Saturday, April 29, 2006

GS(3) Intelligence Briefing (4-29-06)

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 http://www.wordsofpower.net/


Here are highlights from 15 items, including both news stories and op-ed pieces, which provide insight on important global issues and trends, such as bird flu, global warming, energy security, the struggle for geopolitical hegemony, human rights, economic espionage and cyber crime. (Excerpts and links follow below this summary.)

EUROPE, MIDDLE EAST & AFRICA

The report, 'How prepared is Europe for Pandemic Influenza? An analysis of national plans', issued by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and presented in magazine Lancet on Thursday (20 April), reveals major discrepancies in planning in pandemic preparedness across Europe. (EU Observer, 4-20-06)
The Danube threatened to overcome soaked anti-flood defences in Serbia's capital and wash through towns across southeastern Europe on Sunday after heavy rains helped push it to its highest levels in a century. (Reuters, 4-16-06)
With soaring oil prices, rising demand, uncertain supply and the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions, energy is in focus and the European Union is calling for coordinated policy. But the Nordic region -- united by history, a shared concern for the environment and a harsh climate which puts heavy demand on power -- is divided on energy, not least nuclear power….(Reuters, 4-21-06)

ASIA PACIFIC

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which maintained it had no plans for expansion, is now changing course. Mongolia, Iran, India and Pakistan, which previously had observer status, will become full members. (Asia Times, 4-19-06)
Slowly but surely, the grand strategy of the Bush administration is being revealed. It is not aimed primarily at the defeat of global terrorism, the incapacitation of rogue states, or the spread of democracy in the Middle East. These may dominate the rhetorical arena and be the focus of immediate concern, but they do not govern key decisions regarding the allocation of long-term military resources. The truly commanding objective -- the underlying basis for budgets and troop deployments -- is the containment of China.….(Michael Klare, TomDispatch, 4-19-06)
Mercurial dictator Saparmurat Niyazov has a multi-billion-dollar slush fund, which he uses to maintain his personality cult in natural gas-rich Turkmenistan, according to a report issued April 24 by the watchdog group Global Witness. European Union nations, in particular Germany, are helping conceal the way Niyazov is using Turkmenistan’s energy revenues, the report asserts. (Eurasianet, 4-24-06)

AMERICAS

Intelligence files reportedly suggest that an estimated 1,000 Chinese agents and informants operate in Canada. Many of them are visiting students, scientists and business people, told to steal cutting-edge technology. (CTV, 4-14-06)
In the absence of an imminent threat (with the Iranians at least several years away from having a nuclear arsenal), the attack would be a unilateral act of war.
If undertaken without formal Congressional declaration, it would be unconstitutional and merit the impeachment of the president….(Zbigniew Brezinzki, International Herald Tribune, 4-26-06)
Almost half of all public health workers would not go to work during a major flu pandemic, a survey has revealed. The study suggests that health and support services would be left in chaos if a deadly human form of bird flu spread around the world. (Daily Mail, 4-18-06)
This Saturday's elections in New Orleans represent yet another element of the vast crime committed against Black America. With as many as 300,000 residents, overwhelmingly African American, strewn about the country in government-engineered exile, the elections are an insult to the very idea of democracy, and to the dignity of all Black people. (Black Commentator, 4-20-06)


GLOBAL

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev urged the world's biggest industrialized nations to set up a 50-billion-dollar (44-billion-euro) fund to support solar power, warning that oil or nuclear energy were not viable energy sources for the future. (Agence France Press, 4-27-06)
A growing number of leading US companies are confronting the business challenges from global warming, recognizing that greenhouse gas limits are inevitable and that they cannot risk falling behind their international competitors in developing climate-friendly technologies….But many others are still largely ignoring the climate issue with "business as usual" strategies that may be putting their companies and shareholders at risk….(Greenbiz.com, 3-22-06)
Last year, Exxon made the biggest profit of any company ever, $36 billion, and its retiring chairman appears to be reaping the benefits. Exxon is giving Lee Raymond one of the most generous retirement packages in history, nearly $400 million….(ABC News, 4-14-06)
In 1899 Thorstein Veblen described predation as a phase in the evolution of culture, "attained only when the predatory attitude has become the habitual and accredited spiritual attitude...when the fight has become the dominant note in the current theory of life." After an entire century's struggle to escape from this phase, we've suffered a relapse. The predators are everywhere unleashed; and the institutions built to contain them, from the United Nations to the AFL-CIO to the SEC, are everywhere under siege. (James K. Galbraith, The Nation, 4-17-06)

