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Saturday
Sep142019

The DBX SUV could be Aston Martin's 'most important car ever'

Aston Martin(GAYDON, United Kingdom) -- Aston Martin, the famed British company forever linked to fictional spy James Bond, has always been a niche maker of seductive grand tourers and front-engine sports cars. This December, the 106-year-old marque will enter new territory with the DBX, its first-ever SUV.

Years before Aston Martin decided to move forward with an SUV, a small group of employees had already convinced themselves that Aston needed to produce a sport-utility vehicle. Talks of building one stalled with previous management; an SUV would have been an implausible -- and radical -- departure for the bespoke automaker.

But Miles Nurnberger always believed one would happen.

“Did design talk about an SUV? Yes,” Nurnberger, Aston’s director of design and a 12-year employee of the company, told ABC News. “We did little scale models in the corner as much to convince ourselves you can make a beautiful, dynamic SUV.”

Then Andy Palmer, a former executive at Nissan, took over as CEO in October 2014. Vehicles that were off limits were now being discussed in earnest.

“When Andy came on board it was music to the ears of me and Marek," Nurnberger said of Marek Reichman, Aston Martin's chief creative officer. “We’d ask, ‘When can we get on with it?’ Andy was always an incredible advocate for the DBX."

Reporters and Aston Martin owners got an early look at a pre-production DBX in August. Company executives, including Palmer, were on hand to answer questions and take orders at the VIP event. When the DBX hits showrooms in 2020, it will face stiff competition from Bentley’s Bentayga SUV, the first premium ute to enter the market, as well as the 1-year-old Lamborghini Urus, already the Italian automaker’s top-selling vehicle, and the regal Rolls-Royce Cullinan, which has an eight-month wait list.

The DBX was years in the making. But the result is an authentic Aston Martin, Nurnberger said.

“Could we have done this earlier? Maybe,” he said. “I think we have arrived with the right product and that’s the most important thing for me.”

Analysts are waiting to see if the DBX will reverse Aston Martin’s recent struggles. In July the company lowered its full-year sales forecast and slashed earlier investment plans, causing the stock price to plunge and sowing doubts about Aston’s aggressive production targets. Demand for Aston cars has fallen by more than 20 percent in both the U.K. and Europe, two key markets for the company, and shares have lost more than half of their value since the company’s IPO last October.

“The DBX is a very important vehicle for Aston,” Ian Fletcher, a London-based analyst with IHS Markit, told ABC News. “The DBX opens the door to new customers -- not just the single man or woman looking for a weekend sports car.”

Aston could sell 2,000 DBX units in its first year, proof that the vehicle has wide appeal, including in non-traditional sports car markets like China and Russia, according to Fletcher.

“The DBX is not just for the U.S. customer,” he said.

Strong initial sales of the vehicle would also help Aston shift the conversation away from the dismal stock price and financial challenges that have weighed heavily on the company.

“There was a lot of focus on the IPO and making it a success,” Fletcher explained. “The whole IPO has been a nightmare for them. The brand is so strong. It has all the links to James Bond. The IPO is not the full story.”

Palmer addressed underlying concerns about Aston’s 2019 sales with analysts in July, saying he was “disappointed” that the company’s performance “was behind our original plans.”

“The market’s tough,” he said. “While we’re not immune to macroeconomic uncertainties, we have continued to see wholesale growth, retail growth and market share growth.”

McKinsey automotive analyst Simon Middleton agreed that stagnating economies in the U.K. and Europe and concerns over Brexit have negatively impacted Aston Martin’s bottom line. Yet the company could also be doing more to avert these economic threats, he argued.

“It’s important for Aston to move beyond GTs and sports cars,” he told ABC News. “The luxury segment is very volatile.”

The DBX comes at a pivotal time for the company, he said, and it’s not too late for Aston to take market share away from its rivals.

“There are some advantages of not being the first mover in the SUV space,” he pointed out. “There’s nothing sexy about a 3-year-old SUV.”

Palmer has doubled down on Aston’s ambitious Second Century Plan, which he implemented as CEO. The plan calls for more vehicle diversification and seven new models over seven years. Under Palmer's direction, Aston has invested heavily in two mid-engine supercars and shoring up its lineup of traditional sports cars.

