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Passing bills, bills, bills: Highlights from Week 5 in Washington state Legislature

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Passing bills, bills, bills: Highlights from Week 5 in Washington state Legislature


FILE – The House chambers are viewed with most members attending remotely on the first day of the legislative session, Monday, Jan. 10, 2022, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash.

Ted S. Warren / AP

The week started off with more cutoff deadlines looming — and more notable pieces of legislation were left behind Monday, before Washington state lawmakers in both the House and Senate chambers hit the floor for the rest of the week.

Policies on the move

In the House, lawmakers approved House Bill 1579, which would create a new prosecution office in the state with the authority to charge police for deadly use of force.

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Legislation that could change the way cities approach their general elections, House Bill 1932, passed after lengthy debate on the proposal. Right now, cities and towns elect local officials in odd-numbered years, but the bill would allow local governments to switch their general elections to even-numbered years, when voter turnout is higher.

House lawmakers were split on the idea. Critics worry voters in cities that might make the change will be more focused on national campaigns and become fatigued with lengthy ballots.

But supporters say the change could spur civic engagement, and prompt more voters to weigh in on local issues. Only about 36% of Washington voters across the state filled out their ballots for last year’s general election — compared to a much-higher turnout of 63% in 2022.

Meanwhile, the Senate sent a few notable measures across the rotunda too.

First cutoff deadline, rent bill complications: A quick look at week 4 in the Washington Legislature

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Senators signed off on Senate Bill 6009, which bans police from hog-tying people in their custody.

They also passed Senate Bill 6298, which would make members of the clergy mandatory reporters of child abuse or neglect. A similar version stalled out last year over disagreements on whether or not clergy should be required to report abuse they hear about in confession, and this year’s version attempts to strike a balance between concerns on either side.

The Senate also approved a bill that would create new safety rules for workers at strip clubs and other adult entertainment establishments, Senate Bill 6105. Interestingly, the chamber added language into the bill requiring the state’s Liquor and Cannabis Board to repeal its lewd conduct rules, in response to recent citations at gay bars in Seattle.

Lawmakers also spent a lot of time debating a controversial bill about regulating hospital mergers, Senate Bill 5241, before it passed 28 to 21. The bill would require the Attorney General’s office to oversee proposed mergers and ensure that they don’t limit peoples’ access to end-of-life, reproductive, or gender-affirming health care.

And Senate Bill 5444, which would ban the open carry of guns in some zoos, libraries and transit centers, also gained Senate approval along party lines.

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Natural gas, opioids and DUIs: Highlights from week 3 of Washington’s legislative session

Nearly all the bills passed off the floor this week now go to the opposite chamber for further consideration, but the first bill of the session to make it through both sides of the Legislature also gained final approval. House Bill 1964 aims to improve enforcement of the state’s fuel tax, and passed both chambers with broad bipartisan support.

And even though Seattle’s NFL team won’t be playing during this weekend’s Super Bowl, the Senate spent a few minutes praising former Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll Friday morning.

The Senate passed a resolution formally congratulating Carroll for his accomplishments across his career in the NFL — including leading the Seahawks to the franchise’s first Super Bowl win in 2014. It was announced in January that Carroll would no longer be head coach after 14 years in the role. Carroll wasn’t in attendance, but Sen. Ann Rivers (R-La Center) wore a Seahawks jersey on the floor as she spoke on the resolution.

What fizzled

Republicans held a press conference Thursday condemning a proposal to raise the 1% cap on annual hikes to local property taxes. The following day, Democrats made clear that Senate Bill 5770 wouldn’t be moving forward this session. The bill would have allowed local governments to raise the amount of money they make from property taxes.

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The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jamie Pedersen (D-Seattle) told the Washington State Standard that the decision to leave the bill behind this year was in part due to “the voter mood” as several initiatives, mainly targeting taxation, are almost certain to go to ballots in November.

A proposal pitched in response to the frustration over fuel costs, Senate Bill 6052, seems to have stalled.

The measure was a priority for Gov. Jay Inslee — especially to help defend his signature Climate Commitment Act, as critics blame it for changing gas prices. The bill aimed to create more state oversight for gas companies and the way they set prices. But the bill didn’t get a hearing or a vote in the Senate Ways and Means Committee before Monday’s cutoff, with proponents of the bill attributing its demise to the policy’s complexity and financial cost.

