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March 27, 2018
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The National Rifle Association on Tuesday acknowledged that it "accepts foreign donations," but said that those donations don't go toward election work, NPR reports. All of the money is raised and spent "within the bounds of the law," the gun rights advocacy organization insisted in a letter sent to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee.

Federal investigators are looking into what role the NRA played, if any, in Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election. NPR reports that Wyden sent a letter to the NRA earlier this month, asking for clarity in whether the NRA has ever received contributions from foreign entities or individuals.

"While we do receive some contributions from foreign individuals and entities, those contributions are made directly to the NRA for lawful purposes," the NRA's general counsel John C. Frazer responded, in a letter obtained by NPR. "Our review of our records has found no foreign donations in connection with a United States election, either directly or through a conduit."

However, NPR notes, the NRA also acknowledged that it moves money between its political work account and other, less regulated accounts. The NRA wrote that transfers are made "as permitted by law," but it is near impossible to track exactly how donations to the organization are spent.

The NRA has been under increased scrutiny since a McClatchy report revealed that the FBI is investigating whether a top Russian banker funneled money to the gun advocacy group to lobby for President Trump. The NRA told Wyden that none of its foreign donations were "connected with Russia." Read more at NPR. Summer Meza

5:07 p.m. ET
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Her heart may go on, but will ours?

Céline Dion announced Monday that she will be ending her Las Vegas residency after eight years. She is set to perform 28 shows at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace before officially ending her run June 8, Rolling Stone reports.

The pop icon revealed her "mixed emotions" about her final stint in Vegas in a Facebook statement. "Las Vegas has become my home and performing at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace has been a big part of my life for the past two decades," said Dion. "It's been an amazing experience, and I'm so grateful to all the fans who have come to see us throughout the years."

Dion has performed 1,089 shows at Caesars Palace. Her first residency, A New Day ... , began in 2003 and was a massive hit, helping to launch what Forbes once called the "residency boom," as performers flocked to Sin City to follow Dion's example and take over the strip for years at a time. The Canadian icon isn't the only diva now exiting the Las Vegas Strip — Britney Spears ended her five-year residency at Planet Hollywood last year, while Jennifer Lopez is gearing up to end hers after over two years.

Dion recently released a new song called "Ashes" for the Deadpool 2 soundtrack. But for drowning your sorrows over this news, your best bet is to cue up "My Heart Will Go On." Read more about Dion's final Vegas shows at Rolling Stone. Amari Pollard

4:47 p.m. ET

There are more people working "gig economy" jobs than ever — but most are making less money than they used to.

A Monday analysis by Recode found that people employed by rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft made 53 percent less in 2017 compared to 2013. The same was true for people working for the food delivery apps Uber Eats and Postmates.

An Uber driver used to make about $1,469 a month, but a few factors — fewer hours, lower demand, lower trip prices, and lower wages — have pushed the average monthly income down to $783, says Recode. An Uber representative attributed the change to the number of workers who drive part-time. A Lyft spokesman told MarketWatch that hourly earnings have remained steady.

Other gig economy jobs, which include many temporary or contractual jobs, haven't been hit quite as hard as the transportation sector. For example, people who rent homes using Airbnb have seen the opposite effect, with incomes rising 69 percent in the last five years from $662 to $1,736 per month.

Overall, online gig economy jobs have become more popular. In 2013, less than 2 percent of the working population participated in the industry, which also includes companies like the car-share app Turo and freelance work platforms like TaskRabbit. Now, nearly 5 percent of the working population works at least one "gig" job. See more data at Recode. Summer Meza

4:33 p.m. ET
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With its ephemeral messages, Snapchat is good for impulse communication. Now, it's getting into impulse shopping.

Snapchat and Amazon announced a partnership Monday that will allow users to point their phones at products, using the Snapchat app, and be redirected to an Amazon link for the same or a similar product, Axios reports. Snapchatters using the feature will be taken to the Amazon app, where they can purchase the item being photographed, per Axios.

The feature is currently available to a small number of users in the U.S., Bloomberg reports, and could help generate revenue for Snapchat. The company hit a record low in its share price at the beginning of the month but saw a 5 percent uptick following Monday's announcement. It's unclear whether Snapchat will receive revenue from Amazon for any purchases made, Bloomberg reports. Marianne Dodson

4:20 p.m. ET
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Apple is the latest multi-billion dollar company to branch into television production. But unlike their streaming competitors, who have basked in the freedom from cable television's restrictions, it seems that Apple will be shying away from more risqué content.

The Wall Street Journal reports that about a year ago, Apple CEO Tim Cook watched Vital Signs, a semi-autobiographical series about rapper Dr. Dre that was expected to be the company's first scripted television series. But after watching the show, Cook decided to cancel it, determining that the contents were too graphic.

"The problem?" Entertainment Weekly explains: "Characters doing cocaine, gun violence, and a rather explicit orgy scene." In addition to scrapping Vital Signs, Apple has been quite diligent about ensuring nothing that could be considered controversial ends up on its platform, the Journal reports — even when there aren't massive orgy scenes involved. The company reportedly told director M. Night Shyamalan that he had to remove the crucifixes from the main characters' house in a show he is developing, as Apple doesn't want any religious or political material, either.

The Journal also reports that when Apple removed the showrunners from a forthcoming series starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, the move was partly motivated because the company "wanted a more upbeat show and took exception to some of the humor proposed." When Apple made the same change to the upcoming Amazing Stories, it was reportedly because the show's material was shaping up to be too dark.

Per one agent who spoke with the Journal, Apple sees its TV service as less like another Netflix and more like an "expensive NBC." Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Brendan Morrow

3:37 p.m. ET
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The Russian government will supply Syria with a long-range missile system within the next two weeks, The Wall Street Journal reports. The announcement comes one week after a Russian aircraft was downed in Syrian airspace, killing 15 Russian servicemen and prompting the Kremlin to place blame on Israel.

Russia previously announced plans to send Syria an S-300 missile system in 2013, but the delivery was postponed at Israel's request, the Journal reports. The defense system can intercept multiple targets within 250 kilometers, per the Journal.

Russian President Vladimir Putin previously labeled last week's aircraft downing as the result of "tragic circumstances," Israeli news outlet Haaretz reports, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said it was Syria who took the plane down. But Russia's Defense Ministry on Sunday rejected claims presented by the Israeli Air Force last week labeling Syria as the responsible party, the Journal reports, instead asserting the fault was Israel's.

Netanyahu and Putin spoke on the phone after Monday's announcement, with the former warning that the missile transfer would "increase the dangers in the region," per the Journal. Marianne Dodson

2:55 p.m. ET

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Monday wrote a letter calling the sexual assault allegations against him "false," "uncorroborated," and "grotesque."

In the letter, written to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the committee's ranking member, Kavanaugh defended himself against new allegations from Deborah Ramirez, who says Kavanaugh exposed himself to her while they were in college. He also reiterated his denial of the wrongdoing alleged by Christine Blasey Ford, who says Kavanaugh forcibly groped her while they were in high school.

"There is now a frenzy to come up with something — anything — that will block this process and a vote on my confirmation from occurring," wrote Kavanaugh, who said these "smears" threaten to "debase our public discourse."

"Such grotesque and obvious character assassination ... will dissuade competent and good people of all political persuasions from service," he predicted, asserting that he would "not be intimidated into withdrawing." Kavanaugh additionally said the allegations were part of a "coordinated effort" to destroy his reputation, which he said is based in his dedication to "the equality and dignity of women."

Kavanaugh and Ford are set to testify Thursday about Ford's allegations before the committee. Read the full letter below, via Bloomberg's Sahil Kapur. Summer Meza

2:11 p.m. ET
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On Sunday, Deborah Ramirez alleged in an interview with The New Yorker that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a party while they were both students at Yale University. But rumors of the incident have swirled for months in Yale circles, New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer said Monday.

Ramirez's allegation came after Christine Ford told The Washington Post that Kavanaugh forcibly groped her in high school. Kavanaugh has denied both allegations.

The timing of the New Yorker's report has invited questions from critics who wondered why the news broke so close to the end of Kavanaugh's confirmation process. But the article's co-author, Jane Mayer, told NPR on Monday that a group of Yale graduates emailed about this alleged incident back in July, after Kavanaugh was nominated by President Trump but before any other sexual misconduct allegations had emerged.

During the course of her reporting, Mayer read these emails, she told NPR. And speaking to the Today show on Monday, she explained, "The story broke overnight [Sunday], but it dates back 35 years." Ramirez didn't come to The New Yorker, Mayer said, but rather "the classmates at Yale were talking to each other about it, they were emailing about it ... and eventually word of it spread. It spread to the Senate. It spread to the media. And we [at The New Yorker] reached out to her."

A participant in that email exchange was one of the individuals mentioned in the New Yorker piece, Mayer said — a classmate who declined to be named but who said that he recalls hearing about the Ramirez incident at the time it happened. He was not actually at the party, but "independently recalled" many of the same details Ramirez provided, per The New Yorker.

Mayer and co-author Ronan Farrow noted that they were not able to confirm the alleged incident with any eyewitnesses. You can watch Mayer's Today appearance here. Brendan Morrow

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