This issue of GS(3) Intelligence Briefing contains excerpts from 14 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: The recent price dispute over Russian natural gas sales to the Ukraine highlights the potential for conflict between the two former Soviet republics, and by extension the potential for conflict between Russia and the West. Energy security issues, corruption and loosely controlled nuclear weapons are a volatile mix. The region's opportunities are infused with physical, cyber and reputational risks. There are rumors of US military action against Iran sometime this year (although we heard them last year too). UN experts Hans Blix and Mohammed El-Baradei were right about Iraq, and El-Baradei, who recently won the Nobel Peace Prize, is right about Iran as well. The Bush-Cheney regime sent Porter Goss to Turkey with three intelligence files on Iran (including one on its ties with Al Qaeda). Do you remember the fairy tale of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf?" Iran is a big problem. Indeed, it is a much bigger problem than Iraq was before the US/UK invasion. But so is Pakistan, with its compromised nuclear weapons technology and its Al Qaeda infested intelligence service.
The Europeans have been thwarted in their efforts to come to an agreement with Iran in large part because the U.S. has misplayed its hand in the Middle East. It is as if Osama himself had decided U.S. policy in the region over the last five years. And, just as the Bush-Cheney regime played straight into the hands of Bin Laden, we can sadly expect them to play straight into the hands of the hateful Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I have also included Professor Juan Cole’s relevant predictions for 2006. In particular, I draw your attention to his observations on the Shanghai Cooperation Organization: "The conjuncture of gas, petroleum, Islam, terrorism and great power jockeying will keep the new Great Game going, this time with Russia, China and the United States all playing. The US hand is weak." We are perilously close to stumbling into a global conflict that looks a lot more like WWI than WWII. Asia Pacific: The aborted attack on an international conference at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore indicates that the country’s information technology and outsourcing centers have made it to terrorist target lists, increasing the risk for US firms that have moved those jobs off-shore. How many US-based corporations have a clear understanding of the physical, personnel and cyber security controls in such circumstances or any sense of the real security risks involved locally? Does yours? In a New Year's Eve (Roman calendar) strike on a Christian market in Central Sulawesi, eight people were killed and dozens injured -- highlighting how global terror operations are exploiting age-old strife and tension in Indonesia and elsewhere in S.E. Asia. And from Asia Times, more on the so-called Great Game: "India and China, the most aggressive shoppers for oil and gas assets in the world, and normally archrivals in the race for overseas oilfields, have finally come together to pursue their energy security in the global arena." Americas: Two substantive pieces, from two very diverse news sources, underscore our emphasis on the end of oil, or at least the end of peak oil, as a serious security risk factor in the near future. Fortune Magazine: “Rainwater is something of a behind-the-scenes type—at least as far as alpha-male billionaires go. He counts President Bush as a personal friend but dislikes politics, and frankly, when he gets worked up, he says some pretty far-out things that could easily be taken out of context. Such as: An economic tsunami is about to hit the global economy as the world runs out of oil. Or a coalition of communist and Islamic states may decide to stop selling their precious crude to Americans any day now. Or food shortages may soon hit the U.S. Or he read on a blog last night that there's this one gargantuan chunk of ice sitting on a precipice in Antarctica that, if it falls off, will raise sea levels worldwide by two feet—and it's getting closer to the And then he'll interrupt himself: ‘Look, I'm not predicting anything,’ he'll say. ‘That's when you get a little kooky-sounding.’ Rainwater is no crackpot… For the past few months he's been holed up in hard-core research mode—reading books, academic studies, and, yes, blogs.” Inter Press Service: “In the near future, analysts are warning the world's traditional and emerging economic powers to curb consumption, saying that at the current rate, proven reserves will only meet demand up to 2030. ‘The current model (of consumption) is suicidal,’ Venezuelan Energy Minister Rafael Ramírez recently told journalists. ‘The United States, for example, will use up its oil reserves in 10 years, and after that it will go after its rivers, lakes and forests.’ Global: Two stories on global warming and two stories on bird flu. Your organization may not grok why the fact that polar bears are drowning in Greenland is of significance to its business interests and security posture both in the near-term and the long-term, but Goldman Sachs has grokked it. AlterNet: In November Goldman Sachs, a financial sector leader worth $60 billion, rolled out a new environmental policy that goes further, and is smarter, than any comparable policy in the corporate world. The unveiling of the framework to address environmental degradation and climate change capped 18 months of consultations with environmental groups. Among them were Rainforest Action Network (RAN), Rainforest Alliance, World Resources Institute and Friends of the Earth. Only eight pages long, it contains some fairly typical stuff, such as a vow to use more recycled paper in Goldman's offices. But it also contains a promise to reject projects in environmental no-go zones, and to institute further changes in the way it does business--all with an eye on ethics and the environment. According to the framework, Goldman Sachs will: disclose the greenhouse gas emissions of all its operations; make $1 billion available for investments in renewable energy; set up a think tank to identify other lucrative green markets; work on public policy measures relating to climate change, conduct more rigorous assessments of its new projects' impacts on the environment and on indigenous people; refuse to finance extractive projects in World Heritage sites or any projects that violate the environmental laws of the host country. This is not a case of Goldman pretending its job is to save the world, or forsaking its primary mission to make money for its investors. Self-interest is in full effect here. Goldman Sachs is positioning itself to be a leader in the green energy sector. It's also averting risk. The policy says so in so many strangulated, jargoney words: ‘We believe that companies' management of environmental and related social risks and opportunities may affect corporate performance.’” Meanwhile, on the bird flu front, two disturbing developments: the first human deaths in Europe have been confirmed, a teenage boy and his sister in Turkey, and the death of a Chinese woman who had no known exposure to poultry. Your organization should treat these deaths as a clear indication that your bird flu response plannng (if you have any) should now global and not simply focused on Asia Pacific (if you have not already done so). Cyberspace: Your organization can invest in IDS, firewalls, strong authentication, etc., but if your physical security is lax or uncoordinated with your cyber security, you are extremely vulnerable. I call it the "Duh Factor." Consider this Washington Post story: “Marriott International Inc.'s time-share division said yesterday that it is missing backup computer tapes containing credit card account information and the Social Security numbers of about 206,000 time-share owners and customers, as well as employees of the company. Officials at Marriott Vacation Club International said it is not clear whether the tapes, missing since mid-November, were stolen from the company's Orlando headquarters or whether they were simply lost.” In the Information Age, financial information becomes as powerful a weapon as counterfeiting machinery.
Europe, Middle East & Africa
Europe may have breathed a collective sigh of relief after Russia and Ukraine signed a long-term gas supply deal, averting a possible repetition of the New Year supply cutbacks that unnerved the continent. But after a closer look at the complex pact signed on Wednesday, outsiders may yet have cause for concern about the region's energy security, especially after Ukraine's ex-premier Yulia Tymoshenko launched a legal challenge to stop the deal. The accord uses as middleman a little-known Swiss-based joint venture called RosUkrEnergo, owned half by Russia's gas monopoly Gazprom and half by Austria's Raiffeisen Zentralbank. Sources familiar with the five-year gas deal say Raiffeisen is representing a group of mainly Ukrainian investors but their identity is shrouded in secrecy…Until it is clear who is behind the company's business, uncertainty remains over who stands to profit from it and how exposed it might be to political interference. "Ukraine cannot sign a contract where the middleman ... is a commercial structure when it declares it is a democratic and transparent European country," said Mykola Rudkovsky, a leader of Ukraine's Socialist Party, which is in the ruling coalition…Critics say the non-transparent structure could easily lead to corruption, with money being siphoned off to private pockets, and that it would be better both for Ukraine and Gazprom -- the world's largest gas firm -- to deal directly. RosUkrEnergo was set up by former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma's government shortly before it was ousted from power by a popular revolution after flawed elections, leading critics to fear also that it could be linked to political interests. Within months of appearing from nowhere it had taken control of Ukraine's gas imports from Turkmenistan by the start of 2005.
