Thursday, July 31, 2014

Eye in the Sky. US, Pakistan, U2 etc

Dear Omar;

When he have plenty of free time on hand and nothing else to do then you can go over the following piece of a chapter of cold war history.

Eye in the Sky – United States, Pakistan and Reconnaissance during Cold War
Hamid Hussain

Being a friend of the United States is like living on the banks of a great river.  The soil is wonderfully fertile, but every four or eight years the river changes course, and you may find yourself alone in a desert’.  Pakistan’s army chief and President General Muhammad Zia ul Haq to CIA director William Casey, 1983 (1)

United States and Soviet Union were engaged in a worldwide competition for dominance after the Second World War.  Intelligence gathering was an important part of this power struggle between the two super powers.  In the pre-satellite era, high altitude reconnaissance by special aircraft and signal interception were key components of intelligence gathering.  In 1950s and 60s, these operations were conducted from United States as well as from bases all around the globe. 
A variety of equipment was used to gather intelligence including static electronic monitoring facilities on the borders of Soviet Union, high altitude reconnaissance aircraft such as U-2 and RB-57 to collect electronic (ELINT), signals (SIGINT), photos (PHOTOINT), telemetry (TELEINT) and air sampling for detection of radiation emanating from nuclear test sites.  Several agencies including Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Strategic Air Command (SAC) of United States Air Force (USAF), United States Air Force Security Service (USAFSS), United States Army Special Security (USASS) and National Security Agency (NSA) were involved in these wide ranging intelligence activities.

Main focus of these operations was monitoring of missile and nuclear test sites, location of bombers, missile sites and radars and eavesdropping on Soviet communication system.  The general agreement between United States and Pakistan was that in return for Pakistan’s cooperation in such activities, United States would modernize Pakistani armed forces.  Pakistani part of the deal included provision of facilities for U.S. intelligence gathering operations as well as cooperation in some aspects of the operation.  Both parties entered into these agreements looking at their own interests.  United States saw Pakistan as a window through which to peep into Soviet Union’s backyard and Pakistan saw this cooperation as a shortest possible way of modernizing its armed forces. 

Culture and Open Defecation

A couple of weeks ago The New York Times ran a front-page story on the widespread prevalence of open defecation and malnutrition in India. This bit caught a lot of attention:
Open defecation has long been an issue in India. Some ancient Hindu texts advised people to relieve themselves far from home, a practice that Gandhi sought to curb.

You can read rebuttals here and here.

Communalism pays in votes [Data Stories Update]

The previous elections were highly polarized in riot-hit Muzzaffarnagar and Western Uttar Pradesh in general:
What was apparent was that many,many booths across the constituency essentially turned into winner-take-all contests. In these booths, the largest party ended up with a very high vote share – often in excess of 90%. Whole villages or areas under a single booth chose to vote sharply one way or the other. This was in contrast to 2009, where the average booth saw a much more diverse pattern of voting behaviour.

The map below essentially extends that analysis to the whole of UP. The darker areas saw more polarised voting, and the lighter areas saw less. What we see is a sharp difference between Western UP (where Muzaffarnagar is located), and the rest of the state. Voting in both central and Eastern UP was far less polarised than it was in the West.

Nepal Left Behind

Energy use per Capita (kg of oil equivalent per capita) in 1971:
    China             465.52
    Nepal            309.81
    Sri Lanka       299.28
    Pakistan        280.04
    India              275.56
    Bangladesh   84.08

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Lokayata as a "primitive" Indian folk belief?!

The masses have always been suspicious of Brahminical mambo-jumbo but this might be taking it too far:
Lokayata is a school of ancient Indian philosophy and one of three non-orthodox schools of thought. It is popular mainly among lower classes. In ancient Chinese text, it is also known as Lokaayatika, Carapace and the like. It has a very old origin and began to exert an important influence around the 6th century BCE.
Evolution and Relevant Literature - Lokayata dates back at least to the Vedic Age or earlier. Some scholars think it is associated with the earliest Ganges civilisation and primitive Indian folk beliefs.
This was astonishing as well:
In the latter 19th century CE, several thousand of a certain Sikh sect followed the same ideas with Lokayata.