The John Batchelor Show

Wednesday 5 November 2014

Air Date: 
November 05, 2014

Photo, above: Revellers celebrate Guy Fawkes Day. On 5 November 1605, Fawkes unsuccessfully tried to commit the infamous act of terror of blowing up King James I and the Houses of Parliament.


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

Hour One

Wednesday  5 November  2014 / Hour 1, Block A: Bruce Bechtol, professor at Angelo State University and author of North Korea and Regional Security in the Kim Jong-un Era, in re:  Kim Jong-eun has had to kill a lot of people to consolidate his power, which still is unstable. Executions and turmoil are said by some Korea experts to show that Eun is strong – but that makes no sense. Been totally unstable since 2011, unable to focus on either its foreign or domestic policy.   Submarines:  mil policies are continuation of the father's programs, and the accompanying SLBM is part of that. However, this may not be operational any time soon: it's some of the most sophisticated technology in existence.  Eun is throwing a lot of money into huge projects: he's getting $3 billion a year from nuclear proliferation.  In Pyongyang, he just had built a giant new apt complex, moved in successful missile engineers of TaePoDong.  Eun's recent surgery" on his ankle may not be quite as benign as reported – he's 31 years old, has gout and diabetes, inter al.  Kim Jong-il had two wives; the daughter of one is said to be a lot smarter than the boys [not too hard, evidently]. Why do US media avoid reporting on North Korea?  A pack mentality of steering clear of complex stories.  Once a tyranny starts to shoot its citizens, there's no way to stop, or even slow down – Stalin taught us that.  In 2013 we saw the first time that power was riven in DPRK since the founding of the state in 1948.

North Korean Officials Reportedly Executed for Watching Soap Operas  At least 10 North Korean officials have reportedly been put to death recently for the crime of watching South Korean soap operas. The latest public executions reportedly bring to at least 50 the number of people put to death by the hard-line regime for taking in the unauthorized day-time dramas from south of the DMZ, The Independent reports, quoting South Korean sources familiar with a National Intelligence Service (NIS) briefing.

The British newspaper says:  "The officials, who also faced charges of bribery and womanising, were thought to be close to Kim's executed uncle, Jang Song-thaek, Yonhap news agency reported.  "All television and media are under strict state control and access to the internet is limited but, despite a harsh crackdown, banned foreign shows and films have been gaining popularity in recent years. "Some are believed to be secretly streamed over the internet, while others are smuggled into the country on DVDs, video cassettes of memory sticks sold on the black market."

South Korean soap operas are wildly popular throughout Asia, where they are dubbed into local languages. The Wall Street Journal says the dramas "tend to feature outrageous plot lines" and are "characterized by the use of plot twists like birth secrets that connect lovers as blood siblings, or conveniently-timed car accidents that lead to temporary amnesia."  According to Vice News, the source of the information about the latest executions is two South Korean lawmakers who attended a closed parliamentary audit of the NIS. Vice writes: "The briefing also reportedly revealed that Kim Jong-un underwent surgery at the hands of a foreign doctor to remove a cyst from his right ankle. Kim, who had been out of public view for six weeks, recently reappeared in North Korean propaganda walking with a cane. He was previously shown walking with a distinct limp." As we reported earlier, Kim's long absence from the public spotlight spurred considerable speculation and rumor, including that he might have been overthrown. 

Earlier this year, The Guardian reported that illicit South Korean soap operas have become something of an obsession in the North, especially among university students, with the most popular being a medical drama called Dr. Stranger.  "The popularity of Stranger among university students is not waning," [an anonymous] source said in a June story in the newspaper. "No matter how much [authorities] try to step up the crackdowns, there are already many people for whom watching South Korean dramas is part of life. In fact, it is Party officials, their children and students who are driving the popularity."

At the time of the story, the Guardian said that agents from Group 109, which controls "anti-socialist" activities in North Korea, "don't visit the homes of officials much," and that "if students do get caught watching this sort of thing, they can normally get away with a bribe."  If the latest reports prove true, that seems to have changed.

Wednesday  5 November  2014 / Hour 1, Block B: Nury Turkel, former president of Uyghur American Association, now a  Washington lawyer, in re: Radio Free Asia says a Uyghur political prisoner found dead in prison under mysterious circumstances.  Gulja, in the north of Xinjiang in Chinese-occupied Turkestan.  Was 56, accused of "activism," died on 23 Sept, had been sent through a mass trial and apparently was tortured to death.  Many, many instances of extrajudicial killings, of which we rarely hear. Uyghurs have a problem – Han Chinese don’t bother with trials, just shoot prisoners on the spot When Pres Obama goes to Beijing next week we certainly hope he'll raise the matter of Uyghur human rights.  In 2005 Pres Bush reminded Chinese authorities that China had agreed not to use terrorism as an excuse to persecute ethnic and religious minorities.  The Han Chinese have colonized Uyghur territory.  Chinese business interests in the US have become extremely aggressive in their lobbying in Washington.  Islamism has scared some people away.  Chinese effectiveness in using trade and economic relations, and regional cooperation in resolving conflicts [pretending to , that is]  - esp in the Security Council –has tended to silence the Executive Branch. This is one of the worst stories in the world today; it’s to our shame that we haven’t brought more attention to it. 

