Y2K NEWS CENTRE: January 21st Y2K-related news stories are now up...

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[Here are the summaries for today's Y2K-related news stories on the Y2K NEWS CENTRE page. You'll find full newspaper links for each story there...]

JANUARY 21st, 2000:

DAILY EXPRESS: "VIEWPOINT: John Laughland on the struggle to control oil" - 'When we hear the news that Russian forces have penetrated the capital of Chechnya, Grozny, we should not dismiss it as a quarrel in a faraway country of which we know nothing. The war in the Caucasus is one in which the West is heavily implicated and into which we could even get sucked militarily. It is easy enough to understand what is going on in the Caucasus. Just go and see the latest James Bond movie, The World Is Not Enough. In it, the sultry villain-heroine, Elektra - the powerful oil heiress played by the beautiful Sophie Marceau - is determined to build an oil pipeline from the capital of Azerbaijan, Baku, across Georgia and Turkey and out to the Mediterranean Sea. This part of the film is completely true. Western oil companies and the major Western governments, have made massive financial and political investments to secure a reliable source of oil. They want to reduce reliance on oil from the Gulf and on any pipeline through Russia. At present, the main oil pipeline flows through Chechnya, which is why the Russians are determined to control the province.'...'Since the Turks, the Azeris and the Georgians - and probably the Americans as well - are convinced that the purpose of the Russian campaign in Chechnya is to increase control over the whole Caucasus region, so that the Turkish pipeline is never built, this implies a potential confrontation between Nato and Russia in one of the most unstable regions in the world. It is not the first time that the possibility of a Russian-Nato confrontation in the Caucasus has been evoked.'...'The problem is that if the Turks did get involved in guaranteeing the security of Georgia or Azerbaijan, then any Russian attack would be an attack on Nato as a whole.'...'To make matters worse, acting Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that Russia is abandoning its doctrine of not using nuclear weapons first and may well deploy nuclear weapons in the event of a conventional attack. In other words, if Nato were foolish enough to attack Russia in the way it attacked Yugoslavia, there would be a nuclear war. And such an attack is not unimaginable if Nato got sucked into defending Georgia or Azerbaijan, an incursion into a Russian sphere of influence which Russia might well deem threatening...'

NEW YORK TIMES: "In Face of Higher Fuel Costs, Airlines Institute $20 Surcharge" - 'For the first time since the Persian Gulf War oil crisis nearly a decade ago, U.S. airline passengers will soon pay for the rising cost of fuel. Five major domestic airlines have quietly decided this week to add $20 to the price of a roundtrip ticket to offset the impact of rising jet-fuel prices. The surcharge, set to take effect next month, is meant to diminish one of the biggest expenses in the airline industry.' '...with oil prices at the highest level in nine years, it's likely that the surcharge will not go away in the foreseeable future....'

MOSCOW TIMES: "Oil Prices Sizzle" - 'Red-hot oil prices sizzled near nine-year highs on Thursday as the West's energy watchdog warned that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries supply curbs will leave the world perilously short of oil in coming months. World benchmark Brent for March delivery was up 16 cents at $26 a barrel by late morning, near the $26.30 nine-year high struck briefly Wednesday. Forecasts of a long spell of cold weather in the huge U.S. market has triggered even faster price rises there, moving at one point late Wednesday within 35 cents of the $30 mark. Fresh gains followed a warning from the International Energy Agency that global inventories slid again in November and December to take stocks of spare oil in industrialized countries to record lows. "The market needs more oil now," the Paris-based group said.'

BOSTON GLOBE: "IEA: Oil shortage looming due to strong demand, tight supplies" - 'Global demand for oil increased much faster than supplies at the end of last year, pinching inventories and driving up prices as buyers hoarded crude ahead of feared Y2K-related disruptions, a respected industry study said Thursday. ''The numbers show markets that are tight and getting tighter,'' said the monthly report by the International Energy Agency...'

