AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EDT


Alibaba won and lost a friend in Washington; how it happened

SHANGHAI (AP) — In 2011, a respected anti-counterfeiting coalition in Washington escalated its fight against the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, saying its websites served as a 24-hour market “for counterfeiters and pirates” and should be blacklisted.

Fast forward to 2016. The same lobbying group, the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition, reversed its position. Alibaba had become “one of our strongest partners.” The group welcomed Alibaba as a member and invited its celebrated founder, Jack Ma, to be the keynote speaker at its spring conference in Orlando, Florida.

This is the tale of how one of China’s corporate giants won — and ultimately lost — a friend in Washington, using legal methods long deployed by corporate America: money and influence. But those time-honored tools weren’t enough to defuse the deep loathing that has greeted one of communist China’s greatest capitalist success stories.

Alibaba is at the forefront of China’s rise on the global stage. The anxiety and suspicion that have greeted the company abroad are, to some extent, anxiety and suspicion about China itself. A month after it became the first e-commerce company to join the anti-counterfeiting coalition, Alibaba got kicked out.

An Associated Press analysis of public filings shows that the coalition’s public comments shifted from criticism to praise as the personal and financial ties between Alibaba and the group deepened, even as other industry associations — and the U.S. and Chinese governments — continued to take a harder line. A probe by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission into Alibaba’s accounting practices and sales data, disclosed this week, has raised further questions about how the company does business.

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Obama uses Hiroshima visit as opportunity to urge no nukes

HIROSHIMA, Japan (AP) — With an unflinching look back at a painful history, President Barack Obama stood on the hallowed ground of Hiroshima on Friday and declared it a fitting place to summon people everywhere to embrace the vision of a world without nuclear weapons.

As the first American president to visit the city where the U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb, Obama came to acknowledge — but not apologize for — an act many Americans see as a justified end to a brutal war that Japan started with a sneak attack at Pearl Harbor.

Some 140,000 people died after a U.S. warplane targeted wartime Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, and 70,000 more perished in Nagasaki, where a second bomb was dropped three days later. Japan soon surrendered.

“Their souls speak to us,” Obama said of the dead. “They ask us to look inward, to take stock of who we are and who we might become.”

With a lofty speech and a warm embrace for an elderly survivor, Obama renewed the call for a nuclear-free future that he had first laid out in a 2009 speech in Prague.

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Death on Everest leads to risky effort to recover bodies

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — The mountain is speckled with corpses.

Nearly 300 people have died on Mount Everest in the century or so since climbers have been trying to reach its summit. At least 100 of them are still on the mountain, perhaps 200. Most of the bodies are hidden in deep crevasses or covered by snow and ice, but some are visible to every climber who passes by, landmarks in heavy plastic climbing boots and colorful parkas that fade a little more every year. The most famous corpses get nicknames — “Green Boots,” ”Sleeping Beauty,” ”The German” — becoming warnings of what can go wrong on the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) peak, even as they become part of the mountain’s gallows humor.

No mountaineer wants to end up a nicknamed body. No grieving family wants their loved one to become a punchline. But in one of the most unforgiving places on Earth, where low oxygen, frigid temperatures and strong winds mean any effort can seem impossible, taking down the dead is no simple thing.

So when four people died on the upper reaches of Everest in recent days, and with a fifth missing and presumed dead, climbing teams and climbers’ families scattered around the world had to face the question of whether the bodies would be brought down.

“For the loved ones back home and family members of those fallen and died on Mount Everest, it is worth it,” said Ben Jones, a guide from Jackson, Wyoming, who made his third successful Everest ascent this year.

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Holiday air travelers get a break from long security lines

ATLANTA (AP) — Travelers who were dreading long airport security lines ahead of the Memorial Day weekend instead reported moving quickly through checkpoints Friday after authorities opened extra screening lanes and used bomb-sniffing dogs to give some passengers a break from removing their shoes.

“Wow. I mean, wow,” said Mike Saresky, who flew into Chicago from Philadelphia, where he breezed through airport security in 12 minutes and got to leave his shoes on. “I thought it was going to be a lot worse.”

The extra dogs were concentrated at the nation’s largest airports, but they were not used for all screenings, meaning that many travelers still had to observe the usual procedures.

But as the busy summer travel season kicked off, the federal Transportation Security Administration tried to offer travelers some relief after weeks of slow-moving lines blamed on an increase in the number of air travelers and a shortage of TSA security officers.

A TSA spokesman said the extra dogs would remain well beyond the holiday.

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Trump tells California ‘there is no drought’

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump told California voters Friday that he can solve their water crisis, declaring, “There is no drought.”

California is, in fact, in midst of a drought. Last year capped the state’s driest four-year period in its history, with record low rainfall and snow.

Speaking at a rally in Fresno, Calif., Trump accused state officials of denying water to Central Valley farmers so they can send it out to sea “to protect a certain kind of three-inch fish.”

“We’re going to solve your water problem. You have a water problem that is so insane. It is so ridiculous where they’re taking the water and shoving it out to sea,” Trump said at a rally that drew thousands.

