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Trump to headline NRA’s annual event as lobby group remains in financial trouble – National

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Trump to headline NRA’s annual event as lobby group remains in financial trouble National

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The nation’s largest gun-rights organization played a pivotal role in U.S. President Donald Trump’s victory in 2016.

Three years later, the National Rifle Association is limping toward the next election divided and diminished.

READ MORE: NRA says it’s in serious financial trouble, blames New York state

It’s a reversal that has stunned longtime observers and that is raising questions about the one-time kingmaker’s potential firepower heading into 2020 as Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence prepare to headline the group’s annual convention in Indianapolis on Friday.

“I’ve never seen the NRA this vulnerable” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, a non-profit that advocates for gun control measures.

In the months after Trump’s election, the NRA seemed on top of the world. After pouring tens of millions of dollars into the presidential race, its dark horse candidate occupied the desk in the Oval Office. Republicans controlled both branches of Congress. And the emboldened group had ambitious plans afoot for easing state and national gun regulations.

WATCH: NRA ad warns specific media outlets, personalities that ‘time is up’





Instead, much of the legislation the group championed has stalled, due, in part, to a series of mass shootings, including the massacre at a Parkland, Florida, high school that left 17 dead and launched a youth movement against gun violence that has had a powerful impact.

At the same time, the group is grappling with infighting, bleeding money and facing a series of investigations into its operating practices, including allegations that covert Russian agents seeking to influence the 2016 election courted its officials and funnelled money through the group. Indeed, as Trump is speaking Friday, Maria Butina, the admitted Russian agent, is scheduled to be sentenced in federal court in Washington.

And then there’s the simple fact that, with Trump in office, gun owners no longer fear the Second Amendment is under attack.

“Good times are never good for interest groups because it’s much better when Armageddon is at your doorstep,” said Harry Wilson, a Roanoke College professor who has written extensively on gun politics. “Fear is a huge motivator in politics.”


READ MORE:
New NRA president blames school shootings on Ritalin, violent movies

The NRA, said Adam Winkler, a UCLA law professor and expert on gun policy, has also dramatically changed its messaging over the last two years, with NRATV advocating a panoply of far-right political views that have turned off some members.

At the same time, public sentiment has shifted. A March AP-NORC poll found that 67 per cent of Americans overall think gun laws should be made stricter – up from 61 per cent in October 2017.

And a June 2018 Gallup poll found overall favourable opinions of the NRA down slightly from October 2015, from 58 per cent to 53 per cent. Unfavourable views have grown, from 35 per cent to 42 per cent.

Views of the NRA have also become increasingly partisan over decades of Gallup polling, and in the last few years as well. In 2018, just 24 per cent of Democrats had a favourable opinion. Favourable views among Republicans in 2018 were at a record high, Gallup found.

WATCH: Parkland, Florida students hold ‘die-in’ to protest contributions to NRA





Against that backdrop, Democratic politicians have become more comfortable attacking – and even actively running against – the NRA and pledging action to curb gun violence. And gun control groups like Everytown, which is largely financed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and a political action committee formed by Gabby Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman wounded in a shooting, have become better organized and more visible, especially at the state level.

That reversal was made clear during the 2018 midterm elections, when those groups vastly outspent the NRA.

During the midterms, the NRA “committed almost a disappearing act,” said Everytown’s Feinblatt.

Winkler, the UCLA law professor, allowed that the group had scored some victories under Trump, including the appointment of two Supreme Court justices who may be open to striking down gun laws.

But overall, he said, “On the legislative front, the NRA has been frustrated,” with top priorities like national reciprocity for conceal carry laws and a repeal of the ban on silencers stalled.


READ MORE:
Donald Trump mockingly suggests banning trucks, vans at NRA convention

Instead, Trump introduced a new federal regulation: a ban on bump stocks after a man using the device opened fire on a crowd of concertgoers on the Las Vegas strip in Nevada, killing 58 people and wounding hundreds.

