Archive for the ‘International’ Category

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (August 13-19, 2012)

Monday, August 20th, 2012

INTERNATIONAL

CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL

Victims Group Forced to Open Files.” By Ben Kesling and Mark Peters. Wall Street Journal. August 14, 2012. Missouri’s Supreme Court let stand a lower-court ruling that a support group for alleged victims of the Roman Catholic Church sexual-abuse scandal must open its records in a case raising questions about the privacy rights of crime victims. The high court on Tuesday denied a petition filed by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, forcing the group to comply with a subpoena to turn over more than two decades of records sought by lawyers for the Rev. Michael Tierney. The Kansas City-area priest has been accused in civil court of sexually abusing a minor in the early 1970s. He denies the accusations. The group, known as SNAP, has been fighting the subpoena since last year, saying it is an invasion of the privacy of victims and jeopardizes the group’s work. “We’ll continue to do everything possible to protect the privacy and safety of victims,” said Barbara Dorris of SNAP. “We’re in uncharted waters for us, and we’re taking it a step at a time,” she said. Nearly two dozen groups, including the National Organization for Women Foundation and National Center for Victims of Crime, jointly said in an amicus brief that the subpoena “has the capacity to set the survivor community back a minimum of 10, if not 20, years.” This lawsuit and other cases pending against Father Tierney hinge upon the alleged victims claiming to recall repressed memories, which could lead to an extension of the statute of limitations. Lawyers for Father Tierney, who isn’t actively serving in the church, argue that SNAP’s records might prove that the statute of limitations has expired and the cases should be dismissed. The lawsuits filed against Father Tierney are part of the larger sexual-abuse scandal in the Catholic Church that has unfolded in Kansas City and other cities across the U.S., after first being widely exposed in Boston a decade ago.

Secret tapes reveal church reluctance to report abuser.” By Rory Callinan and Richard Baker. Sydney Morning Herald. August 18, 2012. A secret police bugging operation caught a senior Catholic figure on tape saying it was not up to him to report a paedophile priest and encouraging a victim not to go to the authorities for fear of bad publicity. Abuse victim Peter Murphy has told the Herald that police wired him up to record a meeting between the church leader and victims as part of a 1994 investigation into the paedophile priest Father Peter Chalk in Melbourne. Murphy, who was abused by Chalk, said he met the head of Chalk’s order, Father Brian Gallagher, and the victims to discuss what the church was doing about the allegations. The existence of the tapes, which have remained a secret since the 1990s, comes as the Church faces allegations in NSW and Victoria of failing to assist in bringing paedophile priests to justice and as a Victorian parliamentary inquiry into abuse of children by religious orders and other organisations gets under way. Chalk was accused of abuse while working as a priest in Melbourne for the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, an international Catholic order that operates schools and parishes in Australia. Mr Murphy said during the meeting the missionaries’ then head, Father Gallagher, told victims that Chalk had admitted to abusing up to eight Victorian children during the 1970s and early 1980s in the outer-east Melbourne suburb of Park Orchards. Despite Chalk’s admissions – which Mr Murphy reported to senior leaders in 1987 – neither Father Gallagher nor anyone else reported the priest to police. Police did not pursue Chalk, who moved to Japan in 1981. However, his details were given to Australian immigration officers so he could be detained if he returned to Australia. He left the order in 1995, changed his name and became a teacher. He died in 2010 after being confronted by media about the allegations.

Woodburn priest’s arrest focuses attention on Mount Angel Abbey.” By Nancy Haught. Oregonian. August 18, 2012. Angel Seminary was quiet Friday morning, awaiting the return of students this weekend. The sound of men chanting early Friday morning drifted across the grounds of Mount Angel Abbey, where monks gathered for morning Mass as they have on this hilltop near Silverton for 130 years. Mount Angel Seminary, housed in a half-dozen buildings clustered around the abbey, was waiting. On Aug. 19, new students will arrive as Oregon’s only Catholic seminary grapples with a dark accusation about a prominent alumnus: the Rev. Angel Armando Perez, the pastor at St. Luke Parish in Woodburn, who now faces a charge of sex abuse involving a child. The seminary, which has trained 80 percent of the 150 current and retired parish priests in western Oregon, has drastically altered the way it accepts and trains candidates for the priesthood since Perez was ordained near the height of the Catholic Church priest abuse scandal a decade ago. People at Mount Angel, which enrolls about 200 students annually, say they have wracked their brains in the past week over whether they did all they could when preparing Perez for the priesthood. But they also say that they have gone to great lengths to ensure new priests emerging from the seminary are on solid ground, both spiritually and psychologically. “Child abuse is horrific,” says the Rev. Joseph V. Betschart, the current president rector of Mount Angel Seminary. “Our policies, procedures and training do everything that we can to prevent it from happening. When it does, it’s tragic and unacceptable. We need to keep redoubling our efforts. And we will.”

CIVIL SOCIETY

Civil Society Squeezed on All Sides.” By Carey L. Biron. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). A year and a half after the international wake-up call of the Arab Spring uprisings, the room for civil society organisations is being increasingly constricted across the globe, experts in Washington warned on Tuesday. “Unfortunately, the trends have been against democracy, against expansion of that space of civil society,” Maina Kiai, the United Nations special rapporteur on freedom of assembly, told a panel discussion here. “With more and more restrictions coming up to take away these rights, we are at a point where we have begun the fight again. This time it’s much more subtle, much more ‘rule by law’ than ‘rule of law’, and it’s very scary.” Kiai highlighted anti-NGO legislation currently pending or recently passed in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Russia and elsewhere. In May, Freedom House, a U.S.-based watchdog, highlighted four countries as being at particular risk for democratic “backsliding”, Hungary, South Africa, Turkey and Ukraine. It also called on international actors to step up a range of efforts to ensure that several other countries – including Bahrain, Cambodia, Egypt, Myanmar and South Sudan – are able to consolidate democratic gains. Freedom House put particular emphasis on the United States, stating that the country “should be stepping up its support for democracy promotion now, rather than cede the initiative to authoritarian rulers … (President Barack Obama’s) request for democracy and human rights activities for FY 2013 is $2.8 billion, a 9% increase over FY 2012 levels. Yet, funding for these initiatives continues to be the smallest amount when compared to other priorities in the budget.” Another report from this year, “The State of Civil Society 2011”, an inaugural work released in April by CIVICUS, the World Alliance for Citizen Participation, an international alliance based in South Africa, suggested that “2011 marked a critical juncture for civil society”, in part for the fallout from the Arab Spring, a learning experience on both public protest and the resulting international response.

INDIA

Yoga Guru Detained at Anti-Graft March.” By Krishna Pokharel. Times of India. August 13, 2012. Indian police detained but later released yoga guru and antigraft campaigner Baba Ramdev as he led thousands of supporters toward the nation’s Parliament in an attempt to shine a spotlight on the country’s corruption problems. Mr. Ramdev, who first came to prominence through his yoga classes, has become a thorn in the Congress party-led government’s side through his regular protests against graft. Corruption has become a hot-button issue in India, one that has hurt the government’s popularity as it tries to deal with mounting economic problems.

Corrupt politicians control country’s destiny: Team Anna.” No by-line. Times of India. August 15, 2012. Erstwhile Team Anna on Wednesday alleged that the country’s destiny was controlled by a few “corrupt” politicians and corporates and it requires right leadership to take on the challenges posed by them. Activists Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi took to micro-blogging site twitter to comment on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s address to the nation on the occasion of Independence Day. “Today our destinies are controlled by few corrupt politicians, officials and corporates…Hope some day we would have true democracy,” Kejriwal said. He hoped that there would be much more in laws for those who have much less in life and people would directly make laws rather than just elect some people once in five years. “Hope some day, we would get true independence when people would control their own destiny, when politics would be a means to serve rather than make money,” he said. Commenting on Singh’s speech, Bedi said, “The Prime Minister says we have passed Lokpal Bill etc. Does not say what kind of bill? One which weakens CBI further! Banks on people’s legal illiteracy.” She said what people need is a “measurement tool” of performance of the government from their Prime Minister in which a commoner becomes a stakeholder. “PM’s speech indicates what may be done. Problem is in the how, the who and even the when (with eye on votes)? Huge Trust deficit!” she said. None of programmes and assurances are possible without integrity and administrative willingness. How does that happen is the key challenge, she said, adding country has two key challenges before it. “Political corruption and bureaucratic insensitivity. Both require right leadership for change,” she added.

SOCIAL ENTERPRISE

Best bits: Social enterprise goes international; All you need to know about social enterprise around the world from the expert panel on our recent live Q&A.” Guardian. August 17, 2012.

UK

Best bits: The Olympic legacy for the voluntary sector; Our latest online debate discussed how to maintain an Olympic legacy for the voluntary sector. Here are our expert panelists’ views.” By Abby Young-Powell. Guardian. August 7, 2012. The Olympics will inspire a new generation of volunteers: They will also engage local communities outside of London. It is important that we encourage this sense of community and inspire young people to continue volunteering. I know many first time volunteers involved in the Olympics and we need to capitalise on their enthusiasm and experience. We need to create and develop opportunities that are not just sporting related: We must develop cultural and community-based opportunities. I believe that as a sector we have to get organised, as well as reach out and develop ways that people can get involved using all the tools at our disposal. We must be creative, positive and enthusiastic about using the Olympics as a way of increasing volunteering like never before. The Olympic volunteering programme has taught us the importance of brand: I am increasingly interested in the idea of “brand” when it comes to volunteers. The sense of pride and engagement people feel when they are part of a movement is a great concept that we should think about when designing roles and developing programmes.

We volunteered for the Games, but not for the Big Society; Volunteering at the London Olympics was a glorious one-off, but a one-off nonetheless.” By Mary Dejevsky. Independent. August 16, 2012. When Jacques Rogge and Lord Coe closed the London Olympics, the loudest cheer was reserved not for the athletes – though the roar was deafening – nor for the organisers, who received an almost equally generous hand, but for the volunteers – all 70,000 of them. Or should I say, immodestly, us? The warm public embrace in which we volunteers have luxuriated – and which will surely last through the Paralympics – became a phenomenon of the Games. And the big question now – as big as David Cameron’s Big Society – is whether the volunteering, like the sport, can “inspire a generation”. Why was there so much public enthusiasm? Pleasant surprise might be one explanation. For the Olympics, you have to have athletes, you have to have venues, and you have to have organisers. But the volunteers seemed to appear out of nowhere as a sort of bonus. The capital was suddenly speckled with clusters of pink- and-purple people, who were welcoming and polite – and the delight was mutual. London was transformed from an impersonal and at times threatening mega-city into somewhere more manageable and humane. You can say what you like about our uniforms, but you can’t say you could not see us, and our kit conferred a certain sense of responsibility. Volunteers came from all ages and backgrounds. There might never have been such a cross-section of people cooperating since National Service was abolished. We really were a mirror of Britain. Some of my favourites were the mostly young people staffing the pedestrian crossings, trying to dissuade the huge crowds from trying to compete with a London bus. With their loud-hailers, cries of “Lad-eez and Gentlemen, careful now”, “Wait for the green man”, they were a splendid advert for young Britain, proof that courtesy, wit and a sense of responsibility has been hidden somewhere beyond the rioters and the Neets. They perfectly illustrated the notion that if you make people feel useful, they will rise to the occasion. But will that spirit last? Will the volunteer army of the Olympics stick around to help build Mr Cameron’s Big Society, and even if its foot soldiers don’t, might they not have set an example that others will follow? And here, I regret to say – despite the reported surge in people volunteering to help with sports clubs in the immediate wake of the Olympics or offering a “Jubilee hour” of their time – I am less optimistic.

Working Models: The Prince’s Trust deserves praise for helping young people to help themselves.” No by-line. Times of London. August 18, 2012. A recession can be blind and pitiless in picking its victims. Many casualties have done little more to merit the misery of joblessness than to be born in the wrong place, or to work in an industry stranded by the shifting tide of technology or tastes. And nowhere is the sting of unemployment more brutishly felt in Britain today than among its young. Already more than a million of them are out of work. Not all the teenagers who have just completed their schooling will join the jobless. But the fact that a fifth of young people told a survey conducted for the Prince’s Trust that they do not look forward to their future — and that one in five currently without work regards landing a job in the next year as “unachievable” — is not just a measure of the depth of the curse of youth unemployment. It is a measure, too, of the despair corroding the hopes, ambitions and happiness of a generation on whose shoulders Britain’s future prosperity rests. The Prince of Wales has marshalled the resources of the Prince’s Trust to rebuild those hopes, to nurture potential and to help ten of thousands of young people to set up their own businesses. In doing so, young men and women have found not just a purpose, but a work ethic and the strength to transform their lives by their own wits. They, in turn, offer others inspiration and an example. Most potently, they learn the habit of work. The danger of a long recession is that, when the jobs return, many young people have no experience of the rhythm and language of the workplace. By offering young people avenues for employment, while also challenging businesses to offer others work experience, training or mentoring support, the Prince’s Trust is making an invaluable contribution in keeping the language of work alive.

Best bits: Forming a charity consortium; Our latest online debate discussed building a voluntary sector consortium. Here are our expert panellists’ views.” By Abby Young-Powell. Guardian. August 16, 2012. Many consortia are finding it hard to access investment without the relationships in place with commissioners: And commissioners won’t commission to consortia that don’t have the capacity. There is a significant amount of interest from local authorities in supporting consortia: We’ve developed a project that starts with commissioners and seeks to support them to reach out to the sector and possibly support development of a consortium in a service area matching their interest.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (August 6-12, 2012)

Monday, August 13th, 2012

INTERNATIONAL

CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL

Pennsylvania: Monsignor Is Refused Bail.” No by-line. New York Times/Associated Press. August 6, 2012. A Roman Catholic Church official will remain in prison while he fights his conviction for failing to protect a boy from a predatory priest. Judge M. Teresa Sarmina of Common Pleas Court on Monday deemed Monsignor William J. Lynn’s conduct too serious to warrant bail, despite defense arguments that the conviction may well be overturned because Monsignor Lynn was not the immediate supervisor of any priests accused of sexual abuse. Monsignor Lynn, the longtime secretary for clergy in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, is serving a three- to six-year prison term. His legal team is shrinking as the archdiocese limits its financial budget for his appeal. Jeff Lindy is stepping down from the team after eight years, and two of the four lawyers who defended Monsignor Lynn at trial will continue “largely on a pro bono basis,” the archdiocese said.

CHINA

China’s Catholics Go to Camp; Pastors and priests across the country report an increased interest in faith among the young.” By Jill Kay Melchior. Wall Street Journal. August 9, 2012. While thousands of American teenagers have spent their summers at expensive camps that allow them to have fun outdoors, students in Rui’an city in China’s eastern Zhejiang province did something simple and soulful this summer: They attended a Catholic summer course. While the demand is there to sustain the program, the parents don’t know if the camp will be open next year. The government has long limited religious training for children, which makes the program’s continuation precarious. Like two-thirds of the 120,000 Catholics in the Wenzhou diocese, An Yang Parish is a part of an “underground church” that operates outside of the government’s mandated religious bureaucracy. Beijing gets especially skittish about large-scale underground activities, which is why eight years ago Wenzhou officials forbade both open and underground Catholics from offering summertime religious education to anyone under 18. That year, the diocese had planned to teach around 1,600 children. Local officials seem to have softened a bit in the intervening years, so while they questioned An Yang leadership about last year’s summer youth program, they didn’t cancel classes. Nevertheless, the program wasn’t without consequence: The head of the An Yang parish council said he’s periodically been under government surveillance for his religious activities. The issue of religious liberties for minors is deliberately treated ambiguously in Chinese law. The latest regulations, in place since 2005, do not explicitly guarantee religious freedom for minors, nor do they codify the rights of parents to offer religious instruction to their children. But they do forbid organizations or individuals from using religion “to obstruct the state education system,” which is often interpreted as a ban on religious private schools and religious instruction in public classrooms. Beijing is always uneasy about religion, and the vague legality allows it to regulate religious education on a whim, all the while telling the international community that parents are free to raise their children in their faith.

DEVELOPMENT

Q&A: Microcredit Bank ‘Incorporates Women in the Benefits of Development’.”By Estrella Gutiérrez. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). August 9, 2012. “Our raison d’etre is incorporating women in development, and especially in the benefits of development,” says Nora Castañeda, an economist who has headed the Banmujer bank in Venezuela since it was founded in 2001. Castañeda, who describes herself as a socialist and feminist, has dedicated her life to defending women’s rights. And she continues to fight for that cause in the Banco de Desarrollo de la Mujer (Women’s Development Bank – Banmujer), which she defines as “a different kind of bank,” in the broader context of the world’s microcredit institutions. Her lengthy career includes founding the Women’s Studies Centre at the Central University of Venezuela and coordinating the participation of the local NGOs in the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, in 1995. Banmujer, the only public bank of its kind in the world – which targets women, offering them services completely free of charge – has granted 150,000 small loans for a total of 10.7 million dollars.

INDIA

Hazare disbands Team Anna, says no talks with govt on Lokpal.” No by-line. Times of India. August 6, 2012. Apparently paving the way for the formation of a political party, Team Anna on Monday disbanded itself and decided not to have any more talks with the government on Lokpal issue. The dissolution of Anna Hazare’s team came three days after it ended its indefinite fast at Jantar Mantar here with plans for formation of a political alternative to fight the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The announcement was made by Hazare in his blog but he did not clearly specify whether they were going to immediately announce formation of a party though he has talked about the procedures for setting up the political alternative. “The government is not ready to enact Jan Lokpal Bill. How long and how many times we will go on fast? Now people have asked us to leave fast and give an alternative. I also thought that the government is not going to curb corruption… “We are now stopping the activities of Team Anna today. Team Anna was formed to fight for Jan Lokpal. We have also decided not to have any more talks with the government. From today, there will be no Team Anna or Team Anna Core Committee,” Hazare said. Since April last year, Team Anna has been on streets with Hazare going on indefinite fast four times and one-day fasts also four times besides being part of a joint committee to draft the Lokpal Bill. Team Anna’s decision to enter electoral politics had earlier met with opposition from several of core committee members like Justice Santosh Hegde, Medha Patkar, Chandramohan and Akhil Gogoi. “I have given an alternative of sending good people to Parliament. But I am not going to be part of any party nor I will contest elections. After getting Jan Lokpal, I will go back to Maharashtra and indulge in my activities. “I have told this to those who are for forming a party. Even after forming the party, this movement should go on. In the movement, we had earlier demanded for Jan Lokpal Bill and now keeping this movement alive, send good people to Parliament with the help of people and ensure that the law is enacted,” he said.

Anna Hazare clearly directed us to start forming political party, Arvind Kejriwal tweets.” Times of India. August 12, 2012. Erstwhile Team Anna on Sunday claimed that the decision to turn the anti-corruption movement political was Anna Hazare’s and a “malicious” campaign has been working overtime to drive a wedge between them and the 74-year-old social activist. Breaking his silence over claims by a section of Team Anna members that Hazare was against forming a political party, activist Arvind Kejriwal alleged a “propaganda machinery” was working overtime to “drive wedge” between Hazare and other activists. His remarks came a day after reports quoting Team Anna members mentioned that Hazare was against the formation of a party saying they were not prepared to take a plunge in politics. On August 3, while calling off his fast, Hazare had announced the formation of a political alternative though he had said he would not be a member of the party. “Anna clearly directed us to start forming political party. If he says even once that he doesn’t want us to do that, we will immediately withdraw. Let Anna say once that he is against pol(itical) party formation, we will immediately withdraw,” Kejriwal wrote on micro-blogging site Twitter. He claimed that Hazare heeded to public demand and is convinced that there was no road left other than providing political alternative. “Anna has been fighting corrupt for last 30 years. He is extremely sharp politically n (sic) fiercely independent. Those projecting Anna as a gullible man may try getting Anna to say a single line against his wishes.

