Wendy and Susan

Wendy and Susan 18th May 2013

I trot round the park today and listen to the Navy lark. I Oh dear, oh dear
Troutbridge is to be sunk used aa target practice in an naval exercise. But can Leslie fin their way to the target area. He does, bu the Batawanaland Pppadom which is supposed to take the crew off before Troutbridge is shelled crashes too and Troutbridgeis saved Priceless.
Off to see Wendy and susna what a beautiful house and garden, and cat.
The Fosdyke saga: Fleur with child Fewsham finds out about his wife’s modelling
Mary wins at Scrabble today, just and gets just under 400, I might get my revenge tomorrow, I hope.


Marcella Pattyn
Marcella Pattyn, who has died aged 92, was the last of the Beguines — a religious movement of laywomen founded in the Middle Ages.

Marcella Pattyn 
6:10PM BST 16 May 2013
In the late 12th century a Flemish priest named Lambert le Begue established a community in Liège for the widows of crusaders who had not returned from the Holy Land. Without a protector, such women often felt obliged to seek security by joining a religious order, but many of them did not wish to devote their lives exclusively to religion. Called Beguines, the women lived in walled districts called beguinages.
Beguines took no religious vows. They could leave and marry, if they chose. They could own property and took no alms. Women of all classes were welcomed, and wealthy Beguines often brought their servants with them. They carried on professions, often in the textile industry; they did good works, such as teaching or caring for the sick. They elected women — Grandes Dames — to lead their communities. Each Beguine was expected to support herself and make a contribution to the beguinage, through work or rent payments. They had no motherhouse, no common rule, no general of the order. Every community was run according to its own rules.
Such institutions flourished in northern Europe in the High Middle Ages, particularly in the Low Countries, in northern France and the Rhineland, although they never took off in England, Norwich being the only city where there is evidence of such informal female communities.
In his book Cities of Ladies, the historian Walter Simons has argued that Beguines pursued a vocation different from that offered by either marriage or the convent: the ability to earn one’s own living while caring for the disadvantaged “in the world” rather than sequestered from it. Beguine records indicate that residents of beguinages often actively sought to avoid marriage and helped their sisters to do likewise. Some have described them, anachronistically, as the feminists of the medieval world.
The Beguines’ ambiguous social and religious status was highly disturbing to medieval men, particularly in the Church. Even before the Protestant Reformation got going, they were often attacked as heretics and some perished at the stake. They were persecuted under Popes Clement V, John XXII, Urban V and Gregory XI, though they were rehabilitated in the 15th century by Eugene IV. By the 20th century the movement had largely retreated to a few beguinages in Belgium.
Marcella Pattyn was born in the Belgian Congo on August 18 1920 and, as a child, dreamed of entering a missionary religious order. But as she was almost blind she was rejected by several communities. It was only when a rich aunt intervened with a donation that she was accepted into the beguinage of St Amandsberg in Ghent in 1941.
There, and at the beguinage of St Elizabeth at Courtrai, where she moved in 1960, she spent her days praying, knitting clothes, weaving and making Beguine dolls, which she sold to tourists. She played the organ in the chapel and gave comfort to the sick by entertaining them on the banjo or accordion. In her later years she became a familiar figure in the streets of Courtrai, whizzing around in a motorised wheelchair.
In 1960 she was one of a community of nine. By 2008, when she moved into a nursing home, she had become, officially, the only surviving Beguine in the world.
Marcella Pattyn, born August 18 1920, died April 14 2013


Cameron’s plan (PM raises prospect of 1980s-style sale of RBS, 16 May), losing the taxpayer some £24bn, exposes the government’s priorities. He insists on cutting benefits by £18bn and expenditure on public services by another £81bn, with all the hardship that causes, yet for ideological reasons gratuitously empties the public coffers of £24bn.
Why sell RBS at all? Private-sector dominance of the banks led to the crash of 2008-09 – and almost no safeguards have yet been put in place to prevent a recurrence. Nor are the Basel III provisions in 2019 or the proposed Vickers commission’s Chinese walls, flawed by the risk of regulatory arbitrage, an adequate response. Banks should support British industry and services, not indulge the current predilection for property, overseas speculation, tax avoidance and derivatives. Only 8% of current bank lending goes into productive investment, which is a main reason why Britain’s traded goods last year showed a deficit of £106bn, 7.3% of GDP.
Too much economic power is concentrated in the Big Five banks, holding some 85% of the public’s money, while the Cruikshank commission recommendations remain unimplemented. Total gross lending of the banking sector reached £7tn, five times GDP and 10 times total government spending, but the catalogue of malfeasance witnessed in the last decade of market-rigging, money laundering and product mis-selling shows clearly that banks of this size cannot be trusted with that power.
Britain needs smaller, specialist banks which would serve the rebalancing of the economy – regional banks like those that support the German Mittelstand, as well as banks focused on infrastructure, a low-carbon economy, small businesses, science and innovation etc.
Michael Meacher MP
Lab, Oldham West and Royton

If there is a 9% gap between the numbers of women on TV (39%) and the female workforce (48%), might it be that the very low percentage of women over 50 on screen corresponds to a similarly low figure of women over 50 in the TV workforce as a whole (Report, 16 May)? In other words, where male executives prevail they are more likely to appoint men – and the fact is that there are fewer women at senior level aged over 50.
Jenny Stevens
• There is another, rather more frivolous, side to the disgraceful position of older women on telly. The (male) powers that be seem to think we women like looking at bald, wrinkly old men. Where are the handsome younger men? Perhaps all the oldies at the top are stopping the young men coming through?
Judy Stuart
Pontyclun, Vale of Glamorgan
The planned high-speed rail link between London and Birmingham (HS2 rail project has £3.3bn funding shortfall, warns spending watchdog, 16 May) is the land-bound equivalent of Concorde; both scams for spending billions of pounds of citizens’ hard-earned wealth in order to benefit a tiny minority of very rich businessmen and multinational corporations so they can reach their destination a few minutes before they otherwise would.
This reckless expenditure of £32bn is as unjustifiable, at a time when citizens are making painful sacrifices, as the £100bn being spent rebuilding our weapons of mass destruction. The job-creating capacity of this project should be compared with the number of jobs that would be created by the government spending £32bn in the sustainable energy industry.
Jim McCluskey
Twickenham, Middlesex
• Simon Jenkins’s attack on HS2 (17 May) helps explain why most environmental groups have been reluctant to condemn the project out of hand. Jenkins argues that new roads such as a Nottingham-Derby-Stoke motorway would be preferable, but a major road-building programme would be environmentally disastrous.
Much better an investment in high-speed rail – but only if it is done well. HS2 has the potential to destroy a swath of precious, tranquil countryside. So we need to be prepared to shift the route, compromise on top speed and invest properly in tunnelling and other mitigation, so that the line can fit in better with the contours of the landscape. If that means a more expensive HS2, so be it.
Above all, the argument for HS2 is about rail capacity. If it is to be justified it must be part of a larger shift of passenger and freight travel from road and air to rail, not least a reversal of Beeching’s cuts to rural lines.
Shaun Spiers
Campaign to Protect Rural England
• I’m glad I am not the only one disappointed with the transport select committee’s recommendations for expanded airport capacity (Letters, 16 May). However, the members seem to have their blinkers on. The most significant, indeed, terrifying factor to guide their recommendations should be that atmospheric CO2 levels have just passed the 400ppm mark. With the new transport infrastructure and airport capacity they wish for, they will ensure that we continue on our way to 500ppm and beyond. We are poisoning the life systems of the planet and all, they suggest, in the name of competition. It seems we are actually lemmings being led by donkeys.
Dr Colin Bannon
Crapstone, Devon

