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I sometimes think that DNA is regarded as the new magic or religion. But like all science, the results are not always clear cut as they first seem. Example: - most post-mortems reveal food in the stomach, therefore eating causes death. OK, that's a bit extreme but every week we hear of some amazing scientific "discovery" which requires just a bit more money to double check through more research. And then the claimed breakthrough is never heard of again. Anyway, DNA. I am just waiting for some bright spark to announce that the Anglo Saxons settled the West Highlands of Scotland in the distant past. This is based on the DNA of the entire population of the remote Knoydart Peninsula now being heavily Anglo Saxon. That may be what the DNA science says. But history says that the original population was forcibly removed in the mid-1800s. Attempts in 1948 to use legislation first introduced after the First World War to allow returning servicemen to claim crofts on under-used agricultural land were defeated. The courts sided with Nazi-loving landowner Lord Brocket. And I wonder how scientists would fare when it comes to untangling the DNA of the historic population of the rural Highlands anyway. Many of the long standing families were kicked off the land, or emigrated, years ago to be replaced first of all by Border shepherds and these days by English estate workers. I say "English estate workers" because it seems that every stalker and ghillie I hear interviewed on the radio is from south of the border. And then there's a problem that DNA testing is revealing very few family trees are good guides to genetic make-up. A lot of dad's in them are not biological fathers. Personally, I don't care. I think nurture is far more important than nature. It makes no difference to me if one of my great great great grandfathers is no blood relation of mine (not that I’m saying that anyone has said such a thing). I find fascination with DNA misguided and even a little fascist.  

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So, according to the BBC, the Anglo Saxons once ruled Britain. That’s news – news to folks in Wales and Scotland.  This is getting like shooting fish in a barrel. It’s too easy to find a BBC journalist who cannot differentiate between England and Britain. This week I’m back with a regular offender – Dan Damon of the BBC World Service’s World Update. English “journalists” are the worst for this. Irish, Scottish and Welsh know better. The increasing number of foreigners to be heard on the BBC airwaves also tend not to make this kind of blunder; possibly because they have taken an interest in their adopted homeland and done some background study.  Sadly, many English assume they know it all. Damon perhaps needs some re-education, or should that be “education”, before he should be allowed on any programme which purports to be “British”. Until that is done he may be better suited to Radio Leicester or Radio Cumbria. The Anglo-Saxons never ruled Britain. It was only shortly before the Norman Invasion of 1066 that large swathes of northern England were wrested from Scandinavian control. English dominance of the British Isles had to wait until 1707. By which time our rulers were more Anglo-Norman than Anglo-Saxon. 

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A lot of the criminals live in a fantasy world in which in their own minds they are some kind of Robin Hood character. When I worked as a reporter on Tyneside, ram raiding was a popular crime. A vehicle would be driven through the front of a shop and then a faster getaway car would be loaded up with items and vanish into the night. The haul was usually highly portable but expensive property, such as electronics. One day local police were pursuing a stolen car when the thieves miscalculated a turn and were killed in the ensuing wreck. They were described in the paper as 'joyriders'. Almost unbelievably an outraged family member of one of the dead, I think it was his mother, phoned up to complain. The dead kid was no mere joyrider, he was a ram raider. I can only imagine that in her twisted and romanticized world ram raiding involved a classier sort of criminal. 

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I hate to tell you this; but there ain't no crock o'gold at the end of the rainbow. I know, because years ago I managed to get within a few feet of a rainbow touchdown. It was on at the beach at Campbeltown. I didn't think it was possible to get so close. So, apparently did the people who put out the story that there was a crock of gold at the end of the rainbow. Some folks just love sending others on fools' errands; anyone got a tin of elbow grease? Now the science is that because a rainbow is caused by light refraction, they are usually only visible at a distance. But, obviously based on my experience, with the right combination of factors, it is possible to be within a few feet of a rainbow touchdown. There are people out there on the interweb who claim to actually have stood at the bottom of one. In my case I couldn't get closer than about 20 feet or so from the multi-coloured spotlight touchdown. So, either there's a treasure trove of over one hundred square feet under the beach at Campbeltown or there is no crock o'gold at all.

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Years and years ago I was in Jasper National Park in Canada. I was looking at the thousands of acres of timber spreading up the mountainsides to the tree line. It suddenly occurred to me as I lay there that I was seeing was what much of Scotland used to look like. Once the Highlands and much of the lowlands was forest. The Caledonian Forest. All those grand Highland stark mountain views are due to a man-made desert. Those majestic slopes were clad in trees in much the same way as the mountains around Jasper still are. The culprit in the Highlands is humanity via the agency of sheep and deer. The original blanket of trees was burned or cut down for reasons ranging from flushing out outlaws, to making charcoal for early metal smelting, through to boring out tree trunks to make London sewer pipes. But the regenerative new growth never came because the saplings were chewed down by sheep put on the land for profit or deer put there for rich men's sport. Of course, regimented blocks of trees are planted and harvested in Scotland every year but it's not quite the same. And the bio-diversity on the slopes is pretty minimal. Sadly, the damage is too far gone for simply removing the sheep and deer to make much difference - too much soil erosion now for a start. 

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When I was 17 or 18 years old I bought a record. No big deal that a teenager would buy a record, you may think. Big wows. The thing was that at the time I didn't have a record-player. But I knew, just knew, that one day I would have a record player. And that's why at the end of the Paul Downes and Phil Beer concert at, I think, The Third Eye Centre, on Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow I splashed out on their record. They were that good. Two English guys. Session musicians I think. They sang an eclectic mix which included the Beatles and Benny Hill as well as more Folk orientated stuff. I don't think they ever became famous but I hope Music gave them a good living. I guess they numbered among the unsung heroes, and heroines, of the music industry. Good enough that someone without a record-player would buy their album knowing he wanted the chance to hear them again at some time in the future.

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I doubt if I’m the first person to point out that the Guinness Book of Records has lost its way. Some of the records it records are just stupid. Who cares about the greatest number of people holding hands while they recite in unison Mary Had a Little Lamb? When the book was started, as a brewer’s promotion, it was to settle pub arguments. How many people get all riled up in the pub over the greatest number of people holding hands while the recite a childhood poem? Quite possibly zero. Now, tallest man, greatest number of children, longest finger nails, most prolific convicted mass killer, most London buses jumped on a motorcycle, etc, do still crop up over pub tables. I think the Guinness people started noting stupid futile pointless activities to generate publicity for themselves. And life must be getting tougher for them at a time when most folk sitting in a pub can find almost any information the want on their smart phone. 

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More years ago than I care to admit I spent most the time between finishing school homework and going to bed played football. There wasn't much else to do and the number of other kids who wanted to play determined the size of sides. Basically, everyone who showed up got a game and which team someone played for was determined by in what order they showed up. I was more of an enthusiastic player than a skilled one. So, when it came to organised games or tournaments I was seldom picked to play. But no matter; if I could, I would enter my own team. I remember a team I put together reached the semi-finals of a town-wide tournament staged in a local park. We wore strips borrowed from my primary school. Later at High School I wasn't picked for an end of term competition but once again got a team together. When one of the players from other Sixth Year team fell off a cliff, one my my team defected to it. Now here's the point. Although the teams I recruited were usually the second-rate players, we often did better than the teams composed of better footballers. We were well aware of our limitations and tended to pass more, etc. We were never a Team of Greats but we instinctively became a Great Team. There's a moral in there somewhere. 

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You know, for someone who was once the idol of human rights activists, Aung San Suu Kyi is turning out to be quite the cheerleader for the Burmese military. Two Burmese journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe OO, have just been jailed for trying to do their jobs and the odious Aung has labelled them "traitors" who well deserve seven years in the pokey. Never mind that the two journalists were caught in a sting after they accepted documents relating to the murder of Muslim minority Rohingya from someone posing as a journalistic source. Aung has pretty much been a cheerleader for what the United Nations now regards as a genocide in Myanmar, the name the military strongmen have given Burma. She applauds the military's crackdown on "terrorists". It would appear that Aung's interest in human rights never went much beyond her right to rule Burma. The military shoved her snout away from the trough because she was girlie. But Aung would have been given access if she'd been the son of Second World War Japanese collaborator General Aung San instead of a daughter. Long before the Burmese military started the wholesale murder and eviction of over 700,000 Rohingya the Burmese leader had made it clear they could expect no help from her. Speaking of help. Has anyone ever asked who called the cops on deluded American Aung San fan John Yettaw after he swam a lake in 2009 to visit his heroine when she was under house arrest? Canada stupidly gave this monster honourary citizenship. I hope the Canadian government has to guts to revoke it and demand Aung San is hauled before an international court for her part in Myanmar's ethnic cleansing. 

