Monthly Archives: April 2013

  • Translators and interpreters – the illustrated guide

    In the past this blog has drawn attention to the sloppy use of terminology by the BBC and others, confusing translators with interpreters.

    As some media types seem incapable of dealing with too many words, here’s a handy illustrated guide for them (all images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).

    Firstly, a translator in the pre-digital age.

    image of St Jerome
    A pre-digital age translator at work

    The bearded chap scribbling away is St. Jerome, one of the fathers of the Catholic Church, renowned for his translation into Latin of the Vulgate Bible.

    Nowadays, a modern translator is more likely to be scribbling away using the kit in the picture below.

    image of a translator's desk
    A modern translator’s desk

    Note the keyboard, screen and dictionaries. The written word is clearly involved here.

    Next we have a couple of conference interpreters.

    image of conference interpreters in action
    Conference interpreters in action

    Note the use of headsets and microphones. The spoken word is in evidence here.

    However, interpreters sometimes use the written word to take notes, as shown here, but this is merely to assist in remembering long passages of spoken words.

    image of President Barack Obama meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the Oval Office Thursday, May 28, 2009.  The man sitting between them is an interpreter.
    On the left Mahmoud Abbas, on the right Barack Obama. Between them sits a White House interpreter taking notes while POTUS speaks.

    Confused by translators and interpreters? You shouldn’t be! We’re here to help nation write and speak respectively to nation! 😉

  • libwww released 20 years ago today

    The H Online reminds us that 20 years ago CERN in Geneva gave Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau official permission to release the libwww library free of charge, according to Berners-Lee, “to create a server or a browser, to give it away or sell it, without any royalty or other constraint”.

    Since then this act of altruism on the part of CERN has had a profound effect on the world of communications. libwww (Library World Wide Web) is a highly modular client-side web API for Unix and Windows, as well as being the name of the reference implementation of this API. It can be used for both large and small applications, including web browsers/editors, robots and batch tools.

    Its more modern replacement is considered to be libcurl.

    You can read more about libwww on Wikipedia.

    Reposted from Bristol Wireless.

  • Swindon GBH case adjourned due to lack of interpreter

    image of scales of justiceThe evidence continues to stack up that Capita Translation & Interpreting just cannot fulfil the contract it has with the Ministry of Justice for the provision of interpreting services for courts and tribunals.

    On Wednesday last week, This is Wiltshire reported on a trial at Swindon Crown Court for grievous bodily harm which had to be adjourned due to the non-appearance of an interpreter.

    A 27 year-old Pole resident in Staverton left a man needing surgery on a fractured eye socket after an assault in a bar in Swindon in November last year.

    Although the defendant pleaded guilty, sentencing has been adjourned on Tuesday by Recorder Michael Selfe until an interpreter can attend as the defendant does not speak good enough English to understand court proceedings.

    The defendant was released on bail.

    Courts really should start recouping the costs of delays to cases and the additional expenses incurred from Capita T&I.

  • The most clueless tweet yet by a politician?

    Politicians are not renowned for their use of either modern technology or social media. As regards the latter, this was previously noted by tech humour site xkcd with the “Clueless Politician Coast” on the island of Twitter on its Updated Online Communities map in 2010.

    If proof were needed of this cluelessness, this was happily provided today by Maria Miller MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

    screenshot of tweet from Maria Miller MP

    Case proven, m’lud?

    Those with memories capable of coping with more than 140 characters – 138 more than used by Ms Miller – may recall she was the MP who thought it was perfectly in order for taxpayers to provide her parents with somewhere to live.

  • Blacklisting

    This coming Monday 29th April Bristol Radical History Group and Bristol & District Hazards Group are jointly organising an evening talk entitled ‘Blacklisting’ at 7.30pm at Tony Benn House, 92 Victoria Street, Redcliffe, Bristol BS1 6AY (map) to mark Workers’ Memorial Day.

    Politicians and employers like to portray the blacklisting of trade union members for their health & safety activities as a thing of the past. That does not correspond with the reality of life for those who continue to stick their neck out to protect themselves, their workmates and the public. Indeed, here in Bristol builders and electricians who were members of trade unions were banned from taking part in the building of Cabot Circus shopping centre, it has emerged.

    The talk will feature 2 speakers.

    Firstly, Di Parkin is a historian and has published “60 Years of Struggle“, the history of Betteshanger, a militant Kent pit. She will speak about the actions of the Economic League who provided blacklisting information to employers in the 1970s and the impact this had in places such as British Leyland’s Cowley car works and the Kent coalfield.

    Secondly, an electrician who’s an active member of Unite, a shop steward and who has worked in the construction industry for 40 years will talk about his experiences of victimisation and the campaign against blacklisting.

