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Scotland and me: Val McDermid stands up for the Scots language

Scotland and me: Val McDermid stands up for the Scots language
Scotland and me: Val McDermid stands up for the Scots language

It may surprise you to hear that the writing project that’s given me most delight this past year has been the translation of two fairy stories into Scots.

It wis braw.

The single thing that always tells me I am home is when I hear Scots around me — in the street, on the bus, in the shops, in the pubs.

But for most of my life, I’ve been conditioned to believe the way I spoke was not proper English. There was a good reason for that — my birth tongue is Scots, one of the three native languages of Scotland alongside English and Gaelic. It has common roots with English but they grew apart in the Middle Ages and Scots now also has a range of dialects — Lallans and Doric, for example.

My heart rejoiced recently at the news that Scots singer and poet Iona Fyfe persuaded Spotify to recognise Scots as a language. And then I was cast down almost immediately when she revealed that though her singing in Scots provoked no noticeable hostility, when she posted on social media in her natural speech, she was the victim of a troll pile-on. She was called ignorant, a whore and a bitch for using the language that almost a third of Scots reported in the 2011 census that they could speak.

It took me back to my own experiences with language. I spent a lot of time with my maternal grandparents when I was wee, and my grandmother had a rich and varied Scots at her disposal. She would “tak the gait hame fae the kirk”, and be quick to “spier whi wis wrang sin ah wis greetin”. She’d “ayeways red the hoose up” for visitors and send me “oot tae the Store van for the messages”.

It wasn’t just the words that were different. The grammatical constructions were, too. My favourite? “Ah used to could dae that but ah’m ower stechy noo.” (“I used to be able to do that, but I’m insufficiently limber now.”)

At school, we were told off when we slipped into Scots. Dialect words collided with the red pencil if they appeared in our written work and the only time they were permitted in our speech was in January, when we were practising our recitations for Burns Night.

Even our national poet wasn’t immune. Although most of his finest work is written in guid braid Scots, much of his verse is in more formal English. He said himself that his ideas were more barren in English. But Burns had learnt the importance of being bilingual.

Inside the classroom, we tidied up our diction. But outside, I spoke guid braid Fife, ken. I never had trouble making myself understood until I went to university in Oxford.

I still recall the hot humiliation of my first tutorial. I’d sweated over my essay on Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “The Wreck of the Deutschland”. (See? Forty-seven years later, I still remember exactly what I was talking about.) I began to read it to my tutor, who frowned. She held up a hand to stop me and said in cut-glass tones, “I’m most frightfully sorry, Miss McDermid. I haven’t understood a word you’ve said. Might you begin again, and a little more slowly this time?”

Mortified, I understood that if I was going to survive three years here, I was going to have to learn to speak English.

Fortunately, I have a musical ear and I quickly managed to mimic what I heard around me. The only person who ever wanted me to speak in my natural voice was the tutor who took our class in linguistics and liked to have an exemplar of exotic dialect.

I can still recall the relief of hearing my own tongue on the train from Edinburgh to Kirkcaldy at the end of my first term. Since then, I’ve switched easily — and without calculation — between what my partner calls “your Radio 4 Scottish accent” and how I speak to my friends at the fitba.

Thankfully, writers are beginning to reclaim their tongue. We drop native words into our English text. We even win the Booker Prize . . . But still, many Scots struggle with the vernacular on the page.

I suspect part of the blame lies with the development of a widespread education system in Scotland. As early as the 17th century, every parish was obliged to have a school where possible. The principle of universal education flourished, though not always its practice. The Scottish universities traditionally drew their student body from a wider social pool than other countries in Europe. But the texts they used were in English. Or Latin. Certainly not Scots.

And so if Scots writers, philosophers, economists and scientists wanted a readership, they knew they had to turn to their second language on the page. We all became simultaneous translators of the voices in our heads.

Maybe not for much longer . . . 

Val McDermid’s latest novel is “Still Life”

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BBC Journalist Martin Bashir Steps Down As Report On Princess Diana Interview Looms

BBC Journalist Martin Bashir Steps Down As Report On Princess Diana Interview Looms
BBC Journalist Martin Bashir Steps Down As Report On Princess Diana Interview Looms

Martin Bashir has left the BBC as the broadcaster prepares to release a report on how the journalist secured a bombshell 1995 television interview with Princess Diana.