When the United States and China discuss cooperating against Islamic State later this month, the most prominent outcome is likely to be less criticism of each other's anti-terrorism policies.

Both countries have flagged that President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping will discuss the issue when they meet on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing. Cooperation like sharing intelligence will be difficult. And China will not commit troops or weapons. But simply seeing eye to eye on the problem of Islamic State can pay political dividends, experts and diplomats say, as the United States launches air strikes against the ultra-radicals in Iraq and Syria and China faces condemnation of its hardline tactics in its western Xinjiang region.  "You're mostly likely to see China sit back and not criticize the United States. That is what cooperation looks like," said Philip Potter, an assistant professor at the University of Virginia who studies global terrorism.

Wednesday  5 November  2014 / Hour 1, Block C: Robert Zimmerman,, in re: Update on SpaceShipTwo investigation   Additional details about the investigation into the crash of SpaceShipTwo have now been released.  The investigators are focusing on the telemetry that the pilots were receiving, as well as the system for activating the ship’s braking feathering system.

Turbopump failure in first stage engine eyed for the Antares launch failure   The investigation into the launch failure of the Antares rocket one week ago is now focusing on the turbopump in one of the rocket’s first stage engines.

A mysterious piece of Russian space junk does maneuvers!  What was first thought to be a piece of debris left over from the launch of three Russian military communication satellites has turned out to be a fourth satellite capable of maneuvers. The three satellites were designated Kosmos-2496, -2497, -2498. However, as in the previous launch on December 25, 2013, the fourth unidentified object was detected orbiting the Earth a few kilometers away from “routine” Rodnik satellites.

Moreover, an analysis of orbital elements from a US radar by observers showed that the “ghost” spacecraft had made a maneuver between May 29 and May 31, 2014, despite being identified as “debris” (or Object 2014-028E) in the official US catalog at the time. On June 24, the mysterious spacecraft started maneuvering again, lowering its perigee (lowest point) by four kilometers and lifting its apogee by 3.5 kilometers. Object E then continued its relentless maneuvers in July and its perigee was lowered sharply, bringing it suspiciously close to the Briz upper stage, which had originally delivered all four payloads into orbit in May.

This is the second time a Russian piece of orbital junk has suddenly started to do maneuvers. The first time, in early 2014, the Russians finally admitted five months after launch that the “junk” was actually a satellite. In both cases, the Russians have not told anyone what these satellites are designed to do, though based on the second satellite’s maneuvers as well as its small size (about a foot in diameter) it is likely they are testing new cubesat capabilities, as most cubesats do not have the ability to do these kinds of orbital maneuvers. Once you have that capability, you can then apply it to cubesats with any kind of purpose, from military anti-satellite technology to commercial applications.

Wednesday  5 November  2014 / Hour 1, Block D:  Coral Davenport, NYT, in re: I see that "I'm not a scientist" is a way to explain that you're a Republican candidate . . .

Hour Two

Wednesday  5 November  2014 / Hour 2, Block A: Stephen Yates, chairman of Idaho Republican Party, CEO of D.C. International Advisory, and former advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney, in re:  Every one of our nominees for statewide office won – a glorious night to be chairman of the GOP in the reddest of the red states.  When people in robes in very small numbers can negate what's been accomplished by citizens across a state, [it's a problem].   . . . The comity of Idaho and travel of China: as well as the GOP did in Idaho, doesn’t hold a candle to what the CCP can do in China – your percentages aren’t near to theirs.  The US Administration hasn’t been able to get Asian nations to sign on to its TPP free-trade agreement; upcoming APEC meeting.  Persistent lobbying strategy on the Hill, traditional among presidents, has not been done by the Obama Administration. Trade Promotional Authority facilitates getting big trade agreements through Congress; not working with TPP.  One group for free trade in Southern Pacific, favored by China in order to prevent real trade with high standards; the other is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, favored by Pres Obama, which is not getting off the ground quite well enough.  Pres Obama going to Myanmar (10-11 Nov) and China is not getting [the job done].  In such situations, decisions are normally made before the meeting, although here the US hasn’t laid the groundwork normally.

