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Tuesday 22 August 2006
Letters: Racist 'profiling'
Bigots on Malaga flight show the racist face of 'profiling'
Sir: Last Wednesday Metropolitan Police Chief Superintendent Ali Dizaei was widely condemned for arguing against "passenger profiling" in airport security procedures. He correctly identified "profiling" as an inherently racist measure which would introduce a "brand new offence - travelling whilst Asian".
It now emerges that even as he spoke, some passengers on a Monarch aircraft from Malaga to Manchester were implementing this new offence under their own steam. This loathsome band of bigots found the presence of two Asian travellers to be so objectionable that they demanded their removal from the flight. What had these two men done to cause such anxiety to their fellow passengers? They kept checking their watches, looking at their shoes, and speaking in a non-English language. It's clear however, that their greatest "offence" was that they were both in the possession of brown skins.
The two men were marched from the plane by Spanish police, detained and only allowed on their way - on a different plane - once their total innocence had been established. All involved in the humiliation of these two men should be disgusted with themselves.
This nasty racist incident totally vindicates Superintendent Dizaei. It also exposes how, fuelled by media racism and New Labour populism, the "war on terror" has become a war on Muslims in particular and Asians in general.
Sir: On the screening of air passengers, Johann Hari (Opinion, 21 August) says we are all safer in the long term if an elderly Chinese woman is screened "with the same vigour as a young Asian man".
Comprehensively screening every passenger on every flight would take up a huge amount of time and cause severe damage to the travel and leisure industries. However, in-depth screening of a random 1 in 10 would have a 90 percent chance of failing, so some kind of passenger profiling is inevitable.
Not all suicide bombers are Asian. What the suicide bombers do seem to have in common, though, is that they are (a) young, (b) male and (c) Muslim. If Johann Hari is prepared to allow some reduction in the number of passengers being comprehensively screened, but without causing offence to the Muslim community, how about focusing on all young men, regardless of race or religious belief?
This would no doubt mean that for a few years Mr Hari himself would have to submit to a comprehensive screening every time he travelled by air, but this is presumably a price he would be happy to pay.
Laws of cricket need an update
Sir: Will somebody please take James Lawton aside and talk to him quietly. I was at the Oval on Sunday, a guest in the Committee Room, and saw the reaction of senior people from Surrey and the ECB. They were serious, responsible and unpompous. A Pakistani cabinet minister went off to quietly persuade the Pakistani team to call their protest off. The umpire frustrated this achievement by pleading his supreme power, reviving the quarrel and replacing it (and the brilliant cricket we had been enjoying) with a sulk of his own.
Photographic evidence now regularly shows the fallibility of football referees. But, unlike football referees, umpires have time to look at evidence. Without looking further, Hair made a binding decision on a ball 56 overs old, lately knocked all over the shop by the likes of Kevin Pietersen. SKY TV, searching their frames for the relevant period, have found nobody damaging the ball. The umpire should have asked for the TV frames and postponed an opinion until he had seen them.
James Lawton's pulpit approach to sport (which in Monday's piece inexcusably conflated this little spat with drug-taking athletes) demands instant compliance. On Sunday, that meant accepting a snap decision made in defiance of natural justice. Such thick-headed imperiousness, not moral rottenness, constitutes the real problem. A simple bringing of the game's laws into sync with technology will sort things out. Cricket will carry on. So alas, will your sportswriter from the End of the World.
THORMANBY, NORTH YORKSHIRE
Sir: The way that Pakistan brought shame on the game of cricket by their petulance at The Oval is a disgrace. Whatever their grievances with the umpire's decision, to refuse to come out and play is a stain on this wonderful game. The Pakistani team should have waited until after play and expressed their dismay via proper channels. Instead they chose to deny more than twenty thousand cricket fans the play they had paid for.
The excuse that they were making their protest by delaying play for a few minutes after tea does not wash. Whether they delayed play by 20 seconds or 20 minutes it does not matter, they still stepped outside the rules and spirit of the game.
Every player who represents their country at cricket is a custodian of the game. It would be a shame if all the blame was shifted to Umpire Hair, allowing the Pakistan team to get away with their shocking behaviour.
Sir: England and Pakistan should play an extra one-day international before the start of the scheduled series. If possible the game should be played at The Oval. People who hold tickets for the aborted fifth day of the last Test should be able to use their tickets at the one-day game rather than claiming and getting a refund.
SIR PHILIP GOODHART
Sir: What is so awful about the current situation is that we are almost compelled to see the cricketing farce in terms of the so-called war on terror. This slur on the honour of the Pakistani players will be viewed as one further expression of prejudice against the Asian/Muslim men.
We are in a very dark place and terrorism is not solely responsible. Once again our reactions to it are causing for more damage than any terrorist bomb can cause. We have to stop this.
Good A-levels, but a poor education
Sir: I imagine my education would be considered good. I won a scholarship (albeit the smallest one) to my secondary school, and I got what was once called a "good" 2:1 from Cambridge.
In the Sixties admissions tutors were helped by the existence of S-levels ( a completely different paper to the A-levels); and for Oxbridge at least, an additional entrance exam in the autumn term after A-level results.
There were no league tables. My school, along with others, measured its success by having an unbeaten rugby and cricket team, an eight in the finals of the Princess Elizabeth Cup at Henley, perhaps the quality of the odd school play or concert, and the number of scholarships and exhibitions they got to Oxbridge.
In retrospect, I do not think I had a proper education. I took my O-levels at the end of my first year, aged 14; my A-levels when I was 16; and then spent a further year doing S-levels. I had been marked out as a potential history scholar at 14 and so, at that age, my broader education effectively ended.
History, at least, involved some foreign languages. (An ex-tutor at Cambridge recently told me that they no longer expect any students to come up with any ability to read texts in the original languages.) I found out later in life that I am not bad at maths, and I now read what bookshops call "popular" science. Whether or not more schools adopt the International Baccalaureate, isn't the study of nine or 10 subjects up to the age of 16 a better education in the broader sense than the one I received?
Sir: I believe I have a solution to the perennial problem of A-level grade inflation. The Government is talking of introducing a new A* "supergrade" to distinguish the top 10 per cent of recipients of the ubiquitous grade A. The logical response would be to ration the number of A grades by reverting to pre-1984 norm referencing, but in this day and age it is politically incorrect to deprive a pupil of some form of grade A.
So why not take this farce to its logical conclusion by abolishing the current B, C, D and E grades and replacing them across the board with grade A. A specific number of stars placed behind the A could then be used to distinguish between candidates on a sliding scale from A****, A***, A** and A* down the lowly A.
The proportion of students awarded top grades could then be reduced from the present 24 per cent to a more realistic 10 per cent without causing any offence to the academically challenged, who as "straight A students" would be jumping for joy. So what if their A* and A grades are equivalent to the old D and E? On paper they managed to get an A of some description - that's what counts.
J C JEFFERSON
Eagles killed by wind turbines
Sir: Donald McDonald is sadly misinformed if he believes that wind-turbine blades pose no threat to birds (Letters, 15 August). He cites Scandinavian surveys as having demonstrated that birds can readily detect obstructions.
The Norwegian government ignored warnings of the consequences for wildlife when a windfarm was built on the Smola archipelago, approximately 20km off the coast of Norway. These islands were a former stronghold of the white-tailed eagle. Turbine blades have killed nine eagles at this site in the past 10 months, including all three chicks that fledged last year.
The RSPB, while supporting sensitively located windfarms, has serious concerns about the impact of the proposed Lewis windfarm.
TIBTHORPE, EAST YORKSHIRE
Mayor's appeal to cyclists
Sir: Ken Livingstone (letter, 17 August) identifies the need for improved observation of traffic rules by both cyclists and drivers, and rightly highlights the prime importance of consideration for pedestrians, but while he calls on the support of cyclists to improve the behaviour of others he does not make the same request of drivers.
It is commendable that the Mayor has higher expectations of cycle users, but should we not have similarly high expectations of all road users? What London needs is improved conditions for cyclists on the roads and widespread promotion of cycle training to National Standards, particularly in schools.
CHIEF EXECUTIVE, LONDON CYCLING CAMPAIGN, LONDON SE1
Newly arrived NHS scroungers
Sir: I would just like to show my support for the hard-working Terry Duncan (letter, 19 August) who, like his father, has worked for many years paying taxes and National Insurance, only to find immigrants coming into the country and using our health services without having contributed a penny.
I would also like to point out that it is a disgrace that so many premature babies should be given free access to life-support at our hospitals when they haven't contributed anything to society. Or perhaps the care and support is given on the premise that they will be contributing to our society at a later date; it may not be equal, Mr Duncan, but I can assure you it is fair.
Unfair attacks on Cooper Brown
Sir: I write to express my relief that your paper has not seen fit to indulge those waging a vitriolic campaign against Mr Cooper Brown in these pages. Admittedly, I missed his first few columns and I'm unclear on the circumstances of his (perhaps unseemly) attack on a member of the British nobility.
However, I am finding his writing style energetic and refreshing and his vast ego entertaining. I look forward to the next instalment, and wish him luck with his plan to infiltrate the nobility he slaps about with such reckless abandon. Long may he stay!
Sir: I love Cooper Brown because this obvious fake is winding up so many people. I suspect the column is written by the editor after he has had a few with a view to lightening up the letters page. Very successful.
SOUTH NUTFIELD, SURREY
Sir: "Religion has been a highly useful force - otherwise it would have died out." Thus Robert Winston, quoted in Pandora (21 August). The influenza virus has not died out; does that prove that it has been a highly useful force? If so, useful to whom or what? I would ask the same question about religion.
Fate of the Canaanites
Sir: Alex Swanson (letter, 17 August) writes, of Palestine, that the Jews were originally there first. Not according to the Bible. Joshua, Moses' successor, slaughtered the Canaanites who inconveniently lived there, starting with the city of Jericho - "and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it - men, women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys" (Joshua 6.20-21).
ROTHERHAM, SOUTH YORKSHIRE
Sons of Iowa
Sir: I was most impressed by the obituary of James Van Allen (18 August), but I take issue with the statement that he was the most famous Iowan. As all Trekkies know, that title is actually held by Captain Kirk, as stated in reply to the question of whether he was from outer space: "I'm from Iowa, I only work in outer space."
Tax punishes good luck
Sir: Did I read correctly? Stephen Byers tells us that inheritance tax is a penalty on hard work, thrift and enterprise: witness the number of people now being being pushed into the inheritance tax bracket as a result of ... er ... soaring house prices. What? Since when have soaring house prices demonstrated home owners' hard work, thrift and enterprise?
Heavier than air
Sir: As an incentive to losing weight, couldn't the airlines start charging passengers according to their all-up weight: baggage and passenger total. Why should a light-weight teenager have to pay the say as someone who is two or three times their weight?
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