Worries about interference in democratic processes have come to the fore amid allegations of Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election last November and the French election in May.
U.S. intelligence agencies concluded last year that Russia hacked and leaked Democratic Party emails as part of an effort to tilt the presidential election in favor of Donald Trump, something Russia denies.
A British intelligence agency in March told political parties to protect themselves against potential cyber attacks, while the French government in March dropped plans to let its citizens abroad vote electronically in this month’s legislative elections because of concern about the risk of cyber attacks.
CSE said federal political parties, politicians and the media are more vulnerable to cyber threats than elections themselves, given that federal elections are largely paper-based.
Cyber security lawyer Imran Ahmed of Miller Thomson said engaging with political parties was “a good first step” but the spy agency should have already had a plan in place including expected standards for political parties to meet.
“We’re two years away from 2019 and there’s no timeline for what the next steps will be,” he said.
CSE said it expects some hacktivist efforts in 2019 will be well-planned, with targets ranging from voter suppression and stealing party information to trying to discredit candidates.
(Reporting by Leah Schnurr in Ottawa and Alastair Sharp in Toronto; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)
FRANKFORT — A federal judge has struck down part of Kentucky’s legislative ethics code, ruling that state lawmakers can accept gifts from lobbyists and that lobbyists can make campaign contributions to candidates for the state legislature. U.S. District Judge William O. Bertelsman handed down the 35-page order Wednesday in Covington. The ruling was a victory for state Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, and two Libertarian political candidates who sued in September 2015 to overturn state laws limiting campaign donations to $1,000 and prohibiting gifts to legislators from lobbyists.
Bertelsman declined to rule on the issue of campaign contribution limits, saying the issue is moot because the legislature this year doubled the limit. He did, however, rule that legislators cannot set up caucus campaign committees, which give unlimited contributions to campaigns. Caucus campaign committees gave nearly $800,000 to winning campaigns in Kentucky’s 2016 elections.
“I don’t know if legislative leadership will be happy about that,” said Schickel. In their lawsuit, the politicians argued that the ethics laws violate their constitutional rights to free speech and equal protection by restricting their access to people who want to help them. State regulators countered that the laws were meant to prevent bribery at the state Capitol. Most of the rules were enacted after Operation BOPTROT, an FBI investigation in 1992 that exposed 15 current or former legislators who sold their votes. Don Blandford, the House speaker, was among those sent to prison.
In his decision, Bertelsman wrote that “influencing the government through the act of lobbying is at the heart of the political process. A law that specifically restricts what a lobbyist can and cannot do regarding a legislative member of government is a suppression on their freedom of association with those individuals.”
The judge, who was appointed to the federal bench by former President Jimmy Carter, said the state’s prohibition on gifts included “anything of value.” He said that was too vague. Officials with the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission and the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, which oversees campaign spending, said Wednesday they were reviewing the judge’s order and considering an appeal. Schickel said he was “overjoyed” with the order. “He got it exactly right, noting that a lobbyist couldn’t even give a legislator a glass of water” under existing laws, Schickel said.
The lawmaker said any legislator who commits bribery should go to prison, “but we’ve had ethical problems since the ethics code was created. There always will be corruption.”
Attorney General Andy Beshear called the judge’s order “a very dangerous decision that opens the door for a significant amount of corruption.”
Under the order, a lobbyist pushing a certain bill could give legislators gifts or campaign contributions that could influence the vote, Beshear said.
“It is very concerning,” he said. “I hope that that decision is appealed by the parties in it and I hope they seek an injunction during that appeal so we don’t see lobbyists and legislators involved in what could easily be viewed as corrupt activities during that interim.”
Beshear added that he will consider whether his office can intervene in the case. George Troutman, chairman of the Legislative Ethics Commission, said he considers the order “unfortunate for the people of Kentucky.”
“We have seen that the giving of gifts has led to corruption,” Troutman said. “However, we don’t make the law and the ball is now in the legislative court to address what should be done.”
Longtime lobbyist Bob Babbage of Lexington suggested that the General Assembly might want to alter the law so that legislators must publicly disclose gifts “over a set value.”
