Letters: Who profits from euro disaster?

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The Independent Online

President Sarkozy was correct when he commented that the "eurozone crisis" was mainly a banking crisis. Your article "Greek rescue blocked by hedge fund greed" (18 January) confirms this. However, the situation is far, far worse than you describe. There is just one question to ask: cui bono – who benefits?

It is not just the hedge funds that hold Greek government bonds, but the credit default swaps held by those who do not own the underlying bonds. A CDS is essentially a gambling slip at the Canary Wharf casino that many people hold as a way of betting against the Greek bonds. The exact amount outstanding is hard to determine because they are dealt with in secret, but it is likely that the total at stake amounts to many times the value of the bonds themselves. Is it any surprise that there is huge pressure for default?

One needs to ask why anyone would want the eurozone to break up – apart from a few Europhobes in Britain. For an answer, take a look at the rates on the billboards outside the exchange booths and it is clear that the banks would make a fortune if Europe returned to many different currencies – essentially they get a percentage of every business transaction that takes place between countries with different currencies – this was one of the big reasons for introducing the euro in the first place.

When the crash comes and the various entities in the market have to pay out trillions on the CDSs, there will be so many huge failures that any idea that they can be bailed out is ludicrous.

It is imperative that a ban be placed on credit default swaps and similar gambling instruments such as short sales, and all existing contracts should be terminated forthwith. This needs to be done now, not tomorrow, not next week and certainly not in 2019. The present situation is unquestionably an emergency.

John Day

Port Solent, Hampshire

Keep up pressure on West Bank

Your leading article (18 January) and reports that the EU is abandoning hope for a viable Palestinian state, because of the continued growth of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, underline the need for urgent action by the international community. If Israel continues with these policies, which also involve forcing out Palestinian farmers and their families, then a two-state solution will certainly no longer be viable.

With the forthcoming US elections constraining Barack Obama from taking any action that could be construed as anti-Israeli, it is even more important that the EU take a lead. Britain should be in the forefront in pushing for action on this issue and Nick Clegg should follow up his words by putting more pressure on David Cameron and the Coalition.

Roy Kershaw

Shepshed, Leicestershire

Professor Sir Patrick Bateson and his co-signatories (letter, 17 January) are misinformed. The Israeli company Ahava has broken no "international law".

Some of Ahava's products are made in Mitzpe Shalem, located inside the West Bank, but that is perfectly legal. The US government for one does not consider Israel's presence in the West Bank "illegal". There is a strong argument that the settlements are lawful under the 1922 Mandate for Palestine, which called for "close settlement by Jews on the land". Furthermore the Oslo Accords recognise that the settlements are a matter for final status negotiations.

Israel moved into Judea and Samaria when it was attacked in 1967 by Jordan. Its presence remains lawful until there is a final settlement with the Palestinians.

Jonathan Hoffman

Co-Vice Chair, Zionist Federation, London N3

Contrary to the wild assertions of Professor Sir Patrick Bateson and his friends, the right of Jews to settle in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) is enshrined in and protected by international law, and underpinned by Article 80 of the UN Charter. There is, therefore, no such thing as an "illegal Jewish settlement" in these areas, and the activities of Jewish-owned companies operating beyond the "Green Line" (which is merely an armistice line and not an international border) are entirely legitimate.

Professor Geoffrey Alderman

University of Buckingham

Typically Italian?

I think that Independent readers could do without the dash of light-hearted racism that accompanied your 18 January report on the Costa Concordia accident. It concerned the conduct of Francesco Schettino, the captain: "He appeared to do what many Italians resort to when the heat is on – and phoned his mother."

The piece described in detail the robust and professional conduct of the coastguard, Captain de Falco. The skill and bravery of the divers searching the wreck was also covered, in an accompanying article. Yet these positive attributes were not characterised as typically Italian.

Stereotyping does not help; my Italian wife was angered by the reference, as were several friends here in southern Tuscany. I have assured them that this is not typical of The Independent but I shudder to think what some of the other British "newspapers" are reporting. Please desist.

