Archive for the ‘International’ Category

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (January 2-8, 2012)

Monday, January 9th, 2012

INTERNATIONAL

AUSTRALIA

Trust gets creative to save itself.” By Tim Barlass. Sydney Morning Herald. January 8, 2012. Selling properties, music festivals and creating carbon offsets for businesses through bush regeneration are some of the options being explored by the National Trust as it struggles with its budget. The charity, which cares for NSW’s built, cultural and natural heritage, has reported a loss of $1.6 million it attributed to a decrease in state government funding, a downturn in regional tourism and a smaller share of the corporate dollar. The trust’s chief executive, Will Holmes a Court, resigned last month after warning he would consider mothballing heritage properties without more government funding. The Minister for Heritage, Robyn Parker, announced a review, but as yet has made ”no bankable commitment”, Mr Holmes a Court said. ”To that end, I proposed … that I leave, making way for a smaller organisation,” he said in a statement. He later told The Sun-Herald the charity may not have been vocal enough in insisting on funding. ”We may have been too courteous and too conservative and too nice.” The National Trust NSW’s new head, Brian Scarsbrick, said ”all options are being looked at” to improve the charity’s finances. ”There could be a situation where a property may be sold or developed in a sensitive heritage way. There are no plans yet to sell anything,” he said, adding music festivals at heritage properties could also help attract younger people.

BELARUS

In Belarus, the freedom of the internet is at stake; Europe’s last dictatorship is clamping down on online activism, with a new law effectively requiring everyone to be a state spy.” By Mike Harris. Guardian. January 6, 2012. As of this morning, the internet in Belarus got smaller. A draconian new law is in force that allows the authorities to prosecute internet cafes if their users visit any foreign sites without being “monitored” by the owner. All commercial activity online is now illegal unless conducted via a .by (Belarusian) domain name, making Amazon and eBay’s operations against the law unless they collaborate with the regime’s censorship and register there. The law effectively implements the privatisation of state censorship: everyone is required to be a state spy. Belarusians who allow friends to use their internet connection at home will be responsible for the sites they visit. Some have tried to defend the law, stating all countries regulate the internet in some form – but the Belarusian banned list of websites contains all the leading opposition websites. The fine for visiting these sites is half a month’s wages for a single view. The Arab spring has been a wake-up call to the world’s remaining despots. The internet allowed images of open dissent to disseminate instantly. As Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak found out, once you reach a critical mass of public protest you haven’t got long to board your private jet. It’s a lesson learned by Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus and Europe’s last dictator, and also by the Belarusian opposition. Lukashenko attempted to destroy the political opposition after the rigged 2010 presidential elections. Seven of the nine presidential candidates were arrested alongside thousands of political activists. The will of those detained was tested: there are allegations that presidential candidates Andrei Sannikov and Mikalai Statkevich have been tortured while in prison. The opposition is yet to recover; many of its leading figures have fled to Lithuania and Poland. Within this vacuum of leadership, the internet helped spur a civil society backlash. After the sentencing of the presidential candidates, a movement inspired by the Arab spring “The Revolution Via Social Networks” mushroomed into a wave of protests that brought dissent to towns across Belarus usually loyal to Lukashenko. As the penal code had already criminalised spontaneous political protest with its requirements for pre-notification, the demonstrations were silent, with no slogans, no banners, no flags, no shouting, no swearing – just clapping. “The Revolution Via Social Networks” (RSN) helped co-ordinate these protests online via VKontakte (the biggest rival to Facebook in Russia and Belarus with more than 135 million registered users). RSN now has more than 32,000 supporters.

CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL

10 years after abuse crisis, O’Malley dealing with effects.” By Mark Arsenault. Boston Globe. January 03, 2012. In an interview marking the 10-year anniversary of clergy sex abuse revelations, Cardinal Sean O’Malley talks about guiding the Archdiocese of Boston’s atonement.

Monk who paid 50p a time to young pupil he abused is jailed.” By Sean O’Neill and Richard Savill. Times of London. January 4, 2012. A Benedictine monk and teacher at one of England’s leading Roman Catholic schools was jailed for five years yesterday for sex attacks on pupils in his care. Richard White, 66, who taught at Downside School near Bath, had been in a restricted ministry for more than 20 years after his behaviour first came to the attention of the school authorities. His conviction is the latest scandal to hit the English Benedictine congregation after monks from the religious order’s communities at Ampleforth, Ealing and Buckfast were also jailed for child sex offences. Father Richard Yeo, the former Abbot of Downside, recently resigned from a Vatican inquiry into sex abuse at Ealing Abbey in West London after concerns about the Benedictine order’s record in dealing with child abuse cases. White, a former geography teacher, pleaded guilty at Taunton Crown Court to seven sexual offences involving a boy under the age of 14 at Downside. At the time of the abuse he was known as Father Nicholas. White committed the offences between September 1988 and May 1989 when his victim was aged from 12 to 13. The monk, who served in the Royal Artillery for several years, asked for four similar offences involving a second child of the same age to be taken into consideration. The court was told that White was warned about his behaviour at the time of the offences but the school principal did not report the allegation to police and the monk was switched to teaching older boys. He later indecently assaulted the second boy in 1988-89.

States Weigh Time Frame For Child Sex Abuse Suits.” By Joel Rose. All Things Considered/National Public Radio. January 3, 2012. Lawmakers in Trenton, N.J., are considering a bill that would completely eliminate the statute of limitations on childhood sexual abuse cases. The current state law allows victims to file suit up to two years after they turn 18. Stories of child sexual abuse dominated the headlines in 2011, but because the alleged crimes happened so long ago, few of the victims in those cases were able to sue their abusers. Now, lawmakers around the country are pushing to extend or waive their states’ statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse charges, but the initiative has its opponents — including the Catholic Church — who argue it could unleash a torrent of lawsuits. Lawmakers in New Jersey are considering a bill that would completely eliminate the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse cases, but that bill has some powerful opponents. Pat Brannigan, executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, testified against the bill at a hearing in Trenton in late 2010. “The reality is that this proposal simply fosters lawsuits,” he said at the time. “How can an institution conceivably defend itself against a claim that is 40, 50 or 60 years old? Statutes of limitation exist because witnesses die and memories fade.” The New Jersey bill’s opponents point to what happened in California in 2003, when the state approved a temporary, one-year window in which the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits did not apply. During that year, more than 800 claims of clergy abuse were filed against the Catholic Church. Delaware followed California’s approach, resulting in about 100 lawsuits. Lawmakers in New York and Pennsylvania are pushing similar bills, which have stalled in the past. Pennsylvania state Rep. Michael McGeehan is sponsoring a bill that would temporarily waive the statute of limitations for sex abuse charges.

Church’s response to abuse not good enough for some.” By Brian MacQuarrie. Boston Globe. January 4, 2012. Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley issued a report today outlining the church’s response to the scandal that broke 10 years ago this month, but critics said they were unimpressed.

EGYPT

American Groups Rebut Egyptian Accusations.” By David D. Kirkpatrick. New York Times. January 2, 2012. Two American democracy-building organizations accused Egypt’s military-led government of a campaign of false statements about their activities and history, ratcheting up a confrontation between Washington and Cairo over police raids that shut down the groups’ offices. The raids were part of an investigation into accusations that the groups and eight other nonprofit rights organizations were illegally receiving foreign financial support to influence Egypt’s politics or undermine its security. But the two organizations, the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, are especially significant in part because they are closely allied with the Congressional party caucuses and are financed primarily by the United States government. By virtue of that association, the raids by the Egyptian police — who confiscated files, money and computers — amounted to a pointed snub to Washington, a major Egyptian donor and ally. The raids followed a drumbeat of suggestions from the government that Washington was funneling money to groups here in order to destabilize the country — a pattern of complaints that American officials have denounced as creeping “anti-Americanism.” The National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, which operate around the world, said that they provide training in the nuts and bolts of grass-roots organizing, nonpartisan voter education and electoral campaigns, but that they do not seek to influence political outcomes. Both said that they had first applied for an official registration required to operate in Egypt several years ago.
Related stories:
Egypt’s NGO crackdown; Tensions rise in Cairo as Egyptian forces raided the offices of human rights and pro-democracy groups.” Aljazeera (www.aljazeera.com). December 31, 2011.
Military Rulers Clamp Down on Civil Society.” Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). January 5, 2012.

HAITI

A Billionaire Lends Haiti a Hand.” By Stephanie Strom. New York Times. January 6, 2012. Almost two years after an earthquake ravaged this city, some half a million people are still living in filthy tents, cholera has infected a similar number across the country and the president works from a flimsy prefab structure behind the still crumpled Presidential Palace. Denis O’Brien, an impatient Irish billionaire who tends to make his points with a few choice profanities, is determined to change all that. On a recent sunny morning, he presided over the opening of the 50th school that his vast telecommunications company, Digicel, has rebuilt since the quake struck in 2010 — and then he promptly pledged to build another 80 schools by 2014. His intention is not, however, to be a one-man force for change. With a skill for what he calls “frying feet,” he has sweet-talked, cajoled, harangued, nagged, strong-armed and shamed government officials, international financiers and business leaders into doing more to rebuild Haiti. “It’s all about project management,” Mr. O’Brien, 53, said in an interview at Digicel’s offices here. “Everyone’s on hand for the photo op, but where are the 100 houses that were promised after the cameras are gone? I’m the guy who’s going to count them.” In the process, he has become de facto ambassador for an emerging business-centered approach to the redevelopment of this disaster-prone nation, which has so long relied on the work of nonprofit groups and aid agencies that it is known as the Republic of N.G.O.’s, or nongovernmental organizations. “We’ve seen the growth of the N.G.O. community here for the last 20 years, and many of them do good work and there is a demand and a need for that work,” said Lionel Delatour, a business consultant and lobbyist whose brothers have served as government ministers. “But N.G.O.’s do not pay taxes, and when they bring their supplies and cars and other goods into the country, they do not pay customs duties.”

INDIA

Fighting for a Less Corrupt New Year.” By Ranjit Devraj. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). January 4, 2012. After failing to muster support in parliament for the passage of a watered- down anti-corruption bill, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh must find ways to satisfy opposition parties, allies and civil society that his United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government is serious about curbing graft in the New Year. The bill passed through the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament, on Dec. 27 but tripped up in the Rajya Sabha, or upper house, on Thursday after opposition parties and allies tabled no fewer than 187 amendments to the ‘Lokpal (ombudsman) Bill’ to monitor government dealings for graft and other irregularities. That left Singh’s Congress party-led UPA government and opposition parties accusing each other of scuttling the bill. “The bill is not defeated. It can be taken up in the next session of parliament. Hard work lies ahead,” union home minister P. Chidambaram said at a press briefing on Friday. While Chidambaram pleaded that the government needed time to study the demanded amendments, the leader of main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party Arun Jaitley accused the government of “running away” from a vote on the bill to avoid its certain defeat. With the bill pending until the next parliament session in February, opposition parties and civil society plan to step up public agitations aimed at forcing the government to make amendments that would give the ombudsman legislation more teeth. Over the past year the government has been under pressure to pass an effective Lokpal Bill by an anti- corruption campaign led by Anna Hazare, 73, who has vowed to continue Gandhian-style agitations against graft, now reckoned to have reached unprecedented heights.

RUSSIA

Church Hints It May Serve as Mediator in Russia.” By Sophia Kishkovsky. New York Times. January 6, 2012. A senior official of the Russian Orthodox Church has indicated that the church is moving toward a middle position between the government and opponents who staged two huge demonstrations last month, warning that if the authorities do not respond to people’s concerns they could be “slowly eaten alive.” The official, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, who oversees church and society relations for the Moscow Patriarchate, said in an essay and a radio interview on Thursday that Russia would never be the same after the demonstrations. He called for a national dialogue to address the interests of the entire population rather than just the technologically savvy urban middle class driving the demonstrations. A platform is needed for “people who are patriotically inclined,” he said. Just 15 minutes after the Interfax news agency posted a report on Father Chaplin’s essay, Vladimir Legoyda, another spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church, announced that the church’s leader, Patriarch Kirill I, would give “a very important interview,” on Rossiya 1, the main television channel, at noon on Saturday, which is Christmas Day in Russia. He said Patriarch Kirill would talk about Bolotnaya Ploshchad, the site in Moscow where the first mass demonstration was held on Dec. 10. It has become a watchword for the protest movement in Russia. Patriarch Kirill has spoken in the past three weeks of rampant corruption and the need for moral transformation. Two days ago, Aleksei Navalny, an anticorruption crusader turned opposition leader, said in an interview that he would like to see the Russian Orthodox Church serve as mediator. Mr. Navalny, who has a following among the middle class and nationalists, discussed the role of churches in bringing down dictators with Boris Akunin, a novelist who has spoken at both opposition rallies. “It’s interesting that almost everywhere the main intermediary between dictators and protesters has been the church,” Mr. Navalny said in the interview, which Mr. Akunin posted on his blog. “Is this possible here right now? It’s unlikely. But I would very much like for the Russian Orthodox Church to take up such a role in society, so that all conflicting sides would seek and accept its mediation.”

UK

Scientologists at war over leader who raised $1bn.” By Jacqui Goddard. Times of London. January 3, 2012. Its teachings about extraterrestrial civilisations and alien interlopers has long singled it out as one of the world’s most controversial religions. Now the Church of Scientology is facing a rebellion closer to home after a broadside from one of its senior leading members. In a bombshell e-mail sent to thousands of Scientologists, Debbie Cook, one of the most respected figures within the Church, suggests that the organisation has lost its way under its chairman, David Miscavige, whose “extreme” fundraising methods have allowed it to stack up a $1 billion fortune. Mr Miscavige, whose celebrity lieutenants include John Travolta, Lisa Marie Presley and Tom Cruise, is said to have formed a one-man power base in contravention of principles laid down by the late L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction author who founded the Church in the 1950s. The leaked e-mail depicts Mr Miscavige as a tyrant who has strayed “off-policy”. It accuses him of heavy-handed fundraising, spending millions on building lavish facilities that then lie empty, and dismantling watchdog mechanisms set in place to prevent the organisation becoming an autocracy. Those who stand in his way face “long and harsh” disciplinary action and have been removed from their posts, Ms Cook says. Calling on members to form a resistance movement under the banner “Keep Scientology Working”, Ms Cook urges: “We are a strong and powerful group and we can effect a change. We have weathered many storms. I am sorry that I am the one telling you, but a new storm is upon us.” She declares her continued belief in Scientology, which under US tax laws is considered a religion, but adds that she can no longer tolerate its current path.
Related story:
Conflict at the heart of Scientology is exposed in bitter email outburst; Clergy member’s letter to 12,000 followers attacks church leader’s ‘obsession’ with money.Independent (UK). January 4, 2012.

Duchess of Cambridge names the charities she will support; Ex-Brownie Kate signs up to go camping with the Scouts – and undergoes a criminal records check.” By Stephen Bates. Guardian. January 4, 2012. She might be the future Queen, one of the most well-known women in the world (and a former Brownie), but like anyone wanting to volunteer with the Scouts, she had to undergo a criminal records check. The Duchess of Cambridge is to become a regular helper with junior Scout groups in London and north Wales after making the Scout Association one of the first voluntary organisations with which she will officially be associated. St James’s Palace said this means she will help to supervise games and other activities and probably go on weekend camps. In contrast to the designer wear she is usually seen in, she will wear the standard uniform of polo shirt and scarf, secured with a friendship knot rather than a woggle these days. A supporter’s polo shirt costs £14.30 and scarf £5.35, while splashing out on a baseball cap would add an extra fiver to the ensemble. The Queen is president of the Scout Association and the Duke of Kent its patron – royal association with the movement goes back to before the second world war when George VI attended Scout camps and joined in their sing-songs. Simon Carter, the Scout Association’s spokesman, said: “The bottom line is that she wants to help on a regular basis and we are delighted. One of the biggest challenges for us is that we have 33,000 children on our waiting lists wanting to join and we need more adult volunteers to help. If someone who is high-profile and has a busy schedule is prepared to join in, that may encourage others to come forward to help too.

Live Q&A: Managing volunteers on a tight budget, Tuesday 10 January; Join our expert panel from 1pm to 3pm to discuss how you can manage your volunteers cost-effectively.” By Kate Hodge. Guardian. January 5, 2012. Managing volunteers is critical to many charities’ functions. As budgets tighten, they need to find new ways to recruit, manage and retain volunteers, delivering better services to their beneficiaries at reduced cost. With this in mind, the first live Q&A of 2012 will look at how charities can ensure they are using volunteers efficiently without breaking the bank. We’ll consider:• Volunteer management best practice; • What help and support is available; • The role of digital innovation in volunteer management. You can leave your views and questions in the comments section below now, or come back to join the discussion live from 1pm to 3pm on Tuesday 10 January. If you’d like to join our experts on the panel, email Kate Hodge.

David Cameron orders merging of health and social care; Integration of services will save money says prime minister as NHS warns changes will lead to hospital closures.” By Denis Campbel. Guardian. January 4, 2012. David Cameron has ordered health and social care services to be brought together in order to benefit patients in a move which government advisers are calling the NHS’s most urgent overhaul. At the moment, health and social care – the help given mainly to old or disabled patients to help them continue to live at home rather than in hospital or nursing homes – are different systems in England. NHS medical treatment and domiciliary support, which is provided mainly by local councils, are usually not joined-up. But Cameron has told the health secretary, Andrew Lansley, to drive through changes that health policy experts claim will make life more convenient for patients, improve care and save the NHS money. The changes will lead to some hospitals closing, warned the pro-integration NHS Confederation, which represents hospitals and other major NHS employers. The prime minister has been persuaded by senior doctors and Downing Street health advisers that, without integration, the NHS could become unsustainable due to rises in the number of patients with long-term health conditions such as obesity, diabetes and breathing problems. The first move towards creating joined-up services is likely to see Lansley tell the NHS that it has to give integration the same priority that keeping waiting lists under control has had for the last decade. That new target is the key recommendation of a new report on integrating care by the King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust health thinktanks, whose chief executives both advise Downing Street. They want the introduction of “a clear, ambitious and measurable goal to improve the experience of patients and service users, and to be delivered by a defined date. This goal would serve a similar purpose to the aim of delivering a maximum waiting time of 18 weeks for patients receiving hospital care.”

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (December 26, 2011-January 1, 2012)

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

INTERNATIONAL

AUSTRALIA

What if public-interest journalism had a white knight: a media start-up is born, packed with pedigree.” By Paddy Manning. Sydney Morning Herald. December 31, 2011. Plenty of people are worried about the future of quality, independent media in the internet age. Not many can do something about it. Enter philanthropist and internet entrepreneur Graeme Wood, who has pledged $15-20 million to a new, non-profit, online media venture, The Global Mail, with one goal in mind: produce public-interest journalism, no strings attached. To be launched in February, The Global Mail will not charge readers, will not sell ads and is not chasing more donors. It was born of a dinner party conversation between Wood and former ABC journalist Monica Attard, the site’s editor-in-chief. The Arab Spring had got Attard, a former foreign correspondent, thinking. ”For years and years the coverage in Egypt was pretty cursory,” she says. ”Everybody assumed that [former president Hosni] Mubarak was a benign leader who was much beloved, and certainly courted by the West. It struck me that the depth of coverage had not been there. Then I started to think about how journalism was being crunched down … and of course the first casualty always is international coverage. ”So I wondered whether there was any prospect of creating a news organisation which was web-based, and app-based ultimately, where you were tapping into great social movements around the world and where you could also speak to Australian affairs as though we were part of a wider world, rather than simply this pimple of an island somewhere near the South Pole.” Attard followed up dinner with a call to Wood’s office, which she was surprised to find returned. Wood, who founded accommodation website Wotif.com and whose fortune is estimated by BRW magazine at $337 million, had been making headlines with a string of high-profile donations, including $1.6 million to the Greens before the latest federal election, the biggest individual political donation in Australian history. He has also given $15 million to establish a think tank, the Global Change Institute, at his Alma Mater, the University of Queensland.

EGYPT

Egypt raids on NGOs hint at wider crackdown; Even charitable work can be a sensitive matter in Arab regimes if it highlights the state’s failure to provide basic services.” By Brian Whitaker. Guardian. December 29, 2011. Arab regimes have always been wary of civil society organisations. A flourishing civil society promotes active citizenship, undermining the idea that the ruling elites know best. Even charitable work, unthreatening and apolitical as it might seem, can be a sensitive matter if it highlights the state’s failure to provide basic services. For that reason, non- governmental organisations (NGOs) in Arab countries – if they are allowed at all – usually need a government permit. In Egypt, a complex legal framework minutely regulates their activities, management and finances, making it easy to harass or close them down on some technicality if the authorities take a dislike to them. One Egyptian NGO, the Nadim centre, which provides medical and other support for victims of torture, was raided a few years ago and threatened with prosecution on a host of charges, including possession of a questionnaire about torture and books about human rights, without a permit. After a public outcry, the list was reduced to just two alleged violations: not having a first-aid kit or a fire extinguisher (both of which were on the premises at the time). Despite the restrictions, NGOs in Egypt – especially those dealing with human rights – were more active than in many other Arab countries in the runup to the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak and chalked up a number of successes. Though occasional raids cause little surprise, the simultaneous raids on several organisations on Thursday are very unusual and suggest a concerted attempt to crack down on them. Some organisations try to get round the rules by registering as businesses rather than NGOs – a practice several Arab governments have recently been trying to stop. In the poorer Arab countries, such as Egypt, there is not enough funding from local sources for most NGOs to survive, so they often depend on western donors or the UN. This gives the authorities another means to control them, by blocking transfers of money from abroad. Dependence on outside funding also provides a further excuse to crack down by claiming they are part of a foreign plot to destabilise the country.
Related stories:
Egypt unrest: NGO offices raided in Cairo.” BBC News. December 29, 2011.
Egyptian military gambles by raiding pro-democracy groups.” Washington Post. December 30, 2011.
Egypt Raids Worry Targets, Draw U.S. Rebuke.” Wall Street Journal. December 31, 2011.
Egypt Vows to End Crackdown on Nonprofits.” New York Times. December 31, 2011.
Egypt’s Obstructionist Generals.” Editorial. New York Times. December 30, 2011.

INDIA

India Faces Endgame on Anticorruption Bill.” By Paul Beckett. Wall Street Journal. December 27, 2011. The Indian government and activist Anna Hazare are set to enter what may be the endgame in their monthslong battle to win the high moral ground on the issue of fighting corruption. Parliament will meet for an extraordinary three-day session starting on Tuesday to discuss the government’s version of an antigraft bill that sets up an ombudsman’s office to investigate charges of corruption in the bureaucracy, including in the prime minister’s office. The government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is seeking to recover after 12 months during which it has been battered by corruption allegations, slowing economic growth, high inflation, a lack of fresh policy initiatives and some embarrassing gaffes—including the swift reversal of a decision to greatly expand the participation of foreign companies in India’s retail industry. Also starting Tuesday, the septuagenarian Mr. Hazare and his team have organized a three-day fast in Mumbai for the self-styled Gandhian to protest against what he considers weaknesses in the government’s version of the bill. Mr. Hazare has been the government’s chief antagonist since the spring, goading the administration to enact measures he considers key to establishing a strong anticorruption ombudsman, or Lokpal. Mr. Hazare rocked the Congress party-led government in August with a two-week fast to protest what he saw as Congress’s weak record in combating malfeasance. It attracted tens of thousands of sympathizers to a public ground in New Delhi and galvanized countless others around the country to his cause. A key question for Mr. Hazare will be whether, with Parliament set to debate the landmark bill, he can muster the same enthusiasm among his supporters, especially the middle class, that would pile new pressure on the government to make concessions on the differences that remain between them. Among those is the government’s proposal that the nation’s key federal investigative body, the Central Bureau of Investigation, remain under the government’s purview. Mr. Hazare is pressing for it to report to the ombudsman’s office, arguing that if it is overseen by the government, it will be pliable to manipulation on corruption cases.
Related stories:
Delhi to Mumbai: MPs debate, Anna protests Lokpal bill.” Times of India. December 27, 2011.
Lower House of Indian Parliament Passes Anticorruption Measure.” New York Times. December 27, 2011.
Indian Activist Calls Off Fast but Vows to Keep Fighting.” New York Times. December 28, 2011.
Rohtak NGO feeds Anna’s supporters in Mumbai.” Times of India. December 29, 2011.
Indian parliament to debate bill to fight corruption.” Sydney Morning Herald. December 29, 2011.
Anticorruption Bill Fails in India; Government Bid for Watchdog Agency Was Seen as Needed to Calm Investors and Appease Protesters.” Wall Street Journal. December 30, 2011.
Anna Hazare should introspect, says Bal Thackeray.Times of India. December 30, 2011.
Lokpal Bill put to sleep at midnight.” Times of India. December 30, 2011.

