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Wednesday 29 February 2012
Letters: Press and bankers still don't get it
The latest allegations of a culture of corruption within The Sun newspaper, set against the wave of outrage from Sun supporters at the arrests of reporters, further indicates that they still do not get it. But the tabloid press is not alone in not getting it. The investment bankers' continuing to devise schemes to deliver exorbitant bonuses and banks' setting up of aggressive tax avoidance schemes demonstrate that they are still living in an alternative universe.
How have all these journalists, senior banking and corporate executives acted in ways that are so wrong? We know that in "closed" communities abnormal behaviour often becomes acceptable, with the resulting scandals from prisons and care homes to the Houses of Parliament. In each case the countermeasure has been some form of effective independent scrutiny.
In many ways boardrooms and newspaper offices are similar to these closed communities. So to protect themselves from themselves there will have to be some form of effective independent scrutiny, such as employee representatives on boardroom pay committees and a truly independent press complaints and standards commission with real teeth. Otherwise they will continue to just not get it.
Kingston upon Thames
The hacking scandal is proving something of an income stream for "resting" celebrities. It's as cathartic as Big Brother, and it's possibly all a significant minority of them will ultimately be famous for.
The biggest scandal is not that the hacking occurred, it is that this has become the ultimate "media" story, that I believe (by now at any rate), only journalists are interested in. The Dowler family were disgracefully treated and deserve their grovelling apologies from Murdoch. I'm not sure the lives of celebrities have been similarly effected, and the repeated and continued portrayal of celebrity angst, while an invasion of privacy admittedly, was not even interesting in the first place.
Scotland Yard's investigation into Rupert Murdoch's newspapers should include a full investigation across all of his other media assets, including his television channels. People have lost confidence in the integrity of British news media – and that of the police authorities. Trust in both these institutions must be restored, whatever the cost.
On the way to a new genetic feudalism
I strongly disagree with Dominic Lawson's assertion that it is "a bit puzzling that those who are pro-choice should suddenly be worried about sex-selective abortions" (Opinion, 28 February). Speaking as someone who strongly supports the right to an abortion, I am appalled by the notion that abortions have been allowed on the basis of the foetus's gender.
The vast majority of the public support abortion on the basis that if the mother's wellbeing would be threatened allowing the foetus (a small collection of cells which have the potential to become a human being) to become a child, or if the would-be-parents cannot ensure the right conditions for the wellbeing of the child, it would be immoral to force the creation of the child.
The gender of the child is irrelevant to these criteria. Just because parents would prefer one gender over another, there is no valid reason to prevent a child of another gender from existing. I am beginning to sound alarmingly like a "pro-life" activist. So allow me the present a second reason why this is ethically wrong.
Already, scientists have developed the capacity to engineer embryos with certain traits such as eye colour, hair colour and gender predetermined. Once the principle of deciding aspects of a child's genetics have become entrenched, starting with gender, it becomes socially acceptable to decide any genetic traits of a foetus.
Scientists agree that before long, intelligence, height and a mind-boggling collection of characteristics can be predetermined. When the rich can ensure that they have tall, intelligent and strong children, then we are on the road towards a genetic elite to permanently entrench the political, business and cultural ones. This form of eugenics via the back door could create a feudalistic system in an alarmingly short time.
Jack H G Darrant
While, superficially, there appears to be inconsistency, even hypocrisy, in the criticism of women seeking abortions for sex-selection purposes, where the context is of acceptance of abortion carried out for other reasons, the point is that to allow abortion for sex-selection condones and perpetuates an unacceptable cultural practice.
We were not initially told if the women obtaining such abortions were Asian, but many have made that assumption. If this is correct then it highlights an intolerable tradition which must be stopped. In answer to Dominic Lawson, there is a difference between abortions required for personal reasons and those forced on women because their cultures place greater value on boy than on girl babies.
Dominic Lawson's article on abortion is a masterpiece of inconsistency. First he accepts that the legal requirement for abortion is danger to the mother's health. Then he proceeds as if it is simply a matter of personal preference. In other words, he argues, if a mother can ask for an abortion on any grounds why should not these include sex selection?
