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Thursday 15 March 2012
Letters: To beat the drought, plug the leaks
The Scottish Government's offer to assist drought-stricken parts of England with water is an interesting contribution on how to address the issue of water shortages.
However, we should maybe forget boosting water supply and instead curb demand, not only with a call to consumers to try and use less, but with basic engineering. In London there is an obscene leakage rate of 30 per cent. Paris and New York only lose around 10 per cent; Singapore is below 5 per cent. England and Wales leakage rates, at about 25 per cent, are higher than a decade ago.
We also need household meters, with Britain almost alone in the industrialised world in not having universal water metering. Houses with meters use 15 per cent less water.
Once upon a time we had water boards, run by engineers who were paid engineers' wages. I would happily help to reduce water consumption to help our community-owned water supply company.
Now water supply is run by companies, usually foreign-owned, that have to pay "business men's" inflated salaries and bonuses and shareholders' dividends. The water companies are now more interested in profits and bonuses than improving infrastructure. I have a water meter and I'll use as much water as I want, and they had better supply it – at their expense.
Eaton Socon, Cambridgeshire
Singapore island has over 3.3 million inhabitants, and is about the size of the Isle of Wight. They have a new barrage on a river (a big tourist attraction), and a wonderful permanent exhibition to demonstrate how they are reducing their dependence on water from Johore to nil within five years.
In fact they have three types of water for different uses available to homes. Can we learn something from a former colony?
Radcliffe on Trent, Nottinghamshire
I can confirm the statement by Tim Colman (letter, 14 March) that a pipeline carries water from the Australian coast to Kalgoorlie, having driven from Perth to Kalgoorlie – a two-day drive – alongside the pipeline.
The pipe, with a diameter of about two metres, is above ground and provides water for a population of 30,000 in Kalgoorlie. To provide, as Mr Colman suggests, enough water for London (population 7.5 million) would require 250 such pipes. The mind boggles.
Lift ban on this breakthrough cancer drug
In a few weeks Nice will meet to discuss the responses to their draft decision not to recommend abiraterone, a life-extending drug for men with incurable prostate cancer. This British discovery is one of the biggest breakthroughs for years in the treatment of men with advanced prostate cancer and it will be a very bitter disappointment if abiraterone remains off limits to those men who need it most.
Prostate cancer has suffered from a legacy of neglect and in recent years very little progress has been made in the treatment of the advanced stages of the disease. New treatments such as abiraterone, are critical in helping to turn this situation around – but they have to make it to the men who need them.
Undoubtedly, in this time of austerity Nice has some hard decisions to make. However, if they fail to recommend abiraterone, men across England and Wales will face a postcode lottery when they try to access this important treatment.
March is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. We hope that Nice and the drug's manufacturer lead the way forward in the UK by putting the patient first and agreeing a fair price and value for abiraterone. We also believe Nice should class abiraterone as an end-of-life drug so it is fairly assessed under the same criteria as end-of-life drugs for other cancers.
Only by overturning this questionable decision can we ensure men with advanced prostate cancer have fair access to effective, life prolonging treatment.
Owen Sharp, Chief Executive, the Prostate Cancer Charity
David Neal, Professor of Surgical Oncology, University of Cambridge
Harpal Kumar, Chief Executive, Cancer Research UK
Lucinda Poulton, President, British Association of Urological Nurses (BAUN)
Jonathan Waxman, Professor of Oncology, Hammersmith Hospital
Alison Lowndes, Chair of the Section of Oncology, BAUN
Emma Malcolm, Chief Executive, Prostate Action
Sandy Tindale-Biscoe, Hon Chairman, Prostate Cancer Support Federation
Peter Baker, Chief Executive, Men's Health Forum
Decline of science in our schools
C J Morris (letter, 10 March) describes the decline in standards of education in mathematics. Exactly the same situation exists in physics and other sciences.
My colleagues and I were teaching quantum mechanics, radioactivity and exponential decay, dynamics, kinetic theory of gases, SHM, optics, astronomy and Newtonian gravitation including Kepler's laws, to "fourth formers" in the early Seventies. We actually measured e/m for the electron and repeated Milliken's famous experiment for "e". Some of this doesn't even feature at A-level today.
The pupils at my comprehensive school loved it because it was real science and exciting. The comprehensive system served some pupils well, but not all; it is so difficult to serve the needs of all pupils within one establishment. Most of the rest of Europe still operates the educational system which we abandoned in the Sixties.
Catholic ideas of marriage
Dr Michael Johnson (letter, 09 March) is a little out of date when he says that the Catholic Church "insists on the primacy of procreation" in marriage.
In its 1917 Code of Canon Law it did exactly that. Yet within two generations it changed its teaching, defining marriage as "a partnership of [the spouses'] whole life... ordered to the well-being of the spouses and to the procreation and upbringing of children" (Code of Canon Law 1983).
Who says the Church cannot develop its definition of marriage? Of course, how you interpret the nature and extent of that development and what further change it might presage will depend on your perspective. Yet in the light of both these definitions, I love to recall the marriage of my 74- year-old widowed grandfather to his second wife, then 73 and also a widow, at which I was his best man.
None of us in the family expected to see the happy couple show up at Mothercare any time soon afterwards. Barring a miracle of Abrahamic magnitude, their union was never, in any sense that we understood it, open to the production of offspring, but they were still married in the Catholic Church with all the joy and ceremony it could offer.
I am sure I am not alone in the Catholic Church in feeling that, sometimes, all the pieces of our ideal and immutable definition of marriage do not always fit together quite as perfectly as we would like to think.
Fr Terence Carr
Israel's only hope for peace
I was deeply saddened to read of Nick Clegg forcing Baroness Tonge's resignation merely for stating the obvious.
The true friends of Israel have long ago realised that the US taxpayers cannot subsidise Israel for ever, and Israelis' only hope for peace and a harmonious future is in a genuine partnership of equals with their Palestinian fellow-citizens and neighbours.
The "war of survival" in 1967 that Joshua Rowe mentions (letter, 8 March) was nothing of the sort; Menachem Begin said as much when he stated that Nasser had no intention of attacking Israel and concluded: "We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him." If only the "friends" of Israel today were as honest about its history.
Israel has had a consistent strategy that was outlined by David Ben Gurion in a letter to his son: "A partial Jewish state is not the end, but only the beginning. We will expel the Arabs and take their place." The building of settlements is the continued realisation of that intent.
David McDowall (letter, 8 March) claims that Britain helped European settlers dispossess the indigenous Palestinians. Britain armed the Arabs, blocked access to arms for the indigenous and settled Israelis and withdrew from Palestine, fully expecting 50 million Arabs to eliminate less than one million Israelis.
After "help" like that Israel's belligerence, unwelcome as it is, becomes a little more understandable.
No deals with despots
Russia is quite properly criticised (14 March) for supporting the Syrian government and even selling arms to them, despite the fact that people in hospital are being tortured. Clearly Russia wants to retain its naval base in Syria, and will do anything to keep the Syrian government happy by not supporting UN sanctions.
Compare this appalling behaviour with America supporting the Bahraini government and even, along with the UK, selling arms to them, despite the fact that people in hospital were being tortured. Clearly America wanted to retain their naval base in Bahrain, and did everything to keep the Bahraini government happy by not proposing UN sanctions.
It is good to be on the right side.
Rich rewards for working harder
Duncan Exley of One Society says that "research shows that financial incentives are more effective motivators at the bottom of the pay scale than the top"(letter, 12 March).
Well, maybe, but that's only half the story: it's apparently the case (well, according to some free-market economists) that whereas those on high pay are motivated by the promise of more pay, those at the bottom are motivated only by the threat of less. Convenient, that.
Tough on crime
May I remind Rebekah Brooks, at what must be a very difficult time for both her and her husband, of what The Sun wrote by way of an editorial on those arrested following last summer's riots? "The courts", it opined, "must be ruthless", and went on to insist that "Jailed thugs must serve every day" of their prison sentences. That's right Rebekah – every single day.
According to your report "Red meat increases risk of early death" (13 March), eating nuts reduces "the risk of dying by 20 per cent". Either your reporter has stumbled on a route to immortality or he should have concentrated 110 per cent in his statistics class.
Professor John M Kelly
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
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