He had been on sick leave for several months.

Bashir is accused of tricking the royal into speaking with him on “Panorama,” a British news program, by forging documents in order to manipulate her. During the interview, Diana revealed unhappy details of her marriage to Prince Charles, which had by then broken down past the point of repair but was still a year away from a formal end. She publicly affirmed that Charles had an intimate relationship with his longtime friend Camilla Parker-Bowles ― causing a crisis at the palace. 

“There were three of us in this marriage,” Diana said, “so it was a bit crowded.”

Martin Bashir interviewed Princess Diana in Kensington Palace for the television program "Panorama" in 1995. (Photo by ©

Martin Bashir interviewed Princess Diana in Kensington Palace for the television program “Panorama” in 1995. (Photo by © Pool Photograph/Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)

The BBC’s deputy director of news, Jonathan Munro, said Friday in a memo to staff that Bashir “let us know of his decision last month, just before being readmitted to hospital for another surgical procedure on his heart,” according to The New York Times, which obtained a copy.

Munro went on to say that Bashir had “major surgery” in late 2020 and was still “facing some ongoing issues,” prompting his decision “to focus on his health.”

The BBC announced in November that it was launching an investigation into how Bashir secured the interview after Charles Spencer, Diana’s brother, alleged the journalist had used deceptive tactics. Tim Davie, the BBC’s director general, said at the time that the broadcaster was taking the accusations “very seriously.”

Prince William, Diana’s son, welcomed the investigation and said it “should help establish the truth.”

A 1996 probe into how Bashir convinced Diana to sit down with him supposedly cleared the journalist.

However, Spencer maintains that Bashir made a series of bogus claims that led him to introduce the journalist to his sister. According to Spencer, Bashir said Diana was being bugged by security services and that two senior aides were being paid to provide information about her ― even producing bank statements as purported evidence. Matt Weissler, a graphic designer, came forward last year to say he had mocked up the documents on Bashir’s request, believing they would be used as film props. 

Lord John Dyson, a retired British judge, was appointed to conduct the new probe. A spokesman for the BBC told HuffPost it “will be published soon.” 

The BBC apologized for the falsified bank statements last fall, but said it had reason to believe the documents had no impact on Diana’s decision to sit down for the interview because she had not seen them herself.

Bashir joined the BBC in 1987, and eventually made the jump to U.S. media. He was forced to resign from his post as an anchor for MSNBC after calling Sarah Palin a “world-class idiot” in 2013. In 2016, he became the BBC’s religion editor. Bashir contracted COVID-19 last year and became “seriously unwell” with complications of the virus.  

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Black bear released into the wild after recovering from Colorado wildfire injuries

Black bear released into the wild after recovering from Colorado wildfire injuries
Black bear released into the wild after recovering from Colorado wildfire injuries

An orphaned black bear which was injured during a Colorado wildfire has been released back into the wild after officials worked for five months to nurse the animal back to health.

The young bear was injured during the 2020 Cameron Peak Fire, which became the largest recorded wildfire in Colorado’s history after 62 days of burning.

Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) officials worked to treat and rehabilitate the animal for several months after the cub was found.

The bear was released back into the wild on 5 May in the mountains of Larimer County, outside of Fort Collins, CPW said in a press release.

“This bear’s drive to survive did most of the work and we just gave it a little boost,” said Kristin Cannon, Deputy Regional Manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Northeast region.

“This bear went through an awful lot in its first year of life, let’s hope humans can now help keep it wild by not rewarding it with our food sources and lowering its chances of survival.”

Video footage showed the bear running off into the trees after it was released. A wildlife official banged on the metal container the bear was transported in to encourage the animal to take off.

The male cub came into the CPW’s custody after ranch owners reported the animal sleeping on their porch on 7 December, five days after firefighters finally 100 per cent contained the wildfire.

However when wildlife officials arrived, the cub was gone. They finally captured the animal on 11 December after the ranch owners reported the cub again sleeping on their porch.

The cub’s injuries included burns on its paws, sustained during the Cameron Peak Fire. His ears were also infected with frostbite, he was covered in cockleburs and severely dehydrated.

