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California Today: Warmest Waters Ever on Record in San Diego

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Good morning.

(Want to get California Today by email? Here’s the sign-up.)

San Diego’s ocean waters are warmer than usual. Last week, researchers recorded the warmest sea surface temperature in more than a century. Each day, researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at University of California San Diego collect data by hand from the Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier. On Friday, the water reached 78.8 degrees Fahrenheit — the highest since record keeping began there in 1916. The previous record, 78.6 degrees, had been set just two days earlier. We spoke with Clarissa Anderson, a biological oceanographer, to explain the significance of the temperatures.

Her answers have been slightly edited and condensed for clarity:

How often is the water temperature measured and why?

We’ve done manual measurements on the waters near the pier since 1916, but we also have an automatic shore station and gliders that go further off the coast and buoys. All of those measurements tell us a comprehensive story about what’s going on in the ocean as a whole. And we’re seeing these high temperatures across the board.

While global warming was not an understood concept a century ago, even then there was an understanding that there’s natural variability and that temperatures could change very abruptly. The understanding was you’ve got to get a baseline understanding. There was a basic understanding that human causes could impact the sea and this was scientific curiosity taking that further.

What does ocean temperature tell you?

Temperature is an incredibly important driver. Not only is it a fundamental property but we know it has a lot of impact on things that are always living in this dynamic system. We’re really pushing against the edges of that variability. We had the blob and then we had El Niño of 2016 and we never really came back down from that. This can signal a tipping point of the environment that we need to be prepared for and we need to be looking at right now.

Is this a sign of global warming?

The oceans have been taking so much of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and absorbing that — we would probably be a lot hotter on land if we didn’t have this incredible response from the ocean. We have already seen that the temperatures are changing things. We’ve had algae blooms and a Dungeness crab industry that was really harmed. It is alarming.

California Online

(Please note: We regularly highlight articles on news sites that have limited access for nonsubscribers.)

• The Mendocino Complex Fire is now the largest wildlife fire in modern state history. [The New York Times]

• President Trump blamed the blazes on California’s environmental policies and inaccurately claimed that water that could be used to fight the fires was “foolishly being diverted into the Pacific Ocean.” [The New York Times]

• The president’s tweet prompted widespread confusion, frustration and even outrage. A columnist for The Los Angeles Times called it “strikingly ignorant,” and a fire chief directly contradicted the president. [The Los Angeles Times | The San Francisco Chronicle]

• A rapidly moving fire in the Cleveland National Forest forced evacuations from two Orange County Canyons. [The Orange County Register | The Los Angeles Times]

• This map shows where California’s largest 10 fires have occurred since state officials began tracking in 1932. [The Mercury News]

• 249 — that’s how many nights one firefighter spent away from his wife battling wildfires last year. How families are coping with the new normal. [The Sacramento Bee]

• “The paper is mine now, so the editorial voice will be mine,” the new owner of The Santa Clarita Valley Signal recently said, prompting a new round of worry in the area. [The New York Times]

• A Sikh man was putting up signs for local Republicans when two men threw sand in his eyes, beat him and spray-painted a neo-Nazi symbol on his truck. The police are now looking for suspects, calling it a hate crime. [The New York Times]

• A shortage of charging stations for electric cars “threatens to become a critical bottleneck to mass adoption,” according to one recent study. [The Fresno Bee]

• San Francisco has the oldest first-time mothers in the country. See how your own county compares in these interactive maps and charts. [The New York Times]

• One California company claims it has made a major breakthrough and created something that many thought was impossible: a marijuana breathalyzer. [National Public Radio]

• President Trump may be in danger of losing his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The West Hollywood City Council voted unanimously to ask the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce to remove his star. [Vulture]

Should San Francisco force workers outside their offices for meals? We asked you to weigh in last week about the news that two members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors proposed an ordinance to ban new corporate offices from including cafeterias.

Dozens of emails poured in and the response was a resounding no. Many criticized what they saw as a “nanny-state” law. Here are excerpts from some responses:

“If you had to pay $18 for an avocado salad at the corner restaurant or a free lunch at work as part of your compensation, which would you choose? San Francisco restaurants are ridiculously expensive as has become the norm in Los Angeles, San Diego, Portland and Seattle too. Consumers need to say no to restaurant’s high prices. The San Francisco supervisors need to concentrate on rent control and homelessness.”

Robert Worley

“I have worked for 35 years and can count on one hand the times I didn’t bring lunch from home. Will that be the next rule, no home lunch? As for those businesses that popped up expecting a lunch crowd, perhaps they need to think out of the box and provide affordable food to those who need it during the day, and happy hour to those who work next door.”

Cassandra Cline

“Vendors have no legal right to force people into their shops and restaurants. This is a slippery slope. What’s next — school lunches?”

Anne Britt

But at least one reader supported the cafeteria ban:

“I have lived and worked in San Francisco for 50 years, and it is disheartening to see small local businesses including restaurants being driven out by techs who make very generous salaries then cry that it is so expensive to live in San Francisco that they need free food! Give me a break! Go spend the money you’ve earned in San Francisco in local businesses, such as restaurants, grocery stores, book stores, dry cleaners etc.”

Marion Blumberg

California Today goes live at 6 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.





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Overdose Deaths Reached a Record Level of 72,000 in 2017, New Estimates Show

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Fentanyl is a big culprit, but there are also encouraging signs from states that have prioritized public health campaigns and addiction treatment.

Drug overdoses killed about 72,000 Americans last year, a record number that reflects a rise of around 10 percent, according to new preliminary estimates from the Centers for Disease Control. The death toll is higher than the peak yearly death totals from H.I.V., car crashes or gun deaths.

Analysts pointed to two major reasons for the increase: A growing number of Americans are using opioids, and the drugs are becoming more deadly, which most likely explains the bulk of the increased number of overdoses last year.

The picture is not equally bleak everywhere. In parts of New England, where a more dangerous drug supply arrived early, the number of overdoses has begun to fall. That was the case in Massachusetts, Vermont and Rhode Island; each state has had major public health campaigns and has increased addiction treatment. Preliminary 2018 numbers from Massachusetts suggest that the death rate there may be continuing to fall.

Despite the efforts of policymakers and medical professionals, the death toll has doubled over the last decade. During 2017, the president declared the opioid crisis a national emergency, and states began tapping a $1 billion grant program to help fight the problem.

“Because it’s a drug epidemic as opposed to an infectious disease epidemic like Zika, the response is slower,” said Dan Ciccarone, a professor of family and community medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, who studies heroin markets. “Because of the forces of stigma, the population is reluctant to seek care. I wouldn’t expect a rapid downturn; I would expect a slow, smooth downturn.”

