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 GS(3) Intelligence and Words of Power, go to http://www.wordsofpower.net/
Here are eleven important stories from the world press. Each highlights some aspect of our focus on security, sustainability and spirit. In “Europe, Middle East & Africa,” I have included two news items. One on the urgent need for a more revolutionary energy security policy in the EU: The Green Paper addresses too much how we are going to secure the current energy framework through energy diplomacy and talks too little about cutting to the root of the problem. (EU Observer, 3-20-06). The other is on the role of women in bringing environmental security to Africa: The Green Belt Movement's main activity involves women's groups planting trees - more than 30 million across Kenya - to conserve the environment and empower them toward a better life...."Women have not been given adequate opportunity to hold leadership positions and to demonstrate that they can do differently and they can do better than what men are doing," [Wangari Maathai] said…. (Knight-Ridder, 3-20-06) In “Asia Pacific,” I have included two news items. One story highlights new geopolitical formations taking shape around energy security issues in the region: Asian Vision...an array of scholars and executives from Iran, China, Pakistan, India, Russia, Egypt, Indonesia, Georgia, Venezuela and Germany. And their overall message is unmistakable: the interdependence of Asia and "Persian Gulf geo-ecopolitics", as an Iranian analyst put it, is now total; the nuclear row should be solved diplomatically in the next few months; and Asian integration has everything to gain from Pipelineistan linking the Persian Gulf, Central Asia, South Asia and China… (Asia Times, 3-17-06) The other story provides painful insights into the deteriorating security situation in the Philippines. In “Americas,” I have included two op-ed pieces. One examines the dangerously debilitating impact of the trade deficit on US economic security. In the other, Noam Chomsky provides more insight into the shifting of geopolitical alliances and the growing isolation of the US in a world emboldened by the failed policies and flawed thinking of the Bush-Cheney regime: Regional integration in Asia and Latin America is a crucial and increasingly important issue that, from Washington's perspective, betokens a defiant world gone out of control. Energy, of course, remains a defining factor - the object of contention - everywhere.... (Guardian,3-15-06) In "Global," four stories, one on Bird Flu, three on Global Warming. On bird flu, Dr. William Green writes: It's in the interest of the United States and our colleague rich nations to think more long-term and more proactively - to try to stem the tide of worldwide poverty and its attendant malnutrition, overcrowding, lack of hygiene and lack of public health and medical infrastructure that breed infectious disease threats. We underfund the fight against root causes of diseases that inevitably end up on our doorstep. On Global Warming, Greenpeace urges action on World Heritage sites: "The United States has a history of trying to stifle the climate change debate in any and all fora and that's exactly what it is trying to do here," said Laetitia de Marez, Greenpeace France Climate & Energy Campaigner....Greenpeace is petitioning the World Heritage Committee, along with other organizations, to list both the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park in the United States and Canada as they are in danger due to the damage caused by climate change. "There is no doubt that these sites and many others are being damaged by climate change to the extent that they may eventually lose the characteristics that made them Heritage sites in the first place," said De Marez.(Greenpeace, 3-17-06) In “Cyberspace,” I have included a news item that provides new information on a significant ATM-related cyber crime caper in the USA, first reported in late 2005: "While this isn't the first theft of debit cards, this is the first time thieves have snatched thousands of PIN codes, Gartner Research Director Avivah Litan said. "This is the worst hack to date," Litan said. "All the other hacks were trying to get to this hack. All the previous hacks were leading up to finding a way into your bank account. For the criminal, this is the pot of gold." (CNET, 3-14-06)
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EUROPE, MIDDLE EAST & AFRICA
The EU should use the current uncertainty about future energy policy to shift course and take advantage of the energy supplies that are right on its doorstep. "We are at a point in time where we have the opportunity to shape our energy future," the head of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), Christian Kjær, said in an interview with the EUobserver. Europe is not rich on conventional fossil fuels," he said adding that the EU would get the energy independence it is seeking if the bloc spent more time developing renewable energies already existent in Europe, such as wind, water, solar power and biomass. According to estimates, the total energy consumption in the EU is expected to increase by 25 percent over a 30 year period. "If we make a committed effort for [renewables] we wouldn't need to engage with the rest of the world in a 'war' for the remaining conventional energy sources," Mr Kjær He warned that if the EU does not change its policies, future energy supplies will not only be expensive but also extremely damaging to the environment. "We will be handing over an enormous bill to our children."
