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Monday 28 February 2011
Letters: A bloody price for Libya's oil
Howard Pilott (letter, 26 February) claims that British expatriates contribute nothing to the UK Exchequer. Really? When visiting their home country on leave they pay VAT on most of the goods and services, as would any overseas tourists, on top of supporting businesses and jobs.
Far from being freeloaders, they have always had to pay overseas tuition fees for their children at universities, despite having paid more British income tax in the past than the parents of students from other EU countries.
We are often told of how migrant workers from poorer countries contribute to this country and to their own by sending back remittances to their families, yet we denigrate British ones as tax dodgers. Charming.
Why does Mr Pilott think that the only requisite for a British citizen to be rescued for an increasingly violent and bloody revolution is whether they pay tax?
My father is among those stuck in a remote camp, stranded and vulnerable, where he and his colleagues have been subjected to looting and opportunists with AK47s and knives. Thanks to Thatcher destroying our industry, the only place my father, as a trained engineer, could find a job was abroad, where he has worked for 23 years, my entire life, to support his family and three children.
He can enjoy only three months a year wih his family. Every penny he earns is spent in this country. My family and I pay VAT, we pay our taxes, we all rely on oil from Libya and elsewhere, whether we like it or not, whether we support Middle Eastern regimes or not, and it disgusts me when I hear people say we should leave them to rot.
This is a frightening and uncertain time for the Libyans and for those who have been rescued and are still waiting. Perhaps Mr Pilott can provide nice tax-paying jobs in this wonderful land of opportunity of ours for the expats who live and work abroad out of necessity, and they will no longer be such a burden to him.
Brighton, East Sussex
Now that the UN has asked the International Criminal Court to investigate events in Libya, we should recall two pertinent aspects of the Rome Statute which established the Court.
First, "The Statute shall apply equally to all persons without any distinction based on official capacity" (Article 27). Second, that criminal responsibility and liability for punishment may arise if a person, "For the purpose of facilitating the commission of such a crime, aids, abets or otherwise assists in its commission or its attempted commission, including providing the means for its commission" (Article 25).
So those investigated should include the weapons company employees, civil servants and politicians who contributed to providing the Libyan military with the arms used against civilians.
Professor Richard Bowen
Al-Qa'ida started in Saudi Arabia, with Osama bin Laden protesting against the rigid and repressive Saudi royal family with the intention to bring in change. Two decades later, the "Jasmine Revolution" began in Tunisia, moved to Egypt and now Libya as well as other parts of the Arab world, initiating the change Bin Laden had wanted.
It is all fine for the average citizen in these countries going through the heady feeling of the revolution which brings them the aroma of freedom for now, but in the long term they may fall into the hands of the Islamic fundamentalists and the de facto Al-Qa'ida. So essentially these citizens are caught between the devil, Osama bin Laden, and the deep sea, being the existing repressive regimes.
But the US State Department continued dealing with the repressive regimes until in desperation they pulled the plug, which speaks volumes for the pursuit of democracy by the US around the world.
Alto Betim, Bardez Goa
When the people of Libya need our best wishes and help to free themselves of tyranny, and all the moral and reasonable material support we can give them, what do they receive from the West? America imposes unilateral sanctions and the British Prime Minister speaks of investigations into suspected war crimes?
I appreciate the need to threaten and scare the weaker members of the Libyan regime to switch allegiances, but I wouldn't consider either to be key to lifting the burden of repression off the people of Libya; more likely such statements might inflame an already delicate situation. I suppose this is what we've come to expect from our administrations nowadays.
So far in Libya, more than 1,000 people have been killed by forces acting on orders from Gaddafi. This has resulted in general condemnation by the West. President Obama said "The world has to speak with one voice" and that the US was drawing up a "list of options for action in consultation with its allies".
But when Israel attacked crowded Gaza with heavy weapons, including white phosphorus tank rounds made in the US, that also resulted in more than 1,000 deaths there was no general condemnation. The British "Friends of Israel" are still so friendly to those responsible for this atrocity that it is now scarcely mentioned.
To protect the Libyan people from Colonel Gaddafi's air force, a no-fly zone should be established immediately. But Britain's ability to help with this has been made impossible by the scrapping of Ark Royal and the Harrier fleet.