RELIGION

Religiosity Plummets In Ireland And Declines Worldwide; Atheism On The Rise.” By Dominique Mosbergen. Huffington Post. August 8, 2012. Rocked in recent years by sex-abuse scandals and crises in leadership, the Catholic Church in the Republic of Ireland has been struggling to keep its members close. But this week, a new global survey on faith and atheism has revealed that the crisis of faith in Ireland may be much worse than previously thought. According to the poll released by WIN-Gallup International, the traditionally Catholic country has seen one of the steepest drops worldwide in religiosity. The poll — which was based on interviews with more than 50,000 people selected from 57 countries — asked participants, “irrespective of whether they attended a place of worship, if they considered themselves to be religious, not religious, or an atheist.” In Ireland, only 47 percent of those polled said they considered themselves religious — a 22-point drop from the 69 percent recorded in a similar poll conducted in 2005. In addition, 10 percent self-identified as atheist. The only country that registered a steeper decline in religiosity was Vietnam, which saw a 23-point drop from 53 percent to 30 percent. However, Ireland and Vietnam were not unique in this dip in faith, Reuters notes. According to the global index, there has been a notable decline in religiosity worldwide. Across the globe, religiosity fell by 9 points. The number of people worldwide who call themselves religious is now 59 percent, while those who identify as atheist rose from 4 percent in 2005 to 7 percent.

UK

Church of England sells £1.9m News Corp shares.” By Ruth Gledhill and Ben Webster. Times of London. August 7 2012. The Church of England has sold its shares worth £1.9 million in News Corporation, parent company of The Times, in response to the phone hacking scandal. The shares were held by the Church Commissioners and the Church of England Pensions Board, two of the Church’s three investing bodies, which have total assets worth £8 billion. They represented 0.005 per cent of News Corporation’s publicly traded stock. In a statement, the Church said it had first raised concerns with the board of News Corporation, which owns The Times, in the aftermath of “phone hacking allegations that surfaced in July 2011”. It said the Church’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG) had engaged in “a year of dialogue” with the company. Andrew Brown, secretary of the Church Commissioners, said: “Last year’s phone hacking allegations raised some serious concerns among the Church’s investing bodies about our holding in News Corporation. Our decision to disinvest was not one taken lightly and follows a year of continuous dialogue with the company, during which the EIAG put forward a number of recommendations around how corporate governance structures at News Corporation could be improved. However the EIAG does not feel that the company has brought about sufficient change and we have accepted its advice to disinvest.” The Church Commissioners called last October for the voting rights of the Murdoch family to be “more proportionate to their economic interest in the company”. They also called for “more genuinely independent voices on the board” and for the separation of the roles of chairman and chief executive. Rupert Murdoch is chairman and chief executive of News Corp. The UK Corporate Governance Code states that the roles should be held by different people. However, it is common for US companies, such as News Corp, to combine the roles.

Christians, Muslims and even a ‘vegan turkey’ seek converts at London 2012; Followers of various religions, philosophies and causes jostle to spread the word near Olympic Park.” NBC News. August 6, 2012. As hundreds of Olympics fans milled around them, an Italian dressed in a turkey costume stood debating the rights and wrongs of eating meat with a man wearing a sports-themed T-shirt proclaiming he was a member of “Team Islam.” With tens of thousands of people entering the Olympic Park every day, it was perhaps only natural that various religions, philosophies and causes would jump at the chance to win some of them over. And so just outside Stratford Bus Station — which many sports fans must walk past on their way to the park — there was a collection of Christians, Muslims, vegans and others eager to spread the word.

University fee rise: 15,000 fewer applicants is ‘storm warning’, says chair of Fees Commission.” Video. Guardian. August 9, 2012. Chair of the Independent Commission on Fees, Will Hutton, responds to the drop in the number of English students applying for university places after tuition fees were increased to a maximum of £9,000 a year. Hutton said it was ‘very early days’ and the 15,000 students who didn’t apply for places this autumn may come back next year.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (July 2-8, 2012)

Monday, July 9th, 2012

INTERNATIONAL

AUSTRALIA

Founder’s $40m tax bill will not force MONA to close.” By Adam Fulton. Sydney Morning Herald. July 7, 2012. The millionaire gambler and arts patron behind the $180 million Museum of Old and New Art, David Walsh, is determined to keep it running and says it is unlikely to close to the public. ”There is some risk but I would rate it as small,” Mr Walsh said, of suggestions the Tasmanian museum could close as a result of his retrospective tax bill, put at about $40 million. It is my intention to support MONA ongoing – that has been the work of my life,” he told the Herald yesterday. The museum has ”significant possibilities”. In saying that, the retrospective tax bill is not something that I can service. It is, in fact, more than 100 per cent of the money I’ve made. But I expect a negotiated settlement. I’m not just saying that – I fully expect to get an outcome.” The comments from Mr Walsh, a professional gambler and art collector who founded and owns the museum, come after the Australian Taxation Office gave him a bill for the 2004 to 2006 financial years of nearly $38 million plus interest. He is appealing against the bill and the Tax Office’s ruling, and the case is set to go before the Federal Court next month. The Tax Office alleged that an international gambling syndicate, including Mr Walsh, operated a billion-dollar business and tried to hide details of its operations. Mr Walsh said the tax bill meant he had put on hold expansion plans for the museum. But of it continuing to stay open,

CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL

Church shuttered inquiry into abuse.” By Linton Besser and Joanne Mccarthy. Sydney Morning Herald. July 6, 2012. eE church prematurely terminated an investigation last year into the alleged failure of a top Catholic education official to take action over the sexual assault of an 11-year-old boy in the 1970s by a lay teacher. A former principal of St Patrick’s at Sutherland, Brother Anthony Peter Whelan, had been accused by Robert Lipari of failing to take action against a science teacher, Thomas Keady, after he reported being molested by the man at a caravan park. Shortly before being employed at the school, Keady had completed a three-year jail term in Victoria for child sex offences. The church commissioned an investigation by the former NSW Police assistant commissioner, Norm Maroney, who substantiated the 1976 assault, and the fact it was reported it to another senior teacher at the school, Brother John Vincent Roberts. But Mr Maroney was told to stop his inquiries while he was still trying to substantiate the boy’s claims that he had personally reported the assault to Brother Whelan. The spokesman for the Australian Lawyers Alliance, Andrew Morrison, SC, said that in his view it appeared ”the investigation was ended prematurely in order to protect Brother Whelan”. ”It is very disturbing in circumstances where the investigation was almost completed and the overwhelming inference was that an adverse finding was highly likely against Brother Whelan … there were other potential witnesses, but he was not permitted to speak to them.” He said the inquiry should be reopened and he called for the police to investigate.
Related storiy:
Pennsylvania: Archdiocese Bars Two More Priests From Ministry.” New York Times. July 6, 2012.

HAITI

Earthquake Relief Where Haiti Wasn’t Broken.” By Deborah Sontag. New York Times. July 5, 2012. On the first anniversary of the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake, in a sleepy corner of northeast Haiti far from the disaster zone, the Haitian government began the process of evicting 366 farmers from a large, fertile tract of land to clear the way for a new industrial park. The farmers did not understand why the authorities wanted to replace productive agricultural land with factories in a rural country that had trouble feeding itself. But, promised compensation, they did not protest a strange twist of fate that left them displaced by an earthquake that had not affected them. Two and a half years after the earthquake, Haiti remains mired in a humanitarian crisis, with 390,000 people languishing in tents. Yet the showcase project of the reconstruction effort is this: an industrial park that will create jobs and housing in an area undamaged by the temblor and in a venture that risks benefiting foreign companies more than Haiti itself. Financed by $224 million in subsidies flowing to Haiti as a result of the earthquake, the Caracol Industrial Park is hardly reconstruction in the strictest sense. Its developers, though, take the more expansive view that, in a desperately poor country where traditional foreign aid has chronically failed, fostering economic development is as important as replacing what fell down. Caracol, the promotional materials say, will help make Haiti globally competitive “without compromising on labor and environmental standards.”

INDIA

Ashok Chavan charged in Adarsh housing scam.” No by-line. Times of India. July 4, 2012. Former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan was among 13 people charged by CBI today in the multi-crore Adarsh Housing scam. The 10,000-page CBI chargesheet was filed before the registrar of a sessions court, nearly 18 months after the agency registered a case. The Adarsh scam had fuelled a political storm in Maharashtra leading to the resignation of Chavan as the chief minister. Earlier in the day, the CBI informed the Bombay high court, hearing a batch of public interest litigations seeking the court’s supervision of the probe, that it would be filing a chargesheet later in the day. The CBI has registered a case on January 29 last year against Chavan and others which included bureaucrats and retired army personnel. The agency had in March arrested nine out of the 14 accused after receiving a rap on its knuckles from the high court for not initiating action against the accused persons. The nine arrested accused are – R C Thakur, secretary of Adarsh, retired brigadier M M Wanchoo, former Congress MLC Kanhaiyalal Gidwani, both promoters of the society, former deputy secretary of urban development department P V Deshmukh, IAS officers Ramanand Tiwari and Jairaj Phatak, retired major generals A R Kumar and T K Kaul and former city collector Pradeep Vyas. They were released on bail by a special CBI court after CBI failed to file charge sheet within the stipulated 60-day period after arrest. They have been charged with criminal conspiracy, cheating and the Prevention of Corruption Act.

RUSSIA

Foreign-Funded Nonprofits in Russia Face New Hurdle.” By Ellen Barry. New York Times. July 2, 2012. In the latest move to rein in dissent, Russian authorities have introduced a draft law that would require nonprofit organizations that receive financing from outside Russia to publicly declare themselves “foreign agents” — a term that, to Russians, evokes cold war-era espionage and is likely to discredit the organizations’ work in the eyes of the public. Lawmakers from United Russia, the governing party, have accelerated work on the bill and are scheduling the first of three readings on Friday. If passed, the bill would complement a new law penalizing Russians for taking part in unauthorized protests, which was rushed through Parliament at a similar pace last month. The bill would also put new burdens on nonprofit groups with foreign financing that are judged to be involved in politics, including annual audits and unannounced checks for the use of “extremist speech” in published materials. Organizations could face fines of as much as 1 million rubles, or $30,000, for violations. Rights activists have excoriated the proposal as an attempt to discredit their work, arguing that Russian donors are afraid to support organizations that criticize the government, which then leaves them dependent on foreign sources for money. The bill’s sponsors say the law is no more restrictive than the Foreign Agents Registration Act, an American law requiring organizations to disclose foreign support. That law, however, applies only to entities that represent governments; the Russian proposal includes individual and private financial support as well.
Related story:
Russia plans to register ‘foreign agent’ NGOs; Critics say bill targeting foreign-funded NGOs involved in political activities is part of a crackdown on independent activists.” Guardian. July 2, 2012.

SOCIAL ENTERPRIESE & ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Live Q&A: International social enterprise: To mark the launch of our new international hub, join us on 6 July to discuss the role of social enterprise in your corner of the globe.” Guardian. July 6, 2012.

Live Q&A: International social enterprise.” Friday 6 July, 10am – 12 midday BST.” To mark the launch of our new international hub, join us on 6 July to discuss the role of social enterprise in your corner of the globe. We recently launched our new hub for international social enterprise and, to celebrate, we’re inviting you – wherever you are – to join us for a live Q&A on social enterprise around the globe. We’ll be asking:• How social enterprise is supported around the globe; • How social enterprise is defined and perceived in different countries; • What’s the main driver behind social enterprise? Perhaps it’s to create jobs for young people, an off-shoot from the charity sector, or a desire to ‘socialise business’? Log in and let us know what you think about the the progress of social enterprise in your country.

UK

Care home children sent north to save cash.” By Andrew Norfolk. Times of London. July 2, 2012. Hundreds of troubled children are being moved many miles from family and friends — in breach of official guidelines — to private care homes bought cheaply in northern England, The Times reveals today. The south-to-north exodus, which comes to light as the Government prepares to open an urgent inquiry into residential childcare, is seen most starkly in Rochdale, Greater Manchester. The town, with 205,000 residents, has 47 children’s homes, four more than the 14 inner London boroughs combined, where the population is 3.1 million. Girls placed far from home are known to be particularly vulnerable to men who pursue young teenagers in care for sexual grooming. Over the past five years, there have been 631 reported cases of children’s home residents in England being sold for sex. Looked-after children should be placed more than 20 miles from home only in exceptional circumstances, the guidelines state, yet 23,000 young people, more than a third of all children in care, are living outside their home local authority. Most are in foster care, but those with the greatest needs are often sent to children’s homes run by private operators, which have built a portfolio of premises in areas of the country where property prices are low. Such companies, some owned by global investment funds, charge fees averaging £200,000 a year per child. Annual fees at one home were as high as £378,000. A government source described child sexual exploitation yesterday as “an abhorrent crime” and acknowledged that “for years we — police, social services, schools, agencies and governments — have collectively failed to tackle the problem”. An MPs’ report last month into children missing from care said that a belief that it was acceptable for adults to have sex with children who “consent” to their abuse was ingrained within the child protection system. The Government will announce tomorrow a review into “all aspects of the quality of provision in children’s homes”, including local authority commissioning practices and “the location and ownership of homes.”

Charities with a conscience are in a funding fix; Organisations may be sighing with relief at the government’s U-turn on charitable tax reliefs, but traditional sources of funds are drying up.” By David Brindle. Guardian. July 3, 2012. There will be sore heads tomorrow at the Institute of Fundraising’s annual convention, following tonight’s convention party. There always are: fundraisers know how to put on a good bash and the event is justly renowned. But many at this year’s party will have special reason to celebrate. For the government’s headlong retreat on its budget plan to cap charitable tax reliefs has lifted a dark cloud that for 10 weeks hung over the heads of big-gift fundraisers as their wealthy clientele pondered whether to put away their cheque books. Voluntary sector leaders can still scarcely believe their luck. Although the sector put up a solid public front in arguing for the plan to be dropped, as it ultimately was amid a flurry of budget U-turns, the picture behind the scenes was less united. The institute itself offered a compromise that would have exempted donors from the proposed cap only if they passed up their own tax reclaim to the charity receiving the tax-deductible gift. As Karl Wilding, head of policy at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations has now acknowledged, the sector was scratching round for evidence to justify continuation of uncapped reliefs. And “an awful lot” of charities thought it wrong to campaign to keep them, he told a conference last week. Some member organisations even told the NCVO to desist. The truth is that there is considerable discomfort in the sector at the exposure of a system by which rich people appear able to dictate how their contributions to the common good are spent – getting out of paying taxes for (state) schools and hospitals by electing to donate to projects of their choice, which very often will be in the arts or higher education rather than in general social welfare.

Non-hierarchical structures: could it work for you? Breaking down the usual power structures and responsibilities can help charities improve and achieve better results.” By Liz McDowell. Guardian. July 2, 2012. If I say ‘collective decision-making’ you might picture activists outside St Paul’s taking turns to speak. And no wonder – collaborative, non-hierarchical ways of organising have recently been catapulted into the public eye through the Occupy movement. It’s unsurprising that those trying to bring about a radically better world would want to break down structures of power and privilege through different ways of working. But these egalitarian approaches are spreading further than you might imagine – beyond protest groups to charities and even private sector organisations. The new generation of entrepreneurs is less comfortable with hierarchy and more ready to embrace the creative chaos of collective working. The Otesha Project UK has spent six months transitioning to a non-hierarchical structure. From having one executive director, we’ve shifted into a team of five co-directors, alongside decently paid interns who have an equal say but don’t take on any managerial or administrative responsibility. So why choose this potentially risky course? We wanted to show that we value eveyone’s skills equally in our decision-making, governance and salary structures. Meanwhile, long hours and feeling single-handedly responsible for the organisation’s success or failure was difficult for me as the founder. Since going public with our new structure, other charities and social enterprises have been clamouring to know how it works.

Notable & Quotable: Joel Mokyr on the private provision of public goods in “The Enlightened Economy: An Economic History of Britain 1700-1850” (2009). Wall Street Journal. July 4, 2012. The argument that economic development in Britain in the age of the Industrial Revolution was the result of “the rule of law,” that is, well-defined and enforced property rights through third party (i.e. the state) enforcement, is a gross oversimplification. . . . Private law enforcement remained of substantial importance until well into the nineteenth century . . . The enforcement of property rights through private-order institutions reflects something deep and supremely important about British institutions in the eighteenth century. The culture of respectability and gentility helped solve the standard collective action problems that bedevil the production of public goods. The emergence of a plethora of networks, clubs, friendly societies, academies, and associations created a civil society, in which the private provision of public goods became a reality and created what might be called a civil economy. What was true for property right enforcement was true for other projects, for which elsewhere in Europe the state had to play a major role. Roads, harbors, bridges, lighthouses, river navigation improvements, drainage works, and canals were initiated through private subscriptions. In some cases, of course, there was the hope of making a profit, but commonly the entrepreneurs were motivated by a desire to improve local trade and employment.

Charities protest at delay in decision on care for elderly; Crucial decision on how to fund reform to be postponed until next year’s spending review.” By Daniel Boffey. Guardian/The Observer. July 7, 2012. Charities and health organisations reacted with fury to the breakdown of cross-party talks on the future of social care for the elderly as ministers said key decisions on how to fund reform would be postponed until next year’s spending review. A long-delayed white paper on the future of social care will be published on Wednesday along with a draft social care bill. But most attention will focus on a separate progress report – not endorsed by the Labour party – that will make clear that funding for the changes has yet to be agreed. The Treasury denied claims, circulating within the coalition, that chancellor George Osborne had blocked changes that would cost at least £1.7bn a year. In 2011 a review chaired by economist Andrew Dilnot recommended a number of changes to adult social care funding in England. These included placing a cap of £35,000 on what people should pay towards home visits or care home costs before they get help from the state. In England, council-funded home help and care home places for the elderly and adults with disabilities are currently offered only to those with assets of less than £23,250. The Dilnot report said the threshold for assets should rise to £100,000 and a £35,000 cap would be fair. It is estimated that the reforms would cost an additional £1.7bn a year, rising to £3bn as numbers of elderly grow. Currently £14bn a year is spent by councils on social care. Health secretary Andrew Lansley and the Liberal Democrats are understood to have been keen to agree the Dilnot plans, but had to accept that the Treasury’s hands would not be tied ahead of the 2013 spending review. A Treasury spokesman said: “It is completely untrue that we have blocked anything. We have not even been in the talks.”

VATICAN

German Bishop to Head Vatican Orthodoxy Office.” By Stacy Meichtry. Wall Street Journal. July 2, 2012. Pope Benedict XVI tapped German bishop Gerhard Ludwig Mueller to head the Vatican’s office in charge of doctrinal affairs, placing a respected theologian at the helm of one of Roman Catholicism’s most powerful posts. Monday’s appointment comes at a delicate time for the Vatican. Bishop Mueller, 64, succeeds retiring U.S. Cardinal William Joseph Levada as the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the formal name of the Holy See’s doctrinal office. Cardinal Levada, 76, presided over a turbulent period in church history as the Vatican struggled to overcome controversies ranging from tensions with dissident movements to the long-running child-abuse scandal. Bishop Mueller cut his teeth in the world of academia, following a path very similar to the pope. He is the bishop of Regensburg, Germany, the same city where Pope Benedict taught theology in the 1960s as the then-Rev. Joseph Ratzinger. Like the pope, Bishop Mueller has distinguished himself in theological circles. A prolific writer, Bishop Mueller has published a wide array of works, and he is the editor of Opera Omnia, a collection of the pope’s theological writings. , The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is spearheading the Vatican’s response to some of the most sensitive issues facing the Catholic Church. In Europe, the office in involved in efforts to bring the breakaway traditionalist group Society of St. Pius X back into the Catholic fold. Bishop Mueller will also oversee the Vatican’s controversial effort to overhaul an umbrella group of nuns in the U.S. He will also continue to lead the Catholic Church’s world-wide efforts to crack down on sexual abuse. Due to the importance of his new post, the prelate is likely to be named a cardinal in the future. In a statement announcing the appointment, the Vatican said Pope Benedict was elevating the prelate to be an archbishop.
Related story:
Pope Names German Bishop as Leader of Doctrinal Office.” New York Times. July 2, 2012.

