Memorial Day is sneaking up on us early this year, with promises of glorious weather and a day off work for many. It's only been a national holiday since 1971, but Americans have long observed the day to honor members of the U.S. military who have given their lives in the service of this nation.
That solemn, respectful tribute now goes hand in hand with the unofficial launch of summer - often with family and friends, celebrating the outdoors.
Well, we're spoiled here along Florida's Gulf Coast, where we master celebrating outdoors pretty much year-round. So we should be amply aware of the caution needed heading into this long weekend of sun, fun, food and travel.
Had enough Top 10 in the past week with David Letterman's retirement? We certainly have, so we're boiling the cautionary reminders down to the Top 5.
No. 5: Cook your food thoroughly and safely. If you're grilling, don't cut corners. Clean the grill first to avoid any grease fire, cook in open space and extinguish any coals completely. And keep perishables on ice until it's time to chow down.
No. 4: Protect yourself in the sun. Lather yourself with at least SPF15 lotion (we prefer SPF30 products without mineral oil), keep yourself hydrated and wear a cap and sunglasses.
No. 3: Be safe in the water. All the rules apply here, especially when boating. It's one of the busiest weekends on the Bay. So captains, don't drink, and make sure all your passengers have life vests. Don't let anyone swim alone. And check, double-check, and triple-check your kids.
No. 2: Drive safely. And drive sober, to play a broken record. Call for help if you're not, or designate a driver. Period.
And, the No. 1 reminder:
Fly your American flags, remember your loved ones, and have a blessed weekend. The memory of all who have served our country deserves nothing less.
Let's be safe out there!
Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
Gangland crime is nothing new in Texas, and that may be the scariest thing about the Sunday shootings in Waco that left nine motorcyclists dead.
Criminal gangs have mingled among law-abiding motorcyclists on Texas highways for at least 50 years. One gang, the Bandidos, is ranked alongside the Aryan Brotherhood, Bloods and Crips by state officials as a major criminal enterprise and a violent threat to public safety.
Yet in an age of global terrorism and 24-hour news reports on random violence states away, somehow we pay less attention to organized crime here, or to the risk from a few lawless bikers who also carry weapons and grudges.
Any motorist on Interstate 35 might have stopped in Waco Sunday for lunch at a bar-and-grill or the Tex-Mex restaurant next door and wound up at a gangland firefight with police. Like in a scene from some international newscast, restaurant patrons were locked down next door while police and gangs exchanged gunfire.
Waco police were well-prepared and 18 officers were already on the scene conducting surveillance. But that raises more questions.
If police and state troopers feared a violent showdown with a rival gang at what is described as a regularly scheduled Central Texas meeting of affiliated biker groups, why not intervene sooner or warn innocent diners?
Motorcycles have become a popular pursuit for thousands of Texans, as proven by the number of bikers on the road each weekend. There is no reason to broadly suspect anyone in biker attire, but business owners must be vigilant against violent behavior and criminal activity.
According to Microsoft research, the average American has 25 accounts requiring passwords and accesses about eight of them every day. But for those two dozen or so accounts, most people use just six or seven passwords, increasing their vulnerability to hackers.
Enter the U.S. government, which proposes to improve cybersecurity and end the nation's "password fatigue" by making the password extinct. The mantra of the Obama administration's cybersecurity coordinator, Michael Daniel, is "kill the password dead," but don't write its obituary yet. Alternatives on the table carry their own risks. Another roadblock to freedom from passwords is the government itself, which wants technology it alone can hack.
Passwords could be gone tomorrow, replaced with thumbprints, facial recognition, eye scans and other sophisticated (and expensive) authentications. Daniel said the government's initiative -- the ponderous National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace -- is, in part, an effort to "jump start the private sector into providing different kinds of authentication." But both the Justice Department and the FBI have been hostile to truly secure technological advances, such as the hack-proof phones Google and Apple introduced last year.
This leaves hapless consumers left with passwords until America works out its privacy issues. It's good the private sector stands ready to help there, too. A number of new products, such as IPassword and PasswordBox, promise to store and apply passwords for the forgetful or the generally irate. Until, of course, those companies are hacked.