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Tuesday 17 November 2009
Letters: World Bank and climate change
World Bank policies exacerbate global warming
The Chancellor is right to point to the need to invest in green technology, such as forestry and clean energy ("There are substantial barriers to a climate deal", 6 November). He also says that the IMF and World Bank will play a major role in climate finance, though they are not purpose-built for the task.
Indeed World Bank policies are part of the problem regarding climate change. Since it was first set up by a team led by John Maynard Keynes at the 1944 Bretton Woods Conference, the World Bank has supported energy-intensive and capital-intensive projects such as large dams and roads, which are harmful to local environmental systems.
Nowadays, as Vandana Shiva shows in her book Soil, Not Oil: Climate Change, Peak Oil and Food Insecurity, the World Bank supports export-orientated cash-crop agriculture through its loans. This depletes the soil of its nutrients through use of artificial chemical fertilizers and intensifies the pace of deforestation.
The British government could exercise its influence in the World Bank, to encourage it to change its lending policies, especially its conditions for making loans available, to favour locally based, small-scale agriculture.
Why do we continue to believe that leaders sharing the capitalistic values which have brought humanity to the brink of disaster are capable of delivering a solution in Copenhagen?
Capitalism will fail to provide us with the most basic of human needs; a secure place to live and food to eat. Capitalism is dead, but how can we expect our politicians to accept this? They are products of the systems they serve.
It should therefore come as no surprise if Copenhagen produces yet another Kyoto-style agreement. Capitalism is dead – long live capitalism.
Fair Oak, Hampshire
Israeli goods in UK supermarkets
I have recently returned from taking part in the olive harvest in the West Bank. In my encounters with the Israeli army, I was told that it was "protecting farmers from settlers". In reality, this amounted to preventing farmers from picking olives on their own land (by declaring it a "closed military area"), and failing to prevent settlers from leaving their illegally occupied hill-top to harass the farmers.
The group I was with had an interview with the local headmaster, who told us that his greatest concern was the pollution of the water-table by untreated sewage flowing from the settlement. Since our departure I have heard that settlers have cut down 95 olive trees (Maan news agency, 13 November) and raided the local village. They were escorted by the army, who fired tear gas and stun grenades.
Some of our supermarkets are complicit in supporting the Israeli occupation by labelling settlement products as being from the "West Bank". In a letter I received today from Morrisons, I am assured that the facility which produces its dates employs Palestinians and Israelis and is located in the "Jordan valley (Israel)". Morrisons appear not to know that the Jordan valley is Occupied West Bank and that any facility which employs Palestinians and Israelis is a settlement. Palestinian workers must get up at 3am to get through the checkpoint by 6am; they are paid $11 for eight hours' work; they have no contract or union and they include children aged between nine and 15.
I have given up buying any Israeli goods. The Palestinians I met approved.
Peter G Liddell
David Simmonds, referring to Hamas (letter, 11 November), speaks about "resistance as a legitimate right of the Palestinian people to occupation of their territory". Surely Israel withdrew completely from all of Gaza, so they are no longer occupying this territory? Why then did Hamas choose to fire rockets into Jewish towns nearby after this generous move by Israel?
I visited the town of Sderot, close to the Gaza Strip, in October and there were reinforced bomb shelters and bunkers along every street and in school playgrounds, where the children had only 15 seconds to seek cover from the rockets of Hamas, a situation that endured for over eight years. Perhaps if politicians and journalists had raised their voices then, the whole Gaza affair might have been avoided altogether. But it seems people are less concerned when the victims of a bombardment are Israeli.
If Israel withdraws also from the West Bank, the Biblical heartland of Judea and Samaria, will a similar scenario arise where towns next to the border fall victim to missiles and rockets simply because they are Israeli or Jewish? Many Arabs live legally in Israel today but it is somehow deemed "illegal" for Jews to reside in Judea, from whence they get their very name. How fair is that? To form an Islamic state which would only admit Arabs, in my opinion, smacks of racism and the apartheid mindset that so many try to attach to Israel.
Bangor, Co Down
Immigration is out of our control
L Warwick-Haller (letter, 13 November) advocates a "net nil" immigration policy which would not allow immigration to exceed emigration from the UK. Ironically he also sets out why this could never be an achievable policy, which is the absolute right of 440 million people from the EU to settle here. Although all three parties have reneged on their promises of a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, the UK should negotiate an opt-out of the freedom of movement requirement so that a workable immigration policy could be introduced. This should give priority to people from those countries mentioned by Mr Wareick-Haller who have been such an enormous benefit to the UK down the years.
L Warwick-Haller trots out the tired old argument that because a high percentage of NHS staff are immigrants, this benefits the UK. About 90 per cent of people in the construction industry are men. Which proves what? If three-quarters of men dropped dead because of some hypothetical, male-only disease, women, after requisite training, would fill the vacancies.
As for those who claim that removing large numbers of immigrants would leave the economy short of labour: introducing immigrants to an economy has no effect on the overall surplus or shortage of labour for the simple reason that immigrants eat food, need housing, etc. That is, immigrants when introduced to an economy create vacancies as fast as they fill them.
Carr's irresponsible wine-drinking
If Simon Carr (9 November) thinks that dying prematurely from liver failure due to his bottle-of-wine-a-day will be simple, then he is naive and irresponsible. He will suffer great pain and misery before the end, both mentally and physically. Health authority time and money will be spent on him which could have been spent on more deserving cases.
His family will also have the stress, pain and sadness of watching his deterioration which they could easily have been spared by a little restraint.
As for saying that he is not an alcoholic, I would ask him: can he go for a day, a week or a month without any alcohol at all? If he can't then I am afraid that he is most definitely an alcoholic. Being unable to get through a day without one drink is dependence on alcohol, let alone one bottle.
Abuse of Iraqi detainees
Your report "Britain's Abu Ghraib" (14 November) contains the stock MoD response to this type of allegation: "The vast majority have conducted themselves to the highest standards of behaviour". In any civilised society this should be no defence. An organisation as command-led and hierarchical as a professional army should never have pockets of unsupervised activity, especially where the detention of enemy combatants is concerned. If such appalling abuse happens, then it is because no one is watching, or because superiors sanction or tolerate what is happening.
Sheffield Hallam University
Government action on forced marriage
Your articles "Cash crisis threat to victims of honour violence" and "Government's 'heartless' treatment of forced marriage victims" (6 & 9 November) misrepresent the Government's efforts to tackle the issue.
The UK continues to lead the world in tackling forced marriage. You yourselves report that the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) is increasing its financial support for UK projects, from £65,000 last year to £84,000 this year.
We scrutinise all funding bids to select those offering best value for money, which meet accountability criteria. This means that not all applications will be successful. You report the Honour Network being under threat of closure for want of government funds; but the FCO and Home Office have received no formal request to fund the helpline this financial year. Indeed, officials have on several occasions offered to meet the NGO which runs the Honour Network, Karma Nirvana, to discuss how we can best work together. They have not, so far, taken us up on this offer. Additionally, while the Honour Network does immensely valuable work, it is not true to say that it is "Britain's only national helpline". The FMU's national helpline handled over 1,600 calls last year (and can be reached on 020-7008 0151, or, out of hours, via the FCO's Response Centre).
You report on our guidelines which explain that officials rightly look, where possible, to recoup the costs of repatriating victims. But you omit to mention that these same public guidelines also make clear that this should never delay the process of getting a victim to safety.
It is incorrect that we have asked victims to sign up to "low-interest loans". If, for example, local authority support could not be found and a loan were made, it would be interest-free. All victims are supported on their return to the UK by the FMU, and we know of no evidence that our approach to funding has risked victims being forced back towards their abusers on financial grounds.
The Government is also tackling forced marriage by strengthening legislation and protection for victims; strengthening guidance for front-line professionals; and providing effective one-stop support to individuals through the FMU. Forced marriage is an indefensible practice. We continue to work hard to stop it.
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office,
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office,
Doctors and doctors
If all nurses are to become graduates why not go one step further. Instead of a BA or BSc why not insist on a PhD. Then everyone in the NHS who looks after patients can be called "doctor".
In his Paris Notebook of 16 November, John Lichfield wonders what Armani Man's scam is. In Rome, Armani Man offered me a leather bag for my wife. He then showed me a broken credit card and said he was nearly out of fuel. As he was being generous to me, could I give him money for petrol? When I told him I had no cash, he grabbed the bag back and drove off in his battered car.
Pavement cyclists may not only cause injury to pedestrians unaware of their silent approach from behind (letters, 14 November), but also nervous shock as they whizz past without prior warning. Panting joggers are a similar hazard. Recently walking to the pub with my brother I suddenly heard, as if out of nowhere, quick running footsteps and panting breath right behind me. The adrenalin of fear kicked in and both my feet left the pavement at the same time. The jogger disappeared as quickly as he had come; his hilarious laughter at my obvious shock was left hanging in the air.
John E Orton
Your leading article "Not The Wire" (14 November), comparing the real urban underworlds of Baltimore and London, concludes by saying of murder and poverty rates here: "Things could be infinitely worse". This is an infinitely large exaggeration.
What's in a name?
My heart goes out to Judi (not Judy) Martin (letter, 11 November). To "have grown rather unforgiving of people not taking the time, trouble and care to ensure they are spelling my name correctly" suggests an urgent need for therapy centred on recognising what is, and what is not, important.
Eddie (Eddy) Dougall (Dougal, MacDougall, MacDonald etc)
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
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