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Monday 16 March 2009
Letters: Pensions and the City
This investor has had enough of City bungling
Having just received a paid-up pension statement which shows no net gain since I stopped payments in the 1980s, I have had enough. I hold Lloyds TSB shares which are worth less than ten years ago. All other financial services based investments are down. My best investment performance is in land abroad, which benefited from the fall in the pound and from not being invested through any City of London institution.
I have no reason to invest any more in City of London-based investments. As a shareholder I have seen that accountants have falsely signed off previous years as "true and fair"; I have seen corporate theft in directors' bonuses; I have seen soft-touch regulation fail to keep financial markets stable and sound for investors, and I see a government who again allow short selling of stocks in a time of crisis.
If the Government fails to stop short selling, fails to introduce corporate governance legislation and transparency on pension investments, I shall not invest any of my savings in the UK – it is too toxic. How many other investors share my view? This is why the City is finished. It is not competent, and its importance has been grossly overstated. I hope the spell has been broken.
John L Fynaut
Let me see if I understand this correctly.
The USA is issuing millions of pounds worth of US Treasuries (government bonds) as part of its £563m economic stimulus package, and hopes that China will continue to buy them in massive quantities (14 March, page 43). Meanwhile the UK Government proposes to buy back millions of pounds worth of government bonds as part of its "quantitative easing" package, including many millions of pounds worth from China (14 March, page 1). And this too is intended to provide an economic stimulus.
Truly, an Alice in Wonderland world.
Climate change hits the poor now
Over the past week eminent climate scientists have painted a bleak picture of climate change and its impacts around the world. ("Lord Stern on global warming: It's even worse than I thought", 13 March).
Tearfund knows first-hand the devastating consequences of the failure to tackle runaway emissions. Communities we work with in Bangladesh already struggle to cope with rising seas, storms and floods. With new predictions of sea level rises of over a metre, which could displace over 15 million people in Bangladesh alone, we can only ask the question: where will these people go and how will they survive?
Politicians have a historic opportunity to agree a global climate deal this year that slashes emissions and helps poor countries adapt. Will they rise to this challenge?
Head of Policy, Tearfund
Hopefully the coming climate conference in Copenhagen can do better than Kyoto to convince countries such as Brazil, India, China and the US to do something about their CO2 emissions.
My one concern is the lack of conviction from present UK government leaders in key areas. They are asking us to turn down thermostats by 1 degree and switch to low-energy light bulbs, but are themselves demonstrating little visible environmental concern. Take the third runway at Heathrow, or dualling of the A46 in Nottinghamshire to replace rail improvement schemes. They are planning more coal power stations; while relatively emission-free nuclear power is stalled in discussions. At this rate I don't see how this government will deliver on their pledge of a 20 per cent reduction by 2015.
How can the BRIC countries and US be convinced by Gordon Brown to keep down their CO2 emissions?
If we consume less, invest in cleaner cars, commit to energy efficiency at home and at work and invest in renewables, the need for nuclear disappears ("The big U-turn: greens call for nuclear power", 23 February). But if we insist on growing the economy endlessly, a dangerous cocktail of fossil fuels and nuclear will become an inevitable part of the energy mix .
We are bombarded with advice to insulate our homes, recycle more and drive less. But, in the present economic recession, one thing governments won't say is: "Buy less stuff." Yet consuming less is probably the single most effective thing we can all do to reduce our consumption of energy, confine the nuclear option to history and cut emissions.
With the environment facing an eco-crunch it is surely time to stop pretending that mindlessly chasing economic growth is sustainable, when we know it is not. We need to figure out a new economic model based on nature, nurture and replenishment. With the threat of a four-degree increase in global temperatures, and the inevitability of a global population of nine billion, there's no time to lose.
Executive Director, Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management, London WC1
Alien life-forms circling Jupiter?
I was interested in your lead article "The lost world" by Steve Connor (7 March). It is possible that the methods being adopted by the British scientists of penetrating Lake Ellsworth in the Antarctic, using sophisticated ice-drilling technology, could be adopted on Jupiter's moon Europa, where there may be extraterrestrial life.
According to scientists, Europa has an ocean that is some 60 miles deep and is covered by a crust of ice of about six miles thick. It is believed that Europa's waters are saline and according to my calculations, Europa should have about five times the water that we have on Planet Earth; thus the chances of life on Europa are highly likely.
Scientists believe that there may be life in Europa's deep oceans, which is supported by a process called chemosynthesis. In contrast to photosynthesis, chemosynthesis does not require "food" or light or oxygen, but the output of hydrothermal vents, mixed with water. Chemosynthesis occurs in the great depths of our own oceans, where life exists in the form of eyeless shrimps, giant tube worms, crustaceans and mussels. Thus, Europa may yet prove to be the "jewel in the crown".
