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A level fiasco

It doesn't matter how high a standard pupils reach - there will always be the few percent who are better than everyone else - the 'cream'. Surely exams are all about skimming off the cream - not ensuring there is no milk in the bottle, only cream.
John Garforth

Why did we change the A-Level system in order to improve results and then deliberately stop those results getting better? The introduction of Curriculum 2000 was intended to help more young people gain qualifications. It is obvious that the Examination Boards have interfered with the assessment process in order to produce a distribution of A-Level grades not dissimilar to those of the previous year.

It should have been obvious and indeed desirable that the new style A-Level would produce different results. Why isn't the Government proud that Curriculum 2000 has worked? Any suggestion that the teachers didn't understand the marking requirements is so blatantly a "buck pass" that it will just inflame the debate.
Bob Reed, Headteacher, Anglo European School (State Comprehensive)

One can understand the need to maintain comparability across the years, but surely the most logical way of adjusting results is to adjust the percentage marks needed for each grade across ALL the sections of a specific subject, instead of downgrading one section thus producing a gross distortion. The result is then a moving up or down of the borderline cases.

As a former teacher, this is what I always believed happened. One can never make exams perfectly consistent from year to year. I cannot understand the logic of what the examiners appear to have done this year.
Nancy Lawrence

War in Iraq?

Question : which Middle Eastern state has persistently flouted a succession of UN resolutions; has occupied its neighbour's territory and continues to oppress the inhabitants with massive brutality; has fully developed weapons of mass destruction; and is a source of instability to the whole region, and through it to the wider world community?

Answer: Israel. So can we expect the US and British governments to put the same pressure on Israel as they are currently putting on Iraq? Until they do, their foreign policy will stand exposed to the whole world as one of double standards and hypocrisy, and they will forfeit their claim to support, both domestic and international.
Duncan Nimmo

Do you think that you could stop attempting an exegesis on Bush's tactics which are banal in the extreme and try a factual expose on the realpolitik of an unscrupulous administration? Your quasi-intellectualism is suffocating and dangerous.

Whilst we are on the subject, should you not be observing your proper role of reminding the populous of their last minute chance of contacting their MP with their opinion? Otherwise why is Parliament reconvening? Parliament is not a club and MPs at a time like this shouldn't sense but represent their electorate.
Keith Roberts

Tell the US that if they cannot give evidence to a newspaper (or radio programme) then we do not go to war without proof. The US wants war for reasons that can only be defended in secret in the boardrooms of the oil cartel.
Syd Hambly, Manorbier, Pembrokeshire

Before taking the decision to bomb Iraq, the question of why Iraq is making such weapons and for use on whom. The Americans? If so, the Americans should surely be asking themselves why? The answer would not take long to find. Anyone who has had any insight into the Middle East would know that you cannot treat the Palestinians as they are being treated by the Israelis without serious consequences.
Jan Murray

The IISS commission's report was all speculation and being plentifully laced with "could haves" would apply to any world country with even a modest technical capability such as Israel, Argentina, Brazil, Libya. Since when did the UN act against countries that could have the capability to manufacture "weapons of mass destruction" rather than those which do have such a capability, such as Russia, China, USA and UK?

If the UN require Inspectors to verify that countries are not manufacturing "weapons of mass destruction" then it should apply universally and the US should permit UN Inspectors to inspect sites within the USA which it does not.

To conclude the UK has no mandate to invade Iraq under the UN Charter. Before threatening Iraq with war because it does not permit Weapons Inspectors the US should permit Weapons Inspectors into the USA. The US wants to substitute a government in Iraq friendly to them so that it can go on importing oil to pollute the planet.
Dr Peter White

Further to the item on UN inspection team withdrawal from Iraq. I seem to remember that at that time, the inspectors expressed thoughts such as. "Our job was almost complete anyway. There is nothing more for us to do." Other oddities that cross my mind are: Population of Iraq is 20 millions; industrial base very slight. UK. population 60 millions, good industrial base. We cannot construct our own missiles (rely on US.), so how could Iraq manage to do so? And with all that surveillance - aircraft, satellites, agents inside the country etc! We are told that a satellite camera can resolve the detail of a cigarette packet on the ground so surely it could pick up tell-tale tracks of lorries going to and fro the underground factories?
Kenneth Williams

Do Blair and Bush want Iraq to refuse to re-admit weapons inspectors? The bullying tactics they use towards the Iraqis, a polite and proud people, is designed to antagonise. Have we forgotten that it was the aggression of some inspectors and the fact that they reported to Israel and other countries, before the UN, that contributed to the present stand off?
V J Jennings

I have just listened to the World at One where Nick Clarke began a story with the following sentence: "with less than two weeks to go before the pro-hunting march on London, the government is considering it's policies..."

As someone involved in organising 15 coachloads of people from Sheffield to go down to London on the 28th of September for a demonstration against war on Iraq that has been called by Stop the War Coalition and the Muslim Association of Britain, it occurs to me that there is a real imbalance in the BBC's coverage in the lead-up to these two demonstrations.

Now it may be that the difference in the coverage reflects broadcasters' differing impressions of the extent to which public concerns and activism will have any effect on ultimate government decisions in these two spheres. However, it seems to me that by prejudging this the BBC reinforces what is in effect a democratic deficit.

And on any objective basis, surely the build up to a nationwide demonstration against war is at least as newsworthy the build up to a demonstration for the preservation of the right to hunt with hounds?
Rachel Cohen

In any military attack on Iraq 80% of casualties will be civilian adults and children. Tony Blair should permit hospitals to receive the pain killers, anaesthetics, antibiotics and other vital drugs needed for the wounded. At present it takes months for a UK committee and another in the USA to decide each time that basic medical drugs do not have dual weapons usage .Hospitals in Iraq are starved of the most basic medicines and equipment needed. War will only increase the appalling number of children who have died unnecessarily since the Gulf War.
Dr M.I. Heatley

If my memory serves me correctly, the IISS was founded about forty years ago by Denis Healey with funding provided by Chase Manhattan Bank, New York. This may, or may not, influence the view one takes of its reports.
Ian H Thain

The question that doesn't seem to be asked in this current debate is: Even if Saddam has - or gets - weapons of mass destruction - who is he going to use them on? Given that the current Western Coalition is so hesitant about supporting any US first-strike military action - why would be risk providing America (and all putative allies, including Arab) with a categorical justification to STRIKE BACK? All the current crop of interviewees in favour of American first strike action seem to assume that by having such weapons, Saddam will be guaranteed to use them. But he's so isolated at the moment, surely the one thing he'll never actually be to do - is use them?
Britt Harrison, UK

If Blair and Bush feel so strongly about IRAQ lets see them get the fatigues and the guns on and hit the front line. We didn't take Saddam out 10 years ago, stop looking for excuses to finish something we couldn¿t do before. Lets stop looking to far away and concentrate on issues in our country for a change.
Mathew, UK

Tony Blair has no right to act like a President and take this country into a war with Iraq without the consent of Parliament or the people. He is acting like a tyrant.
R. Anderson, UK

As a citizen of this country I feel angry that we will commit troops to an unjust invasion at the say so of a right wing big business supported megalomaniac who is going to "finish what my dad didn't".

They only want access to the oil as if they had a right to it. The war in Afghanistan was ineffective and probably destroyed more civilians than any so called Al Qaeda. Bush realises the increase in domestic vote per "successful invasion" and cannot resist becoming a popular president even though his election appeared to be seriously flawed. We should look to Europe and throw off the yoke of the warmongering Americans.
George Turner, Enniskillen

If Tony Blair can commit us to war with Iraq without consulting his Cabinet, let alone Parliament, he's behaving no better than Saddam Hussein himself. I suggest that a review of the powers of the Prime Minister be carried out immediately with a view to making him more accountable to the people of this country.
Hugh Wellesley-Smith, Leeds

British Prime Minister Tony Blair should not follow George W. into an open-ended unjustified war against Iraq.

Instead Britain should take a lead in Europe and at UN Security Council in accepting proposals from Baghdad for resumption of arms inspections in line with setting a definite agenda to lift punitive sanctions which are destroying the lives of countless Iraq people, many of them children.

With an end to sanctions, Britain could gain many lucrative civil engineering and telecommunications contracts in rebuilding the devastated infrastructure.

Let's remember Iraq has historic ties with Britain, with much of its academia rooted in British Universities.

The priorities for Britain now are to follow up the promises of a sovereign Palestine State and an attack on world poverty and hunger.
Melvyn Harrison, Keighley, Yorkshire

We see Iraq as the next gig on GW's Global Terror - 2002 World tour.

However the real reason for this so called military action to save mankind is GW's favourite down home Texas phrase of "Black Gold".

The US wants to have a puppet government/ruler who will ensure the US continues to get its "cheap gas fix". This just as they have had from the now troublesome Saudi Arabia for the last 50 years.

After all the real reason for the recent Afghan campaign was for the access to the Uzbekistan & Tadjikistan oilfields and the new pipeline being planned.

But as we know these reasons will never see the light of day, that is until its maybe too late!
K. Taylor, UK

The Roman Catholic Church is not a disinterested party vis-a-vis Iraq, hence the leading role in presenting the petition to Downing Street.

There is a significant Roman Catholic population in Iraq (between 3 & 4%), making it bigger than the Islamic percentage of UK citizens.

