Y2K Preparations, Predictions, and Results

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NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 2-4-00, By SARAH FENSKE, Morning Journal Writer

"Belated Y2K headache stumps cops

AVON -- The Avon Police Department has discovered a Y2K problem, even though New Year's was a month ago. Since Jan. 19, police have been unable to print any records entered in the year 2000, Police Chief John Vilagi said.

The department's computer representative has examined the problem several times without success, Vilagi said ...

Mayor Jim Smith, also Avon's safety director, was unfazed by the issue.

'In the months after 2000, you're going to have glitches popping up in your system,' Smith said. 'The lesson is, don't think because you've made it to this point that you're home free.'

This particular problem is unlikely to cause any bigger issues than inconvenience, since police can still access information, Vilagi said ..."

Date: Mon, 03 Jan 2000
To: vortex-L@eskimo.com
From: Jed Rothwell
Subject: Intelligent Y2K roundup

"The New York Times has an intelligent roundup of the Y2K story so far:

Story 1

Story 2

In "A Cassandra With No Regrets, and Besides, It Is Not Over Yet," By James Brooke, Edward Yourdon is quoted:

`` "When we got to Indonesia, to China, all across Asia without any reports of problems -- that was surprising," . . . "By God, they did do a good job fixing things up." But Mr. Yourdon . . . warned that it was far too early to say that the world's computer-dependent societies were out of the woods.

"There is going to be another opportunity for bugs Monday morning -- everyone is going to come in to their office, and turn on their PC's," the 55-year-old computer programmer said. "It is possible that bugs will manifest themselves in coming days and weeks." ...''

I think Yourdon is forgetting that the opposite is also true: the bugs manifested themselves weeks and months ago, because business transactions are often postdated. (Things like delivery and expiration dates are always in the future.) In fact Y2K problems began 30 years ago in some industries. Banks issuing 30 year mortgages in the 1970's had to deal with them.

Yourdon is one of the smarter Y2K pessimists."

See: Yourdon


"As millennium dawns, world braces for bite of the Y2K bug

... Seaports closed out of caution around the world. Jets were grounded. Even Disneyland's Matterhorn rollercoaster planned to shut down to avoid the dangers of Y2K.

Officials urged calm in the well-prepared United States, while analysts watched vulnerable regions including eastern Europe, Latin America and parts of Asia.

The potential problem? Some computers might misread the year 2000 as 1900, causing systems to shut down. Despite all the preparations, experts warned that some failures are inevitable on Jan. 1 and the weeks or months after, given the hundreds of millions of computers worldwide ...

The millennium began today at the stroke of midnight on a tiny, normally uninhabited island in the South Pacific -- the renamed Millennium Island in Kiribati. An hour later, New Zealand reported no problems other than congestion on busy phone lines.

"The lights are still on. The situation is normal," said Basil Logan, chairman of New Zealand's Y2K readiness commission.

But as the celebrations swept west with the new day, so did worries.

Cautiously optimistic, federal emergency managers in New England gathered in a Cold War-era bomb shelter in Maynard, Mass., to announce detailed preparations in front of a screen that read: "We do not expect a cataclysmic event."

Throughout the world, there were night-before worries: A provincial court in South Korea ordered 170 plaintiffs and defendants to appear for trial on Jan. 4, 1900. China hurriedly rechecked its banking systems after a Y2K glitch frazzled thousands of British credit-card swipe machines. ATM machines in Beijing were closed as a precaution. In Louisville, Ky., some cable TV subscribers received invoices for bills due in the year 100 -- almost 19 centuries ago ...

A vital U.S. air safety system got a last-minute Y2K repair Thursday, while 352 nonessential U.S. diplomats and their families left Russia and three former Soviet republics deemed at high risk of Y2K-induced power and telecommunications outages.

The Coast Guard disclosed Thursday that about two dozen of the world's 16,000 cargo ships have been "red-flagged" and will be barred from American ports during the New Year's weekend because officials were not convinced they could operate safely. Neither the ships nor their countries of origin were identified.

U.S. ports on the West Coast will suspend operations voluntarily from midnight tonight until midnight Saturday, the Transportation Department said. Ports from Portland, Maine, to Baltimore will close or restrict operations, as will ports farther down the East Coast from Norfolk, Va., to Miami.

