Bestselling author David Baldacci shared anecdotes about his writing career, ranging from his days as an unsuccessful short story writer to the problems he faced preparing his novels for publication in a speech last night in Copley Formal Lounge.

Baldacci praised literature as a form of entertainment in which audiences can actively participate. He also pointed out that three of Americans’ most fundamental rights – freedom of speech, press and religion – were intimately connected to the ability to read.

“The survival of democracy is totally dependent on the literacy of the citizenry,” Baldacci said.

Baldacci kept his remarks light and joked about his reason for never approaching people he sees reading his books in public.

“If you’re not enjoying the book, I don’t want to hear about it,” Baldacci said.

The author of 14 novels, including “Absolute Power,” a thriller later made into a movie starring Clint Eastwood and Gene Hackman, Baldacci’s latest work is “The Collectors,” a political thriller set in Washington, D.C.

The GU Library Associates, a group of library donors who regularly bring guest speakers to campus, sponsored Baldacci’s appearance.

– Erica Haviland

Professors: Warming May Cause Northwest Passage Dispute

The effects of escalating climate change in the Arctic region, which include a significant loss of sea ice, may allow for full-scale international shipping through the Northwest Passage, a sea route that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the Arctic Ocean, in just a few years, two Canadian law professors said Thursday during a speech in Healy Hall.

Michael Byers, of the University of British Columbia, and Suzanne Lalonde, from the University of Montreal, presented data and observations from an 11-day expedition they took through the Northwest Passage. The Arctic lost 300,000 square kilometers of sea ice between March 2005 and March 2006, Byers said.

The professors said that an international waterway in the Northwest Passage could set off a debate over sovereignty between Canada and the United States.. The U.S. predicates its claim on the passage’s classification as a free international strait, while Canada asserts sovereignty over the historically unusable passage.

“When the ice fully melts, we will have a coastline. If the American claim prevails, there will be an unregulated and unprotected coast,” Byers said. “Canada, however, is in the best position to provide security, with all the coastlines undeniably Canadian.”

Byers also said the Canadian Coast Guard is best equipped to handle the high volume of commercial traffic that the passage could attract. The Northwest Passage would cut 4,000 miles off the current sea route from New York to Tokyo that runs through the Panama Canal.

Byers and Lalonde said that the interests of the native Inuit people, Arctic inhabitants for many centuries, factor into the legal dispute. The Inuits are advocating for Canadian sovereignty, as they “are seeking maximum environmental protection, something only the Canadians can provide,” Byers said.

The Institute for International Law and Politics sponsored the presentation.

-Andrew Dwulet

D.C. Health Administration Launches Initiative to Combat HIV/AIDS

In the face of what officials call an HIV/AIDS crisis, the District of Columbia’s Department of Health announced early this month that it will launch a campaign to combat the disease.

DOH Director Gregg Pane said in a press release that in the next 60 to 90 days, he plans to make major modifications to the department’s HIV and AIDS Administration.

Pane plans to create six departments within the HAA that will facilitate screening and care and oversee grants to community organizations for further HIV/AIDS prevention.

One of these departments, the Surveillance and Epidemiology Bureau, will be in charge of collecting and organizing statistics on the disease, which are currently difficult to gather, according to Cindy Kim, a clinical social worker in the Georgetown University edical Center’s Infectious Disease Department.

Kim said she is frustrated by the “useless” HIV/AIDS reporting database that makes it very difficult to obtain accurate statistics about the disease.

D.C. currently has the highest documented rate of AIDS cases per capita in the United States. There are 25,000 HIV-positive people and 10,000 AIDS-infected people in the city, according to Michael Kharfen, the DOH spokesperson.

Pane also plans for 1 million condoms to be distributed around the city over the course of the year, according to Kharfen. The distribution is set to begin tomorrow.

Kharfen said that the DOH wants HIV/AIDS screening to “become part of standard health care.”

– Anna Cheimets

Vandals Strike Student Group’s Anti-Slavery Display

Vandals rearranged the words of a student activist group’s display in Red Square over the weekend, creating a message that many group members considered offensive.

Students Stopping the Trafficking of People, a group that raises awareness of human slavery around the world, posted a display, reading “Chocolate is Good, Slavery is Bad,” last week to advertise a chocolate sales fundraiser. Late Saturday night or early Sunday morning, the original message was changed to say, “Chocolate is Bad, Slavery is Good.”

The vandalism drew angry responses from some students. Obehi Utubor (SFS ’09), who noticed the altered display Sunday morning, took a picture of the changed message and posted it on Facebook. She said that she found the change alarming.

“I thought the [original] display was so sincere . but when the letters were switched, it brought up so many feelings in people,” Utubor said.

Utubor said that she filed a bias-related incident report about the vandalism with the Office of Student Affairs on Sunday.

Anne Sharp (SFS ’09), president of SSTOP, said she was disappointed to think that a Georgetown student could be the culprit.

Sharp said that the initial intent of the message was to create a provocative slogan to encourage student awareness and discussion on campus. She said that in response to the incident, SSTOP would hand out anti-human trafficking posters on Valentine’s Day for students to place on their doors.

Sharp added that there may be discussion in the future among student activists and minority groups on campus to address the incident.

“This is an opportunity to work together as a group,” Sharp said.

– Ji-Hye Park

Department of Transportation Finalizes Revised Taxi ap

Last week, after more than a month of planning, the District Department of Transportation completed its plans for a new, customer-friendly taxi zone map that it hopes will make it easier for riders to calculate their own fares.

The revised map, now under review by the D.C. Taxicab Commission, is intended to be less confusing than the zoning map now in use. It displays city borders, regional boundaries, major landmarks – like Reagan National Airport and Union Station – and major roadways, DDOT spokesperson Karyn LeBlanc said. It also provides a list of new fares based on the Taxicab Commission’s updated rates.

If the D.C. Taxicab Commission accepts DDOT’s new map, taxi drivers will be required to display the maps in their cabs.

“Before, [the map] looked like it was trying to fit onto the page,” LeBlanc said. “Now, it is cut to fit.”

Part of D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty’s “100 Days and Beyond” initiative, the map is drawn in the city’s distinctive diamond shape, making it easier to read for both D.C. residents and visitors who are unfamiliar with the city, LeBlanc said.

– Megan Moran

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