Blood test

6 September 2013 Blood

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble Pertwee, Fatso and Ginger decide to borrow the admirals bubble car after visiting the pub, it ends up on Troutbridge, ditched its spotted as an enemy two man submarine and sunk. Priceless.
Off to post office, hospital for blood test for Mary, and Co-op.
We watch Dads army v good.
Scrabble today Mary wins and get under 400. perhaps I might win tomorrow.

Obituary:

Helene Fesenmaier
Helene Fesenmaier, who has died aged 75, was an American painter and sculptor, and made London her home for more than 40 years; her work is held in galleries and collections both in Britain and around the world.

Helene Feisenmaier 
6:57PM BST 05 Sep 2013
As a painter, Helene Fesenmaier’s early work was characterised by earthen colours and a brave use of black; later she created vigorous, colourful abstracts. As a sculptor, her preferred medium was wood — she once observed that “wood gave off light in the way that flesh did”. But she came to specialise in work that combined painting and sculpture in a single piece.
Helene Marie Fesenmaier was born into a family of Polish origin at New Ulm, Minnesota, on August 31 1937. Her father was a successful surgeon, her mother an interior designer who had studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. After leaving the local high school, Helene went to Smith College in Massachusetts, where she studied printmaking with Leonard Baskin, then on to the Yale Art School (1959-61), studying under Josef Albers .
In 1964 she moved to New York, becoming one of a group of students and artists who formed the New York Studio School of Painting and Sculpture, led by Mercedes Matter and George McNeil and supported by Mark Rothko. The group insisted on life-drawing as a prerequisite. She met the abstract expressionists Willem de Kooning and Barnett Newman, and spent a period painting in Holland.
Her first husband, Frank Dawson, was a lawyer working for the World Bank, and in 1969 he was posted to Venezuela. Finding no suitable life models, she began creating wooden constructions from which to draw; later she would start to imagine works that would simultaneously incorporate both painting and sculpture.
From their base in Caracas, Helene Fesenmaier and her husband travelled throughout South America, on the way collecting pieces of pre-Columbian art. In Peru she was gathering mushrooms from the ruins of Machu Picchu when she encountered a woman who turned out to be the founder of the New York Mycological Society; this led to an invitation to join the Society’s next “mushroom walk” in upstate New York, on which Helene met the composer John Cage, the dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham and the artist Jasper Johns. Cage became a friend until his death in 1992; mushrooms became a recurring motif in Helene Fesenmaier’s work.
In 1970 Helene Fesenmaier settled in London, where she continued to explore combinations of painting and sculpture — at first using wood from the packing crates left over from her move.
Her marriage was dissolved, and as a devout Roman Catholic she tried for many years to secure an annulment; but despite her long friendship with Archbishop Bruno Heim, the Apostolic Nuncio to Britain, she never succeeded. In 1992 she married fellow artist David Hodgson, who in the early 1980s had been her student at Croydon Art College, where she worked alongside Bruce McLean and Bridget Riley. In 1979 Helene Fesenmaier’s large structure entitled Logbook: The Birth of a Book is the Death of a Tree was displayed outside the Victoria and Albert Museum; afterwards it was transported by the British Timber Research and Development Association to woodland at High Wycombe , slowly to “deliquesce” (as she put it) back to the earth.
Helene Fesenmaier’s last two exhibitions were of paintings and sculptures named after saints; in 2012 her sculptures and paintings were shown at Trinity Hall, Cambridge.
Her works are held in numerous collections, including the Museums of Modern Art in New York and San Francisco, the Fitzwilliam in Cambridge, the Arts Council in Britain and the V&A.
Helene Fesenmaier is survived by David Hodgson and by their son, William.
Helene Fesenmaier, born August 31 1937, died June 21 2013

Guardian:

Despite the budget deficit not reducing over the last three years, the government has still not tackled the huge black hole of tax avoidance and evasion (G20 expected to sign off tough anti-evasion pact, 5 September). That’s why I am promoting a bill to ensure that the tax liabilities both of the wealthiest individuals and the biggest corporations are made public and that the beneficial owners of companies who hide behind nominee shareholdings are also made known. Such tax enforcement could raise tens of billions of pounds for the exchequer.
First, the bill tackles the secrecy shielding the tax affairs of both large companies and wealthy individuals by requiring the tax returns of the top 250 in each group to be put on public record. That data would enable the tax abuse currently costing the country at least £35bn a year to be effectively addressed for the first time.
Second, multinational corporations have hitherto hidden their activities behind complex and often secret corporate networks which conceal their tax liability, especially if a subsidiary is incorporated in a tax haven. The bill requires that any UK multinational corporation must publish the accounts of all its subsidiaries on public record.
Third, the bill requires that companies identify their beneficial owners and pass these details to Companies House. To ensure they do, banks will also be required to report the information they collect under money-laundering regulations to Companies House which will then publish it, including the real trading address of a company, who its directors and beneficial owners actually are, and where they’re located.
Fourth, the bill would then grant HMRC the power to access a company’s bank account data so that estimated tax assessments could be raised if the company had refused to supply accounts, and the directors and beneficial owners would then be responsible for paying the tax. The bill would also extend all these obligations to the tax havens in UK crown dependencies and overseas territories.
Michael Meacher MP
Lab, Oldham West and Royton

