Federal Bytes

ARMED FOR Y2K. At last week's Information Resources Management Conference '99 in Williamsburg, Va., the most important piece of information to come out of the executive board meeting of the CIO Council was the results of an unofficial poll on the Year 2000 problem, said Outreach Committee chairman Alan Balutis.

According to Balutis, 72 percent of the executives said they thought all the talk about the Year 2000 bug is overblown. Not an unusual reaction from the people whose jobs are on the line come Jan. 1. But at the same time, he said, 19 percent said they went out and bought power generators—just in case.The most disturbing information, Balutis said, was that 13 percent of the executives said they went out and bought weapons.


THE PRESIDENT AS A WEB MARKETING TOOL. It seems that the movers and shakers of the Internet economy have deemed the commander in chief a potential draw to their World Wide Web sites.

Collectors Universe, an online auction site, announced this month that it would sell during its October auction a cigar box signed by President Clinton. "In the wake of the highly publicized Clinton/Lewinsky debacle, this item of significant political history and irony has [piqued] the interest of collectibles buyers," according to the Collectors Universe press release.

Elsewhere, the online home listing site Realtor.com stated last week in a press release that the president and first lady "could have saved time and money" on their recent new home purchase by simply accessing their Web service, "the only site on which the Clintons could have found this home."


MICROSOFT BACKDOOR LOCKED. Microsoft Corp. this week officially denied press reports that it gave the National Security Agency access to a backdoor key to the encryption offered on the Windows operating system. "The key in question is a Microsoft key," according to a Microsoft statement. "It is maintained and safeguarded by Microsoft, and we have not shared this key with the NSA or any other party." A company press release said the key is labeled "NSA key," because "NSA is the technical review authority for U.S. export controls, and the key ensures compliance with U.S. export controls."

Well, that blows the theory that Microsoft offered the key to the government as part of its antitrust settlement with the Justice Department.


THE BLAME GAME. With the skies becoming ever more crowded, flight delays seem more commonplace, and who or what to blame has become a routine conversation. But who to blame depends on who you ask.

Ask the National Air Traffic Controllers Association and they'll tell you that after weather-related delays, the airlines, under pressure to make profits, cause most delays because they schedule too many flights too close together. NATCA said only about 3 percent of delays are a result of air traffic control equipment problems.

"Cha-ching," begins a recent press release from NATCA. "Airline executives can't hear their loyal patrons' cries of frustration over the sound of their ringing cash registers."

Runways are overbooked, the statement said. "Cha-ching."

Passengers will have to wait unnecessarily. "Cha-ching."

When the airline industry decides to fire back with its press release, we wonder what sound it will use to illustrate an air traffic control system crashing. "Crackle" sounds pretty good.


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    Steve Kelman applauds the Department of Veterans Affairs' ambitious attempt to move beyond one-off prize-based contests to combat veteran suicides more effectively.

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