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I wonder if artillery gunners and bomber crews really chalked stuff on their munitions. Or was it all faked for the photographer? All those Kaiser or Hitler Special Delivery shells or bombs. Did people really bother? It's much the same when it comes to unit nicknames. All those Ladies from Hell, Devil Dogs or Green Devils. I have a feeling that enemy troops would not come up with awed descriptions of their opponents. I tracked down the term some German troops used for kilted regiments during the First World War. It wasn't exactly awe filled or respectful. It sounded like how German troops really would describe kilted soldiers and was more than somewhat disrespectful.

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I heard some on the BBC's Life Scientific which caused me concern. The programme profiles and interviews leading scientists. Two of the British women scientists on recently were privately educated. How many women in the UK are privately educated? Statistically, it's surely unlikely that even one privately educated woman would appear on the programme. What worried me was the possibility that opportunities in scientific research were heavily weighted in favour of those whose parents could afford to pay for private school. One of the women I heard went to a school that saw its mission as teaching Home Economics to create good little housewives. And yet it appeared that whatever job this woman wanted to try, doors were opened for her. I think Africa suffers badly due to lack of opportunity for youngsters whose parents are not rich. I worry that maybe perhaps a career in UK science is no longer a question of talent, but of parental income. That's something we can't afford.

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When I was a 17 year old office boy at the Glasgow Herald I was sent to the Mitchell Library for about a week to find out what the paper had said about momentous events in history. This was for a book to mark the paper's bi-centenary. I can't remember now much of what I found but I do recall they didn't use the comments on the acquisition of Hong Kong in the early 1840s. Basically, the paper said Britain had been cheated by the Chinese and what was it going to do with this barren island at the mouth of the Canton. What I do remember is how the paper's attitude to the poor and working classes changed after the First World War. Before the war the paper took a paternal and concerned attitude. After the 1918 the working classes were the enemy within. These were days of Red Clydeside. This was the paper read by the handful of men who ran heavy industry in Scotland and who, along with their sons, would cripple attempts from the 1930s onward to diversify the Scottish economy and give workers a wider choice of employers. And then eventually move their shipbuilding operations, etc, to places like Korea. Even before I joined the Herald, Koreans had a higher standard of living than the Scots. The Red Menace of 1918 conjured up by the Herald had been vanquished.

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I recently watched an American documentary about the 1944 D-Day Landings. One of the US infantrymen interviewed had an obvious German accent. He was described as being "of German descent". But was he brought up in Germany? Not necessarily. I remember talking to an old Ukrainian guy in Edmonton. He spoke English with a thick Eastern European accent. But it turned out he'd been born and raised in Canada. He had the accent because all the adults in the village he was brought up in spoke English with a thick European accent.

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I saw a documentary about the 1994 Mull of Kintyre Chinook Crash, which pretty much wiped out the entire leadership of Britain's anti-terrorism effort in Northern Ireland. I came to Canada in 1997. So I was unaware of the vehemence with which successive government ministers insisted "nothing to see here, move along". The RAF inquiry ruled that two of its top Chinook pilots were guilty of gross negligence. Eventually, it was admitted that there was insufficient evidence to support the finding. So, the public still does not know what really happened. It has come out that there were a lot of concerns about the safety of the American-built Chinook 2 and government ministers were lied to and misled by the Ministry of Defence. The MoD does lie, sometimes stupid lies. Usually it does so due what it interprets as "National Security". Often this simply means not saying anything that might embarrass the Americans.

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What do Alberta Premier Danielle Smith and Russian Federation supremo Vladimir Putin have in common? They have both appeared in recent weeks being "interviewed" by American right wing propagandist Tucker Carlson. Smith said she welcomed the chance to tell the world the good news from the Canadian province. Even accepting Carlson's claim to be a journalist, which he is not, Smith does not seem to have been asked by local reporters why she did it twice, once in Calgary and again in Edmonton. In fact it looks like she was pandering to a right wing pressure group, a lot like the old Left Wing Militant Tendency in the UK, which has been taking control of the local branches of her ruling United Conservative Party. These are the kind of people who would vote for Donald Trump if they could. And in fact, I suspect, a lot can as they are dual US-Canadian citizens. Putin just wanted a platform in the west which would not involve being asked any hard questions. Who'd have thunk a hard core right winger like Carlson would be a shill for The Evil Empire? Anyway, when are Smith and Putin going to share a stage? We should be told.

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Sometimes the cleverest funniest television adverts fail. The first viewing is often a delight. But once you know the punchline, the payoff, from the second time onwards the advert can be one long bore. And that boredom can easily translate into irritation with the advert and this is transferred onto the product being marketed. It's a shame.