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The BBC believes that Korea was partitioned in 1953 after a ceasefire was declared. I could blog every week correcting the garbage that the, publicly funded by a United Kingdom-wide levy on television owners but overwhelmingly English-dominated, broadcaster puts out. But Korea is a big story and such ignorance of the basic facts is disturbing, to say the least. So, BBC here is what really happened. Japanese-ruled Korea was divided along the 38th Parallel into two occupation zones, American and Soviet, at the end of the Second World War in 1945l. Neither of the local puppet regimes installed was much to write home about and in 1950 Communist North Korean invaded corrupt American client South Korea. There was a ding-dong war which raged up and down the peninsula which eventually petered out and ended with a ceasefire, basically along the 38th Parallel, in 1953. The BBC's Jackie Leonard on the World Service's Newsroom made the post-war partition gaff in an item about South Koreans being allowed all-too brief meetings with North Korean relatives. Now, I don't know if Ms Leonard writes her own scripts. But I do know she should read them through before going on air. So should the programme's producer. I don't have the BBC's expensive news-gathering resources but almost any history book would have told the BBC when Korea was partitioned. The whole organisation must be held to account for this kind of incompetence. On the subject of the World Service, good for Edinburgh City Council revoking the freedom of the city foolishly bestowed on the service's former favourite world leader Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi. Anyone who looked closely at the career of murdered Burmese military strongman and Axis collaborator Aung San's daughter would have realised years ago that  she was a wrong 'un.  But the World Service used to love her and was very very slow to call her out over her odious attitude to the Rohingya Muslims and their horrendous treatment at the hands of her country's army . 

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I’m reading another American book at the moment. Now, if I read an American book I shouldn’t grumble if it is filled with words spelled the American way. But sometimes I still do. But the real irritant is that I have to keep reminding myself that that is not how I have to spell words in question when I’m writing for a mainly British audience. Of course, one day everyone will spell things the American way. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, unless a careful eye is kept on word processing software (most of it of United States origin), it will change spellings to the American version without asking. Yes,  I know about setting the dictionary to UK English and making that the default but that doesn’t always work. And secondly, the past two or three generations of teachers in the United Kingdom have verged on the illiterate. It’s not their fault. It all dates back to the 1960s when educationalists believed that being constrained by grammar and spelling was killing kids’ creative juices. So, good spelling and grammar were not taught early enough in a child’s schooling. A rot set in that just got worse and worse. How can today’s teachers teach something they were not properly taught themselves? They don’t have much of a chance when the people who taught them hadn’t been taught because teachers who taught them had not been given a good grounding because the people they learned from were victims of trendy 1960s educational theorists.

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When the Scots look at Northern Ireland I wonder how many realise that Kintyre was used as a laboratory for the displacement of the native Celtic population by their Lowland cousins. The Ulster Plantation was mirrored by the plantation of Kintyre after its MacDonald overlords were kicked out by the Edinburgh government. A lot of the best farms in Kintyre are owned by the descendants of Ayrshire farmers brought in by the Campbells. The names Ralston and Armour come to mind immediately. To this day, the farmers have a lot of clout in the Campbeltown area. I recall one of my predecessors as editor of the Campbeltown Courier believed crossing them had cost her her job. And I always suspected that an anonymous complaint that I’d showed up to cover a night-time meeting inappropriately attired had come from one of the farmers’ organisations. It was shame that I left the job before their next meeting or they would have found out my attitude to anonymous complaints. Another pointer to the Kintyre Plantation is the anglicisation of Gaelic family names.  There are a lot of names in the Campbeltown area which suggest they were anglicised a generation or two before those in the rest of the Highlands and Islands. I certainly had never encountered so many MacVicars, McSporrans,  McIlcheres, or MacKinvens before I moved to Campbeltown. 

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One of the problems with the media, and it has always been so, is that it has a very short attention span. It is very much “flavour of the month” stuff. The World’s justified contempt for the always odious Aung San Suui Kyi over the treatment of the Rohingya stayed in the headlines and on the pages of the newspapers for longer than most stories. But now she is being let off the hook as the media finds new supposedly more interesting and relevant issues to feature. There are still occasional mentions of the plight of the displaced Rohinyga pounded by monsoon rains in often desperate conditions in the refugee camps of neighbouring Bangladesh. But the pressure is basically off Aung Sang and her military thug partners as they run Myanmar as their own personal business fiefdom. This is no-news is great news for western businesses because the subject of sanctions, the only thing short of military action that might persuade Aung Sang and her nasty cronies to lay off the Rohingya, has been quietly dropped from the agenda.  Don’t let this happen. I was delighted to see Canada's Museum of Human Rights, in Winnipeg, has removed Aung's photo from its hall of fame. Rather than follow the museum's lead all at once, it would be great if similar bodies across the planet could over the period of several months one by one do the same thing and thus generate headline after headline in the World media. 

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I was listening to an interview with a woman who was trying to arrange of all the church bells in Britain to be rung to mark the centenary of the end of World War One. Suddenly, the interviewer, Dan Damon, asked if bells had been rung in the United States to mark the Armistice in 1918. The woman didn’t say it but the tone of her voice suggested that she hadn’t a clue and didn’t really care. Mr Damon explained that the BBC World Service has a lot of listeners in the United States. So?? Does every item on the BBC World Service have to mention the United States from now on? Mr Damon’s approach is both patronising and muddle-headed. Not all Americans are obsessed with their own country to the exclusion of all others. And the Americans who listen to the BBC do so to get away from the self-obsessed American media which believes if no Americans are involved in a given event then it might as well not have happened. I live in Canada at the moment and we get a lot of American news, way more than we deserve. It’s cheaper for Canadian broadcasters to take feeds from the US television news than cover actual events in Canada. I’ll tell you how bad it can get. Back in 2013 a runaway train carrying oil exploded in the middle of a town in Quebec killing 47 people. The event rated barely a mention on the evening news I watched that day. But we did get seven minutes or so about two people being killed at an airport in the United States. By the way, Mr Damon was part of the BBC’s Team Clueless which covered the Scottish Independence referendum. The Barr-ass!! 

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The Ministry of Defence’s decision to compensate British service personnel for having to pay Scottish income tax to support Holyrood is a pretty cheap political shot. Many of soldiers, sailors, and RAF personnel will be getting about £12 rebate a year. Considering the cost of administering the rebates, it hardly seems worth it. And the personnel stationed in Scotland will continue to get free prescriptions, free school meals and a better funded education for their kids, etc. The real winners are the highly paid officers who will be getting up to £1,500 pounds in rebates. My guess is that the rebates will go towards paying their kids private school fees. Thus helping to maintain the fine tradition of ex-public school boys dominating the officer corps of the British Army. There are plenty of jobs that mean that people are forced to work in areas in which they pay higher council  rates for public services than did in their home town and yet as far as I know, apart from London-weighting, the London government does nothing for them. What’s so special about the military and Scotland? If you ask me, it’s all a political stunt. The London government’s suggestion that unless the rebates are paid there will be no-one willing to come to Scotland to keep in the nuclear submarines in the Clyde operational is an insult to the technicians of Royal Navy. 

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Here in North America coming to work early and leaving late is much admired. The people who do that kind of thing are often promoted. I used to come in early for my shift too, but that was because I wanted to do the morning calls in my own way and that included chatting to people about matters that were not strictly business, and I used to leave late, but that was because there was no point leaving on time and spending an hour in a rush-hour traffic jam; why not just leave an hour later and drive straight home? I understand that in Germany, people who come in early and leave late are not marked for promotion. The Germans seem to take the sensible attitude that if someone can’t do their job in the time allocated, then something is wrong. And that “something” is more likely to be the employee than the employer. So, German bosses are decidedly unimpressed by what North Americans see as eager beavers. And let’s not get into people who never take holidays. It’s not unusual to find that’s because they don’t want anyone else doing their job and finding out either how incompetent they are or how much fraud they are committing.

