Wednesday 30 January 2013

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Photo, above: Large, traditional Vajrayana prayer wheels in Mongolia. Every spin of a wheel is thought to accomplish a full round of prayers. 

Mongolia long was named the most corrupt nation on Earth. Comical tale of Mongolians' ripping off Chinese slicksters in Wednesday 30 Jan 2013 / Hour 2, Block D, below, with Joseph Sternberg of Asia Wall Street Journal.    

"The Member of Mongolian Parliament J. Batzandan announced that he had introduced a draft law that would restrict the rights of high-ranking state officials, in order to prevent corruption.  According to the draft law, state high-ranking officials, their spouses and children would not be permitted to have accounts in foreign banks, they would be restricted from investing in foreign companies, they would not be permitted to buy shares in foreign companies, and they would not be permitted to gamble. Moreover, the law would require high ranking officials who are married to foreigners to obtain Mongolian citizenship for their spouses.
J.Batzandan said in a statement, 'This law would not be applied to all citizens. It would only apply to high ranking state officials. I am not requiring them to divorce, only to ensure their spouses obtain Mongolian citizenship. If these people can’t meet such requirements, they can’t dedicate themselves to Mongolia'  Mongolia currently has over 100 high-ranking state officials. These include the members of parliament and high-ranking civil servants. If the law is adopted, officials will be given a period of three months to comply with the requirements under the law."

JOHN BATCHELOR SHOW

Co-hosts: Gordon Chang, Forbes.com; David Livingston, The Space Show

Hour One

Wednesday  30 Jan 2013 / Hour 1, Block A: Arthur Waldron, Lauder Professor of International Relations at the University of Pennsylvania, in re: Diaoyutai/Senkaku Islands. Somebody in China thinks it'll  be possible to score a victory by claiming somebody's rock. Hard for me to believe that China thinks Japan will back down; if China continues, then things will only get tenser. "No compromise on core interests or sovereignty" said China, which is severely testing w Japan, SE Asia and India  - all at once. Bizarre.

We can see a broader pattern: China feeling strong and rich, believe that th US and Japan are declining; their day is dawning and hey have a bright shiny new military, Now will put together a state that they think should exists, that never exited in the past.  Makes no sense to alienate neighbors 360 degrees around.  Long tradition of countries that thought they cd win a quick victory somewhere and that'd help their domestic situation. Note Germans thought WWII would last weeks. 

Two new leaders, in China and Japan; Abe represents a democracy, so fairly good transparency. Xi represents one big mush of back-scratching and rentier billionaires. Is Xi being measured by the gang that just elected him?  Strict constraints on what he can do: cannot go back behind the line drawn  by his predecessors, the line close to these islands. Japanese are extremely competent militarily; not clear that an initial small fight wd come out in China's favor. Does Abe need to call Washington?  I hope that our dips are in constant touch with our Japanese allies; but there's a reluctance in the US to deal w the possibility that these two counties, with their war of unsurpassed horror, are not reconciled

Wednesday  30 Jan 2013 / Hour 1, Block B:   Kelley Currie, Senior Fellow st Project 2049 Institute, in re:  Burmese Ministry of Posts and Communications – monopoly on land and mobile services. SIM card that costs $1.50 in the US costs $200 in Burma – used ot be $500!  Ministry controlled by an out-of-uniform general; contracts w the junta; limited spectrum of mobile svcs, low penetration rates, but enough to be profitable. Kickbacks to the Ministry and staff; Chinese companies that provide infrastructure. Huawei was started by a mustered-out colonel from the PLA. Suspicion is that it's controlled by PLA (highly highly likely).   Govt dictates the mkt so tightly for self-enrichment; now there's another company in there so rates are down  - can rent a mobile phone at the airport for a non-totally-confiscatory rate.  (Used ot be thousands of dollars for a phone & SIM card.)

