19 November 2013 Peter

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark.
Our heroes are in trouble they are to have to pick up the admirals barge which has just had a refit can they do it without wrecking her? Priceless.
Peter comes and sorts window in garage, I go to bank and supermarker sell 2 books.
Scrabble Mary wins but get just less than 400 perhaps it will be my turn tomorrow.


Stan Paterson – Obituary
Stan Paterson was a glaciologist who mined ice cores that charted 100,000 years of the world’s climate

Stan Paterson 
5:44PM GMT 18 Nov 2013
Stan Paterson, who has died aged 89, was a leading glaciologist with the Canadian Polar Continental Shelf Project (PCSP), whose work on ice cores has helped scientists gain a better understanding of past climate change.
The motives behind the establishment of the PCSP in 1958 were mainly political. An International Law of the Sea agreement had given countries control over the resources contained in their adjacent continental shelves up to a depth of 200 metres. With Soviet satellites orbiting the Arctic and American submarines poking around under the ice, the issue of sovereignty over the Arctic wastes assumed major importance in the Canadian general election held the same year.
The campaign saw a huge outpouring of public support for the Progressive Conservatives, whose leader John Diefenbacher had used his opening rally to call for “new vision. A new hope. A new soul for Canada” and pledged to open the largely uninhabited Canadian North to economic development and settlement. In March 1958 the Conservatives won what is still the largest majority (in terms of percentage of seats) in Canadian federal political history.
The original purposes of the PCSP may have been political and economic, but its achievements over the past 50 years have been scientific. Paterson joined the PCSP as its glaciologist in the early 1960s and built up a team which spent many summers drilling ice cores to be analysed for structure, chemistry and oxygen isotopes, including one of the earliest cores extending from surface to bedrock, drilled on Devon Island in 1974.
This and subsequent cores drilled on Devon, Ellesmere and Baffin Islands, encompassed 100,000 years of climate history, covering the whole of the last ice age, though not the previous interglacial period. Among other things the cores showed cold summers between 1600 and 1860, with an exceptionally icy period from 1820 to 1860 — a time when various British expeditions were trying but (perhaps not surprisingly) failing to force a way through the Northwest Passage. This work contributed hard data about past climates that has been used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
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Fourth edition of The Physics of Glaciers
While working for the PCSP Paterson wrote The Physics of Glaciers, first published in 1969 and now in its fourth edition, for which he won the WS Bruce Memorial Prize, and which remains a foundation text in the field of glaciology.
William Stanley Bryce Paterson was born in Edinburgh on May 20 1924 and educated at George Watson’s College and at Edinburgh University where he read Mathematics and Physics and became a keen student mountaineer.
In 1953 he was invited to join the 1953-54 British North Greenland Expedition as a surveyor and his meticulous measurements of the thickness of the Greenland ice cap helped to provide a clear benchmark for subsequent measurement of ice loss. In 1956 he joined the Shackleton expedition to South Georgia, where he and his colleagues made the first surveys of the major mountain ranges on the island.

The following year he emigrated to Canada for a job involving radar in Montreal and in 1958 participated in the Scottish East Greenland Expedition, whose discovery that one of Greenland’s coastal glaciers was moving faster than expected is thought by some to have been an early indication of man-made climate change.
The following year he enrolled at the University of British Columbia to take a PhD in Glaciology, carrying out field work on the Athabasca Glacier in the Canadian Rockies.
Paterson left the PCSP in 1980 and moved to Quadra Island, British Columbia, where he did consulting work, prepared revised editions of The Physics of Glaciers, and took sabbaticals to work and teach in Copenhagen, Seattle, Melbourne and China.
Stan Paterson was awarded the Richardson Medal for Outstanding Services to Glaciology in 2012 and the same year established a scholarship in the discipline, the first of which was awarded earlier this year.
He is survived by his wife, Lyn.
Stan Paterson, born May 20 1924, died October 8 2013

What is it with George Osborne and hard hats? Not a week goes by without the chancellor appearing on the news clad in the outfit of a manual worker. Is he going through a crisis about his masculinity, or is this an attempt to divert our attention from his Bullingdon background? Perhaps the headgear is to protect him from the flak being hurled in his direction by critics who think that his Help to Buy scheme is economically misguided. Or does he just want to be in Village People?
Geoff Lavender
•  The current anniversaries have reminded me of that terrible November day, 50 years ago when I was seven. Distraught, my brother, sister and I realised that we would have to wait a whole week to find out what had happened in the second episode of Doctor Who. And all because some American had been shot and there was a boring funeral on TV that Saturday afternoon. The adults around us seemed pretty upset too.
Theresa Munford
• Jennifer Coates (Letters, 16 November) says that “dominant patriarchal (and heteronormative) discourses” make feminism difficult to understand. Perhaps. But for most people, impenetrable jargon also plays its part.
Nick Fiddes
• When actors and royals tell us “nobody works harder” than they do (Comment, 16 November), perhaps they are only communicating political allegiance. As the party keep reminding us, the Conservatives are “for hardworking people”.
Dr Alex May
• Regarding talking animals, Jeff Lewis says to remember Mister Ed (Letters, 12 November). In our local flea pit in the 50s the big animal star was Francis the Talking Mule, voiced by Chill Wills.
Dave Lindsay
• Great to learn about “listicles” and their constituent “particles” etc (Top nine things you need to know about lists, Review, 16 November). Might exam papers with their lists of questions thus be “testicles”?
Ian Shaw

