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23 Texas cities were targeted in a ‘coordinated ransomware attack’

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The majority of attacks were against small local governments, according to the state’s Department of Information Resources.

Cybersecurity experts have been deployed by the state to assess the damage from a “coordinated ransomware attack” that struck 23 Texas cities on Friday, state officials said.

Investigators hadn’t determined the origin of the attacks as of Friday evening and were still working to bring cities’ systems back online, according to a news release from the Texas Department of Information Resources. The department believes, however, that the attacks came from a “single threat actor.”

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Ransomware attacks involve a type of malware that accesses an organization’s files, locks and encrypts them until a ransom is paid to get them back. The malicious software is often delivered through email attachments or links, and has cost cities across the country millions in damage to computer hardware.

The department declined to name the specific cities that were attacked, but said the majority were smaller local governments.

On Friday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered a “Level 2 Escalated Response” to the attacks, one step below the Texas Division of Emergency Management’s highest level of alert. The designation means the emergency is beyond the scope of local responders.

The Texas ransomware incidents follow recent attacks in other states including Florida, Maryland and New York.

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BY TROY CLOSSON


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Pope decries euthanasia as Italy court considers assisted suicide

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Pope Francis on Friday again spoke out against assisted suicide and euthanasia, days before a top Italian court is to examine the thorny question in the largely Roman Catholic country.

"We can and we must reject the temptation, which is also favored by legislative changes, to use medicine to satisfy a sick person's possible wish to die," the pope told a delegation from the Italian Doctors Order.

Italy's Constitutional Court has called a session for Tuesday to reexamine the question of potentially legalising assisted suicide, without mentioning euthanasia.

The court last October gave parliament a year to fill a legal void on the question, but MPs have not done so.

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How Facebook makes money when people are slaughtered

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The National Rifle Association nearly doubled its spending on pro-gun Facebook propaganda for three weeks after the mass shootings last month in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, according to analytics provided to The Intercept.The social advertising surge began just one day after the Aug. 3 El Paso massacre, which left 22 people dead, and on the same day as the Dayton killings, which took 10 lives. At one point in this period, the NRA was spending $29,000 on a day’s worth of Facebook ads, nearly four times as much as before the shootings, according to Pathmatics, a company that monitors online advertising spending. The ad spending was conducted through the NRA’s lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, which, in the four weeks before the shootings, spent on average just over $9,400 a day on Facebook ads.Between Aug. 4 and Aug. 25, the institute spent around $360,000 on Facebook — roughly $16,500 per day — reaching a peak of over $29,000 on Aug. 18, according to Pathmatics, which said that it gathered this data from a panel of hundreds of thousands of Facebook users who opt in to automatically share information about the ads they’re shown. Altogether, the ads bought in this period were viewed tens of millions of times, the analytics firm estimated. “The NRA’s ad spend has spiked significantly, which isn’t surprising for an organization in the midst of a reputation battle and crisis,” Pathmatics CEO Gabe Gottlieb said.

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Is a strange Twitter glitch censoring the left?

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The Working Families Party, a New York-based progressive political party, has a reputation befitting its name as a left-populist political organization. So when the organization endorsed the center-left Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren — who was once a hardcore Republican and has emphasized her capitalist credentials — over the explicitly democratic socialist candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sanders (I-Vt.) supporters were understandably disappointed. After all, the party overwhelmingly endorsed Sanders in the previous presidential election. What had changed?

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