One little-known website called “Alt News”, patronised by well known political propagandists, recently spun few posts using my Twitter Timeline, calling it a “goldmine of fictitious historical claims”. Well, since it has invoked my Twitter Timeline to get traffic and ad-revenue, of course, it is a goldmine, indeed, for the post truth peddling Fraud News.
Whenever people engage politely with me, seeking a clarification or putting up a counter-view, I hear them out and share the sources (name of the book, museum and link to sources, wherever available), if not done already, so that people can actually explore facts for themselves and act as agents of information dissemination.
Anyone, who’s abusive or simply argues for the sake of arguing, with no interest in learning or sharing, ends up either in my blocked or muted list. My timeline is testimony to the fact that I engage with people on the basis…
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China’s threat that India would suffer a fate worse than the defeat of 1962 is laughable. For the Chinese have conveniently forgotten that since that conflict nearly 50 years ago, it is Beijing that has suffered defeats – at the hands of India, Russia and Vietnam in that order. In fact, the last time the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) faced off against the Indian Army, it had to endure the ignominy of a humiliating climb down.
But first, a reality check. The 1962 defeat happened because of two reasons. One, the Indian Army wasn’t given the weapons and divisions it had been wanting since the mid-1950s for the defence of the Himalayas. When the Chinese invaded, an entire Indian brigade (of at least 2,000 troops) was equipped with just 100 rounds of ammunition and no grenades. Prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his arrogant protégé, defence minister V K Krishna Menon, kept up the pretence that China would not attack.
Second, India’s armed forces were not allowed to fight to their full potential. Ignoring India’s commanders, Nehru conferred with American ambassador John Kenneth Galbraith, who advised the prime minister not to use the Indian Air Force against the Chinese intruders. Before the war, the Nehru-Menon duopoly had ended the career of Korean War hero General Thimayya – who saw the Chinese as a threat to India early. They later promoted Lt General B M Kaul and General Pran Nath Thapar. These officers did not know where the border was.
However, with the exit of both Nehru and Menon, the era of the neglect of the defence forces ended to some extent. The impressive showing of the Indian Army in the 1965 War with Pakistan restored some pride. Russian and American military supplies boosted military strength.
While evaluating the Chinese threat, the thing to note is that the India of 2017 is not the same as the India of 1962. Besides, the Chinese are not exactly known for their fighting skills. The PLA may be the world’s largest army, but it has performed atrociously in a series of major conflicts.. This article examines four of China’s post-1962 conflicts and how the PLA fared against well-armed and professional armies.
Conflict: Nathu La and Cho La
Result: Chinese defeat
Casualties: PLA 340, Indian Army 65
On 7 September 1967, a PLA commissar asked the soldiers of 18 Rajput to stop fencing the border at Nathu La – a border pass in Sikkim, which back then was an Indian protectorate. When the soldiers refused, the Chinese launched an artillery attack. Unlike in 1962, the Indian Army was prepared. It had placed howitzers at strategic locations aimed at Chinese military positions. The Indian guns launched a withering counter-attack that stopped only after three days. Indian gunners scored several direct hits on enemy bunkers, including a command post from where the Chinese operations were being directed.
On 13 September, India announced a unilateral ceasefire – a fitting reply to China’s offer almost to the week.
Smarting under their humiliation, the Chinese attacked a second time on 1 October at the nearby Cho La pass. This time it was the men of the Gorkha regiment who engaged in close-quarter combat, killing 40 elite Chinese commandos, resulting in a massive PLA rout. However, the Indian Army withheld fire on their retreating enemy. The defeated Chinese left Sikkim and withdrew three kilometres from the border. Since then, Nathu La and Cho La have been under Indian control, and China has never claimed these passes.
Conflict: Ussuri river clash
Result: Chinese defeat
Casualties: PLA 800, Soviet Army 61
At 4,380km, the Russia-China land border is the world’s longest. But since Tsarist times, it had been poorly demarcated, with both countries having overlapping claims over it. In the 1960s, following the ideological split between the two Communist allies, the border became a flash point with 658,000 Soviet soldiers facing a million PLA troops. In March 1969, 61 Soviet soldiers died in a Chinese ambush, and their corpses were mutilated. The Russians hit back so hard that, in the words of Robert Gates, Central Intelligence Agency director at the time, from American satellite pictures, the Chinese side of the river bank was pockmarked like a moonscape. The Chinese death toll: over 800, with thousands more injured.
