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- Arts + Ents
Tuesday 22 November 2011
Letters: Is it wise for the taxpayer to prop up mortgages?
Hot on the heels of last week's government announcement of the intention to sell off even more council houses at 50 per cent discount, we now have them guaranteeing new house purchases.
This is nothing other than a propping up of house prices for a generation of new buyers on low salaries and with insecure employment, more likely to default than any other before them.
The unpalatable truth is that those of us who bought our houses 30 years ago and are now fortunate enough to have finished paying our mortgages are living in vastly over-valued houses. If these fell in value then new purchasers would be helped far more than by this present policy.
Cameron and Clegg, whether they realise it or not, are engaged in an exercise to prop up house prices while reducing affordable housing.
The taxpayer bailed out the banks after their near collapse from their lousy judgments concerning lending and property.
Now that the banks are more careful and not lending so casually, the Government is to underwrite such lending directly Maybe that will cut out some middlemen, but is it wise to stimulate casual lending again?
Are we to expect a rise in council housing stock over the next decade or two, in consequence of taxpayer-funded mortgages and possible repayment defaults?
Developing Mary Ann Sieghart's point about the need for more affordable housing (Opinion, 21 November), more houses and at a lower cost could be built if the industry improved its productivity.
Walls are still being laid brick-on-brick, roofs tile-on-tile, both manual methods from the 19th century. Fossil fuels heat the hot water, a method from the 20th century.
Prefabricated walls and roofing would make dramatic savings in time and labour cost. Solar panels heat our water for half the year, with savings to our budget, as well as benefits to the environment.
Someone should give a prize for a design incorporating good management in the round. The talent is out there, but it needs to be encouraged.
W R Haines
Out-scam the rhino poachers
It should be possible to frustrate the rhino poachers and the middlemen they supply by flooding the market with fake rhino horn and undercutting them ("Medical myth is dooming the rhino to extinction", 18 November).
Since the powdered horn is useless as a medicine there would be no ethical objection so far as the misguided end-purchasers are concerned, and the profits could support the protection of endangered species, rhinos included. The same idea could be used to damage the trade in tiger bones.
Liberty and public health
There has been the predictable citing of "civil liberty" by those opposed to a ban on smoking in cars. "It's a private space!" they cry. We happily accept the legal obligation to wear a seatbelt while driving, a public health measure which has saved thousands of lives since it was introduced in 1983. What is the role of government if not to protect its citizens?
Dr Dominic Horne
Steve Lustig (letter, 17 November] is among many who have a myopic view of health services. Preventive medicine produces results beyond the span of a Parliament and entails "hardship" for the population – not a vote winner. If more of us adopted a healthier lifestyle, exercise plus good nutrition, there would be fewer patients to treat. As a consequence there could be serious cuts in NHS budgets, leading to a reduction in the tax burden. Pie in the sky, I fear, but at least the doctors are trying to encourage us.
East Grinstead, West Sussex
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown says that "not all" the ""high number of black and mixed-race young people" convicted of rioting recently were "innocent" (21 November). What evidence exists for the implication that most were therefore falsely convicted?
Cause and effect
You report that regular sex is one of the secrets of a contented retirement (21 November). Could it be that the correlation is the other way about: those over-65s who are happy with their lives have more sex?
How to fit the young for work
Andreas Whittam Smith makes a valid point when he says that high youth unemployment figures are due to home-grown failings (Opinion, 17 November). Unlike in Austria, Switzerland and Germany, for too long apprenticeships in the UK have been regarded as second-class to the more traditional, academic route to university, even though some people are more suited to practical, hands-on learning. As a result, we're seeing high levels of graduate unemployment alongside skills gaps.
Fortunately, the tide is turning; the Coalition has invested a lot in apprenticeships, and good schemes will help to provide a progression route for young people, helping the UK achieve sustained growth.
However, apprenticeships are just one of a range of programmes that can help. The Government should promote a range of solutions, coupled with sufficient careers advice, so young people can make an informed decision about their futures and choose the path to employability that's right for them.
