This is a 2014 hawfinch video from Sweden.
This is a 2014 hawfinch video from Sweden.
This video from Britain says about itself:
22 March 2017
Thames Water fined £20m for sewage spill
By Solomon Hughes from Britain:
The dirty firm with pals in high places
Friday 31st March 2017
SOLOMON HUGHES takes a look at the Thames Water and private prison scandals
SEVERAL days ago, Thames Water was fined £20 million for pumping 20 million litres of raw sewage into the waters of the Thames. This is quite literally the opposite of what a firm called Thames Water should do.
The case was well covered in the press because pouring millions of litres a day of visible human waste into the Thames is newsworthy, even these days.
Judge Francis Sheridan, who ordered the fine, said Thames Water had a “history of non-compliance” with rules, and ignored repeated warnings its own staff wrote down in logbooks.
Judge Sheridan said: “Logbook entries reflected the pathetic state of affairs and the frustration of employees.”
Thames Water ignores the rules and ignores its staff. What can be happening?
While the spill and the fine were well reported, only the Financial Times pointed to the fact there might be some structural problem behind the accident, something wrong with its “business model.” The paper spoke to Ian Byatt, the head of water regulator Ofwat until 2000. He told them that Thames Water was owned by financial institutions through “complicated corporate structures,” with parts resting offshore in the Cayman Islands.
According to Byatt, this is a general problem for privatised water firms, where “the boards are largely composed of investors, so the prime issue is how much money are we getting, not how can we best provide a service for customers.”
In short, the firms’ focus on financial engineering to pump cash out of public utilities into their own balances, not civil engineering to pump water into our homes.
Another sign of their expertise at financial engineering has helped Thames avoid responsibility for a massive new £4.1 billion sewer under the Thames, the so-called “supersewer.”
The British government and the EU said they need to build the tunnel for environmental reasons. But the firm says it had too much debt to do the job.
Thames critics say that the company’s investors put debt onto the firms books and take profit away. But Thames Water got its wish: it is only investing a third of the cost. The other investors will be paid by Thames Water customers. Any construction risks — like over-runs or accidents — will be carried by the taxpayer, because the government guaranteed the scheme.
One small but persistent aspect of the story which the Financial Times did not pick up is that politicians have been a big help in this financial engineering. And sadly not just the Tory politicians who privatised water in 1989. Some “New Labour” politicians have been very involved.
Up until the middle of this March, Thames Water was largely owned by an Australian bank called Macquarie — nicknamed the “Vampire Kangaroo,” because of its skills sucking money out of projects.
Macdonald has now retired from Macquarie, and Macquarie has been replaced by the Kuwaitis as Thames Water’s main owner. But another ex-Labour minister has stepped in.
Since 2014, Ian Pearson has been on the Thames Water board. Pearson was Labour’s environment minister until 2007 and after that a Treasury minister.
Pearson was part of the Labour government that failed to rein in the privatised water firms, and was instrumental in the government’s side of the “supersewer” development.
Now he works for Thames Water. The “financialised,” money-focused water firms were brought into being by Thatcher’s government, but they are also tended by New Labour’s ex-ministers.
Trump saves May from prison embarrassment
US PRESIDENT Donald Trump’s reversal of Barack Obama’s prison policy has saved Theresa May from a big embarrassment because when it comes to how to run jails, she is a lot closer to the Donald than the Democrats.
Last August, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) announced it was phasing out private prison firms from Federal work because of a study written by its inspector-general which found private prisons were more dangerous than publicly run jails and more expensive.
The US DoJ study covered firms which are also deeply involved in British privatisation.
For example, US “custodial” company MTC, one of the firms in the study, was last year given control of both the troubled Rainsbrook Youth Detention Centre and all of London’s probation services.
The report included MTC’s Willacy prison in Texas, a grim jail made up of massive tents.
Inmates were so badly treated there that they set fire to it, closing the prison. For the US federal system to abandon their own companies at the same time Britain was embracing them made British privatisation look like a mistake.
