The John Batchelor Show

Wednesday 23 October 2013

Air Date: 
October 23, 2013

Photo, above: This nighttime view of Saturn's north pole shows a bizarre, six-sided hexagon feature encircling the entire north pole. The red color indicates the amount of 5-micron wavelength radiation, or heat, generated in the warm interior of Saturn that escapes the planet. Image credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona.  See: Hour 3, Block C,  Robert Zimmerman.


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

Hour One

Wednesday  23 October 2013  / Hour 1, Block A: Arthur Waldron, Lauder Professor of International Relations in the Department of History at the University of Pennsylvania, in re: Railroading a qualified professor (who called for freedom and democracy) out of his job for political reasons.  Imagine forging a real partnership between a major US university ad a Chinese university, We have academic freedom and they don’t – and the non-free part poisons the drink. Bei Da – Beijing University  - has "tie-ups" with the most excellent US universities, which in turn have forgot that the main purpose of Bei Da and its peers is to support the Communist Party.

The Seven Perils: constitutional democracy, free economics, any non-positive analysis of Party  history, etc.  Xi is trying to use this to place himself above the crowd of identical bureaucrats in gray suits.   Bei Da has very smart students and teachers, but they don't teach, they provide training. Business card of a fellow reads "President of Fudan University" n English and "Chairman of Party _____" in Chinese.   . . .  Bo Xilai, in jail for five hundred years, is a threat to Xi Jinping.

China dismisses professor advocating free speech, democratic reforms   A top Chinese university has decided to remove a politically outspoken professor who has advocated for free speech and democratic reform, prompting concern among U.S. academics.  Xia Yeliang said he was notified by Peking University’s School of Economics on Friday that a committee had voted not to renew his contract. Peking University officials did not answer calls to the school Saturday. The action caps weeks of persistent rumors that Xia would be dismissed as well as alarm at the prospect among American scholars, whose universities are increasingly expanding into the lucrative but still politically repressive Chinese market.  In recent years, Xia, a 53-year-old economist, had called for more public discussion of political reform. In 2008, he signed a petition demanding far-reaching ­changes to China’s single-party, authoritarian Communist rule. The party responded by imprisoning the main organizer of the petition, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo.  More recently, Xia has criticized Chinese President Xi Jinping’s favorite new catchphrase about promoting a new “China Dream.”  But what may have offended party leaders most was an open letter Xia wrote in 2009 criticizing Liu Yunshan, who was then head of China’s powerful Propaganda Ministry, for his censorship practices. After he posted the letter, Xia said, university leaders asked him to confess to wrongdoings. Liu has since become one of the seven members of the Standing Committee, which exercises absolute power over the country.

Xia said he was told Friday afternoon that faculty members had voted to oust him at a meeting from which he had been excluded, with 30 voting against him, three supporting him and one abstaining.  “They kept warning me: I cannot tell foreign media I was fired for political reasons but purely academic ones,” Xia said in a phone interview, noting that he had passed an academic assessment without problems late last year. “Even now, having been fired, I cannot say it is political. In China, they can take harsh measures against you — for example, attacking my family members,” he said. “I would remind you that my wife also works at Peking University.” As one of China’s most prestigious institutions, Peking University had come under sharp criticism recently for . . .  [more]

Wednesday  23 October 2013  / Hour 1, Block B: Richard Fisher, Senior Fellow, Asian Military Affairs, at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, in re: Russian, Chinese and Americans in heavy competition to provide Turkey with missiles – and China won with an adequate but cheap missile.  Brussels mtg today with Turks: how do you expect to integrate this into NATO? If it can’t be done. then it isn't acceptable.  Turkey & China co-produced an SRBM in the 1990s.  China now offers four families of aircraft-deliver precision-guided missiles.  . . . 

China's arms industry makes global inroads  From the moment Turkey announced plans two years ago to acquire a long-range missile defense system, the multibillion-dollar contract from a key Nato member appeared to be an American company's to lose.For years, Turkey's military had relied on Nato-supplied Patriot missiles, built by the American companies Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, to defend its skies, and the system was fully compatible with the air-defense platforms operated by other members of the alliance. There were other contenders for the deal, of course. Rival manufacturers in Russia and Europe made bids. Turkey rejected those - but not in favor of the American companies. Its selection last month of a little-known Chinese defense company, China Precision Machinery Export-Import Corp oration, stunned the military-industrial establishment in Washington and Brussels. The sale was especially unusual because the Chinese missile defense system, known as the HQ-9, would be difficult to integrate with existing NATO equipment. China Precision is also subject to sanctions from . . .  [more]

Wednesday  23 October 2013  / Hour 1, Block C: Hotel Mars, episode n. Dr. David M. Livingston, The Space Show, &  Anatoly Zak, author, Russian Space: the past explained, the future explored, in re: Russian divers find chunks of the meteorite (17 meters) that recently hit in the Chelyabinsk Region.  Other hot Russian space articles and rocket news.  Not only was this meteorite not expected, but another astral event occurred almost simultaneously.  It was huge, and the fact that it landed in a lightly-populated area of the southern Urals was lucky for the whole human race.   April 1908, 7:17 AM, in Tunguska: asteroid exploded in the air, unlike Chelyabinsk.

Russia's proton launch vehicle - big, heavy workhorse rocket  - is being delayed again.  Main commercial vehicle for Russian space program. Any delay for a problem found before launch is good. Probably relates to ground station, perhaps the one in South Africa.  Another meteorite, TV-135, discovered by Ukrainian scientist in the Crimea is perhaps half a mile across; 1:63,000 chance of hitting the Earth in 2043(?).  A chancy sort of lottery. A 1,300-ft-wide asteroid moving 20km/second: a bad afternoon here.    Big NEO conference in Washington v soon.  Cold War early-warning displays can be sued for finding incoming asteroids.  It’s routine that many near-Earth asteroids are discovered only after they’ve passed the closest point.

Wednesday  23 October 2013  / Hour 1, Block D: Chris Gadomski, Bloomberg, in re: Abe soft-pedals assessment on Fukushima radioactive water leaks  Prime Minister Shinzo Abe toned down his rosy assessment of the Fukushima nuclear crisis that had helped Tokyo win its bid to host the 2020 ...

Hour Two

Wednesday  23 October 2013  / Hour 2, Block A:  Jayadeva Ranade, president of the Centre for China Analysis and Strategy in New Delhi; was based in the Indian embassy in Beijing during Tiananmen; in re:  confidence-building measures. Events in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh led to the accord.  India had longstanding relations with the USSR, now Russia.  After Russia, Manmohan Singh went to Beijing, but the border military events cast a long shadow on the otherwise amiable meetings in China.  China is worried about US intentions to "contain" China and don't care for India's association with the US. India wants a peaceful border but Chinese territorial claims have been expanding and growing more assertive.  Burgeoning Chinese activities in the Karakorum, and new deals signed between China and Pakistan. 

India, China sign defense accord, but problems persist even as economic ties grow  Six months after a military standoff on their disputed border, the leaders of China and India met Wednesday and signed a defense cooperation agreement to limit the risk of further confrontations.

A day of talks in Beijing between Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh resulted in small pacts on river cooperation and counter terrorism but made little inroads into the deeper issues dogging the two Asian powers, such as the trade deficit, concerns about Pakistan and regional security. “The old dilemmas that bedevil India with respect to China are still intact,” said Ashley J. Tellis, an India expert with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. “I don’t think either side is in a position right now to get to the heart of the matter.”  Singh’s swing through Russia and China this week, along with last month’s meeting with President Obama at the White House, is a farewell tour for the prime minister, who at 81 is seen as frail and ineffectual by his domestic critics as his second term wanes. India’s parliamentary elections are slated for the spring, and he is facing criticism from the opposition that he is being too soft on China.  Singh, a quiet economist, was the architect of many of the reforms that propelled India’s economy forward over the past two decades. But as the country’s growth has slowed and the government has become mired in corruption scandals, his popularity has plummeted.  [more]

