The chairman of President Clinton's Year 2000 commission isn't afraid of the Y2K bug. Just to show how confident he is that the Y2K problem can be licked, John Koskinen will fly from Washington to New York New Year's Eve, returning on New Year's Day. Koskinen concedes there will likely be some problems, but not the doomsday scenario and social unrest some people are predicting. Koskinen says 61 percent of the Federal government's mission-critical systems are Y2K ready, including 95 percent of the Federal Aviation Administration's systems. And even if there are problems at the FAA, air traffic controllers can slow down traffic flow and switch to a backup system. But maybe he should have booked a longer flight just to instill a little more confidence in millennial travelers.

Some insurance companies aren't nearly as confident though. Finnish insurers will change the terms of voluntary corporate insurance policies to limit their exposure to millennium bug risks. The Federation of Insurance Companies in Finland says most insurance companies in the country will "add specific clauses to exclude some date risk damages from the policies." The organization says millennium bug damages were not unforeseeable and therefore had limited compensability. Terms of private insurance and mandatory corporate insurance are unchanged.

The heyday of Silicon Valley may really have come and gone. For the first time since 1994, Santa Clara County, the home of Silicon Valley, is expected to end the year with a rate of job growth that falls well behind that of the rest of California. In 1998, the Silicon Valley produced 80 percent fewer new jobs than 1997, according to figures released by the state last month. The reduced job growth is blamed on the Asian recession holding down exports and a cyclical downturn in the chip industry. Silicon Valley isn't the only place feeling the pinch. Challenger, Gray and Christmas (Chicago) reports that the electronics and computer industries ranked first and third, respectively, in job cut announcements this year, compared to last year when they weren't even in the top five.

The IT industry has found a new source of relief for its chronic worker shortage – seniors. And we're not talking about bringing COBOL programmers out of retirement either. Green Thumb, a national nonprofit organization that trains limited income individuals age 55 and older for high tech job opportunities, received an $800,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to expand its training programs. Working with Microsoft Corp., Green Thumb has trained 94 seniors for positions in the IT field since November 1997. The grant will allow the Arlington, Va.-based agency to expand its IT training to 11 additional locations in nine states.

Microsoft may be helping to ease the IT skills crunch, but its news isn't good on other fronts. Princeton University computer science professor Edward Felten told the judge in Microsoft's antitrust trial that he successfully wrote a "prototype removal program" that strips Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser from Windows 98 with no ill effects. Microsoft, which claims the products are integrated, says Felten only hid the software functions of the browser, but didn't actually remove it. Felten argued that IE makes Windows "inefficient" since it consumes disk space and memory and "increases the complexity" for consumers. Meanwhile, Microsoft discovered a minor Y2K glitch in Windows 98, which the company said might result in the incorrect display of dates, but posed no risk of data loss or computer damage.