This contrasts with the Roman Catholic lead in encouraging the USA intervention in Vietnam where the Catholic minority (about 7%) was the South Vietnam ruling elite. Indeed not only was J.F. Kennedy the very first Roman Catholic to become President of the USA, it was he that initiated the huge increase in US involvement.

Many "Vet Veterans" call it 'Spellman's War' after Cardinal Spellman the senior USA Cardinal at the time.
Peter Bolt

I've just heard your interview with a very senior Anglican bishop raising serious arguments against making war against the Iraqis. You asked the Foreign Office to comment "but nobody was available". Presumably they were all down the pub...

My point is the minor one - though important for the BBC - is that, whatever the rights or wrongs of the current policy, perhaps you should not cloak the ministry's refusal to comment in that euphemism "unavailable".

Of course somebody was available, given that WATO is not a minor local radio station but our premier national radio lunchtime news programmes. In these circumstances, I suggest, the routine comment should not be to collude with them in saying that nobody was available. Maybe say they refused, or that they said nobody was available.

Thanks for a great programme!
Tony Downing

The Iraqi representative given airtime on the World at One said the world should avoid a devastating war - 'any civilised person should avoid war at any price'. Where was this man 12 years ago, when the Iraqis declared war on Kuwait - then visited an orgy of murder, rape, pillage and destruction on the population of that country?

He seems to have an extremely short memory!
Roy Bailey, Crawley

The spokesman talks about Iraq as the 'cradle of civilisation'. Why doesn't Nick Clarke point out the barbarism of Saddam's use of chemical weapons against his own people?

The chronicle of Saddam's evasion of the UN weapons inspections fills ten pages on the UNSCOM website - yet Nick Clarke lets this man's claims that Iraq is ready to co-operate pass unchallenged - why?
Scott Fletcher, Reading

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Earth Summit

We should reform the CAP but that will mean less money for UK farmers as we buy our food cheaper from the developing world. That's good for the developing world, good for us townies who subsidise our farmers but I cannot see really the Tories supporting that. Are they not hypocrites for attacking Blair for not doing something they'll oppose?
Jonathan Morse, Selhurst

Your coverage today used a representative from the American Institute. Don't you think it would be helpful when interviewing him for listeners to know that his Institute received $230,000 from Esso/Exxon Oil last year?
John Matthissen

Despite Mr Blair's call at the Earth Summit for all countries to sign up to the Kyoto accords and his pledge to increase the use of renewables he will need to ensure a more consistent policy on energy across government.

In Mozambique on 1 September, Mr Blair said "From next April, the UK's Export Credits Guarantee Department will give developing countries better access to renewable energy technology by making available at least £50m of cover each year for exports in the sector."

Welcome as this is, figures from Mrs Hewitt released on 7 August, in another unpublished written reply, reveals the total ECGD cover released for renewable energy support since Labour came to office in 1997 was a meagre £6m (for Thailand); nuclear received £58m ECGD support (for China), over the same period. Yet fossil fuel plants received a massive £1934m of ECGD support, covering 21 countries in the five years since 1997. Is this what the Prime minister calls a sustainable energy policy?
David Lowry

Your other emails


Please direct me to the alternate universe where, pace your report of this lunchtime (19th September), Donal Blaney is a 'top Tory'.
Christopher Montgomery, Westminster, London

No doubt 'Today' and 'The World at One' will be giving lots of coverage to the remembrance ceremonies and proposed monuments to the 3000 innocent US citizens killed at the World Trade Centre - what coverage will you be giving to commemorate the 3000 innocent Afghan citizens killed by the US with their bombers?
Neil Charlesworth


Well, it looks like the Unions would like to drag us back to the dark ages. Why do they want to have these draconian rights (sic) returned to them? Is it only so that they can blackmail the country when the general consensus disagrees with them?

The RMT is a good example of how it could be. Their leadership continually come up with depressingly predictable reasons to withdraw their labour.
Rhod Windsor


I listened with disbelief and distress as you chatted yesterday with Beverley Hughes. Not because of what she was saying, which was predictable, but at your apparently shared underlying assumption that removing 30,000 people a year was a good thing, and failing to do it was a bad thing. There was nowhere any acknowledgment of the human misery involved in any deportation, whether legally justified or not. There was no hint in your entire conversation of the humanity of your "targets". It may be legally in order, deportation, and certainly desirable in terms of your targets; but in terms of morality its validity is very doubtful, and as far as the proverbial simple humanity is concerned, it is an inhumane and cruel act.
Felicity Laurence


One of your contributors this lunchtime, in denying the idea of a poverty trap, also attacked the claims of widespread Benefit Fraud and people "not wanting to work." Another contributor, speaking on behalf of the Government, admitted that fraud was rife, but claimed that it was being countered rigorously.

