January 30: A beginning, beginning of the end, end of the beginning, end

January 30, 2017

When students claim to find fantastic conjunctions of dates that they claim show worldwide conspiracies, sometimes centuries in existence, I point them to the internet to find what happened on that date (whatever date it is) and note coincidences “a suspicious mind” might find compelling.

Almost every date on the calendar produces astonishing coincidences. But that’s all they are.

Right? It’s not as if there are such conspiracies, or that the gods conspire to send us messages by making momentous things occur on the same day, right?

January 30 is a momentous date, according to the AP list of events that occurred on this day.
A suspicious mind might reel at these coincidences.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, National Portrait Gallery

Franklin D. Roosevelt, National Portrait Gallery

Beginning: Franklin Roosevelt, the only president of the U.S. to break the tradition of getting elected to two terms only, was born on January 30, 1882,  in Hyde Park, New York.  (Both Ulysses Grant and his cousin, Theodore Roosevelt, had tried to break the two-term tradition  before.)  Roosevelt served at the 32nd president, winning election in 1932, 1936, 1940, and 1944.  During his first term the date of presidential inaugurations was moved from March 21 to January 21, partly in appreciation for the period of time the nation drifted seemingly deeper into depression between Roosevelt’s election in November 1932 and his inauguration in March 1933.  Roosevelt contracted polio in 1921, won election as New York’s governor in 1928, and then won the 1932 presidential race.  His death on April 12, 1945, pushed Harry Truman into the presidency for three years before he had to face the electorate.

End of the beginning: On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler took office as chancellor of Germany.  A World War I veteran, Hitler had spent time in prison for trying to overthrow the government. Hitler was seven years younger than FDR, but their careers occasionally coincided on key years.  Hitler’s assuming power in January 1933 gave him a two-month jump on FDR; at the time, few people, if anyone noticed the coincidental rise, nor could see the significance of the events of the year.  According to The History Place:

Germany was a nation that in its history had little experience or interest in democracy. In January 1933, Adolf Hitler took the reins of a 14-year-old German democratic republic which in the minds of many had long outlived its usefulness. By this time, the economic pressures of the Great Depression combined with the indecisive, self-serving nature of its elected politicians had brought government in Germany to a complete standstill. The people were without jobs, without food, quite afraid and desperate for relief.

Now, the man who had spent his entire political career denouncing and attempting to destroy the Republic, was its leader. Around noon on January 30th, Hitler was sworn in.

“I will employ my strength for the welfare of the German people, protect the Constitution and laws of the German people, conscientiously discharge the duties imposed on me, and conduct my affairs of office impartially and with justice to everyone,” swore Adolf Hitler.

Democratic-based government in Germany was doomed for the foreseeable future.  Few foresaw that.

Beginning of the end: On January 30, 1968, during the Vietnamese new year celebration known as Tet, Vietcong and North Vietnamese army regulars kicked off the Tet Offensive, striking targets all over Vietnam simultaneously.  Caught nearly completely by surprise, U.S. and South Vietnamese forces lost control of Saigon, the South Vietnamese capital for a time.  While the U.S. and South Vietnamese eventually won these many battles and pushed out the invading forces,  the simple fact that the thought-to-be-decimated forces of Ho Chi Minh could pull of the offensive at all sent the chilling message that victory in this guerrilla did not yet belong to South Vietnam and the U.S., nor had a tide been turned.   After tumultuous elections in the U.S., Richard Nixon’s presidency could not turn the tide, either.  A “peace” was negotiated, mostly between North Vietnam and the U.S., in 1973, but it did not hold.  In 1975 relations between North Vietnam and South Vietnam hit crisis again, and the U.S. pulled out the last forces left in South Vietnam in April.  Vietcong and North Vietnamese forces defeated the rapidly dissipating military of the South, and the country was united under communist, North Vietnam rule.