A large government telephone survey suggests that around 2.1 million Americans had opioid use disorders in 2016, but that number may be an undercount because not all drug users have telephones and some may not mention their drug use because of the stigma. Dr. Ciccarone said the real number could be as high as four million.

The number of opioid users has been going up “in most places, but not at this exponential rate,” said Brandon Marshall, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Brown University School of Public Health. “The dominant factor is the changing drug supply.”

Strong synthetic opioids like fentanyl and its analogues have become mixed into black-market supplies of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and the class of anti-anxiety medicines known as benzodiazepines. Unlike heroin, which is derived from poppy plants, fentanyl can be manufactured in a laboratory, and it is often easier to transport because it is more concentrated.

Unexpected combinations of those drugs can overwhelm even experienced drug users. In some places, the type of synthetic drugs mixed into heroin changes often, increasing the risk for users. While the opioid epidemic was originally concentrated in rural, white populations, the death toll is becoming more widespread. The penetration of fentanyl into more heroin markets may explain recent increases in overdose deaths among older, urban black Americans; those who used heroin before the recent changes to the drug supply might be unprepared for the strength of the new mixtures.

According to the C.D.C. estimates, overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids rose sharply, while deaths from heroin, prescription opioid pills and methadone fell.

In much of the West, overdose deaths have been flatter as the epidemic has raged in parts of the East and Midwest. That geographical pattern may be a result of the drug supply. Heroin sold west of the Mississippi tends to be processed into a form known as black tar that is difficult to mix with synthetic drugs. The heroin sold toward the east is a more processed white powder that is more easily combined with fentanyls.

Overdose deaths rose sharply in several mid-Atlantic and Midwestern states. In Ohio, Indiana and West Virginia, where the opioid death rate has been high for years, overdose deaths increased by more than 17 percent in each state. In New Jersey, they rose 27 percent.

The C.D.C. numbers for 2017 are an estimate, not a final count. The federal government collects death records from states throughout the year. But some deaths can take longer to investigate than others. The C.D.C. adjusts early numbers based on the number of deaths still under investigation by assuming a predictable proportion of them will turn out to be drug overdoses based on past experience. Using deaths that are confirmed, the agency measured a 10.2 percent increase in overdose deaths between 2016 and 2017. Using its adjusted data, the increase was 9.5 percent.

There are reasons for optimism that the recent increases in overdose deaths will not continue. The monthly C.D.C. numbers suggest that deaths might have begun leveling off by the end of the year. Continuing funding may help more states develop the kind of public health programs that appear to have helped in New England.

“There’s a lot of money going into the system, and it takes some time for this to translate into new infrastructure,” said Chris Jones, the director of the national mental health and substance use policy laboratory. “That’s particularly true for places where it wasn’t already there.”

Congress is also debating a variety of bills to fight the epidemic. Many of the measures, which have passed the House but have not reached the Senate floor, are focused on reducing medical prescriptions of opioids, and are meant to reduce the number of new drug users. But the package also includes measures that could expand treatment for people who already use opioids.

The epidemic could also intensify again. One worrying sign: Dr. Jones said there is some early evidence that drug distributors are finding ways to mix fentanyl with black tar heroin, which could increase death rates in the West. If that becomes more widespread, the overdose rates in the West could explode as they have in parts of the East.

Margot Sanger-Katz is a domestic correspondent and writes about health care for The Upshot. She was previously a reporter at National Journal and The Concord Monitor and an editor at Legal Affairs and the Yale Alumni Magazine. @sangerkatz Facebook





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Primary Elections, Catholic Church, Turkey: Your Wednesday Briefing

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(Want to get this briefing by email? Here’s the sign-up.)

Good morning.

Here’s what you need to know:

Upsets and firsts in primaries

• Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota lost a bid to reclaim the Republican nomination for governor on Tuesday, demonstrating President Trump’s grip on his party. Mr. Pawlenty had called Mr. Trump “unsound, uninformed, unhinged and unfit to be president” in the weeks before the 2016 election, criticism that Mr. Pawlenty later tried to play down.

Here’s our article on the primaries in four states, as well as four takeaways and the full results.

Democrats delivered groundbreaking victories for a transgender woman in Vermont, a Muslim woman in Minnesota and an African-American woman in Connecticut. Also victorious on Tuesday: Senator Bernie Sanders.

And there’s finally a result in last week’s Republican primary for governor of Kansas. Gov. Jeff Colyer conceded to Secretary of State Kris Kobach, whose aggressive approach has prompted concerns among some Republicans that he would be too polarizing in the November election.

Catalog of Catholic horrors

• “We know some of you have heard some of it before. There have been other reports about child sex abuse within the Catholic Church. But never on this scale.”

That’s the start of a searing grand jury report in Pennsylvania that was released on Tuesday, accusing bishops and other Roman Catholic Church leaders of covering up child sexual abuse by more than 300 priests over 70 years.

The investigation, which found more than 1,000 identifiable victims, is the broadest examination yet by a government agency in the U.S. of child sexual abuse in the church. We compiled some of the most damning excerpts from the report, which you can read in full here.

The revelations are unlikely to lead to new criminal charges or civil lawsuits, because of the statute of limitations.

Economic worries abroad

Turkey has been thrown into a frenzy as its currency, the lira, has lost 25 percent of its value since last week.

A standoff with the U.S., which has imposed sanctions, has accelerated a long decline in the lira linked to fears of economic mismanagement.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is casting the economic crisis as a national struggle. On Tuesday, he called on Turks to boycott American products (including, paradoxically, the iPhone, which he used to help fend off a coup two years ago).

And China’s leaders have sought to project confidence in the face of President Trump’s tariffs and trade threats, but there are growing signs of unease inside the political establishment.

Paul Manafort’s trial nears its end

• Closing arguments are set to begin today in the trial of President Trump’s former campaign chairman, after Mr. Manafort’s lawyers declined to call any witnesses to the stand to defend him against charges of bank and tax fraud.

“The defense believes it has made its point through cross-examination,” said a Harvard Law School professor and former federal judge.

Mr. Manafort is accused of evading taxes on roughly $16.5 million that he earned for political work in Ukraine, and of fraudulently obtaining more than $20 million in loans.

The president versus Omarosa

• Omarosa Manigault Newman, the former White House aide who has written a tell-all book, became the latest in a growing list of African-Americans whom President Trump has disparaged on Twitter, when he called her “that dog” and a “crazed, crying lowlife.”

