AP News in Brief at 5:58 a.m. EDT

7/3/2015 3:15 AM
By Associated Press

Greek poll shows 2 sides neck and neck before crucial Sunday referendum

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The brief but intense campaign in Greece's critical bailout referendum ends Friday, with simultaneous rallies in Athens supporting "yes" and "no" answers to a murky question in what an opinion poll suggests could be a very close vote.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called the referendum last weekend, asking Greeks to decide whether to accept creditors' proposals for more austerity in exchange for more loans — even though those proposals are no longer on the table.

Tsipras is advocating a "no" vote on Sunday, saying it would give him a mandate to negotiate a better deal for Greece within the eurozone. Opposition parties, and many European officials, say a "no" vote would drive Greece out of the euro and into an even more impoverished future.

A poll conducted Tuesday and Wednesday and published in the newspaper To Ethnos on Friday showed the two sides in a dead heat. It also showed an overwhelming majority — 74 percent — want the country to remain in Europe's joint currency, the euro, compared to 15 percent who want a national currency.

Of the 1,000 respondents to the nationwide survey by the ALCO polling firm, 41.5 percent will vote "yes" and 40.2 percent "no," well within the margin of error of 3.1 percentage points. Another 10.9 percent were undecided and the rest said they would abstain or leave their ballots blank.


AP Exclusive: China's Commerce Ministry website hosted bootlegged copy of 'Liar's Poker'

SHANGHAI (AP) — A complete bootlegged copy of Michael Lewis' bestselling book about Wall Street, "Liar's Poker," was hosted on the official website of the Chinese Commerce Ministry, the agency responsible for intellectual property protection in China, The Associated Press has found.

How and why a PDF, in English, of Lewis' raucous memoir about the excesses of Wall Street in the 1980s ended up on the ministry's site remains a mystery. The ministry did not respond to multiple requests for comment this week, but on Friday morning removed the page from their website.

China has a long and troubled history with copyright infringement. Despite high-level attempts to bolster enforcement, particularly as Beijing turns to innovation as a source of economic growth, piracy remains rampant — and widely tolerated.

Andrew Hay, director of security research at OpenDNS, a network security firm based in San Francisco, confirmed the file was hosted on the Ministry of Commerce website and was not a spoof.

Internet registry records show that the website was created in 2003 by the ministry's Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation Department. The pirated copy of "Liar's Poker" — which had been available at http://images.mofcom.gov.cn/kjxh/accessory/200801/1201672069708.pdfhttp://images.mofcom.gov.cn/kjxh/accessory/200801/1201672069708.pdf — was created in 2006, according to metadata embedded in the PDF file. The pirated e-book has been lurking on the ministry's website since at least 2008, according to the San Francisco-based Internet Archive, which preserves copies of old websites.


AP Exclusive: North Korean farmers face dry fields, empty lakes amid drought

UNPHA, North Korea (AP) — North Korean farmers work to pump underground water into parched fields. Instead of rice seedlings standing in flooded paddies, the baked earth is cracked. A big lake that used to supply surrounding farmland with water is almost completely dry.

There has been almost no rain in this part of the country, an hour's drive from the capital Pyongyang and one of the country's main rice-growing regions, according to farmers and local officials interviewed by The Associated Press. While the situation in this area visited by the AP looks grim, it is unclear how severe the drought is in the rest of the country.

"Because of the drought continuing from last year, lots of land has been damaged," said Sin Ung Hyon, chairman of the Unpha County Farm Management Committee.

North Korea severely limits outside access, so state media's recent claim of the worse drought in a century has faced widespread skepticism. Pyongyang, eager for the possibility of outside assistance, has used similar phrasing to describe past droughts, and officials in rival South Korea have said there's no way to confirm exactly what's happening.

North Korean authorities agreed to a request by the AP to revisit this area, which the government had highlighted previously as particularly hard-hit. An AP video journalist was accompanied by local officials.


Warning of 2016 consequences, Hispanic leaders call on Republicans to condemn Donald Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — Hispanic leaders are warning of harm to Republican White House hopes unless the party's presidential contenders do more to condemn Donald Trump, a businessman turned presidential candidate who's refusing to apologize for calling Mexican immigrants rapists and drug dealers.

Trump's comments, delivered in his announcement speech last month, have haunted the GOP for much of the last two weeks and dominated Spanish-language media. It's bad timing for a Republican Party that has invested significantly in Hispanic outreach in recent years, given the surging influence of the minority vote.

Yet several Republican candidates have avoided the issue altogether, while those who have weighed in have declined to criticize Trump as strongly as many Hispanic leaders would like.

"The time has come for the candidates to distance themselves from Trump and call his comments what they are: ludicrous, baseless and insulting," said Alfonso Aguilar, a Republican who leads the American Principles Project's Latino Partnership. "Sadly, it hurts the party with Hispanic voters. It's a level of idiocy I haven't seen in a long time."

The political and practical Trump-related fallout has intensified in recent days.


Analysis: Root of tattered US-Russia ties date back decades, misunderstandings on both sides

WASHINGTON (AP) — The stumbles, blunders, and policy chaos that have sent increasingly frosty U.S.-Russia relations into what many now call a new Cold War might have been inevitable.

The fundamental hopes and fears lurk, sometimes subconsciously, in the collective minds of the Russian and American nations despite the collapse of the Soviet Union nearly a quarter century ago. That puts their world views at odds and on a collision course, with the crisis over Ukraine the latest and biggest confrontation.

That dismal relationship more often than not can be linked to the eastward expansion of the NATO alliance and Moscow's refusal to believe America's promises that it does not threaten Russia. There's also Russian President Vladimir Putin's seething anger over his country's loss of superpower status.

