Doctor

5 September 2014 Doctor

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A warmish day. I get my hair done and go to see my GP about my ears. She prescribes some anti-biotics and I can get them tomorrow.

Mary’s back not much better today, pie for tea and her back pain is still there.

Obituary:

Gabriel Kolko – obituary

Gabriel Kolko was a Marxist historian who denounced America for imperialism but eventually accepted that socialism had failed

Gabriel Kolko: he praised the Vietnamese Communists

Gabriel Kolko: he praised the Vietnamese Communists

6:48PM BST 03 Sep 2014

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GABRIEL KOLKO, who has died aged 81, was a Marxist historian whose often persuasive criticisms of American foreign policy tended to be undermined by his blatant partisanship.

Kolko made a name for himself in the 1960s as a revisionist historian, laying the blame for the Cold War on an all-consuming post-war American drive to impose its economic and political order on the world. In books such as The Politics of War (1968), The Limits of Power (written with his wife, Joyce, in 1972) and Confronting the Third World (1988), Kolko presented the United States as the “major inheritor” of the mantle of imperialism in the modern age, pursuing an agenda that prodded “the political destinies of distant places to evolve in a manner beneficial to American… interests” — policies which, in the long run, were detrimental to those interests.

In case studies of United States policies toward such countries as Chile, Brazil, Nicaragua, Cuba, Iran and the Philippines, Kolko argued that America cared little about political democracy and equitable economic development. Rather, it had consistently pushed political stability, frequently supporting brutal repression, if necessary, to keep local radicals under control. It also pursued economic policies that would enable American business to operate as freely as possible — effectively turning developing countries into plantations for an integrated, US-dominated capitalist world economy. That such policies often devastated local networks concerned few in Washington.

Along the way, Kolko provided strong documentary evidence for his claim that American interventions had rarely been prompted by a fear of communism or even the threat of expanding Soviet influence. Instead they generally reflected the fear that nationalist leaders would restrict US business opportunities.

However, the US was never capable of attaining the world order it idealised. Some of the tyrants it supported in the 1980s — Saddam Hussein in the Iraq-Iran war of 1980-87, and the fundamentalist Mujahideen against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s — subsequently became its enemies, helping to fuel the Islamic terrorist “nightmare”. Others were simply venal and unreliable — Marcos in the Philippines or Suharto in Indonesia.

Such folly was not an American monopoly, Kolko conceded, but while others had gained insights from the calamities that had befallen them in recent history, the US had not. The problem was Washington’s consistent over-optimism about the efficacy of its technology and firepower: “Resistance to learning when grave errors have been committed is almost proportionate to the resources available to repeat them,” he observed. A paradox of the modern era, Kolko argued, was that, at a time when America had never been more militarily powerful, it had never felt less secure.

While many historians would probably agree with some of this analysis, Kolko tended to undermine his own case by his failure to acknowledge American foreign policy successes (within the exploitative framework Kolko described, countries such as South Korea, Malaysia and Taiwan became important manufacturing centres), and his failure to recognise fault in America’s enemies. In The Politics of War, for example, he acknowledged the massacre of some 22,000 Polish officers at Katyn as historical fact, but described it as “the exception’’ to Soviet conduct (even assuming the Soviets were responsible), somehow ignoring the millions of other victims of Stalinism.

His pro-communism was, perhaps, seen most clearly in his Anatomy of a War (1986), a critique of America’s involvement in Vietnam in which he presented the Vietnamese Communist Party as an almost saintly cadre whose “remarkable and often unique efforts on behalf of a revolutionary morality and personal socialist values” were inspired by a “unique vision of a humanistic Marxism-Leninism”.

One of the worst atrocities of the war, the massacre of some 2,800 “counter-revolutionary elements” during the Communists’ 25-day occupation of Hue in 1968, was nowhere mentioned. Nor was there any allusion to the imprisonment of tens of thousands of former South Vietnamese soldiers, officials, and political and religious leaders after the Communist victory in 1975.

As one critic observed: “One does not have to believe that the United States came away from Vietnam with clean hands to understand the meaning of a million-and-a-half refugees, or to see that today Vietnam is one of the world’s most frightening police states.”

Amusingly, in 1997 Kolko turned on his former heroes in Vietnam: Anatomy of a Peace, in which he argued that market capitalism, foisted on the Vietnamese by the US-dominated World Bank and IMF (but with the consent of the dominant group within the Communist politburo), had nullified all the heroic efforts of the Vietnamese people to liberate themselves. American-style capitalism had shattered the agrarian economy of the country, made wage slaves of the urban workers and concentrated power and wealth in the hands of a mostly corrupt elite. The “surrender” of the party of Ho Chi Minh to the “free market”, he saw as a gross betrayal. “His disillusion is understandable,” observed a critic, “but the need to internationalise a war-ruined country was desperate.”

The son of two teachers, Gabriel Morris Kolko was born on August 17 1932 in Paterson, New Jersey. After studying American Social and Economic History at Kent State University and the University of Wisconsin, he took a PhD at Harvard in 1962.

After leaving Harvard, he joined the University of Pennsylvania, where he became active in the Committee to End the War in Vietnam (CEWV) and later participated in the private tribunal organised by Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre to investigate American “war crimes” in Vietnam. In the mid-1960s — after he discovered that scientists at the university were engaged in secret chemical and biological warfare research on behalf of the US Department of Defense — he brought the issue to the attention of the media and organised protests, with the result that the university froze his salary and removed his privileges as a faculty member, forcing him to leave.

Kolko first became known in academic circles for two books, The Triumph of Conservatism: A Reinterpretation of American History, 1900-1916 (1963) and Railroads and Regulation, 1877-1916 (1965), in which he challenged the standard view that the so-called “progressive era” of the early 20th century had been a time when government regulators had cracked down on freewheeling big business. In fact, he argued, it was big business which pressed for, and got, regulation to shield itself from upstart competitors. This policy of “corporate control of the liberal agenda” had shaped American social, economic and political life ever since.

After a brief period at what is now the University of Buffalo, in 1970 Kolko moved to York University in Toronto, Canada, where he taught until his retirement. In 1973 he and his wife, Joyce, were in Da Nang as guests of the North Vietnamese when Saigon fell, and they were invited to announce the event to the local population over the radio in French.

In later books such as After Socialism (2006), The Age of War (2006) and World in Crisis (2009), Kolko admitted that the cause he had supported all his life had been a failure: “After Stalin, Mao and Blair,” he wrote, “socialism is today irreversibly dead… but capitalist theories are no less erroneous and irrelevant, and the failure of all concepts, of all stripes, makes the task of reconstructing social thought even more daunting just as our reality makes it even more essential.”

In 1992 Kolko and Joyce moved to Amsterdam, where she died in 2012.

Gabriel Kolko, born August 17 1932, died May 19 2014

Guardian:

Brooks Newmark comments on charities Brooks Newmark. ‘If the minister were to read about Madame Defarge and the tricoteuses in A Tale of Two Cities, he might wish to rephrase his advice to charities,’ writes Peter Grant. Photograph: PA

A period of silence from the new minister for civil society would be appreciated while he studies a little history of the charity sector (Stick to your knitting, minister tells campaigning charities, 4 September). The great Victorian founders of Barnardos, the Children’s Society and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, for example, began by providing homes for children but soon realised that they must engage with public and political opinion if millions of their beneficiaries were to be free from the effects of untrammeled parents’ rights to maltreat children. For countless other charities, likewise, non-party political activity has been an essential part of pursuing their charitable objects. One cannot defeat poverty by practical projects alone. One cannot protect the environment for future generations by dry-stone walling and tidying up litter alone.

