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Thursday 18 October 2012
Letters: McKinnon - Britain stands up to the US
The decision to refuse the extradition of Gary McKinnon is to be welcomed. The grounds given are sufficient, but there are others, not least the proven possibility of "enhanced interrogation" and the length of time in prisons renowned for their barbarity. He has already had 10 years of mental torture and, if the Interpol red card is enforced, he will not be able to travel outside the UK. It is also not much to the credit of UK authorities that this decision has taken so long to be made.
I am amazed that the US is not grateful to him for pointing out how insecure their systems are.
Dr Eric Evans
Thank you to the British Government for standing up to the political bully in the playground over refusing to extradite a sick man to the United States.
Thank you also to The Independent for recognising the essential racism of the Home Office in extraditing two Muslim men two weeks ago to the United States accused of internet offences.
Indeed, Talha Ahsan also had been diagnosed with Asperger's and was considered an adult at risk of suicide, but then he was guilty of being a Muslim. So he was extradited to a country whose human rights record leaves a great deal to be desired. This racism is repellent and objectionable.
Dr Faysal Mikdadi
Alan Johnson's sour reaction to the news that Gary McKinnon will not be extradited to the United States only reminds us, if tempted to go back to voting for his party, that the New Labour mindset of authoritarian bullying of the domestic population and cringeing subservience to the US government has not gone away with the election of a new party leader.
The Home Secretary's decision to refuse the extradition of Gary McKinnon to the US poses serious questions if the DPP refuses a UK prosecution. It would mean justice can be determined by favourable media campaigns and that Asperger's syndrome or suicidal feelings are a bar to prosecution.
I suspect that if Gary McKinnon lived in Pakistan or Afghanistan he would now be taken out by an American drone.
What about the Saviles of the future?
Thank you for publishing the letter from Adrian Marlowe on 13 October. Like him, I was never a Jimmy Savile fan, but I find the current furore very hypocritical. Before we continue to heap obloquy on Jimmy Savile we should look very hard and very critically at the society which produced him, especially because this is still with us, while he is not.
The celebrity culture, the way in which many men regard women and girls as objects of sexual satisfaction for themselves, the kudos accorded by men to those who are particularly successful in the pursuit of the opposite sex, the fact that hospitals and care homes are so poorly funded that they rely on fund-raisers like Savile, are all part of that society.
Giving these issues serious consideration will do far more to prevent future Jimmy Saviles from arising than reviling a dead man and offering financial compensation to his victims for something money cannot cure.
One of the much-discussed aspects of the Jimmy Savile allegations is why victims didn't speak up at the time. I was a young teenager in the late 1970s, and I would not have spoken up during that period.
My own experience is thankfully less traumatic than some of the stories we've heard, but serves to illustrate how what we now might call abuse was commonplace and accepted by children as part of growing up.
My friend and I plus three of our siblings passed to each other the same paper-round for five years in the late 1970s. Aged between 13 and 15 the learned wisdom was passed down to the successor about the "perv" on our route. My friend duly trained me to begin bike acceleration round the corner, gather a tremendous speed by No 80, slam on the brakes, throw the bike into the hedge, run to the door to shove in the paper, then escape pronto. Like the others I was occasionally caught and fondled. Fortunately he was an old man, so it was easy enough to pull away, albeit feeling slightly nauseous and accepting that I simply had to move quicker next day.
We wouldn't have complained to an adult about it. Not only was there apparently no issue with this behaviour at a community level, but children simply weren't listened to or believed.
Thinking back, Esther Rantzen's campaign and launch of ChildLine in 1984, was surely pivotal in finally exposing and starting to alter the culture. Thank goodness we now make the effort to listen to our children and not accept the appalling adult behaviour of that era.
IB won't solve all our problems
The International Baccalaureate (IB) profiled by Richard Garner ("Are we ready for the toughest examinations in the world?", 27 September) is relentlessly promoted by one or two schools with the ear of the media. The reality is more complex and an uncritical press too often does little to portray the alternatives in a balanced and thoughtful fashion.