CYBERSPACE

Online bank customers may want to pay a little more attention to their browsers the next time they log in, because many of the most popular banking sites in the U.S. may be needlessly placing their customers at risk to online thieves, a noted security researcher warned (IDG, 4-20-06)

Excerpts from these 15 stories with links to the full texts follow below. Remember, words-of-power.blogspot.com is also a searchable database. It is meant to accelerate, intensify and enrich your online research.


EUROPE, MIDDLE EAST & AFRICA


The report, 'How prepared is Europe for Pandemic Influenza? An analysis of national plans', issued by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and presented in magazine Lancet on Thursday (20 April), reveals major discrepancies in planning in pandemic preparedness across Europe. "Wide gaps exist in the pandemic preparedness of European nations," Dr Richard Coker, the report's lead author said, stressing that the EU must initiate a more co-ordinated approach to tackling a pandemic of the lethal bird flu strain….Only seven of the 21 listed countries know how to distribute medicines on a large scale, and in some of the countries the pile of anti-viral is enough for only two percent of the population. France, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden topped the list, fulfilling over 70 percent of the criteria, while the Czech Republic, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Poland and Portugal were the least prepared of the countries….The lethal H5N1 virus has so far been found in twelve EU member states: Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Denmark, Poland and Slovenia.
Teresa K├╝chler, Europe bird flu plans full of holes, study says, EU Observer, 4-20-06

The Danube threatened to overcome soaked anti-flood defences in Serbia's capital and wash through towns across southeastern Europe on Sunday after heavy rains helped push it to its highest levels in a century. The river, fed by rain and melting snow in central Europe, rose to a 111-year record high on Saturday, displacing hundreds of people across the Balkans and putting thousands more at risk. A bottleneck at Serbia's narrow Djerdap gorge, near the border with Romania, caused the river to back up and water levels to rise upstream all the way to Belgrade….Much of the Balkans is still reeling from devastating floods last year which drowned scores of people and destroyed houses, farmland and infrastructure worth hundreds of millions of euros.
Danube threatens to burst its banks in the Balkans, Reuters, 4-16-06

With soaring oil prices, rising demand, uncertain supply and the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions, energy is in focus and the European Union is calling for coordinated policy. But the Nordic region -- united by history, a shared concern for the environment and a harsh climate which puts heavy demand on power -- is divided on energy, not least nuclear power….Long before radiation on a Swedish power worker's shoes alerted the world to history's worst nuclear accident, Sweden had voted to get rid of atomic energy, in a 1980 referendum. It now aims to break with fossil fuels by 2020, when it also wants greenhouse gas emissions, blamed by many for global warming, cut by 25 percent against 1990 levels.…In Finland, however, nuclear power is seen as part of the future and its fifth atomic power plant -- the first built in Europe for more than a decade -- is due to come online in 2009....In Norway and Denmark, atomic power has never been an option. In the 1970s, when other Western nations were building nuclear plants, Norway started developing the vast oil and gas reserves that make it the world's third biggest oil exporter behind Saudi Arabia and Russia….Denmark -- home to Vestas, the world's largest wind turbine maker -- hopes use of sustainable sources such as wind and biofuels will reach 36 percent by 2025, from 25 percent in 2003….Iceland also aims to become the world's first oil-free nation, setting its sights on 2050, by shifting cars, buses, trucks and ships over to non-polluting hydrogen….
Sweden Goes for Green as Nordics Mull Energy Future, Reuters, 4-21-06


