Another SLA-Europe Social Event, Anonymous Searching, and the Anti-Social Network

July 13, 2012

Hello again. Another blog, and another great social event thanks to SLA-Europe. I’m on the Board, so I would say that. However, it was a very good way to spend a Summer evening (raining of course!) look at the cloud formation surrounding my photo of the Shard.

This was taken from the Roof Terrace of the offices of Nomura International Plc, Angel Lane EC4.

I met many old faces and many new ones at this event and spoke with people on a wide range of topics which included Client ID and Know-Your-Customer (KYC); SharePoint; Barclays; SharePoint; working in the Inner Temple as a Librarian when you trained as a Barrister; SharePoint and why it is such a great product; redundancies; SharePoint and why you wanted to lose it instead of use it; SCIP (Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals) raised twice by others with negative/positive commentary; SharePoint…etc. I’m sure you get my drift by now. I also work with SharePoint, so it was totally mesmerising to see this as the buzzword for the evening, with everyone I spoke to. People clearly have a certain ambivalent relationship with this particular piece of software. The event was sponsored by the Financial Times, Integreon and 7Side.

Given the negative publicity that Google has received recently surrounding its’ latest privacy policy, it’s hardly surprising that new search tools are being produced by so many new start-ups – and are having a pop at Google at the same time. Try and run a search for engines that protect your privacy and you’ll see what I mean.

I’m heading back to the KYC topic. After following Transparency International (TI) for many years now for its amazing corruption reports, I’d like to introduce you to Privacy International (PI) as well. I wrote about TI and focussed on PI in my book on pages 161-165 and highlighted that at that time of writing, Privacy Internationals’ view was that they had “found numerous deficiences and hostilities in Google’s approach to privacy that go well beyond those of other organisations”. (Privacy International, A Race to the Bottom: Privacy Ranking of Internet Companies 2007. So, has anything changed for the better since then? You know how to look this up…….

Privacy International

And so we move on to the Anti-Social Network. I thought that the Murdoch/News International scandal into privacy was the fat end of the wedge in privacy abuse, but it’s (almost) the opposite if compared to other means that are being used to upset and hurt people. On 21st March, Richard Bacon reported on BBC 3 about the Anti-Social Network. While I was aware that the Internet has been used for abusive purposes for a long time now, the full extent of the abuse was brought sharply into focus with this hard-hitting documentary. Richard described how not only has he and his family been a target of abuse – known as Trolling – but  he highlighted how Trolls also target RIP sites and launch a tirade of abuse at the recently deceased and their families. It’s a sick world when that’s the best that people can manage when harnessing the power of the Internet and all the fabulous technology that surrounds it.

It would seem fitting to leave this post on a lighter note, and so I give you Andy Murray on Centre Court at Wimbledon! What an amazing player. I was upset when he lost the Championships, but await his strong performance in the Games. Gold would be brilliant.

I was there!

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Special Libraries Association – Europe’s 40th Anniversary Celebration

March 1, 2012

Hello again!

I attended a brilliant event on Tuesday to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of SLA Europe (“SLA E”). It was held at the brand new offices of Rothschild in St Swithins’ Lane, at the top of the building.

After being escorted to the 14th floor cloak-room, a glass lift took you to the next level where you stepped out and walked into this large, beautiful, airy function room, that had floor-to-ceiling glass windows on two sides, affording  breathtaking panoramic views of The City at night-time.  What a treat!

Banner advert for SLA Europe 40th Anniversary

All the invitations had been taken up, and the room slowly filled with people. Waiters served drinks and delicious canapes as the guests mingled, and in pride of place in the room stood a beautiful four-tiered chocolate cake which symbolised the celebrations.

Our official Photographer, Laura Woods, took photographs of the current SLA Board and Committee, and then photographed all Past and Current Presidents, and then finally all of SLA Europe’s Award Winners.

Three of the guests made it over from Europe to be with us; Gimena Campos Cervera, Marie-Madeleine Salmon (Board Member) and Laura Armiero.

