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.

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A Blog for the Records Manager (Hoarder), Bloomberg Law, National Archives, browser testing at Lifehacker and some more on tax dodging

February 15, 2012

Hello again, and a ( better-late-than-never) Happy New Year.

From the 5th of November 2011 (my personal celebration day)  time has brought me to a name change and a massive clear-out, and I threw out the last 10 years of my life in paper.  Yep – good old-fashioned paper. In the electronic world, Birth Certificate aside, I still had paperwork going right back right to the day I was born, weighing in at just 2 kilos. Actually, I retained that document……….I also found a Post Office Savings Bank book with money in it! I’m not telling you it’s age, but the lady on the phone could not locate the account number, as they don’t exist in that format any more. Records Management therefore is a strange concept when applied to oneself, because of an emotional attachment to the records. When undertaking a Records Management function within an organisation, there is a strict set of rules to adhere to and no concept of ownership. The weeding of records is governed by law, and not emotions. It was easy to decide what to retain and then select a destruction method for the different types of records I had decided were surplus to requirement.

This clear-out was a strange place to be in, because I am someone who has spent years working with records and grey materials in all formats and creating policy within corporate and legal guidelines. But my own stuff lurking in my own filing cabinets was another matter. The recyclers probably didn’t know what had hit them when they collected the bin and peripheral bags – and my shredder was squeaking with the exertion of dealing with so many documents.

Furthermore, I hadn’t realised how much more paperwork I have been collecting on behalf of my sons. There’s so much of it – including a copy of the FT published on the date my first child was born, and all their medical and school records.  There were also 3 copies of the South China Morning Post from when the ban on travel to/from Asia because of the SARS outbreak was finally lifted, and also from the day I left Hong Kong to return to the UK.  I also know that tucked away somewhere is a copy of the FT on the day after the full eclipse of the sun in London, plus the special specs to watch it. I put it all away just in case my sons don’t see a total eclipse of the sun in their lifetime, and even if they do, will the technology to watch one have changed by then? It’s the hoarder in me…….I guess that’s why I enjoy being an Info Pro so much. If you look enough you will still find records of a former Jane Macoustra out there in the dim and distant past, but the future lies with Jane Ray. Watch this space!

Which leads me on to a new blog (it’s only 2 days old) at the National Archives. It’s all about finding out how to access public records, by having a private one-to-one with a live records specialist and not an automated response.  Here’s Jenny Orme’s blog for Valentine’s Day:

Burn after reading?

Posted by in Records

Welcome to day 2 of the blog! I have landed myself this illustrious spot thanks to Valentine’s Day and having stumbled upon something suitably soppy in the records. This unusual find is the perfect beginning to my blog, as the sheer variety of amazing things that are brought to the surface every day here could keep me talking forever!”

Bloomberg Law. I’ve already twittered this, but it is such a well-written piece, I’m pointing you to it here as well. Jean P O’Grady’s blog posting entitled “Welcome to Bloomberg Law: No Deals, No Discounts, No Apology”.If you are in the business of working in or running a law library or Information Centre, this is a must-read. Do pass it on.

Lifehacker has been testing out the speed of the top four browsers: Chrome 17, Firefox 10, IE 9 and Opera 11.61. The browsers have been put through their paces and been broken down into various tasks, and then there is an overall top performer, because it has the best performance on the most tasks. You can find out the results here. Looking at the 200+ comments to the blog, people would have liked to have had Safari included too. Others with 4GB of RAM or more say they don’t care and others would like other set tasks included as well as testing on a MAC. Oh well – you can’t please ’em all.

In The Daily Telegraph dated 27th January 2012 – pages 1,2. Headline: Paying Cash in Hand is ‘Diddling the country’ by Fraser Nelson. Please note that the online version of this article is written by a different journalist. “People who pay cash in hand to tradesmen are ‘diddling’ the economy and diverting money from hospitals and schools, the country’s most senior taxman warns today. In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Dave Hartnett says that householders have a duty to ensure that other people do not evade paying their share of tax. ……Mr Hartnett, the Permanent Secretary for Tax at HMRC, signals a major clampdown on the very rich……..Mr Hartnett says there used to be a culture of widespread tax avoidance among corporations which he says is now prevalent among prosperous individuals………..It was alleged he agreed “sweetheart deals” with companies including Goldman Sachs and and Vodafone and allegedly let them off large bills worth millions of pounds to HMRC…….”we are not soft with business, there was no deal with Vodafone” he said. “we got all the money for the nation there was to be got.”

Dave Hartnett steps down with a £1.7 million pension pot.

Vikki Woods provided us with her own thoughts on this entitled Thank God Diddling Dave Hartnett is the Retiring Type. Her commentary included “The anti-diddling Mr Hartnett was given a pretty good rollocking by the Public Accounts Committee last month for HMRC’s avowed mistake in collecting too little tax from Goldman Sachs, plus another £25 billion or so from other large companies”.

Private Eye have been following this issue for years, exposing Dave’s dodgy tax deals. I say put his pension back into the tax coffers now!

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.

 


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.


