So many headlines to choose from today, so little time, CivMixers. Remember, this is a super curated smattering of news that occurred since the last time we touched base, ‘lo those many hours ago, not a definitive roundup of all that took place and might be worthy of attention.
In the interest of time – mine and yours – let’s jump right in.
1) Filings for jobless benefits fell last week to their lowest level since the pandemic started in March – a sign layoffs have eased a degree as economic recovery continues.
Initial unemployment claims dropped by a seasonally adjusted 249,000 to 1.2 million for the week ended Aug. 1, according to the U.S. Labor Department said. Still, it was the 20th straight week applications were above the pre-pandemic record of 695,000 in 1982.
The number of people receiving benefits through regular state programs, which cover the majority of workers, also decreased, by 844,000 to 16.1 million for the week ended July 25. Those continuing claims fell to lowest level since April, but remember, there’s about a week-long lag time between reporting periods.
The number of unemployed individuals is particularly noteworthy as there is still no stimulus deal in D.C., and one of the sticking points is the extra $600 a week in pandemic-related unemployment benefits that was included in the last big recovery package passed by Congress but expired just a few days ago.
2) The relationship between the NRA and the Democrat-led state government in New York has been rocky for years now, dating back (at least in recent times) to the passage of the SAFE Act in the wake of the Newtown massacre.
The SAFE Act continues to be controversial, particularly in rural upstate areas where you can still find lawn signs and bumper stickers decrying the gun control law that Gov. Andrew Cuomo still considers one of his significant policy accomplishments.
Today, that relationship grew still more strained – arguably broken past any point of return- as state Attorney General Tish James announced New York is seeking to dissolve the NRA altogether in a lawsuit that accuses the leadership of the flagging nonprofit, including Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, of diverting millions of dollars for their own personal use.
Specifically, James said the alleged misconduct contributed to a loss at the NRA of more than $64 million over a three-year period. According to the AG, organization officials awarded contracts to friends and family members, and provided contracts to former employees to ensure loyalty.
This is the most aggressive possible action James could take, legally speaking, against the nonprofit, over which she has jurisdiction because it is registered in New York.
The Washington, D.C. AG’s office also sued the NRA based on similar allegations.
“Charitable organizations function as public trusts — and District law requires them to use their funds to benefit the public, not to support political campaigns, lobbying, or private interests,” D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine said.
NRA President Carolyn Meadows called the lawsuit “a baseless, premeditated attack,” claiming it targeted not just the NRA, but the constitutional rights it defends. She pledged that the organization “will not shrink from this fight – we will confront it and prevail.”
3) I hesitate to say that there are silver linings in this pandemic because it has just been so darn awful, HOWEVER, for the first time in six years, Americans have less debt as they spent less money during the lockdown required to try to flatten the virus curve, new data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows.
American credit card balances fell by $76 billion – their steepest decline on record since the Fed began tracking this data in 1999 – between April and June.
It’s highly unusual for credit card debt to fall in the spring, according to Fed analysts. The only other time that happened was during the Great Recession.
This isn’t all good news, of course, because consumer spending is what keeps the economy humming along. And if people continue to be reluctant (or unable) to spend, the recovery is going to take that much longer.
Interestingly, mortgage balances went up as people sought to take advantage of the lower rates and refinanced. But total household debt fell by 0.2 percent to $34 billion in the second quarter – the first decline in Americans’ debt burden since the second quarter of 2014, and the largest drop since the second quarter of 2013.
4) If you happened to be in the vicinity of Saranac Lake this morning and thought you heard a massive explosion that rattled homes and businesses, your mind was not playing tricks on you. According to the State Police, the phenomenon, which occurred shortly after 10 a.m., was the result of a sonic boom.
A sonic boom, for those not in the know (like yours truly), is, according to Wikipedia, “the sound associated with the shock waves created whenever an object travels through the air faster than the speed of sound. Sonic booms generate enormous amounts of sound energy, sounding similar to an explosion or a thunderclap to the human ear. The crack of a supersonic bullet passing overhead or the crack of a bullwhip are examples of a sonic boom in miniature.”
Officials are still trying to determine the cause of this morning’s boom. As of early this afternoon, no region air base was claiming responsibility.
For the record, this is not the first time a sonic boom was reported in the same area.
5) For horse racing fans, the Center for Disability Services is holding its annual Siro’s Cup – an event that’s normally considered to be the crown jewel of the Saratoga social scene – this evening, but it is, due to the pandemic, going to be virtual.
The Siro’s Cup raises hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide an array of programs for those with intellectual and physical disabilities.
The 27th annual Siro’s Cup is honoring the Belmont Stakes Winner and New York bred Tiz the Law; his owner Jack Knowlton, managing partner of Sackatoga Stable; Barclay Tagg, Tiz the Law’s trainer and jockey Manny Franco.
The broadcast starts at 5:30 p.m. and can be viewed at https://www.cfdsny.org/. It will also be broadcast live on WTEN NEWS10 ABC starting at 5:35 p.m.
Photo credit: George Fazio.