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Monday 4 August 2008
Letters: The special relationship
Moves to extradite hacker expose a lopsided special relationship
Every aspect of the proposed extradition of Gary McKinnon to the United States should fill us with shame. At the very least this procedure should be put on hold until the same procedure for American citizens has been put in place. When will this country wake up to the fact that the special relationship is a master-servant relationship, with us very much at the boot-licking end? By extraditing him they are laying him open to a prison sentence out of all proportion to the offence.
During the Second World War most intelligence organisations made the mistake of believing that their codes could not be cracked. Surely the United States should be deeply grateful to Mr McKinnon for showing them that, if their military secrets can be cracked by a UK computer nerd, they must also be being read routinely by the Russians and the Chinese.
However, intelligence organisations that could not work out why people of Middle Eastern appearance would want to learn how to fly aircraft, but not land them, that thought that allowing Vietnam to become a united country would produce a communist domino effect in south-east Asia, and went to war because of non-existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, are hardly likely to win many marks in an IQ contest. Remember, this is the nation that has vast numbers of people who believe in creationism.
P J Parkins
Worries after the Dando acquittal
While I have also always believed Barry George was not guilty of killing Jill Dando, it is disturbing to read the litany of offences he committed (attempted rape, stalking women and carrying weapons), and that he is to be released back into the community with no attempt made to protect women in the future.
Putting on one side the total inadequacy of a 33-month sentence for attempted rape, it is quite clear that George may still be unable to function independently in society, and that if so, women will continue to be targets of his delusions and inadequacies.
Individuals like George, who require structured and clear boundaries, really should be provided with controlled living conditions. Care in the community is responsible for allowing many personality disordered individuals to threaten and mar the lives of others, and it is time that something between prison and nothing was found to house them. However loved they may be by their families, complete freedom in the community is as much a risk to them as to others.
Dr J Poole
In your reporting of the Jill Dando Case, Commander Simon Foy, head of the Metropolitan Police's homicide and serious crime command, is quoted as being disappointed by the not-guilty verdict on Barry George. Are we to infer that Commander Foy would have been happier with a miscarriage of justice?
I was mortified to hear the comment from a senior Metropolitan Police commander after the Barry George acquittal: "We are disappointed with this result."
Since when have the police become subjective about criminals and supposed crimes? This clearly indicates the descent into a police state. Some education for the police in philosophy and objective thinking would appear to be required.
Olympics amid the Beijing smog
As the opening of the Olympic games is getting nearer, I fear for the health of the competitors.
In October 2004 I was working in China for a travel company for three weeks. After a week I developed a cough which made it difficult to breathe. In a hospital in Beijing and was told it was from the air and that over 2000 people die in the city every year from chest-related disease. After 4 days I returned to my hotel and saw the Canadian cycling team leaving the hotel two weeks early because of the smog. It took me over a year to get well again.
The pollution emanates from the population,dust from the Gobi desert in Mongolia and hundreds of factories and coal mines around Beijing.
The IOC should not have gone ahead with the games when they knew all the problems, and this government were stupid to support it. The Games should remain in Greece and not be shipped around as a jolly for the IOC at considerable expense. The cost of the London games is prohibitive and cannot be justified.
Llantwit Major, Vale of Glamorgan
Women who kill violent partners
Domestic violence is systematic abuse that has nothing to do with anger and everything to do with calculated coercion and control ("Face the facts: Men are more prone to violence than women", 30 July).
Women are the overwhelming victims. Every minute in the UK, police receive a call from the public for assistance for domestic violence. Eighty one per cent of calls to the police in 2000 for help for domestic violence were female victims of male perpetrators, 8 per cent were male victims of female perpetrators, and 11 per cent were same-sex victims and perpetrators (4 per cent female-female, 7 per cent male-male).
Domestic violence cuts across all classes, cultures, religions and ethnic groups. It accounts for between 16 per cent and one quarter of all recorded violent crime (Home Office, 2004).
It is obviously far better to leave a violent partner than murder him. Thousands of women take their life in their hands and do. Leaving a violent partner is very dangerous – separation heightens the risk of a further serious assault. That's why there are women's refuges, although there are not nearly enough of them.
Furthermore, women in violent relationships are often too frightened to take matters to court, even if an incident has been reported to the police. In an analysis of 241 domestic sexual offences and 144 domestic violence offences (ABH and above) for the first four months of 2001, the Metropolitan Police found that fear of reprisals from the perpetrator stopped 64 per cent of the first group and 44 per cent of the second from taking the case further.
It is surprising that so few abused women actually do murder their violent partners. Those women who do finally crack and kill their abusive partners at least deserve some compassion by having their crime reduced to manslaughter.
System lets down bewildered patients
I am the mother of a severely disabled son aged 56 who has rudimentary skills in communication and the understanding of a young child. I fully endorse Mary Harris (letter, 31 July) about the NHS and people with a learning disability.
