Cyberattack Hits Ukraine Then Spreads Internationally – New York Times

Computer systems from Ukraine to the United States were struck on Tuesday in an international cyberattack that was like a recent assault that crippled tens of thousands of machines worldwide.

In Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, A.T.M.s stopped working. About 80 miles away, workers were forced to manually monitor radiation at the old Chernobyl nuclear plant when their computers failed. And tech managers at companies around the world, from Maersk, the Danish shipping conglomerate, to Merck, the drug giant in the United States, were scrambling to respond.

It was unclear who was behind this cyberattack, and the extent of its impact was still hard to gauge Tuesday. It started as an attack on Ukrainian government and business computer systems — an assault that appeared to have been intended to hit the day before a holiday marking the adoption in 1996 of Ukraine’s first Constitution after breaking away from the Soviet Union. It spread from there, causing collateral damage around the world.

This outbreak is the latest and perhaps the most sophisticated in a series of attacks that make use of dozens of hacking tools that were stolen from the National Security Agency and leaked online in April by a group called the Shadow Brokers.

Like the WannaCry attacks in May, the latest global hacking took control of computers and demanded digital ransom from their owners to regain access. The new attack used the same N.S.A. hacking tool, Eternal Blue, that was used in the WannaCry incident, and two other methods to promote its spread, according to researchers at the computer security company Symantec.

The N.S.A. has not acknowledged its tools were used in WannaCry or other attacks. But computer security specialists are demanding that the agency help the rest of the world defend against the weapons it created.

”The N.S.A. needs to take a leadership role in working closely with security and operating system platform vendors such as Apple and Microsoft to address the plague that they’ve unleashed,” said Golan Ben-Oni, the global chief information officer at IDT, a Newark-based conglomerate hit by a separate attack in April that used N.S.A. hacking tools. Mr. Ben-Oni warned federal officials that more serious attacks were probably on the horizon.

The vulnerability in Windows software used by Eternal Blue was patched by Microsoft in March, but as the WannaCry attacks demonstrated, hundreds of thousands of organizations around the world failed to properly install the fix.

“Just because you roll out a patch doesn’t mean it’ll be put in place quickly,” said Carl Herberger, vice president of security at Radware. “The more bureaucratic an organization is, the higher chance it won’t have updated its software.”

Because the ransomware used at least two other ways to spread on Tuesday, even those who used the Microsoft patch could be vulnerable, according to researchers at F-Secure, the Finnish cybersecurity firm.

A Microsoft spokesman said the company’s latest antivirus software should protect against the attack.

The Ukrainian government said several of its ministries, local banks and metro systems had been affected. A number of other European companies, including Rosneft, the Russian energy giant; Saint-Gobain, the French construction materials company; and WPP, the British advertising agency, also said they had been targeted.

Ukrainian officials pointed a finger at Russia on Tuesday, though Russian companies were also affected. Home Credit bank, one of Russia’s top 50 lenders, was paralyzed, with all of its offices closed, according to the RBC news website. The attack also affected Evraz, a steel manufacturing and mining company that employs about 80,000 people, the RBC website reported.

In the United States, DLA Piper, the multinational law firm, also reported being hit. Hospitals in Pennsylvania were being forced to cancel surgeries after the attack hit computers at Heritage Valley Health Systems, a Pennsylvania health care provider, and its hospitals in Beaver and Sewickley, Penn., and satellite locations across the state.

A spokesman for the N.S.A. referred questions about the attack to the Department of Homeland Security. “The Department of Homeland Security is monitoring reports of cyber attacks affecting multiple global entities and is coordinating with our international and domestic cyber partners,” Scott McConnell, spokesman for D.H.S., said in a statement.

Computer specialists said the ransomware was very similar to a virus that first emerged last year called Petya. Petya means “Little Peter,” in Russian, leading some to speculate the name referred to Sergei Prokofiev’s 1936 symphony “Peter and the Wolf,” about a boy who captures a wolf.

Reports that the computer virus was a variant of Petya suggest the attackers will be hard to trace. Petya was for sale on the so-called dark web, where its creators made the ransomware available as “ransomware as a service” — a play on Silicon Valley terminology for delivering software over the internet, according to the security firm Avast Threat Labs.

That means anyone could launch the ransomware with the click of a button, encrypt someone’s systems and demand a ransom to unlock it. If the victim pays, the authors of the Petya ransomware, who call themselves Janus Cybercrime Solutions, get a cut of the payment.

That distribution method means that pinning down the people responsible for Tuesday’s attack could be difficult.

The attack is “an improved and more lethal version of WannaCry,” according to Matthieu Suiche, a security researcher who helped contain the spread of the WannaCry ransomware when he created a kill switch that stopped the attacks.

In just the last seven days, Mr. Suiche noted that WannaCry had tried to hit an additional 80,000 organizations, but was prevented from executing attack code because of the kill switch. Petya does not have a kill switch.

Petya also encrypts and locks entire hard drives, while the earlier ransomware attacks locked only individual files, said Chris Hinkley, a researcher at Armor, the security firm.

The hackers behind Petya demanded $300 worth of the cybercurrency Bitcoin to unlock victims’ machines. By Tuesday afternoon, online records showed that 30 victims had paid the ransom, though it was not clear whether they regained access to their files. Other victims may be out of luck, after Posteo, the German email service provider, shut down the hackers’ email account.

