Federal Bytes

WATERED-DOWN ADVICE? According to a group called Y2KNewswire, Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) and Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) missed the mark when, in a letter to advice columnist Ann Landers, they called the sale of water treatment kits a Year 2000-related "scam" that Landers readers ought to avoid.

The Internet-based news group cites reports that conclude that water treatment facilities are far from being proven Year 2000-compliant. The group points out that Americans who do not own water treatment kits "will be left defenseless against the introduction of toxins or pathogens" resulting from potential failures of embedded microchips in treatment facilities' computers.

As always, Year 2000 preparedness appears to be a case of deciding if the glass is half full or half empty. But in this case, the group says, it's just better not to drink the water at all.

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A NEW TRICK. Congress often is accused of being behind the times. Therefore, many members took pride in the fact that 97-year-old Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) recently used e-mail to send the Year 2000 liability bill to President Clinton with an electronic signature.

But the moment did not pass without reflection by some of the more technology-savvy members of Congress. Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), whose Northern Virginia district is home to many information technology companies that work with the federal government, marveled at the significance of the event. With Thurmond's signature, Congress managed one of the fastest leaps in technology ever accomplished, Davis said at a recent meeting of federal, state and local government administrators to discuss potential uses of digital signatures. "It was from the Stone Age to the Information Age right there," Davis said.

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CLOAK AND BROWSER. FCW in recent years has brought you news of members of the U.S. intelligence community creating special (and sometimes incongruous) World Wide Web pages for kids. For example, CIA has produced a "Kid's Secret Zone" site complete with a cartoon of a man in a trenchcoat. And then there's the FBI's site—a robust corner of the Web that provides kids with information on crime-fighting and crime-prevention techniques, offering them a chance to feel like a "Junior Special Agent."

Now, one of the newest members of the intelligence community has gotten in on the act. The National Imagery and Mapping Agency has produced a page on its site where kids can learn about an upcoming NIMA mission that the agency has undertaken jointly with NASA. The mission, called the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission, will use radar to gather data about and images of most of the Earth's surface.

In typical intell fashion, NIMA has added a cloak of mystery to its Web site. One may expect the URL for the site to be something like www.nimakids.gov. Wrong. It is 164.214.2.59/srtmkids/SRTM.html. How many kids will be able to commit that address to memory?

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AHEAD OF OUR TIME. Found on South Dakota's World Wide Web site promoting its Connecting the Schools project, which is supported by industry and academic partners: "Technology to prepare South Dakotans for the 22nd Century." Seems as if South Dakota has that pesky Year 2000 bug under control.

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