We know from local experience that it is necessary for a parent or, when that is no longer possible, a familiar, trusted and trained carer to be with the bewildered, disorientated patient at all times. Lack of funding and complicated procedures should not be the excuse for failing to provide this support when parents are unable to do so.
When a severely learning-disabled resident is admitted to hospital from a care home for treatment that involves overnight or longer care there should be a special emergency fund available immediately to pay for "bank" staff in residential homes and release familiar carers for the sick patient.
Being ill is bad enough for most people but for someone with a severe learning disability to be apparently abandoned in a strange place, with strange people and strange systems must cause great distress.
From grammar school to Oxford
We do not recognise the Oxford described by Roger Hewell (letter, 2 August) as the university we attended in the Fifties.
Both of us were products of the state grammar school system, as were many of our fellow students, and, with rare exceptions, social differences were ignored in the student body as a whole, leading to lifelong friendships
Unlike Mr Hewell's memories of condescending academics, our experience was of tutors who treated us with probably greater courtesy than we deserved, encouraged us to develop intellectually, and were glad to greet us again after the passage of many years.
We are grateful for the opportunity we were given and regret that such education is no longer available without financial sacrifice.
Brown's 'Britishness' insults the English
John S Jappy (letter, 31 July) may well be right that, north of the Border, Gordon Brown proclaiming his Britishness "went down like a lead balloon, as Scots regard themselves first and foremost as Scottish, with British very much on the back burner". It has also not gone down too well among many of us south of the Border who are likewise increasingly seeing ourselves as English in preference to British.
Indeed there are many of us in England who are becoming increasingly disillusioned with a Union which subjects us to the West Lothian Question, the Barnett Formula and student fees while denying us treatments on the NHS that are available elsewhere in the UK. And Gordon Brown's insistence on Britishness simply adds insult to the injustice many of us already feel that he has a say in legislation that applies only to England and which affects neither himself nor his constituents in Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath who actually voted for him.
If Labour (or any other party) are serious about both improving their prospects and restoring faith in the Union they could start by offering to rectify this affront to democracy and give England its own devolved government, as has already been given to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Gay people do not need marriage
As a gay man in a civil partnership, I sympathise with but don't really understand the problem that Celia Kitzinger and Sue Wilkinson (Letters, 29 July) have with being regarded in the UK as civil partners rather than as a married couple. The legal benefits of civil partnership are the same as for marriage, so there is already "full equality under the law for same-sex and different-sex couples".
When we entered into a civil partnership in 2006, my partner and I had already been living together for very many years. As with other similar couples we know, all that was necessary was that our relationship should acquire legal status and safeguards. For this we are deeply grateful.
Why is it necessary for gay people to ape heterosexual ways? The person I live with is not my "husband" but my civil partner. Sir Mark Potter was surely not saying that civil partnership is inferior to marriage, only that they are indeed two "different" institutions – different and equal. Just as two people of the same sex cannot marry, so also a man and a woman cannot enter into a civil partnership.
Of course, religious bodies may not regard the two institutions as equal, but that has nothing to do with the law.
David Lister wonders why "the excellent Martha Wainwright raises her left leg whilst performing" (The Week in Arts, 2 August). Those of us who have been following Loudon Wainwright III for nearly 40 years can see where it comes from – she has inherited it from her father.
The mind of Jack Straw
Despite my appreciation of Robert Fisk's writing, I must protest at his snide dig at Jack Straw's use of English, in his column of 2 August. If he is going to criticise someone's English usage, he should get it right. Jack Straw's "minded" does not, as Robert Fisk claims, represent a strange version of "reminded". It means to be inclined or prepared to do something – an accepted, if somewhat archaic, meaning. I find it rather elegant.
Despite the few examples of classical music on TV mentioned by the Head of BBC Classical Music (letter, 31 July) Professor David Head's assertion that popular classical music is given a wide berth stands. Moreover, we can go further. The popular world of operetta, the even more popular Gilbert and Sullivan, Ivor Novello and Noel Coward shows are completely ignored. The BBC is depriving its viewers of the joys of popular music and the best of European culture.
Harry M Jacobi
New Barnet, Hertfordshire
Wounded in action
While in no way intending to diminish the sacrifice made by Major Alan G Rogers, I write in order to correct a misapprehension in your article (29 July). The Purple Heart, the oldest US military award, was originally awarded for valour but since 1932 has been used specifically as a medal for service personnel who have been wounded or killed (the award made posthumously) in the service of their country, in a combat area or through terrorist action.
Name of the game
Francis Kirkham (letter, 1 August) must look elsewhere for an explanation of the attractions of breast enhancement, because British men are not obsessed with soccer. British men are obsessed with football though. Surely if male and female football fans call their sport football then everyone else can?
Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire
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