Monday, April 20, 2009

A Call for Action Against Costly Aging

By Tracey Breese
The price of care for Alzheimer’s patients will surpass the cost of the current stimulus bill in the next 50 years, former House speaker Newt Gingrich and other advocated to a senate hearing Wednesday.

The Alzheimer’s Study Group, a Congress appointed organization to research and plan ways to combat Alzheimer’s, called for action from the Senate Special Aging Committee to increase funding for the costly disease.

“The healthcare costs for people with Alzheimer’s disease is three times as much as for people with other diseases because of the complexities of dealing with dementia,” said Gingrich.

The Alzheimer’s Study Group calculates that we will spend nearly $20 trillion, equal to 25 stimulus bills, on care for Alzheimer’s by the middle of the century.

Nearly half of people over 80 will suffer from Alzheimer’s in the next fifty years according to Sen. Martinez (D-Fl). Currently an estimated 5.3 million have the disease, more than double the number since 1980 said Martinez. With the baby boom generation moving into the high risk age category, the number afflicted is likely to continue to rise, according to the Senate Committee.

“Unfortunately while the cases of Alzheimer’s have continued to climb, funding over the past five years has remained flat,” said Sen. Collins (R-Maine).

The cost of Alzheimer’s is up to $150 billion primarily in nursing and long-term care instead of research, according to the Alzheimer’s Study Group. Gingrich said that if scientists discover a way to delay the on-set of the disease by just five years, the country would save $8 billion in healthcare. Former Sen. Bob Kerrey, co-chair of the study group, said scientists are narrowing in on developing ways of preventing the disease.

The panel included retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor whose husband suffers from the disease, and First Lady of California, Maria Shriver, whose father, Sargent Shriver, was an advisor to two presidents and does not recognize her today because of Alzheimer’s.

“My Dad was legendary for the way he worked this building,” said Shriver in emotional testimony. “He knew every congress member’s name, politics and soft-spot…Today he doesn’t even know my name.”

Kristen Moore, a doctor, from Pinkerton, Ohio attended the meeting in hopes that congress members will increase National Institute of Health’s research for Alzheimer’s and eliminate the two year Medicaid waiting period, which leaves people with disabilities without Medicaid for about two years.

“My mother passed away at age 55 from Alzheimer’s. It is important for people to know that this is not just a disease of people in their eighties,” said Moore.

Moore came with about 25 other Alzheimer’s Association members from Ohio and a total of over three hundred members, from around the country. They wore purple Alzheimer’s Association sashes.

Kerrey also recommended improving the Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement policies, which keeps patients from using counseling and community services. The committee also supports a $3,000 tax credit for families taking care of members with Alzheimer’s.

The $10 billion that is allocated to Alzheimer’s in the stimulus plan will only be enough to start a base for funding the research and care of the disease said Sen. Specter (R-PA). Long term care systems needs to get equal treatment in health care reform said Collins.

“The cost of care is very expensive because the person afflicted can’t take of his or herself, and it often takes two people to provide round the clock care,” said O’Connor.

The Aging Committee and the Alzheimer’s Study Group are also advocating for better and cost-effective technology in health care. Medical researchers have developed a talking alarm that would remind patients to take medication, and a scale connected to the internet, so doctors can monitor immobile patients without home visits. Also Martinez advocated for National Silver Alert Act which would enable families and law enforcement to quickly search for elderly people with dementia when they have wandered away from home. Florida has already put the Silver Alert Act into effect and it has saved nine elderly people, according to Martinez.

“Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease that takes enormous personal and economic toll on both the individual, family and our country,” said Collins who has several family members with the disease.

On May 10 HBO will present “The Alzheimer’s Project,” a comprehensive documentary that Shriver contributed to.“We have to put Alzheimer's on the front burner, because if we don't, Alzheimer's will not only devour our memories, it will cripple our families, devastate our health care system and decimate the legacy of our generation” said Shriver.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Real Life Beats Fiction

An Oscar nominated documentarian Wednesday questioned why filmmakers make fictional movies when “you just can’t beat real life.”
Michael Cascio, senior vice president of National Geographic Television, told an audience at American University’s Wechsler Theater that is he is drawn to documentary filmmaking because it is as full of pathos and passion as anything imaginary.
“You just can’t beat real life,” he said, “There is drama, memorable characters, life and death, humor and one added element real documentaries tell the truth. Truth is when you can say everything you are about to see is real.”
National Geographic television which stems from the National Geographic Magazine dedicates their channel to documentary ethics of presenting real life. The relatively new channel started in 2000, and is owned in part by Fox Television and part the National Geographic Society a non-profit which decides the content. The market for documentary television has grown and become more competitive with the explosion of the cable television in the 1990s. This explosion landed Cascio with more opportunities, but he also saw how the business changed.
“Nature documentaries existed before cable television, but with so many new channels they were suddenly on everyday of the week. Audiences began asking what is new and what is sensational,” said Cascio.
This made the market for documentary television more competitive said Cascio. National Geographic channel has been able to survive with innovative shows, such as, The Dog Whisperer, which stars, Cesar Millan, a dog trainer and canine psychologist, Millan is able to transform a dog from vicious to well-behaved in every episode.
However the marketable secret of the show is that the owners also change which help their dog change said Cascio. The show remains committed to representing the subjects truthfully and in real time.
This innovative programming is key to staying successful, as the series was nominated for the Emmy for Outstanding Reality Series in 2006 and 2007.
The digital world of the internet is also changing the face of documentary television said Cascio. For example, he said, National Geographic bought the rights to a tourist’s very popular YouTube video, of a lion and a crocodile playing tug of war over a young water buffalo. The channel did a special, in-depth analysis of what the footage captured and the relationships between these animals. According to Cascio, nature documentarians have never been able to capture anything like this before. Also the clip represents how with today’s technology anyone can capture events on film
“You never know where the next documentary film will come from,” he said.
Several AU students and many D.C. film professionals filled Wechsler Theater for the event held by the Center for Environmental Filmmaking. Giorgia Harrell, who works as a producer, at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, came because of her interest in nature documentary films and moved to D.C. from Los Angeles to step away from fiction.
International AU student, Michael Ravier, said that the lesson he took from the YouTube video was that know that, “you can start out small.”
Cascio said that those interested in starting out in documentary filmmaking can find opportunities at small production companies, working on pieces for television or the internet.
“Just in the way cable changed everything, the digital world is an explosion of choices. If I were getting into the business that I where I would want to go,” said Cascio.
Another element of truth in nature documentaries that frequent the channel is the inherent danger of filming unpredictable animals. Host and other that work with the wildlife can often get hurt said Cascio.
For example, Cascio played another clip, in which, Brady Barr, a host of several National Geographic specials, mistakenly provoked a snake into biting him as he venture into a cave in Australia. Barr eventually received medical treatment with no lasting injuries said Cascio.
In his career Casio has worked on a four hour documentary on the Titanic for the A&E channel. Also he served as vice president for the Animal Planet channel where worked with Steve Irwin and the highly popular show, “The Crocodile Hunter.” Cascio briefly touched on the critically acclaimed Planter Earth series containing HD footage of exotic plants and animals by the Discovery Channel.
“Planet Earth was fabulous. We are working something that won’t come out for a few years but it will blow that out of the water,” said Cascio.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Long Path to Admissions

By Tracey Breese

Greg Grauman never planned a career at a university, least of all being a director of admissions.

“It is very interesting in speaking to people in admissions because very rarely do people start their undergrad saying I want to go into admissions,” said Grauman, dressed in a sharp gray suit with a purple tie, as he sat in his roomy office on the third floor of the Hamilton, a stone building on the south side of campus.

Grauman who has been director of admissions at American University since October 2008, came to his calling via Notre Dame, Texas and Australia. But he started out at American University.

“Working at your alma mater is great, you feel very genuine in talking to prospective students and their parents,” said Grauman.

Grauman majored in political science and public communication, graduating in 1999.
Just nine years later Grauman manages all that is admissions at AU, seeing over application reviews, prospective student events and crunching numbers about the incoming freshman class.

