Cicero Yearly Archives

Environment

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Professor Michael Sandel


Michael SandelMichael J. Sandel (born March 5, 1953) is an American political philosopher and a political philosophy professor at Harvard University. His course “Justice” is the first Harvard course to be made freely available online and on television.

It has been viewed by tens of millions of people around the world, including in China, where Sandel was named the “most influential foreign figure of the year” (China Newsweek).

He is also known for his critique of John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice in his first book, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice (1982). He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2002.

Sandel was born in Minneapolis but his family moved to Los Angeles when he was thirteen. He was president of his senior class at Palisades High School (1971) and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Brandeis University with a bachelor’s degree in politics (1975). He received his doctorate from Balliol College, Oxford, as a Rhodes Scholar, where he studied under philosopher Charles Taylor.

 

Philosophical views

Sandel subscribes to a certain version of communitarianism (although he is uncomfortable with the label), and in this vein, he is perhaps best known for his critique of John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice. Rawls’ argument depends on the assumption of the veil of ignorance, which he claims allows us to become “unencumbered selves”.

Sandel’s view is that we are by nature encumbered to an extent that makes it impossible even in the hypothetical to have such a veil. Some examples of such ties are those with our families, which we do not make by conscious choice but are born with, already attached. Because they are not consciously acquired, it is impossible to separate oneself from such ties. Sandel believes that only a less-restrictive, looser version of the veil of ignorance should be postulated. Criticism such as Sandel’s inspired Rawls to subsequently argue that his theory of justice was not a “metaphysical” theory but a “political” one, a basis on which an overriding consensus could be formed among individuals and groups with many different moral and political views.

 

Sandel has taught the famous “Justice” course at Harvard for two decades. More than 15,000 students have taken the course, making it one of the most highly attended in Harvard’s history. The fall 2007 class was the largest ever at Harvard, with a total of 1,115 students. The fall 2005 course was recorded and is offered online. An abridged form of this recording is now a 12-episode TV series, Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?

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What now for GDS? Announcing Sprint 2018


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Photo: GDS;  Article Source: CWS (Civil Service World)

The digital transformation of government is critical to the successful delivery of public services. As the world’s number one digital government, the UK leads the way in this.

 

The Sprint 18 event – which is coming up on 10 May – will look at how we’ve built this world-leading digital government. And it will look at the work we, both in Government Digital Service and across departments, will be doing next.

Sprint 18, at London’s Southbank Centre, will bring together ministers, colleagues from across government, international visitors, media, and industry figures. It is being organised by GDS, but it will be a chance for everyone involved or interested in digital government to celebrate the progress we’ve made, and to look to the future.

Sprint 18 will focus on three themes:

  • Transformation: what the transformation of government really means – both for government and for users
  • Collaboration: how all of government, including GDS, is working together to deliver this change
  • Innovation: how government can use cutting-edge technology to solve real problems for users

Sprint 18 will show how these themes drive our work and our purpose – to help government work better for everyone.

For example, we’ll hear from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Department of International Trade about how they’re using common components to build user-focused services. And we’ll hear from the UK Hydrographic Office about how they’re using innovative technologies to detect previously unknown shipping hazards.

The work we do around EU exit must have a long-term effect and must lead to a transformed government

Oliver Dowden, minister for implementation, will talk about building a government that works for everyone, while apolitical chief executive Robyn Scott will look at what the UK can learn from other governments to remain a global leader in digital.

Achievements
For me personally, Sprint will provide a welcome opportunity to step back and consider what GDS has achieved during the time I’ve been here. I joined GDS as director general in August 2016, coming up for two years ago. Since then, the organization has delivered a huge amount.

But before I detail these I want to talk about how GDS has become a better place to work. We’ve won awards for diversity and inclusion, including a Business in the Community award as one of the country’s best employers on race.

GDS now has a gender-balanced management team, and 42% of GDS staff declare as female – in the UK technology industry as a whole this figure is 17%.

The things GDS builds and operates are the foundation of government’s digital transformation. And we’ve seen an exponential shift in departments using these things.

There are now more than 242 services using common components like payments platform GOV.UK Pay and notifications platform GOV.UK Notify. By using these components, service teams make it easier for users to make online payments and stay up-to-date about the progress of applications.

In just over five years of live service, there have been more than 14 billion page views on GOV.UK – the single website for government, and the online home of our content and services.

Meanwhile, GOV.UK Verify has been used more than 5.4 million times to access services, while GovWifi is now available in more than 340 locations across the country, including 100 courtrooms, local councils, schools, and hospitals, as well as the UK Border Force’s fleet of boats.

Collaboration
Over the past two years, we’ve also seen a huge increase in collaboration between GDS and departments. This is particularly clear in two areas: controls and procurement.

Working with departments, we’ve updated the Technology Code of Practice so that it provides the best and most relevant guidance to the government. Also working with departments, we’ve streamlined the spend controls process to ensure that it remains rigorous, but isn’t a blocker for departments.

