Thursday, November 24, 2005

GS(3) Intelligence Briefing (11-24-05)

NOTE: GS(3) Intelligence Briefing is posted on a bi-weekly basis. As circumstances dictate, we may post special editions. The Briefing is organized into five sections: Europe, Middle East and Africa, Asia Pacific, Americas, Global and Cyberspace. Each issue provides insight on terrorism, cyber crime, climate change, health emergencies, natural disasters and other threats, as well as recommendations on what actions your organizations should take to mitigate risks. “Words of Power" commentary is also posted on a bi-weekly basis. This commentary explores a range of issues in the interdependent realms of security, sustainability and spirit. For more information, go to

Europe, Middle East & Africa

Kuwaiti oil production from the world's second-largest field is "exhausted" and falling after almost six decades of pumping, forcing the government to increase spending on new deposits, the chairman of the state oil company said…The plateau in output from the Burgan field will be about 1.7 million barrels a day, rather than as much as the 2 million a day that engineers had forecast could be maintained for the rest of the field's 30 to 40 years of life…Persian Gulf oil producers, which supply about a fifth of world demand, are rushing to find new reserves and build more pipelines and export terminals to compensate for declining output from older reservoirs. Any delay in replacing supplies may push oil prices higher and slow economic growth, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in a report…Oil consumers will be more reliant on Middle Eastern supplies in coming years and vulnerable to higher prices and slower economic growth should investments be delayed, the IEA, an adviser to 26 consuming nations, said in an annual outlook released on Nov. 7…(Kuwait Oil Field, World's Second-Largest, “Exhausted,” Bloomberg, 11-10-05)

“Oil will be depleted sooner than the IEA expects. These are the most important conclusions from [World Oil Production & Peaking Outlook] a new report of the Peak Oil Netherlands Foundation (PONL). The report is supported by the well-established Dutch energy research institute ECN…The Paris based IEA, that is considered by western governments as the most authoritive source of information on the oil market, is receiving criticism from a group of scientists, engineers and investors. This so called 'peak oil movement', founded by Collin Campbell, a pensioned geologist that worked for oil companies like Texaco and BP, beliefs that the global oil production will reach its highest point in the near future. The IEA does not want to consider this. But, according to Bruggink, the 'doomsayers' might very well be right…Based on his data, [Rembrandt] Koppelaar draws the conclusion that world oil production will reach its peak between 2012 and 2017. 'Only a clear discontinuity from previous trends in production could shift the peak further into the future.' The researcher finds it more likely that the opposite would happen: a peak before 2012. 'In 2003, some 90% of all discovered oilfields were in production. Within soon, this number will be practically 100%. The number of newly discovered fields is gradually decreasing. There are now already 30 oil producing countries, like the United States, that are past their peak, and more are joining.' Koppelaar thinks the government should take action to facilitate the transition towards an economy that relies less on oil. 'Research for the American Department of Energy indicates that some twenty years are needed for a smooth transition.'(Oil Will Be Depleted Sooner than the IEA Expects, Financieele Dagblad, Netherlands, 11-15-05)

  •   The sand in the hourglass is running out. Does the leadership of your organization understand what the end of peak oil production means, i.e., its economic and geopolitical implications, and how this profound change will impact your organization’s business interests, operations and security needs?

Asia Pacific

A critical phase in the evolution of a bird flu pandemic could play out in China in the coming weeks, world bird flu expert Robert Webster said…He said a campaign in China to vaccinate its 14 billion poultry flock could precipitate a worst case scenario. The doomsday scenario was that the Chinese would use a poor-quality vaccine that did nothing more than force the virus to mutate into something more lethal. "The international community has no way of knowing whether China will use a good one," Professor Webster said. "There is a big argument that they will simply help the virus to evolve to become a human pathogen." China has provided few details about the vaccination campaign it has begun. It is even unclear if the birds are to be vaccinated against the bird flu strain - H5N1 - that has ravaged poultry stocks across Asia and killed at least 64 people since 2003…Even if the Chinese efforts did not precipitate the worst case scenario, that could still play out somewhere else in the world, Prof Webster said. The recent discovery of the virus in flamingoes in Kuwait indicated it was moving down toward Africa, which could provide the perfect environment for the critical mutation to human-to-human transfer. "If it gets into the backyard flocks in Africa...that's a real worry," he said. People whose immune systems were already compromised by HIV, which is widespread in Africa, either died quickly or went on shedding a virus for weeks.”
(Bird Flu Expert Says Virus Entering Critical Phase,,11-24-05)

