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Wildfires raging in the western United States, 2 Arizona firefighters were killed in a plane crash

Firefighters working in the hot weather struggled to control the Northern California wildfires that continued to spread on Sunday and forced a major highway to be temporarily closed. This was one of several fires in the western United States. Another heat wave broke records and strained the power grid.

In Arizona, on Saturday, two firefighters crashed an airplane that crashed while investigating a small wildfire in rural Mojave County. The Beech C-90 aircraft was helping to detect a lightning-induced fire in the Cedar Basin near the small community of Wikieup when it crashed around noon.

There are only two firefighters on board. Officials determined that one of them was Jeff Pichola, who was a retired fire chief in Tucson who worked for the US Forest Service. Before the relative was notified, the name of the other person was concealed. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the accident.

In California, a fire in southern Oregon destroyed interstate power lines and prevented up to 5,500 megawatts of electricity from flowing south to the state. Officials demanded that all residents quickly reduce electricity consumption.

The California Independent System Operator, which manages the state’s power grid, said on Saturday that due to the soaring temperature in the area, the Bootleg fire caused three power transmission lines to be cut off, resulting in a shortage of power supply.

The National Weather Service in Medford, Oregon, said on Twitter on Sunday: “The piracy fire today will see the potential for extreme growth.”

On Saturday, the Sugar Fire swept through downtown Doyle, California, burning along telephone poles. (Noah Berger/Associated Press)

Driven by strong winds, the fire spread in the dense timber of Fremont-Vinema National Forest (near Sprague River Township, Klamath County) in Oregon, spreading to 580 square kilometers.

Unstable wind is a problem

In the southeast, California’s largest wildfire this year is raging near the border with Nevada. The Beckwourth Complex Fire-the fire caused by two flashes of lightning burning 72 kilometers north of Lake Tahoe-doubled in size between Friday and Saturday, there is no sign of spreading northeast from the forested area of ??the Sierra Nevada.

Later on Saturday, flames spread from U.S. Highway 395, which was closed near Doyle, a small town in Lassen County, California. The driveway reopened on Sunday, and officials urged motorists to proceed with caution and continue along the key north-south route where the fire is still active.

“Don’t stop to take pictures,” said Jack Kagle, head of California’s Incident Management Operations Department. “If you stop and see what happened, you will hinder our actions.”

On Wednesday, a wildfire burned on Oregon Highway 138 near Steamboat, Oregon. (Oregon Department of Transportation/Associated Press)

Cagle said that Doyle’s building was burned down, but he did not have an exact figure. Bob Prary, who manages the Buck-Inn bar in the town of approximately 600 people, said that after the outbreak on Saturday, he saw at least six houses destroyed. On Sunday, Doyle and the surrounding fires were smoldering, but he worried that some remote pastures were still in danger.

“It looks like the worst situation in the town has passed, but back on the mountainside, the fire is still strong. Not sure what will happen if the wind changes,” Prali said. Kagle pointed out that unstable wind is a concern for firefighters, and gusts are expected to reach 32 km/h.

The fire was controlled by only 9%, and the fire expanded to 339 square kilometers. The temperature in the area may again exceed 37 degrees Celsius on Sunday.

Temperatures in Death Valley are as high as 53 degrees Celsius

This is one of several fires threatening homes in the western states. As the high pressure zone covers the area, the high temperature is expected to reach triple digits throughout the weekend.

According to readings by the National Weather Service in Furnace Creek, Death Valley in the Mojave Desert in southeastern California reached 53 degrees Celsius on Saturday. The shocking high temperature was actually lower than the day before, when the location reached 54 degrees Celsius.

Death Valley also recorded 54 C days in August last year. If the expert confirms that the reading and that Friday are accurate, they will be the highest temperature recorded there since July 1913, when the Furnace Desert reached 57 degrees Celsius, which is considered the highest temperature measured on earth.

On Sunday, a fan cooled a rescue horse at the Coachella Valley Horse Rescue Center in Indio, California. The well that provided tap water for the rescue broke, and the rescue has been relying on water donations from the community and the local fire department to keep its 18 horses alive in the California heat wave. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The National Weather Service warned that this dangerous situation could lead to heat-related diseases.

On Saturday, Palm Springs in Southern California also set a record high of 49 degrees Celsius, while Las Vegas tied the record of 47 degrees Celsius.

NV Energy, the largest electricity supplier in Nevada, also urges customers to save electricity on Saturday and Sunday nights, as heat waves and wildfires affect transmission lines throughout the region.

In Idaho, Governor Brad Little mobilized the state’s National Guard to help extinguish fires caused by thunderstorms that swept through dry areas.

