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Thursday 13 July 2006
Letters: Huge executive salaries
Society is harmed and inequality fuelled by huge executive salaries
Sir: The BBC's stated "need" to keep in line with median salaries for the industry (report, 12 July) gives rise to two issues. As the BBC increases salaries to the median level, the median rises, creating an inflationary spiral. This has been a long-running debate among shareholders as CEOs leapfrog each other in the game of "my package is bigger than yours".
More importantly, it is stated that ITV's boss, Charles Allen, takes home £1.8m. Why? Because deregulation has allowed media conglomerates to accumulate extraordinary economic and political power. To ITV, Charles Allen's package is relative "chicken feed" but to us humble mortals it seems a king's ransom.
Corporate greed has now spilled over into public service as ex-ministers and their advisers dip their noses into the corporate trough; if you work for the Government in an area of commercial interest you have a meal ticket for life almost irrespective of competence. Similarly, make a name for yourself in the private sector and you will be feted by Tony Blair and his ministers seeking to come up with a radical approach to this or that problem.
Some years ago, it was well recognised that monopolistic power was bad for society, the Office of Fair Trading and Monopolies and Mergers Commission would limit corporate expansion for the public good. Now that the poachers are equally likely to be recruited as gamekeepers, we are in a "winner takes all" syndrome where inequality is increasing at an alarming rate.
Nuclear power faces skills gap
Sir: How many nuclear engineers does it take to screw in a light bulb? Given the scarcity of such engineers it would be difficult to recruit the one required to screw it in, let alone the six to figure what to do with the old bulb for the next 10,000 years.
The Government is in favour of more nuclear-power stations, but its energy review skates over where to find the large number of engineers necessary to build, operate and decommission them.
The UK's small pool of home-grown talent is mainly tied up with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and the output of suitably qualified graduates from universities has been dwindling for years. As a result, more than 70 per cent of companies in the nuclear industry already have skills gaps, according to sector skills council Cogent.
One solution is to look overseas, but the UK stands to lose as much talent as it recruits as a result of the US loosening rules on recruitment of foreign engineers.
Only by investing heavily in long-term initiatives to foster home-grown talent can the Government hope to accomplish all of its nuclear goals affordably, even if this means taking longer to roll out the new stations.
CEO, EPCGlobal, LONDON W6
Sir: Presumably, unless we embrace nuclear power, the lights will go out in 45 minutes.
DR WENDY THWAITES
How Islamic dress liberates women
Sir: While watching the president of the World Cup organising committee handing out the medals to the Italian players, my mind drifted to Deborah Orr's article of 8 July. Here on the TV screen was a front line of men, all dressed in respectable suits and comfortable shoes. They are the VIPs who do the honours for the Italian victory. Behind the line of men was a line of women, their faces covered with layers of make-up, their feet standing on painful high heels. What where they doing? Carrying the trays of medals for the front line while selling their looks for their jobs.
Deborah says it offends her to see covered Muslim women getting on with their lives on the streets on Britain. She adds that the oppressive garments deny equal rights to men and women.
As a second-generation British Muslim woman who covers her head, how can I achieve equal rights with men? Should I throw all my head-scarves and loose comfortable clothes in the bin, and replace them with body-hugging trendy suits that reveal my looks to everyone? Should I then spend time and effort to paint my face before I go to work? Instead of my practical shoes, should I wear high heels and torture my feet 10 hours a day? Would this make me equal to my male colleague?
Islam has solved the problem of the stress between a job and children, by asking the man to provide for his wife and family, while she has the right to keep her money, both from work and her husband, and is not responsible to maintain anyone. Islam asks men to treat women with gentleness and care, and as equals.
So why does Islam ask women to cover in dull drapes? To give them equal rights. A woman should be judged by her thoughts and mind, and not by how much of her thigh is showing. My charm and beauty are revealed for the man who loves me dearly, my husband, and not for the satisfaction of strangers.
HODA ABDEL-AAL BETTLEY
Sir: Deborah Orr is entitled to her view that Muslim women wearing full hijab are "physical manifestations of outdated practices ... that oppress and victimise women". Others are equally at liberty to say similar things about young women who seem to feel the need to wear skimpy clothing even on winter nights.
It is, however, misleading to connect Islamic clothing with "hymen restoration" operations, which find no rational justification in any religion. On the other hand, does Ms Orr have nothing to say about the increasingly common forms of cosmetic surgery performed on western women, and the pressures that may have caused them?
Sir: Thank you, Deborah Orr, for articulating what I feel about the veiling of Muslim women. I find extreme Muslim dress offensive and an insult to the women of this country who have struggled over time to improve the lot of women.
On visiting Iran I wore the hejab as a mark of respect to Muslim sensibilities; they should respect our customs when in this country.
Sir: Contrary to what Deen Noor writes (letter, 11 July), Deborah Orr is most certainly correct in stating that "domestic violence is a permitted Islamic practice". Chapter 4 ("Women") of the Koran says: "Good women are obedient ... As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to beds apart and beat them."
Sir: Daw'ud Mannion's logic (letter, 12 July) would lead one to expect that in Muslim countries where (according to him) women are judged solely on their intellect, personality and manners, those women would be able to achieve significantly more in the way of political and cultural leadership than they do in countries where they are judged according to other criteria. If he can show me one Muslim country where this is actually the case, then I'll be first in line for the bin bag.
Rosneft float is a bad omen for Russia
Sir: In discussing the Rosneft IPO, Robert Amsterdam's argument that our financial institutions' "tacit support of these Russian initiatives will harm Western capital markets" is correct ("Allowing this sale of 'stolen goods' is a disgrace", 10 July). But the argument has an important corollary: it will grievously harm Russia too.
With a declining population and a growing reliance on its export-led energy sector, Russia is in desperate need of foreign direct investment to diversify and strengthen its economy. But state intervention in the private sector (most notably the vast appropriation of Yukos assets) can only undermine investor confidence in the longer term. Foreign interest in the Rosneft IPO should not be confused with confidence in Russia as a safe haven for investment, and those who invest are essentially gambling on the vicissitudes of Kremlin favour.
SACHA JAMES KUMARIA
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR STOCKHOLM NETWORK,LONDON N1
Hamas and struggle against theocracy
Sir: Johann Hari (10 July) argues that the Palestinians didn't give Hamas a mandate on the basis that it "is an organisation that loathes women's rights, believes in the execution of homosexuals, and defends the deliberate targeting of Jewish children". The comparison is overstretched, nevertheless the German people didn't at the start give the Nazi party a mandate to slaughter up to 6 million Jews.
Hari may be right that Hamas might have reformed, but is this more than hope? Isn't Hamas only part of an Islamist imperialism that seeks to restore the Caliphate and impose a medieval theocracy? And whatever the rights and wrongs in establishing the state of Israel in the first place, isn't the conflict with the Palestinians now one part of the struggle between a religious totalitarian mindset and liberalism?
DR BRIAN ROBINSON
'Cool' car too hot for comfort
Sir: P J Stewart calls the Citroën 2CV "the coolest of cars" (11 July); I think not. I have owned several 2CVs, for no other reason than poverty. They were all noisy, slow, draughty, had catastrophic handling and the structural integrity of a sponge cake, but by far their most interesting trait was a capacity to self-combust.
The rudimentary heating system consisted of two cardboard tubes which conducted warm air from the engine manifold into the cabin; these would eventually come loose and fall between the chassis and the roasting hot exhaust pipes, where they would burst into flames.
I would rather walk than have another one.
DOUGLAS, ISLE OF MAN
The extradition of the NatWest Three
Sir: Graham H Deere (Letters, 12 July) asserts that "the fact that the 'three' are being extradited on fast-track procedures is immaterial: they would be under the old legislation." Oh, but it is very material: it is the core of what all the "hysterics" that Mr Deere dislikes is about.
The old legislation was not in place to provide work for lawyers, nor to frustrate the prosecution of justice. It was there simply to ensure that before anyone could be hauled out of this country to face justice (or at least trial) far away, that the people who wanted him had to show that there was a case to answer.
As to the guilt or innocence of the three people involved I know nothing. The US government might have very good grounds to accuse them. But this has not been demonstrated openly, in court, according to procedure, and must be taken on trust.
The fast track is applicable to us all, on whatever charge, not just to the terrorists it was said to be intended for. To echo the Duke of Wellington, I know not what effect these laws will have upon the terrorists but, by God, they terrify me.
HIGH WYCOMBE, BUCKINGHAMSHIRE
The efficacy of bicycle helmets
Sir: Simon Withers perpetuates the myth that cycle helmets are of no use (letter, 10 July). This belief is held to by cycling enthusiasts with a tenacity more suited to a religious belief.
It is true that the existing design of helmets provides limited protection and it is also true that the evidence for that benefit is limited. However, many cyclists who would have sustained mild to moderate head injuries, and some where a head injury would have been the fatal last straw in a multi-trauma case, have benefited from the reduction in injury when a helmet has been worn.
CONSULTANT IN ACCIDENT AND EMERGENCY MEDICINE, BURNLEY, LANCASHIRE
Sir: I wear a helmet not because it could save my life in the event of a catastrophic collision, but because, as I wobble my way home from the pub, it might just save me from a headache should I fall off. I would also like to point out that the only time I have met the ground was on the way to the pub, because of a heavy frost.
Sir: Simon Withers denies the benefits of cycle helmets. The third (and final) time I was knocked off my bike, the A&E doctor referred to me as a "kidney donor", a term reserved for all those who cycle without adequate safety equipment.
RICHARD P WARD
Sir: "Act of barbarism" is a phrase that, sadly, Robert Fisk often has to use. James Lawton is being absurd to use it to describe Zidane's head-butt (11 July). What we saw was an instinctive, relatively mild response to an insult. He didn't even go for his face. Playground stuff.
Sir: Everyone in the football world would surely think it much fairer if every time a player is sent off for retaliation, an automatic yellow card is given to the player(s) from the opposing side for provocation. Incitement to violence and incitement to racial hatred are punishable under the law, so why not so on a football pitch?
Blair, God and Trident
Sir: The senior bishops who have warned Tony Blair that replacing Britain's Trident nuclear weapons would be "evil" and "profoundly anti-God" (letter, 10 July) ought to be commended. Perhaps we should view this as a fine example of the more moderate members of the Christian community attempting to tackle the problems of extremism among their co-religionists.
JOHN E NICHOL
WEST BOLDON, TYNE & WEAR
The birds of Salford
Sir: I warmed to Charles Nevin's brief resume of Salfordian achievements (10 July). Given your paper's commendable willingness to break news of matters ornithological, may I proclaim the success of Salford's peregrine falcons, which this year have raised and fledged a brood atop an office block near the old city centre. To paraphrase Salford folksinger Ewan MacColl, "you birdy old town".
SWINTON, GREATER MANCHESTER
Sir: It was amusing to see that Peter Mandelson, ejected from the British government, had risen to the dizzy height of European Minister for Plastic Bags (letter, 11 July). There are clearly opportunities in Brussels for others who have lost their jobs here or might just possibly do so fairly soon.
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