It was not clear how long the cub had been orphaned but his paw injuries appeared around a month old when he was discovered.

“This is an incredibly fortunate bear,” said CPW Area Wildlife Manager Jason Duetsch. “Most wild animals don’t survive the myriad of injuries they are exposed to, let alone be found, captured and treated successfully. He definitely would not have made it through much longer. It is the smallest bear cub I have ever seen at that time of the year, which helped us make the decision to try rehabilitation.”

Veterinarians were able to treat the young cub, who is now one, and nourish him back to health.

“Since the foot injuries on this cub appeared to be healing well, and his other wounds were very treatable, we felt that with supportive care and nourishment his prognosis for recovery was very good,” veterinarian Dr Pauline Nol said.

At the time of capture, the bear weighed just 16.3lbs but has since bulked up to 93lbs by the time he was released.

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‘I lost my entire family, in an instant’: Miracle baby is sole survivor of Israeli airstrike that kills 10

‘I lost my entire family, in an instant’: Miracle baby is sole survivor of Israeli airstrike that kills 10
‘I lost my entire family, in an instant’: Miracle baby is sole survivor of Israeli airstrike that kills 10


he baby was found clutching his dead mother’s chest when the first responders in Gaza dug him out from underneath the rubble of a three-storey building.

In a split second 11 members of the Palestinian family, who had gathered for Eid, were buried by the giant claw of an Israeli airstrike.

The remains of the building in Gaza’s Shati refugee camp were strewn with children’s toys, a Monopoly board game and plates of uneaten food from the holiday gathering.

In total 10 were dead: eight children and their two mothers, who were sisters-in-law.

But by some miracle there was a cry: five-month-old Omar, the youngest, was alive.

“What had they done to the Israelis to be targeted while wearing their special Eid clothes as they sat in their uncle’s house?” the distraught father Mohamed al-Hadidi, asked The Independent, from Shifa hospital where his son was being treated.

“They are only children, they haven’t fired rockets, ” he added, breaking down.

“Except Omar, I lost my entire family, in an instant.”

Palestinians take part in the funeral of the al-Hadidi family

(AFP via Getty Images)

At least 139 Palestinians – including 39 children and 22 women – have been killed, mostly by Israeli airstrikes, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

In Israel, medics have reported 10 dead, including two children, and said six people were in a critical condition from Gaza’s volleys of rockets. The latest victim was a 50-year-old Israeli who was killed by rocket fire on Saturday afternoon in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv.

For five nights across the blockaded strip families have cowered under what Israeli air force officials have told The Independent is one of the most “intense barrages of airstrikes” they have ever unleashed on the territory. It is in response to an almost unprecedented level of rocket fire from militants in Gaza.

The army has repeatedly said it does everything in its power to avoid civilian casualties, including deploying early warning systems for major targets like multi-storey buildings.

But Mr Hadidi, who had not been with his wife and children,  said his family knew nothing of the air raid which blew up their lives.

Under heavy bombardment, his wife Maha, 36, had taken her four children to her brother’s home to celebrate the  Muslim holiday which marks the end of Ramadan.

After dinner with her sister-in-law, Yasmine Hassan, she decided to sleep there overnight,  a decision that would ultimately prove fatal.

Omar Al-Hadidi lies on a hospital bed


“The Israelis didn’t give any warning, they didn’t call them. They didn’t even fire drone [knock on the roof] rockets so they knew to escape,” the father said.

“My house is just 400m away, I was running in the street shouting, the building was totally destroyed.”

The latest cycle of cross-border fire erupted on Monday when Hamas, which runs Gaza, fired a volley of rockets at Jerusalem for the first time in seven years.

The militant group said it was in response to weeks of violence in the flashpoint city of Jerusalem that saw Israeli forces repeatedly storming the al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, with stun grenades and teargas.

Israeli police defended the inflammatory action saying Palestinian rioters on the al-Aqsa compound were throwing stones, bottles and fireworks.

Since then, the Israeli military says Hamas and other militants in Gaza have fired over 2,300 rockets at Israel, in what a senior Israeli air force general told The Independent has been among the most “intense” barrages of all conflicts with Gaza.