Mr Kjær was dismissive of the commission’s energy paper published on 8 March, which listed a number of options for achieving "sustainable, competitive and secure" energy supplies in the 25-member bloc…."The Green Paper addresses too much how we are going to secure the current energy framework through energy diplomacy and talks too little about cutting to the root of the problem." He explained that the real problem is that the EU will, as demand rises, be importing an ever growing share of energy at unpredictable prices and will do that in competition with the rest of the world "at unbelievable environmental costs."Helena Spongenberg, EU energy policy lacks vision, says new wind-energy boss, EU Observer, 3-20-06
For Wangari Maathai, a life of curiosity and activism began by stirring up mysterious tiny orbs in a stream near her childhood home in Kenya. The orbs fascinated her. One day they were gone. Instead, she saw wriggling forms that she later knew to be tadpoles. Later still, she knew those future frogs needed clean water. They had it in abundance in the early 1950s. But by the time Maathai returned home from college, the clean water was gone. Maathai knew she had to do something. That was one of the seeds for her creation of the Green Belt Movement in 1977….The Green Belt Movement's main activity involves women's groups planting trees - more than 30 million across Kenya - to conserve the environment and empower them toward a better life. The movement later expanded to improving human rights and women's rights….Women in Africa are gaining appointments to government posts in several African nations, but Maathai said she is not encouraged by the trend. "Women have not been given adequate opportunity to hold leadership positions and to demonstrate that they can do differently and they can do better than what men are doing," she said….Besides urging her audience Thursday night to reduce, reuse and recycle, Maathai said three other rules accompanied her success: "Be determined, be patient, be persistent."
Allan Brettman, Kenyan Sees Natural Link of Environment, Women's Rights, Knight Ridder, 3-20-06
The heart of Pipelineistan itself has been transposed to Tehran for the International Conference on Energy and Security: Asian Vision, organized by the Institute of International Energy Studies and the Institute for Political and International Studies. There could not be a better place to meet and discuss oil-and-gas geopolitics with an array of scholars and executives from Iran, China, Pakistan, India, Russia, Egypt, Indonesia, Georgia, Venezuela and Germany.
And their overall message is unmistakable: the interdependence of Asia and "Persian Gulf geo-ecopolitics", as an Iranian analyst put it, is now total; the nuclear row should be solved diplomatically in the next few months; and Asian integration has everything to gain from Pipelineistan linking the Persian Gulf, Central Asia, South Asia and China….The heart of Iran's gas strategy lies in the gigantic South Pars field, responsible in itself for 50% of Iran's and 8% of the world's natural-gas reserves. South Pars is strategically located between Bushehr to the west (where Russia is helping Iran to build its first civilian nuclear power station) and the Persian Gulf port of Bandar Abbas to the east….South Pars' enormous strategic importance is that its production will be exported to Asian countries - after the construction of a pipeline to the Pakistani border and then to India, pumping 150 million cubic meters of gas a day….
Pepe Escobar, IN THE HEART OF PIPELINEISTAN, Asia Times, 3-17-06
Since President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo joined the US global "War on Terrorism", the Philippines has become the site of an on-going undeclared war against peasant and union activists, progressive political dissidents and lawmakers, human rights lawyers and activists, women leaders and a wide range of print and broadcast journalists. Because of the links between the Army, the regime and the death squads, political assassinations take place in an atmosphere of absolute impunity. The vast majority of the attacks occur in the countryside and provincial towns. The reign of terror in the Philippines is of similar scope and depth as in Colombia....In the face of the disintegration of the economy and society, and the regime's use of force to sustain its hold on power, plus its gross incompetence in the face of several ecological disasters, popular resistance has spread from the countryside to the cities....Former Presidents, business executives and clergy are calling for Macapagal Arroyo's resignation and a 'smooth transition' within the elite, while the popular mass movements and their besieged political representatives are demanding justice for the victims of state terror, an end to US military presence, a repeal of the value added taxes, an increase in the minimum wage, land reform, a moratorium of debt payments, re-nationalization of key economic sectors and consequential peace negotiations between the state and the NPA and Muslim separatists. That Macapagal Arroyo will eventually be forced to resign is, according to officials, a likely outcome. The question is when and by whom?
James Petras and Robin Eastman-Abaya, Philippines: The Killing Fields of Asia, www.counterpunch.org, 3-17-06
The US Commerce Department recently released figures reporting that the United States' current-account deficit for 2005 was US$804.9 billion, up from $668.1 billion in 2004. The current account is the broadest measure of the US trade balance. In addition to trade in goods and services, it includes income received from US investments abroad, less payments to foreigners on their investments in the United States. In the fourth quarter, the current-account deficit was $224.9 billion, up from $185.4 billion in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, the current-account deficit exceeded 7% of gross domestic product (GDP). The current-account deficit could easily top $1 trillion a year by the second half of 2006....High and rising trade deficits tax economic growth. Specifically, each dollar spent on imports that is not matched by a dollar of exports reduces domestic demand and employment, and shifts workers into activities where productivity is lower. Productivity is at least 50% higher in industries that export and compete with imports, and reducing the trade deficit and moving workers into these industries would increase GDP. Were the trade deficit cut in half, GDP would increase by nearly $300 billion, or about $2,000 for every working American....Longer-term, persistent US trade deficits are a substantial drag on growth. US import-competing and export industries spend three times the national average on industrial research and development (R&D), and encourage more investments in skills and education than other sectors of the economy. By shifting employment away from trade-competing industries, the trade deficit reduces US investments in new methods and products, and skilled labor. Cutting the trade deficit in half would boost US GDP growth by 25% a year. These effects of lost growth are cumulative. Thanks to the record trade deficits under President George W Bush, the US economy is about $1 trillion smaller. This comes to nearly $7,000 per worker. Had the Bush administration and the Congress acted responsibly to reduce the trade deficit, American workers would be much better off, tax revenues would be much larger, and the federal deficit would be about half its current size. Were the trade deficit cut in half, $2,000 would be recouped, but $5,000 per worker in lost growth is in essence lost forever. And the damage grows larger each month, as the Bush administration and the Congress dally and ignore the corrosive consequences of the trade deficit.
Peter Morici, The spiraling costs of Uncle Sam's deficits, Asia Times, 3-17-06
The prospect that Europe and Asia might move towards greater independence has troubled US planners since the second world war....Every day Latin America, too, is becoming more independent. Now Asia and the Americas are strengthening their ties while the reigning superpower, the odd man out, consumes itself in misadventures in the Middle East. Regional integration in Asia and Latin America is a crucial and increasingly important issue that, from Washington's perspective, betokens a defiant world gone out of control. Energy, of course, remains a defining factor - the object of contention - everywhere....Already much of Iran's oil goes to China, and China is providing Iran with weapons that both states presumably regard as deterrent to US designs. India also has options. India may choose to be a US client, or it may prefer to join the more independent Asian bloc that is taking shape, with ever more ties to Middle East oil producers. Siddharth Varadarjan, the deputy editor of the Hindu, observes that "if the 21st century is to be an 'Asian century,' Asia's passivity in the energy sector has to end." The key is India-China cooperation. In January, an agreement signed in Beijing "cleared the way for India and China to collaborate not only in technology but also in hydrocarbon exploration and production, a partnership that could eventually alter fundamental equations in the world's oil and natural gas sector," Varadarjan points out. An additional step, already being contemplated, is an Asian oil market trading in euros. The impact on the international financial system and the balance of global power could be significant....Meanwhile, in Latin America left-center governments prevail from Venezuela to Argentina. The indigenous populations have become much more active and influential, particularly in Bolivia and Ecuador, where they either want oil and gas to be domestically controlled or, in some cases, oppose production altogether. Many indigenous people apparently do not see any reason why their lives, societies and cultures should be disrupted or destroyed so that New Yorkers can sit in their SUVs in traffic gridlock. Venezuela, the leading oil exporter in the hemisphere, has forged probably the closest relations with China of any Latin American country, and is planning to sell increasing amounts of oil to China as part of its effort to reduce dependence on the openly hostile US government....Steps toward Southern Cone [the southern states of South America] integration advanced further in December with the election in Bolivia of Evo Morales, the country's first indigenous president. Morales moved quickly to reach a series of energy accords with Venezuela. The Financial Times reported that these "are expected to underpin forthcoming radical reforms to Bolivia's economy and energy sector" with its huge gas reserves, second only to Venezuela's in South America....Growing popular movements, primarily in the south but with increasing participation in the rich industrial countries, are serving as the bases for many of these developments towards more independence and concern for the needs of the great majority of the population.