We urge the government to bring back plans for minimum unit pricing and follow the example of Ireland, which has announced its intention to press ahead with this measure. With Ireland joining Scotland in taking bold action to protect the health of their most vulnerable and the Welsh government voicing strong support, England will be left behind on one of the most important health issues of our time if the British government fails to bring back plans for minimum unit pricing (Britain faces liver disease ‘epidemic’, Society, 13 November).
Alcohol misuse costs dearly. Every year thousands of lives are lost and our health service is straining under the burden. Alcohol is linked to 60 different health conditions. A&E admissions have increased to crisis level and liver disease is the only major cause of death increasing year on year. Approximately half of all crime is alcohol-related and one in three people won’t visit their local high street on a Friday or Saturday night because of alcohol-fuelled disorder. Alcohol is related to a whole host of other issues such as teenage pregnancy, domestic violence and child protection cases. The government has estimated the cost of alcohol to the UK to be more than £21bn a year.
The public health community will continue its campaign to persuade Westminster of the need for minimum unit pricing and we hope that it will follow the lead of colleagues in the Scottish and Irish parliaments in acting to break this cycle of alcohol harm. They must act now to save lives.
Ian Gilmore Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, president of the British Society of Gastroenterology and special adviser on Alcohol to the Royal College of Physicians
Eric Appleby Chief executive, Alcohol Concern
Katherine Brown Director of policy, Institute of Alcohol Studies
Dr Nick Sheron University of Southampton
Colin Shevills Director of Balance
Dr Evelyn Gillan Chief executive, Alcohol Focus Scotland
Andrew Langford Chief executive, British Liver Trust
Dr Kieran Moriarty British Society of Gastroenterology
Hazel Parsons Director, Drink Wise North West
Dr Cliff Mann President, College of Emergency Medicine
Tom Smith Chief executive, British Society of Gastroenterology
Dr Zul Mirza College of Emergency Medicine
Jonathan Shepherd Professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery and director of the Violence Research Group, Cardiff University
Professor Colin Drummond Chairman, Medical Council on Alcohol
Professor John Ashton President, Faculty of Public Health
Professor Linda Bauld UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies
Dr Dominique Florin Medical director, Medical Council on Alcohol
Dr Peter Rice Chair, Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems
Paul Lincoln Chief executive, UK Health Forum
Dr Chris Record Consultant hepatologist, Newcastle upon Tyne
Dr Peter Carter Chief executive and general secretary, Royal College of Nursing
Dr Adrian Boyle Chair, clinical effectiveness committee, College of Emergency Medicine
Dr Francis Keaney Vice-chair, faculty of addictions, Royal College of Psychiatrists
Susan Fleisher Executive director, National Organisation for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Terry Martin Trustee, alcoHELP
Dr Peter Rice Chair, Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems
Shirley Cramer Chief executive, Royal Society for Public Health
Dr Helen Toal Consultant psychiatrist in addictions, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust
Dr J-P van Besouw President, Royal College of Anaesthetists
I was not surprised to hear of the Israeli army’s military exercises involving Palestinian civilians (Report, 13 November). The soldiers have plenty of practice intimidating Palestinians with nightly raids and daily checkpoint duty already. They may regret the little boy who has to watch his father humiliated by Israeli soldiers, while the family stand shivering in their nightclothes. I was recently asked to photograph the evidence after one such nightly raid in the small village where I was living. The front door and windows were pockmarked with bullet holes, the living room trashed and the computer broken. In the kitchen they had emptied the food store, crushed the vegetables underfoot, scattered the dry food over the floor then poured the olive oil over the mess. It was spiteful, vicious destruction. As a parting insult, a soldier had smashed the windscreen of the car outside with his rifle butt. There is seldom evidence for such arrests and never compensation for damage.
Maggie Foyer

Sentiment expressed in your editorial (18 November) will do little to improve the plight of the Roma in Britain. In France, as elsewhere in Europe, the Roma issue is linked to difficult questions of ethnicity, race, social exclusion and political gamesmanship. One glimmer of hope is in Spain, which has some 750,000 Roma, nearly half under 25. Nearly all Roma children there finish primary school. In 1978, three-quarters of Spain’s Roma lived in substandard housing; today just 12% do. Isidro Rodríguez Hernández, the director of Fundacion Secretariado Gitano, cited access to free education, health care and social housing following the anti-Roma repression of the Franco years. Roma question: is it poverty or culture? 
Tara Mukherjee
European Multicultural Foundation
• Gary Younge (Slandering Britain’s Roma isn’t courageous. It’s racist, 18 November) is timely. Hitler tried to exterminate the Roma just as he tried to exterminate the Jews. But the post-Holocaust reaction to the two peoples has been very different. I suggest that on each Holocaust Day special attention should be paid to the attempt to exterminate the Roma. Then we might start to rectify the imbalance in attitudes towards the two peoples who were equally the victims of Hitler’s wicked racism.
Malcolm Pittock
• Gary Younge and your editorial are both right about the Roma settlers in Britain, but ignore the elephant in the room: the EU’s abject failure to do anything about the racist persecution the Roma face in the east European member states. Gary Younge says “securing minority rights for the Roma was a precondition for countries from the region joining the EU”. But those countries have done absolutely nothing to comply and the EC makes no attempt force them to do so. The Europhile claim that the EU stands for human rights is something of a joke.
John Wilson

We have followed your coverage of student-led calls for more pluralist teaching in economics with great interest (Report, 12 November). We understand students’ frustration with the way economics is taught in most institutions in the UK. Contemporary economics is shaped by the neoclassical approach, which regards “microfoundations” based on rational and selfish individuals as more important than empirical plausibility. This dogmatic commitment contrasts sharply with the openness of teaching in other social sciences, which routinely present competing paradigms. Students can now complete a degree in economics without having been exposed to the theories of Keynes, Marx, or Minsky, and without having learned about the Great Depression.
There exists a vibrant community of pluralist economists in the UK and elsewhere, but these academics have been marginalised within the profession. The shortcomings in the way economics is taught are directly related to an intellectual monoculture which is reinforced by a system of public university funding (the Research Excellence Framework), based on journal rankings that are heavily biased in favour of orthodoxy and against intellectual diversity.
The Post Keynesian Economics Study Group is committed to economic research and teaching with real-world relevance. The post-Keynesian approach emphasises the central importance of aggregate demand in the macro-economy, the challenges posed by financial instability in a world of globalised capital flows, the impact of inequality on economic growth, and the effect of uncertainty on expectations. In our view, these themes, which hold so much relevance at the present historical moment, cannot adequately be encompassed within the standard teaching models that treat the economy as rapidly self-adjusting towards an efficient state of full-employment equilibrium. We applaud the students’ initiative and suggest their criticisms be heard. The solution to the irrelevance of the economics curriculum is not to write off the discipline, but to insist on the renewal of its core historical concerns with the nature of growth, underemployment and financial instability and the distribution of income and wealth.
Professor Engelbert Stockhammer Chair, Post Keynesian Economics Study Group and Kingston University London
Professor Gary Dymski University of Leeds
Dr Mark Hayes Secretary, Post Keynesian Economics Study Group, University of Cambridge
Dr Annina Kaltenbrunner University of Leeds
Dr Jo Michell University of the West of England
Professor Özlem Onaran University of Greenwich
Dr Jonathan Perraton University of Sheffield

