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Thursday 5 March 2009
Letters: Bankruptcy law
Bank crisis shows need for US-style bankruptcy law
Naming and shaming Sir Fred Goodwin is a waste of time; the band of ennobled kleptocrats with whom he socialises probably admire him for making off with so much cash.
More importantly, it is time to consider reforming British bankruptcy law to make it closer to the American model. There, Chapter 11 gives priority to helping a company survive shocks and come out the other side. In Britain the law gives the banks (yes, them again) freedom to destroy companies if it helps them get back their loans, and little regard is paid to the interests of employees, customers and suppliers.
In America, a court can overturn any contract which is burdensome and a threat to the survival of the enterprise. Our law could easily be written to include a particularly egregious or one-sided contract, of the kind common for chief executives who either intimidate fellow-directors into going along with anything or else stack the boards with their cronies.
The American law includes Chapter 6 for companies for whom there is no hope, but Chapter 11 makes it easier to move a "pre-packaged" bankruptcy quickly through the courts and out the other side still trading but reorganised. This quickly reduces competing "vulture" interests and gives the company a better chance.
Such a process would be more useful in the economic storms ahead than the British model, which offers a choice only between total destruction of a company by receivers or a government jumping through hoops and wasting money to pretend that a company is not broke when everyone knows that it really is.
South Warnborough, Hampshire
Sir Fred Goodwin's behaviour may not be criminal, but it is certainly anti-social. As it was this behaviour that got him his knighthood, perhaps in the interests of balance he could also be served with an asbo?
Israel protest punishes science
Sometimes you have to wonder about those who wish to impose academic boycotts on Israeli Israeli academics – all they ever do is talk about what others shouldn't do, rather than what they themselves could do to help the region .
The Day of Science at the Science Museum in London is designed to engage British schoolchildren into the wonders and delights of scientific exploration. The subjects include water management in the desert, marine geoscience, genetics as a spearhead to future medicine and the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. Israeli scientists will be giving these lectures. Try as I might, I struggle to understand how this exciting journey of exploration can be related to the recent conflict in Gaza.
Instead of making fruitless demonstrations that lead nowhere, why don't the protesters make a positive contribution to make matters better? For example, why don't we all try and bring Israeli and Arab scientists together? Let's find a way for them to work on common projects to deal with key issues for the benefit of all the people in the region: projects such as solar energy, desert agriculture, disease control and water husbandry.
I am chair of Weizmann UK, part of the Weizmann Institute in Israel, which is one of the world's leading centres of basic science. I would be happy to promote such a cross-Israeli-Arab scientific initiative.
House of Lords
Your report (3 March) on the proposed Israel Day of Science programme sponsored by the Zionist Federation quotes the chair as saying that his organisation – and the programme itself – is "non- political". This is not correct. The Federation's declared aim is to "advance the case of Israel". What could be more political than that?
The sixth-form seminars are essentially a propaganda exercise designed to showcase the publicly acceptable face of Israeli science and technology at a time when its military applications have been all too evident in the destruction of Gaza. It is disingenuous of the Science Museum to claim that by merely renting out the space, it is somehow absolved of all responsibility for staging the event .
That does not necessarily mean the programme should be cancelled, only that the young people attending should be made fully aware of the wider context of debate in which it is taking place. Ideally their teachers will have already encouraged them to follow the controversy as reported in the press during the past few days. Surely it is important that those who may be intending to pursue a scientific career should be given this opportunity to explore, in a concrete case, some of the key issues raised by Professor Rosenhead and his colleagues concerning the ethics and politics of research?
Professor Phil Cohen
University of East London
According to some, all inhabitants of Gaza hold collective responsibility for the behaviour of those who fire rockets at Israeli civilians. How ironic that those opposed to the Science Museum's presentation of Israel's achievements appear to be clinging to the same, morally dubious, principle of collective responsibility.
Hasty decision in student quiz row
The Oxford University Quiz Society wishes to register, in the strongest possible terms, its disappointment with the decision made by the BBC and Granada to strip Corpus Christi of their University Challenge title. It seems to us to reward scandal-mongering and jealousy at the expense of quizzing aptitude and enthusiasm.
