I write programs for a living. I've got an opinion on everything. Unfortunately.
3740 stories
·
8 followers

Brexit UK Vulnerable As Gold Bar Exports Distort UK Trade Figures

1 Share

Brexit UK vulnerable as gold bar exports distort UK trade figures

- Britain's gold exports worth more than any other physical export
- Gold accounted for more than one in ten pounds of UK exports in July 2017

- UK's stock of wealth has collapsed from a surplus of £469bn to a net deficit of £22bn - ONS error
- Brexiteers argue majority of trade is outside EU, this is due to large London gold exports
- Single gold bar (London Good Delivery) is, at today's prices, worth just over £400,000
- "There are few things you'll ever touch which pack so much weight into such a small size"
- UK's economic vulnerability means safe haven gold essential protection

 

I've never played poker but I'm pretty sure the number one rule is not to reveal your cards to your opponents.

Yesterday the ONS possibly gave the EU one of the biggest reveals so far in Brexit negotiations. Revised figures from the statistics bureau showed the country's stock of wealth has fallen from a surplus of £469 billion to a net deficit of £22 billion as reported by LBC.

This is down to FDI and fall in reserve foreign assets. In the first half of the year FDI fell from a £120 billion surplus in the first half of 2016 to a £25 billion deficit for the first half of this year.

With the UK totally losing its foreign assets, the EU (and the rest of the world) is aware that its safety net is no longer there. Not great timing, just as the government is trying to get through this crucial stage of Brexit negotiations.

The amount that has been knocked off the UK's wealth is the equivalent of 40% of EU contributions. The bank balance isn't the only thing the UK has at best misunderstood or at worst been mislead over. Their trade is not as internationally diverse as Brexiteers might have led markets to believe.

Following the referendum result there was an increase in Britain's exports. Many pointed to the numbers as a sign of confidence in the future of the UK, following the Brexit vote.

It turns out that much maligned gold was to thank for this uptick. Without gold, the majority of the UK's trade would be with the EU.

This is a reminder of how vulnerable we are to negotiations and reliant we are on the precious metal.

Gold's saving role 

As we can all recall, there was an air of uncertainty and panic surrounding the UK's referendum last June. This prompted investors to diversify into gold bullion as a safe haven.

The increase in purchases of gold bars was so big that estimates of the country's end-of-year GDP were pushed up. The majority of the gold sold in London eventually goes onto Switzerland, India and China. Therefore the export of gold is recorded as non-EU trade.

It is this that politicians, economists and the mainstream saw when they looked at export figures. An uptick in non-EU trade led them to conclude that Britain's exports to the EU were growing which was a sign of confidence in the soon-to-be ex-EU Britain.

It was more of a sign of faith in the London Gold market over others in the UK. This past July Britain's gold exports were greater than any other (physical) export.  More than 10% of the value of UK exports in July were accounted for by gold.

Gold, the ultimate test for lack of confidence in the UK

Much of the gold didn't even hang around in the UK. So little confidence did investors have. Reports show that some of that bullion bought in London was then moved out of the country to China, by investors, at the end of 2016.

These purchases and movement of gold was a double-edged sword, or contrasting sign of confidence and lack of confidence. It is an indication that foreign investors were still faithful to the hallmark that is the London Gold market, however have declining confidence in the United Kingdom.

Ed Conway on Sky News, explains the tricky picture this creates for those pushing confidence in the UK:

This raises doubts over one of the few Brexit claims which has yet to be challenged - that Britain now exports far more outside the EU than inside.

The official trade figures produced by HM Revenue & Customs show that over the past five years the EU's share of Britain's exports has dropped to 46%.

But strip gold out of the statistics and the EU's share is still 50%. Falling, yes, but not quite as fast as the official numbers might have you believe.

There are a few provisos: for one thing, these numbers don't include services trade - Britain's real speciality, particularly with non-European partners.

Even so, when you exclude gold from the overall trade balance (goods and services) - a tricky operation since the numbers are fiddly and not altogether comparable - a similar thing happens: the share going to the EU rises from about 45% to 47%.

The lesson is clear: that while Britain remains a dynamic trading nation, it is actually considerably more reliant on trade with Europe than the official numbers suggest.

International investors put their faith in gold

No matter how long someone works in the world of gold investment, it never ceases to amaze how much faith and value is put into something so small. A London Good Delivery bar is currently worth just over £400,000. A huge amount given it weighs 12.5 kilos.