Zoe Williams is on the right track when she finds the behaviour of the big six energy companies, and the government, hard to comprehend (Want an energy revolution? 13 November). It only begins to make sense when you delve into the implications of a showdown between a system based on big centralised energy generation and one based on a huge number of small producers using a very large number of local but interconnected distribution grids.
As things are, it is clear how big money can be made, taxes (if not off-shored) levied and pension funds boosted. Not so if households and businesses start setting up local generation schemes via charities and other community benefit vehicles that channel money back into local schemes.
I am involved with a small fund that focuses on deprived areas, lending for renewable energy projects with social as well as environmental benefits. It is not short of applications. The way the money circulates in this sort of “distributed” system is the stuff of nightmares for the Treasury. So “greed” is indeed an unhelpful diagnosis of what is going on right now. Fear is the emotion gripping the big six and the government.
Sara Parkin
Founder director, Forum for the Future
•  Surely the time for decentralising our energy market has come? Many local councils, responsive to those severely affected by fuel poverty, want to see a microgeneration revolution and the opportunity to develop local energy schemes for the local community. The Feldheim experience in Germany (Report, 30 May 2012) could be translated across the British Isles. So instead of a big centralised renationalisation of energy, which isn’t likely to happen, government should be encouraging local councils, parish councils, schools, businesses and communities to take control of their own energy needs. A co-ordinated approach of energy efficiency, community consultations and a wide renewable energy mix can power our communities in a far more efficient and responsive way than a £16bn nuclear power station ever will.
Councillor Mark Hackett
Chair of UK & Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities
• Former energy secretary Chris Huhne is right to link the increased frequency of extreme weather events with man-made climate change (Comment, 18 November). But he is wrong to suggest that the solutions lie in either nuclear power or carbon capture and storage. We already know the answers: more clean renewable energy generation and better energy use and energy conservation measures. I hope the world leaders meeting in Warsaw this week will commit to making rapid progress on reducing emissions in the next few years, using technology that has been around for decades .
Jean Lambert MEP
Green, London
•  ”With cheap batteries in the loft, home heat and light using low-carbon electricity will be attractive,” Chris Huhne writes. Over the past 12 months my solar panels have put 2,142 kWh of electricity into the national grid (in the hours of daylight) and in the evenings I have drawn 2,177 kWh from the grid. So, if I had effective batteries I could be self-sufficient in electricity. As Huhne says, we need a massive research drive into storage batteries.
Michael Bassey
Newark, Nottinghamshire
•  Plug-in electric vehicles could help local authorities achieve healthy, prosperous and sustainable communities. The key issue is around having the infrastructure in place so that electric vehicle owners can charge their cars. The Department of Transport’s £37m funding of charging points represents a step forward in this respect. Ensuring that charge points are installed correctly and are safe to use is essential to gaining consumer confidence. This is why the IET has published a code of practice for electrical vehicle charging equipment installation.
To stimulate investment in this area the IET will shortly be making its guidance freely available to UK local authorities.
We must integrate electric vehicle recharging with transport planning, network development and fleet procurement, to ensure that electric vehicles are a major part of future transport strategy.
David Evans
Chair, standards committee, Institution of Engineering and Technology, London

All suspicious child deaths have to be reported to the Department of Education, which also collates the numbers of all non-accidental child deaths each year. So Edward Timpson is being disingenuous in demanding answers to his questions about the serious case review into the death of Hamzah Khan (Report, 14 November). He will know non-accidental child deaths have been stable for many years at about 55 deaths a year. In a population of 11 million children, this is a rate of 0.0005% or one in 200,000. He knows that these cases are extremely rare, but regular occurrences. More than 100 other children have been killed since the discovery of Hamzah’s body in September 2011. What possible answers could there be, except that the professionals involved in Hamzah’s case made judgments based on their experience and the information available to them, as they did in relation to the thousands of other children they were dealing with over those years who were not later killed by their mother. Could the real reason for raising a controversy be to back up the government’s call to privatise childcare social work?
Jeremy Kearney
Newcastle upon Tyne


In the Philippines, the Royal Navy’s HMS Daring has joined US naval forces led by the aircraft carrier George Washington to deliver urgent aid following the recent cyclone.
Last week, a fierce cyclone devastated the Puntland region of Somalia. Roads have been washed away, livestock drowned, coastal villages isolated and, with hundreds dead, tens of thousands are at risk. So why is the giant naval armada stationed close by doing nothing to assist them?
The European Naval Force, Nato’s Ocean Shield and Combined Task Force 151 have between them ships from more than a dozen nations, all carrying helicopters. They include the RFA Lyme Bay, equipped for “crisis-response operations, natural disasters and evacuations”.
Which of these forces will take leadership in this much-needed humanitarian initiative? And who can fail to see how goodwill thus generated can help in the fight against al-Shabaab?
David Wardrop, Chairman, United Nations Association, Westminster Branch, London SW6
I find it disturbing that charities waste so much money in their efforts to raise funds for good causes. Yesterday, I received through the post three requests for donations to the Philippines disaster funds from well-known charities. Two were from the same charity, but differently presented. Both charities are members of the Disasters Emergency Committee. Surely the DEC exists to prevent wastage of effort and money, so why is there separate fund-raising by its members?
Anne Burrows, Ashton under Hill, Worcestershire
I take great pride in the fact that we British must be among the most, if not the most compassionate people in the world. Our response to tragedies such as that in the Philippines is always out of all proportion to our size and economy.
The British Government has pledged £50m, in addition to which the British people have already donated in excess of £30m – and that in the same week that we also set a record by raising £31m for Children in Need.
Britain comes in for a lot of stick over its colonial past – but it sets an example to the rest of the world when it comes to lending a hand wherever tragedy strikes.
Robert Readman, Bournemouth
Am I the only one who views the alleged fact that the British public have been generous in response to the disaster with disbelief? Last week, around £30m had been raised, which is less than £1 per head of population. I know it has risen since. But the money so far would only just buy a house in The Bishops Avenue, north London. Useful, eh?
Purely as a matter of fact, I gave £50 and will probably find a bit more. If there are 20 million adults who could give that amount, that would make £1bn. I also know a lot of poor people who are struggling, yet I know they have given money.
Could it be that this £30m is made up of a lot of the “widow’s mites” commended by Christ, some rather modest donations from the middle classes, and a whopping, hideous great absence of money from the really rich?
It has already become plain that the more money people have, the more painful they find it to pay tax, so I don’t think I am being unduly sceptical.
Mary Nolze, Rusthall, Kent
I was out collecting for ShelterBox last Wednesday and Saturday. I live in a market town in Devon and was expecting a parochial response, as described by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (18 November). I had rehearsed good arguments why the Philippines needed our help.  I didn’t have to use one.
All of us out collecting were staggered by the generosity of those who gave. They felt great sympathy for those people who now have nothing. I have never seen so much paper money before when out collecting.
Many people who gave were clearly not well off, but I frequently heard the comment that it is never the rich who suffer, and they wanted to help, however small the donation. This included a number of young people and children who gave what they had in their pockets.
Yes, there is selfishness, narcissism and horrendous indulgence of children, but there are many compassionate, unselfish children who give to or volunteer for all kinds of charitable work. They are our future too.
Kerry Larbalestier, Newton Abbot, Devon
One of Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s charges against the “youth of today” is that while some do give to overseas causes, others are concerned about the levels of corruption associated with overseas aid and prefer to support ex-servicemen and  ex-servicewomen at home.
Is Ms Alibhai-Brown sure that her distaste for them is not simply because they are more patriotic and less left-wing and internationalist than her generation of university Trotskyites and Maoists was?
R S Foster, Sheffield
In health and social care, the use of evidence-informed knowledge in decisions and choices is widely accepted. We need something similar in disasters and other humanitarian emergencies. People need access to reliable information on what works, what doesn’t work, and what is of unproven benefit or harm.
It’s difficult for governments, humanitarian agencies, charity workers, doctors and nurses to discover this amid the chaos and urgency of a crisis. They are faced with an overwhelming amount of information, scattered among tens of thousands of reports, spread across thousands of scientific journals, books, reports and websites.
Responders often do not have the time or skills to distinguish between reliable and unreliable information.
Routine care is solving this by drawing on the findings of systematic reviews, which bring relevant information together in a single place. The same could happen in disasters. These reviews avoid undue emphasis on single studies or opinions, and help clarify whether a treatment or procedure is likely to be beneficial or harmful.
At this time of desperation in the Philippines, using reliable and robust evidence should lead to more good than harm. Since the tsunami of 2004, Evidence Aid has been working with national and international agencies and responders to help, putting information in a single place at
Mike Clarke, Founder and Director, Evidence Aid, Queen’s University Belfast
Just look at the facts on Kennedy
In response to Tim Walker’s piece (“In Dealey Plaza, it’s forever 1963”, 18 November), why is it only those who question the official verdict on the Kennedy assassination who merit the epithet “theorist”?
Have we lost sight of the fact that what happened in Dallas was a crime for which there is an enormous amount of factual evidence in the public domain?
The overwhelming weight of evidence supports the proposition that Lee Oswald (or whoever) had an accomplice or accomplices. More than 50 of the closest witnesses thought so; the police outrider splattered by Kennedy’s brains thought so; the man who picked up a piece of his skull (30ft behind the limousine) thought so; as did doctors, nurses and pall-bearers at Parkland Hospital and all the independent witnesses at the autopsy. And surely anyone who has seen the Zapruder film and observed Mrs Kennedy climb on to the boot of the limousine to retrieve part of her husband’s skull must know that the fatal shot could not have been fired by Oswald.
The real fantasists are those who insist that Oswald was solely guilty. He  was never brought to trial (he was bumped off by a mobster under suspicious circumstances), so his guilt or innocence becomes almost academic. Those who peddle the idea that we can only choose between a lone mad gunman and a labyrinthine conspiracy are the ones dealing in “theories”. 
Chris Forse, Snitterfield, Warwickshire
Don’t send ‘coals to Newcastle’
Why suggest moving the Royal Opera House to the North when we have an excellent opera company, Opera North, providing us with wonderful operas? What we need is more Arts Council money going to opera, ballet and theatre in the North. We have plenty of talent here which only obtains a tiny proportion of Arts Council funding.
Jill Osman, Hebden Bridge,  West Yorkshire
We see a growing UK economy with most of the growth in the South-east, supported by a property-price boom. And interest-rate increases are not far away, with the potential to strangle growth in the rest of the UK before it has begun.
What is the answer – a hike in interest rates in the South-east and no increase for the rest of us? If only it were so simple.
Jim Stanley, Dunfermline
How UK could have real democracy
People will not vote when they know that their vote will not have any effect. We all know that the decision to vote in the next prime minister will be taken by the floating voters in the 50 or so marginal seats.
Mr Cameron is right to claim that austerity for some is here to stay; the cost of reversing the measures will be too great for any parliament to contemplate in our divided society.
Our society will remain divided while the two dominant parties recognise it is in the best interests of their leaders to propound policies that best serve the faction they support.
Is it inevitable that our country remains divided? No. There are unified democracies, but they share a more democratic form of election. Can it be achieved here? It can but it will need a sustained campaign – which will be opposed by all three major parties. Would it be worth the effort? Of course. Compare the success of Germany with the relative failure of the UK. The only change that would achieve this result is the adoption of an alternative vote (AV) method of voting. Other forms of voting reform would only give perpetual balance of power to the Lib Dems, and they have demonstrated that they cannot be trusted.
This change could only be achieved if a sufficient body of independent candidates would stand with this change being the only commitment on their manifesto. Will it happen? Yes, but not in my lifetime. Not before the divisions, widened by this Coalition, become so great that there is risk of a breakdown in the structure of society.
Clive Georgeson, Dronfield, Derbyshir


