Net Present Value

Thursday, March 3, 2005

Harvard, Stanford top universities in donations

According to this New York Times story (registration required), donations to colleges and universities increased by 3.4% (0.7% after adjusted for inflation) to $24.4B in the year that ended in June 2004 according to a report by the Council for Aid to Education:

Harvard, which led the list for the 27th time in the past 36 years, received $540 million, slightly below the $545 million it received the previous year. Stanford saw its contributions climb 8 percent last year, to $524 million.

...Alumni were the largest source of charitable giving last year, accounting for $6.7 billion, or 28 percent of the total. Other big sources were foundations, $6.2 billion; individual donors who were not alumni, $5.2 billion; and corporations, $4.4 billion.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Bushwacked! -- International AIDS services

Yet more politics as usual from the Bush White House that will be impacting people's lives around the world. As a former board member of Project Inform that helps lobby pharmaceutical companies to develop new drugs, and the government to continue to include coverage for those HIV drugs in the US, I was disappointed but not surprised to read this story in the Wall Street Journal story (subscription required):

The Bush administration is barring private American AIDS organizations from winning federal grants to provide health services overseas unless they pledge their opposition to prostitution, as part of a broader Republican effort in recent weeks to apply conservative values to foreign-assistance programs.

The White House move comes as Republican lawmakers have been pressing the administration to cut off funds to private organizations that encourage clean-needle programs overseas for intravenous drug users -- a group at the center of the AIDS epidemic in Central Asia and other areas. Some also are pressing to ban federal funding of all AIDS organizations that fail to accept the president's social agenda on such issues as sexual abstinence and drug abuse.

Many AIDS organizations are reluctant to issue a statement condemning prostitution because they work closely with prostitutes on health initiatives such as distributing condoms. The groups say such official stigmatization would increase the women's isolation, making it harder for them to receive AIDS prevention and treatment services. Many nongovernmental organizations in the AIDS field are critical of the administration moves.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Sean Scully, artist

We were hitting the Union Square galleries in San Francisco yesterday and came across some amazing aquatints by Sean Scully who's work I'd never really gotten to know before. After a long chat with the director of the Serge Sorokko Gallery, Larry Block, and the purchase of a book on Sean Scully published by Thames & Hudson, and some surfing on the web, I'm in awe of his work. Here's an example:

Click here for a larger version of this work.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The father of microlending

In this Knowledge @ Wharton profile, there's an interview with Muhammad Yunus. What he started in 1976 has grown into a worldwide phenonmenon and is still as relevant today as it was then, to give poor people the tools they need to build a better life.

Last year, a panel of judges from Wharton joined with Nightly Business Report, the most-watched daily business program on U.S. television, to name the 25 most influential business people of the last 25 years. On that list was Muhammad Yunus, managing director of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and a pioneer in the practice of microcredit lending. Grameen Bank received formal recognition as a private independent bank in 1983 and, as of this month, had dispersed close to $5 billion in loans to four million borrowers, 96% of them women. Grameen's strategy is to offer miniscule loans to very poor people, giving them the means to generate income and work their way out of poverty. Yunus was featured in a book entitled, Lasting Leadership: Lessons from the 25 Most Influential Business People of Our Times, co-authored by Knowledge@Wharton and Nightly Business Report...

Yunus: While I traveled around the country, I told myself, 'As a person, forget about the tool box. As a human being, I can go out and be available to help another person.' So that's what I started doing. This was back in 1974. I saw how people suffered for a tiny amount of money. They had to borrow from the moneylender, and the moneylender took advantage of them, squeezed them in a way that all the benefits passed on to the moneylender and none remained for the borrowers. So I made a list of people who needed just a little bit of money. And when the list was complete, there were 42 names. The total amount of money they needed was $27. I was shocked. Here we were talking about economic development, about investing billions of dollars in various programs, and I could see it wasn't billions of dollars people needed right away. They needed a tiny amount of money. This was in 1976.

Brice Marden et al.

When I attended the Rice University School of Architecture many years ago, I lived a couple of blogs away from Renzo Piano's beautiful structure, The Menil Collection, which had an incredible collection of Abstract Expressionists. So today, while I was surfing the Web I came across this incredible Brice Marden painting on the Matthew Marks Gallery website in New York:

 

Friday, February 11, 2005

The Gates unveiled in Central Park

Artists and collaborators Christo and Jeanne-Claude today unveiled their newest landscape-altering project, The Gates which is comprised of 7,500 16-feet high gates with saffron-colored fabric panels unfurled from the top stretched along some 23 miles of walkways in New York's Central Park. According to this New York Times story (registration required):

The $20 million project was originally conceived by the artists in 1979 and was rejected by three mayoral administrations before Mr. Bloomberg's, in part because of concerns about its cost and about damage to the park.

