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- Arts + Ents
Saturday 3 November 2007
Letters: Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia must accept its part in fostering anti-Western feeling
Sir: Your front page report (30 October) of King Abdullah's criticisms of the UK's failure to combat terrorism will infuriate hundreds of expats, like me, who happened to be in Saudi Arabia during the bombings following the Gulf crisis of 1990.
Innocent British subjects were accused and held in draconian conditions for something they were not responsible for, one sentenced to death. Others were humiliated and forced to confess in order to deflect the blame from a government totally out of touch with their own angry youth.
Westerners were subjected to verbal abuse and threats that, when reported, went unheeded by the authorities. In my lectures to young nurses about the expected code of behaviour and dress in a strict Islamic country, I was ordered to state that all measures were being taken for the protection of staff at the hospital, when I knew this to be untrue. Our own government seemed unwilling to intervene.
Had the Saudis accepted that they had a terrorist problem then, just maybe, the events of 9/11 and 7/7 would not have taken place, but with their ostrich attitude and an infantile belief that their own people could not commit such atrocities, the real criminals were free to continue a catalogue of terror that extended worldwide.
Saudi Arabia will never admit that they failed to contain the beginnings of anti-Western hatred in their own nationals. No wonder the king is now endeavouring to deflect the blame.
J C Thomas
Sir: N F Parker talking of Saudi Arabia (letter, 1 November) says that beheading is not cruel since they use a very sharp sword. He has seen several, he says – for purely educational purposes, I assume. I suppose he would argue that amputation of hands for thieving is also not cruel, since a scalpel is even sharper than a sword.
He does not mention stoning to death for adultery or apostasy. He says that the absence of churches is simply because all Saudis are Muslims. I guess that there are several reasons for this, such as not allowing churches to be built and not allowing bibles into the country, as well as the risk of being stoned to death if you change your religion.
No shame over death of an innocent man
Sir: So, Sir Ian Blair seems to have set new limits to the reasons for a senior public official to resign: incompetence of literally lethal proportions and managerial incompetence on a monumental scale no longer suffice. One can only assume that being caught with his hand in the petty cash or some minor sexual peccadillo might do the trick – even politicians have resigned for these reasons.
Whatever happened to the notion of taking responsibility for one's failures and incompetence? Or is he totally blind to his responsibilities and lacking in any sense of honour?
Sir: If you are the head of a TV channel that has caused some offence to the Queen by rearranging footage of Her Majesty apparently exhibiting anger when she asserts she had none, you are compelled to resign amid an outpouring of indignation and disgust from the great and the good.
If you are the chief of a police force convicted at the Old Bailey of failing in its duty to ensure the safety of the public by unlawfully shooting an innocent man dead, not only do you not have to resign, but your actions are vigorously defended by the Government, the Mayor of London and your police authority.
How reassuring to know that even in the Britain of 2007, traditional values still hold sway. The minor discomfort of a hereditary monarch is something to be taken much more seriously than the brutal public slaughter of a mere Brazilian electrician.
The Hague, NETHERLANDS
Sir: I despair as the reputation of the Metropolitan Police is savaged. Health and safety has become the mantra of a society that believes all risk can be eliminated. Because of health and safety, I suspect that Jean Charles de Menezes was not challenged before a properly equipped police unit was in position. Can a police commander expect or order an unarmed or single officer to challenge someone believed to have explosives or a firearm?
The death of an innocent person is a matter of great regret and lessons will be learned.
If we expect to be protected from the current terrorist and criminal threats, we need to appreciate the difficulties and challenges that the police face, the decisions taken in stressful circumstances, and the inevitability of an occasional error.
I doubt if London is safer today than it was yesterday.
W J Poulter
Woodford Green, Essex
Sir: Shortly after the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes, Sir Ian Blair appeared on TV, unapologetic and warning the public to expect more of the same in the fight against terrorism. Until Thursday's judgment, he had refused to acknowledge any shortcomings either of himself or any member of the Metropolitan Police.
Following the damning judgment delivered by Mr Justice Henriques, he has been obliged to do an about-face on most of his earlier pronouncements. Sir Ian now defends himself by echoing the judge's opinion that this was a "one-off", contrary to his earlier defiant warning of more of the same.
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
GPs reap rewards of hard work
Sir: I was astonished to arrive home from my GP surgery and see your headline, screaming once again that GP pay is a sick joke (1 November).
I finished work at 8pm, as most of my days last 10 to 12 hours. Yesterday I visited two other GPs in separate surgeries who both work more than 50 hours a week. We are all working harder than ever before, and government statistics showing shorter hours are themselves a sick joke, based on the increasing proportion of part-time female GPs, who bring down the average, but many of whom also work extremely hard while running a family as well.
The performance-related pay increase in 2005 and 2006 was earned by hard work and increased quality of patient care, under a contract dreamed up by this Government. They were told that GPs would work harder and smarter, but they ignored this advice and badly miscalculated the contract costs. The consequences have been unprecedented success and improvement, with reduced illness and deaths in the population. Isn't this what the Government wanted us to do?
The real facts behind the spurious statistics are that the Government badly miscalculated GPs' enthusiasm and hard work, and the cost has been greater than expected. So they are softening up both GPs and the public by this entirely negative publicity, looking for a cut in costs and services.
We are already seeing significant cuts in our pay in 2007 and 2008, but by efficiency savings we are continuing to deliver better health care than ever before. What other business that increases efficiency and productivity is pilloried by the Government in this way? If you are looking for waste in the NHS, consider the billions of pounds spent on the largely irrelevant and unwanted "Choose and Book" computer system. Don't look at us GPs. We're just doing what the people and the Government wanted – and doing it well.