I read with deep concern about the GMB’s decision to cut its affiliation to and funding of the Labour Party (GMB union slashes Labour party funding, 4 September). Labour First, the network of Labour moderates committed to the trade union link, argued in our submission to Ray Collins’s review of the link that trade unionists should not just have individual voices in the Labour party but that Ed Miliband’s reforms should be pursued in a way that is compatible with maintaining what the GMB describes as “collective engagement of trade unions in the party they helped to form”.
This is an expression of Labour’s collectivist rather than individualist values as a party. This is not an issue about left and right in the Labour party – the unions along with local government have historically been the pillars of the moderate Labour tradition.
Luke Akehurst
Secretary, Labour First
• We currently have the situation where trade union members are required to vote on whether their union should have a political fund, but there is no equivalent requirement for companies to consult their shareholders; and they are free to undertake any political activity virtually without restraint. There should be a requirement to consult shareholders and, where funds are held by pension funds or unit trusts, they should be required to either abstain or consult their members before being allowed to vote. This would give a degree of transparency that is currently lacking.
Tom Franklin
London
• Ed Miliband’s decision to reform Labour party funding is courageous and welcome. Individuals should decide whether to give money to political parties, not have the decision made for them by union leaders or company owners. However, the Labour party will now fall into the same tax trap that the Lib Dems have suffered for years. The Lib Dems are heavily dependent on individual contributions, which come from taxed income. By contrast, trade union contributions which benefit Labour are paid from untaxed income, and corporate donations which largely benefit the Conservatives, are subject only to corporation tax. Pound for pound, it is cheaper for a company, whether British or foreign-owned, to donate to a British political party than it is for many ordinary British voters. Unless this situation is remedied, a tax should be levied on all corporate donations received by political parties, at a rate equal to the highest current rate of income tax.
Dr David Cooper
Treasurer, Newbury Lib Dem constituency party,
• So pleased that the GMB has slashed its funding. Ever since the party was hijacked by middle-class entryists from the Mandelson tendency in the 90s, the party has increasingly neglected working people and fostered the interests of free-market capitalists. Blair bankrupted the party financially and ethically, and caused a haemorrage of members. Branches all over the country ceased to exist. Border and Carlisle CLP members joined the Green party, and we will be looking for funding from GMB because we are now the only party of the great mass of working people.
Alan Marsden
Penrith, Cumbria

The prevalence of Alzheimer’s increases with age from the fifties on (Report, 5 September). Better hygiene and sanitation increase the likelihood of living to ages at which people contract dementia, but there is no reason to believe that they increase its incidence or prevalence at any given age.
Tony Warnes
Emeritus professor of social gerontology, University of Sheffield
•  As a little publisher I’m forced to use Amazon and iTunes to sell my wonderful products because we don’t have viable British alternatives. These companies now demand from me an EIN, which is an account issued by the Inland Revenue Service in the US, before they will sell my gear. Can anyone help me create an offshore account so that I may behave like a multinational?
Trevor Lockwood
Felixstowe, Suffolk
•  I have been meaning to write to complain about the complete lack of coverage of county cricket in your sports pages and then on Wednesday, two pages and yesterday nearly a page. Keep it up. Only three weeks to go.
Roger Lightup
Cadishead, Salford
•  My inspirational physics teacher, KD Drinkall, told us the Archimedes and the burnished shields story to explain the powerful properties of the concave mirror (Eyewitness, 5 September), which was followed shortly by me getting a right clump for setting our front fence on fire with my Dad’s shaving mirror.
Ken Starkey
London
• Vernon Bogdanor wrote that the “position of heir to the throne is not a comfortable one” (Comment, 5 September). I wonder how many would apply if there were a vacancy?
John Daramy
Chesterfield
• Apache showers? Surely not – an Indian summer means plenty of sun-Cheyenne (Letters, 5 September).
Dr Elizabeth Ratcliffe
Reading, Berkshire
• If the forecasters get it wrong can we Sioux them?
Andrew Bailey
Gresford, Wrexham

Vladimir Putin’s insistence that Russia has the right to veto military action in Syria amounts, according to the Guardian, to “the absurd position that … international law is, in effect,  what Russia decides it is” (Editorial, 5 September). On the contrary, international law is what the UN Charter says it is. Under the charter, threats to peace are to be addressed by the security council. As a member of the permanent five, Russia has the right to veto intervention, whether the Guardian likes it or not.
This is not a constraint to be dispensed with lightly. “The philosophy of the veto,” Inis Claude wrote 50 years ago, “is that it is better to have the security council stalemated than to have that body used by a majority to take action so strongly opposed by a dissident great power that a world war is likely to ensue.” The third world war, to be sure, is unlikely to ensue over Syria. But before brushing off such concerns as pettifogging legalism, advocates of intervention should ask themselves if they would be prepared to accept Russian or Chinese intervention over an American, British or French veto, wherever and whenever Moscow or Beijing saw fit.
Dr Matthew Rendall
Lecturer, politics and international relations, University of Nottingham
• The most remarkable thing about Jonathan Freedland’s article on Syria (Comment, 4 September) is that he fails to mention the UN once. Whatever flaws it may have, it was set up to make it more difficult for world conflicts to be resolved on the whim of the superpowers. It is disturbing that so much of the debate about the Syrian civil war and the use of chemical weapons has ignored the multilateral approach taken by the UN’s envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, and concentrated on the psychodrama of a superstar president.
Bob Cant
Brighton, East Sussex
• Since the demise of the USSR in 1991, Russia has used the veto only twice. A quick search of Google reveals that the United States has used its veto powers 55 times during the same period.
Nick Blackstock
Wilsden, West Yorks
• You report that David Cameron told the Commons that President Assad “had to be persuaded to the negotiating table by his military capacity being degraded” (Report, 5 September). But the Syrian leader has made clear all along his willingness to participate in peace talks. It is Syria’s armed “opposition” and its western backers who have sabotaged proposals to negotiate a settlement.
Peter Godfrey
Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides
• On Wednesday, Der Speigel reported a “secret briefing to select lawmakers” by Gerhard Schindler, head of BND, Germany’s intelligence agency. It included reference to an intercepted phone call between a high-ranking member of Hezbollah and the Iranian embassy during which Schindler says that the Hezbollah functionary “seems to have admitted that poison gas was used”.
Despite the fact that Schindler used the word “seems”, this report has been widely treated by the British and international media as demonstrating the Assad regime’s responsibility for and knowledge of the horrific chemical weapons attack on Ghouta.
Following Iraq, our media has more responsibility than ever to ensure that stories about Syria are reported accurately and not used to bump a reluctant public towards war.
Stefan Simanowitz
London
• The big difference between Syria and Iraq is the international community’s response: donor countries provided just $80m to help Iraqi refugees, “a drop in the ocean” according to the UN. By contrast, the UK has provided £348m for Syria, with billions more donated by countries such as Turkey and the US.
Russell Inglis
London
• If President Obama gets the backing of the US Senate, he will, within 48 hours, be synchronising his actions with other historical precedents: the 9/11 attacks in 2001 and General Pinochet’s, CIA- backed, military coup of 1973. What is it about September 11?
Martin Smith
Bristol

As researchers on occupational health and safety, we note with concern the wholesale withdrawal by the government of routine inspections in most workplaces and the undermining of health and safety law enforcement (Report, 31 August). The government asserts that the “burden of excessive health and safety rules and regulations on business has become too great”. There is no evidence to support such a statement. It further claims that a “damaging compensation culture is stifling innovation and growth”. But studies in North America and elsewhere indicate that effective health and safety standards stimulate innovation and growth.
The government will best protect people in workplaces by effective regulation and enforcement. The UK is still faced with enormous burdens of work-related ill health, as well as major injuries due to failures in safety.
Recently the government has been taken to task for making false or inaccurate statements about UK economic statistics. Similar untruths and distortions are now emerging on occupational health and safety, and should be withdrawn. This is because nearly all occupational disease victims go uncompensated and, far from being a burden, regulation properly enforced is good for the workforce, good for the economy and favours the responsible businesses over the corner-cutting rogues.
Professor Matthias Beck Queens University, Belfast, Tommy Gorman University of Stirling, Professor Philip James Oxford Brooks University, Professor Steve Tombs Open University, Dr Ian Vickers Middlesex University, Professor David Walters Cardiff University, Professor Andrew Watterson University of Stirling, Dr Dave Whyte University of Liverpool

Your editorial (3 September) calls for the government to put forward a coherent childcare strategy. Those in the sector couldn’t agree more. To date we’ve had Liz Truss’s flawed More Great Childcare and More Affordable Childcare policy documents. Both have met with widespread criticism and opposition from childcare professionals. The latest announcement, to extend free childcare places for two-year-olds next September, is laudable. But funding for these free places must be increased, otherwise there won’t be the places available in the areas they are most needed. A new national childcare strategy must look at ways of simplifying funding streams, making the most of money that is currently wasted. The cull of children’s centres must stop – they could provide much needed childcare places for the new baby boom. And finally we must value those that provide care and early learning for our children. The strategy is key to Britain’s social and economic future.
Denise Burke
Director, United for All Ages

Independent:

Despite being an economist, Lord Stern (“Cameron’s fracking defence is demolished”, 4 September) appears to have little grasp of basic economics, let alone the economics of the gas market.
Unlike with oil, the natural gas market is segmented due to the massive infrastructure costs of pipelines, liquefaction of natural gas, transport and re-gasification systems. Gas doesn’t miraculously get from one part of the world to another free of cost, which is why there are large differentials between the price of gas in export points such as West Africa and import markets such as Europe.
Europe is an interconnected market, and UK gas prices are linked to those of continental Europe. However, the more gas produced in the UK, the more gas available in Europe, and the less dependent the region as a whole becomes on imports of pipeline gas from Russia and North Africa, and liquefied natural gas from the rest of the world. Reducing Europe’s gas import requirement would have a major impact on regional and global gas pricing. 
The European gas market is an oligopoly, enabling suppliers to achieve higher prices than are justified by the cost of production. Increasing the volume of supply and the number of suppliers would create a more competitive European gas market and help reduce prices closer to the marginal cost of supply. This would suggest prices falling to around two-thirds of the current level.
If we don’t develop shale gas, the decline of North Sea gas production will necessitate an increase in UK gas imports. And if you increase demand at a more rapid rate than supply, prices tend to go up. 
Barrie Bain, Tunbridge Wells, Kent
Tom Bawden’s article reporting Lord Stern’s concerns over our Government’s dash for “fracking” gas is timely, as several recent scientific articles highlight the potential dangers for our drinking water.
Scientific measurements reveal increased methane in domestic drinking water near fracking wells. A plausible explanation is the escape of stray gas through existing, or new, fractures into underground reserves of drinking water.
In addition, scientific data reveals the presence of contaminants from fracking-well waste water in streams and water courses at the surface. This is most likely due to failure of water treatment facilities to deal with used hydraulic-fracturing fluids.
Add to this the surface leakage of methane (a potent greenhouse gas) during fracking, and the environmental issues are considerable on a variety of scales from local to global. It is time for a discussion informed by scientific data.
Professor Martin Menzies, Earth Sciences, Royal Holloway, University of London
5,000 badgers sacrificed to appease NFU
I emailed Stroud Tory MP Neil Carmichael about testing the 5,000 badgers due to be slaughtered in Somerset and Gloucestershire over the next six weeks. The vast majority of these badgers will be incinerated, providing no information whatsoever, with just 200 (perhaps now 120) being tested.
I asked why are so few being tested? Why is none being tested for TB? Who is going to select those that will be examined for humaneness of the kill? The last question is important, given that vested interests will, no doubt, be inclined to provide only those that have been killed cleanly.
Mr Carmichael has not answered my questions.
The results of the cull, like the scientific basis for the cull, would appear to be flawed. Nearly 5,000 badgers will disappear in smoke to appease the National Farmers’ Union.
Dr Clive Mowforth, Dursley, Gloucestershire
Martin Haworth of the NFU (“Why farmers back the badger cull”, 5 September) has all the conviction of Einstein’s madman who believed that doing (or, in this case, saying) the same thing over and over again would bring about different outcomes. It won’t. This threadbare rhetoric fails on every level. 
Tell us how many badgers have been shot so far. Tell us how many were shot cleanly. Tell us how many were suffering from TB. Tell us about the monitoring of the humaneness of the cull.
Nobody knows, including the NFU. Surely they can do better than this.
Irene Barker, Mendlesham Green, Suffolk
Ministers will get best advice
The Government’s Civil Service reform programme will strengthen the support for ministers. In June a report by the Institute for Public Policy Research showed that British ministers receive less direct support than their counterparts abroad, even in Westminster-based systems such as Australia and Canada.
I expect several ministers to introduce Extended Ministerial Offices (EMOs), but I do not accept Oliver Wright’s suggestion that such personally appointed offices could isolate ministers from challenging views (“Ministers send for the reinforcements”, 3 September). In fact, our reforms will ensure ministers receive the most candid and honest advice. We will soon be revising the guidance for ministers and private office staff to guarantee that advice prepared by departmental civil servants is always presented unadulterated to a minister.
We will also make it easier for ministers to bring in people from outside the Civil Service, so they can draw on a wider range of advice. I see no reason why personally appointed staff should provide less challenging advice. Over the years, I have been on the receiving end of plenty of tough advice from staff I appointed.
Our reforms will improve the way Whitehall works without affecting the fundamental values of the Civil Service.
Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, London SW1
Not all shoppers have cars
Terence Blacker (3 September) is right to say our high streets are a valuable focus for social contact and retail experience on a human scale. Much of the debate in this area seems to assume that everyone has limitless car access and infinite choice as to where they shop, and that cost and availability of parking are the key issue. This is far from being the case; many individuals and families depend wholly or partly on bus and other public transport services, which are usually clustered around existing town centres.
Can we ensure retail patterns of the future make provision for the community as a whole? And I see the high street as still having a significant role to play.
Peter Draper, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
Lollobrigida, Queen of the Nile?
Apologies for sounding like a geek correcting a geek, but Francesa Steele was incorrect when she wrote (“Like a Batman out of hell?” 4 September) that Rouben Mamoulian considered Dorothy Dandridge for the title role in Cleopatra.
Mamoulian’s papers at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, are richly detailed for that particular film, from which he resigned in January 1961 Dandridge was never discussed for the part at 20th Century-Fox, nor did Mamoulian approach her personally – and I’ve read his diaries. The actresses discussed were Susan Hayward, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Dana Wynter, Joan Collins and (drum roll, please) Gina Lollobrigida.
A shame, don’t you think? In widescreen, Gina would have hit your eye like a big pizza pie.
Kurt Jensen, Alexandria, Virginia, USA
Learn a lesson from Byzantium
Your picture of Toxteth Reservoir (“Liverpool’s other cavern”, 4 September) does illustrate it is possible to combine aesthetics and functionality. But I suspect the (equally ethereal) Basilica Cistern in Istanbul, constructed in the 6th century, might pip it to the post as “one of the earliest examples of public health engineering”.
The burghers, architects and engineers of Victorian Liverpool and Byzantine Constantinople should be revered for foresight and imagination. Wouldn’t it be nice to see those in charge of our municipal infrastructure applying similar values today?
Peter Allen, Towcester
Americanisms for the trash can
To Peter Metcalfe’s list of Americanisms that we should now consign to the dustbin (or trash can) of history (Letter, 5 September), I would add American “coffee shop” (for café), “train station” (for railway station), “upcoming” (for forthcoming) and “canned food” (for tinned food). And, of course, describing a shop (not a “store”) as being “on” (rather than in) Oxford Street.
Nick Chadwick, Oxford
Purge our lovely, sensitive language of Americanisms? Oh, yes please. Let’s get rid of “alternate” (for alternative), “hopefully” (for I hope), “loan” (for lend) and “I’m good” (I’m well) for starters.
Sara Neill, Tunbridge Wells, Kent
Why don’t drivers put lights on?
An autumnal mist has caused a pile-up in Kent: what a surprise. So many drivers lack the basic intelligence to put their headlights on in poor visibility.
Why is it that this country is behind our cousins on the European mainland in having a requirement for headlights to be on all day? On recent trips to the Czech Republic and the Baltic countries, I noted 100 per cent compliance.
John Howard, Hornchurch
Pipers – you get one or eleven
John Smurthwaite (Letter, 5 September) asks: “Why are pipers always ‘lone’?” In truth, they often are, except when they come in elevens, accompanied by lords a-leaping, maids a-milking, geese a-laying, and the rest. None of which really contributes to the gravitas of a funeral service.
I suppose pipers are essentially a lonely breed – who look forward to Christmas.
The Rev Peter Sharp, Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire
Men are the biggest gossips
Women have always been aware that men are the bigger gossips. It was interesting that your article about gossip in the tech industry (“Between you, me and the blog post”, 5 September), which exclusively featured male rumour-mongers, was accompanied by a large image of two women gossiping. 
Anne Hay, Edinburgh

