Heavenly Light

Heavenly Light
Read to see the light

Monday, August 27, 2007

Eco Tourism Update

The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) Press Release
TIES Announces the Oslo Statement on Ecotourism


Washington DC - August 15, 2007 - The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) released today the Oslo Statement on Ecotourism, which is an outcome of the Global Ecotourism Conference 2007 (GEC07), in Oslo, Norway, 14-16 May. Marking the 5th anniversary of the International Year of Ecotourism, GEC07 was an important step forward for the global ecotourism community's efforts to strengthen its voice and to influence the travel industry to become more sustainable.
David Sollitt, TIES Executive Director, says, "Serving both as a summary of the discussions that took place during GEC07 and as a practical tool for promoting ecotourism, the Oslo Statement on Ecotourism should be used by all ecotourism stakeholders to assess the current state of the global ecotourism community and to evaluate the challenges facing ecotourism."

The Statement highlights ecotourism's past achievements and future challenges, and puts forward recommendations about ecotourism's roles in safeguarding the world's natural and cultural heritage and bringing positive changes to the travel industry. The Statement is available for download at: www.ecotourism.org.

"It is our hope that our members, conference participants, government representatives and ecotourism businesses around the world will use the recommendations put forth in this Statement to enhance their operations and to raise awareness of key issues in ecotourism," says Sollitt.

The Statement has been developed based on the workshop themes and topics of GEC07, with input from speakers, moderators, and conference participants, and comments from others submitted online. The following staff and Board members of TIES have contributed their time to craft this Statement: Kelly Bricker, Christina Cavaliere, Richard Denman, Ayako Ezaki, David Sollitt and Carolyn Wild.

The Statement is available for download at the TIES website and the GEC07 website.

In the coming weeks, TIES will release the French, Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish versions of the Oslo Statement on Ecotourism through its website.
The International Ecotourism Society (TIES)
As the world's oldest and largest ecotourism organization, TIES is committed to promoting the principles of ecotourism and responsible practices in travel and tourism. With the goal of uniting conservation, communities and sustainable travel, TIES serves its members in over 90 countries, and strives to act as the global source of knowledge and advocacy in ecotourism.


Saturday, August 25, 2007

Total Lunar Eclipse Aug 28th, 2007

There has been some crazy things going on in the cosmos, one can only say it cool to have a Lunar eclipse and 1 day before my birthday!

Eclipse timetable for Aug. 28
Moon enters penumbra 4:54a 3:54a 2:54a 1:54a 12:54a
Moon enters umbra 5:51a 4:51a 3:51a 2:51a 1:51a
Totality begins - 5:52a 4:52a 3:52a 2:52a
Midtotality - 6:37a 5:37a 4:37a 3:37a
Totality ends - - 6:22a 5:22a 4:22a
Moon leaves umbra - - - 6:24a 5:24a
Moon leaves penumbra - - - - 6:21a

A total eclipse of the Moon occurs during the early morning of Tuesday, August 28, 2007. The event is widely visible from the United States and Canada as well as South America, the Pacific Ocean, western Asia and Australia. During a total lunar eclipse, the Moon's disk can take on a dramatically colorful appearance from bright orange to blood red to dark brown and (rarely) very dark gray.

An eclipse of the Moon can only take place at Full Moon, and only if the Moon passes through some portion of Earth's shadow. The shadow is actually composed of two cone-shaped parts, one nested inside the other. The outer shadow or penumbra is a zone where Earth blocks some (but not all) of the Sun's rays. In contrast, the inner shadow or umbra is a region where Earth blocks all direct sunlight from reaching the Moon.

If only part of the Moon passes through the umbra, a partial eclipse is seen. However, if the entire Moon passes through the umbral shadow, then a total eclipse of the Moon occurs. For more information on how, what, why, where and when of lunar eclipses, see the special web page lunar eclipses for beginners.


List of Progessive Orgs

List Cultivated by various facets of web surfing:









Reply Forward

- global greengrants - Global Greengrants fund grassroots action in some of the world∂s most despoiled and impoverished places. Grassroots groups are key to solving intractable problems and halting cycles of poverty, powerlessness and environmental destruction. Our grants offer hope and tap the energy of communities where other sources of support are unavailable. There is no better investment than supporting passionate people with great ideas.

- donkey sanctuary - Dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and protection of abandoned, neglected or abused donkeys, mules and hinnies, the Sanctuary provides these animals a lifelong home.

- The Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR) - The Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR) was established in 1993 to promote social justice through human rights. In a world where poverty and inequality deprive entire communities of dignity and even life itself, CESR promotes the universal right of every human being to housing, education, health and a healthy environment, food, work, and social security.

- www.globalexchange.org - since 1988, global exchange has advocated corporate accountability, sustainable development and fair trade for nations that have fallen victim to excessive militarization and globalization.

- www.institutoterra.org - instituto terra was created in 1998 by brazilian photographer sebastiao salgado and his wife lelia wanick salgado to develop and support reforestation projects for a large area of devastated atlantic forest in the river doce valley region in brazil. it is currently developing four major pilot projects based at bulcao farm in the municipality of aimores in the state of minas gerais, southeast brazil.