ASIA PACIFIC

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which maintained it had no plans for expansion, is now changing course. Mongolia, Iran, India and Pakistan, which previously had observer status, will become full members. SCO's decision to welcome Iran into its fold constitutes a political statement. Conceivably, SCO would now proceed to adopt a common position on the Iran nuclear issue at its summit meeting June 15. The SCO, an Intergovernmental organization whose working languages are Chinese and Russian, was founded in Shanghai on June 15, 2001 by China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The SCO's change of heart appears set to involve the organization in Iran's nuclear battle and other ongoing regional issues with the United States….The SCO membership is therefore a lifeline for Iran in political and economic terms. The SCO is not a military bloc but is nonetheless a security organization committed to countering terrorism, religious extremism and separatism. SCO membership would debunk the US propaganda about Iran being part of an "axis of evil".… A People's Daily commentary on April 13 read: "The real intention behind the US fueling the Iran issue is to prompt the UN to impose sanctions against Iran, and to pave the way for a regime change in that country…." The commentary suggested Washington seeks a regime change in Iran with a view to establishing American hegemony in the Middle East. Gennady Yefstafiyev, a former general in Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service, wrote: "The US's long term goals in Iran are obvious: to engineer the downfall of the current regime; to establish control over Iran's oil and gas; and to use its territory as the shortest route for the transportation of hydrocarbons under US control from the regions of Central Asia and the Caspian Sea bypassing Russia and China. This is not to mention Iran's intrinsic military and strategic significance."
M K Bhadrakumar, China, Russia welcome Iran into the fold, Asia Times, 4-19-06

Slowly but surely, the grand strategy of the Bush administration is being revealed. It is not aimed primarily at the defeat of global terrorism, the incapacitation of rogue states, or the spread of democracy in the Middle East. These may dominate the rhetorical arena and be the focus of immediate concern, but they do not govern key decisions regarding the allocation of long-term military resources. The truly commanding objective -- the underlying basis for budgets and troop deployments -- is the containment of China.….It was not China's military moves, however, that truly alarmed American policymakers -- most professional analysts are well aware of the continuing inferiority of Chinese weaponry -- but rather Beijing's success in using its enormous purchasing power and hunger for resources to establish friendly ties with such long-standing U.S. allies as Thailand, Indonesia, and Australia….At the same time, Republican strategists were becoming increasingly concerned by growing Chinese involvement in the Persian Gulf and Central Asia -- areas considered of vital geopolitical importance to the United States because of the vast reserves of oil and natural gas buried there….In this way, Washington's concern over growing Chinese influence in Southeast Asia has come to be intertwined with the U.S. drive for hegemony in the Persian Gulf and Central Asia….From Beijing's perspective, the reality must be unmistakable: a steady buildup of American military power along China's eastern, southern, and western boundaries. How will China respond to this threat? For now, it appears to be relying on charm and the conspicuous blandishment of economic benefits to loosen Australian, South Korean, and even Indian ties with the United States…China, however, has always responded to perceived threats of encirclement in a vigorous and muscular fashion as well, and so we should assume that Beijing will balance all that charm with a military buildup of its own….This will make the amicable long-term settlement of the Taiwan problem and of North Korea's nuclear program that much more difficult, and increase the risk of unintended escalation to full-scale war in Asia. There can be no victors from such a conflagration.
Michael T. Klare, Containing China, TomDispatch, 4-19-06

Mercurial dictator Saparmurat Niyazov has a multi-billion-dollar slush fund, which he uses to maintain his personality cult in natural gas-rich Turkmenistan, according to a report issued April 24 by the watchdog group Global Witness. European Union nations, in particular Germany, are helping conceal the way Niyazov is using Turkmenistan’s energy revenues, the report asserts.
The Global Witness paper -- titled Funny Business in the Turkmen-Ukraine Gas Trade -- estimates that Turkmenistan earns more than $2 billion per year from natural gas exports, a large share of which goes to Western Europe via Russia and Ukraine. The report states that a significant portion of revenue never finds its way into state coffers. Instead, Niyazov parks much of the money in foreign bank accounts under his direct control. “A horrifying 75 percent of the state’s spending ... appears to take place off [the government’s] budget,” the report says. It goes on to cite “several credible estimates” in valuing Niyazov’s slush fund at over $3 billion, “some $2 billion of which appears to reside in the Foreign Exchange Reserve Fund at Deutsche Bank in Germany.”
….Niyazov appears to lavish a large share of the revenue on “an increasingly bizarre personality cult,” the report suggests, adding that “his [Niyazov’s] picture is everywhere in Turkmenistan: on public buildings, on packets of salt and tea, bottles of vodka and even floats eerily in the corner of television broadcasts.”
TURKMENBASHI MAINTAINS MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR SLUSH FUND – REPORT, Eurasianet, 4/24/06