In Ukraine, people turned up at post offices, A.T.M.s and airports to find blank computer screens, or signs about closures. At Kiev’s central post office, a few bewildered customers milled about, holding parcels and letters, looking at a sign that said, “closed for technical reasons.”

The hackers compromised Ukrainian accounting software mandated to be used in various industries in the country, including government agencies and banks, according to researchers at Cisco Talos, the security division of the computer networking company. That allowed them to unleash their ransomware when the software, which is also used in other countries, was updated.

The ransomware spread for five days across Ukraine, and around the world, before activating Tuesday evening.

“If I had to guess, I would think this was done to send a political message,” said Craig Williams, the senior technical researcher at Talos.

One Kiev resident, Tetiana Vasylieva, was forced to borrow money from a relative after failing to withdraw money at four automated teller machines. At one A.T.M. in Kiev belonging to the Ukrainian branch of the Austrian bank Raiffeisen, a message on the screen said the machine was not functioning.

Ukraine’s Infrastructure Ministry, the postal service, the national railway company, and one of the country’s largest communications companies, Ukrtelecom, had been affected, Volodymyr Omelyan, the country’s infrastructure minister, said in a Facebook post.

Officials for the metro system in Kiev said card payments could not be accepted. The national power grid company Kievenergo had to switch off all of its computers, but the situation was under control, according to the Interfax-Ukraine news agency. Metro Group, a German company that runs wholesale food stores, said its operations in Ukraine had been affected.

At the Chernobyl plant, the computers affected by the attack collected data on radiation levels and were not connected to industrial systems at the site, where, though all reactors have been decommissioned, huge volumes of radioactive waste remain. Operators said radiation monitoring was being done manually.

Cybersecurity researchers questioned whether collecting ransom was the true objective of the attack.

“It’s entirely possible that this attack could have been a smoke screen,” said Justin Harvey, the chief security officer for the Fidelis cybersecurity company. “If you are an evil doer and you wanted to cause mayhem, why wouldn’t you try to first mask it as something else?”

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Vote Delayed as GOP Struggles to Marshal Support for Health Care Bill – New York Times

WASHINGTON — Facing intransigent Republican opposition, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, on Tuesday delayed a vote on legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, dealing another setback to Republicans’ seven-year effort to dismantle the health law and setting up a long, heated summer of health care battles.

Mr. McConnell faced resistance from across his conference, not only from the most moderate and conservative senators but from others as well. Had he pressed forward this week, he almost surely would have lacked the votes even to begin debate on the bill.

“We will not be on the bill this week, but we’re still working toward getting at least 50 people in a comfortable place,” said Mr. McConnell, who is known as a canny strategist but was forced to acknowledge on Tuesday that he had more work to do.

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The delay pushes Senate consideration of the bill until after a planned recess for the Fourth of July, but it does not guarantee that Republican senators will come together. Opponents of the bill, including patient advocacy groups and medical organizations, plan to lobby senators in their home states next week. Senators are likely to be dogged by demonstrators. Democrats vowed to keep up the pressure, and some Republican senators have suggested that their votes will be difficult to win.

After meeting with President Trump at the White House, Mr. McConnell told reporters that if Republicans could not come to an agreement, they would be forced to negotiate a deal with Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader.

“The status quo is simply unsustainable,” Mr. McConnell said. “It’ll be dealt with in one of two ways: Either Republicans will agree and change the status quo, or the markets will continue to collapse, and we’ll have to sit down with Senator Schumer. And my suspicion is that any negotiation with the Democrats would include none of the reforms that we would like to make.”

Republicans have promised for seven years to repeal the health law, President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement. But Mr. McConnell’s announcement on Tuesday was yet another major stumble in the unsteady quest by Republican congressional leaders to deliver a repeal bill to the desk of Mr. Trump, who has yet to sign his first piece of marquee legislation.

Mr. McConnell, the chief author of the Senate repeal bill, can afford to lose only two of the 52 Republican senators, but more than a half-dozen have, for widely divergent reasons, expressed deep reservations about the bill.

Mr. Trump, meeting with Republican senators at the White House, declared, “We’re getting very close.”

“This will be great if we get it done,” he said. “And if we don’t get it done, it’s just going to be something that we’re not going to like, and that’s O.K., and I understand that very well.”

Mr. McConnell wrote his bill behind closed doors, betting he could fashion a product that would show significant improvement over the bill that was narrowly approved by the House last month. And he laid out an aggressive timeline for its passage, hoping to secure Senate approval roughly a week after unveiling the legislation.

Yet on Tuesday, just five days after releasing the bill, Mr. McConnell had to bow to reality: Republican senators were not ready to move ahead with the bill.

At least a small number might never be — raising questions about whether Mr. McConnell will be able to win over the votes for passage.

“It’s difficult for me to see how any tinkering is going to satisfy my fundamental and deep concerns about the impact of the bill,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, who was among the lawmakers prepared to vote against taking up the bill this week.

Mr. McConnell and his leadership team are hoping to replicate the feat of Speaker Paul D. Ryan, who revived the House’s repeal bill and pushed it to passage six weeks after it appeared to be dead.