Wednesday  5 November  2014 / Hour 2, Block B: Nitin Gokhale, anchor at New Delhi Television and author of Beyond NJ 9842, in re: China is building a massive railway into Tibet, to Shigatse*, extended to Indian border to Arunachal Pradesh.  Allows China to move troops very rapidly; to the McMahon Line, and to the Line of Control.  India is belatedly building infrastructure art a furious pace, incl in Ladakh.  The Arunashal Pradesh MP spoke of an East-West road along the McMahon Line ; also air landing strips; also huge Ladakh infrastructure.  In the recent stand-off in ___, Chinese were outnumbered ten to one, which apparently rattled the Chinese.  Were there to be  conflict, the side with better roads will win.  Columbo, Sri Lanka:  Chinese trying to encircle India using Myanmar with submarines -   Sri Lanka, Maldives,  . .

* Shigatse is  the second-largest city in Tibet, located about 280 km (174 miles) southwest of Lhasa and home to the massive and magnificent Tashilhunpo Monastery, traditionally the seat of the Panchen Lama

In Sept 2011:  Security beefed up in Andaman, Lakshadweep to counter Chinese presence   ;

Wednesday  5 November  2014 / Hour 2, Block C: Sadanand Dhume, AEI, and Indian writer & journalist based in Washington, D.C.; in re: Jagdish Bhagwati (Columbia) now saying that the BJP is saying that the BJP is the best bet for Indian economic reform.  . . . A powerful wing of BJP held a pre-Gandhian thread distrustful of capitalism . .  .  Lowest-hanging fruit is undoing some of what the previous govt did, incl a retroactive tax: we suddenly don’t agree with your old returns and are clapping a billion-dollar tax on you.  The new govt "disagrees in principle" but has failed to repeal it.  Intl business looking with interest. Modi could move faster, but in the last three weeks has been picking up momentum; presents his first full budget next February.  It's for the politicos to command the bureaucrats, not the other way around.   . . . Prospects for the Congress Party: not clear that they can come back, since they’ve never been beaten this badly; facing a trifecta of difficulties: The heir-apparent is bad; also Congress has a resource problem; and has an ideology problem. 

"The BJP has never been better placed to claim the mantle of India’s natural party of economic reform. It’s time to consider the possibility that the Congress Party is on its last legs." Full text of both articles: National Interest

Wednesday  5 November  2014 / Hour 2, Block D:   Charles Ortel, managing director of Newport Value Partners, in re: The winner of yesterday's elections was the US dollar.  from 1981 on, when Paul Volcker, to cure problems that had plagued Carter, pushed interest rates way, way up – but US industry surged and wealth flooded into the US.  For all the world problems, the US is still "the least-dirty shirt in the laundry." . . . We've been deferring a badly-needed day of reckoning; by keeping interest rates artificially low, we've allowed [irresponsible amounts] of debt to pile up. China worried about oceans of Chinese cash flowing out, much into the US. Every morning, the Chinese central bank fixes what it wants as a midpoint, and bolsters it by using its regional banks.  Last quarter, $100 billion was removed from Chinese capital reserves.  Chinese investors would be wise to park their cash in US assets, since the dollar will probably be strong for he next few year.    How the Fed's ending of its bond-buying program affects emerging markets.  

Hour Three

Wednesday  5 November  2014 / Hour 3, Block A:  Monica Crowley, Fox, & Washington Times Online opinion editor; in re:

Wednesday  5 November  2014 / Hour 3, Block B: Monica Crowley, Fox, & Washington Times Online opinion editor; in re:

Wednesday  5 November  2014 / Hour 3, Block C: Larry Diamond, Hoover & Foreign Policy magazine; in re: Chasing Away the Democracy Blues

Wednesday  5 November  2014 / Hour 3, Block D: Mark Schroeder, Stratfor, in re:  ECOWAS presses Burkina Faso on civilian rule  The presidents of Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal have urged Burkina Faso to appoint a . . .

Hour Four

Wednesday  5 November  2014 / Hour 4, Block A:  Richard A Epstein, Hoover Institution Defining Ideas, & Chicago Law, in re: The Kidney Crisis  It’s time to let people buy and sell organs on the open market. (1 of 2)

Wednesday  5 November  2014 / Hour 4, Block B: Richard A Epstein, Hoover Institution Defining Ideas, & Chicago Law, in re: The Kidney Crisis  It’s time to let people buy and sell organs on the open market.  (2 of 2)

Wednesday  5 November  2014 / Hour 4, Block C: Hotel Mars, episode n.  Dr. David M. Livingston, The Space Show, and Jeff Foust,  , in re:

Wednesday  5 November  2014 / Hour 4, Block D: Hotel Mars, episode n.  Dr. David M. Livingston, The Space Show, and Doug Messier, in re: