Thursday, August 16, 2018

First biomarker evidence of DDT-autism link

Via and

First biomarker evidence of DDT-autism link

National birth cohort study finds DDT metabolites in the blood of pregnant women are associated with elevated odds of autism in offspring
August 16, 2018
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health
A study of more than 1 million pregnancies in Finland reports that elevated levels of a metabolite of the banned insecticide DDT in the blood of pregnant women are linked to increased risk for autism in the offspring. The study is the first to connect an insecticide with risk for autism using maternal biomarkers of exposure.


Brown's team found no correlation between the PCB by-product and autism. But when they measured DDT by-product levels in the blood samples, they found that mothers with high concentrations of this chemical — those in the top quartile — were 32% more likely than women with lower DDT levels to give birth to children who developed autism. The likelihood that a child with autism accompanied by intellectual disability was twice as high in mothers with elevated DDT levels compared to those with lower levels.
Brown cautions that although there seems to be a link between autism and DDT exposure, the overall risk of having a child with the disorder is low — even among women with high DDT levels. His group plans to look at other organic chemicals in the Finnish database to determine whether they might affect fetuses by interacting with DDT. 
Jonathan Chevrier, an epidemiologist at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, is interested in knowing whether DDT levels are linked to intellectual disability in children who do not have autism. He is currently following more than 700 children in South Africa — where DDT is still used — which could provide hints as to the mechanism by which the pesticide might affect the brain. It’s an important question, he says, given how much DDT persists in the environment, even in places that have banned its use. “At this point, essentially the entire planet is contaminated with DDT,” he says.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Naipaul quotes

Swarajya magazine featured some V.S. Naipaul quotes, of which two follow:

From ‘India: A Wounded Civilization’ published in 1976:

India has been a wounded civilization because of Islamic violence: Pakistanis know this; indeed they revel in it. It is only Indian Nehruvians like Romila Thapar who pretend that Islamic rule was benevolent. We should face facts: Islamic rule in India was at least as catastrophic as the later Christian rule. The Christians created massive poverty in what was a most prosperous country; the Muslims created a terrorised civilization out of what was the most creative culture that ever existed. India was wrecked and looted, not once but repeatedly by invaders with strong religious ideas, with a hatred of the religion of the people they were conquering. People read these accounts but they do not imaginatively understand the effects of conquest by an iconoclastic religion.
The effects of conquest - the Islamic histories describing the conquest of India pretty much describe what ISIS did to the Yazidis, we don't need to exercise our imagination any more.

On Ayodhya, according to Patrick French:
For the poor of India to identify something like this, pulling down the first Mughal emperor’s tomb, is a marvellous idea. I think in years to come it will be seen as a great moment.... It would be a historical statement of India striving to regain her soul. What puzzled me and outraged me was the attitude that it was wrong, that one must not undo the [Muslim] conquest. I think it is the attitude of a slave population.
I should mention that in the early 1990s I was on the opposite side of the argument.  My interest in Indian history began as I sought to justify to myself that my side of the argument - that the Babri Masjid should be let be - was right.   As in all matters that become political, all sides in the argument made false or misleading claims.  Also, the same outcome as that did transpire could have been realized in a more civilized and more lawful way.  Given that the Left's favorite religion is Islam (not just in India) and given that they controlled the discourse in India, getting through their distortion field took a while. In the final verdict, I must say that Naipaul is right.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Dr. Vishwa Adluri on the Mahabharata

Read the whole thing here.

In an interview with Swarajya, you stated, “Itihāsa is history that has overcome historicism: history that has become critical and self-consciousness.” Can you elaborate? How does this affect one’s understanding of the Mahābhārata?

Let us start with a philosophical problem. What is the reality of the external world and what is the validity of sense perception, our primary source of knowledge about the external world? Until we answer these questions, every history is merely contingent. We only have sense perceptions. Often, what we have is not perceptions of events but of artifacts, which we use to draw inferences about their underlying events, ultimately connecting the events into a narrative in view of some overarching purpose. There is thus no bare historical cognition. Rather, history is something we generate.

What we call “world history” is a creation of German scholars and philosophers in the nineteenth century. They provided a new intellectual framework for arranging events: the idea of a common historical space, a world stage on which cultures enter and successively vanish. This was a new way of looking at the world’s cultures—and of extrapolating the law of their succession. For Hegel, history was the process by which Spirit actualized itself, developing from primitive forms of statehood such as China and India to its ultimate expression, Prussia.