But little comes down to size, instead it is about history and solid economic evidence that proves its role as a safe haven and hedge against economic risks.

These increased gold purchases show international investors still hold the London Good Delivery system to a high standard but do not have faith in the economy.

It is quite a contrast to the UK government which puts little faith into gold, with very low gold reserves despite the UK having no natural gold assets for mining.

The faith of foreign investors in gold over the British economy is one which is unlikely to change. Not only is the Brexit picture getting bleaker but so are figures that indicate in what poor health the system is in.

Today the news that inflation has hit 3%, a five-year high, is bad news for all holders of the pound and particular bad news for those who continue to see their wages squeezed.

Gold is an excellent hedge against the serious damage inflation leaves in its wake. It is also an excellent hedge against government mismanagement and weak economic decisions.

International investors and gold buyers including central banks are better informed about this than the UK's own government. The same group who are supposed to be managing the country's finances.

Conclusion 

Yesterday UK and EU leaders agreed that Brexit negotiations needed to 'accelerate'. Despite some forced smiles and statements from officials on both sides it's clear that the most infamous (and expensive) divorce  discussion is not going well.

The longer politicians and bureaucrats continue to snipe at one another the less time there is for the United Kingdom to build and grow trade relationships in the wider world.

This is bad news for sterling, for jobs and for our overall wealth. We are in an extremely vulnerable position.

The UK government continues to ask the public for their faith and support in the Brexit negotiations. However this is too little too late. Very little support has been shown for British voters and outside investors when it comes to how the economy has (and will be managed). The public is unlikely to respond positively.

Inflation is climbing, property is stumbling and wages and pensions continue to be at risk from cuts and mismanagement.

Those vulnerable to Brexit negotiations must follow in the footsteps of those international investors by placing their faith in gold rather than await the outcome of negotiations being carried out by self-serving politicians and bureaucrats.

News and Commentary

Gold prices hold steady amid firm dollar (Reuters.com)

Asian Stocks to Gain as Fed Chair Talk Hits Bonds (Bloomberg.com)

Oil Leads Commodities Rally as Treasuries Decline (Bloomberg.com)

Palladium Tops $1,000 for First Time Since 2001 (Bloomberg.com)

U.K. Inflation Climbs to 5 1/2-Year High on Food, Transport (Bloomberg.com)

Source: Zero Hedge

Video: Global Trade Slowdown Is a Reason to Buy Gold - HSBC (Bloomberg.com)

SHANGHAI GOLD EXCHANGE gives a fillip to China’s global aspirations (ShanghaiDaily.com)

Russia Issuing ‘CryptoRuble’ (CoinTelegraph.com)

5 Myths About Bitcoin (StansBerryChurcHouse.com)

Astronomers can confirm how precious metals were formed (MarketWatch.com)

Gold Prices (LBMA AM)

17 Oct: USD 1,289.70, GBP 973.47 & EUR 1,097.02 per ounce
16 Oct: USD 1,305.15, GBP 981.08 & EUR 1,107.03 per ounce
13 Oct: USD 1,293.90, GBP 972.88 & EUR 1,093.73 per ounce
12 Oct: USD 1,294.45, GBP 977.96 & EUR 1,092.26 per ounce
11 Oct: USD 1,290.20, GBP 978.62 & EUR 1,091.90 per ounce
10 Oct: USD 1,289.60, GBP 977.77 & EUR 1,094.61 per ounce
09 Oct: USD 1,282.15, GBP 976.23 & EUR 1,092.01 per ounce

Silver Prices (LBMA)

17 Oct: USD 17.11, GBP 12.96 & EUR 14.55 per ounce
16 Oct: USD 17.41, GBP 13.09 & EUR 14.75 per ounce
13 Oct: USD 17.20, GBP 12.94 & EUR 14.55 per ounce
12 Oct: USD 17.20, GBP 13.06 & EUR 14.50 per ounce
11 Oct: USD 17.15, GBP 13.00 & EUR 14.51 per ounce
10 Oct: USD 17.12, GBP 12.98 & EUR 14.53 per ounce
09 Oct: USD 16.92, GBP 12.86 & EUR 14.41 per ounce