Mahatma Gandhi addresses Indians; image from Bins Corner, probably public domain

Mahatma Gandhi addresses Indians

An end: Hindu extremist Nathuram Godse shot and killed Mohandas K. Gandhi in India, on January 30, 1948.  Gandhi was known as “Mahatma,” which means “Great Soul.”  Gandhi campaigned for India’s independence and end of British colonial rule for most of the 1920s, including a period of time in prison for subversive activities.  Gandhi’s great contribution to political change is the massive use of non-violent, non-cooperation.  Non-violent tactics tend to highlight the moral positions of groups in conflict, and make the non-violent side appear to have the stronger case.  Such tactics expose hypocrisy and despotic government rules.  Though he resigned from his political party in 1934, Gandhi remained a key icon of the drive for India’s independence.  When violence broke out over the Mountbatten plan to grant independence in 1947, creating two nations of Pakistan and India divided along religious, Gandhi again appealed for peace, but became the most famous victim of the religious violence that still roils the region today.  Committed to peace and non-violence, Gandhi himself did not ever win the Nobel Peace Prize, perhaps because his life was cut short.  His work inspired other Nobel Peace laureates, including the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1964), the Dalai Lama (1989), Aung San Suu Kyi (1991), Nelson Mandela (with Frederik Willem deKlerk, 1993), and U.S. President Barack Obama (2009).

On January 30, 2011, when I first noted these coincidences here, much of the world held its breath, watching events in North Africa, including especially Tunisia and Egypt.  I wondered, which of these traditions would that day follow, to peace, or toward war?

On January 30, 2017, the installation of Hitler and the Tet Offensive remind us of hubris of world leaders and really bad decisions that can have disastrous results, soon, and for a long time after.

Coincidence? What do you think?


India, world’s last DDT maker, heaviest user, plans to stop

August 29, 2015

DDT sprayed in a vegetable market in India. (Photo: rzadigi) Living on Earth image

DDT sprayed in a vegetable market in India. (Photo: rzadigi) Living on Earth image

Sometimes big news sneaks up on us, without press releases. We often miss it.

Quiet little Tweet from journalist I’d never heard of, who passed along news from an obscure journal:

As a journalist, this guy has a piece of a world-wide scoop.

India is probably the last nation on Earth producing DDT.  In the last decade other two nations making the stuff got out of the business — North Korea and China. For several years now India has been the largest manufacturer of DDT, and far and away the greatest user, spraying more DDT against malaria-carrying mosquitoes, sand flies, and agricultural and household pests than the rest of the world combined.

As if an omen, India’s malaria rates did not drop, but instead rose, even as malaria rates dropped or plunged in almost every other nation on Earth.

Under the 2001 Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) signed by more than 150 nations (not including the U.S.), DDT was one of a dozen chemicals targeted to be phased out due to its extremely dangerous qualities, including long-term persistence in the environment and bioaccummulation, by which doses of the stuff increase up the food chain, delivering crippling and fatal doses to top predators.

A perfect substitute for DDT in fighting some disease-carrying insects (“vectors”) has never been developed. Health officials asked, and the Stockholm negotiators agreed to leave DDT legally available to fight disease. Annex B asked nations to tell the World Health Organization if it wanted to use DDT. Since 2001, as DDT effectiveness was increasingly compromised by resistance evolved in insects, fewer and fewer nations found it useful.

The site Mr. Nazakat linked to is up and down, and my security program occasionally says the site is untrustworthy. It’s obscure at best. Shouldn’t news of this type be in some of India’s biggest newspapers?

I found an article in the Deccan Herald, confirming the report, but again with some

India-United Nations pact to end DDT use by 2020

India-United Nations pact to end DDT use by 2020

New Delhi, August 26, 2015, DHNS:

It would be better to switch to another insecticide, says expert

India is the lone user of DDT, though only in the malaria control programme, while rest of the world got rid of the chemical that has a lasting adverse impact on the environment. DH file photo

India is the lone user of DDT, though only in the malaria control programme, while rest of the world got rid of the chemical that has a lasting adverse impact on the environment. DH file photo

India has launched a $53 million project to phase out DDT by 2020 and replace them with Neem-based bio-pesticides that are equally effective.

India is the lone user of DDT, though only in the malaria control programme, while rest of the world got rid of the chemical that has a lasting adverse impact on the environment.

India on Tuesday entered into a $53 million (Rs 350 crore) partnership with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), United Nations Environment Programme and the Global Environment Facility to replace DDT with safer, more effective and green alternatives.

