30 July 2014 Feet
I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A very very dry day
Scrabble Mary wins, but gets under 400. perhaps I will win tomorrow.
Sally Farmiloe – obituary
Sally Farmiloe was an actress whose soap opera career in Howards’ Way was eclipsed by her affair with Jeffrey Archer
Sally Farmiloe, actress and sometime mistress of Lord (Jeffrey) Archer Photo: REX
6:58PM BST 29 Jul 2014
Sally Farmiloe, who has died of cancer aged 60, was a former actress who appeared in Howards’ Way, a Sunday night soap of yachting folk and adultery, but became better known in the 1990s for having a torrid affair with Jeffrey Archer, the author and one-time Tory Party favourite-turned jailbird.
The pair, who met through fundraising work for the Tory Party, began seeing each other in 1996 , but in 1999 a tabloid newspaper exposed them, bringing the affair to an end. Sally Farmiloe later claimed that Archer then reneged on a promise to pay for her legal bills when she sued the paper for libel in 2000. The following year he was jailed for four years for perjury after lying to a court about his dealings with the prostitute Monica Coghlan.
The same year Sally Farmiloe gave a “Kiss and Tell” interview to the News of the World in which she described how the pair had once slipped away from a Tory fundraising ball at the Dorchester Hotel to an underground NCP car park in Audley Square. “We began kissing passionately and at first we tried to make love in the front seat of [his] Mini,” she recalled, “but it was very cramped and awkward so we got out.
Sally Farmiloe with Lord (Jeffrey) Archer (LANDMARK MEDIA)
“I was wearing this fantastic white silk gown, one of my favourites, and he looked very dashing in his dinner suit. I’m ashamed to say we made love on the floor of this dratted car park. My skirt was hitched up around my waist. Little did I know it, but I got engine oil all over the bum and back of it.
“Afterwards I went straight back into the Dorchester looking immaculate apart from the streaks of engine oil down my back which I knew nothing about. There I was parading around and nobody said a word to my face. It was only when I got home that I realised the dress was ruined. Jeffrey was kind enough to replace it with a stunning gown that cost almost £1,000.”
It was not, perhaps, the kind of behaviour befitting a former debutante. But then Sally, by her own admission, was a “wild child” .
Sally Farmiloe was born on July 14 1954 in South Africa, though her official website claims that she was a real “English Rose” hailing from a “frightfully posh aristocratic background”. Her father was variously reported to be a landowner, National Hunt jockey and yacht broker. Some accounts suggested that Sally was born in Reading.
Her progress began in her late teenage years when she had her breasts enlarged to please a boyfriend who wanted her to look like Raquel Welch. The operation was not a success: “My breasts hadn’t stopped growing and after the implants they became huge,” she recalled. The implants were removed in 1982 .
Sally Farmiloe (IMAGO PRODUCTIONS)
Her long list of former boyfriends included the Marquess of Reading; the Woolworth heir Anthony Hubbard; Sir Clive Sinclair; and the comedian Cardew Robinson. In the 1970s she was a frequent guest at Stocks, the Hertfordshire mansion owned by the Playboy tycoon Victor Lownes. After she landed the part of the tarty barmaid Dawn Williams in Howards’ Way (BBC One, 1985-90), her then boyfriend banned her from socialising with other cast members after she was caught in a broom cupboard with her co-star Malcolm Jamieson.
In the early 1990s, with acting parts growing ever fewer, Sally Farmiloe set up in business as a social event organiser.
She met Lord Archer in 1996 while helping to organise a fundraising ball for the Conservatives at the Savoy Hotel, though it seems that the Tory peer’s chat-up technique lacked something in finesse: “He came up behind me, threw his arms around me and grabbed hold of my boobs,” she recalled. “Then he asked me, ‘Where’s your husband, then?’ I replied, ‘I haven’t got a husband’. He grinned like a Cheshire cat and said, ‘That makes things easy’.” She agreed to meet him for dinner the following night at his penthouse flat overlooking the Houses of Parliament .
Having her name linked to Archer’s as accusations of his perjury began to emerge did not help her acting career — though she reportedly considered an offer to go into the Australian jungle for I’m A Celebrity. Luckily an old boyfriend, Jeremy Neville, a chartered surveyor, stepped back into her life to offer support and they subsequently married.
Last October, however, four months after Sally Farmiloe had been treated for breast cancer, it was discovered that a secondary cancer had spread to her bones and liver. During a period in which the cancer appeared to be in remission, she discovered, sifting through her medical notes, a report which noted that in view of her advanced disease it would not be appropriate to resuscitate her in the event of a cardiac arrest. She was so shocked that she announced that she would be adding her voice to the campaign for more stringent rules governing do-not-resuscitate orders.
Not long before her death Sally Farmiloe met Lord Archer again at a book launch. She had intended to confront him, she told The Daily Telegraph’s interviewer Elizabeth Grice, but explained that her anger had melted away when they met. “I realised it didn’t matter. He was very sweet and charming and chivalrous. ”
Sally Farmiloe is survived by her husband, by their daughter and adopted daughter and by a stepson.
Sally Farmiloe, born July 14 1954, died July 28 2014
I agree with Simon Jenkins (Comment, 25 July), but I disagree that, “He (Putin) may be a nasty piece of work”. Given the vastness and complexity of governing the largest country in the world, and relative to the many psychopathic lunatics who have ruled in Europe, President Putin usually shows restraint, balance and thoughtfulness. Is Cameron, the daily-U-turn champion, doing a Napoleon or merely trying to drive up sales for the arms industry?
• Polly Toynbee’s failure to clarify that there are huge differences between those exploiting the tax relief system and those staying within the spirit of the Enterprise Investment Scheme (Comment, 29 July), makes it harder for UK producers to raise money. A recent report by Oxford Economics estimated that film production in the UK would be 71% smaller without film tax relief – currently the industry generates close to £5bn towards UK GDP. The EIS is meant to stimulate investment in SMEs (classically high risk startups) by giving tax relief to higher-rate taxpayers. It is not a tax avoidance scheme so long as the investor can still lose more money than if they hadn’t invested. The problem within the film industry is those companies that guarantee returns, don’t generate content, and use creative accountancy to inflate budgets.
Suzie Halewood, producer
• The 101 Ranch Real Wild West Show from Oklahoma (Letters, 26 July), was a feature of the Anglo-American Exposition at White City, London, in 1914. War was declared as the expo was winding down. Horses and vehicles from the ranch were requisitioned for the war effort. Buck Jones from the original War Horse film started his show career at the ranch and Wild West Show. A famous member of the show was the black cowboy Bill Pickett, who made two movies. He was definitely here in London in 1914. There is a lot more background to the War Horse legend.
• Christina Patterson (Comment, 26 July) might also compare Karl Ove Knausgård’s My Struggle with Maxim Gorky’s autobiographical My Childhood (1913), in which he recalls his bitter struggle in a quarrelsome family, being beaten at home and abandoned by his mother, and “sent out into the world” at the age of eleven. Yet, with his insight and characterisation, as his translator Ronald Wilks observes, Gorky “comes to terms with a squalid, cruel and depraved world”.
Dr Mark Stroud
• Why is the Isle of Man no longer featured in your Commonwealth Games medal table? We Manx should be told.
Your article on deferring the state pension (Money, 26 July) says that “in purely financial terms, deferring currently represents a very good deal”. True that a person who today defers for one year is rewarded with a pension 10.4% higher. But they lose one year’s pension for ever – which means that they must live nearly 11 more years before recovering the money lost, much less gaining. For example, if the pension is £100 a year, a person who doesn’t defer will receive £1,100 over the next 11 years (11 x 100). A person who defers for one year will receive £1,104 (10 x 110.4). Is a gain of £4 after 11 years “a very good deal”?
