Friday, 15 February 2008

Baftas Awards spiced with a bit of Humor

Well, thank the gods, the Writers’ Guild of America has ceased its strike! I can go back to legally downloading and watching US series. Those damned writers disrupted a routine that had taken me months to develop. I was, at the height of my abilities, legally watching between 5 and 7 series simultaneously. But enough about me.

Let us talk about that other TV programme that had everyone talking a few days ago, as they were panicking that the Writers strike was going to block the Oscars, the Holiest of Holy Award Ceremonies. Yes, a few days ago we were graced by stars walking down a red carpet in London, to receive their very own British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award (sponsored by Orange, just like rugby. Classy).

In fact, several deserving individuals did win awards. Atonement won best film even though it had been nominated for 14 BAFTAs. It did also win a technical award. Best male actor was taken by Daniel Day Lewis for There Will Be Blood, which I have heard mentioned as film of the decade by fellow filmmakers. Marion Cotillard won the award for best actress after a masterful job in La Vie En Rose, where she completely transforms from one scene to the next.

The Coen brothers took home a Best Director award for No Country for Old Men (I wonder whose room they keep that, do you think they fight over it, does their mum decide?), which I absolutely adored and will definitely watch in the cinema; at some point. The supporting actor and actress were also very, very good. Tilda Swinton, whose green frock I still have nightmares about), accepted the award best supporting actress for a contained explosion of a performance in Michael Clayton, while Javier Bardem managed to avoid the pitfall Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz fell into when acting in Hollywood. Being crap in English. Even though these actors have given incredibly intricate performances in Spanish films, upon reaching Hollywood it’s all downhill. Bad directing I tell you. In any case, Javier Bardem steals the show in No Country For Old Men, as the psychotic hitman. Well done Javier!

Was Sweeney Todd nominated for something? I hope it didn’t win. You pay good money and see one of those films in the cinema… I miss the old Tim Burton, the miserable unhappy man. This guy with the girlfriend and the kids just doesn’t cut it. Anyway…

Speaking of award ceremonies, there is a very easy way of finding excellent European, Asian, etc. films to watch. Screen Daily( and Variety( have all of the news and detailed list of other award ceremonies and festivals ( That’s how I figure out what to legally download and watch next. I wonder if they will even have enough for the red carpet at the Oscars this year, what with all the revenue they must be losing from me not going to the cinema.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Doing the "money-laundry"

Money laundering is a global problem.
How do you hide a million in cash? Staying one step ahead of the law has lead to increasingly sophisticated methods of hiding dirty money and we all know how much criminals love playing hide and seek with the law.

Money launderers can use any of the following methods to hide dirty money:

1. Transport the cash to another country and dispose it there.
2. Put the cash into a bank or other financial business.
3. Purchase a luxury item.
4. Channel money through a shell company*.
5. Channel money through a legitimate company.
6. Purchase instruments such as travellers' cheques or bankers' drafts, which are legitimate instruments used for overseas exchange purposes

The money laundering process may vary depending on the criminal organisation’s available laundering mechanisms. However, all criminals attempting to launder funds have three requirements in common, which are to:

- conceal the true ownership and origin of the funds,
- maintain control over the proceeds,
- convert cash into other assets as quickly as possible.

And to do so, they need to go three stages. Irrespectively of whether these three stages occur simultaneously, overlap, or occur as separate and distinct phases, the money laundering process stages are:

1. Placement. At this stage, the launderer needs to transform banknotes into non-cash assets. The launderer’s first step is to place this physical cash with some form of financial institution and/or to purchase some form of asset. They usually prefer to purchase luxurious items using the illegally-derived cash. Alternatively, it could be deposited in a bank or placed through a non-bank financial institution such as a currency exchange, casino – how convenient really! -, or cheque-cashing service.
2. Integration. Basically, the launderer tries to integrate illicit funds with legitimate business. The launderer covers his tracks by using banks and other low-risk businesses or institutions to integrate their assets. The type of financial institution will determine the nature of the laundering. Retail banks are most exposed when handling cash; investment banks are most exposed when dealing with businesses and high net worth individuals.
3. Layering. The objective of the layering stage is to disguise the origins of criminal funds. The launderer creates complex layers of financial transactions designed to hinder the audit trail, disguise the origins of the criminal funds, and provide anonymity. Examples of layering techniques are sales of illegally-derived luxury assets (usually at inflated prices), back-to-back loans involving illegally-derived funds, and bogus letter of credit transactions.

There are three areas where the money launderer is most vulnerable to detection:
- initial entry of cash into the financial system
- funds transfers within and from the financial system
- cash flows abroad.

*Shell Companies
A shell company is a non-trading company used as a vehicle for various corporate manoeuvres.

Dealing with Bullying, Harrassment or Victimisation

UK Survey has shown that bullies, in the work environment, are not predominantly male as most people think (another stereotype perhaps?). On the contrary, the ratio of male to female bullies is approximately 50:50! Yet still about three-quarters, or 75%, of the targets are female.

Bullying is rarely physical and instead tends to be psychological. The most common type of bullying is constant and unjustifiable criticism. This can lead to stomach problems and stress. However, bullying is not synonymous with harassment.

The survey also reveals that is that most bullies try to make others look inadequate, so they do not have to face up to their own shortcomings. It often happens, that bullies belong to the more senior level of the organisation they belong to, and they target to someone on his team because he knows the person consists a threat to his position.

This type of bullies flourish in poorly managed environment, where bullying others into submission helps bullies to keep their jobs. The bad news are, that bullies are usually charming and accomplished liars, which makes confronting them a bit problematic for the target, especially if he is not as popular.

Harassment can take many different forms including racial and sexual harassment; bullying is just one form of harassment. If an employee feels they have been subjected to any form of discrimination, harassment, victimisation or bullying, they should immediately contact their manager and/or their HR Manager.