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Tuesday 26 July 2011
Letters: Norway shooting
The Norwegian Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, is deserving of the highest praise for his comments calling for "more democracy and more openness" after the tragic killings.
Indeed, his response is far more deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize than the actions of the warmaking Barak Obama, who took the coveted award a couple of years ago.
The Prime Minister's response was exactly the right one to such an atrocity, standing up for the principles of democracy against a right-wing lunatic who attempted to smash them.
Oh, for some similarly bold, brave and honest politicians in Europe and America. One of the most pitiful sights has been to see some in the British political class try to use the tragedy to stir up the old terrorism threat yet again to try to frighten people into accepting ever more authoritarian measures. It was sad to see such a lack of respect for the Norwegian people.
Another rather sinister undertone is the change of attitude among those same politicians and commentators when it was discovered that the culprit was a right-wing lunatic. It became one crazed man acting alone, no longer an attack on society.
Yet a closer study of the rise of the far right across Europe will reveal it to be a far greater threat to democratic ways of life than the over-hyped Islamic terrorism. It is this danger that should be focused upon, and which makes Prime Minister Stoltenberg's comments all the more prescient.
In 1994, Palestine had its own "Norway" moment when Dr Baruch Goldstein murdered up to 50 Muslims while they were praying in the historic Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron. The far-right extremist's action was denounced as "the deranged act" of a loner but his grave became a place of pilgrimage for other far-right extremist Jewish settlers who continue to lionise Goldstein as a hero.
Rabbi Israel Ariel eulogised the killer as a "holy martyr" and said that he "did not act as an individual; he heard the cry of the land of Israel, which is being stolen from us day after day by the Muslims" [sic].
There are striking parallels in this right-wing paranoia, not least a delusional distortion of reality which leads to rationalised extreme violence. The irony is that the right-leaning governments of Europe now condemning the appalling violence in Oslo turn a blind eye to its equivalent in the Holy Land.
Senior Editor, Middle East Monitor, London NW10
Countering attacks such as the Norwegian tragedy with more democracy (letters, 25 July) is only as effective as the education system's reach and curriculum.
I do not wish to see a mass-murderer's own publicity photos on the front page of my newspaper (25 July).
Tiny town fights supermarkets
I read about the lost battle with supermarket development in Darlington (letters, 14 July). Here in Tenbury Wells, a tiny town compared to Darlington, we have twice driven off a supermarket chain and are facing a third battle.
We have an old market town with everything we need provided by small privately owned shops, some several generations in one family, including bakery, butcher, fishmonger, newsagent/ stationer, bookshop, flower shop, greengrocer, general grocers, ironmonger and a seven-day convenience store and a family-run mini "supermarket". Local farm shops will also suffer.
Control of large-scale car parking is a deadly weapon in their armoury. The megastore model was developed to serve the endless car-borne suburban housing of America and finds a legitimate place in the huge post-war housing estates of this country which lack indigenous retail services.
It is entirely inappropriate to the long-established country-town economies of this country. We are not alone locally because almost all the neighbouring small towns have succumbed to one or more supermarkets.
Llandrindod Wells is bitterly complaining of targeted discounting aimed at local business, Ledbury is up in arms at the proposal for a superstore, having already suffered a conventional-sized outlet. Newtown, and Welshpool are likewise suffering. Leominster is threatened with a third; my mother fought the first many years ago.
It is time that this became a national issue with serious political engagement.
Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire
Tyranny of the wind-farms
I was interested to read the piece on wind-farms by Terence Blacker (Comment, 12 July). As most of the population live in cities, I do not think they have any idea of the social revolution in the countryside.
As more people have become home-owners they have presumed their home is their castle and a previously excellent planning system would protect their main or only investment. Not so.
Mainly foreign wind-farm companies spot a piece of land near you, offer your landowning neighbour a fortune for the next 25 years, which is hard to refuse. Now comes the clever bit.
The very people you have elected to community councils to protect your interests are now offered a large sum for their pet projects in the form of community benefit. There is no compensation for you.
The Government has interfered in the planning, making a presumption that proposals should be passed, even overruling local council decisions.