Many of India’s Poor Turn to Private Schools.” By Vikas Bajaj and Jim Yardley. New York Times. December 30, 2011. For more than two decades, M. A. Hakeem has arguably done the job of the Indian government. His private Holy Town High School has educated thousands of poor students, squeezing them into cramped classrooms where, when the electricity goes out, the children simply learn in the dark. Parents in Holy Town’s low-income, predominantly Muslim neighborhood do not mind the bare-bones conditions. They like the modest tuition (as low as $2 per month), the English-language curriculum and the success rate on standardized tests. Indeed, low-cost schools like Holy Town are part of an ad hoc network that now dominates education in this south Indian city, where an estimated two-thirds of all students attend private institutions. In India, the choice to live outside the faltering grid of government services is usually reserved for the rich or middle class, who can afford private housing compounds, private hospitals and private schools. But as India’s economy has expanded during the past two decades, an increasing number of India’s poor parents are now scraping together money to send their children to low-cost private schools in hopes of helping them escape poverty. Nationally, a large majority of students still attend government schools, but the expansion of private institutions has created parallel educational systems — systems that are now colliding. Faced with sharp criticism of the woeful state of government schools, Indian policy makers have enacted a sweeping law intended to reverse their decline. But skeptics say the litany of new requirements could also wipe out many of the private schools now educating millions of students. Education is one of India’s most pressing challenges. Half of India’s 1.2 billion people are 25 or younger, and literacy levels, while improving, could cripple the country’s long-term prospects. In many states, government education is in severe disarray, with teachers often failing to show up. Rote drilling still predominates. English, considered a prerequisite for most white-collar employment in India, is usually not the medium of instruction. When it took effect in April 2010, the Right to Education Act enshrined, for the first time, a constitutional right to schooling, promising that every child from 6 to 14 would be provided with it. For a nation that had never properly financed education for the masses, the law was a major milestone.

UK

UK charities set to get extra £1bn a year through tax relief scheme; ‘C-volunteering initiative’ designed to encourage business donations could raise charities’ income by 10% annually.” By Nicholas Watt. Guardian. December 25, 2011. Charities are set to receive an extra £1bn a year – nearly 10% of their total receipts – under a proposed new tax relief scheme designed to encourage business donations. Treasury ministers are taking a close interest in the “C-Volunteering initiative” which increases incentives for businesses and their employees to donate time and resources to charity. The idea is outlined in a report by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), the thinktank founded by the work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith. Its work is highly influential in Whitehall. Charities, which receive £11bn in donations a year, would see gifts rise by £1bn under a new tax relief scheme in the initiative. This helps in two ways, by encouraging: Individual employees to give up a set amount of hours each month to do voluntary work, giving charities free labour. Businesses would be able to offset the costs against tax under a scheme similar to the research and development (R&D) tax relief system. The report, drawn up by the CSJ in conjunction with the “C” social enterprise established last year by the social media entrepreneur Ab Banerjee, cites a hypothetical example of a female city lawyer, Kate, to illustrate the scheme. Kate gives up 19 hours a month – one half day, one Saturday and two weeknights – to help in a charity’s office and to visit elderly people. “The C-Volunteering scheme would leverage the great work of our volunteers by providing much needed cash donations to those charities. “Government’s support for such a programme will help charities and businesses invest in volunteer schemes that can truly make a difference.”

Before we build Cameron’s big society, we’ll need to know what it is; Royal Society of Arts offers its advice as the prime minister’s team tries to bring his elusive concept into focus and into action.” By Allegra Stratton Guardian. December 30, 2011. The government needs to set up “big society adult education” courses if the prime minister’s cherished but much derided idea is to take off, according to the Royal Society of Arts. In advance of an attempt by some of David Cameron’s staff to return to his guiding philosophy, the society today calls for the big society to be “refashioned” as a longer term project, but warns that some people will have to have a change in mindset if the idea is to work, a change which can be achieved through formal and informal adult education. Cameron has pushed his concept for the six years he has been Conservative leaderbut since he entering office it has had to relaunched four times, with even the minister responsible, Francis Maude, conceding that the government mght have failed to explain what exactly is the big society and what it might entail to realise it. The insight claims that the development of social justice by the centralised state has been exhausted, and that instead social aims may be as well improved by individuals and their friends taking on greater responsibility. Critics of such a platform say that it was too abstract to have been placed so centrally in the Conservatives’ 2010 election victory. Cameron’s close adviser Steve Hilton, deputy chief of staff Kate Fall, director of strategy Andrew Cooper, and his head of communications Craig Oliver, have now been asked to draw up a creative strategy for the second half of this parliament which raises the Conservative agenda beyond merely the economics of deficit reduction. They are expected to try once again to knit the myriad of Cameron’s various other initiatives back into the single rubric of the big society. The Royal Society of Arts welcomes this news, but it wants the big society’s time horizon and pitch to be amended. It writes: “The idea of the big society is at its weakest when it is presented as a partisan technical solution to acute socio-economic problems, and at its strongest when viewed as a non-partisan long-term adaptive challenge to enrich our social and human capital. “From this perspective, the big society should be viewed as a process of long-term cultural change, driven by social participation for social productivity and social solidarity.”

Art Fund membership up 15% despite downturn; Charity that helps museums and galleries acquire artworks has seen record gain in membership over past year.” By Vanessa Thorpe. Guardian. December 31, 2011. Museum and gallery goers have been backing British culture, despite the economic downturn. Record numbers have joined the national fundraising charity, the Art Fund, boosting its membership by 15% last year. The fund allows regional and national institutions to acquire important works for their collections. “It might look surprising when set next to some of the more urgent charitable causes,” said Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund. “Yet there has been a quickening of the philanthropic pulse which means that more people, not just the upper echelons, are doing more to support galleries and museums. There seems to be a greater understanding that the quality of British life is bound up with the quality of these things.” Deuchar puts the trend down to an urge to improve communities and the reinvention last spring of the fund’s National Art Pass, allowing holders to gain discounts and free admission to arts venues. “When this organisation started, it was about large-scale philanthropy and the good of the nation. Now it has been replaced by the feeling that it is about the individual and the world they want to live in,” he said. In 2011, the Art Fund supported or pledged to support the acquisition of almost 150 works of art. Items acquired with its help included Alex Katz’s portrait of Vogue editor Anna Wintour, which is now in the National Portrait Gallery and currently its most popular picture and bestselling postcard.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (December 19-25, 2011)

Monday, December 26th, 2011

INTERNATIONAL

AUSTRALIA

Shake-up for arts body after 30 years.” By Adam Fulton and Jacqueline Maley. Sydney Morning Herald. December 20, 2011. The Australia Council for the Arts, the federal arts funding and advisory body, is getting its first shake-up in nearly 30 years. The Arts Minister, Simon Crean, announced an independent review of the council yesterday ahead of the release of a national cultural policy. But the results of the review, to be conducted by corporate adviser Angus James and company director Gabrielle Trainor, will not be made public. Arts organisations reacted positively to news of the review, saying it was timely given the formulation of the cultural policy and that the world had changed greatly since the last major review in the mid-1980s. The executive director of the National Association for the Visual Arts, Tamara Winikoff, said the review had been on the cards during the development of the cultural policy. It was good for organisations to periodically reappraise their performance, she said. ”I think the only reason that the Australia Council and the arts sector would be worried is if this heralded any intended cut to government funding,” Ms Winikoff said. The artistic director of the script development organisation PlayWriting Australia, Chris Mead, said changes in the way audiences consume culture made the review timely to ensure the Australia Council had its policies right. ”The exciting possibility for most people in the arts, I reckon, is there’s a chance for a real cultural policy rather than just an arts policy,” he said. Since releasing its cultural policy discussion paper in August and conducting 10 weeks of public consultations, the government has been sifting through submissions from artists, professional arts companies, community groups and audiences.

CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL

Former Bishop Will Meet With Irish Abuse Victims.” By Douglas Dalby. New York Times. December 20, 2011. A senior Roman Catholic prelate in Ireland said Tuesday that the church would arrange for victims of clergy sexual abuse in one diocese to meet with the bishop who was in charge of it when hundreds of abuse complaints were kept secret. The meetings, the first of their kind in the Irish abuse scandals, are similar to those now taking place in the United States. The prelate, Archbishop Dermot Clifford, who now leads the Diocese of Cloyne, discussed the planned meetings in an interview on RTE, the state television network. He repeated an apology to victims, saying the church’s failure to report accusations of abuse to the police was misguided. “I suppose they didn’t see the thing as a crime,” Archbishop Clifford said of priests in the diocese. “They saw the thing more as a sin than a crime, and probably weren’t advised strictly enough as to where their duties lay when an allegation came to them.” The victims are to meet with the Rev. John Magee, who resigned as bishop of Cloyne in 2009, and with Msgr. Denis O’Callaghan, now retired, who was responsible for child protection in the diocese, Archbishop Clifford said. The announcement followed the publication on Monday of a previously withheld chapter of a major report on clergy sexual abuse in the Cloyne Diocese, a mainly rural area in southern Ireland. The report, most of which was published in July, held Father Magee and Monsignor O’Callaghan largely responsible for the failure to deal appropriately with complaints against 19 priests, some of them lodged as recently as 2008

DEVELOPMENT

New Rules Leave Canadian Aid Groups in Limbo.” By Fawzia Sheikh. “Canada de-prioritised eight African countries a few years after listing them as top concerns without notifying many governments beforehand.” Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). December 23, 2011. Many Canadian civil society organisations working in international development are still awaiting a definitive answer about future government funding, a months-long lag critics argue has hampered overseas operations and only worsens Canada’s global reputation when viewed in light of other issues in recent years. The Ottawa-based Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC) carried out a survey between Nov. 18 and 24 to gauge the effect of a delay in funding announcements by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) related to two calls for proposals. The government’s slow response in making a decision regarding its Partnerships with Canadians Branch has affected 210 Canadian groups working with hundreds, if not thousands, of overseas partners, according to CCIC. The council poll revealed that CIDA’s delays and lack of project financing is slowing down or stopping international project work; forcing Canadian civil society organisations to restructure other non-CIDA funded programmes and lay off staff; keeping foreign partners in limbo by impeding their ability to hire or retain staff; and causing people to suffer and die due to the lack of urgently needed community development and health initiatives, among other negative consequences. “Everybody’s kind of holding their breath waiting,” Julia Sánchez, president and CEO of CCIC, told IPS. “It’s going to hurt.” Sánchez anticipates that CIDA will not fund some organisations that it has for decades and describes the worst-case scenario as one in which non-governmental organisations have already shed staff and severed partnerships on the ground when they finally receive government money. She said she has no idea when the situation may be resolved.

INDIA

Indian ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement takes shape.” By Sanjay Sharma. Times of India. December 19, 2011. A local version of ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement – a protest against social and economic inequality that started in New York but has now spread across 83 countries, is now also shaping up in India, and has in fact already incubated a ‘community-owns-resources’ experiment at Hazaribagh in Bihar. The experiment questioning the new global economic order that led to the collapse of European and American economies, leaving people unemployed across the globe, has emboldened those Indians who oppose the “World Bank-piloted economic models designed to satiate appetite of big corporations and re-colonizers”. Banwari Lal Sharma, one of the Indian campaigners leading the Azadi Bachao Andolan in India and who provided leadership to the agitating farmers of Hazaribagh against mining companies, while interaction with a group of intellectuals in Chandigarh to share his new concept of development, said “Our alternative model allows the local communities partner.

India most uncharitable in South Asia.” No by-line. Times of India. December 21, 2011. India has earned the dubious distinction of being South Asia’s most uncharitable country in 2011, if one goes by the ranking in the Charities Aid Foundation’s World Giving Index. In the South Asia region, India is the worst performer with a global ranking of 91. In 2010, India ranked at 134. Pakistan, which was ranked at 142 last year, has made it to 34th position this year. Sri Lanka is ranked 8th while Bangladesh is 78 and Nepal 84. Thailand was the most generous, with 85 per cent of Thais making regular charitable contributions. The UK was the second most generous, with 79 per cent regularly giving to charity. Countries were ranked on monetary donations and charitable acts.

Anticorruption Bill Provokes an Outcry in India.” By Jim Yardley. New York Times. December 22, 2011. India’s government introduced long-awaited legislation on Thursday to create an independent, anticorruption agency, provoking a loud outcry from opposition parties and some civil society activists who attacked the measure from all directions. India’s national government, led by the Congress Party, has spent the past year mired in ugly corruption scandals or stumbling from self-inflicted political miscues. The pressure for creating the anticorruption agency, known as a Lokpal, was driven by nationwide protests this summer led by the campaigner Anna Hazare. A political showdown now looms over the Lokpal issue, possibly determining whether the Congress Party can reverse its sagging political fortunes midway through the government’s five-year term. Critical elections scheduled for early next year in five states will be closely watched as a barometer of the public mood. “Legislation cannot be made on the street or through agitation,” said Pranab Mukherjee, the government’s powerful finance minister, as he introduced the bill in the lower house of Parliament. He argued that the government bill reflected the “sense of the House.” But the shape of the Lokpal legislation has been contested and negotiated for months. Even before Thursday, Mr. Hazare had made it clear that he considered the government’s bill to have been watered down too much. In particular, Mr. Hazare was upset that the Central Bureau of Investigation, which investigates corruption cases, was not placed under the direction of the Lokpal but remained under the control of Parliament. “This bill will not end corruption,” Mr. Hazare said during a televised appearance. “This bill is very weak.”

UK

Charities for Christmas #12: Breakthrough Breast Cancer; We are profiling a range of charities who are seeking volunteers or financial support. Today we look at the unique Breakthrough Breast Cancer group.” By Rebecca Smithers. Guardian. December 16, 2011. Breakthrough Breast Cancer has a unique role helping to finance scientists’ work at the Institute of Cancer Research. Every year, nearly 48,000 women and 300 men in the UK are diagnosed with the disease, who then seek help from the specialist support and information provided by charities. Breakthrough Breast Cancer is unique because of its role in helping to finance scientists’ work at the UK’s only dedicated breast cancer research centre, the Institute of Cancer Research in partnership with the Royal Marsden hospital in London. It alone funds a quarter of all breast cancer-specific research in the UK, helping to develop an understanding of the causes of cancer and to improve treatments. And something else that sets it apart is its strategy of funding long-term research programmes. It says this targeted approach is a proven success and means every pound is spent for maximum impact. In the past 11 years it has funded 10 major medical trials. Last year, donors raised £17.2m for the charity’s lifesaving work, of which it invested £12m towards prevention, diagnosis, treatment and patient services, tackling breast cancer from every direction. Away from the laboratory, it also set up Fashion Targets Breast Cancer in the UK (the brainchild in the US of designer Ralph Lauren). This is backed by major retailers such as Marks & Spencer, which donates a proportion of sales from clothing to the research pot. A key aim is to show prospective donors just how their money can help. At the lower end of the scale, for example, a donation of £6 could pay for one person’s blood to be processed as part of the so-called Breakthrough Generations Study, the world’s largest study into the causes of breast cancer. Through this the charity is tracking more than 100,000 women in the UK for 40 years to help discover crucial information about the causes of breast cancer.

Badge Joe Public blog; Charities need all the help they can get; Charities are suffering as the cuts hit, and many small and medium-sized charities are at risk of going under.” By David Brindle. Guardian. December 20, 2011. He was doing well until he mentioned “Tesco charities”. When Bernard Jenkin, chair of the Commons public administration committee, addressed a Christmas reception for voluntary sector leaders, they lapped up his scepticism about the “big society”. But when he started talking about building the “little society”, at the expense of “the Tesco charities that are skilled at tendering”, there was a good deal of muttering into the mince pies. It probably wasn’t the time or place to suggest anything other than goodwill to all charity men (and women). But then again you can see Jenkin’s point, because it’s the smaller voluntary organisations that are suffering most from the chill winds whipping around the sector. Elsewhere we report the winners of the 2011 Guardian Charity Awards for social welfare organisations with an annual income of less than £1.5m. As ever, the awards lunch vividly reminded us of the vital work and astonishing commitment of smaller charities and their role as the very cornerstone of civil society. Picking our award winners is never easy. But the task facing the judges this year was harder than ever because of the sheer volume of entries: just eight short of 1,000, by far the biggest field in 19 years. Why so many? Well, much as we like to think it reflects well on the profile of the awards, the harsh truth is probably that many small and medium-sized charities are desperate for any help they can get. A glance through the pitches of those shortlisted this year seems to confirm as much. Whereas, in the past, entries would come typically from relatively young charities seeking to boost their growth, many that applied this time were long-established organisations that had lost local council funding in the spending cuts and were struggling to carry on.

Christmas charity appeal 2011: how Magic Me unites young and old; A project where schoolgirls and older women mix is breaking down age barriers and bringing the local community closer.” By Homa Khaleeli. Guardian. December 20, 2011. ‘People say: ‘How can you deal with teenagers?’ But try dealing with women in their 70s,” laughs Susan Langford. In an airy room in east London, a group of teenagers and older women are looking at piles of brightly coloured portraits in between giggling and chatting. But it’s not the young girls laughing and teasing their new friends; it’s the older women who are irrepressible. Langford’s charity Magic Me was set up in 1989 to break down generational barriers through creative projects. It certainly seems to work: the all-female group I meet – ranging in age from 14 to 80 – collapse with mirth when they read back the teenagers’ comments about what they expected the older women to be like before they started a four-month art project together. “Boring,” one wrote. “Bad tempered” was another favourite – oh, and “snoring when they sleep”. “But we do snore. I snore when I think I’m awake,” points out Roberta, plaintively. “It just seems to happen lately, just all of a sudden … zzzz” – she mimes falling asleep to more gales of laughter. Brought together once a week for The Moving Lives project, the older women from the borough of Tower Hamlets and teenagers from the local Mulberry School for Girls created an audio-video installation inspired by the collections at the nearby Women’s Library, which, to their obvious pride, was then displayed there. But it’s the new friendships they formed that have proved transformational.

The Saturday interview: Toby Ord and Bernadette Young on the joy of giving; Philosopher Toby Ord and his partner Bernadette Young give at least 10% of their income to charity. Can they persuade more of us to follow suit?” By Susanna Rustin. Guardian. December 23. 2011. Persuading people in rich, developed countries to look at their income and assets on a global scale, rather than comparing themselves to those who are even richer, is a big part of what Giving What We Can is about. Founded two years ago in Oxford by Ord, supported by his partner Bernadette Young, a junior doctor who took the pledge at the same time, the organisation has grown to 177 members in five chapters including Princeton, Cambridge and Harvard. Early pledgers included development economists and the philosopher Peter Singer, whose 1971 essay Famine, Affluence and Morality was a guiding influence. These grandees, and the couple’s friends and family, have been followed by students, doctors, teachers, an interior designer, a video game developer and a management consultant, all listed on the website. Ord and Young, sitting across from me in their favourite Oxford cafe – where the money for the homemade mince pies on the counter goes straight into a collection for the homeless – say their “kitchen-table operation” has already ballooned beyond expectations. Currently administered by around two dozen volunteers, next year it will turn itself from a society into a charity, so it can employ staff and apply for grants from foundations. “It’s about putting on a positive spin,” Young says. “I think a lot of people feel, ‘Well if everyone else in the world did this, no problem, but everyone else isn’t pulling their weight, so why should I?’ What we’re trying to say is that a small number of people can still make a difference.”

Charities for Christmas #16: The Abbeyfield Society.” By Jill Insley. Guardian.December 23, 2011. We are profiling charities seeking volunteers or financial support. Today it is The Abbeyfield Society, which is dedicated to making the lives of older people easier and more fulfilling. The Abbeyfield Society was started in 1956 by a former Coldstream Guard called Richard Carr-Gomm and aims to enhance the quality of life for older people. On Christmas Day about 500 lonely, older people will be offered dinner, in some cases a bed for the night, and that most valuable of gifts companionship. The Abbeyfield Society, whose mission is to enhance the quality of life for older people, combats festive isolation by inviting people aged 55 and over who will otherwise be alone at Christmas to spend time at one of 120 Abbeyfield sheltered homes in England and Wales. The charity was started in 1956 when Richard Carr-Gomm, who was then a Coldstream Guard, became concerned by the many lonely, older people he saw around him in London. He resigned his commission, and using his army gratuity to buy a house in Bermondsey he invited four people to join him. Today there are 700 Abbeyfield homes across the UK and in 16 countries around the world – all with the aim of improving life for older people. It is too late to volunteer for this year’s festive activities, but the charity would love to hear from people who would like to help, not only next Christmas but throughout the year. There are many different volunteer roles, including driving guests from their home to an Abbeyfield house for Christmas dinner, gardening, librarian duties, fundraising, or providing companionship to residents and taking them shopping and to health appointments. There is no age limit – the charity says many teenagers volunteer as part of their Duke of Edinburgh scheme.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (December 12-18, 2011)

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

INTERNATIONAL

AUSTRALIA

Private schools all but vanquished from top 10 list.” By Andrew Stevenson and Jen Rosenberg. Sydney Morning Herald. December 15, 2011. The stellar performance of students at NSW selective high schools continues apace with only one private school, Moriah College, making the top 10 of the Herald’s annual list of top-performing schools as judged by HSC results. There were 31 non-government schools in the Herald’s top 50. A slim majority (52.3 per cent) of the 16,420 students on the Distinguished Achievers List – those with a result of more than 90 in a subject – are from non-government schools. Some 36.7 per cent are from independent schools and 15.6 per cent from Catholic systemic schools.

CANADA

Forging Bond Will Be Test for Co-ops and Occupy Movement.” By Fawzia Sheikh. Interpress Service (ipsnew.net). December 13, 2011. Canadian cooperatives may grow as the global Occupy movement raises the profile of their business model through boosting interest in credit unions over traditional banks, but uncertainty remains about the degree to which the two camps will join forces from here on. While the cooperative sector understands that the international Occupy trend illustrates a “huge appetite” for an alternative to the economic and social status quo, it is unclear to what extent co-op groups will respond to this swell of emotion, John Restakis, executive director of the British Columbia Cooperative Association in Vancouver, told IPS. Co-ops are vocal about representing a different and successful way of doing business but are more reluctant to declare their identification with the “quite radical” Occupy movement, Restakis said. These businesses have thrived because they are risk-averse, conservative and inclusive – a culture running counter to Occupy sentiments, he noted. Large co-op groups are more established, have a more diverse membership and lack the solidarity to take positions on issues. Their smaller, younger and more activist counterparts, however, would be interested in forging a connection with Occupy groups because some of their members are probably part of the international phenomenon, he added. Virtually every sector of the Canadian economy dots the co-op landscape, including agriculture, retail, housing and healthcare, and at least 10 million people (out of a population of 34 million) are members of some form of cooperative, according to the Canadian Cooperative Association in Ottawa. As co-ops grapple with how to approach the Occupy wave, one thing is certain, according to Restakis: There is a need for dialogue between the two, despite their deep differences, because much can be learned and shared.

CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL

Benedictine head offers resignation from inquiry into sex abuse of pupils; Father Richard Yeo: his appointment has led to concern about a conflict of interest.” By David Brown and Sean O’Neill. Times of London. December 14, 2011. The head of the Benedictine order in England has offered to resign from a top-level inquiry ordered by the Vatican into sexual abuse by clerics at a London abbey amid concerns of a conflict of interest. Father Richard Yeo, president of the English Benedictine Congregation, is understood to have accepted that he could be accused of having a conflict of interest if he remained as part of the Apostolic Visitation. He had been appointed alongside Bishop John Arnold, an auxiliary Bishop of Westminster. The powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome ordered the inquiry after investigations by The Times uncovered decades of mistreatment of pupils at a school run by the Benedictine order. Certain monks and lay teachers at Ealing Abbey in West London and the neighbouring St Benedict’s independent school have been linked to abuse dating from at least the 1960s to the late 2000s. An independent inquiry by Lord Carlile of Berriew into child protection at the Abbey recommended last month that the Roman Catholic Church should give up control of schools if it wants to ensure that pupils will be protected from paedophile clerics. At the start of his inquiry report, Lord Carlile said he was disappointed that Father Yeo had not acted earlier to review the order’s schools. He said it was “foolish” of the Vatican to appoint Father Yeo to the Apostolic Visitation.

Dutch Catholic sexual abuse revealed in report; Thousands of children abused in Dutch Catholic institutions, says independent commission.” Guardian/Associated Press. December 16, 2011. Thousands of children suffered sexual abuse in Dutch Catholic institutions, and church officials failed to adequately address the abuse or help the victims, according to a long-awaited investigation. The report by an independent commission said Catholic officials failed to tackle the widespread abuse “to prevent scandals”. The suspected number of abuse victims who spent some of their youth in church institutions likely lies somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000, according to a summary of the report. Based on a survey among more than 34,000 people, the commission estimated that one in 10 Dutch children suffered some form of abuse. The number doubled to 20% of children who spent part of their youth in an institution whether Catholic or not. The commission said it received 1,800 complaints of abuse at Catholic schools, seminaries and orphanages and that the institutions suffered from “a failure of oversight”. It then conducted the broader survey of the general population for a more comprehensive analysis of the scale and nature of sexual abuse of minors. The commission was set up last year under the leadership of former government minister Wim Deetman to investigate allegations of abuse dating from 1945. Deetman said that the problem of abuse continued in part because the Catholic church organisation in the Netherlands was splintered, so bishops and religious orders sometimes worked autonomously to deal with abuse and “did not hang out their dirty laundry”. However, he said that the commission concluded that “it is wrong to talk of a culture of silence” by the church as a whole.
Related stories:
Dutch Bishops Apologize for Sexual Abuse.” New York Times. December 16, 2011.
Institutional Dutch Catholic abuse ‘affected thousands’; Rosary beads Allegations of abuse in Dutch Catholic institutions multiplied after former pupils at a school came forward.” BBC News (bbc.co.uk). December 16, 2011.

EGYPT

Christians Face Murky Future After Egypt Polls.” By Matt Bradley. Wall Street Journal. December 13, 2011. When Victor Anis goes to the polls Wednesday to vote in the second round of Egypt’s parliamentary elections, he plans to cast his ballot for the Egyptian Bloc, a list of liberal politicians who represent the strongest answer to the rise of hardline Islamists. “What’s happening now is turning voting into religion,” said Mr. Anis, 60 years old. Egypt’s religious ideologies and organizations, he complains, all appear to be using the ballot box to orchestrate a kind of power grab. All of them, that is, except the institution that represents his own faith, the Coptic Orthodox Church. Even after the Muslim Brotherhood and the more conservative Salafi parties organized and rallied their followers to win more than 60% of the combined vote in the first round of polling last month, the Coptic Church has remained silent. Despite carrying the allegiance of an estimated 10% or more of Egypt’s 80 million population, the reluctance of the Church to embrace political engagement leaves one of Egypt’s strongest—and one of its only—liberal-minded religious institutions behind in a race that will help define Egypt’s first post-revolutionary parliament and, ultimately, the drafting of a new constitution. Official church discourse and many among the lay faithful contend that the church’s absence from direct politics is consistent with the spirit of its political convictions: that a liberal democratic system should have a separation between church and state. But the clerical leadership’s current position is also an extension of its quiescent posture toward successive autocratic regimes, analysts say.

INDIA

India’s billionaires frustrated, want to shift base overseas.” By Shaili Chopra. Times of India. December 15, 2011. The government may have saved its political skin by putting FDI in retail on hold, but it has added to the sense of gloom that’s engulfing India Inc. For the past several weeks, there’s been a depressing drumbeat of stories of Indian businessmen choosing the relatively lowgrowth, high-stability option of investing abroad over the uncertainty of launching new ventures at home. Says the India head of a fabled global investment bank, “For me, there’s no slowdown. My plate’s full with mandates from Indian companies looking at acquisitions abroad.” But it’s not just about the flight of investments anymore. Several Indian billionaires say they are frustrated enough to want to shift base overseas and run their increasingly transnational business empires from cities like London and Singapore. “I’m sick and tired of what’s happening here. I don’t want to live in this country anymore,” said one of India’s biggest barons. The reasons are mainly two-fold: the policy paralysis brought on by a politically weak and scam-struck government, compounded by obstructionist competitive politics; and the climate of fear that has spread because of the raids on and arrests of businessmen. They have a third, more specific grouse (not that it’s new): the time and hassle it takes to get environmental clearance and acquire land. Bulge-bracket businessmen – from telecom and textiles to aviation and steel to real estate and minerals – are talking ‘Quit India’, but obviously not in public. They may be exaggerating, but for the first time since the dawn of liberalization 20 years ago, the India story seems to be dimming compared to the welcoming lights of foreign shores. As RPG Enterprises chairman Harsh Goenka quips, “We are looking for the red carpet, not for red tape.”

UK

Charities for Christmas #8: CCHF All About Kids.” By Mark King. Guardian. December 12, 2011. We are profiling charities for readers who have time or money they would like to donate, or are seeking help in those areas. Today we look at CCHF All About Kids, which offers disadvantaged children respite breaks. CCHF All About Kids, which is 100% funded by voluntary donations, was founded in the late 1800s as the Children’s Country Holidays Fund, and helped more than 2 million disadvantaged children in its 125-year history by providing a range of residential activity and respite breaks. In the 1930s, author AA Milne helped raise £6,000 for the charity (more than £250,000 in today’s money), while CCHF was asked by the charity WRVS to assist with the evacuation of London’s children during the Blitz. Today, CCHF says there are more than 600,000 children living with poverty, abuse, isolation and depravation at any one time in London – recent reductions to the child tax credit and the working tax credit for lone parents won’t help. It means many inner-city familes are struggling to afford the basics, let alone a holiday for their children. Andrew Cartwright, chairman of CCHF All About Kids, says school holidays can add to the financial burden on parents as they have to find the money for childcare and larger food bills. “Despite all the apparent prosperity in our society, the need for our services to help young children is no less today than when we were established in 1884,” Cartwright says. “The difficulties and lack of opportunities for so many children in the busy parts of our cities is still a huge problem that has not gone away.”

Charities for Christmas #9: Elizabeth Finn Care.” By Lisa Bachelor. Guardian. December 13, 2011. We are profiling charities for readers who have time or money they would like to donate, or are seeking help in those areas. Today we look at financial support charity Elizabeth Finn Care. EFC is a national charity that gives direct financial support to individuals in need, and helps millions more gain access to the money available to them in welfare benefits, charitable grants and other financial help. It concentrates on people whose former careers have been interrupted or ended through circumstances beyond their control, such as physical or mental illness, redundancy and family breakdown, or those struggling on a low income in retirement. One of the ways it does this is by providing grants for things such as the replacement of essential household equipment or for building repairs. In January, the charity is running a campaign called Wrap Up Against Poverty. The main driver of this is an online auction of celebrity, designer and high street winter clothing items developed out of the fact that many of the people the charity helps cannot afford winter clothing to keep warm. It wants people to help raise money by bidding at the auction. It will be hosted on eBay from Thursday 26 January and will close on Sunday 26 February.

Painstaking plan eases cyclist’s feat of shire endurance.” By Simon de Bruxelles. Times of London. December 14, 2011. The supply of arcane charity challenges may be running low. Someone has already visited every one of the 116 league football grounds or downed a pint in every Royal Oak pub. But John Palmer, a retired head teacher, managed to find a fresh challenge, giving himself the task of cycling through all 39 traditional English counties using the shortest possible route. Mr Palmer, 64, set off on his bicycle with a sheaf of maps and arrived back home in Okehampton, Devon, 16 days later, having covered a relatively modest 1,126 miles. His sponsored ride through of some the country’s finest scenery raised more than £1,200 for the cancer charity Force. During his trip he cycled at an average speed of 11mph, covering 80 miles a day and staying at B&Bs along the way. He said: “I cycle every day anyway and wanted to set myself a real challenge to raise money for charity. I found it very difficult to get hold of a map showing the historic county boundaries, so in the end I used lots of separate ones and stuck them together.

Headstart at school for rich parents’ offspring; Five-month gap in skills between middle-income children and their more affluent peers, study says.” By Richard Garner. Independent. December 14, 2011. Children from middle-income families start school with skills five months behind those of their more affluent peers, research suggests. Despite a home environment that is often quite similar to that of richer pupils, middle-income children lag behind in class and are more poorly behaved, according to a study by the Resolution Foundation, a think-tank which highlights the experiences of low-to-middle income (LMI) households. Child development experts Jane Waldfogel and Elizabeth Washbrook, said the reasons for the gap in performance were that wealthier parents could devote more time to reading to children and arranging visits to museums and libraries than LMI families earning between £24,000 and £42,000 a year. Another factor was the age of the mothers in the LMI group: on thewhole they were younger and had fewer academic qualifications. They were also at greater risk of social isolation, post-natal depression, had lower self-esteem and less sense of control over their lives. The researchers found that a family’s lifestyle – whether the children were in single-parent families or not – did not contribute to lower vocabulary skills. It could, however, lead to poorer behaviour. The report’s authors warned that ministers were “short-sighted” if they concentrated scarce resources on just improving the performance of disadvantaged pupils. “While the focus of much government policy is understandably on the extremely poor outcomes of many of the most vulnerable children, there is substantial room for improvement in the school readiness of LMI children who… make up a third of their total cohort,” they said. Neglecting such children would deal a blow to Britain’s economic future, Ms Waldfogel and Ms Washbrook added.

“‘Big society’ project lacks clarity and leadership, say MPs; Civil service, charities and public confused by policy; Single minister must take control to avoid failure.” By Rajeev Syal. Guardian. December 13, 2011. David Cameron’s “big society” project is confusing the civil service, charities and the public because it lacks a clear plan and a leader, according to a parliamentary committee. In a report released on Wednesday, the public administration select committee calls on the government to introduce a single minister to take control of the policy or risk seeing it flop for a fifth time. The report follows an earlier inquiry by the same committee, which examines the role of the civil service. It found there had been a failure to apply coherent changes in Whitehall to implement the project. Bernard Jenkin MP, the Conservative chairman of the committee, says there must be an overhaul of the way the government is implementing the policy to end widespread confusion. “Some charities and community groups have shown they can provide some public services at better value for money than those delivered by the state,” he says. “The problem is they are likely to experience significant barriers to progress unless the culture and skills in the departments commissioning such services change.” The big society was a central theme of last year’s general election campaign. It is intended to devolve power and to foster a greater sense of responsibility by loosening the role of the state. In May Cameron relaunched the policy for the fourth time. The report says that MPs cannot see how the government will engage smaller charities and voluntary groups who wish to help deliver public services without changes. Francis Maude, the cabinet secretary, and Nick Hurd, the minister leading the policy, are singled out in the report for failing to recognise how uninformed people are about what the phrase “big society” actually means.

Why Simon Cowell does not have the ‘great’ factor; Charity singles tell us about changing concerns and how society responds to need, says historian.” By Chris Arnot. Guardian. December 12, 2011. Dr Lucy Robinson describes herself as a contemporary historian. But rather than poring over parchment dredged from dusty archives, she’s more likely to be found in her office at Sussex University listening to pop music. She is currently researching the history of the charity single as part of a wider study of the politics and cultural heritage of the 1980s. Robinson has tracked the chart history of 65 singles released in the UK between December 1984 and 1995, as well as a number of protest and benefit singles, charity albums and some local releases that either failed to chart or were sold only on an independent basis. “I’ve analysed their lyrics, videos and marketing as well as the ways in which they solicited donations to charities.” Why would anyone put themselves through such a test of aural endurance? “Some of it has been absolute agony,” she concedes with a grin. “But I’ve enjoyed most of it more than I thought I would. I’m now a big defender of the charity single as a musical genre. Not necessarily, though, as a way of solving social inequality or responding to humanitarian needs.” The reason that charity singles are worthy of academic study, she explains, is that they can tell us much about attitudes to society and to need. “I’m interested in the relationship between popular culture and politics. Charity singles are part of this story. At certain points in the last few decades, they’ve dominated the charts, often vying with each other for top positions. The singles serve as a way of gauging changing concerns more widely.”

Charities for Christmas #10: Giveacar.” By Lisa Bachelor. Guardian. December 14, 2011. We are profiling charities for readers who have time or money they would like to donate, or are seeking help in those areas. Today it is car scrap charity Giveacar. Giveacar works by collecting old cars (roadworthy or not), then sending them to scrap or auction. It then donates all the proceeds, minus 25% administrative costs, to a charity of the car owner’s choice. Typically, a scrapped car will raise £100 for charity; an auctioned one can raise more. The Ford Fiesta is the most donated car – the organisation says it receives one every day. And those crushed Fiestas have paid off. The tiny social enterprise, started up in 2010 and run by just four people, has announced it has reached the landmark of half-a-million pounds raised for charity in less than two years. The scheme has proved popular with other charities it supports, which see it as a simple but different way to collect much needed funds. Ed Charles, area fundraising manager (south-east) for the Alzheimer’s Society, says: “We have been working with Giveacar for three months now and have already raised over £2,000 which will help us continue to support people with dementia and their families.” Danielle Gravestock, corporate fundraiser for East Anglia Children’s Hospices, says that over the past month the charity has raised more than £1,700 through Giveacar. “Whenever I drive past abandoned cars I really get annoyed as potentially that is £100 wasted, which could have provided two hours of specialist care,” she says. This Christmas the charity wants your old bangers.

Charities for Christmas #11: The Cinnamon Trust.” By Jill Insley. Guardian. December 15, 2011. We are profiling a range of charities who are seeking volunteers and financial support. Today’s focus is on the elderly people and pets charity Cinnamon Trust. Pets are fantastic companions for elderly people, helping to reduce stress, offering protection against loneliness and fending off depression. Many older people also find it easier to talk to other people if they have a pet, because the animal forms a talking point: a common interest that they can discuss. But at the same time they worry about what will happen to their pets when they die, and this fear can deter them from taking the step that could so radically improve the quality of their life. That’s where the Cinnamon Trust comes in. The charity helps elderly and terminally ill people look after and exercise their pets, arranges for them to be fostered after their owners’ deaths, and pays for their upkeep, including veterinary bills. It also takes pets in to visit their owners should they end up in hospital. Averil Jarvis, founder of the Cinnamon Trust, was prompted to found it by repeatedly seeing the lives of elderly people diminished through the loss of pets. “For the first time in their lives they were completely alone. For someone who has had animals all their life, to have a home devoid of pets must be absolutely awful.” The very existence of the charity gives people enough confidence to take on pets after the loss of an elderly animal: in fact the charity often matches an owner whose pet has died with a pet that has lost its owner. “I recently had a marvellous letter from an 80 year old. She said: ‘Thank you for being there, for giving an old lady courage to get a new puppy and a reason to live into her 90s,’” says Jarvis.

Five community organisations win Guardian Charity Awards; Charities that provide emergency housing, financial support and help to survivors of sexual abuse are among the winners of the 19th Guardian Charity Awards.” By Clare Horton. Guardian. December 15, 2011. Five grassroots organisations from around the UK were presented with Guardian Charity Awards on Thursday. A record number of entries were received for this year’s awards, the 19th the Guardian has run to recognise the vital work done by small charities in communities around the country. David Brindle, the Guardian’s public services editor and chair of the judges, said: “We were overwhelmed by the record number of entries, very nearly 1,000, and the sheer brilliance of the work being done by smaller charities every day in communities up and down the UK. When times are hard, it’s clearer than ever that these are the people who represent the real glue in our society.” The winning charities each receive £6,000 prize money, a year’s free membership to the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, a tailored package from the Foundation for Social Improvement (FSI), that includes mentoring, expert advice and training and a media package from the Media Trust.

Charities for Christmas #12: Breakthrough Breast Cancer.” By Rebecca Smithers. Guardian. December 16, 2011. We are profiling a range of charities who are seeking volunteers or financial support. Today we look at the unique Breakthrough Breast Cancer group. Breakthrough Breast Cancer has a unique role helping to finance scientists’ work at the Institute of Cancer Research. For Charlotte Wright, this will be her family’s 11th Christmas without her mother who lost her life to breast cancer. “My life hasn’t been the same since, and because of this I try and support the charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer as much as possible with the hope that one day we will see an end to this disease,” she says. Every year, nearly 48,000 women and 300 men in the UK are diagnosed with the disease, who then seek help from the specialist support and information provided by charities. Breakthrough Breast Cancer is unique because of its role in helping to finance scientists’ work at the UK’s only dedicated breast cancer research centre, the Institute of Cancer Research in partnership with the Royal Marsden hospital in London. It alone funds a quarter of all breast cancer-specific research in the UK, helping to develop an understanding of the causes of cancer and to improve treatments. And something else that sets it apart is its strategy of funding long-term research programmes. It says this targeted approach is a proven success and means every pound is spent for maximum impact. In the past 11 years it has funded 10 major medical trials. Last year, donors raised £17.2m for the charity’s lifesaving work, of which it invested £12m towards prevention, diagnosis, treatment and patient services, tackling breast cancer from every direction. Away from the laboratory, it also set up Fashion Targets Breast Cancer in the UK (the brainchild in the US of designer Ralph Lauren). This is backed by major retailers such as Marks & Spencer, which donates a proportion of sales from clothing to the research pot.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (December 5-11, 2011)

Friday, December 16th, 2011

INTERNATIONAL

AUSTRALIA

Christian group ready for bigger chaplaincy role.” By Dan Harrison. Sydney Morning Herald. December 6, 2011. Access Ministries, a Victorian provider of chaplains and religious instructors, which has been accused of proselytising, plans to provide Christian workers to schools across the nation from next year under an enlarged chaplaincy program. The federal School Education Minister, Peter Garrett, ordered an investigation in May after a recording emerged of Access Ministries’ chief executive, Evonne Paddison, telling a 2008 conference: ”We need to go and make disciples.” Proselytising is strictly forbidden under the national program, which provides schools with up to $20,000 a year for chaplaincy services. The federal investigation cleared Access of any wrongdoing. The government has promised to offer funding to 1000 schools on top of the 2700 already in the scheme. Under changes announced in September, they will have the option of having a secular welfare worker. Access has told Mr Garrett’s department it is interested in providing chaplains and welfare workers across the nation. ”Our desire to expand our chaplaincy services is simply a desire to help more people in need,” said Dr Paddison. Her organisation only offered Christian workers, she said. An Access spokesman said while the organisation had expressed interest in supplying welfare workers to keep its options open, it planned to offer chaplains only. A number of other Christian organisations, including Youth for Christ and Christians Helping in Primary Schools, have expressed interest in providing welfare workers.

Private schools provide best academic results.” By Dan Harrison. Sydney Morning Herald. December 6, 2011. Private schools produce better results than government schools, even once differences in student background are taken into account, an analysis of data from the MySchool website shows. But the research, published in the latest edition of The Australian Economic Review, does not consider the influence a school’s resources has on results, because it is based on data from the first version of the website, which was published last year. Information on the funding available to each school was first collected for the second iteration of the site, which was published in March. Paul Miller and Derby Voon, of Curtin University in Western Australia, examined year 3 grammar scores from national literacy tests and found that independent schools produced average scores that were 33 points higher than those of government schools. Average scores in Catholic schools were 25 points higher than those in government schools. Only about half of these differences could be attributed to differences in student background. The average test score is 500 points. The finding is at odds with a analysis of results last year from international tests produced by the Australian Council for Educational Research. That report concluded that, once adjustments were made for variations in socioeconomic background, there was no significant difference in average scores between independent, Catholic and government schools.

Public servants told to seek approval to volunteer.” By Kelly Burke. Sydney Morning Herald. December 10, 2011. Last week, Tanya Plibersek challenged Australian governments and businesses to create a stronger and more sustainable volunteering sector. This week, 37,000 employees in her department were told that if they wished to engage in volunteering activities in the future, they would have to get their manager’s permission first. The change of policy at the Department of Human Services, which operates Medicare, Centrelink and Child Support services, has angered employees and unions. It has also surprised Volunteering Australia, which enjoys a close partnership with the federal government. In an email obtained by the Herald, the department’s national manager of non-compliance, operations, Bill Volkers, outlined the changes to an existing policy on outside employment. For the first time, unpaid weekend volunteer work will come under the scrutiny of departmental supervisors, and public sector employees must get approval before undertaking such work. Employees must apply for a renewal of that approval every 12 months and will also be subject to a ”regular review” of their activities. The new policy also requires public servants to tell the department if the nature of their volunteering duties within a charitable or not-for-profit organisation changes during the 12-month period. The directive says there may be some exemptions, for ”schools and one-off [sic]”, and in a clarifying email, a senior departmental figure assured employees that religious activities would come under that exemption. But many employees are furious, saying their weekend involvement in activities as varied as surf lifesaving, scouts, animal rescue and Meals on Wheels, are none of the department’s business.

Charities stuck in the middle as clubs resist pokies change.” No by-line. Sydney Morning Herald. December 10, 2011. Clubs Australia is putting increasing pressure on charities to oppose compulsory gambling limits, writes Anne Davies. By the end of this week, 2.1 million brochures featuring Youth Off The Streets’ Father Chris Riley speaking against mandatory pre-commitment for pokies will have flooded into the mailboxes of voters in 46 electorates. For Clubs Australia it’s a coup in what is fast becoming a no-holds-barred fight for the hearts and minds of the Labor backbench. Some MPs are unsure about independent MP Andrew Wilkie’s plan, embraced by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, to require technology that makes gamblers pre-commit to an amount they are prepared to lose. Father Riley’s emergence on the clubs’ side has also exposed the subterranean campaign that Clubs Australia has been running for months to convince charities to either back them publicly or sit on the sidelines. Now it has turned personal as well. ”They are basically putting the screws on anyone who has had funds from them,” Reverend Tim Costello, anti-gambling crusader and chief executive of World Vision, told the Herald this week. A sample of charities contacted by the Herald said Clubs NSW or representatives of their donor clubs had put their case to executives in recent months.