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I heard the most interesting thing on the German Government’s English-language radio service – apparently the people of Berlin welcomed the Red Army as liberators in 1945. But, according to  Deutsche Welle, the good citizens of Berlin soon tired of the boorish Soviets and were grateful when the Americans saved them from starvation during the Berlin Airlift of 1949. Most of the item on the radio was about how wonderful the Americans were. This was a bit of a surprise because the Americans had no interest in fighting to “liberate” the people of Berlin from the Nazis until Hitler declared war on them in 1941. Liberation came courtesy of the fickle Red Army, at least according to DW.  The German radio programme did acknowledge that the British and some private airlines may have had something to do with the airlift, but apart from one token RAF pilot interviewed, the item focused on how wonderful Americans are. I was a little surprised to hear how delighted the people of Berlin had been at the arrival of the Soviets, but if the German Government says so………

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More than a decade ago I came across an odd little book in a second-hand shop. It was written by a Scots guy who at one point had spent some time riding around North America on freight trains in either the 1920s or 1930s. I think the Americans called such people “railroad bums” . Or maybe Hobos. Anyway, it turned out that this fella had ridden some trains that had gone through Alberta, which is where I live for the time being.  He recounted in the book that his fellow travellers strongly advised him not to get off the train in Alberta because it was widely believed by them that the province’s population was mostly crazy. Our Scot was told that Alberta was basically the last place in the world to be populated by white people. Many of the settlers had already failed badly in other parts of the world, such as Australia, Africa, eastern Canada or the United States. The province was the last chance saloon for some real strange dudes. I can’t say how valid the advice our Scottish chum was given actually was. But to this day Alberta has a reputation among other Canadians for being a bit of an odd man out among the provinces. There can't be many governments who, as the Albert provincial government did in 1975, would appoint a murderer as Solicitor General. Roy Farran was never convicted but anyone who was unaware of his confessions to the killing wasn't doing a very good job on the background check. For more on Farran

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OK, if I hear one more idiot on the radio refer to football as “The Beautiful Game”, I’m going to throw the wireless out of the window. With the World Cup on at the moment, the airwaves are full of poseurs talking about “The Beautiful Game”. Anyone who has actually played the game knows it is very seldom beautiful. I suspect that many of the balloons who describe it thus are just trying to jump onto some kind of bandwagon. Needless to say, we have a lot of people on Canadian radio who use this hackneyed and misleading label. Few I suspect, if any, ever played the game seriously.  Football, or soccer as it is called here, is still catching on in Canada. For many, it is still a game for schoolgirls. The professional men’s teams are nothing to write home about. Here in Edmonton there is interesting once-a-year tournament in which the various immigrant communities play their own version of the World Cup.  That’s about as good as it gets. Professional sport in Alberta is either ice hockey, just called hockey here, or Canadian Football League; think American football with slightly different rules and dominated by Yanks who can’t get a game in the NFL.  The same is true of most major Canadian cities. Only when more people actually play football in Canada will the phrase “Beautiful Game” get a well deserved banishment. Mind you, if Canadian journalists don’t  know much about football, neither do many of English ones. I heard one say last week that England’s first home defeat wasn’t until 1953. The Scots had been beating the English in England for decades by then and the Republic of Ireland were first non-British to beat England, in 1949. 

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Maybe I'm just not listening to the right radio stations, or podcasts, or whatever; but there don't seem to be many novelty songs around these days. When I was kid there seemed to be lots of silly songs or monologues on the radio. Hmm, some examples: Right Said Fred, My Boomerang Won't Come Back, Have Some Madeira My Dear, My Brother, Here I am at Camp Granada, Monster Mash, etc, etc. By the way, I'm not guaranteeing all the preceding titles are the ones on the sleeves of the records concerned. What's happened? Has the world become a far grimmer place? All people seem to sing, or apparently want to hear, are songs about shaking something called a booty or shooting folk dead. OK, I know that's an exaggeration, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of humour out there these days.

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