That didn’t seem to bother the NRA members who were beginning to arrive at the convention Thursday and insisted the group remains as influential as ever.

“Why do you think Trump and Pence are coming here?” said Roger Frasz, a lifetime NRA member and gun shop owner in Prescott, Michigan, who was wearing a red “Trump 2020” hat.

Alan Jacobson, 24, an airport worker who lives in Downers Grove, Illinois, said he relies on the NRA to inform him about issues and considers them not only relevant, but essential.

“We’re just average people that congressmen won’t listen to. The NRA is our voice,” he said.

WATCH: Walmart hikes minimum age to buy firearms as NRA backlash continues





Still, Mike Cook, who works at a shipyard in Alabama, said he’s been disappointed that gun rights haven’t seen much movement under Trump. The bump-stock ban, in particular, upset him because it was done administratively by Trump officials.

He’s uncertain if the millions spent on Trump’s campaign in 2016 were worth it. But, he said, Trump is “better than the alternatives.”

Exactly how much influence the group will wield in 2020 remains unclear. The NRA, its policy arm and its political committee did not respond to requests for comment this week. But Andrew Arulanandam, the NRA’s managing director of public affairs, has said recent reports of turmoil and financial troubles have been exaggerated and are fueled by anti-gun forces.

Still, the NRA is having financial issues, according to an analysis of tax filings by The Associated Press. The tax-exempt organization’s 2016 and 2017 filings, the most recent years available, show combined losses of nearly $64 million. Income from membership dues plunged about $35 million in 2017. And revenue from contributions, grants and gifts dropped about $35 million.

COMMENTARY: How long can the NRA suppress a younger generation?

At the same time, NRA insiders and longtime observers have described an organization at war with itself – a divide that erupted very publicly recently when the NRA sued its longtime public relations firm, Ackerman McQueen, accusing it of refusing to hand over financial records to account for its billings. That could affect the group’s messaging heading into 2020.

But even if the group cuts back from the record $412 million the NRA’s non-profit wings spent during the 2016 election year (that’s in addition to the $30 million two NRA political action committees invested in electing Trump), the group is expected to be an active spender in the election.



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FOREIGN NEWS

Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

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Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

Contrary to the expectations of the people, the leadership of the Episcopal Conference of Mali (CEM) has termed the Tuesday, August 18 military coup in the West African nation as “regrettable” and “a big failure for our democracy” and called for a change of mentality if the country has to put an end to coups.

In an interview with ACI Africa Wednesday, August 19, made available to RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA, the President of CEM, Bishop Jonas Dembélé said that the governance challenges the country is facing can be managed through dialogue.

“The military coup that led to the ousting of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta is regrettable because we are in a state of law and democracy. This is the second time that Mali has had a military coup as a result of the way in which the country is governed. It is a big failure for our democracy even if there were reasons for it,” Bishop Dembélé told ACI Africa.

“It is true that our country has serious challenges including bad governance, the poor management of the economy, corruption, insecurity and so on,” Bishop Dembélé said and probed, “Why is it that we Malians have not managed to engage in dialogue to be able to discuss these problems and face up to these challenges responsibly?”

“Our leaders, our people lack transparency, they hate those who speak the truth and advocate for good governance. This mentality must change for our country to move on,” the Prelate told ACI Africa August 19.

Bishop Dembélé who is a frontline member of RECOWA-CERAO urged the military officials “to ensure a return to democracy as promised but most especially ensuring the new leadership of the country put the people first and tackle the security challenges facing the nation.”

Asked about the role of the Church in the current crisis, the 57-year-old Prelate noted, “For us the Catholic Church in Mali, our role is to preach peace; our role is to preach dialogue. We shall continue in this path of dialogue for peace just like Cardinal Jean Zerbo and some religious leaders initiated.”

“In a state of law, power is not in the hands of certain individuals but to the people. The anger of our people led to this crisis, but we must work for peace and reconciliation in Mali,” Bishop Dembélé said.

