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Tuesday 22 January 2013
Letters: How is jihadism our fault?
Now that Jim McCluskey and others (letters, 22 January) have explained why so many in the developing world hate the "West" perhaps they could turn their attention to the question: why do they hate each other?
This needs to be answered, since the overwhelming majority of the victims of violence in the developing world are killed by their fellow citizens or those of neighbouring countries. It would be hard to argue that the invasion of Mali by Islamist forces and the imposition of strict sharia law on unwilling people was a response to any Western action, although the welcome overthrow of the tyrannical Gaddafi regime may have paved the way for it.
What responsibility are we supposed to bear for the suicide bombings you keep reporting from Iraq and Pakistan which target religious groups? How is the West supposed to have instigated the civil war in Syria?
In the late 1970s, during a break in a 26-year career in the RAF, I worked for four years as a personnel officer with an oil drilling company in Hassi Messaoud, Algeria.
When I rejoined the RAF in 1982, as an intelligence officer, I was frequently laughed at for suggesting that, based on what I had learnt in Algeria, I considered Islamic fundamentalism to be the major threat facing liberal democracy in the near future.
Nobody in the still Cold War obsessed intelligence community was listening at that time to a junior officer and I was sent to Berlin to witness the demise of communism. After leaving the service, still fascinated by Algeria, I obtained a degree in Middle Eastern and North African Studies (with Arabic) and then witnessed with dismay the 9/11 attacks that suddenly shocked the Western world into realising that Islamic jihadists meant business.
Sqn Ldr RAF (Retd)
What is West and what is East? Since the War against Terror passed from Kabul, which is on the same longitude as Petroplavlovsk in Siberia, to Iran, Iraq, Syria and Libya and now to Timbuktu, which is on the same longitude as Bristol, can we say we are any longer defending the West?
The war against terror is shifting remarkably close to our own shores. Perhaps it was a dangerous war to begin without finding out from Osama bin Laden what his demands were.
Nicholas Wood FRGS
Older patients in and out of hospital
It is crucial that we design a health system that addresses Sir David Nicholson's claim that hospitals are "very bad places for old, frail people" (report, 21 January). This means making sure all hospitals and health professionals treat patients, including older people, in the way they deserve. It is not right to say that these patients should not be in hospital, and there is a risk that such remarks will be used to justify ageist policies.
It is no surprise that older frail people can present with complex conditions, get sicker more quickly and severely than younger people, and may suffer with dementia; all of which need expert treatment.
The answer is to deliver better care across the system. The Royal College of Physicians believes that the system must be designed to ensure that all patients receive expertise and the best possible treatment. We need to acknowledge that often this will mean admittance to hospital. Claims that community-based alternatives can dramatically reduce the number of older patients admitted to hospital are not backed up by evidence. We do not know if they are either clinically effective or cost effective.
What is true is that we keep older people in hospital for too long. The number of older people in hospitals would be reduced if we delivered integrated NHS care with effective, timely discharge arrangements, and good liaison with community health and social services.
This is not an either/or choice; what matters is delivering the right care, at the right time, in the right place. The RCP's forthcoming Future Hospital Commission will be addressing these issues.
Dr Linda Patterson
Clinical vice-president, Royal College of Physicians
Current debates on pensions, and care homes and other issues affecting old people are being conducted on the assumption that lifespans will remain long or increase. These assumptions might be wrong.
If cuts result in even more pressure on the NHS, no progress is made in the anti-obesity, anti-drink and anti-smoking campaigns, prices of fruit and vegetables rise, movement is restricted by fuel scarcity and heating becomes too expensive to turn on we might well see life-spans shrink.
If this happens, the gap between the death rates of the different social groups will increase. Those dependent on public services will die more quickly, as doctors ask more questions about past and present lifestyles when allotting resources. The end-of-life pathway will widen to motorway size.
We might not need the care homes we have now. The new and harsher conditions will perform the functions of a cull.
Celebrate the snow
I have sat completely flummoxed over the past four days watching the fury the press have created over some snow falling.
The negativity has done nothing other than show that we've gone soft. For the love of all things of beauty, it is not like the Black Death, or a horde of locusts. Why is a winter day so perplexing? Winter snow is a thing to have some joy over; get the family out of the lounge to celebrate and have some fun.
Certainly it is possible that there will be some disruptions, but the world is becoming a sad place when all that can be reported is some more misery.
New alliances on the left
Whilst I understand his impatience, Owen Jones ("British politics urgently needs a new force", 21 January) is far too dismissive about attempts to build an electoral alternative to the main three parties' overlapping agenda of austerity.
Owen does not want "another party of the left to be built"; he wants Labour to change. Yet he limits his aspirations to a "network" outside Labour to pressurise it from the left (but leaving the same politicians in post).
His sideswipe against the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is misplaced. We know TUSC is small at the moment; Owen, however, can't see the wood for the saplings. Yes, the average of our results, where we stood in a small number of council elections in 2011 and 2012, is only 7 per cent. This May, however, we hope to stand 400 candidates.
We are serious about putting together a stable coalition, rooted in the organisations and communities of working-class people, that re-popularises a socialist alternative.
Building a "network" that does not electorally challenge politicians, who only differ by the speed at which pain should be imposed on ordinary people, is simply not good enough.
Chair, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition London E1
Excellent article by Owen Jones. Having been a member of both the Socialist Alliance and the Socialist Party, I know how undemocratic the British left is. We will only get a new force when such parties are left to flounder and people are allowed to form their own alliances of co-operatives and community activism.
In defence of child benefit
Steve Richards (10 January) suggests that "Labour has some explaining to do, defending [child benefit] for millionaires". The explanation is simple. Child benefit performs the same function as personal tax allowances for families with children; it recognises that taxable capacity at all income levels is affected by the presence of children and that children, as the next generation, benefit the whole community.
The policy of increasing personal tax allowances in real terms while freezing child benefit and withdrawing it from high earners in effect represents a tax increase targeted on families with children. What is the sense or justice in that?
Labour, House of Lords
Name-calling over Europe
What is it about eurofanatics like Ian Richards (letter, 18 January) that they have to resort to name-calling when referring to those of us who want to live under laws made by our own Parliament rather than under the yoke of laws made in a foreign land. Does he believe that all those millions of people across the globe who live in sovereign nations outside the EU, and who run their own affairs, are xenophobes too?
If Mr Richards is so in thrall to the EU – a barely democratic organisation responsible for some 75 per cent of our laws – let him go and live in Brussels and leave those of us who want the freedom to kick out our lawmakers at the next election to decide for ourselves how we want to be governed.
Alan Stedall complains that "we... need to recover our means of self-government" because "we do not want to become the subjects of a federal European political regime" (letter, 18 January). I wish such people would try to grasp that a federal regime means that the countries in it are in a federation, not a unitary state, so that whilst there are some laws overall, many are determined at individual member level.
Heavier than air
Your article on 19 January regarding overweight passengers on airlines echoes my thoughts. It has always struck me as unfair that my wife, at 10 stones, has the same luggage allowance as I do, at nearly 16. It would be sensible for airline passengers to have a total weight allowance for themselves and their luggage. That might do wonders for the growing obesity problem as well as ensuring that planes can take off without fear of hitting the end of the runway.
Born in Britain
It is difficult to understand why the authorities are surprised by the current baby boom. I don't have an issue with the many young people coming from the new European countries to the UK to work and pay their way, but along with any benefits they bring to this country, it is only natural that many of them are starting families here. The strain on midwives should have been predicted. The question now is whether any authorities have predicted that these children will also soon need school places.
Woodford Green, Essex
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