Without a health risk, sex selection is objectionable on social grounds. We have an increasing immigrant population. Do we wish to import the gross demographic imbalances already found in India and China?
Christians opposing early abortion should reflect that in the New Testament a person is said to comprise spirit (the subconscious), soul (the conscious mind), and body. Does a 12-week foetus possess these?
Halifax, West Yorkshire
Iranians are people too
Thank you for bringing some sanity into the reporting on Iran ("See this film and then say that bombing Iran is OK", 28 February).
I spent a very happy year in pre-revolutionary Iran. I did not dwell in the expat community or with the friends of the Shah. I was the only Englishman living and working in a suburb of a small town in northern Iran.
I travelled all over Iran on public transport and had a wide circle of contacts from all sections of the community. Throughout the year I was met with unfailing friendliness and hospitality by all. Yes, the women did dress modestly in public but away from the street, they and their menfolk were as intelligent and articulate as you would find in any comparable community in the West.
Yes, some strong religious views were evident, but the extreme mullahs did not have the power over the community that they appear to have today. I know that the people have not changed that much in the intervening years and I am grateful to you for drawing attention to that truth.
Barry Barber is right wonder "why our countrymen are being 'extradited' to the US for a dubious trial" (letter, 28 February). Christopher Tappin would most likely be made a peer if he had sold weapons to Saudi Arabia, where opposition parties are non-existent and women are stoned to death for committing adultery. But he is being extradited to the US for his alleged role in selling some useless equipment to Iran, the only Middle Eastern Muslim country with a functional democracy. In other words, Christopher Tappin is collateral damage in the phoney war with Iran.
Energy companies deserve a profit
Martin James McCleary's complaint (letter, 20 February) that energy company shareholders do not deserve to get an "adequate return" is naive. The most obvious flaw in his argument is, what is the alternative to privatisation?
If the Government were to invest in energy this would require more debt (that we can't afford) that would still require an adequate return. There might be a small saving of a percentage point or two on the required interest rate – but this would be massively offset by the inefficiency of state-run institutions such as the old Central Electricity Generating Board.
In any case, his attack on shareholder returns is antiquated and dangerous. Those of us with a defined contribution benefits pension scheme expect our pension fund managers to obtain shareholder returns for us so we can afford to buy the energy we need in old age.
It shouldn't be the energy companies' job to subsidise the power – that is what we expect the Government to do. Energy companies are an easy scapegoat for failed social policy.
Time to make the unpopular move
"Lords reform is a fight that Nick Clegg can never win," says Mary Ann Sieghart's article on 27 February. We shall see about that, but I remain disappointed that eminent journalists do not understand that occasionally parties do things because they are right, not because they are popular.
Nobody denies that House of Lords reform has been becoming increasingly urgent for the past century, but until now nobody has done anything about making it more democratic. If not now then when, and if not the Lib Dems then who?
A study in confusion
The Coalition Government is continuing to make it up as it goes along. The current squeeze on English universities' student numbers – a result of over-recruitment last year as institutions responded to demand from students trying to beat the fees hike – means that student transfers between English universities are now severely restricted.
The flexibility afforded by transfers – enabling students to continue their studies at a different institution – was an important element of one of the Government's key aims, to tackle the problem of student drop-out from higher education.
Dr John Shand (letter, 23 February) is under an illusion that dolphins and whales are party to our human systems of jurisdiction. They are not: and of course we are not subject to the jurisdiction of dolphins and whales. There is, however, a universal law which is to "endeavour to treat others as we would like to be treated". In this respect, we murder them and pollute their living environment while they do their level best to be helpful and friendly to us.
Hinton St George, Somerset
Your article about the European far right uniting its forces (27 February) is alarming. What's more alarming is when the mainstream media gives them airtime to spread their hatred. Not long ago, Jeremy Paxman interviewed the leader of the far-right EDL on Newsnight. Some irresponsible media coverage is partly to blame for the rise of the far right and it has to be challenged.
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