‘Music should not be an elite pursuit, yet it is becoming another facet of British society dominated by privately educated people’
Sir, The decline of music in state schools is a national tragedy (report, Nov 15; letter, Nov 16). Despite music having the potential to be as beneficial to children as sport, the latter gains preference in schools due to the myth that music is more difficult and less relevant to young people’s lives.
I benefited hugely by learning music from the age of 7 because an inspirational teacher set up a private but affordable weekend music school near my home. This improved my life socially, academically and culturally. I was also fortunate that the comprehensive I attended had a wonderful head of music, Miss Wrenn, who ensured that music was given as much prominence in school life as sport.
Learning music broadens horizons and improves concentration, teamwork, intellectual stamina, emotional development, mathematical skills and creativity. Music should not be an elite pursuit, yet it is becoming another facet of British society dominated by privately educated people.
We must not allow this dumbing down by those who share Mr Gove’s ideological “3Rs” approach. Music can improve the lives of all our children, but to do so requires investment of money and long-term political support. The Department for Education has much to learn from people like my inspirational music teachers. John Slinger Rugby, Warks
Sir, John Arkell (letter, Nov 16) asserts that a decline in the number of students taking GCSE music is as a result of the recent introduction of music hubs.
Most students who took GCSE music in May would have chosen to study these courses in the spring of 2011, before the first music hubs came into force.
As I know from 20 years as a teacher, including ten within senior leadership, the provision of music and arts is determined by the wishes of the senior leadership team. Senior staff who recognise the value of the arts to the wider development of their charges will ensure that music remains part of the curriculum.
As an educational consultant and a professional musician, I have worked with a number of the new music hubs, some of which are working very creatively and imaginatively in building and developing local music. The fact that their funding is, in many cases, less than that given to the music services that went before, is a concern. However, many young people thrive under the auspices of the music hubs in what are very early days for the possibilities presented by this initiative.Steven MaxsonSchool Improvement Consultant Caistor, Lincs
Sir, John Arkell’s reference to the inclusion of music in the medieval university curriculum is a welcome nudge for Mr Gove. Plato observed: “musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul . . . imparting grace, and making the soul of him who is rightly educated graceful, or of him who is ill-educated ungraceful.” It is no coincidence that countries such as Finland, where music features prominently in the curriculum, produce more respectful, considerate and civilised societies than our own seems to be. Susan Sturrock London SW19

Warm sea temperatures can cause typhoons to strengthen, and the North Pacific has been heating up, like the rest of the Earth’s surface
Sir, Those of us from the UK research community who are attending the UN climate change negotiations in Warsaw welcome David Cameron’s decision to highlight the growing evidence that global warming is affecting the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, such as super-typhoon Haiyan (report, Nov 16).
The most recent assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that there has been a weak upward trend in the overall destructive power of typhoons in the western North Pacific, which threaten countries such as the Philippines, since the late 1970s.
Warm sea temperatures can cause typhoons to strengthen, and the North Pacific has been heating up, like the rest of the Earth’s surface, as a result of the rise in atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases. In addition, the global sea level has risen by about 20cm as a result of global warming since the start of the 20th century, which is making storm surges generated by typhoons worse.
While the UK can use overseas development assistance to help vulnerable countries to become more resilient to the impacts of disasters, and provide emergency relief to alleviate the suffering that results from them, it also needs to lead efforts to limit the future worsening of extreme weather through a sharp reduction in global emissions of greenhouse gases.Bob Ward Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, LSELondon WC2
Sir, So Bjørn Lomborg (Opinion, Nov 18) wants to rely on economists to sort out global warming. But economists did not forecast the 2008 economic disaster. Thomas Crowley (Retired climate scientist) Maryfield, East Lothian