In your example, a weekly pension of £150 a week, a pensioner who doesn’t defer will receive £78,000 over 10 years (150 x 52 x 10). If they defer for five years, they will receive a pension 52% higher (£228 a week), but they will receive it for only five years. So they receive £59,280 (228 x 52 x 5). So they actually lose £18,720 by deferring. Only after 15 years do they show a small gain of £1,560. This means a man retiring now must live to 80 and a woman to 77 to gain a penny from deferring their pension for five years. At the lower rate of reward for deferral recently announced, they must live to 88 and 85 respectively before they break even. Even at today’s low interest rates, it is far better to take your pension and save it than to forgo it. This is a serious matter. I know people who deferred on the basis of newspaper advice and realised their huge mistake only when it was too late.
Department of Economics, University of Warwick
• There cannot possibly be enough people with the skills in the Pensions Advisory Service and Citizens Advice Bureau to give useful, impartial guidance to all on how to manage their personal pension pots, which begs the questions, how and at what cost can this be achieved. The only way to deliver this advice efficiently and cost effectively is online, but there is no detail as to how this might work and how advice can be tailored to individuals’ requirements through such a generic portal. In short, this is a great idea but if it is not executed well, that is all it will remain. Next April is just around the corner and failure to finalise details quickly is a big gamble for the government – which risks not only people’s pension money, but a potential public policy train crash just before the general election.
CEO, Thomsons Online Benefits
Your editorial (29 July) says “there are serious reasons why fracking is likely to be part of Britain’s future” but misses many reasons why it shouldn’t be. Fracking in the UK will just add to a stock of fossil fuels we cannot afford to burn if we want to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Shale gas won’t magically replace coal: the government’s chief scientist has said that without a global climate deal, new fossil fuel exploitation is likely to increase the risk of climate change.
The government’s headlong rush to frack is predicated on the process being safe. But many of the UK’s regulations are inadequate. Fracking is banned in France and a more precautionary approach is being taken in Germany on environmental grounds.
Fracking is not the answer to the energy problems of cost and security. The first focus of UK energy policy needs to be an aggressive push on energy efficiency. Then decarbonising electricity, through a rapid expansion of renewable power. Gas is a transition fuel through the 2020s, but shale gas is not needed for this purpose.
Energy campaigner, Friends of the Earth
• So Eric Pickles will have the last say in deciding whether to drill in protected areas (New strings attached to fracking push, 28 July). Luckily, the Unite trade union, organising over 1.3m workers, voted overwhelmingly this year to protest against fracking. It will support local protests against fracking and campaign for sustainable green jobs, not the slash-and-burn, short-term profit, long-term devastation of increased carbon emissions.
Unite Plymouth local government branch
• Power companies will only invest where the prospects of profit are excellent, so why not nationalise this new power source from the very beginning? We have surrendered our coal, water, gas and electricity industries to foreign companies and the process is, apparently, irreversible. Why doesn’t Ed Milliband say that all shale exploration will be done at the taxpayers’ expense – with the taxpayer becoming the beneficiary?
• In your article (New strings attached to fracking push, 28 July) there was no mention of the huge amounts of water needed in the process for fracking shale gas and oil. This has produced well publicised disputes in the US, where underground supplies have been severely depleted by fracking companies, causing problems for farmers and other users.
• So, drilling rigs are acceptable, but wind turbines, which produce benign energy, are not. The community-owned, renewable sector is the way forward – benign energy production with no legacy problems, community involvement and ownership, great returns on investment, and a percentage of profits going to the local area. We have been part owners of Baywind Energy Cooperative for many years, with average returns of 6.37% – the return in 2012 was 10.4%. Go to energy4all.co.uk to see the portfolio of community-owned schemes across the UK.
High Peak, Derbyshire
• Methane gas from fracking is not one of the “cleaner hydrocarbons” as your leader claims. Its global warming potential is 70 times that of carbon dioxide. Evidence from the US shows shale gas electricity has a higher carbon footprint than coal burning, even when methane leakage is low.
Electricity from waste is often cheaper than that from natural gas and avoids the release of methane were the waste left to rot. Instead of paying farmers to accept fracking, they should be well rewarded for sending animal and crop waste for anaerobic digestion.
And fracking companies could follow Greenfield Energy, now drilling below the carparks of a leading supermarket chain for geothermal heat. Most scientists agree we cannot burn more than one-third of the world’s proven fossil fuel reserves if we are to slow global warming. Why exploit new, unproven gas resources of uncertain yield? At far shallower depths there is sufficient geothermal energy to heat and cool buildings.
• We need to reduce the amount of fossil fuel we burn. The promise of cheap energy for the next 40 years, realistic or not, will lull the public into ignoring the uncomfortable but imperative need to reduce emissions. It will also blind most people to the impact of any environmental damage resulting from fracking.
• I have chosen the place in countryside specially dear to me where I shall set up my anti-fracking camp. I am prepared to sleep in a tent. What holds me back is the thought that to be completely honest about what I’m doing I must give up using a private car for the rest of my life.
I am amazed that Ed Miliband has failed to notice that prime minister’s questions are a futile exercise (Report, 28 July) that seriously diminish the dignity and purpose of parliament in the public mind. He now suggests that this ludicrous opportunity for MPs to ask glib questions and get glib answers should be offered to the public. The public may be too intelligent to grasp his proposed opportunity.
It is already possible for the public to question the prime minister. If you have an intelligent question, you can write it and send it to your MP, who is duty-bound to get a response for you. This approach allows his office to research and present an intelligent answer. They may not always do that – so you challenge them again. And you will have a record of your debate. You are more likely to get your issue explored via your MP than if you turn up at Westminster, as Ed Miliband suggests, and take pot luck on getting your question put to the prime minister and satisfactorily answered, off the cuff, within a minute. So, not a very bright idea, Mr Miliband. It did grab a headline, though, didn’t it? Maybe that’s all he’s about.
• There is nothing to stop Ed Miliband from putting the public’s questions to the prime minister during PMQs, perhaps selecting a question at random from a supporter of each of the main parties. This would encourage greater public engagement with politics in general and Ed Miliband and the Labour party in particular; it might also have the effect of improving the behaviour of MPs – and make it more difficult for the prime minister to ignore the question and answer another.
• Ed Miliband’s suggestion that the public be invited to put questions to the prime minister could make the disillusionment with parliament deeper. Typically, the leader of the opposition asks a question inviting a factual response. The prime minister responds either with a jibe at the opposition or a recitation of government policy, which everyone in the chamber already knows. The speaker allows such evasions to pass unchallenged. Government backbenchers think their man has “won”. It won’t make us respect parliament to see ordinary people have their questions ignored in this way.
• By his own admission he may not be a square-jawed superhero, and in allowing himself to be filmed alongside Wallace and Gromit-style caricatures Ed Miliband demonstrates a self-deprecating sense of humour that is rare among the political class – and very welcome. However, looking back at Westminster and Whitehall, calling for more public engagement, is for another time – ideally when parliament is sitting. He should stay focused on talking about what matters: education, the economy, employment, environment, energy, health and housing for starters, with plenty of other topics awaiting attention – defence, foreign affairs, transport, the list goes on.
• So, Ed Miliband goes confessional, with self-deprecating humour (Report, 25 July). At a time when the economy was reported on the up, bombs were dropping on Gaza and planes were being shot out of the sky, what was this supposed to achieve? If it was about looking prime ministerial, it amounted to a spectacularly timed own goal. What he needs are decent media advisers, the present ones are going to lose the election for Labour before we get near the ballot box.
• It is good to see Ed Miliband rejecting the image-obsessed political style of New Labour (Miliband confronts image problem, 25 July). If he can just bring himself also to reject its Tory-lite policies and tell Tony and his cronies to get lost we might be getting somewhere.
• A message to Ed Miliband’s handlers, advisers, and PR “experts”: leave the man alone. He’s decent, warm, witty and just a tad self-deprecating. He is neither pompous nor self-important and I think the electorate will warm to that when set against the bullying, jeering, Tory spin machine. People don’t respond well to artifice: remember that awful grimace inflicted on the serious, if grumpy, Gordon Brown and be warned.
Pioneering aviator Lettice Curtis. Photograph: Associated Newspapers /Rex Features
In 1987 I interviewed the doughty pioneer pilot Lettice Curtis for my oral history book Don’t You Know There’s a War On? She spoke vividly about the hazards of flying planes from factories to airfields all over the UK: “All the big towns had barrage balloons. You had to find out where they were, but you were not allowed to mark them on your map, so you had to memorise them. There was no radio, of course, so it was all old-fashioned navigation. You just had to keep below cloud, and jolly well know where you were.” She mentioned one incident: “I was coming in to Langley when the engine stopped. I came down at a hundred miles an hour and the tail broke off. I was lucky, I was just knocked about a bit on my face and leg.”
While most of the facts in your article (Missed targets: when companies fail to keep their key sustainability promises, 21 July) were accurate, we were disappointed with the broad brush with which Rainforest Action Network’s (Ran) work with the Disney Corporation was painted. Has Disney fallen behind on its initial paper sourcing targets? Yes. Will Ran be closely monitoring the situation and working with Disney to ensure implementation of its new policy? Yes.
But the fact is that Disney’s policy regarding how the massive corporation purchases its paper is one of the strongest and most comprehensive policies that Ran has ever seen. It is a policy that addresses issues of climate change, human rights and rainforest destruction across all of Disney’s global operations, including all of Disney’s licensees and subsidiaries. This is a complex and challenging policy to implement in full – it will affect more than 10,000 factories in China alone – and Ran believes that Disney is currently working in good faith toward putting this policy into effect.
In addition, this policy has already had a very real impact, creating a ripple effect in Indonesia – the current epicentre of global deforestation. Disney has already excluded some of the most egregious rainforest destroyers on the planet from its supply chain and the company’s actions helped lead to a groundbreaking new forest policy from that corporation – a policy that Ran will also be closely monitoring for years to come to ensure full and meaningful implementation.
Ran greatly appreciates the incredibly complex and comprehensive nature of this shift in corporate practices. And Disney has been consistently proactive in informing the sustainability community about its progress and challenges on this front.
Ran is in this fight for the long haul, and we will be monitoring these policies closely. But so far we have every reason to believe that Disney is moving in the right direction and can serve as a critical lever for industry-wide change that will benefit the planet and the people who live on it.
Executive director, Rainforest Action Network
The government’s work capability assessment (WCA) presumes that there are too many people on disability benefits because disabled people are too lazy or too comfortable living on benefits to work. It is founded in the idea that disabled people need to be harassed and hounded out of a comfortable life into finding work under the threat of loss of benefits.
No one is comfortable living on benefits. Disabled people are no more lazy that the rest of the population. The real reason that there are so many people on benefits is that society does not include disabled people. We do not have the same access to education, transport, housing and jobs. Social attitudes ensure that disabled people in the workplace are seen as a problem. And there are large numbers of disabled people who simply cannot work. Why should they be harassed? Why should they be hounded? Why should they have to live in fear? We know, and this report confirms, that many people have wrongly been found “fit for work” when they can’t work.
The courts have confirmed that the WCA discriminates against claimants with mental health impairments. The Commons work and pensions committee report recommends “improvements” to make the system more workable and less harmful. This is pointless, because it would not make the WCA any less wrong or any more useful. We call once again on Labour to commit to scrapping the WCA and to address the real problems that disabled people on benefits face in society. We call once again on the British Medical Association to send guidance on Department of Work and Pensions rules “29 and 35”, which allow doctors to prevent foreseeable harm being done to at-risk patients.
They didn’t improve slavery, they abolished it, because it was wrong. They didn’t amend apartheid , they ended it because it was wrong. The WCA is wrong, and it needs to be abolished.
Andy Greene Disabled People Against Cuts, Annie Howard Disabled People Against Cuts, Bob Ellard Disabled People Against Cuts, Debbie Jolly Disabled People Against Cuts, Denise McKenna Mental Health Resistance Network, Jane Bence #NewApproach, Eleanor Firman Disabled People Against Cuts, Ellen Clifford Disabled People Against Cuts, Gail Ward Disabled People Against Cuts, John James McArdle Black Triangle Campaign, Katy Marchant Disabled People Against Cuts, Linda Burnip Disabled People Against Cuts, Nick Dilworth #NewApproach, Paula Peters Disabled People Against Cuts, Rick Burgess #NewApproach, Roger Lewis Disabled People Against Cuts, Roy Bard Disabled People Against Cuts, Wayne Blackburn #NewApproach
Martin Dent taught at Keele University while I was a student there from 1967 until 1972. One or two of his eccentricities, still vivid in my mind, ought not be lost with his passing. When his phone rang, he would proclaim, “Dent here!” and then pick up the phone. Because he didn’t know about alarm clocks with repeaters, he had three alarm clocks side-by-side next to his bed, set a few minutes apart.
On one occasion, I was driving on campus behind a slightly battered Rover. The car was elderly, and when it met the speed bump up ahead, both of its rear passenger doors flew open, and a lamb emerged from each side of the car. Soon afterwards, a human emerged from the front. It was Dent, the Old Etonian who read Greek and Latin for relaxation, and told war stories about his time in Nigeria for fun. And now he had lambs on his hands.
Dent left his car, engine running, doors wide open, astride the speed bump. His lambs had gambolled away, in different directions. Being a coward, I drove away while Martin stood calling to his charges, telling them to “come back here!” as though they were dogs. Later, I learned that he had become a gentleman farmer, breeding sheep.
I am a bit puzzled by Paul Mason’s comments on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) predictions for the world economy (18 July). According to him, the message is that the best of capitalism is over. It seems Mason and I have read different reports.
The report entitled Looking to 2060: long-term global growth prospects and released in November 2012 is, like all long-term forecasts, inherently speculative. One of its major conclusions was that growth will decline to 3% in the world and 2% in the OECD countries compared to, respectively, 3.5% and 2.2% during the last 15 years. This is low but not near stagnation. Many people in most rich countries will accept it because they consider leisure and the environment more important than growth.
The report assumes that immigration trends will remain at the present rate, which represents a large and at first scary number of immigrants. However, most informed people will understand that, with the local birthrate declining, more workers will be needed to pay for their pensions.
The report does not directly comment about a rise in inequality. However, it suggests that structural reforms, often code for anti-labour policies, will be needed in most countries to maintain some growth. In this case the need is mostly for an extension of the working life. The report also notes that while inequalities between countries will still remain, they will have declined considerably.
It seems that Mason’s article reflects his own views rather than the OECD report.
Francois P Jeanjean
Tensions in the far east
Talks are now under way between Japan and North Korea in an attempt yet again to resolve various outstanding issues, including the abduction of a large number of Japanese some years ago by the North Koreans (11 July). The North Koreans are promising to try to establish the fate of the many missing Japanese citizens. The results, of course, remain to be seen.
However, it has been reported that the Japanese government is considering lifting the sanctions that were imposed several years ago. The more cynical among us will be wondering whether any aid the North Koreans receive from Japan will actually make its way to the people who need it, or whether it will more likely go towards the purchase of even more luxuries for government leaders and top bureaucrats.
Meanwhile, the People’s Republic continues to spend vast sums of money on its military machine, while also testing missiles by lobbing them into the Japan Sea, while totally ignoring all protests from Japan and other countries. Here in Japan itself, the hawkish prime minister, Shinzo Abe, is pushing legislation through the Japanese parliament to revise the so-called peace constitution and give the so-called self-defence forces more teeth. Demonstrations by peace-loving citizens are ignored, as are protestations of opposition parties. Considering all the tensions in this part of the world, perhaps it is only a matter of time before we see Japan going to war again.
Scotland’s big choice
Scotland is making the same mistake as Quebec regarding its forthcoming vote on independence by failing to take into account the difference between reversible decisions and irreversible ones (18 July). Decisions at just over 50% or a plurality are reversible at election time; treaties require just over 50% but have withdrawal clauses, and thus are reversible.
However, the dissolution of a company requires a two-thirds vote of shareholders; it is permanent. In Quebec, the appointment of the speaker of the assembly, the director general of elections, the auditor general, and such, requires a two-thirds vote of the deputies; these people cannot be removed during their fixed-term of office, save for egregious behaviour. Surely an irreversible decision on independence should call for a muscular majority. In the US, some congressional decisions require enhanced majorities.
Legislators over time have ruled against razor-thin victories in matters of great importance in order to secure indisputable results. If it is possible to emotionalise a narrow victory, it is somewhat harder to do so under the two-thirds rule.
Sutton, Quebec, Canada
• Madeleine Bunting’s advocacy (25 July) that the Scots remain in the UK so she can feel better is like suggesting that the Greeks should have remained in the Ottoman empire to maintain some sort of Hellenic flavour and smooth the rough edges off the sultan.
Coogee, NSW, Australia
• Nobody really knows what will happen if Scotland leaves the UK, for none can foretell the result of future seismic events geological, military or financial – whatever current or past experts predict.
A fundamental difference
Karl Popper demonstrated many years ago that we cannot expect science to produce certain knowledge, so Michael Brooks was telling us nothing new in his reference to unshakeable ‘truths’ (18 July). But we should not substitute one dogma for another. Human linguistic abilities may be a quirk of evolution – after all, quirks are what evolution produces – but they do constitute a difference between us and other animals.
A slightly different anatomical arrangement permits me to type this letter, so it may not be a marker of fundamental difference. But my ability to pose, by whatever means, the question of whether a fundamental difference exists is, it seems to me, a fundamental difference between me and an orang-utan. Whether or not that makes me something special is a value judgment, not a scientific one. Either way the difference still exists and is, I suggest, significant.
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Your lightweight article on the gluten-free backlash (18 July) would have been more useful if it distinguished between coeliac disease, diagnosable by a simple blood test, and gluten intolerance, scientifically diagnosable by an elimination diet and challenge. The latter is best done with an experienced dietitian since there are pitfalls, the most common of which is to fail to eliminate the bread preservative (calcium propionate, E282) and synthetic antioxidants (eg Butylated hydroxyanisole, E320) from the challenges, since these can also affect people and are ubiquitous in UK and US breads. They are uncommon in, for instance, Italy, France and Spain.
We have many experiences in our 10,000-member Food Intolerance Network (www.fedup.com.au) of people who avoided wheat and gluten for years before realising it was, for instance, the bread preservative to which they were reacting. My personal view, from 15 years in wheat research, is that it may have been the introduction of the semi-dwarfing varieties of wheat by Norman Borlaug of the 1950s green revolution that has contributed to the undoubted increase in gluten intolerance, but of course millions did not die of starvation because of this conventional plant-breeding cross.
Safety Beach, NSW, Australia
The presence of ghosts
“What exactly is a ghost, anyway?” asks Joanna Briscoe’s article (18 July). She raises a pertinent question, since both scientific rationalism and Protestant/Catholic theology have no place for ghostly phenomena. Despite this, Roman Catholicism exorcises demons as active agents of evil.
A late 19th/early 20th-century phenomenon was the interest of several prominent Protestant theologians in ghosts. EW Benson, bishop of Truro and later archbishop of Canterbury, founded a Ghost Club at Cambridge, which evolved into the Society for Psychical Research in 1882. AN Wilson tells us that Henry James’s rather nasty little story The Turn of the Screw was based on one of Benson’s Ghost Club stories.
The Cambridge tradition of clerical interest was carried on in the 1950s by the Cambridge professor of divinity, HH Farmer. But officially the churches are still sitting on the fence on this issue.
Fox in the chicken coop
So Jean-Claude Juncker plans to tackle Google’s power (and maybe also that of Apple, Amazon and Facebook) with this prospect being one reason why Angela Merkel decided to back his nomination (11 July). Here, one proposal of Juncker’s to combat the power of the US giants is to harmonise telecom laws across the EU.
This is all very interesting because one source of the power of these giants is the fact that they hide their earnings in tax havens, with Amazon choosing to do so in Luxembourg. As it turns out, “Lone Ranger Juncker” was finance minister and then prime minister of Luxembourg for over 20 years (up to December 2013), during which time he didn’t seem to see much need to fight the “good fight” that he is preaching now.
And while he is “harmonising telecom laws” maybe Juncker should also harmonise some banking laws so that Luxembourg and the other tax havens are no longer able to provide cosy hidey-holes for corporate cash. If ever there were a case of a fox being put in charge of the chicken coop, this is certainly it.
• Since the bygone day I first subscribed to Guardian Weekly (the early 70s), I have admired the free-flowing translations of Le Monde articles, myself understanding the trials of translating, considered an easy task for those in command of just one language. I imagined a committee of analysers and correctors poring over the text. No, I check my back page and see the name of Harry Forster. My hat off to you Harry, or “Chapeau!” as they say here.
L’Isle Jourdain, France
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Your report (29 July) that the think-tank ResPublica is proposing that bankers swear a Hippocratic-style oath of good service made me wince.
As a retired financial services compliance officer, I can confirm that the traders responsible for rate rigging and interest rate swap mis-sales, and their senior management, responsible for the oversight of the traders’ actions via the operations of effective risk management systems and controls, would have been individually registered in that capacity with the Financial Conduct Authority and its predecessors. Moreover, each firm (bank) and each candidate, as part of that process, would both have been required to make fitness and propriety declarations, with follow-up checks then performed by the regulators.
The woeful paucity of prosecutions thus far, whether civil or criminal, against those guilty parties, with all of that machinery in place, just makes ResPublica’s suggestion seem all the more risible.
That said, I am sure that those tens of thousands of entirely blameless back-office financial services employees on below-average wages (yes, they’re “bankers” too), who looked on powerless, and in horror, as their life savings and/or livelihoods were destroyed by the so-called “Masters of the Universe”, would have no qualms whatsoever about signing up.
Hit Putin where it really hurts
Your editorial “Own goal” (28 July) is precisely right. The remote prospect of Fifa dumping Russia as host of the 2018 World Cup plays straight to the hands of their keep-fit expansionist President. Sanctions must be targeted where they really hurt. This requires the resolve of the EU as a whole.
Undermining Putin’s power at home requires a body-blow to the Russian economy, with the inevitable knock-on effect on his core support. The logic of arming Russian separatists would almost certainly be lost on middle-class investors watching their portfolios haemorrhage, or captains of industry seeing their businesses collapse due to supply problems.
In the hand-rubbing occupation of redrawing borders, Putin will not listen to Europe, not even to Angela Merkel. If he is to be reined in, then his own people must do it.
Nick Clegg wants the World Cup taken away from Russia in 2018. Four years is a long way off. The downing of the Malaysian plane may not be as significant then and may be overtaken by bigger events, even major wars, who knows? Will Nick Clegg be around to explain to the footballing world why the World Cup was taken away from Russia?
So first we had Mr Putin, then President Putin, then “Putin”, and now you give us “dictator” Putin (“The dictator in his labyrinth”, 26 July). That only leaves “brutal dictator” Putin and we can go after him. I must go and buy shares in arms manufacturers and fracking companies. Oh, and renewing Trident is a shoo-in. Well done, one and all.
Hamas wages a propaganda war
The world, and your publication in particular, seems to have forgotten that Israel is a tiny country surrounded by 300 million Arabs, the majority of whom are pledged to bring about her destruction. Israel is forced to build strong defences and yet, when these work, she is castigated for their success, as if it is unacceptable that Hamas has failed to murder more Israeli civilians.
Hamas know that they cannot win militarily. Their objective is to win the propaganda war, thereby convincing the international community to force Israel to accept their outrageous demands. To win this war they need as high a death count as possible, preferably with hundreds of women and children. That is why they site their missiles in schools, hospitals and heavily populated areas.
The images of Gaza published during the recent lull in Israeli bombardment reminded me of similar photographs you published of Homs after the Syrian bombardment there, also directed at “terrorists”.
The invention and perpetuation of an international “war on terror” has allowed any militaristic regime to justify the most heinous war crimes by simply classifying their intended targets as terrorists, and all innocent victims as regrettable collateral damage.
The Israeli assault on the residents of Gaza was the latest but not the last domino to fall in a long chain of events starting with the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land outside their internationally recognised borders. Until this original offence is corrected there will surely be no end to the succession of action and reaction from both sides in the conflict.
Scottish vote is about democracy
Mary Dejevsky’s piece on 25 July demonstrates yet again that The Independent, fine newspaper that it is, and its columnists, not to mention the English media as a whole, do not seem to understand Scottish politics.
She states that Alex Salmond is the “chief cause of the current tensions” when in fact it is the collapse of Labour in Scotland, a party that has been seen to be taking its orders from Westminster, that has created this situation, or should I say opportunity?
However this is not an election, it is actually a referendum. This is not an approval poll for Alex Salmond or the SNP, it is a referendum on Scottish independence.
Nor is it about romanticism, as cynical English commentators tell us; it’s about democracy and people living in Scotland having the opportunity to elect governments that will actually represent their interests rather than having governments that they did not vote for imposed on them. This is not a fight for the sake of a fight, it’s a struggle for democracy.
I would ask Mary if she could tell us when David Cameron is going to get off the starting blocks in his defence of the Union. The silence is deafening.
As part of the UK, Scotland enjoys full diplomatic representation in 267 embassies and 169 trade offices around the world. In contrast, Alex Salmond’s vision is for an independent Scotland to finance around 70 to 90 embassies and 27 trade offices.
As part of the UK, Scots have a respected voice in the UN Security Council, the G7, G8 and G20. We are seen as one of the big players in the EU, not least because the UK is the second biggest contributor to the EU budget. An independent Scotland would never enjoy the same international clout.
Talk of a fairer Scotland, social inclusion, stopping London Tories from pulling Scotland’s strings, cannot hide the divisive political experiment that the SNP has embarked upon.
Scotland, as we have all come to celebrate in the past few days, is a great country. We have achieved greatness as part of the United Kingdom. We have forged our destiny together with our English, Welsh and Northern Irish neighbours, none of whom want us to go.
The other day I was asked if the comparison between the Greek economy and the Scottish weather would produce a new currency for Scotland called the Dreichma. My response was to say unlikely, for with two fish at the helm, a Salmon(d) and a Sturgeon, it would more likely be chips.
Bring the people to Westminster
Your editorial (28 July) argues that Ed Miliband’s proposal for a public PMQs is “the wrong answer to the right question” of bridging the gap between the public and the political elite, and that it would be difficult to ensure that the selection of “average” citizens for these sessions was truly representative.
I support Ed Miliband’s proposal, but would go further by bringing “the people” into Parliament directly, by introducing Citizen Senators into a reformed and renamed House of Lords, selected by lot as per jury selection.
They would serve one-year terms and be given training. They would compose 50 per cent of the chamber, with the remainder made up of “Expert Senators” selected by an independent appointments system, and “Political Senators” appointed by the party leaders. The bloc of Citizen Senators would be sworn to consider legislation purely on its merit, eschewing political or other bias, much as jurors are sworn to serve justice alone.
This system would have numerous benefits, including maintaining the admirable expertise of the present House of Lords, providing an antidote to the increasing professionalisation of politics and being truly representative.
Chair, Pragmatic Radicalism, Rugby
Sir, Matt Ridley says that a recent Department of Energy and Climate Change report vindicated his claims about the use of sustainable biomass (“Another renewable myth goes up in smoke”, July 28). The report concluded that there is a right way and a wrong way to source biomass — this is why Drax has argued for tough sustainability standards.
The report was clear that sustainably sourced biomass delivers significant carbon savings relative to coal and gas. Better still, there is no shortage of such sustainable biomass. Drax ensures that the biomass it uses is sustainable and delivers real carbon savings. Even after processing and transporting the biomass, we deliver carbon savings of over 80 per cent compared to coal.
What it comes down to is the need for a diverse, affordable energy mix, including gas as Matt Ridley suggests, but also biomass and other renewables, nuclear and clean coal.
Sir, Matt Ridley’s critique of options for future energy supply should have shown why reducing energy demand should be the national priority. The lights then wouldn’t go out, as he warns, because they would be low-energy bulbs made in the UK, lighting highly insulated buildings that had been upgraded by skilled workers, all building resilience into the heart of the UK’s economy.
Sir, Matt Ridley is right about biomass, it is not a genuine renewable. The case for biomass assumes that its growth absorbs the same amount of CO2 produced as when it is burnt. The fact that these two actions occur a decade apart, on different continents and has to be subsidised does not seem to worry the DECC.
Sadly, the downsides as mentioned by Ridley will inevitably come home to roost with the cost of power rising to levels that homes and industry will be unable to afford.
Sir, Matt Ridley overlooks the Cinderella of the energy industry, our gas grid. A typical home uses five times as much gas as electrical energy, and in winter the ratio is even higher. The biggest sources of clean gas are waste and biomass. The electricity produced from these is only 15-30 per cent of their fuel energy whereas they could deliver 70-90 per cent of that as “clean gas”.
Agriculture, as a supplier of biomass, could become a major energy source without jeopardising food production. Instead of being a major source of emissions it could become carbon negative. This could be done much more quickly than the four or more decades Ridley suggests it would take to grow trees.
Sir, DECC’s report actually supports the low-carbon case for biomass. The value of this new biomass calculator is that it helps to draw the boundaries between good and bad practice in terms of carbon savings. World-leading regulations, basic forestry economics and generations of improving forestry best practice all drive a highly sustainable approach to the biomass supply chain. The calculator does not account for these real world factors, and yet still finds that biomass can deliver major carbon savings.
Dr Nina Skorupska
Renewable Energy Association
Sir, Ross Clark’s column (“Falling crime shows we are winning the war on drugs”, July 24) uses good data but draws the wrong conclusions.
The so-called war on drugs has been a failure at every level. After more than 40 years and an estimated $1 trillion spent, it has done nothing to reduce drug supply or demand around the world, not to mention crime. At the same time, as the WHO, UNAids and the Global Commission on Drug Policy have repeatedly shown, the ongoing criminalisation of drug users contributes significantly to the spread of HIV/Aids, hepatitis and other diseases.
No one denies the correlation between illicit drug use and crime, particularly in the case of heroin or crack. However, not even the Home Office study Mr Clark cites links the decline in UK crime rates since 1995 to the ongoing criminalisation of drug use or tougher sentences.
The idea that anyone is advocating a full-scale legalisation of heroin or crack cocaine is a typical straw-man argument. Mr Clark may know that heroin is already available on prescription in the UK. Access needs to be expanded to more users whose health and recovery could benefit from it, but no one is calling for heroin to be legally sold in shops.
Perhaps most importantly, we know from prescription initiatives around the world, including in the UK, that those with access to them commit far fewer crimes. The obvious reason: they don’t have to fundraise to pay the inflated cost of street heroin any more. No one is breaking into homes or robbing people to buy alcohol.
It’s time to get our priorities right. The best way of reducing drug-related crime is to treat drug use as a public health issue. Decriminalisation of drug use, as well as access to treatment, clean needles and harm reduction services are our best options to ensure that acquisitive crime is reduced and people struggling with drug addiction can get back on their feet.
Sir Richard Branson
Commissioner, Global Commission on Drug Policy
Sir, Ed Miliband’s suggestion to create a public Prime Minister’s Questions is misguided (“Miliband and his image problem meet head-on”, July 27). We already have a political system in which MPs are elected to represent our views and concerns.
The representativeness of British politics will not be enhanced by weekly questions posed by people selected by an all-new superstructure of statistically representative selection. Indeed, that is not democracy. Rather, time and effort would be better spent supporting our current system, ensuring that MPs are empowered to represent their constituents, and their constituents are empowered to hold them to account for doing so.
That a potential leader of our country suggested this futile exercise suggests that he misunderstands the foundations of our political system.
Sir, The day after the monsoon weather here in the southeast we suffered a power cut. As this rendered PC, wi-fi and landline unusable I had recourse to a smartphone and entering “electrical outage” I found myself looking at a very helpful website with a comprehensive list of power cuts.
Unfortunately I don’t live in Canada, but congratulations to Hydro Quebec for such an informative site; if only the statutory bodies here in the UK could be as transparent.
Sir, Colonel Richard Kemp (Opinion, July 25) might have looked more closely at the rocket attacks on Britain between June 1944 and March 1945. The V2 rocket took just five minutes from launch to impact. It flew too high and too fast to be tracked and there was no time for any warning. So we had no time “to race terrified to the shelters”. People went to work and children went to school as normal. We did, however, have posters that urged us to “Keep Calm and Carry On”.
Tunbridge Wells, Kent
Fighting the airborne threat in seaside towns
The growing problem of opportunist seagulls
One fell swoop: a seagull steals an egg from a clifftop nest on Inner Farne, Northumberland Photo: GETTY IMAGES
6:58AM BST 29 Jul 2014
SIR – It is time for local authorities in our coastal towns to take emergency measures to control seagull infestation. The problem in east Devon has become serious, and in some Cornish towns it is at crisis level.
People eating food outdoors are the target of regular attacks if birds are nesting on nearby buildings. Sooner or later someone will sustain a serious eye injury or facial damage when these pests swoop in. Children eating ice creams are an easy target and are at high risk of injury.
The destruction of all nests, unless in natural habitats, should be considered as a way of encouraging seagulls back to their natural feeding grounds.
Jeremy R Holt
Swim when you’re winning: Francesca Halsall (centre) proudly shows off her gold medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games Photo: GETY IMAGES
6:59AM BST 29 Jul 2014
SIR – I cheered on all the English swimmers at the Commonwealth Games and was delighted to see Francesca Halsall and Siobhan-Marie O’Connor win gold.
I stood proudly for the English national anthem at the medal ceremony for the latter, expecting to hear “God Save the Queen”. I was astounded and horrified to hear “Jerusalem” being played and called the English national anthem. Why?
Clive R Garston
SIR – The first verse of “Jerusalem” consists of four questions. The answer to each of them is “No”. How then can this be a suitable anthem for anything?
SIR – “God Save the Queen” will always be the national anthem in England, regardless of what the Scots decide in September.
It’s a bit of a West Lothian suggestion for a Scot (Letters, July 28) to suggest that Jerusalem should be our anthem.
Major William Mills (retd)
Coolham, West Sussex
SIR – At the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002, not “Jerusalem” but “Land of Hope and Glory” was played when English athletes won gold medals.
SIR – In the photograph of Laura Trott, the England cycling gold medallist (report, July 28), her cycle helmet bore a Union Jack and not a St George’s Cross.
SIR – Graham Bond (Letters, July 26) asks whether croquet should be included in the Commonwealth Games. Men and women regardless of age compete in croquet and it would fit the Friendly Games’ ethos well.
SIR – While watching the rhythmic gymnastics, I heard the commentator remark: “That was a dangerous routine.” This led me to wonder just how much danger you can have with a hoop.
Dr Michael Sparrow
Fracking and wildlife
SIR – Will the new measures to protect national parks and beautiful views apply to wind turbines as well as fracking?
The overstated risks attached to fracking compare favourably with the actual adverse effects on vistas and wildlife from subsidised wind turbines. Wind turbines are responsible for widespread slaughter of birds and bats.
SIR – What would be the “exceptional circumstances” allowing fracking in a national park?
SIR – This year I have grown a wonderful crop of Charlotte potatoes – plentiful, well-matched in size, clean and healthy.
However, cooking them is a major problem. Before they are half cooked they split open and by the time they are fully cooked they present only as a sad mush.
While strictly speaking edible, they are scarcely presentable in polite society.
Why does this occur and is there any way round this problem?
SIR – Is David Cameron still congratulating himself on encouraging freedom in Libya, where all British nationals are now being told to leave as it is not safe any more?
Where is the next target?
Russia’s World Cup
SIR – Although it is rarely hard to disagree with Nick Clegg, his plea for Russia to lose the right to host the 2018 World Cup may not be without merit.
Had we known the future, would Germany have hosted the 1936 Olympics?
Day’s loss, night’s gain
SIR – I, along with many others, regret that Evan Davis is leaving the “Today” programme. He is audible, informed, articulate, and, unlike others, does not gabble or lose the thread of an argument.
I am sure he will do well as the presenter of “Newsnight”, but I shall miss him.
SIR – Regarding “super ants”, we had many years’ experience of the little devils when we lived in Greece.
These fire ants got everywhere, and particularly into electrical appliances and sockets. Many an evening was spent with no lights due to their chewing through power cables in the walls.
The only sure-fire way of defeating them was Blu-Tac; a thin layer spread around the edges of a socket or switch seemed to keep them at bay. I found it difficult to keep them out of some appliances though, such as the sewing machine or computer.
Fleet of foot
SIR – In this modern, egalitarian age, why do new warships continue to be named after royalty? Times have changed.
Why not name them after well-known public figures? HMS Rooney would ring many bells with a large section of the populace.
Tunbridge Wells, Kent
The shortest way to set the length of shorts
SIR – Shorts (Letters, July 28) should be worn the width of a Woodbine packet above the centre of the knee cap.
West Dean, Wiltshire
SIR – When I was a member of an East Midlands golf club, knee-length shorts were allowed in the summer.
The length was regulated so that, when kneeling, the bottom of the shorts should touch an upright matchbox.
SIR – I am enjoying wearing the shorts I first wore as a midshipman during the Korean War. I would suggest the Royal Navy had it right: one inch above the knee.
SIR – The correct length of a pair of men’s shorts, above or below the knee, depends on the length of the legs from the knee down. Nothing looks worse than long shorts on short legs. The type of footwear also matters, as do the dreadful socks that most men seem loath to leave off.
SIR – I have every sympathy with Patrick Wroe (Letters, July 28) regarding the slippage of his mini socks. The only elegant way to deal with this problem is not to wear any socks at all. Lightly cream your feet the first few times before you bravely thrust them bare into your sandals, trainers or leisure shoes. You will look and feel good and save on laundry costs.
Bourne End, Buckinghamshire
SIR – Shorts of any length, outside a sporting context, are an abomination.
SIR – Does a gentleman wear shorts?
SIR – I agree with the proposition that voting for Ukip increases the chances of Ed Miliband gaining access to Downing Street almost by default (report, July 28). This is caused by the idiosyncrasies of our first-past-the-post voting system and the bias of the constituency system in favour of the Labour Party.
Surely, however, a Labour majority built on perhaps less than 35 per cent of the popular vote would not carry any meaningful legitimacy – certainly not for any kind of radical programme.
Yet a vote for the Conservatives is a vote for the tired and worn-out status quo. I don’t find either prospect appealing.
SIR – It seems odd to me that Labour is making it known that if Ukip gains enough seats, Labour will win the next general election. Must it rely on a third party to remove seats from their main opponent?
Considering the damage that Ukip has done to the Conservatives’ EU plans without a single seat in Parliament, does Labour really want to enter a new Parliament with Ukip holding multiple seats and Nigel Farage grinning like a fox from the back benches?
SIR – The main policy of Ukip is for Britain to leave the EU. This can only be achieved through a referendum.
A referendum requires appropriate legislation. That requires a vote in the House of Commons. The only party which will deliver it is the Conservative Party. Hence all Ukip supporters must vote Conservative for the Ukip policy to prevail. Simple logic, really.
Dr Peter L Kolker
SIR – In a true democracy, the essential feature of elections should be that people vote for those who represent the principles and policies in which they believe, not that they should vote in a negative or so-called tactical manner.
If one wishes Britain to be an independent sovereign state, then vote Ukip. If not, then there are three other parties to choose from, all of which are willing to see the country become a province of a single European state run from Brussels.
Do not vote for a party merely to keep another out, but because you wish it to win.
SIR – The most depressing thing about yesterday’s headline, “Ukip may hand keys of No 10 to Miliband” is that such scare stories risk saddling us with the current Labour-Tory duopoly for ever more because folk will be afraid to vote for anything else.
What a dreadful thought!
Darley Abbey, Derbyshire
A chara, – I am baffled by your editorial (July 29th). It appears to be an ongoing phenomenon with the media and the Government here that nobody can actually be critical of Israel alone. What is the difficulty? The roughly 1,100 dead in Gaza, the vast majority of them innocent men, women and children, are constantly equated with the 51 Israeli soldiers killed in combat. The ongoing demolition of houses, hospitals and schools is constantly equated with warning sirens going off in some cities in Israel. Why?
Many of us expect our nodding, forelock-tugging Government to react as instructed by the US and the EU – the recent UN vote being a clear indication of that.
Why can our media not show us photographs of those sunbathing on Israeli beaches side by side with the photographs of the bombed beaches in Gaza where children have been massacred? Why not show us the photographs of Israelis cheering the bombing of Gaza from hilltops side by side with the photographs of the Gazans screaming with sorrow and pain after their families are wiped out?
When will our media cannot speak out? Why do The Irish Times and other newspapers, as well as telvision networks, tread an imaginary line of equality through this massacre? There is no doubt that there should be fairness in the media coverage of Gaza but that fairness of coverage is being constantly translated as equality of coverage. There is nothing equal about what is happening in Gaza and Israel. It is time for the media to stand up and call it as it is. – Is mise,
Sir, – Eugene Tannam berates the long list of eminent signatories who criticised Israel (July 28th) with the sentence “It’s called balance.” Did he miss the irony that the lack of balance in the response of Israel to Hamas is the biggest point being made? Balance cannot be achieved where one side is so much more powerful. The UN should be handed control of Gaza before any more children die. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The images published by the Israeli embassy using the statue of Molly Malone would seem to be at odds with Irish values and perhaps the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act, 1989 if the intention was to incite anti-Muslim sentiment here.
Foreign diplomats may enjoy diplomatic immunity but are they welcome to spread division and prejudice in Ireland? And how do these images represent those Israelis who do not see Muslims as the enemy, not to mention the 20 per cent or so of Israel’s population that is Arab and Muslim itself? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The Minister for Foreign Affairs believes Israel has been “demonised” by an Irish media, “enslaved” to the Palestinian cause. Perhaps he should also consider the international media and, in particular, the journalists of Palestine.
The International Federation of Journalists (which also represents some of the media of “demonised” Israel) records that four journalists have been killed in suspicious circumstances by the Israeli Defence Forces.
In addition, the offices of the National Media agency and those of Wattan radio station have been destroyed while bullets were fired at the offices of Aljazeera TV and staff were forced to evacuate.
On the night of July 28/29th an Israeli air strike destroyed the Hamas-run Al-Aqsa television and radio building in central Gaza City. Israel already has full access to the airwaves of this tiny enclave. Why does it need to silence other voices?
The dead journalists mentioned by the IFJ include Hamid Shehab, who worked for 24 Media (an independent Palestinian news agency) and was killed in his car by a rocket in the Gaza Strip area on the night of July 9th. The car was parked outside Shehab’s house and it was clearly marked as a press vehicle. Also killed were Mohammed Smirir of the Gaza Now website, Khaled Hamed of the Ray News Agency and Abdurrahman Abu Hina of Alkitab TV.
The Minister is a humane man and I suspect he wants to atone for Irish anti-Semitism. But you don’t do that by papering over possible Israeli criminality. All you do is create more anguish and more death.
The Minister is on record as saying “the truth must be told”. Who is going to tell the Gazan part of that truth without people like Hamid Shehab? Yours, etc,
Sir, – I believe that as long as the USA continues to give unqualified political and financial support to Israel there can never be a permanent solution to the Palestinian problem, of which the present pernicious eruption is merely a sympton.
Time for Barack Obama to earn his undeserved Nobel Peace prize. Yours, etc,
Sir, – The efforts of UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon to broker a ceasefire in Gaza have been thwarted by what he describes as “a lack of political will”.
How much carnage must the civilian population of Gaza endure before world political leaders muster the courage to cry halt to this senseless slaughter, and insist that Israel honours its obligations under international law?
This is not a time for political niceties.The people of Gaza, already traumatised, are now trapped in appalling living conditions with no immediate prospect of escape from blockade or bombardment. Where is our compassion as a global community for their plight? Could it be that in the eyes of many, the people of Gaza simply fall into the category of, “those human beings who do not count”? Yours, etc,
A chara, – I am amazed by newly appointed Minister Heather Humphreys’s widely reported comments that the upcoming 1916 commemorations belong to everyone. They do not!
The Easter Rising “belongs” to those people who subscribe to the principles of the proclamation, who are republicans, and who agree with the decision to stage an armed revolution to achieve those principles. If you do not – and many people choose not to subscribe to the foregoing – then it’s patently obvious that the commemoration of the Easter Rising does not belong to you.
Ms Humpreys is, like a growing number of public figures, engaged in manipulating our history in order to dilute its message and meaning, which still prove uncomfortable and challenging.
We would do well to monitor carefully the proposed commemorations for 1916 as it is obvious that in the hands of this shameful Government, with its imperial allegiances, the commemorations will be downgraded and abused. Is mise le meas,
Sir, – The new 68c stamp commemorating the first World War features a recruitment poster picturing John Redmond with the message: “Your first duty is to take your part in ending the war – John Redmond, Waterford 23/08/1915”. Surely the views on the war of another Irish leader of the period also deserve such recognition. The relevant quotation is a bit long but perhaps it could be accommodated to postage stamp size: “Heroism has come back to earth. The old heart of the earth needed to be warmed with the red wine of the battlefields. Such august homage was never before offered to God as this, the homage of millions of lives gladly given for love of country. – Padraig Pearse, Dublin 04/12/1915.” – Yours, etc,
Upper Fitzwilliam Street,
Sir, – It is now more than 10 years since Martin Cullen TD abolished Dúchas, the Heritage Service. Our national and built monuments are not adequately protected. When I questioned the OPW decision to allow filming on Skellig Michael, a general response was “it’s about jobs”. In the deep recession of the ’80s the OPW partnered with private agencies and owners to train young people in heritage protection and craft skills (stonework, wood-carving and preservation). These were jobs and skills geared toward protecting and conserving our heritage.
In the 10 years since the abolition of Dúchas, 39 sites in Tara were demolished to facilitate the M3 toll road. There are robberies of stunning stonework and the job of Dúchas has been divided between the Department of the Environment and the OPW.
Heritage is not adequately protected. We are not training the young in conservation techniques and we have no statutory agency for protecting our natural and built heritage. There are jobs in protecting our fragile heritage infrastructure in the long term: people require skills training.
The Hollywood machine is a temporary thing. Where is the long view on jobs, on awareness and on stewardship in Ireland?
It is the job of the Minister to propose a far-sighted agenda for the work of the divided heritage agency, and yet I have seen no comment or response to the OPW decision on Skeilig from her office. We are used to disgraceful decisions affecting our environment in Ireland. Why should we be surprised now? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Well done to Chris Johns for his excellent article (July 29th) highlighting the ESRI report that confirms that income inequality in Ireland is less than in many other EU countries. This is a welcome retort to the hysteria from left-wingers who speak of the need to tackle income inequality as if Ireland was run like a 19th century laissez faire economy.
It is seldom argued in Ireland that income inequality is in itself not necessarily a bad thing. Equality of opportunity rather than equality of outcome is rarely the refrain of public debate. Those on the left, and some who claim to be on the right, who wish to take even more from hardworking people’s wages will never understand that income tax is not their money.
The need to balance social welfare and tax policy remains a challenge. Why is someone who is laid off after working for 20 years receiving, in relative terms, similar welfare benefits to someone who has rarely if ever worked? What Ireland urgently needs is an individual benefits voucher system that rewards hard working people and encourages others off long-term welfare. Yours, etc,
Sir, – Talk of reducing the burden on low and middle income taxpayers through reducing the top rate of tax seems dreadfully short-sighted. Last year we had a deficit of €11 billion, so talk of tax cuts seems premature. A fairer way to help those on middle and low incomes would be to increase both tax credits for those paying the lower rate of tax and to raise the threshold at which the higher rate is applied. Finally, there may be scope to increase social security contributions from employers and employees. In 2012 social security contributions made up 14 per cent of GDP in the EU and 5.8 per cent in Ireland. Yours, etc,
Vale View Grove,
Sir, – Maeve Halpin’s bemoaning of the capacity of the judiciary to curb abuses of power (Letters, July 29th) is like the driver of a Rolls Royce complaining about the air conditioning.
There are countless examples of where the good and the great have in recent years been dealt with appropriately by the law. It may not always have been in the vengeful way that is desired by the general populace but rather in the way allowed for by law and overseen by a truly independent and balanced judiciary.
Examples can always be quoted where the results did not sate the howling masses, but the law is about justice, not emotion. Our judicial system is among the finest in the world but like a lot of great things in this country, we still like to moan about it. Yours, etc,
Sir, – As I approached a lengthy queue at passport control in Dublin airport last evening I asked about using the advertised self-service passport control facility. I was told that “self-service closes at five”. Does DAA /Department of Justice employ a different definition of self-service from the rest of us? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – It has been a while since I read a piece of writing that made me feel proud to be Irish. What a warm and generous tribute Dr Eckhard Lübkemeier (Opinion & Analysis, July 28th), departing German ambassador to Ireland, paid to the country he called home for the past three years. I would like to give him my very best wishes for his future, wherever it may take him. Auf Wiedersehen. – Yours, etc,
* C Bowman (July 29) is right about the one-state solution, although probably not in the way he intended.
He asks that if Palestinians and Israelis claim they can live in peace in two states, then why can’t they live in peace in one. But he should know that they can’t because Hamas‘s explicit goal is still to get rid of Israel and kill all its citizens, not just the Jewish ones but the Muslim and Christian ‘collaborator’ ones, too. Hamas do not want to live in peace with any non-Muslim people anywhere and want to create a medieval Sharia Islamic state. How can you ever have a rational debate with people who have that aim as their starting point? Israel is the perfect deflection for when the Palestinian leadership want to divert attention from their own corruption and failings, despite the hundreds of millions provided to them, to provide even the most basic social services.
Even the IRA at the height of its terrorist campaign wasn’t going to murder all Protestants if it gained control of Northern Ireland. Even if Israel agreed to the 1967 borders it had before it was again invaded by Arab armies, Gaza and The West Bank will never make an economically viable state. The real tragedy for the Palestinians is that by the world continuing to pander to such a myth, they keep them living in their self-created ghettos across the Arab world even longer, while it is Arab states who refuse to grant Palestinians, even those born in those countries, citizenship.
The one-state solution is easy but it takes guts to point it out. That one state should be Israel.
There is no difference between a Palestinian and a Jordanian, so the West Bank should become part of Jordan and Gaza should become part of Egypt, with all the Palestinians being given a choice as to which state they want to live in and granted full citizenship in those states within a federal structure. The West and oil-rich Arab states can stump up the cost of paying for repatriation and setting up new communities with sustainable employment, that is if most of it isn’t siphoned off through corruption. Jordan and Egypt can sign a peace treaty with Israel, fixing the 1967 borders and ratified by the UN.
Radical yes, but more realistic and credible than any current efforts to force a Palestinian state that will never last, due to corruption, economic viability and inter-Muslim violence, into being.
CANARY WHARF, LONDON
BOYCOTT ISRAEL UNTIL SIEGE LIFTED
* Now is the time to let Israel know that a complete boycott of Israel might not stop until the siege of Gaza is lifted – all goods, and contact of all description should stop. Now.
WHERE IS COMPASSION TO PLIGHT?
* The efforts of UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon to broker a ceasefire in Gaza have been thwarted by what he describes as “a lack of political will”. How much carnage must the civilian population of Gaza endure before world political leaders muster the courage to cry halt to this senseless slaughter, and insist that Israel desists from its practice of collective punishment of the civilian population, and honours its obligations under international law? The people of Gaza are now trapped in appalling living conditions. Where is our compassion as a global community for their plight? Could it be that in the eyes of many world leaders the people of Gaza simply fall into the category of ‘those human beings who do not count’?
RAHEENROCHE, DUNGARVAN, CO KILKENNY
DISMAYED BY ABORTION STANCE
* I was dismayed to read your article by Deirdre Conroy (25/7/14) deploring the lack of abortion services in Ireland. She stated that we believe it is wrong to impose inhumane and degrading treatment on any human being.
While I could not agree more with this statement, I am finding it a little difficult to see how the unborn child fails to meet with the above criteria.
Perhaps Ms Conroy would like to explain?
FOSTER COURT, GALWAY
REAPPRAISE LEGACY OF ASGARD
* The bringing of arms by the Asgard and the 1916 uprising should be appraised from different viewpoints. When this is done, violence will be seen as a zero sum game. We are all interdependent and there cannot be a mutual gain from violence. John Donne said “Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee”. Those who glamorise violence are telling a lie and that lie can only be maintained by more violence or the threat of violence. The legacy of 1916 is poverty and emigration and the shameful neutrality in WW2 when the West was fighting for human rights against the greatest evil that ever existed in the world.
BARRINGTON STREET, LIMERICK
IMPORTANT TO LIVE LIFE TO THE FULL
* Geraldine Lynagh’s “Top tips to achieve a longer life” (Independent, July 28) reminded me of the story of the man who visited his doctor for advice about living to the ripe old age of 100 years.
“Well,” replied the doctor, “go to bed every night at 8pm, give up the drink and the cigarettes, eat only food that is good for you rather than food you enjoy, avoid any activity that might excite you and resist the temptations of the flesh.”
“If I follow your advice and do everything you recommend,” inquired the patient, “will I live for 100yrs?”
“I can’t guarantee that,” replied the doctor, “but it will certainly feel like you have!”
It’s far more important to live life to the full and make the most of every day as we act out Shakespeare’s seven stages of life. Then we’ll have no regrets when it’s time to get off the stage. Carpe Diem!
SPA, TRALEE, CO KERRY
URGE OBAMA TO END ‘MADNESS’
* As Taoiseach, Enda Kenny I appeal to you, make contact with President Obama and other world leaders with regard to this madness (killing of children in Gaza conflict). Remember “the only way for evil to continue is for good men to do nothing”.
BRIAN MC DEVITT,
ARDCONNAILL, GLENTIES, CO DONEGAL
NCT TESTS MORALLY DISHONEST
* We read in your newspaper (July 28) that the NCT organisation is to be more amenable towards motorists booking their cars in for a test. Isn’t it just a pity that they would not address the practice of backdating the test to the anniversary of first registration? This practice is there for the sole purpose of maximising the revenue from every car over four years old. No allowance is made for cars that may be genuinely off the road for long periods. In the UK the MOT cert is given for a full 12 months from the date tested, not backdated.
Brussels only dictated that cars be tested every two years or one year depending on age and did not stipulate back-to-back dating of tests. I know this as I complained to the Commissioner for Transport last year. He determined that the Irish Government was not doing anything illegal.
Illegal, maybe not, but morally dishonest, yes.
COALPARK, CLONBUR, CO GALWAY