“Overall, the ethics code may not be constitutional but it has served our purposes very well,” Babbage said. Richard Beliles, chairman of the ethics watchdog group Common Cause of Kentucky, said he is “sorry for the public. This will have disastrous consequences.”
John Steffen, executive director of the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, said he was still reviewing Bertelsman’s order to determine how it would affect the state’s campaign finance laws.
“At this point, we’re not sure of all the consequences,” he said.
Despite sheriff’s heroic effort, Logan man dies in house fire
By Robyn L. Minor
Bowling Green Daily News
AUBURN — A Logan County man died Wednesday as a result of a house fire that sent the county’s sheriff to the hospital for treatment. Sheriff Wallace Whittaker went into the home twice to try to find resident Jerry Caudill, who lived alone. On the second attempt, the sheriff removed Caudill from the house on Montgomery Road outside Auburn, but Caudill’s life could not be saved.
Logan County Coroner Mary Givens, who is also a member of one of the fire departments that responded, pronounced Caudill, 69, dead at the scene. Givens said Caudill probably died from smoke inhalation, but his body was to be sent Thursday to Madisonville for an autopsy to officially determine the cause.
“The fire started in the basement and then got into the walls,” Givens said. Whittaker said he went into the black smoke-filled house once to look for Caudill, came out for air and then returned before finding him.
“I was just thinking I need to find him,” Whittaker said in a telephone interview Thursday morning from his bed at Logan Memorial Hospital. “A neighbor was there and said he couldn’t see anything inside. I couldn’t see anything the first time. I went back in with a flashlight and found him collapsed in the hallway. He was already dead. … The house was just filled with black sooty smoke pouring out from everywhere.”
Brenda Whittaker, the sheriff’s wife, said: “When I got to the ER and saw him … that room just smelled of smoke.”
Brenda Whittaker said Caudill’s family has already expressed their thanks to Wallace Whittaker for getting Caudill out of the burning house. Logan Memorial kept Wallace Whittaker overnight to treat him for smoke inhalation.
“His bronchial tubes were swollen and weren’t going back down,” Brenda Whittaker said. “They wanted to watch him, and I think they pumped him full of steroids.”
Wallace Whittaker said he was waiting Thursday morning for a pulmonologist to determine if he could be released from the hospital. He still was coughing and had a scratchy throat. Givens, who had to leave before the scene was completely cleared, expects that the brick home was a loss. The initial call shortly after noon went to the Auburn Volunteer Fire Department, but the Russellville City and Russellville Rural Fire Departments were also called, Givens said.
“They always dispatch us to fire calls,” Wallace Whittaker said. “And I just happened to be in Auburn, so I went.”
Elsie Carpenter, who lives nearby, said she knew Caudill for 66 years.
“He’s been a very good neighbor,” Carpenter said. “He grew up with my kids. He and my daughter played together when they were little and his daddy raised crops on our farm.”
Carpenter said she was outside working “and I just kept hearing sirens coming. I could see straight across the farm and could see the vehicles just a coming over on Montgomery Road. I called my neighbor to see if she was all right. She said they were going to Jerry’s house. I’ve never seen so many lights. I didn’t find out until later what had happened. I couldn’t see any smoke or fire.”
Carpenter said Caudill fell from a horse several years ago and had a disability as a result, but he was still able to care for cattle.
“He was just a good young friend to me,” she said. Wallace Whittaker said he is sending prayers to the family. “It is just a tragic loss,” he said. Police investigate Rockcastle deaths
by the Kentucky Press News Service
MOUNT VERNON — KSP is working on a death investigation in Rockcastle County, in a residence along U.S. 25, according to WKYT.
State police were contacted by Mount Vernon police officers after reportedly finding two deceased individuals in a home on North Wilderness Road (U.S. 25) shortly after 6:30 a.m. Thursday. The two victims have been identified as a dead adult male and an adult female, WKYT reported on its website. A female had called 911 to report the incident. The local coroner is on the scene now.
Harness racing set to return Friday to Bluegrass Downs
by The Paducah Sun
PADUCAH — Paducah’s Bluegrass Downs begins its month-long 2017 harness racing schedule Friday. The track, located at 150 Downs Drive off Park Avenue, will host races beginning at 5 p.m. each Friday, Saturday and Sunday through July 9. This year’s start time has been moved back one hour from its previous 4 p.m. start, according to Jada Elliott, Bluegrass Downs office manager.