Lord Ashcroft, Tax Havens, Flintstones

October 4, 2010

Hello again,

Second Life have their Halloween Edition of their magazine here https://email.secondlife.com/servlet/website/PersonalizedForm?lJgKsMEuLPlsLmmLk_vJmhILk_CT.2eHRlE.26f7beEmHpiHgDkLlLHkJoFntHpsDJht

I’ve had a couple of coments re; My Second Life question, and wanted to provide you with a little something a colleague sent me . Eleni Zazani sent me an article from ReadWriteWeb.com which I think you will find really interesting regarding stats on Virtual World use/users. Also I have been a subscriber of ReadWriteWeb for a while and that is worth checking out and getting your free subscription. The Second Life article is here:

Number of Virtual World Users Breaks 1 Billion, Almost Half Under Age 15. While this is no surprise when you consider how many young men are hooked on Playing Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, and all the other popular (violent) games issued by all the big boys (Wii, XBox, Playstation etc) the articles suggests that this medium of contact is making itself felt in the professional world. I have done training using Virtual Worlds, and I think it is a great way of continuing with further education in relation to a particular profession. It breaks down every time-barrier as you learn when you want to in your own time zone.

I was looking forward to last Monday night’s Panorama, but unfortunately due to pending litigation, the BBC were forced to pull the programme concerning Lord Ashcroft, and his Non-Dom status in the UK, as he lives in Belize. They replaced it with a repeat of something a little less controversial. The Tax Justice Network didn’t manage to change their blog on time; but it didn’t matter.

http://taxjustice.blogspot.com/ I enjoy this blog, because of the diverse amount of factual data that is published here, and yes – sources are always properly quoted, because this gives authenticity and authority to the published works. TJN cover the global network of tax havens, often attacking the regimes in certain offshore jurisdictions with valid argument. They also monitor the OECD and IMF in relation to Information exchange agreements, which can be very flimsy, but can often take the countries agreeing to these TIEAs to the white list, from the black list, if they sign enough of them with other countries. Look it up on the TJN web site if you need more on this subject. There’s a lot there at your fingertips, a few clicks away.

Are you well travelled? If so, you have to catch An Idiot Abroad. (9pm on Thursday evenings, Sky1. Repeated on Sky2 on Saturday same time.) Ricky Gervaise hires his best mate Karl to do a documentary about travelling around the world. Karl prefers to stay at home. The sense of humour is awesome, as Karls has a very dry wit and doesn’t mince his words. Catch it if you can, as it’s must-have viewing. Week 1 – China; Week 2 India and next week Egypt.

I hit a certain half century this year, so I was very surprised to see the Flintstones gracing the Google home page last Friday. I can’t believe we are the same age, especially as I don’t recall how old I was when I first saw the Flintstones on TV. My first TV memories are of a small black and white TV and “Watch with Mother”  type stuff, like Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men, progressing onto the likes of  Whacky Races and Road Runner.   To all of you out there having a smirk and walking around with a smug look on your face – The Simpsons celebrated 25 years of being in existence this year as well…………………..Ho hum – all things are relevant somewhere to someone.

Back soon.


On a grey, wet August day……….

August 4, 2010

Hello reader,

We took a stroll down to WikiLeaks  ( The Sunshine Press)  with our umbrella.  It’s a whistleblowers web site which publishes “suppressed information”. You must have seen this by now as there’s been some serious press relating to Afganistan, although I have been watching this web site for a while now with interest, especially when they ran out of money.  It’s good to see them back again.

WikiLeaks says:

“ Wikileaks has probably produced more scoops in its short life than the Washington Post has in the past 30 years ”
—  The National, November 19. 2009

http://wikileaks.org/

But they ran out of funds and had to take themselves offline for a while. All is not lost though as they have raised the funding to rebuild their services, and they are back up and running!  Now – I wonder if that is where Private Eye get some of their fabulous scoops from………because WikiLeaks also say:

“We have received hundreds of thousands of pages from corrupt banks, the US detainee system, the Iraq war, China, the UN and many others that we do not currently have the resources to release. You can change that and by doing so, change the world. Even $10 will pay to put one of these reports into another ten thousand hands and $1000, a million.” Check out their latest leaks.

The BBC covered WikiLeaks in a recent article here:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8490867.stm

Consider whether whistleblowing is ethical. Is the whistleblower disloyal to its company or should the public be told about what is going on behind closed doors? Does it affect or harm the public in any way by them (the public) having or not having the information? If, as the BBC say, WikiLeaks publishes data that journalists would not be allowed to use  even if they wanted to, isn’t it in our interest to be told, if it is that sensitive? I personally, would rather know – but then I am of the inquisitive persuasion, after all. A Newsnight Report on the BBC last February (2010) raised the issue of what our journalists should or shouldn’t be allowed to report. What can they report, and why shouldn’t they? The criminally convicted are normally exposed by the media if it is a serious enough offence.  Normally………..but what happens if you don’t tell your company you have managed to obtain the accolade of a Criminal Record whilst you are employed by them? Consider what you would deem serious enough in your own estimation. I would be interested to hear your views.

http://www.kroll.com/about/library/fraud/ Take a look at this: The Kroll Annual Global Fraud Report 2010 is available from this hyperlink. There are also historical Fraud Reports and the reports on the Satyam Fraud (India), Ponzi Schemes, the economic crisis and more, all freely available in 8 different languages.

I’ll be back soon. Feel free to pass this on.