Reports of Election Site Hacking Rankle Florida Officials

Child’s play or a signs of a serious security problem in one of the nation’s swing states?

That’s the question confronting Florida election officials who are pushing back against reports that an 11-year-old hacked a replica of the state’s election website.

Multiple media outlets over the weekend reported that children at a hacking conference in Las Vegas were able to easily hack into a version of the website that reports election results to the public. An 11-year-old boy got into Florida’s site within 10 minutes, while an 11-year-old girl did it in 15 minutes, according to the organizers of the event called DEFCON Voting Machine Hacking Village.

State officials contend there’s no way that the replica used by hackers is an actual representation of the state’s website. 

“This was a mock site with likely very few, if any, security measures in place,” said Sarah Revell, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Ken Detzner. “It is not a real-life scenario and it offers a wholly inaccurate representation of the security of Florida’s elections websites, online databases and voting systems that does not take into account the state-of-the-art security measures the Florida Department of State has in place to prevent any possible hacking attempts from being successful.”

Florida’s election website that displays results is not connected to the actual local election systems responsible for tabulating votes. Instead, on election night supervisors upload unofficial results to state officials through a completely different network.

Still if someone was able to manipulate the website it could create confusion and sow doubts about the actual results once they were announced. Investigators in May found evidence of a cyberattack on a Tennessee county’s elections website from a computer in Ukraine, which likely caused the site to crash just as it was reporting vote totals during a primary.

Nico Sell, one of the organizers of the event, told PBS Newshour on Sunday that the replicas used at the conference were accurate representations.

“The site may be a replica but the vulnerabilities that these kids were exploiting were not replicas, they’re the real thing,” the television network quoted her. “I think the general public does not understand how large a threat this is, and how serious a situation that we’re in right now with our democracy.”

Mark Earley, the elections supervisor in Leon County who is a cybersecurity liaison between state and local officials, questioned how outsiders could obtain the security protocols used by Florida if they weren’t already behind the system’s firewalls. He said that all this “hacking noise” and “misinformation plays into the hands of the folks who are trying to undermine democracy.”

Jeff Kosseff, a lawyer and assistant professor at the United States Naval Academy Cyber Studies Department, said states are struggling with election security threats. He said they should work with outsiders in order to see if there are flaws in their systems.

“All states should look at this as a wake-up call,” Kosseff said. “What were the shortcomings identified and how they can fix it.  I don’t think it should be an adversarial.”

The reports of hacking into Florida’s website that reports election results coincide with a dust-up between U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott over possible Russian meddling in other parts of the state’s election system.

Nelson last week said Russians were able to get inside the election systems of “certain counties” and “now have free rein to move about.” He added that “the threat is real and elections officials — at all levels — need to address the vulnerabilities.”

The senator has not provided any more details, saying that additional information is classified. Scott has demanded that Nelson provide proof of his claims. Last Friday two Republicans who are on the Senate intelligence community declined to confirm or deny Nelson’s statements.

Russian hackers targeted at least 21 states, including Florida, ahead of the 2016 election and breached the voter registration system in at least one, Illinois, investigators say. An indictment released last month said Russian operatives sent over 100 fake emails to elections offices and personnel in Florida as part of the hacking effort. State officials have never acknowledged how many counties were targeted by the Russians.

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Analysts: Trade Wars Not Good for Anyone

Tariffs imposed on goods imported from China, Europe and other parts of the world could hurt American consumers and small businesses more than help them. Analysts point out that in today’s global economy, most manufacturers produce parts and import others to make a final product. Tariffs imposed on Chinese electronic parts have already forced a U.S. TV factory to close down, and there are concerns that U.S. farmers could lose big markets overseas. VOA’s Zlatica Hoke has more.

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Trump’s Harley Boycott Call Roils Wisconsin Primary

President Donald Trump’s call for a boycott of Harley-Davidson motorcycles forced Gov. Scott Walker and other Republicans to either criticize the president or stick with the Milwaukee-based company just ahead of Tuesday’s primary where Trump allegiance has been a central focus.

