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Thursday 30 June 2011
Letters: Strikes reveal an angry and divided nation
Ed Miliband condemns the public services strike, making a full house of establishment figures against it ("Britain takes sides" 29 June).
They just do not get it. People are angry. They are angry at their money being used to bail out the banks which continue to milk the system as usual, They are angry at the welfare state being run down to pay for meaningless wars and a monstrous nuclear arsenal. They are angry at cuts which penalise the poorest and leave the rich relatively unscathed. Politicians in Britain are creating a them-against-us state.
Jim McCluskey, Twickenham, Middlesex
We're all in this together. Will David Cameron please confirm that all MPs, including himself, are to make large increases to their pension contributions, that their pensions will be based on career average earnings and that they will not be allowed to draw their pensions until they are 68?
Andy Hosking, Ilkley, west Yorkshire
The chilling thing about what Michael Gove is saying is that he makes it evident that the Secretary of State for Education sees schools as a place to dump the children while you go to work, and thinks the teachers' job can be done by any parents, presumably the unemployed ones.
If I was a teacher I wouldn't just strike, I'd resign.
Henrietta Cubitt, Cambridge
Nobody I know has any sympathy with the teachers. Nice cushy jobs (they're virtually unsackable from), nice social hours, a five-day week, and a pension on average four times my private one. But Mr Cameron has scored an own goal by not first reducing the gold-plated pensions of the only group of people I know who have better pensions and similar holidays to teachers: our MPs.
Dai Woosnam, Grimsby, Lincolnshire
I am utterly weary of the public's outcry against teachers. In what other profession do workers not get paid for the work they do?
Yes, teachers have 13 weeks' paid holiday, but they are also paid for only 30 hours' work per week. They can't claim overtime, and a good teacher does well over 50 hours' work per week, plus working half their holidays in order to do their job effectively.
Teachers' pensions used to be the compensation for working many more hours than they are paid, but no more. I am not sure Michael Gove understands that teaching is very often a 12-hour-a-day job, with teachers being paid for only six hours per day.
We are not simply there as childminders, as Mr Gove seems to think - we are the ones who give your children the knowledge they need to become doctors, paramedics, journalists, researchers, bankers, policemen and yes, MPs. What thanks are we getting for that?
Ruth Moody, York
To read and hear the hostile remarks being made about public-sector employees, anyone would think they did not pay their taxes and National Insurance or contribute to their pension like everyone else.
As a 76-year-old on a teacher's pension, I can only say that I paid 9 per cent superannuation out of my salary for most of my uninterrupted working life, as well as paying full whack of income tax. I'm grateful for my index-linked pension but don't feel guilty about it and don't want to be made to feel guilty if I manage to live another 20 years!
Dr Ann Soutter, Warborough, Oxfordshire
Where were the trade unions when Gordon Brown did his infamous smash-and-grab raid on Britain's excellent, fully funded private pensions schemes back in 1997? Nowhere to be seen or heard. There were no massive strikes and no protests.
Let them strike, it's their right, but lets not pretend they are anything other than a special interest group (albeit a large one) and certainly not the same as "the public" (letter, 29 June).
Xavier Gallagher, Antwerp, Belgium
It would appear that the BAA has belatedly noticed that the public sector strikes will have participation from the UK Border Agency. I am somewhat confused as to why advice to avoid travelling has been issued – surely there should instead be a government-backed call for concerned citizens to offer their services as immigration controllers for the day ?
Jonathan Aird, Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire
There are jobs, there are public-sector jobs and there jobs that really matter. When did you last report on a nursing strike?
Stephen A Barker, Staff Nurse, Wakefield, West Yorkshire
Hari has no need to apologise
I don't think Johann Hari had any need to apologise for accurately reflecting the views of Gideon Levy using Levy's own written words even if he didn't say them as such in an interview ("My journalism is at the centre of a storm. This is what I have learned" 29 June).
Hari is a great campaigning journalist, in the tradition of George Orwell, who often gives voice to those with least power whose views otherwise go unarticulated. His analysis of the way he reported Levy's views to ensure they were expressed in an appropriately clear way demonstrated that there was nothing substantive to complain about.
