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Friday 15 August 2008
Letters: Legalising drugs
Be brave, do the right thing, and legalise drugs
Julian Critchley's article (Comment, 14 August) about UK drug policies stood out with the simple brilliance of truth.
My husband and I have been fighting for change for 12 years, since our son had a problem while he was at university. Not only are our drug laws ineffective, the punishments have become more dangerous and damaging than the drugs themselves. A criminal record scars a life for ever.
Most young people try drugs and most of them come to little harm. They grow up, mainly unscathed, unless they are unlucky enough to get caught. It's time for the Government to grow up too. Drugs will never be eliminated by force and we have to learn to live with them in the safest way possible.
There is only one reason that all our governments base their policies on the tabloid press. It is fear. They are scared of losing votes and so losing their jobs. They don't trust the electorate to read beyond the headlines and look at the evidence. They must believe we are too stupid. So they have locked themselves into a knock-out competition between the parties over who can be the "toughest on drugs".
They are too far out of touch to realise that most of us have seen through them and have known for ages that their drug policies are making things worse. We long for them take the lead and do something brave that will begin to reduce the harm caused by prohibition. That would certainly make us vote for them.
Until those with power stop putting their jobs before doing what is right, nothing is going to change. We all need to keep telling them this, loud and clear, over and over again. Then maybe, as Julian Critchley put it so well, "their policies will catch up with the facts".
I wholeheartedly agree with Julian Critchley that legalising all drugs is the only rational approach to this problem. Organised crime feeds on the present situation exactly as it did on alcohol prohibition. It would also be a great step forward in making individuals take responsibility for their own welfare, as with drink and tobacco.
But I can see one major snag: unless we could persuade Europe and the USA to adopt similar policies, would we not create a UK staging post for drug imports into those regions?
P J Parkins
After Georgia, who will be next?
It is indeed worrying, if Frank Donald (letter, 14 August) is right, that Russia provoked its confrontation with Georgia by using perceived injustices to its Russian minority.
Russia's most recent behaviour in sending columns of tanks roaming around the Georgian countryside, failing to restrain South Ossetian militias from terrorising Georgian citizens and repeatedly bombing civilian areas in Gori shows that their intentions are much wider than merely protecting South Ossetia. Rather, they give the impression of trying to scare the Georgian people into submission and undermine the democratically elected government so that it is replaced by a more pro-Russian one.
I am pleased to see that the US is now putting a lot more pressure on Russia to cease its military adventures. If they get away with the invasion of Georgia, other small states formerly occupied by the Soviet Union, such as those by the Baltic, could easily be targeted.
This year, I travelled around Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. They are beautiful countries and rightly proud of their hard-won independence; in Estonia, the national anthem is played twice a day outside its parliament building. After hundreds of years of often brutal foreign domination, they are undergoing a cultural and economic renaissance that is wonderful to see. Yet, all are small and have substantial Russian populations, which could be used by Russia in an attempt to subvert their independence.
One of the great achievements of the past 20 years is that states such as these, on the borders of Russia, are now free. I am sure recent events in Georgia must be very worrying for their people. The western powers must do all they can to reassure the people of the Baltic states that we will not allow them to be intimidated or their independence subverted by their huge neighbour to the east.
Dr Stephen Leah
It would be sheer madness to extend Nato membership to Georgia. What would be the point? Russia is not an ideological enemy, as the Soviet Union was; it does not threaten Western Europe; in the Caucasus, Moscow has only behaved as Washington has traditionally in Central America, and more recently in Iraq.
To encircle Russia with a Nato deprived of its central raison d'etre (confronting armed communism) will drive Russia into a more isolationist posture. Encirclement is never a good policy. This was Germany's position before August 1914.
Nor would it be a good idea to feed Georgian ultranationalism. For 200 years, no Georgian has ever lost popularity by attacking Russia, even though the northern power was originally invited in to save Georgia after its ravaging by the terrible eunuch, Agha Mohamed.
Mikheil Saakashvili, apparently placed in Tbilisi by the numbskull neocons, is an extreme exponent of hysterical anti-Russianness, with its concomitant hatred of Georgia's own minorities.
Nato, if it has any purpose whatsoever, would be wise not to get involved in Georgian national passions. The condition of Tskhinvali today is not an advertisement for western values. Georgia needs to re-integrate itself locally into the Caucasus (which is part of Asia, not Europe), and to learn to live in a civilised manner with its own minorities. It does not need a questionable Euro-American alliance.
I saw our Foreign Secretary, Mr Miliband, on TV stating in relation to Russia's actions in Georgia, that resorting to the use of force is not the way to tackle difficult situations in the 21st century.
What a pity he was not in post when Prime Minister Tony Blair decided to resort to the use of similar force to tackle the thorny problem of Saddam Hussein.
North Shields, Tyne & Wear
Distorted figures on 'easy' A-levels
Even before the A-level results were released, there were rumblings in the media that a 90 per cent pass rate and "too many" A-grades suggest the A-levels have been dumbed down.
Since 2000, A-level exams have been taken in two parts. Normally, in a particular subject, candidates sit an A/S (Advanced Subsidiary) paper at the end of the first year. If successful, they progress to the second year, at the end of which they take what is called the A2 paper. The A/S and the A2 grades are then combined to give an overall A-level grade.
