Archive for the ‘International’ Category

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (January 21-27, 2013)

Monday, January 28th, 2013

INTERNATIONAL

CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL

Los Angeles Cardinal Hid Abuse, Files Show.” By Ian Lovett. New York Times. January 21, 2013. The retired archbishop of Los Angeles, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, and other high-ranking clergymen in the archdiocese worked quietly to keep evidence of child molesting away from law enforcement officials and shield abusive priests from criminal prosecution more than a decade before the scandal became public, according to confidential church records. The documents, filed in court as part of lawsuit against the archdiocese and posted online by The Los Angeles Times on Monday, offer the clearest glimpse yet of how the archdiocese dealt with abusive priests in the decades before the scandal broke, including Cardinal Mahony’s personal involvement in covering up their crimes. Rather than defrocking priests and contacting the police, the archdiocese sent priests who had molested children to out-of-state treatment facilities, in large part because therapists in California were legally obligated to report any evidence of child abuse to the police, the files make clear. Cardinal Mahony said he came to understand that impact only two decades later, when he met with almost 100 victims of sexual abuse by priests under his charge. He now keeps an index card for each one of those victims, praying for each one every day, he said in the statement. In a phone interview, J. Michael Hennigan, a lawyer for the archdiocese, said that the documents represented the “beginnings of the awakening of the archdiocese of these kinds of problems,” and that the lessons learned in the intervening decades helped shape the current policy, under which all accusations of abuse are reported to the police and all adults who supervise children are fingerprinted and subjected to background checks.
Related stories:
Files show how LA church leaders controlled damage.” San Francisco Chronicle/Associated Press. January 21, 2013.
L.A. church leaders sought to hide sex abuse cases from authorities; Documents from the late 1980s show that Archbishop Roger M. Mahony and another archdiocese official discussed strategies to keep police from discovering that children were being sexually abused by priests.” Los Angeles Times. January 21, 2013.
L.A. Prosecutor to Review New Church Files on Priests.” Wall Street Journal. January 22, 2013.
New Sexual Abuse Files Cast Shadow on Legacy of Los Angeles Cardinal.New York Times. January 22, 2013.
LA Church Files Show How Cardinal Roger Mahony Shielded Pedophile Priest, Failed Child Victims.” Huffington Post. January 22, 2013.
Church sex abuse files unlikely to lead to charges, experts say; Statute of limitations is the main stumbling block to prosecuting Cardinal Roger M. Mahony and aides in the sex abuse files from the 1980s released this week, experts say.” Los Angeles Times. January 22, 2013.
Mahony’s efforts to hide abuse are deplorable but unsurprising; The calculated moves to shield molesters in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles may not be legally actionable, but when it comes to a moral judgment, the jury is already in.” By Steve Lopez. Los Angeles Times. January 22, 2013.
Cardinal Mahoney Hid Child Sex Abuse Cases.” Morning Edition/National Public Radio. January 25, 2013.
“Mishandling of abuse cases threatens Mahony’s legacy with Latinos Revelations about how the retired L.A. archbishop dealt with two pedophile priests threaten to tarnish his legacy of fighting for immigrants, an effort he described as his calling.” Los Angeles Times. January 26, 2013.

Friar accused of abuse in 2 states kills himself; Baker died from a self-inflicted knife wound; 11 men alleged Baker sexually abused them in high school. At least 3 other men from another school also alleged abuse.” USA Today. January 26, 2013. A Franciscan friar accused of sexually abusing students at Catholic high schools in Ohio and Pennsylvania killed himself at a western Pennsylvania monastery, police said Saturday. Brother Stephen Baker, 62, was found dead of a self-inflicted knife wound at the St. Bernardine Monastery in Hollidaysburg on Saturday morning, Police Chief Roger White said. He declined to say whether a note was found. Baker was named in legal settlements last week involving 11 men who alleged that he sexually abused them at a Catholic high school in northeast Ohio three decades ago. The undisclosed financial settlements announced Jan. 16 involved his contact with students at John F. Kennedy High School in Warren, Ohio from 1986-90. The Youngstown diocese previously said it was unaware of the allegations until nearly 20 years after the alleged abuse. After the settlements were announced, the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese in central Pennsylvania said it received complaints in 2011 of possible abuse by Baker at Bishop McCort High School in Johnstown, about 60 miles east of Pittsburgh. Bishop McCort High School hired an attorney to investigate after several former students alleged they were molested by Baker in the 1990s. Attorney Susan Williams said three former students had talked to her in detail about the alleged abuse. Baker taught and coached at John F. Kennedy High School in the late 1980′s and early 1990′s and was at Bishop McCort from 1992-2000. Bishop Mark Bartchak of the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese said in a statement that he was saddened by the news of Baker’s death, but declined further comment citing pending legal action involving the diocese.