The college application process is under scrutiny in the past years because of the influx of young people applying and controversial issues such as affirmative action. This year AU kept a high number of applications even with a new $60 application fee.

“The AU application process has actually been not stressful at all,” said prospective student Derek Perry, of Palo Alto, Calif. “We just have to send the Common Application and nothing else.” The Common Application, which requires student grades, extracurricular activities and an essay, is a standard application on a web site that many universities use.

Admissions counselors will read up to 200 applications a week between the months of November to March. The Common Application is comprised of a student’s general information, extra-curricular activities and a personal essay. According to Grauman AU uses a holistic method in selecting new students, looking at grades, SAT scores, classes and recommendations in addition to the application.

“There is no one aspect of your application that will make you admissible,” said Grauman.

The counselors read every word students send to the university. According to Grauman certain personal essay topics such as “my summer camp experience,” come up frequently.

“There are some groan topics that are repeated over and over, but I don’t really care what they write about, as long as it is well-written,” said Grauman.

It was the appreciation of good writing that first prompted Grauman to investigate a career in admissions. Immediately after graduation Grauman enrolled in the Alliance for Catholic College, part of Notre Dame University in Indiana. He spent time teaching and taking classes in Texas, during the summer, where he met the woman who would eventually become his wife and expecting mother to their first child.

“I got swept off my feet. It was one of those chance encounters and pretty quickly after that we were engaged,” said Grauman.

In another twist of fate the new couple moved to Grauman’s wife of Perth, Australia, his wife’s hometown.

“I took a very unconventional path,” said Grauman.

He first taught Australian politics to high school students.

“In Australia I had been teaching for about three years and it wasn’t for me. They typically say if you can stay for five years you’re in it for your career otherwise the profession loses a lot after the five-year mark.”

After ending his high school teaching career Grauman went to work for Edith Cowan University, in Perth, as an international student advisor, helping international students with problems ranging from keeping up grades to paying rent.

“It was really a jack-of-all trade position,” said Grauman.

In the mean-time he began reading “The Gatekeepers,” a book by Jacques Steinberg that revealed the behind-the-scenes story of the admissions process at the highly selective Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. On a whim, Grauman decided to attend a traveling road show of admissions counselors, from the United States, who were staying at a hotel in Perth.

“I went kind of as a prospective student just to get an idea of what they do,” he said. “I talked to them when they were not busy. They probably thought I was a bit odd, but after talking to them I decided it was something I wanted to go into.”

The first place Grauman looked for a job was his alma mater.

“One of my funnier memories is as part of the review process,” he said. “I interviewed with some AU people over the internet, because it wasn’t economical for AU or me to fly to America. It was probably 3 in the morning, Australian time,” said Grauman.

Grauman started as an admissions counselor the February of 2004. He flew to the states on a Sunday and started work still jet-lagged that Monday. By the summer Grauman had already moved up to assistant director and began to enjoy the traveling perks of his job.

“I’ve probably seen most of the country on the university’s time,” said Grauman.

Part of the job included representing different regions and recruiting and informing students in these regions about AU. Assistant directors travel about three weeks in the fall and one to two in the spring. In winter 2007 Grauman applied for a director of admissions position at the American University of Rome. He started in March 2007, though he was based in Washington D.C. He frequently traveled to Italy.

“I had about one person working for me, so I had to cover the entire United States,” he said. “It was a lot of work.”

In the summer of 2008 Grauman applied for the director of admissions position at AU and got it. His co-worker Kristen Schlicker worked with Grauman before and after his time in Rome.
According to Schlicker Grauman manages the other counselors based on his experience in these lower positions. He listens to opinions but knows when to make a decision.

“[Grauman] is very passionate, extraordinarily hardworking and never gets worked up, making a calm work environment,” she said.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Pictures and Youtube!