Darron Chapman, SLA E President gave a short speech and highlighted the new jobs board which has just materialised on the web site. Darron was followed by a short speech from Veronica Kennard, who is a Past President of SLA E, and who also kindly provided the opportunity to host the event at Rothschilds. Veronica asked us all to go and introduce ourselves to at least one person with whom we had never met.

After the speeches were made, it was cake cutting time, and more drinks and canapes, as the networking took off and information professionals from across the sectors reacquainted themselves with old colleagues and made contact with new ones.

For me, this was the event of the year, and as SLA E goes from strength-to-strength, my opinion is that they have hit the top of the league tables for the Information Professional as THE professional organisation of choice. Indeed, one of our Board members is running for the President-Elect position for the main board of SLA this year. We also have Board members who are Fellows of the Association, currently serve at the top, or have previously held high office. This clearly demonstrates the extraordinary quality of the Board in Europe. The latest upcoming new Info Pro is Sam Wiggins.

As a Past President for SLA Asia, an award winner, a Board member of SLA E since 2004, and current Committee member, I could be seen as biased, but many more who attended this event would totally agree with me about how special an evening this was. But the massive thanks goes to all the people who took the time and effort who made the event happen and it wasn’t me.

Back again soon.


My global power prediction comes to fruition – unfortunately, Men in the stacks and Steve Jobs and the Apple logo

October 27, 2011

Hello again!

Before I start – PEOPLE –  I received some feedback from my last blog on sovereign debt, but I can’t identify you and I don’t understand what you are writing. Please write to me in English – with more than two words – and I’ll be able to respond. If you don’t do this, I will be forced to delete your comments because I can’t authorise them for publication. I await your return because everyone is allowed to have a say; however this blog is moderated by me. My words are my opinion – and mine only.

In my book which was published in 2010 (page 66), I wrote: “……..the global picture map of power and control and financial (in)stability is changing radically in a short space of time. As these economic powerhouses alter, we see a new takeover bid for domination by those who have waited patiently, watching as the global economy quietly unravels itself – only just under the control of the Central Banks.  The contributors to these changes are counterparty default swaps (via the banks)………The distressed or toxic debts accrue, exploding, systemically crushing, bringing everything down with them in their path like a volcano. Meltdown indeed is the best description for the destruction that still occurs………..The vulture funds were waiting for them and no region is unaffected by these changes in the global economy…….etc”.   I knew there were predators waiting to take over the fall of the West when the time was ripe.  That time has now arrived by the look of it, except – they didn’t need to become predators or vultures. I have to say I was totally shocked by the turn of events where the EU has had to go cap-in-hand to China for assistance with its Euro bailout. Also – my words written at least 3 years ago for this book have come back to haunt me. On top of this,  Sarkozy says we shouldn’t have allowed the Greeks into the EU in the first place. How about shutting the doors after the horse has bolted. Look at what else we have in the EU that’s on shaky ground that could threaten again. (another day) the subject is too big.

I’d already seen this in an American publication, had a look and then looked away, but the Guardian took up the issue of this charity calendar which almost mirrors one first started by the Womens’ Institute, where they were photographed in various forms of undress using props to hide their nudity. Well – now it’s the boys turn. Librarians checked out in ‘Men of the Stacks’ calendar, and of course the Guardian just couldn’t resist publishing a picture of the guy who took all of his kit off. No – I’m not putting the picture here; if you’re that curious – you check out the article.

When is a tribute turned into plagiarism? When you create a logo that looks like the Apple one? Jonathan Mak created this image (I’m not going to post it here) because I think he’s possibly plagiarised (that’s why he’s terrified). If nothing else, he’s got himself a good few job offers (that’s why he’s excited).  Entrepreneurship/Enterprising capabilities anyone? I’m still mulling where the line is……..

Finally, another acknowledgement of the dead: Steve Jobs – rest in peace, and thank so much for what you gave to the world.  Here’s my version of an apple, courtesy of ehdwallpapers. And there’s other great images on the web site too.

Bye for now – back soon.


Credit ratings and sovereign debt, the FT and using your dark side for good

September 26, 2011

Hello again!

We are going to take a brief look at a new topic which has been widely reported. Credit rating agencies and sovereign debt. Recently Standard & Poor’s downgraded America to AA+ from its very precious AAA credit rating, which was a severe blow to the US. Italy has suffered with the same problem, and (to state the obvious) so has Greece, and it’s all down to the amount of government borrowings (sovereign debt) that each country has accrued. It affects a country’s ability to borrow more money and more importantly – it can and might well do in the near future – bring down other countries with it if it were to default on its’ borrowings, so a less than perfect AAA credit rating is a much higher borrowing/lending risk and a cause for concern.  The European Banking Authority has published a 2011 EU-wide stress testing exercise and the BIS has produced its September Quarterly Review, showing a weaker outlook for the economic climate. At the Business Insider they have published a list of the Euro banks’ exposure (derived from the BIS) if Greece defaults on its debt. Business Insider are also following the Goldman Sachs elevator tweets. Here’s one of the latest in this highly entertaining saga, which I am following.

I have been a registered user of the FT e-version for a quite a while now, and was very pleasantly surprised to receive a new e-mail service from them this week. It’s called the Best of the FT – and it’s a new-look monthly newsletter for registered users. It’s free – of course – or I wouldn’t highlight it for you. The FT says “This issue we spotlight the FT Trading Room, highlight the FT’s Future of Banking Global Banking in depth series and showcase the very latest FT special reports.
Plus latest FT headlines, hidden gems and must-reads.” Register yourself and enjoy all the reports that are provided from a diverse selection of articles, special reports, banking and finance, luxury goods, country reports and much more. KPMG has been selected to lead the probe into the UBS trading scandal. I read it in the FT.

I have previously written about LifeHacker because I have learned so much from reading this particular blog. Back in August there was an article called  How to use your dark side for good, written by Adam Dachis. The article takes us through many ways to put us (the good guys) at an advantage when we are at the potential mercy of the bad guys. Adam says “For example, it’s unquestionably useful to understand whether you’re a good victim and what makes you a good target. If you know why you’re being selected by the bad guys as a good mark, you can look at the different methods they may use and consider how you can counteract them.”  He’s used some good visual examples (Pinnochio and the not-so-friendly bunnies from Wallace & Gromits’ The Wererabbit, for instance.

Finally Guido Fawkes highlights a Sara Teather stand-up routine at conference, that was so not funny it was just sheer embarrassment, and it made me cringe. I should stick to politics if I were her, because comedy is definitely not her forte.

That’s all for now. Back again soon.

 


Some fun stuff and some economics

March 24, 2011

Hello again!

I’d like to bring to your attention some fun stuff I found very recently, and then take a look at what’s happening in the world.

The Internet is an amazing place and I’m a bit of a lurker, but it is being used in ways that are not always wholesome, and I’m not talking about phishing, trojans, worms or spyware et al. I’m talking SPAM! What do you do with this stuff when it drops into your junk box? Well, Online Tech Tips, from a computer guy (Aseem Kishore) has the answer. There’s no point in me explaining it to you because he’s already done the hard work, screen by screen. I love these new tools for making fun out of those who seek to abuse us via our tech, and I also like the visual clouds software that has been produced (wordle et al) because they are nice little pieces of software that people have written and put out into the public domain for us to try them out. Spam Recycling.com is a quirky way to while away an hour on a wet afternoon. . So – to all spammers – we can now turn your dross into an art form!  If anyone manages to produce something really cool, I’ll happily post a copy here for everyone to see and you keep the copyright of your spammer artwork of course! Now, lets see what I can make…………

I’m amazed by the amount of reporting recently on energy use and petrol/gas prices across the world – especially in times of a global downturn, political instability, wars and natural disasters.

