Reshuffle

16July2014 Reshuffle

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage toget round the park. A quiet day I sweep the drive

ScrabbleMarywins, but gets under 400. perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.

Obituary:

Alice Coachman – obituary

Alice Coachman was an American athlete who became the first black woman to win Olympic gold

Alice Coachman clearing the bar at a track meeting in Iowa in 1948

Alice Coachman clearing the bar at a track meeting in Iowa in 1948 Photo: AP

5:28PM BST 15 Jul 2014

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Alice Coachman, the American athlete who has died aged 90, was the first black woman from any nation to win an Olympic gold medal; at the 1948 “austerity” Games in London she won the high jump with a leap of 5ft 6 1/8in.

Her medal was presented to her at Wembley Stadium by King George VI, and Alice Coachman, as she then was, returned home a celebrity. Count Basie threw a party in her honour, and she met President Harry Truman at the White House.

Back home in Georgia she was paraded in a motorcade throughout the state, but at the official ceremony in Albany blacks and whites in the audience were segregated, the town’s white mayor refused to shake her hand and she was ushered out of the building by a side entrance. She received anonymous gifts from white admirers who did not want their neighbours to know they had sent a black woman a present.

Alice Coachman clears the bar at the 1948 London Olympics (AP)

Yet Alice Coachman remained philosophical about such things: “We had segregation, but it wasn’t any problem for me because I had won,” she recalled. “That was up to them, whether they accepted it or not.”

In fact, many did — and Alice Coachman became the first black woman to endorse an international product, Coca-Cola, appearing on billboards with the 1936 Olympic hero Jesse Owens.

Alice Coachman blazed a trail for African-American track stars like Evelyn Ashford, Florence Griffith Joyner and Jackie Joyner-Kersee; since her Olympic triumph, black women have made up a majority of the US women’s Olympic track and field team.

“I think I opened the gate for all of them,” she reflected. “Whether they think that or not, they should be grateful to someone in the black race who was able to do these things.”

Alice Coachman being interviewed in 2012 by the Olympic swimmer John Nabor (AP)

One of 10 children, Alice Marie Coachman was born in Albany on November 9 1923 to strict Baptist parents who disapproved of her love of physical activities. She recalled an occasion when her mother caught her jitterbugging, aged 11, in a local dance hall, having warned her that if she ever found her dancing she would give her a whipping: “Lord, have mercy, she wasn’t lying,” she recalled in later life. “WHUP! WHUP! Y’know what? I could run, but she was fast enough to run after me and whup my tail… Shoot, I’m almost 74 years old and I still think of that. I still feel it.”

As a child Alice ran and jumped barefoot over rags tied together in ropes, and over bamboo fishing poles. She was not allowed to train at athletics fields with whites. But, encouraged by a teacher at her high school, she was invited to enrol at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, a centre for women’s track and field sports. Although the “working” scholarship she was given meant that she had to clean the gym and the swimming pool, sew football uniforms and maintain the tennis courts, she went on to compete for the institute and later for Albany State College. She won the Amateur Athletic Union high jump championship 10 consecutive times, from 1939 to 1948, and its 50-metre outdoor title from 1943 to 1947. She also won national championships in the 100-metre sprint and the 4 x100 metre relay.

Alice Coachman’s first Olympics should have been in 1940, but the Games were cancelled because of the war, as was the 1944 event. In the run-up to the 1948 Olympics, she fell ill and was initially reluctant to go, though she eventually yielded to pressure: “I didn’t want to let my country down, or my family and school. Everyone was pushing me.”

Until her Gold medal-winning performance in the high jump (which she performed on a rainy summer’s day wearing a tracksuit top), the Games had gone badly for the US women’s track and field team. “All the fast girls we had, they would come in last. It was kind of sad,” she recalled. She was not only the only American woman to win gold, her jump set an American and Olympic record. But it was a close-run thing. Both she and Britain’s Dorothy Tyler cleared 5ft 6 1/8 in, but Alice Coachman took the Gold because she did so at her first attempt.

Her track and field career ended with the Olympics, after which she became a teacher, raised a family and created a foundation to help young and retired athletes in financial difficulties.

She was inducted into the US Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1975, and the US Olympic Hall of Fame in 2004.

Alice Coachman’s first marriage was dissolved. Her second husband, Frank Davis, predeceased her, and she is survived by a daughter and a son of her first marriage.

Alice Coachman, born November 9 1923, died July 14 2014

Guardian:

Why has Germany done so well at almost every World Cup, while England has fairly consistently failed (Sport, 15 July)? The immediate reason is the dominance of the Premier League, which recruits a high percentage of overseas players and severely restricts the development of national players. But there are deeper reasons. England itself continues to be hamstrung by a system which is mired in conflict (unions-industry /unions-government), class ridden (private schools masquerading as charities, elitist universities), dominated by short-termism (bankers, corporate heads etc) and damaged by a system which puts profit before quality products and long-term goals. People said Germany won the World Cup because the players worked as a team, and in many ways the same reason explains why the country has been so successful over the last 50 years. It explains why Germany has consistently produced many of the best cars and the best electrical products, better housing, and why VW/Audi were in China 20 years before Jaguar/LandRover, and why it has an apprenticeship programme which produces highly trained young people, while ours is, on the whole, a poorly funded and poorly regarded shadow of the German programme. Unless we in England take a more collaborative approach and focus more on long-term objectives instead of short term profit, we will always be a country characterised more by the illusion of self-importance than by achievement.
Paul Simmonds
Birmingham

Beatrix Campbell (Don’t grab a grandee, 15 July) believes Elizabeth Butler-Sloss’s report on Cleveland failed to reveal the true extent of child sexual abuse uncovered by the novel diagnosis of the doctors Higgs and Wyatt – RAD or “reflex anal dilation”. I am convinced that Butler-Sloss failed to make it clear that these paediatricians discovered nothing new at all. It is not a “myth” that their diagnosis was “all wrong”, as Campbell alleges. It was “all wrong”.

It was the RAD test that was on trial in 1987. By turning their attention to children‘s bottoms, had Higgs and Wyatt unearthed a hitherto undiscovered and horrifying degree of child sexual abuse? Referrals for abuse had been running at 25 to 40 a month before the RAD test was introduced. They rose to 81 in May and 110 in June, before falling back again when the furore began. Quite clearly, the RAD test was responsible. It was therefore important to distinguish between what might be called “RAD referrals” and routine referrals. The Butler-Sloss report failed to do so and therefore left the key question unanswered.

The courts did provide a kind of judgment. Of the 121 children diagnosed by Higgs and Wyatt, 67 were made wards of court and 27 the subject of place-of-safety orders. Social workers took children away for months at a time, allowing their parents only limited access. If the allegations of abuse were to stand up in court then the children’s evidence was vital: Wyatt told the inquiry that disclosure by children, or confession by a parent, was the “gold standard” for identifying sexual abuse.

Simon Hawkesworth QC, who represented 38 families who contested the allegations of sexual abuse of 84 children, pointed out to the inquiry: “In every case where a child has been diagnosed as sexually abused since 1 January 1987 … by Drs Higgs and Wyatt solely upon the basis of alleged physical findings (anal or genital) and where they raised the first suspicion or allegation of sexual abuse it is our submission: 1. that no court has upheld their findings; 2. that in the vast majority of [most] other cases the local authority dropped its allegations of sexual abuse or proceedings were allowed to lapse; 3. that in cases where children were already in care and the subject of allegations of other kinds of abuse, the Higgs and Wyatt diagnosis added nothing to the welfare of the children; 4. there have been no convictions of any offenders against children.”

In my view Butler-Sloss had all the evidence to conclude that the “Cleveland crisis” was the result of a false and cruel diagnosis that put a large number of quite innocent parents and children through a terrible ordeal. She failed to do so and for that reason I believe it is as well she is not going to be in charge of another, very difficult, inquiry.
Gavin Weightman
London

14 July, the day when women bishops were allowed and when the birthday of the great suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst is usually celebrated. Photograph: Heritage Images/Getty Images

The 14th of July 2014 is indeed a historic day for women (Jubilation as General Synod votes to allow women bishops, 15 July). Also 14 July is the date when the birthday of the great suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst is usually celebrated – despite the fact that her birth certificate records 15 July as the date of birth. Contrary to the popular conception, Emmeline Pankhurst campaigned not just for the parliamentary vote for women but a radical transformation of society that would end the subordinate position of the female sex. Let’s not forget all those suffragettes and suffragists, many of whom were Christian, who wanted to preach in the Church of England, including Maude Royden. They would be rejoicing too that this last bastion of patriarchy in Britain has finally fallen.
June Purvis
University of Portsmouth

• The Anglican church should be ashamed of itself. That it has taken so long for the church to reach such a basic decision is shameful, as is people celebrating the appointment of women bishops as though they had agreed a peace deal in Gaza, gratuitously pouring champagne when they could have used that moment of press coverage to highlight a real issue. The leadership of the church ought to take note. Celebrating this decision – albeit made using professional mediators and conflict management experts – to achieve the basic principle of equality does not show the church in a good light.
Ethel Caves
Ilford, Essex

• The conservative evangelical block holds that men must never be taught by women. Who potty-trained them? Not their fathers, I bet. And were their nursery and primary school teaches all male? I think not.
Penny Aldred
London

• Get it right, Guardian – deacons and priests are ordained, bishops are consecrated (In the running for ordination, 15 July). And, just to forestall error in the future, if they change dioceses they don’t just move, they are translated.
Peter Wrigley
Birstall, Yorkshire

• It’s difficult to see why gaining the right to preside over hocus-pocus in the C of E is any kind of triumph for women. Beliefs in spirit-beings and in spirit-world communication (gods and prayer) have been abandoned by almost all educated modern people. Why would anyone celebrate the fact that now women too can preside over delusional superstitions?
John Daugman
Professor of computer vision and pattern recognition, University of Cambridge

