Capitol Roundup

Making Strides in Semiconductors<@VM>Thwarting Database Theft<@VM>Run on the Bank<@VM>Nuclear Y2K

by Anne Gallagher

The Senate Republican High Tech Task Force is pursuing passage of legislation to give the semiconductor industry an edge in global competition.

The current tax law requires manufacturers to depreciate their semiconductor manufacturing equipment over a five-year period, when its actual economic life is about two and a half years, the task force said.

"The current pace of technological advances in semiconductors makes the equipment used in the manufacturing process obsolete in less than three years," the task force said. "In this highly competitive world market, many Asian countries are at a significant advantage over our producers because of our tax laws."
The House Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Trade and Consumer Protection signed off on a bill to prevent online theft of databases.

The bill, expected to move to the full committee in September, provides copyright protections to online databases. It was passed in a voice vote and includes protection for databases containing information such as stock quotes and real estate listings.
Lawmakers this fall are expected to address how to assist banks to ensure they have enough cash if people make massive withdrawals in fear of year 2000 repercussions. A House bill already proposes allowing the Federal Reserve to give banks credit to avoid Y2K crashes. Time is running out to move such legislation.
Defense Department officials and their Russian counterparts have restarted talks to help Russia guard against a year 2000 disaster.

Russia is reported to be very far behind the United States in ensuring its arsenals and warning systems are Y2K ready. While an agreement was in place regarding sharing of early warning data on the possible launch of weapons of mass destruction to avoid any Y2K problems, progress slowed after disagreement over U.S. action in Kosovo. However, defense officials said they are hopeful the work will now be back on course.

Meanwhile, the Energy Department is developing a computer capable of 100 trillion operations per second by 2004. Under the Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative, the department would be able to conduct three-dimensional simulations of nuclear weapons without actual testing.

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