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Wednesday 8 April 2009
Letters: Nuclear power
Nuclear power or renewables? We will need both
It's no surprise that the Sellafield MOx plant is an enormous waste of money, but congratulations to
The Independent for highlighting the full amount ("A £1bn nuclear white elephant", 7 April). Reprocessing and then shipping the product, in the form of MOx, round the world is also an enormous proliferation risk, as Jean McSorley correctly says.
But the issues of nuclear generation and reprocessing need to be separated. It is possible – and in my view essential – to generate electricity in nuclear power stations, but then store the spent fuel, not reprocess it. It is fair to acknowledge that this has always been the position of some people, such as John Gummer.
Nuclear power is certainly not cheap. But we need to move on from arguing about whether renewables, energy efficiency, carbon capture and storage or nuclear are "better". To control climate change, we need all of them.
The latest evidence suggesting that carbon dioxide stays put when stored in rocks deep underground is good news for promoters of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. To maintain electricity supplies, we may need to keep existing coal power stations running for a little longer than anticipated, but the case is now very strong for prohibiting the building of any new fossil fuel power plants unless they are fully CCS equipped. ("Solution to the carbon problem could be under the ground", 2 April)
The EU is pledged to have 12 commercial-size CCS demonstration projects in operation across Europe within seven years. Mechanisms to provide €6-10bn of support funding are being put in place. EU-wide emissions performance standards now need to be introduced to drive forward CCS development by placing an upper limit on the CO2 emissions permitted from any coal or gas power plant authorised for construction after 2015.
Chris Davies MEP
(Liberal Democrat, North West), CCS Rapporteur, European Parliament, Brussels
Barred by red tape from helping NHS
At the end of her letter (2 April) about the denial of a visa to a nun from the Dominican Republic, Jenny Bryer asked: "What is the point of asking for guarantees from potential hosts if our veracity is apparently not worth taking seriously?" That question is particularly relevant to me.
As a resident South African I have been registered as a specialist anaesthetist with the General Medical Council in the UK since 1998. The registration process requires verification of original qualifications.
Since 2001 I have done five short-term consultant locums for the NHS, staying in the UK for 3-12 week periods. I had planned a locum for this April that would have assisted in reducing waiting lists at a hospital where I have worked previously. The hospital told me the work permit procedure had changed. On receipt of their Certificate of Sponsorship I downloaded the new application for Entrance Clearance, a pdf of 46 pages. The form requires proof of qualification. The visa office in Pretoria told me GMC registration is unacceptable and I would have to provide the original degree certificates that had already been verified by the GMC, ten years ago. Since I have recently moved house, these certificates are in a box in my garage waiting to be unpacked.
Neither the GMC nor the Home Office was able to assist, so I cancelled the locum. UK patients will now be waiting longer for their surgery.
Immigration procedures round the world have become more complex in an increasingly insecure world. However I am unable to understand how a current registration certificate with the GMC, and sponsorship from a UK hospital where I have worked previously are less believable than certificates from South Africa that are up to 20 years old.
Dr Eric Hodgson
Durban, South Africa
The obstructive behaviour of staff at the British embassy in Moscow and of immigration officials has provoked correspondence. An earlier critic of officialdom was Charles Dickens, who wrote the following in American Notes (1842).
"Most of our Departments are susceptible of considerable improvement in this respect, but the Custom-house above all others would do well to take example from the United States and render itself somewhat less odious and offensive to foreigners. The servile rapacity of the French officials is sufficiently contemptible; but there is a surly boorish incivility about our men, alike disgusting to all persons who fall into their hands, and discreditable to the nation that keeps such ill-conditioned curs snarling about its gates."
Dickens was writing about Customs officials, but it could just as easily have applied to our modern visa and immigration officials.
I A Carmichael
Petts Wood, Kent
Sudanese war crimes in Darfur
The letter from the Sudanese Embassy's Media Counsellor (1 April), responding to your article of 17 March "Sent back by Britain. Executed in Darfur", supports precisely what we will be demonstrating as part of the upcoming UK guidance case on deporting Darfuri asylum seekers – namely that the Sudanese security services track Darfuris who return to Khartoum. The fact that Mr Mohamed stayed with his sister in Khartoum was not publicly available information.
Regarding the circumstances of Mr Mohamed's death, the witness statements we have reflect a very different story to the one painted by the Sudanese embassy. Inter-tribal conflict is used as an excuse by the authorities to mask many killings carried out by their armed forces and militias. The evidence we have reveals that Mr Mohamed was murdered by the authorities for having attempted to seek refuge abroad.
In response to the complaint about the use of the word genocide, not only does one of the three International Criminal Court pre-trial Chamber judges believe that there is sufficient evidence to indict the Sudanese President for genocide, but that this view is shared by the ICC Prosecutor and will be further examined by the court. In any case, the ICC has found that the Sudanese government is responsible for the continuing war crimes in Darfur. The recent expulsion of 16 humanitarian organisations is just the latest weapon used by the authorities against the 2.5 million displaced Darfuris.
