Monday, December 10, 2007

Property Advisor Bradley Edwards Plays ‘Good Shepherd’ To Foreign Investors

By Sven Pomykalo and
Ugo Eriobuna

Bradley Edwards & Associates Ltd. is a real estate advisory firm based in Budapest, assisting and advising both private and professional investors making overseas real estate investments in Hungary. Their services include: property sales, property mortgages, property furnishing, property management, and property rental.

Robert Beck is the managing partner of the company. While Beck is a veteran of listing and selling property in the area for the past three years, his company is not a member of the Multiple Listing Service in Hungary, nor does he hold any position in Hungary either as a member or a trustee on any Real Estate boards in Hungary. He does however have over 2.000 apartments to sell and 500 to rent. Among all the agents selling properties in Budapest, his firm ranks 15th in terms of properties sold.

“The rental market is very strong in Budapest,” said Beck. “But in order to succeed in Real Estate business it takes basically luck, consistency, quality service, and also, good clients.”

In Property Sales, the firm offers a wide selection of properties available in the prime districts of Budapest for both commercial and residential real estate investments.

In regard to Property Mortgages, Bradley Edwards claims that mortgages for individuals in Hungary are as readily available as in Western Europe, subject to the usual status requirements. They add, however that it can be very time consuming and difficult for a foreign citizen to apply for a mortgage due to geographical distance and communication difficulties. By working in conjunction with several Hungarian banks, Bradley Edwards offers to assist its clients in finding the most convenient financing option; they submit the mortgage and loan documents and handle all communication with the bank.

Property Furnishing is an additional service offered by Bradley Edwards. According to their website, they supply contemporary furnishings of the quality and standard necessary for rented accommodation, providing individual items and flexible packages ensuring our solutions are within the client’s budget. Their aim, the site continues, is to provide a complete property furnishing service - right down to that last teaspoon. Their service includes budgeting, purchasing, delivery, assembly, installation and cleaning.

When it comes to Property Management, the firm provides the following: advertising the availability "for rent" or "for lease" of the premises when vacant; performing viewings to perspective tenants; executing leases and rental agreements on behalf of the property’s owner; collecting rents, security deposits, and all other receipts on behalf of the owner; providing all services necessary for the proper management of the property including periodic inspections, dealing with tenants, supervision of maintenance and arranging for repairs; paying from gross receipts all operating expenses which may be due by the Owner; maintaining accurate records of all money received and disbursed in connection with the management of the property.

Most of Bradley Edwards’ clients purchase their Hungarian property for mainly investment purposes, which the firm manages on their behalf. The firm currently manages a continuously expanding portfolio of upscale, newly built properties located throughout prime districts of Budapest at what they refer to as competitive prices. They claim the expertise of a professional staff with a high standard of ethics and a track record of sound decision-making and several years of experience and abundant resources.

Since entering Real Estate, Beck says, his life has changed for the better. He has today more Spanish clients, with less English and still fewer Irish clients. His reason for choosing Real Estate business is, he said, that it’s a very quick way to make money, and earn a better living. For now, he added, he is also happy with his company’s performance.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

"White Man's Burden" - a film review by Ugo Eriobuna

Ugo Eriobuna
Review Of White Man’s Burden
1995 Release.

What would happen if race roles in America were reversed? What if blacks had all the power and whites had to fight prejudice and racism at every turn? Such is the setting of writer/director Desmond Nakano's brilliant film, White Man's Burden. The movie is a tightly constructed drama about Louis Pinnock (John Travolta), a reliable blue collar man who works in a factory owned by high-society business man Thaddeus Thomas (Harry Belafonte.) At home, Louis had to deal with a rough neighborhood, gang violence, and trying to provide for his wife (Kelly Lynch) and two kids.

The opening scenes of “White Man’s Burden” are very interesting, as it turns the tables on the color-coding in America society. It simply reverses the stereotypical roles of blacks and whites: the black characters are the wealthy, powerful establishment types living in big mansion in the suburbs, and the whites are a poor, disadvantaged minority group.

The greatest shortcoming of this quality film is its oversimplification of racial issues. It does however succeed by exposing a lot of our assumptions and prejudices. When John Travolta, as a factory worker uneasily approaches the mansion of Harry Belafonte, the millionaire factory owner, we’re forced to recognize that if the worker were black and the rich man were white, the scene would seem stable. Because it isn’t – because privilege is turned upside down in the world of this film – we’re forced to re-evaluate every conversation and difference in the film.
Travolta plays Louis Pinnock, a man who has been sent to his boss’ home to deliver a package. Belafonte is the factory owner, Thaddeus Thomas. Louis is hard-working, has a good record at the factory, and is happy to do this extra work on a voluntary basis in order to score points with his superiors. He was told by the housekeeper to go around the rear door of the mansion; he pauses uncertainly on the lawn and happens to see the rich man’s wife, dressed only in a towel.

Thaddeus sees Louis on the lawn, and jumps into conclusion that he is a ‘peeping tom.’ But he doesn’t make any accusations. He simply suggests, at a social function, that the factory should choose another man the next time they send somebody over to deliver a package. It is a well-known function of organizations that orders from the top get amplified on the way down to the bottom, so that a wish becomes an edict. Louis is then fired for this act.

This is not good. He has a family to feed. His wife (Kelly Lynch) fears they’ll be evicted from their home. In desperation Louis goes to Thaddeus’ home to plead his innocence, but he was turned down completely. And so, in desperation, he kidnaps the rich man - looking not for ransom but for justice.

It’s at this point that I thought the movie goes off the rails. It turns into a routine kidnapping thriller, complete with an extended chase scene, violence and some kind of confrontations with the police saying “he fits the description.”

Inevitably, Thaddeus and Louis develop respect for one another, and the millionaire learnt his lesson. But that’s not enough of a payoff for this movie because it’s obvious, it’s easy, and it comes too late, after action scenes derived from a thousand other movies.

What I wish to see in this movie is that the entire film had devoted itself to the examination of its challenging idea. The early scenes are clever and effective at using the reversal gimmick to point out the countless ways that skin color affects behavior, attitudes and expectations. Consider for example the way the white character deals at various points in the movie with black cops. Consider the cops’ assumptions. Savor the dialogs at the dinner party in the film, where the black millionaire entertains his guests with confused racist generalizations. Watch the way the millionaire’s wife reacted when her son came home with (gasp) a white girl. I only wished the film would have been pushed further on this direction – dealing with the social situations in the same way and not switching lanes in the middle of the film.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Foreign Demand For Real Estate Falls In Hungary

By Boma Oduma

With unrealistic expectations for the performance of the residential real estate market in Hungary leading up to the nation’s EU accession in May, 2004, demand for Hungarian real estate by foreigners has taken a downward turn. Before accession, anticipation for increased foreign interest was very high in Hungary. The expectation drove developers to start new projects with some of them successfully developed in less than a year. An example of this tremendous success is the Duna-pest residences in Budapest’s district IX, which managed to complete 90% of its apartments in less than a year.

Although the residential market enjoyed the enormous benefit between 1997 and 2004 of catapulted real estate prices thanks in large part to foreign investment – most notably by the Irish – by the end of 2004 the market as a whole began to encounter less interest from foreigner investors.

“The increase did not reflect local investment,” said Andor Szel of Central Home, a leading Budapest realtor that specializes in selling downtown flats to foreign investors, “and, likewise, the downturn does not really reflect the Hungarian economy either, which is in fact growing.”

The 1990’s saw a great influx of German, Italian, and Israeli investors coming into Hungary as the market first opened to foreign buyers, according to the Central Home website. Rental income reached levels around 12%. With these days past and gone, however, foreign investors are turning away from Hungary, pitching their tents and their presence in Dubai, among other places, which appear to be more favourable at the moment. Dubai’s real estate popularity with foreign investors stems in part from coverage in British media: an exposure sorely missed by Budapest, even by the media of its most recent investors - the Scandinavians, the Spanish, and the Brits – whose general public lack the awareness of Budapest as a possible place of investment.

A vital issue for choosing a country of investment is access to local mortgages. Unfortunately, Hungarian mortgages are not easily accessible: with high interest rates, it is quite difficult for investors to purchase real estate and to invest in Hungary.

“Mortgage facilities in Hungary are not functioning well,” said Szel. “Due to economic pressures, it is very difficult to obtain mortgages from local banks. And those that are available come with very high interest rates, thereby discouraging locals from buying.”

The loan ratio is also relatively low in Hungary when compared to other western European countries, which likewise keeps down the relative prices of Hungarian real estate. Citizens as well as foreigners are affected by this fact, which holds back private investment. In Britain, there is an open possibility to take a British mortgage for a foreign investment, which gives British investors a comparative advantage so long as interest rates in Hungary stay high.

All hopes are not completely lost, as there are high expectations for 2007 regarding the reduction of interest rates for Hungarian mortgages. This promises to enhance the allure of the real estate market, churning forth a new wave of investors in Hungary since other market factors are indeed quite favourable. These include a fully-implemented computerized real estate register - unlike other countries in the region where printed documents are required as valid proof of ownership - as well as an availability of potential investments that outstrips more saturated markets in Western Europe.

Counterterrorism In Budapest

By Philipp Sigrist

“International terrorism is a growing problem in our world today. We need to learn how to fight it”- this was the slogan at the first conference of the International Anti Terrorism Association (I.A.A) that was held in the Art Palace of Budapest on the third of March 2006. Eight experts in the field held the six hours conference for the stated purpose of discussing terrorism and its various side effects.

International terrorism has become a growing concern in today’s world. It has attracted the attention of many different organizations and prompted the creation of many others, including the International Antiterrorist Association (I.A.A), which was formed in Hungary in June of 2006, which recently hosted a six-hour conference in Budapest. The eight speakers – which included a Hungarian army general and an Police expert on explosives - provided insights on the issues surrounding and giving birth to terrorism, and on the sophistication and reach achieved by today’s terrorists.

General Szabo was the first speaker to the podium. His speech concerned largely international security and its challenges. He pointed out various threats and how they can be solved.

First, he said, the dangers today are more complicated than before, specifying that in today’s world of globalization previous dangers are even more dangerous because of technological development. Local, National, and International problems, he said, are all connected with each other, and an increasing gap between rich and poor countries raises the danger of organized crime and terrorism in developing countries.

“International terrorism is so powerful,” said the general, “that it influences relations between nations. The sobering disadvantage of globalization is that it is easily abused, especially economically. After the fall of communism, criminal organizations grew rapidly throughout the eastern block. This resulted in Hungary becoming a drug transit country. Corruption often occurs in changing political systems. Populations grow older and pensions come under threat. Flooding and other natural catastrophes compound these difficulties. How can these problems be solved? First of all more information is needed. Organizations must function more efficiently and international problems will find international solutions. But most importantly we have to understand the way terrorists think, get to know their philosophies, structures, financial assets, as well as their goals. To understand the way they endanger can be treated like a science.”

The general concluded by saying that any kind of problem can be easily challenged if it is tackled as early as possible. To this end, he advocated avoidance rather than confrontation, assuring his audience that the necessary counterterrorism organizations will be formed in the near future.

The second speaker emphasized attacks conducted with explosives. Unlike the general, he took the view that terrorism is an ongoing war, rather than a problem to be addressed and prevented.

The number of suicide bombers, he said, has grown dramatically in recent years. He specifically stated several places where attacks had been carried out and described the results of these attacks. One example he gave was a bomb attack in Tunisia specifically aimed at tourists in order to destabilize the country. Interestingly, attackers often manage to penetrate high security zones such as in Saudi-Arabia, Iraq and Israel, he said, adding that whatever security protection there is, attackers often manage to break through checkpoints and other barriers.

“The Madrid bombing showed that attacks have become very well organized,” he said, “The bombings did not only become more sophisticated but also more ruthless. During the Bezlan siege for example, terrorists did not stop from killing children. Terrorism is constantly evolving technologically, monetarily as well as in popularity. It began with simple bombs, but today terrorists can be in possession of dirty bombs such as chlorine or even nuclear waste bombs. But the biggest fear is that one day that terrorists might have access to a working nuclear bomb.”

A speaker from the police raised issues relating to crisis management in the case of an emergency. He used a recent local event as example, the October 6 riots in Budapest.

“Theoretically it seemed perfectly manageable and controllable,” he said “but in practice everything turned out to be completely different.”

Since the police did not have much experience with riot control, it had to learned through trail and error. An attack on Hungary can result in similar failures, he added, since police forces are not experienced enough for such tasks, as they have never happened before.

The final speaker, the head of the I.A.A Tamas Lax ended the conference by summing up the various speeches and made one final conclusive statement. “The international community can fight terrorism if the necessary institutions and agencies efficiently work together with their governments, but the responsibility also lies within each individual”.

Eyes Open To Windows Vista

Ugo Eriobuna
David Valker

Microsoft has long promoted itself as being about helping individuals and communities around the globe with the mission of enabling new avenues of social and economic opportunity extending particularly to the estimated 5 billion people that have yet to realize the benefits of technological advance. The multinational company’s tools to achieve this are transforming education, fostering local innovation, and enabling jobs and opportunities to create a continuous cycle of sustained social economic growth for everyone. While achieving these goals currently remains a distant prospect, thirty years ago the dream of a PC in every middle-income home seemed likewise impossible. Today, with Microsoft having reached more than one billion users, life has changed profoundly: information is more readily available, connections are more easily made and commerce is more quickly undertaken. Bill Gates - along with his company – has indeed moved closer to his goals.

The latest move is called Windows Vista. Naturally, it contains a dazzling array of new features; some of the most significant include an updated graphical user interface and visual style called Windows Aero. Aero uses graphics hardware to add translucent boarders to your windows. Windows Aero builds on the basic Windows Vista user experience and offers Microsoft’s best-designed, highest-performing desktop experience. Using Aero requires a PC with a compatible graphics adaptor and running a Premium or Business edition of Vista. László Vajgel, working for Fourcut, an editing studio, when asked his views on Vista he said:

“There have been a lot of changes in the new software,” said László Vajgel, of Fourcut, an editing studio in Budapest, Hungary. “The buttons and functions I got used to in XP are not quite the same in Vista.”

Vajgel also expressed doubts about the number of people actually making the switch to the new software in his home market of Hungary.

“Most people here use, well - what is a nice way to say - ‘unlicensed products.,’” he said. “This cuts off the biggest share of buyers. Also, people don’t think that the product is that good at first.”

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, editor of the US-based Ziff Davis’ Internet Linux & Open Source expressed his own views.

“Vista will be better than XP, which has easily been Microsoft's best desktop operating system to date,” Vaughan-Nichols said. “However, Vista also requires far more hardware oomph than previous Windows systems. I'd say Intel's recommendations are pretty much a minimum for Vista. I would only add that if you expect to see the fancy desktop, you need to invest.”

On the other hand, companies, institutions, and business organizations can afford to use this new software at the moment in Hungary. Most individual users living in Budapest think it is too costly and prefer to wait till the price value comes down. Moreover, as could be seen from the release of previous Microsoft operating systems, they always need some adjustments. In addition, the product is only useable after a few months of real testing by users.

The testing process by real users won’t make Microsoft weaker, as people opposing “going global” hope. Vista continues the path, started in 1975, in which the computer transformed from an awkward, unfriendly machine to our everyday instrument and “friend”.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Delayed Metro Construction Hampers Budapest Traffic

By David Valker

With winter over, the annual season of Budapest road and transit construction is set to begin, to the chagrin of local motorists. As the building of the metroline 4 continues, several important junctions will be closed, adding to those still closed by delays in earlier construction.

Work on expanding the existing Kálvin square metro station began on February 26, but only the sidewalks were unfolded as the change of sewer lines were started. On the 5th of April, due to the rebuilding of the sewer system, the square will be closed to traffic, including trams, with only the tram-exchange buses allowed to enter. The scheduled date to give the square back to the public is the end of 2008.

Another major project is the building of a metro station at Fővám square, next to Szabadság-bridge, and Corvinus university. Initial work began on the 5th of March, and as the building of the frame starts in the middle of March, the Pest-side lower wharf will be closed to traffic. Because tram line 2 goes through this area, it is still a question how traffic will be re-routed. Construction will take approximately 6 months, authorities say. As subway lines are the indispensable veins of a city, the balk, residents must cope with the necessary negative side effects.

Unfortunately, there are more negative side effects than needed, thanks to poor planning and execution . The one possible detour to the Pest-side wharfs is the Buda-side upper wharf, which has been closed since May 15, 2006, due to the building of the Gellért square metro station. It was planned to give part of the roadway back to the public in November, 2006, but thanks to unexpected technical difficulties – such as a gas-pipe that turned up during construction, despite its absence on blueprints - the whole project is delayed. The originally scheduled end to the work was 2009 October, but as yet it is still unknown when the project company BAMCO will actually draw to a close.

The Downtown and Suburbs Traffic Association (VEKE) has claimed that DBR, the company manageing the metro station construction, should examine the links on its own website wherein foreign metro builders explain how their plans avoid difficulties for surface traffic. To which Gulyás László, leader of DBR responded: "The metro here could not be built that way. If we would start to make temporary rails for trams, that would delay the construction even more."

Péter Gábor, a traffic-expert added, "BKV should rethink the order of projects. If they close two major routes next to each other in the city, the consequences can be unpredictable. Especially if you take into account, that the Szabadság-bridge will be closed due to renovation in August."

With luck, the juice will be worth the squeeze, and Budapest’s traffic problems will be over by 2010.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Has Four Years of War Left The US Army Broken?

By Herman Lugaro

The twentieth of March, 2007, marked the fourth anniversary of the war in Iraq, a war with no certain end in sight. Each passing year, moreover, has seen an increase in the ongoing toll felt by the US Army. With constant rotation of tours, low recruitment numbers, and the growing reliance on the National Guard and reserves, a sobering question is being raised: is the Army broken?

General Colin Powell seems to think so. The former secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in an interview on CBS’s Face the Nation, that he views the Army as indeed nearly broken. He explained that the current active Army and Marine Corps are not large enough for the kinds of missions they are asked to perform. He added that another problem is that soldiers - mainly experienced Officers NCOs - are being sent on repeat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan thereby causing further strain.

In December 2006, Army Chief of Staff General Peter Schoomaker told the Commission on National Guard and Reserves that the Army would have to tap into National Guard and reserves more heavily in the short term to keep up with any increased demand for troops in Iraq or other operations abroad. In the long term, the general said, the Army would have to grow. This implies that the active Army is worn thin by constant deployments, and now has to rely on the reserves and National Guard to maintain such grueling demands.

In the wake of these burdening issues comes the now infamous “troop surge”. A “surge” is executed by extending the tour of the troops already in the country, and accelerating the arrival of incoming soldiers. The last “surge” was conducted from June to the end of 2006 called Operation Forward Together, which in the long run did not help make Baghdad safer, despite its aim to do so. The Bush administration has faith that the current “surge” called New Way Forward will be successful in securing the city of Baghdad against the insurgency. The true test will come once the extra soldiers leave Baghdad, with success to be marked by a sustained decrease in attacks on Coalition forces.

According to Josh White and Ann Scott Tyson of the Washington Post, there’s an underscoring stress facing the armed services, as illustrated by a report from the Army that it missed its recruiting goals by 16 percent in 2006, part of a serious downward trend.

To offset its recruiting woes, the Army has increased enlistment bonuses and waivers. These include cash bonuses of up to $40,000 for enlistments of three or more years, and the Army College Fund, which provides up to $71,424 for college. Also, the number of waivers has steadily increased since 2003 allowing some applicants to be accepted who otherwise would have been rejected in past years.

“The data is crystal clear,” said Representative Martin T. Meehan, Democrat of Massachusetts and chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee of Investigations and Oversight. “Our armed forces are under incredible strain, and the only way that they can fill their recruiting quotas is by lowering their standards.

Amidst these questions about the overall strength of the Army, there are at least some who take a different view. In response to the question, “is the Army broken?”, an active duty soldier - who asked to remain anonymous – had this to say:

“I do not agree with that statement, I believe that the Army is far from broken. The people who say that are not serving in the Army and what they are saying is wrong.”

When asked what he thought of serving repeat tours, the soldier said: “ Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like going back to Iraq, however that doesn’t matter, because I joined the Army on my own free will, and I have a job to do.”

Four years of war in Iraq is the main reason for the worry over the readiness and overall strength of the Army. There is a definite strain put on armed service personnel both professionally and personally when trying to complete the strenuous tasks given to them. Yet even with all of the problems facing the Army, there is still hope for a positive outcome, thanks to an Army made up of extraordinary people who volunteer to risk their lives, and others who pay the ultimate price honoring their commitment to the Army and their country.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

BKV: Transportation for a Lifetime

By Meredith Degyansky

I roll over in bed shoving the overheated down comforter into the crack by the wall. My left eye peers open and the glint of the sun comes through the blinds giving me a sense that it is later than usual. I look at my clock beside the bed; 8:06 AM! How am I going to get to class by 8:30?

Quickly, I hop out of bed, slipping into the first pair of trousers I find on the floor. I grab my coat, backpack, banana, and rush out the door. As I am running down Raday Utca, I am repeatedly stuck behind incredibly slow women in babushkas. Finally, I descend into the underground; looking at my watch it is 8:15 am. Perfect. I still have time. I tromp down the escalator impatiently pushing the lazy bystanders to the left. There is a man ahead, wearing headphones and smooching on his girlfriend. I hear the train arrive from below, a rush of people come up the opposite escalator, and the lovers will not budge. I get off just in time to watch the wheels of the metro roll by. Leaning against the wall with lost hope, I wait for the next train. Suddenly, a warm, smelly wind cuts across my face. The smell is a blend of old metal and body odor. I hear a rumble in the distance. Ahah! It is the next train. I hop on immediately, ride it two stops, and rush up the escalator taking it two at a time. Again, a wind blows through my hair from above but this time is the smell of flaky croissants. As I get to the top, I see the control officers guarding all exits. Instead of devising a dodge plan, I search frantically in the bottom of my bag for my pass. I find it and flash it at the man. “Koszonom sepan.” Having defeated all obstacles I use my track skills to sprint to class. I sit down puffing and sweating. The time is 8:33. Not too bad. Gotta love the BKV.

The history of the BKV (Budapesti Kozlekedesi Vallalat) in Budapest, Hungary traces back to the second half of the 19th century. In 1832, the first omnibus came to Budapest, which was one of the earliest renditions of a present day bus. As the years progressed, so did the public transportation network. In 1866, the first horse and carriage tramway began, but the speeds of the horse were not up to par with the hectic lives of the population. Knowing that they needed further improvements the BKV administration took the initiative to update their methods of transport. According to BKV documents, it took 21 months of construction to complete the very first underground system in all of Europe, christened on May 2, 1896. In 1900, the Budapest metro won the gold medal in the Paris World Exposition. The exposition was a world fair to celebrate the latest achievements and gain ideas to continue into the next century. After maintaining such great success, BKV decided in 1995 to revamp their network in honor of their 100-year anniversary. They were looking to enhance the speed, efficiency, and cleanliness of the system. In 1998, the BKV transportation system took it another notch by becoming what they are today.

Several statistics boast and support the quality of the transportation system in Budapest. The five branches or methods of transport include bus, tram, trolleybus, underground, and suburban railways. The company serves 1.4 billion passengers nearly everyday. The percentages of branches utilized are as follows; 41% use the bus, 26% use the tram, 22% use the underground, 5% suburban railway, and 6% use the trolleybus. The length of the entire network is 2,626.8 km. The routes travel to all areas of Buda, Pest, and Obuda, with the suburban railway reaching as far as Szentendre and Csepel. There are 224 bus routes, 35 tram routes, 14 trolleybus routes, 3 metro lines, and 5 suburban railway routes.

The BKV transportation system has outdone all other metro systems from which I have experienced. Never have I had to wait more than three minutes for the underground. It always comes right on time and the countdown clock is quite accurate. The maps are extremely efficient in describing where a certain branch is located whether it is a bus, trolley, metro, or tram stop. Thus making it easy to find access to the fastest, most efficient method to ones final destination. While riding on the vehicles, the commentator clearly annunciates each stop and street, providing an easy departure at the correct stop. It is possible to take public transportation anywhere in the city providing a safe atmosphere for the elderly or those who have difficulty walking.

The BKV symbol holds true to its values and objectives. Obtained from their worldwide website, the logo symbolizes their desire to “schedule compliant transport, extensive passenger information both at stops and in vehicles, modern electronic ticket punchers, and to clean vehicles daily and stops once a week”. I have already praised most of the above “missions” of the network with the exception of the latter. The trams and buses are clean and newly refurbished. On the contrary, the metro underground could use some work. Graffiti covers the old, rickety blue metro cars. Inside the vehicles, gum is stuck all over the gray, musky floor. The air is dank and dirty and the seats leave nothing to be desired. In fact, I suggest standing up because who knows what is in the fifty-year-old upholstery covering the benches. One time I saw a puddle of liquid floating on top of a black pleather seat. Also, be sure to wear gloves in order to protect yourself from the germ-infested handrails. Although the underground is unappealing, the speed and efficiency outweighs the negatives and on a personal account, I use the metros every single day.

The control officers are often spoken of in a negative light. People who do not like to purchase transportation tickets often feel the ticket controllers are too strict and insist on ticket verifications too frequently. I get stopped multiple times a week by the ticket controllers who are asking to see my pass. It is a very serious matter to purchase a ticket so I suggest not trying to bypass this. You will get caught. Besides, one ticket is only 230 HUF, a one-month pass is only 7350 HUF, and students get the best deal with a monthly pass for a mere 2950 HUF. But if you get caught you will get fined which can cost up to 7500 HUF. It is the least we can do as daily users of the systems to pay the fees. Imagine how much a gallon of gas would cost as well as the stress of traffic and trying to find parking. Do your part, pay, and be smart.

A movie came out in 2003 by the name of Kontroll. The film is poking fun at the control officers mimicking their uniforms with the armband and making them seem like a group of gangsters catching ticket violators left and right. The head of BKV comes on at the very beginning of the film to establish the fact that the movie is completely false. One of the main themes of the story is the search for a notorious attacker who has been pushing people into the underground tracks so that their bodies are splattered by the next metro train that arrives. After speaking with the producer ,Tamas Hutlassa, apparently the gruesome nature of the film made it challenging for the filmmakers to get permission to use the BKV facilities. The head of the actual BKV did not want consumers to think that the metro system was really like this. After much persuasion they succumbed to director Nimrod Antal’s proposal, but only provided the facilities during the off hours when the metro was not open to the public “We had to work in the middle of the night when no one was using the metro system. It was a long process because instead of 12 hour days, our days were only five and a half hours long,” states Hutlassa. Although silly and full of extreme exaggerations, the film Kontroll is entertaining and a video to watch if you are an avid user of the subway system and have a few hours to kill.

Coming from San Francisco in California, I often have to wait twenty minutes or more for a subway and have walked miles along the bus route to my destination before a bus even passed me. With that in mind, I am thankful for the public transportation system of Budapest. The easy access, speed of the trains, frequency, and efficiency are nearly perfect. I feel, therefore, that everyone who uses the network should hold no apprehension in purchasing the appropriate ticket to ride. I also feel it is unnecessary to bash the ticket controllers; they are just doing their job and they always say “Koszonom”. All of the positive factors outweigh the negative and so I will put on my germ protectant gloves and head down the croissant-infused air tunnel to hop on the next train pulling into Kalvin Ter.

Where Budapesters Who Matter Come To Gather

A Review Of Exclusive Budapest Nightlife

By Andrea Mihok

The top-end of Budapest’s nightlife is becoming impressive, extending from the most glamorous discothèques to the swankiest outdoor beach club, with plenty of surprises in between, just as you would expect from a European capital. A good night on the town – in the most exclusive company - may require some initiation. The tourist centre is not really where the elite go to meet, but rather at courtyard bars, huge outdoor clubs and cutting-edge dance venues scattered in nooks and crannies throughout the city.

The main party days are Friday and Saturday, but of course there are some places - the ritzy Moulin Rouge, to name just one - that are open almost every day. Nestled in the heart of the theatre district, MR greets guests not only with an invitation to dinner and what many regard as the hottest cabaret show in the town, but to join the dance floor accompanied by Budapest’s top-dollar DJs. The place is frequently full of local merrymakers, many of who know each other by face. Foreign visitors and expatriates are also known to flock to MR, drawn by its alluring profile and live nightly acts. The price for all this fine variety isn’t cheap, but compares favorably to clubs of this standard elsewhere in Europe.

The outskirts of Budapest boast a number of large, shiny clubs. Studio is the largest of all, and is located on a Danube river island, “Hajogyari sziget” in the North of the city. Unfortunately, it is open only on every second Saturday. The club itself is incredibly huge, upwards of 2000 m2. There are typically two very good Djs - Barany Atilla and Dj Antonio - producing the music, often accompanied by a live duet consisting of a saxophonist and a female singer. The Studio is divided into two parts: the Crowd, which is the largest part of the place and the VIP section, located at the end of the room, a little higher.

VIPs at the Studio have the option to rent tables, hire bodyguards and even private waiters in sequestered boxes as they watch the Google dancer wiggling just overhead. To enter the VIP you need to pay a premium - 7000 forint - or present a VIP card. The card gives you a one-year membership and lets you in into a few more places without standing in any lines, along with valet parking at no additional charge.

If this still doesn’t fit your idea of VIP treatment, Budapest now allows the well endowed among you to start your party in a rented limousine before arriving to the Studio or other club of your choice.

Studio is considered by many to be a place for snobbish people, but one regular, Amir Derham, had this to say: “If you are together with your friends, it is no matter with whom you are surrounded, anyway you are bound to have a great time.”

Almost every week, Hungary’s young generation of hipsters meets in these clubs, raising the trend to the level of an addiction. On any given Saturday night when it is open, there are about 3000 people in the Studio, of which around 500 are the VIP section, where the overage drink prices are some ten times higher then in the normal dance area. A small bottle of Asti Martini Champaign, for example, will cost you 9500 forint in VIP, while the same can be had for 2000 forint at the Crowd bar. A conversation with the club’s manager reveals, however, that despite such high prices, the place can hardly turn a profit, thanks to high expenses. An informed source indicated, however, that drug dealing plays a significant role in keeping the place open.

When asked why it’s so interesting to go out every week and see the same people, clubgoers are at a loss to give a clear and meaningful answer.

“I’d rather go out and spend time with my friends almost every week,” said Alina, a card-holding member of Studio, “than to stay at home, watch TV and feel lonely.”

One trend certainly is clear: these places are a haven for fashion house heads, looking to show off – or catch up on - the season’s latest. It is now popular at many clubs to commence the evening with a fashion show to attract people’s attention. Indeed, heads do turn toward the allure of tall, slender models sauntering up and down runways decked out either in fashionable clothing or often just titillating pieces of underwear. As a result, these clubs are perfect for people watching - the women are breathtaking, but off-limits to all but the smoothest operators.

Budapest’s clubs are also becoming a second home to such big name DJs as David Guetta, one of the most sought-after DJs in the world. On my last visit to Dubai, he was invited to one of the grand hotels on Jumeriah Beach, where after just a few minutes of pumping music he had everybody screaming, jumping and simply having an incredible time. A similar house-rocking takes effect each time Guetta or any one of many top international DJs takes control at one of Budapest’s discos.

Once summer comes around, there is rarely any need to go indoors to party. Most of the indoor places shut their doors for the season and the “beach” places open up. The Bed and the Dokk beaches are two of the most visited upscale party spots during the summer. Bed was clearly designed very carefully, it is almost totally white: the curtains, the tables, even a few big rounded sofas where you can actually lie down - as the name "Bed" indicates. The place is known for its special parties - which seek to simulate the atmosphere of a Hollywood party filled with movie stars - such as the “white party,” where everyone is dressed in white and no other color is allowed.

The variety and abundance of outdoor summer nightlife in and around the Budapest city centre is unparalleled. Several run-down courtyards have been converted to hugely popular inner city beer gardens and the banks of the Danube are home to a number of open-air clubs. One upmarket favorite is the Rio Café, located on the Pest side of the Danube. The Rio succeeds in generating that special carnival feeling, just as if you were in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil at carnival time. To achieve this effect, they often invite dancers from Brazil or from other Latin American countries.

Whatever club, pub or beer garden you find yourself in, one enduring aspect of Budapest nightlife is that there is no rush. There is always time to get in an after-hours drink. What’s more, things often only get going after midnight. If you still have energy after the main party closes you’ll have the chance to go to the after party. Usually these parties start at 5 in the morning and serve breakfast, with a barrage of arresting music to shake you back to consciousness. And you needn’t worry about lunch or dinner, because they too will be served on time. In other words, it is well worth staying up past your normal Friday night bedtime, because Budapest isn’t sleeping and it always gives you the opportunity to have fun.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Spring Trip In Northern Hungary

A Talk with Mary Kormosói
by Miklós Tassi

The most varied shire of Hungary is Nógrád (Nograd). This region is located in the northern part of the country. The hilly panorama of the Cserhát mountain and the valleys of three rivers (Ipoly, Galga, Zagyva) are coloured by pristine villages, historical towns and the ruins of castles from the 14-16th centuries.

Mary Kormosói, the foreigners’ favourite road manager and tourist guide invites us to a small village in this wonderful scenery.

TM: You often design and organise weekend trips for foreign tourists. What is the program of these trips?

Mary K.: We visit the village of Hollókő. Through the trip we introduce the region, traditionally called Palóc Land, and the history and traditions of the inhabitant Palóc folk.

TM: How far is this place from the capital?

Mary K.: The village is located among the Cserhát hills about 100 km (north? South? East? West? Northwest?) of Budapest. The history of the village goes back to the 13th century, when after the Mongol invasion the castle was built on the top of the rock here.

TM: The name of the village sounds very interesting. Where does it come from?

Mary K.: The old Hungarian settlements are usually called either after the name of their founding tribe (sometimes their leader) or there is a legend behind the name. The name Hollókő (holló=raven, kő=stone) comes, perhaps, from the legend in which the lord of a castle stole a pretty maiden, whose nurse was a witch. The witch sent ravens that took the stones of the lord’s castle away and rebuilt it on the top of this rock. So the lord is forced to climb the rock each time he returns to his castle.

TM: Is the lord’s climb part of the program?

Mary K.: Yes, but it’s possible only in nice weather. The ruins of the castle are rich in rock carving, and this year we have an exhibition of the remains of weapons found here. There is a beautiful view over the surrounding protected area, which is a part of the Bükk National Park.The village is even more attractive than the ruins of the castle. In 1987 the UNESCO Committee gave it the title of 'World Heritage', paying tribute to the unique harmony of constructed and natural scenery. The houses represent a unique style of architedture. The gentle arms of the nearby chain of hills have always protected the tiny houses from the winds of centuries, making it possible for the village to keep its original charm. Parts of the settlement have however burnt down several times, because the buildings are covered with flammable thatched roofs.

TM: Would you call Hollókő an outdoor museum?

Mary K.: It’s more than an outdoor museum, because the houses are still in use. There is a working post office, a nursery school and a church. The people living here are members of the Palóc ethnic group and they preserve not only their ancient traditions, but their richly decorated folk clothes, too. Even the young generations wear these colourful clothes. Their old ladies love tourists, and tourists love them for their hospitality and beautiful songs.

TM: And they also cook well! Is the sweet-smelling dinner part of the program?

Mary K.: Of course it is! They provide traditional meals of Northern Hungary.

TM: You mentioned the church. Is it a shrine?

Mary K.: Yes, it is. There are written documents mentioning Hollókő’s first stone church from 1343, but the mediaeval building was destroyed during the Otoman raids at the end of the 16th century. The Roman Catholic church you find now in the centre of the village was built in the 19th century. It has stone foundations, adobe walls and a wooden spire. The main sights of the church are the statue of piety (from the 18th century, made of wood, it is considered folk art from the area of the present Slovakia) and presents from the Esztergom Museum of Christianity: a flag and a crusifix, also dating back to the 18th century.

TM: After the walk in the village, you suggested to me a tour in the nearby forests.

Mary K.: Even the natural surroundings of the old settlement are special and are also protected. The Hollókő Nature Conservation Area (141 hectares) includes old vineyards, the pasture lands and fields around the castle, the small woods next to the castle and the inner area of the old village.

TM: What are your expectations and plans for this season?

Mary K.: This summer we plan to have evening concerts in the castle. Around Easter some programs and performances will show and explain folk traditions. Year in year out more folk artists sell their products, and they always present the methods and primary commodities of their work. In 2006 the number of visitors exceeded all expectations. I hope this year to greet even more tourists in Hollókő.

TM: Thank you very much.

View a selection of village photos by clicking below.

How Teen Girls Can Get A Yes From Their Moms

by Eugene Idigbe

Some mothers still see their teenage daughters as little girls. Here's the secret to getting her to treat you more like an adult. The following tips will help you stop complaining about how impossible your mom is and figure out how to change the no to Yes.

Tip one: approach your mom only when she's relaxed.

Even if you've been waiting to talk to her all day. If she just walked in the door from a bad at the office after being struck in traffic for two hours, and she has to let the dog out to pee, or has to start making dinner . . . stay away!

Think about it: if you just got home after failing a test that you were up all night studying for and your little sister says, "can i borrow your new top?" You'd probably say no. But don't go overboard; if you approach Mom with a fresh drink and you've never made her one before, she'll immediately be suspicious, it might look to her like you’re buttering her up because you expect her to say no and that will make it easier for her to actually say no.

Tip two: share the details.

Don’t just yell over your shoulder on your way out the door that you're "going out" You have to give your mom time to react or she'll think you have something to hide. Approach her at a relaxed moment, like over dinner: “Mom, I’m going to a dinner party at a friend's house. I'll be home later in the day". Then if she has any questions, answer them calmly. Make her less likely to get to you.

Tip three: Use key words.

You can win your mom over with certain phrases. Follow up a request or suggestion with something like: "what do you think, Mom?" Another good one: “just think about it a little before you answer, okay?" This will make her view you as very mature and responsible.

Tip Four: Put aside what you want for a second, no matter how urgent it is.

Now think about what your mom might want. Perhaps some help cleaning the home? Someone to keep her company on a Friday night? This isn’t about sucking up. Its about trading places with her so you can get a glimpse of her life. You will be able to better understand what makes her tick. You will stop seeing your mom as a barrier between you and a good time and start seeing her as someone who really wants the best for you.

Tip Five: Reassure Her.

If your mom still hesitates to let you go to a party on a Saturday night no matter what, then try compromise: offer to call during the party so she'll know you're okay. Then do it no matter what. Because if you don’t, you will just be showing her that you're irresponsible, and you may find yourself with even stricter rules than you had before. Always ask for permission to do anything no matter how little, and win her trust. This way, you’re not just asking for permission, but also support, advice and blessings.

First Day At The Airfield

By Philipp Sigrist

It was a cold, grey Saturday afternoon, not really a nice day for flying. But the prospect of flying was not what brought us to Budaörs Airfield. Instead, my friend (?) Ferenc and I had come to meet my future instructor, Gergö Lajos, to discuss the details of my upcoming flying lessons. Gergö, a good friend of Ferenc, first took to the air as a pilot at age 22 and has been an instructor for 13 years.

Arriving at the airfield, Gergö happily greeted us with a smile and, with our full agreement, proceeded to show us around the airfield first before discussing my lessons. We encountered various types of old soviet AN2’s, and Czech Grob’s and Zlin’s . While walking along, an old DC3 made its final approach towards the runway, I was compelled to stop and witness it land. Nothing beats the sound of an old DC3 prop.

At the hangar, Gergö presented the plane we will use for our upcoming lessons, a great-looking Cessna 172 Skyhawk. Since I’d already flown in one of these with my godfather a while back, I couldn’t help but show off my expertise about it . On our way back to the cafeteria, I noticed a lovely old control tower.

“It is mostly unused,” Gergö said. “Only avionics engineers and gyro specialists still work in there.”

Back at the cafeteria we started discussing my lessons. Gergö explained that, before I can start, I will first need the blessings of the Civil Aviation Authority of Hungary (CAA); they will test me to determine whether I am medically fit to fly. The actual course will be split up into several smaller courses such as meteorology, aerodynamics, radio communication, basic mechanics, and so forth. If I make the courses intensively I might achieve it in less than 3 months, which surprised me. What surprised me even more was the price. It will cost me no more than 5000 euros to receive the Private Pilot License (PPL), which is a real bargain compared to other countries such as the United States. One might think that with such a low price quality might suffer, but from my point of view, everything seemed very professional.

“Both the instructor and the airfield personnel are highly qualified,” said Ferenc.
After our discussion was over, we thanked Gergö for his time and told him that we would contact him as soon as it is possible to begin my lessons. On our way home I was dreaming of my PPL already, a dream that might soon become reality.

Unexpected Adventures Reward The Budget Traveller

Getting to the Balaton Airport on 1110 Forint

By Meredith Degyansky

A cheap flight from Hungary to London may be a challenge to encounter. However, with the aid of budget airliner, Ryanair, a one-way ticket can cost a mere 5000 forint. The catch is that there are only two flights departing from the Balaton airport each day, one to London and one to Frankfurt. Meaning one must be punctual when arriving to the airport. This can be challenging because Balaton is approximately 186 km southwest of Budapest. But have no fear, I have discovered a cheap, efficient, well perhaps not so efficient, but cheap way to get to the Balaton airport from Budapest.

A train departs from Deli Palyaudvar in Budapest and arrives at a small Hungarian town called Balatonszentgorgy. The ticket only costs 860 forint. One negative factor may be that you must depart at 3:45 am in order to get to the airport by the 11:00 am flight departures. Despite stopping for what feels like every 100 meters, the train will get you to Balatonszentgorgy on time after four hours of lovely views of Hungary’s countryside. If traveling by car or on a train of normal speeds the trip would take about two and a half hours, but for 860 forint, it is bearable.

After arriving to the station in Balatonszentgorgy, which is still 12 km away from the Balaton airport, it is necessary to transfer to a small two-car caboose train for no additional charge. The train ride is approximately ten minutes long. Seats offer plenty of legroom so long as you put your bag on your lap. The cars also come equipped with a public water closet, just be certain to bring your own toilet paper. The caboose drops you off in Keszthely where you will have to board a bus to take you to the airport, the final destination. The bus comes every 15 minutes and it only costs 218 forint. You can pay the driver when boarding the bus; no reservations are necessary. The bus winds through the narrow roads of Keszthely with a few stops along the way. In a matter of minutes, you arrive at your destination.

The bus drops you off directly in front of a sign that reads, “Balaton Airport 1500m”, with a convenient arrow to point you on your way. As you walk on the tiny gravel road, make note of the old Russian bunkers surrounding you. The airport location used to serve as a mock battleground for Russian soldiers stationed there. This told to me by an old Hungarian communist who happened to walk beside me.
There are conveniently located signs every 500m to inform the distance left to the airport, reassuring when you have been splatting through mud puddles for awhile and have seen no sign of an airplane. Finally, you arrive at the airport and do all other procedures as usual. The actual flight is comfortable, reliable, and safe, giving Ryanair thumbs up.

The total time of the trip from Budapest to the Balaton airport is approximately five and a half hours and costs 1078 forint. I must include that unless you are a Hungarian speaker, you should befriend someone who is on the way. If it were not for the friendly British/Hungarian man that read the signs for me, spoke to the ticket controllers for me, and basically held my hand through the process, I would still be in Balatonszentgorgy. If all this seems daunting, you can take the airport fly bus shuttle from Deli Palyaudvar to the Balaton airport. It departs at 6:00 am and arrives at 8:50 am and it costs about 3000 forint. I think I will do that next time.

Shaping The Minds Of Young Kids And Teens

New International Organisation Builds Cultural Bridges Between Young People

by Eugene Idigbe

Afromopicx is a non-profit organisation set up to engage the minds of teens and young adults. Established one year ago with its heaquarters in the Brixton neighborhood of London, England, it now has about 20 mini theaters around the world and over 200 members. On the 17th of march 2007, all roads will lead to the Golgota kapolna at Erzsebet krt 13 in Budapest’s district VII for the introduction of Afromopicx in Budapest, Hungary. The event will showcase several acts including a fusion of Afro-American/African music, European contemporary classical music, drama and stage performance from Brazil and much more.

At its inception in the UK in 2006, Afromopicx set a primary objective to bridge gaps in intercultural relations, encourage oneness and togetherness and to bring people together - especially teenagers - from all across the globe who have different values, norms and manners of thought to share ideas and culture with each other. The organization now has branches and members in Spain, Ecquador, Brazil, Madagascar, South Africa, Nigeria and in several other nations.

Its target audience is the teenagers and young adults, who represent the next generation and who have a lot to express and share, explained Afromopicx representative Ayo Bamiro in a recent interview. Afromopicx aims at deviating their minds from negative vices and occupying their time with productive activities in a friendly, loving, extremely comfortable and condusive envinroment. Activities like drama, poetry, singing, dancing, capoeira, stage performances are encouraged, shared, taught and perfected, and this will go a long way in curbing crime, street violence and other immoral vices especially among youths.

“Afromopicx is a social organisation open and for free to all,” said Bamiro. “We currently have branches in over 20 countries around the world. Our aim is to engage young minds in acting, dance, salsa or any thing of interest which is positive especially to teenagers. It is both recreational and mind building.”

Mr Bamiro explained that his organization has grown rapidly with the help of a few corporate sponsors and notable individuals like UK rapper Plan B, along with the dreams of some high spirited teenagers and young adults who advocated positivity, global communion, and building young minds.

“We now have about 200 members 20 branches worldwide,” Bamiro added. “I will say it is definitely a right step in the right direction. We have mini theaters where kids, teenagers, and young adults can come to on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. If some of the youths are interested in singing, we give them a microphone, they get on stage and sing, the other youths will be the audience. also every week we have professionals come in to advise, share and give lectures and talks, and help the youths work on their skills. Last year we had guests like Plan B in London and Ronaldinho in Brazil. It helps a lot because the teens listen to role models and are much happier to strive for perfection in whatever they do.”

Asked about those teenagers who are feeling left out but would like to know how they can become members, Bamiro responded by beckoning all those interested to attend the African Cultural Evening at the Golgota Kapolna on 17 March at 7 p.m.

“Membership is free,” Bamiro said. “Parents can come to the event with their kids to see exactly what we do and why kids who are members are always excited. After the show teens and young adults who are interested can register and get the ID cards absolutely free.”

The Journey Of Self-Discovery

By Dadvey Zargaran

What did I like as a child, what do I like as an adult, what has consistently brought me happiness and what gives me a reason to live?

If you have ever thought about these simple but crucial questions, then you may also be asking if you have found the right answers. Finding your path in life may appear simple. But success often depends on how your logic muscles have been trained and the depth to which you observe the moments of life.

Many of us can recall our parents coaxing us to fulfil something that they might not have achieved themselves. In so doing, they became manipulative – albeit unconsciously - by saying some typical phrases that you might have heard: “you should become a doctor, a surgeon, or an architect!” You may well have writhed hatefully when they compared you with one of your spoiled, freakish relatives.

“Look at your cousins! They are A-students…and you?”

To sort our selves out, a centrist approach is inevitably desired. We take sum of all the opinions and experience of the people who know us and the people who inspire us in order to come up with the best choice and solution for ourselves. We want of course to be in the right position and choose the right subject or major to suit us best. But we must first clear our minds and reflect: What am I going to do, what did I like the most as a child, as an adult? Or simply, what has brought me happiness? And perhaps most importantly, what gives me reason to live?

Doing what comes naturally - what fits our talents and interests - will bring us the greatest pleasure. Having pleasure and reaching happiness are the keys to a developed and satisfying life.

A typical, healthy day of life consists of three main parts: work (usually 8 hours), recreation (about 6-8 hours of fun, learning, sports, etc.) and a good night’s sleep. Rationally and wisely, in order to end up getting the work done and having fun too, we need to learn about ourselves - basically speaking – our talents, skills and abilities, along with our weaknesses.

In sum, first get straight with your self in the first stage and know what you’re really good at and what you want. Second, get along with your parents and try to use all effective methods and tricks to convince them about your goal in life. And finally, work hard and be perseverant. I promise you will be successful and enjoy a desirable, enjoyable life. So, my friend, what was the first question, oh! I can remember it now, when I was a child I was quite good at… I loved to play…perform….

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Real Estate Laws, Restrictions and Ethics Yet To Take Hold in Dubai


Dubai’s real estate is about to take a new phase as its government, together with top real estate builders, embarks on measures to clean up the sector; this in hopes of lifting tensions surrounding the safety of the tiny emirate's real estate markets.

Inflamed already with an increasing number of unqualified freelance brokers, operating in the sector, the Dubai market has witnessed an increased number of complaints over cheating, illegal transactions and a lack of professionalism among brokers, says Khamis Mohammad Al Muhari, head of land valuation and studies centre at Dubai land department. Examples of such misconducts include brokers selling properties they do not have the right to sell, those that buy properties for themselves or their relatives and sell it off at a higher price, and cases where agents charge clients regardless of their failure to provide sufficient brokerage service. Other misconducts mentioned by Al Muhari include the collaboration of agencies with one another. In order to get phone calls from potential clients, agencies post advertisements even when they do not have anything to offer. After receiving a call, they look around for agencies that have the same properties and split the commission or add an extra commission to the poor unsuspecting client who ends up being offered the same apartment ten times over by different agencies.

As part of its efforts to correct the situation on the ground, the Dubai government drafted new regulation in May 2006 aimed at banning freelance brokers as well as unlicensed real estate agents, but this was not enforced until the 4th of February 2007. The new regulation allows for a new broker registration law, which effectively rejects all sales and transactions carried out by unlicensed real estate brokers in Dubai.

The land department in Dubai currently refuses to register sales transactions by brokers who are not officially recognised by the government. This could go a long way in helping the land department gather data-base of real estate firms and individuals that operate in Dubai, says Al Muhari. It will also signal the government’s commitment to ensure that land transactions in Dubai are foolproof, secure, competent and transparent In addition, legitimate brokers will receive registration cards issued by the government to transact real estate deals. Under the new law, individuals are expected to pay Dh500 fee for registration, while firms are to payDh5, 000. Given a one week frame of time, real estate agents, have begun registering with the Dubai land department.

The removal of unqualified real estate brokers is believed to be a step toward remolding the credibility of the Dubai real estate market. Given all this, the department will subject agents as well as companies to a training program and a series of professional tests to weed out those who don’t make the grade. Craig Johnson, general manager of Landmark, a Dubai-based property consultancy, says that the process will be beneficial to both clients and the industry as a whole, since it allows for transparent and professional structuring - a condition which the industry has been sadly lacking and hence leaving many clients with extremely bitter experiences.

Russia Sits High Atop Oil Markets - For Now

By Miklos Tassi

Russia, the second largest oil producer of the world after Saudi Arabia, exported 19.32 million metric tons (more than 144 million barrels) to non-CIS countries in January 2007, up 17.7%, year-on-year, the Industry and Energy Ministry said Tuesday. Such heady results for January follow a year that saw Russia earn an estimated total revenue of 139.4 billion U.S. dollars on its oil and gas exports in 2006. Closer inspection of the world energy market, however, raises questions about Russia’s future as an oil superpower.

Increasing demand

A recent study by the US Department of Commerce shows that the largest demand for oil comes from freight and human transportation. Such demand is increasingly being met by substitutes for oil-based fuels, but transportation is still expected to draw 50% of world oil usage in the 2030s, the study states. The centers of the growing oil demand are Asia and North-America. The projected long-run tendency of rising prices could be good news for the oil business, but may not reduce the huge demand for oil until substitute fuels become price competitive.

Markets in motion

The USA and Europe consume roughly half of all oil produced globally, approximately 45 million barrels a day. Japan uses a proportionately similar amount, while China and India together burn 10%, with consumption in those two nations rapidly on the rise. Europe is making efforts to decrease its dependence on oil exporters, meaning Russia, to a large extent. Because EU programs to develop renewable energy sources will not be successful enough to make much of a difference in the foreseeable future, the only alternative to Russia is to increase the number of importers and create competition. This raises the issue of change on the supply side of the oil market, with new sources emerging in Asia.

Fate of the oil bear

Russia appears to be fighting hard to maintain its premiere status, which may not be easy, considering its disadvantaged geographical position. The cost of oil extraction is six times higher in Siberia than in Iraq or Saudi-Arabia. Look for Russia to use its political power to offset its unfortunate circumstances, market watchers say. Such trade weapons as suspending deliveries to European customers are historically in Russia’s arsenal. Time will tell if high production costs and increasing competition – along with the rise of alternative fuels – prove the undoing of Russia’s oil supremacy.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The London Fashion Week: Hungarian Fashion Takes Its First Steps On The International Stage

By Andrea Mihok

2007 could be considered as one of the most successful years for Hungarian fashion because Katti Zoób, one of the leading designers and brand names in Hungarian fashion, got an invitation to present her new collection at this year's London Fashion Show, held between 15 and 19 February.

Zoób’s presence alone means a lot to Hungary. That her fashion house’s haute-couture outfits on display created a great impression came as an added bonus to Hungarian fashion watchers. Zoób brought only a small crew, including two models, who demonstrated some of the clothes of the collection. The remaining personnel were responsible for the stand and acted as PR agents who talked with the buyers and the press.

The annual London fashion week is one of the most popular fashion shows in the world. More than 100 of the most famous designers from different countries, together with the newly graduated students from the London St. Martin School, were invited to present their new seasonal collections in the building of the London Natural Science Museum. The entire fashion world was focused on this event, as it has become the normative show for next seasonal cloth style.
The British Fashion Council gives the best designer award after checking and matching all the clothes seen during the week and the ceremony is held at the end of the fashion week. Invitations to the show were hard to come by, and those lucky enough to attend were subject to surprise visits by members of the Council, who would ask invitees to build sample stands, in order to decide who really deserved to take a part in the show.

“It was not an easy job,” said David Valker, a creative assistant at Katti Zoób, “to set up a stand among the famous designers and at the same time to create something special and unique, which equally represents the brand and the collection, and with which we could stand out from the crowd.”

To increase pressure even further, the place they were given to set up their stand was near a Danish designer who was working in the same manner regarding the design, though the style and the materials used were worlds apart – the British Fashion Council is conscious at every level.

In the end, thanks to the creativity of the team and the quality of the fabrics they used, the Hungarian stand became one the most wanted stands at the show. As one satisfied customer reported, “The Hungarian stand was among the four stands for which it was worthwhile to come and see the show”.

Movie Review: The Pursuit of Happyness

By Herman Lugaro

Movie's Grade: A-

Throughout most of Will Smith’s career the characters he has portrayed have been lighthearted and comical. In The Pursuit of Happyness Smith shows his real acting skills by truly expressing one man’s struggle to survive.

The movie title is taken from a phrase in the declaration of independence, and it is misspelled on purpose. The main theme of this film is that out of all of the rights given to a U.S. citizen, the pursuit of happiness is the hardest to attain.

The Pursuit of Happyness is based on the true story of Chris Gardner (Will Smith), who made the unbelievable jump from homelessness to prosperity by gaining an internship at Dean Witter. There, with his hard work and perseverance he wins the job as a stockbroker.

Gardner’s misfortunes begin with his life in San Francisco where he invests his entire savings on a portable, but unpopular machine called a bone-density scanner, which he then tries selling to doctors. Alas, Gardner has no luck selling these machines, and moves deeply into debt owing everyone from the landlord to the I.R.S. His family’s only source of stable income comes from his wife (Thandie Newton) who is working two jobs. As finances get worse, Gardner’s wife get so fed up with the situation that she decides to leave, but Chris doesn’t allow her to take their 5-year-old son (Jaden Christopher Syre Smith).

As the movie goes on, things do not get any better for Gardner. He can’t afford to pay the rent and becomes homeless. This forces him and his son to spend the night sleeping on a BART train. When Gardner is turned away from a homeless shelter he and his son sleep in a subway station restroom. In the restroom, as Gardener sits on the floor hugging his sleeping son, we witness Smith deliver an emotional display that this is the lowest point in Gardner’s life.

Through the course of the film, the bone-density scanner gets stolen twice: first by a guitar playing hippie woman, and then by a mentally disturbed homeless man. In both instances there’s a chase scene where Gardner notices them and stops what he is doing to chase them through the streets of San Francisco. Director Gabriele Muccino overdoes this scenario in trying to shed some comedic glimmer on Gardner’s woes.

All in all, I like Smith’s portrayal of Gardner, which was straightforward and solid. His performance as a loving father comes across as natural, it demonstrates the father-son bond as being the foundation for Gardner’s eventual success.

If you decide to watch this enjoyable film, pay close attention in the final moments where a man wearing a suit walks across the screen. That’s the real Chris Gardner after reaching happiness.

Upgrade to Windows Vista?

By Ugo Eriobuna

The technology sector is of particular interest because of how new technology is changing our world on an almost daily basis. Windows Vista, the new operating system released towards the end of 2006 by Microsoft, is a prime example. Early users report that it is relatively uncomplicated and has easy an easy to use interface. Moreover, Vista offers substantial new capabilities in security, performance, reliability, and manageability. According to the Microsoft website, Windows Vista is built from the scratch up with a focus on secure development, an enhanced user experience, and optimization around hardware advancements.

It should be noted, however, that there have been problems arising in terms of security. Microsoft has touted Vista as a more secure version of Windows, but on the day of Vista’s official launch, a security company identified mailware already in circulation that can infect computers running the OS version of Vista. It is as yet unknown what Microsoft is doing to improve security for Vista.

A forthcoming article will explore the benefits and disadvantages of Windows Vista as a platform for the applications PC-users most often use.

Praha: It's Like Candy

By Meredith Degyansky

Cobblestone streets, baroque and gothic architecture, museums, restaurants, and sausage stands line the city center of Prague (actually referred to as Praha by local Europeans). One winding river – the Vltava - divides the city and more than a dozen bridges link it together, including the famous pedestrian walkway, the Charles Bridge.

On the left bank of the Vltava atop a hill sits the most well known landmark in the city, the Prague Castle. Down from the castle is the “old town”; a hilly cobble stoned neighborhood swathed with beautiful buildings and pricey Czech restaurants. Across the river is “new town” housing the rest of the museums, cathedrals, five old synagogues and other attractions. The city of Praha is indeed pleasing to the eye; it is no wonder it has become a surreal conurbation overwhelmed with fanny packs and digital cameras.

The town itself is impeccably clean. There is no graffiti on the buildings, no trash stuffed along the curbs, no cigarette butts on the ground, and no gum stuck on the sidewalks. I immediately wondered how they kept it so clean. Whose job is it to maintain Prague’s flawless beauty? When do they do it and how? It seemed as if there was a continuous flow of pedestrians on the streets at every hour. But I still felt as if I could eat off the sparkling cobblestones. Now the water closets on the other hand better be in tiptop shape since it is necessary to pay to use any of the facilities about the town. (Tip: Keep some pocket change for when you must…) After utilizing these services multiple times, I decided the twenty or so koruns was money well spent.

Tourists certainly seem to make up the vast majority of people in Prague. The only place I saw Czech natives were working in the restaurants. The rest of the time I had no trouble speaking English and finding people to speak English to. I even met about five people from my home state of Maryland. Hearing so much English made me feel like I was in the United States again rather than central Europe. The crowds of people were overwhelming. All of my pictures contain other persons taking pictures in the background. The Charles Bridge was nearly impossible to walk across in the middle of the day. Then it dawned on me that that is why the books always say to walk across it at dawn. It isn’t any more beautiful at dawn; you can just actually see something rather than the huge winter parka in front of you.

I did not meet many locals in Praha; I am sure they are hibernating in the outskirts. Do not get me wrong; it is a lovely place to visit for a long weekend. The sites are captivating and something everyone should experience, but for everyday life, it is not ideal. It did not feel real. In the words of Professor Pedro Lange, “It’s like candy.” We could lick the ground if we wanted to. And so when I returned to Budapest, I felt a sense of relief to see dog poo on the ground and graffiti on the buildings. I could walk down the street, flailing my arms without hitting anyone. Ahh, Budapest… home, sweet, home.