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I think I’m going to apply for a research grant, hopefully big enough to allow me to live in reasonable comfort for the rest of my natural days. Every month the media carries a story about some amazing piece of research which suggests some pretty outrageous scientific discovery. But at the end of each news item comes the proviso that more research is required. And there’s the catch. Scientists will say almost anything to raise money to keep themselves in employment. So, here’s my pitch: “post mortem examinations nearly always find food in the stomach. There must surely be a link between food and death. Please send me six million, pounds or dollars would be equally acceptable, for further research”.  Is it really that easy to get money for research? Think about how many of those scientific “breakthroughs” reported on the news that are never heard of again.

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I’m glad to see that demands for a proper inquiry into the Batang Kali Massacre won’t go away. Many will wonder why it’s so important that the true facts about the murder of 24 ethnic Chinese men on a rubber plantation in Malaya in 1948 by members of the Scots Guards is important. Well, look no further than the petition which may be about to be circulated in the Malaysian parliament calling for just such an inquiry. The continued British cover-up is still damaging relations between the United Kingdom and Malaysia. Demands for the British to come clean received a boost in September when the High Court in London ruled that there had been a cover-up but declined to force an inquiry into events at Batang Kali. A Malaysian organisation calling itself the International Movement for a Just World is also throwing its weight behind demands for an inquiry and an apology to the families of the massacre victims. I remain baffled as to who the British Government is protecting with this cover-up. It does not have a good record when it comes to cover-ups on behalf of ordinary squaddies. So, what is the terrible secret the Government is determined we should never know? See Batang Kali Revisited

 

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I think Edinburgh City Council is to be applauded for granting the freedom of the city to the 3rd Battalion of the Rifles. It may seem odd for the Scottish capital to honour an English battalion, but I think it reflects a healthy attitude that if you live in Scotland, you’re a Scot. The 3rd Rifles has been stationed in Edinburgh since 2003 Here in the Edmonton, the men and women of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry is regarded as a local regiment although it has only been based in the city since the mid-1990s. The PPCLI moved to Edmonton to form the core of the 1st Canadian Mechanized Brigade when it was decided to concentrate the bulk of the Canadian army at three super bases. Anyway, back to the Rifles and Edinburgh. It’s good to see the city fathers taking an interest and pride in its military connections. The old King’s Own Scottish Borderers started life in 1689 as the Edinburgh Regiment and kept that name until 1782. That was the year that regiment suddenly became the Sussex Regiment. Legend has it that the regiment’s colonel Lord George Lennox, who lived in Sussex, felt a recruiting party sent to Edinburgh had been slighted and insulted by the city fathers and insisted on the name change. The KOSB regained its Scottish status in 1805, as the King’s Border Regiment, but narrowly avoided becoming an English Regiment in 1881 when it was decided to base it in Yorkshire. The regiment’s traditions are continued by the Royal Scots Borderers, otherwise known as the 1st Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland (RRoS). Or is it the other way around? I’ve heard that many of the regiment’s officers believe the time has come to promote the corporate RRoS identity rather than harp on about the "traditional" regimental identities. Mind you, the Royal Scots Borderers is an amalgamation of the Royal Scots and the KOSB anyway. Only the 3rd Battalion of the RRoS has retained an identity which pre-dates 1959 - the Black Watch. The 5 RRoS is a special case, being reduced to a ceremonial company but retaining the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders moniker.

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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder amongst soldiers is a controversial issue. Here in North America there is a whole industry dedicated to treating it. And much money to be made in the process.  I know soldiers who have it. I know other soldiers who claim that some of the guys who say they have PTSD are using it as an excuse for bad behaviour. Soldiers are told that PTSD and similar conditions are as real as a bullet in the arm. I’d say it’s closer to a bad back. Anyway, soldiers are urged to come forward and get treatment: no stigma. But you know, I’m not sure I would go to my employer and tell them I had PTSD. It seems a good way to get yourself red-flagged. Of course, sometimes the symptoms are so bad that a person doesn’t have choice about seeking help. Kicking the dog every time you see it, or worse, might be a good indication that it’s time to see the doctor. Another problem with PTSD is there are numerous ways of treating it  - possibly because combat stress problems can have several causes. One theory as to why it wasn’t a massive issue after the World Wars was that it took the soldiers longer to come home from the fighting and then came back together – lots of time to talk things through with their peers. These days a guy can be pounding the sand in Helmand one day and going to the chippie in Hamilton the next. But actually, we don’t know whether PTSD was a big issue after the Second World War. I remember being told as a kid not to play near certain houses because the guy who lived there had been a prisoner of the Japanese. I knew some older serving soldiers who as young men served with old guys who were veterans of the Second World War or Korea. Some of the old veterans apparently had pretty serious drinking problems. It can happen to anyone given a bit of bad luck. A person might be punched the face seven times in their life and not go down. But you get punched in the head seven times in as many seconds and there’s a good chance you’ll be on the floor.

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A while back, a researcher for a Glasgow-based television documentary program got in touch with me about a program focusing on the Scottish experience in Canada. I’m naturally helpful anyway and, best case scenario, I thought I might get to be one of the talking-heads in the documentary. To boost my chances of being invited to appear, I suggested that the film-makers use the reconstruction of the old fur trading fort here in Edmonton as a location for filming. I thought some photographs of Fort Edmonton, particularly the inside of the Factor’s House, might help the film makers decide. I called the city council in Edmonton, who run the historic site, and asked about suitable photos. The woman I was dealing with could barely speak English. She told me there were no photos. So, if the film-makers did come to Edmonton, it would be no thanks to the city council. By the way, I did find exactly the photos I suspected the council must have myself. The woman was wrong. I think the key to this was that she didn’t speak very good English. That suggests that she ticked the box on the application form identifying herself as a “visible minority”. This is basically code for non-European immigrant. The council proudly announces it welcomes applications from minority groups. It would appear that it gives jobs based on skin colour rather the ability to do the job. So-called Positive Discrimination is still discrimination. I’m against discrimination. I don’t think someone should not get a job because of their skin colour or background. But neither do I think they should get a job because of their skin colour or background. I have a simple test. Anyone who advocates positive discrimination should be told that they are going to be fired and replaced by someone hired on the basis of their skin colour or disability or whatever. I suspect the person being fired will come up with several reasons why they shouldn’t be shown the door. The reasons are precisely the same as why a well qualified job candidate would resent being denied a job because preference was given to a less able “visible minority”. Things are getting silly when someone who doesn’t speak much English is given a job answering phones. And here’s a caution to those who favour positive discrimination. One of my friends decided to give preference to female job applicants. They got together and decided they’d be happier working in an all-female office. His new colleagues, who all owed their jobs to him, conspired to either get him fired or make his life so miserable that he would resign.

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