Apr 13

Hospitality exchange organisation grows to 100,000 members

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Hospitality Club became the first hospitality exchange network to pass the 100,000 members milestone on January 11, 2006. Its closest competitors, CouchSurfing and GlobalFreeLoaders, have 40,000 and 30,000 members.

Hospitality exchange organisations are dedicated to putting travellers in contact with locals offering to host them in their house for free, or simply offer them a tour of their city or share a meal with them. Besides the obvious financial advantage, the Hospitality Club believes that “bringing people together and fostering international friendships will increase intercultural understanding and strengthen peace.”

Servas Open Doors, the oldest network, in fact formally views itself as a peace initiative, and there are also a number of smaller hospitality exchange networks which focus on specialized audiences, such as Agritourism.

w:Veit Kühne from Dreseden, Germany, who founded the Hospitality Club in 2000 while he was still a student, believes that “one day, everyone will have the opportunity to visit any country knowing that someone will be waiting to receive them with open arms. People will travel in a different way, meet each other and build intercultural understanding through personal contact.”

“There will be many members in places like Israel and Palestine, Northern Ireland, the Balkans, Chechnya, Rwanda, or Timor who will exchange hospitality with each other, and in small steps the Hospitality Club will have helped making peace a lasting vision for our wonderful planet,” he adds.

Hospitality Club was the first online organisation to offer on a major scale the possibility for travellers to find and contact locals open to cultural exchange. The whole system is entirely free, and hosting fees are supported by Google advertisements. The safe and efficient operation of the 30+ languages website and its database, forum, and chatroom depends on the work of hundreds of volunteers from around the world.

Anybody can become a member, but they must provide their full name and address, for security reasons. All members have a profile they can fill with information about themselves and their preferences, to help prospective visitors contact the person most likely to welcome them.

The most often mentioned drawback of the system is lack of security. The main difference between hospitality exchange networks and other social networking platforms such as Orkut or LiveJournal is that the former’s ultimate objective is to allow for face-to-face meetings. Users should realise that there is a risk involved, although according to Frenchman Jean-Yves Hégron, main software developer of the Hospitality Club, “By using the Club you have the same level of risk as the one you face whenever you get out from your home.”

Discussion about strategic or security issues is not allowed on the website’s forum, hence critics often mention lack of transparency in how they perceive decisions are taken by volunteers in Hospitality Club. Another point of critique is the fact that there is no legal organisation behind Hospitality Club, and the domain name is registered to the founder of the Club himself. Messages containing links to other hospitality exchange networks were at some point deleted without further notice though this policy has since then been reverted. Exponential growth of the network has also caused server failures alike to those observed in Wikipedia until recently.

The idea of free hospitality exchange is not new. Servas was the first organisation to develop it, right after World War II. It still exists to this day, with over 15,000 members, and is represented as an NGO in the United Nations. Because democratic, paper-based Servas is perceived as bureaucratic by some, Hospex was created as the first online network in 1991.

Hospitality Club succeeded to Hospex in August 2000, introducing innovative security features ranging from spam protection to passport control and a sophisticated feedback system, thus making online hospitality exchange available to travellers with higher safety concerns. From 1000 members in July 2002 to 10,000 in February 2004, it quickly grew to 100,000 on 11 January 2006 and is expected to reach the million in about two years.

A Wikipedia article has a list of hospitality exchange services.
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Apr 13

FIFA announce Russia to host 2018 World Cup, Qatar to host 2022 World Cup

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Football’s governing body, FIFA, today announced Russia is to host the 2018 World Cup, and Qatar is to host the 2022 World Cup. The decision was made by FIFA’s 22 executive members, who conducted a ballot in Zurich today. Russia beat England, Spain-Portugal and Holland-Belgium to host the event in 2018. The Qatar bid was picked ahead of the United States, Australia, Japan, and South Korea to stage the 2022 tournament.

Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Igor Shuvalov spoke briefly to react to his country’s victory. “You have entrusted us with the FIFA World Cup for 2018 and I can promise, we all can promise, you will never regret it. Let us make history together,” he said. Some analysts had suggested that Russia would not win the right to host the tournament, since Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had decided not to travel to Zurich, but remained in Moscow. FIFA President Sepp Blatter said of Russia: “I am sure that to organise the World Cup in that region, or that continent, it will do a lot of good for this part of the world.”

