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In the Old Days juries had the power to have a man hanged. I sometimes wonder if we should have super panels of folk recruited in much the same way as a jury run the country. Could a gang of randomly selected citizens run the country better than elected members of parliament? Maybe a better question would be could they do worse? Probably not. Getting elected takes money. That money comes from somewhere and the people who provide it expect a return on their investment.  Also, power corrupts. So perhaps it would be fairer on all concerned if the exercise of power was limited to a period five years, when the next parliamentary panel is selected. And having no need to fixate on the short term as politicians all too often do, we might see some projects and policies which look beyond the next election.  Plus we'd probably get a wider breadth of knowledge and skills than presently provided by the political hacks and former lawyers who dominate the elected legislatures.

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I heard a woman interviewed on the BBC World Service who was being applauded for fulfilling her childhood ambition of being a war correspondent. It made me uneasy. Would she have received the same adulation if she had said that since she was a child she had wanted to report fatal traffic accidents? I've encountered war reporters in Kosovo and Afghanistan. I was very seldom impressed by them. I can't do better than quote the American journalist and war reporter Martha Gellhorn. "Wars are frightful, wicked things, and anyone who wants to specialize in reporting them is either a charlatan or else lacks a scintilla of humanity."

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Years ago I heard a Scottish teacher interviewed on Canadian radio about how she spent every summer on Cape Breton island in Nova Scotia. At the time a number of Scottish people had realised that Cape Breton was a bit like of a Gaelic world captured in aspic. Some of the Gaelic folk traditions on the island had almost died out back in Scotland. Fiddling was big. Cape Breton had absorbed a lot of Highland immigrants in the 19th Century, many ending up as coal miners and steel workers. This Scottish teacher was a Gaelic speaker. She could tell by the variety of Gaelic spoken in various parts of Cape Breton where people's ancestors came from. One village obviously had been settled by folk from Lewis while a neighbouring community was evidently settled by people from Skye, etc. This was in the early 1990s. Sadly, I suspect the number of Gaelic speakers on Cape Breton has by now drastically shrunk.

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When I was an office boy at the Glasgow Herald one of my bosses gave me some advice. It was not to ask out women who were a good laugh on the phone. His theory, or experience, was that the women with the best phone personalities often turned out to weigh 100 stone or have beards. The good looking are able to get what they thought they wanted without needing personalities. Kind of a superficial notion, but with a possible grain of truth. A couple of years later when I was working as a reporter there was a charming, fun, young woman I spoke to regularly on the phone who was always talking about films she wanted to see at the cinema. Even I knew what expected of me. I think what stopped me was that most relationships don't work out and I didn't want to risk losing a good contact thanks to the almost inevitable breakup. A while later I spotted her standing outside her work. She was drop-dead gorgeous. So much for my Herald boss's theory. 

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When will time come to forgive the Germans and Japanese for the atrocities they committed during the Second World War? The war ended 78 years ago. It is better to forget and be happy than to remember and be sad. But the terrible things done were the work of societies and they last longer than individuals. I heard some Japanese people on the radio recently and thanks to having two atomic bombs dropped on them they were able to portray their country as a victim of the war. It's even possible they don't know about the regular mass murders of prisoners, civilians and the wounded or the wide scale rape sprees. Perhaps the evil that led to these atrocities still lurks unaddressed in Japanese society. I think the time to move on is perhaps when the last person affected directly by their crimes dies. Someone who grew up without a father because he was murdered as a prisoner and who briefly had a little half-Japanese rape brother or sister during their time in a Hong Kong internment camp. So, maybe another decade yet.

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