Category Archives: News

Europe’s bureaucratic and antibiotics resistance

Can Europe and the world beat superbugs with new antibiotics and more acronyms?

Parc du Cinquantenaire Jubelpark

Running through Parc du Cinquantenaire Jubelpark in Brussels, on November 17, 2015. Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence

Hundreds of young school pupils are running around the Parc du Cinquantenaire Jubelpark near the centre of Brussels to booming music and cheers.

Organised by Adepés (Agence de développement et de promotion de l’économie solidaire en Midi-Pyrénées),1 Dimitri Mangold explained the afternoon event for French schools in the Belgian capital was to give young people a sense of their health.

It helps them find out “if they are good about their health,” he said, “if they should run more in their life”.

The top 40 qualify for the next stage and speedy runners can consider sports teams while the slowest know they need to exercise more.

But one of the teachers, when asked about instructing the pupils about good hand washing  habits, admitted, “They learn to brush their teeth but not really wash their hands.”

Less than 10 minutes walk down a gentle slope is the headquarters of the European Commission and their battle against antimicrobial resistance – AMR in science spheres and “superbugs” in more tabloid ones. It is ranked as one of the most pressing health concerns facing the world and 2014 estimates warned of a potential 10 million deaths a year by 2050 and the cost of $100 trillion to the global economy.2

Hand washing and public education are one of the pillars of the work to reduce infections and the need for antibiotics, widely dispensed like expensive candy in many corners of the world and used particularly in agriculture.

The more antibiotics used, frequently incorrectly, the more resistant infections can get, leading to multi-drug resistance (MDR) or superbugs.

“Today, gonorrhoea is a mostly resistant bacteria,” said Vytenis Andriukaitis, commissioner for health and food safety.3 “Why? Because self-treatment in very delicate situation and use of antibiotics sold on the internet and advices (sic) from people to people is a very challenging issue. We must change this misperception or all modern medicine will go back to the 19th century.”

Even though they admit the science isn’t clear, in farming, the Netherlands has managed to reduce the use of antibiotics, largely without the need for legislation, by 58 per cent between 2007 and 2014. They recognise it as another pillar of the fight to avoid a “post-antibiotic era”, where minor infections could again be deadly. The Netherlands will be pushing for more restrictions across Europe in 2016 when they take over the six-month rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union.4

Marianne Donker, deputy director of public health in the Dutch ministry of health, welfare and sport, said they were taking a “better safe than sorry” approach to build on existing antibiotic restrictions in agriculture and ones currently being considered by various levels of European bureaucracy.5

Invited by the European Commission to a seminar for journalists on AMR, Tomorrow was exposed to multiple directors and commissioners and acronyms.

IMI, IMI2, EARS-Net, CAESAR, NDM CPE, ND4BB, JPIAMR, CPME, PGEU, EPHA, TATFAR, CODEX, OIE, EFSA, EMA, EFPIA and the WHO – at least that last one most people might have heard of.

And speakers presented the European Commission’s “action plans” and plans for future action plans.6

“Stakeholders” – possibly code for jargon vampires – made pledges to back up acronyms. There was even talk of a global “Twitter conversation”.

But more revealing were the questions that went without answers or elicited responses both delicately danced on pointe and dazzling in distraction as if by a ballerina.

Dancing on pointe

How do bureaucracies dance? Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.

Why haven’t public attitudes changed significantly in much of Europe if this has been on the agenda for 20 years? “This is yet another moment to compare this to climate change. The evidence was there, what you need is willingness to tackle it,” said Xavier Prats Monné, director general of health and food safety at the European Commission.7

He also explained: “What we see in the history of medicine over the last 50 years, unfortunately the low-hanging fruits of antibiotic discovery are gone. In other words, there is actually very little chance of finding significant new of types of antibiotics that could replace existing ones from which there is resistance. In other words, research, development, innovation is of course extremely important, but this cannot be the answer. The answer has to be a combination of factors.”

So what about spending 2.5 billion euros from taxpayers towards the joint public-private partnership with the pharmaceutical industry, the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), to create new antibiotics under control and could money be better used?8

In a three-minute answer, Mr Andriukaitis, punctuating his statements by hitting his hand against the desk, said: It is really under control. This is a good example of how to develop participation of public-private partnership. All things are under control and all things are under transparency issues because we know we must be very precise in situation where you are signing agreements and following implementation. From EU side, it is only way to encourage industry to start to create new antibiotics because the last antibiotic was synthesised in 1987.”

The IMI itself insisted the public must pay for the development of new antibiotics, which will essentially be stockpiled until they are needed rather than sold for mass consumption – and then bought again by taxpayers through national health services.

And for all the effort pressing more agricultural restrictions on the use of antibiotics in Europe, what is the point if the secretive TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) is signed with the US where a majority of livestock are given antibiotics?

“I’m sure you will excuse me if don’t speculate about TTIP,” Ms Donker told a reporter from Cyprus who pressed the point. “That’s it?” she was asked. “Yes, that’s it.”

Michael Scannell, director of the food and veterinary office at the European Commission, came to her rescue and added: “We already agreed that Europe will not sacrifice its high levels of consumer protection and health safety in a TTIP context. And the EU is already engaged with the US in a transatlantic task force on antimicrobial resistance. The US itself is taking AMR increasingly seriously.”

European Union

A European Union doesn’t necessarily deliver uniform policies across all member states. Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.

Regulations, legislation, memoranda, communiques, policy documents, time tables, and perhaps more paperwork and layers than there are acronyms. Despite that, there is dramatic variation from one country to another in antibiotic use and resistance to those antibiotics. And global travel makes borders mean little to bugs or superbugs.

“Unless there is a real formation of a global coalition to deal with this issue, we will not be able to get a handle on the problem, or at least not within the timeframes that we need to do it,” warned Martin Seychell, deputy director general of the health and food safety directorate, responding to another question about TTIP.9

This year marked the first “World Antibiotic Awareness Week” (November 16-22) to coincide with the eighth European awareness day.10

All sectors must be together – farmers, environmentalists, veterinary sector, doctors, health care workers,” insisted Mr Andriukaitis, still punctuating with his hand.

“We must act every year to raise those questions. We must send a message that antibiotics are a very dangerous weapon.”

All the bureaucratic language and titles may matter little if young people don’t keep running in the park – and washing their hands.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.

 

CORE PRINCIPLES APPLIED

No relevant issues on principles 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10 or 11.

3 and 6. Independence and accountability, and A duty to openness: The European Journalism Centre, an organisation funded by the European Union, invited Tristan Stewart-Robertson to attend the seminar in Brussels, paid for by the European Commission. No guarantee of news stories or their content was made and neither organisation has seen or influenced any of this reporting. As the EC is taxpayer funded, the trip cost the following:

  • Return flights from Glasgow to Brussels: 428.86 euros
  • Accommodation: Approximately 240 euros (specific cost has been requested)
  • Meals: Specific cost has been requested
  • Printed material about AMR and a USB stick (made in China, imported by a Spanish firm) were provided.
  1. http://www.adepes.org/
  2. Figures from the O’Neill review in the UK, first reporting in 2014 and expected to publish further advice on the problem in 2016.
  3. Profile page and press statement from Mr Andriukaitis.
  4. A website for their presidency is empty at time of publication.
  5. Department details and Powerpoint presentation to journalists. Q&A on the proposed regulations from 2014.
  6. Powerpoint presentation about the current action plan that expires at the end of 2015.
  7. Mr Prats Monné press release and Powerpoint presentation.
  8. Statements about accountability from the IMI website.
  9. Directorate website.
  10. European awareness day and world week.

Khmer Rouge victims left without justice for decades

Cambodia war crimes court attract huge interest from public while west takes justice system for granted

Politicians are not learning lessons to prevent genocide and war crimes before they happen, warned a leading international judge.

Even as the general public is aware of atrocities and may campaign to prevent them, national and global courts are still left to seek justice sometimes decades after crimes are committed.

Justice Rowan Downing

Justice Rowan Downing spoke at the Soroptimist International conference in Glasgow, UK, on November 7, 2015. Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.

Justice Rowan Downing1 spent more than eight years as a judge on the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts in Cambodia (ECCC) working on war crimes cases from the Khmer Rouge years that left millions dead in the south-east Asian country.

Speaking at the annual conference of the women’s voluntary group Soroptimist International Great Britain & Ireland,2 Justice Downing said the victim was at the heart of international justice and almost everyone alive in Cambodia today could be classed a victim.