Recent Market Updates

- Puerto Rico Without Electricity, Wifi, ATMs Shows Importance of Cash, Gold and Silver
- U.S. Mint Gold Coin Sales and VIX Point To Increased Market Volatility and Higher Gold
- Global Outlook – Mad, Mad, Mad, MAD World: News in Charts
- Young Guns of Gold Podcast – ‘The Everything Bubble’
- London House Prices Are Falling – Time to Buckle Up
- Perth Mint Gold Coins Sales Double In September
- Survey shows UK and US Pensions Crisis is Imminent
- Gold Investment In Germany Surges – Now World’s Largest Gold Buyers
- Yahoo Hacking Highlights Cyber Risk and Increasing Importance of Physical Gold
- Safe Haven Silver To Outperform Gold In Q4 And In 2018
- Plan For Run On The Pound
- Russia Gold Rush Sees Record Reserves For Putin Era
- China Catalyst To Send Gold Over $10,000 Per Ounce?

Important Guides

For your perusal, below are our most popular guides in 2017:

Essential Guide To Storing Gold In Switzerland

Essential Guide To Storing Gold In Singapore

Essential Guide to Tax Free Gold Sovereigns (UK)

Please share our research with family, friends and colleagues who you think would benefit from being informed by it.

Read the whole story
zippy72
34 minutes ago
reply
FourSquare, qv
Share this story
Delete

Get Ready For A New Chernobyl In Ukraine

1 Share

Via Oriental Review,

With the onset of winter and the increasing strain on Ukraine’s energy system, the threat of a new nuclear disaster in Central Europe is becoming more than just a theoretical danger.

According to analysts from Energy Research & Social Science (ERSS), there is an 80% probability of a “serious accident” at one of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants before the year 2020. This is due both to the increased burden on the nuclear plants caused by the widespread shutdowns of Ukraine’s thermal power plants (the raw material they consumed – coal from the Donbass – is in critically short supply) and also because of the severe physical deterioration of their Soviet-era nuclear equipment and the catastrophic underfunding of this industry.

Should such an incident occur, the EU would not only be faced with the potential environmental consequences, but also – given the recent introduction of visa-free travel – a large-scale exodus of Ukrainians out of contaminated areas.

Let’s start by taking a brief tour of the Ukrainian nuclear industry:

Ukraine currently has four operating nuclear power plants: the Zaporizhia (the largest in Europe, with six reactors and a combined power output of 6,000 MW), the Rivne (four reactors and a combined power output of 2,880 MW), the Khmelnitskiy (two reactors and a combined power output of 2,000 MW), and the South Ukraine (three reactors and a combined power output of 3,000 MW):

The Chernobyl plant with its four reactors was finally shut down for good in 2000.

Of the 15 nuclear reactors currently operating in Ukraine, 12 were brought online during the Soviet era, prior to 1990. All of them rely on the classic type of VVER nuclear reactors that were designed during the 1960s and 1970s at the Kurchatov Institute in Moscow. Those reactors should have a maximum life expectancy of 30 years. But as of today, 10 of the 15 reactors operating in Ukraine have already outlasted their expected service life.

And all the while, the strain on Ukraine’s crumbling reactors constantly increases due to the dramatic decline in the availability of anthracite reserves from the Donbass at the country’s thermal power plants (by mid-2017, electricity production at Ukraine’s thermal power plants had dropped to almost half of 2013’s output, down to just over 50 billion kWh per year). According to Energoatom, the state company that runs Ukraine’s nuclear plants, in 2016 those plants were operating at only 65.5% of their total capacity, but by January 2017 they were up to 77.6%. During the first half of 2017, Ukraine’s nuclear power plants produced more than 45 billion kWh of electricity (up 13% compared to 2016), which means that they were responsible for 58% – an unprecedented share – of the country’s total energy matrix.

Today Ukraine is desperately squeezing out the last drops of use from its decrepit Soviet-era nuclear facilities.

The situation is being aggravated by Ukrainian energy officials, who are under political pressure to find a substitute for the nuclear fuel made by the Russian company TVEL. Thus at a number of reactors they have made repeated attempts to instead use a product made by the Westinghouse Electric Company, an American-Japanese corporation.

