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Friday 6 March 2009
Letters: Terrorism in Lahore
Sport can transcend hatred and violence
I, too, experienced disgust and horror following the terrorist actions against the Sri Lankan cricket team and match officials in Lahore. But James Lawton's question, "Who can believe now that sport is apart from the world?" (Opinion, 4 March), is redundant. Sport has never been separated from the real world. Nor can it be. One has only to think back to Beijing last summer and the protests that followed the Olympic torch around the world. Or further, to the Altanta bombing during the 1996 Olympic Games. Lawton, himself, acknowledges a series of boycotts post-Munich.
But Munich was not doomsday enacted, as Lawton suggests. There were atrocities that entrenched sport in the real world long before that. I was barely through the third paragraph when the first Bloody Sunday (1920) came to mind. British forces, in response to IRA actions the previous day, entered Croke Park at a Dublin versus Tipperary Gaelic football match and opened fire with machine guns, killing 14 (including one women and three children and the Tipperary captain) and injuring 65.
The brutality of that attack persists in Irish folk memory. But it has not stopped the Gaelic Athletic Association renouncing a rule (in 2005) prohibiting British sports, thus allowing a peaceful Six Nations rugby international in the very same stadium. Indeed the English rugby team, playing in Croke Park for the first time in 2007, were recipients, first, of a history lesson from Conor O'Shea, former Ireland full-back who ran the Rugby Football Union's national academy at the time.
While sport can never be fully protected from the "touch of the world"' it has, conversely, had the knack, at times, of bringing the world to a better place.
Fight goes on for a habitable planet
The truth and facts are generally hard to come by, and rarely more so than in Simon Usborne's Clarksonesque rant against those of us who are concerned to keep the world habitable by humankind for longer than now seems likely ("Some inconvenient truths", 3 March). The fallacy underlying much of his compilation is that energy consumption is bad.
There is no shortage of energy; the problem is capturing what is available to us and converting it into useable forms. The carbon footprint issue relates only to power from fossil fuels. The manufacture of equipment or materials need not be bad, but we must stop using fossil fuels in the manufacturing processes. Since quite a lot of the energy used in some key materials, nickel and aluminium for instance, which feature large in the Prius, is from renewable sources, I am sure that Simon Usborne cannot accurately compute its carbon footprint relative to his dirty diesel-powered 4x4.
However, the real significance of the Prius is not that it is an ultimate solution, but that it is a step along the way. The next model, which promises to give up to 40 miles range on battery power alone, will be another step forward, provided that the overnight topping-up of the batteries is from renewables.
It is often overlooked in all the talk about carbon footprints that our grandchildren will have to adjust to a world without gas and gasoline because it is fast running out. This may be as pressing an issue as global warming.
Honorary Professor of Materials, Birmingham University
Myth-busting can very useful. Simon Usborne's attempt, however, propagated myths of its own.
Can renewables provide a viable energy source? Usborne believes they cannot. Yet the only evidence he provides is a single sentence from the Renewable Energy Foundation – an organisation founded to fight what it calls the "grotesque political push" for wind power. In fact, a 30-40 per cent target for wind-sourced electricity by 2020 is widely agreed to be achievable, including by the Sustainable Development Commission, the Carbon Trust and the Department for Energy and Climate Change. With serious investment to overcome current supply constraints, we could go much further.
Such an alternative energy source is urgently required: contrary to Usborne's assurances, by any environmental measure coal most emphatically is "a dirty word". Last week the boss of Centrica admitted that carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology would not be widely available until 2030 at the earliest; Shell predicts 2050. Alistair Darling has told Parliament this technology "might never become available".
Fortunately, though, one efficient method of carbon c storage already exists. It is to leave fossil fuels in the ground.
Public Interest Research Centre
"Even old 4x4s beat hybrids" claims the headline, but the article goes on to admit that this has been disproved. Then it compares the Prius with a Toyota Tercel, a small, discontinued model which was not a 4x4.
Apparently the carbon footprint of the hybrid will only be better than the banger's after 100,000 miles. So what's wrong with that? My Prius has done 50,000 miles and I fully intend to keep it for the next 50,000.
In the past The Independent has taken a lead in detailed, well-researched articles on the climate crisis. Tuesday's paper has undone all that – spreading doubt and half-truth which will lead people to shrug their shoulders, conclude that no one knows what's going on and carry on as usual.
As a media partner in the Climate Clinic, where politicians at party conference are encouraged to come along to find out the truth about climate issues, The Independent has shone in its support and coverage. The paper has a long and honourable history of covering difficult environmental issues, often when others have avoided it.
Why has the paper decided to be an agent provocateur? We can just about put up with Dominic Lawson's contrarian rants, but to see wholehearted editorial coverage that could influence your readers in such a negative way just when we needed the opposite flies in the face of reason.
