IoS letters & emails, 21 September 2008

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The exact circumstances leading to the death of Mark Saunders are under investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, and everyone must wait for its findings. ("The killing of Mark Saunders: 'Those responsible should be tried and sent to prison'", 14 September). Continued speculation about the events of that day and the actions of my officers is at least unhelpful and at worst could damage Londoners' confidence in our ability to protect them. The men and women who carry firearms are all volunteers. They risk their lives to protect the public and unarmed colleagues from the armed criminals and life-threatening situations, are trained to the highest standards, have extensive skills and are obliged to account in law for all of their actions. My officers respond to over 1,000 calls a months to potentially dangerous firearms situations, but the use of lethal force is extremely rare.

Jerry Savill

Commander, Central Operations, Metropolitan Police

London SW1

A shotgun has a lethal range of 40 metres – if the cartridge contains bird shot. However, if it contains a solid slug, it will easily penetrate armour at about 50 metres. We do not know at this stage what type of shot was in Mark Saunders' cartridges. No one, above all police officers charged with upholding the law, have any desire to take a life, and those who voluntarily undertake firearms duties are fully aware of the responsibilities they hold, and what they may be called upon to justify.

Sergeant Cliff Elam

Twickenham, Middlesex

Last year in Lambeth we carried out the country's biggest-ever research and consultation exercise to understand the root causes of youth violence ("Grim teenage murder toll as knife victim dies", 14 September). Contrary to your article, our research did not find that Lambeth gangs are responsible for 20 per cent of crime in London, but it did show where we need to focus our effort to reduce violent youth crime. It remains our priority to get the worst offenders off our streets while protecting our young people.

Cllr Steve Reed

Leader, Lambeth Council

London SW2

Alaska's magnificent and varied landscapes, along with an abundance of wildlife and natural resources, are some of the reasons Mrs Palin was a dangerous choice for Governor of Alaska, and a potentially lethal choice for the person a heartbeat from the presidency ("No woman is an island, Mrs Palin", 14 September). Her respect for Alaska extends only to the money she can make from its oil and timber, with no regard to the damage the relentless drilling and cutting has done to its precious and fragile environment. Our national parks have suffered already under eight years of the Bush administration – a President Palin could spell the end of Yellowstone or Yosemite, and would be especially deadly when moulding US policies regarding global warming.

The outcome of this election will affect the world, and those who support Obama and who want the nightmare to end must choose their words carefully. The McCain campaign will no doubt use the article as further proof that supporters of Obama are sneering snobs.

Patricia Sheehan


Professor James Hansen is right to call for a worldwide programme of planting trees to use as fuel, with carbon capture and storage being used when the wood is burned ("Phase out coal and burn trees instead, urges leading scientist", 14 September). Another way to remove carbon is carbon scrubbing, which uses sodium hydroxide solution to absorb carbon dioxide. 2% For The Planet calls on the UK government to invest 1 per cent of national income in carbon removal while inviting individuals to contribute 1 per cent of income to the fund. Economic problems now are as nothing compared with the economic and other damage that climate change will cause.

Richard Mountford

Founder, 2% For The Planet

Tonbridge, Kent

If the Damien Hirst backlash ("A Hirst original", 14 September) becomes financially embarrassing for the great man, there is a huge untapped popular market available. Millions of ordinary people would love to have access to the Hirst magic. A goldfish in formaldehyde could sit on every mantelpiece and a plastic skull studded with cheap fake diamonds would raise issues of life and death in every sitting room. As for the spot paintings, these could be made accessible to the average punter by selling them as individual spots. Come on, Damien: the demand is there. Seaside resorts, fairgrounds, the shopping channel – the people's Sotheby's so to speak – are ready and waiting. There has always been a market for tat.

John Newsinger


I am writing this on my PC and I will look for an acknowledgement on my BlackBerry when I reach my hotel, but I also read and write novels (Books Special, The New Review, 14 September).

The greatest challenge to the book is not information technology but the incoherent vandalism that is marginalising reading for pleasure in our schools and libraries. Book stock in public libraries has fallen by 26 per cent in the past 10 years. During a similar period, the number of library staff fell 13 per cent. School libraries are being closed and replaced by shiny ICT suites when we should be integrating the book and computer in a managed symbiosis. Our children are reading fewer whole books and more excerpts, not because of the pressure of ICT but because the curriculum has been designed that way. The less well-off suffer disproportionately in such a situation.

That is why I have launched the Campaign for the Book supported by Michael Rosen, Philip Pullman, Anne Fine, Sue Palmer, Beverley Naidoo, and 400 others. The gold standard is a society where people are equally at home reading deliciously long, challenging books and the computer screen. It is something we may have to fight for.

Alan Gibbons

Campaign for the Book


If we changed to a phonetic spelling of all our wayward words, I would be in trouble, because I am used to recognising a word without noticing its phonetic bits ("Through or thru ...?", 14 September). It was easy for the Spanish Academy to introduce in the mid-19th century a completely phonetic spelling of its written language. No mass protests were recorded, because most people could not read. Spanish texts are phonetically logical. Ours are etymologically logical.

James Connolly

Eccles, Manchester

A very good address

Those who know how to pronounce Georgiana may regard those who do not as "oiks", but the naming of an important historical character is a matter of correctness ("Through or thru? Plow or plough?...", 14 September). In her time, the only pronunciation by people of any class of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire [portrayed by Keira Knightley in 'The Duchess'] would be "Jor-jay-na". The same goes for Mr Darcy's sister Georgiana in 'Pride and Prejudice'.

James Snowden


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