It is astonishing how the Ukrainians have entirely ignored the painful experiences of the Czechs. Back in 1996, the Czech Temelín nuclear plant (built by the Soviet Union) signed a contract with Westinghouse. After the reactors at the plant were fed an American fuel that had been designed to mimic the Russian TVEL product, the plant was forced to repeatedly refuel the reactors ahead of schedule, because the American assemblies leaked and exhibited structural defects. The scientists at Westinghouse could not correct the problem. In addition to the threat of a nuclear accident, the faulty fuel assemblies significantly increased the costs of producing electricity, since the reactors had to be continually shut down to replace the American parts. As a result, after yet another major accident in January 2007, the Czech Republic refused to purchase further fuel from the US and by 2010 Temelín had fully returned to the use of Russian TVEL products.

The Czech Temelin nuclear power station had effectively got rid of the counterfeit Westinghouse fuel by 2010.

Ukraine has been experimenting with American-made clones of Russian fuel assemblies since 2005. That was the year that Energoatom shipped six TVS-WR assemblies manufactured by Westinghouse to the South Ukraine nuclear plant and began their pre-installation inspection. As a result of their experiments, it was concluded that the American fuel assemblies were defective. However, they still decided to proceed to the next stage of the experiment – the annual loading of the reactor using this fuel. In 2008, Energoatom and a Swedish subsidiary of Westinghouse signed an agreement to supply the South Ukraine nuclear plant with enough American fuel for the scheduled annual partial refueling of the three reactors from 2011 to 2015.

However, as early as April 2012, malfunctions in the American assemblies were noted at the reactors of the South Ukraine nuclear plant. In an emergency procedure, all the TVS-WR assemblies were completely unloaded from the reactors after they were found to be damaged, mainly due to structural flaws in the spacer grids. As a result, in 2013, following a thorough inspection, Ukraine’s State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate instituted a total ban on the use of American fuel at Ukrainian nuclear plants.

But the victory of the Revolution of Dignity has once again cleared the path for American TVS-WRs to be used in Ukraine. In April 2014, Kiev carefully reassembled the torn-up scraps of its old contract with Westinghouse and decided to give things another go. The media reported that American fuel was subsequently loaded into reactor no. 3 at the South Ukraine nuclear plant (March 2015), reactor no. 5 at the Zaporizhia nuclear plant (June 2016), and reactor no. 2 at the South Ukraine nuclear plant (August 2017). The consequences were soon evident.

In February 2016 there was an emergency shutdown of reactor no. 3 at the South Ukraine nuclear plant “due to an increase in the level of coolant in the steam generator.” As local residents reported on social media, the area surrounding the nuclear plant was immediately cordoned off by the military. And on March 23, 2016, operations at the South Ukraine nuclear plant were completely suspended for an entire day!

The Zaporizhia nuclear plant has already undergone a dozen emergency shutdowns of its reactors since 2014. For example, in November 2015, military troops in the Zaporizhia region beefed up their safety measures after the reactors at the nuclear plant suffered an emergency power loss – all of the soldiers and officers were issued special equipment to protect themselves from radiation and chemicals. But no official comment was forthcoming about the incident.

Curiously enough, in May 2015 the Guardian published a bombshell report, claiming that over 3,000 spent nuclear fuel rods were being stored in metal casks in an open-air yard on the grounds of the Zaporizhia nuclear plant. Apparently these were Russian TVEL assemblies that had been hastily stored after being replaced with the TVS-WRs. This would seem to indicate that experiments to introduce the defective fuel rods into the reactor cores at the Zaporizhia nuclear plant were being conducted long before the reactor was officially brought online using American fuel in June 2016.

This being the case, the time line of accidents at the Zaporizhia nuclear plant can be viewed in a different light:

Nov. 28, 2014 – There was an emergency shutdown of reactor no. 3 after the automatic system that prevents damage to the core was activated.

July 18, 2015 – There was an emergency shutdown of reactor no. 1 in connection with the automatic shutdown of the pump responsible for cooling the nuclear reactor.

April 11, 2016 – There was an emergency shutdown of reactor no. 6 at the Zaporizhia nuclear plant in connection with the depressurization of the gas system of the turbogenerator. The local media reported a 10-fold increase in radiation levels around the station.

May 18, 2016 – There was an emergency shutdown of reactor no. 4 due to damage to the transformer.

August 14, 2016 – Reactor no. 5, the first at Zaporizhia to have been loaded with the Westinghouse knockoff product, was sent out for repairs.

Sept. 20, 2016 – Reactor no. 6 was taken off-line for “scheduled maintenance” (at the very start of the winter heating season!).

Oct. 24, 2016 – There was an emergency shutdown of reactor no. 2, only two and a half weeks after being overhauled.

In March 2017, at the peak of the energy crisis, that same reactor had to be taken off-line again.

April 18, 2017 – There was yet another emergency shutdown of reactor no. 6.

In early August 2017, reactor no. 4 was taken off-line for “scheduled maintenance work.”

As a result, only two of the six reactors at the Zaporizhia nuclear plant are currently fully serviceable. Overall, the accident rate at Ukraine’s nuclear plants has increased 400% since 2010!

The report from Energy Research & Social Science mentioned above also stressed that “[i]n Ukraine, for example, most nuclear energy accidents and incidents have not been included in databases over the past several years, although state Media confirmed their occurrence.”

In addition to the use of knockoff fuel, the biggest reason for the increased number of incidents at Ukraine’s nuclear plants has been the chronic underfunding of the industry. In the 25 years since the collapse of the USSR, literally not a cent has been invested in that sector. But in the meantime, the reactors that have outlived their 30-year lifespan either need to be closed (which would cost money that Energoatom does not have) or have their service life extended. Naturally, the Ukrainians are pursuing the second option. Ideally, when the operational life of a nuclear plant is extended, that should involve a major overhaul and updates. The estimated costs of extending the lifespan of a single reactor range from $150-180 million. But neither Energoatom nor the government of Ukraine has that kind of money, nor do they expect to find it anytime soon, hence the authorization to extend the operation of the reactors is a pure formality. Judging by publicly-accessible reports, regular 10-year extensions on the service life of Ukrainian nuclear reactors are granted readily and without arguments. However, the internal documents from Energoatom that were released this week by Cyber-Berkut paint quite a different picture.

Cyber-Berkut Documents

Cyber-Berkut obtained access to documents from government offices in Austria, Romania, Moldova, Belarus, Greenpeace, and the Bankwatch network of environmental NGOs, dated from the summer of 2017, which sound the alarm about Energoatom’s plans to prolong the operation of these old reactors.

The most informative of these is a chart drawn up by the Ukrainians listing all the grievances put forth by their foreign partners, plus their own responses (the document is primarily written in Ukrainian).

The first fact that jumps out is that Kiev arbitrarily decided to extend the operation of the reactors back in 2015, but it was not until 2017 – after the fact – that it sent that (pre-approved) program to update the nuclear plants to its neighboring countries and international environmental organizations for study.

This was a simultaneous breach of two UN Conventions that require signatories to obtain public and intergovernmental approval prior to (not after) commencing work at a nuclear power plant: the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment (the 1991 Espoo Convention) and the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (the 1998 Aarhus Convention). Jan Haverkamp, a recognized expert in nuclear energy and a Greenpeace staffer, writes about this issue specifically:

The Ukrainian response to him (third column) states, “The State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate [the Ukrainian acronym is ?I??? – OR] is an independent body and its actions are not subject to these conventions [!!!-OR]”

Echoing Mr. Haverkamp, Bankwatch’s Romanian representative, Maria Seman, also raises a red flag:

In accordance with the Aarhus Convention, article 6 (4), public participation (along with a cross-border process to allow public participation in the Environmental Impact Assessment – EIA) should take place when all options are still open. In the case of decision-making processes that happen at many different levels, if there was no public participation in previous decisions, the public should once again be invited to take part in those decisions that were made earlier and they should still be viewed as open. This applies to reactors 1 and 2 of the South Ukraine nuclear power plant and reactors 1 and 2 of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, where updates were made and their license was renewed despite the red flags raised by neighboring countries and Espoo Convention Implementation Committee.”

Ukraine offered a simple, straightforward answer:

The answer to this question was provided above.”

Following are more of Maria Seman’s contentions about how Ukraine has violated international legislation: Kiev refused to notify stakeholders before making decisions about nuclear plants and now cannot guarantee that all input will be taken into account as the reactors are being updated:

However, Kiev seems relatively unconcerned, offering only mocking answers to the objections made by the foreign investigators:

Ukraine did not refuse to do anything. A delay occurred. The decisions to extend the licenses were made in accordance with national law and it was not possible to postpone them.”

There may be a conflict between the laws, but the regulatory body that made the decisions on this matter did not violate national law.”

In other words, the Ukrainians call ignoring the demands of the UN – “a conflict between the laws,” and violating the basic principles of environmental oversight – “a delay.”

