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Gas prices ... Greenspan bows out ... other items
Scripps Howard News Service


May 20, 2005

Washington - Memorial Day marks the annual trek of SUVs to beaches and mountains, and that's going to mean higher prices at the gasoline pumps.

Gas prices have dipped more than a dime nationwide in recent weeks, but analysts predict they're heading back up as the peak summer season gets under way.

And if you're planning to hit the beaches or national parks, expect crowds: the sinking greenback means many families are opting for the cheaper choice of staying home this year.

Upshot: expect $2.50 a gallon by Labor Day.

Time is finally running out for Alan Greenspan; he's already joking about having to find another job at age 79. Under federal law, governors of the Federal Reserve are limited to no more than 14 years on the board, and Greenspan celebrates his anniversary in January.

Finding a replacement is not only a big headache for the White House, it's a matter of deep concern for notoriously jittery financial markets.

The gnomes of Wall Street do not like change: when President Ronald Reagan replaced the popular inflation-fighter Paul Volcker with Greenspan in 1987, the dollar tanked 1.7 percent and interest rates spiked a quarter of a percent.

Wall Street already is buzzing about a likely replacement. The front-runners are Ben Bernanke, chairman of President Bush's Council of Economic Advisers; economist Martin Feldstein, who headed the council during the Reagan administration; and R. Glenn Hubbard, dean of the Columbia business school and architect of Bush's tax-cut program.

One-time front-runner and Bush economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey scuttled his chances by publicly musing over the escalating costs of war in Iraq.

Timing is everything with this nomination. If Democrats drag out the squabble over Bush judicial appointees, the White House could send the nomination to Capitol Hill and dare Democrats to play politics with the nation's finances by refusing to act on a Fed appointment.

The Fed is making preparations. Greenspan wants out but could stay in the post next year if the battle over his successor bogs down.

Fathers are lower-maintenance than mothers, and industry forecasters expect Americans will spend $8.3 billion on Father's Day celebrations this year, compared to $11.3 billion spent on Mother's Day. Retailers say most Father's Day gifts this year will be bought at discount stores, with 70 percent of children opting for just a card to commemorate the occasion.

That's just fine with dads, who prefer that the day pass with barbecues and ball games. About a third will get clothing (yes, ties), 22 percent books or CDs, 12 percent electronics and 12 percent tools or appliances.

The Secret Service warns that businesses need to be more vigilant in sealing their computer systems against disgruntled insiders.

The agency and computer experts from Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon looked at 49 cases of insider cyber-crime and noted some common threads. More than 60 percent of the sabotage was planned out, with insiders either building back-doors to get into the computers or exploring vulnerabilities like shared accounts to gain entry when authorization was changed.

Secret Service agents say that in 80 percent of the cases, the disgruntled employees telegraphed their intentions by exhibiting unusual behavior at work before they carried out their attacks, and most of the attacks were carried out by remote access.

Expect loud protests from civil libertarians, but expiring provisions of the Patriot Act are on track for renewal. Look for lawmakers to peel back controversial provisions allowing federal agents to comb through library records and gun-store purchases, but leave other procedures unchanged.

The Justice Department says it's used the library-search provision 35 times since the Patriot Act sped through Congress in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, but won't say how or why publicly, or what these 35 cases entailed.


E-mail Lance Gay at GayL(at)

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