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said the president’s comment on Tuesday was not driven by racial animus and defended him by pointing out his willingness to lash out at people of all races.

Ms. Sanders also said that the Trump administration had already created three times as many jobs for black Americans as the Obama administration did. That’s false.

The Trump campaign filed an arbitration case on Tuesday against Ms. Manigault Newman for breaching a confidentiality agreement.

A last stand by the Afghan Army

• Last weekend, more than 1,000 Taliban insurgents sought to overrun the strategic city of Ghazni in eastern Afghanistan.

Some 300 miles away, an army base also came under attack, offering a lesson in the difficult conditions facing Afghan troops, especially when forces are stretched thin by a big fight with the Taliban elsewhere.

Of the 106 soldiers at the base, only one was neither captured nor killed. The Times interviewed him.

Noteworthy

The Super Bowl of beekeeping

Almonds represent a $7.6 billion industry in California that wouldn’t be possible without the 30 billion bees (and hundreds of human beekeepers) keeping the trees pollinated. But the bees’ existence is in peril. The Times Magazine explores their future.

Welcome to chocolate camp

In a Las Vegas strip mall, a master chocolatier is teaching cooks from all over the world to make the perfect bonbon.

Here’s more from this week’s Food section.

Luxury and laughs

“It’s hard not to have fun,” our movie critic said of “Crazy Rich Asians,” an adaptation of the best-selling novel in which an Asian-American woman in New York visits her boyfriend’s exquisitely rich family in Singapore. Read the review.

Best of late-night TV

For the second straight night, the comedy hosts had trouble focusing on anything other than Omarosa Manigault Newman’s new book.

Quotation of the day

“This looks like a mess, really, from the outside. Once you are inside, you see it is even worse.”

José Ortiz, the new chief executive of the Puerto Rico power authority, which has spent $3.2 billion restoring a system that isn’t much better now than it was before Hurricane Maria.

The Times, in other words

Here’s an image of today’s front page, and links to our Opinion content and crossword puzzles.

What we’re reading

Maggie Haberman, one of our White House correspondents, recommends this Bloomberg essay as “a companion piece to all the Omarosa reporting. From Tim O’Brien, the executive editor of Bloomberg opinion.”

Back Story

After last week’s announcement that Indra Nooyi would be stepping down as chief executive of PepsiCo, we’re looking back at a soft drink that was originally billed this way: “Exhilarating. Invigorating. Aids digestion.”

Pepsi-Cola was known as Brad’s Drink when it was first sold in 1893, at Caleb Bradham’s pharmacy in New Bern, N.C.

An ad for Pepsi in New York. The soda got its start at a pharmacy in North Carolina more than 100 years ago.CreditBenjamin Norman for The New York Times

Hoping to duplicate the success of Coca-Cola, Mr. Bradham rebranded his formula as Pepsi-Cola in 1898. He was committed to promoting his soda as a health remedy, with a list of all-natural ingredients including water, sugar, caramel, lemon oil and nutmeg.

Mr. Bradham lost control of the company in the 1920s, after making a wrong gamble on the price of sugar during World War I.

The company, which became PepsiCo in 1965, is now one of the largest multinational conglomerates in the world. During Ms. Nooyi’s 12 years at the helm, it has shifted back to a focus on healthier beverages and snacks.

“They kept telling me, ‘Why are you Mother Teresa? Why are you trying to change your portfolio to healthier products?’ Because that’s where the market was going,” Ms. Nooyi said this year. “That’s where we needed to go.”

Remy Tumin wrote today’s Back Story.

_____

Your Morning Briefing is published weekdays and updated all morning. Browse past briefings here.

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Australian Senator Calls for ‘Final Solution’ to Muslim Immigration

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SYDNEY, Australia — An Australian lawmaker invoked a Nazi euphemism for genocide on Tuesday, calling for a “final solution to the immigration problem” during a speech in Parliament in which he proposed a national plebiscite on banning all Muslims from entering the country.

“We as a nation are entitled to insist that those who are allowed to come here predominately reflect the historic European-Christian composition of society and embrace our language, culture and values as a people,” said Senator Fraser Anning, a member of Katter’s Australian Party, a small, conservative political party.

“The final solution to the immigration problem, of course,” Mr. Anning said in his first speech since his election, “is a popular vote.”

On Wednesday, leaders from across the political spectrum condemned Mr. Anning’s remarks. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, of Australia’s conservative Liberal Party, called them a “shocking insult” to the millions of Jews who perished in the Holocaust, and he used the moment to appeal to the country’s Muslim population.

“The Islamist terrorists’ argument to other Muslims is: ‘Australia is not your country. They don’t want you. They hate you. You’re not ever going to be really Australian. Join the war on our side,’” Mr. Turnbull said. “Those who try to demonize Muslims because of the crimes of a minority are only helping terrorists.”

Other politicians, from the Greens to the far right, joined in denouncing Mr. Anning. But some critics said his speech, while extreme in its choice of language, was not that far off in tone from much of Australia’s recent public debate about immigration.

Decades after Parliament phased out the so-called White Australia policy, which limited immigration by people of non-European descent, critics contend that racism is again creeping into the national discussion of the issue, with politicians scapegoating new migrants to score populist points.

Some of the dozens of politicians who criticized Mr. Anning on Wednesday had shaken his hand after his speech the previous night, video from the Senate revealed, though such handshakes are often a pro forma gesture. (Mr. Turnbull did not shake Mr. Anning’s hand.)

On Wednesday, Anne Aly, a member of the opposition Labor Party who was the first Muslim woman elected to Parliament, broke into tears as she addressed the House of Representatives about the speech.

“I’m tired of fighting. I’m tired of having to stand up against hate, against vilification, time and time and time again,” she said.

In a telephone interview after her speech, Ms. Aly called Mr. Anning a white supremacist and accused him of abusing the bully pulpit of the Senate.

“For somebody to use the privilege of Parliament, the privilege of this platform, to spew such hate is beyond comprehension,” she said. “It’s sad that things have got to get to a point where this white supremacist’s hate speech is said in our own Parliament.”

Even the far-right politician Pauline Hanson, who has railed against Muslim immigration herself and once wore a burqa on the floor of the Senate as a stunt, called the speech appalling. “We are not a racial society,” she said in the Senate. “I’ve always advocated, you do not have to be white to be Australian.”

In an interview on Wednesday, Mr. Anning said that he had not intended to invoke Nazi language but refused to apologize for his comments.

“The thought police have jumped on it,” he told Sky News Australia. “They’ve taken it completely out of context.”

