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One of the best programmes on Canadian radio these days is called Writers & Co in which one author is interviewed for about an hour. But I've noticed that something like two-thirds of the British authors interviewed were privately educated. Perhaps that because of the networking opportunities that rich parents are able to buy for their children. Or perhaps it's because the children of the rich can afford to work for next to nothing. Certainly, I can't help noticing that an increasing number of actors and actresses on British television have hyphenated names and from what I can gather there are serious worries that working class thespians have little chance of a fulltime career these days. But the other thing I noticed was that Scots authors on Writers & Co are often more lively and interesting than the English ones. They were also far less likely to be privately educated. In fact I can't think of one that went to public school. Putting aside the suspicion that as a Scot perhaps I find other Scots interesting and identify with them more than with authors from elsewhere in the United Kingdom, I think perhaps there is something very wrong with the writing scene in Britain. Perhaps the time has come to redress the balance when it comes to the dominance of the British publishing industry by the privately educated. Someone should establish a publishing house which actually favours those from humble backgrounds. The criteria could be having been brought up or ever lived in a council house. With Margaret Thatcher selling off a lot of the council housing stock, perhaps, maybe, if there is a shortage of qualified candidates for publication, the criteria might be extended to include those who were brought up in former council houses. But I think we should start with those who have the strongest links to council housing. 

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The families of 24 men executed without trial by the Scots Guards in 1948 in Malaya were back in court last week. They want the British Supreme Court to order a proper public inquiry into the Batang Kali Massacre. The official British version has always been that the men were suspected communist terrorists shot while trying to escape. That version of events did not hold water in 1948, no wounded you see, and was blown out of the water in 1969 when some of the Guardsmen confessed to The People newspaper that Batang Kali was a pre-meditated massacre. A Scotland Yard inquiry into the massacre claim was quickly closed down by an incoming Tory government and in the early 1990s the British Government succeeded in foiling an attempt to Malaysian police to investigate. The cover-up, pathetic as it is, continues to this day. What is the Government hiding? The British authorities do not have a good record when it comes to protecting squaddies and in Iraq the Government fell over itself in its efforts to prosecute soldiers facing allegations of misconduct. Whoever ordered the massacre of ethnic Chinese rubber plantation workers must be dead by now. In fact, everyone directly involved in orchestrating the massacre must be dead. It is obvious from the statements of the Guardsmen who blew the whistle that the cold-blooded killings were ordered from above and were not the work of a rogue patrol. By the time The People took up the story,  the man who led the patrol, Lance Sergeant Charles Douglas, was a battalion regimental sergeant major in the Scots Guards. And when Douglas was challenged by a newspaper reporter, his responses suggests he knew he was fire-proof when it came to Batang Kali. It would be interesting to know why he was so certain he would never be held to account. The Malaysians at the heart of this case are not after money. In fact, it is the British Government which is talking money because it is threatening that the Malaysians will have to pay the government's legal bills. All the Malaysians want is the truth about why their fathers and uncles were murdered in cold blood - and an apology. Some smart alecs may say that this is all ancient history and go chuntering on about wanting compensation for the Highland Clearances. But if it is such ancient history, why is the government still fighting tooth and nail to hide the truth?

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I read a lot of old books. One thing I can't help noticing is how often Scots soldiers refer to themselves in their memoirs as "English". Sadly, these men are all long long dead or I could perhaps go to them and ask why they chose to self-identify as English rather than Scots. Were they realists and knew in whose interests they were really fighting? To argue that they were fighting only for English interests is a dubious proposition when so many members of the Scots middle and upper classes benefited from the British Empire. Or where they currying favour with the Englishmen in Westminister who controlled the levers of power? After the 1707 Treaty of Union there was a strong move to destroy Scottish identity and replace it with something called North British. From 1708 until 1877 the Royal Scots Greys were officially known as the Royal North British Dragoons. And for much of the same period the Royal Scots Fusiliers were on the books as the Royal North British Fusiliers. Or did the old soldiers perhaps really feel they were Little Englanders. Certainly a large number of their parents turned their backs on Scotland and had their children educated at private schools in the heart of England. A case of "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em", perhaps. One has wonder what would have happened if the benefits of Empire and being part of the United Kingdom had been spread a little wider in the past to include more of what my English colleagues still delight in dubbing "The Oatmeal Savages" and/or "The Sweaty Socks". The fall-out from treating Scotland as Britain's own rice-bowl economy for so long with wages well below the UK average may be about to, if the opinion polls are to be believed, have some interesting consequences at the General Election.

