest market after the United States.

—David Barboza and Nick Wingfield, The New York Times

New York City ‘kidnapping’ was birthday joke, police say

NEW YORK — A mysterious abduction in Upper Manhattan was nothing more than an unorthodox birthday gag.

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said Monday that what had originally appeared to be a brazen daylight kidnapping of a young couple from a street in the Washington Heights section Friday was in fact the beginning of a surprise birthday celebration in the Pocono Mountains for a man who had just turned 30.

“The person who was supposed to be surprised by the party found out about it,” Kelly said at a news conference at Police Headquarters. “So then, you know, Plan B was to kidnap him and take him to the party. This was an additional surprise.”

That determination came more than two days after witnesses described what they believed to be the armed kidnapping of the man and his girlfriend Friday evening from the sidewalk.

From the beginning, there were small signs that the apparent abduction — captured by surveillance cameras in video released by the police — was something other than a crime.

No one had been reported missing in the area, the police said. An 8-year-old boy had told the police that he had seen the kidnappers use a gun, but by Monday, Kelly said, the police no longer believed any gun was involved.

—J. David Goodman, The New York Times

Mandela spends 5th day in hospital

JOHANNESBURG — The condition of former President Nelson Mandela was improving, according to South African government officials, as he spent his fifth day in a hospital Monday being treated for pneumonia.

Mandela, the 94-year-old anti-apartheid leader, has been hospitalized three times in the past four months, including almost three weeks in December, when he was treated for a lung infection and had surgery for gallstones. He has not been seen publicly since 2010.

“President Nelson Mandela had a restful day and continues to receive treatment,” the government said in a statement released Sunday. “The doctors are providing the former president with the best medical care possible to enable his recovery and comfort. They have reported a further improvement in his condition.”

On Saturday, the government gave more details about Mandela’s health, saying he “had developed a pleural effusion,” or a fluid buildup in the lungs, that was addressed.

“This has resulted in him now being able to breathe without difficulty,” it said.

Lung infections have been a persistent problem for Mandela, who contracted tuberculosis during his 27 years in prison at the hands of the apartheid government.

—Lydia Polgreen, The New York Times

Pattycake, first gorilla born in New York City, dead at 40

NEW YORK — There were problems with her heart that weren’t getting better. She weighed 320 pounds. One can only imagine the toll taken by so many years of cloying attention, all the beguiled admirers staring and cooing and craning to get close to her. The press was always sniffing around for new angles. Of course, there was her age.

Forty sounds painfully young — but, then, she was a gorilla. Once you’re past 37, you need to consider putting your affairs in order.

And so it was sad but not entirely surprising when word came Sunday of the passing of Pattycake, the Bronx Zoo gorilla that had long reigned as one of the city’s more acclaimed tourist attractions. Jim Breheny, the zoo’s director, said she had been discovered around 8 a.m. by a worker in the zoo’s Congo Gorilla Forest. Apparently, she went peacefully, in her sleep. Even at 40, her looks were still pretty much intact.

For a gorilla, she had had quite a life. “She was a story that captivated people,” Breheny said.

She earned a superstar’s distinction and heaps of publicity right at birth, on Sept. 3, 1972, being that she was the first gorilla born in New York City, as opposed to, say, Cameroon or Gabon or Equatorial Guinea. It was an excellent Manhattan address — the Central Park Zoo. Her furry face served as a bit of a respite at a time when the city found itself grappling with high crime rates and an intensifying financial crisis.

Another gorilla, Hodari, was born just a month later at the Bronx Zoo, and he never got the press she did.

—N.r. Kleinfield, The New York Times