Letters: Iran and renewable energy

Iran is the perfect powerhouse for renewable energy
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Gordon Brown says that the UK and international community stand ready to help Iran achieve a civil nuclear programme ("PM warns Iran over nuclear ambitions", 17 March).

But in Paris last year, at the inaugural meeting of the Union for the Mediterranean, he said "... in the Mediterranean region, concentrated solar power offers the prospect of an abundant low carbon energy source. Indeed, just as Britain's North Sea could be the Gulf of the future for offshore wind, so those sunnier countries represented here could become a vital source of future global energy by harnessing the power of the sun".

Although Iran is not in the Mediterranean region, it has some of the best solar resources in the world. Concentrating solar power (CSP), in which mirrors concentrate sunlight and the resulting heat drives turbines and generators, could meet all of Iran's electricity needs from a small fraction of the Iranian deserts, although it would be prudent to use CSP in conjunction with wind power and other renewable sources of power.

With heat storage and the use of gas or biofuels as a backup source of heat when there is not enough sun, CSP plants can deliver power on demand day and night. This is makes more sense than nuclear power with its many headaches, including what Kofi Annan called its "Janus-like character", meaning the ease with which the technology may be subverted for the construction of nuclear weapons.

There are several companies in the UK with CSP-related knowledge and skills. The building of CSP plants in Iran would create large opportunities for "UK plc".

Dr Gerry Wolff

Co-ordinator, DESERTEC-UK, Menai Bridge, Anglesey

Mixing Zionists, Israelis and Jews

I agree with Mark Gardner of the Community Security Trust (letters, 14 March). The failure to distinguish between Israelis, Zionists and Jews leads inexorably to attacks on Jewish people. This kind of "analytical meltdown" inevitably tars all Jewish people with the war crimes of the Israeli state.

Is this the same Mark Gardner whose organisation stewarded a solidarity rally on 7 January in support of Israel's attack on Gaza? The rally was organised by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, whose president, Henry Grunwald, spoke of "our", that is, Jewish, "solidarity for the people of Israel". Why did Gardner not protest about an organisation calling itself the "representative body of the British Jewish Community" organising a pro-Israeli demonstration when the Zionist Federation could have called it instead?

Or if it is the term "Jewish lobby" that Gardner objects to, then perhaps he can inform the Israeli press that this word is verboten. I refer, for example, to Israel's daily Haaretz, whose article "US Jews are losing their bond to Israel" refers to the "ever-present strength of the Jewish lobby in the US".

For years, Zionist groups have conflated Israel, Zionism and Jews, thereby accusing opponents of Israel of being anti-Semitic. Now that some people have begun to take them at their word, they are like the little boy who cried wolf so many times that when finally the wolf appeared no one believed him.

Tony Greenstein

Brighton, east sussex

I must disagree with the implications of your leading article (20 March) that the atrocities committed by the IDF in Gaza will come as a surprise to the Israeli public.

The Israelis know full well that the people of the West Bank have been subjected to beatings, killings, house demolitions and frighteningly arbitrary brutality at the hands of the IDF for more than 40 years. The atrocities committed daily in the West Bank are well-documented on websites, there for all who choose not to turn a blind eye to see.

What was surprising about Gaza was not the actions of the IDF, but the outrageous lies (sadly unchallenged by all of our TV channels, except Channel 4 news) of the Israeli spokespeople during the invasion.

Patricia Banke

London N1

The compelling and disturbing testimonies by Israeli soldiers reaffirm that war crimes were committed in the Gaza Strip, and confirm the deliberate killing of innocent civilians and destruction of civilian targets. ("Israel's dirty secrets in Gaza", 20 March).

The soldiers corroborate eye-witness accounts, human-rights reports, and UN statements about the illegal conduct of Israel's armed forces in the occupied territories.

Numerous international politicians have promised an independent international inquiry into the conduct of Israel and of Hamas during the conflict. Nothing has happened. Yet again, Israel may not be held accountable for its crimes, echoing its impunity after its recent atrocities in Lebanon in 1996 and 2006, Gaza in 2006 and in the West Bank in 2002.

The only way to prevent such terrible scenes of wanton destruction and loss of life in the future is to ensure that there is no escaping international justice for the perpetrators of war crimes.

John Austin MP, Dr Phyllis Starkey MP, Dr Brian Iddon MP, Martin Linton MP, Sarah Teather MP, Andy Slaughter MP, Neil Gerrard MP, Colin Breed MP, Clive Betts MP, Emily Thornberry MP, Alistair Carmichael MP, Chris Doyle

Director, Council for Arab-British Understanding, London, EC4

The social nature of sexual orientation

The level of contemporary heterosexual persuasion ("One in six psychiatrists tried to turn gays straight", 26 March) is disturbing, if not entirely surprising. But also disturbing is the message of the feature, that conversion is pointless because it doesn't work; gays just need to "come to terms with their situation and learn to cope with it".

It's too bad no one working in lesbian and gay studies was interviewed; that academic field emphasises the social (not biological) nature of sexual orientation, and the way people's desires and identifications do ct change across individual and historical time periods.