Your home is at threat of whirling, high machines next to it. If you dare to object you are called a Nimby and made out to be a social outcast. Ed Miliband said people who object to wind-farms should be regarded as anti-social as people who drive through pedestrian crossings. This is just not British.
Cameron cunning will save his skin
The News International scandal has provided the perfect storm to deflect public debate from the eurozone crisis, mixed economic data, the Libyan war, draconian police cuts and the back-door introduction of "any qualified provider" across a range of NHS services.
Those baying for David Cameron's resignation are doing the country no favours. He needs to be made accountable for his government's actions by seeing out his term and facing an election at the appropriate time. Political commentators constantly speculating on Cameron's future over the present crisis should save their breath. Like fellow smooth political operator Tony Blair, his elite education and natural cunning will leave him with a few more of his nine lives intact over many a "squeaky" moment to come.
Anyone who watched Alan B'Stard in the TV sitcom The New Statesman could have told you that.
Mistake to make the Duke quit
In all the journalistic self-congratulation at forcing the Duke of York to give up his trade role on behalf of the UK (report, 20 July) the criticisms quoted to justify him losing the role are from middle-ranking ex-diplomats and republicans who did not like his manner or entourage. These criticisms are then backed up with smears about some of the Prince's friends.
It is also noticeable that the criticism does not come from UK trade and investment or British businesses, both of which instead defend his role. It seems to me that, as we try to recover from this recession, forcing out an experienced trade envoy who has spent a decade forging links all over the world for British business is untimely and self-defeating.
The British media seems to be prepared to destroy anyone, and risk anything, to create a "scandal" to report.
Fountain spouts hidden message
Michael Glover, in his commentary on Chardin's The Copper Drinking Fountain (Arts and Books, 22 July), makes many subtle points about the composition of the painting, but fails to acknowledge that the dominance of the drinking fountain is achieved by means of a rather risqué visual pun that many people not experienced in looking at pictures might have recognised immediately.
The fountain is not only itself, but a naked male torso. It has pecs, nipples, abs, a navel and a quite unambiguous urinating male member. This needs saying, because otherwise we fail to see the true nature of the work; it's in a more robust 18th-century vein than we usually give Chardin credit for.
I'm surprised Dave Brown, your cartoonist, hasn't yet borrowed a few ideas from it.
Historical drama not dirty enough
Alice Azania Jarvis comments on the accuracy in clothing etc in historical dramas and film ("It's not the little things that count", 19 July). Even when the producers go to great lengths to get the clothing right, they are badly off-track in some respects.
Except for the upper and upper-middle classes, it would be very unusual for a child in one of the much larger families that prevailed up to the First World War to wear clothing that actually fits: it would either passed down by an older sibling, or outgrown.
Other ways in which films or TV series lack realism is that, apart from the upper and middle classes (the latter much smaller than today), people, especially children, would be much dirtier, because of the absence of soap until the early 20th century, and hot water, until after the First World War.
Again, with same class exceptions, very few people would be as obviously well-fed as present-day actors. Photographs from the relevant periods show this clearly.
UK aid does not have strings
In reply to Mark Cole (letters 23 July): on 20 July, The Independent reported that the UK was the largest of the minor suppliers of arms to India with a 3.6 per cent share of the market in 2010. The lion's share belonged to Russia with 85.5 per cent.
Given that the UK devotes far more of its GDP to foreign aid than almost all other western countries, the chances are that with Russia the percentages would be reversed, which effectively torpedoes Mr Cole's underlying argument that aid buys commercial advantage, particularly when the UK goes to great lengths to maintain that our aid has no strings attached.
Keighley, West Yorkshire
The only way to settle this
John Elder (letters, 21 July) is, I believe, one of those whom the ever-sensible Henry Fowler, in writing about the use of "only", described as "one of those friends from whom the English language may well pray to be saved, one of the modern precisians who have more zeal than discretion".
As Fowler recognised, the natural position of adverbial "only" is early in the sentence. In speech, it qualifies the next stressed word ("The Palestinians only have one option'); in writing, the sense is normally clear and "only"' does not need to stand next to the modified word except to avoid ambiguity ("I spoke only to him" as distinct from "I only spoke to him"').
