A new report suggests the same hacking group believed to have hacked the Democrats during the recent presidential election also targeted Ukrainian artillery units over a two-year period, that if confirmed would add to suspicions they are Russian state operatives. The report, issued by cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, said a malware implant on Android devices was used to track the movements of Ukrainian artillery units and then target them. The hackers were able to access communications and geolocations of the devices, which meant the artillery could then be fired on and destroyed. The report will further fuel concerns that Russia is deploying hacking and cyber-attacks as a tool of both war and foreign policy. The hack “extends Russian cyber-capabilities to the frontlines of the battlefield”, the report said. Russia gave military and logistical backing to separatists fighting against Ukrainian forces in east Ukraine, in a war that broke out in spring 2014. The application was designed for use with the D-30 122mm towed howitzer, a Soviet-made artillery weapon still in use today. The app reduced firing times from minutes to seconds, according to the Ukrainian officer who designed it. However, it appears that the Android app was infected with a Trojan.
Ever since our nation’s founding, the issue of equal voting rights has been central to our definition of democracy. After we fought the Civil War to end black slavery – the ultimate contradiction of living in a free republic – the country enacted the 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution. Black people were guaranteed equal protection under the laws; black men earned the right to vote. Women too had demanded the suffrage, a battle they finally won with ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. And in a fight waged under the slogan “one person, one vote,” the civil rights movement secured enactment of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Finally, it seemed, America had guaranteed the right of every citizen, black or white, male or female, to have equal access to the polling place – one person, one vote. Alas, it was not true. One reason was the existence of the Electoral College, an institution that by design sought to deny one person, one vote. Almost always, this denial was connected to the issue of race.
While revelations about Russian involvement in the American presidential election rock the United States, there are ominous signs that Russia is spreading propaganda and engaging in cyberattacks in Europe in advance of several national elections next year. In 2017, Germany, France and the Netherlands will hold elections. It is also possible that Italy will move elections scheduled for 2018 forward in the wake of the resignation of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi after voters rejected a referendum on constitutional reforms this month. Candidates who are right-wing populists and friendly toward Russia are gaining ground across Europe, thanks, in part, to Russian interference along the lines of what Moscow was accused of doing in the United States. Russia’s goals in Europe appear to be to elect foreign leaders who are sympathetic to Russian expansionism, to weaken NATO and to fan anti-European Union forces. In France, Marine Le Pen’s National Front party benefited in 2014 from an $11.7 million Kremlin loan to help finance its campaigns. And the winner of the center-right Les Républicains party’s recent primary elections, François Fillon, has called for lifting sanctions on Russia for its annexation of Crimea and its war in Ukraine, and for working with Russia to curb immigration and prevent terrorism.
Editorials: I was the target of a Russian smear campaign. Now I understand the power of fake news. | Anne Applebaum/Chicago Tribune
We were told in June that the Democratic National Committee had been hacked by Russians. We were told in October that material subsequently passed on to WikiLeaks came from the same source and that President Barack Obama was considering a response. Numerous articles were written about these leaks and about Donald Trump’s many Russian connections. And yet no one was really outraged until now. Why? I have a theory: Until you have seen for yourself how 21st-century disinformation works, you laugh at the very idea of it. Once you have understood its power, you stop laughing. If I was slightly ahead of the curve, it’s because — like everyone who ever wrote critically about Russia — I saw early on how it worked. A couple of years ago, I was the focus of a smear campaign, elements of which could have been lifted out of a spy novel. In the wake of the invasion of Crimea, I was writing quite a bit about Ukraine, when nasty little articles about me started appearing on Russia-based websites.The technique was th e same as that used by people who later dressed up the stories from the emails of the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta: Mix truth and lies — my book contract and royalties were described as mysterious income from questionable sources — make ludicrous claims, pass on the lies to other Russian-backed websites, and then pass it on again.
