Letters: Assange must be squirming

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Am I alone in experiencing a sneaking pleasure in watching the Great Revealer of everyone's confidential information wriggling like a rat in a sack when he finds himself on the receiving end of unwanted "openness"?

I have to admit to enjoying a small helping of schadenfreude with my cornflakes this morning (22 September) as I read the extracts from Mr Assange's book, but how on earth did he manage to walk into this one?

Angela Peyton

Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

I was disappointed to find that the book about Mr Assange merely repeated some of the known facts about the Swedish case. Mr Assange also repeated the undisputed fact that under the English definition he is not guilty of rape. But whether he actually did the things which are alleged was not addressed at all: yet another opportunity for Mr Assange to give his side of the story has sadly been missed.

Unlike most cases of this nature, there is a clear public interest for Mr Assange's side of the story. He has hinted heavily that he may be the victim of a "honeytrap" conspiracy by the US and Swedish governments. This has important global implications, if true.

Isn't this the very sort of information which Mr Assange usually insists should be released, so that the public can judge for themselves?

James Ingram

London SE1

Brownfield way to avoid HS2

Nicholas Faith is long on riposte but short on facts about HS2 (article, 22 September). The really "green" way to improve the railways would be to take the brownfield route.

The last time I travelled from north Oxfordshire to Birmingham, on Chiltern Railways, there were miles of weed-covered derelict tracks. I doubt that is the only stretch of disused railway.

For whatever billions HS2 may ultimately cost, many tracts of unused railway could be redeemed, and services added or augmented, without major earthworks and alteration to the landscape. What most people want from a railway service is that is affordable, punctual and with adequate space and seating for all passengers.

S Lawton

Kirtlington, Oxfordshire

Israel ignores UN when it wants to

Foreign Secretary William Hague's attempts to persuade Mahmoud Abbas to seek Palestinian statehood by negotiation rather than via the United Nations appear to be grossly disingenuous.

The peace process has been dead for a long time and the present Israeli government, led by Mr Netanyahu and Mr Liebermann, has flatly rejected the prospect of a viable, sovereign Palestinian state living side by side at peace with Israel.

They have also hitherto shown nothing but contempt for UN resolutions regarding Israel's obligations to the Palestinians.

The Palestinians have no trustworthy partner with whom to negotiate anything and the Foreign Secretary has been in office long enough to know that.

Israel gained its international legitimacy as a state solely by means of a majority vote in the United Nations in 1948: why should not the Palestinians gain the same for themselves in 2011? Or haven't they waited long enough?

Chris Ryecart

Harwich, Essex

Western hypocrisy is still alive, kicking, and overtly crass. Obama tells us that the UN cannot vote a state into existence and therefore Palestine should not use that route to creation, recognition or peace. How odd then that in 1948 the UN did indeed vote the state of Israel into existence.

He also states that ultimately it is only the Israelis and Palestinians who can resolve this matter. Is he prepared then to withdraw US unilateral support for Israel by stopping the billions of dollars and weaponry given annually which allow the occupation of Palestinian lands and the oppression of the Palestinian people to continue?

This appears to be another example of one rule for "us" and another for "them" which the US and their Western allies hope will maintain their so-called "moral superiority" in the region.

Susan Spooner

Dorchester, Dorset

John Strawson (letter, 19 September) denies that land "was stolen to create a Jewish State in order to assuage the guilt of the Holocaust".

Well before 1947, the British Government had concluded that the Balfour accord was unworkable. By this time, it was clear that Zionists aspired to a state totally independent of any Palestinian influence. It was also clear that Palestinians saw no reason to submit to partition of their land.

The "stealing" of land commenced in 1917 when Balfour, in agreement with Rothschild and other Zionists, signed the accord. The distribution of population went from about 20-25 per cent Jewish, 70-65 per cent Muslim Arab and 10 per cent Christian in 1918, to 45 per cent each Muslim and Jew, and 10 per cent Christian in 1948.

The Holocaust became a factor in creating a Jewish state when the US Government in 1947, headed by President Harry Truman, became aware of the many "displaced persons" in Europe, survivors of the Holocaust, without a home to return to.

Mr Truman's diaries reveal the short patience he had for Zionists who kept seeking access to him and the extensive correspondence that they submitted to him in pursuance of their objective of a Jewish state in Palestine.