And we’re also taking this collaborative approach to improving procurement.

42%
Percentage of GDS staff who declare as female

37
Number of common digital, data, and technology job roles defined in the GDS-authored government framework

14 billion
the approximate number of page views on the GOV.UK site during its five-year lifespan

£3.2bn
Amount of money spent through the Digital Marketplace since its launch in 2012

242
Number of services using GDS Government-as-a-Platform companies, such as Pay, Notify and Verify

The Digital Marketplace is a partnership between GDS and the Crown Commercial Service that is transforming the way government buys technology and digital services by opening the market up to small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) suppliers.

A total of £3.2bn has been spent through the Digital Marketplace in just under six years. Of that total, 48% is spent with SMEs – that’s £1.43 of every £3.

In fact, the Digital Marketplace has been so successful that we’re now going global with it.

We’re working in partnership with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to develop the Global Digital Marketplace. This aims to help international governments make their procurement more transparent, in order to prevent corruption and to boost their digital, data, and technology sectors.

The Global Digital Marketplace is an example of how the UK is using its status as the world’s number-one digital government to work with and help other countries. We had 71 international government visits to GDS last year, and I am extremely proud of how we’re working with our global colleagues.

Brexit
I am also extremely proud of our role supporting the rest of the UK government as we prepare for EU exit. GDS is delivering and providing practical support across departments.

The work we do around EU exit must have a long-term effect as well – it must lead to a transformed government. This means several things.

The things GDS builds and operates are the foundation of government’s digital transformation. And we’ve seen an exponential shift in departments using these things.

It means continuing our work to build and maintain digital capability across government, through the expanding GDS Academy. The GDS Academy will have trained 10,000 students by October, and we’re expanding the curriculum to take in new subjects such as artificial intelligence.

And to give us an overview of digital capability across government, we’ve launched the first national framework of Digital, Data, and Technology (DDaT) job roles. This has created a structure of 37 common job roles across government.

And it means that GDS will be the place where new innovations for government digital are identified and tested. In the immediate term, we’re running the GovTech Catalyst scheme, to help private-sector innovators solve public-sector challenges.

GDS is tackling a broad range of work, but we have a set of core principles and a core mission.

We will show what good looks like, we will solve the hardest problems, we will help government transform, and we will reflect the society we serve. And by doing this we will help government work better for everyone.

About the author

Kevin Cunnington (pictured above) is director general of the Government Digital Service

The importance of the “Windrush Generation” to Britain


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The Conservative government is facing a possible backlash and vote of no confidence from its voters in the coming elections over its treatment of migrants and their children who historically came to that Britain from the Caribbean in the 1940s and who later became to be known as the “Windrush Generation” of Britain.

After the current Prime Minister, Theresa May had as home secretary said she would be tough on immigration and Amber Rudd the current home secretary has been accused of making up immigration policy ‘off the hoof’ to defuse the situation following the  embarrassing debacle that saw hundreds of citizens being faced with deportation following home office rights to remain investigations into migrants living in Britain. More than  200 MPs have signed a letter to the prime minister calling for government promises to Windrush migrants to be written into law. Labour MP David Lammy, said concerns over compensation, housing, and legal rights had not been settled and Diane Abbott MP for Hackney has called for a full inquiry into whether the home secretary has breached ministerial code from the Government’s immigration targets.

The Home Office said Amber Rudd would speak in Parliament on Monday The home secretary is accused in the letter of making up immigration policy “on the hoof” to defuse the situation.

The letter addressed to Theresa May, said any promises made by the government in response to the Windrush crisis should be enshrined in law “without delay”.

But what was the effect of the Windrush Generation – let us look at just how important this migration was and look back at the benefit to Britain from that the Windrush generation of black afro-Caribbean Britons who settled in the United Kingdom.

The Empire Windrush voyage from the Caribbean to Tilbury took place in 1948.

If it hadn’t been for the Second World War, the Windrush and her passengers might not have made the voyage at all. During the war, thousands of Caribbean men and women had been recruited to serve in the armed forces.

When the Windrush stopped in Jamaica to pick up servicemen who were on leave from their units, many of their former comrades decided to make the trip in order to rejoin the RAF. More adventurous spirits, mostly young men, who had heard about the voyage and simply fancied coming to see England, ‘the mother country’, doubled their numbers.

Windrush was an important landmark in the history of modern Britain

June 22nd, 1948, the day that the Windrush discharged its 492 passengers at Tilbury, has become an important landmark in the history of modern Britain; and the image of the Caribbeans filing off its gangplank has come to symbolize many of the changes which have taken place here. Caribbean migrants have become a vital part of British society and, in the process, transformed important aspects of British life.

In 1948, Britain was just beginning to recover from the ravages of war. Housing was a huge problem and stayed that way for the next two decades. There was plenty of work, but the Caribbeans first clashed with the natives over the issue of accommodation. But alongside the conflicts and the discrimination, another process was taking place.