“Bird flu outbreaks have spread to more than a quarter of Vietnam's 64 provinces and cities since early October, officials said, noting the situation was more worrying in the cooler north. Outbreaks were reported in three more northern provinces, taking the total number affected to 17 provinces. Thirteen of them, including the capital Hanoi, are in northern Vietnam, a senior agriculture ministry official said. 'The bird flu situation is more worrying in the north, where the current winter weather favours the growth of the H5N1 virus', the ministry's animal health department deputy director Hoang Van Nam told Agence France-Presse…Vietnam, which has suffered the highest number of human deaths from bird flu, is experiencing its third avian influenza season since late 2003. (Bird flu spreads to a quarter of Vietnam's provinces, AFX News Limited, 11-18-05)

“United States and European regulators have launched an investigation into the safety of Tamiflu after the deaths of 12 Japanese children who took the anti-flu drug…But both US and European officials warned that it was difficult to tell whether the drug manufactured by the Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche had played a role in the fatalities. Tamiflu, invented by the US company Gilead and licensed to Roche in 1996, has proven effective against influenza A and B and H5N1 bird flu virus, which is threatening the world. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said the 12 deaths under investigation included one suicide, four cases of sudden death and four cases of cardiac arrest. There were also cases of pneumonia, asphyxiation and acute pancreatitis. (Side effects of flu drug Tamiflu under probe, Xinhuanet, 11-18-05)

“Indonesia said…a 20-year-old woman has died of bird flu and several other countries also reported more suspected cases in people. Adding to the sense of alarm, researchers in Vietnam say the H5N1 avian flu virus has mutated allowing it to replicate more easily inside humans and other mammals. Taiwan said it had detected another bird flu strain that can infect people. Avian influenza is known to have infected 125 people in Asia, killing 64, and is endemic in most poultry flocks in the region. There are at least a dozen other suspected cases as governments in Asia struggle to control outbreaks in poultry to prevent more people from catching the virus, which experts fear could trigger a pandemic. Vietnam and China said on Monday they had had more suspicious cases in people, while Thailand said a toddler confirmed infected with bird flu was recovering. In the Indonesian capital, tests confirmed the woman died from H5N1, a Health Ministry official said and that tests were also being conducted on samples from a 13 year-old girl. Both died over the weekend in the Sulianti Saroso Hospital, Jakarta's hospital for treating bird flu patients. Initial tests on the girl were negative…In Vietnam, scientists at the Ho Chi Minh Pasteur Institute who have been studying the genetic make up of H5N1 samples taken from people and poultry said it had undergone several mutations. "There has been a mutation allowing the virus to (replicate) effectively in mammal tissue and become highly virulent," the institute said on its Web site at (Jump in suspected bird flu cases in people, Ade Rina, Reuters, 11-14-05)

  •    Is your organization ready for a pandemic? Have you thought through your response should a pandemic break out? How will business travel be impacted? Is someone monitoring the situation for your organization? Have you told your workforce anything at all about the threat, e.g., what it might mean to your business and what preparations you have undertaken, or even what they need to know for the health and safety of their own families? There are many questions, and most organizations have still not begun to answer them.


