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New York Attorney General Letitia James announced on Thursday that she has filed a lawsuit alleging that the National Rifle Association is "fraught with fraud and abuse," and seeking "to dissolve the organization in entirety for years of self-dealing and illegal conduct." James said her office's 18-month investigation found that the gun-rights group's senior leadership diverted millions of dollars "into their own pockets." She described Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre as the "central figure," accusing him and three others of breaking numerous laws, leading to the loss of $64 million over three years. The attorney general of Washington, D.C., on Thursday also announced a lawsuit against the NRA Foundation for alleged misuse of charitable funds. President Trump called James' lawsuit "terrible." [NPR, Letitia James]
President Trump late Thursday issued executive orders banning U.S. companies and individuals from doing business with the Chinese parent companies of video-sharing app TikTok and messaging app WeChat. The bans take effect in 45 days, although Trump's orders did not spell out what business transactions will be prohibited. The latest escalation of Trump's clash with Beijing over the tech industry came after the Trump administration this week stepped up its effort to block "untrusted" Chinese apps. The Trump administration called WeChat owner Tencent Holdings and TikTok parent ByteDance "significant" data-security threats. China's foreign ministry said the orders violated the rights of Chinese businesses. "Absolutely, China will retaliate," said technology expert James Lewis of Washington-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies. [CNET, The Associated Press]
Nearly 1.2 million people filed new unemployment claims last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday, marking the 20th straight week with more than 1 million initial applications for jobless benefits. Economists had expected a slightly worse employment picture, with 1.4 million new claims. About 16 million Americans continued to receive unemployment payments, down less than 800,000 from the previous week. A total of 54 million Americans have claimed unemployment since the pandemic started. Economists polled by MarketWatch expected the Labor Department to report Friday that the U.S. economy added 1.7 million jobs in July, down from a gain of 4.8 million in June. The forecasts range widely, from 280,000 to 4 million, because economists aren't sure how many layoffs have resulted from spiking COVID-19 cases. [NBC News, MarketWatch]
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) tested positive for the coronavirus on Thursday, then tested negative in a more accurate follow-up test. DeWine, a leading Republican voice warning of the dangers of the pandemic, was tested the first time as part of the required preparation before he was scheduled to meet President Trump on the tarmac of Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland. That meeting was scrapped, and DeWine, 73, returned to Columbus, where he tested negative in a second test, as did first lady Fran DeWine. DeWine's office said it was "confident in the results." DeWine had no COVID-19 symptoms, and a spokesman said he had been "communicating remotely" to stay safe. Several weeks ago, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) became the nation's first governor to test positive. [Cincinnati.com, The New York Times]
The nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates announced on Thursday it had denied President Trump's request for a fourth presidential debate ahead of the 2020 election. Trump's campaign had pushed for a fourth debate to be scheduled earlier in the fall, arguing the debates as planned begin after many voters will have already submitted ballots by mail. The committee said it would consider a change if both candidates agreed, but since presumed Democratic candidate Joe Biden has not called for an additional debate, the commission said it "remains committed to the schedule of debates it has planned." [The Associated Press]
Bill Hagerty won the Tennessee Senate Republican primary on Thursday, defeating the 14 other candidates who hoped to replace retiring GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander. Hagerty, 60, was President Trump's first ambassador to Japan, and received his endorsement. In recent weeks, the race tightened, as orthopedic surgeon Manny Sethi declared he was the true conservative running, not Hagerty. He pointed to Hagerty's friendship with Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and his past work in private equity as proof of this; in turn, Hagerty claimed that because Sethi made a $50 donation to a Democratic candidate, he wasn't trustworthy. [The New York Times]
Administration leaders and leading Democratic lawmakers ended a three-hour meeting Thursday night without resolving major differences over a new round of coronavirus relief, despite looming economic damage following the expiration of extra jobless benefits of $600 per week. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said the two sides remained "very far apart." Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Democrats were "very disappointed in the meeting ... They were unwilling to meet in the middle." The Democrat-led House has passed a $3 trillion relief bill, while Senate Republicans are proposing a $1 trillion package. Administration officials said President Trump would take executive action on an economic stimulus if the two sides don't reach a deal Friday. [CNN]
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a Thursday forecast that it's anticipating an "extremely active" Atlantic hurricane season in 2020 that could be "one of the busiest on record." NOAA said there could be 19 to 25 named storms, up from the average of 12 named storms in a season. Of the up to 25 named storms expected this year, between seven and 11 will become hurricanes, and three to six will be "major" hurricanes, NOAA said. The Atlantic hurricane season is "off to a rapid pace" with nine named storms already, though there are usually only about two named storms by now, the agency said. This new projection came after last week's Hurricane Isaias left at least nine people dead and knocked out power for millions. [CNN, The Washington Post]
North Korea reportedly has quarantined thousands of people and shipped relief supplies to a locked-down southern city as evidence mounts that the isolated communist-run nation is not coronavirus free, as it has claimed. The country announced in late July that it had imposed its "maximum emergency system" to prevent the virus from spreading after acknowledging its first COVID-19 case in Kaesong city, near its border with South Korea. State media has reported that the apparent infection prompted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to order a total lockdown of Kaesong. Foreign experts have long been skeptical of Pyongyang's claim that it had no coronavirus cases, which seemed unlikely because North Korea shares a porous border with China, where the first outbreak was reported. [The Associated Press]
Lebanese authorities on Thursday arrested 16 people over the massive explosion at Beirut's port that killed at least 137 people. A day earlier, the Lebanese government had placed port officials under house arrest pending the results of an investigation into why 2,750 tons of highly explosive ammonium nitrate had been stored in warehouses without safety mechanisms. Human Rights Watch urged Lebanese authorities to let international experts conduct an independent investigation, because of mounting evidence that officials knew ammonium nitrate was stored at the port but did nothing about it. "If officials did in fact have notification of a clear threat to life and failed to take reasonable steps to address that threat, then they are responsible for the unlawful deaths," Human Rights Watch said. [CBS News, UPI]
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