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Goodbye Passwords! San Jose Mercury News

by Martha Irvine

FILE – In this Feb. 27, 2013 photo illustration, hands type on a computer keyboard in Los Angeles. Frustration over passwords is as common across the age brackets. Bill Lidinsky, director of security and forensics at the School of Applied Technology at the Illinois Institute of Technology, recommends using a simple mental algorithm, including those that use a space, if a site allows that. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File) ( Damian Dovarganes )
Cybercrime, hacking and other security coverage.
CHICAGO — Good thing she doesn’t need a password to get into heaven. That’s what Donna Spinner often mutters when she tries to remember the growing list of letter-number-and-symbol codes she’s had to create to access her various online accounts.
“At my age, it just gets too confusing,” says the 72-year-old grandmother who lives outside Decatur, Illinois.
But this is far from just a senior moment. Frustration over passwords is as common across the age brackets as the little reminder notes on which people often write them.
“We are in the midst of an era I call the ‘tyranny of the password,'” says Thomas Way, a computer science professor at Villanova University.
“We’re due for a revolution.”
One could argue that the revolution is already well underway, with passwords destined to go the way of the floppy disc and dial-up Internet. Already, there are multiple services that generate and store your passwords so you don’t have to remember them. Beyond that, biometric technology is emerging, using thumbprints and face recognition to help us get into our accounts and our devices. Some new iPhones use the technology, for instance, as do a few retailers, whose employees log into work computers with a touch of the hand.
Still, many people cling to the password, the devil we know — even though the passwords we end up creating, the ones we CAN remember, often aren’t very secure at all. Look at any list of the most common passwords making the rounds on the Internet and you’ll find anything from “abc123,” “letmein” and “iloveyou” to — you guessed it — use of the word “password” as a password.
Bill Lidinsky, director of security and forensics at the School of Applied Technology at the Illinois Institute of Technology, has seen it all — and often demonstrates in his college classes just how easy it is to use readily available software to figure out many passwords.
“I crack my students’ passwords all the time,” Lidinsky says, “sometimes in seconds.”
Even so, a good password doesn’t necessarily have to be maddeningly complicated, says Keith Palmgren, a cybersecurity expert in Texas.
“Whoever coined the phrase ‘complex password’ did us a disservice,” says Palmgren, an instructor at the SANS Institute, a research and education organization that focuses on high-tech security.
He’s teaching a course on passwords to other tech professionals later this summer and plans to tell them that the focus should be on unpredictability and length — the more characters, the better.
But it doesn’t have to be something you can’t remember. If a site allows long passwords and special characters, Palmgren suggests using an entire sentence as a password, including spaces and punctuation, if possible: “This sentence is an example.”
He also suggests plugging in various types of passwords on a website developed by Laguna Hills-based Gibson Research Corp. to see how long it could take to crack each type of password:
According to the site, it could take centuries to uncover some passwords, but seconds for others.
Lidinsky recommends using a “simple mental algorithm,” including those that use a space, if a site allows that. As an example, he says one might try “Ama95 zon” for an Amazon account, and “Yah95 oo” for a Yahoo! account, and so on. (But choose your own combination.)
There are other ways around the password headache.
Some people have taken to using password generators, which create and store passwords for various sites you use. Generally, all the user has to remember is a master password to unlock a generator program and then it plugs in the passwords to whichever account is being used. There are numerous password managers like this, including LastPass and Dashlane and 1Password.
Some wonder whether it’s wise to trust services like this.
“But sooner or later, you have to trust somebody,” says Palmgren, who uses a password manager himself.
Other solutions are surfacing, too.
Researchers at the University of York in England are developing a new authentication system called Facelock that asks you to identify familiar faces to get into an account or device.
The Canadian government, meanwhile, has partnered with a company called SecureKey Technologies, which allows citizens of that country to log onto government sites, such as the country’s tax bureau, using a username and password from partner financial institutions, including TD Bank. Because SecureKey serves as the go-between, the system’s developers say the bank username and password are not ultimately shared with the government site. Nor does the bank receive any information about which government site the user is accessing.
SecureKey is now working with the U.S. Postal Service to provide American citizens with similar access to federal health benefits, student loan information and retirement benefit information.
Ultimately, experts say, reducing the stress of online security — and decreasing reliance on passwords — will rest on what’s known as “multi-factor identification.”
Those factors are often based on three things:
1. “What you know” — a password, security question or some sort of information that only you would know (but that doesn’t have to be difficult to remember, just exclusive to you);
2. “What you have” — a phone, tablet or laptop — or even a card or token — that an online site or tech-based retail outlet would recognize as yours;
3. “What you are” — biometric information, such as face recognition or a thumb print.
Banks could use this authentication process, for example, using cameras that already exist at ATMs, says Paul Donfried, chief technology officer for LaserLock Technologies Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based company that develops fraud prevention technology for retailers, governments and electronics manufacturers.
“We now have the ability to shift complexity away from the human being,” Donfried says. And that, he adds, should make the pain of the password disappear.
Back in Decatur, Spinner has to think about all that for a moment. It sounds rather daunting, she says.
For one, the issue of privacy is still being debated when it comes to biometrics.
But then Spinner considers the piece of paper that contains all her passwords — the one she typed that’s gotten so difficult to read because she’s crossed them out and created so many new ones.
“Anything to make it easier for those of us who are technology-challenged,” she says,” I would be in favor of.”