During her brief tenure as premier of the reformist government swept to power in Ukraine's 2004 "Orange Revolution,” Tymoshenko denounced RosUkrEnergo as a "criminal canker on the body" of state energy firm Naftogaz. She vowed on Thursday to fight the deal in the courts..Tymoshenko and her ally and former security service chief, Oleksander Turchinov, investigated whether Semion Mogilevich -- a Ukrainian-born Russian businessman wanted by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation for racketeering, fraud and money laundering -- was behind the Ukrainian side of RosUkrEnergo…Ukraine is the transit route for 80 percent of Russia's gas exports to Europe.
Douglas Busvine and Elizabeth Piper, ANALYSIS-Russia-Ukraine gas deal too murky for comfort, Reuters, 1-5-06
German media sources have recently reported that the Bush Administration is preparing its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies for a potential attack on nuclear sites in Iran.The "Der Spiegel" weekly emphasized that "Washington is now sending high level officials to prepare allies for a potential strike, as opposed to conducting talks that just hint at the possibility, which is what has been happening until now."The Berlin paper "Tagesspiegel" quoted NATO intelligence sources last week who said that "NATO members have received information that the United States is currently looking into all possibilities, including a military attack against the regime in Tehran."
Yossi Melman, Report: U.S. preparing NATO for possible strike on Iran, Haaretz, 12-31-05
The most talked about story is a Dec. 23 piece by the German news agency DDP from journalist and intelligence expert Udo Ulfkotte…According to Ulfkotte's report, "western security sources" claim that during CIA Director Porter Goss' Dec. 12 visit to Ankara, he asked Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to provide support for a possible 2006 air strike against Iranian nuclear and military facilities…According to DDP, during his trip to Turkey, CIA chief Goss reportedly handed over three dossiers to Turkish security officials that purportedly contained evidence that Tehran is cooperating with Islamic terror network al-Qaida. A further dossier is said to contain information about the current status of Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program…The Turkish government has also been given the "green light" to strike camps of the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Iran on the day in question. The DDP report attributes the possible escalation to the recent anti-Semitic rants by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose belligerent verbal attacks on Israel (he described the Holocaust as a "myth" and called for Israel to be "wiped off the map") have strengthened the view of the American government that, in the case of the nuclear dispute, there's little likelihood Tehran will back down and that the mullahs are just attempting to buy time by continuing talks with the Europeans…So is the region now on the verge of a military strike or even a war? In Berlin, the issue is largely being played down…But the string of visits by high-profile US politicians to Turkey and surrounding reports are drawing new attention to the issue…Writing about the meeting between Porter Goss and Tayyip Erdogan, the left-nationalist newspaper Cumhuriyet wrote: "Now It's Iran's Turn." But the paper didn't offer any evidence to corroborate the claims. Instead, the paper noted that the meeting between the CIA chief and Erdogan lasted longer than an hour - an unusual amount of time, especially considering Goss had previously met with the head of Turkey's intelligence service, the MIT. The Turkish media concluded that the meetings must have dealt with a very serious matter - but they failed to uncover exactly what it was.…The Turkish government has also repeatedly stated that it opposes military action against both Iran and Syria. The key political motivation here is that - at least when it comes to the Kurdish question - Turkey, Syria and Iran all agree on one thing: they are opposed to the creation of an independent Kurdistan in northern Iraq. But if the United States moves forward with an attack against Iran, Turkey will have no choice but to jump on board - either as an active or passive partner. It's a scenario that has Erdogan and his military in a state of deep unease. After all, even experts in the West are skeptical of whether a military intervention against nuclear installations in Iran could succeed. The more likely scenario is that an attack aiming to stop Iran's nuclear program could instead simply bolster support for Ahmadinejad in the region.
