Supermarket food, Shadow of the twin towers and others

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Supermarkets allow no real choice about the quality of food

Supermarkets allow no real choice about the quality of food

Sir: If the supermarket chains are ignoring the Government's request to lower salt content in food (report, 13 September), would it not be a good idea to make them label it: "High salt content; processed food". The aim is to encourage us all to eat nutritious, healthy food and that in essence means eating fresh food.

Cusop, Herefordshire

Sir: You are correct in stating that diet is a personal choice, and that government has a role to play in educating children and adults about a healthy lifestyle (leading article, 13 September). However, your leader otherwise misses the point.

The major supermarket chains have an almost complete monopoly on food sales in the UK, thereby controlling what we eat, particularly salt. Exercising personal choice is never going to be easy for the individual, and so there is clearly a need for intervention by the Government. After all, an individual can choose to add salt to food once they have purchased it.

Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey

Sir: At my grammar school (circa 1970) all the girls (not boys of course) were required to take domestic science for two years. A quick look in the recipe book I compiled during those lessons reveals, among other things, bacon and egg pie, loaf cake, egg custard tart, fairy cakes and jam layer pudding.

The list suggests two things: that I have no excuse for not knowing every method of combining flour and butter ever invented; and, more seriously in the light of current debate, that a halcyon era when cookery classes encouraged healthy eating never actually existed.

Cobham, Surrey

In the shadow of the twin towers

Sir: Robert Fisk's front page article of 11 September and James Hutchinson's letter of 13 September are stunning in their naivety.

The 11 September 2001 attacks on New York and Washington were massive and lethal, and struck at the heart of the world's most powerful nation: they were not merely the action of 19 murderers. On the basis of this argument, should we interpret the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima as the action of one aircrew and conclude that defining moment in the horror of modern warfare should not have been allowed to change the world?

Does either writer seriously think that a possible reaction of a major power to an atrocity such as the destruction of the twin towers can be to do nothing other than indulge in soul-searching about how it may have provoked the attack? How can any government react to thousands of deaths in a single attack of this nature by saying we had this coming and we will now talk to every group of malcontents around the world and accede to their demands, and avoid any kind of active response, in the hope that we can induce this group or others not to undertake further attacks?

The US has a lot to answer for in the way it crashes around the world causing mayhem in the pursuit of an erratic foreign policy and has deservedly made many enemies, but whatever one's views on what caused the 11 September atrocities their effect has been to change the world and we are all caught up in its bitter aftermath.

London N10

Sir: I must take issue with Messrs Goldman père et fils (letters; 11, 13 September), whilst noting that thankfully theirs has become a minority view.

To postulate, as the father does, that seeking to understand terrorism simply fuels further terrorism is convenient (particularly for an oppressor) but otherwise preposterous. Does seeking to understand child abuse lead to more of the same ?

His son, singing from the Israeli apologists' hymnsheet, would have us believe that "terrorism is rife in the Occupied Territories because Palestinian people are taught to hate". Whilst it is a minor victory to see him refer to the West Bank and Gaza as "Occupied Territories", surely the answer lies in those two words.

Occupied people have always fought against military occupations (even those by armies who believed themselves to be enlightened), and in the process resistants have typically been branded "terrorists". My father was unlucky enough to have had to police the Palestine Mandate in 1946 when "terrorists" such as Menachem Begin were at large. Generally "hate", or a sense of seething injustice, comes naturally against an oppressor, and has no need to be taught.

Let's be honest, or our grandchildren will be having the same problems a hundred years from now: terrorism is the poor man's way of fighting back against perceived injustice. Terrorism is nasty, dirty, and will often choose targets that are soft and weak, but can we really claim it is morally different from bombing civilians from helicopter gunsghips while wearing pristine olive-green uniforms ?

Neuilly-sur-Seine, France

Sir: Mr Goldman's letter (13 September) on the nature of terrorism reminds me of my surprise when, on a visit to the Holy Land in the 1980s, I went around the former Crusader castle at Acre.

It had been used as prison in the 1930s and '40s and, in the former death chamber a sort of shrine had later been created by the Israelis, to a number of people (I cannot remember any with Arabic names) who had earlier been tried, convicted and executed for terrorism by the internationally recognised government at the time. The captions under the rather sentimental pictures implied that these people were some kind of martyrs, valiantly fighting for their homeland, rather than unfeeling scum who resorted to the gun and bomb rather than talk. (Perhaps, at that time, they felt that no one else in the world cared about the plight of their race and that this justified extreme measures)

Conventional opinion today seems to be that to try to understand such people, still less commemorate them, is a insult to those they slew or maimed. I would be interested if any reader knows whether this memorial to terrorists is still in existence and the extent to which it explains how terrorists who killed British and Arab people were "better" than contemporary ones.

South Warnborough, Hampshire

Sir: Those who massacre children and other innocents, then suffer reprisal, only to repeat the massacre, to suffer reprisal again, and massacre once more, do so in the expectation that at some point the grief and horror will overcome anger and revenge, and the people will plead with their leaders to end the slaughter.

That is what the terrorists do, what the Americans have done, what the Palestinians and the Israelis are doing, what we have also done in the past in Dresden, what was done in Hiroshima, and what will guarantee that this so-called war will endure for the rest of the century unless we see the vanity, or unless, as with the atom bombs, we literally annihilate whole populations.

Strength and courage now mean the strength and courage to say no to killing and to revenge in all its forms. Weakness, today, is avenging innocent death by the death of innocents, and we - our allies in Europe and the USA - should have no part of it.

London SW6

Blair the radical

Sir: You have been unusually perceptive in seeing that Blair, far from having no real project, has always had one big one, namely privatisation. But he has had to pursue it by stealth (leading article, 10 September). This has been the preoccupation of his inner circle from the start.

The argument is usually about efficiency. Some think private services will be more efficient, including, it seems, yourself. Others of us think they will not, as the public service ethic is so important to success in matters such as health and education.

But it is surprising we do not hear more about the political argument. Business is the predominant influence in modern society, and as long as business saw Labour as subtracting purchasing power via tax to support public services it was against Labour. But taxpayers' money is now funnelled back into business, which transforms the political situation. Furthermore persuading the consumer to part with his or her hard-earned money direct to businesses in competition with one another is a trying task. Obtaining it from politicians is less arduous, as the money is not their own and they have so many fish to fry other than financial efficiency.

Whatever else he is not, Blair is a shrewd politician and will be well aware of this.

London NW6

Sir: Your acceptance of Tony Blair's claim to be "radical" is irritating. To a government that was truly left of centre, "radical" would mean something quite different to what it appears to mean to Blair. Reversing the programme of creeping privatisation, renationalising the railways, and reintroducing free education for all would be nearer the mark.

Colchester, Essex

Divided island

Sir: Adrian Hamilton, in his article about the prospects of Turkey joining the EU (9 September), quite rightly points out some of the obstacles placed in the path of Turkey by a number of existing member states. However, he fails to mention the one overwhelming reason why the membership of Turkey would be vetoed in current circumstances.

Having spent more than 30 years years visiting and writing about Cyprus, now a full EU member state, I do not believe any government of Cyprus could or would fail to veto the accession of Turkey as long as any Turkish troops remained on the island. It was because by saying "yes" in the referendum on the reunification of the island earlier this year, Greek Cypriots would have been voting for the legitimisation of the presence of those same Turkish troops who invaded and divided their island in 1974, that a very large majority of them voted "no", despite their sincere wish for a resolution of the division.

Turkey will never become an EU member as long as Turkish troops continue to divide Cyprus.

Hollesley, Suffolk

Medieval divorce

Sir: Robert L C Hunter (letter, 11 September) rightly points out that in 1801 Jane Campbell was the first woman in England, not Britain, to get a divorce, and that the Scots introduced divorce for adultery in 1559.

Under the Welsh written laws, from about AD 950 until their abolition by Henry VIII in 1536, there was a right to divorce after seven years of marriage (earlier in cases of infidelity). The Welsh had sufficient sense to recognise that not all marriages are successful, and sufficient compassion to permit incompatible couples to escape the misery of perhaps 50 or 60 years together. The laws ensured that upon divorce goods were shared fairly between the couple, and that children were provided for.

It was these laws, and others giving rights to illegitimate children, that led Archbishop Pecham in 1282 to describe Welsh law as the "work of the devil" necessitating the salvation of Wales through conquest.

Llangynwyd, Bridgend

Hard-won knowledge

Sir: I seem to be almost unable to learn by rote (letters, 13 September). The longest song I know is "Frère Jacques". I am still unable to recite my multiplication tables. At school, I was often required to learn a hymn as punishment, and then when I was unable to recite it, I was beaten and required to learn the hymn for the following day. Sometimes this went on for weeks.

Despite this, I excelled at school in maths, have gone on to become a university lecturer and have enjoyed learning languages. The expectation that I should be able to learn by rote has done some harm though - I have difficulty not automatically rebelling against authority, and I know no more than the first line of any hymn.

Harbertonford, Devon

Sticking up for Europe

Sir: I'm not sure who was waving the solitary European flag among all those Union flags as promenaders sang "Rule Britannia" on the Last Night of the Proms, but whoever it was deserves a medal for bravery.

Datchet, Berkshire

Neglected wisdom

Sir: Howard Jacobson may never have met a headmaster "wise and eloquent in his instruction" (Opinion, 11 September) but I have. Mine said "You can only gauge the effect of education after twenty years" - thus destroying current educational theory - " and then it should be judged by the extent to which the pupil is living a life of public service" - thus destroying current political and commercial ideology. I am afraid that Mr Sackett would not be appointed to a headship today.


Unfair to fur

Sir: Hamsters, seals and North American lynx are not farmed but are used by the fur industry as a by-product of wildlife management ("From Animal Rights to Zara: why fur is flying once again", 6 September). The article also implied that the fur industry is lax in maintaining a clean environment. In fact, the fur dressing and dyeing industry, like other industries, is governed by stringent EU regulations to prevent the contamination of the environment. These regulations are monitored by environment agencies.

Executive Officer, British Fur Trade Association, London N19

Think positive

Sir: I wonder whether Miles Kington's friend Guy Bladwell (13 September) would consider enlarging the activities of his rare words farm to such rare expressions as can only be used in a negative way. Would an invitation to come to a party to "darken my door" raise any eyebrows? What are the chances of someone requesting a friend to "touch me with a barge pole, please"? What is the standard kettle of fish from which others differ?

London N6