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Monday 16 February 2009
Letters: Reform of the banking system
Reform iniquitous banking system and help the poor
Lord Stevenson of Coddenham, former chairman HBOS; Andy Hornby, former CEO HBOS, Sir Tom McKillop, former chairman of RBS and Sir Fred Goodwin, former CEO RBS. All are extremely sorry but still seem to be missing the point (10 February). Their shortcoming, as they see it, was in not predicting the arrival time, or the depth of the banking slowdown.
But surely their shortcoming was in growing their banks as quickly as possible on a diet of escalating debt. We all know what that means. We've all been the target of ridiculous offers of outlandish personal debt. Their business acumen has been based on exploiting the poor, the greedy and the vulnerable. It is iniquitous.
I have just attended a lobbying group looking for ways to promote micro-enterprise. Agencies like the Nobel Peace prize-winning Grameen Bank offer tiny loans to the extremely poor. But here's the trick: the interest rates are affordable, even by people who run a family with less than $2 a day. And the loans are used for business development, growing the real wealth of the family, and benefitting the wider community beyond.
We worry about growth being sustainable. Let's focus on the very poor, who have a long way to go, and let's concentrate on slow but genuine growth of wealth, of useful goods and services, of social wellbeing. Maybe human compassion and economic growth can be made to get on with each other.
It is unfair to suggest that politicians are failing to think about the long-term consequences of allowing the corporate bonus culture to continue. Many of these politicians will find themselves on the boards of major companies in future. They are definitely thinking about the long term.
Who will care for vulnerable baby?
Your report on Alfie Patten, Chantelle Stedman and their new little baby (14 February) leaves the most important question unanswered. Who has legal guardianship of this child? Alfie and Chantelle are themselves children, entitled to the guidance and protection of a parent or guardian of their own.
In cases where both parents are under 16, an alternative guardian needs to be sought. If a grandparent or other relative or family friend steps up and is a suitable carer, then that is the best solution. If not, then the state needs to assume guardianship of the child and give the mother the choice of giving the baby up for adoption or moving to a home for teen mothers until she reaches adulthood. If she chooses the latter, she can be given support and guidance in learning to be a parent and will hopefully be a better one for it when she leaves.
These may seem harsh choices, but the baby is not responsible for everyone else's mistakes and is by far the most vulnerable party in the whole situation.
Ellen M Purton
The story of Alfie Patten, Chantelle Stedman and their baby Maisie Roxanne has been used to stage a freak show, allegedly for monetary gain, and to sell newspapers. This, in my opinion, is a form of child abuse.
Is this story so different from that of Karen Matthews, who staged her daughter's kidnap so she could sell the story later for monetary gain? Deborah Orr (14 February) says that our society has "collectively lost the moral plot". We could start to make amends by recognising that what has happened is a form of child abuse and holding to account those who allowed it to happen: the parents and representatives of The Sun.
Hassocks, West Sussex
I am truly shocked at the decision by yourselves, The Sun newspaper, and other news media to publish the names of all those involved in the story of the baby born to a 13-year-old boy and his 15-year-old girlfriend. The Code of Practice for Journalists states that the press "must not, even if legally free to do so, identify children under 16 who are victims or witnesses in cases involving sex offences".
The police may have decided not to prosecute in this case, but surely the baby born to these two chronically vulnerable children is the victim of a sex offence and as such should not have been identified? Is it not the height of irresponsibility to reveal the identities of these three pathetic victims? How is the public interest served by so doing?
Askrigg, North Yorkshire
Drug debate stifled by moral outrage
Once again the Government has decided to ignore its scientific advisers to pander to outdated ideas about the risks of drugs (report, 11 February). Policy-makers have been for years scared of being labelled "soft" on drugs and so have built and maintained a system of classification based entirely on public perceptions of which drugs are dangerous.
The system needs an overhaul and the first step is education. Instead of demonising all drugs the public need to be informed of their relative risks (and indeed, how they compare to horse-riding). In the current system we are informed that ecstasy ranks in the same category as heroin and crack when in fact numerous scientific papers have put the danger of its usage to individuals and society as below that of alcohol. The only risks associated with ecstasy use that are the same as heroin are the potentially life-ruining criminal record that will haunt many of its users for the rest of their lives thanks to our prohibition policy.
If the public is effectively educated then the policy-makers will not be as restrained by the moral outrage stoked by sections of the press.
Professor David Nutt's comparison of horse-riding to taking ecstasy is bizarre. When someone seeks a thrill through increasing the amount of the pleasure-giving substance dopamine in the brain by horse-riding, rugby, any other activity which carries risk, or even jogging, the brain is still very much in control. This is a natural "high".
This is a world away from stuffing the brain with chemicals legal or illegal, to gain the same effect. In this case the brain has lost control and the results can be decidedly unpredictable. Addiction, mental illness, even death can be the consequence.
Efficacy of the press watchdog
Helena Kennedy's accusation (letter, 14 February) that the Press Complaints Commission has shown "continued unwillingness to answer the substantive questions" posed by the Media Standards Trust is one of the most peculiar criticisms I have ever encountered. She must know that the reason that we have not been able to engage with the Trust is that it sprung its report about press self-regulation on to an unsuspecting world last Monday – having at no stage put any questions to us whatsoever. Had it done so, we would have been able to answer all of the specific queries that she raised in her letter to you, which would have assisted in the accuracy of their report and reassured them about the rigour of our procedures.
But even using public sources, the Media Standards Trust (a privately funded body whose members are self-selecting) could have rapidly established that the PCC Chairman commented trenchantly on the McCann case; that the PCC can indeed take third-party cases; and that the PCC has made numerous public statements over the years about the developing privacy law.
Given this failure to carry out the most elementary research, one has to question the credibility, integrity – and charitable status – of this curious pressure group.
Director, Press Complaints Commission,London EC1
BBC's children's services doing well
You report ("Watch with mother", 11 February) that the BBC's services for children, CBBC and CBeebies, are "in crisis".
Not according to the BBC Trust, who last week published their report of these services based on an examination of our programmes, our editorial strategy and, crucially, the views of the children we seek to serve.
The Trust's findings are that CBBC and CBeebies are at the heart of the BBC's public-service remit. That both services are performing very well; they are loved by children and deliver good value for money. Both services are popular, matching or exceeding their commercial rivals in share and reach. They also concluded that the programmes and websites scored well on the core public-service criteria of being innovative, distinctive and challenging.
Yes, they identified some recommendations to strengthen further the BBC's service for children, and we will be responding to them in due course.
Controller, BBC Children's,
The genius of Damien Hirst
In the past Damien Hirst has described himself thus: "I'm a punk at heart". I think Hirst's attitude, revealed most recently over his need to sue a 16-year-old schoolboy (report, 13 February), exposes him as a product of the Thatcher generation and New Romanticism, rather than being the son of any punk ethic. Isn't it time that we recognise that, although undoubted geniuses, the talents of the YBAs lie in the world of finance, marketing, and now law. Not rebellion, punk and art.
Last year, I made a small artwork as a direct homage to Damien Hirst's For the Love of God skull. Being an art student, I couldn't afford diamonds and a human skull, so I improvised with a sheep skull, chrome paint and fine glitter. I titled the piece For the Love of Damien Hirst, photographed it, and sent a copy to Damien Hirst.
Almost by return I was sent a charming note from Hirst, on his company notepaper, wishing me well and saying the piece was "awesome"!
You could say that's different to using his actual copyrighted image of the diamond skull, but it shows his great sense of humour and flexibility. Plus, any artist that takes the time to write to students is worth their weight in gold...or diamonds perhaps.
UCA Canterbury, Kent
I do hope I'm not the only person who sees the irony of sending a member of the Royal Family on an Equality Awareness course (report, 12 February).
I was reading Terence Blacker's "Count me out of the white horse fan club" (13 Friday), when my eyes were drawn to a rather beautiful and graceful structure to the left of the montage of Wallinger's white horse. I then put my glasses on to find that what I had thought was another but hitherto ignored sculpture, was in fact an electricity pylon. I think the pylon is the better piece of the two, being the perfect synergy of form and function and is not trying to be something it isn't. Thank you, Mssrs Rodchenko and Popova.
In his interview with Brian Viner (13 February), Frank Warren reveals much about himself when he criticises Joe Calzaghe's "50/50" deals to fight boxing legends Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones. Calzaghe was already rich enough and did these deals to get the recognition and glory that he felt had been missing from his career. But Warren can see only the money angle.
Darwin and religion
Given the current debate about Charles Darwin's attitude to the Christian faith it is worth noting that in 1872 (13 years after the Origin of Species) he gladly accepted honorary membership of the Anglican South American Missionary Society, because he was so impressed with their work. In reply to their invitation, he wrote: "I shall feel proud if your committee think fit to elect me an honorary member of your society."
Canon Emeritus of York Minster
The Prime Minister's statement that he knew nothing of the FSA's concerns about HBOS is doubtless true, but raises in its turn great doubts about the value of the FSA. What is the use of such warnings if they are not conveyed to the Chancellor?
The Lakeland village of Glenridding has a roadside fountain proclaiming "St Patrick's Well". I'm always heartened by this. Something in the water, perhaps?
Safety risk as councils dim or switch off a quarter of street lights
Open The Door To Your Heart by Darrell Banks: 'Holy grail' Northern Soul single sells for £14,543
Genome revolution targets treatments for common cancers
Poorest households are the most heavily taxed
Letter from the Political Editor: Mr. Cameron is beginning to earn small victories in Europe
'Use it or lose it' to protect brain from disease: Lifestyle changes earlier in life could save 80,000 a year from dementia, study shows
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