The (so-called) LeapDayY2K Bug

Date: Tue, 19 Oct 1999
From: Peter Meyer
To: CALNDR-L@ECUMAIL7.ECU.EDU
Subject: The (so-called) LeapDayY2K Bug

Someone kindly referred me to their web page at http://www.lenon.com/julian3.htm entitled "Leap Year Tutorial". This page relies on a piece of foolishness presented as insight in another web page at http://www.abcnews.go.com/onair/Insite/insite990319_downs.html entitled "The LeapDayY2K Bug". This page is by Hugh Downs, veteran journalist for ABCNEWS.

Hugh Downs claims that a problem is coming up in February/March 2000 due the uncertainty as to whether there should be a Feburary 29.

I quote:

"Thereís a millennium bug bearing down on us that many think is bigger than the infamous Y2K defect that threatens to throw our computer-driven lives into confusion when the digits roll over to Ď00í at the end of this year. This new problem hinges on the next leap year.
[snip]
"Every four years (e.g., 1988, 1992, 1996, etc.) February gets an extra day ó except on the century year, when the extra day is not added to February, with a further exception: every four centuries, itís put back in."

Correct so far.

"And, as if it werenít complicated enough, if the year 1000 was a leap year, then so would 1400, 1800 and 2200 ó but not 2000."

Here's where Hugh goes off the rails. He continues:

"The confusion comes from a difference of opinion as to whether the 400-year cycle extends from 1000 or from 2000 AD. If the latter, then a 29-day February is appropriate for the coming millennial year. If not, we may have a problem."

"The best thinking, Iím told, astronomically, is that the year 2000 should not have a leap day."

Really? And what's astronomy got to do with it?

Most readers of this list will not need to have it explained where the error of this thinking lies, but for the record:

The Gregorian Calendar with its leap year rule was introduced in 1582, so the rule as concerning years divisible by 400 was applied only from the year 1600 onwards (so 2000 is a leap year — there's no "difference of opinion" except among the uninformed). There was never any suggestion (except in Hugh Downs' column) of applying the Gregorian leap year rule retrospectively (beginning, perhaps with the year 1000 CE).

Had this been attempted (with 1000 CE chosen as the "first" year of the Gregorian Calendar) then "the" calendar would show that there were 28 days in February of the year 1500, whereas the people alive at that time had in fact counted 29 days in that month.

ABCNEWS likes to alarm the people. Good for ratings. Which means they make more money by attracting more advertising.

Another instance of alarm is the recent scaremongering concerning possible biowar attacks on U.S. civilian populations. Great! Scare 'em to death so they won't object when their elected "representatives" (ha!ha!) vote more billions (of the people's money) for the Pentagon's biowar programs — purely "defensive" of course, and it does wonders for the bank balances of hordes of Pentagon contractors, whose numbers, unfortunately for them, are insufficient to achieve the same result by democratic means, except insofar as they succeed in perverting the democratic institutions of the U.S. to their own advantage, with the help of the U.S. media, including ABCNEWS.

Regards,
Peter Meyer

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