Saturday, April 08, 2006

GS(3) Intelligence Briefing (4-8-06)

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 GS(3) Intelligence and  Words of Power, go to http://www.wordsofpower.net/

Here are thirteen items, including both news stories and op-ed pieces, which provide insight on the struggle for geopolitical hegemony, the global sustainability crisis, nuclear proliferation, the danger of religious extremism, the exploitation of women, energy security, environmental security, the victimization of the poor, and other important global issues and trends.

EUROPE, MIDDLE EAST, AFRICA
“A Belgian reporter claims she carried a bomb into the hotel where the German and French leaders, Angela Merkel and Jacques Chirac, stayed during last week’s EU summit in central Brussels.” (EU Observer, 3-28-06)
“One United Nations estimate says from 113 million to 200 million women around the world are demographically "missing." Every year, from 1.5 million to 3 million women and girls lose their lives as a result of gender-based violence or neglect….In the past two centuries, those in the West have gradually changed the way they treat women. As a result, the West enjoys greater peace and progress. It is my hope that the third world will embark on this effort. Just as we put an end to slavery, we must end the gendercide.” (International Herald Tribune, 3-25-06)  NOTE: Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the author of this op-ed piece, is a Somali woman serving in the Dutch legislature. She is protected twenty-four hours a day against death threats from Islamic extremists. Her collaborator, filmmaker Theo van Gogh, with whom she made "Submission," a documentary about women and Islam, has already been murdered.
“Twelve business groups control the Israeli economy, making it one of the most concentrated in the world, Forbes Israel said in a report….” (Jerusalem Post,  4-3-06)

ASIA PACIFIC
“Concerned about China's growing interest in the Indian Ocean, a body of water and region that New Delhi considers to be its own sphere of influence, India is strengthening its already close military cooperation with Maldives, a nation of 1,192 tiny, low-lying coral islands strategically located about 300 miles off subcontinent's southeast coast ….”(Asia Times, 4-7-06)
“In an attempt to preserve control over energy exports out of the Central Asia, Russia is taking a two-track approach to opposing the possible construction of trans-Caspian Sea pipelines. While Russian diplomats argue against an undersea pipeline on environmental grounds, Moscow is concurrently beefing up its military presence in the region….” (Eurasianet, 3-23-06)
“Three tightly correlated factors have allowed us to avert the prospect of a world where several dozen nuclear powers compete. Yet today, these factors have been weakened, both individually and collectively… “ (Le Monde, 4-3-06)  

AMERICAS
“Virtually anyone paying attention to events in Venezuela and Nicaragua in the north to Peru and Bolivia further south, plus in different ways Mexico, Argentina and Brazil, comes to the same conclusion: there is a wave of profound anti-American feeling stretching from the Texas border to the Antarctic. And almost everyone believes it will get worse….” (BBC, 3-4-06)
“In his speech at a ministerial-level meeting on biodiversity, the popular Brazilian leader, known widely as "Lula", also criticised the West for what many economists consider unsustainable patterns of consuming the world's resources, which are contributing to an alarming level of poverty. In 1980, the rich had 30 times more wealth than the poor, noted Lula. Now that ratio has almost doubled.” (Inter Press Service, 3-28-06)
“Colombia is a complicated stew of violence--the repressive Colombian government, under the democratically elected but dictatorial President Uribe, a drug benefactor and friend of George W. Bush; the brutal Colombian military; the tens of thousands of paramilitary troops who roam the country doing the army’s dirty work; the rebel groups, FARC and ELN; the massive U.S. military aid; the ever-present U.S. soldiers and U.S. military advisors; and the multinational corporations stealing the land from the poor.” (Common Dreams, 3-28-06)

