19 June 2013 hot

Off around the park listening to the Navy Lark, Captain Povey decides on a policy of divide and rule on Troutbridge. He will first get rid of Lr Murray, the intelligent one, and then the rest. So he sets Leslie and Pertwee against Murray, will it work?. Priceless.
Another quiet day We totter around and water the garden sort the plants and sweep the drive.
We watch The Pallaisers Cleggie is murdered by Mr Finn, finn tried but gets off.
Mary wins at scrabble and she get under 400 perhaps I can have my revenge tomorrow.


Jerome Karle
Jerome Karle, who has died aged 94, shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, jointly with Herbert Hauptman, for creating a method to determine the three-dimensional structure of molecules, a breakthrough that revolutionised research into new drugs.

7:15PM BST 18 Jun 2013
Chemicals behave in the way they do because of their structure, yet before Hauptman and Karle began their collaboration at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington in the late 1940s, it could take years to determine the structure of even a simple molecule. X-ray crystallography had been developed (the technique involves bombarding a crystallised form of the molecule with X-rays and studying the patterns made on photographic film by the reflected beam), but could do little more than provide pointers about molecular structure. Solving the riddle — as Crick and Watson showed with their discovery of the DNA double helix — was largely a matter of inspired guesswork.
Hauptman and Karle’s breakthrough, published in 1953 , was to devise a method of analysing the X-ray patterns using probability theory to calculate the angles at which the X-ray beams are deflected as they pass near the electrons surrounding the nucleus of an atom. They then came up with equations that translated this information into diagrams that reconstructed the arrangement of atoms in the crystal.
The new method took time to catch on, however, and it also needed modern computer technology to apply efficiently. When this came on stream in the late 1960s, scientists found that they could determine molecular structure much faster and without using guesswork. The method became indispensable to modern chemistry and the pharmaceutical industry with practical applications such as improved fertilisers and the synthesis of new antibiotics .
Announcing the award of the Nobel in 1985, the judges observed that it was “almost impossible” to give an example in the field of chemistry where the Hauptman-Karle method was not being used, adding that it had helped in the development of hundreds of modern drugs.
Jerome Karfunkle was born on June 18 1918 in Brooklyn to immigrants from Eastern Europe. He later changed his surname to Karle. After taking a degree in Biology from City College of New York in 1937 he went on to receive a Master’s degree in Biology from Harvard University and, in 1943, a doctorate in Physical Chemistry from the University of Michigan.
Towards the end of the Second World War he worked in Chicago on the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb, researching the chemistry of extracting and purifying plutonium. Then in 1946 he moved to the Naval Research Laboratory, where he remained until he retired as chief scientist in 2009. At the same time he also taught Physics and Mathematics at the University of Maryland. He was elected to the American Academy of Sciences in 1976.
In 1942 he had married Isabella Lugosi, a fellow chemistry student at Michigan. She moved with him to the Naval Research Laboratory where she played a central role in drawing attention to her husband’s breakthrough by demonstrating its usefulness in solving the structures of complex molecules.
Karle was on a transatlantic flight when news came through of his Nobel Prize and it was the captain who gave him the good news: “We are honoured to have flying with us today America’s newest Nobel Prize winner, and he doesn’t even know it,” he informed the passengers. “In fact, the award is so new that Dr Jerome Karle, located in seat 29C, left Munich this morning before he could be notified .”
Karle is survived by his wife and three daughters. Herbert Hauptman died in 2011.
Jerome Karle, born June 18 1918, died June 6 2013


We are concerned at the threatened closure of the northern “national” science museums: Manchester Museum of Science and Industry, the National Railway Museum, York, and the National Media Museum, Bradford (Report, 5 June). These are of enormous value to both scholarly and popular understanding of our industrial and scientific heritage, and represent one of the few areas where there has been a concerted attempt to develop national museums outside London. The news of the threatened closure of institutions which preserve our industrial and cultural heritage is particularly ironic, given that it follows shortly on the heels of the prime minister announcing his strong backing for the creation of a London-based Margaret Thatcher Museum and Library, at a cost of £15m.
Peter Scott Professor of international business history, Henley Business School at the University of Reading
Etsuo ABE Meiji University in Tokyo
Alison Bancroft Queen Mary, University of London
Bernardo Batiz-Lazo Professor of business history and bank management, Bangor University
Mark Billings University of Exeter
Regina Lee Blaszczyk Professor of business history, University of Leeds
Alan Booth Professor of history, University of Exeter
David Boughey Associate professor & associate dean, University of Exeter Business School
Martin Campbell-Kelly University of Warwick
John Chartres Emeritus professor of social & economic history, University of Leeds
Martin Chick University of Edinburgh
D’Maris Coffman Director, Centre for Financial History, University of Cambridge
Bill Cooke Professor of management and society, Lancaster University Management School
Richard Coopey University of Aberystwyth
Stephanie Decker Aston Business School
Neil Forbes Professor of international history, Coventry University
Dave Goodwin
David J Jeremy Emeritus professor of business history, Manchester Metropolitan University
John Killick University of Leeds
Katey Logan Business Archives Council
Peter Lyth Nottingham University Business School
Niall MacKenzie University of Strathclyde
Mairi Maclean Professor of International Management and Organisation Studies, University of Exeter Business School
Christine MacLeod
Ian Martin Senior Lecturer in Business Information Technology, Leeds Metropolitan University
Rory Miller University of Liverpool Management School
Robert Millward Professor emeritus of economic history, University of Manchester
Peter Miskell Henley Business School at the University of Reading
Simon Mollan University of Liverpool Management School
Stephen L Morgan Professor of Chinese Economic History, University of Nottingham
Simon Mowatt Associate professor of management, AUT University, New Zealand
Lucy Newton Henley Business School at the University of Reading
Richard Noakes Senior lecturer in history, University of Exeter
Derek J Oddy Emeritus professor of economic and social history, University of Westminster
Brian O’ Sullivan
David Paulson University of Cambridge
Andrew Perchard University of Strathclyde Business School
Andrew Popp University of Liverpool Management School
Michael Pritchard De Montfort University
Michael Rowlinson Professor of organization studies, Queen Mary, University of London
Philip Scranton Professor, hstory of technology and science, Rutgers University, USA
Kevin D Tennent University of York
Steven Tolliday (University of Leeds), past president, Business History Conference
Steven Toms Professor of accounting, joint editor, Business History, University of Leeds
David Walker Scottish Oral History Centre, University of Strathclyde
James Walker Professor, Henley Business School at the University of Reading
Maggie Walsh Emeritus professor of American economic & social history, University of Nottingham
Peter Wardley Head of history, University of the West of England
Deborah Woodman University of Salford & Huddersfield
Judith Wright
Chris Wrigley Emeritus professor of modern British history, Nottingham University

Des Freedman points to Turkey as a lesson for what happens when media power works hand in hand with government (Letters, 18 June). We don’t have to look overseas to see this. Following the Guardian’s exclusive on 17 June about the government spying on G20 allies, the BBC website had not a single word on it. There was a D notice, but they are supposed to be advisory. And even if a D notice is obeyed, there is still so much that could have been reported. The BBC’s lack of coverage was sycophantic.
Chris Coghill
• I joined the Co-op Bank in the 1980s because I am a socialist (Rescue deal to stave off Co-op nationalisation, 18 June). In my books and lectures, I have encouraged others to do the same. In vain if it now enters the stock market. I shall move my modest savings to my credit union and mutual building society.
Bob Holman
• Your editorial (14 June) claims that the departing Royal Bank of Scotland chief executive Stephen Hester “removed over £700bn in toxic assets”. Whither?
Adam Clapham
Karnataka, India
• Paul Neary wonders why it’s always a double whammy (Letters, 17 June). The legendary Screamin’ Jay Hawkins was afflicted by just one in his minor 1963 hit The Whammy, in which he suffers occult interference in his mental wellbeing from a “big woman with eyes of fury”: an apparent role reversal from his big hit I Put a Spell on You.
DBC Reed
• As a child Charles Bukowski (poet, writer, dirty old man) was forced to mow and then manicure the lawn with scissors (Letters, 12 June). A bad job resulted in a beating from his father.
Alan Fry
• Have you noticed how popular items always “fly off the shelves” (Letters, 18 June). Are retailers now using drones?
David Anderson
• Does anyone know the age at which one “has had a fall” rather than “fell”?
Nick Broadhead

Sir Michael Wilshaw is no doubt correct that the next generation of EDL supporters are in today’s schools (Underachievement in state schools ‘creates moral and political danger’, 15 June) – as are the future bankers, tax avoiders, and benefit fraudsters (though he didn’t mention these). He is also right that we should “address the needs of our poorest children”, though he is wrong when he says: “It is an issue that can only be tackled by central government taking very clear and decisive action.”
National government has been trying to direct what schools do for the past 25 years, and still many young people leave school with a poor level of literacy and low examination results. Michael Gove’s current attempts to “raise the bar” of GCSE exams will only exacerbate the problem for them. If a few “bright” children from culturally “poor” homes get to Oxford or Cambridge in the elitist way that both Gove and Wilshaw seem to be expecting comprehensive school teachers to strive for, and go on to take “leading positions in society”, how will this help their less fortunate classmates?
Schools need to be freed from government diktats enforced by Ofsted inspections. Teachers want all their pupils to succeed in life, and they should be left, school by school, to decide how best to contribute to that success. The contributions that government should make are to reduce the inequality in our society (living wage and progressive taxation) and to promote job creation.
Emeritus Professor Michael Bassey
Newark, Nottinghamshire
•  Reading the interview with Michael Wilshaw was very much a case of “I told you so” for me. In 2005 I produced a report on the subject. . While focused on Birmingham, it had much wider application and was used as the main text for a parliamentary debate which had been instigated by Richard Burden, MP for Birmingham Northfield. The government had responded positively, but then they lost the election. My report made the link between underachievement and extremism. I had also drawn attention to other consequences of underachievement such as crime.
Since then, I have also produced other research reports offering a way forward on this issue. My most comprehensive and recent report on the subject, White Working-Class Underachievement – A Case for Positive Action, made the case for giving the white working class the “minority treatment”. One point on which I do agree with you is that the underachieving groups change. I have pointed out in my recently published book, Dear Birmingham – A Conversation with My Hometown, that, in the foreseeable future, Pakistani boys in the city will probably become the main losers in the education lottery. Like their white neighbours, many also head for antisocial activity, unless, of course, something is done about it.
Karamat Iqbal
• As youth unemployment rose in 1976, Arnold Weinstock, managing director of the General Electric Company, wrote a letter in the Times Education Supplement headed “I blame the teachers” for not preparing pupils for employment. Since then relentless repetition by other leading industrialists, politicians and now the chief inspector of schools, Michael Wilshaw, has deflected attention from employers’ and government responsibility to provide jobs to be prepared for.
Wilshaw also blames “underachievement in state schools” for lack of social mobility. However many “skills” – or rather qualifications – teachers give students, it will not restart the limited upward social mobility from working to middle class that existed in a growing economy from 1945 to 1973. Today even young people who succeed in education find ascent difficult as most mobility is downward. Automation and outsourcing have deskilled much employment, not created “a knowledge economy”. This did not prevent Michael Gove, in the House of Commons last week, from holding the examinations system responsible for the UK’s “failure to compete” with Pacific rim countries. Rather than more such delusions about education, alternative economic policies are required.
Professor Patrick Ainley
University of Greenwich
•  Another reason why pupils may not achieve their predicted grades relates to the choices they make for their GCSE exams. In my school some very able students can be identified as underachieving based on their primary performance. These pupils are the ones that select a range of academic subjects at GCSE. Besides maths, English and English literature they may select separate sciences, one or more modern languages and humanities subjects.
This is a challenging suite of subjects and some students may achieve A and B grades rather than A* and A. Many higher-ability students add to the richness of their education by involving themselves in sport or music. In short, they maximise their potential.
Annually, we do a trawl of students that “underachieved” at GCSE and examine the routes they take beyond sixth form. Many go on to university, including Russell Group universities. Suggesting some pupils underachieve based on one set of primary school results is unhelpful and does not contribute as meaningfully as it might to the debate about standards in our schools.
Martin Shevill
Principal, Ossett academy and sixth-form college, Ossett, West Yorkshire
•  Blaming schools for underachieving pupils is as effective as blaming dentists for poor dental hygiene or doctors for obesity etc. Pupils spend 16% of their lives in school – less if they truant – and teachers, for all their energy, enthusiasm, innovative strategies and policies, encouragement and inspiration, cannot fully redress the failings of inadequate parenting. (Also: the pressure to reduce exclusions means disruptive pupils remain in classes to hinder the learning and teaching opportunities for the majority of better-adjusted pupils – which undermines achievement of all pupils.)
Accurate predictions of underachievement can be better deduced from family support, or lack of it, than from the school a child attends. Far more effective than tackling underachieving through schools would be a policy of early intervention, and training/encouraging/supporting parents to value and encourage their children’s education, long before they start school.
S O’Tierney
Paisley, Renfrewshire
• Rendel Harris (Letters, 18 June) is absolutely right about Gove’s lack of logic. Teachers are currently under relentless pressure to “close the gaps” in pupils’ achievement. This means that children with special educational needs or disabilities, those with English as an additional language, and those who are eligible for free school meals are expected to meet the levels of attainment deemed to be appropriate for their age group. Many of these children need to make more rapid progress than other children so as to catch up with their peers; schools and teachers are expected to target time and resources to enable this to happen. To summarise then, Mr Gove desires that: 1) end of key stage 4 exams be made harder so that fewer children attain the top grades; 2) more of the “brightest” children attain the top grades; and 3) no one fails to meet targets originally conceived as measuring the average level of attainment. Mathematical nonsense clearly. Is this muddled and inconsistent thinker somehow trying to achieve a system where only the most gifted shine and everyone else just populates a new bog-standard mass? We can only wonder. And despair.
Jane Duffield-Bish
Hethersett, Norfolk

The prisoners voting bill before parliament presents an opportunity to lift the unjust and outdated ban on all sentenced prisoners taking part in our democratic process. While those who have committed crimes may be rightly deprived of their liberty, they never cease to be citizens. The current system of blanket disenfranchisement is a violation of the UK’s obligations under the European convention of human rights, sending a poor message to both people in prison and society as a whole.
The ban undermines efforts to help prisoners reform their lives and take responsibility, by suggesting that their opinions are unwanted and their voices do not count. A large number of people sent to prison have already been marginalised as a result of poverty, poor education, abuse and neglect. Removing their basic democratic voting rights only compounds this harmful exclusion.
Prison governors and officials, chief inspectors, electoral commissioners, legal and constitutional experts, civil society organisations, faith groups and most other European governments recognise that people in prison should not be automatically disenfranchised. We hope that MPs and peers considering the issue will do likewise and take this opportunity to overturn the blanket ban.
Most Rev Peter Smith Archbishop of Southwark
Rt Rev James Jones Lord bishop of Liverpool (bishop for prisons)
Lord Woolf Chair, Prison Reform Trust
Lord Ramsbotham
Peter Bottomley MP
Juliet Lyon Director, Prison Reform Trust
Shami Chakrabarti Director, Liberty
Frances Crook Chief executive, Howard League for Penal Reform
Frank Kantor General secretary, Free Churches Group
John Scott Chair, Howard League Scotland
Deborah Coles Co-director, Inquest
Nuala Mole Senior lawyer, Aire Centre
Clive Martin Director, Clinks
Olwen Lyner CEO, Niacro
Angela Clay Chair, Association of Members of Independent Monitoring Boards
Chris Stacey Director (services), Unlock

Dr Selina Todd is wrong about our relationship with the University of Liverpool (Letters, June 16). Liverpool College is an independent school with 813 pupils which has chosen to become an academy. That decision was made by our governors, not the university. One reason for our decision – and the government’s support of it – is that we have an established record of more than 50% of our pupils gaining admittance to a Russell Group university.
We believe that, as an academy, we will be able to provide the excellent sixth-form preparation we provide to our fee-paying pupils to more pupils from a wider social and economic background, without regard to ability to pay. The more than 100 applications we have received for our sixth form and the 500 applications for year 7 seem to suggest that the people of Liverpool agree. In 2009 Liverpool College became an associated college of the University of Liverpool. This partnership has provided local state-school pupils with access to Latin and Greek; sixth formers, including those in state schools, with access to a philosophy course at the university; and has enabled the school to serve the community.
No pupil in our boarding programme, either from the EU or outside the EU, is guaranteed an offer or a place at the University of Liverpool. I have no idea where Dr Todd got that idea – except, perhaps, in overhearing the idle gossip of fellow historians in the corridors of academia. Liverpool University far surpasses Oxford in its effective outreach to non-traditional students and in its enrolment of pupils from poorer backgrounds. We are proud to partner with the university in making Russell Group education more available to pupils from poorer backgrounds.
Hans van Mourik Broekman
Principal, Liverpool College
• Fiona Millar says that “converting all academies back into maintained schools would be a massive and costly undertaking” (Education, 11 June). But this is not what David Wolfe actually says in his Education Law Journal article. What would be expensive would be to transfer land ownership. But that isn’t necessary – local authorities don’t own the land of foundation schools, including voluntary-aided schools, but they remain maintained schools.
Wolfe demonstrates that funding agreements can be overridden to bring academies into line with maintained schools, with the local authority as the admissions authority for all schools. The crucial question, then, which Fiona Millar doesn’t address, is what a Labour government should do about chains of academies “sponsored” – ie owned and controlled – by private organisations. But the full integration of academies into a reconstructed – and democratised – local authority system requires that no school is controlled by an external private organisation. (I do not refer to denominational schools here: that’s a separate issue.) It only requires the secretary of state to terminate the funding agreements with sponsors, including their control of governing bodies by appointees.
If a school wants to continue a partnership with an ex-sponsor, as with any external organisation, it should be able to do so, but this does not require any power to be handed over to it from the reconstituted governing body. Let’s see how many of these millionaires and overpaid officers who run chains of academies retain their enthusiasm for education when they are asked to support schools, but not control them.
Richard Hatcher

Fitting that Bradley Manning’s photo should be juxtaposed in World Roundup (7 June) with the famous shot of the Tiananmen Square tank stand-off, on the occasion of the release of the last “counter-revolutionary”, Jiang Yaqun. Our 19th-century idea “My country, right or wrong” is fixed still in the heartland of the Homeland. Manning stands solitary with his back up against the wall under a truncated Bill of Rights, in the unenviable position of being both military and incarcerated.
The 13th amendment that freed the slaves kept an exception – “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist”. That he is not yet sentenced is but a minor detail to his jailers. “Cut him down to size” would seem the modus operandi at the Humiliation Hilton. The military still cherishes its own quasi-legal world, where one’s body is not one’s own.
Gary Younge has sensed the self-righteous knee-jerk reaction, our instinct for striking at the mere messenger – obfuscating and sublimating a nation’s misfeasance upon a single scapegoat of biblical wrath (Hypocrisy lies at the heart of the Manning prosecution, 7 June). A Job surrounded by a thousand jobsworths. This straw man has backbone enough to stand his ground, to stand his accusers.
R M Fransson
Denver, Colorado, US
• Democracy and hypocrisy has been a hallmark of US foreign policy since the second world war. Bradley Manning merely educated a wider audience through the wonderful invention called the internet. God bless this young American hero!
Carmelo Bazzano
Melbourne, Australia
Buying the continent
I was interested to read Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s perceptive piece on the African Union (Unity is still an African dream, 31 May). He rightly points out that the people of Africa need some form of protection from the “traditional marauders of the west” and also from those African heads of state who are happy to collude with them. The equality gap is not closing despite impressive GDP growth in many African countries.
However, in relation to his question “Has anyone ever heard of African-owned corporations in the west?”, the answer is yes: the recent acquisition of major Portuguese companies by oil-rich Angolans, many with ties to President José Eduardo dos Santos.
While those of us on the sidelines may initially wish to sit back and applaud this reversal as an example of the empire fighting back, we also have to acknowledge that it is unlikely to benefit the people of Africa in real terms. It is interesting that although Ngugi refers to the proliferation of western-owned corporations in the continent, he does not mention the role of China, which is definitely in pursuit of Africa’s resources. Is that likely to prove more or less advantageous for ordinary Africans? Interestingly, in the case of Angola, huge amounts of Chinese credit are probably also funding the spending spree in Portugal.
Christine Ayorinde
Braga, Portugal
Let children run free
How sad that today’s kids seldom enjoy the healthy outdoor fun that earlier generations had. I don’t see that there’s more “stranger danger” now than 50 years ago, just more fear, especially when both parents work (Why parents should let kids roam at will, 24 May).
However, your article finally mentioned that parents have to teach civility and responsibility as well as self-reliance, even in the relatively uncivilised societies the author keeps citing. Our children will enter a community that wants to pass our culture, our civilisation on to them, and parents are its first representatives in their lives. Children need a balance – some time each day to enjoy freedom and immersion in nature on one hand, and some for education for their future in the civilised world on the other.
So here’s a plug for good old-fashioned family dinner time, everyone sitting down together to enjoy a shared meal. If kids are there from babyhood on, it’s not coercion, just part of everyone’s day. Here they learn, by example, community skills: conversation, listening and replying, learning about and caring about one another, passing dishes and condiments around. The stage is set for them to make their contribution to family life. If everyone’s focus is the community, battles over food are much less likely.
Isabel Best
Belmont, Massachusetts, US
• I would have thought that the child-rearing technique of ignoring babies and leaving them to cry without picking them up and nurturing them had gone out of vogue. It was popular back in the 1940s and while it may have induced independence, it also led to a mistrust of others. When children aren’t nurtured or given love when they need it, they grow up to feel that no one cares if they’re afraid, uncomfortable or in need of basic support. It leads to insecurity and a lack of self-confidence. If children don’t feel love from their parents, they can’t feel love for themselves. The main way a child gets love from the parents is from being held and nurtured and made to feel that feelings matter. Nurture your children. Love them. “Do unto others….” If you were terrified of being left alone, wouldn’t you want someone to hold you and reassure you? It’s common sense and should be instinctive. Yes, if you leave them to cry, they soon learn not to, but this is done at the risk of teaching them that no one cares.
D Smith
Seattle, Washington, US
• Yes it would be wonderful if all children could roam free, but having lived in some primitive cultures I feel that the boys have the freedom but the girls are expected to do heavy duty chores from a young age: fetch water, gather firewood, cultivate the land and go up dangerous scaffolds. In India one seldom sees a girl out playing, so could we hear a little about what happens to girls in these cultures? I have seen and met street children in Kolkata and many of them are delighted to know when the next meal is coming when they are attending charity schools. So for some it is freedom at a price.
Gemma Hensey
Westport, Ireland
Apply tax to turnover
In his article Globalisation is about taxes too (7 June), Joseph Stiglitz is wrong when he claims that “any country that threatened to impose fair corporate taxes would be punished”. This comment is only true if taxes are applied to territorial profits. It is not true if the tax is applied to territorial turnover, which cannot be fiddled or moved without loss.
As most complaints about corporate tax-dodging compare the minuscule amounts of tax paid against the relevant turnover, it follows that turnover would generally be seen as a “fair” basis for corporate taxation. Such a tax should be graduated, with higher rates at higher levels of turnover, to distinguish it from VAT and to act as a deterrent to excessive dominance of the market by large companies. It would then be a genuine corporate tax, rather than a consumer tax in disguise, paid for from the economies of scale enjoyed by larger companies.
A graduated turnover tax of this kind is certainly fairer than Stiglitz’s own suggestion that “any firm selling goods [in the US] could be obliged to pay a tax on its global profits” without any regard to how much of that firm’s turnover is actually in the US.
John Wood
Cheltenham, UK
• I congratulate Joseph Stiglitz for alerting us to the dangers posed by globalised tax avoidance. Tax avoidance may be unjust and socially divisive at a national level. It is a catastrophe internationally.
By denying sovereign governments an equitable share of the tax revenue owed by corporations, they subvert democracy. The state can no longer afford schools, hospitals, protection of the vulnerable and the security of citizens. Pressured to reduce taxes on income, the state has become a pauper, no longer able to pay its debts because its income source has been compromised.
Voters no longer have a choice when the fundamental policies of all but the least significant parties are identical – protect the interests of globalisation first and last. This is not consensus politics nor a “rush to the centre” of public opinion. It is the rigor mortis of democracy. It is, as Stiglitz concludes, much deeper than corporate tax avoidance.
Chris Ayres
Wellington Point, Queensland, Australia
Pollution is a form of theft
How discouraging to see a front page that celebrates the role of worker-friendly industries in the German economy, yet doesn’t mention that the ecocidal underside of such growth is rapidly destroying planetary life-support systems (How Germany rode the storm, 7 June). Economics not grounded in ecological facts are built over a sewer, and based on a dual lie: that Earth’s resources exist solely to be exploited, and that the biosphere has an infinite capacity to absorb our excrement. We’re living at 30% beyond the planet’s ability to restore itself. Crucial systems such as climate, oceans, fresh water, soil and biodiversity are already radically overdrawn. Bankruptcy is too late. Who pays?
Pollution is theft – from less privileged human beings, the 7 billion whose wellbeing is inseparable from our own. How do we shift from a world-view predicating the manufacture and consumption of endlessly disposable stuff as the be-all and end-all of human endeavour, before we irrevocably foul our own nest?
We must account for every ecological cost as rigorously as we monitor fiscal affairs, and perceive true wealth as stable climate, fresh air, pure water, biodiversity and abundant wilderness.
Annie March
West Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Bad road behaviour
The 387 people killed in accidents on the German autobahns in 2012 only tells part of the story (End of the road for autobahn autonomy?, 31 May). It takes no account of the numerous injuries (27,928) or the atmosphere of machismo and intimidation. As an example, I was driving on the autobahn late one night a few weeks ago. I had the temerity to move into the fast lane (at a “pedestrian” 140km/h) causing a driver, who was many hundreds of metres further back, to have to slow down from his (I think we can assume he was a “he”) 200-plus km/h, something he didn’t do until the very last few metres with headlights flashing. After I moved back into the middle lane, he then repeatedly tried to force me off the road by swerving violently towards my vehicle. He then dropped back so that I could not get his registration.
If he’d known my car also contained my wife and three children under five years of age, I cannot be sure he would have behaved any differently.
Jim Thomson
Salzburg, Austria
• The only argument I can advance for keeping the coronation ceremony as a religious one is that we get the opportunity to hear that magnificent cathedral choir belting out Zadok the Priest (31 May). What a magnum opus! I have tears in my eyes by the second bar.
Kitty Monk
Auckland, New Zealand



David Cameron was entitled to a big sigh of relief last night, perhaps even a small shot of Old Bushmills. He brought the G8 summit in on time, without disruption, and almost on song. The leaders of the world’s richest countries found enough in common to produce an accord not just on tax and trade, as promised, but on the vexed question of Syria, too.
The Prime Minister also stole some of Brussels’ thunder by announcing the start of talks on what could be a truly world-changing trade treaty between the EU and the US – an agreement, what is more, that might even persuade sceptical Britons that the UK is better in the EU than out. Not bad, it might be judged, for a bare 24 hours’ work. The landscape was easy on the eye, too – about as far from the images of the Troubles as it was possible to be.
The difficulty is that ‘twixt cup and lip there can be many a slip, and the hitches that could  crop up as the EU-US trade talks get under way may be the least of them. Of more immediate concern must be the strikingly tentative nature of the declaration on tax transparency, where signatories have agreed to nothing stronger than the word “should” – as in “automatically share information to fight the scourge of tax evasion”; as in making “companies report to tax authorities what tax they pay where”; as in tax collectors and law enforcers being able to obtain information about companies and who really owns them. How about “G8 member-governments have a legal obligation to…”? 
The accord on Syria was more encouraging, if only because it shifted the agenda from the thorny issue of arms for the rebels on to principles for talks involving all interested parties, and a transition scenario expressly designed to prevent an Iraq-style vacuum. Vladimir Putin’s fingerprints can be discerned on some of this. But if there is now G8 convergence on a framework for talks in Geneva, this is an advance on the Cameron-Putin slanging match in Downing Street. Perhaps the calm waters of Lough Erne had the necessary soothing effect, after all.


Is poetry un-military? The Israeli army thinks so. A poetic squaddie from the Nahal Infantry Brigade was about to recite some verses on a radio station in Jerusalem when he was recalled by his commander and told his on-air Parnassian effusions would “ruin the image of the combat soldier”.
We beg to differ. Poetry and soldiering have gone hand in hand from ancient times. What is Homer’s Iliad but an epic poem about the siege and sack of Troy? And there isn’t a troop of infantry alive that wouldn’t thrill to a recital of GK Chesterton’s “Lepanto” (“Thronging of the thousands up that labour under sea/ White for bliss and blind for sun and stunned for liberty!”)
And if the Israeli Defence Forces need lead in their pencil, may we recommend Byron’s “The Destruction of Sennacherib”: “And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,/ Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord.


It was neither a scuttle nor a rout. Taking place a year-and-a-half before Nato’s planned withdrawal, yesterday’s handover to Afghan state forces, though tainted by yet another terrorist attack, could be described as dignified. Both Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Nato Secretary-General, and President Hamid Karzai found optimistic words to mark the occasion.
Despite this, however, there was no disguising that this is a war the West has lost. It was launched to destroy a regime that had put itself beyond the pale by throwing down the welcome mat to Osama bin Laden. But even without that fatal error, the Taliban state was a diplomatic pariah, shunned by almost the whole world, enforcing a version of Islam that shuttered girls and wives inside their homes, banned music and all other entertainment and staged public executions and amputations in Kabul’s football stadium. By sheltering al-Qa’ida they brought the war on their heads, but theirs was a brutal, medieval regime that offered long-suffering Afghans no lasting hope of improvement in their lives. The only achievement to their credit was that they had come close to pacifying the country after the sanguinary years of Mujahedin civil war. 
Within weeks of the war’s beginning, the Taliban had fled Kabul, Kandahar and other cities, and reckless voices in the West were proclaiming victory. But anyone familiar with the Afghan way of warfare knew it was nothing of the sort: as in every other war fought in that country, the Taliban melted away and mustered their forces to fight another day. And that is precisely what they have done. Twelve years on they are ubiquitous and stronger than ever. The fact that Nato is pulling out does not mean the war is over: it means that the full onus of resisting the Taliban from now on rests on the frail shoulders of the Afghan national army, which has been losing a third of its force to desertions every year. 
After the loss of 444 British soldiers in the war, the Government is naturally keen to represent Britain’s withdrawal as a positive development, akin to the granting of independence to a former colony. But there is nothing to be gained by pretending that this particular adventure has been anything but a catastrophe, a case of neo-imperial hubris armour-plated with historical ignorance and illuminated by dreams of transforming Afghanistan into a secularised democracy – dreams which had already been shattered twice in the previous half century.
Announcing that, as he put it, “From tomorrow all security operations will be in the hands of the Afghan security forces,” President Karzai also said that he would send representatives to Qatar to start talks with the senior Taliban who have been there for more than two years, waiting to open an office. But who will talk to whom about what? Yesterday White House officials also announced imminent talks with the Taliban, on condition that the Islamist militia renounce violence, break ties with al-Qa’ida and respect the Afghan constitution.
It is not impossible that the Taliban will agree those terms. Given that they are not given to hypocrisy, however, it must be considered unlikely. From the Taliban’s perspective, the Nato handover means that their 12-year war has entered a brilliantly promising new phase: not only have the most professional forces ranged against them withdrawn to barracks, but the Afghan troops, though in theory receiving Nato  air support, have in fact been left largely to their own devices. The Afghan state we are leaving behind is weak, corrupt and bitterly divided, and it is not clear how long it will survive. The challenge of the next 18 months is to do all we can to strengthen it, while eradicating its most glaring weaknesses.


‘We enter the Syrian conflict with the best of intentions, but at our peril’ — comparisons are made with the Spanish Civil War
Sir, Syria is “awash with weapons” you tell us, yet suggest that we should send more (“Save Syria”, leading article, June 18). You also think that “moderate rebels” can be distinguished from “murderous thugs”. That is more to be wished for than achieved, with any number of militants now in the fray who have no love of democracy or the democratic wishes of the average Syrian.
It’s clear that the population is split, with as many supporting the current regime as opposing it. Should we, though, take sides?
We have helped to overthrow two of the world’s most brutal tyrants in Gaddafi and Saddam. We chased the Taleban from Afganistan. We cheered the ousting of Mubarak. The outcome was other forms of religiously and/or tribally split governance. The aftermath of our exertions and loss of British lives has left administrations which are basically anti-Western, anti-women, anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.
Tony Blair was right about going in to Sierra Leone and Kosovo, a fact conveniently forgotten. Our military adventures since then have hardly been great successes. We enter the Syrian conflict with the best of intentions, but at our peril.
Barry Hyman
Bushey Heath, Herts
Sir, The House of Commons resolution on Iraq, agreeing to the Government’s actions in going to war, was a parliamentary Rubicon. Given that there has been no official “declaration of war” since the one against Siam in 1942, for a host of legal reasons, the most likely scenario now is armed conflict and/or the commitment of troops.
I believe the convention has now evolved that parliamentary approval is required for armed conflict. The supply of arms is very near to this, with the inevitable danger of “mission creep.” It is not, in my view, realistic for the Prime Minister and his Cabinet to act in such a manner without parliamentary approval, bearing in mind the House of Lords Constitutional Committee Report (2006),Waging War: Parliament’s role and responsibility, to which Lord Mayhew of Twysden and I gave evidence as former Attorney-Generals.
Lord Morris of Aberavon
House of Lords
Sir, Those who continue to vacillate or oppose intervention in Syria on the grounds that it would make a bleak situation worse are making the Syrian people victims of their own short-sightedness. They are quick to quote precedent in Iraq and Afghanistan to support their point of view. In fact, the correct historical precedent of what is unfolding in Syria is the Spanish Civil War. Inaction came at a terrible cost then, as it will continue to do now.
David Gross
Sir, I fear that Vladimir Putin is right. Giving arms to the Syrian rebels would be like Margaret Thatcher handing weapons to the splinter groups of the IRA in the wake of the Remembrance Day massacre in Enniskillen in 1987, except that it would be even worse because we do not know who these people are.
Fr Tom Grufferty
Havant, Hants
Sir, If the West wants to end the carnage in Syria the quickest way to do so will be for Assad to win the civil war — no matter how much we may abhor his regime. Increasing arms supplies to the rebels will prolong the conflict with an inevitable increase in deaths.
Keith Bates

Proposals for radical reform of bereavement benefit will deeply affect those who are bringing up children after the loss of a partner
Sir, At any age, the death of one’s mother or father brings change and challenge. For a young child, it brings a bewildering range of powerful feelings and changed routines, and often further painful losses. The care and support of their other parent is crucial in helping them adapt to a radically changed life.
The current system of Widowed Parents’ Allowance allows parents the flexibility to provide this support, with weekly payments until the youngest child no longer qualifies for Child Benefit. This support system is under threat: the Government has included proposals for radical reform of bereavement benefit in the Pensions Bill, proposing to pay it for just one year. We estimate that 90 per cent of new claimants would be worse off under the proposed new scheme, and those with younger children — who can currently make longer claims — will be particularly badly affected.
Amid the discussions about second-tier pensions and the State Pension age, let us not forget that thousands of grieving children each year will be affected by the changes proposed.
Professor Sir Al Aynsley-Green, Childhood Bereavement Network; Debbie Kerslake, Cruse Bereavement Care; Ann Chalmers, Child Bereavement UK; Georgia Elms, WAY Widowed & Young; Catherine Ind, Winston’s Wish; Judith Moran, Quaker Social Action; Caroline Davey, Gingerbread; Anthony Thomas, Low Incomes Tax Reform Group; Helen Shaw, INQUEST

From evidence gained at the Glastonbury Festival, the use of alcohol and ‘hard’ drugs cause far more damage than cannabis does
Sir, Libby Purves bemoans parents who smoke cannabis at music festivals because it could cause their children to copy them and develop psychotic illness (Opinion, June 17). Next weekend four fellow consultant psychiatrists and I will be providing cover to the medical facility at the Glastonbury Festival. If previous years are anything to go by, alcohol will be the main cause of physical injury. Severe psychiatric disturbance will be primarily caused by “hard” stimulant drugs, especially cocaine, mephedrone and other former “legal highs”. Cannabis barely features.
Contrary to Ms Purves’s assertion, it is far from clear whether the relationship between cannabis and schizophrenia is causal. But, as with any drug including alcohol, there is no doubt that heavy or daily cannabis use does the mind no favours whatsoever.
The middle classes are happy to contend that introducing their offspring gradually to alcohol during adolescence while modelling sensible drinking behaviour themselves reduces the likelihood of binge drinking. Why should the same not hold for cannabis?
Dr Rich Braithwaite
Ryde, Isle of Wight

It is all very well attacking HMRC but it can only demand tax which is due under the current legislation, not that which it may ‘feel’ is due
Sir, Nothing in Hugo Rifkind’s entertaining article (June 18) alters the position that HMRC can only demand tax that is legally due, and it cannot issue tax demands on any other basis. The geographic location of a sale does not of itself create a legally due corporation tax liability, which is just as well, as it would result in export businesses (including British companies) paying the equivalent of corporation tax on the same profit in multiple overseas jurisdictions, and would render most international trade uneconomic.
Richard Horton, FCA
Purley, Surrey

The design of a prison is far more important than the size, as well as appropriate resourcing, good management, and trained staff
Sir, The conversion of Oxford prison into a hotel was a highly successful commercial venture (report, June 17).
The argument about super-prisons being wrong is nonsensical. It depends how they are designed and resourced and where they can be located. If we can save money by building purpose-built super-prisons and then feed back some of the savings made into community solutions, as suggested by Juliet Lyon, then we all win. If reducing offending through robust community schemes helps to reduce the prison population, and if building super-prisons and resourcing them to support rehabilitation reduces offending, then we have created a virtuous circle. Smaller prisons are less cost-effective and are not necessarily more effective at rehabilitation than larger ones. Intelligent design, appropriate resourcing, excellent management and well-trained staff are the key factors in developing successful prisons — size is a subsidiary factor.
John Berry
Retired prison governor, Leicester


SIR – Today, Maria Miller, the culture secretary, is to meet internet companies to urge them voluntarily to tackle child abuse images online. We call on the Prime Minister to take urgent action against violent and misogynistic pornography online.
We specifically want the Government to close a loophole in the pornography legislation that allows the lawful possession in England and Wales of pornographic images that depict rape, so long as the actors are over 18. This means that images titled “teen slut rape” and “schoolgirl rape” are lawful to possess. Depictions of necrophilia and bestiality are criminalised by the same legislation, meaning that animals and dead people are better protected than women and girls.
A change in the English law would send a clear message that it is illegal to possess pornographic images that promote sexual violence against women. We are dismayed that this loophole exists, especially at a time when the media carries many stories about the sexual abuse of women and girls, including the recent convictions for murdering young girls of Mark Bridger and Stuart Hazell, both cases involving violent pornography.
A recent report by the Children’s Commissioner found that children have easy access to online pornography and that this influences boys’ harmful attitudes and behaviour towards women and girls.
We are concerned that “rape porn” undermines the Government’s efforts to tackle sexual violence. The Government should close this loophole immediately.
Justine Roberts
Janice Langley
National Federation of Women’s Institutes
Professor Claire McGlynn
University of Durham
Professor Erika Rackley
University of Durham
Professor Liz Kelly
London Metropolitan University
Lee Eggleston
Rape Crisis England and Wales
Fiona Elvines
Rape Crisis South London
Holly Dustin
End Violence Against Women Coalition
Laura Bates
Lucy Holmes
No More Page 3
Kay Carberry
Assistant General Secretary, TUC
Dr Wanda Wyporska
Association of Teachers and Lecturers
Sandy Brindley
Rape Crisis Scotland
Natasha Walter

SIR – Further to the debate regarding grass versus floral lawns (Letters, June 15), I’d like to express my dismay over the “make-over” of some gardens that have featured on television programmes.
I enjoy seeing how the properties have been transformed, but wait with some trepidation to see what has become of the overgrown garden. Admittedly brambles are not particularly child-friendly, although good for wildlife, but do all the trees and bushes need removing? What happens to the wildlife reliant on these plants?
Surely there is room for compromise; a grassy area for the occupants of the house to use, but some prudent pruning of shrubs and trees not only enhances the garden by providing shade, but would also encourage some creatures to remain, rather than flee a barren landscape.
Leri Kinder
Wilmslow, Cheshire

SIR – Boris Johnson (Comment, June 17) is right to warn against arming the Syrian rebels. The interventions by America and Iran have turned the Syrian conflict into a proxy war between Washington and Tehran. Russia’s continuing support of the Assad regime further exacerbates the situation, and any British involvement will only result in increased escalation of the violence.
The moment to intervene was two years ago, at the same time as British and French forces were assisting the Libyan uprising. The failure to do so allowed Islamic radicals to become involved, and now any aid for the Syrian rebels will indirectly support the fundamentalists. That we did not aid the rebels two years ago is regrettable, but providing support now would be a grave strategic error.
Gareth Wood
Wigan, Lancashire
SIR – There is an irony that it should be France and Britain, along with America, who are calling for the arming of so-called “friendly” opposition groups to further fuel the Syrian tragedy. For it is they who share responsibility for the Middle East debacle that emanated from the two World Wars, and the subsequent pursuit of what, at the time, they saw as their vital interests.
Until the deeply imbedded injustices that flowed from the Balfour Declaration, the Sykes-Picot Agreement, the MacMahon-Hussein Correspondence and the Treaties of Sèvres and Lausanne are addressed, there can never be a lasting solution to Syria or to Lebanon, Gaza, the West Bank and Iraq. These issues are intertwined.
Alas, I doubt very much whether the G8, in its policy deliberations, is capable of seeing that far back or, indeed, forward.
William Pender
Salisbury, Wiltshire
SIR – Arab nations are quick to criticise the West for intervening. So why aren’t they making moves to help sort things out?
Peter Cowey
Ponteland, Northumberland
SIR – If the West sends arms to the Syrian rebels, the Russians will counter with even more murderous weapons supplied to the regime. The result: a longer war. Slaughter has occurred on both sides, so how can one choose who the “goodies” are? The only way to stop politicians from involving us in other countries’ business is to vote them out of office.
Martin Bellamy
Cirencester, Gloucestershire
SIR – Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, prefers to talk to David Cameron about trade, not Syria. What is wrong with that? Ask the average British worker if the Government should focus on the economy rather than Middle East politics, and you know what answer most will give.
The restoration of Britain as a major international trading nation must be given priority. This will necessitate investment in our Merchant Marine and Royal Navy.
Mark Harland
Scarborough, North Yorkshire
Teacher qualifications
SIR – If Labour forms the next government, Stephen Twigg, the shadow education secretary, has promised that unqualified teachers in our free schools and academies will either have to get qualifications or face the sack (report, June 17). However, in America, three major studies have found that there is no statistically significant difference in the academic achievement of pupils taught by unqualified teachers.
Closer to home, our independent schools have long employed a significant percentage of unqualified teachers, yet they are widely regarded as among the best in the world. The same cannot be said of our state schools.
If Mr Twigg is prepared to sack teachers without any evidence that they are under-performing, he is merely betraying himself as a lackey of the teaching unions.
Prof Tom Burkard
Tax haven status
SIR – Ashley Mote (Letters, June 17) correctly argues that some Crown Dependencies depend upon their tax haven status. The Isle of Man, where I grew up, transformed itself from a failing tourist destination to a functioning tax haven.
The bold decisions to slash income tax and abolish inheritance tax taken by Manx politicians in the Sixties restored prosperity to the island. A nation cannot survive on kippers alone.
Anne Saunders
Alresford, Hampshire
SIR – Perhaps David Cameron should set an example to the multinationals and make public his own tax returns, as the American president is required to do.
The last three prime ministers have ignored this suggestion, but if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.
B E Kerrison
London SW4
Tipping on the Tarmac
SIR – Do councils have a Tarmac allowance? A paving stone near my house that jutted out has recently been corrected not by lifting, levelling and being placed on a sand bed, but by having a large dollop of Tarmac dropped on it. This has created an unsightly black mound which is likely to catch the night-time walker by surprise.
What other uses will the council find for their Tarmac? Repairing broken street lamps? I can’t wait to find out.
Hugh Bebb
Sunbury-on-Thames, Middlesex
Caught on camera
SIR – On seeing the photographs (June 17) of Charles Saatchi grabbing hold of his wife Nigella Lawson’s throat, I cannot help wonder if they were evidence of another problem. If one witnesses such a scene is the default position now just to photograph it?
History gives us many examples of individuals stepping in to defuse situations; I just hope camera phones have not stopped good citizenship.
John Bromhall
End of the Archers
SIR – Dr Andrew Crawshaw (Letters, June 17) asks what would be the effect of the removal by the BBC of the Archers.
The answer is that it would mark the end of civilisation as we know it. All that would remain would be a flickering shadow of the world as it presently exists, between 7.02pm and 7.15pm each day. Saturday would remain as a cultural wilderness.
Chris Middleton
Rotherham, South Yorkshire
SIR – To Archers addicts, the removal of our friends in Ambridge would be like removing Test Match Special from cricket fans.
Linda Read
London SW14
Train of thought
SIR – Because of a change in train times, my friend now has to wait for half an hour for a connection at Basingstoke station, while travelling from Leamington Spa to Salisbury. We should welcome suggestions about how she might spend the time.
Martin Robinson
Stockton, Warwickshire
Doctors should be able to opt out of league tables
SIR – Your report (“How bad doctors can hide failings”, June 13) quotes a senior Whitehall source who described the option for surgeons to opt out of release of mortality and other data relating to their individual surgical practice as “farcical”. I take a different view.
Orthopaedic surgeons may have valid reasons for choosing not to publish their data at this time. Orthopaedic surgery data are being taken from the National Joint Registry (NJR), an audit of hip and knee replacement surgery that has been running for over 10 years. More than 1.3 million operations have now been recorded. The technical data collected are analysed to provide a rich source of evidence on good surgical practice, implant performance and research purposes.
The NJR was not constructed as a resource for patients, and for this information to be made public the data must be reliable and accurate. Timelines on this project have been very short. As a consequence it has not been possible to check fully all of the data prior to the publication date announced by NHS England. Orthopaedic surgeons are being given a chance to review their own data, and from this they can decide whether to agree to publication or not. In this situation, we consider that the potential opt-out for surgeons is appropriate. Publication of poorly validated data will neither help patient choice nor drive up quality. So the opt-out is not a means of protection for surgeons, rather it is a way of shielding patients from inaccurate information.
The British Orthopaedic Association is enthusiastic for transparency and fully supports the initiative to publish individual surgeon outcomes. We believe our standards in British Orthopaedics are second to none, and when data are published, we hope this will be apparent.
Martyn Porter
President, British Orthopaedic Association
London WC2

Irish Times:
Sir, – Private patients in public beds are to be charged €1,112 per night in place of the existing charge of €75 (Front page, June 16th). Insurers say this will cause them to increase their charges by 30 per cent. Minister for Health, James Reilly responds that insurers are not doing “near enough” to reduce costs.
He may be right, but I would struggle to think of a person who is less justified in making the point. The one constant in the troika reports is the abject failure of the same Minister to meet his budgets. His most recent wheeze to be seen to be doing something is to offer staff under his charge more than €30,000 not to work for three years.
Mr Reilly contends that it is neither fair, reasonable nor acceptable for private patients to be subsidised in the public health system. I wonder.
Those who choose to buy private health insurance are in all probability paying income tax. They are, therefore, paying to subsidise those who receive for €75 a service the economic cost of which is, apparently, €1,122.
People who choose to buy health insurance are currently paying a second time. Their taxes pay the costs of public accommodation and their insurance premiums pay for a private room. They pay for both and may use either.
Under the new regime they will pay a third time through higher insurance costs. They are now asked to pay once for private accommodation (as they currently do) and twice for staying in a public ward (through their taxes and the additional insurance charges).
This strikes me as being neither fair nor reasonable and it is hardly acceptable.
Mr Reilly is taking the time-honoured approach of Ministers who will not tackle costs which are out of control. Let’s charge the punter more.
I will leave for another day the question as to whether €1,122 is indeed the economic cost of a night in a single-bed room in one of our hospitals. I would merely note that, as I write, I could have a room in the Merrion Hotel for €230, a room in the Ritz Carlton for €250 or a suite in the Four Seasons for €570. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – The entertaining of foreign leaders’ spouses should come with a moral warning. The Government should tell Michelle Obama to tell her husband to stop his drone killings of women, children and men and to immediately close Guantánamo Bay detention centre where now more than a hundred uncharged detainees have been on hunger strike for months. Some of these prisoners possibly travelled through Shannon Airport on illegal rendition flights.
There seem to be no depths to which this Government will not stoop to outdo the sycophancy of the previous government at the expense of already overburdened Irish taxpayers. – Yours, etc,
Irish Anti War Movement,

Sir, – Your Editorial (June 11th) contains several statements which need to be challenged. First, the statement “GM crops have not contaminated the world . . .” is not true. Although over 100,000 acres of genetically engineered crops were planted in the EU in 2008, the impact of these plants on health and biodiversity has not been systematically examined. Where are the results of independent and long-term surveillance on health and biodiversity? Do we even know what biodiversity we have? Incredibly, there have been no life-long studies on the impacts of genetically-engineered food on humans.
It is also not clear how genetically-engineering plants can “enhance global nutrition”; a technical fix is not sufficient to remedy the complex issues that result in global under nutrition, including just economic practices and fair trading. Similarly, it is difficult to see how a “better environmental outcome” from farming could result from the planting of GM crops. Pests will develop resistance to GM toxins and increased spraying of a specific herbicide has occurred when the plant itself is genetically engineered to be resistant to it. It is also difficult to discuss reductions in pesticide usage when the entire genetically-engineered plant can itself be considered an insecticide.
Finally, the argument that as we already import GM animal feed, Ireland is “not GM free” is misleading. The use of GM animal feed is worrying and must not be used as an excuse to go further down this road. Bord Bia’s Pathways for Growth report (2011) acknowledges the consumers wish for clean green food. Producing non-GM animal food in Ireland and stopping the growing of GM crops would provide Ireland, with its island status, an opportunity to celebrate what is truly green. – Yours, etc,

A chara, – Perhaps it is no wonder this Government has decided to make history non-compulsory. The fewer people who will read this current chapter of history, the better – as far as the Coalition is concerned. – Is mise,
Páirc na Canálach Ríoga,

Sir, – A number of commentators wish to present the disagreements on the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013 as a church versus state issue, but it is not that simple.
I come to the debate as a parent of a child with Down syndrome. Through that and my involvement with Ablevison Ireland, an organisation that explores the creativity of those who are less abled, I have become aware of the rich influence and beneficial impact people with intellectual disabilities have on society. Our communities would be a lot poorer without their presence. However, this may not always be apparent to the expectant parent when a diagnosis of developmental problems is given. In many cases the news and its implications are a burden that can sometimes seem insurmountable.
In other jurisdictions, such mental trauma has been accepted as a reason to have an abortion. It is to be hoped this will not become the case here in Ireland, although I fear if suicide ideation is accepted as a reason to have a termination then in time this will happen. With a slight majority in favour of this clause according to the Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll (Home News, June 13th) I believe the people should be asked their opinion through a referendum.
I trust this Government to ensure that the floodgates to abortion in such circumstances will not open during its watch. However, I would be very fearful for the future. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – Canon Janet Catterall correctly asserts both the right to celebrate local heroes with dignity and the right to peacefully and freely express views (June 18th). However, there is a right transcending all other rights and without which no other rights can be enjoyed. This foundational and fundamental right is the right to life. This right is inviolable and extends to all human beings. It is hardly surprising that people feel strongly about it. If there is any cause that “overrides all other considerations”, surely it is the right to life? – Yours, etc,

Sir, – On June 15th I attended a concert in the RDS by Neil Young and Crazy Horse. My wife and I decided to shell out the ticket price of €76 each (plus the unavoidable Ticketmaster add-on of €6 each approximately). We did this because one of the musical tastes we share is a love of Young’s well-crafted and moving country rock songs as exemplified by the albums After the Gold Rush, Harvest, Comes a Time and Harvest Moon.
I am well aware that Mr Young also has an amount of material in his repertoire that diverges considerably from the style of the above albums, and I fully expected the concert would include some such material. However, nothing could have prepared me for the exhibition of narcissistic self-indulgence that constituted Saturday night’s performance.
To give an idea of what transpired, imagine your neighbourhood wannabe garage grunge band were given the RDS stage and a full set of electronic pedal effects to play with. Imagine also that this group of youngsters had no discernible musical talent, but sure knew how to make some noise. One could possibly make a case for spending a tenner to listen to such a group, on the grounds that youth must be encouraged and that there might be some hidden talent there to be discovered. However, when you are paying out a considerable sum to hear one of rock music’s so-called legends, it is surely reasonable to expect said legend will make some effort to entertain his audience, and perform a representative selection from his repertoire.
If Neil Young wants to see how performers ought to behave towards an audience, he could do worse than to sit in on the set played by one of his support acts, The Waterboys. Here was entertainment that anyone could enjoy in terms of musicianship and audience interaction, even someone not familiar with the Waterboys’ repertoire.
I want to call publicly on Aiken Promotions and Neil Young to refund my money for this event. It’s about time that rock music performers and promoters realised that they are privileged to still have access to the audience that made them wealthy in the first place, and not vice versa. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – As the writer of the “angry letter” quoted by Dan O’Brien (Opinion, June 12th) and castigated by him as a reactionary and for my use of the term “neoliberal” without defining it (together with our President, Michael D Higgins) I beg you allow me to reply.
First, I wrote more in sorrow than in anger at a policy resulting in the outsourcing of important public services to unknown foreign entities which thereby profit from them to the detriment of our own people.
Second, the term “neoliberal” has passed into common discourse to describe policies such as those. Its origin can be traced back to the economist Milton Friedman, an opponent of the Keynesian economics pursued in the US in the 1940s.
Broadly speaking, Friedman proposed governments should remove all rules and regulations which stood in the way of profit accumulation, they should sell off any assets which corporations could run at a profit, and that spending on social services should be cut back.
Certain elements in corporate America seized on those ideas and pursued them assiduously but without much success at first. However, an opportunity presented itself in Chile where Friedman was adviser to Pinochet. The socialist prime minister Allende had been pursuing a policy of nationalisation which was inimical to corporate America, resulting in the overthrow of Allende by Pinochet in a violent coup. Pinochet’s policies were not popular, but opposition was suppressed, leading not just to the impoverishment of many but their imprisonment, torture and death. A similar process occurred in Argentina leading to thousands of “disappeared” who are mourned to this day.
I am not suggesting those policies always go to such extremes, but they are frequently accompanied by various forms of suppression.They are, of course, favoured by big business to whom they give carte blanche.Friedman did not use the term “neoliberal”. A better term might be “corporatism” or perhaps “globalisation”. The main point is that those policies favour big business on a global scale, and their end-result is the maximising of profit.
It should never be forgotten that the public servant is duty bound to serve and promote the public good, whereas the loyalty of the corporation is in the first place to its shareholders. – Yours,etc,

Sir, – My Iranian colleagues in Dubai were able to go down to their local consulate and cast a vote in Iran’s recent presidential election. Notwithstanding a heavily restricted ballot paper from this quasi-democratic / theocratic republic, this is a democratic privilege that generations of Irish immigrants were, and continue to be, precluded from in our Republic. It is time that this changed. – Yours, etc,

Irish Independent:
* Further to the recent funeral of our son and brother Donal and the many letters of condolence we have since received, we would like you to publish this letter of heartfelt thanks from our family.
Also in this section
What’s in a name? Quite a lot, actually
An Irish sort of logic
We are not a caring society
Over the last five years we have received incredible support as a family while Donal battled with his disease. Initially, it was local support but since he came to prominence with his writings and interviews we have had nothing but positive well-wishers locally, from across the country and internationally. We are eternally grateful for everyone who offered their support, words of comfort and generosity to Donal and ourselves.
We would like to thank the whole country, but in particular all the schools in Tralee, the sporting clubs of Tralee, the town of Tralee, the parishes of both St John’s and St Brendans, and An Garda Siochana for the dignified way in which everyone paid their last farewells to our son and brother.
No words are written to fill the void that Donal’s departure has made, but the silence attributed to him by the people in Tralee on May 15 spoke volumes to the world of how you have taken his person to your hearts.
Our sincere thanks to you all.
Fionbarr, Elma and Jema Walsh
Blennerville, Tralee, Co Kerry
* Regarding the Longford hecklers at Enda Kenny’s speech, I could not help thinking, ‘what century do these folk come from?’ Do such folk not realise that the proposed abortion legislation is primarily intended to provide legal clarity and reassurance to the medical profession on matters of pregnancy termination, whereby a real danger to the mother’s life is present?
Is it not proper that medical staff should be afforded the ability to make life-saving decisions without fear of prosecution?
Does the ‘Holier than Thou Brigade’ not recall the terrible event that occurred only a few months at Galway University Hospital, with respect to this issue?
Alan Keogh
Spiddal, Connemara, Co Galway
* Do we really understand what we are doing and where it will lead us?
We know that human life begins before birth, and yet we are proposing to have a law that will result in it being ended at that early stage. We are proposing that law in spite of evidence that shows that it is not necessary and is almost certain to lead to abortion on demand.
We have all received our lives from someone else. We have survived the journey from conception to birth because someone else helped us on the way: we have no right to close that path to others.
Charlie Talbot
Kilcullen, Co Kildare
* The only evidence that Gerard O’Regan’s weird attack on Irish speakers (June 15) was written in 2013 and not 1973 is his reference to Facebook.
He’s right to note that the Irish education system has often presented an artificial Irish. But there’s a bright side: the Department of Education has greatly improved the teaching of Irish, to such an extent that Mr O’Regan’s friend ‘Andrea’, who has just done her Leaving Certificate, is now capable of holding basic conversations in Irish.
Mr O’Regan says that Andrea will have no use for her Irish. I’m going to be in Dublin this summer, and my two small Irish-speaking children need a babysitter. Andrea sounds like a fantastic candidate. Perhaps Mr O’Regan could put her in touch with me?
Brian O Broin, Ph.D.
Department of English, William Paterson University, New Jersey, USA
* It always amazes me when Irish language cynics have a cut off Gaelscoileanna as part of a whinge-fest about the pointlessness of preserving our native language. I can never tell if it’s jealousy, lack of patriotism, plain lack of research or a mixture of all three.
‘Lazy Journalism’ might be accountable for Gerard O’Regan’s outlandish assertion that Gaelscoil parents “radiate a sense of cultural superiority, which can be off-putting to say the least for somebody not of their tribe”.
As a principal of a Gaelscoil, I think I can speak with some authority. Parents choose Gaelscoileanna not only for their excellent standard but also because they want their children to read, write and speak fluently in two languages. Many parents want to foster in their children a love of Irish language and culture. This is not a quest for cultural superiority but rather a thirst for cultural identity.
Dominic O Braonain
Gaelscoil Phortlaoise
* The question “What are senators for?” stubbornly persists. As Albert Einstein would have suggested: “It depends on the point of view of the observer.” From the senator’s perspective, the role is essential to their way of life; what else could they do? I often irritate my wife by questioning the point of my life. She informs me that she has spent many years attempting an answer and failed to reach a satisfactory conclusion, insisting that I do not waste any more time.
Similarly, seeking to determine the point of senators is to enter a form of discourse that will get you nowhere. Before you can respond to the more specific question about the meaning of a senator’s life, you need to determine the point of anything. The point of anything is as elusive as the Higgs Boson or the point of Switzerland, apart from helping tax avoiders yodel all the way to the bank.
The philosopher Aristotle suggested that if we continue to question the point of our lives, it is not a life befitting a human. What would he know? He spent far too much time in Athens to understand the specific intricacies of Irish life.
What I like about senators is that they always have a smile on their face; I have yet to see an unhappy one. Whatever they do, they seem to enjoy it. What more can we ask of them? If we intensify their happiness it could spread to the whole nation, heralding a new tomorrow for us all.
Philip O’Neill
Edith Road, Oxford
* Minister for State Brian Hayes, in substituting an ad hominem attack on Michael McDowell for rational arguments for or against the abolition of Seanad Eireann (Comment, June 13), thereby ignores the key issue. The fact is that the Government’s proposal to abolish the Seanad would further weaken the already meagre parliamentary and constitutional restraints on government.
This is not the first time Irish governments have sought to weaken such restraints:
* Cumann na nGaedhael undermined their own 1922 Constitution of the Irish Free State by serial amendments, including tampering with the mechanism for amending the Constitution so as to facilitate further amendment.
* Fianna Fail abolished the Free State Senate in 1936, only to reinstate a second chamber in the 1937 Constitution.
* Fianna Fail attempted to abolish Proportional Representation (PR) in 1959, and the proposal was defeated precisely because it was seen as a grab for power.
* A second referendum on PR, and another to vary the ratio of TDs to population, were both heavily defeated in 1968.
The present proposal to abolish the Seanad must be resisted in the interests of preserving some semblance of democratic accountability in this country.
Felix M Larkin
Address with editor
Irish Independent


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