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Friday 11 September 2009
Letters: Terrorist crimes
More panic in the face of terrorist crimes
So, University College London's Institute for Security and Resilience Studies will be chaired by John Reid, a man who was reported as expressing the hope that not one shot would be fired when Britain went into Helmand, and whose article in The Independent (9 September) now uncritically describes the Iraq war as a "legacy" of 9/11 without feeling the need to address whether it needed to be.
This is the man who once declared that people who got on with their lives, maintained a sense of perspective relating to the risk of being killed in a terrorist attack, and as a result remained unconvinced that civil liberties developed over centuries were now dispensable, "just don't get it."
He now writes an article in which he claims that terrorists have the capability (an atom bomb one assumes?) as well as the will to kill millions. They don't, and that's quite important (unless he knows something we don't, but then we've already been through that with Saddam's WMDs).
The tragedy of the war on terror has always been that our leaders have consistently displayed panic rather than courage in the face of a few thousand murderous criminals scattered around the world, and have presented their subsequent random lashing out (Iraq) and grotesque overreaction (torture, detention without charge) as acts of firm resolve. Reid's article proves that he has learnt nothing since being in government. I don't think we should hold our collective breath for the new institute producing anything of value.
Hopes and fears for the climate
Mark Lynas (Comment, 10 September) claims the aviation industry is the most "unsustainable on the planet." The aviation sector – led by UK companies – is at the forefront of developing the new technology which will enable it to meet the challenging target of reducing emissions from flying to 2005 levels by 2050 against a background of a threefold increase in passenger numbers in the UK.
The industry has published the Sustainable Aviation Initiative, showing how this will be achieved. Biofuels, which five years ago seemed like science fiction, are now reality. Airbus, Boeing, and Rolls-Royce have proved they can work safely and the certification process could be completed within five years. The industry has committed to only use biofuels which are sustainable.
The achievement of a deal at Copenhagen which includes aviation is a crucial part of the solution. This is the only fair and effective way to address aviation's emissions. Unilateral taxes which penalise ordinary people who travel by air occasionally are not the way forward. Nor is forcing greater numbers of people through inadequate airport facilities.
It is not the size of the carbon contribution of Heathrow or the third runway, small as it is globally, which is the justification for supporting it. If we do not provide the infrastructure here, people will not stop flying; they will simply fly from elsewhere.
Michelle Di Leo
Alan Searle (Letter, 5 September) decries the Royal Society's proposals for geo-engineering to combat global warming and believes that the massive reduction of CO2 emissions is the only solution. If that is the case, then I fear the human race is likely to be facing a massive extinction within 50 years.
The problems have been predicted for decades and politicians have done nothing of any consequence - listening only to the advice that tells them what they want to hear. Politicians need to be elected, and few voters will vote for someone who is going to take away their high-energy lifestyle.
In order to make the global changes that Mr Searle expects, the US would need rapidly to reduce its emissions by about two-thirds and allow less developed nations to increase theirs. This is simply not going to happen until there are climate consequences directly affecting the lives of large numbers of American people. I fear that this applies to Western Europe, too.
Emissions will then reduce as our fragile technology-based global economy falls apart, and by that time it will be far, far too late.
I suspect the only solutions that have a remote possibility of saving our children's future will be the extremely risky geo-engineering ones that Mr Searle mocks, but which we will in desperation be forced to try as we face our destruction.
The manufactured panic over swine flu, which follows in a fine tradition of the media blindly following the Government's lead, has serious consequences. In crying wolf yet again, the powers that be have deflected debate and action over the real issues facing humanity – yes, I am afraid I mean energy depletion and climate change.
Until there are a few scientists to replace some of the arts graduates in politics and the media, we will get nowhere.
A costly 'success' in Afghanistan
I saw an experienced journalist on TV express sympathy for the family of the soldier who died trying to rescue the journalist Stephen Farrell – but he didn't mention the family of Sultan Munadi, the interpreter who died in the rescue attempt. In the same programme, a military person asserted the rescue was "successful", despite Munadi's death and that of at least two civilians.
This is typical of the evaluations of the worth of different people in other reports on this event. Yet local interpreters are essential aides to many journalists reporting in foreign countries and are often under greater threat than foreign journalists because they may be seen as traitors locally, and generally would like to carry on living in the country.
To realise the double standards, just imagine what the headlines would have been if it had been the journalist who had died and Munadi survived – and consider whether any British person would have referred to it as a "success".
Last weekend I saw the Prime Minister give a heartfelt speech in which he said that every time he visits our wounded servicemen, he asks himself if we are doing the right thing and the answer is always "Yes".
Yet each year at the Labour Party Conference our military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan are not allowed to be officially raised nor discussed.
North Shields, Tyne & Wear
The Chartered Institute of Journalists would like to congratulate you on your determined campaign to free Afghan journalist Sayed Pervez Kambaksh.
As journalists we often walk a difficult path and this is more dangerous as we pursue our professional duty to expose corruption, illegal practices and human rights abuses.
Sadly most people forget this when they judge journalists and the profession and we were delighted to see The Independent fighting to support journalists like Sayed Pervez Kambaksh.
General Secretary, Chartered Institute of Journalists
Clever people can back the far right
Jim Cordell (letter, 10 September) is under a misapprehension if he thinks far-right parties mainly work by "linking fears about unemployment, housing and national identity", and that, "the articulate, liberal, Independent reader" won't be voting BNP anyway. Racism has many guises.
Anti-Semitism from Voltaire to Wagner is not inconsequential. Most senior Gestapo men were recruited from professional police bodies. The Intelligence branch of the SS attracted intellectuals, lawyers, economists and professors of political science; and 50 per cent of German physicians were members of the Nazi Party.
Hove, East Sussex
As one whose parents had to flee from the Third Reich, I cringed when I read Sasha Simic's letter (9 September) which suggested that the BNP are vermin, for this is precisely the image of Jews portrayed in Goebbels' propaganda films. Nick Griffin's views may be repellent to many, but they are the views of a human being, and shared by no small number of our kind.
Not enough music for our children
I agree with David Lister (9 September) that it would be a good idea to allocate some Proms tickets to schools. But I don't think that it's a class divide problem. It's a British cultural thing and an educational problem.
The Independent classes "classical" as something different from "music". But since when was Beethoven no longer music?
A lot of music that gets taught in schools covers little of the classical repertoire. And if you want to learn an instrument, it's very hit-and-miss. In Cumbria some schools give free instrument lessons; some arrange lessons for which parents have to pay; and at some schools there's no opportunity at all to learn an instrument.
At a recent Prom interval interview Lang Lang told us that 40 million children in China are learning to play the piano. Why doesn't something like that happen here? It's the low profile of musical education in this country that causes this divide, not class.
Ian K Watson
Why nothing works in this country
Further to the letter from B E J Crombie (3 September), the service infrastructure of this country has been collapsing for decades, and has little to do with the educational system.
The first step was to demolish the rational and localised ordering of essential public services (such as power and water) and hand the reins to profit-seeking organisations.
What instrument accelerated and facilitated this? Computerised systems of course. These relatively fragile, and often unworkable systems enable the recruitment of temporary, unqualified, relatively ignorant staff. Local branches with real, knowledgeable local people have gone forever, replaced by call centres.
What league tables tell us
If I were head of an independent school what should I do in order to gain a position high in the table of the Independent Schools Council (report, 29 August)?
I should ensure that only very able children were encouraged to stay on to take A-levels and that students were only entered for subjects in which they were sure of high grades.
I certainly would not want my child to attend one of the top schools in such a table.
Michael Godfrey (letter, 10 September) suspects that, in the wake of "Bloodgate", boastful rugby union fans "will now find themselves biting their tongues and having reason to reflect". How will he know which of them have genuinely bitten their tongues and which are just faking it?
Have we now reached that stage in the electoral cycle where a shoo-in opposition's press releases are printed verbatim, without analysis? I seem to have read the same comments on Alan Duncan's demotion at least three times, particularly the "strong and decisive action" line. I seem to recall that any delays by Gordon Brown are pictured as "weak and dithering", whereas the four-week gap between Duncan's comments and Cameron's action is "strong and decisive".
Forward to victory
I first spotted the disappearance of "in future" and its replacement by "going forward" (letter, 10 September) at a marketing conference in late 2005, and wrote about it in Research magazine in November that year. It was new to me at the time, and seemed odd, but it was clear that the takeover was complete even then, at least among those giving the talks. Mind you, more often than not both phrases are redundant. "What we hope to do in future is . . .". As opposed to when, exactly?
Blame for famine
The potato blight in 19th-century Ireland did not "kill" more than one million people (British Science Festival report, 10 September); that particular bit of genocide was achieved by the starvation, disease and economic collapse that resulted from the combination of the blight and English colonial policy. A pathogen culpable in the second degree perhaps, disastrous but not in itself homicidal.
Matthew Norman writes (10 September): "John Major never tucked his shirt into his knickers." How does he know?
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