MOSCOW TIMES: "Frigid Weather in U.S. Puts Heat on Russian Oil Sales" - 'Colder winter weather in the United States has attracted rare shipments of Russian heating oil across the Atlantic, European oil traders said. Over six cargoes of heating oil totaling 360,000 metric tons were shipped from the Baltic port of Ventspils in the past week as temperatures across the Atlantic dropped below normal. Dealers said strong heating oil prices in the United States, which reached their highest in four years last week, caused domestic buyers to look for cheaper imports. On the New York Mercantile Exchange, prompt heating-oil futures prices rose to nine-year highs above 20 cents a liter Tuesday and stayed above that level Wednesday. Traders said Germany's Mabanaft, U.S. refiner Koch and Dutch trader Vitol were among those involved in the recent sale. Shipping sources said vessels that were fixed to deliver heating oil to the United States included the Atlantic Pride, the Lovely Lady, Amphitrite and Pactol River. Traders said European sellers took the advantage of sizzling U.S. prices to move unsold Russian barrels westward. "Exports from Ventspils were normal but there were no buyers in the European market," one trader said. Traders said demand in Europe, in contrast to the United States, has been dormant because Germany, the continent's largest heating-oil consumer, had adequate stocks. Stocks of distillates in the northeast United States rose by 2.3 million barrels last week but levels were a hefty 30 million barrels lower than a year ago, according to American Petroleum Institute data.'

NEW YORK TIMES: "Bitter Cold" - 'The deep cold we have been having across the Northeast these past few days is inherently silent, of course. But if it made a sound it would be the scissoring and gnashing of a skater's blades against hard gray ice, or the screech of upcountry snow when you walk across it in the blue light of afternoon. The sound might be the stamping of frozen feet at bus stops and train stations, or the way the almost perfect clarity of the audible world on an icy day is muted by scarves and mufflers pulled up over the face and around the ears. But the true sound of deep cold is the sound of the wind. Monday morning, on the streets of Cambridge, Mass., the wind chill approached 50 below zero. A stiff northwest wind rocked in the trees and snatched at cars as they idled at the curb...'

WASHINGTON POST: "Climatic Flip, or Blip? U.S. May Be Entering New Weather Era" - 'The United States may be on the brink of a change in climate patterns that could last 20 or 30 years, some scientists believe. If current temperature conditions in the Pacific Ocean persist, if an upstart theory of climate cycles proves correct, and if satellite data released yesterday reflect the start of a new era, America could be about to experience a meteorological replay of the 1950s and '60s. On average, winters are likely to be colder and wetter, but drought is more probable in the parched Southwest, and the Southeast could have warmer weather. Storms and snowpack are likely to increase in the Northwest and Rocky Mountain states. Northern states will have lower winter temperatures. More hurricanes will hit the Southeast. There will be fewer El Ninos but more La Ninas...'

NEW YORK TIMES: - "OPEC Strategy Is Beginning to Be Noticed by Consumers" - 'When you pay home heating oil bills this winter, pump gasoline into the family car or buy airline tickets to a sunny climate, you will see just how much OPEC's game of chicken is costing consumers. With OPEC vowing to continue restraints on production, oil prices have begun surging again in the last two weeks. The price of crude oil is now $29.20 a barrel and headed to $30 or more, many commodity analysts say. Gasoline prices are at 77.33 cents a gallon in the futures market and heading to over $1.30 at the pump. And the near-term home heating oil futures contract is up to 86.46 cents a gallon, after climbing 8.6 percent yesterday. All these prices, except gasoline at the pump, are the highest since the run-up to the Persian Gulf war in January 1991. The price jumps are now spilling over into financial markets...'

DAILY EXPRESS: "Cash in with super-strength sterling" - '...It looks as if we will have to live with a [pound sterling] for some time. Foreign investors like the prudent management of the British economy and especially like the high interest rates - almost double rates in the 11 euro countries. The key will be the dollar. That in turn depends on America's gigantic trade deficit, which widened to another all-time record yesterday. Every hour Americans are now sucking in from the outside world $35million more in goods and services than they are selling overseas. Till now foreign investors have been happy to finance that staggering trade gap, piling into US bonds and equities. When they eventually stop, something will have to give. That something will be the dollar...