• As a feminist, of course I want more women in politics. But if I was one of those Tory women now in the cabinet (Report, 15 July), posing with their handbags, I would be furious that, as ever, women in politics are not treated fairly but at the whims of their male counterparts. They only have 10 months to the election and so no time to have any impact; after the election, they will probably be ditched or moved. And if they are so good, why weren’t they picked before? The new equalities minister is anti-gay marriage and is also education secretary – so how will she get anything done with two portfolios? Simple, she won’t need to as she’s just a token. How ironic, on the anniversary of Emmeline Pankhurst’s birth, that women are still marginalised and subject to the ruling male political class.
Debbie Cameron
Manchester

The claims made by Caroline Spelman MP (Make parliament family-friendly – Spelman, 15 July) are a complete red herring. It is simply not true to say that our rules on MPs’ accommodation stop them from being with their families. At the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), we have rightly stopped MPs from claiming second mortgages at taxpayers’ expense. Instead, we give MPs from outside London financial support to rent a property in the capital. And we give MPs with caring responsibilities an additional £2,425 for each dependant so that they can rent somewhere with more space for their children. Ipsa is committed to supporting MPs in doing their jobs and we have designed an approach which is fair, reasonable and recognises the additional challenges faced by MPs with caring responsibilities.
Marcial Boo
Chief executive, Ipsa

• I was sad to read of the death of Lorin Maazel (Report, 14 July), not merely a conductor of world-class status, but an intellectual with wide understanding of the cultural world. I met him when he conducted performances of Michael Tippett’s The Mask of Time in Cleveland. He was not only equal to the technical demands of the work, but had an acute understanding of its amazing worldwide references. His interpretation was thus both penetrating and detailed. Not many recent conductors have shown such a combination of skill and depth of insight.
Meirion Bowen
London

• The article about the revamped King’s Cross Station (All aboard the new consumer express, 15 July) certainly gave an accurate picture of all the money-making activities that go on there, but it was a shame that there was no mention of the recently unveiled Philip Larkin plaque that celebrates his poem The Whitsun Weddings. It sits on the wall between the Harry Potter display and the cash machines, dispensing poetry and wisdom 24/7 at no cost to the travelling public.
Lyn Lockwood
(Member, Philip Larkin Society), Sheffield

•  Being an avid reader of thrillers and detective stories, I thought most thieves, spooks, gang leaders and corrupt politicians used cheap mobile phones only once and then threw them into the nearest river (Amendments by Labour stall the rush to pass surveillance bill, 15 July).
Glen Gibb
Spott, East Lothian

• If you miss cliches at this level you’re gonna get punished (Letters, 15 July).
George Barrow
Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire

Everybody says we must build more houses. I agree, but we cannot build our way out of the housing crisis. Rising prices are central to the business model of the housing sector, but in the end the market depends on whether new (mainly young) households can pay these prices. They are being squeezed by increasing income inequality, debts, childcare costs and limited mortgage availability.

Some 250,000 new homes a year (double recent rates) would add only 1% to the stock, and form only 10% of the annual market. Even if we find ways to subsidise first-time buyers and renters, it would take a generation to make a significant impact.

The focus on new-build allows the government both to pose as the friend of the homeless and to reward its industry donors by releasing more greenfield land. This may be a “result” in PR terms, but it serves housebuilders, not would-be occupiers. How refreshing then that Richard Rogers (Forget about greenfield sites, build in the cities, 15 July) offers a different vision, focused on cities and brownfield use.

Viewed in isolation the housing crisis is insoluble. A strategic response requires a better economic balance between London and the rest of the country, or the south-east will continue to overheat, as housing lags labour demand. Provincial cities in the UK have productivity some 20% lower than their equivalents in Germany, Italy and France – a GDP loss of some £100bn a year. Adopting their policies for “compact, liveable cities” (as Rogers recommends) would be a good start. If George Osborne were to link his support for brownfield (Report, 13 June) and a “northern powerhouse” (Report, 23 June) we might be on the way to a credible strategy.
Alan Wenban-Smith
Urban & Regional Policy, Birmingham

• Richard Rogers is right to focus on brownfield urban development as a route to resolving our housing crisis. However, that requires an integrated approach to place-making which brings together the short-term aspirations of developers, the long-term needs of councils, the delivery objectives of key agencies such as Transport for London, appropriate fiscal incentives from government and a funding market that takes a 10- to 20-year view. Trying to achieve that across 33 local authorities is no small challenge and one which, historically, we have failed to rise to. Maybe the scale of the crisis today will change the politics and culture around housing to the much longer-term one which is needed. If it does, there is no reason to doubt that the development community will deliver what is needed – contrary to a common misconception, developers like to deliver developments.
Marc Vlessing
CEO and co-founder, Pocket

• Stuart Jeffries is a little perfunctory when it comes to the virtues of Birmingham (An ode to Birmingham, 11 July). The new public library has instantly become central to social life, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra is one of the best in the world, the place is full of fabulous restaurants. There is a vibrant cultural life and Brummies themselves are among the most engaging, amusing and creative people to be found, and the melodious cadences of Brummagem are far to be preferred to many other regional accents.

He does mention the strength of the civic tradition, and one does wonder if the neoliberals in London are hitting the city with such malicious fiscal savagery precisely because Brum offers a polity that is far more attractive, worthwhile and creative than anything Cameron and his plutocratic pals can conceive, and must, therefore, be flattened.
Michael Rosenthal
Banbury

• Our local green spaces are an essential public service for every community, and for all age groups and interests, promoting relaxation, recreation and play, wildlife and biodiversity, green jobs and skills, heritage, flood control, health and social wellbeing, and community cohesion.

As flagged up in your article (Spending cuts inspire plans to put parks at the centre of communities, 10 July) there is growing alarm about the long-term serious damage being caused by dramatic cuts to green-space budgets, and the lack of funding and investment by local and national government. If not reversed, this neglect will cause them to go into decline and see them abandoned by park users and plagued by vandalism, as happened following similar national budget cuts in the 1980s. This unfolding slide into crisis must be halted.

As the voice of the grassroots Friends Groups movement we call for the next government to:
– hold a national inquiry into UK green spaces funding and management;
– bring in a statutory duty to monitor and manage these spaces to a high-quality standard;
– ensure adequate public resources for all green spaces.
We call for all political parties to include these policies in their election manifestos.
Dave Morris
Campaigns officer, National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces

The report of the libraries all-party parliamentary group, entitled The Beating Heart of the School, last week concluded that it is vital that all schools have a good library to ensure children develop essential literacy and digital literacy skills in order to fulfil their potential. Responding, the schools minister, David Laws, said: “Reading for pleasure and study has a well-documented positive impact on children’s educational attainment across the curriculum.”

We – authors and illustrators, teachers, librarians, parents and others – are keen that this recommendation does not just become another piece of wishful thinking, and call on the Department for Education to act immediately on the report’s conclusions to gather data on library provision and instruct Ofsted to include libraries in its remit. This is urgent. Schools lost 280 librarians last year. At the very least the department should convene a working group including librarians’, authors’, headteachers’ and teachers’ representatives to draw up an action plan to realise the aim of a good library in every school.
Alan Gibbons Campaign for the Book, Kevin Crossley-Holland President, School Library Association, Andrew Motion, Michael Holroyd, Kathy Lette, Malorie Blackman, Children’s laureate, Barbara Band President, Cilip, Jacky Atkinson Organiser, Kid’s Lit Quiz, John Dougherty Chair, Children’s Writers and Illustrators Group, Society of Authors, Rachel Kelly Chief executive, Reading Matters, Christine Blower General secretary, National Union of Teachers, Kevin Courtney Deputy general secretary, National Union of Teachers, Alex Kenny Chair of education and equality, National Union of Teachers, Nicola Solomon Chief executive, Society of Authors, Melvin Burgess, Philip Pullman, Anne Fine, Roger McGough, Michael Rosen, David Almond, Francesca Simon, Mal Peet, Meg Rosoff, Robert Muchamore, Anne Cassidy, Cathy Cassidy, Tim Bowler, Steve Cole, Beverley Naidoo, Jeremy Strong, Malcolm Rose, Matt Haig, MG Harris, Brenda and Robert Swindells, Mary Hoffman, Lucy Coats, Rhiannon Lassiter, Linda Newbery, Chris Priestley, Paul Dowswell, Sandra Horn, Andy Seed, Rachel Ward, Nina Simon, Bali Rai, Candy Gourlay, Nicola Morgan, Berlie Doherty, Keren David, Lynne Garner, Korky Paul, Trevor Wilson Authors Abroad, Vanessa Harbour, Chrissie Gittins, Kevin Cowdall, Jonathan Neale, Nick Arnold, Shoo Rayner, Jean Ure, Mary Hooper, Lynn Huggins-Cooper, Anne Rooney, Bernard Ashley, Elizabeth Laird, Penny Dolan, Julia Golding, Ross Bradshaw, Emma Pass, Lynn Breeze, Lyn Brown, Caroline Pitcher, Caroline Aperguis, John Townsend, Ruth Eastham, Michael Dance, Joanna De Guia, Julie Sykes, Keith Law, Alan Summers, Barbara Egglesfield, Jane Collier, Jackie Marchant, Pamela Manley, Michelle Perrott, Ann Robson, Lesley Martin, James Carter, Kathy Evans, Linda Sargent, Nick Lens, June Taylor, Rebecca Colby, Jayne Truran, Mrs Plowman, Pauline Lindsay, Linda Evans, Myfanwy Fox, Anne Robinson, Beverley Humphrey, Alison Cresswell, Ann Giles, Annie Everall, Gill Duane, Sue Dixon, Laura Taylor, Lesley Hurworth, Jeannie Waudby, Suzanne Nubold, Julie Higgins, Sam Hepburn, Andrea Dooley, Sally Kincaid, Nick Grant, Phil Bradley, Carol Williams, Nikki Hussey, Catherine Watkins, Alison McDonald, Julia Green, Carrie Etter, Ros Asquith, Keith Gray, Jon Berry, Karen Argent, Rikin Parekh, Sue Hampton, Dave Cryer, Andrew Taylor, Doug Wright, Pam Jakeman, Jean Bowden, Miriam Moss, Susan Donnelly, Victoria Barton, Catherine Noble, Oona Kelly, Dawn Finch, Joss O’Kelly, John Pilkington, Alexander Gordon-Smith, Kay Waddilove, Anne Mitchell, Als Dolman, Sally Prue, Margaret Bone, Nicholas Gary, Collette Shine, Sandra Bell, Adam Guillain, RS Gregory, John Walker, Pat Thomson, Janet Ousby, Alexandra Strick, P Hazlehurst, Rhys Williams, Liz Wren, Angela Grant, Hilary Freeman, Wendy Davies, Thasya Elliott, Mary Bryning, Moira Munro, Jo McCrum, Kate Snow, Lorraine French, Anne Clayton, Rhian Lane, Sue Biggs, Doreen Montgomery, Ann Montgomery, Pam Doster, Alan Nash, Jane Hughes, Isabella Coles, Alison Goodhand, Kevin Donovan, Jackie Hamley, Helen Ledger, Wendy Mitchell, Mark Gallagher, Annmarie Young, Anthony Robinson, Lisa Miles, Richard Rose, Sara Tomlinson, Philip Caveney, Jo Cotterill, Chris White, Andrew Blackman, Paula Ward, Anne Sebba, Karen Lamb, Janet Edgcumbe, Gareth Lewis, Cecilia Busby, Richard Mabey, Duncan Pile, Helen Watts, Hilary Chuter, Asa Benstead, Elaine Cline, Katherine Langrish, Fiona Crawford, Jen Macpen, Ruth Clarke, Salman Shaheen Journalist, principal speaker, Left Unity, Michael O’Connor, Dean Coombes

