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The Canadians appear to go as gaga over an English accent as the Americans do, if television advertising is anything to do by. Posh English accents are preferable but any English accent will do. It’s not just national advertising campaigns. A local car dealership’s advert here in Edmonton now has an English voice-over. For some reason, Americans and Canadians associate English accents with intelligence and sophistication. If a Scottish accent is used, it is often for comic effect and is usually associated with an offensive stereotype. Actually, there’s an advert running for grass seed with a Scottish guy in it that’s not objectionable. I seem to remember there was a time when British companies used to locate their call centres in Scotland because their surveys showed that a Scottish accent was suggestive of integrity. I’ve got a feeling those call centre jobs have been moved offshore.

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What’s the Difference?
So, the British Government has apologised for torturing Kenyans in the 1950s and is even going to pay compensation to those victims who are still alive. I wonder if this paves the way for an end to the cover-up of the 1948 Batang Kali Massacre in Malaya. I doubt it. The British Government continues to maintain that the 24 ethnic Chinese men killed by the Scots Guards were shot while trying to escape – despite the testimony of both Guardsmen and Malayan witnesses. The Mau Mau in Kenya killed far more fellow blacks than the whites. The slayings were often barbaric. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of those now receiving British compensation and an apology are murderers. Torture is seldom, if ever, acceptable. It often backfires on the perpetrators. A British High Court judge rejected British Government claims that the Kenyan Government, as the successor administration to the colonial regime, should compensate the victims,  as “dishonourable”. The same argument is advanced by the British Government in the case of the Batang Kali Massacre, which it claims is a matter for the Malayasian Government to deal with. What baffles me is the differences between the way the British Government has dealt with the two countries. Something very wrong happened at Batang Kali. The British Government is getting away with sweeping it under the carpet. Some would argue that this is all ancient history and it is best to let sleeping dogs lie. That’s not true. Until the Government comes clean, Batang Kali will remain a stick with which to beat Britain’s international reputation. To let sleeping dogs lie is to not only condone what happened but to be complicit.

See Batang Kali Revisited

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Some say that no news  is good news. It would appear that in the case of the British media that good news is no news. For years it has been reported that more British veterans of the Falklands War had committed suicide since the conflict than had died at the hands of Argentinians. Around 255 British  personnel died in the war. But the Ministry of Defence recently revealed the results of its examination of the figures, which showed on 97 veterans had committed suicide - which represented a lower suicide rate than the British average. The results of the MoD report were hardly reported. One expert was in a taxi on his way to a BBC studio to be interviewed about the report as soon as it was released but when the BBC editors saw the figures they cancelled the interview. The taxi turned around and returned the expert to his home. Now, what concerns me is that the media's lack of interest has meant that the MoD study was not subjected to the sceptical and rigorous examination that perhaps it should have been. I would not be entirely surprised if it turned out that the number of mentally tortured veterans of the war is not as high as some with a vested interest in the PTSD business would like us to believe. But having dealt with the MoD in the past, I wouldn't trust it to tell me what day it is without their statement being double checked with another source.

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It's more than a little disappointing to see that in the aftermath of last week's  stupid slaughter of  British soldier Lee Rigby in London by a couple of misfit losers who claimed  to be acting in retaliation for the deaths of civilians overseas  at the hands of the British military has resulted in attacks on British mosques. That is exactly what the two sad clowns who allegedly  knocked the soldier down with their car and then hacked him to pieces wanted to happen. The suspects hung around after the killing and waited for armed police to arrive, apparently in the hope of being martyred themselves. Sadly, the stupidity has not been restricted to the killers. There have been attacks on British mosques.  Even at the height of the Irish Republican Army's murder and terror campaign in England, people didn't go out and burn down Catholic Chapels. The IRA would have loved it if they had. Terrorist campaigns are often intended to provoke an ugly reaction which  acts as a recruiting sergeant for their cause. So, the thugs who attack mosques have been outsmarted by a couple of sad misfits who wanted the murder to trigger anti-immigrant violence. By the way, now one of the accused killers' families is claiming that perhaps there wouldn't have been a murder if the British Government had done more to help him when he was mistreated in Kenya after he was picked up while trying to get into Somalia to join the fighting  there. So, basically the British Government is to blame?

 

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I’m old enough to remember as a newspaper guy typing my reports onto tiny pieces of paper to be sent upstairs to a typesetter who began the process of immortalising my words by retyping them into a machine that spat out slugs of hot lead. That was lucky because I always had appalling handwriting. It got even worse after I became a reporter because everything of importance had to be typed and my handwriting became interspersed with shorthand symbols. It now seems likely that despite my, and my teachers’, efforts, good handwriting for me was a lost cause. As my brain ages, it is reverting to its natural left-handed mode but someone decided when I was tiny that life was hard for lefties and I was taught everything right-handed. So, until recently, I thought I was right handed. The importance of the typewriter to historians is frequently under-estimated. A leading Scots-Canadian had some very rude things to say in a hand-written letter sent to London in the 1830s about a French-Canadian political  icon called Louis Papineau. But I couldn’t find out exactly what he had said. A visit to the National Library of Scotland offered the chance to find out. The library had the original letter criticising Papineau. The problem was it could be in one of more than 100 file boxes of papers donated to the library. The librarians and I  made an educated guess and six boxes were brought to the reading room of the library. Four letters down in the first box I checked was the letter. And that’s when I found out why the exact words are never quoted. Five key words are completely illegible. From what can be deciphered, it’s obvious that the sentence in question is very uncomplimentary but the exact nature of the criticism without those five words is lost. That would never have happened in the age of the typewriter.

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