Summer Madness! and Spam-Art via the enBW Recycler

July 29, 2011

Hello again!

Google has been a bit prolific in recent weeks with its artwork/doodles commemorating various anniversaries,http://www.google.com/logos/index.html but I particularly liked their 21st June First Day of Summer (below) Madness artwork and the 22nd July interactive artwork celebrating Alexander Calder’s 113th birthday. The Google Doodles collection goes right back to 1998. First Day of Summer. Doodle by Takashi Murakami, 2011.

Business Librarians (BUSLIB) has a new group on Facebook buslib@groups.facebook.com which you can join and participate with research queries, discussions, and more. Here’s the page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/buslib/?ap=1  While I’m on the subject of social networking, I found another group on LinkedIn called Interns over 40. This is a goldmine for the skilled worker seeking employment, who is on the mature side, and finding it difficult to move into that next position. http://internsover40.blogspot.com/2009/09/100-tips-tools-for-job-hunters-over-45.html  and with over 500,000 hits in 2010, it is a popular blog, with a huge amount of sound advice. The link I have provided is for a blog called 100 tips and tools for hunters over 45.

Since the weather has now taken a dip in temperature, I found some time to mess around with the Spam recycling software that I wrote about in my last blog, and so here are the results of my first few attempts. As spam has been somewhat prolific for me recently, I’ve stopped deleting it from my junk folder until I can analyse  what is the best of the dross to convert into art  

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and I’m sure you can do a lot better. Come on – show me what you’ve created!

Rebekah Brooks and the phone-hacking scandal that has wreaked havoc on Murdoch’s empire. Over the years, I have known a number of business people who are “Teflon Coated”. She’s one of these people, and pleads ignorance to ensure that nothing sticks. Private Eye’s latest issue is having a field day with this scandal; they have called themselves Private Eye incorporating News of the World and the headline is “GOTCHA! Murdoch goes down with all hacks”. About 80% of this edition is Murdoch-related reportage, and given that the bigger breaking news happened just 24 hours before the next print run, I can only surmise that Private Eye’s hacks have been compiling their data for a while, in readiness for this scandal to break.

Finally, I wouldn’t normally comment on something like this – but – Amy Winehouse – you silly girl. What an incredible waste of a great talent.

I’ll be back.

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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.


A little something to while away the snow

December 2, 2010

If you are reading this from the UK, no doubt you are struggling into work or working from home whilst waiting for the roads to thaw. My family plus some friends, made an igloo using a cold cooler storage box to create the ice blocks for it – cool – in more than one sense. There’s team work and great imagination for you; and yeah – we had plenty of snow with which to create it.

So here’s a few snippets to help keep you occupied.

So today let’s take a look at: 3 Geeks and a Law Blog.

http://www.geeklawblog.com/. This is a blog written by three  law librarians/geeks (sorry to state the blindingly obvious) and Geeklawblog is an award winner for the third year in a row.  The content is very good. The 2nd December 2010 blog is all about cheap/free gadgets and is interesting to the point where I wanted to upload everything and try them all out 🙂 However – If you have tried any of these apps and want to post back your opinions – you know where to come.

“A simple change in the law could open up online access to the BBC’s archives”. http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2010/nov/25/bbc-archive-online-access-law Stephen Edwards who is Media Partner at Reed Smith LLP,  reported in the Guardian on this potentially explosive  access to a wealth of social history on 25th November 2010. The article outlines the importance of everyone gaining legitimate access, not just to film and TV, but also to radio and photographic archives. We like this!

And we can’t ignore WikiLeaks right now, as they have had a lot of exposure in the news recently. I thought I’d point you to an article from BNET here http://www.bnet.com/blog/business-strategy/bank-of-america-is-not-the-only-company-that-should-fear-wikileaks/957?promo=713&tag=nl.e713

“Bank of America is not the only company that should fear WikiLeaks”. It isn’t just the “skeletons-in-closets” – as mentioned, but ongoing lack of  responsibility to acknowledge bad corporate behaviour or to stop it from happening in the first instance. Money makes the world go around. Read the responses to this blog…..Actually, I’d like to see some leaks on FIFA’s decision that Russia should host the next world cup….just thought I’d throw that one into the mix. 😉

http://www.transparency.org/policy_research/surveys_indices/cpi/2010/results

The above link is for Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2010. I’ve given you a visual glimpse of perceived corruption (including Russia) in 2010 on a global scale. This annual report is very carefully compiled using excellence and ongoing professional standards in their methodology. Previous years data are available for comparison. Enough said!

Back again soon! Enjoy your Christmas parties.

 


Google ain’t working

November 16, 2010

Hello!

I’ve got a gripe today: It’s called Google. Read this please, and then follow on. I received the following correspondence:

“LEGAL WARNING: Our science & technology team has recently launched Google web software to protect and secure all Gmail Accounts. This system also enhanced efficient networking and fully supported browser. You need to upgrade to a fully supported browser by filling out the details below for validation purpose and to confirm your details on the new webmaster Central system.

Account Name:
Pass word:
Country:
Note: Your account will be disabled permanently if you failed to provide the details required above within 72hours. Gmail will not be held responsible for your negligence.
The Google web Service.”

To me, this is clearly a spoof phishing jobbie. BUT my gripe is this: How come Google can suck in our personal data ad infinitum for future use – but when we want to alert them to these dodgy scams, we cannot CONTACT them? We go around and around in circles because they only provide the “positive” side of using Google in the help sheets, and you cannot ever speak to a human being. The very least Google ought to be doing as a Duty of Care to the global masses which created Google’s popularity, is to alert them to these dodgy practices. Right or Wrong? GOOGLE – HELLO!!!!  stop playing with your algorithms (if there’s  a  double entendre there – it’s intended)  and talk to me and the world please……

An alert on the Google home page globally might be nice for everyone. That’s a really small ask and you know it, when you can add beautiful diagram-enhanced anniversaries on a whim. Come on Google – do it for all of us. 🙂

 


Internet Librarian International 2010 and other snippets

October 26, 2010

Hello! I always aim to please my readers, and so at this time of year it’s conference time, so we kick off with a two-day conference I attended at Internet Librarian International 2010 at the Hammersmith Novotel. I will provide you with some extra information about the conference, but as  firm believer of NOT re-inventing the wheel, just adding a few more spokes, I’ll point you to a series of three blogs I wrote for SLA-Europe, along with blogs written by my other SLA colleagues who attended the conference. We are all here: http://www.sla-europe.org/blog/. The conference was a really good one, and if you read the SLA-Europe blogs, you will see how much everyone got from the conference. Humour was in abundance as well as a learning curve within the presentations.  So – go and digest the blogs on the SLA-Europe web site and then return here for updates pertinent to the services/products/web “stuff” a la the speakers, including Phil Bradley, the vendors, publishers and much more. The social networking environment appears to be taking a new turn in the business world………..therefore, I’ll be back shortly.

 

 


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.