The mayor, who first became interested in the notion of "The Gates" in 1995 as a trustee of the Central Park Conservancy, made light of the project's long history yesterday, saying that it took Michelangelo four years to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and Beethoven five years to write the Ninth Symphony. "Mere blinks of an eye," he said, "compared to the time that it took to build the masterpiece that we are celebrating today."

..."It has no purpose," Jeanne-Claude said. "It is not a symbol. It is not a message. It is only a work of art."

...After answering several questions, however, Christo became clearly frustrated by trying to explain his work and emphatically urged experience over rational inquiry. "This project is not involved with talk," he said. "It is real physical space. You need to spend time walking in the cold air - sunny day, rainy day, even snow. It is not necessary to talk."

Sunday, January 2, 2005

The Two Billion Dollar Man

Sid Frank, also known to many as the "Two Billion Dollar Man" is busy giving away the money he has made recently by clever packaging and marketing of vodka according to this New York Times story (registration required):

Mr. Frank, 85, is the chairman and chief executive of the Sidney Frank Importing Company, which has its headquarters here. He earned his new moniker in June, when he sold his vodka brand, Grey Goose, to Bacardi. Industry estimates put the sale price at close to $2.3 billion.

Since then, the ebullient Mr. Frank has been busy giving away bits of his newfound wealth - $100 million here [to Brown University for scholarships], $10 million there - and he is having a great time doing it. "I just love giving money away," he said.

Mr. Frank's fortune is a testament to the power of consumer marketing and clever packaging in the liquor business. In a lifelong career marked by some notable ups and downs, he has mastered the technique of creating an aura of mystique around products that offer, to most people, little to distinguish one bottle of vodka, gin or whiskey from another.

Conservation easements growing in South Carolina

According to this New York Times story (registration required), many people are putting legal constraints on their plantations in order to help conserve both the homes and the land that currently surrounds them in places such as South Carolina:

To ensure that the plantation fantasy remains a reality in the low country of South Carolina, many plantation owners are putting conservation easements on their properties, which will keep them intact forever. It is a trend that accelerated after the media mogul Ted Turner put one on his plantation in 1989. He owns the 350-acre Hope Plantation in the Ace Basin area, outside Charleston.

...According to Scott Barnes, a tax attorney based in Charleston, easement volume has grown 40 to 50 percent just this year. When an easement is placed on a property, there is a tax deduction because the value of the property is usually diminished. The owner can take the difference in value between the as-is property and the property if developed and deduct it from income taxes. Although that is particularly helpful to people with high incomes, he pointed out that many families that have inherited large tracts of land are also getting conservation easements."There is an assumption that only rich people are doing this, but it's not the case," he said. "Many families are getting easements and they will never realize the tax break." It doesn't benefit them, he said, because they don't have a significant enough income to benefit from big tax write-offs.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Investing in education...for a profit

Recently, I was at tea at some friends' home in Menlo Park and heard about how they were trying to determine opportunities in the education sector because, as mentioned in this New York Times story (registration required), "It is second only to health care in its share of the United States economy, accounting for nearly 9 percent of the gross domestic product, said Michael Moe, chief executive of ThinkEquity, an investment bank." Now Michael Milken is continuing his quest to own different aspects of the educational sector:

Those sales skills were on display last week, when Mr. Milken sought to persuade lenders to support his $1.1 billion acquisition of KinderCare Learning Centers, an operator of day care centers. KinderCare, he told the lenders gathered at the Waldorf-Astoria, had the potential to offer more to parents once it was combined with a business he controlled, the Knowledge Learning Corporation.

...Mr. Milken, however, says he believes that he has an edge because he owns stakes in a range of businesses catering to children. Besides LeapFrog, these include K-12, a developer of online curriculum that is led by William J. Bennett, the former secretary of education; and Knowledge Learning, the day care center operator.

By owning an interest in an educational toy company and a curriculum developer, Mr. Milken has "content" that he can then market to children at his day care centers, his supporters say. Mr. Milken likens this approach to media entrepreneurs' strategy of combining cable channels and programming, said Joshua Schwartz, an investment banker whose firm, East Wind Advisors, specializes in media and education companies.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Gates Foundation to fund new malaria treatment

According to this AP story in the New York Times (registration required), the Gates Foundation is expected to donate $42.6M to "the Institute of OneWorld Health, will try to turn the genetic engineering work of Jay Keasling of the University of California, Berkeley, into an inexpensive and effective drug to fight malaria [300-500M new cases each year] in the third world."

Dr. Keasling is developing a new way to manufacture artemisinin, a malaria fighter made from finely ground wormwood plants. The Chinese first extracted artemisinin from the sweet wormwood plant for medicinal use more than 2,000 years ago, and since then it has been used for a variety of ailments including hemorrhoids, coughs and fevers.

...It costs about $2.40 a patient to treat malaria with a three-day drug regimen that includes artemisinin. Many third-world malaria sufferers cannot afford the treatment, and Ms. Hale said the Gates money would be used to develop within five years a treatment that costs under $1 a patient.

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