Couples receiving IVF treatment deserve best chance of success
Sir: Suggestions that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) might change IVF treatment so that a maximum of one embryo would be implanted at a time (report, 29 July) is just one in a long line of decisions made by the HFEA and the Government which shows a distinct lack of joined-up thinking in respect of this treatment.
My wife and I waited until we were secure, financially and emotionally, before trying to start for a family at the by-no-means-decrepit age of 30, with the aim of bringing up children independently and responsibly. Having been caught out by an unforseen medical condition, we have already paid vast sums for two cycles of failed private IVF treatment because of the lack of available NHS funding and have little option other than to continue with more wallet-emptying attempts.
IVF treatment is enough of an ordeal as it is without the chances of success being limited even further. It is undoubtedly true that there is an additional cost to the NHS for multiple births, but this is negligible compared to other demands made on the NHS by completely irrespon- sible personal behaviour in our society.
The HFEA appears to be doing the Government's dirty work for it; namely trying to save relatively trivial amounts of money, but at high personal cost to the individuals concerned. The Government has clearly decided that this sort of treatment is not a public priority and so should be left to private individuals. That being the case, it should leave well alone, and allow those paying for the treatment the best possible chance of success.
Search policy could alienate Muslims
Sir: Russell Razzaque provides an excellent analysis of how some young Muslims become extremists (Opinion, 30 July). Unlike Russell, I drifted away from religion at university and instead embraced "British youth culture".
However, one recent development is not covered in his analysis. The new stop-and-search policy directed at young Asian-looking men is a cause for concern. Having recently been subjected to the indignity of this procedure, I am possibly in a position to empathise with moderate Muslims who are feeling self-aware in the present climate. What is more, stop and search may prove to be the tipping point to radicalisation for some British Muslims who already feel alienated from British society.
Sir: With institutional racism an unattractive but very real cornerstone of British policing for more than 100 years, it will not be lost on the Muslim community that the failure to anticipate the bomb attacks on 7 and 21 July was, in part, a direct result of the lack of Muslim officers in British police forces who, conceivably, might just have been able to go undercover and penetrate the terror cells before they carried out their deadly attacks.
EU should cut trade ties with Israel
Sir: It is now more than a year since the advisory ruling of the International Court of Justice that the construction by Israel of the separation wall in the occupied West Bank is illegal in international law and should cease forthwith. It ruled that those portions of the wall built on Palestinian land should be torn down and reparations made by Israel to those whose lives had been harmed by it. It also stated that all States party to the Geneva Convention are under an obligation to ensure compliance by Israel. On 20 July 2004, the UN General Assembly in emergency session passed a resolution by 150 votes to six accepting the advisory ruling. Those voting for the resolution included the UK and other European states.
I note that Israel has ignored the ruling and the UN vote, continues to build the wall and expand its settlements in the West Bank, also declared illegal by the ICJ in the same ruling, and that no attempts appear to have been made by the UK or other European governments to ensure Israel's compliance. Israel enjoys substantial trading advantages with Europe under the EU-Israel Association Agreement, an essential condition of which is that Israel maintains "respect for human rights". This condition is clearly being violated, and I believe that Europe should now suspend the EU-Israel Association Agreement.
DR MIKE BARNES,
Shoot to kill and suicide bombing
Sir: Following the debate on the merits of the so-called shoot-to-kill policy arising out of the tragic death of Jean Charles de Menezes, there has been much comparison with Israel's method of dealing with suicide killers and, indeed, much implication that the police and security services have learned a great deal from Israel.
Contrary to much of what has been reported, despite intercepting literally hundreds of would-be suicide bombers, Israeli security services have killed relatively few and almost none who were innocent, as in the case of Mr de Menezes. I am not criticising the police - they clearly cannot afford to take any chances and Mr de Menezes must be regarded as an unfortunate victim of the war started by the terrorists.
My point is that perhaps people might now start to understand the difficulties under which the Israeli authorities operate and the extraordinary lengths that they go to, not only to protect their citizens, but not to indiscriminately kill others.
One shudders to think what would happen if Israeli security forces had shot dead an innocent foreigner that they mistook for a terrorist. No doubt, an emergency session of the United Nations would long have been in session.
J M JAFFE
Sir: I find it incredible that no one seems to be demanding the Home Secretary's resignation.
Charles Clarke is supposed to have overall responsibility for Britain's domestic anti-terrorism policy, so why did he not make sure that a comprehensive public information campaign made it clear that the police, possibly in plain clothes, now had a shoot-to-kill policy against anyone suspected of being about to carry out a terrorist attack? We should have been told that a very specific form of words would be issued in warning and that any failure to obey could lead to instant death.
We must not allow the inquiries into the police killing of Jean Charles de Menezes to become a whitewash that exonerate those in power of any responsibility for allowing the police secretly to adopt a shoot-to-kill policy without involving the public but simply springing it upon us in this brutal manner.
We must fight the 'war on error'
Sir: I cannot decide who is imitating who, Bush or Blair? The more I hear their shallow mantra, "the terrorists hate Western values" hocus pocus, the more I think of them as being the incredible Siamese twits, who have both become part of the problem and not the solution in this so-called war on terror.
The only true war we should all be fighting is the "war on error", the error being Iraq, and Bush and Blair's insistence on avoiding cause and effect: that the invasion has led to the deaths of at least 10,000 civilians by "allied" action, which has globally enraged Muslims and non-Muslims alike. And until Bush and Blair step out from their house of delusion and stop blaming everybody else but themselves for the unmitigated theatre of horror that Iraq has become, the so-called war on terror will continue without end.
Sir: Charles Kennedy's patronising comments in his piece ("There are limits to our co-operation over terror", 27 July) betray the ignorance of a politician who refuses to wake up and smell the coffee as to what is going on in the real world. I am pleased that he has seen fit to join the rest of London on the Tube and experience the daily fear we all now face looking at our fellow travellers with suspicion and feeling the relief when we get off. But just exactly what does he consider a "proportionate threat" to be to justify further actions to counter this. Perhaps another four bombs or another 50 people would suffice, or maybe double that? How about the constant threat to the journey to work for millions of people in London which is a basic human right, a journey that Mr Kennedy clearly does not have to make very often.
Youth gang violence is a national blight
Sir: I spent half my life in Huyton, Merseyside, and my family still live there. We have been targeted by the gangs of thugs that are a part of life there. As in many other "deprived" areas, youths choose to gang together to terrorise anyone who is alone, outnumbered or different. Vicious assaults on strangers are common. The murder of Anthony Walker fits into this pattern, racism being the trigger this time.
Thugs are supported by networks of family and friends who think nothing of lying to help even murderers within their number. Everyone else is terrified into silence. Gang violence happens all over the country, not just on Merseyside. Great numbers of youths happily choose this lifestyle, knowing that if they are caught, punishments will be mild. If this situation doesn't change, the violence will only get worse.
'Twinning' can help to avert famine
Sir: Marie Staunton and Fadimata Alainchar are right (letter, 1 August) that forging continuing links between "us and them" is a solution to raising awareness for action on tackling famine.
Since the 1980s an ever-increasing number of towns, local authorities, schools, universities, faith groups, and others have formed partnership links for learning with counterparts in the developing world, mainly in Africa.
This modern twinning movement provides great opportunities for raising awareness, for community development and for greater social cohesion at both ends of the relationship. It is certain that without that awareness the Make Poverty History campaign would not have been the popular success that is has been.
DIRECTOR, UK ONE WORLD LINKING ASSOCIATION MANTON, WILTSHIRE
Signs of Asperger's syndrome?
Sir: In your articles and obituary on Sir Edward Heath (18 July), the following aspects of his personality were noted: abrasive style; never tried to be liked; prone to stony silences in interviews; enjoyed his own company; sour and graceless reputation, and so on. One could say that all of this was out of keeping with his intelligence as he was a very gifted person. All the above could be descriptive of somebody with mild Asperger's syndrome, which could explain why things went wrong for him.
St Paul's belief in the afterlife
Sir: It seems a grave misunderstanding has led to Pandora's suggestion (25 July) that my projected novel, which I fear is still very far from being ready for publication, might be some sort of apologia for suicide terrorism.
What I am attempting to recreate is the emotional and intellectual process through which St Paul became convinced of the truth of the risen Christ, dismissing, inter alia, the official Roman line that the disappearance of Jesus' body on the first Easter was part of a Zealot plot. Given the contemporary mainstream pagan and Jewish rejection of immortality, this was, to say the least, a startling spiritual innovation.
That the promise of an afterlife has motivated terrible crimes does not diminish the fact that it has also inspired the notions of the dignity of the individual, absolute justice, freedom and progress which are the foundations of Western civilisation. Nor does it invalidate the possibility that a belief in such a promise may be well founded.
Sir. I notice that there is much talk nowadays of "Islamic terror". I wonder why IRA bombings in London, Brighton or Liverpool were not called "Catholic terror" or "Irish terror"? While I condemn all such actions, whether perpetrated by Muslims, Catholics or Tamils, I can see a double standard in this.
RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA
Sir: One of the questions in the article "Two bomb plots ... " (1 August) was how was it possible that one of the bombing suspects left the UK unnoticed. As a holiday-maker I visit Britain two or three times a year, most recently last week, and I can tell you that my passport is thoroughly examined by British officials whenever I enter the country. On my way out, however, this happens only two or three times out of 10. Your country seems to care a lot about suspicious characters entering, but not so much about them leaving.
ZWOLLE, THE NETHERLANDS
A rock, not an island
Sir: Your quiz of 1 August appears to ignore the isthmus that connects the rock of Gibraltar to Spain, making it into an island, which it has not been for millennia.
MARTIN A SMITH
Sir: You are needlessly concerned about breaking with the tradition of naming planets after the classical gods and naming them after TV characters instead (leading article, 1 August). Indeed, I would have thought that Planet Homer, your example of a particularly "nasty precedent", is an excellent name for a new planet, satisfying enthusiasts of both high and low culture. After all, his namesake was the creator of The Iliad and The Odyssey.
THE REV KIM FABRICIUS
Beehives and bouffants
Sir: In the interests of historical accuracy may I point out that the hairstyle shown as "a beehive" ("Haircuts from Hell", 1 August) is no such thing. A beehive was based on a simple French pleat as the basis for the build-up required for the style. On this simple base any size of beehive could be built by back-combing. What you actually showed was another version of a bouffant.
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