He told Tomorrow: “We don’t learn. Politicians don’t learn, and it’s because of the geo-political machinations. Members of the general populace, they know what’s going on, but probably feel helpless.

“And you will find in every society people will protest and they will try and raise awareness. But those who are actually able to do something, the question has to be asked, what do they have to do and why don’t they do something effective?

“We have continuing examples, every day you can see it, but the geo-political realities of life are what stop us.”

The judge, originally from Australia, told the audience of 1,200 women in Glasgow, UK: “International criminal law is … about the humanitarian approach to the victims who are left. You can do nothing about those who are killed. There seems to be an unwillingness in many of our political leaders in the world to actually step in and stop these atrocities as they’re occurring. But I think we have a humanitarian duty to give all assistance who have been affected by civil war and conflict. There can be no higher duty because these people are left with nothing.”

In the space of three years, eight months and 20 days, from 1975 to 1979, between 1.8 and 2.5 million people were killed under the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia – who declared it Democratic Kampuchea – almost all by either torture or over-working.

The ECCC or Khmer Rouge Tribunal was set up after decades of civil war, mixing both a domestic Cambodian system with the United Nations-supported French-based system.

Justice Downing demonstrated the scale of the purge of humanity with the audience by asking anyone with glasses, a university degree or speaking more than one language to stand – such people had “very slim” chances of survival in Kampuchea.

The senior law judge, who is now based at the UN Dispute Tribunal in Geneva, Switzerland, but was speaking in a personal capacity, said it would take an estimated five generations for Cambodia to recover, but noted there were just 38 psychologists and three psychiatrists in the country of about 15 million3. He said that level of mental health support was “not possible for the wellbeing of the victims”.4

“In common law the victim is a witness to an event and may appear as a victim,” Justice Downing explained to the conference. “In a murder case or the like where the actual victim is no longer with us, at the end of the case the family can make an impact victim statement in many countries to the court, to the judges, with a view to influencing the sentence. 

“In the French system, the victims are actually participants, they get to cross-examine and examine the witnesses, they get to address the court on all issues – it’s a much more inclusive system.

“But the problem is that the French domestic system, it’s easy to identify the victims. And when you try to apply to mass atrocity crimes, it doesn’t work because who are the victims?

“Those of us in my chamber said we need to make a difference here – we need to expand the definition of victim. We increased, internationally, the definition of victim to include the psychological victim. And as a consequence almost everyone in Cambodia, because of their post-traumatic stress, they fall within the definition now, at international law, of victim.

“And it’s very very difficult to know what to do for these people. And I urge you, if you are ever in a position to provide psychological assistance to people as a result of war crimes, it’s a very good project.”

Is justice blind?

Is justice blind? Illustration by artist in residence Jason Skinner.

Justice Downing said the ECCC had an advantage compared to the International Criminal Court5 in The Hague, the Netherlands, dealing with other war crimes cases where it was so removed from victims that rarely more than academics might attend hearings.

By contrast, the first case of the ECCC, where Kaing Guek Eav6 – alias Duch – was found guilty, attracted 33,000 people to observe the trial. The second case, now in its second phase, has been witnessed by 160,000 people over 460 days of testimony, said Justice Downing. That is on top of live broadcasts from the court and outreach programmes to explain the court system to communities around Cambodia. The total outreach statistics from 2009 to 2014 were more than 400,000 people.7

“It also shows the importance of having such trials, not in the Hague, but rather in the location so that people can take part, they can see justice being done,” stated Justice Downing.

“One of the major difficulties is what do you do for victims, and for me the living victim is the centre of the trial. We have within the United Nations consideration, impunity from justice – no-one who commits one of these offences against humanity should have impunity from justice. That’s good.

“Whether it will deter anyone, I don’t think there’s much evidence of that personally because we still have mass-atrocity crimes occurring today. But the justice for the victim is really very, very important.

“And it shouldn’t have to wait 30 years as it did in Cambodia. Because if we look at the experience of victims, they have gone from a shattered state where they had absolutely nothing, they’ve had to cope, they’ve had to rebuild their lives and managed over a period of 30 years to learn how to do this, how to survive daily, how to get one. Then all of a sudden, a court, a tribunal, rolls into town with a re-traumatisation. Everything that has occurred before, which they were at least able to at least put to the back of the mind at some stage, is brought forward. What’s the effect of that on a person? It has to be appalling.”

The interest in justice in Cambodia, Justice Downing explained, is in contrast to that in the west where the system is taken for granted.

“In countries where you don’t have it, you cherish it, from my experience,” he told Tomorrow after his speech. “We take it for granted in the west because we have a functioning system. Those who don’t have a functioning system wish they did and therefore they cherish what works.

“It’s very difficult and there are areas where the judiciary are corrupt so people don’t go to court because they know that they can’t get justice. Courts are not there to be used as tools for rich people – they should be there to solve problems, whether they’re at a civil level or a criminal level, but many countries that just does not occur.”

Access to justice was also addressed at the Soroptimist conference by Andrew Bevan, regional development executive for Scotland with the International Justice Mission,8 who cited the UN figure that 4 billion people were under threat of “daily violence”. Poverty and corruption in police forces or the courts lead to sexual violence and trafficking, police brutality, land grabbing and slavery.

In September, 193 countries voted in favour of Sustainable Development Goals,9 with number 16 being to “promote just, peace and inclusive societies” and providing “access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable institutions at all levels”. Target range from reducing violence against and torture of children, reducing illegal arms and corruption, increasing access to information and providing a legal identity for all, including birth registration, by 2030.

  1. Justice Rowan Downing profile from the ECCC.
  2. The SIGBI website.
  3. 13.4 million is the 2008 figure, from Cambodia government with 15 million being a current estimate.
  4. According to a 2012 report by the Leitner Center for International Law and Justice, there were “thirty-five trained psychiatrists and forty-five trained psychiatric nurses” in Cambodia – from “Mental Health and Human Rights in Cambodia”, Leitner Center for International Law and Justice, 2012, pg19. The report further notes figures showing the number of psychiatrists in Cambodia is about 0.2 per 100,000 population. The worldwide median ranges from as low as 0.04 in Africa to 9.80 in Europe.
  5. Information on the ICC can be found at their website.
  6. As well as details of the cases, the ECCC website also carries live broadcasts.
  7. Outreach statistics are published by the court.
  8. https://ijm.org/the-problem
  9. United Nations Resolution A/RES/70/1.

#Artpoli: Canadian federal election 2015

Tomorrow welcomed residents of Halifax, Nova Scotia, to work with artist in residence Jason Skinner to tell voters and politicians what issues matter most in the Canadian federal election.

Rather than politicians talking to media, we let art do the talking with collages from magazines and comics glued to polystyrene sheets.

Hosted by Cafe Cempoal Calavera Negra1 on Agricola Street and co-owner Chris Cookson, Tomorrow made a Saturday morning of art and politics in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Mr Cookson joked that, “I always judge a country by where I would like to get arrested” but expressed his own election issue as a desire “that the votes of everybody get counted and everybody votes”.

Jason said: “I think an event where a small group of community members share their political views is a greater representation of Canada, which I believe is a collection of communities. And that’s what’s often forgotten about in the Canadian federal election when we are selecting our local representative, not a leader.”

Cutting politics

#artpoli

Jason Skinner prepares to welcome voters to make their Saturday morning collages.

#artpoli

Jason Skinner uses a collage process for his art for Tomorrow and worked with voters in Halifax for #artpoli.

#artpoli

Saturday morning at Cafe Cempoal Calavera Negra preparing collages on the Canadian federal election.

#artpoli

Artist in residence Jason Skinner prepares his first collage for #artpoli.

Abstract votes

These two works are by a voter who asked for their name to be withheld as government employees are not permitted to comment on politics.

Their first work, “Layered forward” is described as, “we are not paying attention to the key issues that have impact on life”.

#artpoli

“Layered forward” by an anonymous resident of Halifax.

And in this second work, which was easily the largest piece of the day, the voter said, “people are at the table but they’re backwards in their thinking”.

#artpoli

“Backward thinking” by a Halifax resident who wished to remain anonymous because of her employment at #artpoli.

Heather Mac, 36, who works for the Nova Scotia Health Authority on mental health, offered this untitled work about what matters to her in the Canadian federal election.

#artpoli

An untitled work by Heather Mac

Earthquake

Andrew Hare, 44, works at St Mary’s University and titled his collage “Change doesn’t have to be dramatic”.

