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Apple says supplies don’t come from war zones

SAN FRANCISCO — Apple released on Thursday its supplier responsibility report, and the company said its hardware factories did not use any tantalum, a metal commonly used in electronics, from areas engaged in warfare.

Some warlords, particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo, have profited from the sale of ores containing tantalum, tungsten, tin and gold to suppliers that make parts for electronics.

A grass-roots campaign has been pressing technology giants to keep minerals from those areas — often called conflict minerals — out of their supply chains.

The company said it had verified through third parties that the tantalum smelters used by its suppliers were conflict-free. It said it was pushing suppliers of tin, tungsten and gold also to use sources verified as conflict-free.

Nokia spoke up about conflict minerals two years ago and published a list of steps it was taking to avoid transactions involving conflict minerals.

In its report, Apple also said that it was trying to put an end to excessively long workweeks. It said that last year it drove suppliers to an average of 95 percent compliance with its standard for a maximum workweek of 60 hours, up from 92 percent compliance the previous year.

“We limit workweeks to 60 hours, except in unusual circumstances,” the company said in its report. “And all overtime must be absolutely voluntary.”

Apple said it was investing in helping workers throughout its supply chain. It said that last year, more than 280,000 people at 18 supplier sites took courses offered through its free education program, and suppliers trained about 1.5 million workers on their rights.

Apple released a list of its major suppliers as part of its supplier responsibility report for the first time two years ago, following corporations like Hewlett-Packard, Intel and Nike, which have released similar lists.

This is the eighth such report that Apple has released.

The company started conducting audits and publishing reports in 2007 after media reports of poor working conditions at Foxconn, a Chinese manufacturer of products for Apple, Sony, Microsoft and others.

—Brian X. Chen, The New York Times

China to reward localities for improving air quality

BEIJING — Chinese officials announced Thursday that they were offering a total of 10 billion renminbi ($1.65 billion) this year to cities and regions that make “significant progress” in air pollution control, according to a report by Xinhua, the state-run news agency.

The announcement came from the State Council, China’s Cabinet, after it held a meeting Wednesday to discuss, among other issues, the country’s immense air pollution problem. “Control of PM2.5 and PM10 should be a key task,” the State Council said in a statement, referring to two kinds of particulate matter that are deemed harmful to human health.

The meeting was presided over by Li Keqiang, a member of the Communist Party’s ruling Politburo Standing Committee and China’s prime minister.

The announcement of the financial incentives revealed how difficult it has been for some leaders in Beijing to get many Chinese companies and government officials to comply with environmental regulations.

Though central officials have been saying with growing vigor that pollution of all kinds must be curbed, their efforts to force other parts of the bureaucracy and the state-run economy to obey rules have been stymied by the self-interest of some groups.

For example, the state-owned oil companies exert enormous influence on environmental policy, including the setting of fuel standards, and sometimes outright ignore orders from officials to upgrade their products.

On Thursday, Chinese news organizations reported that the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences had deemed Beijing to be “almost unfavorable for human living.”

The judgment was part of an annual report on the livability of 40 world cities released by the organization, which is tied to the Chinese government.

Beijing ranked second worst in environmental conditions, and Shanghai was the fifth worst. Other indexes used to evaluate the cities included economics, governance and cultural innovation, according to China Daily, an official English-language newspaper.

—Edward Wong, The New York Times

Tactic could skirt house GOP on immigration

WASHINGTON — Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., offered a long-shot option Thursday to revive the moribund effort to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws that would require the support of more than a dozen House Republicans — and, if nothing else, pressure others to act on an election-year issue that Tea Party-aligned members strongly oppose.

The legislative maneuver, known as a discharge petition, would allow supporters of overhauling the nation’s immigration laws to circumvent the Republican majority in the House by bringing the measure directly to the House floor, bypassing the regular committee process.

It is a rarely successful tactic, though it was used in 2002 to eventually win passage of a major campaign finance law.

Schumer, who was one of the architects of a broad-based rewriting of immigration laws that passed the Senate in June, accused House Republicans of trying to “sweep this issue under the rug,” and added, “In the next few months you’re going to see increased pressure, and the discharge petition is one such way.”

Lawmakers and aides in both parties say that a discharge petition, especially one coming from Schumer, whose views are strongly opposed by many House conservatives, is unlikely to succeed.

—Ashley Parker and Jonathan Weisman, The New York Times