He reiterated his call for a national vote on banning Muslim migration, accusing Muslim immigrants of failing to integrate into society. “We don’t need to bring more people in this country who may cause us harm,” he said.

Bob Katter, the lawmaker who founded the party to which Mr. Anning belongs, lauded the senator on Wednesday.

“Absolutely 1000 percent. I support everything he said,” Mr. Katter said at a news conference. ”It was a magnificent speech. It was solid gold.”

“You lily-pad lefties come at us with some absolutely ridiculous technicalities,” Mr. Katter said, adding that Mr. Anning had been unfamiliar with the history of the term “final solution.”

A motion to censure Mr. Anning was introduced by the Greens party on Wednesday but did not pass Parliament. Lawmakers instead agreed to a statement supporting the principle that “race, faith or ethnic origin” should not be a factor in creating immigration policy.

In recent years, Australia has become a focus of migration for Muslims escaping war and economic deprivation in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Africa. The country has a maintained a contentious policy of offshore detention, on remote islands in the South Pacific, for migrants who try to reach Australia by boat.

The influx in immigration has strained resources and infrastructure in some cities. Critics of Muslim immigration have also pointed to several small attacks carried out by people who voiced support for Islamist extremism, although many of those people showed signs of mental illness.

“Political speech sets the tone for our society and Fraser Anning’s speech flirted with inciting the most serious kind of violence against Muslims,” said Tim Soutphommasane, Australia’s race discrimination commissioner.

The words “final solution,” he said, should send a “shiver up the spine.”

At the Immigration Museum in Melbourne, dedicated to celebrating Australia’s diversity, visitors and employees tried to take Mr. Anning’s comments in stride.

“Every society has pluses and minuses. It’s just that people judge the negatives first and leave the positives aside,” said Maria Faiq, 29, an immigrant from Pakistan who works as a concierge at the museum. “People should focus on the positives so we can all work together on the negatives.”

She smiled and fixed her black hijab, noting that in her two years in Australia she has generally felt welcomed. Asked if Senator Anning’s comments made her angry, she said no.

“It’s just interesting,” she said. “It’s always interesting to learn about another culture.”

Correction: 

An earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to Anne Aly’s speech about Fraser Anning’s remarks. Ms. Aly spoke in the House of Representatives, not the Senate.



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Twitter Suspends Alex Jones for Seven Days Over Tweet

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WASHINGTON — Twitter on Tuesday suspended the account of the far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for a week after he tweeted a link to a video calling for supporters to get their “battle rifles” ready against media and others, in a violation of the company’s rules against inciting violence.

The action effectively prevents Mr. Jones from tweeting or retweeting from his personal account for seven days, though he will be able to browse Twitter. The Twitter account for Infowars, the media website founded by Mr. Jones, was not affected.

The move was Twitter’s harshest against Mr. Jones after other tech companies took steps last week to ban him from their platforms. The removals began when Apple announced it would purge videos and other content by Mr. Jones and Infowars because of hate speech, followed by Facebook, YouTube and then Spotify. Twitter was the sole holdout among the major tech companies in not taking down content from Mr. Jones, who has called the Sandy Hook shooting a hoax conducted by crisis actors.

Twitter’s chief executive, Jack Dorsey, has been resolute in the company’s decision to keep Mr. Jones’s account online. He has said Twitter did not think that Infowars and Mr. Jones violated its rules, which prohibit direct threats of violence and some forms of hate speech but allow deception or misinformation.

But the lack of action prompted criticism of Twitter from its users — and even from some of its own employees. Late last week, Twitter began softening its tone, especially after CNN and others found more than half a dozen tweets from Mr. Jones that clearly violated the company’s policies. Twitter said it ordered Mr. Jones to take those tweets down.

Even so, Twitter’s action on Tuesday stops short of a full ban of Mr. Jones from Twitter and leaves many questions unanswered about what actually gets people booted off the service. The company’s policy calls for the short-term suspension of an account after repeated violations, but Twitter declined to clarify how many offenses would terminate Mr. Jones’s account permanently.

The suspension began after Mr. Jones tweeted or retweeted more than a dozen times during the day on Tuesday, including one post that linked to a live video session in which he apparently called for violence against certain groups, including the media. After a user flagged the tweet, Twitter said it determined the post violated its safety rules. Mr. Jones was ordered to take down the tweet linking to the video broadcast on Periscope, the live-streaming service that is owned by Twitter.

A Twitter spokesman declined to comment beyond confirming that Mr. Jones’s new tweet broke its rules and that he was frozen out of using the service for a week.

Not long after Mr. Jones’s Twitter account was suspended, the Twitter account for Infowars sprang into action. “@RealAlexJones is now in @Twitter prison!” the Infowars account tweeted.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page B2 of the New York edition with the headline: Twitter Suspends Infowars Founder’s Account Over a Tweet. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe





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Trump Calls Omarosa Manigault Newman ‘That Dog’ in His Latest Insult

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WASHINGTON — President Trump added his former White House aide, Omarosa Manigault Newman, on Tuesday to the growing list of African-Americans he has publicly denigrated on Twitter, calling her “that dog” and a “crazed, crying lowlife” after her allegations against him of mental deterioration and racism.

Even for a president who consistently uses Twitter to assail his adversaries, the morning tweet about Ms. Manigault Newman was a remarkably crude use of the presidential bully pulpit to disparage a woman who once served at the highest levels in his White House.

In an interview on MSNBC, Ms. Manigault Newman responded that Mr. Trump treats women differently from men because he “believes they are beneath him” and that he talked in derogatory ways about minorities.

“He has absolutely no respect for women, for African-Americans,” she said.

In recent weeks, Mr. Trump has called Don Lemon, a CNN anchor, “the dumbest man on television.” He has questioned the intelligence of LeBron James, a star basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers. And he has repeatedly said that Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat of California, has a “low I.Q.”

Mr. Trump has also deployed the “dog” insult for white people, including Arianna Huffington, a founder of HuffPost. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Mr. Trump tweeted that a onetime political rival and fellow Republican, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, “lies like a dog.”

Tuesday morning’s tweet was the latest in what has become an increasingly personal and malicious stream of Twitter posts from Mr. Trump, many of which are responses to his critics or aimed at questioning the integrity of the continuing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether Mr. Trump or his aides were complicit in it. In recent days, the president has again used Twitter to lash out at his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and at an F.B.I. agent who helped oversee the Russia investigation and who was fired for sending texts critical of Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump’s advisers and allies described the tweet about Ms. Manigault Newman, in particular, as a reaction to the accusations that she makes about the president in “Unhinged,” her tell-all book about her year in the West Wing. Scholars called it an ugly historical echo of the country’s racial divisions.