You have entrusted us with the FIFA World Cup for 2018 and I can promise, we all can promise, you will never regret it. Let us make history together

Russia captain Andrey Arshavin said he was “very, very happy” with the result. “It is going to have a huge impact in sports, in our economy, in the development of the country and even in politics. The influence of football in the world is huge. You can see that even today with the presentations and those who were making them,” he said. “It’s going to be the best World Cup in history because Russians are so hospitable. I hope it will change the way that Europe and the world view Russia—and hopefully change the opinion of Russian people too.”

Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the ruling Emir of Qatar, praised FIFA for “believing in change”. Al Thani, who was in Zurich for the announcement, added: “We have worked very hard over past two years to get to this point. Today we celebrate, but tomorrow, the work begins. We acknowledge there is a lot of work for us to do, but we also stand by our promise that we will deliver.” Qatar urged FIFA to take “a bold gamble” by hosting the event in the Middle East for the first time. While only 1.7 million people live in Qatar, the bid representatives said that football is popular there. It was thought that there may be concerns that the extreme heat in Qatar would put the delegates off. Hassan Al-Thawadi, the chief executive of the bid, played down the fears. “We know it would be a bold gamble and an exciting prospect but with no risk,” he said. “Heat is not and will not be an issue.”

“Everyone is celebrating in the Middle East; everyone was behind us since the very beginning. They believed in us the whole way. And I’m so glad FIFA believed in us as well,” Al Thani added. “I’m speechless, but very proud and happy. I’m so proud that the Middle East was recognised by FIFA. We are so privileged to have a tournament like this coming to our region for the first time. It shows the value of FIFA and what it stands for as an organisation. As I promised, we will not let FIFA down. Everything we have promised until now will become a reality.” Speaking about why Qatar won the bid, he said: “What made us different is that we pushed the boundaries; we created new concepts, things which were not conventional but still very possible, very realistic for a country like ours. Therefore we are very proud to represent a new era, a new age for FIFA to look towards the future—the World Cup is for everyone.

There was disappointment in the countries which were beaten by Russia and Qatar. “Naturally we are hugely disappointed. At the same time we gave it our best shot,” said England ambassador Gary Lineker. “It was very well presented by our bid team. All you can do is wish Russia well and hope they have a really good World Cup but I wish it was us.” A journalist in Spain reported that there was “bitter disappointment here amongst Spanish fans,” and added that the economic crisis in the country may have been to blame. American supporters watching on large screens in Washington, D.C. were, when it was announced Qatar had won, “simply stunned—no booing or tears, but disbelief; and then a minute later, every face shows honest disappointment,” a BBC correspondent said.

The managing director for the Spain-Portugal joint bid, Miguel Angel Lopez, commented on losing out to Russia. “FIFA thought it was better to promote football in other latitudes and there we are,” he said. “The decision is focused on taking football to regions which have never held a World Cup.” Former Belgian footballer Marc Wilmots said: “Russia is a political choice and Qatar is an economic choice. You can say that to some extent the sport has been the loser with the decision for these two World Cups.”

We had heard people say our bid was too soon so it’s possible that was the reason. We knew it would be tough but it’s still a big disappointment.

Howard Stringer, Japan’s bid chairman and CEO of Sony said: “We had it in 2002—that was too big a mountain to climb. I was hoping we could get Japan another mission—the chance to do something spectacular in technology for society.” The vice-president of the Japan Football Association Kuniya Daini added: “We had heard people say our bid was too soon so it’s possible that was the reason. We knew it would be tough but it’s still a big disappointment. We have set a target of hosting the World Cup alone by 2050 so we will be bidding again.” The Australian Sports Minister Mark Arbib told local media: “We’re all pretty shattered over here. It was a bit unexpected because we thought we had run a first-class campaign to win. We did our best … unfortunately it wasn’t the case.”

Making the announcement, Blatter said: “We have had four bidders for 2018 and we can have only one winner. Three of the bidding associations must go home saying ‘what a pity’. But they must say football is not only by winning but football is also a school of life where you learn to lose. That’s not easy.” The 2010 World Cup was held earlier this year in South Africa, and Brazil will host the 2014 World Cup. When the bids for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments were announced in March 2009, Blatter praised the number of countries who wanted to host. “We are very pleased about the fantastic level of interest in our flagship competition, with all initial bidders confirming their candidature.”

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Apr 13

British Army chief General Sir Richard Dannatt stands down

Saturday, August 29, 2009

General Sir Richard Dannatt retired from his post as Chief of the General Staff of the British Army yesterday, announcing General Sir David Richards as his successor.

Dannatt was regarded by many soldiers as a person to be admired, having campaigned for better pay and conditions for soldiers. It has been reported, however, that prime minister Gordon Brown does not agree with this view—politicians are thought to have disliked him drawing attention to the Ministry of Defence’s failings.

He is expected to continue his campaign for the improvement of soldiers’ pay and conditions in his new role as 159th Constable of the Tower of London.

Dannatt has opposed the invasion of Iraq since he started his job as Chief of the General Staff, and criticised the government’s post-war planning.

Richards, Dannatt’s successor, said, “I wish to thank General Sir Richard Dannatt for his leadership, dedication and courage as Chief of the General Staff and more broadly for his long and distinguished 40 year career.” Richards served in Afghanistan, where he was appointed overall commander of international forces, making him the first British soldier to command American troops since the Second World War.

Posted in Uncategorized
Apr 12

Tyre Pressure Gauges As Promotional Items}

Submitted by: Matt Franks

One of the most useful categories of promotional items is car accessories. There are so many things that people can use for their cars, from large emergency kits in personalized cases to items small enough to slip into a glove compartment or even a persons pocket. Almost everyone owns a car and spends a considerable amount of time in it, so any item that centers around that car is sure to bring your promotional item to your customers attention on a regular basis.

Thats especially true if you provide your customers with car-maintenance items. People have to keep these items on hand and within easy reach most of the time, just in order to make sure their cars are running the way they should. One of these important car-maintenance items is a tyre gauge. Tyre gauges are small, slender tools, often very similar in size to a pen, that are used to measure the air pressure in a cars tyres. This is a very easy but very important piece of car maintenance; if a cars tyres have incorrect pressure, it could decrease gas mileage, increase wear on the tyres, and reduce the cars safety. Your logo will be printed across the side of the tyre gauge in those moments when your customers are checking on the safety and efficiency of their tyresand safety and efficiency care definitely two ideas you want your customers to associate with you.

The simple, pen sized tyre gauge is not very expensive. If you buy them in large quantities, they can be as little as $1.50 each. This is a very reasonable price to put into your customers hands something that will serve them well and remind them of your business. These little gauges can measure up to 50 pounds of tire pressure, which is plenty for any regular car or truck.

There are also variations on the standard pen sized tyre gauge. Some companies offer a three-in-one model that has a built-in flashlight, in case your customers are trying to check their tire pressure in a place where they cannot see the manual read-out of the pen sized model. This type of gauge also has a LED, glowing read-out so that your customers can accurately read the pressure in their tyres. Some companies also offer a dial-type tyre gauge. This instrument is handy because it can not only measure your customers tyres, but it can help deflate them if they have accidentally put too much air in. This is important because too much air in a tyre is as dangerous as too little.

Digital tyre gauges also do the job for your customer, by reading air pressure and giving an easy-to-read digital read-out. Digital gauges are a little more expensive, but they are very attractive and accurate. You can also get tyre gauges as parts of gift sets or emergency kits. These products can have your name nicely engraved on the case to call to your customers minds your companys helpfulness and concern for their safety.

About the Author: Matt Franks is director of Fluid Branding, the UK’s largest supplier of

Promotional Tyre Pressure Guages

and other

Promotional Products

at www.fluidbranding.com. For Eco Friendly promotional products, including Recycled, Organic and Sustainable items visit www.ecoincentives.com



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Apr 12

Dead children found in car in Sussex, UK

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The bodies of two children were found this morning in a car in Heathfield, East Sussex, in the United Kingdom. A 43-year-old woman has been arrested on suspicion of the murders.

The boy and girl were both less than five years old, and were discovered at 11:46 this morning (GMT) when Sussex police officers forced their way into the vehicle, which was parked on Mill Close in Heathfield. The woman, who has yet to be identified, had visited Heathfield police station earlier this morning to report “an incident”, and was later arrested on suspicion of murder. The police say that they have identified the bodies. The identities will be revealed when the post mortem examinations take place, which is scheduled for next Thursday.

I would like to reassure people that it is fully contained and there is no threat to anyone in the area

The woman was taken to Eastbourne District General Hospital, and has not yet been interviewed by the police. She is believed to be from Surrey but have connections with the Heathfield area. Mill Close, the road on which the incident occurred, has been closed, according to a police spokeswoman, who said, “An investigation is now under way and the area around the scene is cordoned off.” Chief Inspector Julia Pope, Wealden district policing commander, said, “This is a very tragic incident, but I would like to reassure people that it is fully contained and there is no threat to anyone in the area. We will move to restore normality and access to Mill Close as quickly as possible.” A spokesman for the South East Coast Ambulance Service said, “We sent an ambulance and two response cars but sadly two young children were pronounced dead at the scene.”

Posted in Uncategorized
Apr 11

Last British volume car manufacturer closes down

Friday, April 15, 2005

The last British-owned volume car manufacturer, MG Rover, has closed down, with the loss of 5,000 jobs.

International accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCooper was brought in last week to put the company into administration. Today PwC announced that MG Rover’s only hope, the Chinese car company SAIC, had no interest in buying the ailing firm. With no further source of revenue, PwC has closed the company’s factory in Longbridge, Birmingham and has laid off 5,000 workers.

Some 1,000 workers will continue for a while to complete the remaining cars left on the production line.

The BBC reported PwC joint administrator Tony Lomas as saying “We’ll explore what we would describe as the break-up of the business, we will carry on with the interested parties who want to talk about pieces of the business.”. PwC said around 70 offers for various parts of the company had been made but no serious offers of money made.

Recent efforts to save the company had been centered on convincing SAIC (Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp.) to buy the company as a going concern, but the Chinese company stated it would only buy the company if it’s financial position could be guaranteed to be secure for at least two years. The British government could not make such a commitment due to European Union trade and competition rules.

The SAIC company did buy the designs for the 75 and 25 models and for the K-Series engines for £67m.

The Rover car company has a long but troubled history. It was formed in 1968 after a series of mergers of existing car manufacturers, and was nationalized in 1975 after it ran into financial difficulties. In 1979 a long-running deal to collaborate on developing new vehicles was established with the Japanese company Honda. In 1988 the company was privatized and was bought by British Aerospace. In 1994 British Aerospace sold the business to BMW, who then sold the Land Rover brand to Ford and finally sold the company in 2000 for just £10, retaining the well-known Mini brand for themselves. The MG Rover company was run by a private group until its collapse.

MG Rover has not launched a new model since the 75 was introduced in 1998 during the period of ownership by BMW. Their next newest model was the 25, originally launched as the 200 series some ten years ago. Rover also produced the 45, which dates from 1990, and the ZF sports car first launched in 1995. Sales of Rover cars accounted for just 3% of the UK car market in 2004.

Tony Blair announced a £150 million support package for the recently unemployed workers of the MG Rover plants, though it has been claimed that his generous offer may be more as a result of the nearby marginal seats in the upcoming elections than compassion on his part.

Posted in Uncategorized
Apr 08

Jeff Jones resigns as president of Uber

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Jeff Jones, president of ride-sharing company Uber Technologies, announced his resignation on Sunday. Jones was hired last October to helm the company that is known for their ride-sharing application, Uber, which has a reported 40 million monthly users.

Recently in Jones’s presidency of Uber, the ride-sharing company was involved in numerous controversies surrounding an alleged culture of sexism at the company, stemming from allegations blogged by Susan Fowler, a former Uber engineer, claiming sexual harassment against her and other women working for Uber.

In a statement to tech blog Recode, Jones claimed the situation he was working with at Uber was one inconsistent with “the beliefs and approach to leadership that have guided my career” and he could not remain the company’s president.

Jones, who was previously the Chief Marketing Officer at Target before joining Uber, came to the decision to resign after it was announced Uber would be hiring a Chief Operating Officer (COO) potentially outranking Jones.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick confirmed the resignation in a statement to Uber staff, noting Jones “made an important impact on the company” in the six months he was in the role, noting his particular focus on Uber drivers and the delivery of Uber’s first brand reputation study.