His advisers might tip off the minister that churches, traditional nurseries of all sorts of moral and political campaigns, are also charities. He may have difficulty persuading the pope and Cardinal Nichols to keep quiet about the Catholic social teaching, or the archbishop of Canterbury to keep quiet about payday loans or the agonies of Sudan. Another tip is that many charities are not about “helping people” but concentrate on activities ranging from animal welfare, the arts, conservation, education and public health, to many of which campaigning is key. Would the minister like a country without national parks and green belts, with thick pea soupers in London carrying off thousands of people with breathing problems, women at the kitchen sink with no legal rights, homosexuals jailed, little boys climbing chimneys? If only all those charities had stuck to their knitting. Political activity is more than the grudgingly acknowledged “right” of charities. It has been and remains an essential part of their formidable contribution to our democracy and collective life.
Andrew Purkis
London

My charity knitting began in the 1990s, helping people who could not afford their poll tax. Around 5,000 people were sent to prison by the magistrates for non-payment. Over 1,000 of those imprisonments were found to be unlawful by the high court. Cases which included a couple in their 80s, who were incontinent in court, and a single mother who owed only £20. Then a vicar in the Chilterns, and chair of a charity, I attacked the Tory government for introducing such flagrantly unjust laws. That rang a bell in the mind of Michael Heseltine, a nearby Conservative MP for Henley on Thames until 2001, who set about abolishing the dreaded tax. Long may charity knitting involve telling the uncomfortable truth to power.
Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty

Of course the government wants to put in place measures designed to stop charities rocking the boat. The majority of charities need to lobby and campaign on behalf of those they represent, and would not be doing their job if they didn’t. Perhaps Mr Newmark has forgotten we are supposed to be a democracy, and the public is entitled to have its say about government policies. Mr Newmark’s government can’t have it both ways, expecting charities to fill in where government has failed to make vital provision for those that need help in society, and trying at the same time to silence legitimate criticism. This is not a good start for someone whose post is called civic society minister.
Dawn Penman
Kempsford, Gloucestershire

The voluntary project with which I am associated In Glasgow does distribute garments which supporters knit for us. They are needed because wealthy and distant politicians impose policies which, as the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows, mean some families can not afford essential items like clothes. It is our moral duty to expose and oppose these political decisions.
Bob Holman
Glasgow

The minister appears to assume that knitting is always an apolitical activity. He is clearly unaware of the event organised by CND and Wool against Weapons on 9 August. A seven-mile knitted scarf, made by knitting peace activists, was unfurled between the atomic weapons establishments at Aldermaston and Burghfield, in protest against nuclear weapons and the renewal of Trident.
Jeanie Molyneux
Newcastle upon Tyne

Surely politics has always been about the balance between power and morality, whatever the party.
Sylvia Ayling
Woodford Green, Essex

If Brooks Newmark were to read about Madame Defarge and the tricoteuses in A Tale of Two Cities, he might wish to rephrase his advice to charities.
Peter Grant
Oxford

UK and Scotland flags Is a federal Britain the solution to keeping the United Kingdom united? Photograph: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images

There may be one way of keeping Scotland in the UK (PM is urged to delay 2015 election if Scotland says yes to independence, 4 September). The government should immediately commit to transforming Britain into a federal state.

For reasons of equity, balanced economic development and democracy, it would need to be a federal state constituted of England’s regions (the north, the Midlands, the south-west etc) as well as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It would also need to be a state underpinned by a written constitution. With constitutionally guaranteed powers to drive economic development, protect health and social services, control education, deliver more skilled, better paid and secure jobs etc, the British nations and English regions would be protected from the ravages of Westminster-imposed neoliberalism of which “austerity” is just the most recent manifestation. If the Scots vote for independence, it will be because they are fed up with the economic and social dispossession that they – and the majority of the British people – have suffered at the hands of Westminster governments since the 1970s, irrespective of the party in office.

A federal state, along the lines of Germany or Canada, just might keep Scotland as part of Britain.
Jeffrey Henderson
Professor of international development, University of Bristol

• With the Scottish referendum approaching and the yes vote close to parity, where, one wonders, is the voice for the rest of the UK? Where is the leadership that might guide voters of both persuasions on the real and long-terms benefits of union? In a report on the Scottish referendum on Radio 4 in which David Cameron was interviewed by Nick Robinson, the prime minister responded to questions by asking (no doubt, rhetorically), “What more could I do?”

There is a widely held view that the political system across the whole of the UK is stagnant and in need of refreshment. As usual, it is the Scots who show us the way.

Instead of threatening and bullying them on issues such as currency and jobs, the national government could embrace the concept of autonomy, not just for Scotland but for Wales, England and Northern Ireland. After all, there are many parts of the UK other than Scotland who bitterly resent the remote control from Westminster, especially when it is Tory-led. A federal structure under the umbrella of a national assembly to deal with overarching issues such as defence and currency, would revitalise politics across the UK.

What is required of government, and the prime minister in particular, is a vision for a future United Kingdom. If the Scots can see a state that gives them the degree of autonomy they crave, but with the benefits of union, they are more likely to vote no, and the remainder of the UK would benefit too.
Michael Wrigley
Bath

• In the light of the confusion about currency and EU membership in the event of a yes vote (Scotland could not join the EU without deal on the pound, 3 September) might the SNP and UK government consider “a Jersey solution” ?

Jersey is a Crown possession with the Queen as head but is a completely self-governing democracy with its own financial, fiscal and legal systems. It uses the UK pound but issues its own currency notes on a par basis with the pound. UK notes are legal tender in Jersey but Jersey notes are not legal tender in the UK. Jersey is not a member of the EU but is in the EU Customs Union and enjoys free movement of goods within the EU. There are no border controls between the island and the UK. The only direct involvement of the UK government is responsibility for Jersey’s defence. Not a wholly ideal solution, perhaps, but a compromise that might provide Scotland and the UK with a good deal of what each is arguing for.
Alan Fowler 
Winchester

Network Rail logo on jacket Money to Network Rail is ‘invested to maintain, enhance and improve the network for rail users’. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA

Money to Network Rail is not, as Aditya Chakrabortty claims (We’re all victims of the Great British Railway Rake-Off, 2 September), a “subsidy … handed over to the train operators”, but is invested to maintain, enhance and improve the network for rail users. Spending not only benefits passengers but the entire country, with the industry enhancing productivity by £10.2bn a year, according to consultants Oxera. It also found the railway and its supply chain pay £3.9bn a year in tax, offsetting nearly all of the £4bn the government provides to support train operations. While train operator profits have fallen in real terms from £270m in 1997-98 to £250m in 2012-13, representing a 3% margin, over the same period money paid by operators to government to reinvest in services has increased fivefold from £390m to £1.96bn.

