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Voice of America, 00-01-03

Voice of America: Selected Articles Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Voice of America <gopher://>





    INTRO: European stock markets re-opened after the New Year's holiday and promptly surged to new highs in apparent relief that no computer problems showed up. Correspondent Ron Pemstein reports from London, the much-feared Y-2-K bug never materialized in Europe.

    TEXT: From the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in Ukraine to Shannon Airport in Ireland, Europe is free of Y-2-K computer problems. London stock markets do not open until Tuesday, but the others from Helsinki to Lisbon traded shares just as they did in 1999. Europe's common currency, the Euro, rose sharply in Asian trading, but it sagged back to virtual parity with the U-S dollar in the light European currency market. So, was Y-2-K all a hoax? Patricia Mac Connell worked during the New Year's holiday monitoring Y-2-K developments for the European Commission in Brussels. She tells V-O-A preparations made her job quiet.

    /// MAC CONNELL ACT ///

    I have been many years in information technology and I am perfectly convinced that had there not been these preparations and remediation work, we would have had some problems, and some of them would have had a significant impact on our systems and infrastructure operations.

    /// END ACT ///

    The European Commission monitored nuclear power plants in Europe outside the European Union's 15-member states. Ironically, Ms. Mac Connell says a lack of sophisticated technology at the non E-U nuclear plants prevented a New Year's problem.

    /// MAC CONNELL ACT ///

    Curiously enough, that means that much of the critical equipment is what we call, hardwired, and is not software at all and therefore it is not actually vulnerable to the Y-2-K bug.

    /// END ACT ///

    The European Commission analyst says the lack of problems does not allow Europeans to drop their guard.

    /// MAC CONNELL ACT ///

    I do not think any of us should relax our vigilance. That does not mean that we would necessarily need to continue around the clock watches as we have been doing. I do not think that is necessary, but I think it is way too early to start dancing in the streets, frankly.

    /// END ACT ///

    The Slovene official in charge of Y-2-K problems may be dancing out of office. He had advised Slovenes to buy emergency reserves of food, water, and medicine before New Year's Day. When no problems appeared, his precautions were ridiculed. As a result of the criticism, the Slovene head of the office for protection and rescue has decided to resign. (SIGNED)
    NEB/RP/GE/RAE 03-Jan-2000 12:21 PM EDT (03-Jan-2000 1721 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America


    NUMBER=6-11612 (CQ)

    INTRO: The nation is greeting the new year and going back to work this Monday, and -- although there is some dispute on this point - greeting a new century and a new millennium as well. Editorial columns are using the historic occasion for a reflection on the past century. The latest news from Russia, Boris Yeltsin's resignation, is also a popular topic.

    // OPT //

    Additional editorials are cover such topics as the Air India hijacking; the issue of bail for a Chinese-American nuclear scientist accused of mishandling state secrets; and the public mood in Israel. // END OPT // Now, here is _____________ with a closer look and some excerpts, in today's Editorial Digest.

    TEXT: Boris Yeltsin's surprise resignation on the last day of the year is drawing considerable attention in the editorial columns, with many papers praising the retiring Russian leader despite his faults. Ohio's Akron Beacon Journal asks, rhetorically, "As flawed as [Mr.] Yeltsin has been, who could have done better for Russia?"

    VOICE: Once, Boris Yeltsin looked like a hero even to the president of the United States. This was before Chechnya, before a flawed, corrupt Russian market economy failed to live up to its potential, before too much alcohol, too many illnesses, too many prime ministers hired and fired. Don't forget the Yeltsin who was a great Russian. Don't forget how tall [Mr.] Yeltsin stood when he mounted a ... tank in 1991 and defied a coup attempt against Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev -- inspiring, as he did this, a nation to resist a return to totalitarianism.

    TEXT: In Maine, the Portland Press Herald notes that Mr. Yeltsin's "courage and ego saved Russia, but kept it in chaos," adding:

    VOICE: Mercurial, calculating and -- according to reports -- often drunk, [Mr.] Yeltsin couldn't settle his country into a predictable pattern of policy making. Instead, his government -- like the man himself -- existed on the edge.

    TEXT: A similar appraisal from the San Francisco Chronicle, which also remembers Mr. Yeltsin standing on top of that tank to ward off a coup attempt, but adds:

    VOICE: He was bold, daring and popular back then, nearly a decade ago. But his final days, capped by his announced resignation ... were a dismal letdown.

    TEXT: In another note on Russia's leadership change, The Wall Street Journal in New York says that, aside from Chechnya, the Russian body politic took a turn for the better on New year's Eve with Mr. Yeltsin's resignation. It is generally pleased with acting president Vladimir Putin's plans, including a move to revise the tax structure. The Journal sums up with this warning about the war in Chechnya:

    VOICE: No regime likes separatist movements, but the Kremlin's response in Chechnya is not only cold-blooded but may well prove to be counter-productive. ... The only way Russia can hold the restive peoples who want out of the federation is to offer them better government and economic conditions than they have experienced in the past. Mr. Yeltsin has given Mr. Putin a historic opportunity, but exploiting it won't be easy.

    TEXT: Many papers are in a philosophical mood this first work-day of the new century, looking backward for clues as to the future. The Chicago Tribune calls the past 100 years "a crimson century."

    VOICE: Bathed in blood, the 20th century was the most violent in human history. Some 110-million civilians and combatants died in wars or from causes directly related to wars. But it was the three world wars --One, Two and the Cold War -- that overshadowed all the rest and shaped the century's geopolitics. In a grim sort of symmetry, the century's first great conflict began with an act of violent nationalism in the Balkans, and one of its last conflicts occurred there as well. This extreme nationalism seems likely to haunt the world in the 21st [century] as well.

