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Friday 9 January 2009
Letters: Carnage in Gaza
We demand an end to the carnage in Gaza
As supporters of Hoping, a charity working to strengthen the lives of Palestinian refugee children, we are horrified by the cruel and massive loss of life of the citizens of Gaza, and by the failure of our politicians to put adequate pressure in order to achieve an immediate end to the carnage.
Hoping's work with UNRWA in Gaza and elsewhere is centred upon building hope for the young generation of Palestinians that they might have a life with peace, justice, and dignity. We are shocked by the bombing of three UNRWA schools in Gaza where families have taken refuge, killing so many of them, and by the deaths of dozens of children this past week.
We demand immediate action from our political leaders, and the leaders of Europe, who under the Geneva Conventions and international humanitarian law have a responsibility to stop the continuing assault, and who have not done enough to ensure a ceasefire.
We call for an immediate end to the Israeli attack on the citizens and civic institutions of Gaza; for an opening to all crossings points into Gaza; and for an end to the siege and blockade of Gaza.
We insist upon hope for the children of Gaza, and the children of Palestine wherever they live in refugee camps across the Middle East, so that they can live in freedom from injustice, war, and military occupation.
Bryan Adams, Laura Bailey, Russell Brand, Jake and Dinos Chapman, Caryl Churchill, Lily Cole, Sophie Dahl, Robert Del Naja, Harry Enfield, Rupert Everett, Eric Fellner, Colin Firth, Robert Fox, Stephen Frears, Bella Freud, John Galliano, Bobby Gillespie, Jools Holland, Carsten Holler, Bianca Jagger, Stephen Jones, Jemima Khan, Hanif Kureishi, Annie Lennox, Christian Louboutin, Shane MacGowan, Davina McCall, Samantha Morton, Karma Nabulsi, Philip Pullman, Hannah Rothschild, Will Self, Alexandra Shulman, Sharleen Spiteri, David Tang, Philip Treacy
The Hoping Foundation, London WC1
Cold weather on a warming planet
Those few hardened climate-change sceptics who still generate an artificial "debate" should not get too excited over our cold winter temperature. According to some models this is exactly in line with prediction.
As the ice cap's temperature has soared some 6 to 9 degrees, the effect is felt throughout the northern hemisphere as unusual weather. Currently the Jet Stream has been diverted south, making the UK far more susceptible to either Newfoundland, Arctic or Continental air mass. All three directions are much colder in winter than the once-prevailing south-westerly, which usually raises our temperatures some 6 to 9 degrees. The irony is palpable.
I was surprised to find the headline of your paper on 2 January – "Climate scientists: it's time for 'Plan B' " – and less than impressed by the article which followed. The geo-engineering technologies identified in the article have been criticised for various reasons as most unlikely to achieve their objectives.
There is no doubt that current attempts to reduce the emissions of "greenhouse" gases have largely failed. However, the reason for this failure is not a lack of technology but the failure of market mechanisms to bring alternative technologies to the market. This was clearly spelt out by Lord Stern in his report in 2007.
Since then politicians of all persuasions have failed abysmally to introduce adequate regulations, tax regimes and research and development investment to make available to the consumer known technologies, such as electricity and hydrogen generation from wind, tides, solar, geothermal and photovotaic sources; electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles, including ships and possibly aircraft (a robotic aircraft powered by hydrogen has already been flown); and carbon capture and storage. Industry push and consumer pull will not work without government intervention in this matter.
It has been repeatedly demonstrated that the introduction of known technologies will be fully capable of achieving the desired reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. It is Plan A which should be urgently implemented. Plan B is not necessary and probably would not work.
Dr John C Bowman
The Independent has performed a great service in publishing comprehensive, authoritative and non-partisan articles related to climate change and geo-engineering (2 January): it is vital that informed public awareness of this issue is speedily achieved.
I would like to point out that the geo-engineering scheme that colleagues and I are working on is not "creating low clouds over the oceans", as stated in the article "Fixing the planet". Creating clouds, except in special circumstances too rare to be important in global temperature stabilisation, is impossible. Our idea is to increase the reflectivity of existing shallow oceanic clouds by seeding them with seawater particles to increase their droplet numbers: thereby producing global cooling.
Provisional results (mainly modelling) suggest the technique could hold Earth's temperature constant for around 50 years, and that current values of Arctic ice cover could be maintained over this period. However, much more work is required before definitive conclusions concerning its efficacy can be drawn.
National Centre for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado, USA
Surly service in British hotels
I was puzzled by the headline "Bad service and grumpy Britons put tourism jobs at risk" (8 January). Having experienced several UK hotels I took a straw poll of friends and colleagues and we unanimously decided that the only grumpy Britons in UK hotels are the customers; the hotels were not staffed by Britons but by an assortment of eastern Europeans and Africans, all of whom seemed to resent working here.
