Letters: The unwilling pioneers of the ID cards scheme

Airside workers forced to pioneer ID cards scheme
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The Home Secretary (letters, 29 April) is wrong to suggest that money would not be saved by scrapping ID cards. I was surprised that Ms Smith resurrected the tired and weak argument designed to scare people into surrenderng their fingerprints to the Government's vulnerable identity database. Terrorists, criminals and fraudsters will find ways to subvert or circumvent the system.

ID cards are to be made compulsory for airside workers at Manchester and London City airports from this autumn. The Government is providing a £500,000 process improvement fund, purportedly "to assist in realising the benefits of introducing identity cards to airside workers".

The reality is that the National Identity Register has no benefits. The fund is nothing more than a bribe to get the airports to support this wasteful scheme. For the first 18 months, the taxpayer will pay for airport workers' ID cards. Then the costs will be passed to the aviation industry and on to the travelling public, or individual employees.

Because the Government is about to change the law in secondary legislation pertaining to the Identity Cards Act 2006, airport workers will be forced to comply with any security "requirements" the airports dictate, or lose their livelihoods. What hope do airside workers have of resisting these plans? And, after airport workers, who will be next to have their right to own their personal data taken away?

Paul Jeffries, Manchester

David Blunkett has displayed a hitherto unsuspected sense of irony when he complains that New Labour has lost its compass (report, 1 May). It was Mr Blunkett's lunatic obsession with ID cards that started New Labour's decline in the first place. ID cards paved the way for any number of laws and databases, and attacks on our historic rights and freedoms. Thanks largely to David Blunkett, New Labour is now the party of Big Brother, authoritarian, suspicious and contemptuous of us all.

As someone who has voted New Labour, I oppose any party that tries to force me to carry a national ID card in my own country. So does just about everybody I know. Opposition parties are scooping up votes by the bucketload from people like us who just want to get on with our lives without New Labour peering down our necks.

Barry Tighe, London E11

A bad time to be a Mexican in Britain

As a Mexican living in the UK, I've sensed a disconcerting feeling of rejection towards everything related to Mexico, rising every day as the flu epidemic spreads.

When news of the virus broke, it was called "Mexican swine flu", with the emphasis on the country of origin of this "dirty" disease. This designation, combined with the images of people in Mexico City wearing breathing masks, will certainly leave a deep mark in the collective subconscious. For a long time, anything branded Mexican will become related to that which is dirty and sick.

Nowadays, being Mexican means hoping not to sneeze and cause alarm among people who are already in a panic. I feel infected not by the virus but by the fears of the people being whipped into a panic by sensationalist madia coverage.

Luis Hernandez Parra, BRISTOL

Liz Falkingham of the National Farmers' Union (letters, 2 May) criticises Johann Hari's "scaremongering" on the implications of swine flu. She does not believe that intensive pig farming has caused the outbreak.

The basic problem with production of meat is that it is extremely inefficient, even in "intensive" situations. Farm animals waste 90 per cent of the food they eat just keeping themselves warm.

It may be true that UK farmers "operate to the highest animal welfare and environmental standards" but the point of Johann Hari's article was that these standards are no longer high enough. Intensive pig-farms create conditions which have been described as a "perfect storm" for the genesis of new strains of pathogens.

If UK farmers want to take a lesson from swine flu and other livestock-borne pathogens, then they should consider moving out of livestock and into arable or forestry. Livestock is the toxic asset of modern farming.

James Boyle, Dunlop, East Ayrshire

Jeremy Laurance says there is genuine cause for alarm (2 May), I agree, but there does need to be a balance between over-reaction and complacency. Swine flu is threatening to turn into a full-blown pandemic. Although the present strain is fairly mild, scientists believe this will be in two phases. The initial phase we are in now will die out over the summer, but will return in the winter, and it is at this stage we are much more likely to face the scenario of full pandemic.

The WHO assertion that "the world is better prepared for an influenza pandemic than at any time in history" is reassuring, but only if the world gears up to meet the impending challenge.

Dr Kailash Chand

Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire

Don't blame Islam for these injustices

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown's two examples of injustices to women in Iran are irrelevant (Comment, 5 May), because neither has anything to do with Islamic law. The evidence against Delara Darabi consists of an uncorroborated, retracted confession, something which has no weight of evidence in the Sharia (see section 41.2.13 of Malik's Muwatta, a classical Islamic law text). Such confessions have been the cause of miscarriages of justice in many countries, including the UK.

Darabi made her confession because her boyfriend told her she would get a lesser punishment because she was a juvenile (in parts of the USA, she would have got life without parole). This makes her, at most, an after-the-fact accessory to a murder.

As for Roxana Saberi, apart from accusations of spying being a common means of silencing journalists in dictatorships, not just "Islamic" ones, if it all really did happen because she was seen obtaining wine, drinking wine is against Islam for men as well as women. Both these cases could have happened to a man.

Matthew J Smith, New Malden, Surrey

"Outrage" is surely the only appropriate word to describe the execution in Iran late last week of Delara Darabi, a young woman put to death in defiance of international law and Iran's own head of the judiciary (leading article, 4 May)

Aged only 17 at the time of the offence for which she was (possibly wrongly) convicted, Delara is already the second child offender executed this year. Disturbingly, two further child offender executions – totally prohibited under international law – are also reportedly scheduled for today (6 May).

Iran must be shamed over this appalling behaviour. Amnesty supporters will lay flowers for Delara outside the Iranian embassy in London at 4pm today. They will also express the outrage felt by millions of people at Iran's indefensible conduct in executing child offenders.

Tim Hancock

Campaigns Director, Amnesty International UK, London EC2

Free to express extremist views

The Home Secretary has banned 16 people from the UK for their extremist views and behaviour. She says those who come to Britain should adhere to standards that are the norm in this country.

An important standard, for which this country is famous, is freedom of speech. Those who deviate from a supposed social norm should not therefore be prohibited from expressing their opinion. I come from an ethnic minority (British Indian) and I do not agree with the views of the Ku Klux Klan. but I still think that Stephen Donald Black should be allowed to visit the UK and express his point of view.

It is worrying that the Home Secretary does not appear to appreciate the importance of freedom of expression in a democratic society,

Shouvik Datta, Orpington, Kent

How much torture is 'a little torture'?

It would be helpful if Dr Winters (letters, 4 May), who is in favour of "a little torture" of enemy combatants to save US lives, would clarify his position. Would he think it equally right for people fighting US forces to use torture on US captives if it would help to protect their own comrades, or is torture to be a privilege of US forces and their allies?

What evidence would he require that captives have relevant knowledge before sanctioning torture? Would it be permissible also to torture arrested non-combatants if it were thought they might have information that could help to save American lives, and if not, why not?

How much torture is "a little torture"? And where would he draw the line in type and duration of torture?

S G Norris, London SW14

Dr Winters, of that God-fearing state of Texas, asks, "What's wrong with a little torture?" The answer is that with such a mindset there follow such questions as, "What's wrong with a little capital punishment?", "What's wrong with a little ethnic purity?", "What's wrong with a little nuking?", and so on.

I have to ask another question, "What's wrong with some God-fearing Texans?"

Derek Brundish, Horsham, West Sussex

The arguments deployed by Dr Winters can be as readily deployed by those who would put less value on US soldiers than on their compatriots. The "ticking-bomb" justification might, for example, excuse the torture of US soldiers to obtain advance knowledge of a missile strike into Pakistan that could do collateral damage.

At least, now Independent readers can take care never to seek medical attention in Bellaire, Texas.

BRYN HUGHES, WREXHAM, NORTH WALES

Sweet revenge in a sticky situation

I have a sweet new use to add to Lyles Golden Syrup's marketing advice (letters, 1 May). I recently saw a road-rage incident involving a male motor-cyclist, a woman car-driver and a parking space. The motorcyclist was at fault; he became threatening and abusive and stormed off with the usual bad language. The lady went into a nearby store, bought a tin of Lyle's Golden Syrup and, to the cheers of the small crowd, poured the syrup over the bike.

I now always carry a tin with me in my car, just in case I need to knock up an emergency sponge pudding.

Jim Walker, Liverpool

Point taken

Will someone please tell Guy Keleny (Errors & Omissions 2 May) that "(rank) amateur" is not an antonym to "expert"? This is at least the second time he's made this error. There is a long history of amateurs being experts in the fields they love and study. Some professionals may be tyros.

Dr Adrian Padfield, Sheffield

Just a second . . .

In Steve Connor's article "Telescopes that can see the future" (2 May), he refers to events in "the first fractions of a second after the Big Bang. . ."). With all the mass and energy of the universe compressed into a tiny volume of space, surely the time dilation effect, due to distortion of time and space by matter, would be very significant, and we should not be measuring elapsed time there in terms of our "local" seconds?

Tony Cheney, Ipswich, Suffolk

Daft tradition

Patrick Powell (letters, 2 May) is, of course, correct regarding the silly photo-opportunity of Mr and Mrs Darling having breakfast on Budget Day, but this is only today's version of a long tradition. Forty years ago, the Chancellor would be pictured on his farm the weekend before the Budget. Twenty years ago, when Chancellors perhaps no longer had farms, newspapers would publish a picture of him taking what was called the "traditional" walk in St James's Park. Next year, a picture of him shaving?

Gyles Cooper, London N10

Pub problems

How does Steve Halden know that nearly 40 pubs are closing weekly "because of the smoking ban"(letters, 5 May)? Other factors may include cheap alcohol from supermarkets, or breweries selling their pubs to property developers for a quick profit.Pubs might also attract more customers if they did not keep focusing almost exclusively on the under-25s, a minority of the population, or make it impossible for drinkers to have a conversation because of the deafening live football so many pubs now feel compelled to broadcast.

Pete Dorey, Cardiff

Goldilocks and him

Your correspondent (letters, 2 May) is right to point out that "After Blenheim" contains "memorable lines", but surely Southey's greatest claim to be remembered is for a composition with which most English-speakers must be familiar. He may or may not have actually originated The Story of the Three Bears, but he was the first to set out the story in narrative form in his collection, The Doctor.

Tony Neale, ALNWICK, Northumberland

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