This issue of GS(3) Intelligence Briefing contains excerpts from 15 news items that deserve your attention. Here is a summary of each of the five sub-sections. The excerpts with links to full text follow below. Europe, Middle East & Africa: While the US mainstream news media focused on the Iraqi elections, a tragic farce which will only lead to more chaos and anarchy, Hamas surged forward in the Palestinian elections. The policy shapers and pundits of Beltwayistan (Washington, D.C.) will sorely miss Arafat, who they gave the bum’s rush, and the PLA, which they abandoned. The Bush administration’s doctrine of malignant neglect toward the Israeli/Palestinian peace process is one of its greatest failures. Asia Pacific: The racial rioting in Sydney, like the recent violence in Paris, are painful reminders that civil order is held together with a very thin thread. Although to a citizen of Sydney, or Paris, the mass media coverage is sensationalistic, these eruptions nevertheless underscore two important security issues. First, racial malcontent and economic discontent fester in all advanced societies, and those who mean the societies ill need only light a match to spark a fire. Second, the thin thread of civil order is made from the raw silk of several assumptions (i.e., reliable food, fuel and water distribution, as well as employment for most of the populace). If one or more of these assumptions is proven false, hell will break loose. Americas: Recent developments in Venezuela, and the landslide victory of Morales in Bolivia, will only increase the tensions between the current U.S. administration and the Southern Hemisphere as a whole, and both aggravate existing risks to U.S. business interests and activate long dormant ones. It doesn’t have to turn ugly, but it probably will – in large part, because of the Bush administration’s heavy-handedness and refusal to embrace the multi-lateral model of the 21st Century. Global: Five stories that highlight the danger of a Bird Flu pandemic -- in particular, concern about the effectiveness of Tamiflu and other drugs and well as its potential economic toll. Cyberspace: GS(3) continues to monitor develops in the insecurity of electronic voting systems. In this issue, I have included two stories from Florida, which still has not restored public confidence in the integrity of the voting process. Electronic voting is not only a political issue, it is, at heart, a cyber security issue involving serious and obvious threats that the US mainstream news media still refuses to show appropriate concern. All of these stories, across the planetary spectrum, highlight a profound “disturbance in the force,” and offer a chilling glimpse into a possible future.
Is your organization prepared? Is your family prepared? Are you prepared? Personnel security programs, including background checks and travel security, are vital for all your organizations. Crisis management and business continuity plans are also critical – both for your organization and for your family. [NOTE: GS(3) can provide help in developing these programs both for your organization and for your personal life.]
Consider the results of a recent, world-wide survey on people’s trust in institutions:
“A global public opinion survey shows people losing faith in governments, business and even non-governmental organizations. The survey showing ‘an alarming picture of declining levels of trust’ was conducted for the World Economic Forum, to meet in Davos in Switzerland next month, by GlobeScan, a public opinion research firm, and is based on interviews with more than 20,000 people in 20 countries. ‘What the survey shows is people losing faith in a whole range of institutions,’ Mark Adams from GlobeScan told IPS by phone from Geneva. ‘This is very worrying for the world community…The report shows that the cement which holds world institutions together is coming adrift,’ Adams told IPS…
Among the highlights of the report:
- Public trust in national governments, the United Nations and global companies is now at its lowest level since tracking began in January 2001.
- Since 2004, trust in government has declined by statistically significant margins in 12 of the 16 countries for which tracking data is available.
- The UN, while continuing to receive higher trust levels than other institutions, has experienced a significant decline in trust from 2004 levels in 12 of the 17 countries for which tracking data is available, suggesting an impact of the scandal over the Iraq oil-for-food program.
- Public trust in companies has also eroded over the last two years. After recovering trust in 2004, it has since declined for both large national companies and for global companies. Trust in global companies is now at its lowest level since tracking began.
- NGOs remain the leaders in trust, but they also have to contend with some decline. In 10 of 17 countries for which data is available, trust in NGOs has fallen since 2004, in some cases sharply, as in Brazil, India and South Korea.