Excluded from much of the social and economic life around them, they began to adjust the institutions they brought with them – the churches, and a co-operative method of saving called the ‘pardner’ system. At the same time, Caribbeans began to participate in institutions to which they did have access: trade unions, local councils, and professional and staff associations.

By the start of the seventies, West Indians were a familiar and established part of the British population, and they had achieved more than mere survival. One indication of their effect on British life is the Notting Hill Carnival. the carnival took place in the same streets where West Indians had been attacked and pursued by baying crowds, but it began as a celebration, a joyous all-inclusive testimony to the pleasure of being alive. As it developed, it became clear that there was a British festival where everyone was welcome, and everyone who wished to had a part to play.

Throughout the seventies, the children of the first wave of post-war Caribbean migrants began to develop a ‘black culture’ which is now part of a black British style shared by Africans, Asians and white young people alike.

The people of the Windrush, their children and grandchildren have played a vital role in creating a new concept of what it means to be British. To be British in the present day implies a person who might have their origins in Africa, the Caribbean, China, India, Greece, Turkey or anywhere else in the spectrum of nations.

The now-familiar debate about identity and citizenship was sparked off when the first Caribbeans stepped off the Windrush. Alongside that debate came the development of arguments about the regions within the United Kingdom – Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

The British national self-image has been thoroughly remodelled in a very short time. Seen against the deadly agonies associated with ethnic conflicts in other European countries, Britain offers the example of a nation, which can live comfortably with a new and inclusive concept of citizenship. In a sense, the journey of the Windrush has never ended.

 

Earth Day 2018


What is Earth Day, and what is it meant to accomplish?
A message from Earth Day’s president, Kathleen Rogers

“Close to 48 years ago, on 22 April 1970, millions of people took to the streets to protest the negative impacts of 150 years of industrial development.

In the US and around the world, smog was becoming deadly and evidence was growing that pollution led to developmental delays in children. Biodiversity was in decline as a result of the heavy use of pesticides and other pollutants.

The global ecological awareness was growing, and the US Congress and President Nixon responded quickly. In July of the same year, they created the Environmental Protection Agency, and robust environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, among many.

One billion people
Earth Day is now a global event each year, and we believe that more than 1 billion people in 192 countries now take part in what is the largest civic-focused day of action in the world.

It is a day of political action and civic participation. People march, sign petitions, meet with their elected officials, plant trees, clean up their towns and roads. Corporations and governments use it to make pledges and announce sustainability measures. Faith leaders, including Pope Francis, connect Earth Day with protecting God’s greatest creations, humans, biodiversity and the planet that we all live on.

Earth Day Network, the organization that leads Earth Day worldwide, today announced that Earth Day 2018 will focus on mobilizing the world to End Plastic Pollution, including creating support for a global effort to eliminate single-use plastics along with global regulation for the disposal of plastics. EDN will educate millions of people about the health and other risks associated with the use and disposal of plastics, including pollution of our oceans, water, and wildlife, and about the growing body of evidence that decomposing plastics are creating serious global problems.

From poisoning and injuring marine life to the ubiquitous presence of plastics in our food to disrupting human hormones and causing major life-threatening diseases and early puberty, the exponential growth of plastics is threatening our planet’s survival. EDN has built a multi-year campaign to End Plastic Pollution. Our goals include ending single-use plastics, promoting alternatives to fossil fuel-based materials, promoting 100 percent recycling of plastics, corporate and government accountability and changing human behavior concerning plastics.

EDN’s End Plastic Pollution campaign includes four major components:

Leading a grassroots movement to support the adoption of a global framework to regulate plastic pollution;
Educating, mobilizing and activating citizens across the globe to demand that governments and corporations control and clean up plastic pollution;
Educating people worldwide to take personal responsibility for plastic pollution by choosing to reject, reduce, reuse and recycle plastics, and promoting local government regulatory and other efforts to tackle plastic pollution.

Earth Day Network will leverage the platform of Earth Day and the growing interest in the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day in 2020 as a catalyst for global action.

Grenfell Requires Answers!


A second tragedy has befallen London in the last few days. We all woke on Wednesday to see the most distressing scenes of a towering inferno in the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Lancaster West area of London.
Although the extent of such a tragedy was difficult to comprehend it was by many residents a disaster almost waiting to happen, and even followed a report by Housing regulation inspectors into the blocks refurbishment following  concerns of the safety of the building that saw gas pipes in communal areas bare, a complete lack of fire sprinklers and the use a lower grade of building cladding provided to the exterior of the building.
Of course, you may be as shocked as I was at the fire, and it’s ferocity and we as a country share deepest sympathy and grief for all either who perished and their families and also for the survivors who are rebuilding their lives after such a disaster.
My question goes out to KCTMO the landlord involved and concerned with this particular housing disaster, why did they sign the refurbishment as satisfactory when important safety requirements were not met? Why after 72 hours did the Prime Minister only first start to address residents and the local community about the disaster and does she really expect that the £5 million will be adequate to the survivors (we do not know yet the numbers who perished and those who survived) who now must rehouse themselves and rebuild their lives? Why did Kensington and Chelsea Housing Chiefs today not address the local community or provide any assistance in knowing the estimated number of tenants involved?
Below are the scenes we have witnessed over the last couple of days that will haunt people and which now demand a total long-awaited overhaul of  Housing Safety.
David Lammy MP for Tottenham who lost a close friend he described who perished in the disaster was a “young person with a beautiful life ahead”.  Paying tribute to his friend Khadija Saye, he continued: “She was a young black woman making her way in this country. […] She’d done amazing things — gone to university, the best in her life — but she’s died, with her mother, on the 22nd floor of the building. And it breaks my heart, that it’s happening in Britain in 2017.”

He added the stark warning for those who profit from the misery of social injustice:“This is a tale of two cities. This is what Dickens was writing about in the century before last, and it’s still here in 2017.”

“Giving the poorest and most vulnerable ‘somewhere decent to live’ was a noble idea that is falling apart around our eyes”

 

On Sunday 18th June 2017 the current Government announced a payment relief of only £5,500 for all families living in the Grenfell Tower this will be paid as a £500 cash emergency payment and the remainder expected to be paid by the Department for Work and Pensions into survivor’s back accounts to cover the immediate cost of food; emergency housing associated costs, burial costs and getting clothes and possibly furniture and living requirements. This payment is thought to be made payable immediately to the family members who have survived, but is only this blog calculates a small figure of the £5 million promised initially (calculating and taking into consideration the 127 flats in Grenfell would see this as only a payment of 680,000 towards the figure of £5 million the PM originally said would be set apart towards the residents, thus this blog sees that £5,500 is actually quite poor to help these families.)

House of Lords launch Future Nuclear Power inquiry


25 January 2017

The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee launches an inquiry into the priorities for nuclear research and technologies.

In 2011 the Committee investigated whether the UK’s research and development (R&D) capabilities were sufficient to meet our nuclear energy needs in the future, ensuring a safe and secure supply of nuclear energy up to 2050.

This inquiry will now revisit some of the conclusions and recommendations of that report and investigate whether the Government’s actions in response have improved the UK’s nuclear R&D capabilities. It will also explore what more needs to be done to ensure the UK can meet its future nuclear energy requirements.

The Committee will look specifically at the upcoming decision by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on a small modular reactor (SMR) design for the UK; whether the roles and remit of the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) are appropriate; and if the Nuclear Innovation and Research Advisory Board (NIRAB) was successful.

The Committee invites submissions, with practical examples where possible, on topics including those mentioned below.

Questions

  • Where the responsibility should lie for ensuring the UK has a coherent and consistent long term policy for civil nuclear activities
  • Potential benefits, disadvantages and risks from the deployment of SMRs in the UK and more widely
  • Whether the Government is doing enough to fund research and development on SMRs, and in motivating others to do so
  • If the NNL is fulfilling its remit appropriately and whether it can deliver the required research to support the UK’s future nuclear energy policies
  • How the NNL compares to equivalent organisations in other countries
  • How successful NIRAB was in carrying out its role and whether a permanent successor body to NIRAB is required

Chairman’s comments

Chair of the Committee, Lord Selborne, said:

“It has been over 5 years since the Committee’s report into the future of nuclear energy which found that the Government was too complacent about the UK’s nuclear R&D capabilities.
Since its publication, the Government has accepted and acted on a number of the recommendations of the Committee, which saw the creation of the Nuclear Innovation and Research Advisory Board.
This inquiry gives the Committee the opportunity to assess who should have responsibility for ensuring the UK has a coherent and consistent long term policy for civil nuclear activities.
We are keen to hear from people or organisations who can inform the Committee on the role and remit of the National Nuclear Laboratory or offer insight into how SMR’s will benefit the UK and what is needed to support the civil nuclear sector”.

Timeline

The Committee is inviting written evidence on the issue, to be received by Friday 24 February 2017, and will start taking oral evidence on the inquiry in February.

Animal Welfare after Brexit


Animal welfare standards in farming after the UK leaves the EU

Published  Thursday, January 19, 2017
This pack has been prepared ahead of the debate on Animal Welfare Standards in Farming after the UK leaves the EU (Brexit), to be held in Westminster Hall on Tuesday 24 January 2017 430-530pm. The Member in charge of this debate is the Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP.
Jump to full report >>

Animal welfare is a devolved issue. The welfare of animals involved in commercial operations (i.e. those animals that are farmed) is subject to a substantial body of EU regulation; the RSPCA estimates that around 80 per cent of UK animal welfare laws originate from the EU. The terms of the Brexit negotiations will have a significant impact upon what animal welfare protections are adopted, amended or discarded.

EU farm animal welfare regulations

Currently, the EU legislates on issues affecting the operation of the internal market and the free movement of animals. Council Directive 98/58/EC on the protection of animals kept for farming purposes provides general rules for the protection of animals. This EU legislation sets down minimum standards; national governments may adopt more stringent rules than this. The EU rules are based on the European Convention for the Protection of Animals kept for Farming Purposes, and they reflect the so-called ‘Five Freedoms’:
•Freedom from hunger and thirst
•Freedom from discomfort
•Freedom from pain, injury and disease
•Freedom to express normal behaviour
•Freedom from fear and distress.

Similar legislation implementing EU animal welfare regulations exists in England and all of the devolved assembles. Accompanying the legislation in each country are codes of practice, which provide welfare recommendations for those involved in the farming industry.

Live animal exports

EU rules to protect live animals during transport and related operations were agreed in 2004, and implemented in the UK in 2007, though there have still been a number of campaigns against such exports on welfare grounds. These regulations only apply to animals transported for commercial operations. The Council Regulation was implemented in the England by the Welfare of Animals (Transport) (England) Order 2006, and by parallel legislation in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

There have been a number of campaigns seeking to either ban live animal transport altogether, or to limit how far (and long) an animal can be transported on welfare grounds. Some of these campaigns have focussed on live animal exports through the Ports of Ramsgate and Dover, and specific events in 2012 when 40 sheep were euthanised on welfare grounds at the Port of Ramsgate. The National Farmers Union (NFU) is broadly supportive of live animal exports.

Antimicrobial resistance in farm animals

In the past, it was normal practice for antimicrobials to be added to animal feed across the world in order to stimulate livestock growth and so maximise productivity. A ban on the use of antibiotics as growth promoters was implemented first in the UK and then in other European countries and Canada. The practice continued unchanged, however, in the United States and also continued to some extent in Europe, but with agents that were not used therapeutically in humans. An EU-wide ban on the use of antimicrobials as growth promoters came into force on 1 January 2006. The addition of antimicrobials to animal feed for medical purposes (either as prophylactics or as treatment for existing disease) is not affected by this ban. On 10 September 2014, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a Regulation on veterinary medicinal products.

Brexit and farm animal welfare: the same protections, stronger or weaker?

Currently, national governments may adopt more stringent rules than the EU animal welfare legislation—which sets down minimum standards. However, the UK Government has been resistant to ‘gold-plating’ EU regulations in the past over fears that this would weaken UK competiveness. In October, Defra’s Secretary of State stated that the UK’s unique selling point after we leave the EU “should be the highest standards of animal welfare, and the highest standards of food traceability.”

It is currently expected that leaving the EU will result in alternative trade and support arrangements for UK agriculture. The terms of Brexit negotiations and trade deals will go a long way towards determining what animal welfare protections are adopted, amended or discarded. This may lead to the same, stronger or weaker regulations than those currently in force.

The Government has already committed to bringing forward a ‘Great Repeal Bill’ which will convert all existing EU law into domestic law “wherever practical”. However, there has been some concern that trading arrangements made with non-EU countries may result in a reduction in UK standards or in the standards of imported products. In order to operate on a ‘level playing-field’, farmers may call for the removal of welfare regulations which would allow them to compete with producers in countries with lower animal welfare standards.
Commons Debate packs CDP-2017-002

Download the full report
Animal Welfare after Brexit   (  PDF, 263.8 KB)

Government backs Homelessness Reduction Bill


24 October 2016 2:48 pm | By Carl Brown courtesy : Inside Housing Journal)

The government will support the Homelessness Reduction Bill, the communities secretary has announced.
Sajid Javid, in parliament today, confirmed ministers will back the bill, which would impose duties on councils to prevent homelessness. Ministers had previously said they would consider options, including legislation, to prevent homelessness but until today had stopped short of supporting the bill.

Mr Javid said: “No one should have to sleep rough on the streets.  We want to build a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few. That’s why we are determined to do all we can to help those who lose their homes and provide them with the support they need to get their lives back on track.”

The bill, tabled by Conservative backbench MP Bob Blackman, has been supported by homelessness charities. It is made up of 12 measures (see below).

A new version of the bill was published last week following negotiations with bodies including the Local Government Association.

The original bill included a new duty on councils to provide emergency temporary accommodation for 56 days to people with a local connection but who are not in priority need and who have nowhere safe to stay.

Councils have said that such a duty would place too much pressure on local authorities, which are already struggling to keep up with spiralling homelessness demand. This duty has now been removed from the bill, on the basis that it would be too costly.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “In backing Bob Blackman’s Homelessness Reduction Bill, the government has shown its continued determination to tackle homelessness. I am also grateful for the personal tenacity and commitment shown by Department for Communities and Local Government ministers in helping get to this important milestone.

The bill is due to receive its second reading in the House of Commons on Friday. It still needs the support of 100 MPs to protect the bill from risk of being ‘talked out’.

Mr Sparkes said: “While we warmly welcome today’s announcement, there remains a real risk that unless MPs offer their support at the bill’s second reading on Friday, this historic opportunity could easily be lost.”

 
AT-A-GLANCE: THE HOMELESSNESS REDUCTION BILL

The bill is made up of 12 measures:

1.         A change to the meaning of “homeless” and “threatened with homelessness”. Each household that has received an eviction notice is to be treated as homeless from the date on which the notice expires, and the period at which a person is threatened with homelessness is changed from 28 to 56 days.

2.         All homeless people have access to free advice and information.

3.         Local authorities are required to carry out an assessment of what led to each applicant’s homelessness, and set out steps to remedy this in an agreed, written plan.

4.         Local authorities are required to help to secure accommodation for all eligible households who are threatened with homelessness, and at an earlier stage.

5.         Local authorities are required to provide those who find themselves homeless with support for a further period of 56 days to help to secure accommodation.

6.         Local authorities are able to take action to help to secure accommodation under the new duties to help homeless households.

7.         Households in priority need who refuse to co-operate with prevention and/or relief activity will be offered a minimum of a six month private rented sector tenancy. They will not progress to the main homelessness duty. Households not in priority need who refuse to co-operate would be provided with advice and information only.

8.         All young people leaving care will be deemed to have a local connection in the area of the local authority that is responsible for providing them with leaving care services under the Children Act 1989.

9.         Applications are provided with the right to request a review in relation to the prevention and relief duties.

10.       The Bill introduces a duty on specified local agencies to refer those either homeless or at risk of being homeless to local authority housing teams

11.       The Secretary of State has a power to produce a statutory Code of Practice to raise the standards of homelessness support services across the country.

12.       A local housing authority must satisfy itself that specific requirements are in place where it secures accommodation for vulnerable households in the private rented sector.

Germany angered at NSA and GCHQ Intrusions


An intelligence-sharing dispute between Britain and Germany, which was sparked by revelations about Anglo-American espionage against Berlin, is turning into a “burgeoning crisis”, according to German media reports. Relations between Germany and the United Kingdom worsened in September, after the revelation of TREASURE MAP, a top-secret program led by the US National Security Agency, which allegedly allows American spies to map the entire network of German telecommunications providers. Reports suggest that TREASURE MAP enables the NSA and its British counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters, to map the German Internet and reveals the addresses and locations of individual subscribers’ routers, as well as those of targeted computer and smart-phone users.

Late last year, the German parliament set up a body known informally as the NSA investigative commission, and tasked it with probing the allegations of American and British spying activities against the German state. In February, however, German newsmagazine Focus reported that British intelligence officials issued formal warnings aimed at their German counterparts, telling them that London would reconsider its intelligence cooperation with Berlin should the German parliament proceed with the probe into alleged British spying on German soil. According to Focus, British officials were concerned that such an inquiry by the NSA investigative commission would unearth British intelligence activities and would debate them openly during parliamentary sessions.

source IntelliNews

Church warns of unfair sanctions against those experiencing mental heath problems


The Methodist Church in England fears that people with mental health problems are experiencing sanctions on their benefits at a possible rate of 100 people a day, more than claimants suffering other conditions, according to figures presented to them by the DWP.

In March last year 4,500 people who are claiming Employment and Support Allowance due to mental heath issues were sanctioned, this figure was not the total amount as it did not include overturned decisions. The concern the Methodist Church had from these findings is that those with mental health conditions who failed to attend the Work Programme interviews and other appointments were being unfairly treated, or even discriminated due to their lack of cognitive ability and general condition of mental heath. DWP records also revealed the most common reason for being sanctioned is a person has been late or not turned up for a work programme appointment.

Public issues policy adviser , Paul Morrison for the Methodist Church, said: ‘Sanctioning someone with a mental health problem for being late for a meeting is like sanctioning someone with a broken leg for limping.’ adding,  ‘The fact that this system punishes people for the symptoms of their illness is a clear and worrying sign that it is fundamentally flawed.’

The 100 a day figure was an average from data stretching back to January 2009 obtained through Freedom of Information Requests to the Department for Work and Pensions, released yesterday.

The “Work Programme” was set up 2011 at a cost of £5 billion, with it’s aim to ‘encourage’ and provide access to people with disabilities a opportunity to find work and enter the job market but since it’s inception it’s continually been cited as a failure with homelessness charities and housing associations even being among those who have abandoned it. It’s failure has been down to lack of employment in areas, the reduction of hours and wages in-line with the increased cost of living, and also the lack of commitment from the majority of employers to take on people with mental or physical disability.

DWP current spending on Housing Benefit Fraud “Nonsensical”


Margaret-Hodge  The Public Accounts Committee today ordered the DWP to report back within six months with a clear plan on how it would is tackling housing benefit fraud after MPs launched a scathing attack on its current spending in preventing housing benefit fraud and error calling the departments current actions as ‘completely nonsensical’.

Margaret Hodge, who chairs the committee said that billions of pounds were being lost from the taxpayer as a result of a failure to tackle HB fraud effectively. She said today ‘Around £12.6 billion has been spent on housing benefit overpayments since 2000/01 — money that could have been used to improve the system.’

Last year alone it’s estimated that £1.4bn was overpaid in housing benefit, which is 5.8% of the total budget. This was due to claimant error which accounted for £900 million pounds and £340m where there was evidence of claimant fraud, however it was found that £150m of overpayments was due to official errors made by the Local Authorities and DWP. This was a rise of £600m from the figure of £980m when the current government took over in 2010/11. The DWP however expect the losses to be lower when local authorities manage to recoup some of the money that was paid out. PAC

Commenting on the DWPs performance, Mrs Hodge said they had still not “effectively targeted” the major sources of fraud and error after the Public Accounts committee reported the over-spend  and ‘sounded the alarm’ years ago and said that it was ‘nonsensical’ that the department only spends 8% of its budget on fraud and errors on Housing Benefit even though HB overpayments account for 42% of the overall overpayments across all DWP benefits. She also criticised the government for the DWP failing to encourage legitimate take up of benefits and where claimants were,  in fact, underpaid which she said was due to the cutting of local authorities financial budgets when administering the Housing Benefit scheme which resulted in local authorities reducing their work in recovering overpayments as a result of reduced local authority budgets.

The committee reported local authorities faced disincentives in uncovering fraud, as the current system means they are penalised when higher levels of HB fraud is discovered.

 

Further information:

http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/journals/2015/01/13/n/t/k/HOUSING-BENEFIT-FRAUD-AND-ERROR.pdf

Universal credit legislation may force tenants into debt in recovering rent arrears


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Changes to legislation concerning
rent arrear recovery through universal credit will claw 20% from non-housing increment of UC and could mean tenants seeking loans from loan sharks and the problem of mismanagement of remainder of their  benefits and debt housing and social housing providers warned .

http:// http://m.insidehousing.co.uk/regulation/scale-of-arrears-clawback-plan-sparks-fears/7006926.article

UN Statement on Typhoon Haiyan


unlogo_blue_sml_enThe humanitarian community’s response and commitment in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan had been phenomenal despite overwhelming challenges, John Ging, a senior humanitarian official said today at a press conference at United Nations Headquarters.

Mr. Ging, Director of Operations for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said the Typhoon had left a large trail of destruction across the Philippines.  “Currently, 13 million were affected, 1.9 million displaced and 3,600 people have died”, he added.

He applauded the international community for their support to a $301 million appeal launched in Manila, noting that $72 million had so far been received.  Furthermore, the OCHA official expressed his gratitude to the United States, United Kingdom, Israel, Malaysia, Australia, Japan and Sweden, and to other countries for their logistical support, humanitarian services and recovery efforts.  However, he stressed the need for a more sustained and collective response to helping those affected by the disaster to rebuild their lives.

Also present at the briefing was Ted Chaiban, Director of Emergency Programmes for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), who stated that the Typhoon had affected an estimated 5 million children and that the Fund’s emergency efforts were running non-stop.  “UNICEF staff were on the ground in Tacloban, Ormoc, Aklan and Capiz, and had set up field offices to render support to those affected,” Mr. Chaiban said.

UNICEF was gaining a clearer picture of the massive needs for clean water, food, essential medicines and sanitation for children in those affected communities, he said.  All of those items had become a top priority for the Fund.

Speaking on the issue of water, he said that those resources had been partially restored in Tacloban city and that would improve access to 200,000 people including children and women.  Furthermore, significant amounts of supplies had been delivered to the locality including water bladders, hygiene kits, toilet slabs, and water purifying tablets.  Through a partnership with Oxfam, hygiene kits were distributed in northern Cebu and, in cooperation with the Department of Public Works and Highways, sludge treatment facilities had been constructed and emergency latrines and mobile toilets deployed.

Responding to questions, Mr. Ging said that money was “grossly” needed to cope with humanitarian crises, not only in the Philippines, but across the world, noting that, “humanitarian activities were unfunded and funds were also needed to tackle the challenges.”  Funds were needed to secure relief supplies, and to stock them in warehouses across the world, so as to be well-prepared for natural disasters.  In addition, helicopters and other air transportation facilities were required to reach localities that were inaccessible by roads.

Source: UN

Shock and Awe–The Story of Electricity


The BBC produced a marvellous history of the origins of electricity a number of years ago – the series was presented by Professor Jim AlKhalili on BBC Four’s  and was entitled “Shock and Awe – The Story of Electricity”.

The Story of Electricity  is quite incredible from the work of Alessandro Volta and Humphrey Davy up to the invention of electro-magnetism of Michael Faraday work and the foresight of Nikola Tesla  – this is recounted captured beautifully.

What follows is the series of three parts in full (

Related articles

Peace on the up and up


697957610-2Research into violent crime has seen a ‘substantial and dramatic’ fall according to research into the levels of crime conducted by the Institute for Economics and Peace.

Britain’s murder rate fell from 1,255 to 993 per 100,000 people according to a nationwide index on the level of crime and in particular the low existence of it.

