IoS letters emails & online postings (14 December 2014)

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It's appalling that the Catholic Church meddles with how hospitals handle abortion in Italy ("Vatican's influence is restricting abortions, Italian doctors warn," 7 December).

Abortion is a private medical procedure. Religion shouldn't come into it, but if medical staff do refuse to carry out abortions for such reasons then women must at least be made aware of who else they can safely turn to, not be turned away like outcasts.

Unwanted pregnancy can become a grave danger to mental and emotional well-being without the right support. Illegal abortions were the third biggest cause of death for Italian women before Law 194, but it's as if the anti-choice lobby turn a blind eye to this. Abortion would be far less common if more people were educated about and had access to birth control, yet the Catholic Church won't acknowledge that either.

To have an abortion is a personal choice. For some it can be a deeply upsetting decision, but that doesn't mean they should not have the right to make it.

Emilie Lamplough

Trowbridge, Wiltshire

It is very troubling that Shmuley Boteach, a Jewish Oxford graduate, is unable to attempt to understand or explain why Britain is becoming more hostile to Israel ("Sex, Sainsbury's, celebrity... and anti-Semitism", 7 December).

Times have changed; pity for their Holocaust experience has dissipated, as the truth about Israel's relationship towards another people, the Palestinians, is shown to be ruthless, callous and racist. Ethnic cleansing of Palestinian land continues recklessly in order that, from the river Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea, all of it will be Israel.

Anna Tognarelli

Stockport

I feel Professor Mark Bishop is forgetting the Turing test, when he claims that human qualities such as understanding and consciousness cannot be replicated by computers ("Stephen Hawking versus the robots", 7 December). Alan Turing proposed that if a human could not tell from on-screen conversations with a computer and a human, which was which then we could say the computer can "think". The issue is not that understanding can't be replicated, but what type of understanding is replicated.

Kartar Uppal

West Bromwich, West Midlands

Stephen Hawking should listen to the writers of the Terminator TV series about the limitations of Artificial Intelligence. In it Sarah Connor (Lena Headey) states that machines "cannot appreciate beauty, they cannot create art. If they ever learn these things, they won't have to destroy us, they'll be us."

Will Goble

Raleigh, Essex

Steve Connor describes Karel Capek as a Czech film-maker. In fact he was an author and playwright. The term "robot", derived from a Slovak word, appeared in his play R.U.R. Another of his plays was The Makropulos Affair, made into an opera by Janacek.

Paul Dormer

Guildford, Surrey

I was not surprised to read of the poor take-up on the "NewBuy" and "Help to Buy" housing schemes ("NewBuy housing scheme is a 95 per cent failure", 7 December).

Given that it is virtually impossible for many people to save at the same time as paying, sometimes exorbitant, rents and associated utility bills, why can't a certified track record of paying rent regularly and reliably be used as a guarantee to support a mortgage of the same amount?

After all once they have a mortgage they don't need to continue to save towards a deposit, so in fact their income is likely to benefit. If a person is able to evidence any further regular saving, such as saving towards that unachievable first-time deposit, the amount be added to how mortgage they can be offered.

No doubt there are safeguards to be built into this idea, but what about the principle? Ministers please consider it, nothing else is working.

Sue Clark

Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire

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