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Italy crowned European champions as England crash on penalties

Italy 1 — England 1 (after extra time)
Italy win 3-2 on penalties

England crash on penaltiesItaly deserved it, even if the win came on penalties, the monkey on England’s back for decades now.

Playing away from home in the Euro 2020 final, the Azzurri outpassed England, conceded just one shot on target (Luke Shaw’s goal), and are now unbeaten in 34 matches, the longest such streak in their history.

This team is greater than the sum of its parts, but it contains several remarkable individuals: Juventus’s ancient central defending duo of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, the twin midfield playmakers Jorginho and Marco Verratti and goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, apparently complete at 22 and named player of the tournament.

Gareth Southgate’s England were outclassed but highly organised as ever, did well to hold a better side for two hours of play, and can congratulate themselves on their best performance in a tournament since 1966.

England’s captain Harry Kane told the BBC: “We should be extremely proud as a group of what we have achieved,” adding, “We progressed well from Russia and now is about continuing that.”

Southgate said that the players: “have been an absolute joy to work with and they have gone further than we’ve gone for so long. But, of course, tonight it is incredibly painful in that dressing room. You have to feel that disappointment because the opportunities to win trophies like this are so rare in your life.”

This game followed the script of most of England’s big games of recent decades: take an early lead, then spend the rest of the game defending with their backs to the wall, finally succumb, and lose on penalties.

On two minutes they counter-attacked down the right and found Kieran Trippier, who had come into the team for this match in the place of winger Bukayo Saka. A Beckham-esque striker of the ball, Trippier lobbed a precise cross to his fellow full-back, unmarked at the far post. Shaw crowned an excellent tournament by smashing in an instant half-volley.

Italy’s Andrea Belotti lifts the trophy after the final of Euro 2020 © AP

Wembley had been waiting for this moment for 55 years. The stadium was heaving, but dangerously so. It looked a lot fuller than the official capacity of 60,000. People without tickets had breached security, and in some stands every seat looked occupied, and then some: many were standing. Others arrived before extra time, and by the end some gangways were dangerously packed, with few interventions from stewards.

At first, Shaw’s goal seemed to have set up the game England wanted: sit back, rely on their tight defence that had conceded just once before in this tournament, let Italy come at their massed ranks, then hope to counter through the pacy Raheem Sterling.

Their central defensive trio of Harry Maguire, John Stones and Kyle Walker as ever made hardly any mistakes. Keeper Jordan Pickford had recovered his nerves after losing them in the semi-final against Denmark.

Southgate always has a plan, and by and large his players stick to it. When England had the ball, they tried to bypass central midfield, Italy’s strongest spot, where the Azzurri had both a numerical advantage and the Jorginho-Verratti engine room.

England aimed to play from the back straight to Shaw and Trippier on the flanks or hit deep passes to the head of Kane. But Kane and especially Sterling scarcely got into the game, neutralised by Bonucci (deservedly named “star of the match”) and Chiellini.

England are not an aggressive pressing side, and fielding three centre-backs meant surrendering midfield.

From late in the first half, Italy’s passing moves forced the English to defend around their own penalty area, the zone where one slip can mean disaster.

Italy were the more skilled side on the ball — 90 per cent of their passes were accurate, versus just 78 per cent of England’s — but they also trusted themselves to pass more. If you give a team as good as Italy almost nonstop possession, and licence to advance almost unhindered to within 20 yards of your goal, they are likely to take advantage at some point.

It took until the 61st minute for the Azzurri to force Pickford into a decisive save, diving to his left to stop Federico Chiesa’s low shot. But the goal came six minutes later, the logical consequence of ever-deeper Italian territorial penetration. The scorer, improbably, was 34-year-old Bonucci. An Italian corner prompted a scramble in the penalty area. Pickford pushed Verratti’s header against the post, but the Juventus grandee tapped in the rebound.

Southgate should have intervened to change England’s tactics earlier, but did so only after the damage was done, sending on Saka for Trippier and going from a five-man to a four-man defence.

From then on, England did manage to keep the ball more often and further from their own danger area.

In extra time Italy’s menace diminished, with their chief creator Verratti and Chiesa having gone off injured. Southgate had sent on the wild-card young dribbler, Jack Grealish, and he danced around Italian defenders, serenaded by Wembley as “Super, Super Jack”.

Still, the stats told the story of who had dominated the 120 minutes of play: Italy had 62 per cent possession, completed 755 passes to England’s 341, and had six shots on target to England’s one. It’s a tribute to England’s defensive organisation that they managed to take this game to penalties.