Food Frenzy on Historic Day

An event involving almost 2 million people outside in 20-degree weather for hours on end meant at least one thing— lots of people were hungry and they would eat whatever they could get their hands on.
With restrictions on what they could carry, and the difficulty of packing food fit to stand the cold, hundreds of thousands of people who swarmed the National Mall for Barack Obama’s inauguration Tuesday looked for nourishment and warmth wherever they could find it, which was a bonanza for concession stands in downtown Washington, D.C.
At least 50 people stood in line an hour before an official inauguration concession stand in a white tent near the National Museum of Natural History opened at 8 a.m. Surrounding Starbucks’ and other coffee venues were filled to the brim inside and had lines spilling out the door as early as 6 a.m.
Some decided to tough it out.
“I could really use some coffee but the line was way too long,” said Jorge Grimm, 53, who works for Verizon Wireless.
Official Inaugural concessions were of a higher standard than typical street vendor fare. The menu included kosher hot dogs from $6, mild Italian sausage for $8, roasted vegetable hummus wraps for $8 and a garden burger for $7, as well beverages including hot chocolate, hot apple cider, coffee and water.
“I am starving, but I don’t really want an overpriced hot dog that will get cold in two seconds,” said Andre Viello, 23.
The stand at 7th St. and Madison Drive ran out of food before the swearing according to one onlooker.
Some people came prepared and avoided the long lines. Lena Johansen from Arlington, Va. came armed with snacks sandwiches, cheese sticks and juice boxes for her two children under 10.
“Mostly they are too cold to eat this stuff but just a little food is keeping them from having a meltdown,” said Johansen.
Others polled nearby revealed a cornucopia of snack foods, including Dunkin Donuts, Subway sandwiches, and granola bars. Students Jessamyn Stanley and Whitney McDavid of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro caravanned up to the inauguration in cars. They brought granola bars and burritos from Qdoba, a fast-food Mexican chain. They ate the day-old burritos before 8 a.m.
“Yesterday they were having a buy one get one free special so we brought them, but we already ate them,” said Stanley.
Restaurants like Qdoba had promotional sales connected to the inauguration. The Snack Factory gave out free bags of Pretzel Chips from a promotional truck in DuPont Circle the day before the inauguration. Empty chip bags were noticeably scattered throughout the mall.
After the ceremony, those sick of navigating the crowds stopped for food at the street vendors. The white cart vendor trucks that are normally on the National Mall were located on surrounding streets, making them convenient for the scores of inauguration goers heading to transportation after the ceremony.
“I know I’m not goin’ to get on the Metro anytime soon, so I might as well try and eat something,” said Washington D.C. native Clara Dailey, 22, with about 20 people ahead of her in line for a food vendor on D Street.
Some people were so intent on hearing Obama’s speech they were able to ignore their hunger. But in the long lines headed home at the Union Station Metro stop, going home was the single goal.
“I was in high spirits most of the day, but now I just want to get home, get warm and eat,” said Linda Jackson, 42.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

An Introduction

I love my hometown city of Seattle, Washington. However I don’t listen to indie or grunge music, but rather, anything on the top forty. I like to read classics and best-sellers, but never mysteries. In high school I rowed on a crew team and wrote for my school newspaper. When I first meet people I am quiet and reserved. Once I warm up to them I am silly, out-going and somewhat of an advice giver. “Tracey is always willing to share her pearls of wisdom,” said roommate Julia Imbriaco. I try to put myself in other people’s shoes as much as possible. However I am secretly a fraud in my advice giving because I am constantly obsessed with learning about people and trying to comprehend their emotions. I came to American University with the intention of majoring in anthropology. After taking an entry level anthropology class, with an eccentric nameless professor, I decided I loathed the broadness of the subject and moved into the realm of being completely undecided. I began a tradition in my group of friends called major shopping. We would flip through the course catalog and whatever page we landed on would become our new major. Sadly I knew that fate must not have gone along with our game because I flipped to Physics. A subject I had no interest in and would need my absent math skills. My Understanding Mass Media class was my favorite second semester of freshman year. Learning about the connections between the different modes of communication fascinated me. I remembered how writing for a newspaper in high school brought me to different group and relinquished my curiosity about all kinds of trends in the school. I realized through journalism, I could work to understand people in the now.