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Federal Foreign Office on the situation in Ethiopia

Federal Foreign Office on the situation in Ethiopia

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The latest reports out of Ethiopia are worrying: in Tigray, we are witnessing a further deterioration of the humanitarian situation; there have been clashes again, and there is the danger of a renewed increase in severe violence between different population groups. These developments must be stopped while that is still possible.

We call on everyone involved to agree and adhere to an immediate ceasefire. It is completely clear that all foreign troops must immediately and fully withdraw from the region, and that we need a transparent investigation into the human rights violations. Any redrawing of borders through armed force or by other unconstitutional means is unacceptable.

Safe, unhindered and permanent humanitarian access to Tigray must now be the top priority. Those who have fled because of the conflict must be able to return safely to their homes.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Germany – Federal Foreign Office.

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This post originally posted here The European Times News

Andrew Brown Jr. family files $30M federal lawsuit in North Carolina

The family of Andrew Brown Jr. – a Black man shot and killed by sheriff’s deputies coming to serve search and arrest warrants at his home in Elizabeth City, N.C. – filed a $ 30 million federal lawsuit on Wednesday. 

The lawsuit filed at the federal courthouse in the Eastern District of North Carolina comes months after 42-year-old Brown was shot and killed by Pasquotank County Sheriff’s deputies serving drug-related warrants at his home in Elizabeth City on April 21. 

Amid ongoing demonstrations at the time, Andrew Womble, the elected district attorney for North Carolina’s Judicial District 1, cleared the deputies of any wrongdoing in May, announcing that the shooting “while tragic, was justified” because Brown allegedly used his vehicle as a deadly weapon. 

Standing outside the courthouse Wednesday, civil rights attorney Bakari Sellers said the federal lawsuit was filed because the family didn’t believe they could get justice in the sheriff’s office or in state court. 


“We had to come where we believe Lady Justice is blind and will have all things be equal,” he said. “We stand in front of this federal courthouse because we believe this is where Andrew Brown will finally get justice because he did not get justice in life and so far hasn’t even gotten justice in death.” 

Harry Daniels, another lawyer representing the Brown family, listed Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten II and several deputies as defendants in the lawsuit. He also stressed that he would get all body camera footage of the shooting released despite past limits set by a state Superior Court judge. 

“Justice delayed will not be justice denied,” Daniels said. “Now that we have filed a federal lawsuit, let me be very clear in saying that I and this team have compulsory authority, federal subpoena authority, to get all the videos, all the tapes, all the recordings, all the records. And no district attorney, no county administrator and no state court can stop us from doing that because federal law trumps state law.”  

Andrew Brown Jr.

Andrew Brown Jr.
(Brown Family)

The filing is the latest in a string of federal civil rights lawsuits in the wake of high-profile police shootings of Black people. The family of George Floyd, who was killed in Minneapolis police custody last year, agreed to a $ 27 million settlement in March. In September, the city of Louisville, Kentucky, agreed to pay Breonna Taylor’s family $ 12 million and reform police practices.

Womble has said that Brown’s past involvement with law enforcement included multiple resisting arrest charges and convictions dating back to 1995. Investigators had used an informant to conduct controlled purchases of methamphetamine and cocaine from Brown on two separate occasions in March before obtaining the search and arrest warrants that ultimately resulted in his death. 


Residents have routinely gathered in protest. One of the deputies who fired his gun at Brown’s car has resigned. The FBI also launched a civil rights investigation into the death.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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This post originally posted here usnews

Delta variant said to be far more widespread than federal estimates

Delta variant said to be far more widespread than federal estimates

The more-transmissible Delta coronavirus variant is believed to be significantly more widespread than the current federal projections, according to two senior Biden administration health officials with knowledge of the situation.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data released late Tuesday shows the Delta strain accounted for more than 51 percent of new Covid-19 cases from June 20 to July 3. But the reality on the ground is likely much higher because states and private labs are taking weeks to report testing results to the CDC, the officials said.

“It is everywhere now,” one of the officials said, adding that recent data shows the Pfizer Covid vaccine works well against the Delta variant. “The risk really is in the unvaccinated community. We’re starting to see more and more people get sick and need medical attention.”

Covid-19 hospitalizations are up more than 40 percent over the last two weeks in Arkansas, Iowa and Nevada. And emerging evidence from a repository of genetic sequences compiled by Scripps Research’s Outbreak.info suggests that the Delta strain accounted for as much as two-thirds of new Covid cases nationwide over the past two weeks. The site notes the data “may not represent the true prevalence of the mutations in the population.”

The CDC’s data on where the variant is spreading and at what rate relies on reports from state and private labs that sequence samples that test positive for Covid-19. But the process often relies on testing batches of samples that can take weeks to complete. That delays the speed with which Delta infections are reported, according to the Biden health officials and multiple state public health officials.

The lack of real-time data has left local health officials unprepared as hospitalizations have surged in parts of the Midwest and Southwest. It also raises questions about how the officials can control the spread as the pace of vaccination slows.

“I am a little surprised how quickly Delta has become widespread,” said Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health. “We’re one week into July and it is everywhere. It suggests that it is far, far more contagious than the Alpha variant. It makes me nervous … how contagious it is and how quickly it has spread.”

Mike Cima, an epidemiology officer with Arkansas’ public health department, said it can take from five days to up to two weeks to get CDC data back, adding that his state works with the agency and the University of Minnesota to sequence Covid-19 samples.

The CDC has offered to help several states battling the Delta variant speed up the sequencing process, multiple state public health officials told POLITICO. The Biden administration also is sending top health officials like Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical officer, to communities to help convince unvaccinated people to get the shot. But Biden health officials acknowledge that most of the salesmanship will fall to local officials and trusted community leaders.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters Thursday her agency’s 51 percent estimate of the Delta variant’s prevalence is the government’s “best estimate at this point,” adding that “it has some uncertainty around it.”

“Although we expected the Delta variant to become the dominant strain in the United States, this rapid rise is troubling,” Walensky said. “We know that the Delta variant has increased transmissibility and it is currently surging in pockets of the country with low vaccination rates.”

The situation on the ground worries local officials. Arkansas’ Cima said among the individuals the state has identified as having contracted the Delta variant, 11 percent are hospitalized. Four percent are admitted to the ICU.

“Delta … is the dominant variant in the state. And it is fair to say there will likely be some increase in death,” Cima said. “It is far more infectious than the original strain that hit back in 2020. It is far more infectious than the Alpha variant. It is really important people understand this is a different situation we’re in. If you are unvaccinated … there is a very good chance you are going to become sick [with Delta].”

In Missouri, more than 80 percent of ICU beds are already filled, the highest percentage the state has recorded since the winter. That includes more than 300 Covid-19 patients, the highest total since early February.

On Tuesday, Steve Edwards, CEO of CoxHealth in southwest Missouri, tweeted that he desperately needed more respiratory therapists to deal with the surge in cases. As of Wednesday afternoon, more than three dozen had replied and offered help, but a hospital spokesperson said they could still use more.

Nearby, at Mercy Hospital in Springfield, staff on Sunday called on affiliate hospitals to send ventilators. A spokesperson for Mercy said the Springfield location has more than 120 Covid-19 patients, the most it’s had at any point during the pandemic. Of those, only two were vaccinated.

State officials asked the Biden administration for help, and the first CDC employee arrived on Tuesday to support efforts to track the variant in southwest Missouri. Lisa Cox, a spokesperson for the state health department, said more CDC personnel are expected in the coming weeks to assist with data collection, research and vaccine outreach.

Nevada Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak has reached out to FEMA for additional resources, hoping to tamp down the outbreak spreading across Las Vegas and Clark County. The state is reporting that more than 500 people hospitalized with Covid-19 for the first time since mid-February — almost all in Clark County.

Sisolak wants help with the state’s vaccination campaign but the governor’s office has not yet released details on exactly how surge teams would be used.

Colorado Democratic Gov. Jared Polis asked the CDC to help investigate the proliferation of the Delta variant in the western part of his state.

Author: Erin Banco, Dan Goldberg and David Lim
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Conferences urge stopgap for NCAA on NIL until federal law

Conferences urge stopgap for NCAA on NIL until federal law

Six state laws allowing college athletes to earn endorsement money will take effect on July 1.

Six Division I conferences, including the SEC, ACC and Pac-12, are urging the NCAA to implement a stopgap measure that would allow college athletes to earn money off their fame before a federal law is passed.

In a letter sent to the head of the Division I Council, the conference commissioners recommended the council refrain from adopting the proposed reforms to the NCAA”s name, image and likeness compensation rules. The council is scheduled to meet Tuesday and Wednesday.

The letter was first reported on by ESPN.

NCAA President Mark Emmert also sent a memo to the association’s member schools Friday, pushing for an NIL solution before the end of the month when six state laws go into effect. In that memo obtained by AP, Emmert said if membership did not act on an NIL proposal, he was prepared to take executive action.

The NCAA has asked Congress for a federal NIL law that would preempt state laws and help provide a uniform standard for its more than 1,100 member schools. But lawmakers in Washington are not close to passing a bill.

The six conferences said the NCAA’s proposal would be vulnerable to legal challenges and would be invalid in states with their own NIL laws. The commissioners for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, Sun Belt Conference and Southwestern Athletic Conference also signed the letter to Penn athletic director Grace Calhoun, who is the chairwoman of the Division I Council.

They also sent a proposed alternative to the NCAA’s current NIL proposal that would go into effect July 1 if adopted. That proposal was obtained by the AP.

The proposal would allow athletes in states with NIL laws to follow those laws when they go into effect. Schools in states without NIL laws would adopt their own policies that would permit athletes to be paid by third parties — but not by boosters of a school —- for things like endorsement deals, personal appearances and sponsored social media posts.

Those policies would be used until a federal law is passed.

This post originally appeared on CBS8 – Sports

House Passes Bill to Make Juneteenth a Federal Holiday

House Passes Bill to Make Juneteenth a Federal Holiday

Proponents in both parties said the move was long overdue.