Times:

Sir, Daniel Finkelstein (Aug 31) refers to liberal interventionism as “the position we have taken for 75 years”. Does he mean to date the birth of liberal interventionism from 1938 and the Munich pact?
Munich could perhaps be regarded as the high-water mark of Tory non-interventionism, but as a characterisation of the following 75 years of UK foreign policy the word “liberal” sounds strange. What about the Suez “intervention” — a squalid late-colonial adventure? And Harold Wilson’s refusal to intervene in Vietnam? Surely the doctrinal basis for intervention in Syria was Tony Blair’s Chicago speech in 1999.
Tom Rivers
London N7

Sir, Daniel Finkelstein laments that politicians draw conclusions from singular events. Unfortunately, as the Nobel laureate Paul Samuelson long ago observed, “We have but one sample of history”. Fortunately, one observation is often sufficient to tell us all we need. We need no more than the massacre of the innocents to find King Herod a bloody tyrant.
Anthony Cutler
London SW7

Sir, Daniel Finkelstein (Aug 28 and Sept 4) demonstrates how complex are the lessons of history and the decisions to act or to not act. It is to be hoped that not all our “thinkers” spend their time sitting on red benches and that those on the green can also appreciate the long game, no matter how many unknowns (known or unknown) they might perceive.
Alex de Gier
Knaresborough, N Yorks

Sir, George Tetley (letter, Sept 3) would argue that the questions of intervention in Syria and the breaking (or not) of international law should be left to the UN. The UK is a permanent member of the Security Council. By rejecting outright the principle of intervention, have we not placed our cards on the table? It should also not be considered from the outset that an intervention would result in Britain “blundering into another war”; rather we should be looking at successful intervention operations that Britain has played an important part in. The civil wars in Bosnia, Kosovo and Sierra Leone (all recent in memory) were ended with intervention by Nato or UN missions in which Britain, as a key figure on the international stage, played a key role. Is this vote a further sign that we are shrugging off our responsibilities? I feel my pride in being British is being questioned.
Jamie Graham
Batcombe, Dorset
Sir, The 1956 Suez Crisis was resolved not by direct US political pressure, but by use of the so-called “Uniting For Peace” Resolution 377 which let the UN General Assembly override British and French vetoes in the Security Council. There is no reason why this resolution should not apply with Syria — especially given UN recognition for the Resolution to Protect (R2P), which provides a basis to intervene in the affairs of a sovereign nation in the case of a humanitarian crisis.
Mr Putin (“Putin ‘does not exclude’ supporting US-led airstrikes”, Aug 5) is correct to insist that any action must first be authorised by the UN, but this is an opportunity for Britain to use this resolution to override any Russian veto at the Security Council, and lead the world in taking legal action to enforce a ceasefire in Syria.
Simon Prentis
Cheltenham, Glos
Sir, May I disagree with Andrew Stuart when he writes (letter, Sept 4) that he and 51 other ambassadors wrote to Tony Blair to tell him not invade Iraq. In fact our letter was sent a year after the invasion, and expressed our anxieties about the lack of planning, the failure to foresee stubborn resistance and to understand its nature, and the unnecessary casualties caused by heavy weapons and wrong tactics.
Mr Stuart writes that “we were widely abused”, but my recollection is that the combination of media and personal responses to what we wrote gave me a once-in-a-lifetime feeling that we had spoken for Britain. It is gratifying that on Syria Parliament has now spoken for Britain.
President Putin says that if it can be shown that chemical weapons have been used in Syria, and used specifically by the regular army, the evidence should be submitted to the UN Security Council. In that case he doesn’t exclude backing the use of force. But he rightly warns against military action without UN approval, which would represent aggression.
The US Secretary of State John Kerry told the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations that America has that evidence: “Only the most wilful desire to avoid reality can assert that this did not occur as described or that the regime did not do it.”
It is up to Britain and France, in the Security Council and in the G20 meetings now going on in St Petersburg, to make sure that the evidence is produced and that the Security Council takes account of it and decides whether or not military force should be used.
Oliver Miles
Oxford

“Some day it will be realised that ‘Stony Jack’ has done more solid work for the preservation of London’s antiquities than any living man”
Sir, You are less than fair to the antiquarian G. F. Lawrence (Sept 2). He was much more than a mere “pawnbroker”, or “shady fence”. H. V. Morton, in 1937, wrote “Some day it will be realised that ‘Stony Jack’ has done more solid work for the preservation of London’s antiquities than any living man.”
Mortimer Wheeler said: “But for Mr Lawrence, not a tithe of the objects found during building or dredging operations in London would have been saved.”
Commercial dealing has always had its critics, mainly from those earning easier livings. The hard-up provincial fossil hunter Mary Anning, in Dorset, was accused of forgery, as far afield as in France, but she was vindicated. It is time Lawrence was too.

Madeley, Staffs

“Environment plays a huge role. That is why teams have coaches and why superb coaches can harvest talent unusually effectively”
Sir, The letter from Mr Jones (Sept 5) about my article on talent (Sept 3) is not quite correct. I did refer to Matthew Syed and his book Bounce, and I did not suggest that genes and talent alone were all important. As I said, “I am equally certain that environment plays a huge role. That is why teams have coaches and why superb coaches can harvest talent unusually effectively.”
Ed Smith
Stelling Minnis, Kent

Funeral costs always seem to have been expensive, but some ingenious readers have found various ways of disposing of a loved one at minimal cost
Sir, Funeral costs have certainly matched inflation (“You think it’s all over — then comes £7,600 bill”, news in brief, Sept 4). When the apothecary Anselm Beaumont died in 1726, his funeral expenses of £36 7s 10d were more than 2 per cent of his net estate.

Cheltenham, Glos

Sir, Janice Turner’s amusing piece (Notebook, Sept 5) recalls my late brother’s remarks on a long-serving scorer at a NorthEast cricket club. When the scorer died his will requested that his ashes be scattered on the cricket square. This was done at the start of the new season, during which time my brother, a good bowler, got his best bowling figures. This he attributed to some unusual variations in the prepared wickets.

Horsham, W Sussex

This reader wrote to Agatha Christie to say that he had a cherished collection of all her books and would like to see a new story featuring Hastings
Sir, A pity, I think, that Sophie Hannah’s new Poirot story will not include his old ally Captain Hastings (Sept 4).
In 1962, aged 14, I wrote to Agatha Christie to say that I had a cherished collection of all her books and would like to see a new story featuring Hastings. She replied most cordially:
Dear David
Thank you for your letter. It is very surprising that someone of your age should have all my books. I am so glad you like them. I am a little doubtful about reviving Hastings who has rather gone out of Poirot’s life, but one never knows!
Yours sincerely
Agatha Christie
Surely — in Hannah’s late 1920s mystery — the time is ripe for him to re-enter Poirot’s life. One never knows!

Highcliffe, Dorset

Telegraph:

SIR – Foreign films shown in cinemas in Norway in the Fifties were never dubbed, but kept in their original language and subtitled (“Sort out your subtitles, Blunkett tells TV chiefs”, report, August 28).
This was a very effective way of learning a foreign language; I learnt a lot of English idioms and sayings that way. However, this assumes the subtitling is done by a competent person and not by someone looking up unknown words in a dictionary. On a British film, where two students were in a pub together, one of them said: “Well, it’s getting late, I had better get back to my digs.” The subtitle stated that he said: “Well, it’s getting late, I had better get back to my excavations.”
Not quite the same.
Tore Fauske
Woodmancote, Sussex
SIR – According to French intelligence, the Syrian regime has a 1,000-ton stockpile of weapons of mass destruction including sarin, mustard gas and neurotoxic agents (report, September 2). Intervention in Iraq was justified on the basis of dismantling (what turned out to be) fictitious WMD in the hands of a regime that, while ruthless and despotic, was inherently stable and resilient to jihadist overthrow.
In Syria, the reverse is the case: we have clear evidence of massive stockpiles of WMD that are at risk of falling into the hands of anti-Western terrorists, namely the jihadist members of al-Qaeda known to be among the opposition forces.
To refuse to engage militarily not only permits further atrocities against the Syrian civilian population, but also gambles that the Assad regime will not fall or that, should it do so, al-Qaeda will choose not to use the WMD arsenal against the West.
Is this a gamble we care to take?
Alan Stedall
Birmingham
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SIR – The recent parliamentary vote on Syrian intervention has undermined the validity of the Strategic Defence Review. The review resulted in the destruction of the Nimrod maritime reconnaissance aircraft and the Royal Navy’s embarked Harrier force on the basis that, should such systems be required, our allies, such as America and France, would help us out.
The chances of such assistance being provided now appear vanishingly thin. If our Parliament can prevent us from assisting our allies in a matter of international importance, then it seems very unlikely that the same allies will be able to obtain a mandate to assist us, particularly for a national endeavour.
We had better be very careful to ensure that we do not upset anyone.
Lt Cdr N J Osmaston RN (retd)
Stoke, Devon
SIR – It beggars belief that the British people have demonstrated such gutless parochialism in response to the Syrian crisis. Among the most specious arguments for standing idly by is questioning whether intervention would be in the national interest.
What could be more in our national interest than standing foursquare behind the greatest military and economic power on Earth in challenging one of the most heinous acts of genocide in living memory?
John Rees
London W14
SIR – Complete combustion of chemical weapons needs closely controlled conditions. Bombing them could result in a further toxic cloud.
Dr John Cameron
St Andrews, Fife
SIR – Would it not make humanitarian sense for Britain to admit genuine refugees from Syria, rather than opportunists from the fringes of the EU?
Don Minterne
Bradford Peverell, Dorset
Worldly education
SIR – As a retired teacher, I am very concerned about the potential impact of the recently voiced expectation that all pupils must attain a C grade in English language and mathematics (report, September 2). In my experience there have always been many for whom such a standard is unattainable, even if maximum effort is made by both teacher and pupil.
Academic intelligence is only one form of intelligence. I have stood in awe of the emotional and social intelligence, not to mention physical and practical skills, displayed by many young people.
No doubt good grades in maths and English do help to secure some forms of employment, but an over-emphasis on this fact may leave the non-academic without hope that their other equally important gifts and talents will be valued in society.
Rosalind Pickersgill
Houghton-le-Spring, Co Durham
SIR – GCSEs only suit some learning styles. Forcing students to learn in one particular way will do nothing to foster their love of core subjects, or indeed raise skill levels.
It would be much more effective to have the option to teach maths and English that is applicable to the real world and taught in the context of learners’ chosen subjects. This way, an aspiring computer programmer can see the value of learning maths as a way of understanding coding.
Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, needs to stop presenting alternatives to GCSEs and A-levels as second rate and start listening to employers. They would rather have rounded candidates with relevant business skills than the right grade at GCSE.
Chris Jones
CEO and Director General, City & Guilds
London EC1
Care home fees
SIR – It is entirely reasonable that people should have to sell their house to fund residential care in old age (report, September 4). We own houses not as a result of working hard and saving to pass on an inheritance to our children, but because we need somewhere to live.
Rampant inflation has made house purchase an appreciating investment. Once one goes into residential care, however, the house is no longer one’s “home”, but just a valuable asset.
I see no reason for people, or their heirs, to believe they have a right to keep this asset, while asking taxpayers to fork out a fortune for care home fees.
Reginald Dixon
Mansfield, Nottinghamshire
Undercover post
SIR – Why is it necessary for the Civil Aviation Authority to know the contents of parcels to be transported by land within Britain? I have recently posted birthday presents to family (in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire), and, on both occasions, my local post office said they are now required to ask what is in every parcel, regardless of where it is to go.
Staff are themselves embarrassed to ask for this information, as I can well imagine.
Christopher Pearson
Sturminster Newton, Dorset
Fire and sunshine
SIR – Scientists and historians have debated whether Archimedes of Syracuse could have used mirrors to deflect the rays of the sun and set alight Roman ships in the Second Punic War. The effects of the Walkie Talkie building (Features, September 4) confirm that it’s possible.
Keith Ferris
Coxheath, Kent
Northern railways
SIR – J Peter Wilson (Letters, September 3) supports the massively expensive HS2 “as a Northerner”. From further north in the country than he, I reject spending £70 billion on a railway that will take 25 years to reach Leeds and with no plans to reach Newcastle, Edinburgh or Glasgow.
The Government should spend half or even a quarter of the sum in linking the northern cities – Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Carlisle, as well as the northern airports and ports – with faster track and trains.
As our trade with the declining EU subsides and our trade with the rest of the world increases, the north-eastern and north-western ports and airports are critical, and investment in rail, road, sea and air would reap rich dividends.
Now that really would make a difference to the North.
Rodney Atkinson
Stocksfield, Northumberland
My foreign accent
SIR – I was extremely interested to read of the case of the woman in Plymouth who woke one day after a bad migraine to discover that she had acquired a Chinese accent (report, September 4). This is only the second time I’ve heard of such a case, but it may not be as rare as thought.
I had a bad car accident in 1976 and suffered a fractured skull. After a coma lasting eight days, and two months’ hospital treatment, my condition improved over a two-year period. But it took quite a while before I could talk comprehensibly, despite intensive speech therapy. When I did, it was with a Scandinavian accent, and I still have a trace of “something not quite right” with my speech.
I, too, suffer from migraines.
Carol Parkin
Poole, Dorset
Back to bzzzness
SIR – I tried to buy Waspeze this week, but all local chemists and supermarkets are out of stock (“Late summer plague of wasps coming to a picnic near you”, report, August 29). Apparently this is due to a problem with licensing this, and several other products made by the company that produces Waspeze.
As it is an extremely good antidote when stung, please could the manufacturers hurry up and re-licence and reintroduce the spray.
Judith Manners
Bradley, Staffordshire
Parents should instill moral values in children
SIR – As children’s perspectives on sex are being distorted by online pornography (report, September 4), parents must step up to their role and openly discuss what relationships and love mean. This is a difficult task for parents to undertake, but if they can instill proper moral values into their children, this should have a positive counter-effect to the perverting damage that pornography has on young minds.
James A Paton
Billericay, Essex
SIR – Instead of moaning about the Government’s apparently out-of-date sex education guidance (Letters, September 4), why didn’t the Sex Education Forum, the National Union of Teachers, the Association of Teachers and the 66 others who signed get their heads together over the long school summer holiday to draft an update of the current guidance and recommend it to the Government?
John Roberts
Bromyard, Herefordshire
SIR – Schools that have adopted sex education policies which do not permit the promotion of homosexuality are acting in a manner that is consistent with the Department for Education’s guidance and with the department’s opposition to centralised prescription in this sensitive subject area (report, August 20).
The guidance clearly states that while “teachers should be able to deal honestly and sensitively with sexual orientation, answer appropriate questions and offer support”, there should be “no direct promotion of sexual orientation”. It recognises that this is an area of concern to parents and stresses that “the promotion of sexual orientation or sexual activity” amounts to “inappropriate teaching”.
The guidance also emphasises that schools should develop policies which reflect the wishes of parents, and the culture of the community they serve.
Norman Wells
Director, Family Education Trust
Twickenham, Middlesex

Irish Times:

Sir, – I have believed all my life in the principle that “Absolute figures tell us absolutely nothing”. A learnable lesson was there as the government gloated on the growing property-related tax returns to the Exchequer in the boom years, failing to recognise the fact that this was becoming a disproportionate share of overall taxes. It either missed or ignored the trends.
So as I read the detail of the most recent tax returns (Business, September 4th), an alarm sounded. VAT returns are down 27 per cent against target in the most recent tax period. No doubt the overall take will see us meeting troika targets, because of taxes arising from non-productive taxes, household taxes for example.
However, I say to the Inner Cabinet, even the 1960s icon “Dáithí Lacha” would recognise that these VAT trends clearly point to a need to change policy direction and reverse these hugely negative trends. – Yours, etc,
PADDY GOGARTY,
Woodlands,

   
Sir, – Apropos of the report “Beaumont putting patients at risk due to poor hygiene” (September 4th), I am prompted to ask why we have to wait over one and a half centuries to implement the well-proven practices of hand-washing introduced by Ignaz Semmelweis (1847) and Joseph Lister (1867)? – Yours, etc,
EOIN O’BRIEN,
Prof of Molecular Pharmacology, UCD,
Clifton Terrace,
Monkstown, Co Dublin.
Sir, – Two years ago I spent a week on a cruise boat. The shipping line took the matter of health and hygiene so seriously that no one could enter any dining area without a member of staff ensuring hand gel was applied in the correct manner. This happened at every meal time.
Compare that to my recent visits to a leading southside Dublin hospital. You cannot enter the hospital building without hearing the Tannoy voice asking you to use the hand gel, but it ends there. Based on my observations I estimated the compliance to be 20 per cent at most for the public. What was more frightening, however, was that not one single member of staff who passed through used the gel dispensers.
If we are serious about hygiene in hospitals, it is time for a proactive approach. Administrators cannot think they have done everything in their power by providing recorded messages and hand gel dispensers. Someone has to take responsibility for enforcement too, until cleanliness becomes routine.
Many years ago in this country it was considered normal to spit in the streets, and measures were taken to change that practice. We now need a similar change in attitudes and behaviour in relation to basic hygiene in hospitals. – Yours, etc,
ORLA de COGAN,
Arkle Square, Brewery Road,
Stillorgan, Co Dublin.

   
Sir, – What happens when politicians get to grill bankers? Obfuscation and frustration. Though surprisingly good television, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Finance’s questioning of our banks made for a deeply dispiriting experience.
In spite of the best efforts of the politicians operating under incomprehensible time restraints, it became clear that little is clear – to anyone. Over and over, the bankers relied on professional jargon to avoid specific answers to specific questions, pleaded that they didn’t have rudimentary data readily available, and failed to acknowledge the disjunction between their supposed operating procedures and the actual practice evidenced by committee members.
One thing that became clear to me is that bankers live in a self-defining cocoon culture, uncomprehending of civic needs and the practicalities of daily life, and are impermeable to external scrutiny. I despair now that they can ever be brought to account for anything. – Yours, etc,
JOHN STEPHENSON,
Bessborough Parade,

Sir, – May I congratulate you for your Editorial (“The reality of emigration”, September 4th)? It was most welcome for its comment on Minister for Finance Michael Noonan’s “lifestyle choice” explanation for Irish internal migration and external emigration.
After being an emigrant in London in the 1950s, I too offered your “Emigration is a reality and one for which the State could better prepare citizens” comment when I returned. We Irish would own Britain today if our emigrants over the generations had had enough basic literacy and numeracy. Since then I’ve worked – most notably via a Studies 1959 essay – for acceptance of this fact: about 50 per cent of each Irish generation of Irish people must emigrate to maintain the economic viability of our State, and to let those who emigrate and those who remain have the mid-to-upper-income American lifestyles to which, following the example of our politicians, they aspire.
Taoiseach Seán Lemass accepted that fact in a January 1960 discussion that I had with him. But his problem was – and it continues to be the problem of all politicians to this day – “how do I publicly say that and [get] my party re-elected?”
More specifically: how do politicians publicly say that if media commentators don’t say likewise, particularly via the State-subsidised RTÉ outlet? Because of your newspaper’s pivotal Irish media role, your Editorial, 54 years later, is a welcome helpful step in a long overdue direction. – Yours, etc,
JOE FOYLE,
Sandford Road,
Ranelagh, Dublin 6.
Sir, – One has to question the reason and timing behind Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn’s groundbreaking plans for legislation that will prevent schools discriminating those of us with special needs (Home News, September 4th).
Is this the same Minister who has presided over continual cuts to educational resources for those with special needs since he has become Minister for Education? Is it the same Minister who refuses to sign the commencement order of the sections of the Education of Persons with Special Educational Needs Act (Epsen) 2004 that would allow those same people with special needs to appeal against the arbitrary cuts brought in by the Minister under the cover of National Council for Special Education? And is this the same National Council for Special Education (NCSE) that now seem so concerned about schools discriminating against those of us with special needs?
Strangely enough, the sections of the Epsen Act that brought the NCSE into existence were commenced but not the ones to make it accountable to those it should serve.
The reason the Minister has refused to sign these sections is equally confusing. He claims that the country cannot afford it; then why is he bringing in more legislation that he will never commence? Is it, I wonder, to distract before he brings in another plethora of cuts in October’s budget against those most marginalised in society? – Yours, etc,
NIALL McCABE,
Templetown,
Fethard on Sea

Sir, – Seamus Heaney came to Cavan Arts Society to read from his works in the mid-1970s. I recall his fee being extremely modest. Having generously soothed our embarrassment at the very small attendance, he gave a wonderful reading sitting up on a teacher’s desk with his legs dangling. His resonant Northern voice has stayed with me down the years. It is impossible now to read his poems without hearing that voice again. He afterwards joined the gathering for pints. What a memory! What a great man. – Yours, etc,
ROBERT NORTON,
Stradbrook Road,
Blackrock, Co Dublin.
Sir, – I wish to express my warmest thanks on behalf of myself and my fellow artists to the people of Bellaghy, Co Derry. After the interment of the poet Seamus Heaney we received wonderful hospitality in the local parish hall. A big congratulations to the tireless and cheerful volunteers who provided us with tea, homemade sandwiches and cakes. We were all touched by the welcome and friendliness of the local people, including the PSNI, who were most courteous and tolerant of our erratic parking. It was wonderful to see the portraits of Seamus and his poems displayed in the local shop windows. We were left in no doubt as to the esteem and affection in which he was held by his own people.
I will not forget the musicians Liam O’Flynn and Neil Martin, performing the haunting Port na bPucai as the sun shone through the ash and the sycamore trees over the poet’s new grave. There was certainly no “sunlit absence” on this historic day. The burial service concluded with the singing of the Gregorian chant Salve Regina. Among the vast crowd , I noticed another Nobel Laureate, John Hume, and fondly remember him singing the very same hymn years ago in a local hotel in Gweedore, Co Donegal, while I accompanied him on an old-fashioned Wurlitzer organ.
It was a great privilege for me to have worked with and to have been a friend of Seamus for so many years. A humble genius, there were also many sides to our “wood-kerne” who had during his life “ grown long-haired and thoughtful” . But he also had a great sense of humour and a mischievous streak and he liked nothing better than to surprise us with his love of “the marvellous” and to catch our “hearts off guard and blow them open” with his masterly verse.
To our renowned Saoi who has gone to join his other generous colleague the poet Dennis O’ Driscoll, I say, Slán Seamus mo chara dhílis. – Yours, etc,
MICHAEL HOLOHAN,
Composer and member of Aosdána,
Bredin Street,
Drogheda, Co Louth.

Irish Independent:

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The people of Ireland cannot take more taxes
Many Irish scholars, such as the late Seamus Heaney and John B Keane, have completed their academic lives without such technological devices and look at what they have achieved.
While money is being spent on facilitating students with these tablets, primary resources in schools are being severely affected.
Also, asking parents to hand out over €500 for the tablet is not realistic in these times. I would like to ask why is this happening?
Although studies have shown that a diverse range of teaching methods can draw a student’s attention and students become more attentive to their teachers, are these tablets the answer?
Imagine a future generation that never opens a new textbook or is never welcomed by the reassuring smell of new books and smooth paper that asks to be scrawled upon.
Instead, the future generation will stare at a tablet and monotonously swipe across the screen to turn a virtual page.
Personally, I could not imagine my academic life without a book and pen as I consider them as essentials in my school bag.
After all, the pen is mightier that the sword.
Fiona Hogan
Ashfort, Crecora, Co Limerick
OBAMA’S ARROGANCE
* With all the talk about the US preparing to intervene in Syria, one interesting topic has not arisen – the mockery of the US constitution and separation of powers by President Obama in his speech on August 31.
In his speech, Mr Obama essentially said that he had the authority to strike Syria whenever he wished, but that, out of the kindness of his heart, he would allow Congress to rubberstamp his actions. With a Republican Party full of neo-conservatives and a Democratic Party ready to follow the instructions of their leader, Congress’s approval is all but guaranteed.
Were this not the case and Mr Obama still wished to attack, there is no doubt that he wouldn’t go near Congress, instead his executive privilege would be exercised. Saturday’s speech was more interesting because of its display of executive arrogance than its implications for Syria.
James McGovern,
Drumcondra, Dublin 9
NOT THE SHINIEST PENNY
* The sunny southeast has been badly hit in the economic meltdown. But the recent news that Wexford traders are to “scrap” the brown coins (one and two cent) is the final nail in our coffin. The “penny is dropped”!
Sean Kelly
Waterford
UK FINALLY TIRED OF WAR
* History teaches us many things. Among them is the propensity for Homo sapiens to form large gangs and fight with another large gang; a trait, when organised politically, that is generally referred to as war.
Up until the American Civil War, the conduct of war was generally one where two armies met on the battlefield, had it out and the victor got the spoils. The American Civil War, however, was one where large numbers of civilians were also dragged into the conflict. Since then, or at least as history would have us believe, war has declared civilians fair game as well.
Of course this is far too simplistic. The Roman army had a way of dealing with the ancient Celtic cities. Upon seizing a city, they would kill every inhabitant except one, who would then be sent into the next city to tell of the doom that awaited if the city did not surrender. Civilians were always targets, it’s just history papered over the cracks.
The more technologically advanced we become, the more efficient the dogs of war become. So where are we all now that Syria looms large on the horizon?
Heretofore our near neighbours would, as history shows, be mobilising and that would be that.
But the vote in the House of Commons has shown that one of the most warlike people in that last millennium has grown tired of it. Let us all hope that this contagion of peace will spread throughout the world.
Dermot Ryan
Attymon, Athenry, Co Galway
COSTS A BURNING ISSUE
* ‘Families to face record high energy costs’ (Irish Independent, September 3). Well guess what? Families are way ahead as they have been stockpiling bags of coal, turf, logs and briquettes throughout the summer and plan to burn most of their domestic waste including plastic bottles, milk cartons, newspapers, all packaging and whatever materials they can.
So well done for sending us back to where we were: a smoggy Dublin and cities across Ireland.
People expected these hikes along with the Budget and so planned ahead, it was the talk of the summer with most people about cutting costs of domestic waste by burning it.
It saves on the landfills and recycling I suppose, but with all this domestic waste now going up in smoke, people with respiratory problems will spend more time in much-needed hospital beds.
I bet election leaflets will end up in these people’s fires anyway, so all is not wasted.
Kathleen Ryan
Tallaght
SEASIDE TOWN’S SHAME
* Referring to Fergal McLoughlin’s letter (August 31), I had occasion to walk through Dun Laoghaire recently and was saddened by what I saw. Boarded-up, closing-down, and cleared out – my childhood home is an empty shell. I remember a town teeming with people.
It was obvious that exorbitant parking costs were going to affect business, but who decides that a county council needs 12 new councillors? Will they have some sense of pride of place?
The Mountains-to-Sea book festival will take place this week, all of the events confined to the sparkling seafront. What if a visitor goes astray and wanders up Marine Road to discover the shameful secret that is George’s Street, Upper and Lower?
Frances Browner
Greystones, Co Wicklow
VICTORY AGAINST SEXISTS
* After the sexist behaviour in the Oireachtas recently, it was refreshing to see that the burghers of this fair city did the right thing and named the new Liffey bridge after heroine Rosie Hackett. Mna na hEireann abu!
Mark Lawler
Liberties Heritage Association, Dublin 8
MINDSET OF OUR RULERS
* Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte’s assertion that everyone in Ireland has access to “content”, and that anyone without it must be a cavemen, has already been proven incorrect and pretty offensive. But it also shows the mindset of the governing class.
As Mr Rabbitte points out: I can receive “content” on a TV or PC, through a subscription service or a free service, a satellite or broadband, or even a mobile phone. But what he fails to mention is that I consent to pay for every one of these, with the attendant 23pc VAT on each, with a variety of competing enterprises offering their services.
Why does he assume that the State has the right to own all of this?
As he has observed, the model has changed. Charging a tax for my computer is about as anomalous as charging a food tax because I own a fridge.
Peter Romilly
Mountcharles, Co Donegal
Irish Independent

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