US and Iran: Is Washington Planning a Military Strike? Spiegel, 12-31-05
1. Al-Qaeda's Ayman al-Zawahiri, whom the Bush administration has failed to capture after all this time, and who was probably responsible for the July 7 bombings in the London subway and the bombings in the Sinai in Egypt, will strike at US allies again in 2006.
2. Saudi Arabia will use the $160 billion windfall from high petroleum prices to strengthen its military and security forces, and to spread its rigid Wahhabi form of Islam.
3. Iran's clerical elites will use the $36 billion windfall from high petroleum prices to strengthen their military and security forces, and to spread their radical Khomeinist form of Islam. The US, even if it takes some desperate step, will prove unable to shake the regime in 2006.
7. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization composed of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan as members and India, Iran, Mongolia, and Pakistan as observers, will follow up on its success in getting US troops out of Uzbekistan and on strengthening energy cooperation between Kazakhstan and China on the one hand, and Russia and Kazakhstan on the other, as well as security cooperation between Russia and Uzbekistan. The conjuncture of gas, petroleum, Islam, terrorism and great power jockeying will keep the new Great Game going, this time with Russia, China and the United States all playing. The US hand is weak.
10. The United States will continue to lose global political influence because its government is running large deficits and going ever deeper into debt. In the 1950s, President Eisenhower routinely used the threat of calling in loans from war-devastated Europe to get his way. He threatened UK Prime Minister Anthony Eden with loan cancellations if the latter did not get back out of the Suez in late 1956. He threatened DeGaulle with loan cancellations if the latter didn't get France out of rebellious Algeria before it went Communist. Nowadays the US is a massive debtor nation, and has lost that kind of leverage with all but the poorest and most beaten-down countries. The US nuclear arsenal is relatively useless because it cannot actually be used, and the US military is bogged down in Iraq. America remains a superpower for the third and fourth worlds, but is often a helpless, pitiful giant as far as places like Western Europe and China are concerned.
Juan Cole, Ten Amazing Predictions for 2006, www.juancole.com, 1-1-06
Eight people have been killed and dozens injured when a bomb tore through a Christian market stall selling pork in Indonesia's religiously divided province of Central Sulawesi, police have said. The latest blast to rock the restive area came as security forces across the archipelago nation were on high alert for potential Islamic extremist attacks during the New Year period. Mostly Christian shoppers had thronged the stall to buy pork, which is forbidden for Muslims, for New Year's Eve celebrations later Saturday night, police said…Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim-populated nation, but Christians and Muslims live in roughly equal numbers in parts of the eastern island chain of Sulawesi and in Maluku…Last month, about 1,000 extra troops and police were sent to Central Sulawesi after a spike in violence between Muslims and Christians, which has included shootings, bombings and beheadings. The province's Poso district as well as the capital Palu have been particularly targeted in the unrest, with a Christian couple and two girls shot and wounded in two separate November attacks. Masked assailants beheaded three Christian schoolgirls in Poso in late October, while several bombs have exploded or been discovered there in the past few months.
Widespread religious violence rocked the area in 2000 and 2001, killing more than 1,000 people. A government-brokered truce was put in place in December 2001 but intermittent bombings, shootings and other attacks targeting Christians, believed to be the work of Muslim extremists, have continued. On May 28 this year, twin bomb blasts tore through a busy market in the Christian-dominated town of Tentena in the province, killing 19 people and injuring at least 40. Indonesia's spy chief warned last week that revenge attacks by extremists could occur after militant Malaysian bombmaker Azahari Husin was gunned down by anti-terror police on November 9. His chief accomplice was Noordin.
Eight killed, 48 injured in Indonesia market bombing, Agence France Press, 12-31-04
India's southern city of Bangalore has been put on high alert following an apparent militant attack on an international conference at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) that killed a former professor and injured at least four others.