In the sentence about the Palestinians, and in most sentences of this kind, there is no such ambiguity except for those determined to find it.
John Elder rightly emphasises the importance of positioning the word "only", which I find is seldom located correctly.
By not so doing, one can change the intended meaning, as the letters editor of another paper did when changing my "Churchill's end-of-the-beginning occurred after only three years of near-total war" (by which I clearly meant a fairly short time in the context) to "... occurred only after three years ..." (thus implying a fairly long time).
The late, great Marghanita Laski told how she was taught at her prep school to place "only" in every possible position in the sentence "The peacocks were seen on the western hills" (that is, anywhere except before "hills"); but where that sentence came from I still have no idea.
St Andrews, Fife
Glad to see I am not alone in being irritated by the almost universal indifference to the placing of the word "only". It should be remembered that the vocal inflexions indicating the intended meaning are lost in a written text. I remember reading in this paper of a couple who "only had sex for six weeks".
Good lord, it was wrong
Thank you for publishing my letter about "democracy in the House of Lords" (20 July). But you gave my address as the House of Lords. From this, your readers could have reasonably inferred that I had won the Peers' Deputy Speaker by-election I was writing about. This election was won by Viscount Colville, a producer and director with the BBC. The House is clear about who is, and who is not, a member, and takes steps to clear up misunderstandings. I am glad to get in first.
Thoby Kennet, Lord Kennet
Kate lost her head
Isn't the display, at Buckingham Palace, of the future Queen Catherine's wedding dress on a headless mannequin at the very least premature?
Omigod! Ending the cliché correspondence? You cannot be serious. It's – like –awesome!
Perspectives on police, press and the phone-hacking scandal
It's comeuppance time,so forget the excuses
Now other journalists are making excuses for rogue reporters and editors on the red-tops, and police officers are assuring us that "a few bad apples" are not typical of the Metropolitan Police.
I know about the latter from my father, who retired as a Met chief superintendent . He told me in despair about the amount of time he had to spend "covering up" for various officers in his charge. He also told me he would not have progressed beyond inspector had he not joined the freemasons.
Sadly, my Dad is now at the end of his life, having suffered for years with Alzheimer's. He is in an old folks' nursing-home and although the masons and the police health insurance has paid for his many years of confinement, I still wonder how much the stress and worry about criminals and his own officers have contributed to his terminal condition.
Dad is 94 and I am 68. I worked on The Times before its move to Wapping. Then I worked for another dubious press baron, Robert Maxwell. My tales of skulduggery could match or exceed those of my father. Alas, Cap'* Bob stole my pension, as well as the pensions of hundreds of others.
Really, I am just amazed that it has taken the court of public opinion as long as it has to give both police and press their respective comeuppances. Better late than never. And no more excuses.
Bognor Regis, West Sussex
Mobile phone firms could have stopped this long ago
Throughout the phone-hacking scandal one group of culprits has remained virtually without mention. That is the mobile-phone companies.
It is frighteningly easy to hack the voicemail on a mobile phone, and it would be a simple matter for them provide the facility for users to turn off remote access to voicemail, to enable users to blacklist inbound calls from undesirable numbers and provide other basic security features such as tracing of withheld numbers.
All of these features are available on landlines. But mobile providers have shown a lamentable disregard for their customers' security and privacy and this allowed the whole hacking saga to happen in the first place. They should be called to account.
Newcastle under Lyme, Staffordshire
Who leaked the Amy story?
I see that one of the tabloid newspapers has claimed that "a confidential police source" has revealed the probable cause of Amy Winehouse's death.
Can we be assured that what appears to be yet another breach of a victim's confidentiality by the Metropolitan Police will be thoroughly investigated, and any guilty officer or civilian worker removed from their post?
Waunlwyd, Ebbw Vale
A look up from the sewers
With reference to Ros Wynne-Jones's defence of tabloid journalism (22 July): it is only from the sewers that the gutter looks like the moral high ground.
Chris de Wilde
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