June 25, 2018
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Gun sales spike after Colorado theater massacre

From wire reports

Background checks for gun purchases spiked 41 percent in Colorado after 12 people were killed inside a suburban Denver movie theater, according to state data.

In the four days after the July 20 shooting, dealers submitted 3,647 requests for state background checks required to buy a firearm, said Susan Medina, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. That’s 41 percent more than the 2,583 requests during the same four days the prior week and a 38 percent increase over the 2,636 checks during the first Friday to Monday in July.

Debate over gun laws after high-profile shootings, like the one police say 24-year-old James Holmes was responsible for in Colorado, can prompt gun sales. Last year, one-day sales in Arizona jumped 60 percent after a gunman killed six people in a Tuscon parking lot and wounded others, including then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

The FBI declined to release data on background checks nationally since the Colorado shooting.

Data and interviews in other states also suggested increased sales.

Overseas voting in 24 states vulnerable to hackers

WASHINGTON — Twelve years after the weekslong turmoil over vote-counting in Florida in 2000 that led to a recount in the presidential election, the voting system is still far from fail-proof, according to a state-by-state report released Wednesday.

Almost half of states use voting systems for overseas and military voters that could be susceptible to hackers, says the report by Rutgers Law School and two good-governance groups: Common Cause Education Fund and the Verified Voting Foundation. Dozens of states lack proper contingency plans, audit procedures or voting machines that produce backup paper records in case something goes wrong.

Colorado, Delaware, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina are least prepared to catch problems and protect voter enfranchisement, the study showed. Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin are in the best shape.

In 16 states, at least some polling places are using electronic voting machines — largely put in place to eliminate the hanging-chad issue of 2000 — that don’t produce a paper record as a backup. That means there’s no independent way to verify the voter’s intention if the machine malfunctions or a recount is necessary.

Dozens of other states lack proper contingency plans in case electronic machines fail, or audit procedures to make sure ballots don’t disappear or emerge out of thin air.

With Election Day less than four months out, there’s little states can do to correct the problems before Nov. 6. But the report’s authors said many states are already moving to ensure their voting systems have as little vulnerability as possible.

Syria rushes reinforcements to its largest city

BEIRUT — Syrian troops rushed dozens of tanks and reinforcements Wednesday toward Aleppo, the country’s strategically vital commercial capital, in a bid to crush a rebel advance that has spread to wide swaths of the sprawling city.

As five days of fighting in Aleppo intensified, and with rumors swirling of a final showdown in that city, neighboring Turkey tightened its borders but said refugees will be allowed through.

The rebels have made stunning advances over the past week, but the battle for control of Syria, a geographic and political linchpin at the heart of the Middle East, is far from over. And the potential for wider, regional unrest is great.

Israel’s foreign minister warned that his country will act immediately if it discovers Islamic militants such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah are raiding Syria’s chemical or biological weapons stocks.

Israeli officials have reported a run on gas masks. Demand has almost doubled in the past few days, to 4,200 requests on Tuesday from a years-old average of about 2,200, said Merav Lapidot, a spokeswoman for the Israeli postal service, which distributes the masks.

On Monday, Syria threatened to unleash its chemical and biological weapons if it faces a foreign attack.

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