Central banks across the globe have printed tens of billions of dollars worth of currency -- from 10 to 40 percent more than normal -- to hedge against possible bank runs, though experts are fairly confident the financial sector is in good shape.

South Korean banks, which were closed for a four-day New Year's holiday beginning today, reported sharp increases in cash withdrawals this week by people fearful of computer glitches. One bank official reported withdrawals up 20 percent.

An early prophet of the Y2K bug, Capers Jones, chief scientist at Artemis Management Systems, estimated more than $1 trillion will be spent overall on Y2K fixes, and more than twice as much on cleaning up -- everything from computer damage to lawsuits filed against those responsible.

Trying to avoid potential problems, hundreds of airline flights were canceled. Airlines cited low demand and also concern that air traffic control systems in regions such as the Asian subcontinent and Latin America may not be ready.

Airports in Denmark and Bolivia also be closed for the rollover. So will Korean and Polish steel mills, Israel's nuclear power plant, and ports from Australia to Holland. Sri Lanka postponed surgeries in hospitals.

In Glasgow, Ky., Fire Chief James Wingfield hoped he had done enough: Fire trucks were stationed strategically around town and emergency generators were on hand.

"We just hope it's an overkill," he said, "and everyone can sit around and eat ham and biscuits on New Year's Eve." ''

LOS ANGELES TIMES, Friday, December 31, 1999, By SCOTT GOLD

"Last secret of Our Lady of Fatima haunts believers

In 1917, or so the story goes, the Virgin Mary descended on Fatima, Portugal, and spoke to three shepherd children. As the sun fluttered and zagged across the sky, Mary imparted what have become known as her three "secrets."

The first was a harrowing vision of hell and a prediction that while the world war would end, a worse war would follow - which disciples interpret as a prediction of World War II. The second was a call for piety and the consecration of Russia.

The third secret was supposed to be unveiled in 1960, when Pope John XXIII opened it and quickly had it resealed. Though every pope since has read it, and Fatima is viewed as an "official" miracle by the church, the contents of the final message remain unknown to the public ...

Though Pope John Paul II has cautioned against millennial fever, some Catholics are convinced that the church has declined to reveal the secret because it predicts catastrophe.

The Catholic Church officially teaches that the claim by the three children that they saw an apparition of Mary is "worthy of credence." Tens of millions of Catholics worldwide, including the pope himself, are devoted believers in Our Lady of Fatima ...

The church acknowledges that increasing numbers of Catholics are clamoring for the release of the secret, but insists that the fears associated with the sealed message are unfounded. The secret is "nothing of tremendous consequence," Monsignor Francis Maniscalco, a spokesman for the Bishop's Conference in Washington, said this week.

Then why not just divulge its contents? The church won't answer that ...

In 1996, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, who has read the secret, said it would be a "perversion" to yield to public pressure to release its text, and said that "the Virgin does not engage in sensationalism; she does not create fear."

"There is no announcement of the end of the world or any other apocalyptic events in the third secret," Ratzinger said then ...

Legend tells variously that Pope John XXIII fainted or cried when he read the secret, though the church will not confirm that. And when he ordered it resealed without telling the secret, many assumed that it was simply too horrible to reveal ...

Over the years, however, the story of Fatima has attracted an unusual assortment of steadfast believers. One was Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish terrorist who shot John Paul in St. Peter's Square [1981]...

The assassination attempt itself, for many Catholics, sealed the veracity of the Fatima miracle. The attempt took place on the feast day of the Virgin of Fatima, and legend has it that John Paul was bending down to look at a young girl's Mary medallion when he was shot; the pope later credited the Madonna of Fatima with saving his life and placed the bullet, removed during surgery, in the crown of a statue to Mary in Portugal."


"The Year 2000 Problem: The Year the Earth Stands Still

By now, you have heard about the Year 2000 computer problem, also known as Y2K or the Millennium Bug. When I started this Web site in January of 1997, not many people had heard of it. There were no books for a general audience on it. Now, there are hundreds.

Yet even this late in the game, the press is convinced that readers do not understand it. Today, in almost every published article on y2k, the journalist feels compelled to include this: "The problem exists because programmers for three decades used the last two digits of the century as substitutes for all four digits. Thus, 1967 is written 67, and 1999 is written 99. The problem will come in 2000 when unrepaired computer programs will read 00 as 1900."

