Letters to the Editor

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Rosalind Franklin (summer issue) could certainly be cranky and was often insensitive to the feelings of others. However, she was every inch the outstanding scientist – doing critical work in uncovering the double helix. I should perhaps correct the notion (referred to once again in your Science & Technology feature) that Dr Franklin was passed over because of her gender. This was most certainly not the case. The Nobel committee would have been delighted to make an award to this extraordinarily talented woman. But she died several years before Watson, Crick, and Wilkins were recognised. As your writer points out: the Nobel Prize is never awarded posthumously.

Michael Barryson Cambridge

Do I detect a dose of positive discrimination in your summer listing of Heroes? How surprising that your editor could only come up with two male worthies. And it was a further surprise to me that the two token men were a politician soon to be rightly forgotten (Nick Clegg) and the rather odd but engaging Prince Janek Zylinski – who provided some side line entertainment at the time of the last general elec-tion. Nigel Farage may have got his comeuppance from the UK electorate but there is something more obviously heroic about this man than the other two I mention above. Time will tell.

James Crawford Bristol

I have some sympathy with Mr Romeijn’s plea for greater privacy from official eavesdroppers (Editor’s Column) but we should be careful what we wish for. Battles in the fight against crime and terror are often won because of good intelligence gathering and prompt subsequent action. Are we really so concerned about being easily noticed? If we are just going about our business in an honest way I rather doubt it. But the writing is on the wall, Mr Romeijn; things are not going your way, I fear.

Georges Brusson Paris

Saudi Arabia has long dealt with the challenge of embracing modernity whilst holding true to the traditional and enduring values of its society. Your summer issue provides a timely report on two fascinating recent developments namely, the cautious opening up of our stock exchange to foreign participation and the inevitable change now made in the way of deciding on royal succession. Your article Pragmatism as a Driver of Change closes with the suggestion that Saudi Arabia considers modernity a value to be feared. We do not fear modernity. But we do things in our own way and at our own pace. There is too much at risk for us to throw caution to the wind.

Bashir Bajbair Jeddah

Mr Marinus rightly reflects on the passing of Eduardo Galeano (Remembering a Forgotten Continent). A writer can perhaps be forgiven for being less argumentative than usual in describing a lost literary life but surely the predicament of post-colonial Latin America was not unavoidable as Galeano suggests in his seminal work. We can and must make our own choices and determine our futures.

Vitor Cardosoi Rio de Janeiro

I take issue with Mr Churchman (Letters) who dismisses with scorn the efforts of Jeremy Clarkson to entertain car enthusiasts and TV viewers around the world with his unique blend of reporting and entertainment skills. The BBC’s loss is Amazon’s gain and I look forward to see the trio of Clarkson, Hammond, and May soon reunited. Do lighten up, Mr Churchman. Don’t vote for too dreary a world.

Joachim Amsel Bonn

As the father of several teenage children I question the assertion that anyone, even the redoubtable Sarah-Jane Blakemore, can truly decipher the teenage brain. There would seem to be a subtle but very effective mechanism in play in the minds of young people that at times locks out all enquiring adults. Your writer suggests that because of late day melatonin release teenagers are not slothful but inhabit a different time zone. From my observations it could well be that the one does not rule out the other. But more seriously, congratulations to Professor Blakemore on sterling work in an important field of research.

Randolph Paton Cape Town

I noticed that Casinos Austria International was announced as an award winner in the summer issue of your magazine. I do not gamble. I do not altogether approve of gambling either. But I do know that popular interest in games of chance is unlikely to wane anytime soon.
Apparently your winner empowers staff to protect customers from getting caught up in the moment and losing more than they can afford. I wonder how this can be achieved in practice but appreciate the sentiment. Your winner does seem to place the proper emphasis on the entertainment side of things and there is certainly nothing shady going on here.

Gustav Faustner VIENNA

You are quite right, Mr Romeijn: the attacks on our privacy have gone too far and it is wrong to blame everything on the so called War on Terror. We are under almost constant surveillance and the civil liberties we are trying to defend from terrorist attacks are being trampled underfoot by our so-called protectors.

Laurence Wilde London

Economic development is fuelled by energy, and plenty of it. It is one thing for Europe to switch to renewable energy sources, but Emerging Markets may not be able to generate the required energy by environmentally sound methods. These methods often need vast outlays of cash that are simply not available. While it is worthwhile to investigate alternative energy sources and use them in more prosperous countries, emerging markets need cheap and reliable sources of energy now in order to lift people out of misery. Environmental expediency is not (yet) a universally applicable concept and nor should it be. Combatting hunger, disease, illiteracy and under development should be at the top of any global agenda.

