Sir: Amid your coverage of the Aids pandemic (1 December) there was barely a mention of tuberculosis. Which is odd, considering that TB is the leading cause of death in HIV-infected people, especially in the developing world.
The reasons for the synergy between these two infections are simple if a person is HIV-positive they are more likely to contract TB, and TB infection in turn accelerates progress towards full-blown Aids. Yet TB can be cured with a course of drugs costing less than $10.
A report published last week by the advocacy group Results UK concludes that the importance of the TB/HIV co-epidemic is being neglected. Although the Department for International Development acknowledges that the two diseases should be treated together, the report finds that this is not translated into action at country level. Sadly, the war against Aids will not be won unless health services for TB and HIV are co-ordinated so that diagnosis and treatment can be delivered together.
Sir: Bianca Jagger (Opinion, 28 November) is right to call attention to the restrictions on health care for rejected asylum- seekers living with HIV.
However, the Government's policy in this area also prevents rejected asylum seekers receiving treatment for other severe health problems, including diabetes, TB, mental illness and the after-effects of torture.
To their credit, many GPs and other medical practitioners, driven by their professional standards, do help. However, such assistance is not evenly applied and many fail to get appropriate help for their health needs.
Of course there are resource implication for primary care trusts and local authorities. However, there is little evidence to suggest these restrictions do anything but increase the number of people suffering health problems. They most likely put extra pressure on A&E departments as people's health deteriorates for want of appropriate early treatment.
There are many reasons that rejected asylum-seekers feel unable to return home. Mostly it is the fear of persecution; for others it is physically impossible. Denying health care to this group is unlikely to change this.
Head of Refugee Services, British Red CrossLondon EC2
Birds of prey don't deserve to die
Sir: Richard Ingrams has taken a dislike to the red kite and tells us the time may soon come when we have to start shooting them ("Supporters of these killer birds are sadly misguided", 1 December). He appears to base this prediction largely on the fact that landowners thought it necessary to kill them in the past, to the point of near-extinction in the UK.
All birds of prey were killed by farmers and landowners in the past, with little or no distinction between species. Living and working on the land doesn't, in itself, make one an expert on the habits of different birds of prey or give one the ability to assess the ecological or financial justification for their control.
Mr Ingrams correctly points out that the red kite's diet is not restricted to "dead animals such as crows and rabbits". In fact, they mainly eat carrion and worms, but also feed on small mammals and nestlings of other birds, notably crows, rooks, magpies and wood pigeons. These are common species that are not under threat and are traditionally regarded as a nuisance by farmers.
It is thought that even a 100-fold increase in population of red kites would have a minimal effect on the number of small birds killed, a drop in the ocean compared with the number killed by cats, cars or by flying into windows
It is quite wrong to interpret a rapid population increase of whatever species as some kind of threat without the facts to back up one's point of view. To do so is simply prejudice.
DR FRANCIS KIRKHAM
ECOLOGICAL RESEARCH & CONSULTANCY, CREDITON, DEVON
Sir: Does Richard Ingrams believe that the slightest advantage for a human justifies our continuing removal of other species from the face of the earth? For instance, endangered birds of prey are often killed in order to protect game birds so that humans can shoot them later for sport.
Birds of prey kill only to eat and don't kill their own kind. What right then does a human have to label them "vicious"?
Marple, greater manchester
A recipe for crony government
Sir: The proposal that all parties be funded in proportion to their electoral support (leading article, 28 November) guarantees political stagnation, patronage, cronyism, nepotism and government by brown-nosers. It also presupposes that the parties' current virtues can be gauged from their past performances.
Allowing a self-funding free-for-all results in Berlusconi-ism. Election by weight of money donations results in the enduringly unedifying debacle of American politics. Our present system's deficiencies require no elaboration.
For a nation's political health it is essential for new movements to have scope and for old parties to die. Independents have a role to play too. Continuous electoral pruning of old wood and the promotion of fresh, vigorous new growth is the way to go.
I offer the suggestion that at constituency level anyone who can command, say, 100 signatures from the electoral roll should be granted equal media exposure at the expense of the local community and be permitted to contribute an equal sum from their own pocket for other advertising expenses.
Do we really need to have any funding at national level for political purposes? The printed and broadcast media are brimming with political messages anyway.
Haydon Bridge, Northumberland
Sir: The only case which could be made for public funding of political parties would follow from there being a legal, or constitutional, requirement for such parties to exist. Since there is no such requirement no case can be made for funding from the public purse. It's as simple as that.
David F Smith
Sir: Why do our political masters need "funding"? During the recent Labour Party deputy leadership election campaign all the candidates raised large sums of money to fund what?
They were only talking to the few remaining members of the Labour Party who where entitled to vote, so why did any of them feel it necessary to raise money, let alone actually borrow money to fund this exercise. Appearing on television and radio and in the newspapers is free. They all already enjoy free rail travel and subsidised car travel, so except for the odd leaflet setting out their "programme" or "mission statement" I cannot for the life of me think what they all needed to spend this money on.
Hambleton, North Yorkshire
Market value of lending securities
Sir: Jeremy Warner asks why institutional investors should lend securities "if the effect is to damage the value of the underlying investment" ("Markets become short sellers' paradise", 22 November).