Southgate’s England will have felt more confident about the shootout than any other recent national side. They had broken the country’s ancient penalty jinx by beating Colombia in the shootout at the World Cup in 2018, and few sides practice penalties more or perform more exhaustive data analysis of them.

Just before the end of extra time, Southgate had sent on Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho specifically for their prowess at penalty-taking.

It was brave of them to line up. In the event, they were the first England players to miss, after Kane and Maguire had hit unstoppable kicks. Perhaps it’s too much to ask of young men to come into a game of such importance cold, and then almost immediately take the weightiest spot-kicks in English football history.

When Donnarumma saved from Saka, it was all over.

Italy hadn’t even qualified for the last World Cup, a low in their modern footballing history. This triumph crowned their thrilling reinvention as an attacking passing side under manager Roberto Mancini. Their 13 goals at Euro 2020 were the most the Azzurri have scored in a major tournament.

Italy will travel with confidence to the World Cup in Qatar next year. But England — still a relatively young side with potential to grow — have an outside shot, too.

Eliot Maine Woman Charged with OUI for Fatal New Hampshire Crash

A woman from Eliot, Maine was allegedly intoxicated when her vehicle crashed into another on a New Hampshire highway, resulting in the death of a New Jersey man.

New Hampshire State Police say 66-year-old Sue Sargent of Eliot, Maine is charged with aggravated operating under the influence for the incident that happened just after noon on Tuesday. New Hampshire Troopers were dispatched to I-95 South in Seabrook to a report of a serious injury motor vehicle collision.

An investigation into the chain of events determined that Sargent’s Subaru Outback was traveling northbound when her vehicle started to drift to the left, crossing into the adjacent lane. The Outback sideswiped a Toyota Sienna, which contained three people from Massachusetts, none of whom were injured in the crash.

After this impact, the Outback continued drifting to the left, crossing the center median and moving into the southbound lane of travel. It was here that the vehicle collided with a Jeep Wrangler, containing four people. The force of the impact caused the Jeep to roll over and come to rest on its roof. One of the passengers of the Wrangler, 27-year-old Michael Hoffman of Colonia, New Jersey was seriously injured when he was ejected from the vehicle. He was transported to a local hospital, where he later died.

Sargent was released on bail and left in the care of the hospital for medical treatment. An arraignment date will be set once she is discharged from the hospital.

This crash remains under investigation.

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Murdaugh double murders: Fatal boat crash survivor alleges attempted cover-up in South Carolina

Attorneys for a South Carolina man who broke his jaw in a 2019 boat crash linked to a murdered Lowcountry scion have filed a petition asking to depose the officers who responded to the crash, alleging that they and “unknown others” may have tried to frame him.

Connor Cook was aboard a boat operated by Paul Murdaugh when it crashed near the Archers Creek Bridge near Parris Island in February 2019, sending 19-year-old passenger Mallory Beach overboard. She died, another young woman was bleeding heavily, Cook broke his jaw – and deputies and wildlife officers arrived to find the underage survivors intoxicated, according to authorities.

Paul Murdaugh (left) and police at scene of double-homicide at hunting lodge in Islandton, South Carolina.

Paul Murdaugh (left) and police at scene of double-homicide at hunting lodge in Islandton, South Carolina.
(South Carolina Attorney General’s Office/WTAT-TV/DT)

Although Murdaugh was charged in the incident several months later, the petition alleges that authorities and “unknown others” may have first attempted to frame Cook as the boat operator due to Murdaugh’s status as a member of a wealthy family with generational ties to the local prosecutor’s office.

MURDAUGH DOUBLE MURDERS: FORMER SC TROOPER SPEAKS OUT ABOUT SUSPICIONS IN 2015 COLD CASE LINKED TO FAMILY

“This motion was kind of a necessity in terms of kind of staring down the barrel at a statute of limitations,” said Joe McColluch, an attorney for Cook. “And there’s a significant range of questions about whether there is a civil conspiracy case to be made here, and against whom it should be brought.”

The petition seeks phone records and a chance to depose several witnesses – members of the local sheriff’s department as well as South Carolina Department of Natural Resources officers – who responded to the crash.

They are former South Carolina Department of Natural Resources officers Robin Camlin and Michael Brock, the latter of whom is now at the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, as well as current DNR officer Austin Pritcher, along with John Leroy Keener and Troy Andrew Krapf of the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office.

“[Cook] further believes that these deponents through their official positions with their respective law enforcement agencies, in concert with others unnamed, may have information of collusion and/or a civil conspiracy to shift the blame for the boat accident away from Paul Murdaugh by wrongfully shifting the focus to [Cook],” the petition reads.

Under state law, such a Rule 27 petition can be filed ahead of a potential lawsuit in order to secure relevant testimony.