Over a year-and-a-half ago, the nation’s high court said Senate Minority Leader Quinton Ross’ Montgomery district might have to be redrawn. Ross, along with other legislators, is still waiting for a final decision. “There hasn’t been a final decision made, but we’re hopeful they’ll decide on a remedy for the issue,” Ross, a Democrat, said in a recent interview. The case — which could affect other districts and shake up the 2018 elections for the Alabama Legislature — remains in the hands of a three-judge panel. “We didn’t expect it to take this long,” said James Blacksher, an attorney for the plaintiffs, in a recent interview. “We don’t know why it has taken so long. Hopefully, we’ll have a decision soon.” The Republican-controlled Legislature passed new legislative district maps in 2012 after a contentious special session, using a strict standard not allowing House and Senate districts to go above or below 1 percent of their ideal population. Many GOP-controlled legislatures in the South used a similarly strict standard, which tended to separate black and white voters.
More Californians voted last month than in any election in state history, the secretary of state’s office reported late last week. About 14.6 million Californians — roughly the population of the six states in New England and more than the population of all but four U.S. states as of 2015 — cast ballots in the Nov. 8 presidential election, according to results certified by Secretary of State Alex Padilla.The previous record of 1 3.7 million voters was set in November 2008. Statewide voter turnout last month was 75.27 percent, the highest since the 2008 presidential election. Presidential election turnout is traditionally higher than other statewide elections. Just 42 percent of voters cast ballots in the November 2014 general election, and turnout was a mere 25 percent in the June 2014 primary. Almost 20 million Californians were registered to vote prior to Election Day 2016, an all-time high. The previous record of 18.2 million was set in 2012.
California: U.S. Department of Justice frees Napa County of bilingual voting oversight | Napa Valley Register
Napa County is free of U.S. Department of Justice oversight on how it reaches out to Spanish-only speakers during elections, though that doesn’t necessarily mean the county will stop its bilingual ballot efforts. County Registrar of Voters John Tuteur attributes the county’s 82 percent Nov. 8 election turnout in part to its Spanish-language outreach. One of his primary responsibilities is to make certain every registered voter can cast a vote in an informed manner, he said. “We’re sticking with that goal,” Tuteur told the county Board of Supervisors at its Tuesday meeting. Still, with this and other recent elections developments, Tuteur wants to hear from supervisors and the community. He’s tentatively scheduled a Board of Supervisors election workshop for Feb. 28.
A state lawmaker wants Colorado to join the movement to replace the current Electoral College System with one that awards the presidency to the winner of the national popular vote. Democratic Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, says legislation is in the works that would allow Colorado to join an interstate popular-vote compact. Kerr says he’s motivated by the recent presidential election results. Republican Donald Trump won with 304 Electoral College votes, even though his rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton, garnered around 3 million more votes. “My constituents have very loudly let me know that this is something they would like to have happen,” Kerr said. “Quite literally about half of the emails I’ve seen in the past month or so have been about the national popular vote.” Kerr sponsored similar legislation in 2009 when he was a member of the state House of Representatives. That bill passed the House, but died in the Senate.
Guam Del. Madeleine Bordallo and other U.S. territory representatives need to push Congress to give them — and all those Americans they represent — a real voice in our nation, not some meaningless, token measure. Bordallo and representatives from the other U.S. territories are asking the U.S. House of Representative to again give them a symbolic vote during the Committee of the Whole, as they had in the 110th Congress and 111th Congress. Delegates from the territories can vote in the committees on which they serve, but not in the Committee of the Whole — in which all representatives serve to consider measures involving money issues — or on the floor during session.
