14 October 2013 Joan Gone
I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble they are chosen to test a navigational aide, can it do better than Mr Phillips? Priceless.
Sandy rings Joan has passed away, we can’t quite take it in. I ring Sharland, Shanti, Michael and June, so sad
We watch the Perfect Woman
No Scrabble today just too tired
Ruth Benerito, who has died aged 97, was an American chemist and inventor; among her 55 patents was a process for treating cotton that would lead to the creation of wash-and-wear fabrics, effectively revitalising America’s cotton industry.
Ruth Benerito Photo: AP
5:56PM BST 08 Oct 2013
From the early 1950s Ruth Benerito was a physical chemist at the Southern Regional Research Center for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), where her early work had focused on creating an intravenous fat emulsion that could be used to provide hospital patients with sufficiently high-calorie nutrition. In 1958, however, she became head of a research team hoping to develop a new cotton-based fabric, as easy to care for as the nylons and polyesters that had enjoyed such popularity in the post-war years.
Cotton’s biggest drawback, against its synthetic rivals, was its tendency to crease. This is down to the molecular structure of cotton fibres, which are comprised of long cellulose chains – polymers – held in place end-to-end by hydrogen bonds. Since these links are weak and easily broken, the heat and agitation of washing causes the molecules to shift position, resulting in the wrinkles that are corrected by ironing.
The secret to cotton that would not crease therefore lay in the chemical manipulation of the hydrogen bonds . The innovation that Ruth Benerito and her fellow researchers devised was a process called cross-linking, in which epoxides – ring-shaped organic compounds comprised of an oxygen atom and two other connected atoms – are inserted between cellulose chains like rungs in a ladder, creating a longer and sturdier polymer.
Though early treatments using formaldehyde as a cross-linking agent were not wholly successful – the formaldehyde proved toxic and caused an unpleasant smell – the implications extended far beyond crease-free fabric. Cross-linking with other compounds would later produce stain-resistant and fireproof clothes, while Ruth Benerito’s study of epoxides led to separate breakthroughs in the film and paper industries, in the creation of epoxy plastics, and in the preservation of wood.
The third of six children, she was born Ruth Mary Rogan in New Orleans, Louisiana, on January 22 1916. Her father, John, was a civil engineer; her mother, Bernadette, an artist and prototypical feminist. Both encouraged their daughter to pursue a scientific career from an early age. When she was 15 Ruth enrolled at Sophie Newcomb Memorial College, the women’s college of Tulane University, as one of the institution’s two female chemists, graduating with a BS in 1935, an MS in 1938 and a PhD from the University of Chicago in 1948. After earning her doctorate she became an assistant professor of chemistry at Newcomb College, a position she held until 1953 .
Following her departure from the USDA’s Southern Regional Research Center in 1989, Ruth Benerito taught Chemistry at the University of New Orleans, before macular degeneration forced her into permanent retirement aged 84. Her home of 56 years was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, and she spent the last years of her life in Metairie, Louisiana.
Among the honours she received were the Federal Woman Award in 1968; the Garvan Medal from the American Chemical Society in 1970; and the Lemelson-Mit Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002. She was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2008.
Ruth Benerito was quick to play down her scientific contribution, citing the research that had preceded hers, and the properties of cotton itself. “Nature made cotton pretty good to begin with,” she insisted. “I just gave it a little boost.”
Her husband, Frank Benerito, whom she married in 1950, died in 1970.
Ruth Benerito, born January 22 1916, died October 5 2013
Paul Dacre (Why is the left obsessed by the Daily Mail?, 12 October) seems more like Victor Meldrew than Steve Bell’s “von Dacre” (If…, G2, 7-10 October). There he is railing against the BBC, the Guardian, anyone who disagrees with him. His arguments are distinctly crazed: a left-liberal media consensus when most of it is owned by rightwing oligarchs, foreign corporations, tax exiles and avoiders? Only two people wrote to the paper to complain? Who writes letters now (apart from Meldrews)? The Mail online was swamped by hundreds of complaints. The press should be free to defame, smear and bully, but should not investigate serious threats to civil liberty and a free society? Is this man serious or seriously deluded?
Leveson rightly recommended a form of press regulation that was independent. Independence means without the influence of the press itself or of politicians. Jonathan Freedland’s fears over the freedom of dissenting investigative journalism (The secret state is just itching to gag the press, 12 October) only arise because the press owners have, by and large, sought to subvert Leveson and have refused to engage with the question of how to make independent regulation work in a way that preserves serious journalism but protects us from the gutter tactics directed at innocent individuals.
The fact is that, faced with the stark choice between the interests of innocent victims of press smears and those of non-resident owners, the British public sides overwhelmingly with the victims. Even if Dacre says “I don’t believe it!”
Dr John Hurley
• How on earth does Paul Dacre define “leftish circles”? My husband and I, and most of our friends, are lifelong Guardian readers and have lived all our married life in suburbia. Are we, for Dacre, “intellectual snobs”? And if this means we are members of Dacre’s “leftish circles”, what then is “the mindset” which “we hold dear” and so means we can’t comprehend the contents of the Daily Mail? Mr Dacre is a newspaper editor, not a god who can look into the minds of all of us suburbanites! He has no right to generalise, nor to presume what he can’t possibly know. Are Guardian readers and Labour voters such as my husband and me any less “ordinary people” than readers of the Daily Mail?
• Paul Dacre is entirely wrong to claim that the Daily Mail “represents the views of the ordinary people who are our readers”. The Daily Mail is ardently Conservative, yet 31% of its regular readers did not vote Conservative in the 2010 election (Source: Mori Final Election Aggregate Analysis). It is vainglorious nonsense on Paul Dacre’s part to imagine that he is the ventriloquist of his readers’ thoughts and concerns. The paper’s political news only accounted for 22% of its total news in 2007: quite a lot of people read the paper for its human interest, celebrity, lifestyle and sports news.