Back in friendlier days, after agreement on the NATO-Russia Found Act in 1997, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said she saw the trouble brewing.

Albright, writing in Foreign Policy about the late former Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov, recalled her friend as a flexible realist, but she also cited differences already evident soon after the NATO-Russia deal was signed.


Big diabetes study tests whether insulin in pills could prevent the disease

CHICAGO (AP) — For nearly a century, insulin has been a life-saving diabetes treatment. Now scientists are testing a tantalizing question: What if pills containing the same medicine patients inject every day could also prevent the disease?

Thirteen-year-old Hayden Murphy of Plainfield, Illinois, is helping researchers determine if the strategy works for Type 1 diabetes, the kind that is usually diagnosed in childhood. If it does, he might be able to avoid the lifetime burdens facing his 5-year-old brother, Weston. They includes countless finger pricks and blood sugar checks, and avoiding playing too hard or eating too little, which both can cause dangerous blood sugar fluctuations.

Hayden Murphy is among more than 400 children and adults participating in U.S. government-funded international research investigating whether experimental insulin capsules can prevent or at least delay Type 1 diabetes. Hospitals in the United States and eight other countries are involved and recruitment is ongoing. To enroll, participants must first get bad news: results of a blood test showing their chances for developing the disease are high.

"When I got the news, I was devastated," Hayden said. He knows it means his life could change in an instant.

"He has the daily reminders. He sees what his brother goes through," said the boys' mom, Myra Murphy.


Solar-powered airplane due to land in Hawaii after 5-day flight from Japan

HONOLULU (AP) — An airplane powered by the sun is scheduled to land in Hawaii after a five-day journey over the Pacific Ocean.

The flight from Japan is the longest leg of the around-the-world voyage planned by two Swiss pilots who have been taking turns flying the single-seat airplane. It is also the riskiest because the plane has nowhere to land in an emergency.

The aircraft is scheduled to land at a small airport outside Honolulu about 6 a.m. (9 a.m. PDT) Friday. Flight officials say the aircraft was arriving in the Hawaii area earlier but would fly in a holding pattern until the scheduled landing time.

The pilots aim to create awareness about replacing fossil fuels with clean technologies.

Solar Impulse 2 took off from Abu Dhabi in March. The wings of the carbon fiber aircraft have more than 17,000 solar cells.


In Seattle, famous for boom-and-bust since the Gold Rush, some fret over Amazon's weight

SEATTLE (AP) — Seattle, notorious for boom-and-bust cycles stretching back to the 19th century Alaska gold rush, is booming once again.

Thickets of yellow cranes have crowded the skyline, where new glass-sided office buildings, hotels and apartment towers blot out views of the mountains and the Space Needle. Food trucks dot the streets and young software engineers with disposable income fill the bars.

But the boom has brought handwringing, as residents fret over whether Seattle has become a traffic-snarled city for the rich with soaring rental rates, overly dependent on the company behind it all: Amazon.

The online retail giant has brought tens of thousands of workers to its campus in the South Lake Union neighborhood, overtaken the University of Washington as Seattle's biggest employer and lined up enough office space to roughly triple its headcount here.

"A lot of people who have lived in Seattle for 10 or 20 years are getting pushed out, "says Jeff Reifman, a former Microsoft programmer who has criticized the ways Amazon is changing Seattle, including in a well-read essay last year on how the influx of male tech workers has skewed the dating scene.


Could searchers' sonars have already missed wreckage of Flight 370 in remote Indian Ocean?

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Amid rising frustrations over the expensive, so-far fruitless search for vanished Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, experts are questioning the competence of the company in charge, including whether crews may have passed over the sunken wreckage without even noticing.

Such carping in a small, fiercely competitive and highly specialized industry isn't unusual — and some of the strongest comments have come from a company whose bid for the lucrative job failed. But others have also criticized what they suspect is shoddy work, inappropriate equipment use and a focus on speed over thoroughness by the Dutch underwater survey company hired by Australia to find the plane that vanished in the Indian Ocean on March 8 last year with 239 people aboard.

There are also calls for the government to release the growing mountain of sonar data collected so far, which skeptics say could show whether searchers have overlooked holes in the dragnet big enough to conceal a fragmented Boeing 777.

Australian authorities say they are confident in the efforts by the company leading the search, Fugro Survey Pty. Ltd. But the second-guessing has grown as time goes by with still no physical trace of the plane.

"It strikes me as odd that you're hiring a company that doesn't have the assets, doesn't have the track record," said Steven Saint Amour, an aircraft recovery expert based in Annapolis, Maryland.


Merger frenzy drives massive $2.3 trillion worth of deals in first half of the year

NEW YORK (AP) — Deal makers from New York to London had a busy first half of the year, and mega-mergers drove the frenzy.

Companies around the world announced mergers and acquisitions worth $2.3 trillion, according to figures from data provider Dealogic, the second-best half-year total on record and the highest amount since 2007, when $2.6 trillion of deals were announced.

The tie-ups included 31 deals worth $10 billion or more, accounting for 39 percent of the total. That's the largest share since the second-half of 1999, at the peak of the dot-com bubble.

The rush to merge has been driven by low borrowing costs and steady but unspectacular growth in the U.S. economy, which have sent CEOs hunting for new ways to expand sales and boost earnings. Companies from ketchup maker Heinz to oil producer Shell have joined the M&A throng this year.

"The mega-mergers, the big deals, have come back into favor," says Neil Dhar, U.S. capital markets leader at professional services firm PwC.

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