Manmohan Singh abroad: US fading; China and Russia fight for India  What is the significance of Manmohan Singh’s visit to Moscow and Beijing, probably his last one as prime minister? Beyond all the pomp and show, military and energy deals, and talks on settling India’s Eastern border, lies the real substance. Singh is finally rethinking the approach of putting all of India’s eggs in the United States’ basket and exploring a consolidation of India’s economic-political relations with other countries, especially China and Russia.[more]

Wednesday  23 October 2013  / Hour 2, Block B: Peter Navarro, producer of the documentary Death by China and professor at UC Irvine, in re: Starbucks is controversial in China.  Similar to the problem met by Apple before the Party shook down the Apple corporation.  The Party is discrediting all foreign business in Chain, pressuring companies to make it easier for domestic firms and to control the Chinese consumer. Polls in China: Do you trust food, pharmaceuticals, cars, made in China? Populace says No.  this'll be stopped only if pres Obama gets on the phone to Xi Jinping and says, "Cut it out."  Food and drink inflation is a big problem in China now – cracking down on baby formula and coffee is a way to control inflation.  Hong Kong govt has cracked down on baby-food smuggling into Mainland.  Foreign firms charge more because they pay more: they actually put milk in baby formula rather than melamine (which is toxic to babies).   . . .  A economist on the Central Committee was trained in North Korea.  . . .  These guys are losers.   Starbucks in China uses Chinese-made coffee mugs, which are cheaper in Chicago than in China because when the mugs are exported they get a gov't subsidy – "[damaging] the American people again."

Wednesday  23 October 2013  / Hour 2, Block C:  Gordon Chang,, in re: nine-minute-old report from China of modestly-improving economy.   The Standing Committee of the Central Committee – a gang.   . . . Xi; leftist supporters of Bo Xilai.   Disarray at the top of the political system and the weakness of its leader, combined with a weak economy, are generating the Maoist revival. Satellite TV programs may have only one foreign program a year, and that not in prime time: the Party wants Party propaganda that wouldn't have a chance in a free market.  Barring these draconian regs, foreign programming would fill all hours.  . . .  Bo represents romantic, ______. ______.  XI Jinping, AL Capone, wanders around with a baseball bat realizes that there's a guy who could take him down – Bo.  The government in Beijing has no legitimacy whatsoever.  There are smiles in gangland tonight.

Wednesday  23 October 2013  / Hour 2, Block D:  Joseph Sternberg, WSJ Asia editorial board, in re:

Hour Three

Wednesday  23 October 2013  / Hour 3, Block A:  Francis Rose, Federal News Radio, & Jeff Bliss, The Bliss Index, in re:  CEOs of Aetna and Kaiser Permanente, and all the heavy hitters, trip up to White House today to meet Val Jarrett and Dennis McDonough. WH to let them know, "We’re at an impasse, with Congressional and maybe legal problems, concerning; will have to delay/extend the deadline.   Four Dem Senators up for 2014 elections – Sens Manchin & Shaeen - . . .   Will need an act of Congress to delay ACA.  House thinks six weeks isn’t nearly long enough; could spark a new fight. list was not hacked; was created by HHS and subsidiaries. Errors  throughout  prices, regions. Kaiser Permanente doesn't even have an Ohio operation. People I spoke with in govt, media, health care: none had seen this list before; asked, Why hasn't this been made public?  . . .  Elijah Cummings, Jerry Connolly: Why are you releasing only parts of the testimonies?  Testifying on Thursday: Sr VP GCI, group exec VP of QSSI; corp counsel of Equifax, and John Lau of ___ -- see: Commerce Committee website.   Typically, each of the contactor points to someone else, says, "What we did is fine; it’s the other company's fault."  "Tech surge:"  govt can't accept free work from companies; contractors  need to open up their code.   Site writer is supposed to maintain it. [Heaven help us.] Frederick Brooks: "Adding manpower to a late project makes it later."