Well, well ... just yesterday I was speaking to a business customer of mine who was explaining the difficulties he was experiencing because he could not get staff. Where is this business? London? Booming Thames Valley? NO - in the Rhondda Valley, South Wales, one of the worst unemployment blackspots in the country!

He explained, "I've had vacancies in the Job Centre for more than a year. They say they send lots of applicants, but few come. When they do, they want to be paid full rates 'cash in hand' so that they can go on claiming benefits. They won't take a job if it means losing benefits."

Refusal to work a myth? Government taking firm action? When will these people you interview enter the real world?

Perhaps the World at One should spend a few days on an extended investigation of how many are insisting on remaining on benefits and how little in reality the Government does to counter this?
Peter Smith


I find it extraordinary that Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary of the least democratic country in the EU and the only one without a proper, written constitution, should be agitating for the EU to have one. Lets have a written constitution in the UK first, please Mr. Straw
Chris Westgate on Sea

Is Jack Straw in favour of any proposed European Constitution being submitted to a democratic vote by the people - or not?
Peter Johnson, London, England


How is it that whenever the price of crude oil goes down, the price of petrol stays the same & the oil companies say the crude price is just a small part of the cost of making petrol, but now the price of oil is threatened to go up the price of petrol is being threatened to go up by an even bigger factor ?
Simon Gray, Birmingham, UK


As a white Zimbabwean farmer who has spent the last week out of my only home, with the threat of losing everything without compensation, I would like to suggest that Beth Porter open her eyes to the fact that most of us bought our farms with the government's blessing, and are now being used as porns in a political game. Wake up or should I say grow up!!
Annonymous, Zimbabwe


I know it's easy to feel like a shadow on the backdrop of a slick Blair presentation, but I reckon New Labour's pragmatic blend of service and utility [Source: Bentham] is just the kind of medicine that the British electorate have being calling for. So any rise in crime is an inevitable consequence of the influx of economic migrants attracted by the UK upward living standards (just look at the rising property values). Any grumbles about sleaze are surely characteristic of a whingeing opposition with no real agenda of their own other than perhaps trumpeting a privatised health service. Those backing the NHS will just need to be patient before it gets better. I say let's give New Labour a chance to get on with the job of providing us with the public services we will need in the 21st century.
Stuart Litobarski, Bristol, UK

You had a politician from Northern Ireland on today explaining that violence is never acceptable.

Unfortunately everybody knows of the scores of convicted terrorists released early from jail over the past few years at the insistence of the Nationalist community. Obviously Nationalists (even "constitutional" ones) do not agree that violence is unacceptable.

Until and unless this changes, and the Nationalist community as a whole comes to acknowledge that past Republican terrorism was unacceptable and wholly unjustifiable, Unionists' suspicion of them will remain - and rightly.
Alex Swanson, UK

Speaking as a (so far) supporter of British adoption of the Euro, it's nevertheless immensely refreshing to hear Derek Simpson refusing to delegate his responsibility for his members' interests and funds to Tony Blair, and to insist on listening to their views before committing his Union either way. Equally refreshing is his belief that a democratically-elected European Parliament is at least as legitimate a basis for democracy in Europe as Blair and Berlusconi's personal agendas.
Mike Wake, Longfield

Why aren't there any challenges to the rabble-rousing statements of such as Ancram about the Zimbabwe farmers and the African food crisis?

1. He claims to have visited farms which have been taken away and aren't being farmed. Really? Has he spoken to black farmers/occupants? Where? What were they planning to do with the land?

2. He claims the situation is responsible for people starving in Zimbabwe. Really? What about the fact that white farmers, especially those on the largest portion of the land, were producing crops such as tobacco and other monocultures mostly for export which certainly didn't feed any black citizens.

3. He rants on about Mugabe stealing the election. While no one's making apologies for the absurd tactics of the man, where was Ancram when Bush literally stole the US election, (as has since been demonstrated by several US university surveys) , including by dis-allowing thousands of black voters in the state of Florida.

4. Where was anyone in the UK, including Ancram, when under the reign of Ian Smith, whites did steal land from black Africans with no compensation.

By the way, I'm white and continue to be outraged at this biased coverage. How come none of the news and current affairs programmes present the voice of black Africans on this matter. I've only ever heard about four or five on a talk-show, and they weren't there as studio guests.
Beth Porter, Bristol UK

Why is there no coverage within the main stream media discussing how the "Patriot Act" brought in by the US government (and similar laws within the UK) has violated the same principles of freedom that Mr. Bush said were attacked by hijackers who flew airplanes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Or does this new law prevent freedom of speech as well?
Anonymous, UK

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