“For far too long, the story of our country’s history has been incomplete, as we have failed to acknowledge, address and come to grips with our nation’s original sin of slavery,” said Senator Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts and a lead sponsor of the bill.

Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, who pushed for passage, said he had talked to Mr. Johnson “many times about his concerns.”

“I think he saw that this was inevitable,” Mr. Cornyn said.

Many states have recognized Juneteenth for decades, but only some observe it as an official holiday. The day is already celebrated in 47 states and the District of Columbia.

After the protests for racial justice last year, dozens of companies moved to give employees the day off for Juneteenth, and the push for federal recognition as a paid holiday gained new momentum.

Texas was the first state to observe Juneteenth as an official holiday, starting in 1980.

The push to recognition comes as Republicans around the country, including some in Congress, are pushing to bar schools from using curriculum that explores the legacy of slavery and teaches about the effects of racism on myriad aspects of society.

“We do know there’s a movement to erase history with attacks on critical race theory and teaching children about the presence of systemic racism in our country’s history,” Mr. Markey said.

Making Juneteenth a federal holiday “acknowledges slavery as the original sin built into the United States Constitution,” he added. “We celebrate its eradication, but we can’t celebrate how deeply racism resulted in America’s policies and is still built into education, health care, housing and every other policy.”

Author: Luke Broadwater
This post originally appeared on NYT > U.S. News

California Assault Weapons Ban Overturned by Federal Judge

California Assault Weapons Ban Overturned by Federal Judge

A federal judge in California on Friday overturned the state’s three-decade-old ban on assault weapons, which he called a “failed experiment,” prompting a sharp retort from the state’s governor.

California prohibited the sale of assault weapons in 1989. The law was challenged in a suit filed in 2019 against the state’s attorney general by plaintiffs including James Miller, a California resident, and the San Diego County Gun Owners, a political action committee.

The judge, Roger T. Benitez of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, wrote that sections of the state’s penal code that defined assault weapons and restricted their use were “hereby declared unconstitutional and shall be enjoined.”

But the judge said he had granted a 30-day stay of the ruling at the request of Attorney General Rob Bonta, a move that would allow Mr. Bonta to appeal it.

Judge Benitez wrote that the case was about “what should be a muscular constitutional right and whether a state can force a gun policy choice that impinges on that right with a 30-year-old failed experiment.”

“It should be an easy question and answer,” Judge Benitez, who was nominated by former President George W. Bush, continued. “Government is not free to impose its own new policy choices on American citizens where constitutional rights are concerned.”

The judge wrote that the firearms banned under the state’s law were not “bazookas, howitzers or machine guns,” but rather “fairly ordinary, popular, modern rifles.”

In a statement late Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom called the ruling “a direct threat to public safety and the lives of innocent Californians.”

Mr. Newsom also criticized the opening lines of Judge Benitez’s decision, in which he wrote that, like a Swiss Army knife, the AR-15 assault rifle “is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment.”

The AR-15 re-entered the American gun market in 2004 after the end of a federal assault weapons ban. It has a national following among gun owners, but it has also been used in mass shootings and vilified by its critics as a weapon of mass murder.

Mr. Newsom wrote that comparing the gun to a Swiss Army knife “completely undermines the credibility of this decision and is a slap in the face to the families who’ve lost loved ones to this weapon.”

In a separate statement, Mr. Bonta called Judge Benitez’s decision “fundamentally flawed” and vowed to appeal it.

“There is no sound basis in law, fact or common sense for equating assault rifles with Swiss Army knives — especially on Gun Violence Awareness Day and after the recent shootings in our own California communities,” he said.

Gun rights activists celebrated.

Brandon Combs, the president of the Firearms Policy Coalition, a group in Sacramento that helped bring the lawsuit to court, said in a statement that the ruling “held what millions of Americans already know to be true: Bans on so-called ‘assault weapons’ are unconstitutional and cannot stand.”

Alan M. Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, another group that was involved in the lawsuit, said in a statement that the judge’s ruling had “shredded California gun control laws regarding modern semiautomatic rifles.”

“It is clear the judge did his homework on this ruling, and we are delighted with the outcome,” added Mr. Gottlieb, whose group is based in Washington State.

Judge Benitez was appointed as a district court judge in 2003 and confirmed by the Senate the following year.

In 2017, he blocked a new California law that would have banned magazines of more than 10 rounds. A three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld his ruling last year in a split decision, but the appeals court said in February that an 11-judge panel would rehear the case.

Some critics of the judge’s latest ruling, including Anthony Rendon, the speaker of the California Assembly, noted an irony: It was handed down on National Gun Violence Awareness Day, an annual project organized by groups that advocate for tougher gun laws.

The ruling is “alarming and wrong,” said Ari Freilich, the state policy director at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a group led by Gabrielle Giffords, the former representative from Arizona who was shot a decade ago. “It’s also an insult to families across the nation, on today of all days, who have seen in the most painful way possible how dangerous and deadly assault weapons are.”

Michael Levenson, Thomas Fuller and Shawn Hubler contributed reporting.