“It’s important to understand the legacy, the history of the attack on black intelligence as a way of justifying our dehumanization,” said Eddie S. Glaude Jr., the chairman of the African-American studies department at Princeton University. He said there was “something deeply racial” about the way Mr. Trump described Ms. Manigault Newman on Tuesday.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, disputed the idea that Mr. Trump’s tweet about Ms. Manigault Newman was driven by racial animus, and defended the president by pointing out his willingness to lash out at people of all races.

“The fact is the president’s an equal opportunity person that calls things like he sees it,” Ms. Sanders told reporters. Under persistent questioning by reporters, Ms. Sanders said she could not guarantee that Mr. Trump had never used the N-word, but said that he had denied using it and that he had never used it in her presence.

She said White House employees would not continue to work with him if they thought he was a racist. “If at any point we felt that the president was who some of his critics claim him to be, we certainly wouldn’t be here,” Ms. Sanders said.

She told reporters they should focus instead on the fact that Mr. Trump created 700,000 jobs for African-Americans in less than two years, far more than the 195,000 jobs for blacks that she said were created during the eight years of the Obama administration.

In fact, Labor Department statistics showed that African-American employment grew by about three million during President Barack Obama’s two terms. Hours after her briefing, Ms. Sanders made a rare apology, tweeting that her numbers were off.

“Jobs numbers for Pres Trump and Pres Obama were correct, but the time frame for Pres Obama wasn’t,” she wrote, citing information that she had interpreted incorrectly from the White House Council of Economic Advisers. “I’m sorry for the mistake, but no apologies for the 700,000 jobs for African Americans created under President Trump.”

During a decades-long career in real estate and reality television, Mr. Trump has at times been embraced by African-American celebrities who have vouched for his willingness to look past racial stereotypes. Michael Jackson and Don King, the boxing promoter, at times called Mr. Trump a friend.

Ms. Manigault Newman became a celebrity herself on “The Apprentice,” Mr. Trump’s reality television show. Later, as a top White House aide, she often defended the president against charges of racial bias or xenophobia.

In addition to the tweet praising his chief of staff, John F. Kelly, for “quickly firing that dog,” Mr. Trump also called Ms. Manigault Newman “Wacky and Deranged Omarosa” in another tweet this week. And in yet another, the president said she was hated by other staff members inside the White House and was known to be “vicious, but not smart.”

Linda-Susan Beard, the director of Africana Studies at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, said there is a long history in the United States of black women being compared to dogs.

“He’s drawing on a history of discourse that is so hate-filled and so historic that it all came together in these 34 words,” she said of Mr. Trump’s tweet about Ms. Manigault Newman, which was actually 35 words. “The statement is brilliant in its ability to do double duty: to offer an attack that is simultaneously racialized and gendered.”

On Tuesday, CBS News released a recording that Ms. Manigault Newman said was of two Trump campaign aides discussing how to react if a tape emerges with Mr. Trump using the N-word. Trump campaign officials had denied that such conversations took place.

A day earlier, NBC released a tape that Ms. Manigault Newman made of her speaking to Mr. Trump, which she said was recorded the day after she was fired. In the recording, the president said he knew nothing about the decision to fire her and told her, “I don’t love you leaving at all.”

In December, Mr. Kelly fired Ms. Manigault Newman in the Situation Room, the most secure conference room in the White House. Ms. Manigault Newman has released a recording of that conversation, as well.

Ms. Manigault Newman has said she has more audio recordings, and in an interview on Monday on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” said she would cooperate with Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel leading the Russia investigation, if asked. “Anything they want, I’ll share,” she said.

The president’s latest attack on Mr. Sessions was packaged with other tweets assailing the Russia investigation, which Mr. Trump regularly calls a “witch hunt.” He said the inquiry never would have started if “we had a real Attorney General,” an apparent reference to the decision by Mr. Sessions to recuse himself in the Russia inquiry.

Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, is currently on trial, accused of tax and bank fraud crimes. He is the first person to be prosecuted by the special counsel. Mr. Manafort’s lawyers rested on Tuesday without presenting a defense.

Blaming Mr. Sessions for not shutting down the investigation is not a new tack for Mr. Trump. Mr. Mueller is already reviewing some of Mr. Trump’s tweets about Mr. Sessions as part of a wide-ranging inquiry into whether the president has tried to obstruct justice in the investigation.

Mr. Trump also questioned why the Russia investigation would not end with the firing of the F.B.I. agent, Peter Strzok.

“Strzok started the illegal Rigged Witch Hunt — why isn’t this so-called ‘probe’ ended immediately?” Mr. Trump tweeted.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Trump Belittles A Female Critic As ‘That Dog’. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe





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These MoviePass Superfans Found Each Other. But What’s Next?

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After the movie, people in that network usually go out together for dessert and a discussion.

Jose Roldan, 46, of Zephyrhills, Fla., said he had only seen about one or two movies in a theater per year before MoviePass. Now, Mr. Roldan, a facility-services coordinator, sometimes drives 45 miles round-trip to see films twice a week. He started the largest group on Facebook, MoviePass Chatter, in September 2017, while trying to troubleshoot issues with his pass.

Most of his dedication to the service occurs online — he spends about three hours a day moderating the chatter and trying to “stimulate the conversation.” There, people discuss the service’s problems and post takeaways from new films. If the conversation gets too heated, Mr. Roldan said, he steps in to “keep it from getting out of hand.”

“We don’t want any politics or religion,” he said. “It’s about MoviePass and your love for movies.”

Some MoviePass users say they will stay loyal until the end, while many have started to reconsider their habits, or think about adding or switching subscription services.

Even with the new three-movie-per-month rule, Damon Packard, a Los Angeles-based filmmaker who used MoviePass every day at one point, said he is keeping it because he thinks the other services — like AMC Stubs A-List and Sinemia — are too pricey.

“I’ll stick with them because they’re constantly changing things and they’re trying to dig themselves out of this hole that they’re in,” Mr. Packard said.

He hopes that they will reinstate the one-movie-per-day plan.

Mr. Roldan said he wants to stay with MoviePass, too, because the AMC theater is even farther out of his way.



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California Today: A Move to Mandate 100% Carbon-Free Electricity

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Good morning.

(Want to get California Today by email? Here’s the sign-up.)

California has been a leader in trying to counter the forces contributing to climate change, from its stringent standards for auto emissions to its mandate that 50 percent of the state’s electricity come from carbon-free sources by 2030.