The incident occurred when militants armed with Kalashnikovs and grenades barged into the conference venue, attended by over 30 international scientists and several national luminaries, and opened fire indiscriminately at a group of delegates who had just left the seminar hall…One AK-47 rifle, 11 empty cartridges, and two loaded magazines for an automatic weapon were recovered on the site. According to eyewitness accounts, the gunmen stepped out of a vehicle, entered the premises of the IISc, and started firing indiscriminately on delegates. They then fled in the cover of darkness…India's leading counter-terrorism expert, Bahukutumbi Raman, director of the Chennai-based Institute for Topical Studies, said the militants were targeting southern India because of the large concentration of information technology and outsourcing companies, both Indian and foreign, in Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Chennai…The police in Hyderabad recently arrested Mohammed Ibrahim, a suspected Harkat-ul-Jihad operative who allegedly confessed that he had trained in April in a Pakistani militant camp where trainees were told to target cities like Bangalore and Hyderabad. Late last year, police in Indian-controlled Jammu and Kashmir unearthed a network of the Pakistani-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant group in the capital, Srinagar. The militants had allegedly been plotting elaborate attacks on IT and outsourcing companies in India.
Animesh Roul, Attack on Indian IT hub kills 1, injures 4, ISN SECURITY WATCH, 12-29-05
India and China, the most aggressive shoppers for oil and gas assets in the world, and normally archrivals in the race for overseas oilfields, have finally come together to pursue their energy security in the global arena. China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and India's Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), the two largest oil companies in the respective countries, announced on December 20 that they had jointly won a bid to acquire 37% of Petro-Canada's stake in Syrian oilfields for US$573 million. ONGC and CNPC, both state-owned, will have equal stakes in the al-Furat oil and gas fields…The two countries' pursuit of what India's Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Iyer calls "coopetition instead of competition" in securing their energy needs started in April this year, when during his visit to India Chinese premier Wen Jiabao said that energy cooperation should be an integral part of the bilateral dialogue between the two countries…Meanwhile, it appears that the stage is set for the two countries to make more joint oil bids…India and China are also expected to sign a bilateral hydrocarbon cooperation deal in January 2006, when Iyer is slated to visit China…But this cooperation could be bad news for Western oil companies. Analysts said that if the two countries teamed up on a regular basis, it should worry Western oil majors. "The Indian and Chinese companies are willing to pay a higher premium for assets. The pressure is certainly on the majors," said Praveen Martis, an analyst at consultancy Wood Mackenzie, in a Reuters report.
Indrajit Basu, India, China pin down $573m Syria deal, Asia Times, 12-22-05
Richard Rainwater made billions by knowing how to profit from a crisis. Now he foresees the biggest one yet. Richard Rainwater doesn't want to sound like a kook. But he's about as worried as a happily married guy with more than $2 billion and a home in Pebble Beach can get. Americans are "in the kind of trouble people shouldn't find themselves in," he says. He's just wary about being the one to sound the alarm. Rainwater is something of a behind-the-scenes type—at least as far as alpha-male billionaires go. He counts President Bush as a personal friend but dislikes politics, and frankly, when he gets worked up, he says some pretty far-out things that could easily be taken out of context. Such as: An economic tsunami is about to hit the global economy as the world runs out of oil. Or a coalition of communist and Islamic states may decide to stop selling their precious crude to Americans any day now. Or food shortages may soon hit the U.S. Or he read on a blog last night that there's this one gargantuan chunk of ice sitting on a precipice in Antarctica that, if it falls off, will raise sea levels worldwide by two feet—and it's getting closer to the edge.... And then he'll interrupt himself: "Look, I'm not predicting anything," he'll say. "That's when you get a little kooky-sounding." Rainwater is no crackpot… For the past few months he's been holed up in hard-core research mode—reading books, academic studies, and, yes, blogs. Every morning he rises before dawn at one of his houses in Texas or South Carolina or California (he actually owns a piece of Pebble Beach Resorts) and spends four or five hours reading sites like LifeAftertheOilCrash.net or DieOff.org, obsessively following links and sifting through data. How worried is he? He has some $500 million of his $2.5 billion fortune in cash, more than ever before. "I'm long oil and I'm liquid," he says. "I've put myself in a position that if the end of the world came tomorrow I'd kind of be prepared." He's also ready to move fast if he spots an opening…"This is a nonrecurring event," he says. "The 100-year flood in Houston real estate was one, the ability to buy oil and gas really cheap was another, and now there's the opportunity to do something based on a shortage of natural resources. Can you make money? Well, yeah. One way is to just stay long domestic oil. But there may be something more important than making money. This is the first scenario I've seen where I question the survivability of mankind.