While we know we must keep improving and driving up the quality of services, our railway is far from being a “mess”. Britain’s unique partnership between the private and public sectors in rail has helped create a renaissance in train travel. While other European countries have also invested heavily in their railways, they do not benefit from the same vibrant rail market and so do not come close to matching GB rail’s success over the last decade and a half, which has seen our railway transformed into Europe’s safest and fastest-growing network.
Michael Roberts
Director general, Rail Delivery Group (representing Network Rail and rail operators)

• Aditya Chakrabortty writes that Network Rail’s accumulation of debt has allowed train operating companies to make huge profits, citing earnings of £2.47 per £1 invested. It is widely recognised that measuring return on capital employed is misleading for asset-light companies such as train operating companies (which primarily lease their rolling stock and, indeed, invest small amounts in tangible assets). More informative is the operating margin that such companies earn: on average, 3% for TOCs in 2012-13. This would not be considered “huge profits” by any standards. Furthermore, Mr Chakrabortty’s argument that each Briton is £539 worse off as a result of the reclassification of Network Rail fails to take account of the other half of the balance sheet – Network Rail’s debt stands at around 65%-70% of its regulated asset base (itself an understatement as a result of historical adjustments). If Mr Chakrabortty were given £100 and told he had to repay £70, would he feel worse off?
Christopher Davis
London

We feel as if we are living in a military state here, with warships in Cardiff Bay and armed police on the streets patrolling steel fences, and gates across the high street to defend Cardiff Castle (Report, 4 September). President Obama flew in from Estonia having promised the Baltic states a blank cheque. How could a Labour government in Wales countenance this? Nato powers are discredited by invading Iraq without a UN resolution and without waiting for the UN weapons inspectors to finish their task, in stark contrast with their unqualified support for the oil-rich Sunni tyranny in Saudi Arabia that has aided and abetted jihadists in Syria. The only way to tackle the grave threat to world peace posed by Islamic State is through the UN, by putting Nato forces at the disposal of a UN peacekeeping force. The end of the Nato threat to Russia’s Black Sea fleet in Crimea would make it possible for western and eastern Europe to work together for peace in the Middle East, where we continue to pick up the pieces from the first world war one hundred years on. Britain’s future security lies in a united Europe, not in clinging to the coat tails of empire as the 51st state.
Margaret Phelps
Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan

BBC Trust Rona Fairhead has been appointed to chair the BBC Trust. Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian

It may surprise you to know that, contrary to the impression given in your editorial (1 September), Rona Fairhead’s nomination as chair of the BBC Trust followed a fair and open competition, which met the requirements of my published code of practice on public appointments. There was no “obscure” appointment process. The post was advertised in the national press. We were open about the process, the timetable and the membership of the appointments panel. Anyone who wanted could get hold of the detailed requirements of the role. From the day of advertising to the announcement of the outcome took just over three months, not unusual for an appointment of this importance. The panel was chaired by one of my public appointments assessors, not by Jeremy Heywood. The assessor’s role throughout was to ensure the panel ignored the noises-off in the media and to judge the candidates against the published criteria. The appointment was characterised by a high degree of media speculation, most of it inaccurate, about who was in the frame. Rona Fairhead won this process fair and square. Not because she was a woman. Not because she is a crony. But because she was judged by an independent panel and then by the secretary of state and the prime minister to be an excellent candidate for the job.
David Normington
Commissioner for Public Appointments

• Why are MPs questioning what made Cambridge-educated Rona Fairhead suitable to head the BBC Trust?
Colin Adkins
Wrexham

• When Philip Davies MP asks whether Rona Fairhead got the job because she is a woman, is he running scared of Ukip? Or does he genuinely want to limit opportunities for women?
Robin Pye
Manchester

Man in shower Now you know where you can stick that shower gel. Photograph: Alija/Getty Images

The Eyewitness photograph (2 September) is wonderful. Why can I not produce results as good? This is a request that you publish more details (equipment, lens, shutter speed). It would be a great help to those of us struggling to get good photographs.
David Hurry
Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex

• It’s some 30 years since I heard Phil Boorman introduce the terms nearly fractions and really fractions to a meeting of teachers of mathematics in Bristol (In praise of… fractions, 2 September). Phil showed us how to use paper-folding exercises to develop the understanding that, although sometimes nearly fractions were quite good enough, there were times when really fractions were critical to the achievement of a satisfactory result.
John Chatley
Wellingborough, Northamptonshire

• John Dugdale (The week in books, Review, 30 August) asks if it is “possible to pick out a Man Booker winner purely because of the brilliance of their first sentence”? If that were true, then Anthony Burgess should have romped home with the prize for his shortlisted novel Earthly Powers in 1980: “It was the afternoon of my 81st birthday, and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me.” Sadly, Burgess never did win the Booker.
Mike Sharrocks
Reading

• “Feisty” (Letters, 2 September) is a particularly inappropriate term to use about anyone, given that its original meaning is to fart a lot.
Iain Macniven
Glasgow

• Living in the countryside, we observe at close quarters a variety of wildlife brought in by our cat. This is where a whisky tube comes in very handy (Letters, 3 September; once cornered, mousie will gladly take refuge in the tube, which can then be up-ended so that the creature can be transported to the garden and released for a second chance.
Christine Grove
Wrenbury, Cheshire

• You could use one to enclose a gift; shower gel, say. My husband received one such present and his disappointment was palpable.
Jane McDermott
Falmouth, Cornwall

Independent:

Professor Alexis Jay’s report on child sexual exploitation in Rotherham has been met with an array of trite responses. Some commentators have placed undue emphasis on the fact that child sexual exploitation happens in all communities, obfuscating the fact that offenders of Pakistani origin are over-represented in this specific form of child sexual exploitation (on-street grooming).

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre’s 2011 report, Out of Sight, Out of Mind, researched 2,379 potential offenders caught grooming girls since 2008. Of 940 suspects whose race could be identified, 26 per cent were Asian (almost all of Pakistani origin), 38 per cent were white, and 32 per cent were recorded as unknown. According to the Office of National Statistics, only 6 per cent of the English population is classed as Asian.

We must face up to the cultural, racial and even religious specifics in these crimes. The “double life” syndrome of some men in Pakistani communities cannot be ignored. At the more benign end of the scale, young people will have secret boyfriends and girlfriends, yet display a more pious image in front of their families. The sort of reprehensible conduct we have seen in towns like Rotherham, Rochdale and Oxford is an extreme example of this phenomenon.

Tribal mentalities have imported an honour code that labels women as either honourable or shameful. In some quarters this has developed into an underground “gangster” culture of exploiting and abusing girls who do not fit the honour code. In either case, abuse must be exposed and perpetrators brought before the law.

The honour code has no place in this country: women and girls, regardless of background, culture, ethnicity, religion, lifestyle, or familial lineage, are of equal worth. Fortunately, there is an emerging generation of human rights activists in Britain – many of whom are young, female and secular-minded – who are campaigning hard against misogyny and patriarchy within our communities.

We will continue this important work, through raising awareness, lobbying parliamentarians and facilitating workshops with Muslim women. The victims’ best interests always come first – which is why silence and apologia should never have been an option.

Dr Shaaz Mahboob

Trustee, British Muslims for Secular Democracy

Tehmina Kazi

Director, British Muslims for Secular Democracy

Diana Nammi

Executive Director and founder, Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation

Kalsoom Bashir

Co-director, Inspire

Mahnaz Nadeem, Iram Ramzan, Ophelia Benson,

Deeyah Khan, Gina Khan, Habiba Jaan, Dr Elham Manea, Lejla Kuri

London WC1

Julian Baggini argues (“Something rotten in the town of Rotherham”, 30 August) that “despite being a very good constituency MP”, I was too interested in European affairs. Perhaps, but the idea that an MP should only be a local super-councillor suits the power elites in London who want MPs who take no interest in issues beyond local social problems. There are many MPs like that, but no evidence that this stops the rise of Ukip or populist political prejudices.

One of my fellow Rotherham MPs was born and bred, worked and has lived in Rotherham all his life and taken little interest in foreign affairs, focusing rather on health and core domestic issues. Julian Baggini stayed in this MP’s constituency to write his fine book on the area. The BNP and now Ukip’s vote is as strong there as anywhere else. Mr Baggini makes good points about the liberal-left denial of dark illiberalism, especially as it affects women in parts of new British communities, but his implication that if MPs take no interest in issues beyond our shores, they will be more popular with Ukip or BNP voters is far-fetched.

Denis MacShane

London SW1

Sadly, the Rotherham scandal did not come as a surprise. It is an example of an inward-looking culture resistant to outside advice.

Following the Victoria Climbie tragedy, I and a colleague were asked to review the children’s services department of a county council.

I felt that senior managers did everything they could to impede the review. When it came time to present the findings, one walked out after half an hour, and the only question from a silent and resentful team of managers was: “Will you be finished on time?”

Robert K Berry

Marchwood, Hampshire

 

Scottish values vs intolerance

The No campaigners in the Scottish referendum are trying to scare people into voting for them. The people of Scotland need to think of how even more scary are the consequences of a No vote.

The No campaign’s frontman, Alistair Darling, may appear likeable and cuddly but, like pandas, he can’t deliver. Scotland has a tradition of liberalism, social justice, belief in education, and Europeanism. The consequence of voting No is to permanently shackle the Scots to an increasingly illiberal, intolerant, right-wing, south-east-England-dominated agenda.

The Tories are being dragged into an increasingly reactionary and austere stance behind a Ukip-driven handcart. The values of Ukip and the majority of the Tory Party in England are anathema to those that Scotland has been proud to promote for many years. Vote No and be truly scared.

Tom Simpson

Bristol

It could be maintained that it is the combined contributions from the people of England, Scotland,  Wales and Northern Ireland in government, public life, education, arts, sciences and elsewhere that have constituted the strength of the UK internationally, including its survival in two world wars.

While others have also contributed, it would surely be tragic to pick apart this common bond, especially in a darkening international scene.

John Eekelaar

Oxford

David Ashton (letter, 1 September) laments the fact that those who don’t live in Scotland will not be allowed to vote in the referendum.

He may wish to ponder the possible outcomes of the referendum were this to be the case. If, for example, Scottish voters were to vote in favour of independence but the UK as a whole voted against it, then Scotland would be trapped in a union against its will. I wonder if Mr Ashton really believes this to be a reasonable outcome, or if he recognises that it is exactly this sort of patronising attitude that is driving some people towards voting Yes.

David French

Edinburgh

With the Scottish vote getting too close to call, perhaps the Yes campaign should just send out a blank postcard to all voters with a Margaret Thatcher postage stamp on it. That should be enough to swing it.

Colin Burke

Manchester

Clear danger of a double standard

Alan Halibard (letter, 3 September) misses the point made in Elizabeth Morley’s letter (4 September). She doesn’t suggest that British Jews volunteering to serve with the Israeli armed forces are likely to return to the UK radicalised, to harm other citizens, but she makes the point that David Cameron has threatened to take away the passport of anyone who swears allegiance to another state. This is not a “cheap and mischievous point”, as Mr Halibard suggests, but a valid observation of a possible double standard.

Patrick Cleary

Honiton, Devon

 

Let’s link Heathrow and Gatwick

Following the Airports Commission’s rejection of the Thames Estuary (Boris Island) option, progress must be made to create an airport hub from Heathrow and Gatwick.

Instead of entering a fight, Heathrow’s and Gatwick’s owners must work together to provide a two-site hub with the necessary improved infrastructure. This must include a new, fast, dedicated transit link between the two airports, providing quick and seamless transfer of passengers and baggage to onward connections from either site. Only working together in the nation’s interest can achieve the expansion in capacity we need for the future.

Graham Duplock

Bekesbourne, Kent

It’s official: Autumn is falling later

May we assume that the Chancellor has at last made some modest acknowledgment of the impact of global warming on the cycle of the seasons – by announcing that the autumn statement will be made in December?

Bernard O’Sullivan

London SW8

 

My vote is no one else’s business

Credit should go to the polite responses given by the Glaswegian call-centre workers quizzed by David Mitchell (letter, 4 September) on their referendum voting intentions. If a stranger asked me how I intended to vote in a secret ballot, my response would be much more curt and to the point.

John Nichols

Colchester

Times:

By no means all readers think it is a two-way fight between Heathrow and ‘Boris Island’

Sir, Most of the passengers who would use “Boris Island” would have to pass through or over the most congested part of the country to reach it. London’s transport infrastructure is already stretched to breaking point, so any new airport development requiring major investment of public money should be on a site accessible to the majority of taxpayers — that is, north of the capital, expanding either Stansted or Birmingham.

Alan Bell
Gateshead

Sir, Surely relocating a third airport to the north of the country is an ideal opportunity to redress England’s considerable economic imbalance. It would also provide a major catalyst in decreasing pressure on all forms of transport in the South East.

Jeanie Campbell
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

Sir, I disagree with your comment (leading article, Sept 3) that the rejection of a Thames estuary airport is “a depressing mistake”. On the contrary, the enormous cost and mixed technical accomplishment of another artificial island airport — in Osaka, Japan — justify the Airports Commission’s conclusion.

Kansai airport, with some of the highest landing fees in the world, was for a long time slowly sinking (by several millimetres a year) and was too expensive for most airlines, to such an extent that full development plans (including an additional terminal) had to be scrapped. If Japan’s planners and engineers with all their knowhow were not up to the challenge, it is not by any means certain that the developers of a Thames island airport would be either.

Andrew Newton
(Former adviser to the chairman of the UK-Japan 2000 Group)
London W1

Sir, The disagreement between Boris Johnson and the head of the Airports Commission raises one question that does not seem to have been examined either by parliament or the commission. Both seem to assume that the taxpayer is responsible for any improvement, no matter which airport is chosen — even though the infrastructure owners and the airlines are most likely to benefit. The funding of options should be given equal prominence in the run-up to the decision about extra capacity, and those who benefit most should be asked to reveal how much they intend to contribute. If we are to have foreign owners of our infrastructure (Heathrow is Spanish and Gatwick is American-controlled), let’s have foreign money for improvement.

Eamonn Hamilton
Rawdon, Leeds

Sir, Your leader was somewhat unfair in suggesting that the Airports Commission’s decision to dismiss a Thames estuary airport was “ill-considered”. The commission spent 18 months examining this proposition, at great cost, and its 45-page decision notice goes into detail on the risks and logistical difficulties it would inevitably entail. The most important issue is expense. A new four-runway airport in the Thames estuary would, according to the commission and its consultants, cost some £120 billion, of which at least £60 billion would have to be provided by the taxpayer.

Rather than continuing his attempt to delay the much-needed expansion of Britain’s airport capacity, Boris Johnson should review the most pragmatic solution being reviewed by the commission.

Our independent Heathrow Hub solution, which has been shortlisted by the commission, does not entail building a third runway to the north, nor the associated noise corridor that would result over west London. It simply involves extending the existing northern runway westwards and dividing it in two. Technical studies have shown that it could be readily executed at a cost which we estimate at around £10 billion and funded solely by the airport operator rather than the public purse. Moreover the entire project could be executed by 2023 if given the go-ahead next year.

Overwhelming support from the airlines, the business community, the CBI and passengers is for an expanded Heathrow. Our proposal offers exactly that while addressing many of the environmental and related issues to which Mr Johnson has correctly drawn attention.

Steve Costello
Director, Heathrow Hub

What should schools do, exactly, with the final few weeks of the summer term?

Sir, At my school in the 1960s the weeks before the end of term in July were put to good use (letters, Sept 2 & 4). Those going into the sixth form were prepared for the following term. Most useful of all was a programme for the school leavers that covered bank accounts and managing your money, cooking on a budget, public speaking, the importance of using your vote, time management and looking after your health. Perhaps this is now all covered in the curriculum, but it was invaluable at the time.

Lucinda Morrison

Emsworth, Hants

Sir, Perhaps cricket matches should be introduced in the first half of the autumn term rather than in the summer term (letter, Sept 3). The weather at this time of year is often still and warm, and this year looks to be no exception. I grew up on the North East coast, where my love of sport was severely tested by trying to catch a cricket ball in freezing temperatures in April and having my bones crushed on rock-hard rugby pitches in September.

John Williams

London SE9

Cigarettes and cigars are still around, despite the risks to health, but where are the pipes?

Sir, While re-reading a biography by Duff Hart-Davis of one of your most famous foreign correspondents, Peter Fleming, I was stuck by the total decline of the pipe. Fleming, like my father and many others of that generation, had a pipe almost permanently in his mouth. We all know why smoking is now frowned upon, but cigarettes and cigars are still around. I have not seen a pipe in years.

John Kirkaldy

Exeter

Victorians did eat fish and chips, as did Lambethian urchins in hospital in the 1950s…

Sir, Michael Cole (Sept 3) is wrong to say that no Victorian author mentions fish and chips, and that they originated in the East End. In George Gissing’s Thyrza (1887) fried fish and potatoes were regularly enjoyed at the end of the working week by the citizens of Lambeth Walk, including Thyrza and her wayward friend Totty Nancarrow.

Mary Henry

London W4

Sir, As a junior probationer at St Thomas’ Hospital in 1957 I was assigned to the children’s medical ward. I was attempting to feed a three-year-old Lambethian boy with fish and chips. He would have none of it. Sister came by and said to me “No nurse, not like that. Wrap them in newspaper and feed them through the bars of the cot.”

They were consumed in no time.

Dr Mary Lynch-Staunton

Nunney, Somerset

There is another way of making more noise with a Lee Enfield – but it’s fraught with peril…

Sir, At Cranwell in the late 1950s we were issued with Lee Enfields (letter, Sept 2). Our drill instructors insisted that we made plenty of noise as we carried out each drill action, with our hands smacking against the rifle. We soon discovered that an easy way to make our drill louder was to slightly loosen the nuts and bolts that held the rifle together. This was fine until one cadet carried his loosening a little bit too far; on parade one day, as he ordered arms and the butt struck the ground, the rifle dramatically fell to pieces. Following that there was no more loosening up of rifles.

Rod Bell

Goldsborough, N Yorks

Pray tell, in what part of Britain are Munster, Leinster and Connacht?

Sir, Your article “Blue eyes are peeping across Britain” (Aug 30) included a map of Great Britain, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland under the heading “Blue-eyed Britain”. Pray tell, in what part of Britain are Munster, Leinster and Connacht? Or Ulster for that matter, considering that three of its nine counties are part of the Republic of Ireland? Can it be any surprise that Scotland is clamouring to exit Great Britain when its paper of record shows such casual disdain for the sovereignty of neighbouring states?

Sarah Ryan

London W9

Telegraph:

Time for David Cameron to take a stand against Isil

Following the beheading of a second US journalist by Isil, the Prime Minister has no excuse not to support air strikes

A fighter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) holds an ISIL flag and a weapon on a street in the city of Mosul,

A fighter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) holds an Isil flag and a weapon on a street in the city of Mosul. Photo: REUTERS

6:58AM BST 04 Sep 2014

CommentsComments

SIR – After the second sickening act by the barbarians known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isil), what reason could David Cameron have for not supporting the United States and joining in the air strikes against these fanatics? The worrying conclusion is fear of reprisals. This spineless attitude shames us all.

Isil is not fighting for a homeland or a suppressed people. It is not fighting for noble reasons, or any form of religion that a sane person would recognise. Isil is fighting for a sick, perverted cause that is the enemy of Western civilisation.

Michael Ford
Bocking, Essex

SIR – Why do we play into the hands of the terrorists by giving them so much publicity in the news and the press?

Major John Cann
Devizes, Wiltshire

SIR – Could Tony Blair, winner of GQ Magazine’s “philanthropist of the year” award, and special envoy for the Middle East Quartet, be dispatched to Iraq to deploy his much-vaunted abilities there?

J H Baines
Heckington, Lincolnshire

‘Off-shored’ jobs

SIR – Sir Charlie Mayfield, writing in his capacity as chairman of the John Lewis Partnership (Letters, August 25), seeks more opportunities for the “middle-skilled”, whose traditional jobs “have been automated or off-shored”.

A good place to start would be within the John Lewis Partnership itself. This will be particularly evident before long when Christmas goods go on sale in stores – practically all of them commissioned from companies in the Far East.

D W Baker
Bristol

Cold dose of reality

SIR – Bryony Gordon thinks the ice bucket challenge is just a vanity project for celebrities and show-offs. It may seem like an annoying stunt to her, but it’s given those of us who have been affected by Motor Neurone Disease an extraordinary opportunity not only to raise funds for our relatively small charity, but also to promote greater awareness of this dreadful disease.

I’d like to say thank you to everyone who’s contributed to the ice bucket challenge. But you don’t have to get cold and wet to support us.

Janet McMillan
Chairman, Leicestershire and Rutland Branch MNDA
Walton on the Wolds, Leicestershire

A good opener

SIR – The customary greeting used for emailing nowadays is “Hi”. Occasionally, “Dear” is still used, but is increasingly regarded as too formal for all but official communications.

Can readers suggest alternatives that will satisfy silver surfers like me?

Rev John Campbell
Lenzie, Dunbartonshire

Without question

SIR – I was filling in a form at the Citizens Advice Bureau and on the middle of the second page, it asks: “Can you read English Y/N”.

Roy Goodall
Clacton-on-Sea, Essex

Social mobility

SIR – In discussing social mobility, it would be interesting to know what proportion of the parents of privately educated pupils were, themselves, privately educated.

Surely this is the real measure of social mobility, rather than a broad percentage figure of the number of privately educated people working in the top professions.

James Day
Emsworth, Hampshire

Weigh your words

SIR – Rev Martin Oram (Letters, August 30) has been misinformed by Post Office staff regarding stamps on letters to Europe.

He should do what I do: keep a stock of low-value stamps and purchase significant numbers of first- and second-class stamps. With the aid of digital scales, he could then make up practically any postal stamp value for home, European, rest of the world and parcel mail. This would virtually eliminate long waits in slow-moving queues, and, best of all, deprive counter staff of their customer-humiliating moments of glory.

Howard Buchanan
Isham, Northamptonshire

Dinner for one

SIR – Another weekend of papers full of delicious recipes, serving four or more people. In 2013 there were more than six million single-person households in Britain. Where are the recipes for all these people? I live alone, and it gets increasingly boring cooking for one.

Geoffrey Shaw
South Croydon, Surrey

Taste your tiger

SIR – My daughter-in-law gave me some tiger tomato seeds, which are now bearing much fruit in the greenhouse.

I asked her how I would know when the green and yellow striped fruits were ripe. Her response was: “Taste one and see”. I suggest Richard Waldron (Letters, September 3) should do likewise.

Duncan Rayner
Sunningdale, Berkshire

SIR – I have grown beautiful jet-black tomatoes this year. They need to be showing a tinge of red on the bottom of the fruit, and they ripen further when picked.

It is now a battle between the wildlife and me as to who gets to them first.

Hatti Cossart
Petersfield, West Sussex

All’s fair in love and Scrabble, but keep to the rules

SIR – I have risen to Andrew Baxter’s challenge (Letters, September 3), beating Zog Ziegler’s 30-point Scrabble score with 54 for my own name.

Elizabeth Festorazzi
Tonbridge, Kent

SIR – As there is only one Z per set of Scrabble letters, Zog Ziegler would not be able to score 10 for both his initials, unless he placed his first name horizontally, using the Z of his surname, already in a vertical position.

If the Z were on the triple-word square, it could score 30 at first, with Ziegler, and a further 10 when he re-used it, for Zog. In total, the score would be 70.

Fiona Wild
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

SIR – I nearly choked on my muesli. Andrew Baxter obviously does not know the first rule of Scrabble – namely that proper nouns cannot be used in the game.

The X in his name is, literally, pointless.

Penny Buckley
Bournemouth, Dorset

SIR – There are many more commonplace names in which the letters add up to a higher Scrabble score than Zog Ziegler (30), or Andrew Baxter (25), including my own (32). But we would all have to defer to President Obama’s foreign policy adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski (57).

Christopher Booker
Litton, Somerset

SIR – The maximum number of tiles that can be laid in a Scrabble turn is seven. Zog Ziegler and Andrew Baxter could not score 30 or 25 points, respectively, with their names, as both are impossible to lay within the rules of the game.

Roger Gentry
Sutton-at-Hone, Kent

Space on a plane: a controlled impact test with dummies at Nasa’s Dryden Research Centre  Photo: Alamy

6:59AM BST 04 Sep 2014

CommentsComments

SIR – Long ago, Air France had a solution to the legroom problem. The seats, fitted in their Caravelles, were designed so that the bases would move forward as the back reclined.

Reclining actually gave the person behind slightly more leg room. Bring it back.

Alan Palmer
Kenilworth, Warwickshire

SIR – Airlines should learn from rail design. Reclining seats on trains do so within the space allotted to their ticket holders, without any effect on fellow passengers.

This is old science that airlines must surely have been aware of for at least the last three decades

In or out: Scotland will vote for or against independence in a referendum on September 18 Photo: PA

7:00AM BST 04 Sep 2014

CommentsComments

SIR – I am amazed that only a fraction over 50 per cent of votes cast, either for or against Scottish independence, is all that is needed to declare victory.

This might be all right with such humdrum matters as parliamentary elections, but it can hardly be appropriate for major constitutional and sovereignty matters such as this referendum.

Furthermore, as it is not compulsory for all registered voters to vote, the result could well be, for example, on a turn-out of as high as 85 per cent and a close poll of, say, 49 per cent against and 51 per cent for, that the Yes campaign would prevail with only 43.35 per cent of the actual electorate in favour. Who can possibly declare victory in that case?

On a smaller turn-out, of course, the result would be even less representative.

The usual way round this is to require a minimum majority in favour, of (say) 75 per cent. At least this would represent 50 per cent of the electorate on a turnout of as little as 67 per cent. And if neither party achieved the required majority of votes cast, the whole issue would quite rightly fail.

If the referendum vote is nearly equal, I think we can anticipate a good deal of discontent arising from what will be a thoroughly unrepresentative result.

Alastair McOran-Campbell
Bucklebury, Berkshire

SIR – Being a resident of one of the border counties of England, I may have a different perspective on just who it is that wants Scotland to cut itself free from the Union.

Last week I drove across these border counties to Edinburgh and returned by a different route. In over 300 miles I saw just one big “Yes” placard beside someone’s drive entrance and just one “No Thanks” placard somewhere else.

Apparently, the people of the borders are not yet greatly exercised about the issue. Is independence just an ideological obsession of the Holyrood politicos? I also reflect that Westminster seems uninvolved, there being no sign that it wants the Scots to stay in the union enough to offer them any strong incentive to do so.

Allan Steward
Levens, Westmorland

SIR – Citizens of other European countries who are living in Scotland will be entitled to vote in the referendum, but will keep their existing citizenship in the event of a victory for the Yes campaign.

Would people living in Scotland who were born in England also be entitled to keep their British citizenship if they so wished?

Sir Neville Trotter
Newcastle upon Tyne

SIR – If I were a Scot I would answer “Yes” to the question “For sentimental reasons would you like Scotland to be independent?” but “No” to the question “Do you want to break up the United Kingdom?”. Now is the time for realism.

Brian Foster
Shrivenham, Berkshire

Irish Times:

Sir – The response to Patsy McGarry’s report on the call of Dr Ali Selim (“Call for State schools to accommodate Islamic beliefs”, September 3rd) to accommodate Islamic beliefs in State schools has been marked with a shocking intolerance and absence of critical thought.

John Hogan (September 4th) writes that “our schools should be run on principles guided by reason”. It is clear that the reason he refers to is neither a neutral nor inclusive option but one designed to assimilate coercively others into a conception of education which would force some to behave contrary to the tenets of their religion. The substance of belief is reasonable whether or not we agree with it. Its practice, however, must be exercised in the balance of many interests.

Rather than ridicule the observations of Dr Selim, perhaps now is the time to engage with them. – Yours, etc,

GERARD

CILLIAN DOWNEY,

Institute for International

Integration Studies,

Trinity College Dublin,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – Having just got out of the grip of one theocracy, I suggest that the people of Ireland think hard before making fundamental changes to the educational system.

Here are a few of the likely outcomes. No cinemas (in case men and women mix). No theatres. Male singers only. No music, apart from drums. All eating establishments divided into “male only” and “family” areas, with the family areas screened from the general public (yes, that includes fast-food establishments), food courts in shopping malls closed to single men on “family nights”. No female drivers, all females in public to be in the company of their guardians (husband, elder brother, uncle, etc), females only to travel outside the country with written permission of their guardians. Restricted rights of inheritance to female relatives. A morals police to check that men and women in “family” areas are actually married. Identity papers for proof of marital status. No sex education in schools.

Need I say more? – Yours, etc,

PATRICK S BRADY,

Beechmount Court,

Newbridge, Co Kildare.

Sir, – Advocates of Islam should not be facilitated to effectively take over certain State (taxpayer-funded) schools, nor to impose their beliefs on existing private schools that operate through a Christian ethos (reflecting the fact that the vast majority of Irish people are, at least nominally, Christian).

We must bear in mind what has been happening in Birmingham in the United Kingdom, where hardline Islamic parents were allowed free rein over several state schools in the city. These Islamic groups hijacked the public schools in parts of Birmingham (making girls sit at the back of the class, etc), putting them on the road to becoming madrassas paid for by the British taxpayer. If such events could happen in Birmingham, they could happen in Dublin. – Yours, etc,

JOHN B REID,

Knapton Road,

Monkstown, Co Dublin.

Sir, – In some Muslim countries girls get shot for going to school; in others they must wear full face or body coverings; and in others, such as Turkey, I have seen schoolgirls wearing uniforms I would often see in Ireland. Many of the prohibitions are to do with the culture of the country people come from and how the Muslim faith is interpreted there. As these Muslims have chosen Ireland, and I welcome the diversity, could I suggest they take a leaf out of the book of others who settled here and become more Irish than the Irish themselves? – Yours, etc,

DAVID DOYLE,

Birchfield Park,

Goatstown,

Dublin 14.

A chara, – Perhaps Dr Selim should familiarise himself with the inclusive model of education practiced in many Catholic schools throughout the country where children of many religions and none work together in an ethos of equality and respect. He could adopt this model, however imperfect, pilot it in Muslim schools in Ireland and promote it in the many countries throughout the world where minority religions struggle to be recognised or included. – Is mise,

SEÁN Ó DÍOMASAIGH

Principal,

Sacred Heart

of Jesus Primary School,

Huntstown, Dublin 15.

A chara, – Dr Selim calls for sweeping changes to our educational system to accommodate his beliefs; and secularists at once respond by resurrecting their interminable call that religion should be driven from our schools altogether. Both are arguing for the same thing – that the rights of the majority should be disregarded in favour of a minority; and, ironically, both do so in the name of diversity. Of course, if either party were to achieve their goal the result would not be diversity but precisely the opposite – a bland homogeneity that seeks to eliminate the diverse strands within our society rather than celebrating them.

Our system as it is accommodates diversity by allowing those who wish to do so to set up schools that reflect their beliefs and values. It has, for example, allowed for those with no religious beliefs or less widely held faiths to set up schools according to their preferences. Being the majority faith is no reason for the equal right of Christians to have schools in line with their own ethos attacked or undermined. – Is mise,

Rev PATRICK G BURKE,

Castlecomer,

Co Kilkenny.

Sir, – I have read with interest your newspaper’s report on the call for State schools to accommodate Islamic beliefs. I’m just wondering, if a non-Islamic student turned up at an Islamic school, would a reciprocal arrangement apply? – Yours, etc,

TOMMY MURTAGH,

River Valley Avenue,

Swords,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – I look forward to hearing Dr Selim’s call for the teaching of the principles of all faiths, and those of secular humanism, in Islamic schools and states all over the world. – Yours, etc,

MAEVE HALPIN,

Ranelagh,

Dublin 6.

Sir, – Let Dr Selim and all other religious leaders inculcate their beliefs in whoever wants to believe them on their own time and at their own expense. – Yours, etc,

DON MULLINS,

Green Road,

Carlow.

Sir, – I agree with Dr Ali Selim. There is a religious imbalance in State schools, but the solution is not to introduce more religions, it is to remove religions and the influences of religious bodies from our education system entirely. – Yours, etc,

SE LYDON,

Wilton,

Cork.

Sir, – I cannot be the only person fascinated by the logic employed by those vociferously demanding a change in the law so that the “selling” of sex will be decriminalised while the “buying” will become a criminal offence. We are told with all the breezy confidence and bluster usually employed to ballast featherweight arguments that this change will decrease the number of men tempted to avail of prostitutes and therefore lead to a general decrease in the amount of women alleged to be trafficked into the jurisdiction to work as prostitutes.

Let’s just put aside the decidedly mixed empirical evidence from those (stunningly few) jurisdictions that have followed this course and look around for some comparative reference here.

For argument’s sake, and without taking any moral position on the rights or wrongs of commercial sex, if I was to put forward the notion that decriminalising the sale of, say, heroin, but retaining the tariff for its purchase was sound policy on the grounds that such a change would inevitably lead to a reduction in demand and, therefore, sequentially, a reduction in supply, I’d like to think that, at some stage, someone would gently point out that buying heroin is already a crime and it seems to have no impact whatsoever on the numbers of those in the business of selling it.

I’d like to think that my sceptic would go a little further and advance the utterly self-evident point that in the event of there being no penalty whatsoever for engaging in the practice of selling heroin that more, not fewer, people are likely to engage in such transactions.

Decriminalising the sale of something of which we disapprove, while criminalising its purchase, will not lead to a reduction in demand.

If we accept that there’s no real “supply-demand” logic to this proposal and that, if anything, it’s actually more likely to actually increase the number of prostitutes operating, then we must surrender to the nagging suspicion that there are other motives lurking behind the proffered one.

It’s genuinely difficult to avoid the conclusion that we have rather too many quangos and advocacy groups whose contributions in this area are marked by a conspicuous inclination to heap opprobrium – and penalties – on the men involved, while insisting that all the women involved, often despite their protestations and testimonies, are “victims”.

We are being unceremoniously hustled along toward the enactment of a logically incoherent, epically unfair and unworkable law.

We are entitled to test proposed laws against logic and the record in other comparable jurisdictions and we are entitled to have proper scrutiny of proposals for law that appear to be ideologically derived and driven.

Those strictures must apply as precisely to the promptings of gender studies departments and unverified – and unverifiable – privately commissioned “reports”.

I’m not sure that prostitution should be an indictable crime at all. But I’m absolutely certain that if it is going to be an indictable crime, then it should be for both parties involved or for neither. – Yours, etc,

CATHAL MacCARTHY,

O’Connell Avenue,

Limerick.

Sir, – Ray Murphy (“Ireland should maintain its peacekeeping force on Golan Heights”, Opinion & Analysis, September 2nd”) argues that Ireland should not withdraw from the UN Disengagement Observer Force (Undof) mission in Syria. I strongly disagree.

The Undof mission is not realistic given the changed situation in the area. The role was to monitor a demarcation line between two states that, though technically in a continued state of war, had accepted a ceasefire, a line of demarcation and monitoring of activities outlined in the ceasefire agreement. Note the word monitoring, which is not the same as enforcing. Islamic State, Al-Nusra and other armed groups have not consented to and seem to actively oppose this monitoring mission, as evidenced by their harassment and prisoner-taking, thus the mission should be abandoned until the situation again allows for monitoring of an agreed ceasefire and line of demarcation.

That the Syrians somehow prevented the deployment of desired improvised explosive device (IED) protection and detection equipment is absolutely unacceptable. That alone is a basis for abandoning the mission.We should not wait for the UN to make this call. Protect the lives of the Defence Forces personnel who are deployed. – Yours, etc,

BRENDAN MULLEN,

Hawthorn Street,

Westwood, Massachusetts.

Sir, – One of the privileges of my long ministry has been to visit several Irish battalions serving in the Lebanon. I was struck, not only by the warmth of their welcome to a wandering bishop, but also by their skill, professionalism and ability to relate to the communities where they were serving.

I have mentioned that they were wonderful ambassadors for Ireland and I rejoice to see that this standard is maintained to this very day.

The skill, professionalism and courage displayed by their service in the Golan Heights should fill us all with pride and admiration. May God keep them safe in this volatile situation. – Yours, etc,

WALTON EMPEY

Former Archbishop

of Dublin,

Rathmore,

Tullow, Co Carlow.

Sir, – Coming at the end of National Heritage Week, Frank McDonald’s article (“Appeal to State to keep Bantry House rare works from sale”, September 3rd) on the importance of Bantry House, and the looming sale and dispersal of its wonderful contents, serves as a timely warning of what is at stake if we fail to invest in an adequate and ongoing basis in what is a core element of all our lives, namely our national and cultural heritage.

It also takes me back 20 years, when the Heritage Council mounted a campaign to save similar collections and property at Headfort House in Meath. That campaign resulted in the government of the day setting up the Heritage Fund Act to save us as a nation scrabbling about for funds when these crisis situations arise. Regrettably, that fund has not been used since 2008.

The Heritage Council has also sought to help the owners of Bantry House, and between 2000 and 2010 we managed to invest a total of €210,000 to support this vital national heritage venue and its contents. Our capacity to offer continued support ceased in recent years when the Heritage Council suffered totally disproportionate cuts in funding from government.

That wrong now needs urgent correction, and the welcome recovery in the country’s economic fortunes is an opportunity for the current Government and other stakeholders to support our natural and cultural heritage resources in a more tangible way. This is not merely a matter of aesthetics, or preserving our past. It also makes sound economic sense, with cultural and heritage tourism now a vital revenue earner for this country.

We will be emphasising just that point in dialogue with Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphries in the weeks and months to come, and supporting her in her efforts to secure greater funding for her department. It is time once again to invest on a regular basis in all aspects of our natural and cultural heritage.

The returns to us all are immense. – Yours, etc,

MICHAEL STARRETT,

Chief Executive,

The Heritage Council,

Áras na hOidhreachta,

Church Lane,

Kilkenny.

Sir, – The controversy surrounding the jailing of Monica O’Connor has nothing to do with the merits or demerits of home schooling (“Home schooling mother jailed and released for not paying fine”, September 3rd). It is about the duty of the State to regulate the services provided to its citizens, and the duty of its citizens to comply with such regulation.

In every area of public service by the State there are calls for regular and thorough systems of regulation – in our hospitals, our prisons, the services provided by An Garda Síochána, and in our education and examination system. Far from being unsupportive to families who choose to home-school their children, the State supports such choice but insists on its regulation, on a regular, not a one-off basis.

Ms O’Connor, in refusing to submit to such regulation, has done no service to families who share her choice of education system. – Yours, etc,

SUSAN FitzGERALD,

Newtown Avenue,

Blackrock,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – Tom Cooper (September 4th) states that the call sign “2RN” was allocated to the fledgling Irish radio station by London “phonetically reproducing the last words of the song Come Back to Éireann”.  

However sentimentally attractive this may be, it is a popular misconception. The Irish authorities had requested “2DN’” but this had already been allocated to Durban. London chose “2RN” unilaterally and with no phonetic intentions. – Yours, etc,

RICHARD PINE,

Perithia,

Corfu,

Greece.

Sir, – As I scout the property market for a house to buy (a two-bedroomed dwelling within 100km of Dublin), I frequently encounter the phenomenon of the house that is advertised for sale, but which is not actually for sale, whether due to being “under offer”, “sale agreed” or the vendor refusing to allow a viewing, but which is still visible on property websites.

Given that just about every other e-commerce website can drop from their offerings those unique goods that have been sold, what exactly is the difficulty for estate agents in automatically including metadata, updated on a daily basis, indicating the real availability of property for sale? – Yours, etc,

EWAN DUFFY,

Woodview,

Castletown,

Celbridge, Co Kildare.

Sir, – It should not be that problematic to adopt American spellings (September 3rd). A significant proportion of the population under the age of 21 appears to have an accent to match already. – Yours, etc,

ULTAN Ó BROIN,

South Circular Road,

Dublin 8.

Irish Independent:

I cannot be the only person fascinated by the logic employed by those vociferously demanding a change in the law, so that the ‘selling’ of sex will be decriminalised while the ‘buying’ will become a criminal offence.

We are told – with all the breezy confidence and bluster usually employed to ballast featherweight arguments – that this change will decrease the amount of men tempted to avail of prostitutes, and therefore lead to a general decrease in the amount of women alleged to be trafficked into the jurisdiction to work as prostitutes.

Let’s just put aside the decidedly mixed empirical evidence from those (stunningly few) jurisdictions that have followed this course and look around for some comparative reference here.

For argument’s sake – and without taking any moral position on the rights or wrongs of commercial sex – I could propose decriminalising the sale of, say, heroin, but retaining the tariff for its purchase as sound policy on the grounds that such a change would inevitably lead to a reduction in demand and, therefore, sequentially, a reduction in supply. However, I’d like to think that, at some stage, someone would gently point out that buying heroin is already a crime and it seems to have no impact whatsoever on the numbers of those in the business of selling it.

I’d like to think that my sceptic would go a little further and advance the utterly self-evident point that in the event of there being no penalty whatsoever for engaging in the practice of selling heroin that more, not less, people would be likely to engage in such transactions. Decriminalising the sale of something of which we disapprove while criminalising its purchase will not lead to a reduction in demand for that commodity.

Any drop in demand through fear of prosecution will be more than offset by the entry into the market of new sellers – now confident in their ability to sell without prosecution – who will put more of the commodity on the market and lower the price till the supply-demand equilibrium resumes. We are entitled to test proposed laws against logic and the record in other comparable jurisdictions and we are entitled to have proper scrutiny of proposals for law that appear to be ideologically-derived and driven.

Cathal MacCarthy, Limerick city

IDF acts to save lives in Gaza

In his/her unattributed letter criticising America’s continuing support of Israel (September 4), your correspondent clearly subscribes to the prevailing orthodoxy which depicts the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) as an indiscriminate harbinger of doom that conducted a mass slaughter of “over 2,100 people in Gaza, many of them children”.

The fact that more than 2,000 people died is indisputably a tragedy. And there is no doubt that Gaza is in ruins. However, to claim that it is a consequence of an uncaring political system which arbitrarily launched an indiscriminate bombing offensive is a distortion of the facts.

Commenting on the recent tragedy in Gaza, Colonel Richard Kemp, the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, called the IDF the most “moral army in the world”. His analysis of the recent conflict concluded that “no other army in the world has ever done more than Israel is doing now to save the lives of innocent civilians in a combat zone”.

Before reaching this conclusion, Mr Kemp drew an analogy between the tactics of the Taliban, who used “young children to attack his troops”, and the tactics of Hamas, which forced young children in Gaza into becoming unwitting front-line combatants, and therefore casualties, by forcing them to stay in IDF-designated targets up to 12 hours before they were bombed.

Dr Kevin McCarthy, Kinsale, Co Cork

Tusla must be reined in

I’m afraid Ms White is right and wrong. The Supreme Court ruled that the right to home education is also a duty. Parents failing in the duty forfeit the right. The duty is the “minimum education” set out in the Supreme Court ruling DPP v Best (1998). Where she is right, in my view, is in thinking that the guidelines should provide a good framework for balancing the parents’ right to home educate against the child’s right to a “minimum education”. However, the National Education Welfare Board that produced these guidelines has been replaced by a faceless organisation of social workers.,

The Government’s mind on these issues is clear to see when the Minister for Education and Skills washes her hands of home education. And, if you read the Education (Welfare) Act more closely, the education of children in private schools. I doubt that Eddie and Monica can win a legal battle, since the legal battle was lost in 1998.

But I hope they can win the political war, and I wish them every success in this fight. Home educators throughout Ireland – myself included – need something to rein in the new Tusla agency foisted on us last year.

Simon Richardson, Address with editor

What’s coming down the track?

Thankfully on this occasion, that light at the end of the tunnel is, in fact, a train

Tom Gilsenan, Beaumont D9

Give first-time buyers a break

To avert another boom/bust in the housing market perhaps the government could reduce sales tax on principal residences, and increase sales tax on non-principal residences? Thus, also giving first-time buyers a chance…

A Ryan, Dublin

Pornography and morality

Is Colette Browne for real in her opinion piece in your paper on Wednesday (‘Anyone Who Looks At Stolen Nude Images Is Guilty’)? We live in a world full of celebrity and over-sexualisation. Any child of either sex can turn on MTV and be exposed to pop videos that my generation would have considered pornography.

And comparing any teenage boy or even adult male who looks at a picture of a naked famous woman with a “cretin” who secretly films up women’s skirts in public places is just preposterous.

Is there a difference between looking at an anonymous stranger in ‘Playboy’ and a famous celebrity who has been paid a fortune to appear nude in ‘Playboy’?

The fact that Playboy boss Hugh Hefner is willing to pay them a fortune proves the answer is yes. I personally think pornography is a dangerous thing and over-exposure to it can harm a person socially and sexually, but let us not lock up every young boy or man in the pervert ward just because they might have masturbated over the naked pictures of a beautiful woman.

Which brings me to my final point: Ms Browne failed to mention the fact that some of the pictures that were stolen and published were of male celebrities – or does Ms Browne assume that men long to be objectified in this way and therefor in a man’s case it is okay?

Darren Williams, Dublin 18

Mayo v Kerry a thrilling treat

I am replying to the letter that was printed in your newspaper in reference to ‘Puke Football’.

It’s an over simplification to describe the match as ‘puke football’ with the players pulling and dragging at each other. The players showed a passion for the game, a pride in their jersey and a strong desire to win.

It may have got overheated at times but, as a neutral viewer, I found the game exciting and thrilling.

Grace Harding, Ballymote, Co Sligo

Irish Independent

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