Now, with climate concerns magnified by extreme summer temperatures and catastrophic wildfires, lawmakers are considering a move that would go further: a proposal to mandate 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2045.

The bill’s sponsor, State Senator Kevin de León, says that with the Trump administration’s efforts to bolster electricity generated from fossil fuels, California and other states must chart their own course on energy policy. And, partly owing to recent events, he thinks the bill can pass within three weeks.

“Because of the fires, because of the extreme drought, because of the anti-environmental edicts coming from this president, there’s a huge ground swell of support,” Mr. de León said of his proposal, designated Senate Bill 100.

His timeline would send the measure to Gov. Jerry Brown for signature before the governor convenes a global energy summit meeting in San Francisco in September.

The bill has passed the Senate and is awaiting a vote in the Assembly. But Mr. de León may be hampered in getting it to the finish line as he also pursues a United States Senate seat in a race against a fellow Democrat, Senator Dianne Feinstein.

The proposal is among a handful of pending bills intended to alter how California produces and manages electricity.

The Legislature also is weighing a measure pushed by Mr. Brown to expand the state’s electric grid operator into a regional organization that manages electricity in states throughout the West to share solar and wind power. Other legislation focuses on who pays for damages from the growing problem of wildfires, many of which have been attributed to utility company error.

Supporters say the all-in mandate for carbon-free power in Mr. de León’s bill is important to California’s pace-setting role on climate issues.

“If California is going to be the prophet when it comes to clean energy, then it needs to set a 100 percent renewable goal,” said Jamie Court, president of the advocacy organization Consumer Watchdog. “The clock is ticking.”

California Online

(Please note: We regularly highlight articles on news sites that have limited access for nonsubscribers.)

• The F.B.I. fired Peter Strzok, a senior agent whose anti-Trump text messages were seized on by the president to assail the Russia inquiry as an illegitimate “witch hunt.” [The New York Times]

• Elon Musk’s cryptic tweet about taking Tesla private with a Saudi investment fund was said to have been dashed off in haste, blindsiding even the electric-car maker’s board. [The New York Times]

• “I don’t think it helps to talk about gender,” says Diane Harkey, the Republican candidate for the 49th Congressional District. Female Republicans like her are in a bind, facing anti-Trump resistance and unable to gain an advantage on gender issues. [The New York Times]

• The suspect in the Golden State Killer case has been charged with a 13th murder, this time in Tulare County. [The Los Angeles Times]

• A firefighter died battling the Mendocino Complex Fire, the largest in California history. [The Los Angeles Times]

• “It’s all going to burn like you planned.” The man suspected of setting the Holy Fire in Cleveland National Forest had a history of troubling behavior, neighbors said. [The Los Angeles Times]

• In a Montana laboratory, a division of the U.S. Forest Service is studying how blazes in the West are becoming hotter and spreading faster than ever. [The New York Times]

• Google is tracking your movements even if you turn off its location services, an investigation found. [The Associated Press]

• California will add 2 million jobs in the next decade, according to new projections. This interactive shows projected growth for each profession. [The Sacramento Bee]

• A man in Clearlake shot and killed his three children before turning the gun on himself. [East Bay Times]

• Our tech reporters were invited to interview Jack Dorsey, the chief executive of Twitter. Here’s what they talked about. [The New York Times]

• Some Southern California residents have taken matters into their own hands and are waging a guerrilla war against the electric scooters that have taken over their communities. [The Los Angeles Times]

• In memoriam: Fakir Musafar, 87, a leader of the modern primitive movement who believed that spiritual clarity could be achieved through rituals like piercing, branding, tattooing and other outré practices he called “body play.” [The New York Times]

• Modern surf culture has been nearly inseparable from that of its capitals of Southern California, Hawaii and Australia. But the growing popularity of freshwater surfing has become a testament to the art of making do. [The New York Times]

• Looking to book a last-minute Labor Day trip? Look to Catalina Island and a beachside getaway in Coronado, among others. [The New York Times]

Yesterday our food editor introduced you to Tejal Rao, The Times’s first California restaurant critic. He took note of the state’s roughly 72,000 restaurants, which represent the incredibly diverse blend of cultures and cuisines and are crucial to understanding how Californians live.

Ms. Rao brings a much-needed perspective to California and should be “a wake-up call to the state’s food media,” according to Eater. California is “shaped by its Mexican history, its deep-rooted black communities, and its multilayered immigrant communities,” the website added, saying the state is a place where the palate is being constantly reshaped by everyday cuisine.

Where in California do you think Ms. Rao should go first? Tell us where — and why — she should explore. Tell us what you want to read! Write to CAtoday@nytimes.com and sign up for our cooking newsletter here.

California Today goes live at 6 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.



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Primary Election, Florida, London: Your Tuesday Briefing

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(Want to get this briefing by email? Here’s the sign-up.)

Good morning.

Here’s what you need to know:

The long reach of the Turkey crisis

• The country is experiencing its worst economic unraveling since 2001, and its currency, the lira, hit another record low on Monday. Investors are concerned that the financial problems could spread to other emerging markets, such as Argentina and South Africa.

Although these countries’ economies aren’t all that large, history shows that chain reactions in financial markets can have global repercussions. Read more about why Turkey’s financial crisis matters far beyond its borders.

The country’s problems have less to do with its dispute with the U.S. over sanctions, analysts say, than with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s efforts to bend the logic of monetary policy to suit his political purposes.

The latest from Washington

• Peter Strzok, the 20-year F.B.I. veteran who disparaged President Trump in text messages, has been fired, Mr. Strzok’s lawyer said on Monday.

Mr. Strzok helped oversee the Hillary Clinton email and Russia investigations, and Mr. Trump has frequently cited the agent’s texts when calling the Russia investigation a “witch hunt.”

Separately on Monday, the president appeared to acknowledge that the White House required aides to sign nondisclosure agreements, a point officials in the West Wing have declined to confirm for months. Legal experts say the agreements are essentially unenforceable.

And Stephen Miller, an architect of the administration’s hard-line immigration agenda, is a descendant of immigrants. Mr. Miller’s uncle called his nephew a hypocrite in an online essay, arguing that the family would have been turned away from the U.S. if the immigration policies Mr. Miller is advocating had been in place at the time.

What to watch in today’s voting

• Much of the attention will be on Minnesota and Wisconsin, where there are competitive races for the governor’s office and a number of House seats. Connecticut and Vermont are also voting.

Here are some of the key races. We’ll have live results beginning at 7 p.m. Eastern, when the first polls close.