NEW YORK TIMES: - "Greenspan Speaks Softly, With Big Stick" - 'Pity Alan Greenspan. Suddenly the talk around Wall Street is that the Federal Reserve just doesn't have the power it once had over the economy. The Fed has raised interest rates three times, and the economy -- and the stock market -- just keep rolling along. Interest rates are no longer important. If such talk brings on a feeling of dij` vu, it may be because you remember the days of 1991 and 1992, when this economic expansion was young and widely derided as weak and fragile. Then the talk was of "profitless growth" and "pushing on a string." The Fed's efforts to stimulate the economy were faltering. In fact, the economy has changed, and there probably is a longer lag before the Fed can have a major impact. But the Fed is far from impotent. If Mr. Greenspan and his colleagues really want to slow the economy, they can. And it appears that Mr. Greenspan wants to do just that; he just doesn't want to take the blame for it...'

MOSCOW TIMES: "End of the World Still Nigh" - 'A cartoon in The New Yorker last week said it all: An end-of-the-world visionary - long beard, small sunglasses, sackcloth cloak, unlaced tennis shoes on sockless feet - walks down a city sidewalk holding a placard that says, "Hey! Everybody makes mistakes."...'There is something in all of us that loves a disaster. The bigger the catastrophe the better: Witness the barely suppressed glee that grips weather newscasters when a whopper of a snowstorm approaches, or the delicious frisson of foreboding mixed with fatalism with which Los Angelenos talk about the Big One that will split Southern California off the continent and turn it into a New Age Atlantis. And, when a disaster is averted, there is always a sense of peevish anticlimax jading our pious protestation about how relieved we all are. Did we really want to deal with a Y2K meltdown? Or terrorist attacks by crazed millennialist militias? Not really. But there is something of a letdown involved, especially for those who stocked up with 200 gallons of bottled water and more cans of canned tuna and baked beans than could be consumed in a year. What is it about not just disasters but the ultimate disaster that fascinates us so much? On a visceral level, a catastrophe is a chance for a dramatic interruption in everyday life...'

AUSTIN AMERICAN STATESMAN: "Mistaking identity" - 'The folks at Austin Metropolitan Financial Credit Union were relieved when Y2K came and went without a hitch. So imagine their dismay when at least one of the credit union's ATMs began spitting out slips this month bearing the organization's old name, Austin Municipal Federal Credit Union. "I've had enough trouble with name recognition . . . most people still call us Austin Municipal Federal," said AMFCU president Larry Strong, who was clearly piqued by the switch to the nearly 2-year-old slips. The credit union changed its name in 1998 to better reflect its diverse membership. "This is the first I've heard of this," said Strong. "We'll get that fixed." ' [scroll down the linked page for this news item>

AP: "31-district school computer consortium nagged by cyber problems" - 'An effort to keep a computer system free of the dreaded Y2K bug has resulted in slow computers and trouble in preparing report cards for 31 school districts in northeast Ohio. One glitch prevents computer-assisted averaging of first- and second-quarter grades for a midyear report card, so teachers have to do that individually. Using the computer to add a study period for one student's schedule can take three minutes to five minutes, Mike Gillam, principal of the 2,100-student Elyria High School, said Thursday. "It's outrageous. Our counselors are running into the same problem when they try to change a kid's schedule," Gillam said. New software was installed last year by the Lake Erie Educational Computer Association consortium in Elyria. The old and new systems were in use during the end of the year pending the switchover in January. The consortium serves school districts throughout Lorain County and parts of Cuyahoga, Erie, Huron and Medina counties. The association's executive director, Lloyd Wright, said he was confident that the problems would be resolved. He blamed the problems on the newness of the software and the short time frame for trying to install it.' [scroll down the linked page for this news item>

CASPER STAR-TRIBUNE [Wyoming]: "Y2K suspected in golf course computer glitch" - 'Some are blaming Y2K for handicapping a computer software program at the Bell Nob Golf Course pro shop. Kirk Wasson, manager of the pro shop, said when he turned the computer on after the New Year, he discovered the software system had locked up. He said the software was never updated to be Y2K compatible. Of all the Y2K computer problems that could have arisen, this is probably the least harmful, said Dave McCormick, director of the Campbell County Parks and Recreation Department. The golf shop is closed during the winter months. "At least we've got a six-week window to get it replaced, depending on the weather." Campbell County commissioners on Tuesday agreed to buy a new computer software system for $16,525. About half of the money will come from a $225,000 fund the county had set aside for Y2K problems. The rest will come from regular operating money.'