He continued in recollections, “The Bishops in Mali have always issued messages before every election in our country sounding the alert and inviting the government to organize transparent elections, ensure good governance and better management of resources.”
“But it seems our messages are never taken into consideration that is why we find ourselves in this situation today,” the Local Ordinary of Kayes Diocese told ACI Africa and added, “If the opinion of the Episcopal Conference of Mali is needed to mediate in bringing back stability and peace in the country, then we are ready.”

As a way forward, the Bishop urged the people of God in Mali to “seek the path to conversion” and to accept dialogue in the spirit of truth and honesty.
“We all want change in our

country, but this change can only be possible if individually we seek the path to conversion. It is for Malians be they Muslims or Christians or members of traditional religion, to do an examination of conscience and accept personal and community conversion in order to engage in sincere dialogue,” he said.

The Malian Prelate added, “Now there is this coup d’état to demand change we really wonder where change should come from. As long as we don’t change our behavior, our mentality, we will always have a repeat of the current situation.”

On Tuesday, August 18, President Keita announced his resignation and dissolved parliament hours after mutinying soldiers detained him at gunpoint, Aljazeera reported.
“For seven years, I have with great joy and happiness tried to put this country on its feet. If today some people from the armed forces have decided to end it by their intervention, do I have a choice? I should submit to it because I do not want any blood to be shed,” President Keita said August 18 during the televised address to the nation.

Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu
RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA

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Harris accepts VP nomination

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Harris accepts VP nomination

Senator Kamala Harris formally accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president on Wednesday following a scathing speech by former President Barack Obama, who said the fate of the nation” depends entirely on the outcome of this election.”

Both Mr. Obama and Harris stressed the importance of voting, with Harris saying “we’re all in this fight together.” Harris sounded an optimistic note by highlighting her personal history and the promise of America, saying she was “so inspired by a new generation.”

“Make no mistake, the road ahead will not be not easy,” she said. “We will stumble. We may fall short. But I pledge to you that we will act boldly and deal with our challenges honestly. We will speak truths. And we will act with the same faith in you that we ask you to place in us.” She called Mr. Trump a “predator” in a speech that came after Mr. Obama issued his most forceful rebuke of his successor to date, saying Mr. Trump “hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t.”

“This president and those in power — those who benefit from keeping things the way they are — they are counting on your cynicism,” Mr. Obama said. “They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter.

That’s how they win. That’s how they get to keep making decisions that affect your life, and the lives of the people you love. That’s how the economy will keep getting skewed to the wealthy and well-connected, how our health systems will let more people fall through the cracks. That’s how a democracy withers, until it’s no democracy at all.”

Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton, speaking earlier in the night, both said they had hoped Mr. Trump would rise to the occasion. But they both stressed what they called his failures while in office, with Mr. Obama saying Mr. Trump has shown “no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”

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Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

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Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

The Malian soldiers who forced President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to resign in a coup promised early Wednesday to organize new elections after their takeover was swiftly condemned by the international community.

In a statement carried overnight on state broadcaster ORTM, the mutinous soldiers who staged Tuesday’s military coup identified themselves as the National Committee for the Salvation of the People led by Colonel Major Ismael Wagué.

“With you, standing as one, we can restore this country to its former greatness,” Wagué said, announcing that borders were closed and that a curfew was going into effect from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m

The news of Keita’s departure was met with jubilation by anti-government demonstrators in the capital, Bamako, and alarm by former colonial ruler France and other allies and foreign nations.

The U.N. Security Council scheduled a closed meeting Wednesday August 19, 2020 afternoon to discuss the unfolding situation in Mali, where the U.N. has a 15,600-strong peacekeeping mission. Keita, who was democratically elected in a 2013 landslide and re-elected five years later, still had three years left in his term.

But his popularity had plummeted, and demonstrators began taking to the streets calling for his ouster in June.

West African regional bloc ECOWAS had sent mediators to try and negotiate a unity government but those talks fell apart when it became clear that the protesters would not accept less than Keita’s resignation.

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