He explained: “It can be smooth. I think there are small changes that make things better. The squares get an earthquake but they’re on an upward trajectory so things are getting better.”

Andrew Hare

Andrew Hare shows his “Change doesn’t need to be dramatic” collage at #artpoli.

#artpoli

“Change doesn’t need to be dramatic” by Andrew Hare.

Explosive

Carmel O’Keefe, 51, teaches at Dalhousie University, and said her work was titled “A wolf with a bond”.

She described a politics that is “tyrannical with his dollar” and like a dog with a bone, in this case, the bone is money.

She said: “I feel we are being held prisoner for our thoughts and our emotions in the name of profits. So our thoughts in the entire infrastructure of research and in our hearts because of the child care and educational slaughter of programmes and the confines of profit.”

#artpoli

Carmel O’Keefe with her “A wolf with a bond” at #artpoli.

#artpoli

“A wolf with a bond” by Carmel O’Keefe.

Jobs jobs jobs

Artist and receptionist Tori Fleming, 24, titled her collage “Let’s make the economy sexy again”.

She explained: “I know many people who don’t have a job and the quality jobs are not there. I would like to see more effort put into getting people actual jobs that last longer than a summer.”

#artpoli

“Let’s make the economy sexy again” by Tori Fleming at #artpoli.

Journalism as art

As cohost with Jason, I created these two works, one about the differences between Canada and the United States and issues of open expression and privacy, and the other about how eyewitness news and observing brings choice and helps community.

#artpoli

A second collage by Tomorrow reporter Tristan Stewart-Robertson on the differences between the US and Canada and thoughts and privacy.

#artpoli

“Eyewitness transparency” by Tomorrow reporter Tristan Stewart-Robertson for #artpoli.

Issues as art

Jason Skinner, after completing his two works, concluded: “I think the event went well – I couldn’t be happier: making art with strangers, sharing opinions with strangers, learning from strangers, who in the end are not strangers anymore.

#artpoli

Artist in residence Jason Skinner’s first collage for #artpoli.

#artpoli

Artist in residence Jason Skinner’s second collage for #artpoli

Thanks to everyone who participated in the morning, but the election is far from over. Got an issue you want to raise through art? Get in touch by any platform and we’ll add reaction.

  1. Visit the cafe’s Facebook page for more information.

PMO uses more trackers than other G8 leaders combined

Parliament Hill

Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Creative Commons, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported

UPDATE: After a change in government in Canada, Tomorrow asked for explanations again about the use of trackers. You can skip to the response here.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s official government website uses more trackers than all other G8 leaders combined and more than the homepages of 30 world governments.

The site, which is currently not being updated during the national election campaign, deploys a spread of up to 14 advertising tools as well as analytics for counting the number of visitors.

PMO website

Screen grab of PMO website

It uses more trackers – which are facilitated by cookies and other coding – than a dozen US presidential candidates and dozens of party sites around the world, including the prime minister’s own Conservative Party of Canada.

The site does publish a detailed privacy statement including links to block cookies, an extra step most websites don’t offer.1

Tomorrow asked the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO):

  • Why the PMO use so many and how is the data used? How long have these trackers been used?
  • How much money is spent annually on the professional tracking services and web development?
  • What data, if any, is passed to other departments, agencies or officials with the Conservative Party?

There has been no response to our queries as yet.

Read the full investigation

The main Government of Canada website loads two trackers. Branching off from that there are variations such as the National Energy Board using three and Parks Canada showing none. Canada’s spy agency, CSIS, uses just one tracker, an analytics tool.

But the PMO’s website shows up to 14, including trackers from US firms such as Advertising.com, Nester, Dstillery, Drawbridge, and Datalogix, part of Oracle.

Advertising.com states:

“Just like it sounds, visitor interest reports help you learn what your site’s visitors are interested in. We do this by giving a cookie to everyone who visits your site. Then we follow them (discreetly, of course) to see where they go and what they do after they leave. This gives you a better sense of your users’ preferences – and how to make the most of them.”2

Dstillery.com describes its work as:

“By capturing a rich array of location, device and mobile data to generate brand signals, Dstillery connects physical and digital worlds, capturing the full array of signals that drive relevance for your brand.

A click. A tap. A swipe. A GPS query. They’re not just actions, they’re signals. When distilled by the right science and the right scientists, they can be incredibly powerful.

We collect data from the complete consumer journey — digital behaviors and real-world behaviors alike. We then extract the most important part: the patterns of shared behaviors that demonstrate a proven connection to your brand.

Those patterns are our secret ingredient, made just for you. For any two brands, the essential customer behaviors are distinct, even brands that offer similar products and services.

We use these patterns to distill your purest possible audience, the people who are scientifically proven likely to engage with your brand.”3

Drawbridge’s website describes its mission as:

“When we deliver the right message to the right person on the right device at the exact right moment, we’re making a strong connection between brands and people.”4

The PMO’s website states it does not gather specific personal information and “digital markers” do not allow employees to identify individuals.

It adds that Google Analytics is used to “track visitor behaviour information in an anonymous form”. It insists:

“No personal identifying information is recorded or provided to Google. This anonymous information is then used to evaluate visitors’ use of the website and to compile statistical reports on website activity. The aggregate data and statistical reports are only used to help us make our site more useful to visitors and are only made available to Web managers and other designated staff who require this information to perform their duties.”

View the Google Spreadsheet HERE or click the icon below to download a zip file of the spreadsheet and all 314 screen grabs

Download spreadsheet and screen grabs of website trackers

Across the five main political parties, the Green Party of Canada has the most trackers with 22, more than the other four combined, with 12 for the New Democratic Party (NDP), nine for the Liberal Party of Canada, three for the governing Conservatives and two for the Bloc Quebecois.

Green website

Screen grab of Green Party of Canada website

Former chief electoral officer of Canada Jean-Pierre Kingsley said in reaction to the use of trackers on government pages: “No political party should have access to what people go visit on government sites – that is a no-no. The fact that a particular political party has power, anything that has the prime ministership, anything that is done on that website, governmental, is verboten to a political party.

“If it’s a government website, people go to it for government purposes. They don’t go to it for political purposes. If they go to a particular political party, they’re going to it for political purposes, pro or non, I don’t care. Otherwise the governing party always has an edge. It’s like when people send petitions to the government, those petitions should not be utilised by the political party in power.

“And this is something that has been done and that is not correct. When people petition a government, they’re not petitioning a political party. But a very important distinction to be made here in terms of the public accessing these things and the use to which it can be put.”

He added: “If eventually they get to know me, Jean-Pierre Kingsley’s doing this as opposed to this address, then that’ll be crossing the boundary. Because that’s my personal information. I can go see anything I want, it should not be traceable to me, as a person, as an individual, a named person.”

Tomorrow reached out to the Green Party of Canada for comment.

Read the full investigation

JANUARY 28 UPDATE:

PMO website of Justic Trudeau

Screen grab of PMO website of Justic Trudeau showing trackers identified by Ghostery. Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.

The website of the prime minister of Canada has been adding trackers as each new leader takes over the office, Tomorrow can report.

No response was ever received from the prime minister’s office (PMO) under the Conservative Party of Canada’s Stephen Harper. But after the election in October of Justin Trudeau of the Liberal Party, Tomorrow asked again why so many trackers were used. The site continued to show 15 trackers, though some differ from previous ones.

The response, after being passed to the Privy Council Office (PCO), referred to extensive sections of the privacy notices on the PMO website.

Raymond Rivet, director of corporate and media affairs with the PCO, also told Tomorrow by email:

Standard Internet information has been automatically collected since the launch of the PM website during the Chrétien era. This is a passive and leaves no cookies and runs no code on the browser, it is a record of the resources requested by browser for every single page loaded. We keep these for 18 months only.

“Social media widgets were introduced in 2013 which may issue a separate cookie.

“Nettracker has been used for weblog analysis since the launch of the PM Paul Martin site.  Google Analytics was introduced to the pm.gc.ca in 2010. With Google Analytics we anonymize them by removing the last portion of the IP address.”

Tomorrow asked again why the other government sites only use one tracker, while the PMO site uses more than a dozen.

Mr Rivet added: “At the direction of the former PMO, PCO implemented a number of tools and solutions on the former PM website to analyze the sharing of content and optimize the user experience.  We are not able to comment on the use of analytics or trackers by other government departments for their respective websites.

“PCO does not pay for any of the services listed on the screen grab referenced below.