The Sudanese government is not a credible partner in peace. Britain and the UN must act now to protect the 3 million Darfuris whose lives are more at risk than ever.
Director, Waging Peace, London W2
Comradely uses of free speech
Stephen Glover writes (Media, 6 April) about a letter in The Observer which challenged Nick Cohen's claim that the liberal-left betrays and fails to engage liberal Muslims.
The letter was an exercise in free speech, not in censorship: there was no intention whatsoever to try to get Cohen sacked. The answer to bad speech is more speech. The letter's headline, "Nick Cohen is wrong about the liberal-left", captures the challenge to his argument from a group of liberals and liberal Muslims engaged in exactly the type of work which Cohen claims never takes place. The rather gentle letter made a "comradely call on Nick Cohen to stop shouting and rejoin the conversation".
As part of his unguided-missile polemic against the entire liberal-left for appeasing Islamist fascism, Cohen attacked the Fabian Society and ippr. We could easily document how much the Fabians have done to challenge Islamist extremism in our high-profile work on Britishness and integration. The Observer's readers' editor has written a column to say that Cohen's accusation was unfounded.
Nick Cohen is a talented polemicist, and should continue to write on any subject he chooses, but the value of free speech also includes the ability to challenge what is said in the public square, particularly if columnists make nonsense attacks on the democratic credentials of others.
General Secretary, Fabian Society, London SW1
Home for tea after a polite protest
Kristin Stott (letter, 6 April) seems to have been touchingly unaware of the reality of what the G20 demonstration would mean. She reports having driven to the City to rescue her 18-year-old daughter, who had been penned in by police for several hours. She seems to live in a world where the police and the demonstrators would behave pleasantly, and that they would all be home, as she puts it, "for tea".
The situation is that a lot of people were there because they sincerely believe that violent protest is the only way forward. The police have the job of containing that violence, and we have seen in the past what can happen when these two come into contact. The police act beyond their powers in order that revolutionaries, disguised as pacifists (and policemen) do not sneak out and commit further violence in remote areas. It is very hard to imagine that anyone taking part in such an event actually thinks that they will not witness unpleasant scenes or that they will be "home in time for tea".
I would, therefore, advise your reader to urge her daughter to follow her own (and my) example and protest by writing to The Independent. Finishing the letter by four in the afternoon should leave sufficient time to prepare tea, watch the trouble on the telly and be in the pub as convoys of worried rescuers hurtle toward the City.
Life in today's 'liberated' Iraq
I congratulate The Independent for the excellent article, "Back to Baghdad, for better or worse" (24 March). I want to thank you for reporting on the lives of ordinary Iraqis today. I wish to salute Haidar al-Safi and thank him for his objective journalism. His family is lucky to have breadwinners; let us not forget the 43 per cent of Iraqis Oxfam says live in abject poverty.
As for the basic services, as it was shown in Mr Safi's report, Iraqis are living under de facto privatisation. Electricity, clean water, health service, good education, municipal services and maybe even security, all have to be paid for by individuals at high prices.
He hits the nail on the head on the Iraqis' opinion that the situation is today much better. This is how we Iraqis are meant to accept our predetermined fate. As we say in Arabic, "I will show you death and you will settle for living with a fever". And that is a fever Iraqis did not have before Bush and Blair decided to liberate them.
Tahrir Abdul Samad Numan
Well-off public sector
Brilliant deployment of misleading statistics by Dominic Lawson (7 April). Of course the median public-sector salary is higher than that of the private sector: most of the low-wage public sector service delivery jobs have been transferred to the private sector through contracting out.
Norman Horne writes from Glasgow to say he is worse off than the English, because his water rates are included in his council taxes (letter, 3 April). Glasgow City Council Band E rate for CT and Water are £1,963.59; my equivalent in Kirklees, West Yorkshire is £1685.95 for Council Tax and £910.40 for Water. I am therefore £632.76 worse off. Added to that there are many other things Scots get free that the English don't (tuition fees, prescription charges, more NHS cancer drugs available free of charge).
Mirfield, West Yorkshire
Fish by another name
In order to save customers the embarrassment of asking for pollock, Sainsbury's has rebranded the fish with its French name: colin. This does not seem to be much of an improvement; perhaps they should try the Manx version, "callig" or "callagh". I would not recommend our local name for coley, though; because of their preferred habitat at the sewer outfall, they are known as "shitties"
Douglas, Isle of Man
Wrapped for free
Chris Sexton (letter, 7 April) complained about the high price of wrapping paper in British supermarkets. This is another example of rip-off Britain; why should supermarkets charge at all? In Israel the supermarkets have rolls of free wrapping paper and one can walk in and take some without even having to make a purchase. In the US any decent shop will wrap a present without charge, as part of a normal standard of service. Why do British shopkeepers feel obliged to squeeze the last penny out of their customers? Wake up, England!
Fun and games
I am so looking forward to seeing some of the rejected submissions the Royal Mint is going to receive in its "Design a 50p for London 2010" competition. My own entry is coming along well, but I'm stuck on the Latin for "If only the French had won it".
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