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Monday 6 April 2009
Letters: Police treatment of climate campers
How we rescued our daughter from the police
Thankyou to Deborah Orr (2 April) for highlighting the treatment meted out to the climate campers in Bishopsgate in the City of London on Wednesday. Our 18-year-old daughter went to join them with some other first-years from Manchester University.
They deliberately avoided getting close to violent behaviour from both protesters and police, yet, when they attempted to come home for tea, at 7.30pm, they were told by police they would have to stay for a further two hours. At 9.30 and 10.30, they were still being kept captive.
By 11pm, we decided that we should drive to the City to rescue them, as there was no knowing when they would be released and whether there would be transport from the city at that time, which, anyway, was very late for a young woman to be coming home alone. Luckily we both went, as the policeman guarding the roadblock told us that our car would be towed away if we left it to walk to the police barricade to try to persuade them to release her. After about 30 minutes, with the aid of an A-Z and mobile phones, we found her and her friend, who was able to catch the last train to Kingston thanks to a lift to Waterloo.
What else could this have been, but a warning to our young people not to try to join protests about the future of their planet, however peaceful? You can imagine that we might worry about her doing it again.
Blatant greed over MPs' expenses
If Geoff Hoon had stumbled thoughtlessly into claiming costs for a constituency home, while receiving free accommodation as Defence Secretary and renting out his other home in London, I would have sighed at his incompetence and expected his resignation.
But it appears that he went into this greedy arrangement with his eyes wide open. It was deliberate. Blatant. His spokeswoman has said: "He took advice from the fees office and all his claims were within the rules."
That leaves a really nasty taste in the mouth.
Taxes have risen by a large amount since Labour came to power. The Government has made the case that this has been necessary to improve public services, and many have supported them in this.
What is now becoming apparent is that MPs have insulated themselves against these tax rises through their expense claims. I would be interested to know Jacqui Smith's or Geoff Hoon's effective tax rate if you subtract the money they have claimed for their "second" homes. It'll be a lot less than the average taxpayer, I'm sure.
In papal Rome during the Renaissance, when an election occurred, the College of Cardinals invariably elected an old buffer to the throne of St Peter on the basis that he would not occupy that place for too long. This was accepting the fact that, once elected, popes bankrolled their families by building palaces in the city, creating fiefdoms from papal lands, giving relatives positions in the papal court and so on. No one, of course, wanted any individual to be in such a position for very long.
Mistakes did occur. One notable old buffer, Paul III (Farnese) reigned for 15 years (1534-49), creating the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza for his family, building the enormous Palazzo Farnese (now the French embassy), and amassing a large collection of art and antiquities (now largely in Naples).
Labour ministers now appear to accept the same principle. Parliaments are elected for five years and during these periods they seem determined to enrich themselves as much as possible.
In the spirit of all the public money-grubbing, I'm considering offering my portfolio of assorted local and national votes for sale to the highest bidder. I don't think that there is anything wrong in doing so, but, if there is, I apologise in advance and will ensure it never happens again.
St Ola, Orkney
With the daily exposures of MPs and their expenses, is it time for them to stop addressing each other as Honourable and Right Honourable. Their behaviour is very far from being honourable.
G20 triumph for Brown? Not here
Here in France there is a clear, but different, view of the G20 summit, according to which two important things happened. First, Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy forced the Americans and the British, who caused the crisis in the first place, to promise much tougher future regulation of their banks and financial services. Second, Presidents Obama and Medvedev agreed to hold talks about reductions in their nuclear arsenals.
Gordon Brown's role was to organise transport, catering and security, and to act as toastmaster.
One thing is clear from the G20 meeting. The banks and the investors have plundered the people big-time. The British and American governments have renewed their determination to fine the public for disasters occasioned by the politicians and banks. News coverage has attained new heights of euphoria and hyped hope ("Not a grand bargain, but a step towards recovery", editorial, 3 April ).
Moreover, governments continue to act like flesh-flies around the bloated corpses of banks instead of becoming the real deal – the burying beetle – and finishing them off in their present form. Small businesses die by the hundreds weekly and jobs seep away everywhere.
I have been trying to imagine how big the $1trn (£681bn) deal to support the world economies is in terms of money us non-bankers can understand.
A typical lottery jackpot win is about £3m, so how many weeks would you have to win the lottery to win £681bn? The answer is that if you started winning it every week from when Julius Caesar invaded Britain in 55BC you would still not even be half way to £1trn. To have won a total of $1trn you would have had to start winning every week from when Stonehenge was built at the end of the Neolithic age, about 4,300 years ago.
Perhaps it was built with an early lottery grant?
Thank you for the detailed coverage of the G20 and Nato meetings and their trappings. But having seen several stories about the fashions of Mrs Obama, I'm still awaiting similar coverage concerning the clothes of the President and his summit colleagues.
What is the modern male state leader wearing; why; how does it fit; where can I get copies; which statements does his colour of tie convey; who is his designer; does it hug his figure in the right way; how can you avoid crinkling your suit in a strange way while waving to the crowds?.
Close the railways on weekdays
Your report (4 April) on the proposed Easter close-downs of the railway system echoes a view of mine. It has long been apparent that there is a railway mindset that travel over the weekends or holidays is discretionary and unimportant, and can thus be disrupted with the necessary engineering works, while weekday travel is too important to be so interrupted.
In fact the reverse is the case. I am an IT trainer, who has to regularly travel (by rail) to deliver on-site training. If there were engineering works on the line, I would be easily able to rearrange the training for another day. Easter cannot be rearranged. If someone wants to visit a friend or relative over that period, they must do so then. If the trains are not running (even if only in part), they will not use them.
With the obvious exception of intensive commuter lines, it has long been obvious to me that engineering works are best, and with least inconvenience, carried out mid-week.
Too many African orphans to adopt
Sam Akaki (Letters, 2 April) criticises Save the Children's work in Africa on the grounds that, even if the orphans it supports live to the age of 10, they will still face terrible conditions, and praises Madonna's adoptions.
But he misses the point completely: these adoptions have absolutely no chance of solving the enormous problem of orphaned children, simply because there are so many of them: 12 million in Sub-Saharan Africa alone and over a million in Malawi, the country where Madonna goes fishing for orphans to adopt. It's going to take rather more than a few celebrity adoptions to tackle this problem. Instead, Save the Children (with which I have no connection although I have worked on similar problems to those it is involved with) seeks to promote wider reform, tackling the root causes of the problem rather than picking away at the symptoms.
Madonna should go to one of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa where the practice of female genital mutilation is rife; Somalia would be a good choice. I would like her to scoop up armfuls of small girls who face this horrifically painful and damaging ritual, and rescue them.
Not only would her actions save those girls from a lifetime of anguish and ill-health, but also it would draw to the world's attention an outrage which simply must not be allowed to continue.
Read the treaty, and give us a vote
I was shocked by the revelation that the Europe minister, Caroline Flint, has not read the whole of the EU Lisbon Treaty ("Treaty too much to read", 1 April) . It is deeply worrying that the minister responsible for EU affairs has not even read – let alone tried to understand – the most important document to come out of the EU in years, and one which will have profound consequences for Europe and the UK's place in it. She should know it like the back of her hand.
When the Government reneged on its promise to hold a national referendum on the Treaty last year, it argued over and over that "politicians know best" on the big issues such as EU treaty change. Caroline Flint's admission shows that this argument is well and truly defunct. The Government should give the people the say they were promised on this treaty, before it's too late.
Director, Open Europe, London SW1
Come back, Dubya
I miss George W Bush and his use of the English language and extensive vocabulary. He was always calm and poised and confirmed the image of Texans as projected by the TV programme Dallas. Obama is boring by comparison.
George D Lewis
Licence to bill
My wife pays for two TV licences by standing order, one for our house in Somerset and one for our flat in London. Returning from Australia last week, she discovered two letters from the TV licensing company, one saying that our London flat is unlicensed and the other stating that our details had been passed to the enforcement division for investigation. Jon Snow says TV Licensing write "only to unlicensed addresses" (letters 2 April). Are we the exception that proves the rule?
Demeaned by porn
Howard Jacobson declares that "no wife is demeaned" if her husband views pornography (4 April). My husband regularly accesses internet porn when I am in bed, or away on business. He refuses to give it up. Having seen a sample of what he is viewing, I do feel demeaned – and hurt, humiliated, angry and rejected. Conversations with female friends suggest that I am not alone. Marriage vows extend beyond the physical act of adultery; in his nightly gawpings I feel my husband has betrayed me as much as if he were having sex with his secretary.
Name and address supplied
How to say No
Rowan Pelling writes: "When a lady says no, she means maybe; when a lady says maybe she means yes; and when a lady says yes, she's no lady" (Opinion, 3 April). Could you please clarify to me whether your paper as a whole supports rape and believes it should be legalised, or whether there is some other expression outside the Yes-No-Maybe range which a "lady" can use when she doesn't want to have sex with the person inquiring?
Hugh Jenkins should take more care when lambasting "fecund heterosexuals" (letter, 3 April); remembering that it is to two such reprobates that he owes his existence,
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