Pope Defends His Top Aide Amid Vatican Infighting.” By Stacy Meichtry. Wall Street Journal. July 4, 2012. Pope Benedict XVI defended his closest aide against a tide of “unjust criticism” in an unusual open letter that underscored the pontiff’s struggle to quell months of infighting within the Vatican’s corridors. The pope’s July 2 letter to his top lieutenant Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone marked a rare acknowledgment of the cardinal’s controversial standing among Roman Catholic officials. As the Holy See’s secretary of state, Cardinal Bertone acts as the papacy’s prime minister, running day-to-day operations of the Vatican’s government, the Roman Curia, and keeping church officials united behind the pope’s ministry. Publication of the letter, which praised the cardinal’s “enlightened counsel,” aims to put an end to weeks of reports in Italian newspapers that Cardinal Bertone’s ouster was imminent. In the hushed world of Vatican politics, however, the standing of a secretary of state is rarely questioned in the first place. The fact that the pontiff, on the eve of his summer holiday, publicly defended Cardinal Bertone is a clear sign that the cardinal is under siege, according to Vatican analysts. Some Catholic officials are unhappy with Cardinal Bertone’s handling of myriad crises facing the papacy, ranging from his response to the long-running sexual-abuse scandal to his struggle to referee turf battles over Vatican finances. The battle has been laid bare by a hemorrhage of internal documents that have recently been leaked to the Italian media.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (June 25-July 1, 2012)

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

INTERNATIONAL

CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL

Church and School Cuts Anger Catholics in Philadelphia.” By Erik Eckholm. New York Times. June 24, 2012. For the unsettled Roman Catholics in this 1.5 million-member archdiocese, the closing is one more blow in sweeping and bitterly contested cutbacks. Across the city, thousands are already incensed because church leaders have closed 27 cherished schools. Even as it struggles with the revelations of sexual abuse and the failure of top officials to act, the Philadelphia Archdiocese, long considered an eminent stronghold of Catholic power and tradition, is being battered from several sides. Faced with an unheard-of $17 million deficit this year — worsened by millions of dollars in legal fees — Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, who arrived in September, announced last week that he was closing the youth office, shutting down the nationally known monthly newspaper and laying off 45 archdiocese employees. He has put the archbishop’s 13,000-square-foot mansion up for sale. It was the threat of school closings, not the evidence that church officials failed to protect children, that brought hundreds of livid parents into the streets this year. Philadelphia’s elaborate network of parishes and parochial schools was developed more than a century ago, after the settlement of European ethnic groups that have long since dispersed. For too long, officials here avoided making unpopular decisions, said Rocco Palmo, an expert on the Catholic Church and writer of the blog Whispers in the Loggia. Parishioners were never told that the church was sinking in the red, Mr. Palmo added, and this year’s announced cuts, which will be far from the last, took many by surprise.
Related stories:
Arlington lawsuit says priest sexually assaulted woman during ‘exorcisms’.” Washington Post. June 27, 2012.
Priest assault trial resumes with abuse allegation.” Washington Post/Associated Press. June 28, 2012.

DEVELOPMENT

Rio+20: Transforming Political Platitudes into Economic Realities.” By Thalif Deen Republish. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). June 12, 2012. When world leaders endorse the final plan of action, titled “The Future We Want, at the Rio+20 summit in Brazil next week, a lingering question may remain unanswered: how best can the United Nations transform political platitudes into economic realities? As the 193-member Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) continues its final round of negotiations through Friday in Rio de Janeiro this week – and perhaps beyond, if the current deadlock continues – there are several proposals already on the table for institutional reform or the creation of new bodies. U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon has called for a show of “political courage” to seize the “once-in-a-generation” opportunity presented by Rio+20. Credit: UN Photo/JC McIlwaine These proposals include strengthening of the existing U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) by upgrading it to a full-fledged U.N. agency; establishing a Global Economic Coordination Council; creating a Global Sustainable Development Council and the granddaddy of all, the establishment of a mega World Environment Organisation (WEO).
Related story:
How Would You Measure Success at the Rio Summit?” Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). June 27, 2012.

INDIA

Yale University offers programme for India’s Parliamentarians.” By Yogita Rao. Times of India. June 30, 2012. The fragile global economy, the evolving political and economic crises in the Middle East and Europe, and the 2012 US presidential elections, along with the challenges of leadership, were discussed in the Sixth India – Yale Parliamentary Leadership Program that began on June 20 and will conclude on June 30. The programme was launched in 2007 in collaboration with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the India -US Forum of Parliamentarians. Till now, more than seventy members of India’s parliament have participated in the programme. The 2012 cohort of 11 members of India’s parliament came to the Yale University campus in New Haven, Connecticut on June 20 to complete a six-day leadership program with Yale faculty that is now being be complemented by a four-day program of meetings, discussions, and interactions in Washington, DC with senior officials of the US government. The 2012 participants are drawn from seven different national and regional political parties in India. In the academic program, the delegation participated in discussions with Yale faculty on global economic governance, the US economy, corruption in government, counter-insurgency efforts in Afghanistan, political developments in the Arab world, the US Presidential elections, the economic and political crises in the Eurozone, Iran’s nuclear program, political and economic developments in China, and higher education in India, along with sessions on leadership, strategy, negotiation, and applied game theory.

MEDIA

IPS Announces WebTV.” Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). June 26th, 2012. After nearly 50 years as an international wire service, the Rome-based Inter Press Service (IPS) is branching out into WebTV, keeping pace with the latest advances in digital technology. Leveraging its current resources, the new WebTV will draw on more than 400 journalists in 140 countries, many of them with substantial expertise already in the visual media, according to IPS Director-General Mario Lubetkin. The IPS network of journalists, mostly from or based in the global South, will bring a new visual dimension to reporting on issues relating primarily to development, rights, energy, food, civil society, gender empowerment, the environment – and the growing emergence of the South on the multicultural world stage. The formal announcement, presided over by the President of the U.N. General Assembly Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, took place on the sidelines of the Rio+20 summit of world leaders in Rio de Janeiro. The formal announcement, presided over by the President of the U.N. General Assembly Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, took place on the sidelines of the Rio+20 summit of world leaders in Rio de Janeiro. “I am confident that the IPS WebTV that we are launching today would contribute in a meaningful way towards advancing our continuing efforts for global solidarity and cooperation to a higher and more mutually beneficial level,” Al-Nasser said. “As a media institution primarily focusing on development issues and providing a perspective of the South, (IPS) is making a major contribution towards presenting a balanced view with diversity of perspectives and highlighting the needs of the most vulnerable in the global agenda.”

RUSSIA

Russians Join Israel to Start Jewish Prize of $1 Million.” By David M. Herszenhorn. New York Times. June 26, 2012. A charity founded by Russian Jewish billionaires is establishing a $1 million annual award for excellence in virtually any field, to honor those people who attribute their success to Jewish values. The prize will be administered in partnership with the Israeli government, highlighting the strong ties between Israel and Russia. The award, called the Genesis Prize, will be financed by an endowment of about $50 million set up by three of Russia’s so-called oligarchs: Mikhail M. Fridman, Pyotr Aven and German Khan, among others. Its creation was announced on Tuesday by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, where President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was wrapping up a 24-hour visit, though Mr. Putin did not attend the announcement event. The award is among a widening number of accolades that come with a seven-figure purse, including the Nobel Prizes; the Templeton Prize, for contributions to religion and spiritual life; and the Shaw Prizes, for astronomy, medicine and mathematics. But the new prize also sends an inevitable political message, which its originators say is unintended. Emphasizing Russia’s good rapport with Israel and Cyprus, which also has a large Russian-speaking diaspora, has become increasingly important to the Kremlin, given its eroding influence elsewhere in the Middle East. That sway is likely to diminish even further should the government of President Bashar al-Assad fall in Syria.

SPAIN

Spanish culture industry becomes bank collapse casualty; Arts badly hit by demise of traditional savings banks which have been the main sponsors of culture in Spain.” By Stephen Burgen. Guardian. June 29, 2012. Amid all the talk of bailouts and sovereign debt, less attention has been paid to another victim of the financial crisis – the arts. The Spanish culture industry has been hit by a double whammy: the public spending cuts that began in 2010 and the collapse of the savings banks that have been a main source of funding. These banks, known as cajas, grew out of montes de piedad – which were basically pawn shops – in the 19th century as an encouragement to the poor to save. They became something akin to friendly societies and were technically not for profit, and so had no shareholders. As they grew, they channelled their surplus into foundations that spent it on la obra social – anything from old people’s homes and drug rehabilitation centres to opera houses and art galleries. To put this in perspective, the obra social budget of the Catalan Fundacío la Caixa for the current year is €500m (£403m). “The savings banks have been the main sponsors of culture, even more than government,” says David Camps, head of communications at the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, who also co-founded the Spanish fundraising association. Spain has many layers of national, regional and city government, each of which until recently had a generous budget for cultural activities. On top of that, virtually every cultural event – from exhibitions to rock festivals to village fiestas – would carry the logo of the local caja that was sponsoring it. Nearly all the cajas have succumbed to debt or corruption claims and, furthermore, have become banks. “Now that they have changed from being savings banks to banks all this funding is going to disappear,” says Camps. “Now they are not mutual societies and they have no obligation to fund the obra social.” Ironically, the funding shortfall comes at a time when there are more and more Spaniards who are unemployed and have more free time for venues such as galleries and concerts. Large cultural institutions will have to rely more on sponsorship, while smaller ones will have to develop new ideas such as crowdsourcing. Camps is involved in a campaign to persuade the government to improve tax incentives for corporate cultural sponsors, which at present can only write off 35% against donations. “We don’t have the culture of philanthropy that you have in the UK and the US,” he says. “We did up until early into the 20th century but not now. The upper class here hang on to their money, they don’t donate to social projects or the arts.”

UK

How can charities measure changing attitudes? Organisations aiming to change attitudes need some way of gathering evidence of what they are achieving.” By Loic Menzies. Guardian. June 22, 2012. Measuring social impact is one of the top priorities for third sector organisations and a tough funding environment is pushing them to ever greater lengths to gather data. Some organisations, however, want to achieve social change by altering people’s attitudes. How can these organisations measure such nebulous outcomes and link them to activities as intangible as going for coffee with key stakeholders? One response is to study changes in attitudes across society as a whole. Since that is where impact should make itself felt, there is a lot to be said for such an approach. As Adam Nichols points out however, such substantial social research can have prohibitive costs for small organisations and few can expect to have a substantial or broad enough impact to show up in large social studies. Small organisations’ roles are more likely to involve contributing to a debate and incrementally building momentum for change. Moreover, as with all impact measurement, changes in attitude need to be attributable to the organisations’ intervention. In social accounting this is called “accounting for dead-weight loss” (what would have happened anyway). Given that assessing impact involves so many difficulties it is not surprising many organisations feel unable to rise to the challenge. Yet without undertaking impact assessment, organisations aiming to change attitudes may not have any evidence that they are achieving anything. Key steps in measuring attitudinal change: • Specifically define the elements of the attitude you are seeking to foster; • Decide how to identify change (longitudinal studies, existing large-scale social studies or identification by stakeholders themselves); • Decide how to provide for attribution (primary or secondary research that tracks attitudes in society as a whole, information about other providers’ work, attribution by stakeholders themselves); • Gather information about both outputs and outcomes and link them.

Your charity online: what do your supporters want? Unleash your charity’s digital potential by looking beyond the website to your users’ needs.” By Katie Smith. Guardian. June 27, 2012. Online giving accounts for just 3.7% of charity donations, according to the 2011 nfpSynergy report Passion, Persistence and Partnership. So it’s not surprising that the blogosphere is awash with opinion and advice on what charities should be doing to transform online fundraising. Everything from better use of mobile and social media, to a call to make online giving more fun, there is no end of helpful diagnoses on the whys and wherefores.

Charities are providing drugs and alcohol services in place of the NHS; Experts accuse the coalition of putting ‘vital’ NHS programmes at risk by transferring drugs provision to charities.” By Mary O’Hara. Guardian. June 26, 2012. Just two months after the coalition’s drugs policies came under fire from campaigners who accused the government of putting lives at risk by promoting total abstinence to deal with addiction, a fresh row has erupted over the transfer of longstanding drugs and alcohol services from the NHS to the voluntary sector. Substance misuse experts and trade unions are accusing the government of failing to stem a “rapid” and damaging loss of established NHS treatment programmes as charities increasingly win contracts for services put out to tender by local authorities. The problem is so serious, according to Clare Gerada, head of the Royal College of General Practitioners, that “vital” NHS provision could be “extinct” within a few years. “I think we are taking services backward,” Gerada says. “It’s a full-on uni-directional shift from the NHS to the voluntary sector, and the pace is accelerating.” The furore around which organisations are best placed to provide addiction treatment and recovery services was thrust into the spotlight earlier this month following protests from unions when two NHS drugs services in the north of England lost out to charities in a recent tendering process. Public services union Unison and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) criticised the decisions to withdraw contracts from existing treatment programmes, claiming the contracts were awarded to charities to cut costs, and arguing that local NHS staff and service users would be adversely affected by the disruption. A total of six centres across Manchester, including a needle exchange that has been treating users for decades on the largest housing estate in England, are being closed as part of the overhaul.

What next, George? Charities understand that giving is a social phenomenon, but public policy needs to reflect this further.” By Kimberley Scharf. Guardian. June 26, 2012. All of the brouhaha about the proposed cap on tax relief for charitable contributions is over, government’s hands are washed of the proposal and they would like us to forget they ever mentioned it. But what now? The sector and government are rumbling about reforming current tax reliefs offered to charity. But is that really all there is to it? Is there something else that we should discuss with respect to charities and public policies? Maybe we should think in new directions to keep up with the fast changes that we see in the way information flows in a world that is more connected than ever?

Live Q&A: Encourging charitable giving, Wednesday 11 July.” By David Mills. Guardian. June 29, 2012. Join our expert panel to discuss how to encourage charitable giving. Photograph: Alamy Britain is a generous nation, giving more than £11 billion a year to charity. But in recent years, charitable giving has flatlined; a recent survey found that more than a third of people in the UK are giving less to charity than they did before the recession. Encouraging more charitable giving is a key aim of government, charities and those who provide and manage opportunities to donate. In this live Q&A, sponsored by JustTextGiving by Vodafone in association with the Guardian Voluntary Sector Network, we’ll discuss how we can work together to increase giving. Drawing on the experience and knowledge of our expert panel, we’ll discuss: • How charities can use new technology to encourage donations; • How fundraising tools should evolve to make giving easier and more compelling; • How charities can help bridge the gap between what audiences expect from them and the services they deliver; • What can charities learn from one another and how they can share best practice. You can leave your views and questions in the comments section below, or come back to join the discussion live from 12pm to 2pm on Wednesday 11 July.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (June 18-24, 2012)

Monday, June 25th, 2012

INTERNATIONAL

AUSTRALIA

“Nursing home funding to be slashed.” By Mark Metherell. Sydney Morning Herald. June 22, 2012. The federal government will slash the growth in funding of nursing home care in a bid to stabilise surging costs that have flowed from the rising numbers of frail residents. The Ageing Minister, Mark Butler, said he proposes to limit increases in subsidies to rises of 2.7 per cent a year in real terms. This is a drastic cut from the 6 per cent growth rates that have been financed by the government over the past four years. His announcement follows widespread unease among nursing home providers about the impact of the recent reforms for aged care financing announced in the budget. One industry estimate was that the government would cut another $500 million out of aged care spending.

CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL

Pa. monsignor becomes 1st US Catholic official convicted for covering up abuse complaints.” No by-line. Washington Post. June 22, 2012. A Roman Catholic church official was convicted of child endangerment but acquitted of conspiracy Friday in a landmark clergy-abuse trial, making him the first U.S. church official branded a felon for covering up abuse claims. Monsignor William Lynn helped the archdiocese keep predators in ministry, and the public in the dark, by telling parishes their priests were being removed for health reasons and then sending the men to unsuspecting churches, prosecutors said. Lynn, 61, served as secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004, mostly under Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua. “Many in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia hierarchy had dirty hands,” Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said. “They failed to realize that the church is its people.” Williams said he did not have sufficient evidence last year to charge other officials, including Bevilacqua, who died in January at age 88. Lynn had faced about 10 to 20 years in prison if convicted of all three counts he faced — conspiracy and two counts of child endangerment. He was convicted of only a single endangerment count, which carries a possible 3 1/2- to seven-year prison term. The jury could not reach a verdict for Lynn’s co-defendant, the Rev. James Brennan, who was accused of sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy in 1999. Despite Lynn’s acquittal on the conspiracy charge, the trial exposed how deeply involved the late cardinal was in dealing with accused priests.
Related stories:
High-Level Catholic Priest Is Convicted.” Wall Street Journal. June 22, 2012.
Philly Monsignor Guilty Of Child Endangerment.” All Things Considered/National Public Radio. June 22, 2012.
Jury Is Deadlocked in Monsignor’s Trial.” Wall Street Journal. June 20, 2012.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/21/us/monsignor-lynn-jury-says-it-is-deadlocked.html?ref=todayspaper

“Jurors Report Split Over Church Abuse Charges.” New York Times. June 20, 2012.

DEVELOPMENT

Progress on the Sidelines as Rio Conference Ends.” By Simon Romero and John M. Broder. New York Times. June 23, 2012. Burdened by low expectations, snarled by endless traffic congestion and shunned by President Obama, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development ended here as it began, under a shroud of withering criticism. The antipoverty organization CARE called the meeting “nothing more than a political charade,” and Greenpeace said the gathering was “a failure of epic proportions.” The Pew Environment Group was slightly more charitable. “It would be a mistake to call Rio a failure,” the group said, “but for a once-in-a-decade meeting with so much at stake, it was a far cry from a success.” But while the summit meeting’s 283-paragraph agreement, called “The Future We Want,” lacks enforceable commitments on climate change and other global challenges, the outcome reflects big power shifts around the world. These include a new assertiveness by developing nations in international forums and the growing capacity of grass-roots organizations and corporations to mold effective environmental action without the blessing of governments. The sheer size of the gathering — nearly 50,000 participants including more than 100 heads of state or government — may have raised expectations, in spite of the mixed record of previous such gatherings. The first Rio summit meeting produced two landmark treaties, on climate change and biodiversity, that have so far failed to live up to their promises.

INDIA

Hydel projects are closed at the instigation of US: NGO.” No by-line. Times of India. June 18, 2012. A Dehra Dun-based NGO spearheading a campaign for building hydel projects on the river Ganga in Uttarakhand, today alleged the projects are being shut down in India at the “instigation” of the US. “It is at the US instigation that hydel power projects are facing closure so that India buys uranium on their terms”. “Today, people in the state are facing severe shortage of power for which the state government, the Centre, saints and some foreign-funded agencies are responsible who are, in the name of Nadi Bachao (save river) campaign are hell-bent upon closure of these hydel power projects,” RLEK chief Avdhash Kaushal charged in a statement amid a protest meeting by Shankracharya Swami Swaroopanand in New Delhi today. “It is a well known fact that electricity and water are interrelated. This is not only a problem of Uttarakhand but a problem of entire North India of which Delhi too is a part. The acute water and power shortage being faced by the region is due to pressure created by the sadhus for stalling these hydel power projects by the agencies that are funded by the US and the UK”, Kaushal said. Stating that due to unscientific facts and superstitious beliefs given by a few people the work on Pala Maneri (480 MW). Bhaironghait (381 Mw) and Lohari Nagpala (600MW) projects were scrapped and the same people are trying to put roadblocks in the completion of 420 Mw Lakhwar-Vyasi project. He also claimed work on Alaknanda project (330MW) is also being hampered. “All these projects would have produced a total of 2441 MW of power which would have given tremendous relief to people of Uttarakhand as well as Delhi, Kaushal claimed.

UK

Care system sanctions child sex with adults, report finds; Teenagers in care who were used for sex by men were viewed as making a ‘lifestyle’.” By Andrew Norfolk. Times of London. June 18 2012. A belief that it is acceptable for adults to have sex with children who “consent” to their abuse is ingrained in the child protection system, a damning report into children’s homes claims today. Vulnerable children are being failed by the professionals charged with protecting them, MPs from across the political spectrum will say. They are demanding an urgent independent investigation into a care system that is “not fit for purpose”. The Times understands that an official review into children’s homes is likely to be announced by the Government in the near future. The report, from a joint parliamentary inquiry into children who go missing from care, identifies flaws in the way that agencies record, share and respond to information about those at risk of sexual abuse and exploitation. Multiple failings exposed in Greater Manchester last month when nine members of a sex-grooming network were jailed for sex offences against teenage girls are found to be “happening all over the country”. Today’s report, by two all-party parliamentary groups, says that “a scandal involving children going missing from care” went “pretty much unnoticed until the recent cases of child sexual exploitation in Rochdale and other places”. It notes that although £1 billion is spent each year to care for the 5,000 residents of children’s homes in England — an average of £200,000 per child — it has become “easy for predators to sexually exploit them”.