Trump on Sunday tweeted it was “great” that “many” Harley owners planned to boycott the company if manufacturing moves overseas, continuing a steel tariff dispute he’s had since June with the company.

Walker, Wisconsin’s most prominent Harley owner who faces a tough re-election bid in November, issued a statement that did not directly address the boycott call.

“I want Harley Davidson to prosper here in the state of Wisconsin,” Walker said. “And one of the best ways for that to happen is to do what the president has called for and that is to get to no tariffs.”

Trump’s attacks on Harley have put Walker in a tough spot politically as he runs for a third term in November. Eight Democrats were running in Tuesday’s primary for a chance to take on Walker who is seeking a third term.

“By attacking Wisconsin workers to cover for failed economic policy President Trump took a page right out of Scott Walker’s playbook,” said Mahlon Mitchell, one of the eight candidates and the head of the state firefighters union. He has more backing from labor unions than any other candidate.

Another Democratic candidate, Kelda Roys, accused Walker of “cowering before Trump” and the president’s “attempts to destroy an iconic Wisconsin business.”

Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin, who is also up for re-election in November, was more forceful than Walker in her reaction to the Trump tweet.

“You can’t run our economy with tweets,” Baldwin tweeted to Trump. “Wisconsin businesses like @harleydavidson need better trade deals, not tweets and trade wars.”

Former U.S. Marine Kevin Nicholson and state Sen. Leah Vukmir were running in the Republican primary for chance to take on Baldwin. Both were running as strong Trump supporters, but the president has not endorsed in the race.

Nicholson said on WTMJ radio Monday he was against a Harley-Davidson boycott but also supported Trump’s approach to trade. He also pushed back against Baldwin on Twitter.

“We do need better trade deals, not the ones engineered by you and other members of the political class,” Nicholson tweeted at Baldwin. “We must bring trade partners back to the table and do away with tariffs. You don’t fight for WI and you don’t understand our economy.”

Vukmir, who won the endorsement of the Wisconsin Republican Party, was making a final campaign swing in southeast Wisconsin, including a stop with retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan. She did not address Trump’s boycott call in a statement calling Harley “a point of pride not only for our state, but also our nation.”

“I trust they will not abandon their Wisconsin roots, and the best way for that to happen is to get rid of tariffs like the president is working to do,” Vukmir said.

In July, Harley-Davidson said it expects new tariffs to cost the company as much as $100 million annually.

A spokesman for Harley-Davidson declined to comment both Sunday and Monday.

Polls have shown the Senate race to be a dead heat. State Superintendent Tony Evers had a double-digit lead in the Democratic gubernatorial primary based on polls in the months leading up to the election.

But others in the race who had raised enough to advertise on television — including Mitchell and Roys — were hoping for a late swing in their favor, particularly among younger voters.

Whoever wins the Democratic primary will enter the final three months of the race at a financial disadvantage to Walker. He had $4.8 million cash on hand in August, while the top tier Democrats were likely to be tapped out after spending on the primary.

The Wisconsin Democratic Party and the Democratic Governors Association have been raising money and building infrastructure in preparation for Wednesday, to help the winner of the primary get a fast start against Walker.

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Turks Fear for Future as Currency Rout Continues

The Turkish lira has fallen more than 40 percent since the start of the year, 20 percent just last week, amid rising tensions between the U.S. and Turkey, and international investors’ concerns over the economy.  For Turkey, the dramatic collapse of the currency signal fears for the future, as Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul.

Fruit and vegetable sellers, along with fishmongers, try to drum up business in Istanbul’s old Kadikoy market.  But trade is slow. Most people just look and walk on.

Organic shopkeeper Meltem worries for the future.

She says she is pessimistic about the future because prices will rise and the ability of people to purchase will decrease. She adds that as money in their pockets decreases, people in hardship will buy much less than before.