S. Caporaletti Milan

It is a welcome sign that not all British manufacturing has moved overseas. Thank you for featuring Bentley Motors in your spring issue for it cannot be emphasised enough that British workers, when given the chance, are capable of competing against any and all comers. Their craftsmanship is unsurpassed. It is a shame that most British and indeed western industrialists have opted for the easy route and moved production to low-wage countries. While this may be a boon to China, Mexico and others, highly-qualified, dedicated and willing workers in the UK are left to flip burgers or live on the dole. I congratulate Bentley Motors for maintaining its unwavering trust in the British worker.

N. Davis Bristol

Congratulations on an eye-catching and very readable issue of CFI! I immediately perused all 176 pages, and was impressed with the range of issues covered, and the depth of discussion. I paid also special attention to your profiles of heroes and heroines. Your publication supplies helpful information and perspective to us.

S. Horning Washington, D.C.

Thank you for naming Uruguayan President José Mujica one of your heroes. You couldn’t possibly have picked a better, and indeed more heroic, man. President Mujica is not just an able administrator; he is also respectful of others and has never avoided debate or imposed his will on the nation, arbitrarily or otherwise. José Mujica’s popularity derives from his love of liberty and his sense of modesty. This is a man who remains keenly aware of his own fallibility, high office notwithstanding.

N. Cabreras Punta del Este

The article on the future of the emerging markets, now that the developed world has recovered from the 2008 financial meltdown, was most timely indeed. The BRIC countries are no longer seen as tomorrow’s super powers. Some are suffering from lacklustre investment levels, net capital outflows and other ailments that point to a rather bleak future. Brazil remains tomorrow’s promise unfulfilled; Russia is but a bear running amok; and India seems to be falling asleep at the wheel. Only China keeps growing, but its days as an engine of global growth may be numbered due to dicey financial practices. Nothing has changed really.

A. Chukwu Lagos

Bitcoin proved to be a one day wonder. It is fast going the way of the dodo. Some may see in this a conspiracy of central bankers and governments eager to keep monetary control. I don’t. Bitcoin was a rather silly idea from the get-go. Its built-in deflation was a recipe for disaster. As a global reserve currency, bitcoin would have plunged the world into a prolonged depression. The only way out would have been to reintroduce inflationary money. The hackers who got rid of bitcoin did us all a favour. They are the unsung heroes of our time – only you’d probably never know.

E. Mehra New Delhi

You have reported extensively on plans to build huge solar power plants in the sun-drenched countries of North Africa that could provide cheap renewable energy to the countries of Europe. If I’m allowed to say: These plans are quite silly. Isn’t it bad enough that Europe depends to an alarming extent on natural gas supplies from Russia? Are we in Europe to switch from one unruly provider for another one? Most countries of North Africa have just experienced severe civic upheaval. While Europe should do all in its power to promote democracy and good governance in North Africa, it would be unwise to mortgage the continent’s future to energy supplies from this region.
Dieter Klein Münster (Germany)

D. Klein Münster

Your spring feature article on the little bourse that could offered a most inspiring reading experience. It is refreshing indeed to see that a can-do attitude survives and thrives in a place such as Bahrain. The example of the Bahraini bourse, and the spirit in which it is run, deserves emulation elsewhere in the world for it shows how setbacks and lack of size may be easily compensated for by resourcefulness, decisive action and excellence in governance. Thus, the Bahraini Bourse offers a case study in how to overcome challenges considered quite unsurmountable elsewhere.

E. Munsi Kuala Lumpur

The notion that the EU should turn inward out of concern for global warming is rather ludicrous. It may be emotionally satisfying for the EU to claim the moral high ground; it is not likely to contribute much, if anything, toward growing – or even lasting – prosperity.

The global climate change scare has proven to be yet another way for big business and governments to cash in. Carbon taxes and emissions trading mechanisms move billions of euros from one account to the next without anybody getting any the wiser – least of all the climate.

The EU is in the business of integrating a continent of previously warring tribes and nations. That’s quite a tall order as it stands. Instead of introducing yet more regulation, the EU should perhaps consider to allow for a reassertion of market forces and a strengthening of its anti-trust legislation.

R. Matthews Bath

The European Union is doing rather poorly when it comes to marketing its ideas. Because of this, in a number of countries nationalist parties are faring increasingly well. In The Netherlands, Mr Wilders’ Freedom Party now commands an impressive lead in the opinion polls. The UK Independence Party isn’t faring too badly either. France, Italy, Austria and even placid Sweden have their own nationalist parties parroting each other’s condemnations of Brussels.

The Swiss now wish to modify the treaties that shape their country’s status as an EU associate state. Switzerland is, in fact, part of the EU in all but name. They solemnly promised to abide by all of the EU’s regulations. One of those concerns the freedom of movement which the Swiss now find discomforting and want see changed.

That is a no-go. The four freedoms of movement – of people, labour, goods and services – form the very foundation of the EU edifice. The Swiss are free to take it or leave it. There is to be no cherry-picking of EU regulations. Before you know it, the British and Dutch – both worryingly xenophobic as of late – will demand the same. It will be the end of the EU. That is an issue the European Federalist Party may want to consider taking aboard.

G. Wetering Eindhoven

Thank you for a more balanced approach to the late Mr Mandela’s astonishing career. Your obituary avoided the boundless adulation that followed Mr Mandela’s passing. While a great and courageous statesman, Mr Mandela remained very much human and as such prone to error. He also stunted the development of South Africa by stuffing his cabinet with a number of impressively incompetent people. While we all can benefit greatly from Mr Mandela’s lessons in humility, forgiveness and magnanimity, his legacy of cuddling up to dictators (Castro, Mugabe) and less than optimal economic management is slightly less impressive.

E. Lane Jaipur

Mr Roubini’s article on the lessons of the recent financial crisis and its aftermath is both timely and important. Now that economies are on the rebound we may want to consider adjusting policies in order to avoid a repeat performance. An evaluation, however, is not in the works and it would very much seem that business-as-usual remains very much in vogue. The notion that reinvigorated central banks may impose macro-prudential regulation and supervision of the financial system is – it would seem – a case of wishful thinking. Unless the world’s major economies revert to the Glass-Steagall era of strict separation between commercial banks and securities firms, the world will shortly experience yet another financial meltdown. Just as war is too important an endeavour to be entrusted solely to generals, high finance is much too serious an affair to entrust to bankers.

M. Poole Canberra

It never fails to amaze me that Chile’s rather straightforward development model hasn’t found much traction elsewhere in the developing world. The country’s undeniable success in creating prosperity indeed merits close attention. Alone in Latin America, Chile has eliminated abject poverty from its society and has done so within a generation. While neighbouring Argentina hobbles from one crisis to the next, Chile quietly and efficiently moves ahead. Chile also offers living proof that a social democracy can still deliver the goods. This is something even governments in Europe might want to take note of. Their progressive dismantling of the welfare state in name of economic efficiency may lead to a few gains in the short term but will eventually disrupt societal cohesion and thereby undermine economic strength. The economy is what people collectively do to further their interests. It is most decidedly not an end in itself as some economists would have us believe.

E. Farais Fortaleza

One cannot help but admire Warren Buffett and would wish more billionaires – and even some millionaires – would demand their taxes be increased. It is not just absurd but downright unjust that billionaires should be taxed at lower rates than your average working stiff. Also, other billionaires might want to emulate Mr Buffett’s modesty. He lives a most comfortable life and derives happiness not from excess but from doing right and being just. How hard can that be? And, how many billions does one need to satisfy cravings for luxury.

Compare this to the former math teacher who became one of Britain’s largest landlords. Fergus Wilson owns some 1,000 flats and amassed a fortune in excess of £180m. He is now evicting all tenants who receive housing benefits – even those never late on rent payments – arguing that they pose too great a risk. Mr Wilson is the archetypical, almost Dickensian, ugly capitalist. To Mr Wilson the bottom line reigns supreme and all other considerations are unwelcome. The world stands in dire need of more Buffett and less Wilson. Let’s adjust tax law accordingly.

K-J. Wungaard Ghent

While the European Environment Agency undoubtedly engages in most valuable work and noble pursuits, it appears yet another example of Europe choosing lofty ideals over pragmatism. The continent faces the challenge of creating meaningful work for tens of millions of unemployed youth. These people need jobs now and building a few windmills is probably not going to cut it. Europe needs cheap, plentiful energy to fuel its slow moving economy. That may come from nuclear or some fossil or other. Once the economy is up and running and producing healthy surpluses, we may start looking into other ways of keeping that momentum going. To seek major adjustments now in the way we conduct our collective business is to hamper growth. Europe cannot afford that just yet.

A. Cunningham Leeds


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