The gradual erosion of general medical practice has been as the result of successive health ministers repeatedly trying to leave a “legacy”
Sir, In 1976 I became a family doctor in a North East ex-mining town. The practice did all its own on-call and night visits. It also carried out monthly visits on the vulnerable elderly who had a history of illness. Urgent patients were seen as extras in surgeries, and patients with minor and non-urgent complaints were generally happy to wait to see their own doctor.
Now if this sounds amazingly like the situation desired by the Health Minister today (report, Nov 13), I would have to point out that the gradual erosion of general medical practice has been as the result of successive health ministers repeatedly trying to leave a “legacy”, without understanding the consequences.
I found my work very satisfying for the first 15 years, and then more and more frustrating, with less patient contact and more paperwork. By 2006 I was happy to take retirement. When I visit my old practice I find morale distressingly low. Most of my colleagues will retire as soon as they can. The family doctor has now been consigned to history and no amount of political input will revive him.John A. Clarke Crook, Co Durham

Let us not vacillate on a minimum requirement of nurses, which by any reasonable definition means safe
Sir, The leading nurses urging caution when it comes to mandating minimum staffing numbers and ratios (letter, Nov 18) are confusing the minimum, safe and right numbers. While the right number of staff may well depend on the sickness and dependency of the patients and the skill of the staff, the minimum numbers must not. By all means gather the evidence on safe staffing levels for challenging wards with a view to augmenting the minimum numbers to the right level, but let us not vacillate on minimum, which by any reasonable definition means safe. Minimum levels are indeed required nationally and as soon as possible. Malcolm Watson Welford, Berks

This great church was built by Orthodox Christians and served that community, as its mother church, for almost 1,000 years
Sir, I was saddened to read that pressure is mounting in Turkey again to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque (report, Nov 18). This great church was built by Orthodox Christians, long before the Great Schism, and served that community, as its mother church, for almost 1,000 years.
May I suggest that the Orthodox and Catholic communities consider holding a worldwide collection among their faithful, giving the proceeds to the Muslim community to enable them to build, on a prime site in Istanbul, a fine mosque of similar area and volume to that of Hagia Sophia. In return Hagia Sophia would then be given back to the Orthodox Church to serve once more as the Cathedral of the Ecumenical Patriarch.
This would be of real ecumenical value and serve as practical evidence that Islam is as tolerant as most Muslims claim it to be.Francis BaileyKilliney, Co Dublin


SIR – Kirsty Craig (Letters, November 16) suggests lower speed limits on country roads. This would mean speed reminder signs at the required intervals, affecting the visual enjoyment of the countryside.
The national speed limit is the maximum permitted on the road. Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should.
Cathy Cooke
Kingston Bridge, Somerset
SIR – The Institute of Advanced Motorists recommends that drivers travel at a speed that allows them to stop in the space that they can see to be clear.
Related Articles
Sophie Raworth as a replacement for Alan Titchmarsh
18 Nov 2013
Sam Kelly
Oldham, Lancashire
SIR – The creation of ever more speed limits is now part of the local politician’s routine to show he is doing something. I would argue that all speed limits should be removed in favour of educating drivers to decide on a safe speed for themselves.
Ian Eyres
Llanyblodwel, Shropshire
Teenage sex
SIR – Some children have sex under the age of 16; so lower the age of consent to 15. Some people exceed 30mph speed limits; so increase them to 40mph. Some men beat their wives; so . . .
Mike Keatinge
Sherborne, Dorset
SIR – We now live in a crazy would where children are reported to the police for fighting at school but not for having under-age sex.
Mervyn Vallance
Maldon, Essex
Bart’s Great Hall
SIR – It is the Friends of the Great Hall and Archive of St Bartholomew’s Hospital, not the Queen’s Gynaecologist, who oppose the positioning of a new Maggie’s Centre patient-support building in a totally unsuitable place, namely appended to the Grade I listed Great Hall of Bart’s (“Fight to preserve hospital”, report, November 13).
This charity plays an important part in providing support and counselling in a relaxed environment removed from the cancer treatment areas of hospitals. If a more suitable site could be found at Bart’s, the Friends would have no objection.
Should the plan to append a structure of 21st-century design to the end of the 18th-century Great Hall be successful, it would prevent the restoration and improvements needed to make James Gibbs’s magnificent building self-sufficient for the next century.
Marcus Setchell
Chairman, The Friends of the Great Hall and Archive of St Bartholomew’s Hospital
London EC1
Kennedy’s Latin primer
SIR – Unforgettably, I listened to the news of the death of John F Kennedy (Letters, November 16) under my bed, struggling with unfinished Latin prep, by torchlight, my Dansette transistor close to my ear. Puella columbam amat! Subsequently, I achieved excellent results in O-level Latin.
Alison Mackay
Pinner, Middlesex
Stand and deliver
SIR – I personally prefer to visit the supermarket and choose the food I buy. However, it occurs to me – who is paying for the pickers and delivery lorries for
online shoppers? Surely it must be me.
David Blackford
Seaview, Isle of Wight
Respect for Sri Lanka
SIR – As a Commonwealth citizen, I am outraged at the stand David Cameron has taken against the people of Sri Lanka.
For many years the government of Sri Lanka fought a bloody war against the separatist Tamil Tigers, and in the end it prevailed. The Tamil Tigers did not take their loss graciously. Lose the war, and raise an army of external, Left-leaning, liberal democrats around the world to reach your goals by political pressure.
Mr Cameron disrespects the long-suffering Sinhalese people and their elected government by going among them and making threats about war crimes and UN action. (The UN – that ragbag mob in New York that cannot tie its shoe laces without external direction?)
Sri Lanka is a sovereign nation. It is the height of ignorance and bad manners to visit a nation by invitation, criticise its people and government and dispense threats.
W L McCall
Bonnells Bay, Australia
Memory hole
SIR – Has Labour developed amnesia about its past actions (Leading article, November 16), or is it simply hypocrisy?
On all sides, Labour politicians demand government action to stop the very things they subjected Britain to: massive debts (Ed Balls); energy prices (Ed Miliband); open-door immigration (David Blunkett and Jack Straw); and A&E waiting times (Andy Burnham).
Labour took 13 years to get us into this mess. It should not expect miracles from the Coalition or think the electorate has a short memory when the time comes to apportion blame at the next election.
Michael Edwards
Haslemere, Surrey
All those cushions
SIR – We use the proliferation of cushions on hotel beds (Letters, November 16) as padding for the nether regions of the unlucky one of us who has to sit on the floor to watch the television, because there is only one easy chair in a double room.
Hilary and Peter Ives
Nicosia, Cyprus
Labour dispute
SIR – How on earth did French midwives stage a go-slow?
Chris Mastin-Lee
Calne, Wiltshire
The Bletchley codebreaker who came to tea
SIR – I met Mavis Batey, the Bletchley Park codebreaker in 1991, when I was involved in restoring a small neglected park opposite the Regency crescent where I live. I had sketched a design for its possible restoration, and, knowing nothing of garden history, was amazed to learn it had been forwarded to the Garden History Society, whose president asked to visit me.
We asked her to tea. I made cucumber sandwiches, and expected a grand and formidable lady. Mavis arrived, laden with carrier bags, an unintimidating, smallish lady. Research notes and copies of plans – mine included! – tumbled out of the bags, and a whole field of learning was opened for me.
Her help continued for years. No mention was made of her wartime achievements, until a tulip tree, seeded from an ancient specimen, was looking for a home. Mavis suggested we might take it to Bletchley Park, as part of an American memorial planting. This we did. Now it feels like a satisfying link between the two remarkable careers of a true friend.
Wendy Osborne
Alverstoke, Hampshire

SIR – You report that doctors and nurses will face the full force of the law for neglect. Does that apply to administrators and managers, and to the ministers responsible for the NHS?
Eddie Peart
Rotherham, South Yorkshire
SIR – Though doubtful, I hope that any offence of “wilful neglect” will also apply to managers who fail to staff wards adequately. On admission to a cardiac unit, my wife, a retired nurse herself, found that only one nurse on the ward of over 20 patients was trained to administer drugs.
The nurse, incidentally, was still on duty doing paperwork at least two hours after the supposed end of her shift.
Adrian Waller
Woodsetts, South Yorkshire
SIR – Published statistics show that Matthew Norman (Comment, November 16) is mistaken to suggest that, in health care, “it is hard cash … that determines quality.” NHS net expenditure increased by 84 per cent, from £57.049 billion in 2002-03 to £105.254 billion in 2012-13. In the same period numbers of beds in NHS hospitals fell by 26 per cent, from 183,679 to 136,487, to reach the present crisis level of 2.6 per 1,000 of population. The EU average is 5.3.
Dr Max Gammon
London SE16
SIR – Matthew Norman is right: without more funding, health care will not improve. The GP contract changed 10 years ago is a red herring. GPs did well financially for a short time, but that has been clawed back.
GPs’ workload has increased hugely but their numbers are the same. Can Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, explain why GPs are queuing to retire, why recruiting new GPs is almost impossible and why young doctors are leaving Britain in droves?
Tinkering with the GP contract will, at best, make a small difference. It appears we cannot afford a first-class NHS and funding is failing to keep up with demand. This winter the cracks are going to show.
This is an inconvenient truth for a Government facing an election, which is why GPs and the 2004 contract are being used as a convenient scapegoat .
Dr Ian Rummens
Oswestry, Shropshire
SIR – A GP with knowledge built up over time can avoid hospital admissions for patients or A&E attendances. If we GPs opened all hours and worked through the weekend, visiting potential emergencies and checking the frail and elderly, pressure on emergency services would be reduced.
Instead of funding phone lines to non-clinicians and suggesting that GPs talk to patients by email, it would be better to give our surgery a couple of extra doctors.
I work 60 hours a week, so if I work Sunday I’ll want Monday off. Apologies if I’m your named GP and you ring on Monday.
Dr Jeremy Lockwood
Burton on Trent, Staffordshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – Stephen Collins (Opinion, November 16th) reports that the Legal Services Bill, “instigated at the behest of the troika . . . to cut exorbitant legal costs”) has been stuck at committee stage for more than 18 months.
He wonders what “powerful forces” might be at work and whether these could succeed in eventually having the Bill “neutered”.
Could someone in the Government be called to account for this, in these pages, this week? Or if silence reigns, do we really need to call the troika back, to babysit again because our Oireachtas hasn’t the teeth (or the will?) to follow through on these much-needed changes. – Yours, etc,
Dalkey Avenue,
Dalkey, Co Dublin.
Sir, – So, the Troika are exiting the stage and leaving us to our own devices. Are we now going to go back to the bad old days in Irish politics? Is the Government now give us “easier” budgets in advance of the European elections and, perhaps, the next general election which could be held in 2015?
After each troika review of our economy during the bailout they expressed much concern over our lack of action in relation to enormously high salaries in our health system, the legal profession and banking/financial services.
It is patently obvious little or nothing has been done to address these issues and, unfortunately, it is also obvious that the Government does not have the will or the inclination to do anything.The so-called elite, or golden circle, appears to be still alive and well. The politicians, lawyers, accountants and medical profession are intent on looking after each other and “to hell” with the rest of us.
The obvious result of this inaction is that the vast majority of the austerity burden has been borne by the ordinary citizen. Will we ever learn? – Yours, etc,
Ashbrook Gardens,
Ennis Road,

A chara, – In Mark Hennessy’s article (“Howlin plays down troika concerns over price of Irish drug prices”, November 2nd), Brendan Howlin adroitly changes subject from drug pricing to a subtle jab at GPs. His sleight of hand is inaccurate and misleading.
His assertion that “all we are doing is transposing onto those who provide services for the State the same cuts we have imposed on people who work directly for the State” is fallacious at best. He is well aware that he is not comparing like with like.
I challenge Mr Howlin to name publicly any department or agency, whose staff work directly for the State, who have suffered cuts to pay of 40 per cent in the past five years. Furthermore, those who work directly for the State, unlike general practitioners, do not pay for their heating, lighting, insurance, office rent, colleagues’ salaries or PRSI.
The current contractual relationship between GPs and Health Service Executive is based on a contract negotiated in 1972. Doctors who work under the GMS (medical card) scheme independently contract their services to the State, and for this reason the GMS scheme is a public service commitment. Unfortunately the relationship between GPs and the HSE is being significantly undermined.
In stark contrast to funding, the costs of providing the service we provide are not being cut. It is simply not possible to provide/maintain existing services in the context of relentless cuts. Unfortunately, as usual, it is the Irish people who will suffer. – Is mise,
National Association

Sir, – I am not a Fine Gael voter, and judging from his comments, neither is Paul Doran (November 14th). However, unlike Mr Doran, I think the Taoiseach and his Government have done a very good job considering the mess bequeathed to them by the Fianna Fáil/Green administration. I think, from Mr Doran’s tone, that Mr Kenny would not have his approval no matter what gaisci he might have achieved; so, Taoiseach, just carry on, you’re doing fine. – Yours, etc,
Highfield, Carlow.

A chara, – Rev Marcus Losack is not correct (November 18th) when he writes: “the [Royal Irish] academy has obviously given its full and unqualified support to the traditional theory of origins in its most recent publication of St Patrick’s Confessio (Pádraig McCarthy (transl.), My Name is Patrick . . . Dublin: RIA, 2011).”
That “traditional theory” is that Patrick was from Britain. Where Patrick wrote, “My father was Calpornius. He was a deacon, his father was Potitus, a priest, who lived at Bannavem Taburniae”, the first end-note in My Name is Patrick states: “There are various theories about the whereabouts of Bannavem Taburniae; none is conclusive.” I do not give unqualified support for any one theory. We simply do not have enough information to be sure of Patrick’s place of origin, whether Brittany, as Rev Losack argues, or Britain, as others hold. Either is possible.
What we can agree on is the significance of Patrick and his faith and his work for the people of Ireland at that time and today, as we approach the 1,600th anniversary of the traditional date of his return to Ireland in 432. I would like to see Christians of all churches showing united action in showing a new life and hope in our own day. – Is mise,
Blackthorn Court,

Sir, – Your Saturday cartoon (Martyn Turner, Opinion) showed a merry Enda Kenny and Michael Noonan, released from the control lines of the troika puppeteers but still chained to a large ball labelled “the markets”.
The metaphor is all wrong.
Enda and Michael are free of the troika. But it is the rest of the people of Ireland that are chained . . . to a ball that should be labelled “debt – other people’s”.
And the size of the weight is still increasing, partially so that Enda and Michael’s pensions will be large enough to ensure they feel no constraints in their later years. That ball and chain isn’t tied to them at all. – Yours, etc,
Marine Drive,
Sandymount, Dublin 4.

A chara, – It seemed inevitable that our ghost estates would have to be demolished (Breaking News, November 18th). Might I suggest that at least one such estate be retained as a stark warning never to allow such foolishness again. – Is mise,

Sir, – Isn’t it ironic that the State spends €10 million in an advertisement campaign to encourage consumers to save money and energy (Home News, November 16th) while at the same time a semi-State company, Electric Ireland, charges Irish consumers a low usage charge for not using enough energy! – Yours, etc,
The Elms,
Athlone, Co Westmeath.

Sir, – In response to frequent complaints at the arrival of Christmas decorations and paraphernalia in November, might I suggest that they actually reflect the emergence of a new season: pre-Christmas or Pristmas? – Yours, etc,
Ballinlough, Cork.

A chara, – Paddy McEvoy’s suggestion (November 14th) that we should remember the 1916 Rising in its centenary by, well, lambasting it, is laughable.
He asserts: “The Irish people should have been consulted about “ ‘armed struggle’ in 1916”.
By what means could they have asked anybody? We didn’t live in a democratic country to ask anything of our British masters. We had already “asked” twice for Home Rule (something far short of independence) and had been denied it by the undemocratic House of Lords in London.
Just as we didn’t know if the people thought we were “better together” because they were never asked. We lived under British rule and we could like it or lump it – but the people did ratify the 1916 Proclamation in the 1918 general election, which saw Sinn Féin win 76 per cent of the seats in the all-Ireland general election. Instead of taking the obvious hint, the British continued to rule a country it knew did not want them. So who were the anti-democrats in that period? It certainly wasn’t the “guardians of the threshold” as he so eloquently refers to us.
So the implication that the men and women of 1916 and the republicans of that period were anti-democratic is insincere in the extreme. Our own idea to honour the great men and women of 1916 would be the implication of democracy that has been so long denied – the Irish people as one unit – by way of an all-Ireland referendum – deciding the issue of Irish unity, just as was denied to the men and women of 1916 that they felt the need to assert themselves in arms.
One Ireland, one vote. Surely all democrats can agree to that? And surely no better time to implement democracy back in Ireland than 2016. Now that would really would be a suitable tribute to the men and women of freedom and liberty. – Yours, etc,
Seán Heuston 1916 Society,
Moorfield Grove,

Sir, – Des McKernan of the Asperger Syndrome Association of Ireland says of those who have Asperger’s  syndrome: “They can’t put their feet in the shoes of other people and understand where they are coming from” (Sheila Wayman, Health + Family, November 5 th). He suggests those who have Asperger’s often bore neurotypical people by droning on for hours about trains.
It is most regrettable that someone involved with an association which is meant to support those who have Asperger’s should have given your paper such an absurd and offensive caricature of the characteristics of the syndrome.
I was diagnosed as having Asperger’s seven years ago. I hope that I try to understand other people. I know it is hard for me to express such an understanding – though it is easier for me at least to do so in writing than it is orally; I hope that I am not untypical of those who have the syndrome in this respect. We are not all consumed by a monomaniacal interest in trains; I know that I am not. Many of us have other interests; not a few among us even have a wide range of such interests.
I am sure I am not alone among those who have Asperger’s in having experienced a lack of understanding among some neurotypical people in the difficulties I experience in coping with life. It is a pity Mr McKernan appears to display that lack of understanding himself. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – Mark McGrail (November 18th) wishes to exclude theological considerations from the debate on what he calls “marriage equality” on the basis that it will only affect civil marriage as defined in this Republic.
The institution of marriage pre-dates Bunreacht na hÉireann by several thousand years. It was not created by our Constitution, but recognised by it. It would therefore seem to be legitimate, if considering radical amendments to an institution considerably older than the State, that one might debate it in the broadest possible terms, particularly given that the great majority of marriages in this country, while civil, are also sacramental. – Yours, etc,
Forest View,

Sir, – The anti-Semitic virulence in Charles Bewley’s report is “unique” among the diplomatic dispatches, according to the exhibition curator Christian Dirks (“Disgraceful’ Irish report on Kristallnacht goes on display”, World News, November 9th). Bewley was appointed to Ireland’s mission to Berlin in September 1933, but what is extraordinary is the fact that in January 1922 he was involved in an incident at the “Tauenzien Palace” in Berlin which exposed his extreme anti-Semitic views. He had arrived in Berlin in early December 1921, being appointed as Irish trade representative and used abusive and filthy language when Robert Briscoe’s name was mentioned. He was chucked out of the “Tauenzien Palace” by the proprietors and forbidden to ever enter their premises again.
According to my mother’s cousin, Nancy Wyse Power, who was part of the Irish team in Berlin, Mr Briscoe was there for the purposes of purchasing arms. She thought it better not to make any contact with him as it appeared to her better that the open and underground movements should not come together. She says that Mr Bewley had an office of his own and was bitterly anti-Semitic. She remembered William Binchy, who was a student at the time in Germany, saying it was an extraordinary thing in a country where Jews were so influential that the waiting-room of a foreign trade representative should be filled with anti-Jewish publications. Mr Binchy himself became Irish representative for a short time in 1929. – Yours, etc,
Shandon Crescent,
Phibsborough, Dublin 7.

Sir, – In response to Myles McSwiney’s call (November 16th) for an adequate response to the haka, perhaps the Irish team should simply continue with their warm-up while the New Zealanders perform their dance. To paraphrase the apocryphal Eamon de Valera quote, we defeat the haka by ignoring it. – Yours, etc,
Charlesland Wood,
Co Wicklow.
Sir, – Myles McSwiney seeks an antidote to the New Zealand haka (November 16th). May I suggest the Irish team perform the finale from Riverdance as this would surely would surely antagonise the opposition. It certainly does me! – Yours, etc,
Rosses Point Road,
Sir, – The only way to intimidate the All-Blacks (Myles McSwiney, November 16th) is to reveal our newly imposed Germanic identity. The team should burst into song, namely, Erika, (as gaeilge of course, as a sop to the past). It could be accompanied by the spoons – wooden, no doubt. – Yours, etc,
Monalea Park,
Dublin 24.
Sir, – Regarding Myles McSwiney’s request (November 16th) for suggestions to neutralise the grisly haka of the All Blacks, may I mention that Frank McNally in An Irishman’s Diary on the same page has pointed a way forward.
Why not have the Irish rugby team marching onto the field chanting Dominic Behan’s song McAlpine’s Fusiliers, making imaginary shovel movements to some Riverdance choreography.
The Irish labourers who invaded Britain in the 1950s were indeed the men who built Britain.
Failing that, after our pathetic performance against Australia, why not have our players walk barefoot onto the Aviva pitch with either a Rosary or a Bible (or both!). – Yours, etc,
My Lady’s Mile,
Holywood, Co Down.
Sir, – In response to Liam Cronin (November 18th), I too have noticed as dramatic decline in the sparrow population in Dublin 2. I have been told that birds are particularly sensitive to the micro-wave radiation signals which emit from all the wifi and mobile phone boosters across the city.
It is a sad irony that in order to facilitate a generation of self-absorbed “tweeters” we are depriving our children the joy of real tweets. – Yours, etc,
Erne Terrace,

Irish Independent:

* I have noticed in responses to the letters section a growing antipathy towards any contribution that is indicative of religious belief. This would seem to be based on the assumption that Ireland could be a free-thinking paradise of clear-headed citizens if unencumbered by the alleged infantile utterances of religious believers. I, for one, see no rational ground for repressing the view that there is more to life than meets the eye or mind.
Also in this section
Martin and Roy were well taught by Cloughie
It’s about time for reconciliation
Commercial rates cut year on year
There is a crass assumption that believers are essentially dim-witted, despite the fact that intelligence shows itself among believers and non-believers in equal measure.
One of the sources of disdain has been some ill-conceived religious education that unwittingly eliminated critical engagement with what is on offer, undermining rather than illuminating the faith of many.
For example, the notion of original sin when badly presented implied that God had wilfully made us defective; thus flying in the face of the fact that we have emerged from millions of years of evolution.
We are beings in the making; we all have a stake in what we become and have a voice in determining it. The creation of the world is in our hands.
A recent bout of anti-religious sentiment followed the sex abuse scandal. There was fully justified outrage but it seemed to be irrationally and unjustly directed towards all priests and religious.
Religious understanding provides part of the debate about how we can conceive of a way of life that works equally to the advantage of all. There are numerous attempts to keep religious commitment in a subjective world of preference, rather than in the public realm of rational negotiation and debate where it belongs.
Philip O’Neill
Edith Road, Oxford
* We can talk about sex trafficking but the only people who can really protect these women are the men who live in Ireland, whether they are born here or not.
They say prostitution is the oldest profession, that we should not criminalise those who use it. But to be non-criminal, you need to behave in a non-criminal manner.
If you have sex with a woman who does not provide consent, even if she is a prostitute, it is criminal behaviour. It is rape.
Your payment does not nullify your responsibility to gain consent or your responsibility to ensure the person is willing to have sex with you for monetary gain.
If this woman is there unwillingly, you, not the trafficker, are the rapist.
Pauline Bleach
Wolli Creek, NSW, Australia
* Given the time that’s in it, perhaps the next time Enda Kenny jets off cap in hand for his customary pat of approval from Angela Merkel, would it not be opportune to remind her that over 60,000 Irish citizens were slain in the killing fields of Flanders, the Somme, Ypres and the many other locations at the hands of the German military in the two world wars?
At the same time, he could remind her of the extraordinary generosity and vision demonstrated by the American people through the Marshall plan which, while also protecting against the advance of Communism, pumped $130bn in today’s values into Europe and Germany, resulting in a remarkable resurgence of the German economy in a few short years.
It is probably equally significant that the expansionary and far-sighted Marshall plan afforded Germany the gift of hope and confidence to successfully emerge from its most savage and destructive epoch.
When extending the begging bowl for some generosity of spirit in the retrospective capitalisation of Irish banks, Enda would do well to demand a similar gesture for today’s hapless Irish citizens, who, apart from a coterie of politicians, the rich and the elite, are again being brutalised and humiliated by the inhumane and destructive austerity policies, mainly driven by and insisted on by Germany and German unyielding fiscal ideology.
John Leahy
Wilton Road, Cork
* Watching the unfolding disaster in the Philippines, let’s hope that the arrival of aid and assistance is based on the same high standards of evidence that we now expect for health care in more routine circumstances.
The concept of evidence-based health care is widely accepted in routine care and should apply in disasters and other humanitarian emergencies. People need to know what works, doesn’t work and is unproven.
Good intentions are not enough. Evidence on the likely effects is required and it needs to influence decision and choices. In that way the response, whether at the level of communities or individuals, is likely to do more good than harm.
Mike Clarke
Founder and director, Evidence Aid,
Queen’s University Belfast
* As of now, like many of my fellow citizens we are still awaiting the beginning of the long-overdue banking inquiry. I say this after reading the article in your paper that, the British Treasury did receive prior knowledge of the inclusion of Anglo Irish under the blanket guarantee bailouts.
Even more astonishing is the fact that democratically elected members of the Cabinet were left completely unaware what was about to unfold.
Moreover, the holding to account of public representatives is now a priority for this Government.
I find it incredible that the late Brian Lenihan, RIP, and Brian Cowen were the only two public-elected representatives present during the time when one of the most important decisions in this entire country’s history was being decided on.
Mattie Greville
Killucan, Co Westmeath
* The best news and picture of recent days has come to us from Rome. The Pope has become somewhat of a hero. Whether one agrees with organised religion or not, this man, and he is that first and foremost, has displayed hints of character that does the message his religion is founded upon great service.
Firstly, it seems the Cosa Nostra, or the Mafia, is thought to have Pope Francis in their sights. It would appear that the Pope is being a most annoying cat among the pigeons of the Vatican Bank. His work is causing a highly secretive financial institution’s customers to become worried. Well done, Mr Pope!
Secondly, there is a picture of the Pope going through Rome in a vehicle that is not hemmed in by bullet-proof glass. In a move that contrasts with the visit of Mr Obama behind glass in Dublin; the Pope has, it would seem, found the courage of his faith. It would seem that Pope Francis is prepared to face his enemies without fear. He has nothing to hide or fear.
Thirdly, the Pope mentioned that Jesus indicated that sinners should be tied to a rock and thrown into the sea. What the reportage in some areas has failed to mention was that this was a reference to a certain type of sinner committing a certain type of sin. The sin that Fr Brendan Smyth was guilty of and a certain type of sin that the previous incumbent of the title of Pope had, according to some, a hand in covering up. One wonders if Pope Benedict is perusing the fashion houses of Italy for a designer life-jacket?
“Don’t be afraid” are the reported last words of our poet Seamus Heaney – perhaps the Pope is a fan!
Dermot Ryan
Athenry, Co Galway
Irish Independent


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