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The BBC World Service now has a radio programme which boasts that no men are allowed on it. I'll skip the obvious observation regarding whether The Conversation would be aired if it boasted that no Chinese or Jews were allowed on it.  Why is the BBC creating gender ghetto programming? When will there be a programme which bans all women from participation? Go on BBC, let's have a programme where men talk only to other men about their lives 100% of the time. Perhaps we can have a broadcast in which people who feel they have big noses talk about how much more difficult that makes their lives. Of course, these people would all have to be the same gender. I would be very very surprised if both men and women who have any concerns about proboscis size have anything in common at all. Hey, while we're at it let's ban men from listening to The Conversation. That way the women participants can speak more freely. We could have a programme in which Africans whose ancestors originally came from the Indian sub-continent interview each other. But once again that would have to be single gender. We obviously need more programming in which anatomy is the deciding factor when it comes to participation. Perhaps we should have two World Services, one for men and one for women. Or perhaps several world services, so that all sexual orientations are covered off. Or maybe one World Service on which only people from certain higher income bracket backgrounds interview each other, a sort of Radio Privileged (some may feel we already have that). I mean, obviously, broadcast ghetto-ization is good, and anything that suggests any communality amongst the planet's population must be sidelined.

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Many of you will be bored stiff with the whole "Lions Led by Donkeys" debate around the First World War. Certainly, many of the senior British officers during the First World War failed to raise their game enough to deal with the challenges it raised. But sensible historians generally agree that by 1918 the worst of the donkeys had been weeded out and the British Army was at least competently handled in the closing months of the war. No, what I'm wondering is if the phrase is applicable today when it comes to the British Army. I've just finished reading yet another British account of the war in Afghanistan. In it, a lot of brave and committed young men are killed or maimed. And yet by the end of the book I was left wondering what their stint in a remote fortified base actually achieved. It's an awkward question to raise. No-one likes to think the high price they and their family have paid achieved little. But reading the book, one of three things seem to happen when the soldiers left their fort:- a) Nothing. b) Someone was killed or seriously injured by a mine. c) Or the local bad guys opened fire on the patrol and the British eventually retreated back to the fort carrying any dead or injured men back with them. The British troops' control of the area did not seem to extend beyond the range of their heavy machine guns or snipers' rifles. None of this was the fault of the soldiers on the frontline. The blame has to be placed far further up the chain of command with the men who lacked the courage to call a halt until more frontline troops and helicopters were sent to Afghanistan.