Inter Press Service, 12-15-05
Europe, Middle East & Africa
Fifty percent of Israelis polled in mid-December by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem would support talks with Hamas if this was necessary to reach a peace deal, while 47 percent would be opposed, said Yaacov Shamir, who conducted the survey. Shamir said Israelis had not grown more accepting of Hamas, but understand the group's popularity among Palestinians is growing. Hamas has made a strong showing in Palestinian municipal ballots in recent months. Opinion polls put its strength at around 30 percent ahead of the Jan. 25 parliamentary election. Reuters, 12-21-05
European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana on Sunday warned that the EU could halt tens of millions of dollars of aid to the Palestinian Authority if the armed group Hamas wins next month's Palestinian elections and fails to renounce violence. Hamas, which has killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombing attacks, swept municipal elections in several West Bank cities last week, reflecting Palestinian dissatisfaction with the ruling Fatah Party. The strong showing, combined with bitter infighting within Fatah, has raised concerns that Hamas could win the Jan. 25 Palestinian parliamentary elections. Haaretz, 12-18-05
Beaches were eerily bare in Sydney on Sunday as families heeded police warnings of a reprise of last week's race-hate rioting in which a beer-soaked mob of white youths beat up anyone of Arab appearance they could find…More than 2,000 officers, backed by tough new laws rushed through state parliament last week, ensured troublemakers were kept away from Cronulla, the scene of the December 11 outrage, and the focus of attention a week later. Roadblocks were thrown up around Cronulla and five other beaches, more than 30 roads closed, and thousands of cars and buses stopped and searched. Police were after the baseball bats, golf clubs, petrol bombs and other makeshift weapons that gangs of mostly ethnic Lebanese had armed themselves with last week to stage 'smash and bash' retaliatory raids from their heartlands in outer Sydney suburbs. Proof positive that the alert was not an overreaction came when two groups of men were arrested for attempting to carry quantities of Molotov cocktails to beach suburbs cordoned off by police. One of the seven men arrested had travelled the 1,000 kilometres from Melbourne with fire bombing in mind, police said. One group was picked up on its way to iconic Bondi Beach after a bus driver smelled petrol fumes in the bus and called in to arrange a rendezvous with police. Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 12-18-05
Massive race riots have erupted on the beaches of suburban Sydney, with 5,000 whites hunting down Arabs and savagely beating any they caught. An ambulance tried to reach five victims and was itself attacked by the berserk throngs. The drunken mobs of white Australians have been building up to Sunday's incredible display for weeks. White thugs have used cell-phone text messaging to bring hundreds of their followers to Cronulla Beach at a moment's notice to attack Middle Eastern beachgoers. E-mails calling for attacks on Arabs have made the rounds, too. "Bring your mates and let's show them that this is our beach and they are never welcome," one message said. In the past two weeks, violent outbreaks have flared up on the beaches south of Australia's biggest city. Reports that Arab men had assaulted two lifeguards seemed to be the last straw for white Australians. But the tensions didn't start with the lifeguard incident. Message boards have been full of tales of Lebanese "gangsters" taking the train from their western suburb to the eastern shore -- where they've reportedly vandalized shops. And in 2000, Sydney was gripped by lurid tales of "Leb rape gangs," which ended with the trial and conviction of seven Lebanese Aussie youth who assaulted and raped white Australian girls as part of an organized campaign of terror…The Australian mobs are made up of middle- and working-class whites from Sydney's sunny beach towns. As they swarmed the beaches on Sunday, they shouted in unison for attacks on "Lebs" -- the local insult for Lebanese now used generically against all men and women of Arab descent. Sploid, 12-12-05
Venezuela has given the world's biggest oil company, ExxonMobil, until the end of this year to enter a joint venture with the state. Failure to do so will almost certainly result in Exxon losing its oil field concessions in the country. Venezuela's socialist government has now signed new agreements with almost all foreign petroleum companies. After months of pressure from left- wing leader Hugo Chavez most foreign oil firms working there have caved in. They have agreed to hand over a controlling stake of their oil interests to the Venezuelan state. This means that Venezuela now calls the shots in what the foreign guests can and cannot do. In addition, the companies which have signed the new contracts - such as Chevron, BP, Shell and Total - will in future be presented with much higher tax bills by the government. BBC, 12-20-05
