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Letters: In Brief

Sir: Sunday opening, coupled with the minimum standards announced by Chris Smith, would appear to be an answer to library users' prayers (report, 27 July). But a second glance shows two potential flaws. If the minimum standards are covered only by a "code of practice" without statutory weight, they will be ignored. And if no statutory standards are set down for local libraries, councils will devote their resources to one or two "centres of excellence" which will only be accessible to a limited number of users.


London N22

Sir: Deborah Orr writes (27 July): "... it is recognised that chimpanzees, sharing at least 98.4 per cent of our DNA, are not much different from us." That chimps share 98.4 (or 97.8, or 99.2, or whatever figure the enthusiast chooses) per cent of "our DNA" is compatible with massive biological differences. We have quite a lot of DNA in common with zebras, still quite a lot with penguins and still some with dandelions. All it means is that we're carbon-based organisms, as evolved on planet Earth.


London SE22

Sir: Every year or so, a weekend supplement traces the origins of the bikini back to 1946, as did The Independent Magazine on 24 July ("Bare essential"). Invariably a reader writes in (as I do, for the first time) to point out that a Sicilian mosaic of circa AD400 shows two women wearing two-piece costumes remarkably like modest bikinis. One of the women carries a sunshade, suggesting that they are outdoors in the sun.


Reading, Berkshire

Sir: Extract from a book published by the Great Western Railway: "... 376 track miles have been installed with the equipment for automatic train control .... It was recently decided to extend the equipment to no less than 2,130 miles of main line .... This system gives audible signals to the engine driver in the cab of the locomotive .... If ignored, the brakes are automatically applied." I bought this book as a schoolboy. The date of publication? 1934. Perhaps the present operator would like to borrow it ("Record fine over train crash", 28 July).



Sir: Tony Blair's view that it could take 10 years before any marked improvement in the NHS is seen should perhaps be taken with a pinch of salt ("How does your government rate?", 27 July). The PFI initiatives to build new hospitals will mean smaller hospitals, fewer nursing staff and fewer doctors and consultants, forcing people to seek private health treatment. That is the real effect of the Government's plans for the NHS in 10 years from now.


Cowes, Isle of Wight