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What readers think12

Dec. 12: Letters to the editor Add to ...

Shambolic Europe

What is it with David Cameron (The Day Britain's Prime Minister Failed – Dec. 10)? Does he think that, if Europe fails, England wins?

Lloyd Creech, Penticton, B.C.

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Doug Saunders says only the heroic levels of international co-operation in the past three years have staved off the near total collapse of Western economies. But this is a misreading of the historical record. From the start of the financial crisis, it was nation-states acting alone that responded and, eventually, halted its spread.

It was the British who first injected capital into their banking system as a whole; only afterward did the U.S. follow. The U.S. and China – with no co-ordination – undertook massive stimulus packages. Ireland broke ranks to guarantee its entire banking system, followed grudgingly by other European countries.

In short, the record of crisis response runs through nation-states acting individually rather than through the co-ordinated efforts of the international community.

Randall Germain, Department of Political Science, Carleton University

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Doug Saunders accuses David Cameron of “refusing to participate in the pooling of resources and common sacrifice necessary to put the continent's finances back on track.” Nothing of the sort. Mr. Cameron refused to sign on to an agreement that seeks to avoid just such measures by subjecting national budgets to an arbitrary set of rules that are to be enforced by the same unelected bureaucrats in Brussels who have recently played a major role in appointing new governments in Greece and Italy, all in support of a badly designed currency union of which Britain is not a member.

Broader issues are at stake, of course, and Mr. Saunders is more or less right when he says Britain's economic ties to Europe are built on decades of common laws, standards and regulations.

But the sovereignty of the elected House of Commons over Britain's budget is the product of at least four centuries of history, and isn't something that any prime minister who respects the principles of representative government should be expected to give up lightly.

David Laidler, London, Ont.

Another fine mess

Re A Vicious Circle of Austerity Dooms EU To Failure (Report on Business, Dec. 10): E-ew.

Geoff Smith, Kingston, Ont.

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Irving Layton chose a title for his 1981 poetry collection that could be used in your newspaper every day: Europe and Other Bad News.

William Emigh, Victoria

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Has the financial turmoil in Europe caused Italy to sell Rome's sobriquet The Eternal City to the French or did Paris find being The City of Light to be draining too much electricity (Paris … In Winter – Travel, Dec. 10)?

Catherine McMenemy, Burlington, Ont.

Wealth gap

What world is Margaret Wente living in (The Poor Are Doing Better Than You Think – Dec. 10)? “Malnutrition is virtually extinct”? What about those reports that indicate that one in 10 children still goes to bed hungry each night in Canada? And what about those think tanks such as the Wellesley Institute that say malnutrition is on the rise among the poor?

Sure, the bottom fifth of the population has a lot of consumer products. But is it because they can afford them? Or is it that financial deregulation has increased the drive to easy credit and a greater share of the meagre incomes of the lower middle class is being transferred to the “elites of the financial class” through credit-card and banking charges and interest?

Brian Eng, Toronto

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Margaret Wente has a point. If you take a long enough historical period and use a narrow definition of poverty, the poor are doing better than you think. Things would look even better if we compared today with the 17th century.

Beyond this, poverty is more than material deprivation. It also involves social exclusion and lack of opportunity for participating in society. These have measureable effects on health and social well-being. They reflect growing income inequality, and not simply decreasing material deprivation.

Sid Frankel, Faculty of Social Work, University of Manitoba

Act of heroism

Re Veterans Of Hong Kong Hear Japan's Apology (Dec. 8): As we approach the commemoration of the fall of Hong Kong to the Japanese invasion and the part played by Canadian troops in that drama, there's an unremembered act of heroism that should be marked as well. It's the part played by a very junior Chinese member of the Canadian trade commissioner's office in Hong Kong at the time.

One of the duties of this clerk whom we all knew as Ah Ging was to open the office each morning. On the day the Japanese invaded Hong Kong, Ah Ging went to the office as usual, bu this time emptied the contents of all the filing cabinets into a wheelbarrow, crossed the harbour on the Star Ferry, trundled up into the hills of the “New Territories” on the mainland side and buried them.

After the war, on the day the Canadian trade commissioner's office in Hong Kong reopened for business, Ah Ging presented himself for duty as usual, with a large stock of documents. “Sir, I have preserved your documents, and here they are!”

The documents were probably of no value, but the loyalty of Ah Ging was beyond price. He deserves to be remembered.

Maldwyn Thomas and Daniel Molgat, former officers of the Canadian trade commissioner's office in Hong Kong, Vancouver

Chit-chat chafe

I agree with Katrina Onstad (Those Awkward Salon Conversations – Style, Dec. 10) that making small talk with one's hairdresser can indeed be awkward. I feel the same way when getting a massage or dental cleaning.

A massage should be a quiet hour of relaxation, and it's clearly impractical to talk through that face hole in the massage table, yet I still feel I should attempt conversation. Similarly, despite my mouth being propped open with the dental hygienist's tools, my instinct is to ask, “How was your son's wedding?” The ensuing conversation is typically one-sided.

Julie Fleming, Toronto

The sign of more

If that killer chair referred to in recent letters (Mens Rea – Dec. 6; Killer Chairs – Dec. 7) is still out of sorts, please consider a therapeutic quick fix at a furniture store whose sign reads: “Upholstery fully recovered in three days.”

Ken DeLuca, Arnprior, Ont.

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A sign on a door to the maternity ward of the now-defunct Grace Hospital in St. John's used to read: “Thank you for removing rubbers.”

Haruo Konishi, Fredericton

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A sign in southern England warning of a “Heavy Plant Crossing” prompted me to watch out for an enormous cactus lumbering across the road.

Carol Price, St. Albert, Alta.

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