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Georgia voting touchscreens vulnerable, security agency says

ATLANTA — A U.S. cybersecurity agency reported Friday that voting touchscreens used in Georgia have security vulnerabilities that put them at risk to hacking attacks, though there’s no evidence those weaknesses have been exploited so far.

Election officials who rely on touchscreens manufactured by Dominion Voting Systems should increase security by conducting rigorous audits, strengthening physical protections of equipment and patching outdated software, according to recommendations by the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

The report also says that state and county governments can choose to eliminate bar codes that are printed on ballots, which could be manipulated to change how votes are recorded. The Georgia secretary of state’s office is considering abolishing bar codes.

The CISA report backs up allegations made in a federal court case that hackers could flip votes if they were able to gain access to voting equipment. After a four-month review, the agency cited nine vulnerabilities in Dominion’s touchscreens.

Other companies’ voting equipment could have similar flaws, but the CISA report focused on voting touchscreens used in Georgia. The review cited risks for future elections, and state investigations have repeatedly debunked allegations of fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

A Georgia election official said the real-world danger of hacking is remote because of layers of security in equipment that isn’t connected to the internet.

—The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Texas teacher who closed school door is ‘heartbroken’

A Texas teacher already reeling after the mass shooting inside Robb Elementary has been made to feel all the more devastated by authorities who incorrectly stated she propped open a door that allowed the gunman to enter the school.

“It’s traumatic for her when it’s insinuated that she’s involved, the door open,” attorney Don Flanary, who represents the unidentified educator, told ABC News. “She’s heartbroken.”

In the moments before the massacre on May 24, Flanary said the teacher walked outside to meet a colleague dropping her off some food, briefly propping open a door leading back inside the building. Then out of nowhere, she spotted a gray Ford pickup racing down the roadway, which ultimately crashed a short distance from the Uvalde school.

Salvador Ramos, armed and sporting a tactical vest, emerged from the vehicle and then started in the teacher’s direction.

Flanary emphasized that his client acted quickly, explaining that she “immediately turns and she runs inside, kicks the rock out, slams the door.”

At press conference in wake of the classroom carnage, Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said Ramos accessed the school through a door propped open by a teacher. Days later, police walked back the claim, confirming that the door was shut, but was not locked at the time. An investigation has since been launched into why the automatic lock did not engage.

—New York Daily News

There were 200 kidnappings in Haiti in May, UN agency says

Exactly one year after warring gangs shut down transportation links to the southern regions of Haiti, armed groups continue to restrict access to vulnerable communities in Port-au-Prince, forcing thousands of others from their homes on the eastern outskirts of the capital and creating travel problems in the north of the country, the United Nations said Friday.

At least 188 people have been killed and almost 17,000 people have been displaced from Port-au-Prince since April 24 by gangs, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said, citing data from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Humanitarian Rights and the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti.

He noted that among those killed were 96 suspected gang members. Despite efforts by police to fight armed gangs, kidnappings have continued unabated and access to violence-affected neighborhoods remains limited, leading to alarmingly high malnutrition rates among children in some capital neighborhoods.

—Miami Herald

Researchers find that 2 drugs reduced COVID-19 deaths

ST. LOUIS — The National Institutes of Health released early results on of a trial involving Washington University, showing that two anti-inflammatory drugs reduced the risk of death in patients with severe COVID-19.

The researchers will soon release the findings in a preprint and aim to publish in a peer-reviewed journal this fall, but the NIH released the initial findings on Thursday.

The trial included patients hospitalized with moderate to severe cases. The 518 patients who received the drug infliximab had a mortality rate of 10%, compared with 14.5% in the placebo group. The 509 patients who received the drug abatacept had a mortality rate of 11%, compared with 15% in the placebo group.

When it initially launched, the trial had also included a third drug, cenicriviroc. But that drug was dropped from the trial in September 2021 because it was not showing a benefit.

COVID-19 can cause severe illness in patients by sparking an abnormally large immune response, and it appears that the immune-modulating drugs can tamp down that reaction, said the trial’s protocol chair, Dr. William Powderly, director of the Institute for Clinical and Translational Sciences and co-director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Washington University School of Medicine.

The study was conducted between October 2020 and December 2021, with nearly 2,000 patients across 46 sites in the U.S. and 23 in Latin America.

—St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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