- human rights watch - www.hrw.org - human rights watch is the largest human rights organization based in the united states. its researchers conduct fact-finding investigations into human rights abuses in all regions of the world then publishes those findings , generating extensive coverage in local and international media. they also meet with government officials to urge changes in policy and practice -- at the united nations, the european union, in washington and in capitals around the world. in extreme circumstances, human rights watch presses for the withdrawal of military and economic support from governments that egregiously violate the rights of their people.

- www.globalfundforchildren.org - the global fund for children was founded in 1994 by maya ajmera on the premise that an educational non-profit group could use the entrepreneurial skills of a start-up company and the power of the market to create a new kind of wealth-social wealth. the global fund for children strives not only to improve the lives of children, but also to integrate their voices into all that we do. today's children face many challenges. in the developing world, severe poverty and a lack of education limit many children's lives. as our world becomes increasingly interdependent, the problems that cloud children's futures, from lack of basic education to ethnic conflict, require global solutions. we believe that all of the world's children must be empowered to reach their full potentials in order to meet the challenges that the future will bring.

- working assets radio - www.workingassetsradio.com - working assets radio - part of the working for change progressive network, which generates millions of dollars in donations to nonprofits working for peace, equality, human rights, education and a cleaner environment - airs on npr-affiliate kalw, weekdays in the bay area. the broadcasts are hosted by author laura flanders, who addresses such issues as human rights, international politics, feminism, economics and the media.

- witness - www.witness.org - witness is a human rights program that attracts the eyes of the world and inspires those who see to act. co-founded by musician peter gabriel, witness strengthens local activists by giving them video cameras and field training. today, they unleash an arsenal of computers, imaging and editing software, satellite phones and email in the struggle for justice. they have worked with over 150 partner groups from 50 countries to use video to overcome political, economic, and physical barriers, and to expose human rights abuses to the world via television - bbc, cnn, abc, etc. - grassroots advocacy, and internet broadcasting.

- third wave foundation - www.thirdwavefoundation.org - through grantmaking, networking and public education, third wave foundation informs and empowers a generation of young women activists. they support young women activists whose innovative social change strategies are often overlooked elsewhere. third wave is led by young men and women who reflect the diversity of america. they strive to combat inequalities that we all face as a result of our age, gender, race, sexual orientation, economic status or level of education. third wave supports young women leading a broad range of movements, from campaigning for a living wage or environmental protections, to opposing private prisons and reproductive rights.

- the development gap - www.developmentgap.org - with a first-hand knowledge of the circumstances and capabilities of the people of much of the south and the economic institutions and policy circles of the north, the development gap has sought to close the wide gap that has existed between third world local realities and the perception of northern policymakers who have not experienced those realities. as a result of the interlocutory role it has played between these two worlds, as well as among environmentalists, developmentalists and other like-minded advocates for constructive change, the development gap has become a significant center for analysis, advocacy and action in washington. through its efforts, d'gap has fostered successful civil-society organizations in mali, ghana, uganda and zimbabwe, as part of its structural adjustment participatory review initiative.

- independent media center - www.indymedia.org - the independent media center is a network of collectively run media outlets for the creation of radical, accurate, and passionate tellings of the truth. it was established by various independent and alternative media organizations and activists for the purpose of providing grassroots coverage of the world trade organization (wto) protests in seattle last november. the center acted as a clearinghouse of information for journalists, and provided up-to-the-minute reports, photos, audio and video footage through its website. through a decentralized and autonomous network, hundreds of media activists have since setup independent media centers in london, canada, mexico city, prague, belgium, france, and italy, with more to come.

- idex (international development exchange) - www.idex.org - IDEX is a san-francisco based non-profit organization that partners with grassroots organizations in eight countries in africa, asia and latin america, while actively engaging and educating north americans in the challenges facing communities in these regions. since 1985, IDEX has channeled over $1.9 million to fund more than 480 self-help community projects benefiting women, youth and indigenous peoples who earn less than $2 a day.

- foreign policy in focus - www.foreignpolicy-infocus.org - foreign policy in focus (FPIF), established in 1996, seeks to make the u.s. a more responsible global leader and global partner. it is a "think tank without walls" that functions as an international network of more than 650 policy analysts and advocates. unlike traditional think tanks, FPIF is committed to advancing a citizen-based foreign policy agenda - one that is fundamentally rooted in citizen initiatives and movements.

- seac (student environmental action coalition) - www.seac.org - SEAC- pronounced "seek," as in "seeking" -- is a student and youth run national network of progressive organizations and individuals whose aim is to uproot environmental injustices through action and education. they define the environment to include the physical, economical, political and cultural conditions in which we live. by challenging the power structure which threatens these environmental conditions, SEAC works to create progressive social change on both the local and global levels.

- global trade watch - www.tradewatch.org - global trade watch (GTW) was created in 1993 to promote government and corporate accountability in an area on which few public interest groups were focused: the international commercial agreements shaping the current version of globalization. GTW is a division of Œpublic citizen,¹ the national consumer group founded in 1972 by ralph nader. having built unique substantive capacity and diverse contacts with other ngos, the press and policy-makers, it is still the only u.s. organization focused full-time on globalization issues. they have become a leader in promoting a citizen's perspective on an array of globalization issues, including implications for health and safety, environmental protection, economic justice, and democratic, accountable governance.