AMERICAS


Intelligence files reportedly suggest that an estimated 1,000 Chinese agents and informants operate in Canada. Many of them are visiting students, scientists and business people, told to steal cutting-edge technology. An example being touted as copied technology is China's Redberry -- an imitation of the Blackberry portable e-mail device, created by Waterloo, Ont.-based Research in Motion Ltd….Juneau-Katsuya said the former Liberal government knew of the espionage, but were too afraid to act. "We didn't want to piss off or annoy the Chinese," said Juneau-Katsuya, who headed the agency's Asian desk. "(They're) too much of an important market." However, he argued that industrial espionage affects Canada's employment levels. "For every $1 million that we lose in intellectual property or business, we lose about 1,000 jobs in Canada," he said.
Robert Fife, Government 'concerned' about Chinese espionage, CTV.ca News, 4-14-06

In the absence of an imminent threat (with the Iranians at least several years away from having a nuclear arsenal), the attack would be a unilateral act of war.
If undertaken without formal Congressional declaration, it would be unconstitutional and merit the impeachment of the president….
2. Likely Iranian reactions would significantly compound ongoing U.S. difficulties in Iraq and in Afghanistan, perhaps precipitate new violence by Hezbollah in Lebanon, and in all probability cause the United States to become bogged down in regional violence for a decade or more to come….
3. Oil prices would climb steeply, especially if the Iranians cut their production and seek to disrupt the flow of oil from the nearby Saudi oil fields….
4. America would become an even more likely target of terrorism, with much of the world concluding that America's support for Israel is itself a major cause of the rise in terrorism….
It follows that an attack on Iran would be an act of political folly, setting in motion a progressive upheaval in world affairs. With America increasingly the object of widespread hostility, the era of American preponderance could come to a premature end.
Zbigniew Brzezinski, Do not attack Iran, International Herald Tribune, 4-26-06

Almost half of all public health workers would not go to work during a major flu pandemic, a survey has revealed. The study suggests that health and support services would be left in chaos if a deadly human form of bird flu spread around the world. The US researchers also found two thirds of public health staff felt they would put themselves at risk if asked to report to work during a pandemic….The survey was carried out in Maryland where 308 workers from three Maryland counties with typical health departments serving local communities were questioned….Experts from the World Health Organisation have warned that a pandemic is "inevitable and possibly imminent".
Health staff fears over bird flu, Daily Mail, 4-18-06

This Saturday's elections in New Orleans represent yet another element of the vast crime committed against Black America. With as many as 300,000 residents, overwhelmingly African American, strewn about the country in government-engineered exile, the elections are an insult to the very idea of democracy, and to the dignity of all Black people. This farcical exercise in faux democracy will no doubt be followed by corporate media declarations that New Orleans is returning to "normalcy" - the same term that the media bandied about when the city held a shrunken Mardi Gras, in February. Behind that bland word, "normalcy," lies a wish list and narrative that sees white rule as normative in America - the way things should be - and Black electoral power as an aberration, a kind of organized pathology in which people are assumed to be up to no good. Despite Katrina's vast damage to Louisiana infrastructure and commerce, there is a current of elation among white elites and common folk alike, at the winds and waters that cleansed New Orleans of its two-thirds Black majority, which was seen as a sore on the body politic, a den of Otherness and iniquity.
Glen Ford and Peter Gamble, New Orleans Is Our Gettysburg, A generation's defining event. The Black Commentator, 4-20-06
GLOBAL

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev urged the world's biggest industrialized nations to set up a 50-billion-dollar (44-billion-euro) fund to support solar power, warning that oil or nuclear energy were not viable energy sources for the future. Gorbachev -- who chairs an environmental thinktank, Green Cross International -- called on leaders of the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized nations to invest in renewable energy sources, in a statement marking the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster….The Green Cross proposals were contained in a letter sent to the leaders of the Group of Eight industrialized nations who are due to meet in Russia in July. Some of the proposals were reported last week in the Financial Times. "This idea reflects our vision of a way of helping the energy-impoverished in the developing world, while creating concentrations of solar energy in cities that could be used to prevent blackouts," Gorbachev said. Solar energy would also "lower electricity bills, and would provide a source in the future for generating renewable hydrogen fuels," he added. "The fund could easily be raised by cutting subsidies for fossil fuels like oil and coal."
Gorbachev Urges G8 to Back Solar Power, Not Oil or Nuclear, Agence France Press, 4-27-06>

