Federal Bytes

CIA BASHING BEGINS. At last week's roast for CNN talk show host Larry King, James Carville, back from a trip to Israel, said he now knows why Moses and the Israelites wandered the desert for 40 years. "They were using CIA maps!" he said.Where's NIMA when you need it?

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NO FREE LUNCH. Alan Paller, director of research for the Sans Institute, recently gave a presentation on information systems security to an audience at the National Institutes of Health in which he recommended that everyone take their systems administrator out to lunch to show appreciation and also foster a better sense of communication on security issues. However, after Paller's presentation, a systems administrator asked him what to do if his job description included not only systems administrator but also information systems security officer, Webmaster and a few other things? Paller's answer: "Well, then take yourself out to lunch."

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INEXCUSABLE. Marshall Smith, acting deputy director of the Education Department, told a House subcommittee this month that some of the universities with which the department exchanges data may be behind in testing their data links for Year 2000 bugs. The reason: end-of-school-year activities such as cranking out academic information or crunching numbers on fees owed by students. As excuses go, that's a good one. It certainly beats telling Education officials that the dog ate your mainframe.

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NOW WE'VE HEARD EVERYTHING. Usually when people send out press releases, it's because they want some publicity. Not the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, apparently. The agency passed up a chance to talk about its move to online reading rooms (see story, Page 8), despite issuing a press release and telling its constituents about it in a Federal Register notice.

Now, we're used to officials trying to avoid us when we write about things they'd rather keep under wraps. But they usually won't leave us alone when they're touting something they want the public to support.

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PC PC. The Computer/Electronic Accommodations program and the AARP got together last week to demonstrate technologies that can help older workers use their computers and telephones as age takes its toll on eyesight and hearing. The target audience was described in a press release as "chronologically gifted members of the work force."

This is the most politically correct description of a user group we've seen, which leaves us wondering if being PC has finally made its way into the PC world. We can show more respect to equipment that stalls, crashes or seizes, through no fault of its own, because programmers have given it bad instructions or users have pushed it past its limit. Maybe this new movement can find some productive uses for all the non-Year 2000-compliant (we won't say "obsolete") equipment that's going to be gathering dust after Jan. 1.

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