“As per the plan, the National Botanical Research Organisation, Lucknow, tied up with a company to produce Neem-based alternatives for the malaria programme. The production will start in six months,” Shakti Dhua, the regional coordinator of UNIDO told Deccan Herald.

Till last year, the annual DDT requirement was about 6,000 tonnes that has now been cut down to 4,000 tonnes as the government decided to stop using it in the Kala-Azar control programme.

A recent study by an Indo-British team of medical researchers found that using DDT without any surveillance is counter-productive as a vector control strategy as sand flies not only thrive but are also becoming resistant to DDT.

“It would be better to switch to another insecticide, which is more likely to give better results than DDT,” said Janet Hemingway, a scientist at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. While the Health Ministry wanted to bring in synthetic pyrethroids, the United Nation agencies supports the bio-pesticides because of their efficacy and long-lasting effects.

“The new initiative would help check the spread of malaria and other vector-borne diseases. These include botanical pesticides, including Neem-based compounds, and long-lasting insecticidal safety nets that will prevent mosquito bites while sleeping,” Dhua said.

Ending the production and use of DDT is a priority for India as it is a signatory to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP) of 2002 that seeks to eliminate the use of these chemicals in industrial processes, drugs and pesticides. DDT is one of the POPs.

The clock is counting down the last years of DDT.  Good.

If events unroll as planned, DDT making will end by 2020, 81 years after it was discovered to kill bugs, 70 years after it was released for civilian years, 70 years after problems with its use was first reported by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 58 years after the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, 50 years after European nations banned some uses, 48 years after the famous U.S. ban on agricultural use, 19 years after the POPs Treaty.

When will the news leak out?

More:


India, world’s top DDT user, socked with malaria increase

July 22, 2015

Were it true that DDT is a magic solution to malaria, by all measures India should be malaria free.

Not only is India not malaria-free, but the disease increases in infections, deaths, and perhaps, in virulence.

Map showing location of Odisha, or Orissa, state, in India. Wikipedia image

Map showing location of Odisha, or Orissa, state, in India. Wikipedia image

Since the late 1990s a small, well-funded band of chemical and tobacco industry propagandists conducted a campaign of calumny against Rachel Carson, environmentalists in general, scientists and health care workers, claiming that an unholy and wrongly-informed conspiracy took DDT off the market just as great strides were beginning to be made against malaria.

As a consequence, this group argues, malaria infections and deaths exploded, and tens of millions of people died unnecessarily.

That’s a crock, to be sure. Rachel Carson’s 1962 book, Silent Spring, inspired an already-established campaign against DDT. But the malaria eradication program begun with high hopes by the World Health Organization in 1955, foundered in 1963 when the campaign turned to central, tropical Africa. Overuse of DDT in agriculture and minor pest control had bred DDT-resistant and immune mosquitoes.  Malaria fighters could not knock down local populations of mosquitoes well enough to let medical care cure infected humans.  (The campaign was not helped by political instability in some of the African nations; 80% of houses in an affected area need to be sprayed inside to stop malaria, and that requires government organizational skills, manpower and money that those nations could not muster.)

Detail map of Odisha state, India; map by Jayanta Nath, Wikipedia image

Detail map of Odisha state, India; map by Jayanta Nath, Wikipedia image

That was just a year after Carson’s book hit the shelves. DDT had been banned nowhere. WHO’s workers tried to get a campaign going, but complete failures stopped the program in 1965; in 1969 WHO’s board met and officially killed the malaria eradication program, in favor of control.

Malaria infections and deaths did not expand with the end of WHO’s campaign.  At peak DDT use, roughly 1958 to 1963, malaria deaths are estimated by WHO to have been as high as 5 million per year, 4 million by 1963. Total malaria infections, worldwide, were 500 million.

The first bans on DDT use came in Europe. When the U.S. banned DDT use on crops in 1972, okaying use to fight malaria, malaria deaths had fallen to more than 2 million annually by optimistic estimates.  Death rates and infection rates continued to fall without a formal eradication campaign. By the late 1980s, malaria killed about 1.5 million each year, a great improvement over the DDT go-go days, but still troubling.