If they hadn't been retired, this ship and its helicopters and Harriers could have been off Libya for days, ready to send warplanes to police a no-fly zone, and providing a platform for Special Forces to extract the oil workers trapped in the desert. If things don't work out, the ministers responsible must be held to account.
George D Lewis
I found rather co-incidental that HMS Cumberland rescued people from Benghazi. In 1958, while attached to The Royal Sussex Regiment, we were dispatched, at 48 hours' notice, to Benghazi to help protect King Idris from an attempt by Gaddafi to overthrow him. The ship we were on was HMS Cumberland, a three-funnelled, guided-missile cruiser.
It's an interesting co-incidence that a ship of the same name should be involved in both events, both involving Gaddafi.
As Scotland freed and returned the Lockerbie bomber, Abdel Basset Mohamed al-Megrahi, to Libya, could not Scotland now grant Colonel Gaddafi political asylum, also on "humanitarian grounds"? He would make an energetic CEO for North Sea oil when Scotland goes independent.
St Andrews, Fife
Don't blame the young, or the old
Howard Jacobson's rant against the young is surprising in a reputedly liberal newspaper ("Save us from the opinions of the young", 26 February). He quotes the Romanian, EM Cioran who wrote, "Evil is the doing of young people". Mr Jacobson goes on to tell us, "We don't want old men calling the shots, neither do we want the young".
Who does that leave? Well, it leaves the middle-aged politicians and their middle-aged backers who have started and are waging unjust, immoral and illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, are peddling arms in the Middle East and round the world, are spending billions on replacing our Armageddon machines and are dismantling the welfare state to pay for it.
Cameron hits small charities
David Cameron exhorts us all to "deal with that devastation" in response to an expression of "devastation and loss due to medium-term cuts". He clearly does not understand the immediate likelihood of implosion amongst a large number of small charities.
At present, the big 10 per cent of charities get 89 per cent of available income. That means that approximately 147,000 charities, such as my own, Learning Through Action Trust, are living hand to mouth with little reserves to give best value-for-money service. Most with a turnover less than £100,000pa did not even qualify for the highly publicised government Transition Fund.
Local authorities and schools are in shock due to cuts and have ceased all but their own life-preserving activities. It's fine at macro-economic level to say that charities will be able to pitch for the delivery of community services in future. The reality is that little expenditure on contracting-out will be made this year while authorities struggle to achieve front-loaded savings. There is then likely to be a drawn-out tender process.
The bottom line is that when the time is right to involve charities in service delivery the majority – such as my own which delivers interactive non-curricular workshops into schools on subjects such as drug and alcohol misuse – may no longer exist. Each charity by itself makes a relatively small contribution but the loss of perhaps 100,000 will leave a huge shortfall in the charity sector capacity to respond to the Big Society challenge.
Language that smears Assange
At the close of your typically well-reported article on Julian Assange ("Nations braced for 'hacklash'", 24 February), readers find a tawdry paragraph smearing a man in the fight of his life against imperial power.
"Cash in," "branded," and "usually have Assange's face" should read "fund Assange's defence", "Wikileaks logo", and "free speech quotes from Thomas Jefferson, George Orwell, and the United States Supreme Court". Assange's mug does appear on five shirts, but these are outnumbered exactly three to one by other designs.
Though a single paragraph in the blizzard of coverage, it was sloppy and slanted. Reporters should remember that details matter, should they ever face state power trying to silence them.
Everett, Washington, USA
Council chiefs' pay, and the PM
Nottingham City Council pays our chief executive £160,000. She took a £20,000-a-year voluntary pay cut when she started the job three years ago. Ask any council leader to justify what any council chief executive is paid but please stop asking anyone to justify what a council chief executive or anyone else in the public sector is paid compared to the Prime Minister; it's a misleading comparison.
The Prime Minister, in addition to his £142,000 salary, enjoys free housing, free transport and a range of other living-cost benefits. Then there's his pension. Now that he's been in office for more than just three months he's entitled to half his salary, index-linked, every year for the rest of his life.
It's all part of the package even though, like Gordon Brown before him, David Cameron has decided to turn it down. Then, of course, he can afford that kind of grand gesture since, like 17 of the 22 others in his cabinet, he's already a millionaire.
I doubt there's anyone working in the public sector entitled to as good a deal as our Prime Minister.