Israeli warplanes have struck more than 650 targets, in an equally strong campaign.

Overnight on Friday Israel unleashed a 40-minute ferocious ground and air bombardment on Gaza, which the army said was targeting an underground network of attack tunnels they call the “metro”.

Military officials said that night they dropped 500 tonnes of munitions on the strip, which is home to nearly 2 million people.

“I have never seen anything like this in my life. It was worse than the 2014 war,”  said, Hassan Mohammed Attar, 50,  whose daughter, son-in-law, grandchildren and half a dozen neighbours were wiped out during that night’s bombardment along the northern border area.

“Everything has been destroyed, I have never seen such fire before spread through the houses. We were all suffocating,  vomiting, I don’t know what that was,” he added.

The air raids were so intense on Friday and Saturday that thousands of Palestinians living near the border with Israel packed up their belongings and fled south, fearing a protected war and possible ground invasion.

A plume of heavy black smoke rises above buildings in Gaza City from a fire caused by Israeli air strikes

(AFP via Getty Images)

“The air raids have been unimaginable, Friday was a night of fear, terror and destruction,” said Fareed Abu Haloup, 62, who spoke to The Independent as he was fleeing Beit Lahia in the north to the centre.

“We only just made it out of our house alive.  Even the ambulances can’t get to us. We can’t wait to see our children die in front of our eyes. “

Back at Shifa hospital, in Gaza City, Mr Hadidi sat playing with Omar, the only remaining member of his direct family.

“We ask where is the international law? Where is the international community to step in and stop this?” he asked.

“Where are our rights? We ask you to show the world what happened to us.”

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Donald Trump ‘will hold first rallies this summer’ – six months after DC event which sparked Capitol riots

Donald Trump ‘will hold first rallies this summer’ – six months after DC event which sparked Capitol riots
Donald Trump ‘will hold first rallies this summer’ – six months after DC event which sparked Capitol riots

Donald Trump is reportedly planning to hold his first political rallies since the event for supporters in Washington DC on 6 January which sparked the Capitol riots.

The former president is expected to appear at two events in June, and a third in July, although exact locations and dates are not yet known, insiders told The New York Post

The New York Post reported that “the president’s team is in the process of selecting venues for a pair of events in June. A third rally is expected to take place around the July 4 holiday”.

The Independent has sought comment from Trump representatives.

The news has increased speculation as to whether the 74-year-old Republican, who was impeached twice but ultimately acquitted, is gearing up for a 2024 presidential run. Mr Trump has not confirmed he will run again but has hinted at the possibility.

He recently moved his political headquarters to his New Jersey golf club from Mar-a-Lago, which closes during the summer due to Florida’s high temperatures.

The announcement of potential rallies comes after Republicans voted you oust Representative Liz Cheney from her role as chair of the party’s House Conference for publicly stating her belief that Mr Trump lost the election.

Since leaving office Mr Trump, who was banned from Facebook and Twitter, has repeatedly lied that the election was “stolen” from him in interviews and on his new blog.

Mr Trump’s theatrical rallies became a mainstay of his political campaigns and presidency, drawing thousands of fervent supporters.

He has not held one since January 6, 2021 when he spoke at the “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington DC. Following that rally hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol building in a violent attack which left five people dead including one Capitol police officer.

So far, more than 470 people have been charged with crimes including enterting a restricted building, disorderly conduct and assaulting law personnel.

The outgoing president subsequently faced an impeachment trial for the second time during his four years in the White House. He was impeached by the House of Representatives but acquitted in the Senate.

On 4 May, Mr Trump toldThe Daily Wire: “I look forward to doing an announcement at the right time. As you know, it’s very early. But I think people are going to be very, very happy when I make a certain announcement. You know, for campaign finance reasons, you really can’t do it too early because it becomes a whole different thing.”

He added: “Otherwise, I’d give you an answer that I think you’d be very happy with. So, we are looking at that very, very seriously, and all I’d say is stay tuned.”

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Japan Expands COVID-19 Emergency Just 2 Months Before Tokyo Olympics

Japan Expands COVID-19 Emergency Just 2 Months Before Tokyo Olympics
Japan Expands COVID-19 Emergency Just 2 Months Before Tokyo Olympics

TOKYO (AP) — Japan on Friday further expanded a coronavirus state of emergency from six areas, including Tokyo, to nine, as Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga repeated his determination to hold the Olympics in just over two months.

