Abu Hamza, renewable energy and others

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The Independent Online

Sir: Abu Hamza is not on anybody's love list, I am sure, and certainly not mine. Yet, the British government, so far, has failed to find evidence against him that would permit any charges to be brought.

Abu Hamza doesn't deserve US 'justice'

Sir: Abu Hamza is not on anybody's love list, I am sure, and certainly not mine. Yet, the British government, so far, has failed to find evidence against him that would permit any charges to be brought.

Mr Blunkett has tried every angle to enforce his extradition to somewhere else - indeed anywhere it seems - and failed. So, in the face of the Government's determined efforts, this unwanted British citizen has remained free to preach his largely ignored fundamentalism on our streets. This impotence of the Home Secretary, to his great frustration and fury, is the result of that steadfast covenant between the Crown and the people of Britain that is broadly called "democracy" - and he does not like it one bit!

Now entering from the wings is America with an extradition warrant for Abu Hamza on charges of terrorism. How convenient. To which American detention centre is Abu Hamza bound? What will the status of this unloved British citizen become? As an alleged terrorist, will he not be denied by the Americans the human rights that we would expect him to receive under the British justice system? By what means, we must ask in the light of recent revelations, will any incriminating evidence be extracted from him?

If there is a case against this very-difficult-to-love fundamentalist cleric, let it be tried in a British court under the British legal system. Let us not render him to a US system of detention, interrogation and punishment that has become the shame of the western democratic world.

London E1

Sir: Conspiracy theories about whether Abu Hamza should be extradited to the USA are a distraction. He should have been indicted for the incitement of racial hatred long ago.


Sir: The US government believes that Britain is harbouring a dangerous terrorist, Abu Hamza, and that there may well be others. It knows that we have WMDs and are prepared to use them. Our leader is distrusted by many of the British people but he is determined to hold on to power at all costs. Given these facts and the behaviour of George Bush and Co in their war against terrorism, we should expect the US to start bombing our major cities any day now.

Winterborne Stickland, Dorset

Controlling drugs

Sir: Your article "Surge in drug deaths linked to falling cost and rise in casual use" (24 May) states that there has been an increase in the use of class A drugs by young people which is "fuelling a rise in the number of drug-related deaths".

In fact, the most recent figures from the British Crime Survey show that class A drug use has remained stable among 16-24 year olds since 1996. You state that cocaine use has "risen steadily since the mid-1990s". However, although cocaine use among 16-24 year olds increased between 1996 and 2000, since then it has stabilised at around 5 per cent. Heroin use among 16-24 year olds has remained stable since 1996. And total numbers of drug related deaths have fallen in England and Wales for the second consecutive year and are now at their lowest level since 1998.

It must be remembered that all controlled drugs are harmful and will remain illegal. No one should take them. Your article points out that "a new generation of drug-users may not be aware of the related risks of mixing drugs like cocaine with alcohol".

The Government's updated drug strategy focuses on action to reduce supply, improve education, and get more people into treatment. We are focusing on the most dangerous drugs - class A. Since we published the updated drug strategy, we have been working hard to warn young people against the dangers of drugs. Prevention is better than cure, which is why drugs education is such an important aspect of the strategy.

Drugs Minister
Home Office
London SW1

Eritrea's ordeal

Sir: In May 2001, I was invited by the Eritrean government to celebrate 10 years of Eritrean liberation in the capital, Asmara. Along with many other long-term supporters of the Eritrean People's Liberation Front, we witnessed the early stages of another African liberation struggle starting to turn on its children.

A few months after we left (and seven days after 11 September, 2001), the president arrested a number of members of the government who had called for the constitution of Eritrea to be enacted. He arrested a number of former EPLF leaders on the grounds that they had questioned the president's role in the senseless war with Ethiopia and his refusal to enact the democratically agreed constitution.

Many of us who supported the Eritrean people in their long struggle for independence now watch in horror as President Afeworki and his acolytes have closed down the free press and imprisoned students, journalists, senior government ministers and anybody else who challenges their dictatorial rule.

Your article "To some Eritreans, freedom means prison and torture" (24 May) is one of the first to cover the appalling human rights situation in this country that showed so such promise. Please continue your excellent coverage of the dire situation in Eritrea so that we do not forget the real heroes of the revolution who are now held incommunicado and subject to the disgusting torture that you describe so vividly.

St Albans, Hertfordshire

Renewable energy sources are no green pipe-dream

Sir: James Lovelock is right to say that climate change represents the most serious threat to civilisation. But the facts simply do not support his assertion that nuclear power is the only solution (Opinion, 24 May).

Lovelock overlooks the large reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that can be achieved by adopting energy efficient technologies. He also significantly underestimates the contribution that a variety of renewable energy technologies can make. These are not a distant pipe-dream: in a growing number of countries, renewables are already delivering at an affordable price. In the German state of Schleswig-Holstein and in the Spanish state of Navarra, for example, wind turbines are responsible for 20 per cent of electricity production.

