Again hit by one of the worst fire seasons ever recorded, California is plagued by smoke, fast-moving conflagrations and death. The worst of them devastated the northern town of Paradise, where 23 people died and 6,700 structures were destroyed. Two others were killed in Southern California, where the entire city of Malibu was among 250,000 evacuated. Traffic out of Paradise became gridlocked, forcing many to flee on foot, while seven bodies were discovered in cars that couldn’t escape the flames. President Donald Trump angered Californians by blaming poor forest management and threatening to withhold funding.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Europe’s leaders gathered at the Arc de Triomphe this morning to mark today’s 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. President Trump joined them, but was excoriated by critics for sending proxies to a U.S. military cemetery yesterday, citing rain. A speechwriter for former President George W. Bush labeled “incredible” a president’s unwillingness to pay respects to 53,000 U.S. war dead 50 miles from his Paris hotel. Trump reportedly won’t meet Russian President Vladimir Putin, who’s also attending, or join this week’s peace summit convened by French President Emmanuel Macron.
Sparking memories of 2000’s agonizing partial presidential recount, Florida began recounting more than 8.2 million ballots Saturday to decide midterm results of its gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races. Election staff in 67 counties have until Thursday to feed ballots into counting machines — a task experts say some old devices might fail. If the resulting margin is less than 2.5 percent, any aberrant ballots, such as those counting both candidates or none, will be manually checked. Republicans, who appeared victorious on Tuesday, are alleging fraud, and both sides have sued to affect the process.
This will test their constitution. Newly empowered Democrats — along with some Republicans — are saying they won’t abide President Trump’s new acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker. The Iowa football player-turned federal prosecutor’s already lambasted Robert Mueller’s probe of Trump campaign staffers’ Kremlin links, critics say, and should recuse himself from supervising Mueller like ousted Attorney General Jeff Sessions did. His very appointment is unconstitutional, they add, as the Senate hasn’t confirmed him for the job as it has Sessions’ deputy, Rod Rosenstein, who would normally step into the job pending a permanent appointment.
Tuesday’s U.S. midterm elections flipped at least 30 House seats blue — the most since 1974 — while Democrats gained seven governorships. Republicans retained control of the Senate, though, and with it President Trump’s ability to confirm Supreme Court and Cabinet nominees. But the battle’s far from over: Democrat Krysten Sinema has a thin lead in Arizona’s Senate contest, and Republicans lead by less than 0.5 percent in Florida’s gubernatorial and Senate races, within the margin to trigger a recount. Trump responded, “I am sending much better lawyers to expose the FRAUD.”
It’s a world of hurt. A Center for Investigative Reporting probe found that Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, forced its medical clinic personnel to conceal worker injuries. CEO Elon Musk recently touted the company’s declining injury rate, but interviews with current and former factory employees suggest his claims aren’t credible. Staff and former medics reported that they were pressured to avoid treatment, ambulance trips or prescribing lighter duty — all state-mandated triggers for logging injuries. The head of the factory’s clinic denies wrongdoing, saying injury reporting has become more accurate.
The Week Ahead: The manslaughter trial of Lonnie Swartz, a Border Patrol agent accused of fatally shooting a Mexican teenager across the U.S.-Mexico border, is to resume on Tuesday. Also that day leaders of Southeast Asian nations will convene the three-day ASEAN Summit in Singapore. And on Thursday, David Hockney’s painting of a swimming pool is expected to fetch $80 million at auction, making it the most expensive work by a living artist.
Know This: Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, who represented an Orange County, California, district for 30 years, has lost to Democrat Harley Rouda. A landslide-triggered boulder hit houses near Rio de Janeiro Saturday, killing at least 10 people. And Miriam Adelson, wife of GOP megadoner Sheldon Adleson, is to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Friday.
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A recent Pew Research study investigated the platform’s viewing suggestions and found results were dominated by popular kids’ content and music videos, not fringe material, contradicting scholar Zeynep Tufekci’s assertion that YouTube radicalizes viewers. But the study started with random selections and couldn’t test for personalized recommendations: As one critic noted, a student searching for the U.S. Federal Reserve would quickly see conspiracy theories as suggestions. And while 60 percent of parents reported their kids encountering inappropriate content, the platform countered that children should only use YouTube Kids.
It’s all in your head. That’s often the explanation when patients are fed sugar pills and suddenly recover, benefiting from the so-called placebo effect. Since they were conceived in the 18th century, placebos have most often been used as a control to measure actual drugs’ efficacy. But now researchers are finding they may actually have physical benefits, especially in patients with low levels of an enzyme called COMT. That could also help drugmakers to weed out test subjects who are prone to respond to sugar pills — thus minimizing effective drugs’ results.
Four years ago, Mexico City had no coworking spaces exclusively for women. Now there are three, with room for 400 employees of female-fronted businesses. While providing a relaxing and productive environment, they also provide a safe space from the Mexican business world’s enduring paternalism — though it’s reportedly less malign than U.S. bro culture. A decade ago, 70 percent of Mexican female entrepreneurs stopped working after starting a family, according to research conducted by Mia, the latest female-focused space to open. Today, more women than men are launching their own businesses.
From increasing productivity to relaxing shoppers, background tunes have powerful business mojo, and retailers spend heavily to cultivate the perfect playlist. Gone are the days of Muzak, whose brand name’s been retired, and “easy listening,” now known to annoy customers. Instead, highly paid experts agonize over getting people in the right frame of mind for a particular setting, whether it’s a baby boomer pub or a hipster hangout. But Pipedown, an anti-background music group that claims credit for silencing British retailer Marks & Spencer, doesn’t want to hear it.
It was risky enough for Margaret McFaddin Harritt to walk the Appalachian Trail with someone she barely knew. But then, two days into the 1974 hike, the pair shared a Georgia shelter with a stranger who fatally shot Harritt’s companion and took the South Carolina teenager captive — only to inexplicably release her unharmed two days later. The ordeal seemingly made Harritt fearless, with an international development career that took her to conflict zones around the globe, while her captor, convicted and paroled, went on to kill again.