The comments came a day after Trump outlined an energy policy plan that relies heavily on expanding U.S. fossil fuel exploration and reducing environmental regulations.

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Never mind Trump, GOP uniting under banner: ‘Never Hillary’

WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump’s best ally in winning over skeptical Republicans is turning out to be Hillary Clinton.

Having overcome a multimillion-dollar “Never Trump” campaign aimed at blocking him from the Republican nomination, he’s now benefiting from a wave of GOP donors, party leaders, voters and conservative groups that are uniting under a new banner: “Never Hillary.”

“Nothing unites Republicans better than a Clinton,” says Scott Reed, a political strategist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce who has advised previous GOP campaigns. While Reed says there remain “many unknowns” about Trump, he adds that “the knowns about Hillary are very powerful motivators to Republicans.”

Thanks to Republicans’ deep disdain for the likely Democratic nominee, Trump is piling up those kinds of lukewarm GOP endorsements.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who called Trump a dangerous “con artist” during his own failed presidential campaign, now says he’s willing to get involved in the general election to stop Clinton.

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Small WWII-era plane crashes in Hudson River; body found

NEW YORK (AP) — A small World War II vintage plane celebrating its 75th anniversary crashed in the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey on Friday, and police recovered a body from the single-seat plane, authorities said.

The plane, a P-47 Thunderbolt, crashed on a part of the river near where a US Airways commercial jet carrying 155 people splash-landed in 2009 in what became known as the Miracle on the Hudson.

New York Police Department Det. Michael Debonis said that scuba divers recovered a body from the plane around 10:30 p.m. Police haven’t confirmed the body is that of the pilot, the only person who was aboard the plane.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft, which went down near the George Washington Bridge around 7:30 p.m., was among three planes that had departed from Republic Airport in Farmingdale, on Long Island, just east of New York City. The other two aircraft returned to the airport and landed safely.

The American Airpower Museum is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the P-47 Thunderbolt this weekend. Museum spokesman Gary Lewi said the plane is kept at the museum and was taking part in an air show at nearby Jones Beach this weekend.

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In Iraq’s battle for Fallujah, residents gird for long fight

BAGHDAD (AP) — Five days into an Iraqi military operation to push Islamic State fighters out of Fallujah, residents still inside the city are preparing for a long battle, with some saying they fear being trapped between two forces they don’t fully trust.

More than 50,000 people remain in the center of the Sunni majority city, which has been under control of the extremist group for more than two years. Those who want to leave describe deteriorating humanitarian conditions, but they also say they are wary of the Iraqi government forces who have pledged to liberate them.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the start of the offensive late Sunday night. Backed by airstrikes from a U.S.-led coalition, Iraqi forces are tightening their grip around Fallujah and dislodging IS militants from key areas.

“The airstrikes are almost constant,” one man told The Associated Press by phone from inside the city Thursday. The resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of concerns for his safety, said that after living for weeks on rice, canned food and processed cheese, those stocks were beginning to run low.

While many in Fallujah welcomed the takeover of the city by the Sunni-led Islamic State group as an alternative to what they considered their marginalization at the hands of Iraq’s leaders, humanitarian conditions in the city have deteriorated under the extremists.

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Feds expect more Atlantic tropical storms than last 3 years

MIAMI (AP) — U.S. government forecasters expect a near-normal Atlantic hurricane season, after three relatively slow years. But they also say climate conditions that influence storm development are making it difficult to predict how many hurricanes and tropical storms will arise over the next six months.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s outlook Friday called for a near-normal season with 10 to 16 named storms, with four to eight hurricanes and one to four “major” ones with winds reaching 111 mph and up.

The long-term season averages are 12 named storms, with six hurricanes and three major ones.

The Atlantic hurricane season officially starts June 1, but tropical weather got a head-start this year: Hurricane Alex made an unseasonable debut in January over the far eastern Atlantic.

On Friday, the National Hurricane Center said an area of low pressure between Bermuda and the Bahamas became a tropical depression. A tropical storm warning was issued for the South Carolina coast.

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Migrant shipwreck survivor says he was under hull, pal died

SICULIANA, Sicily (AP) — A Sudanese man who survived the capsizing of a heavily overcrowded smugglers boat off Libya recounted Friday how the vessel tipped over when fellow migrants heard the voice of approaching rescuers and rushed above deck, leaving hundreds of people foundering in the Mediterranean.

When the boat overturned, Mohammed Ali found himself underneath the hull, but somehow emerged and knew he survived when he “saw the sun.” Because he doesn’t know how to swim, he couldn’t save a friend who perished in the sea, he added.

The 28-year-old was one of 562 migrants rescued Wednesday by the navy, which also recovered five bodies. He spoke to The Associated Press in Sicily outside a center where he and other migrants are sheltered while their identities are checked for their requests for asylum.

Ali said smugglers’ ignored warnings the boat was overcrowded.

“The smugglers assured us it will be a very safe trip,” said Ali. “The captain talked to him, ‘It’s too many people, stop bringing more people,” said Ali. “‘The ship won’t be safe.’ They didn’t listen to him.”

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