First Thing: how the NRA shot itself in the foot

Tim Walker
·6-min read
<span>Photograph: José Luis Magaña/AP</span>
Photograph: José Luis Magaña/AP

Good morning.

For decades, the National Rifle Association has been one of the most powerful lobby groups in the US. But despite continuing success in blocking even the lightest of gun laws, the NRA’s own donors and members have lately expressed concerns about its leadership.

On Thursday, the New York attorney general, Letitia James, crystallised those concerns into a 168-page lawsuit that seeks to dissolve the NRA, claiming four of its top officials “funneled millions into their own pockets”, and describing the organisation as “a breeding ground for greed, abuse and brazen illegality”.

David Smith reports on how the NRA strayed from its core purpose to become a victim of its own success and hubris, while Amanda Holpuch outlines the power struggles and personal corruption detailed in the lawsuit.

  • The NRA said it would counter-sue, claiming the lawsuit was politically motivated, with the group poised to support Republicans during the election. “You could have set your watch by it: the investigation was going to reach its crescendo as we move into the 2020 election cycle,” said the NRA president, Carolyn Meadows.

  • Donald Trump tried to make it an election issue, claiming on Twitter that if Joe Biden becomes president, “your guns will be taken away, immediately and without notice”.

What would a Biden presidency mean for foreign relations?

Biden has clarified comments he made on Thursday, comparing diversity in the black and Latino communities.
Joe Biden has clarified comments he made on Thursday, comparing diversity in the black and Latinx communities. Photograph: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

Joe Biden was forced to clarify remarks he made comparing the relative diversity of America’s black and Latinx communities, on the same day his campaign released a new ad aimed at black Americans. The Trump campaign seized on the apparent gaffe, but the president soon overshadowed the comments with his own, claiming Biden was “against God” and “against guns”. The former vice-president is a practising Catholic and a gun owner.

Should Biden win the presidential election, US allies may be hoping for a restoration to the pre-Trump international status quo. But as Patrick Wintour reports, European leaders have been warned to expect new challenges for transatlantic relations, whatever the outcome in November.

Macron seized the moment with a tour of ravaged Beirut

Two days after an explosion tore through the heart of Beirut, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, became the first world leader to walk the streets of the devastated Lebanese capital since the blast, boosting his own country’s influence in the region as he listened to the angry crowds demanding he help tear down a despised ruling class.

With Lebanon already in the midst of an economic meltdown, Beirutis have limited resources with which to rebuild their homes and the city. “I guarantee you this – aid will not go to corrupt hands,” Macron told the protesters, vowing to deliver “home truths” to the Lebanese government.

Zuckerberg just became the world’s third centibillionaire

The 36-year old joins Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates as the only people worth more than $100bn.
The 36-year-old joins Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates as the only people worth more than $100bn. Photograph: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images

Mark Zuckerberg is at last a member of the highly exclusive centibillionaire club, after Facebook’s surging share price pushed its founder’s personal fortune past $100bn for the first time on Thursday. The 36-year-old joins Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates, the founders of Amazon and Microsoft respectively, as one of just three people currently to hold centibillionaire status, according to the Bloomberg billionaires index.

The 6% boost in Facebook’s shares came after the company unveiled Instagram Reels, its rival to the video-sharing app TikTok – on the same day that Trump signed an executive order banning US transactions with TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance.

In other news…

  • The mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, has announced a crackdown on house parties, threatening to cut water and power to homes that host events in violation of lockdown rules. The move comes days after three people were shot, one fatally, during a vast bash at a mansion in the city’s Beverly Crest neighbourhood.

  • Dr Anthony Fauci has had to hire security to protect his family after receiving death threats over his work on Covid-19. The nation’s top infectious disease expert told Politico: “When they start hassling your children on the phone and at their job, and interfering with their lives, that pisses me off, I must say.”

  • Saudi assassins were dispatched to Canada in 2018 to kill a former senior Saudi intelligence official just two weeks after the murder of the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to a lawsuit that accuses the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, of complicity in the plot.

Climate countdown: 89 days to save the Earth

A devastating 89% of new corals in the Great Barrier Reef collapsed after mass bleaching caused by the climate emergency. And with 89 days until the US exits the Paris agreement, Damian Carrington reports that a green economic recovery is vital to halting global heating – because the drop in emissions caused by lockdowns was a mere blip, which will have a “negligible” long-term impact.

Great reads

Perry Farrell on drugs, philanthropy and 35 years of Jane’s Addiction

The frontman of Jane’s Addiction and founder of Lollapalooza is now in his 60s. But after four decades of influential alt-rock and unlikely good deeds – such as buying the freedom of 2,300 people enslaved by Sudanese militias in 2001 – he tells Jeff Weiss: “I consider myself a late bloomer.”

How protesters are putting activism into video games

Social activists stuck at home under lockdown have found a new way to promote their causes without leaving the house – by inserting them into video games. From BLM rallies in The Sims to Free Hong Kong demonstrations in Animal Crossing, Daisy Schofield reports on the phenomenon of in-game protests.

Opinion: in the Covid era, normal bad news is reassuring

In New York, where the infection rate now seems low and somewhat stable, there’s something reassuring about the diversification of bad news, says Emma Brockes, who takes a strange comfort in tabloid stories about shark attacks and moped accidents.

In the case of both sharks and mopeds, the prelude to almost every discussion I’ve heard runs along the lines of: can you imagine? Surviving the virus, and the world in its current deplorable state, only to be eaten by a shark? It returns death to being an outlandish event, avoidable by not hiring a moped or going into the sea, as opposed to something that waits for us in the air of the subway.

Last Thing: ‘I was outnumbered by the popcorn sellers’

Cinemagoers in Bulgaria recently.
Cinemagoers in Bulgaria recently. Photograph: Vladimir Vladimirov/Getty Images

What’s it like to go to the movies after the lockdown has lifted? The Guardian sent its correspondents to cinemas around the world to find out, from Italy, to Japan to New Orleans.

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