Compare this with the Mahābhārata: external reality is problematized through the author’s interventions in the narrative. Human affairs mimetically enact the paradigmatic conflict, the devāsurayuddha. Humans themselves follow the paradigm of their divine archetypes, the devas and asuras. Instead of a linear, progressive history, we have cycles of time. Instead of a distant salvific event, we have the inexorable rise and fall of souls caught between the conflicting imperatives of dharma and adharma. There is no national salvation; only singularized jīvas. This is a different understanding of history, closer to Empedocles, Plato, and Nietzsche than to Hegel and Ranke. Thus, itihāsa is a history that has become critical about external reality and self-conscious about history’s status as a narrative. And it is asking the Nietzschean question about the uses and disadvantages of history for life: Why do we need history? What purpose should history serve?


As progressive as Hiltebeitel’s stance on composition is vis-à-vis the German Indologists, it still grants them too much credence. Ultimately, all speculations as to authorship are trivial before the work, which by its very nature as a great literary work resists reductive analyses about the circumstances or motivations for its composition. This has been the greatest failing of Sanskrit studies generally. Every year more vapid dissertations appear, asserting that some work was written because the author wanted to enhance his status or to oppress someone or to insinuate himself with some sect or to assert the superiority of “his” gods. Every year more papers, these “unlovely exercises exacted by the scholarly code” as Arrowsmith calls them, are added to the pile. We are drowning in scholarship, yet little work of philosophical or artistic merit is done. Through Protestant literalism and its emphasis on the realia, we have entered a non-literary, indeed, a non-literate age. In Twilight of the Idols, Nietzsche mocks the anti-intellectualism of the German university. Ironically, Sheldon Pollock runs around exalting the nineteenth-century German university (see my review of World Philology) when the best of the Germans already saw through it and discarded it.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Vedic Ritual along the Saraswati

Via Dr. Shiv:
Geography of Aryavarta (Indus-Saraswati Civilization) - Part-1: Talk by Sh. Mrugendra Vinod ...

Geography of River Saraswati (Indus-Saraswati Civilization) - Part-2 : Talk by Sh. Mrugendra Vinod

Identification of Unicorn (Indus-Saraswati Civilization) - Part-3 : Talk by Sh. Mrugendra Vinod

For those who can't/don't want to watch, but want a quick summary:

1.  A reiteration of the astronomical information in the Vedic literature that is date-able because of the precession of the equinoxes.

2. The geography of the Saraswati.

3. An explanation of the peculiar symbol appearing in Harappan seals as the yupa or tie-post of the sacrificial animals in the Asvamedha yagna.

On the geography of the Saraswati: in the Vedic rituals, there is one that is to be performed on the banks of the Saraswati.  It involves an altar on wheels, the yajamana throws a stick; the altar is moved to that point, the rituals are conducted; then the yajamana throws the stick again.  This is done going upstream from where the Saraswati disappears (Vinashana) through the junction with the river Drishadvati, which is a seasonal river, and then to the head of the Saraswati.   Then the final ritual bath in the Yamuna that is a day away. The ritual takes about 22 years.   The arithmetic (I haven't checked for myself) fits with the geography of the hypothetical Saraswati.

A key point that the speaker makes is that Western scholarship and those under its spell (that would include persons like me) have focused on the Rg Vedic poetry and rather neglected the ritual manuals.  Poetry is full of metaphor and can be interpreted in myriad ways;  but the ritual manuals are rather specific.

Another point is to understand how the tradition is taught and preserved.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Braided River

The Waimakariri River in the South Island of New Zealand is braided over most of its course
By I, Gobeirne, CC BY 2.5,

If you look for an inheritance tree, you will find a tree; but a tree is only a model.
Multiregional theory of human origins in Africa:
The New Story of Humanity's Origins in Africa
Several new discoveries suggest that our species didn’t arise from a single point in space. Instead, the entire continent was our cradle.

Perhaps the same is true for the Indo-European languages.

Excerpt, emphasis added:

This can be a tricky concept to grasp, because we’re so used to thinking about ancestry in terms of trees, whether it’s a family tree that unites members of a clan or an evolutionary tree that charts the relationships between species. Trees have single trunks that splay out into neatly dividing branches. They shift our thoughts toward single origins. Even if humans were widespread throughout Africa 300,000 years ago, surely we must have started somewhere.

Not so, according to the African-multiregionalism advocates. They’re arguing that Homo sapiens emerged from an ancestral hominid that was itself widespread through Africa, and had already separated into lots of isolated populations. We evolved within these groups, which occasionally mated with each other, and perhaps with other contemporaneous hominids like Homo naledi.

The best metaphor for this isn’t a tree. It’s a braided river—a group of streams that are all part of the same system, but that weave into and out of each other.

