IoS letters, emails & online postings (15 April 2012)

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Regan Doherty carefully analyses the very difficult situation of family unions in the Middle East ("First-cousin marriages come under scrutiny", 8 April). This is far from being confined to this region, and it is an issue which needs treating with great delicacy here at home within British South Asian communities.

One of the powerful arguments for retaining the paediatric cardiac surgery unit at Leeds General Infirmary, rather than it being transferred to Newcastle, is that 23 per cent of the children who have had surgery in Leeds in the past five years have come from the South Asian population in and around the West Yorkshire region.

To a significant extent this arises from close-knit families arranging matches for their sons and daughters. Congenital heart defects are not the only medical problems arising, and education and counselling within the community on the potentially disastrous effects on children coming from first-cousin marriages is clearly important. It does, however, require considerable sensitivity.

Michael Meadowcroft

Leeds, West Yorkshire

Research by Alan Bittles, a geneticist at the Centre for Comparative Genomics at Australia's Murdoch University, found in 2008 that the infant mortality for children born within first-cousin marriages was 1.2 per cent higher than the general population, and birth defects were 2 per cent higher than the general population. It is not surprising that first-cousin couples are reluctant to get screening, when any potential problems could damage the marriage potential of the individuals. It seems the unborn child takes the risk.

Kartar Uppal

West Bromwich, West Midlands

Having had wild flowers around family graves strimmed away on the basis that this is the accepted maintenance regime, and that "it is what people want", I sympathise entirely with David Randall ("Where have all the flowers gone?", 8 April). The other worrying side to this is the increasing lack of care for our playgrounds, recreation areas and sports pitches, often excused on grounds of costs, which ignores all the other benefits they provide. More and more public sports facilities are neglected, and thus at risk of attack from speculative planning applications. We have also lost that accumulated professional horticultural expertise. In an Olympic year, this is a legacy that should also concern us.

Robert W Fletcher

Ingatestone, Essex

Not only the "British commentariat" but also the main political parties have failed to grasp that George Galloway's victory in Bradford is a turning point in British political life ("Galloway won for some very good reasons", 8 April). It shows that, in the internet age, you do not need large party political backing, huge funding or the support of a national newspaper to win an election. A new, healthier, more democratic form of government is opening up. If we could only see it, George has set us free and pointed the way to the future.

Dorothy Forbes

Birmingham

Alan Titchmarsh is critical of the Prime Minister for suggesting that gardening is an unskilled occupation ("Titchmarsh says...", 8 April). If the Tories fall out with the nation's gardeners, they're doomed.

Keith Flett

London N17

It was the Jews who chose Christ to be put to death, over Barabbas, and not Pontius Pilate, who washed his hands of the responsibility of putting an innocent man to death ("The cross is a symbol of cruelty, not a club badge", 8 April). The Romans merely carried out the crucifixion based on the wishes of a section of the Jewish people.

Patricia Lewis

Blackpool, Lancashire

Ian Holloway states that they "don't allow petulance at Old Trafford" and suggests that Alex Ferguson would never have allowed the Balotelli and Tevez antics as everyone at OT is "scared stiff of him", ("Mancini mistaken in bringing back Tevez and splitting dressing room", 8 April). Is this the same Ferguson who, when Wayne Rooney (not long ago) suddenly announced that United didn't match his ambitions and he was considering a move, panicked and capitulated instantly, offering him what he wanted in terms of an improved contract within days, and begging him to stay?

Ignacio Glynn

Knutsford, Cheshire

While I applaud loudly everything Katy Guest wrote last week following the Samantha Brick brouhaha, men's insecurities can be profitable too. Suspicious of Facebook, I did not tell it my gender when I created my account and whenever I log in I receive ads for penis extensions, indicating that they are sent to everyone who is, or could be, male. I can imagine that many men, when getting these ads, think: "How do they know?"

Natasha Hill

Eastbourne

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Letters to the Editor, Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF; email: sundayletters@independent.co.uk (with address; no attachments, please); fax: 020 7005 2627; online: independent.co.uk/dayinapage/2012/April/15

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