You recently set out in detail the catastrophic consequences of the current âwar on drugsâ (Editorial, 14 February), from tens of thousands of civilian deaths in Mexico to the mass incarceration of young black men in the US, and the corruption of politicians by the cartels. In doing so, you rightly assert the need to protect innocent people and minimise any harm associated with drug use and drugs laws. Nevertheless, you also conclude that the war must continue to be waged.
Your justification rests on two extraordinary claims. First, that anything short of, or different from, victory on the current terms of the conflict amounts to âsurrenderâ. This dismissal of political alternatives sits oddly in a newspaper with a noble tradition of opposing mass violence in pursuit of unwinnable political ends.Continue reading... [ + ]
Post-1945 Germany set about a process called BewÃ¤ltigung der Vergangenheit, overcoming its history, coming to terms with its past â honestly and openly. The latest salvos against Churchill are exactly that (Shadow chancellor: Churchill labelled âvillainâ, 14 February). The Brexit issue has forced many to look at the assumptions, myths and claims about the UK and its past. The recalling of the Dunkirk spirit and other glib half-truths are bringing this reassessment of the past into focus and discussion.
As the European continent gazes in wonder at the antics in the English Commons and its historical procedures carried over into the UK post-1707, it is time for an honest reappraisal of âGod, who made thee mightyâ.
In a few weeks the governmentâs fisheries bill will return to the House of Commons. The environment secretary, Michael Gove, has claimed that his plans enable the UK to âtake back controlâ of its waters and establish a worldwide âgold standardâ for sustainable fisheries. It is a crucial part of the governmentâs pledge to enhance protections for the environment and deliver on its promise of a green Brexit. Yet, if the governmentâs current plans are implemented, our marine environment will be less protected after Brexit than it is now.
First, the bill does nothing to prevent fishing limits being set above scientific recommendations, meaning stocks will be susceptible to short-term political decisions and destructive overfishing. Second, the bill sets out admirable sustainability objectives, but it does not put any legal requirements on public authorities to achieve them. Ministers understand that the sustainability of our fish stocks is vital to the health of the marine environment and to the coastal communities that depend on them. It is in everyoneâs interest for them to live up to their promises, and put in place the necessary legal provisions that will deliver sustainable fishing in this landmark bill.
Sandy Luk Chief executive, Marine Conservation Society
Debbie Tripley Director of environmental policy and advocacy, WWF
James Thornton Chief executive, ClientEarth
Stephanie Hilborne Chief executive, The Wildlife Trusts
Mike Clarke Chief executive, RSPB
John Sauven Executive director, Greenpeace UK
Pascale Moehrle Executive director, Oceana
David Bunt Chief executive, Institute of Fisheries Management
It is ridiculously inappropriate to compare âluxury homes, cars, exotic holidaysâ with the fees for private schools (Letters, 12 February). Good education is not a luxury but an essential provision that needs to be equally available to all children if we are ever to have a properly functioning society. Parents are not to be blamed for seeking the best for their children, but the private school system encourages the wealthiest to do this at the expense of the great majority. For example, 14% of the teaching force, trained mainly at public expense, is employed in schools that teach 6.5% of the nationâs children.
Second, the fact that private schools meet the criteria required for charitable status is merely a reminder that these criteria are inadequate. The charitable status enjoyed by private schools represents a subsidy to the wealthiest from the majority of taxpayers, whose own schools are poorly resourced.Continue reading... [ + ]
I was the first female journalist to be employed in the high court in 1967 with the Press Association law service, which had 35 men on staff. The late Lord Denning, master of the rolls, called us: âThe watchdogs of English justice.â Itâs reassuring to hear the former lord chief justice, Igor Judge, comment that the loss of newspapers âis a threat to the justice system â¦ and justice needs to be seen to be done and reported accurately and impartiallyâ (Report, 12 February). Last time I popped into the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand there were only five journalists covering over 50 courts that sit there daily. There used to be a very active high court journalistsâ association in my day, formed over 100 years ago, but it is sadly now defunct.
Margaret Parker (nee Rowe)
â¢ Join the debate â email email@example.comContinue reading... [ + ]
We are deeply concerned about grave human rights violations in Zimbabwe and condemn the violent repression of peaceful protesters, including the leaders and members of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, who called for a peaceful three-day strike in mid-January. Since then, security forces have used live ammunition against civilians, killing at least 12 people and wounding 78 others. Civil society activists and opposition politicians have been arbitrarily arrested and detained. Our colleagues in Zimbabwean human rights groups report that police and men in military uniform are conducting door-to-door raids in urban areas, during which rapes and beatings have occurred.
On coming to power in November 2017, President Mnangagwa spoke of a ânew and unfolding democracyâ in Zimbabwe. Yet all forms of democratic governance must allow people to exercise their human rights. No citizen should be killed, harmed or harassed for peaceful dissent, and all individuals who have been arbitrarily detained should be released immediately. If the government of Zimbabwe is truly committed to holding to account those who have committed abuses, it will formally invite the African Union or the UN to conduct an independent investigation. It is unacceptable for the UK government to continue to entertain the government of Zimbabweâs request for a review of its relationship with the international community while civilians continue to be assaulted and killed and an independent investigation has not been conducted.Continue reading... [ + ]
If the ERG, that party-within-a-party, had a scrap of integrity, its MPs would resign their seats and fight byelections, if necessary as independents (Report, 15 February). That would show the real level of support, or lack of it, they actually have among the public.
â¢ Good suggestions about how to get there but no mention of which national parks are accessible for wheelchair users (Travel, 9 February). Perhaps you could include wheelchair-friendly weekends sometime.
How I agree with Susanna Rustin (Why study English? Weâre poorer in every sense without it, 11 February)! A retired teacher, I hear the arguments for studying Stem subjects frequently put forward as self-explanatory. But are science graduates necessarily more employable than someone who has spent her degree years reading widely, analysing language, developing sound aesthetic judgment, defending her opinions in seminars, and learning how to express them in lucid, cogent and elegant prose in weekly essays?
Many ex-pupils I hear about who have arts degrees are successful in business, academia, the law, novel writing, and the arts. One is even running a department in the Guardian.Continue reading... [ + ]
Despite robust evidence that freestanding midwifery units (birth centres) provide high-quality care, the number of women able to use them is constantly undermined. Womenâs choice is not the primary factor in declining numbers (Closure of midwife-run centres âdenying women birth optionsâ, 11 February).
First, an increasingly medicalised approach to pregnancy care means that fewer women are able to use freestanding midwifery units. Second, evidence shows that simply being in an obstetric setting leads to an increase in interventions, such as epidurals, forceps and caesarean births. Thus, fewer women are eligible â or confident â to plan for a home birth or birth centre next time. Third, birth-centre midwives are regularly reassigned to work in over-stretched obstetric units (at least partly due to the increasing medicalisation) meaning that birth centres are often closed âtemporarilyâ, further reducing access to them. This cycle chips away at the numbers, and the women who are most likely to benefit from a midwifery unit instead find themselves in an obstetric unit, with an increased risk of intervention without clinical benefit. NHS underfunding sets one part of the system against another when both are underresourced.Continue reading... [ + ]
I cannot agree more with Amr Darragâs opinion on the failure of the Egyptian government â shown in extravagant projects that were meant to lift President Sisiâs status rather than serve the population and in the establishment of an autocratic regime that has seen an abundance of human rights violations (If Sisiâs brutality in Egypt continues, the results could be dire for Europe, 11 February). And it is likely, in light of the proposals for a constitutional amendment, that Sisi will be in office until 2034.
However, the call for the west to address the autocracy of Sisiâs government is problematic. Democracy is established and sustained by collective action, and can only thrive when people are able to be force themselves into the conversation and the decision-making process. Thus, democracy can be imagined differently in different countries and can often be used to reject rather than affirm western values.Continue reading... [ + ]
I was British high commissioner, later ambassador, to Zimbabwe from 2001 to 2004 when the number of Zimbabweans seeking refuge in Britain reached a peak (Home Office under fire for sending asylum seekers back to Zimbabwe, 13 February). I know why these people left.
Many were fleeing from political persecution. Some were trying to escape a collapsing economy. But now, more than 10 years later, surely the principal consideration should be that, whatever their original motivation, the overwhelming majority of the Zimbabweans who came to Britain have settled peacefully and contributed to the social and economic life of this country. What possible harm does it do if they are allowed to stay?Continue reading... [ + ]
As one of the peers who pushed the government into holding a review of Prevent can I urge everyone to contribute to changing this counterproductive approach to combating terrorism (Police challenge Prevent critics to âstand up and be countedâ, 5 February). The safeguarding of vulnerable people and vulnerable communities will only work if we have the cooperation of those communities and Prevent is simply not trusted by many whom the authorities need to work with them. Prevent has become discredited because it has thrown the net so wide that it includes many thousands who have committed no serious crimes, but are seen by the police as subversives and domestic extremists.
As one of several Green politicians who was on the domestic extremism database, I am a critic of Prevent for the same reasons as I criticise the spycops who invaded the lives of women activists and spied on justice campaigners like the parents of Stephen Lawrence. Prevent is an extension of political policing and will remain so until parliament, rather than the police themselves, defines who is and is not a domestic extremist. We need a public debate on whether we want the police making political judgments about what people might think, or whether we want them to do their job based upon actual crimes being committed.
Green party, House of Lords
In response to Dr Brenda Kellyâs letter (13 February) regarding her experience of courts making an interim supervision order, this could only be made if a local authority was already involved with the litigation. This misses the point of the bill that Sir Christopher Chope objected to.
I proposed this bill to Lord Berkeley because of an occasion in court where the police sought a female genital mutilation protection order. The local authority were not involved but the judge wanted to engage their protective powers for the girl.Continue reading... [ + ]
How come no mention of the three performers with by far the greatest number of appearances (Crackerjack back after 35 years as BBC takes on Netflix, 12 February)? Peter Glaze (309), Jillian Comber (188) and Leslie Crowther (159). They were the team when I went to the show with my school in the early 60s. Might Gavin Williamson MP be one of the new presenters? He seems ideal to âusher in a new era of â¦ whizzbang audience anticsâ and well suited to CBBC.
â¢ Boiling more water than needed in the kettle is bad enough (Are your cuppas costing more than you thought?, 9 February), but I am more despondent about people who rinse crockery items with running hot water before placing them in the dishwasher. It washes dishes. The clue is in the name.
Dr John Birtill
Guisborough, North Yorkshire
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