Professor Carl T F Ross
Department of mechanical & Design Engineering,
University of Portsmouth
Long struggle for Guinea-Bissau
Your article on Frederick Forsyth and recent events in Guinea-Bissau (5 March) does your paper's international coverage a disservice. It gave the impression that these events really are a mere backdrop to Mr Forsyth's next novel. A lot of rubbish has been written recently about Guinea-Bissau and from his comments in the article I doubt that Mr Forsyth will remedy that.
Until the trade from Colombia began no one cared about Guinea-Bissau and few had even heard of it. The reality is that the drugs trade has not been a disaster for the country.
After the Portuguese left in 1974 there was just one factory and a society full of tensions caused by the Portuguese policy of administering the country through lighter-skinned Cape-verdeans. These tensions provoked the coup in 1980 which brought Nino Vieira to power. Ever since, the country has struggled, with teachers and other officials going for months and sometimes years without salaries. The drugs trade has at least brought some flow of money to a country which has otherwise been utterly abandoned by the commercial and diplomatic circuits of the international community.
Moreover, contrary to widespread reports in the British media, the recent events are not the direct consequence of the drugs trade. Tagme na Waie and Nino Vieira were strong allies in the independence war. Their deaths relate to long-standing dissensions born in those years of struggle, and are certainly not the direct result of the drugs trade.
Centre of West African Studies
University of Birmingham
Robin Hood: a new legend is born
A scholar has discovered a short note written by a monk in a medieval history book: "Around this time . . . a certain outlaw named Robin Hood with his accomplices, infested Sherwood and other law abiding areas of England with continuous robberies."
This fascinating discovery will probably be ignored, because most people will prefer to believe the legend. However, there could repercussions.
Nottingham City Council may find that changing the publicity for the city to emphasise the outlaw Robin Hood may produce more tourists than the heroic version known to all.
The film industry may climb on the band wagon and produce a series of films with the theme "Robin Hood: the true story". It is even possible that the Sheriff of Nottingham may be seen as a saintly figure and feature in such films as The Sheriff Strikes in Sherwood.
An education in religious bile
Johann Hari has, as usual, captured the essence of a thorny problem ("Peace in Ireland depends on ending the education divide", 13 March). Can I suggest that anyone who disagrees with him makes their way to Glasgow for a Rangers v Celtic match, or spends some time on the various YouTube postings from fans after the match.
Fifty-thousand people in a cauldron of misread history, spite, bile and tunnel vision. Fenian scum and Orange scum, Tim bastards and Proddy dogs are the more polite comments they will hear, alongside songs about the Ibrox disaster or the Irish famine, with a side-dish of praise to the IRA (all varieties) and the UVF. Testimony to the healing power of religious schooling!
No right to keep shaming secrets
Speak for yourself, Mr Richards (Letter, 13th March). We haven't all kept secrets – sexual or otherwise – from our spouses. Max Mosley bleats on about his right to privacy. What about the rights of his then young wife – shouldn't she have had the right to know what she had married ?
He says he was shocked by the story in the News of the World. How does he think his family felt, whichever way they found out? Then again, it is not about them. It's all about "me" with him. He should be thankful he got away with it for so long and just shut up.
The BBC has a new catchphrase for Comic Relief this year: "Do something funny for money." Haven't the bankers and those who run our financial institutions been doing that for decades?
Legal invasion of Iraq
Stephen Jackson says that the invasion of Iraq was illegal and criminal, and the occupation was only retrospectively legitimised by the UN (Letters, 13 March). That is precisely the point. The legitimisation of the occupation by the Security Council, even though retrospective, is good in law. Acting on behalf of all the members of the UN, the Security Council waived the right to invoke the international responsibility of the invaders. The illegality and criminality of the invasion, such as they were, have been extinguished.
Regarding Ed Howker's 9 March column, there is a reason the number of hard-drug addicts in Britain has gone up from 1,000 thirty years ago to 270,000 today. The practice of prescribing pharmaceutical heroin to addicts was standard in England from the 1920s to the 1960s. In response to political pressure from the United States, prescription heroin maintenance was effectively discontinued in 1971. The loss of a controlled distribution system and subsequent creation of an unregulated black market allowed the number of heroin users to skyrocket.
Policy Analyst, Common Sense for Drug Policy, Washington, DC
Stand against litter
A brave article from Terence Blacker ("Nagging litter bugs isn't the answer", 11 March). We all abhor the sight, but somehow don't get round to voicing our opinions. Could we, dare we, take a litter collecting bag out with us and be seen to be doing something about this dreadful problem? Bravo to Mr Blacker for mentioning the word "positive". The litter throwers really do take note when someone is quietly doing their bit.
Bury St Edmunds, suffolk
I suspect Jose Mourinho did not "salute Ferguson in his office", as claimed by the Inter Milan press office (letter, 14 march). The Italian verb salutare, in this context, merely means "say good-bye" or "pay one's respects", though in the circumstances I think Sir Alex did deserve a genuine and obsequious salute.
As this image sparked outcry and thousands signed our petition, we asked David Cameron if Britain can do more to help refugees. His answer? 'We're doing enough'
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Daily catch-up: How much difference does the wording of a referendum question make?
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