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The BBC World Service radio this morning couldn’t shut up about the death, apparently from a heart attack at the age of 41, of one of the BBC’s African journalists. To me, journalists should seldom, if ever, be the one of the lead stories. But what annoyed me was not every program I heard talked about his death but that one of the BBC reporters when interviewing one of Nelson Mandela’s daughters about the death said Komla Dumor had gone to the family home after the former president’s death to “offer his condolences”. I suspect, strongly suspect, that Dumor had gone to the woman’s home to interview her about Mandela’s death. There’s nothing wrong with that, it was his job. Why was the BBC dressing up seeking an interview as a compassionate act? The interviewer suggested the woman had been hit by two deaths in quick succession. I’m not clear if Mandela’s daughter was prompted to declare the journalist’s death as a “tragedy for the continent”. I suspect there are many greater tragedies unfolding in Africa. Barely a day goes by without reports of another African country being ripped apart by rampaging murder gangs and bloody coups. The BBC invests a lot of money and effort in its programming aimed at Africa – possibly because it is one of the few places where many people still get their news from shortwave radio. I was talking to a friend about the latest verging-on-genocidal strife in Africa and he wondered out loud if there is just something “wrong with Africans”. I don’t think so. I strongly suspect that multi-nationals, and in authoritarian countries even national regimes, interested in exploiting Africa’s massive mineral resources have a hand in overthrowing governments that won’t play ball. And the murder gangs are part of the game. If the BBC really wants to serve its African listeners then it should concentrate putting the strife into context for the populations of the countries where these multi-nationals are based. These barbaric murder gangs do not operate in a vacuum.

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As the United Kingdom marks the centenary of the beginning of the First World War there is much talk of sacrifice and lost generations. But I can’t help noticing that all too often the focus when it comes to a lost generation is on the private school boys. With the British media dominated by the Chattering Classes perhaps this is not surprising. They are talking about their own great-great-grandfathers and great-grandfathers. In an economic system dedicated to the maintenance of privilege very few private school boys served in the ranks. They were junior officers and junior officers in those days led from the front. An officer in the First World War was twice as likely to be killed than a private. But the fact is that very few men who were involved in the early fighting came through to the end unscathed. The tidal wave of working class volunteers who mobbed the recruiting offices in 1914 and early 1915, which included a disproportionate number of Scots, were to die or be crippled in the scrub of Gallipoli or the mud of the Somme or Passchendaele. The working class volunteers were truly among the country’s brightest and best. Perhaps the loss to the country of so many proven natural leaders and skilled craftsmen hit Britain harder than the loss of so many potential lawyers, colonial civil servants and would-be poets. Perhaps the working class sacrifice was all the more remarkable because the men died to maintain an economic and social system which dictated that because they were born in an industrial slum their prospects in life were far grimmer than a child born to attend private school.The widows and children of the dead officers were certainly better looked after following the war. Was sacrifice of the officers and their families really any greater?

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There’s nothing worse when trawling the internet at work than landing on a site which insists on blasting out some audio – though I guess most people have learned over the years to have the sound turned down. There are hiatuses in the working day, say while waiting for an important phone call without which the task in hand cannot be completed, when folk might be tempted to have a quick gander at the internet. Of course, if a person goes to a site which crashes the entire computer system, that person could lose their job. Most companies also fire employees if they catch them visiting porn sites. I remember once at work doing an innocuous work-related search but instead of bringing up what I expected my computer began downloading, line by line on the screen, an obvious piece of porn. Nothing I did would stop the download. Eventually, I had to dive under the desk and pull out the plug which I reckoned fed my computer terminal. There were several plugs down there, including one for the giant printer used to print the full page proofs for the newspaper. Oh, I guess there was another time when an internet site’s ownership was allowed to lapse and instead of providing work-related information the site turned out to now host porn. Some of my colleagues were less scrupulous. Sometimes on the first shift of the day I’d come in to find the office printer jammed and when I got it running again, it would spit out sheet after sheet of homosexual porn for a couple of minutes. What kind of sad sack prints out black and white porn on the office printer when working the late shift? Anyway, the reason I was discussing intrusive and alarming audio is to explain why there’s no drum-roll to announce the winner of the Scottish Military Disasters 2013 Book of the Year. To find out who the winner was click Book of the Year

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The annual murder rate here in Canada is down. In fact, it’s at its lowest for something like fifty years. The same is true for three of the biggest cities in the United States. Sadly, this does not mean that North America has become a gentler kinder place. I’ve been out of the news business for a couple of years, so my finger isn’t on the pulse of society to the same extent as it used to be. The media has always been accused of scare-mongering and frightening people with tales of violence and mayhem outside their doors. When I heard the American news I thought that maybe society isn’t as violent as the media makes out. But then it turned out that what the Canadians call aggravated assault is way up. The murder rate is only down because advances in life-saving surgery and medical care are keeping people alive who used to be dead. An attack which 20 years ago would have resulted in a murder charge now attracts attempted murder, or even more likely, serious or aggravated assault charges. That got me thinking about Afghanistan. In the casualty adverse climate which exists in the western democracies, Governments hate to fly home body bags. It used to be that for every dead soldier, there would be about four wounded. But that rule of thumb has gone out of the window. Governments have been spending a lot of money keeping soldiers alive who not so long ago would have dead. The spectrum has jumped to the left. Soldiers who used die from their injuries are kept alive in a permanent vegetative state, soldiers who previously would have been vegetative are now in rehab and so-on. The good news is that guys who a couple of years back would never have had a hope of walking again are up and about. The rules have changed when it comes to calculating the human cost of war and it must be tempting for governments to fiddle the books. Few families will pull the plug on their loved one voluntarily.

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Well, I for one am glad that those two sad losers who killed Private Lee Rigby outside Woolich Barracks in the summer did not get their wish to become martyrs in their own private  jihad. Thank goodness the London police had the discipline not to kill them in a hail of bullets, as I have little doubt their American counterparts would have done if the murder had happened on the streets of Washington DC. I suspect these two clowns pled not guilty in order to use their trial as a platform to spout their pathetic misguided rantings. Instead, they showed themselves to be total mental and moral degenerates. If the situation had been reversed, would Pvt Rigby have murdered these two fools? I don't think so. One of the questions I have is how could they be so sure that the man they attacked was a soldier. Yes, he had short hair, a military charity hoodie and was in the vicinity of an army base with a rucsack in camouflage colours. But some might call that circumstantial. I remember a short haired you man standing at a bus stop which was sometimes used by soldiers returning to the old Ritchie Camp near my home town. The local thugs had about the same level deductive powers as tweedledum and tweedledee exercised in London. The thugs put the young guy in hospital. It was the same hospital where he worked as a porter.

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