Students who fail, do so in the A/S stage. In mathematics, for example, about 40 per cent do not make it to A2. Those who are successful at A/S, the hard-working, motivated and talented, are almost certain of success at A2, and these are the students that appear in the statistics. The annual diatribe about falling standards is based on A2 figures alone. The media and Government conveniently choose to ignore what is happening at A/S level.
This distortion in the statistics gives the impression that A-levels are easy. It is unfair to those students who have to work consistently to gain their qualifications. Those who gain high grades deserve them. They should not be made to feel that their achievements are worthless.
Lecturer in Mathematics, Ingatestone, Essex
Green home of the future
James Daley had a wonderful opportunity to enlighten readers about the difference between solar (heat) energy and solar electricity (Save & Spend, 9 August) and failed to do so.
It is particularly frustrating for the likes of me : I've been involved in renewable energy generation of one kind or another since visiting the Centre for Alternative Technology in 1976, and my late husband co-edited their publication, An Alternative Energy Strategy for the UK, in 1977. All the information has been out there for well over 30 years.
On my house, a large Victorian double-fronted in Leamington's conservation area, I have a solar thermal panel, which heats my water; a micro wind-generator which is part of the Warwick Wind Trials. Last week, the Warwick District Council voted by six to three to allow me to put a large array of solar photovoltaic cells on the gable end of the house to generate electricity. The vote was two Conservative, two Labour and two Lib Dems, cross-party support in favour of mitigating climate change.
From September, the excess electricity I generate will feed the grid and help others to use green electricity. I've reduced my gas consumption so low that the supplier asked if this was an empty house.
Warwick & Leamington Green Party, Leamington Spa
Britain deceived too, in 1948 Olympics
How dare the Chinese deceive the world in the Olympic opening ceremony for aesthetic reasons? So unlike London in 1948 when Great Britain's leading athlete, balding and bespectacled Sydney Wooderson, billed in advance as the man who would carry the Olympic torch into Wembley, was replaced at the last minute by another runner who was young and blond, to give the right image abroad of British manhood.
I watched the synchronised diving the other day, which seems to be the preserve of young and fit people. What about a class for old and obese people? I'm sure it would be more entertaining.
The cruel 'sport' of hunting with hounds
I believe Jonathan Phillips (letter, 13 August) underestimates the impact hunting with hounds has on the image of our country.
This "sport" is cruel by design. Hounds are bred for stamina, and their skill lies in doggedly following a scent. The fox, deer and hare are sprinters, not designed to run long distances, so they tire before they can be overtaken by the hounds.
The first time I saw a hounded fox, dark with sweat, his tail and ears down like a frightened little dog, I hurt inside. When the hunters appeared, relishing the prolonged chase and smugly indifferent to the suffering they were inflicting upon this animal, my heart sank at what this said about their mentality.
That the Tory leader David Cameron wants to legalise these barbarous "games" tells me everything about him. Let's see what happens to his image when the spotlight is turned on his pledge come the general election.
G E Purser
A big hand for a heroic lady
The quadriplegic yachtswoman Hilary Lister should be congratulated on her heroic battle with the elements in her temporarily aborted attempt to sail solo around Britain. I hope she appreciates that the publicity for her charity has been achieved without recourse to references to "single-handed" sailing or "limping" into port.
Jonathan Brown's efforts to report this must have been hampered by the verbal minefield presented by the disabilities Ms Lister endures. I feel compelled to resort to cliche when I hope both sailor and reporter will continue to "put their best foot forward" when the adventure is resumed next spring.
Case against execution
The spotlight will soon fade from the cases of Barry George and Colin Stagg. While they are still in the public eye, it is worth reminding those who would restore capital punishment, that at least both are alive to enjoy their belated exoneration, and in Stagg's case, a risible sum of compensation.
Dr Laurence Berman
Come off it, Mr Cox! (letters, 14 August) Are you really saying that "kilograms per square metre" make sense as units to express body mass index? Like pounds per square inch, kg/m2 are units of pressure? The BMI is the ratio of the number of kilograms a person weighs to the square of the number of metres he or she is in height, and as such is just a number, no units attached.
Mine's a pint
Further to your article on "Scenesters" (Extra, 14 August). I was in the Old Blue Last once, which Vice magazine described as a "real East End boozer". While I was at the bar, a fully grown man, sporting a mullet and pencil moustache, rode through the door on a Raleigh chopper and ordered a cocktail. Now that the East End is being run by trustafarians, are there any "real boozers" left?
Oh, do be quiet
I sympathise with Angela Elliot's irritation with gratuitous advice on supermarket packaging (letter, 14 August). I feel a surge in my blood pressure when, on the London Underground, an electronic voice repeatedly urges me not to fall down the gap between the train and the platform. I wonder how long it will be before they add to their helpfulness by urging us not to walk into the walls or not to fall down the stairs.
The Italian solution?
Jane Barry (letters, 13 August) noted that one in four people has inherited a double gene for anxiety, and also one in four people suffers from medically unexplained symptoms. Last Tuesday's Independent told us that one in four married couples in Italy regularly enjoys swinging. Might I suggest that the Italians may have found the solution to these problems?
EU migrant crisis: Death toll of refugees found 'suffocated' in lorry in Austria rises to 70
Ifs and buts: The Tories should forget their impossible immigration pledge and simply take asylum-seekers out of the equation
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