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Thursday 8 April 2010
Letters: The baby-boomers
Baby-boomers deny stealing nation's birthright
I am sick of the assertion that my generation (I was born in 1949) is stealing the next generation's "birthright" ("Will the baby-boomers bankrupt Britain?", 5 April).
We were born into post-war austerity. Yes, we had free (more correctly, means-tested) access to university, but we also had a very strong work ethic combined with a compulsion to live frugally.
My husband, a mining engineer, worked 11-12 hours a day for the whole of his 39 years of working life. I combined lecturing at a college of further education with voluntary work. We have lived in the same modest semi-detached cottage for 34 years and have saved what we can (banking crises apart) for both our old age and our children's future. Our friends are no different. We have acted as unpaid carers to elderly parents and grandchildren alike.
Worried about how much our old age might cost the nation? Fear not. We're unlikely to live long enough to find out: we're exhausted.
Monique S Sanders
As a baby-boomer, I was interested to read that we might be bankrupting Britain. The reality is that it is the current generation who are destroying wealth.
Finance has been taken over by young whizz-kids who haven't a clue what they are doing. They all believed in a magical mathematical formula which was supposed to generate huge returns while eliminating risk. Instead, all they were doing was gambling with other people's money in high-risk investments. Hence the banking crisis.
But worse is to come. The same whizz-kids have taken over the accountancy profession, so the baby-boomers' "prudence concept" (assets should not be over-valued and liabilities should not be under-valued) has been thrown out. Now assets are valued at some imaginary "fair value" that bears no relationship to reality. This has the effect that companies put out fantasy balance-sheets.
As with the banks who declared imaginary profits for several years, this will not become clear until the bubble bursts.
When I went to university in 1964, I was one of about 5 per cent. Now, 40 per cent go to university. If modern youngsters will agree to go back to similar percentages I am sure we can guarantee graduate employment and even provide grants.
Incidentally, we all, in 1964, who were at university, read subjects that were academic. No European tourism or media studies degrees were available.
Protect children from BPA hazard
We note the substantial body of existing lab-based research on BPA concerning low-dose effects on the foetal and neo-natal periods ("Scandal of danger chemical in baby bottles", 31 March).
To protect vulnerable populations, we believe it would be both prudent and precautionary in public health terms if products containing BPA used for baby and children's food and liquid packaging in the UK were withdrawn. BPA should be replaced by less hazardous substances.
This requires action by both government and industry to ensure that measures taken are both effective and fully implemented. The decision by the Danish government in the last week to bring in an immediate temporary ban on BPA in such products reflects the sort of approach needed in the UK.
These policies need to be linked to the development of effective toxics use-reduction and substitution strategies by government, industry and other sectors, and the implementation of sunsetting of potentially hazardous chemicals like BPA. This too requires government action along the lines of initiatives in states such as Massachusetts in the USA and countries such as Sweden, Germany, Norway and the Netherlands where toxics use-reduction databases have been adopted to provide the cost-effective means to reduce hazards and risks and maintain economic and other activity.
We further endorse the call for adequate and clear labelling of BPA in all food contact items, including those aimed at adults.
Dr Fiorella Belpoggi MD
Director, Cesare Maltoni Cancer Research Centre, Ramazzini Institute, Bentivoglio, Italy
Dr Richard Clapp DSc
Professor of Environmental Health, Boston University, USA
Professor Vyvyan Howard MB ChB PhD FRCPath
Nano Systems Biology, Centre for Molecular Bioscience, University of Ulster, Coleraine, Northern Ireland
Dr Ruth Jepson PhD
Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group, University of Stirling , Scotland
Dr Carlos Sonnenschein MD
Professor, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, USA
Dr Ana Soto MD
Professor, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, USA
Professor Andrew Watterson PhD
Director, Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group, University of Stirling, Scotland
Dr Frederick S vom Saal
Curators' Professor, Division of Biological Sciences, University of Missouri, USA
What is a stake after the election
Yes, the economy is, as usual, the central political issue. But commentators should remember that the economic challenges of climate change and peak oil will make the credit crisis, bank bailouts and pension problems a comparative picnic. Whoever wins the election will face difficulties as great as any our society has ever faced.
Professor John Coleman
I am sick of party politics. Oh, for a parliament of independent voices who put the welfare of the nation first. All the parties have good and bad ideas; they should get round the table and work together to get this country on to its feet again. Utopia? It is up to us.
You report the Prime Minister as having announced that "The Queen has kindly agreed to the dissolution of of Parliament." Surely monarchs in the past have done this sort of thing "graciously" rather than "kindly", which implies that she only said yes because he asked nicely. Is even the constitution getting touchy-feely?
David W Lloyd writes to oppose the idea of fixed-term parliaments (letter, 7 April) saying that the option of an early election is essential to our democracy.
However, it is possible that the Conservatives could win the election with a small majority. David Cameron would then be free to call another election in six months, to bolster that majority. This would put an intolerable financial strain on the Lib Dems and the minority parties, making it almost impossible for them to mount effective campaigns, leaving us once again with a two-horse race. What would that do for our democracy?
Worthing, West Sussex
Let Catholics stand up against abuse
Just as the world wants to hear rank-and-file Muslims protest at the crimes done in their name by al-Qa'ida, I am sure the world is waiting for Catholics to stand up and say we are not for abusing children and we are not for covering up the crimes of those who do.
I am a Roman Catholic, an active member of my church with two children at Catholic school, and I say this Pope has shamed his people by allowing abuse to continue and covering up criminal acts. Pope Benedict, and all who allowed this evil to continue, should resign.
I hope other Catholics will join me in this call, and the clergy will have the strength of mind to stand up for what they truly believe in and teach to others.
Irish people have been badly served by both the Catholic Church and various state institutions. This has been compounded by incompetent crisis management and insensitive denial.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has been criticised for claiming that the Catholic Church in Ireland has lost all credibility. Those Irish people I have talked to agree with him.
When cows tangle with bureaucracy
Why have cows changed their once-placid ways? The latest tragic death of a farmer while "tagging" a calf highlights the outcome of bureaucracy replacing common sense.
Generations of country people have respected the cow's powerful maternal instincts by leaving her to bond with her newborn calf. But now the obsession with tracking cattle as though they were plutonium demands that all calves must be "tagged" at an early age. The only hope for the average, ageing farmer of getting hold of a beef calf in field or barn is before it is too swift at around three days old. Every rural district has tales of farmers injured or worse by cows in trying to satisfy the demands of Defra that all calves must be tagged.
Over-worked farmers don't have time to walk among their cattle, so the sight of a human on foot rather than a quad-bike or Land Rover anywhere near her new calf rings alarm bells for the cow. A cow doesn't recognise Defra rules; she just wants to protect her calf, so farmers and walkers are paying a sometimes tragic price for this idiocy.
Obsessive tagging was introduced largely to make farmers scapegoats for the "mad cow" and foot-and-mouth fiascos.
Pupils on teacher interview panels
So the NAS/UWT is going to discuss the role of children on interview panels after a teacher failed to get a job when a child labelled them "Humpty Dumpty"?
Does the public really believe that the rest of the interview panel was so swayed by what a child said that they excluded the teacher on that basis, rather than the candidate's failure to make the most convincing case?
Comments by NAS/UWT on the participation of school pupils in interviewing candidates for teaching positions are disappointing. We are keen advocates for participation of all young people in decisions that affect their lives.
It is unfair and counterproductive to exclude children and young people from decisions that affect them and then expect them to become active, informed and responsible citizens the day they turn 18. Participation not only helps develop children and young people's confidence while teaching them about their rights and responsibilities, it has been proven time and again to be a highly cost-effective approach.
Deputy Chief Executive, National Children's Bureau, London EC1
Ed Chan (letter, 6 April) is to be envied for living on a planet where "a fitted three-piece in a herring-bone or a two-piece in midnight-blue velvet" are common items of apparel. I'm sure his suggestions will find a ready ear back here on earth, and the unemployed and people on state pensions will dash out to snap up these bargain-basement items.
Bird of good omen
At the beginning of March, I visited my daughter who lives in Reading, not far from the town centre. One evening I spotted a very large black bird with a wedge-shaped tail, flying over her garden. I was mystified until I read Michael McCarthy's piece on the spread of ravens (6 April). They haven't spread to Devon yet but I shall keep looking.
Budleigh Salterton, Devon
Fun with maths
I enjoyed Tom Sutcliffe's piece on children as consumers of education (6 April), but sighed to read yet again a comment about teachers having to combat the "ludicrous presumption that a period of double maths should be fun". I enjoyed maths and the fun of being able to solve problems hitherto insoluble. The excitement and enjoyment proceeded directly from the enthusiasm and skill of my teachers. I wonder if Tom Sutcliffe would have felt able to pen such a throwaway remark about double periods of English.
I wish to allay Henrietta Forsyth's fears regarding Anish Kapoor's Olympic sculpture and its alleged similarity to Soviet public art (letter, 2 April). It is not Tatlin's unrealised plan for a Monument to the Third International that we should worry about. It is the very large number of statues of Stalin in city squares. If Boris Johnson were to propose as an Olympic monument a golden statue of himself, then there really would be grounds for disquiet.
Man of the match
In the light of Steve Tongue's allocation of a measly 9/10 "man-for-man marking" rating to Lionel Messi following the Barcelona striker's four-goal demolition of Arsenal, could you please enlighten us as to what would be necessary for a player to achieve the maximum 10/10?
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