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Apple stands by its word, severs ties with suppliers that repeatedly and purposely hired underage wo

Apple-supplierresponsibility- report-2013Apple last night released its annual Supplier Responsibility Report that outlines the progress being made for everything from empowering workers to labor and human rights issues within its supply chain. It also highlighted audit results for 393 audits performed during the year—a 72-percent increase over the number of audits it performed in 2011. Apple said its worker empowerment program providing education on local laws and the company's supplier code of conduct was extended to 1.3 million employees during 2012. That's double the amount of workers trained in the program since 2008.

As noted by Bloomberg, Apple's report has information about a Chinese labor agency that had forged documents for underage employees to work in Apple-connected suppliers. Underage workers have been a big focus for Apple since news reports and Fair Labor Association audits last year exposed some of the issues with the conditions of Apple's supply chain. Since discovering 74 cases of workers under the age of 16 during an audit of a circuit board supplier last January, Apple has terminated its contract with the company and is now going after the agency that did the hiring.

In January 2012, for example, we audited a supplier, Guangdong Real Faith Pingzhou Electronics Co., Ltd. (PZ) that produces a standard circuit board component used by many other companies in many industries. Our auditors were dismayed to discover 74 cases of workers under age 16—a core violation of our Code of Conduct. As a result, we terminated our business relationship with PZ.

As for the Quanshun agency, one of the region's largest labor agencies, Apple reported it discovered the company was forging papers for underage workers. Apple said in the report that it has reported the agency to officials, who in turn suspended the agency's business license:

We also learned that one of the region's largest labor agencies, Shenzhen Quanshun Human Resources Co., Ltd. (Quanshun), which is registered in both the Shenzhen and Henan provinces, was responsible for knowingly providing the children to PZ. In fact, to obtain the workers, this agency conspired with families to forge age verification documents and make the workers seem older than they were. We also alerted the provincial governments to the actions of Quanshun. The agency had its business license suspended and was fined. The children were returned to their families, and PZ was required to pay expenses to facilitate their successful return. In addition, the company that subcontracted its work to PZ was prompted by our findings to audit its other subcontractors for underage labor violations—proving that one discovery can have far-reaching impact.

Speaking with Bloomberg, Apple Senior Vice President of Operations Jeff Williams said the following about the situation and decision to include the incident in this year's report:

"Underage labor is a subject no company wants to be associated with, so as a result I don't believe it gets the attention it deserves, and as a result it doesn't get fixed like it should… "Most companies, they either don't report on it at all, or they say they look for it and found none, or they obscure the data in some way," Williams said. "If they're not finding it, they're not looking hard enough."

Apple Again The Second Most Valuable Publicly Traded Company in the World

Back in August 2011, Apple first passed Exxon Mobil as the most valuable publicly traded company in the world. Both companies have risen in value since, but Apple's recent slide has allowed Exxon Mobil to again regain its position at the top of the corporate world.

In the 17 months since Apple passed Exxon Mobil, XOM's stock is up some 27%, while AAPL has risen roughly 18%. Today, however, Apple has set a new 52-week low, while Exxon is matching its 52-week high set last September.

Currently, Apple's stock price is at $441.11 with a market capitalization of $414.28 billion. Exxon Mobil is at $91.43 with a market cap of $416.86 billion.

In Apple's most recent quarter, the company generated $13.08 billion in profit on $54.51 billion in sales, with 72,800 employees. Exxon Mobil generated $9.93 billion in profit on $115.71 billion in revenue with 82,100 employees.

iPhone 5S Said to Feature Upgraded Rear Camera, iPad Mini Update Targeted for October

Following up on his report from earlier today about Apple's plans for the full-size iPad and iPhone, iLounge's Jeremy Horwitz has a new article sharing additional information on Apple's mobile device plans. The information comes from a "trusted source" and discloses product code names for the various devices as well as plans for an upgrade to the rear camera system for the iPhone 5S.
The iPhone 5S is still months away from mass production, but our source suspects that the star feature will be an upgraded rear camera—perhaps featuring Sony's 13-Megapixel sensor, plus the aforementioned flash upgrade—along with a processor bump. Current prototypes are codenamed N51 and N53, with July mentioned as the target date.
The source indicates that the code name for the fifth-generation iPad is J72, while the second-generation iPad mini has a code name of J85.

The report indicates that the second-generation iPad mini is unlikely to appear until October of this year, roughly the same timeframe as for the next full-size iPad. Sources have scant information on the actual device, but suggest that it is likely to retain essentially the same form factor as the current model and add a Retina display. A move to a Retina display without increasing the physical size of the device would almost certainly necessitate a change in the display technology such as the adoption of new IGZO panels.

Some previous reports had indicated that the iPad and iPad mini could see updates as soon as March as part of an effort to accelerate the product development cycle, but iLounge's claims of an October launch are more in line with a recent report from frequently accurate KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.

iPad Mini Ship Times Drop to 3-5 Days on US, Canada, Australia, China, Hong Kong Apple Online stores

iPad Mini ship times have dropped to 3-5 days at a number of Apple Online Stores around the world, including the U.S., Canadian, Australia, New Zealand, Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Japanese outlets. This was first noticed by

The most notable exception to the shipping time improvement is the European stores, which have a 2 week lead time.

During its first quarter conference call, Apple executives noted that the iPad mini was constrained for the entire holiday quarter. The company believes it can achieve supply/demand balance on the mini by the end.