Letters: Harlequin ladybird


No need to panic over the arrival of the harlequin ladybird

Sir: Once again the enjoyment of my breakfast has been spoilt by your sensational, yet colourful, account of the problems that might be caused by the arrival in the UK of the harlequin ladybird (report, 13 July). Professor Majerus makes the classic mistake of confusing percentages and numbers. The fact that 90 per cent of the ladybirds in some London parks are harlequins does not mean that the actual numbers of the other species of ladybird are reduced. Fortunately I have a large set of data of numbers of ladybirds from many English localities collected before the arrival of the harlequin. In due course this will enable a comparison to be made of the numbers of species and individuals before and after the arrival of the harlequin. Until then the jury is out.

Instead we are presented with speculation as fact. Professor Majerus must come up with the evidence to satisfy his peers that his interpretation of the effect of the harlequin on the British fauna is correct. This ladybird expert has yet to see such evidence. A number of the harlequin's natural enemies already occur in the UK and, therefore, it is possible that they will limit its increase. Indeed I have just read an account of the predation in England of harlequin larvae by the larvae of lacewings, and another account of house spiders feeding on adult harlequins.

Ladybird species are difficult for the layman, and even the specialist, to tell apart. It is possible that your report will encourage people to fear and even destroy all sorts of other, and definitely beneficial, ladybirds thinking they were harlequins. Readers should continue to treat ladybirds as the beneficial creatures they are. Of course harlequins themselves feed on aphids, and a more useful piece of research might be to compare their effect on the environment with that of insecticides.



Take time to talk to Muslims

Sir: I can only agree with Ms Alibhai-Brown ("Ignoring terror suspects' rights will achieve nothing more than to further brutalise them", 16 July). In order for us to develop a long-term strategy to combat terrorism, we need to listen to Muslims so that we can know the roots of this complicated issue. If we want to stop some Muslims believing that terrorism is an act of martyrdom, we need to know the foundations of such extreme schools of thought. Labels are not important, but most if not all such fatwas trace back to wahhabism and Salafism. Only then can we educate others that such schools were recently formed, which denies them any credibility.

Destruction is easy, and takes little time. But for us to solve the mess that these extremists/terrorists have left our society in, it will need the effort of experts and much time.



Sir: Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is right to worry about the likely counter-productive and brutalising effects of indefinite detention, a measure considered recently by Apco head Ken Jones. She is, however, wrong to claim that its re-introduction as a reaction to current terror threats would be for us in the UK to adopt "American simplicity". Simple it may be, but history shows that internment is not a characteristically American practice.

During the second Boer war of 1899-1902, for example, the British Field Marshal Lord Kitchener instigated the close confinement of vast numbers of South African civilians, thereby earning himself the dubious accolade of having invented the concentration camp. More recently, in Northern Ireland, between 1971 and 1975, 1,900 suspects, virtually all of them Republicans, were detained for various terms without trial, under the "Special Powers Act".



Sir: The main reason given by the police for scrapping time-limits for detention of suspects in terror cases (report, 16 July) is the time needed to sift through electronic data in the hope of finding sufficient evidence for a prosecution.

Backlogs and delays in this kind of work do not only apply to terror suspects' cases but also to more routine matters, such as screening people newly appointed to work with children. The cause is obviously shortage of staff. The salaries of clerical and data-processing staff, compared with those of police officers, are a drop in the ocean of policing costs. Surely most of us would be willing to pay a few extra pence on the rates rather than incur either evils of innocent people held indefinitely or of terrorists slipping through the net.

Creative and flexible solutions such as using freelance data-processors are less likely to be considered if the time limit were to be removed, and the incentive to speed up the work would disappear.



Tuvalu is doomed no matter what

Sir: I looked in vain through your article "SOS: a special report from Tuvalu" (16 July), for any mention of the other cause of oceanic island flooding - the crustal subsidence that affects oceans and their islands around the world. Plenty of complaint about global warming, of course, but complete disregard of the inexorable subsidence of oceanic crust which appears to be the cause of three-quarters of the effect.

Charles Darwin worked out the origin of atolls such as Tuvalu in 1835 from observations during the voyage of HMS Beagle. The process is irreversible in the short term, and no cure is available. Sea level change at 5.6mm a year is enough to frighten any government unaware of the reasons for this anomalous rate.

Even Shanghai, situated on a delta which also is subsiding, has a rate of only about 3mm a year, compared to hard-rock areas of the China coast which are nearer 1mm a year.

Tuvalu is doomed whatever happens to the atmosphere.



Why boycott of Israel is necessary

Sir: Howard Jacobson's latest tirade against those who advocate an academic boycott of Israeli institutions exemplifies a prominent and recurrent feature of such criticisms (14 July). He says little or nothing about the Palestine-Israel situation. He ignores the motivations of the boycott, which originate in Israel's violations of international law, infringements of Palestinians' human rights, and the 40 years' oppression of the population of the Occupied Territories. Instead of confronting the advocates' case he misrepresents them, without distinction, as accusing "Israel of every known crime against humanity" and encourages his readers to see in that the signs of anti-Semitism.

Those who advocate the boycott are not insensitive to the importance of academic freedoms but they give higher priority to the rights to life and livelihood and believe that public opinion must find ways of actively and effectively opposing those policies of Israel which perpetuate oppression.

If the critics, who make passing reference to not supporting the Israeli occupation, were to show that they actually oppose it and were to present alternatives to the boycott, then they could be taken seriously. Otherwise they appear only as apologists for Israel.



Countryside enigma for city children

Sir: Changes to the national curriculum may introduce valuable life skills such as money management (Letters, 16 July), but will continue to overlook more basic education, in which many young people are lacking.

On a train from London Victoria to Brighton last week, I was joined at Croydon by a group of teenaged boys, whose lively conversations revealed some of the failings of our system. As the train left London, talk of football, girls and music turned to the landscape outside the windows. The boys debated whether this was "countryside" that they were seeing.

To some, the answer was a definitive "no", with one of the boys stating confidently that this was "just fields", and not countryside at all. Others in the group confessed that it looked more like countryside than anything else they had seen. The only point of commonality was the fact that there were "lots of trees, like, forests" and "it's good to see trees (yeah)".

Their banter fascinated me not just for the fact that these teenagers were even "bovvered" about the countryside - showing how much maligned teenagers often are - but more for the fact that they did not know what "real" countryside looked like. It is all very well teaching kids to buy a house and invest for the future, but what sort of future are we offering them if we cannot even teach them about life just 20 minutes' train ride from their own inner-city doorsteps?



Abuse is one crime, cover-up another

Sir: Your report of 16 July on the LA settlement by the Catholic church coincided with the publication of the Cumberlege Commission's "room for improvement" message to the UK church in tackling priestly child abuse. While this reveals significant and welcome progress, it also states that the bishops and cardinals have demonstrated "a patchy will" to drive through the Nolan reforms and have "tolerated rather than embraced" them. It also states that "complacency" surrounds the issue.

Both stories do little to change the suspicion that, in many instances in the past, two crimes had been committed, but only one was properly investigated and punished. In the cases that have come before the courts in the US and here, the initial crime of abuse has subsequently been compounded by the behaviour of a hierarchy engaged in its deliberate and systematic cover-up.

So far, abusers are at long last being punished by secular courts, but far too many of those who were engaged in the cover-up have proved to be beyond the law. This continues to rankle with the victims. Perhaps if someone like Boston's Cardinal Law had been made to answer before secular authorities for his role in covering up the crimes in his diocese, rather than being comfortably retired to the Vatican by the late John-Paul II, it might have jolted others in the global hierarchy out of their apparent complacency.



Music therapy for traumatised children

Sir: I was most interested to read of Nigel Osborne's latest project in Mostar (9 July). Professor Osborne is internationally known for his pioneering work in Bosnia where the Pavarotti Centre provides clinical music therapy for children suffering from the effects of violence and post- traumatic stress syndromes.

However, it is not correct to say that this is the only such centre in the world. In Northern Ireland the Coda project was initiated in April 2004 to provide a service to children and young people affected by "the Troubles". Music therapy has been delivered by therapists employed by the Northern Ireland Music Therapy Trust and reaches a total of about 80 children each week, most of whom are attending primary schools. These schools and community centres are situated in interface areas which have been particularly involved in protracted civil strife, such as Londonderry and West Belfast. The project has been independently evaluated by the Save the Children Fund with very positive results.



A home for heretics

Sir: Michael Charley wonders why Islam does not expel its extremists as the Roman Church excommunicates its heretics (letter, 17 July). Perhaps because they have a way of becoming the establishment - like the Church of England.



Wind-turbine aesthetics

Sir: I am sick to death of people barking on about how unsightly wind turbines look (Letters, 17 July). There might be issues regarding the amount of time they can actually produce energy, and issues surrounding the air eddies the blades turning produce and what effects they may have on an already changing climate. The alternative is insecure foreign energy supplies that we sometimes have to go to war for. Or nuclear power where the waste has a half-life of 10,000 years.



Black's tragic flaws

Sir: I was very touched by Bruce Anderson's description of the demise of Conrad Black as being the stuff of tragedies (Opinion, 16 July), while at the same time being unable to bring himself to use the words crime or criminal about him.

I look forward to reading Mr Anderson's next piece on the so-called underclass, when no doubt he will identify the main cause of criminality in the feckless poor as being down to the fallibility of human nature, just as it is for the rich and powerful.



Out, out damn moth

Sir: I was brought up with the smell of mothballs in chapel services and being hugged by great aunts with their mothball smelling furs. Ugh! ("Lock up your cashmere," 17 July). My mother's solution - followed by me to this day - is bars of scented soap or candles in clothes drawers and wardrobes. Cedar wood was for the affluent.



Organ donor opt-out

Sir: How strange. We may be about to agree to an opt-out, presumed-consent situation for organ donation, but we cannot even get an opt-in situation for voluntary euthanasia. Who is to say that lack of the former results in greater human misery than lack of the latter? Or that the former would be less open to abuse than the latter? Would I really be in less danger of being killed for an organ than for an inheritance?



Plumbing the depths

Sir: Since when did we have to shrink a millimetre by 0.0394 to get an inch? (Science facts supplement, 16 July). And is knowing that a gravitron (sic) is a gauge boson really useful everyday information? Perhaps better to include a "bathimeter" - my dad's kitchen accessory to determine whether, in wartime Cumbria, there was sufficient water in the loft tank to heat for a bath.



React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Opponents of Israel's military operation in Gaza are the real enemies of Middle Eastern peace

Gabriel Sassoon
The economy expanded by 0.8 per cent in the second quarter of 2014  

Government hails latest GDP figures, but there is still room for scepticism over this 'glorious recovery'

Ben Chu
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little