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News Briefs

Greenspan Tells Congress Economic Expansion Underway

THE WASHINGTON POST -- WASHINGTON

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan told Congress Thursday that not only is last year’s recession over but that “an economic expansion is already well under way.”

Just eight days earlier, Greenspan had been much more cautious in his testimony, saying only that a recovery from the slump was “just getting underway.” However, he then reiterated concerns that for a variety of reasons that the expansion could turn out to significantly weaker than those that have followed previous recession.

Over the past week, however, unexpectedly strong economic news had convinced many economists that the economy is growing at around a 4 percent annual rate in the first three months of this year. That is much stronger than forecasters had expected only a few weeks ago. Similarly, during the period between Greenspan’s appearances on Capitol Hill, the fourth quarter growth rate was revised upward to a 1.4 percent annual rate, much faster than the 0.2 percent rate first estimated.

Retail sales jumped a better-than-expected 6.2 percent in February, the biggest monthly gain in almost two years, the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi Ltd. reported Thursday.

More good news came Thursday from the Labor Department which said that initial claims for unemployment benefits averaged 372,750 per week over the last four weeks, the lowest level since April 2001. That figure is well below the peak of around 500,000 reached in the weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. With claims now running so low, many analysts believe the department will report Friday that the number of payroll jobs increased last month for the first time in nearly a year.

Reports Cite Snooping Possibilities on Computers

NEWSDAY

The flickering of computer screens and the ubiquitous LEDs found on modems and similar devices make virtually all electronic gear vulnerable to remote snooping, according to two scientific papers published half a world apart this week.

The recently reported phenomenon, “optical emanations,” may have intelligence agencies salivating and make civil liberties advocates nervous. Authorities see the technology as a quick route around PC-based encryption that has hampered traditional surveillance in recent years. Unlike other forms of eavesdropping, critics say, there are few laws that restrict its use.

In one of the experiments, Markus G. Kuhen of the University of Cambridge in England, successfully reconstructed the contents of a computer screen merely by measuring fluctuations in light output on a nearby wall and running the resultant information through a simple signal processing filter. The other experiment, by Joe Loughry of Lockheed Martin Space Systems and Dr. David A. Umphress of Auburn University, used similar processing to successfully decipher the contents of modem transmissions by monitoring minute flickers in their LED (Light-Emitting Diode) displays at about 22 feet.