Failure? Sir Fred was a big success
Again and again the phrase "no reward for failure" is repeated.
Many years ago I heard a retired CEO of a large corporation say in a moment of frankness that the purpose and function of a managing director (as they were then called) was, control of a company having been achieved, to extract as much money from it as possible with or without the help of the other directors.
Since then I have seen little to conflict with this , and it shows that Sir Fred's pension and huge bankers' bonuses to be not rewards for failure but in themselves great successes. All the moralistic huffing and puffing is beside the point. They are predators, and no more likely to return their prizes than a wolf is likely to disgorge on request its bellyful of caribou.
Whether or not the minister knew of the pension deal, or can reclaim any part of it, the Government should use its financial muscle to fire the entire board who sanctioned the arrangement at a time of massive losses. We should also make sure that they at least do not leave with massive nest eggs.
The reason Sir Fred's pension was approved without question is because the award was the norm so far as his fellow directors and Lord Myners were concerned, despite being more than a lifetime's earnings on the minimum wage.
I have analysed the trend in the recent interest rates set by the Bank of England, and a statistical extrapolation leads me to forecast that the bank rate will go negative sometime early in May. I wonder if the plan for "quantitative easing" (printing money) is in preparation for the time when they will be paying us all to borrow money.
Women victims of a horrible rite
I am writing to thank you for the excellent article by Katrina Manson about female genital mutilation (27 February). It is not a subject that is new to me, having just returned from living in Ethiopia. There, I spoke to women who had been through this unspeakable rite and who are living with the consequences: constant infections, appalling issues with intercourse (often being cut open by their husbands), complications with childbirth, plus the psychological trauma of the mutilation and the betrayal women felt because their female family members may be involved.
Community workers are tackling this issue at different levels: lobbying for the practice to be outlawed, then enforced, in their own countries; training workers to educate communities about the health impacts; retraining circumcisers so they have an economic alternative; setting up safe houses and education for girls who are brave enough to try to duck the knife.
They also work with religious leaders to show that this is not a practice condoned by any religion, and talk with male elders who, frankly, could ensure this practice ended within one generation. But the women who address this issue on the ground, such as Ms Turay, desperately need the support of others, particularly international support and funding.
Charity rules for fee-paying schools
Liz Lightfoot's article "New state of play" (Education & Careers, 19 February) contained interesting reflections on charitable status and public benefit for fee-paying schools north and south of the Border.
But the article is mistaken in asserting that OSCR has used "a fairly rigid formula to assess public benefit", and in stating that we took little account of the extent to which schools share their expertise and facilities with those in the state sector, or with local communities.
We have consistently stressed that we take full account of any relevant benefit from this kind of activity. Our published report into those charities we examined clearly made this point, including the case of Gordonstoun School, which featured prominently in the article.
We will continue to make our decisions on public benefit in the light of the full scope of all the relevant benefit a charity provides and not simply a calculation of fees or income versus bursaries.
Chief Executive, Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, Dundee
Like Jane Powell (letter, 3 March) I wonder what planet your reviewers inhabit. Your Fashion Audit on 2 March promoted Jigsaw's clutch bag as a "must". A mere £139, "well spent". Can I have a job with The Independent please? You obviously pay very well.
Pick up your own
Recent correspondence about courier and postal deliveries neglects one particularly irksome feature. I buy many items online, and there are vendors who will deliver only to the cardholder's address. This is one place I absolutely know I will not be when items are delivered: I'll be in the office. We need a service in which the addressee is sent a text or email when the item arrives at his local depot, avoiding useless attempts at delivery, and offering the possibility of collecting the item one day sooner. It should certainly be cheaper.
Dennis H Leachman
Mary Dejevsky (Comment, 4 March) is wrong to say that unelected ministers "subvert" our constitution because they are not accountable to constituents. Such ministers are democratically accountable: the Commons can change the person who picks ministers - that is, the Prime Minister. If the people do not want Lord Mandelson as Business Secretary, they can ask their elected representatives to pass a motion of no confidence in Mr Brown's government.
Wadham College, Oxford
Worship of Mammon
Once upon a time, not long ago, people worshipped the market economy. It was a get-rich-quick society, based on spending money people didn't have, gambling on financial products, property and debt. But people worshipped the system so much that they decided to erect a statue of it. Our statue wasn't material, but it perfectly modelled and exemplified the gambling economy it represented. It was called the National Lottery. Now that we realise we were worshipping a false god, surely it is time for the statue to go.
Hands off Wirrall
Peter Kilfoyle MP (letter, 4 March) is as geographically challenged as he is parochial about his home city. The Wirral peninsula, with a mile of water on each side, is no more a suburb of Liverpool than it is part of Wales. With its distinctive accent and its historic inclusion in Cheshire, it has a separate identity at least as long-lived as that of the city which he thinks ought to claim it.
Sam Boote (ex-Wirralian)
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