The John Batchelor Show

Tuesday 1 April 2014

Air Date: 
April 01, 2014

Photo, above: KGB of Transdniestria informed about Ukrainian espionage   On 25 March an R pilotless flying object which was launched from the territory of the Ukraine was hit in Transdniestria. The press service of the committee of state security of the unacknowledged republic informed about that on Tuesday.

“On the base of the preliminary data it was fixed that the flying object was launched from the territory of the Ukraine by a group of people having relation to operative-technical subdivisions of the Ukrainian security service, The General headquarters of the Ministry of Defense of the Ukraine or members of the “Right sector” with the aim to hold intelligence actions on the territory of Transdniestria” – the claim says. Due to the events in the Ukraine and especially after joining of the Crimea, Transdniestria ordinary citizens and some leaders started to desire to join Russia.

News of Neva already informed that on 24 March the deputy of the Supreme Council of Transdniestria Vyacheslav Tobukh addressed the president of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin with a claim to acknowledge Transdniestrian Republic and join it to Russia.  he majority of the population of the Transdniestria Moldavian Republic, almost not recognized by anybody, are ethnic Ukrainians.  Today they're afraid of . . .   [more]


Co-host: Larry Kudlow, The Kudlow Report, CNBC; and Cumulus Media radio

Hour One

Tuesday  1 April  2014 / Hour 1, Block A: Larry Kudlow, in re: earthquake in Chile, 6-foot tsunami.  Mary Barra in Congress.  Janet Yellin:  told an anecdote on unemployed people (two of whom have criminal records), rather than issue rules -  Taylor Rule, or exchange rate/market price rule.   "These are extraordinary time" – but it's been five years since the crash.    Rare for a Fed head to single out an individual. Pols and presidents do, but Feb people don’t.  Troublesome; and she's offering false hopes, since the Fed cannot bring down the unemployment rate.  Also, photo of Yellin watching a welder at work.  Milton Friedman at the American Economics Assn: money supply  has no lasting impact on employment – that's a fiscal issue. Bad model, leads to wrong results. 

Tuesday  1 April  2014 / Hour 1, Block B: James Pethokoukis, AEI & National Review Online, in re: The new Marxism  Rather than figure out how to improve the economy, Marx and his later acolytes prefer to redistribute what's around and at hand. L'économiste célèbre Thomas Piketty, author of a 75-page tome on contemporary capital and specialist in the study of economic inequality, doesn't even explore capitalism for the masses, i.e., labor owning the means of production.   Think of middle-class union workers: they’re invested in gigantic pension funds that own stocks and bonds. If the ownership value rises, the workforce shares substantially in that benefit of capital. Also 401K plans (unpopular on te left). In France, Hollande, the Socialiste, just got slaughtered at the polls.  "We'll have a supply-side assault" – lower taxes. Thomas Piketty's 750-page book is to "raise the consciousness of the proletariat."  Proposes taxes of 80% - this will require a massive police presence.

The new Marxism, part two / Leftists have their dearest Das Kapital fantasies confirmed by the theories of a Parisian economist. It’s certainly an ill century of mass destruction and economic upheaval that blows no one any good. In the buzz-generating (at least on the left) new book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, l'économiste célèbre Thomas Piketty of the Paris School of Economics argues that two world wars and a depression did have one upside: Those systemic shocks momentarily reversed capitalism’s inherent drive toward increasing inequality in Western economies, including the United States. Physical capital was destroyed, businesses nationalized, and taxes raised to previously unheard-of levels.

In short, the wealthy and the near-wealthy really took it on the chin. The top 10 percent in the U.S. went from grabbing 45–50 percent of national income in the 1910s and 1920s to 30–35 percent by the end of the 1940s. And the share of national income claimed by owners of capital (including property, machinery, financial assets, and patents) versus labor fell to historically low levels.