GLOBAL
“The spread of avian influenza through at least 29 new countries in the past seven weeks — one of the biggest outbreaks of the virus since it emerged nine years ago — is prompting a sobering reassessment of the strategy that has guided efforts to contain the disease.” (Los Angeles Times, 3-27-06)
“Every second, someone in the world moves into a slum. Over the next 30 years, the world's slum population will, on average, increase by 100,000 each day…Overcrowding is the most visible problem, but the sheer number of people is just the beginning. In slums across Asia, such as in Mumbai or Dhaka, around 1,000 people live together in each acre of land, without proper sanitation. The result is a massive amount of human and solid waste that even the most willing government would struggle to deal with….” (Guardian/UK, 3-28-06)
“Capitalism and sustainability are deeply and increasingly interrelated. After all, our economic activity is based on the use of natural and human resources. Not until we more broadly "price in" the external costs of investment decisions across all sectors will we have a sustainable economy and society.   The industrial revolution brought enormous prosperity, but it also introduced unsustainable business practices...Today, the global context for business is clearly changing.” (Dow Jones, 4-2-06) NOTE: The authors of this op-ed piece are Al Gore, former Vice President of the United States and David Blood, former head of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, who are the co-founders of Generation Investment Management.) 

CYBERSPACE
"...according to a comprehensive survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), identity theft is affecting millions of households in the U.S each year and costing an estimated $6.4 billion per year. About 3 percent of all households in the U.S., totaling an estimated 3.6 million families, were hit by some sort of
ID theft during the first six months of 2004….” (IDG, 4-3-06)

Excerpts from these thirteen 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

A Belgian reporter claims she carried a bomb into the hotel where the German and French leaders, Angela Merkel and Jacques Chirac, stayed during last week’s EU summit in central Brussels. Belgian TV journalist Katleen Peeraer, who works for the Flemish-speaking VTM TV network's 'Telefacts' programme, also reportedly approached one of the leaders with a loaded Beretta pistol in her bag. Despite heavy security measures, she was not searched at the hotel's entrance.  "She walked in and out [of the hotel] without problems," said Telefacts editor Ann Vroom on the VTM website….The bomb carried by the reporter was heavy enough to blow up a complete floor of the hotel, according to VTM….The producers of the programme said they wanted to highlight the poor security at EU summits held in Brussels.
Lucia Kubosova, Reporter smuggles bomb into Merkel and Chirac hotel, EU Observer, 3-28-06

One United Nations estimate says from 113 million to 200 million women around the world are demographically "missing." Every year, from 1.5 million to 3 million women and girls lose their lives as a result of gender-based violence or neglect….The Islamists are engaged in reviving and spreading a brutal and retrograde body of laws. Wherever the Islamists implement Shariah, or Islamic law, women are hounded from the public arena, denied education and forced into a life of domestic slavery. Cultural and moral relativists sap our sense of moral outrage by claiming that human rights are a Western invention. Men who abuse women rarely fail to use the vocabulary the relativists have provided them. They claim the right to adhere to an alternative set of values - an "Asian," "African" or "Islamic" approach to human rights.
    This mind-set needs to be broken. A culture that carves the genitals of young girls, hobbles their minds and justifies their physical oppression is not equal to a culture that believes women have the same rights as men.
    Three initial steps could be taken by world leaders to begin eradicating the mass murder of women:
    A tribunal such as the court of justice in The Hague should look for the 113 million to 200 million women and girls who are missing.
    A serious international effort must urgently be made to precisely register violence against girls and women, country by country.
    We need a worldwide campaign to reform cultures that permit this kind of crime. Let's start to name them and shame them.
    In the past two centuries, those in the West have gradually changed the way they treat women. As a result, the West enjoys greater peace and progress. It is my hope that the third world will embark on this effort. Just as we put an end to slavery, we must end the gendercide.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Women Go 'Missing' by the Millions, International Herald Tribune, 3-25-06

Twelve business groups control the Israeli economy, making it one of the most concentrated in the world, Forbes Israel said in a report…. The groups - controlled by Sami Ofer, Nochi Dankner, Shari Arison, the Cerberus-Gabriel consortium, Charles Bronfman, Yitzchak Tshuva, the Saban group, Lev Leviev, Matthew Bronfman, Tzadik Bino, the Borovich family, and Eliezer Fishman - have each put together empires of the largest companies in Israel, using organizational structures that have since been eliminated in other parts of the Western world, the report said. "This is an economy in which the banks can control whole corporations and where the country is afraid of its capital holders," said Ben-Gurion University professor Daniel Maman.
These 12 groups own 60 percent of the aggregate market value of all Israeli public companies (when the exceptionally-large Teva Pharmaceutical Industries is excluded), with shares valued at some NIS 200 billion, Forbes Israel showed.
Forbes Israel: 12 groups run economy, Jerusalem Post, 4-3-06 