AI, guns, and initiatives: highlights from Week 2 of Washington state’s 2024 legislative session

Another bill that would have expanded on lawmakers’ 2023 effort to provide more kids with free school meals also didn’t make it. This year’s bill, House Bill 2058, would have required any public school to offer kids free lunch and breakfast — but it also didn’t get a vote.

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Lawmakers also didn’t take action on a solitary confinement reform bill, and advocates say with the lapse of House Bill 1087, the Legislature missed a critical moment to make some meaningful changes before a massive shift in leadership in the state next year.

Also of note, Rep. Spencer Hutchins (R-Gig Harbor) announced he won’t seek reelection later this year. Every member of the House of Representatives is up for reelection this fall, as well as about half of state Senators. Hutchins said in a statement announcing his decision that the demands of being a lawmaker have “taken a heavy toll” on his family and livelihood.

Lawmakers will spend more time on the floor at the beginning of next week — most bills have to make it out of their chamber of origin by Tuesday, Feb. 13, in order to keep moving forward this session. Next week lawmakers will also get a new look at the state’s revenue forecast and begin releasing their plans for changes to the state’s current two-year budget.



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Leaked files from Chinese firm show vast international hacking effort

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Leaked files from Chinese firm show vast international hacking effort


A trove of leaked documents from a Chinese state-linked hacking group shows that Beijing’s intelligence and military groups are carrying out large-scale, systematic cyber intrusions against foreign governments, companies and infrastructure — exploiting what the hackers claim are vulnerabilities in U.S. software from companies including Microsoft, Apple and Google.

The cache — containing more than 570 files, images and chat logs — offers an unprecedented look inside the operations of one of the firms that Chinese government agencies hire for on-demand, mass datacollecting operations.

The files — posted to GitHub last week and deemed credible by cybersecurity experts, although the source remains unknown — detail contracts to extract foreign data over eight years and describe targets within at least 20 foreign governments and territories, including India, Hong Kong, Thailand, South Korea, the United Kingdom, Taiwan and Malaysia. Indian publication BNN earlier reported on the documents.

“We rarely get such unfettered access to the inner workings of any intelligence operation,” said John Hultquist, chief analyst of Mandiant Intelligence, a cybersecurity firm owned by Google Cloud. “We have every reason to believe this is the authentic data of a contractor supporting global and domestic cyberespionage operations out of China,” he said.

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U.S. intelligence officials see China as the greatest long-term threat to American security and have raised alarm about its targeted hacking campaigns.

(Video: Illustration by Emma Kumer/The Washington Post; I-S00N/GitHub)

Experts are poring over the documents, which offer an unusual glimpse inside the intense competition of China’s national security data-gathering industry — where rival outfits jockey for lucrative government contracts by pledging evermore devastating and comprehensive access to sensitive information deemed useful by Chinese police, military and intelligence agencies.

The documents come from iSoon, also known as Auxun, a Chinese firm headquartered in Shanghai that sells third-party hacking and datagathering services to Chinese government bureaus, security groups and stateowned enterprises.

The trove does not include data extracted from Chinese hacking operations but lists targets and — in many cases — summaries of sample data amounts extracted and details on whether the hackers obtained full or partial control of foreign systems.

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One spreadsheet listed 80 overseas targets that iSoon hackers appeared to have successfully breached. The haul included 95.2 gigabytes of immigration data from India and a 3 terabyte collection of call logs from South Korea’s LG U Plus telecom provider. The group also targeted other telecommunications firms in Hong Kong, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal and Taiwan. The Indian Embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment on the documents.

ISoon clients also requested or obtained infrastructure data, according to the leaked documents. The spreadsheet showed that the firm had a sample of 459GB of roadmapping data from Taiwan, the island of 23 million that China claims as its territory.

Road data could prove useful to the Chinese military in the event of an invasion of Taiwan, analysts said. “Understanding the highway terrain and location of bridges and tunnels is essential so you can move armored forces and infantry around the island in an effort to occupy Taiwan,” said Dmitri Alperovitch, a national security expert and chairman of Silverado Policy Accelerator, a think tank.

Among other targets were 10 Thai government agencies, including the country’s foreign ministry, intelligence agency and senate. The spreadsheet notes that iSoon holds sample data extracted from those agencies from between 2020 and 2022. The Thai Embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.