“We talked to the horsemen, and they wanted to run a little later when it might be a little cooler,” Elliott said. Admission to the races is free, with the exception of this Saturday when the Belmont Stakes will be run. Bluegrass Downs simulcasts thoroughbred racing year-round.
The 5/8-mile Bluegrass Downs track hosts up to 10 daily races. Both the 2016 leading driver, Randy Crisler Jr., and the 2016 leading trainer, Harley Emerson, return this year to try to retain their titles, Elliott said. Harness racing differs from thoroughbred racing in that the standardbred horses trot rather than gallop, and harness jockeys are pulled in a two-wheeled cart called a sulky.
Woman makes plea to shooter who killed her 7-year-old son
By Beth Warren
LOUISVILLE — The mother of a boy shot at his kitchen table eating cake wants to deliver a message to the unknown killer: “It’s going to keep eating your soul.”
“I’m pretty sure you’ve seen my son everywhere,” Micheshia Norment, 25, said Wednesday of news coverage since the death of 7-year-old Dequante Hobbs Jr.
“It’s not going away. Turn yourself in.”
More than two weeks have passed since the May 21 slaying in Louisville’s Russell neighborhood. The boy’s mother said knowing the gunman remains free keeps her awake at night. Dequante saw himself as a young man, not a kid like his little sister, Norment said. He wanted his own room. That’s why his family moved to a rental home in the 2100 block of West Madison Street less than two months before a stray bullet ripped through a window and into the boy’s head at 8:20 p.m.
Lt. Emily McKinley, who supervises homicide investigations, and lead detective Stephen Snider attended the boy’s funeral and both have issued public pleas for help solving the case. Police said just before the shooting there was fight at a dice game in the backyard of an adjacent home on Dr. W.J. Hodge Street. Police believe the fight led to gunfire. The boy’s mother and his grandmother, Priscilla Norment, say they have barely slept since hearing the shattering of glass and Dequante’s scream.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” said the grandmother, who is a nursing assistant. “I just miss him so much. He was always with me.”
The boy’s mother, a downtown security guard, also made an appeal to witnesses or others with information that could help solve her son’s case.
“Come forward. Do what’s right.”
She wrote a plea on her car’s rear windshield: “Justice 4 Lil DQ.” A passenger window reads: “RIH” for Rest In Heaven. His 3-year-old sister is having trouble understanding that he’s not coming back and recently asked their grandmother to call him. Dequante — known as “Lil DQ” — liked to teach her dance moves and hold her hand, even opening the door for her like a little gentleman. He also liked to fix things like his father, Dequante Hobbs Sr., who dubbed him “my little mechanic.”
During a news conference at police headquarters two days after the shooting, Snider pleaded for witnesses to come forward.
“This little child deserves justice … You need to come forward and help this family and help our city heal from this,” he said. Dequante’s homicide is one of 57 investigated by Louisville Metro police so far this year, including Wednesday’s fatal shooting of a man in the Parkland neighborhood.
That’s a 16 percent uptick in homicides from this time in 2016 — a year that ended with a decades-high death toll.
Detectives urge anyone with information on Dequante’s killing to call the police department’s anonymous tip line at 574-LMPD.
You can t go home again or so that old clich claims. I d never given it much thought before, but lately it s felt like my life in five words. Born in the Virgin Islands and raised in Florida, I was one of eight million stories in New York City for most of my adulthood before reaching The end in my mid-thirties. I m 48 now, and I haven t lived in the United States since the George W. Bush years, back when the possibility of a black U.S. president seemed as distant a dream as the first openly gay one. But a black, gay man could dream.
I didn t have to dream much longer. (Hello, President Barack Obama!) As it turned out, though, I spent all of the first black U.S. presidency living abroad. Now, for the first time since leaving nearly 11 years ago, I m seriously considering moving back, and I m torn. With social, political, and racial tension in America ever-escalating a troubling trajectory established alongside the landing of Obama s presidency and the ascent of Donald Trump I ve been asking myself: Is there a place for me there, a safe place for me there, in these #BlackLivesMatter times? I m still reeling from one of the latest incidents, the May 20th murder of black Bowie State University senior Richard Collins III, 23, allegedly by 22-year-old Maryland State University student Sean Christopher Urbanski, three days before graduation. The suspect is said to be a member of the Facebook group Alt-Reich Nation, the sort of racist organization that has found renewed relevancy in recent years. My fear of this new American normal started kicking in two years ago when I read about a white NYPD officer tackling black retired tennis pro James Blake down to the ground after mistaking him for a suspect in a fraud investigation a fraud investigation.
