Book review: The Psychology of Time Travel

This was originally posted August 2018 but a switch between hosting sites meant it got lost. Reposting.

This is the debut novel from Kate Mascarenhas who is a part-Irish, part-Seychellois midlander. Since 2017, Kate has been a chartered psychologist. Before that she worked as a copywriter, a dolls' house maker, and a bookbinder. She lives with her husband in a small terraced house which she is slowly filling with Sindy dolls. This is her first novel.

They say write what you know so some characters are Irish and some are Seychellois. There is a psychologist in the story and many many of the same people but in duplicate as created during time travel. One Goodreads review complained bitterly that Mascarenhas had gone against well-known time-travel narratives as established in Doctor Who and marked the book lower than low. I think she has used an ingenious device to deal with it and one probably much closer to what would ever happen in reality.

Four women scientists discover time travel and are all set to show the world this new invention when one of the pioneers has a breakdown. Years later only three pioneers are famous but a murder brings up the past.

This is a smart book with a well-thought out background but more importantly, the plot and characters are believable and likeable. I stayed up all night to read it and the world the author created felt just right. It was only after I finished that I realised it was mainly a female based cast and this tickled me. Men were assuredly not missed.

Some excellent writing.

The Psychology of Time Travel is published 9 August 2018.

How many deaths are acceptable?

The following is my question to Cabinet on 28 April about the Clean Air Zone that the mayor wants to postpone:

In January, young Rife journalist, Deqa Hassan wrote about the silent voices in the green movement. She talked about white liberal middle-class people dominating the discourse on the environment, and those who are absent. Sometimes individuals are represented but never communities. She is talking about unheard BAME communities, and the privileged people who can avoid the externalities of the effects of pollution.

In Bristol, the silent voices are those overrepresented in the death counts such as in Lawrence Hill that has a ‘very much higher than average BME population as % of the total population’. First, it was deaths from air quality – 7.5% of deaths in Lawrence Hill, and 6% in Central ward. (According to the Bristol City Council Equality Impact Assessment on the clean air zone https://democracy.bristol.gov.uk/documents/s48444/CAZ%20EQIA%20Final.pdf ) These are the highest proportions in the city.

Now we can add Covid-19 deaths to those lists of sick, silent and dead voices.

We already know that the deaths of around 300 Bristol residents could be attributed to air pollution each year. Now, research has identified a link between air quality and Covid-19 fatalities in Italy and in England, (https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.04.16.20067405v2.full.pdf) .

In Rife magazine, Hassan raises her voice to say: “In Bristol, Fishponds, Stapleton and Easton suffer from the worst air pollution in the entire city. These areas house a lot of Bristol BAME residents and they lie along and collect emissions from the M32. I’ve been given accounts of white colleagues who have changed their cycle routes to and from work to avoid Easton in order to save their lungs just a few minutes in that area, yet BAME families live and work in this pollution every single day.” https://www.rifemagazine.co.uk/2020/01/who-are-the-silent-voices-in-the-green-movement/

Her call is being ignored, however.

According to the latest CAZ update going to Cabinet on 28 April 2020, Mayor Rees has written to Grant Shapps MP, Secretary of State for Transport to “urge the Government to rethink the implementation of Clean Air Zones and the disastrous effect that complying with the timeline, as set out within the legal Direction, will have on businesses in Bristol during this unprecedented time of uncertainty for them.”

Any postponement of the CAZ as requested by the mayor of Bristol will result in additional deaths not only from air quality, but quite likely from Covid-19 as well. The additional deaths are more likely to be from BAME communities.

My question is: How many deaths are acceptable for the mayor of Bristol, in order to avoid the “disastrous effect” that complying with the timeline will have “on businesses in Bristol”?

Will the mayor listen to James Durie, director of Business West and chair of the One City’s Economy Board, who says that in recovering from coronavirus and stimulating our regional and national economy, we must “put the need for clean air at the centre of how we do it”?

 

 

Has the mayor learnt the wrong lessons from Cambridge Analytica?

 

On February 19, I revealed that Bristol City Council had contracted for £90,000 with a social media company called Impact Social so they could analyse what was being said about the mayor.

There are three issues with this contract: 1) the cost is very high for a time when the budget had just been cut by £33 million; 2) we don’t know what the purpose of the data collection was; and 3) there seems to be no clearly presented GDPR notice about how this data is to be/being used and for how long it will be kept.

Apart from the exorbitant cost of the service in the midst of millions of pounds in cuts to the council, the purpose of the analysis remains a mystery.

[Keep reading at the following link]

View at Medium.com

Familiar names to the mayor of Bristol but no transparency

The mayor may be in breach of GDPR by not providing a transparency notice about his collection of public data.

mayor of Bristol

After this blog revealed that the council have contracted to collect social media information, concerns were raised about whether the mayor is collecting lists of residents who mention him or the Bristol City Council.

The report released to me in the FOI I submitted clearly showed that the data was collected in relation to the following search terms: “Marvin Rees” / “mayor of bristol” / @MarvinJRees / @BrisMayorOffice / “Bristol Council”. The search seems geared to return more information about the mayor than it does about the council.

Twitter handles are revealed in the reports.

 

Tweeters

So what does he do with the names?

At a recent Cabinet meeting, he seemed to know some residents names, despite them not being there.

“Martin Rands, there’s a familiar name,” he said to those around him. “Joanna Booth, that’s another familiar name.” He was referring to me because I had tabled a question about the Western Harbour at Cabinet on November 5.

 

According to David Traynier CIPP/E, CIPM, certified GDPR professional who uses the legislation as part of his work, the collection of social media information does fall under the remit of the GDPR/Data Protection Act 2018.

“If the council processes personal data, they’re required to make a privacy notice readily available (i.e. on their website).”

“It makes little difference that the personal data (names, handles etc) is in the public domain, anyone processing that data must still comply with the law to protect the data subjects (the people whose data is collected).

In practice, this means (under GDPR Article 5(1) ) the processing must be lawful, limited to the purposes for which the data is initially collected, use only the minimum of data necessary to the purpose, that the data must be accurate, only kept as long as is needed, and must be kept securely.

When not collecting data directly from data subjects, Article 14 requires that data subjects are informed of the processing but not if ‘the provision of such information proves impossible or would involve a disproportionate effort, in particular for processing for archiving purposes in the public interest.’

They would need to ensure they include details of what they do in a transparency notice that is readily available to the public.

Traynier goes on to say: “I think what they’re doing is lawful, providing they follow the required safeguards. It’s quite common now anyway, so uncontroversial. The key thing – aside from meeting the mundane requirements around security of storage/data retention etc – is that they only use the information for their stated purpose of democratic engagement and nothing else down the line.”

As noted in my original article, all three opposition parties, were surprised by news of the social media analysis and say they have not seen the reports.

If the council do not have a transparency notice about how they use this data then this could be a breach of GDPR.

Note that the local media picked up on the story the following day with no attribution to this blog or the research that revealed the contract and the data gathering. 

Bristol City Council have yet to respond to any of my questions.

How close an eye is the mayor keeping on Bristol’s residents?

Update: 10:06 20 Feb 2020

A Freedom of Information request by Ephemeral Digest has revealed that social media mentions of the Bristol Mayor and Bristol City Council go directly to the Head of the Mayor’s Office and to the mayor’s policy advisers.

Bristol City Council have paid £90,000 to social media company Impact Social so as to keep track of online platforms. The contract began on 1 March 2018 and is due to expire in September 2020 unless it is renewed.

IMG-4200 (1)

An example report from the 8th to the 10th of December clearly shows the users who have been Tweeting about any of the following search terms: “Marvin Rees” / “mayor of bristol” / @MarvinJRees / @BrisMayorOffice / “Bristol Council”.

Twitter users such as Liberal Democrat Party councillor Tim Kent (@cllrtimkent), @citizencaz, @keepbristoltidy, and @glutenfreescone were all listed.

 

Tweeters

The contract between the Council and the company states that it provides reports as “additional objective information and evidence base” so as “to inform corporate planning and organisational policy responses” and will be used “by the Policy Advisors and Head of Mayor’s Office”. “This is irrespective of who holds that office and information from the analysis will be available to anybody upon request.” 

There are monthly reports “offering sentiment, topic, author, source of story, location and trend analysis” are not “for the purpose of collecting personal data and shall not serve any party political purpose.”

Up to six in-person presentations are meant to happen to representatives of the Council including Head of Policy & Strategy and a representative of the Mayor’s Office.

Competency criteria in the contract, which may account for the £90,000 fee, include the ability to monitor all available platforms on social media, “analysis and interpretation that goes further than algorithms and includes interpretive analysis”.

The clients are meant to have “public sector / political experience / knowledge, understanding and competence”. They should also have comprehensive understanding of the role of Mayor of Bristol and Council policies.

The ability to segment users into specific groups and an understanding of crisis communications are also listed.

 

When approached for comment, Conservative Leader Councillor Mark Weston said:  “This is the first time I have heard of the company ‘Impact Social’ and, given the apparent cost of their contract and supposed non-partisan status,  I am surprised that these monthly reports are not more widely circulated or distributed.

“Whilst social media is an influential platform for public discourse, I am far from convinced that Bristol City Council should be commissioning such specialist analytics.

“This is not well-publicised support and so it is extremely difficult to assess whether or not such research really provides value-for-money to the taxpayer.

“It is just this sort of extravagance which makes people rightly critical of continuing local government waste and misguided spending priorities.

“The Mayor still has significant resources at his disposal and these should – whenever possible – be directed towards maintaining public services that people actually want or depend upon.”

Liberal Democrat leader councillor Gary Hopkins stated: “We knew nothing about this and it is quite staggering in its gall. The cost of the Mayor’s Office is quite appalling in any case and this is disgraceful. For the record,  the taxpayers of Bristol are not getting value for money.”

Green party candidate for mayor Sandy Hore-Ruthven said: “The current Mayor accuses Councillors and the media of chasing headlines and click bait on a regular basis. It turns out he is so concerned about those clicks and comments that he is prepared to spend £90k of taxpayers money to find out what you and I are saying about him. I can see no value to the city or its people of this contract to anyone but him. This is taken of money that should be spent on frontline services. Listening to people costs nothing and should be at the heart of all politicians work.”

mayor of Bristol

Bristol City Council is scheduled to vote through its annual budget on 25 February 2020.

At a Resources Scrutiny meeting Deputy Mayor Cheney and Mayor Marvin Rees highlighted the “significant funding cuts” to councils in recent years of 60%. “Mayor Rees referred to the 8 years of austerity that had been imposed on this Council by central Government.”

Bristol City Council have been approached for comment but had not responded in time for publication.

 

New knitting pattern: The Very Hungry Scarfapilla

[[Until January 21: Use code Twitter for a free copy of the pattern on Ravelry]]

 

I’d like to introduce you all to my new pattern, and the first one for 2020, The Very Hungry Scarfapilla.

 

In the same spirit as my Nice Cup of Tea shawl, I’ve used brioche and reverse stockinette for this design. I do tend to get obsessed with a pattern combination for a while and this time I thought I better write it up while I was enjoying it. If I can keep my mojo going, I’m going to make it into hat and scarf patterns as well.

Please see the rest of this post on my Joanna Booth Designs blog https://joannaboothdesigns.wordpress.com/2020/01/19/the-very-hungry-scarfapilla/

squidgefinal

The mayor’s air quality progress, as told to the world and an NHS doctor – 2019

The above is a link to the entire Full Council meeting.

The following link is for the 10 minutes that Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees aggressively responds to an NHS doctor about her request for him to help save lives.

A petition was brought to Full Council by a doctors Ellen Wood and Victoria Stanford. Dr Wood read out the petition that had been signed by 70 people: “Bristol Council is right to be concerned about the affordability of a clean air zone for its citizens, however, the mayor’s primary concern must be the devastating cost of air pollution to human health. We would like to know how the inaction of cleaning up our air is justified, and what equality focussed measures the mayor is considering alongside the clean air zone to mitigate its costs for those who can least afford them, are contributing least to the problem, and who are suffering the most?”

Rees:

“So um, it’s obviously a very timely issue, so just indulge me, I’ve got four points to respond to your paper. First of all, there’s been some misinformation around.”

— No, there hasn’t been any misinformation around. The media [[BBC, Bristol24/7]] and the government accurately informed the public that the mayor and his team had missed the legal deadline, and from the mayor’s plans, we know that the actual CAZ won’t be in place for at least a year after the deadline. By September 2019, Bristol City Council had missed a third deadline.

By May 2019 though, the outline business case was so incomplete that it was just a Gantt chart. That was the reason given for it not being released via an FOI.

Rees:

I don’t know where this idea is coming from that nothing is being done. We’ve got a whole docket and this is one of the points we made to the minister, and I think we need to be careful in listening to national government’s relationship when they say things about local government.

First point

We have at the moment, as Dave referenced earlier on, actually, (a) a bus still coming through that equality partnership, we’ve got the largest order of biogas busses coming through, that bus still will put us on track to having all of the buses in Bristol, 100% of the buses on biogas;

(b) we are investing through our development plan in the cycling and walking infrastructure;

(c) In the city plan, there is a particular track around the environment will have purchase across learning, education and skills, homes and communities, transport.
The fact that we have a specific board coming up around the environment that set out goals for Bristol for every year up to 2050 is some achievement, as has been recognised in other… around the rest of the country and so forth.

(d) And I’d also say that on Thursday when I go to our workshop on the industrial strategy, the local industrial strategy, as I shared with councillors earlier on, the point I’m going to be making is that that industrial strategy must hold economic inclusion, tackling poverty and inequality, but also sustainability; and when we build it into the plan that should go somewhere to anchoring in;

Second point

The second thing I’ll just raise is about the clean air plan. Now, there has been a delay in our initial submission to DEFRA but we’ve talked to the minister and JAQU about this ; we don’t have a government that’s actually wedded to deadlines in any meaningful way right now, and our point has been that this deadline has no bearing on the city’s ability to reach a compliance; so actually what we had was a red flag around the impact on the poorest people in Bristol , on the plans that are being brought forward, it’s incumbent upon us to have a look at the impact that would have had ;

Children are currently living  in areas with illegal air pollution. The compliance by 2030 is a legal requirement but the children suffering now are the mayor’s responsibility. He is absolutely wrong to ignore the effect this is having. The ultimate effect is around 300 deaths a year; 300 deaths in 2019, and 300 more in 2020. There will be no clean air zones until 2021.

Secondly, I’ll say in terms of what we are doing around trying to take mitigating actions around the poorest people ; we are part of UK 100; we’ve asked the government and I’ve sat around the table with Michael Gove along with Andy Burnham, Sadiq Khan, Andy Street from the Midlands, and we said to Michael Gove, we want to –this is before all this was in the papers, this is a year or so — we want to deliver air quality , but you can’t keep rolling down responsibility onto the cities without resourcing it.

This is true; it’s also interesting to note that both Bath and Birmingham City Council and, both members of the UK100, which also sat around the table and talked to Gove, put in place their CAZs last year. From Birmingham’s statement: “The Council submitted its CAZ Preferred Option Business Case to Government on 14th September 2018.”

UK100 write: “As well as taking action locally, UK100’s network is united in calling on the UK government to do more. This is a national problem that needs a national action.”

We need another billion and a half pounds in the clean air fund , and we need your national support for diesel scrappage scheme; that way we can support private citizens to move from diesel to electric vehicles , also we can work with our taxi fleet.

Third point

The final two things. I’ve got to take issue with the way this has been framed as well.

Air quality is a primary concern along with a number of other primary concerns. I’ve been at pains to say we don’t have a hierarchy of what we’re doing here. It’s air quality or it’s poverty or it’s poverty or it’s air quality. We’re trying to do them all at the same time.

As a health professional you’ll know from the Marmot review, and from the “If I could only do one thing” report about public health that socioeconomic factors are by far and away the biggest determinant of population health , and actually I had Duncan Selbie [https://www.gov.uk/government/people/duncan-selbie] here, just a week ago Monday, and he wrote to me yesterday and what he said was ‘in terms of delivering on population health’ and you’ll know who Duncan Selbie is right, the … yeah, what he said was ‘for children having the best start in life and being ready to start school are important and for young people entering adulthood with the resilience to thrive ; for adults it’s having a secure job , home, and at all stages the importance of friendship and belonging in life’. Essentially, economic growth creating new jobs that local people can get with health and well-being are two sides of the same coin. We are not trading off economic growth against the environment; what we’re saying is sometimes they clash but we have to deliver on all of those.. .the same priority.

On the same day that Duncan Selbie met the mayor (11 March) he released a report with a focus on what “local authorities can do to improve air quality, such as clean by design approach to planning, promoting investment in clean public transport and providing the infrastructure to promote active travel.” One of the recommendations was: “Redesigning cities so people aren’t so close to highly polluting roads”.

In March 2019, the local plan consultation and secret Arup report on Western Harbour we’re promoting building a dual carriageway through Hotwells and bringing more traffic and cars and noise and pollution closer to homes.

Another recommendation in the review released on the day Mayor Rees met Selbie: “discouraging highly polluting vehicles from entering populated areas – for example, with low emission or clean air zones”

and what i would also say is there is a really political danger for the environment in further marginalising people from the economy. The kind of politics you make possible when people lose hope that they will ever get out of the spiral of poverty is an anti-environmental politics.

Fourth point

And final point, Lord Mayor, the NHS generates 5% of all road journeys in this country, ok? so this is on NHS’s own numbers.

They contribute 735 deaths from air pollution , they cost us 8884 life years, contribute to 85 deaths and 772 major injuries and create £650 million of demand on NHS services.

So, I would say as an NHS professional what would also be good is don’t wait for the council , the NHS is a massive institution, it’s a sovereign body.

Look at your own transport plans. I’d be interested to know what’s been going on inside the NHS, what you’re doing around transport plans to take the burden you bring on to our roads, and I would also be interested to know what you’re doing to ensure that you’re the NHS is transferring all its diesel vehicles over into electric or biogas [37:34]