Saturday, December 30, 2006
GS(3) Intel Briefing 12-30-06: Updates on Human Trafficking, the Great Game, World's Oil Economy, Deforestation, Net Neutrality, and More!
Image: Salvador Dali's One Second Before Awakening from a Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate
GS(3) Intelligence Briefing 12-30-06: Updates on Human Trafficking and Gender Bias in Eastern Europe, the Great Game, the World's Oil Economy, Deforestation, Net Neutrality and more!
Edited By Richard Power
Life on this planet is a Oneness. And although this Oneness is rich in bio-diversity and a myriad of human cultures, the truth of it is increasingly difficult to escape.
Looking out for the health and evolution of this Oneness in the 21st Century demands a bold, holistic approach to security and risk.
GS(3) Intelligence explores the interdependence of security, sustainability, and spirit.
This particular GS(3) intel briefing provide insights on important global issues and trends, including human trafficking, the Great Game, the world's oil economy, deforestation, and the struggle to preserve the freedom of the Internet.
It consists of highlights from a collection of nine news stories and op-ed pieces from eight diverse and international sources: Reuters Alternet, Inter Press Service, Moscow Times, Asia Times, Mercosur, Bloomberg News, Daily Yomiuri, and Save the Internet.
The items are organized by region, excerpted with links to the full texts, and introduced with analytic overviews.
Customized analysis is provided for clients.
NOTE: Some issues, e.g., global warming and the crisis in Darfur, are areas of focus for Words of Power and are covered on an ongoing daily and weekly basis in Hard Rain Journal entries, etc. So you won't typically see them reflected in the bi-weekly intel briefing.
EUROPE, MIDDLE EAST & AFRICA
The rise of organized crime in the aftermath of the Eastern bloc's collapse is one of the great stories and most urgent issues of our time. If it is not dealt with decisively over the next few years, it could lead to regional destablization and even mass destruction. Bulgaria and Romania have just entered the EU, and yet, the issues of organized crime and corruption in both societies are so serious that Brussels has decreed that "Romania and Bulgaria will in some respects still be treated by the EU as if they were only candidate members, with the European Commission even slapping a painful "third country" status on Sofia in the area of aviation safety....Commission officials will still be prying into their Romanian and Bulgarian counterparts' work to monitor "progress," particularly in the areas of crime and corruption, food safety issues and - as it emerged just before the Christmas holidays - aviation safety in Sofia's case." (EU Observer, 12-21-06) Whether in the Balkans or East Asia or anywhere else (perhaps I should say "everywhere else") on Earth, no aspect of organized crime (other than black market WMD) is more damaging to the web of life than human trafficking, particularly the sexual slavery of women and children. How can the industrialized nations of the North promote the Millennium Goals (which call for the raising up and protecting of women and children) to the developing world when its own tourism and currencies perpetuate this kind of exploitation in the heart of Europe itself? Of course, part of the answer is serious trans-border law enforcement efforts. But aggressive awareness and education campaigns both in the East and in the West are also a vital component. And yes, an enlightened realism demands rights for sex workers and regulation of the sex industry as a third essential element.
Anca thought girls who spoke on television about being sold into sex slavery were paid to invent such stories to boost tv show ratings. That was until she answered a friend's invitation to join her in Germany and work as a dishwasher in a town near Hamburg. When she arrived, her passport was taken away and her captors forced her to work as a prostitute for their clients. Three months later she slid down two floors on a drainpipe, ran several kilometres (miles) through a forest and finally found a taxi that took her to a police station and safety....As they prepare to join the European Union, Romania and Bulgaria are struggling to contain human trafficking and smuggling, particularly in drugs, which is endemic in the Black Sea region that will soon become the EU's eastern border.
Every year, thousands of women such as Anca, some as young as 13, are kidnapped or lured by promises of well paying jobs or marriage and sold to gangs who lock them up in night clubs and brothels or force them to work on the streets...Justyna Pawlak, Sex slavery plagues Romania and Bulgaria, Reuters Alternet, 12-27-06
A study 'Stereotyping: Representation of Women in Print Media in South-East Europe' has studied the portrayal of women in Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia and Serbia. The study was carried out by the MediaCentre in Bosnian capital Sarajevo....Analysts studied leading publications from the region of former Yugoslavia for almost a year, and concluded that "the public sphere remains the domain of men, as politics and other 'serious' matters remain reserved for men, while women are assigned roles in the private sphere and entertainment."