“I would hope, by the end of the week, that we have reached basically a conclusion with regard to the substance and the policy of this,” said Senator John Thune of South Dakota, a member of the Senate Republican leadership.

Then, he said, it is just a question of timing.

Democrats are unified against the repeal bill, but they were not celebrating on Tuesday.

“The mantra on our side is never to underestimate Mitch McConnell,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut.

Mr. Schumer said: “We know the fight is not over. That is for sure.” Over the next few weeks, he said, Mr. McConnell “will try to use a slush fund to buy off Republicans, cut back-room deals, to try and get this thing done.”

At least four Republican senators — Ms. Collins, Dean Heller of Nevada, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Rand Paul of Kentucky — had said they would vote against the motion to begin debate, enough to ensure it would fail. Other Republicans also appeared reluctant about moving forward with the bill.

“I’m just grateful leadership decided, let’s take our time, give this more thought and try and get this right,” said Mr. Johnson, who had been critical of the desire by Republican leaders to hold a vote this week.

After Mr. McConnell’s announcement, three other Republicans announced their opposition to the bill in its current form: Jerry Moran of Kansas, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Rob Portman of Ohio.

Ms. Capito and Mr. Portman, who announced their opposition together, expressed concern about how the bill would affect Medicaid and the opioid crisis, which has had devastating effects in their states.

The release of a Congressional Budget Office evaluation on Monday made it much more difficult for party leaders to win over hesitant Republican members. The budget office said the Senate bill would leave 22 million more people uninsured after 10 years, and many people buying insurance on the individual market would have skimpier coverage and higher out-of-pocket costs.

The Senate Democratic whip, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, said the report by the Congressional Budget Office “did more to strike a dagger to the heart of this Republican repeal than anything else.”

In 2026, the budget office said, 15 million fewer people would have Medicaid coverage under the Senate bill than under the Affordable Care Act, and seven million fewer people would have coverage they purchased on their own. Faced with deep cuts in Medicaid, the report said, state officials would face unpalatable choices: restrict eligibility, eliminate services, reduce payments to health care providers and health plans, or spend more of their own money.

Appearing in Washington, Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio cited the 22 million projection and expressed bewilderment that fellow Republicans would be on board with the bill.

“And they think that’s great?” he asked. “That’s good public policy? What, are you kidding me?”

Doctors, hospitals and other health care provider groups have come out strongly against the Senate bill, as have patient advocacy groups like the American Heart Association. But business groups were ramping up their support. In a letter on Tuesday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce urged senators to vote for the bill.

The Senate bill “will repeal the most egregious taxes and mandates” of the Affordable Care Act, allowing employers to create more jobs, said Jack Howard, a senior vice president of the group. The bill, he noted, would repeal a tax on medical devices and eliminate penalties on large employers that do not offer coverage to employees.

A separate letter expressing general support for the Senate’s efforts was sent by a coalition of business and employer groups including the National Association of Home Builders, the National Restaurant Association and the National Retail Federation.

But Senate conservatives found themselves squeezed between business sentiment and their conservative base. The Club for Growth, a conservative group, came out against the Senate measure on Tuesday. The organization’s president, David McIntosh, noted that congressional Republicans had “promised to repeal every word” of the Affordable Care Act.

“Only in Washington does repeal translate to restore,” he said. “Because that’s exactly what the Senate G.O.P. health care bill does: It restores Obamacare.”

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As Trump’s Tactics Fall Short, Pence Takes Lead on Health Bill – New York Times

WASHINGTON — President Trump personally lobbied House Republicans to pass health care legislation this year, but the Trump team’s heavy-handed tactics have been ineffective in the Senate, leaving him on the sidelines while Vice President Mike Pence led the effort to salvage the foundering bill.

Mr. Trump became more engaged on Tuesday, summoning all 52 Republican senators to the White House for some last-ditch diplomacy, but only after it became clear Republican leaders were postponing the vote until after the Fourth of July recess.

“The White House has been very involved in these discussion,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said in announcing the postponement. “They’re very anxious to help.”

But the Republican Senate leaders have made it known that they would much rather negotiate with Mr. Pence than the president, according to several White House and congressional officials. And some of the White House’s efforts have clearly been counterproductive.

Mr. McConnell made clear his unhappiness to the White House after a “super PAC” aligned with Mr. Trump started an ad campaign against Senator Dean Heller, Republican of Nevada, when he said last week that he opposed the health care bill.

The majority leader called the White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, to complain that the attacks were “beyond stupid,” according to two Republicans with knowledge of the tense exchange on Saturday.

Mr. McConnell, who has been toiling for weeks, mostly in private, to put together a measure that would satisfy hard-liners and moderates, told Mr. Priebus in his call that the assault by the group, America First, not only jeopardized the bill’s prospects but also imperiled Mr. Heller’s already difficult path to re-election.

America First was founded by a group of Mr. Trump’s loyalists — many of them with deep connections to Mr. Pence, including Nick Ayers, a Republican consultant who is regarded as the vice president’s top political adviser. The PAC compared Mr. Heller to Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, and vowed a seven-figure advertising campaign against him.

Josh Holmes, Mr. McConnell’s former chief of staff, said, “That the White House is asking people to take a tough vote and then running ads against members while we’re still in negotiations is so dumb it’s amazing we even have to have the conversation.”