- baido (bay area international development organizations) - www.baido.org - BAIDO (bay area international development organizations) is a network of bay area nonprofits doing international development work. they promote understanding of the challenges facing people globally - and the solutions they are finding. BAIDO builds on the collective expertise within their membership to address the inter-connectedness of global issues. BAIDO members represent a wealth of in-depth knowledge and personal experience concerning the developing world - a valuable resource for northern california.

- fstv (free speech tv) - www.freespeech.org - FSTV (free speech tv) is a full time satellite channel on the dish network (channel 9415) and a part-time cable network bringing the best of progressive television to nearly nine million homes weekly. working with activists and artists, FSTV uses television to cultivate an informed and active citizenry in order to advance progressive social change. the station airs primarily social, political, cultural, and environmental documentaries, although some experimental and dramatic work is featured as well.

- democracy now - www.democracynow.org - democracy now! goes beyond the rhetoric and party politics offered by the mainstream media. instead, it highlights grassroots efforts to enhance and ignite democracy in the u.s. these days, some are labeling this "public journalism" or "civic journalism." democracy now! focuses on a range of issues that demand attention, from the relationship of citizens to their government to the economic realities of declining wages and standards of living for the vast majority of americans; from the role of money in campaigns to the impact of new technologies on politics and the media.

- center for marine conservation - www.cmc-ocean.org - the mission of the center for marine conservation is to protect ocean ecosystems and conserve the global abundance and diversity of marine wildlife. through science-based advocacy, research and public education, CMC informs, inspires and empowers people to speak and act for the oceans.

- doctors without borders - www.doctorswithoutborders.org - médecins sans frontières (also known as doctors without borders or MSF) delivers emergency aid to victims of armed conflict, epidemics and natural and man-made disasters, and to others who lack health care due to social or geographical isolation. a private, nonprofit organization, MSF is at the forefront of emergency health care as well as care for populations suffering from endemic diseases and neglect. they provide primary health care, perform surgery, rehabilitate hospitals and clinics, run nutrition and sanitation programs, train local medical personnel, and provide mental health care.

- grassroots international - www.grassrootsonline.org - grassroots international is an independent, non-profit agency working for social change. they provide financial and material support for community-led development in brazil, east timor, eritrea, haiti, mexico, and palestine. in the u.s., we do educational and advocacy work on issues of concern to our partners.

- united for a fair economy - www.ufenet.org - united for a fair economy was founded as a "movement support" organization to provide media capacity, face-to-face economic literacy education and training resources to organizations and individuals who work to address the widening income and asset gap in our country.

- east timor action network - www.etan.org - the east timor action network/united states was founded in november 1991 to support genuine self-determination and human rights for the people of east timor, in accordance with the universal declaration of human rights, the 1960 united nations general assembly resolution on decolonization, and security council and general assembly resolutions on east timor. their primary focus has been to change u.s. foreign policy and raise public awareness of the 26 years of human rights violations inflicted upon the east timorese at the hands of indonesia-backed paramilitaries.

- ASPCA (american society for the prevention of cruelty to animals) - www.aspca.org - the american society for the prevention of cruelty to animals was founded in 1866 as the first humane organization in the western hemisphere. today, the ASPCA has over 680,000 members and donors and continues to prevent cruelty and alleviate the pain, fear and suffering of animals through nationwide education, awareness and legislative programs. their headquarters in new york city houses one of the area's largest full service animal hospitals, an adoption facility, and the humane law enforcement department, which is responsible for enforcing new york's animal cruelty laws.

- black radical congress - www.blackradicalcongress.org - the purpose of the black radical congress (BRC) is to promote dialogue among african-american activists and scholars on the left; to discuss critical issues on the national and international scene that pertain to the black community; to explore new strategies and directions for progressive political, social and cultural movements; and to renew the black radical movement through increased unified action.

- mother jones - www.motherjones.com - the mission of the foundation for national progress is to educate and empower people to work toward progressive change. established in 1975, the FNP seeks to advance public understanding of important issues through various media projects including mother jones magazine, the mojo wire, and the international fund for documentary photography.

- global fund for women - www.globalfundforwomen.org/index.shtml - the global fund for women, an international network of women and men committed to a world of equality and social justice, advocates for and defends women's human rights by making grants to support women's groups around the world. they are part of a global women's movement that is rooted in a commitment to justice and an appreciation of the value of women's experience. the challenges women face vary widely across communities, cultures, religions, traditions and countries.

- peace development fund - www.peacefund.org - the peace development fund makes grants to organizations and projects working to achieve peaceful, just and interdependent relationships among people and nations. they believe that the change in values needed to establish a more just and peaceful world will come about only if it is strongly rooted in local communities.

- girls, inc. - www.girlsinc.org - girls, inc. develops research-based informal education programs that encourage girls to take risks and master physical, intellectual and emotional challenges. major programs address math and science education, pregnancy and drug abuse prevention, media literacy, economic literacy, adolescent health, violence prevention, and sports participation.

- women's cancer resource center - www.wcrc.org - women's cancer resource center seeks to empower women with cancer to be active and informed consumers and survivors; to provide community for women with cancer and their supporters; to educate the general community about cancer; and to be actively involved in the struggle for a life-affirming, cancer-free society.

- lion & lamb project - www.lionlamb.org - the mission of the lion & lamb project is to stop the marketing of violence to children. they do this by helping parents, industry and government officials recognize that violence is not child's play - and by galvanizing concerned adults to take action. lion & lamb works to reduce the marketing of violent toys, games and entertainment to children in two distinct ways. they work with parents and other concerned adults to reduce the demand for violent "entertainment" products, and with industry and government to reduce the supply of such products.

