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UPPER LAKE, Calif. (AP) — Just a month into the budget year, the state has already spent more than one-quarter of its annual fire budget, at least $125 million, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Mike Mohler said Wednesday.

Following years of drought and a summer of record-breaking heat, immense tracts of forests, chaparral and grasslands have become tinder that allows even a small spark to explode into a devouring blaze, authorities said.

“We’re being surprised. Every year is teaching the fire authorities new lessons,” Gov. Jerry Brown said at a news conference. “We’re in uncharted territory.”

The River Fire has burned over 33,000 acres.

Justin Sullivan via Getty Images

The River Fire has burned over 33,000 acres.

More than 13,000 firefighters are battling fires with the help of crews from as far away as Florida but Brown repeated predictions from fire officials that California can expect a future of devastating fires, in part because of the changing climate.

“People are doing everything they can, but nature is very powerful and we’re not on the side of nature,” Brown said.

The largest blaze burned in the Redding area, in Shasta County north of Sacramento. Six people, including two firefighters, have died and the fire has destroyed 1,058 homes and nearly 500 other buildings, including barns and warehouses, making it the sixth most destructive wildfire in California history, state fire officials said.

Tens of thousands of people remain under evacuation orders.

However, authorities who had feared there might be more casualties reported Wednesday that all those who had been reported missing had been located.

The fire, which is nearly twice the size of Sacramento, was only 35 percent contained after more than a week.

“Unstable conditions, shifting winds, steep terrain, and dry fuels continue to challenge firefighters,” a state fire update warned Wednesday evening, noting that 35-mph wind gusts were expected on ridge tops that could whip up the flames.

Meanwhile, at least three new fires erupted Wednesday in the Sierra Nevada region, including a blaze in Placer County that had consumed 1 1/2 square miles (of land.

North and east of San Francisco, two wildfires that began Tuesday near the communities of Covelo and Yuba City continued to burn through grass, brush and timberlands. The fire near Covelo prompted evacuation orders for about 60 homes in the farming and ranching area on the edge of the Mendocino National Forest.

Twin fires also burned in Mendocino and Lake counties. They burned 14 homes and threatened 12,000 more.

A 100-square mile fire near Yosemite National Park prompted evacuation orders Wednesday for the community of Wawona inside the park, which has fewer than 200 residents. Yosemite Valley and other areas of the park have been closed to tourists since July 25 because of heavy smoke from the fire, which has burned nearly 64,000 acres (258 square kilometers) and is only 39 percent contained.

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“They should know our character well,” Mr. Erdogan said.

Mr. Brunson, 50, an evangelical pastor from North Carolina, has been imprisoned in Turkey for 21 months and is accused of aiding the failed coup attempt against Mr. Erdogan in July 2016. Last month, the Turkish government moved Mr. Brunson from jail to house arrest because of health concerns.

Mr. Brunson could face 35 years in prison if found guilty of having links to two groups Turkey considers terrorist organizations: a movement led by the American-based cleric Fethullah Gulen — whom Turkey accuses of initiating the 2016 coup attempt — and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. Mr. Brunson’s imprisonment has become a cause célèbre among evangelicals, an important voting constituency for Mr. Trump.

The Treasury Department said Mr. Brunson was arrested with “an absence of evidence,” and it accused the Turkish officials of running entities involved in human rights abuses. The two Turkish officials were sanctioned under the Global Magnitsky Act, which penalizes authorities for human rights abuses.

After a phone call last week between Mr. Trump and Mr. Erdogan, Mr. Trump made an abrupt announcement on Twitter that he would place “large sanctions” on Turkey for detaining Mr. Brunson. Even so, talks seemed to progress.

On July 26, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with Mr. Cavusoglu, a call the State Department described in just one tough sentence: “The secretary underscored that it is well past time for this innocent pastor, Andrew Brunson, to come home.”

Two days later, the two diplomats spoke again. The State Department described that call in less abrupt terms, saying the two “committed to continued discussions to resolve the matter and address other issues of common concern.”

Then on Tuesday, a Turkish court rejected Mr. Brunson’s appeal to be freed during his trial.

Eric S. Edelman, a former American ambassador to Turkey, praised the Trump administration for finally getting tough with Turkey. He said the United States had new leverage amid the deeply troubled economy in Turkey, where the currency, the lira, recently plunged in value.

