Clash of the baby gurus leaves parents divided
Sir: While the "battle of the baby gurus" (13 December) may be interesting for parents of young children, it is a false debate. There is no need to choose between putting the baby first and putting the parents first - the two go hand in hand.
You don't have to be a supporter of all Gina Ford's methods to recognise that her preoccupation with helping babies develop good sleeping patterns is in the interests first and foremost of the child, as well as the parents. It is after all Gina Ford who gives the distinctly baby-centred advice that parents should avoid lunch-time outings, so that the baby can have an uninterrupted nap in its own bed.
In truth, it's entirely possible to work out a daily routine that makes everyone happy, without having to follow the timetable of any "guru". But Sheila Kitzinger is doing no one any favours - least of all the babies - by telling parents to let the baby take the lead. Babies don't always know that they need to sleep, and most aren't born knowing that they should do most of their sleeping at night - that's why they need their parents to teach them.
Sir: Quick-fix methods may work, if you want a baby to sleep all night before his time, but what about in 10 years' time? How do you know that controlled crying "taught" him only to sleep?
What else did you teach your baby those nights? That you, centre of this child's universe, sole provider of comfort and nutrition and ultimately key to survival, don't work nights? That you don't listen? If it breaks your heart to hear your baby crying while you train him, what on earth is your baby, new to this world, feeling? Oh yes, I forgot: they are manipulating you. They are thinking, "How can I get another cuddle out of my Mum?" How awful of them!
In my opinion Gina Ford is robbing babies of a secure and confident start, robbing parents of enjoying this precious and wonderful time. So instead of reaching for the books, magazines and programmes, look inside yourself and ask what feels right. Spare the cuddles, spoil the child.
SOUTH WOODHAM FERRERS, ESSEX
Sir: Your article on the parenting "gurus" Sheila Kitzinger and Gina Ford was peppered with references to "mothers" and "parents", but there was not a single mention of fathers. Unfortunately, this is not untypical in such reports, and is indicative of the distorted view that fathers have little involvement and significance in the upbringing of their young children.
As the majority of fathers in 2005 know, this is a complete fallacy. Eminent "gurus" and commentators alike really need to get out of their 1950s mindsets and stop stereotyping and disenfranchising the people who in many cases have an equal, and in some cases the most important, role in their young children's lives.
Political battles over climate change
Sir: Upon returning to the UK from the Montreal climate talks I picked up my copy of The Independent to read John Rentoul's claim that Greenpeace prefers selfish gestures to political engagement (Opinion, 13 December).
Fascinating stuff. I could have sworn I'd just watched my colleagues work late into the night for two arduous weeks presenting a roadmap for action to political representatives from 180 countries.
Then the claim that we are doing nothing to prevent the construction of new coal-fired power stations in China. I must have been imagining the presence of my colleagues from Greenpeace Beijing who went to Montreal, armed with disturbing evidence of climate impacts on the Yellow River, to push for the exploitation of wind energy in their country.
And we only oppose Esso because its PR is poor? I'm sure I spent much of my time in Canada documenting the activities of Esso front groups that tour these conferences peddling dubious science to put a brake on action - the precise reason we launched a campaign against the company.
Mr Rentoul might not have heard of the work Greenpeace does to promote international solutions to the environmental problems we face, because a report on renewable energy potential in Asia doesn't garner the column inches that a protest in Islington generates. But I urge him to examine our record across 43 countries where we have offices, including China and India.
GREENPEACE UK, LONDON N1
Sir: The question that John Rentoul should be asking is not whether green groups should engage in the wider climate change debate but whether the media and mainstream politicians are fully engaging with the implications of climate change.
It has finally dawned on Blair, Labour and the media that climate change is really happening. Unfortunately, they have failed to make the link between the abstract idea of climate change and the suffering of people. The brutal truth of climate change is that a 4x4 in this country is an Armalite aimed at a child drowning in Bangladesh and the carbon dioxide it emits is the bullet that kills that child. Unfortunately, 4x4s are not all we have in our armoury. Most of our homes are badly insulated gas-guzzlers, mange-tout flies in from deepest Africa and Ibiza has become a weekend disco venue.
The inability of the Labour Party to look on climate change as an issue of human rights and suffering has resulted in its pathetic environmental record. Despite the "dash for gas" and the de-industrialisation of the UK, they have allowed emissions to increase on their watch. The resurgence of nuclear debate owes more to an industry lobby than sound investment or interest in the rights of future generations who will have to clear up the mess.
For the Labour Party to become credible on the environment, they must take the lead and impose legislation to cut emissions now and not look to nuclear power as a panacea for climate change.
GREEN PARTY SPEAKER FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS, LONDON N16
Sir: Nelson Menezes and Derek Fawell (letters; 12, 14 December) refer to the Hemel Hempstead oil fire and suggest that we should avoid further nuclear power plants because very unlikely events sometimes happen. In order to discuss this emotive issue rationally it's important to understand the risks. To my knowledge there have been three serious accidents in the history of nuclear power.
In 1979, reactor two at Three Mile Island suffered a cooling malfunction. Due to inadequate instrumentation and emergency training the reactor was destroyed. There were no casualties and no exposure to radiation above background level in the vicinity.
In 1986, the Chernobyl-4 reactor became unstable due to design flaws and staff experiments. Since the staff also disabled safety features the instability grew and caused a steam explosion, releasing radioactive substances. There are 56 direct fatalities as of 2004, and the incidence of thyroid cancer among children in the region has increased, with 0.02 per cent of the 18 million children exposed developing a tumour, an estimated five times the normal rate.
In 1999, three workers at Tokaimura plant received serious doses of radiation due to breaches of safety principles whilst preparing fuel for an experimental reactor. Two of the three died. There was no increase in radiation outside the facility.
While none of these accidents is desirable, I believe the risks involved have to be rationally weighed up against the alternatives and the consequences. Fossil fuel consumption is increasing around the world and development of reliable renewable energy is painfully slow. What we need is rational debate, not emotional scaremongering.
BBC's coverage of the Middle East
Sir: Greg Dyke's article (Media, 12 December) does not reflect the Chief Rabbi's views on the BBC's coverage of the Middle East.
At the meeting with a BBC management group to which Mr Dyke refers, the Chief Rabbi argued that there was in his view a failure to provide viewers with an Israeli perspective on events in the Middle East. He urged the Director General to commission a documentary that would do this by contextualising these events. He followed up this request by letter. He repeated his concerns when he addressed a subsequent gathering of BBC producers, at their request, several months later.
The Chief Rabbi shares the concerns held by the Jewish community about the BBC's Middle East coverage, and is constantly reminded of these on his frequent visits to communities both in the UK and abroad.
HEAD OF EXTERNAL RELATIONS OFFICE OF THE CHIEF RABBI LONDON N12
Lords ruling on torture and rights
Sir: Lindsay Jones comments that the Lords "...now appear to be the only bastions of sanity" (letter, 10 December). I respectfully disagree. Their Lordships were simply doing their job, by applying the law in the provisions of the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) to the Anti-terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001.
Section 3 of the HRA provides that all legislation is to be read and given effect in a way which is compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), so far as it is possible to do so, and section 6 provides that it is unlawful for a public authority (which includes a court) to act in a way which is incompatible with a Convention right. Article 3 of the ECHR lays down an absolute prohibition on torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. It enshrines a fundamental value of democratic societies and cannot be derogated from, even in times of national emergency.
Had the Lords ruled contrary to the exclusion of evidence extracted by torture, they would have been accused of acting unlawfully and a ruling would have been sought against the UK from the European Court of Human Rights.
SENIOR LECTURER, INNS OF COURT SCHOOL OF LAW, LONDON WC1
Sir: As the USA, and particularly Condoleezza Rice, put out one statement after another as to what exactly the USA does and does not do when interrogating terrorist suspects, it becomes increasingly important to read the statements as carefully as they are undoubtedly drafted.
First we are told that the USA does not use or condone the use of "torture". But how is "torture"defined? As you reported on 4 December, the CIA is using techniques, including "waterboarding", which on any reasonable definition constitute torture.
Now you report (8 December) that Ms Rice has declared that the CIA and US military are forbidden to use torture anywhere in the world. Sounds good. However, what Ms Rice has actually said is that no US personnel will use torture. She did not say that no US personnel will allow torture to be used. So for example, in a secret Afghan prison, a CIA officer will not torture a terrorist suspect. But there is nothing (in Ms Rice's statement at least) to stop the CIA officer watching while a locally employed Afghan tortures the suspect.
Sir: It is said, "When you need to defend the indefensible, get a lawyer." Why then should we believe anything Jack Straw (lawyer) or Tony Blair (lawyer) say about the latest row over rendition? "Trust me", in the aftermath of the Iraq war, really just doesn't cut it any more.
Right idea for schools
Sir: Plans for trust schools that employ their own staff and control their own assets have been lifted from the radical New Right of the 1980s. Like new Labour today, the New Right argued that such schools would advantage the less well off. There is no evidence for that. It is more likely that better off parents who are currently able to send their children to the best state schools free of charge will find themselves paying for the privilege though top-up fees. One wonders whether David Cameron has considered the electoral implications.
DR JACK DEMAINE
Mother of the nation
Sir: Angelita Bradney complains that The Independent used the headline "Single mother poised to be Chilean President" (letter 13 December). Whilst it is true that newspapers have not focused upon Cameron, Blair or Kennedy's conventional marital status, Cameron's Eton education and distant relationship to the Queen have been in the headlines. For a single mother to achieve high office in Chile would be an exceptional achievement, whether we are happy about that or not, and I would have my newspaper report the world as it is, rather than how I would like it to be.
Cameron's royal family
Sir: Further to the interesting letter from Dom A J Stacpoole OSB ("Cameron's descent from a royal family", 14 December) the fine statue created by Sir Francis Chantrey of Mrs Jordan and two of her royal children was bequeathed by William IV's descendant the Earl of Munster to our present Queen in 1975.
It now stands in the Picture Gallery lobby at Buckingham Palace, and so can be viewed by the thousands of official guests and tourists who pass by there every year.
Iraq war protest
Sir: What a marvellous capacity for doublethink Michael Foster MP must have, to believe that having to ask the police for permission to demonstrate is a guarantee of freedom of speech (letter, 12 December). At best it's a piece of bureaucracy, at worst (and his constituent Maya Evans' treatment tends towards the worst) it's oppressive. Perhaps another MP might like to volunteer to look after Ms Evans' interests in the House, through your columns. Mr Foster clearly isn't up to it.
Sir: When may I expect peace campaigners Maya Evans and Milan Rai to read out the names of the 3,500 innocents murdered by Islamic extremists in America on 11 September 2001? Why do they not deem these war victims to be equally worthy of remembrance?
ROTHERHAM, SOUTH YORKSHIRE