SOUTH CAROLINA DOUBLE MURDER: INVESTIGATORS RELEASE HEAVILY REDACTED POLICE REPORTS

Both the DNR and the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office declined to comment on the civil litigation.

Additional court documents include depositions of the same officers from a wrongful death trial brought by Beach’s family. And they highlight discrepancies between some of the responding officers’ testimony.

In one instance, a Beaufort County Sheriff’s deputy said that at the scene, “I was trying to find out who was driving and I – they wouldn’t tell me.”

That’s despite contemporaneous police recordings in which Cook’s cousin, Anthony Cook, who was also on the boat, said Murdaugh was behind the wheel.

Testimony from another document reveals that Officer Brock had a potential conflict of interest with the Murdaugh family.

“I think his wife or somebody worked for the Murdaughs, or had something to do with them,” Camlin, then Brock’s superior at the DNR, said during a deposition in the Beach case

Authorities ultimately stopped looking into Cook as a potential driver, and Murdaugh was out on bail in connection with the crash and Beach’s death when he was murdered.

But the boating tragedy is only part of a saga that has seen an alarming number of deaths in South Carolina’s quiet Lowcountry region, best known as a coastal countryside full of landmark historical buildings near the Georgia state line.

Paul Murdaugh, 22, and his mother Maggie Murdaugh, 52, were both gunned down on a family property in rural Islandton on June 7 – shot multiple times and left for dead, according to authorities. Just days later, Randolph Murdaugh III, Paul Murdaugh’s 81-year-old grandfather and a longtime local prosecutor, died of natural causes at his home in Varnville.

The Murdaugh family is the most prominent legal family in the region – through its personal injury law firm and the fact that three generations of Murdaughs served as 14th Circuit Solicitor, the top prosecutor for the four surrounding counties.

In 2006, Duffie Stone assumed the position – a longtime family friend and colleague. Murdaugh III’s son, Alex, the husband and father of Paul and Maggie Murdaugh, is a part-time prosecutor in the same office.

Stone recused himself from Paul Murdaugh’s drunken boating case, but the family’s prominence has fueled speculation about how much influence its name still carries. As a result, Cook’s petition was filed in Richland County, far removed from the crash site in Beaufort.

Adding another layer of mystery to the double homicide, state investigators said that while looking into the slayings, they found information that led them to reopen the 2015 case of 19-year-old Stephen Smith, who was found dead on a rural road with severe trauma to the head.

His death had officially been ruled a hit-and-run, although that decision has proven controversial.

“There was no evidence that pointed towards this being a hit-and-run, or a vehicle even being involved in it,” former South Carolina State Trooper Todd Proctor, who led the preliminary investigation into Smith’s death, told Fox News last month.

“It looked like it was more staged,” he said. “Like possibly the body had been placed in the roadway.”

That’s because there were no tire marks in the road or broken car parts that might have fallen off, and Smith did not appear to have slid across the asphalt after an impact.

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“We had no evidence to show there was any movement of the body,” Proctor told Fox News.

Despite that, the incident was ruled a hit-and-run, and no one was ever arrested. Police said Smith’s car was found without any gas and that he may have started walking and been hit in the head by the mirror of a passing tractor-trailer.

The link between the Murdaugh slayings and Smith’s death remains unclear.

Fox News’ Griff Jenkins, Stephanie Pagones and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Hot air balloon crash: 11 injured in New Zealand after ‘landing went wrong’

At least eleven people are injured after the balloon crashed in Morven Ferry Road in Arrowtown, New Zealand. Police officials said the crash took place at around 10am local time (11pm GMT).

One person was seriously injured, one suffered moderate injuries while nine others had minor injuries.

Two people were transported by helicopter to Dunedin Hospital.

A St John spokesman said they received a 111 call from a member of the public at 9:54am (10:54pm GMT).

He told the New Zealand Herald: “We have dispatched two helicopters, four ambulances, a manager in a first response vehicle and a First Response Unit to the scene.”

Reports initially held the balloon crashed into a home, but official clarified it had landed in its intended field.

Queenstown Mayor Jim Boult was reported saying on Radio New Zealand: “The briefing that I’ve had from police is that it wasn’t an emergency landing, it landed where it was supposed to land but the landing itself went wrong.”

Mr Boult added that upon landing, the balloon was “hit by a gust of wind”.

He then said: “Some people were thrown out of the basket, the balloon basket dragged across the ground until it hit a fence, and the remaining people either exited the basket or were thrown out of the basket.

“The balloon itself then came down on power lines attached to the house, but that had no effect on the people that were in the basket.