The next generation was an age, as Democrats like to put it, of “shared prosperity.” A rising tide lifted all boats about the same amount. But by the 1980s, capital, much like Tolkien’s phantasmal villain, Sauron, “began to reconstitute itself,” according to Piketty. Taxes were cut, industry was deregulated. American inequality is now back to where it was before global war and depression — and probably headed higher, as Piketty sees things. According to Piketty, if we don’t have another global conflagration or collapse, we’ll enter an “endless egalitarian inegalitarian spiral” of ever-greater wealth concentration, right out of the pages of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital. Unless, of course, to save democracy, all advanced economies adopt a global wealth tax on the net worth of capitalism’s financial elite. All fortunes of the superrich would be detailed and registered, with sanctions levied against international tax havens.  Now recall the 1999 comedy Galaxy Quest, which parodied the original Star Trek television series and the way . . .

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Wikipédia:  L'évolution des inégalités en France   Ces travaux ont permis de faire ressortir un ensemble de faits importants. En particulier, Thomas Piketty montre que les inégalités de revenus ont fortement baissé au xxe siècle en France, essentiellement après la Seconde Guerre mondiale. Cette baisse des inégalités est, pour une large part, due à la diminution des inégalités de patrimoine, tandis que les inégalités salariales restaient stables. Pour Thomas Piketty, cette baisse résulte de l'effet de la création de l'impôt sur le revenu, et du fort accroissement de sa progressivité après la guerre, qui a entravé la dynamique de l'accumulation patrimoniale, en diminuant l'épargne disponible pour les plus grandes fortunes. Thomas Piketty est, pour cette raison, très défavorable aux baisses de la fiscalité intervenues depuis les années 1990, car celles-ci auront pour lui comme conséquence probable la reconstitution de ces grandes fortunes, souvent rentières. Or, en supprimant la classe des rentiers, peu active économiquement, qui dominait la hiérarchie des revenus, et en la remplaçant par des actifs obtenant leurs revenus de leur travail, cette diminution des inégalités a, selon Thomas Piketty, permis de dynamiser la croissance économique. Dans une étude statistique, il s'est par ailleurs efforcé de montrer que l'« effet Laffer », voulant que des taux marginaux d'imposition élevés sur les hauts revenus poussent ceux-ci à moins travailler, était probablement nul ou faible dans le cas de la France.

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Tuesday  1 April  2014 / Hour 1, Block C: William Damon (Senior Fellow and member of the Virtues of a Free Society Task Force), and Defining Ideas (Hoover  Institution), in re: A Nation of Entrepreneurs? The Young Entrepreneurs Project, joint effort of Stanford and Tufts. Needs to start as early as possible, certainly by teenage years: curiosity, bringing together unknown opportunities, perseverance and grit – all these are ideally developed early.  . . .

A Nation of Entrepreneurs? Our economy relies on innovation but our schools are failing to cultivate it.  Entrepreneurship has played a decisive role in American identity and aspirations, but it is a role marked both by uncertainty and longing. Ronald Reagan, who spoke fondly of a "nation of entrepreneurs," referred to entrepreneurs as "forgotten heroes." He remarked that "we rarely hear about them. But look into the heart of America, and you’ll see them. They’re the owners of that store down the street . . . the brave people everywhere who produce our goods, feed a hungry world, and invest in the future to build a better America."

We do hear a lot about them today, at least about those who have created the enterprises that have filled the world with computing and communications devices and seem to be literally minting money in the process. Economic prognosticators see entrepreneurship as the main—no, perhaps the sole—pathway to a prosperous future. One labor expert quoted by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman asserts that successful job candidates these days need to be "inventors and solution-finders who are relentlessly entrepreneurial." The days of large labor forces with places for every good steady worker are vanishing fast. As many news outlets have noted, one recent canary in the mine is the valuation of a 55-employee company (Whatsapp) at nineteen billion dollars. It does not take many salaried jobs to run many of our emerging companies, a reality that future workers may need to adapt to by becoming entrepreneurs themselves. Yet the large majority of the U.S. working population is . . .

Tuesday  1 April  2014 / Hour 1, Block D: Lanhee J. Chen, Bloomberg View, in re:    Even Conservatives Can Learn to Like Obamacare

Hour Two

Cold War Again: Who’s Responsible?   Stephen F. Cohen   April 1, 2014    In the name of ‘democracy,’ the West has unrelentingly moved its military, political and economic power ever closer to post-Soviet Russia.    The East-West confrontation over Ukraine, which led to Moscow’s annexation of Crimea but long predated it, is potentially the worst international crisis in more than fifty years—and the most fateful. A negotiated resolution is possible, but time may be running out.

A new Cold War divide is already descending in Europe—not in Berlin but on Russia’s borders. Worse may follow. If NATO forces move into western Ukraine or even to its border with Poland, as is being called for by zealous cold warriors in Washington and Brussels, Moscow is likely to send its forces into eastern Ukraine. The result would be a danger of war comparable to the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.

Even if the outcome is the non-military “isolation of Russia,” today’s Western mantra, the consequences will be dire. Moscow will not bow but will turn, politically and economically, to the East, as it has done before, above all to fuller alliance with China. The United States will risk losing an essential partner in vital areas of its own national security, from Iran, Syria and Afghanistan to threats of a new arms race, nuclear proliferation and more terrorism. And—no small matter—prospects for a resumption of Russia’s democratization will be terminated for at least a generation.

Why did this happen, nearly twenty-three years after the end of Soviet Communism, when both Washington and Moscow proclaimed a new era of “friendship and strategic partnership”? The answer given by the Obama administration, and overwhelmingly by the US political-media establishment, is that President Vladimir Putin is solely to blame. The claim is that his “autocratic” rule at home and “neo-Soviet imperialist” policies abroad eviscerated the partnership established in the 1990s by Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin. This fundamental premise underpins the American mainstream narrative of two decades of US-Russian relations, and now the Ukrainian crisis.

But there is an alternative explanation, one that’s more in accord with historical facts. Beginning with the Clinton administration, and supported by every subsequent Republican and Democratic president and Congress, the US-led West has unrelentingly moved its military, political and economic power ever closer to post-Soviet Russia. Spearheaded by NATO’s eastward expansion, already encamped in the three former Soviet Baltic republics on Russia’s border—and now augmented by missile defense installations in neighboring states—this bipartisan, winner-take-all approach has come in various forms.

They include US-funded “democracy promotion” NGOs more deeply involved in Russia’s internal politics than foreign ones are permitted to be in our country; the 1999 bombing of Moscow’s Slav ally Serbia, forcibly detaching its historic province of Kosovo; a US military outpost in former Soviet Georgia (along with Ukraine, one of Putin’s previously declared “red lines”), contributing to a brief proxy war in 2008; and, throughout, one-sided negotiations, called “selective cooperation,” which took concessions from the Kremlin without meaningful White House reciprocity and followed by broken American promises.

All of this has unfolded, sincerely on the part of some of its proponents, in the name of “democracy” and “sovereign choice” for the many smaller countries involved, but the underlying geopolitical agenda has been clear. During the first East-West conflict over Ukraine, occasioned by its 2004 “Orange Revolution,” an influential Republican columnist, Charles Krauthammer, acknowledged, “This is about Russia first, democracy only second.… The West wants to finish the job begun with the fall of the Berlin Wall and continue Europe’s march to the east.… The great prize is Ukraine.” The late Richard Holbrooke, an aspiring Democratic secretary of state, concurred, hoping even then for Ukraine’s “final break with Moscow” and to “accelerate” Kiev’s membership in NATO.

That Russia’s political elite has long held this same menacing view of US intentions makes it no less true—or any less consequential. Formally announcing the annexation of Crimea on March 18, Putin vented (not for the first time) Moscow’s longstanding resentments. Several of his assertions were untrue and alarming, but others were reasonable, or at least understandable, not “delusional.” Referring to Western (primarily American) policy-makers since the 1990s, he complained bitterly that they were “trying to drive us into some kind of corner,” “have lied to us many times” and in Ukraine “have crossed the line,” warning: “Everything has its limits.”

We are left, then, with profoundly conflicting Russian-Western narratives and a political discourse of the uncomprehending, itself often the prelude to war. Putin has been demonized for years, so little he says on Moscow’s behalf receives serious consideration in Washington. His annexation speech, for example, was dismissed as a “package of fictions” by former secretary of state Madeleine Albright. Nothing in Washington’s replies diminishes Putin’s reasonable belief that the EU trade agreement rejected by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in November, and Yanukovych’s overthrow in February by violent street protests, leading to the current "illegitimate" government, were intended to sever Ukraine’s centuries-long ties with Russia and bind it to NATO. (Today’s crisis was triggered by the EU’s reckless ultimatum, despite Putin’s offer of a “tripartite” agreement, which compelled an elected president of a deeply divided country to choose economically between the West and Russia, an approach since criticized by former German chancellors Helmut Kohl and Gerhard Schröder. The EU’s proffered “partnership” also included little-noticed “security” provisions requiring Ukraine’s “convergence” with NATO policies, without mentioning the military alliance.)

Meanwhile, on both sides, belligerent rhetoric escalates, military forces are being mobilized and provocations mount in Ukraine’s political civil war, with toughs in black masks, armed militias, “spontaneous” secessionist demonstrations and extremist statements by some of Kiev’s would-be leaders. Anything is now possible—actual civil war, Ukraine’s partition and worse. Tit-for-tat “sanctions” are mostly a perfunctory sidebar that only exacerbates the situation.

There is a diplomatic way out. Putin did not begin or want this crisis; among other costs, it obliterated the achievement of his Sochi Olympics. Nor did he initiate the unfolding Cold War, which was inspired in Washington years before he came to power. Western policy-makers should therefore take seriously the adage, “There are two sides to every story.” Is Putin right, as he also asserted on March 18, that Russia “has its own national interests that must be taken into account and respected,” particularly along its borders? If the answer is no, as it has seemed to be since the 1990s—if Putin is correct in angrily protesting, “Only they can ever be right”—then war is possible, if not now, eventually. But if the answer is yes, proposals made by Putin’s foreign ministry on March 17 could be the starting point for negotiations.

Briefly summarized, those proposals call for a US-Russian-EU contact group that would press for immediate disarming of militias in Ukraine, as the Ukrainian Parliament ordered on April 1; a new federal Constitution giving more autonomy to pro-Russian and pro-Western regions; internationally monitored presidential and parliamentary elections; and a “neutral military-political” (that is, non-NATO) government in Kiev shorn of its extreme nationalist (some observers think “neofascist”) ministers; and maintaining Ukrainian-Russian economic relations essential to both countries. In turn, Moscow would recognize the legitimacy of the new government and Ukraine’s territorial integrity, thereby disavowing pro-Russian separatist movements well beyond Crimea, though without returning the annexed peninsula. It would also vote for a UN Security Council resolution affirming the settlement and, possibly, contribute to the multibillion dollars needed to save the country from financial collapse.

The Obama administration’s reaction to Moscow’s proposals, which it has barely acknowledged publicly, is far from adequate. While accepting the need for some kind of federal Ukrainian Constitution and a presidential election, the White House opposes new parliamentary elections, which would leave the existing Parliament strongly influenced, even intimidated, by its ultranationalist deputies and their armed street supporters, who recently threatened to impose their will directly by entering the building. Nor is it clear that Obama shares Putin’s grave concern that militias are further destabilizing the country.

Meanwhile, the White House insists that Moscow annul the annexation of Crimea (a nonstarter), reduce its forces on Ukraine’s borders and deal directly with the unelected Kiev government. Moreover, nothing the West has said suggests that it no longer intends to expand NATO to Ukraine; indeed, on March 31, NATO’s political chief, echoing Krauthammer from a decade ago, declared that the military alliance’s “task is not yet complete.” Still worse, Brussels seems to be using the crisis to deploy troops deeper into Eastern Europe, toward Russia.

Even if these differences narrow, would Putin be a reliable partner in such negotiations? “Demonization of Vladimir Putin,” Henry Kissinger recently wrote, “is not a policy.” Nor does it recall that the Russian leader has assisted US and NATO troops in Afghanistan since 2001; supported harsher sanctions against Iran in 2010; repeatedly called for “mutually beneficial cooperation” with Washington; generally pursued a reactive foreign policy; and, as a result, been accused by harder-line elements in his own political class of appeasing the West. (No, Putin is not an all-powerful “autocrat”; and, yes, there is a high-level politics around him.)

Much, therefore, now depends on President Obama. He will have to rise to the kind of leadership capable of rethinking a twenty-year bipartisan policy that has led to disaster, and do so in Washington’s rabid anti-Putin, Russophobic atmosphere. There is a precedent. Three decades ago, America’s most Cold War president ever, Ronald Reagan, sensing in Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev enough in common, resolved to meet him halfway, despite protests by close advisers and much of his own party. Together, those two leaders achieved such historic changes that both believed they had ended the Cold War forever.

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Tuesday  1 April  2014 / Hour 2, Block A:  Stephen F. Cohen, NYU & Princeton prof Emeritus;  author: Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War, & The Victims Return: Survivors of the Gulag after Stalin; (1 of 4) in re: NATO is considering sending troops to _____; suspended relations with Russia in response to Crimea. Poland requests that NATO send 10,000 troops (two heavy brigades, armored infantry).  Polish Foreign Minister wants troops to march and NATO is listening.  The East-West confrontation over Ukraine is potentially the worst intl crisis in 50 years . . .  If NATO forces move to Poland's border with Ukraine;, Moscow probably will send its troops there. " -- that'd be the worst scenario. We know that NATO aircraft are already in Poland.  Very dangerous euphemism: "We'll send trainers."  Usually run out of the US embassy; in the case of Georgia, led to the proxy war between the US and Russia.    Why is it that at the moment we hear that US and Russia are about to sit down to negotiate a settlement, we get these [hysterical & destabilizing] calls from Europe? Just asking.

Tuesday  1 April  2014 / Hour 2, Block B: Stephen F. Cohen (2 of 4), in re: Lavrov and Kerry had narrowed the wide chasm, agreed: need a new Ukrainian  constitution (federal; new elections – US want presidential, while Moscow want parliamentary, also; Russia wants a guarantee that Ukraine will continue to participate in the Russian market. With this good news, a sudden escalation of the crisis. Poland has been leading the crisis, but it's too small to be the [ringleader].  We know it’s not Germany. Let's say that 15,000 NATO troops arrive and US trainers show up n Kiev: that'll be the end of the agreement. Daily Telegraph reports:  "Armenia, Azerbaijan and Moldova may benefit from increased NATO support."—German paper reports a restricted NATO document.  SJC:  "They want the dictatorship of Azerbaijan to be in the front line of democracy??"  NATO doesn't want to go out of business; backing Poland may be Baltic nations plus Sweden, maybe someone in Washington: who wants this crisis to escalate? John McCain and Lindsay Graham?

Tuesday  1 April  2014 / Hour 2, Block C: Stephen F. Cohen (3 of 4), in re: Moscow always says that it regards he interim govt in Kiev as "illegitimate."  Mindset of the "bandits" who've taken over in Kiev.  May 25 snap election: Dmitri Yarash, leader of Right Sector (brutality and murder), -plus leader of Svoboda ("ultranationalist"); also Poroshenko, the Chocolate Oligarch, who owns a major TV network in Ukraine, and puffs himself as both brave and moderate. Oleh Tyahnybok heads Svoboda (Freedom) Party, which is related to Right Sector.    Militias tried to break into the parliament, which finally woke up Washington, who'd been resisting Moscow's call for disbanding of militias.   Russia wants parliamentary elections so that whoever is elected president will have to deal with the gangs in the streets.  Yulia Tymoshenko's reputation in Ukr has plummeted. Klitschko will endorse Porosheko and run for mayoralty of Kiev.   Need all regions to vote; ergo, a federal constitution. Russians insist on this and in this matter are right.  Partition?  Different historical models. Federalism is one of the hardest systems to implement.  At present, it’s a unitary state. Tymoshenko has been in the media saying violently anti-Russian things, used by Moscow to illustrate its view that there's violence and excess.

Tuesday  1 April  2014 / Hour 2, Block D: Stephen F. Cohen (4 of 4), in re: Timoshenko, now making intense anti-Russian statements ("Nuke 'em), is no longer a primary player.  Politics  have moved far to the right.  Someone released a phone call: "If I had a rifle, I'd put a bullet in Putin's head; leave Russia as scorched earth."   In other words, she's trying to position herself rightward of where she is.  Also, Washington has no interest in her.  In her careless speech, the vulgar Nuland ignored Yulia.  If Ukraine accepts the IMF bailout package (an ice-cold shower), it’ll be very rough   Yaresh ("neofascist").  Maybe the guys n the streets want two Ukraine: a Ukraine without Russians, Jews, or gays.   The party called "racist, anti-Semitic, xenophobic" is the one Washington is embracing.  Western Ukraine, impoverished or not will go to the west – Poland strengthened, Russia weakened. 

Telephone calls coming in naming the John Batchelor Show as, "Neocon pro-Soviet fascist stooge bagmen."  We're all a little curious about the "bagmen" part.

1-800-STOOGES  . . .

Hour Three

Tuesday  1 April  2014 / Hour 3, Block A: Jamie Dettmer , The Daily Beast, in re: UKRAINE CRISIS   Kiev's Russian-Traine  d Assassins
  The slaughter of 53 protesters in the Maidan on February 20 changed history. Now, exclusive photographs show what really happened.

Tuesday  1 April  2014 / Hour 3, Block B: Jamie Dettmer , The Daily Beast, in re: UKRAINE CRISIS   Kiev's Russian-Traine  d Assassins
  The slaughter of 53 protesters in the Maidan on February 20 changed history. Now, exclusive photographs show what really happened.

Tuesday  1 April  2014 / Hour 3, Block C: Salena Zito, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review & Pirates fan, in re:    When my son, Glenn, was born, his first day home from the hospital came only after he and the rest of my family enjoyed a Pirates game against the Cincinnati Reds at Three Rivers. He joined a 3-year-old sister, Shannon, who already was able to knock a Wiffle ball over the top of our three-story house with her big red bat.

By the time she was 9, Shannon was a left-handed pitcher, first baseman and the only girl on her Little League team, holding the opposing squad scoreless for five innings in a travel baseball tournament and earning MVP honors. By the time Glenn was 9, he broke the brand-new scoreboard, shattering its glass Roy Hobbs-style, in his travel baseball tournament and also broke a tie to win the game.

Baseball cost both kids a couple of teeth, two pairs of eyeglasses and several windows lost to wild pitches. Glenn practiced his pitching against our home's back fence so often that he wore a perfect baseball-sized hole in one slat. Our family connection to baseball is not unique. You see it all across the country, in various demographics — black, white; rich, poor; at a Major League field, a Triple-A ballpark or the local sandlot.

Opening Day is the signal that the wait is over: Put away the snow shovel and begin to live again. Similarly, America gets born again every day, Pietrusza said: “It is a society based on change, often for the sake of change. But people also crave a certain amount of stability, and baseball bridges both sentiments — it is the most traditional of sports. The most historical as well.”

Your team may be your father's or your grandfather's team, he explained. “That counts for something in a world where different generations now seem to come from distant galaxies.” For my family, Opening Day was the equivalent of church, and we never missed a home opener together until the kids went off to college.  Tomorrow, our tradition continues with the hope that maybe, just maybe, this year is the one when the Pirates will go all the way. LINK

Tuesday  1 April  2014 / Hour 3, Block D: Mary Anastasia O'Grady, WSJ THE AMERICAS, in re:  Who Is Killing Venezuela's Protesters?

Hour Four

Tuesday  1 April  2014 / Hour 4, Block A: Megan McArdle, Bloomberg View, in re:  Obamacare: What We Know and What We Don't  Today is the end of the beginning for the Affordable Care Act.   Open enrollment closes today and, anecdotally, there has been a big surge in traffic, a heroic tribute to the American powers of procrastination. At this rate, the number of plan selections looks like it might hit, or at least get close to, 7 million. That won't mean 7 million people actually enrolled in health insurance, but it will certainly be a marketing coup for President Barack Obama's administration.

Nonetheless, as I wrote last week, there's still an immense amount we don't know. This morning's Los Angeles Times brings optimistic-sounding news based on a Rand Corp. enrollment survey. As the article puts it: . . .  [more]

Tuesday  1 April  2014 / Hour 4, Block B:   Betsy Hiel, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, in re: Nearly 28 years after Chernobyl disaster, life goes on in 'exclusion zone'   Misha Tefflenko's family of eight fled the village of Fabrykivka in 1993, when radiation levels rose too high. They and 300 other townspeople were resettled across Ukraine.  “We were given a new flat, but my parents had to find new jobs, and my granny was settled in another town,” said Tefflenko, now 25 and a tour guide in what he calls “a rather unique place.”  He is checked for radiation exposure “all the time, and once a year we have to pass a medical test. … I have been here for three years. You see, no mutations,” he said, lifting his hands.

On April 26, 1986 — when Russia still ran things here — control-room workers at Reactor No. 4 of Chernobyl's nuclear plant committed a fatal series of errors during a safety test. They triggered the reactor's meltdown and the world's worst nuclear accident.  [more]

Tuesday  1 April  2014 / Hour 4, Block C:  Robert Zimmerman,, in re: Scientists have developed a bacterium that can brew high energy rocket fuel.  There are issues still that need to be solved before these bugs will be creating fuel for astronauts in space, but the process is promising, especially since it could significantly lower the cost of rocket fuel if they get it to work.

NASA has extended its commercial cargo contracts with SpaceX and Orbital Sciences until 2017.  Since the notice says that “the modifications would be made ‘at no cost’ to the agency, and that they would be “executed one year at a time,” the extension is probably just designed to give the two companies sufficient time to launch all their cargo missions in the present contracts.  Nonetheless, the posting also said that other companies could compete for NASA’s business during this extension, which leaves the door open for more competition.

Tuesday  1 April  2014 / Hour 4, Block D:   Seb Gorka, Breitbart – The Briefing, in re:  Former KGB colonel and Russian President Vladimir Putin (aka Vlad the Invader) initiated a phone call with the Commander-in-Chief yesterday to discuss diplomatic solutions to the Ukrainian crisis. Crimea was apparently not mentioned, giving the impression that that train has left the station on that front. Nothing to discuss there. Given the fact that the day before the UN General Assembly failed to issue a resolution to condemn the annexation of the peninsula, the colonel’s timing was impeccable. 

In fact, instead of being forcefully challenged, Putin completely controlled the agenda and instead wanted to talk about the “unjust” isolation of the contested territory of Transdniestria, a pro-Moscow enclave 500 miles further west into Central Europe and on the other side of the Ukraine. It seems the Kremlin has a plan and phase two has begun. (FYI: for those who have never heard of this breakaway republic, it also, like Crimea, is home to ethnic Russians, has had Russian forces stationed there since 1992, and is so pro-Moscow that its “national” flag is basically the same as the Soviet Union’s albeit with a green line through the middle!)

What does any of this mean? In my previous pieces here on Breitbart, I have aimed to open a discussion on why the fate of the Ukraine is not irrelevant to the national interests of America and the average American. The way the crisis is evolving (or degenerating, rather) allows us to make a broader “macrostrategic” observation.  The unburnished truth is that . . .  [more]

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