Japan has been struggling to slow infections ahead of the games. The three additions are Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, where the Olympic marathon will be held, and Hiroshima and Okayama in western Japan.

Despite the worsening infections, Suga stressed his commitment to holding the games safely and securely while protecting Japanese by strictly controlling the movements of foreign participants, including possibly expelling journalists covering the event if they defy regulations.

“I understand there are various difficulties, but the priority is to stop the further spread of infections and protect the people’s lives and health,” Suga said.

The three additional areas will join Tokyo, Osaka and four other prefectures already under the emergency coronavirus restrictions through May 31, Suga announced at a government taskforce meeting Friday. Bars, karaoke parlors and most entertainment facilities are required to close. Business owners who comply will be compensated; those who don’t could face fines.

“Infections are escalating extremely rapidly in populated areas,” Suga said. “As new variants continue to spread, we judged that now is a very important time to stop the further spread of infections.”

It was the second expansion of the emergency in just one week. Suga declared a state of emergency — Japan’s third — in four prefectures including Tokyo and Osaka starting April 25, then expanded it to six prefectures last Friday. Despite the emergency measures, infections are continuing to spread in wider areas of Japan instead of slowing.

In the worst-hit Osaka area, hospitals are overflowing with COVID-19 patients. Many are waiting at home or at hotels with oxygen, and more than a dozen have died without being able to get a hospital room. Coronavirus treatment in Japan is largely limited to public or university hospitals, where treatment of non-COVID-19 patients has been largely curtailed.

Dr. Shigeru Omi, who heads a government panel of experts, urged organizers to carefully study how much additional burden Olympic participants will place on already-strained medical systems.

Suga said he will decide on a possible further extension of the emergency by evaluating the virus situation at the end of May.

His government is under heavy pressure from the public, increasingly frustrated by a slow vaccine rollout and repeated emergency declarations. Many now oppose hosting the July 23-Aug. 8 Olympics, and people appear to be less cooperative with non-compulsory stay-at-home and social-distancing requests.

Less than 2% of the public has been fully vaccinated in Japan, one of the world’s least inoculated.

The expansion of the state of emergency is a major shift from the government’s initial plan that relied on less stringent measures.

The addition of Hiroshima to the areas covered by the emergency measures comes just days after Japanese organizers announced that a visit next week by International Olympic Committee Chairman Thomas Bach to mark the Hiroshima leg of the torch relay has been canceled.

Earlier Friday, organizers of a petition demanding the cancellation of the Olympics submitted more than 350,000 signatures to Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike that were collected since early May. The petition says money spent on the games would be better used on people in financial need because of the pandemic.

On Thursday, Japan reported 6,800 new coronavirus cases, increasing its total to 665,547 with 11,255 deaths.

A HuffPost Guide To Coronavirus

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Netanyahu says airstrike on Gaza tower did not hit ‘uninvolved’ people as Biden calls Israel and Abbas

Netanyahu says airstrike on Gaza tower did not hit ‘uninvolved’ people as Biden calls Israel and Abbas
Netanyahu says airstrike on Gaza tower did not hit ‘uninvolved’ people as Biden calls Israel and Abbas

Benjamin Netanyahu told President Joe Biden that “the uninvolved were evacuated” from a Gaza tower housing media outlets before Israel’s devastating and widely-condemned airstrike on Saturday.

The Israeli prime minister said his military “is doing everything to avoid harming” people not involved in its fighting with Hamas and other groups in Gaza.

Biden also called Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for the first time since he entered the White House Oval Office in January.

The conversation came amid heavy fighting between Israel and Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip.

A US envoy arrived in the region on Friday seeking calm.

Biden told Abbas the United States opposes the eviction of Palestinians from East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah, the summary said, a case that helped ignite tension in the holy city and spark fighting between Israel and Gaza militants.

The US does not engage with Hamas, which has conrolled Gaza since 2007, but it does talk to Abbas whose Palestinian Authority has limited-self rule in the occupied West Bank.

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