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State could have sold computers with personal data

April 10, 2014 12:46 p.m. - Updated: 4:10 p.m.

OLYMPIA — Some state agencies failed to wipe old computers clean of sensitive or personal data before sending them to be sold as surplus, a new state audit says. 

Random checks of computers that agencies sent to the state's surplus warehouse last summer revealed about 9 percent of them had information that was supposed be be removed before clearing them for sale. The information included Social Security numbers, medical or psychiatric histories of clients, and in one case an employee's tax return forms.

On one computer, auditors found a Post-it note that had the machine's sign-in and password, which still worked.

Auditors found flaws in the system, but no sign personal data that's protected by law was ever compromised.

State Auditor Troy Kelley said today those agencies were notified and their surplus sales of computers were frozen during the audit while procedures were changed, and there's no evidence that any private information had been compromised. He questioned whether the state should continue its practice of selling its obsolete computers.

“If we're getting very little money, and there's high risk, I think we  have to stop,” Kelley said. 

A study is being done to answer whether the risks outweigh the value of selling surplus computers, Michael Cockrill, the state's chief information officer, said.

“The state has received no reports of any data from PCs being compromised,” he said. . . 

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So can you find Ukraine on the map?

April 9, 2014 2:36 p.m. - Updated: April 11, 4:47 p.m.

A recent survey that shows most Americans can't find Ukraine on the map has been grist for the political pundit mill, as well as a funny bit from Stephen Colbert.

But given Americans' general lack of geographic knowledge, was anyone surprised? After all, we've been told for years that Johnny can't read, can't write, can't name any president that isn't on currency, doesn't know who won World War II, and a whole long list of other horribles. So Johnny grows up and we expect him to find Ukraine on a blank map? Not likely.

But forget Johnny. Can you find Ukraine on a map? 

Open the World Map One document, and point to it on your screen. Feel free to blow it up as much as you like, if that will help.

 Then open the World Map Two document, which has Ukraine in red, and see how close you came.

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Today’s fun video: Candidate who’s REALLY strong on 2nd Amendment

April 9, 2014 9:51 a.m. - Updated: 9:55 a.m.

 

Bob Quast, running as a write-in for U.S. Senate in Iowa, makes it very clear where he stands on gun rights, term limits and law degrees.

Just wondering: How well would a Senate candidate with an ad like this do in Washington? Or in Idaho?

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Obama to tour mudslide April 22

April 8, 2014 5:31 p.m. - Updated: 5:31 p.m.

(Editor's note: This is an update of the short story that first appeared this morning on the newspaper's website. It generated more than 100 comments there, and you can join the conversation by clicking here.)

OLYMPIA — President Obama will make a stop in Washington later this month to visit parts of Snohomish County devastated by the March 22 mudslide.

Obama will visit on April 22 to get a first-hand look at the devastation and the communities’ reaction in Oso, Arlington and Darrington, the White House announced Tuesday morning. He plans to meet with families, first responders and recovery workers. . . 

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Political grades for WA and ID

April 8, 2014 2:43 p.m. - Updated: 2:43 p.m.

OLYMPIA — It must be time for mid-terms. A pair of political watchdog groups is giving out grades for the states. Washington is passing; Idaho may be headed for summer school.

The Pew Charitable Trust released its biannual ratings on how the states handled elections. They collect so much data — 16 categories on everything from turnout to registration to the ability to look up voting information — they're almost two years behind and are releasing the report for the 2012 presidential election cycle.

Washington ranks 12th, keeping it in the top 25 percent of states for the three cycles the group has measured. Turnout was down slightly from 2008. The organization lists turnout the state's turnout for 2012 at 65 percent, which may sound low if you recall the state listed its turnout at 81.25 percent when all the ballots were counted that year.

That's because Pew and many states figure turnout differently. Washington takes the total number of registered voters, and divides it into the number of ballots cast, which is the normal elections official formula. Pew and some other academics take the total number of people who are eligible to vote, whether registered or not, and divides that bigger number into the ballots cast. About 16 percent of Washington residents who could register aren't, even though it's probably never been easier to sign up. But they're part of the turnout figure.

Idaho's turnout rate is slightly lower at 60.9 percent. (Idaho officials, use the same standard as their Washington counterparts, and they put the number at 74.3 percent.) Almost a fourth — 23 percent — of Idahoans who could register don't, even though they can walk into a polling place on Election Day, show proof of residency, get signed up and be handed a ballot. It ranks 46th overall.

Both states have relatively few mail ballots rejected. Washington got graded down a bit for having almost a third of its military and overseas ballots unreturned, about twice the rate of Idaho. The Gem State got dinged for a high rate of rejection for the military and overseas ballots that did come back.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Public Interest Research Groups released their grades for openness in government, an annual exercise that looks at how easy it is for the public to find out what states are spending their money. The PIRGs look at things like whether the state puts its budgets online, what those web sites show and whether it's easy for the average person to figure out from the information provided what's actually going on.

Washington got a B, up from a B-, for some improvements in its web site, but criticism for a lack of accessible information on aerospace tax credits. Idaho got an F, for spending data that's only searchable by agency and without information on the recipients of development subsidies. California and Alaska also got Fs. You can read the whole report (it's 62 pages long) by clicking here.

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Problem for county pot growers

April 7, 2014 6:08 p.m. - Updated: 6:11 p.m.

Spokane County commissioners may have thrown a wrench into the plans of some would-be marijuana growers hoping to set up in unincorporated parts of the county.

An interim zoning ordinance approved Monday says anyone growing recreational marijuana will have to be on at least eight acres, with plenty of space between the fields or buildings and the property lines. . .

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The new Goat Standard

April 7, 2014 6 a.m.

By spending nearly a year meeting with neighborhood groups and others to develop an urban farming plan that addressed various concerns before bringing it to a final vote, Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart has created an unexpected new problem.

Any plan on almost any topic that the City Council considers from now on is likely to be criticized by opponents as “rushed” and inadequately “vetted,” with critics pointing to the sweeping community efforts taken by Stuckart to win support for allowing Spokane residents to raise small livestock in their backyards if they want.

Call it the new Goat Standard for community and stakeholder involvement.

Mayor David Condon used it to drive home his concerns that the City Council rushed its anti-sprawl measure to a final vote without adequately involving the community to identify and address any legitimate concerns. Condon, who vetoed the measure, noted that the anti-sprawl didn't get the laudably expansive efforts Stuckart took to craft the urban farming plan.

Developers also picked up on it.
 
Stuckart, for his part, already is growing weary of the tactic.
 
“Just because I set a high benchmark with urban farming, doesn't mean every ordinance is going to go through a yearlong process,” he said. “We're not going to be doing that on everything.”
 
Regardless, expect to hear various renditions of the Goat Standard in the months ahead, particularly on issues that tend to divide the officially nonpartisan council along its partisan 4-3 split.
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Sunday Spin2: Initiative season brings a nuke proposal

April 6, 2014 6:35 a.m.

With the signing of the supplemental operating budget and some other bills Friday, lawmaking by the Legislature officially ended for 2014. But the other kind of lawmaking, by the public, is just heating up. . .

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Sunday Spin: Getting a closer look at IT spending

April 5, 2014 6 p.m.

OLYMPIA – Tucked inside the 291-page budget Gov. Jay Inslee signed last week is a paragraph that tells state agencies to ask for money for new-fangled tech gear a better way.

It’s what’s known as a proviso, sort of a marching order from the Legislature, somewhat akin to an earmark from Congress. . . 

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Inslee signs most of ‘disappointing’ budget

April 4, 2014 4:49 p.m. - Updated: 4:54 p.m.

OLYMPIA – The ink from his signature wasn’t even dry on the Legislature's current budget before Gov. Jay Inslee was challenging lawmakers to do more on their next one.

Inslee signed the state’s supplemental operating budget, vetoing some elements such as a section that would have ended the Life Sciences Discovery Fund.

Overall, he called it a budget with “modest adjustments” in many programs and disappointing on education.

“It does not make sufficient progress on the state’s paramount duty to schools,” he said.

Legislators are also disappointed, but more with Inslee’s characterization of their final work product that passed the Senate 48-1 and the House 85-13. Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, said the spending plan, as a supplement to last year’s two-year budget that added almost $1 billion to public schools, was supposed to make modest adjustments.

But it keeps the state in the black, financially, through this fiscal period and the next, Braun said.

“There were a lot of tough decisions that had to be made,” he said… .

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