Author: Mike Ives
This post originally appeared on NYT > U.S. News

Wild Horses Adopted Under a Federal Program Are Going to Slaughter

Wild Horses Adopted Under a Federal Program Are Going to Slaughter

In a lifetime of working with horses, Gary Kidd, 73, had never adopted an untrained wild mustang before. But when the federal government started paying people $ 1,000 a horse to adopt them, he signed up for as many as he could get. So did his wife, two grown daughters and a son-in-law.

Mr. Kidd, who owns a small farm near Hope, Ark., said in a recent telephone interview that he was using the mustangs, which are protected under federal law, to breed colts and that they were happily eating green grass in his pasture.

In fact, by the time he spoke on the phone, the animals were long gone. Records show that Mr. Kidd had sold them almost as soon as he legally could. He and his family received at least $ 20,000, and the mustangs ended up at a dusty Texas livestock auction frequented by slaughterhouse brokers known as kill buyers.

When asked about the sale, Mr. Kidd abruptly hung up.

The Bureau of Land Management, which is in charge of caring for the nation’s wild horses, created the $ 1,000-a-head Adoption Incentive Program in 2019 because it wanted to move a huge surplus of mustangs and burros out of government corrals and find them “good homes.” Thousands of first-time adopters signed up, and the bureau hailed the program as a success.

But records show that instead of going to good homes, truckloads of horses were dumped at slaughter auctions as soon as their adopters got the federal money. A program intended to protect wild horses was instead subsidizing their path to destruction.

“This is the government laundering horses,” said Brieanah Schwartz, a lawyer for the advocacy group American Wild Horse Campaign, which has tracked the program. “They call it adoptions, knowing the horses are going to slaughter. But this way the B.L.M. won’t get its fingerprints on it.”

The bureau denies the allegations, noting that the government requires all adopters to sign affidavits promising not to resell the horses to slaughterhouses or their middlemen. But a spokesman said the bureau had no authority to enforce those agreements or to track the horses once adopters have title to them.

People who dump mustangs at auctions, the spokesman said, are free to adopt and get paid again.

It has been 50 years since Congress unanimously passed a law meant to protect wild horses and burros from wholesale roundup and slaughter and to ensure that they have a permanent, sustainable place on public land in the West. But decades of missteps, systemic problems and spiraling costs have put both the horses and the western landscape at risk.

Wild horses once roamed North America in the millions, but as the open range disappeared in the early 20th century, they were nearly all hunted down and turned into fertilizer and dog food. When they were finally protected in 1971, there were fewer than 20,000 left.

Once protected, though, the remnant herds started growing again — far faster than the government was prepared for. The bureau estimates that, left alone, wild horse herds increase by about 20 percent a year.

The bureau has tried for decades to stabilize numbers by using helicopters to round up thousands of mustangs annually. But the bureau has never been able to find enough people willing to adopt the untamed broncos it removes. So surplus mustangs — about 3,500 a year — have gone instead into a network of government storage pastures and corrals known as the holding system,

There are now more than 51,000 animals in holding, eating up so much of the program’s budget — about $ 60 million a year — that the bureau has little left to manage mustangs in the wild.

“It’s completely unsustainable,” said Terry Messmer, a professor of wildlife resources at Utah State University who has studied the program history. “I don’t think anyone who passed this law would be happy with how things turned out 50 years later.”

The bureau declined to comment on the record for this article.

Bureau leaders have repeatedly proposed culling the storage herds, but they have always been blocked by lawmakers mindful that a vast majority of voters do not want symbols of their heritage turned into cuts of meat.

Enter the Adoption Incentive Program, which is built on the idea that paying adopters $ 1,000 a head is far cheaper than the $ 24,000 average lifetime cost of keeping a horse in government hands.

The program nearly doubled the number of horses leaving the holding system, and the bureau called it “a win for all involved” that was helping “animals find homes with families who will care for and enjoy them for years to come.”

The bureau’s once-sleepy adoption events were transformed. “It became a feeding frenzy — I have never seen anything like it,” said Carol Walker, a photographer who documents the wild herds of Wyoming.

In February, she arrived at an event in Rock Springs, Wyo., and found a line of trailers a half-mile long. When the gates opened, people rushed to sign up for adoptions without even inspecting the mustangs.

“Those people weren’t there because they cared about the horses,” Ms. Walker said. “They were there because they cared about the money.”

To be sure, tens of thousands of wild horses have been adopted over the years by people who kept and cared for them as the law intended. Some became ranch horses, some work with the Border Patrol, and one became a world champion in dressage.

But the adoption program has hardly been selective. One man in Oklahoma was paid to take horses even though he had previously gone to prison for kidnapping and beating two men during a horse-slaughter deal gone bad.

The program has rules meant to discourage quick-buck seekers. Adopters are limited to four animals a year and do not get full payment or title papers for 12 months.

Even so, records show several instances where families like the Kidds banded together to get more than four horses. And numerous mustangs bearing the distinctive government brand began showing up at slaughter auctions after the one-year wait was up.

“We used to see one or two mustangs occasionally, usually old ones that someone had owned for years, but suddenly the floodgates opened,” said Clare Staples, who founded a wild horse sanctuary in Oregon called Skydog Ranch.

Ms. Staples said she had helped find homes for more than 20 adopted mustangs that were dumped at auctions, apparently after having been given little care. Many were emaciated, with unkempt manes and untrimmed hooves, she said, and they often had parasites.

The bureau has refused to provide lists of adopters. But an informal network of wild-horse advocates has pieced together what is happening by using donated money to outbid kill buyers at auctions. That way, they spare mustangs from slaughter and obtain title papers that detail the horses’ ownership history.

The papers show that many adopters who quickly resell live in stretches of the Great Plains where pasture is cheap and people often derive a living from several sources. These adopters often took the maximum number of horses and sent them to auction soon after their final government payments cleared.

Lonnie Krause, a rancher in Bison, S.D., adopted four horses in 2019, and so did his grandson. In an interview, he said he saw nothing wrong with sending the mustangs to auction and acknowledged that they would probably go to kill buyers.

“It’s economics,” he said. “I can make about $ 800 putting a calf on my land for a year. With the horses, I made $ 1,000, then turned around and sold them for $ 500.”

Mr. Krause said bureau employees had told him he wasn’t breaking any rules. “Once you get title, they told me, there is no limitation — you can do whatever you want with them,” he said.

Getting mustangs out of storage is critical for the bureau because its wild horse program is now in a crisis. The cost of storing horses has cannibalized the helicopter budget, and roundups can no longer keep pace with growing herds. There are now about 100,000 wild horses in the West — triple what the bureau says the land can support. If left unchecked, in another decade they could number 500,000.

Managers warn that the growing herds could graze public lands down to dirt, which would devastate cattle ranchers who compete for grass, and harm delicate desert landscapes and native species.

For decades government auditors and scientific advisers have warned the bureau to move away from roundups and instead control populations on the range through fertility control drugs delivered by dart and other management tools that don’t add horses to the holding system, but the bureau has never changed course, in part because the cost of storing horses has crippled its ability to do anything else.

“We are at a make-or-break point,” said Celeste Carlisle, a member of the wild horse program’s citizen advisory board and a biologist for a wild horse sanctuary called Return to Freedom, which has pushed for alternatives to roundups. “We have to turn things around, or it will result in disaster.”

At the kill-buyer auctions, people who love wild horses are scrambling to respond.

One night last fall, Candace Ray, who lives near Dallas, was clicking through photos on the website of a nearby auction when she spotted 24 young, untamed mustangs. Within hours she was rallying hundreds of donors on Facebook.

Ms. Ray cajoled a young couple who give riding lessons on their nearby farm, Cody and Shawnee Barham, to drive to the auction and do the bidding.

The mustangs were all small and skittish. None had apparently ever been handled. Serial numbers branded on their necks showed they had been born free in Nevada, Utah or New Mexico.

The Barhams kept bidding for hours. By midnight they had spent $ 16,000 in donations and owned 24 horses. When they got the title papers, the names of the adopters who sold the horses had been blacked out with marker. But holding the papers up to a light revealed the names and addresses of the Kidd family.

The Barhams brought the mustangs to their farm, opened the trailer doors and let them run. The couple plans to train them to accept a halter and then find people who will give them “forever homes.”

Cody Barham stood one recent morning watching the herd nibble in one of his fields, a grease-stained John Deere hat on his head and a 9-millimeter pistol on his hip (for snakes). He watched his wife walk quietly into the pasture with her outstretched hand holding a horse cookie. One of the braver mustangs, a little black stallion, approached to sniff.

“Our goal is to get them to the point where you can just love up on ’em,” he said. “But after all they’ve been through, it might take them a while to trust people.”

Author: Dave Philipps
This post originally appeared on NYT > U.S. News

Biden Signs Executive Order to Bolster Federal Government’s Cybersecurity

Biden Signs Executive Order to Bolster Federal Government’s Cybersecurity

WASHINGTON — As the East Coast suffered from the effects of a ransomware attack on a major petroleum pipeline, President Biden signed an executive order on Wednesday that placed strict new standards on the cybersecurity of any software sold to the federal government.

The move is part of a broad effort to strengthen the United States’ defenses by encouraging private companies to practice better cybersecurity or risk being locked out of federal contracts. But the bigger effect may arise from what could, over time, become akin to a government rating of the security of software products, much the way automobiles get a safety rating or restaurants in New York get a health safety grade.

The order comes amid a wave of new cyberattacks, more sophisticated and far-reaching than ever before. Over the past year, roughly 2,400 ransomware attacks have hit corporate, local and federal offices in extortion plots that lock up victims’ data — or publish it — unless they pay a ransom.

The most urgent fear is an attack on critical infrastructure, a point made clear this week to Americans, who were panic-buying gasoline. A ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline’s information systems forced the company to shut down a critical pipeline that supplies 45 percent of the East Coast’s gasoline, diesel and jet fuel for several days.

While every president since George W. Bush has issued new guidelines to bolster the country’s digital defenses, Mr. Biden’s order is intended to reach deep into the private sector. And it is far more detailed than past efforts.

