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Friday 11 December 2009
Letters: Pope's silence on abuse
The Pope's contemptible silence on child sex abuse
On behalf of all Irish artists – though most have kept their mouths shut – I demand the Irish government expel the papal nuncio and recall the Irish ambassador from the Vatican in order to respect the people of Ireland who are outraged by the contempt displayed by the Vatican for the suffering endured by survivors of clerical abuse and for the people of Ireland in general.
I demand also the Pope himself stand down for his contemptible silence on the matter and his acts of non-co-operation with the inquiry. As you report ("Irish bishop is first to quit over child sex abuse scandal", 8 December), the commission wrote numerous times to the Vatican requesting documents on complaints made. In response the Vatican sent one letter, not to the inquiry, but to the government, saying the inquiry should use diplomatic channels. The inquiry, being independent of the state, and critical of the way both it and the police colluded with the church in cover-ups, would not do so.
Popes have had no problem voicing their opinions when we wanted contraception or divorce. No problem criticising The Da Vinci Code. No problem criticising Naomi Campbell for wearing a bejewelled cross. Yet when it comes to the evils done by paedophiles dressed as priests they are silent. It is grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre and unprecedented. They stand for nothing now but evil.
They have brought Catholicism and the idea of God into disrepute. We need to take back the church which is ours, not theirs. They are not fit to call themselves representatives of Christ. They never believed that God was watching, and they still act as though they don't think God is watching. But every one of them will have to meet their maker in the end, even the Pope himself. And if I were them I would be very afraid.
Bray, Co Wicklow
Darling's kick in the teeth for business
So there we have it, this government's idea of dynamic and aggressive cost-management is to continue to allow public-sector pay to go up while nothing is being done to deal with the escalating cost of public-sector pensions.
I am involved in a number of businesses in the IT sector across the UK; for the past year we have been recruiting at lower rates than previously, and in a number of cases are cutting existing pay by as much as 20 per cent. We have also seen many of our partners either cancel or substantially cut pension schemes, and all in an environment of significant job insecurity.
I have no wish to see people suffer, but it is not realistic to expect a nation to work together when we see a growing divide rewarding the risk-averse. I further find the prospect of a further increase in NI a kick in the teeth when we are desperately trying to keep staff engaged.
So Bob Diamond will be fleeing the country with the imposition of a windfall tax on bankers' bonuses. I wonder what Mrs Diamond thinks of that? Will British bankers' wives and families be prepared to give up their friends, shops, schools and the British way of life for some dreary town like Basel or Frankfurt? Somehow I doubt it.
Thank heavens Alistair Darling is prepared to call the bankers' bluff and ignore the tantrums of people like Mr Diamond.
Mr Darling should have given the banks a choice: a 50 per cent tax on bonuses, or compel the recipients to donate the equivalent amount to charity. It might have sent a signal to bankers, footballers and others that remuneration wildly disproportionate to what the vast majority earn is morally indefensible.
The greed culture that has gripped this country since Reagan and Thatcher made it acceptable needs to be replaced by one of compassion and moderation. The banking scandal has presented the government with an opportunity to effect real social change.
Climate: is there a will to find a way?
Dominic Lawson (8 December) may be correct that carbon trading will not save the planet. But he also fails to provide any alternative solution. He is probably also right that people will refuse to pay taxes to reduce the impact of climate change.
It would appear from his hypothesis that humanity is collectively saying to climate change – bring it on. What a bleak view he holds.
The Government says that we will be allowed to fly even more than we do now, provided that we cut out all CO2 pollution from road transport by moving to electric vehicles powered by non-CO2-emitting electricity-generating sources.
But can someone explain how the millions of people who live in towns and cities and park where they can find a space on the street will be able to charge their electric cars overnight?
Saffron Walden, Essex
There is no further need for scientists to devote any more time to telling us that climate-changing emissions must be reduced to prevent further global damage. They convinced most of us long ago.
Unfortunately, scientists seem to have overlooked the real cause of the trouble. They ought to have been devoting their scientific brains to the design of a scientific scheme for the scientific removal of the inadequate, unscientific, nationalistic leaders who have been putting their national and personal interests before the interests of the planet.
Success or failure in Copenhagen will depend on the amount of political will shown by world leaders – about as easy as getting every person in the world to agree to lose five kilos by Christmas. And even if we get the agreements, will there then be the willpower to keep to them?
If the Government expects me to reduce my energy consumption and my carbon footprint while it goes ahead with another runway at Heathrow airport, they've got another think coming.
With the opening of the new Workington footbridge, following the recent floods, it is to be hoped the local authority will grasp the unique opportunity to study lifestyle change, with car-use still involving a diversion of many miles, while cycling and walking become much more convenient for local journeys.
As the UN seeks to reduce CO2 emissions, could part of the solution lie with the lessons of Workington?