The Twitter criticism (including hilariously from an anonymous tabloid journalist saying it was as bad as making things up) therefore seems to be designed to discredit him by those who dislike his views. Hari's honesty in apologising is in line with his even greater courage in apologising when he realised his views on Iraq were wrong.
Malcolm Peltu, London W4
Johann Hari asserts that the accusations of plagiarism against him are "totally false" on the grounds that, in quoting his interviewees by using statements they have said or written elsewhere, he was not misrepresenting their ideas.
However, the misrepresentation of a person's arguments is not the same thing as plagiarism. Presenting quotations of interviewees from elsewhere as original to your interviews – explicitly or otherwise – is passing off someone else's work as your own. That is plagiarism, pure and simple.
Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, Cardiff
Aid donors get tough
I must congratulate the UK government for demanding the repayment of its share of $47m in Western aid stolen by Kenyan department of education officials between 2005 and 2009.
And most especially for making it clear to the Kenyans that their government will be handling no more UK aid, until there is convincing evidence of substantial improvements in integrity and financial management systems. Only by applying such rigorous methods of oversight and recovery can we hope to see the majority of aid reach those for whom it is intended, the poorest of the poor.
It is patently clear that the West's laissez-faire attitude to aid distribution has failed abysmally. A lack of insistence on proper accountability has led to the enrichment and – as a consequence – the entrenchment of numerous tyrants and their coteries. This has meant that entire populations have lost out, kept locked in a vicious cycle of poverty and deprivation, which undermines the whole purpose of aid.
David Cameron's government is now setting the standard for Western donors. As well as substantially increasing its overseas budget, the UK has put in place a stringent oversight body, and adopted a zero-tolerance policy to corruption. Hopefully, for the sake of the poor, other Western donors will soon follow suit.
John O'Shea, CEO, GOAL , London W1
Last days in dignity
Christina Jones, referring to her late father's situation during his last illness, asks if there is anything that she can do to prevent this happening to anyone else she loves or herself, and J Sandford mentions a living will (letters, 27 June).
In 2007 the Government brought in a new kind of Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare in addition to the ones for property and financial affairs. These extend beyond the loss of mental capacity and authorise the attorney(s), usually family who love and care about the person giving the power, to act on their behalf in anything to do with their care (even choice of care homes).
This will give the attorney(s) the legal right to attend meetings held to discuss all welfare and health aspects and even, if the person giving the power wishes, to authorise the attorneys to refuse or give consent for the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment. This is not euthanasia – one can't just walk in and demand feeding tubes are removed – but where doctors feel there is no hope they know that the attorney appointed under the Lasting Power of Attorney holds the legal authority of the elderly relative to give this sort of permission.
I have done this with my wife and daughters appointed, and she vice versa. We know that if we are ever in this sad position the people we most love will be able to get involved and make the decisions that they know we would want them to make, however painful.
Tony Peckham, Newent, Gloucestershire
Christina Jones asks how she can "prevent what has happened in the last few years to my elderly relatives happening to anyone else I love, or to me?". The answer is, "By educating the next generation of doctors."
As one of this next generation, I feel it imperative to reassure Ms Jones that we are taught specifically about palliative care while at medical school. Difficult issues such as treatment withdrawal, advanced directives and euthanasia are addressed frankly and openly.
The notion that "doctors believe they must save their patients regardless" is one that will hopefully disappear when my predecessors retire.
Michelle Willmott, Crewe, Cheshire
Well-mannered dogs welcome
The topic of Pierre, Novak Djokovic's little poodle, (leading article, 27 June) is more than just about identity dogs. It also highlights the issue concerning access. Sadly in this country there are few premises, relative to mainland Europe, where pet dogs are allowed.
These dogs are considered companions and a significant part of a person's life, as we are a meaningful part of theirs.
Perhaps a way forward from this impasse would be for the Wimbledon authorities to liaise with the European tennis authorities and ascertain what, if any, problems arose as a result of Pierre being at Djokovic's side during the clay court season.
The same could also apply to cafe and restaurant owners. There really is no legal reason for responsibly trained and well mannered companion dogs (and this is the majority), not to be afforded the same ease of access to public places as assistance dogs – as companion dogs are in France, Italy and Austria for example.
Katie Patmore, Sheffield
When it comes to clichés
I hear what you say about clichés, but I feel the need to get some closure on this issue.
Jon Chapman, Cambridge
How lovely to see the first photo of the season of exams results letters being opened by students who are exclusively slim, white, attractive, long-haired, well-presented, smiling young women. Who said cliché was only verbal?
Stanley Knill, London N15
Barbara Lee, Presteigne, Powys
Why isn't the solution to the Greek debt crisis just for the European Central Bank to buy up the bulk of existing Greek government debt at an attractive price and then cancel about half of it in return for economic reform?
Nick Martin-Clark, London N17
Olympics: a chance missed
Across the country thousands of people volunteer their time at the grass-roots level of Olympic sports. It is because of these people that we can hope to achieve so much in 2012. Indeed, without them we would not be hosting the Olympics at all.
I have seen volunteers give up their weekends to take youngsters to competitions, sit in the pouring rain judging events, and otherwise help keep their sport going in whatever small way they can. Undoubtedly there are thousands across the country who contribute a significant amount of their personal time for no reward other than the love of their sport.
Lord Coe says we should not be "coy or naïve" about the contribution the corporates make in staging the games; how does he feel this contribution compares to the many hours given by volunteers, without regard for commercial opportunity?
In 2008 he said that making sure tickets "get to supporters clubs is very important", and that if you "look at the participation commitments, it is clearly important these tickets go to the right people".
Worse still is the lack of tickets for the next generation of competitors. Many of our youth members compete at a regional and national level in Canoe Slalom, and given our location in Westminster one would assume these youth members are ideal candidates to benefit most from the legacy of the London Olympics. Unfortunately for them, there are no tickets available to watch the stars of their sport compete at their own Olympics, and many of their families simply could not afford to make a ticket application.
We had a real opportunity to inspire a generation of young sports people and the only legacy we leave them is that it is only large-scale finance, and not selflessness, commitment, or passion for one's sport that will ever be rewarded at a national level.
Matthew Harbord, User Representative, Board of Management. Westminster Boating Base, Richmond, Surrey
Lord Coe has continually advised us that the 2012 Olympics are for all the British people and that the allocation of tickets has been fair to everyone. Perhaps he can, therefore, now assure that those of us who have not received any tickets, will not be faced with the usual bevy of pseudo-celebrities in the best seats at the best events. Then again perhaps he can guarantee that they were just lucky with the draw.
John Sharkey, Stafford
No heroes like this any more
If the eulogies heaped upon Joe DiMaggio following his death in 1999 are anything to go by, the inference to be drawn from Paul Simon's song "Mrs Robinson" and the words "Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you" is not that this presaged an era when the USA was to grow short of sporting champions, as Rupert Cornwell surmises ("Gone West: how America ran out of champions", 25 June).
When the "Yankee Clipper" DiMaggio died, it was not just his championship record that was singled out for special mention, but the fact that he combined winning with elegance, grace and effortless athleticism. Commentators at the time focused on the fact that he had class, that he oozed poise and style, both on and off the field, that he was a very modest man with strong personal values; and they did so in a way that suggested these were qualities that were becoming a thing of the past in the world of sport and in other walks of life.
DiMaggio's stated reason for giving 100 per cent in each baseball game he played in was "because there might be somebody out there who has never seen me play before". I suspect it is the loss of this kind of unpretentious professionalism that Paul Simon was mourning, particularly as he was later to say that DiMaggio's "grace and dignity, his fierce sense of privacy, his fidelity to the memory of his wife [Marilyn Monroe] and the power of his silence" were the things that people missed most when they thought of him.
It is hard to imagine the flashy narcissists who are now commonly held up as role models ever receiving this kind of tribute.
Professor David Head, Faculty of Business and Law, University of Lincoln
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