21 September 2013 Sandy

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble They have to go and rescue a lightship set adrift they end up capturing a female spy Priceless.
Sandy comes and I start my apple wine
We watch Dads army v good.
Scrabble today Mary wins and gets well over 400. perhaps I might win tomorrow.


Rabbi Philip Berg
Rabbi Philip Berg, who has died aged 84, led the modern Kabbalah movement, an esoteric strain of ancient Jewish mysticism that became a pop culture phenomenon embraced by scores of A-list celebrities — most notably Madonna — but derided by critics as Hollywood’s new “non-religion” and even “the McDonald’s of spirituality”.

Rabbi Philip Berg blowing the shofar at a Rosh Hashanah service in Times Square, New York  Photo: WIREIMAGE
6:00PM BST 20 Sep 2013
Berg brought a high-intensity teaching style to his Kabbalah instruction classes. Kabbalah — a Hebrew word meaning “received” — holds that the Torah contains hidden lessons about the meaning of life. Essentially Kabbalah purports to offer a closer, more immediate relationship with God, as opposed to the traditional, legalistic approach of Orthodox Judaism.
Followers believe that the doctrine was revealed to Moses and then passed down orally until the 13th century, when it was codified in a series of texts known as the Zohar. Kabbalah was considered so complex and difficult that even rigorously trained Orthodox Jewish scholars had to turn 40 before they could begin studying it.
By simplifying Kabbalah and drawing on aspects of modern life to make it more “relevant”, Berg claimed he made the struggles of Biblical figures “accessible”. Critics on the other hand, ridiculed it as a frivolous fad, New Age mumbo-jumbo, even “Judaism lite”.
Some Jewish spiritual leaders complained it was aimed at people seeking simplistic answers to the world’s problems. “There is a real element of escapism and exploitation to it,” noted one rabbi, “because it exploits people’s credulity. People believe if they plug into this system they will have all the answers.”
Notwithstanding the cynics, by the late 1990s, Berg and his second wife had elevated Kabbalah to cult status and established a worldwide empire of some 50 centres of instruction. Many followers regarded the couple as divines, scrambling to eat Berg’s leftovers after meals and addressing his wife in the third person.
But beyond the confines of Berg’s secretive Kabbalah centres, controversy was raging. The orthodox Jewish establishment publicly disputed the validity of his teachings (one senior figure scorned it as “Bergism”), denounced him as a fraud and rebuked him for his aggressive fundraising methods, including the practice of sending young followers to knock on doors soliciting donations. His doctrines were condemned as “dangerous,” “cheap,” and even “pagan.”
The movement’s fortunes changed dramatically in 1996 when the rock star Madonna turned up unannounced and enrolled at Berg’s flagship Kabbalah centre in Los Angeles, where he became her personal tutor. Jewish celebrities, including the comedienne Roseanne Barr and the raunchy stand-up Sandra Bernhard, were already studying there, but Madonna’s arrival signalled that the centre was open to gentiles — Madonna is a cradle Roman Catholic — and piqued the interest of the wider entertainment industry.
The Los Angeles centre, a converted 100-year-old Spanish-style church which became the movement’s world headquarters in 1998, was convenient for the celebrity enclaves of Beverly Hills and Malibu, and soon more stellar names, among them Gwyneth Paltrow, Elizabeth Taylor, Britney Spears and Demi Moore, were following Madonna to Berg’s door, drawn by his central philosophy: that by suppressing their enormous egos and “sharing” their assets, wealthy superstars like them could achieve inner peace and — every actor’s dream — immortality.
With burgeoning global fame came multiplying riches as the Bergs raked in money through sales of merchandising like red string bracelets to ward off evil, candles and special blessed water touted as having healing powers, not to mention cash donations aggressively sought from adherents.
With the movement’s assets believed to amount to hundreds of millions of dollars, Berg and his family — who had once lived liked paupers — crisscrossed the world in private jets, sported designer clothes and enjoyed gambling trips to Las Vegas from their three homes built side by side in Beverly Hills. But while their disciples continued to offer unconditional veneration, the Bergs continued to be vilified from outside. Rabbis in the United States and Israel rounded on them publicly, and when one alluded to Berg’s “scandalous” personal life — referring to the break-up of his first marriage — the centre filed a defamation suit, which it later dropped.
Shraga Feivel Gruberger was born on August 20 1929 in Brooklyn into a devout Orthodox Jewish family. Trained in the Torah scriptures from the age of three, he attended yeshiva and was ordained as a rabbi in his early 20s. Becoming disillusioned with religious life, he took a job selling policies for the New York Life Insurance Co. But, he later wrote, he felt a spiritual longing that was only satisfied when he travelled to Israel in 1962 and met Yehuda Brandwein, a Kabbalah scholar.
In Jerusalem he trained in the teachings of Kabbalah, changed his name to Philip Berg, and on his return to New York opened a Kabbalah centre in his one-bedroom flat. At first he found few takers, but in the early 1970s he ran into Karen Mulnick, who had worked as a secretary in his insurance office, and who persuaded him to take Kabbalah to the masses. Abandoning his wife and eight children, Berg married her, moved to Hollywood and got down to business.
Having secured non-profit “church status,” which exempted them from tax, the Bergs marketed Kabbalah not as a religion but rather “technology for the soul” available to everyone. However it helped if you were an A-list celebrity like Madonna who, when she joined Berg’s Los Angeles class at the height of her fame, received special treatment, being sequestered behind her own screen to protect her from the Evil Eye. Disaffected insiders believe that Madonna eventually came close to becoming brainwashed, “sucked in beyond a point of reason”, although the singer herself denied that she forced Kabbalah on anyone, and her friends reported that embracing it has mellowed her.
But the brainwashing charges festered, and at least one former adherent claims that the centre has destroyed marriages by advocating divorce if one party in a couple harbours doubts about the movement. Nor did the Rav — a title of respect accorded to Berg by his followers — shrink from making controversial pronouncements, once declaring that six million Jews could have been saved from the Holocaust had they studied Kabbalah.
Berg emphasised the importance of “sharing” — Kabbalah code for giving money and time to his centres; indeed, the movement’s detractors point to its abiding concern for its coffers, with some former students accusing the Bergs of practicing spiritual blackmail. One recalled being told: “Your child is sick and you can make them better by giving. Give till it hurts.” By all accounts Berg himself amassed a considerable personal fortune, put at some $20 million, marketing his belief system and its proliferating accessories, not just wristbands but his own 23-volume edition of the Zohar, available from the centre’s bookshop at $415.
In the late 1980s, the Bergs came up with another money-spinner, selling Kabbalah Mountain Spring Water at $3.80 a bottle, claiming it cleansed the soul and could cure various ailments. Although it was produced in industrial quantities at a plant in Canada, followers seemed to believe in its powers and — literally — lapped it up.
One of Berg’s aides summed up the kabbalists’ belief: that the world is divided into two parts: a one per cent realm of everyday reality — but actually an “illusion” — and the other 99 per cent, the spiritual realm, where all the unexplainable exists. That 99 per cent is the “light”, he added, to which kabbalists are trying to draw closer in order to rid themselves of negative traits.
In 2004 Berg was staying at a Las Vegas hotel when he suffered a stroke that left him unable to walk or talk coherently.
Despite having no shortage of critics, Berg’s Kabbalah movement continues to flourish, with some three million followers worldwide. In 2011 its assets were estimated at $260 million.
In 2010 Berg’s chief financial officer was fired after less than three months. It turned out that he had uncovered income tax fraud at the Los Angeles centre, and the criminal division of the IRS, America’s tax authority, launched an investigation. Prosecutors subpoenaed financial records and those of two affiliated charities with links to Madonna. The IRS is reportedly looking into whether funds were used for the personal enrichment of the Berg family. The centre called the allegations “meritless” and said it “intends to defend the case vigorously”.
Philip Berg’s wife, Karen, and their two sons, who have run the Kabbalah centre in Los Angeles since his debilitating stroke, survive him.
Rabbi Philip Berg, born August 20 1929, died September 16 2013

One would have expected the “housing bubble” to have been reflected in the recent CPI figures (down 0.1 percentage point). Oh, silly me, CPI excludes housing costs but the sidelined RPI (up 0.2 percentage points) includes them! Another example of government propaganda (Report, 18 September).
Alan Rigby
St Rogatien, France
• Why not employ a group of nurses, doctors, etc, to follow inspectors around to ensure they are doing their jobs properly (New hospital inspection regime announced by Jeremy Hunt, 20 September)?
Michael Peel
• Boris Johnson is quoted as saying the UK economy has “reached its Costa Concordia moment” (Report, 19 September). Isn’t it about to be towed away for scrap?
Ian Reissmann
Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire
• I went to Marks & Spencer to buy a children’s quilt to be used by my grandchildren (Where are the women scientists and engineers?, G2, 17 September). The quilts about space, dinosaurs and animals were all labelled for boys, while the pink-coloured quilts were labelled for girls. I received a dismissive reply from M&S to my complaint. Unfortunately this shows that we have a long, long way to go to try and change the perception and reality of women and girls in science, technology and engineering.
Martin Newnham
• Trying to ingratiate myself as a new member of the civilian academic staff at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth (In praise of… nautical vocabulary, 17 September), I made the mistake of complimenting my naval colleagues on their running of “a tight ship”. I was scornfully put right: the correct nautical term is “taut” ship. The only tight ship would have been one where the crew had found the key to the rum rations.
Helen Johnson
Sedbergh, Cumbria
• I don’t know which era the compiler of Quick crossword No 13,530 thinks he/she lives in, but for “gadzooks” to be a solution to the clue “Well I’m blowed!” it can’t be the same one the rest of us are in.
Tony Cheney
Ipswich, Suffolk

In a letter from Gavin Lewis (19 September), in response to my article on the chanting of the word Yid at football matches, he claims my opinion has no worth because, in Fantasy Football, I was made up as the black footballer Jason Lee, and this was clearly racist. So, Robert Downey Jr can have no opinion on racism; Matt Lucas and David Walliams can have no opinion on racism; Kayvan Novak can have no opinion on racism; Harry Enfield can have no opinion on racism; Leigh Francis can have no opinion on racism. That aside, let’s say, Dr Lewis, it was deeply, deeply wrong. Perhaps it was. But I believe two of them don’t actually make a right.
David Baddiel
• This prompts the obvious question: when will we challenge the use of the – disgusting to most of us – N word, ubiquitous in rap?
Pat Bolster

Tristram Hunt again, and incredibly for a professional historian, seeks to promote Disraeli as someone whose thinking and policies Labour should seek to emulate (Comment, 19 September). There is no doubt that Disraeli was a highly capable and effective politician, but his main aim was to divert the working classes of Victorian times from seeking real change to their lives to supporting the illusion that the nation and its empire should be the focus of support, albeit alongside a few modest reforms. In this it has to be said that he was brilliantly successful, creating a substantial working-class conservatism that has endured to this day and made it possible for Conservative governments to dominate much of the period since.
The “one nation” principle does have a role to play for Labour, but only if it is used to expose how we are not one nation, that the policies of the Con/Dem government are designed to uphold the interests of the well-off at the expense of the majority, as instanced by growing inequality and the demonisation of those on benefits. Disraeli would no doubt have approved, as he was in the same business as Cameron and co. It is no accident that Disraeli is one of Cameron’s heroes. He shouldn’t be one of Labour’s.
Peter Rowlands
• Seeing most of your front page (Inside story of Blair’s fight to stop Brown, 20 September), and four inside pages, devoted to emails from several years ago, between political people most of us have never heard of, I assumed it must be a no-news day. And reading the rest of the paper, this was clearly the case. A possible ceasefire in Syria; the prospect of individual freedom and a nuclear settlement in Iran; the pope proposes liberalisation in the Catholic church … Nothing much to report there, then.
David Hoult

An almost visceral response against bombing to end despotic rule and atrocities has hit home here and in the US (Syria’s main arms suppliers among least generous aid donors, says Oxfam, 19 September). Could we galvanise this response into a timely call for more structured peacekeeping and global governance through an empowered UN? Saturday is International Peace Day, marked by the UN since 2002. Each of us can make our voice heard. We can call for a post-military world recognising the limits of force and the necessity of developed skills in diplomacy. The need for reform of the UN is universally acknowledged; it must be far more representative to gain moral authority. The UN security council should be the only legitimate body responsible for enforcing peace and security – enforcement based on equity, respect for human rights and international law.
The US, UK, Russia, China and France, representing only 29% of the world’s population, have veto power over world affairs. The biggest weapons traders are tasked with global disarmament. Those who trample international law control the administration of justice. How about a UN assembly in which every nation, large or small, has a single vote? It would be both a global forum and a grand jury whose judgment cannot be ignored. Only international agreements, binding at the level of the UN, can address poverty and inequality, climate change and the arms trade. Global military expenditure is $1.7tn annually. Peacekeeping, aid, development, education and healthcare, as expensive and difficult as they are, the cost of them pales next to the human and social toll of treating problems arising from destitution and violence. In some parts of the world, Oxfam reports, wealth inequality has put a brake on poverty reduction, child nutrition and education. The opposite of poverty is not wealth, it is justice.
Catherine Thick
Equity & Peace
• At last a glimmer of hope for Syria, as an Assad minister admits no side can win and Russia and Iran offer help in brokering negotiations. This demands a generous response from the US and its allies to bring concerted pressure on rebel forces to join talks. The alternative is a nightmare for Syrians and the rest of us. This escalating conflict has served to recombine a toxic mix of bad old wars, cold and colonial, regional, tribal and sectarian. Fragile frontiers – lines in the sand or concrete walls – are no barrier to a chain reaction between Sunni and Shia, Saudi Arabia and Iran, Muslim and Jew, a faltering US and re-emergent Russia (as old colonials Britain and France, still compete to punch above their weight). Such bloodshed, such widespread horrors ahead, such absurdity in present power-play and posturing. Now the war clouds have cleared for a while, is it too much to hope for a collective recovery of common sense? The first objective a ceasefire, with a slow reconfiguration thereafter in Syria, across the Middle East and at the UN?
Greg Wilkinson

Last year’s Labour party conference unanimously committed the party to campaign against cuts and privatisation in the NHS and rebuild it as a public service. This year’s conference will again debate this vital issue (Be bold, stop jumping at shadows, Polly Toynbee, 20 September). As cuts and sell-offs spiral, the destruction of the NHS in all but name is now well under way. The growing struggle to save it needs more than warm words from Labour. If the party leadership is serious about saving the NHS from the coalition’s assault, it needs to make firm commitments on issues like outsourcing and privatisation of services, the use of markets, the private finance initiative debts, minimum staffing levels and reversing cuts. It needs to restore the secretary of state’s duty to provide a comprehensive service, as Ed Miliband has promised, but go beyond that to rebuild a publicly owned, publicly funded and publicly run NHS, providing for need – not a logo covering a marketplace of profit-making private companies. The Labour party should show it is serious about saving the NHS by taking a clear stand.
Grahame Morris MP
John McDonnell MP
Sue Richards Keep Our NHS Public co-chair
Anita Downs Lewisham hospital Unite the Union secretary
Dr Louise Irvine Save Lewisham Campaign chair
Dr Kailash Chand Tameside Healthwatch chair and Stalybridge CLP
Martin Mayer Unite the Union executive council and Labour party national executive
Caroline Molloy OurNHS openDemocracy editor
Dr Jacky Davis NHS Consultants Association co-chair
Jill Mountford Save Lewisham hospital steering group
Marsha Jane Thompson Havering Unison secretary and LRC Vice Chair
Hazel Nolan London Young Labour chair, Young Labour national committee
Pat Smith Hull North CLP secretary
Pete Radcliff Broxtowe CLP secretary
Councillor Gary Wareing Hull city council
Aisling Gallagher Labour Party in Northern Ireland executive and NUS-USI women’s officer
Jon Rogers and Ruth Cashman Lambeth Unison co-secretaries
Waïda Forman for Unison Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust
Dr David Wrigley GP and Keep Our NHS Public
Alison Brown Sheffield Save Our NHS, ambulance worker
Mark Boothroyd Katie Turner and Pierre Ellis 4:1 Campaign
Doug Williamson for Unite Oxford General & Publishing Branch
Phil Thomas University of Bradford
Councillor Kevin Bennett Warrington borough council
Matt Smith Ruskin College SU president
Dr Alex Scott-Samuel Politics of Health Group joint chair
Professor Paul Bywaters Social Work and Health Inequalities Network
Michael Chessum University of London Union president
Councillor Josh Jones Birmingham city council
Pat Murphy National Union of Teachers national executive
Conrad Landin Young Labour national committee
Dan Young London Young Labour trade union liaison officer
Liam McNulty London Young Labour
Hannah Thompson London Young Labour
Beth Redmond for the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts
Dave Kirk Unite 204/4 secretary and Leeds LRC chair
Eleanor Clarke and Pete Campbell Students for the NHS
Colum McGuire National Union of Students vice-president, welfare
Sky Yarlett NUS LGBT officer (open place)
Kelley Temple NUS women’s officer
Shreya Paudel NUS international students committee
Arianna Tassinari NUS national executive committee and ISC
James McAsh NUS NEC
Rosie Huzzard NUS NEC
Charles Barry NUS NEC
Alan Milne Wirral West CLP
Dr Jonathan Folb consultant microbiologist, Liverpool
Rita O’Brien & Jean Fraser East Kent Keep Our NHS Public
Professor Lee Adams
• Patrick Wintour suggests (Report, 20 September) that certain people would prefer it if the ownership of our railways was not discussed on the grounds that conference “is due to focus on living standards and measures to alleviate the pressure on the so-called squeezed middle”. But a central advantage of having rail franchises in public ownership is precisely because it would enormously assist a Labour chancellor in protecting living standards. The publicly owned East Coast has seen more than £600m returned to the Treasury over the past three years. Public ownership of the railways is economically prudent, environmentally sustainable and electorally popular. What are we waiting for?
Francis Prideaux
• You are wrong to say that train companies received £51m more in subsidy than they paid to the government in franchise payments last year. Figures published on 22 August by the rail regulator show that in 2012-13, train companies made a net contribution to the government of £256m, a reversal of the picture in 2001-02 when net direct government support to operators was £1.4bn. While the government became better off from franchising over that period by £1.7bn, over the same period train companies’ profits only rose from £185m to £300m.
This turnaround in net government support has been possible due to phenomenal growth in rail passenger journeys, which outstrips that of major state-owned European railways. Competition between train companies in bidding to run services incentivises them to expand rail usage and contain costs. At the same time, a growing share of the financial dividend generated by franchising benefits passengers and taxpayers, by helping to maintain investment while government support to the network declines.
Tom Smith
Association of Train Operating Companies
• As the representatives of employees in the rail industry we know better than most that the existing rail network is operating at near full capacity. Neither new motorways nor domestic air travel alone are sustainable options to meet the mobility requirements of a British population expected to grow by 10 million by 2033. We regret the absence of a national transport strategy from the current and previous governments, and believe the development of a high-speed rail network must be at the heart of Labour’s transport policy and its future vision for the economic health of this country. We welcome the Labour party conference’s support for HS2 this week and applaud the party’s pledge to scrap HS2 Ltd and hand over the project to Network Rail to ensure the new line is properly integrated into the existing rail network. We urge Labour’s conference to examine all models for the running of HS2’s rail operations, including not-for-profit options, and urge Labour to ensure the line is built, and delivered, in a way that maximises UK jobs, training, and apprenticeships.
Mick Whelan Aslef, Bob Crow RMT, Manuel Cortes TSSA, Frances O’Grady TUC, Diana Holland Unite
• How much social housing could be bought for the cost of HS2?
Chris Dutta


The discussion over the niqab is becoming heated – and I think justifiably so. In Western culture masking the face has, for centuries, implied menace. How, as a society with equal participation of all individuals – male or female – we could operate with some choosing to cover their faces I do not understand.
Going completely clad in black may avoid the sexual objectification that our society imposes on women, but covering one’s face is quite another step. I cannot imagine a situation where a doctor, nurse, lawyer, teacher, prison officer, social worker or any other professional dealing with the general public could possibly operate effectively with their faces covered. It is a preposterous way to behave and carries an implication that demeans women and imputes attitudes to men which are deeply insulting.
Angela Peyton, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
I wonder whether all the correspondents who feel grossly affronted by the niqab ever bothered to invest as much time in feminist issues that affect their own western communities.
It seems many conservatives and liberals who brush off feminist critique as “politically correct nonsense” are suddenly jumping to the defence of Muslims wearing the niqab, claiming they are being “suppressed” and that they need to be “liberated”.
The whole debate smacks of western imperialism. We paint the brown man as a barbaric, uncontrollable rapist, and brown woman as a voiceless object who requires an enlightened (male) western crusader to save her.
Have you ever considered that a woman may choose to wear the niqab, and that she is not being manipulated, coerced, or “hidden” from society? Have you ever considered that a society in which women are plastered on billboards, newspapers, magazines, small screens, big screens, and even in fiction as decorative objects, as little more than things to be consumed (i e raped), with no will or volition of their own, is deeply misogynistic?
It should not take the words of a white girl such as myself, who is only repeating the words her Muslim sisters have told her, to realise how loaded this debate is.
Charlotte Mowbray, Cheltenham
I am puzzled when powerful and influential people are threatened and upset by women’s clothing.  Jack Straw had a tantrum over someone appearing in a niqab in his office and there is now another outcry against the niqab.
If the niqab is seen as dangerous, then that is a perception of our own making and we must bear the consequences. When I come across a person in a niqab, I generally acknowledge her and I am politely acknowledged in return, along, quite frequently, with a twinkly eye. 
Isobel Carter, Glynneath, Neath Port Talbot
The essential question for those who advocate the veiling of women is: “Why don’t men wear burkas?”
Daphne Tomlinson, Nailsworth, Gloucestershire
City overrun with bicycles
In responding to the opposition to cycling events by some Surrey residents, Simon O’Hagan should note that objections are not merely car drivers’ nimbyism. (“Surrey turns against cycling revolution”, 18 September).
For me as a London taxi driver, weekends form part of my working week, as they do for many Londoners. Now, for two consecutive Sundays the capital grinds to a halt because of widespread road closures: first the triathalon championship and then the culmination of the tour of Britain.
So I am faced with the frustration of telling passengers why I cannot get them to their destination, or if I can, why it will costs an arm and a leg. Alternatively, I can stay at home and lose a day’s wages.
I’m not against these events per se, but this situation is beginning to border on restriction of trade. Why do these events have to be held in the most densely populated part of the country? Surrey is not uniquely attractive, so could I suggest to organisers the next cycling shindig heads for some sleepy Cotswold villages, with the finishing line in Chipping Norton High Street?
Anthony Nash, Carshalton, Surrey
I know nothing of the behaviour of those riding bicycles in the Box Hill area of Surrey, but was interested by David Preedy’s observation (letter, 20 October) that he sees “the pressure caused by the number of cyclists using the single minor road through the village”, and that “most of the mainly retired residents feel intimidated when they have to drive among large groups of cyclists”.
It strikes me that if “cylists” is replaced by ‘“cars”, and “drive” by “cycle” or “walk”, this is an apt description of the situation all over the country much of the time, arising from the over-dominance of cars, and the over-dependence of our social structure upon them.
Neil Jones, Ely, Cambridgeshire
Pompous failure of the Lib Dems
Nick Clegg becomes simultaneously more ingenuous and more pompous by the day.
The Lib Dems would have had real power if they had not gone into coalition and had made a minority Tory government seek their support on an issue-by-issue basis.
But no, the lure of the ministerial cars and red boxes proved too great. The failure to get electoral reform through, the one issue that really mattered for them, proved what a busted flush they were once they entered coalition.
The one good thing about a clear majority for either Labour or the Tories is that we would not have to put up with any more of the sanctimonious claptrap  we have had to endure for the past three years.
Tom Simpson, Bristol
Pressures at the checkout
Children are not the only ones who pester about sweets at the checkout (September 16). At any branch of W H Smith throughout the country you will be asked, as you pay, if you want sweets which are on the counter in front of you.
If you complain that you are a victim of pressurised selling you will be told that every assistant is obliged to ask this question or face losing their job.
It’s not right for the assistant and it’s not right for the customer, but other than boycotting the shop what can the public do?
Brenda Beamond, Lymington,  Hampshire
Climate chaos looms closer
Warnings by scientists that we will use up our atmospheric carbon emissions’ allowance of 1trn tonnes of CO2 within 30 years, and thereby breach the 2C limit “beyond which the consequences of climate change are expected to become increasingly devastating”, substantially understate our predicament (“Halfway to catastrophe, say climate scientists”, 20 September).
First, the notion that climate policy should be predicated on odds barely better than evens is, to say the least, cavalier. Adopting similar standards in airline safety would evaporate the air travel market overnight, so why is the world apparently so willing to accept 50:50 risk levels with planetary habitability?
Secondly, although the 2C level has been widely adopted in climate policy globally and nationally, it does not reflect the science. For at least a decade, it has been generally accepted among leading climate scientists that the threshold between acceptable and dangerous climate change is 1C, not 2C, the latter more accurately representing the boundary between dangerous and extremely dangerous climate change.
Finally, recent peer-reviewed work on climate tipping points, in which positive feedback effects accelerate the transition to dangerous climate change, indicates that (a) the first of these – Arctic ice melt – has already passed in 2007, with as yet unknown consequences, and (b) warming of just 1.5C is sufficient to trigger another major tipping point: large-scale methane release from permafrost and clathrate melt, a threshold also now confirmed in the paleoclimate record and, more worryingly, apparently already approaching with the recent discovery of methane emissions in the Arctic larger than those from all of the world’s other oceans combined.
These issues are less the elephant in the room than an entire herd. The scientific community is well aware of their implications, but these have yet to impact on policy. Until they do, it will continue to target failure.
Nigel Tuersley, Tisbury, Wiltshire
Get out of the arms trade
The latest revelation that arms export licences are being granted for the supply of dodgy equipment to even dodgier regimes comes as no surprise. This government – like its predecessors –is clearly in thrall to the arms industry. Wouldn’t it be great if we had a government committed to reducing and eliminating our country’s shameful involvement in this dreadful business?
A start would be to charge higher levels of corporation tax on profits made from arms sales and use the money to provide grants to companies seeking to re-tool and re-train to produce more peaceful goods.
Mark Walford, London N12
Free to smoke in prison
In 2007 the Governor of the prison in which I was teaching proposed a total smoking ban everywhere in the prison (no “smoking areas” anywhere).
What made her back off wasn’t fears of mass prisoner riots. It was the flat refusal to co-operate by the prison officers. Perhaps they should be consulted in the latest hoo-ha over banning smoking in prisons; should be interesting.
Richard Humble, Exeter
No blame
The author of the serious case review report into the death of Daniel Pelka said: “If professionals had used more inquiring minds and been more focused in their intentions to address concerns, it’s likely that Daniel would have been better protected from the people who killed him.” Yet the report did not blame or identify any individual agency. How can this be?
Robert Edwards, Hornchurch,  Essex
Be kind to flies
Enough already with the fly-swatting tips! Here’s a novel idea – just leave them be! It’s easy enough to shoo an insect back out the same way it came in; they have short enough life-cycles as it is. If you don’t like them, buy some fly screens.
Sharon Bignell, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex
United in prayer
The Pope says that he “prays even while in the dentist’s chair”. Don’t we all?
Peter Forster, London N4


The cuts will reduce our Armed Forces so that we will no longer have sufficient combat power to intervene effectively anywhere beyond our shores
Sir, As your distinguished correspondents say (letter, Sept 19), the Liberal Democrats’ stance on a Trident replacement programme can satisfy nobody. It is neither a deterrent, nor honestly stated nuclear disarmament. There is a further issue that must be addressed — what is the fundamental purpose of any defence policy?
After several centuries of what is now called an intervenionist policy by Britain, the cuts imposed by the last Government and the coalition Government will reduce our Armed Forces to a level that means that we will no longer have sufficient combat power to intervene effectively anywhere beyond our shores, except on a short-term basis or in making contributions to US or EU-led operations.
This will lead to our Armed Forces still having the primary role of defending this country, even though a direct threat of land attack is remote. However, while countries such as Iran and North Korea are determined to develop nuclear weapons, it would be foolish for the UK to abandon them. It will be an insurance premium well worth paying, even if, as we all hope, we never make a claim on the policy.
Clive Fletcher-Wood

Sir, The financial albatross of Trident is neither independent nor credible. Control was handed to Washington when the decision was made to use a missile delivery system designed, manufactured and overhauled in the US. Even submarine-launched test firings are conducted in American waters under US Navy supervision. It is inconceivable that No.10 would fire Trident in anger without approval from the White House. Persisting with Trident and its proposed replacement in order to retain our permanent Security Council seat is to reject British pragmatism in favour of la gloire. The French went to the trouble of developing their own submarine-launched missile delivery system. They own it, hence control it.
Yugo Kovach
Winterborne Houghton, Dorset

Sir, The long-established Nato doctrine of collective defence is regarded by all other member states, bar France and the US, as sufficient protection from the threat of ­­pre-emptive nuclear or conventional attack. Why is Britain any different? Far better to divert some of the resources that will be spent on replacing Trident to reversing the cuts to our conventional Armed Forces and bolstering the UK’s abilities to project real power in the world. Our position at the top table of diplomacy would be strengthened by more soldiers, ships and aircraft, not by four Trident submarines.
John Slinger
Rugby, Warks

Sir, There is at least one aspect on which we and Lord Robertson of Port Ellen and his colleagues will all agree — there is no country with the intention and means to threaten the UK with nuclear weapons today.
Surely those who accept the concept of deterrence must agree that the less aggressive “contingency” posture, as advocated by former Armed Forces Minister Nick Harvey and others, is logical and prudent in 2013. A sceptical public recognises that keeping a costly submarine on constant patrol to protect us from an imaginary enemy is outdated and a waste of money.
Steve Hucklesby
Policy adviser, Baptist, Methodist and United Reformed Churches

The Met Office is rated in the top two forecasters in the world by the world’s governing body, the World Meteorological Organisation
Sir, The Met Office has a transparent policy on forecast accuracy in line with international guidelines. We’re rated in the top two forecasters in the world, not by ourselves, but by the world’s governing body, the World Meteorological Organisation — not a position attained by just “looking out of the window”.
Our forecasts help to keep two thirds of global aircraft over 24,000ft flying safely and emergency services forewarned and prepared for severe weather. Could you correctly predict the time and strength of a desert dust storm that could affect military operations by looking out of your window; can you give local authorities 24 hours notice of when to grit roads by checking the clouds on the horizon?
We are sorry that Ross Clark (Thunderer, Sept 18) had his cricket disrupted but, as he points out himself, weather systems do not behave to order.
We can’t control the weather, but we are among the world’s best at forecasting it.
Rob Varley
Operations and Services Director, Met Office


The rational debate should be about the relative costs and advantages of attempting ‘to drastically reduce producing carbon dioxide’ against those of adapting to the consequences of increasing temperatures
Sir, How refreshing to see my colleague and friend Professor Roderick A. Smith injecting a note of hard-headed pragmatism into the debate about climate change (letter, Sept 18). This especially in an issue that also contains the comments from Professor Shah criticising certain individuals for not accepting the science behind climate change. Many of us broadly accept the science, but not the policies that have arisen from it. I therefore believe Professor Smith does not take his logical conclusions far enough. The rational debate should be about the relative costs and advantages of attempting “to drastically reduce producing carbon dioxide” against those of adapting to the consequences of increasing temperatures. A good starting challenge for this debate would be some clear exposition as to exactly what it is that is so particular about the climate in the late 20th/early 21st century that makes it necessary to expend huge resources in order to preserve it in aspic.
Professor C..J. Goodman

SIR – In late June this year, an Australian friend and I walked from the Thames Barrier to Hampton Court, a distance of about 30 miles (“World Class Thames hike”, report, September 16). It was a fascinating and exhilarating experience, exploring parts of London that can only be accomplished on foot, wandering through little-known corners of the capital and discovering a myriad of delightful treasures. We took three days over the expedition (any less would have been a rush), staying two nights en route, one in Aldgate, the other Hammersmith.
For those who enjoy long walks, this is an unforgettable adventure.
Dr Allan Hough

SIR – Sir David Attenborough blames famine in parts of the world on over-population (report, September 18). But this cannot be. Some of the most densely populated places (Hong Kong or London for example) are also among the richest. Some of the driest places (California or Saudi Arabia) again are among the richest, and the inhabitants, despite their numbers, are not dying of thirst.
The only conclusion which can be drawn about poverty is that it is caused by governments, and not by the size of the population.
Roger Merryweather
Stroud, Gloucestershire
SIR – We would like to thank Sir David Attenborough for his recent interest in Ethiopia but his comments about famine in Ethiopia and “too many people for too little piece of land” (Comment, September 19) are somewhat outdated.
Ethiopia has undergone a significant political and social transformation, achieving food self-sufficiency and double digit economic growth for the past 10 years.
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Africa has vast tracts of arable land sufficient to feed itself and the rest of the world. Specifically, Ethiopia has 76 million hectares suitable for agriculture, of which only 17 million hectares have so far been used. It also has an abundant water supply for irrigation. Population growth control is a key element of Ethiopia’s current five-year Growth and Transformation Plan. This is being addressed through family planning and the empowerment of women and girls through education and health-sector programmes.
I would like to invite Sir David to visit Ethiopia, so that he may witness this transformation for himself. The issue is not sending “bags of flour”, but helping Ethiopia to achieve full sustainable development through the promotion of trade and investment.
Berhanu Kebede
Ethiopian Ambassador to the UK
London SW7
SIR – Sir David Attenborough is right to be concerned about threats to Africa’s ability to feed itself. Backed by £400 million of British aid, the G8’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition is forcing African governments to adopt policies that make it easier for foreigners to take over agricultural land, much of which will be used for the production of biofuel or other export crops.
But if his concerns are really about too many people and too little land, his attention should be focused nearer to home: Europe’s population relative to its land area is more than double that of Africa’s. Our consumption levels are only made possible by the ongoing extraction of agricultural and other raw materials from developing countries.
Allowing Africa to feed its own people, rather than greedy Western markets, would make “barmy” food aid redundant.
Nick Dearden
Director, World Development Movement
London SW9
Free school meals
SIR – Instead of restricting free school meals to children under eight (report, September 18), would it not make more sense to subsidise school meals for all children? Over-eights are just as much in need of a hot meal in the middle of the day to aid their ability to learn. Promoting healthy eating without the diversion of television would surely benefit everyone.
Helen Webster
Woking, Surrey
SIR – A free school meal gives an opportunity for teachers to observe children eating and question parents about any ravenous eating or lack of eating from a child. At the very least, the policy may be one small step towards spotting this type of child abuse.
Janet Apps
Pinner, Middlesex
SIR – Not all primary schools have a kitchen large enough to prepare meals, and who would pay for the extra staff needed to cook, serve and supervise?
Carol Day
Alton, Hampshire
Banning the veil
SIR – Should the state be licensed to force a parent to send their child out of the house dressed in a manner that the parent considers immodest? To put the state in such a totalitarian position not only undermines the authority of parents, but is against the British tradition of liberty. If this issue were not associated in the public perception with a minority “religion” as distinct from “custom and culture”, Jeremy Browne MP would not have proposed it for debate (report, September 16).
We value our reputation for tolerance and diversity; let us not join France in becoming a narrow-minded “majority rule means uniformity” (everybody has to look like us) type of society.
David McManus
Godalming, Surrey
SIR – Not so long ago, during a hospital visit, David Cameron was reprimanded by a doctor for wearing a tie and made to roll up his shirt sleeves. Surely, a loose veil or a flowing burka poses an even more unacceptable risk of cross-contamination.
Stefan Reszczynski
Margate, Kent
British-only prizes
SIR – Opening the Booker Prize to authors from the whole world (report, September 19) leaves us British without a prize of our own. Wouldn’t it be better if British publishers, agents, retailers and authors got their act together and organised some awards – The Book Brits, perhaps?
Categories might include best thriller, best romance, best fantasy, best literary fiction plus an overall novel of the year. A best celebrity author award would help secure essential television coverage.
Who knows, we professional authors might even sell some books.
David Thomas, aka Tom Cain
Chichester, West Sussex
Be careful Boris
SIR – Boris Johnson should be careful of allusive comparisons, especially maritime examples (“Boris hails UK economy’s ‘Costa Concordia moment’”, report, September 19). In 1987, following the sinking of the Herald of Free Enterprise and the loss of nearly 200 lives, Nicholas Ridley, the environment secretary, caused uproar by remarking that he would not be pursuing a particular policy “with the bow doors open”.
Robert Vincent
Wildhern, Hampshire
Hunting ban backfires
SIR – As Peter Oborne points out (Comment, September 17), the unintended consequences of the fox hunting ban have included more foxes dying by shooting and poisoning and a displacement of foxes from the countryside to the city. These migrant foxes enjoy a plentiful supply of food and have nothing to interrupt their opportunistic scavenging.
Another consequence of this law was the encouragement it gave to animal rights extremists. Emboldened by the ban, they have now broadened their remit to include stopping the Government’s proportionate and humane badger cull, using the same sinister tactics and caring little for the consequences for Britain’s hard-pressed beef and dairy farmers and the devastating effects of TB on the animals they tend to.
Philip Donnelly
Chairman, Hunting Association of Ireland
Clane, Co Kildare, Ireland
Not all the news
SIR – Nora Jackson (Letters, September 19) is wrong – the news is the news and is factual. Rape happens, pornography exists, and sadly, paedophiles roam our streets.
Children need to be exposed to the harsh realities of this cruel and wicked world in order to understand the environment in which they are growing up.
Cossetting them in a bubble leaves them in for a nasty surprise when they mature into adults – only to find out the world is not the fairytale place they had been led to believe it might be.
Alan Reynolds
Sudbury, Suffolk
SIR – I edited the Early Evening News and the News at Ten at ITN for many years. On the Early, we were acutely aware that younger viewers would be watching and went to considerable lengths to make sure that details that might cause distress to them were severely restricted. Nor was there a free-for-all on the News at Ten. Although we showed and said more, good taste was paramount. Perhaps Nora Jackson is watching the wrong channels.
Philip Moger
East Preston, West Sussex
Dull days
SIR – My schoolboy diaries had the acronym NUHT written against most days.It stood for Nothing Unusual Happened Today, and I’m afraid my diary would be much the same now.
Kevin Platt
Walsall, Staffordshire
Drunk and disorderly – or drunk and incapable?
SIR – Prior to the introduction of the 1984 Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) most police stations had drunk tanks.
PACE put an end to this practice, giving detained persons obligatory rights on arrival in the charge room, renamed the “custody suite”. No longer could station sergeants simply put drunks in the drunk tank and discharge them at 5am.
In the current politically correct era, distinguishing between prisoners who are drunk and disorderly and those who are merely drunk and incapable, and therefore not qualifying for protection from PACE, could lead to very serious unintended consequences.
David Griffiths
Bromley, Kent
SIR – Drunk tanks are certainly a good start, provided that someone can decide who belongs there and who, in case of serious alcohol poisoning, would be better off in A&E.
Roger West
Appenzell, Switzerland
SIR – It would be unlawful for the police to visit pubs and “arrest bar staff and people buying drinks for their drunken friends” (Letters, September 19).
When I became a London policeman in 1965, such visits to licensed premises were the norm. They enabled the police to control general drunkenness and ensure alcohol was not sold to those who were underage. However in the early Eighties, judges decided that such visits were unlawful unless the police had good grounds for believing offences were being committed prior to their entry.
So much for Sections 141 and 142 of the 2003 Licensing Act.
P A Feltham
Epsom, Surrey
SIR – There needs to be a campaign in the media to emphasise the dangers of binge drinking and convince the public that “having a good time” does not equate with “getting drunk”.
John Talman
East Bergholt, Suffolk

Irish Times:
Sir, – The Government’s poster campaign panders to the worst kind of bargain basement flippancy.
Posters shriek, “Save €20 million”. Well, it’s a “saving” only if you put no value on checks and balances to mitigate the worst excesses of political centralisation.
“Fewer politicians”, the posters proclaim. This is rank populism. Note that it is not fewer Dáil politicians, which would make a lot more sense, it’s those pesky Senators who are that bit further from the control of the party whips.
The most recent one is a classic poster-rant against “Elitism”. They seem unable to see that “elitism” is not an argument against a second chamber; it’s an argument in favour of a reform of its membership.
In any event, think of the names of some of this supposed “elite” – Prof John Crown, Dr Sean Barrett, Fergal Quinn. One doesn’t have to agree with any or all of them, but they do bring expertise and commitment and independence to the governance of this country. Does anyone seriously think that most of these people would be seen dead around the kind of nonsense committees that the Government is proposing ?
There is a whiff of panic about the Government’s campaign. It deserves to be rebuffed for, once again, patronising voters with glib and facile posters. – Yours, etc,
Co Wicklow.
Sir, – The Taoiseach has persisted in peddling a false historical narrative throughout the referendum campaign to abolish the Seanad. He repeated it yet again in his Irish Times piece yesterday: “I came to the conclusion that the Seanad was unreformable – 10 attempts at reform in its 75 years all failed” (“Chance for new politics to embrace real change”, Opinion & Analysis, September 20th).
The premise of this political argument is that the Upper House is incapable of ever being reformed because it has never been reformed and therefore the only logical response is to get rid of it. This is a persuasive position when stacked against the plethora of unimplemented proposals over the years.
But it is simply not true.
Seán MacEntee, Dr James Ryan, Erskine H Childers, James Dillon, Patrick McGilligan and William Norton published a cross-party report on Seanad reform in 1947. As a consequence, the then taoiseach, Eamon de Valera, exercised his political will and introduced the Seanad Electoral (Panel Members) Act, 1947.
The Act forms the basis for elections to the Seanad today. It defined what constituted a nominating body. The franchise was extended. The electoral college was tripled. The corruption that had notoriously plagued Seanad elections was stopped with separate election and ballot papers for each panel. The composition of each of the five vocational panels and procedures for the election of 43 members are laid down by the Act, as were the division of each panel into two sub-panels – the nominating bodies sub-panel and the Oireachtas sub-panel.
The only reason these reforms came about was because de Valera decided to implement them. There may well be legitimate arguments to terminate Ireland’s second house of parliament but it is an utter fallacy to suggest that it is unreformable. History shows that the power of the executive is such that only the taoiseach of the day can ultimately introduce reform. It is not the fault of unimplemented reports but the failure of leadership.
My paper on how and why the 1947 Seanad reform came about can be accessed from the historyhub.ie special series on the Seanad referendum. – Yours, etc,
Global Irish Studies Centre,

Sir, – Dan O’Brien clearly took offence at President Michael D Higgins’s recent speech at Dublin City University (“Presidency ill-served by economic partisanship”, Business, September 20th). In particular he was offended by the use of the concept “neoliberal”. I agree with your columnist that this is a relatively innocuous term but Mr O’Brien’s analysis was more polemic than analytic. The term “neoliberal” is increasingly used in political science to describe the paradigm shift away from demand-managed macroeconomics, during the Keynesian era, to the supply-side oriented revolution in economics during the period of financial market expansion.
Using the concept to describe broadly a paradigm shift does not imply that there is no variation in how economies are organised in contemporary capitalist societies, nor does it imply an “us” versus “them” mentality. It is used extensively in many European-based political economy research projects. The international financial cum sovereign debt crisis was caused by the reckless behaviour of private market actors.
President Higgins should be commended for his bravery to confront the intellectual hubris that accompanied this. – Yours, etc,
Max Planck Institute for the
Study of Societies,

Sir, – I have respected Donald Clarke’s writings as a film critic in the past , but with his “Good people often rise late” column (Opinion & Analysis, September 14th) he has become my hero.
Born at 12:30pm 81 years ago, I have spent a lifetime attempting to conform to day/night patterns while being a biological night owl. As a student, employee, wife, mother, even as a volunteer, one must be an early bird, and thus suffer the slings and arrows of those who cloak themselves “in moral superiority”.
But after my early-bird husband retired and we moved to Ireland in 1992, I learned the technique and have been wallowing in my frowned-upon habit for years; friends know and accept my idiosyncrasy and dare not phone me before afternoon, yet I am constantly asked to explain why.
Thus I will distribute Mr Clarke’s article to everyone who has asked, and with it I may even quote from the Wallace Stevens poem Night: “The house was quiet and the world was calm.” – Yours, etc,

A chara, – I read with interest the coverage of the HIQA report on the standards of hand hygiene among staff in St James’s Hospital (“Non-compliance with hand hygiene in hospitals getting worse”, Home News, September 20th).
I eagerly await the report on hand hygiene practices among patients and their visitors. Naturally, germs are not transported by staff alone. Furthermore, I also await the response of the private-sector contractors that are paid to clean the hospital, especially with respect to “unclean shower tray and a mould-like substance on shower tiles”. – Yours, etc,
Priory Grove,
Stillorgan, Co Dublin.
Sir, – Come back, Pontius Pilate, all is forgiven. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – I salute Christy Moore and his views on Arthur’s Day (Home News, September 18th). Last year I found myself in Temple Bar on the evening of Arthur’s Day and witnessed scenes of unbelievable drunkenness. Thank goodness for a clear unblinkered view from one of our great artists. He sees this event for what it is in its crude commercialism. Well done, Christy. – Yours, etc,
North Circular Road,

Irish Independent:
* According to the 2011 Census, 84.2pc of people in Ireland described themselves as ‘Catholic’. A clear majority, but this also represents the lowest percentage of the population describing themselves as Catholic since records began. It also throws up some curious inconsistencies.
Also in this section
Who is calling the shots in this country?
Recovery lies in education of our children
No moral consensus on Ireland’s future
A recent poll revealed that only 34pc of Catholics said they attended Mass. Only 30pc of 35-54 year olds and 14pc of 18-34 year olds said they attended. Only a minority said they believed in hell.
The Global Index of Religion and Atheism, a survey conducted by the Gallup International Association covering 57 countries across five continents, found that religiosity is falling faster in Ireland than any country in the west (only in Vietnam was religiosity falling faster).
A 2012 survey conducted by the Association of Catholic Priests found that 87pc of those surveyed thought priests should be allowed to marry; 77pc said they believed women should be allowed to be ordained; 46pc said they “disagree strongly” with the church’s teachings on homosexuality; while 61pc said they “disagree” with the church; 87pc believed divorcees and separated people in a second stable relationship should be allowed to receive communion. Only 20pc agreed that sexual expression outside of marriage was immoral.
An IPSOS/MRBI poll in June this year found 75pc of people surveyed in the Republic supported the Government’s abortion legislation; 89pc supported abortion to save a woman’s life; over 80pc also supported abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality and in cases of rape; 78pc said abortion should be allowed to save a woman’s health.
I might be so bold to suggest that a survey of Catholics’ beliefs vis-a-vis transubstantiation, the immaculate conception, the assumption, the resurrection, the holy spirit, papal infallibility and purgatory might also make for interesting reading.
Is someone entitled to call themselves a Catholic without satisfying any criteria other than being baptised? If a person who has been baptised cannot ever leave the church (as is my understanding), is it the case that your Catholic life assurance policy is valid, irrespective of what you really believe, once you have been baptised? No wonder there are so many pro-choice, pro-divorce, non-mass attending, non-hell believing Catholics who disagree with the church’s teachings.
So what does it actually mean to call oneself a ‘Catholic’ in contemporary Ireland?
Rob Sadlier
Rathfarnham, Dublin 16
* Discussing the upcoming referendum concerning the establishment of a Court of Appeal, the legal maxim “justice delayed is justice denied” comes to mind.
There is currently a four-year waiting list for appeals from the High Court to the Supreme Court, which in practice blocks litigants’ right to due process.
These delays not only affect a litigant’s right to a resolution in a reasonable time frame but the speedy resolution of disputes is also necessary for a successful economy.
To highlight how this problem has come about, in 1971 the High Court had seven judges; and today, in 2013, it has 36 judges.
There has not been a proportionate development in the Supreme Court, which in 1961 consisted of five judges and today consists of eight. Yet the Supreme Court is receiving all civil appeals from an expanded High Court.
The establishment of a Court of Appeal would mean that the structure of the Irish Courts would be similar to other common law jurisdictions and most decisively would ease the burden on the highest court in the land.
The new Court of Appeal would cover criminal and civil matters and would sit much more frequently than the existing Court of Criminal Appeal. Its inception would bring efficiency and effectiveness to the Irish court system, something which I believe is badly needed.
Enda McGeever
Smithfield, Dublin 7
* What do the Costa Concordia cruise ship and the new Fianna Fail have in common?
They both capsized, both will enjoy, for a limited time, being re-floated and both are headed towards demolition.
Kevin Devitte
Westport, Co Mayo
* This week marked the anniversary of the death of an influencing patriot, Anne Devlin. As faithful friend of the ‘Darling of Erin’ Robert Emmet, she suffered as much as a captive of the Crown.
Her headstone at Glasnevin tells of her “rare and noble” qualities while we learn as well of how she lived and died “in obscurity and poverty”.
Anne Devlin deserves to be remembered with pride.
JA Barnwell
Dublin 9
* Clive Collins (Irish Independent, Letters, September 18) draws a moral equivalence between Syria and Israel. It is an absurdity to do so. Not even Israel’s most-vehement critics have claimed it has ever used chemical weapons in war.
At a time when the Arab world is cursed by self-immolation, strife and Shia-Sunni civil war, Israel is an oasis of peace, calm and tranquillity.
It must be very discomfiting for Israel’s legions of copycat critics to see their myth of the Middle East – that Israel is the cause of the region’s problems – has been, literally, explosively revealed.
Derek Flynn
Ballsbridge, Dublin 4
* What on earth – or maybe heaven – is bothering Gary J Byrne (Irish Independent, Letters, September 14)?
Why should he feel patronised by what Pope Francis says, if he considers it “a load of bunkum”. Conversely, Francis being humble, won’t mind being condescended to by having reading matter proffered to help educate him in the error of his ways.
No doubt said suggested reading will show him his lack of sophistication and the intellectual superiority and undoubted erudition of Mr Byrne.
M Clorken
Address with editor
* I really wanted to vote to keep the Seanad in the referendum, but when I read that Michael McDowell, Gerry Adams and Fianna Fail want us to, then roll on the abolishment!
K Nolan
Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim
* I refer to the article ‘We dream of retiring early but only 50pc of workers fund pension’ (Irish Independent, September 17). Dream on; retiring earlier is inevitable. The alternative is allowing a minority to remain in employment while the majority are on the scrapheap of dependency. Those who do not contribute to pensions are probably lucky; pension funds may be methods of saving but will never again develop into “gold mines” providing security into the future. It would be better and probably safer putting it under the bed. Remember the warning: “Funds can decrease as well as increase”.
Pensions of the future will be paid from the public purse, which will take a much bigger bite out of the apple of private economics. Employment will be generated by public service, not because the work is needed but because employment is essential to sustaining coherent society.
Padraic Neary
Tubbercurry, Co Sligo
Irish Independent


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