- institute for agriculture & trade policy - www.iatp.org - the institute for agriculture and trade policy (IATP) was established in 1986 as a nonprofit and tax exempt research and education organization. their mission is to create environmentally and economically sustainable communities and regions through sound agriculture and trade policy. the institute assists public interest organizations in effectively influencing both domestic and international policymaking through monitoring, analysis and research.

- children now - www.childrennow.org - children now conducts analysis and research, including the voices of children and families, communicates strategies that inform, educate and engage, develops partnerships with community organizations, parents, advocates, business and government and motivates those with influence and power to act on behalf of children.

- oxfam - www.oxfam.org - oxfam america invests privately raised funds and technical expertise in local organizations around the world that hold promise in their efforts to help poor people move out of poverty. these projects are characterized by partnerships with these local organizations - a unique and highly successful approach that ensures lasting change. they listen to their partners as they describe local needs, and work together with them to find ways to help their communities prosper in their livelihoods and organize their communities for economic stability and democratic opportunity.

- robin hood foundation - www.robinhood.org - the core mission of the robin hood foundation is fighting poverty, improving literacy, finding employment, and maintaining basic survival programs in healthcare, hunger, housing and domestic violence in new york city. they make grants and invest in smaller community organizations, provide management assistance and recruit legal, accounting and real estate firms to provide services pro bono.

- pr watch - center for media and democracy - www.prwatch.org - pr watch is a project of the center for media & democracy. it offers investigative reporting on the public relations industry. pr watch helps the public recognize manipulative and misleading pr practices by exposing the activities of secretive, little- known propaganda-for-hire firms that work to control political debates and public opinion.

- peace action - www.peace-action.org - peace action (formerly sane/freeze, founded in 1957), its sister organization, peace action education fund (PAEF), the student peace action network (SPAN), and the international office work through national and grassroots citizens' action to promote global nuclear disarmament, cut military spending, and end the international arms trade.

- family care international - www.familycareintl.org - FCI is dedicated to improving women's sexual and reproductive health and rights in developing countries, with a special emphasis on making pregnancy and childbirth safer. FCI addresses a range of urgent health issues, including maternal health, adolescent sexual and reproductive health, family planning, unsafe abortion, and violence against women. much of their work is carried out in the areas of safe motherhood, which aims to ensure that women have access to the services and support they need to go through pregnancy and childbirth safely and the comprehensive, women-centered approach to reproductive health, which was endorsed by 179 countries at the international conference on population and development in 1994.

- sweatshop watch - www.sweatshopwatch.org - sweatshop watch is a coalition of labor, community, civil rights, immigrant rights, women's, religious and student organizations, and individuals committed to eliminating the exploitation that occurs in sweatshops. sweatshop watch serves low wage workers, with a focus on garment workers in california, as well as nationally and globally. they believe that workers should be earning a living wage in a safe and decent working environment and that those who benefit the most from the exploitation of sweatshop workers must be held accountable.

- rainforest alliance - www.rainforest-alliance.org - the rainforest alliance is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of tropical forests for the benefit of the global community. their mission is to develop and promote economically viable and socially desirable alternatives to the destruction of this endangered, biologically diverse natural resource. they pursue this mission through education, research in the social and natural sciences, and the establishment of cooperative partnerships with businesses, governments, and local peoples.

- znet - www.zmag.org - z is an independent political magazine of critical thinking on political, cultural, social, and economic life in the united states. it sees the racial, sexual, political, and class dimensions of personal life as fundamental to understanding and improving contemporary circumstances and it aims to assist activist efforts to attain a better future. to these ends, z attempts to operate in a democratic fashion, both internally and also with respect to its contributing writers and artists and the broader national progressive community.

- pop sustainability - www.popsustainability.org - thinkpop.org is an initiative of pop sustainability, a non-profit organization promoting more sustainable lifestyles through the tools of popular culture--the means of mass media and the arts. it is the beginning of a global movement towards creative solutions to exclusion, poverty, environmental degradation, social injustice and repression.

- http://www.hawca.org - HAWCA (humanitarian assistance for the women and children afghanistan) is dedicated to improving the lives of afghans living in the refugee camps of Pakistan by sponsoring programs in the fields of basic health care, maternal care, sanitation, literacy and trauma counseling.

- www.redcross.org - the volunteer-run american red cross extends relief to disaster victims and offers strategies on how to prevent, prepare for and recover from emergencies.

- www.savethechildren.org.uk - save the children uk works in poverty-stricken communities in 70 countries, safe-guarding children against malnourishment, illness, violence and injustice.

- www.greenpeaceusa.org - greenpeace uses non-violent direct action to protest environmental legislations and practices that do global and/or local damage to the ecosystem.

- www.care.org - for more than 50 years, cooperative assistance and relief everywhere (CARE) has extended food, health care, shelter and education to more than 60 countries in need of relief.

- www.aah-usa.org - with projects in 40 countries to date, action against hunger combats famine and malnutrition by fostering water & sanitation, food security, health and nutrition programs in communities of disaster victims.