Wednesday  30 Jan 2013 / Hour 1, Block C: . Hotel Mars, episode n. David Livingston, The Space Show, & Caleb Schaf,
 Director of Astrobiology,
 Columbia Astrophysics Laboratory, 
Columbia University, in re: Lake Vostok – dimensions: 250 km (160 mi) long by 50 km (30 mi) wide at its widest point, and covering an area of 15,690 km2 (6,060 sq mi) and an average depth of 344 m (1,129 ft). It has an estimated volume of 5,400 km3 (1,300 cu mi) -  is also 2 mi deep, no sunlight, chemically odd place. Probably resembles other places in or Solar System.  Lake Willens, which an American team managed to break into in the last 48 hors . . . ; more than 300 subglacial lakes in Antarctica. Lake Vostok has been isolate for min 10K years, maybe 10 million years. The American team is a pathfinder.The Russian team has been there longer – both have taken a decade –but scientific concern that Russian mode may not be as clean. Americans have been extremely careful. Vostok is the coldest place on Earth, can get to -129 degrees Farenheit.  "Vertical channel filled with bubble-rich ice."  Microbial life is the first thing we think of – low nutritional envt, hard for multicellular life to live down there. We think microbes are the most adaptable life on the planet. First, we'll test to see if there's any bio matter; next, genetic tests.  Bits of planets fly back and forth in the Solar System.  Are we all related? Or did this cross-contamination happen very long ago?

Wednesday  30 Jan 2013 / Hour 1, Block D:  Matt Pottinger, China Six LLC (advises US businesses in China by helping them sniff out fraud), in re: fraud in China against Caterpillar. $5980 mil write-down: "Deliberate multiyear accounting misconduct" – i.e., fraud. The faceman in based in Beijing, but he doesn’t have those dollars. Our Sam Spade in Beijing is Matt Pottinger: Someones failed to do adequate homework – the people who steal then hire the due diligence firms. Inherent conflict of interest. May bring in good auditors, but no looking at what's actually happening, the bricks an mortar.  Recall SinoForest, which collapsed because it didn’t happen to own the forests.  Few disincentives to a Chinese businessman to defraud foreign investors. If I steal massively from foreigners, no real penalty; ay be removed from the US stock exchange; can go raise money elsewhere. If you steal from a Chinese person, your son will be found hanging upside down.  For years, I've been shocked by the level of naivete on the part of Americans.

Hour Two

Wednesday  30 Jan 2013 / Hour 2, Block A:  . Fraser Howie, co-author of Red Capitalism: The Fragile Financial Foundation of China's Extraordinary Rise Wealth, in re: mgt products (5 or 6%), alternative to bank deposits (2 to 3%); lots of people will lose a lot of money on these – and Chinese laws are such that the bank has no legal obligation to pay.  Deep burn. When one of these products is dishonored, expect great public rage. Wealth-mgt products offer high rates; when no more new money is coming in, capital dries up and investors can't be paid. Bernie! Invent Red capitalism, now invent Red Ponzi. Forget about "rational economic players." Lawyers in China? Another big laugh.

Wednesday  30 Jan 2013 / Hour 2, Block B:  Todd Stein, Director of Government Relations at International Campaign for Tibet, in re: China's investment in Nepal, especially how it's changing Nepal's treatment of Tibetan refugees.   China is refusing passports to Tibetans. Denies them ability to cross borders; new. But since 2008 China has essentially closed the borders; passports are merely another tool to keep Tibetans from telling world about the brutality in Tibet. Policies since 2012: deep-seated distrust of Tibetans – one of 55 nationalities, but not equal rights. China oppresses Tibet – trying to eliminate Buddhism, eliminate Tibetan culture Ninety-nine self-immolations in response to the utter depravity of Chinese rule. China gave up on winning hearts and minds of Tibetans and the people of Easter= Turkestan – will overcome with massive and overwhelming Han immigration, thus obliterating Tibetan culture. Economic, social, personal, cultural persecution.  Beijing's reaction is just beating the dog. The system is such that you can’t get ahead in the Communist system unless you’re tough as nails against Tibetans. When HH the Dalai Lama passes on, there'll be an enormous uprising. When you cage people and treat them brutality, it historically has never worked out.  Compare the rough treatment by Beijing of the Tibetans and the Japanese.  Think Al Capone with a baseball bat.

