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I have got to admit I’m baffled as to why young men think it’s cool to spit on the street. I really don’t want to be treading that kind of stuff into my home after accidentally stepping in it. I feel like running up to them and saying “Hey, I’m calling you an ambulance, you must be really ill, don’t worry, lie down until the medics get here”. But of course I don’t. Some of them might be smarter than their ignorant behaviour suggests and they may be aware of sarcasm. There was a time when there were jobs that did do terrible damage to the working people’s lungs. I remember when I worked as a journalist in England going to all-too-many inquests for Tyneside shipyard workers who had died from asbestosis or for ex-miners whose lungs had been destroyed by coal dust. But there aren’t many shipyards or coal mines taking on youngsters these days. Now, I know that sometimes a lung infection can generate a lot of horrible thick green goop that needs to be coughed up. But I would think it should be possible to deposit it into the gutter. That’s what I do. 

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Many years ago, many more than I care to think about, I was in Quebec City in the company a young Black woman. I remember her being repeatedly quizzed in a more than patronising manner by people as to how long her family had been in Canada. The assumption seemed to be that she was descended from Caribbean immigrants who had only come to Canada in the 1960s or 70s. The looks on people’s faces when she replied was priceless. For the answer was something like “1824”. The odds that that this  was a lot earlier than the questioner’s family are very good. She was from Nova Scotia where there has been a strong Black presence, mainly former American or Canadian slaves,  since the late 1700s. I was reminded of those long-ago encounters in Quebec during a recent radio interview between an Edmonton presenter and the Black  American Country and Western singer Charlie Pride. The presenter asked what colour certain critics of Pride were. “Oh, I guess the same colour as you,” replied Pride. It being a telephone interview and the presenter sounding like most CBC on-air staff, Pride just assumed she was White. But you guessed it, she was black and was raised in Nova Scotia. It was hard to tell on the radio if Pride blushed. 

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I've been reading a book that came out in The Year 2000 which I feel should have been compulsory reading for British Army commanders before they went to Afghanistan. One of the biggest problems the British and Canadians faced in Helmand and Kandahar was that they were propping up a corrupt kleptocracy based in Kabul. Many Afghans preferred to deal with what most westerners refer to as the Taliban rather than the regime being imposed on them by the detested feringhee. Many British 20th Century counter-insurgency campaigns paired the stick of military action with the carrot of political and social development. That's not so hard to do in a colony. But in Afghanistan the British and Canadians had few tools beyond firepower. The book I was reading, Soldier Sahibs was about a previous encounter between the British and the tribal societies of Afghanistan and what became known as the Northwest Frontier in the mid-1800s. In the early years the British were operating in areas under control of the highly unpopular Sikh Empire. And the young Britons managed it. The book contains a lot of interesting pointers as to how to prop up unpopular administrations and how to deal with Pashtuns, the tribes which to this day make up most of the folk who live in Helmand and Kandahar. Did many Britons sent to Afghanistan this century read Soldier Sahibs. My bet is very few; if any.  

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What if the French had done more to support the Jacobites in 1745-46? I was recently reading a book of the World's 100 most decisive battles. I was surprised to see the 1746 Battle of Culloden on the list. The book was by an American university professor. So, no great surprise that it should not be trusted as a basis for the high school history exam. This professor believes, according to the book, that James VIII and II was a son of Charles II, not his brother, and it was Charles II who was deposed by William of Orange. I long ago ceased to be disappointed or surprised by the lack of a grip of the facts shown by the majority of US university professors whose books I've read. Anyway, the guy does pose some interesting points when it comes to what might have happened if Charles Edward Stuart had managed to tip German Geordie off the throne. That might have happened if the French had made more of an effort to send arms and troops to support The Rebellion. The restored Stuart monarchy would have repaid the French by allying the United Kingdom with France. Your man argues this would have meant the British would not have kicked the French out of Canada; the American colonists would have taken longer to kick their British protectors out; the French state might not have bankrupted itself supporting the American rebels; and consequently the French Revolution may never have happened. And the British under the Stuarts would have supported France against Prussia's Frederick the Great rather than bankrolling his wars in Europe. So, a completely different balance of power in Europe. Maybe no World war One and therefore no World War Two. A lot of interesting "what ifs". 

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Radio is probably not the best medium for Art Appreciation. You would think that is obvious. But not apparently to the BBC World Service. I recently heard a programme discussing a painting. Listeners were urged to go to a website to view the painting in question. Yes, in this multi-media universe this was an option. But it shows an ignorance of when people listen to radio. It's usually when they are doing something else; driving, cooking, laying bricks, tidying the house, etc. Not so easy to go to a website to look at a painting. And what about the millions of listeners who are so poor they don't have access to a website download? It is this kind of thinking, or lack of it, that gave us a programme which used to boast that it would feature only women and no men were involved in production. The programme still exists but has dropped that boast. I suspect that was more because it was felt dangerous to be seen to discriminate against trans-sexual radio-wannabees than anything else. The last trailer for this dreadful piece of tosh claimed that the participants were drawn from all over the world but most of those featured in it seemed to be from Africa. The fact is that way too much of what the BBC World Service puts out panders to the trendy and the gimmicky. Business Daily therefore has little competition when it expands the definition of "business" to include nutrition, politics, medical matters, media analysis and pretty much everything that the BBC used to do regularly and reasonably competently in terms of interesting content. 

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