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Monday 9 April 2007
Letters: Cricket World Cup
Incompetence of the ICC has ruined the present World Cup
Sir: It is such a shame that the present cricket World Cup has been virtually ruined by the total incompetence of the cricket authorities, primarily the ICC.
The extremely high cost of match tickets has priced out most of the local population which always forms the bulk of the support, and the result is new stadiums which are at times nearly empty.
Draconian rules prevent fans from taking food and drink into the stadium - as they have done since time immemorial - and ban the display of logos on teeshirts which may offend sponsors.
All this shows the complete contempt in which the authorities hold the paying spectator; money now drives every action they take. The VIP administrators who move from ground to ground in their first-class boxes - free of charge, of course - are now so insulated from the ordinary experience of the cricket spectator that they ought to be sacked and replaced with those who have the spectators' interests at heart, people who will seek to provide an affordable entertainment without stupid restrictions.
The pity is that the Caribbean now has excellent cricket grounds which need to be filled with spectators, if only someone could sort it out.
Captives selling their stories an indignity
Sir: The MoD's approval for the sailors and marines held captive in Iran to sell their stories to the media epitomises the depths of indignity and crass commercialism to which Blair's government has sunk.
Those directly involved in a serious international incident whose aftermath is likely to have an ongoing bearing on the safety and security of all of us, especially our military personnel, are being invited to treat it as a money-grabbing opportunity.
Yes, the media may have obtained accounts from the families and friends of those involved about what they had experienced while they were held captive. But, that in no way justifies the Government giving its approval for the former captives themselves to sell their stories directly to the media.
Does anyone seriously believe the stories those officers tell will be totally reliable? They know what the media want are stories which rubbish the Iranians, accounts of torture and ill-treatment, and it would be surprising if they didn't spin their stories accordingly. But, as those stories are being told by the individuals who actually went through the experience, it increases the likelihood that they will be believed by many people to be completely true.
This in itself is damaging, but far more concerning is the potential effect which their stories may have on the future behaviour of the British government, the Iranian government and extremist groups. This tawdry episode gives the lie to government ministers' frequent claims that our safety and security are their highest concerns.
Sir: I was filled with an immense sense of pride as I watched the press conference of our young sailors and marines. I was conscious that while old men and politicians jaw jaw and send us to war, it is our young servicemen and women who pay the price for the folly and arrogance of their decisions.
Our government, by slavishly following the Americans into an ill-conceived and illegal war in Iraq against the wishes of public opinion, has immeasurably damaged our standing in the rest of the world, but the pragmatism, maturity and quiet courage of our young sailors and marines as they recounted their ordeal made me proud to be British again.
Sir: It was generous of the United States to offer to take aggressive action against Iran on behalf of 15 Royal Navy personnel. Yet, nearly 40 years have passed and the US government refuses to take any action on behalf of 34 American seamen who were killed and 173 wounded, when Israel attacked the USS Liberty, an intelligence ship in international waters with its American flag clearly visible.
The matter did not even merit a full-scale Congressional investigation although that was many times demanded over the four decades by various parties, including the organisation of Liberty survivors.
That group, in June 2005, also submitted a report to the Secretary of the Army regarding war crimes committed against US military personnel on 8 June 1967. No response has been made.
How I wish someone would intervene on behalf of all those American sailors who never came home to their families since the US has chosen not to disturb its close relationship with Israel which since that time has been rewarded with billions of dollars annually from the pockets of the American taxpayers.
NEW YORK CITY
Airlines not the worst polluters
Sir: I refer to the article "IPPR: 'Put green warnings on adverts for flights' " (5 April): To suggest an introduction of cigarette-style warning labels for flights saying "Flying causes climate change" is an attention-grabbing concept, but one that has little merit when thought about properly. Will the IPPR also be calling for warning labels on cars, trains, trucks and ships? These all contribute to climate change, and in the case of road transport, have about nine times greater impact than flying. What about the biggest cause of CO2 emissions, electricity generation? Will all light switches now come with a bold, black headline, "Turning on this switch could turn off the planet"?
The aviation industry is very aware of the impact it has on the environment - about 2 per cent of man-made CO2 emissions at present - and is not complacent, working to reduce this impact through technical and operational initiatives. The industry as a whole aims to achieve fuel efficiency of 50 per cent greater than today by 2020.
To target aviation alone is worrying. It puts the emphasis on one sector that, in reality, is not causing the greatest damage. We need a measured, serious and global approach, not one that is led by headline-grabbers.
ROBERT J AARONSON
DIRECTOR GENERAL, AIRPORTS COUNCIL INTERNATIONAL, GENEVA
Sir: I read again (report, 7 April) that the melting of the Himalayan glaciers will, after a period of excessive melt water, result in much-reduced flow in the rivers previously fed by these glaciers. I hope someone can explain this process to me, because I am baffled by it. Glaciers are a form of water storage; whatever precipitation there is on the Himalayas ends up in the river systems, decades later. If, due to warming, the glaciers disappear, then the precipitation must still end up in the river systems, but the long delay is absent.
So, if the rate of precipitation doesn't change over the years, then the amount of water leaving the mountains shouldn't change (except during the glacial meltdown, which it is agreed will produce a period of flooding). It may be the rate of precipitation will change due to climate change, although I would have thought an increase in ocean temperature would be likely to produce an increase in inland precipitation.