…In August a friend gave Rainwater a copy of The Long Emergency, a dystopic view of the future written by ex-Rolling Stone writer James Kunstler, otherwise known for his passionate dislike of suburbia. Taking peak oil as a given, Kunstler argues that Americans have been "sleepwalking" through the end of a "100-year fossil fuel fiesta." The problem, he points out, is not that the world will run out of oil tomorrow, but rather that the lack of growth in oil production will wreak havoc on a global economic system predicated on perpetual expansion. Kunstler's "long emergency" is a decidedly unpleasant interval during which the world—and Americans in particular—must adapt to a post-oil regime of scarce energy and economic stagnation, a time of likely wars and the disappearance of all-American things like Wal-Mart and cul-de-sac homes 45 minutes by minivan from the office…Rainwater sides with the imminent peak crowd, and can rattle off facts to back up his argument. "In 1988 there were 15 million barrels a day of shut-in production"—meaning surplus that could be tapped—"and the world was using about 55 million barrels of oil. Today the world is using over 80 million, and there's no shut-in production left. We've used it up, through the combination of depletion and growth." In other words, the spigot can't be opened any wider. What concerns him most is the conflict that he thinks an oil shortage will precipitate. What happens when people get blindsided by prices rocketing past any level they have contemplated—especially when you factor in other challenges America faces? "We've got a lot of things going on simultaneously," he says. "The world as we know it is unwinding with respect to Social Security, pensions, Medicare. We're going to have dramatically increased taxes in the U.S. I believe we're going into a world where there's going to be more hostility. More people are going to be asking, 'Why did God do this to us?' Whatever God they worship. Alfred Sloan said it a long time ago at General Motors, that we're giving these things during good times. What happens in bad times? We're going to have to take them back, and then everybody will riot.' And he's right."
Oliver Ryan, The Rainwater Prophecy, Fortune Energy Bulletin, 12-13-05
While this year's record high oil prices are unlikely to come down in the near future, analysts are warning the world's traditional and emerging economic powers to curb consumption, saying that at the current rate, proven reserves will only meet demand up to 2030. "The current model (of consumption) is suicidal," Venezuelan Energy Minister Rafael Ramírez recently told journalists. "The United States, for example, will use up its oil reserves in 10 years, and after that it will go after its rivers, lakes and forests." This month, Democratic Party lawmakers in the U.S. Senate narrowly blocked a Republican-led bill that would have allowed drilling for oil in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which has an estimated 10 billion barrels in reserves. The United States devours one out of four of the 84 million barrels of oil consumed daily around the world, and one out of two litres of gasoline. But the emerging powers are steadily closing the consumption gap. In India, less than 200,000 new cars were sold annually two decades ago, compared to 802,000 in 2004. "Since oil began to be drilled in 1859, the world has consumed 900 billion barrels - nearly half of the planet's reserves (according to an oil industry expert quoted by the Wall Street Journal), which means we'll have oil for another 50 years at the most," said Francisco Mieres, a professor of postgraduate studies on the oil economy at Venezuela's Central University. But because consumption is increasing every year, driven by economic growth rates like those of China - which have ranged between seven and 11 percent a year - "oil will perhaps only last until 2030, even including reserves like Alaska's and the Athabasca tar sands" in Alberta, Canada, Mieres told IPS. That long-term outlook will also be affected by more immediate political factors, "like the difficulties faced by the United States in the Middle East, rebellious governments like those of Venezuela and (the future administration of leftist president-elect Evo Morales in) Bolivia, or the radicalisation of Iran's leadership," he added. On the economic front, Mieres said these developments would discourage investment by large corporations. He also mentioned the competition between China, India and other emerging powers to get their hands on the available oil resources, and the real or expected decline in deposits in the North Sea, the Caspian Sea, Mexico or Siberia in Russia…Ramírez also stated that "the markets cannot be stabilised if political instability is provoked in producer countries, because that gives rise to high costs and uncertainty." He pointed to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and the George W. Bush administration's pressure on Iran and open hostility towards the Venezuelan government of Hugo Chávez.
