Monthly Archives: May 2013

Sister Cities: A Partnership Between Peja, Kosovo and Johnston, Iowa

The city of Johnston, Iowa in the United States became a sister city of Peja, Kosovo. This is a great step forward for the small country of Kosovo in building its international links. 

The city of Johnston and the city of Peja, Kosovo, officially are sister cities, making Johnston the 13th Iowa community to form such a relationship.

A delegation from Peja spent time in Johnston last week, touring the area, observing schools and signing the sister city agreement.

Peja now is the 27th sister city for Iowa, according to Sister Cities International. Peja, with a population of 85,000, is located about 50 miles west of the Kosovo capital city of Pristina.

“This is a great pairing,” Johnston Mayor Paula Dierenfeld said. “It wasn’t necessarily something we went out looking for, but sometimes good things happen by accident and this is one.”

Johnston officials first learned details about Kosovo in 2011 when the Johnston-based Iowa National Guard entered a partnership with the military in Kosovo. The relationship was arranged by the U.S. Department of Defense.

A National Guard official “took the approach of involving the whole of Iowa with the whole of Kosovo, encouraging not just the military to have a relationship, but the schools and the cities,” Dierenfeld said.

Last summer, the president of Kosovo, Atifete Jahjaga, visited Johnston. The city teamed up with Camp Dodge to host a reception for her delegation.

“We spent a wonderful evening learning about each other, our cultures, our interests, our similarities and our differences,” Dierenfeld said. “That’s when an interest in developing a relationship began.”

While in Johnston, Jahjaga invited Dierenfeld to attend an international awareness conference she hosted in Kosovo, a round table about the issues facing women regardless of where they live. In October, Dierenfeld traveled there and spent a whirlwind 48 hours at the conference and meeting with officials from Peja. The city was presented as a good match for Johnston.

Communication via email and through the National Guard continued after the trip and culminated last week in the signing of the sister city agreement between Dierenfeld and Peja Mayor Ali Berisha.

“The economy in their country is very similar to Iowa’s — very ag-based,” Dierenfeld said. “Almost 60 percent of the land there is arable and so they’re very interested in developing a relationship here in Iowa that could help them grow their ag economy and, of course, we are home to Pioneer and John Deere, so they’re looking forward to making those contacts.”

Interestingly, 60 percent of the city’s population is younger than the country’s average age of 25, so the people there are quite eager to learn what they can, Dierenfeld said. Also, the Republic of Kosovo has existed as an independent democratic nation for only five years.

“That just sends chills down my spine,” Dierenfeld said. “The people we’ve met with fought Serbs to win their independence. They’re like Revolutionary War heroes in real life, today, and you can feel that energy and excitement every time you get together with them.”

Dierenfeld looks forward to developing the relationship with the aid of schools, businesses and government.

“We’re excited to see what we can learn from each other,” she said. “What is most exciting for us is that we really can make a difference there and I don’t know if we could do that elsewhere. Their economy is so similar and they have such a strong interest in educating their young people. We have many similarities and admire their goals and hopes for their people.”

Neighboring Des Moines has five sister cities and leaders encourage all communities in Iowa to consider establishing such arrangements.

“We’re always excited about relationships and building opportunities for citizens educationally and otherwise,” Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie said. “The business relationships are important, as well. Whether it’s Johnston, Des Moines or wherever, with all of us working together on these types of efforts, it sends a positive message to the rest of the world.”


This article was written by Kristin Danley-Grainer
Click here to view the original article at

The football lady blogger: Kosovare Mezini writes about Albanian players from around the world

Kosovare Mezini is the young and enthusiastic blogger, the lady behind the Swedish blog, dedicated toAlbanian football players around the world. Kosovare aims to finish her studies and then continue with football, but not only as a blogger. She would like to become a focal point for Albanian football. Kosovare adds “I also want to somehow be involved in developing football in Kosovo and Albania, and perhaps even help out out with building the national team. I’m passionate about football, and want to somehow be a role model for others. I want to show that it is not too late to start anything, to lave footprints in this planet.

Kosovare was born in 1991 in Kacanik, Kosovo, and moved to Sweden a year later with her family. Kosovare Mezini is a driven and ambitious person. When she does not blog about Albanian football players, she spends her time studying, and perfecting her dance valle (a local folk dance).

When asked about how she started Albankollen, she says that it all began after the World Cup 2010, immediately after she graduated from high school. “It started out as a normal blog,” she says. She first started writing about football. But as she learned more and more about young Albanian players, she decided to focus her blog only on them. The blog then became Albankollen, and serves as a way for Albanians and Sweeds to follow the latest news about Albanian football players, who have began to join major European leagues at a greater number lately.

Kosovare Mezini also tells that another reason she started the blog was to change the image of Albanians in Sweden. She says “I wanted people to associate us with football. To show them (the Swedes) and Albanians how well we actually are doing.” This is also why she decided to write in Swedish only, even though the audience is smaller then in English. Kosovare does not plan to publish her football writings in English yet, as she still feels new to the world of football.

Some of the young Albanian football players that Kosovare writes about are Xherdan Shaqiri of FC Bayern Munchen, Lorik Cana of F.C. Lazio, Valon Behrami and Blerim Xhemajli of FC Napoli (also playing for the national Swiss team). Other players include the Manchester United young talent of the year, Adnan Januzaj, who was given a number by Sir Alex Ferguson. The list goes on and on, with Hamdi Salihi playing in China, and Besart Berisha becoming the top scorer of the Australian A-League.

