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US aggression, not the North Korean nuclear bogeyman, is dragging us towards another war


We're meant to be consumed with fear and anxiety over a failed North Korean missile test. This is at the same time as the US dropped "the mother of all bombs" in Afghanistan on real people.

This was not a test. This was a real bomb developed by rational scientists with families and subscriptions to Reader's Digest, who drop the kids off at school in the mornings. This is what we should fear. It's the normalisation of war. It's the blase-isation of terror on other peoples.

The New York Times hypothesises that the bomb could "signal deterrence" to countries like Syria and North Korea. There was no outrage to accompany this escalation in violence against a defenceless country the US has been bombing for nearly 16 years now.

Nato's missile defence system, which is now operational in Europe, was apparently installed to counter the Iranian threat. Russian President Vladimir Putin, at the International Economic Forum on June 17, 2016, explained that, with advances in missile technology facilitating ever increasing missile ranges, these missiles will soon be able to threaten Russia.

Iran isn't a threat to anyone. The last war Iran fought was against a US-backed Iraq which invaded Iran. The US, meanwhile, admits that the mother of all bombs was dropped to take out a tunnel complex the US helped to build during the Soviet occupation.

Putin reiterates the "impending danger" endemic to these events. He says: "How do you not understand that the world is being pulled in an irreversible direction?" How indeed.

Pinpointing the 'by whom' is important, too.


Hillsborough, Co Down

Religious beliefs have no place in lawmaking

I would like to thank Donald Gale (Write Back, April 5) for continuing the important discussion on the nature of the human foetus. I answer his points individually and in detail.

1. Parasitism is a specific type of dependence, where one organism depends on another for its survival to the disadvantage of another. Whether a pregnant woman welcomes her pregnancy or not, she decides whether the relationship between her and the developing embryo is parasitic, or mutualistic.

It is the mother's feelings which are the deciding factors and so should take primacy over foetal dependence.

2. The DNA of a fertilised ovum may well be complete, but the use of the term 'awesome' to describe it is hardly useful. What is awesome to one person may be commonplace to another. In any case, a coded set of instructions is not the actual end product. The instructions making up the human genotype are not the only important factors in the development of the human embryo - environment plays an equally important role in its development.

To say that the DNA code determines the zygote's humanity is a huge - and misleading - over-simplification.

I, again, would argue that it is the right of any pregnant woman to decide whether the following of the DNA instructions should be allowed to continue or not.

3. This brings us close to the crux of the matter. What is right or wrong for a particular human being depends very much on their beliefs. I am glad Donald Gale has come clean on his beliefs, but it should be obvious that not everyone agrees with him.

Quoting the scriptures has no place in law and is irrelevant to any general argument. The law stands for every person - regardless of beliefs - and must represent every person equally and without favour. I would, therefore, plead for a law that represents all women and not just those with religious beliefs.

The real problem in NI is that people's religious views are used against the interests of those not sharing those beliefs. This to me is intolerable and needs considerable, dispassionate attention by our politicians and law-makers.

In my opinion, the 1967 Abortion Act, as operated in England, comes much closer to an acceptable state of affairs than Donald Gale's religiously biased opinion.


By email

Shock therapy should be consigned to past

According to statistics, the psychiatric habit of passing electricity through a person's brain is on the rise. Known as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), it has all the marks of physical torture methods that might instead belong in the armoury of a KGB interrogator, rather than the inventory of a medical practitioner.

In order to garner public support, ECT has been cleverly cloaked in medical legitimacy: the hospital setting, white-coated assistants, anaesthetics, muscle-paralysing drugs and sophisticated looking equipment.

These things may give the witness the idea that something therapeutic is going on. All very medical and, perhaps, convincing.

But in spite of these trappings, the brutality of ECT - also known as 'shock treatment' - verifies that psychiatry has not advanced beyond the cruelty and barbarism of its earliest treatments. Most importantly, nothing has changed for the victim being shocked.

Few are aware that a Rome slaughterhouse inspired this so-called 'scientific' procedure. In 1938, psychiatrist Ugo Cerletti observed butchers incapacitating pigs with electric shocks to render them more docile prior to slitting their throats.

Inspired, Cerletti conducted further experiments on the pigs, finally concluding: "These clear proofs caused all my doubts to vanish and, without more ado, I gave instructions in the clinic to undertake, next day, the experiment upon man".

It may sound crude, but it is a fact: the shock treatment procedure itself is no more scientific, or therapeutic, than being hit over the head with a cricket bat.

Just as whipping, leeching and flogging are unlawful, this 'treatment' should be prohibited or prosecuted for the criminal assault that it is.


Citizens Commission on Human Rights

No excuse for kicking passengers off planes

It is almost unbelievable that airlines are still allowed to overbook then legally force passengers off flights.

The offering of compensation is no excuse, even when it is done properly.

Why should paid-up passengers have to change their plans (not always possible, of course) to make airline executives even richer?

A simple solution would be for airlines to underbook and keep a few seats free.

They could then use these for repositioning staff, offer them to standby passengers, or even at a premium to short-notice bookers.


By email

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