One of the functions of PCO’s Information Technology group is to provide technical support for the PM website. The employees working within this group are non-partisan public servants that do not change when there is a change of government.”

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.
  1. Privacy page of PMO, with up to 17 trackers.
  2. Advertising.com page with description of their services, and three trackers.
  3. Dstillery page explaining “how we do it”, and seven trackers.
  4. Drawbridge profile page with four trackers.

US presidential candidates use 295 trackers to campaign

United States flag

American flag flying over Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Candidates vying for presidential nominations in the United States use almost 300 trackers between their 23 websites.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal eclipses all others with up to 52 pieces of code loading from his campaign site, the most of 163 world political party and candidate websites surveyed. His official website as governor has only one tracker, which can be facilitated by cookies and other coding.

Bobby Jindal website

Screen grab of Bobby Jindal campaign website

Fellow Republicans Rick Santorum and Ben Carson have 23 and 21 respectively while Scott Walker has 20 trackers compared to Democrats Bernie Sanders with 19 and Hillary Clinton’s 14. Jeb Bush, brother of former president George W Bush, uses 13 trackers, Marco Rubio has four and Donald Trump has just two. Overall the Republican National Committee carries 18 pieces of code compared to four for the Democratic National Committee. The Green Party has five and one of the main websites affiliated with the Tea Party, the influential conservative wing of the Republicans, has 20.

Tomorrow examined the campaign websites across the officially declared candidates as well as 28 of the biggest Super PACs (political action committees), most backing particular politicians.

Many of the sites showed significant variation in the number of trackers displayed, through plug-in Ghostery. Bobby Jindal’s site sometimes had as few as nine and a maximum of 52.

Read the full investigation

Tomorrow has reached out to the campaign for comment. Their privacy policy states:

“We use these technologies to learn how our site is used, save your preferences and improve the performance and offerings of our Website. These technologies do not collect Personal Information, as they do not include your name or contact information. We may share information collected via these technologies to improve our offerings, to advance our mission, or for other purposes.”1

Ian Koski, adjunct professor at George Washington University’s graduate school of political management teaching digital strategy,2 said the digital efforts from campaigns will continue to grow as the field narrows and resources are pooled. Technology use can vary greatly depending on the size of an electoral race, from local or congressional levels up to senatorial or presidential.

Once you become the nominee for the party,” he explained, “your opportunity to raise increases, your coordination with the actual party – the RNC or the DNC – will increase. It just becomes part of the daily routine to coordinate between the two.

“Sharing data between the campaign and the party, making sure field operatives, whether they volunteer for the party or for the campaign, are working from the same pool of data, just becomes mandatory.

“Certainly once you get into the general election you start to see an increased amount of it. But the larger campaigns, the more serious campaigns, are already investing in that kind of infrastructure now. It may not have a full 50-state strategy yet because you’re just trying to win primaries, but if you are doing it right, you are building infrastructure that will make that possible later.”

Mr Koski pointed to the digital and database strategies of President Barack Obama’s successful re-election campaign in 2012, known as Project Narwhal,3 versus Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s Project Orca,4 widely considered to be a key component of his loss because it was too late being built, tested or deployed.

View the Google Spreadsheet HERE or click the icon below to download a zip file of the spreadsheet and all 314 screen grabs

Download spreadsheet and screen grabs of website trackers

Amongst the Super PACs, the website with the most trackers is Conservative, Authentic, Responsive Leadership for You and For America (Carly for America), backing Carly Fiorina, former chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard, with 28. Her campaign website uses 16 by comparison. And while Bobby Jindal’s campaign site can carry the most code, the Super PAC supporting him has nine. Some campaigns do not yet have Super PACs or lack an obvious website presence.

Legally, Super PACs are meant to be entirely separate from political campaigns and candidates but could spend on targeted advertising based on information their websites collect or that of sites with ad spaces for sale.

US presidential candidate trackers

Many of the trackers used by campaign sites are for analytics or social media tie-ins. But advertising and marketing specialists such as Advertising.com, Perfect Audience and Krux Digital are also present.

Krux’s website states:

“Krux’s next-generation Data Management Platform (DMP) helps you zero in on and connect with your customers more efficiently, no matter which channel they are on or which device is in their hands.

Krux offers true one-to-one marketing with personalization that scales. Our solution interconnects seamlessly with your own data systems and those of your partners, enabling you to activate and control your marketing activities across any consumer touch point.”5

Read the full investigation

  1. Privacy policy page of the Jindal campaign website, with at least 12 trackers.
  2. Ian Koski’s GWU profile page, with three trackers.
  3. This long-read on Narwhal gives further details on the systems – 27 trackers.
  4. Some of the criticism of Orca can be found at RedState – with up to 37 trackers.
  5. Some of Krux’s self-promotion about its work, with 16 trackers

Greens use more trackers than any UK political party

UK flag

UK flag flying at the UN. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

The Green Party of England and Wales deploys more trackers on its homepage than many other Westminster parties combined.

Though they have just one MP, Caroline Lucas, the Greens also use up to 22 trackers – which are facilitated by cookies and other coding – more than any other European party surveyed and the third highest in the world behind the Australian Labor Party and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in India.

Greens website

Screen grab of Green Party website.

Regional variations in Wales and Scotland use fewer trackers where both nations see the Labour Party in front. There are similar differences between the branches of other parties. The Greens in Wales only have two trackers on their website.

The official opposition Labour Party has six trackers, former coalition partners Liberal Democrats use seven and the governing Conservative Party five.

Read the full investigation

Their use by the Greens stand in contrast to Ms Lucas’s repeated cautions against state surveillance of citizens – uses just two trackers on her personal parliamentary website.

In their manifesto for the 2015 UK general election, the Greens promised to “replace” the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) 2000 and supported extending the European Union data protection powers, already recognised widely as the toughest in the world.

In June 2015, Ms Lucas said RIPA did not comply with international human rights standards and praised a report by David Anderson QC condemnation of the act.

In a press release, she stated:

“The Home Secretary must act with urgency to scrap RIPA and replace it with new, balanced legislation that protects people’s privacy while maintaining national security.

With Mr Anderson also stating that no operational case has yet been made for the Snoopers’ Charter and questioning the lawfulness, intrusiveness and cost of Theresa May’s proposals the Home Secretary must also now urgently reconsider her proposed Investigatory Powers Bill to ensure that it complies with international human rights standards.”1

Tomorrow has reached out to the Greens for comment.

View the Google Spreadsheet HERE or click the icon below to download a zip file of the spreadsheet and all 314 screen grabs

Download spreadsheet and screen grabs of website trackers

Elsewhere in the UK, it’s the Scottish Labour Party ahead with 17 trackers compared to the Scottish Greens on 10 and Scottish Liberal Democrats on nine. The SNP, the ruling party in Scotland, uses three and the Scottish Conservatives has just one tracker on its websites.

Parties in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland use the fewest trackers in the British Isles with Ireland’s Labour Party with the most at seven.

Many of the trackers used by campaign sites are for analytics or social media tie-ins. But advertising and marketing specialists such as Dstillery, Merchenta and Nester AdAdvisor are also used.

Merchenta’s website states:

Merchenta distils the metrics into insights, available on the Merchenta Insight2 dashboard. Marketers find our consumer engagement metrics useful in understanding their prospective customers, where ads are served, how placements perform relative to each other.”2

UK media outlets use dozens more trackers than any political website, some with upwards of 90 each time you visit a homepage. Tomorrow has three.

Read the full investigation

 

Update August 28, 2015: Alliance Party of Northern Ireland was missed out and has now been added to the spreadsheet and total.

  1. Read the full press release, with two trackers, here.
  2. Merchenta describes itself on their website, with 11 trackers.

Patients turn to Google for health answers

Pain in the Google

Researchers looked at Google trends for searches on foot and ankle pain. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

If you found this article by searching online for foot or ankle pains, you’re not alone, especially during the summer.

New research has uncovered how patients are using Google to explain injuries and find possible treatments, with summer searches more than a third higher than those in winter.

Experts from the Institute of Applied Health Research at Glasgow Caledonian University in the United Kingdom studied Google Trends data about health questions asked online.1

They said the results raised issues for health care providers about getting accurate and useful information to the public before they ever seek an appointment or formal treatment.

Report co-author Dr Scott Telfer,2 research fellow at the institute, told Tomorrow that while internet searches during flu season have been examined before, they wanted to see what patterns would emerge on foot and ankle pains.