The fear of plummeting currency values, which continued on markets Monday, will stoke Turkey’s already double-digit inflation, which appears to be the top concern among shoppers.  Turkey relies heavily on imports, especially for energy.

Thirty-year-old Tariq, a teacher doing his weekly shopping, says he is cutting back on spending as he prepares for difficult times ahead.

He says the lira has fallen heavily and predicts unbelievable inflation because Turkey imports so much.  He says everybody in Turkey is afraid the coming inflation, especially for heating bills, will make this winter hard.

Across the street, fishmonger Huseyin proudly displays what he claims is the finest turbot in Istanbul and tries to be more positive. He acknowledges there will be problems. 

He says he does not have much to do with dollars, because if more fish are caught, they are cheaper, if less they are more expensive. But he says buyers may be affected if they are having economic difficulties.  He says if there is a good quantity of fish, then he will keep selling.

Shopkeeper Meltem warns of economic uncertainty ahead.

She says the future does not look good, because when people are hungry, they will be tempted to steal and may choose illegal means to survive.  She said things will not be any good. Many stores are closing because there is no trade anymore.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday an international conspiracy is responsible for undermining the currency, but says the financial fundamentals of the economy remain strong, and order will soon return to the markets.  

Such claims have been met with skepticism by international investors, while many economists warn the damage may have already been done to the economy, and difficult times lie ahead. 

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Carmelo Anthony to Officially Join Rockets on Monday

Carmelo Anthony is formally joining the Houston Rockets on a one-year, $2.4 million deal.

ESPN reported the long-discussed formality would become official on Monday.

Anthony, a 10-time All-Star who was waived July 30 by the Atlanta Hawks, has been working out daily with Rockets point guard Chris Paul and MVP James Harden.

Anthony, 34, was amenable to a partial mid-level exception as his base salary after being one of the highest-paid players in the NBA last season and also receiving a buyout of his 2018-19 contract. Anthony receives the entire $27.9 million due from his previous deal.

Entering his 16th NBA season, Anthony has a career scoring average of  24.1 points per game with the Denver Nuggets, New York Knicks and Oklahoma City Thunder.

Last season, unaccustomed to his role as power forward and playing alongside Russell Westbrook and Paul George, he averaged a career-low 16.2 points in 32.1 minutes in his lone season for the Thunder.

Anthony could be vital to the Rockets, who lost forwards Trevor Ariza (Suns) and Luc Mbah a Moute (Clippers) in free agency.

The Hawks acquired Anthony on July 25 as part of a three-team transaction, with Atlanta also receiving a protected 2022 first-round draft pick from the Thunder and Justin Anderson from the Philadelphia 76ers.

To complete the trade, the Hawks traded Mike Muscala to Philadelphia and Dennis Schroder to Oklahoma City, and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot moved from Philadelphia to Oklahoma City.

The Rockets created a roster opening by trading forward Chinanu Onuaku and cash to the Dallas Mavericks for center Maarty Leunen and the right to swap second-round draft picks in 2020. Onuaku played in six NBA games over the past two seasons and averaged 3.0 points and 2.3 rebounds.

Leunen, who turns 33 next month, has yet to appear in the NBA.

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Mattis: ‘I Was Not Against Setting up a Space Force’

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said he was not against establishing a sixth branch of the military for space when he wrote Congress about it last year.

“I was not against setting up a Space Force. What I was against is rushing to do that before we define those problems,” Mattis told reporters while en route to Brazil Sunday.

In a letter to members of Congress last October, Mattis wrote that he “oppose(d) the creation of a new military service and additional organizational layers at a time when we are focused on reducing overhead and integrating joint warfighting functions.”

Many in Washington saw those words as a contrast to President Donald Trump’s desire to establish a space force “separate but equal” to the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. Trump said the new branch was needed to ensure U.S. dominance in space.

Mattis said the Pentagon’s space defense has been a “point of discussion” from the earliest days of the Trump administration. During the pat 18 months, the Pentagon worked to identify management problems within its space components, covering angles ranging from the U.S. economic dependence on space, to long-term government goals for space defense.

