Morning Report: December 27, 2004

Earthquakes, tidal waves kill thousands in Asia/Pacific. A massive earthquake of magnitude 9 struck in the Indian Ocean, triggering massive tidal waves and tsunamis that claimed thousands of lives in the region. The quake, centered off the coast of the Indonesian island of Aceh, ranks as the largest earthquake worldwide in 40 years and the fourth largest since the recording of earthquakes began in 1899. Currently the known death toll is over 22,000; that figure is expected to rise. Information is available at The Command Post. (various)

Thoughts on natural disasters. Reflecting on the massive tragedy in Asia, Wretchard says: 'In an abstract way, the information flows surrounding the Tsunami of December 2004 structurally resembled those preceding the Pearl Harbor and September 11 attacks. The raw data announcing the unfolding threat was there, yet the pattern so evident in hindsight was invisible to those who were not looking for it. But if tsunamis and asteroid strikes are rare events, they are comparatively more common than that still rarer object, the unprecedented event: the something that has never happened before. Threats like that can emerge suddenly out of chaotic systems, like WMD terrorism or new viral plagues. Against such events, specific precautions are impossible because no one can prepare for what cannot be foreseen. The real challenge is not so much to create a new dedicated network of staring systems against known threats but to tie current sensors to systems which are capable of cognition. The most valuable survival asset is situational awareness -- the ability to recognize threats you have never seen before and respond in an evolving manner -- and that capability has not yet come to the world as a whole.' Glenn Reynolds argues that 'Over the longer run, of course, the best protection against catastrophes, whether foreseen or unforeseen, is a society that is rich enough, and diverse enough, to be well-prepared for all sorts of contingencies. Which means that economic growth, and the freedom that produces it, may be the best guarantor of safety for us all. A rich society can afford to worry about things that a poorer one wouldn't have the resources to think about. A rich society can take steps to prevent disasters before they happen. And a rich society is better positioned to survive disasters once they occur, even if they are completely unforeseen, or unforeseeable.' (Belmont Club, Tech Central Station)

Chavez and China. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced that his country's trade with China would increase dramatically as a result of major new trade agreements between China and Venezuela. The bilateral agreements, which were the result of Chavez' three-day visit to Beijing, provide for the purchase of Chinese security equipment by Venezuela, and Venezuelan oil and asphalt by the PRC. In another development, Beijing issued a stern warning against any moves toward independence by Taiwan. (Stratfor)

Debka: Israel releases Palestinians in prisoner exchange. A bulletin from Debka reports: 'Israel frees 159 Palestinian prisoners - 19 guilty of terrorist crimes short of murder – as promised Egyptian president Mubarak in return for Israeli Azzam’s release. President Katsav pardoned small group of illegal entrants.' (Debka)

Journalists convicted in Yemen. Jane reports on the erosion of press freedom in Yemen: 'This week in Yemen: Four more journalists convicted, another editor attacked, justice delayed again for al-Khaiwani. This is on top of one editor imprisoned, one editor murdered, and three newspapers closed. You can’t write about the Saudis-oh no-but trash Bush all you want. You can’t write about governmental corruption in your own country but its fine to demonize the US and UK governments until the cows come home. “Democratization” without a free press is just another way of gaining development aid and clinging to power until your son, Salah Jr., turns 40 and can take over the presidency. ...' (Armies of Liberation)