- www.amfar.org - through such nation-wide initiatives as national HIV testing day, AIDS awareness programs for children and continuing medical education courses, amFAR (american foundation for AIDS research) aims to prevent HIV infection and to support research to cure the disease.

- www.sundance.org - keeping with founder robert redford's original mission, the sundance institute is dedicated to supporting new screenwriters and directors. from its sundance, utah base, the institute hosts an annual exhibition of new, independent features and documentaries.

- www.asianart.org - the asian art nuseum is the first museum in the US devoted exclusively to the arts of asia, with many items from founder avery brundage's private holdings among the artifacts on exhibit.

- www.clemusart.com - everything from egyptian sculpture to medieval armor comprises the cleveland museum of art's 30,000+ assortment of trans-global, multi-cultural art work.

- www.filmlinc.com - film society of lincoln center sponsors the new york film festival, the new york video festival, this year's human rights watch festival, as well as an array of independent films and retrospectives at the walter reade theatre.

- www.moma.org - devoted entirely to the modern movement, the 72-year-old museum of modern art holds a collection that includes more than 100,000 works of art in the fields of architecture and design, drawings, film and video, painting and sculpture, photography and illustrated books.

- www.czechcenter.com - czech center new york aims to increase awareness of the czech republic stateside through cultural events and educational programs.

- www.sanfranciscoart.edu - with alumni such as diego rivera and mark rothko and having housed the west coast abstract expressionism and later, beat movements, the san francisco art institute has remained on the cutting edge of contemporary art for well over a century.

- www.telluridefilmfestival.com - the telluride film festival, a product of the national film preserve, is an informal yearly exhibition of independent films screened for film-lovers.

- www.blindness.org - the foundation for fighting blindness funds research studies to find causes, treatments, preventions and cures for various ocular ailments and diseases.

- www.nmai.si.edu - a recent addition to the smithsonian institution, the national museum of the american indian is the first national museum to honor the languages, culture, history and arts of native american tribes from america, canada, middle and south america and the caribbean.

- www.tnc.org - the nature conservacy works with communities and businesses to preserve plants, animals, valuable lands and bodies of water.

- www.sfsymphony.org - led by conductor michael tilson thomas, the san francisco symphony is internationally renowned as one of the world's best classical music ensembles.

- www.asiasociety.org - the asia society is dedicated to fostering understanding of asia abroad and to bolstering communication between Americans and the people of asia using the arts, film, seminars and publications.

- www.westfolk.org - the western folklife center was created to preserve and perpetuating the folk arts of the romantic american west, through exhibits, educational programs and public performances.

- www.sierraclub.org - the mission of the sierra club includes preservation, protection and enhancement of the natural environment through education and practicing and promoting ecologically sound living. the sierra club influences public, private and corporate policies and actions through various programs. The strategy of the sierra club is to activate appropriate portions of a network of staff, members, and other concerned citizens, using legislative, administrative, electoral, and legal approaches, and to develop supporting public opinion.

- Rongelap Peace Museum - The museum is an attempt to record, remember and make known the damage of US nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands. It will help bring public attention to many unknown sufferings and contribute to the relief of the sufferers. The museum will thus encourage people to work for a nuclear-weapons-free Pacific and a nuclear-weapons-free future. Please send a donation to support this extremely important project.
It is preferred that contributions be transferred to the bank account of the project at: Bank of Marshall Islands, P.O. Box J, Majuro, Marshall Islands 96960, Tel: 692-625-3662; Savings account number: 881-72-2006-7, Routing Number: 121405212. Donations can also be sent to Mirar in Eaan Committee (People from the North), P.O. Box 350, Majuro, Marshall Islands 96960.



Proud to be an Alum...?!

The $50,630 Question

Comments Comment on this article Print It Print this article E-Mail It Email this article to a friend

The Education Issue

* The $50,630 Question
By Julie Westfall
* Tier Factor: GW's quest to become one of "America's Best Colleges"
By Julie Westfall
* A Special Education: How to send your kid to private school for free
By Samantha Cleaver
* Cheap Seats: The grass is greener at D.C. public schools
By Dave McKenna
* Show & Tell: Taking third-graders to bars
By Jessica Gould

E-Mail the Writer

Send a Letter to the Editor
Is an education at George Washington University worth it?

By Julie Westfall
Posted: August 22, 2007

What most schools call freshman orientation is a different animal at the George Washington University, the most expensive college in America. There, it’s known as Colonial Inauguration, or just “CI,” a three-day whirlwind of ice cream socials and casino nights.

CI is one of the university’s selling points. When high schoolers tour the campus, the guide from the GW admissions office is likely to include mention of the event among the experiences that set the school apart from its competitors: In addition to the prospect of spotting presidential motorcades and studying at the Lincoln Memorial, you’ll get to enjoy the laser-light show at Colonial Inauguration.

The six-minute-plus neon extravaganza includes the Hippo, GW’s unofficial mascot, bowling, playing tennis, kicking a soccer ball, lifting weights in the fitness center—to the strains of the theme from Star Wars and the Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star.”

