The John Batchelor Show

Wednesday 13 February 2013

Air Date: 
February 13, 2013

Photo, above:  World's tallest building, coming to Khazar Island in Baku, Azerbaijan; see: Hour 2, Block C:  Peter Savodnik, “Azerbaijan Is Rich. Now It Wants to Be Famous.” 


Hour One

Wednesday  13 Feb 2013 / Hour 1, Block A: Stephen Yates, Chief Executive Officer, D.C. International Advisory and former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, in re: China, Japan Dispute Confronts Obama Second Term Asia Agenda; US loses its focus on Asia

China's rhetorical concern for North Korea's nuclear deeds wilk not affect the comfortably-isolated Korean leadership. China is an enabler. Ho do you make DPRK choose between nukes and survival?  Dunno; we've never got it right.  In 2005, Bush cut North Korea off from intl banking, who then had to send mules around he globe with suitcases of paper cash. Now US has prematurely lifted those sanctions.  There is in fact an axis of evil; Iran and DPRK are part of it. One of the bank said to be laundering cash was the Bank of China.  Xi Jinping gains from the third test: he thinks there's no risk of this ringing danger to China, only to the US. Also, he's expansionist and hears pablum from Washington.  China now risks sparking a real war and the US is sending wrong-headed signals. China wants to isolate Japan anent the Senkakus; every time the US is worried abt North Korea goes to Beijing: "Can you help us?" 

Wednesday  13 Feb 2013 / Hour 1, Block B:  Adam Segel, Maurice R. Greenberg Senior Fellow for China Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, in re: U.S. said to be target of massive cyber-espionage campaign.   Question is how to do you raise the cost to China for its misdeeds? One is to create honeypots – distractions to hackers – and keeping important info off  the==the Net. Right now, all the US govt is doing is naming and shaming. Shd the US do to China what it does to us?    France, Israel, and others, engage in industrial espionage, but US has legal restrictions and can't.  We do penalize collaborators with travel sanctions, etc. APT 12 boasts how it got into WaPo and NY Times to ferret info on reporters who revealed the promiscuous financial thefts by China's new leaders. Very expensive contractors can sweep corporate systems.  Apparently the US has better defense than China does. Chinese press frets abt how China depends on the US for routers and software.   PLA becoming a more Netcentric fighting organization, but still not as much so as is the US.

The Peoples Republic of Hacking - China  In an extraordinary story that has become depressingly ordinary, the New York Times reports that Chinese hackers "persistently" attacked the newspaper, "infiltrating its computer systems and getting passwords for its reporters and other employees." The attacks began around the time journalists were preparing a story on the massive wealth the family of China's Prime Minister Wen Jiabao has allegedly accumulated, but the methods, identification, and apparent objectives of the hackers have been seen before in previous attacks on defense contractors, technology companies, journalists, academics, think tanks, and NGOs. Bloomberg, which published . . . [ see article at end of schedule, below]

Wednesday  13 Feb 2013 / Hour 1, Block C: . Dr. Dorothy Z. Oehler, Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science, NASA- Johnson Space Center; David Livingston, The Space Show, in re: episode n.  The first rock ever drilled  on another planet. Your great-great grandchildren will visit, lean over, and inspect what you c an now see on the NASA site.   Rover: Curiosity on Mars. Mineralogy on Mars.  Depositional envt: lake? riverbed? delta?   more sophisticated than just the chemistry. Drilled 2.5-inch hole.

NASA Curiosity Rover Collects First Martian Bedrock Sample 02/09/2013 12:00 AM EST

Wednesday  13 Feb 2013 / Hour 1, Block D:   Evan Ramstad, WSJ Seoul, in re: North Korean nuclear test. New South Korean president unexpectedly delivers hawkish remarks.  South Korea and Russia have good relations ("deep and close"); nonetheless, Russia has diplomatic ties with North Korea. China "makes bland statements about North Korea." KOSPI (ROK stock exchange) barely wiggled after the DPRK nuke test; have become dangerously inured to Kim family's ghastly antics.   It was relatively easy to monitor plutonium tests (fuel cycle; emits radiation), but HEU is much harder to be aware of – and this time DPRK sealed the exits so uranium gas wouldn't escape, making it tricky

  Kerry warns against N. Korea nuke test - The News International   US Secretary of State John Kerry warned on Thursday that North Korea's expected nuclear tests only increase the risk of . . .