Ukraine seems unaware that these conventions were created in order to preclude arbitrary actions by political authorities on questions of nuclear energy. Violations of international law are a matter of concern not just for environmentalists. They are a legal issue that calls for investigation, the identification of the perpetrators, and the correction of the transgressions. Where are the international commissions, where are the criminal cases that have been filed, where are the courts and tribunals that should be avidly defending the letter of the law? Why is the Ukrainian government being allowed to ignore UN treaties that it is bound to observe? The Espoo Convention Compliance Committee and other relevant authorities must respond.

According to Mr. Haverkamp, the authors of the program to extend the licenses of the nuclear power plants do not know the first thing about risk assessment and have not learned the lessons of Chernobyl or Fukushima, because the continued use of the reactors at the South Ukraine and Zaporizhia nuclear plants raises the chance of another nuclear disaster:

In turn, the Romanian government has submitted a whole list of transgressions, omissions, and missing information. Here are just two items:

The statements [by the Ukrainians] about their policy in regard to nuclear safety are misleading, incomplete, and not supported with pertinent details …”

The documents submitted by the Ukrainians are missing important information about the assessment of the consequences of potential accidents at the nuclear power plants …”

However, the Ukrainians are not troubled with remorse for their shoddy work – their answer again takes a defiant tone. The experts in Kiev apparently believe that there are not enough qualified investigators in the Romanian government to legitimately request such information:

This information, in our opinion, may be a subject of interest to suitably qualified experts, but for the discussion of the EIA at the state level, it is superfluous.”

Representatives from other neighboring countries also complain about the lack of data necessary to fully evaluate the program to update Ukraine’s nuclear power plants.

In particular, the Ministry of the Environment of the Republic of Moldova has emphasized that the environmental impact assessment does not take into account the physical aging – resulting from bombardment by neutron fluxes – of either the reactors or the components of their radiation shield.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of the Republic of Belarus has requested “comprehensive information regarding the documents on the basis of which the decision was made to extend the service life of the two reactors at the nuclear power plant, as well as information regarding the updates to each reactor,” and so on.

Ukraine’s reaction: That answer lies outside the scope of our authority.

Serious concerns are being raised about the fact that the Ukrainian state agencies responsible for nuclear energy have not yet devised ways to dispose of the spent nuclear fuel and other radioactive waste, now that the service life of the reactors has been extended and given the fact that Ukraine is refusing to use Russian storage facilities. Maria Seman, for example, has this to say:

“The section on radioactive nuclear waste does not provide enough information on the total quantity of waste generated over the course of a year, nor a detailed plan for handling it, which must include storage. The on-site facilities for storing nuclear waste at the nuclear plants are limited, and the transportation of waste and spent fuel to Russia was suspended once the civil war in eastern Ukraine intensified. It is essential to request this information.”

However, Kiev seems less concerned with problem of how to dispose of radioactive waste than with offering its own rhetoric about events in the eastern part of its country. Instead of providing a substantive answer about what to do with the increasing quantity of spent fuel, the officials advised the Romanian investigator on her choice of newspapers:

There is no civil war in Ukraine – only the aggression of the Russian Federation [!!!-OR]. The author should find reliable sources of information.

Among other topics the Europeans raised for discussion with their Ukrainian colleagues: the massive doses that Kiev has decided fall within the bounds of “permissible radioactive contamination,” despite the fact that they are lethal to 50% of the population of the zone that has been thus contaminated; the sources of the funding for the impending programs to take the Ukrainian nuclear power plants off-line in the future; the absence of assessments in Energoatom’s materials regarding the impact of radiation on the rise in leukemia among children living near nuclear power plants; and so on:

Officials in Kiev either evade answering these questions or else play the fool: “What, we should keep records of every case?” (in regard to the incidence of childhood leukemia).

*  *  *

All these facts are evidence that Ukraine’s nuclear power plants not only present a genuine threat to Europe’s security, but that given the current economic situation and political instability in Ukraine, they also have no chance of bucking this negative trend. How to effectively cope with this aggravating situation should be a matter of urgent technical and political talks between the Russian and concerned EU states authorities.

Read the whole story
zippy72
38 minutes ago
reply
FourSquare, qv
Share this story
Delete

Microsoft is Not My Friend Today

2 Shares

I am working with Dell to create a starting computer image for laptops I buy from them that will have all our computers set up the way we want them to be right out of the factory.  This will save an hour or so of work for me on each computer.