CASPER STAR-TRIBUNE: - "Colorado resorts suffer big drop in skier days" - 'A shortage of early season snow and Y2K stayaways have hit Colorado ski resorts hard, and for the second straight year skier days are down in the nation's No. 1 ski state. "It's shocking. The whole industry is suffering from a snow drought. I'm just glad it wasn't any worse," said John Frew, president of Colorado Ski Country USA, noting numbers are down 16.8 percent...'

ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER: "2 robbed, beaten in house" - 'Jaime Rocha and his employee, Juan Martinez, started the day off wrong. Two armed robbers confronted them in Rocha's garage in the 900 block of West Pomona as they were leaving for work Thursday. They tied up Rocha, 45, a painting contractor, and Martinez, 24, of Garden Grove, and threw them to the floor of Rocha's bathroom. Minutes later, one of the robbers grabbed a baseball bat from a bedroom and hit Rocha in the head. The robbers threw a towel over Rocha's bleeding head, then dragged him through the house as they ransacked it for nearly an hour, Santa Ana police Sgt. Raul Luna said. Martinez was hit in the head with a gun, but neither man was seriously injured. The robbers escaped in Rocha's 1995 Nissan Pathfinder with about $7,000 in cash and 16 antique guns'..'The Rochas had taken the money out of the bank as a Y2K precaution...'

TRIBUNE-REVIEW: 'A suspicious telephone call to one Jackson Township man should remind residents to be on guard when giving out personal information over the phone, police said. Jackson Township police Sgt. Wayne Seibel said a resident got a call on Tuesday from a person stating he had been hired by the resident's credit card company to help update security. Among other things, the representative told the resident the company was working to change its toll-free number to report a lost or stolen card and correct any Y2K glitches that still might exist, Seibel said. In order to do so, the representative said he needed to get the man's credit card number. The resident balked at the request and refused to give the number, Seibel said. Eventually, the representative became angry and began swearing under his breath, Seibel said...'

MSNBC: "Jamaica dreams, Chicago stranded" - 'Mark Goode's Jamaican vacation was canceled because the resort at which he was supposed to stay had been overbooked' - 'Mark Goode and his family and friends were supposed to be on the balmy beaches of Negril, Jamaica on a long-planned vacation for three North Shore families. But instead of baking on the beach, theyre steaming at home. "i received the first phone call and couldnt believe we were actually getting called to say our vacation wasnt taking place," Mark said. The call came from the resort where they were supposed to stay: Sandals Beaches Negril. The Goodes and their friends the Riebmans were being unceremoniously bumped because the resort had overbooked itself by at least 30 rooms. They blamed a computer glitch...'

MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL - "Idle checks cost Waukesha County $18,000. Menomonee Falls is owed interest on property tax money" - 'Waukesha County taxpayers will have to fork over $18,000 to Menomonee Falls because the county treasurer's office let $1 million in property tax payments sit idle and not collecting interest while the office dealt with a computer glitch and other problems. In all, about $35,000 in interest was not properly transferred to Menomonee Falls and seven other communities for a 10-day period in December when the treasurer's office was collecting property tax payments for those municipalities, County Administration Director Norm Cummings said Thursday...'