Child sex abuse link to celibacy.” By Barney Zwartz. Sydney Morning Herald. January 24, 2013. Many Catholic priests take a flexible approach to celibacy, tolerated by church leaders, and some believe sex with children or men does not count, a former Melbourne priest said on Wednesday. ”An enormous number of priests struggle with celibacy,” Philip O’Donnell told the state inquiry into how the churches handle child sex abuse. ”There’s a tolerance for imperfection in celibacy, and that may have led to a lessening of outrage at sex with children.” He said he had no training about celibacy in the seminary and that many priests were ill-equipped. ”Chosen celibacy is a gift, but mandatory celibacy is for many priests a millstone,” he said. Mr O’Donnell declined to speculate on what percentage of Catholic priests, who must vow to be celibate, were sexually active, but another Melbourne priest has separately suggested it is about half. Asked by committee member Andrea Coote whether priests believed only sex with women counted as real sex (breaking celibacy vows), and that homosexual and child sex did not, Mr O’Donnell said: ”Sometimes.”

EUROPEAN UNION

Cautious Welcome for ‘Robin Hood’ Tax.” By A. D. McKenzie. Interpress Service. January 24, 2013. Non-governmental organisations across Europe welcomed the move by 11 European Union countries Tuesday to move forward with the introduction of a financial transaction tax (FTT), but they urged national governments to ensure that a part of the revenues would be allocated to development. Calling the tax a ‘golden anniversary’ present, because it came on the 50th anniversary of French-German friendship, a coalition of more than 70 NGOs appealed to French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to spread a “public message of solidarity outside their borders” to guarantee that the FTT would be used particularly in the fight against poverty and HIV-AIDS, and to combat climate change. “We are happy to see that the process is moving ahead but we’re very worried that the issue of allocating part of the money to development is not going to be taken up,” said Friederike Röder, a spokesperson for anti-poverty group ONE, which was co-founded by rock musician Bono. “What can happen is that the countries will be so pleased to see additional revenues coming in that they might use the funds for their general national budgets and not be willing to earmark any for development,” she told IPS. So far, Hollande is the only head of state who has said the FTT will go partly for development. France and Germany spearheaded adoption of this “major milestone” for EU tax guidelines, as the European Union’s taxation commissioner Algirdas Semeta put it on Tuesday. The decision came after a meeting of the EU’s 27 finance ministers in Brussels, but France had long been pressing for the move. The measure will go now go before the European Parliament as a formality, to approve the European Commission’s proposal that transactions in shares and bonds be taxed at 0.1 percent, and trades in derivatives at 0.01 percent. Overall, by implementing a levy of this percentage on financial transactions, France could gain up to 12 billion euros a year, according to the International Monetary Fund. At the European level, about 50 billion euros could be raised annually, the IMF says.

INDIA

NRI initiative raises millions for educating India’s children.” By Madhavi Rajadhyaksha. Times of India. January 25, 2013. A group of Indian-Americans in New York attended an unusual black-tie dinner gala one November evening last year. Over a video link they chatted with students of a Pune slum school. This was one of many fundraisers hosted by voluntary organization Pratham USA. Its mission: Mobilize Indians in the US to get involved in its work. The dinner was a success. More than 400, mostly those of Indian origin, pledged support to Pratham USA. On a single night, they donated $1.4million to educate tiny tots in India’s impoverished pockets. Pratham USA is an overseas arm of Pratham (India), working to ensure that “every child is in school and learning well”. It’s created a circle of giving where NRIs chip in with funds and expertise to strengthen the parent body’s educational initiatives. One of the best-known names in education, NGO Pratham has been working with the government in 21 states to improve pre-school education, provide additional learning support to in-school and out-of-school children, mainstream school dropouts, provide vocational training and computer literacy to those from vulnerable backgrounds. It touches the lives of over 2 million students annually. What started out as an informal network with a few hands in 2000 has now grown into a formal initiative involving 10,000 people across 14 US cities. They collectively generate over $11mn annually towards Pratham’s work.

RUSSIA

U.S. Quits Working Group At Core of Russian ‘Reset’.” By Gregory L. White. Wall Street Journal. January 25, 2013. The U.S. pulled out of a joint working group on civil society with Russia that had been a key element of the Obama Administration’s “reset” policy with Moscow, protesting what it called the Kremlin’s deepening crackdown on critics. Russian Interior Ministry officers detain gay-rights activists on Friday. The move, though mainly symbolic, is the latest sign of a deepening chill in relations between Moscow and Washington that has taken hold since Vladimir Putin returned to the presidency last year. While both sides insist publicly they want to continue cooperation, officials and analysts say Washington is likely to turn its focus away from an increasingly prickly and uncooperative Moscow. Tensions have built steadily over the past year or so, particularly since Mr. Putin blamed Washington for supporting anti-Kremlin protests that started in December 2011 and became the largest public challenge in his 12-year rule. Moscow’s unwillingness to step up pressure on Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad also has frustrated the U.S. Since Mr. Putin won re-election in March, his Kremlin has steadily squeezed opponents, pushing through new restrictions on protests, bringing criminal charges against rivals and imposing strict new rules on foreign-funded nongovernmental organizations. The Kremlin pushed out the U.S. Agency for International Development in the fall, saying it was trying to influence Russian domestic politics. U.S. officials say the group was simply helping support civil society. Some U.S. officials had expected the crackdown would slow after the election as the Kremlin sought to woo its onetime opponents. But the steps have intensified, particularly after President Barack Obama signed a law imposing visa and financial sanctions against Russian officials alleged to have been involved in human-rights violations. The law, named for Sergei Magnitsky, a whistleblower who died in a Moscow jail in 2009, triggered a fierce response from the Kremlin. Moscow went beyond initial threats to impose similar sanctions on U.S. officials and passed a law further limiting U.S.-backed nongovernmental groups and banning adoption of Russian children by Americans.