Breastfeeding ban at the panto
Today I tried to book seats to see Aladdin at our local theatre. I explained I had three children aged seven, five and three, and a four-month-old baby. I reassured the lady that the baby would be no trouble as he would either be asleep or breastfeeding.
I was then told that it would not be possible to feed the baby because "there would be schools in". I said: "So schoolchildren might find this offensive"; and missing my irony she agreed, adding you would have to leave the auditorium if you needed to feed the baby.
Given the ages of my children, all of us would have to vacate and surely the attendant noise and disturbance would be more disruptive than me discreetly breastfeeding.
When sex education is about to become compulsory in primary schools, theatres ought to be a little more open-minded. Needless to say I will not be seeing Aladdin but I hope that, to protect everyone's modesty, Widow Twanky keeps her cleavage well covered.
Welton le Marsh, Lincolnshire
In praise of the local bookshop
Liz Hoggard asks us to "Support a local bookshop this Christmas" (8 December). Janet Street-Porter was of a different mind in The Independent on Sunday (29 November), suggesting that people prefer to "pick up a paperback along with the nappies and the vegetables" at the supermarket and are only interested in "a bargain".
I have to agree with Liz Hoggard; Janet Street-Porter should visit her bookshop, or mine. In the independent bookshop in this small market town, the friendly, knowledgeable and endlessly patient owners provide whatever the customer needs: given the slightest clue ("Don't know what it's called, but it's by that woman who..."; "Are there any books on...?"), they will find it; asked for help with a present for Uncle George, who is "interested in steam trains in Lincolnshire" or a grandson "who doesn't like reading", they will give it; if a book isn't on the shelf, they will obtain it within two days; if a book proves to be out of print, they will advise on how it might be found. They price-match with the nearby W H Smith. In addition, there is an unsurpassed range of books of local interest.
Book buyers are discriminating and they love to browse, peruse and discuss. You can't do that online or in a supermarket.
How the internet makes us dumber
I read Johann Hari's criticisms of the internet with interest (8 December). On the whole, the internet has not improved modern life, and has substantially contributed to "dumbing down". I teach English as a foreign language and when I ask students if they like reading, they often reply that there is no need, as they can find all the material they need on the internet.
One of the favourite websites of young people is YouTube. It enables the viewer to look at videos of important contemporary events, such as the Iranian democracy protests. However, YouTube videos are not accompanied with enough information or context. This knowledge can only be found in a newspaper and in the absence of the relevant context, the viewer's understanding of an issue is not enhanced.
Another problem with the internet is the digital divide. Only those with access to a computer and the financial means to open an account can use email, or surf the internet. This disenfranchises billions of people, and concentrates power into the hands of the already powerful.
Blair and the law
Will the new Coroners and Justice Act 2009, which prevents criminals from profiting from their accounts of their crimes, apply to Tony Blair? (Opinion, 10 December)
Rugby in South Africa
When discussing rugby's role in apartheid ("Long road to the big screen", 9 December), it is vital to specify which code of rugby you are talking about. Rugby union was the sport of the white Afrikaner ruling class in South Africa; rugby league had no involvement in this process at all. Indeed, rugby league was effectively outlawed in South Africa during the apartheid period – anybody caught having any involvement with the sport was banned for life from playing rugby union. Using the catch-all term "rugby" means rugby league risks being tainted by association.
Before Gordon Brown pursues further his jibes against the public schools, he would do well to recall that the most successful Labour Prime Minister ever was educated at a public school. Clement Attlee was educated at Haileybury, and many would say he was the most successful peace-time Prime Minister of modern times. He presided over a great reforming government which had three Chancellors of the Exchequer, all of whom went to public school, including one who went to Eton.
A belated reading of Denis Healey's autobiography The Time of M y Life (1989) produces: "Most of the new activities spawned by the financial revolution, such as leveraged buy-outs, assume that all trees grow up to the sky – that there will never be another recession. If the United States does have a recession, even one as modest as in the Carter years, its whole financial system could collapse like a pack of cards." We should have paid more attention to him and less time mocking his eyebrows.
Eric Pickles stated, of Lord Ashcroft, "So far as I know, he has fulfilled all of his obligations". Obviously he would have been equally truthful if he had stated "So far as I know, he has not fulfilled all of his obligations."
General election live: Union bosses tell Miliband to shut out Tories with Lib Dem deal
Sorry Britain, but nobody cares about your little election – try being relevant next time
China is forcing Muslim shop owners to sell alcohol and cigarettes to 'weaken' Islam
General Election 2015: Footage emerges of awkward teen 'Ted Miliband' leading Oxford student protest
General election: Ukip member tells voter trying to confront Nigel Farage: 'This isn't about you'
General Election 2015: Council letter encouraging tenants to move from London to Birmingham accused of 'social cleansing'
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