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Monday 7 June 2010
Letters: The Cumbria killings
Lonely man who killed
I am wondering why hundreds of police officers are engaged in finding out what motivated Derrick Bird and are examining more than 30 crime scenes. What is the point? There will be no court case, so detailed evidence is not a crucial necessity.
We know that Derrick Bird was a "quiet man who kept himself to himself"; such words are so often a euphemism for saying the man was lonely. We know he was deeply unhappy because there was ample evidence that he had self-harmed for some time. If we want more explanations, surely a forensic psychiatrist can give us the answers we would like.
I have no idea how much this investigation will cost, but I do know that there are other people out there who are equally unhappy, lonely and at breaking point. They won't be able to kill as many people, because they will not have access to firearms, but nevertheless, they may snap and kill just one person, or just cause bodily harm.
I also know that the resources to help such people before they break down are very scarce, both in ordinary human compassion and in structured services.
Let's stop this costly investigation, and use the resources to fund both voluntary and statutory services who will help.
Guns should only be in the hands of the armed forces (including police). There is absolutely no need for anyone to have them at home. Can enjoying the killing of animals be called sport, or should this identify the very people who should not have guns?
Yes you can kill someone with a knife or a hammer, but they can fight back and it is unlikely that 12 will die in a day at the hands of one person. We should question why anyone, apart from someone with a massive inadequacy, would want or need a gun.
Twelve innocent persons died because of antiquated gun laws that fear the lawful citizen bearing arms. If only one person had been able to fire back and kill or wound the killer, maybe the death toll would have been smaller.
Stoughton, Massachusetts, USA
I was horrified to read the description of the murder victim Jane Robinson in your report "The grievances and grudges that drove Derrick Bird over the edge" (4 June). She was referred to as, "spinster Jane Robinson". This term does not simply describe an unmarried woman, but it has an unmistakable derogatory tone to it.
Other murder victims in the same article are described as "mother-of-two" and "mole catcher", apparently to show the diversity and randomness of the victims; each name has a descriptive term. How was it more important to maintain the rhythm of a sentence than it was simply to name and lend dignity to the murder victims?
Stoke Sub Hamdon, Somerset
No happy ending to BA dispute
It is interesting to speculate as to what, in the minds of BA management, success in the current dispute looks like. One assumes this has been envisioned.
A concern presumably shared by many shareholders and employees of BA is that for an organisation whose business strategy depends so powerfully upon the interface between employees and customers, the seeming unwillingness of BA negotiators to agree a settlement is producing a human environmental poison as virulent as that being caused by oil off the coast of the USA.
The history of industrial relations is clear: the dispute will end. The aftermath will, however, be permanent. The willingness of BA employees to discharge their crucial "soft" and "aesthetic" skills has likely been fatally damaged. This will inevitably be reflected in a downward trajectory of performance and share price.
From the perspective of people management, the well known Pygmalion Effect states that the actions of employees, toward for example commitment, performance, willingness to go the extra mile, reflects perceived management expectations. In the case of BA, management expectations appear to relate to reduced pay levels and job security, truncated career progression, ineffective employee voice and victimisation. Pygmalion (or his effect) will, I suspect, come to haunt BA just as Galatea haunted him, but one fears without the happy ending.
Dr Ian Greenwood
Lecturer in Human Resource Management and Industrial Relations,
Leeds University Business School
We seem to be watching British Airways go the same way as British Leyland: a victim of the class system.
On the one side a boss obsessed with "the right to manage", on the other, Tony Woodley doing a Red Robbo, saying, in effect, "So the company's in trouble? That's the bosses' problem; we want our travel perks," and striking to keep terms for his members that their comrades at Gatwick, and cabin staff of any other airline, no longer have.
Since John Lewis seems to be the only British firm that has learnt to involve staff and get them to collaborate in achieving success, perhaps we should ask them to take over the airline.
More power to shareholders
Vince Cable is right to look at the UK's takeover rules (leading article, 4 April). But what should be under consideration are the potential benefits of raising the voting threshold for shareholder approval of takeovers, rather than any widening of a public interest test.
The recent bid by Prudential to takeover AIA is a case in point. A key feature of the negotiations has been the need to gain a high level of approval from Prudential's shareholders – 75 per cent. Such a threshold arises from the need to raise significant equity capital from shareholders to finance the deal. Regardless of the merits of this particular transaction, the effect of such a high approval threshold has been to empower shareholders. In particular, an engaged minority of institutional shareholders has been able to exert a high level of influence over the outcome.
From the perspective of UK corporate governance, the advent of more critical scrutiny from shareholders is welcome. The decision to go ahead with a large-scale merger or takeover is one of the most crucial decisions in the lifecycle of any company. However, a large body of evidence suggests that such transactions are often value-destroying, particularly for the shareholders of the acquiring company.
The empowerment of active shareholders in mergers and acquisitions by introducing a higher voting threshold, both with respect to the acquiring company and the company being acquired, is likely to be more helpful to the cause of good corporate governance than any widening of a public interest test. The latter would give a greater role for government in takeover decisions and would politicise rather than legitimise the UK takeover process.
Head of Corporate Governance, Institute of Directors, London SW1
Getting tough on benefit 'cheats'
As someone employed as a specialist benefits adviser, it seems to me that the Government's new plan to get people off benefits and back to work has three main goals: to save money; to be seen to be tough on benefit "cheats", and to help those who have been out of work reintegrate into society.
The main disadvantage of these three goals is that the first and third are incompatible: we have 2.5 million able-bodied and able-minded people out of work at present. Where are the jobs for five million more (the number of disabled people who supposedly are now going to get into work)?
The only way to make sure people with disabilities can get into real jobs and retain them is to spend money: first, preparing them for the world of work, and second, making it feasible that employers will want to take them on.
Unfortunately, goal number one is likely to be the overwhelming priority in this. We are already seeing huge numbers of those turned down for Employment and Support Allowance being turned loose without support into a job market in which they have no chance.
Iain Duncan Smith's plans, combined with the budget-cutting zeal of this new government, are almost certain to make this much worse.
No place for the politics of hate
Daniel Howden seems unable to understand the complex set of circumstances that beset Rwanda today – or the basics of what good governance means in an African context ("Rwanda is not ready for the medicine of democracy, says Kagame", 29 May).
President Kagame offers two essentials to this impoverished country – security and stability. The opposition leader Victoire Ingabire was arrested not because she opposed Kagame, but because her agenda was to promise a return to the pre-1994 politics based on exclusion and bigotry. As former president of the RDR (Republican Rally for Democracy in Rwanda), an organisation supported by former armed organisers of the genocide and now wanted fugitives such as Augustin Bizimungu, Ingabire is a divisive figure whose sole manifesto point is to divide the population along ethnic lines, with no attempt to heal divisions or continue current reintegration and reconstruction policies.
Mr Howden would do well to talk to Rwandans about what they want from their government – peace and stability – and what Ingabire's past and current agenda really are. Ethnic hatred is highly dangerous – not democratic. It would not be stomached in Europe – why should Africans have to allow it?
Department of politics and international studies,
University of Cambridge
Are you laughing at Leicester?
I was born and brought up in the interesting and romantic old city of Leicester, and am still proud of it. I have had a suspicion for some time however that in the metropolitan media it is regarded for some reason as a sort of joke town, like Neasden or Surbiton.
Perhaps I'm paranoid. I have asked London friends about this, and they always deny it. It seems however to be reflected in the headline of your story on 5 June about the instruments for drilling beneath the surface of Mars being developed at Leicester University: "Today Leicester. But in 2018 ... Mars."
Similarly, the rather laboured punchline of your third leader, which is on the same topic, seems to be based on the assumption that the idea of finding "signs of intelligence" in Leicester is faintly amusing.
Can anyone share the joke and enlighten me about what precisely is funny about Leicester?
Localism must serve everyone
What a stark contrast shows in the letters from Colin Barrow of Westminster Council and Andrew Povey of Surrey (letters, 3 June). Barrow offers a real vision of localism at all levels of local government service, with an obvious desire to serve his population. Povey offers knee-jerk "no green-belt development" with no reference to other services his people might need, only one of which is an adequate housing stock.
In preparing the localism bill the coalition must make sure that local authorities are given the responsibility to serve the needs of all of their population; whether that is social services, adequate housing, transport or, of course, protection of the environment.
The "carbon footprint" of flying in Mediterranean fare is not as considerable as your third leader on 3 June implies.
Fruit and veg are mainly carried in the belly holds of homebound scheduled passenger aircraft, or in cargo aircraft that would otherwise be returning empty. The rates per kilogram chargeable for fruit and veg are not sufficient to justify sending out aircraft specifically to return cargoes of produce.
The aircraft would be flying anyway, with or without the extra cargo, and rejection of flown-in foodstuffs in attempts to obviate the carbon footprint would be mistaken.
There is now only one morally acceptable option for BP. It must cease to operate as a profit-making company, and pour all its resources into cleaning up the Gulf of Mexico.
Any money that remains at the end of this process must go towards setting up fully nationalised factories devoted to building affordable cars which run on ethanol. This would create jobs, prevent wars, atone for the oil industry's sins against the environment, and help to ensure that BP does not go down in history as an international pariah.
Perspectives on Gaza
This flotilla was no mission of mercy
In the Second World War, with full international legality, the United States blockaded Germany and Japan. And during the October 1962 missile crisis, the US again blockaded Cuba. Arms-bearing Russian ships headed to Cuba turned back because the Soviets knew that the US Navy would either board them or sink them.
Yet Israel is accused of international criminality for doing precisely what John Kennedy did, impose a naval blockade to prevent a hostile state from acquiring lethal weaponry.
Oh, but weren't the Gaza-bound ships on a mission of humanitarian relief? No. Otherwise they would have accepted Israel's offer to bring their supplies to an Israeli port to be inspected for military material and have the rest trucked by Israel into Gaza – as every week 15,000 tons of food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies are sent by Israel to Gaza.
Why was the offer refused? Because the flotilla was not about humanitarian relief but about breaking the blockade, that is to say, ending Israel's inspection regime, which would mean unlimited shipping into Gaza and thus the unlimited arming of Hamas.
London NW4 3TL
The language used by reporters to describe the people on the flotilla is not part of an Israeli plot, as Johnny Rizq (letters, 5 June) claims, but an accurate representation of the situation.
If the people from the flotilla had been "freed" or "released", that would imply that they had been released in Israel, while "deported" or "expelled" implies, correctly, that they were sent to another country.
Boy's family given false hopes
I am as much against withholding medication and essential aid by the blockade of Gaza as any right-minded person, but I was shocked by your front page article of 5 June. I suspect Taysir's family are being given false hope about the prospects for their beloved son.
I teach in Buckinghamshire, in a school for children with severe, complex and profound and multiple learning difficulties. I work with children with similar-sounding conditions to Taysir.
Yes, medication does help alleviate some of their disabilities, and some of them do have their epilepsy controlled to an extent by drugs; and yes , many of our wonderful, hard-working, caring parents cling on to hope that their children can be "cured".
I don't know who these doctors are who have told Ramzi and his wife that Taysir could have a "full recovery", but if modern medicine in the West were able to give Taysir a full recovery, provision for many children, such as those I teach, would no longer be required in England. How wonderful that would be, and definitely worthy of a front-page splash.
Bourne End, Buckinghamshire
Drop ban on cement
If they're so determined to stop contraband being smuggled in , why don't the Israelis offer to check cargoes before they leave for Gaza?
Meanwhile they need to be persuaded to lift the ban on building materials, so that the homes and schools they destroyed with bombs and shells can be replaced. Cement is not a war material, even if it can be used to build bomb shelters.
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