Letters: Drugs and double standards

Double standards surrounding drugs run throughout our society

The deal is that models are supposed to represent "health". Kate Moss has shown that she is not healthy. These commentators cannot bear the burden of the lie being exposed that runs through society as a whole... we say one thing but mean another.

LAURA MACLEOD

MINSTER LOVELL, WITNEY

Sir: Matthew Norman is surely right to highlight the double standards surrounding drugs. Besides, cocaine is hardly the biggest drug abuse problem we have right now, judging from the broken glass and vomit in our city centres in the early hours of a Sunday morning.

But what about the drug economy and its effect on producer countries, especially Colombia? Surely this is the real point. What Kate Moss, rock stars, journalists etc do to their bodies is their own affair. Fuelling crime and civil war is not. This, surely, is a new petit-bourgeois morality of its own. Hypocrisy is where you find it.

MIKE ROBBINS

NORWICH

Sir:I read with interest your article on Kate Moss (21 September) in which the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair is quoted as saying that his force will "crack down on middle-class drug usage".

If Miss Moss earns in the region of £4m per annum to which class do I belong as a retired teacher on one four-hundredth of her income?

MIKE WATSON

BOLTON, LANCASHIRE

Sir: Why should we feel sorry for Kate Moss's recent public demise? She has enough wealth to buy the necessary support to overcome her troubles while others, far less fortunate, are maligned for their deviance from the straight and narrow. She seems to want the benefits of celebrity without any of the responsibility.

LYNN HARRIES

BILTON, RUGBY

Hurricanes like this have hit us before

Sir: Living as I do in a State prone to being struck by hurricanes, having been hit by four last year, it was with great interest that I read the article about Sir John Lawton's views that the intensity of recent hurricanes are the "smoking gun" of global warming (23 September).

If this is the case, to what would he and others like him attribute the 1915 hurricane season? In that year, two Category Four hurricanes struck the US mainland; ironically, one hit New Orleans while the other struck Galveston, Texas. The two hurricanes were severe enough to warrant our National Weather Centres for Environmental Prediction to name them the 9th and 10th deadliest cyclones, respectively, to strike the US mainland between the years of 1900 and 1996.

There can be no doubt that global warming is occurring; however, global warming alone cannot be blamed as the cause of increased intensity or the number of hurricanes in the last decade or so.

Such reasoning fails to take into account other contributors such as the effect of El Niño, changes in oceanic water currents, naturally occurring high and low pressure areas, etc. For that matter, there is no concrete evidence the recent spate of global warming is entirely, or even partly, due to the activity of man.

ALLEN ANDERSON

JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA, USA

Sir: Regarding your report "This is global warming, says environmental chief": When tragic natural disasters occurs in the US it's global warming, and we've reaped what we've sown; is that Sir John Lawton's assertion?

BRIAN INERFELD

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, USA

Sir: Sir John Lawton wisely suggests that global warming deniers are similar to those who refused to accept that smoking causes lung cancer. But it wasn't just the tobacco industry that contested the evidence. Most of its customers were similarly in denial.

So it is with climate change. We fret but we do nothing substantial. Sorting rubbish into different boxes or admiring the wind turbines whilst hurtling along our motorways acts only to help calm the liberal conscience.

But to have any real impact on the probable man-made contribution to global warming requires much more substantial lifestyle adjustments. No more journeys to distant pleasure, no more long commutes, no more foreign holidays, only one room moderately heated in our houses.

Such changes are politically impossible. Many might think the cure worse than the disease. So governments must direct effort to addressing the consequences of climate change. Even in Britain this won't be easy or cheap. It will mean, for example, stopping any building in low-lying areas or near vulnerable coasts.

The consequent increased pressure on our green and pleasant upland areas will fuel up the powerful nimby and heritage lobbies. And, without cross-party consensus, such draconian changes to our planning regime may prove impossible to impose.

In other parts of the world the problem is more acute and immediate. But, unless governments act soon, mass evacuations such as those in Texas may soon become routine. If these cause so much trouble in the US how on earth will poorer countries cope?

BRIAN HUGHES

CHELTENHAM, GLOUCESTERSHIRE

Widening access to HE is working

Sir: Your report paints a bleak and false picture of our higher education system ("Universities failing in drive to attract state school pupils; soaring numbers of students drop out of university", 22 September), and underestimates the strength of our commitment to widening access to higher education.

The completion rate in our universities and colleges puts us among the highest in the OECD. More pupils from poorer backgrounds are entering colleges and universities than ever before, with 26,000 more entrants from state schools compared with 1999.

We are working alongside universities and colleges to widen access to higher education. From next year the new student finance package will give financial support to everyone with the potential to go to university. Students will not pay fees while they are studying and we are reintroducing maintenance grants for students from families with lower incomes. This help should mean that no student is put off from entering higher education because of money worries.

Our proposals for a Post-Qualification Application process will help ensure that students get a place at university based on their actual ability rather than often inaccurate predicted exam grades and we are also taking forward research into SATs in university entrance, which should help us to identify students from disadvantaged backgrounds who may have the potential to benefit from higher education.

Universities will be playing their part by providing £300m in bursaries to nearly half a million students from lower incomes. This includes members of the Russell Group, who will provide £80m.

We will not be diverted from our task of widening participation in higher education. It is a shared responsibility we have with our universities and colleges to reach out to communities, attract new students and offer new opportunities for everyone with the ability to participate.

BILL RAMMELL

MINISTER OF STATE FOR HIGHER EDUCATION AND LIFELONG LEARNING DEPARTMENT FOR EDUCATION AND SKILLS LONDON SW1

Sir: Your listing of The Royal Academy of Music as being the worst institution in the country for admitting state school students suitably ridicules benchmark statistics. Music Conservatoires exist to help the most talented musicians into the profession; entry is on musical merit and promise alone.

How can they expect to reach 90 per cent state-school admissions (instead of the achieved 48 per cent) if the provision of musical education is so poor in state schools?

It's not the RAM's fault, it's the fault of the state education providers. Why compromise standards of musical excellence because of a musical deficit earlier in the education system? Benchmarks suit politicians well, but professional standards poorly. Concentrating on improving state school musical education would be more helpful than arbitrary quotas.

STUART BARR

MUSICAL THEATRE DEPARTMENT THE ROYAL ACADEMY OF MUSIC LONDON NW1

Sir: If being ahead of its benchmark for admissions from state schools is an achievement for an institution (22 September), how can Norwich School of Art and Design, with a 100 per cent record, be ranked equal ninth? The amount above benchmark should not be ranked numerically as in your Top Ten table but as a percentage of the difference between the benchmark and 100 per cent.

On that basis the Norwich School and UHI Millennium Institute, Scotland, would be equal first with 100 per cent achievement while Strathclyde, presently ranked fourth, would have achieved only 55.6 per cent and be last of those listed.

Of course these rankings would be reversed if exceeding the benchmark were regarded as a measure of discrimination against applicants from independent schools.

DR STEWART LYON

BODORGAN, ANGLESEY

Family contact is crucial for prisoners

Sir: I welcome the Home Secretary's recent proposals for the use of " community prisons" to enable prisoners to be closer to their families. However, other factors inhibiting family contact, such as inadequate booking facilities, must also be addressed for the strategy to be effective.

Prisoners who maintain contact with their families whilst inside are up to six times less likely to reoffend, yet almost half of prisoners lose contact with their families while inside and the number of visits to prison has dropped dramatically in recent years.

Families trying to book visits find their telephone calls unanswered or lines constantly engaged and are therefore unable to visit. This problem has been repeatedly highlighted by the Chief Inspector of Prisons.

Keeping prisoners closer to home is a considerable step in the right direction but it will not work unless other obstacles to prison visiting are removed.

LUCY GAMPELL

DIRECTOR ACTION FOR PRISONERS' FAMILIES LONDON SW15

Don't bin your old documents

Sir: Stop, Elainne Pike! (Letters; "Bin those hoarded documents", 20 September). Tempting as it is to "bin" old family papers, why not, with the family of the deceased's permission of course, put what you don't need in a bin bag and ask the local museum or town/city archives to have a rummage through and extract what they want?

Social history is being discarded without regard to the interest of future generations. The same applies to ledgers, price lists and invoices of all the nation's past businesses and professions. We have passed to our excellent local museum at Radstock (south of Bath) some such documents for posterity from our former family butchers business.

What of today's records, I wonder? Perhaps our heirs will wonder how we all lived in 2005, all computers and papers having been binned or maybe recycled!

DAVID SHEARN

MIDSOMER NORTON, SOMERSET

Sir: Goodness me! Do not encourage chucking our history this way. Too many relatives consign local and sometimes nationally important documents and records to the bin, tip or bonfire.

At least ask around the Municipal Records Office, local and family history societies and see if some things are of interest.

At worst take them to a car boot sale and let the people searching for items like this have a field day .

MARK HOWARD

BRISTOL

Officers' orders

Sir: "The Government recognised the value of local policing which is why ... by 2008 every citizen will have [police] officers who are dedicated to tackling crime and disorder in their areas, working with and accountable to local authorities, councillors and communities" - letter from the Home Secretary, Charles Clarke (22 September). What are they doing at the moment, then?

ALEX SWANSON

MILTON KEYNES

Crane fly antics

Sir: You rightly state that crane flies carry on flying despite losing legs and huge chunks of wing (23 September). But one of the crane fly's most striking flying features - two long thin club-shaped structures, located just behind each wing - were not mentioned. These "balancers" - which are in fact a second pair of wings - whizz around like gyroscopes and help the fly orient itself.

In the past, students derived hours of harmless fun by catching a crane fly, putting it in the fridge for a few minutes to calm it down, snipping off one of the balancers and then observing how the flies become, well, unbalanced.

DR MATTHEW COBB

FACULTY OF LIFE SCIENCES UNIVERSITY OF MANCHESTER

Belgian boys

Sir: Sacré Bleu! "Adieu la chanson Francaise"? (22 September). Surely both Jacques Brel and Johnny Hallyday are famous Belgians? Claiming them as French must mean "la chanson Francaise" is in an even more dire situation.

ALAN WILLIAMS

OTFORD, KENT

Fag breaks

Sir: Nigel Stapley (letter, 23 September) tells us that as an employee in HM Revenue & Customs he has to deduct time taken for a cigarette break from his working hours, while his colleagues do not have to do so when they break for a cup of coffee. This seems especially unfair since he is not only not being paid for his break; rather, he is actually paying his employer for it.

DAVID EASTON

SALISBURY, WILTSHIRE

Soap solution

Sir: If you are compiling a list of readers'suggestions, following the publication of your Green supplement (20 September), this is mine - so simple - use soap instead of plastic containers for handwash. I'm amazed no one thought of it.

JULIA ANDERSON

SOWERBY BRIDGE, WEST YORKSHIRE

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