"In 80 percent of the text, it is men who are represented in all the issues the dailies tackled," said co-author Ivana Kronja at a presentation of the study in Belgrade last week. "Women are almost invisible; they appear when one goes to the entertainment, fashion or TV section."
South-East Europe print media marginalise women even in areas and professions where they dominate, such as healthcare, education and municipal administration, the study shows....
"This clearly shows that media people also need a kind of education -- journalists of both genders," Tamara Skrozza, coordinator of the women section of the Independent Association of Journalists (NUNS) told IPS....Vesna Peric Zimonjic, Women Fight Prejudice in Balkans, Inter Press Service, 12-27-06
Russia is not simply a European power or an Asian power; it is a Eurasian power. And its importance, and the geopolitical challenges it presents, must be understood in this context. While the USA staggered around in Iraq, wasting its blood and wealth in a foolish military adventure predicated on a neo-con wet dream, Putin's Russia -- shrewd, ruthless and opportunistic -- got stronger and stronger with each increase in the price of oil and each downtick in the USA's prestige around the world. Tremendous potential for global good has been squandered in the years since the fall of Communism. It did not have to be this way. Here are two important pieces, one is a look ahead at Russia in 2007, and the other is an update on the Great Game being played out in Central Asia. It is vital that you understand the forces at work in this region, since a profound misunderstanding of them is behind much of the world's present precarious circumstances.
It has been a banner year for Russian stocks, but analysts expect to see that banner waver in 2007, when volatility picks up on local markets and the looming State Duma and presidential elections shake up the ties between business and power. The giants of the local markets reigned this year as Russia became the 10th-largest economy in the world, reaching a gross domestic product of $960 billion this month...
Oil exports have been the lifeblood of the country's economy since it took its first steps on the free market. Since 1999, it has been widely seen as the main force behind the economic growth rate topping 6 percent each year....Alfa Bank strategist Erik DePoy said this assumption hinged on a pair of highly unpredictable factors -- "the two Ws: weather and war." On both fronts, analysts expect local investors to indulge in more than a little schadenfreude over the oil price, hoping for fierce weather to raise demand and international conflict to hinder supply....The continuing standoff over Iran's nuclear ambitions will put regular upward pressure on oil prices. In April 2007, all eyes will be on the Nigerian elections. Africa's largest oil producer has already been forced to cut about one-quarter of its daily output after repeated rebel attacks against foreign-owned refineries and pipelines. Pre-election violence in the country could force further export cutbacks ahead of the U.S. summer driving season, when oil prices usually peak.
For every dollar increase in oil prices, Russia's export revenues grow by $3.6 billion and the federal budget jumps $1.7 billion, Renaissance Capital said in a report this month....
The upcoming State Duma and presidential elections will be the single-biggest source of volatility on Russian markets, said Roland Nash, head of research at Renaissance Capital....Elections and Oil Hold Key to 2007, Moscow Times, 12-29-06
The Great Game in Central Asia itself may appear to have considerably slowed down in 2006. But nothing could be more deceptive an impression. True, we've witnessed nothing like the cataclysmic events of the previous year - "Tulip Revolution" or the Andizhan uprising in Uzbekistan. Yet great-power rivalries most certainly continued - passions that were largely driven underground, where they simmered without taking a confrontational character.
Partly this was because the bickering over geopolitical influence became somewhat manifestly lopsided, with Russia and China not only retaining their gains of yesteryear but also consolidating them, and the US painstakingly attempting to recoup its lost influence in the region....
During the five-year period since its birth in 2001, the SCO, which has as members a number of underdeveloped countries including some desperately poor ones with nothing ostensibly to bind them together except their common geography, has not only held together but has grown in size and influence.
Initially drawing on the Chinese tri-fecta of "terrorism, separatism and extremism", the SCO speaks today about the establishment of a free-trade area and about common energy projects such as exploration of hyrdrocarbon reserves, joint use of hydroelectric power and water resources. But from the US perspective, the SCO agenda continues to be laden with a heavy cloud of suspicion regarding the United States' geostrategic intentions in the Central Asian region....