The elaborate and artificial structures used by Starbucks and other multinational groups do not only save them tax (You do evil, MPs tell Google, 17 May) – they also give them a built-in competitive advantage, because the same dodges are not available to domestic competitors in the markets in which they make their money (such as the UK). So why not hit them using not tax law but the Competition Act? The companies in such groups are ostensibly trading at arm’s length – otherwise HMRC would disallow the charges which divert profits to the chosen tax-shelter. But there are also clearly concerted practices which have the effect of distorting competition. Should not the Office of Fair Trading be taking action using the remedies available to it to nullify this unfair benefit?
Tony Ridge
• Presumably the FTSE 100 groups who do not use their tax-haven subsidiaries for avoidance or evasion will, as public companies, publish the fine details of the transactions. (Top firms condemned for prolific use of tax havens, 13 May). To legally reduce UK or OECD taxable profits, the deductions must be (1) commercial terms; (2) arm’s-length; (3) commercially necessary (4) not tax-dodges – otherwise HMRC can retrospectively deny decades of claims. I estimate that of the global $21tn of tax-evasion-capital-flight, more than $2tn (five million jobs for 10 years) has been illicitly siphoned from the UK. HMRC must repatriate it.
Noel Hodson
• The role of accountants and advisers is to legally find the best ways to understand and use the tax regime to the best interest of their client (100 of UK’s richest people concealing billions in offshore tax havens, 10 May). To agree with Jennie Granger at HMRC, most accountants will be acting legitimately and there should be nothing to fear. A “crackdown” on tax evasion is however necessary and this leaked data provides the perfect opportunity for David Cameron to show the public that he’s serious – turning his words into action ahead of the G8 summit.
Adam Harper
Association of Accounting Technicians
• My blood boiled reading about Amazon receiving more grants than the corporation tax they paid. What is this government playing at? My business partner and I set up Firebrand 12 years ago and tried to get funding from regional development agencies. We drew a blank. So we funded the business ourselves. We now employ 50 people in the UK and have offices in Denmark, Sweden, Holland and Germany employing another 50. All of it without a penny from any UK government or the EU. We’ve always paid our taxes – we’ve never offshored our activities to avoid tax, although we could have. We invest in the UK and EU with no incentives or support from the state. Good old Amazon, making millions from the UK taxpayer and getting more back from the government than they pay in tax. What a strange world we live in. Some of us struggle to do the right thing for the good of the country and our long-term futures.
Robert Chapman
Firebrand Training, London
• Couldn’t the EU agree a uniform rate of corporation tax to be levied by all of its members – including their overseas dependencies? Sorry, Ukip.
Keith Potter
Gunnislake, Cornwall
• Amazon exemplifies the Thatcher dictum of “no such thing as society”. Their behaviour is not only contributing to the parlous state of our welfare and NHS but is also destroying small businesses. I predict the party that can propose a workable solution to this problem will win the next election.
Stephen J Decker
Chelmsford, Essex
• I’m furious Simon Jenkins should so casually deploy that loaded pejorative “strident” to Margaret Hodge, chair of the public accounts committee (Comment, 17 May). She is not strident: she is determined, forthright and intelligent. More to the point, she is an effective champion of the people inside parliament – and we have damned few of those these days.
Catherine Rose
Olney, Buckinghamshire


