IoS letters, emails & texts (24 May 2009)

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Claiming for interest on paid-off mortgages and for council tax on first-turned-second homes or evading capital gain tax on second-turned-first homes is, in parliamentary speak, "an error of judgement". For the rest of us, it is a criminal offence, since, in the notorious words of the late American billionaire Leona Helmsley (charged – and convicted – of tax evasion in 1989): "Only the little people pay taxes."

The time has arrived to bring to justice the parliamentarian rule- makers who bend and break the rules at will. They are not, to use their words, "fit for purpose".

Ruth Tenne

London NW6

In your report "The party's over" (17 May), you portrayed a ballot paper with slots for the main parties and one headed "None of the above". Such a slot should be a statutory requirement for all ballot papers for all elections – with the obligation that, if this slot showed a majority, the election should be rerun with different candidates. This would restrict the present practice of party central offices foisting their candidates on constituencies.

As this is unlikely to happen before the next election, I would urge discontented voters to append this message to their ballot papers, rather than refraining from exercising their right to vote. A large number of "spoilt papers" would send a strong message to the so-called political elite that the people are fed up with the present system that is degrading democracy.

Malcolm Morrison

Swindon, Wiltshire

Bleary eyed after having diligently trawled through your acreage of copy regarding those dastardly MPs and their claims for food, TVs, travelling to work, etc (one doesn't half wonder what they think their "income" is for – school fees, I shouldn't wonder), I alighted on the splendid column about dandelions by David Randall. This not only served the purpose of cheering me up enormously, but put life back into perspective. Thus, I concede, I have reached Middle Age.

Peter Harvey

Aylsham, Norfolk

I have not seen the Tarantino film Inglourious Basterds, but I understand it is a work of fiction. Perhaps so, but after reading "Meet the real Tarantino war heroes" (17 May), I would like to clarify some facts.

No 3 Troop, 10 Commando was a group of 79 young Jewish men, mainly from Germany and Austria, who arrived in England, shortly before the Second World War, on the Kindertransport.

At the outbreak of war they were interned. After much protesting, they were allowed to join the Pioneer Corps, then eventually the Commandos and the Airborne Divisions. They were specifically trained to help spearhead the invasion of Normandy on D-Day.

One of their tasks was to capture Germans for interrogation. If any of them were caught, they would have been shot immediately because of their nationality. This resulted in many being given new names and identities.

The Jewish Brigade Group was formed in 1944 and announced in the House of Commons by the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. It comprised Palestine Jews and Jewish volunteers from the Allied Forces, totalling 6,000 men. To the best of my knowledge, it contained no Americans. They served in Italy as part of the 8th Army. They lost a number of men and gained awards for bravery.

After the war, frustrated by the inaction of the Allies to root out and deal with the perpetrators of the Holocaust, a small number of Brigade soldiers took it upon themselves to deal out summary justice to those murderers and war criminals. The creation of the Lieutenant Aldo Raine character as played by Brad Pitt and the order to collect 100 scalps would appear to be pure invention.

I agree with my colleague, Martin Sugarman, quoted in the article, when he said: "I think most people will understand the anger Jewish soldiers felt. Summary execution – failing proper legal procedure because there was no Allied will to do this – is probably seen as natural justice by most."

Henry Morris

Curator, Jewish Military Museum

London NW4

I saw Gay Pride in Manchester last year where the police were arm in arm with those taking part, and it was a incredible carnival atmosphere. Years ago, of course, the police (and our society) were not so tolerant. What a contrast to other places in the world. Peter Tatchell and his followers should be up there with the Pankhursts for their courage and fortitude, and for their right to exist.


via the messageboard

A blue whale is so big that a human could swim through its largest artery. Its heart is bigger and heavier than a male hippo, weighing in at around three tonnes.

If these creatures were in abundance, you might permit Japan to do "research on them". But they are just on the brink of recovery – Japan, back off.


via the messageboard

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