The Pentagon released its space management report to Congress on Thursday detailing new steps it will take to meet the White House’s goal of establishing the Space Force by 2020.

Mattis said the transition will happen in phases, with a new service branch established should Congress approve it. Congress is the only branch of government that has the authority to approve the creation of a new military division.

“We’ll get this reorganization as far as we can take it based on solving well-defined problems,” he said.

The Pentagon will first establish Space Command to oversee the military’s focus on protecting U.S. space assets. The command will oversee a Space Operations Force made up of experts from different military branches.

The last time a new branch of the military was created was in 1947, when the military established a new Air Force following World War II.

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Tens of Thousands Rally to Kick US Base Off Okinawa

Tens of thousands of protesters in Okinawa vowed to stop the planned relocation of a U.S military base, saying they want it off the southern Japanese island entirely.

Opponents of the relocation say the plan to move U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from a crowded neighborhood to a less populated coastal site would not only be an environmental debacle but also ignore local wishes to remove the base.

About 70,000 people gathered Saturday at a park in the state capital of Naha under pouring rain ahead of an approaching typhoon and observed a moment of silence for Okinawa’s governor, Takeshi Onaga, who died Wednesday of cancer.

Successor takes up the fight

Onaga, elected in 2014, had spearheaded opposition to the relocation and criticized the central government for ignoring the voices of Okinawans. He had filed lawsuits against the central government and said he planned to revoke a landfill permit issued by his predecessor that is needed for construction of the new base.

Deputy Gov. Kiichiro Jahana, representing Onaga at Saturday’s rally, said he will follow through with the revocation process as instructed by the governor and carry on his “strong determination and passion.”

Okinawans are trying to block the government plan to start dumping soil into Henoko Bay within days to make a landfill for the new site of the Futenma base. Environmental groups say construction at the bay risks corals and endangered dugongs, an aquatic mammal similar to a manatee.

The protesters held up signs saying “Henoko new base, NO!” and “Okinawans will not give up,” as they chanted slogans. They also adopted a resolution demanding the central government to immediately scrap the relocation plan.

Okinawa-Japan rift

Japan’s government says the current plan is the only solution, but many Okinawans want the base off the island. About half of the 50,000 American troops in Japan are stationed on Okinawa.

Onaga had said Tokyo’s postwar defense posture under the Japan-U.S. security alliance was built on Okinawa’s sacrifice.

The dispute over the Futenma relocation reflects centuries-old tensions between Okinawa and the Japanese mainland, which annexed the islands, formerly the independent kingdom of the Ryukus, in 1878. Okinawa was Japan’s only home battleground in the final days of World War II, and the island remained under U.S. rule for 20 years longer than the rest of Japan.

Okinawa is still forced to sacrifice for the interest of the mainland, Onaga’s son Takeharu, an Okinawa assemblyman, told the rally.

“The (relocation issue) is pushed to Okinawa because nobody on the mainland wants it,” he said, urging the rest of the country to also think about the issue. “Let us keep fighting so we can achieve my father’s unfinished goal and give him good news.”

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Eco-Friendly Soccer Club Aims to Inspire Others to Make Meaningful Choices

Talk about going green. One British soccer team has made it its goal to become the first professional sports team in the world to be certified carbon neutral. It’s an official designation recently awarded to the team by the Secretary in charge of Climate Change at the United Nations. But that’s not all. The team may also be the world’s first 100 percent vegan football club. VOA Correspondent Mariama Diallo has more.

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Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo celebrates 150th Anniversary

One of the oldest zoos in the U.S., the Chicago Lincoln Park Zoo, is celebrating a big milestone: its 150th anniversary. The zoo opened in 1868 with just two pairs of swans. It has a considerably larger collection today, but its priorities have not changed that much. As Roman Verkhovsky reports, the zoo remains focused on conservation: preserving rare species; organizing educational programs and setting an example for future generations of animal lovers.

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