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It used to be that journalism on both sides of the Atlantic offered a good path out of the ghetto for working class kids who did not excel at professional sport. Of course, not all journalists were products of the mean streets but the ones that weren't usually wrote for papers hardly anyone read. Then came Watergate and journalism became sexy. Rich and privileged kids, especially in the United States, decided they wanted to bring down governments too. And being rich and privileged, these kids got what they wanted. All the President's Men became their talisman and bible. I read the book while I was working in Newcastle upon Tyne. A lot of it didn't make much sense. But, I thought, maybe journalism works differently in North America. I now know the operating procedures for good journalism are the same on both sides of the Atlantic. But thanks to All the Presidents Men, there isn't so much good journalism around nowadays. What we've ended up with is a bunch of so-called journalists who didn't see Trump or Brexit coming because the lives of ordinary people are as alien to them as the Queen would find life in Cranhill, Pilton, Wester Hailes or Easterhouse. Horses for courses and fewer blue bloods in the reporters' room, I say. A good newspaper has staff from a wide variety of backgrounds. Right now, on both sides of the Atlantic (I can't comment on the Antipodes), there are too many who have basically been able to buy their berths thanks to an accident of birth.

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A very senior detective told me once that a person had two choices if they found an intruder in their home - a) Nothing b) Kill the intruder and take his body to the town dump. His point was that capturing the intruder and calling in the police was not really a good option. The bad guy, and his buddies, obviously knew where you lived as a result of his visit and it was highly unlikely that you would be testifying in court against him. Criminal prosecutions often rely on witnesses. No witnesses, no conviction. Even the dumbest of thugs can work this out. And if they can't, their lawyers can. Believe it or not there are lawyers out there who only care about getting their clients off. Where I went to high school it was widely believed that some local lawyers contrived to make sure that the local thugs got to know the addresses at the top of witness statements. Eventually, many witnesses contact addresses were given as care of the local police force. But the fact is that the local thugs or their families went to high school with the witnesses or their families and already knew where to find them. One of the biggest problems was that the lawyers and Sheriffs or Judges tended to live in nicer areas than the rest of us and didn't have to survive having the thugs as neighbours. I've always found that the communities where these thugs live are far less understanding and forgiving than the courts tend to be. They have equally shitty lives but don't steal and maim. I can only imagine the disappointment of all involved when the cops did persuade some people to stand-up to one of the most notorious thugs only for the Sheriff to suspend sentence so that the bad guy could pursue a supposedly promising music career. I would have been a little happier if the Sheriff had offered to let the thug move into his home until the music career took off. Why should only the thug's neighbours be put in jeopardy because the Sheriff wanted to take a risk? And did I mention that I think that lawyers whose clients are arrested for offences committed while on bail should share a cell with them until the case is dealt with? I would anticipate a drop in both bail applications and crime.

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So, the BBC World Service has started talking about Aung San Suu Ky again. Sadly it can't make its mind up as to whether she supports the Burmese Army's burning the Muslim minority Rohingya out of their homes or whether she simply cannot control her military. Either way, this is not good. On one hand it suggests that her only real interest in "human rights" was her own political birthright as the daughter of one of the country's founders. Or the whole supposed democratization of Burma, or Myanmar as the former military dictatorship rebranded the country, is a con job. I can't help feeling the time has come for the BBC to stop giving this woman an easy ride and start to treat her like the head of any other regime bent on genocide. 

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There used to be a saying that the most dangerous thing in the British Army was an officer with a map. Sadly, I don't think much has changed. I was reading recently about some Canadian soldiers stationed in Afghanistan who were sent to help out the British in Helmand. They were told to phone once they were on the road and they would be told where to rendezvous. Sounds a bit haphazard to me. When the Canadians phoned they were given a map reference it turned out that the co-ordinates supplied were in the middle of nowhere; the Canadians were needed at Lashkar Gar. A second call resulted in a map reference for a point east of the city. The Canadians were not on the the British communications system and requested two UK signallers and their equipment. Instead they were allocated one officer whose technical know-how did not go beyond switching his radio on and off. Not surprisingly, the Canadians failed to link up with the British troops they were supposed to be supporting. When the operation was over, it was decided that helicopters were the best way to get the troops out. But the Canadians were told there were no helicopters available for extract them. Then British Chinooks flew in to take the British troops back to base. Meanwhile it emerged that some US cops who were mentoring local Afghan police had been ordered not to get out of their vehicles under any circumstances. Not surprising perhaps that the Afghan cops sooon opened fire on friendly troops. It's hard to know if the US cops were better trainers and mentors than their compatriots from a US Navy submarine who had been sent into the desert to train the Afghan army. No wonder a lot of people think the West lost the war in Afghanistan. 

 

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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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