    TEXT: Florida's Times-Union in Jacksonville, taking a more sanguine view, says:

    VOICE: The 1900s may go down in history as the century of democracy. In 1900, not a single nation offered universal voting rights; in the United States, for example, African-Americans and women were excluded. But not only have voting rights been expanded, the number of democratic countries has increased substantially -- from 25 to 119. A century ago, 12 percent of the world's population was under democracy; today, it is 58 percent.

    TEXT: And now, we turn to another turn-of-the century issues, the Y-2-K computer malfunction problem, which was averted by intensive and costly reprogramming around the world. The New York Times is one of several papers breathing a sign of relief and justifying the effort.

    VOICE: In a welcome anticlimax to two years of dire warnings, the new millennium arrived ... without a computer-driven melt-down of the globe's electronic infrastructure. So far even the countries that did not spend vast sums to prepare for a Y-2-K bug disaster have been spared major problems. ... Common sense suggests that inaction was not an option ... once the experts determined the existence of a threat to power grids, defense systems, air transport, financial communications and other vital linkages.

    // OPT //

    TEXT: In a more somber note on the passage of time, The Oklahoman in Oklahoma City notes the story of Air Force Colonel Robert Elliot, shot down in the Vietnamese war, whose body has just been returned to this country for reburial.

    VOICE: Year 2000 has most people in a forward- looking mood, anxious to embrace the future while leaving the 1900s behind. In many ways that is fitting and proper. In the case of America's missing servicemen from the Vietnam War, it would be tragically wrong. ... The return of [Colonel] Elliot's remains underscores the loss still felt by the families of those for whom there still is no final accounting. That important job is not done. America should not leave behind the brave men who died in service to the country and freedom. // END OPT //

    TEXT: Turning to international affairs, the Indian jetliner hijacking's peaceful resolution draws this comment from The Washington Times.

    VOICE: Much as one must rejoice at lives saved, however, the eventual outcome is one that can be predicted to produce more problems for India. Which is to say, this round went to the hijackers. ... With this part of the world a seething hot spot of trouble involving Kashmir, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan, the Indian government just brought itself a heap of trouble when it not only turned out to be incompetent at quick crisis response, but also willing to give in to terrorist demands.

    // OPT //

    TEXT: As to the subject of granting bail for the Chinese-American Wen Ho Lee, suspected of possibly passing nuclear secrets to China, The Washington Post agrees that the decision to deny him bail is "the right one":

    VOICE: ... Given that the government cannot account for seven data tapes he made that contain vast quantities of sensitive nuclear weapons information ... Mr. Lee is presumed innocent. But there is clearly a huge amount that the public does not know about this case.

    // END OPT //

    TEXT: Turning to events in Israel, the removal by the Israeli government of a shrine to Baruch Goldstein, the Jewish settler who killed 29 Palestinians at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in 1994, is hailed by the Boston Globe.

    VOICE: [Mr. Goldstein's] ... gravestone with its hate-filled inscription remains. "A great disgrace has been wiped from our face," [Ran Cohen, an Israeli government minister] said. "The other half of the stain will be removed when the shameful inscription is erased." The other half will be erased only when Arabs and Jews can erase the hate in their hearts. It may take generations ...

    TEXT: In another comment on Israel, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is worried that Israel's parliamentary democracy, relying as it does on proportional representation in the Knesset, or parliament, may represent "too much democracy."

    VOICE: Ehud Baruk, the Israeli prime minister who has reinvigorated the Middle East peace process, almost lost his government majority in parliament last week. ... [He] was threatened with the loss of his majority by Shas, a religious party, that had ... an insistence that the government more generously fund its network of religious schools. ... The episode ... is a telling reminder of the risks of what might be called "too much democracy." ... [A] system of proportional representation [that] virtually guarantees ... no party will receive a majority.

    TEXT: On that parliamentary conundrum, we conclude this sampling of comment from the editorial pages of Monday's U-S press.
    NEB/ANG/WTW 03-Jan-2000 13:30 PM EDT (03-Jan-2000 1830 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: Stock prices in the United States were mixed today (Monday), as volatility marked the start of a new year of trading on Wall Street. V-O-A correspondent Elaine Johanson reports from New York:

    TEXT: The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 140 points, more than one percent, closing at 11-thousand- 356. The Standard and Poor's 500 index fell 14 points to 14-hundred-55. But the technology-led Nasdaq composite gained one and one-half percent for a new record. Stocks were under some pressure from a falling bond market that pushed yields on the 30-year government bond up to a two-year high of six-point-six percent. With the transition to the year 2000 smoother than many had anticipated, Wall Street also worried again that the Federal Reserve Board will raise short-term interest rates when it meets in February to slow U-S economic growth. The latest on the economy shows manufacturing continues to expand - though at a slower pace - with some price pressure building.


    The U-S central bank decided to leave interest rates unchanged during its December meeting to avoid unsettling financial markets during the changeover to the new year. Nothing untoward, so far, has happened. Even economist Edward Yardeni is impressed. He had predicted all sorts of year 2000 problems, including the beginning of an economic recession:

    /// YARDENI ACT ///

    I'm impressed by how well things have gone, especially overseas. If they keep doing this well over the next couple of days, then I think the odds of a recession clearly are much reduced.

    /// END ACT ///

    Banking and financial stocks - normally sensitive to interest rate jitters (anxiety) - traded lower. Analysts said some of the sell-off was probably tax- oriented. Investors put off selling stocks last week because they would have to pay taxes on those gains in April, rather than next year. In any case, last week's euphoria, as the stock market closed the year at record highs, seems to have settled down. (Signed) NEB/NY/EJ/LSF/gm 03-Jan-2000 16:50 PM EDT (03-Jan-2000 2150 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America
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