BOLIVIA has its first indigenous Indian president after a landslide victory that leaves relations with the United States at a historic low and Washington's war on drugs in tatters. Evo Morales, 46, who was the clear favourite, far exceeded expectations, with exit polls and quick counts of the ballots showing him passing the 50 per cent barrier. He will be the first president to do so since the country returned to democracy in 1982…The key issue for many Bolivian voters was the nationalisation of the country's oil and gas. Bolivia sits astride the largest known deposits of natural gas in South America, but these are mostly under the control of foreign companies, among them British Gas. Mr Morales has pledged to rip up existing contracts and said that while he will stop short of confiscation, everything has to be renegotiated. “We will not extort foreign companies," he said. "But the Bolivian people demand we take control of our natural resources." But the overwhelming victory could push his reforms farther than originally planned…Washington now has few friends in South America. Only Colombia's Alvaro Uribe is a stalwart ally and even he seems to be distancing himself, last week rebuking the American ambassador to Bogota for interfering in internal affairs. The rest of South America divides into those fervently opposed to George Bush, headed by Mr Chavez, and other left-wing governments like that of Brazil, which keep Washington at arm's length. The US looks to have lost control of its "back yard". The Scotsman, 12-19-05
The shock waves could be economic as well as political. Analysts believe that at least some of the global energy giants that have collectively invested $3.5bn (£2bn, €2.9bn) in the past decade to develop Bolivia’s vast gas reserves could opt to abandon the country, concerned at Mr Morales’s support for nationalisation of the gas industry. The potential of Bolivia to destabilise the region has not escaped the US’s policy-making establishment. In a July speech to the Hudson Institute, a Washington think-tank, Roger Pardo Maurer, the Pentagon’s deputy assistant secretary for western hemisphere affairs, spoke of a “revolution going on in Bolivia, a revolution that potentially could have consequences as far- reaching as the Cuban revolution of 1959 – the things going on in Bolivia could have repercussions in Latin America and elsewhere that you could be dealing with for the rest of your lives” How an election in Bolivia could hurt big business, Financial Times, 12-15-05
Doctors in Vietnam reported on Wednesday they had found more evidence that the H5N1 bird flu virus can quickly mutate into a form that resists the effect of the frontline drug Tamiflu. They said the case of a 13-year-old girl, who died despite getting the correct doses of the drug early on in her illness, shows the need to be very careful in using Tamiflu and underscores the need for new antivirals to treat influenza. Four of eight patients treated in Vietnam for bird flu infections died despite the use of Tamiflu, Dr. Menno de Jong of the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Ho Chi Minh city and colleagues wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine. Other experts said the study showed that individuals should not be stockpiling Tamiflu for their own possible use in case of a pandemic…Four drugs treat influenza, but H5N1 already resists two older drugs, amantadine and rimantadine.
Indonesia would be the economy most sensitive to a bird flu outbreak followed by Vietnam and India with these economies depending on agriculture and their healthcare systems not well developed, a Citigroup report said on Thursday.
The report by Citigroup's investment research team took into account such factors as healthcare spending, doctor's per capita, tourist arrivals, livestock's share of gross domestic product (GDP) and population demographics.
Among 11 Asian economies ranked in terms of "outbreak sensitivity", Thailand emerged fourth, followed by the Philippines, Malaysia, China, Hong Kong and Singapore.
Taiwan and South Korea were considered less sensitive than the others.
Jakarta Post, 12-18-05
If an avian flu pandemic spreads to Canada, it could carve as much as $14 billion off the country's economy, say senior federal Finance Department officials. In documents obtained by The Canadian Press under an Access to Information request, federal officials say such an outbreak could cut as much as 1.2 per cent off the country's annual gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the economy. That may not sound like a great loss to Canada's economy in percentage terms.But with GDP expected to grow at an average of 2.8 per cent in 2005, which the Bank of Canada says is pretty much its optimum speed, a 1.2 per cent loss of about $14 billion would slice the pace of healthy economic growth almost in half. Certain sectors would be hit harder than others, should a deadly avian flu strain begin to spread from person to person in Canada, the analysis by Finance economists suggests. Travel and tourism would be obvious early targets but the hospitality and entertainment sectors would also be hit hard as people would likely avoid going out socially and risking infection…The documents show officials did calculate that if an avian flu pandemic were to hit, as may as 6.2 million Canadians could fall ill and 133,000 would likely die…Some of their economic conclusions are consistent with findings from a study last fall by brokerage house BMO Nesbitt Burns.