Humberto Márquez, Oil Market Analysts Issue Dire Warnings, Inter Press Service, 12-30-05
In November Goldman Sachs, a financial sector leader worth $60 billion, rolled out a new environmental policy that goes further, and is smarter, than any comparable policy in the corporate world.
The unveiling of the framework to address environmental degradation and climate change capped 18 months of consultations with environmental groups. Among them were Rainforest Action Network (RAN), Rainforest Alliance, World Resources Institute and Friends of the Earth.
Only eight pages long, the plan (PDF) contains some fairly typical stuff, such as a vow to use more recycled paper in Goldman's offices. But it also contains a promise to reject projects in environmental no-go zones, and to institute further changes in the way it does business--all with an eye on ethics and the environment.
According to the framework, Goldman Sachs will:
- disclose the greenhouse gas emissions of all its operations;
- make $1 billion available for investments in renewable energy;
- set up a think tank to identify other lucrative green markets;
- work on public policy measures relating to climate chan
- conduct more rigorous assessments of its new projects' impacts on the environment and on indigenous people;
- refuse to finance extractive projects in World Heritage sites or any projects that violate the environmental laws of the host country.
Translation: there are real financial costs to ignoring the environment and the people who depend on it for their survival, and we don't intend to get stuck paying them.
Traci Hukill, The Greening of Goldman Sachs, AlterNet, 1-3-06
The past 12 months have been one of the hottest periods ever recorded…The thermometer reached an astonishing 50C - that's 122F - in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Algeria. Canada and Australia had their hottest-ever weather, while a record drought in Western Europe saw bush fires devastate much of Portugal's countryside. Two other phenomena besides high temperatures pointed directly at climate change in 2005. One was the record melting of ice in the Arctic Ocean, and of land-based glaciers and ice sheets; the other was the record incidence of tropical storms. In September, satellite measurements showed that the Arctic sea ice had melted to a record low extent - about 20 per cent below the long-term average - prompting fears that an irreversible decline has set in, and that the whole of the Arctic Ocean may be ice-free relatively soon, perhaps within two to three decades…In December, there were reports of polar bears being drowned because the gaps between ice masses were too great for them to swim. There are other significant reports of ice melting, especially in the glaciers and ice-sheets of Alaska and Greenland…If the Greenland ice sheet were to melt completely, sea levels around the world would be raised by about seven metres (23ft). But even a rise of just one metre would be catastrophic for many low-lying areas, such as Bangladesh. In November, American scientists revealed that sea levels are now rising by about two millimetres a year, twice as fast as 150 years ago…According to the World Meteorological Organisation, there were 26 tropical storms in the 12-month period, exceeding the previous record of 21, set in 1933…The devastation of New Orleans in August posed the critical question - was there a link with climate change? Some scientists are uncertain about this, but in September Sir John Lawton, who chairs the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, said unequivocally that the super-powerful hurricanes battering the United States were the "smoking gun" of global warming…China and India, whose future emissions of carbon dioxide will be a crucial factor in the struggle to control climate change, agreed to talk about them for the first time.