Without doubt, a palpable sense of urgency is already apparent in US thinking to the effect that the Chinese-Russian strategic partnership poses a serious threat to the United States' geopolitical position in Central Asia, and second, that China is actively remaking Central Asia's order. Last September, the US Congress held a special hearing titled "The Shanghai Cooperation Organization: Is it Undermining US Interests in Central Asia?" M K Bhadrakumar, The Great Game on a razor's edge, Asia Times, 12-23-06
Those who value deep democracy take courage from many recent developments in South America. The struggle for the soul of the future is quickening below the Equator. Here is some good news from Ecuador and some bad news from Argentina.
Ecuadorian President-elect Rafael Correa appointed this week seven women to his Cabinet, including the country’s first female Defence minister, saying he wanted to promote gender equality....
"Ecuador will really become a democracy when all the institutions of the state are clearly subject to civilian society," Correa told reporters. "That is why it is very important to break the tradition of having a former officer in charge of the Defence Ministry and naming a civilian, and if possible a woman." In other appointments to his 17-member Cabinet, Correa named women to head Foreign Affairs, Health, Housing, and Social Welfare ministries. He said he would keep outgoing President Alfredo Palacio`s ministers of Tourism and the Environment, the only women in the current Cabinet. Seven women in Ecuador’s incoming cabinet, Mercosur, 12-28-06
Despite the continued destruction of Argentina's forests due to the advance of the agricultural frontier, a draft law that would have declared a "state of emergency" for the country's forests was postponed until next year.
In an initial vote, the Chamber of Deputies approved the bill in November, and further debate on it was about to begin when the bloc of lawmakers from the Frente para la Victoria -- President Néstor Kirchner's faction of the ruling Justicialista (Peronist) Party -- split on the issue.
In the last legislative session of the year, the bill, which had been drawn up with the participation of environmental organisations, was left without a quorum. The debate had already been put off three times...
Deputy Marta Maffei of the centre-left opposition party Alternative for a Republic of Equals explained to IPS that the Frente para la Victoria is now divided between those who are in favour of rationally administering the country's forestry resources and those who are opposed to controls on deforestation.
"The deputies from the northern provinces want the forests to be administered at the discretion of the governors. But we already know how that ends, because so far the forests have been exploited and plundered by private economic groups, without any controls,"she said.
Marcela Valente, ARGENTINA: Continued Green Light for Destruction of Forests, Inter Press Service, 12-27-06
The oil producers are moving away from the US dollar. The code-word is "diversification." Bloomberg reports on the 2007 plans of the UAE and other nations. How long will the propapunditgandists of the US mainstream news media ignore this aspect of the Bush-Cheney debacle, and who will they blame when they are forced to acknowledge it -- Bill Clinton? Meanwhile, from Tokyo, the Daily Yomiuri offers a readers survey of the top stories of 2006 and an editorial perspective assesses our dismal circumstances, i.e., global destablization, lack of real international leadership, etc.
The United Arab Emirates plans to convert 8 percent of its foreign-exchange reserves to euros from dollars before September, the latest sign of growing global disaffection with the weakening U.S. currency....The Gulf state is among oil producers, including Iran, Venezuela and Indonesia, looking to shift their currency reserves into euros or sell their oil, which is now priced in dollars, for euros. The total value of the reserves held by the U.A.E. is $24.9 billion, Suwaidi said....Central banks in Russia, Switzerland and New Zealand are also diversifying away from the dollar and into yen after the Japanese currency reached a 10- month low against its biggest trading partners in October. Matthew Brown, U.A.E. to sell dollars for euros, Bloomberg News, 12-27-06
This year likely will be remembered as one in which the international community further destabilized.
Many of the Top 10 international news stories as voted by readers of The Yomiuri Shimbun dealt with this destabilization, both regionally and globally. The stories include North Korea, which selfishly argues for the continuation of its nuclear program; the United States, as it struggles with the continuing chaos in Iraq; and a Middle East peace process in utter disarray.
Amid the anxiety and confusion, the international community is about to enter 2007 with no clear sense of how to proceed...
The nightmarish scenario in which North Korea would someday conduct a nuclear test became reality this year, and was chosen as the top international news story of 2006....
