Archive for January, 2014

Sheffield Peregrines

Good News, Sad News and a resolution 

There is much to celebrate as we move into 2014: a new, stronger nest platform with improved design is in place, a second webcam is on the cards to provide a panoramic view of the site, and the birds are back despite the cranes and considerable construction activity on the adjacent Jessop East site.

It is sad to report that the young male that was taken into care back in the summer was found dead to the east of Sheffield earlier in the winter, apparently of natural causes.  Mortality rates in young Peregrines are high, with somewhere between 50% and 70% of birds failing to make it through their first year.  About half of those that die in their first year are thought to succumb to disease or parasitism, and it may well be that the young male suffered from this from an early age, perhaps accounting for his grounding in July, when no injuries were apparent.

Given the many challenges facing the species, we are determined to continue to support the recolonisation of the Sheffield area, although the move of birds into urban settings is a relatively recent phenomenon.  The team that built the original platform that proved so successful over the last couple of years tweaked the design to make it even better and had it ready to be put in place by the end of November.  Jim Lonsdale gave me a call to come and see it for myself.

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Great work by Jim and the small works team in the Department of Estates!  The main changes are in the quality of the materials, which are built to last (the previous platform was to test whether or not the site would prove attractive), and a notably deeper lip at the front edge to reduce the risk of young birds dropping out.  It’s a very substantial piece of work that should last a decade or more.

To minimise disruption to the site, the old platform was replaced by the new one all on the same day – no mean feat given the weight involved and restricted access up the tower – and all was in place before Christmas.  The webcam was retained and was soon showing images of the birds occasionally visiting the platform, although the stream was not ready for public view.  There are some tweaks to be had with the camera to give a better view when the birds are on the front of the box, or even the perching pole.  As things stand, the view can be tantalising…

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On 22 January a flurry of activity over lunchtime saw first the female and then the male on the platform in quick succession, with both busily scraping the gravel.  To watch something like this is a rare privilege: the technique is to huddle down and scrape the gravel back with the talons, creating a hollow under the body.

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The female also spent some time picking individual pieces of gravel and placing them in just the right spot.

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Both birds look to be the adults that have bred successfully for the last two years, the male’s ring just about visible on its left leg in the image below.  The quality of this screen grab isn’t up to much, but if anyone manages to read the lettering on the ring we’ll be able to discover his origins.

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Reports of three birds over Norwood allotments, including two birds talon grappling, sounds like territorial behaviour and a possible attempt to establish a new pair around Sheffield.  Definitely one to watch!

The webcam will be viewable via http://efm.dept.shef.ac.uk/peregrine/ and a second, with a view across the ledge to the platform, should soon be up and running too.  Much to look forward to in the weeks ahead.  Fingers firmly crossed for another season of breeding success.

And the Resolution?  To try to keep regular updates on the blog through the breeding season.  Easier said than done, but isn’t that what resolutions are all about?! reblogged from Sheffield Peregrines.wordpress.com 

The University of Sheffield’s peregrine webcam cam be found here.

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G4 and ATOS – pay your taxes!

Please take a moment to send this message …

http://action.sumofus.org/a/g4s-atos-taxes/

from:  kicking the cat

Exactly!

homophobiafrom: broadblogs

 

Bedroom Tax Loophole

The Department for Work and Pensions will close the bedroom tax loophole in March, Lord David Freud has announced.

The minister for welfare reform, responding to an urgent question in the House of Lords today, said: ‘The housing benefit regulations will be amended in March 2014 to ensure that all working-age social sector tenants who underoccupy their homes are subject to a reduction in their eligible rent, regardless of the length of their tenancy, unless they fall within one of the limited exceptions.’

The DWP admitted last week that an error in existing regulations means the bedroom tax should not have been charged to tenants who have lived in their properties since before 1 January 1996 who have been continuously claiming housing benefit. The DWP issued a circular last week saying councils should consider whether they are ‘reasonably able to identify potentially affected claimants’ and that exempted tenants should be refunded all the money deducted under the policy since 1 April.

Labour peer Lord William McKenzie, said: ‘I would like to ask the minister how the government are going to rectify matters for individuals who are denied their full benefit entitlement to date, whose rent arrears may have affected their credit rating, who have moved house in response to the tax and given up their security of tenure, or who have fallen into the clutches of private sector landlords who are now intent on evicting tenants claiming housing benefit? Is not this mess a further reason to scrap this wretched tax?’

In response, Lord Freud said:  ‘The numbers involved in this anomaly are small and the amounts are modest.’

The amended regulations would be unlikely to prevent tenants retrospectively claiming money deducted for the period while the loophole was open.

A DWP spokesperson said the precise date of the amendment to legislation would depend on the parliamentary timetable.

DWP press office resort to hate language

The DWP Press office allowed its mask to slip briefly last week when it resorted to calling benefits payments ‘welfare hand-outs’ in a press release which later became the Daily Mail’s headline story.

In an update about the benefit cap on Thursday 9 January headlined “Benefits capped for 33,000 households” the DWP explained that:

‘The Benefits cap limits welfare hand-outs to £500 a week. . .’

The next day, in its front page lead, the Daily Mail regurgitated the DWP press release:

“More than 33,000 households have had their benefits slashed since handouts were capped at £500 a week.”

The term ‘hand-outs’ is a deeply derogatory one, invariably used by those wishing to encourage prejudice and hatred towards claimants.

For the DWP to use the term ‘hand-outs’ is a shocking departure from the measured language and impartiality the public have an absolute right to expect from civil servants whose wages are paid by public taxes, not by the tabloids or by propaganda peddling government ministers.

It is this sort of prejudicial language which fuels hatred of claimants. Is it any wonder that there is an increasing level of hate-crimes, fear and suicides – especially amongst sick and disabled people?

The only appropriate response from the DWP would be to send out a press release apologising for its inappropriate and inflammatory use of language.

So, if you are as disgusted as we are by the DWP’s language and by its response when challenged, please email your complaint to:

ministers@dwp.gsi.gov.uk

You might also want to forward a copy of your complaint to your MP, using the Write To Them website.

From: Benefits and Work.co.uk

DWP actively supports adult industry

The DWP are subsidising wages in the sex industry by almost 60% and allowing Jobcentre Plus and private sector work programme providers to force young people to apply for them.  Young people who refuse to act as receptionists in massage parlours or operate porn webcams could find their benefits stopped.

Employers are paid £2,275 if they take on a young person aged 18-24 to work at least 30 hours a week for a minimum of 26 weeks.  A smaller subsidy of £1,137.50 can be claimed where the job is for 16 to 29 hours a week.

The minimum wage for 18-20 year olds is just £5.03 an hour, meaning that employers can get almost 60% of the workers wage paid by the state.

The guidance makes it clear that direct sexual services cannot be provided under the incentive scheme.  However, web-cam operators, film camera operators for pornographic films, bar staff, door staff, receptionists and cleaners for massage parlours, saunas, strip clubs, and lap and pole dancing clubs are all permitted.

The degree to which young people in such establishments may be subject to sexual harassment or pressure to provide other services does not appear to be a concern for the DWP.  Nor does the potentially hazardous nature of cleaning in an establishment where bodily fluids may routinely be deposited.

It is also questionable whether employment as a receptionist in a massage parlour will ever be a useful addition to a CV for someone whose ambitions do not lie in the sexual services industry.

It is possible for people who are mandated to apply for such jobs to object on conscientious grounds.  But the young person has to be aware that this is even a potential option, has to have the confidence to put forward their objection and has to be prepared for the possibility that their benefit will be stopped if their objection is not accepted by a DWP decision maker.

It seems a bizarre and perverse situation that a government department led by a committed Christian should be so keen to force young people to work in an industry devoted solely to satisfying carnal lusts.  But then, the belief that the claimant count must be reduced by any means possible, regardless of morality or the suffering involved, seems to be the only article of faith now left at the DWP.

Reported in: Benefitsandwork.co.uk

Parasitic Capitalism?!?!?

from: Kicking the Cat

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