Live Q&A: How does your charity use social media?” By Kate Hodge. Guardian. June 21, 2012. Join our experts from 1pm to 3pm on June 26 to discuss how your charity uses social media and how this could be improved. New research suggests that social media is becoming an integral part of people’s daily lives and charities should be making more use of this. The voluntary sector has often been considered a great proponent of social media. From the nfptweetup to global tweet chats, charities are constantly challenging the boundaries of social networks. But are they doing enough? New research suggests that charities should be expanding their use of social media, away from just fundraising and communications to service delivery. The survey, conducted by the social enterprise Connect Assist, found that social media is an essential source of support and information for people – particularly younger generations. The sector is, however, “worryingly behind the curve” when it comes to using this potential. With this in mind, our next live Q&A will consider: • Examples of innovative uses of social media; • How to expand your charity’s social media function; • The common pitfalls to avoid; • What help and support is available.

Why charities should create bespoke volunteering opportunities; Creating tailor-made volunteering opportunities allows charities to be driven by volunteers’ passion not just propped up by it.” By Sally Higham. Guardian. June 21, 2012. Volunteers are no longer ‘one size fits all’, older and available for years on end – they are now often young, seeking work experience, studying and job-hunting, and therefore increasingly transient. Organisations need to address this and consider moving away from traditional job placements. Instead they should seek volunteers with the appropriate range of skills who fit into the charity ethos and develop their own roles – with help of course. Not all volunteers want to be perceived as high value to an organisation, nor want the responsibility of a role specially shaped for them. But there are many more out there who would thrive on that. After all, our spare time is so precious, perhaps organisations should be thinking more creatively about volunteers than some of them are doing. Most of us wouldn’t work our regular jobs unpaid, which really says something about the passion of volunteers. Shouldn’t we encourage and reward that passion for everyone’s benefit and create organisations that are driven by volunteers rather than propped up by them?

Gangs steal millions from charities.” By Mazher Mahmood. Times of London. June 24, 2012. Gangs are making tens of millions of pounds from selling second-hand clothes donated by the public in the belief that they are helping good causes, an investigation has found. The gangs exploit lax rules that allow them to collect clothes from doorsteps by linking up with a charity. The system is subject to widespread abuse. The Sunday Times has uncovered evidence of gangs misleading charities about the amount of clothes they collect and creating complex networks of companies to evade payments. The gangs then make millions by shipping the clothes abroad to be sold. During a secretly filmed meeting, one boss said: “If you promise them [the charity] a million [pounds] a year, you might have to give £10,000 maybe . . . There were 100 tons and you write that there were 10 tons. You know, there are three zeros and you have taken two away [sic].” He offered to sell 4 tons of clothing to the reporter without telling the Tree of Hope children’s charity in East Sussex, which should have received the cash. Police estimate that the scam is worth more than £50m a year. Clothes Aid, which collects clothing for some of Britain’s biggest charities, is so concerned by the fraud that it has identified 150 collection firms it suspects of acting improperly. Michael Lomotey, business manager for Clothes Aid, said: “It is a highly organised racket. People deliver leaflets and bags that are designed to make people believe that they are donating to charity when none of the money goes to charity.”

Return of the nasty party.” No By-line. Independent. June 24, 2012. David Cameron will signal today the end of “compassionate Conservatism” with plans for a crackdown on welfare spending for the young, the jobless and those with large families.In a speech which will appeal to the Tory right, Mr Cameron will demand an end to what he calls Britain’s “culture of entitlement”. He will propose:
* Removing or restricting some benefits from out-of-work families with large numbers of children. This could include cuts to child benefit; * Scrapping housing-benefit payments to 380,000 under-25s, worth an average of £90 a week, forcing them to support themselves or live with their parents and saving the Government £2 bn a year; * Making the long-term unemployed carry out full-time community work or lose all their benefits. Conservative sources suggested that some of the benefit changes could be brought in ahead of the next election. However, this was disputed by the Liberal Democrats, who said that they would not allow measures penalising the vulnerable to pass during the lifetime of this Coalition Government. The proposals have also been attacked by charities, which have warned they could lead to a significant rise in homelessness amongst the young.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (June 11-17, 2012)

Monday, June 18th, 2012

INTERNATIONAL

AFRICA

GOs step up appeals for Sahel aid as west Africa food crisis worsens; Aid agencies face funding shortfall to tackle hunger as drought in Sahel and political uncertainty worsen crisis for millions.” By Mark Tran. Guardian. June 12, 2012. Relief groups are stepping up their appeals for aid to tackle the worsening food crisis in west Africa, where more than 18 million people face hunger. Save the Children, which has increased its emergency operations in the Sahel, on Tuesday said it faces a funding shortfall of almost £26m. The charity hopes to close the funding gap and raise extra money to help the 1.5 million people – including almost a million children – most urgently in need. Relief agencies have been sounding the alarm for months about the effects of drought on the Sahel – a region stretching from the Atlantic to the Red Sea. The situation has been made worse by the knock-on effect of the Libyan uprising that has destabilised Mali. With the onset of the “lean season” – the next three months will be the driest and harshest period of the year – aid groups warn that the worst is yet to come. The UN says about 18 million people are affected by a drought and food crises in nine countries. Unicef warned in December last year that more than 1 million children would need life-saving treatment for severe acute malnutrition and appealed for $119.5m. The figure has since gone up, as conflict in Mali has forced 170,000 people from their homes, with some seeking refuge in neighbouring Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Niger.

AUSTRALIA

Festivals pioneer shows how.” By Robin Usher. Sydney Morning Herald. June 11, 2012. Cultural life would be much poorer without the pioneering role played by arts festivals, according to Australia’s most experienced festival director, Brett Sheehy. ”The role of a festival is to bring in shows that nobody else will touch because they are not tried and true,” he said. ”Then arts centres might follow by putting them on the program and perhaps even commercial presenters will organise tours.” Sheehy, who is directing his fourth and final Melbourne Festival in October, was first appointed director of the Sydney Festival in 2001 after having been Sydney’s deputy director for five years. He moved to Adelaide in 2005 and twice directed the Adelaide Festival. He is already programming next year’s season at the Melbourne Theatre Company where he has been appointed artistic director. But festivals also played a crucial role in developing new shows. ”Dozens of new Australian works came to life with the support of festivals. They just would not have existed without that help,” he said. Once created, the new shows had ”an astronomically better chance” of touring internationally. ”I think it is because festivals have the vision to know what will appeal to the international stage,” he said. The Melbourne Festival has grown under his leadership and he is confident it can continue to connect with different sorts of audiences across the city. Sheehy is a strong supporter of mentoring younger artists, which he has done at the Melbourne Festival with the financial support of the Harold Mitchell Foundation.

CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL

Church Battles Efforts to Ease Sex Abuse Suits.” By Laurie Goodstein and Erik Eckholm. New York Times. June 14, 2012. While the first criminal trial of a Roman Catholic church official accused of covering up child sexual abuse has drawn national attention to Philadelphia, the church has been quietly engaged in equally consequential battles over abuse, not in courtrooms but in state legislatures around the country. The fights concern proposals to loosen statutes of limitations, which impose deadlines on when victims can bring civil suits or prosecutors can press charges. These time limits, set state by state, have held down the number of criminal prosecutions and civil lawsuits against all kinds of people accused of child abuse — not just clergy members, but also teachers, youth counselors and family members accused of incest. Victims and their advocates in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New York are pushing legislators to lengthen the limits or abolish them altogether, and to open temporary “windows” during which victims can file lawsuits no matter how long after the alleged abuse occurred. The Catholic Church has successfully beaten back such proposals in many states, arguing that it is difficult to get reliable evidence when decades have passed and that the changes seem more aimed at bankrupting the church than easing the pain of victims. Already reeling from about $2.5 billion spent on legal fees, settlements and prevention programs relating to child sexual abuse, the church has fought especially hard against the window laws, which it sees as an open-ended and unfair exposure for accusations from the distant past. In at least two states, Colorado and New York, the church even hired high-priced lobbying and public relations firms to supplement its own efforts. Colorado parishes handed out postcards for churchgoers to send to their representatives, while in Ohio, bishops themselves pressed legislators to water down a bill. The outcome of these legislative battles could have far greater consequences for the prosecution of child molesters, compensation of victims and financial health of some Catholic dioceses, legal experts say, than the trial of a church official in Philadelphia, where the jury is currently deliberating.

EGYPT

Groups and U.N. Agencies Urge Israel to Lift Gaza Blockade.” New York Times/Associated Press. June 14, 2012. Fifty international aid groups and United Nations agencies urged Israel on Thursday to open Gaza’s borders, saying its border blockade violates international law and indiscriminately harms Gaza’s 1.6 million people. The appeal was issued on the fifth anniversary of the imposition of the blockade, a response to the takeover of Gaza by the Islamic militant group Hamas in 2007. Two years ago, Israel started allowing imports of most consumer goods, but it continues to ban virtually all Gaza exports and travel through Israeli crossings. Israel has said the blockade is meant to prevent Hamas from building up its military arsenal and Gaza militants from attacking Israel. International aid agencies say the blockade mainly punishes Gazan residents by crippling the territory’s economy. The appeal was signed by 43 aid groups and seven United Nations agencies, including the World Health Organization.

NORWAY

For Nobel Winners, a Smaller Cash Prize.” By Catherine Rampell. New York Times. June 13, 2012. Even those charged with identifying the world’s greatest geniuses sometimes make bad investment decisions. On Monday the Nobel Foundation, which bestows the world’s most prestigious academic, literary and humanitarian prizes, said it was reducing the cash awarded with Nobel Prizes by about 20 percent. Each prize, awarded in Swedish kronor, will now be worth about $1.1 million, down from $1.4 million. The reduction was the result of ugly returns on its invested capital, which was valued at $419 million as of Dec. 31, down 8 percent from the previous year. In the last decade, the costs of the prizes and related operating expenses have exceeded the endowment’s average annual return. “The Nobel Foundation is responsible for ensuring that the prize sum can be maintained at a high level in the long term,” Lars Heikensten, the foundation’s executive director, said in a statement. “We have made the assessment that it is important to implement necessary measures in good time.” The endowment is currently invested in about 50 percent equities, 20 percent fixed-income investments and 30 percent alternative assets, a spokeswoman said. A committee was recently established to help determine how to reallocate the portfolio, and administrative costs are also being cut. Monday’s announcement introduced the first reduction in the face value of the prize since 1949. (In inflation-adjusted terms, though, the prize has fluctuated greatly over the years.)

SPAIN

Man Traverses Spain For Charity.” Morning Edition/National Public Radio. June 11, 2012. Oscar Rando of Spain is losing weight by walking and running the full length of Spain — almost 2,000 miles. Sponsors are donating about $3 to charity for every gram of fat he loses. For some perspective, there are 454 grams in a pound. The charity he chose — Gats — helps disadvantaged local people find jobs, something much needed in Spain, where the unemployment rate is 25 percent. Rando has lost more than 50 pounds.

UK

Opening up the voluntary sector: using data to drive innovation; The voluntary sector should use open data to be true innovators and improve service delivery, fundraising and campaigning.” By Charlotte Beckett. Guardian. June 11, 2012. There’s a lot of debate in the sector about open data. How do we share, what do we share, should we share. Having worked in the public sector (who are required by law to be open with data and often embrace the principle), this last sentiment in particular surprises me. Ed Anderton of Nominent Trust argued that sharing data will improve service delivery and help solve broader issues. I absolutely concur, but we can take it further. Technical change means we can access more data and do more interesting things with it. But societal change is just as important. We crave transparency. We don’t believe organisations have a monopoly on authority or of a particular point of view, rather we expect to see things for ourselves before making a decision. This natural instinct is nothing new, but technology makes its easier. Being open is ethically good. It encourages collaboration and trust – just as important for fundraising and campaigning as for service delivery. The more trust we engender, the more likely our supporters will volunteer information about themselves, and the better our datasets. While this de-personalised data is not a truly rounded picture of an individual, it does provide patterns of behaviour. The better we understand behaviours, both in our supporters and the broader population, the better we can engage, motivate and inspire. But what impact will the legislation changes in data collection via cookies, and increasing concerns around privacy have? Journalist and academic Doc Searls claims in his recent book, The Intention Economy, that we’re entering a new phase where consumers will: control the flow and use of personal data, build their own loyalty programmes, dictate their own terms of service, tell whole markets what they want, how they want it, where and when they should be able to get it, and how much it should cost. Searls describes an economy driven by consumer intent, where we must respond to the intention of an individual instead of vying for the attention of the many. As consumers become more independent and powerful, are we looking at our data the wrong way? Shouldn’t we be giving our supporters the opportunity to manage their relationship with us, rather than the other way round?

Gay marriage controversy: Gay marriage is one of worst threats in 500 years, says Church of England.” By Jerome Taylor. Independent. June 12, 2012. The Government’s plan to introduce same-sex marriage is one of the most serious threats to the Church of England in its 500-year history, senior clergy claim. The Church today outlines its opposition to the Government’s proposals in scathing terms. Anxiety among Church leaders is so acute that they raise the spectre of disestablishment, warning that any attempt to alter the definition of marriage could fatally undermine the Church’s privileged position. Ever since the reign of Henry VIII the Church of England has been the country’s official religion, facing down threats to its establishment as severe and varied as the Spanish Armada and the English Civil War. That senior clergy have raised concerns about same-sex marriage in a similar context indicates how seriously they view the Government’s attempt to redefine marriage – as a potential attack on the role of the Church itself. Critics have dismissed the Church’s stance as overly dramatic and called on bishops to follow the lead of established religious bodies in Iceland, Sweden and Denmark who largely embraced gay marriage. The Church’s position, which was drawn up by senior bishops and lawyers, is confirmation that despite supporting civil partnerships eight years ago, the Church believes extending marriage rights to same sex couples is simply a step too far. The clerics say that the plans for same-sex marriage “have not been thought-through properly and are not legally sound”. Downing Street has insisted that its plans to bring in equal marriage laws will go ahead. In March the Government launched a three-month consultation process calling on supporters and opponents to put forward their views with the deadline for submissions closing later this week.

Charitable incorporated organisations: for better or for worse? Of all the measures in the 2011 Charities Act introducing CIOs was the most daring, but there are downsides.” By Alison Maclennan. Guardian. June 12, 2012. Of the reforms brought in by the Charities Act 2006 (now absorbed into the Charities Act 2011) the introduction of a new legal form, the charitable incorporated organisation (CIO), is one of the most daring. The concept is simple, at present charities can operate in a number of different forms including as trusts, companies both limited by guarantee and more rarely limited by shares, or even as simple unincorporated associations. In addition to these forms there are corporate bodies such as industrial and provident societies. The basic idea of introducing the CIO as a bespoke corporate form designed for charities is sound. But it is very difficult to design something new without reference to all that has gone before. The desire to introduce a new form originated from the perception that charities often had to accept a dual regulatory burden if they wanted to have a corporate personality. Compliance with charity law and companies legislation amounted to an undesirable administrative burden. The basic idea of the CIO is now at least six years old and there are some commentators who suggest that the opportunity for this initiative has passed.

Small charities suffer financial insecurity because of cuts, survey shows; Small charities say they have experienced financial difficulties since May 2010.” No by-line. Guardian. June 13, 2012. Small charities feel financially insecure since the coalition government was formed in May 2010 and embarked on a programme of public sector cuts, a new survey reveals. More than half of the charities who took part reported that they were feeling the pinch. In the survey – carried out for The Foundation for Social Improvement to coincide with Small Charities Week – 215 respondents said that their organisations were less secure since May 2010, compared to just 77 who said the opposite. An overwhelming majority of respondents – 381 out of 412 – said that fundraising had got harder. The survey also revealed differing perceptions of how easy it is to recruit paid staff and volunteers in today’s financial climate: 96 respondents said that it had got easier, compared with 60 who said it had got more difficult. The situation was reversed for volunteer recruitment with 135 respondents saying that it had got harder to recruit unpaid staff, compared to 91 who said it had got easier. The survey found that almost all organisations would look to recruit more staff members if they had the funding to do so. The report also noted that limited funding meant that many charities’ human resources are persistently stretched, coping with an increased demand for their services. The survey also discovered concerns that the restructuring of responsibilities and departments within local authorities – a consequence of the budget cuts – has adversely affected local charities. According to the report, restructuring and redundancies mean charities have to renegotiate their relationships with local authorities.

Is it time for your charity to conduct a strategic review? Setting up a strategic review can help charities access new funding and develop their key objectives.” By Rosie Niven. Guardian. June 13, 2012. The Charity Finance Group’s (CFG) latest report in its Managing in a Downturn survey series, has revealed that a significant majority of charities (80%) report they have carried out a strategic review in the past 12 months. CFG’s head of policy and public affairs, Jane Tully says this indicates most charities are actively considering their position in the sector and the need to respond strategically to challenges such as funding constraints. Eleanor Dandy, a services manager at Acevo, says she has noticed more people approaching Acevo for support after carrying out strategic reviews. While she agrees funding is a factor in the increase, she also suggests it could be a result of more grants and funds being available for specific strategic purposes. Dandy says some organisations have always carried out strategic reviews, particularly larger organisations with the required resources. For her, the difference now is that smaller organisations are getting involved. This is something that consultant Benjamin Janes has also noticed. Janes, of the Trust Partnership, says the crisis in charity funding is a driver but there is also more to it. “Small to medium charities are very unstrategic in their activities,” he notes. “They are created as a reaction to a problem and they can get along fine as long as they can raise the money to do their job. When something looks likely to change – the trustees suddenly change, the funding is cut or they find the staff are wrong for the job – it provides the key drivers for a strategic review.”

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (June 4-10, 2012)

Monday, June 11th, 2012

INTERNATIONAL

CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL

U.S. Bishops Still Stonewall on Sex Abuse; Ten years after the ‘Dallas charter,’ church leaders keep dodging accountability.” By David Gibson. Wall Street Journal. June 7, 2012. Who will guard the guardians? Ten years after the Catholic hierarchy of the United States gathered in Dallas and adopted unprecedented policies to address the scourge of child sexual abuse by clergy, the question of accountability at the top remains unanswered. To be sure, the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People—the Dallas charter, for short—took some critical steps. In June 2002, the bishops passed a “one-strike” policy for abusers and began pushing the Vatican to streamline the processes that would allow them to more easily defrock molesters. The bishops also vowed to report allegations to the civil authorities instead of keeping them in-house, to more rigorously screen not only seminarians but all church workers and volunteers, and to teach children in Catholic facilities to avoid potential abusers. In addition, they set up an office of child protection to audit each diocese’s compliance with the charter, and they established the National Review Board, composed of lay Catholics, to make sure they were doing what they promised. But throughout it all, the bishops exempted themselves from accountability—even though records showed that feckless inaction by many bishops, or even deliberate malfeasance by some, had allowed abusers to claim so many victims. The best answer the bishops had to this in Dallas was a behind-the-scenes “fraternal correction” policy, by which a bishop would quietly pass along any concerns about another bishop to that bishop. Church tradition was invoked to preclude any external oversight by laypeople or other prelates. As always, each bishop would answer only to the pope, who alone had the authority to remove the head of a diocese. Now, as the bishops gather next week in Atlanta for their annual spring meeting, they will hear an update on the Dallas charter but are unlikely to address this enormous loophole—despite events that make it all the more urgent.