I would have thought a huge number of British people would be very upset to see an end to the endless supply of cheap wine and beer bought in Calais superstores… never mind the cheaper groceries, electrical goods, and even cars, which can be bought at a fraction of the UK price on the continental mainland at present. What happens when customs limits are restored and duty is payable on the excesses? Why is this never mentioned? It may be frivolous – but so are almost all the arguments against the EU.
Elspeth Christie, Northumberland
Andreas Whittam Smith’s commentary on Europe (16 May) is presumably meant to be reassuring on British and French disillusionment with the EU. Other cross-Channel similarities are less soothing – particularly the current eagerness of the traditional conservative political parties in both countries to pander to the far right, and the possibility of voters sliding towards the abyss of right-wing extremism.
As Yasmin Alibhai-Brown wrote earlier this week, the surface banalities and charm disguise the real threat of the Europhobes: Nigel Farage looks like a good bloke to have a drink with, French Front National leader Marine Le Pen is more touchy-feely than her gnarled old man.
But Europe’s old demons lurk not far off-stage: xenophobia, variants of racism (for anti-Semitism read Islamophobia) and hints of the enemy within, distrust of Germany and a compliant media willing to give disproportionate coverage to the fact-free rantings of Ukip and the FN.
Rod Chapman, Sarlat, France
Where on earth do the many thousands (indeed probably millions) of moderate Tory voters go at the next election, and how did so many Tory nutters get selected and elected last time round? Why do retired politicians who had their turn still keep stirring the pot? Where have traditional One Nation Tory social values and outward-looking international perspectives gone? The current Tory madness in Parliament is not going to recover votes from Ukip, it is a repeat of John Major’s loss of control of his party, and once again they will be out on their ears in 2015. I thought Cameron had more steel and better leadership qualities than all this.
I favour significant reforms of the EU to make it less bureaucratic and more business-friendly – with the UK staying in. I want politicians, while dealing with immigration abuses, to sell the British public the economic benefits of con- tinued but sensibly managed im- migration. Who will represent me? I shall vote for Norman Lamb at the next election because I support the Coalition and know he’s a good constituency MP in North Norfolk, but I am not a natural Lib Dem, and like  others in my position I cannot vote for the leftward-moving Labour Party of the two Eds. What a mess!
Gavin Turner, Gunton, Norfolk
If all that Tories can worry about is playing Little Englanders, at a time when the NHS is in crisis, disabled people are being made homeless, jobs are being lost and not replaced and fuel bills are plunging pensioners into debt, they truly are in a privileged world compared to the rest of us.
H Powell, Alvechurch, Worcestershire
Tax cheats hurt small businesses
As Amazon and other large multinationals continue to push the tax rulebook to the limit, are they not aware of the impact their actions could have on the UK’s small businesses? (Report, 16 May.)
With 95 per cent of all UK businesses classed as micro-businesses, there is little doubt that small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy. Growing these businesses and other smaller organisations would help to transform our economic position – if just a small portion of these micro-businesses took on one employee each then unemployment figures would drop dramatically. They need all the help they can get to grow.
The danger is that as efforts are made to crack down on the avoidance-schemes practised by the multinationals, the measures used will bring forth another raft of red tape, which will not be targeted but impact on all businesses, large and small alike.
Vince McLoughlin, Steyning, West Sussex
Following the numerous reports that have emerged from the Public Accounts Committee (“Amazon’s corporation tax bill less than it gets in grants”, 16 May), pointing to the tax avoidance of some multinationals, I have been trying to lead a monkish Starbucks-free, Amazon-free, Google-free life. I drink coffee at my local café, I buy my online books at Waterstones and I use a green alternative search engine calledecosia.com. I wonder by what means other readers have managed to express their avoidance of tax avoiders?
Anthony Lipmann, Bridgwater, Somerset
Railing against London bias
Further to the letter from R Goodall (“London sucks up nation’s wealth”, Letters, 14 May): last year, you published a report that showed that the investment in transport infrastructure in London and the South East was five times that of the north-east of England, expressed on a per-capita basis. I understand the benefits of HS2 to the nation as a whole. What I don’t understand are the benefits of the very expensive Crossrail project. How does that benefit people living outside the London area? Why do they deserve such large sums of money, and at the same time as Network Rail is dismantling the Leamside line in County Durham?
Ian K Watson, Carlisle
The National Audit Office may well be justified in questioning the value in HS2, but as part of any review the absolute cost should also be challenged. Deutsche Bahn is currently building a 500km high-speed line from Nuremberg to Berlin which, according to DB’s in-train magazine, incorporates 25 tunnels and 35 “big” bridges. One of these is 8.5km long, and even has a junction in the elevated section. All of this will cost €10bn (£8.5m), which is about half of what the 200km HS2 will cost to go through gently rolling countryside from Birmingham to London. Maybe this should be the yardstick for “value”. And for its high price HS2 will not even give us meaningful connections, for example straight into Heathrow, or to Stratford International for direct services into Europe.
Britain needs more rail capacity, and needs high-speed rail connections. But they also need to be at the right price; if it is possible for Germany to deliver projects like this, why not us? Clearly experience has something to do with it, so let’s start now by investing in the expertise to make these things happen cost-effectively, as well as in the political leadership to produce a winning case for them.
Charles Wood, Birmingham
Surely it’s time  for Gove to go
The time has come for Michael Gove to step down as Secretary of State for Education, following the revelation that his low estimation of the knowledge and abilities of British school children is based on little more than a few marketing surveys (report, 14 May).
This compounds months of blunders from a man who has no personal career-background in the education sector and who has refused proper consultation channels with ordinary classroom-teachers. Little wonder then that his EBac proposal was voted down in Parliament, he was forced into a U-turn over the reintroduction of O-levels and that he received a vote of no confidence from the National Union of Teachers last month. 
As for Gove’s proposal to axe the long summer holiday (apparently an out-dated legacy of a farming age), would he be prepared to lead by example on this, and relinquish his own summer recess?
Rachel Evans (teacher), Buckingham
Talking cents
So Michael Gove is proposing to overhaul the GCSE grading system by awarding candidates a score from 1 to 10. I have devised a much better and more refined system which I can highly recommend to Mr Gove. I regularly grade my students awarding them a score ranging from 1 to 100.
Paul Diamond, Shepperton, Surrey
Dangerous Dogs Act is not enough
The Dangerous Dogs Act still does not provide for preventative measures such as Dog Control Notices (“Tougher measures needed to tackle irresponsible dog owners warn MPs”, 16 May). Without such measures, enforcement officers will remain powerless to tackle antisocial behaviour with dogs before attacks take place.
More effective education for dog owners is vital to prevent problems in the first place. We will continue to lobby the Government to include pet welfare in the National Curriculum and to call for more support for the work charities are doing with key  social groups.
Kim Hamilton, Chief Executive, Blue Cross pet charity, London SW1
Police protection goes both ways
Speaking at the Police Federation’s annual conference in Bournemouth, Home Secretary Theresa May argues that criminals who murder police officers should be jailed for the rest of their lives. That will go down well with the delegates.
While she’s down there she might also raise the fact that while there have been a total of 1462 deaths in police custody (or following contact with the police) in England & Wales between 1990 and the present, no police officer has been convicted in relation to any of these deaths. Not one.
Sasha Simic, London N16
Cricket clanger
The estimable Stephen Brenkley (15 May) rightly states that England’s cricketers should focus on the New Zealand test match and “avoid at all costs thinking of the challenges beyond”. Yet, the headline on your back page screams “England players in Ashes places fight”. Sad to say, but let’s hope that the England team doesn’t read The Independent.
Paul Maidment, London SE13
Karma for Clegg
With regard to Nick Clegg’s complaint that the Tories are moving the goalposts on an EU referendum, one can’t help but feel for him. It’s terrible when you choose to support a party because you believe in their stated policies and then they go and betray you.
Julian Self, Milton Keynes