Noam Chomsky, Latin America and Asia Are at Last Breaking Free of Washington's Grip, The US-dominated world order is being challenged by a new spirit of independence in the global south, Guardian/UK, 3-15-06
Avian flu is gradually circling the globe, carried by migratory birds. It has caused the death of thousands of domestic fowl and the culling of millions more, and will almost certainly reach the United States in the relatively near future. As of this writing, there were 175 confirmed human infections and 95 deaths, mainly in China and Southeast Asia....The response of the world public health community and of U.S. agencies - notably the Department of Health and Human Services through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health - has been to emphasize early detection, isolation of flocks, culling of potentially infected domestic fowl, stepped-up production of vaccines and antivirals, and more extensive communication and education. All are laudable and necessary steps, but they are a reaction targeting the latest specific threat and are of particular use to richer nations that can afford to develop, produce and distribute vaccines and medications. What about infectious diseases of the future that are breeding continuously around the world?...What are the lessons to be learned? New infectious threats will continue to emerge, or old ones will become resistant to previous methods of prevention or treatment. Most of the diseases seem to come from countries with overcrowding, poor sanitation, poor nutrition and inadequate access to medical care. The globalization of commerce and travel means such threats will continue to reach our shores. Some, such as HIV, will kill or injure in epidemic or pandemic form, despite our best efforts, and become part of our ongoing struggle with disease. It's in the interest of the United States and our colleague rich nations to think more long-term and more proactively - to try to stem the tide of worldwide poverty and its attendant malnutrition, overcrowding, lack of hygiene and lack of public health and medical infrastructure that breed infectious disease threats. We underfund the fight against root causes of diseases that inevitably end up on our doorstep. But, as the world's leading economic engine, the United States has a responsibility to act globally, if not for the welfare and benefit of our impoverished brethren (a noble, lofty goal), at least for our own ultimate self-interest and protection.Dr. William H. Greene, A focus on bird flu misses the big issue, Poverty abroad is breeding new infectious diseases that eventually reach U.S. shores, Newsday, 3-19-06
Rising ocean surface temperatures are the primary factor fueling a 35-year trend of stronger, more intense hurricanes, scientists report in a new study. The finding backs up the results of two controversial papers published last year that linked increasing hurricane intensity to rising sea-surface temperatures, said Judith Curry, an atmospheric scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. "Global warming is sending sea-surface temperatures up, so we're looking at an increase in hurricane intensity globally," Curry said. She added that in the North Atlantic Ocean basin—where hurricanes that affect the U.S. form—the number of hurricanes may also increase. "Other ocean basins don't show an increase in [the] number [of hurricanes], but the North Atlantic does," she said.