“Being a female and writing about football is not as easy as some might think,” Kosovare says. She claims to receive a lot of criticism from the opposite sex, but it does not seem to have stopped her from blogging. The criticism has instead helped her with writing, and also developing as a person, as she has learned how to stand up for herself no matter the gender gap.

The devoted Kosovare Mezini talks about the long hours behind the blog. “Sometimes it’s hard to follow all the Albanians. Nowadays they are many and playing everywhere. Had I written only about one team I then just had to follow the league, and that would be easy. But now I write about all Albanians which means that I have to keep track of all European and other leagues, as well as continent-wide tournaments throughout the year. It is definitely not easy, especially if I am the only one writing.”

Kosovare wishes she had more time to blogg about all Albanian football players because there are so many great ones. Blogging is not something she does for fame like many might think, she says she does it for free and is something she have fought for. The blog has made her stronger and determined to not give up even though people do not agree with her.

All the hard work on Albankollen has paid off for her. She started with little knowledge about football, and about three readers per week. Now the number has risen exponentially. Albankollen has also 750 likes on Facebook.

When asked about if she always been interested in football, she replied: “Everyone has something they are good at, but I had nothing that people could associate me with. So I started to follow football the summer before I turned 18. It was 23 June 2009. I remember this date. I was watching the Swedish U21 national team play, for which featured another great young player of Kosovo origin, Emir Bajrami, who represented Sweden at the Euro 2012. That was the first football game I watched on television, and all of a sudden, I was fascinated by the game. How could a sport bring so much joy to so many people?” She continued, “This was the beginning of what turned out to be a great hobby for me, football.” Kosovare continues, “All of a sudden, I saw myself waking up every weekend at 6.30 amto read about every football league in the world, where Albanian players may feature. And my friends were going partying instead.

When talking about being a Kosovar in Sweden, she says “that it can be difficult at times because people can be judgmental towards other nationalities. But she is grateful, and thinks that Sweden is a great country with very open-minded people, that have embraced Kosovo Albanians, who came to the country as refugees during the 1999 war.” She also tells that their are many talented albanian football players in Sweden which makes it more fun to follow them up close.

Kosovare Mezini aims to finish her studies and then continue with football, but not only as a blogger. She would like to become a focal point for Albanian football. Kosovare adds “I also want to somehow be involved in developing football in Kosovo and Albania, and perhaps even help out out with building the national team. I’m passionate about football, and want to somehow be a role model for others. I want to show that it is not too late to start anything, to lave footprints in this planet.”

To visit Albankollen, click here.
Twitter: @mezinibenzini

Solaborate launches globally!

Solaborate is a social networking platform that is dedicated to technology professionals and companies to connect, collaborate and create an ecosystem around products and services. Labinot Bytyqi, founder and CEO, created a platform that provides technology professionals a central place with the right tools and services to collaborate in real time and solve business problems. And there is no catch, it’s all for free! The company announced that it received over $ 1,000,000 in seed round for first social networking platform dedicated to technology professionals! Those funds were provided by angel and individual investors.

Solaborate was founded in 2010 and has its headquarters in Los Angeles. Labinot Bytyqi, CEO and founder, built a team of over 18 that designed and developed Solaborate in Macedonia (Skopje) and Kosovo (Prishtina). The 7 head strong team in Prishtina takes charge of testing the product.

What makes Solaborate so special is that it uniquely provides technology professionals with a platform exclusively designed for them. They can post questions, share documents and presentations, chat (on video conferences) and share best practices. All users are free to connect, discover and follow other technology professionals, companies and services. The platform can also be well used by those who seek and offer jobs or those who seek commentaries. Business cards, in form of profile information, enable users to present their skills. Following others without having to connect with them is also possible, and so-called tech-scores are distributed on profiles. Those scores are distributed along the lines of three different components of a user’s profile: activity, sharing useful content and having it shared, followers and connections. All search activities are, of course, offered with a filter function that allows users to narrow down their search based on localities, for instance.

Those screen shots might remind you of facebook, LinkedIn and Google+, added with some of the team’s individual features and spices. Just like other social media channels, Solaborate will generate revenue through advertisement, instead of making users pay monthly fees. Convenience is also an important aspect. Solaborate offers a system that prevents spam offering of uninteresting products. The given tool then learns to weed out unwanted offenders from the system.

In sum, Solaborate uses the best features of all other social media channels. Unlike others, however, Solaborate additionally offers its users to collaborate in real time. For now, Solaborate operates within one industry, namely technology, but in the near future expansion might be in sight.

Key features of the model in summary:

  • for free!
  • exclusively designed for technology professionals
  • a person’s/ company’s profile is their business card
  • video chat in one-on-one and group conversation with customers, experts, and product representatives (without having to download a software or plug-ins based on WebRTC)
  • view, create and share demos of products and services
  • seek and offer jobs
  • earn tech-scores (based on activity, sharing useful information, having content shared, followers and connections)
  • join or develop user groups where users can share content and participate in discussions
  • filter function to prevent spamming

See also


Market Wired:

The Wall Street Journal: