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I know I can't be the only one who used to do this; because I heard it turned into a radio competition. Take a short piece of text and feed into an internet translator, asking for it to be changed from English to, say, German. Then from German to, say, Spanish and then into another language and then another and then back into English. The radio competition involved doing this with well known song lyrics and then people had to guess from the final garbled English version what the original song was. I was reminded of this while watching an American DVD about the early days of the Second World War. Some the phrasing and word choices were distinctly odd. At the end it became evident that the documentary was also available in Spanish and I came to the conclusion that the original script was probably in Spanish. Whoever did the translation into English was obviously not a native speaker and may even have used an online translation service  (Rommel outflanked General Ow-chen-leck and achieved to the capture of 2,00 Allied prisoners). Still that was nothing like as annoying as another US documentary which seemed unusually sympathetic to the Nazi SS during the Second World War. It referred to "Allied Occupied" Belgium in 1944. I think most of the Allied troops believed they were liberating Belgium from the Germans. No surprise perhaps that this American production sneered at "mainstream historians"and suggested that British prisoners murdered by the SS had asked for it. Only in America.

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The BBC World Service has gone silent when it comes to Burmese politician Aung San Suu Ky. There was a time not so long ago that they were touting her for sainthood. What was not to like about her? She had a plummy accent, went to Oxford and was married to an Englishman. She was almost "one of us". And she expertly played the role of martyr for democracy in her homeland of Myanmar, as her father's strongman successors had named Burma. Eventually it had become clear to the military junta running Burma/Myanmar that they would have to at least pretend to be a democracy and let Aung San take power - if only via a proxie puppet. Her father, General Aung San, had turned against his Japanese masters during the Second World War but was murdered by his fellow nationalists around the time of Burmese independence. Suu Ky was able to capitalise on her father's career to launch and sustain her own bid for power. Some might see the whole situation as a squabble between rival factions of the military/political strongman caste. The warning signs came when Aung San Suu Ky was released from comfortable house arrest and had to re-enter the grim world of "democracy". Asked on the BBC about what she would do to protect the Muslim minority in Burma she basically told the interviewer "Get real, there ain't no votes in helping them." A lot of points for honesty, not a lot for humanity and decency. And definitely not the words of a saint. So, now we have the Muslim minority being burned, raped and murdered out of their homes and not a mention on the World Service's news bulletins of its one-time favourite non-white politician.

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I'm not sure why bosses are so impressed by people who do "extra stuff". I used to work with a guy on the news side of a newspaper who also wrote a column on football. I couldn't help feel that if someone had the time and energy to write a football column, perhaps they were not putting all they could have into the job they were actually being paid to do. But the bosses were impressed, the guy got promotion. And twice he was in charge on the very very rare days when the paper got its backside kicked by the opposition - an opposition that was so incompetent that they couldn't report a broken street light to the council. I don't think us getting beaten was unrelated to his extra curricular interests interfering with his real job. I think if someone is being paid to do a job they should focus on doing the best job they can and that usually means not having the energy left at the end of the day to write football columns or take night classes. I'd be suspicious of such characters, if I was their boss. Same as the Germans are not impressed by the whole "first into the office in the morning, last to leave at night" approach to work. To the Germans, people who can't do their job in the time allocated simply can't do their job. So, yet another bunch of "workers" who should be viewed with suspicion but actually seem to get the promotions. 

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I was shocked that so many people were supposedly surprised by Donald Trump’s election to the Presidency of the United States. When people asked me last Monday and Tuesday how I thought things would go I told them that it was too close to call and the vagaries of the Electoral College system made the outcome even harder to predict. I am not special: but it did not take a genius. What I am not is a member of the chattering classes. The surprise at Trump’s victory among the media was as much a result of wishful thinking and blindness amongst the chattering classes as anything else. The media on both sides of the Atlantic is now firmly in the grip of a surprisingly narrow section of the population. Hence the surprise at the Brexit vote. Most of the media these days have no idea how the average person lives or how they think. Its members are increasingly drawn from the ranks of the privileged. To me a good newspaper had a staff drawn from a wide range of backgrounds. Now the only diversity is in skin colour. But the privileged come in all skin colours; however, they all have pretty much the same prejudices. The time has come to look at more than colour of a person’s skin when hiring reporters.

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I have been reading a lot of histories written in the late 1960s and early 1970s recently. They say as much, if not more, about the late 60s and early 70s, as they do about the events they supposedly cover. The pre-occupations and prejudices of the historians and British, the books are mainly British, are to the forefront. All history is to a large extent political. About the only thing historians seem to agree on, and even not always, is the date of the event. Even deciding who really won can be a matter of debate. History as an academic subject is about the interpretation of events rather than a simple recounting of the facts. What is highlighted and what is swept under the carpet by historians is often a political choice. The same is true of Remembrance. What precisely is being "remembered"? Different people are actually remembering, honouring or commemorating different things in the days around November 11th each day. Is it only "our" dead or everyone's war dead? Should veterans who fought against us be part of the parade? Which conflicts are involved? Which recent ones? Only Just Wars? Some of these questions are matters of personal choice. Others are definitely  political. Australia's ANZAC Day started out as a celebration of those who volunteered to fight and in some communities the noses of those who had not were rubbed in the dirt - those of Irish descent have sometimes proven laggard when they regarded a conflict as "England's War". And in another twist, the Ozzies don't do much for November 11th, preferring their own Anzac Day for commemoration to the day selected elsewhere in much of the former British Empire for such events.  Here in Edmonton I remember the Italian veterans marching in the Remembrance Day Parade a few years back but not the Germans. I don't think anyone insisted that the Italians involved had fought alongside the Allies after Italy's surrender. Certainly there were Germans in the Second World War who were in much the same boat as the British, ANZACs and Canadians and basically were the same kind of guys whose uniform was a matter of chance. But the Nazi system promoted and even celebrated tremendous cruelty and inhumanity. Should "Good Germans" be given a place in their former foes' commemorations? How does one identify a "Good German"? And not all the British and Commonwealth dead were exactly angels when it came to how they treated defeated foes. Others want to remember on November 11th but cannot face the pomp and parade. There are those who feel that some ceremonies spill over from commemoration to celebration.  Some people like the parades. Others prefer to observe an individual two minutes of silence at 11am on the 11th. No-one should be forced to do anything they don't want to do, or prevented from commemorating the dead. Were these not two of the things "we" were supposed to be fighting for and purportedly still do? It's all politics with a small "p".

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