Beating malaria is a multi-step program.  Malaria parasites must complete a life cycle in a human host, and then when jumping to a mosquito, another cycle of about two weeks in the mosquito’s gut, before being transmissible back to humans. Knocking down mosquito populations helps prevent transmission temporarily, but that is only useful if in that period the human hosts can be cured of the parasites.

In the late 1980s, malaria parasites developed strong resistance and immunity to pharmaceuticals given to humans to cure them.  Regardless mosquito populations, human hosts were always infected, ready to transmit the parasite to any mosquito and send drug-resistant malaria on to dozens more.

From about 1990 to about 2002, malaria deaths rose modestly to more than 1.5 million annually.

New pharmaceuticals, and new regimens of administration of pharmaceuticals, increased the effectiveness of human treatments; coupled with much better understanding of malaria vectors, the insects that transmit the disease, and geographical data and other technological advances to speed diagnosis and treatment of humans, and increase prevention measures, WHO and private foundations started a series of programs in malaria-endemic nations to reduce infections and deaths. Insecticide-impregnated bednets proved to be less-expensive and more effective than Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) featuring DDT or any of the other 11 pesticides WHO authorizes for home spraying.  (Home spraying targets mosquitoes that carry malaria, and limits expensive overuse of pesticides, plus limits and prevents environmental damage.)

Health care workers and most nations made dramatic progress in controlling and eliminating malaria, between 2000 and 2015, mostly without using DDT which proved increasingly ineffective at controlling mosquitoes, and which also proved unpopular among malaria-affected peoples whose cooperation is necessary to fight the disease.

By 2014, fewer than 220 million people got malaria infections, worldwide, a reduction of about 55% over DDT’s peak-use years. This is remarkable considering the population of the planet more than doubled in that time, and population in malaria-endemic areas rose even more. Malaria deaths were reduced to fewer than 600,000 annually, a reduction of more than 80% over peak DDT years. By 2015, malaria-fighters once again spoke of eradicating malaria from the planet.

In contrast, India assumed the position of top producer of DDT in the world, still making it even after China and North Korea stopped making it. But malaria control in India weakened, despite greater application of DDT.  The world watches as DDT, once the miracle pesticide used in anti-malaria campaigns, became instead a depleted tool, unable to stop malaria’s spread despite increasing application.

Were DDT the magic powder, or even “excellent powder” its advocates claim, India should be free of malaria, totally. Instead, Indians debate how best to get control of the disease again, and start reducing infections and deaths, again. Below is one story, rather typical of many that crop up from time to time in India news; this is from the Odisha Sun Times. (Note: Lakh is a unit in the Indian number system equal to 100,000; crore is a unit equal to 10,000,000.)

Odisha has 36% of malaria cases in India; ranks third in deaths

Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Mar 15:

Odisha has earned the dubious distinction of having a hopping 36% share of all malaria cases in India and ranking third in the list of states with the most number of deaths leaving most of its neighbours way behind.

Malaria Mosquito

These startling revelations have been made in a report tabled by the Union Health and Family Welfare department in the Parliament.

What is more disturbing is that the number of persons getting afflicted with the disease in the state is rising every year despite the state government spending crores of rupees to arrest the spread of the disease.

The state government has been spending crores of rupees on a scheme christened ‘Mo Masari’ (“My Mosquito Net’) and has been claiming that the number of afflicted has been falling in the state. But the Central government report has exposed the hollowness of the claim.

According to the report, out of the 10.70 lakh people who were afflicted with malaria in India in the year 2014, about 3.88 lakh (36.26%) were from Odisha. In 2010, around 3.95 lakh were afflicted with the disease. The number had come down to 3.08 lakh in 2011 and had further scaled down to around 2.62 lakh in 2012, the report says.

But the number of malaria patients in Odisha is again rising at a faster pace since then, according to the Health Ministry report.

Even though the neighbouring states of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh are identified as malaria prone states, much less people are afflicted with malaria in these states as compared to Odisha. In 2014, only 1.22lakh people were affected with the disease in Chhattisgarh while only 96,140 persons were affected by malaria in Jharkhand in the same year.