“I did?” 

Mayor Francis Slay fired the opening salvo in what could become a protracted, but ultimately enlightening, battle over Missouri’s constitutional ban on gay marriage. After marrying four couples at City Hall this week, he was stopped by a lawsuit from the State’s Attorney General, who is forced to uphold the State Constitution.  Where will it all wind up? Koster’s move was brilliant politically. As the presumed Democratic Candidate for Governor, he has endeared himself to the gay community and young people eyeing jobs in more tolerant places by saying he personally is in favor of gay marriage.  In an amazing stroke of political genius, at the same time, he has appeased many outstate voters and constitutionalists who oppose overturning the ban by saying he will sue to uphold it. 

I read a great column a little while back about the fact that tolerance is good for business. It’s true. First of all, it is good business in terms of how we conduct ourselves to be tolerant. Second, it’s actually good for good ol’ dollars and cents (sense?) business, too. Why would talented, intelligent, technology savvy, young people who are attracted to the same sex want to earn or spend their dollars in a state that doesn’t allow them to marry? After all, stable communities with solid families and neighborhoods are what make the Midwest such a special place to live.  Allowing gays to marry only stabilizes our community.

The Nondiscrimination Act was a necessary first step. But will Missourians commit to the next stage of acceptance? Will more than four couples get to say, “I did?”


The Daily Dose

School Transfer

by Alex Stuckley / St. Louis Post Dispatch

JEFFERSON CITY • One outspoken Missouri senator believes recent actions by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education are legally meaningless.

Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, released a statement today pointing to numerous problems she has found in DESE’s recent actions regarding the school transfer law, passed in 1993 to offer children in unaccredited districts to transfer to better schools, with their home districts paying tuition and transportation costs.

After the Missouri Supreme Court upheld the law last summer, about 2,000 children the unaccredited Normandy and Riverview Gardens school districts transferred to higher performing schools this past year. That decision nearly threw Normandy into bankruptcy, requiring the Legislature to appropriate additional money in the supplement to the fiscal year 2014 budget to get Normandy through the school year.

The Legislature’s attempt to fix the transfer law — a priority throughout the session — was stalled after Gov. Jay Nixon threatened a veto, throwing the issue back to the Missouri Board of Education.

In May, the board voted to replace the Normandy district with a different one to avoid dissolving it entirely and assigning 4,000 children to other schools.

Now, the state board is poised to oversee the operations of a school district for the first time. The Normandy Schools Collaborative will have an appointed board and a longer school year. It will carry a nonaccredited status, effectively removing it from under the school transfer law.

Board members then decided to prohibit new student transfers from the district and put a cap on what the Normandy Collaborative would pay the 20 districts that enrolled Normandy transfer students.

Chappelle-Nadal says the board cannot do this because statute says students can transfer if they aren’t provided an accredited school.

Additionally, they deny 131 transfer students the right to remain in their new schools because they hadn’t attended Normandy during the 2012-13 school year.