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Tesla recorded another huge loss last quarter and burned through hundreds of millions of dollars in cash as it ramped up production of its first mass-market model.

But the electric-car maker intends for that loss to be its last.

Tesla is about to turn the corner, Elon Musk, the chief executive, told analysts and investors on Wednesday during a conference call after the company announced its quarterly results.

“Our goal is to be profitable and cash-flow positive for every quarter going forward,” Mr. Musk said. Outside of a recession or major economic shock, the company is confident that it can reach that target, he said.

Investors liked the promise. Tesla’s stock rose about 9 percent in extended trading, after closing at $300.84.

The quarter that ended June 30 was a crucial one for Tesla in its quest to build a successful future around the Model 3, the more affordable sedan it is offering alongside the flagship Model S sedan and the Model X sport-utility vehicle. To meet its Model 3 production goals, the company set up a tent at its factory in Fremont, Calif., to augment its assembly line, and Mr. Musk said he had taken to sleeping at the plant.

Tesla used up more than $430 million of its remaining cash during the quarter, decreasing its cash supply to $2.2 billion. But analysts had braced for worse.

“I was expecting more cash burn,” David Whiston, an analyst at Morningstar.

In late June, Tesla passed a milestone, producing 5,000 Model 3s in a week — the benchmark it has said it needed to reach to become profitable. In July, it maintained that production pace “multiple times,” the company said Wednesday.

The output it anticipates in the third quarter — 7,000 vehicles per week across its entire fleet, or 350,000 per year — “should enable Tesla to become sustainably profitable for the first time in our history,” the company said in a note to investors.

That would be a significant accomplishment for a company that has never reported an annual profit — its latest quarterly loss was $743 million on $4 billion in revenue — and some analysts remain skeptical. The goal is plausible but could easily be derailed by production glitches, delivery delays and softer-than-expected demand for the Model 3, said Brian Johnson, an analyst at Barclays.

Tesla has set a base price of $35,000 for the vehicle, but it is currently taking orders only for versions that start at $49,000.

“We still have fundamental concerns with the actual demand for the higher-priced variants,” Mr. Johnson said.

Tesla’s ambitions — its stated corporate mission is to “accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy” — are expensive. Its dwindling financial safety net has prompted some analysts to predict that it will soon need to raise more money, but Mr. Musk strongly disputed that on Wednesday’s call.

“We will not be raising any equity, at any point,” he said. “We certainly could raise money, but I think we do not need to. I think it’s better discipline not to.”

In June, Tesla, which is based in Palo Alto, Calif., laid off 3,500 employees, around 9 percent of its work force, to reduce its operating costs. It recently made the unusual move of asking some suppliers for price reductions on work already underway.

The amount that Tesla owed its suppliers ballooned in the second quarter, which may have helped the company conserve cash. Its accounts payable, the balance-sheet item for yet-to-be-paid bills, totaled $3 billion at the end of the second quarter, an increase of more than $425 million from the first quarter.

But its big bets keep growing. Last month, Tesla announced plans for a vast new plant in China, its first outside the United States, that it hopes will eventually make 500,000 vehicles a year.

That factory will be paid for with loans from Chinese banks and “local debt,” Mr. Musk said Wednesday.

On his call with analysts, Mr. Musk adopted a much softer tone than he did last quarter, when he criticized what he called “boring, bone-headed questions.” He apologized Wednesday for his earlier remarks.

“There’s really no excuse for bad manners,” he said. “There are reasons for it. I’ve gotten no sleep and been working sort of 110-hour, 120-hour weeks. But nonetheless, there’s still no excuse. “

Mr. Musk also apologized for rambling at times on Wednesday’s call.

“Sorry if I sound a little tired,” he said. “I’ve been working like crazy in the body shop lately.”

Peter Eavis contributed reporting.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page B2 of the New York edition with the headline: Tesla Reports Another Loss, but Sees Only Profit Ahead. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

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A kinder, conciliatory Elon Musk made amends with Wall Street on Wednesday for Tesla Inc.’s disastrous conference call last quarter.