The $3.2 million Valkyrie, a hypercar built with a 6.5-liter naturally aspirated V12 engine, was shown at this year’s British Grand Prix. In August, Aston’s second mid-engine supercar, the Valhalla, had its North American debut in Monterey, California. Production of both supercars was capped; 150 Valkyries, described by Palmer as “a Formula 1 car on the road,” will be made, with the first customer delivery scheduled in late 2019. The Valhalla, limited to 500 units and powered by Aston’s new hybrid V6 turbo engine, is oversubscribed, according to Palmer. It’s expected to cost around $1.2 million.

“The Valhalla and Valkyrie have brought in quite a number of customers -- customers that would have traditionally looked to Ferrari and Lamborghini,” Palmer told ABC News in August. “How do I get on the list for a Valhalla? That’s what I have been hearing from customers. The answer is you can’t. The Valhalla sold out within two weeks after it was unveiled in Geneva.”

Palmer’s goal is to keep prospective customers wanting the next Aston Martin, whether that be the Vantage AMR, DBX, Vanquish, or one of the special edition Continuation series cars.

“It’s always good to have people who like these kinds of cars, to allow them to be in early for the next one,” he noted.

Aston's fortunes also depend on sales of its flagship GT, the top-of-the-line DBS Superleggera coupe and Volante convertible.

The achingly beautiful DBS, the third new vehicle under the Second Century Plan, was designed to compete with the Ferrari Portofino and Bentley Continental GT. Matt Becker, Aston's chief engineer, said the DBS, with its twin-turbo 5.2-liter V12 engine and eight speed automatic transmission, was an engineering feat for his team. With a starting price of $304,000, the DBS had to handle "really well" and offer a high level of comfort even with the extreme power under its hood: 715 horsepower, a top speed of 211 mph and a 0-62 mph time of 3.4 seconds (3.6 seconds for the Volante version).

"One of the biggest challenges with a car like this was making it cool," Becker told ABC News in June at a test drive for the DBS Superleggera Volante. "There is a lot of energy under the bonnet."

He added, "This car ticks all the boxes -- sounds great, rides well, steers well -- it feels very stable at high speeds."

Becker encountered all new challenges when he was tasked with the DBX, which Palmer has called “perhaps the company’s most important car ever.”

"The DBX is a completely new car," he said. "It was the company's biggest focus."

Management wants the DBX to do what the Urus and Bentayga have done for Lamborghini and Bentley: attract new customers and generate enthusiasm with young and old drivers alike.

The decision for Aston to wade into the highly-competitive SUV space can pay off if executed correctly, according to Mark Wakefield, managing director at AlixPartners’ automotive practice.

“The product has to live up to customer expectations,” he told ABC News. “The ‘specialness’ and exclusivity of the brand has to be protected.”

With SUVs accounting for 58% of the U.S. luxury vehicle market in 2018, automakers see SUVs as “more stable” vehicles in terms of sales, which can lead to higher volumes, he noted.

But, “it’s getting harder to make an SUV stand out,” Wakefield conceded. “The SUV cannot just cash in on the brand’s name.”

Nurnberger said the DBX will impress customers with its handling and agility. The design team had one important request to engineers: keep the classic grill intact.

“Look at the amount of sculpture -- see the muscles of this car pop,” he said. “This for me is actually a GT car because you can drive it like a Vantage. It’s a high performance SUV, absolutely.”

Nurnberger said he and the other designers are already planning for the future, including the possibility of a plug-in hybrid SUV. But first the DBX needs to make its grand -- and long-awaited -- entrance.

“The DBX is just the next step for Aston Martin,” Nurnberger said. “In the beginning it was a lot of hard work. But it’s a truly new segment. And that’s super exciting.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Sep142019

Sacklers transferred $1 billion as scrutiny from opioid crisis grew: New York AG

iStock/artisteer(NEW YORK) -- The New York attorney general's office, as part of an ongoing case against Purdue Pharma and some members of the Sackler family, said in court filings on Friday it's discovered approximately $1 billion the family may have been trying to hide from parties suing them over the opioid crisis.

The filing reflects documents the New York AG's office said it's obtained as a result of subpoenas issued to a number of financial institutions believed to have information related to the defendants in the case. According to Friday's filings, the documents produced by one unnamed institution reflect about $1 billion in wire transfers "between and among the Defendants and their shell companies during the same time frame that they were draining Purdue of its opioids proceeds."