But not to worry. At the end of this February, Trump’s attorney general Jeff Sessions reversed the Obama era plan to end private federal prisons.
Sessions said Obama’s anti-privatisation plan “changed long-standing policy and practice and impaired the bureau’s ability to meet the future needs of the federal correctional system.
“Therefore, I direct the bureau to return to its previous approach.”
The inspector-general’s report on private prison failures is just the kind of “expert evidence” Trump rejects.
Trump’s plan means that in the US, MTC are discussing reopening the miserable Willacy jail. It also means that in Britain, May’s government can now continue with prison and probation privatisation without any potential embarrassment coming from across the pond.
Our privatised probation services are a ‘colossal failure’. An investigation finds the service lacks management focus, impossible workloads, inexperienced officers and extremely poor oversight.
Thames Water’s £120 million fine ‘more proof we need to renationalise’. Labour and public ownership campaigners hit out at water giant: here.
This video is called Eastern Imperial Eagle.
31 Mar 2017
Welcome to the second edition of ‘The Bird Bulletin’ – our new weekly news brief. Every Friday morning, we’ll bring you bite-sized updates from all across Europe & Central Asia – now you can kick start every weekend with ‘what a little bird told me!’
EAGLE TRAGEDY – Sad news from our Georgian partner SABUKO. The state energy company JSC has destroyed an active nest of the red listed Eastern Imperial Eagle (Aquila helica). There were previously only 9 breeding pairs in the country – and now this falls to 8. As the great Ray Charles sang ‘oh Georgia, No peace I find’. Read more…
BREATH IN DEEPLY – Sea air is good for you right? Unfortunately, exhaust gases from cruise ships in the Mediterranean are harming human health and the environment. This week, a wide alliance of e-NGOs – including our partners BirdLife Malta, NABU (Germany) and HOS (Greece) – adopted the ‘Rome Declaration’ to designate the Mediterranean Sea as an Emission Control Area (ECA). Read more…
Picture Perfect – A picture tells a thousand words, so many thanks to Greek photographer Anastasios Sakoulis for kindly donating a collection of stunning bird photos to BirdLife. See more….
ACT NOW – have your say in the future of EU food and farming! Only 4 weeks until the European Commission’s Public Consultation on the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) closes. Next Monday, BirdLife’s LIVING LAND campaign is launching a public E-Action to help citizens voice their support for nature-friendly farms. Keep updated and follow #LivingLand.
Stamp of approval for birds of Belarus: Belpochta, the Post Office of Belarus, has just issued a postage stamp celebrating the ‘Bird of the Year, 2017’ – an APB-BirdLife Belarus initiative that saw the Crested lark soar to glory. Start writing your love letters now…See more…
And the winner is….THE BIRDS! Finland’s ‘Arctic Redpolls’ team has won the Champions of the Flyways 2017 – and annual real-time bird spotting ‘race’ organised by SPNI (BirdLife Israel) at the migration hotspot of Eilat. £50,000 raised by the all the teams goes to Doğa Derneği (Birdlife Turkey) to fund their fantastic work to make Turkey safer for migrating birds – the real ‘champions of flyways’.
The Lark Ascending….As the triggering of Article 50 makes Brexit a reality, we listen to Vaughan Williams’s orchestral masterpiece ‘The Lark Ascending’ – an ode to the skylark and its song – in the knowledge that we shall continue working side-by-side with RSPB (BirdLife UK) to protect the birds of our shared continent.
This classical music video from Britain says about itself:
29 mei 2012
Like Vaughan Williams’ Tallis Fantasia, this is a pastoral work of transcendent beauty and power. The Lark Ascending was inspired by George Meredith‘s 122-line poem of the same name about the skylark (Alauda arvensis). He included this portion of Meredith’s poem on the flyleaf of the published work:
He rises and begins to round,
He drops the silver chain of sound,
Of many links without a break,
In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake.
For singing till his heaven fills,
‘Tis love of earth that he instils,
And ever winging up and up,
Our valley is his golden cup
And he the wine which overflows
to lift us with him as he goes.
Till lost on his aerial rings
In light, and then the fancy sings.
This video from the USA says about itself:
The African American Women Behind NASA’s Early Launches
20 January 2017
Segregated bathrooms & rampant workplace sexism didn’t stop these highly educated African American women from helping NASA reach the stars.
By Peter Frost in Britain:
How Jim Crow failed to win the space race
Friday 31st March 2017
PETER FROST looks at the start of the 1960s when the Space Race was being played out in black and white
SIXTY years ago this year the Soviet Union launched the first artificial object into space. As Sputnik 1 bleeped its signal back to Earth, it put Soviet technology firmly ahead in what would become known as the Space Race. In Washington panic set in.
Just a month later things got worse for US space boffins when the USSR launched Sputnik 2 with the dog Laika onboard.
By early in 1958 the US was fighting back. It launched three satellites. But in April 1961 the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gargarin became the first man in space.
Just weeks later Alan Shepard became the first American in space and three more weeks later president John F Kennedy pledged that the US would put a man on the moon before the end of the decade.
In 1963 cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova becomes the first woman in space. The US had no plans for female astronauts.
It might have been the space age but that didn’t stop the US still practicing strict racial segregation. The obscene Jim Crow laws would not start to be swept away until the mid- 1960s Civil Rights Act.
In Nasa’s offices, workshops and laboratories across the land of the free there were signs designating separate work areas, kitchens, lavatories and even drinking fountains for “coloured” and white workers.
It also meant that schools, high schools, colleges, universities and training facilities were in general only open to white students and all too often only to white men.
Yet, as in every other aspect of US life, black women and men were not content with their lot. Be it blacks registering to vote, demanding a place for their sons and daughters in white-only schools, sitting at Woolworths lunch counters or refusing to ride at the back of the bus.
All over the land, black women and men were marching and demanding their civil rights. It is a battle that still goes on today.
Black women were striving to do their bit within the US space industry. Three in particular made a major contribution to US space exploration.
The incredible untold story of Katherine G Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson has recently reached the big screen in a film entitled Missing Figures, alongside a book with the same title. Johnson was a physicist and mathematician who played a significant part in the US aeronautics and space programs with the early application of digital electronic computers at Nasa.
She calculated the trajectories, launch windows and emergency backup return paths for many flights, including the early missions of John Glenn and Shepard and the 1969 Apollo 11 flight to the Moon as well as the Space Shuttle programme.
Johnson was born in 1918, in West Virginia, the youngest of four children. Even though she showed an amazing talent for maths from an early age, local schools did not offer places for black students past the eighth grade; she and her family had to travel many miles to school.
After high school, she began attending the all-black West Virginia State College. In 1937 she left with the highest honours.
In 1939, she became one of three African-American students and the only woman selected to attend one of the graduate schools that the US Supreme Court had desegregated.
She decided on a career as a research mathematician. In 1952, she heard that the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (Naca) was hiring mathematicians at Hampton, Virginia. In 1953 she became part of pool of black women performing complicated calculations.
Johnson’s knowledge of analytic geometry was spotted by the male bosses. From 1953 to 1958, Johnson worked in a team of black women supervised by mathematician Dorothy Vaughan.
Then she was moved to the otherwise totally white male Guidance and Control Division. She could work with white men but was required to eat and use lavatories separate from her white colleagues.
She calculated the trajectory for the May 5 1961 space flight of Shepard. She married twice and had three daughters and sang in her church choir for 50 years.
President Barack Obama presented Johnson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on May 5 2016. The Computational Research Facility at Langley now bears her name.
Dorothy Johnson Vaughan was another black female mathematician. She too worked for Naca and then Nasa. In 1949 she became acting supervisor of the West Area Computers, the first African-American woman to supervise a Nasa department.
She applied at her local public library for a book on computers but blacks were not allowed to borrow books. She stole one and taught herself and her staff the programming language Fortran. This would lead to her later heading the programming section Nasa Langley.