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An Australian TV series about the Gallipoli campaign of 1915 has flopped and that has led to accusations of "Gallipoli Fatigue". This year, obviously, marks the centenary of the disastrous campaign to capture the Dardanelles Peninsula from the Turks and as the Anzacs are a national icon for the Aussies, and New Zealanders, it can be expected there will be a lot of media coverage. The Aussies have long felt hard done by when it comes to Gallipoli, where they believe the cream of their manhood were led to the slaughter by dim and unfeeling Pommie officers. What they seem to forget is that the British officers subjected their fellow countrymen to exactly the same treatment. There was no discrimination. And yet the Gallipoli Campaign remains focus of both Antipodean pride and anger. It's the shame the Scots don't take the same interest in the Dardanelles. It's a toss-up as to whether the Battle of Loos on the Western Front in 1915 or the 52nd Lowland Division's part in the Gallipoli fighting most deserves to be called The Second Flodden. The 9th and 15th Scottish Divisions suffered heavy casualties at Loos; with eight out of the 12 British battalions who lost more than 500 men apiece in the fighting coming from north of the Border. At Gallipoli the 156th Brigade of the 52nd Division lost 72% of its officers and 46% of its men in the Battle of Gully Ravine - 72 officers and 1,271 men dead wounded or missing. Three days of fighting two weeks later cost the 52nd Division a further 98 officers and 2,723 men. The 8th Scottish Rifles was almost wiped out at Gully Ravine. The Scots commander of the campaign, General Ian Hamilton, had sneered at the battalion when it arrived in threatre as being "from the lowest slums of Glasgow, but well officered and will fight well." He was right about the battalion fighting well. But why does coming from a slum area make a soldier suspect?

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It may interest those of you who have already snapped up a copy of the excellent With Wellington in the Peninsula to learn that Balfour Kermack's medal recently sold at auction for £3,200. Kermack wrote account of his part in the Highland Light Infantry's campaigns during the Peninsular War, 1808-1814, and features in several of the book's footnotes. Kermack was one of only 43 rankers from the regiment to earn eight or more bars on his General Service Medal. That included one for Talavera, a battle in which the HLI did not take part. Sadly, Kermack in his "what I did in The War" notes did not explain how he ended up at Talavera, though several members of the regiment who had been hospitalized earlier in the fighting were there as part of a composite battalion. The medal was only expected to sell for between  £1,500 and £2,000. What I find interesting is that poor old Kermack probably never earned anything like £3,200 in his whole life. By the way, With Wellington has gone as high as 21st in the bestseller list for books about the Peninsular War. As one noted critic has already said "You don't get many Napoleonic memoirs as good as this". Naturally, as the book's editor, I heartily concur. End of shameless plug.

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The Islamist terror group ISIS are said to be masters of internet propaganda and luring sad-sack half-wits to join their war in Iraq and Syria. But it turns out they don't need the internet to get their message out when they have friends like the BBC. Last week when Kuwaiti-born Londoner Mohammed Emwazi was revealed as ISIS's top online executioner, the BBC ran footage claiming he had been driven into the arms of the terrorists by MI5 harassment. The guy making the claim, Asim Qureshi of an outfit calling itself Cage, seemed a bit dodgey to me when he made the claim. There was just  something just a little "off" about him. Cage was described as a prisoners' rights organisation. The claim obviously should not have been swept under the carpet and the BBC were right to report it. Where the BBC let themselves and everybody down was failing to put the allegation in context by giving us a little background on Qureshi and Cage.  Had they done that, the allegation might have carried a lot less weight. It would only have taken an extra sentence or two in the script to raise questions about Cage's credibility.  I found it hard to believe that someone who brutally decapitates people on camera was ever really "a beautiful young man".  This was an example of the sloppy and dangerous journalism the BBC seems to indulge in all too frequently these days. It's bad enough when the presenters mis-use words and mispronounce names, which is akin to mis-spelling in the print media. But Cage allegations story is a an example of bad journalism that is going to get people killed. There are just too many sad losers just looking for an excuse for murder.

 