Andrew J Mulholland

Castel Del Piano, Italy

English target of Scottish anger

The other day one of your columnists wrote about a forthcoming "battle" over the question of Scotland's independence. Does it have to come to this? Surely all that is needed is intelligent, well-informed discussion, on the basis of which the people of Scotland can decide their future?

As a Sassenach employee of a London-based environmental charity, I was once invited to give a talk in Dumfries. Afterwards some of us adjourned to a bar for a nightcap. The conversation got round to railways, and I was taken aback to be held almost personally responsible for the (then recent) abandonment of the direct Dumfries-Stranraer line.

This had been a local lifeline and its closure was much resented. What was clear was that I was a scapegoat for a decision made in London over which local people had felt impotent. You can see perhaps why for many Scots the prospect of independence is so appealing.

Arthur Percival

Faversham, Kent

I cannot agree with Gavin Turner (letter, 16 January) about what he refers to as tribal anti-English sentiment in Scotland.

Originally from north-east England, I have lived here over 26 years and worked with people from most parts of Scotland. I have only once in all that time experienced a direct anti-English tirade, which was not in the workplace but at a social gathering. I have no fear of arguing politics with anyone.

This is a great country with a rich culture and friendly folk, whose personal aspirations are the same as those of County Durham, where I was brought up.

Jim Arthurs

Scone, Perth

Quite enough programmers

Your leading article on changes in IT teaching (12 January) is wrong, sadly. First, Britain quite clearly lacks people who are proficient in Word and Excel. Second, it already has many more programmers than it appears to need.

Our universities churn out thousands of software developers each year. This is the focus of most computing degree courses. But most of those graduates are not currently developing software, even if a large number work "in IT".

The relatively small number of those who do find work in software companies soon find that these mostly place little value on programming as a skill. So programmers tend to move on, first into software analysis, and then into middle management. And what skills do middle managers need? A little common sense, and the ability to use Word and Excel. For which they will be paid two to three times as much as a programmer.

There is much to be said for secondary schools opening the eyes of students, particularly the mathematically inclined, to the possibilities of programming. But Britain has programmers. If British business wanted these graduates to be working in software development then that's where they'd be. Clearly it does not.

David Woods

Hull, East Yorkshire

Exams, too many and too soon

While the emphasis in the reported remarks of Mick Waters ("Too many exams are 'ruining children's enjoyment of learning'", 3 January) appears to be on younger pupils, as an AS and A-level examiner in German I have similar concerns about over-examining our pupils.

One year after completing their GCSEs, students prepare for their AS exams. Such students have precisely seven calendar months between starting their AS year and their oral test.

I know that teachers invest a great deal of time and effort into these, possibly to the detriment of preparation for the written papers which will start a few weeks after that. The same happens again in the A-Level year. I have yet to be convinced of the value of AS-Level examinations, at least for modern languages candidates.

Dr Michael B Johnson


The blame for hacking fiasco

Congratulations to Ian Hislop of Private Eye for highlighting the political angle on this hacking fiasco. The hackers were working for people who were hand-in-glove with government ministers and believed they could influence policy. The hackers thought they were untouchable. David Cameron should be ashamed of his contact with Andy Coulson.

Ray Sparrow

Church Crookham, Hampshire

Implant alarm

Should we be worried that the response to the issue of PIP breast implants from some of the private clinics is a sign of things to come? Will the NHS in the future often be asked to pick up problems affecting patients treated in private clinics? Shouldn't Andrew Lansley be taking note?

Jennifer Dunlop

Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire

Town shifted

Simon Calder's choices of B&Bs (18 January) would suggest he needs a new map or some geography lessons. He describes Middlesbrough as being in Tyne and Wear. Purists might argue that it's still in Yorkshire.

A Winsor

Newcastle, Tyne and Wear

Yacht quarrels

Supplying a yacht for the Queen on her jubilee would merely bring about the problem of another of the family wanting to use it at the same time. The obvious answer is to provide at least three yachts, to avoid any family arguments.

Bill Fletcher

Cirencester, Gloucestershire


I've been thinking about this advice to have two alcohol-free days in a week, and I've decided to go with it. I just have to fix which two days, and which week.

David Ridge

London N19