At the same time, he petitioned British Prime Minister Clement Atlee, without success, to allow Jewish displaced persons to enter Palestine. Truman then set out to persuade members of the Security Council and of the General Assembly to vote in favour of partition of Palestine into a Jewish state and a Palestinian state. The Jews accepted the new State, now the State of Israel.

That this was a half-way house to gaining all of Palestine has been confirmed by the continuous encroachment since 1967 of Jews into Palestinian lands in the West Bank.

Robert Laver

London SE21

I am a great admirer of Robert Fisk but I think that he has failed to understand why not only the American government but also the American people are so supportive of Israel ("Why the Middle East will never be the same again", 20 September).

Israeli Jews settling on Arab land in the West Bank do so with a huge sense of entitlement. European settlers on American Indian land in the 19th century had a similar sense of entitlement.

The Jews derive their sense of entitlement from a belief that the land is theirs, having been given to them by God. The Americans derived their sense of entitlement from their belief that it was their "manifest destiny" to create a country occupying the whole land mass between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Americans have a greater sense of cultural affinity with Israelis than with Palestinians but, more importantly, the sight of Israel struggling to create a new country surrounded by hostile Arabs invokes folk memories of their own struggle to create a new country surrounded by hostile Indians.

The problem that Israel faces is that demographic "facts on the ground" more closely resemble South Africa than the American West. Israel is trying to keep Jews and Arabs separate with a separate Arab administration for Arab areas.

In the same way, South Africa tried to keep blacks and whites separate with separate black administrations for black areas. Eventually, South Africa had to accept that this policy was not working, could not be made to work and would have to be abandoned.

Gordon Broadbent

London SW15

No matter what happens at the UN, the only thing that will change is the arena in which the conflict will be played out.

The situation will not be resolved. The conflict will not end. The Arab League confirm this. It will deteriorate and spread. What was once called the "peace process" will have been circumvented. Arab terrorism will have been appeased, Israeli security ignored. Conflict is inevitable.

D Roberts

Tredegar, Gwent

Go green and forget 'fracking'

Shale gas ("Deep under Lancashire, a huge gas find that could lead to 800 'fracking' wells", 21 September) is not a quick-fix solution to our energy woes, and a moratorium should be placed on its extraction. Shale gas is neither clean nor proven to be safe, and its use will simply pump more pollution into our atmosphere.

Our green energy potential is enormous. Developing this would help provide long-term protection from future fuel price hikes, make the UK a world leader in tackling climate change and generate new employment. It's been estimated that offshore wind alone could create 66,000 jobs by 2020 both in Lancashire and up and down the country.

Helen Rimmer

North West Campaigner, Friends of the Earth, London N1

Your Luddite tendencies as expressed in your leading article, "Not a risk that is worth Britain taking" (22 September), does nobody any favours. Your writer is guilty of a kneejerk reaction, presumably thought to correspond to the opinions of most Independent readers.

But most of us who read your paper are looking for enlightenment, not prejudice. For the most part, fracking is a safe procedure which has no impact beyond the desired object of producing gas.

In a very few cases problems have arisen, but in what industries has this not happened? Do you suggest we should not fly because there have been aircraft crashes?

The claim by Lord Browne that Lancashire could yield as much as 200tcf of gas could prove to be exaggerated, but even if he is only one-tenth right the impact on this country will be immense.

It is not just a question of local employment; balance of payments and government revenues will all be enhanced, Lancashire will have a significant boost in demand for goods and services, and the whole country will enjoy a trickle-down.

The problem the world faces is a lack of cheap energy with a low impact on global warming. Lancashire gas could be one of the solutions. You should welcome it, not denigrate it.

Richard Hardman

Former President of the Geological Society, London SE11

Boxing is bad for children

A lot has been said and written about children as young as eight in a cage-fighting event in Preston. The view of Headway, the brain injury association, is simple: encouraging children to cage-fight is dangerous and wrong.

Eleven medical associations around the world, including the British Medical Association, have said chronic brain damage is caused by repeated blows to the head, which are experienced by those who are in cage-fighting, boxing or mixed martial arts.

The organisers of this particular event say the children did not punch or kick each other. Similar comments come from boxing clubs that are increasingly promoting boxing to younger audiences. But the concept of protecting children by encouraging non-contact boxing, kick-boxing or martial arts is at best naive and at worst irresponsible.

While the children may not strike opponents in a similar way to adults, the likelihood is that many of them will go on to full-contact fighting outside the controlled environment with other children and without any supervision.

Discipline, it is claimed, is taught to these children. Without boxing or martial arts, we hear, these children would be hanging around on street corners getting into trouble. But are these aggressive sports the only ones that instil discipline? No.

To succeed in any sport you need discipline and controlled aggression. Instead, we are simply introducing them to a dangerous, aggressive world where causing damage and possible long-term disability to opponents is the aim of the game.

Luke Griggs

Headway, Old Basford, Nottingham

Animal scientists face the sack

Your report (22 September) that a deadly disease responsible for a sudden decline in two of Britain's most popular garden birds has now spread to Europe illustrates why we need more scientific expertise in the field of animal health. Yet the Government is proposing to close eight of the 14 regional centres run by the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency over the next two years.

Ninety scientists and laboratory staff will lose their jobs, one in three of all laboratory staff employed in AHVLA's regional network. Fewer labs will mean delays in diagnosing diseases, scientific expertise will be lost and many local vets will be divorced from laboratory back-up.

The impact on farming communities will be considerable. Large agricultural areas will not have adequate coverage for surveillance and diagnosis.

As the union that represents these specialists, we believe these are the wrong proposals, at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons. We are encouraged by the support our call for these laboratories to be retained has won from farmers and wildlife organisations, and appeal to the minister.

Geraldine O'Connell

National Secretary, Prospect, London SE1

What inner-city pupils suffer

Edward Collier (letter, 22 September) suggests that since all reception class children in leafy Gotherington, population 1,200, learn to read in Mrs Thompson's class, it is incomprehensible that some children elsewhere do not.

I suggest he volunteers for work in a few inner-city primaries. He may then realise that there are many children whose unmet needs for acceptance, communication, socialisation, imaginative play, and in some cases awareness of their own names, mean that even Mrs Thompson's no doubt excellent pedagogic skills would be stretched just getting them to sit down and listen.

John Dougherty

Stroud, Gloucestershire

How could US execute Davies?

How could the Americans execute Troy Davies? They kept this man incarcerated for 20 years then decided against all opposition that he was guilty and should be executed. Twenty years of knowing you may die at any time is enough punishment, but to be executed at the end of it with very little evidence is murder. What has happened to America? What has happened to your sense of charity and forgiveness?

Pauline Stroud


For you, Dai, the meat sale is over

Yes, German U-boats used to surface in Cardigan Bay where they would buy meat, at hush-hush prices, from a local farmer (letter, 22 September). He was known throughout Cardiganshire as Dai Swastika and to his Berlin handlers as Jones the Spy. His phone number was given to the Nazis by Von Ribbentrop who had once worked out of Aberystwyth as a wine salesman and had many friends in the area. That's why the Luftwaffe never bombed the town. Or so I was told in my youth.

Dr Meic Stephens


Perspectives on the Liberal Democrats

Can you really cut your way out of a downturn?

So Nick Clegg has proudly raised the Liberal Democrat standard alongside the Conservatives on the single issue that matters most: the economy. "Not easy, but right, not easy but right," he kept repeating.

But a range of economists, including those at the IMF this week, are saying that Plan A may need to morph into Plan B. In which case, Clegg really missed an opportunity, and again we have him acting as the front man for Cameron.

Yes, I know people are suffering, he says, but the cuts are needed. But the speed and depth may have put this country back into recession, and can you really cut your way out of a downturn? Rather than the fanfare about small initiatives such as summer schools and the pupil premium, Clegg could have given his party hope by stating that they will lead from the front before we plunge into a double-dip recession.

Ordinary party members will demand a change of course and Vince Cable hinted at this all week, but on this crucial issue, Clegg had little to say.

Former lovable leader Charles Kennedy offered advice just before Clegg's speech, saying: "Stop fighting on so many fronts and pick a few important fights and win some of them."

Both Coalition parties are still happy to lay all the blame on Labour, an attitude which today has little mileage left as the global financial crisis continues to rage.

I still hold the view that Clegg is a dead man walking, regardless of how long the Coalition lasts.

Graham Forsyth

Chard, Somerset

Terminally ill are penalised

The sight of Nick Clegg claiming that his party has "moderated" the Government's policies sickens me. I suppose he is claiming that he personally "moderated" the policy of time-limiting benefit for the terminally ill to 12 months? Britain under the Conservatives and Liberals will be judged by history as the country that jerked the financial rug from under the terminally ill just when they most needed support.

Ian McNicholas

Waunlwyd, Ebbw Vale