Later in the year, the world took another step forward when almost 200 countries agreed at the UN climate conference in Montreal to start shaping a second stage to the Kyoto treaty to replace the first emissions reduction period, which ends in 2012. There was a mix of good and bad news on other fronts, such as rainforest destruction and wildlife. The Amazon was struck by its second-greatest bout of forest clearance, new figures revealed - but in September, in Kinshasa, nations home to populations of the four great apes - gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos (pygmy chimpanzees) and orangutans - agreed on a strategy to try to preserve man's closest relatives in the face of ever-increasing threats to their existence from habitat destruction and hunting.
Michael McCarthy, Review of the Year: Climate Change, Mercury rising, stormy weather - our world is taking a battering, Independent/UK, 12-30-05
The Government is closely monitoring developments in Turkey after the country's health minister confirmed two human cases of bird flu. A teenage farm boy died after developing pneumonia-like symptoms, health minister Recep Akdag confirmed. The 14-year-old boy's sister, who is in hospital and in a serious condition, also tested positive for bird flu. A third sibling is also suspected of having bird flu…Mr Akdag's statement contradicted a ministry statement earlier this week that said the boy's death was not caused by bird flu…If the boy's death is confirmed as being H5N1, it would be the first death outside Asia in the current outbreak. More than 70 people - most of them farm workers in close contact with fowl - have died from the virus in Asia, where it also has devastated flocks…Poultry workers are urged to minimise risks by maintaining good hygiene, washing hands, isolating any birds that may be sick and alerting authorities...
UK: 'Don't panic' about bird flu, 1-5-06
A woman who died last week from H5N1 avian influenza had no known contact with poultry and seldom ate poultry meat, Chinese state media said today.
The 41-year-old factory worker died on December 21 in the southeastern city of Sanming, Fujian province, an urban area where China has reported no outbreaks of the virus among birds or other animals. The woman, identified only by her surname, Zhou, developed fever in early December, the China Daily newspaper quoted local officials as saying. Zhou was already weak after an operation to remove a tumour in mid-October, the newspaper said. But she had no contact with infected birds and no bird flu infections were found in Sanming. Zhou's relatives also said that she did not like chicken and duck meat. "Zhou is unlikely to have been infected from poultry," the newspaper quoted Fujian disease control official Xu Longshan as saying…Zhou is the third person officially recorded to die from bird flu in China this year and the seventh person infected with the virus…The other two Chinese people who died from bird flu both lived in the eastern province of Anhui, where outbreaks were reported among poultry.
A 12-year-old girl also died from influenza-like symptoms after handling infected birds in the central province of Hunan. But China's health ministry said it did not list the girl as infected with bird flu because her body was cremated before experts had completed tests.
China bird flu fatality 'never touched poultry,’ Bangkok Post, 12-xx-05
Marriott International Inc.'s time-share division said yesterday that it is missing backup computer tapes containing credit card account information and the Social Security numbers of about 206,000 time-share owners and customers, as well as employees of the company.
Officials at Marriott Vacation Club International said it is not clear whether the tapes, missing since mid-November, were stolen from the company's Orlando headquarters or whether they were simply lost.
An internal investigation produced no clear answer. The company notified the Secret Service over the past two weeks, and has also told credit card companies and other financial institutions about the loss of the tapes…The Vacation Club has told time-share owners, customers and the division's employees to be on the alert for changes to their credit histories or accounts. So far no one has reported any misuse, Kinney said…The loss of Marriott's tapes is the latest in a series of high-profile security lapses involving data that can be used in identity theft schemes. In 2005, there were at least 134 data breaches affecting more than 57 million people, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center, a California nonprofit that helps people hurt by identity theft and lobbies on computer-privacy issues…Kinney said the tapes, which require specialized equipment to access, were the responsibility of the company's information resources group. Citing company policy, he declined to say if anyone from the group had been dismissed or disciplined because of the disappearance of the tapes.
Michael S. Rosenwald, Marriott Discloses Missing Data Files: Backup Tapes Lost At Time-Share Unit, Washington Post, 12-28-05