Now, Musk must exorcise Tesla’s biggest demon: An inability to reach his fantastical forecasts

Tesla’s chief executive again made plenty of promises Wednesday, and they made investors pretty giddy, along with news that Tesla is developing its own self-driving-car chips. Tesla

TSLA, +12.59%

 shares surged 9.5% higher in Thursday trading, despite the report that showed the Silicon Valley car maker has lost about $1.5 billion so far this year.

Read: MarketWatch’s live blog coverage of Tesla earnings

The key for Wall Street, beyond Musk’s personal apologies to analysts he insulted on Tesla’s bizarre May earnings call, is all the promises Musk made for a profitable future. Musk’s promises include a reiterated call for GAAP profitability in the third and fourth quarters, and he took that even farther by saying, “our goal is to be profitable and cash-flow positive for every quarter going forward.”

Three months after that truly bizarre performance, the Musk who spoke Wednesday was much more measured and respectful to all. Even when reverting to his habit of grand projections, he added caveats that he seemed to skip over before — in his letter to shareholders and the conference call, Musk used the term “force majeure” about a half-dozen times in qualifying his promises.

“First of all, I’d like to apologize for being impolite on the prior call. Honestly, I think there’s really no excuse for bad manners,” Musk said after the first question was asked by Bernstein Research analyst Toni Sacconaghi, who famously bore the brunt of Musk’s impatience in May.

Don’t miss: Elon Musk thinks robot software will make Tesla worth as much as Apple

Musk said he was sleep-deprived, working 110- and 120-hour weeks,“but, nonetheless, there’s still no excuse. My apologies for not being polite on the prior call.”

Sacconaghi reacted in the same way as most Tesla investors and observers Wednesday: Thanks, and now let’s talk money. He wanted to know how Tesla is going to be able to lower its costs and reach profitability as it ramps up its production of Model 3 sedans, and continues to make its other higher-priced cars.

Musk said once Tesla’s manufacturing lines are running smoothly, profitability will follow.

“It just needs to kind of lurch into a high pace and there’s a lot of lurching, which is very inefficient. So you end up having super high labor costs per car and it just takes time to build up this giant machine,” Musk said. “So, as we address those slow parts and as we improve efficiency, then GAAP gross margin and profitability per car just improves dramatically.”

The improvements Tesla made in its manufacturing process of the Model S came by building a tent at its Fremont plant, with a straight manufacturing line that was easy for employees to get around. Musk said that the tent was permanent, and stressed that it was not a tent that you would buy at REI for camping.

“It’s a giant thing that is very commonly used as a permanent structure and we just had to come up with a creative solution.”

Analysts also asked how Tesla plans to pay for its proposed gigafactory in Shanghai without going to the capital markets for funding. Musk said he has no plans to go to the capital markets and plans instead to get loans from local banks in China and fund the factory with local debt. He also pointed out that the factory should cost about half of what Tesla’s first gigafactory cost.

“We’re confident that we can do the gigafactory in China for a lot less,” Musk said. “I think it’s probably closer to — this is just a guess, but probably closer to $2 billion, and that would be sort of at the 250,000 vehicle-per-year rate.”

For Musk, projections like those are pretty standard, but at least they came without a side of vitriol on Wednesday. Now, all he has to do is live up to his word and produce cars profitably and even faster, which is a lot harder than being nice.

Tesla bulls had an afternoon in the sun Wednesday, and the stock rose 8.3% in premarket trade Thursday. Tesla’s stock is so far down 3.4% for the year, compared to a 5.2% jump in the S&P 500 index

SPX, +0.35%


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Residents of the Iowa town where Mollie Tibbetts vanished told Fox News on Wednesday they’re still trying to come to grips with the dramatic case as police hunt for the student who was last seen on July 18.

Julie Weiss, an employee at BGM, the local K-12 school, said her son graduated with Mollie and that they were casual friends. According to Weiss, her son was in “total shock” when he found out. “It’s just unbelievable that something like that could happen here, in a small town where everybody knows everybody.”

“She was a very good student and very well-liked by all her classmates… Just well respected.”

Weiss was a part of the original search party. She said they broke up into groups of five to seven and searched country roads, ditches, backyards and garages of folks in town.

