Letters: Europe and Asia

Europe and Asia have always overlapped in history and geography

As if in prior answer Paul Beardsmore stated (Letters, 5 October) that certain politicians such as M Giscard d'Estaing "recognise a distinct geographical area bounded by the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, the Caucasus, the Urals, and the Atlantic Ocean". Actually, the Mediterranean Sea is, and has been a highway, not an obstacle, to human intercourse. Thus the Roman Empire was essentially a united Mediterranean Basin state. And, as previously pointed out, the EU extends into Asia with Cyprus belonging to it, not far from the coast of Syria. In fact it could have been pointed out that the EU (then the EC) had extended into Asia ever since 1981 when Greece joined. For the Dodecanese, Rhodes, Chiros and Lesbos are in physical geography off-shore islands of Asia, not of Europe. As there is a "Turkey-in-Europe", so there is a "Greece-in-Asia". Indeed there is also a "Spain-in-Africa", the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on the Mediterranean coast of Morocco (lately in the news), and the Canary Islands off the south end of the Atlantic coast of Morocco, are administratively, legislatively, and also culturally, integral parts of Spain.

It is really only from Euro-centric convention that we continue to describe Europe as a distinct continent at all. Europe and Asia are joined at the broadest points of both, not at their narrowest points like Asia and Africa. Therefore Europe is really a sub-continent of Asia, or Eurasia, just as the Indian sub-continent is.

SIMON C H CAUTHERLEY

DANBY, NORTH YORKSHIRE

Factory farming worsens flu risk

Sir: In the news coverage of bird flu, the blame for spreading the virus has been put on wild, migratory birds. Yet, over the last 60 years, the world's farmers have kept billions of broiler chickens and laying hens in ever more confined factory-farmed conditions, which is also an important factor. In the UK alone, we slaughter 900 million birds a year.

The environment in which these creatures are kept is so severe that they have seriously compromised immune systems and are at their physiological limits. It is no wonder that disease is rife. All that keeps these birds alive long enough so that humans can eat their eggs and meat is the addition of an array of drugs, including antibiotics, in their feed.

Now we seem panicked and surprised that avian flu might run amok in our factory-farmed birds and break through the species barrier to harm us.

SARA STARKEY

TONBRIDGE, KENT

Sir: The concern about a possible outbreak of bird flu has raised the question of who should be able to receive medication from the currently limited supplies available. I would think it equally imperative to settle the question of who should not get it.

I suggest European Commissioners, MEPs, cabinet ministers, MPs, senior civil servants, NFU officials and all their families should be banned from taking it, and we should demand full disclosure of those who have. Only if these people are liable to die along with rest of us is there any hope of overcoming the usual complacency and the precedence of commerce over life. We should remember that our elite has a track record of betraying the people.

JOHN RISELEY

HARROGATE, NORTH YORKSHIRE

Sir: The chief veterinary officer at Defra is Dr Debby Reynolds. She speaks for the department about bird flu. The only defence against a possible pandemic is the drug Tamiflu.

Exactly 48 years ago this week Tammy, sung by Debbie Reynolds, was Number 3 in the pop music charts. Part of the lyric refers to a whippoorwill, an American bird with a distinctive call, hence the onomatopoeic name.

Were Miss Reynolds and her songwriters trying to tell us something back in 1957? If there is an outbreak of bird flu in the southern United States, we will know where to point the finger of suspicion.

DAVID NETTLETON

BURY ST EDMUNDS, SUFFOLK

Power of the state is a Labour tradition

Sir: Labour's authoritarian streak derives from the philosophical tradition to which it belongs ("Blinkered politicians and the rule of law", Editorial, 13 October). The tradition that runs through Rousseau and Marx/Engels up to and including the modern Labour party regards the state as the proper wielder of political and economic power and the only body that might use such power in the common good.

Individual liberty constitutes a constraint on the power of the state and so this philosophical tradition regards it in a negative sense as a manifestation of self-interest antithetical to the good of society. That this view was seriously criticised by Popper in The Open Society and its Enemies (Volume 1), does not seem to have got through to the enemies of the open society who now constitute the British Government.

Thus, while Labour may not set out to abolish personal liberty, their low evaluation of it leads them to sacrifice it with ease when they feel a need, however slight, or to shrink it until it only extends to trivial areas of life. Thus Labour tries to minimise protest and free speech, while extending our liberties to drink throughout the night and to gamble ourselves into penury.

FRANCIS BESWICK

STRETFORD GREATER MANCHESTER

Pinter, a playwright and peace promoter

Sir: Harold Pinter, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, has my respect and admiration, not just for the quality of his playwriting but also for his willingness to risk his reputation to promote peace ("We have brought torture and misery in name of freedom," 14 October).

Pinter is an artist of the highest order, someone the British and American governments cannot accuse of intellectual poverty, moral ambiguity, or self-promotion. When he speaks of hypocrisy or foolhardiness in the Iraq conflict, he speaks with well-earned authority. His anti-war rhetoric is a model of rational rage that strips away the pretense and propaganda of the American and British arguments, exposing only nakedness.

ROBERT J INLOW

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA, USA

Sir: Well done to The Independent for printing the comments by Harold Pinter "... torture and misery in the name of freedom". Never have truer words been written.

REX WILLIAMS

KALEEN, ACT, AUSTRALIA

The economics of climate change

Sir: The Green Party welcomes recent calls for cross-party talks on tackling climate change and the appointment of Sir Nicholas Stern as "climate tsar" (report, 13 October). The challenges we face because of our changing environment certainly supersede the boundaries of party politics.

However, the Lib Dems' and Tories' other policies undermine their recent proclamations regarding climate change. Commitments to economic liberalisation, economic growth and gluttonous consumption would hinder their ability to tackle successfully the biggest threat the world faces today. And while the focus of Sir Nicholas on the economy and climate change is laced with ambitious rhetoric, the fact that the problems are seen in primarily economic terms suggests that he does not fully realise the depth and breadth of change necessary.

One possibility for real progress towards emissions reduction is that of domestic tradable quotas, or DTQs, a radical policy recently adopted by the Green Party. This policy, based on the idea of every citizen and company receiving a certain carbon allowance, would increase individual responsibility and, through gradually reducing allowances, would play a major role in reducing overall emissions levels. Such a plan requires significant investment in energy conservation, renewable energy technology and public transportation.

Perhaps then we can reach the day when everyone has not only heard of climate change, but can confidently say that they have contributed to the solution.

KEITH TAYLOR

PRINCIPAL SPEAKER GREEN PARTY LONDON N19

Sir: Your article "Blair appoints Treasury mandarin as climate tsar" (13 October) says that Sir Nicholas Stern will report directly to Mr Blair "on the economic implications of cutting greenhouse gases". Let's hope he also reports on the economic implications of not cutting greenhouse gases.

DR STEVE BURGESS

EDINBURGH

The positive vision of Greenpeace

Sir: John Castel, a former Rainbow Warrior captain, says "our human world desperately needs a wise and brave alternative voice now" ("War and Greenpeace", 12 October). We couldn't agree more.

He claims there are no longer any free-thinkers or philosophers, and more bizarrely, no drinkers within Greenpeace. In fact there are plenty. But Greenpeace is a professional organisation working in many dangerous and difficult parts of the world, including places like the Amazon and Papua New Guinea where death threats against our staff and difficult working conditions require a high degree of professionalism and competent organisation.

We are also increasingly shifting resources to the environmental front line: China, India, Brazil, Mexico, South-east Asia. That's why we moved our headquarters from a canal-side site in central Amsterdam to "a soulless block in a particularly boring suburb". Would John object to saving rent on an office in order to expand our presence in Beijing?

Over the past 30 years we have evolved from an organisation committed solely to protest to one which continues to confront wrongs, and continues to take non-violent direct action in support of our beliefs, but which also promotes a positive vision of a green and peaceful world. That means campaigning for as many things as we campaign against - putting forward specific, credible solutions, engaging with governments and corporations where we can find common ground.

STEPHEN TINDALE

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR GREENPEACE UK

Unequal pay for women in the EU

Sir: Can I suggest to Godfrey Bloom, UKIP MEP, that instead of saying women should clean behind fridges and posing with porn magazines (Pandora, 14 October) that he try and do something about the real problems that he is elected to solve?

This week, the European Parliament heard that 30 years after equal pay legislation, the wage gap between men and women across Europe is still between 16 per cent and 33 per cent, and in 17 European Union countries, the risk of extreme poverty for women greatly exceeds the risk for men.

Might Mr Bloom, instead of fooling himself into thinking that women are "sneering" at him because he is male, wake up to the fact that real politicians are trying to redress the gender balance. He should put his energy into creating a fairer society for future generations, who more often than not, are left to the care and responsibility of women.

MARY HONEYBALL MEP

(LABOUR, LONDON) LONDON W9

A puff of smoke

Sir: If David Cameron did smoke cannabis and this proves to be his political undoing, at least he can console himself with the the results of scientific research suggesting a link to "hippocampal neurogenesis" with a resultant boost in brain power (report, 14 October). It really is an ill wind that blows nobody any good.

JEREMY WALKER

LONDON SW17

Imperfect truth

Sir: I was intrigued to learn that Sian Lacey Taylder (Letters, 14 October) suspects the vast majority of Catholics "would persevere with a flawed truth rather than flit chameleon-like through a world in constant flux". I feel there is a lesson to be learned from this, which I expect will serve me well in countless difficult situations. I just need one clarification: could some kind theologian please advise me exactly how true a lie has to be before it gains "flawed truth" status?

DANNY WRIGHT

GLASGOW

Chelsea tractors

Sir: You say that the popularity of the 4x4 in London is a puzzle ("Urban tractors", Editorial, 15 October). Do you think that the poor condition of the capital's roads has anything to do with it?

DAVID CULVER

LONDON SE9

Tyrannical youth

Sir: Selfishness and lack of empathy are the root causes of every problem in the world today. The selfishness of the few causes constant conflict in families, schools, communities and within and between societies. However, if these selfish individuals are created by selfish parents seeking only instant gratification, the following quote offers little hope of the chain ever being broken: "Children nowadays are tyrants. They contradict their parents, gobble their food and tyrannise their teachers." (Socrates, 469-399BC)

STAN HARPER

STRATFORD-UPON-AVON WARWICKSHIRE

Viewing restrictions

Sir: The recent recollections of the snobbish social prescriptions of the 1960s should extend to television viewing. Among the middle classes, television was only tolerated in its BBC2 version. ITV was very often banned. I've found that the question "Blue Peter or Magpie?" provides for an entertaining discussion.

P RENNIE

FOLKESTONE KENT

Guy Fawkes, terrorist?

Sir: Surely anyone complaining about the burning of Guy Fawkes in effigy (Letters, 14 October) on the grounds of inciting religious hatred would automatically be guilty of glorifying terrorism.

PETER EVANS

WALTON ON THAMES SURREY

Sir: Gordon Elliot (letter, 14 October) refers to Guy Fawkes and religious hatred. Surely it should be 5/11 rather than Bonfire Night?

DAVID HASELL

THAMES DITTON SURREY

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