Asia Pacific

Concerned about China's growing interest in the Indian Ocean, a body of water and region that New Delhi considers to be its own sphere of influence, India is strengthening its already close military cooperation with Maldives, a nation of 1,192 tiny, low-lying coral islands strategically located about 300 miles off subcontinent's southeast coast ….Maldives shares ties of religion with Pakistan (both countries are Sunni Muslim)….The visit of then Chinese premier Zhu Rongji to Male in 2001 immediately prompted rumors that the Chinese were seeking a base on one of the atolls….The base was to become operational in 2010.  The deal appeared to have run into trouble in 2002, but reports of renewed maritime cooperation on the part of China and Maldives surfaced again in 2004….To the west of India lies China's longtime "all-weather friend" Pakistan. China's cooperation on missiles and nuclear weapons is well known and its funding of Pakistan's Gwadar port will enable the Chinese navy to sit at the mouth of the strategic Strait of Hormuz, through which passes much of the world's petroleum supply, as well as provide it access to the Arabian Sea.  To India's east, China has substantial influence over the military junta in Myanmar. It is helping modernize several bases along the Andaman Sea in Hianggyi, Akyab, Kyun and Mergui to support Chinese submarine operations. Myanmar is said to have leased a base to the Chinese in the Coco Islands, which are just a few nautical miles from India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands….China also has extensive military relations with Bangladesh. Dhaka is said to have offered the Chinese access to Chittagong port.
Sudha Ramachandran, Maldives: Tiny islands, big intrigue, Asia Times, 4-7-06

In an attempt to preserve control over energy exports out of the Central Asia, Russia is taking a two-track approach to opposing the possible construction of trans-Caspian Sea pipelines. While Russian diplomats argue against an undersea pipeline on environmental grounds, Moscow is concurrently beefing up its military presence in the region. One or more pipelines stretching along the Caspian’s seabed would effectively break a Russian monopoly over export routes between Central Asia’s key energy producers – Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan – and Western markets….The Russian government recently brushed aside protests from Greenpeace and other groups opposing construction of a Pacific pipeline because the chosen route poses a threat to Lake Baikal’s delicate ecological balance. Yet, when it comes to the Caspian, Russian diplomats are basing their opposition to an undersea route on environmental concerns. ….At the same time, Russian officials, including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, continue to press a diplomatic offensive designed to prevent the United States from establishing a military presence in the Caspian Basin.
Sergei Blagov,  RUSSIA TRIES TO SCUTTLE PROPOSED TRANS-CASPIAN, Eurasianet, 3/28/06

At present, fewer than ten countries possess nuclear weapons: Israel, India and Pakistan are added to the five powers the nuclear status of which is recognized by the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and which are, moreover, permanent Security Council members. North Korea has most likely crossed the nuclear threshold, while Iran appears to be tempted by a North Korean-style process. The brevity of this table is the result of a kind of miracle. In fact, today about fifty states have research reactors or nuclear power stations that would allow them to cross the nuclear threshold within a more or less short delay….Three tightly correlated factors have allowed us to avert the prospect of a world where several dozen nuclear powers compete. Yet today, these factors have been weakened, both individually and collectively…
The American-Indian agreement confirms the short work the Bush administration makes of the several multilateral elements of order that frame the international system. With its unilateral doctrine of preventive strikes, the American executive had already supplied the targeted states with a convenient excuse for the acquisition of nuclear weapons. The Bush administration since then has done what it can to discourage those who try to preserve the international system of nuclear non-proliferation.
Fran├žois Heisbourg, The Nuclear Club Must Remain Closed, Le Monde, 4-3-06