Actually, unrepaired IBM-clone personal computers will revert to either 1980 or 1984, but the problem still exists, and not just in ancient models (pre-1998). Millions of old PC's are still used in running the infrastructures of most of the world. There may be 300 million PC's still in use, worldwide, and most are not compliant.

Add to this 50 billion embedded chips -- or maybe 70 billion. Perhaps only 1% of these are noncompliant. Or 3%. No one seems to know. (Three percent of 70 billion chips is over two billion chips.) We know only that there is a lot of chip-based systems to test, replace bad chips, and test again.

But it is not just computer programs that are noncompliant. The data stored in these computers are noncompliant. It is also computer operating systems, including DOS, Windows 95, and early versions of Windows 98.

Over the last three to five years, large organizations around the world have been paying programmers to fix these systems. With only a few weeks to go before the century date change, the vast majority of these firms and governments are still noncompliant. This includes the largest money center banks on earth. The threat is two-fold: bank runs by depositors and, far more important, what Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan calls cascading cross defaults, where banks cannot settle accounts with each other, and the banking system goes into gridlock, worldwide.

Because corporate computer systems are noncompliant, they have not been subjected to rigorous final testing, which can take months. This was always a major problem, as I have said on this site from the beginning. (See Testing.) In 1997 and 1998, Fortune 1000 company after company promised to be finished with all repairs, leaving "a full year for testing." With very few exceptions, organizations missed this crucial deadline. The press, which had quoted it faithfully, promptly dropped the missed deadline down the Orwellian memory hole.

The U.S. government, still noncompliant, has had numerous deadlines, beginning with September 30, 1998. It never meets these deadlines. No mainstream reporter ever mentions this fact in print ...

The U.S. government assures the nation that y2k will seriously affect only foreign nations (rarely named, and when named, issue immediate official denials) and small businesses. But in the U.S., small businesses -- under 500 employees -- number 24 million. One-third of them are thought by the U.S. government's Small Business Administration to have done nothing to repair y2k. These businesses employ tens of millions of people. They also supply the largest businesses that are "not quite compliant."

Oil-exporting nations are not compliant. The U.S. imports half of its oil.

The largest companies that convert oil into finished products were not compliant as of early 1999. The industry promised it would be compliant by September 30. So far, no such announcement has been made. There is a new deadline for the industry: December 31.

U.S. ports are noncompliant. But 95% of all imported goods come through these ports.

We are told that the electrical power generating industry is almost compliant, but the basis of these assurances is a series of unverified, self-reported data from anonymous firms. These reports have been assembled by a private agency financed by the U.S. power industry, NERC.

What happens to electrical power generation if fuel and spare parts cease to be produced? The typical urban power company relies on more than 5,000 suppliers. The reports issued by NERC never discuss this aspect of the y2k problem.

As for the chemical industry, the news is not reassuring. The U.S. government's Chemical Safety Board sent a warning about noncompliant chemical plants to all 50 state governors on July 22, 1999. Yet this industry is the major exporter of goods industry in the U.S.

The U.S. Navy published on the Web, and then pulled (no explanation offered), a report on the risks to 144 U.S. cities due to failures of public utilities. The U.S. government and then the Navy went into damage control mode when the findings of this report were posted on a Web site that, within days, received so many hits that it had to be shut down and redesigned. Updates to the Navy's June, 1999 "Master Utilities" report have reduced many risk assessments, but the risks are still serious.

There is little but bad news coming from the nation's water and sewer utilities. Think of your community without water or sewer services for, say, a month.

The universal refrain is: "We can run it manually." For a few hours, maybe. But where is there publicly available evidence that large public utilities have produced detailed operations manuals and have implemented extensive training programs to be sure that employees can run all systems manually for days or weeks or months? There is no such evidence. The slogan is a public relations ploy ...

All things are going according to standard operating procedure: public relations handouts, unverified positive statements, and verbal assurances that everything is fine here. Serious y2k problems are limited to the Other Guys Over There.

But the computers of the Other Guys Over There exchange data with "our" computers. Bad data from their computers can reinfect our computers and their data. This, the PR people never discuss in public. Even if our computers somehow can be programmed to lock out noncompliant data, then the computerized systems that rely on shared data will break down. Think "banking system."

Things will not break down all at once in early January unless the power grid goes down and stays down. But the domino effect will create ever-increasing institutional noise and confusion throughout January and beyond. Your check will not be in the mail ..."

For further information: Gary North

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