She also spoke about Mollie’s boyfriend, Dalton Jack. “I mean, nice family. I don’t know them real well but I see them at the school. Nothing that I would have ever have suspected him of anything. I think he’s just in as much shock as anybody.”

Jack, whom police have cleared as a possible suspect, told Fox News in an exclusive interview earlier Wednesday that the last time he spoke to his girlfriend was on July 17 before he left town for work.

“I left for Dubuque, Iowa, which is about 100 miles away, on Tuesday morning at 5 in the morning,” he said. “And I was staying there for work until what was supposed to be Friday. And then Thursday after we found out she was missing I drove home. So I was in Dubuque the entire time.”

He also said that early on in the search for Mollie, he kept calling her missing phone, hoping anyone would pick up.

“I did for like the first week and a half. Not more recently. I was just trying to see literally if anybody would pick up. And then, yeah, straight to voicemail,” he said.

“I mean, everybody has their own theories, but I’m just kind of leaving it up to the law enforcement trying to figure that one out,” he said. “I don’t want to go racking it through my brain thinking of what happened, what happened, what happened. Just driving myself insane.”

A pig farmer said seven FBI investigators arrived at his home last Friday and asked to search it without a warrant. They were there for nearly two hours, taking photos of the interior of the home and also searching his garage. He said investigators then asked to interview him off the property and kept his cell phone overnight to check his records. The farmer has not been charged with a crime and said he “has nothing to hide.”

A bartender in Brooklyn, Jamie Manatt, recalled how it was especially “quiet” the night Tibbetts was last seen. She said the FBI later came to her home and questioned whether there were any “unusual” people in the bar that night. 

“Usually when people come from out of state, this is where they stop,” Manatt said. “But there were no out-of-town people here in this bar that night.”

Manatt said she left the bar at around midnight that night and noticed that the True Value hardware store nearby had been vandalized. She said she alerted a deputy who then canvassed the area for the vandal but “it was very quiet. Not many people were out.”

Fox News has confirmed that police have taken copies of all surveillance tapes associated with Mollie’s disappearance from Casey’s General Store.

Mollie was last seen on July 18 when she left her boyfriend’s home to jog. The boyfriend shares the home with his brother and his fiance, and Tibbetts was staying there to watch his dogs while he was out of town on business.

Fox News’ Paulina Dedaj and Greg Norman contributed to this report.

Cristina Corbin is a Fox News reporter based in New York. Follow her on Twitter @CristinaCorbin.

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State officials said more than 13,000 firefighters are on duty fighting 16 large fires that have burned a total of 320,000 acres and displaced more than 32,000 residents. Seventeen states have offered assistance to California during the last week, sending help from as far away as Maine and Florida. Though the state has the resources now to combat the large wildfires, fighting them and keeping people safe will become harder, Brown said.

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After apparently nursing a grudge for 20 years, former constable deputy Joseph James Pappas allegedly got on his 10-speed Schwinn bicycle, rode to the Texas Medical Center and gunned down Houston cardiologist Mark Hausknecht in broad daylight, authorities said.

Police late Wednesday were searching for the accused killer whose mother died on the operating table under Hausknecht’s care two decades ago. The 62-year-old may be suicidal and should be considered armed, according to Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo.

“I don’t know when he decided to do this, but I’m very familiar with how this murder was committed and there was a lot of planning that went into this,” Acevedo said during an afternoon news conference to announce charges against Pappas. “There was a lot of planning and sadly some skill.”

Five days after Hausknecht’s slaying, a man using the same phone number as Pappas tried to sell a stash of weapons, ammunition and tactical vests online. When police searched his Westbury home early Wednesday, he already had given away many of his belongings, according to sources close to the investigation, but he left behind a gun and several holsters.

For nearly two weeks, the case baffled police, who pored through surveillance footage as they struggled to solve the brazen July 20 killing. That morning during rush hour, Hausknecht was biking near the intersection of Main and Holcombe when the another man on a bike passed him from behind. Two blocks later, the man turned around on his 10-speed Schwinn bike and fired at least twice. The doctor — a famed physician who once treated former President George H.W. Bush — went down immediately. The gunman rode off in a northbound direction.

Afterward, Crime Stoppers offered a $5,000 reward for information, but authorities remained tightlipped about their investigation, save for a slow trickle of surveillance video and still photographs from the moments before and after the killing.

