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"The millennium bug will not delay the payment of Social Security checks by a single day." -- President Clinton, commenting on the government's computer readiness for the year 2000EDITED BY ROBERT McNATTReturn to top

A Millennium Bug's Life

WITH SOME FOLKS ALREADY PREPARING for global disaster as the millennium nears, Hollywood wants to cash in on those fears. So get ready for Y2K: The Movie, a fall Warner Brothers Studios production whose plot centers on the Year 2000 computer bug. It will star Chris O'Donnell (Robin in Batman Forever) as a hunky Manhattan hacker who finds a potentially lethal version of bug-infested Y2K code on the hard drive of a "master computer" controlled by evil forces out to destroy the world.

International Y2K crisis managers, however, are less than thrilled with this thriller. Meeting at the U.N. last month to devise ways to soothe public panic, they began drafting a formal resolution urging Hollywood studios to cool it on bug-disaster films next year. Explains Carlos Jarque, Mexico's official Y2K manager: "The high rate of computer illiteracy around the world is fertile ground for people with apocalyptic scenarios."

But Stu Zicherman, who wrote the Y2K screenplay, says "Y2K is the greatest ticking clock ever, one of the few deadlines in the history of the world that you cannot push back." Or, apparently, resist: 1999 also brings 20th Century Fox Film's Entrapment, starring Sean Connery--and a global computer blackout on Jan. 1, 2000.EDITED BY ROBERT McNATTReturn to top

Flying United with Paperless Tickets

IN JUST FOUR YEARS, electronic airline tickets have come to account for about one-third of all air trips. Now, in a plan to please their customers and set a new industry standard, the nation's two biggest carriers are trying to overcome the single biggest drawback of E-tickets.

Currently, airline computers can't recognize E-tickets issued by other carriers, making it tough for a customer to switch to a different airline from a canceled flight. Passengers must convert E-tickets to paper first. That takes time they don't always have.

So in the first half of 1999, United Airlines and American Airlines will begin "interlining," making their E-tickets interchangeable with a few keystrokes. Both carriers have enough business at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, where they have hubs, to make cooperation worthwhile. And toward the end of 1999, United plans to do the same with its overseas partners, like Lufthansa. Says James Goodwin, president of UAL, United's parent: "We're doing this as part of an overall strategy to take hassle out of the airport." Now if those fancy computers could only do something about airport parking.EDITED BY ROBERT McNATTReturn to top

A Nobel Is a Nobel Is a Nobel...

IT WASN'T ALL THAT LONG after Myron Scholes and Robert Merton picked up their 1997 Nobel prizes for economics that Long-Term Capital Management, the hedge fund they helped found--using their prize-winning options-pricing theories--slid toward insolvency.

So in the wake of that disaster, which resulted in a $3.6 billion takeover of LTCM, have other economists drummed the two out of the tribe? Au contraire. On Jan. 4 in New York, the American Economic Assn. will honor them at a luncheon with at least 400 of their peers. Although the AEA usually fetes Nobel laureates, it says something about academic economics that failure in business is hardly regarded as a negative. Still, though practitioners of the dismal science hold the pair's theories in high regard, they do have a sense of irony. Said Merton Miller of the University of Chicago, prior to the lunch: "It's not a roast. But I'm going to be watching Myron over there to see if he's wincing." Wincing is one thing Scholes and Merton should be good at by now.EDITED BY ROBERT McNATTReturn to top

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