This works really well EXCEPT for Microsoft's heavy-handed intervention.   As part of the setup process before I create the default image, I switch the windows default browser to Chrome and the default app for opening pdf files to Adobe Reader.  No matter what we do, when the new computer boots up with this image, windows switches the default browser and PDF app to Microsoft Edge (apparently via 'sysprep".)  I might be able to live with this for the browser, but Edge is defective in opening PDF files, specifically it does not allow pdf's with form fields to be saved in a way that retains the form entry.  My users will never be able to figure out how to reset this themselves so now I have to figure out how to write batch files so I can override the Microsoft override after it runs.  Less intrusive but still irritating is the fact that Microsoft also adds back all their sales spam I deleted, including their "get office" and "try skype" apps.

As an aside, it is really sort of funny nowadays to put Chrome or Firefox on a new Microsoft computer.   If you try to make these other browsers the default, you get this message that says something like "wouldn't you like to try Edge, it is way better than our old browser that we tried for years and years to make you use and then abandoned."  I am paraphrasing of course, but that is the gist.

Read the whole story
zippy72
22 hours ago
reply
FourSquare, qv
freeAgent
2 days ago
reply
Los Angeles, CA
Share this story
Delete

Dumb bug of the week: Outlook staples your encrypted emails to, er, plaintext copies when sending messages

1 Comment and 2 Shares

You're formatting messages the wrong way

Attention anyone using Microsoft Outlook to encrypt emails. Researchers at security outfit SEC Consult have found a bug in Redmond's software that causes encrypted messages to be sent out with their unencrypted versions attached.…

Read the whole story
zippy72
22 hours ago
reply
As the 8 ball said, “Outlook not so good”
FourSquare, qv
expatpaul
4 days ago
reply
Belgium
Share this story
Delete

An anonymous fear submitted to Deep Dark Fears - thanks! My...

1 Comment and 2 Shares


An anonymous fear submitted to Deep Dark Fears - thanks!

My new book “The Creeps” is available now from your local bookstore, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, iBooks, IndieBound, and wherever books are sold. You can find more information here.

Read the whole story
zippy72
1 day ago
reply
This is actually really sweet.
FourSquare, qv
Share this story
Delete

AOL Instant Messenger is dead

1 Comment and 3 Shares

It’s a sad day for US kids who grew up in the 1990s. Oath, the Verizon subsidiary that owns the remnants of AOL, announced that on Dec. 15, it will be shutting down AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), a little over 20 years after it launched.

AIM was one of the first instant-messaging services the general public experienced. For many who went through school in the late ’90s and early 2000s, it was a first taste of the always-connected lifestyle we now live. It was a fight to get hold of the family computer so you could log in to AIM and chat with the same friends you probably just left after school. It was a fight with the rest of the family to stay on the computer, hogging up the phone line, at a time before broadband internet connections.

Services like AIM, and others, such as MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, and ICQ, laid the groundwork for the messaging apps and social networks we now all use. There would have been no inspiration for services like WhatsApp, Twitter, or Facebook without these predecessors: The people that built these networks grew up when AIM was the primary method of internet communication for the first generation that had connected computers from a young age.

AIM had started out as a built-in chat function in the AOL Desktop, the combined web browser/media player for dial-up customers of America Online (of which there are still 2 million customers in 2017, somehow). It was released as a standalone chat program that any Windows user could download in 1997, and AIM took off. Users could chat with friends privately or in public chatrooms, which was probably the first experience many had interacting with strangers on the internet. Users could set away messages—perhaps when they finally relinquished the computer to someone else in the family—which became a whole separate way of communicating on the app. Some put up facts (mom needs the computer), others put up song lyrics they identified with, and others put up messages to alert friends about the actions of other friends. It was like Twitter before Twitter.

AIM’s popularity started to decline when Gmail and others offered built-in chatting functions—and plummeted when smartphones took off. That the program has existed so long after its heyday is surprising in and of itself. Then again, AOL went from being one of the largest tech companies in the world, with a market value of $224 billion and annual revenue of $9.5 billion in 2000, to a being a company that was sold for parts to a telephone company in 2015 for $4.4 billion.


Read this next: By the numbers: AOL then and now



Read the whole story
zippy72
1 day ago
reply
I had an AIM account for years. Nobody messaged me. Ever.
FourSquare, qv
freeAgent
12 days ago
reply
Los Angeles, CA
Share this story
Delete
Next Page of Stories