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OK, I guess credit where credit's due. People know that I have never, ever, been an admirer of the odious Aung San Suu Ky. Why anyone is surprised at the way she has behaved in Myanmar baffles me. All the clues were there that she was never an advocate of democracy but only of power for Aung San Suu Ky. But she has had the sense to free, via a presidential pardon, two Burmese journalists fitted up by her military allies for breaching the Official Secrets Act. The journalists' real crime was writing about the murder of Muslims by soldiers in Rakhine Province. So, Aung is to be congratulated. In the same way as a man who stops beating his wife should be congratulated. Now all she has to do is end the genocide and make it safe for Burmese Muslims to return home to Rakhine. Somehow, I don't see that happening. 

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I recently heard an Oxford academic say on the BBC World Service, unchallenged, that 90% of Venezuelans are opposed to the Nicolas Maduro government. I'm not sure where she got that figure from and quite frankly I can't imagine a whole 90% of a country's population being either for or against any one thing. But it would not surprise me if a large majority of the citizens of that South American republic are indeed very unhappy with their president. Maduro does not appear to be doing such a good job, especially when it comes to his handling of the massive drop in the price of oil. The Americans, as they did in Cuba, are unintentionally giving him a get-out-jail-free card by imposing crippling sanctions on the country which Maduro can then tell Venezuelans are the real cause of the country's problems. But the US attempts to overthrow Maduro come to grief because  the mob the Americans and their proxies are trying to force on the country are as bad, if not worse, than the present regime. And Venezuelans know it. They don't need very long memories to recall these self-same elitist families and their previous undemocratic attempts to overthrow first Hugo Chavez and now Maduro.  What this small highly exclusive group wants is a return to the bad old Pre-Chavez days when they got to call all the shots and the poor knew their place. And that's why Maduro is still in power.

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In American films about expeditions to the moon, the control room is usually packed with white American guys. When Apollo 13 runs into trouble it is an All-American brains-trust that works out how the fix the problem with pipe cleaners and sticky-back plastic. But the Space Program in reality was heavily dependent on overseas talent. Most folk know the part played by Nazi rocket experts in the early days. But not so many are aware of the Canadian and British aviation engineers imported in 1959. That was after the Americans succeeded in persuading the Canadian government of the time to abandon its advanced interceptor plane, the Avro Arrow and the design team lost their jobs. The Americans won twice-over with that one. NASA gained the talent that took it to the Moon and a few years later the Canadians had to buy a very inferior interceptor from the Americans. Hollywood is very bad at acknowledging contributions to American life that did not come from white guys born and bred in the good old USofA. In all those films when the US cavalry charges across the American Southwest to save folk from the Apaches, in real life they could well have been Negros of the 10th or 9th Cavalry. And most of the white cavalry troopers of the time were Italian or German immigrants who could barely speak English. The best Hollywood would do was have the odd tough nut Irish sergeant. 

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The local library here stocks something, often in both CD and DVD format, called The Great Courses. It's a bit like the old Open University, with an academic giving a lecture, but there's no degree at the end of it. On the one I was watching last week a linguistics professor was discussing the English language; it's use and misuse. He was lamenting that the second person plural and first person plural are now exactly the same - "you". It wasn't always so. The singular used to be "thou". One of the things the guy was keen to point out is that often what is regarded as slang or dialect is often more "fit for purpose", to use his phrase, than modern standard English. He seemed to applaud the use of "Y'all" in the southern United States and pointed out that many west coast Lowland Scots use "youze" in a similar way. As do many people in New York. Interesting. 'Least I thought so. 

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With Anzac Day just around the corner it might be worth thinking about how the Gallipoli campaign is still such a subject of fascination. Although the British suffered far higher casualties than the Aussies and Kiwis, it is the latter who make the fighting in Turkey a big deal. Perhaps this is because Gallipoli was one of only a series of slaughters of British troops during the First World War. Though the Anzacs served on the Western Front after Gallipoli and saw more than their fair share of death there, perhaps they were luckier than the majority of the British because they had better generals, who managed to limit the casualty lists. Many historians now reckon the Dardenelles Campaign, to give it yet another name, had not the slightest chance of success. The vast majority of Empire troops were inexperienced, poorly trained and appallingly let down by their generals. The Turks were better led and, thanks to the Balkan Wars in the lead up to 1914, had a lot of combat experience to fall back on. Those historians who still argue Gallipoli was a close run thing seem to also believe that the repeated attacks on the Germans on the Western Front was a strategic error.  The two sides have been arguing since 1915, Easterners Vs Westerners. 

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