Mr. Priebus did not respond to numerous messages seeking comment.

A broad range of Republican senators across the ideological spectrum have indicated their unease with the compromise health bill, which was largely drafted in secret over the last month. But Mr. Trump has few ties with the group, and several Republicans who remain on the fence have tangled with Mr. Trump, either during the presidential campaign or since.

Top Trump lieutenants like Stephen K. Bannon, his chief strategist, who lobbied members on the House bill, have been all but sidelined. Mr. Priebus has also played a much diminished role.

Mr. Pence has been far more active in seeking out Republican senators. Seema Verma, Mr. Pence’s former adviser in the Indiana statehouse and now a top administration health care official, has been trying to reassure senators that their states will have flexibility on Medicaid under the bill, while Mr. Pence’s former chief of staff, Marc Short, now the White House legislative affairs director, has been quarterbacking the effort from his hideaway in the Capitol.

According to an administration official, Mr. Trump has spoken with several members of the Senate, including Ted Cruz of Texas, his main rival for the 2016 presidential nomination, as well as Mike Lee of Utah and one or two others. But the pace was nothing like the dozens of calls he made to help pass the House’s health bill, aides said.

And the fact that an ostensibly pro-Republican group would respond to Mr. Heller’s criticism of the legislation — he flayed the proposal in harsh terms on Friday but did not rule out eventually backing it — by swiftly accusing him of siding “with Nancy Pelosi” was a shock to Mr. McConnell, who has made no secret of his impatience with Mr. Trump’s impulsive style.

Mr. Heller, the only Senate Republican who will face voters next year in a state carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016, is the top target for Democrats facing a Senate map with few opportunities in 2018. And there were already seven groups — a mix of health care advocacy organizations and more partisan Democratic efforts — on the air in Nevada assailing the Republican health care overhaul, according to a Republican ad buyer tracking the ad traffic.

Neither Mr. McConnell’s office nor his top outside political advisers were warned about an impending attack on one of their most endangered incumbents. “They didn’t check in with anybody,” Mr. Holmes said. “There was no clearing of channels, no heads-up, nothing.”

The anti-Heller assault began with a digital ad buy over the weekend, but it was unclear whether the pro-Trump group would follow through with its threat to spend over $1 million attacking the senator. As of Tuesday, the group had reserved just over $250,000 for ads in Las Vegas and Reno, the two largest media markets in the state, according to the ad buyer.

The move against Mr. Heller had the blessing of the White House, according to an official with America First. Mr. Trump’s allies were furious that the senator would join Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican who accepted the Medicaid expansion under the health law and opposes the Republican overhaul, to blast the bill.

But the frustration on Capitol Hill with Mr. Trump and his allies runs far deeper than the ads aimed at the Nevada senator.

Mr. Trump has no centralized political operation. Mr. Priebus, who until he moved to the White House was the Republican National Committee chairman, is the nearest thing the president has to a political enforcer.

But given his day job, he has multiple other demands on his time. Yet Mr. Priebus remains the de facto head of the party. And he is increasingly on the receiving end of frustration from Republican lawmakers who are irritated about the disorganization and factional nature of Mr. Trump’s White House.

This month, Mr. McConnell had to place a call to Mr. Priebus simply to push the Republican National Committee to sign off on creating a coordinated campaign for Senator Luther Strange of Alabama, according to two Republican officials familiar with the call.

Mr. Strange, an ally of Mr. McConnell’s who was appointed to fill the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is facing a primary this summer. Forming coordinated committees that can help incumbent lawmakers benefit from national party dollars is the sort of perfunctory step typically handled by aides at the party committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

And while Mr. Trump has taken to Twitter and made phone calls in an effort to lobby his party to pass the health overhaul, he has also provided Democrats with potential weapons, namely his description of the House bill he worked to pass as “mean.”

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Three Chicago police officers indicted and charged with conspiring to cover up Laquan McDonald shooting – Washington Post

Demonstrators in November 2015, not long after video footage of the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald was released. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Three current or former police officers in Chicago were indicted Tuesday on charges of conspiring to cover up the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald, a black teenager killed by an officer in 2014.

McDonald’s death, captured in a video released the following year that shows him being shot while veering away from officers, set off protests and rocked the police department. The officer was charged with murder, while investigators have focused on the behavior of other officers following the shooting.

The indictment, announced by the special prosecutor investigating McDonald’s shooting, charges the three veteran officers with trying to “conceal the true facts of the events surrounding the killing of Laquan McDonald.”

McDonald’s death in October 2014 has continued to reverberate through the Chicago Police Department, leading to a sprawling federal investigation and the ouster of the department’s superintendent. More than a year after McDonald was killed, authorities released video showing Officer Jason Van Dyke firing 16 rounds at the teenager and charged him with murder.

[Chicago police officers have pattern of using excessive force, scathing Justice Dept. report says]

While the police union had said McDonald was holding a knife and approaching officers when he was killed, graphic video showed that the 17-year-old was veering away from officers when he was shot. An attorney for Van Dyke has said he feared for his life at the time.

The video recording spurred outrage in Chicago, during which Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) dismissed Garry F. McCarthy, the police superintendent. Not long after, the Justice Department began a probe into the Chicago police, concluding this year that the department has a pattern of routinely using excessive force and violating the rights of minority residents.

Chicago officials have announced a series of policing reforms in the wake of the outcry, while the Chicago Police Department last year recommended firing several officers for lying about McDonald’s killing, including Van Dyke.

[Why did authorities say Laquan McDonald lunged at Chicago police officers?]

“The shooting of Laquan McDonald forever changed the Chicago Police Department and I am committed to implementing policies and training to prevent an incident like this from happening again,” Eddie Johnson, the Chicago police superintendent, said in a statement. “Throughout this investigation, CPD has fully cooperated with prosecutors and will continue to do so. We will also continue to implement meaningful reforms that build community trust, provide greater training and resources to our dedicated officers, and make Chicago safer.”

The indictment announced Tuesday said that Detective David March, 58, and patrol officers Joseph Walsh, 48, and Thomas Gaffney, 43, filed false police reports in the hours and days after the shooting “in an attempt to prevent or shape any criminal investigation.”

It was not immediately clear whether the three officers had attorneys. The three-count indictment was voted on Monday by a Cook County special grand jury, officials said, and filed in circuit court Tuesday. The three men are expected to appear in court July 10 for arraignment.

According to the indictment, the three officers, along with other unidentified people, coordinated their efforts to obstruct justice, ignored information and evidence and engaged in other illegal acts following the shooting.

“The indictment makes clear that these defendants did more than merely obey an unofficial ‘code of silence,’ rather it alleges that they lied about what occurred to prevent independent criminal investigators from learning the truth,” Patricia Brown Holmes, the special prosecutor, said in a statement.

Holmes said the grand jury investigation into the shooting will continue.

This post, first published at 3:34 p.m., has been updated. 

Further reading:

Chicago police superintendent calls for firing officer who shot and killed Laquan McDonald

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Vote Delayed as Republicans Struggle to Marshal Support for Health Care Bill – New York Times

WASHINGTON — Facing intransigent Republican opposition, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, has told senators he will delay a vote on his legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, dealing President Trump an embarrassing setback on a key part of his agenda.

Republican leaders had hoped to take a page from the playbook used to get a bill over the line in the House, appeasing the most conservative members of their conference while pressuring moderates to fall in line with fewer concessions.

But as opposition mounted in both camps, even against a vote just to take up the bill, Mr. McConnell decided he would delay consideration until after the Senate’s weeklong July 4 recess.

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Negotiations that leaders hoped would move senators toward yes only exposed the fissures in the Republican Party. Conservatives were demanding that states be allowed to waive the Affordable Care Act’s prohibition on insurance companies charging sick people more for coverage and are asking for a more expansive waiver system for state regulators. They also wanted more money for tax-free health savings accounts to help people pay for private insurance.

Senators from states that expanded the Medicaid program — and Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine — would not brook many of those changes, especially the measure to severely undermine protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions. They wanted more money for mental health benefits for people addicted to opioids and money for states to cover people left behind by the rollback of the Medicaid program in both the House and Senate versions.

Three Republican senators — Ms. Collins, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin — had announced they would vote against the motion to begin debate that had been scheduled to hit the Senate floor on Wednesday, joining Senator Dean Heller of Nevada, who made the same pledge on Friday.

A bevy of other senators from both flanks of the party seemed headed in the same direction if they did not see changes made to the Senate health care bill, leaving the measure in deep peril, since Republicans can only lose two votes from their own party.

The release of a Congressional Budget Office evaluation on Monday did little to help leaders roll up votes from either side of the fence. The budget office said the Senate bill would leave 22 million more uninsured after 10 years, while sending out-of-pocket medical expenses skyrocketing for the working poor and those nearing retirement.

The budget office did not provide conservatives with support for their demands either. The state waivers already in the Senate bill “would probably cause market instability in some areas” and “would have little effect on the number of people insured” by 2026, the analysis concluded. Adding still more waivers, including one that could allow insurers to price the sick out of the health care market, could deprive even more people of health care.

Even before Mr. McConnell’s decision, White House officials had braced for the likelihood that the procedural vote would fail and that they would have to revisit the measure after the Fourth of July recess — when they hoped to be able to woo Mr. Johnson, who has been a surprisingly fierce critic of the bill from the right. The senator has repeatedly warned that this week is too soon to vote on the health care measure, as Republican senate leaders have insisted they need to do.

Vice President Mike Pence, attended the Senate Republican lunch on Tuesday and then broke off for private meetings with Mr. Heller, a seemingly firm “no” and the first moderate Republican to break with Mr. McConnell over the bill, and Rob Portman of Ohio, who is feeling pressure from his state’s governor, John R. Kasich, to oppose the bill and defend Ohio’s Medicaid expansion.

Mr. Portman was the subject of a spirited evaluation of his open criticism of the bill by Mr. McConnell, who was frustrated with the expansion-state senators who showed their hand early to other wavering colleagues, dooming the bill for now. Mr. McConnell was unhappy that Mr. Portman seemed to be abandoning his previous stance on fiscal rectitude by opposing Medicaid cuts in the bill.

But the Ohio senator was getting it from both sides. Mr. Kasich appeared in Washington on Tuesday to sharply criticize the Senate bill. The governor said he was deeply concerned about millions of people losing coverage under the bill.

“Who would lose this coverage?” Mr. Kasich said. “The mentally ill, the drug addicted, the chronically ill. I believe these are people that need to have coverage.”

At the same news conference, Colorado’s Democratic governor, John W. Hickenlooper, said his state’s Republican senator, Cory Gardner, “understands the hardships and the difficulties in rural life.”

“This bill would punish people in rural Colorado,” Mr. Hickenlooper said, raising the pressure.

Doctors, hospitals and other health care provider groups came out strongly against the Senate bill, as did patient advocacy groups like the American Heart Association. But business groups were ramping up their support. In a letter on Tuesday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce endorsed the Senate bill and urged senators to vote for it.

The Senate bill “will repeal the most egregious taxes and mandates” of the Affordable Care Act, allowing employers to create more jobs, said Jack Howard, a senior vice president of the group. The bill, he noted, would repeal a tax on medical devices and eliminate penalties on large employers that do not offer coverage to employees.

A separate letter expressing general support for the Senate’s efforts was sent by a coalition of 28 business and employer groups including the National Association of Home Builders, the National Restaurant Association and the National Retail Federation.

Even the Trump administration is divided over what comes next, especially on the payment of subsidies to health insurance companies to compensate for reducing out-of-pocket costs for low-income people.

Mr. Trump has threatened to withhold the monthly payments as a way to induce Democrats to bargain with him over the future of the Affordable Care Act. Administration officials said Mr. Trump did not want to make the payments if the Senate did not pass a health care bill this week. But they said Tom Price, the secretary of health and human services, had urged the White House not to cut off the payments abruptly.

A federal judge has ruled that the payments are illegal because Congress never appropriated money for them, but that ruling is being appealed. Any interruption of the payments could have a dire destabilizing effect on markets, insurers say. Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina recently blamed the Trump administration’s mixed signals on the subsidy for most of its proposed 23 percent spike in premiums next year.

Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, defended the administration’s position at his briefing on Friday.

“If the president were to hypothetically say that he’s going to make the payments in perpetuity or for a year, I think that continues to prop up a failed system,” Mr. Spicer said. “It continues to do wrong by the American taxpayer. And it also doesn’t lend itself to the expediency that I think we want to — help get a new health care system in place.”

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Ransomware virus hits computer servers across the globe – Reuters

By Jack Stubbs and Pavel Polityuk| MOSCOW/KIEV

A ransomware attack hit computers across the world on Tuesday, taking out servers at Russia’s biggest oil company, disrupting operations at Ukrainian banks, and shutting down computers at multinational shipping and advertising firms.

Cyber security experts said those behind the attack appeared to have exploited the same type of hacking tool used in the WannaCry ransomware attack that infected hundreds of thousands of computers in May before a British researcher created a kill-switch.

“It’s like WannaCry all over again,” said Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer with Helsinki-based cyber security firm F-Secure.

He said he expected the outbreak to spread in the Americas as workers turned on vulnerable machines, allowing the virus to attack. “This could hit the U.S.A. pretty bad,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it was monitoring reports of cyber attacks around the world and coordinating with other countries.

The first reports of organizations being hit emerged from Russia and Ukraine, but the impact quickly spread westwards to computers in Romania, the Netherlands, Norway, and Britain.

Within hours, the attack had gone global.

Danish shipping giant A.P. Moller-Maersk, which handles one out of seven containers shipped globally, said the attack had caused outages at its computer systems across the world on Tuesday, including at its terminal in Los Angeles.

Pharmaceutical company Merck & Co said its computer network had been affected by the global hack.

A Swiss government agency also reported computer systems were affected in India, though the country’s cyber security agency said it had yet to receive any reports of attacks.

“DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME”

After the Wannacry attack, organizations around the globe were advised to beef up IT security.

“Unfortunately, businesses are still not ready and currently more than 80 companies are affected,” said Nikolay Grebennikov, vice president for R&D at data protection firm Acronis.

One of the victims of Tuesday’s cyber attack, a Ukrainian media company, said its computers were blocked and it had a demand for $300 worth of the Bitcoin crypto-currency to restore access to its files.

“If you see this text, then your files are no longer accessible, because they have been encrypted. Perhaps you are busy looking for a way to recover your files, but don’t waste your time. Nobody can recover your files without our decryption service,” the message said, according to a screenshot posted by Ukraine’s Channel 24.

The same message appeared on computers at Maersk offices in Rotterdam and at businesses affected in Norway.

Other companies that said they had been hit by a cyber attack included Russian oil producer Rosneft, French construction materials firm Saint Gobain and the world’s biggest advertising agency, WPP – though it was not clear if their problems were caused by the same virus.

“The building has come to a standstill. It’s fine, we’ve just had to switch everything off,” said one WPP employee who asked not to be named.

WANNACRY AGAIN

Cyber security firms scrambled to understand the scope and impact of the attacks, seeking to confirm suspicions hackers had leveraged the same type of hacking tool exploited by WannaCry, and to identify ways to stop the onslaught.

Experts said the latest ransomware attacks unfolding worldwide, dubbed GoldenEye, were a variant of an existing ransomware family called Petya.

It uses two layers of encryption which have frustrated efforts by researchers to break the code, according to Romanian security firm Bitdefender.