”In Telesur's first month of live broadcasting, the fledgling pan-Latin American television network - founded by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and majority owned by Venezuela - is seeking to demonstrate its professionalism and impartiality. But last week the channel aired short video clips from closed-door meetings of regional leaders at the Summit of the Americas in Argentina this month. The video was recorded under an agreement that it was meant for private use only. But the clips were aired on Telesur just days after Mr. Chávez said they would be. These clips bolster critics who claim the network is and will be a propaganda tool for Chávez. Aram Aharonian, Telesur's General Manager, insists that the decision to air such footage was based on the value of the information, "made solely by Telesur, independent of the government." Some observers argue that any network given this secret video would have made the same choice…Despite such fears, based on analysis of the first two weeks of live news programming and a week spent in its studios, Telesur is clearly run by professional journalists striving to provide balanced and independent coverage of Latin America to people who often learn about themselves from US or European-based media. Indeed, there are fewer questions about Telesur's ulterior motives than its ability to attract viewers in a region traditionally distrustful of state-run institutions…In Telesur's debut nightly newscast, it could have taken a pro-Chávez line on several events - but didn't. While the official Venezuelan state channel VTV led with a story on the dubious claim that in less than two years Venezuela's literacy rate has reached nearly 100 percent thanks to programs Chávez has implemented, Telesur did not air a single story about Chávez's social programs…But the biggest question facing Telesur now is not about pro-Chávez propaganda, but whether it can attract viewers in the region. Telesur says that cable networks in Argentina have now picked it up, though Osvaldo Bazan, a leading Argentine journalist who writes about television for the newsweekly Veintitres, says that Argentines still perceive it as state television, and that they remain skeptical of state-run institutions due to their experience with military dictatorships and rampant government corruption. Mr. Bazan adds that, "Chávez is certainly loved here and Bush hated, but nobody is interested in Telesur." In Brazil, Alberto Dines, with the Observatoria da Imprensa, a Brazilian media watchdog, says that Brazilians "don't believe" state media, and adds that, "I don't see any chance for Telesur.” (Telesur tested by Chávez video, Vinod Sreeharsha, Christian Science Monitor, 11-22-05)

  •    The impact of Al-Jazeera, not only on the political consensus in the Middle East, but on the political consensus of Moslems throughout the world, provides powerful evidence of the potential significance of Telesur. As mentioned in previous GS(3) Intelligence Briefings, geopolitical tensions and economic conflicts between Latin America and the U.S. have been aggravated over the past few years. We will continue to follow the Telesur story. If your organization has business interests or operations in Latin America, it is important that you understand emerging realities and potential threats in the region.

  •    Those media pundits in the region who think Telesur will not catch on because it is “state-run” may be surprised, if, as this Christian Science Monitor piece indicates, Telesur sticks to real journalism. Remember that despite recent governmental pressure and political tampering, both PBS in the US and the BBC in UK are still viewed as more reliable and objective news sources then their commercial competitors. (We’ll keep our fingers crossed for all of them.)

“Earth's warming climate is estimated to contribute to more than 150,000 deaths and 5 million illnesses each year, according to the World Health Organization, a toll that could double by 2030…climate change is driving up rates of malaria, malnutrition and diarrhea throughout the world. Health and climate scientists at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, who conducted one of the most comprehensive efforts yet to measure the impact of global warming on health, said the WHO data also show that rising temperatures disproportionately affect poor countries that have done little to create the problem…The regions most at risk from climate change include the Asian and South American Pacific coasts, as well as the Indian Ocean coast and sub-Saharan Africa. Patz said that was because climate-sensitive diseases are more prevalent there and because those regions are most vulnerable to abrupt shifts in climate. Large cities are also likely to experience more severe health problems because they produce what scientists refer to as the urban "heat island" effect…WHO officials reported that warmer temperatures and heavy rain in South Asia have led to the worst outbreak of dengue fever there in years. The mosquito-borne illness, which is now beginning to subside, has infected 120,000 South Asians this year and killed at least 1,000, WHO said. Senior U.S. and international officials said they now regard climate change as a major public health threat…Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, a scientist at WHO's Department of Protection of the Human Environment, said its initial estimates of global warming-related deaths are conservative in light of Europe's massive 2003 heat wave and new research linking climate change to more intensive hurricane activity…Patrick L. Kinney, a professor at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, was the co-author of a study last year in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives that predicted global warming alone could prompt the rise of smog-related deaths in the New York City region by 4.5 percent by the middle of this century, compared with the 1990s. (Climate Shift Tied To 150,000 Fatalities, Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post, 11-17-05)