Speaking at a small group interview on the sidelines of the Rotary Global Peace Forum in Honolulu, the Burmese opposition leader and democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi said China's political direction should ultimately be decided by the Chinese people.  “I shouldn’t think [Burma’s relations with China] will change, because you have to remember that we always have a very good relationship with China from the very beginning of the Communist government there.  “At that time, Burma [Myanmar] is practicing democracy, not a perfect one, but working towards democracy, but even then, we maintained very good relations with our neighbours including China. I don’t think it needs to be an exclusive relationship [with the United States]. It doesn’t mean we have to be friends with either the US or China. We need to be friends of both. China is a neighbour and the US is a very, very powerful nation that is eager to help an emerging democracy.”

Wednesday  30 Jan 2013 / Hour 2, Block C:  . Sada'nand Dhume, WSJ, in re:  Rahul Gandhi, scion of Asia's most famous political family and daughter of  Sonia, most powerful politician in India, is 43 years old. India is an inward-looking place, not easy to compare with lives of those outside India. Sixty large govt programs named after the Gandhi family.  Rahul's opponent is a BJP candidate, Narendra Modi (of Gujarat): a self-made man, started by helping an uncle sell tea on a railway platform.  If a democracy is functioning properly, it should draw in people from all walks of life, a meritocracy. It’s the rural masses who keep bringing the same families back over and over.   Rahul is often AWOL, no one knows where he is, and he has no important electoral record. Accepts the vice-presidency, so he may be ready for political power. Politics of handouts, noblesse oblige, free food. Uttar Pradesh. BJP has not been able to develop into a modern, conservative party.   plays to Hindu identity politics – but most Hindus aren't interested in that.

Wednesday  30 Jan 2013 / Hour 2, Block D:  Joseph Sternberg, WSJ Asia, in re:  Chalco is one of China's largest aluminum producers; signed a deal w a Mongolian company, paid $350 mil to deliver coking coal for about five years – and the Mongolians now decline to deliver. China incensed. [China tried to squeeze a nickel and burn the Mongolians; if there's anyone slicker than a Chinese fraudster, it’s a Mongolian "businessman."  Hi-larious. –ed.] Do you suppose the Chinese will learn a thing or two about the rule of law? Or, more succinctly, piracy?

Hour Three

Wednesday  30 Jan 2013 / Hour 3, Block A:  Reza Kahlili, author, A Time to Betray, in re: U.N. WON'T DENY EXPLOSIONS AT IRAN NUKE PLANT  White House appears to backtrack after indicating it affirmed Tehran's denial.  Iranian blogoshere is largely aware of the Fordow explosion; suggesting what else they'd like to see blown up. As of 22 Jan, day after the explosion, some entrances and tunnels still intact.  Look directly down on a mountain.  Iranian rial now at 39,000 to the dollar.  New info: another entrance blt after the revelation of the site to West in 2009; trying to validate it.  A probe  has gone into an entrance, found some men still alive.  An explosion did take place, in a centrifuge chamber. Today, seem to have rescued some; others tapped, bodies fried.  N Korean delegation 14 or 16 people, at explosion, plus Russians and Ukrainians.   On 22 Jan, extraordinary mtgs w Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader abt action; retaliation vs Israel -  last night, good moon and clear weather, IAF struck a column in Syria of al Quds Force commanders in a truck convoy heading to Bekaa; Hezbollah vacating villages in anticipation of mil action against Israel.  We need sat images from 23 Jan onward.  Yesterday, IAEA gave an nondenial denial along with White House; today, backtracked: IAEA changed its story from suggesting that it inspected Fordow after the explosion, the refused to confirm or deny visit or explosion.  An extension of the Fordow facility is unknown to the IAEA.