“There is no workaround to help victims retrieve the decryption keys from the computer,” the company said.

Russian security software maker Kaspersky Lab, however, said its preliminary findings suggested the virus was not a variant of Petya but a new ransomware not seen before.

Last’s month’s fast-spreading WannaCry ransomware attack was crippled after a 22-year-old British security researcher Marcus Hutchins created a so-called kill-switch that experts hailed as the decisive step in slowing the attack.

Any organization that heeded strongly worded warnings in recent months from Microsoft Corp to urgently install a security patch and take other steps appeared to be protected against the latest attacks.

Ukraine was particularly badly hit, with Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman describing the attacks on his country as “unprecedented”.

An advisor to Ukraine’s interior minister said the virus got into computer systems via “phishing” emails written in Russian and Ukrainian designed to lure employees into opening them.

According to the state security agency, the emails contained infected Word documents or PDF files as attachments.

Yevhen Dykhne, director of the Ukrainian capital’s Boryspil Airport, said it had been hit. “In connection with the irregular situation, some flight delays are possible,” Dykhne said in a post on Facebook. A Reuters reporter who visited the airport late on Tuesday said flights were operating as normal.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Pavlo Rozenko said the government’s computer network had gone down and the central bank said a operation at a number of banks and companies, including the state power distributor, had been disrupted by the attack.

“As a result of these cyber attacks these banks are having difficulties with client services and carrying out banking operations,” the central bank said in a statement.

Russia’s Rosneft, one of the world’s biggest crude producers by volume, said its systems had suffered “serious consequences” from the attack. It said it avoided any impact on oil production by switching to backup systems.

The Russian central bank said there were isolated cases of lenders’ IT systems being infected by the cyber attack. One consumer lender, Home Credit, had to suspend client operations.

(Additional reporting by European bureaux and Jim Finkle in Toronto; writing by Christian Lowe; editing by David Clarke)

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House Republicans watch and wait as Senate struggles with health-care bill – Washington Post


Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) arrive for a closed-door House GOP conference meeting on Capitol Hill on June 27, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

House Republicans are quietly but intently watching as their Senate counterparts wrestle with health care, waiting to see if the changes made to the bill they passed last month can pass muster in their own chamber.

GOP leaders in the House are hoping to be able to quickly take a Senate-passed bill — which, thus far, appears to leave the basic structure of the House bill intact — and pass it without amendment, sending it directly to President Trump’s desk.

[The Trump-McConnell bond is being tested. So is the GOP agenda.]

Multiple senior Republican sources have left the door open to the possibility that the House would not leave as planned on Friday but stay in Washington over the weekend and potentially the July 4 holiday to pass the Senate bill. They downplayed the potential for conference committee to be appointed to resolve differences between the two chambers, a weeks-long process that could stall momentum for the bill.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) would not say Tuesday how his chamber would act if the Senate passes a health-care bill this week. “We just don’t know what the final bill is going to look like,” he said.

The House GOP whip office advised members Monday that “additional legislative items are possible” beyond what is already scheduled for the week, and Ryan said Tuesday he remained optimistic the Senate would act this week. “I would not bet against Mitch McConnell,” he said, referring to the Senate majority leader.

That is not to say that the House is certain to pass whatever the Senate produces. Some House members are having heartburn about what might be — or not be — in the Senate bill.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus and a key player in the passage of the House health bill, warned Tuesday that the Senate bill would have to change from its current draft to pass the House.

“If it’s predominantly the bill that is currently in the Senate, without significant amendments, there would not be enough votes in the House or the Senate to pass it,” he said.

[Senate Republicans scramble to keep alive plans to overhaul Obamacare]

Conservatives in the House are particularly focused on a pair of amendments proposed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) — one that would allow insurers to sell individual-market plans that do not comply with Affordable Care Act, and another that would allow those plans to be sold across state lines. It is unclear whether either amendment would comply with Senate budget rules. They have also been concerned with the potential omission of antiabortion provisions they favor, such as language banning tax credits from being used for insurance plans that cover abortions and a one-year defunding of Planned Parenthood.

The Cruz amendments, Meadows said, “if adopted, would go a long ways to making us get where we need to be.”

At the same time, there is little evidence that the Senate’s changes thus far would convince the handful of moderates who opposed the House bill to get back on board.

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), who opposed the House bill, said Tuesday he had seen nothing in the Senate changes that could convince him to switch his vote. “In its current form, the bill hasn’t changed my vote,” he said. “But there’s a lot more work to be done.”

The other pitfall for House leaders is process. Under the standing rules of the House, bills are supposed to be available for public inspection at least three days before they come to the House floor for a vote — though that rule can be waived by the majority leader in exigent circumstances.

But conservatives are already warning they will balk at any attempt to jam the Senate bill through on short notice. Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) said Monday he would “not [be] a happy camper” if a quick vote is set on a bill House members didn’t have time to review in detail. “We’re talking about one-sixth of the economy,” he said.

Democrats, who spent Tuesday in a flurry of news conferences and rallies, repeatedly warned that the public that Republican grumbling about the bill could be wiped away quickly if the Senate leadership secures a vote. Just as GOP senators who leaned “no” could be brought around, House Republicans who had problems with the bill could be told to accept the bill so that the party could move on to tax cuts.