Chief economist Sherry Cooper figured that for Canada, the costs of an avian flu pandemic could run from $8 billion to $18 billion.
The Canadian Press, 12-18-05
Britain is not as prepared for bird flu as it should be, an influential Lords committee will say this week, because thousands of companies have not investigated how they would keep going during a pandemic that could last four months and affect a quarter of their employees. Supermarkets and smaller shops need to work out more detailed plans for maintaining food supplies. The committee also fears the transport industry has not yet come up with any strategic plan for keeping trains and buses running…A pandemic would last for between three and four months and infect an estimated 25 per cent of the population so, according to government estimates, up to 7 per cent of staff would be off at any one time. But some companies think the real rate of absenteeism would be far higher - up to 60 per cent off at any one time. Kevin Hawkins, director of the British Retail Consortium, told the committee last month the great vulnerability would be a shortage of lorry drivers to distribute food: 'I think our main challenge would be to keep the food supply chain going.' Other industry figures were worried about 'cascades of failure', such as the impact if mobile phone networks were closed down by a major power failure across London. The Observer, 12-11-05
The rise of deadly new diseases such as SARS and bird flu could be linked to the destruction of the environment, the World Health Organization said on Friday.
"Human health is strongly linked to the health of ecosystems, which meet many of our most critical needs," Maria Neira, director of WHO's Department of Protection of the Human Environment told a news conference at the launch of a new report.
Population growth and economic development were leading to rapid changes in global ecosystems and this was affecting human health, the report said.
It said natural resources such as water, food, fuel and climate were important to prevent diseases and sustain good health as many human diseases originated in animals.
Such diseases, including influenza, tuberculosis and measles, established themselves in human populations after crossing from domesticated animal species including chickens, cattle and dogs. "As a result of human actions, the structure and the world's ecosystems changed more rapidly in the second half of the twentieth century than at any other time in human history," the report said. About 60 percent of the benefits that the global systems provided to support life on Earth were being degraded and used substantially, said the report, which involved more than 1,300 experts worldwide. Reuters, 12-9-05
Due to security design issues and contractual non-performance, Leon County supervisor of elections Ion Sancho told Black Box Voting that he will never use Diebold in an election again. He has requested funds to replace the Diebold system from the county. He will issue a formal announcement to this effect shortly. Finnish security expert Harri Hursti proved that Diebold lied to Secretaries of State across the nation when Diebold claimed votes could not be changed on the memory card. (BBV: Leon County, FL to Dump Diebold After Undetectable Hack Reverses Test Election!, www.bradblog.com, 12-14-05)
Diebold voting machines will soon be history in Volusia County. After a nearly five-hour hearing today, County Council members voted to replace its Diebold machines with an entirely new system manufactured by Election Systems & Software. The move, which will cost more than $2.5 million just for the equipment, was prompted by a federal mandate to buy at least one handicapped-accessible voting machine per precinct by Jan. 1. But the only such devices approved for use in Florida are ATM-like touch-screen machines that don't use paper ballots. But a majority of County Council members want devices that use paper…A report received by The BRAD BLOG late last night from an activist down in Volusia in regard to the meeting anticipated today, summed it up thusly: Between Ion Sancho scrapping his Diebold machines, the successful hack of his Diebold op-scan system, the securities fraud lawsuit, the resignation of Diebold's CEO, the illegal certification of the Diebold touch-screens by the state of Florida, and the fact that the Diebold TSX does not meet the requirements of state statutes for disabled access (not to mention not meeting the requirements of HAVA), we're hoping that NO ONE will end up supporting Diebold. (Breaking News: Volusia County Dumps Diebold Too, www.bradblog.com, 12-16-05)