Programmers saw red flags while building Obamacare website  Crammed into conference rooms with pizza for dinner, some programmers building the Obama administration's showcase health insurance website were growing increasingly stressed. Some worked past 10 p.m., energy drinks in hand. Others rewrote computer code over and over to meet what they considered last-minute requests for changes from the government or other contractors. . . . [more]

Wednesday  23 October 2013  / Hour 3, Block B: Francis Rose, Federal News Radio, & Jeff Bliss, The Bliss Index, in re: The ACA.  Tech stat sessions: when a project is not on time, have to report to the White House and explain. Sibelius's averral that Pres Obama knew nothing of the lateness is . . . stretching  it a lot.  IT dvprs refer to "Septic code" – so awful that it has to be entirely re-written since you can’t repair it.  Exchanges need at least five years to construct, and a year to test.  Looks  like 2016 or 2017 or beyond.   NYTimes story hotlink this morning:  this has been hiding in plain site for a while. Standard for govt to put up data.  site.   None of the data on shows subsidies, shows only base price; also, it breaks things down by useless categories.

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Some problems surrounding the so-called "tech surge"

-The government can’t accept free services from companies, so HHS would need to find additional budget to pay for help.

-Another challenge is that CGI, Quality Software Solutions, Booz Allen, and the rest of the contractors would need to agree to open up their code.

-Even if the government recruits talented engineers from consumer tech companies, whoever builds this site has to take care of it.

-The problems with the exchange might not be obvious to a smart Silicon Valley programmer from an Apple or a Google. This kind of a project is complex and requires deep domain expertise. As John Engates, the chief technology officer for the cloud company Rackspace, put it, “I think the downfall of is that they need to integrate with numerous legacy databases: IRS, DHS, Social Security, and myriad state agencies. Any one of those running slow could be the bottleneck.”

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Wednesday  23 October 2013  / Hour 3, Block C:  Robert Zimmerman,, in re: impact craters. Hiyabusa managed to touch the asteroid; finally came back with microscopic pieces of the asteroid.  Now bldg Hiyabusa 2: will touch down, fire into the ground, grab material from the plume.   Exoplanets: now over 1,000 known and many more to come. Gorgeous pictures of the lakes of Titan; expecting rain in Titan's summer and then the lakes to fill up. One Saturnian year is 30 Earth years. 

Wednesday  23 October 2013  / Hour 3, Block D:   John Tamny, RealClearMarkets, in re:  Alan Greenspan naturally is a bit sensitive about  . .  . Became the maestro.  Of course the Fed didn’t have a model to predict the crisis: if they had one, they wouldn't be working at the Fed, they'd be making pots of money.  The Map and the Territory – Greenspan's new book.

Hour Four

Wednesday  23 October 2013  / Hour 4, Block A: The Wolf and the Watchman: A Father, a Son, and the CIA by Scott C. Johnson (1 of 4)

Wednesday  23 October 2013  / Hour 4, Block B: The Wolf and the Watchman: A Father, a Son, and the CIA by Scott C. Johnson (2 of 4)

Wednesday  23 October 2013  / Hour 4, Block C: The Wolf and the Watchman: A Father, a Son, and the CIA by Scott C. Johnson (3 of 4)

Wednesday  23 October 2013  / Hour 4, Block D: The Wolf and the Watchman: A Father, a Son, and the CIA by Scott C. Johnson (4 of 4)

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Hour 1.  Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.   Starship Troopers.

Hour 2.  Assassins Creed.

Hour 3.  Tomorrow Never Dies.   Starship Troopers.iIdes of March

Hour 4.  Green Zone. Black Hawk Down.