Willie Castro, a subcontractor for Audio Visual Imagineering, who created the show and has been tweaking it each year for more than a decade, says a show like GW’s costs about $2,500 per minute to produce. Throw in labor costs and other fees, and the university has paid a robust five-figure sum over the years to build a precious campus commodity: tradition. “Nobody seems to be tired of ‘Video Killed the Radio Star,’” says Castro. “Every year I say, ‘You guys don’t want to change it, so you must love that song.’”
(Photograph by Darrow Montgomery)

The student newspaper, the GW Hatchet, has written exhaustively about Colonial Inauguration and its extravagances, which have included engraved chocolates deposited on the pillows of incoming freshmen. When GW stopped giving out GWopoly board games a few years ago, the Hatchet reported the move saved the college $30,000. An analysis of the wardrobe of the Colonial Cabinet, the elite pack of wild-eyed, hyper students who lead the orientation, found that the crew’s khaki shorts likely cost the university about $4,000 each summer.

“Most colleges view orientation as a simple half-day event where students can buy books and sign waivers. GW, as you will quickly learn, has much more of a ‘Go big or go home’ attitude,” wrote sophomore Diana Kugel in the Hatchet. “While the laser light show may be superfluous, all of the fuss and preparation that goes into CI is effective in its efforts to make newly accepted students feel welcome. And while sometimes GW does overdo it when trying to uphold a certain image, you may as well get used to things being done on a large scale.”

At GW, that realization starts with tuition. Last February, GW announced its tuition and required fees plus room and board would cost $50,630 for this year’s freshmen, the class of 2011. It was like the day a barrel of oil hit $50—everyone saw it coming, but seeing the number on paper was stunning.

“When that word came out, you panic a little,” says Michael O’Leary, senior associate director of GW’s admissions office, who’s among those tasked with promoting the university. “You sit down and scratch your head and say, ‘How are we going to deal with this?’ And then you move forward.”

“[University officials] pointed out that it was the lowest percent increase,” says Hatchet editor Jake Sherman, referring to how this year’s freshmen will pay 3.8 percent more than last year’s freshmen. “But it’s almost been PR suicide for them. It’s pretty unbelievable how they’ve tried to spin it.”

But as public-relations challenges go, record tuition isn’t necessarily the hardest one to explain. That would be why the school ranks much lower on the various surveys that gauge its market value. The latest U.S. News & World Report rankings for “America’s Best Colleges,” for instance, considers GW only 54th in the country. In 2006, it was 52nd.

GW has, however, risen through the ranks of large-land-holders in the District by dint of its legendary expansion. In 1912, GW had a single building in Foggy Bottom, at 20th and G Streets. Now it owns most of a five-block area loosely bordered by Pennsylvania Avenue, 23rd Street, E Street, and 20th Street. Much of the growth has occurred in the past 15 years.
(Photograph by Darrow Montgomery)

This year, the university decided to take itself to another level. It sought permission to nearly double the size of its campus by building up 2.5 million square feet within its boundaries. In contentious zoning hearings, university officials argued that the allure of GW is tied to its wonderfully situated campus in view of the White House. Neighbors likened the 20-year building plan to plopping an Empire State Building in Foggy Bottom, albeit one spread out to conform to the District’s hallowed height laws. In the end, the school received permission to pursue its expansion, subject to further zoning approvals.

GW also pissed off Foggy Bottom residents when it leased its old hospital site on Pennsylvania Avenue, one of the largest empty tracts of land in the District, to a developer for the next 60 years. Plans include two rental residential towers and a commercial office tower, which is expected to house a law firm. The university won’t say how many millions it is making off the deal, but in “go big or go home” fashion, GW said it plans to build a new science center, dorms, classrooms, and research space with the cash infusion. Through all the expansions, the university has sustained vicious attacks from Foggy Bottom activists and their brethren across town. Whether the venue was a meeting of the local advisory neighborhood commission or a city zoning panel, the complaint was usually the same: The school’s big shots were rapacious land-grabbers determined to turn residential Foggy Bottom into a cul-de-sac.

GW’s thirst for land has become something of a business problem in recent years. In 2003, 25 percent of the assets in the school’s endowment consisted of illiquid property investments off campus. Endowment managers have since reduced that number to 15 percent, the better to maximize the endowment’s utility.

That endowment just passed $1 billion this summer, but it’s paltry for a school with world-class ambitions. Princeton University, No. 1 on the U.S. News survey, has the fifth-largest endowment in the nation at around $13 billion. (This year, tuition plus room and board at the New Jersey Ivy will set you back nearly $44,000.)

GW’s comparatively shallow endowment means that it relies on tuition to meet 80 percent of its daily operating costs. Without that cash coming in, the university says, it would be bankrupt in a year. The problem has outlasted the 19-year tenure of President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, who succeeded Lloyd Hartman Elliott in 1988 and stepped down this July. “If we had a bigger endowment, we’d have more money. And if we had more money, we could, if we chose, lower tuition or give more financial aid,” Trachtenberg says.

Traditionally, alumni help to pad university endowments. But GW’s alumni-giving is currently only at 11 percent, according to GW’s director of media.

“Some of it has to do with having begun alumni giving programs very late in our history. Some of it is because we were, for many years, a commuter school,” says Trachtenberg, whose total compensation in 2004-05 was north of $700,000, placing him among the highest paid university presidents in the country. “I think these things are generational. You have to have somebody come to the university, they have to have a good experience, then they have to graduate, then they have to pay off whatever those loans are that you made to them, then they go on, and they buy their first house, then they get married, then they have children, then they have to pay for the orthodontist, then they have to pay for the car.”