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I think writers who don't want to answer questions about their work should perhaps steer clear of library book clubs. The problem with book clubs is that not everyone is a willing reader of the title. The club decides on the book to be read that month and usually it's a majority decision. Over the months things even out when it comes to the choices and someone would have to be very lucky to be stuck month after month with books they hate to read. And some books that look as though they maybe interesting turn out to be duds. Rousing and positive endorsements from other writers and experts on the back cover are often suspect - I've come across several books in which the supposedly disinterested endorser appears in the acknowledgements as contributing the book in question. But back to authors and book clubs. Authors are used to dealing with fans of their work; the sort of people who show up for readings and book signings.  There would appear to be some authors who regard questions about certain plot devices and choices in their books as criticisms, rather than genuine inquiries about puzzling directions taken by the book. Local colour is all well and good but Ian Rankin doesn't have Inspector Rebus visiting Edinburgh Castle every second chapter.  Would you be surprised to learn that one author actually complained to the library about being asked questions about her books? And would you be surprised to hear that the library discouraged book club members from quizzing the next author who was brave enough to come to one of their meetings. Personally, I'd rather authors didn't come along to the meetings. It's very hard to discuss their books honestly and frankly with them sitting there. This is particularly true when they turn out to be so precious that questions are interpreted as criticisms.

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When I was reading the late John Keegan's Intelligence in War  I was surprised that he really downplayed the damage Soviet agent Kim Philby did to the United Kingdom during and after the Second World War. Philby not only headed MI6's anti-Soviet unit, British stupidity meant he was in charge of hunting himself down, but then became the United Kingdom's liaison with the intelligence community in the United States. It would be hard to think of a two jobs in which a Soviet agent could do more harm to his fellow citizens. When a Soviet agent in Turkey tried to defect to the British and expose a number of traitors, his file was turned over to Philby and he had the poor man killed by his buddies from Moscow. But the thing that disturbs me most about Philby was how he joined and then rose through the ranks of MI6. He pretended to be a Fascist. He got his foot firmly on the ladder by filing pro-Fascist pro-Franco stories to The Times during the Spanish Civil War. Now, I would have thought Communists and Fascists would have been equally unwelcome when it came to safeguarding British interests. But apparently not. It was only in the 1950s when rumours surfaced that Philby was not a Fascist but a Communist who had tipped off fellow Soviet traitors Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, and triggered their flight to Moscow, that he was supposedly "let go". Philby, Burgess and Maclean were all privately-educated Cambridge graduates who the English Establishment were confident could be counted as "one of us". So was fourth traitor Sir Anthony Blunt. None of the four was really held to account for betraying us - unless you count Philby, Burgess and Maclean having to live in Communist Russia. This might all be ancient history but for one thing. In the same way that the English Establishment circled the wagons during the economic recession of the 1930s to protect its privilege, many would say it is doing the same again now. The spivs, barrow-boys and chancers of the Blair and Thatcher Years have gone and the "decent chaps" from Eton and good families are back in the driving seat. It would be  interesting to see what would happen if a working class person was ever placed in the position to thoroughly betray their country. Wouldn't that be an interesting experiment? I think that such a person would be watched like a hawk and wouldn't go undetected for anywhere near as someone from the "right" background.

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Canada now has more kilted regiments than Britain. Britain's down to only one, the Royal Regiment of Scotland, while around a dozen cities in Canada are home to kilted units. Granted, they are all reserve units. Canadians were recently reminded just how much some units still cherish their Scottish connection when a kilted reservist from the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada was shot dead at the National War Memorial in Ottawa by a sad-sack loner who had converted to some perverted branch of Islam. Years back I came across a bunch of lads from the Vancouver-based Seaforth Highlanders of Canada. Not one of them was anyone's traditional idea of a Highlander. At least one looked Hispanic and all the others obviously traced their roots to China or the Indian sub-continent. But they all assured me they wore kilts on ceremonial parades. But even though the ethnic mix in the reserve units carrying on the Scottish names of regiments is very varied, they still show an interest in the the British Army regiments which inspired them. As well as the Seaforth's and Argylls, Canada also has a Black Watch and two regiments of Camerons. I was reminded of the strength of these links when I saw that the Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada is throwing its weight behind the appeal for the proposed new Royal Highland Fusiliers museum at the Kelvin Hall in Glasgow. By the way, the Canadian cousins have long been a kilted regiment. The Highland Light Infantry regained their kilts in 1947 only to lose them again in 1959 when they merged with the Royal Scots Fusiliers to form the Royal Highland Fusiliers. Bizarrely, the government of time insisted on putting the new regiment in trews against the wishes of both the HLI and the RSF. It was only when the RHF became the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland that the kilts were restored.  For more information about the appeal - Museum Appeal.