Kalanick first announced his intentions to hire a COO earlier in March after footage surfaced of him arguing about rate cuts with an Uber driver.

Posted in Uncategorized
Apr 04

Why Your Home Is Not Your Retirement Plan}

Submitted by: Vigi Floyd

If youve ever bought a home, chances are you know about equity. If you bought a home more than six years ago, then you definitely know about home equity because youve probably watched it rise and rise. Most homeowners have seen a flood of home equity offers come their way in the past few years, with whopping amounts apparently available to homeowners. Borrow so many thousands of dollars, go on that vacation, renovate your home, its so easy! Certainly, your home is probably your biggest asset, and for most people the biggest investment theyll ever make. As the offers for home equity lines of credit state, the value of your house may have risen substantially over the years, and you may be sitting on a lot of money, should you decide to sell. For this reason, many homeowners these days have come to think of their houses as a means of financing the big purchases in their lives. More and more homeowners borrow against the supposed higher value of their homes, taking on more debt according to the rising prices in the booming real estate market. Houses have become secondary bank accounts, from which borrowers withdraw cash for all sorts of purchases.

On the other hand, some homeowners consider the increased equity not bank account, but rather a form of retirement planning. Hold onto this thing, and well be rich in our old age, they seem to think. Although this strategy seems more careful, since the homeowners are planning for retirement rather than spending the equity in their homes, both groups are making bad investment choices. As we have seen recently in the news, the real estate market is highly volatile and things can go downhill very quickly, just as they went uphill rather quickly. Your equity can disappear almost overnight, as demand for housing dries up, supply surges, or risky loans re-adjust after a few years and banks start foreclosing, all of which send housing prices falling. Equity is perceived value, just as the price of your home is perceived value as well. It depends on the market, and the market is fickle, if not totally unpredictable. Yes, we should have seen this coming, considering the state of the subprime mortgage market, and in view of history of real estate markets.

Over the years, even if you sell your home for so much more than you paid, youve still incurred costs along the way. These costs would include upkeep, taxes, condo fees, perhaps. People have studied this, and they find that the cost of owning the home turns out in the end to be more than the money homeowners make when selling. A house is just not the type of investment people think it is. Its your home. Its your shelter from the world, its your comfort at the end of a long day. Isnt that enough? Let the professional investors try and make money off of real estate. They have more cash than the average person, for these types of investments. They also have insiders knowledge of how to buy under-priced homes and how to flip them at the right moment. Dont play with your life savings (your home) by treating home ownership as a get-rich scheme.

Studies have also shown that over the years, a house rarely makes as much money as the returns youd get in the stock market or other types of investments. The cycle for upswings and downturns in real estate can be far too long for the average person to suffer through. For example, consider a decade-long downswing in home prices and see how your investment feels after that. Or, consider a quarter century of measely 4% returns on real estate. Both of these things really happened in various parts of the country.

The moral of the story is, dont put too much of your net worth into your primary residence, especially if youre near retirement. A downswing like the one described above can be devastating for your finances. Stay modest with your borrowing, keep your costs down and try to avoid that equity line of credit, and diversify your investments.

About the Author: Macchi Coluccio

San Diego Real Estate



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Apr 04

Australian Paralympians cycling around Fiji for people with disabilities

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Two Australian Paralympic wheelchair basketball players, Shelley Chaplin and Leanne Del Toso, are cycling around Fiji to raise money for people in Fiji with disabilities. They hope to cover the route, which is roughly 500 kilometers (300 miles) long, in just ten days. They started on June 7, 2013 and plan to finish by June 16.

Along the way, they intend to do outreach, and mentor people with disabilities. They hope to raise A$13,000. So far, they have raised over A$12,400. They are using crowdfunding to finance their sporting event.

Del Toso suffered muscle deterioration in her legs and hands due to a degenerative neurological condition when she was 19, and rides her bike with the aid of orthotics. Chaplin was born a paraplegic, and is using a handcycle.

They won silver medals at the 2012 Summer Paralympics in London with the Australia women’s national wheelchair basketball team, commonly known as the Gliders.

Both also played for Victoria in Round One of the Australia Women’s Wheelchair Basketball League (WNWBL) competition last weekend. Victoria won all four of its games. They expect to be back in action again in Round Two in Perth on June 21–23.

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