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- Arts + Ents
Wednesday 26 April 2006
Letters: ID cards
Whatever Clarke says, ID cards will be a tool of oppression
Sir: Charles Clarke says ID cards will not be used to record every sort of personal information about us nor track people's activities and lifestyle ("Ordinary people have the right to be protected", 24 April) .
The new Identity and Passport Services website states that not only will we need our card to access banks and building societies, Royal Mail and other delivery and courier services, libraries and video/DVD rental companies, mobile and fixed line phone companies and service providers, travel agencies and airlines, universities and colleges of higher education, retailers of all kinds, including internet-based companies, property rental companies and vehicle rental companies but adds that the police could find out where and when our cards have been used.
Sure a caveat is added, "only for the prevention and detection of serious crime" but this government has already used anti-terrorist legislation to evict and hold an 80-year-old who shouted at Jack Straw at the last Labour Party conference.
Sir: Since Labour came to power in 1997, there have been rafts of new legislation that, although designed to work against terrorists, criminals or yobs, have been used instead against peaceful dissenters. Take, for example, the Terrorism Act 2000. Section 1 defines terrorists (among other things) as people or groups whose action or threat of action is designed to influence the Government and is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause. At a stroke, millions of activists were deemed terrorists. Section 2 of the Act deems "damage to property" for a political reason a terrorist act. Despite what Mr Clarke says, anti-GM crop protesters pulling up GM crops could under this clause be called terrorists.
Mr Clarke says that ordinary people have to right to be protected. As well being protected from those who would do us harm, we also have the right to be protected from the authoritarian excesses of the Government.
Sir: I note on your front page (24 April) that Tony Blair "will stress that Britain remains a democratic state with a free press". The fact that he needs to say this at all says it all really.
Breast is best - for a leisured life
Sir: Bronwyn Eyre has missed the best thing about breastfeeding ("Breast isn't best", 25 April). Certainly it can and does take hours and hours. During that time you can sit with your feet up, watch the telly, read a book, gaze at your lovely baby, gaze at your baby some more and then watch some more telly.
If anyone else is around - husband, friend, mother - you have them entirely at your disposal ("You see I can't get up, I'm feeding the baby") to fetch and carry whatever you desire, whether it be more reading material more cups of tea or to get the housework done.
My happiest memories of when my children were small are those of long evenings spent with the baby on my lap alternately feeding and sleeping. Those months go so quickly and babies grow so fast, why would you not want to spend as much time enjoying your baby as you can? It's not a disadvantage that breastfeeding is slow; it's the reward.
Sir: It beggars belief that you feel that a huge article on the merits of feeding your baby formula milk is appropriate for your health pages. Maybe next week you can eschew the experts' advice again and promote on the basis of one person's experience the benefits of smoking cigarettes and eating junk food.
I am sorry that Bronwyn Eyre had a bad experience and it is up to her how she feeds her baby but, difficult as this is to accept, those who choose formula milk are feeding their baby a second-rate food. Breastmilk does contain everything a baby needs to thrive and if a baby is "half-starving" it is because it's not been fed on demand but forced into some inappropriate feeding schedule.
Mothers who formula feed may feel guilty but mothers who breast feed have to tolerate many terrible attitudes. Your article for instance dubs us "puritans", some class us as exhibitionists. I was told it was "unnatural" to be feeding my daughter when she was six months old. I have had to breastfeed in toilets at weddings where the brides feared guests would be offended. I have been told by a pub landlady (with cleavage on display) to not breastfeed in an empty bar. These are the out-of-date attitudes that need changing.
WELTON LE MARSH, LINCOLNSHIRE
Sir: I laughed and cried as I read Bronwyn Eyre's article. I breastfed my baby exclusively until four months in spite of physical pain, feelings of isolation and, at times, desperation. Like Bronwyn's experience my baby took a significant period to regain her birthweight and even then the process was very slow. It was crushing to be putting so much physically and emotionally into something that I did not enjoy and which did not appear to be benefiting my little baby.
If breast-feeding is to be encouraged, and I still believe that there are many compelling reasons for doing so, the issue must be approached differently by the health professionals. We are bombarded at every opportunity with the potential health benefits. There is no attempt to highlight the practical differences between breast and formula feeding: how many more feeds in a 24-hour period there will be with breastfeeding; that it is likely that it will be longer before you can have any time out such as an evening out with your partner; that formula-fed babies are likely to sleep through the night far earlier than a breast-fed baby; that other family members can feel a sense of loss in not being able to feed the baby (my partner's mother was so content when she was finally able to cradle our baby in her arms and feed her).
There is no discussion of the physical impact on the mother of performing this task up to 12 times in a 24-hour period or of the psychological burden which the mother can feel as a result of being the only person that can feed the baby.
I did not hate every minute of breast-feeding. With another child I would probably try it again but at least I would be prepared for the not insignificant physical and emotional pressures."
Sir: So a German nutritionist told Bronwyn Eyre that she sees many breastfed babies "half-starving" and that breastfed babies have more allergies? In that case I will stop believing all those scientific studies on the benefits of breastfeeding immediately. After all, that German nutritionist said...
Bronwyn Eyre didn't enjoy breastfeeding, and she decided to stop. Fine. Nobody should blame her for it, most of all not herself. But to argue in the way she does is just ridiculous.
Animal research and animal welfare
Sir: Does Andrew Tyler really believe that pharmaceutical companies, which on average spend £550m over the 10-12 year period it takes to develop a medicine, are going to risk that investment by selecting "the data that suits (sic) their purposes"? ("An act that has failed to protect animals", 17 April).