Americas

It is one of the most important and yet largely untold stories of our world in 2006. George W Bush has lost Latin America.
While the Bush administration has been fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, relations between the United States and the countries of Latin America have become a festering sore - the worst for years.
Virtually anyone paying attention to events in Venezuela and Nicaragua in the north to Peru and Bolivia further south, plus in different ways Mexico, Argentina and Brazil, comes to the same conclusion: there is a wave of profound anti-American feeling stretching from the Texas border to the Antarctic.
And almost everyone believes it will get worse….
The next country to fall to a strongly anti-American populist politician could be Peru….
Latin American voters have thrown out their governments and - often - given a two-fingered salute to Washington. That is their prerogative.
Economically, some countries - including Peru - have been roaring ahead.
Their cultures are flourishing too….
Analysis: How the US 'lost' Latin America, BBC, 3-4-06

Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva Monday castigated the wealthy and technologically advanced countries of the world for failing to live up to their responsibility in tackling poverty and environmental degradation on the planet….
In his speech at a ministerial-level meeting on biodiversity, the popular Brazilian leader, known widely as "Lula", also criticised the West for what many economists consider unsustainable patterns of consuming the world's resources, which are contributing to an alarming level of poverty. In 1980, the rich had 30 times more wealth than the poor, noted Lula. Now that ratio has almost doubled. "The industrialised nations spend about 900 billion dollars to defend their national borders," the Brazilian president said. "But they allocate less than 60 billion dollars for development in poor countries, where hunger has become a silent weapon of mass destruction." Lula told delegates that the developed world is willfully neglecting the widening gulf between the rich and poor because it continues to cling to a model of development that has no room for collective sharing of resources and lacks concern for environmental degradation. "Biodiversity is our planet's greatest treasure. Anything that is contrary to its conservation and to fair benefit sharing must be rejected," Lula said. "It's time to act. It's time for change."  
Haider Rizvi, Brazil's Lula Lashes Out At Rich Nations, Inter Press Service, 3-28-06
 
Colombia is a complicated stew of violence--the repressive Colombian government, under the democratically elected but dictatorial President Uribe, a drug benefactor and friend of George W. Bush; the brutal Colombian military; the tens of thousands of paramilitary troops who roam the country doing the army’s dirty work; the rebel groups, FARC and ELN; the massive U.S. military aid; the ever-present U.S. soldiers and U.S. military advisors; and the multinational corporations stealing the land from the poor. This institutionalized violence gives Colombia the distinction of having the highest number of human rights violations in the Western Hemisphere ….“Daily life for the struggling people means being harassed, questioned, displaced, disappeared, perhaps kidnapped or killed by the army, paramilitaries or the guerillas,” one indigenous leader told us.
At one point, we came around a bend on the cliff and saw an entire mountainside where the green trees had been chopped down and the remaining stumps burned black. Along the road we found thousands of pine tree seedling samples in boxes, ready to be planted. Some North American firm had orchestrated the killing and removal of the indigenous people, took their land, and destroyed the trees in a scene out of Tolkein’s "The Lord of the Rings." It was preparing to plant pine trees for its paper business.
Up ahead, we saw a huge new hydroelectric plant and dam which the U.S. is building to control the river and the valley. Army barracks on the other mountaintops keep watch over it. This was globalization in action, the Free Tree Agreement at work. I soon understood what the people were trying to tell me: this war is not about drugs, but land….
John Dear, The Other War: A Report from Colombia, www.commondreams.org, 3-28-06

Global

The spread of avian influenza through at least 29 new countries in the past seven weeks — one of the biggest outbreaks of the virus since it emerged nine years ago — is prompting a sobering reassessment of the strategy that has guided efforts to contain the disease. Since February, the virus has cut a swath across the globe, felling tens of thousands of birds in Nigeria, Israel, India, Sweden and elsewhere. Health officials in the United States say bird flu is likely to arrive in North America this year, carried by wild birds migrating to their summer breeding grounds. The speed of the virus' migration, and the vast area it has infected, has forced scientists to concede there is little that can be done to stop its spread across the globe. "We expected it to move, but not any of us thought it would move quite like this," said Dr. David Nabarro, the United Nations' coordinator on bird-flu efforts….Although the virus also could mutate into a harmless strain, scientists have found that it has infected domestic cats and a stone marten in Germany, increasing concerns over its ability to cross into mammals.
"Something generally disturbing is going on at the moment," Nabarro said. "It's certainly in the bird world, and it's pushing up against the human world in a serious way."
Jia-Rui Chong, Bird-flu spread: "Nature is in control," Los Angeles Times, 3-27-06