He said: “The modern thing is before you go to your doctor, before you contact the physio, you go on to Google to see what kind of information you can find by yourself. Nobody wants to go into the doctor’s surgeries these days without some background knowledge I think.

“It seems like it is a misconception but people do believe that in the winter months, so when it’s cold and damp, things like arthritis symptoms and things like that are worse. However, when people have looked at this in more detail, there doesn’t seem to be any strong evidence that that kind of seasonality exists. So to an extent, our results back up the fact that there isn’t really much to that idea.

“We were really surprised how strong the signal was, showing that there was a big increase for the number of searches carried out for foot and ankle pain in summer months compared to the winter months.

“It is a world-wide phenomenon.”

The researchers looked at a decade of data, from 2004 to 2014, from the United Kingdom, United States, Canada and Australia for the relative trends, not a specific number of searches. They looked at terms such as “foot pain”, “ankle pain” and “heel pain”. Possible treatment options included “foot orthotics”, “insoles” and “foot surgery”.

In the northern hemisphere, searches for “foot pain” were 35 per cent higher in summer than winter, with a 31 per cent jump for “ankle pain”. “Heel pain” was even higher with a 58 per cent seasonal rise. Australian data did not go back as many years but there was still a rise in searches in Australia during their summer months of 21 per cent.

Searches for possible solutions to foot and ankle pain were also higher in the summer but by a smaller difference.

The paper it concludes health professionals need to be “aware of the strong interest in medical information relating to foot and ankle pain on the internet”.

It added: “It should also be noted that the quality of the information relating to medical problems that is available online is highly variable.”

The researchers said there was more work to do on what Google searches might indicate about health questions amongst the public and how it compares to actual GP or clinical data. There is no way to tell from the trend data if individuals are searching multiple times for information on the same ailment or whether they then speak to a health professional.

The paper also states that the age difference in use of the internet – 56 per cent of those aged over 65 compared to 97 per cent for those aged 18 to 27 – could skew the results. Further study would be needed.

Although younger, more active people might be searching for health answers in the summer after injuries, Dr Telfer said the internet penetration levels for older ages suggests their results would stand up across the board.

He added: “What we’re interested in taking this forward, can we use this information to inform how health care is provided? Will we get more ankle sprains in the summer months? Can this make them more efficient so they’re set up to receive more ankle sprains during that time period and during the winter months they can be more focused on other problems?”

Information overload?

A study published by the BMJ in July looking at 23 online symptom checkers found them to have flaws in diagnosis and treatment, and that “triage advice is generally risk averse”.3

But with 15 million visits a month to NHS Choices in the UK and a third of American adults regularly self-diagnosing, is online information doing more harm than good once patients turn up at doctors’ offices or hospitals?

Digital searches

Other search engines are available. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Dr Urmimala Sarkar is an associate professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and practices medicine at San Francisco General Hospital’s Richard H. Fine People’s Clinic, helping those without health insurance who are elderly or on very low incomes.4

She has previously studied online reviews of doctors and how they correspond to care relationships in person. Dr Sarkar said the availability of information online can be positive and help patients manage their own care.

Sometimes people think that physicians have this very negative reaction to people doing internet searching,” she told Tomorrow by phone. “It’s really always a challenge for the physician to encourage people to engage in their health. And that’s a perfectly reasonable way of engaging in your health, actually.

“I always say to patients, ‘I’m really happy that you’re prioritising your health and that you took the time to look it up and let’s look together at the information you have and I’ll tell you what I think about it’.

“I have a lot of people who come in and they’ve learned some sensible things online and they’ve done some good self-care things and they’re able to tell me, ‘I tried these three things, they didn’t work, so I’m coming to you’.

“And then there are times when they come in and they just have not attributed their symptoms to the correct issue and because I know them and I’ve been taking care of them for a while, I have a better idea than what you would guess from hearing their symptoms than reading online. It varies a lot.”

Having more information online, and being able to access more about a particular condition or treatment, is almost always a good thing. But sometimes for chronic conditions, the key is finding the right amount of detail so it’s not overwhelming.

And for public health information, organisations need to use web tools and tricks to ensure Google shows what is relevant and accurate.

Dr Sarkar said: “I tell my patients to look at things that are actually produced by health professional societies – there are a number of physical therapy associations in the United States that have wonderful exercises on their websites. And I ask people to look at the education that comes from the American Cancer Society or the America Heart Association or the American Diabetes Associations because those are organisations that I know or trust.

“And that’s really the only way that I can feel comfortable. I wouldn’t send them to another random website that I hadn’t vetted well.

What we, as health professionals, can do is partner with our patients and try to together sort out what is most useful and relevant and helpful for patients in the context of their own life, which they know best about, and my medical perspective.”

Tomorrow reached out to national health departments in the UK, Australia and the US but did not receive replies.

Sylwia Krzyszton, spokeswoman for Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada,5 said in an email statement that the department uses internet technology and social media to get information to the public.

She wrote: “Health Canada uses multiple methods to promote health information to Canadians on the internet, including social media channels to highlight relevant health and safety topics and to encourage Canadians to read more on the Canada.ca website.

The department uses internet advertising such as web banner ads, search engine marketing and social media advertising to maximise the reach of this health information.

The department also uses effective web writing techniques and plain language (that incorporates keywords) which helps ensure that Canadians find the Government of Canada’s credible health and safety information when they are searching the internet.”

Do you trust what you find online? What factors do you use to decide what health answers are trustworthy?

  1. “Let me Google that for you: a time series analysis of seasonality in internet search trends for terms related to foot and ankle pain” was published in July in the Journal of Foot and Ankle Research.
  2. Dr Telfer GCU profile page.
  3. ”Evaluation of symptom checkers for self diagnosis and triage: audit study” – BMJ 2015; 351 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h3480 (Published 08 July 2015)
  4. UCSF profile page.
  5. Health Canada website.

11th cut to athlete funding

Canadian government cash for elite athletes has stagnated over a decade

Canadian cash

Money…Canadian government athlete funding out of step with inflation

FUNDING for elite athletes continues to be cut in real terms in Canada even as new public-private cash is set to flow to potential future stars.

With the Pan Am Games in Toronto, Ontario, in July and the Parapan American in August, 2015 has been declared a “year of sport” in Canada and athletes achieved a record haul of medals during between July 10 and 26.

But the taxpayer-funded budget to support the competing athletes has now remained static for 11 years even as the total inflation for the period is 21.03 per cent since 2004.1

Tomorrow has questioned the figures annually and confirmed funding of the “Athlete Assistance Program” (AAP) is set at $28 million. But actual spend has declined year on year.

Canada’s budget document, published in April, outlines spending beyond the next federal election, expected in October, including a new fund for finding future athletes. The budget makes no mention of the AAP.

AthletesCAN,2 representing national team athletes, said they welcomed the government’s commitment to funding, but acknowledge the cut in real terms to funding.

The 2015-16 federal budget – titled “Economic Action Plan 2015”3 states the government provides more than “$190 million in grants and contributions to support sport development and sport excellence” and for the hosting of the Canada Games. They also invested $500 million for the Toronto games.

The government pledged a new fund, to start in 2016-2017, of $5 million each year for four years to be matched by private sector funding to develop “future Olympians and Paralympians”. A spokesman for the department of Canadian heritage, which includes Sport Canada, confirmed this is not for current competing athletes.

The AAP in 2013-2014 had a budget of $28 million, increased by a million from the previous year after diverting internal department cash.

But actual spending is down over the past three years:

  • 2013-14:  $26,345,000
  • 2012-13:  $27,364,917
  • 2011-12:  $26,886,3074

Ashley LaBrie, interim executive director of AthletesCAN, told Tomorrow it had been 11 years since the last AAP increase and this was still a “priority”.

She said: “We will work closely with both the COC [Canadian Olympic Committee] Athletes’ Commission and CPC Athletes’ Council to ensure the athlete voice is heard during the consultation process.

“I did speak to the [government] minister’s office and they indicated that administration and allocation of the additional funding – $20 million over four years – has not been determined at this point and that they would be holding a consultation process with NSOs [national sport organisations], MSOs [multi-sport organisations] and athletes to determine where the gaps were in funding.

“Specifically however, it was recommended that these dollars would go towards coaching, training environment, and sport medicine/science and would be targeted towards athletes 4-8 years outside podium performances on the international stage. If this is the case, it would address a group of athletes who is underfunded – the next generation of high performance leaders.”

AthletesCAN’s president, Josh Vander Vies, also “applauded” the “commitment to sport” in the federal budget.