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There are 17 regular infantry regiments in the British Army. Eight of them are single battalion. Five of those eight are Guards units. Since the Second World War all the regiments but the five Guards units have been renamed and subject to amalgamation. Many long-storied units have lost their identities. Efficiency and flexibility has been the reasons given for axing many of the great regimental names to create the new multi-battalion regiments. I guess Her Majesty's Foot Guards must already have been super-duper efficient and flexible. One of the features of the super-regiments is it is easier to axe a battalion once in a while. In recent years, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders has been reduced to one company and the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers cut to one battalion. But Whitehall is shying away from creating a unit simply known as The Foot Guards and sneakily axing a battalion. One of the problems is that three of the five Guards regiments are named in honour of constituent parts of the United Kingdom. Though, it must be hard to justify the Irish Guards when the part of that island which is still British territory is pretty small. It used to be the most junior regiment would be the first to be disbanded. In this case, that would be the Welsh Guards, formed 1915.  But let's make ending the Guards' immunity from the painful reorganization process the rest of the British Army has undergone a little gentler. How about the regiment with the fewest officers from the area is is supposedly traditionally recruits from gets the axe? But I don't think I'll hold my breath waiting for that to happen.  

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I was more than a little saddened to see that Winston Churchill's memory was being hijacked by the present regime in Britain. My first thought was that wallowing in past glories is not a good response to the challenges faced by a 21st Century nation. My second thought was the historical basis for the hijacking is bogus. The Tory party in the 1930s and 1940s hated Churchill. Many of its members did everything they could to undermine him after be became Prime Minister. He only remained in power thanks to Labour support. Churchill would have loathed the Cameron Conservatives - though a loose-cannon child of privilege, he didn't go to Eton. Churchill was more committed to social equality than Tony Blair ever was. Cameron, his idol Maggie Thatcher, and Blair dismantled Churchill's social legacy.  And let's not forget that the British electorate passed a pretty damning verdict on Churchill after the defeat of Germany in 1945 by kicking him out of power. So, it's a bit cheeky to be lionizing the man now. I have an admiration for Churchill, though the men who during the Second World War steered Britain in the slipstream of American Victory found him exasperating to work with and were hard put to derail some of his crazier notions. And speaking of Americans - the archetypal British Bulldog was half Yankee. He was as much British as Barrack Obama is the first black president of the United States of America.

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The Festive Season often yields some cash in lieu of a present. Some of you may still be stumped as to how best to spend this windfall. I have a suggestion - if you can wait a few more weeks. Why not order a copy of a wonderful new book called With Wellington in the Peninsula? This account of the Peninsular War 1808-14 through the eyes of a rank-and-file soldier in one of Wellington's best regiments is a long lost treasure. Of course, I would say that: I'm credited as editing the first re-issue of the full text since 1827. I recently had to re-read the book in its entirety and to be honest I'd forgotten what a little gem this account of the Highland Light Infantry at war is. Working on the new edition proved to be a far bigger job than I'd expected. While double-checking the narrator's story I came across three other first-person accounts of the Peninsular War from members of the regiment and wove them into the book in the form of footnotes. The book also includes ten specially commissioned maps.  The new edition is due to be published by Frontline at the end of February and Casemate in North America in April. Even if you're not interested in the Napoleonic Wars, this book has much to say about the experience of men at war throughout history.

