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U.S. power grid needs cybersecurity protection: panel

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The threat of cyberattacks on the U.S. power grid should be dealt with by a single federal agency, not the welter of groups now charged with the electric system’s security, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reported on Monday.

While acknowledging there is no absolute insurance against such attacks, the MIT researchers said a single U.S. agency would be better able to address the problem than the disparate federal, state and local entities responsible for various aspects of safeguarding the power grid.

In a report on the future of the U.S. electric grid, through 2030, the team recommended that the federal agency should work with industry and have the appropriate regulatory authority to enhance cybersecurity preparedness, response and recovery.

To cope with an expected increase in renewable sources such as wind and solar power, where energy is often generated far from the densely populated areas where it is used, the panel recommended granting more authority to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to site transmission facilities that cross state lines.

Other recommendations include:

– Utilities with advanced metering technology should start the transition to customer prices that reflect the time-varying costs of supplying power, to improve the grid’s efficiency and make rates lower.

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– The electric power industry should fund research and development in computational tools for bulk power systems, methods for wide-area transmission planning, procedures for responding to cyberattacks and models of consumer response to real-time pricing.

– To improve decision-making, more detailed data about the bulk power system, results from “smart grid” demonstration projects and other measures of utility cost and performance should be compiled and shared.

(Reporting by Deborah Zabarenko; Editing by Eric Walsh)

Mochila insert follows.

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Evangelical calls out Christian right for continuing to oppose therapeutic weed: ‘America is sick’

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In a column for the New York Times, religion writer Jonathan Merritt made the Christian case to evangelicals who aligned themselves with the Republican Party during the Ronald Reagan era to accept that therapeutic marijuana could ease the suffering of hundreds of thousands of pain sufferers -- and that Jesus would approve.

According to Merritt, who admits he grew up the son of an evangelical pastor, that he was raised to believe that "marijuana was just one more sinful tool that the devil used to shred America’s moral fabric."

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Florida city agrees to pay $600,000 ransom to hackers

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A Florida town has agreed to pay a $600,000 ransom in Bitcoin after hackers paralyzed its computer systems.

The payment was authorized this week by the city council of Riviera Beach, which is located north of Miami and has a population of around 32,500, the Palm Beach Post reported.

According to the newspaper, the virus that shut down the city's computer systems was unleashed on May 29 by an employee of the city's police department who opened a phishing email.

The city posted a notice to the public on its website on June 5 stating it had "experienced a data security event" and was "working with our internal management team and third party consultants to address all issues."

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Matt Gaetz gets laughed at after his attempt to derail Mueller hearing hilariously backfires

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Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) tried to turn the latest hearing on special counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election into a hearing on border security -- and then got hilariously shut down by one of the panelists.

During his allotted time, Gaetz changed the subject away entirely from the Mueller report and decided to grill one of the witnesses for her views on border security.

In particular, Gaetz asked Carrie Cordero, a Robert M. Gates senior fellow and general counsel at the Center for New American Security, about her work writing about the security problems posed by Mexican drug cartels.

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