“I’m hearing that House Republicans are quietly clearing their schedule so they can vote on this bill as soon as it passes,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) told activists on a Monday night call organized by NARAL Pro-Choice America. “If you’ve already called one of these senators, call again.”

At a Tuesday morning news conference, House Democratic caucus vice chair Linda Sanchez (D-Ca.) said that her party expected a vote to come on Friday or Saturday if the Senate bill wasn’t defeated — no matter what House conservatives said.

David Weigel contributed to this report.

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US Has Seen Chemical Weapons Activity in Syria, Pentagon Says – New York Times

WASHINGTON — American officials have seen chemical weapons activity at a Syrian air base that was used in the spring nerve gas attack on rebel-held territory, the Defense Department said on Tuesday, scrambling to explain what prompted a White House statement a day earlier that Syria would “pay a heavy price” if it carried out another one.

Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters that what looked like active preparations for a chemical attack were seen at Al Shayrat airfield, which was struck in April by American cruise missiles two days after the Syrian government dropped bombs loaded with toxic chemicals in northern Syria. Another Defense Department official said that an aircraft shelter at Al Shayrat that had been hit by an American Tomahawk missile was being used for the preparation.

Syrian and Russian officials rejected the accusation, calling the White House statement a provocation.

The Pentagon comments appeared to shore up the unusual statement Monday night by the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, who warned that Syria was preparing for what looked like another chemical weapons attack, and said that the United States would not hesitate to act if one was launched. But that statement appeared to take defense officials off guard. An official with the United States Central Command, which oversees combat operations in the Middle East, said Monday night that he had “no idea” what the White House statement was referring to.

A White House official said on Tuesday that relevant agencies, including the Pentagon, the State Department, the C.I.A. and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, had been involved in issuing the statement.

A defense official said that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was aware of the movements at Al Shayrat and that the White House statement was coming. The situation “was very fast-moving,” the official said on Tuesday.

It remained unclear whether the statement was based on raw intelligence that President Trump had chosen to declassify. Neither White House nor Pentagon officials said an attack, or retaliation, was imminent in Syria, where the United States is backing Syrian fighters battling the Islamic State militants amid the country’s six-year civil war.

“The Department of Defense remains focused on operations to defeat ISIS,” Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway, a Defense Department spokesman, said in a statement, using an acronym for the Islamic State. “Nevertheless, the continued brutality of the Assad regime and his use of chemical weapons presents a clear threat to regional stability and security, as well as the national security interests of the United States and our allies.”

In Damascus, Ali Haidar, the Syrian minister for national reconciliation, was quoted by The Associated Press as saying on Tuesday that the government did not have chemical weapons and that it would not use any. He accused the White House of releasing the statement to pave the way for a “diplomatic battle” against Syria at the United Nations.

Officials in Russia, which has provided military and political support to Mr. Assad during the Syrian conflict, also rejected the accusations.

“I am not aware of any information about a threat that chemical weapons could be used,” Dmitri S. Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said on Tuesday. “Certainly, we consider such threats to the legitimate leadership of the Syrian Arab Republic unacceptable.”

A senior Russian lawmaker accused the United States of using the declaration about chemical weapons to plan an attack on Syria.

“Preparations for a new cynical and unprecedented provocation are underway,” Frants Klintsevich, first deputy chairman of the defense and security committee in the upper chamber of the Russian Parliament, told the state-owned news agency RIA Novosti.

As if to punctuate his contempt for the Trump administration’s warning, President Bashar al-Assad visited a Russian air base near Latakia in the western part of the country on Tuesday, accompanied by Gen. Valery V. Gerasimov, the Russian military’s chief of staff. Syrian news media, which reported the visit, also distributed a video clip of Mr. Assad climbing into the cockpit of a Russian Sukhoi Su-35 parked at the base, where Russia has conducted many of its bombing operations to support the government’s side in the war.

[Video: شاهد بالفيديو .. الرئيس الاسد في قاعدة حميميم العسكرية الروسية Watch on YouTube.]

شاهد بالفيديو .. الرئيس الاسد في قاعدة حميميم العسكرية الروسية

Video by الاعلام الحربي المركزي

The United States and other world powers have accused Mr. Assad’s forces of repeatedly using chemical weapons to subdue rebels seeking to topple his government. Chemical attacks killed more than 1,000 people near Damascus in 2013 and dozens more in northern Syria in April of this year.

Mr. Trump has taken a different approach to the use of chemical weapons in Syria than his predecessor, President Barack Obama, did. After the 2013 attack, Mr. Obama declined to strike the Syrian government, despite having declared the use of chemical weapons a “red line.” Instead, he agreed to a deal, proposed by Russia, for the Syrian government to dispose of its chemical weapons stockpiles and manufacturing capabilities.

But American officials suspect that Syria kept some of its chemical weapons capabilities.

At the United Nations on Tuesday, the ambassadors of France and Britain, which supported the Tomahawk strike two months ago, declined to comment on the White House’s latest warning. But François Delattre, the French ambassador, told reporters that another chemical weapons assault in Syria would cross “a very clear red line on our side.”

“What is at stake is the future of the nonproliferation regime,” he said. “So any weakness on this would open the Pandora’s box and leave the nonproliferation architecture as a whole weakened and threatened. This is something we can’t afford.”

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