In addition, we must look to other causes of youth unemployment, such as the high proportion of job seekers that lack the literacy and numeracy employers need. The education system must be addressed from as young as primary age, so the next generation do not get caught in the same predicament as their predecessors.
CEO and Director General, City & Guilds, London, EC1
When neutrinos defy Einstein
I think that the fuss over a very improbable experimental result is becoming a little tiresome ("Einstein's laws questioned as speed of light is broken again", 19 November). It reminds me of the "cold fusion" fiasco some years ago.
The error is surely in the calculation of the distance between the two laboratories. It cannot be measured directly because it is within the earth, so must be deduced from external measurements and the direct distance calculated. An error of a few metres would explain the apparent discrepancy.
The calculation would be easy if the Earth were a perfect sphere, but it isn't. Also, the two labs are at different altitudes and in different geological areas. The shape of the Earth is distorted by local geology.
It will be fascinating however if the experiment is indeed repeated elsewhere, hopefully in an area of more homogeneous geology.
Dr David Moulson
I am puzzled by the story about neutrinos travelling faster than the speed of light. You and all the other media persist in saying that Einstein's theory of relativity says nothing can travel faster than the speed of light.
I am a layman, and get my information about physics from TV and "science made easy" books. My understanding is that Einstein made no such claim and what he actually said was: "At the speed of light mass becomes infinite."
The implication is that anything without mass is not constrained by Einstein's theory. So perhaps physicists should be questioning not Einstein but the evidence for neutrinos having mass.
British help for Arab revolutions
As an Arab-British person who has firmly stood against Arab dictatorships I take immense pride in the measured conduct of David Cameron and William Hague. Their nuanced yet assertive support for Arabs' right to be free of the demonic shackles of illegitimate Arab rulers has been noted all over the Arab world – rightly placing Britain at the pinnacle of countries that have consistently shown a principled approach.
The historic meetings between David Cameron, William Hague and representatives of the Syrian opposition send a strong signal that we in this country will uphold our responsibilities towards those millions who have endured the vengeful wrath of Arab dictators.
I have met very few Arab-British who do not deeply appreciate the courage displayed by this British government. May this gratitude crystallise itself into solid relations between the UK and all newly emerging Arab governments – translating itself into commercial, cultural, political and diplomatic ties.
Dr Lu'ayy Minwer Al-Rimawi
When you say that "popular rage could not be restrained" on Muammar Gaddafi's capture, you enter into dangerous territory of apologism for torture and political murder (leading article: "In the Gaddafi clan's end is Libya's new beginning", 21 November).
To equate the small number of militiamen who performed the deed with an entire population is disingenuous: you actually have no indication that the killing was popular, but presenting it as "unrestrainable popular rage" suits the narrative of UK interests who have used our tax money to "open up" Libya's economy by destroying its infrastructure and handing its government over to the religious right.
It is good news that William Hague is now talking to the opposition in Syria, as he did in Libya. What is puzzling is why he is not talking to a well-organised group opposed to the Mullahs in Iran, which is led in exile by a woman, Maryam Rajavi. Are we still intent on appeasing Ahmadinejad in the hope that he will give up his nuclear weapons?
Waiter, show me the beer list
Your Food and Drink Special (Magazine, 19 November) featured wine in abundance but there was a not single word about our national drink, beer. Are you ignorant of the brewing revolution in Britain?
The number of breweries has grown enormously in recent years. The total stands at 840, the most since the 1940s, before takeovers, mergers and closures wreaked havoc in the 1960s and gave birth to the Campaign for Real Ale.
Today new-wave brewers have brought astonishing diversity back to brewing. As well as such old staples as mild and bitter we can now enjoy golden ales, India Pale Ales, stouts, porters, barley wines, wheat beers and beers matured in whisky and wine casks.
A growing number of pubs and restaurants are matching beer and food and a growing number of consumers find that beer is just as good a companion at the dining table as wine.
Brewing is one of the last great British industries. We need to admire it and nurture it.
Editor, Good Beer Guide, St Albans, Hertfordshire
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