My sister and her children were insulted by a Polish receptionist in Slough, as she is an unmarried mother and had dared to book a room as "Miss". I myself was refused my booked room in Paddington, as I didn't have a passport, by someone who could hardly speak English. In Bristol my colleague waited 45 minutes for an "English breakfast" of two fried eggs to brought by a South African who found waiting on customers a pain. I could go on.
Dare I think that the intention of the article was yet again to rubbish the British working classes in favour of cheap foreign workers who send their money home and contribute little to the real economy?
While Britain's tourist industry can always do better, we should be using the current exchange rate to boost it, rather than denigrate it.
In the South-West, tourism has grown strongly in recent years, built on improved quality, excellent regional food and the beauty of our natural environment. The wetsuit revolution has also removed another traditional deterrent – the temperature of the sea.
The strength of the euro provides us with a great opportunity to encourage people to reacquaint themselves with their own country as well as attracting more visitors from abroad.
Ben Bradshaw MP
Minister for the South-West
Archbisop's retirement home
As an ordinary practising English Roman Catholic, I wish to express my disgust and revulsion against the provision of a six-bedroom property in Chiswick for an aging single man – Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor – who would have you believe that he attempts to live his life in accordance with the precepts of a master who was born in a stable and crucified on a cross (Pandora, 8 January).
What message does this send to the homeless, the starving and the disadvantaged? Nothing other than "I'm all right, Jack."
English Catholics should be very wary of how they contribute to the support of their Church and even more demanding in seeking proper accountability for how their donations are spent.
Perhaps the retiring Cardinal should reconsider his decision. Spending his retirement in more humble surroundings will prepare him better for his eventual meeting with the master he is supposed to serve.
Peter J Hurrell
Earls Barton, Northamptonshire
Rate cuts won't do the job
With a further historic rate cut announced today (8 January) by the Bank of England, I'm left wondering why the lesson of earlier cuts has not been learned. With the possible exception of the construction sector, most businesses I talk to are not complaining about the cost of credit. In the current climate, they simply do not want to borrow more. Similarly, for the average consumer, it isn't a shortage of money that's stifling the high street, it's an unwillingness to spend.
Before any further rash policy announcements get made, the priority must be to invest time in developing a strategy focused on rebuilding business and consumer confidence. Shattered confidence is the source of our current economic woes, and a concerted and strategic policy focused on carefully rebuilding it is what will turn things around.
Print more money? This is what Gideon Gono (governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe) does on a regular basis, and look at the state of the economy.
Builder in social housing deal
Your report "The worst year ever for house prices" (7 January) had a supporting strapline: "Government forced to bail out house builder." As the house builder concerned, we would like to make it clear that the suggestion that our business is being "bailed out" by the Government is utterly untrue.
The £18m-deal publicised recently is in response to a Government-conceived and published policy. This policy enables housing associations to buy, as a commercial transaction, unsold housing stock from house builders, to meet existing social housing needs. This was a business transaction involving homes from our current housing stock and is a transaction that returns a positive profit margin for the group and its shareholders. This deal would not have taken place if the social-housing demand did not already exist.
Nor is the Government being "forced" into agreeing. The agreement has taken place under the Homes and Communities Agency's National Clearing House Programme, set up to help deliver affordable housing across the country. The funding was granted following a lengthy application process with set criteria that include identified local housing need, location, available numbers and price.
Chief Executive, Bovis Homes, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
Water in the air
I have not surveyed the drinking-water fountains at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports (letter, 6 January), but I can confirm that East Midlands airport has none. There are plenty of expensive bottles of water for sale. I was also refused a cup of water on a recent flight, but was invited to buy a bottle, which I declined.
Yesterday, it being Epiphany and the 12th day of Christmas, we duly took down our decorations and returned them to the attic for another year. Today, the 13th day of Christmas, I went to my local supermarket, to be confronted by the first of the chocolate Easter Bunnies. Given that one can buy pancake mixture for Shrove Tuesday, couldn't the Bunnies wait until Ash Wednesday?
Farnham Common, Berkshire
The Labour Cabinet is spending tens of thousands of pounds of our money roaming the country to listen to the people. I thought the system was that we elect representatives to Parliament, that they listen to us, and that the Government listens to Parliament. No need for expensive gallivanting. So where did it all go wrong?
The Morris Ring does not represent all Morris dancers (report 6 January). They say that younger people are too embarrassed to take part. Members of the Lord Chancellor's Folk (mainly people in their 20s or early 30s) are female as well as male – out of keeping with the Morris Ring's strictures – and we have fun precisely because it is embarrassing! Morris dancing needs to modernise if it is not to perish, and we like to think we're helping.
Drink to that
Your editorial (6 January) on a foray by Rosie Cooper MP into a Tesco supermarket that was advertising cheap booze refers to "her constituents' palettes". Might she have been thinking of painting the town red?
North Curry, Somerset
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