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The senior officers in the Royal Regiment of Scotland would perhaps take some comfort from the introduction to to an 1878 book I came across recently about the British regiments. The author, a former army officer, was lamenting what he believed was the destruction of the regimental system by the 1873 Cardwell Reforms to the army. They linked regiments together for training and recruitment purposes. In fact the 1873 and subsequent 1881 Childers Reforms, which created two battalion regiments with clearly defined recruiting areas, proved to be the foundation of what are now as the "historic Scottish regiments" which were amalgamated into the Royal Regiment of Scotland in 2006. Actually, it was the First and Second World Wars, and National Service, which saw tens of thousands of civilians put in the tartans of their "local" regiments and cemented the link between specific regions and army units. At the moment, the four remaining front-line regular battalions of the RRoS, still carry names rather than simply being referred to by number. But  only the Black Watch, the 3rd Battalion, still bears a name that veterans of the Second World War would recognise. It is no secret that senior civil servants and military men would prefer to see the end of the individual battalion names and want them referred to by their numbers. Some battalions are keener than others to retain the traditions of their predecessor regiments. Others buy into the whole creating a tradition for the RRoS, if that is not a contradiction in terms. It is a balancing act. But just the jeremiahs of 1873 were wrong, let's hope their 2006 counterparts are also proven mistaken. By the way, 1873 reforms linked: - The 26th Cameronians and the 74th Highlanders; the 42nd Black Watch and the 79th Camerons; the 71st HLI and the 78th Ross-shire Buffs; the 72nd Duke of Albany's and the 91st Argyllshire Highlanders;  the 73rd Highlanders and the 90th Perthshire Light Infantry; and the 92nd Gordon Highlanders and the 93rd Sutherland Highlanders. 

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Most journalists lead boring lives. What really got up my nose last week were the accusations of cowardice and gutlessness levelled at media organisations which decided not to run the Charlie Hebdo images of the Prophet Mohammed in so called "solidarity" with the satirical magazine's murdered journalists. I found the "holier than thou" types making the accusations against fellow journalists both arrogant and silly. They know, as we all do, that there is almost zero chance that they will be executed one-by-one in the repeat of last week's murders in Paris. So what makes them so brave. Nothing. They are playing at being brave. They know that there is no question of them dying to defend someone else's free speech, even if they disagree with what is being said. I think the accusations of cowardice  could be fairly made against a media organisation which was planning to run the cartoons and decided not to after the murder spree. But attacking media outlets for exercising their right not to run potentially offensive images is stupid. In the same way I would not criticise someone for deciding to run the images, I would not condemn someone else who decided not to because they are simply  not their cup of tea. To me, that's what Freedom of Speech is all about. It all reminded me of the aftermath of the murder of Irish journalist Veronic Guerin in 1996. Suddenly, it seemed, half the journalists in Britain were writing about how dangerous their work was - even if it was only writing a gardening column for the local weekly. Self-dramatising, self-important, twaddle. Here's a good rule of thumb - a scary number of the journalists who really do put their lives on the line for the sake of the job do indeed wind up dead. According to the Committee to Protect Journalist, 61  definitely died in 2014 as a result of their work.

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The problem with recycling old events and packaging them as news is the danger of being scooped. Perhaps that's why news organisations marked a couple of recent anniversaries so early this year. I'm thinking of the 10th anniversary of the tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people on Boxing Day 2004 and the 100th anniversary of the Christmas Truce between British and German troops during the First World War. The media started running tenth anniversary stories in early December and I'm sure I heard Truce stories in November. The problem with News is that the media has a short attention span, so, events are surrounded by a flare up of white-hot saturation coverage and then forgotten. There is little calm later analysis or follow-up. But both the anniversary "stories" I'm talking about were stale, stale, stale. In the case of the tsunami most were interviews with survivors who had been interviewed a decade before. A more interesting story would have been the damage done by the self-interest of so-called non-governmental aid organisations. Basically, as far as they were concerned it didn't matter what they did as long as they were seen to be doing something and doing it quickly. Long term meaningful help was not a priority for many aid organisations. Instead the priority is income-generating publicity. In the case of the Christmas Truce the stories basically involved reading out some diary or letters from participants. No attempt was made to look at how widespread the fraternization between the troops actually was. A couple of years ago few people were even aware of the Truce and now it has reached mythic proportions. In view of the unimaginative coverage of both events, I can see why media outlets were scared of being scooped and marked the anniversaries so far ahead. It's only four years until the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing, expect the first commemoration "stories" before 2015 is over.