The Chinese stab in the back made the Russians so angry that they seriously considered launching a nuclear attack. Washington secretly wanted someone to eliminate the Chinese for them but decided that a hostile China on Russia’s border would be good to keep Moscow on edge.
China survived, but it was so traumatised by the disproportionate Russian military response that it immediately started looking for a strategic alliance with the United States. The bottom line: the Russia-China border has remained peaceful ever since.
Conflict: Full-scale Chinese invasion
Result: Chinese defeat
Casualties: PLA up to 63,000, Vietnamese army 26,000
In 1978, the battle-hardened Peoples Army of Vietnam (PAVN) – which had only three years ago defeated the mighty Americans – launched an invasion on Cambodia. The invasion ended the genocide being committed by the US and China-backed Pol Pot regime, which had murdered two million of the country’s eight million population.
In order to “teach Hanoi a lesson”, the following year, a 200,000-strong Chinese force invaded Vietnam. (Interestingly, the invasion took place when India’s foreign minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was visiting Beijing.) In the 29-day war that ensued, the highly trained VAPN defeated the PLA, killing up to 63,000 Chinese soldiers and capturing hundreds more.
In his 1985 book, Defending China, Gerald Segal writes that China’s 1979 war against Vietnam was a complete failure: “China failed to force a Vietnamese withdrawal from Cambodia, failed to end border clashes, failed to cast doubt on the strength of the Soviet power, failed to dispel the image of China as a paper tiger, and failed to draw the United States into an anti-Soviet coalition.”
After years of unsuccessful negotiations, a border pact was finally signed between the two countries in 1999.
Conflict: Sumdorong Chu standoff
Result: Chinese pullback
Dead: No casualties
The last time the India-China border came live was in 1986-87, when the cunning Chinese did a Kargil on India in Arunachal Pradesh. In 1984 and 1985, the Indian Army had set up camps in the border areas in summer and returned to the foothills in winter. When they went back in 1986, they found the PLA had crossed the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and set up a military camp in the pasture on the banks of the Sumdorong Chu river in Tawang district. Incidentally, this was close to the Thag La ridge, where the two armies had fought a bloody battle in 1962.
With the Chinese refusing to move back and “supreme leader” Deng Xiaoping declaring his intention to teach India “another lesson”, army chief General Krishnaswami Sundarji launched Operation Falcon, airlifting T-72 tanks and BMP-armoured personnel carriers to the area, occupying the high ridges overlooking the Chinese positions. It was the exact opposite of the 1962 situation when the Chinese had the higher ground. Both armies were eyeball to eyeball for seven years when in August 1995 the Chinese finally blinked. The Chinese knew if the two armies clashed, 1962 would be reversed.
For decades, Beijing has pursued a strategy of boxing up India in South Asia so that New Delhi is unable to compete with it globally. According to strategist Subhash Kapila, “China is a compulsive destabiliser of South Asian regional stability and security, with the end aim of keeping India off-balance.”
China cannot attack India because India’s military is modern, large and highly professional. Plus, a war would kill the market for Chinese goods in India. Beijing will therefore continue to use Pakistan to keep India down. New Delhi’s prime objective therefore should be to weaken Pakistan by supporting independence movements in Balochistan, Sindh and Khyber Pakthunkhwa.
That, more than anything else, would demoralise the Chinese.
Researchers have now discovered that these kinds of environmental genetic changes can be passed down for a whopping 14 generations in an animal – the largest span ever observed in a creature, in this case being a dynasty of C. elegans nematodes (roundworms).
To study how long the environment can leave a mark on genetic expression, a team led by scientists from the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) in Spain took genetically engineered nematode worms that carry a transgene for a fluorescent protein. When activated, this gene made the worms glow under ultraviolet light.
Then, they switched things up for the nematodes by changing the temperature of their containers. When the team kept nematodes at 20° Celsius (68° F), they measured low activity of the transgene – which meant the worms hardly glowed at all.
But by moving the worms to a warmer climate of 25° C (77° F), they suddenly lit up like little wormy Christmas trees, which meant the fluorescence gene had become much more active.
Their tropical vacation didn’t last long, however. The worms were moved back to cooler temperatures to see what would happen to the activity of the fluorescence gene.
Surprisingly, they continued to glow brightly, suggesting they were retaining an ‘environmental memory’ of the warmer climate – and that the transgene was still highly active.
Furthermore, that memory was passed onto their offspring for seven brightly-glowing generations, none of whom had experienced the warmer temperatures. The baby worms inherited this epigenetic change through both eggs and sperm.