But all the reports on this phenomenon baldly state that the disappearance of the glaciers will result in less river water, with no other explanation; as though the glaciers magically produce water out of nowhere.
Sir: Aside from reducing carbon emissions and becoming more energy efficient, one obvious way of reducing carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere is to increase the numbers of plants. Since several species of the giant timber bamboos are the world's fastest-growing plants, are hardy in the UK, develop new trunks each year and can be used as a building material, Britain's garden owners should be replacing their manicured lawns with bamboo groves.
Lady Macbeth was a Saint
Sir: Miles Kington ("The naming of just about anything is a curious matter", 6 April) refers to the tradition in Britain of naming steam locomotives.
Far more imaginative and (unintentionally?) amusing than the Great Western lists of stodgy country houses was the London & North Eastern Railway practice of naming locomotives after winning racehorses ( Robert-the-Devil; Gay Crusader; Spearmint; Call Boy; Galopin; Pretty Polly), or after antelope ( Bongo; Gnu; Dibitag; Sassaby).
Many of the streamlined A4 class, of which Mallard was most famous, were named after birds, and I felt it a great pity the two most appropriately onomatopaeic names for a steam locomotive, Chough and Puffin, were not used for engines of this series.
But only the Great Western could have named one of its Saint class locomotives Lady Macbeth.
Smoke bans signify a grievous threat
Sir: The bandwagon of local smoking bans now steamrollering across Britain has nothing to do with protecting people from the supposed threat of "second-hand" smoke. Indeed, the bans are symptoms of a far more grievous threat, a cancer that has been spreading for decades and is the only real hazard involved, the cancer of unlimited government power.
The issue is not whether second-hand smoke is a real danger or a phantom menace, as a study in the British Medical Journal indicates. The issue is: if it were harmful, what would be the proper reaction? Should anti-tobacco activists satisfy themselves with educating people about the potential danger and allowing them to make their own decisions, or should they seize the power of government and force people to make the "right" decision?
Loudly billed as measures that affect only "public places", they have actually targeted private places: restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, whose customers are free to go elsewhere.
All decisions involve risks; some have harmful consequences; most are controversial and invite disapproval from the neighbours. But the individual must be free to make these decisions. Yet when it comes to smoking, this freedom is under attack.
Smokers are a minority, practising a habit considered annoying and unpleasant to the majority. So the majority has simply commandeered the power of government and used it to dictate their behaviour.
THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO
Old war against the electric car
Sir: We should not be too surprised at the predatory antics of the US car companies in throttling the electric car (Johann Hari, Comment, 5 April).
In the 1930s, a cartel called National City Lines, composed of General Motors and a collection of oil and rubber interests, began buying up trolley lines in US cities and converting them to bus routes. By 1950, it had closed down the streetcar systems of more than 100 cities.
Its actions were illegal so it was eventually taken to court and convicted of engaging in a criminal conspiracy. NCL was fined a paltry $5,000, or, as the author and journalist Bill Bryson puts it, "less than the cost of a new bus".
The car companies, oil companies and big business have form. Governments and citizens alike should take action, governments by setting a proper regulatory framework, controlling ruthless corporations and promoting green actions, and citizens by demanding change.
Sir: I hesitate to gainsay Charles Nevin ("Just desserts", 5 April) but I always thought Kingsley Amis used to say that the most depressing phrase in the English language was, "Red or white?"
Not always organic
Sir: Ian Herbert ("It's not just a fad", 3 April) says organic produce is healthier because it has a few per cent extra of vitamin C than a conventional equivalent. Apple varieties vary at least 10-fold in vitamin C content, pears have three times as much as apples, carotene content in different carrot varieties reportedly varies 50-fold and this situation seems to be normal for all fruits and vegetables and for mineral content and polyphenols (antioxidants) too. What is the point of buying an expensive organic Golden Delicious apple when I can buy a Granny Smith with twice the vitamin C content much more cheaply?
PROFESSOR ANTHONY TREWAVAS
INSTITUTE OF MOLECULAR PLANT SCIENCE, EDINBURGH
What about the water?
Sir: Dr Wolff says installing 110 kilometres square of CSP steam generators in a hot desert could provide sufficient electricity for the whole of the EU (letter, 7 April). But how much fresh water would that consume, and where would it come from? We must accept that this problem isn't going to be solved by a single solution but some ideas may have a place and need to be tried. Me? I shall continue to plant trees (via Men of the Trees in Australia) and join Godfrey Bloom down the pub (letter, 7 April).
Unfair on Pilate
Sir: I feel Matthew Norman, in his essay on Blair's indifference to real human beings as opposed to abstract moral crusades (Opinion, 6 April), has been somewhat unfair on Pontius Pilate, who never presented himself as a self-righteous moralist, just a pragmatic politician.
Sir: Mr De Lowe (letter, 3 April) draws an unfavourable comparison between the rights and freedoms enjoyed by Arab Israelis in Israel and the situation an Israeli Jew could expect to face in the PA-administered territories. It would have been fairer to compare either non-PA Arabs in Israel with non-Israeli Jews in the PA territories (no problems for either group), or PA Arabs in Israel with Israeli Jews in the PA territories (where both groups are likely to be viewed with deep suspicion).
Hard to swallow
Sir: Only hardline enthusiasts for recycling will have their appetites whetted by a sign outside the restaurant at Ightham Mote, a National Trust property in Kent, which reads "Lavatories open as restaurant".
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