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Many years ago, while on a visit to Vancouver, I spotted a "clan" gathering featuring the Chief of the Clan Macleod. Actually, it turned out to be pretty much a begging session to raise funds for renovations to Dunvegan Castle. I had a chat with the guest of honour, Chief John. He started by quizzing me about my own Scottish bloodline. Cheeky. I didn't see what it had to do with anything. And for the questions to be posed in such a posh English Public School accent! I refrained from pointing out that even if I was half-Polish or Swedish, I almost certainly had more Scottish DNA than him. The Anglo-Scots male tends to marry English money generation after generation. Nope, even with my Irish and English forefathers in the mix, I'm confident of who was more "Scottish". Born there, educated there and with enslaved coal miners in the family tree.

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Three times last week I couldn't believe that professional journalists failed to ask obvious questions. One was an item about "neurodivergent" adults, or however they want to be referred to, who were working as parcel couriers. What I wanted to know was were they still getting their full government benefits and did this mean that they were being exploited as cheap labour? And keeping people not in receipt of benefits out of a job by working for a wage that didn't meet the cost of living? Another item was about similar adults doing graphic design. The argument seemed to be that they were more creative than college-trained and indoctrinated professional artists. But it seemed that very little of what these amateurs did was being used. My question was is someone pocketing a big charity grant for running this scheme? I can't see how it makes money if no-one wants what is being created. Obvious questions that went unasked. The third thing I won't bother you with, it arose from journalists interviewing other journalists when one of them has made little or no attempt to investigate the truth of someone's claims. The reporter being interviewed was basically answering that she didn't know and how could she know. The answer was if you were doing your job you could give a better answer than that.

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Once upon a time, long ago, and in a place far far away there was a newspaper owner who thought the journalists' union was getting too big for its boots. He thought and thought and eventually came up with an idea. The paper had a lot of freelance contributors. He wrote to the freelancers and told them that due to Hard Times he would have to cut how much they were paid. The freelancers were not happy. They appealed to their fellow union members who worked full time as staffers for the paper for help in fighting the paycut. But the staffers weren't interested in doing much for the freelancers. Then the newspaper owner provoked a dispute with the staffers and there was a big big strike. As the owner knew would happen, the angry freelancers continued to write for the paper and despite the staffers not contributing stories any more there was no shortage of content. And the freelancers' threatened cut in income never happened. So, it wasn't a case of If You Stick Together, You'll Win; Take It Easy, But Take It. Maybe another time I'll tell you how the newspaper dealt with sub- editing the paper during the strike. That was neat but a ruthless plan also.

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OK, , I'm not sure of the spelling but several people who pretend to be Indians to benefit from  "positive discrimination" have been in headlines here in Canada recently. The outing of the singer Buffy Sainte-Marie as a New England Italian rather than a kidnapped as a baby Cree Indian from Saskatchewan has prompted a lot of discussion. Sainte-Marie is only the latest person whose Indian credentials have been challenged. Italians long passed themselves off in Hollywood films as Indian actors. Here in Canada several senior academics have had the claim of Indian ancestry that got them their jobs suddenly questioned. I heard one commentator point out that the universities involved hadn't checked out the fake claims because they wanted to virtue signal by employing Indians in senior positions while actually hiring white  "settlers" who wouldn't rock the boat. An interesting  take that explains a lot. 

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Well, the day many of you have been awaiting with bated breath, not, has arrived. The 2023 Book of the Year has been announced. Most years the short list is four or five books. That works out at maybe one book every three months. And that's from a field of 52 books in a year. It's been decided not to name and shame the worst book of the year. But regular readers of Book Briefing will know 2023 was not without its stinkers. The things I do for you. Anyway, check out Book of the Year to find out this year's winner. The book reviews part of the website can be viewed at Book Briefing.

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I don't know what the latest medical orthodoxy is but it used to be said that a glass of wine or a beer in the evening were part of a healthy lifestyle. A little relaxer. But I often wondered if the advice was based on surveys of the lifestyles of folk who reached an advanced age. Perhaps it wasn't the modest daily alcohol intake that was contributing to longevity. Maybe it was moderation itself. Moderation in all things.

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When I was around 10 years old we used to live on what was basically a building site. Our house was one of the first to be completed on a pretty substantial new housing estate. It was being built, by the way, by a company that had originally made its money running whaling ships out of Leith. Anyway, there wasn't a lot, apart from playing football at The Atlas Park, for kids to do. But there were a lot of empty oil drums on the building site. So, guess what we did? Yep, we used to cram ourselves inside old oil drums and roll down the hill until we hit the wall of a house under construction at the bottom. Do kids still do that kind of thing? Or are they too busy on their smart phones?

