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Confab marks 500 days until Y2K

Marking the 500th day before January 1, 2000, a leading Y2K bug watchdog will host a conference to spur global action on the issue.

Marking the 500th day before January 1, 2000, a leading Y2K bug watchdog will host a conference to discuss the technology problem in an effort to spur global action on the issue.

Ed Yardeni, an economist and chief director of Deutsche Bank Securities will Wednesday hold the event which will be a full day Web-audio marathon featuring more than 40 speakers.

Senator Bob Bennett (R-Utah), chairman of the Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem, will give a keynote in the morning, followed by speeches given by leading figures from the finance, computer, telecommunications and health care industries, as well as government officials from the Defense Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the General Accounting Office.

A number of industry analysts whom Yardeni has asked to participate in the event disagree with some of his economic forecasts. One, Gartner Research Year 2000 analyst Lou Marcoccio, recently questioned Yardeni's findings.

Yardeni said he conjured the idea for the diverse group of speakers while taking part in a Senate committee hearing. "I felt many of these hearings weren't getting proper public attention." It was easy to choose the speakers for his conference because a lot of them were screened for the congressional hearings held on the issue over the past two years.

Year 2000 computer problems stem from an old programming shortcut that used only the last two digits of the year and has resulted in many computers being unable to recognize the date change of the new century.

Yardeni, known for his somewhat dreary Y2K forecasts and its impact on the world economy, defended his research. "I'm not a Year 2000 alarmist or survivalist," he once told CNET "I just think it is better to be prepared for the worst, than to be unprepared." And it will be a better New Year's day, he added, if we all wake up and notice we've overprepared for negative scenarios rather than did little and find ourselves wondering what went wrong, if, as some predict, power grids fail, bank accounts vanish, and air travel flutters to a halt.

Yardeni is a well respected economic analyst. Both ABC World News Tonight and the Wall Street Journal heralded him in 1997 as being one of the best economic forecasters of that year.

"The main point for the conference is to demonstrate that this issue is well beyond hype?and that there are many distinguished global citizens out there who take it seriously," he said.