”Research to be published in a few days' time shows how glaciers that have been stable for centuries have started to shrink dramatically as temperatures in the Arctic have soared with global warming. On top of this, record amounts of the ice cap's surface turned to water this summer. The two developments - the most alarming manifestations of climate change to date - suggest that the ice cap is melting far more rapidly than scientists had thought, with immense consequences for civilisation and the planet. Its complete disappearance would raise the levels of the world's seas by 20 feet, spelling inundation for London and other coastal cities around the globe, along with much of low-lying countries such as Bangladesh. More immediately, the vast amount of fresh water discharged into the ocean as the ice melts threatens to shut down the Gulf Stream, which protects Britain and the rest of northern Europe from a freezing climate like that of Labrador…Until now, scientists believed the ice cap would take 1,000 years to melt entirely, but Ian Howat, who is working with Professor Tulaczyk, says the new developments could "easily" cut this time "in half". There is also a more immediate danger as the melting ice threatens to disrupt the Gulf Stream, responsible for Britain's mild climate. The current, which brings us as much heat in winter as we get from the sun, is driven by very salty water sinking off Greenland. This drives a deep current of cold ocean southwards, in turn forcing the warm water north. (The Big Thaw: Global Disaster Will Follow If the Ice Cap on Greenland Melts, Geoffrey Lean, lndependent/UK, 11-20-05)

“…the village of Ghat, in Nepal…was destroyed when a lake, high in the Himalayas, burst its banks. Swollen with glacier meltwaters, its walls of rock and ice had suddenly disintegrated. Several million cubic metres of water crashed down the mountain. When Ghat was destroyed, in 1985, such incidents were rare - but not any more. Last week, scientists revealed that there has been a tenfold jump in such catastrophes in the past two decades, the result of global warming. Himalayan glacier lakes are filling up with more and more melted ice and 24 of them are now poised to burst their banks in Bhutan, with a similar number at risk in Nepal. But that is just the beginning, a report in Nature said last week. Future disasters around the Himalayas will include 'floods, droughts, land erosion, biodiversity loss and changes in rainfall and the monsoon'. The roof of the world is changing, as can be seen by Nepal's Khumbu glacier, where Hillary and Tenzing began their 1953 Everest expedition. It has retreated three miles since their ascent. Almost 95 per cent of Himalayan glaciers are also shrinking - and that kind of ice loss has profound implications, not just for Nepal and Bhutan, but for surrounding nations, including China, India and Pakistan. Eventually, the Himalayan glaciers will shrink so much their meltwaters will dry up, say scientists. Catastrophes like Ghat will die out. At the same time, rivers fed by these melted glaciers - such as the Indus, Yellow River and Mekong - will turn to trickles. Drinking and irrigation water will disappear. Hundreds of millions of people will be affected. 'There is a short-term danger of too much water coming out the Himalayas and a greater long-term danger of there not being enough,' said Dr Phil Porter, of the University of Hertfordshire. 'Either way, it is easy to pinpoint the cause: global warming.''(Millions Face Glacier Catastrophe, Global Warming Hits Himalayas, Robin McKie, Observer/UK, 11-20-05)

  •    Global warming, a.k.a. “climate change,” is a global threat so sweeping, and so significant, that you cannot allow yourself the luxury of relying on your government to tell you what you need to know about how it will impact your business and your family. The leadership of your organization must endeavor to understand how global warming will impact your business interests, operations and security concerns in both the near-term and the long-term.


