“Alternative Media Fights Back in Argentina.” By Marcela Valente. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). January 12, 2013. Sustained by editors and readers convinced that another kind of communication is possible, independent magazines are growing and strengthening in Argentina, offering a view different from the mainstream media coverage of political, cultural and advocacy issues. Overshadowed by more than 450 magazines belonging to 40 big publishing houses, some of them multimedia offerings, another 241 publications read in Argentina are devoted to literature, film, philosophy, humour, ideological and partisan discussions, history, music, visual arts, performing arts, design or gender issues. These are not endeavours taken up by editors in their free time, but a thriving industry with an estimated 1.4 million readers monthly, providing employment to small printers across the country. Publications such as Barcelona, THC, Alternativa Teatral (Alternative Theatre), El Ojo del Músico (The Musician’s Eye), Haciendo Cine (Making Films), La Garganta Poderosa (The Powerful Voice), Clitoris, El Teje (Weaving) and Diario de Poesía (Poetry Diary) are just a small sample of the diverse offerings of the alternative media world. These publications do not receive subsidies either from the government or businesses, and have little advertising. They live practically by the sale of each copy, something forgotten by commercial magazines, which have practically become advertising catalogues, satisfied with only being displayed or circulated among the public. Since 2011, the large majority of these alternative media have been united in the Association of Independent Cultural Magazines of Argentina (Arecia), demanding a bill that would help to strengthen a non-profit but sustainable sector. “The purpose of the association is to show that we are an economically active sector, providing decent employment conditions, living off sales and paying cash,” journalist Claudia Acuña, president of Arecia, told IPS.
CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL
“California: Archdiocese Loses Ruling on Records.” By Jennifer Medina. New York Times. January 7, 2013. A Los Angeles judge ruled Monday that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles must release the names of high-ranking church officials included in some 30,000 pages of confidential records about priests accused of sexually abusing children. The decision reverses a ruling by a judge who said he worried that including the names could further embarrass the church. But in her ruling Monday, Judge Emilie H. Elias said the public’s right to know how the nation’s largest archdiocese handled molesting charges outweighed other concerns. The records include reports of abuse, letters to the Vatican and psychiatric reports and are likely to be released in the next several weeks, lawyers said. The Los Angeles Times and The Associated Press had filed an objection to the previous ruling that all names of church employees, including Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, would be blacked out.
“Judge orders archdiocese to restore names in abuse files “The public’s right to know how the church handled molestation allegations outweighs officials’ privacy rights, court rules.” By Harriet Ryan and Victoria Kim. Los Angeles Times. January 7, 2013. Church leaders who mishandled child sex abuse allegations will be named in a 30,000-page cache of internal Archdiocese of Los Angeles records set for public release in coming weeks, a judge ruled Monday. The decision by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Emilie H. Elias reversed a ruling by a private mediator that the names of archdiocesan employees should be redacted from the documents to avoid further embarrassment to the church and “guilt by association.” Elias said the public’s right to know how the archdiocese, the largest in the nation, handled molestation allegations outweighed such concerns. She also reversed the ruling of the mediator, retired federal Judge Dickran Tevrizian, that priests who had faced a single allegation of abuse would have their names blacked out. “Don’t you think the public has a right to know … what was going on in their own church,” she asked a lawyer for the archdiocese. She said parishioners who learn from the files of a priest accused of abuse in their local church “may want to talk to their adult children” about their own experiences. The records — confidential personnel files that include psychiatric files, investigative reports, parents’ letters of complaint and Vatican correspondence — are being released as part of a 2007 settlement between the archdiocese and more than 500 victims.
“German Bishops Cancel Study Into Sexual Abuse by Priests.” New York Times/Reuters. January 9, 2013. Germany’s Roman Catholic bishops on Wednesday canceled a study into the sexual abuse of minors by priests, prompting the investigator to accuse them of trying to censor what was to be a major report on the scandals. The independent study, examining church files that sometimes date to 1945, was meant to shed light on undiscovered cases after about 600 people filed claims against priests in 2010 following a wave of revelations of sexual abuse. The German scandals were part of a series of abuse scandals that also shook the Catholic Church in Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands and the United States, forcing Pope Benedict XVI to issue a public apology. Bishop Stephan Ackermann, a spokesman on abuse issues for the German Bishops’ Conference, said that the hierarchy had lost confidence in the researcher, Christian Pfeiffer, a criminologist, and that it would look for another specialist for the study. “We will have to find a new partner,” Bishop Ackermann said in a statement that blamed Mr. Pfeiffer’s “communications behavior with church officials” for the breakdown. Mr. Pfeiffer told German Radio that the bishops wanted to change previously agreed-upon guidelines for the project to include a final veto over publishing its results, which he could not accept. Officials made “an attempt to turn the whole contract towards censorship and stronger control by the church,” said Mr. Pfeiffer, head of the Criminological Research Institute of Lower Saxony.