Leader, Nottingham City Council
In general, that wasn't him
I am sure I will be among many to point out that the picture ("How Darwin's friend gave West its first view of Mount Everest", 25 February) used to depict the botanist Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, is that of General Joseph Hooker, the leader of the Federal forces of the Army of the Potomac in the US Civil War, defeated by Robert E Lee and Stonewall Jackson at Chancellorsville, Virginia in 1863.
He also gave his name (on account of the camp followers attending his forces) to the term "hooker" for prostitute, probably not so great an achievement as producing the earliest western sketch of Mount Everest.
Professor Richard Beacham
King's College London
Thank goodness for advertising
For years I've read The Independent for its analytical balance and for its fine-tuning of fact and assessment. For some incomprehensible reason, the paper has risked its well-earned reputation by bringing on board Julie Burchill.
Her predictable spitting, fact-slaughtering and offending is redeemed only by The Independent's decision to face her full-page "column" with a full page of advertising.
This means I can simply skip those two pages and get on with reading what makes The Independent worth buying.
Senior Lecturer, Department of Anthropology, University of Kent
So that's clear
Found in a reference book of Grasses, Sedges and Rushes (1979) for "timothy grass": "The ligules are rather long on the upper leaves, up to 6mm. The panicle is dense, cylindrical, 6-15cm long and 6-10mm wide. The spikelets are flattened. The needle-sharp glumes are awned and keeled, the keels bearing stiff hairs. The lemma is mebranous and has no awn". A modern Jabberwocky? A Scrabble treasure-trove?
Dr Caroline Dowson
Thanks a lot
On the radio news, I heard a chief executive saying how hard his staff were "working for the taxpayer in swirling, changing and difficult times". Was this the head of hard-hit Liverpool Council? No, it was the head of RBS justifying their £1bn in bonuses. Strange times.
Perspectives on climate change
A dialogue of the deaf
Steve Connor's e-mail correspondence with Professor Freeman Dyson (Viewspaper, 25 February) was a classic example of the dialogue of the deaf. Comparison with Einstein was hardly apt. Einstein, I think, had much more humility, as well as humanity.
Dyson came across as arrogant and utterly contemptuous of anyone else's opinions, facts, or most of the rest of the scientific community. And yet he himself presented little in the way of a solid scientific argument to support his scepticism towards global warming. Indeed, one could ask which participant presented the more rational, factual, scientific argument, especially as the correspondence seemed to end with Dyson, rather like a small, sulky schoolboy, saying in effect, "It's my ball and I'm not going to play anymore, so there".
My recollection of Dyson is from the 1960s when he presented his equally controversial solution to the prospect of a growing human population ("Malthusian pressures" was how he put it in a 1959 paper), by suggesting that perhaps we should "dismantle" the large planets such as Jupiter, and construct what became known as the "Dyson Sphere", massive artificial habitats that would eventually circle the sun rather like the rings of Saturn, but on an infinitely broader, grander scale, each presumably housing millions of humans.
He and his Russian astronomer colleague, Nicolai Kardashev, believed such "Phase 2 civilisations" would exist in the universe, the inevitable next stage of any technological civilisation, but perhaps proof that being "clever" is not always the same as being "intelligent".
A more appropriate comparison to Dyson should be the die-hard Big Bang sceptic, Fred Hoyle, who continued to advocate his alternative "steady state" universe against the majority consensus, and who also thought in terms of "hard" technology rather then common sense or the constraints of reality, witness Hoyle's rather scary scientific utopia in his book, Ossian's Ride.
Any schoolboy would know this
Professor Dyson appeared to be very proud that he is a "sceptic" and that he can condemn the "party line". That's all well and good but there is a point when scepticism is no longer scepticism but simply denial. Professor Dyson seems to have seriously crossed this line.
For me, the science of climate change is infinitely simple: a) The Earth is a sealed vessel; b) Humans consume oxygen and produce CO2; c) Plants consume CO2 and produce oxygen; d) We humans have cut down vast swaths of forest and are busy pumping CO2 out into the atmosphere.
Yes, one way or another (whether it is global warming or some other consequence of our destructive action) we are heading for big trouble.
This is schoolboy chemistry which any 14-year-old can understand, so why are we discussing this? There is no scope for scepticism. And denial is the last thing we need.
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