We also looked at the challenges facing female Republican candidates when much of the energy for women running in the midterm elections is going to Democrats. “We’ve told a lot of women, ‘Don’t run this year,’ ” said the co-founder of a group that helps to promote moderate female Republicans. “We’ve told them, ‘You’re a great candidate, if it were any other year you would win.’ ”

When a woman is accused in the #MeToo era

• Avital Ronell, a professor at New York University, has been suspended for the coming academic year after being found to have sexually harassed a male former graduate student.

With the #MeToo movement’s reckoning over sexual misconduct, the case has raised a challenge for feminists: How to respond when one of their own behaved badly?

Some prominent feminist scholars have supported Professor Ronell in ways that echo the defenses of male harassers.

Charge in Florida parking lot killing

• A white man who shot and killed an unarmed black man in a dispute over a parking space was charged with manslaughter on Monday, three weeks after the local sheriff refused to arrest him.

The Pinellas County sheriff had cited the state’s Stand Your Ground law, which says that people who believe they are in grave danger do not have a duty to retreat from confrontation and can use deadly force.

The Florida Legislature passed the law in 2005 over the objections of many law enforcement officials. About two dozen states now have such laws on the books.

Breaking: Deadly bridge collapse in Italy

• At least seven people were killed this morning when a highway bridge in the port city of Genoa collapsed, a government official said.

Local news reports said the number of casualties could be considerably higher.

Photographs and videos online showed a long stretch of road missing from the bridge, with vehicles stopped just short of the edge.

Developing: Terrorism is feared in London

A driver struck several pedestrians and cyclists before crashing into a security barrier outside Parliament this morning, in what the police said they were treating as a terrorist attack.

The driver, a man in his 20s, was arrested. He was the only person in the car, in which no weapons were found.

None of those injured were believed to be in life-threatening condition, the police said.

Business

Elon Musk’s tweet last week about the prospect of taking Tesla private came as a surprise to many people, including the automaker’s board.

The episode shows that it’s time for regulators to reconsider the policy that allows executives to disclose market-moving information on social media, our columnist writes.

To fight fraud, banks and other companies are quietly watching how you type, swipe and tap on your mobile device, building profiles that can help weed out impostors.

Leonard Pozner, whose 6-year-old son was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, has tried to get websites to delete posts alleging that the massacre was a hoax. His efforts have been stopped short by Automattic, the operator of WordPress.com, which says “untrue content is not banned.”

U.S. stocks were down on Monday. Here’s a snapshot of global markets today.

Smarter Living

Tips for a more fulfilling life.

Moving into a college dorm? We recommend five cheap(ish) things that will come in handy.

Noteworthy

Mail from Mount Fuji

A post office atop Japan’s famous volcano can offer something more coveted than a “like” on social media: a postmark.

How wildfires become infernos

A division of the U.S. Forest Service is studying the physics of fire as blazes in the West become hotter and spread faster than ever.

Alisdair Faulkner, a founder of ThreatMetrix, which makes fraud detection software for large merchants and financial companies.

The Times, in other words

Here’s an image of today’s front page, and links to our Opinion content and crossword puzzles.

What we’re reading

Michael Roston, an editor on Science, recommends this article from Motherboard: “Imitation may be flattering, but this makes clear that you should think twice before you buy a $100 counterfeit iPhone X — not least because it’s ‘loaded with back doors and malicious apps.’ Nevertheless, you’ll be impressed by the amount of effort someone, apparently in China, went to in order to clone one of the top smartphones on the market.”

Back Story

It’s just a jump to the left, and then a step to the right. With your hands on your hips, bring your knees in tight.

But as fans of the “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” know, it’s the pelvic thrust that really drives you insane. The cult classic film opened in London on this day in 1975.

Tim Curry as Dr. Frank-N-Furter in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”CreditTwentieth Century Fox

Often described as a campy take on horror and science fiction films, it originally premiered on the London stage in 1973, and was summed up in one breathless sentence in a Times review: “Two young innocents are entrapped by Frank-N-Furter, a mad, transvestite inventor from outer space, who has created a beefcake monster, Rocky Horror, who looks as though he has just stepped from the centerfold of Playgirl.”

Shortly after its premiere, the film was briefly shelved before being resurrected at a midnight screening in New York. A group of fans made weekly pilgrimages to the small theater, sat in the front row and screamed for their favorite characters. A social phenomenon was born, and the film has remained in theaters ever since.

Audience participation, props and costumes are widely encouraged at regularly scheduled screenings around the world.

We’ll end with the words of Frank-N-Furter: “Don’t dream it. Be it.”

Remy Tumin wrote today’s Back Story.

_____

Your Morning Briefing is published weekdays and updated all morning. Browse past briefings here.

Sign up here to get it by email in the Australian, Asian, European or American morning. To receive an Evening Briefing on U.S. weeknights, sign up here.

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What would you like to see here? Contact us at briefing@nytimes.com.



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Driver Crashes Car Into Barriers Outside U.K. Parliament

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LONDON — A speeding car struck and injured several pedestrians and cyclists then crashed into a security barrier just outside the Houses of Parliament in London early Tuesday, according to the police, who detained the male driver.

Video footage showed about a dozen armed police officers springing toward a silver Ford and pointing their weapons at it, before handcuffing the driver.

Officers set up a security cordon around Parliament Square, with around a dozen police cars and ambulances parked at the site, while helicopters circled above. Armed officers stood guard, and video footage on Twitter showed them urging people to leave the area.

Westminster Bridge was closed to vehicles, pedestrians were directed to alternative routes, and the nearby, heavily used Westminster subway station was closed. None of those injured were believed to be in life-threatening condition, the police said.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman declined to say whether the episode was a terrorist act. But witnesses told television stations that the episode seemed deliberate; the car was traveling too fast, they said, and did not swerve before striking people or the security bollard. The Metropolitan Police said its Counter-Terrorism Command was leading the investigation.

One witness, Jason Williams, told ITV’s “Good Morning Britain”: “Basically, I’ve seen a man driving a vehicle, and he’s gone into one of the bollards. There was a loud bang. Straight away I thought, ‘Oh no, this is another terrorist attack.’ So I just started to run, and the police were saying, ‘Get out, get out of the area.’ ”

According to a police statement, “At 7.37 a.m. today, a car was in collision with barriers outside the Houses of Parliament.” The statement said that the male driver of the car had been detained by officers at the scene. “A number of pedestrians have been injured,” it continued.