More importantly, lesbian and gay studies challenge the premise that heterosexuality is a better way to live, a premise underpinning the argument that we need gay rights because people are "born that way".

Davina Cooper

Professor of Law and Political Theory, University of Kent, Eliot College, Canterbury

Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is as ineffective at turning gay men straight as it is at curing the neurological illness ME. Unfortunately for those with ME, the CBT, along with graded exercise (that all ME charities have condemned as harmful) is the primary NHS treatment for ME. There is no biomedical treatment available because all research and treatment funding has gone to psychiatrists.

To give CBT to gay men is offensive, because it implies their sexuality is somehow an abnormal choice. To give it to people with ME is also offensive, because it implies that a serious, debilitating physical illness is merely an abnormal belief.

H Patten

Frome, Somerset

The bravery of our wartime women

In your Obituaries (24 March), you mentioned Audrey Roche, the third officer in HMS Medway, who, after being torpedoed in June 1942, saved the life of a fellow sailor by giving him her lifebelt. You suggested she was the only woman decorated for bravery in the Second World War.

I suggest another, Victoria Drummond, a god-daughter of Queen Victoria, brought up in a patrician family, and the first British female chief engineer in the Merchant Navy.

When she was second engineer of the SS Bonita in the Atlantic, in August 1940, she took charge of her main engine single-handed through a persistent attack by a four-engined bomber until all its bombs and ammunition were expended. Her ship survived and she was awarded the MBE and the Lloyds Medal for bravery at sea.

Martin Whitworth

Woodbridge, Suffolk

Inheritance not a taxing problem

Why all this fuss about the inheritance tax (report, 25 March)? It is laughably easy to avoid that tax on houses, life assurance payouts and certain other monies; write them to trust and they do not form part of the estate assessable for inheritance tax.

The rich have been doing it for years, and will continue to do so, whatever the threshold. Financial journalists should be publicising it.

Louis Cazeau

Edgware, Middlesex

Abuse of power in Moscow embassy

Our experience of the British embassy in Moscow mirrors that of Dr Culik and Professor Hewitt (letters, 20 March, 26 March). Our niece had to give fingerprints, deposit the application forms and their passports (they live more than two hours from the embassy), and were called back to collect the passports, then told their interviews would be in a further two weeks.

The interviews lasted only 10 minutes. Within that time, a decision was made to refuse their application on the grounds that, their income was insufficient, and she had insufficient knowledge of the details of our employment. The Entry Clearance Officer (ECO) was "not convinced" that they would return to Russia. Our niece is mid-way through a nursing course. This year, she has taken maternity leave, allowing them the opportunity to visit us

The abuse of power by the ECO to ignore evidence supplied by us beggars belief. These junior officials must revel in the power they wield over the applicants who struggle with the complexity and expense of the UK visa application procedure in Russia. We are now in an appeal process and were informed it "will take months".

Sadly, that may mean our niece will have returned to college, and the opportunity for her to meet her family in the UK and for them to see her baby son will have been missed.

M Brown

Salisbury, Wiltshire

Dr Culik is far from alone in experiencing frustration at the way visas are processed. I offered to host a Jamaican postgraduate student wanting to visit UK from a course in Munich where I am a visiting lecturer. She had to travel to another part of Germany for the interview and had all the necessary documentation.

Despite my offers of covering all her costs and guarantee her return (reinforced by the German university), her application was rejected.

Geoffrey Payne

London W5

English, as it's spoke

Lisa Markwell writes that "me and the G-Wiz" had an accident and "me and Fern" went to the same grammar school (Urban Notebook, 27 March). Not much emphasis on the grammar part, then.

Gordon Elliot

Burford, Oxfordshire

Change of heart

Last week, I submitted a letter (unpublished) to The Independent, complaining about what I thought was a lowering of journalistic standards in articles about the sad death of Natasha Richardson. This week, the thought-provoking articles by Johann Hari and Janet Street-Porter touching on the demise of Jade Goody (and other deaths) have generated much discussion with my young family. The Independent has resurrected itself and should remain the newspaper of choice for those of us who like to continue our education about what to make of the society we live in. Thank you.

Joel Baillie-Lane

St Albans, Hertfordshire

Calling MI5

Is it possible for our mobile phones to be adapted to sniff for dangerous substances, or act as a Geiger counter for radioactive material? If that were possible, each of us would contribute to the safety of the nation, and help prevent terrorism. A couple of hundred mobiles chirruping in a station concourse at the same time would be a signal that all was not well. Such a development would significantly aid our security services.

Tony Hunt

Grasmere, Cumbria

Dizzy spell

I am in shock. I wrote to my local MP to offer my services as a proofreader. After 10 minutes of browsing his website, it was clear I could help him. I have just received his reply, which read, "I hold strong views about those who are more interested in spelling than the contents – probably a class war thing with people using language to perpetuate class bias!". I need a lie-down.

Colin Turner

Shepshed, Leicestershire

Write on, Rover

Not only do we get to read columns by Brian Viner nearly every day in different sections of The Independent, we are now getting to read what his wife thinks (letters, 27 March). What next? His children? Their pets?

David McNickle

St Albans, Hertfordshire