Atkins diet, Suicide bombs and others

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The Independent Online

Atkins success shows why food industry loves sugar

Sir: At last, largely due to massive popular and media interest, the debate over the Atkins diet has engaged the scientific community and its claims are being investigated objectively. Its success is not due to magic properties of fat and protein, rather if you don't eat sugars and carbohydrates, you tend to eat fewer calories. The evidence provided by the recent Horizon programmes supports two propositions - protein suppresses appetite or sugar/carbohydrate stimulates the appetite.

There is minimal scientific evidence to support the proposition that protein suppresses appetite. On the other hand there is evidence and a consistent scientific background to support the notion that carbohydrate stimulates the appetite. (This the reason restaurateurs freely offer consumers white bread with their meals!)

Sugar and high glycaemic index carbohydrates are intrinsic to the food manufacturing industry. Protein does not provide that "moreish" feeling that persuades consumers to finish the last biscuit

in a packet or empty a can of soft drink. This is the function of sugar and the particular combinations of fat and sugar the industry uses.

I expect in twenty or more years time, the files of the food industry will be opened. We will find out how much the food industry knows about stimulating the appetite and persuading purchasers to buy their products. Their knowledge about how to persuade consumers to eat more may be just as incriminating as the files of the cigarette industry have been.

In the meantime, we must follow Atkins' example, and not be afraid to challenge the status quo.

London SW6

Suicide bombs and moral argument

Sir: Your leader (24 January) asserts that Charles Kennedy should be ashamed of himself for removing Jenny Tonge from the Liberal Democrat front bench. On the contrary, it is you who should be ashamed of your bizarre position and apparent failure to comprehend a simple, fundamental moral argument.

Nobody would argue with the proposition that there is a need to understand people's motivations in all situations. But that is not what is being discussed here. It is that Dr Tonge asserted that she did not regard suicide bombing as being so immoral as to be beyond the boundaries of defensible behaviour. That is what saying "I might just consider it myself" means.

Is it acceptably moral to assert that I may hijack an airliner and fly it into a skyscraper for any reason whatsoever? Is it acceptably moral to consider detonating an explosive belt in an Arab restaurant where Arabs and Jews are socialising together? I do not need to rehash each incident you have reported in these pages.

Suicide bombing is not political discourse. Nor is it ever a moral option. Nor is it a weapon of war or resistance when used against civilians in restaurants or discotheques or skyscrapers. It is a weapon of hate, calculated to punish those who have the temerity to seek peace, be they Arabs or Jews, or the West in general. Peace between Israel and the Palestinians was in sight when the suicide bombers, whom Jenny Tonge so feelingly understands, deliberately and cruelly blew it to bits.

Shame on you for losing sight of so fundamental a reality. Shame on Jenny Tonge for failing to identify suicide bombers as killers of peace as well as people. Respect for Charles Kennedy for asserting the primacy of a morality which, disturbingly, you do not appear to share.

With damaged, but fervent, hopes for a just and respectful peace for all parties in the Middle East.

Chairman, Assembly of Rabbis of the Reform Synagogues of Great Britain, Leeds

Sir: Jenny Tonge has attempted to explain suicide bombing on the basis of the desperation of the Palestinian people. She is correct that the Palestinian people are desperate but wrong that this is the cause of suicide bombing. Suicide bombing emanates from the wicked manipulation by terrorist organisations of ordinary people (often children). It tends to increase when peace prospects and therefore hope are rising.

There are many desperate people on this planet and they don't resort to suicide bombing. Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela reached their objectives quite differently.

Jenny Tonge is indulging in rationalisation, not explanation. Every act in the world can be rationalised. Stalin's slaughter of millions of Russians can be rationalised on the basis that he felt the industrialisation of Russia was a priority. Adolf Hitler's Germany was humiliated and desperate too. If a man finds his wife cheating on him does he not have the right to beat her?

What is wicked about Jenny Tonge's comments is not the rationalisation she has employed but the fact that she has chosen this subject to rationalise. We don't choose to rationalise the gulags, Hitler, domestic violence or any other of the world's unconscionable brutalities against innocent people. By simply raising suicide bombings in this manner she is giving them credibility even though she says she is opposed to them.

Terrorism is defined not by its cause but by its method. Many terrorist organisations have valid grievances. Osama bin Laden is right (and agrees with George W Bush) that Saudi Arabia is a corrupt and despotic regime, yet George Bush's answer is to pressure the Saudis to democratise whereas bin Laden's is to slaughter its innocents. Ms Tonge lacks the insight to understand the difference.

London NW8

Sir: Jenny Tonge was perfectly justified. I've just spent two months in Nablus and the experience of occupation is dreadful: it is like living with filth in the house, the heart and the mind and never feeling free or clean. After ten years of that, I suspect that I would be likely to do something terrible.

Appleby, Cumbria

Sir: A few days ago it was Kilroy and his remarks about Arabs - sacked by the BBC. Now it's Jenny Tonge's turn - sacked by the Liberal Democrats for her comments on Palestinian suicide bombers. Is this the end of free speech as we know it?

Political parties and the media seem to be embarking on an orgy of self censorship. If this goes on the range of permitted expression within political debate will become so narrowed as to be pointless.

Jenny Tonge did not condone or support suicide bombings or terrorism of any kind. The Liberal Democrat leadership seems to have panicked. The sacking of Jenny is a cowardly disgrace and sends a message of despair to all those who hope for some robust honesty in the political life of our country and especially from the Lib Dems.