Professor James Curran
Department of media & communications, Goldsmiths, University of London
• I applaud the Guardian for giving Paul Dacre the opportunity to put his and the Daily Mail’s side of the story. In so doing, he shows himself to be hubristic, one-sided and blinkered, the very things he accuses the BBC, the Guardian and the “metropolitan classes” of.
• Mr Dacre writes that Ralph Miliband “supported an ideology that caused untold misery in the world”. Would he care to comment on the untold misery that millions of “hard-working” people all over the world are enduring, as we speak, under the capitalist ideology? What did he have for dinner last night? Did he need to go to a food bank?
• Steve Bell’s depiction of Paul Dacre as a ranting, paranoid, cliche-spouting Nazi was brilliant, but your spoof “reply” purporting to be from Dacre took it too far. You’ll be lucky he doesn’t sue.
• Has Paul Dacre not heard the old saw “when in a hole, stop digging”?
When the escape route of a royal charter overseen by the privy council as a means of delivering Leveson was first raised over a year ago, I spoke against the idea at a Hacked Off briefing at Westminster. I do not recall if other privy counsellors were present, but it was clear I was in a minority of one. So when Jonathan Freedland (Comment, 12 October) points out that “a new regulator must be just as independent of the state” and that the privy council is the state, he is forensically correct.
The privy council’s oath prevents discussion of its proceedings. In a year there are about eight or nine meetings. Ministers are called, almost in turn, to give them all a chance to attend the palace. The only constant is the lord president of the council, the cabinet minister in charge. So continuity of members attending is impossible. The quorum is three, and usually four ministers are sent for.
However, not all privy counsellors are members of either house at Westminster. It is technically possible for a privy council to conduct business with a couple of Lords ministers and a member of the royal household who happens to be a privy counsellor. Not an elected politico in sight! And we are expected to buy this as delivering Leveson? Thanks, but no; this privy counsellor is not buying it.
House of Lords
• If the major sticking point on press regulation is the power of parliament to change the charter, why not remove that power from both the privy council and parliament, leaving both houses together only with the power to revoke the charter and to then initiate a public debate on its replacement.
It’s no surprise shares in the Royal Mail have leapt in value (Report, 12 October). The government knew full well that if they sold the business direct to the corporate investors and hedge funds, there would have been cries of a stitch-up. By restricting the number of shares any one person could buy, they made it seem like a “people’s” privatisation. But they sold the shares at a price below their true value knowing that, when trading opened, the price would jump, the small investors would sell and take their small windfall, and the big guys could then move in. Who do you think will own the Royal Mail in 12 months’ time?
• I predict that in five years’ time: the head of the Royal Mail will be paying themselves the then equivalent of £5m; postal workers will be paid less in real terms than today, and have less job security; stamps will cost more than twice as much in real terms; in some rural areas people will have to collect mail from a central point and/or will have deliveries less frequent than daily; the number of post offices, post boxes and mail collections will be further reduced; the Royal Mail will be making a huge profit.
• In this time of small-minded greed, largely created by our coalition government, it was delightful to see that Paul Firmage and 367 of his colleagues have turned down the “free” shares in the Royal Mail (Report, 11 October). They each deserve an award. And so does Ha-Joon Chang for explaining why they are right (Comment, 11 October).
I read your article (Driving a hard bargain, G2, 9 October) with its intimation that PCP (personal contract purchase) was helping to ensure that the UK market for cars is increasing at a much quicker rate than other car markets in Europe. Doesn’t this beg the question: why don’t car manufacturers, car distributors and/or finance houses develop similar finance packages in the rest of Europe? If they aren’t moving on this, then isn’t it an opportunity for British-based finance businesses to develop new business? Another export market for our service industries?
• Your magnificent seafront photo (Eyewitness, 10 October) was marred somewhat by describing the location as “Seaburn, near Sunderland”. It is very much a district of Sunderland. Seaburn and its neighbour Roker were once promoted, somewhat optimistically, as “twin resorts of the north”.
• Could someone please explain why an energy boss can think it is wrong for Ed Miliband to suggest a fuel price freeze (Report, 12 October) when, in the same paper, there are two adverts from energy companies freezing prices until March 2017?
Hove, East Sussex
• I’m thinking of taking up npower’s offer to fix my energy prices for 42 months. But will it mean my lights go out before I get half way?
Moor Monkton, North Yorkshire
Passionate defenders of press freedom such as Claire Fox (Voices, 12 October) and Fraser Nelson on Radio 4 this past Friday seem to be unable to differentiate between the legitimate and necessarily tenacious investigative journalism that is required to hold those in high office to account in a democracy, and the prurient and intrusive coverage of the high-profile bereaved, such as the Dowlers, or the lazy vilification of unconventional murder suspects like Christopher Jeffries. It should be possible to have newspapers that understand the difference between these approaches, and that are appropriately discouraged from the latter by providing an adequate and affordable means of redress to members of the public, without compromising the essence of a free press.
By asserting that such a free press automatically encompasses all aspects of modern journalistic practice, both Fox and Nelson not only undermine the very freedom they seek to protect, but also fail to understand that the public’s desire to curb media excess has been brought about by the irresponsible actions of certain newspapers, allied to a clear demonstration that the press cannot be trusted to regulate itself.
What Leveson has proposed is the lightest-touch regulation possible while seeking to accommodate the concerns of the newspaper industry, to the point of offering a solution that is not even obligatory. It is a testament to the arrogance of many within this industry that they continue to reject the proposals, not because they are unworkable, but because they still do not accept that there is a need for tougher regulation. That may be the greatest indictment of all.
Ian Richards, Birmingham
Claire Fox would have us follow John Milton’s arguments in Areopagitica against censorship of the press. But five years later he joined Cromwell’s government – as a censor. If he did not believe his own arguments, why should we?
Peter Mott, Keighley, West Yorkshire
A model English sportsman
I am afraid that, by changing the emphasis from Jack Wilshere’s “being English”, to “feeling English”, Matt Butler (Sports Comment, 10 October) is in danger of compounding an error. He quotes Gareth Southgate, who I think has the best idea. Whether someone is born in England, qualifies by residence, or even by the place of birth of their grandparents, those representing their country should feel proud to do so. Evidence of that pride is the hard work and dedication that many of our athletes exhibit in reaching the pinnacle of their sports. Core values such as decency, fairness, tolerance of difference and pride in helping others are what really matter and the values that we should ask our sportsmen to represent.
Peter Rowberry, Saxmundham Suffolk
Let’s hear it for happy families
Every politician of every party is using that overworked adjective “hardworking”. We hear and read of “hardworking families” ad nauseam. My daughter and her husband are working themselves to death to bring up two children in a tiny, cramped terrace house. Their lives are infinitely harder than those of my parents, a housewife and a jobbing builder, bringing up three children in the 1930s.
I intend to vote for the first political party to adopt the adjectives “happy”, “loving” and “caring” into their sound-bites when referring to families. Such families are the foundation of a decent society – which I believe we no longer have.
Joan M Broadway, Oxford
Nothing wrong with seedy Soho
Joy Lo Dico makes the perfect point in “Hands off our seedy Soho” (11 October) that those living and working around the affected buildings do not want the physical and social changes being forced on them by police and property developers.
A well-regulated red-light area need not be a problem for anyone, provided sex workers have a safe environment. Soho is not an “imperfect” part of London; it is just different.
Dr Chris Burns-Cox, Wotton-under-Edge Gloucestershire
Written Spanish spells trouble
Julien Evans (“Why education is failing”, Letters, 10 October) urges reform of English spelling with the claim that non-phonetic spelling in the English language is a reason for the poor literacy of native English speakers, as evidenced by a recent OECD report that ranked adults in England and Northern Ireland at 14 in a list of 22 developed countries. This claim is somewhat undermined by the fact that Spain ranked 21 on the same list of 22 countries. Spanish is an almost entirely phonetic language.
Dr Andrew Crawley, Belize City, Belize
“Oat cuisine: half of us now start the day with porridge” ran a headline in your Food and Drink section on 11 October. When you read the article you find out that it could have read “Less than half of Britons ever eats porridge, and only a quarter eats it frequently”.
Barbara Phillips , Beeston, Nottinghamshire
Your article on the Kremlin (12 October) contains an interesting bit of Newspeak. I always understood that kings, queens, emperors and suchlike were “crowned” – now I find that Russian tsars were “coronated”. None of my dictionaries gives this, but perhaps they are a bit out of date.
D J Walker, Macclesfield, Cheshire
With reference to Keith Flett’s letter (11 October) about how the badgers are “warrening capitalism”. Surely it’s more a case of game, sett and match?
David R Pollard, Heckmondwike, Yorkshire
The government should not continue to inflict upon us increases in costs for heat and light on the basis of a poor hypothesis
Sir, The Blair/Brown governments’ head-in-sand policy on long-term energy security delivered us into Vladimir Putin’s hands, and Ed Miliband as Energy Secretary greatly increased our “green” taxes.
If it is true that 85 per cent of energy companies’ costs are outside their control and their target profit is only 5 per cent on sales, then it is hypocritical for Miliband to say that “the Government is letting the energy companies get away with it” and that the firms are “ripping off customers”. They would not last long if they made losses of 5 per cent a year. What we never see is an analysis of the firms’ return on the massive investment in the capital assets necessary to provide us with energy all year round. Without such analysis much of the adverse comment is economically illiterate and superfluous.
St Andrews, Fife
Sir, We consumers will soon understand that hidden green levies in our power bills are not used for insulating attics but pay for the differential between the price per kilowatt hour of wind turbine and solar panel-produced energy with that of coal and gas-fired plants. This is an increase of 40 per cent, according to the Royal College of Engineers’ paper on Comparative Costs of Energy. The more wind turbines built, the higher our bills. It should be clear that such an increase in energy costs cannot sustain our living standards nor the competitiveness of our businesses.
The wind turbine and solar power industries exist only because of subsidies. They cannot produce energy at an affordable cost to attract buyers without these subsidies. We taxpayers are likely to be contractually required to pay this inflated cost for two decades as a result of the agreements made by our politicians, and tied to the compliance of the major energy companies which have agreed to support failed technologies they know cannot deliver affordable energy.
The recent IPCC report on global warming has stated that there has been no warming for almost 20 years, that it cannot predict any further global warming, and that its computer models appear to have low predictive ability regarding the effect of carbon dioxide emissions on global warming.
Surely a practical government will not continue to inflict upon us substantial increases in costs for heat and light on the basis of a hypothesis which is not holding up. The Energy Bill, now in the House of Lords, which if agreed will shut down more gas and coal-fired plants, is motivated by ideology and fashion over the real life of our population.
By all means pursue renewable energy technologies, but the costs of wind and solar technologies are unsustainable.
Mary Anne Donovan
Sir, Your paper (Money, Oct 12 ) reports that SSE has increased energy prices by 8.2 per cent. I wish they were this generous to me.
I received notification that my “SuperDeal” tariff would include an increase of 16.2 per cent in stored heat energy. Storage electric heating is the only form available to me, and comprises over 90 per cent of my winter bill, so my annual cost increase will be far greater than SSE would have us believe. Like many retired folk my income will in no way compensate for this.
When politicians are determined to treat the press as governed by Charter and Act of Parliament, there needs to be a well-informed debate
Sir, Sir Brian Leveson refused to answer the questions put to him by the Commons Committee on Culture, Media and Sport (report and Parliamentary Sketch, Oct 11) because he regards his report as though it were a judgment of a court of law. It shows why judges should not be asked to solve political problems.
There are important questions to be answered about some of Sir Brian’s recommendations that I criticised during debates in the House of Lords and to which he cannot respond, because he wishes to keep off the political grass.
At a time when politicians are determined to treat the press, like the East India Company, as governed by Charter and Act of Parliament, it is important that there is a well-informed debate. In my view, some of the Leveson proposals, now embedded in two statutes, threaten the freedom of expression of the press and the public in breach of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The British press is subject to our plentiful criminal and civil laws. There is no need for further state intervention, as proposed by the “Hacked Off” celebrity campaigners. We need a system of independent self-regulation that encourages professional standards and provides effective redress, avoiding unnecessary litigation.
Lord Lester of Herne Hill, QC
House of Lords
In 15 years, rail journeys in Britain grew 73 per cent, far outstripping the growth seen in other European countries with state-owned railways
Sir, Bob Crow is mistaken to suggest that East Coast Main Line returning more than £200 million to the Government “destroys from top to bottom” plans to return the franchise to the private sector (Business, Oct 9).
In addition to East Coast, many other operators returned money to the Government last year, with the amount totalling £1.3 billion, of which the highest repayment of nearly £315 million came from South West Trains.
In 15 years, rail journeys in Britain grew 73 per cent, far outstripping the growth seen in other European countries with state-owned railways. This is resulting in operators returning ever more money to the Government for it to reinvest in the network. As the chairman of Directly Operated Railways has said, its role as the operator of last resort is “ensuring a successful transfer of the business back to the private sector — in a good condition, and maximising the value of the franchise achieved by the Government and the taxpayer.”
Chief executive, Association of Train Operating Companies
International students contribute a vast amount to the country, economically and culturally, and we should do all we can to welcome them
Sir, There’s little evidence to suggest international students are anything but occasional users of the NHS and other public services, but there is ample proof of their willingness to contribute to the UK — where allowed (“New immigration rules condemned as ‘nasty gimmick’.”, Oct 11).
One previously suggested approach has been a levy at point of entry to cover their use of the NHS. That is something that could be broadly supported, so long as it was competitive with those already applied by our competitors, such as the US and Australia, and only if it is not positioned as a deterrent.
By the same token, however, it could be argued that in the interest of fairness — and the public purse — a simultaneous increase in working allowances for international students should be considered, which would see them contribute further to public services through taxes.
International students already contribute a vast amount to the country, economically, culturally and academically, and we should do all we can to welcome them.
In New Zealand, the young drivers’ rule stipulates that they should have no passengers and no night driving for a year
Sir, Having visited New Zealand just before my children learnt to drive, I decided I would implement a variant of its young drivers’ rule: no passengers and no night driving for a year. I was not popular, but my children — now in their twenties — have a decent no-claims bonus.
In my own twenties I lost a loved one to a careless young driver who had a car full of passengers. I’m sure that gave me the resolve to stick to my rule but I think most other parents would welcome a government-imposed curfew (report, Oct 11).
Mrs K. Long
SIR – The last former England cricket captain to stand for parliament, Ted Dexter in 1964, was always unlikely to unseat Jim Callaghan, the then Shadow Chancellor.
Perhaps Andrew Strauss (News in Brief, October 6) can be persuaded to stand as a Conservative candidate in 2015 if he is offered a rather more winnable seat. The present Shadow Chancellor’s slim majority of 1101 would seem to offer a good prospect of a victory of bat over Balls.
SIR – The BBC is a Leftist public-sector institution, and therefore has a natural affinity with the Labour Party.
The solution to this problem is to make the BBC fully independent. The compulsory licence fee should be abolished, and the BBC should be funded by voluntary subscription. The technology for this change is already in place. Those people who wish to receive or endorse the BBC’s output should pay for it themselves. Advertisers and sponsors could similarly decide whether or not they want to reach that particular demographic.
The current situation involves a manifestly corrupt use of public funding. It should be rectified forthwith.
Former England captain should face Balls in 2015
13 Oct 2013
SIR – Why is anyone surprised at the actions of the BBC? It acts as the media wing of the Labour Party, and always has.
Newton Aycliffe, Co Durham
SIR – I have not heard Ed Miliband, unlike Theodore Dalrymple, suggest he disagrees with his father’s views.
What an alarming thought that this Marxist might be Prime Minister in 20 months’ time.
We are sleepwalking into a catastrophe – why are the Tories so laid back about it?
J M Thompson
SIR – Theodore Dalrymple makes Ed Miliband’s brutal treatment of his brother explicable. David did not follow the family faith. If Ed treats his brother so ruthlessly, what would happen to the rest of us, were he to become Prime Minister?
His geeky, goofy and innocently childish face is a chillingly successful mask.
Jill R Paxton
SIR – The BBC’s political bias is regularly proved on Radio 4.
Whenever a Conservative spokesman answers an interviewer’s question, he or she is constantly interrupted mid-sentence. I have only occasionally noticed the same applying to other parties.
I B Cook
SIR – The BBC should respond to the allegations of bias in its coverage of The Mail’s attack on Ralph Miliband in the obvious bureaucratic manner: by undertaking an expensive and “impartial” internal investigation.
After three months of extensive interviews with the public and broadcasters, and teams of investigators sitting in front of computer screens reading, watching and listening to one week of news coverage, the internal report will find that the BBC’s coverage of the case was in fact not biased. Things will then carry on as usual.
James Adam Paton
SIR – Matthew d’Ancona writes “If Ralph Miliband ‘hated Britain’, so did George Orwell, William Blake, the Chartists and the dissenters who did so much to drive parliamentary reform.”
But there is a fundamental difference between them and him. Ralph Miliband was neither a supporter of parliamentarianism nor a reformist. In his most important work, Parliamentary Socialism, he favoured extra-parliamentary (i.e. non-democratic) paths to socialism over the parliamentary route, and revolution (presumably involving a degree of violence and bloodshed) over reformism.
As late as 1983, he was criticising the Labour leadership for its “concentration on electoral and parliamentary politics”. People can judge for themselves whether opposing parliamentary democracy equates to hating Britain.
By all means sympathise with Ed Miliband in his filial loyalty, but let’s not whitewash Ralph Miliband’s views by bracketing them with those who genuinely loved Parliament, democracy and non-violent reform.
Cameron must change tack to win votes back
SIR – You report that the entire leadership of some Conservative Associations are voting for Ukip.
David Cameron’s policies include: allowing houses to be extended without planning permission; building HS2; covering the country with wind farms; retaining green taxes on energy; doing virtually nothing about abuses of the human rights laws and joining forces with Labour in order to impose gay marriage.
It would seem that Mr Cameron thinks that he will win back Conservative voters by claiming that the only alternative to him is Ed Miliband. But he cannot use the threat of that bogeyman to make us accept policies that are wrong.
Only by abandoning these policies, or better still by getting a new leader, does the Conservative Party stand a chance of winning the next election.
SIR – James A Paton (Letters, October 6) remarks that “for the first time in a long while, there is visible distance between Labour and the Conservatives.”
But, as David Cameron’s “cast-iron promise” of a referendum on EU membership slides into the long grass beyond the 2015 election, is that “visible distance” not eclipsed by the widening gap between the Conservative Party’s leadership and its members, almost half of whom have left since he became Prime Minister?
SIR – Albert Einstein said that the definition of insanity was “doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results”. The core Ukip supporters to whom Iain Martin refers as “nihilistic” would at least have been recognised by Einstein as sane. But the latter would have had doubts on that score for those Tories who go on and on voting Conservative.
SIR – At the local elections I voted Ukip. At the European elections I will also vote Ukip but in the general election I will vote Conservative – a Ukip vote could bring Ed Miliband into power.
SIR – A few days ago I understand there was a “Government reshuffle”. Really? We still have the same Prime Minister. I was hoping a Conservative would take over.
Dr A A Allen
SIR – Without personal accountability there isn’t democracy, so the last three energy ministers (Ed Miliband, Chris Huhne and Ed Davey) must be held accountable for the fact that, in spite of committing us to pay over £20 billion over the coming years to subsidise alternative energy, we could still be facing power cuts.
SIR – Some people resent the extra £22 billion in tax subsidies that will pay for green initiatives by 2020 and seem surprised that new technologies need research and development. I think it should be a given that the inherent cost of energy includes its true pollution costs.
Oil is a fantastically energy-dense and convenient fuel source, so it’s very difficult to shake our addiction to it.
Non-polluting alternatives are hard to find, but find them we must, for the sake of the climate and for future generations.
Hawkesbury Upton, Gloucestershire
Child abuse dossiers
SIR – On the recent case of child abuse involving Hamzah Khan, Jenny McCartney writes: “Were we to look at Ms Hutton’s file, I am quite sure it would be bulging with notes, referrals, reports, all steadily thickening…”
I doubt that such a file ever existed. What seems to emerge from all these cases of child abuse is that there is no comprehensive dossier on them, and that the various agencies concerned seem to act independently, feeding data into their computers, instead of resorting to pen and paper. Paper reports can be circulated to all concerned.
SIR – I trained as a radar plotter in 1940 and in 1941/2 was moved at short notice to a tiny location near The Lizard in Cornwall.
There, three of us were shown how to be radar operators and then had to train others. We started in a caravan in the middle of a field before moving to a wooden hut. At one stage we were issued with Sten guns to defend our station from an expected German raid.
SIR – In the picture of Bentley Priory I am represented by the bronze figure second from the right and Eileen Younghusband, a plotter and a filterer, is behind the bronze man. We worked as a part of a chain with radio operators, filter room staff and ops room staff to provide the positions of incoming enemy planes.
Marsh Green, Kent
SIR – I was duty as a WAAF radar operator on D-Day in a mobile station on Beachy Head to guide bombing just ahead of our invading troops.
I have never since met or heard of another such operator and thought we must be mostly dead or forgotten.
SIR – Judy Cresswell asks if, at 93, she is the oldest surviving radar operator.
I have a sister-in-law aged 99 who served as one. She was stationed on the south coast and in Scotland, I believe.
Am I the youngest at only 87?
Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight
Finance for Hinkley Point beats HS2
SIR – Emily Gosden’s report on the proposed Hinkley Point nuclear power station describes a financing process which is in marked contrast with that of HS2.
Funding for Hinkley is to be raised by EDF, joined by other investors, and supported by a Treasury loan guarantee. To ensure a satisfactory return on capital, a price per megawatt-hour is to be settled, involving some risk that too low a price might create a need for future top-up subsidies from the state. It is commendable that the Treasury is seeking to arrive at a price that will minimise that risk.
By contrast, HS2 would involve over £40 billion of public money for construction, followed by ongoing subsidy of operating costs, in common with the rest of the rail network.
A reliable supply of electricity is a “must-have “ and the proposed financing arrangements for Hinkley, which would provide 7 per cent of total requirement, seem sensible.
HS2 is a “nice-to-have” at best, and would be a huge waste of public money. It should not go ahead.
SIR – The Government has recently registered its support for the decisions of the people of Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands to retain their affiliation to the United Kingdom despite pressure from large countries which are much nearer to them.
Can we assume that, in the event of Orkney and Shetland voting to remain in the UK if Scotland votes to leave, the islands’ wishes will prevail and Alex Salmond could find himself leading an independent Scotland without oil?
Great Malvern, Worcestershire
Secret to the sparkle
SIR – Scientists who have “discovered” how to give champagne extra fizz by “etching tiny dimples into the bottom of a glass” are somewhat late on the scene.
Cider makers Showerings of Shepton Mallet, Somerset, used precisely this technique to promote its Babycham product, launched in the Fifties, which proved a huge hit among the ladies.
It came about by accident. Testing many different glasses in which to promote the brand, the one in which the drink continued to sparkle happened to be a traditional champers glass with a tiny flaw at the top of the stem inside the glass.
Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
Sir, – Minister for Health James Reilly argues that, “No staffing issue can explain away the lack of basic clinical care that took place in the tragic circumstances surrounding Savita Halappanavar” (Home News, October 11th). The fact is that basic clinical care is being compromised on a daily basis in our health system by staffing issues. Over-stretched nurses, tired doctors, far too few senior decision-makers, are common themes in morbidity and mortality audits countrywide. Missed opportunities as detailed in the Savita Halappanavar report are commonplace and inevitable in the system. Every doctor and nurse working in the acute service will be aware of similar cases.
The standards to which the Health Information and Quality Authority encourages us to aspire are far removed from the standard of care that is possible on a day to day basis with the resources available. The ongoing sub-standard clinical care offered in the form of emergency department overcrowding is a straightforward example of the gulf that exists between the standard of care that Hiqa has outlined (Hiqa’s Tallaght report recommends that “every hospital should cease the use of any inappropriate space, eg a hospital corridor for trolleys, to accommodate patients receiving clinical care”), and what we deliver. Bed closures linked to staffing cutbacks (in particular nursing) are directly linked to emergency department overcrowding.
Emergency department overcrowding causes increased morbidity and mortality for patients. A similar gulf probably exists between the service that Minister for Health Dr James Reilly aspires to for his patients, and what Dr Reilly can deliver with the current political and financial constraints that ultimately determine what sort of a service patients receive. It is disingenuous of Dr Reilly to suggest that lack of basic clinical care and staffing issues are disconnected. – Yours, etc,
Consultant in Emergency Medicine,
Sir, – Ian O’Mara (October 11th) appears to have forgotten that the No side in the Seanad referendum has offered methods of expanding the right to vote in Seanad elections without the need to amend the Constitution. Senator Crown and Senators Quinn and Zappone have published Bills promoting just such an expansion of the franchise.
Mr O’Mara also raises the old chestnut we in the diaspora often hear regarding the payment of taxes as some kind of qualification to vote. This uniquely Irish perversion of the classic American freedom slogan would, if applied to citizens resident in the State, would also render them ineligible to vote.
What price democracy? Best not tell the troika we are thinking along those lines. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Ireland has the worst problem with tobacco smuggling of any country in Western Europe. Furthermore, according to the OECD, it has also seen the smallest reduction in smoking prevalence of any Western European country in the last twenty years. These two facts strongly suggest that the Irish model of tobacco control has been a failure. As widely predicted, its high taxes and endless regulations have unleashed serious unintended consequences without meaningfully discouraging the smoking habit.
For a decade or more, Ireland’s tobacco control policy appears to have been focused on attacking the tobacco industry and the product rather than concentrating on what might work, such as mandatory education in schools as successfully applied in Germany. It was therefore unsurprising to hear that Minister for Health James Reilly is eager for Ireland to adopt so-called “plain packaging” which breaches intellectual property rights and effectively outlaws competition between brands. It also appears to breach various international free trade agreements and is certain to lead to costly lawsuits. Although Australia passed such a law nearly two years ago, it is telling that no other government has followed suit, including Britain, New Zealand and the European Union.
It is one thing to warn the public that a product is potentially hazardous, but quite another for the government to seize the entire package and make competing brands look identical. It is easy to imagine such a draconian policy being rolled out to other controversial products in the future. Indeed, health campaigners in Australia have already suggested plain packaging for alcohol and plain packaging for certain types of food. If Ireland is really the best small country in the world to do business, is this the right message for Ireland to send out?
The “evidence” presented for plain packaging shows only that people in surveys prefer the look of conventional packs to plain packs. This tells us nothing about the likely effect on smoking uptake since there is no evidence that people start smoking because of logos and colours on a cigarette box. It will, however, make life easier for counterfeiters who will no longer need to produce dozens of different designs.
Ireland cannot afford another policy that drives up smuggling while doing nothing to deter smoking. It must reconsider this ill-advised proposal. – Yours, etc,
PATRICK BASHAM, Democracy Institute; TIM KNOX, Centre for Policy Studies; MARK LITTLEWOOD, Institute of Economic Affairs; CÉCILE PHILIPPE, Institut Economique Molinari; SIMON RICHARDS, The Freedom Association; MIKE RIDGWAY, Spokesman for seven leading UK packaging manufacturers; Dr CARLO STAGNARO, Istituto Bruno Leoni & TANJA STUMBERGER, Porcnik, Svetilnik,
C/o Lord North Street,
Westminster, London, England.
Sir, – The great lexicographer Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) is reputed to have said, “A decent provision for the poor is the true test of civilisation”.
Wise words for either our defunded or restructured budget of 2014. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Dr Tony O’Sullivan could hardly be more wrong in opposing medical card treatment for the under-fives on the grounds that it is a vote-buying exercise and it benefits the well-off (October 11th). Children under five cannot vote nor can they be responsible for the wealth of their parents. It is appalling that free medical treatment for children is not yet universal in this State. Does it not occur to Dr O’Sullivan that the children in his “proud working-class area” who are mostly medical card patients are at an advantage over children in the “leafier suburbs” whose parents may be unwilling or unable for reasons unknown to the doctor to pay the €60 or whatever for each visit to the surgery?
How a society treats its children is one of the measures of its level of civilisation. When it comes to health issues the State should not seek to discriminate. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Further to the publication of the recent Irish Times/MRBI poll which shows the Labour Party at a mere 6 per cent, there has been much discussion of this result being caused by the party betraying its voters and breaking its promises (Home News, October 2nd). While this may be a core reason for its continuing decline in popularity, I believe it is the party’s total disengagement from issues which are of immediate concern to the electorate that accounts for the its impending demise.
This is best illustrated by the party’s attempts over the past few days to grab headlines with two new policies: to make Ireland tobacco-free by 2025 and to give medical cards to all children under five years old.
The idea that the children of millionaires should automatically have medical cards while seriously ill people in poor circumstances still have to endure long delays and tortuous bureaucracy before getting their cards or being refused, is an idea that is far removed from the priorities of the average citizen.
Making Ireland tobacco-free by 2025 must surely be seen as a pipe-dream conjured up by a group of politicians who are unaware of the suffering, starvation and fear of the cold which envelopes large sections of our population right here and now. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – In these days of instant fame, with endless talent contests and new stars, isn’t it great to celebrate a real star in Joseph O Brien (Sport, October 10th). The 20-year old jockey has ridden 116 winners on the flat. This equals the great Mick Kinane’s total for a season. What a wonderful role model young Joseph is for our teenagers.
Despite riding numerous Classic winners in Ireland and England the supremely talented pilot has kept his dignity and class. He is always modest, courteous and so articulate in interviews. He never fails to share his success with all those who have helped him in his progress to the top. The old saying of “serving your time” to achieve your goals seems to be losing its importance. Young Joseph is no overnight star. He has climbed the ladder patiently and now he is our champion. The mantle could not be on better shoulders. There is great hope in our little island with role models like this top man. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The Press Ombudsman, Prof John Horgan, recently decided on my complaint against your newspaper’s June 15th review of my book The Frontman: Bono (In the Name of Power).
He wrote: “[T]he complainant’s assertions that this review contained breaches of Principles 1 and 2 and part of Principle 4 of the Code of Practice were sufficiently well documented to require a remedy.”
My well documented assertions were about breaches of three core journalistic principles: “truth and accuracy”, “distinguishing fact and comment” and “respect for rights”, particularly the right not to be subjected to unfounded accusations.
The ombudsman also decided that, “on balance”, a missive from me on your letters page would be sufficient remedy for a litany of breaches in a 1,300-word article, covering most of a page in your Weekend Review.
On that point I respectfully disagree with Prof Horgan. There is a vast imbalance in size, authority and web-searchability between that slot and this one. And it is your job, not mine, to correct errors in The Irish Times.
Nonetheless, now that his decision is made, your readers should learn, belatedly, of my well-documented complaint.
The Frontman is a deliberately critical but scrupulous polemic about Bono. A leading scholar of Africa and human rights, Alex de Waal, says the book “acknowledges Bono’s practical contributions to a more humane version of global capitalism, but demonstrates how good intentions can be no alibi for fronting for the status quo”.
Your newspaper’s review, however, paints The Frontman as a “mean-spirited” screed, in which a Politically Correct Catholic-nationalist sectarian (me!) throws around absurd and half-baked accusations willy-nilly in a breathless effort to show that “in every possible way Bono is WRONG” (sic capital letters).
The factual errors in your review range from the trivial (no, I don’t contradict myself about whether Bono is actually “cool”) to the sickeningly serious (no, I don’t say he deserved to be the victim of sectarian bullying as a teenager).
To be sure, my book is hard on Bono. But it doesn’t say, as your caption suggests, that he personally prolonged the Troubles!
It doesn’t credulously take the word of a single dubious source to state that Bono doesn’t give “all that much” to charity. Indeed it doesn’t criticise the level of Bono’s charitable giving.
It doesn’t attack Bono for “publicly disagreeing in Africa with someone who wasn’t white”. Unless, that is, you believe those words accurately summarise a passage in which I criticise Bono for shouting “Bollocks!” and “That’s bullshit!” at Ugandan journalist Andrew Mwenda.
I don’t say Bono is WRONG for “not being black”. Or that he is “a heartless Ayn Rand disciple”. (The Frontman locates Bono’s politics within the trajectory of “heartful” liberalism.) Or that he – no, enough, you already know all this, and others should be getting the picture.
The Irish Times chose to (slowly) dispute my well-documented corrections from the time I first submitted them on June 14th, the day after the article appeared online and before it had gone to print. You continue to publish it on your website, in effect repeating your errors.
You and your writers are entitled to your own opinions, but not to your own facts. One can only wonder why you invented a few with which to discredit me and defend Bono. – Yours, etc,
The Editor writes: Press Ombudsman John Horgan ruled as follows in rejecting Mr Harry Browne’s complaint:
“The Press Ombudsman has decided that The Irish Times made an offer of sufficient remedial action to resolve a complaint by Mr Harry Browne that the newspaper’s review of a book he wrote about Bono . . . contained erroneous statement (Principle 1)*, comment or conjecture reported as fact (Principle 2) and unfounded accusations (Principle 4) . . .” (*Principles from Press Council Code of Practice)
The full Press Council upheld the Ombudsman’s decision on Mr Browne’s appeal.
Sir, – Finally! A coherent argument on the reason why parents should not be penalised for sending their children to fee-paying schools (Mary Mitchell-O’Connor, Opinion, October 11th).
There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth about the unfairness of it all, discrimination, etc; but the real discrimination here is that children in fee-paying schools receive less subvention than those in State-funded schools. “Poor taxpayers” are therefore not subsidising fee-paying schools. Rather it is the struggling parents who scrape the fees together for private education who are subsidising State-funded schools because their own children cost each taxpayer less to educate – an elementary equation to confound even the most entrenched philosophies.
So could I request the begrudgers to allow parents to have a choice – if they prefer pints, cigarettes, new cars and holidays in Tenerife to private education then that is their choice. Allow others to make their own priorities. – Yours, etc,
A chara, – Cumann Merriman might fire the first shot as Brian Boraimhe is the theme for Scoil Gheimhridh 2014 in Limerick from January 31st. – Is mise,
ÉILIS Ní ANLUAIN-QUILL,
An Pháirc Thiar,
Sir, – Isn’t it about time that we stopped using the title junior hospital doctor (or the even more cumbersome non-consultant hospital doctor) and use the term hospital doctors and hospital consultants. And while we are at, it let us dispense with the archaic “Master” to describe the lead doctor in our maternity hospitals, especially as their patients are all female and the lead doctor in the National Maternity Hospital (Holles Street) is a woman. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I confess to having avoided Kate Holmquist’s articles on the men’s identity crisis (“Men overboard” series, Weekend Review, October 5th & Life, Octorber 7th), but the headline did prompt me to vaguely consider how my son’s parenting role differs from my father’s role in my own life.
Later in the week, when I was called upon to hunt, capture and dispose of a spider, I realised that so long as there are spiders there will be a need for the traditional male attributes. – Yours, etc,
Madam–Shane Ross (‘Stage now set for rise of the new political order,’ Sunday Independent, October 6, 2013) may be right that the level of trust in the political class – of which he is a fully paid up member, despite his clever attempt to make out he isn’t with the use of ‘them’ instead of ‘we’ – is so low that even a slam-dunk case to get rid of the Seanad failed.
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But I beg to differ when he proffers himself and the ‘independents’ as the solution and I laughed out loud when he exhorted them to ‘prepare for government’. It rings very hollow coming from someone like Mr Ross.
Especially when we assess the one area in which people like him, wherever they sit on the economic prism of the independent fence, do have full control and can lead by example: their expenses. Yet when it comes to ethics and leading by example, the old maxim to follow the money still stands true.
So it’s curious to see that on top of his €93,672 TD salary, his business, journalist and other earnings, he has also claimed €2,445.83 tax free every single month since he was elected in February 2011 and never once has he published a receipt.
As he doesn’t have a constituency office or a local organisation to run, what does he do with this money?
If Mr Ross and people like him want to be taken seriously, as some sort of better, more honest alternative to the Government, then he needs to be prepared to prove it and put himself under the light of publicity. In that regard the first step should be for him to prove how he incurs €2,445.83 in legitimate expenses every single month by publishing receipts.
Mr Ross may find out, just like Mr Kenny, that the public can just about accept incompetence but they won’t accept being patronised by someone who has no experience of the sort of sacrifices they have made to save this country from the mistakes Mr Ross (whom I don’t recall ever using his Seanad platform to call for a vote on the bank guarantee) and his political class colleagues have inflicted on us.
The public’s tolerance for politicians enriching themselves at the public’s expense is at an all-time low, and let’s hope Mr Ross isn’t the first of the ‘new radical reformers’ to reveal their feet of clay.
Canary Wharf, London
CHEAP FACADE HIDES SORRY TRUTH
Madam – While reading Shane Ross’s article (Sunday Independent, October 6, 2013), I was struck by the similarity between the article and those home improvement TV shows. You know, the ones where people selling their houses attempt to tart up their tired, dated kitchens by fitting new doors to the cupboards in an attempt to convince prospective purchasers that the kitchen is brand new. In reality, the new doors hide the rotten wood behind them – but it is only when the unfortunate purchaser takes possession of the house that they discover the truth. They have been hoodwinked, and these shiny new doors are merely a cheap facade which belie the sorry truth underneath.
The current crop of independent TDs are, probably without fail, weighed down by baggage, whether it be their previous lives in political parties, financial dodgy dealings, unworkable political standpoints or, dare I say it, their former support for the most crooked of bankers.
So, yes, we do need a new political force, in the centre of the political spectrum, which encourages entrepreneurship coupled with social responsibility, and doesn’t make welfare a lifestyle choice. A political force which is characterised by people who are talented rather than those whose surname or family connections gives them a winning ticket despite them being devoid of any discernible ability whatsoever.
Alas, I fear I may go to my grave (not too soon, though) with the same wish list. Given the fact that these independent TDs are, by and large, fully woven into the political fabric, if they were in power I would wonder how long it would be before someone’s relation/spouse/pet teleported on to the board of some State body or other. Plus ca change?
Stamullen, Co Meath
Madam – I read the article “I worry that at the end I won’t even have a marriage left”. (Sunday Independent, October 6, 2013),
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While I sincerely empathise with the writer, I feel she should realise that she is perhaps luckier than most in that she is able to remain a stay-at-home mom, either by the ‘working versus childcare’ trap, or choice.
Many, many more of us also wave off husbands in the early hours of a Monday morning to the UK or elsewhere for the week. It’s not ideal, but thankfully we realise that it’s a workable option and we make the best of it.
We remain, to mind our children as single parents, while also having to hold down a full-time job (which is increasing in pressure each year), a job we cannot leave due to high mortgages, therefore childcare sucks up any remaining funds in each monthly salary. Technically it doesn’t make sense to work but I will not put my home at risk.
On top of all this we are the generation that not only have young children, but also elderly (and possibly infirm) parents whose savings have been seriously hit by the recession, so weekends are not just for living the couple of days as a young family but also trying to assist other members of extended family.
Not all families are lucky enough to have access to grandparents who can babysit.
Payday comes and goes, socialising exists solely in the home, holidays are staycations, even taking the car out for a spin requires thought, but we get on with it.
The hour in the evening that your writer says she gets to herself exists for many working mums as the only spare time to get a few household chores done before you have to get to bed to cope with the next day.
We are the bashed, bruised and near-broken middle. It’s getting tighter all the time, but I live each day with the hope and belief that things will get better, and most definitely want to instil that attitude in my children too.
Madam – Emer O’Kelly (Sunday Independent, October 6, 2013) should know that the purpose of religious art and iconography in a Catholic hospital such as the Mater is to provide reassurance and comfort to Catholics in their hour of need. If “better standards of taste prevail nowadays” there then one might conclude that hospital management is less concerned about the spiritual dimension of patients and/or that patients themselves are less sensitised to the benefits of their faith.
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Her cynical commentary on Fr Doran’s resignation raises some questions.
Does she accept that by any standards Irish Catholic hospitals have an enviable record of the safety for mother and child and that the modern and progressive medical practices she would like the Mater to uninhibitedly adopt would gravely endanger the unborn child?
Could she elaborate specifically on why she would feel “a deep fear” about her life and welfare in a Catholic hospital, as she alleges?
Does she believe that foundational principles of an institution should shrivel away in every instance where State funding grows with mutual agreement to the extent that it is the main source of income? Or only when the Catholic Church is concerned?
Ms O’Kelly seems blinkered by a rabid anti-Catholicism that allows her to see the shortcomings of the church but none of its benefits.
Rathfarnham, Dublin 16