Formula One fiasco, Asbo nation and others

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The Independent Online

Time for racing teams to break out of the Formula One fiasco

Time for racing teams to break out of the Formula One fiasco

Sir: The debacle at the United States Grand Prix is directly attributable to the rule changes that made it mandatory to run practice laps and a Grand Prix on one set of tyres.

Michelin and Bridgestone, the manufacturers of Formula One tyres, have had to try to design tyres that are up to the mark and safe in a timeframe that was undoubtedly too short. They have had to go from designing tyres that could be replaced at every pit-stop to tyres that have comparable performance to those fast-wearing tyres, yet which will last for over 200 miles of extreme use. Both manufactures have failed, unsurprisingly, to manufacture tyres that fit the FIA remit, as demonstrated by tyre failures in past races. This time round, Michelin had advised their teams that unless the track had a chicane installed in the circuit their tyres would be unsafe.

No chicane was constructed, and the Grand Prix took place with cars equipped with Bridgestone tyres only, the Michelin runners not taking part. Ferrari (the team I personally support) won against no competition. If at the end of the season Michael Shumacher wins the championship by six points, it will be due to the walkover at the US Grand Prix, and would be a hollow victory.

The FIA has made a complete mess of F1, and it is now time for the racing teams to back out of the F1 fiasco to set up a similar series of grands prix, governed by themselves, which they have threatened to do in the past.



Asbo nation is in serious trouble

Sir: Vulnerable young people have been ignored for generations; Charles Dickens' novels are a testimony to that fact. What is particularly striking is that our current social trend is to deal with this problem by inflicting anti-social behaviour orders on children who need simply to be loved and cared for. This is a straightforward matter that our culture is refusing to address.

Camilla Batman-Ghelidja's analysis of the problem ("The Asbo generation", 20 June) does not commit itself to telling the truth about parental inability to take responsibility. According to Ms Ghelidja, these children have been "terrorised and possibly abused for years". By whom? Their parents? If this is true, then we are living in a degenerative society within which a whole generation of children from a variety of backgrounds are destined to become criminals because their parents are vile, abusive and terrifying people. Is this the truth about modern Britain? If it is, then we are in serious trouble for generations to come.

Modern Britain is in a mess. We have a national credit card debt of £1 trillion, our schools and health care systems are under-funded, gun-related violent crimes are the rise - the list is endless. Instead of creating headlines such as "The Asbo generation" why don't you get straight to the point and just admit that modern Britain is a selfish, nasty society filled with a large percentage of people who can't even love their children? Laws and welfare systems can't take care of that: the love and nurturing of one's offspring should be part of human nature. If it is not there, then we are a sick nation.



Sir: It would be impossible for the average Bangladeshi to imagine a young Bangla child being "banned from throwing missiles, spitting, assaulting anyone, using abusive language, damaging property and harassing people".

It suggests to me that there is a real and upsetting phenomenon in the United Kingdom, of young children behaving in ways that are far worse than merely "childish exuberance". I am not in a position to give the simple answer so many people crave, and I am not sure that Asbos alone will solve this issue. But I do think that a knee-jerk opposition to such orders and predictable rent-a-quotes from the children's rights industry are dealing with the issues at completely the wrong level.

Certainly parental supervision seems, on the surface, to be stronger in Muslim Bangladesh than agnostic Britain. Certainly, if I still lived in Britain, I would be an active campaigner to get local tearaways banished from my neighbourhood if they started making trouble. OK, I would be dealing with symptoms rather than the causes, but we have to start somewhere, and condemning Asbos does not seem to be the place to start.



Sir: I was sitting on the bus reading the article about Asbos being issued to children, some suffering with Asperger's and Tourette's syndrome, the latter of which can involve an inability to stop shouting profanities.

I turned the page and there staring back at me was a photo of four "hoodies". I found myself cursing and mumbling profanities like "those f***ing little s**ts", before stopping myself in case I were to fall victim of an Asbo myself.

Two such "hoodies" have been responsible for causing thousands of pounds worth of damage to the estate where I live, smashing windows and doors, stealing and burning motorcycles, threatening other tenants with knives and recently attacking another youth at a bus stop.

Their excuse is boredom. Nothing to do. A brand new sports centre was opened less than a five-minute walk from where these boys live; there are a number of youth clubs and they also happen to be surrounded by some of London's great open spaces. They have had their warnings, had chances but still want to cause trouble. They need more than an Asbo.



Sir: The Government have continually proclaimed Asbos as the answer to anti-social behaviour, even though there is no research to show they work. The emphasis given to Asbos is in stark contrast to any emphasis given to provide proper facilities for youth or to agencies dealing with mental health and drug or alcohol addiction.

The public do not see Asbos as effective in dealing with the problem and a recent Joseph Rowntree survey showed two thirds of people thought the emphasis should be on preventive measures to deal with antisocial behaviour rather than punishment.

The real problem with Asbos is that the definition of antisocial behaviour is so broad, being "any behaviour likely to cause alarm". This means that it is easy for the police or local authority to obtain an order and only 3 per cent of applications have been refused.

The Home Office claim that Asbos "usually" follow a range of interventions. Many Asbos in fact are now granted following sentence by a magistrate without any formal application. There is no evidence that these Asbos follow any intervention whatsoever.

We are a campaign launched in April and now supported by over 40 organisations all united in a demand to stop Asbo abuse and for a full public government review of Asbos.