Wednesday  30 Jan 2013 / Hour 3, Block B:  . LouAnn Hammond, Drivingthenation.com, in re: President Obama reportedly is looking seriously at replacing departing Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson with Mary Nichols of the California Air Resources Board.  The CARB chairman has led the Golden State's chief anti-pollution agency in its adoption of AB32, a massive program of statewide regulation designed to combat global warming. A version of the cap-and-trade portion of the program failed to generate sufficient support to gain passage in Congress in 2009 when Democrats controlled the Senate and House. But the current federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards were influenced greatly by the California program. Nichols has previous experience at EPA, having served as Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation under President Clinton. She was appointed CARB chairman by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2007. Should Obama move forward with a Nichols appointment, it is likely to encounter significant opposition in the Senate's confirmation process, according to SFGate.com.

Nichols protected a "researcher whose work supported a major diesel exhaust regulation and who was found to have lied about his scientific credentials," according to SFGate.com.  "Nichols didn't tell all of the board members about the falsification before they voted to approve a regulation based on his research. Also, he was never fired," SFGate.com said.  Jackson announced earlier this week that she is leaving EPA following Obama's 2013 State of the Union address in January.  Jackson said she is leaving because she misses her home, New Jersey.

But Washington observers point to a growing scandal concerning Jackson's admitted use of a government email address with a fake name - "Richard Windsor" - as at least a significant factor in her decision to depart EPA. It is against federal law to use a private email account or a false name on an official email account to conduct government business. Government transparency advocates contend officials use such non de plumes to evade public exposure of their email via the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Wednesday  30 Jan 2013 / Hour 3, Block C:  .Aaron Klein, WABC, in re: Israel conducted an airstrike inside Syria overnight near the border with Lebanon, hitting a convoy of trucks, U.S. and regional officials said.




'Israel hits Syria arms convoy to Lebanon' Three weeks ago the Israeli navy intercepted a Qatari-flagged ship with arms for  Assad; Israel intercepted, boarded. Ship had US Stinger antiaircraft missiles. (Why?)  Assad has no endgame now. 

Wednesday  30 Jan 2013 / Hour 3, Block D:   Aaron Klein, WABC, in re: Israeli Navy Intercepts Ship Carrying Advanced Weaponry   The Israeli navy intercepted a ship containing advanced ... The officials said the ship   flew a Qatari flag and was registered to a Qatari ... on the Syrian-Lebanese border overnight believed to be a weapons convoy.

Hour Four

Wednesday  30 Jan 2013 / Hour 4, Block A:  Greg Zuckerman, DEALBOOK

Chesapeake Energy Chief Steps Down  After months of investor dissatisfaction, Aubrey McClendon, a co-founder of the oil and natural gas producer, will give up management duties immediately and will retire on April 1.

Wednesday  30 Jan 2013 / Hour 4, Block B:   Paul Vigna, WSJ, in re:  Economists and others weigh in on the GDP report showing a 0.1% contraction to overall growth. –We advise fading the headline number given distortions in the data. Growth was dragged down by a sharp contraction in government defense spending and inventory accumulation, which combined subtracted 2.6 percentage point from growth. Outside of these two very volatile components, underlying growth improved with a solid gain in business investment. We believe today’s report suggests upside risk to our forecast of 1.0% for Q1 GDP. … The economy is not exactly robust, but it is certainly not contracting as today’s data would otherwise suggest. --Michelle Meyer, Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Research

Wednesday  30 Jan 2013 / Hour 4, Block C:  Eric Trager, Washington Institute, in re: Will Germany confront Morsi's Holocaust denials?

Wednesday  30 Jan 2013 / Hour 4, Block D:   Chris Drew, NYT, in re: Boeing was aware of battery problems before the fires. Even before two battery failures led to the grounding of all Boeing 787 jets this month, the lithium-ion batteries used on the aircraft had experienced multiple problems that raised questions about their reliability.

 

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Music

Hour 1: Babylon AD

Hour 2: Crysis; Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol; Darkspore

Hour 3: Hanna; Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Hour 4: Brake; "In the Mood," Andrews Sisters