“The hell house: This country mansion seemingly offered an idyllic setting to educate Catholic boys, but behind closed doors, Rupertswood was anything but peaceful.” By Mark Russell and Jared Lynch. Sydney Morning Herald. January 13, 2013. At the end of a winding road overlooking Sunbury is Rupertswood, an ornate 1874 mansion that today serves as a boutique hotel. But the grand residence, where butlers and doormen wait on guests paying up to $500 a night, was for decades a house of horror. It is alleged that from 1960 to 1990, when Rupertswood was a Catholic boarding and day school, Salesian brothers, including two former school principals and a boarding master, routinely abused boys in their care. Over the past decade, four brothers have been convicted separately of multiple counts of indecent assault, while another will face trial in August. Two other alleged offenders have left the country. The story of Rupertswood is one of the most disturbing to emerge ahead of the royal commission on institutional child sexual abuse. Yet alleged victims and former students say the truth about what happened is yet to be fully revealed. They paint a picture of repeated assaults, both sexual and physical; of brothers habitually haunting dormitories and infirmaries for victims; and of beatings and acts of perversion that persisted for decades.
“Despite Billions In Aid, Many Haitians Still Live In Squalid Camps.” By Jason Beaubien. All Things Considered/National Public Radio. January 11, 2013. Saturday marks the third anniversary of the powerful earthquake that destroyed much of the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince. The quake killed roughly 200,000 people and left 1.5 million Haitians homeless. Despite billions of dollars in international aid and pledges to help Haiti rebuild from the disaster, very little new, permanent housing has been built. And about 350,000 Haitians are still living in squalid, makeshift camps — where they face an array of health challenges. There’s been an epidemic of sexual assaults on women living in the camps. And residents complain that unsanitary conditions and numerous cooking fires in the cramped quarters have caused respiratory problems among the children. Jacqueline Syra has been living in the La Piste camp for three years. She says she has no idea when she will be able to leave. Fears, however, that cholera would spread rapidly through the overcrowded settlements never materialized. Aid workers say this was probably because of the treated water distributed in the camps. At its peak in 2010, this camp held roughly 50,000 residents, according to humanitarian officials. La Piste is less crowded now, but there are still tens of thousands of people here. Women bathe naked with buckets at the public water taps. Kids scurry along trash-filled ditches.
“Your so-called Big Society is dead, charities tell Cameron.” By Jill Sherman.
Times of London. January 7, 2013. The heads of Britain’s biggest charities have accused David Cameron of abandoning the voluntary sector he once championed as the heart of his Big Society project. In a letter to the Prime Minister seen by The Times, charity bosses complain that they have been left out of policy consultations and had their funding slashed by local councils. They say that the vulnerable people for whom they care are having state help eroded and being labelled as benefit scroungers. The letter calls for Mr Cameron and Nick Clegg to spell out a new commitment to charities as part of their mid-term review of the Government’s progress, to be announced today.
“NHS being ‘atomised’ by expansion of private sector’s role, say doctors; Over 100 healthcare firms to be allowed to provide basic care, prompting fears local hospital services may go out of business.” By Denis Campbell. Guardian. January 6, 2013. More than 100 private firms will be paid by the NHS to treat patients as a result of the coalition’s first major expansion of the private sector’s role in the health service. Department of Health figures show that 105 healthcare firms have been granted “any qualified provider” (AQP) status, which allows them to provide basic NHS services including physiotherapy, dermatology, hearing aids, MRI scanning and psychological therapy. Some private firms, such as InHealth, Specsavers and Virgin Care have already taken advantage of the controversial extension of competition to establish new services. The Department of Health says that 87 providers of different kinds, 38 of which are private and 26 from the NHS, have recently begun treating patients with various conditions under AQP. But the scale of the private sector’s new incursion into the NHS has led senior doctors to voice fears that the health service is being “atomised” and that it will force existing NHS services to close. Private companies, some of which already earn up to £200m a year each from NHS-funded work, say AQP is a major opportunity to increase their role in the health service. Under the new rules, each NHS primary care trust in England must open up at least three health services to “any qualified provider”, whether they are from the NHS, private sector, charity, social enterprise or voluntary organisation.