• Am I the only Guardian reader to remember with pleasure Steve Bell’s cartoon strip in French, rather than Franglais (If…, G2, all last week), earlier in his career? Madame Truc and her cat – always referred to by her as “Sale bête” – were a highlight of one of the magazines for young learners at school published by Mary Glasgow in the 1970s.
Jane Harvey
Monmouth

Last week, the University of London announced that at the end of July it would shut down its student newspaper, London Student, after nearly a century in production. London Student prints over 12,000 copies a fortnight in term time, making it the largest independent student newspaper in the country and in Europe.

University of London students have had a student-run newspaper funded by the university since the early 20th century. From the 1920s to 1954 the paper was called Vincula (meaning chain or link in Latin); in 1954 it changed its name to Sennet; and in 1979 it assumed its current name. London Student and its predecessors have provided University of London students with a campaigning news source and a unique opportunity to work in journalism for nearly one hundred years.

Over the past year, London Student has reported critically on the university and its activities. The newspaper has exposed senior university management for taking trips costing tens of thousands of pounds to luxury spa hotels on expense accounts. It took a critical stance when the university repeatedly called the police and prosecuted its own students for protesting (some of the cases are still ongoing). It exposed the university’s use of unpaid internships, in contradiction to its own careers service’s policy. It reported that the majority of staff at Senate House are critical of management restructuring plans. As with the closure of the University of London Union (ULU), there are political overtones to the university’s abrupt planned closure of the newspaper.

London Student is one of the few student-led outlets where students can learn and exercise the critical skills they will need to challenge orthodoxy and power; shutting it down is an affront to free and radical thought on campuses, and is an insult to future generations of students. As the many names below indicate, alumni of London Student are some of the most successful and passionate journalists working in the industry today and are excellent examples of the employability of University of London graduates; shutting London Student down to save costs makes little or no sense. We, the undersigned, oppose the university management’s planned closure of the newspaper and demand that they reconsider the scrapping of such an important and valued institution.
Hilary Aked
Editor, London Student, 2009-10
Lila Allen
Editor, London Student, 2003-04
Anita Anand
Presenter, Any Answers, BBC Radio 4
Kevin Ashton
Author and technologist; editor of London Student, 1994-95
Emily Barr
Novelist and journalist
Dr Alice Bell
Journalist and science policy writer
Aditya Chakrabortty
Senior economics commentator, the Guardian
Simon Childs
Senior editor, Vice News UK
Louise Clarke
Institute for Social and Economic Research; editor, London Student, 1991-92
Marie Le Conte
Freelance journalist
Anthony Cullen
Photographer
Charlie Damant
Teacher
Donnacha DeLong
President, National Union of Journalists 2011-12
Jenny Diski
Author and journalist
Alexi Duggins
Editor-at-large, Time Out; editor, London Student, 2004-05
Ian Dunt
Editor in chief, Politics.co.uk
Michael Edwards
Lecturer, The Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London
Dr Kevin Fong
Scientist, author and BBC television presenter
Dr Andy Fugard
University College London
Professor David Graeber
London School of Economics
Gareth Grundy
Deputy editor, Observer Food Monthly
John Handelaar
Director, Kildarestreet.com; editor, London Student, 1997-98
Mike Herd
Editor, Guardian Cities; editor, London Student 1992-93
Jen Izaakson
Editor, London Student, 2012-13
Thomas Jones
Contributing editor, London Review of Books
John Kenchington
Editor, London Student, 2006-07
Henry Langston
Editor, Vice News UK
Kat Lay
Journalist at the Times; editor, London Student, 2008-09
Gideon Lichfield
Global news editor, Quartz
Dr Simon J Lock
University College London
Dr Felicity Mellor
Imperial College London
Tom Mendelsohn
Student editor, the Independent
Andrew North
Foreign correspondent
Ben Oliver
Journalist; editor, London Student, 1995-96
Dr Peter Mitchell
Queen Mary, University of London
Judith Moritz
Correspondent
Laurie Penny
Author and contributing editor, New Statesman
Sarah Phillips
Assistant editor, Comment is Free, the Guardian
Charlie Porter
Journalist
Amol Rajan
Editor in chief, the Independent
Adam Ramsay
Contributing editor, Open Democracy
Professor Jane Rendell
The Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London
Joe Rennison
Editor, London Student, 2010-11
Natasha Roe
Director, Red Pencil Consultancy; editor, London Student, 1990-91
Professor Lynne Segal
Birkbeck, University of London
Sarah Shenker
Journalist; editor, London Student, 1996-97
Lucy Sherriff
Journalist, Huffington Post
Michelle Stanistreet
General secretary, National Union of Journalists
Daniel Trilling
Editor, New Humanist
Patrick Ward
Editor, London Student, 2005-06
Oscar Webb
Editor, London Student, 2013-14
Chris Wheal
Journalist
Hesham Zakai
Content editor, Trade and Export Finance (TXF); editor, London Student 2011-12
Elinor Zuke
Editor, London Student, 2007-08

Your editorial (4 July) on Obama’s “foreign policy legacy” concludes that no solution will work “if policy is fundamentally mistaken”. You call for strong leadership, but your editorial hardly acknowledges the complexity of the situation.

Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq, who is supposed to represent all the people, is Shia, the majority religion of Iraq. He excludes Sunnis, the former rulers of Iraq, from power. Isis, the rebel group fighting Maliki and the Shia majority in Iraq, is Sunni.

Bashar al-Assad, the bloody dictator of Syria, is Shia, but most of the Syrians are Sunni. It is the Sunni who are rebelling in Syria.

Iran is Shia. Thus, the interests of Shia Iran lie with the Shia majority of Iraq, and with fellow Shia ruler Assad.

Saudi Arabia is Sunni, the most fundamentalist version of that ordinarily tolerant interpretation of Islam. Saudi Arabia’s interest is with the Sunni rebels in Iraq and Syria, which they support and fund.

Republican US senators think that we should help out the Syrian “moderates” and under pressure Obama is in favour of selectively arming the “moderates”. But who are the “moderates?”

Obama is trying to open up dialogue with Iran so that Shia Iran can restrain Maliki and possibly forge a policy that keeps Iraq together. Meanwhile, Isis wants to set up a caliphate or Sunni government that includes Syria and Iraq.

I doubt that the CIA or the US government knows the basic points any better than Guardian readers. So I ask, what would you do if you were Obama?
Stephen Petty
Bendorf-Stromberg, Germany

EU system is not nonsense

Andrew Rawnsley states that “the notion that the European elections gave [Jean-Claude Juncker] a sort of ‘popular mandate’ to be president of the commission is a nonsense” (Cameron’s defeat was dire, 4 July). I take exception to the word “nonsense”. It conveys a total contempt for the wishes of the European electorate. How did David Cameron get his own job? By being the leader of the parliamentary group that polled highest in the last general election – a principle well-established in parliamentary democracy.

The spitzenkandidaten system was propagated in Germany before the election. The reason why Angela Merkel finally backed it is that she had actually endorsed it, and Juncker, before the election, and not in any sort of U-turn, as some commentators intimate.

The principle was also propagated throughout Europe before the election, eg in US-style TV debates hosted by the BBC and others. It is also backed up by the following statement by the Greek Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras, the head of a party not particularly favourable to Germany or Merkel, who said: “The presentation of any other nominee would effectively discredit the entire recent election, turning it, after the fact, into a charade. This is a basic democratic principle. It is a moral obligation of the European Council to put forward the candidate who secured the leading position in the European election.”

I cast my vote on the premise that the European parliament would have a say in the choice of the commission president. What I miss in the opposite view as expressed by Rawnsley (in an otherwise perceptive article) is what the alternative to the spitzenkandidaten system would look like – presumably the appointment of some second-rate, no-name candidate as a result of the traditional backroom haggling process. Tsipras has got it dead right.
James Hotchkiss
Haltern am See, Germany

• Andrew Rawnsley’s piece discusses the PM’s failure to effectively veto the nomination of Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European commission. While some EU national leaders might have had their own misgivings about his suitability for the job, they displayed quasi-unanimity about Cameron’s opposition, choosing to ignore his complaints.

This is much more than a tactical defeat for Cameron. It seems that the more enthusiastic participants in the European project prefer to deal with an uninspiring European rather than a whinging Brit. This should put pay to Cameron’s strategic ambitions to redesign the EU to his own specifications.
G B Levine
Gozo, Malta

How to avoid hypocrisy

It’s quite problematic that Greenpeace’s international programme director was caught commuting by plane. I don’t know about this case but, otherwise, Zoe Williams (4 July), puts it brilliantly: “The best way to never be a hypocrite, and to always stay consistent, is to deny climate change and have no agenda on anything beyond self-interest”.