Westminster, the locus of British politics, has been under tight security since last year. In March 2017, an assailant driving a sport utility vehicle mowed down pedestrians and stabbed a police officer, prompting the evacuation of the prime minister. At least four people, including the assailant, were killed, and at least 40 others wounded.

A month later, a 27-year-old man carrying knives was arrested near Parliament by the police, who charged him with planning a terrorist attack. No one was hurt.

And in June that year, three men killed six civilians near London Bridge and the nearby Borough Market, and wounded dozens more.

Parliament was already surrounded by lines of crash bollards, balustrades and steel barricades, put in place after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States and the bombings on July 7, 2005, in London. Terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels in 2016 led to even tighter security.

Prashant S. Rao contributed reporting.





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Opinion | We Are Merging With Robots. That’s a Good Thing.

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THE Big Ideas

The old boundaries of the human self are being blurred by technology. The risks are real, but the potential is astounding.

By Andy Clark

Mr. Clark is a professor of logic and metaphysics.

VR World in Manhattan, New York on Sunday.CreditVincent Tullo for The New York Times

Here are some things that are true today:

  • Artificial intelligences already outperform us at many tasks and are now able to train themselves to reach competencies (in restricted domains such as chess or Go) that we can barely comprehend.

  • The controlled use of hallucinogenics and other drugs may soon be part of mainstream therapy for depression, loss, anxiety and other conditions.

  • Sex and companionship robots are already here.

  • Entirely new forms of sensory perception, such as the North Sense, are becoming possible, and human brains look fluid enough to make use of just about any reliable stream of information and control opportunity.

  • The human genome itself is now an object of control and intervention.

  • Gender is becoming more visibly fluid than ever before, and there is emerging a place in human society for a wonderfully wide spectrum of ways of being (personally, politically and sexually).

  • One new tool for exploring some of that spectrum will be the use of immersive interactive virtual realities, such as the BeAnotherLab.

  • Technological devices like cellphones and tablets are being used to help offset types of biological damage, such as a highly impaired memory, that just a few decades ago would have condemned victims to constant care.

  • Sports for people with disabilities, whether adaptive or para-sports, are positively expanding our images of health and fitness in ways that would have been hard to imagine just a few decades ago.

  • Neuro-enhancement, the improvement by drugs, practices, or implants of normal mental functioning, is possible and may soon become the norm.

Image
A game that allows you to draw in space at VR World in Manhattan New York on August 12, 2018.CreditVincent Tullo for The New York Times

What does it mean to live in this kind of emerging world? It is to live in a world marked more by possibility, fluidity, change and negotiability than by outdated images of fixed natures and capacities. This is a world of remarkable personal and social possibility. Sharing and group solidarity are now easier than ever before, and the communal mapping of new electronic trails is enabling multiple once-hidden demographics to command social, commercial and political respect. It’s a world where human intelligence itself is poised for repair and reinvention. And one whose bedrock nature is itself becoming fluid, as digital overlays augment reality with personalized pointers (the information-rich cousins of the contemporary elves and pixies of Pokémon Go). It’s also a world permeated by a growing swath of alien intelligences (just ask Alexa, although she won’t really admit it).

All this blurs the boundaries between body and machine, between mind and world, between standard, augmented and virtual realities, and between human and post-human. At the cusp of these waves of change, this is also the moment at which, increasingly, inclusivities of one kind (extensions of personal, social and sexual freedom) bump up against the threat of new forms of exclusivity, as the augmented, fluid, connected cyber-haves increasingly differentiate themselves from the unaugmented, less connected, cyber have-nots. Perhaps this is part of the price of all that laudable loosening?

THE BIG IDEAS

A special section of the Times’ philosophy series, The Stone, in which authors, artists, philosophers, scientists and entrepreneurs answer the question, “What does it mean to be human today?”

After all, there was a time when written scholarly text was itself the province of only a few groups of enviably-positioned humans. In the end (and with the inventions of cheap mass-production) the transformative potential of text was set free, and it reshaped the world.

This is a moment to be savored, even as we sound new notes of care and caution about the speed, nature and range of these changes. Part of this process involves getting used to the alien nature and pervasive reach of the many new subintelligences that now surround us. These are the algorithms that talk with us, that watch us, that trade for us, that select dates for us, that suggest what we might buy, sell, or wear. They are the algorithms that pool information about us, and that will slowly permeate the full range of human-built environments, from bridges to roads to cities and more minor intelligent devices.

These are not yet intelligences like our own. But some of their greatest potential lies in the ways we humans might cooperate with them to form new hybrid systems that deliver the best of each. On top of all this, new understandings of the mind and brain are helping to break down the old boundaries between the psychological and the physical, as we learn not just how deeply the body matters to the mind, but also how the brain helps predict and construct the world of human experience.

We now glimpse the next steps in human cultural and cognitive evolution, continuing the trend that started with the arrival of human language and the (much later) invention of writing and the external storage and transmission of ideas. The new steps herald an age of fluidity and demand answers to a host of questions and issues that need to be addressed in conversations like this one. The two most important such questions are simply: How should we negotiate this dauntingly large space of human possibility? And what costs are we willing to tolerate along the way?

A flight simulator at VR World in Manhattan, New York on August 12, 2018.CreditVincent Tullo for The New York Times

The first is a question of practice, the second of ethics. Practically speaking, it will not be easy to decide in a world of so many possible ways of being, so many enhancements and augmentations, and so many social practices, which ones are for us. Here, immersive virtual reality may play a useful role, allowing the cheap and easy, if somewhat superficial, exploration of multiple ways of being. For example, work from the BeAnotherLab uses immersive virtual reality, with body tracking, to enable us to (in a small way) experience being taller, shorter, or having a differently gendered body.

Ethically speaking, we need to ask what new costs and inequalities the freedoms and augmentations of some may mean for others. We need to ask if we are willing to tolerate some inequality as part of the rollout process for a more fluid and interconnected world. Issues of privacy and the right to control (including to trade or sell) our personal information are vividly with us. Not knowing quite where we as protected selves stop and the world around us begins, law and policy struggle to decide if (for example) information stored on our phones is enough like information stored in our heads to warrant the same protections. Law, education and social policy currently lag behind many interacting waves of change. What is up for grabs is what we humans are, and what we will become.

Andy Clark is a professor of logic and metaphysics at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and the former director of the Cognitive Science Program at Indiana University, Bloomington.


Now in print: “Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments,” and “The Stone Reader: Modern Philosophy in 133 Arguments,” with essays from the series, edited by Peter Catapano and Simon Critchley, published by Liveright Books.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter, and sign up for the Opinion Today newsletter.





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