Sir: It beggars belief that the British government should be happy to sell its 35 per cent stake in British Energy to EDF, a company 80 per cent owned by the French government (Jeremy Warner, 10 and 13 May). There are at least four reasons why this should not happen, none of which spring from Europhobia, chauvinism, or even anxiety as to whether the French could do a good job.
First, even nuclear power enthusiasts (I confess to being one) would surely doubt the wisdom of handing over both responsibility for safety and security of supply to any foreign government. Second, the playing field is not level: generation and supply of electricity is a government-controlled monopoly in France; there is not even a vestige of reciprocity. Third, EDF has a dubious environmental record, for example in failing to provide by-passes for fish around its hydroelectric power stations in the Rhone Valley. Fourth, the technological and financial benefits will inevitably accrue mainly to France.
It is a pathetic irony that all the pre-war pioneers of nuclear physics – Rutherford, Walton, Cockroft and the Thompsons, father and son, (Nobel prize-winners all) – worked at Cambridge.
This inflation is the really ominous kind
Sir: The Bank of England's ability to control inflation by the use of interest rates has come to an end; though maybe temporarily. Inflation in the past has been the product of too much money chasing too few goods (and services). We now have the worst kind of inflation – cost inflation. This is further aggravated by the fact that it is cost inflation of raw materials: oil, metals and foodstuffs.
There is no real shortage of oil, despite the growth of China . The oil price is a bubble, and at some time we shall see it pop. Metals are in a short-term short supply. Recycling will adjust this in due course. Food is a tricky one, and the one that is most dangerous. A nation without food will not stay quiet for long.
Back home we need to control the short-term costs of oil. Our politicians, as usual, are asleep. Oil will be replaced by synthesised alternatives in the longer term but now oil will spawn rises in prices in everything imaginable. This is the cost inflation that the Bank of England cannot even dream of controlling.
Ministers, get off your backsides and talk with oil producers until you collapse with exhaustion; for if you do not, it will finish us all.
Ringmer, East Sussex
Sir: Many governments across the world will have to get used to dealing with low economic growth and high inflation. They need to find an economic system to deal with that situation, because free-market capitalism is incompatible with the need to combat climate change and the fact that we only have one small planet to live on.
Our present problems are caused by increasing demand and non-expanding sources of supply of raw materials and basic foods. Add to that an ever-increasing world population, greed, corruption etc, and we have huge problems to face.
J W Wright
Sir: As houses seem to be the only item that is falling in price, I wonder how long it will be before the Government reintroduces housing costs into the headline rate of inflation.
No campaign to silence Israel's critics
Sir: While I believe Johann Hari is wrong in much of his criticism of Israel, I recognise his right to his opinion. What disturbs me is his ad hominem attack on his critics. When he writes ( 8 May) that "Alan Dershowitz and Melanie Phillips are two of the most prominent figures sent in to attack anyone who disagrees with the Israeli right," he is insinuating that there is an organised (Israeli? Jewish?) campaign to bring down anyone who criticises the state of Israel. "Sent in" by whom, exactly? The Elders of Zion?
Mr Hari cites instances of pro-Israel pressure brought to bear on pro-Palestinian lecturers. He evades the fact that anti-Israel criticism and vitriol are abundant and, yes, often antisemitic. Why then shouldn't concerned individuals and groups call for the withholding of support for such speakers?
I believe that the goal of Israel is to live in peace with its neighbours and that the Arab goal is the destruction of Israel. Having said that does not make me a right-wing Zionist. And no one goaded me to tell Mr Hari this.
Teaneck, New Jersey USA
Sir: Johann Hari's comments on the disgraceful vilification of Israel's critics are timely and important. Despite the presence of a strong liberal and pro-peace movement within Israel, certain diaspora Jews, particularly in the US, appear to have long since lost all sense of reality with regard to the issue of Israel and Palestine. Their delusions are reflected in the McCarthyite actions that Hari describes.
As with most world conflicts, there are extremist intellectuals on both sides who distort the debate: it is unfortunate that such extremists, such as Alan Dershowitz, are given disproportionate time and respect by the media. The solution, as always, is for moderates on both sides to come together in the common cause of truth and justice.
Sir: It is not, as Johann Hari claims, the "loathsome smearing of Israel's critics" that threatens freedom of speech, but rather his own one-sided vilification and demonisation of Israel that stifles rational debate on the Middle East conflict.
Hari has now written two anti-Israel pieces in as many weeks. This does not sound like someone intimidated into silence. Despite Hari's insinuations, HonestReporting does not call for sackings, boycotts or intimidating behaviour.
Contrary to Hari's claims that we failed to rebut his original article on sewage in Palestinian areas, we analysed the many distortions and selective omissions. This contributes to a more open, balanced debate, as opposed to shutting it down, as he mistakenly portrays our intent.
We are not so naïve as to believe that Israel is infallible and immune from legitimate criticism. However, Hari's one-sided reliance upon fringe, revisionist sources and individuals deserves to be exposed . Charging us with "McCarthyism" is merely a means to silence those who disagree with his own views.
Hari can dish out criticism, but can he not take it?
Managing Editor, HonestReporting, Jerusalem
Sir: David J Carter (letters, 6 May) claims that the 750,000 Palestinian Arabs were "ethnically cleansed" as a matter of Zionist policy. That is wrong. The Zionist leadership accepted the UN partition plan because they were ready for a territorial compromise.
They knew that the Jewish state would have a large Arab minority, but they were certain that as soon as the Jewish state was proclaimed, millions would immigrate to it, which is exactly what happened. If the Arabs had not started the war, hoping to prevent by force the implementation of the UN plan, there would have been no Palestinian refugees and the independent Palestinian-Arab state would have been 60 years old today, side by side with the Palestinian-Jewish state.
Dr Jacob Amir
Olympic riding in the wrong park
Sir: John Walsh writes (13 May) of the distress felt by the local users of Greenwich Park at the prospect of their beloved green space being taken over by the Olympic three-day equestrian event.
I have never been able to understand the Greenwich Park proposal (it's far too small) when we have the ideal venue already in place in Windsor Great Park. A fine cross-country course was laid out some years ago but has fallen into disuse through lack of sponsorship. It could easily be brought up to Olympic standard at much less cost than Greenwich. Windsor Great Park also offers magnificent opportunities for the dressage and show-jumping events. There is considerable local skill in accommodating horses and their followers.
Locog, the organising committee, cannot claim that Windsor is not a London venue when they were perfectly happy to propose the Eton-Dorney Rowing lake for the rowing events.
There is a fine tradition of hosting Olympic events in Windsor. In 1908 the Marathon passed in front of the Castle at the behest (legend has it) of Queen Alexandra, and in 1948 the cycle marathon was held in the Great Park.
Mary Rose Gliksten
Miss Worsley's cure for hiccups
Sir: During a maths lesson at school in the early Seventies, a fellow pupil continued a bout of hiccups that had started around half an hour earlier during lunch ("Waiting to exhale", 13 May). The teacher, Miss Worsley, became increasingly exasperated and eventually said to the sufferer: "If you can hiccup three more times, I'll let you off homework for the next month." The hiccups stopped immediately, much to the disappointment of the pupil.
It's a method I have tried on a number of occasions at parties and it has been successful every time. The key is to offer the sufferer something they want and which is attainable. World peace or an end to global hunger don't tend to work. The chance of sex (or, indeed, no sex), more beer or a housework-free week usually do the trick.
Darling borrows his way out of trouble
Sir: The Chancellor is borrowing £2.7bn to pay for an increase in tax thresholds. Will this be paid back from future tax increases or from a reduction in spending? I just wondered.
Sir: Your graph of "surveyors' sentiment" ("Collapse in house sales", 13 May) carries pictures of the three Chancellors of the Exchequer in office at the time of notable dips in confidence (Nigel Lawson, Norman Lamont and Alistair Darling) but for the period of "great stability" shows the Prime Minister (Tony Blair) thus avoiding any association between Gordon Brown and ten years of "inflation brought under control . . . booming incomes and competition".
Does no one now remember the last election, when Brown and Blair went round the campaign trail together because it was accepted that only Brown's unparalleled record on the economy could save Labour from the backlash against the war, the erosion of human rights and the scandal of offering peerages etc in return for donations?
Shame on you. One expects misleading statistics from the rest of the press but The Independent ought to live up to its name.
Sir: In Tuesday's Commons statement on income tax changes the Chancellor said of the 60-64 age group: "They also receive the additional £50 Winter Fuel Payment for this year, which I announced in the Budget." This may be so, but surely this increase was intended to cover rising fuel costs, not compensate for government bungling. Isn't this yet another case of government double-counting and double-dealing?
Sir: Please tell Steve Richards (13 May) that, yes, there are serious losers in the abolishment of the 10p tax threshold. I'm 56, male and single, and nowhere have I read anything about compensation for someone in my position. I earn £6.05 an hour, out of which I have to pay rent, council tax and so on. Single people like myself seem to be bottom of the list in Gordon Brown's agenda – it's always about help for "families".
Sir: The simplest way of compensating those who lost out by the abolition of the 10p income tax rate would be to reinstate it. And would that have cost any more than the fudge the Government has just announced?
All on the side of life
Sir: Please don't endorse anti-abortion propaganda by calling it "pro-life" (headline, 12 May). I am pro-abortion precisely because I too am pro-life – a decent life for willing mothers and wanted children.
Vain search for dust
Sir: Having a professional interest in dust, I was intrigued by your mention (13 May) of a "dusty museum on Elgar" in Worcester. Regrettably, on inspection, the modern exhibition building and adjoining birthplace cottage proved spotless and extraordinarily diverting. Clearly, my dusty pals and I will have to look elsewhere for amusement.
Ian J Fairchild
Professor of Physical Geography, University of Birmingham
Vote for independence
Sir: If some of the polls published in recent months bear any relation to real opinion, a large proportion of the English electorate might regard the point made by Chris Sexton in his letter published on 14 May (that a Conservative victory in the next election would be very likely to lead to Scotland choosing to break away from the United Kingdom) as an excellent reason to vote Tory.
Junta runs on oil
Sir: David Morgan (letter, 10 May) suggests the reason there has been no Western intervention in Burma, unlike Iraq, is that there is no oil. In fact, Human Rights Watch reports that 27 foreign companies have signed contracts with the state-run Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise to extract oil. The Burmese junta has for many years employed brutal repression to clear the way for oil and gas projects. There has been plenty of foreign intervention to ensure the smooth flow of oil with the co-operation of the junta. Emergency aid seems to flow rather less smoothly.
Sir: In his polemical tirade against the Tories (letter, 14 May) Mike Hall says that "Cameron's views would fit right in with Victorian England." Keir Hardie would be proud of him. It's comforting to know that the cloth-cap-and-clogs brigade are alive and well and living in Gosport.
West Wittering, West Sussex