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The fellah in the poster’s standing there pipe in hand and his two mates are warming themselves by a roaring fireplace. What’s he selling? Why, a life in the Australian Army. The selling point is Comradeship. I reckon from the battledress that the three are wearing that the recruiting campaign must have been in the late 1950s or early 1960s. The poster is a bit different from most. They tend to feature The Missing Man, or What Did You Do in the War Daddy?, or A Square Meal and Plenty of Time Playing Football with Training for a Civilian Skilled Trade , or Be Part of A Proud Tradition, or Travel and Adventure. Roaring log fires and pipe smoking at the hearth and a promise what the Aussies these days I think call Mateship is an interesting approach to recruitment.

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If chattering classes dominated radio is to be believed then the most pressing issue in Afghanistan today is female education. Nope. The average Afghan father is way too poor to send his daughters to high school or university and not being able to do so is the least of his worries. And, anyway, education for most boys doesn't go much beyond learning to recite the Koran by heart. No, only the urban elite could afford to send their daughters to university. But that is who our western media identify so strongly with. Diversity in newsrooms is thought of only in terms of skin tone or sexual preference. But a Home Counties Pony Club lesbian whose parents come from overseas is indistinguishable on the radio from one whose ancestors have lived in Hampshire for centuries. By the way, the Taliban strongly identified girls' education with the western military. I seem to recall that the prime reason, almost the only one, given to the public as to why Canadian and British youngsters were being killed and maimed in Afghanistan was girls' education. So, perhaps no surprise the Taliban regime has curtailed it so drastically.

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Years ago I saw a documentary about an American black doctor taking his daughters to West Africa to celebrate their heritage. I can't remember if he knew for sure that his ancestors came from the country he chose for the family expedition. Perhaps he'd hired some scam family tree expert who claimed to know. Anyway, this fellah was immensely proud of his slave ancestors and of his own professional success. The thing is that at every turn during his African trip he was swindled and cheated by the locals. All they saw was another rich gullible Yank. Skin tone counted for nothing to them.

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Last week I heard some classic hubris. A radio presenter was recounting on air how her waitress was worried about flitting after a light snowfall. "I told her I read the weather forecast on the radio and that there would be no snow left by the time of her move," recounted the presenter. Maybe I'm being too harsh and she just meant that she kept a regular eye on the forecasts. But it came across as suggesting some expertise in the meteorology. I would no more take this woman seriously regarding forthcoming weather than I would take medical advice from an actor who declares "I am not a doctor but I play one on television". You may well wonder how such a piece of self-regarding banality as the waitress story came to be broadcast. Indeed. But these are same people who believe the solution to the Cost of Living Crisis is simply to pick up a smaller size skinny latte on the way to work.

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Here in Canada, Remembrance Day is a public holiday, or stat as most folk call them. Most stats are on a Monday to create a long weekend. There are about 10 a year and I think majority are Mondays. The exceptions would be November 11, July 1 (Canada Day) Christmas Day, and New Year. OK, so five the stats are Mondays. Good Friday is also a specific day, rather than date, stat. To make up for all the stats, Canadian employers tend to give folk a week's less holiday entitlement than folks in the UK enjoy. At the Edmonton Sun there was an odd stat holiday tradition. A few days before the stat someone would pin up a notice informing folk of their legal entitlements if they worked on the holiday, which I seem to recall included double pay. Once the notice was up, the question was how long would be before it was torn down. It might have made an interesting sweep stake - entries being in 15 minute increments after posting. I wonder if management ever worked out who was doing the posting.

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This is a story that got away from me. Mainly because it wasn't worth flying from Canada to Australia for and my Australian collaborators were crap. Like most Commonwealth countries, Australia has pensions for disabled war veterans. Until recently, most of those veterans were from the First or Second World Wars. Many had suffered serious battlefield injuries. But the pensions are also paid out to people who suffered some injury due to their wartime military service. One of the oddest must have been the former Australian aircrew member who wanted compensation for the loss of his teeth. He did his air force training on the Canadian Prairies, as did many Commonwealth flyers. He successfully argued that the quality of the drinking water at his training base was so poor that he was forced to survive on a well-known sugary soft drink. Which in turn rotted his teeth and now he was entitled to compensation. The hearing agreed. I thought it was interesting. The veteran's local paper couldn't be bothered pulling the hearing documentation. With Remembrance Day coming up this weekend, this photo from 1917 may serve as a reminder of what it looks like a battle goes wrong.

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