Dear Editor, John Lamb oversimplifies our recent debate about trade with China (Opening in time for the great exodus to Titan, Post Agenda, February 25).

As I underlined in our radio discussion, anyone doing business in China - be they a Hollywood film director or a Birmingham businessman - needs to assess whether their involvement in China makes them complicit in human rights abuses. Rights to free speech and fair trials are routinely abused in the country and an estimated 8,000 people are executed each year.

Internet giants Yahoo!, for example, found themselves settling out of court with the mother of journalist Shi Tao, whom the company helped send to prison when the authorities demanded access to his personal email account details. And businesses need to look closely at working conditions in factories that they do business with - are workers forced to do overtime? Would they be jailed just for trying to set up an independent trade union?

It's very convenient to say that all trade with China will help improve human rights - but it won't. Companies need to have human rights policies in place when doing business there or, like Yahoo!, they will be exposed as being complicit in the abuse of people's most basic human rights.

STEVE BALLINGER Amnesty International UK


Attending to the error on attendance

Dear Editor, Why should the truth get in the way of a newspaper story?

In your recent Iron Angle column, referring to cabinet meetings, you state that "The Tory Council Leader's jibes used to be directed at opposition Labour Leader Sir Albert Bore. But there is no fun in attacking someone who often isn't there to answer back and would just ignore the insults in any case".

So what are the facts? In the municipal year 2006 - 07 I attended 18 out of a possible 21 cabinet meetings and, to date in 2007 - 08, 15 out of a possible 16 meetings.

Perhaps I should be asking for an apology, but no. Instead, I will settle for a comparison with the leader of the city council, Mike Whitby, who in 2006 - 07 managed to attend precisely the same number of cabinet meetings as myself, 18 out of a possible 21. However, in 2007 - 08 to date, only 11 out of a possible 16 meetings - and he has a vote at these meetings whilst I do not.

Coun Sir ALBERT BORE Leader of the Labour Group


Calling all 'Old Boys' of Handsworth

Dear Editor, I am delighted to find that you and I were at the same school - Handsworth Grammar School - obviously decades apart (1964 - 1971 in my case). I just wonder if there are other "old boys" working in and around Birmingham, who might like to get together to share memories or just as a basis for a new networking group?

I believe Karl George and Simon Topman were also there at some stage.

ANTHONY (DUB) TAYLOR 0121 428 2717


Political heaven

Dear Editor, Isn't it a wonderful world that our political leaders occupy?

Expenses for taxis, meals, travel, accommodation - and for anything they like up to £250 without having to produce a receipt. Salaries for wives, sons, daughters and cronies. No clocking-in machine and the right to set their own salaries. They even seem to think that conversations between themselves and terror suspects should not be eavesdropped upon.

Is it correct that they can still smoke in the Commons Bar?



Smarten up Mr O'Neill

Dear Editor, In Aston Villa, Martin O'Neill is privileged to manage one of England's great football clubs.

What a pity, therefore, that he presents such an awful touchline image in his crumpled tracksuit with sleeves rolled up to the elbows and bottoms seemingly tucked into his socks.

Compare the immaculate pitch-side dress of Spurs' Juande Ramos and Chelsea's Avram Grant at Sunday's Carling Cup final and the always smart Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson.

These men look as though they are in charge of important, historic clubs rather than, in O'Neill's case, as if he might be running a third division Sunday league pub team.

Is there significance in the fact that the managers of all the leading clubs appear for games well dressed and looking the part to manage class teams?

O'Neill is, without doubt, the scruffiest manager to be seen at Premier League matches. Presumably the tracksuit is a misguided attempt to be seen to be 'bonding' with his players and of the boss trying to prove he's one of the boys.

Put on a suit and tie, Mr O'Neill and help give Aston Villa the classy public face merited by one of the most resonant football names in the world.



Looking for decent rugby

Dear Editor, At the start of the Six Nations rugby tournament we read headlines such as "Volcano Vainikolo to erupt for England", "England say Vainikolo will destroy opposition", "Vainikolo, one man battering ram". I'm still waiting; not his fault ...they haven't given him the ball yet.

Rugby supporters know Vainikolo is a dangerous runner who is likely to score tries, this is what we pay to see and not England hooker Mark Regan

sounding off and winding up the opposition. Very satisfying for Regan I'm sure, but a waste of money as far as genuine rugby supporters are concerned.

Paris, dancing girls and a few glasses of Ricard is a great way to spend a weekend, but we do need to see a bit of decent rugby as well.

DANNY KEANEY Stratford-upon-Avon


Who wants the death sentence?

Dear Editor, Regarding the topical debate circulating on capital punishment.

Do we really want to return to the days when journalists and cameramen gathered outside prisons for the 'entertainment' of executions?

Hanging, gassing, poisoning and electrocuting - all pandering to the right-wing excesses of previous generations, non of whom had the dubious honour of physically putting the noose around the guilty (or in some cases innocent) person's neck.

Surely we in the UK of moved on just a little from medieval practices that we witness and abhor in certain other nations around the world.

Did anyone see the execution of Saddam Hussein? Is that what we want - or is it only confined to Sun readers?



Waste of space and money

Dear Editor, Whilst not wishing to prolong this subject, I should like to answer the recent letter concerning Selfridges by Joe Roberts (A 21st century iconic building, Post Agenda, Feb 24).

Iconic or eyesore? It's a matter of taste. No I would not like a return to the architecture of the 1970s, I much prefer the 1870s, where architecture was genuine. Victorian buildings have never lost their beauty.

I fail to see the connection between architecture and crime, except that Selfridges is a criminal waste of space and money. What a waste of precious land.

Anyone who likes plastic buildings should visit Legoland. The whole point of Hans Anderson's brilliant parody was that people who admired the emperor's non-existent new clothes were simply sycophants.



Opportunity for the city to take a global lead

Dear Editor, The announcement that Birmingham has been chosen to be one of the seven cities worldwide - and the only UK city - for a pathfinder project, is good news. It is reported as being a scheme backed by Bill Clinton, to develop environmentally friendly homes and to develop technologies that tackle global warming.

Success in this area could give Birmingham credibility in its frequently expressed claim to be a 'global' city. But will the city council lead its citizens in this endeavour be example?

Currently, the council intend to incur an enormous carbon cost by demolishing the substantial Central Library and a further major carbon cost by burrowing four storeys into the ground to create a replacement building.

Both new construction and demolition add greatly to mankind's carbon expenditure. One only has to consider the energy used throughout the construction process to appreciate its scale. Cities that will lead the world in the 21st century will be those that employ new technologies and ingenuity to use existing building stock whenever feasible and those cities will be recognised as the world's genuine 'global' cities.

Some projects are essential, the new station being an example, but the case for a replacement Central Library is both weak and controversial. None of the city council's statements have in fact proved that the existing building could not be made to work successfully.

Moreover, here is a significant opportunity for a major civic building, principally marred by neglect and fast food outlets, to be renewed to meet 21st century needs while demonstrating a carbon minimum solution. It could herald the way forward for cities across the world.

Global warming, likely catastrophes in its wake and our need to significantly change our way of doing things are only very recently recognised. Therefore, our politicians need not feel ashamed of plans made only a couple of years ago. Can they however admit that rapidly changing circumstances needs new thinking and have the courage to change course?