He added: “Our dedicated national team athlete leaders are honoured to have worn the maple leaf while competing across the world. We believe that sport is an integral part of Canadian culture, and we look forward to consulting with the Government of Canada to ensure that this funding is used effectively.”

Government media spokesman Len Westerberg, in an email statement, focussed on the extra funding for future stars when questioned on the static AAP budget.

He told Tomorrow: “The budget of the AAP is close to $28 million annually in direct monthly support to Canada’s top able-bodied and para-athletes.

“The $20 million announced in Economic Action Plan 2015 is in addition to the AAP funding. In Economic Action Plan 2015, the Government of Canada will be investing up to an additional $20 million, over the next four years and to be matched by the private sector, to support the next generation of Olympic and Paralympic athletes, to ensure they continue to have what they need to push for the podium today and in the future.

“Next Generation refers to athletes who are 5-8 years away from a podium performance and are working toward future Olympic and Paralympic success.

“This funding will begin in 2016-2017 and will be used to support additional coaches, improve the daily training regimes of athletes, and invest in sport science and sport medicine services for Next Generation athletes. Options for an appropriate funding mechanism and structure for the disbursement of Next Generation funds are being developed.”

“Certain provisions” of the budget received royal assent on June 23, 2015.5

Sport and reconciliation

Tomorrow also challenged the government on sports development and support for indigenous athletes, as called for in a report by the recent Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The report, examining the legacy of Canada’s residential schools system that imprisoned, abused and killed indigenous children over several decades, made specific recommendations for supporting indigenous sport.

The recommendations include:

88. We call upon all levels of government to take action to ensure long-term Aboriginal athlete development and growth, and continued support for the North American Indigenous Games, including funding to host the games and for provincial and territorial team preparation and travel.

and

90. We call upon the federal government to ensure that national sports policies, programs, and initiatives are inclusive of Aboriginal peoples, including, but not limited to, establishing:

i. In collaboration with provincial and territorial governments, stable funding for, and access to, community sports programs that reflect the diverse cultures and traditional sporting activities of Aboriginal peoples.

ii. An elite athlete development program for Aboriginal athletes.6

The government of Canada told Tomorrow it was “analyzing the recommendations” (sic) and cited past funding of events for indigenous athletes.

Len Westerberg for the department of Canadian heritage said: “It should be noted that the Government of Canada has supported Aboriginal sport in Canada in different ways since 2006, including the participation of approximately 7,000 Canadian Aboriginal youth in the North American Indigenous Games of 2008 (Cowichan BC) and 2014 (Regina, SK) and the hosting of these Games in Canada with an investment of over $7 million in funding combined.

“In addition, a portion of the annual funding for Federal-Provincial/Territorial bilateral agreements (approximately $5 million) is used to increase the capacity of Aboriginal sport bodies and the participation in sport of Aboriginal peoples across Canada.

“Sport Canada has also provided for the development of an Aboriginal Long Term Participant Development Resources that are culturally accessible and has supported fourteen national sport organizations to increase sport participation and physical literacy that target Aboriginal peoples.”

He also said funding to the Canada Games Council and Coaching Association of Canada had developing support for indigenous coaches.

Does the government fund sport sufficiently? How should it meet the obligations set out by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission?

  1.  Tomorrow used the Bank of Canada inflation calculator to determine this figure.
  2. http://www.athletescan.com/.
  3. See page 304 of the Economic Action Plan 2015.
  4. The government’s first response to the press query used terms such as “close to” or “over” for figures. Only when pressed did they offer these specifics. Past funding trends, according to government, can be found on their website.
  5. Parliamentary bill details.
  6.  Page 10 of the “Calls to Action”. The report and documents can be found at the TRC website.

Immigration procedure used to block individual rights, says researcher

Delays help assert national sovereignty and only a culture change will lead to fairness

US Court House in Philadelphia

The United States Court House in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where the Immigration Court for the city sits. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

AMERICAN and British governments using a “labyrinth” of complex procedures to restrict the rights of refugees and immigrants will continue to worsen until public attitudes change, a lecture has heard.

The United States in particular uses everything from underfunding courts and remote and isolated detention of children and families to assert national sovereignty over individual rights, said Professor Jill Family.1

The director of the Law and Government Institute at Widener University, who testified for the US Senate in March,2 told an audience at the University of Glasgow’s School of Law3 that procedure has become a barrier to fair hearings.

Citing what she called a “delay rationale” – that immigrants appeal decisions against them just to delay being deported – Prof Family said it is about a vision “where the nation holds all the power and individual rights are not as important”.

Despite both the UK and US marking the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta and a notion of a fair process for all, this is not present in immigration cases.

She said: “Formal changes to the law are not enough. That even if the US Supreme Court declared that individual rights matter more in the US, that efforts to create procedural barriers for immigrants will continue until we have some sort of cultural shift, some sort of re-imagination of the role of the nation’s power versus individual rights.

“Of course delay is involved when someone seeks judicial review. The whole point is that there’s a chance for people to catch their breath and a chance for another adjudicatory body to review, to see if there’s been any errors below.

“It seemed wrong to place the blame on individuals and their attorneys for seeking access to justice. I think that the argument that the delay inherent in court review is a justification for cutting back on court access is really linked to a conception of immigration sovereignty that places the will of the nation above all else.”

Prof Family pointed to examples such as some attempts by President Barack Obama to address some parts of the immigration system. That in turn has led to even more court cases and added to further confusion and delays, which now reaching an average of more than 600 days for immigration decisions.

But while there has also been record removals from the US in recent years, there has been no corresponding funding for immigration judges facing a backlog of more than 400,000 cases.

She added: “I think there should be grave concern when a procedural system itself becomes a barrier to fair administration of the law.”

The lecture was part of Refugee Festival Scotland4 which has included public debates, music, theatre and other events about the contribution of refugees and immigrants and the challenges against them.

Prof Family started and concluded her talk by pointing to her own privilege of being born in the US, giving her automatic citizenship.

She said: “I was born in the right place at the right time. Because of my place of birth, the substantive immigration law was on my side in the United States.

“I never had to rely on the substance of US immigration law to be legal. And that is a lucky thing, because US immigration law is a labyrinth of technical provisions that are sometimes generous but just as often are extremely harsh. 

“Not only did I not have to rely on the substance of immigration law but also neither I nor my parents had to figure out the procedure of US immigration law. No-one had to figure out what forms to file, where to file them, how to challenge a denial, whether anyone would be detained during the process, whether there would be a fair hearing, the proper order of steps to take and any fees to pay.

It’s my hope that someday it won’t matter anymore that an immigration case is an immigration case and that procedural fairness will be available to all. Because I believe that procedural fairness should not be an accident of place of birth.”

  1. http://works.bepress.com/jill_family/
  2. Hearing video and transcript.
  3. http://www.gla.ac.uk/schools/law/
  4. Details of the festival and events.

We the people: UK general election 2015

Politics is about people – or so politicians repeatedly tell voters. But what are the people actually doing outside a political bubble?

Tomorrow reporters spread across the city of Glasgow between 5pm and 10pm on May 7 during the final hours of voting in the 2015 UK general election.

We asked no political questions or even confirmed whether individuals had voted.

Along with our athlete and artist in residence and reporters in Australia in Germany, this is news of a time to put political space in context.

5.19pm – Woodend Bowling and Lawn Tennis Club, Jordanhill, Glasgow

Woodend Bowling and Lawn Tennis Club

Andrew Bodie, 15, trains at the Woodend Bowling and Lawn Tennis Club, Jordanhill, Glasgow.

Andrew Bodie is at his weekly tennis class where he has been attending for three years.

Inspired by Andy Murray from a young age, he decided to go along to his local Woodend Bowling and Lawn Tennis Club, though it’s rugby where he is considering a professional career, already playing for Glasgow Hawks.

“I like that it’s a sport where people are not really competitive,” the 15-year-old told Tomorrow. “It’s just a good atmosphere. When you’re playing at my level, you’re doing it for fun. It’s a break from your normal life.

“I don’t see myself doing it professionally. I was looking at marine biology or maybe playing a bit of professional rugby.”

Andrew’s coach, Chris Chapman, has been playing tennis since he was “four or five” through his mum, also a coach. He teaches up to 25 group lessons a week with 150-200 young people.

“It’s quite an easy sport,” he said. “It only requires two people to play. It’s mainly a summer and spring sport and there’s not enough indoor facilities so that doesn’t help.