Surveillance video captured the arresting cop s use of excessive force, which many deemed racially motivated. The incident reminded me of something that happened to me in the early 90s at The Gap on St. Mark s Place in Manhattan. A security guard detained me for more than an hour because I supposedly fit the description of a local shoplifting suspect (i.e., we were both black). Although I got considerably mouthy that evening, especially when he started smelling the Gap items in my overnight bag to see if they were freshly stolen, I went home without any bruises. Blake wasn t even resisting arrest, leading me to wonder how my detainment at The Gap might play out today. Would I leave the store in handcuffs on a stretcher? If anyone had suggested it might one day come to this back on September, 15, 2006, I probably would have waved them away. ( President Trump? Never! ) That day, almost exactly five years after one of the most life-changing events of my life, I embarked on the most life-changing journey of my life. I left the United States, for good. Only I had no idea at the time.
When the plane took off from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, where I d spent 15 years toiling as a staff writer and editor for such leading magazines as People, Us Weekly, and Entertainment Weekly, I intended to spend six months tops in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I was heading there for some R&R (rest and recovery) after the closing of Teen People, a magazine that had been so professionally defining I worked there as an editor twice. It s nearly 11 years later, and I ve spent four and a half of them in Buenos Aires; three more flip-flopping between Melbourne, Australia, and Bangkok, Thailand; one more in Cape Town, South Africa; and another two and a half in Sydney, Australia. The next leg of the most life-changing journey of my life may very well terminate right where it began. I haven t stepped foot on U.S. soil since the beginning of 2010, although I ve returned for two abbreviated visits since taking off for Buenos Aires in 2006. But Australia s new working-visa restrictions since I resigned from my editing job in Sydney back in February have slashed my chances of securing further employment here. Suddenly and unexpectedly, a one-way trip back home has become my plan B.
But can I go home again? The New York City I left in the mid-noughties isn t New York City in 2017. My friends tell me it s changed dramatically in the last decade (bike lanes in Midtown and Brooklyn as the epicenter of trendiness are just two developments), but so has the world in general. Am I ready to experience this brand new world in the place I never stopped calling home? When I left the U.S., no one was keeping up with the Kardashians. There was no Uber, no Netflix and chill, no Grindr, Scruff, or Tinder. Facebook hadn t yet invaded all of our lives, and neither had Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. Likes, followers, and trending were still well into the future. Of the current leading ladies of pop, only Rihanna had scored a substantial hit. Justin Bieber was a tween of 12, two years away from being discovered on You Tube, which, by the way, was still in its infancy, having been launched only 19 months earlier. Record stores were still on practically every corner; tweet was still something only birds did; and print media was still (barely) thriving.
But it s not like I ve been living on the moon. I ve grown accustomed to the cultural shifts. It s America s political and social ones that have me rubbing my eyes in shock, awe, and disbelief. When I left the U.S., Barack Obama was still a junior senator from Illinois; a major political party had never nominated a female presidential candidate; gays couldn t legally marry; and Donald Trump was best known as the You re fired guy on The Apprentice. Progress, however, hasn t necessarily begotten progress. Our first black President has been succeeded by one who tacitly, and sometimes blatantly, endorses racism, homophobia, sexism, and xenophobia. He can brag about sexually assaulting women, and we re supposed to respect his authority and judgment. He can build a figurative and literal wall to keep out immigrants, and we re supposed to just burn the bridges that connect us to the rest of the world. His Vice-President, Mike Pence, can support conversion therapy to cure gays of their alleged deviancy, and we re supposed to feel proud. The Ku Klux Klan, revived after decades of irrelevancy, can celebrate his Presidency, and we re supposed to think he can make America great again.
I lived through Rodney King, Abner Louima, and Amadou Diallo at relatively close range in the 90s. Due to my lack of physical proximity, I ve only had a nosebleed view of what started happening toward the end of Obama s administration. The carnage, though, has remained hard to watch. We finally put a black family in the White House, but in many ways, things got much worse for black people in the U.S. It s like the simmering white outrage over having a black President finally boiled over, bringing out the worst latent impulses the virulent and violent racism, the unyielding homophobia, the seething sexism, the hypocritical xenophobia in what Hillary Clinton would call America’s deplorables. From a relatively safe distance, I ve watched the U.S. become no country for black men or for gay people, or for women, or for immigrants. In some ways, it s like 1965 redux. Do I really want to go home to that? I recently shared my fears with a white Canadian acquaintance who has lived in Sydney for as long as I ve been an expat and has spent considerable chunks of time in the U.S.
What do you mean? America is awesome. You re so lucky to be from there, he said, somehow maintaining a straight face.
Spoken like a true product of white male privilege, I thought. Don t get me wrong. I love my country. But it has never been easy there when you re black like me. And life has become much more precarious for people of color. I tried to explain where I was coming from, my black, gay point of view, but he wasn t hearing it. He spouted some hackneyed nonsense about how America is the land of opportunity where anyone can get ahead, regardless of race, sexuality, gender, or nationality, and missed my point entirely. In doing so, he underscored a number of my misgivings about America s so-called deplorables. They re people just like him, ones who are obsessed with material success and their own personal comfort, ones who value the well-being of the individual over social responsibility. They re the ones who made Donald Trump the ultimate U.S. success story. It s their way of thinking If it doesn t hurt me, who cares how it affects everyone else? that s making America anything but great again, and reducing it to a bigger international punchline than ever.
For 11 years, I ve listened to U.S.-bashing abroad with a certain level of detachment, pretending I m not really one of them. But I m hardly a disinterested party. I m American to my core. I d never dream of giving up my U.S. citizenship, although it s an option (ask Swiss citizen Tina Turner). Changing my race and sexual orientation, however, is not. It s not just my fear of becoming a black statistic that gives me pause as I seriously mull a permanent U.S. return. I always faced a heightened level of danger as a black man in America. But what will it be like to be black and gay there in the Trumped-up Grindr age? I ve experienced gay racism abroad, occasionally in person, usually on hook-up apps. The sexual objectification of black men and the occasional spewing of the N-word aside, though, it s usually been directed at someone else. (In Australia, for example, the white gay majority typically gives Asians the Do not touch treatment.) I ve never actually seen No blacks in a Grindr profile not even in South Africa, a country with a racial divide just as deep as the one in the United States.
It must be an unspoken rule in gay communities outside of the U.S.: You can launch a pre-emptive shutdown against pretty much any group, but you cannot touch No blacks. I ve already heard this is not the case in the U.S., where, despite what the children of white privilege might say, casual racism has always been a grassroots condition. How will I feel the first time I read No blacks ? My first book, Is It True What They Say About Black Men?: Tales of Love, Lust and Language Barriers on the Other Side of the World, was all about my fish-out-of-water expat experience. It was Eat, Pray, Love from a gay, male perspective. Am I about to relive my book, only in reverse? I d practically be guaranteed plenty of new material for my next volume. Would it be worth it? I ve spent all of my forties, my best gay decade, living abroad. My college days aside, I ve spent the best years of my life outside of my homeland.
Would I survive the next years of my life there? Part of me is eager to rip off the Band-Aid and dive back in. But in recent years, I ve kept up with too many U.S. stories of senseless fatalities involving the unprivileged: Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, among so many others. The informed part of me is terrified of what my future in the U.S. might hold, of what the future of blacks, of gays, of women, of immigrants in the U.S. might hold. But then, just as darkness and depression threaten to overwhelm me, I m reminded of what an American friend said to me shortly after I relocated to Argentina: It takes a lot of courage to leave a country where you ve been successful and move to one where you don t know anyone and don t even speak the language. I d never thought of myself as being brave. I was just living. But I can t let fear stop me now. On second thought, yes, you can go home again. Fear won t keep me away. For even if Trump s America doesn t welcome me back with arms wide open, a black gay man can still dream.