The money behind climate denial
The views of the climate change denial lobby have always seemed to me to fly in the face of the overwhelming strength of the scientific evidence so far presented. But the persistence of their arguments has sometimes led me to question my own judgement.
Thanks to your report and editorial (25 January), I can now feel reassured, because you have now provided incontrovertible proof that climate change denial is indeed just a load of old Koch.
The news that climate change scepticism is being funded, at least in part, by the fossil fuel industry does not surprise me.
I have tried to get a balanced view of the climate change debate and whether the phenomenon is man-made. I have looked at various books which put forward the case that climate change is not man-made, and I have researched the authors. So far, all the books I have seen have authors who are either connected to the fossil fuel industry or have been trashed by the scientific community.
Mormons ignore homosexuality
Daniel Radcliffe really shouldn't have been surprised by his audience seeming to be obsessed with the issue of gay sex at the Eccles Theatre, Utah ("Let's not talk about sex", 21 January). After all, the theatre is in prime Mormon territory. I know it well, having been directing operas and giving master classes at Utah State University in the same town (Logan) for many years.
Though it is true that Hollywood still has some way to go in coming to terms with the issue of homosexuality, Mr Radcliffe's experience would have had much more to do with the influence of the Mormon church on his audience, a large percentage of which will have been part of the very large student population of the town.
The church teaches these young people that true happiness can be achieved only by marrying and starting a family. Only by following this traditional path can they reach heaven. The result is that most young gay people, terrified by such teachings, suppress their natures and get married.
Since openly gay people are almost never seen in Logan and since the whole issue is such a taboo subject, there is an almost prurient interest in it; hence all the questions at the Eccles Theatre.
I love working in Logan and have seldom been anywhere where the people are so warm, friendly and hospitable. But it is difficult witnessing young people being unable to explore their sexuality and enduring the angst which people elsewhere left behind 40 years ago.
Has Gove sounded AS death knell?
Michael Gove's plans for the reform of AS-levels effectively sound their death knell. AS-levels provide important performance information to schools and allow universities to make more informed offers.
They widen the post-16 curriculum by allowing students to take four or five subjects in the lower-sixth year and this helps ensure better career choices. Pupils unsure of their futures were able to "sample" subjects that added breadth and interest, so their demise will result in higher post-16 dropout rates, less engagement and the disappearance of some subjects that traditionally thrived at AS-level.
This effectively threatens not just teachers' jobs but the very existence of some practical subjects important to the future of the economy, particularly relating to the creative industries. Just about everyone in education, including schools, awarding bodies and even Ofqual, were in favour of the retention of AS‑levels, so we can only assume that ideology has once more driven the agenda.
Chief Executive Officer, The Independent Schools Association, Saffron Walden, Essex
Accountable for the NHS
In your article on Sir David Nicholson (21 January) you discuss his role and the responsibilities of the NHS Commissioning Board. I wish to clarify some of the points you make about the Commissioning Board's accountability to the Health Secretary and Department of Health.
The 2012 Health and Social Care Act makes it absolutely clear that the Health Secretary remains ultimately accountable for the health service.
The Commissioning Board will be responsible for ensuring that the money spent on NHS services delivers the best possible care for patients. It will be directly accountable to the Health Secretary, as well as to Parliament. The Health Secretary will set the objectives and budget for the Commissioning Board through the mandate, making clear what the Government expects it to achieve. The creation of an autonomous and accountable Commissioning Board is a key component of a modernised health service.
Accountability of all of the new national organisations for their use of public money will be stronger than ever, with the Health Secretary and the Department of Health retaining ultimate responsibility for the health service.
Health Minister, Department of Health, London SW1
A 'tough times' economy emerges
As politicians and business leaders in Davos discuss getting the global economy back on a sustainable footing, it's worth reflecting on what's happening here in the UK.
With the closure of high-street stores, we are seeing a network of pop-up shops. With the lack of trust in banks we've seen 500,000 people move their money to mutuals and credit unions. With the economy on the edge of a double-dip recession, the UK co-operative sector is growing to meet new needs.
There is a new bootstrap economy emerging in tough times, but one far removed from the mountains in Davos and the agenda of those who helicopter in.
Secretary General, Co-operatives UK, Manchester
Football is no sport
I do think that your leader writers might lighten up a bit ("Another unedifying night at the football", 25 January). Football as played in the Premiership is not actually about sport in the British tradition of "play up, play up and play the game"; it is about entertainment.
My personal favourite used to be Luis Suarez (every good show has to have a man the crowd loves to hate) but now we have the Belgian and the ballboy. Still running: I can't wait for the next instalment.
John E Orton
Buses are the key
The sooner we have free local public transport for all, the better off we will be (letters, 25 January). A good comprehensive and free local transport system funded by council taxes will clear the roads of cars, allowing swifter bus travel and faster van and lorry movement, and reduce the cost of road maintenance.
Commuters could get to work, children to school and pensioners to shops and cinemas. Our reliance on imported fossil fuels will be reduced. Those who have cars will pay higher taxes but may use the buses whenever they wish, free.
X marks the shot
Having read Dai Woosnam's letter (24 January), I have mixed feelings about Prince Harry's comparison between computer gaming and his Apache,
Although this could be perceived as trivialising the act of killing a human, I suspect this kind of separation from reality is vital to cope with the duty of those in the armed forces. I'm sure in quiet moments he does remember that the dead have mothers too, but if he dwelt on it all the time, I'm not sure it would benefit anyone.
Simon Usborne writes about the inequality in hair cutting costs ("The cutting-edge of sexual equality", 23 January). Some years ago, my then regular barber was charging me the same as the young man who was already in the chair beside me; true, like him, I asked for a trim, but with his shoulder-length styled hair, he was still in the chair when I'd been sorted.
"Why the same price, Jon?" I enquired. "Well, Chris, with your receding hairline, half of what we charge represents a search fee."
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