Skewed scientific data are of no possible use to the industry. Apart from the fact that unscientific results would soon be spotted and exposed during the numerous peer-review processes, the fact that a medicine did not work as expected or, even worse, caused serious side effects would soon become apparent.
However, Tyler has a point in suggesting that administration can get in the way of animal welfare - excessive bureaucracy can prevent improvements being made once a licence has been granted. It would also be good if new systems could be utilised to free up Home Office inspectors to visit more facilities - although there is absolutely no evidence of a "laissez-faire" attitude on their part.
As an independent House of Lords inquiry into animal research noted in 2002, tighter regulation does not equal better regulation.
Finally, it would be good to nail the oft-repeated lie that animal research is intrinsically flawed because "animals are not the same as humans". Such research is not designed to give us all the answers. But it does take us a further, vital step on the road to understanding how a medicine works in a living being.
We, and others in medicines research, are working to refine, reduce and replace the use of animals wherever possible but, for the foreseeable future, they will remain an essential part of bringing new medicines to patients.
DR PHILIP WRIGHT
DIRECTOR OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY, THE ASSOCIATION OF THE BRITISH PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY, LONDON SW1
Parties have no right to state funding
Sir: Mike Tope goes too far by suggesting that members of a political party should only be allowed to donate a fixed subscription (letter, 25 April). The most important thing is that voters should know the identities of large contributors well before polling day, not a year later.
But of course Mr Tope is right that there should be no state funding. Political parties are not state institutions; they are voluntary associations of private citizens attempting to further their shared political interests. If any party is so unappealing that it cannot survive on donations from its own supporters, then let it die.
DR D R COOPER
More peril on our country roads
Sir: Terence Blacker's report (18 April) of the Adam Smith Institute's "radical and interesting" proposals struck terror into this heart. Because 950,000 new homes would have over two million cars, zipping up and down our country lanes twice a day, adding to the dangers of what are already our most dangerous roads. This is "more of the same" that has seen villages expand to bursting without necessarily sustaining the village shop, post office, school, church or pub. These are closing down because country residents shop where they work - in towns.
Country lanes have become unusable for walking, cycling or horse-riding whereas they used to be part of the network for getting - without a car - to work, shops, schools, pubs or family visits - purposive and healthy outdoor exercise that was also truly "recreational".
Before we build more houses or convert more barns we need a National Greenways Network that will allow non-motorised users to travel around without encountering those who want to live in the countryside whilst working elsewhere.
Perhaps the Institute could lay the groundwork so that walkers, cyclists, horse-riders, the disabled, and carriage drivers can get around without putting their lives on the line each time they venture out without a motorised metal carapace. These people put big money into the rural economy - remember 2001 when the countryside was closed.
CHAIR, LEICESTERSHIRE & RUTLAND BRIDLEWAYS ASSOCIATION, LOUGHBOROUGH, LEICESTERSHIRE
Real Shakespeare identified at last
Sir: It seems unlikely that the Earl of Oxford, the Countess of Pembroke, the Earl of Derby, Christopher Marlowe, Francis Bacon or other putative "Shakespeares" (22 April) could have been aware that, in the countryside dialect around Stratford, dandelions in bloom are called "golden boys and girls", and when in seed, called "chimney-sweeps" ("Golden girls and boys all must, as chimney-sweepers, come to dust." - Cymbeline).
Or that locally they employ two men to cut a hedge, the first to hack away at it with a billhook, called "rough-hewing", and the second to trim with secateurs, called "shaping the ends" ("There is a spirit shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we may." - Hamlet).
That he could use rural terms that would still resonate with a metropolitan audience and yet contain so much more meaning than was immediately apparent is further proof, as if any were needed, of the genius of this mere provincial lad, called William Shakespeare, of Stratford.
Black and tan
Sir: The expression "black and tan" antedates 1889 (letter, 22 April). During Reconstruction after the Civil War in the United States the "Black and Tan Convention" of 1868 was introduced in Mississippi. This extended the suffrage, but through test oaths disenfranchised certain whites.
CHURCH ENSTONE, OXFORDSHIRE
What Bush knew
Sir: The revelation that George Bush did after all know about the lack of WMD in Iraq (report, 24 April) was buried on an inside page. Surely this should be the killer for Bush. The CIA was made the scapegoat for its apparent failure to give proper advice, and surprise surprise, it did in fact give the right advice. Are we, even the most anti-war of us, getting so used to the lies that we fail to nail the liars when we can?
EAST GRINSTEAD, WEST SUSSEX
Sir: The deluge of criticism about the bill for Cherie's hairdresser reminded me of Barbara Castle. This Labour MP and cabinet minister during the 1970s was well aware of the importance of the appearance of women MPs. She revealed in an interview, long after her retirement, how she achieved the perfect coiffure even when emerging from an overnight train at 6am. She wore a wig.
NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE
'Rules' of spelling
Sir: Nigel Hilton (Letters, 24 April) is wrong in assuming that English spelling and grammar require mastery of a vast number of abstract "rules". Anyone who is comfortable with the language will confirm that their facility is based scarcely at all on learning more than a few such "rules". Rather, it is almost always the product of an appetite for reading from an early age. One does not learn to ride a bicycle by committing the laws of physics to memory.
UCKFIELD, EAST SUSSEX
Sir: With the arrival of Independent Extra normal service has been resumed. Instead of having to tear out the Sudoku puzzles, my wife now takes the whole section. Much more satisfactory. Thank you.
D A SHEARN
MIDSOMER NORTON, SOMERSET
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