"While the Sacklers continue to lowball victims and skirt a responsible settlement, we refuse to allow the family to misuse the courts in an effort to shield their financial misconduct," New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement released Friday.

"The limited number of documents provided to us so far underscore the necessity for compliance with every subpoena," James added. "Records from one financial institution alone have shown approximately $1 billion in wire transfers between the Sacklers, entities they control, and different financial institutions, including those that have funneled funds into Swiss bank accounts."

The New York AG's office is continuing to investigate whether the transactions were a deliberate attempt by the family that owns Purdue Pharma to conceal assets from litigants.

Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin, is facing thousands of lawsuits linked to the opioid crisis that's killed tens of thousands of people in the U.S.

The company said earlier this week it had reached a tentative settlement with thousands of local governments and more than 20 states to pay $3 billion up front and then more from the sale of Mundipharma, a sister company of Purdue Pharma also owned by the Sacklers.

Purdue would pay up to $12 billion, and the Sackler family would relinquish control of the company, The Associated Press reported, citing anonymous sources with knowledge of the talks. The agreement would not include an admission of guilt.

Some state attorneys general said that wasn't enough.

"This apparent settlement is a slap in the face to everyone who has had to bury a loved one due to this family's destruction and greed," Shapiro said in a statement. "It allows the Sackler family to walk away billionaires and admit no wrongdoing."

James, in response to the proposed settlement, told ABC News in a statement that the deal "doesn't account for the depth of pain and destruction caused by Purdue and the Sacklers" and that it was "an insult, plain and simple."

She added: "As attorney general, I will continue to seek justice for victims and fight to hold bad actors accountable, no matter how powerful they may be."

A spokesperson for Mortimer D.A. Sackler, formerly a Purdue board member, said in a statement to The New York Times: "This is a cynical attempt by a hostile A.G.'s office to generate defamatory headlines to try to torpedo a mutually beneficial settlement that is supported by so many other states and would result in billions of dollars going to communities and individuals across the country that need help."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Sep132019

Lawmakers demand internal documents from Big Tech in antitrust probe

Matt Anderson/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- A House committee on Friday took a major step in its investigation into whether Big Tech companies are stifling competition.

The bipartisan probe includes letters to four major tech companies sent Friday asking for extensive internal documents, including communications about rivals from Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Apple's Tim Cook and Alphabet's Larry Page.

“The focus of the investigation is to examine competition problems,” the letters, obtained by ABC News, read in part.

Rep. David Cicilline, the Democratic chair of the House Judiciary Committee's antitrust subcommittee, said the lawmakers the requested documents from Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon included financial materials submitted to the Justice Department's Antitrust Division.

“We made it clear when we launched this bipartisan investigation that we plan to get all the facts we need to diagnose the problems in the digital marketplace. Today’s document requests are an important milestone in this investigation as we work to obtain the information that our Members need to make this determination,” Cicilline said in a statement. “We expect stakeholders to use this opportunity to provide information to the Committee to ensure that the Internet is an engine for opportunity for everyone, not just a select few gatekeepers.”

In one example, the lawmakers want Google to turn over documents about its advertising rules and its acquisition of YouTube.

“The Judiciary Committee is investigating the relationship between big tech and market competition,” said Ranking Member Doug Collins, R-Ga. “We are continuing to hold hearings and roundtables, but we need more information. This information is key in helping determine whether anticompetitive behavior is occurring, whether our antitrust enforcement agencies should investigate specific issues and whether or not our antitrust laws need improvement to better promote competition in the digital markets.”

Earlier this month, attorneys general from 48 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico announced they were investigating Google and other tech companies.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Sep132019

Tap through your best pictures with new memories curated by Google Photos

Liderina/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Google Photos has added a new memories feature that's like a personalized social media highlight reel to bring your favorite photos back to the top of your feed and your mind.

The team behind the Google photo library and sharing app announced Thursday that the new feature will use machine learning to curate what appears in Memories.

"You’ll see photos and videos from previous years at the top of your gallery in a new feature we’re calling Memories. While you might recognize this stories format from social media, these memories are your personal media, privately presented to you so you can sit back and enjoy some of your best moments," Shimrit Ben-Yair, the director of Google Photos, said in a post about the announcement.

The layout shows circular thumbnail bubbles at the top of the screen, which will feel familiar to people who use Instagram stories. Users can tap to see a full screen carousel highlight of the memories along with the date and location from those featured photos.

Instead of parsing through a photo stream to find the best quality picture, Google Photos uses AI technology to find "the best ones."

The app also added a new feature to make it easier to find photos. For example, if you were to search for the word "pizza" the app would use computer learning to identify all your photos that have the word or an image of pizza.

Additionally, Google Photos said it understands "that you might not want to revisit all of your memories, so you’ll be able to hide certain people or time periods, and you have the option to turn this feature off entirely."

With memories, users can also share photos directly to friends or family within the app.

Photos can be added to an ongoing, private conversation thread so all the shared photos are in one place that can be easily saved across iOS and Android.

The company also announced a new service to help bring memories off your phone and into your home.

Users can now print individual 4 by 6-inch photos directly from the Google Photos app and get same-day pick up at CVS Pharmacy or Walmart print centers. Prints start at just $0.25 per photo.

Google Photos allows unlimited photo and video storage for free, up to 16MP and 1080p, accessible from any phone, tablet, or computer on photos.google.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Sep132019

Google to change search algorithm to elevate 'original reporting'

JHVEPhoto/iStock(NEW YORK) -- In an over-saturated digital news age, Google announced new changes to its search algorithm that aim to elevate more "original reporting."

Richard Gringras, the vice president of news at Google, announced the changes in a statement Thursday, saying the updates on the back end will help Google "better recognize original reporting, surface it more prominently in Search and ensure it stays there longer."

He touted it as a benefit to both readers interested in finding "the story that started it all" as well as news organizations that can have their original pieces more widely circulated online.

The move comes at time when the fast-moving world of internet news means long-form investigations and other stories can quickly and easily be picked up and re-reported by a myriad of other online outlets.

"This can make it difficult for users to find the story that kicked everything off," Gingras wrote.

He also acknowledged that Google's efforts will "constantly evolve" as there is no "absolute definition of original reporting, nor is there an absolute standard for establishing how original a given article is."

Google's search algorithm is constantly in the spotlight and has courted controversy in the past for how it ranks news searches.

In August 2018, President Donald Trump attacked Google in a series of tweets, accusing the company of prioritizing "fake news" and saying the results are "rigged" against him. The company denied the allegations, saying the search engine algorithm doesn't include any consideration of politics.

Also on Thursday, fellow tech giant Facebook announced expansions to its tools for local news and information.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Sep122019

Democratic candidates split on the best path forward for US trade policy

twinsterphoto/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- Amid roiling trade tensions, the crowded 2020 Democratic candidate field now finds itself divided on a path forward on the tricky terrain of American trade -- a path made all the more difficult by President Donald Trump's protectionist stance and hardline tone on getting "fair deals" for the U.S.

Complicating matters are the threat of tariffs on some Chinese imports. Late Wednesday, Trump announced on Twitter that he's agreed to delay an increased tariff from Oct. 1 to Oct. 15, "as a gesture of good will."

He said the delay came at the request of the vice premier of China and was because of the country's celebration of its 70th anniversary.

Trump has imposed or announced penalties on about $550 billion in Chinese products. The tariffs of 25% -- which were imposed on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods -- were due to increase to 30% on Oct. 1.

 In August, the U.S. also announced a delay with a 10% tariff that was set to be slapped on $300 billion of Chinese imports in September. The "cell phones, laptop computers, video game consoles, certain toys, computer monitors and certain items of footwear and clothing" and other products subject to the delay would still be subject to the tariffs starting Dec. 15, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. The move would likely come as a relief during the holiday shopping season, as economists say the cost of the U.S. tariffs are passed on to American businesses and consumers.

Democrats staking out more trade-friendly views contrast themselves with the Trump administration's hard-line; some have assumed the attack stance that isolationist trade policies hurt farmers rather than achieve fairer deals. It's a tricky tap dance for Democrats seeking to contrast themselves with Trump yet not alienate key Rust Belt or progressive grassroots voting blocs.

Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, like a number of 2020 candidates, has focused on rural crop communities on his several trips to early voting states such as Iowa. They've positioned themselves as fighting for farmers where Trump's tariffs have hurt the agricultural community.

In an op-ed on CNN timed with his town hall, O'Rourke said Trump's tariffs lead America's trading partners to turn elsewhere -- leaving farmers holding the bag.

"People are hurting with this biblical-strength flooding," Geoff Burgan, O'Rourke's Iowa communications director, told ABC News. "Farmers out here have regularly told [O'Rourke] 'We want trade, not aid.' And the future of rural America is something you can't get away from."

O'Rourke's climate proposal -- a sweeping $5 trillion plan -- specifically folds in initiatives focused on Midwestern agricultural communities -- agenda items like expanding federal crop insurance and investing in flood infrastructure.

Others, such as former Vice President Joe Biden, find themselves in a complicated position on trade.

Biden voted for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and permanent normal trade relations with China. He and O'Rourke also supported former President Barack Obama's Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) -- a sweeping multinational trade proposal that included Pacific Rim nations, which a number of unions opposed out of concerns about labor protections and that it would cost the U.S. jobs.

Some rival 2020 campaigns have hammered Biden on this perceived vulnerability.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who opposed NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, attacked Biden's voting record on trade, attempting to draw a sharp contrast between himself and his front-running presidential opponent.

"Joe voted for NAFTA and permanent trade relations, trade agreements with China. I led the effort against that. Joe voted for the deregulation of Wall Street, I voted against that," Sanders told ABC News White House Chief Correspondent Jonathan Karl during an interview on "This Week" in Des Moines, Iowa.

It's not the first time Sanders has spoken out strongly on trade; he has vigorously opposed policies like NAFTA from its inception, calling out his 2016 primary opponent Hillary Clinton for her support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

"I was on the picket line in opposition to NAFTA," Sanders said during the New Hampshire primary debate during the last election. "We heard people tell us how many jobs would be created. I didn't believe that for a second."

For the wide swath of Democrats running in 2020, a catch-22 now emerges: the powerful pull to align with Obama in symbolic legacy and the simultaneous need for would-be progressives to distance themselves from the Obama administration's less popular trade agenda.

"I think that back in the time during the Clinton administration, it made sense at the moment," the former vice president said.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., joins Sanders in being long-time skeptics of free trade.

She vehemently opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, calling it "a rigged process" producing "a rigged outcome" for 40% of the U.S. economy, urging Congress in 2015 to reject the trade plan that would "tilt the playing field even more in favor of big multinational corporations and against working families."

Warren also opposed the United States Mexico Canada Trade agreement (USMCA), Trump's renegotiated trade deal with Mexico and Canada, calling it "NAFTA 2.0" and voting against the plan in 2018. Stumping in Iowa, her speech has fiercely denounced big agro, calling for the breakup of industry mergers, charging "consolidation is choking family farms."

For those on the front lines, weathering the storm of trade wars and climate change alike, farmers at the center of the conflict will scrutinize candidates' positions and past voting records closely for who will prioritize their interests.

As things stand, farmers who spoke with ABC News expressed frustration.

"When we take China off the table for a demand for our products, we suddenly have a huge amount of supply and the price collapses," Matt Russell, a fifth-generation farmer in Iowa, who owns a 110-acre farm of produce, heirloom tomatoes and grass-fed beef told ABC News' Senior Washington Reporter Devin Dwyer. "The biggest thing is the loss of trade. That's the big story."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Sep122019

Tory Burch's latest collection was inspired by Princess Diana’s '80s style

PictureLake/iStock(NEW YORK) -- During New York Fashion Week, the looks showcased from Tory Burch's spring/summer 2020 show were inspired by Princess Diana's iconic style.

Paying homage to the late royal's stylish '80s aesthetic, Burch mentioned on her blog how she has been fascinated with Diana Spencer since she was young.

"Clearly, she was a style icon, but I loved her fearlessness, her intelligence and, most of all, her humanity," Burch said.

"She left a legacy of giving back that embodies what I admire most, one that has been instilled in our Foundation and company since the beginning. This collection brings together English garden florals, a restrained volume and my own take on the eighties," she continued.

The collection included a huge variety of florals, polka dots, stripes and pearl drop earrings that all echo the fashion of Princess Di re-imagined and ready-to-wear.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Sep122019

GameStop to close up to 200 stores by the end of the year after decline in sales

RiverNorthPhotography/iStock(NEW YORK) -- GameStop will shutter between 180 to 200 under-performing stores by the end of the year, executives said after the company reported a larger-than-expected decrease in sales.