On Monday, one of those videos broke the case. A tipster alerted police to a possible connection to Pappas, whose mother was one of Hausknecht’s patients.

“It appears that this may have been a 20-year-old grudge that this man held,” Acevedo told reporters.

Police kept investigating and eventually learned that Pappas had texted someone he knew indicating he wanted to kill himself, and that he hadn’t been heard from in more than a day. Late Tuesday, officers showed up at his home for a welfare check, but Pappas was not there.

They returned around 4 a.m. Wednesday with a pair of warrants — one to search the house and another to arrest Pappas for murder.

They did not find their suspect, but they did locate evidence tying him to the killing.

“We believe that this man is absolutely the killer,” Acevedo said, declining to offer more details. As of late Wednesday, Pappas still had not been found.

“We need to find this guy,” the chief said. “This man is dangerous, this man is capable, this man has some skills.”

Until about five years ago, Pappas worked in Harris County law enforcement for roughly three decades, according to state records. From 1997 to 2013, he served as a reserve officer with Harris County Constable Precinct 2, after a number of years on the force there and at Precinct 7.

At Slain Houston doctor remembered at memorial service

Pappas also had an active real estate license with a business address on Westheimer, and a phone number matching several online weapon sales listings. A call to that number Wednesday went straight to voicemail.

The items for sale, posted July 25, include two tactical vests, a Smith & Wesson .38-caliber revolver, a $4,500 semi-automatic FN rifle, two sets of ballistic door panels for a Crown Victoria and a box of ammunition.

An ad on another site in January lists the seller’s name as “Joe,” notes a southwest Houston location, and offers a variety of ammunition reloading equipment.

It was unclear whether the guns for sale included the weapon used in the doctor’s fatal shooting. Asked for comment, police said they would investigate.

“We are looking at all aspects of the suspect’s life and activities,” Acevedo said in a text late Wednesday.

“It is highly probable he was targeted,” Acevedo said in a text message Thursday morning.

The suspected shooter’s neighbors had little to say about him. One woman said she knew he had grown up there, but that they only made neighborly chit-chat and and that he seemed normal.

A former acquaintance, Yvonne Shaw, said she had stayed with Pappas at his apartment in Houston for about two weeks more than 15 years ago. He told her he worked as an undercover police officer. He seemed caring, she said, but did not like to talk about his job or his past.

“I couldn’t figure anything out, and I didn’t want to ask him too much because I hardly knew him,” Shaw said, later adding, “I thought he was a little secretive about that stuff.”

The two lost contact when she left Texas, and she had not heard from him since.

“To me, he was a very nice person,” Shaw said. “He cared about people. He didn’t seem like someone who would hurt anybody.”

He never talked about his family or his relationship with his mother, she said. However, she said he frequently rode a 10-speed bicycle.

“He always had it inside so no one would steal it,” Shaw said.

TRIBUTES: Family, friends fondly recall doctor shot while on bike

Grudge-motivated violence against health-care providers is rare but not unheard of. A 2012 study in Annals of Emergency Medicine identified 154 hospital-related shootings between 2000 and 2011, of which more than 27 percent involved a “determined shooter” harboring a grudge. The victim much more often was a hospital employee than a doctor.

“Sometimes the hardest part of our job isn’t diagnosing or treating the disease, but communicating the gravity of the patient’s circumstances,” said Dr. Douglas Curran, president of the Texas Medical Association. “It’s a struggle. Loved ones can have a hard time comprehending that we can’t fix everybody.”

It was not clear what may have prompted the accused killer to act so many years after his mother’s death.

“Never underestimate how deeply people care about and feel the loss of a loved one,” said Dr. Edward Poa, a forensic psychiatrist at The Menninger Clinic. “If they blame someone for that loss, they can really want retribution, an eye-for-an-eye sort of thing. They can see their act as righting a wrong.”

The homicide stunned members of the Texas Medical Center Community, including at Houston Methodist, where Hausknecht was a cardiologist.

“The Houston Methodist family is still in shock about the senseless killing of one of our longtime physicians, Dr. Mark Hausknecht,” said Marc Boom, president and CEO of Houston Methodist. “We are relieved that the Houston Police Department has identified the suspect and are confident he will be apprehended soon.”

