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Saturday 21 January 2012
Letters: Shipwreck brings ancient values to the surface
Mary Dejevsky (18 January) observes that the Costa Concordia accident reveals the apparent breakdown of the "women and children first" principle.
As an unmarried and childless man, I agree with the basic assumption that in a crisis, all fit and able men present have a natural duty to look to the safety of any women, children and infirm. There are strong social and historical reasons for this, but all of these boil down to a ruthless assessment of the relative value of human beings in the propagation of the species. Thus, save the life-giver and the new life first; let the biologically superfluous male make his own way.
This so-called chivalric code expresses a ruthless and uncompromising view of life that many people today are shielded from by legislation, political correctitude and social taboos. It is not surprising, therefore, that many choose to reject such thinking as an artefact of an old, less advanced world, and imagine that they live in a time when such considerations will never touch them in their relatively safe, modern lives.
These same people might then book themselves a cruise across the most powerful, chaotic and terrifying natural environment never tamed by man: the open ocean.
Beneath a photograph of Moldovan dancer Domnica Cemortan your headline asks: "Was this woman drinking with the captain – or an innocent aboard?" (20 January). The Independent clearly assumes, in the former case, that she is guilty of some sort of crime and is at least partly to blame for the wreck of the Costa Concordia.
This is grotesquely sexist nonsense – for which Terence Blacker's timely report on research showing that men's cognitive functioning declines in the presence of attractive women (Notebook, 20 January) provides no excuse. Anyone, however beautiful, who is invited to socialise with a ship's captain is surely entitled to assume that he will remain capable of doing his job safely and responsibly; otherwise, knowing his limitations, the invitation would not be made. Ms Cemortan deserves an apology.
In your issue of 19 of January, in addition to a leader about the impeccable conduct of the coastguard in Livorno over the Costa Concordia accident, you publish a letter from a British resident in Italy disturbed by your previous reporting about the accident. One line in this letter struck me: "Stereotyping does not help."
I dare to add that stereotyping does not help good journalism. Yet your newspaper cannot do without it apparently, as on the same issue you publish a comment by Peter Popham which is a "masterpiece in stereotyping".
I tried unsuccessfully to appreciate his humour and his attempt to demystify what he calls "our fondest prejudices", but let me say that he seems to fall 100 per cent victim of them. His choice of words looks quite insulting.
Alain Giorgio Maria Economides
Ambassador of Italy to the United Kingdom, London W1
Unlike your correspondent Andrew J Mulholland (19 January), I did not detect any racism in the reference to Captain Schettino phoning his mother in your 18 January report. On the contrary, I thought your journalist filed an appropriately worded, suitably damning response to the mind-boggling transcript of Schettino's conversation with the coastguard.
'Taste of hell' doesn't help to train carers
While we welcome all education related to dementia, and understand that the session described in "Dementia: a small taste of hell on earth" (17 January) forms only part of a longer course offered by Liverpool Hope University, we would like to challenge the basis upon which this training is delivered.
Recently we have seen a rise in experiential learning approaches that involve putting learners through degrading and traumatic simulated experiences. It is a misconception that a learner must be put through an aversive experience in order to learn how to care. In fact all the evidence suggests the opposite; when we are put in a stressful situation general memory formation is impaired, and what is retained are minute details of the stressful experience.
Experiential sessions of this nature usually include being subject to degrading and unkind "care" from trainers taking on the role of staff, which then serves to normalise such practices. This whole aversive approach does nothing to counter the stigma attached to a diagnosis of dementia, and nothing to teach more humane caring skills.
If we no longer believe that children learn from being smacked, why do we assume that adults will learn from being hurt, humiliated and embarrassed? Would we advocate a course about pain management which inflicted severe pain in order to demonstrate what it feels like?
Let's have experiential learning by all means, but base it on the lifetime's experience and existing resources that dementia caregivers bring with them to the learning situation.
Dr Claire Surr
Dr Andrea Capstick
Bradford Dementia Group
University of Bradford
Royal yacht idea is an insult
I am stung into writing by the news that there is a call among a certain sector of society to buy the Queen a yacht for her diamond jubilee. On the news today I heard that some rich bloke has offered millions to buy or build one. The counteracting soundbite is that its cost should not come out of taxes, as if that makes it all right.
The Queen does not need a yacht. If rich people want to mark the jubilee, why not set up a trust or charity with that name to benefit unemployed people or people who have difficulty affording fuel and food?
If we are all in this together, maybe the Queen could do what some cultures do: give presents on her big day rather than receive something that is an insult to struggling people in Britain.
Please could Richard Branson sponsor the new royal yacht? It would be beyond words to have the Virgin Queen.
Looking for a deal on Greek debt
John Day (letter, 19 January) and President Sarkozy have something in common: they clearly make little attempt to understand the financial markets.
The volume of credit default swaps (CDS) outstanding on Greece is estimated to be €60bn gross and €4bn net, around 20 per cent of Greek sovereign debt, not "many times" the amount. The private-sector bond-holders are endeavouring to strike a deal which will result in a voluntary restructuring, that will not trigger CDS.
This would normally require 75 per cent of creditors (ie bond holders) to accept the deal. Hedge funds in total, given their small balance sheets, will not hold such a significant amount of Greek debt that they could scuttle the deal without the support of other creditors.
The most likely key hindrance to a voluntary deal will be the coupon rate of any substitute bonds Greece issues, since this will impact the losses that the bond-holder will take in exchange for existing debt. As in any restructuring, investors (whether a bank or a hedge fund) are trying to minimise their losses and Greece is trying to reduce the cost of its debt by reducing the amount it pays back.
Curb abuses of lobbying
The Independent is entirely correct in stating that a statutory register of professional lobbyists is necessary (leading article, 10 January).
There is an urgent need to guarantee transparency, and to make sure that everyone in the political debate is operating under the same rules and with equal levels of access. You are also correct in asserting that a statutory register cannot be introduced in isolation, and must be accompanied by a compulsory code of conduct, a ban on professional lobbyists holding parliamentary passes, and a requirement for politicians and officials to declare their meetings with lobbyists.
This is not the pointless creation of additional bureaucracy the naysayers would have us believe. Without these measures, a statutory register will remain toothless. A code of conduct must be policed by a government agency, rather than by the profession itself, whose attempt at a fig-leaf of credibility – the UK Public Affairs Council – is incompetent and ineffective.
The Whitehouse Consultancy Ltd, London SE1
Supermarkets offer real hope
The Fair Pay Network is wrong ("Supermarket success is costing us dear", 19 January). The route out of poverty is a job, a qualification and an opportunity to progress. That's not just our view – it's also that of the Joseph Rowntree Report on poverty.
At Morrisons we help local people from all backgrounds to get a good job in a good company and that is a good start for most people. They also get the chance of an apprenticeship qualification and last year we promoted 2,500 people from the shop floor to management jobs.
We want to form a lifelong commitment to our staff and that involves more than just starting pay; it also involves a wide range of benefits, opportunities and a career.
Group HR Director, Morrisons, Bradford
Three cheers for Birmingham
I was very pleased to see that Birmingham, for once, got good press, thanks to The New York Times (9 January). I lived there for three years: it is a lovely place, with lots of things to do and indeed, very romantic. I met my boyfriend there six years ago and our first date was a long drink at the Tap and Spile, an old pub overlooking one of the canals by Broad Street. The warm and welcoming Brummies can be proud of their heritage and their good humour.
Dr Arianna Andreangeli
What to call Guy Gibson's dog
In the TV film guide in The Information (14 January) you said, about The Dam Busters: "Hopefully, this broadcast is the sanitised version in which Wallis's black labrador is rechristened 'Trigger' ". First, the dog was not Wallis's; it was Guy Gibson's. Second, its name was "Nigger", whether people like that or not. The practice of changing historical facts because the truth is inconvenient is at best reprehensible and at worst dangerous. It is shameful that you should advocate it.
Mr Cameron thinks that the Falkland Islanders should have the right to decide their own future. Is he prepared to extend the same courtesy to the Chagos Islanders?
Meltham, West Yorkshire
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