The political power map changed in the United States, which, as the only superpower, holds the key to maintaining international order. In November's midterm elections, the Democratic Party succeeded in obtaining majorities in both houses of Congress for the first time in 12 years. This news ranked fifth among readers' top international stories. The Democrats also made significant gains in nationwide gubernatorial elections....
News of terrorist attacks have flooded in from around the world. In Mumbai, the almost-simultaneous bombings of seven trains and stations killed 179 people in July, a story that ranked No. 10 in our poll. In Britain, a foiled plot to blast transatlantic airliners out of the sky in August ranked 13th....The No. 9 story of the year according to our readers was that of Alexander Litvinenko--a former lieutenant colonel in Russia's Federal Security Service and vocal critic of President Vladimir Putin--who died in London in November, where he had been in exile....
The spread of avian influenza, meanwhile, does not seem to be waning. Human deaths from bird flu topped 100 in March and 150 by the end of October. The news ranked eighth on our list.
In May, Indonesia, the origin of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed about 230,000 people, suffered another major earthquake, this time killing about 6,000 residents of central Java. This sad news ranked second in the Yomiuri survey. In the Philippines, 11,000 were killed in a major landslide in February. This came in at No. 22....
The year 2007 will probably prove to be a year of milestones as world leaders must guide the increasingly uncertain international community toward stability. 2006 a year of further global destabilization, Yomiuri Shimbun, 12-29-06
The Net Neutrality story line is a do-or-die issue for the rejuvenation of the democratic institutions in the USA and other industrialized societies as well as for the establishment of vibrant democratic institutions in the developing world. This recent positive development in the story line highlights the profound and sweeping significance of the USA's 2006 mid-term elections (i.e., the voter repudiation of corporatism) and underscores the desperate need to get the new Congress sworn in and to hold its feet to the populist fire once it takes power under the Capitol dome. AT&T has committed to Net Neutrality -- for 24 months. Clearly, the media and telecommunications monopolies are hoping that the-shell-of-a-man-formerly-known-as-John-McCain or Rupert Murdoch's friend Hillary Clinton (First Lady of the 1996 Telecommunications Act) will save them after the 2008 presidential election.
To the lay reader the AT&T merger agreement may appear highly technical. It is, however, a milestone, and may even be remembered as an important moment in Internet history. Most notable is the agreement's striking inclusion of the first strong Network Neutrality language yet seen in any broadband regulatory device.
The language in the agreement is written for a purpose: to preserve the most attractive features of the Internet as it now exists....
Strikingly, AT&T commits to a basic set of Network Neutrality principles that establish a baseline of great importance. They do not create a pure "bit-discrimination rule," but this language is crafted as a practical implementation of neutrality....
Network Neutrality rules prohibit discrimination on broadband networks. The second paragraph states:
"AT&T/BellSouth also commits that it will maintain a neutral network and neutral routing in its wireline broadband Internet access service. This commitment shall be satisfied by AT&T/BellSouth's agreement not to provide or to sell to Internet content, application, or service providers, including those affiliated with AT&T/BellSouth, any service that privileges, degrades or prioritizes any packet transmitted over AT&T/BellSouth's wireline broadband Internet access service based on its source, ownership or destination."
This is a strong but not extreme form of a basic Network Neutrality rule (it has similarities to a bill proposed by Senator Olympia Snowe last year)....
The agreement lasts two years or until Congress passes a Network Neutrality bill. The two-year framework should provide time to assess the impact of the rule, and consider its extension to other carriers or a broader array of wireless networks. One possibility is that AT&T will, in time, find the rule to its liking, as it provides a corporate pre-commitment against ill-advised "value-added" schemes that may prove financially disastrous. However, much remains to be seen.
What is clear is that this agreement marks a critical moment in the recent history of Network Neutrality and big step forward for its supporters. Tim Wu, Professor of Law, Columbia University, Why AT&T's Net Neutrality Concession is a Milestone in the History of the Internet, www.savetheinternet.com, 12-29-06
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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 www.wordsofpower.net
NUNS, Bulgaria, Romania, SCO, Balkans, Serbia, Croatia, Central Asia, Dollar, Euro, UAE, Geopolitics, North Korea, Energy Security, Environmental Security, Net Neutrality,Human Trafficking, Russia, China, Deforestation, Ecuador, Argentina, News MediaMillennium Goals