John Roach, Warming Oceans Are Fueling Stronger Hurricanes, Study Finds, National Geographic News, 3-16-06
Sea ice in the Arctic has failed to re-form for the second consecutive winter, raising fears that global warming may have tipped the polar regions in to irreversible climate change far sooner than predicted. Satellite measurements of the area of the Arctic covered by sea ice show that for every month this winter, the ice failed to return even to its long-term average rate of decline. It is the second consecutive winter that the sea ice has not managed to re-form enough to compensate for the unprecedented melting seen during the past few summers. Scientists are now convinced that Arctic sea ice is showing signs of both a winter and a summer decline that could indicate a major acceleration in its long-term rate of disappearance. The greatest fear is that an environmental "positive feedback" has kicked in, where global warming melts ice which in itself causes the seas to warm still further as more sunlight is absorbed by a dark ocean rather than being reflected by white ice. Mark Serreze, a sea ice specialist at the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Colorado, said: "In September 2005, the Arctic sea ice cover was at its lowest extent since satellite monitoring began in 1979, and probably the lowest in the past 100 years. While we can't be certain, it looks like 2006 will be more of the same," Dr Serreze said. "Unless conditions turn colder, we may be headed for another year of big sea ice losses, rivalling or perhaps even exceeding what we saw in September 2005. We are of course monitoring the situation closely ... Coupled with recent findings from Nasa that the Greenland ice sheet may be near a tipping point, it's pretty clear that the Arctic is starting to respond to global warming," he added.Steve Connor, Climate change 'irreversible' as Arctic sea ice fails to re-form, Independent/UK, 3-14-06
"Ignore the Bush Administration's apparent reckless intent to ravage the planet," says Greenpeace today as experts attend an urgently convened meeting on World Heritage and climate change. Greenpeace called on the experts to ignore a challenge from the Administration and continue with its deliberations and subsequent recommendations on protecting listed sites from the dangers posed by climate change...."The United States has a history of trying to stifle the climate change debate in any and all fora and that's exactly what it is trying to do here," said Laetitia de Marez, Greenpeace France Climate & Energy Campaigner. "It also once again deploys the defunct argument that there is not enough evidence to prove that climate change is caused by humans, therefore there is no proof that humans can do anything about it under the World Heritage Convention." Greenpeace is petitioning the World Heritage Committee, along with other organizations, to list both the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park in the United States and Canada as they are in danger due to the damage caused by climate change. "There is no doubt that these sites and many others are being damaged by climate change to the extent that they may eventually lose the characteristics that made them Heritage sites in the first place," said De Marez. "In the Glacier National Park, for instance, only 27 glaciers remain out of 150 and those are rapidly melting"....Petitioners are particularly concerned about the impacts of climate change on five UNESCO World Heritage sites. These are* The Everest National Park (Sagarmatha National Park)* Coral reefs in Belize* Glaciers in Peru* The Great Barrier Reef in Australia * Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park in the United States and Canada
World Heritage Sites Threatened by Bush's Ignorance on Climate Change, Greenpeace, 3-17-06
Law enforcement officials in New Jersey have arrested 14 people in connection with a crime spree that has forced banks across the nation to replace hundreds of thousands of debit cards. The suspects, all U.S. citizens, are accused of using stolen credit and debit card information to produce counterfeit cards that were used to make fraudulent purchases and withdrawals from card-holder accounts….Some of the stolen credit card information came from the office-supply chain OfficeMax and other businesses…. While this isn't the first theft of debit cards, this is the first time thieves have snatched thousands of PIN codes, Gartner Research Director Avivah Litan said. "This is the worst hack to date," Litan said. "All the other hacks were trying to get to this hack. All the previous hacks were leading up to finding a way into your bank account. For the criminal, this is the pot of gold." Turning credit cards into cash is time consuming and costly for crooks, Litan said. With stolen credit-card data, thieves are forced to first buy goods and then fence the merchandise in order to generate cash. "With this kind of debit-card fraud, they can go straight to the cash," Litan said....the group has ties to criminal gangs residing overseas. Victims in the United States have reported discovering unauthorized charges or withdrawals in such places as Great Britain, Pakistan, Romania and Spain…."This was a sophisticated network," he said. "These guys have been around. It looks like they figured this was a safer way to generate cash, safer than dealing drugs or other crimes."
Greg Sandoval, Prosecutor: Debit card crime ring busted, CNET, 3-14-06
Richard Power is the founder of GS(3) Intelligence and http://www.wordsofpower.net. 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: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, go to http://www.wordsofpower.net/