The John Batchelor Show

Friday 18 October 2013

Air Date: 
October 18, 2013

Photo, above:  Tis Isat Falls in Ethiopia / Blue Nile Falls.  Linking the Nile with the Congo River would divert Congo River water that washes into the Atlantic Ocean into the Nile River Basin. It should be noted that the Congo River water that enters the Atlantic amounts to 1,000 billion cubic meters annually. This diversion could be done by establishing a 600-kilometer [373-mile] canal to transfer water to the Nile Basin from southern Sudan to northern Sudan and then to Lake Nasser, behind the Aswan High Dam in Egypt.  See: Hour 2, Block C, Gregory Copley, author.


Hour One

Friday  18 October 2013  / Hour 1, Block A:  Peter Berkowitz, Hoover, in re: The other side of Obamacare’s Oregon success: No one has bought private insurance Yesterday I wrote about Oregon's big success signing people up for Obamacare: The state had, in the course of 17 days, signed up 56,000 people for the health law's Medicaid expansion. In one fell swoop, the state had cut its uninsured rate by 10 percent.  That is, however, only part of the story from Oregon. When it comes to private insurance, spokeswoman Amy Fauver said that it has not yet had any sign-ups.  "While we wish we were in a different place with our technology, we're implementing the contingencies we need to make sure no Oregonians get left behind," she said.  Cover Oregon decided Sept. 30, the day before the marketplace went live, that the software it uses to determine who qualifies for financial aid was coming up with too many errors to go live. It decided instead that it would process applications manually. Those applications have begun filtering in and determinations will likely go out later this month. "They'll start hearing from us in the next week or two what about what their next step is," Fauver said. "We have staff trained to do that determination."  However, Fauver said that no Oregon health plan has received an enrollment through the marketplace. She declined to comment on the number of applications submitted to the marketplace, saying her department is "still working through the data to to arrive at a number we can stand by." It's possible that some of the applications could be incomplete, or represent multiple people. Cover Oregon doesn't know because they're still pending manual processing.  Oregon initially projected that 7,000 people would sign up for private coverage this month. Fauver wouldn't say whether that number still seems reasonable, with 12 days left to go in the month.  "It's too soon to say," she said. "We're working with our developers around the clock to get this fixed. We're not where we want to be, but we think we'll be able to get there soon."  How could so many people sign up for the Medicaid expansion, and not a single person enroll in private insurance? It mostly has to do with how simple the Medicaid sign-up was: The state sent out notices to about 260,000 people who already receive public benefits and were below 138 percent of the federal poverty line, the cut-off for the Medicaid expansion.  To enroll, they simply had to call a phone number or return a form to the state.  "It simplified the process and that made a huge dent," Fauver said. "We're extremely thrilled about that, and expect the number to go up in coming weeks."

Friday  18 October 2013  / Hour 1, Block B:  Robert Zimmerman,, in re: Cygnus will be de-orbited one day early, on October 23.  At the same time, preparations move forward for the second Cygnus flight in December, which will be the first operational flight. This quote is interesting:  Neither Orbital nor the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority got locked out of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport as a result of the shutdown, meaning that preparations for the tentative December launch continued while more than 95 percent of NASA’s roughly 18,000 civil servants were on furlough.   Suggests again how unessential a good percentage of NASA’s employees really are. They might be great engineers, but they are apparently wasting their talents at NASA doing unnecessary make-work.

A newly discovered, half-mile wide asteroid has 1 in 63,000 chance of hitting the Earth in 2032.

That’s the Russian report above, which on these matters tends to be panic-stricken. Here’s the JPL version, which downplays the concern.

Friday  18 October 2013  / Hour 1, Block C: Matt Viser, Boston Globe, in re:  Obama’s vision of unity led only to a wider gap: Five years into the Obama presidency, the capitol and country are far more divided. The Washington Bureau reports on the latest in the Broken City series.

Relief from debt deal will be short-lived: Tired of the excruciating debate in Washington over the nation's budget, the debt ceiling, and the deficit? Get used to it. National political reporter Matt Viser provides analysis.