These streams eventually merge into the same big channel, but it takes time—hundreds of thousands of years. For most of our history, any one group of Homo sapiens had just some of the full constellation of features that we use to define ourselves. “People back then looked more different to each other than any populations do today," says Scerri, “and it’s very hard to answer what an early Homo sapiens looked like. But there was then a continent-wide trend to the modern human form.” Indeed, the first people who had the complete set probably appeared between 40,000 and 100,000 years ago.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Sri Lanka: Agriculture in the Pleistocene?

Anil Suri has an article at How Old Is Indian Agriculture?

The article goes over some well-known findings; but also makes an extraordinary claim.

To trace the trajectory from incipient cultivation as a dry crop to the wetland crop rice had become by around 7500 BCE, we must journey south, indeed, as far down as the southern part of Sri Lanka. To the mesmerizingly beautiful Horton Plains National Park, to be precise. Here, there is evidence of cattle herding and grazing, microcharcoal indicating the use of fire to clear the land of forests, cultivation of edible plants, and early management of barley and oats from – hold your breath – 15,500 BCE. It is believed the subcontinent experienced a semi-arid climate between 22,000 and 15,500 BCE, followed by a sustained, progressively warmer spell, with a concomitantly strengthening monsoon, starting around 16,500 BCE. Thus, early attempts at pastoralism and agriculture begin almost as soon as the climate became ever so slightly conducive. The climate got progressively better for agriculture, peaking in an extremely humid period around 6700 BCE. As the humidity increased, cultivated rice made its first known appearance here around 13,000 BCE. Notice that the early dwellers of the Horton Plains seem to have figured out which crop was best suited to a particular climate. Closely following the improvement in the climate, intensive agriculture in the region began around 11,000 BCE, and there was an abrupt shift in emphasis from oats and barley to rice after 8000 BCE. The fact that intensive rice cultivation was being done on the Ganga plain by no later than the mid-8th millennium BCE, as described above, shows there were many independent centres for the establishment of agriculture in the subcontinent, and that the progress in agriculture happened closely in tandem with climactic changes.

In around 16,000 BCE, which falls in the Ice Age, India and Sri Lanka would have been contiguous as the sea level was about 120 metres lower than it is today. (Around 8000 BCE, it was still 50 metres lower.) This early attempt at agriculture was no flash in the pan. Archaeologists believe that there is a continuity of agricultural tradition in the subcontinent right from then. The archaeologist, Premathilake writes, The evidence of early form of agricultural activities found in the Horton Plains do not appear to have got isolated at the regional level and similar type of evidence in the form of cultivated pollen and other proxies is available in the Indian subcontinent.

Horton Plains is called "Maha Eliya Thanne" by the locals.

  1. The above claim is based on the 2006 paper by R. Premathilake, "The emergence of early agriculture in the Horton Plains, central Sri Lanka: linked to late Pleistocene and early Holocene climatic changes", which seems to have been pretty much ignored, if one goes by the number of citations this paper has received.  A quick search does not show any follow-up activity going on either.

  2. The Premathilake paper says: "It is clear that incipient management of barley and oats occur around 15 500 BC in the Horton Plains as evidenced by pollen and other multi-proxy records (e.g. phytoliths, diatoms, stable carbon isotope, organic carbon, total carbon, environmental mineral magnetic). The semi- humid event between 15 600 and 14 000 BC corresponds to incipient management of cereal plants (oats and barley). The pollen evidence also indicates herding, possibly of Bos sp. and supportive indications are (1) forest clearance/ burning, (2) grazing, (3) pastures, (4) the presence of a characteristic edible plant, (5) a cultivated shrub, (6) various types of disturbed fields, e.g: patanas, (7) enhanced anthropogenic erosion as indicated by the initial increase of the values in magnetic susceptibility parameters (8) and high percentages of microscopic charcoal particles. These observations can be interpreted as the result of the initial stage of slash- and-burn activity."
Agriculture 16000 years ago is an extraordinary claim and I think that these findings are in need of independent replication; and presumably much more intensive studies of the Maha Eliya Thanne region are called for.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

On Denmark's Laws for Immigrant Ghettos

The NYTimes has a news-item  In Denmark, Harsh New Laws for Immigrant ‘Ghettos’.
Starting at the age of 1, “ghetto children” must be separated from their families for at least 25 hours a week, not including nap time, for mandatory instruction in “Danish values,” including the traditions of Christmas and Easter, and Danish language. Noncompliance could result in a stoppage of welfare payments. Other Danish citizens are free to choose whether to enroll children in preschool up to the age of six.