Chappelle-Nadal believes these students cannot be exclude from transferring because statute says nothing about this.

Also, by eliminating Normandy’s accreditation status, the department effectively made it impossible for students to benefit from extra help — such as tutoring — specifically appropriated to unaccredited or provisionally accredited school districts in the department’s fiscal year 2015 budget, she said. The budget still awaits action from Gov. Jay Nixon.

Chappelle-Nadal said she will request an Attorney General opinion and request an inquiry by the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules.

Alex Stuckey covers Missouri politics and state government for the Post-Dispatch. Follow her on Twitter at @alexdstuckey.

Supreme Court upholds EPA decision on Emissions with Limits

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court largely left intact Monday the Obama administration’s only existing program to limit power plant and factory emissions of the gases blamed for global warming. But a divided court also rebuked environmental regulators for taking too much authority into their own hands without congressional approval.

The justices said in a 5-4 vote along ideological lines that the Environmental Protection Agency cannot apply a permitting provision of the Clean Air Act to new and expanded power plants, refineries and factories solely because they emit greenhouse gases.

The decision underscores the limits of using the Clean Air Act to deal with greenhouse gases and the administration’s inability to get climate change legislation through Congress.

“The Supreme Court put EPA on a leash but not in a noose,” said Michael Gerrard, director of Columbia University’s Center for Climate Change Law.

“It reaffirmed that EPA can regulate greenhouse gases, but it can only go so far in reinterpreting the statute,” Gerrard said. “The court invalidated a small corner of a secondary program. The main event — EPA’s proposed rules on existing power plants — remains to be fought another day.”

The EPA and many environmental advocates said the ruling would not affect the agency’s proposals for first-time national standards for new and existing power plants. The most recent proposal aims at a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants by 2030, but won’t take effect for at least another two years.

The justices warned that the regulation of greenhouse gases is not automatic under every program of the Clean Air Act as the administration had assumed it was. Similar logic is driving the EPA’s other actions on global-warming pollution.

Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for his conservative colleagues, said EPA could not “just rewrite the statute” to bring greenhouse gases under a provision dealing with expanded and new facilities that would increase the overall amount of air pollution. Under the program, companies must evaluate ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in order to get a permit to build. Carbon dioxide is the chief gas linked to global warming.

But by a wider, 7-2 margin, the court preserved EPA’s authority over facilities that already emit pollutants that the agency regulates, other than greenhouse gases.

“EPA is getting almost everything it wanted in this case,” Scalia said. He said the agency wanted to regulate 86 percent of all greenhouse gases emitted from plants nationwide, and it will it be able to regulate 83 percent of the emissions under the ruling. Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas said they would go farther and bar all regulation of greenhouse gases under the permitting program.

The EPA called the decision “a win for our efforts to reduce carbon pollution because it allows EPA, states and other permitting authorities to continue to require carbon pollution limits in permits for the largest pollution sources.”

The agency said that, as of late March, 166 permits have been issued by state and federal regulators since 2011.

Permits have been issued to power plants, but also to plants that produce chemicals, cement, iron and steel, fertilizer, ceramics and ethanol. Oil refineries and municipal landfills also have obtained greenhouse gas permits since 2011, EPA said.

Under Monday’s ruling, the EPA can continue to require permits for greenhouse gas emissions for those facilities that already have to obtain permits because they emit other pollutants that the government has long regulated.

The program at issue is the first piece of the EPA’s attempt to reduce carbon output from large sources of pollution.

The utility industry, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and 13 states led by Texas had asked the court to rule that the EPA overstepped its authority by trying to regulate greenhouse gas emissions through the permitting program. The administration failed to get climate change legislation through Congress.

In 2012, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit concluded that the EPA was “unambiguously correct” in using existing federal law to address global warming.

The agency’s authority came from the high court’s 2007 ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA, which said the Clean Air Act gives EPA power to limit emissions of greenhouse gases from vehicles.

Two years later, with Obama in office, the EPA concluded that the release of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases endangered human health and welfare. The administration used that finding to extend its regulatory reach beyond automobiles and develop national standards for large stationary sources. Of those, electric plants are the largest source of emissions.

