Nicholas Burns, Harvard University & former US Undersecretary of State

If you’re looking for a region that provides a grab bag of major, potentially destabilizing issues, you’d have to look first at the Middle East. Egypt. Syria. Iran. Israel. Gaza. Nearly everywhere, a major issue and major choices. How to engage with Egypt, as President Morsi seems to reach for more power? How to balance quickly changing events in Syria, where the Russians weighed in this week just as President Obama officially recognized the Syrian rebels. How to walk this line? Nicholas Burns has had plenty of expereince. A former Under Secretary of State for Public Affairs, Burns served in the US governement for 27 years, around the globe. He now is Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics, Harvard Kennedy School. (Originally broadcast 12-16-12 on The John Batchelor Show)


Gov. George Pataki on Public Infrastructure

Of the many areas that Hurricane Sandy exposed in New York, New Jersey and beyond was the importance of our public infrastructure — and just how fragile it is. From our subways to our roads, it didn’t take much to see how a major storm could reduce us all to our basic needs. But of all the infrastructure failures, perhaps none was more devasating — or long-lasting — as what happened to our power grid. People were without electricity for weeks, bringing questions and anger to the front of peoples minds. What are our options? Is it even possible to make the wholesale changes needed to upgrade our power grid? From a public policy point of view — and a business competitive point of view — can we afford not to? Former NY Gov. George Pataki, now with the law firm Chadbourne & Parke in New York, has been studying the issue and comes with possible solutions. (Originally broadcast 12-16-12 on The John Batchelor Show)

Paul Tough, Author, “How Children Succeed”

The question “how children succeed” is as complex and controversial as it is direct. It’s a question that antagonizes on the micro level — what parent doesn’t worry endlessly about what skills and advantages Johnny or Susie needs? — just as it confounds on the macro level — how should our country educate the young in a hyper-connected world where competition is global, intense and increasing? For many of us it’s been called the “Rug Rat Race,” the answer has seemed to be: Push your child more. Provide more and more information. Learn and test. Learn and test. But what if that answer is wrong? What if instead of learning “what”, our kids should be learning much more “how.” How to connect. How to adapt. How to persevere? Based on a whole lot of research and stories to fill out the science, that’s the conclusion of Paul Tough, author of the appropriately named and influential new book “How Children Succeed.” (Originally broadcast 9-8-12 on The John Batchelor Show)

Sheryl WuDunn, China Expert

Only a month after the first change to the head of China’s Communist Party in a decade, and already, the change is being felt. From a campaign against corruption to a push for greater military strength, the impact of Xi Jinping is already being felt. In March he is expected to take over as Chinese President, running a country that has seen its economic engine slow and internal threats from the environment to privacy to activism continuing to grow. How should we think about China’s changing role in the region? What does it mean for global business and, indeed, our US domestic economy? Sheryl WuDunn is a China expert at advising middle market firms and a former Pulitzer Prize winner at the New York Times. (Originally broadcast 12-16-12 on The John Batchelor Show)

Dr. Kurt Schuler, US Dept. of Treasury & Center for Financial Stability

In July 1944, more than 700 delegates representing all 44 Allied nations gathered at the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, NH. The goal was the find new ways to manage global finance following World War II. Among the agreements – establishing the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and the International Monetary Fund. But detailed notes — transcripts — of the heated discussions were never known. Until now. Dr. Kurt Schuler of the US Treasury Dept. and the Center for Financial Stability is also an economic historian. And in a nifty bit of economic sleuthing, he not only found one copy of the transcripts, he found three. And he has spent his free time cleaning up the transcripts and, now, publishing them as an 800-page e-book by the Center for Financial Stability. (Originally broadcast 12-16-12 on The John Batchelor Show)

Lori Greiner, Shark Tank & QVC

My next conversation is with a shark. That’s right – and I’ll call her that to her face. That’s because she is Lori Greiner, inventor, entrepreneur, star on one of the hottest shows on TV – ABC’s Shark Tank – and, as if you didn’t know, the Queen of QVC. The numbers are staggering: Lori has created more than 300 consumer products; she holds over 100 patents; she has sold half a billion dollars of products on two continents, through television and the Internet. She has hosted her show on QVC for 10 years, and “Shark Tank” is the highest-rated show on Fridays, bringing in more than 7MM viewers. (Originally broadcast 10-27-12 on The John Batchelor Show)