Catholic Church accused of duping Tax Office in multibillion-dollar jobs scheme.” By Linton Besser. Sydney Morning Herald. December 12, 2011. The Catholic Church’s employment arm has been systematically rorting the taxpayer-funded welfare-to-work program, defrauding large sums from the multibillion-dollar scheme. It is one of a number of employment agencies that are exploiting loopholes in the $4.7 billion Job Services Australia program, a federal initiative to assist the long-term unemployed find work. As the scheme rewards agencies that ”broker”, or find, a high volume of jobs for Centrelink recipients, some organisations are falsely claiming they have found jobs that individuals secured for themselves. The greater the number of jobs the agencies find, the higher the fees they receive and the more likely they are to win future government contracts. But in the case of CatholicCare, as many as 70 per cent of the jobs it has claimed it ”brokered” were found by the job seekers. The Herald interviewed 63 job seekers serviced by Local Employment Training Solutions (LETS), the church’s agency, between October 2009 and December 2010 whose job placements were lodged with the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations as brokered. But 44 of them said they had found the job in question, contradicting CatholicCare’s official claims for fees. Many had a long history with the employer that predated their relationship with the agency. The federal government spent more than $1.5 billion on JSA programs last year.

CANADA

Head of Canada’s Boy Scouts apologizes to victims of sexual abuse; Steve P. Kent, chairman of the governing board of Scouts Canada, also announces an independent review of confidential files it has long kept on leaders accused of molestation.” By Jason Felch and Kim Christensen. Los Angeles Times. December 8, 2011. The head of Canada’s Boy Scouts has apologized to victims of sexual abuse in the organization and announced an independent review of confidential files it has long kept on leaders accused of molestation. “Our sincere efforts to prevent such crimes have not always succeeded, and we are sorry for that and saddened at any resulting harm,” said Steve P. Kent, chairman of the governing board of Scouts Canada. Kent said he has asked an outside auditing firm to review confidential records that Scouts Canada, like the Boy Scouts of America, has maintained for decades to keep known molesters out of its ranks. The two organizations are independent of each other. Kent said the moves were sparked by recent media attention. In October, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. and the Los Angeles Times published a joint investigation that found Scouts Canada and the Boy Scouts of America had failed to prevent a convicted child molester from abusing Scouts over two decades on both sides of the border, and at times had helped him cover his tracks. Scouts Canada Chief Executive Janet Yale denied that her organization kept confidential records. She resigned abruptly in November after the CBC published proof of their existence. The Boy Scouts of America has fought in court to keep its files from public view, arguing they contain no information of value. On Thursday evening, a spokesman said the BSA has in the past apologized to victims both publicly and privately. “We believe perpetrators of abuse should be punished to the fullest extent of the law; even suspicion of abuse must be reported by members and volunteers to law enforcement and result in immediate removal from Scouting,” the organization said in a statement.

Alternative School Sparks Fears of Division and Isolation.” By Fawzia Sheikh. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). December 8, 2011. The Toronto public school board has approved the second ‘Africentric’ Alternative School despite persistent criticism that the format attracts mainly black students and is equivalent to segregation in a country that prides itself on national unity regardless of ethnic differences. The impetus behind the school, which incorporates the perspectives and history of people of African descent into provincial curriculum, was research indicating that feelings of disengagement among black students has led to an alarming 40 percent drop-out rate. After the first such elementary school opened in 2009, Toronto educators approved in mid-November a plan to open a similar learning institution for high school students within the next two years. Academic Carl James, who began this month to conduct research with the Toronto District School Board on the feasibility of the Africa-focused curriculum, told IPS that experimenting with new forms of education to determine what works for students is always worthwhile. However, there is no solid data about how this particular effort is faring, said James, the director of the Centre for Education and Community in the faculty of education at York University in Toronto. He anticipates completing his work, which will also help the school board address feelings of detachment and marginalisation among other student groups, in three years. Anecdotal evidence indicates that Africentric school students are more connected to their educational system, parents are more engaged in their children’s studies and teachers and the school board feel more positive about the experience, noted James, who has had discussions with black parents for years about the “possibilities of such schools”. The school board did not respond to IPS queries about the success of the Africa-focused initiative, but the elementary Africentric school has reported above-average scores on standardised tests and a long student waiting list.

CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL

Irish Archbishop Who Died in ’73 Is Linked to Abuse.” By Douglas Dalby. New York Times. December 8, 2011. The former archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid, widely regarded as the most powerful Catholic prelate in modern Irish history, stands accused of serial child sexual abuse, The Irish Times newspaper said Thursday. Two specific complaints and a separate unspecified “concern” against an unidentified cleric were reported to the Murphy Commission, a state-sponsored investigation into the handling of clerical sexual abuse of children in the Dublin archdiocese. The newspaper reported that Archbishop McQuaid, who retired in 1972 and died a year later, was the unidentified cleric. The commission published its main report in 2009, but it said that “due to human error” the latest allegations emerged only in a supplementary report published in July. This does not name Archbishop McQuaid, but the newspaper is adamant that the allegations of abuse contained within it refer to the archbishop. One allegation is regarding abuse of a 12-year-old boy in 1961. “The supplementary report records that in June/July 2009, as the commission was completing its main report, it received information which would have ‘brought another cleric’ within its remit,” Patsy McGarry, the newspaper’s religious affairs correspondent, said in an interview. The archdiocese “found a letter ‘which showed that there was an awareness among a number of people in the archdiocese that there had been a concern expressed about this cleric in 1999,’ the report states. The ‘cleric’ is Archbishop McQuaid.” The main body of the Murphy report was highly critical of Archbishop McQuaid’s attitude toward abuse, accusing him of showing “no concern for the welfare of children.” However, this is the first suggestion that the official body had received specific complaints against Archbishop McQuaid, who was at the very apex of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland for three decades.

DEVELOPMENT

Q&A: South-South Cooperation Complements North-South Cooperation; Sabina Zaccaro interviews NASSIR Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, president of the U.N. General Assembly.” Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). South-South cooperation can play a key role in boosting the economies of developing countries, but it is not going to replace North-South cooperation, says Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, president of the 66th session of the U.N. General Assembly. The Qatari diplomat was interviewed by IPS as the fourth annual Global South-South Development Expo (GSSD Expo) opened Monday in Rome. This year’s GSSD Expo, a U.N. system-wide forum developed by the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation, is hosted by the FAO from Dec. 5 to 9, and is meant to showcase concrete innovative solutions that demonstrate how hunger has been successfully tackled through South-South cooperation. “South-South and triangular cooperation, backed by adequate funding, are key tools for tackling the development challenges of our time,” Al-Nasser said. “All such partnerships are particularly pertinent given the current and recent challenges facing our global economy and sustainable development. Among such challenges, guaranteeing food security for all is paramount.” He said the Expo offers an opportunity to examine holistic approaches to the search for innovative and sustainable solutions to food insecurity: “It will enable us to exchange lessons learned and showcase successful Southern strategies and technologies for, among other things: improving agricultural productivity; increasing social protection and building the resilience of the most vulnerable; managing fragile ecosystems; improving nutrition; and combating diseases.”

INDIA

US continues to be the biggest donor for Indian NGOs.” By Vishwa Mohan. Times of India. December 7, 2011. The US continues to be the biggest donor for Indian NGOs, contributing a little less than one-third of the total Rs 10,337 crore received by various non-profit voluntary organizations in 2009-10. The latest statistics for the year 2009-10, disclosed by the home ministry in Parliament last week, showed that Germany took second spot, replacing UK which has traditionally been just behind the US in the list of donors in the past several years. The ministry’s data showed that the US donated over Rs 3,105 crore to NGOs during the period compared to Rs 1,046 crore by Germany, Rs 1,038 crore by UK, Rs 583 crore by Italy and Rs 509 crore by Netherlands. Analysis of previous home ministry reports shows that these countries have been the top five donors to NGOs for the past several years, consistently giving over 50% of the total foreign contribution. During 2009-10, the highest Rs 944 crore out of the total Rs 10,337 crore of foreign contribution went to organizations working in the field of rural development followed by Rs 742 crore for welfare of children and Rs 630 crore for construction and maintenance of schools and colleges. The year 2008-09 had shown a similar trend. Contribution for AIDS awareness also figured prominently in the past five years. Indian NGOs collectively received foreign contribution to the tune of over Rs 49,968 crore during five years from 2005-06 to 2009-10. A total of 21,508 organizations received such funds for various activities in 2009-10 compared to 21,542 organizations in 2008-09. “The report of the year 2010-11 is not yet compiled. All non-profit voluntary organizations, which are registered with the home ministry for receiving foreign funds, have been asked to submit their annual return for receipt of such contribution by December 31,” an official said.

SPAIN

Curtain Could Fall On A Dazzling Arts Center In Spain.” By Lauren Frayer. Weekend Edition Sunday/National Public Radio. December 4, 2011. The Niemeyer Center for the arts will shut its doors on Dec. 15 after being open for only nine months in Aviles, Spain. It’s a victim of political squabbling during difficult economic times. In the boom years, Spain spent billions on big infrastructure projects — high-speed railways, roads and gleaming structures like the Niemeyer Center for the arts in Aviles, in the country’s north. Opened in March this year, the dazzling museum has hosted sold-out performances by Kevin Spacey and Woody Allen. But it’s slated to close on Dec. 15, after barely nine months of operation, because of regional budget cuts. And the fate of the Niemeyer could be an omen of what could happen across Spain, as conservative politicians cut funding for the arts and other big public projects become white elephants littering the landscape.

UK

Charities challenge PM over ‘anti-green agenda’.” By Dominic Kennedy. Times of London. December 5, 2011. The leaders of the country’s best-known environmental groups have combined to challenge David Cameron to slap down what they see as George Osborne’s anti-green agenda. The heads of Friends of the Earth, the RSPB, the Campaign to Protect Rural England, Greenpeace and the Wildlife Trusts wrote to the Prime Minister yesterday demanding he show leadership. The organisations will meet next week to co-ordinate a campaign to challenge what they see as the Treasury’s new hardline view that green initiatives prevent growth. Their biggest shock came when Mr Osborne, in his Autumn Statement, seemed to deride ecological safeguards when announcing a review of how Habitats Regulations are interpreted and implemented. “We will make sure that gold plating of EU rules on things like habitats aren’t placing ridiculous costs on British businesses,” the Chancellor told the Commons. The green movement has been suspicious of Mr Osborne since his Tory conference speech declaring: “We’re not going to save the planet by putting our country out of business.” After the Autumn Statement, the chief executives of the five major environmental organisations were quickly on their mobiles, plotting the counter-attack. Their letter to Downing Street pulls no punches and places responsibility firmly on the Prime Minister. “How can the Government tolerate this gaping intellectual and political inconsistency, and walk with open eyes down a policy path that condemns future generations to a lower quality of life and to a massive and costly struggle to rebuild the country’s natural riches?

A foundation for the future of journalism; With the Leveson Inquiry in full swing, the reputation of the press has never been lower. Yet the importance of holding to account those who wield power has never been greater. Enter The Journalism Foundation – a new organisation dedicated to promoting free and fair reporting around the world.” Independent. December 5, 2011. It’s safe to say that journalism, and the people who practise it, and the men (yes, it’s almost all men) who control newspapers, have never been held in such low esteem by the public they are meant to serve. It is easy for we journalists to be defensive: this skulduggery was practised only by a small minority, and one of the prices to be paid for having the vibrant and diverse press we have in Britain is occasional unruliness born of competition. But that’s not quite the point, and in any case it shouldn’t be left to journalists to defend journalism. Better Thomas Jefferson, who said that, given a choice between government without newspapers and newspapers without government, he would unhesitatingly choose the latter. That’s because journalism, one of whose purposes is perfectly described by the Palestinian-based writer Amira Hass as “to monitor the centres of power”, belongs to us all. Free speech, which we take for granted in the mature democracies of the West, is not the exclusive property of journalists, but is in public ownership, and beyond valuation. It may be deeply unfashionable to say so, but journalism in all its forms can be, and usually is, an overwhelming force for good. The Journalism Foundation has been established to add fuel to the engine of change in media. It is the brainchild of Alexander and Evgeny Lebedev, financial backer and owner of this newspaper respectively, for whom freedom of speech is a touchstone issue. Evgeny Lebedev leads a board of trustees which includes Baroness Kennedy, the renowned human rights lawyer, Lord Fowler, former chair of the House of Commons Media Select Committee, and Sir John Tusa, the former head of the BBC World Service. The Lebedevs are paying for the initial running costs of the organisation so that every penny or cent raised goes directly to projects which fulfil the Foundation’s criteria of ethical journalism for the public good. Journalism itself has had a bad press recently: here is a positive initiative that seeks to redress the balance and, whatever you may think when following the latest developments from the Leveson Inquiry, it’s in all our interests that, if nothing else, we keep monitoring those centres of power. I hope people will support it with donations small and large.
Related story:
Simon Kelner launches Journalism Foundation; Former Independent editor Simon Kelner launches charity aimed at promoting journalism around the world.” Guardian. December 4, 2011.

Cameron accused of putting NHS on sale over plans for life sciences; Private companies could get access to NHS patient records under Cameron’s plans to increase collaboration with industry.” By Andrew Sparrow and Hélène Mulholland. Guardian. December 5, 2011. Labour has accused David Cameron of being willing to put “large chunks of the NHS up for sale” before a speech on Monday in which the prime minister will outline plans to increase collaboration between the health service and the life sciences industry. Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, said he was worried about the commercialisation of the NHS after it was revealed that Cameron’s plans could involve private companies getting access to patient records and other NHS data. Cameron will say he wants the NHS to be “working hand-in-glove with industry as the fastest adopter of new ideas in the world”. He will argue that this could benefit patients as well as the £50bn life sciences industry, described by Number 10 as the third largest contributor to economic growth in the UK. Britain already has a good record in medical innovation, but Cameron will signal that he wants to make it easier for drug companies to run clinical trials in hospitals and to benefit from the NHS’s vast collection of patient data. He will announce a £180m “catalyst fund” to help develop projects until they attract outside investment. Universities and small- and medium-sized firms will be able to bid for money from the fund. And he will announce a scheme that would give seriously ill patients access to drugs around a year before they were licenced for general use. His speech will coincide with the publication of a life sciences strategy from the Department for Business and a review of innovation in the NHS from David Nicholson, the NHS chief executive.
Related story:
David Cameron ready to put chunks of NHS up for sale, says Labour; Prime minister will outline plans to encourage NHS ties with industry and fuel innovation, including £180m catalyst fund.” Guardian. December 4, 2011.

Charities for Christmas #3: Joanne Bingley Memorial Foundation.” By Anna Timms. Guardian. December 5, 2011. We are profiling a number of charities for readers who have time or money they would like to donate, or are seeking help in those areas. Today it’s the turn of post-natal depression group the Joanne (Joe) Bingley Memorial Foundation. The greatest cause of maternal deaths in the UK is mental illness, yet NHS provisions for women suffering from PND are largely inadequate. In response to Joe’s death, the Patients Association surveyed the perinatal mental health care provided by 150 primary care trusts and found that 55% fail to offer appropriate information and support to mothers who may be suffering from PND. More than three-quarters had no idea of the incidence of PND in their region. The memorial foundation, launched in April 2011 on what would have been Joe’s 40th birthday, aims to publicise the condition, support sufferers and campaign for improvements to healthcare provision. It is also working with 30 other charities to set up an umbrella organisation to research the causes and treatment of an illness which devastates lives and costs the UK economy an estimated £60m a year.

Charities for Christmas #4: FareShare.” By Rebecca Smithers. Guardian. December 6, 2011. We are profiling a number of charities for readers who have time or money they would like to donate, or are seeking help in those areas. Today we look at FareShare, which helps redistribute surplus food from the food industry. Originally set up in 1994 as part of the homeless charity Crisis, but independent since 2004, FareShare provides training and education around the essential life skills of safe food preparation and nutrition, and warehouse employability training through its Eat Well Live Well programme.

Tax break for art donors.” By Ben Hoyle. Times of London. December 7, 2011. British taxpayers who donate important works of art to the nation will be able to claim back almost a third of their value against income tax as a reward, the Treasury announced yesterday. At present tax breaks are only available for donations made after death and museums and galleries have long argued that the current lack of incentives to encourage lifetime giving, as opposed to posthumous donations, is one of the principal barriers to Britain developing a booming cultural philanthropy scene comparable with the United States. However, the Government is determined to boost philanthropy as a prop against what they see as the cultural sector’s overreliance on public subsidy. In the 2011 budget the Chancellor unveiled a number of plans to foster greater philanthropy. This scheme was consulted on during the summer and details were confirmed yesterday. Individuals will be able to claim tax breaks against income tax or capital gains tax of 30 per cent of the agreed value of the donated “pre-eminent” works of art or objects of national, scientific, historic or artistic interest while businesses will be able to claim back 20 per cent against corporation tax. A panel of experts will assess whether an object counts as preeminent, agree on its value with the owner and decide whether to accept it. Museum directors have welcomed the initiative, with Sir Nicholas Serota describing the approach as “a major step forward, both in encouraging philanthropy and in helping to strengthen public collections across the country”. However there are also concerns that a 30 per cent tax break may prove insufficiently attractive for the global rich, who can choose to offer their largesse elsewhere on more favourable terms, and that the panel of experts will be constrained by an annual limit of £30 million in total tax breaks.

Age charity profited from HSBC scandal; Age UK passed on details of its customers that helped shamed agency to boost its commissions.” By Simon Read. Independent. December 7, 2011. A government-backed advice service earned money by pushing unwary people into the arms of the Nursing Homes Fees Agency, the HSBC-owned care fees adviser fined £10.5m on Monday for selling inappropriate investments to thousands to pensioners. The news comes after leading charity Age UK yesterday admitted it had made money by passing its customers on to the shamed financial advice firm. On Monday, the Financial Services Authority said that 2,485 people were mis-sold investments by NHFA, with the average age of those who purchased the bonds being 83. It reported that “a sample of [NHFA] customer files found unsuitable sales had been made to 87 per cent of customers”. It has emerged that HSBC-owned NHFA paid a wide range of charities and websites for leads so that its advisers could boost their commission by selling investments. Crucial among these was the government-funded Firststop Advice service, which was set up after the Office of Fair Trading called for a one-stop-shop for information on care home provision in 2005. The establishment of the website and telephone advice line was led by the Elderly Accommodation Counsel, but fellow charities Age Concern – now part of Age UK – and Counsel and Care were also involved, as was NHFA itself, as the then biggest care fees advice company. The Firststop Advice service is now mainly funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government, receiving an estimated £200,000 a year from the government. Its website offers a lot of useful information about housing and care options for older people. But it also includes profitable links to other organisations, including one to NHFA, which remained live as of last night even though the company closed for business in July. The service is quite open about its money-making ventures. Its website says: “FirstStop will receive a portion of any revenue generated as a result of business conducted through the [NHFA] service.”

Private schools fuel division in society, politics and pay, says study; Annual survey of attitudes reveals perceived social apartheid with powerful ‘elite’ dislocating government from populace.” By Randeep Ramesh. Guardian. December 6, 2011. Private education perpetuates a form of “social apartheid” and has given rise to a political class drawn from a “segregated elite” that does not understand or share the views of most people, the annual British social attitudes survey warns on Wednesday. The study, by the National Centre for Social Research (NCSR), which surveys a representative sample of more than 3,300 people annually, also found that televised debates during the elections failed to enthuse voters, that the NHS is recording its highest-ever satisfaction ratings, and, just before the riots erupted, six out of 10 respondents said most young people were “responsible and well-behaved”. But the survey’s most controversial analysis centres on why class matters more than ever in British life by looking at the educational background of respondents for the first time. From this, researchers could identify a “sense of superiority bonus” that comes from attending a private school. This “superiority” manifests itself in a belief that private education confers a higher position on the ladder of life. After accounting for family background, the study found that the privately educated are still roughly twice as likely as state school pupils to see themselves as being middle or upper-middle class. The privately schooled also have an in-built bias to value the work of “top people” more highly than others, because captains of industry and cabinet ministers were “people like us”. This tendency is especially pronounced when considering how much people should be paid. When asked how much a company chairman should earn on average, privately educated people suggested an average figure of £237,000 a year, £88,000 higher than the average level proposed by those who went to state schools. State-educated respondents were also more concerned with social inequality. Private schools, the NCSR said, “produced Conservative partisans”.

Film on homelessness aims for runaway success; A short film raising funds for homelessness charities aims to tell the real story of people living on the streets.” By Rachel Williams. Guardian. December 6, 2011. The Truth About Stanley, a short film being made to raise funds for the Big Issue and Anchor House, a hostel and life skills centre for homeless adults in east London, charts the friendship between two characters living rough on the capital’s streets. Stanley, played by Kenyan star Oliver Litondo (recently seen in The First Grader), takes 10-year-old runaway Sam, played by Raif Clarke, under his wing, captivating and confusing him in turn with fantastical tall tales about his former life. Director and co-writer Lucy Tcherniak’s aim is to make a piece that gets through to viewers more profoundly than a usual charity appeal – crucial, she thinks, at a time when need in society is on the increase and there’s a risk that people will become immune to calls for donations. Talking to homeless people while researching the script, one thing that came through strongly was the increasing difficulty of finding somewhere to sleep where you won’t be moved on, in central London at least, says Tcherniak’s writing partner, Neil Westley. Law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, which supports homeless people through its corporate social responsibility programme, is financing the film, due to be premiered in February. The cast and crew are working for free; Pret A Manger is keeping them fed and watered.

Charities for Christmas #5: St Mungo’s.” By Anna Timms. Guardian. December 7, 2011. We are profiling a number of charities for readers who have time or money they would like to donate, or are seeking help in those areas. Today we look at homeless charity St Mungo’s. St Mungo’s, which began as a single volunteer-staffed hostel in London, now operates more than 100 accommodation and support centres around the capital and the south of England. It has pioneered specialist hostels for the elderly, the mentally ill, rough sleepers with alcohol dependency, and asylum seekers, and it aims to resettle them back into society through job training and life skills programmes. Its job training programme is the largest of its kind for homeless people in the country. Guests are assigned a volunteer mentor who steers them through the bureaucratic and mental challenges of resuming independent living, and helps them find training, jobs and settled accommodation.

Charities for Christmas #6: Chance UK; We are profiling a range of charities whose work continues all year round and who are seeking volunteers and support. Today’s focus is on child-mentoring charity Chance UK.” By Anna Timms. Guardian. December 8, 2011. Chance UK is the only organisation in the UK to offer a year of weekly one-to-one mentoring with children between aged five and 15. Volunteer mentors boost a child’s self-esteem with day trips, sports activities and a committed interest in what they have to say. Then they help them work out their own solutions to their problems and stick with them while they try to put them in place.

Guardian Christmas charity appeal: how the St Giles Trust supports families in turmoil; Juliet Kay is off to university, helped by a charity’s efforts on behalf of families who have experienced domestic abuse.” By Amelia Gentleman. Guardian. December 2, 2011. When it was time to take up her university place to study English, Juliet Kay, 18, felt she could not leave her mother, recently separated from an abusive husband, to care for the three younger children alone. The trauma of the prolonged abuse and a series of house moves prompted by the separation had left the whole family unhappy and living in severe poverty. Juliet was on the point of returning to a job at McDonald’s to support the family financially and stay in the southern English town where they live to help care for the children. She felt guilty about going off to pursue her own life when things were so difficult at home. She was only persuaded to leave when a support worker from the St Giles Trust children and families project (Cafe) stepped in, offering intensive practical support to her mother, and reassuring Juliet that the family would be able to cope without her. The St Giles Trust is one of the charities that the Guardian and Observer are supporting in this year’s Christmas appeal. It provides a wide range of services, focusing on breaking cycles of offending, crime and disadvantage. It supports prisoners when they leave jail, helping with things such as housing and employment, trying to prevent reoffending. The Cafe project works with the families of offenders and with people who have experienced domestic abuse, recognising they need extra support to prevent the consequences of the abuse or offending from damaging the rest of the family.

Charities for Christmas #7: Crisis; We are profiling a range of charities whose work continues all year round and who are seeking volunteers and support. Today’s focus is on homeless people’s charity Crisis.” By Walter Hemmens. Guardian. December 9, 2011. Crisis is looking for donations of time as much as money. With two weeks until it opens its Christmas centre, it still urgently needs volunteers for specialist roles. Perhaps one of the more unexpected needs is for hairdressers. For someone on the streets or living vulnerably, getting their hair and nails done might not sound like a priority, but Karen Scarborough, says the “pop-up” hair salons and nail bars she organises in all the centres are one of the most popular services they provide. Scarborough said she is looking for qualified hairdressers but that anyone who has ever “given their boyfriend or partner a trim” would be welcome. She said that no qualifications are required for working in the nail bar. Crisis at Christmas runs almost solely on volunteer labour. Last year, 8,000 volunteers provided services for 3,000 guests.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (November 28-December 4, 2011)

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

INTERNATIONAL

CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL

Irish Panel on Abuse Cites Failures by Church.” By Douglas Dalby. New York Times. November 30, 2011. Authorities in the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland were slow or did nothing to notify civil authorities and the Vatican of hundreds of allegations of clerical child sexual abuse over several decades, according to independent audits of six dioceses published simultaneously on Wednesday. The church-sponsored National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland found allegations of widespread abuse in every diocese it investigated, saying that 85 priests in the six dioceses had been accused of 164 sexual assaults on children since 1975, but that only 8 were convicted. Of the 41 still alive, 30 no longer serve as priests. Many victims, police investigators and advocates dismissed the report as another whitewash by the church. One victim, Martin Gallagher, said on RTE, the national broadcaster, that it was not “worth the paper it’s written on.” “Too much emphasis was placed on the situation of the accused priest and too little on the needs of their complainants,” the report found. “Judgments were clouded, due to the presenting problem being for example, alcohol abuse and an inability to hear the concerns about abuse of children, through that presenting problem. More attention should have been given to ensuring that preventative actions were taken quickly when concerns came to light.”

DEVELOPMENT

South-South Ties Reshape Aid Paradigm.” By Miriam Gathigah. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). November 28, 2011. When the G-8 countries, comprising the world’s largest industrialised nations, decided that improving Internet access to developing countries should be a priority, scores of leaders from developing world opposed the move. While millions of women and children were dying from AIDS, malaria and other infectious diseases Internet did not seem a priority. The prevalence of harmful cultural practices such as female genital mutilation and women and girls trekking miles in search of water and firewood seemed far removed from Internet technology. Says Esther Suchia, an activist in Kenya, “This commitment to give developing countries aid to improve access to Internet was taken as an insult.” “Millions of girls in Africa had no access to education or an opportunity to escape from early marriages and drudgery, so African leaders wondered whether it wasn’t more prudent to try and achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals first.” In its defence, the North said access to technology would allow the global South to leapfrog over the causes of extreme poverty that set the stage for a myriad of preventable diseases. It has never been disputed that the South benefited from technology, development aid and even humanitarian aid such as when the West responded to the drought in the Horn of Africa when at least four million people were facing starvation. But this humanitarian aid has not stopped the critics of North-South assistance. That includes delegates at the Nov. 26-28 Open Forum for Civil Society, timed ahead of the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness starting in this South Korean port city on Tuesday.

Global Fund for Education Gathers Momentum.” By Thalif Deen. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). November 28, 2011. If the international community can successfully raise billions of dollars to fight deadly diseases, why not a similar fund to promote education, asks Gordon Brown, former British prime minister. Speaking at the three-day World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) in Qatar early November, Brown made a strong case for the creation of a Global Fund for Education “in the same way that we have a global fund for health, that has made enormous advances in TB, HIV Aids, vaccinations, and, of course, in polio and malaria”. The proposal by Brown, a former British chancellor of the exchequer, has been gathering momentum at a time when the United Nations complains of a growing crisis in the educational sector – a shortage of over 6.1 million teachers in a world inhabited by nearly 800 million illiterate people, nearly two-thirds of them women. Allan E. Goodman, president and chief executive officer of the New York-based Institute of International Education (IIE), who strongly supports the proposal for a global fund, told IPS: “It is a new idea and one that promises to leverage private as well as public funds.” Without it, he warned, the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals – including a call for universal primary education by 2015 – are unlikely to be reached by the deadline. “Improving education needs to be a priority for governments and such a fund would signal that indeed it is,” said Goodman, whose Institute was one of the co-sponsors of the Qatar summit, along with the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). Dr Abdulla bin Ali Al-Thani, chairman of WISE, told IPS the former UK prime minister’s proposal for the creation of a global fund for education is evidence that leaders are hearing the WISE call to raise the status of education on the political agenda.

Aid Dependency on the Decline.” By Miriam Gathigah. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). November 29, 2011. Poor countries have depended on rich nations to supplement their sector budget without which millions of people would have continued to live in abject poverty. Have the years of funding made these countries any less dependent? Sector budget is aid that is allocated to developing a country’s particular development priorities, which could be in the areas of health, education or even sanitation and housing. Most poor countries struggle to raise funds to supplement sector budgets, remaining at the mercy of donors. But statistics are now showing that poor countries are slowly becoming more self reliant. Lucia Fry of ActionAid UK says, “Aid dependency among 54 of the world’s poorest countries has declined by a third in the last decade. This means that poor countries are now much less dependant than they were 10 years ago. “This has been a consequence of giving real aid to poor countries- aid that addresses inequalities and poverty by empowering poor women and men to realise their rights or aid that supports tax systems, better governance and economic development with the ultimate goal of reducing dependency.” In Africa there are indeed countries that have been able to significantly cut their aid dependency because they have grown and are able to mobilise local resources to create revenues that can be ploughed back into sector budgets.

Inclusiveness Wins at Busan Aid Forum.” By Suvendrini Kakuchi. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). December 1, 2011. Inclusiveness was the winner as donors, recipient governments, emerging economies, multilateral lenders and civil society representatives hammered out a consensual document at the close of a major meeting in this South Korean city to boost development aid effectiveness. “The process has been bumpy but we have landed safely. The challenge is to move ahead along a less divided and more unified front,” said Talaat Abdel-Malek, co-chair of the Development Aid Committee (DAC) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Abdel-Malek was referring to the Busan Outcome Document, released Thursday, that has been endorsed not only by traditional donors but also by new players such as China, India and Brazil that emerged as key actors at the three-day Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF4). The document pledged to “establish a new, inclusive and representative global partnership for effective development co-operation” and spoke of Busan as reference for South-South partnerships “on a voluntary basis.” The rise of new players that do not belong to the Northern countries, particularly China, has become a complex issue in the development world. China insisted that the document was voluntary. Under the new South-South co-operation, the group of emerging donors has launched small- and medium-scale bilateral and multilateral aid projects in poor countries. They provide knowledge, funds and technical expertise that primarily call for a results-based approach. The approach has raised concern and pressure is rising to encourage the new actors to join the DAC that is committed to regulations and principles that support transparency, democratic rule and diverse stakeholders.

Busan Skirts Gender Equality.” By Miriam Gathigah. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). December 1, 2011. Gender champions have lauded the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness for providing gender equality and the empowerment of women a special session, but there is dissatisfaction with Thursday’s Busan outcome document. Although the document alluded to gender equality, experts feel that the scope is narrow and does not really touch the core issues that can be catalytic to the empowerment of women. “There has been progress since the Paris Declaration, which had no mention of gender equality. In the Accra declaration, gender equality achieved some recognition in relation to development. Today, we have moved slightly beyond Accra,” Kate Lappin, regional coordinator of the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development, said. But, she is emphatic that economic development is not a comprehensive indicator of human development. Paragraph 20, Lappin says, “is about using women to achieve economic growth. Although there is mention of human rights across the ‘Busan Declaration’, there’s surprisingly no linkage of human rights to economic development under this paragraph.” Perhaps this explains why although the Busan conference coincided with two important global events on human rights, particularly in relation to gender, women’s rights did not form part of the Busan agenda.

EUROPE

Co-ops Off to a Promising Start; Co-op members say their eating habits have changed radically since joining.” By Claudia Ciobanu. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). A small wave of consumer co-operatives is rising in Central and Eastern Europe, attempting to provide food that is locally produced and healthy, and to build conviviality. Thousands of producer and consumer co-operatives exist in post-socialist countries, many of them new initiatives created since 1989. They enjoy legal protection and even European Union funds. But a special breed of informal consumer co-operatives has started emerging in the region in the past years, created by mostly middle-class people interested in healthy food and being a part of a community of peers. “Co-operatives always appear when they are needed,” says Torsten Lorenz, a historian studying the European co-operative movement at Charles University in Prague. “The English Rochdale co-operative, considered the starting point of the whole movement, appeared in the mid 19th century because people were starving and they found that cooperation helped them weather hard times. Nowadays it is often young environmentalists and leftists in pursuit of an alternative vision of society who start co-ops.”

HEALTH

What A Lack Of AIDS Funding Could Mean For Africa.” By Anders Kelto. Morning Edition/National Public Radio. December 1, 2011. Orphaned children are cared for at the Baphumelele Center, which assists people affected by AIDS in South Africa. The Global Fund is short on AIDS funding, preventing it from funding new programs. The world’s largest supporter of AIDS programs has made an ominous announcement: Because of the global financial crisis, it is well short of its fundraising goals. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria pays for more than half of the world’s HIV medicine, and supports hundreds of education and advocacy programs worldwide. With World AIDS Day on Thursday, many are worried about what that means for the future of the war on AIDS.

INDIA

Will name Indians with Swiss accounts in 2012: Julian Assange.” No by-line. Times of India. December 4, 2011. The names of Indians holding Swiss bank accounts may be revealed by WikiLeaks sometime next year, its founder Julian Assange said on Saturday. Assange, who is under house arrest in the UK, said this through videoconferencing during a conference held in Delhi , that whistleblower Rudolf Elmer, who passed CDs containing information to him, is undergoing trial and it would not be proper to make disclosures at this juncture. Asked if names of Indians holding Swiss accounts will be revealed in the coming year, he said, “yes” . Information about such accounts “which will affect India” will be revealed in the coming year, he said. He said since Elmer was jailed and facing legal action, he would not like to comment on the issue at the moment. “For that reason, unfortunately , I cannot speak about information related to Swiss accounts in great detail… we must protect our people,” he added. Assange said governments in some countries are “sucking out” data from emails and internet transactions and passing on this “economic intelligence” to companies like Wal-Mart . He made some startling revelations about “hacking” and “hijacking” of data of unsuspecting people. Assange maintained that NTRO, which he termed was India’s equivalent of National Security Agency of the US, was engaged in similar kind of surveillance under the cover of keeping track of “Islamic terror” .

SOMALIA

Lives at risk as Islamists evict Somali aid staff; A quarter of a million Somalis rely on the aid agencies to avoid starvation.” By Tristan McConnell. Times of London. November 29 2011. Islamist gunmen shut down most international aid agencies in Somalia yesterday, bursting into their offices in the famine-blighted country, evicting staff and looting their equipment. The al-Shabaab militia, which controls much of the country, said that it mounted dawn raids after a decision to close permanently charities and other groups that it accused of engaging in “illegal acts”. The organisations include six United Nations agencies, including those responsible for children and refugees, the Irish charity Concern Worldwide, and national aid agencies from Scandinavia and Germany. Most have been involved in providing food and medical care to victims of the famine, drought and war in Somalia. The UN estimates that a quarter of a million people are still facing starvation in Somalia, and the ban could be catastrophic. “Any interruption of humanitarian assistance could affect the lives of thousands of children,” said Jaya Murthy, a Unicef spokesman.
Related story:
Al-Shabaab bans aid agencies in Somalia and raids offices; Islamic group permanently revokes permission for organisations including Unicef and WHO to work in country amid famine crisis.” Guardian. November 26, 2011.

THAILAND

NGOs rescue flood victims with HIV in Thailand.” By Yang Dingdu. Xinhua News (Xinhuanet.com). November 30, 2011. Apiwat Wangkeaw and his friends, standing in line on the roof of a building submerged by water, is relaying medicines and drinking water from a small boat to an AIDS patient living on the second floor of an inundated house. As the worst flood in nearly 70 years hit Thailand, many people living with HIV in flooded areas found themselves blocked from treatment and medicine by water. To help flood victims with HIV, Apiwat and other volunteers of the Thai Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (TNP+) row boats to deliver medicines home by home every day in central Thailand provinces of Ayutthaya, Nakorn Sawan, Ang Thong and Sing Buri, where flood water is 3 to 4 meters deep. “Because we also have HIV, we knew exactly what kind of help people living with HIV need, what kind of trouble they are in and where to find them. We are in the same community, it’s like family, ” said the head of TNP+. In addition to delivering medicines to flood victims living with HIV, volunteers at TNP+ also send them water, food and help transport people for medical checks and send patients to unaffected hospitals. Moreover, many hospitals were also inundated with medical staff relocated, making it even more difficult for flood victims living with HIV to find help, he added. Thailand has 500,000 people with HIV, and the number is increasing by 25 each day, or more than 10, 000 every year. It is a good example of how governments and civil society can work together. Government and insurance were quick to provide access to resources and treatment. NGOs help them reach out to flood victims living with HIV one by one, house by house.

UK

Badge Joe Public blog: Why the big society should prompt a clean-up in the charity sector; The charity sector has lost its way and the big society is all but forgotten, argues Dave Clements; but maybe there is still a way to save both.” By Dave Clements. Guardian. November 29, 2011. The charity sector has lost its way and seems to have given up on its founding notions. We are seeing a rather unseemly scramble for funding as charities seek to retain what they can of their state hand-outs while public services are cut. Or fundraisers, particularly those pesky chuggers, seemingly unacquainted with the causes for which they are apparently campaigning. Volunteers are expected to be as interested in their own employability as they are in helping other people. And the sector is apparently more interested in contracts and compacts than campaigns and causes. I don’t think we should blame the cuts or the “big society”, as many in the sector do, for the problems charities face. The whole point of the big society – and the reason why I welcomed it at first – was that it proclaimed itself to be against an overbearing big state. We were told it was for the idea that people are able to do things for themselves, and to run their own lives without being “supported” all the time. But it seems that the charity sector doesn’t see the big society in quite the same way, and the inference that it would not play the starring role in the coalition’s big idea really rankled. “We are the big society”, it screamed. But is this true? At the same time that the sector has been claiming to represent us – to be the 99% (to borrow a phrase) – it has also boasted of its special relationship with the state. There is little pretence from sector leaders that it has any real independence, or indeed that this should be a problem. This “dual role” as both campaigner and service provider is described as a positive boon, allowing it influence that it wouldn’t otherwise have. But it also means that charities don’t stand for anything much anymore. The sector has no identity of its own, straddling both state and society. And so the promise of the big society, already held back by the prejudices of a parochial political culture, has become just another argument about funding, rooted in the charity sector’s historical sense of entitlement.

Our favourite Movember ‘taches; This month, thousands of men have grown their facial hair in order to raise money for cancer charities. Here’s a selection of some of the finest mos around.” By Camilla Apcar. Guardian. November 28, 2011. “Thousands of men are growing moustaches to raise awareness and money for men’s cancer charities as part of Movember. Here are five fine mos that should be spared the chop later this week.” Growing a moustache across the length of your face doesn’t guarantee the same warmth in the winter months as a full beard. On the other hand, the cheek-to-cheek look will guarantee your initiation into the inner circles of the Mo BroHood. Super Mario is always a failsafe source of inspiration when cultivating your moustache. Shreddies, plasters, pastries, macaroni, live snails … The flexibility of the 21st-century moustache has only one limit: how squeamish you are. Newly hatched tadpole moustache, anyone? Bristle strength, length and curvature – all qualities under scrutiny in any M-Olympics. Not covering up grey pays off, because ageing with grace means you can emulate John Cleese and Borat at the same time. Proud of your ‘tache? Email a picture to fashion.desk@ guardian.co.uk

How to make an impact on the charity sector; The head of New Philanthropy Capital, Dan Corry, on why charities, not wealthy individuals, are now the focus of its work.” By Patrick Butler. Guardian. November 29, 2011. Dan Corry, the new chief executive of New Philanthropy Capital (NPC), says he has been struck by how much of a mark the organisation he joined in September has made since it burst on to the UK voluntary sector scene a few years ago. “I was talking to someone recently and they said NPC had ‘bludgeoned’ the sector into doing impact [assessments]. I took that as a bit of a compliment.” When NPC was started in 2002, by staff at investment bank Goldman Sachs who were trying to find the most effective way for wealthy individuals in the City to give away money to charity, the whole concept of charity impact assessment and performance measurement was relatively unknown. NPC asked a simple question: why should anyone donate money to a charity that cannot prove it makes a difference? Too many charities were complacent about what they thought they were achieving for the causes they supported, the organisation claimed. Their cosy self-perception as fighters on behalf of the downtrodden and dispossessed was assumed, rather than proven, and perhaps in some cases, unearned. Too much donors’ money was being poured lazily into projects and campaigns without any real assessment or check whether this investment had produced any real beneficial effect. Charities, NPC argued, had a duty to measure the “social impact” of the work they did. This radical message was not one many charities wanted to hear.

Children’s cancer charities must return Games cash.” By Alexi Mostrous. Times of London. December 3, 2011. Charities must return thousands of pounds intended for cancer victims after breaching strict rules banning the resale of Olympics tickets. Two children’s cancer charities, Make a Wish and Chain of Hope, respectively auctioned a pair of tickets to the Games’ opening ceremony for £22,000 and a pair for the closing ceremony for £17,000. The auctions took place at glamorous balls held at the Dorchester and the Natural History Museum in London last month. At the Chain of Hope event, the models Bar Refaeli and Yasmin Le Bon, the property entrepreneur Robert Tchenguiz and the pop group UB40 helped to raise more than £500,000. The charities will now have to return the £39,000 after Olympic organisers ruled the auction invalid because of anti-touting rules. Lisa Yacoub, the programme co-ordinator for Chain of Hope, said: “This money could pay for three heart operations. The person who procured these tickets thought that it was their free will to donate them. Someone donated a box at the Royal Opera House to see La Traviata. We’re not touts, we’re raising money for sick kids.” The London Organising Committee of the Olympics said: “Unfortunately, this is a breach of the terms and conditions of the sale of London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games tickets and we cannot honour the auction results.”

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (November 21-27, 2011)

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

INTERNATIONAL

AUSTRALIA

Giving till it’s gone: Businessman, philanthropist Simon Mordant; He doesn’t believe in inheritance and hopes that his last cheque bounces, writes Adele Horin.” By Adele Horin. Sydney Morning Herald. November 26, 2011. If you want to understand a man’s driven personality, his regular 5am to midnight routine, the instant response to every text message and email, the accumulation of wealth, and the desire to give it all away, then you must start in his childhood. When I put this to Simon Mordant, he is momentarily nonplussed. Mordant is used to publicity since he made a $15 million gift to help redevelop the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, and was propelled from the obscurity of the back business pages into the spotlight. But childhood is not a territory the high-flying corporate adviser, art collector, fund-raiser, and philanthropist has explored with many outsiders. It is difficult terrain. Mordant does not qualify for BRW’s Rich List, which makes his gift to the MCA particularly impressive. Most outside a coterie of corporate types and visual arts aficionados have not heard of him. But he is rich enough. He made a tidy fortune in the hierarchies of Sydney’s big accounting and boutique investment firms in the 1980s when he was still in his 20s. Fiercely ambitious, by the age of 26 he was the youngest ever partner at Ord Minnett. He soon moved on, and in 1999 with Ron Malek started Caliburn Partnership. It was to become the country’s premier independent adviser to some of Australia’s biggest corporations. In a deal that valued the company at almost $200 million last year, it was merged with the US firm Greenhill, and Mordant is its co-chief executive. What makes Mordant distinctive among those who have ridden Australia’s boom decades is not just his passion for contemporary art but his passion for philanthropy. He and his wife, Catriona, want to make a difference during their lifetime, and to have a good time doing so. ”We hope our last cheque bounces,” Mordant says. ”We don’t believe in inheritance.” From his own father, a well-to-do businessman, he chose to inherit only cufflinks. His son, Angus, 20, is well-versed in the philosophy. But having discovered for himself how stingy the rich really are, Mordant is on a mission: to prod, cajole, perhaps shame and, if need be, tax them into giving something back.

BRAZIL

Evangelical Leader Rises in Brazil’s Culture Wars.” By Simon Romero. New York Times. November 25, 2011. Silas Malafaia’s books, which sell in the millions in Brazil, have titles like “How to Defeat Satan’s Strategies” and “Lessons of a Winner.” The Gulfstream private jet in which he flies has “Favor of God,” in English, inscribed on its body. As a television evangelist, Mr. Malafaia reaches viewers in dozens of countries, including the United States, where Daystar and Trinity Broadcasting Network broadcast his overdubbed sermons. Over 30 years, Mr. Malafaia, 53, has assembled thriving churches and enterprises around his Pentecostal preaching. Still, he might have garnered little attention beyond his own followers had he not waded into Brazil’s version of the culture wars. After all, Brazil has evangelical leaders who command larger empires, like Edir Macedo, whose Universal Church of the Kingdom of God controls Rede Record, one of Brazil’s biggest television networks. Others, like Romildo Ribeiro Soares, of the International Church of God’s Grace, are known for greater missionary zeal. But it is Mr. Malafaia who has recently attracted the most attention, with his pointed verbal attacks on a broad array of foes, including the leaders of Brazil’s movement for gay rights, proponents of abortion rights and supporters of marijuana decriminalization. “I’m the public enemy No. 1 of the gay movement in Brazil,” Mr. Malafaia said in an interview this month here in Fortaleza, a city in Brazil’s northeast where he came to lead one of his self-described “crusades,” an event mixing scripture and song in front of about 200,000 people. Tears flowed down the faces of some of the impassioned attendees, while others danced to the performances that served as his opening act. Before ascending to the pulpit, he described how coveted he had become on television talk shows as a sparring partner with gay leaders. But that is only a small part of his repertoire, and television is just one of many media at Mr. Malafaia’s disposal. On Twitter, he has nearly a quarter of a million followers, and in videos distributed on YouTube, he lambastes not only liberal foes but also journalists and rival evangelical leaders. Not surprisingly, his rising prominence has made him the source of both admiration and unease. He mobilized thousands to march in the capital, Brasília, this year against a bill aimed at expanding anti-discrimination legislation to include sexual orientation.

DEVELOPMENT

New Aid Model Expected at Busan.” By A.D.McKenzie. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). November 19, 2011. A new model of making development assistance more successful is expected to emerge at the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF-4), to be held Nov. 29 – Dec. 1 in Busan, Korea. Government representatives meeting in Paris ahead of the forum say major components of a new agreement will include greater transparency, accountability, gender equality and attention to climate change. The forum will bring together some 2,500 delegates from around the world, including heads of state, ministers, senior officials and high-level representatives from donor and aid-recipient countries, according to the organisers. Members of civil-society groups, chiefs of multilateral organisations, and parliamentarians will also be present. “We need development cooperation to be more transparent so we’re more able to promote the principle of accountability. If there is transparency, we can hold each other accountable on what we’re doing to have results on the ground,” said Ronald Nkusi, director the External Finance Unit in Rwanda’s Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning. In an interview at the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which organises the forum, Nkusi told IPS that transparency has to come from both sides, donors and aid recipients.

HEALTH

Disease-Fighting Fund in Trouble.” No by-line. New York Times/Associated Press. November 24, 2011. The board chairman of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria says that financial constraints have forced it to cancel its next round of fund-raising and that the group will focus only on essential services for programs that end before 2014.

INDIA

Probe ordered against NGOs giving foreign funds to stage protests.” No by-line. Times of India. November 21, 2011. The Centre has ordered an inquiry against at least 10 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) following reports that they were providing funds received from abroad for fanning political unrest in the country. Government officials said the inquiry has been ordered after the home ministry received information that funds to the tune of crores of rupees received by these NGOs have been given to social activists to stage protests and resort to other agitational programmes against government policies thus creating unrest. “We are trying to find out the source of the fund, to whom these have been given and what kind of unrest they wanted to create. If we get proof, we will definitely take action,” an official said. The inquiry has been ordered amidst media reports which suggested that Denmark plans to provide funds to outfits that rally against Indian government policies. The reports said the Indian ambassador in Denmark reported that the newly-elected minister for development cooperation, Christian Friis Bach, has voiced plans “to use the Danish official development aid as a tool to generate popular unrest in recipient countries” so that citizens can get their rights by fighting for them. Friis, a member of the Social Liberal Party, is reported to have cited India’s Right to Food Campaign while explaining his approach. He is reported to have said that a group of citizens sued the government because 400 million people did not have sufficient food, though it was their constitutional right. However, it is not clear whether the inquiry has been ordered after receiving the envoy’s report or before that.

UK

League Against Cruel Sports spokesman is fired over ‘financial irregularities’; Police are investigating expenses claims.” By Mark Townsend. The Observer/Guardian. November 19, 2011. Police are investigating allegations of financial irregularities that led to a senior figure being sacked from one of the country’s leading animal welfare charities. Surrey police are looking into claims of financial impropriety involving Steve Taylor, former head of campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports. Taylor, 35, was fired last week for “gross misconduct” following an internal disciplinary investigation into expenses claims. The Charity Commission has also been contacted in relation to “concerns in relation to financial matters within the charity”. Taylor, whose uncle is the former cabinet minister Lord Clark of Windermere, was the league’s main spokesman. Previous positions held by Taylor include director of the Forum on Prisoner Education, a charity which campaigned for better education for offenders. Yesterday the league, founded in 1924 and with supporters including Sir Paul McCartney, said: “The potential loss will not have a material effect upon the ability of the league to fulfil its objectives, but we do take a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to any wrongdoing and for this reason we are co-operating fully with the police in their investigations. We are pleased that our systems worked well in picking this matter up, and we will do everything in our power to recover the sum concerned.” Last month it unveiled plans to invest £1m over the next four years on hiring investigations staff and equipment to catch people illegally hunting. The work is thought to include hidden cameras in hunting areas. A police spokesman said inquiries were ongoing” in relation to “concerns regarding financial irregularities” and would not comment further.

Charities’ debts worth over £500m and rising as donations dry up; Thinktank warns charities of risks associated with turning to lenders to counter drop-off in traditional fundraising income.” By Robert Booth. Guardian. November 22, 2011. Hard-pressed charities have taken on more than £500m in debt and are expected to more than double their borrowing in the next three years, research has revealed. Fundraisers struggling with emptier collection tins are turning to lenders who expect an annual return averaging 10%, according to a survey for the Young Foundation thinktank. The growth in borrowing by good causes is being backed by the government which has established its own fund, Big Society Capital, using £200m from the big four high street banks and £400m from dormant bank accounts. Sir Ronald Cohen, the venture capitalist acting as the fund’s non-executive chairman, said it would boost social entrepreneurs “much as venture capital and private equity started to do for business some three decades ago”. Scope, the disability charity, last month launched a £20m bond scheme to expand its fundraising programme and charity shops while Turning Point, a health and social care charity, borrowed £170,000 from Big Issue Invest, part of the group that includes the magazine for homeless people. The loans are described as social investment and are intended to allow charities to roll out successful programmes more quickly than traditional fundraising allows, but growth in the sector has also sparked warnings about the risk to charities if the loans are mismanaged.

Badge Joe Public blog: Charities should not exploit young people through unpaid work; Supermarkets may be using unpaid jobseekers to stack shelves, but charities shouldn’t lose the moral high ground by doing the same, says Brendan Martin.” Guardian. November 22, 2011. War on Want recently advertised a part-time temporary vacancy at its London headquarters. Candidates required a “relevant degree or equivalent experience”, “excellent writing and editing skills”, “excellent computer skills”, “sound understanding of international development issues” and “financial management skills”. Overseas experience and knowledge of Africa were desirable. Yet it paid only a lunch allowance and local fares, worth about a quarter of the national minimum wage. The charity wanted a “volunteer”, although the ad appeared on its website’s jobs page and described the position as an internship. War on Want’s executive director John Hilary says it used to offer interns the London living wage before deciding that fairness demanded an entry-level salary. “So we started paying them £22k a year – but we had to stop because we couldn’t afford it.” Benjamin Ward, head of press and media relations at WWF-UK, defends not paying its interns by saying their feedback is “overwhelmingly positive”. Placements provide a “springboard into employment, with us or elsewhere”. Other NGOs say interns have access to staff training and networks and gain stronger CVs and references. But any worker should expect them on top of a wage. And where does it leave those who cannot afford to work for nothing? Some NGOs, such as the World Development Movement and Forum for the Future, offer part-time unpaid internships, so that the interns can earn money the rest of the time or claim jobseeker’s allowance (JSA). But when young people who refuse to fill supermarket shelves for free risk having their benefits docked, shouldn’t organisations that aspire to higher ethical standards resist the normalisation of unpaid labour, especially at a time of record youth unemployment?

Linking welfare to inflation protects the poor, says Children’s Society; Charity expresses fears for low-income families as George Osborne plans to break historic link in benefits.” By Randeep Ramesh. Guardian. November 23, 2011. Poor families will be unable to afford essential items such as food and fuel if the chancellor presses ahead with plans to break the historic link between inflation and welfare payments, a leading charity has warned. Ahead of key negotiations that have divided the “quad” of senior ministers, pitching David Cameron and George Osborne against Nick Clegg and the Treasury chief secretary, Danny Alexander. The Children’s Society warns that families with disabled children could be among the hardest hit – a single parent with a severely disabled child could lose £1,124 as a result of a benefit freeze compared with an inflation-linked uprating of 5.7%. On average, a low-income family with children spends 20% more on fuel than a household on a higher income. In the past year alone, fuel costs have risen by 18.9%. This means that such families are likely to lose their ability to purchase essentials if the coalition decides to separate inflation and benefits after a meeting of quad ministers on Thursday. For the past 20 years, annual benefit increases in April have been based on the previous September’s inflation rate. To offset price rises, low-income families should, the Children’s Society calculates, get a boost of 5.7% in their benefits. However, this September’s inflation rate was 5.2%. Ministers say this is still far above what was expected and instead Tory sources have been pushing to either freeze benefits or only raise them by a fraction of September figure. A low-income couple who get benefits to supplement their wages, the charity calculates, would lose £110 a year if ministers back a compromise to use a lower inflation rate of 4.5%, based on average inflation during the six months to September. If the benefits were only uprated with earnings growth of 2.5% they would lose more than £300. The Children’s Society chief executive, Bob Reitemeier, said: “If the government reduces the rate of benefit uprating, families already finding it hard to cope with spiralling costs will struggle to keep pace with rising inflation, pushing them over the edge.

Christmas charity appeal: How Fare’s Bannatyne House helps Glasgow’s families; Bannatyne House has been a focal point at the heart of a deprived community since 1997.” By Tracy McVeigh. The Observer/Guardian. November 26, 2011. Red-cheeked from the wind, and racing to be first in the queue, the primary school children arrive at dinner time. The cafe at Bannatyne House fills with their chatter before they wander back to afternoon class. Many will be back for the youth or football clubs that night. Next in are young mothers with buggies, enjoying the chance to get out of the house for a while. In another room, a group of 13 older ladies are drinking tea and knitting, admiring a new member’s first effort at a crocheted baby hat. Bannatyne House is a community centre in every sense. Its cheerful yellow facade stands out amid the postwar housing of Easterhouse, on the eastern outskirts of Glasgow. The estate became notorious for deprivation and gang violence in the 1980s and 1990s, but efforts from grassroots projects working with Glasgow police are credited with regenerating the community. Yet poverty and low life expectancy remain rife, and the present economic climate is threatening to undermine the work that has been done. With 80% of its work involving young people, Fare is so deeply immersed here that need is identified by word of mouth. As well as the youth clubs and activities at Bannatyne House – named after Dragons’ Den star Duncan Bannatyne who stepped in to help the centre open last year – Fare is involved in outreach work in schools, helping dozens of troubled youngsters turn their lives around. Fare was formed by local people and in 1997 took up home in a rundown tenement.

View the charities in our Christmas 2011 appeal.Guardian. November 25, 2011. Where are our Christmas appeal charities based, what geographical area does their work cover and what projects do they run for young people? Our handy interactive map has all the answers.

Meal appeal targets 1m donations over Christmas; Food charity FareShare and Sainsbury’s are seeking 500 tonnes of food donations from customers gifting additional items from their shopping baskets.” By Rebecca Smithers. Guardian. November 24, 2011. A supermarket initiative is set to generate more than 500 tonnes of food donations – the equivalent of 1m meals – which will be distributed to regional charities to help feed disadvantaged and homeless people over Christmas. The One Million Meal Appeal, which will be launched on 26 November, gives customers the opportunity to add an extra store cupboard item such as tins, dried pasta and rice to their shopping basket or trolley, which will then be delivered to local community projects by food poverty charity FareShare. Recently, the charity said it had seen a 20% rise in the number of people it was feeding, from 29,500 a year to 35,000. The appeal is being rolled out at all Sainsbury’s supermarkets, as well as a number of convenience stores, following a successful trial in July when customers donated 25 tonnes of food in three days. For every meal generated by its customers Sainsbury’s will donate 25p. Sainsbury’s retail and logistics director Roger Burnley said: “When we ran the trial of this scheme we were overwhelmed by the generosity of customers. It seems that even though household budgets are under pressure, people are still keen to help those less fortunate.” FareShare redistributes quality surplus food from the food industry to people in need. Sainsbury’s has been working with it since 1994, but this is the first time customers across the UK have been asked to actively take part. The initiative was welcomed by minister for civil society, Nick Hurd, who said: “Sainsbury’s progressive initiative with FareShare will encourage consumers up and down the country to get involved in their local community and support the vulnerable and needy – it is a great example of the principles of Every Business Commits, this coalition government’s strong belief that every business can play a positive role in society.”

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (November 14-20, 2011)

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

INTERNATIONAL

CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL

Kansas City Bishop Makes Deal to Avoid More Criminal Charges.” By A.G. Sulzberger and Laurie Goodstein. New York Times. November 15, 2011. In a deal to avoid a second round of criminal charges, a Roman Catholic bishop in Kansas City has agreed to meet monthly with a county prosecutor to detail every suspicious episode involving abuse of a child in his diocese for the next five years. The bishop, Robert W. Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, was indicted in October by a grand jury in Jackson County for failure to report a priest accused of taking pornographic pictures of girls. Bishop Finn is the first American prelate to face indictment on charges of mishandling an abuse case. The agreement announced on Tuesday between Bishop Finn and the prosecuting attorney of neighboring Clay County, Daniel White, leaves the bishop open to prosecution for misdemeanor charges for five years, if he does not continue to meet with the prosecutor and report all episodes. But victims’ advocates criticized the deal as cozy and ineffectual, compared with previous agreements between bishops and prosecutors. The investigations in Kansas City stem from the bishop’s supervision of the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, who has been accused of taking photographs of the crotches of girls as young as 6 in local parishes and homes over many years. The bishop learned of the photos last December after a technician fixing the priest’s computer expressed serious alarm, but the diocese did not turn them over to the police until May. In that period, Father Ratigan is accused of taking more lewd photographs of girls at places including a church-sponsored Easter egg hunt. Mr. White said in an interview that the agreement would build accountability and protect children, saying that a four-month grand jury investigation showed that “good people were having difficulty making good choices.” Bishop Finn also agreed to visit all the parishes in Clay County, inform parishioners of how to report suspicious behavior and introduce them to diocesan officials in charge of child protection.

Many alleged abusers left off church list; Cardinal O’Malley is credited with going public when many dioceses have not, but critics say he has stopped far short of a full accounting.” By Michael Rezendes. Boston Globe. November 20, 2011. Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley’s long-awaited list of priests who have been publicly accused of abusing minors left out the names of 70 priests and other clerics simply because they don’t work directly for the Boston Archdiocese. To critics, it is a disheartening sign that nearly ten years after Boston became the epicenter of the global sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, the Boston Archdiocese is still struggling to face its troubled past.

DEVELOPMENT

Microcredit is No Magic Wand Against Poverty.” By Raquel Martinez. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). November 14, 2011. While microcredit remains the best tool available to address poverty it is no magic wand and can only be a part of the larger development process, say experts gathered in this historic Spanish city. What is the real potential of microcredit for reducing poverty? Are microcredit institutions enough to help the neediest? What works and what does not? These were the questions being asked as the Nov. 14 – 17 Fifth Global Microcredit Summit kicked off on Monday. José Antonio Alonso, professor of applied economics at the Complutense University of Madrid, thinks that microcredit suffers from overblown expectations when the reality is that some goals are achievable and others are myths. Alonso counts among the myths the idea that anyone can become a businessman. “Entrepreneurial skills are necessary to run a successful microenterprise and not all potential customers are equally able to take on debt”, he told IPS. The professor said microfinance institutions continue to be an important tool to reduce the poverty, but they have to be integrated into a larger view of development. According to Alonso, the most important achievement of microcredit is reduction in vulnerability as the World Bank report, ‘Voices of the Poor – From Many Lands’, shows.
Related story:
Microcredit – Women Demand More Than Incomes.” Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). November 16, 2011.
Microfinance Works – For the Rich.” ” Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). November 18, 2011.

INDIA

Tamil Nadu temple reopens after 25 years, 1 group allowed to perform ‘pooja’.” No by-line. Times of India. November 16, 2011. Twenty five years after remaining locked over a dispute on who should perform poojas at a Siva temple at nearby Nanjandu, officials on Wednesday acted on a Supreme Court order and allowed one group to enter and perform rituals, but arrested 170 persons who tried to obstruct them. Two groups of the Badaga community in the village, numbering about 1,000 had been at loggerheads over the past 25 years on the right to perform poojas at the temple. While 900 of them claimed to have the sole right to worship and perform pooja in the temple as they have been staying the area for long, the third and fourth generation, wanted equal rights to perform pooja, official sources said. These family members then petitioned the Madras high court some years ago, which recently directed the other group and village head to give them the right to perform poojas. The other members then filed a petition in the Supreme Court, seeking a stay but the Apex court upheld the Court verdict a couple of days ago. Armed with the Court order top HR and CE officials and a police contingent arrived at the temple today to break open the lock, but were initially prevented from doing so by 170 members who squatted on the road. All of them were arrested, brought to this city and lodged in a hall, police said. Later the officials broke open the lock and allowed the group to perform poojas.

Wiki-world targets India.” By Raja Murthy. Asia Times (http://www.atimes.com).
November 19, 2011. [For story, go to Media].

ISRAEL

Israeli Government Backs Limits on Financing for Nonprofit Groups.” By Ethan Bronner. New York Times. November 13, 2011. A committee of Israeli cabinet ministers voted Sunday to back two bills aimed at curtailing the support of left-wing nonprofit groups from foreign governments. The 11-to-5 vote threw the support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government behind the bills, which human rights groups have denounced as violations of free expression and an effort by the government to silence its critics. Officials and legal experts said that the bills would probably be altered before reaching Parliament and could ultimately be struck down by the Supreme Court. One bill would limit to about $5,000 a year the amount that a foreign government, government-supported foundation or group of governments like the European Union could give to Israeli groups considered “political.” The other bill would impose a heavy tax on such contributions. The bills were largely aimed at groups that focus on Palestinian rights, civil liberties and other causes advocated by the Israeli left, many of which rely on European government support. An official in Mr. Netanyahu’s office said the prime minister backed efforts to limit foreign government donations to the groups because they amounted, in his view, to interference in Israeli politics. But he wanted the bills amended so their impact would be narrowed. Lawyers said defining which groups were political ones was a task that would not pass legal scrutiny.

SUDAN

Major Humanitarian Group Leaves a South Sudan Region.” By Josh Kron. New York Times. November 13, 2011. Growing violence along the border between Sudan and South Sudan caused a major humanitarian aid group to withdraw over the weekend. The group, the British humanitarian agency Oxfam, pulled its staff from South Sudan’s border region beginning late Friday. It issued a statement that said, “New bombing raids and a buildup of troops along the border of Sudan and South Sudan over the past few days threaten to escalate what is already a significant humanitarian crisis in the newest country in the world.” The group, which provides clean water, sanitation, public health and resettlement services and assists more than 100,000 people in the area, said it had noticed a distinct buildup of South Sudan troops near the border with Sudan. Other aid groups continue to operate in the area. South Sudan separated from Sudan six months ago as part of a peace accord ending one of Africa’s longest civil wars. Since then violence along the border has escalated amid fears that South Sudan is sliding into a new armed conflict with its northern neighbor. Sudan has accused South Sudan of arming Sudanese rebels in the border states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. Sudanese rebel leaders could not be reached for comment.

UK

Gay clergy row threatens mass resignations from Church of Scotland; Breakaway church possible with up to 150 ministers ready to quit over ordination of gay clergy.” By Severin Carrell. Guardian. November 14, 2011. The Church of Scotland is braced for mass resignations over moves to allow the ordination of gay ministers, with up to 150 conservative and evangelical ministers threatening to quit, the Guardian can reveal. The rebellion began after the Church of Scotland became the first major presbyterian church in the world to allow openly gay and lesbian ministers to take up parishes at its general assembly in May, despite evidence that 20% of its elders and office-bearers could leave in protest. The general assembly also opened the way for the full ordination of gay ministers in the church within two years, indicating the Church of Scotland was ready to accept gay and lesbians on equal terms as heterosexual clergy for the first time since its foundation 450 years ago. But senior sources in the church have told the Guardian they estimate as many as 150 serving ministers are actively preparing to leave or are considering resignation, in the largest schism in the Church of Scotland since 474 ministers quit in 1843 to form the Free Church of Scotland. At least six ministers have already left since May, with one minister and his entire congregation at Gilcomston South in Aberdeen poised to leave as a group, in the first large-scale protest.

Doubling in number of care home firms collapsing into administration; Southern Cross joined by more than 70 smaller companies as care crisis widens.” By Rupert Neate. Guardian. November 14, 2011. The crisis in social care funding has led to a doubling in the number of care homes going bust, according to a new report. Accountants Wilkins Kennedy on Monday saidthe government’s squeeze on social care spending coupled with rising debts and high rents led to 73 care companies entering administration over the year to the end of September, compared with 35 in the previous 12 months. While the demise of FTSE care home group Southern Cross dominated the headlines this summer a string of smaller companies have collapsed including north Wales-based Southern Care Group, Cheshire’s Winnie Care Group and Stockport’s Grosvenor Care. Argus Care Group, with 500 residents in Scotland, last week became the latest casualty. Anthony Cork, a partner at Wilkins Kennedy, said: “The care sector has gone through a long period of expansion during the boom years with many companies taking on large debts to fund growth. This worked fine as long as local government funding kept increasing, but with the recession and cutbacks that ensued, many care homes found themselves unable to service their debts. “In a growing economy, they could have sold their property assets for redevelopment to reduce their debt levels, but this wasn’t an option because there are no buyers in the current market.” Cork said the biggest problem for many care home groups was their eagerness to sell their properties and lease them back at ever-increasing rents. “Cares homes that used a ‘sale and leaseback’ are now faced with rent increases that are far above market rates. This has led to a major cashflow squeeze when local authority funding stated to decline. Southern Cross is one example of how this could be fatal.”

Care may suffer, admits private company taking over NHS hospital; Uproar as Circle Health confirms in document that critics’ unease about patients is justified.” By Daniel Boffey. Guardian. November 12, 2011. The first private company to take over an NHS hospital has admitted in a document seen by the Observer that patient care could suffer under its plans to expand its empire and seek profit from the health service. Circle Health is already feeling a strain on resources due to its aggressive business strategy, the document reveals, and the firm’s ambition to further expand into the NHS “could affect its ability to provide a consistent level of service to its patients”, it says. The company, run by a former Goldman Sachs banker, was awarded management of Hinchingbrooke hospital in Cambridgeshire last week in a ground-reaking move lauded by ministers as a “good deal for patients and staff”. However, the government was forced to answer an urgent question in the Commons after the move sparked furious accusations that the deal was privatising the NHS and putting jobs and health services in jeopardy. Concerns over the future of the health service were further heightened when David Cameron, in a speech on regulation and the economy, said he wanted the NHS to be a “fantastic business for Britain”. The revelation that the company shares some of the fears of its critics has caused fresh uproar.
Related story:
Banker behind private hospital revolution pledges patient power.” Independent. November 15, 2011.

Social care services for children face cuts of 40%, warns charity; NSPCC says local authorities will look to make savings despite rising demand for child protection services.” By Randeep Ramesh. Guardian. November 15, 2011. Local authorities are cutting children’s social care budgets by as much as 40%, a worrying false economy that will lead to councils face rising demand for child protection services, the NSPCC has warned. An analysis by Britain’s biggest children’s charity highlights its concerns over the scale of cuts to a broad range of local authority services – ranging from youth clubs and Sure Start centres to fostering and child protection – saying that spending on children across England and Wales decreased by £1.86bn this year. This means that, outside of education, local authorities will spend £150 less a child than in 2010 – putting expenditure a head at £478, a level not seen since 2005. The study conducted by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) is further evidence that the brunt of the government cuts is being borne by children’s social care budgets. In England councils are reducing such budgets by an average of 24% this year, “significantly more than the overall real-terms reduction in local government spending of around 10%, and more than the budget reductions for most other local authority services”, says the study. By contrast adult social care spending is being reduced by less than 2%. The NSPCC says that “youth justice is the only protection service that is highly likely to be subjected to budget cuts – although these reductions will prove difficult to deliver in those areas affected by the recent riots.” The NSPCC says that with the increase in referrals for children in care, there is little room for councils to continue making cuts at this pace – which would see local authorities halving budgets within five years. It cautions that “deep cuts to discretionary early intervention services may lead to a further increase in the numbers of children in need and looked after.”

Public school turmoil feared after quest for new head fails; Marlborough: surprising failure.” By Greg Hurst. Times of London. November 17, 2011. One of Britain’s top independent schools is likely to be without a headmaster for the start of the next academic year after failing to make an appointment for the post. The outcome of the recruitment process at Marlborough College, whose old girls include the Duchess of Cambridge, has caused surprise in the independent sector. The preferred candidate withdrew at a late stage after a difficult final interview with members of the school’s governing council. Two other shortlisted candidates who were not invited to further interview also withdrew. Sir Hayden Phillips, chairman of the council, wrote to parents this week confirming that it had been unable to appoint a new Master after a six-month search. The present Master, Nicholas Sampson, who has led Marlborough since 2004, is moving to Australia in July to become head of Cranbrook school in Sydney. His departure was announced in May. The council hired a firm of City headhunters, Odgers Bendston, to lead their search for a replacement. Such companies typically charge fees of at least £40,000 for a senior appointment, The Times has been told. Parents were dismayed, having expected that the next Master would be named by now since a notice period of two terms would generally be required to have a candidate in place by the summer. “A lot of parents have been asking,” one said. “Parents are very concerned about what is going to happen at school. There is a lot of conjecture.”

The rubber gloves are on: marchers to fight for women’s rights amid cuts; Fawcett Society organises demonstration in 1950s housewife gear to protest against austerity measures ‘turning back time’.” By Lizzy Davies. Guardian. November 18, 2011. Hundreds of demonstrators will take to the streets in rubber gloves, headscarves and full-skirted frocks on Saturday to protest against government cuts which they say are hitting women disproportionately hard and risk setting the battle for equality back decades. In what it describes as its first nationwide “call to arms” in nearly a century-and-a-half of activism, the Fawcett Society is urging people to turn out in 1950s gear for a march past Downing Street aimed at telling David Cameron not to let austerity measures “turn back time” on women’s rights. Similar rallies in other cities, including Coventry, Bristol and Manchester, are to culminate in tea parties. In Oxford, a 1950s-themed “flash mob” is to take place: the most committed participants are urged to come in handcuffs with which they can chain themselves “to the kitchen sink”. For an organisation which tends to shy away from more raucous feminist tactics in favour of measured, persistent campaigning, Fawcett’s Day of Action is a departure. But, in a week when the number of women out of work across the country hit a 23-year high of 1.09 million, Fawcett’s acting chief executive, Anna Bird, said there was no time to lose. “We think we are very much at a watershed moment for women’s rights in the UK,” she said. “We think that the impact of austerity has brought us to a tipping point where, while we have got used to steady progress towards greater equality, we’re now seeing a risk of slipping backwards. We cannot afford to let that happen.” The warning comes amid growing concern that women will be hit hardest by cuts to benefits and public services such as SureStart children’s centres, and will be more likely to take on roles plugging the gap once such state services have been withdrawn.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (November 7-13, 2011)

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

INTERNATIONAL

AUSTRALIA

Cuddlier image for tarnished childcare chain.” No by-line. Sydney Morning Herald. November 13, 2011. The brand derided as the McDonald’s of childcare, ABC Learning, is finally being dumped by its new charity owners in an attempt to convince parents the chain really has changed. The rebranding, to be announced this week, is aimed at highlighting the shift from a profit-driven business to one focused on quality early childhood experiences and helping disadvantaged children. The new chief executive, Julia Davison, pushed for the name change, after commissioning market research which revealed a general perception that ABC Learning childcare was ”a pretty crappy service”, according to one insider. After Eddy Groves’s child care empire collapsed with $1.6 billion of debt, most of its centres were bought by a consortium of welfare groups called GoodStart Childcare. Comprising the Benevolent Society, Brotherhood of St Laurence, Mission Australia and Social Ventures Australia, GoodStart paid about $100 million for the business two years ago. Industry sources said the ABC Learning chief executive at the time, Matthew Horton, had dissauded the GoodStart board from rebranding, arguing it was too expensive and there was a lot of goodwill associated with the ABC Learning name. But when Ms Davison, a former public health executive, replaced Mr Horton in February, she realised a new name was needed to better reflect the socially inclusive ethos of the not-for-profit organisation. GoodStart is Australia’s largest childcare provider, with 72,000 children at its 660 centres.

CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL

Catholic Church in court to avoid sex abuse compensation claims; The Church argues that it cannot be held responsible for its priests’ actions.” By Sean O’Neill and David Brown. Times of London. November 7, 2011. The Roman Catholic Church is waging a court battle to avoid legal responsibility for the crimes of priests who have abused children. Despite professing “deep sorrow” over the plight of the victims of clerical sexual abuse, the Church is arguing in the courts that it should not have to pay any compensation to them. The High Court will deliver a key ruling on the issue tomorrow in the case of a woman who alleges she was abused by a priest in the 1970s at a Church-run children’s home near Portsmouth, Hampshire. Lawyers for the Bishop of Portsmouth, Crispian Hollis, claim that he cannot be held responsible for the actions of the alleged abuser, Father Wilfred Baldwin, because Catholic priests are self-employed individuals rather than employees of the Church. The case, which is likely to be fouight on appeal all the way to the Supreme Court, will have major consequences for compensation claims by abuse victims in Britain and is being closely watched around the world. Tracey Emmott, solicitor for the claimant in the case, told The Times: “The crux of this case is an attempt by the Catholic Church to seek to avoid its responsibilities — it is trying to use employment law as a way of getting out of holding its hands up and recognising the harm caused by sexual abuse of children by some of its priests.

Abbey sex abuse ‘open secret’ for decades.” By Sean O’Neill and David Brown. Times of London. November 9, 2011. The scandal of child sex abuse at a leading Catholic monastery and school went unchecked for 60 years, a hard-hitting independent report will say today. A detailed inquiry by a senior barrister has found that individual monks at Ealing Abbey, West London, assaulted pupils at St Benedict’s, one of the country’s foremost independent Catholic schools, from at least the late 1940s until 2007. The report by Lord Carlile of Berriew, QC, which was commissioned last year after a series of revelations by The Times, details one of the most serious cases of clerical abuse faced by the Catholic Church in England and Wales. It was distributed to parents of current St Benedict’s pupils at a closed meeting last night and will be made public today . A source with knowledge of the report said that it “pulled no punches” and clearly set out the Church’s failures.

Catholic Church fails to dodge abuse liability in court.” By Sean O’Neill. Times of London. November 9, 2011. The Roman Catholic Church has lost the first round of its court battle to escape liability for paying damages to the victims of clerical sex abuse. A High Court judge ruled yesterday that the Bishop of Portsmouth, Crispian Hollis, would be liable for compensating a former resident of a Catholic children’s home if she proves her claim that she was raped and assaulted by a priest of the diocese. The ruling, by Mr Justice MacDuff, is the first time the courts have ruled that the Church is responsible as an organisation for crimes committed by its priests. But the Church’s lawyers, who are instructed by its insurers, immediately sought permission to fight the ruling in the Court of Appeal. The judge acknowledged that the relationship between a bishop and a priest was different from a normal employer-employee situation. But he said that Father Wilfred Baldwin, the alleged abuser in the case, had been appointed by the bishop and the Church “in order to do their work”. The judge ruled: “He was given the full authority of the defendants [the Church] to fulfil that role. He was provided with the premises, the pulpit and the clerical robes. He was directed into the community with that full authority and was given free rein to act as respresentative of the Church. “He had been trained and ordained for that purpose. He had immense power handed to him by the defendants. It was they who appointed him to the position which [if the allegations be proved] he abused.” The judgment concluded that the Church “should be held responsible for the actions which they initiated by the appointment [of Father Baldwin] and all that went with it”.
Related story:
Catholic Church in court to avoid sex abuse compensation claims; The Church argues that it cannot be held responsible for its priests’ actions.” Times of London. November 7, 2011.

The victim: at age 6, two years of priest’s abuse in a ‘place of safety’.” By Sean O’Neill. Times of London. November 7, 2011. JGE was 6 when she was sent to The Firs, a children’s home run by the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, under a “place of safety” order. For the next two years, she says, she suffered repeated and horrific sexual abuse at the hands of Father Wilfred Baldwin, the vocations director of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth and a regular visitor to the home. Now in her forties, JGE says that she was raped by Fr Baldwin and forced to perform sex acts on him when she was left alone with the priest at the home and the church in the same grounds. The abuse carried on for two years until she left the home and for more than 30 years JGE suppressed the memories. Then, in 2006, she was contacted by police investigating claims of abuse against Fr Baldwin made by other former residents of the home. “It opened up a whole can of worms that I would rather had been left buried,” she said today. But it also helped her to come to terms with a troubled life that had included a number of overdoses and repeated incidents of self-harming. Fr Baldwin, who had retired from the priesthood, was arrested and questioned at length by police and denied the abuse, although he remembered the children who were making the allegations. He was released on police bail but died of a heart attack just weeks later.

CHINA

Private museum a reflection of China’s growing prosperity.” By John Garnaut. Sydney Morning Herald. November 9, 2011. An Australian citizen owns the 2500-year-old cremated remains of Buddha’s bones and their jewel-encrusted container and has put them on display in his private museum for dignitaries such as the former prime minister, John Howard. But the museum is not in Sydney, it’s in Guangzhou, where Chau Chak Wing is one of 53 property developers in China who have amassed wealth of more than $US1 billion ($968 million), according to the magazine, Hurun Report. The Sarira Stupa is a portable temple for transporting the crystallised ashes of Shakyamuni Buddha. It was sent by India’s King Asoka as a gift of Buddhism to the world. Nineteen of the treasures were sent to China but only two have been confirmed to have survived. A smaller and less significant one is on display in a Buddhist temple in Shaanxi Province. The second is in Dr Chau’s Kingold Museum. So sacred and priceless is the stupa that Dr Chau did not unveil it to the Foreign Affairs Minister, Kevin Rudd, when he slipped minders late at night to make the journey to his Imperial Springs retreat in May. Few people apart from Dr Chau know anything about the 20,000-plus relics he has acquired, let alone how he obtained them or at what cost. ”Today’s society can’t replicate or copy them,” said Dr Chau, while declining to talk about the specifics of his collections.

DEVELOPMENT

Development: UNESCO Turns On the Radio.” By A.D.McKenzie. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). November 11, 2011. The demise of radio has been predicted for many years, but the medium is adapting, transforming and proving to be a cost-effective tool in development, experts say. “Radio is cheap, portable and has enormous potential for local and national growth,” says Mirta Lourenço, chief of the media development section of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). The Paris-based agency this week approved a proposal from Spain to proclaim an annual World Radio Day set for Feb. 13 which will be observed in a variety of ways by UNESCO’s 195 member states. “The aim is to promote community radio and also to celebrate the service radio provides,” Lourenço told IPS. “It was felt that radio had not been adequately recognised for its many services to humankind.” During the organisation’s two-week General Conference, which ended Thursday, member states agreed on goals that that included raising awareness about the continued relevance of radio especially for “marginalised groups”, and encouraging the creation of new channels by indigenous and community organisations. UNESCO says that about one billion people (or one in seven of the world’s population) still do not have access to radio. “We need to expand access because in a way radio is irreplaceable. Once you buy your radio set, you have it for life and the information you receive can make a big difference especially in rural communities,” Lourenço said. World Radio Day would also be used to highlight the need to “empower civil society on the right to communicate,” UNESCO says. It should help as well to “enhance networking among broadcasters” and to promote human and citizens’ rights.

JAPAN

Training Volunteers to Deal With Disasters.” By Dennis Engbarth. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). November 10, 2011. Seven months after a massive earthquake and tsunami devastated northeastern Japan, Japanese citizens and relief organisations are working to learn from the tragedy in order to mitigate the fatal impact of future natural calamities at home and abroad. One example is a new programme by Peace Boat, a Tokyo-based non-governmental organisation, to train corps of “disaster relief volunteer leaders” to expedite the rapid recruitment, training and effective and safe deployment of volunteers in crisis situations. The new ‘Peace Boat Disaster Relief Volunteer Leader Training Programme’ which aims to train about 4,000 Japanese and international volunteers, began its first eight-day session on Nov. 5 in Ishinomaki. The port suffered the greatest loss of life of any Japanese city from the combined 9.0 magnitude earthquake and massive tsunami which struck on the afternoon of Mar. 11. In all 3,278 persons died and 688 were reported missing in a population of nearly 163,000. A third of the city’s civil service staff were killed in the disaster. Across Japan, nearly 20,000 are confirmed killed or missing. Ishinomaki has been the focal point for disaster relief support by Japanese and international NGOs. According to a report issued by the organisation in early October, Peace Boat alone had coordinated 6,695 volunteers with 34,388 working days by end-August. “This is the first time civil society organisations have coordinated disaster relief volunteers on this scale in Japan,” Peace Boat International coordinator Takahashi Maho told IPS. But, Takahashi said, “there were not enough organisations active in training personnel to act in the vital coordinating roles as volunteer leaders who can help manage disaster relief centres, liaise with local governments and other organisations and manage teams of volunteers safely and effectively.

SPAIN

Spanish cemetery warns of evictions for nonpayment .” No by-line. Independent/Associated Press. November 7, 2011. Pushed for space, a Spanish cemetery has begun placing stickers on thousands of burial sites with lapsed leases as a warning to relatives that their ancestors face possible eviction. Jose Abadia, deputy urban planning manager for Zaragoza in Spain’s northeast, said today that the city’s Torrero graveyard had already removed remains from some 420 crypts, and reburied them in common ground. He said the cases involved graves whose leases had not been renewed for 15 years or more. Torrero, like many Spanish cemeteries, no longer allows people to buy grave sites, instead leasing them out for periods of five or 49 years. Abadia said 7,000 of the graveyard’s 114,000 burial sites leases had run out, many of which occurred because relatives — or caretakers — had died themselves, or moved house and failed to renew the contract. In other cases, family descendants no longer wanted to pay for relatives’ graves, he added. Abadia said the graveyard began stepping up its search for defaulters around two years ago, with relatives or caretakers given six months to respond. The stickering campaign was planned to coincide with the 1 November Roman Catholic holiday, on which people customary visit graveyards. He said that since then hundreds of people had rang to make inquiries about the status of their relatives’ graves. It’s a case of graveyard management, “not to make money” as graveyards have limited space, he said.

UK

Students are fighting not just for education, but the welfare state; Our protest on Wednesday could mark the start of the resistance that breaks the coalition’s cuts and privatising agenda.” By Michael Chessum. Guardian. November 7, 2011. On 9 November students will again be taking to the streets. Far from viewing last year’s student revolt as a failure, we are determined to block the cuts and privatisation agenda before it becomes a reality, and build a sustainable movement to defeat the government. Monday’s announcement that the Metropolitan police may use baton rounds – similar to rubber bullets – on student demonstrators has reinforced the disenfranchisement of those planning to march: not only is our future being dismantled, but we will be violently repressed when we attempt to defend it. In using a press conference to ramp up the threat of violence, the police are precriminalising protest, making unrest more likely in the process. The fundamentalism of the policies being pushed by the Tories, and echoed in police tactics, is rooted in desperation of the material collapse of global capitalism – and the scope of reform runs much further than the darkest years of Thatcherism. The coalition’s marketisation of education and health; its criminalisation of squatting; its dismantling of youth work – all can be viewed as a completion of the Thatcher-Blair years. It has become clear to ordinary people that the political elite has run out of ideas and its agenda is born of desperation. It is in this context that movements of resistance, including the students’, are appearing so dramatically and with such public support. The challenge that faces students is not only the achievement of direct political goals, but internal re-invigoration. There are still those who view national mobilisation and local direct action as ineffective or taboo, rejecting it in favour of operational collaboration with institutions and their internal structural reviews. This model of activism looks more and more out of step with the realities of the situation that we face.

Show us you care: the rise of good cause labelling; It’s no longer enough just to give: you must wear your support on your sleeve (or lapel, wrist, etc).” By Luke Blackall. Independent. November 8, 2011. There was a time when giving to charity was on the list of those things best done in private. Today, in an age of Facebook status updates and ostentation, it’s the done thing to wear your donation with pride. It is particularly noticeable at this time of year. You might, for example, see a colleague sporting what appears to be an ailing rodent on their top lip. If it’s a he, it’s more than likely he is doing it for Movember, an annual event that originated in Australia, in which groups of men compete to grow moustaches to raise money for men’s health charities. Then there’s the poppy appeal. Once worn in the days leading up to Remembrance Sunday, it has recently been near-ubiquitous for up to a fortnight a year. For television presenters, it is practically compulsory from 1 November onwards, and so far, 14 (of 20) Premier League clubs have had poppy symbols on their shirts in the run-up to Remembrance Sunday. Those who choose not to can expect to be asked why. Sam Delaney, an author and broadcaster, is a poppy wearer (“It’s a good cause and it adds a bit of panache to my autumn wardrobe,” he says), but believes that charity accoutrements often say more about the wearer than about the causes themselves. “Most people who are into charity are usually quite private about their giving,” he says. “This is the complete opposite – like wearing a T-shirt saying ‘I’m a good person’. Most of these are good causes, so it does sometimes seem strange to feel you have to demonstrate your support for them; it’s like saying, ‘I’m really against cancer or poverty.’”

Student tuition fees protests – live blog.” No by-line. Guardian. November 9, 2011. Estimated 10,000 students expected to gather in London; Students marching against education cuts and tripling of fees; Government white paper ‘privatising’ degrees also under fire.

First privately run NHS hospital ‘is accident waiting to happen’; Founder of Circle Healthcare, which takes over Hinchingbrook hospital next year, plans to do more in health sector.” By Randeep Ramesh. Guardian. November 10, 2011. The boss of the first private company in the history of the NHS to be given the right to deliver a full range of hospital services says he is “absolutely ready to do more” in the health sector – reigniting the debate about the use of business in the provision of state services. Ali Parsa, the founder of Circle Healthcare, said he would first focus on turning around Hinchingbrooke hospital in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, when the firm takes over the running of the service from February. The government signed off on a decade-long contract on Wednesday in a deal worth £1bn. The hospital, which is currently predicting a loss of £5m this year on revenues of £90m, has accumulated debts of £40m. Parsa said Hinchingbrooke did not attract enough patients and its staff needed to be “freed from bureaucracy”. He pointed out that there were 5,000 patients living within a “few miles of the hospital that do not use us. That’s £5m in lost patient income every year.” Although private-sector firms already operate units within the NHS – such as hip replacement centres – Circle, a John Lewis-style partnership valued at around £120m, is the first to take over an entire hospital. The takeover is not considered a full privatisation as the buildings will remain in public hands and the employees retain their pay and pension on existing terms. Although Circle will be given a free hand to cut staff, any major changes to services will need the agreement of local health chiefs, and the A&E and maternity units must be retained. However, Circle is viewed by ministers as a model “mutual”: 49% of its ownership is in staff hands, and Parsa owns another 5%. Circle operates a scheme to allow more shares to be gained through a performance-related rewards system. Significantly, this allows doctors to take a slice of the profits – and the Hinchingbrooke deal, the government hopes, will lead other cash-strapped NHS hospitals to consider outsourcing their management to private companies.
Related story:
Private firm to run NHS hospital: Circle Healthcare will take over Hinchingbrooke Health Care NHS Trust in Cambridgeshire as part of a £1bn 10-year contract.” Guardian. November 10, 2011.

Patrick Butler’s cuts blog: The Work Programme’s ‘big society’ logic: get charities to do it for free; Volunteer centres claim they are being exploited by private welfare to work providers who covertly refer jobless clients to them to gain “work experience.” By Patrick Butler. Guardian. November 10, 2011. In the current low growth-high-unemployment economic climate, it will not shock anyone that the mainly private Work Programme (WP) providers are seeking to drive down costs and transfer risk. What may come as a surprise, however, is the way some providers are going about this: by asking voluntary organisations to do their work for them, for free. According to Volunteering England (VE) a number of volunteer centres across England report that long term unemployed people are being covertly referred to them by WP providers. The bulk of these referrals involve individuals being sent informally to centres to help them become “job ready”. The hope is that volunteering will give them confidence and “work experience” and make them more attractive to potential employers. No-one is questioning the value of volunteering in this respect: the problems arise over why the clients are being referred, who pays, and who benefits. It is hard not to see this as a kind of cost-shunting scam. The private provider makes its profits by being paid (under the term of its WP contract) for successfully getting a client into a job. But VE’s research suggests surreptiously referring clients in this way offloads onto charities some of the costs of preparing clients for work. VE says a volunteer centre that invests sparse time and resources to help prepare a covertly referred WP client for work often won’t see a penny. The centres are understandably furious: not just at what they see as exploitation by commercial companies, but by the explicitly underhand way in which those companies appear to be trying to avoid paying for what the centres consider to be resource-intensive work

Charity begins £100m drive to help pay its ‘eye-watering’ bills; The Trust is struggling to maintain properties such as Culzean Castle.” By Mike Wade. Times of London. November 11, 2011. The National Trust for Scotland has conjured up the “nightmare scenario” of Culzean Castle as a “graffiti-ridden hulk” in a bid to boost a fundraising drive among its membership. The apocalyptic image is part of a concerted effort by the charity to raise at least £110,000 “as quickly as possible” for the maintenance, restoration and conservation of “some of Scotland’s most iconic buildings, gardens and landscapes”. Members of the Trust have received a leaflet and a letter inviting them to find £15 each to donate towards the “I’m in it for the Future” Fund. The appeal comes after more than a decade of financial uncertainty. In 2009 staff were laid off and some properties mothballed as the charity appeared on the brink of financial collapse, with a £13 million hole in its accounts. Since then, after a strategic review and the development of a five-year plan, its affairs have apparently stabilised, although its ability to absorb huge amounts of money appears undiminished as it maintains its vast estate, including 129 historic properties.

Art cuts are here to stay, so get on with it.” By Bianca Brigitte Bonomi. Independent. November 11, 2011. Art cuts are here to stay, so get on with it. Another day, another tale of arts’ funding woe. Organisations on the brink of collapse, art centres closing, individuals facing redundancy. It’s a gritty reality, but after months of doom mongers dominating the headlines, isn’t it time to shake off the funeral garb and come out of mourning? The latest victim is the Birds Eye View (BEV) film festival, a celebration of female film-making, which will not go ahead in 2012 due to a 90% cut in its public funding. Sympathy rightly lies with its director, Rachel Millward, who has done an excellent job of redressing the gender imbalance at the heart of the industry. Organizing festivals in Hay-on-Wye with the Institute of Art and Ideas (IAI), including HowTheLightGetsIn and Crunch, an art and music festival running next weekend, I know first hand how difficult it is to secure any real funding in the current climate. For fledging festivals in particular – we are entering our fourth year – it’s tough. We are seen as a gamble and, as such, don’t have the funding pulling power of national institutions or better established entities. Yet for all these challenges, I’m growing increasingly tired of the ‘can’t do’ attitude that now pervades many cultural ventures; the sense of entitlement, the lack of accountability and the almost willful resistance to engage with what audiences want, understand or expect. The cuts have become an excuse for the failings of unimaginative, bloated and lacklustre projects (of which, I hasten to add, BEV is not one). Some arts organizations may be pining for the halcyon days of annual ‘no questions asked’ payouts; others, like us, are excited by the renewed focus on merit as a prerequisite to reward.

Oxford loses £1m gift over Iranian ‘cheat’; A senior academic who pledged £1m has withdrawn his offer, saying he is ‘disgusted’ by the behaviour of the university.” By Kevin Dowling and Lizzie Porter. Sunday Times. November 13, 2011. A senior Oxford academic has withdrawn his offer to donate £1m to the university after it allowed the son of a former Iranian president to study for a doctorate, despite claims that he had faked his application. Reza Sheikholeslami, who was Oxford’s first professor of Persian studies and is now emeritus fellow at Wadham College, accused the university of a “cover-up” after it ignored evidence that Mehdi Hashemi Rafsanjani had paid a student to write his thesis proposal. On Friday the university admitted that in Hashemi’s case it had waived its requirement for foreign doctoral students to prove they can speak good English. The withdrawal of the donation comes after Hashemi was ordered by a Canadian court to pay millions of dollars in damages to victims of torture in Iran in which he was implicated. The loss to the university is even greater because Sheikholeslami had persuaded members of his extended family and some friends to match his donation. “I was planning to leave them all that I had,” said Sheikholeslami. “But I am so disgusted by the university’s behaviour that I have decided to withdraw my offer.”