“Andy Murray brings people in, but once you try it, if you like it, you tend to stick with it. This group has a bit of fun. I would hope most groups get a benefit and my job is to make them technically better.”

5.20pm (1.20pm local time) – Halifax, Nova Scotia

Halifax at lunch

Sketch from Halifax, NS, by artist in residence Jason Skinner

Tomorrow artist in residence, Jason Skinner, created this sketch during his lunch break in Halifax’s Parade Square.

“Spring has finally arrived in the Maritimes, and I took full advantage,” he said. “I sat facing City Hall, leaning against the monument honouring fallen public service workers and scribbled ‘business as usual’ while sharing my crumbs with the pigeons.”

6.30pm – Govanhill Baths Community Trust, Glasgow

The main pool in Govanhill Baths has been empty of water since 2001 when Glasgow City Council closed the facility, against significant opposition from the local community.

Now run by Govanhill Baths Community Trust with plans to gradually reopen the vast and diverse spaces, it has to date failed to win any confirmed money from any level of government.

Last month, it had to vacate its charity shop space after being unable to meet rent of around £13,000 a year after a 50 per cent discount over the past 12 months.

For the chairman of the trust, Andrew Johnson, as he closed up the shop for the last time, there was the pain of seeing a Romani woman going through the bags of items left outside. Some items from the shop are now being stored in the main pool.

“There was a woman pulling through these green bags,” he said. “That sums up – scavenging would not be the right word – but I had to say, ‘You can’t do that’, and I felt terrible about it. She was reduced to having to go through the bags from a charity shop and I had to go to some boring middle class meeting.

“There was a serious unfairness in closing a health-giving facility in Govanhill. For the council to close it was a dastardly act.”

The pool should be open until 9pm on a weeknight, as it once was. Now, the only sound is from an arts festival being prepared in other parts of the building and the noises of Calder Street and beyond ringing through the glass ceiling.

Swimming classes should be at the pool to reduce drownings, as was the original intention of the baths, said Mr Johnson. But the current plan would not see the main pool re-open until 2020 potentially. The next phase would restore the learners’ pool and ladies’ pool, gym, Turkish sauna, healthy eating cafe and garden growing area, while the old Steamie would continue its development as a theatre space. Millions of pounds have been committed from different trusts and agencies, but they are still £1/2 million short.

“It’s about what’s right and what’s wrong,” added Mr Johnson.

7pm – Glasgow Women’s Aid refuge

Domestic abuse is an issue which, it could be argued, affects many more people than the statistics show.

Many women find themselves in situations where they need a little help and guidance to escape from various situations, and Glasgow Woman’s Aid (GWA) aims to offer just that.

The building which houses GWA’s refuge offers no outward sign of the lives of its inhabitants, just as it is intended. The organisation offers 38 spaces for women with many of these spaces also suitable for children.

Catriona Paterson, who is a key member of staff at the organization, states that the aim of the service is to offer women the time, space and tools they need in order to help them recover from their experiences and help them rebuild the life which has been taken from them.

“We are here to empower each woman as an individual,” she told Tomorrow. “We want to help a woman to find herself and reach her potential, despite what has happened to her. We are here for emotional and practical support. We want people to feel they are living here, not simply existing.”

Many may assume that once out of an abusive situation that women can simply begin to rebuild their lives. But this is not always the case.

“Feeling safe is the main thing,” said Ms Paterson. “Everything else can be done with support. Women are more at risk immediately after leaving an abusive situation, so safety is the most important thing, we have CCTV, locks on every door and there is an on call system, which allows contact with a key worker.”

She added that although there are many cases of domestic abuse, many women never speak out: “People think abuse happens rarely but it doesn’t, it happens all the time, most women are made by their abuser to feel like it’s their fault, some women never disclose to others, it permeates across society, it effects your family, friends, education, employment, it effects everything.“

Jenny – whose name Tomorrow has changed to protect her identity – has faced many difficulties in her 24 years and escaped from an abusive relationship in recent weeks.

“I don’t have any family – if I wasn’t here I don’t know where I would be,” she said. “I have a few friends but in the situations I’ve been in, it’s hard to maintain friendships. It can be hard to ask for help. Your self-esteem goes and it’s hard to move on from there. Me being here is a stroke of luck – a friend mentioned the service when she knew something was wrong, she picked me up that day and saved me from the situation.

“Being here makes me feel safe. I don’t need to be scared when the door handle turns, no need to worry who’s coming in.”

Jenny and Ms Paterson said there are misconceptions about abuse victims, indeed what constitutes abuse and what can be done to tackle the epidemic.

“We don’t all come with burst lips and black eyes,” said Jenny. “It can be much more subtle than that, a lot of it is inside. Domestic abuse itself is not a named crime and this has to change to achieve any real change, education must begin from the cradle.

“I thought it would be scary and institutionalised. But I came in and one of the girls was making dinner, there were candles lit, it just felt very homely. I hadn’t had a home environment in a very long time, it’s nice to be able to rebuild everything in this environment.

“This is home for us. It’s somewhere we can go back to after a hard day that is safe and know there is someone looking out for you.”

7pm (5am local time) – Brisbane, Australia

Closing time

Punters spill out of bars as they close in Brisbane at 5am

New venue laws put forward by Queensland Labor could see punters locked out by 1am and alcohol cut by 3am, setting Brisbane an earlier bedtime.

The new laws have been suggested as preventative measures against growing youth and alcohol fuelled violence.

“People want action on the sickening problem of young people having their lives ruined by alcohol-fuelled violence,” Labor Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk has said on the proposed new laws.

Similar laws trialed in Sydney resulted in a 32 per cent reduction of assault cases in Kings Cross and 40 per cent reduction in Sydney CBD.

The trial did, however, note a negative impact on business in the areas with a number of bars attributing sudden closures to the stricter laws.

“Lockouts are an effective penalty, but their blanket introduction has had an impact on safe and well run venues that provide live music and entertainment,” Sydney independent MP Alex Greenwich has said.

For now it is 5am and Brisbanites city-wide are stumbling out of their bars, unaware of the tightening of venue laws in their own city.

7.30pm – Central Gurdwara, Glasgow


Like every normal Thursday evening, young people from the SIkh community attended the Central Gurdwara in Glasgow for an evening session.

There was no talk about the election, no chat about which party to vote for but a simple and refreshing evening full of hymns and some lovely vegetarian food, which was served to all those who attended.

Part of the evening saw young people singing religious hymns and performing the evening prayers before heading home on an early school night.

7.52pm – Anderson Maguire Funeral Directors, Glasgow

David Campbell

David Campbell, of Anderson Maguire Funeral Directors

When David Campbell’s mum picked him up from the airport, returning from serving in the Merchant Navy, she said it was time to get a job, and he was starting at her employer, Anderson Maguire Funeral Directors.

Now nine years on, he has progressed from being a part-time driver to being a qualified funeral director and is now training to instruct the next generation.

Finishing up for the evening, he would remain on call until Friday morning. Calls could be drunks, for take away orders, wrong numbers, or someone whose loved one has just died.

“Even when I’m sleeping, you come to and go into professional mode,” said the dad of one, whose four-year-old son Marcus enjoys seeing the big cars when he comes to collect his father. “You do get used to it.

“So many people deal with the emotion of death differently. That’s where your experience comes in and you’re generally able to talk them through it. Sometimes you have to limit the information, sometimes they’re happy to take down everything.

“It’s hard not to become attached. We show a lot of empathy, but there has to be a line.”

The 30-year-old Moodiesburn resident added: “It’s not our grief. So we show empathy, but we pride ourselves on that professional line. Sometimes people do want a cuddle and others want just a business relationship.”

8.25pm – Badminton at Tron St Mary’s Church, Springburn, Glasgow

Cali Thistle offers people of all ages the chance to get involved in the running of the youth group, meet their community and most importantly offer the chance to progress at something they have a passion for.

The most passionate team member is Stewart Cameron, who coaches the club that he started to meet his son’s passion for football.

Although Mr Cameron only initially intended the club for a group of five boys, there are now more than 450 people registered to the club, which was given its charity status in February.

On an average night, up to 110 people attend the club, which runs four days a week. One of the key aspects of the club is the inclusivity which it offers.

“It doesn’t matter who you are, once you’re in the club, you’re part of the club,” said Mr Cameron, speaking on their Thursday night of badminton in the church hall, under the gaze of the Red Road flats awaiting being demolished soon.

The club boasts 19 other coaches and aims not only to perfect skills in their chosen sport, but also to instill values in the children.

He said: “Some other clubs only want the best of the best – we don’t want that. We want to teach kids to respect themselves, the sport and respect the coaches who are here for free for four days of the week.

“I do this because I want to see people progress, and help them to become the best they can be. There is nothing better than seeing a child who has had a difficult life smiling and proud to have won a trophy, it doesn’t matter if it’s first, second, third – their smiling faces make it worth it.”

Mr Cameron, who owns a building company and said he works 80 hours a week alongside his time dedicated to the club, is looking forward to offering as many youngsters as possible the chance to take their skills to the next level. The club receives no grants or funding and charges £3 for two hours of coaching, which pays for regular camping trips, with activities such as kayaking and canoeing.

But many of the children come from difficult backgrounds such as drug and alcohol abuse, and Mr Cameron said he believed many would suffer “physical and emotional” abuse if they weren’t attending the club.

“Parents have struggles like everyone,” he added, “but the parents who come here are more than happy to help out, they’re not short of love or affection.”

Mother of two club members, Toni Chambers, spoke highly of Mr Cameron, who she stated has brought residents together with a sense of community that has lead to many people getting to know their neighbours and working together to help out the group.

She said: “Kids used to come in here and had no confidence – they were embarrassed to try and fail; now they have the confidence to give it a go. Three kids came in off the street tonight to take part. It gives them a chance to feel part of a team, to offer each other support and help.”

9.08pm – Easterhouse, Glasgow

Nan Agnew

Nan Agnew with her extensive and organised home library

“I have quite often felt suicidal,” said Nan Agnew. “My problem was working out how I would do it.

“I don’t worry about being dead behind a door – I would be glad to go anytime.”

The 85-year-old, who once worked in the luxury Dorchester and lectured at City University in London and has a love of learning so intense her mum insisted she do some other activities two nights a week, said one of her daughters had only been to her Easterhouse flat two or three times in 15 years. Her neighbours in the building don’t visit.

Last week Nan was particularly ill but still refused to have medicines delivered because collecting them from the outside world is the best way to see ensure she saw other people. She refuses social services and does her own shopping.

“I don’t think any of the neighbours visit me,” she said, “which is the opposite of what would have happened to me as a kid. People were coming all the time in the kitchen.

“I still find the loneliness incredible.”

Raised in a flat near Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, she left school at 16, studied at night school and continued to learn from the many opportunities around Glasgow and eventually London, where she lived for 25 years.

“For me, my youth in Glasgow was church, Guides, Girls Training Corp when the war came,” she said. “There was just one community after another. We knew everybody. If my father had been a millionaire, we could not have had more fun. It was a fantastic place to live.

“I was insane to leave London.

“I have dealt with depression but I had never realised until I lived here alone what loneliness meant and how soul destroying it was.”

Nan said the thing which keeps her in the area is contributing to the Easterhouse Phoenix project, whose founder and main organiser Richard McShane said by contrast that it was they who needed Nan.

She added: “If you are a giver, if you are brought up in a Glasgow tenement, then that lack of giving, even if it’s a wee dug, is essential to the essence of a person.”

9.15pm – Baitur Rahman Mosque, Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Centre, Glasgow


Residents in the city’s west end took part in the evening prayer of Isha in the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Centre, Baitur Rahman Mosque.

Isha is the night prayer recited by practising Muslims and it is the fifth of the five daily prayers.

The mosque has various rooms with offices, meeting rooms and a separate prayer hall for women. One of the local volunteers, Ahmed Owusu-Kondu, said various age groups attended the mosque to learn about their faith.

The youth went to regular classes to learn about the religious aspects of Islam and then joined their elders for the prayer to end the day.

9.17pm (2.17pm local) – Calgary, Alberta

Swimming in Calgary

Morgan Bird prepares for more training as a para-swimmer

Athlete in residence and Canadian para-swimmer Morgan Bird prepares to begin her training afternoon in advance of competitions in Glasgow and Toronto later this year.

9.26pm (10.26pm local) – Sofa concert, Hamburg, Germany

Will Robert

Will Robert performs for a room of guests in Hamburg, Germany

The sofas do not match, the curtains look like they were from grandma’s cellar and some lonely socks are hanging at the clotheshorse –  it is a typical living room in a student dorm.

Tonight it is especially crowded in the student lounge in West Hamburg. Everybody tries to make him or herself as comfortable as possible on pillows and the sofas. For a room full of people, it is relatively quiet. Only a beautiful voice pervades the room.

Will Robert, a British singer and songwriter, plays the guitar. He sings, “There is a place behind the sun”. In the eyes of his audience one can see that they want to believe that. It is a private and relaxed atmosphere. Friends and roommates are gathering on this Thursday night to listen to the talented Will. The sofa concert is art in your own home. It is a mix between going to a concert and staying at home with friends.

For Will it is a possibility to be close to his audience: “I like how intimate and personal it is and very different to any other kind of performance.”

He has already given a few sofa concerts. Especially for newcomers it is an opportunity to build a fan community in a new city. Will’s audience seems to be convinced. The front row sings along and the smiles on the faces show: Cozy living room, personal singer, and friends – perfect Thursday night.

9.41pm – Wayside Club, Glasgow

Wayside Club

John loves the soup at the Wayside and the company

John is 74 years old and lives in Royston in the north-east of the city, but travels regularly to the Wayside Club centre down a hidden alley parallel to the dominating Glasgow Central Station.

Set up in 1932 by the Catholic lay organisation, the Legion of Mary, it offers services to the homeless and other needy, operating a soup kitchen in the evenings.

And it was the soup that John could not stop praising: “I usually come the back of 8pm in time for the soup coming out.

“I’ve been coming here since the 1990s. I used to only come now and again. It’s great for the homeless. I live on my own and I’m not one for staying in the house and the television is rotten.

“There’s classes I do here. For someone who’s not working, it’s quite good to have.”

Once a blacksmiths and a railway worker, John said he treats Wayside like a club when he just has less than a handful of living relatives.

“You get good homemade soup – better than the stuff you open in a tin,” he said again. “The big bakeries bring things in – you’re well fed.

“Some guys are used to living rough so this is a godsend. I think that has kept some of them living. You get all kinds of people coming in. This is a boon to people like us.”

About 50-60 people attended on the night, and one of the volunteers, a firefighter by profession, admitted he knew of Nan in Easterhouse as the service had been to her flat in the past.

10.02pm – Alston Bar & Beef, Glasgow Central Station

James McGeachie

James McGeachie cleans up the kitchen of Alston Bar & Beef at the end of the night

At the opposite end of Glasgow Central Station, down steps and into the depths of what was the origins of the city, James McGeachie has finished cleaning the kitchen.

The junior sous chef at Alston Bar & Beef left school at 16 and jokes he chose to train for the kitchen and hospitality knowing he would not be a famous goalkeeper for Celtic FC.

Now 32, he worked for a number of top venues such as Cameron House at Loch Lomond, the nearby Radisson Blu hotel and then the Malmaison.

The father of an eight-year-old girl said: “I’m not interested in the restaurant side, so I do cooking. I was off for a year and a half with testicular cancer.

“An open day for this place came up and in this day and age, it’s hard enough to get a job but this place made me fall back in love with the industry, so I have a spring in my step.”

 

What reporting costs: £175.30 (payments to reporters and expenses)

What it costs to get just one UK constituency election result for ITN: £250 (includes bonus for reporting first)

CORE PRINCIPLES APPLIED

No relevant issues on principles 2, 4, 6, 7, 8 or 10.

1 and 3. Freedom of expression, and Independence and accountability: Some organisations and individuals were invited to take part in We the People, but were not prepared to let reporters in, instead offering pre-approved press releases and images. Tomorrow asserts the independence of its reporting and freedom to report around communities. That does require the cooperation of the public, but not based on press releases or content that cannot be observed or verified by Tomorrow.
5. Comfort the afflicted and afflict the complacent: This news coverage emphatically falls under principle 5. There have been repeated complaints during the election of “dull” and controlled campaigns. Tomorrow would argue that instead proves reporters aren’t asking the correct questions or are deferring to power too much. It might then be a question of resources, and whether all reporters should do the same thing at the same events, or go in the opposite direction?
9. Observe and Engage: While this reporting is observational and without comment, reporters did engage with the public and remain happy to meet with readers in person in Glasgow to discuss coverage.
11. Promote responsible debate and mediation: What issues does this reporting raise? How should journalism – not commentary – respond to elections?