DEVELOPMENT

RIO+20: Earth Summit Negotiated the Size of the Zero.” By Thalif Deen. Interpress Service( (ipsnews.net). June 7, 2012. Amidst much political fanfare, the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro concluded with the adoption of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and the landmark Agenda 21 blueprint for a sustainable future in the 21st century. Still, there was widespread disappointment over the final outcome of that conference – primarily because there were no firm funding commitments by the world’s rich nations. Asked about the frustrations on financing, a former secretary-general of the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Dr. Gamani Corea made perhaps the most realistic assessment at that time when he famously declared: “We negotiated the size of the zero.” But will history repeat itself? The funding demands at the Earth Summit were expected to be met primarily in three ways: by creating the Global Environmental Facility (GEF); increased official development assistance (ODA), specifically earmarked for sustainable development; and commitments by the various international financial and development institutions. But over the last 20 years, there remained that yawning gap between promises and performances and between pledges and deliveries.
Although next week’s U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), also known as Rio+20, is by no means a pledging conference, there are lingering fears that all the best laid plans may fall apart if there is no financing to implement them. The summit meeting of world leaders will take place Jun. 20-22 against the backdrop of a spreading global economic and credit crisis in Europe, with far reaching consequences in the United States and newly emerging countries such as China, India and Brazil. “The Future We Want”, to be adopted by world leaders next week, may well be a plan in desperate search of funding.
Related story:
Rio+20 Earth summit: leaked draft reveals conflict among countries; UN’s vision for one deal to save the Earth is in peril as countries bicker over phrasing of clauses and key terms in the draft text.” Guardian. June 8, 2012

EGYPT

Americans Appear At NGO Trial In Egypt.” By Michele Kelemen. All Things Considered/National Public Radio. June 5, 2012. Egyptian-American Dawat Soulam wanted to be a part her country’s revolution and got a job training political parties with the democracy promotion group, the International Republican Institute. Soulam quit soon after, complaining that the U.S.-funded group refused to work with Islamist parties. She raised concerns with Egyptian authorities about that and questioned IRI’s other activities. Months later, the IRI and other U.S. and Egyptian NGO’s had their offices raided and shut. These revelations come at a complicated time as U.S. and Egyptian NGO’s are back in court in Cairo.

INDIA

After income tax, service tax department slaps Rs 4.94 crore notice on Ramdev’s trust.” No by-line. Times of India. June 4, 2012. After income tax, it’s now the turn of the service tax department to issue a notice of Rs 4.94 crore dues to Yoga guru Ramdev’s trust for alleged duty evasion on its income raised through country-wide ‘yog shivirs’ (camps). The department’s snoop and investigation wing, directorate general of central excise intelligence (DGCEI), has also launched a scrutiny of accounts of various activities conducted by the trusts run by Ramdev across the country post-2006. The latest tax notice, after the income tax department had slapped a notice of Rs 58 crore against Ramdev’s trusts, has been issued against the Haridwar-based Patanjali Yog Peeth for “sale of coupons” of different denominations for organising ‘yog shivirs’, both residential and non-residential. Thousands of people have participated in these camps conducted across the country in the last five years. In his reaction, Ramdev’s spokesperson S K Tijarawala said they will counter the service tax department’s action. “We are replying to the notice. Yog shivirs are classified under the category of providing medical relief which cannot be termed as earning commercial profit,” he said. Sources said income generated from Ramdev’s yoga camps, in which people participate after buying coupons, is liable to be brought under the service tax domain. Under service tax provisions, Yoga is in the taxable list of health and fitness services.

“‘Apna Ghar’ woman found begging.” By Bhaskar Mukherjee. Times of India. June 4, 2012. On a day the Rohtak police got an advertisement released of 29 missing inmates of the now disgraced Apna Ghar, a home for the destitute run by Jaswanti Devi, a 40-year-old woman was found begging outside the bus stand here. She was identified by the commuters, who informed the local police, who further tipped off their peers in Rohtak. A police party, lead by the case supervising officer DSP Tula Ram took the woman back to Rohtak for further investigations. The woman has been identified as Guddi, who was admitted to Apna Ghar 12-years ago after her husband allegedly abandoned her, he said. Guddi had apparently gone missing before National Council for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) conducted the raids on the shelter home last month. “Guddi is not in that state of mind to reveal as to how she came here.,” the officer said on Saturday evening.

VATICAN

As Vatican Manages Crisis, Book Details Infighting.” BY Rachel Donadio. New York Times. June 3, 2012. In an undisclosed location here, the Vatican authorities are busy questioning Paolo Gabriele, the pope’s butler, and others in a widening leaks scandal that has made the seat of the Roman Catholic Church appear to be a hornet’s nest of back-stabbing and gossip. Across town, in the lobby of a fancy hotel on the Via Veneto, Gianluigi Nuzzi, the investigative reporter whose new book based on some of the leaks has sent the Vatican into a tailspin, was holding court and looking rather pleased. “I’m serene, I’m tranquil, convinced that I did my work in a correct way, without raising questions about the Holy Father,” Mr. Nuzzi said in an interview last week, during which he was twice interrupted by fans asking him to sign copies of his book, “Your Holiness: The Secret Papers of Benedict XVI.” With its glimpses of behind-the-scenes spats in the Apostolic Palace, where the pope lives, and high-stakes power struggles over the secretive — and lucrative — Vatican bank, the book has set Italy abuzz even during a week dominated by a deadly earthquake, dismal economic forecasts and a soccer match-fixing investigation that has shaken Italians’ faith in an institution almost as beloved as the papacy. The product of multiple, interlocking controversies, “VatiLeaks” looks poised to become one of the most destructive, if one of the most hermetic, crises of Benedict’s troubled papacy.

UK

Guardian charity awards 2012: shining a light on small pioneers.” By Alison Benjamin. Guardian. June 5, 2012. The Guardian charity awards, now in their 20th year, have supported a huge range of charities. Asylum seekers, disabled people, and emotionally disturbed children are just some of the client groups that have benefited from the recognition, credibility and support the awards have brought to small, winning charities. There are countless examples of winners being able to use their raised profile, and the coaching they get as part of the prize, to secure more funding and contracts.

Charities need to do more to develop female leaders; Despite the fact the voluntary sector is well ahead of the private sector, women are still under-represented at senior levels.” By Ian Joseph. Guardian. June 6, 2012. When it comes to women holding senior leadership and board positions, the charity sector is ahead of the private sector. However, according to a recent report Women Count: Charity Leaders 2012, charities still need to work harder to improve gender diversity at board level. Women Count found that only 25% of the top 100 charities by income have female chief executives and only 17% of the top 100 charities by assets have female chief executives. This lack of gender diversity also applies to the trustees – four charities out of the top 100 by income have no female trustees and just 17% of chairs are women. Among the top 100 charities by assets, 12 have no female trustees and another 12 have only one female trustee. Compare this to FTSE 250 companies, where only 2.4% of chairs, 9.4% of board members and 4% of chief executives are women, and charities seem to be leading the way in gender diversity. However, when you consider that 68% of workers in the charity sector are women, the figures are disappointing. The sector has many boards that are stale, pale and male. We all know that diverse boards make better decisions and high-performing boards tend to have trustees with a range of skills and experience, who can improve governance and enhance decision-making. The business case is quite clear. Achieving a more balanced board is even more important in today’s economic climate as funders and commissioners are increasingly examining boards as part of their due diligence and those that are not diverse will suffer where it hurts most – in their pockets. Charities need to do more to progress female talent and equip them for the board by providing leadership training, mentoring and coaching, and creating talent pipelines to progress women with leadership potential from more junior roles. They also need to audit their boardroom skills and look at ways they could improve and review their recruitment processes for employees and trustees to widen the gene pool

Tory donor’s fury over hospital VAT bill; Jimmy Thomas gave £2.3 million for a hospital ward.” By Michael Savage. Times of London. June 8 2012. A major Conservative Party donor who gave more than £2 million to refurbish a hospital has vented his anger at David Cameron after being handed a £460,000 VAT bill. Jimmy Thomas, a multimillionaire casino owner, said that he had been “appalled” to learn about the tax he owed after his decision to fund a refurbishment at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London. Mr Thomas, 78, who has donated £120,000 to the Conservatives since 2008, said that he had lobbied the Prime Minister at a private event to make such donations tax-free. He was angry to be writing a cheque that would not benefit the hospital. “If it had been for the cost of the ward, fine,” he said. “But when I know that money isn’t going to the sick and vulnerable that the ward was built for, it upsets me tremendously.” Mr Thomas, who co-founded the Hippodrome Casino in Leicester Square, London, gave £2.3 million to refurbish the hospital’s Ellis Ward. His late wife Alma had been treated there before her death in 2008. VAT at 20 per cent was then applied to the building work. George Osborne has already reversed a decision to apply VAT to church repairs. Anger from Conservative donors also contributed to his having to ditch a plan to curb tax breaks for major philanthropists.

Charities and the rise of the impact thought police; Ideas orthodoxy about impact is suffocating its development and putting small charities in particular at a disadvantage.” By Joe Saxton. Guardian. June 8, 2012. We should let charities develop their own ways of measuring impact rather than being prohibitively prescriptive. Charities have a new big brother. A new set of what is right and what is wrong about how they should think and behave. A new set of permitted words and phrases that are allowed and those that aren’t. A new set of jargon and acronyms that serve only to confuse and emasculate. The source of all this new oppression? Its the attempt to make charities to measure and communicate their impact. Don’t get me wrong – charities should absolutely be able to measure their impact – its one of the most important challenges they face. I have even described the non-profit organisations that can successfully measure and communicate their impact as being like our sector’s equivalent to Google or Amazon: they will change the way the sector works. But the way to do this is to let organisations try their own ideas. Let the free market of ideas and approaches blossom. This will let the best ideas flourish and the poor ones wither. Unfortunately some people just can’t let charities do this. For example, try measuring your impact in outputs and the thought police will be on you: “That’s just measuring bums on seats, not impact”. That’s because the impact-thought-police want you to measure outcomes – the difference that a charity has made. The problem is that outputs are easy to measure whereas outcomes are hellishly difficult.

How unemployment and the recession is affecting volunteering; There are plenty of potential volunteers out there but charities must do more to attract the best candidates.” By Sam Bacon. Guardian. June 7, 2012. Despite the continuing recession, in recent weeks unemployment figures have thankfully started to recover. However, there are still more unemployed young people than since records began in 1992. For a sector that relies on volunteers, there is a temptation to imagine that this increase in supply makes it a buyers market. Surely, with more people looking for jobs and volunteer opportunities the more selective charities can be, and the less attractive they need to make themselves? The reality is much more complex, and if charities are serious about getting the best volunteers and employees, high youth unemployment should present a major challenge to recruitment and retention policies. A large number of young people want a career in which they can make a difference and look to charities for that fulfillment. Given the importance of getting that first big break, this has considerably increased the pool of people interested in volunteering. But simply having a large pool of potential applicants isn’t enough to ensure those people become volunteers and organisations get the best applicants. If there was ever a moment when charities could succeed on the basis of an engaging vision and mission statement, that time has truly passed. The marketplace has become exceptionally crowded, with more charities offering opportunities to become engaged on previously inaccessible niche issues. There are also clear shifts in how people, especially young people, relate to issues and organisations; they are much more likely to care about a broad range of causes rather than one or two policy areas. These two factors create a worrying challenge for most organisations – more competitors and less ability to expect brand and value loyalty from supporters. In this context, record numbers of youth unemployment looks less like a large pool of applicants simply waiting to be chosen by charities. We see a complex and nuanced group in need of specific and well-developed recruitment strategies if the best volunteers are to be brought on board. To really understand what those strategies might be though, we need to consider the difficulties and pressure that high unemployment figures present to those looking for work.

Can’t find work? Volunteer and you could get some unexpected bonuses; No housing costs, no utility bills, free training … volunteering can offer an attractive alternative route into the jobs market.” By Joanne O’Connell. The Observer. June 9, 2012. More and more people are applying for all-expenses paid full-time voluntary work as a way to gain experience in a notoriously competitive jobs market, according to charities. Rising unemployment, coupled with the increased cost of living, makes such placements, which often come with free board and lodgings, more appealing than ever. Long-term voluntary placements mean giving up a salary and, in many cases, long hours with no guarantee of paid employment at the end, but charities say this is not putting people off. “Working as a full-time volunteer should not mean you’re out of pocket,” says Is Szoneberg, head of volunteering at Community Service Volunteers. “There are positions which offer board and living expenses paid. In times of economic uncertainty, it can work well for people to no longer have to pay their housing costs and utility bills.” For those who have been made redundant and may otherwise have to claim benefits, full-time voluntary positions can even mean they will be better off, says Szoneberg. In some cases, volunteers can live for free in anywhere from historical buildings on remote Scottish islands to picturesque properties in rural England. Some charities also have opportunities for families to live for free, while parents volunteer in the UK or overseas. In many cases, redundancy or a period of unemployment gives people the spur to try a voluntary job. Major charities, such as the RSPCA report a surge in people who have been made redundant applying for volunteer posts. Almost half of volunteering inquiries are now from people who are unemployed, according to Volunteering England.

We’re all poorer when we seek Kim Kardashian’s take on poverty; Charities may be waking up to the fact that, far from aiding their causes, celebrity advocacy is actually damaging them.” By Marina Hyde. Guardian. June 8, 2012. A new, large-scale survey carried out by the UK Public Opinion Monitor, an initiative of the Institute of Development Studies, which in this case examined public responses to celebrity advocacy. The survey’s designers stress the data is still being analysed, but one interesting finding has emerged with some clarity: most people claim not to be swayed by celebrity-fronted campaigns, but they do think that other people are swayed by them. Which suggests that celebrity campaigns are popularly believed to be popular – but falsely so. If this is true, it would require such a rethink of the way causes advance themselves that all sorts of heads might explode. The UN has a whole celebrity outreach department, while the celebrity liaison officers of UK charities are so legion they hold regular forums. Celebrity advocacy has even developed its own awards industry, hosting glitzy galas where showbiz humanitarians are given gongs. Angelina Jolie has won at least five, most of which were confected for her, and even Paris Hilton has a couple. (Those who devote 365 days of the year to working tirelessly and anonymously on these causes don’t seem to be eligible.) Shamefully, of course, the reason charities feel they have to deploy entertainers in this way is because the media – across the board, though to varying degrees – have become progressively less willing to highlight an issue, or capable of it, without a celebrity’s involvement. It’s a vicious cycle, rarely broken by anything that might be considered “actual research”, which makes the IDS’s survey such an interesting nugget. It certainly seems superior to recent research in which some US undergraduates were presented with a selection of celebrities and social causes, as a detailed questionnaire sought to determine which star would be the most effective advocate for a cause, in terms of their fit with the mission and their ability to make people part with money. The results indicated that the best celebrity to “help a child in extreme poverty” was Kim Kardashian. Can Kim Kardashian really change the world? You know, for the better? Or does giving American college students course credits for participating in studies like these (as happened in this case) go on to skew all kinds of debates more important than “do you reckon Kim’s 72-day marriage was a stunt?”. Alas, the idea that celebrity advocacy may not be the answer to some of the world’s most intractable problems appears yet to have taken meaningful hold of the charitable imagination. But there are a few more questioning voices.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (April 23-29, 2012)

Monday, April 30th, 2012

INTERNATIONAL

ARGENTINA

First School for Transvestites Opens in Buenos Aires.” By Marcela Valente. Interpress Service (IPSnews.net). April 27, 2012. With 35 students, the first secondary school specifically for transvestites and other members of sexual minorities who face discrimination in mainstream schools opened in March in the Argentine capital. The “Mocha Celis” Popular Baccalaureate is the name of the tuition-free school supported by nonprofit organisations, which caters especially – but not exclusively – to transvestites, transsexuals and transgender persons over the age of 16. The school is named after an illiterate transvestite who worked as a prostitute and was an activist with the Association of Argentine Transvestites. A week after Celis went missing, her body was found, showing signs that she had been beaten and shot to death. Activists suspect that Celis was killed by a federal police officer who had previously threatened her. In an interview with IPS, Francisco Quiñones, the head of the new school, explained that the idea was “to create an inclusive school, free of discrimination, that takes into account and values the different trans identities, where they can manage to finish secondary school. “Public schools, which are governed by rules that cater to heterosexuals, drive these people away,” and they end up dropping out of school at much higher rates than the rest of the population due to discrimination, which can even go as far as physical violence, he said.

CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL

2 Abuse Victims Testify at Church Official’s Trial.” By Jon Hurdle. New York Times. April 25, 2012. Two men testified Wednesday of abuse they suffered as youths at the hands of a now defrocked Philadelphia priest. The two victims of Edward Avery, a former priest who has pleaded guilty to sexual assault charges, appeared during the landmark trial of Msgr. William Lynn, the former secretary for clergy at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, who is charged with child endangerment. Monsignor Lynn is suspected of allowing priests accused of abuse to remain in positions where they could continue to abuse children. One victim, now 23, told the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas how Mr. Avery abused him in the sacristy of St. Jerome’s Catholic Church in Northeast Philadelphia in 1998, when he was 10 years old. The man said that he had already been abused by the Rev. Charles Engelhardt, another priest who is charged with abuse, and that Mr. Avery said he intended to do the same thing with him. “He said he heard about my sessions with Father Engelhardt and that ours were going to begin soon,” said the man, who was an altar boy. Jurors were shown a school photograph of the boy at age 10, and of the inside of the church, and the sacristy where the abuse occurred. On the first of two occasions when Mr. Avery abused him, the priest asked the boy to stay behind after Mass, and took him to a storage room adjoining the sacristy, the court heard. The witness said the priest turned on music and forced the boy to do a striptease until he was naked. He then sat the boy on his lap, and forced him to perform oral sex and masturbation, and told him that he was doing God’s will. “ ‘This is what God wants,’ ” the witness said Mr. Avery told him.

In L.A. clergy abuse cases, the wheels of justice move slowly; A victim who went along with the landmark $660-million settlement blames the delay in the release of confidential files not only on the church, but also on his own lawyers. ‘They took the money and ran,’ he says.” By Gale Holland. Los Angeles Times. April 28, 2012. Manuel Vega was in the courtroom when the Los Angeles Archdiocese agreed to pay clergy abuse victims a landmark $660-million settlement. The bailiff had to whisk some of the victims out to make room for all the high-fiving lawyers filing in for their payday, he says. Vega, who says he was molested as a boy by a priest in Oxnard, went along with the settlement only because his attorneys assured him the church would turn over confidential personnel files that would reveal the truth about priest abusers, and those who shielded them, including Cardinal Roger M. Mahony. Four years and nine months later, Mahony is retired, but not a single page from the files has seen the light of day. Complaints about the delay have become a litany trotted out every year, along with accusations the church is stonewalling to protect its own, and Mahony’s, legacy. What’s different about Vega’s complaint is that he blames not only the church but his own lawyers. “They took the money and ran,” he says. The Los Angeles settlement required attorneys on both sides to “immediately work cooperatively” so the files could be opened in “a reasonably short period of time.” Raymond Boucher, who represented Vega and other victims, and J. Michael Hennigan, who represents the archdiocese, blame the slow grinding of the legal system for the long delay. “All we’re doing is what is required by law,” Hennigan said. “Nobody is more frustrated than I,” Boucher said. The Diocese of Orange, however, released its confidential priest files five months after reaching a financial settlement with abuse victims. The revelations included church officials dumping one serial molester in Tijuana, welcoming a convicted child abuser from another state into their diocese and offering a repeat abuser up to $19,000 to leave the priesthood quietly. But then, the pact that victims’ lawyers struck with the L.A. church was never what it was cracked up to be.

DEVELOPMENT

Civil Society Determined to Have an Impact on Río+20.” By Fabíola Ortiz. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). Innovating and stepping up the pressure on governments are the bywords for civil society participation in the run-up to Rio+20, a conference with the ambitious goal of changing the way humankind relates with the planet. Rio+20 is the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, which will take place Jun. 20-22 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the same city that hosted the historic Earth Summit in 1992. The key themes addressed at the conference will be a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and the institutional framework for sustainable development. “There is a great deal of concern over what is going to happen. There is skepticism,” Marcelo Cardoso, executive coordinator of the non- governmental Vitae Civilis Institute, told Tierramérica. “For us, it will be an opportunity for international civil society to work together towards developing agendas of convergence” with the authorities and the private sector to achieve consensus. Agenda 21, the plan of action adopted at the Earth Summit, stated the need for broad public participation in decision-making, with a particular emphasis on nine major groups: indigenous peoples, farmers, workers and their trade unions, local authorities, business and industry, the scientific and technological community, women, children and youth, and non-governmental organisations. These nine groups are striving to influence the formal discussions through the organisation of campaigns and parallel activities within the Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future. “Civil society organisations must take on a global role,” said Cardoso. While civil society can have a key impact on decision-making processes, it is also a complex and “highly fragmented” sector, he noted.

