IoS letters, emails & online postings (27 February 2011)

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Robert Fisk asks how Arab leaders mistake secular revolts for Islamist ones and adds, "The Shah made an identical mistake in reverse. Confronted with an obviously Islamic uprising, he blamed it on Communists" ("These are secular popular revolts – yet everyone is blaming religion", 20 February).

These "stable dictatorships" have enjoyed the support of Western powers, particularly the United States, for many years. When faced with uprisings, they want to maintain that support. But the protesters are demanding things that the West claims to support: political freedom and democracy. That's why the current ones are painting themselves as being at the cutting edge against Islamism while the Shah, in 1979 Cold War days, cited communism. They choose to misrepresent what they are facing for the purposes of self-preservation. Totalitarian regimes know their manors rather well, and the despots that head them are capable of lying to the outside world.

Ian Griffin


The Prime Minister's judgement in touring the Gulf states to promote arms sales, in the wake of unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, is highly questionable. We need to know whether the UK sold the weapons and riot control equipment being used by various regimes.

The coalition promised us foreign policy with a conscience, but selling arms to trouble spots will inevitably inflame conflicts. Rules on arms exports must be tightened, and strong safeguards put in place to guarantee exports are not used against protesters.

Alex Orr


David Cameron thinks "saving my local pub and church hall" is a valid contribution to the community ("So, what do you do for the Big Society? 20 February"). That is patronising to the army of volunteers to which I belong, filling roles over several decades of volunteering that would have never attracted government funding, while holding down a full-time job and bringing up two children.

It must be a great luxury for Mr Cameron and his Cabinet to lord over lacklustre token efforts towards the "big society", but it is no luxury when voluntary roles become an essential part of the social fabric in deprived areas because his coalition government is removing funding for some of the most vulnerable.

Catherine Learoyd

Marske by the Sea, North Yorkshire

Gordon Brown is right to raise the alarm regarding youth unemployment worldwide. However, the fact that 20 per cent of young people in the UK are looking for a job merits serious, urgent attention from politicians and business alike ("We risk wasting an entire generation", 20 February). As an employer I find young employees are not constrained by existing perceptions, bringing enthusiasm and offering creative solutions. The Government should set an example to other countries by unlocking the potential of the next generation.

Dave Allen

Managing Director, NetApp Limited

Formal contact with the youth justice system is criminalising and stigmatising ("Lib Dems clash with Tory right over child justice", 20 February). The younger a child is when they are drawn into the system, the more likely they are to continue to offend. Raising the age of criminal responsibility will be good for society and good for children. Children who commit serious crimes, thankfully few and far between, could still be detained and held accountable for their actions, while thousands of others, who currently face a system based on an adult model, could and should be diverted from counter-productive formal systems.

Pam Hibbert

Chair, National Association for Youth Justice

Malvern, Worcestershire

Unfortunately for the people of Oxfordshire, there is no reprieve yet for our libraries ("Nimby? Cameron accused", 20 February). We wait to see if the Save Oxfordshire Libraries campaign can reverse the proposals.

Judith Wardle,

Friends of North Leigh LibraryWitney, Oxfordshire

The carbon footprint of carrier bags is only one aspect of the harm plastics do ("Carrier bags 'not eco-villains after all'", 20 February). Plastic does not biodegrade. The flotsam in the oceans photo-degrades into nanoparticles small enough to be ingested by marine organisms, entering the food chain. Plastics that decompose can leach potentially toxic chemicals; some cause hormonal disruption. These too enter the food chain. The oceans, like the forests, are an essential part of the processes that remove carbon dioxide from our atmosphere. Making judgements solely on the basis of carbon footprints will not do.

Sandra Walmsley

Weeting, Norfolk

A plastic-bag-free 2012 Olympics ("the greenest ever games"?) would show the world that life without plastic bags is possible.

Marilyn Mason

Kingston upon Thames, Surrey

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