“Nick Clegg joins protests over ‘shirkers’ tag; Tory rhetoric on welfare criticised and Lib Dems accused of indiscipline on day of coalition relaunch.” By Patrick Wintour. Guardian. January 7, 2013. Conservative efforts to single out the “undeserving” poor were attacked by Nick Clegg on Monday as a high-profile attempt to relaunch the coalition instead saw growing faultlines emerge over welfare reform. The launch of the government’s mid-term review was intended to bury differences in a display of coalition unity, but the Liberal Democrat leader issued a reprimand over Conservative rhetoric contrasting “shirkers versus strivers” – a tactic aimed at isolating Labour in Tuesday’s Commons debate over a three-year squeeze on benefits and tax credits. Tensions between the two parties were were also stoked On Monday by Lord Strathclyde, the Conservative leader of the Lords, making a surprise resignation to return to his business career, admitting frustration with the behaviour of his coalition partners. With the debate over welfare savings likely to form one of the central political battlegrounds of 2013, the deputy prime minister, speaking at a joint press conference with David Cameron at Downing Street, said: “I don’t think it helps at all to try and portray that decision as one that divides one set of people against another, the deserving and the undeserving poor, people in work and out of work.”
“The ‘big society’ means little when charities are suffering; Grand ideas set out in the coalition’s first flush of youth have been quietly dropped as charities have been cut, not cultivated.” By Stephen Bubb. Guardian. January 8, 2013. When the coalition government was formed in 2010, charities were well aware that tough times lay ahead. Its plan to tackle the deficit meant spending cuts that would undoubtedly affect us and our beneficiaries. We all had to face the fact that charities would have to do more with less if they were to meet rising demand for their work while adapting to the first fall in the sector’s income in a decade. However, despite this knowledge, charity leaders cautiously welcomed the new government’s emphasis on the importance of our role in its plans. The concept of the “big society”, described by the prime minister as his “great passion”, was promoted as central to both social and economic recovery. The government promised wide-ranging reform of public services, with greater opportunities for charities and social enterprises – essential to mitigate the impact of spending cuts on the most vulnerable. As the prime minister correctly argued: “It’s not that we can’t afford to modernise, it’s that we can’t afford not to modernise.” Since those early days, however, the picture has begun to change. It would be wrong not to credit the government for some notable achievements: the creation of the social investment bank, Big Society Capital; reforms to Gift Aid and inheritance tax relief that promoted charitable giving; the creation, via the Localism Act, of new community rights that allow people to take control over local services and assets. But many charity leaders now wonder if the coalition’s rhetoric has been matched by action. On public service reform, the pace of change has slowed to an imperceptible crawl. There is enormous potential for charities to deliver more effective public services on behalf of the state, making use of their close links to communities, their understanding of the needs and circumstances of their beneficiaries and their capacity for innovation.
“Exclusive: Revealed – Tory plan for firms to run schools for profit; Controversial proposal blocked by Lib Dems but is expected to appear in 2015 Conservative manifesto.” By Andrew Grice. Independent. January 10, 2013. Private companies would be able to run state schools for profit under a plan to be published by Conservative modernisers which could be introduced if the party wins the next general election. Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has told friends he has no objections to “for profit” firms setting up the free schools independent of local authority control he has pioneered since 2010. The controversial idea has been vetoed by the Liberal Democrats, who fear it would be seen as back-door privatisation of the education system. It will not be implemented before the 2015 election, but is now seen as a front-runner for inclusion in the Tory manifesto. Bright Blue, a modernising pressure group regarded as David Cameron’s natural ally, will propose the move in a book to be published next week calling for the Coalition’s public service reforms to be extended through an injection of market forces. Although Mr Gove hopes that almost 200 free schools will be opened by September, the book argues that his revolution needs a boost to create more places in good schools. “The rhetoric does not match the reality,” it says, adding that only 24 free schools were set up in the last academic year. “Relying on not-for-profit organisations and parent groups, which have limited funds, when Government’s capital spending is constrained, is not enough,” Bright Blue says. “The for-profit sector can play a role here, providing the money to get new schools set up.”