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I have a pal who decided that women were not getting a fair kick of the can when it came to jobs in his office. He was responsible for hiring and he went out of his way to make sure vacancies were filled by women. Eventually, he was the only male in the office. His female colleagues decided they would be more comfortable in an all-women work environment. They conspired to get rid of him. He only just kept his job. I was reminded of this by a couple of job adverts I saw recently. Both mentioned recipes. Now, it's possible that this was a heavy-handed attempt to demonstrate that the successful job candidate would be joining a "fun" organisation. But there is a more sinister implication. Could the mention of recipes be code for "males need not apply". I know a lot of guys who like cooking and might welcome a new chocolate chip cooking recipe or one for banana-bread. But I also happen to know that both the departments advertising the jobs are 100% female at the moment. I would have thought these days any office that was 100% one gender or the other would raise a red flag. But apparently not. I've said it before and I'm prepared to say it again - discrimination of any kind is wrong and that includes so-called positive discrimination.

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Just how low can the BBC World Service sink? Most hostage situations are about gaining publicity. So why would the BBC spend 90 minutes or so in two hours of broadcasting on Monday's hostage taking in Sydney, Australia? The facts could be summed up in four or five sentences. So, the BBC filled the rest of the time with speculation and bizarre interviews with people who had seen police cars near the coffee shop where the hostages were being held. Police at the scene of a hostage-taking - Hold the Front Page! What the BBC was basically saying through its prolonged and unenlightening coverage was that if you are a maladjusted loner, take some hostages and we'll devote three-quarters of our news programming to giving you publicity. Sadly, news broadcasting is becoming less about the facts and more and more about what social media is saying about events. A friend down in the United States was complaining that the BBC World Service news is now being carried by his favourite radio station in the morning. At first, my national pride was hurt. But then when I thought about it, he had a point. The time is coming when the pompous and self-satisfied National Public Radio network in the United States is going to be a more reliable news provided than Auntie Beeb. A couple of months back in the space of an hour the BBC World Service told me that Oscar Pistorius's defence team had requested a psychiatric report on the legless killer during his trial in South Africa and that rogue Toronto mayor Rob Ford was expected to announce that day whether he was going to run for re-election. Neither was true. The BBC World Service is taking a wrong turn. It's attempting to be social media on the wireless. Why would any professional media outlet ape social media? The internet is where I go for social media, the wireless if where I go for news.  I'm not saying that the Sydney hostage-taking should have gone unreported on the BBC; just that when there is little to report, then report little. I can't help but wonder if the hostages had been taken in Islamabad or New Delhi  whether so much time would have been devoted the covering events. People like us?

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A couple of days ago while looking for some on the interweb I came across an appeal from some guy who wondered where he could download one of my books for free. I wonder if he would have gone on the interweb asking if anyone knew of a shop where the guy behind the till was blind and deaf because that would make it easier to steal. Perhaps he would. I followed the link suggested by one of his fellow creeps. I was delighted to recognise it. Anyone who downloads from the site is almost certainly going to regret it. Put it this way, it's not just a book they're getting. The only legitimate free book downloads I know of involve publications that are long long out of copyright. Quite often there are a couple of pages missing due to whoever scanned the book being in too much of a rush. None of my books are out of copyright. There are no legitimate free copies available for download. Maybe some musicians encourage free downloads of their tunes. But musicians have diverse sources of income and perhaps their business model includes offering free downloads. But most authors have only one source of income. I wonder if that creep was stupid enough to give that "free book" download site his credit card number so he could subscribe to their "service".

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