Farm Animals Join Rio+20 Agenda.” By Johanna Treblin. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). April 28, 2012. Human development and biodiversity will not be the only focus of the Rio+20 Earth Summit in June, for which representatives of hundreds of states and non- governmental organisations (NGOs) will gather to discuss sustainable development. The delegates will also deal with the wellbeing of farm animals and sustainable farming, thanks to the efforts of the London-based NGO World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), the governments of the G-77 countries, Switzerland and New Zealand. Together, they have helped to draft a part of the Rio+20 outcome text, to be negotiated in June, to “call upon all States to prioritise sustainable intensification of food production through increased investment in local food production”, especially in regard to women, smallholders, youth and indigenous farmers. The draft text further demands an increase in “the use of appropriate technologies for sustainable agriculture”. The WSPA, which sees itself not only as an animal advocacy group but also as one that supports sustainable agriculture, defines sustainable livestock production as part of a food and agriculture system that is ecologically sound, equitable for farmers and rural communities and other sectors of society, and humane in its use and treatment of livestock.

EGYPT

Egypt Rejects Registration Bids From 8 U.S. Nonprofit Groups.” By David D.Kirkpatrick. New York Times. April 23, 2012. An Egyptian ministry has rejected the applications for registration of eight American nonprofit groups, state media reported, in the government’s first action on the status of foreign-backed nonprofit groups since its criminal prosecution of three American-backed organizations set off a crisis in relations with Washington this year. The state media reported that the Insurance and Social Affairs Ministry had rejected the applications of the groups on the grounds that their activities violated Egyptian sovereignty. Most notable among them was the Carter Center, which has sent monitors to observe the Egyptian presidential election. Its founder, former President Jimmy Carter, is something close to a national hero in Egypt for his role brokering the 1979 Camp David peace accords. Sanne van der Bergh, director of the center’s operations in Egypt, said that the group was awaiting an official response to its application and that it still hoped to receive an invitation from the presidential election commission to monitor the elections starting next month. Other groups denied registration included Seeds of Peace, which brings young Egyptians, Jordanians, Israelis and Palestinians together at a camp in Maine; a group for Coptic Christian orphans; and a Mormon missionary group. There was no indication of any immediate legal action against the groups or their employees in Egypt. In February, the Egyptian authorities brought criminal charges against the employees of three American-backed groups accused of illegally receiving foreign money and operating without registration. The groups — the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute and Freedom House — were federally financed and chartered to promote democracy. Among those charged was Sam LaHood, an official of the Republican Institute and the son of the American transportation secretary, Ray LaHood. Last month, the United States flew Mr. LaHood and six other Americans out of Egypt in a deal to remove them from prosecution. But the trial is continuing, and about a dozen of the groups’ Egyptian employees still face criminal charges and possible jail time.

ITALY

Maxxi museum faces closure; Italian art centre may be put under special administration as government acts on £650,000 hole in institution’s accounts.” By John Hooper. Guardian. April 24, 2012. The Italian government has 20 days in which to decide the fate of the country’s national contemporary art museum, the Maxxi, which opened in Rome just two years ago and was designed by the Anglo-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid. Lorenzo Ornaghi, the culture and heritage minister in Mario Monti’s non-party government, has opened proceedings that could lead to the Maxxi being put under special administration. Officials said he decided to act following the discovery of a €800,000 (£654,000) hole in the 2011 accounts and a prediction that losses could reach €11m in the next three years. The Maxxi crisis is the latest symptom of the funding crisis which is sweeping southern Europe and wreaking havoc on the arts. The administrators of the museum said last year’s losses were in part due to a 43% cut in government funding and had, in any case, been covered by profits carried over from the previous year. They expressed “surprise and concern” at the minister’s decision which “damaged the international credibility” of the museum.

TURKEY

Turkey Feels Sway of Reclusive Cleric in the U.S.” By Dan Bilefsky and Sebnem Arsu. New York Times. April 24, 2012. When Ahmet Sik was jailed last year on charges of plotting to overthrow the government, he had little doubt that a secretive movement linked to a reclusive imam living in the United States was behind his arrest. “If you touch them you get burned,” a gaunt and defiant Mr. Sik said in an interview in March at his apartment here, just days after being released from more than a year in jail. “Whether you are a journalist, an intellectual or a human rights activist, if you dare to criticize them you are accused of being a drug dealer or a terrorist.” Mr. Sik’s transgression, he said, was to write a book, “The Army of the Imam.” It chronicles how the followers of the imam, Fethullah Gulen, have proliferated within the police and the judiciary, working behind the scenes to become one of Turkey’s most powerful political forces — and, he contends, one of its most ruthless, smearing opponents and silencing dissenters. The case quickly became among the most prominent of dozens of prosecutions that critics say are being driven by the followers of Mr. Gulen, 70, a charismatic preacher who leads one of the most influential Islamic movements in the world, with millions of followers and schools in 140 countries. He has long advocated tolerance, peace and interfaith dialogue, drawing on the traditions of Sufism, a mystical strain of Islam generally viewed as being moderate. But the movement’s stealthy expansion of power — as well as its tactics and lack of transparency — is now drawing accusations that Mr. Gulen’s supporters are using their influence in Turkey’s courts and police and intelligence services to engage in witch hunts against opponents with the aim of creating a more conservative Islamic Turkey. Critics say the agenda is threatening the government’s democratic credentials just as Turkey steps forward as a regional power.

UK

Fraudster’s extradition fuels hopes for lost charity cash; Michael Brown: faces an extradition hearing this week.” By Fiona Hamilton. Times of London. April 23 2012. The head of a charity conned by Michael Brown, a former donor to the Liberal Democrat Party, is hoping that the fraudster’s extradition to Britain will lead to it recovering its money. Michael Stoma said that his charity is owed up to £350,000 raised by Brown on its behalf for children in Ethiopia, but which it never received. Dr Stoma welcomed the prospect of the return of the Lib Dems’ biggest donor to serve a seven-year prison sentence for fraud and hoped that it would resurrect calls for the money to be reimbursed. He said: “We want to see it [the money] back. It would go where it was intended to go.” Brown, 45, landed in Madrid on Saturday after being deported from the Dominican Republic where he was arrested in January. It follows a four-year search across three continents after he fled Britain while on bail before a £40 million fraud trial in 2008. He will face an extradition hearing this week. He was convicted and sentenced in his absence of stealing £36 million from investors, including nearly £8 million from Martin Edwards, the former chairman of Manchester United. The prospect of Brown returning to the UK will increase pressure on the Liberal Democrats, who received a £2.4 million donation from him.

How to stop donors asking about your administration costs; Charities need to stop talking about their administration costs and focus on telling donors where their money goes.” Guardian. April 23, 2012. It’s probably the most frequently asked question in the entire charity world. And yet as any charity knows, it’s irrelevant. To see off the question about running costs, talk about something else. Be on the offensive with a strong strategy and good data about results. In my experience of working with donors of all types, the administration question arises from a vacuum. Donors know that charities’ stories are sales pitches, hardly an unbiased basis for good decisions. They can rarely see into the black box that allegedly transforms their donation into impact. So arises a suspicion that it doesn’t – a suspicion compounded by common tales of funds being frittered/embezzled/corrupted away. Hence there’s a vacuum where there should be confidence about effectiveness. This doesn’t matter in a commercial transaction. I don’t particularly care how a café spends the money I give it as long as I get a nice lunch. But since donors aren’t the ones consuming the charities’ work, they’ve no idea whether its product or service is any good. This separation between the person providing the money and the person consuming the product is at the heart of most problems in the charity sector. The admin question is usually a misplaced quest for some reassurance that something useful is happening.

Oxfam launches Humankind Index to measure wellbeing; The charity’s Scottish arm has used measures including health, transport, family life and employment to evaluate quality of life.” By Severin Carrel. Guardian. April 24, 2012. Anti-poverty campaigners at Oxfam have created a new technique for measuring quality of life and social justice in Britain which they claim has found major flaws in mainstream policies on jobs and economic growth. The charity said its new Humankind Index, launched on Tuesday, was a far more accurate measure of people’s wellbeing and happiness than focusing on GDP and employment rates, and had found deep-seated and significant problems which had been ignored by successive governments. It said the index – designed by Oxfam’s Scotland office using 18 measures ranging from health, transport, family life and experiences of work to access to parks – found most people put much greater weight on the quality of their lives and work than on material wealth and success. While quality of life for most people in Scotland had improved slightly, by 1.2%, between 2007-08 and 2009-10, this was chiefly due to improvements in their health and community spirit. The index, which is now being evaluated by UK government statisticians and Scottish government civil servants, estimated that in contrast, there had been a 43% fall in people’s financial security, a 26% fall in the number of people who felt they had secure and suitable jobs and a 24% decline in those who felt they had enough to live on. It had also detected a growing “lag” in the wellbeing and experiences of the most deprived communities compared to the average; Oxfam said that raised serious questions about the damage being done by the recession and the stress from flexible, temporary and part-time working demanded by government ministers and the modern jobs market.

Open data can benefit voluntary sector; Charities can improve interventions and the impact of their work through effective use of open data.” By Ed Anderton. Guardian. April 24, 2012. For many in the voluntary sector, the starting point for looking into open data is the desire to challenge social changes more effectively. The Nominet Trust team is spending a fair amount of time thinking, investigating and experimenting with open data. The trust’s aim is to seek and support new uses of digital technology for social good. We recently co-hosted a conference on charities and open data with the Big Lottery Fund and NCVO, which indicated a growing interest from the voluntary sector. The opening of public sector data over the past few years is one obvious stimulus for this, particularly since many charities are data suppliers due to their work delivering a public service contracts. For many in the voluntary and charitable sector, the starting point for these conversations is the desire to be more effective in addressing social challenges. Whether this is the remarkable intrinsic motivation of wanting to support the communities more effectively, or the extrinsic motivation of doing more with less, the starting point isn’t technology, but making the most of the resources we have. Data is one resource that is becoming available in abundance. But this isn’t new. In 1858, Florence Nightingale produced the ‘Diagram of the Causes of Mortality in the Army in the East’ which showed that most British soldiers in the Crimean war died of sickness, rather than wounds or other causes. This data demonstrated the importance of hygienic camps and hospitals; its clear presentation articulated the specific challenges that needed to be addressed. It provided evidence of effective practice and presented arguments for better ways of working. Using data to inform how we improve our work has a long tradition in our sector.

Private schools look east for pupils as British parents feel pinch; John Newton, the head of Taunton School, where about a quarter of pupils are from overseas, said there was a belief that some boarding schools were recruiting foreign students in a ‘desperate attempt to fill their beds.’” By Nicola Woolcock and Greg Hurst. Times of London. April 26 2012. An increasing number of Russian and Chinese pupils are helping to prop up private schools, according to an annual census by the Independent Schools Council. The number of children from abroad taught at private schools grew by 1,411 — almost 6 per cent — last year, while the number of British pupils fell by 706, or 0.15 per cent. Russian families were the fastest-growing market, with a doubling of the numbers of Russian pupils in the past five years. Many of the families of foreign pupils hire agents or consultants to secure a place at a leading school. The Times has been told that some wealthy Russian parents pay as much as £50,000 per child, although more typical commission charges would be equivalent to the first term’s fees at the school; about £10,000. Some independent schools hire agents to recruit international pupils, and pay commission of up to 20 per cent of their fee income per pupil. These agents, used even more widely by British universities, face tighter controls in an attempt to squeeze out rogue operators. Britain has joined Australia, Ireland and New Zealand to issue stringent rules of conduct that education agents will be expected to follow. These include acting ethically, declaring all fees, ensuring advertising material is accurate and shunning abuse of visa controls. The lucrative recruitment practice risks creating “ghettos” of children from the same country at boarding schools, some heads have warned. Martin Stephen, the former High Master of St Paul’s School, last week criticised schools that were increasingly reliant on the “fool’s gold” of fees from overseas students, adding that soaring fees were making independent schools the preserve of the very wealthy and threatening their very existence.

Foodbank handouts double as more families end up on the breadline; Trussell Trust says two centres a week are opening in UK to give food parcels to working families struggling to cope.” By Patrick Butler. Guardian. April 26, 2012. Britain’s leading foodbank network, the Trussell Trust, says every single day it is handing out emergency food parcels to parents who are going without meals in order to feed their children, or even considering stealing food to put on the table, as the government’s austerity measures start to bite. The number of people to whom it had issued emergency food parcels had doubled in the last 12 months and was set to increase further as rising living costs, shrinking incomes and welfare cuts take their toll, the trust said, as it published its annual report, which is fast becoming a barometer of social deprivation. Two foodbanks a week opened up in the UK over the last 12 months to meet an explosion in demand from families living on the breadline, the trust said. The charity currently oversees 201 foodbanks run on a franchise basis across the UK, up from 100 in 2010-11. It fed 128,000 people last year, distributing 1,225 tonnes of food donated by the public, schools and businesses, and estimates that half a million individuals a year will be in receipt of a food parcel by 2016. “Foodbanks are seeing people from all walks of life turning to us for help when they hit crisis,” said Chris Mould, the executive chair of the Trussell Trust. “The current economic situation means that times are tough for many. Every day we meet parents who are skipping meals to feed their children or even considering stealing to stop their children going to bed hungry. “It is shocking that there is such a great need for foodbanks in 21st century Britain, but the need is growing.”

From Haiti to Athens: charity aids austerity victims.” By James Bone Perama. Times of London. April 27, 2012. The head doctor at the clinic by the docks has worked as a humanitarian volunteer in such poverty-wracked nations as Haiti and Uganda. Now she is working for the same charity, treating patients in her own backyard in Perama, on the outskirts of Athens. “Here there’s also a crisis, like in Haiti. Many times I feel I am in Haiti when I’m in Athens. There are too many critical cases,” Aspasia Michalakis said. “Now we have to concentrate in Greece. We have abandoned, more or less, the other world crises. We had the opportunity to go to Libya, but because of the [Greek] crisis we didn’t go.” The medical charity Médecins du Monde — Doctors of the World — known for its work in the Third World, now serves thousands of patients with mobile units and five clinics in Greece as the country’s public health service crumbles because of the EU-mandated austerity programme.

Judges must speak out, says founder of marriage charity.” By Frances Gibb. Times of London. April 28 2012. A senior judge has defended the right of judges to speak out on public concerns. Sir Paul Coleridge, a High Court family judge who will launch a charity next week to tackle the “crisis of family breakdown”, said that if judges saw something wrong from their own experiences in the courts they had a duty to warn people about it. It was the same, he said, as doctors alerting the public to an epidemic that they had detected. “It would be irresponsible to remain quiet,” he said. Sir Paul, 62, has 40 years’ experience in the family courts, as a family barrister and, since 2000, as a judge. He is setting up the Marriage Foundation, a charity with no political or religious affiliations, to tackle “the appalling and costly impact of family breakdown”. He is concerned about the impact of marriage breakdown on children: an estimated 3.8 million children are currently caught up in the family justice system. The Marriage Foundation, which has attracted 300 supporters, seeks to raise £150,000 to fund research and be a “first port of call” on marriage. His comments will fuel the debate about judges voicing their views. Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury, the Master of the Rolls, warned judges last month about the dangers of engaging in public debate, saying that “only in very exceptional circumstances” should a judge express his or her views out of court. In a separate speech, Lady Justice Hallett said that judges should not “descend into the political arena”. Sir Paul, who is married with three children and three grandchildren, said that all judges brought their life experiences to work. “Of course it would be unseemly to comment on the defence budget or NHS reforms. But if judges cannot comment on what they find in the work they do, who will?”

Britain’s rich soar to record wealth.” By Kathryn Cooper. Sunday Times. April 29, 2012. Britain’s wealthiest people are richer than they have ever been with a combined fortune of £414 billion, even though the rest of the country is mired in its worst recession since the 1930s. The Sunday Times Rich List 2012, published today, reveals that the 1,000 richest men and women in the country have increased their wealth by 4.7% on last year’s total of £395.8 billion, surpassing the previous high of £412.8 billion recorded before the 2008 financial crash. At a time when the economy has slipped back into a double-dip recession, the figures will raise concerns about the growing gap between the most affluent in society and the “squeezed middle”. There are 77 British-based billionaires in this year’s list, exceeding the previous peak of 75 in 2008. Last year there were 73 people on the list with a fortune of £1 billion or more, and in 2010 there were just 53. The growth in the wealth of the country’s elite has come in large part from British-born industrialists in traditional sectors of the economy, some of whom are more than £1 billion richer than they were last year.

http://features.thesundaytimes.co.uk/richlist/2012/live/

Cardinal accuses David Cameron of ‘immoral’ behaviour and favouring rich; Cardinal Keith O’Brien says PM should not protect only his ‘very rich colleagues’ but consider his moral obligation to the poor.” By Shiv Malik. Guardian. April 29, 2012. One of Britain’s most prominent religious figures, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, has accused David Cameron of immoral behaviour and of favouring rich City financiers over those struggling on lower incomes. O’Brien, Scotland’s most senior Roman Catholic authority, said: “The poor have suffered tremendously from the financial disasters of recent years and nothing, really, has been done by the very rich people to help them. “I am saying to the prime minister, look, don’t just protect your very rich colleagues in the financial industry, consider the moral obligation to help the poor of our country.” O’Brien called for Cameron to introduce a Robin Hood or financial transaction tax on City dealings. “My message to David Cameron, as the head of our government, is to seriously think again about this Robin Hood tax, the tax to help the poor by taking a little bit from the rich,” he told the BBC. Last year Cameron and the chancellor, George Osborne, led Europe-wide efforts to stop France and Germany introducing just such a tax, arguing that it would be uniquely damaging to UK interests. In a BBC1 Scotland interview, O’Brien said it was immoral “just to ignore” those suffering as a result of the credit crunch. “When I say poor, I don’t mean [only] the abject poverty we see sometimes in our streets. I mean people who would have considered themselves reasonably well-off. “People who have saved for their pensions and now realise their pension funds are no more. People who are considering giving up their retirement homes that they have been saving for, poverty affecting young couples and so on and so on. “It is these people who have had to suffer because of the financial disasters of recent years, and it is immoral. It is not moral just to ignore them and to say ‘struggle along’, while the rich can go sailing along in their own sweet way.”

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (February 6-12, 2012)

Monday, February 13th, 2012

INTERNATIONAL

AFRICA

Swaziland’s Cooperatives No Threat to Banks.” By Mantoe Phakathi. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). February 8, 2012. Nomsa Tsabedze is one of the many people at the Bunye Betfu, Buhle Betfu Credit and Savings Cooperatives waiting to apply for a loan to pay for her children’s school fees. “Unlike banks, there is no collateral required before you get a loan from a cooperative,” said Tsabedze, adding: “If you’re a member of a cooperative, you’re guaranteed a loan depending on how much you’ve saved.” For the past five years, ever since she started working as a clerk in the public service, Tsabedze has been saving and obtaining loans from the cooperative. But while Tsabedze and thousands like her have chosen to put their money in cooperatives as opposed to banks, many in this Southern African nation feel that this poses no risk to the banking industry. This is despite concerns by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said that the country’s increasingly popular 230 savings and cooperatives pose a threat to commercial banks. In a recent assessment, the IMF said that it was concerned that people are shunning commercial banks in favour of cooperatives. “This is because loans from cooperatives are more accessible to the Swazi population and do not have appropriate risk weighted safeguards,” reads the report released in December. While commercial banks are viewed as risk averse and reluctant to lend, cooperatives have become the preferred lender for civil servants, in particular. There are four commercial banks in the country and one building society, which operates as a bank.

