April 10, 2017 Last Updated 3:21 pm

Russian, suspected in election hacks, spam, arrested in Spain; Wisconsin’s outdoor magazine still a target of state’s governor

Morning Brief: A compromise has been proposed in fight over legal notices in North Carolina, where GOP would like to end practice of requiring publishing in local newspapers

The weekend was pretty quiet compared the work week before it, making it difficult to decide what to include in today’s Morning Brief. Sergio winning The Masters was kind of cool, right?

Then this little item was reported, and it feels like it could be the start of something big, or not. The first reports tie the Russian man arrested to the election hacks, but other reports say the arrest warrant was based on accusations of massive spamming.

Photo: Hacker-1 by iaBeta used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

The Independent, Samuel Osborne:

US election ‘hacking’: Russian man arrested in Spain at request of American authorities
Arrested man reportedly told wife he had created a computer virus ‘linked to Trump’s election win’
His arrest set cybersecurity circles abuzz after Russian broadcaster RT raised the possibility it was linked to the US presidential election.Pyotr Levashov was arrested in Barcelona at the end of last week on a US computer crimes warrant, a spokeswoman for Spain’s National Court, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with court rules, told the Associated Press.

Associated Press, Aritz Parra and Raphael Satter:

Alleged Russian hacker arrested in Spain at US request

Such arrests aren’t unusual — American authorities typically try to nab Russian cybercrime suspects abroad because of the difficulty involved in extraditing them from Russia — but Levashov’s arrest drew immediate attention after his wife told Russia’s RT broadcaster that he was linked to America’s 2016 election hacking.

RT quoted Maria Levashova as saying that armed police stormed into their apartment in Barcelona overnight, keeping her and her friend locked in a room for two hours while they quizzed her husband. She said that when she spoke to her husband on the phone from the police station, he told her he was told that he had created a computer virus that was “linked to Trump’s election win.”

Ars Technica, Dan Goodin:

Found in the wild: Vault7 hacking tools WikiLeaks says come from CIA

Malware that WikiLeaks purports belongs to the Central Intelligence Agency has been definitively tied to an advanced hacking operation that has been penetrating governments and private industries around the world for years, researchers from security firm Symantec say.

Longhorn, as Symantec dubs the group, has infected governments and companies in the financial, telecommunications, energy, and aerospace industries since at least 2011 and possibly as early as 2007. The group has compromised 40 targets in at least 16 countries across the Middle East, Europe, Asia, Africa, and on one occasion, in the US, although that was probably a mistake.

This is an issue TNM continues to follow closely, the effort in many Republican controlled states to lift the requirement that legal notices must be published in local newspapers.

The argument is that it would save money and, since most people now get their information online, would make more sense to place them online. But the counter argument is that legal notices in newspapers insure government transparency, and also forcing their publication through a third party insures that a record is maintained.

Newspapers, obviously, want to retain the revenue – especially important for small, local community papers.

No surprise that North Carolina is once again at the center of a controversy. It’s Republican controlled legislature seems pretty obsessed with this issue.

The News & Observer, Colin Campbell:

‘It’s free press rights,’ newspapers argue as they fight to keep legal notice requirements

State legislators are again sparring over whether public legal notices – such as foreclosure and government contract bidding announcements – must appear in newspapers or just on government websites.

Rep. Stephen Ross, a Burlington Republican, filed what he calls a compromise bill Wednesday to resolve the issue. He says his proposed legal notice requirements would “preserve the right to know for all North Carolinians.”

While a Republican-sponsored bill in the House and Senate would allow local governments and attorneys to instead post notices on government websites, Ross’ bill would keep the current requirement to publish notices on classified ad pages in local newspapers. The newspapers would then be required to post notices on their websites and on a statewide notices website run by the N.C. Press Association, and the newspapers would have to offer a discounted rate for notices published more than once.

Another story TNM has been covering is the possible shuttering of the the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ magazine, Wisconsin Natural Resources. Honestly, I thought it was a done deal: the Republican governor, Scott Walker, is a vocal critic of the concept of climate change, and is funded by the Koch Brothers (who were disappointed when Walker proved to be a bland, ineffective candidate for president), so what are the chances that the magazine might survive.

But the magazine is reader supported, with over 80,000 paid subscribers, so it is hard to make the case that this is an issue of money. Instead, the governor is trying to claim that the time being taken to publishing the magazine could be used more effectively doing… something else.

Beloit Daily News, Todd Richmond:

Beloit Daily News – Wisconsin News, Wisconsin takes aim at outdoors magazine, subscribers erupt

DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp, a Walker appointee, told legislators last month that DNR employees lose time from core duties when they work on articles and that subscription revenue doesn’t make up for the lost hours. Echoing her boss, she said the agency could reach more people through social media.

That’s the same argument that former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley made when they eliminated their states’ magazines in the last few years. Like Walker, they are both Republicans…

…Natasha Kassulke, who used to edit the DNR magazine, said agency executives began vetting content after a story on climate change ran in 2013. She said they spiked a story she wrote on the endangered American pine marten because it included a map showing that the creature inhabits an area near Lake Superior that had been slated for a contentious iron mine project. She said they also killed a story she wrote on how mammals will cope with climate change, telling her the terms “climate change” and “global warming” were forbidden.

Kassulke said she quit last summer because the editing had become so draconian.

“There are things in the magazine Walker hasn’t liked,” said state Sen. Jon Erpenbach, a Middleton Democrat who sits on the budget committee.

On a related note: it is hard to imagine just how much damage this administration intends to inflict on the American environment.

It should be remembered that the first president to be recognized as an advocate for the environment was a Republican, Theodore Roosevelt – and it was Richard Nixon who was president when the Clean Air Act passed. Yes, there was a time when conservatives believed in protecting the environment.

The Washington Post, Joe Davidson:

EPA staffer leaves with a bang, blasting agency policies under Trump

ike Cox, they are upset with an administrator casting doubt on the central role carbon dioxide plays in climate change. “You will continue to undermine your credibility and integrity with EPA staff, and the majority of the public, if you continue to question this basic science of climate change,” Cox wrote.

Of course, Pruitt’s position is no surprise for a man who was appointed by a president who called climate change a hoax…

…Now that Trump is moving toward “radically downsizing the EPA,” Ebell said, “employees who are opposed to the Trump Administration’s agenda are either going to conduct themselves as professional civil servants or find other employment or retire or be terminated. I would be more sympathetic if they had ever expressed any concern for the people whose jobs have been destroyed by EPA’s regulatory rampage.”

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