The John Batchelor Show

Tuesday 12 March 2012

Air Date: 
March 12, 2013

Photo, above: Two Different Aqueous Environments  This set of images compares rocks seen by NASA's Opportunity rover and Curiosity rover at two different parts of Mars. On the left is " Wopmay" rock, in Endurance Crater, Meridiani Planum, as studied by the Opportunity rover. On the right are the rocks of the "Sheepbed" unit in Yellowknife Bay, in Gale Crater, as seen by Curiosity. 

The rock on the left is formed from sulfate-rich sandstone. Scientists think the particles were in part formed and cemented in the presence of water. They also think the concretions (spherical bumps distributed across rock face) were formed in the presence of water. The Meridiani rocks record an ancient aqueous environment that likely was not habitable due the extremely high acidity of the water, the very limited chemical gradients that would have restricted energy available, and the extreme salinity that would have impeded microbial metabolism -- if microrganisms had ever been present. 

In the Sheepbed image on the right, these very fine-grained sediments represent the record of an ancient habitable environment. The Sheepbed sediments were likely deposited under water. Scientists think the water cemented the sediments, and also formed the concretions. The rock was then fractured and filled with sulfate minerals when water flowed through subsurface fracture networks (white lines running through rock). Data from several instruments on Curiosity -- the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer, the Chemistry and Camera instrument, the Chemistry and Mineralogy instrument, the Mars Hand Lens Imager, the Mast Camera, and the Sample Analysis at Mars instrument -- all support these interpretations. They indicate a habitable environment characterized by neutral pH, chemical gradients that would have created energy for microbes, and a distinctly low salinity, which would have helped metabolism if microorganisms had ever been present. 

Both color images have been white–balanced using the same technique to show roughly what they would look like if they were on Earth. 

The "true color" image from Opportunity's panoramic camera (Pancam) was acquired on Sol 250 (the 250th Martian day of Opportunity's operations, which was Oct. 6, 2004, on Earth). 

The image from Sheepbed was from Curiosity's Mast Camera on Sol 192 (the 192d Martian day of Curiosity's operations, which was Feb. 18, 2013, on Earth). 

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/MSSS



Hour One

Tuesday  12 March 2013 / Hour 1, Block A: Sudeep Reddy, WSJ, in re: economics in Washington; the surreal world of sequester politics and the coming economic event. March 8 jobs report; Groundhog Day. Jobs number increase unlikely to be sustained. The budget conference right now. Defer hiring and capital investment.  Cash on sidelines on corporate balance sheets. The alternating spectacles of US, and then European, shenanigans.  Huge blow to military communities around the country; will hit some pockets disproportionately hard.

Tuesday  12 March 2013 / Hour 1, Block B:   Claudia Rosett, Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, in re: North Korea counterfeiting cigarettes, money, drugs: out of its embassies. Also blackmail, any scam it can think of. A racketeering state.   At one point, the US set up a fake mob wedding in N Jersey to bring in a raft of DPRK crooks, who were caught.  The Iran-North Korea Axis of Proliferation - Both Iran and North Korea are subject to a growing stack of sanctions with which the United Nations, since 2006, has been demanding an end to their illicit nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Yet these two rogue states continue doing business with each other, of the most dangerous sort, at times in plain view. Since North Korea’s third and most successful nuclear test, just last month, North Korea’s third-generation tyrant Kim Jong Un has been diverting the world with such bizarre maneuvers as glad-handing basketball eccentric Dennis Rodman and threatening preemptive nuclear strikes against the U.S. and South Korea.

The real, deadly serious business of North Korea can better be discerned by focusing on its dealings with its fellow rogue state and longtime partner in proliferation, Iran.  Now edging back into the news, following North Korea’s Feb. 12 nuclear test, is a deal that was signed between the governments of Iran and North Korea last September, when a delegation of senior North Korean officials traveled to Tehran to attend a summit of the 120-member Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). Perversely lending legitimacy to that NAM gathering, at which UN-sanctioned Iran took over the NAM chairmanship for 2012-2015, were such worthies as United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. On the fringes of that summit, North Korea and Iran signed a Scientific Cooperation Agreement, described by North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) as covering “cooperation in science, technology and education.”  [more]