Most of the targets were in Asia, though iSoon received requests for hacks further afield. Chat logs included in the leak describe selling unspecified data related to NATO in 2022. It’s not clear whether the data was collected from publicly available sources or extracted in a hack. NATO did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Another file shows employees discussing a list of targets in Britain, including its Home and Foreign offices as well Treasury. Also on the list were British think tanks Chatham House and the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

“In the current climate, we, along with many other organizations, are the target of regular attempted attacks from both state and non-state actors,” said a Chatham House spokesperson, who said the group is “naturally concerned” about the leaks but has protection measures in place.

Asked about the leaked documents, the U.K. foreign office declined to comment.

The hackers also facilitated attempts to extract information from close diplomatic partners including Pakistan and Cambodia.

China encourages hacking rivalry

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ISoon is part of an ecosystem of contractors that emerged out of a “patriotic” hacking scene established over two decades ago and now works for a range of powerful government entities including the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of State Security and the Chinese military.

According to U.S. officials, hackers with the People’s Liberation Army have breached computer systems in about two dozen key American infrastructure entities over the past year in an attempt to establish a foothold and be able to disrupt power and water utilities as well as communications and transportation system.

China’s model of mixing state support with a profit incentive has created a large network of actors competing to exploit vulnerabilities and grow their business. The scale and persistence of their attacks are headaches for American technology giants like X, Microsoft and Apple, which are now locked in a constant race to outsmart the hackers.

All software products have vulnerabilities, and a robust global marketplace rewards those who find back doors or develop tools known as exploits to take advantage of them. Many software vendors offer bounties to reward researchers who report security flaws, but government contractors in the United States and elsewhere often claim these exploits — paying more for the right to use them in espionage or offensive activity.

U.S. defense and intelligence contractors also develop tools for breaking into software, which are then used by federal officials in surveillance and espionage operations, or in offensive cyberweapons.

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Chinese security researchers at private companies have demonstrably improved in recent years, winning a greater number of international hacking competitions as well as collecting more bounties from tech companies.

But the iSoon files contain complaints from disgruntled employees over poor pay and workload. Many hackers work for less than $1,000 a month, surprisingly low pay even in China, said Adam Kozy, a former FBI analyst writing a book on Chinese hacking.

The leaks hint at infighting and dissatisfaction in the network of patriotic Chinese hackers, despite the long-standing collaboration between groups.

Although it’s unclear who released the documents and why, cybersecurity experts said it may be an unhappy former employee or even a hack from a rival outfit.

The leaker presented themselves on GitHub as a whistleblower exposing malpractice, poor work conditions and “low quality” products that iSoon is using to “dupe” its government clients. In chats marked as featuring worker complaints, employees grumbled about sexism, long hours and weak sales.

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Within China, these groups present themselves as essential to the Communist Party’s extensive campaign to eliminate threats to its rule from cyberspace.

China has in recent years escalated its efforts to trawl international public social media and trace targets abroad, though the crossover between public mass-monitoring and private hacking is often unclear.

ISoon has signed hundreds of deals with Chinese police that range from small jobs priced at $1,400 to multiyear contracts costing as much as $800,000, one spreadsheet showed.

The company’s leaked product manuals describe the services they offer and their prices, and boast about being able to steal data without detection. The product descriptions, targeted at state security clientele, at times use wartime language to describe a data-extraction mission underpinned by extreme threats to China’s national security.

(Video: Illustration by Emma Kumer/The Washington Post; I-S00N/GitHub)

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“Information has increasingly become the lifeblood of a country and one of the resources that countries are scrambling to seize. In information warfare, stealing enemy information and destroying enemy information systems have become the key to defeating the enemy,” reads one document describing an iSoon package for sale that, it claims, would allow clients to access and covertly control Microsoft Outlook and Hotmail accounts by bypassing authentication protocols.

ISoon’s product manuals also advertise a $25,000 service for a “remote access” control system to obtain Apple iOS smartphone data from a target, including “basic mobile phone information, GPS positioning, mobile phone contacts” and “environment recording.”

One pitch advertised a service in which iSoon could efficiently conduct phishing campaigns against individuals or groups of Twitter users. Another outlined services that would allow the firm to remotely control targeted Windows and Mac operating systems.

Apple, Microsoft, Google and X, formerly Twitter, did not respond to requests for comment.

