Wisconsin elections officials scale back security proposal

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin elections officials scaled back a plan Tuesday to buy scores of new loaner computers for local clerks using outdated systems open to cyberattacks, saying the proposal is too expensive when they don’t have a firm grasp on how many clerks really need new computers.

Wisconsin Elections Commission staff had proposed spending up to $300,000 on 250 new machines to loan to clerks who can’t afford to upgrade their systems. The commission agreed to buy 25 computers for $30,000 after learning that only five clerks out of 2,000 are using old systems.

“If they’re at risk we should help them,” Commissioner Mark Thomsen said. “(But) buying a machine isn’t the answer.”

The commission’s chief security officer, Tony Bridges, wrote in a memo released last week that “at least a handful” of clerks are logging into the state elections system using Windows XP and hundreds more are logging in using Windows 7.

Microsoft stopped supporting Windows XP in 2014. Free security upgrades for Windows 7 will end in January.

Lawyer to become civil rights directorDES MOINES — A Des Moines lawyer working for Iowa Workforce Development as an administrative law judge has been named the new director of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.

Gov. Kim Reynolds said today she appointed Elizabeth Johnson of Altoona to head the commission responsible for enforcing state civil rights laws designed to prohibit discrimination in employment, public accommodations and education.

Johnson was a civil rights specialist at the commission before she took her current job.

She begins Aug. 26 as commission executive director, a job subject to Iowa Senate confirmation.

The commission’s interim director Linda Grathwohl left on July 25 without giving a reason other than planning to return to a position at Iowa Legal Aid.

The previous permanent commission executive Kristin Johnson had the job for 3½ years. She resigned Jan. 2 as Reynolds began her first full term as governor.

Anhydrous leak prompts evacuationCOLLINS, Iowa — Authorities in central Iowa say crews stopped a leak that sent plumes of dangerous anhydrous ammonia into an area around Collins.

Hazardous materials crews were called around 11 a.m. Tuesday to Landus Cooperative, where a 30,000-gallon tank of anhydrous ammonia leaked. The Story County Sheriff’s Office said first responders immediately evacuated an area in the southeast corner of Collins.

A news release by the sheriff’s office says the leak was contained around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday and the evacuation order lifted. No injuries were reported.Anhydrous ammonia is a farm fertilizer that is stored under pressure as a liquid, but becomes a lethal, suffocating gas when released from pressure. Even thin fumes can cause breathing difficulty and irritation to eyes, nose or throat.

Wasting disease summit costs $10,000MADISON, Wis. — The state Department of Natural Resources spent nearly $10,000 to bring wildlife officials from around the Midwest to Madison for a conference on chronic wasting disease.The Associated Press obtained receipts through an open records request that show the agency spent $9,567 on the conference, held July 24-25 at the Monona Terrace convention center.

Expenses included $3,103 for hotel rooms, $5,963 to use Monona Terrace and $690 for dinner at the Great Dane Pub. DNR spokeswoman Sarah Hoye says the agency paid the bills out of its donations account.

DNR Secretary Preston Cole hailed the conference as “unprecedented.” The meeting yielded no new strategies on how to fight the disease and only a couple attendees expressed interest in meeting again this year.

The Associated Press

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