Building new nuclear power stations, on the other hand, would be more expensive and far more hazardous. How James Lovelock can claim that nuclear is the safest of all energy sources is mystifying. With nuclear power, unlike any renewable technology, reactor accidents can happen, as at Chernobyl, killing thousands of people, waste is generated that will remain deadly for millennia, and materials are involved that can be stolen by terrorists to produce crude nuclear bombs.

Lovelock is right to call for a step-change in commitment to combat climate change, but his blind spot for nuclear power makes no sense. The choice isn't between nuclear and global warming. Clean alternatives exist that mean we can do without both.

Research Fellow on Climate Policy
Institute for Public Policy Research
London WC2

Sir: An essential factor has not been mentioned among the various arguments expressed in either the original article by James Lovelock or in the subsequent letters concerning the use of nuclear power to allay the rising tides of global warming. This is that there is only sufficient recoverable uranium available to fuel the "current" number of fission reactors for about another 50 years.

Clearly, a vast proliferation of nuclear power stations would be required to substitute for those fuelled by coal, gas and oil, and assuming we could, rapidly, make such a substitution, even to just 50 per cent of the overall power demand, the world's recoverable uranium reserves would be exhausted in less than 20 years.

This surely places a natural limit on the benefit of implementing a nuclear "solution" to reducing greenhouse gases, which must be included among all other considerations.

Reading, Berkshire

Obese nation

Sir: In the current controversy about obesity little attention is given to marketing and selling strategies. I enjoy an occasional Kit-Kat but was surprised to find that my local supermarket had only multi-packs on the shelves (single bars were available at the checkout).

There is a considerable cost saving from buying in bulk. The same principle applies to crisps, fizzy drinks and beer. There is also an increasing tendency to give "Buy one, get one free" offers on many products including sweets and high-calorie snacks.

This could be regulated by an agreed code of conduct between manufacturers, supermarkets and the Government not to give discounts on the proposed "red light" products and not to offer them in multi-packs that encourage over-buying and then over-eating.

Limpsfield, Surrey

Sir: Your leading article (27 May) about persuading people to eat heathily and excercise, although well intentioned, is a complete waste of time when schools are teaching our children to eat junk food.

My son goes to a local comprehensive school in Devon which is excellent in many respects. However he comes home every day having been force-fed a diet of sugary drinks, chips and hot dogs. He has no choice.

School dinners where everyone eats a square meal are a thing of the past. Why?

South Brent, Devon

Sir: In increasing levels of obesity, fast food and junk food have a large role to play. Most people who consume them say it is to save time. What sort of return are they receiving on their investment? This "saved" time is most commonly spent working longer hours without improving productivity, watching television and complaining there is nothing good on, or going to the gym to try to burn off the fat caused by eating junk food. Get a life or lose the one you've got.


Sir: David Hinchcliffe's Commons Health Select Committee has identified an obesity epidemic in Britain. Perhaps Mr Hinchcliffe might start the crusade in his own Wakefield constituency. I recall walking out of at least five cafes and bars in that city one lunchtime, because their menus stipulated chips with every sandwich. Lasagne and chips, and Yorkshire pudding and chips are other "lite-bite" specialities of the area.

Truro, Cornwall

Sir: We are constantly reminded of the dangers of obesity. Why doesn't the Prime Minister take a good look at those either side of him on the front bench and not only suggest, but demand, that Mr Prescott and Mr Brown lose 28lbs each forthwith.


Gay without style  

Sir: So Johann Hari (Opinion, 28 May) thinks going to see his grandmother in a "Free Nelson Mandela" T-shirt and M&S jeans makes him an example of a gay man without style, does he? That's nothing. last Thursday I went out to dinner wearing a shirt from C&A's closing down sale and a pair of Primark jeans costing £8.

Isleworth, Middlesex

Back at the BBC

Sir: Tim Luckhurst says Mark Thompson is "funny, warm, and very sharp" (25 May) in the view of a former Panorama colleague, but part of Mark's appeal is that he's also able to laugh at himself. I remember seeing him chair Programme Review once. Mark said: "I was at home last Saturday night, and I thought: 'Bloody hell! There's nothing on the telly.' Then I thought: 'Hang about. I'm Controller BBC2!' " Mark then went on to explain what he intended to do about it. Birt's brainpower, but Greg's charm, perhaps?

Pleshey, Essex

Middle East despair

Sir: Neither Sharon's nor Arafat's leadership has any redeeming features and most of us would dearly like to see and end to their madness. However I question the conclusion (letter, 27 May) that sanctions, boycotts and withholding funds from either side would have the slightest effect. Both sides to the conflict have amply demonstrated that their mutual hate is far stronger than their fear of any consequences. Each side is already suffering immeasurably, so what is the logic to suggest that adding to their suffering would move them any closer to a settlement?

Marlow, Buckinghamshire

Saatchi enigma

Sir: A pile of smouldering rubble in an east London warehouse. But is it art?


Take no notice

Sir: For years, an undertaker in Belsize Park, north London, itself now departed, used to display the sign "Distance no object".

Bridport, Dorset