The John Batchelor Show

Wednesday 21 August 2013

Air Date: 
August 21, 2013

Photo, above:  Russians in space. See: Hour 1, Block D, Dr. David M. Livingston, The Space Show, and Anatoly Zak, RussianSpaceWeb.


Co-hosts: Gordon Chang,, and Dr. David M. Livingston, The Space Show

Hour One

First photo of Bo Xilai in court,  guarded by two court officers at the Jinan Intermediate Court.

Wednesday  21 August 2013 / Hour 1, Block A: Rick Fisher, Senior Fellow, Asian Military Affairs at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, in re:  Senkakus a ‘core interest,’ Chinese military scholar tells Japan   A Chinese scholar affiliated with the military told a nonpartisan group Japanese lawmakers earlier this month that the group of islands at the center of their fierce bilateral dispute is a “core interest” of Beijing, sources said Monday.  The scholar from the China Institute for International Strategic Studies, headed by Lt. Gen. Qi Jianguo, deputy chief of the General Staff of the People’s Liberation Army, told the lawmakers in Beijing that the Senkaku Islands, controlled by Japan for more than 100 years in the East China Sea, are “within the range of its core interests,” sources close to the meeting said.  China has traditionally reserved the term “core interests” for critically important issues of national sovereignty and territorial integrity, such as Taiwan, Tibet and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Beijing is unwilling to compromise on core interests and attaches enough importance to them to resort to force, if necessary.  This is believed to be the first indication from a military-affiliated authority that the islands are viewed as part of China’s core interests.  The Chinese government began openly referring to the uninhabited islands as a core interest in April, but the reference — made at a news conference by a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman — was soon dropped from its official transcripts and Beijing has remained vague on the issue.

Wednesday  21 August 2013 / Hour 1, Block B:  Matthew Miller, Bloomberg Billionaires Index, in re: Property Mogul Wang Emerges as China’s Wealthiest Person Wang Jianlin, owner of China’s biggest commercial land developer, is the nation’s wealthiest person. The chairman of closely held conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group, which became the world’s largest movie theater chain after acquiring AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. last year for $2.6 billion, has a net worth of $14.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He is $3.2 billion richer than Zong Qinghou, founder of Hangzhou Wahaha Group, China’s No. 3 beverage maker. Zong is the country’s second-wealthiest person. “Wanda leads Chinese enterprises in expanding its business globally and catering to consumers’ demand at home with some high-profile acquisitions,” said Kenny Wu, a Hong Kong-based analyst at . . . [more]

The revolutionary hero Bo Yibo seen in a file photo with his family. Screenshot from Sina Weibo.

Wednesday  21 August 2013 / Hour 1, Block C: Madeline Earp, research analyst for Freedom on the Net at Freedom House, in re: China’s New Leaders Advance Internet Control   China’s internet controls, which were already among the most extensive in the world, have grown even more sophisticated and pervasive under the new Communist Party leadership, according to a Freedom House special report released today.

 New regulations made it harder for activists to conceal their identity online. Some circumvention tools, which help users access uncensored websites overseas, were significantly disrupted. And private companies stepped up their capacity to delete banned content, sometimes within minutes. The report is based on Freedom House’s unique Freedom on the Net methodology.

“As more Chinese people get online and encounter constraints, more adopt tools and workarounds to avoid them, a sign of tremendous public demand for internet freedom,” said Madeline Earp, research analyst for Freedom on the Net at Freedom House. “But instead of relaxing control, CCP leaders under President Xi Jinping are refining China’s technical and regulatory apparatus to stop citizens from evading censorship and surveillance.”

The report includes an assessment of internet access in China and how it is curtailed; a new generation of censorship and manipulation techniques that govern content; and the laws and regulations used to find and punish individuals who disobey the rules.

Key findings: . . .  [more]   The incoming government is highly diligent in blocking Net usage, and the resources are on the side of the authorities – they're spending vast sums to overcome freedom on the Net – but teenagers are really good, and now outsiders are developing software to circumvent the controls.    The Fifty-Cent group: people hired by the unelected tyrants of Beijing and paid fifty cents per flame of tyrant-disfavored text.

Wednesday  21 August 2013 / Hour 1, Block D: Dr. David M. Livingston, The Space Show, and Anatoly Zak, RussianSpaceWeb, in re: the recent cosmonaut space walk on the ISS; the Russian part of the ISS; Anatoly Zak's new book, Russia in Space ("After many years of work, I completed writing, illustrating and designing a book on the history of Russian plans for space exploration. It was published by Apogee Prime. Currently, the book can be ordered directly from the publisher.")    Russia enjoys the respect accorded a leading space nation, but some say, "We just transport stuff back and forth."  Do the Russians have better food – fresh vegetables – than the others?  Russian side is mostly service section – propulsion, docking for cargo ships, and utilities – while science is mostly done by the US and other participants.   Russia has huge  experience in fighting the effects of microgravity. Most important factor: exercise, physical activity that every crew member must do daily to keep the muscles and other tissues in good shape.  In the US, the frontier is no longer Big Space, but the fledgling private space..  Orbital and suborbital spacecraft and launchers.   Under Roscosmos (РОСКОСМОС), the Russian space agency; in the US, NASA provides considerable funding to small, private firms.    Sept 15, upcoming flight with problems corrected. Cosmonauts are celebrated in Russia; the manned space program is more popular there than in the US. However, in the last twenty years the popularity of space programs has dwindled in both Russia and the US.

"I think it would be great to be born on Earth and to die on Mars. Just hopefully not at the point of impact." ---Elon Musk

Wednesday  21 August 2013 / Hour 2, Block A: Ho-fung Hung, Johns Hopkins University, author of Protest with Chinese Characteristics*, in re: update on how Hong Kong is descending into violence. Police long have simply stood and watched as thugs beat up Hong Kong citizens; it's becoming ever more serious.  Some thugs are retired policemen, some are connected to a sort of mafia, some are hired by Chinese Communist Party-related residents in Hong Kong.  After Prof Hung reported this on the John Batchelor Show a few weeks ago, he received a poorly-written letter in English chastising him for speaking against the innocent, hard-working Hong Kong police. Someone also wrote to Johns Hopkins administrators to warn them that Prof Hung is, in effect no good.  This sort of letter is going out by the bushel to teachers all over, especially in Hong Kong; some of these letters are vulgar and threatening.  In HK, some teachers have had huge, rude banners demanding a teacher be fired  mounted in front of school  Moreover, the police stand back and fail to protect teachers, who tend to favor freedom of speech and democracy. In the case of a primary school where a teacher named Miss Lam shouted against violent thugs and was heard with disfavor and now is being persecuted: the school's board of directors has issued a statement saying they'll put Miss Lam "under a certain kind of punishment." 

See: petition on White House website, has 8,700 signatures, protesting exactly this goonish thuggery.   The unelected tyrants of Beijing are clueless about how this works in the US.  In HK, professors are known internationally and live in relative academic freedom, but that's changing as Beijing stooges start to take over, and the primary schools depend entirely on the govt for funding. 

* Protest with Chinese Characteristics: how the Confucianist legacy shaped China’s trajectories of state formation and popular protests from the Eighteenth Century to the present, in contrast to Western trajectories, and reflections on the universality of Western modernity. 

Beijing may be able to use the violence in the streets to initiate a massive crackdown in order to enforce its centralized tyranny.

Wednesday  21 August 2013 / Hour 2, Block B:  Charles Ortel, Newport Value Partners,  in re:  the flight to the dollar from the Indian rupee and other emerging-market currencies. Now, also Indonesia, Turkey, Brazil, and other countries.  "I see the current [Indian] govt is completely in panic."

India needs to import fuel and pay in dollars; next level: India hasn’t much in nth way of liquid foreign reserves (6 months' worth); on the capital side: hot money was going to India, but now is moving back to home countries. Lots of bad stuff happening simultaneously.    India has rampant domestic inflation, where the bottom half of the population lives close to the bone.  Where will rescue money come from?  [Buy on the cannons, sell on the trumpets? Don’t buy rupees yet!]

FT: The Indian rupee fell to a new low against the dollar on Wednesday and stocks declined after a central bank promise to inject liquidity into the country’s financial markets provided only temporary relief from a deepening sense of crisis.  Bank shares and bond prices had jumped in the morning after the Reserve Bank of India’s latest intervention, but the euphoria quickly evaporated. At one point the rupee was down over 2 per cent and hit a record low of Rs64.55 to the dollar amid investor scepticism about the policies of the RBI and the Indian government. The Sensex stock index fell . . . Indian officials and central bankers say their economy is only one of several emerging markets that are suffering from the flight of investors back towards the US, where the prospect of an end to the Federal Reserve’s ultra-easy monetary policies has made dollar assets more attractive.  [more]

Uncertainty fuels fall in emerging market currencies  What happens when billions of dollars worth of stimulus in the financial system is about to be unwound and historically low interest rates eventually have to be lifted?  Nobody knows, and the uncertainty this seemingly unanswerable question has created in recent weeks is having a damaging effect on many emerging markets as investors cut their exposure to risk.  The dizzying descent of India’s rupee in the past few months is emblematic of the problems facing a number of emerging markets. Its weakening currency – down nearly 16 per cent against the US dollar this year – is driving up the costs of dollar-denominated fuel and raw materials imports crucial to the infrastructure projects it hopes will spur growth. At the same time its bond yields are climbing fast as foreign investors withdraw cash ahead of suspected US Federal Reserve tapering next month – the gradual reining in of the Fed’s $85bn-a-month . . . [more]

