Paul Cutler (SBS Director of News and Current Affairs), David Herbert (SBS Executive Producer – Radio News) and Paula Masselos (SBS Director of Radio), write: We refer to the article in Monday’s Crikey on conflicts at SBS (Unsubstantiated tips and rumours – item 6). We categorically and emphatically deny the claims made in this article. Ms Masselos has acted professionally, appropriately and reasonably at all times. She has been very aware of the potential for conflict of interest prior to commencement of her duties at SBS, and any professional contact with SBS Radio during this time was through the relevant channels and with due process being observed at all times. At no time has Ms Masselos had direct contact with journalists in relation to the two nominated events nor were any directives issued. We are satisfied that Ms Masselos has acted properly and with due regard and propriety befitting her position as Director of Radio.

Jarvis Ryan writes: Re. Civil war in Iraq? The debate over whether the Iraq conflict is best described as a civil war is not as cut and dry as Crikey makes out in yesterday’s editorial. Certainly, George Bush’s reason for rejecting the term is clear – accepting it would be admitting failure. The important question is not whether Iraq is in a civil war, but whether there is a causal relationship between the presence of an occupying army and the sectarian conflict. The mainstream view is that the US is a stabilising force, keeping the different factions in check. The US and its allies have a moral responsibility to remain in Iraq and help rebuild the country. This argument is used in the knowledge that it has some purchase among opponents of the invasion. A more plausible view is that US actions in Iraq have created the conditions for sectarian violence to erupt. Since well before the invasion, the US government pursued a divide-and-rule strategy. It favoured the Shias and the Kurds, presenting them to Western audiences as the good guys, as opposed to the bad Sunnis, and set up a sectarian governing structure institutionalising this fallacy. This is not just an academic debate – it goes to the heart of whether the US and its allies should remain in Iraq. The spin doctors would have us believe the US can play the role of neutral arbiter between Iraq’s warring factions. But the evidence says its continuing presence is driving Iraq – and the region – closer to the abyss.

Adam Rope writes: In light of your editorial yesterday, on George Bush refusing to name the conflict in Iraq a “civil war”, I wonder if you follow The Daily Show in the US? In one recent episode (maybe on SBS tonight) host Jon Stewart and Senior Analyst John Oliver discussed this very issue. As Stewart pressed the Senior Analyst for details, Oliver threw out various alternatives for the words “civil war,” including “ongoing scuffle between sectarian insurgent groups”, a “faith-based melee” and an “internal sovereignty challenge.”

Kevin Brady writes: Re: New levels of madness in Iraq.  Allan Morton (yesterday, comments) – in a classic case of ridiculing the messenger bringing a message he didn’t want to hear – calls Charles Richardson’s suggestion of immediate withdrawal from Iraq “knuckleheaded”. His arguments in favour of this include that “its hardly conclusive that a record for casualties should be a call to action” (huh? I thought that would be an absolutely conclusive call to action!), and that “the casualties in Iraq at the moment are primarily civilian and sectarian” (so this is OK?) and that “they would occur with or without the presence of foreign troops”. But Iraqbodycount.org places the blame for upswing in sectarian violence firmly at the feet of the occupying powers. Deployment of troops from a liberal democracy should be based on a perceived threat to the interests of that democracy, or to intervene in a humanitarian manner to stop further bloodshed. In Iraq at the moment, US and UK troops are confined to a small number of heavily fortified areas of the country – mainly the “Green Zone” in Baghdad and a large UK army base outside Basra (The UK troops have largely given up Basra). The purpose of these troops in the country now is largely to protect the political hides of the promoters of the war. And what do Iraqis think?  80% say they would feel safer if the Coalition left Iraq. In fact, aside from Bush, Blair and Howard, the only people who want the coalition to stay are Al-Qaeda (and a couple of Crikey readers)! And things are supposed to get even worse . Grossly irresponsible for us to leave, Mr Morton?  It is grossly reprehensible for us to be staying.

Alan Green writes: Re. “Rudd: Smooth, glib, Christian and friendless” (yesterday, item 2). Richard Farmer wrote, “criticism of the Australian involvement in the Iraq war and the related AWB scandal,” are Labor’s “two main weapons”. Judging by the money being spent on television advertisements, it appears the ALP is placing more emphasis on interest rates and industrial relations than anything to do with the mess in Iraq.

Garry Muratore writes: At 2:36pm yesterday  The Age website cried: “Sol agrees our broadband sucks”. Now there’s a headline I could agree with! But at 7:03pm, same story, but substitute “lags” for “sucks”. Obviously someone in Spencer Street has upset the spinners at Telstra This type of weak knee’d journalism just plain sucks… sorry I meant lags.

Rex Widerstrom writes: Re. “A rival editor reflects on the malaise at The West ” (yesterday, item 16). As a former community newspaper editor and former senior journalist on a metro daily, let me add a throaty “hear, hear” to Brian Mitchell’s call to arms for Bret Christian to take the reins at The West (see, only a journo could mix metaphors that skilfully). The Post , which Bret owns and edits, is by far and away the best community newspaper I’ve seen, anywhere, in 25 years in the business. I used to be quite chuffed with my own record of regularly but occasionally breaking “real” news in community papers and scooping the local dailies till I moved to WA and saw The Post do it virtually every week. Certainly he’s helped by the fact that, as Brian says, The West chooses to ignore much of what happens in this state. But Bret and his team regularly produce stuff that has clearly been intensively researched over a long period – something few dailies now have the resources to do. How they manage it and still fulfil the role of a lively “local rag” I don’t know. I can only imagine Bret sleeps under his desk in the best tradition of George Costanza. That there are several people walking round WA who owe their freedom at least in part to Bret’s untiring effort to expose the blundering of the WA cops is just one additional reason to offer him the editor’s chair. You think the Armstrong-led West ignores the failings of the Liberals? The Libs get a grilling compared to the two newspapers’ treatment of the coppers. I’m still waiting for The West (or the lightweight and laughable Sunday Times ) properly to cover the reasons why so many convictions are being overturned in WA, why the police forensic unit has had to be disbanded, etc.

Jim Hart writes: Re. “Ailing Bulletin and BRW plot to go monthly” (yesterday, item 4). If BRW goes monthly will it become BRM ? Or will it keep its initials and change its spelling to Business Review Weakly ? Probably neither since Packer history suggests they don’t care if the title matches the publishing schedule. For some reason the iconic Women’s Weekly was never renamed Women’s Monthly .

Cathy Bannister writes: It’s not at all surprising that The Bulletin is losing readers. For a few years it’s been on a downward slide to tabloidism, but since the death of Kerry Packer it’s become a masculine version of New Idea . The final proof came in an article on David Hicks. Apparently short of anything new or meaningful to say, The Bulletin published a handwriting analysis of one of his letters. What next, a tarot reading? Asking a psychic when Hicks might get out? While I recognise the right of any individual to believe in such things, it did not exactly improve the magazine’s credibility. At that point I decided that I wouldn’t renew my subscription. I’ll send the money to The Monthly instead, and read Robert Manne and Julian Burnside find new ways of writing the same essay again and again.

John Goldbaum writes: Will Marcus Padley or Crikey please compensate readers of the Morning Market Report for the pain they suffered when they changed their Coles Group Limited code from CML to CGF as advised? CGF (Challenger Financial Services Group Limited) closed at $3.82, almost $10.00 down on the $13.46 if they had changed to the correct code which is CGJ.

Liam McMahon writes: Re. “What is the purpose of the A-League?” (yesterday, item ). I would suggest to Michael Tormey that his article might have been more credible if he had got the name of the football team correct. I think if he will find that Adelaide United, not City, is the South Australian team that plays in the A-League. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt for the second part of the same sentence not making any sense: “would have been be the form of Australia’s…” On the subject of the A-League, a true sign of its success is surely that a regular season game between Melbourne and sixth placed Newcastle on a Sunday night achieved more spectators than the final of the rugby league tri-nations, described in Crikey as “the best ever rugby league test match played in Australia”.

Victoria Collins writes: I’d just like to lob a grenade into the Ashes debate if I may. Now I know how time-poor modern day cricket teams are but it seems to my uneducated eye that the Ashes series appears to have been almost gerrymandered to favour the Aussies getting the little urn back. What with only a very few preparatory matches slated for the English  team before the First Test and very little time between Tests for R’n’R, it appears that the already acclimatised Australian team may well fulfil Glenn McGrath’s wildest dreams of a five to nothing scoreline. In which case I would hasten to add “That’s just not cricket!”

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