Some key points to note for the unwary. First, the Middle Years Programme [MYP] is not a qualification as such, merely a programme of study. This has caused a number of problems for students applying for university entry in the UK when competing with students with GCSE, IGCSE and AS levels.
Second, the IB suits some students very well but they tend to be individuals of high academic ability with a broad spread of skills. The IB does not always suit the specialist scientist, mathematician or even, rather surprisingly given its international credentials, linguist.
Third, the IB is very expensive to manage and frequently results in the duplication of resources, with awkward consequences such as small set sizes and inefficient utilisation of staff, rooms and other facilities.
Fourth, managing both IB and A-level within one institution can cause real tensions between the different programmes of study and examination timetables.
Fifth, the marking of IB examinations is subject to similar concerns with respect to those causing such current heated debate with GCSE and A-level. These issues are widely understood within schools and explain why so few have adopted the IB, although it has existed for over 40 years.
I am an admirer of the IB and it suits a select minority of schools well. However, the wider use of the IGCSE and the introduction of the A* at A-level have met many of the recent concerns levelled at English qualifications. The Government would be well advised to cast a very critical eye over the IB before seeing it as the solution to its current crop of educational problems.
A J Thould
Head Master, King Edward VI School, Southampton
Catholics must defy Vatican rules
Your leading article of 8 October sets out the thorny problems facing the Church of England in selecting a new Archbishop of Canterbury. But what of the problems that will face the Roman Catholic Church when it, too, has to face its leadership difficulties?
The process is archaic. The Anglican model has an element of democracy, the Vatican system none. The electors, a college of aged cardinals, filled with conservatives, can only (short of a miracle!) produce another conservative pope. Benedict is not a leader, his reign has been one of retrogression.
The number of churchgoers declines. Few young people attend church or hold religious beliefs. The number of clergy continues to decline.
Catholics at large are waiting to accept married clergy and women priests; they already practice contraception, the ban on which the new Bishop of Portsmouth wrongly declares as an infallible pronouncement. Many share in eucharistic services and take communion in other Christian churches.
Hans Küng compared the unquestioning obedience and discipline demanded by the Vatican with that of the Nazis and urged the laity and clergy to stand up against Vatican rules, as is happening with groups of clergy in Austria, Switzerland and even Ireland. Such a group is at last now emerging in this country. The Catholic Church is in urgent need of another Reformation, or at least a third Vatican Council.
Bullying at the bank
I hope that in Greg Smith's book about the horrors awaiting interns at Goldman Sachs there are some anecdotes that illustrate the degradation and humiliation better than the ones mentioned in your article (17 October).
Getting up early for work? Carrying a stool because there are not enough chairs? Being expected to know stuff about the company you're working for? The expectation that you will get a simple lunch order right, and your boss then deciding not to eat it when you get it wrong?
I'm no fan of banks or their unpleasant macho cultures, but this type of behaviour towards junior staff is much the same anywhere – certainly in my experience.
Good to know that bankers don't eat salad, though. Although I should have guessed that.
Secret letters from the Prince
Keeping the letters from Prince Charles to ministers secret only serves to confirm a suspicion that the Prince is not politically neutral, if he were so then publishing them would demonstrate this.
The very fact that they exist shows that the Prince, who we would all hope takes an active interest in current affairs, is prepared to use his position to advance such views. He should stick to making public pronouncements on issues that matter to him.
The Government's decision to withhold publication of Prince Charles's letters to government proves the need for a written constitution with clearly defined rights and boundaries.
Anyone can write to a government minister, but it is likely that a letter bearing the crest of the Prince will be afforded more consideration than efforts from us plebs. This gives an unelected person undue access and influence.
Donald Macintyre's opening words to the Sketch (17 October) made me realise how old-school Tories regard the Lib Dems. They see them as public-school fags; under the same roof, but inferiors to do their bidding.
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