“And they get to a point in their lives where, God willing, they have surplus, and that’s when people start to look around and decide where they’re going to be consequentially philanthropic. Most people start with their houses of worship.”

Trachtenberg believes cash from GW alumni who graduated during the previous era in GW history, the one led by Elliott from ’65 to ’88, will start flowing soon.

“You have to allow these things to germinate, to gestate,” he says.

The unofficial position on GW philanthropy is a bit more jaded. “A lot of people say GW just doesn’t engender this feeling of giving back,” says Hatchet editor Sherman. “What I’ve heard is that people just feel like they come out of this school and they’re drained of everything they have.”

As far as recruiting future alumni, GW competes with big-name schools for upper-echelon students and, to many of them, the university does offer help. Last year, 20 percent of its students received large merit scholarships, which usually pay for about half of the tuition, not including room, board, and fees.

“Nobody cares what the tuition is,” says Trachtenberg, who is now President Emeritus and professor of public service for the college. “Students who pay the full tuition are a small fraction of the student body,” he says.

In fact, more than 60 percent of GW’s undergraduates receive some kind of financial aid, and the school beats all universities in the dollars-per-student it gives in aid, at around $33,000. Shortly after it dropped the $50,000 bombshell, GW announced it would also cut its merit scholarships by a third in favor of need-based aid.
(Photograph by Darrow Montgomery)

The rest of the students, or, more likely, their parents, simply write a check every semester. “Obviously you’ve got to have a lot of rich students to subsidize the less rich students. GW will officially tell you, of course, that it subsidizes many students, and that’s true. But if you’ve been to GW, you know it’s a culture of wealth,” says Margaret Soltan, an English professor at the college. “All you have to do is walk up and down 21st Street and see all these fancy SUVs and Porsches and realize that they are being driven by 20-year-olds.”

Taylor Carrington, soon to be a freshman majoring in international relations and Spanish, will likely have to hitch a ride with one of her rich classmates. She will be starting GW with an enormous merit scholarship of $20,000 but plans to graduate with debt. Her parents are helping with some of the overflow.

“My parents both have good jobs, and education is one of those things they are willing to spend money on,” says Carrington, who is from Rhode Island. “I know it’s a lot of money, but my parents were like, ‘It’s an education, so it’s OK to spend.’ I felt like a degree from GW is worth that. I felt like I’ll be able to pay it off as soon as I get out of there.”

Carrington is a beneficiary of Trachtenberg’s brand of educational socialism. “It is how we seek justice on behalf of all our students,” he says. “But you see, all our students aren’t identical. And so what we try to do is treat each student as justly and as equitably as we can. And so it’s a little like a Procrustean bed. You know you have a 6-foot person, and you have a 4-foot bed. The choices, it seems to me, are extend the bed by 2 feet or cut 2 feet off the person.”

“Well, what we try to do,” he says, “is extend the bed. And so we have some students who are paying—what you would call if you’re buying a car—the list price. And we have other students who are getting the car for free. And most students are in between A and Z, between Alpha and Omega.”

Three years ago, GW helped pioneer an idea that is catching on at universities around the country. The school promised the Class of 2008 that it would pay $34,000 in tuition a year for as long as they stayed at the university. The graduating Class of 2004 paid $29,000, 16 percent less.

The fixed tuition promise doesn’t apply to the mandatory room, board, and other fees, and housing at GW is just as expensive, if not more so, than living in an apartment building nearby. (Freshmen and sophomores are required to live on campus.) But the pricing scheme does allow students to know how much they will pay for tuition as long as they stay at GW.

The university insists that under this plan, students do not actually pay the highest tuition in the country because while other universities will raise their tuition by different amounts every year, GW’s will stay the same. By this math, GW is only the ninth-most-expensive university in the country.

The university gets there by predicting that expensive schools such as Sarah Lawrence, Amherst, and Colgate—which don’t usually compete for the same students as GW—will raise their tuition by 5.7 percent each year. GW thus concludes that its incoming freshmen will end up paying less in the long term.

This calculation, of course, is open to challenge. Last year, Hatchet opinions editor Kyle Spector argued that schools that actually attract the same sort of students who apply to GW—including NYU and Boston University—would have to raise their tuition by much more than they actually did during the last three years in order to catch up with the price tag at GW.

“On balance, GW is marginally more expensive,” concedes O’Leary. “I say that not discounting that we are the most expensive. You can’t beat around that bush. You can’t dispute a price tag.”

When Trachtenberg arrived, a year at GW cost about $14,520, not including fees or premiums for living in better dorms.

“The mandate was, ‘Let’s move the institution to the next level,’” says O’Leary, who began an entry-level job in the admissions office in 1985, about two years before Trachtenberg took over. “GW was still a pretty sleepy place when I got here—not highly competitive, known nationally but not necessarily recognized.”

Now, GW wholeheartedly embraces the maxim that you need to spend money to make money—and to rise in the all-important U.S. News rankings. “That should be No. 1 on the list of anyone at a university, and you do whatever it takes,” says Nicole Capp, president of the Student Association, which governs all student groups at GW. “Paying money for extra professors, having some more adjunct professors…having Division I teams that are doing spectacular—whatever it takes to build the prestige of the university and provide a better education, you do it.”
Nicole Capp, President of GW’s Student Association (Photograph by Darrow Montgomery)

As she ticks off the characteristics of a first-rate university, Capp is sitting at the Potbelly sandwich shop’s outdoor cafe in the Ivory Tower, one of the university’s newest, classiest dorms, where she is living this summer and next school year. The dorm is one of the reasons GW ranks well on at least one list—Princeton Review’s “Dorms Like Palaces.” Ivory Tower’s carpeted two-bedroom suites with living rooms and full kitchens are the norm for the school’s new dormitories, built along with several new dorms after the city mandated that the university house 70 percent of the nearly 10,000 undergraduates on the Foggy Bottom campus.