So true! As an environmental militant, I’m often told that what I do is not the right thing to do, and are the leaflets I’m holding out really made of recycled paper? etc.
Marc Jachym
Les Ulis, France

Absurd safety rules

Steven Poole’s review of the book In the Interests of Safety describes some absurd safety rules for air travellers (11 July). My own travel experience has included various incidents of inconsistent “rules”. One one occasion, when travelling from Heathrow to Canada, I was told by the security personnel that I could not take on board a small box of forks that I had been given as a gift. This necessitated the purchase of a bag so that I could check in the forks, my other luggage having already been processed. I was, however, allowed to take with me my metal knitting needles and, not surprisingly, we were also provided with metal forks (as well as knives) to eat our meals in the business cabin of the plane.
Avril Taylor
Dundas, Ontario, Canada

As long as we can buy

It’s encouraging to hear that pressure from consumer groups and subsequently from companies and from governments has driven the warlords out of the coltan mines in the Congo (20 June). And it is good news that wages are up by 40%. But that is 40% of what?

As far as I can see, the electronics giants are still raking in their billions and we, the consumers, are still more than happy to buy cheap or chic “stuff” while those miners (whether employed by warlords or by someone else) dig out those minerals for a pittance.

We in the west seem to welcome any development that makes us feel better about our “retail experience” (eg the exclusion of the warlords) so long as that development doesn’t affect the prices that we pay.
Alan Mitcham
Cologne, Germany

Hacking coverage hailed

Nick Davies’s article on the Brooks/Coulson trial (4 July) was a wonderful piece of reporting. It was able to summarise three years of trial data in a story that weaved you through the facts of the case, the subterfuge of News International, the artistry of the defensive legal councils and the Crown Prosecution Service’s David and Goliath attempt at serving justice. It read like a bestseller by John Grisham, but sadly this story is true and at the end of it, I was left with a bitter taste in my mouth, that justice had not been served.

Kudos to the Guardian Weekly, and the ancillary articles covering this story, pointing to a broken justice system lacking in funding, and moral fibre.
Nick Guise
Andover, Massachusetts, US

Briefly

• Having just finished WikiLeaks by David Leigh and Luke Harding and Luke Harding’s The Snowden Files, I feel devastated, but proud to be a subscriber to Guardian Weekly.
Hilary Bergeretti
La Buisse, France

• In Life after war for Colombia’s rebels (27 June), Nick Miroff writes that the reintegration of the former Farc rebels includes teaching them “basic life skills, such as how to use an ATM, sign up for Facebook, and schedule a doctor’s appointment”. When did Facebook become a basic life skill as important as having access to your money and healthcare?
Ken Burns
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

• Three cheers for the brave victims and inevitable demise of disgraced entertainer Rolf Harris (11 July). Some may suggest he be sentenced to transportation to the former British colony of Australia, for the term of his natural life, a place from whence he came.
Carmelo Bazzano
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

• On reading Simon Hattenstone’s piece on celebrity misdemeanours (11 July), the French word mythomane came to mind. The dictionary says “compulsive liar”. Being on another planet would probably sum it up, but the phrase does not really do it justice. These people live on another plane; psychology must have something to say on the matter.
E Slack
L’Isle Jourdain, France

Please send letters to weekly.letters@theguardian.com

Independent:

Times:

Sir, Melanie Phillips advocates a European style social insurance system to solve the NHS’s financial problems due to increased demand and chronic underfunding, but it is very debatable whether this would give us better care (July 14).

The recent independent American Commonwealth Fund survey compared the healthcare systems of 11 countries including Germany, the Netherlands, France, the US and the UK. The NHS was ranked first overall and first in eight of the 11 indicators assessed, including effective care, patient-centred care, safety and cost effectiveness. The survey also compared the cost per capita of the various systems. The NHS cost considerably less than all 11 countries surveyed except New Zealand, which ranked much lower overall in terms of quality of care.

It is profoundly demoralising for those of us who work in the NHS to constantly read criticism of a health care system which is viewed by observers from other countries as a gold standard for access and extremely good value for money.

Dr Mike Betterton

Skelton, near Redcar

Sir, The problem with the NHS is that it defies the laws of economics. If you have a provider of services which are greatly in demand, and free, demand will always outstrip supply. The only way a system can cope is rationing — hence in the NHS waiting lists, non-availability of medicines or services deemed too expensive, and the failure to construct and provide new facilities. Unlike a private provider, the NHS cannot meet increased demand by funding extra services through the extra profits generated by that greater demand. Since inception it has lurched from one crisis to another while patients become more vociferous about waiting times, inadequate services and poor care.

It is high time we looked at how other countries, particularly Europe, fund health care. At the least we deserve a proper debate on whether continuing the NHS is the right way to deliver services for the future.

Julian Holloway

London SW12

Sir, Figures for 2012 show that if each patient paid their GP £137 a year, general practice could take itself out of political control and interference. For this sum, GPs could run the practice entirely as they do now and their income would be unchanged. Those unable to pay this fee could have it paid for by a government health grant. The regulation of this new system and the setting of health priorities and maintaining standards could be run by a new body overseen by doctors and others who can take a long-term view of needs. A fixed annual fee could save the Exchequer at least, on current figures, £10 billion a year.

Dr Richard Willis

Salisbury

Sir, The costliest users of the NHS are people with chronic conditions who need more person-centred, preventative and community based services, very different from the largely hospital dominated model that we currently have. The NHS and other European systems are inching towards new types of services. It will be necessary to build support for change and tackle vested interests. I hope The Times will continue, as it has done in recent leaders, to explain why changes are needed.

Lord Crisp

Chief executive, NHS, and permanent secretary, Department of Health 2000-06

The Assisted Dying bill is making progress but the debates about the issue continue to be fierce

Sir, Those who oppose the Assisted Dying bill should realise that care and compassion for the disabled, elderly and dying are very much in short supply these days.

Margaret Vickers

Mickleover, Derby

Sir, As an oncologist I witnessed death approaching several patients. Most died but several are still alive, against all odds. One patient with negligible life expectancy in the face of an aggressive, rapidly advancing and difficult-to-treat cancer endured long, intensive chemotherapy. Thirty years later I went to her wedding.

Many oncologists have witnessed the “Lazarus effect”. Legislation should not take this away.

Spyros Retsas

Park Hill, Essex

Sir, John Sharpe’s appeal to Socrates in support of the Assisted Dying bill may not lend the support he supposes (letter, July 15). Socrates’ death was unnecessary and, in modern terms, resulted from a miscarriage of justice.

If Socrates teaches us anything about assisted dying, it is that the elderly can feel obliged to accept death for the convenience of society.

Jon Mack

London EC4

Sir, The Assisted Dying bill is a response to the fact that, despite the best efforts of end-of-life care, a significant minority of dying people suffer against their wishes in the last days of life (Assisted dying and the meaning of compassion, letters July 14). Some dying people have to rely on loved ones to assist them to die or to take matters into their own hands to control their death, often causing significant distress. Within legal safeguards, the bill will enable dying people who wish to choose when they die, to do so at home, peacefully and with their loved ones.

This compassionate response is not a trade-off with patient safety. The bill provides for both. The law as it stands turns a blind eye to amateur assistance to die, so long as after the death there is no evidence of abuse or coercion. As set out by the president of the Supreme Court, a process of legal safeguards in advance of someone dying would better protect people. The Assisted Dying bill would ensure that a dying patient’s diagnosis, prognosis and mental capacity were confirmed and that they are making a clear and settled decision. It would also ensure that they were making an informed decision aware of all their care and treatment options, crucially when they are still alive and are able to change their mind.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

Lord Aberdare

Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top

Earl of Arran

Baroness Blackstone

Lord Blair of Boughton

Baroness Brinton

Lord Cobbold

Lord Dholakia

Gender issues aside, it is time for the Church of England to stop shillyshallying about and show its mettle

Sir, The main argument against female bishops is more or less to read the Bible and not be misled by political correctness. Taking this into consideration, we’ll also come across calls for animal sacrifice, killing naughty children, and ambiguous references to slavery. What then?

Such scriptures have no place in modern Britain because they were written for a different time and place, and insisting it is God’s law that women are still unequal requires a very narrow, literal and selective quotation of scripture to be justified.

Christian institutions have long thrashed believers with reasons to exclude others from full participation but such anti-inclusiveness grows more irrelevant as time goes by.

Considering how many women have been Supreme Governor of the Anglican Church since it was established, has gender really ever been an issue?

Emilie Lamplough

Trowbridge, Wiltshire

Sir, Let us hope that the bickering about gender in the Anglican Church has now come to an end. Women priests have proved no better and no worse than men. What is needed now is for the ordained ministry as a whole to begin to show its mettle as a force for good beyond the contribution of lay Christians.

Many priests appear content to enjoy the pleasures of their calling without offering their dwindling congregations any real comfort in their daily lives. Demands for the Parish Share are met, by and large, by hard-pressed widows and suck the little they have away from the communities in which they live. A fleeting visit by a priest once a month to give communion is little reward for their efforts and passes unnoticed by the population at large.

The clergy of both sexes need to ask themselves what they are for when many parishes, in the absence of clerical cover, are now served so well by lay people conducting services and providing community support.

WGM Wood

Salisbury

Do you patronise your local independent bookstore or do you buy online?

Sir, I have every sympathy with Peter and Eleanor Davies (letter, July 14) who run an independent bookshop. If our nearest town had one, if that town were not eight miles away, and if there were a regular bus, I would certainly patronise it. But for those of us in the depths of the country Amazon is the only viable solution.

Do I consider its tax position and employment conditions? Yes, I do. Am I happy about them? No. Why, then, do I use it? Because increasingly it carries items I cannot obtain in the local town, and delivers them to my front door. And yes, it’s cheaper — a serious consideration for pensioners.

Laura Hicks

Portesham, Dorset

Sir, I recently ordered a book at a local bookshop; the shopkeeper obtained it by buying it on Amazon.

Nikhil Kaushik

Wrexham

Weighing the damage done by bats in churches against their importance as a vulnerable creature

Sir, I applaud the V&A’s efforts to raise £5 million to buy Benedetto da Rovezzano’s bronze angels for the unfinished tomb of Cardinal Wolsey (July 11). However, it is ironic that the work of coeval London sculptors of equal or greater merit, such as Maximilian Colt and Nicholas Stone, is endangered by uncontrolled bat excretion. These artists, represented in Westminster Abbey by the tombs of Elizabeth I (Colt) and William Camden (Stone), also made monuments in many parish churches, where bats are rife. The effect of bat urine on notable monumental brasses suggests that Benedetto’s angels would not last long in many churches: at least they will be safe in the V&A.

Professor Norman Hammond

Cambridge University

Telegraph:

SIR – The idea that weight-loss surgery will reduce the incidence of obesity-related disease is frankly naive.

The problem is that individuals who are morbidly obese already have those disorders associated with their condition. Such surgery is not without potential for serious complications.

Furthermore, spare a thought for the poor surgeons who have to manipulate these patients in the operating room. In my 35 years as a surgeon, no lifting aids have ever been provided to assist the positioning and manoeuvring of the increasingly heavy subjects we are expected to treat.

AN Wilson is right: prevention will be far more effective than apparent quick fixes.

David Nunn FRCS
London SE3

SIR – When my mother was at school in the Thirties, she was taught how to make nutritious meals using simple, affordable ingredients. It was known as “cookery”.

The suggestion that we should operate on the nation’s fatties is evidence of a failure to teach entire generations how to feed themselves properly.

R S Bridger
Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire

SIR – It is to be expected that few children play outside, when tax policies discourage the provision of suitable play facilities.

For seven years I’ve been working with others to create a sport and play park in an area lacking outdoor recreational space. We have to pay 20 per cent VAT. Had we developed a sports hall or community building, VAT would not be payable.

A coherent government policy to reduce childhood obesity and improve fitness levels seems as remote as ever.

Roger Backhouse
Ilford, Essex

Seeds of destruction

SIR – Though the red aril surrounding yew seeds is sweet and harmless (Letters, July 14), the seed itself is highly toxic.

Unbroken, it will pass through the body without being digested; but if the seed is chewed, poisoning can occur after as few as three berries. According to British Poisonous Plants (1976), “the commonest symptom of yew poisoning is sudden death … usually within five minutes of what appears to be a convulsion.”

Roger Croston
Christleton, Chesire

Priced out of a pint

SIR – Noisy children or not, Mark Prior (Letters, July 12) should be thankful that he still has a pub to drink in.

In last Thursday’s Daily Telegraph there was an advertisement from a well-known supermarket chain, offering 15 cans containing 440ml of Australian lager for £9. This works out at less than 78p a pint.

Small wonder that pubs are closing down when they themselves cannot buy beer at that price.

Roy Bailey
Hungerford, Berkshire

In a jam

SIR – In the days when many people were without fridges (Letters, July 14), we kept jars full of jams, marmalades and mustards quite successfully in cupboards or larders.

Nowadays the instructions on these jars state: “Store in fridge after opening”. These items take up a great amount of space. What have the manufacturers put in, or left out, to cause them to need refrigeration?

Joyce Smith
Worcester Park, Surrey

Missing artists

SIR – Peter Goodfellow (Letters, July 12) suggests that Hirst and Emin are the two most notable post-war British artists.

Has he never heard of Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Graham Sutherland, Ben Nicholson, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Howard Hodgkin, Peter Blake, Frank Auerbach or David Hockney?

Keith Pearce
Penzance, Cornwall

Figure of Eight

SIR – I am indebted to Tim Deane (Letters, July 12) for his reference to an Eightsome Reel, thereby enabling me to complete 6 down in Saturday’s Quick Crossword. I wonder what the statistical likelihood would be of that dance appearing twice in one edition?

Karen Hart
Sheffield, South Yorkshire

Why the Elgin Marbles are in the right place

SIR – With respect to Lord Lexden (Letters, July 11), it is most appropriate for the Elgin Marbles to be housed in the British Museum, albeit in the Duveen Galleries.

He is correct: Joseph Duveen (1869-1939) made a fortune buying for a song and selling to the rich. That is business.

But today, we are the beneficiaries of his “lavish donations” to museums. Any person from any country can visit the Elgin Marbles at the British Museum, any day of the week, free of charge.

Jane Cochrane
Long Melford, Suffolk

SIR – Lord Lexden’s evident distaste for art dealers seems to have clouded his historical judgment of Joseph Duveen. Far from paying “impoverished” British aristocrats “a song” for their works of art, he helped create a market for portraits of their 18th and 19th century ancestors that has been barely matched today in monetary, let alone real, terms.

The astonishing prices paid for these and other Old Masters (Duveen’s records survive, as do records of the prices paid at auction) led to an exodus of great works of art to America, because politicians refused to fund adequately the acquisition budgets of Britain’s museums.

As for the Elgin Marbles, these were bought not by an art dealer but by a wealthy Scottish nobleman from a corrupt Ottoman administration at a time when the impoverished Greeks could not possibly have hoped to have retained them.

Guy Sainty
London W1

SIR – At the new Acropolis Museum in Athens, there is a gap in the frieze where the Marbles should be. Now many of us can travel the world easily, would it not be a gesture of international goodwill to return them to where they belong?

Rev Herbert Baker
Enfield, Middlesex

SIR – Rebuilding trust in business and public services will prove impossible without radical improvements in the quality of leadership and management.

Are British managers myopic short-termists or long-term-growth visionaries? Those who cut costs often earn more respect for their “hard-nosed” decisions than those who take innovative paths to growth. Public-sector organisations and social enterprises can also be guilty of putting financial targets before service delivery and social value.

Boards must refocus on their organisation’s social purpose beyond just making money, setting measurable commitments not only to investors but to customers, suppliers, employees, communities and the environment.

We need to recruit managers for their attitudes and values, training them to inspire and support people, and rewarding them not only for their results, but on how they get them. Managers must build for the future, working with our education system to nurture new leaders and give them access to the world of work. Managers must create value for all stakeholders: shareholders, society and staff alike. Our global competitiveness depends on it.

Peter Ayliffe CCMI
President, Chartered Management Institute
Barry Sheerman MP
Chair, The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Management
Lord Karan Bilimoria CBE DL
Chairman and Founder, Cobra Beer
Dame Carol Black DBE CCMI
Principal, Newnham College, Cambridge
Tamara Box
Global Co-Chair of the Financial Industry Group, Reed Smith
Professor Sir Cary L Cooper CBE CCMI
Distinguished Professor of Organizational Psychology and Health, Lancaster University Management School
Hushpreet Dhaliwal
Chief Executive, National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs
Jez Frampton CCMI
Global Chief Executive, Interbrand
Ann Francke CCMI
Chief Executive, Chartered Management Institute
Professor Abby Ghobadian
Head of School of Leadership, Organisations and Behaviour, Henley Business School
Dr Jules Goddard
Fellow, London Business School
Lord Simon Haskel
Peer, House of Lords
John Hemming MP
MP for Birmingham Yardley
Mark Hoban MP
MP for Fareham
Dr Liz Jackson MBE CCMI
Founder, Great Guns Marketing
Darren Jarvis
Chief Auditor, Global Institutional Client Group, Citigroup
Sir Paul Judge CCMI
Chairman, Schroder Income Growth Fund Plc
Seema Malhotra MP
MP for Feltham and Heston
Derek Mapp CCMI
Chairman, Informa
Dame Mary Marsh CCMI
Founding Director, Clore Social Leadership Programme
Lord Parry Mitchell
Enterprise Adviser, Labour Party
Terry Morgan CBE CCMI
Chair, Crossrail
Meg Munn MP
MP for Sheffild Heeley
Baroness Margaret Prosser OBE
Peer, House of Lords
Dr Martin Read CBE CCMI
Chairman, Laird Plc, Low Carbon Contracts Company, Electricity Settlements Company and Remuneration Consultants Group
Lynva Russell
Director, Policy Connect
David Rutley MP
MP for Macclesfield
Andy Sawford MP
MP for Corby
Andrew Summers CCMI
Former Chair, Companies House
Paul Polman
Chief Executive, Unilever
Nicolas Huss
Chief Executive Officer, Visa Europe
Alison Munro
Chief Executive, HS2 Ltd
Adrian Ringrose
Chief Executive, Interserve Plc
Alastair Lukies CBE
Chief Executive, Monitise
Duncan Cheatle
CEO, Prelude Group (including the Supper Club); Co-Founder, StartUp Britain
Steve Henry CCMI
Founder & CEO, Decoded
Cary Marsh
CEO, Mydeo
Thomas Lawson
Chief Executive, Leap Confronting Conflict
Sean Taggart
Chief Executive, Albatross Group
Fraser Harper
CEO, E-Gistics Ltd
Timothy Brownstone
CEO, KYMIRA
Peter Cheese
Chief Executive, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development
Anne Godfrey
Chief Executive, Chartered Institute of Marketing
Simon Osborne FCIS
Chief Executive, Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators
Nigel Fine
Chief Executive, Institute of Engineering and Technology
Charles Elvin
CEO, Institute of Leadership and Management
Loreen Macklin
CEO, thinkMonday Ltd
Andrew Doukanaris
CEO, Flotta Consulting Ltd
Andy Holcroft
CEO, RehabWorks Ltd
Terry Corby
Founder & CEO, Differentz.com
Sandra Macleod
CEO, Mindful Reputation
Ry Morgan
Co-founder / CEO, PleaseCycle Ltd
Dr Francis Agbana
CEO, Life Builders International
Alex Cheatle
CEO and Founder, Ten Lifestyle Management Ltd
Lee Travers
CEO, Clareo Potential
Luke Murrell
CEO Co-founder, MMV Sense Ltd
Mike Lander
Founder and Director, ProfitFlo
Edward Hawkins MCMI
Owner, Edward Hawkins Consulting
Steven Hess
Founder, Whitecap
Peter Neville Lewis
Founder, Principled Consulting
Marianne Abib-Pech
Founder, LeadTheFuture
Geoffrey Maddrell
Chairman, Human Recognition Systems
Kevin Murray
Chairman, The Good Relations Group
Sebastian Crawshaw
Chairman, OATS Limited
Britta Bomhard
President Europe, Church and Dwight
Maggie Buggie
VP Global Head Digital Sales and Markets, Capgemini
Professor Peter Tomkins CCMI
CEO, DM Management Consultants Ltd
Bridget Blow CBE CCMI
Andy Weston-Webb
Managing Director, Birdseye
Ian Feast
Managing Director UK Operations, Sixt rent a car
Maria Bourke
Managing Director, Let’s Get Healthy
Jonathan Bruce
Managing Director, Prestige Nursing Ltd
Jane Gomez
Managing Director, Prelude Group
David Broadhead
Managing Director, Partners in Management Ltd
Dominick Sutton
Managing Director; Content, BoardEx
Greg Gotttig CMgr FCMI
Managing Director, Warner House Co Ltd
Dr Veronica Broomes
Managing Director, Executive Solutions Training Ltd
Greg Park
Managing Director, PCM Consulting
Ian Watson
Operations Chairman, The Lamberhurst Corporation
Oliver Wallace
Senior HR Business Partner, Balfour Beatty
Gillian Wilmot
NED (Winner 2014 NED Awards), NISA, ELEXON, IDAB, Board Mentoring
Ed Fothergill
Head of Leadership and Talent Development, O2 (Telefonica UK)
Michelle Maynard
Head of Talent and Organisation Development, Thomas Cook
Jenny Peters
Group Head of Communications, Thomas Cook
Petra Wilton
Director of Strategy and External Affairs, Chartered Management Institute
Meribeth Parker
Group Publishing Director, Hearst Magazines
Michael Whitmore
Director of International Wellbeing, Optum
Lawrence Dobie
Director of Rail Engineering, Shorterm Group
Phil Sproston
Sales Director, Sodexo
Gideon Schulman
Director
Jennifer Chizua
Founder, Director, Elite Sports International Clubs
Richard Kiernan
Director, Timeox Projects
Rod Willis
Director, Assentire
Ian Dalling
Director, Unified Management Solutions
Fiona Stevenson
Director, Coalition for Efficiency
Kul Verma
Director, Deep Insight
Richard Byford
Director, ForeVu Ltd
Dr Raymond Rowe FCMI
Director, Execair Cargo Services Limited / Apercu Limited
Dr Helen Carter
Director, Genesis Creative
Dr William Tate DProf., MA, FRSA, FCIPD, MCMI
Director, The Institute for Systemic Leadership
Robert Wilson
Director, LTRL
Anita Wild MSc, CMngr FCMI, Chartered MCIPD, FITOL, MAC
Director, ADG
Michael Priestley FCMI
Director, Northstar Property Ltd
Derek Moore FCMI
Director, D Moore Business Advisory Ltd
Martin Horton
Director, Martin Horton Consulting Ltd
Emma Cox
Executive Director, Strategy & Communications, Chartered Quality Institute
Victoria Michael-Dick
Director, Angel International GB
Katherine Galliano
Director People & Culture, VisionFund
Jan Gillett
Deputy Chair, Process Management International Ltd
Andrew Manig FCMI
Director, Manig
Mark Pegg CCMI
Director
Joel Campbell
Head of E-Wellness, Ultrasis PLC
Dr Elizabeth Halford
Head of Research, Information and Enquiry, QAA
Stephen Asher
Head of Global Mobility Services, Mazars LLP
Simon Greenhalgh
Chief Financial Officer, DMW Group
Yvonne Tomlin CMgr FCMI
Head of Community Education, Merton Adult Education
Buddhi Weerasinghe FCMI
Director, Elusion Group
Ian MacEachern OBE CMgr FCMI
Trustee, Chartered Management Institute
Professor Robin Field-Smith MBE CMgr CCMI
Ethics Research Advisory Group, Chartered Management Institute
Andrew Knott CMgr FCMI
Training Director EMEA, Nalco
Richard Bennett
Assistant Chief Constable, College of Policing
Professor Jonathan Perks MBE CCMI
CEO’s Trusted Leadership Advisor, JPA Ltd
Mario King
Director, King & D’eath Ltd
Jeremy Webster
Director, Silver Pebble Ltd
Lorna Leonard CMgr
Financial Controller, Ecotech London Ltd
Professor Vlatka Hlupic
Professor of Business and Management, University of Westminster
Professor Roger Steare
Visiting Professor in the Practice of Organizational Ethics, Cass Business School
Professor Julian Birkinshaw
Chaired Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship, London Business School
Professor Barry Curnow
Head of Human Resources and Organisational Behaviour Dept, University of Greenwich Business School
Dr Steve Ellis
Senior Lecturer, Regent’s University London
Dr Steve Priddy
Head of Research, London School of Business & Finance
Chris Roebuck
Visiting Professor of Transformational Leadership, Cass Business School
Martin Dean
Associate Lecturer, Anglia Ruskin University
Professor Joseph Lampel
Professor of Strategy and Innovation, Cass Business School
Professor Emeritus Arthur Francis
Dean, College of Fellows, British Academy of Management
Professor Graham Buchanan
Fellow, Centre for Progressive Leadership
Professor Richard Hardin
Head of Department for Leadership and Professional Development, University of Westminster
Dylan Valentine
Bid & Delivery Excellence Apprentice, Fujitsu
Sapphire Gray FCMI MIC
Director, SG Business Consultancy
Dr Fern-Chantele Carter
Activity Manager, Frances King
Steve McGrady
Managing Consultant, Cambridge Management Sciences Ltd.
Dr Kevin Roe
Operations and Maintenance Manager, Serco Group plc
Caroline Kaiser FCMI
Regional Manager, Sanctuary Group
Dr Charles Phillips FCMI
International Business Consultant, Sinowest International business Consultancy
Mervyn Wint
ABE Country Manager, Association of Business Executives
Jeff Gardner FCMI
Group Delivery Manager, Vodafone Group Services Ltd
James Pickering
Analyst, Capita Consulting; Winner of the APPGM Commission’s Essay Competition
Santaram Santok LLB(Hons) MSc PgDip CMgr FCMI
Operations Manager, Cofely-GDF Suez
Ron Davidson FCMI
Consultant (International Laundry and Dry-cleaning), Cry Consultants Ltd
Paul Waller
Organisational Development Manager, Kinnerton (Confectionery) Company Ltd.
Alan Budinger
Project Manager, Bank of America Merrill Lynch
Emir Osman FCMI
Finance Manager, Task Associates (Finance) Ltd
Gary Jevon CMgr
Key Relationship Manager, InHealth
Paul Diamond
Career Development Consultant, KEEP Consulting Ltd
Allan Thow FCIS FCMI
Almoner, WCCSA
John Muldoon FCMI
Compliance Consultant, Self-employed
Philip Gadie
Principal Consultant, Skarbek Associates Ltd
Christine Cavanagh
Programme Manager, NHS Screening Programmes
Paul Taylor CMgr MCMI
Co-Chair London & South-East Region, CMI
Mark Neild MBA CMgr FCMI
Senior Innovation Consultant, The Lamberhurst Corporation
Frances Phillips MCMI
Customer Contact Operations Manager
Luke Hamilton
Student, University of Lincoln; Runner-up of the APPGM Commission’s Essay Competition

SIR – Growing biofuel crops is counter-productive and may prove fatal to a sustainable environment. The vast monoculture of oilseed rape here in south-west Wiltshire requires constant attention: applying slug bait when the plants are emerging, spraying for mildew, aphids and flea beetles and, of course, spraying with fertiliser.

It has been years since the lime and sycamore trees in the area dripped with honeydew and harboured a diversity of insects feeding on the aphids that produce it. There used to be clouds of house martins and swallows feasting among these trees by day, and bats hunting in them come sundown. Now their leaves remain dry, matt and green from spring until autumn, and there is nothing for the insects, birds and bats to feed on.

Anne Booth
Shaftesbury, Dorset

SIR – We can sympathise with Lord Carey’s shift in position on Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill. Christian bioethics has always deplored the extraordinary preservation of human life.

However, if the ending of life is deliberate, then the principle of double effect cannot be invoked.

Lord Carey has been persuaded that intolerable suffering is common. Our view is that with adequate willingness to alleviate suffering it is far less of a problem. Lord Falconer’s ill-constructed Bill is wide open to abuse, leaving us at the mercy of Machiavellian politicians and cost-effectiveness analysts.

Dr Robert Hardie
Dr Ian Jessiman
Dr Adrian Treloar
Catholic Medical Association (UK)
London SW1

SIR – Surely the archbishop knows that Christ himself died in agony and that God, for reasons beyond our understanding, allowed this to happen.

Christians believe that Christ’s suffering was redemptive: that it was a necessary event in mankind’s salvation. They believe that human suffering is not meaningless, but connected with the suffering of Christ and, if accepted willingly, can become a part of the same redemption offered by Him.

That is what Lord Carey ought to be saying, instead of basing his judgment on individual cases, however terrible.

John Hoar
South Molton, Devon

SIR – To resolve the issue of assisted dying, legislation must somehow incorporate the paradox of polar opposites.

Some people suffer terribly in their last days. Why should they not be able to say: “I have had enough. Please inject me”?

On the other hand, I am strongly influenced by a dear friend of mine dying of motor neurone disease. Although she wanted to stay alive until the end, she agreed that it should remain illegal or she would have felt compelled to agree to it, to end the pain and suffering she saw in the eyes of her husband and her children.

Penny Mitchell
Worthing, West Sussex

SIR – If we see any other form of life – a beloved pet, say – experiencing extreme pain or a prolonged death, it is our duty to put these beings out of their misery.

Yet if a human being is suffering, it is our duty to keep those poor people alive. This strikes me as a very strange way to think.

Daphne MacOwan
Ramsey, Isle of Man

SIR – I thank God for Lord Carey’s support of assisted dying.

Those of us in our seventies would look forward so much more to old age knowing that we would not be kept alive at any cost.

Wendy Mann
London E6

Irish Times:

Sir, – Hamas began its present rocket offensive against Israel on June 12th, the first day of the search for three murdered Israeli teenagers. This massive and indiscriminate bombardment had reached the level of approximately 1,200 rockets by last Sunday.

Israel did not ask for this war. However, no country could allow its citizens to be attacked in this way without responding. Hamas is guilty of a double war crime. First, by deliberately attacking Israel’s civilians, it violates the principle of distinction embodied in the 1979 Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions. Article 48 requires that parties to a conflict “shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants . . . and accordingly shall direct their operations only against military objectives.” Article 51 requires that “the civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians, shall not be the object of attack”. Second, Hamas deliberately puts the Palestinian civilian population in danger by launching attacks from within densely populated areas, deploying weapons storage sites and command centres in residential homes and commandeering hospitals, private homes, schools and mosques for terrorist use.

It is clear that this violates Article 58: “The parties shall, to the maximum extent feasible endeavour to remove the civilian population … under their control from the vicinity of military objectives, and avoid locating military objectives within or near densely populated areas.”

Even worse, Hamas directly and cynically promotes the use of its civilians as human shields, ordering them to ignore the warnings given by the Israel Defence Forces to leave buildings targeted for air strikes, and even calling on them to gather on the rooftops of such buildings.

Such a tactic contravenes Article 51(7): “The parties to the conflict shall not direct the movement of the civilian population or individual civilians in order to attempt to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield military operations.”

The difference between Israel and Hamas boils down to this: we are using bomb shelters and the Iron Dome system to protect the residents of Israel against Hamas missiles, while they use the residents of Gaza to protect arsenals of missiles. We invest huge sums of money in protecting our civilians and in maximising our accuracy in fighting Hamas, while they spend huge sums building an infrastructure of terror and trying to kill as many civilians as possible on both sides.

Israel is a democracy that is fighting unbridled terrorism in a legitimate, responsible and level-headed manner. No country in the world would do any less than we have been doing to protect our citizens. – Yours, etc,

BOAZ MODAI,

Ambassador of Israel,

Pembroke Road,

Dublin 4.

Sir, – Israel has an army, navy and air force, highly trained and equipped to the highest standards and with the backing of one of the world’s superpowers. Gaza has no protection against this onslaught.

Now the Israeli army is poised for a ground offensive. No tanks will resist their tanks, no aircraft will attack their aircraft and no ships will interfere with their shelling of Gaza from the sea.

What the world is witnessing is a war crime – and history will judge it to be that.

And no “Iron Dome” system will save the reputations of those inside and outside Israel who stand by and do nothing while it happens. – Yours, etc,

NOEL CARROLL,

Raheenavine,

Rathdrum,

Co Wicklow.

Sir, – It is all very well for us to wring our hands in condemnation of the Israeli bombing and killing of innocent children in Gaza. All violence is wrong. Israel will only behave if its economy suffers. Why can we not begin by boycotting its goods? – Yours, etc,

JERRY KELLEHER,

Rathmines,

Dublin 6.

Sir, – Further to “Thornton say no to GM food” (Business, July 14th), I would like to thank chef Kevin Thornton for highlighting what would be involved if and when such a EU-US trade agreement is signed. It is about time someone did so!

In Germany people have been demonstrating, protesting and debating the issue for months, whereas here the general public has never been made aware of the implications should this deal go ahead. So far Enda Kenny has said it would bring jobs to Ireland, which is nothing but wishful thinking. There was no mention of the negative aspects, such as allowing genetically modified food and hormone-treated beef into Ireland. I am hoping that now our farmers will also take a stand. – Yours, etc,

C SUDWAY,

Knocklyon Drive,

Templeogue,

Dublin 16.

Sir, – Kevin Thornton has raised concerns about the ongoing negotiations on an EU-US trade deal which were launched in Dublin last year. It is estimated that an ambitious deal could benefit the European economy by €119 billion a year – equivalent to €545 for an average EU household – and the US by €95 billion a year.

The European Commission, which conducts the negotiations for the 28 European member states, has been crystal clear; it will not negotiate existing levels of protection for the sake of an agreement.

This is not a race to the bottom. Making our regulations more compatible does not mean going for the lowest common denominator, but rather seeing where we diverge unnecessarily.

There will be no compromise whatsoever on safety, consumer protection or the environment. But there will be a willingness to look pragmatically on whether we can do things better and in a more coordinated fashion.

Obviously, each side will keep the right to regulate environmental, safety and health issues at the level each side considers appropriate. – Yours, etc,

BARBARA NOLAN,

Head of the European

Commission Representation

in Dublin,

18 Dawson Street,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – Further to Emmet Malone’s “O’Neill draw inspiration from great competition” (July 14th), and in relation to the coaching structure the Germans have, it is definitely something that the Republic of Ireland needs to copy and implement. However, there are certain issues that will impact on us following the German model, albeit on a much smaller scale.

This country has a massive following for four sports – both codes of the GAA, rugby and soccer – and soccer is competing with two much better organised associations in the GAA and the IRFU. It could even be argued that the brilliantly run amateur boxing scene is making inroads on soccer in the traditional working-class areas of Dublin and Cork.

The domestic league is in constant crisis. Much of this problem can be laid at the feet of the FAI, but the so-called Irish soccer public needs to take a lot of the blame.

The Setanta Cup was the forerunner for a possible all-Irish league. Attendances were poor at games and that probably has ended any hope of an all-Ireland league.

Many of the Irish soccer fans only give a damn about what is happening at Anfield, Old Trafford or Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium. They don’t care about what is happening at Turner’s Cross or at Tallaght Stadium, with the result that clubs have no money to invest in proper youth coaching.

Ideally, the FAI would implement a national schoolboy league, where the best young lads in Cork play for Cork City and each club would have a Uefa Pro Licence Coach working with the kids in each age group. But given the lack of money in the game in this country, this is about as realistic as Burnley being crowned Premier League champions next May.

The local TD is concerned about re-election and being close to the GAA folk. There is little to gain for TDs from being a friend to the local soccer club.

We can talk all we like about the FAI, but if the football public lacks the desire to change things, then nothing will be done and we will be hanging around hoping that we produce that one world-class (maybe we’ll get lucky and produce two at the one time) player to get us to tournaments. – Yours, etc,

KEITH FINGLAS,

Crumlin,

Dublin 12.

Sir, – So Irish Water (“Data commissioner to review details sought by Irish Water”, July 14th) wants our PPS number and bank account details and a four-page application form? What an intrusion!

No other utility supplier seeks these details. Whatever about giving my PPS number, I certainly will not be disclosing my bank account numbers. I pay all my existing utility bills online when due and a similar arrangement should be sufficient for Irish Water. It is an organisation that clearly does not live in the real world. It is a pity it will have a monopoly! – Yours, etc,

DESMOND E CAMPBELL,

Greenfield Road,

Mount Merrion, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Peter Dunne (July 12th) draws a comparison between the denial of service of African Americans in the southern states of the US in the 1960s and the Ashers bakery controversy. This analogy is incorrect. The customer was not denied service, nor was he denied it on the basis of his sexual orientation. There is no evidence that Ashers bakery was even aware of the customer’s sexual orientation. The bakery merely refused to write a political slogan that went against its beliefs and supports something which is contrary to the law of the land. I would suggest a more accurate analogy would be the refusal of a bakery in a loyalist area to provide a cake with the slogan “Tiocfaidh ár lá” for a nationalist customer. – Yours, etc,

MARIA

Mhic MHEANMAIN,

Glen Abhainn Park,

Enfield,

Co Meath.

Sir, – Contrary to Howard Hutchins’s assertion (July 12th), I would say that the cornerstone of our western society – and its ideals of democracy, freedom and equality – is the Enlightenment (beginning in late 17th-century Europe) rather than “Judeo-Christian culture”. – Yours, etc,

ADAM MURPHY,

Chapel Road,

Monivea,

Athenry,

Co Galway.

Sir, – For many observers, it is very easy to dismiss the gay cake controversy as a storm in a tea-cup, or – perhaps more appropriately – a crisis on a cupcake. However, discrimination is so insidious precisely because it often lurks in the most quotidian exchanges.

We have seen some fortifying stories reported in your newspaper in recent weeks, from Enda Kenny’s commitment to naming a referendum date on gay marriage, and the move to protect gay teachers.

But there is animus to be conquered. While there are several summer stories to rejoice in, this cake business is a reminder that, when it comes to discrimination against gay people, a chill wind often blows on this island. – Yours, etc,

Dr SEAN

ALEXANDER SMITH,

Chao do Loureiro,

Lisbon.

Sir, – Breda O’Brien describes Ernie and Bert as characters from The Muppet Show (“Bert and Ernie’s bromance offers a lesson in tolerance”, Opinion & Analysis, July 12th).

Ernie and Bert were created by Frank Oz and Jim Henson for Sesame Street not The Muppet Show. Since Henson also created The Muppet Show it’s easy to see how Breda got her strings crossed.

Like God, Henson loved all his children equally so probably would not be too upset.

There never was a specific Christian bakery on Sesame Street, which is just as well. One can just imagine Ernie and Bert discussing the missing ingredient in the so-called Christian cake. “Look Ernie, they forget to put in an ounce of love.” – Yours, etc,

SÉAMUS DOOLEY,

St Thomas Road,

The Tenters,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – Yes, we should preserve the Poolbeg towers. But if we do so, we should also preserve the other historic locations of the area and ask why they have been allowed to become ruins.

What has become of the brooding Titanic-like structure of the iconic, original Pigeon House power station with its seven chimneys? Why have the walls of the 19th-century Pigeon House Fort, whose battlements are clearly in place (and were walkable until about five years ago), been allowed to become overgrown, unidentifiable and impassable? The token cannons placed at the gates are a pathetic, forlorn gesture.

Preserve this unique urban space, but not just the towers. – Yours, etc,

Prof CONAL HOOPER,

Foster Avenue,

Mount Merrion, Co Dublin.

Sir, – How about a crematorium? It would remind Dubliners of their mortality. – Yours, etc,

KEITH NOLAN,

Caldra House,

Carrick-on-Shannon,

Co Leitrim.

Sir, – Iain MacLaren (July 14th) writes that English fees are among the most unaffordable in the world; actually, they are among the most affordable.

The loan system used by English universities means that a student only begins paying back his loan when his salary can accommodate it. If a student never earns above £21,000 a year, he doesn’t have to repay a penny. The whole system is set up to be affordable.

But according to Mr MacLaren, it is better to fund universities by dint of a “proper” progressive income tax. This tells us, first, that Mr MacLaren doesn’t think a top rate of 45 per cent is high enough (all fleeing Scottish entrepreneurs welcome in Dublin/London). It also tells us that he thinks it is fairer for working-class kids to defray the education of pampered middle-class kids.

The top 30 universities in the world (as chosen by the Times of London) all have some form of university fees – shouldn’t that tell Mr MacLaren something? – Yours, etc,

THEO VON

PRONDZYNSKI,

Donnybrook Castle,

Donnybrook,

Sir, – Joe Walsh (July 14th) is mistaken if he thinks that Sinn Féin in government in Northern Ireland is a product of “true democracy”, when in fact the contrived nature of the power-sharing Executive at Stormont is anything but. In truly democratic elections, there tend to be winners and losers, but not so in Northern Ireland.

Power-sharing remains, of course, the best solution yet attempted to the seemingly intractable social and political divisions in the North, but this is precisely because Northern Ireland is not a properly functioning “true democracy”. – Yours, etc,

ALAN EUSTACE,

Annadale Drive,

Marino,

Dublin 9.

Sir, – As an Irish doctor, I can fully understand Garth’s position. Ireland is a nice place to visit but a very hard place in which to negotiate working conditions. – Yours, etc,

Dr CONOR MAGUIRE,

Glencairn Medical Centre,

Leopardstown Valley,

Dublin 18.

Sir, – In the interests of proper planning and sustainable development, I propose the Planning and Development (Garth Brooks) (Amendment) Bill, 2014. This of course could be followed by the Planning and Development (Country and Western Music) Regulations. – Yours, etc,

CONOR NORTON,

Croydon Green,

Marino,

Dublin 3.

Sir, – Today I attempted to get a dress posted to me from Co Cork – a dress which is ready, a dress which I have paid for in full, a dress whose postage I have also paid for. Not possible. They only post on Fridays. I had the temerity to ask why. Because they have a business to run.

Not for long, I suggest. – Yours, etc,

IRENE O’DEA,

Shancorn,

Belturbet,

Co Cavan.

Sir, – I see there’s been a bit of a reshuffle in Britain. When will they cease to slavishly mimic the antics of their near neighbour? – Yours, etc,

GABRIEL ROSENSTOCK,

Gleann na gCaorach,

Co Átha Cliath.

Sir, – I sympathise with Prof Bert G Hornback (July 14th). To avoid all the “chain-store commerce” and “generic clerks”, perhaps he should ask to be dropped in Co Laois? There he will find the plain people of Ireland, forgotten by the Government, completely free of the trappings of touristry, Oirishness and the “fabulousness” that permeates the east coast and seeps into much of Kildare and Wicklow. He could join Kanye West and Kim Kardashian on one of their trips to Ballyfin and perhaps take in a film at Portlaoise cinema? He’d be more than welcome! – Yours, etc,

AIDAN McCANE,

Kilminchy Close,

Portlaoise,

Co Laois.

Irish Independent:

My hero, Frank McCourt, died five years ago this week, an event that prompted sorrow mixed with the guilty suspicion that I wasn’t really entitled to any. We were strangers, after all, but McCourt was important to me in the unknowing way heroes often are.

On a spring day in 2007, I took the train from Poughkeepsie to New York City to see McCourt and Calvin Trillin at the 92nd Street Y. The event was part of a reading and performance series, but was more like eavesdropping on the men as they chatted in the living room.

The men sat in club chairs flanking a low table and talked about favourite books, about pretentious restaurants and about the ham-fisted response to the massive snowstorms that crippled New York City in the 1970s. “There are still huge piles of snow out in Queens left over from the Lindsey administration,” said McCourt.

From my seat in the darkened auditorium I laughed along with the men, enjoying their sharp wit and the easy warmth of their exchange. Following a brief Q&A, the men took seats at folding tables. I stood in McCourt’s line and watched him smile and chat. I extended my hand as I approached the table.

“Hello, Mr McCourt, I left your books at home this morning, it seemed a little tacky to haul them all down here for your autograph.” McCourt smiled and waved his hand: “Och, that’s what these things are for.”

“Well, I enjoyed hearing you and Mr Trillin speak,” I said, “but I really came here today to tell you that something you said in a radio interview years ago really resonated with me and it inspired me to write my own story about my Irish Catholic childhood in Broad Channel, and about my search for the three-year-old who went missing from our family.”

McCourt folded his hands and tilted his head to one side, waiting.

“The interviewer asked you why, at age 66 and after 30 years in the classroom, you’d decided to write ‘Angela’s Ashes’. You said, ‘Because if I hadn’t, I’d have gone howling to my grave’.”

McCourt’s facial expression said he didn’t recall the words exactly, but he certainly agreed with the sentiment. “That’s pretty good,” he said with a chuckle.

“When I finish my manuscript I’d like to send it to you with a note reminding you about this conversation. Perhaps you’d let me take you to lunch?”

He squinted at my card before slipping it into his shirt pocket. “Okay,” he said clutching my hand a second time. “Maybe we can do some howling!”

I learned of his illness when his brother Malachy told the press: “Frank is not expected to live.” The slim possibility of that lunch still remained: a spring meeting at an outdoor cafe or perhaps an hour or two in the autumn, sharing a pot of tea.

The night McCourt lay dying, a torrential summer storm blew through the Hudson Valley. I imagined him in his bed an hour to the south, tended by family while thunder cracked and the lights flickered. I feel certain he did not howl.

EDWARD MCCANN

TILLSON LAKE ROAD, WALLKILL, NYC

 

WHAT ABOUT 450,000 JOBLESS?

I’m not sure if it was a graduated response or a misjudged offering on behalf of the inevitable culchie land invasion of Dublin, but the man himself offered to swim, fly or beg to make five in a row happen, and every shop or store owner on both sides of the Liffey, with container-loads of authentic looking cowboy hats and boots from China, will be praying like they never prayed before to every version of god out there, so that it does happen.

Whoever could have foreseen the countrywide tremor, or the turmoil, a cowboy hat-wearing country singer named Garth Brooks would cause?

Even the unfortunate story of over a dozen beached whales up here in Donegal had to suffer the indignity of having to take a back seat to the unfolding saga of will he/won’t he.

To say that it went from a fiasco to a farce on every radio and TV station in the country and abroad would be an understatement for want of a more appropriate description.

Even the busy Mexican ambassador had offered his services as a peace negotiator amid calls for US President Barack Obama to forget the conflicts in the Ukraine, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Iranian nuclear programme that’s causing him headaches, and get directly involved because if our problem implodes, it will turn an ace card for Enda into a joker amid an upturn in consumer spending.

We have 450,000 of the population jobless, unemployed, on the breadline, call it whatever you like and they cannot grab the attention of the Taoiseach, media and world leaders like the 400,000 who bought tickets in their quest to do the hokey pokey with the Stetson-wearing messiah of country and western music, Garth Brooks?

God save us from all harm, but isn’t there something peculiarly weird about this whole hip-whacking, butt-shaking, line-dancing scenario?

J WOODS

GORT AN CHOIRCE, DUN NA NGALL

 

TICKETHOLDERS SHOULD SUE

The blame for the Garth Brooks concert debacle lies squarely with the promoters and Brooks himself. They have a legal obligation to the ticketholders to provide the three authorised concerts.

If they refuse I suggest that a group of ticketholders should get together and take a class action against them.

I must compliment the city manager, who having made the difficult decision had the courage to stick by it despite the silly posturing of politicians in Government Buildings and the Mansion House.

JOHN P MASTERSON

CARRICKANE, CAVAN

GARTH CRISIS HAS A SOLUTION

Only an eejit would build a house without planning permission as you can be made to tear it down. This was no different. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail so people have a lot to answer for.

Having said that it is shameful that a resolution could not have been found with say the surplus of concerts over the agreed amount held in Croker this year triggering an equivalent reduction in the number to be held next year. Everybody has lost out now so there are lessons to be learned… expensive ones.

KILLIAN BRENNAN

COROFIN HOUSE, MALAHIDE ROAD, DUBLIN 17

TECHNOLOGY REPLACING WORKERS

I refer to an Irish Independent editorial “Onus on State to ensure integrity of job scheme” and article by Tom Molloy “The scheme is working and getting vital experience for jobseekers” published on July 15.

An extraordinary phenomenon of an age personified by the genius of technology which has changed practically all aspects of life in recent decades is persistence with employment discussion without any reference whatsoever to the impact of that technology on work and jobs.

Dependence on human labour is being eliminated on a truly massive scale; automation is rampant and improving and yet an absurd government policy pursues job creation as if we were still in previous centuries.

Every conceivable guise is used to make job figures look good.

We collude in dubious taxavoidance which eventually will brand us pariahs on the international scene and refuse absolutely to heed numerous wake-up calls of what is really happening on the jobs/work front. No explanation or even discussion has yet emerged on the significance of one investment of €3.6bn without a promise of a single job.

Automation allows the world to produce everything in abundance without dependence on human labour; this is a reality we ignore at our peril.

It really is tragic to see respected journalism assist such monumental self-deception.

PADRAIC NEARY

TUBBERCURRY, CO SLIGO

Irish Independent

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