Duck boat disaster
Investigators were looking for answers this week as to why a tourist boat capsized during a storm and killed 17 of 31 passengers. The duck boat, which transports tourists on land and water, was out on the lake in the early evening when a thunderstorm hit and the craft got caught in 60 mph winds and flipped over. Among the passengers was an 11-member family, nine of whom died. Duck boats, an evolution of a World War II–era amphibious design, have a long history of crashes and accidents. Investigators are looking into whether the boat’s driver checked storm warnings and why passengers weren’t wearing life vests. The company that owns Ride the Ducks said it would cover medical and funeral expenses for the victims. Last year, a mechanical inspector found glaring problems with the craft, warning that “if water gets in the exhaust,” the motor that pumps out water “is eventually going to stop.”
The Trump administration confirmed this week that at least 463 parents of children separated at the border are no longer in the U.S. Facing a court-ordered deadline to reunite more than 2,500 kids affected by President Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, the government said at least 917 parents, including those 463, might not be eligible for reunification—because they have already been deported, or have criminal records or other issues. The government added that roughly 130 parents preferred that their children stay in the U.S., though the ACLU, which is representing migrant families in a federal lawsuit, said parents could “mistakenly strand their children” here. Hundreds of parents may have agreed to deportation in the hope of being reunited with their children faster. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw has criticized the government’s reunion process and last week ordered deportation of parents to be suspended.
An Uber and Lyft driver secretly recorded and live-streamed passengers, broadcasting scores of rides on the Twitch video platform. Jason Gargac told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he rigged his car with $3,000 worth of camera and other equipment, building an online audience of 4,500 followers who tuned in to peep at his unsuspecting passengers. Gargac likened his broadcasts of riders to virtual people-watching, but passengers felt their privacy was violated, including some who had intimate conversations in front of Gargac’s audience. Only one party in a conversation is required to consent to recording under Missouri law, and Gargac says he put a 4-inch sticker on his passenger window informing riders that by entering his vehicle they agreed to be recorded. Uber and Lyft cut ties with the driver, who took down the videos and deactivated his Twitch channel after the story came out.
Historic heat wave
Several cities in Central Texas saw all-time-high temperatures this week, with Waco hitting 114 degrees, breaking a 49-year record. The heat wave was expected to last through Friday. Texas, which relies on its own power grid and retired three power-generating coal plants earlier this year, expected record electrical usage as residents cranked up air conditioners day and night—if they did not break down. With some forecasters predicting near 120-degree temperatures in some areas, a wide swath of the southwestern U.S. has been issued an excessive-heat warning. Public health officials told Arizona residents around Phoenix, where 155 people died last year from heat-related causes, to stay hydrated and remain indoors after temperatures reached a record 115 degrees on Monday. The National Weather Service warned that nationwide, “heat is the No. 1 weather-related killer.”
President Trump has denied knowing about hush payments to an alleged mistress before the 2016 election, but a secret audio recording released this week suggests otherwise. The recording captures Trump and his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, discussing plans to buy the silence of Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who says she had an affair with Trump beginning in 2006. On the tape, recorded by Cohen in September 2016 and released to the press by his attorney, Cohen reviews a transfer of $150,000 to the National Enquirer, the tabloid that bought the rights to McDougal’s story and then chose not to print it as a favor to Trump. “So what do we got to pay for this?’’ Trump asks. “One fifty?’’ The audio file was among 12 seized when federal agents raided Cohen’s office in April. As the clash between Cohen and Trump escalates, Cohen’s attorney said, his client wants “to tell the truth” and “let the chips fall where they may.”
Trump frustrated with North Korea
President Trump has been privately fuming at aides over North Korea following his summit in Singapore with dictator Kim Jong Un, The Washington Post reported this week. The North Koreans have canceled meetings and made new financial demands, and haven’t maintained basic communications with U.S. diplomats. Though Trump announced, prematurely, that North Korea had sent back the remains of 200 U.S. soldiers killed in the Korean War, it has yet to follow through on its promise to do so. North Korean military officers kept Pentagon officials waiting for three hours in the Korean Demilitarized Zone before abruptly canceling a meeting earlier this month. Trump, who called the North Korean nuclear threat “largely solved” last month, still claims the negotiations were a success, tweeting that “Japan is happy, all of Asia is happy” and telling reporters that discussions are going very well.