AUSTRALIA

Rich or poor? Gillard plans to put it all online this year.” By Dan Harrison. Sydney Morning Herald. January 29, 2010. The financial resources of every school in Australia will be on public display in the next version of Julia Gillard’s My School website, due later this year. State and territory governments and Catholic and independent school authorities agreed a year ago to provide the information but have not yet been able to devise a measure that allows fair comparisons between government, Catholic and independent schools. Peter Hill, the chief executive of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, which is responsible for My School, said data about each school’s financial resources would be published in a second version of the site, along with results from this year’s national literacy and numeracy tests. ”A lot of people will be very interested in finances of schools, because, of course, some schools have much more in terms of financial resources than others and this may go a long way to explaining some of the differences we’re observing,” Dr Hill said. He said financial data would not be used to determine ”similar” schools to which schools could be readily compared but would be displayed on the site separately. Many parents had difficulty using the site after it was launched yesterday.
Related story:
Invest in public schools – survey.” Sydney Morning Herald. February 6, 2012.

CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL

Catholic Leaders Convene to Discuss Abuse Prevention.” By Elisabetta Povoledo. New York Times. February 6, 2012. Leaders of the Roman Catholic Church began a four-day symposium on Monday about the prevention of sexual abuse of minors by the clergy, an unprecedented assembly described by the Vatican as a response to a painful issue that has wracked the church and estranged many faithful. “We are still learning,” Cardinal William J. Levada, head of the Vatican office that deals with allegations of clerical abuse, told the 200 delegates during his keynote speech. “We need to help each other find the best ways to help victims, protect children,” he said, and to educate priests “to be aware of this scourge and to eliminate it from the priesthood.” More than 100 bishops and 30 religious superiors, as well as Catholic university rectors and abuse victims were participating in the symposium, titled “Toward Healing and Renewal.” Participants planned to discuss how the church can better listen to victims, cultivate a consistent response to cases of pedophilia and thwart future cases of abuse.

Cardinal Egan Criticized for Retracting Apology on Sexual Abuse Crisis.” By Andy Newman. New York Times. February 7, 2012. In 2002, at the height of the outcry over the sexual abuse of minors by Roman Catholic priests, the Archbishop of New York, Edward M. Egan, issued a letter to be read at Mass. In it, he offered an apology about the church’s handling of sex-abuse cases in New York and in Bridgeport, Conn., where he was previously posted. “It is clear that today we have a much better understanding of this problem,” he wrote. “If in hindsight we also discover that mistakes may have been made as regards prompt removal of priests and assistance to victims, I am deeply sorry.” Now, 10 years later and in retirement, Cardinal Egan has taken back his apology.In an interview in the February issue of Connecticut magazine, a surprisingly frank Cardinal Egan said of the apology, “I never should have said that,” and added, “I don’t think we did anything wrong.” He said many more things in the interview, some of them seemingly at odds with the facts. He repeatedly denied that any sex abuse had occurred on his watch in Bridgeport. He said that even now, the church in Connecticut had no obligation to report sexual abuse accusations to the authorities. (A law on the books since the 1970s says otherwise.) And he described the Bridgeport diocese’s handling of sex-abuse cases as “incredibly good.” All of which has Cardinal Egan, now 79 and living in Manhattan, drawing fire from advocates who say he has reopened old wounds.
Related story:
Retired Cardinal Edward Egan Faces Criticism For Taking Back Abuse Apology.” Huffington Post. February 7, 2012.
Archbishop ‘appalled’ at paedophile priest.” No by-line. Times of London. February 8, 2012.
Cleric warns of silence on sex abuse in Asia; Culture keeping victims in hiding, he says at meeting.Boston Globe/Associated Press. February 10, 2012.
Pennsylvania: Answers Sought in Cardinal’s Death.” New York Times/Associated Press. February 10, 2012.
With Vatican’s Backing, Catholics Address Sex Abuse.” All Things Considered/ National Public Radio. February 10, 2012.
Retired Maine priest under investigation for sex abuse.” Bangor Daily News/Associated Press. February 11, 2012
Sex abuse lawsuit against Vatican withdrawn.” USA Today. December 12, 2012.

CHINA

China Fund to Support Film Projects Worldwide.” By Michael Cieply. New York Times. February 6, 2012. If Chinese versions of Rupert Murdoch and Oprah Winfrey teamed up with, say, China’s J. P. Morgan to start a film fund, this would be it. Sun Media Group, founded by Bruno Wu, who is often compared to Mr. Murdoch, and his wife, Yang Lan, sometimes likened to Ms. Winfrey, is joining Harvest Fund Management to create an $800 million fund that will back entertainment ventures in China and around the world, company executives said Saturday. “The goal is pretty straightforward; it’s to make a maximum return, of course, for the investors,” Mr. Wu said of the enterprise, which is aimed at a booming Chinese market for global film. He and Lindsay Wright, the vice chairman of a Harvest global investment unit, spoke jointly by telephone. The fund, called Harvest Seven Stars Media Private Equity, is expected to invest in existing entertainment companies. But it also will provide backing for individual filmmakers and build an entertainment distribution system in China and elsewhere, Mr. Wu and Ms. Wright said. Its initial pool of capital, they added, will probably be expanded in the near future. Last year, the Motion Picture Association of America said it expected the number of cinema screens in China to increase to more than 16,000 in 2015 from about 6,200 in 2011, as Chinese box-office receipts grow to a projected $5 billion from $1.5 billion. At the same time, China has been under pressure from the entertainment industry in the United States to ease censorship, open its markets and crack down on chronic film piracy. “The awareness, and urge, and strong desire to protect” intellectual property has never been higher in China, Mr. Wu said. He and others, he said, have been lobbying the Chinese government for tougher antipiracy measures.

Religion and the Communist Party: Render unto Caesar; The party’s conservative wing finds religion—and dislikes it.” The Economist. February 11, 2012. There was a time when Devon Chang had difficulty reconciling his two chosen faiths: Christianity, which he embraced in 2005 at the age of 19, and the Communist Party of China, which had embraced him a year earlier. Did his submission to an almighty God not mean he must renounce the godless club of Marx and Mao? Not necessarily. A fellow convert’s university lecturer suggested that if all Communist Party members found Jesus, then Christianity could rule China. “So it’s a good thing for me to become a Christian,” Mr Chang reasoned. In this section. The party does not quite see it that way. Although people join the party more for career reasons these days than for ideological ones, it still officially forbids religious belief among its members. In practice, this has for some years been a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. But signs are now growing that the party is about to become tougher on believers within its ranks. And behind it might be Mr Chang’s notion of Christianity as a Trojan horse. If you can’t beat ’em… Experts say that, of China’s 1.3 billion people, 200m to 300m now practise religion (though the government admits to only 100m), and far more engage in the veneration of ancestors. The vast majority of the religious are Buddhists or Daoists. Estimates for the number of Christians vary wildly from 50m to 100m (they are hard to count because so many believers go to underground “house churches”). Across the country, local governments have rebuilt temples and constructed new ones to capitalise on religious tourism. In rural areas, temples and churches have helped provide education and health care, with the unofficial blessing of local party chiefs.

EGYPT

Egypt Names 19 Americans in Probe; Inclusion of U.S. Workers Among 43 NGO Employees Facing Charges Over Foreign Funding Raises Tensions, Jeopardizes Aid.” By Matt Bradley. Wall Street Journal. February 7, 2012. Egypt’s judicial ministry named the 43 nongovernmental organization employees, including 19 Americans, who will face charges in an investigation over foreign funding that has shaken Washington’s faith in one of its closest security allies in the Middle East. The ministry said the workers will be charged with establishing NGOs without licenses and receiving and spending foreign funds without government permission—both breaches of Egypt’s highly restrictive NGO law. If convicted, the workers could face financial penalties and up to five years in prison. The published list adds a shade of clarity to a legal case against American and Egyptian pro-democracy groups that has troubled and confused American policy makers and NGO employees since the summer. The case implies that Egyptian prosecutors believe the American government is committing espionage to undermine the Egyptian state even as it funds Egypt’s ruling military with a $1.3 billion annual grant—the U.S.’s second-largest aid package to any peacetime country after Israel. While Egypt’s military rulers and the civilian government it appointed insist the investigation into foreign funding is a legal effort by an independent judiciary to enforce national law, civil-society workers said the case smacks of scapegoating by a military leadership that has come under severe strain and criticism. Prosecutors said the groups violate Egyptian law by operating without licenses, while the foreign NGO leaders said their repeated applications for official credentials have been ignored.
Related stories:
Egypt to prosecute Americans, including Sam LaHood, in NGO probe.” Washington Post. February 5, 2012.
Egypt Defies U.S. by Setting Trial for 19 Americans on Criminal Charges.” New York Times. February 5, 2012.
U.S. Aid At Risk As Egypt Targets Democracy Groups.” All Things Considered?National Public Radio. February 6, 2012.
Egypt to Charge Foreign Workers; Americans Among Those Facing Trial.Wall Street Journal. February 6, 2012.
Egypt defies US with ‘unrest’ trial for 19 Americans; One of those to go on trial is the son of US Transport Secretary Ray LaHood, seen here with Barack Obama.” Times of London. February 6, 2012.
Egypt defies US with ‘unrest’ trial for 19 Americans
One of those to go on trial is the son of US Transport Secretary Ray LaHood, seen here with Barack Obama
.” Times of London. February 6, 2012.
Egypt Spirals Down; The military government trumps up a criminal case against foreigners, including American citizens.” Wall Street Journal. February 6, 2012.
Egyptian Judge Details Charges Against NGO Workers.” All Things Considered/ National Public Radio. February 8, 2012.
Egypt Judges Detail Evidence Against Americans, Others.” Wall Street Journal. February 9, 2012.
Egypt’s Premier Vows Not to Yield in Prosecuting 19 Americans.” New York Times. February 9, 2012.
What Do Democracy Promoters Actually Do?” Morning Edition/National Public Radio. February 9, 2012.
In Egypt, NGO crackdown and draft law have chilling effect.” Washington Post. February 11, 2012.
Architect of Egypt’s NGO crackdown is Mubarak holdover.” Washington Post. February 7, 2012.
New Egypt More Distrustful Than Old, U.S. Groups Say.” Wall Street Journal. February 8, 2012.
NGO Prosecution Puts U.S.-Egyptian Ties at Risk.” Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). February 8, 2012.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-16943558

“US senators warn Egypt of ‘disastrous’ rupture in ties.” BBC News. February 8, 2012.
In Egypt, NGO crackdown and draft law have chilling effect.” By Ernesto London. Washington Post. February 11, 2012.

GERMANY

Guggenheim to Close Berlin Outpost.” By Carol Vogel. New York Times. February 6, 2012. After 15 years, Deutsche Guggenheim, an outpost of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in the headquarters of Deutsche Bank in Berlin, is closing at the end of the year. The decision to end the partnership between the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and Deutsche Bank was announced in Berlin on Monday morning. Neither the bank nor the Guggenheim gave a concrete reason for the decision, saying only that their contract expires at the end of 2012. “Since 1997, when Deutsche Guggenheim was established under the leadership of Thomas Krens, its program has played an essential role in the development of contemporary art in Berlin,” Richard Armstrong, director of the Guggenheim Foundation, said in a statement. “Berlin today is a very different city from what it was when we began. We feel the time is right now to step back and re-examine our collaboration to see how it might evolve.’’ Over the years the Guggenheim has held 57 exhibitions and attracted 1.8 million visitors. It also commissioned 17 artists — among them John Baldessari, Anish Kapoor, Gerhard Richter and James Rosenquist — to create new works that were first shown at Deutsche Guggenheim. The end of Deutsche Guggenheim does not signal an end to the Guggenheim’s international network of museums. It is awaiting the green light from the City Board and the City Council of Helsinki to embark on a new Guggenheim Museum in Finland; an announcement is expected in the next few weeks.

INDIA

Private schools in Haryana oppose concessional norms for poor.” By Deepender Deswal. Times of India. February 6, 2012. Students of private schools in Rohtak would be at the receiving end of a face off between the school owners and Haryana government over concessional education to children from weaker sections. Over 400 private schools in the home district of chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda will remain closed on Monday, following a call given by the private school welfare association to protest against the government’s enforcement of provision for free education to 25% children from poor sections enrolled in these schools. They are demanding that the government incur the expenses of these children instead of putting an extra burden on them. The government has directed the schools to furnish details of the beneficiary children on the directions of the Punjab and Haryana high court. Lawyer activist Satbir Hooda had demanded the implementation of the provision under Section 134A of the Haryana School Education Rules in 2009 to reserve 25% seats for meritorious students from economically weaker sections and charge fee from them at the same rates as charged in government schools. The private schools, however, refused to provide any concession, after which Hooda approached the high court for compliance of norms. Meanwhile, opposing the government’s move, president of the private schools welfare association, Kulbhushan Sharma, said, “In 2007, government came up with these provisions which mentioned that the deficit could be recovered from the remaining 75% students. But in 2009, government deleted the provision of recovery from 75% students, which burdened the school authorities. Now, if we enhance fee of 75% students, it would be exorbitant and we have to face the opposition of parents”. Maintaining that the Monday’s closure would only be symbolic, he said they could resort to statewide strike if the government does not listen to them. This issue could be tackled under the provisions of the Right to Education (RTE), in which the government is bound to fund the education of poor students, he said.

Community Radio Saves Lives and Livelihoods.” By Manipadma Jena.” Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). February 10, 2012. Fisher Wanka Masani, 25, has been inseparable from his two- dollar transistor ever since a community radio (CR) station started up in this coastal town. The square black box blares popular songs while Masani waits for his brothers to land the daily catch. Radio Namaskar (the traditional Indian greeting), on the air since February 2010, offers much more than entertainment to the 2,000 active fishers from a 10,000-strong settlement of mud hut dwellers along Odisha state’s Chandrabhaga coastline on the Bay of Bengal. Cyclonic storms often threaten the fragile vessels of the fishers, and their lives. Television weather forecasts are unreliable because power supply in these parts is erratic. The popularity of the CR can be gauged from its most popular programme ‘Janata Darbar’ (People’s Court) and ‘Sir, Tike Sunibe?’ (Sir, Can you Kindly Lend Your Ear?) on which communities air their problems and grievances through focused 30-minute discussions, seeking redress from government agencies or elected leaders. “Ninety percent of our success stories are women-led,” says Naseem Ahmed Shah Ansari, 36, founder and chairperson of Radio Namaskar. All the 72 listener groups are led by women, he says, adding: “We want women to be the change makers in our predominantly rural setting.” Because of limited funds, the CR runs its programme entirely through 25 volunteers, ranging from Narayan Das, 62, a retired school teacher, to 18-year-old Sharup Saha, a student. “Neither the federal government nor funding organisations have any specific policy in place yet for funding CRs in India,” laments Ansari. The initial funds too were hard to come by: of the 22,000 dollars invested half came from Radio Namaskar’s parent organisation, Young India, while the rest was loaned interest-free by other non- government organisations. “Revenue from government advertisements is eyewash. We get a pittance and payments are invariably delayed,” says Ansari who is now looking at private advertisements, allowed for 5 minutes per hour of broadcast, as additional revenue.

UNITED NATIONS

UNICEF Funding Falls Short Leaving Millions of Children at Risk.” By Bari Bates. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). February 6, 2012. – If the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) had 1.28 billion dollars it could help 97 million people around the world. It could relieve five million drought-affected children in Ethiopia, give 360,000 children in Kenya access to quality education and treat 16,000 children for acute malnutrition in Madagascar. It could provide 2.2 million Somalis with safe drinking water and give a million children in the Republic of South Sudan basic health care. And those figures are for Eastern and Southern Africa alone, just two regions of the world that UNICEF aims to reach. Sadly, the U.N. agency secured less than 50 percent of its funding in 2011, suggesting that it will meet only half its expected goals this year. Each January UNICEF releases its Humanitarian Action for Children report, which identifies children around the world in the most acute need of aid as a result of humanitarian emergencies – be they “natural disasters, human conflicts or chronic crises.” The report is rife with pictures of children clinging perilously to survival; high-resolution images depict the protruding ribcages of malnourished boys and girls and the harsh realities of whole populations that are slowly starving to death. Everything about the report is a desperate call for help. But help comes at a price, which, in this case, is a high one.

UK

Benefit cuts are fuelling abuse of disabled people, say charities; Rising public resentment blamed on government.” By Peter Walker. Guardian. February 5, 2012. The government’s focus on alleged fraud and overclaiming to justify cuts in disability benefits has caused an increase in resentment and abuse directed at disabled people, as they find themselves being labelled as scroungers, six of the country’s biggest disability groups have warned. Some of the charities say they are now regularly contacted by people who have been taunted on the street about supposedly faking their disability and are concerned the climate of suspicion could spill over into violence or other hate crimes. While the charities speaking out – Scope, Mencap, Leonard Cheshire Disability, the National Autistic Society, Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB), and Disability Alliance – say inflammatory media coverage has played a role in this, they primarily blame ministers and civil servants for repeatedly highlighting the supposed mass abuse of the disability benefits system, much of which is unfounded. At the same time, they say, the focus on “fairness for taxpayers” has fostered the notion that disabled people are a separate group who don’t contribute. Scope’s regular polling of people with disabilities shows that in September two-thirds said they had experienced recent hostility or taunts, up from 41% four months before. In the last poll almost half said attitudes towards them had deteriorated in the past year. Tom Madders, head of campaigns at the National Autistic Society, said: “The Department for Work and Pensions is certainly guilty of helping to drive this media narrative around benefits, portraying those who receive benefits as workshy scroungers or abusing a system that’s really easy to cheat.” He added that ministers such as the work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, were being “deeply irresponsible” in conflating Disability Living Allowance (DLA), which helps disabled people hold down jobs, and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), a payment for those unable to work. This “scrounger rhetoric” was already having an impact on people’s lives, Madders said, citing a woman who rang the charity to say a neighbour who formerly gave lifts to her autistic child had stopped doing so following press articles about disabled people receiving free cars under a government scheme. Some disabled people say the climate is so hostile they avoid going out, or avoid using facilities such as designated parking bays if they “don’t look disabled”.
Related story:
‘Scroungers’ rhetoric over benefits fuels abuse say charities.” Independent. February 6, 2012.

Transport charities call for £100m fund to put cycling on safer track; Investment would encourage more people to switch from their cars to bicycles.” By Philip Pank. Times of London. February 6, 2012. Each year £100 million should be set aside to finance cycle infrastructure across Britain, leading transport charities propose today. The radical blueprint to kick-start construction of world-class cycle facilities calls for 2 per cent of the Highways Agency annual budget to be put into a national fund to which local authorities could bid for finance. The proposal is one of eight ideas put forward in The Times cycle safety manifesto. Investment on such a scale would encourage more people to switch from their cars to bicycles, its backers claim. The initiative from the Campaign for Better Transport, supported by Sustrans and national cycling groups, comes amid deep cuts to local authority budgets and the closure of a £60 million scheme to promote cycling. Stephen Joseph, executive director of the Campaign for Better Transport, said: “You have a fund there [the Highways Agency budget] dedicated to road infrastructure. I don’t see why 2 per cent couldn’t go to cycling infrastructure.” Eleanor Besley, of Sustrans, said: “I think that is a fantastic idea. I can’t think of any problems with it.” The Highways Agency receives £4.9 billion to maintain the road network. Most roads are managed by local authorities, whose maintenance budgets have been cut by 20 per cent, or £164 million, this Parliament. Last year, funding for infrastructure in 12 Cycling City and Towns members was also stopped. Withdrawal of the £43 million came before final analysis could be made on whether the scheme was encouraging more cycling.