Well, let’s start with the Chancellor’s Budget yesterday.  1p off petrol duty and £100m given to councils to fix potholes (Yippeee), but don’t get the champagne out just yet because the oil companies are going to pay 32% tax on their oil and gas production, where they were previously taxed at 20%. Never doubt that this tax will be passed onto the lucky consumer to cover at the pump, as the oil companies have to placate their shareholders with large dividends. The consumer has to find ways to reduce the burden of petrol taxes imposed on them, and many new ideas are being born via Internet services on how to save money to counteract these(hidden) hikes. I’ll be looking at these new Hybrid online services soon as there are a good number of them sprouting up.

So, let’s go back to petrol prices. The UK doesn’t just obtain its oil and gas from the North Sea and surrounding regions, it purchases it in advance on the global commodity exchange markets, known as the futures markets. It’s a complex system, but the price of keeping our cars on the road doesn’t look like it’s going to drop or even stabilise anytime soon, as there’s too much going on in the world that is going to affect world oil and gas prices. The UK doesn’t have the technology to refine certain types of oil, and so relies on other refineries abroad to do it for us. There’s a cost involved – obviously.

I saw this great article in The Economist – that, if you are interested in global economics – will explain what is happening right now in the oil markets. Entitled “Oil Markets and Arab Unrest:  The Price of Fear – A Complex Chain of Cause and Effect Links the Arab World’s Turmoil to the Health of the World Economy”. This article explains how oil prices affect the global economy and how intervention by OPEC, global central banks, and OECD countries can affect it. It also explains what governments are doing to replace the use of petrol/gasoline with alternatives such as replacement biofuels or alternative transport such as electric cars. And finally, what are the renewable energy alternatives that can satisfy Asian country requirements; those who have ongoing and increasing needs for power as their infrastructures grow and their countries become more developed? Also, take a look at the comments posted at the end of the article. It’s such a massive subject, that I’ll be taking a more in-depth look at this, and renewable energy again in later blogs. Feedback as always, is acknowledged and published.  I’ll be back soon.


And today’s topic is……..tax havens!

February 23, 2011

Hello again!

Well – I thought that after the recent demonstrations against Top Shops’  big boy – it was worth a  deeper delve into the mire of the tax haven. That quiet corner of the universe that swallows up huge chunks of cash that hasn’t been filtered via the tax-man first. That area of taxation where Generally Accepted Accounting Principles have no meaningful place in the world. I’m not just going to look at HMRC (that’s Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to the uninitiated) but also at what has been happening on a global scale. There’s lots of places to look because the world is becoming disgruntled – hence the demonstrations –  between those who have and those who don’t have. The mega-rich and the would-be-mega-rich will always attempt to cling onto their earnings (illicit or otherwise) by paying as little tax as they can get away with. Offshore means – what? Its’s the most convoluted and financially complex way of organising money that the world has, in order to divert it away from taxation.

Let’s start with the band U2 for instance. Bono, the lead singer, is always banging on about political freedom and ending global poverty. But when it comes down to his own wealth management – what does he do? Well, let’s see now………..End Tax Haven Secrecy has an opinion here http://www.endtaxhavensecrecy.org/en/2011/02/10/thank-you-bono-now-push-this-to-its-logical-conclusion/ and so does Bridge Over Troubled Waters, here: http://bridgeovertroubledwaters.wordpress.com/2009/02/26/bonos-tax-haven-is-robbing-the-poor/. This issue with U2 isn’t new and goes way back to 2005, when it was first highlighted that the band use offshore financial structures to avoid paying tax in Ireland where they are registered. Is this a case of do what I say and not what I do? Bono’s political rants are legendary, so he’s an easy target for criticism. Even if you do a quick search, there’s a lot of information out there. Another consideration to add to the mix, is that Ireland is a tax haven in its own right, so the Netherlands must be offering an added bonus for taking Bono’s wedge…………

You can check out the Global Financial Integrity web site here: http://www.gfip.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=189, but note that their copyright has not been updated to 2011 so err on the side of caution and back up any data that you might use by checking another source for accuracy.