“On behalf of the community, I express our deepest sympathies to those involved, and we wish them all the very best for a speedy recovery.”

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Author: Dylan Donnelly
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Multiple fatalities in Swedish airplane crash – police

Several people died in the crash of an airplane after takeoff outside Orebro, Sweden, on Thursday, Swedish police said, Trend reports citing Reuters.

“It’s a very severe accident,” Swedish police said on their website. “Several people have died.”

Police said the plane was carrying nine people. The Joint Rescue Co-Ordination Centre told TT news agency it was carrying sky divers.


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US Treasury yields crash. What took them so long?

I assume many of my British readers will be nursing hangovers this morning, after England made it through to the Euro 2020 final. After thinking about an opaque bond market all day on Wednesday, I needed a drink too. If you know the secret the market is concealing from me, email it along: [email protected]

Plenty of explanations for falling yields, none of them much good

I’ve been away for a week or so. The important news since I left is this:

And this:

Treasury yields have really crashed at the long end, and the yield curve has flattened significantly. There has been a matching move in equity markets: the growth/technology stocks have extended their run against value/cyclical stocks.

This looks like a pattern. This is what you would expect to see if something has happened to damp expectations for inflation, economic growth or both. But there has been no whopping big chunk of news — or even a tidy pattern of little newslets — to neatly explain why the downward trend in yields and flattening curve that started in the middle of May should suddenly accelerate. Let’s see if we can tease out a clear signal.

To start, the move in yields (both in the past few months and in the last week) can be broken down into two roughly equal contributors: falling inflation expectations and falling real interest rates (as revealed in the yields on inflation-protected securities).

The drop-off in inflation expectations is hard to justify. Yes, several key commodities have cooled off. Lumber has all but normalised and oil has backed off from its Opec-related tizzy (the cartel seems unable to agree to a plan, and the market has reached the conclusion that means members will end up pumping out more crude). That aside, though, the inflation data keeps coming in hot. Below are Citigroup’s inflation surprise indices for emerging economies, advanced economies, China and the US. All are at peaks; the US and the advanced economies are both at long-term highs:

Something else the yield crash is not: a signal of investors shifting to a “risk-off” stance. Stocks, and not just the tech-heavy Nasdaq, are up against long-term highs. If that’s not enough, the Investors Intelligence bull/bear ratio is at a two-year high. Finally, the yields on the junkiest junk bonds have never been lower, and just keep falling. Data from the Federal Reserve:

Risk appetites are razor sharp.

Investors might be keen on risk because they think there will not be enough growth to justify Fed tightening. This would explain yields falling, the curve flattening and stocks flying high, given the (possibly mindless) mantra that low rates justify high equity valuations. But there is not much recent data to justify growth expectations falling, either. The June manufacturing and services industry Institute for Supply Management surveys were a little softer than in May, but activity and orders remain high. The pressure seems to be in supply chains, including the labour supply chain. But those problems should work themselves out before too long. 

A more likely, if speculative, story on growth is that investors are simply waking up the fact that growth is peaking now. Deceleration, as I have written before, is not as fun as acceleration, however high the absolute level of growth may be. It may also be dawning on investors, as they read about the rise of the Delta variant in Europe, that the road to herd immunity may not run straight. But neither the fact that growth was always going to peak mid-year, nor the news about the virus, can have really snuck up on anyone. It should have been more or less priced in. 

If bond yields are falling and the curve flattening, and neither lower inflation nor lower growth is a particularly compelling explanation, two possibilities remain. The moves could be down to “technical” factors — supply and demand changes that reflect investors’ positioning and market mechanics rather than fundamentals. Or they could reflect the expectation that the Fed is going to screw things up. Let us take each in turn.

Pundits have offered up lots of technical explanations for the directions of the market in recent days. I have already written about the procyclical hedging by mortgage investors. Another currently popular technical justification is pension funds scrambling to reposition themselves for the possibility that yields will fall still further, or to take profits after a great run in risk assets. Then there is the ever-popular seasonal lack of liquidity as summer holidays start.

But it’s hard to know what to do with these and other technical explanations, though. Pundits who offer them do not tend to offer them as trade ideas, for example as arguments that bonds are too expensive and will fall. Instead, they offer them as reasons to simply ignore the market shifts in question and proceed, tactically and strategically, as before.

And so we move on to the Fed. I have argued that the central bank has been quite clear about its plans, but plenty of people disagree. Anwiti Bahuguna, who runs multi-asset strategies at Columbia Threadneedle, argued to me that while neither the inflation nor growth outlooks have much changed, a lack of clarity from the Fed has the market pricing in a policy error. Traders simply don’t know what to make of the fact that the Federal Open Market Committee’s growth and inflation expectations hardly shifted, but their rate expectations, as expressed in the dot plot, clearly did. “The Fed needs to explain, if they are not going to be reactive [to short-term inflation data] why are the dots moving?”