Live Q&A: Students and social enterprise. Thursday 16 February from 1pm to 3pm.” Guardian. February 9, 2012. Join our expert panel to discussstudents and social enterprise. How could social enterprise be promoted among university students? As Dr Nissa Ramsay of UNLTD says, social entrepreneurship in higher education is more than just a fad – it could be instrumental to creating public value and enhancing the student experience. As Katerina Elias-Trostmann of NACUE wrote for us, there’s a real challenge in how to channel students’ ideas into viable business models says Katerina Elias-Trostmann. This live Q&A will consider: – how to teach social enterprise in higher education; – how to encourage students to pursue social enterprise in their own time; – making the leap from student social enterprise to real-life social enterprsie – how is it happening, how can it be supported and what needs to happen. Get in touch if you’d like to be a panellist – we’re interested in hearing from current students, past students who’ve carried social enterprise into their working lives, tutors and teachers, support organisations and investors. Email Gines Haro Pastor for more details. If you’d like to leave a question, please do so in the comments section below, or come back to ask it live – and follow the debate – on Thursday 16 February from 1pm to 3pm. Panel of experts: Edwin Broni-Mensah – Founder, GiveMeTap; Andre Hackett – Co-Founder, We Make a Change Ltd; Taeed Olinga – Professor in Social Enterprise, University of Northampton; Sara Fernandez – Chief Operating Officer, Student Hubs; Sharon Clancy- Head of Community Partnerships, University of Nottingham; Hushpreet Dhaliwal – CEO, NACUE.

Christianity on the rack as judge bans public prayer.” By Ruth Gledhill and Simon de Bruxelles. Times of London. Fenruary 10, 2012. The right of Christian worship in schools and Parliament faces a fresh assault after a High Court judge banned prayers at council meetings. In a landmark ruling yesterday on a case brought by the National Secular Society and an atheist councillor, formal acts of prayer in the chambers of town and city halls were outlawed. Senior members of the Church of England acted with barely disguised fury at the decision, branding the verdict a “silencing” of the Christian voice in Britain. The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey of Clifton, told The Times that the High Court ruling represented the “marginalisation of Christianity”. The National Secular Society, which began the case in July 2010, denied that the ruling was an attack on religion — but acknowledged that it was contemplating a move to stop formal prayers at both Houses of Parliament. Keith Porteous Wood, a spokesman for the society, said: “England and Wales are the only countries in the world to have [prayers at Parliament], presumably because the UK is the only country in the world to give clerics, 26 bishops, the right to sit in its legislature. Strange how Britain still is alone in thinking it is appropriate to enforce this by law. We will not give up on this.”

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (January 30-February 5, 2012)

Monday, February 6th, 2012

INTERNATIONAL

AFRICA

Social Media Saved Africa’s Oldest Community Station.” By Davison Mudzingwa. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). February 3, 2012. When a financial crisis threatened the existence of Africa’s oldest community station, Bush Radio, an outpouring of sympathy and appeals went viral on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. In the end, it was this outspoken support that showed financial backers that the station was worth saving. “It got the message out there to the decision makers, and because it was in their faces all the time… there has been offers of assistance,” said Adrian Louw, programme integrator at Bush Radio. The emergence of social media has opened new opportunities for community broadcasters in Cape Town, South Africa. Not only are they able to interact more effectively with their audiences, but they can now do so cheaply. Bush Radio broadcasts to at least 260 000 listeners, predominantly in the poor Cape Flats, formerly an apartheid housing area for people of colour. But thanks to social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and a blog, Bush Radio now maintains a strong presence in the community. “The use of social media has been important for us because it has allowed us to do stuff without getting a specific designer on board that knows our internet protocols,” said Louw.

CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL

Archdiocese Angers Many by Contesting Abuse Claims.” By Laurie Goodstein. New York Times. February 3, 2012. More than 550 people who say they were sexually abused by Roman Catholic priests or church employees have filed claims against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in bankruptcy proceedings, the largest group of claimants against any of the eight dioceses that have declared bankruptcy since 2004. The claimants came forward, many just before the deadline late Wednesday, after being encouraged to do so by the church itself and by victims’ advocates. The archdiocese ran notices in local parish bulletins and in newspapers across the country, as the bankruptcy court required. However, if the archdiocese has its way in court, as many as 95 percent of the claims could be dismissed. The archdiocese has filed motions asking the bankruptcy judge to throw out the claims of those whose cases are beyond the statute of limitations, or who already have settlements from the archdiocese or whose alleged abuse was at the hands of a layman or laywoman working for the church, not a cleric, said Jerry Topczewski, a spokesman for the Milwaukee archdiocese. The archdiocese will also ask the judge to bar any claims involving priests who were members of religious orders. Although those priests may have been working in parishes that are part of the archdiocese, the archdiocese contends that they were not technically employees. Mr. Topczewski said: “Our parishes are separately incorporated, always have been, and someone who’s a layperson employed by X-Y-Z parish is not an employee of the archdiocese. A judge is going to have to make the interpretation.” The church’s legal maneuver has infuriated those who came forward, who now feel doubly betrayed.

DEVELOPMENT

New Chief Unveils Plan to Revive Disease-Fighting Fund.” By Betsy McKay. Wall Street Journal. January 30, 2012. The new chief of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria plans a major overhaul of operations following an assessment urging improved management. The assessment came after disclosures of misused funds and a slowdown in global donations. The Global Fund, based in Geneva, is one of the world’s largest funders of programs and medicines to combat the big infectious-disease killers. It has been praised for corralling donations from more than 45 countries, as well as from private donors such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which on Thursday said it is making $750 million available to the fund in a promissory note. Since it was formed in 2002, the group has channeled $15.1 billion to 150 countries for AIDS treatment, antituberculosis drugs and bed nets to combat malaria. It is credited with helping sharply reduce malaria rates in sub-Saharan Africa. Bill Clinton, the rock star Bono, and other luminaries have lauded the fund. But the fund, noted for its transparency, has been hurt by a slowdown in donations and its own disclosures of management shortcomings and some misuse of grant money—on expenses such as an apartment renovation in India, for example, rather than medicines. Last week, its troubles led to an announcement that its executive director, Michel Kazatchkine, will step down in March. A report it commissioned recommended an overhaul of its grant management and financial practices and said it needs to redefine the way it does business with recipient countries. The fund said it is working on recovering the misspent grant money, which it says is a small portion of its overall grant funding, and it is implementing the recommendations. It has also faced allegations of mismanagement, including whether it made improper payments connected to French First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, a fund ambassador. A spokeswoman for Ms. Bruni-Sarkozy declined to comment. Simon Bland, chairman of the Global Fund board, said payments for Ms. Bruni-Sarkozy’s work were made properly, but acknowledged some discord because the board hadn’t been informed about them. He added that her AIDS campaign has “delivered some great value.”

EGYPT

Egypt Defies U.S. by Setting Trial for 19 Americans on Criminal Charges.” By David D. Kirkpatrick. New York Times. February 5, 2012. Egypt’s military-led government said Sunday that it would put 19 Americans and two dozen others on trial in a politically charged criminal investigation into the foreign financing of nonprofit groups that has shaken the 30-year alliance between the United States and Egypt. The decision raises tensions between the two allies to a new peak at a decisive moment in Egypt’s political transition after the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak a year ago. Angry protesters are battling security forces in the streets of the capital and other major cities. The economy is in urgent need of billions of dollars in foreign aid. And the military rulers are in the final stages of negotiations with the Islamists who dominate the new Parliament over the terms of a transfer of power that could set the country’s course for decades. The criminal prosecution is a rebuke to Washington in the face of increasingly stern warnings to Egypt’s ruling generals from President Obama, cabinet officials and senior Congressional leaders that it could jeopardize $1.55 billion in expected American aid this year, including $1.3 billion for the military. But for Washington, revoking the aid would risk severing the tie that for three decades has bound the United States, Egypt and Israel in an uneasy alliance that is the cornerstone of the American-backed regional order. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said she had personally warned the Egyptian foreign minister, Mohammed Amr, at a security conference in Munich on Saturday that the continuing investigation of the nonprofit groups cast new doubt on the aid. “We are very clear that there are problems that arise from this situation that can impact all the rest of our relationship with Egypt,” she told reporters there. Mr. Obama delivered a similar warning to Egypt’s acting chief executive, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, less than two weeks ago. Last week, 40 members of Congress signed letters to Field Marshal Tantawi making the same threat. “The days of blank checks are over,” Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the Democrat who chairs the spending panel overseeing the aid, said in a speech from the Senate floor on Friday. Congress recently required the State Department to certify that Egypt is making progress toward democracy before aid can be disbursed. Lawmakers and administration officials say the crackdown on the civil society groups could violate the criteria set out in the law.
Related stories:
Americans barred from leaving Egypt take refuge at US embassy in Cairo; Three US citizens move into embassy as tensions mount over Egyptian crackdown on pro-democracy and human rights groups.” Guardian. January 30, 2012.
Egypt snubs U.S. envoy regarding Americans barred from leaving.USA Today. February 1, 2012.

GHANA

Radio Static for Ghana’s Community Stations.” By Sandra Ferrari. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). January 31, 2012. There is a tension resonating through Ghana’s airwaves, an electric current fueled by rivaling interests between community radio advocates and Ghana’s National Communications Authority. Recently, community radio supporters rallied through the streets of Accra in what they called a “Voice Walk”, which Ghana’s National Communications Authority (NCA) described as irresponsible and unexpected. “Everything we do, we consult them. I don’t know what has happened,” says Henry Kanor, deputy engineer for the NCA. This past November, members of the Ghana Community Radio Network (GCRN) and the Coalition for Transparency of the Airwaves (COTA) demanded that government answer to the limited frequency allocation being given to community radio stations. Across the country, there are 11 community radio stations on air with 14 more waiting to receive their frequency. “It’s just a deliberate refusal to give people a voice,” says Wilna Quarmyne, Deputy Executive Director of the GCRN and community radio pioneer in her native Philippines. She believes the NCA is subtly putting up barriers for community radio stations in Ghana and the implications of this are detrimental to the freedom of the press here in this West African nation.

SOCIAL MOVEMENTS

“‘Occupy’ is the Watchword at Thematic Social Forum.” By Clarinha Glock. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). February 3, 2012. Traditional social movements of homeless and landless people have for years been organising occupations as a pressure tactic. Now “occupying” is a key element for fighting the capitalist system in its hour of crisis, and also in the realm of virtual reality. With a shout of “Let’s occupy Flamengo Park!” in Rio de Janeiro, representatives of trade unions, landless rural workers, women, indigenous people, Afro-Brazilians and “quiombolas” (descendants of former slaves) wound up the Thematic Social Forum (FST) last weekend in the southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre. The FST was held Jan. 24-29 as a preparatory meeting for the June People’s Summit that will take place in Rio in June, in parallel with the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20). Meanwhile, at the Global Connections meeting in Porto Alegre, held within the framework of the FST, internet activists called for a campaign to block corporate web sites, as a form of virtual occupation. The FST, an outgrowth of the World Social Forum, prompted discussion of modern forms of protest. Representatives of popular movements like the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street and the “Indignados” (Indignant) from Spain, the United States and the United Kingdom took part in the debate, in person or via the internet. Two issues captured the most attention: What to do after the occupations? And how to get the new information technology tools into the hands of traditional social movements that do not yet have access to them?

SOMALIA

Somali militants shut down Red Cross food aid; Al-Shabab insurgents say relief group is distributing spoiled food and has shut down aid distribution in the famine-hit south.” No by-line. Guardian. January 31, 2012. An International Red Cross Committee plane near Mogadishu in Somalia. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images Somali insurgents have shut down food aid distribution by a major aid group because they say the organisation is distributing spoiled food in the famine-hit south. The militant group Al-Shabab said on Monday it was closing the Red Cross’s operation permanently. The militia said it had conducted a “thorough inspection” of the aid group’s warehouses and food depots and found up to 70% of the food was “unfit for human consumption, posing a considerable health hazard and exposing the vulnerable recipients to acute illnesses”. A Red Cross spokeswoman said on Tuesday the organisation did not have an immediate comment. The Red Cross previously said some trucks were stuck on bad roads for several weeks in the rainy season and the food they were carrying was spoiled. That food – about 2,000 tonnes according to al-Shabab – was publicly burned after the militia had taken photographs of mouldy beans. The Red Cross began distributing monthly rations to 1.1 million people in October and was midway through a second distribution when a convoy of trucks was stopped by al-Shabab in mid-December in Jowhar. Negotiations for their release took several weeks but were ultimately unsuccessful. The Red Cross formally suspended operations in al-Shabab areas of southern Somalia on 12 January. It is the only agency bringing in food to the famine-hit areas on such a large scale. The UN said more than 13 million people were in need of aid and 750,000 at risk of starvation at the height of the Somali famine.

UGANDA

Rural Women’s Banks Ease Tough Times.” By Wambi Michael. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). January 31, 2012. For most Ugandan women, obtaining a commercial loan to start a business has been very difficult. Many do not have the required collateral of land title deeds and many cannot afford the interest rates charged by commercial banks. But six women-led rural banks have begun changing the lives of women in rural Uganda, easing their access to credit and enabling them to start small businesses and improve their food security. About 20 kilometres from the Ugandan capital, Kampala, is Wakiso. Here the African Women Food Farmer Initiative, a cooperative savings and credit society, is one of the six rural banks run by women. It has over 1,600 savers and borrowers and is supported by the Hunger Project, an international organisation promoting sustainable end to hunger. “It is a unique bank because it is run by women and it supports women, especially those engaged in agriculture. We mobilise women and encourage them to fight hunger and poverty by saving as well as accessing small loans,” said Rose Nanyonga, the bank manager. Nanyoga explained that unlike commercial banks, this village bank is owned by women who have a stake in its growth. “Our members buy shares in the bank. So they own it. And they get dividends at the end of every year,” said Nanyonga. All seven of the bank’s board members are also women. The bank does not merely provide clients with access to credit. Outside the banking hall agricultural input, lanterns and even solar panels are available for sale to the bank’s clients.

Using Community Radio to Heal After Kony’s War.” By Andrew Green. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). January 31, 2012. Radio Mega FM’s transmission tower rises from the centre of Gulu town, transmitting talk shows and the latest Ugandan radio hits to listeners across the district. But it also serves as something of an informal memorial to community radio-driven peace efforts during the Lord’s Resistance Army’s destruction of northern Uganda. The LRA opened its war against the Ugandan government in 1987. In the mid-1990s, the commander of the LRA, Joseph Kony, turned on his own people, the Acholi. His fighters slaughtered thousands of villagers, kidnapped and impressed thousands more children into his army and caused nearly two million people to flee to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp. Acholi leaders and NGO officials, responsible for communicating to a chaotic population where literacy was low and poverty high, needed a way to begin reorganising communities and to talk to the rebels about peace and reconciliation. Community radio stations in Gulu – the heart of Acholiland – became the linchpin of those efforts. They turned to radio because it “can reach to the very least, to the farthest of places,” said Arthur Owor, the head of the Media Association of Northern Uganda, which is based in Gulu. With one handset and one battery, presenters could communicate with dozens of people. “The net returns were really high, in terms of the message,” he said.

UK

Wildlife charity to fund police unit tackling animal trafficking; World Society for the Protection of Animals to help Metropolitan police fight trade in illegal and exotic creatures.” No by-line. Guardian. January 29, 2012. A specialist police unit that fights wildlife crime is joining forces with an animal charity. The Metropolitan police’s wildlife crime unit is teaming up with the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), which warned animal trafficking is a “major source of revenue” for criminals. It is the first time a charity has directly funded a Met police unit and it is hoped it will lead to more staff being recruited and trained in how to tackle wildlife crime. WSPA’s UK head of external affairs, Simon Pope, said: “Without the specialist skills and knowledge of the WCU, wildlife crime in London could flourish. “This is not some niche, illicit trade carried out by petty part-time villains. It is a major source of revenue for a global network of hardened criminals, gangs and drug lords, all growing rich from the trafficking of wildlife and none about to have a crisis of conscience and stop what they are doing.” Sergeant Ian Knox, head of the WCU, added: “I am delighted that the World Society for the Protection of Animals has decided to contribute a significant amount of money to the wildlife crime unit. “The extra funding will pay for more staff so we can be more proactive in targeting criminals who seek to exploit animals for financial gain. “We will also be able to provide additional support and training to wildlife crime officers across London which will ensure that the Met has the capability to tackle crimes against animals in the future.”

Welfare reform: Labour widens attack on household benefit cap; Labour calls for localised benefit cap and better regulation of profiteering landlords ahead of key Commons vote.” By Patrick Wintour. Guardian. January 31, 2012. Labour has widened its attack on the government’s £26,000-per-household benefit cap ahead of a key Commons vote on Wednesday and called on the Liberal Democrats to back plans to lower the housing benefit bill by regulating profiteering private landlords. Labour is backing a localised benefit cap in an effort to avoid alienating working class supporters that favour the principle of a cap. The shadow work and pensions secretary, Liam Byrne, has written to the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, asking for a meeting to discuss supporting reforms to tighten the housing benefit bill, notably tighter regulation of private sector landlords. Byrne argues that escalating housing benefit costs lie at the root of the mushrooming welfare bill and much of this increase has been caused by profiteering private sector landlords. Clegg is facing internal pressures of his own from campaigners demanding that Liberal Democrats vote to support most of the big six amendments to the welfare bill forced through by peers over the past fortnight. His MPs were called to a meeting of Liberal Democrat campaign groups on Monday to discuss their approach, and hear what concessions may be offered by government ministers. The Conservatives have been trying to maximise Labour’s discomfort after it voted last week with the bishops and crossbenchers to exclude child benefit from the cap’s calculation, a move seen by the government as a wrecking amendment.
Related story:
This upheaval of the welfare state demands spiritual intervention; There is a clear feeling that the debate around our public services is so fundamental that it cannot be left just to politicians and those who run the services.” Guardian. January 31, 2012.

“Private universities would raise standards, urges former Ofsted head; Sir David Bell: ‘completely relaxed’ about private organisations competing with universities
.” By Nicola Woolcock. Times of London. February 3, 2012. Ministers should throw open the market to private universities to improve standards in higher education, Sir David Bell, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Reading and a former leading civil servant, has told The Times. Sir David, former permanent secretary at the Department for Education and head of Ofsted, said he was “completely relaxed” about private organisations being allowed to offer degrees and compete for students with traditional universities. It would make higher education institutions “up their game”, he said. A Higher Education Bill, designed to extend regulation of student numbers to private universities and thus draw them into the marketplace, is expected to be squeezed out of this year’s Queen’s Speech. David Willetts, the Universities Minister, hoped to push through the new legislation this year as he wanted more competition to drive down costs and increase standards for students. But further privatisation is opposed by hundreds of academics, including Professor Martin Hall, Vice-Chancellor of Salford University, and Professor Alan Ryan, former warden of New College, Oxford. Sir David said he was in favour of an open market: “People talk about the arrival of private competition as if we’re not already in a highly competitive situation. If universities pretend they’re not, then that’s what they’re doing — pretending. We are competing. “I’m completely relaxed about the new private providers, I think what it does is make everyone up their game. Let’s not pretend that what’s being proposed is radical.

National Library Day marks a year of protests against library closures; Campaigners have saved some libraries from closure, and an inquiry begins next week – but councils are now under greater financial pressure than ever to cut services.” By Benedicte Page. Guardian. February 2, 2012. In the 12 months since a surge of public protest against proposed library closures was expressed in last February’s Save Our Libraries Day, campaigning bibliophiles around the country have enjoyed mixed fortunes. There was rejoicing in Somerset and Gloucestershire, where library closures were quashed by a legal challenge, but in Brent, north-west London, despite a determined high court action and 24-hour vigils outside Kensal Rise library, the Brent SOS Libraries campaign group failed to prevent six libraries from being boarded up. Saturday sees another national day of library action, but users of Brent’s Preston Park library will be marking National Libraries Day not in their now closed library building, but at a pop-up library in a nearby primary school. The day will consist of all manner of author visits and read-a-thons to highlight and celebrate the service. All around the country – including Oxfordshire, Doncaster and Surrey, the latest place where a legal challenge is being launched against the council – groups of committed library users are still battling to preserve their library networks from heavy cutbacks. Many credit the vigour of the campaigning for the fact that the tally of library buildings to have closed their doors is much lower than had been suggested. A year ago, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals predicted that 600 libraries could go – yet so far, according to the website Public Libraries News, only 32 in the UK have closed. Forty-three mobile libraries have also shut down; eight libraries have been handed over to local communities to run; four more, in Lewisham, have been transferred out to a social enterprise company. Alan Gibbons, who runs the influential pro-library blog Campaign for the Book, has no doubt that local protesters are responsible for the lesser number of closures.