    Donations from attendees will be welcome.

  • Recommended software: Tor Browser Bundle

    If you’re interested in safe, secure internet browsing, you’ll be interested in the Tor Browser Bundle.

    Tor itself is a network of virtual tunnels that allows people and groups to improve their privacy and security on the internet. As a user, Tor protects you by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world: it prevents somebody watching your internet connection from learning what sites you visit; it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location and it lets you access sites which are blocked. For more information about Tor, read the project’s overview page.

    screenshot of Tor browser bundle in action
    Tor Browser Bundle in action. I was in Bristol. The IP address resolves to San Donato Milanese in Italy.

    The Tor Browser Bundle lets you use Tor on Linux, Mac OS X or Windows without the need to install any software. all you need to do is unzip the package for your particular OS, and it’s ready to use. The Tor Browser bundle can run off a USB flash drive, is self-contained and comes with a pre-configured web browser to protect your anonymity.

  • “Enhancements” proposed to Capita linguists’ payments

    Reading through the MoJ‘s response to the Justice Select Committee report, there are so many points that have to be challenged and demolished that it’s difficult to know where to start, but let’s begin with the proposed changes to linguist payments. It should not be forgotten that when National Audit Office, Public Accounts Committee and Justice Select Committee were investigating the FWA, Capita was paying 40p/mile and a £5 supplement for online booking, since then Capita cut the rate to 20p/mile and scrapped the supplement. If Helen Grant considers the proposed enhancements as a step forward, they come after Capita has already taken 2 steps backwards.

    1. Paying 20p/mile for the first 10 miles of each leg of a journey. That’s worth £4, but is still small change compared to what Capita linguists lost when the mileage rate was cut from 40p/mile.

    2. Tier 1 linguists to be paid £22/hour for Tier 2 assignments, so that’s an extra £2/hour, but let’s not forget withdrawal of the £5 online booking supplement.

    3. Payment for 15 minute blocks. On average, this would mean being paid for an extra 7 minutes per assignment, or £2.56 per assignment. See 2 above.

    4. Cancellation fees. It remains to be seen what the cancellation fee is going to be, and how short the notice has to be before it becomes payable. I wonder if this will coincide with Capita introducing a cancellation penalty on linguists that cancel their booking at short notice.

    5. Daily fee to help cover incidental costs that a linguist may occur. Note the use of the phrase ‘help to cover’, rather than ‘to cover’. It remains to be seen how much this fee is going to be. Maybe on arrival at court, the booking clerk will give each linguist £1 to help cover the cost of a cup of tea and a packet of crisps*.

    It would be interesting to know how these are intended to be paid to linguists. It would only make sense for these to be paid through Capita, otherwise it completely undermines the benefit of only dealing with one supplier. This can only mean that MoJ is going to increase the rates it pays to Capita in order to cover the cost of these enhanced payments. Given that what Capita charges now is commercially sensitive and therefore not revealed by MoJ (though everyone has figured out what it is) will the MoJ be disclosing how much extra it intends to pay Capita?

    Could this be the Trojan horse the MoJ is looking for to funnel extra cash into Capita’s pockets so that they can start to recoup their losses and make profits instead? After all, isn’t that the whole point of outsourcing? Whenever public money is being spent, shouldn’t our chums in big business be given the opportunity to line their pockets with taxpayer’s money?

    Reposted – with a few links and tags added – from Linguist Lounge. Read the original.

    * = Shouldn’t that be peanuts? Ed.

  • On Mayday copy all your emails to Theresa May

    Mayday Mayhem campaign imageThe government wants to establish a database of all the emails, internet browsing habits and telecommunications data under the Communications Data Bill, also known as the Snooper’s Charter (posts passim).

    Why not save them one day’s effort by copying you send for a whole day to the Home Secretary? Show “Big Sister” that her “Big Brother” plans are not acceptable.

    For those readers on Facebook, there’s a campaign page there.

  • I write to my MP on Snooper’s Charter

    surveillance-pcIt seems that the Home Office is trying to sneak the Communications Data Bill, also known as the Snooper’s Charter, into the Queen’s Speech to be given to Parliament on 8th May.

    It’s trying to do this with as little consultation as possible and whilst trying to keep the details of the Bill secret.

    As I’m not a criminal, I object to having my communications monitored by the government and have today written the email below to my MP, Stephen Williams, to draw his attention to the Home Office’s shenanigans.

    Dear Mr Williams

    I’ve written to you before on the matter of the Snooper’s Charter, also known as the Communications Data Bill.

    The Home Office is – to the best of my understanding – trying to rush through an revised version of the Bill (the previous version was roundly condemned by a joint committee of both Houses, if I recall correctly) with minimal or no consultation.