In addition to striking long-term agreements, iSoon regularly worked on demand in response to requests from police in smaller Chinese cities and with private companies, according to pages of chat logs between the company’s top executives.

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Sometimes the clients knew exactly what they wanted — for example, to find the identity of a specific Twitter user — but they also often made open-ended requests. In one exchange, employees discussed a request from a state security bureau in southern China asking if iSoon had much to offer on nearby Hong Kong. An iSoon employee suggested emails from Malaysia instead.

The scattershot approach appeared motivated in part by pressure from clients to deliver more and higher quality information. But despite the company boasting of cutting-edge capabilities, chats show that clients were regularly unimpressed with the hacked information.

ISoon repeatedly failed to extract data from government agencies, internal discussions showed, with some local authorities complaining about subpar intelligence.

(Video: Illustration by Emma Kumer/The Washington Post; I-S00N/GitHub)

Although some of iSoon’s services focused on domestic threats, the company often highlighted its ability to target overseas targets in the region — including government departments in India and Nepal, as well as in overseas Tibetan organizations — to attract clients. In December 2021, the group claimed that it had gained access to the intranet of the Tibetan Government in Exile, setting off a frantic search for a buyer. Some 37 minutes later, the company had found an interested client.

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Another product — priced at $55,600 per package — is meant to allow control and management of discussion on Twitter, including using phishing links to access and take over targeted accounts. ISoon claims the system then allows clients to find and respond to “illegal” and “reactionary sentiments” using accounts that are centrally controlled by the client to “manipulate discussion.”

The documents show that iSoon met and worked with members of APT41, a Chinese hacking group that was charged by the U.S. Justice Department in 2020 for targeting more than 100 video game firms, universities and other victims worldwide.

Afterward, iSoon’s founder and CEO, Wu Haibo, who goes by the alias “shutd0wn,” joked with another executive about going for “41” drinks with Chengdu 404 — the organization APT41 is a part of — to celebrate them now being “verified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

But chat messages between executives from 2022 suggest that relations between the groups had soured because iSoon was late in paying Chengdu 404 more than 1 million yuan ($140,000). Chengdu 404 later sued iSoon in a dispute over a software development contract.

Wu and his team appeared blasé about the idea that they would one day be charged by U.S. authorities like APT41. In July 2022, an executive asked Wu whether the company was being closely watched by the United States. “Not bothered,” Wu replied. “It was a matter of sooner or later anyway.”

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Neither iSoon nor Wu responded to emailed requests for comment.

Pei-Lin Wu and Vic Chiang in Taipei and Lyric Li in Seoul contributed to this report.



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McKINNEY – A 26-year-old Washington man – who admitted molesting “numerous” teen girls – has received 40 years in prison for repeatedly sexually assaulting a child.

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Patrick William Travis, 26, of Lake Stevens, Washington, was sentenced for sexual assault of a child and indecency with a child by contact, Collin County District Attorney Greg Willis announced in a news release Wednesday.

“This child molester (Travis) preyed upon not just one, not just two, but multiple victims,” Willis said in the release. “And for that he deserves not only the maximum sentence on each charge, but will now have to serve each sentence consecutively for a total of 40 years in prison.”

Willis said Travis’ sexual abuse of the child started when the victim was 13 years old and continued “multiple times” over a one-year span.  The victim alerted a teacher about the abuse.  The teacher reported it to law enforcement.

While investigating that case, investigators learned Travis had sexually abused another teen, Willis said.  Travis then admitted he had previously molested “numerous females” between the ages of 13 and 16.

Judge Jennifer Edgeworth, who presided over the case, assessed the punishment.

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Hiker rescued from Mount Washington says he made 'poor decisions' and 'was underprepared'

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Hiker rescued from Mount Washington says he made 'poor decisions' and 'was underprepared'


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Mount Washington Hiker Cole Matthes revealed what got him into the circumstances requiring a team of men to save him in an 11-hour rescue.

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“I am extremely grateful to all 11 of the men who saved my life Saturday and am also extremely sorry that they had to risk their lives to save me,” Matthes told the Associated Press. “I certainly made poor decisions and was underprepared for this hike.”

Both he and the rescuers say that without help, he would have died within hours. 

Matthes drifted away from the trail as temperatures plunged, and ferocious winds made it near impossible to see. He hit a patch of snow-covered ice and slid hundreds of feet down a ravine.