MSNBC: "Sabrina's Solutions" - 'Some local consumers are fuming about bills theyve been getting, but say they dont deserve. In one day alone we received 10 calls at NBC 5, from people looking for a solution after they were hit with big phone bills from AT&T. The problem seems to happen when North Texans switch their local phone service to AT&T. The telephone giant is now offering local service, not just long distance. But many people, who make the switch, are being billed long distance fees for their local calls in some cases hundreds of dollars. What we did was call AT&T and get the company to erase the charges for all the consumers who contacted us and were erroneously billed. The company apologizes and blames the problem on a computer error and says no one will be charged long-distance fees for local calls, no matter what their bills say. AT&T says its employing six hundred extra people to work its customer service department to handle this problem and insists its dedicated to getting the problem resolved.'

MICHIGAN LIVE.COM: "Feds seek health privacy input" - '...Up to now, most of the responsibility for protecting medical records was left to states. More than 35, including Michigan, have regulations governing medical privacy on issues as diverse and confidential as abortion and AIDS. Health care providers and insurance companies have criticized the proposed rules, saying compliance could cost billions. "We believe this may cost more than Y2K," said Patrick Foley, a spokesman for the Michigan Health and Hospital Association, which represents state hospitals and nursing homes...'

WASHINGTON POST: "THE DISTRICT: Cots Stocked for Y2K Benefit Homeless" - 'Add the homeless to the list of those benefiting from the massive preparations for possible Y2K problems that didn't materialize. The District's Emergency Management Agency is giving the Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness 150 cots that were purchased in case the famous New Year's Day computer glitch caused big trouble. "Although we didn't have to use them during the rollover, the severe weather we are experiencing now is causing an increase in the number of homeless people seeking overnight shelter," said Peter G. LaPorte, the agency's director. "We are fortunate to have them on hand so that we can make them available to the Community Partnership. It is essential that we all work together to see that this critical need is met." Cornell Chappelle, Community Partnership's outreach coordinator, said the cots will be used at "overflow sites" that are opened after beds at existing shelters are filled. Federal law, he said, requires that shelters be opened for the homeless when the temperature falls below 26 degrees Fahrenheit.'

ALBANY TIMES-UNION: "No wrongs made it right" - 'Region's Y2K group wonders why nothing went wrong, but say the safety measures taken were right to do' - 'Programmer Dick Mills still has trouble explaining it: after all that talk about everything going wrong, how could Y2K have been so right? "It looks like all those who did nothing were wise,'' Mills told the final meeting of the Capital Region Y2K Interest Group. Mills said, however, the precautions were the standard of safety, of not taking chances, that Americans are used to. "I still like our standards.''...'On Thursday night at the Emmanuel Christian Church Retreat House in Glenmont, seven members showed up to deconstruct Y2K. They were still astounded there had been no serious problems -- not fewer than expected, but none at all. Last year, Mills, the group founder with 30 years programming experience, tested numerous computer systems and found some definite Y2K problems..'

TORONTO STAR: "City team pulled together for Y2K success" - 'Toronto's millennium fireworks and party was so good the first time, Mayor Mel Lastman showed a video replay at the start of a special council meeting this week. For scores of men and women seated in the council chambers, it was their first glimpse of the dazzling celebrations on the waterfront. For while Toronto partied, they were sitting and standing on pins and needles, tending to computer systems, trouble-shooting, looking to squish any escaped Y2K computer bugs. ``These are the people who made the city work on midnight Jan. 1, 2000,'' said Councillor Dick O'Brien, chair of the Y2K steering committee, as they stood to bursts of applause from city councillors. ``The work that went into this was astronomical.'' Indeed, it was. Amalgamated Toronto was not formed until Jan. 1, 1998, long after some businesses had already solved their Y2K woes. Of the 10 listed danger signs that indicated high risk of suffering significant Y2K problems, Toronto had nine of them - with the amalgamation being the source of many of the risk factors...'