Dan Perry, AP Jerusalem Bureau Chief and Acting Middle East Editor

The headlines from the Middle East don’t seem to stop. In Egypt, a vote on a draft constitution that many in the opposition felt would be anything but constitutional. In Israel, just weeks after violent battles in Gaza, continuing worry over instability across the region and upcoming elections where the left and center-left struggles to find a candidate. And we haven’t touched Syria, Iran or Jordan. How to make sense of all the movement? Dan Perry is AP Jerusalem Bureau Chief and interim Middle East Editor, and he joins us now from Israel. (Originally broadcast 12-16-12 on The John Batchelor Show)

Lawrence Krauss, Theoretical Physicist; Director, Origins Project

In late 1977, many of us were amazed by the possibility: NASA had launched Voyagers I & II to study the outer reaches of space. These vessels would do more than thrill Trekkies — they would help us understand where the solar system ends and maybe more. Fast forward some 35 years later. Today Voyager I either has or is about to leave our solar system. What will it find? What lies beyond? What might we learn? Few this side of Captain Kirk spend more time thinking about what lies beyond outerspace — and, indeed, how it all began, than Lawrence Krauss. Where to start: Dr. Krauss is a theoretical physicist and Foundation Professor of the School of Earth and Space Exploration, and director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University. He is the author of several bestselling books, including “A Universe from Nothing,” which was a NY Times best-seller and was translated into 19 languages… In other words, you might say Dr. Krauss spends his time determining the scientific answer to the world’s oldest question: What is the meaning of life? (Originally broadcast 10-27-12 on The John Batchelor Show)

Daniel Coyle, co-Author “The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France”

You don’t have to follow professional cycling — heck, you don’t have to know how to ride a bike — to know that Lance Armstrong‘s downfall is is an epic, a Greek tragedy played out in the mountains of France. Armstrong, of course, announced last month he would no longer fight the overwhelming evidence that he systematically used and his the use of performance-enhancing drugs to become the greatest cyclist in the sport’s history. He has since been stripped of his record 7 Tour de France titles, dropped by sponsors like Nike and Oakley, even kicked out of his world-renowned charity Livestrong. So what drives an intense, even obsessed competitor to the point where they’ll do anything to win — and more. Almost no one has looked closer at this issue than Daniel Coyle. Most recently Dan co-wrote “The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France“. Before that, he wrote “Lance Armstrong’s War”, which provided “a hugely insightful look into the often inspiring, always surprising core of a remarkable athlete and the world that shapes him.” Dan is also the author of “The Talent Code”, the New York Times Bestseller that explains new tools with which we can unlock our own talents. (Originally broadcast 10-27-12 on The John Batchelor Show)

Mick Cornett, Mayor, Oklahoma City

Ask most people in our country to describe Oklahoma City, and the first response will likely be Western. Maybe home to the NBA finalists Oklahoma City Thunder. But if they really knew Oklahoma City, the first word they should choose just might be “skinny.” That’s right. Skinny. And it’s because of their three-term Mayor Mick Cornett. When he decided to lose weight about five years ago, he made it a civic cause. He challenged his city to lose weight with him – one million pounds. Not so they could look good, but because it fits perfectly with the vision he is implementing: To make the improvements needed to drive up Oklahoma City’s quality of life. And it’s working. How is it working? That’s what Mayor Mick Cornett is here to tell us. (Originally broadcast 10-27-12 on The John Batchelor Show)

Dr. Gabrielle Walker, Scientist & Author of “Antarctica”

It’s got no trees. No grass. No culture has ever lived there. It was the site to the greatest race among explorers in our time. It’s about 1.5 times the size of the US and for half the year, it sits in darkness. Of course, I’m talking about Antarctica. And if you’re at all like me and you spend too much time watching nature shows that take you to the furthest reaches of the Earth, you’re fascinated by the idea of this ice continent. It’s also a place that has drawn — some five times — scientist Gabrielle Walker. Dr. Walker has a Ph.D. in chemistry from Cambridge. She has taught there and at Princeton and she recently pulled together her views on what she calls “the most alien place on the planet.” (Originally broadcast 12-16-12 on The John Batchelor Show)