Gregory Peters, a fund manager at PGIM fixed income, agrees, pointing to the fact that much of the move down in real rates has come since the Fed’s meeting last month, and that investors have shifted their expectations for rate increases going forward. 

Why, though, has it taken several weeks to price in the Fed’s internal contradictions? The puzzle remains. Not much appears to have changed in the world, but markets continue to shift.

One good read

Michael Pettis, a finance professor who has been mentioned here before, wrote an interesting Twitter thread about the dilemmas faced by Chinese officials as they seek to solve their country’s pension problem by raising the retirement age. He lays out the underlying economic imbalances nicely in this essay from a few years ago. 

Author: Robert Armstrong
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Widow of Kobe Bryant helicopter crash victim wows ‘America’s Got Talent’ judges

In an emotion-filled ‘America’s Got Talent’ audition, Matt Mauser fought back tears and choked up as he tried to deliver the final line of the song.

WASHINGTON — Matt Mauser, who lost his wife in the same helicopter crash that killed NBA legend Kobe Bryant, shared his family’s heartbreaking story and delivered an emotional performance on Tuesday’s episode of “America’s Got Talent.” 

Mauser’s wife, Christina, helped Bryant coach his daughter’s basketball team at his Mamba Sports Academy. She was one of the nine victims in the tragic Jan. 2020 helicopter crash that also claimed the lives of Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and six others. The group was heading to a youth basketball tournament when their helicopter crashed. 

Before starting his audition, Matt Mauser, 51, recounted how he and his wife retired from teaching so he could focus on music full-time and she went on to coach with Kobe Bryant. They lived a “dreamy kind of life,” had three kids and were married for 15 years before that fateful day in 2020.  

“When she left that day, she kissed me and said ‘I love you,’ and that was the last thing my wife ever said to me,” Mauser described. “Your whole life changes in a second, it was pain.”

As his three kids watched from backstage, Mauser then gave an emotional performance of “Against All Odds (Take a Look at me Now)” by Phil Collins. Mauser fought back tears as he made his way through the song, briefly choking up as he tried to deliver the final line, “Take a Look at me Now.”

It was a memorable performance that brought all four judges to their feet. 

[embedded content]

“AGT” judge Howie Mandel praised Mauser’s ability to move total strangers with such an emotional performance.

When asked by Simon Cowell what he would like to happen if he did well on the show, Mauser responded that he’d like to make sure his kids see that in spite of the grief they’ve been through that grief is not going to define who they are as a family.

“That my children see that you have to find joy in life and you have to continue. If this can in any way help my children to chase their dreams, then I’ll take it,” the singer explained.

Mauser told PEOPLE that if he were to win the show’s $ 1 million prize, 100% of the earnings would go to the foundation set up in memory of Christina, which provides scholarships and financial aid to female athletes. 

The “AGT” judges gave Mauser four “yes” votes, so he’ll be moving on to the next round of the competition. 

“When I was out there tonight, I was singing to her and I wanted to make her proud, I think I did that. I felt her in my heart, which was nice,” Mauser described after getting off the stage.  

Author: Andrew Weil
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Tesla Says Autopilot Makes Its Cars Safer. Crash Victims Say It Kills.

A California family that lost a 15-year-old boy when a Tesla hit its pickup truck is suing the company, claiming its Autopilot system was partly responsible.

Benjamin Maldonado and his teenage son were driving back from a soccer tournament on a California freeway in August 2019 when a truck in front of them slowed. Mr. Maldonado flicked his turn signal and moved right. Within seconds, his Ford Explorer pickup was hit by a Tesla Model 3 that was traveling about 60 miles per hour on Autopilot.

A six-second video captured by the Tesla and data it recorded show that neither Autopilot — Tesla’s much-vaunted system that can steer, brake and accelerate a car on its own — nor the driver slowed the vehicle until a fraction of a second before the crash. Fifteen-year-old Jovani, who had been in the front passenger seat and not wearing his seatbelt, was thrown from the Ford and died, according to a police report.

The Moments Before Collision

Video footage and data retrieved from the car involved in the crash show that neither the Tesla driver nor the Autopilot system slowed the vehicle until just before impact.




0.4 seconds before crash

Accelerator pedal pressure before crash

Car speed before crash

80 m.p.h.

+2%

60

65 m.p.h.

40

+1

20

0%

0

0

–5

seconds

–4

–3

–2

–1

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–5

seconds

–4

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–1

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0.4 seconds before crash

Accelerator pedal pressure before crash

+2%

+1

0%

0

–5

seconds

–4

–3

–2

–1

0

Car speed before crash

80 m.p.h.

60

65 m.p.h.

40

20

0

-5

seconds

-4

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-1

0

0.4 seconds before crash

Accelerator pedal pressure before crash

+2%

+1

0%

0

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seconds

–4

–3

–2

–1

0

Car speed before crash

80 m.p.h.

60

65 m.p.h.

40

20

0

-5

seconds

-4

-3

-2

-1

0

0.4 seconds before crash

Accelerator pedal pressure before crash

+2%

+1

0%

0

–5

seconds

–4

–3

–2

–1

0

Car speed before crash

80 m.p.h.

60

65 m.p.h.

40

20

0

-5

seconds

-4

-3

-2

-1

0


Note: Accelerator pedal pressure measures how much the pedal is being pushed down in percentage terms.

Video and data from Tesla provided by Benjamin Swanson, a lawyer for the Maldonado family.

By The New York Times

The accident, which took place four miles from Tesla’s main car factory, is now the subject of a lawsuit against the company. It is one of a growing number of crashes involving Autopilot that have fueled concerns about the technology’s shortcomings, and could call into question the development of similar systems used by rival carmakers. And as cars take on more tasks previously done by humans, the development of these systems could have major ramifications — not just for the drivers of those cars but for other motorists, pedestrians and cyclists.

Tesla, founded in 2003, and its chief executive, Elon Musk, have been bold in challenging the auto industry, attracting devoted fans and customers and creating a new standard for electric vehicles that other established carmakers are reckoning with. The company is worth more than several large automakers combined.

But the accidents involving Autopilot could threaten Tesla’s standing and force regulators to take action against the company. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has about two dozen active investigations into crashes involving Autopilot.

At least three Tesla drivers have died since 2016 in crashes in which Autopilot was engaged and failed to detect obstacles in the road. In two instances, the system did not brake for tractor-trailers crossing highways. In the third, it failed to recognize a concrete barrier. In June, the federal traffic safety agency released a list showing that at least 10 people have been killed in eight accidents involving Autopilot since 2016. That list does not include the crash that killed Jovani Maldonado.

Tesla’s credibility has taken a hit, and some experts on autonomous driving say that it is hard not to question other claims made by Mr. Musk and the company. He has, for example, said several times that Tesla was close to perfecting Full Self Driving, a technology that would allow cars to drive autonomously in most circumstances — something other auto and technology companies have said is years away.

Mr. Musk and Tesla did not respond to several requests for comment.

Autopilot is not an autonomous driving system. Rather, it is a suite of software, cameras and sensors intended to assist drivers and prevent accidents by taking over many aspects of driving a car — even the changing of lanes. Tesla executives have claimed that handing off these functions to computers will make driving safer because human drivers are prone to mistakes and distractions, and cause most of the roughly 40,000 traffic fatalities that occur each year in the United States.

“Computers don’t check their Instagram” while driving, Tesla’s director of artificial intelligence, Andrej Karpathy, said last month in an online workshop on autonomous driving.

While Autopilot is in control, drivers can relax, but are not supposed to tune out. Instead, they’re supposed to keep their hands on the steering wheel and eyes on the road, ready to take over in case the system becomes confused or fails to recognize objects or dangerous traffic scenario.

But with little to do other than look straight ahead, some drivers seem unable to resist the temptation to let their attention wander while Autopilot is on. Videos have been posted on Twitter and elsewhere showing drivers reading or sleeping while at the wheel of Teslas.

A 2018 accident in Mountain View, Calif., killed the driver of a Tesla Model X when Autopilot was engaged.
KTVU-TV, via Associated Press

The company has often faulted drivers of its cars, blaming them in some cases for failing to keep their hands on the steering wheel and eyes on the road while using Autopilot.

But the National Transportation Safety Board, which has completed investigations into accidents involving Autopilot, has said the system lacks safeguards to prevent misuse and does not effectively monitor drivers.

Similar systems offered by General Motors, Ford Motor and other automakers use cameras to track a driver’s eyes and issue warnings when they look away from the road. After a few warnings, G.M.’s Super Cruise system shuts down and requires the driver to take control.

Autopilot does not track drivers’ eyes and monitors only if their hands are on the steering wheel. The system sometimes continues operating even if drivers have their hands on the steering wheel for only a few seconds at a time.

“This monitoring system is fundamentally weak because it’s easy to cheat and doesn’t monitor very consistently,” said Raj Rajkumar, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University who focuses on autonomous driving technology.

