To squander at least £17bn of public money on the high-speed rail link (HS2) when public services are being crucified would be little short of criminal ("Protesters threaten to derail high-speed line", 27 February). For the Government to say it will benefit the Midlands generally is absolute nonsense: only those close to Birmingham would choose to use it; others, with a journey to reach it and a wait for the HS2, will lose any time saved. The line passes along the south-west boundary of Coventry, the eighth-largest city in the UK, whose citizens will be expected to travel "backwards" to Birmingham to reach the HS2.
Other areas of the rail network are in far more urgent need of investment, for example, reopening the line from Okehampton to Plymouth or reopening the old Great Central lines to revitalise cities along its route.
You correctly note that "The price of food is at the heart of this wave of revolutions" (27 February) yet omit to mention the key underlying causes of food scarcity now leading weather-related fluctuations to hit so hard. These are the rising world demand for meat and dairy with their high land footprint, and rising incentivised biofuel use in the EU, US and elsewhere. Would it be fair to say that biofuel incentives are by far the most effective way that today's politicians can exacerbate world hunger and get away with it?
So a master war criminal with around one million dead Iraqis on his bloodied hands (Blair) is now telling a fellow war criminal (with around 1,000 of his own people slaughtered) that this is unacceptable behaviour ("Revealed: Blair's secret calls to Gaddafi", 27 February). The hypocrisy is unbelievable.
It is a sad state of affairs that a country that was once the workshop of the world now relies so heavily on just two industries, arms and finance ("Selling arms will always backfire on Britain", 27 February). What a fatal dependence on just two sectors in which fraud, deceit and greed are endemic, both of which spread destruction and misery around the world. While the profits are pocketed by a few, the consequences of their evil and the ensuing cost of their evildoings are borne by all. This is nothing to be proud of.
Sarah Sands writes that drugs are the only proven form of treatment for depression ("Walking, not whining, relieves the blues, Ruby", 27 February). In fact, as a psychologist, I know that drugs, unlike CBT (and yes, walking), struggle to outperform placebo in trial after trial. I recommend the excellent The Emperor's New Drugs by Irving Kirsch which summarises the evidence brilliantly.
I would like to assure readers that they can enjoy a variety of in-depth books output across BBC channels ("Books and the BBC", D J Taylor, 27 February). BBC4's books programming has not been "relegated" but is in addition to programmes on BBC1, such as the arts documentary strand Imagine, returning with a two-part special on Tolstoy, and BBC2. Highlights there include Melvyn Bragg's documentary The King James Bible: The Book that Changed the World, a new book discussion show on Friday nights, and Armando Iannucci on Dickens as part of a major BBC Dickens season in December. And there is a wealth of radio programmes and drama adaptations of literary classics across the network.
BBC Commissioning Editor, Arts
D J Taylor, while rightly doubting that Whitehall's "innate snobbery" is the reason for Bruce Forsyth being passed over for a knighthood ("Dear Diary, no knighthood, sick as parrot", 27 February), leaves aside the puzzle of why Mr Forsyth's claim to the honour receives so much publicity. Two other octogenarian comics have contributed so much more to light entertainment. Eric Sykes, who has written scripts for what amounts to a Who's Who of British comedy, is still performing to much acclaim despite being virtually deaf and blind. Ken Dodd is still treading the boards in sell-out marathon one-man shows that would exhaust much younger men. Could the answer to the puzzle be Forsyth's high TV profile rather than his music hall credentials?
Gordon Peter Duff
Hector Wain and his wife Toni have three teenage boys and want a suitable vehicle for their needs (Car Choice, 27 February). They only cover 6,000 miles a year, and most of their journeys are stop-start around town. May I suggest they each buy a cycle? It would save them money, and perhaps make the boys less "burly".
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