Friday  18 October 2013  / Hour 1, Block D: Paul Floyd,, in re: The United States's "Small Footprint" Military Strategy  Media Center, Video  On Oct. 5 separate units from the Joint Special Operations Command conducted what seem to be disconnected operations in the Libyan capital of Tripoli and a Somali coastal town. The mission of both operations was the capture of a high-value target. The Libyan operation was successful in capturing its designed target, but the Somali mission was not. Members of the Naval Special Warfare Development Group came under fire as they were breaching the targeted compound and were forced to withdraw back to sea without the main target.  The use of these premier special operations forces in direct action raids in tumultuous hot spots, 3,000 miles apart in this case, highlights the evolving U.S. "small footprint" strategy. This specific strategy started to take shape as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were wound down. It takes advantage of the capabilities and techniques perfected in hunting high-value targets operating within civilian populations in these theaters.  It was realized that the skills and assets required to track and then kill or capture key individuals could be used in a broader global counterterrorism role. The idea being that removing key individuals from enemy networks degrades their capability. So as more and more of these U.S. assets have been freed up from dwindling wartime requirements, they have been pushed to other unstable parts of the world where the enemy is [composed] of small, local and diffuse networks. It is a strategy born of U.S. military capabilities, political constraints and enemy tactics.  These assets are a combination of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms as well as intelligence units that can monitor a region and track potential targets. Additionally there are special operations forces who can train local units or conduct direct action missions and a variety of platforms that can do accurate strikes with precision-guided munitions, plus all the requisite support units that handle logistics. These elements are put to together into task forces that can vary widely in size, but they're relatively smaller than a brigade combat team. Their presence also has less permanence and the missions are accurate pinpricks compared to the sledgehammer of conventional units.  Combined together, U.S. security planners are provided a potent package for monitoring problem regions. Furthermore, when the opportunity presents itself, planners can take action against specific threats. In other words, they can project military power briefly into places were a large-scale, permanent ground military presence is not possible or politically palatable.  These operations have a variety of constraints that vary depending on which specific asset is being used. One of the most common has been the drone strike, which puts little to no military personnel at risk but can cause collateral damage with civilians that is extremely politically unpopular and increasingly attracts international and domestic blowback. Additionally, . . . [more]

Hour Two

Friday  18 October 2013  / Hour 2, Block A:  Richard A Epstein, Hoover Institution / Defining Ideas, Chicago Law, in re:  Republicans are howling to repeal and defund Obamacare. As a policy matter, that is surely the correct move. But as a political matter, the prompt repeal of Obamacare is just not going to happen over the uncompromising opposition of a Democratic president and a Democratic Senate. So, if the first-best solution is not possible, more modest fixes for Obamacare are in order until Republicans start winning elections . . . [more] (1 of 2)

Friday  18 October 2013  / Hour 2, Block B: Richard A Epstein, Hoover Institution / Defining Ideas, Chicago Law, in re:  Republicans are howling to repeal and defund Obamacare. As a policy matter, that is surely the correct move. But as a political matter, the prompt repeal of Obamacare is just not going to happen over the uncompromising opposition of a Democratic president and a Democratic Senate. So, if the first-best solution is not possible, more modest fixes for Obamacare are in order until Republicans start winning elections . . . [more] (2 of 2)

Friday  18 October 2013  / Hour 2, Block C Gregory Copley, author, in re:  Lamu Acting Boss Backs AU Stand  Kenya: Lamu Acting Boss Backs AU Stand ... Lamu acting Governor Mohamed Hashim yesterday supported the move to stop President Uhuru ...    Egypt's 'Lost Dream' of Linking Congo, Nile Rivers - Al-Monitor: the ...  Some of these new studies emphasize the possibility of supplying abundant water to Egypt by linking the flow of the Congo to the Nile via canal ...