Sir: I was outraged by the case of the 15-year-old with Asperger's syndrome banned from staring into his neighbour's garden. I have a 14-year-old brother with typical Asperger's syndrome who can quite easily become intrigued by something in our neighbours' gardens. I would like to know what the authorities were thinking when they threatened a boy in that condition with jail. It should be their responsibility as the authority to offer help to the child and his parents to deal with his condition; I know how hard it is living with Asperger's, and also that a child with Asperger's, if given an Asbo, wouldn't know what they had done.



British Jews are not hostages for Israel

Sir: Michael Halpern (letter, 17 June) sees a connection between the actions of the Israeli government towards the Palestinian Arabs and recent acts of racist violence in Britain, including attacks on Jewish cemeteries, which he dismisses as "juvenile vandalism". He thinks that Israel "has an absolute responsibility and duty to the majority of world Jewry" who are "dependent on the goodwill of the host countries in which they live".

I too think that Israel has a duty to behave justly towards the Palestinians, but because it is a matter of justice to do so, not because the treatment of Jews in Britain or anywhere else should in any way be a hostage to its behaviour.

No doubt some warped and bigoted minds might seek some justification for their despicable acts by some theory of equivalence, and Mr Halpern goes half way towards insinuating that this is justified by snidely referring to "those Jewish communities overseas who in general support" Israel. But there is no more justification for making the treatment of the Jewish community conditional on the actions of the Israeli government, than in making the treatment of Moslems dependent on the behaviour of the government of Saudi Arabia.

Once again, for his benefit and for that of others who have not understood this simple ethical message: Israel is not Judaism, the Israeli government are not British men and women, of whatever religion, who seek to live their lives and be buried with dignity. And injustice in Palestine should never be used to excuse racism here.



Tory challenge on nuclear weapons

Sir: The three responses (letters, 16 June) to my letter of 14 June on Labour and the nuclear deterrent are gratifying in their contractions. According to Stephen Pullinger, the Government's evasiveness over whether or not it will replace Trident is "welcome" and the question of any replacement clearly wide open. According to Laurie Marks, however, it is "bizarre" and "preposterous" to suggest that Labour will not go ahead with a new deterrent when Trident comes to an end.

Nigel Chamberlain of the British American Security Information Council seems to agree with me that the Government is being evasive and that it is right to press them to come clean.

Curiously, no Defence minister has chosen to write to you, though Dr Pullinger apes John Reid's feeble point in the House on 6 June that the Conservatives did not mention the deterrent in our manifesto: this was, of course, because - unlike Labour - our commitment to maintaining a nuclear deterrent as long as other countries have nuclear weapons has never been in doubt. Will the Defence Secretary now advise your readers whether this is equally true of the Government?



Sellafield leak shows power plant safety

Sir: Rather than proving that nuclear power is unsafe the latest catastrophe at Sellafield probably proves the opposite. ("BNFL leak leaves Tony Blair's nuclear ambitions in disarray", 15 June)

Three major nuclear incidents, the Windscale fire, Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, have occurred. The accidents in the West did not lead to any public deaths or injuries to workers, whereas both workers and the public at large suffered considerable casualties as a result of Chernobyl.

The latest incident at Sellafield is indeed significant and, like most accidents, should have been avoided. However, the accident was contained and no significant release of radioactivity to the environment occurred. The reason is that in the West it is accepted that accidents will happen and our plant is designed for defence in depth. If something leaks it should leak into containment rather than the environment. Compare this to the philosophy employed in Russian power stations, that the plant is designed scientifically and is therefore flawless and any accidents are therefore due to saboteurs.

The number of deaths caused by Chernobyl are tiny in comparison to the number of deaths which have already occurred as a result of a combination of burning fossil fuels and the resultant global warming.



Elections for fun

Sir: Peter Tritt (letter, 20 June) wants New Zealand to abandon proportional representation and return to first-past-the-post because he misses "the fun of election nights, with all the drama of winners and losers". Any country which chooses its politicians on the basis of what makes election nights fun, rather than what produces the best government, is asking for trouble.



Blood on whose hands?

Sir: I'm disturbed by Rod Beacham's assertion (letter, 20 June) that people who condemn torture as a means of gathering information may end up with innocent blood on their hands as a result. By condemning one atrocity you do not assume responsibility for another. It is the terrorists that have blood on their hands, so do the torturers, so do the leaders that perpetuate the situation, and so do the people who continue to vote for those leaders.



Sudoku answers

Sir: Ever since the plague of Sudokus descended upon your long-suffering readership, I have wondered how Sudoku compilers know that each one they devise has a unique solution. But it seems they don't. On Friday there were no fewer than three possible solutions for the Advanced. Shame upon you. But can a mathematician help us? What properties does a starting point require to ensure there is only one possible "correct" solution?



Disappointed man

Sir: No wonder Armani Man seems unhappy. In all the sightings recorded he has not managed to dispose of a single one of his wares - even when he was apparently giving them away. Is he the world's worst salesman or is there a way of discovering what happens if you take him up on his offers?



Heading for disaster

Sir: With the demise of the verb "to go", I've started updating popular literature: "Let us head off then, you and I,/ When the evening is spread out against the sky/ Like a patient etherised upon a table;/ Let us head, through certain half-deserted streets ..." (Eliot). "I will arise and head off now, and head to Innisfree ..." (Yeats). "Head off out, even unto Bethlehem ... ". We look forward to the new New English Bible.



Religious question

Sir: Would Orange Order parades fall foul of the proposed religious hatred legislation?