Mark Coopersmith, Entrepreneur & UC Berkeley Lecturer

After years of hearing about jobs leaving our country for overseas — offshoring — there’s a new trend in American business. It’s called “reshoring.” From service industries to manufacturing, a range of incentives is leading companies to use American workers in new ways. Just this week, Apple announced it would invest some $100MM to produce some Mac computers in the US. Was this a publicity stunt for Apple or more evidence of the reshoring trend — or both? Mark Coopersmith is a UC Berkeley Lecturer on Entrepreneurship. He is also active in companies of his own, some of which are on the cutting edge of the reshoring movement. (Originally broadcast 12-16-12 on The John Batchelor Show)

Dr. William Dunkelberg, Chief Economist, National Federation of Independent Businesses

With just 15 days until the Fiscal Cliff — the cocktail of tax increases and budget cuts — is scheduled to hit, businesses are asking real questions about how to plan for the future. Nowhere is this uncertainty being felt more than among our nation’s small businesses. After hearing about them throughout the Presidential campaign, they’re back, this week in a very negative report from the National Federation of Independent Business. It’s well-known and closely-followed Small Business Optimism Index showed one of its lowest readings in history in November. And things may be getting worse. Dr. William Dunkelberg is Chief Economist for the NFIB. (Originally broadcast 12-16-12 on The John Batchelor Show)

Eric Trager, Washington Institute

As you surely know, yesterday Egyptians voted on a new draft constitution. At first glance, this would seem like cause for great celebration for lovers of democracy and freedom. First, the people rise up and longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak falls. The free elections bring to office an Islamist who seems to indicate a desire to shed his more radical past and move forward in positive, democratic, institution- and peace-building ways. Now a people’s vote on a new constitution. But, of course, this fairy tale may not be playing out as many would have hoped. Where do we believe Egypt is headed — and what does its progress mean for this highly unstable region? Eric Trager is a Senior Fellow at the Washington Institute. (Originally broadcast 12-16-12 on The John Batchelor Show)

Michael D. Shear, NY Times

Michael D. Shear of the New York Times discusses Newtown, CT, the politics of Gun Control and the Fiscal Cliff. (Originally broadcast 12-16-12 on The John Batchelor Show)

Elizabeth Economy, Council on Foreign Relations

If all the international challenges our next President will face, perhaps none is as complex, risky and integral to our economic, environmental and security future as China. Friend or foe? Competitor or ally? Human rights supporter or denier? Investor or debt-holder? And these questions come at a time, potentially, of major change in both the US and China. An election here that could see a new President in January. And a transition to new leadership in China, with Xi Jinping, in just the next few weeks. How to make sense of it? Elizabeth Economy is a Senior Fellow and Director, Asia Studies, Council on Foreign Relations. She writes a blog called “Asia Unbound” and she joins me now. (Originally broadcast 10-27-12 on The John Batchelor Show)

Leon Neyfakh, Boston Globe Ideas Reporter

If you want to really feel panic, I’ve got some news for you: Only 8 shopping days left until Christmas. And if you’re still trying to figure out what to get for that special someone, you may want to listen up. You know the expression “give from the heart?” Turns out, that could be the worst gift-giving advice around. Instead, what you might need to understand more is not the emotion, but the science of giving. That’s right, the science. Strip away the warm feeling and sentiment, and what you get to is the science — and it just might be what you need to understand why you give and what people really want for Christmas. Leon Neyfakh is the Boston Globe’s Ideas reporter. He writes about new research and thought coming out of academia and his latest piece is for all you late shoppers out there. (Originally broadcast 12-16-12 on The John Batchelor Show)

Steve Kornacki, MSNBC &

On Newtown, CT and the politics of gun control. (Originally broadcast 12-16-12 on The John Batchelor Show)