Hour Two

Wednesday  13 Feb 2013 / Hour 2, Block A:  Charles Burton, professor at Brock University, in re: Xi Jinping urges CPC to accept criticism  In China, the new boss, worse than the old boss:  cynically fakes inviting criticism from the Chinese populace.  Conclusion it helps to smoke out possible dissidents.   We've heard this sort of thing before in China; in the Ch'ing dynasty, Chinese people actually took the initiatives seriously, bringing on a huge backlash and leading to the end of the dynasty. "The USSR fell apart because they denied Lenin and Stalin," says Xi. Forget liberalization.  In recent weeks, China has turned a slightly less-favorable eye to DPRK: if it develops a small-enough warhead to put on an ICBM< it might one days send one off to China. Kim family no longer serving the needs of Beijing as once it did.  China sends all of DPRK's energy and most of its food in, so expects Kims to kowtow. It ain't working smoothly right now.  How to constrain the North Koreans without threatening the regime's survival?   Note Chinese brutality vs Uyghurs and Tibetans, the lethal threats vs Indians, Taiwanese. In a tradition of bad governance, Xi is actually worse.  He has no idea how to invigorate the Party and bring it in line with social norms of 2013; all he can do is play the nationalist card and clamp down – the billionaire caretaker.  Xi doesn't want to be the last tyrant of the CCP – or go to The Hague for crimes against humanity

Wednesday  13 Feb 2013 / Hour 2, Block B:   Charles Ortel, Managing Partner at Newport Value Partners, in re: Putin Turns Black Gold to Bullion as Russia Outbuys World   Putin touring Magadan, said casually, "Don’t shy away from gold – buy as much as you can" – at $495/oz. Russia started buying and still is.   CO: I think the gold price is being suppressed; Putin bought 570 tonnes. Fundamental problem in Russia is no respect for property rights, meaning no serious investor will put money in. Do have a good fledgling tech industry.  JB: They have first-rate hackers in Odessa.   Earthcam watching Moscow: you can see it wants to grow.  Before 1917, . . . .Problems: shrinking demo, heavy alcoholism; men die young.  O&G fields are antique and decrepit.   US relations with Russia have been mfd miserably.

The gold room, the Great Hall in Catherine the Great's summer palace. See: Hour 2, Block B, Charles Ortel, Managing Partner at Newport Value Partners, in re: Putin Turns Black Gold to Bullion as Russia Outbuys World

Wednesday  13 Feb 2013 / Hour 2, Block C:  Peter Savodnik, author of The Interloper, on Lee Harvey Oswald in the USSR [publ Oct 2013], and NYT writer, in re:  “Azerbaijan Is Rich. Now It Wants to Be Famous.” Ibrahimov, flamboyant builder, is personally a bit shy, hangs out with world-class declasses.

[text begins:]  In March 2010, Ibrahim Ibrahimov was on the three-hour Azerbaijan Airlines flight from Dubai to Baku when he had a vision. “I wanted to build a city, but I didn’t know how,” Ibrahimov recalled. “I closed my eyes, and I began to imagine this project.” Ibrahimov, one of the richest men in Azerbaijan, is 54 and has a round, leathery face with millions of tiny creases kneaded in his brow and the spaces beneath his eyes. He walks the way generals walk when they arrive in countries that they have recently occupied. In the middle of his reverie, Ibrahimov summoned the flight attendant. “I asked for some paper, but there wasn’t any. So I grabbed this shirt in my bag that I hadn’t tried on. I took the tissue paper out, and in 20 minutes I drew the whole thing.”

 Baku wants to be Dubai, but isn’t sleazy enough. Have French-Russian-Azeri history and architecture going back to the early 1900s oil boom.  Ibrahimov's biggest connections are Qatar, Saudi Arabia, also Russians and Turks – all being publicly vague about the plan; looking for domino investing. Right now, most of he money coming from Gulf and Moscow.  Aliyev.

Wednesday  13 Feb 2013 / Hour 2, Block D:  Joseph Sternberg, Asia Wall Street Journal, in re: China's sting of Caterpillar – lots of money; China refuses to respond to requests for clarification.   Why should Beijing care – most of the investors burned were lao gwei – old ghosts – rude name for non-Chinese, or foreigners.  To have a reasonable investment climate, need transparency, rule of law, all that stuff hat the unelected tyrants of Beijing scorn.   Tracing capital domestically would throw a spotlight on the Billions stolen by the thieves running the Party.  As Mao said, "You gotta put politics in command" – meaning that there'll be no free market and the country will long be in a economic tailspin.  Under the Party, capital controls can never be lifted; yuan won’t be freely convertible, no rational exchange system.  Inhibits growth, but not necessarily the Party's control on power, its main interest.

Hour Three

Wednesday  13 Feb 2013 / Hour 3, Block A:  Reza Kahlili, author, A Time to Betray, in re: Al Menar (Hezbollah's TV) station refers to Fordow, where Iran had a deep and hardened underground  uranium enrichment facility that mysteriously blew up in January. Everybody is denouncing Reza – IRNA (Iranian "news" agency), Hezbollah – but not yet North Korea. So many defectors from the regime's military nuclear program have revealed the fearful technology, creating a major headache for Iran.  Fereydoun ___, head of Iran's nuclear agy, . . .   A uranium nuclear bomb in DPRK wd show tat they can arm missiles with nukes; in the near future, we'll see them arm their missiles.  Via the A Q Khan network, China has sold warhead plans widely, incl to Libya. The nuclear test on Monday needs to be a serious alarm to the West.  Iran funds the DPRK program; Fordow showed that someone was aware of the depth of the issue and moved to include Ukrainians, Russians, others, within the facility.  Gen Hassan ____ was killed in Lebanon by the mercenaries of the Zionist regime."

So far, all indications are that the bomb exploded underground on Monday was North Korean-Iranian and that it would fit into the "nipple warhead" used by the ballistic missiles of both countries. The initial analysis of air samples is inconclusive because the North Koreans hermetically sealed the test pit and the amount of radiation that came out is well below previous tests. The name of Fordow has disappeared from not only Iranian media but from much of the world media; as though it's vanished!

Everybody is denouncing Reza – IRNA (Iranian "news" agency), Hezbollah – but not yet North Korea.

Wednesday  13 Feb 2013 / Hour 3, Block B:  . Inspector Jeff Bliss, The Bliss Index, in re: Sturm und Drang around the Dorner event in California.

Wednesday  13 Feb 2013 / Hour 3, Block C:  . Michael Auslin, AI, on North Koreat tests Obama admin, North Korea tests John Kerry 1020.  No more denuclearization for North Korea National Review OnlineJohn Kerry’s first test  AEIdeas

Wednesday  13 Feb 2013 / Hour 3, Block D:   Greg Farrell, Bloomberg News, SEC investigation on Steve Cohen of SAC runs up against email desetr from 2008, what is to be done?

SAC Probe Said to Be Hampered by Auto-Deleted E-Mails

Hour Four

Wednesday  13 Feb 2013 / Hour 4, Block A:  John Bolton AEI, in re:  Iran and SOTU, also what is POTUS intention of “diplomatic solutions” for Iran?

Wednesday  13 Feb 2013 / Hour 4, Block B:  Claudia Rossett, FDD,, in re:   North Korea is not the Hermit Kingdom, exporters of poison to the world of clients for missiles and nukes.   1/29/2013   A Tale of Iran, Syria and a Busy Oil Tanker By Claudia Rosett  Although sanctions have forced Iran to cut back dramatically on its shipping traffic, some Iranian-linked vessels continue to slip through the net. For a brazen example, take the case of an Iranian-flagged oil tanker named the Tour 2, currently off Cyprus, which earlier this month paid a call at the Syrian port of Tartous. The Tour 2 is not on the U.S. sanctions list, though if sanctions are to be the U.S. tool of choice for dealing with Syria and Iran, the Tour 2 comes with a record that should transfix any dedicated

Wednesday  13 Feb 2013 / Hour 4, Block C:  Bob Zimmerman,

Russian investigators, having pinpointed the cause of a December 2012 launch failure, have cleared the Proton rocket to resume commercial launches in March.

It is interesting that this failure of the Proton’s Briz-M upper stage was not related to two previous failures of that same upper stage. It is also interesting that the article does not describe what actions have been taken to correct the problem. If I were a future Proton launch customer I'd be very concerned: three launch failures all related to the Briz-M upper stage, and all from different causes. This appears to suggest some fundamental problems with the stage itself, or with the company that manufactures it.