Born Dorothy Johnson in 1910 in Kansas City, Missouri, she graduated from high school in 1925 and then in mathematics from Wilberforce University, a historically black college in Ohio.
She became a teacher and married Howard S Vaughan Jnr in 1932.
In 1943, she began what developed into a 28 year-career as a mathematician and programmer at Nasa. Vaughan specialised in calculations for flight paths and computer programming.
In 1949, she was made the acting head of her black department, taking over from a white woman who had died. She was the first black supervisor at Naca and one of few female supervisors. She led a group composed entirely of African-American female mathematicians. Vaughan served for years in an acting role before being promoted officially.
Mary Winston Jackson was yet another African-American mathematician. She had a lifelong ambition to become a qualified aerospace engineer but that career was closed to both women and blacks.
It would take 34 years, a complicated court case and years of part-time and evening study for her to earn the most senior engineering title available.
Jackson was a Girl Scout leader for 30 years. In the 1970s, she and her group of black children created an amazing miniature wind tunnel for testing model airplanes. She was married with two children and died aged 83 on February 11 2005.
Donald Trump once famously pronounced: “Laziness is a trait in blacks.”
I wonder if those three brave and clever women who gave the United States such a leg up into space would agree with his judgement.
This video shows a golden eagle in February 2013 in Sweden.
This video says about itself:
1 May 2013
Although the climate of terror unleashed in Manolada after the mass shooting of workers who demanded six months of unpaid wages from their employer, more than 2.000 immigrants take part in a demonstration supported by the labor unions.
Greek and immigrant workers march together a distance of a 6 Km, from Manolada to the police station of Varda town and back.
On the way workers from the strawberry fields are constantly joining the protest. The workers chant: “What do we want? Legal papers!”, “Freedom-Liberty!”, “Never again fascism“, “Hands off immigrants“. They hold flags and the main banner that reads: “Legal immigrants and organized in trade unions.”
During the demo around 2,000 migrants, many of whom are without papers, (“sans-papiers”) fill out applications to create a Union of Migrant Workers to collectively fight for their rights and to stop terrorism of bosses and racism.
The anti-racists who organize and support the demo stress “the connection between the crimes of the bosses and the racist policies of the government that doesn’t legalize migrants, takes back the limited rights of citizenship from the children of migrants, organizes special police corps to chase them and lock them up in concentration camps, keeps borders closed leading to the death of people in the sea, in the river between Greece-Turkey and in the minefields.”
Protestors showed that it is rage, and not fear which dominates, hope and not despair, the mood for a massive organization and not individuation.
By Ben Chacko:
Greece: Top court compensates Bangladeshi workers who were shot at by farmer
Friday 31st March 2017
GREECE was ordered by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) yesterday to pay between €12-16,000 (£10,250-£13,700) each to 42 Bangladeshi nationals who were shot at for demanding unpaid wages in 2013.
The 42, who did not have permits to work in Greece, were illegally hired by a strawberry farmer to pick fruit near the southern town of Manolada.
They protested after going unpaid for six months and were shot at by foremen — with 28 being injured in the incident.
But in a case that shocked Europe the farmer and head foreman were cleared of wrongdoing while two other supervisors present were released pending appeals despite being found guilty.
To add insult to injury the Greek court fined the destitute migrants €360 (£309) each for requesting the case be heard by another judge, on the grounds that the presiding one was racist. Lawyer Moisis Karabeyidis took the case to the ECHR — the top court of the Council of Europe, not to be confused with the smaller European Union — declaring the Greek court’s behaviour “an outrage and a disgrace.”
The judge ruled: “The state failed in its obligations to prevent the situation of human trafficking, to protect the victims, to conduct an effective investigation into the offences committed and to punish those responsible for the trafficking.”
But the court itself came under fire yesterday from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who told the annual congress of the European People’s Party in Malta that the ECHR’s judgements were “a threat to the security of EU people and an invitation for migrants.”