ACCOUNTANCY AGE.COM: "Millennium bug beaten - so far - and to deadline, says [UK] government" - 'The massive project launched to beat the millennium bug is almost unique among IT projects in that it met its deadline, the minister responsible has conceded.' - 'Margaret Beckett told the Commons: 'I am pleased to confirm that so far - as predicted - it is businessas usual in the United Kingdom. In what is believed to be the largest co-ordinated project since the Second World War, thorough and detailed planning across government and the national infrastructure, both publicly and privately controlled, ensured a smooth transition over the date change. 'There is no doubt this work had to be done - the millennium bug was shown to have the capacity to wreak havoc among those services which, though essential, we take for granted. Problems were corrected swiftly because organisations prioritised and put business continuity plans in place.'She added: 'In the wider public sector NHS trusts and government agencies found problems that needed to be fixed. Problems in gas repayment meters and in electricity prepayment meters were found and fixed. And elsewhere in the private sector, everywhere from finance to food, transport to telecoms, major potential problems were found and fixed in time. There were and no doubt will continue to be further minor glitches.' '

REUTERS: "Techs weather Y2K, bask in e-commerce" - 'The bets placed on electronic commerce over the past few years are beginning to pay off in technology earnings, at least in the initial wave of results reported this year, analysts said Friday. A number of companies have reported stronger-than-expected results, especially those, like Sun Microsystems Inc., whose main business is linked to providing e-commerce tools. Some of the few downturns were reported by companies such International Business Machines Corp. with significant exposure to large systems businesses hit by the lock-down ahead of Y2K, or companies that missed a beat in adjusting to the growth of the Internet, such as Lucent Technologies Inc. But IBM and Lucent were among the companies that warned of slowdowns and there have been no dramatic surprises . "I haven't seen many screw-ups," said David Wu, chip analyst for ABN Amro. "End-user demand is strong and the world economy is coming back." Asia, in particular, provided positive results for some of the biggest technology companies. Microsoft Corp. reported a 56 percent surge in Asian sales, one of the strongest signs of a recovery in business from the recent years of economic turmoil. "Asia had been lagging and, all of a sudden, what you're seeing is they're spending a lot on new technology to catch up with the rest of the world," said Rob Enderle of Giga Information Group...'

HOUSTON CHRONICLE "Spending on Y2K put hiring on hold" - 'Companies spent so much time and money fixing their Y2K problems last year that they put off spending money on e-commerce, developing Web sites and other information technology projects. But now that the computer kinks brought on by the dawning of the new century are largely behind us, companies will probably free up those millions of dollars to get up-to-date on the latest and greatest technology to boost their productivity and efficiency. And that means more jobs for information technology workers. The shift to non-Y2K projects should probably happen in the next couple of months as the Y2K glitches are worked out, said Tony Pannagl, managing partner of IS&T Staffing Group in Houston...'

TORONTO STAR: "Managers counter flight from funds" - 'In Wednesday's column, I talked about the slump in Canadian mutual fund sales and gave some reasons why people are turning away from this popular investment. The short-term factors - investors' worry about rising interest rates, overvalued stocks and the Y2K scare - will abate. And as markets stabilize, new money should start flowing into funds again. However, there's a long-term shift away from mutual funds toward other types of investments. This trend is more serious and has the industry worried...'

GLOBE AND MAIL [Toronto]: "Taxpayer receives one-cent tax bill" - 'At first, Sylvia and Doug Roth thought it was a Y2K glitch. But when the couple realized a tax bill for one penny sent to them by Perth East Township was for real, they became angry about the minuscule request. "I appreciate being notified of tax arrears, but a bill for a penny is a waste of taxpayers' money," said Ms. Roth. She said the cost of an envelope, stamp could easily be one dollar. Connie Flanagan, a Perth East administrator, said the mistake was simply a computer error.'


[full newspaper links for each story are on the Y2K NEWS CENTRE page]

-- John Whitley (jwhitley@inforamp.net), January 21, 2000


Thanks for the reminder John - great job!

Can I ask you for your take on the oil situation so far [bearing in mind we are only 3 weeks in]? Did you see Marcia's "definitive" list, and the info from Harry Schultz?

cheers, Andy

-- Andy (2000EOD@prodigy.net), January 21, 2000.

Thanks John for your Y2K updates, they are appreciated. It makes it very easy to print out and share with others who are interested but don't have web access.

-- Sammie (sammiex0@yahoo.com), January 21, 2000.

Thanks John.

-- (Kurt.Borzel@gems8.gov.bc.ca), January 21, 2000.

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