Consumer Reports said in May that one of its engineers had been able to turn on Autopilot in a Tesla and slip into the back seat while the car kept going. The California Highway Patrol said in May that it had arrested a man who got out of the driver’s seat of his Model 3 while it was moving.

Autopilot can also be used on city roads, where intersections, pedestrians and oncoming traffic make driving more difficult than on highways. G.M.’s Super Cruise works only on divided highways.

Still, Mr. Musk has often defended Autopilot. The company has cited its own statistics to claim that cars driving with the system turned on are involved in fewer accidents per mile than other cars. Last Thursday, he wrote on Twitter, that “accidents on Autopilot are becoming rarer.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not forced Tesla to change or disable Autopilot, but in June it said it would require all automakers to report accidents involving such systems.

Several lawsuits have been filed against Tesla just this year, including one in April in Florida state court that concerns a 2019 crash in Key Largo. A Tesla Model S with Autopilot on failed to stop at a T intersection and crashed into a Chevrolet Tahoe parked on a shoulder, killing Naibel Leon, 22. Another suit was filed in California in May by Darel Kyle, 55, who suffered serious spinal injuries when a Tesla under Autopilot control rear-ended the van he was driving.

The crash that killed Jovani Maldonado is a rare case when video and data from the Tesla car have become available. The Maldonados’ lawyer, Benjamin Swanson, obtained them from Tesla and shared both with The New York Times.

Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Mr. Maldonado and his wife, Adriana Garcia, filed their suit in Alameda County Superior Court. Their complaint asserts that Autopilot contains defects and failed to react to traffic conditions. The suit also names as defendants the driver of the Tesla, Romeo Lagman Yalung of Newark, Calif., and his wife, Vilma, who owns the car and was in the front passenger seat.

Mr. Yalung and his lawyer did not respond to requests for comment. He and his wife, who were not reported injured in the accident, have not yet addressed the Maldonado family’s complaint in court.

In court filings, Tesla has not yet responded to the allegation that Autopilot malfunctioned or is flawed. In emails to Mr. Swanson’s firm that have been filed as exhibits in court, a Tesla lawyer, Ryan McCarthy, said the driver, not Tesla, bore responsibility.

“The police faulted the Tesla driver — not the car — for his inattention and his driving at an unsafe speed,” Mr. McCarthy wrote. He did not respond to emails seeking comment.

Mr. Maldonado works for PepsiCo, delivering beverages to retailers. The family, which includes two other children, lives in San Lorenzo, about 15 miles north of Fremont.

In written answers to questions, Mr. Maldonado said he and his wife were too devastated to talk in an interview. “We are living day by day,” he said. “There is so much sadness inside. We take family walks and try to do things together like going to church. There is a massive hole in the family.”

Mr. Maldonado described his son as an outgoing high school sophomore who liked to sing and planned to go to college. His dream was to become a professional soccer player and buy his parents a house. “Like any grateful child, he wanted to take care of his parents like they did for him,” Mr. Maldonado said.

The data and video allow a detailed look at how Autopilot operated in the seconds before the crash. Tesla vehicles constantly record short clips from forward-looking cameras. If a crash occurs, the video is automatically saved and uploaded to Tesla’s servers, a company official said in emails included in exhibits filed by Mr. Swanson.

The video saved by the car Mr. Yalung was driving shows it passing vehicles on the right and left. Four seconds before impact, Mr. Maldonado turned on his blinker. It flashed four times while his Explorer was in its original lane. A fifth flash came as his truck was straddling the lanes. In court documents, Mr. Maldonado said he had noticed the Tesla approaching rapidly in his rearview mirror and tried to swerve back.

Video player loading
Tesla, via Benjamin Swanson

In most of the video, the Tesla maintained a speed of 69 miles per hour, but just before impact it briefly increased to 70 m.p.h. then slowed in the final second, according to data from the car.

Mr. Rajkumar of Carnegie Mellon, who reviewed the video and data at the request of The Times, said Autopilot might have failed to brake for the Explorer because the Tesla’s cameras were facing the sun or were confused by the truck ahead of the Explorer. The Tesla was also equipped with a radar sensor, but it appears not to have helped.

“A radar would have detected the pickup truck, and it would have prevented the collision,” Mr. Rajkumar said in an email. “So the radar outputs were likely not being used.”

Mr. Maldonado’s truck rolled over and slammed into a barrier, the police report said. It had a shattered windshield and a crumpled roof, and the rear axle had come loose. The Tesla had a crumpled roof, its front end was mangled, its bumper was partly detached, and its windshield was cracked.

Jovani Maldonado was found lying face down on the shoulder of Interstate 880, his blood pooling.

Author: Neal E. Boudette
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