Wednesday  21 August 2013 / Hour 2, Block C:  Heather Timmons,  Quartz, in re: " Luxury hotels in China face a triple threat. But, psst—rooms are cheap." [more]    Stupid foreigners have overestimated the hotel market.  St Regis Hotels had a wedding fair to encourage renting out to weddings; Plan B also is to lower prices. Can’t rent what they've got and 50,000 more are coming.  recall the Intercontinental in Tibet, which has brought a global boycott on its head, but now you can't tell if it’s a boycott or just a lousy market. "Gordon: if I went to China right now . . ." "John, If you went to China I think they'd jail  you."  "OK. If someone kind of like me went to China. . ."  The Mandarin Oriental in Shanghai would be nice.  We're having fun, but this is an example of grotesque governance.  All the services are going begging – car rental, everything. 

Wednesday  21 August 2013 / Hour 2, Block D:  Joseph Sternberg, WSJ Asia editorial board, in re: cyberfraud, cybertheft, cybercrime in Vietnam.  Russians, inter al., route their viruses through Vietnam; users there, where pirated software is so prevalent, have lower bandwidth and speed, of which the users may not even be aware.  Pirated software is much more vulnerable to attack. Recall Bill Gates having travelled to Vietnam. Vietnamese know full well that they're using stolen software – a lot of the stuff is in government computers!. Does the Party gain from this?  Wouldn't be surprised, but it's a poor country and the relatively small number of computer users can’t easily afford to pay for licensed software. The leadership could arrest cybercrooks within the country, but need also to educate commercial users: businesses expose themselves to undesirable outcomes with pirated software.  Part is organized crime, part is a learning process. Pirates also discourage local innovation. See: Open Computer Alliance of Southeast Asia.

Hour Three

Wednesday  21 August 2013 / Hour 3, Block A:  Gordon Chang,, in re: A senior Chinese official put pressure on around 30 foreign firms including General Electric and Siemens at a recent meeting to confess to any antitrust violations and warned them against using external lawyers to fight accusations from regulators, sources said.

Speculation that Xi is getting increasingly concerned about Hong Kong; perhaps the massive demonstration in Taipei yesterday will also give him and his new military elite something to think about.

Xi Jinping promotes ten more to PLA general, including two in Hong Kong.  Two days after promoting six senior PLA officials to full general, President Xi Jinping yesterday elevated another 10, including the two senior officials in charge of ideology at the army's Hong Kong garrison. Yue Shixin, the garrison's political commissar, was promoted to lieutenant general on Friday, while the director of its political department, Zhang Zhimeng, was elevated to major general, the Guangzhou Daily reported yesterday. Macau-based military observer Antony Wong Dong said the promotion of Yue and Zhang implied Xi "might be worried about the political situation of Hong Kong". Wang Xiaojun, commander of the Hong Kong garrison, was promoted to lieutenant general three months before his Hong Kong appointment in October last year.

Xi, who is the chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), also promoted eight other officers belonging to the Guangzhou military command to the rank of major general.

The generals are the third batch of senior PLA officers Xi has elevated since he became chief of the military late last year. Xi made Wei Fenghe, commander of the Second Artillery Corps, a full general in November, just eight days after he succeeded Hu Jintao as head of the CMC. He promoted another six officers to full general on the eve of the 86th anniversary of the army's founding on August 1, including Xu Fenlin , chief of the Guangzhou command.  Wong said promoting so many generals from a single geographical command was rare, and the past three rounds suggested Xi was seeking to foster allies and consolidate his grip on the military.

"Guangdong was once the power base of Xi's father, Xi Zhongxun. I think he wants to use his father's connections to win support in the Guangzhou military region to help him consolidate his power," Wong said. Growing tensions in the South China Sea might also be pushing Xi to pay more attention to the region, he said.  A former PLA senior colonel based in Shanghai, who requested anonymity, said promoting major generals and lieutenant generals was the first step for the new CMC chairman to establish his own working team.

Xi Jinping’s Maoist revival, roiling Chinese society and politics, is now beginning to poison China’s business environment as well.  Reuters is reporting that in late July the powerful National Development and Reform Commission brought together representatives from about 30 foreign companies—including GE, Microsoft, IBM, Intel, and Qualcomm—and tried to force them to write confessions of violations of China’s anti-monopoly law.  Chinese officials then showed them the “self-criticisms” of other companies.  The company representatives were also browbeaten, threatened, and warned not to defend themselves. The Cultural Revolution, unfortunately, is returning to China.

The ABC of Chinese ______: "Without coincidence, there is no story."  By Xi Jinping: Document No 9, making threats vs the Chinese people, against anyone speaking in favor of constitutional democracy, civil society – everything the Chinese people want, is the civilian face of the military face we see from Gen Chang.  Absent economic growth, the Party has to generate legitimacy for itself by nationalism; hence the military aggression against Japan and neighbors to the south. 

