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BEIRUT (Reuters) – Government helicopters dropped barrel bombs on Deraa city for the first time in nearly a year on Monday, a rebel and a war monitor said, extending an assault in southwest Syria which has driven thousands from their homes.

Following a few years of anecdotal complaints, and no less than three lawsuits, Apple on Friday initiated a new worldwide service program offering free repairs of MacBook and MacBook models equipped with low-profile, butterfly mechanism keyboards, which have been a source of frustration for some customers.



We’ve already reported about the service program in more detail, but the gist is that Apple and Apple Authorized Service Providers are now offering free repairs of affected 2015-and-later MacBook and 2016-and-later MacBook Pro models with sticky, unresponsive, or inconsistently functioning keys.

Many questions have arisen since the program was announced, so we wanted to consolidate some additional information that we have gathered from Apple and other sources we have spoken with:

  • Apple distributed an internal document on Friday with more information about the service program. It notes that keyboards damaged due to attempted repair by a customer are still eligible for free service under the program. If your MacBook or MacBook Pro has physical top case damage unrelated to the keyboard, it also remains eligible.
  • As to be expected, if your MacBook or MacBook Pro keyboard has liquid damage, it is ineligible for the program.
  • If a key press is not recognized, key presses feel abnormal or sticky, or keys are loose or missing, Apple has instructed its authorized service providers to clean or replace the affected keycaps if possible.
  • Keycap replacement kits are available for English keyboards in ANSI and ISO layouts, along with British, French, German, Danish, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Chinese, and Japanese keyboards.
  • If characters are repeating, or previous keycap replacements were ineffective, Apple has instructed its authorized service providers to replace the whole keyboard, which requires replacing the whole top case, including the trackpad and speaker grilles.
  • Be prepared to go a week-plus without your MacBook. Apple quotes a turnaround time of five to seven business days for service to be completed at Apple’s off-site repair centers, but wait times may increase as an influx of customers take advantage of the program.
  • If your MacBook or MacBook Pro experiences keyboard issues after being serviced under the program, Apple says customers can bring their unit back in to be looked at again. This suggests, but doesn’t explicitly state, that the program may be used more than once.
  • Apple is offering refunds to customers who paid to have an eligible keyboard repaired prior to this program, but a Genius has advised us that refunds are not available in person at an Apple Store, and must be requested by contacting Apple Support by phone, online chat, or email.
  • It’s still not entirely clear if the replacement keyboards have been slightly revised to address the issues that prompted the service program in the first place. Apple has been fairly communicative with me about this program, but has so far skipped right over this question when asked.
  • We do know that Apple has been replacing 2016 MacBook Pro keyboards with the 2017 version, which has slightly different markings on the Control and Option keys, but a Genius we spoke with believes the 2016 and 2017 keyboards are functionally equivalent.
  • iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens also told me he believes the keyboard design hasn’t changed at all in a few years.
  • However, anecdotal reports from customers suggest the 2017 MacBook Pro keyboard “has a different feel to it,” with some calling it “better” and less prone to issues. Marco Arment, for example, said it is “more ‘damped’ in both feel and sound, as if there’s more rubber somewhere.”

We’ll share any further information as we come across it. In the meantime, if you are experiencing keyboard issues, read our article on How to Get a MacBook or MacBook Pro Keyboard Repaired Free Under Apple’s Service Program.

Related Roundups: MacBook Pro, MacBook

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With the recent imposition of tariffs onto some U.S.-bound exports, Canadians are finally beginning to wake up to the reality that our geographic and cultural proximity to America won’t shield us from the re-alignment of their priorities.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday sided with American Express Co, ruling that the company’s policy of forbidding merchants from encouraging customers to use rival credit cards with lower fees does not violate federal antitrust law.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court declined on Monday to hear an appeal brought by Nomura Holdings Inc and the Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC seeking to overturn an order requiring them to pay $839 million for making false statements while selling mortgage-backed securities to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

MUNICH/FRANKFURT (Reuters) – ProSiebenSat.1 Media and Discovery Inc plan to join forces to build a German TV streaming platform to challenge U.S. giants Netflix , Amazon Prime and YouTube.

Britain’s Dan Evans beats Ilya Ivashka 6-4 6-4 in his first-round match at the Wimbledon qualifying event in Roehampton.

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission has signed an agreement with four major online retailers to combat the listing of dangerous products on Europe’s online shopping sites.

On the mossy, volcanic tundra of Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula, Orf Genetics’ glass and metal greenhouse stands out like a sore thumb.

Inside, tens of thousands of barley plants will be carefully tended for 90 days before being sent down the road to the sparsely populated country’s capital Reykjavik for processing.

The fodder crop was a staple in the Icelandic diet centuries ago and has made a comeback in trendy restaurants in recent years, but these plants aren’t for eating.

They have been genetically modified to contain growth factors, a type of protein whose uses vary from skincare products to sweeteners and stem cell research.

Orf isn’t typical of companies in a country whose economy is built on fishing, aluminum smelting and, more recently, tourism. But it is exactly the type of enterprise Iceland’s government is keen to encourage as it looks to make better use of its traditional industries and national resources to find more sustainable avenues of growth 10 years on from its crippling financial crisis.

Iceland was among the worst countries hit as global banks and investment firms went into meltdown in 2008 and 2009.

Having been deregulated earlier in the decade its three big banks, Landsbanki, Kaupthing and Glitnir, had got fat on foreign debt that allowed them to grow their assets to ten times the value of the country’s GDP. When nervous overseas lenders began to call in what they were owed, they came crashing down.

“Things got really sour,” says Bjarni Benediktsson, Iceland’s finance minister. “They say that banks can get too big to fail, in our case the banks were too big to save. There was just absolutely no chance even if we wanted to try to bail them out.”

Some senior bank bosses ended up in prison and a series of angry demonstrations in Reykjavik led to the resignation of the then-prime minister Geir Haarde.

The country took an IMF bail-out and imposed capital controls and GDP plunged sharply, by 6.5 per cent in 2009 and another 3.5 per cent the following year.

But the downturn didn’t last long. The value of the Icelandic krona halved, boosting exports and kicking off a tourism boom that drew in millions of visitors keen to scale glaciers and volcanoes, bathe in the milky-blue warm waters of Blue Lagoon and try exotic delicacies such as hakarl, a fermented shark dish usually accompanied by the local tipple brennevin.

Annual tourist numbers grew more than fourfold as more people visited Iceland in the seven years to 2017 as did in the 62 years hence, according to research by Arion Bank.

Tourists photograph the Northern Lights near Reykjavik, Iceland.

That has fundamentally changed the shape of Iceland’s economy, meaning that tourism exports are now worth more than aluminum and seafood combined.

But while tourism helped Iceland get back on its feet, the sector can only grow so big without causing problems. Locals complain of congested roads and high property prices as homes in Reykjavik are used as Airbnbs to make up for the lack of hotel rooms in the busy summer months.

The Federation of Icelandic Industries estimates there is an infrastructure spending shortfall of over $5 billion (3 billion pounds), equivalent to 10 per cent of GDP.

Having soared by 40 per cent in 2016, growth in tourism numbers is finally beginning to slow down, not least because of the surging value of the krona, which has left British tourists shelling out 10-plus pounds ($17) for a beer in most of Reykjavik’s bars.

Blue Lagoon hopes to maintain momentum by focusing on very well-off travellers, recently opening a luxury hotel with its own private lagoon whose rooms start at 144,000 krona ($21,584.97) per night. But the government is under no illusion that Iceland will need to find new areas to excel at if it wants to keep growing.

“We have fish, we have energy and we have tourism,” says Thordur Hilmarsson, who heads the state-backed agency Invest in Iceland. “We need more in order to stabilize the economy.”

That’s not to suggest Iceland’s traditional strengths won’t have a role to play, however.

Traffic moves around the buildings in the Icelandic capital is seen from the top of the Hallgrimskirkja tower on April 7, 2014 in Reykjavik, Iceland.

You can spot Iceland’s geothermal energy plants from miles away, as plumes of stream creep over the crests of hills, adding gloom to an already moody landscape. Drawing nearer, pipelines begin to sprout out of the ground, carrying thousands of litres of boiling hot water from space age-looking wellheads to the power stations themselves, where they will be used to power turbines that feed into the country’s electricity grid and heat fresh water that is piped to people’s homes.

Iceland isn’t the only country with geothermal energy, but it is able to exploit it to a much greater extent than anywhere else because of its location on top of a gap in the earth’s crust, that allows molten magma to seep into the ground below.

“Here we are blessed — we drill fairly shallow wells and we get very high temperature, high pressure (water),” says Auður Nanna Baldvinsdottir of Landsvirkjun, the national energy company. “If it wasn’t for geothermal, I don’t think we could live here with the quality of life that we have.”

Geothermal contributes around 29 per cent of Iceland’s total electricity usage, which combined with the power from its hydroelectric dams means it is the only country in the world whose electricity is totally renewable.

In fact Iceland has much more energy than it actually requires to power its homes and domestic businesses. It can’t export this abundant electricity (at least for now — talks occasionally surface about running a power cable to the U.K.).

So instead between the Sixties and 2007 the government lured three North American aluminum companies, Alcoa, Rio Tinto Alcan and Century Aluminum, to open smelters on its shores, which between them consume a whopping 70 per cent of its electricity output.

They have brought a solid flow of cash and high-skilled jobs with them but there are concerns the island’s infrastructure and environment would struggle to cope with any more.

“I don’t think there is space for another aluminum smelter in the near future,” Benediktsson says. “What we would like to see is more diversity in terms of the businesses that come here that are energy intensive.”

That includes companies like Orf, whose greenhouses are kept at a toasty temperature year round by geothermal heating.

Large clouds of steam rise into the sky from the Svartsengi geothermal power station in Grindavík, Iceland.

Most of its plants, which are grown in volcanic ash instead of soil because it contains less bacteria, are used to produce a protein called epidermal growth factor.

Some of that is sold to stem cell researchers but the majority ends up being used as an ingredient in the company’s Bioeffect skincare products, which are manufactured domestically but shipped out to high-end department stores including Harrods and Liberty of London where they are sold for 100+ pounds ($176.63) per bottle, generating 50 million pounds ($88 million) of annual sales.

With the high value of the krona, it’s “not the optimal location for manufacturing,” admits Frosti lafsson, Orf’s chief executive, but “as a cosmetics brand with the strong scientific element in our story, it is very important to have Iceland as part of our image.”

Another industry lured in by Iceland’s energy supply is data centres, which look after other companies’ computer servers. Verne Global is headquartered in the U.K. but chose to put its 200,000 sq ft data centre at Keflavik, the former NATO base which is also home to Iceland’s main airport. In other countries the cost of cooling can account for around half a data centre’s energy costs, Verne’s Styrmir Hafliðason says, whereas in Iceland they need only open a grate in the wall and suck in the chilly air from outside.

“Iceland has that perfect equilibrium for running and maintaining data centres,” he adds.

The good conditions have attracted users of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, which take vast amounts of power to “mine.”

But while Verne caters to those in one of its vast, noisy data halls, it is keen to grow its premium “tier three” service, which has been used by the likes of BMW and Volkswagen to design cars and simulate the effects of wind and crashes.

Iceland is perhaps most famous for its seafood. Its fiercely-protected fisheries are among the world’s most bountiful, providing 1.2 million tons of cod, whiting and other species last year, and supporting tens of thousands of jobs both at sea and in numerous processing plants.

A harbour employee covers fish with ice before storing in Reykjavik, Iceland.

But Thor Sigfusson thinks the industry could be “so much better.” He started Iceland’s Ocean Cluster, an incubator above a former fish market by the harbour in Reykjavik’s up-and-coming Grandi district that provides space and occasionally investment for entrepreneurs looking to turn bits of cod into more premium products.

His “Silicon Valley of white fish” is home to companies making everything from fish leather shirts and wallets to collagen powder, fish skin wound dressings and premium “extra virgin” cod liver oil.

“Sadly we’re meeting so many fishermen who take the fillet and throw the rest of the fish away,” he says. “From one cod we can maybe get US$12 for the fillet. But if we use the whole round we can get US$3,500 for each cod.”

So far the companies are mostly in their early stages but the cluster has attracted the attention of two of the country’s big fish processors, Visir and Thorbjorn, who chose it to house Alda, a joint venture producing collagen-infused lemonade.

Kerecis, another Icelandic company that makes wound dressings from fish skin, has landed work with the U.S. Department of Defense.

“When we started, so many academics told me it’s great that you’re trying but the fact is, our growth isn’t going to come from seafood,” says Sigfusson.

“But I thought to myself why should that be the case? Of course we’re not going to catch more, but we can do much more with less.”

The Sunday Telegraph