Tuesday  12 March 2013 / Hour 1, Block C: . Bud Weinstein, Southern Methodist University, in re:  The natural-gas bonanza is providing Texas with a rapidly growing competitive advantage in manufacturing.    Executives from across the country and around the world last week marveled at the state’s success during IHS CERAWeek, the energy industry’s premier annual conference.    Gérard Mestrallet, chairman and CEO of the global power company GDF Suez, called the Texas business climate “fantastic” and said his company would be focusing more of its investments in the state.    “Thanks to shale gas, the USA and Canada are getting new energy competitiveness,” he said. “In Europe, in terms of labor costs, we are at a negative compared to the advantages of Asia. Now Europe is having a disadvantage in energy compared to the United States.”    The U.S. wholesale price of natural gas is less than a third of the average cost in Europe, and less than a fifth of the cost in Japan for imported liquefied natural gas.    The energy historian Dan Yergin, vice chairman of IHS and impresario of the Houston conference for 32 years, said the gas boom creates a long-term competitive shift, feeding an industrial renaissance in the United States.    “This was not well perceived a year ago. Over the last six months, it’s become a lot clearer to economic decision makers around the world,” he said.    Major projects begin    Texas has already seen several major projects get under way thanks to cheap natural gas.    The lion’s share of $100 billion in newly announced petrochemical plant investments is aimed along the Texas Gulf Coast. Exxon Mobil Chemical Co. president Steve Pryor announced the latest of these at the conference, where he described a multibillion-dollar expansion of the company’s Bay-town petrochemical complex.    “The project will be a win-win for Exxon Mobil and Texas, a pro-business state which has attracted more Exxon Mobil investment than anywhere in the country, and where we are the state’s largest taxpayer,” Pryor said.    Jim Osten, a senior natural gas analyst with IHS, said ammonia fertilizer and methanol plants are also heading back to the United States to take advantage of cheap natural gas. (Methanol is a gasoline additive.)    “To have a renaissance of industry, you have to either displace imports or export,” Osten said. The U.S. was importing almost all its methanol, and 7 million tons of ammonia. Most of that will soon be made instead in Louisiana and other gas-rich states, he said.    Osten said the steel industry “will do quite well” with cheap natural gas. China’s Tianjin Pipe Corp. is building a $1 billion steel plant outside Corpus Christi to supply oil and gas drillers. Luxembourg-based Tenaris SA announced in February that it would build a $1.3 billion steel pipe plant in Bay City.    Electricity savings    Low-cost gas also makes electricity less expensive, which opens up broader manufacturing possibilities.    “Cheap electricity will keep costs down for making machines, and for industries that use robotics,” Osten said. “That will play as big a role in the industrial renaissance as cheap natural gas as a chemical feedstock.”    The U.S. arm of Germany’s Siemens Corp. finds Texas an attractive location for serving both national and international markets, said Eric Spiegel, the company’s president and CEO.    He said Texas is also a pro-manufacturing state and “a good place” for hiring skilled, experienced workers, both in energy and in technical fields.    Siemens has 5,000 employees in 63 locations around the state, including Siemens PLM, a large industrial software facility in Frisco.    Competitive advantages can erode over time, sometimes very quickly. But this one is expected to last for many years.    “Energy is one of the most important elements of competitiveness,” said Hirobumi Kawano, president of the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp. “Given the situation … Japanese companies are going to invest in the United States seeking lower-cost materials.

Tuesday  12 March 2013 / Hour 1, Block D:   Bill Whalen, Hoover, Advancing a Free Society, in re: Time’s A Wastin’ – for GOP to Talk About Government Waste

Hour Two

Tuesday  12 March 2013 / Hour 2, Block A:  Eric  Trager, Washington Institute, in re: Egypt rejected an $750 million International Monetary Fund rescue loan offer March 12, Finance Minister El Morsi Hegazy said, AP reported. This offer and rejection followed the International Monetary Fund's finalization of a $4.8 billion loan to help Egypt’s economy. Egypt faces persistent economic challenges that have only worsened with the unrest that has followed the Arab Spring.  /   Mubarak calls on Egyptians to support Morsi’s rule, end protests  /  Deposed leader says that people should ‘rally around’ new president, as violent demonstrations continue to drown country  /  Egypt's Islamists spar as elections loom Rift intensifies as Muslim Brotherhood and ultraconservative Salafis manoeuvre politically ahead of parliamentary vote.  /
New storm in Egypt over citizen arrests

Tuesday  12 March 2013 / Hour 2, Block B: John Bolton, AEI, in re: Pittsburgh Tribune Review / The Syrian mess: The Obama administration is operating under many dangerous delusions.   Predictably, President Obama's recent decision to provide additional nonlethal military aid to the opposition Syrian National Coalition and its military wing has pleased almost no one. Those who want to provide arms and ammunition to the rebels see Obama's step as weak and insufficient, while those who oppose any aid to the increasingly dubious opposition see it as another step toward just such lethal assistance. Despite these divergent criticisms, however, the decision announced by Secretary of State John Kerry, now belatedly converted to opposing Bashar al-Assad's dictatorship, is at bottom simply another half-step, a compromise, further evidence of President Obama's chronic national security indecisiveness. There is no coherent politico-military strategy at work here, only an effort to appease domestic and international critics of a Syria policy badly misguided from the outset.

The central issue for America has never been whether to aid the Syrian opposition or simply sit on the sidelines. The real question is how broader U.S. strategic objectives in the Middle East and elsewhere are affected by the conflict among Syria's ethnic and religious factions. Unfortunately, other than pressuring Israel these last four years to surrender to unacceptable Palestinian demands, Obama is bereft of a regional strategy. By withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq and . . .  [more]   For more of Amb. Bolton's analyses, please follow us on Facebook & TwitterTo read the article online, click here.