Areas that have been recognized highly as the areas where violent crime has least are to be found in Norfolk; Hertfordshire and  South Cambridgeshire – with Broadland in Norfolk topping the research poll on crime reduction nationwide.

The Institute research found that the fall over the last decade of homicide in the UK now at its lowest level since 1978; roughly equivalent to that of the Western European average. Unfortunately it is significantly higher in terms of violent crime than the EU average.

It is believed changes in Police practice and technological advances such as CCTV; an aging population, the fall in alcohol consumption,  and the introduction of a minimum wage could be some of the contributing factors for the downward trend in crime – in particular homicide.

Although alcohol related crimes are believed to have fallen slightly drug offences have increased over the last ten years.Officers said that the police’s efforts in tackling gun and knife attacks, domestic assault and incidents relating to alcohol misuse has started to show its overall impact on levels of violent crime.

Sandy hits New York


This is how Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast of America.

 

 

 

Indonesia Greenpeace and KFC & Facebook and Greenpeace Victory


On the 15th December 2011 last year and following a two-year campaign of mobilising, agitating and negotiating to green Facebook, the internet giant announced its goal to run on clean, renewable energy. More than 700,000 people from all over the world joined to make this possible! Facebook’s message to energy producers is clear: invest now in renewable energy, and move away from coal power.

In addition, Greenpeace and Facebook will collaborate in the promotion renewable energy and encourage major utilities to develop renewable energy sources (pdf).

The following Greenpeace campaign video from Youtube was part of the campaign that saw Facebook take up the initiative.

Now Greenpeace is calling for the giant food company KFC to stop using Indonesia’s rainforests in its paper/cardboard products including its packaging and napkins. Greenpeace is concerned that the increase of the giant will deplete more of Indonesia’s precious rainforests if the company continues to source from Asia Pulp and Paper (APP). It also believes that Tiger population will suffer as a result of the increased de-forestation of Indonesia.

The photos below show how Greenpeace Indonesian activist in a protest in one of the destroyed Indonesian forests.

BBC – The Story of Electricity


The BBC are again showing  Professor Jim AlKhalili on BBC Four’s “Shock and Awe – The Story of Electricity”. The Story of Electricity  is quite incredible from the work of Alessandro Volta and Humphrey Davy up to the invention of electro-magnetism of Michael Faraday work and the foresight of Nikola Tesla  – this is recounted captured beautifully.

There is debate about as to where the music for the series has come from – many people on the internet seem to think it may originally be from Hans Zimmer.

What follows is the series of three parts in full (courtesy of the BBC)

Simon Danczuk – Rochale MP


Simon Danczuk is Rochdale’s MP since 2010.

Simon started working at the young age of 16 in a factory making gas fires, he then worked for ICI (the chemical company).  While working, he studied as a mature student at night school and gained qualifications he had missed out at secondary school before gaining a place at Lancaster University where he studied economic sociology and politics.

Danczuk co-founded  research; public affairs and communications company Vision Twentyone and also has been involved in The Big Issue in the North, Opinion Research Corporation, Bolton Bury TEC.

He has written a number of articles and books ranging on such diverse subjects as democracy, homelessness, regeneration, drugs, housing and employment. His business acumen saw him as being voted one of the up-and-coming stars of North West business by Business Insider magazine in 2001.

He campaigned prior for a referendum for an elected Regional Assembly for the North West.

Having been involved with the Labour Party for many years (joining it via the trade union GMB) in the 1980s.  He was elected as a councillor to Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, and served in this position for 8 years. He also was a campaign manager for Rossendale and Darwen Labour Party

Simon Danczuk was elected as a candidate in 2007 to be Rochdale Labour Party’s Parliamentary Candidate. He has since being voted MP in Rochdale campaigned tirelessly for local investment in business, voting against cuts and the abolition of the EMA, on local jobs and for regeneration of Rochdale Town Centre and it’s shopping areas. He also has opposed cuts to the local Police service and against the closure of the Accident and Emergency unit in Rochdale’s NHS infermary.

Below you can see Simon taking a look around Rochdale town and speaking to leaders of Rochdale’s council about his hopes to see more investment in the town centre. As a no nonsense MP he is against any forms of Council misuse of money or officials impropriety of their positions. He also is one of the only MPs in the country to have a surgery available for local constituents to visit on a 9am-5pm basis  – his surgery is based near St. Mary’s Gate in Rochdale.

He will of course be running as the Labour candidate on May 3rd 2012, and you can find out more information on Simon by visiting his website at his website.

BBC – The Story of Electricity


Been watching Jim AlKhalili on BBC Four’s “The Story of Electricity” – he described the invention of Michael Faraday and Nikola Tesla beautifully!

Well done the BBC!

There is debate about as to where the music for the series has come from – many people on the internet seem to think it may originally be from Hans Zimmer (“Time”) and his score from the film “Inception“? But below is the first of the series – “Shock & Awe”

Sky News

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