Every second, someone in the world moves into a slum. Over the next 30 years, the world's slum population will, on average, increase by 100,000 each day. Globally, we are seeing a shift from rural areas to cities and, before the year is out, a higher proportion of people will be living in cities than ever before….in these rapidly growing cities, the proportion of people living in poverty grows at the greatest rate. The population trend to urbanization is important not just because of the numbers, but because of governments' inability to deal with its rate of growth, and this has an impact on every other aspect of life for the poor.
Overcrowding is the most visible problem, but the sheer number of people is just the beginning. In slums across Asia, such as in Mumbai or Dhaka, around 1,000 people live together in each acre of land, without proper sanitation. The result is a massive amount of human and solid waste that even the most willing government would struggle to deal with…. Africa is the most rapidly urbanizing continent, and in Kumasi, Ghana, because of a lack of proper sanitation, people in slums use a method known as "flying toilets" - essentially, disposing of their waste in plastic bags and discarding them in the streets. With waste collections irregular, it can stay there for months.
We know from our work in cities around the world that the massive impact of rapid urbanization can only be dealt with when we address the disenfranchisement of the urban poor and generate the political will from city leaders to put resources into poor areas.
Jennifer Rowell, The Slums in the World's Teeming Cities Need an Urgent Solution, Guardina/UK, 3-28-06

CAPITALISM and sustainability are deeply and increasingly interrelated. After all, our economic activity is based on the use of natural and human resources. Not until we more broadly "price in" the external costs of investment decisions across all sectors will we have a sustainable economy and society.   The industrial revolution brought enormous prosperity, but it also introduced unsustainable business practices….Today, the global context for business is clearly changing. "Capitalism is at a crossroads," says Stuart Hart, professor of management at Cornell University. We agree, and we think the financial markets have a significant opportunity to chart the way forward. In fact, we believe that sustainable development will be the primary driver of industrial and economic change over the next 50 years….While we are seeing evidence of leading public companies adopting sustainable business practices in developed markets, there is still a long way to go to make sustainability fully integrated and therefore truly mainstream. A short-term focus still pervades both corporate and investment communities, which hinders long-term value creation.   As some have said, "We are operating the Earth like it's a business in liquidation." More mechanisms to incorporate environmental and social externalities will be needed to enable capital markets to achieve their intended purpose -- to consistently allocate capital to its highest and best use for the good of the people and the planet.  
Al Gore, David Blood, For people and planet, Dow Jones, 4-2-06

CYBERSPACE

Wondering how likely you are to have your credit card number stolen? Well, according to a comprehensive survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), identity theft is affecting millions of households in the U.S each year and costing an estimated $6.4 billion per year. About 3 percent of all households in the U.S., totaling an estimated 3.6 million families, were hit by some sort of ID theft during the first six months of 2004….The data comes from the Justice Department's National Crime Victimization Survey, which interviews members of 42,000 households across the country every six months to better understand the nature, frequency, and consequences of crime.…
According to the DOJ's numbers, credit card misuse is the most common consequence of identity theft. It accounted for about half of the cases of identity theft that the survey tracked, Baum said….
The average loss from these crimes amounted to $1290, with two-thirds of respondents saying that the theft cost them money….
The young and the well-to-do appear to be more at risk for identity theft, according to the DOJ numbers. Households headed by people between 18 and 24 years of age and those with incomes of $75,000 or more were the most likely to experience identity theft.
Robert McMillan, How Common Is Identity Theft? ID theft affects millions of households and costs billions of dollars, government says, IDG News Service, 4-3-06


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/