Statistics cited in the report also reveal that Odisha has left many states behind and has marched ahead of others in the matter of number of deaths due to malaria. It ranks third on this count in the country.

In the year 2014, a total of 535 persons had died of malaria across the country. Out of them 73 (13.64%) were from Odish while Tripura had the maximum number of deaths in terms of percentage at 96 (17.94%) followed by Meghalaya, another hilly state, with a toll count of 78 (14.58%).

Another disturbing fact that has emerged from the report is that out of those who have died of malaria in Odisha, 80 percent are from tribal dominated areas.

The districts of Gajapati , Kalahandi , Kandhamal, Keonjhar, Koraput, Malkangiri, Mayurbhanj, Nabarangpur, Nuapada, Rayagada and Sundargarh account for both the maximum number of deaths due to malaria and maximum number of persons afflicted with the disease.


How kids get to school, New Delhi edition

March 19, 2014

From Twitter:

From Twitter: “Another e.g. pic to show that school transport in Asia needs attention on health & safety aspects pic.twitter.com/Mn2FbSSELX”

Do you think the students have wi-fi to finish their homework on the way to school?

(This is not necessarily representative of all Indian school buses.)

One wonders at the stories behind such “buses” and their use.  It might make an interesting geography assignment, to find out how students get to school in other nations.  What is the most exotic, bizarre, dangerous or luxurious ride?

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Say what? India only now figures out DDT kills birds?

January 17, 2012

Here’s a troubling thought:  What if India’s use of DDT now is just as destructive as the use of DDT in the U.S. in the 1950s and 1960s?

Why even mention it?  We’ve been reminded here that in the 21st century India is the world’s leading producer of DDT, and that the nation uses more DDT than the rest of the world combined.

Mon Town Baptist Church in the mist, Nagaland, India - Wikipedia image

Mon Town Baptist Church in the mist, Nagaland, India. The people of the state of Nagaland are mostly Christian, and local Baptist groups were among the most politically active groups who worked to put an end to fighting in the area in the early 1960s – Wikipedia image

From my perch in Dallas, Texas, it’s difficult to get a perspective on just how much DDT is used in the nation, and how much of the use is abusive, out of doors, or leading to environmental contamination.

One of the news feeds picked up on this opinion piece from Maneka Gandhi, blogging at the Nagaland PostNagaland is India’s most northeastern province.

Blyth’s Tragopan is the state bird of Nagaland, India's most northeastern province. A member of the pheasant clan, this beautiful bird is threatened by overhunting and DDT, even though it is chiefly a seed eater.

Blyth’s Tragopan is the state bird of Nagaland, India’s most northeastern province. A member of the pheasant clan, this beautiful bird is threatened by overhunting and DDT, even though it is chiefly a seed eater.

Among other troubling issues:  Ms. Gandhi talks about “with the disappearance of the vulture.”  Ecologists should sit up and take note of that; what cleans up the roadside carrion in Nagaland?

Killing birds due to human activity

[Maneka Gandhi]

16 Jan. 2012 11:51 PM IST

Last week I wrote about the strange and mysterious deaths of birds and fish that have taken place. But how many birds are killed every year due to human activity? I am not going to take into account the billion chickens that are killed at the rate of 1000 every minute, the turkeys, emus, ducks, quail that are slaughtered in the millions. I am talking about the birds you do not eat but kill anyway with deliberate malice or carelessness. Why are you ignorant of these? Because bird bodies are rarely found on the roads.

Night roaming scavengers finish them off very quickly. Here’s one estimate of numbers. A 2005 paper by Wallace Erickson, Gregory Johnson, and David Young (“A Summary and Comparison of Bird Mortality from Anthropogenic Causes with an Emphasis on Collisions”) estimates that 500 million-1 billion birds are killed each year in the U.S. alone from human-related causes.

This includes: Collisions with buildings – 550 million (58.2%) Collisions with power lines – 130 million (13.7%) Cats – 100 million (10.6%) Cars, trucks, etc. –80 million (8.5%) Pesticides – 67 million (7.1%) Communication towers – 4.5 million (0.5%) Wind turbines – 28.5 thousand (less than 0.01%) Airplanes –25 thousand (less than 0.01%) Other sources (oil spills, fishing by-catch, etc) – did not estimate I would put the same number in India.

Perhaps decrease the collision with buildings and increase the pesticide hit ones. While large mortality events make the news, the constant attrition, the constant killing has put one in six bird species worldwide in danger of extinction because of the factors listed above plus habitat loss, invasive species, and climate change. I was in Kolkata recently to start a campaign to save sparrows. It consisted of caps, drawings, speeches and the distribution of bird feeders.

I hope it will work but this much I learnt – very few of the children in the school had even seen a sparrow. How many kinds of birds have you seen? Most cities now just have crows and kites and a few parakeets. Looking at this list, can you see a number of ways that people – from municipalities to individuals can work to prevent at least some of these deaths.

Things like making windows and other structures more visible to birds, keeping cats indoors, and minimizing use of pesticides are all crucial to the survival of many species. The deaths are huge and quick but they are preventable if we just tweak our lifestyles. If I told you that you stood at the edge of a cliff and a little step forward would kill you but if you just sidestepped, you could reach safety, would you not?  Often the disappearance of a bird species alters entire human lifestyles, forcing them to change.

With the disappearance of the vulture most villages have had to think of what to do with cow/bullock dead bodies.

The carcass which would have been cleaned up in an hour by the vultures now becomes a threat to human life. No solutions have been found as yet. The Parsis will have to find another way to honour their dead as the towers of silence have no vultures so an entire religion has changed. China lost its sparrows (killed all of them) and then lost its grain because the insects proliferated. It finally had to import sparrows and start rebreeding them.

Today it is losing them again – as we are. Animal mortality is actually a far larger problem than these numbers might suggest. Just one example: in the U.S. there are some 70 million house cats. Each year they kill off hundreds of millions of native birds and more than a billion small mammals such as rabbits, chipmunks, and squirrels. The numbers are staggering. But they tend to go unnoticed, except by ecological researchers.

Most people consider what these cats (which are non-native, invasive pets) are doing to be “natural.” While animals are killed by weather fluctuations, lightning generated fires, the impacts of volcanism, earthquakes or other natural threats, all these hazards pale in comparison to what humans do to them. We have become by far the most significant factor in the deaths of individual animals, or entire species over the past several centuries.

There are many lethal artifacts of civilization. These range from agricultural toxins, to industrial pollution, to lawn care chemicals, to windows and glass buildings (which attract birds to collide with reflections), to predatory pets, to wires to loss of crucial habitats. So many birds have been killed by DDT alone – and it is still being used.

When the Americans finally noticed that their national bird, the Bald Eagle, was disappearing due to DDT, they banned it. We have lost all our birds of prey because DDT does a lot more than just kill insects. It impacts birds of prey to such a degree that it causes their eggs to weaken so that they can’t hatch.

Our consumption of fish is killing all the shore birds. With sonar fish finders and GPS technology, fish harvesters are decimating swordfish, tuna, and a host of other “food species” as our world population swells to 7 billion.

Make a New Year resolution that goes beyond not smoking, drinking and being nice to your mother/daughter in law. Start by making your house less toxic and by eating organic wheat/dal/rice. Plant as many fruit trees as you can so that birds have somewhere to nest. Choose a village and see if you can help them clean up their water body.

More, resources: 


Channeling Monty Python: “The border between India and Pakistan is closed for the day”

September 7, 2011

BBC map showing location of Wagah and Punjab

BBC map showing location of Wagah and Punjab, divided between Pakistan and India, south of Kashmir

Written accounts cannot possibly do justice to the ceremonies that mark the daily close of business at the border between India and Pakistan.  I had understood it was quite a good show, rivaling the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.

But, you don’t expect Monty Python to break out at these affairs, do you? Here’s a video of the ceremony as it was conducted prior to July 2010, I believe, which I found at Wimp.com.  It’s a video clip from BBC Worldwide, narrated by comedian Sanjeev Bhaskar.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

(If that one doesn’t work, try this one — a bit lower quality video):

(Or, here’s a shorter, YouTube version of Baskar’s film.)

Where in the world is this?  It’s in a town and area called Wagah, in Punjab, divided between India and Pakistan since the 1947 independence of those nations (links to Wikipedia left in for your convenience).

