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Letters: Africa and aid

Local wisdom is helping African countries to help themselves

Sir: Philip Mann (Letters, 20 July) says we need to limit our carbon emissions to help the poor in Africa. What makes us think that we know what is best for those in Africa?

African countries are not sitting back waiting for long-promised aid to arrive; they are getting on with the job at hand the best they can. If we truly want to tackle issues in Africa, such as the devastation caused by HIV, TB and malaria, we need to engage with NGOs tackling these issues on the ground with all the "local wisdom" Mr Mann was talking about.

The innovative financing facility - the Global Fund to fight Aids, TB and Malaria (GFATM), launched by the UN in 2002 - is one of the most effective answers. It has dispersed $5.4bn in more than 390 grants in 131 countries for projects run by NGOs in partnership with local governments and this is making an impact. The fund utilises local wisdom.

In April 2006, the UK took the lead in ensuring Round Six of funding for GFATM was endorsed. Now we need the world to stump up the money to enable Round 6 of grants to be dispersed.

This starts with countries keeping their commitments and promises; for example, the UK still owes $69m from 2005 to the fund. And other countries could do much more.

Inaction will mean diseases such as TB will become even more drug-resistant and will continue to spread through Europe and to the UK, adding to our already overburdened health system. Treating ordinary TB costs a mere $10. Treating multi-drug-resistant TB costs nearly $10,000. We must act now to fund the Global Fund.



Israel's acts are aid to terror recruitment

Sir: As a Jew (now a humanist) who lost close relatives in the Holocaust and one who was banned by all Arab states in 1967 because of my known sympathy and work for Israel, Linda Grant's excellent article (18 July) has encouraged me to speak out.

Has Israel learnt nothing from the abortive Bush/Blair "war on terror"? We all know there would be massive recruitment to al-Qa'ida inspired by that obscene exercise. Now, with the totally disproportionate Israeli bombardment of Lebanon, there will be countless Lebanese, hitherto unsympathetic to Hizbollah, who will be queuing to join them.

What will have been achieved by this terrifying cycle of killing? Simply more and more generations growing up with hatred in their hearts.



Sir: I share our Government's position on its stand towards Israel. Unless you are pacifist, you allow for wars to take place, and wars are never going to be clean. They are messy, confusing (that is why we have the term "friendly fire"), traumatising and will occasionally hit the innocents. You just have to play a realistically modelled war game to see this clearly.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where practical pacifism is not an option unless you are prepared to be annihilated. The clear position is that Hizbollah has attacked Israel from within Lebanon and Israel is exercising its international right of self-defence. The question whether Israel's response is proportionate is difficult to answer, but it is clear Israel is far from using its whole military power.

The death of any child is a great tragedy, but in the world we live in, children get hurt all over the world every day. The death of the poor girl killed by an Israeli F16 is not really more tragic than the youth in front of our door being stabbed to death.



Sir: It is obvious from Brinley Saltzmann's letter (20 July) that, despite the war crimes being perpetrated by Israel against the civilian populations of Gaza and Lebanon, he feels an arms embargo would be hollow; by which I assume he means "bad for business".

While one cannot object to companies which provide the material of war from peddling their wares or from forming a Defence Manufacturers' Association, it does highlight the anomaly of the Defence Export Services Organisation.

If it is true, as Campaign Against the Arms Trade claims, that 500 civil servants are employed full-time, at taxpayers' expense, in promoting arms sales overseas purely in the interests of privately owned arms manufacturers, then it is indeed time to call for the scandal of Deso to be brought to an end.



Sir: Never in this country's history can we have had a foreign policy so devoid of morality or principle and so subservient to a foreign power. To ignore, as the American and British governments are doing, the underlying cause of Middle East terrorism - the unlawful occupation of Palestinian land - will ensure its perpetuation, regardless of the outcome of the present conflict. The wanton murder of civilians must be laid at the door not just of Hizbollah and Israel, but of the UK and the US.

As one who served in German-occupied Greece during the Second World War and saw German reprisals on innocent civilians for resistance against occupiers, I never expected to see comparable action by Israel, which should be more aware than any of the desperation of homelessness and exile, and the desperate measures, including terrorism, employed as remedies.



Sir: The "legacy" by which Tony Blair will be remembered and about which he cares so much, is to have raised Great Britain to the position of the third most reviled and hated nation in the world, in just nine years.

And Mr Blair can be absolutely certain that this "legacy" will outlive him by many generations.



Sir: US Ambassador John Bolton says "no one has explained how you conduct a ceasefire with terrorists". Perhaps he could ask Tony Blair, or even Mr Bolton's fellow diplomats in Washington, where their track record of negotiating with the IRA is first-class.



Dangers in new nuclear sites

Sir: Chief scientist Sir David King has done a great public service in convincing top policy-makers, including the Prime Minister, of the dread threat of climate change, but he has done a serious disservice in merging scientific analysis with policy prescription, no more clearly than in his atomic advocacy ("We have no alternative to nuclear power", 13 July). In one area, his analysis of the impacts of coastal erosion and the threat of inundation from climate-change-driven, sea-level rise actually undermines his proposal to build nuclear plants, which Alistair Darling, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry recently indicated to MPs would start being built on existing reactor sites.

Last December, Britain's nuclear-waste management agency, Nirex, published a report as part of their input into the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (Corwm)'s evaluation of the UK's nuclear-waste management options over the next 300 years.

Their summary of "Climate and Landscape Change" at coastal nuclear sites operated by the nuclear quango, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) demonstrates that eight of the 11 present sites - which include the favourite candidate sites for new reactors, Sizewell, Bradwell, Dungeness, Hinkley Point, Berkeley, Oldbury, Dounreay and Sellafield - are judged either "likely" or "very likely" to suffer from erosion or inundation or both.



Sir: Dominic Lawson (Opinion, 18 July) ignores the impact of new reactors in the UK on nuclear weapons proliferation. If not for Italy and Germany, world leaders would have agreed a massive global expansion of nuclear power in St Petersburg. But even without that, the push for new reactors in Britain and the US will encourage others to follow suit.

The Khan network, which has spread supposedly secret uranium enrichment technology to Libya, North Korea and Iran, illustrates how so-called, peaceful nuclear technology can be used for military purposes.

But a global nuclear expansion would also use reprocessing plants to separate weapons-useable plutonium from waste for reactors. Promoting plutonium and enriched uranium while condemning Iran and North Korea is hypocritical and will not prevent proliferation.

If David Cameron translates his policy of using nuclear power only as a last resort to the world stage, perhaps we may see an international body tackling climate change and nuclear proliferation by supporting sustainable energy which promotes world peace rather than threatening it.



Fashion is not all about appearances

Sir: Contrary to what Terence Blacker believes ("The fashion for invoking the name of God", 18 July), London College of Fashion does not train models. Study subjects are diverse, from fashion design to technology, photography to journalism. Graduates include shoe designers Patrick Cox and Jimmy Choo, and the magazine editor, Mandy Norwood.

University of the Arts, London, which is made up of five colleges including London College of Fashion, believes its students should have access to the impartial advice and guidance provided by chaplains such as the Rev Joanna Jepson.

To dismiss Ms Jepson and the support she will offer students because of the way she looks is to reinforce the stereotyped and narrow view of fashion as the triumph of style over substance.



Bees may sting, but they don't bite

Sir: Alison Kershaw writes ("Insect-sting injuries double as import of bees surges", 15 July) "According to NHS Direct, anyone bitten by a wasp, bee or hornet should carefully remove the sting ..." Of course, our aculeate hymenoptera (bees, wasps and ants) very rarely bite people and should they do so, their mandibles would be unable to break an adult's skin.

She then goes on to describe how to treat a sting. No wonder people are confused about the danger this group of insects presents when those writing about them do not seem to be able to distinguish bites from stings.

It is only their stings that are a concern. Although Ms Kershaw writes about bumblebees, these rarely sting and when they do the sting is relatively painless and they do not leave the sting in as honey bees do. But common wasps and their allies are the major problem; none of them usually leaves its sting in either, but their stings are disproportionately painful.



Mobiles are safe to use in hospitals

Sir: Jemima Lewis points out how the introduction of commerce into the NHS is restricting choice (Opinion, 22 July). Hospitals push patients towards services offered by private firms so that the latter can make profits. The introduction of bedside communication systems is a case in point.

There is no evidence mobile phones interfere with any hospital machinery other than specialised equipment nowhere near public areas. Interference with equipment is an urban myth hospitals are happy to encourage to the disadvantage of the public.



Skin game

Sir: Miles Kington may be right to say there is no such word as sluff, meaning to discard (Opinion, 24 July). But there is the homonymous slough, which snakes do when they shed their skin. Tuff.



Generous masons

Sir: Deborah Orr (Comment, 22 July) ought to investigate a little more the charitable work of the Freemasons, an organisation of 320,000-plus individuals in England alone, which is the second-largest charitable contributor after the National Lottery. Freemasons were the first to send money to the Red Cross Tsunami Appeal and their donation now totals more than £850,000. Other good causes include £50,000 to the 7/7 relief fund, £3.2m to cancer-research funds. Air ambulances, children's hospices, elderly care, youth assistance; without Freemasonry and its support, the list of organisations which could not survive is endless.



BBC priorities

Sir: The shadow defence secretary has criticised the "unrelentingly negative reports" on Iraq by the BBC. Apparently, we should be told about sewer repairs in the interest of troop morale. Can he be serious that sewer repairs are important news at a time when the monthly death toll in Iraq exceeds that of the bombing of the twin towers in New York, and civil war has become a reality?



Cricketing crocks

Sir: Angus Fraser (article, 24 July) may be correct that the ECB medical team has questions to answer regarding the treatment of our cricketers' injuries. But he does not mention the packed schedule which gives them little time to rest between major Test matches. Flintoff's orthopaedic surgeon said on BBC Radio Northampton that unless something is done to address this, the playing careers of our sportsmen will become increasingly shorter.



Degree of accuracy

Sir: I was delighted to see Ian Watson (Letters, 24 July) highlighting the correct name of Celsius for temperature, and how long we seem to take to change anything (unless adopting US habits). I was on holiday in Ireland in the late 1960s and heard forecasters use Celsius; more than 30 years later, the UK media still confuses us by including Fahrenheit. But Mr Watson's assertion that "degree" is not needed is incorrect. The UK press seem unable to do what all other European media can do, and write the degree symbol. "C" on its own means "coulomb".



Novel error

Sir: Days like these, 21 July 1826, describes Thomas Macaulay as "the French novelist ..." Macaulay a French novelist? So was Voltaire a Welsh acrobat?