”Must the United States keep hold of the Internet's reins? Many countries, from those of the European Union to Argentina, but also countries with undemocratic regimes, from China to Iran, plead for the "internationalization" of the Internet's management…The Internet is already used by a billion people. In number of those "connected," Asia leads, followed by Europe; North America is now behind. In two decades, the Internet has escaped sole exercise by the United States. The greater part of its development today is commercial, cultural, or scientific. Its political role has become unavoidable and its strategic importance, vital. Washington refuses to give way to the international community, by invoking the necessity of excluding any hold over the Net by non-democratic states. A weighty argument, when one knows that the UN agreed to have the Global Summit in a country that imprisons its own Internet users. Certainly, if authoritarian states were to have control over their principal domain name, they would see their power strengthened. But the Internet conveys as much propaganda as it does dissent. Democracy can only gain when such a means of communication and expression develops. Supposing that the desire for democracy to prevail is not a mere pious wish, to confide the keys of the Internet to an international organization commonly accepted by all then seems to be plain common sense. Unless one assumes that today only Washington is capable of assuring the security of the virtual network, as it does that of the real world. (The Internet Under Control, Le Monde, 11-16-05)

“The "digital fracture" between developed countries and others is, of course, a real problem. Just as the question of governance of the network of networks is legitimate. In its essence as well as by multinational vocation, the Internet cannot remain eternally under the control of a single country, the United States, through the guardianship it exercises over Icann, the private company that manages "domain names" - the addresses that allow traffic to flow over the information highways. Icann must cut the umbilical cord that links it to Washington. But it's a good thing, a lesser evil, that the offensive that authoritarian regimes - which would like Net governance to be consigned to the UN under cover of the struggle against "American dominance" - should have failed. The compromise, a European inspiration adopted in Tunis, leaves management of the network to Icann. At the same time, it also opens an international forum for discussions in which questions of regulation (anti-spam and anti-virus fights, cyber-criminality) could be addressed. Furthermore, this forum must place at the head of its agenda the issue of freedom on the Internet, from censorship and repression, especially in the fifteen countries - with Tunisia at their head - that imprison their internet users as the report from Reporters Without Borders, the conclusions of which we are publishing, establishes. >(Patrick Sabatier, Libération, 11-17-05)

The web’s vital role as a global communications tool has evolved mainly without either the help or hindrance of governments. But although its decentralised nature keeps it beyond the control of politicians for the most part, its infrastructure requires some management. And the system in place is predominantly American-run, to the irritation of many other countries…In September, the European Union surprisingly withdrew its support for the current arrangements and proposed a governmental approach intended as a compromise between those favouring UN oversight and the Americans. But those countries hoping to reduce America’s role in running the web will doubtless be disappointed by the compromise that has been adopted. From next year an international forum will convene to discuss internet issues, but it will have no binding powers. This is something of a relief. Many of the countries that have called loudest for America to give up its role in the running of the internet are those that are most keen to stop their citizens accessing “undesirable” material. China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and a host of other nations are guilty of censoring the content available to web users, their aim being less to protect the population from depraved content than to deter nascent democratic movements. The involvement of such repressive regimes in overseeing the internet would have been at best distasteful to more assiduous guardians of human rights, and at worst seriously damaging to its workings. '
(Internet hegemony and the digital divide, The Economist, 11-16-05)

  •   The flow of information is as vital as the flow of energy. GS(3) will continue to follow this story. Ironically, while the current circumstances, in which the U.S. has hegemony over technological development and limited administration of the Internet, is perceived the lesser of two bad options, many people in the U.S. itself, distrusting of the U.S. mainstream news media, look to the Internet as their most reliable means to access credible news sources from outside the country, and as their primary mode of free speech expression (i.e., blogosphere, etc.).

Richard Power is the founder of GS(3) Intelligence and His work focuses on the inter-related issues of security, sustainability and spirit, and how to overcome the challenges of terrorism, cyber crime, global warming, health emergencies, natural disasters, etc. You can reach him via e-mail: For more information, go to