The metropolitan liberal elite show contempt for the population of rural England and the democratic choice some of them have made
Sir, David Aaronovitch seems shocked by the realisation that, outside London and the great cities and university towns, there exists an England that does not buy into the cosy liberal certainties of “an outward-looking, open-minded polity” (“Unshackle London from the backward shires”, Opinion, May 16).
He cites Boston, Lincolnshire, where the immigrant population — virtually all from EU countries — is now about 10 per cent. An unremarkable proportion in a capital city perhaps, but in this traditional market town a change that has come about within ten years, putting enormous pressure on housing, schools, the NHS and policing.
He is largely right to suggest that these immigrants are filling agricultural jobs that locals are no longer willing to do. He seems to view the latter’s interests as unimportant in comparison with an immigration policy that is bringing about a radical change in the character of British society without the explicit support of the people.
It is precisely this kind of out-of-touch arrogance that has caused the UKIP surge. That he argues, however flippantly, for London to be unshackled from the “backward” shires demonstrates the contempt of our metropolitan liberal elite for the population of rural England and the democratic choice some of them have recently made.
Michael Patterson
Swineshead, Lincs
Sir, David Aaronovitch’s article is typical of his anecdotal and emotional arguments in favour of mass immigration. For example, he uses “the experience of Mo Farah” at the Olympics to illustrate his “progressive ideology”, concluding that “I want to live in Moland”.
Thrilling as Farah’s victories were, he is one of a large wave of recent Somali immigrants to the UK, of whom only about 40 per cent of men are employed (10 per cent of women) — one of many measures of their unsuccessful integration into the UK.
When will David Aaronovitch acknowledge that his arguments in favour of mass immigration are anti-democratic (the majority do not want it), anti-welfare state (which is both overburdened by it, and undermined by too much diversity), and anti-green (England is the sixth most populated country in the world)?
Rupert Edis
London W2
Sir, As a consequence of the Industrial Revolution the combined processes of industrialisation and urbanisation have resulted in 80 per cent of the British population living in towns and cities. Apart from seasonal agricultural work, most of the employment opportunities for immigrants are in those same towns and cities. So it is not surprising that the “white British” feel themselves to be in a minority in London and the largest cities while the “shires” remain relatively unaffected.
Dispersal and social integration will take place as it always does, with succeeding generations; there will be no need for London to “secede from the hinterland”. Our children will ensure that “Moland” and “Nigelia” will eventually merge. The challenge will be to achieve it through tolerance and wise governance.
Bernard Kingston
Biddenden, Kent
Sir, David Aaronovitch, a member of the metropolitan elite, presumes to understand the motivation behind the people of the South East, Boston and various retired people who choose to vote UKIP. It does not appear to occur to him that they look at the metropolitan elite who control all three major parties, do not like what they see and choose to vote elsewhere.
John Trott
Barwell, Leics

Negative stereotypes of older women — and particularly successful ones — remain deeply entrenched in our collective psyche
Sir, It does not surprise me in the least that television struggles in its quest to put more older women on our screens (“TV grows up (slowly) to real women”, May 16). Negative stereotypes of older women — and particularly successful professional women — remain deeply entrenched in our collective psyche.
My research has shown that they get caricatured in at least three ways. There is the Battle Axe (think Margaret Thatcher before she was canonised after her death), the Seductress (Carol Vorderman or Nadine Dorries) and the Schoolmarm (Harriet Harman or Theresa May).
The only stereotype that escapes this negative tag is the Pet — a woman who is nurtured by a male boss and plays on her girlish charm. The value of the Pet is that she is young, gracious, elegant and charming but wholly unthreatening. Most weathergirls fall into this category, but so do certain female presenters. Much as I love the grace and intelligence of Fiona Bruce and Sophie Raworth, they remain Pets of the institution. Until they grow old, of course, and then they are right to be cautious.
Let’s hope that the campaign for real women in the media wins the public round before any more of our presenters resort to facelifts.
Professor Judith Baxter
Aston University

‘The proposed law is intended to help that small group of patients in the last few days or weeks of their life’
Sir, An Assisted Dying Bill has been tabled in the House of Lords by Lord Falconer of Thoroton, a previous Lord Chancellor. As Past Presidents of Medical Royal Colleges we believe that there is a strong case for the legalisation of assisted dying for terminally ill mentally competent adults.
Both the medical profession and the public need a clear understanding of what is being proposed. We respect the diversity of opinions on this complex issue but believe that they can be largely reconciled by the specific features of the Bill.
In particular the strict eligibility criteria make it clear that the proposed law is intended to help that small group of patients in the last few days or weeks of their life, whose suffering is not adequately alleviated by palliative care and who wish to choose the time and circumstance of a dignified death. The safeguards in the Bill minimise the risk to the patient from coercion by others, and ensure that responsibility for the decision to end their life is taken solely by the patient. Two doctors working independently of each other would need to confirm this and that the other eligibility criteria and safeguards had been met. It would then be legally permitted for the doctor to provide the patient with an appropriate prescription, acknowledging that the patient alone takes responsibility for the decision whether or not to use it.
This is quite distinct from euthanasia where the doctor administers the lethal medication. Neither do the proposals cover assisted suicide for a seriously disabled but not terminally ill person.
The legalisation of assisted dying is a matter not for the medical profession but for society to decide, through established parliamentary processes. We hope that the debate among legislators and the public will focus on the central issue. This is whether a small group of very advanced terminally ill patients should be allowed this degree of control over the end of their life and if so, the process by which they can obtain the assistance they require within the law.
As doctors we support Lord Falconer’s Bill.
Professor Peter Armstrong, Royal College of Radiologists; Professor Dinesh Bhugra, Royal College of Psychiatrists; Sir Norman Browse, Royal College of Surgeons; Dame Fiona Caldicott, Royal College of Psychiatrists; Sir Terence English, Royal College of Surgeons; Sir Peter Lachmann, Royal College of Pathologists; Professor Adrian Newland, Royal College of Pathologists; Professor Michael Rosen, Royal College of Anaesthetists; Dr Michael Shooter, Royal College of Psychiatrists; Sir Rodney Sweetnam, Royal College of Surgeons; Dame Margaret Turner-Warwick, Royal College of Physicians; Sir Dillwyn Williams, Royal College of Pathologists

It is no solution to simply blame over-worked GPs for the rise in out of hours admissions to accident and emergency departments
Sir, Alice Thomson’s assertion that GPs are principally to blame for over-run casualty departments does not stand up to scrutiny (Opinion, May 15, and letters, May 17). For example, in St Helens the vast majority of practices retained responsibility for their own out-of-hours work after the 2004 contract. Even though local GPs are responsible for providing their own night and weekend cover, our local hospitals have seen a rise in A&E attendances and admissions that parallels or exceeds other units.
The workload in general practice is intense and escalating, and blaming the problems of casualty departments on GPs “ditching” out of hours work is no more than a recycling of an urban myth.
Dr Martin Breach
Dr Tom Kinloch
Dr Ivan Camphor
Mid-Mersey LMC
Dr Steve Cox
Spinney Medical Centre, St Helens

‘The proposed law is intended to help that small group of patients in the last few days or weeks of their life’
Sir, An Assisted Dying Bill has been tabled in the House of Lords by Lord Falconer of Thoroton, a previous Lord Chancellor. As Past Presidents of Medical Royal Colleges we believe that there is a strong case for the legalisation of assisted dying for terminally ill mentally competent adults.
Both the medical profession and the public need a clear understanding of what is being proposed. We respect the diversity of opinions on this complex issue but believe that they can be largely reconciled by the specific features of the Bill.
In particular the strict eligibility criteria make it clear that the proposed law is intended to help that small group of patients in the last few days or weeks of their life, whose suffering is not adequately alleviated by palliative care and who wish to choose the time and circumstance of a dignified death. The safeguards in the Bill minimise the risk to the patient from coercion by others, and ensure that responsibility for the decision to end their life is taken solely by the patient. Two doctors working independently of each other would need to confirm this and that the other eligibility criteria and safeguards had been met. It would then be legally permitted for the doctor to provide the patient with an appropriate prescription, acknowledging that the patient alone takes responsibility for the decision whether or not to use it.
This is quite distinct from euthanasia where the doctor administers the lethal medication. Neither do the proposals cover assisted suicide for a seriously disabled but not terminally ill person.
The legalisation of assisted dying is a matter not for the medical profession but for society to decide, through established parliamentary processes. We hope that the debate among legislators and the public will focus on the central issue. This is whether a small group of very advanced terminally ill patients should be allowed this degree of control over the end of their life and if so, the process by which they can obtain the assistance they require within the law.
As doctors we support Lord Falconer’s Bill.
Professor Peter Armstrong, Royal College of Radiologists; Professor Dinesh Bhugra, Royal College of Psychiatrists; Sir Norman Browse, Royal College of Surgeons; Dame Fiona Caldicott, Royal College of Psychiatrists; Sir Terence English, Royal College of Surgeons; Sir Peter Lachmann, Royal College of Pathologists; Professor Adrian Newland, Royal College of Pathologists; Professor Michael Rosen, Royal College of Anaesthetists; Dr Michael Shooter, Royal College of Psychiatrists; Sir Rodney Sweetnam, Royal College of Surgeons; Dame Margaret Turner-Warwick, Royal College of Physicians; Sir Dillwyn Williams, Royal College of Pathologists

There is something to be said for a chronological delivery of history teaching, but it needs to be a flexible system
Sir, There is logic to a chronological programme for the delivery of historical knowledge (Opinion, May 17); but the rigidity of the 2013 proposals for the revised national curriculum, which deem understanding the feudal system as appropriate for 8-year-olds, while withholding study of Britain in the Second World War until children are 14, is a reductio ad absurdum.
The current model, which follows a broadly chronological structure twice over — primary schools cherry-picking interesting historical topics at Key Stage 2, and Key Stage 3 pupils in secondary schools revisiting the time-line in greater depth and looking beyond Britain — works quite well. This is reflected in the popularity of history as a GCSE and A-level option.
I have heard Michael Gove speak on the teaching of history: he was affronted that students, even at elite universities, were feeble on 19th-century British prime ministers and more likely to know about the Third Reich. But how important to the nation really is it that every child not beyond the reach of the national curriculum shall in future have copied down, or at least downloaded, the name of the 3rd Marquess of Salisbury — though not, of course, until they have reached the appropriate age?
Andy Connell
Appleby-in-Westmorland, Cumbria

SIR – Gavin Littaur wrote to express his concern about Sotheby’s forthcoming sale of £5 million worth of 20th-century stamps from the British Postal Museum and Archive (Letters, April 30).
We would like to emphasise that the sale comprises only duplicate material, and our unique collections remain untouched and available for the enjoyment of all.
The proceeds from this sale will go towards a new home for the Postal Museum and Archive in central London. Britain’s postal heritage is first class and deserves a first class new home, which we are working hard to make a reality.
Adrian Steel
Director, British Postal Museum & Archive
London WC1

SIR – The price of fuel consists of approximately 70 per cent taxation. This is imposed mainly as a percentage of the basic price. If the basic price is illegally high it follows that the taxation is also illegally high.
If it is proved that the various fuel suppliers have been illegally fixing the price (report, May 16), it will mean that successive governments have also been collecting excessive duties.
It is proposed that the companies, if found guilty, should be heavily fined and the fines used to reduce taxation on fuel. Will the Government also return the illegally collected taxes in the form of reduced duties or will it keep them?
If it keeps them I look forward to its excuses for doing so. It is quick to condemn companies for legally avoiding taxes on moral grounds. It will be interesting to see how it justifies keeping illegally collected taxes.
John Jacklin
Tockholes, Lancashire
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SIR – The announcement of an investigation into alleged price fixing by major oil companies is to be welcomed. However, the Government’s own record with regard to taxation of oil from production to the forecourt also merits investigation, as does the blatant price fixing on supermarket forecourts. All too frequently, supermarkets and independent filling stations clearly follow the leader – usually upwards.
Forgive me if I regard David Cameron’s latest sabre-rattling as a diversionary tactic from his EU woes.
John Cunningham
Finmere, Oxfordshire
SIR – Let’s see the free market in operation. Within the energy sector the reputation for commercial probity is in short supply.
Why not set BP, Shell and others a deadline by which they can bid to explain what went wrong, what reparations they consider to be due to the public and what they will do to ensure there are no future rip-offs? The Government can then adjust its energy and criminal fraud legislation and its procurement policies in the light of these bids. Will we find that the companies set a high value on their reputations?
Iain Orr
London SE22
SIR – Mr Cameron has said that oil company executives should face criminal prosecutions if found guilty. I don’t recall him saying that about the bankers.
Bill Parish
Bromley, Kent
SIR – It’s mildly amusing to witness the leader of an allegedly anti-regulation party threatening to get tough with oil companies. Are the Tories at last coming to accept that the state really does have a role in protecting its citizens against the worst excesses of “free” markets?
Brian Hughes
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
European trade
SIR – Boris Johnson (Comment, May 13) claims that if we left the European Union foreign investment would suffer because we would be seen to have cut ourselves off from the European market.
This is not so – trade would continue as before since the EU has an annual trade surplus with Britain of over £35 billion which it would not want to jeopardise with obstructive tactics, especially as we are the largest nearby market for German and French exports.
As for the claim that outside the EU we would, like Norway, have no influence on standards and regulations affecting EU trade, these are almost all derived originally from UN bodies such as the World Trade Organisation on which Norway is represented while our representation is through the EU only.
Similarly, we would gain far more control over other matters by being independent than while inside the EU, where we have only 9 per cent of the votes.
Mr Johnson fears that we may be at a disadvantage in making trade deals if we do not belong to a large grouping like the EU. However we are the sixth largest economy in the world and our position as a huge net importer gives us an excellent negotiating position. Once outside the EU we could form a Commonwealth free trade area which would provide us with all the additional negotiating strength we might need.
Noel Baptiste
Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire
Police killers’ sentences
SIR – As a stepmother to the policeman Phillip Walters, who was killed in Ilford in 1995, I was delighted at the Home Secretary Theresa May’s proposal to increase sentences for those who kill police officers (report, May 15).
This is too late, however, for the family and friends of Phillip, whose killer only received 10 years for gunning him down in an attempt to escape capture.
Sentencing by judges in the past has been too light. Giving them specific guidelines will lead to more appropriate prison terms for the crime of killing those who are there to protect us.
Jean Walters
Ilford, Essex
SIR – The Home Secretary quite rightly believes “life should mean life” for anyone convicted of murdering a police officer.
But why not also for the premeditated murder of ambulance staff, the fire brigade or indeed any citizen of this country?
Commander John R M Prime, RN (retd)
Bedhampton, Hampshire
Misleading book covers
SIR – I have just read (and enjoyed) the paperback version of Harlan Coben’s Stay Close. The front cover depicts a man walking down a street holding a child’s hand. This has absolutely no connection with the story. Can you imagine a film poster being allowed to misrepresent the film’s content in this way?
Keith Edwards
Tattershall, Lincolnshire
Public school regime
SIR – Chris Huhne has been released from prison having only served eight weeks of an eight-month sentence (report, May 15).
I was sent to a minor public school where I had to endure damp, cold dormitories, horrid food, tepid showers, regular cross-country runs and teachers who I felt had failed elsewhere in life.
This regime lasted for five long years.
David Turton
Heathfield, East Sussex
Scapegoating GPs
SIR – The pressure on emergency departments is clearly illustrated in the recent report by the College of Emergency Medicine. However, in your report (“Fifth of casualty units rely on junior doctors at weekends and evenings”, May 15), you suggest that the reason that units are struggling to cope is because of a lack of confidence in GPs’ out-of-hours service when this is not even cited as a factor by the College of Emergency Medicine.
There are many reasons for the increase in pressure on emergency services – not least an ageing population with complex health problems, financial pressures across the NHS and a shortage of doctors working in emergency medicine. In addition, issues such as the botched introduction of NHS 111 have just made matters worse.
There are problems with out-of-hours care but these existed long before the introduction of the GP contract in 2004. Out-of-hours services have historically been underfunded with resources remaining static in recent years despite spiralling levels of patient demand.
It is not helpful to single out GPs as the scapegoats when root causes are so complex and require positive engagement to find a holistic solution to the problems facing the NHS.
Dr Richard Vautrey
Deputy Chairman, British Medical Association
London WC1
SIR – I had to call 111 some weeks ago and received excellent service. After taking my details the operator promised to ring me back. This she did within the hour and apologised for the delay.
Shortly after, she rang again to say the ambulance was on its way and then one of the paramedics rang to reassure me. They had me in hospital very shortly afterwards.
One of my neighbours had a similar experience and could not speak highly enough of the treatment she had. The service is working here in Richmond.
Gill Sparkes
Richmond, Surrey
Front-page Etonians
SIR – Tuesday’s Daily Telegraph front page featured four Old Etonians – Boris and Leo Johnson, Prince Harry and David Cameron.
I have nothing but sympathy for their mutually endured affliction and have several friends who continue to suffer in the same way, but did anything of consequence happen to people who did not attend Eton’s hallowed halls?
Gareth Pryce
Hayling Island, Hampshire
Solar farm will ruin national park for residents
SIR – Bravo for Griff Rhys Jones (“Giant solar farm plan is madness, says comedian”, report, May 15).
Our village is on the edge of the South Downs National Park. When the park was designated, a giant wind turbine appeared inside it towering 400ft above us. Now a 60-acre solar farm half the size of our village is proposed, again within the national park, abutting properties and visible from the downs.
South Downs Industrial Park would be a more appropriate name. When will this subsidy-driven madness cease?
Dr Tony Parker
Ringmer, East Sussex
SIR – Griff Rhys Jones is right to criticise the siting of solar farms in the countryside. There are thousands of acres of roof space on top of industrial units throughout the country – surely an ideal location for solar panels, with the added benefit of rental income for the owners.
Martin Horsfall
Newick, East Sussex
SIR – The Rev Dr Anthony Harvey (Letters, May 11) may be right that a proposed solar panel farm near Willersey will not be an eyesore, but this is beside the point.
Photovoltaic panels are inefficient. They only produce their maximum output in bright sunshine. In cloudy weather their performance drops by two thirds. In the three winter months, when demand for heating is greatest, they can only produce 8 per cent of their annual output. Furthermore, their performance drops off increasingly rapidly with age. In 20 years it more than halves.
No one would install these panels without the generous feed-in tariff, which is paid for by every user of electricity in ever-increasing bills.
Finally, it is not as though these panels are green. The pollution caused in their production would never be allowed in the West but, because it takes place in China, our environmentalists and politicians can turn a blind eye.
Bill Woodhouse
Mappowder, Dorset

Irish Times:

Sir, – I, as a citizen of Ireland with no religious beliefs, find myself compelled to write in support of Diarmuid Martin’s expression of anxiety concerning the protection of healthy unborn children who are viable outside the womb (Letters, May 16th).
If a woman who proceeds with a pregnancy to, for example, 23 weeks with a healthy unborn child who is viable outside the womb, says she is suicidal, is it right that this unborn child be deliberately “terminated” so as to mitigate the risk of her committing suicide?
If so, we could find ourselves in a situation where a healthy child born prematurely but viable outside the womb at 23 weeks is given all medical support and assistance to survive in one hospital room, while a healthy unborn child 23 weeks old who is also viable outside the womb is deliberately ‘terminated’ in another.
Should the fate of such children really turn on their respective positions vis-a-vis a thin layer of human tissue and the mental states of their respective mothers?
To those who say to this particular conundrum that it would be a woman’s right to choose and that it’s her body, I ask: what if the latter child is a little girl? What choice does she have? What about her body? – Yours, etc,
Stocking Avenue,
Rathfarnham, Dublin 16.
Sir, – The time is surely long gone for us to spend acres and acres of newsprint on the finer points of “suicide ideation”, their words, not mine within the abortion debate. Most of the debate is being driven by minority groups such as Youth Defence and other assorted proponents of the right and far right.
Even such a modest proposal for provision in the case of rape or incest as argued for by John Halligan TD for Waterford was voted down in the Dáil.
It would appear that for years those in favour of a “woman’s right to choose” have been reluctant to go all-out for a properly resourced service up to 24 weeks for a foetal abortion with the appropriate pre and post-natal care, given that the Irish Family Planning Association, as far back as August 2005, was calling for a legal right to abortion.
The silence of the majority of pro-choice Labour TDs and Senators is deafening, with few exceptions. Obviously the Labour leadership is too concerned with its sweetheart deal with Fine Gael and consequent ministerial seats to argue for a proper service.
As to minister Lucinda Creighton’s desire for a review, yes certainly by all means, let us have a review after five years; if the numbers of women going to England has been reduced substantially down from 4,000-5,000 to the low hundreds or fewer then it has been successful.
Obviously there will always be circumstances where some women may feel more comfortable going out of this State given the phalanx of obfuscation and mythology that dominates attitudes within it. – Yours, etc,
Ennistymon, Co Clare.
Sir, – I have a question for abortion rights campaigners (Abigail Rooney, April 30th, Dr Clara Fischer, May 16th).  My life began at conception.  That is a biological fact, not an opinion.  So at what stage of my life did my mother lose her right to choose to terminate it and my right to go on living begin? 
Sir, – John Bruton’s plea to rein in regulation may be understandable from his standpoint, but appears naive (Business Today, May 11th).
His call for a greater emphasis on ethics is welcome, but cannot guarantee prudence and observance of the public interest. Are we expected to trust bankers and their consciences without clear rules and strict enforcement?
Doubtless bankers who set Libor rates, engaged in money laundering or improperly sold insurance products would relish lighter regulation. Others who remember the denunciation of Ireland in New York as “the wild west of capitalism” might disagree.
To start an ethical debate in Ireland, we could consider attitudes to entitlements and accountability here. Recently the Archbishop of Canterbury condemned the culture of entitlements which pervades the City of London. Does the same culture not exist here among senior bankers and politicians? Also, have those responsible for the financial crash been held accountable here? – Yours, etc,
Ontario Terrace,

Sir, – Clinical trials are undoubtedly the bedrock of scientific medicine, but the assertion that there are “compelling reasons for a patient to choose to participate in a medical trial” cannot pass unchallenged (Life Science, “Helping others while helping yourself”, May 16th).
Pharmaceutical companies routinely impose gagging clauses which enable them to suppress unfavourable findings – half of all trials are never published.
Doctors need to know about negative as well as positive outcomes: openness is essential.
Patients invited to take part in a trial can help others and improve transparency by asking for written guarantees that the trial is on a public register and that the results will be published within a year of completion. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The statement in your Editorial (May 16th) that “12 detailed reports on necessary reforms were allowed to gather dust” is inaccurate. The figure 12 is derived from the 2004 report of the Seanad Committee on Procedures and Privileges, which lists 11 previous reports and itself forms the twelfth. Of the 11 earlier reports, those of 1928, 1936, 1947, and 1953 were in fact largely implemented, while those of 1937 and 1959 made almost no recommendations because the committee members disagreed. The 1943 report’s reference to the Seanad panel elections is a mere detail in its vast corporatist fancy. The 1967 and 1996 reports were reviews of the entire Constitution, and the 1997 and 2002 reports were chapters of a review of the entire Constitution. The only report which is both specific to the Seanad and unimplemented was the Seanad’s own 2004 report. – Yours, etc,
Temple Vale,
Ballintemple, Cork.

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole rightly praises the elaborate Down Survey (1656-58) and welcomes Trinity College’s decision to make its details widely available online (Weekend Review, May 11th). May I comment on two points?
“If you want to engage in large-scale expropriation of land, you need to know what you’ve got” (so you conduct a survey). I’m not convinced. Extensive confiscations in Laois/Offaly in the 1550s, Munster in the 1580s and Ulster from 1606 onward were accomplished without such surveys. I believe the Commonwealth authorities wanted to appear more scientific and orderly than the Tudor and Stuart monarchs.
“Witness statements on the atrocities committed against Protestants in 1641”, also available online, are fascinating to read, but were not always made by actual witnesses. They must be read with caution. A namesake of my own made sworn accusations in 1651 about alleged occurrences in 1641, ie, well before he arrived in Ireland. What with the ferocious war, the no less ferocious propaganda and the victors’ wish to strengthen their hold on confiscated lands, hearsay “evidence” about atrocities committed by previous owners was never likely to be trustworthy! – Yours, etc,

Sir, – I was disappointed to come across the article on fashion for cyclists (Magazine, May 4th). Not one person wearing a helmet? Surely there are some fashionable options out there? – Yours, etc,
Tymon Lawn,