One place I look regularly is on the Tax Justice Network http://www.taxjustice.net/cms/front_content.php?idcatart=2 and in particular their blogs, which are crammed full of really good information, that can be reliably sourced. I wrote about this web site last October.  http://taxjustice.blogspot.com/ The main web site provides access to global resources and they keep adding to the site with links to other areas and articles covering really interesting subjects such as withholding tax, extraction transparency, financial poverty, illicit flows of finance, country by country reporting and – of course – tax evasion across the world by corporations and individuals alike. There’s so much information that it’s really worth taking the time to have a delve if this is a subject area that interests you. There’a a financial Secrecy Index here:  http://news.financialsecrecyindex.com/Click on the resources tab for an subject index and don’t forget Transparency International’s Corruption Index web pages, which I have written about previously on this blog, and a related anomaly highlighted by TJN here: http://www.taxjustice.net/cms/front_content.php?idcat=100

Delaware or Isle of Man, Switzerland or Hong Kong? How many tax havens can you name off the top of your head without looking them all up? Actually, don’t bother – it’s all listed here for you: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_offshore_financial_centres and it’s from Wikipedia, so regular readers will know my opinion on Wikipedia. Beware and use it with care because you don’t know who has compiled the data. One reason I say this is because Wikipedia lists London instead of The City of London specifically as a tax haven, and there’s a very distinct difference.

The OECD also provides a list of “Uncooperative” Tax Havens here: http://www.oecd.org/document/57/0,3746,en_2649_201185_30578809_1_1_1_1,00.html and another page provides excellent data on tax and access to a tax database: http://www.oecd.org/topic/0,3699,en_2649_37427_1_1_1_1_37427,00.html. You can also check out the IMF and the G20 web sites.

So now let’s take a visit to another web site that I like. It’s called Tax-News.com http://www.tax-news.com/ and while it is a fee-based service, it’s the free stuff that I value. The journalists are prolific writers and incredibly knowledgeable, providing articles globally for the interested reader. The coverage isn’t just offshore tax; it covers a massive selection of related tax topics from free trade agreements, to alcohol and cigarette tax, shipping tax, secrecy, gaming legislation, special reports and much more. Each country page will point you at specific areas of taxation. Just dive in, because you will like what you find.

Let’s not forget the business press, such as Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/2007/03/15/havens-international-tax-forbeslife-cx_mw_ee_0315taxhavens.html. If you think laterally, there is a wealth of information (pun intended!) in the business press which will include lists such as who’s who offshore and table rankings. See what I mean, here: http://www.forbes.com/2004/04/15/cx_cv_0415feat.html.

The law firms who provide specialist advice on “asset protection arrangements” have lawyers who publish regular legal updates in this area. Look on the Firms’ web sites for free articles and legal updates for legislative changes, especially those who have corporate tax departments like Sullivan & Cromwell or Baker & McKenzie.

And finally, lets take a look at Vodafone in India. What a mess! Even the Bombay High Court can’t sort this one out. It’s related to Vodafone’s purchase of Huchison Whampoa of Hong Hong and the Indian tax authorities’ demand for £1.6bn in capital gains taxes, which it says is owed to them. However, the deal was struck offshore and Vodafone says it is now exempt from paying the tax. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704019604576131410598322674.html

Vodafone also set aside £2.2bn for it’s UK tax bill last year, but then struck a deal with HMRC and paid just £1.25bn in taxes. Of course this has caused outrage  and demonstrations, as reported in the FT: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704019604576131410598322674.html and as reported in many other press reports, including detailed coverage by Private Eye, who thought the bill should have been as much as £6bn.

And so, the world of the offshore tax haven continues to be shrouded in secrecy much as before, despite reports and their protestations that they are opening up to becoming more transparent and more regulated.

As always, your comments and feedback are always welcomed. I’ll be back again soon.