“Academies use covert selection methods to skew intake, report finds; Holding social events for prospective parents or issuing lengthy admission forms among practices used to manipulate entry, Academies Commission claims.” By Peter Walker. Guardian. January 9, 2013. Academies use covert selection methods to skew intake, report finds. Holding social events for prospective parents or issuing lengthy admission forms among practices used to manipulate entry, Academies Commission claims. Christine Gilbert of the Academies Commission: ‘Academisation alone is not going to deliver the improvements we need.’ Some academy schools have been accused of manipulating admissions to improve results and using covert selection methods, according to a major report into the programme, which also warns that the government’s push to boost the number of academies is not leading to a consistent rise in standards. A number of academy chains are seemingly more focused on expanding their empires than improving their existing schools, the report concludes. The study, led by Ofsted’s former chief inspector Christine Gilbert, also notes an overall lack of transparency and openness, particularly over the way academy sponsors are chosen, and warns that too many school governors are not up to the hugely more significant role they play in academies. The report comes from the self-styled Academies Commission, which broadly backs the “aspirational vision” of academies and has links to the programme. The commission was set up by the Royal Society of Arts, which sponsors an academy in Tipton, West Midlands, and the textbooks giant Pearson. Among Gilbert’s co-authors is Brett Wigdortz, founder of Teach First, the charity that brings high-flying graduates into disadvantaged schools and is hugely popular with Michael Gove, the education secretary. The commission finds that some academies seem to be taking advantage of the ability to set their own admissions criteria by cherrypicking more more able pupils. This, says the report, has “attracted controversy and fuelled concerns that the growth of academies may entrench rather than mitigate social inequalities”. The commission says it has heard examples of some academies “willing to take a ‘low road’ approach to school improvement by manipulating admissions rather than by exercising strong leadership”. It says it has received numerous submissions suggesting that “academies are finding methods to select covertly”, such as holding social events for prospective parents or asking them to fill in lengthy forms when applying for a place.
“Debating whether outsourcing is good or bad is beside the point; To deliver the services their communities need in a climate of cuts, local authorities must look at the whole range, and different combinations, of delivery options.” By Anne Torry. Guardian. January 8, 2013. Local authorities enter 2013 with continued pressure to cut costs while providing services, and the question everyone is asking is whether to outsource or not. In 2012, there was great questioning about large-scale outsourcing for public service delivery, with some high-profile cases, including security contracts at the Olympics, generating widespread public scrutiny. Yet, in the autumn, the CBI issued a report concluding that the government could make savings of £22.6bn by opening up service provision to independent organisations. Some local authorities are forging ahead with existing plans, such as Barnet council, which has reportedly committed to outsource services in order to try to save £120m. Meanwhile, Cornwall council has scaled back its plan to partner with a private firm in providing both back-office and frontline services. However, focusing on questions of “should we” or “shouldn’t we” risks masking the core reason for the decision in the first place, which is delivering the right services for a local community in the best way. Successful outsourcing requires the right skills and capacity to succeed and continuous monitoring is essential to deliver the right outcomes. Many contracts are also long-term in their nature with little in-built flexibility to adapt to short-term shifts in regulation or changes in community expectations. To be effective these arrangements require a certain degree of future forecasting by local authorities and, unfortunately, this is a luxury many local authorities do not have. As the 2011 census showed, constant shifts in community demographics mean many organisations – public and private – are struggling to plan even a year ahead, let alone 10. The debate should not then simply be about whether to outsource or not. It is instead about a local authority finding the appropriate service arrangement for the needs of its organisation and community.
“Tony Blair’s old boarding school faces losing charitable status; Fettes college in Edinburgh has been ordered to increase access to poorer students within the next 18 months.” By Severin Carrell. Guardian. January 11, 2013. Tony Blair’s old boarding school, Fettes college in Edinburgh, has been told it may be stripped of its charitable status unless it greatly increases access for poorer students within the next 18 months. The private school, one of the most exclusive in Scotland, has been told by the Scottish charities regulator that its “substantial” and “unduly restrictive” fees, well above average for the sector, are a major barrier to most parents. In a highly critical report, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) said Fettes had made too little effort to increase access for low-income pupils, and so failed the main charity test of providing genuine public benefit. It has been told it has until July 2014 to increase spending on subsidised places and wider access policies. As it spent only 7% of its £15m annual income on offering means-tested bursary places or discounts for children of military personnel, fewer than 10% of its students came from less well-off backgrounds. It charges boarders up to £27,000 a year, while day pupils pay up to £20,000. The regulator stated: “The charity has not taken sufficient steps to mitigate those fees and therefore OSCR concludes that they are unduly restrictive. For these reasons, OSCR finds that the charity does not provide public benefit and it therefore fails the charity test.” The ruling is a significant embarrassment for Fettes, which was attended by Blair in the 1970s, with other alumni including the fictional spy James Bond; David Ogilvy, the advertising executive; General John de Chastelain, who oversaw IRA arms decommissioning; and the actor Tilda Swinton, who briefly studied there in the sixth form. In contrast, 10 other schools – including Dollar Academy in Clackmannanshire and Strathallan in Perthshire, which taught the current Scottish secretary, Michael Moore – have been cleared by the OSCR in the latest phase of its long-running investigation into the charitable status of 40 Scottish independent schools. The OSCR said it believed private schools were at higher risk of breaching charitable rules because of their high fees: achieving charitable status means they have significant tax advantages. They pay no corporation tax and only 20% of their normal non-domestic rates bill, while potentially qualifying for gift aid tax relief.