Dr Richard Wharton
Sir: I wonder when the Government will work out that if you give already well-paid people, such as GPs, a 10 per cent pay rise the year after they have had a 60 per cent one, the effect tends to be: upwardly-redistributive, because the pay rise is funded from general taxation, and most of the people paying the tax are less well off than the doctors; and extremely un-green in its effects, because if you give people who already have lots of money a pay rise, all the money is surplus and available for spending, so it tends to go on luxury items that increase the carbon-dioxide footprint such as Porsches, flat-screen TVs and flights.
So the Government has achieved two own goals in one.
Latin names for bugs and birds
Sir: Good to see Guy Keleny having a go at the BBC for their ridiculous pronunciation of Clostridium difficile ("Errors and Omissions", 20 October) He could have gone further: the convention for pronouncing the modern Latin names for bugs (or birds or flowers) is to give the vowels and consonants their sounds in modern English, and there isn't really a case for pronouncing them in the reformed pronunciation for ancient Latin, much less in an Italian pronunciation.
Difficile, of course, has four syllables. The stress is on the second "i", because the last two syllables are short: this is the ancient Latin convention, which is preserved in most modern pronunciations. In the English pronunciation, a stressed vowel followed by a single consonant is normally pronounced long ( in this case, "eye"), irrespective of the original Latin quantity (which in this case is short). I look forward to hearing Clostridium diffEYEsilli from John Humphrys, but I don't live in hope.
Let all of the union be 'British' together
Sir: I want to be governed by the democratic representatives of my country, Great Britain. If that is to be altered, I wish instead to be governed by a regional assembly of the people whom we in the north-west of Britain elect.
I am tired of being informed by English nationalists that MPs from Kent or Essex, 200 miles away, represent me because medieval history says we are all "English", while representatives from five miles away are foreign because they are "Welsh".
If anyone doubts that this bandwagon is a right-wing plot to unbalance the political pendulum and capture three-quarters of the country in perpetuity by excluding Welsh and Scottish Labour MPs, why do the English nationalists' "logical" and "democratic" claims never include stripping unelected aristocrats and businessmen in the Lords of their illogical and undemocratic role? Because their Lordships are jolly sound chaps who vote the right way, that's why!
Sir: The Conservative proposal for an English Grand Committee will not work ("Tories are accused of endangering Union", 29 October). Our system requires the executive to control the business of Parliament and propose almost all legislation. If the outcome of an election were to be a Labour majority in the UK but not in England, we would get stalemate on English business.
There must be an English executive, and that implies an English Parliament. Perhaps the Liberal Democrats will be brave enough to grasp this nettle and offer a properly thought through federal structure for the UK. Another 10 years of ad hoc reform is not good enough.
Old deserve dignity, not euthanasia
Sir: Alison Sutherland (letter, 1 November) somewhat sinisterly suggests that "responsible adults" should be "actively encouraged" to seek euthanasia. Was she not meant to wait until voluntary euthanasia was legal before starting to put on the pressure?
There are, Ms Sutherland says, just two options: a dignified death by euthanasia or years of "costly" and undignified "senile decrepitude". This is defeatist manipulation. We are a rich nation. It would be shameful if we were to decide that we would prefer to "encourage" our elderly to seek euthanasia rather than pay the price to look after them with due respect and dignity.
There were those in 1967 who said the legalisation of the killing of the unborn would inevitably lead to pressure to kill the elderly. Oh, how we laughed!
The price of meat
Sir: Further research, showing the links between the meat-eating habit and cancer (report, 1 November), in addition to the planet-killing effects of the presence of 21 billion "food" animals, reinforces the need for an answer to the question some of us have been asking for a long time. When are we going to see the same level of tax-loading on the purchase of health-destroying items of diet as on tobacco?
To Sussex by Eurostar
Sir: Regarding the reduction of Eurostar services to Ashford (letters, 2 November): what about us disappointed Dutch Eurostar customers who were looking forward to the high-speed Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp-Brussels line in 2008, which was to take us to south-east England? Whenever I use Eurostar to travel to my cottage in East Sussex, I see busy Dutch laptop-workers travelling first class, quite a few of whom get off at Ashford. And don't forget tourists visiting Kent and East Sussex, a favourite destination for short breaks.
C M Kraus-van Essen
Oegstgeest, the Netherlands
Time for a change
Sir: Peter Martin (letter, 31 October) suggests holding a referendum on keeping BST all year round. If the wording was simply that, then I am sure it would be carried, but if it was correctly worded as "Should Greenwich Mean Time be abolished and replaced with Central European Time all year round", then certain newspapers would swiftly drum up a "No" campaign and it would be rejected by a large majority. This just demonstrates that any referendum on anything to do with Europe is useless while we have such a rabidly anti-Europe press.
Great Yarmouth, Norfolk
Sir: I must disagree with Mark Goodall (letters, 2 November) when he says that "the pomposity of Wagner's music has never been put to more subversive use" then when Luis Bunuel used the "Liebestod" from Tristan and Isolde in his film Un Chien Andalou. That accolade surely belongs to Bugs Bunny in the cartoon "What's Opera, Doc?" What could possibly compare with Bugs dressed as Brunnhilde (complete with golden locks and horned helmet) and Elmer Fudd singing "Kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit!" to the tune of the Ride of the Valkyries? Unforgettable.
A motto for politicos
Sir: I see that Gordon Brown has, yet again, spoken in favour of school mottos (report, 1 November). Could I recommend to him and his Cabinet that of my old school, Harrow Weald Grammar: "Valiant for the truth".
St Albans, Hertfordshire
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