Wisconsin: Plaintiffs in Wisconsin redistricting lawsuit lay out plan for new maps | The Capital Times
Plaintiffs in Wisconsin’s legislative redistricting lawsuit are asking a federal court to throw out the state’s Assembly map and implement a timeline for creating a new one ahead of the 2018 and 2020 legislative elections. The plaintiffs and Attorney General Brad Schimel, representing the state, filed new briefs in federal court Wednesday following a decision by a panel of judges last month ruling Wisconsin’s map an unconstitutional gerrymander. Judges asked both parties to submit more briefs with proposals for what to do about the map. Schimel is asking the court to keep the map in place for now and wait until the U.S. Supreme Court makes a ruling on the issue. If it decides the map needs to be replaced, it should direct the Legislature redraw it to comply with its ruling, according to his brief. “The Legislature, the Court, and the parties should not expend resources drawing and debating a plan that is merely a placeholder until the Supreme Court rules on the issue,” Schimel wrote. In their brief, the plaintiffs argue that the judges’ November ruling means that the process for creating new maps should begin immediately and the current map should be eliminated.
National Front leader Marine Le Pen is struggling to raise the 20 million euros ($21 million) she needs to fund French presidential and legislative campaigns in 2017 after the party’s Russian lender failed, the party treasurer said. The Central Bank of Russia revoked the license of the National Front’s Moscow-based lender First Czech Russian Bank OOO in July and the party has still to find another backer, according to treasurer Wallerand de Saint Just. Saint Just said he’s seeking international financiers in countries including Russia because French banks have refused to fund his party. “The loss of the FCRB was a hard blow for us,” Saint Just said in a telephone interview. “The Russia loan was a stable resource. Now we are still searching for loans.” Le Pen’s ties with Russia have come under scrutiny in recent weeks amid reports that the CIA concluded that President Vladimir Putin directed hackers to buoy the candidacy of Donald Trump in the U.S. Le Pen is running second in the race to become France’s next president and is openly supportive of Putin’s military operations in Syria and his annexation of Crimea.
Five days after Donald Trump became the next president of the United States, the south Munich chapter of Germany’s far-right party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), held its first meeting since the U.S. election. In a traditional Bavarian tavern on a quiet residential street, 50-some party members and supporters drank beer and celebrated the victory that they felt was, in many ways, their own. The theme of the meeting was supposed to be the local elections in May, when the AfD is expected to pick up seats in several of Germany’s state parliaments. (The party currently holds seats in 10 of Germany’s 16 state parliaments, up from five one year ago.) But instead of local elections, talk that night centered almost exclusively on Donald Trump. Dirk Driesang, a member of AfD’s federal board, stood to address the packed restaurant, where party placards reading “AfD Loves Deutschland” adorned every table. He began with Trump’s roots in Germany. The president-elect’s grandfather Friedrich was born and raised in Kallstadt, a village in the southwest. Friedrich eventually was deported, Driesang smiled as he told the crowd, for evading his mandatory military service. But that was fine because his grandson had gone on to do in the U.S. what the AfD hopes to do in Germany. “America First is coming to Deutschland,” boomed Driesang, his adaptation of Trump’s campaign slogan giving way to resounding applause.
Kenyan legislators came to blows Thursday as opposition members tried to block an emergency session that passed a bill to allow manual counting of election results, calling it a back door to manipulating next year’s presidential vote. Opposition leader Raila Odinga called for mass protests from Jan. 4, saying, “No transparency, no elections.” Parliament’s deputy minority leader, Jakoyo Midiwo, said they are challenging the bill’s legality. “They are trying to force a law to rig the elections,” Midiwo said. The bill needs Senate passage and approval by President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is running for re-election.
The Baltic state of Lithuania, on the frontline of growing tensions between the West and Russia, says the Kremlin is responsible for cyber attacks that have hit government computers over the last two years. The head of cyber security told Reuters three cases of Russian spyware on its government computers had been discovered since 2015, and there had been 20 attempts to infect them this year. “The spyware we found was operating for at least half a year before it was detected – similar to how it was in the USA,” Rimtautas Cerniauskas, head of the Lithuanian Cyber Security Centre said. When presented with the allegations, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Reuters they were “laughable” and unsubstantiated. “Did it (the spyware) have ‘Made in Russia’ written on it?” quipped Peskov. “We absolutely refute this nonsense.” He said Russia itself was targeted in cyber attacks “round the clock,” but said it would be stupid to accuse foreign governments.