Wednesday  13 Feb 2013 / Hour 4, Block D:   Sid Perkins, Science magazine, in re:  exact dating of the Yucatan asteroid, Extinction Level Event (ELE)  SCIENCENOW  ScienceShot: Big Smash, Dead Dinos Study provides strongest evidence yet that an asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs

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The People's Republic of Hacking

China’s campaign of cyber attacks has reached epidemic proportions. Can anything be done to stop it?

By Adam Segall

In an extraordinary story that has become depressingly ordinary, the New York Times reports that Chinese hackers "persistently" attacked the newspaper, "infiltrating its computer systems and getting passwords for its reporters and other employees." The attacks began around the time journalists were preparing a story on the massive wealth the family of China's Prime Minister Wen Jiabao has allegedly accumulated, but the methods, identification, and apparent objectives of the hackers have been seen before in previous attacks on defense contractors, technology companies, journalists, academics, think tanks, and NGOs. Bloomberg, which published a story on the wealth of the family of Xi Jinping, China's top leader, has also been reportedly attacked.  While just one case in a sweeping cyber espionage campaign that appears endemic, the attack on the Times does highlight both the willingness of Beijing lean out and shape the narrative about China as well as the vulnerability the top leadership feels about how they are portrayed.

As with many cases of cyber espionage, the break-in is assumed to have started with a spear-phishing email, a socially engineered message containing malware attachments or links to hostile websites. In the case of the attack on the security firm RSA in 2011, for example, an email with the subject line "2011 Recruitment Plan" was sent with an attached Excel file. Opening the file downloaded software that allowed attackers to gain control of the user's computers. They then gradually expanded their access and moved into different computers and networks.

Once in, the hackers are pervasive and fairly intractable. The hackers involved in the attacks on the British defense contractor BAE Systems, for example, were reportedly on its networks for 18 months before they were discovered; during that time they monitored online meetings and technical discussions through the use of web cameras and computer microphones. According to Jill Abramson, executive editor of the Times, there was no evidence that sensitive information related to the reporting on Wen's family was stolen, but in previous cases hackers encrypted data so that investigators had a difficult time seeing what was actually taken.

Evidence that the hackers are China-based in all of these cases is suggestive, but not conclusive. Some of the code used in the attacks was developed by Chinese hacker groups and the command and control nodes have been traced back to Chinese IP addresses. Hackers are said to clock in in the morning Beijing time, clock out in the afternoon, and often take vacation on Chinese New Year and other national holidays. But attacks can be routed through many computers, malware is bought and sold on the black market, groups share techniques, and one of the cherished clichés of hackers is that they work weird hours.

Perhaps the most compelling evidence has been the type of information targeted. The emails and documents of the office of the Dalai Lama and Tibetan activists, defense industries, foreign embassies, journalists, and think tanks are not easily monetized and so would apparently have little attraction to criminal hackers. The information contained in them would be of much greater interest to the Chinese government.

Beijing is pushing its Internet power outside of China into the rest of the world. At home, it controls the flow of information on the Web domestically through censoring and filtering technologies as well as attempts to steer conversations or drown out opposition on social media sites by government-paid commentators, known in China as the 50 Cent Party for the going rate per posting. What the New York Times and other hacks demonstrate is the desire to shape international political narratives as well as gather information from those who might influence the debates on topic of importance to Beijing. The Times' worry that the hackers might take the paper offline on election night also reveals an attempt at intimidation as well as influence.

What will also be dispiritingly familiar in the aftermath of the attacks is the discussion about what can be done. Over the last several years, U.S. government officials have mounted an increasingly public campaign of naming and shaming China. But this has had little effect, and the Chinese response has been one of denial, calling the accusations "irresponsible," noting that hacking is illegal under Chinese law, and pointing out that China is also a victim of cyber crime, most of it coming from IP addresses in Japan, South Korea, and the United States.

So what can be done? Private security experts and U.S government officials say they are getting better at attributing attacks to groups and individuals. If that is the case, then the United States may begin to think about targeted financial sanctions or visa restrictions on identified hackers. What might cause the most difficulty for Beijing, however, are private and government efforts to ensure that reporting of the caliber of New York Times and Bloomberg is made widely available within China through translation and efforts to circumvent the Great Firewall of China. U.S. diplomatic cables posted online by WikiLeaks suggested that the hack on Google in January 2010 was ordered by a member of the Politburo who "typed his own name into the global version of the search engine and found articles criticizing him personally." Wen Jiabao and Xi Jinping might have had the same reaction.

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