Wagah (Punjabi: ਵਾਘਾ, Hindi: वाघा, Urdu: واہگہ) is the only road border crossing between India and Pakistan[1], and lies on the Grand Trunk Road between the cities of Amritsar, India and Lahore, Pakistan. Wagah itself is a village through which the controversial Radcliffe Line was drawn. The village was divided by independence in 1947. Today, the eastern half of the village remains in the Republic of India while the western half is in Pakistan.

While both nations and local residents fully recognize the silliness, it also stands as a symbol of the deep divisions between the two nations.

The Wagah border, often called the “Berlin wall of Asia”,[2] is a ceremonial border on the India–Pakistan Border where each evening there is a retreat ceremony called ‘lowering of the flags’,[3] which has been held since 1959.[4] At that time there is an energetic parade by the Border Security Force (B.S.F) of India and the Pakistan Rangers soldiers. It may appear slightly aggressive and even hostile to foreigners but in fact the paraders are imitating the pride and anger of a Cockerel.[1][5][6] Troops of each country put on a show in their uniforms with their colorful turbans.[7] Border officials from the two countries sometimes walk over to the offices on the other side for day to day affairs. The happenings at this border post have been a barometer of the India-Pakistan relations over the years.[1]

Did someone say “Pythonesque?”

Here’s Michael Palin narrating another view of the ceremony for one of his BBC enterprises, Himalaya with Michael Palin:

Would you be surprised to hear that local people refer to this as “the dance of the roosters?”

Events at this crossing reflect some minor easing of tension between the two nations in the last decade, and in 2010 both nations announced they would tone down the retreat ceremonies. Surely some scholar has analyzed this retreat ceremony and its history, to determine whether it helped ease the tension, or increased the conflict between the two nations.  Could soldiers who participate in such goings-on actually shoot at each other?

Has anyone got a more recent viewing of the ceremony?

How will you explain this to your sophomore world history class?  Is there anything sillier than humans in conflict?

Video via VodPod.

An astonished tip of the old scrub brush to Judith Shields.

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Typewriter of the moment: Godrej & Boyce, the last manual ever made

April 30, 2011

Can this be correct?

The Daily Mail in London reports that the last manufacturer of manual typewriters in the world, Godrej & Boyce of India, is shutting down production.

Is this the last manual typewriter ever to be made?

Godrej and Boyce, Prima, the last manual typewriter manufactured in the world

The Prima, from Godrej & Boyce; in India, the last company making manual typewriters is closing down

According to the Daily Mail:

It’s an invention that revolutionised the way we work, becoming an essential piece of office equipment for the best part of a century.

But after years of sterling service, that bane for secretaries has reached the end of the line.

Godrej and Boyce – the last company left in the world that was still manufacturing typewriters – has shut down its production plant in Mumbai, India with just a few hundred machines left in stock.

Although typewriters became obsolete years ago in the west, they were still common in India  – until recently.  Demand for the machines has sunk in the last ten years as consumers switch to computers.

The company’s general manager, Milind Dukle, told India’s Business Standard newspaper: ‘We are not getting many orders now.

‘From the early 2000s onwards, computers started dominating. All the manufacturers of office typewriters stopped production, except us.

‘Till 2009, we used to produce 10,000 to 12,000 machines a year. But this might be the last chance for typewriter lovers. Now, our primary market is among the defence agencies, courts and government offices.’

The company is now down to its last  200 machines – the majority of which are Arabic language models.

The firm began production in the 1950s – when Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru described the typewriter as a symbol of India’s emerging independence and industrialisation. It was still selling 50,000 models annually in the early 1990s, but last year it sold less than 800 machines.

The first commercial typewriter was produced in the U.S. in 1867 and by the turn of the century had developed into the  standardised format – including a qwerty’ keyboard – that we know today.

Say it ain’t so, Mr. Christopher Latham Sholes!

Godrej & Boyce manufactures several different technology products in its conglomerate of factories — but the typewriter is already gone from their website’s listing of company products.

Electric typewriters will continue to roll off of foreign assembly lines, for companies like Swintec and Brother.

More, resources, etc.: 


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