    In addition, the Bill has also attracted the attention of the Information Commissioner. Home Secretary Theresa May has so far declined to explain a proposed “filtering” system which would allow officials to trawl through the public’s private emails, text messages and other messages sent through the internet. However, the Information Commissioner has now ordered the Home Office to publish the advice that ministers received on the design, cost and risks of the new filtering system by 11th May. If the Home Office fails to comply with the Information Notice issued by the Commissioner last week, it will be judged as being in “contempt of court”. For full details, please see

    I would urge you to use your influence with Nick Clegg and David Cameron, who are this week deciding whether to keep the Snoopers’ Charter in the Queen’s Speech on 8th May.

    Yours, etc.

    For those readers also concerned by the illiberality of the Home Office’s proposals – of which the GDR’s Stasi would have been proud – discover what you can do by consulting the Open Rights Group website.

  • First they came for the interpreters, then the lawyers

    image of scales of justiceThe Ministry of Justice seems to think that justice is something that comes at a price, not something that has an intrinsic non-pecuniary value. Ever since the coalition government got its foot in the door of the MoJ in Petty France, their primary concern seems to have been to save money, not to ensure that justice – that nebulous, non-quantifiable concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, equity or fairness, as well as the administration of the law – is administered fairly and equitably.

    It started with interpreting services for courts and tribunals (posts passim), a topic this blog has been monitoring closely for many months.

    That saga began with then Justice Minister Crispin Blunt erroneously describing court interpreters as ‘grossly overpaid‘ and ‘taking advantage of the system’ as justification for handing the whole lot over to the consistently under-performing Capita/ALS. What started as a scheme intended to save £18 mn. a year out of an annual budget of £60 mn. is having the opposite effect as justice is denied, delayed or provided at increased cost to the public purse as trials are delayed due to underqualified or unqualified interpreters being provided, interpreters not turning up at all and defendants being remanded in custody.

    The ministers and mandarins at the MoJ will of course deny that this is the situation (and probably couldn’t care less about it either. Ed.), despite courts interpreting service provided by Capita being condemned by two House of Commons Select Committees – the Public Accounts Committee and the Justice Committee.

    In its latest daft idea to try and save money, the MoJ is turning its attention to ‘reforming’ (i.e. cutting. Ed.) legal aid for criminal cases.

    A report in Sunday’s Express states that more than 1,500 High Street solicitors will be forced to close branches “within a year” if the Government’s – i.e. the MoJ’s – controversial legal aid reform plans succeed.

    This latest money-saving MoJ wheeze is being piloted by Justice Minister Chris Grayling and is intended to save £220 mn. from the £2 bn. legal aid bill. Lawyers and MPs are warning that these measures would transform Britain’s legal system from one of the world’s most respected to that of a “banana republic”.

    Some 1,600 local solicitors firms offer legal aid for criminal cases. Under Grayling’s proposals this figure would be slashed to 400, with contracts for criminal work tendered for the lowest bid going to bulk providers like supermarket giant Tesco, Olympics fiasco security firm G4S and the haulier Eddie Stobart, whose primary businesses aren’t in any way connected with the provision of legal advice (would you engage a plumber to fix a leaking roof? Ed.).

    Under Grayling’s plans, defendants who cannot afford to pay for advocates will no be able longer choose their own legal aid provider but will be assigned one. That legal aid provider will be paid one fee for the case regardless of the advocate’s performance and whether or not a client pleads guilty.

    This will remove a fundamental right from defendants in criminal trials – the right to choose a legal representative of one’s choice.

    Furthermore, Michael Turner QC, head of the 4,000 strong Criminal Bar Association, has warned: “Our barristers’ system will fail. Our brilliant judiciary comes from the Bar. Once you have Tesco and G4S providing advocates, you will get Tesco and G4S judges in 10 years’ time. Make no bones about it, we are facing absolute devastation to what is the finest legal system in the world.”

    A barrister of my acquaintance has described this as “killing the criminal bar,” adding, “Soon we will have wholly state-appointed defence lawyers and a guarantor of British liberty will die.”

    If one takes the MoJ’s track record as shown by courts and tribunals interpreting, the result will prove to be disastrous and another breeding ground for miscarriages of justice.

    Needless to say, there’s a petition against the MoJ’s plans. The petition’s text is reproduced below.

    Save UK Justice

    Responsible department: Ministry of Justice

    The MoJ should not proceed with their plans to reduce access to justice by depriving citizens of legal aid or the right to representation by the Solicitor of their choice.

    It’s time the MoJ looked at the big picture, not just the bottom line of the financial statements.

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