In particular, we note that Corpus Christi acted in good faith throughout the competition. Bizarrely, had they been defeated earlier in the competition, it appears they might have remained eligible. We believe that Corpus acted within the rules, which stated that team members had to have intentions of being at their institution the next academic year. This situation has been routine in previous competitions and has passed without comment in the past.
The BBC and Granada have resorted to a rushed reaction in an attempt to absolve themselves of scandal. They have done so in a manner that pleases neither the teams that competed this year nor, we believe, the viewers who enjoyed such a well-fought final.
President And 13 others,
Oxford University Quiz Society
The sudden fall from media grace of the classics student Gail Trimble (letters, 4 March) is pure Greek tragedy: an instant rise and blameless fall. She must be laughing all the way to her next essay.
NHS help for forces veterans
We applaud Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry's courage in speaking about the mental health problems he experiences as a result of his military service ("Iraq hero goes on warpath", 28 February). There is much to do in this vital area, but we would like to highlight the developments which are taking place in the NHS to meet the needs of veterans.
Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust was awarded a pilot contract at the end of 2007 to provide mental health care for all HM forces veterans in London. This service offers expert assessment for personnel with severe and complex mental health needs related to their service. Those requiring treatment are referred to NHS and other services providing evidence-based interventions.
The Veterans Service can help veterans with mood problems (including depression), anxiety-related conditions, alcohol and drug misuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, personality difficulties, and management of behavioural problems, including anger and violence.
Five other NHS mental health trusts, in South Staffordshire, Cardiff, County Durham, Cornwall and Scotland, provide similar services .
Professor Ian Palmer
Dr Graham Fawcett
Dr Monica Thompson
Traumatic Stress Clinic London,
Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust, London NW1
More to Eastwood than Dirty Harry
I suppose film buffs should be grateful that some British commentators such as Johann Hari are finally recognising the good qualities of the liberal/left hate-figure Clint Eastwood (Opinion, 27 February). But his article misses two fairly basic points.
First, there has always been a vast difference between Eastwood the actor and Eastwood the director: he didn't direct the early Dirty Harry films that made his acting name (Don Siegel did). Second, you can't impute to him the bigotry and racism of some of his characters: doh, he's an actor.
Throughout his directorial career, he has made films with complex themes, latterly attracting the ire of the US right for his treatment of war and euthanasia. They have often starred black actors , portrayed strong female characters and illustrated his love of jazz .
France has long since decorated him for his services to the cinema. In Britain, mention his name and the Pavlovian reaction of liberals who never watch his films is: Dirty Harry.
Sarlat, Perigord, Dordogne, France
Opinion polls currently show a commanding lead for the Conservative Party, indicating that the court of public opinion wants a change of government. Presumably, therefore, Harriet Harman has urged the Prime Minister to call a general election.
David J lamming
While I applaud breeders of pedigree dogs who refuse to breed for financial gain alone (letter, 3 March), I beg to differ concerning the health of cross-breed dogs. If there were similar concerns with their health it would not be so cheap to have them insured compared to specific breeds. The point is for potential owners to do proper research before they take on a huge responsibility: health, temperament, exercise needs etc, not just whether the owner can afford food and a walk when they can be bothered.
Helen Jane Burton
Once again a large ransom has been paid to Somali pirates. It seems that the pirates are winning the battle for the seas off the coast of East Africa. Perhaps the international community should look to how the Spanish dealt with pirates in the 1820s. They incorporated the pirates into their fleet. If you can't beat them, let them join you.
Newcastle upon Tyne
Your article about George Mallory (2 March) refers to a forthcoming film and book about his Everest attempt, both provisionally titled The Wildest Dream. This phrase was originally the title of our biography of Mallory, which is still in print. The film-makers depended heavily on our book for their research and we were flattered when they asked if they could use the same title for their film. The publishers of the new book have now adopted a different title: In the Footsteps of Mallory and Irvine.
Not at liberty
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (2 March) mentioned that I did not attend the Convention on Modern Liberty event last weekend. I thought it worth registering that I was not invited to the convention, which explains my absence.
Chair Equality and Human Rights Commission, London SE1
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