The dangers of flying
The issue of whether we must reduce air travel to halt global warming can no longer be ignored by socialists.
A report by the International Civil Aviation Organisation has stated that the number of international air passengers worldwide rose from 88 million in 1972 to 344 million in 1994.
As a consequence, tourism now accounts for more than 60 percent of air travel and is therefore responsible for an estimated 7 percent of the total carbon emissions globally.
This percentage is likely to rise considerably with the number of international travellers expected to increase from 594 million in 1996 to 1.6 billion by 2020, thus adding greatly to the problem unless steps are taken to reduce emissions.
One study estimated that a single transatlantic return flight emits roughly half the carbon dioxide emissions produced by all the other sources (lighting, heating, car use, etc) consumed by an average person every year.
As such, passenger jets are the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions.
Socialists have to support measures, however unpalatable, that drastically slash business air travel, ration air travel for the rest of us and oppose all new airports or any further airport expansion.
Hazel Wilson, Manchester
The furore over air travel and global warming should not panic us into blaming ordinary people for the problems created by big business and the market.
Air travel is a relatively small element causing climate change when compared to industrial emissions.
And are we really saying that people in Britain should not be allowed to visit their relatives in countries like Jamaica or Nigeria, or that workers should not have cheap holiday flights?
We should keep our focus on the main enemy, not let them off the hook by concentrating excessively on what is a less than central issue.
Daniel Palmer, South London
Legacy of rip-offs for the richest
The Daily Express has been running a vociferous campaign for the abolition of inheritance tax. There could not be a worse target for tax reform.
It is a tax applied to estates worth £275,000 or more, though this level is adjusted annually and goes up to £300,000 in 2007-2008. It was paid by only 40,000 estates last year, just the top 6 percent.
It is only a threat to the rich, or, in reality, the thoughtless rich because it is full of loopholes.
The most important one is the marriage allowance that applies to spouses.
This allows an estate to be split up or passed on to a spouse tax free.
Another dodge is known as business property relief. This was established to allow small businesses, typically family-owned, to continue trading without having to sell off assets to meet inheritance tax.
You do not have to run your own business to benefit. Relief is available to anyone holding unquoted company shares, providing they have been held for two years.
Under business property relief, if you own shares that give control of the company, your inheritance tax bill on these can be halved.
Farm land and commercially-managed woodland can also be exempt.
Far from being abolished, inheritance tax should be tightened up to hit the rich harder.
Rachel Charlton, West London
Prisons are necessary
I was interested to read the letter from No More Prisons (Letters, 25 February). Interested, but not convinced. It seemed a bit utopian.
Many anti-social criminals need to be separated from the public. Indeed, they deserve to be separated from society. Sadly, that means a prison of some kind.
A good prison would rehabilitate as well as punish. Education really does prevent reoffending. We should improve this area of reform, but keep its students “inside”.
Many criminals are attacking working class communities. Even if the origins of many crimes are social, criminals should take responsibility for their attacks on society.
My sympathy is with the victims of crime.
Graeme Kemp, Wellington, Shropshire
Monsters in Kosovo
Remember Nato's 1999 war in Kosovo, fought, we were told, to eliminate terrorist outrages by the Serbian state?
That excuse looks thin after Agim Ceku was last week nominated to be Kosovo’s new prime minister.
He has been linked to two of the grisliest episodes of brutality in the war in former Yugoslavia.
Military magazine Jane’s Defence Weekly credits him with helping to orchestrate Operation Storm and the Medak offensive, which involved the cleansing of ethnic Serbs from the Krajina region of Croatia, the deliberate shelling of civilians, rape and systematic arson.
According to an Amnesty International report nearly the entire ethnic Serbian population of the region, estimated to be at least 180,000 people, fled.
Hundreds of civilians – Serbs and gypsies – were murdered, most of the victims being elderly or disabled people who were unable to flee. The monster who guided such atrocities has been helped to power by Nato.
RJ Faulkner, Worthing, Sussex
Your chance to meet with Turkish Kurds
Over the last couple of months events in Turkey have given cause for concern. We have seen the bombing of a Kurdish bookshop in Semdinli by agents of the state, the planting of petrol bombs on Kurdish journalists and a rise in human rights abuses.
These events have taken place against the backdrop of Turkey supposedly making reforms to speed up entry talks to the EU.
As we approach the Kurdish new year, known as Newroz, we have an important visit to Britain by Mukaddes Kubilay, the elected mayor of the town of Dogubayazit, and the mayor of Kiziltepe, Cihan Sincar.
Ms Kubilay recently attracted international attention when she criticised the Turkish government for not doing enough over bird flu.
Since being elected seven years ago, Ms Kubilay has worked tirelessly on many important projects in her town which has suffered terribly at the hands of the Turkish army.
One of her central and guiding aims has been to develop and empower women.
Please contact us to arrange for your organisation to meet with these important Kurdish representatives during their visit to Britain (13-22 March).
Ibrahim Dogus chair Halkevi management committee 07876 146 557,
Mark Campbell member Halkevi management committee 07865 079 415,
Estella Schmid Peace in Kurdistan 020 7586 5892 or 020 7250 1315
Attack on anti-war meeting
A group attempted to break up a Stop the War meeting in Hackney, east London, and later tried to do the same at an Imperial College meeting. Their disgraceful behaviour should be condemned.
They particularly targeted Elaheh Rostami Povey, for speaking against a US invasion of Iran and for saying that Iran was not the monolithic society that the US pretends.
The group concerned – whose leaflet did not even announce their own name – claim they are against the present regime in Iran and against an invasion of Iran.
Yet they were barracking Povey and Stop the War’s Lindsey German even when they made clear that they are not apologists for the present government.
One of their number accused Povey of being “a paid agent of the Mullahs”.
Who benefits from this thuggish behaviour?
The blog of the man who led this intervention recommends the website of the Iran Institute for Democracy – headquarters Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington. It says it was set up to support “human rights and a free market economy in Iran” and features articles by former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger.
We should not be intimidated out of opposing imperialist threats to Iran.
Janet Pearson, East London
My experience of Excelcare
With regard to your article about Excelcare – “Cut pay or we’ll close Essex care homes” (4 March), I used to work for Excelcare in Milton Keynes and much the same thing happened there.
The staff took pay cuts after the firms changed the shift patterns and offered workers a lump sum to change over to an Excelcare contract.
The staff were not happy. Some left, others started looking for new jobs. Excelcare opened a new home called The Willows and some staff transferred to it as their homes were being closed and pulled down.
Catherine Woodward, Yardley Gobion, Northamptonshire
Pope attacks good priests
The article on Marx and religion (4 March) was very good.
It is a pity that some governments that have had Marxist pretensions have attacked freedom of religion.
During the 1970s and 1980s the church in Latin America took an increasingly activist role in standing up for the rights of its parishioners.
Regrettably the man who is now Pope saw to it that many priests who participated in this liberation theology movement were either silenced or expelled.
Luke Weyland, New South Wales, Australia
Sex workers get organised
The recent debate in the letters page about sex workers and prostitution makes the point that better services and protection are needed for people working in the sex industry.
The GMB union has a sex workers’ branch which is campaigning for better working conditions. The union has been successful in winning employment cases for people unfairly treated and discriminated against.
Also the branch itself has been active – I can recall seeing a large contingent marching behind their banner on the great anti-war demonstrations and May Day marches.
This is surely the way forward until such time as the rotten system that produces the need for such workers is consigned to the dustbin of history.
Dick Pole, East London
Too soft on Munich film?
I think John Rose makes too many concessions to the Zionists when he argues that the film Munich is “designed to disturb the complacency of Jewish communities in North America and Western Europe” (Munich, 28 January).
Joseph Massad of Columbia University makes a more realistic criticism of this racist film (http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article4449.shtml).
He argues that Munich is in the tradition of Zionist films like Exodus in that it normalises racist violence by giving its perpetrators moral qualms. Joseph Massad contrasts this to interviews with Mossad agents that show they are indoctrinated with a strong ideological commitment to kill enemy Palestinians with no moral questioning.
Roger Cox, Newcastle
Tell us about your buses
I am writing to ask for help in a new campaign. In Bristol a bus passenger group has recently been set up.
We are calling for a better and more affordable bus service. More information about our campaign can be found at www.reclaimthebuses.org
It would really help us to know how high the fares and the drivers’ wages are around the country. Could readers please e-mail us on firstname.lastname@example.org
Any information about the service and service provider would be useful.
Mike Williams, Bristol