The answer is that lending securities does not damage the value of their underlying investments. First, as Mr Warner acknowledges earlier in the article, "short selling should have no net long-term impact on markets". If short selling caused a share price to fall below its fair value, other investors would quickly take the opportunity to buy. In addition, academic research has shown that placing restrictions on short selling reduces the efficiency of price formation, and in particular share prices may overshoot.
Second, only a small percentage of lent securities are used to cover directional short sales. Securities are also borrowed for many other reasons; for example, to avoid settlement failures; by market makers in order to provide liquidity to buyers; and to enable arbitrage-related activity: for example, to go short on individual shares versus an index-based basket.
Institutional investors lend securities in order to earn additional returns at low risk. If they decide not to lend they not only miss out on that return, to the detriment of their investors, but one certain consequence of reduced securities lending would be to lower market liquidity. Particularly at present, that is the last thing that any investor should want.
Chief Executive, The International Securities Lending Association,London EC3
Church confronts Pullman film
Sir: Protests and boycotts, whether of The Golden Compass film or Oxford Union Society debates, almost invariably fail to help people understand reality better.
For this reason our church has booked out an entire screen for a preview of The Golden Compass and will be inviting both churchgoers and guests. It is only by subjecting Philip Pullman's story, and the world-view promoted within it, to thought and consideration that one can see the flaws and weaknesses, as well as the strengths, of what he has to say.
If God exists and the Christian gospel is true, it follows that the message of Christ has sufficient explanatory power to stand for itself in the marketplace of ideas. Two thousand years of history demonstrate that Christianity does not need church hierarchies, of any sort, to wrap it in cotton wool to ensure its survival and growth. I believe Philip Pullman's view of the world to be deeply flawed, but churches that engage in attempts to suppress his work simply play into the hands of those who would portray the Christian faith as repressive and shallow.
The Revd Andrew Evans
Christ Church Liverpool
Shops and offices harm the climate
Sir: Mike Jones is right: we are sleepwalking into climate change (letter, 26 November). Walk into our town any evening, and you will see every light blazing in every building. Visit a high-street store in the day, and the doors are wide open with the heaters inside working away.
In 1973, during the oil crisis, we cut our consumption of oil by a huge amount, simply by restricting our speed limits on the road and turning off street and shop lighting.
D J Harvey, M H Harvey
Sir: Being thoughtful about the presents we buy this Christmas may have as much impact on global warming as turning down our radiators. Spending sprees push up production and hence emissions in other parts of the world. Is there a way of doing Christmas differently where all would stand to gain?
Heated exchange off the air
Sir: I write with reference to your article "Gaunt is a racist, claims MEP after stormy debate"(1 December). I wish to make it absolutely clear that I do not consider John Gaunt to be a racist. I unfortunately used the term "racist" in an off-air exchange after a heated radio interview and I accept that it was inaccurate and unfair to do so. I unequivocally withdraw any suggestion that Mr Gaunt holds racist views.
Our talkSPORT radio debate on the EU was lively and no doubt entertaining for listeners. It is important to talk about European affairs in an open and frank way, and I appreciated the opportunity as a Finn to participate in Mr Gaunt's show. I hope I will have other opportunities to take part in his programme in the future.
Alexander Stubb MEP
European Parliament, Brussels
Blasphemy in Sudan and in Britain
Sir: Amid all the justifiable outrage against the imprisonment of Gillian Gibbons, it is salutary to remind ourselves that blasphemy is still a crime under English law. Perhaps we should ponder, too, on what life in Britain would be like if the offence fell under the jurisdiction of ecclesiastical courts rather than the criminal justice system.
Sir: Jenny Blackwell asks (letter, 30 November) if any teacher in England would allow a teddy bear to be called Jesus. I don't know, but I am sure they would not be threatened with flogging or imprisonment if they did.
Newcastle upon Tyne
Sir: Your article "Welcome to the land of slogans" (29 November) sadly missed out the only one I've seen which is any good at all. For the last thirty or so years, all letters postmarked in Hastings have carried the slogan, "Hastings popular with visitors since 1066".
Rate for the job
Sir: I was interested to read the letter (28 November) referring to the 33,000 starting salaries of a trainee solicitor and a first-year financial analyst. The previous day I observed a local architect's advertisement for an experienced and senior architect/technologist. The salary on offer was 24,000. I suppose this must reflect the value we place on our built environment.
MPs in good faith
Sir: When a member of the public is found to have done something wrong and states their belief that they had acted in good faith, that belief is only allowed to be put forward as a mitigating factor when they appear before the court for sentence. When a Member of Parliament is found to have broken the rules, as long as they state their belief that they acted in good faith, it is accepted as an outright defence. Why?
North Shields, Tyne & Wear
Stick to the words
Sir: No, punctuation is not everything (letter, 30 November). If the meaning of a statement depends on the precise positioning of commas, colons and the like (which are likely to stray from their "correct" format because of human error) then the words should be rewritten so that their meaning is clear regardless of the vagaries of punctuation.
Sir: The mantra of "Education, Education, Education", which Labour still chants, now makes perfect sense, judging by the number of times this year we have heard their spokespeople tell us that "lessons will be learned".