The video game retailer made the announcement Tuesday in a conference call with analysts. Earlier that day, the company released its earnings report for the second quarter of the year that "admittedly were below what we would want," according to the company’s chief financial officer, Jim Bell.

Total sales were down 14.3% compared to last year’s numbers, according to the fiscal report.

The closures of the stores will happen globally, but Bell did not say what exact locations. GameStop has more than 5,800 stores across 14 countries, according to the company.

A "much larger tranche" of store closures are expected over the next 12 to 24 months, Bell said.

GameStop’s CEO George Sherman said the closures will be "lucrative to the overall business model."

The executives at the company also acknowledged the expectation among consumers for digital access.

Sherman said GameStop launched a new website platform in August that gives users a new buy online and pick up in-store option.

"Optimizing our store base for an increasingly digital world is essential for the future and increasing the profit productivity," Sherman said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Sep122019

Facebook, Twitter and Google to testify to Senate committee on extremism online

iStock(NEW YORK) -- Leaders from Facebook, Twitter and Google will testify before a Senate committee next week to explore "digital responsibility" when it comes to mass violence and extremism that is spread online.

"In light of recent incidents of mass violence, this hearing will examine the proliferation of extremism online and explore the effectiveness of industry efforts to remove violent content from online platforms," the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation said in a statement.

"Witnesses will discuss how technology companies are working with law enforcement when violent or threatening content is identified and the processes for removal of such content," the committee added.

Facebook's head of global policy management Monika Bickert, Twitter's public policy director Nick Pickles and Google's global director of information policy Derek Slater are scheduled to act as witnesses at the hearing scheduled for Sept. 18.

The tech giants have long courted controversy as lawmakers and the public grapple with their role in the spread of extremism online, especially in the aftermath of some high-profile of violent incidents that were shared on their platforms.

In March, a gunman livestreamed himself during a shooting spree at a Christchurch mosque on Facebook, killing 49 people during the deadliest mass shooting in New Zealand.

In the aftermath, Facebook and Instagram announced they were expanding their bans on white supremacy on their platforms.

The hearing featuring the tech industry representatives facing lawmakers will be livestreamed.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Sep122019

More than 100 business execs demand 'urgent action' for 'America's gun violence crisis'

Kameleon007/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Scores of executives from some of the nation's biggest business demanded "urgent action" from lawmakers on "America's gun violence crisis," writing in a letter that the tragedies are "preventable."

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, Yelp CEO and co-founder Jeremy Stoppelman and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey were among the 145 business leaders who signed the open letter to the Senate that was first reported by The New York Times.

The letter references the recent back-to-back mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, that left more than 30 people dead within just hours. In addition to the harrowing mass shootings, it also references the gun violence that has afflicted communities in Chicago, Gilroy and more, saying, "This is a public health crisis that demands urgent action."

"As leaders of some of America's most respected companies and those with significant business interests in the United States, we are writing to you because we have a responsibility and obligation to stand up for the safety of our employees, customers and all Americans in the communities we serve across the country," the letter said.

It continued: "Doing nothing about America's gun violence crisis is simply unacceptable and it is time to stand with the American public on gun safety."

In terms of action, the correspondence called on the Senate to "pass a bill to require background checks on all gun sales and a strong Red Flag law that would allow courts to issue life-saving extreme risk protection orders."

So-called Red Flag laws, more commonly known as Extreme Risk laws, help prohibit people who have shown a risk of harming themselves or others from having access to a firearm.

This isn't the first time leaders from the private sector have taken a stance on gun violence.

After a string of deadly shootings occurred at Walmart stores between July 30 and Aug. 4, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon announced that the company would discontinue sales of some types of rifle ammunition which can be used with military-style weapons. Walmart will also discontinue handgun ammunition as well as sales of handguns in Alaska.

In the wake of the 2018 Valentine's Day massacre at a high school in Parkland, Florida, the chairman and CEO of Dick's Sporting Goods, who also signed Thursday's open letter, announced that his company was ending sales of assault-style rifles and banning the sale of guns to people under 21. Dick's Sporting Goods also announced it would be destroying inventory of unsold assault-style weapons.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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