Friday  18 October 2013  / Hour 2, Block D: Lorraine, Woellert, Bloomberg, in re: Freelancers Spur Gig Economy by Tapping Online Exchanges – Digital freelancers . . . represent a growing portion of American workers. Some of these independents are attracted to the flexible lifestyle, others because they can’t get a job locally that matches their skills. They are replacing traditional work -- being employed by a company -- with a mix of projects completed over the Internet. The recession that ended in June 2009 helped boost freelancing as a way for the newly unemployed to support themselves, and the practice has gained traction since. Internet exchanges allow companies to reduce labor costs by enlisting freelancers, who give up a reliable salary for discretion over how they work.   [more]

Hour Three

Friday  18 October 2013  / Hour 3, Block A:  Francis Rose, Federal News Radio, in re: When project fails to meet milestones, execs are brought into a room to figure it out (TechStat). Here, the Chief technology Officer is involved. Re-bidding. Stovepipe: something built such that it doesn’t connect horizontally to any other agency – proprietary.  Need to have Healthcare,com front end connect with back end. Also: volume problem – not exactly a "server issue" – this is the opposite of the Administration's policy of using the cloud.  Puzzle. 

In addition to President Obama’s visit, Senator Mark Warner, D-Va., and Governor Tim Kaine, D-Va., attended at the ribbon-cutting event in 2007. Both spoke about the importance of creative public-private partnerships to drive economic development in rural America. From Forbes: "Today, any company looking to work with the government must navigate an obstacle course of niggling, outdated regulations and arbitrary-seeming requirements. For instance, your technology must be Y2K-compliant just to get in the door. The process locks out all but a tiny handful of full-time contractors—companies who also happen to be big federal lobbyists.

Federal officials considered only one firm to design the Obamacare health insurance exchange website that has performed abysmally since its Oct. 1 debut.  Rather than open the contracting process to a competitive public solicitation with multiple bidders, officials in the Department of Health and Human Services' Centers for Medicare and Medicaid accepted a sole bidder, CGI Federal, the U.S. subsidiary of a Canadian company with an uneven record of IT pricing and contract performance.

Photo, below: A police inspector in the Collyer brothers’ house in 1947.

Friday  18 October 2013  / Hour 3, Block B:  Connie Rosenblum, NYT, in re: The Trouble with Stuff  Selling the home of a hoarder can be a challenge. You can’t, for instance, stage it. But in a tight market, such places often sell quickly anyway.    The one-bedroom condo on Park Avenue was described by the broker, Jeffrey Tanenbaum of Halstead Property, as a “hoarder’s paradise, with seven cats, one dog and 12 armoires packed to the brim.”  TO THE RAFTERS The Collyer brothers filled their mansion with 120 tons of found objects, books and newspapers. Inspector Thomas Boylan was among the police officers on the scene. Unable to open the blocked front door, the police had to enter through a second-floor window. Both Langley and Homer Collyer were found dead in the house, Langley after 18 days of excavation.  Closets were on the verge of bursting, and the owner’s bed was heaped with mounds of clothes. Floors had buckled, and paint had peeled from the walls. The owner’s husband had died unexpectedly, and financial problems had forced her to put the apartment on the market. “When I arrived for our first meeting,” Mr. Tanenbaum said, “I got the shock of my life. But the light, the views and the location were incredible.” Light streamed so powerfully through a wall of windows “that you really needed sunglasses in the afternoon.” A major selling point was the sweeping 600-square-foot terrace with three exposures.  Deeply moved by the plight of the owner — “my heart really went out to her” — Mr. Tanenbaum set to work. He rented a storage space for the contents of the apartment, and paid his own housekeeper to scrub down the premises. The online listing featured only a floor plan, a photograph of the lushly planted terrace, “and careful language to mention that the apartment had great bones,” he said. The space was shown 30 times and received 9 offers; in June, after a bidding war, it sold for . . .  [more]


[The real story of the elderly Collyer brothers: They kept newspapers for decades, piling them up toward the ceiling and covering all the floor except a narrow path in from the front door to the bed of the one who was ill and unable to stand.  One night the mobile one went out to fetch some food for his brother, returned, and was suddenly buried alive in an avalanche of papers. He died. Unable to move, the paralyzed, bedridden brother starved to death.]