Hausknecht, 65, earned his degree from Baylor College of Medicine in 1980, and started practicing in Houston seven years later. He biked to work every day, and took exceptional care of himself, according to those who knew him.

In 2000, Hausknecht appeared at a news conference at Methodist with Bush after the 41st president was treated for an irregular heartbeat.

A spokesman for the former president offered prayers and condolence to the doctor’s family, colleagues and supporters.

“Mark was a fantastic cardiologist and a good man,” Bush said in a statement. “I will always be grateful for his exceptional, compassionate care. His family is in our prayers.”

The family held a funeral Saturday at First Presbyterian Church. In addition to his wife, Hausknecht is survived by two sons, his mother and three siblings.

Julian Gill, Fernando Alfonso, Stephen Tucker Paulsen, Victoria Cheyne and Nancy Sarnoff all contributed to this report.

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President Trump is ratcheting up trade tensions with China, threatening to increase proposed tariffs on Chinese imports from 10 percent to 25 percent.

The higher tariffs, which would apply to some $200 billion in Chinese imports identified by the administration last month, represent an effort to get Beijing to address longstanding unfair trade practices, officials say.

“The Trump Administration continues to urge China to stop its unfair practices, open its market and engage in true market competition,” said U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in a statement. He said the president had asked him to consider increasing the proposed tariffs.

“We have been very clear about the specific changes China should undertake. Regrettably, instead of changing its harmful behavior, China has illegally retaliated against U.S. workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses,” Lighthizer said.

Chinese officials said they were prepared to retaliate again with higher tariffs of their own.

“U.S. pressure and blackmail won’t have an effect. If the United States takes further escalatory steps, China will inevitably take countermeasures and we will resolutely protect our legitimate right,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a press conference Wednesday.

The higher tariffs are not a done deal. Officials say there will be a comment period for businesses and people affected by the tariffs. Still, the administration’s threats represent a significant escalation of trade tensions with China.

“I think it is a very serious situation. I think it would be a very complicated thing to get out of, because I don’t see an easy remedy once we go down this path,” said Michael Camuñez, president and CEO of Monarch Global Strategies and former U.S. assistant secretary of commerce for market access during the Obama administration.

Camuñez notes that the Trump administration has given mixed signals about how tough it’s willing to be with China, and that has complicated efforts to resolve the conflict.

While Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has attempted to work out a deal with Beijing, other officials such as Lighthizer have taken a much tougher stance, he says.

“There are folks in the White House that really think the best approach to China is a very aggressive one, and that position clearly seems to be prevailing,” Camuñez says.

Copyright NPR 2018.

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(CNN) — Think it’s hot where you are? Think again.

It’s probably nowhere near the new tentative world’s record for hottest month anywhere on Earth, held by Death Valley National Park in California.

The monthly average was a scorching 108.1 degrees Fahrenheit (42.3 C), the National Park Service said.

That’s the monthly average. The daily high was 127 degrees Fahrenheit four days in a row in July, the park service said. And sunset didn’t bring much relief. Temperatures failed to drop below 100 for 10 nights in the month — with the lows not coming until usually around 5 a.m., just before sunrise.

The previous record was set last July with 107.4 in yep, Death Valley, said Andy Gorelow of the National Weather Service’s Las Vegas office.

A couple poses at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center thermometer in Death Valley National Park on July 26, 2018.

A couple poses at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center thermometer in Death Valley National Park on July 26, 2018.

Richard Brian/AP

To reach the average heat measurement, meteorologists first average each day’s temperature from its high and low, and then average each day’s average, said Brian Brettschneider, a climate scientist who conducts research for the University of Alaska Fairbanks at the International Arctic Research Center. He kept an eye on Death Valley’s readouts after last year’s chart-topping July.

He said the numbers are preliminary and need to be verified before being scorched into the record books.

It’s possible other “nonpopulated or nonmeasured areas” on Earth have reached higher temperatures, Brettschneider said.

“But is it a record if there’s no one there to measure it?”

In Death Valley, the park service said heat contributed to the death of a hiker in mid-July. And two French tourists had to be rescued after hitting a rocky combination of cliffs, heat and dehydration.

Even wildlife isn’t immune to the unrelenting swelter.