Tuesday  12 March 2013 / Hour 2, Block C: Jack Ewing, NYT ,  in  re: Official from Monte dei Paschi di Siena Bank Is Found Dead ... The head of communications for the troubled Italian bank Monte dei Paschi di Siena died late 
Hedge Fund Manager Found and Jailed in Fraud Florian Homm, a flamboyant former hedge fund manager who spent the last five years in hiding, [more]

Tuesday  12 March 2013 / Hour 2, Block D:  Bret Stephens, WSJ GLOBAL VIEW -  To China's Censors, with Love

Hour Three

Tuesday  12 March 2013 / Hour 3, Block A:   Katherine Burton: Paulson Said to Explore Puerto Rico as Home With Low Tax  By Katherine Burton, Stephanie Ruhle & Zachary R. MiderJohn Paulson, a lifelong New Yorker, is exploring a move to Puerto Rico, where a new law would eliminate taxes on gains from the $9.5 billion he has invested in his own hedge funds, according to four people who have spoken to him about a possible relocation. Ten wealthy Americans have already taken advantage of the year-old Puerto Rican law that lets new residents pay no local or U.S. federal taxes on capital gains, according to Alberto Baco Bague, Secretary of Economic Development and Commerce of Puerto Rico. The marginal tax rate for affluent New Yorkers can exceed 50 percent. Full story:

Tuesday  12 March 2013 / Hour 3, Block B:  Charles Ortel, Newport Ventures Investors, in re GM: unsafe at any price?  General Motors Common shares (GM): Unsafe at any price ... ... investors regarding GM's reported financial performance and near-term Photo: General Motors Stock. Sunday, March 3, 2013 - Brass Tacks by Charles Ortel ...

Tuesday  12 March 2013 / Hour 3, Block C:   Finding Camlann: A Novel by Sean Pidgeon; 1 of 2

Tuesday  12 March 2013 / Hour 3, Block D:   Finding Camlann: A Novel by Sean Pidgeon; 2 of 2

Hour Four

Tuesday  12 March 2013 / Hour 4, Block A:  Max Holland, Newsweek. The Myth of Bob Woodward by Max Holland March 11, 2013 04:45 AM EDT Woodward's recent flap reveals a grotesquely swollen ego fed by 40 years of hero worship. In Newsweek, Max Holland asks: why is this man an American icon?

Tuesday  12 March 2013 / Hour 4, Block B:  Max Holland continued.

Tuesday  12 March 2013 / Hour 4, Block C:  Robert Zimmerman,, in re: engineering and science The budget battle at NASA Two stories today highlight not only the budget problems at NASA, but also illustrate the apparent unwillingness of both Congress and Americans to face the terrible budget difficulties of the federal government. In both cases, the focus is instead on trying to fund NASA at levels comparable to 2012, before the Obama administration or sequestration had imposed any budget cuts on the agency. It is as if we live in a fantasy world, where a $16 trillion dollar debt does not exist, and where money grows on trees and we can spend as much as we want on anything we want.
Read More

Tuesday  12 March 2013 / Hour 4, Block D:   Robert Zimmerman,, in re: green techMARCH 10, 2013 AT 4:06 PM The uncertainty of science: New computer models find that the tropical rain forests will not be harmed by increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  Tropical forests are unlikely to die off as a result of the predicted rise in atmospheric greenhouse gases this century, a new study finds. The analysis refutes previous work that predicted the catastrophic loss of the Amazon rainforest as one of the more startling potential outcomes of climate change. In the most extensive study of its kind, an international team of scientists simulated the effect of business-as-usual emissions on the amounts of carbon locked up in tropical forests across Amazonia, Central America, Asia and Africa through to 2100. They compared the results from 22 different global climate models teamed with various models of land-surface processes. In all but one simulation, rainforests across the three regions retained their carbon stocks even as atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration increased throughout the century. The study provides “robust evidence for the resilience of tropical rainforests”, says lead author Chris Huntingford, a climate modeller at the UK’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Wallingford. But uncertainties remain, he adds. First, this prediction is based on a computer model, which is as likely to be as right as the previous pessimistic predictions. With that in mind, no one should start dancing for joy. The long term consequences of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere remain unknown. Second, I am baffled by the previous predictions that favored catastrophe for the tropical jungles because of increased levels of carbon dioxide. Plants breath CO2. They prosper from it. If you put more in the atmosphere they will thrive. Moreover, the tropical jungles are already hot, and the plant life there is adapted to that heat. Raising the global temperature should not hurt them significantly. Finally, faced with a result that defuses all the crisis-mongering of the global warming crowd, the author of the article feels obliged at the end to emphasis their new bugaboo: extreme weather! It’s coming! Duck your heads! But don’t worry. When weather extremes also fail to appear, they will find something else to scream about.

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Hour 1: Inception, Sopranos, There Will Be Blood.

Hour 2: Call of Duty; Black Ops; Centurion; Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

Hour 3:

Hour 4: