Hospital

21 June 2013 Hospital

Off around the park listening to the Navy Lark, Captain Povey has a cold and Lt Murray take hove with no work to do he is bored. Troutbridge sinks the yacht she wan meant to be rescuing and gets stuck on a sandbank. Priceless.
Another quiet day We go to the hospital for Mary’s check up all seems well.
We watch The Pallaisers the daughter involved with some dodgy character
Mary wins at scrabble and gets over 400 perhaps I can have my revenge tomorrow.

Obituary:

Yvonne Brill
Yvonne Brill, who has died aged 88, invented the electrothermal hydrazine thruster (EHT), also known as the hydrazine resistojet engine, a device which keeps unmanned spacecraft in stationary orbit.

Yvonne Brill being awarded the National Medal of Technology by President Obama in 2011 Photo: GETTY IMAGES
6:59PM BST 19 Jun 2013
Liquid hydrazine, a highly volatile combination of nitrogen and hydrogen which produces heat as it breaks down, was first used as a rocket propellant by German scientists during the Second World War. Later it became one of the main propellants used in the Mercury and Apollo space programmes.
In 1967, working with RCA Astro Electronics, Yvonne Brill discovered that if hydrazine’s decomposition products were themselves electrically heated before discharge, the result was 30 per cent greater fuel efficiency. She reasoned that since rockets can only carry a limited amount of weight into orbit, reducing the weight of fuel would allow scientists to add more equipment in its place, cutting costs and extending the useful life of the spacecraft.
It was not until 1983 that Yvonne Brill’s EHT was tested in flight. But the device is now fitted as standard in modern communications satellites.
Yvonne Brill campaigned for women scientists to be given greater recognition, though the recognition she was herself accorded posthumously in the New York Times ruffled a few feminist feathers.
In a rare lapse of political correctness, the newspaper’s obituary began with the revelation that Yvonne Brill “made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children”, before moving on to her more noteworthy facility for keeping satellites in orbit. The article prompted an outcry from more sensitive readers .
The New York Times hastily amended its piece, though whether Yvonne Brill herself would have taken exception remains a moot point. She herself admitted that it had not been easy juggling the job of rocket scientist with family life and she would probably have glowed with pride at her son Matthew’s description of her as “the world’s best mom”.
The youngest of three children of Belgian immigrants to Canada, Yvonne Madelaine Claeys was born on December 30 1924 near Winnipeg, Manitoba. Her father was a carpenter.
At school she became interested in engineering, but when she applied to study the subject at the University of Manitoba, she was told that applicants were required to go on a special summer camp before entry and, as there was no separate accommodation for women, she could not attend.
After taking a degree in Mathematics in 1945, Yvonne took a job with the Douglas Aircraft Company in Los Angeles, working on rocket trajectory calculations. She became involved in translating captured German literature on rocket technology and in 1947 helped design a prototype satellite for the US Air Force . The venture became Project Rand and the beginning of the Rand Corporation, America’s first think tank.
By this time Yvonne had become interested in rocket propellants. She enrolled in evening classes in Chemistry at the University of Southern California, taking a Master’s degree in the subject in 1951. While attending a lecture by Linus Pauling, she met her future husband, William Brill, who was doing postdoctoral research in chemistry.
Soon after their marriage in 1951 Yvonne Brill was faced with a dilemma. While opportunities in rocket science lay largely on the West Coast, her husband’s career opportunities lay on the East Coast. She decided to follow her husband, reasoning that “good jobs are easier to find than good husbands”. They eventually settled near Princeton.
There, in the late 1950s, she left full-time work to bring up their three children, later confessing that at times she had felt “very put upon”. She returned to work full-time in 1966 when she joined RCA Astro Electronics, based in New Jersey.
As well as her work with RCA Astro, Yvonne Brill spent time at Nasa Headquarters in Washington, DC, as director of the space shuttle’s solid rocket motor program, and worked for the International Maritime Satellite Organisation (INMARSAT) in London from 1986 until her retirement in 1991.
Among many honours, she was elected to the US National Academy of Engineering and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2010.
When, in 1980, she won the Harpers Bazaar Diamond Superwoman award for women aged over 40 who had returned to successful careers after starting a family, she had some wise advice for women making their way in the macho world of science: “You just have to be cheerful about it and not get upset when you get insulted. ”
Yvonne Brill’s husband died in 2010. She is survived by their daughter and two sons.
Yvonne Brill, born December 30 1924, died March 27 2013

Guardian:

Polly Toynbee suggests that Britain should follow the example of the US and introduce citizenship-based taxation (Forget the excuses, here’s how Britain can tax the rich, 18 June). This is not the panacea she imagines. The US Internal Revenue Service allows every overseas American an exemption on income earned (and taxed) outside the US. This is currently $95,100 (about £63,000), so the majority of expat Americans never pay any tax to the US government.
Moreover, citizenship-based taxation has a darker side. In 2010, Congress passed the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, which demands, on the pretext of identifying tax evaders, that foreign financial institutions must provide the US government with details of bank accounts held by expat US citizens. This is an extraordinary attempt to impose US law outside the territory of the US, and raises serious concerns over privacy, notably for expat Americans who hold joint accounts with non-US spouses.
Dr David Harper
Cambridge
• Some 60% of UK business is created by small and medium enterprises paying standard rates of corporation and other taxes. Large corporations avoiding corporation tax compete unfairly in the market, and it’s interesting that the leaders of these multinationals, so wedded to capitalist ethics, are quite so happy to exploit the system to create an unlevel playing field. If multinational coffee shops disappeared tomorrow their place would hopefully be taken by small independents paying standard rates of tax and offering a better, more diverse product to boot. The achilles heel of the capitalist system is monopoly, and we’re now reaping the rewards of unfettered profiteering and ineffective regulation. A mixed economy is the only way forward, and effective regulation the keystone to this effectiveness. As for a moral code among multinational chief executives? Perhaps it’s a lost cause, with them having grown up in the “all for one” philosophies promoted over the last 30 years by government and business.
Nigel Neill
Upton, Somerset

It seems to me that Thomas Heatherwick (How London’s Olympic cauldron fanned the flames of fury, 20 June) isn’t the only designer/artist whose work seems to echo earlier designs. How about Anish Kapoor’s massive Olympic tower, which surely owes a debt to Vladimir Tatlin (1885-1953)?
John Lilley
Brighton
• I note the increasing description of business practice and policies as “transparent”. Whatever happened to words such as “fair” and “honest”? Or do they think we might see through them?
Rev Peter Phillips
Swansea
• Neil Denby has a point (Letters, 20 June). My father, a factory nightworker, used to get up after four hours’ sleep to watch Royal Ascot on the television. He always had a cheery wave for the throng of toffs to whom he referred with heavy irony as “my fellow nightworkers”.
Keith Graham
Bristol
• If any one wants to know where all the slugs are (Letters, 18 June), just try growing lupins.
Chris Coghill
Oxford
• Perhaps Warwickshire’s gastropods have migrated to Cambridgeshire. My seedlings have been plagued (cliche alert) by curious incidents of slugs in the night-time.
Margaret Waddy
Cambridge
• Surely the caption (Eyewitness, 20 June) should read Angela Merkel and her husband, Joachim Sauer, or perhaps Michelle Obama and her husband, Barack.
John Petrie
Leeds
• What beautiful irony in the quick crossword (19 June). Seven down: “Clean US water” (anag). Solution: nuclear waste.
Marion McNaughton
Lymm, Cheshire
• As a famous ad agency (Report, G2, 19 June) might have put it: marriage isn’t working.
Malcolm Rivers
Isleworth, Middlesex

Underneath the macro-economic austerity plans of the Treasury, and the analysis of the IFS (Editorial, 18 June), there is powerful evidence that poverty-linked debt and misery are costing the taxpayer billions. During the passage of the Welfare Reform Act 2012, a seminar was organised to which Lord Ramsbotham invited Lord Freud. He was made aware of the link between debt and mental illness by representatives of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. The DWP then proceeded to ignore the substantial evidence that caps, cuts and council tax inevitably create rent and council tax arrears, utility debts, hardship and misery, damaging the health of families and the education of children. The TUC estimated in 2007 that reducing poverty could save the taxpayer £40bn a year from the health and education budgets, and increase GDP. The cost of mental illness to the NHS/social services, employers and patients was £105bn in 2010 according to the Centre for Mental Health. The rate of low birth weight is high in deprived areas of the UK at great cost to maternity units. Maternal nutrition cannot be improved by food banks. The turmoil of rent and council tax arrears, evictions and bailiffs now hitting the poorest citizens can only increase those costs.
Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty
• I’m sorry the Guardian has fallen for the government’s divide and rule strategy – in this case designed to divide generations. As in other such examples of schism, a group (here, an older remnant of an earlier generation) previously renowned for its relative poverty is attacked and dubbed as “rich” because it no longer suffers from relative poverty. But when they were younger, few of the oldest generation went to university, few ever owned their own homes, central heating and even refrigerators were rare when they were in the prime of life, and people died at younger ages. One possible advantage the older generations had over those now young was that successive cohorts each had a higher standard of living than the previous one. Even so, none did as well as those who were in the‑prime of life in about 2006. More importantly, however, older generations had the great advantage that they were in the prime of life when the lesser wealth of the country was more equally shared than today among its citizens.
Margaret R Bone
Langford, Somerset
• New evidence that young people are less likely to support welfare spending than older generations (Report, 19 July) sounds like bad news for an inclusive welfare state. The analysis is based on answers to questions asked every year in repeated attitude surveys stretching back 40 years. These questions have to make sense across the whole period. It is difficult to take account of the way people’s lives have changed. Escalating inequality, the end of a job for life, the tightening link between qualifications and decent employment, the pressures to get good-quality affordable childcare, the rising costs of housing – all these factors are new social risks that face younger people now in a way they didn’t in the 70s. The generational analysis doesn’t tell us what people think on these issues. This is a real opportunity for Labour to show leadership on jobs, childcare, housing, decent schooling: things that really matter in people’s lives.
Peter Taylor-Gooby
Canterbury, Kent

I read with dismay the announcement from the Met Office meeting that the UK could be in the middle of a cycle of wet summers which could last 10-20 years (Rain, rain won’t go away, 19 June). My dismay is because the Met Office has failed to acknowledge the likely strong influence of the loss of Arctic sea ice on northern hemisphere weather through rapid warming of the Arctic and disruption of jet stream behaviour. 
As the chairman of the Arctic Methane Emergency Group, I presented this case to the environmental audit committee’s inquiry in early 2012. At first the Met Office rejected our case on the grounds that its models predicted that the sea ice would last for decades. But then we had confirmation of the thinning ice from Cryosat-2 and we had the record sea ice minimum in September 2012. The implications are that the Arctic will continue warming, but even more rapidly. This will further decrease the temperature gradient between the tropics and the Arctic – the gradient which drives the jet stream. So the jet stream will meander even more and get stuck with even greater regularity, bringing weird weather across much of the northern hemisphere, including long spells of wet or dry weather.
Hence, we are not in a cycle of wet summers at all, but in a downward spiral of ever-longer spells of “stuck” weather. How and where the weather will be stuck will not be easily predicted by climate models. Cooling the Arctic is now going to be extremely difficult – yet not impossible with a determined and international effort. It has to be done, in order to save the sea ice and protect the future of agriculture in northern climes.
John Nissen
Chair, Arctic Methane Emergency Group
• The incredible advance in space science and recent super-computer modelling informs us that the significant new factor in the chaotic history of Earth’s weather lies in the probability that chucking the highest volume of widely measured man-made carbon deposits and particulates into the air and oceans is the prime cause of recorded global warming. Modern denialists, for whatever vested or threatened reason, underplay this overriding scientific enlightenment. They still rely on reading the tea-leaf messages in the bottom of the cup.
Dr John Comerford
Horsham, West Sussex
• Richard Mabey’s exhortations for us to embrace our increasingly miserable weather (Comment, 19 June) make a lot of sense, except for those of us who rely upon the weather for things like food – in other words, everyone. The spectre of food shortage has been diminished by modern global trade, at least for wealthy countries, but with the UK now importing wheat as a result of last year’s weather and completely reliant on imports for most other foods, it’s worth reflecting on the wisdom of surrendering control of our food security. There’s much that’s wrong with contemporary agriculture, but the issues go much deeper than monoculture farmers “pleading for support”. The weather isn’t just an incidental backdrop to real life, and we could well come to regret our insouciant neglect of agriculture and the weather-dependent realities of food production in favour of dogmatic free-trade ideologies.
Chris Smaje
Frome, Somerset
• In 1816 there was no summer in most of Europe, crops failed and folk sought solace in America. Meanwhile, in Germany, there were no oats for the horses. It’s not beyond belief that this – as some rightly claim – led to the development of the bicycle.
Nick Reeves
Executive director, Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management
• I wonder where the myth started that before this 10-year period we had brilliant summers? “Britannia is a rainy region, the sun continually obscured by dark menacing clouds.” Tacitus: Life of Agricola – 74 AD.
Ivan Ruggeri
London
• May I remind all those complaining, and writing, about the weather in England that there are two other countries in Britain. Scotland, has had excellent weather since the beginning of the second last week in May.
Paul Gunnion
Kirkintilloch, East Dunbartonshire

I note that there is now a police investigation into the cover-up of serious failings at my local NHS trust: The Universities of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust (Police asked to investigate CQC ‘cover-up’, 20 June). Under the last government, regulators were prevented from doing their job because of an obsession with spin and positive headlines. This is why we have so many scandals across the NHS – in Morecambe Bay, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells, Stoke Mandeville, Basildon and Stafford.
In Wednesday’s parliamentary statement, Jeremy Hunt apologised on behalf of his department and the NHS, but Andy Burnham fell silent. This is particularly shocking as he was in charge at the time this culture of secrecy took hold. Indeed, Labour refused 81 separate requests to investigate what was going on at Mid Staffs. This must be a lesson to Burnham: the cover-ups, spin and secrecy culture have done real damage to our NHS.
David Morris MP
Conservative, Morecambe and Lunesdale

Many people would prioritise spending on health or education, on infrastructure, job creation or supporting the vulnerable rather than on replacing Britain’s Trident nuclear weapons. Others would argue that spending over £100bn on a cold war weapons system – rather than maintaining our troops or combating cyber warfare – is detrimental to the national interest. Many of us see that there is no strategic, economic or moral case for nuclear weapons, but others who think otherwise. It remains a controversial debate (Cheers in the sun as Obama promises nuclear cuts, 20 June). A decision on the replacement of Trident is due to be taken in 2016. If the Labour party is to form the next government, now is the time to debate it, in an open fashion, to arrive at an informed policy – leaving aside past prejudices – in Britain’s best interests. For Labour to regain trust in its ability to govern openly and transparently, it must show it is confident enough in its own processes to have it. This year’s Labour party conference is the time to debate this crucial issue.
Nick Brown MP Newcastle East
Martin Caton MP Gower
Katy Clark MP North Ayrshire and Arran
Michael Connarty MP Linlithgow and Falkirk East
Jeremy Corbyn MP Islington North
Paul Flynn MP Newport West
Sheila Gilmore MP Edinburgh South
Fabian Hamilton MP Leeds North East
Kelvin Hopkins MP Luton North
John McDonnell MP Hayes and Harlington
Michael Meacher MP Oldham West and Royton
Joan Walley MP Stoke-on-Trent North
Claudia Beamish MSP South Scotland
Neil Findlay MSP Lothian
Christine Chapman AM Cynon Valley
Jenny Rathbone AM Cardiff Central
Julie Morgan AM Cardiff North
Julie James AM Swansea West
Baroness Ruth Lister
Clive Lewis PPC Norwich South
Nancy Platts PPC Brighton Kemptown and Peacehaven
Lisa Forbes PPC Peterborough
Ann Black NEC
Lucy Anderson London NPF rep
Nick Davies Wales NPF rep
Ruth Davies Yorkshire and Humber NPF rep
Annabelle Harle Wales NPF rep
Jenny Holland East of England NPF rep
Chris Hughes North West NPF rep
Sally Hussain London NPF rep
George McManus Yorkshire and Humber NPF rep
Doug Naysmith South West NPF rep
Alice Perry London NPF rep
Nicholas Russell Labour Disabled Members Group NPF rep
Lorna Trollope Eastern Region NPF rep
Darren Williams Wales NPF rep

Independent:

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What is developing in the Middle East is terrifying. For the global and regional powers to pour fuel on the fire in Syria is madness. If this continues, there will be no way to contain the conflict. Already the humanitarian crisis is out of control.
On a visit to Palestine recently, a leader of the Fatah youth wing told me that the whole situation was blocked and that the only hope for them was a “game-changing” event. Those are words of desperation.
A senior professor at Damascus University is a close friend. I have been calling him most weeks since the conflict began. I could hear the shells and gunfire in the background when I phoned a week ago. His message to the world since the beginning of the conflict has been: “Stop the killing!” The more killing takes place, the more hatred is sown, and the more difficult it will be to rebuild.
In an email he laid out the process he believes ought to take place: “An enforced stop of the bloodshed, a timetable for a transitional period supervised by the UN, a new constitution, and then a new election for both the President and Legislative Council.”
The key is the relationships among the permanent members of the UN Security Council. They have a responsibility to the whole world to rise above their individual interests and take steps to mediate in conflicts, not exacerbate them. The victims of those broken relationships are ordinary people.
When relationships in the highest council in the world are blocked, some nation or individual must play the role of mediator. Could the UK play that role? We would need to rise above our own frustrations and be willing to risk our relationship with our closest partner, the US. But who else is in a position to do it?
Peter Riddell, Convenor, Agenda for Reconciliation, Initiatives of Change, Oxford
 
David Cameron did the right thing in Libya and is trying to do the right thing in Syria to prevent further bloodshed. The right thing is not to take sides but to seek a UN-ratified resolution akin to the one that paved the way for the liberation of Libya.
A no-fly zone worked in Libya and, even now, could still work to quell the violence in Syria. The key to resolving the Syrian civil war will not be to repeat the mistakes of Iraq by going it alone, but to find a way forward that even Russia will accept.
Anthony Rodriguez, Staines, Surrey
 
Prison is too good for reckless bankers
What a silly idea to send mismanaging bankers to jail. It would cost thousands to keep them there. Why not give them community service orders and send them to estates where the average yearly wage is about the same as they “earn” in a day?
Vivien Berkley, Hemyock, Devon
 
How brazen and hard-faced can these bankers get?
In an era which is seeing the deepest cuts ever to our welfare state, at a time when disabled people are being thrown off benefits by the Government-appointed executioner, ATOS Healthcare, when workers’ wages have fallen in real terms by 15 per cent over the past five years, people in the City of London award themselves a 64 per cent increase in their bonuses for nothing.
To cap this, George Osborne is contemplating selling off the state-owned banks at a gargantuan loss to the public.
Much of the recession that we are suffering has been caused by the bankers’ refusal to lend to small businesses. Osborne had the power through the state-controlled banks to lend to small business, but the reason this didn’t happen was that it would have undermined the private banks, such as Barclays, as people changed banks.
The banks were never nationalised for the public good but to prop up the whole rotten system. 
Mark Holt, Waterloo, Merseyside
 
George Osborne is apparently to consider prison sentences for bankers who have indulged in “reckless misconduct in the management of a bank”. Could I suggest this be extended to Chancellors for “reckless misconduct in the management of the economy”?
Brian Harvey, Great Shelford, Cambridge
 
