Key hurricane forecast increases number of storms expected

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A prominent hurricane forecast has upped its storm count slightly for the 2019 storm season as questions about the staying power of El Nino swirl.

The updated forecast from Colorado State University is calling for a near average season with 14 named storms, including six hurricanes and two major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher. The 14 storms include Subtropical Storm Andrea, which formed in late May prior to the official June 1 start date of hurricane season.

An April forecast from CSU called for a slightly below average season.

“We currently anticipate that current weak El Nino event conditions will persist, but some anomalous cooling in recent weeks weakens our confidence in this assessment,” the updated forecast notes.

A normal season, which runs between June 1 and Nov. 30, has 12 named storms, including six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

The federal Climate Prediction Center, which released its seasonal hurricane forecast May 23, also expects a near normal season with between nine and 15 named storms to form, including four to eight hurricanes and two to four major hurricanes of Category 3 strength or higher.

Gerry Bell, lead hurricane forecaster for the center, which is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said there are competing elements in the atmosphere that complicate the prediction.

A weak El Nino will work to reduce tropical cyclone activity but warmer sea surface temperatures and a strong African monsoon season could increase activity.

“There is some uncertainty based on model prediction as to how strong each of those will be,” Bell said last month.

CSU will issue updated forecasts July 9 and Aug. 5.

— Palm Beach Post

YouTube will remove Sandy Hook hoax videos

YouTube said Wednesday it will remove videos claiming the Sandy Hook shooting didn’t happen as it updates its hate speech policy.

“We will begin enforcing this updated policy today; however, it will take time for our systems to fully ramp up and we’ll be gradually expanding coverage over the next several months,” the Google-owned video site said.

The families of the 20 children and six educators killed in the Dec. 14, 2012 shooting in Newtown have spent years fighting conspiracy theorists on the internet, including those who claim the shooting was a hoax carried out to win support for stricter gun laws.

Internet radio host Alex Jones is facing numerous defamation lawsuits filed by the Sandy Hook families for stating on his InfoWars program that the victims’ families were actors. The families say they have faced death threats and online abuse as a result.

In a wide-ranging and bizarre three-hour deposition that was released in March as part of one of those lawsuits, filed in Texas, Jones admitted children died at Sandy Hook, but at the same time argued there is evidence of a second shooter and claimed he couldn’t even remember the day the massacre took place.

Jones is also being sued in Connecticut and has been ordered to give a deposition in that case as well, but no date has been set.

YouTube banned Jones and his InfoWars channel from its platform in August, the same day Apple, Facebook and Google said they were removing his content for violating their terms of service.

— The Hartford Courant

Gretchen Carlson stepping down as Miss America chairwoman

There she goes, Miss America.

TV commentator and 1989 Miss America Gretchen Carlson — who helped the beauty pageant shed its swimsuit showcase — is stepping down from her role as board chairwoman of the Miss America Organization.

Carlson — who filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against then-Fox News CEO Roger Ailes after her departure from the network in 2016 and received a settlement reported at $20 million — took the role last year after a 2017 scandal in which derogatory emails about former Miss America winners by the organization’s CEO and board members were exposed.

Carlson, 52, was the first former Miss America to head the group, and other former winners were also appointed to the board when she joined. Groundbreaking changes under Carlson’s leadership included the controversial removal of the pageant’s swimsuit competition.

“When I was asked to take this volunteer position over a year ago, I dedicated myself to helping the organization build on its history while working to secure its future and am extremely proud of the work we have collectively done,” Carlson said in a statement Wednesday. “The time is ideal to give new leadership the opportunity to move forward with what has been accomplished.”

She added that while she won’t be a board member, she’ll stay on as an adviser to the board. “Miss America will always be a part of who I am and I will enthusiastically watch as the organization continues to grow and succeed,” Carlson said.

Last year, Miss America 2018 Cara Mund, who was previously crowned Miss North Dakota, claimed that pageant leaders including Carlson silenced and bullied her, according to “Right away, the new leadership delivered an important message,” Mund wrote in a letter to former Miss Americas at the time. “There will be only one Miss America at a time, and she isn’t me.”

Carlson responded on Twitter that she “never bullied or silenced” Mund.

— New York Daily News

Mega Millions: Jackpot soars to estimated $530 million

SAN JOSE, Calif. — The Mega Millions jackpot now stands at an estimated $530 million after no ticket matched all six numbers drawn Tuesday night, according to lottery officials.

It’s the first time since last October’s record-setting run to $1.5 billion that the top prize has surpassed the half-billion dollars mark. The jackpot is the seventh largest in the game’s history.

Tuesday’s winning numbers were: white balls 25, 37, 46, 48, 68 and gold Mega ball 25.

While no one claimed the jackpot, there were a total of about 1.32 million winning tickets, lottery officials said. Five matched the five white balls to win the game’s second prize. One sold in Colorado is worth $2 million because it included the “Megaplier” and four others sold in Arizona, Connecticut, Michigan and Minnesota are worth $1 million.

In addition, 46 tickets matched four white balls plus the Mega Ball to win the third prize of $10,000. Because of the Megaplier, eight of them are actually worth $20,000.

There have been more than 17.2 million winning tickets at all prize levels, including 36 worth $1 million or more, since the last jackpot was won in Missouri on March 12, according to lottery officials.

Other Mega Millions jackpots awarded this year include $437 million in New York on Jan. 1, the ninth largest in the game’s history and $273 million in New Jersey on March 1.

Last year, the top prize reached a record $1.5 billion before a winning ticket was sold in South Carolina.

Closer to home, 11 workers at a Wells Fargo branch in San Jose split a $543 million Mega Millions jackpot last July. The winning ticket was sold at Ernie’s Liquors in San Jose.

The next drawing is Friday.

— The Mercury News