For the first time, the United States will require all software purchased by the federal government to meet, within six months, a series of new cybersecurity standards. Although the companies would have to “self-certify,” violators would be removed from federal procurement lists, which could kill their chances of selling their products on the commercial market.

The order also establishes an incident review board, much like the teams that investigate airline accidents, to learn lessons from major hacking episodes. The White House is mandating that the first incident under review will be the SolarWinds hack, in which Russia’s premier intelligence agency altered the computer code of an American company’s network management software. It gave Russia broad access to 18,000 agencies, organizations and companies, mostly in the United States.

The new order also requires all federal agencies to encrypt data, whether it is in storage or while it is being transmitted — two very different challenges. When China stole 21.5 million files about federal employees and contractors holding security clearances, none of the files were encrypted, meaning they could be easily read. (Chinese hackers, investigators later concluded, encrypted the files themselves — to avoid being detected as they sent the sensitive records back to Beijing.)

Previous efforts to mandate minimum standards on software have failed to get through Congress, notably in a major showdown nine years ago. Small businesses have said the changes are not affordable, and larger ones have opposed an intrusive role of the federal government inside their systems.

But Mr. Biden decided it was more important to move quickly than to try to fight for broader mandates on Capitol Hill. His aides said it was a first step, and industry officials said it was bolder than they expected.

Amit Yoran, the chief executive of Tenable and a former cybersecurity official in the Department of Homeland Security, said the question on everyone’s mind was whether Mr. Biden’s order would stop the next Colonial or SolarWinds attacks.

“No one policy, government initiative or technology can do that,” Mr. Yoran said. “But this is a great start.”

Government officials have complained that Colonial had poor defenses, and while it established a hard shell around its computer networks, it had no way of monitoring an adversary who got inside. The Biden administration hopes the standards set out in the executive order, requiring multifactor authentication and other safeguards, will become widespread and improve security globally.

Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia and the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, praised the order but said it would need to be followed by congressional action.

Mr. Warner said recent attacks “have highlighted what has become increasingly obvious in recent years: that the United States is simply not prepared to fend off state-sponsored or even criminal hackers intent on compromising our systems for profit or espionage.”

The new order is the first major public part of a multilayered review of defensive, offensive and legal strategies to take on adversaries around the world. This executive order, however, focuses entirely on deepening defenses, in hopes of deterring attackers because they fear they would fail — or run a higher risk of being detected.

The Justice Department is ramping up a new task force to take on ransomware, after the discovery in recent months that such attacks are more than just extortion, they can bring down sectors of the economy.

Mr. Biden announced sanctions against Russia for the SolarWinds hack, and his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, has said there will also be “unseen” consequences. So far, the United States has not taken similar action against China’s government for its presumed involvement in another attack, exploiting holes in a Microsoft system used by large companies around the world.

The executive order was first drafted in February in response to the SolarWinds intrusion. That attack was especially sophisticated because hackers working for the Russian government managed to change code under development by the company, which unsuspectingly distributed the malware in an update to its software packages. It was discovered during Mr. Biden’s transition and led him to declare he could not trust the integrity of federal computer systems.

The review board created under the executive order will be co-led by the secretary of homeland security and a private-sector official, based on the specific episode it is investigating at the time, in an effort to win over industry executives who fear the investigations could be fodder for lawsuits.

Because it was created by an executive order, not an act of Congress, the new board will not have the same broad powers as a safety board. But officials are still hopeful it will be valuable in learning of vulnerabilities, improving security practices and urging companies to invest more in improving their networks.

Much of the executive order is focused on information sharing and transparency. It aims to speed the time companies that have been victimized by a hack or discover vulnerabilities share that information with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

Author: David E. Sanger and Julian E. Barnes
This post originally appeared on NYT > U.S. News

Josh Duggar Arrested By Federal Agents: ’19 Kids & Counting’ Star Smirks In Mug Shot — See Pic

Author: bshilliday
This post originally appeared on Hollywood Life

Josh Duggar Arrested By Federal Agents: ’19 Kids & Counting’ Star Smirks In Mug Shot — See Pic

Josh Duggar is behind bars and being held without bail following his arrest by federal agents in Arkansas on Apr. 29.

Former 19 Kids and Counting star Josh Duggar is in big trouble with the law. Federal agents arrested the 33-year-old in Washington County, AR on Thurs. Apr. 29, TMZ reports. In his mugshot, he’s seen with an odd smirk on his face. HollywoodLife.com has reached out to Josh’s rep for comment on his arrest, as well as a Duggar family spokesperson. We’ve also contacted the Department of Homeland Security, the Arkansas Justice Department  and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. It’s unclear what the father of six is being charged with, but he’s being held without bail.

Josh Duggar
Josh Duggar smirks in his mugshot after being taken into custody by federal agents on Apr. 29, 2021. Photo credit: Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

In Nov. 2019, Homeland Security agents raided the car dealership where he worked in Springdale, AR, as part of a larger probe. At the time, a Duggar family spokesperson said, that it wasn’t true that “any member of our family is the target of any investigation of any kind.” The rep added, “Living a life in the public’s eye has taught us that it is best not to reply to every rumor and piece of ‘fake news’ that is circulated online. It would be a full-time job if we attempted to do so.”