A growing number of leading US companies are confronting the business challenges from global warming, recognizing that greenhouse gas limits are inevitable and that they cannot risk falling behind their international competitors in developing climate-friendly technologies….But many others are still largely ignoring the climate issue with "business as usual" strategies that may be putting their companies and shareholders at risk….The report uses a "Climate Governance Checklist" to evaluate how major industrial corporations are addressing climate change in five broad areas: board oversight, management performance, public disclosure, greenhouse gas emissions accounting and strategic planning....Foreign companies such as BP, Toyota, Alcan, Unilever and Rio Tinto had the highest scores in five of the nine sectors that included both US and non-US firms. American companies - DuPont, General Electric, International Paper and United Parcel Service - led in the other four sectors….Douglas Cogan, principal author of today's report and the 2003 report, says he sees important progress by US companies that are beginning to build climate change into their governance practices and strategic planning…."Typically, CEOs and boards look out only three to five years when making investment decisions - about as long as they serve in their leadership roles," Cogan said. "But the assets they put into place last much longer. Building a new conventional coal plant or a new engine factory for SUVs might make sense under 'business as usual' thinking, but what will happen to these facilities in five or 10 years, when they're still not fully depreciated but facing carbon emission constraints?"
Ceres Releases First-Ever Ranking of 100 Global Companies on Climate Change Strategy, GreenBiz.com, 3-22-06

Last year, Exxon made the biggest profit of any company ever, $36 billion, and its retiring chairman appears to be reaping the benefits. Exxon is giving Lee Raymond one of the most generous retirement packages in history, nearly $400 million, including pension, stock options and other perks, such as a $1 million consulting deal, two years of home security, personal security, a car and driver, and use of a corporate jet for professional purposes.
Exxon Chairman's $400 Million Parachute, Exxon Made Record Profits in 2005, ABC News, 4-14-06

In 1899 Thorstein Veblen described predation as a phase in the evolution of culture, "attained only when the predatory attitude has become the habitual and accredited spiritual attitude...when the fight has become the dominant note in the current theory of life." After an entire century's struggle to escape from this phase, we've suffered a relapse. The predators are everywhere unleashed; and the institutions built to contain them, from the United Nations to the AFL-CIO to the SEC, are everywhere under siege. Predation has again become the defining feature of economic life. Our first problem is to grasp this reality in full.
Postwar prosperity was built on a vast cut in the cost of security and the achievement of peace in Europe and much of Asia. The American role in the cold war system was to provide security; for this the dollar's role as anchor of the world trading system was our reward. But now, with Iraq, we are seen worldwide as the leading predator state, promoting war as a solution rather than as the ultimate economic and human horror. For this, many would like to see our privileges revoked.
Corporate and financial fraud and political corruption form the second great domain of predatory capitalism. DeLay, Frist and Abramoff are the names in the news, but the tone is set by the leadership--Cheney of Halliburton and Bush of Harken Energy--a large predator and a small scavenger, specialists in cronyism and expert in nothing else. When predation becomes the dominant business and political form, the foundation of capitalism crumbles….
JAMES K. GALBRAITH, Taming Predatory Capitalism, The Nation, 4-17-06

CYBERSPACE

Online bank customers may want to pay a little more attention to their browsers the next time they log in, because many of the most popular banking sites in the U.S. may be needlessly placing their customers at risk to online thieves, a noted security researcher warned Thursday At issue are the user log-in areas on sites like Chase.com and Americanexpress.com that ask customers to submit their ID and password information. Although these forms may be encrypted, they do not use authentication technology to prove they are genuine, according to Johannes Ullrich, chief research officer at the SANS Institute….Bank of America Corp. does not use SSL sign-in on its front page, and it defended its practices.
Major banking sites insecure, researcher warns, IDG, 4-20-06

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: richardpower@wordsofpower.net. For more information, go to http://www.wordsofpower.net/