martes, 25 de octubre de 2016

Why is New York City cracking down on Airbnb?

Airbnb, the short-term housing rental industry giant, now lists more than 1 million rooms available in 192 countries. The platform's largest market is in New York City, with more than 25,000 listings per night, but it's also where the debate over how to regulate short-term rentals is the most contentious.

In light of a new report by the NY Attorney General that says nearly three-quarters of Airbnb's listings in the city are technically illegal, the city is cracking down.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and asnwer the questions below.

1. Why does Jennifer rent her place?
2. How does this scheme benefit the community and the visitors?
3. What does '25,000' refer to?
4. Why might Jennifer be acting illegally?
5. Why have hotel rates gone down in New York?
6. How much tax does Airbnb pay in New York?
7. Why do residents also complain about Airbnb?
8. What additional problem is mentioned by Senator Liz Krueger and the reporter?
9. Why does Airbnb make the housing situation harder in New York?
10. How does the rental system help the residents who decide to rent out their apartment? 
11. How is this issue dealt with in Santa Monica?

HARI SREENIVASAN: So it’s a two bedroom?
JENNIFER: Yeah, two bedrooms.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Three years ago, Jennifer and her husband began listing their two bedroom apartment on what was then an up-and-coming website Airbnb.
JENNIFER: My husband travels a lot for work. We also have family all over the country. And so when we knew we were going away, I would just make the apartment available. We have a space that sleeps six. So people almost always rented it. It just kept going well and we kept having all these good experiences
HARI SREENIVASAN: Airbnb connects hosts who want to share their homes with guests who are looking for a place to stay – short term, typically for a weekend or a vacation. Airbnb lists the property, connects the two parties, and collects a booking fee.
Jennifer – she did not want us to use her last name – charges up to $200 a night to rent her place when she and her family goes away, up to a week every month.
JENNIFER: I think it’s great for the local communities, I can kind of, direct people to my favorite restaurants in the neighborhood. I’m able to help people come in here and really experience what the city has to offer, you know.
HARI SREENIVASAN: What sounds like a win-win situation for Jennifer and her guests is not so simple. What Jennifer is doing may be illegal in New York City, where city and state laws restrict short-term rentals.
The short-term home rental industry is booming. Platforms like Homeaway, Flipkey, VRBO are popular. And Airbnb has emerged as the giant in this space, especially in cities. Airbnb now lists over one million rooms available in 192 countries. And New York City, with more than 25,000 listings a night, is the platform’s largest U.S. market.
New York is also where the debate over how to regulate short term home rentals like Airbnb is perhaps most contentious.
According to a report by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman last year, nearly three-quarters of Airbnb’s listings between 2010 and 2014 were essentially ‘illegal hotels’– short term rentals that violate state and city laws against renting out an apartment for less than 30 days unless the occupants are also present.
Schneiderman found 94 percent of Airbnb hosts are like Jennifer and her husband. They have only one or possibly two listings.
VIJAY DANDAPANI: Those are rooms that would have gone to the hotel industry and should have gone to the hotel industry given what we’ve invested in the city and our buildings.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Vijay Dandapani chairs the New York City Hotel Association and is President of Apple Core Hotels, which owns five in Midtown Manhattan, including this ‘La Quinta’. He says competition from Airbnb has driven down his hotels’ room rates.
VIJAY DANDAPANI: Rates have not gone back up to pre-financial crisis despite the fact that tourism has gone up. That’s because, let’s say you had 100 rooms, now you’ve suddenly got 140 rooms, 40 of those rooms being not hotels.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Dandapani complains Airbnb and its hosts not only steal business, they also do not follow the same rules and regulations as hotels.
VIJAY DANDAPANI: We have a fire command system, security systems that give you protections from intruders, and so on. The moment you get into converting your house into a hotel, which is de facto what is being done nowadays, none of those protections are there.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Then, there’s the issue of taxes. Airbnb collects a hotel occupancy tax on behalf of hosts in many cities but not New York.
Chip Conley, Airbnb’s Head of Global Hospitality, says the company is looking at how to do that.
CHIP CONLEY: The annual taxes that we would be paying would be 65 million dollars if the state and city of NY would allow us to be a collector of taxes and a remitter of taxes. Currently they are not allowing us to do that.
HARI SREENIVASAN: City officials counter that allowing collection of taxes legitimizes activity that is largely unlawful.
CHIP CONLEY: So what’s odd to us is that actually New York is actually sort of a laggard here relative to so many other communities across the US who have said, let’s create sensible legislation and let’s make sure we’re actually collecting taxes as well.
HARI SREENIVASAN: New York Airbnb hosts Jordan and Joshua — who also prefer us not to use their last names — say they’d be willing to pay a hotel tax for renting out their two bedroom apartment. They already declare the income: about a $180 a night.
JORDAN: If Airbnb collected the tax right when it was booked; then we wouldn’t have to worry about it.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The hotel industry is not the only group fighting Airbnb. So are residents of apartment buildings where neighbors’ apartments are rented out to total strangers. New York State Senator Liz Krueger represents the east side of Manhattan.
SEN. LIZ KRUEGER: Constituents started coming to me and saying, “There’s something strange going on in my building. The apartments seem to be being rented out on a nightly basis. There are groups of tourists wandering in and out with luggage, with keys to the buildings."
HARI SREENIVASAN: Krueger, who has often been dubbed Airbnb’s Doubter-in-Chief, was the primary sponsor of the 2010 state law that effectively banned short-term apartment rentals in New York City.
SEN. LIZ KRUEGER: They encourage illegal activity. They don’t have to, but they choose to do so as a business model.
HARI SREENIVASAN: And the short-term rental activity that troubles officials like Krueger and Attorney General Schneiderman most is what they call ‘commercial users’ of Airbnb and similar websites.
SEN. LIZ KRUEGER: People becoming entrepreneurs and renting one to 100 apartments, claiming that they’re their own homes, and turning them into ongoing illegal hotel arrangements.
HARI SREENIVASAN: In fact, the Attorney General’s report found that while only 6 percent of Airbnb hosts advertise three or more listings, they account for more than a third of Airbnb’s business in New York.
The report also found thousands of Airbnb listings were rented for three months or more of the year.
We found that New York Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal went on what she terms an undercover sting operation this spring to find these commercial users.
ROSENTHAL: Do you live here? You don’t live here, oh ok.
In one of the videos that she released to the press, Rosenthal is seen visiting a host who, she says, was renting seven apartments in a building, none of which he lived in.
HOST: “But in case anybody asks something, you don’t know what’s Airbnb is."
HOST: “That’s why Airbnb always calls you guests.”
HARI SREENIVASAN: Airbnb has taken steps to remove users who have a large number of listings.
CHIP CONLEY: We, like the Attorney General, support the idea of cracking down on illegal hotels and unscrupulous landlords. In spring we took down 2,000 listings, what we were calling bad actors who we just felt shouldn’t be using the site
HARI SREENIVASAN: But State Senator Krueger argues Airbnb is enticing landlords like the one in the undercover video, to convert apartments into short-term rentals, which can be more profitable than renting them to long-term residents. And that, Krueger says, makes it harder for New Yorkers to find affordable housing in a city where the housing market is already tight.
SEN. LIZ KRUEGER: Airbnb has told me, “If you could just do one or two, it would be okay,” and the answer is no, because if 10,000 people decide to rent out two apartments fulltime, that’s 20,000 units off the market.
HARI SREENIVASAN: So we’re sitting in an illegal hotel room, according to the State Senator.
JENNIFER: Yes, I have a difference of opinion with her, for sure. It’s really hard for me to feel like my home is a hotel. I feel like someone who is welcoming a lot of people who become friends. I think the key is just making sure that it’s people are, it’s something that people are doing with their primary home. Financially, it really helps my family. Rents here have skyrocketed in the 10 years that we’ve been here.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Airbnb argues it helps residents stay in their homes by allowing them to earn supplemental income to pay their rent or mortgage.
JOSHUA: It affords me as an artist to be an artist. I use part of this income to survive on.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Joshua also says that the Airbnb system allows them to be very choosy about who they let stay in their home and when.
JOSHUA: It’s up to us as hosts what we want to do. I say we deny 8 out of 10 people that ask us to stay here. And we get a lot of requests, a lot. So that’s how I regulate it. The question that people ask is do we feel safe having people we don’t know in our home and the answer is yes.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Arun Sundararajan is a business professor at New York University. He says cities like New York should partner with companies like Airbnb and residents to forge new ways of regulating the activity on those platforms.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Why is the AirBNB model so different than the model for lodging that we’ve had all the rules and regulations around so far?
ARUN SUNDARAJAN: The fundamental innovation is in tapping into underutilized capacity: repurposing what used to be residential real estate and sort of converting it into a new form of mixed-use real estate where for some of the time it is short-term accommodation, and for the rest of the time it’s residential.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Cities across the country are grappling with these questions.
Like New York, Santa Monica banned short-term rental of entire homes when the host is not present and additionally imposes a 14-percent tax when a host rents out a room in his house.
Other cities have recently forged a middle ground.
San Francisco residents are permitted to rent out homes a maximum of 90 days a year.
In Philadelphia, the maximum is 180 days and hosts must pay an eight-and-a-half percent hotel tax to the city.
ARUN SUNDARARAJAN: I think that there’s a growing recognition among cities that this kind of sharing economy activity can be good for a city.
HARI SREENIVASAN: But for now, New York City is cracking down. It has expanded the office tasked with investigating complaints of illegal hotels and is proposing higher fines for violators.

1. her husband travels a lot for work and they have family all over the country
2. Jennifer directs visitors to specific places (restaurants) in the neighbourhood; visitors are advised on interesting places to drop by
3. the number of Airbnb houses available in New York
4. Jennifer and her family rent their apartment when they are away
5. there are many more rooms available thanks to platforms like Airbnb
6. none
7. total strangers keep coming up to the buildings
8. a small percetage of individuals are renting out hundreds of apartments, which means 1) it is not possible they live in those apartments they rent and 2) they have created an illegal business
9. empty apartments are rented short-term because it is more profitable and so New York residents who would be willing to rent the apartmemts long-term do not have the option to do so
10. they get extra cash that help them pay very high rents
11. Santa Monica banned short-term rental of entire homes when the host is not present and additionally imposes a 14-percent tax when a host rents out a room in his house

lunes, 24 de octubre de 2016

Listening test: Holiday in Thailand

In this week's listening test we are going to practise the heading-matching type of task.

Listen to a person talking about different aspects of his holiday in Thailand and choose the heading A-H that matches each extract. There are two headings you do not need to use.

A - Extreme weather
B - Places to avoid
C - Preconceptions
D - Religion everywhere
E - Tourist route
F - Unknown facts
G - Why Thailand
H - You may need to change some habits

source: Teacher Luke

These days we like to go abroad more and see new things. It was just a break and a chance to get away from it all. We’d never been to Thailand before. I have been to Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia. And also we like food, the two of us, we like eating good and tasty food and Thailand is famous for its good food. And also Thailand’s just a good destination. It’s quite diverse in terms of the things you can do. For example, there’s the city, you know, Bangkok, you can explore this extremely busy, huge city and all the things that’s got to offer. There’s also there is sort of the culture, the food and the arts, particularly in the north, where there are a lot of temples and things like that and then in the south there are these beaches, these islands have got beautiful sunny beaches and stuff like that and also at the moment Thailand is not too expensive.

So we started off in Bangkok, which is obviously the capital city, and it’s sort of in the center-ish in terms of sorts like from north to south, it’s kind of in the middle, basically, and we went there for a few days, and then we went north to Chiang Mai, which is another city but in the north and we stayed there for a few days, and then we travelled down south to one of the islands, called Koh Samui, and we stayed there for a few days and then we went back to Bangkok for a few days and then we went home!

Now we didn’t go to the islands on the west because generally there are sort of islands on the west and a few islands on the east. We didn’t go to the islands on the west, places like Phuket, because of the climate in August, it’s kind of monsoon, rainy season in August, and the western islands get a lot of rain, so we avoided them, we stuck to sort of the eastern side. Also, just before we left and even while we were there, there were some explosions, some attacks, some bombings, which is a bit worrying. In fact, the first bombing took place just a day or so before we were due to leave and we did consider not going, and we thought, well, then we thought, we live in Paris, so we’ve got as much chance of being blown up here as in Thailand.

Whether or not they’ve been there it seems certainly in sort of places like the UK there’s a general view of what people expect about Thailand. So that it’s busy, it’s crowded, there’s amazing food – specifically green curry and pad thai noodles, there’s also the idea that there’s weird sex tourism in Bangkok, also lady-boys, bizarre sex shows involving ping pong balls, full moon beach parties, buckets full of ridiculously full cocktails, kickboxing, temples, buddhist monks in orange robes and western people being locked up in prison for drug possession, scooters, Sagat from Street Fighter 2, snakes, golden buddha statues, amazingly friendly and smiling people and the movie  “The Beach” starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Thailand, the country name, or I think in Thai  that’s “Prathet Thai”, that’s how they say it, Thailand actually means “land of the free”… Thailand has never been colonised by a foreign power, that’s why they call themselves “the land of the free” because they’ve never been colonised by a foreign power, unlike other neighbouring countries which were colonised by European nations like Britain, France and the Netherlands. Thailand had a few wars with Burma, but was never successfully invaded and it was never colonised by any other country. So, well done Thailand.

In Thailand the feet are considered to be very unclean, both clinically in terms of cleanliness and spiritually as well, and so it is very rude to reveal the soles of your feet to anyone. So, don’t sit with your feet facing outwards, or put your feet up on the table when you’re relaxing like we do in the west sometimes. It’s also rude to point at people with your feet, which is fine, isn’t it, really because I literally never do that anyway. I’m never pointing at people with my feet. So that’s fine, it wasn’t a problem.

1G 2E 3B 4C 5F 6H

domingo, 23 de octubre de 2016

Extensive listening: B Is for Book

B is for Book is a BBC documentary following a group of primary schoolchildren over the course of a year as they learn to read.

We can see how even at this early age, some children make a flying start, while others struggle even with the alphabet.

The film takes us into their home lives, where we find that some parents are strongly aspirational, tutoring children late into the night, while others speak English as a foreign language, if at all.

As the children master the basics, they discover the magical world of stories and look with fresh eyes at the world around them.

The film gives us privileged access to a profound process that all of us only ever do once in our lives.

sábado, 22 de octubre de 2016

Reading test: Spain home of the luxury espadrille

In this week's reading test we are going to practise the multiple choice grammar and vocabulary test. To do so, we are going to use El Pais article Spain: home of the luxury espadrille.

Read the text and choose the option A, B or C which best completes each blank. 0 is an example.

Spain: home of the luxury espadrille

Back in the 1970s, Isabel and Lorenzo Castañer, a Spanish couple with a small artisanal business (0) … espadrilles, or alpargatas as they are known in Spain, (1) … Yves Saint Laurent in Paris. When the fashion designer discovered what they did for a living, he asked if they would be able to make a wedge version of the traditional sandal.
“My father, (2) … was always looking for new challenges, accepted,” says Antonio Castañer, now CEO of the family firm that dates back six generations.
The offer to work with Yves Saint Laurent came at a time when Castañer was facing a(n) (3) …: its traditional market, made up of farmers and villagers, was getting smaller as rural Spaniards left the countryside for the cities in search of work and better opportunities, leaving their espadrilles behind.
Now, four decades on from that meeting in the French capital, tastes have changed and the time-honored simplicity of the original espadrille is (4) … . Around a third of Castañer’s production are designs for luxury (5)… .
The espadrille’s rustic (6) … has always had its admirers but an increasingly varied range of models are now available, making it an haute couture option. In 2011, Karl Lagerfeld took Chanel’s famous two-tone dress shoe and adapted it to the traditional espadrille. A year later, Valentino created a sensation by using delicate designs (7) … the usual strong canvas for the top part. Since then, both pret-à-porter luxury companies and high street (8) … have helped put the espadrille in the center of attention. There is something special and (9) … about it, says Antonio Castañer. “It’s a return to something natural, to something hand-made, Mediterranean.”
Barcelona-based company Naguisa, a newish firm that (10) … a name for itself by reviving traditional, hand-made espadrilles, brought out its SOC model in 2012 by copying the traditional model using unusual colours. “Eight years ago we (11) … to see a trend developing for home-grown, sustainable shoes using natural materials,” says Claudia Pérez Polo, the firm’s co-founder. Naguisa exports more than 70% of its (12) … to more than 25 countries. Its designs, many of which have been copied and recopied, are sold in US trendy women’s fashion chain Anthropologie.
“When we started out, the truth is that I (13) … espadrilles,” says Pérez. But conscious it needed to attract a younger clientele, Naguisa was able to combine tradition with local know-how to build a business that could establish an international presence. Since then, other Spanish fashion designers (14) … Paloma Barceló, Like Mimika, and Prism have begun making luxury espadrilles now found in the best-known stores around the world by combining Spanish tradition with cutting-edge design.

0 Example:
A constructing
B doing
C making

A bumped into
B came up with
C encountered

A that
B which
C who

A downturn
B improvement
C rise

A in fashion
B into the fashion
C out of fashion

A brands
B makes
C marks

A exterior
B layout
C look

A instead
B instead of
C rather

A customers
B retailers
C shoppers

A appalling
B appealing
C disgusting

A had made
B has made
C made

A begun
B had begun
C has begun

A output
B input
C handouts

A had never worn
B never wore
C would never have worn

A as
B like
C such

traditional espadrille

wedge espadrille

1A 2C 3A 4A 5A 6C 7B 8B 9B 10B 11A 12A 13C 14B

viernes, 21 de octubre de 2016

Ganges: India’s dying mother

The Ganges is one of the greatest rivers on Earth, but it is dying. From the icy Himalayan peaks, where it begins, right down to the Bay of Bengal, it is being slowly poisoned with pollution from the factories and farms  and from the riverside cremation of Hindu true believers.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and answer the questions.

1 What is the main industry in the centre of India?
2 What polluting element do factories use?
3 What colour is the polluted water?
4 Why is the cleaning of the river more than an environmental project?
5 How many tanneries have been closed by the government?
6 How long will it take before we can see a difference in the cleanliness of the river?

You don't have to be a scientist to know the Ganges is polluted.
Really swells.
I’m in Can Po, the centre of India’s huge leather industry.
There is a tannery…
Much of the leather produced here is exported to Europe and the US.
Oh, God. It’s really powerful, very strong. What kind of waste do we have in here?
They are highly chemicalised end toxic water, waste water, coming from the tanneries. And you know tanneries use a variety of chemicals, hundreds of chemicals.
Including really dangerous chemicals like chromium they use to soften the leather, don’t they?
Chemicals having metals and pesticides also, as well.
So which ones are tanneries here?
The government says it is making progress reducing pollution, and to prove it, we’ve been given permission to go out with a team of pollution control officers on a surprise inspection of the leather tanneries.
Wow, this is a bit different.
Who’s stopping? Something happening down there.
Why are you stopping? Why are you stopping?
Who is in charge of this place?
Four days. It’s four days of flesh. This is where they strip the flesh from the hide. There are huge puddles of water and the water has that distinctive blue. It’s blue because there’s chrome in it. And there’s hides here, they clearly have been treated with the chrome. This just does not look so good.
Not tidy, not much tidy.
This just does not look tidy at all. Looks disgusting.
The effort to clean the river is more than just an environmental project. It’s being seen as a crucial test, as India’s ability to modernise because it means tackling corruption…
Man, it’s like walking on rubber.
… and enforcing effective regulation as well as massive investment in sewage and a fluent treatment infrastructure. It is clear there’s still a long way to go.
Meanwhile, the government says it has raised pollution standards and has already closed more than a hundred tanneries. It says its clean Ganga mission is a key priority, but warns it will take time.
We are not saying that the whole Ganga mission will be completed in five years, no, five years will ensure that there is a marked difference. But it’s a long project. Rhine and Thames were same dirty fifty or sixty years ago, but they also took nearly ten years to completely change the overall ecology of that, and we will also do achieve it.
It will take sustained effort and constant vigilance to clean this mighty river but Mr Modi has a key advantage: The fact that so many Indians want him to succeed.

1 leather
2 chemicals or metals or pesticides or chromium
3 blue
4 it is a test test of India’s ability to modernise and dealing with corruption
5 more than a hundred
6 five years

jueves, 20 de octubre de 2016

Man builds 65 ft whale-shaped boat to sail across the Atlantic

Man builds 65 ft whale-shaped boat called 'Moby' to sail across the Atlantic.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and answer the questions.

1 What was Tom Mclean's job?
2 What does '3,500' refer to?
3 What is Mclean's objective with his journey?
4 What is Tom Mclean's job now?
5 How old is he?

Thankfully this isn't another beached whale on the British coastline… This is a rather unusual boat shaped like a whale and named Moby of all things after its namesake novel by Herman Melville. Former SAS soldier Tom Mclean has spent a mammoth 100,000 pounds and 2 decades building the 65 foot boat in preparation for a 3,500 mile voyage across the Atlantic. The big question is why?
Yeah, maybe why not, I would say. I’m the first man to have rowed the North Atlantic alone and I’ve sailed it and I’ve crossed it in a bottle boat. You can go in many shapes, and I thought, well, why not a whale. I want to clean up the planet, and environmental companies want to be involved with me and well, here we are, Moby.
The boat with the big environmental message will sail down from Loch Nevis in Scotland to London and then New York in stages next year. And it’s guaranteed to be a whale of a time for the retired serviceman.
I’m 73. I feel good. You could say I’m mad but I’m happy with that, I’m getting on doing things. I’m getting off my backside and doing things rather than sitting and watching the telly.
The Loch Ness may have its monster but we reckon Loch Nevis' whale is giving it stiff competition.

1 (SAS) soldier
2 3,500 mile voyage across the Atlantic he intends to make
3 to clean the planet
4 he's retired
5 73

miércoles, 19 de octubre de 2016

Talking point: Happiness

This week's talking point is happiness. Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below so that ideas come to mind more easily the day you get together with your friends and you can work out vocabulary problems beforehand.

What is happiness for you?
Is happiness a goal for you?
What makes you feel happy?
Are you happy most of the time?
What makes you unhappy?
What's the most miserable you've been?
When was the happiest time of your childhood? And of your life?
Can you be happy if you are rich/poor?
How happy are you compared with your friends?
Do you wake up happy every morning?
Do you agree that older people are less happy?
Are the people in your country generally very happy?
Do you think some nations are happier than others?
(source for questions:

How important are these factors to achieve happiness?
Discuss them and choose the three most important ones for you.
Then try to agree with your partner(s) on a common list.
excellent health and fitness
an interesting and worthwhile job
material wealth and a high standard of living
being good-looking and having a great figure
being content spiritually
a wide circle of supportive friends and family
achieving promotion and/or respect at work

To illustrate the point you can watch the video And the secret of happiness is...

Happiness isn’t just a pleasant thing you feel. Science proves it’s much deeper than that. Feeling happy also makes you live a long and healthier life – but how? Well, a large part of our happiness is tied to our social connections. In fact, if you don’t have at least one close friend, you’re less likely to be happy. Each of us have these things called telomeres. Those are tiny caps on our DNA chromosomes that measure our cellular age. It turns out they also measure how many friends we have. No friends equals shorter telomeres. So by simply being social, you can actually slow down your biological age; living longer and happier. Another way to boost your level of happiness is by meditating. Research shows as little as twenty minutes a day can lower your stress hormones. Have you ever heard of a Buddhist monk named Berry Kerzin? Barry meditates with such focused attention he says he can instantly generate his own bliss. People believed him but doctors wanted some scientific proof. So they did an MRI scan of his brain and they showed that, while he meditated, he activated the area of the brain where happiness lives – the left prefrontal cortex. Time of a pop quiz: Is this glass half empty or half full? If you said half full, you’re on your way to feeling happier and healthier. A Harvard study found that optimists are 50 percent less likely to have heart disease, a heart attack or a stroke. Keeping an overall optimistic attitude actually offers protection against cardiovascular disease. Science doesn’t fare as well for pessimists. They not only have lower levels of happiness compared to optimists but research shows that people with negative thoughts are three times as likely to develop health problems as they age. So what do you do if you’re not a naturally happy person? Well experts say the key is to act as though you’re an optimist, even if you’re not.