“We have found about a dozen dead animals that have no obvious signs of trauma,” said Josh Hoines, the park’s chief of natural and cultural resources management. “We suspect that these animals are casualties of this record period of heat.”

Heat tips

Rangers advise visitors to stay in the park’s well-traveled areas, in case their vehicle breaks down. Cell phones don’t work in much of the park.

Visitors are also urged to drink plenty of water and limit activities outside air-conditioning.

Because, you know. It’s hot out.

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Streaming service Spotify has become the latest major web platform to find itself compelled to do something about oft-shirtless conspiracy theorist, lead-infused supplement peddler, and Infowars founder Alex Jones, removing several episodes of his podcast under policies against hate speech.

Attention to Jones’ presence on Spotify was first called by Jared Holt, a researcher for progressive site Right Wing Watch, who noted Jones has four podcasts there: The Alex Jones Show, RealNews with David Knight, War Room, and something called Freedom Nuggets. Holt noted numerous times where Jones’ content seemed in clear violation of Spotify rules. Those included appearances by white supremacists and members of hate groups on shows, hate speech against Muslims and LGBTQ people, threats of violence against special counsel Robert Mueller and perceived members of the “deep state,” and harassing survivors of mass shootings Jones has contorted himself into believing were false flag attacks orchestrated to advance a nefarious agenda.

According to Variety, Spotify removed the content under a policy banning hate speech in May (another policy banning artists on the basis of “hateful conduct” was internally controversial and rescinded):

We take reports of hate content seriously and review any podcast episode or song that is flagged by our community,” a spokeswoman said in an email. “Spotify can confirm it has removed specific episodes of ‘The Alex Jones Show’ podcast for violating our hate content policy

Per Recode, Spotify did not weigh in on the specifics of what content was removed—and it’s not even clear that there is a system in place at the platform to keep track of Jones’ violations:

A Spotify spokesperson declined to share what episodes were removed or what specific content triggered the company’s action, but the podcast is still available through the service.

Unlike Facebook and YouTube, though, which suspend users after they receive a certain number of strikes against their record, Spotify doesn’t have a similar system in place, according to a source. It’s unclear, then, how or if Jones might be suspended or banned from the service altogether.

So, in other words, Spotify gave Jones a slap on the wrist, which is exactly the same kind of treatment that has allowed him to continue expanding the influence of Infowars until it had the ear of the current president. While it did briefly implement a policy against “hateful conduct” by artists that may have resulted in harsher penalties in this case, it only lasted through part of May 2018 until Spotify rescinded it. (Last year, the service did remove some neo-Nazi white power bands, so there’s that.)

Major tech platforms have historically been loathe to involve themselves in more than token efforts to police their vast networks of user-submitted content—and though many of them are stepping up their efforts to appear they’re doing something, the status quo essentially remains that the rules are full of loopholes and are often only arbitrarily enforced in response to external pressure.

For example, the strikes systems in place at other places where Jones has gotten in relatively minimal amounts of trouble like Facebook and YouTube are already easily gamed. As the Verge noted before, multiple offenses only count as one “strike” in YouTube’s three-strikes policy if the user waits to log in, in which case multiple violations of policy aggregate into one strike. The strikes also expire every three months, essentially allowing channels like Jones’ Infowars “a free pass to post hate speech every 90 days or so.”

Jones is apparently somewhat closer to the brink on Facebook, which despite its mushy stance on misinformation and propaganda has confirmed his behavior has gotten him “close” to a total ban. But even the 30-day temporary suspension Facebook recently placed on his personal account that leaves other Infowars staff free to publish to their page has resulted in the usual griping from conservatives like Senator Ted Cruz. The site is more or less terrified of angering Republicans and is in the middle of a Heritage Foundation-led review of imaginary bias against conservatives, and there’s every reason to be wary they will cave.

It’s not as though any of these platforms are specifically responsible for Jones—conspiracy theories aren’t new, and he’s been promoting them on radio for decades—but in general, their laissez-faire attitude towards letting him use their massive scale to reach attitudes has been the nitro to his jet fuel.

It’s possible that will change, but if that fails to materialize, at least Jones is still embroiled in legal battles over defamation claims that could result in serious liability.

[Variety/Recode/Right Wing Watch]

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