HIKER RESCUED FROM MOUNTAIN WITH 90-MPH WINDS, BITTER COLD ATOP MOUNT WASHINGTON

New Hampshire Fish and Game conservation officer Levi Frye, left, and Jeremy Broughton, from Androscoggin Valley Search and Rescue, prepare to head out on a rescue mission at the Cog Railway base station, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024, in Mount Washington, N.H. (Sgt. Glen Lucas/New Hampshire Fish and Game via AP)

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The 22-year-old from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, said in an online interview that he has plenty of hiking experience but not during harsh winter conditions. He set off in spiked snowshoes planning to complete the challenging 9-mile Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail loop, which has an elevation gain of 4,200 feet.

New Hampshire Fish and Game said that as conditions worsened, Matthes ignored advice from other hikers to turn back prior to his fall.

“While I did see a group of hikers turn around at the Lake of the Clouds Hut, I decided to continue with other hikers,” Matthes said. “I was not hiking alone at that point and the weather conditions had not reached their peak.”

Mattes tumbled a little before noon, banging himself up and twisting his ankle before he called 911. 

SKIER TRIGGERS AVALANCHE ON MOUNT WASHINGTON, SUFFERS LIFE-THREATENING INJURY

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Snow on Mt Washington train tracks

Snow covers the rails on the train tracks leading to the summit Mount Washington above the Cog Railway base station, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024, in Mount Washington, N.H. (Conservation Officer Brad Jones/New Hampshire Fish and Game via AP)

Ryan Presby, who manages the Mount Washington Cog Railway, told the AP he took the train up three times with rescue crews. As winds hit 90 miles per hour and temperatures plunged, he worried the train’s diesel engine would gel and the train would seize. He told rescuers to jump out as quickly as possible when they reached their destination.

Levi Frye, a conservation officer with Fish and Game, was among the first group of three rescuers to jump off the train. He said it was immediately clear they needed crampons for the ice and fierce wind.

“We were fighting it the whole time. It was certainly capable of knocking you off your feet, especially with a heavy pack on,” Frye said. “The visibility was so bad on account of all the snow getting blown around.”

Rescuers used a system called leapfrogging, utilizing the trail’s marked rock cairns. One person would stay at the first cairn while another would try to locate the next cairn. The third person stood in the middle to keep in contact with both.

Mount Washington hiker rescuer

New Hampshire Fish and Game conservation officer Brad Jones prepares to set out on a rescue mission at the Cog Railway base station ,Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024, in Mount Washington, N.H.  (Sgt. Glen Lucas/New Hampshire Fish and Game via AP)

Staying safe meant finding a balance between not getting too cold and not sweating too much, because it was even more dangerous to have sweat freeze, Frye said.

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By the time the team reached Matthes a little after 6 p.m., it was already dark.

“I was extremely relieved once the first team of rescuers arrived,” Matthes said. “Even with my shelter, I wouldn’t have lasted through the night in my condition.”

MISSING HIKER FOUND DEAD NEAR ARIZONA PEAK

Lift at Mt Washington

Ski lift can be scene on Mount Washington in New Hampshire. (Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Matthes’ boots were frozen solid, Frye said. The top priority was to strip him of his wet gear and get him into dry clothes. They gave him warm water and electrolytes and strapped his ankle as more rescuers arrived. By about 9:30 p.m., they felt he was stable and ready to leave. They got back to base a little before 11 p.m.

After being treated, Matthes said he declined the advice from rescuers to take an ambulance to the hospital because he thought it would be expensive. He drove himself there instead.

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“I’m currently recovering from some frostbite on my toes,” Matthes said.

THE TREK TO THE TOP OF MOUNT WASHINGTON

Mount Washington

A view of Mount Washington, standing at an elevation of 6,288.2 ft, in the Presidential Range of the White Mountains in New Hampshire on June 12, 2020.  ((Photo by Joseph Prezioso / AFP) (Photo by JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images))

New Hampshire Fish and Game said Matthes did not have proper gear or equipment, did not plan for the weather or make good decisions. In some previous cases, the agency has sought to recover rescue costs from hikers they believed to be negligent, but so far they have not decided what to do regarding Matthes. 

Matthes said he was aware of the financial risk when he called 911.

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“But I knew that if I hadn’t called for help, I wouldn’t have made it down,” Matthes said. “At the end of the day, I’m alive, and that’s all that I could ask for.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 



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