When the Supreme Court considered the appeals in October, the justices declined requests to consider overruling the court’s 2007 decision, review the EPA’s conclusion about the health effects of greenhouse gas emissions or question limits on vehicle emissions.

Scalia said the principal objection to the EPA’s interpretation of the clean air law was that it claimed authority “to regulate millions of small sources — including retail stores, offices, apartment buildings, shopping centers, schools, and churches — and to decide, on an ongoing basis and without regard for the thresholds prescribed by Congress, how many of those sources to regulate. We are not willing to stand on the dock and wave goodbye as EPA embarks on this multiyear voyage of discovery.”

Industry groups praised the court for reining in the EPA’s authority. “It is a stark reminder that the EPA’s power is not unlimited,” said Harry Ng, vice president and general counsel of the American Petroleum Institute, the oil and natural gas industry’s trade association.

But David Doniger, director of the climate and clean air program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the ruling was a green light for the administration’s proposal to cut greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants. “There’s no adverse effect on EPA’s power plant proposal. In fact, it looks like the court is reaffirming EPA’s authority to set those standards,” Doniger said.


Associated Press writer Dina Cappiello contributed to this report.

Green Beans with Cherry Tomatos


Ingredients Edit and Save

Original recipe makes 6 servingsChange Servings
1 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup butter
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil
2 cups cherry tomato halves
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Place beans and water in a large saucepan. Cover, and bring to a boil. Set heat to low, and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain off water, and set aside.
Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in sugar, garlic salt, pepper and basil. Add tomatoes, and cook stirring gently just until soft. Pour the tomato mixture over the green beans, and toss gently to blend.
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Cutting Carbon Emissions: Creating or Killing Jobs?


The Environment Protection Agency’s proposed regulations on carbon emissions released earlier this month are sparking debate on whether the rule changes will create jobs or kill jobs.

Credit (Veronique LaCapra/St. Louis Public Radio)
The new rules seek to reduce American’s carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector by 30 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels. States have until June 30, 2016 to draft plans for how to reduce their average emissions.

In Missouri, more than 79 percent of the state’s electricity was generated by burning coal in 2012. The EPA is proposing a 21 percent drop in carbon dioxide emissions in Missouri. This means lowering the emissions from 1,963 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour to 1,544 pounds per megawatt hour in 2030.

There are conflicting opinions on what these changes mean for jobs and the economy.

The Natural Resources Defense Council estimated that it will mean 3,900 new jobs in Missouri, mostly focused on energy efficiency by 2020. In a fact sheet, the NRDC spells out how the focus on energy efficiency will require expertise in a wide range of fields:

“There will be greater demand for electricians, heating/air-conditioning installers, carpenters, construction equipment operators, roofers, insulation workers, industrial truck drivers, construction managers, and building inspectors.”
Credit (NRDC)
Nationwide, the NRDC put the number of new jobs at 250,000 –jobs created as a result of stimulated growth in the energy efficiency industry.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce disputes those numbers. Instead it estimated an average of 220,000 fewer jobs annually through 2030. The senior director of communications for the Chamber’s Energy Institute, Matt Letourneau, said huge amounts of money will be tied up in revamping the electric grid.

“That means there’s a lot of capital, and a lot of man hours and manpower that are going to get tied up by rebuilding what you already have,” he said. “That’s investment that could have gone elsewhere, could have gone into other industries that are actually growing the economy.”
Credit (U.S. Chamber of Commerce)
In its report, the Chamber broke the numbers down by region, estimating about 27,000 fewer jobs each year in the upper Midwest, a region that includes Missouri.

All of this remains theoretical, however. The EPA is seeking public comments for several months on the draft proposal and will not finalize the rules for another year. Meanwhile, several states have threatened lawsuits or noncompliance if the rules move forward.

Follow Maria on Twitter: @radioaltman

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Civics for Kids

From Parade Magazine in honor of Father’s Day:

Did you know almost all American Presidents were Fathers? Do you know which President had 15 kids? Do you know who had the first child born in the White House? Or who threatened to punch a critic who made fun of his daughter’s singing?

Check out this fun article from Parade magazine