Sir, – When you look at the North Atlantic map, you find that Britain, Ireland North and South, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands and Iceland have some things in common; we are to the last of us, islanders. We mostly speak a common language and are Christian. Importantly, we share the same time zone. Unlike the Continent, which has three time zones and multiple languages.
England is no longer the bully of what was once known as the British Isles; we all have our own independence. Is it possible that Britain could drop the title of the British Isles and become instead, with the rest of us islanders, the North Atlantic Isles?
The possibilities are enormous. We could exit the EU – which is going nowhere and is now loathed in many countries – and leave it to the Germans who are running it anyway.
We could have our own currency and valuations, stamps, flags, anthems and everything else without permission from Brussels. We would have control of the fisheries, which are currently plundered by every nation in Europe. Our army and navy would have sites throughout the Atlantic Isles.
There is much to cover in the letter, so would those who read it also consider the possibilities? All those with whom I have discussed it have thought it well worth considering. – Yours, etc,
Wilson Road,

Irish Independent:

• Why is it, when a loved one is sick in hospital, no one bats an eyelid when we wonder aloud if their death wouldn’t be a ‘merciful release’?
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And when we are told ‘there’s nothing more that can be done’, we whisper to our loved one that we give them our permission to ‘go if you need to’, even though modern medicine can, and regularly does, keep a person alive long past the point where their life should have naturally ended?
We’ve all wept beside a coffin and consoled ourselves that they are better off dead and wouldn’t have wanted to survive without a certain quality of life.
Yet if a person chooses to end their own life, we cannot conceive of the possibility that such a decision could be rational. Is it the fact the person made a decision about their own life and denied other people the option to interfere with the decision? The most basic expression of a person’s independence is choosing their own moment of death.
Or is it that we refuse to accept that such a choice could ever be rational?
We are such a nation of hypocrites. On one hand, we go on about how only ‘God’ can choose the moment of death, yet we think nothing of hooking people up to all sorts of machines to prolong a life that might have ended, and justify it because this God gave us the intelligence to create life-support machines, while ignoring the fact he also gave us the wit to design a plug that can be turned off and drugs that can send someone on their way and end their suffering.
So why shouldn’t a person be able to decide that they don’t want to spend the rest of their life fighting a never-ending battle against a progressive illness?
Has it never occurred to people whose loved ones took the option to end their life that, instead of being selfish and going on about how it affected them, to instead be glad that the suffering of their loved one is over and be thankful for the time that you did have with each other?
I have a progressive long-term illness and, in time, my quality of life will plummet. At some point, I’ll reach the stage where enough is enough.
For me, at the moment, that seems a long way off.
But I hope when the time comes, if I’ve achieved my ambition to be able to move home again – if there’s a life to be had at home – Irish society will afford me the respect and decency to allow me to make that choice for myself.
Because, if there is a God, he or she will know exactly what process brought someone to decide to end their life, and they can’t have given people free will, only to then punish a person for using it.
Desmond FitzGerald
Canary Wharf, London
May Day, May Day
• After spending the last two weeks in continuous rain and no sunshine, I’ve come to the conclusion that May 1 is both the first and last day of summer.
Kevin Devitte
Westport, Co Mayo
Brian has done us proud
• Brian O’Driscoll’s decision to sign on for another year for Ireland is a testimony to this unique Irish sporting hero.
In an age of easy cynicism, where cheap shots get cheaper every day, O’Driscoll has raised the bar for integrity and honesty.
He epitomises the ideal that anything is possible in sport; a dedication that has taken a great toll on him personally in health and domestically in his family life.
During the superficial and ultimately doomed Celtic Tiger days, the notion of “donning the green jersey” became a much-derided term.
It applied to a phoney pride that was really self-serving as opposed to doing one’s country proud. O’Driscoll is the ultimate sporting ambassador and his tenure in the No 13 shirt has brought honour to Ireland.
They say that you can pay for service but you have to earn respect; no one has done more to earn it than Brian O’Driscoll.
M M Fullam
Rathfarnham, Co Dublin
Rabbitte’s struggle
• Minister Pat Rabbitte appears to have lost the idea that Ireland could charge royalties on oil and gas like the Norwegian model.
“Tax is paid on profits after write-off of exploration and development costs” and probably any new fiscal terms don’t even apply retrospectively.
Mr Rabbitte seems to be struggling to understand ‘oranges and apples’, his terms to describe Ireland’s and Norway’s attitudes to natural resources.
“I struggle to understand how anyone could expect Ireland to have Norwegian-style tax rates without first having Norwegian levels of commercial discoveries.”
Just like Ireland now, the Norwegian government didn’t know if they had oil and gas; in fact, Norway’s government was told that the chances of finding coal, oil or sulphur on the continental shelf off the Norwegian coast could be discounted. But it didn’t stop the responsible ministers from adopting a far-sighted attitude and refusing to adopt an Irish submissiveness.
Monica Muller
Ballina, Co Mayo
Exceptional treatment
• Some 110,000 fixed-penalty notices have been cancelled. However, there is no corruption, misconduct or favouritism, according to an internal garda report. Some of these notices are in the celebrity class of cancellation. It looks to me that, far from there being exceptional circumstances, there just seems to be a lot of exceptional people!
Maurice Fitzgerald
Shanbally, Co Cork
Keeping us in the dark
• Can passing legislation of a controversial nature without a vote be good for democracy? Regardless of the actual bill itself, I believe the principle is not a good one.
Debate can draw out difficulties that those engaged in the drafting of a bill might be too close to see, and legislation is the poorer without allowing time to hear all responses to it.
In the specific case of the abortion bill, there can be little doubt that the reason for avoiding a vote is to avoid revealing to the public which TD would vote against the bill, had they been given the chance. So there is a sense that the public are to be kept in the dark and unable to hold their elected representatives responsible. Shame on those who choose to do this.
Caitriona McClean
Lucan, Co Dublin
Farmers in crisis
• It is a disgrace that the Government has not done more to help the circumstances that Irish farmers find themselves in with the fodder crisis. We as a State are so dependent on the farmers for many different aspects of our lives, none more so than the provision of high-class milk and foodstuffs. And to see how this Government has carried out its duty to those farmers is simply a disgrace. The minister responsible must do more.
Paul Doran
Clondalkin, Dublin 22
Gravely funny
• I came across a book called ‘Dead Funny’ by a man called Allen Foster. It features humourous Irish epitaphs.
I include one from Belfast:
“Beneath this stone lies Katherine my wife
In death my comfort, and my plague through life
Oh liberty! but soft I must not boast
She’s haunt me else, by jingo, with her ghost.”
And one from Dublin:
“Here lies the remains of John Hall, grocer. The world is not worth a fig. I have good raisins for saying so.”
W Harpur
Ennis, Co Clare
Irish Independent

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