The team pushed the results even further – when they kept five generations of nematodes at 25° C (77° F) and then banished their offspring to colder temperatures, the worms continued to have higher transgene activity for an unprecedented 14 generations.
That’s the longest scientists have ever observed the passing-down of an environmentally induced genetic change. Usually, environmental changes to genetic expression only last a few generations.
“We don’t know exactly why this happens, but it might be a form of biological forward-planning,” says one of the team, Adam Klosin from EMBO and Pompeu Fabra University, Spain.
“Worms are very short-lived, so perhaps they are transmitting memories of past conditions to help their descendants predict what their environment might be like in the future,” adds co-researcher Tanya Vavouri from the Josep Carreras Leukaemia Research Institute in Spain.
There’s a reason why scientists turn to C. elegans as a model organism – after all, those 14 generations would only take roughly 50 days to develop, but can still give us important clues on how environmental genetic change is passed down in other animals, including humans.
“Inherited effects in humans are difficult to measure due to the long generation times and difficulty with accurate record keeping,” states one recent review of epigenetic inheritance.
But some research suggests that events in our lives can indeed affect the development of our children and perhaps even grandchildren – all without changing the DNA.
Other researchers have found that the descendants of Holocaust survivors have lower levels of the hormone cortisol, which helps your body bounce back after trauma.
The latest study on nematodes is an important step towards understanding more about our own epigenetic inheritance – especially because it serves as a remarkable demonstration of how long-lasting these inter-generational effects may be.
The findings were published in Science.
A Cure for Cancer
Scientists have come up with a potential new way to treat neuroblastoma, the most common kind of cancer in infants, by targeting it with nanoparticles loaded up with an ingredient of the spice turmeric.
Turmeric is more often used to add flavour to curries, but the curcumin chemical it contains has shown promising progress in tests in destroying neuroblastoma tumour cells resistant to other drugs.
If scientists can work out how to adapt this into a full and safe treatment, it would have the benefit of being less toxic and unpleasant for patients than traditional alternatives like chemotherapy – which is especially important when you’re dealing with young kids.
“High-risk neuroblastoma can be resistant to traditional therapy, and survival can be poor,” says lead researcher Tamarah J. Westmoreland, from the University of Central Florida.
“This research demonstrates a novel method of treating this tumour without the toxicity of aggressive therapy that can also have late effects on the patient’s health.”
Using curcumin to fight cancer isn’t a new idea, but it’s difficult to get the chemical into drugs because of its low solubility and poor stability. Nanoparticles could fix that.
During the study, cerium oxide nanoparticles loaded with curcumin and coated in dextran were shown to cause “substantial” cell death in neuroblastoma cells while having little impact on healthy cells – the perfect combination for a cancer drug.
Even better, the nanoparticles were more effective against the type of cells usually most resistant to conventional drugs, those with an amplification of the MYCN gene.
As neuroblastoma is usually very difficult to treat, that’s a promising start for these spicy nanoparticles. This type of cancer normally takes root near the kidneys, striking 700 people per year in the US, most of whom are under 5.
Not only is it largely resistant to anti-cancer drugs, it’s also known to cause health problems after successful treatment, including hearing loss and other disabilities. It also often returns after treatment.
If we can develop an effective nanoparticle approach to fighting neuroblastoma, it would be yet more evidence of the potential of treating disease at the smallest possible scales: nanoparticles have previously been shown to help kickstart the human immune system to help fight cancer, for example.
Other recent research has looked at how nanoparticles can better target tumours in the brain by squeezing through the blood-brain membrane barrier, as well as reaching other places that conventional drugs can’t get to.
The next step for the researchers behind the latest study is to see if the same positive effects can be observed in animal trials as well as lab tests.
“We are hopeful that in the future, nanoparticles can be utilised to personalise care to patients and reduce the late effects of therapy,” says Westmoreland.
The research has been published in Nanoscale.
Inventing the Individual by Larry Siedentop is yet another piece of historical revisionism which lends a significant amount of support to the absolutist interpretation of the role of political conflict and political structure in the development of culture.
The history presented by Siedentop is one which will be familiar to regular readers, but which adds a great number of twists to the story which instead of causing problems for the theory, lend it added ammunition. One of the more interesting twists provided by Siedentop is the thesis he provides that the driver for the creation of the individual was initially the papacy in an obvious political/ structural conflict with what the Church had termed “secular” authorities. This is interesting in light of William Cavanaugh’s thesis in The myth of Religious Violence which hews far more closely to standard history in placing the origin of the secular/religious split in the state…
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