Careers advice at schools is perfunctory, carried out by "stoic teachers on a voluntary basis", as Margareta Pagano says ("The UK's lost boys need better careers advice", 6 January). I worry about my two sons, bright boys, doing well at school. One is a sixth-former, with no real path apart from being excellent at sport, with ambitions to play football, of course. He asks: "University or not?" Kids need sound advice from people in the know. We do need to lobby the Government now to work with the Lib Dem MP Gordon Birtwistle, who, as Ms Pagano reports, has just proposed an excellent Private Member's Bill for a national careers service.
Ruth Rendell is right: we must tackle female genital mutilation in the UK ("Change needs to start in Britain", 6 January). Around the world the cutting of genitals causes indescribable pain and lifelong health problems for millions of women. International development organisations working in low-income countries put much time and effort into preventing FGM, dealing with the debilitating effects it has on women and campaigning for protective laws to be introduced in those countries. The fact that we have a law in the UK but are not acting on it is a national shame.
Health Poverty Action
Baroness Rendell is mistaken in supposing that she was the first to use the word "clitoris" from the floor of the House of Lords. It was used by several noble Lords during the second reading and the committee stage of the Bill banning female genital mutilation in April/May 1983. The Bill was introduced by my late husband, Lord Kennet, and among the noble Lords speaking and using the word were Lord Trefgarne and Lord Hale.
My partner runs a shop and post office, and courier companies routinely use/abuse her shop as a safe and secure drop for parcels they can't be bothered to deliver ("Online retailers and customers let down by delivery services", 6 January). This allows working people to pick up their parcels from 8am-7pm. With the growth in online shopping and the variable performance of couriers, it would make sense for customers to pay their local post office £10 a year (or £1 a parcel for infrequent users) to act as a secure and findable drop-off. Not only would this resolve some of the problems with naff couriers, it would also provide a financial lifeline to small shops and post offices that too many people expect to be able to use once a year, but resent paying for the other 360 days of the year.
Scientific understanding always depends upon sound evidence. According to Sir Paul Nurse FRS: "The John Maddox Prize is an exciting new initiative to recognise bold scientists who battle to ensure that sense, reason and evidence base play a role in the most contentious debates." For scientific understanding to prevail, the extensive biomedical evidence base of ME/CFS [myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome] must now be recognised by all researchers in the field.
The idea that ME/CFS is due to a dysfunctional psyche is a hypothesis without an evidence base. The Maddox Prize was thereby awarded to the defender of a hypothesis with no evidence base rather than to someone who was upholding true scientific inquiry. Personal attacks against Professor Sir Simon Wessely do not advance the cause, but it is scientifically legitimate to direct criticism at the hypothesis both he and Professor White continue to espouse.
The Countess of Mar
Professor Malcolm Hooper
Dr William Weir
House of Lords, London SW1
In The Feral Beast (6 January), Matthew Bell observes that during Benjamin Britten's centenary, only two of the composer's 16 operas are being played in his home town, Aldeburgh. However, Aldeburgh Music is staging six of Britten's operas across Suffolk over the centenary: Peter Grimes, Death in Venice, Curlew River, The Burning Fiery Furnace, The Prodigal Son and Noye's Fludde.
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