The J Street Cafe in the Marvin Center, the de facto student union, is at this moment being renovated for the second time in as many years. Last week, workers were dismantling some of the fast-food restaurants constructed there last summer in preparation for replacing them with more self-serve venues, a return of sorts to the traditional college cafeteria the Marvin Center housed decades ago. Students entering the center’s food court are confronted by a lighted model of the Washington Monument that soars from the basement through an atrium. (The actual monument is a short walk away.)

“Our student-union-style thing, the Marvin Center, has gone through more face-lifts than, you know, Cher. And why?” says Chris Correa, a recent graduate who chose GW over NYU.

Changes have also come to Duques Hall, GW’s new business school building, which now features a classroom built to resemble a stock exchange, with a multitude of screens on which students can play stockbroker. Several students describe it as “pretty cool.”

Kaitlin Muench, a rising junior who spent her summer days working as a GW tour guide and nights as a butler at the Kennedy Center, laughs at the swanky flourishes. “We’ve accepted it, and…it’s just a joke to us here. It’s hard to describe it, but the student population understands that we pay a lot of money, but they’re willing to make that sacrifice. While people joke about it, in the end, they’re happy they’re here,” she says.

But generalizations, as students learn in college, are dangerous. Not everyone is happy with the return on a GW investment. After two years at the university, Kevan Duve bolted. He took a year off and transferred to Columbia University, where he will start as a junior next month.

“GW has been run like a business for a long time.…They believe they are offering a product and that they’re going to charge market price,” he says. “I think students at GW get a bad deal, frankly.”

Duve gave up his GW merit scholarship and will end up owing more than if he had stayed in Foggy Bottom, but he believes attending the ninth-ranked school in the country is worth it.

“The things that [GW puts] money in, they put money in so that people are impressed by it, but it doesn’t necessarily equate to a better education for undergraduates. So I thought that I was wasting my money going to GW. It wasn’t that I couldn’t afford it. It just had to do with how my money was being spent.”


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Shake like a Peruvian Earthquake 7.9

August 16, 2007 - 3:56PM

A massive 7.9-magnitude earthquake rocked Peru today, reportedly killing at least 72 people and prompting evacuations in Peruvian and Colombian coastal cities amid fears of a tsunami.

More than 680 people were also injured, according to a provisional count released by Carlos Cordova, according to government officials.

The earthquake, which struck off the coast of central Peru, was felt as far as neighbouring Ecuador and temporarily triggered a tsunami warning for South America's Pacific coast.

Some of the dead appeared to have been worshippers inside Ica's Senor de Luren church, which collapsed during the earthquake, media reported.
But President Alan Garcia said the earthquake did not appear to have caused catastrophic damage.

"Thank you God Almighty, these terrible quakes did not cause a high death toll like in other years," he said in a nationally televised address.

Tsunami warning cancelled

The quake struck just offshore, 148 kilometeres south-southeast of Lima at a depth of 40 kilometeres at 2341 GMT (0941 AEST Thursday) according to the US Geological Survey.

A 5.9 magnitude earthquake struck about hour and 20 minutes later near the same location and at a depth of 10 kilometeres .

Peru's Seismology Institute measured the first quake at 7.7 on the Richter scale.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre had issued a tsunami warning and watch for 11 Latin American countries but cancelled the alerts about an hour later.

The Colombian government ordered evacuations in the port cities of Tumaco and Buenaventura and the coastal town of Bahia Solano, while Peruvian authorities told residents of La Punta district to leave their homes.
Peruvian Health Minister Carlos Vallejo put hospitals and health centres on high alert.

Homes collapsed

An Associated Press photographer said that homes had collapsed in the centre of Lima and that many people had fled into the streets for safety. The capital shook for more than a minute.

"There was a pretty big, intense, long-wave earthquake, I felt it even though I was in a taxi," a woman named Erica in Lima told APTN television.

"The car was shaking, and you could see all the buildings here in San Isidro and the glass shaking.

"People were running, everyone was grabbing their cell phones. They wanted to call home and they couldn't. No one could get through to my line either."

Firefighters quoted in radio reports said that lamp posts collapsed and windows shattered in Lima but did not specify if there were any injuries.

Hundreds of workers were evacuated from Lima office buildings after the quake struck and remained outside, fearing aftershocks.

Callers to Radioprogramas, Peru's main news radio station, said parts of several cities in southern Peru had been hit with blackouts. Callers reported homes in poor neighbourhoods in Chincha and Cerro Azul had collapsed.

The quake also knocked out telephone service and mobile phone service in the capital.

Firefighters were called to put out a fire in a shopping centre. State doctors called off a national strike that began on Wednesday to handle the emergency.


Friday, August 10, 2007


If you drink Leblon Caipirinhas you will undoubtedly end up looking like this and going to beaches like these!!!!!


Alex Grey