May 28, 2024

Robin McKie’s article sounds alarm bells for global health and our failure to control airborne pathogens (“Which virus will cause the next pandemic? It’s the flu, say scientists“).

We are rightly concerned about the spread of H5N1 and the risk it poses to people, but we have still not applied the hard-won lessons learned from Covid 19. While all agencies and experts now (lately) acknowledge that Covid’s airborne spread, very little has been done to make indoor spaces safer for all of us, and especially the clinically vulnerable, for whom shops, workplaces, restaurants and even clinical environments have become high-risk areas has.

With new Office for National Statistics data shows 2 million people reporting long Covid, we need to wake up to the need to improve indoor air quality through better ventilation, filtration or UV disinfection. It should be high on the agenda of the negotiating team drafting the pandemic agreement, which will be unveiled at next month’s World Health Assembly. But it remains silent on this essential protection of public health. Without global commitment to action (and accountability), we will continue to be vulnerable to waves of deadly and debilitating diseases, with disastrous consequences for society, economy and health services.
Desmond Whyms
Le Dresnay, Côtes-d’Armor, France

March to another tune

Fifty years ago I was in Portugal (“How Portugal’s 1974 Eurovision entry overthrew the country’s fascist regime“). Two weeks into a new job, drive to Faro to pick up my wife and baby daughter from the airport. Greeted by tanks on the runway blocking planes landing and Angolan soldiers in mirrored sunglasses brandishing AK47s in the arrivals terminal.

There was nothing on the radio about a pop song linked to the revolutionary left. The call of the revolution was A Life on the Ocean Wave, the anthem of the Royal Marines. I have no idea why. On April 25, 1974, it was played repeatedly on the radio, and for many days afterward. Whenever there was a rumor of a counter-coup, A Life on the Ocean Wave was broadcast on state-run radio, mobilizing shotgun-wielding farmers in the Alentejo and Algarve to block roads to Lisbon and students armed with AK47s in Lisbon , mobilized to a career around the streets in army trucks. Whenever you heard the national anthem, it was time to stay home with your head down.
Christopher Walton
Launceston, Cornwall

Nobody wins in negativity

Stewart Lee is spot on (“Andrew Neil needs to be more Vorderman, less Voldemort“). The reason this world is in such a mess is entirely due to greed, ignorance, loss of faith in ourselves, poverty, overbreeding and worship of money. The humanitarians are doing their best to climb mountains. The charities save lives. George Monbiot is raising awareness of the responsibility we all have to take care of the planet.

The thing we all have is an ability to create. If we choose positivity and good works, we prosper. If we wallow in negativity, nobody wins. Ultimately, we all have an opportunity to choose life, health and happiness over death and destruction. The only real power we have is our signature, and our ability to vote. Consider your own conscience and your own family and friends. Don’t accept the lies that are told without checking the facts. The world can do better.
Julie Taylor
Kippax, Leeds

The Observer has historically been the vehicle and stimulus for many changes for the better in the UK. Can’t you start a movement to invite Stewart Lee to be in charge of, you know, everything?
Brian Smith

Denim, legacy of the empire

“Does this painting prove that denim predates Levi’s by 200 years?” ask you article. Denim is a heritage of the empire. Far from western, the origin of denim goes back to India in the 16th century to the port of Dongri, from where we get the word dungarees. Sailors on the ships that used Dongri wore this durable blue material and the production of cotton and indigo in this part of the world was mainly through slave labour. This was beautifully depicted by The Singh Twins in their piece titled Indigo: The color of India as part of their Slaves of Fashion Exhibition (2018).
Jenny Payne

Change debt collection law

Given that the fundamental principle of English law is that one is innocent until proven guilty, debt collection agencies would not be required to prove their accusations against people they claim to owe money beyond a reasonable doubt (“Unregulated ‘identity trackers’ harass people for debts they don’t owe”)? One remembers the tragic case of Beryl Brazier, who was falsely accused and harassed by one such agency over a debt and was driven to suicide in 2012. While regulation of debt collection agencies is to be welcomed, a change in the law is urgently needed.
Chris Waller

Why the silence about Qatar?

Thanks to Kenan Malik for closing the Congress for Palestine in Berlin on April 12 (“Left silences right, right silences left. But censorship prevents us from pushing for change“). As a German citizen, I find it hard to believe how little coverage the shutdown and the gagging of Yanis Varoufakis was given in the German media. I also find it surprising how little protest there is against the state of Qatar, which happily shelters the leaders of Hamas. Where are the calls to cut ties with Qatar to support Hamas? Or is it that there is just too much capital involved in Qatar and therefore Qatar is beyond criticism?
Dr. Britta Kleinsorge

A royal development too far

Rowan Moore’s article on Faversham is not the first and I fear will not be the last (“Is Kent ready for the next Poundbury?“). In the last few years the town has grown tremendously; in fact, it is surrounded by new developments. I have always respected King Charles’ foresight on environmental issues, but to build a Poundbury mark 2 on our town’s boundary, using even more productive land, is a travesty. With Poundbury a point was made about how new developments can be. Leave it at that.

As for his majesty, he is not a property developer, nor should he be.
Carol Isern
Faversham, Kent

Warring families

(“When royalty marry among themselves, it brings an unexpected peace dividend“). However, the case of Queen Victoria and her grandchildren proves the reverse; this did not prevent Russia and Germany from going to war in August 1914 followed by Britain.
Andrew Hudson
Ulverston, Cumbria

Primary school, my dear Rodney

In “Revealed: the next Sherlock Holmes author, with a twist in the story”, Vanessa Thorpe compares the longevity of Holmes and his deerstalker with the now unrecognizable “boxing gloves of Rodney Stone” (another Doyle hero). Not surprisingly, Stone was a bare-knuckle fighter. I ought to know; I was named after him by my late father, Fleet Street legend, Peter Wilson.
Rodney (Steve) Wilson
Wantage, Oxfordshire

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