In 2015, Josh admitted to molesting four of his younger sisters, as well as a babysitter, when he was a teenager. But by then the statue of limitations had run out for him to be prosecuted. In a statement in May of that year he said, ““Twelve years ago, as a young teenager, I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends. I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation. We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing, and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life.”

Josh Duggar
Josh Duggar has been arrested by federal agents in Arkansas. Photo credit:

As a result of the scandal, TLC cancelled 19 Kids and Counting in July 2015. In Aug. 2015, came the bombshell news that Josh had been allegedly seeking one night stands with two different profiles on the website Ashley Madison, which was specifically designed for cheating spouses. He later admitted to having a serious porn addiction.

Josh put out a statement in Aug. 2015, where he wrote the that he had been “the biggest hypocrite ever.” Josh said he had been “viewing pornography on the internet” for the last “several years,” and his secret addiction led him to be “unfaithful to [his] wife.” Josh said he was “so ashamed of the double life that I have been living,” before apologizing for the “pain and disgrace [his] sin has caused [his] wife and family.” He then entered a faith-based rehab for porn addiction.

Josh completed a six month stay in a residential treatment facility in Illinois, and left the center in Mar. 2016 to return home to try to rebuild his family and his relationship with wife Anna Duggar. While things were frosty at first, they have continued to add to their brood. At the time of Josh seeking treatment, they had four children. The couple has since added two more kids to their family with the birth of son Mason and 2019 birth of daughter Maryella

Federal Aid to Renters Moves Slowly, Leaving Many at Risk

Author: Jason DeParle
This post originally appeared on NYT > U.S. News

Federal Aid to Renters Moves Slowly, Leaving Many at Risk

WASHINGTON — Four months after Congress approved tens of billions of dollars in emergency rental aid, only a small portion has reached landlords and tenants, and in many places it is impossible even to file an application.

The program requires hundreds of state and local governments to devise and carry out their own plans, and some have been slow to begin. But the pace is hindered mostly by the sheer complexity of the task: starting a huge pop-up program that reaches millions of tenants, verifies their debts and wins over landlords whose interests are not always the same as their renters’.

The money at stake is vast. Congress approved $ 25 billion in December and added more than $ 20 billion in March. The sum the federal government now has for emergency rental aid, $ 46.5 billion, rivals the annual budget of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Experts say careful preparation may improve results; it takes time to find the neediest tenants and ensure payment accuracy. But with 1 in 7 renters reporting that they are behind on payments, the longer it takes to distribute the money, the more landlords suffer destabilizing losses, and tenants risk eviction.

Millions of tenants are protected from eviction only by a tenuous federal moratorium that faces multiple court challenges, omits many households and is scheduled to expire in June.

“I’m impressed with the amount of work that unsung public servants are doing to set up these programs, but it is problematic that more money isn’t getting out the door,” said Ingrid Gould Ellen, a professor at New York University who is studying the effort. “There are downstream effects if small landlords can’t keep up their buildings, and you want to reach families when they first hit a crisis so their problems don’t compound.”

Estimates of unpaid rents vary greatly, from $ 8 billion to $ 53 billion, with the sums that Congress has approved at the high end of the range.

The situation illustrates the patchwork nature of the American safety net. Food, cash, health care and other types of aid flow through separate programs. Each has its own mix of federal, state and local control, leading to great geographic variation.

While some pandemic aid has flowed through established programs, the rental help is both decentralized and new, making the variation especially pronounced.

Among those seeking help is Saundra Broughton, 48, a logistics worker outside Charleston, S.C., who considered herself safely middle class in the fall, when she rented an apartment with a fitness center and saltwater pool. To her shock, she was soon laid off; after her jobless benefits were delayed, she received an eviction notice.

“I’ve always worked and taken care of myself,” she said. “I’ve never been on public assistance.”

A judge gave Ms. Broughton 10 days to leave her apartment. Only a last-minute call to legal aid brought word of the federal moratorium, which requires tenants to apply. She rushed to the library to print the form with 24 hours to spare. “But I still owe the money,” she said, about $ 4,600 and counting.

If Ms. Broughton lived in nearby Berkeley County, she could have sought help as early as March 29. In Charleston County, a few miles away, she could have applied on April 12. But as a resident of Dorchester County, she must apply through the state, which has $ 272 million in federal money but is not yet taking applications.

“Why are they holding the money?” she said. “I have thousands of dollars of debt and could be kicked out at any moment. It’s a very frightening feeling.”

The huge aid measures passed during the early stages of the pandemic did not include specific provisions to help renters, though they did give most households cash. But hundreds of state and local governments started programs with discretionary money from the CARES Act, passed in March 2020. These efforts disbursed $ 4.5 billion in what amounted to a practice run for the effort now underway with 10 times the money.

Lessons cited include the need to reach out to the poorest tenants to let them know aid is available. Technology often posed barriers: Renters had to apply online, and many lacked computers or internet access.

The demand for documentation also thwarted aid, as many people without proof of leases or lost income could not finish applications. Some landlords declined to participate, perhaps preferring to seek new tenants.

Despite rising need, programs in Florida and New York, financed by the CARES Act, returned tens of millions of unspent dollars to the states. By the time Congress passed the new program in December, nearly 1 renter household in 5 reported being behind on payments.

The national effort, the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, is run by the Treasury Department. It allocates money to states and also to cities and counties with populations of at least 200,000 that want to run their own programs. About 110 cities and 227 counties have chosen to do so.

The program offers up to 12 months of rent and utilities to low-income tenants economically harmed by the pandemic, with priority on households with less than half the area’s median income — typically about $ 34,000 a year. Federal law does not deny the aid to undocumented immigrants, though a few states and counties do.

Modern assistance seems to demand a mix of Jacob Riis and Bill Gates — outreach to the marginalized and help with software. Progress slowed for a month when the Biden administration canceled guidance issued under President Donald J. Trump and developed rules that require less documentation.

Other reasons for slow starts vary. Progressive state legislators in New York spent months debating the best way to protect the neediest tenants. Conservatives legislators in South Carolina were less focused on the issue. But the result was largely the same: Neither legislature passed its program until April, and neither state is yet accepting applications.

“I just don’t know why there hasn’t been more of a sense of urgency,” said Sue Berkowitz, the director of the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center. “We’ve been hearing nonstop from people worried about eviction.”

There is no complete data on how many tenants have been helped. But of the $ 17.6 billion awarded to state governments, 20 percent is going to states not yet taking applications, though some local programs in those states are. Florida (which has $ 871 million), Illinois ($ 566 million) and North Carolina ($ 547 million) are among those that have yet to start.

“The pace is slow,” said Greg Brown of the National Apartment Association, who emphasized that landlords have mortgages, taxes and maintenance to pay.

In a recent talk at the Brookings Institution, Erika Poethig, a housing expert on the White House Domestic Policy Council, praised the “unprecedented amount of rental assistance” and said “the federal government only has so much ability” to encourage faster action.

Accepting applications is only the beginning. With $ 1.5 billion to spend, California has attracted 150,000 requests for help. But of the $ 355 million requested, only $ 20 million has been approved and $ 1 million paid.

Texas, with $ 1.3 billion to spend, started quickly, but the company it hired to run the program had software failures and staffing shortages. A committee in the state House of Representatives found that after 45 days, the program had paid just 250 households.

By contrast, a program jointly run by the city of Houston and Harris County had spent about a quarter of its money and assisted nearly 10,000 households.

Not everyone is troubled by the pace. “Getting the money out fast isn’t necessarily the goal here, especially when we focus on making sure the money reaches the most vulnerable people,” said Diane Yentel, the director of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Given the challenge, she said, “I think it’s going OK.”

She points toward a program in Santa Clara County, Calif., that won praise for its outreach last year. Many of the people it served spoke little English or lacked formal leases to submit. Now, with $ 36 million to spend under the new program, it opted for weeks of additional planning to train 50 nonprofit groups to find the poorest households

“Giving away money is actually quite hard,” said Jen Loving, who runs Destination: Home, a housing group leading the campaign. “All the money in the world isn’t going matter if it doesn’t get to the people who need it.”

In Charleston, S.C., housing became a subject of concern after a 2018 study found the area had the country’s highest eviction rate. Charleston County ran three rounds of rental relief with CARES Act money, and the state ran two.

The second state program, started with $ 25 million in February, drew so many applications that it closed in six days. But South Carolina is still processing those requests as it decides how to distribute the new federal funds.

Antonette Worke is among the applicants awaiting an answer. She moved to Charleston from Denver last year, drawn by cheaper rents, warmer weather and a job offer. But the job fell through, and her landlord filed for eviction.

Ms. Worke, who has kidney and liver disease, is temporarily protected by the federal eviction moratorium. But it does not cover tenants whose leases expire, as hers will at the end of next month. Her landlord said he would force her to move, even if the state paid the $ 5,000 in overdue rent.

Still, she said the help was important: A clean slate would make it easier to rent a new apartment and relieve her of an impossible debt. “I’m stressing over it to the point where I’ve made myself sicker,” she said.

Moving faster than the state, Charleston County started its $ 12 million program two weeks ago, and workers have taken computers to farmers’ markets, community centers and a mall parking lot. Christine DuRant, a deputy county administrator, said the aid was needed to prevent foreclosures that could reduce the housing stock. But critics would pounce if the program sent payments to people who do not qualify, she said: “We will be audited,” possibly three times.

Latoya Green is caught where the desire for speed and accounting collide. A clerk who lost hours in the pandemic, she owes $ 3,700 in rent and utilities and is protected by the eviction moratorium only until her lease expires next month.

She applied for help on the day the county program started but has not completed the application. She said she is unsettled by the emails requesting her lease, which she lacks, and proof of lost income.

Still, Ms. Green does not criticize Charleston County officials. “I think they’re trying their best,” she said. “A lot of people run scams.”

With time running short, she added: “I just hope and pray to God they’ll be able to assist me.”