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- Arts + Ents
Your leading article (28 July) on the real cost of next year's Olympics is a timely reminder that we are all going to pay dearly for this vainglorious exercise in national ego-massaging.
At a time of economic hardship not only are we having to cough up more than three times what Blair's duplicitous administration said it would cost, but the ongoing financial impact – money diverted into tickets, time off to watch events – will further undermine our fragile economy. And we're now being told that overseas earnings from tourism will be down as well.
Well done Mr Blair – as if your Iraq legacy wasn't enough!
West Wittering, west Sussex
Your leader on the London Olympics is a welcome airing of the Government's opaqueness on its cost. Can I be allowed to add two more worrying issues?
First, public transport in London will not cope with a million passengers above the capital's daily commuter traffic. With the city's roads clogged, Olympic visitors will naturally look to the Underground system for their travel requirements. But both surface and deep tube Victorian stations remain Victorian, no matter how many cosmetic changes are made.
The length and width of platforms are fixed construction elements of any station and cannot cope with the congestion created by morning and evening rush hours. How will these elderly stations across the capital cope next summer with both tourists and Olympic visitors as well as commuters?
Second, if we are to believe the Metropolitan Police, their front-line officer numbers will fall if the Government's cuts are applied. That means an already stretched, and not particularly efficient, law-enforcement body trying to protect the capital while it is focused on making secure one small area of east London.
I agree with Mary Rance of UKinbound (letter, 27 July). While the Olympics may have long-term effects in improving tourist numbers, I for one will be diligently avoiding any form of transport within at least the Network SouthEast area of the country.
Even if your journey does not fall within the "Olympic chaos", the knock-on effects on public transport in London and the South-east, and through hubs such as London Heathrow and St Pancras International, will make travelling unbearable for those who need to travel for purposes other than the Olympics.
My parents, who live in Woolwich, are also looking for solutions since their initial idea of leaving London for the duration is tempered by concerns over the potential for increased levels of non-violent crime which will be caused by the capital's policing resources being naturally concentrated on anti-terrorism efforts for the Olympics.
Duncan J McKay
I am beginning to get rather tired of the furore over the allocation and price of Olympic tickets. Tickets were available from as little as £20, which for an international sporting event showcasing the best athletes, is not unreasonable. The bleating of those who supposedly could not afford such a relatively small amount (the cost of a modest night out or trip for two to the cinema) is both disingenuous and curmudgeonly.
In terms of availability, a leading high-street travel agent has fairly reasonably priced packages for most events, through which my wife and I purchased our tickets. We are far from wealthy, but want to be part of an amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience. We budgeted accordingly for something we have, after all, known would be with us since 2005.
Credit rating for America
Malcolm Howard has struck a chord with his criticism of the credit ratings agencies (letter, 28 July). Their prognostications indeed appear to be politically motivated, especially with regard to the indebted eurozone nations; most probably because they view a robust euro as a threat to the American dollar.
In their attempts to sustain the debt-ridden American position these far too powerful organisations are apparently able to destroy an indebted eurozone economy with the stoke of a pen; yet in 2007 these self-same incompetents failed to signal the impending credit crunch, even though it was erupting in their own back yard, with the alarm bells ringing since the beginning of the millennium.
Perhaps, in view of the all too apparent pro-American bias of the current big three credit ratings agencies, it might be beneficial if the IMF were to instigate a truly independent ratings agency in which we all might have faith; and maybe that way countries such as Greece, Ireland and Portugal might not be exposed to such ridiculously high interest rates that they have no chance of extracting themselves from the morass.
Terence Roy Smith
Pressure to look 'sexy'
Of course there are no official "demands" for women to look sexy (letters, 28 July). Girls and women could just ignore those. It's far more insidious than that.
Instead there's a constant stream of sexualised images of women and girls in the media and on the internet, shaping the way both men and women expect women to look. And what constitutes sexy has gone far beyond mere high heels.
A disturbing TV documentary a year or so ago demonstrated the impact of these images on teenagers. Groups of 16-year-olds from several schools across the country were shown photographs of breasts, which included one shot of the silicone-enhanced variety. Without exception, both girls and boys – who were in single-sex groups – selected the fake breasts as the most attractive by far. The boys were actually disgusted by the normal breasts, describing them as "mothercare boobs".
In another scene, one boy was ridiculed by the rest of his class for simply saying that he would consider having sex with a girl who hadn't shaved off all her pubic hair.
Hysteria over celebrity deaths
I feel that Julie Burchill is being rather hasty in describing Keith Richards' comments on the death of Diana as cretinous, ("A father worthy of Miss Winehouse" 29 July). Ignoring Richards' crass sexism (perhaps only to be expected from a rock dinosaur) in saying "I never knew the chick," he made a very profound and telling point. It is highly inappropriate for anyone not directly acquainted with a dead celebrity to go into mourning.
The mass hysteria following the death of celebrities has become an unsavoury pastime which, one suspects, people are enjoying a little too much and which can only cheapen the genuine grief of those directly affected by bereavement. We will always feel regret at the loss of talented figures such as Amy Winehouse and it is perfectly valid to recognise that their passing is a sad event. Outright mourning, however, should be reserved for close friends and family so that we can all retain a sense of perspective.
Politics of famine
Daniel Howden's opinion piece on the Somali famine (25 July) rightly argues that political failure has undermined the economic stability of Somalia.
The United Nations, Nato and their executive western powers have long concentrated efforts toward the reduction of Somali piracy, while systematically ignoring its root cause: the failure of the Somali state.
Foreign governmental aid, however, has exacerbated the political woes of Somalia and other African states by dispersing money to strategically selected leaders. Western economic interests and the War on Terror have detracted from pursing real solutions, such as negotiating civil disagreements between the Transitional Federal Government and Al-Shabaab while recognising the former Italian colony, Somaliland, as a sovereign, independent nation.
London School of Economics and Political science
While we recognise that evidence was not disclosed to the defence in the Ratcliffe on Soar cases as it should have been, the Court of Appeal did not rule that this was a deliberate act by the Crown Prosecution Service, as you state ("CPS withheld evidence, judges find", 21 July). The Appeal Court specifically declined to rule on the actual circumstances of the non-disclosure, in view of the number of ongoing inquiries into the issues and police and CPS actions in the case.
Chief Operating Officer
Crown Prosecution Service
You report on the appearance of Caleb among the 100 most popular names for boys (29 July). In Chambers' Twentieth Century Dictionary of 1906, the name appears in the "list of the more Common English Christian Names". Chambers' Dictionary of 2008 does not list the name under "some first names". I have carried this name since 13 July 1925, having inherited it from a great uncle. I have yet to meet another.
Caleb G Williams
Four Oaks, West Midlands
Before you abandon this amusing correspondence, I can see there is some work to do and some questions that need answering. One of which is, just how far are you going to kick this can down the street?
Perspectives on the influence of Rupert Murdoch
The strange death of Blair's 'stakeholding' idea
Andrew Grice's piece "Blair says he wasn't too close to Murdoch. I disagree" (28 July) hit the nail on the head. Not only did Mr Blair yield to Murdoch influence in matters regarding Europe but also over fundamental economic policies.
After Blair had made his groundbreaking speech on 18 January 1996 in Malaysia about the merits of a "stakeholding" economy as against the "shareholder value" model, Gordon Brown's office phoned me (I was chairman of BOSS Group and a Labour supporter at the time) to take a call from Radio 4 News at One to explain what it meant. I did and told the interviewer that it was largely based on the "social market economy" or the so-called "Rhineland capitalism" and that it worked successfully in Germany and other continental countries.
When Blair got back, however, he soon started back-pedalling and within a month "stakeholding" was erased from all New Labour language and pamphlets. A number of high-ranking Labour politicians told me at the time that it was a combination of Murdoch, Brown and Balls who frightened Blair off the idea.
It would be good to have Blair come clean on this in front of a House of Commons Committee and for the British public to understand how they have been manipulated by the Murdoch press (and others) and how cowardly New Labour were when they got into power, in spite of their huge majority.
Who briefed whom?
Perhaps the answer to David England's question about Liam Fox's apparent immunity from prosecution for his briefing sessions with Rupert Murdoch (letter, 29 July) is that the Defence Secretary was not giving the briefing but receiving it?
Colin V Smith
St Helens, Merseyside
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