Fortunate to live in a wonderful country
Dear Editor, Watching far more news coverage than usual during the festive period I found myself considering the lot of the inhabitants of this little island of ours.

In Pakistan, for example, where the population can only dream of full and free democracy, they have to deal with political leaders being shot and blown up in the street. This is followed by, inevitably, the unedifying spectacle of a coffin being born aloft down staircases and through the streets in the most undignified end to another great political leader of this poor country.

In Kenya, hundreds are dying during unrest following what appears to be a very questionable election process. In Zimbabwe there is still Mugabe and the story of Israel and Palestine seems to have no end. In China there are extremely questionable human rights issues, as there are for women in countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran (small matter of the nuclear intentions regarding the latter too).

In America gun slaughter is common place and the death rows of certain states still operate like production lines.

I suppose I could mention Iraq and Afghanistan, where despite our best intentions plus the loss of so many members of our armed forces, nothing, it seems, can be done enable them to live in free and civilised societies.

I'm sure your well-read readers could add to this litany of distress around the world, all of which would lead us to the undisputable fact that we are fortunate enough to live in a wonderful country that is populated, generally, by some of the most tolerant and generous people.

Some of our industries may be disappearing abroad and we may not have some of the best sporting teams in the world any more but there is still one thing about this country that should be the envy of most other nations on Earth - it's a great place to live.
 JACK HUGHES, Coleshill

Abusing vital services
Dear Editor, Where would we be without the selfless workers who man our hospitals, hospices and emergency services every Christmas and New Year?

They are always there, forgoing their turkey and crackers, or other celebrations, to make sure they never disappoint the people who need their help.

How sad it is then, that they - and their services - are so regularly abused during this time; whether intentionally, by the toe-rags who make hoax calls, or - so much more common - the thousands of people who drink too much, becoming drunk and incapable, and taking up the valuable time of our workers who could otherwise be dealing with genuine emergencies.

In the five hours between midnight on New's Eve and 5am on New Year's Day, the West Midlands Ambulance Service dealt with 1,420 calls, mainly as a result of people falling over and injuring themselves, or fighting out-side the region's pubs and clubs.

How ironic it would be if next year these people suffered a genuine emergency, only to find our health workers were too busy treating drunks.

I would never want to wish anybody ill, but binge drinkers need to realise the impact their actions have, which go far beyond the affects on their own health and safety.
 BRIAN OSMOND, Yardley

A knight with working-class roots
Dear Editor, Your anonymous correspondent is very wide of the mark when he contends that Michael Parkinson should refuse his knighthood (Little honour as principles are cast aside Post Agenda).

This surely shows what a meritocracy we live in, when a miner's son can have a knighthood conferred upon him. I am sure that while Mr Parkinson is proud of his working-class roots, his parents would have been distinctly proud to know that their son is to be knighted.

I am truly delighted that Michael Parkinson should be honoured thus.
 STEPHEN HARTLAND, Edgbaston

Here's to another 150 years
Dear Editor, Having just returned home, may I belatedly congratulate The Birmingham Post and its entire staff on its 150th anniversary.

My family have now been taking The Birmingham Post for over 70 years. It is still in my opinion an excellent, factual, good quality newspaper.

Before the Rennes railway station restaurant in France there are some six elegant dining tables. Each round table-top bears the names of 40-odd European newspapers. Sandwiched, I think, between Le Monde and the Frankfurter Allgemeine, I read the name of my favourite newspaper, The Birmingham Post. The only other English titles I could find were the Daily Telegraph, The Times and the Yorkshire Post.

The day will surely come when, as in France today, regional newspapers such as The Birmingham Post will enjoy greater importance, eminence, and readership than their national competitors. They will have to.

The cheap sensational fictionalising of the tabloids is a national disgrace, I feel. Long live The Birmingham Post.
 HAROLD NASH, Wythall

Ignoring the evidence on drugs
Dear Editor, I listened to police chief Richard Brunstrom's comments on drugs on New Year's Day. They are backed by the evidence.

That prohibition profits organised crime is self-evident. As for the claim that ecstasy is safer than alcohol or aspirin... Of course, it depends what you mean by 'safe', but both those drugs kill more people each year than ecstasy.

Calls for a police officer (or anyone) to resign, for telling the truth, are depressing enough. That this involves some MPs and parts of the media lining up alongside the interests of organised criminals is more deeply worrying.

At what point does ignoring the evidence that prohibition doesn't work cease to be wishful thinking and start to look like criminal negligence?
 PAUL SLATTER, Kings Heath

Enforcing the differences between us
Dear Editor, The Government is right to be concerned about the prevalence of faith schools.

In a truly multi-ethnic, multi-faith community such religious schools only serve to emphasise differences and enforce existing gulfs.

Of course, children should receive religious instruction as their parents see fit, but it is the responsibility of the state to encourage them to mix with youngsters of other backgrounds on a regular basis.

I know people will question the state's role in this, but it is a sad fact of life that the vast majority of children do not get any opportunity to integrate outside the school gate - returning home to their predominantly white, black or Asian areas, and rarely - if often - leaving them for any social reasons.

I know many parents chose to send their children to religious schools because of the exam results they achieve and the discipline they often instill.

Instead of increasing the numbers of faith schools, we should look harder at raising standards across the whole education sector. 
 MEL RICHARD, Moseley