How to stretch bright children
As a teacher, I can say that for once Michael Wilshaw is right. Bright children are not being stretched in non-selective secondary schools. It is not, however, about a culture of low expectation, it is about the difficulties of teaching mixed-ability groups. 
“Differentiation” is the term used to mean that teachers are supposed to plan and teach more than one lesson simultaneously to reach all ability groups in the class. In practice, this can’t really happen in any meaningful way.
Secondary schools do not need to be selective, but they do need to be rigorously streamed, and teachers should be timetabled to teach the different streams exclusively, so they can focus on the abilities and needs of the particular stream they are teaching. This could rotate each year so teachers don’t get stuck in one mode.
Children could be moved across the streams throughout secondary school rather than just having a single shot at it, as with the 11-plus.
Another major problem in this country is that all children enter the education system in their fifth year of life and then leave 12 (or 13 or 14) years later with no regard paid to whether they should be moving faster or more slowly through the system. Children should not be allowed to leave one key stage to move on to the next without having passed that key stage.
Just letting them stay on the conveyor belt stores problems for the future and means that children who have lost their grip on what they are expected to achieve behave disruptively and drag down their classmates.
It’s not about a culture of low expectation, it’s the fact that a group will always travel at the pace of the slowest member.
Frances Lothian, Ludlow, Shropshire
 
Scientific study of illegal drugs
Your headline “The worst case of scientific censorship since the Catholic Church banned the works of Galileo: Scientists call for drugs to be legalised to allow proper study of their properties” (12 June) gave entirely the wrong impression of our position.
The current research uses the chemical in magic mushrooms, which is an illicit drug. However this research is legal, publicly funded through the Medical Research Council, and licensed by the Secretary of State. Sadly, very few researchers are this lucky.
We have never called for all drugs to be legalised, and to do so for our own convenience to study them sounds like the idea of a mad scientist stereotype. What our paper calls for is for the regulations on the scientific study of currently illegal drugs to be reformed so that the scientific community can more freely study them, without increasing the threat of diversion into the illegal markets.
David Nutt, Les King, David Nicholls, London SW8
 
Speeding drivers can just wait
If I drive at 70mph for extended periods in the middle lane of a motorway, a practice deprecated by some of your correspondents, I am inconveniencing nobody except law-breakers. If, on the other hand, I move to the left-hand lane as soon as is reasonably possible, I face a very real risk of being inconvenienced by law-breakers, forced to slow down because I cannot pull out due to their coming past or approaching me at illegal speeds in the middle lane.
Additionally, in the middle lane I potentially have two places to go when a driver who overtakes me pulls in front of me before he is 70 yards ahead (sadly an extremely common occurrence). 
When traffic is genuinely light or when I am driving at less than 70mph I do move to the left, but otherwise I often do not. I’m not being holier than thou – I couldn’t claim to have never exceeded the speed limit myself, nor am I on a campaign to try to prevent other drivers from speeding. It is simply that I fail to see why I should suffer inconvenience, delay and possible increased danger in order to accommodate people who are breaking the law.
Mike Perry , Ickenham, Middlesex
 
Obama is a ‘no we can’t’ leader
Your article on Guantanamo (19 June) demonstrated two things: first, that the “special relationship” is, in fact, a one-way street, with the UK Government powerless to get the release of Shaker Aamer, a UK resident, unlawfully incarcerated for over 10 years.
Second, it shows that Mr Obama is not a “yes we can” President but a “no we can’t” leader. Why does  he need to appoint a lawyer to engineer releases when it is manifestly within his gift to close this torture prison immediately?
Jack McKenna, Southport, Lancashire
 
Unforgettable power of Bacall
The pieces by James Graham and Paul Taylor on Tennessee Williams’ play Sweet Bird of Youth (12 and 13 June) were excellent, but neither mentioned the iconic production at the Haymarket in 1985 which starred the then 60-plus Lauren Bacall as the ageing diva having a desperate last fling with a handsome young man.
Bacall’s presence was extraordinary: her charisma knocked them for six and made sense of the young man’s self-destructive passion. I doubt if the Haymarket had felt such reverberations through all its gilded history.
Jane Jakeman, Oxford
 
Republican myth
Richard Fagence (letter, 19 June) equates being a democracy with being a republic, arguing that it would be nice for a British child born in 2013 to become an elected head of state. This nice idea is not reflected in reality. To take France and the US as examples, republics are no less prone to the creation of a ruling class than monarchies.
Gareth Wood, Shevington, Wigan
 
Uniformly scruffy
Roy Evans (letter, 20 June) comments on the scruffy appearance of the G8 leaders in their group photograph. Absolutely, but by all going without ties, they showed there was one thing on which they could agree.
Gyles Cooper, London N10
 
Double take
Is it just me or has anyone else been struck by the resemblance of Michael Gove to the actor Rick Moranis. Perhaps when Mr Gove writes his autobiography he might be persuaded to call it Honey, I Shrunk the Curriculum.
Graeme Massey, Stamford, Lincolnshire

Times:

‘It is wrong to claim that replacing coal with wood is bad for the climate, health and our pockets’
Sir, I do hope that Matt Ridley applies some consistency when his next Opinion piece on woodburning appears (“It’s a bio-mess. Burning wood is a disaster”, June 20).
All fuels incur energy use in their acquisition and delivery to the UK. Natural gas is shipped 7,000 miles from Qatar. Uranium undergoes five extremely energy-intensive processes before it is available as a fuel. Fuel wood has low energy requirements by comparison.
Pollution from power stations is extremely stringently regulated. It is risible to make comparisons with domestic woodstoves.
The carbon balance for wood combustion is dependent on timescale; typically 30 years in Scandinavia, where it has played a major part in their power station fuel mix for many years.
Naturally, replacement planting takes place. Wood is a renewable resource which should be developed further to assist carbon sequestration.
Professor Andrew Porteous
Wellingborough, Northants
Sir, The Government-funded Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), not Rural Heat Incentive as Matt Ridley calls it, is intended to encourage the uptake of suitably efficient wood heating systems. The RHI is not restricted to rural areas rather than cities, as he states. These heating systems are so clean that they can even be used in urban smoke-free zones.
In response to the RHI, I have installed a biomass heating system and district heat supply that provides heat to five properties in my village, completely replacing the use of a total of 20,000 litres of oil. I burn woodchip that is produced from the natural good management practice of woodlands on my own farm, on neighbouring farms and from tree surgery. My high-technology biomass boiler converts wood to heat with an efficiency equal to a modern gas boiler and this process is genuinely carbon-neutral.
This is one of many examples of beneficial biomass energy practice that, compared with gas and oil, are good for the climate, good for energy security, good for import-saving, not detrimental to health, good for wildlife and good for the economy.
Richard Harvey
Owston, Rutland
Sir, Matt Ridley is wrong to claim that replacing coal with wood is bad for the climate, health and our pockets. Drax has converted one of its six units to burn sustainable biomass already and we have plans to convert two more. We carefully measure carbon emissions for the biomass we burn over the full life cycle, that is, from forest to furnace, meaning that emissions from harvesting, processing and transport are all accounted for. We also have a robust sustainability policy which ensures that the wood pellets we buy are sustainable, so we know the forests we take residues and thinnings from are net absorbers of carbon.
Contrary to the assertions he makes, the actual data is astonishingly impressive: the average greenhouse gas saving over the full life cycle resulting from burning sustainable biomass in place of coal is more than 80 per cent. Once three of Drax’s units are converted we will halve our carbon footprint on today’s levels. That means the UK’s largest single emitter of carbon will be one of the world’s largest renewable electricity generators, providing low carbon, cost-effective and reliable renewable power. We will be able to keep the lights on when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun isn’t shining — the only renewable that can do so at scale.
Dorothy Thompson
Chief Executive, Drax Power Station

‘Mutuals have also been demonstrated to be innovative, profitable and more resilient to changes in the economic climate than conventional firms’
Sir, Your leading article concerning mutuals (June 18) contained a number of misconceptions concerning their economic and social performance. What is happening with the Co-operative Bank is not representative of the experience of mutuals elsewhere.
Reviews undertaken by the Mutuals Taskforce of the relative performance of employee-owned mutuals and conventional private sector firms found that mutuals, as well as delivering higher customer and worker satisfaction, generally have lower production costs and higher productivity. Mutuals have also been demonstrated to be innovative, profitable and more resilient to changes in the economic climate than conventional firms. And, contrary to the predictions of the theory of the labour-managed firm referred to in your editorial, they do not shed jobs as prices (and profits) rise, but actually increase them.
There is also evidence concerning the growing number of public-service mutuals: employee-led organisations that have been spun out of the UK public sector but continue to deliver public services. They seem to be providing similar benefits to those generated by mutuals operating in other sectors of the economy, such as John Lewis, including higher user satisfaction, lower sickness and absence rates and lower staff turnover.
Nobody is arguing that mutuals should take over the entire economy. But that they could play a larger role than they do, and that the private and public sectors would be better off if they did, is incontrovertible.
Julian Le Grand, Chair, Mutuals Taskforce
Richard Titmuss, Professor of Social Policy, LSE

The claim that there is furniture in Rotherhithe made from the Fighting Temeraire might set off a flood of similar stories
Sir, Not for a minute do I doubt the claim by Chris Vellenoweth (letter, June 20) that in St Mary’s Rotherhithe are two chairs and a table made from the timbers of The Fighting Temeraire.
I just hope that it does not trigger a wave of similar claims, adding up to more wood than can possibly have derived from one ship.
Peter Soul
Earley, Berks

There are many reasons why inflation rates rise, but the increase in air fares, particularly in half term, has played its part
Sir, A major contributory factor to the “surprise” increase in the rate of inflation in May was an increase in air fares (report, June 19).
Those of us with little alternative but to travel during half-term can confirm this. Many airlines increased their fares to popular destinations by up to 100 per cent during the school break.
John Vane
Horsell, Surrey

While introducing one’s children to alcohol gradually is legal, doing the same thing with cannabis is not and should not be encouraged
Sir, Dr Rich Braithwaite’s comments (letter, June 19) are puzzling. He asks why parents shouldn’t gradually introduce their offspring to cannabis. Possession of cannabis is illegal; I would not expect a doctor to encourage criminality. Recent studies have shown that from initial use of cannabis to the onset of psychosis is about eight years. So no, he is not likely to encounter “severe psychiatric disturbance” from a cannabis user at a music festival. It takes a bit longer for that to happen.
Nigel Price
Cardiff

Telegraph:

SIR – Almost all the trees I see when driving around, be it in farmland, in hedges or in open countryside, are covered with ivy. Yet, common ivy, which is spreading rapidly, may be the biggest, curable tree disease of our time.
Ivy is not a parasitic plant, but it does out-compete its hosts for light and water, eventually smothering them. The trees are left top-heavy and vulnerable to winter gales. It does not make a difference to ivy whether the tree is healthy or not, it climbs everything, if left unchecked.
Americans, Australians and New Zealanders already recognise ivy as a problem and have established ivy control groups. I am looking into the possibility of forming a group of volunteers, working with council and landowners to control ivy infestation in Britain.
It is easier to cut a few stems of ivy than to deal with the many consequences of losing mature trees, not only from a landscape point of view, but also with regard to the ecological, climatic and economic balance of our countryside.
Bianca-Sophie Ebeling
Barnard Castle, Co Durham
SIR – Prof Tom Burkard (Letters, June 18), noting the many excellent but “unqualified” teachers in our fee-paying independent schools, is right to point out the irrationality inherent in the shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg’s promise to remove unqualified teachers from free schools and academies.
Of course, within the independent sector most of the teachers “without qualifications” lack only a postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE); typically they do possess degrees in the subjects they teach. Sadly rather too many “qualified” teachers in the state-maintained sector do not possess appropriate degree-level academic qualifications.
It is time for a complete rethink on teacher training. All new entrants to the profession should be apprentices guided by other skilled, experienced teachers at the “chalk face” itself. Those in specialist teacher-training institutions currently providing PGCE courses might then refocus their expertise upon support for those wishing to take genuinely academic postgraduate degrees in education. These institutions could also offer short, intensive assessment programmes for those interested in becoming teachers.
Dr Christopher Ray
High Master
The Manchester Grammar School
SIR – Maybe unqualified teachers do well at independent schools because class sizes average half of those in state schools, facilities are better and more of the pupils have English-speaking parents.
Related Articles
Time to tackle ivy infestations that strangle trees
20 Jun 2013
Sheila R Sellar
Crawley, West Sussex
SIR – I was at a state school (County Grammar School for Boys, Lewes) from 1960 to 1967. As I recall, the majority of the staff were “unqualified”, although all had good degrees from good universities, many of them having come straight from graduation into their teaching posts. During that time the school had one of the best records for Oxbridge entry.
John Franklin
London N1
SIR – Prof Burkard supports the idea of unqualified teachers in free schools and academies. Does he really think that teaching is so unimportant that anyone can do it without training? What an insult to the thousands of people who spent up to four years studying to become teachers, and to those currently studying.
Patricia Cade
Hooton, Cheshire
SIR – I rather doubt that Stephen Twigg will apply his rigorous standards to himself by not accepting the post of education secretary in the event of a Labour government being formed, on the grounds that he has no qualifications in education, let alone any experience as a teacher.
Alex Welby
Cambridge
EU trade with America
SIR – Kenneth Clarke (Comment, June 18) misleads your readers when he claims that only with the help of the mooted EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership can Britain hope to “open up” North Atlantic trade.
In reality, North Atlantic markets are already very open to the whole world: weighted average American non-agricultural tariffs are just 2 per cent, while Canada’s are only 2.2 per cent. Even in the difficult economic period of 2008-12, British exports of finished manufactured goods to America increased from £16.4 billion to £21.3 billion, an annual growth rate of 5.4 per cent, whereas British exports of finished manufactured goods to the rest of the EU declined from £58.2 billion to £57.6 billion.
Huge problems will lie ahead once detailed negotiations start. The profound incompatibility between EU-style and American-style rules of origin is certain to cause major problems. Non-tariff barriers are notoriously difficult to address within the framework of free trade agreements.
Agreement at federal level will not enable either the EU or America to force their member states to open up their service markets to any greater extent than would have happened anyhow, which so far has been limited, in the case of the EU’s Single Market.
Mr Clarke greatly over-hypes the potential benefits to Britain of a new trade deal between the EU and America. If it ever happens, it would be only thin icing on the already rich cake of the World Trade Organisation’s multilateral trading system which, despite the stalling of the Doha round, is vastly better than anything the world has ever seen before.
Ronald Stewart-Brown
Trade Policy Research Centre
London SW1
SIR – Twenty-five years ago, Kenneth Clarke was passionately urging us to join the Exchange Rate Mechanism. We did and it was just an unmitigated disaster. Twelve years back, he was convinced our best course was to join the euro. Had we done so it would have been another catastrophe.
Mr Clarke is an interesting gentleman, having spent much of a long ministerial career being spectacularly wrong.
Frederick Forsyth
Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire
Pornographic images
SIR – Your report (June 18) on the response of Mumsnet and others to legislation concerning rape images suggests that a “porn loophole ‘gives animals more rights than women’ ”. However, neither animals nor corpses can expressly consent to being depicted as having sex; women over the age of 18 can consent to being depicted in rape scenarios. That is the reason why there is a law banning the possession of images of the former, but not the latter. In this regard, the law recognises explicitly that women have more rights than animals.
There is no “loophole”. Mumsnet is worried not about women’s rights, but about the consequences that viewing such images can have.
Dr Rufus Duits
London N1
Fruitful endeavour
SIR – Has anyone tried to “hull” a strawberry recently using only their fingers? In the past you could tug gently on the stalk, and the calyx would come free from the berry.
Now you have to hack away with a sharp knife, resulting in the loss of much of the fruit. Are new varieties to blame or is the fruit being sold under ripe?
Alex Smith
Orford, Suffolk
Benefits spending
SIR – Your report on benefits (“Revealed: how much you pay towards benefits bill”, June 8) reinforces the Government’s misleading narrative that most welfare spending is on “shirkers”. Applying Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) methodology to the data gives a more accurate picture of taxpayers’ contribution.
Someone earning £15,000 a year over 43 years will pay £30,905.39 towards welfare. The main contribution (42.3 per cent) is for the elderly – £13,072.98 will be for the basic state pension.
The next biggest contribution (20.8 per cent) is for working people on low pay. Most children and working-age adults in poverty live in working households.
The third highest (18.41 per cent) is for families with children. Child tax credits are nearly two thirds of the £5,689.68 contribution. Tax credits helped lift a million children out of poverty from 2002 to 2012 but the IFS estimates 1.1 million more children will be living in poverty by 2020 because of benefits and tax changes.
Only £794.27 will be spent on benefits for unemployed people, and, in spite of the employment rate being lower than 2008, less than 10 per cent of Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants claim for over a year.
Reforms should look at all the evidence.

Debbie Abrahams MP (Lab)
London SW1
Distinguishing honours
SIR – It is always a delight to troll through the honours lists, but I continue to be dismayed over the unevenness with which CBEs, OBEs and MBEs are distributed.
In the world of music, Jonathan Reekie of the Aldeburgh Festival rates a CBE while John Gilhooly of Wigmore Hall only an OBE; in drama and comedy, Rowan Atkinson a CBE while Rob Brydon only an MBE. Is it not time to stop making these unjustified and unwarranted distinctions?
David Atterbury Thomas
London SE3
Sole searching
SIR – What is it with women and shoes? Faced with moving house for the third time in a year, I was dismayed to discover a chest full of women’s shoes still unpacked from the previous move. They were clearly not needed but, when challenged, my wife and daughter insisted that they were.
So, to prove a point, I buried them behind the shed. Since then, guess what? Not a peep.
Anton Gibbs
Rugby, Warwickshire
Stephen Ward’s dealings with the Foreign Office
SIR – Michael Ward’s loyalty to his uncle, Stephen Ward, does him great credit (Letters, June 17).
However, in his authorised history of MI5, The Defence of the Realm (2009), Professor Christopher Andrew quotes a confidential MI5 report which states that Ward “assisted the Foreign Office by passing official reports to Ivanov”, adding that a senior Foreign Office security official confirmed that “suitably tailored FO material had been channelled to Ivanov via Ward” with the personal approval of the then foreign secretary, Lord Home. MI5 strongly disapproved of this covert operation by the Foreign Office, since Ward lacked all discretion.
At one point the Security Service recorded him as boasting that “Eugene [Ivanov] also met Jack Profumo with me socially and on another occasion he met Princess Margaret. He admired her lovely hair, and she was furious when he pretended he did not think it was her real colouring”.
Lord Lexden
London SW1
SIR – Much has changed since the Stephen Ward trial, both socially and in law. Mr Justice Marshall, my cousin, had a problem in that much of the evidence was inadmissible, either because it was too pornographic for the times, or was covered by the Official Secrets Act.
He was in no doubt that Christine Keeler had had an affair with Captain Ivanov, and that the evidence she had given was true. His direction of the jury was correct, bearing in mind the background evidence.
John Marshall
Horsington, Lincolnshire

Irish Times:
Sir, – We know now that Savita Halappanavar died because of clinical failure in hospital. The Dáil is now debating legislation which will ensure that a tiny cohort of women in Ireland will be given the right to terminate a pregnancy which threatens her life. We, the undersigned founder members of the Irishwomen’s Liberation Movement , who helped organise the contraceptive train to Belfast in 1971, expect the Dáil to do its duty by these women. Political failure is not an option when a pregnant woman’s life is at risk. – Yours, etc,
MAIRIN de BURCA,
MAIRIN JOHNSTON,
MARIE Mac MAHON &
NELL Mc CAFFERTY,
C/o Rugby Road,
Dublin 6.
Sir, – David Costello (June 20th) takes Stephen Collins (Opinion, June 15th) to task for erroneously attributing the quote “I am an Irishman second,I am a Catholic first, and I accept without qualification in all respects the teaching of the hierarchy and the church to which I belong” to former taoiseach John A Costello.Your letter-writer correctly states the words in question were uttered in a 1953 Dáil debate on Nato by a Labour TD, Brendan Corish (Mr Corish subsequently became Labour Party leader and tánaiste). However, near the conclusion of his lengthy statement to the Dáil (April 12th, 1951) on the resignation of the then Minister for Health, Dr Noël Browne, the then taoiseach John A Costello did say this: “I, as a Catholic,obey my Church authorities and will continue to do so, in spite of The Irish Times or anything else . . .” – Yours, etc,
PAUL DELANEY,
Beacon Hill,
Dalkey, Co Dublin.
Sir, – Dr Maeve Kilrane (June 18th) queries the stance of those pro-lifers who send death threats to those who propose the termination of the most vulnerable and helpless in our society. No doubt, it has crossed her mind that those who undertook to uphold the Hippocratic Oath and do exactly the opposite are equally contradictory? Methinks that said oath might more aptly be renamed the Hypocritical Oath! – Yours, etc,
AILEEN HOOPER,
Norseman Place,
Stoneybatter,
Dublin 7.
Sir, – While Enda Kenny’s statement “I am a Catholic who is Taoiseach, not a Catholic Taoiseach” may well be construed to declare Ireland a democracy as opposed to a theocracy (JL Byrne, June17th), I consider it an untenable distinction in describing a man of faith.
A taoiseach who is truly Catholic cannot draw a line in the sand between a “Catholic taoiseach” and a “Catholic who is taoiseach” as Enda Kenny did. Such a distinction can never be valid because Christian faith is synonymous with a “way of life”. Such a “way of life”, by definition, always has a community dimension, it upholds the common good, and it is never a private matter practised by an isolated individual only in certain situations in his/her life. Faith cannot be separated from any aspect of the Christian experience; it is an integral part of all that one is, and it informs all that one does.

Sir, – Regarding the adverse reviews of Neil Young’s recent RDS appearance (June 19th), I would point out that Neil Young (unlike, say, the Rolling Stones, who stopped being interesting in 1973) is still pumping out top quality rock albums every year or two, and therefore has the right to ignore the set list you mentally sent backstage before the show.
He’s not a tribute band; he’s Neil Young! He’s made an entire career out of subverting the expectations not only of his fans, but even his own record companies, managers and bands. He owes you nothing.
On a related note, it warms my heart to realise that, even coming from a 67-year-old Canadian, great rock music still has the power to irritate sensible, middle-class people. – Yours, etc,
BARRY PURCELL,

Sir, – I am thankfully aware that the extremist views expressed by TD Clare Daly in Dáil Éireann regarding the visits of the US President and First Lady Michelle Obama are not reflective of those held by the overwhelming majority of the Irish people.
In his speech in Belfast on June 17th, President Obama commented on the decades of US commitment to Ireland, the key role of his administration and previous in the ongoing Northern Ireland peace process, and the personal connections shared by him and so many Americans to this island. While in Dublin, Michelle Obama spoke of the bright future for young people in Ireland and in the United States.
This week we welcome the 50th anniversary of the visit by President John F. Kennedy, a visit which some Irish commentators have called a turning point for modern Ireland.
Deputy Daly’s comments are deliberately offensive, which is unfortunate, but are ultimately of no consequence to the unique nature and great strength of the Irish-American relationship. Long may it be a relationship of mutual respect and friendship. – Yours, etc,
JOHN HENNESSEY-NILAND,
Charge D’Affaires,
US Embassy, Dublin
Sir, – As someone who rarely has time for what Clare Daly has to say or the exaggerated manner in which she says it, I thought her remarks on the country’s “unprecedented slobbering” over the Obama’s visit hit the nail on the head (Home News, June 20th). In this case her hyperbole was warranted; and while one may quibble with the fact that pimps don’t usually prostitute themselves, the attempted analogy was entirely fitting.
While the Irish political establishment has been slobbering over US politicians for years, more should be expected of the Irish media, which took a completely uncritical stance on the blatant hypocrisy on display in a US president lecturing young students on peace while simultaneously presiding over drone strikes in Pakistan; attempts to arm rebels in Syria and a massive spying programme on its own citizens. In her speech in the Dáil Clare Daly showed an admirable degree of courage in revealing the double standards at work in US foreign policy that is often lost on many Irish people who allow themselves to be so easily seduced by glamour of the US presidency. – Yours, etc,
ADRIAN SMITH,
Dardistown Cross,
Julianstown,
Co Meath.
Sir, – It truly must be “ranting season” given the latest outburst by Independent TD Clare Daly, when she accused Taoiseach Enda Kenny of showcasing Ireland “as a nation of pimps, prostituting ourselves in return for a pat on the head” (Breaking News, June 19th). Her words are obviously a self-seeking publicity jaunt with as much sincerity as a squawking parrot. God help her if she ever has to make a decision that makes a positive difference to Ireland. – Yours, etc,
GEOFF SCARGILL,

Sir, – I would like to highlight the cut to resource hours, announced by the National Council for Special Education (Breaking News, June 19th). These hours are allocated to children with special needs in order to facilitate their inclusion in mainstream schools. This cut affects children who spend months, even years awaiting diagnosis and therapies. They will now spend time waiting for resource hours and when these hours are approved they will be at 75 per cent of the recommended allocation. This is because the number of resource teachers and special needs assistants is capped at current levels even though the school-going population is set to increase dramatically in the next five years.
As a teacher, I can see the inclusion of children with special needs in our school has taught compassion and understanding to our pupils, our teachers and the wider school community. As a parent, I believe all children should receive the supports they need so they can be educated in mainstream schools, along with their siblings and friends, in order to achieve their full potential as adults.
We need to decide whether we really want inclusion or not. It simply cannot happen without adequate supports.
Is our society willing to keep hurting the weakest and the most vulnerable? Children with special needs should know that they belong, that they are respected and valued for themselves as well as for what we can all learn from them. Unfortunately, we seem to be creating a country that treats such children as a drain on our resources and just about tolerates their presence in our schools. – Yours, etc,
ALICE O’DONNELL,

Sir, – The members of Mountaineering Ireland will be relieved by Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney’s statement regarding the future of Coillte.
The proposed sale of Coillte’s harvesting rights exposed the lack of any certainty regarding public access to Coillte’s estate. There is a clear lesson from this near miss. We must ensure that responsible recreational enjoyment of publicly-owned land in Ireland becomes a right, and not simply the gift of the owner. –Yours etc.
KARL BOYLE,
Chief Executive Officer,
Mountaineering Ireland,
National Sports Campus,
Blanchardstown, Dublin 15.
Sir, – I shrieked with joy and I laughed till I cried when, amid all the bad news, something good was announced this week. In fact, I could not believe my ears.
For some time now it has seemed to me that our Government would do anything for money, that it would sell its soul, and ours too, if it would save a few bob.
Walking through the beautiful woodlands at Glen of the Downs recently I felt helpless and deeply saddened that even our sacred forests could be taken away from us. That the Government could sell them to private investors who might fence them off, chop them down, use the land for fracking and prevent us from walking in them. But this week, the Government announced that the forests would not be sold.
I wish to thank it for making this inspired decision. May it make many more. – Yours, etc,
ORLA McGRATH,

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole’s contribution to National Bike Week (Opinion, June 11th) avoids dealing with the underlying problem – our congested streets, traffic system and wider road network are all designed solely with cars, buses and trucks in mind. Other (more vulnerable) road users – pedestrians, people with disabilities, cyclists, are very much second-class citizens to whom barely a cursory glance is given by city managers and other unaccountable decision-makers when putting public infrastructure in place.
I demand that people are put first when designing our public spaces – cars, trucks and other gas guzzlers can wait their turn. – Yours, etc,
HILARY MINCH,

Sir, – I was rather disheartened to read about the complaint surrounding the republication of Minister for Justice Alan Shatter’s book (Breaking News, June 20th). Specifically, I was disheartened to see that in this day and age there is still legal recourse for a person to even attempt to have a written text prohibited, for no reason beyond it not being in line with their own moral views.
Once the decision is made regarding his own book, I hope Mr Shatter will bring forward legislation to finally abolish the almost-laughably anachronistic practice of book and periodical censorship. – Yours, etc,
GERARD BONNER,

Irish Independent:

* It has been reported on RTE news that Michael Noonan, our Finance Minister, has admitted “that mistakes were made with the troika”. Is this just a mirroring of the IMF/troika stance in Greece or is it actual remorse? Is it the realisation that people can bear such a damaging burden only for so long, or quite simply world events overtaking failed policies? Some examples:
Also in this section
We are a nation in denial about the Famine
A thank you for supporting us and brave Donal
What’s in a name? Quite a lot, actually
* The reported statement from George Osborne that the UK, our biggest trading partner, could be in recession for another two years?
* The recent release of US multinational tax information, which shows that some multinationals are paying in effect 0pc tax and others less than 12pc, whilst the Irish taxpayer pays 32pc.
* The decision by the world’s central banks to ease off on pumping money into economic systems.
* Or, the impending German court ruling on the legality of the ECB’s bond buying, as it is believed that it has overstepped its mandate.
Multiple mistakes were made by the previous government and have been compounded by Mr Noonan and his colleagues in the Coalition.
But they now have an opportunity to start reversing this by making public the reported letter from Jean Claude Trichet to the previous government.
The Irish taxpayer has paid dearly to date. Clearly the troika does not have the mandate to force a sovereign state into its control and use it as a buffer to stop EU banking contagion.
The Irish taxpayer also has the right to all information on the state-guaranteed banks, no matter what their names have been changed to.
The taxpayer has the right to know what loans/mortgages were taken out by politicians, their families, or business partners and/or their political party.
As the banks have been bailed out by the taxpayer, we have the right to this information by law.
REILLY UNFIT FOR OFFICE
* We are told that the Health Minister James Reilly is determined to push through new legislation to charge all patients with private health insurance for using public hospital beds. This, we are told, will push up premiums by 30pc. Dr Reilly has accused the insurance companies of “scaremongering” and suggested that they need to do more to reduce costs. This confirms that the minister has no understanding of the issues facing the sector, and is unfit for office.
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, either through ignorance or expediency, recently cited “excessive professional fees and hospital charges” as the reason why premiums were soaring. He would do well to note that professional fees have been reduced by approximately 30pc in the past four years, while premiums have been increasing.
In addition, we learned last week that one of the largest private hospitals in the State has lost €9.8m in the last year, and that this is the norm for most private hospitals built in the last 10 years. It is hardly fair then to say that charges are excessive.
This begs the question – where do Dr Reilly and Mr Gilmore suggest the insurance companies start looking to cut costs?
The public health system is on life-support and is entirely dependent on income from private insurance companies to survive. This latest wheeze from the minister is a blatant attempt to put his hand in the pocket of the insurance companies and is the only reason, as stated unambiguously by those insurance companies, why premiums are set to rise.
One obvious solution is this: the insurance companies should, with immediate effect, withdraw cover for all patients being treated in public hospitals. This would have the effect of reducing premiums significantly. It would also have the effect of freeing up beds and reducing waiting times in public facilities.
IT CUTS BOTH WAYS, ENDA
* The speech by President John F Kennedy (September 12, 1960), on which the Taoiseach based his statement about being a Taoiseach who happens to be Catholic and not a Catholic Taoiseach, also stated: “But if the time ever came when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any conscientious public servant would do the same.”
ABORTION DEBATE
* I watch the passion of the abortion debate with bemusement and sadness.
If only we could harness the same passion in the name of child welfare.
What a wonderful State for children we would be.
* If a doctor, in spite of repeated warnings and evidence-based advice from peers, were to persist with a dangerous form of treatment which placed the lives of patients at risk, he or she would be rightly struck off the medical register and denied the right to practise.
It is ironic that elected members of the Oireachtas are being threatened with denial of their right to exercise their profession, precisely for opposing a dangerous form of treatment. The Government, with the published Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill, is setting out to establish in law a method of treatment for suicidal ideation in pregnancy which is not supported by medical evidence, which places the health of the mother at risk and which will certainly either end the life of her baby or be the cause of possibly catastrophic disability.
As doctors, we must again protest against this Government’s deliberate denial of the facts and remind members of the Oireachtas that, if this bill becomes law, they cannot transfer responsibility for its outcome to the medical and nursing professions. It will be their legacy and theirs alone.
HAVING A BALL IN EUROPE
* Colombian poet Raffael Brochero is “offering his testicles to anyone who will fund his trip to Europe” (Irish Independent, June 17). One hopes that if the trip materialises he will indeed have a ball.
THE WRITE WAY?
* With regard to the piece by Mary Kenny (Irish Independent, June 17), I feel the lady needs to consult a dictionary.
My ‘Little Oxford’ defines the word ‘icon’ as “sacred painting, mosaic, image, statue”, which is hardly applicable to Homo Sapiens?
HISTORY IS NOT BUNK
* I am appalled that a country once so proud of its military and political achievements can now consider getting rid of history as a compulsory Junior Cert subject. History is a key building block to any pupil’s education. We will develop a generation for whom the names Charles Stewart Parnell, Padraig Pearse and Michael Collins will become alien words.
Irish Independent

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