Microsoft: Russian hackers targeting U.S. campaigns

BOSTON — The same Russian military intelligence outfit that hacked the Democrats in 2016 has renewed vigorous U.S. election-related targeting, trying to breach computers at more than 200 organizations including political campaigns and their consultants, Microsoft said Thursday.

The intrusion attempts reflect a stepped up effort to infiltrate the U.S. political establishment, the company said. “What we’ve seen is consistent with previous attack patterns that not only target candidates and campaign staffers but also those who they consult on key issues,” Tom Burt, a Microsoft vice president, said in a blog post. U.K. and European political groups were also probed, he added.

Most of the hacking attempts by Russian, Chinese and Iranian agents were halted by Microsoft security software and the targets notified, he said. The company would not comment on who may have been successfully hacked or the impact.

Chief accused of rigging his own hiring resigns

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — The police chief of Connecticut’s largest city resigned Thursday hours after being arrested on federal charges that he teamed with Bridgeport’s personnel director to rig the hiring process to ensure he got the job two years ago.

Mayor Joe Ganim said that Chief Armando “A.J.” Perez resigned and that he named Assistant Chief Rebeca Garcia as acting chief after federal prosecutors in New York and FBI officials in Connecticut announced the arrests of Perez and David Dunn, the city’s acting personnel director.

Perez, 64, of Trumbull, Conn., and Dunn, 72, of Stratford, Conn., were each charged with wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and with making false statements to investigators. Both appeared via video before a federal judge in Bridgeport and were allowed to remain free on $150,000 bail. They did not enter pleas.

A criminal complaint alleged Perez and Dunn defrauded the city of 144,000 people by rigging the 2018 police chief examination to put Perez in position to secure the post as head of a police department with an annual budget of over $100 million and more than 400 officers.

Lawyers raise Floyd’s history of crime, drug use

MINNEAPOLIS — An attorney for one of four former Minneapolis officers charged in George Floyd’s death is highlighting Floyd’s past crimes and history of drug use, calling him an ex-con and “evident danger to the community.” Another is seizing on Floyd’s medical issues and addiction, saying he likely died from fentanyl, not a knee on his neck.

Some court filings by defense attorneys in recent months are taking a blame-the-victim approach. It’s a common defense strategy that legal experts say will be used to show officers acted reasonably, and to counter widely seen bystander video showing a white police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes.

Experts say the strategy may resonate with a potential jury pool, even if much of what is said now never comes up at a trial set for next spring.

Don Lewis, a prominent Twin Cities attorney who is not connected to this case, said it’s not unusual for defense attorneys to “feed the stereotype of the dangers of a Black man” to a jury to show that any use of force by law enforcement is justified. He said only one or two jurors need to have doubts.

Court denies challenge to religious objection limits

INDIANAPOLIS — An Indiana court rejected an appeal Thursday from conservative religious groups that have unsuccessfully challenged limits on the state’s religious objections law that were adopted under then-Gov. Mike Pence.

The state appeals court ruling upheld a suburban Indianapolis county judge’s decision last year that the three groups failed to prove they had faced any harm, agreeing with arguments by the state and four cities that the organizations lacked standing to sue.

Pence, a Republican who is now vice president, signed the 2015 law prohibiting any government actions that “substantially burden” a person or organization’s ability to follow religious beliefs amid a national uproar that the law could be used to discriminate against gays and lesbians. But days later, the Republican-dominated Legislature made revisions blocking its use as a legal defense for refusing to provide services and preventing the law from overriding local ordinances with LGBT protections.

At least 21 Indiana cities or counties — representing about 38% of the state’s population — now have local LGBT protection ordinances, according to the gay-rights advocacy group Freedom Indiana.

6-day-old endangered gorilla baby dies at zoo

NEW ORLEANS — Less than a week after celebrating the birth of a critically endangered gorilla, the zoo in New Orleans is mourning its death.

The baby western lowland gorilla born Friday died on Wednesday, Audubon Zoo spokeswoman Katie Smith said Thursday. The cause remains undetermined, but officials say Tumani, its 13-year-old mother, may not have produced enough milk.

“There are many risks involved with gorilla births and unfortunately, it is not unusual for a first-time gorilla mom to lose an offspring,” Dr. Robert MacLean, Audubon’s senior veterinarian, said in a news release.

Necropsy results will be available in a few weeks, the statement said.

The baby seemed to be doing very well at first, and zookeepers were keeping their distance to avoid disturbing them — they didn’t even know the baby’s sex yet, and hadn’t named it. But by Wednesday evening, the baby appeared lethargic and weak. It was taken to the zoo’s animal hospital but veterinarians couldn’t save it, the statement said.

Wholesale prices rise 0.3% in August as food costs drop

WASHINGTON — U.S. wholesale prices rose 0.3% in August, just half the July gain, as food and energy prices decline.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the August advance in the producer price index — which measures inflation before it reaches consumers — followed a 0.6% surge in July.

— The Associated Press