Friday  18 October 2013  / Hour 3, Block C:  Carl Prine, Pittsburgh Tribune, in re: Privacy breaches in VA health records wound veterans  Karen Santoro heard co-workers chattering about her psychological care in 2010.  An Air Force veteran and surgical services scheduler at the Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh hospital in Oakland, Santoro asked officials with the VA and the Department of Health and Human Services to investigate the source of the gossip. It seemed to violate the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, that prohibits release of medical information.  Advised by her physician, Santoro begged her bosses to transfer her or let her work from home until investigators finished their work. They refused. She resigned in mid-2011, disgusted with VA's disregard of privacy laws. She is convinced that officials were retaliating against her and concerned by “inaction” by Health and Human Services, which enforces HIPAA at all health care facilities.  “It's unconscionable that the very people who defend the rights of the American people don't have those rights at VA,” said Santoro, 46, of Pittsburgh's South Side. “... We must fight back and change the system because we deserve a better one.”  A two-month Tribune-Review investigation found VA workers or contractors committed 14,215 privacy violations at 167 facilities from 2010 through May 31, victimizing at least 101,018 veterans and 551 VA employees. Photos of the anatomy of some were posted on social media; stolen IDs of others were used to make fraudulent credit cards.  “It's hard to argue against the notion that VA holds the dubious distinction of being the largest violator of the nation's health privacy laws,” said . . .  [more]

Friday  18 October 2013  / Hour 3, Block D:   Campbell Robertson, NYT, in re: Cost of Flood Insurance Rises, Along with Worries An effort to change a law that brought about rising rates has been stalled by   . . .

Hour Four

Friday  18 October 2013   / Hour 4, Block A: Operation Storm: Japan's Top Secret Submarines and Its Plan to Change the Course of World War II by John Geoghegan  (1 of 4)

The riveting true story of Japan's top secret plan to change the course of World War II using a squadron of mammoth submarines a generation ahead of their time  In 1941, the architects of Japan's sneak attack on Pearl Harbor planned a bold follow-up: a potentially devastating air raid--this time against New York City and Washington, DC. The classified Japanese program required developing a squadron of top secret submarines--the Sen-toku or I-400 class--which were, by far, the largest and among the most deadly subs of World War II.  Incredibly, the subs were designed as underwater aircraft carriers, each equipped with three Aichi M6A1 attack bombers painted to look like US aircraft. The bombers, called Seiran (which translates as “storm from a clear sky”), were tucked in a huge, water tight hanger on the sub’s deck. The subs mission was to travel more than half way around the world, surface on the US coast, and launch their deadly air attack. This entire operation was unknown to US intelligence, despite having broken the Japanese naval code. And the amazing thing is how close the Japanese came to pulling off their mission.  . . .

Friday  18 October 2013  / Hour 4, Block B: Operation Storm: Japan's Top Secret Submarines and Its Plan to Change the Course of World War II by John Geoghegan  (2 of 4)

. . . Meticulously researched and masterfully told, Operation Storm tells the harrowing story of the Sen Toku, their desperate push into Allied waters, and the dramatic chase of this juggernaut sub by the US navy.  Author John Geoghegan’s first person accounts from the last surviving members of both the I-401 crew and the US boarding party that captured her create a highly intimate portrait of this fascinating, and until now forgotten story of war in the Pacific. 

Friday  18 October 2013  / Hour 4, Block C: Operation Storm: Japan's Top Secret Submarines and Its Plan to Change the Course of World War II by John Geoghegan  (3 of 4)

Friday  18 October 2013  / Hour 4, Block D: Operation Storm: Japan's Top Secret Submarines and Its Plan to Change the Course of World War II by John Geoghegan  (4 of 4)

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Hour 1: Ides of March. Crysis. Transformers. 

Hour 2: Ides of March. Skyfall 

Hour 3: Ghost Writer. Rush

Hour 4: The Pacific