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Vox Sentences: Fire in the water

The California boat fire has claimed at least 20 lives so far; a letter threatening to hunt Koreans is delivered in the South Korean embassy in Tokyo.

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Conception ablaze

Santa Barbara County Fire Department
  • The fire that erupted in the predawn hours Monday on a scuba diving boat near Santa Cruz Island in California has killed at least 25 people, with nine more still unaccounted for. [Reuters / Omar Younis]
  • Mobilization for the search-and-rescue operation began after a distress call was made from the Conception, the flaming vessel, with a man yelling into the radio “Mayday” three times and pinpointing its location at sea. When the dispatcher asked the man to unlock the door so the passengers may get off the boat, the radio went silent. [YouTube / CBC News]
  • Five crew members were able to swim several hundred feet away to a nearby fishing boat, waking up its owners and seeking further help. One of the owners of the fishing boat told the New York Times that he “could see the fire coming through holes on the side of the boat. There were these explosions every few beats.” [NYT / Jose A. Del Real, Niraj Chokshi, and Thomas Fuller]
  • In total, 39 people were on Conception, six of which were crew members. The other passengers are likely to have been asleep below deck when the fire broke out, unable to escape when the flames reached them. [CNN / Mike Hayes, Fernando Alfonso III, and Amanda Wills]
  • The vessel was in full compliance with safety regulations and had no prior violations, said Coast Guard Capt. Monica Rochester at a news conference. Authorities have not yet identified what sparked the fire, though Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Sheriff Brown said oxygen or propane tanks may have exploded during the night, spreading the blaze. [BBC]
  • The Conception was on the last of a three-day diving excursion out in Platts Harbor. According to the Los Angeles Times, the crew had celebrated three passengers’ birthdays the night prior, including that of a 17-year-old girl who was on the boat with her parents. [LA Times / Dakota Smith]
  • Search operations continued until early Tuesday morning, Rochester said, though she said people should be “prepared to move into the worst outcome.” [NYT / Jose A. Del Real, Niraj Chokshi, and Thomas Fuller]

Fear over troubled Korean-Japanese ties heightens

  • A letter threatening to hunt Koreans and containing what seems to be a bullet was mailed to the South Korean embassy in Japan, worsening ties between two Asian nations with a troubled history. [Kyodo News Agency]
  • The letter, addressed to former Ambassador Lee Su Hoon and delivered on August 27, read “I’ve got a rifle and I’m hunting Koreans.” Police is now attempting to identify the sender. [Kyodo News Agency and Reuters / Elaine Lies and Linda Sieg]
  • The event is sure to add to the tension between the neighboring countries. The Korean peninsula was colonized by the Japanese between 1910 and 1945, and Koreans served as forced laborers, a main source of conflict between the two nations to this day. [Reuters / Elaine Lies and Linda Sieg]
  • Most recently, the discord has spilled into trade and military partnerships, among others. On August 2, Japan announced it will strike South Korea off its list of trusted trade partners, something that has sparked concern — especially over several electronics products, which Japan supplies globally. [BBC / Laura Bicker]
  • In return, South Korea responded late August with a withdrawal from a pact to share military intelligence with Japan, which may negatively impact other regional crises, like a tense US-China trade war, as well as the India-Pakistan feud over Kashmir. [WSJ / Michael R. Gordon, Andrew Jeong, and Alastair Gale]


  • Facebook is reportedly considering dropping the “Like” count from its platform, likely to discourage users from comparing their posts to others. Instagram, a Facebook company, has already been testing this change in seven countries. [TechCrunch / Josh Constine]
  • Texas singer-songwriter Khalid’s benefit concert for the victims of the El Paso shooting in August raised $500,000, according to the artist’s Twitter page. The performance featured guest appearances by SZA, Matthew McConaughey, Beto O’Rourke, and Lil Yachty, among others. [Twitter and Complex / Trace William Cowen]
  • An Alaska Airlines employee at the Newark airport in New Jersey started yelling “evacuate” after spotting two men she “thought looked suspicious,” according to CNN. It was later announced there was no threat, and the men were released with no charges. [CNN / Christina Maxouris]
  • Sleep among the stars? Plans for the first commercial space hotel — which resembles both an extraterrestrial cruise ship and the International Space Station — were unveiled, with space tourism possibly becoming a reality by 2025. [Express / Tom Fish]


“I started doing pretty heavy drugs at 19 and abused all of my relationships. I became resentful, disrespectful to women, and angry. I became distant to everyone who loved me ... I felt like i could never turn it around. It’s taken me years to bounce back from all of these terrible decisions.” [Justin Bieber opens up in a heartfelt post about the effect fame has had on his life and about his heavy drug use in the past / Instagram]

Watch this: The chart that predicts recessions

A chart called the “yield curve” has predicted every US recession over the last 50 years. Now it might be saying another one is coming. [YouTube / Alvin Chang]

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