Protest camp is harming the homeless, say charities; The camp has become a magnet for homeless people.” By Fay Schlesinger. Times of London. November 11, 2011. The protest outside St Paul’s Cathedral has become a magnet for homeless people, who are abandoning shelters, medication and social care in favour of free food and a temporary sense of community, charities believe. There are concerns that vulnerable people with drug and mental health problems are not getting support, and their condition could worsen. Petra Silver, director of No Second Night Out, said of Occupy London: “While they have a well-intentioned, political point of view, they are probably not even thinking about how that will get in the way of the City of London getting people off the streets.” The formation last week of a “welfare centre” at the camp, with access to social workers, therapists and psychiatrists, is said to have made the problem worse. Joy Hollister, director of community at the City of London Corporation, told Inside Housing magazine that people may be swapping hostel beds for tents. “We would be concerned about people without the knowledge of clients trying to work with them,” she said. A source close to legal efforts to negotiate the end of the protest said: “There are complaints about vulnerable people not taking their meds. The idea is for them to reconnect to the community, but they’re instead going in search of a pop-up community that is being unhelpful by encouraging them.” A spokesman for the protest said: “We are not trying to duplicate services. If and when the camp leaves, it would be leaving people in a more vulnerable position, which is exactly what we do not want.”

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (10/31-11/6/11)

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

INTERNATIONAL

AUSTRALIA

God may be first casualty as Guides look for a fresh start.” No by-line. Sydney Morning Herald. November 6, 2011. Stepping away from the past … the Girl Guides are examining how they can modernise the organisation to be more relevant to girls today. ”I promise that I will do my best: to do my duty to God, to serve the Queen and my country; to help other people; and to keep the Guide law. These are the first words a little girl utters when she becomes a Girl Guide and they haven’t changed in more than 40 years. But now the Girl Guide promise is being reviewed to bring the 100-year-old organisation into the 21st century – and God and the Queen could be casualties of the modernisation. The word ”obedient” as a girl guide law is also under review. The Board of Girl Guides Australia is asking its 30,000 members to suggest how the Guide promise and law could be made more relevant to their lives today. The Australian Guides are trying to shed their old-fashioned folksy image to appeal to a wider group from different faiths and cultures.

Banton charity to face audit over funds.” By Anna Patty. Sydney Morning Herald. November 5, 2011. THE NSW government will audit the Bernie Banton Foundation in response to concerns about its spending of funds and its stalled service supporting families of sufferers of asbestos-related disease. A spokesman for the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing yesterday said it would conduct a comprehensive audit of the foundation to assess its compliance with state charity laws and its own objectives. The department is also reviewing the foundation’s application to renew its fund-raising authority, which expired on October 21. The Minister for Liquor, Gaming and Racing, George Souris, said he was monitoring the investigation ”to ensure the efficacy of the charity’s activities and that its activities remain faithful to the original objects of the charity set up in the name of a wonderful man who fought for the rights, care and compensation of sufferers of asbestos-related disease”. “It is incumbent on the Bernie Banton Foundation or any charity in NSW to operate in an open and transparent fashion, according to state regulations,” Mr Souris said. The Herald reported the foundation, launched in 2009 by former prime minister Kevin Rudd, spent only 6 per cent of its revenue on asbestos services in 2009-10, according to a statement filed with the Australian Securities and Investment Commission. It also showed much of the money raised at the foundation’s fund-raising dinner in 2009 was spent on staging the event. The Herald spoke to a volunteer who left the foundation in frustration as it was not engaged in enough direct charity work. Two of five board directors also resigned due to similar concerns.

Private hospital group goes online to lure patients.” By Mark Metherell. Sydney Morning Herald. November 5, 2011. Australia’s second biggest private hospital group is revealing how it performs on sensitive measures including patient infection and repeat surgery rates in an unprecedented tactic to lure private patients away from the public system. Healthscope, which runs 44 hospitals, says its rates of golden staph infections, patient falls and repeat surgery are all significantly below the public rate. On Monday, the hospital company will launch a website detailing its individual hospitals’ performance on other areas including the diarrhoea-causing Clostridium difficile infection, unplanned readmissions and orthopaedic fracture rehabilitation. The company will exploit its superior performance to attract many private patients undergoing elective surgery in public hospitals. Healthscope’s chief medical officer, Michael Coglin, said that Australia’s public hospitals were failing to meet demands for elective surgery from public patients, but had significantly increased the private patient operations in order to generate extra revenue. Australia’s public hospitals now rivalled Australia’s biggest private hospital company, Ramsay Health Care, as major providers of care for private patients, Dr Coglin said. ”If public hospitals seek to compete with the private hospital sector for private patients, it is only appropriate that patients, doctors and staff be provided with information allowing comparison of quality outcomes,” he said.

DEVELOPMENT

Better Aid Means Better Development.” By Brian Atwood and Jeremy Hobbs. Op-ed. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). November 1, 2011. Oxfam and major aid donors of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (the DAC) are often on opposite sides of the fence. Today though, we are on the same side —making sure that effective aid lifts people out of poverty. The DAC represents government donors and promotes ‘better aid’. Oxfam’s job is to blow the whistle when the DAC fails. Our joint appeal for more sanity in global development co-operation is a reflection of our shared fear that the world will miss an important opportunity to fix what is wrong. We are both looking to the November G20 meeting of major industrialised and emerging nations in Cannes and a few weeks later the High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, South Korea to ensure that doesn’t happen. With Western economies and political systems under tremendous strain, will it be more convenient to sweep the needs of the developing world under the carpet? Our guess is that the G20 leaders in Cannes will understand that effective development can calm the volatile food and energy markets, alleviate climate and security threats, and give hope to the billions of people who are jobless or suffering from poverty, hunger, disease, and other injustices. We trust that G20 leaders will give a mandate to the High Level Forum to create new and more effective global partnerships with developing countries, donors from developed and emerging economies, the private sector, and civil society organisations.
Related story:
At G20 Summit, Civil Society Demands ‘People First, Not Finances’.” Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). November 4, 2011.

FRANCE

Scientology church appeals French fraud conviction.” By Ingrid Rousseau. San Jose Mercury-News/Associated Press. November 3, 2011. Lawyers for the Church of Scientology asked a French court on Thursday to throw out the group’s fraud conviction because they say the investigation and trial in the decades-old case had taken too long. The defense submitted the argument to a Paris appeals court, which is reviewing the 2009 conviction of the church’s French branch, its bookstore and six of its leaders. The group was accused of pressuring members into paying large sums for questionable remedies and using “commercial harassment” against recruits. The group and bookstore were fined (EURO) 600,000 ($830,000). Four leaders were given suspended sentences of between 10 months and two years. Two others were fined. While Scientology is recognized as a religion in the U.S., Sweden and Spain, it is not considered one under French law.

INDIA

Anna & Co to draft ethics charter first.” By Sarang Dastane. Times of India. October 31, 2011. Team Anna will soon prepare a charter listing rules, guidelines and ethics for its members and revamp the core team once the organization’s constitution is ready. This announcement was made on Sunday in the backdrop of allegations against Team Anna members of “financial misconduct” and “desertion” by some of them from the movement. The decision on the charter was announced after Team Anna members, Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan and Kiran Bedi, held a day-long meeting with Anna Hazare in Ralegan Siddhi. Kejriwal made the announcement, reading from a written communication by Hazare, who is on a vow of silence since October 16. “Hazareji in his written communication has said the existing core team will be revamped after the constitution is prepared. Until then, the current team will work. Hazare also said the constitution would be strong enough to act against any member found involved in wrong practices,” said Kejriwal. Asked about the enactment of the constitution, Kejriwal said, “We hope (it’s implemented) soon.” Formulating the constitution would be a step towards strengthening the movement against corruption, he said. In his communication, Hazare further said there was a “conspiracy” by the government and some members of the Congress party to malign Team Anna but added that this would not hamper its unity. “This is an agitation of 120 crore people. Some people are trying to break Team Anna . But Team Anna is very strong and no one can break it. There were talks of disbanding the core committee. I don’t think this is right. It we leave the battleground due to such petty allegations, people will lose faith. We, therefore, do not bother about such allegations. The core committee members will unitedly face challenges and our fight will continue until the Lokpal Bill is passed,” said Kejriwal quoting Hazare. “It’s the Congress’s responsibility to get a strong Lokpal Bill passed in the winter session. If it fails, I (Hazare ) will tour the five states in which assembly elections are due next year,” Kejriwal said quoting Hazare and added , “We are not in support of or against any political party. Our agitation in Hisar was to show that if the bill is not passed, the people will express their anger.”
Related story:
Beyond Occupy.” Editorial. By Bill Keller. New York Times. October 30, 2011.

UK

Corporate Social Responsibility – more harm than good.” By Dr Bill Durodie. Independent. October 31, 2011. The current period of financial turmoil has – as on previous occasions – led to considerable speculation and projection by nervous enterprise leaders, confused politicians and interested advocates as to the correct conduct and purpose of business. The last time this occurred was in response to the economic downturn of the early 1990s. This led, at the time, to the articulation of a presumed need for greater corporate social responsibility – or CSR – as articulated in the 1995 RSA Inquiry, ‘Tomorrow’s Company: the role of business in a changing world’. Notably though, many of the original sponsors and supporters of that endeavour – many of whom appeared to endorse what was to become the New Labour agenda of demanding more targets and procedural audits, as well as greater dialogue and inclusion – are no longer around. Among those whose executives pontificated over the deeper insights and wisdom they had into what made for, and sustained, a better, more responsible company, was Barings Venture Partners Limited. They were not alone in the ranks of those who were good at talking the CSR talk, but less so at walking the CSR walk. But maybe that is because being a good, responsible company that cares about people and the planet, as well a profits, was not what CSR was really about in the first place. The programme director of the RSA Inquiry wrote a piece about it, published before the final report, that identified one key area to be explored by it as being; ‘the notion of business as the most important agent of social change, in an age when governments are redefining and limiting their own sphere of influence’. In other words, as state leaders the world over became confused – in the immediate aftermath of the Cold War – as to their purpose and direction, so some – encouraged no doubt by a few disillusioned CEOs – sought to invest business with the role of social leadership instead. That remains a key focus for CSR today. What is different from its original conceptualisation, however – and in some ways more sinister – is that whereas in 1995 it was the complexities of the globalised, international environment that business operated within that was held to have heralded the need for them to change, today it is people themselves that are presented as both the source and the locus of change.

Disability charity Scope launches a new bond to raise £20m; Scope is to participate in the capital markets, through a tie-up with the Bank of New York Mellon Corporation.” By Terry Macalister. Guardian. October 30, 2011. Scope, the disability charity, is to break new – and potentially controversial – ground by launching a £20m bond programme this week to create new source of funds for its activities. It will be one of the first UK charities to enter the capital markets, this one through a tie-up with the Bank of New York Mellon Corporation, which it believes could provide a template for others to follow. The Scope Bond Programme will list on the Luxembourg-based Euro MTF stock market and follows last year’s launch of the Grangewood Venture Philanthropy Project where outside investors were brought in to finance the construction of homes for people with multiple disabilities. “It gives us the opportunity to talk to a new and emerging network of prospective supporters and offer them an additional way of investing in Scope alongside traditional donations and philanthropic loans. This is a landmark development for Scope and could revolutionise the way we and other large charities raise finance for our work in the future.” So-called Social Impact Bonds have also been trialled by the prison service and other public institutions as a way of raising money from private sources but individual charities have rarely used them. Bonds are more typically used by governments or large corporations to raise money as a form of debt. The Charities Commission, which oversees such organisations, said it had just issued new guidance to charities encouraging them to look at new ways of improving their financial or operational efficiency. Scope says the bonds which will be aimed at attracting high net worth individuals and larger institutions rather than small retail investors. It also dismisses fears that City-style financing of charitable bodies could undermine the image of Scope or lead it into debt.

Side by Side: On Britain’s School Wars.” By Stefan Collini. The Nation. November 1, 2011. Nothing is so likely to cause a dinner party to turn violent. In Britain, the question of the type of school parents choose for their children ranks with international terrorism and global warming as a topic that can inflame political passions and turn friend against friend. Or at least it does among the kinds of parents who think they have a choice about which schools their children might attend, kinds that correlate closely with those who give or attend dinner parties in the first place. For these disputes are overwhelmingly about social class, and they rest on the fundamental truth that in a class-divided society, education largely reflects, rather than corrects, patterns of socio-economic advantage and disadvantage. The form taken by these disputes may be determined by Britain’s peculiar social and educational history, but the underlying principles are of far wider import and interest. What do we want schools to do for children? Do we think people develop and flourish best when educated with a cross section of their community, or do we think they are better served by being educated with those who are like them in terms of gender, ability, belief or social background? Do we want a common level of education to be available to all in a given society, regardless of region, religion or parental income, or do we think parents ought to be able to choose a school type from a diverse menu? Who do we think should decide what is taught in schools—teachers, parents, governments (local or national), philanthropists, commercial sponsors?

Private equity and care: a sector propped up by debt; As more and more vulnerable people are cared for by services in thrall to private equity firms, should we be worried?” By Anna Bawden and Alison Benjamin. Guardian. November 1, 2011. In the airy lounge at the Willows nursing and residential home, eight older women follow instructions – “Lift your arms. Now clap your hands” – and move their arms in time to music. Other residents of this care home in Shepshed, Leicestershire, watch and nod their heads along to the music. “We’re working on bingo wings today,” says Caroline Mitchell, the activities co-ordinator. Mitchell has worked at the Willows for 16 years, initially as a carer, but for the last decade, she has worked 30 hours a week organising residents’ social lives. Until five weeks ago, Mitchell was employed by private care home operator Southern Cross, but she is now one of its 7,300 staff whose new employer is Four Seasons. The Willows, along with 56 other homes, was taken over by Four Seasons on 30 September. A further 81 homes transferred by the end of October. It is now the largest care homes’ operator in Britain, with more than 500 properties, following the transfer of more than 100 homes from Southern Cross after that company’s collapse in the summer. Louise Glasgow, manager of the Willows, says staff were given no prior warning about Southern Cross’s plight.

Occupy London Causes Havoc In Church Of England.” By Philip Reeves. All Things Considered/National Public Radio. November 2, 2011. An Occupy London protest aimed at highlighting social injustice, the greed of bankers, and the incompetence of politicians has ended up causing unexpected havoc within the Church of England. Two senior clerics from St. Paul’s Cathedral have resigned in a row over how to respond to the protesters, who have a camp outside the landmark church. Internal divisions arose when the cathedral authorities began legal moves to evict the campers — proceedings that they’ve now dropped.

Westminster council U-turn saves soup runs for homeless people; Campaigners hail victory for common sense after dropping of ‘draconian’ proposals to outlaw street handouts.” By Patrick Butler. Guardian. November 2, 2011. Controversial plans to outlaw soup runs for homeless people on the streets around Westminster Cathedral in London have been dropped. Campaigners called the U-turn by Westminster council a victory for common sense, saying that the “draconian” proposals would have made it a crime to give free food to homeless people in parts of the borough. Conservative-controlled Westminster sought to introduce a byelaw this year allowing officials to fine people in and around the Westminster Cathedral piazza if they “lie down or sleep in any public place”, “deposit bedding” or distribute free food and drink. It was the council’s second attempt to introduce a byelaw banning soup runs in recent years. The council argued that the soup runs provided a magnet for homeless people and encouraged begging, crime and antisocial behaviour in the area. But it said on Wednesday that after discussions with homeless charities and civil liberties groups, it had agreed to drop the plans in favour of developing a more co-ordinated approach to meeting the needs of homeless people in the borough. This will include finding indoor locations for charities to provide food. The turnaround follows intensive campaigning from organisations including Liberty, Church Action on Poverty, and Housing Justice, which had described the move as an attack on civil and religious freedoms. A committee comprising the council, homeless charities, residents and soup run providers has been set up to locate alternative indoor sites in Westminster and in other parts of London. Charities estimate that around 1,600 people sleep rough in Westminster every year, many around Victoria station and Westminster Cathedral.

Rosie Kilburn obituary.” No by-line. Guardian. November 2, 2011. Our daughter Rosie Kilburn, who has died of cancer aged 19, lived life to the full, as a student, volunteer, chocolatier, aspiring actor, T-shirt designer, charity fundraiser, blogger, TV and radio star, and newspaper columnist. She was born in North Yorkshire and spent parts of her childhood in Wales and Dorset, and in Gloucestershire, where she attended Newent community school. She made friends wherever she went. Rosie loved organising things, such as a Blue Peter bring-and-buy sale aged 10, and picking daffodils to sell when she was 11. These gave us an early indication of her entrepreneurial spirit. So, in 2009, Rosie’s sustainable fundraising business, The Knock On Effect, was born. It has raised thousands for charities which support the family and friends of people affected by cancer. To raise awareness of her first event, a scarily ambitious and hugely successful art auction, Rosie started a blog. As she found her voice, nothing became off-limits as she shared her joys, fears, symptoms and treatments with a growing international community of followers. She appeared on the BBC Inside Out programme over three years as it followed her treatment and fundraising; was a regular contributor to BBC Radio Gloucestershire; and wrote a monthly column for the Citizen, a Gloucestershire daily newspaper. She became a poster girl for v, the national young volunteers service, when she was chosen to promote their Good for Nothing campaign, which challenged stereotypes of young people and promoted volunteering. In 2010 she was named Charity Shop Volunteer of the Year and Rotary Young Citizen of the Year. She is survived by us and her siblings, Cal and Sylvie.

Women’s equality: clock is turning back as cuts bite, says Fawcett Society; Life-raft policies must be drawn up to counter worst threat ‘in living memory’ to women’s hard-won rights, says charity.” By Amelia Hill. Guardian. November 3, 2011. Women’s financial security and human rights are under attack on a scale not seen in “living memory” due to the coalition’s austerity measures, according to a report released today. Backed by more than 20 charities, unions and academics, the report by the Fawcett Society shows how the cuts are pushing women out of the workforce, driving down their income and undermining hard-won access to justice and protection from violence. The report, A Life Raft for Women’s Equality, offers key policy recommendations to reverse the impact the cuts will have on women’s jobs, benefits and key services as state services are withdrawn. The report is published on the same day that the home secretary, Theresa May – who is also minister for women and equalities – outlines the government’s approach to women and the economy. May will announce an ambitious plan to recruit and train 5,000 volunteer business mentors to help women who want to start or grow their own businesses. Anna Bird, acting chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said: “Our report identifies a series of targeted and achievable policy measures that could be adopted by, or at, the 2012 budget, which together offer a life raft for women’s equality – and never has the need been so great.

Banks need to be better citizens, admits Barclays boss; Bob Diamond says financial institutions need to work harder to earn public trust, in dramatic change of tone from Treasury committee appearance earlier in year.” By Jill Treanor. Guardian. November 3, 2011. Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond has admitted that banks need to be “better citizens”, in a dramatic shift from the start of the year when he called for the “period of remorse and apology” to be over. In an opinion piece in the Guardian, Diamond acknowledges it is difficult for the public to see any difference between the sector now and before the 2008 banking crisis, when Barclays escaped a taxpayer bailout, but rivals Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group were rescued with cash injections of more than £60bn. The American-born banker, who has taken British citizenship, also calls for people to be patient with the sector while it tries to improve its image and bolster its contribution to society. Writing to coincide with a lecture for the BBC Today programme, Diamond argues that: “The single most important thing for banks and other businesses to focus on right now is creating jobs and economic growth.” It is a change in stance from Diamond’s position in January. Just days after he took the helm at the bank after a decade running its Barclays Capital investment banking arm, he told MPs on the Treasury select committee that he felt it was time for the period of bank apologies to be over. Diamond, who has a salary and bonus package potentially worth £11m a year, argues that banks need to rebuild the trust lost over the past three years. To do that, he says, banks need to “use the lessons learned from the crisis to become better and more effective citizens”.

Multimillionaire couple arrested in US dropped by charities.” By David Sanderson. Times of London. November 5, 2011. Charities were yesterday distancing themselves from a multimillionaire couple arrested after an alleged sex tryst in a Florida lavatory cubicle. Chris and Mary Gorman, one of Scotland’s most prominent couples, were detained by police after officers claimed to have caught them and another man in compromising positions in an Orlando nightclub. Mrs Gorman, 43, an online entrepreneur, was arrested on suspicion of possession of cocaine and assaulting an officer while Mr Gorman, 44, who has built up an estimated fortune of £40 million through various technology businesses, has been accused of obstructing a police officer. The incident happened in August at the Roxy club in Orlando, where the couple had been on a family holiday to Disney World with their four children. A police spokesman said yesterday that the two off-duty officers who found the couple were intending only to throw them out of the nightclub but were forced to arrest Mrs Gorman after she allegedly shoved one of them. She was then searched and cocaine was allegedly found in her handbag. Mrs Gorman faces up to five years in jail for the battery and drug possession charges. This week, the Gormans wrote an e-mail to friends saying they were “horrified” by events and “refute all the charges”. However, charitable organisations with which Mrs Gorman has worked in the past have severed links.

UN

Long Overlooked, Cooperatives Get Their Due at United Nations.” No by-line. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). November 02, 2011. Hailed as economically viable and socially responsible, cooperatives have over one billion members worldwide and can be found in sectors ranging from agriculture to finance to health. Yet for an economic model deemed so vastly beneficial, cooperatives have received surprisingly little attention from both the media and governments, experts agree. By dubbing 2012 the International Year of Cooperatives (IYC), launched today in New York, the United Nations is attempting to reverse this trend and instead shine a global spotlight on cooperatives. The U.N., along with its Department for Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) and the Committee for the Promotion and Advancement of Cooperatives (COPAC), has three main goals for the year. It aims to increase awareness about cooperatives and their contributions; to promote the formation and growth of cooperatives; and to encourage member states to develop policies conducive to cooperatives’ growth. With an ongoing global economic crisis and various “Occupy” movements demanding large-scale system overhaul, right now is a particularly topical time to celebrate cooperatives as equitable economic models that enhance socioeconomic development. Cooperatives, no matter the sector, are widely viewed as successful enterprises for a number of interrelated reasons. One is that they are member driven, meaning that the very members cooperatives serve are the ones making the decisions about the institution. Furthermore, because they are member driven, cooperatives are not profit-maximising enterprises. Rather, the pursuit of profit is balanced out by the needs and decisions of members, who can become fully involved in the governance of the cooperative.

VATICAN

Vatican To Host Stem Cell Research Conference.” By Barbara Bradley Hagerty. All Things Considered/National Public Radio. November 1, 2011. Father Tomasz Trafny of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture and Dr. Robin Smith, the CEO of NeoStem, last year announced a partnership to explore adult stem cell research. A few years ago, Father Tomasz Trafny was brainstorming with other Vatican officials about what technologies would shape society, and how the Vatican could have an impact. And it hit them: Adult stem cells, which hold the promise of curing the most difficult diseases, are the technology to watch. “They have not only strong potentiality,” says Trafny, “but also they can change our vision of human being[s], and we want to be part of the discussion.” In a rare move, the Vatican decided to collaborate with a private company, NeoStem, to do education and eventually research. The Catholic Church is investing $1 million to form a joint foundation, and next week, scientists from around the world will meet at the Vatican to discuss the future of stem cell therapies. Trafny, who is chairman of the science and faith department at the Pontifical Council for Culture, says they believe there’s a superior alternative to embryonic stem cell research. “We don’t see reason why we have to sacrifice human lives, while we have technologies that do the same without harming anyone and without raising any moral difficulties,” he says.