Wednesday  21 August 2013 / Hour 3, Block B: Jim Finkle, Reuters, in re: Virus targets the social network in new fraud twist  In the world of cyber fraud, a fake fan on Instagram can be worth five times more than a stolen credit card number. As social media has become increasingly influential in shaping reputations, hackers have used their computer skills to create and sell false endorsements - such as "likes" and "followers" - that purport to come from users of Facebook , its photo-sharing app Instagram, Twitter, Google's YouTube, LinkedIn and other popular websites. In the latest twist, a computer virus widely used to steal credit card data, known as Zeus, has been modified to create bogus Instagram "likes" that can be used to generate buzz for a company or individual, according to cyber experts at RSA, the security division of EMC Corp. These fake "likes" are sold in batches of 1,000 on Internet hacker forums, where cyber criminals also flog credit card numbers and other information stolen from PCs. According to RSA, 1,000 Instagram "followers" can be bought for $15 and 1,000 Instagram "likes" go for $30, whereas 1,000 credit card numbers cost as little as $6. It may seem odd that fake social media accounts would be worth more than real credit card numbers, but online marketing experts say some people are willing to spend heavily to make a splash on the Internet, seeking buzz for its own sake or for a business purpose, such as making a new product seem popular. Lesson: If it looks too good to be true, it's thievery.

Wednesday  21 August 2013 / Hour 3, Block C: Bud Weinstein, Bush Institute, in re:

No security in higher oil, gas taxes.  For more than a year, we've heard President Barack Obama proclaim that he supports an "all-of-the-above" energy strategy for America, including increased oil and gas production. But his actions suggest otherwise. At present, all of the Atlantic and Pacific seaboards, along with the vast majority of federally owned lands, remain off-limits to new exploration and production. The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement continues to "slow-walk" permits for deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, and the new secretary of the Department of Energy, Ernest Moniz, has indicated his agency will "take its time" in approving new export terminals for liquefied natural gas. The president's delay and indecision regarding the Keystone XL pipeline that would transport heavy crude oil from Alberta to refineries along the Texas/Louisiana Gulf Crescent also belies Mr. Obama's commitment to "all-of-the-above."  In addition, both the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency want to get into the business of regulating hydraulic fracturing, though there is no evidence the states are being lax in their oversight. Now the president is calling for $90 billion in higher taxes on the U.S. oil and gas industry in his fiscal year 2014 budget. These revenues would be raised largely by disallowing the expensing of intangible drilling costs, repealing the percentage depletion allowance, and prohibiting oil and gas companies from utilizing several provisions of the tax code available to all other industries.


Wednesday  21 August 2013 / Hour 3, Block D: David M Drucker, Washington Examiner Sr Congressional correspondent, in re:  California GOP chair rebuilding the party from scratch

Hour Four

Wednesday  21 August 2013 / Hour 4, Block A: Mark Schroder, Stratfor, in re: Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau may have died after suffering a gunshot wound during a June 30 clash with Nigerian troops, Nigerian army reports said, AFP reported Aug. 19. According to the reports, Shekau could have died between July 25 and Aug. 3

Wednesday  21 August 2013 / Hour 4, Block B: Robert Zimmerman,, in re: In order to protect one species of owl, the Forest Service is going to kill thousands of another species. Environmental idiocy: In order to protect one species of owl, the Forest Service is going to kill thousands of another species . . . read more

Wednesday  21 August 2013 / Hour 4, Block C: Michael Ledeen, FDD & Pajamas Media, in re:  So there’s a global war, we’re the main target of the aggressors, and our leaders don’t see it and therefore have no idea how to win it. Any serious attempt to understand what’s going on has to begin by banning the word “stability,” much beloved of diplomats and self-proclaimed strategists. If anything is fairly certain about our world, it’s that there is no stability, and there isn’t going to be any.  Right now, the driving forces are those aimed at destroying the old order, and their targets (the old regimes, very much including the United States) have until recently showed little taste to engage as if their survival depended on it.  But things are changing, as always.  The war is easily described:  there is a global alliance of radical leftists and radical Islamists, supported by a group of countries that includes Russia, at least some Chinese leaders, Iran, Syria, Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua.  The radicals include the Sunni and Shi’ite terrorist organizations and leftist groups, and they all work seamlessly with the narcotics mafias.  Their objective is the destruction of the West, above all, of the United States. [more]

Wednesday  21 August 2013 / Hour 4, Block D:   Jed Babbin, American Spectator LOOSE CANONS, in re:  Egypt Goes to the Mattresses  And Obama Tattaglia totally misreads the Muslim Brotherhood Barzinis.  [more]