Kingston upon Thames, Surrey

Sir: Sam Green (letter, 24 January) may well be right to suggest that Hamas and Islamic Jihad provide the warped ideological justification for the actions of suicide bombers. However, the actions of the Israeli government serve as a very effective recruiting sergeant.

When Israel builds a "fence" ostensibly for its security, but which in effect annexes many square kilometres of Palestinian territory and treats Palestinians brutally when they protest, it is hardly surprising some misguided individuals resort to such extreme actions. In subjecting the inhabitants of towns and cities to air attack and punishment demolition of the houses of families of bombers, Israel is ensuring that in this atmosphere of hopelessness another generation of young Palestinians will become cannon fodder for the extremist clerics.

Jenny Tonge was absolutely right to raise the issue.

Ilford, Essex

Off-piste accident

Sir: My brother, Jonathan Smout, was the wrong person to feature in John Lichfield's article (17 January) about off-piste ski deaths in the French Alps. He didn't die in an avalanche in Tignes near Val d'Isere on 29 December because he was an irresponsible thrill-seeker.

He followed all the safety rules listed: he was a fit and competent skier, the avalanche risk was low, he went with an experienced guide and four other skiers, and he was well equipped. He died because he got caught on a slab of ice, which carried him down a slope into a hole. The slab broke up, piled on top of him and broke his neck. Yes it was an avalanche, but only a tiny one.

The slope is very close to protected pistes, and used daily by off-piste skiers. The hole is only 200 metres from one of the resort's car parks. No one was to blame. It was just a tragic accident.

The guide (22 years' experience) and his colleagues from the UCPA (a French not-for-profit organisation which promotes outdoor activities for young people) were as devastated as his family are. On New Year's Eve they interrupted their annual torch-lit ski procession down the slopes around Tignes to hold a minute's silence in tribute to Jonathan.


Student fees vote

Sir: Both the Labour Whips and Andrew Grice (The Week in Politics, 24 January) are surprisingly uncertain about the Government's chances of winning the top-up fees vote on Tuesday. Neither seem to realise that the Government will not need to keep the rebel numbers down to anything like as few as the 85 or so which has been talked about, given the likelihood of a significant Tory "rebellion".

After all, the best possible outcome from Mr Howard's point of view must be that Labour get their Bill, but his party can still claim at the next election that they did their best to stop it. If the Bill fails, the Tories are left with the almost certainly impossible task of fulfilling their pledge to fund the universities much more generously than at present, while at the same time pretending that they can also lower taxes. If the Bill passes, they can forget their temporary anti-fees stance and simply blame Labour for ever more for introducing the fees which they certainly would have introduced themselves by now had they been in office.

I expect a fair number of Tories to quietly absent themselves next Tuesday, with the connivance of their Whips. Meanwhile those potential Labour rebels who at the last minute switch back to the Government's side will simply be letting the Tories off the hook.

Liberal Democrat Higher Education Spokesperson
House of Commons

Sir: MPs should not confine themselves to judging the final version of the Government's policy on university fees. They should also take into account the Government's handling of an issue which is vital to thousands of individual families and to the future of the whole country.

Although a crisis in university finance has been building up for years, the Prime Minister discovers it only a few months ago. He and a small circle of advisers dream up a policy and dump it on the Cabinet and the Labour party. Important details of the policy are not worked out and are made up day by day. Others are frantically amended until the last minute to head off rebellion. The Prime Minister tries to drive through his proposals with the threat of suicide.

This is an example of bad government. Unfortunately it is not unique and it is likely to be repeated.


Sir: Polonius warned his student son, "Neither a borrower, nor a lender be." When, in the debate about variable top-up fees, has a firm moral objection to debt been voiced? Why do we not hear the strong-voiced opposition of the churches? Avoidance of debt is a basic tenet of Christian Socialism and Old Labour. Why do not the bishops speak out?

The whole of the population benefits from universities and their students. General taxation must pay for them in order to ensure that new generations of young working people do not start out encumbered by debt.


Blair's WMD error  

Sir: So, according to Robin Cook, Tony Blair must be the only person in the UK who believes that the intelligence on Iraqi WMDs was correct. At least, if Tony Blair was mistaken, it was in erring on the side of caution. Which is what he's paid and entrusted to do.

Eaton Bray, Bedfordshire

Sir: Do you think Tony Blair's religious faith helps him to believe in WMD?

London SE16

No credit

Sir: The reason why TV squeezes film credits to make room for a trailer for the next programme (letter, 23 January 23) is because most viewers would switch channels to find something else to watch other than six minutes of credits. Prolonged credits are TV dead time. If you want the credits, buy the video.

London W2

Dean's yelp

Sir: How is the wounding of a presidential hopeful by endless out-of-context TV repetition of a motivating yelp, delivered with a sore throat at a post-caucus pep-rally for tired and rather downcast volunteers a demonstration of the effectiveness of democracy (leading article, 23 January)? Democracy works if voters have access to balanced reporting of candidates and issues. In the US that kind of information is hard to come by.

London NW6

Martian arithmetic

Sir: A BBC reporter declared that the ice found on Mars, at -120 degrees Celsius, was six times colder than the lump of ice he had just taken out of the freezer. Having struggled with this I finally conclude he meant the freezer ice was at -20C. If this is how you work it out, then how much colder is -10 degrees than +5? Or is it warmer? (-10 divided by +5= -2 and -2 times as cold means twice as warm!) Could global warming, after all, be just an arithmetic error?

Tiverton, Devon