SPAIN

Spain’s Strapped Towns Look To Churches For Cash.” By Lauren Frayer. All Things Considered/National Public Radio. January 25, 2013. The Catholic Church is Spain’s largest and richest landowner, though its nonprofit status means it is exempt from paying most taxes. But amid the current economic crisis, that may be changing. One college town just outside Madrid is leading an effort by some Spanish municipalities to serve the church an up-to-date property tax bill. Alcala de Henares is re-evaluating the status of hundreds of church holdings that have been exempt from paying property tax for hundreds of years. The Catholic Church owns more than just places of worship. It also owns apartments and retail buildings. “We’re studying whether any church properties that have long been listed as charities are actually being used for commercial activities. If that’s the case, they’ll have to start paying tax,” said city councilman Anselmo Avendano. Last summer, Avendano passed a motion to re-evaluate church holdings by square footage. So, if one out of 30 rooms in a convent is selling sweets, it’ll have to pay tax on that one room. That’s how the system is supposed to work already, but it’s not always enforced. The church may be Spain’s biggest landowner, but it’s also the biggest charity here — at a time when public welfare programs are being cut and unemployment tops 26 percent.

UK

Charities afraid to challenge public policy amid retribution fears; Government must uphold voluntary sector independence or risk silencing most vulnerable members of society, warns inquiry.” By Patrick Butler. Guardian. January 21, 2013. Campaigning charities are increasingly fearful of speaking out on behalf of vulnerable people because of the widespread use of gagging clauses in contracts and attacks by ministers on voluntary organisations’ freedom of expression, an independent inquiry has found. Although the coalition government has promised a bigger role for charities in providing public services as part of its “big society” project, it has become increasingly contemptuous of those provider organisations which also speak out against injustice and inequality, the inquiry says. Its chairman, Sir Roger Singleton, a former chief executive of the children’s charity Barnardo’s, said the government must take action to uphold voluntary sector independence: “Without this we may see the voice of the vulnerable and marginalised being silenced, democracy being eroded and society. impoverished.” Charities told the inquiry they felt increasingly unable to challenge policy or speak out on minority issues at national or local level because they feared losing contracts or influence. Many were self-censoring because they feared retribution from funders. “Overall, we suspect there is an increasing unwillingness to speak truth unto power,” the report says. Charities most likely to be affected were smaller organisations working with “unpopular” disadvantaged groups including former offenders, people with mental health needs, drug addicts, homeless people, asylum seekers, and victims of crime. These charities are most dependent on state funding and because they are disproportionately based in deprived areas, are most likely to be affected by public funding cuts.

Should you register as a charitable incorporated organisation? New legal structures mean that charities can register as CIOs. Anita Pati looks at the sector’s response to the new regulation.” By Anita Pati. Guardian. January 22, 2013. Charitable Incorporated Organisations (CIOs) finally arrived in time for Christmas. But it seems many charities have already left the party with dampened enthusiasm. Introduced in the Charities Act 2006 and mooted for more than a decade previously, some charities were finally able to apply from December 2012. The CIO, set out in the Charities Act 2011, will allow charities to become incorporated charities, and so able to enter into contracts in their own right. Their trustees or members will have limited or no liability and the organisation will need only to register once with the Charity Commission rather than also going to Companies House,, the aim of which is to reduce any administrative burdens. CIOs will also not be subject to company law. But the wait has irritated many. Barney Mynott, spokesman for the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action (Navca), says, “the delays in implementing the CIO were unacceptable. They caused confusion, frustration and additional work for charities wanting to start up as a CIO or wishing to convert”.

Why collaboration is important for charities; Keeping a clear focus on the best outcome for beneficiaries and understanding pricing issues is the key to success.” Guardian. 1-23-13. There are pressures for organisations in every sector – including those in the voluntary sector – to team up with others to achieve common goals. In our experience at Impetus, small and medium-sized charities and social enterprises are often the ones coming up with the most innovative solutions to social problems. Whether two or more small charities collaborate to help them reach more people, or a large organisation collaborates with a small one because it recognises the special value the smaller organisation brings to clients, it is the partnership that allows them to make the greatest impact. Collaboration can be a relatively quick, though not always easy, way of bringing impactful solutions to more people. But collaboration isn’t always the answer. Messages such as “let’s all work together” and “the sum is greater than the parts” are often heard, but what is difficult to decide is when collaboration is right for your organisation. We believe collaboration is the right step when it can lead to significant growth for an organisation in terms of people helped, or income, and when it deepens the positive impact an organisation makes on its clients. In a new report we have produced with New Philanthropy Capital (NPC), called Collaboration for Impact, we examine what makes a good collaboration. The aim is to make it easier for organisations to spot the right opportunities and to clear the most common obstacles on the path to collaborative success.
Our research determined the key factors for a successful collaboration.

Voluntary sector independence ‘under direct challenge’; Ex-Barnado’s chief executive says contracting and government procedures putting independence at risk.” By Roger Singleton. Guardian. January 22, 2013. The right of some voluntary organisations to campaign and criticise the government is under direct challenge, at a time when that independent voice is vital. It’s not just that engagement and trust in mainstream politics has declined and the political debate has narrowed. It’s also that the poorest in society are feeling the hardest effects, as real incomes fall and public services are cut, and charities often know from first-hand experience what the problems are and what should be done about it. So it was worrying to hear Save the Children being attacked last year by conservative commenters for its campaign to tackle child poverty in the UK. Even more so to see advice from the department of communities and local government to local authorities to stop funding what it calls ‘fake charities’ that ‘lobby and call for more state regulation and more state funding.’ That advice referenced publications that implied that it was wrong to fund charities like Alcohol Concern to help with public health campaigns or for charities like Relate and Oxfam to receive public money and give their views to Government about policy at the same time. Voices are being directly silenced in the work programme through so-called ‘gagging clauses’ that prevent voluntary sector contractors from doing anything to ‘damage the reputation’ of the department for work and pensions, or giving out their own data publicly – data that might highlight problems for specific groups. Is it right in a democracy to prevent whistleblowing about things that might be wrong with public services or public policy?

Impact measurement is essential to winning public service contracts; A new approach by public-service commissioners shows that organisations demonstrating value are more likely to win contracts.” By Saba Salman. Guardian. January 24, 2013. Public-service commissioners employed by local authorities are often accused of being risk averse, opting for the cheapest deal and bypassing small providers in favour of the usual service delivery suspects. In Camden, north London, a few years ago, commissioners worked with the New Economics Foundation to, in the council’s own words, “develop outcome-based procurement that will support sustainable communities, and demonstrate the added community value from third sector service provision”. The Camden example, showcased on the NCVO website as good practice, aimed for an outcome based commissioning model which asked providers, among other things, how the services identified users’ strengths and how they supported clients in finding ways to help or support others. If your organisation relied on using traditional output-based evidence to measure success, what hope would you have of bidding for a Camden contract – and what hope would the council have in weighing up your services under its new approach?

“Treasury aims to widen payroll-giving schemes; Of £9.3bn donated to good causes in 2011-12, £118m was via payroll giving.” By Hilary Osborne. Guardian. January 23, 2013. Companies such as JustGiving and Virgin Money may be allowed to run workplace-giving schemes in an attempt to shake up the market and encourage more people to make regular charitable donations from their earnings. The schemes allow employees to make donations from pay before tax, meaning that higher-rate taxpayers who give £10 to charity see their monthly income reduced by £6. They are popular with charities, who receive a regular income, and allow 40% taxpayers to maximise donations without having to claim gift aid. However, just 2% of UK firms offer schemes and only 735,000 people, 3% of the workforce, are signed up. Of £9.3bn donated to good causes in 2011-12, £118m was via payroll giving. The only organisations allowed to run schemes for businesses are charities. Of 12 active payroll-giving agencies the largest, the Charities Aid Foundation, has 80% of the market. Charges for businesses are typically 4% of the money donated, which some firms pay themselves and others take out of employees’ contributions. The Treasury is consulting on opening the market to other organisations, which it said could drive down costs and raise awareness. It also wants workers leaving jobs where they are signed to receive “exit packs” including forms they can take to their new employer in order to continue their payments. Among those that could get involved are JustGiving, an online fundraising firm. It charges charities £15 a month plus a fee of between 2% and 5% on every donation after gift aid, while donors pay card transaction fees of 1.3%. It reported profits of £1.4m in 2011. Virgin Money Giving, which runs a rival non-profit-making operation, charges charities 2% on donations plus a one-off set-up fee, while donors face a fee of 1.45% on card payments.

A look at charity pensions; How changes to the law introduced in October are affecting pensions for charity professionals.” By Claudia Cahalane. Guardian. January 25, 2013. Last October, Chester Voluntary Action (CVS) organised an event for its members to help them learn more about new legal requirements to automatically enrol staff into a pension scheme. The law, introduced in October, is being staggered. Large employers, for example those with more than 120,000 staff, had to enrol workers in a qualifying pension scheme from last October. But those with less than thirty staff will not have to start auto-enrolling employees until 2017 or 2018. Out of CVS’s 400 members, only 8 turned up to its pension event. There is a sense that because many charities are several years off their staging date, they aren’t yet factoring pensions into their budgets. Almost 70% of charities have less than 50 staff and won’t have a start date before 2015, but that doesn’t mean they can “put their feet up,” says Jane Tully, head of policy and public affairs, at Charity Finance Group. “Planning now can help smooth the costs, so that there isn’t a sudden shock to the finances at any point,” she adds. The Pensions Regulator says it can take larger employers up to 18 months to prepare for a scheme and is encouraging charities to determine their start date as soon as possible so they can at least work out when to start preparations. Tully comments: “Bigger charities are now working on organising a scheme or adjusting their existing pension scheme to comply with the new law, often using external resource.”

1,000 postgraduates a year ‘too poor’ to take up Oxford place; University’s ‘wealth test’ said to discourage up to 15% of successful candidates as legal and political row grows.” By Daniel Boffey. Guardian/Observer. January 26, 2013. About 1,000 students a year turn down a postgraduate place won at Oxford on academic merit because of the financial demands of study there, university figures suggest. This amounts to 15% of the 7,500 students offered a place, according to the admissions office. The figure has emerged after the outcry last week over the case of Damien Shannon, 26, who is suing St Hugh’s College for “selecting by wealth”. Oxford demands that students who meet its academic targets for study must also prove that they have liquid assets to cover fees, which can reach £41,000, plus £12,900 in living costs. Students cannot factor in future earnings from evening or weekend work under a policy formalised across the university in 2010. There is also only one university means-tested scholarship to allow poorer students the chance of a postgraduate education. St Hugh’s denies that it discriminates against those from lower-income backgrounds or that it has contravened Shannon’s “human right” to an education by demanding that he show he had access to £21,000 for fees and living costs for his economic and social history course. St Hugh’s claims in its defence that the so-called financial guarantee is enforced to ensure students will be able to complete their courses without suffering financial difficulty and anxiety. Last week parliament debated Shannon’s legal case, which has received the backing of former Labour cabinet minister Hazel Blears, MP for Salford, where Shannon lives. She said the university’s demands were “unfair and shortsighted” because they blocked talented students from poor backgrounds. She said the amount of money the university demanded students have access to bore no relation to the real costs of study. She added: “I know that work has been done over the last few years to try to widen access to undergraduate degrees, but postgraduate qualifications are becoming increasingly expected if people are to [gain] access to some of our professions. That is why I am so exercised about this situation.”

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (JANUARY 7-13, 2013)

Monday, January 14th, 2013

INTERNATIONAL

ARGENTINA

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.

HAITI

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.

UK

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.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (December 31, 2012-January 6, 2013)

Monday, January 7th, 2013

INTERNATIONAL

HAITI

Needham foundation expands orphanage in Haiti.” By Brian MacQuarrie. Boston Globe. January 6, 2013. The idea was born from a firsthand look at the desperation that enveloped Haiti after the devastating earthquake in 2010: Build a home for a few dozen of the thousands of children orphaned by the disaster. That goal was met in late October by the Alliance for Children Foundation, based in Needham, which moved about 40 orphans from a squalid home with little supervision to a modern, fully-staffed building in Kenscoff, a remote mountain village south of the chaotic capital, Port-au-Prince. But now, inspired by the foundation’s success, hundreds of thousands of dollars in new donations mean that the group can finish an adjacent community center and a second, nearby orphanage to house infants and toddlers. The center will contain the only medical clinic in the region; vocational training for adolescent orphans and others; and a workspace where villagers can make crafts for sale in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

UK

Archbishop of Canterbury hails church volunteers.” By Tim Moynihan. Independent. January 1, 2013. Volunteers from the churches and other faith groups who help those in need are like the Games Makers who contributed to the success of the London Olympics and Paralympics, the Archbishop of Canterbury said today. In his final New Year Message, Dr Rowan Williams said: “If you have the good fortune to live in a community where things seem to be working well, the chances are that if you slip backstage you’ll find an army of cheerful people making the wheels go round – and don’t forget just what a huge percentage of them come from the churches and other faith groups.” Dr Williams, who left office yesterday, said the “extraordinary events” of the Olympics and Paralympics provided an unforgettable spectacle. “But everyone who visited the Olympic site or watched the broadcasts will have been made aware of the army of volunteers who cheerfully gave up their free time and worked away, without complaint, all hours of the day and night to make these great events happen. They were the key people who translated the Olympic vision into reality for the rest of us. “It ought to make us think a bit harder about all the other folk who quietly, often invisibly, turn vision into reality and just make things happen – especially volunteers.”
Related story:
Archbishop hails volunteers in his final New Year message; Rowan Williams compared volunteers from the churches and other faith groups to the ‘Games Makers’ of the 2012 Olympics.” Guardian. January 1, 2013.

Call for crackdown on all-party groups.” By Laura Pitel. Times of London. January 3, 2013. MPs and peers have called for tighter regulation of parliamentary interest groups after The Times revealed that such groups had received hundreds of thousands of pounds in funding from internet giants, pharmaceutical companies and weapons manufacturers.

Lonely Roads: Our Christmas charities are saving lives, helping people, and deserve your support.” Editorial. Times of London. January 4, 2013. For most, the start of a fresh year brings a sense of renewal. The cracking open of a blank calendar carries a quiet promise of possibilities, and spurs an impulse to optimism for the months ahead. But for many, 2013 will feel indistinguishable from 2012 — another year unwinding before them like a grey ribbon, a year in which their lives will continue to be shaped by forces beyond their control, beyond their pocket and beyond the concerns of kindly strangers. With your help, it need not be.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (December 24-30, 2012)

Monday, December 31st, 2012

INTERNATIONAL

CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL

Media may argue against redactions in church files, judge rules; The personnel files are due to be made public as part of a historic $660-million settlement between the Los Angeles Archdiocese and alleged victims of sexual abuse by priests.” By Victoria Kim. Los Angeles Times. December 27, 2012. Media organizations will be allowed to argue against redactions in secret church files that are due to be made public as part of a historic $660-million settlement between the Los Angeles Archdiocese and alleged victims of sexual abuse by priests, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ruled Thursday. Pursuant to Judge Emilie Elias’ order, The Times and the Associated Press will be allowed to intervene in the case, in which attorneys are gearing up for the release of internal church personnel documents more than five years after the July 2007 settlement. The judge’s ruling came after attorneys for the church and the plaintiffs agreed to the news organizations’ involvement in the case. The Times and the AP object to a portion of a 2011 decision by a retired judge overseeing the file-release process. Judge Dickran Tevrizian had ruled that all names of church employees, including Cardinal Roger M. Mahony and other top archdiocese officials, should be blacked out in the documents before they were made public. In a hearing, Tevrizian said he did not believe the documents should be used to “embarrass or to ridicule the church.” Attorneys for the news organizations argued in court filings that the redactions would “deny the public information that is necessary to fully understand the church’s knowledge about the serial molestation of children by priests over a period of decades.” The personnel files of priests accused of molestation, which a church attorney has said were five or six banker’s boxes of documents, could include internal memos about abuse claims, Vatican correspondence and psychiatric reports. Contending that the secrecy was motivated by “a desire to avoid further embarrassment” for the church rather than privacy concerns, the media attorneys wrote: “That kind of self-interest is not even remotely the kind of ‘overriding interest’ that is needed to overcome the public’s presumptive right of access, nor does it establish ‘good cause’ for ongoing secrecy.”

FRANCE

In Need, French Museums Turn to Masses, Chapeaux in Hand.” By Doreen Carvajal. New York Times. December 23, 2012. The crass term for it is begging, but the French prefer a loftier description: “participatory financing.” For as little as a single euro even the most ordinary art connoisseur can join the fund-raising fraternité that is working to restore the dome of the Panthéon here. Contribute a few hundred more and you get an invitation from the Center for National Monuments, the French landmarks agency, to a party there, at the emblematic temple of the republic. Maybe you’d like to help the Louvre buy a pair of 13th-century ivory statuettes, or the Museum of Fine Arts in Lyon get the Ingres oil it so very much desires? Please? The austerity measures that have hurt the arts across the Continent have been particularly unsettling in France, where cultural spending is so sacrosanct that it has long been one investment on which governments both left and right could agree. But now the directors of grand cultural institutions here are resorting to public appeals just to pay for the things they want, cobbling together the money not by courting millionaires but just the average Jules. Contributors, alas, do not score the French equivalent of a PBS tote bag. But a whole range of other enticements, from free tickets to party invitations, have been trotted out. Donate to the Panthéon cause, for example, and your picture will be posted on a temporary kiosk outside. So far the appeals are working.

UK

Manchester United’s plea to free the children of war.” By Paul Vallely. Independent. December 26, 2012. Manchester United, arguably the biggest football club in the world, have thrown their weight behind The Independent’s Christmas Appeal to raise money for the rescue of child soldiers by Unicef in one of Africa’s poorest nations. Sir Alex Ferguson, the United manager, today appeals for fans of the club – which is said to have 75 million supporters worldwide – to make donations to this newspaper’s appeal for funds to help the leading children’s charity Unicef in its work negotiating the release of children under the control of rebel militias in the Central African Republic, one of the 10 poorest countries on the continent. The Appeal centres on the rescue and rehabilitation of boys pressed into fighting and girls forced into sex slavery. Some of the club’s best known footballers are also backing the Appeal. “These kids are missing out on the love and care of parents,” It is estimated that today some 300,000 children – boys and girls from the age of seven to 17 – are involved in more than 30 conflicts worldwide. One country where there is a large number of child soldiers is the Central African Republic which is home to a number of rebel army groups that use child soldiers. The most notorious is the Lord’s Resistance Army led by the sadistic warlord Joseph Kony which was founded in Uganda and southern Sudan but which now operates primarily in the Central African Republic and neighbouring Chad. Our Christmas Appeal this year is asking readers to donate to Unicef’s work in the Central African Republic where it has an extensive programme to negotiate with rebel groups to get these children freed.

The food banks keeping families from going hungry this Christmas; Three open every week and 15,000 people will turn to them over the festive period. For one family in Salisbury, the arrival of the Trussell Trust’s seasonal hamper has made all the difference.” By Kate Kellaway. The Observer/Guardian. December 22, 2012. It is 11am as we drive away from the Salisbury headquarters of the Trussell Trust, the anti-poverty charity that oversees the UK’s 292 food banks. The sun is shining and there is a Christmas hamper on the back seat of the car – one of 550 to be delivered in Salisbury this month. Gold crackers, mince pies, Fox’s favourites, cream crackers, Mr Kipling cakes, tinned ham are wrapped in snow-spotted polythene and blue ribbon. It is arguable that the volunteers doing the packing have overdone the mince pies – but the overall effect is splendid. I am with Molly Hodson, one of the trust’s impressive team, and she is filling me in on how hard Christmas is for people on the breadline. “It can be an overwhelming struggling to put food on the table.” It scarcely needs spelling out – you have only to think, for a moment, of food advertisements on television, carols demanding “bring us some figgy pudding” and the habit that Christmas has, whatever your circumstances, of magnifying any existing problems. The trust expects to hand out emergency food to 15,000 people over the Christmas fortnight (almost double the number during the same period last year). Hunger is unacceptable whatever the month, but Christmas puts it into focus. 13 million people live below the breadline in the UK. Food banks have fed more than 180,000 people since April 2012 and are multiplying at an astonishing rate: three food banks open every week in the UK, including in places where you would least expect them – Stratford-upon-Avon, the north Cotswolds, Kensington. “Hidden hunger” has become a catchphrase – “hidden” because of the stigma that still clings to it. This is something the Trussell Trust is determined to change.

Margaret Thatcher’s role in plan to dismantle welfare state revealed; Newly released Downing Street documents show Tory cabinet considered compulsory charges for schooling and end to NHS.” By Alan Travis. Guardian. December 27, 2012. Margaret Thatcher and her chancellor Sir Geoffrey Howe were behind a politically toxic plan in 1982 to dismantle the welfare state, newly released Downing Street documents show. She later attempted to distance herself from the plans after what was described as a “riot” in her cabinet. The proposals considered by her cabinet included compulsory charges for schooling and a massive scaling back of other public services. “This would of course mean the end of the National Health Service,” declared a confidential cabinet memorandum by the Central Policy Review Staff in September 1982, released by the National Archives on Friday under the 30-year rule. Nigel Lawson, then the energy secretary, said the report by the official thinktank on long-term public spending options caused “the nearest thing to a cabinet riot in the history of the Thatcher administration”.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (December 17-23, 2012)

Monday, December 24th, 2012

INTERNATIONAL

AUSTRALIA

Charity offerings down but people power out in force.” By Rachel Browne. Sydney Morning Herald. December 17, 2012. The groups that support needy people at Christmas are doing it tough themselves this year with charity organisations saying donations have slumped compared with last December. But as financial donations dried up, more people were giving up their time to wrap gifts, prepare hampers and feed the disadvantaged on Christmas Day. The Salvation Army’s Kmart Wishing Tree Appeal needed 330,000 gifts to be donated within the next week to reach its national target of 500,000 presents. Last year, 461,000 gifts were donated. This year, only 170,000 had been donated since the appeal started on November 14. The Salvation Army spokesman, Bruce Harmer, was hoping for a last-minute rush of goodwill this week. ”As more people finish their Christmas shopping this week, we hope they will put gifts under the trees and we will meet our target,” he said. The gifts were distributed to 300,000 individuals and families in need. The Smith Family chief executive, Lisa O’Brien, said donations were down this year but the organisation was halfway towards meeting a national $4.65 million fund-raising target by the end of December. She said many donors had tightened their own budgets due to the higher cost of living. ”We have seen significant increases in the cost of living this year – rent, electricity and other utilities. That does put extra pressure on people. Once they have paid for all those essentials, there is not much left over.”

Italian charity faces police scrutiny.” By Royce Millar and Melissa Fyfe. Sydney Morning Herald. December 20, 2012. Police are assessing a report alleging inappropriate financial conduct at a Melbourne-based charity run by some of Australia’s leading Italian community figures. The Carlton-based CO.AS.IT, funded by the Australian and Italian governments, is a welfare, education and cultural organisation for Italian migrants. A Victoria Police spokeswoman confirmed that police are assessing a ”report” alleging inappropriate conduct.
”As this process remains under way, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage,” the spokeswoman said. Fairfax Media is also aware that senior ranks of the Health Department have raised issues concerning CO.AS.IT’s handling of home-based support services for Italian senior citizens. The allegations to the police come after growing unease among some members of Melbourne’s Italian community about the operations of CO.AS.IT. Former Victorian MP for Brunswick Carlo Carli has recently questioned management about a previously unknown entity called the Italian Services Institute, which appears to have received millions of dollars of donations from CO.AS.IT in the past decade. Mr Carli briefly worked for CO.AS.IT managing its heritage centre, Museo Italiano, but was retrenched on the grounds of irreconcilable differences when he started asking questions about the charity’s operations. CO.AS.IT chief executive Giancarlo Martini-Piovano has been in his role since 1974. ”The only thing I can say is that CO.AS.IT has done nothing wrong, in every sense, and I have not got anything else to say,” he said. At CO.AS.IT’s general meeting in November, management refused to answer members’ questions about the charity’s finances.

CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL

Boston priest gets new role in Vatican; Canon lawyer to be chief prosecutor.” By Lisa Wangsness. Boston Globe. December 22, 2012. The Rev. Robert W. Oliver, 52, will become promoter of justice — a title akin to prosecutor in the American legal system — for the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith, the Vatican office charged with protecting church doctrine. It oversees all serious crimes against the church, including the sexual abuse of children by priests. Oliver is a longtime professor of theology and canon law who since 2002 has served in a variety of capacities in the church’s internal legal system, or canon law system, in Boston – as judge, promoter of justice, chief of investigations, and member of the archdiocesan review board that handles sexual abuse complaints. After the abuse scandal erupted in Boston in 2002, Oliver also helped train officials in dioceses across the nation in how to implement the major reform imposed by US bishops in 2003. He also assists the vicar general of the archdiocese, Bishop-elect Robert P. Deeley, on matters related to church,, or canon, law. David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said that any Boston priest who served under Cardinal Bernard F. Law and did not overtly call for his ouster lacks credibility with abuse victims. In Oliver’s appointment, he said, the Vatican was “rubbing salt into the wounds” of victims.
Related story:
Boston Priest to Lead Oversight of Sexual Abuse Claims at Vatican.” New York Times. December 22, 2012.

UK

Scientology chapel not a place of worship, rules judge; Louisa Hodkin wished to marry fiancee Alessandro Calcioli at a Scientology chapel.” By Ruth Gledhill. Times of London. December 20, 2012. A judge has refused a member of the Church of Scientology the right to marry in a Scientology chapel because it is not a place of “religious worship” and the movement is “a philosophy concerned with man”. Louisa Hodkin, 23, had challenged a refusal by the Registrar General of Births, Deaths and Marriages in England and Wales to register the chapel in Queen Victoria Street, Central London, for weddings. Mr Justice Ouseley, at the High Court in London, backed the registrar’s decision and dismissed the challenge but referred the matter to the Supreme Court for a final judgment. Ms Hodkin wanted to marry a fellow Scientologist, Alessandro Calcioli, at the chapel and her lawyers argued that she was the victim of unlawful religious discrimination. Under the Places of Worship Registration Act 1855, the chapel has to be certified as a meeting place for religious worship to enable legally recognised religious marriages to take place. Scientologists have previously applied unsuccessfully for marriage certification at other premises in England they say are used for religious worship.

On road to modernization, Church of England finds crisis.” By Anthony Faiola. Washington Post. December 19, 2012. The surprising defeat last month of a measure allowing the ordination of female bishops has plunged the Church of England into a crisis with one issue at its core: Should religion adapt to fit an increasingly secular society, or should it be the enforcer of tradition in fast-changing times? Debate over that question is upending Britain’s official church, the symbolic heart of a global Anglican Communion that includes the Episcopal Church in the United States. The narrow loss of the measure has so infuriated liberal church leaders that many insist that the only way forward is to simply show conservatives the door. The result is what both sides are calling a tug of war for the Church of England’s soul, offering a snapshot of one of the last frontiers of the Western world’s culture wars: the push to bring modern norms inside faith-based institutions. The move to open the way to women was approved by bishops and clergy at a General Synod last month, but the measure failed to win a two-thirds majority among representatives of the laity. The minority that blocked the proposal portray themselves as strict interpreters of the Bible and guardians of tradition, and they warn of wider divisions if church leaders proceed with efforts to revive the plan. At a time when casual churchgoers are abandoning pews, these conservatives argue that the Church of England cannot afford to alienate some of its most active members: Anglo-Catholics and evangelicals whose numbers are swelling even as they organize into what some here are calling a British version of the American religious right.

No 10 charity partner pledges to educate ministers on childhood hunger; Magic Breakfast founder Carmel McConnell says hunger among children not limited to feckless or workshy families.” No by-line. Guardian. December 21, 2012. The founder of a school breakfasts charity chosen as one of Downing Street’s two official causes for 2013 has promised to use the position to educate ministers about the true scale of childhood hunger in the UK. Carmel McConnell, chief executive of Magic Breakfast, which provides free, healthy breakfasts to pupils in 200 primary schools but has a waiting list of 140 more, said she planned to request one-on-one chats with Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, and Michael Gove, the education secretary, to impress on them that hunger among children was not restricted to feckless or workshy families. The charity was named along with Friends of the Elderly as Downing Street’s official charity partners for next year, a selection made by No 10 staff. McConnell – who stressed her comments were not party political and complained that Labour largely ignored the issue while in office – said: “The feckless parent argument is noise. I don’t see the data behind it at all. I’ve asked as part of this partnership to have a one-to-one with Iain Duncan Smith and a one-to-one with Michael Gove to say: ‘can we make the case for children being fed at breakfast time?’ I think Number 10 have taken a bit of a chance on us, to be honest. We are genuinely challenging.” Demand for the charity’s services had “gone through the roof”, McConnell said. “It’s getting much worse and that’s directly related to the shakedown of jobs that’s come out of the recession. We make the point everywhere that the majority of parents we’re helping are new poor.

Julian Assange promises over a million WikiLeaks releases in 2013 – video.” No by-line. Guardian. December 21, 2012. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange makes a balcony appearance on Thursday at the Ecuadorean embassy in London where he is holed up to avoid extradition to Sweden over alleged sexual offences. Assange promises to release over a million more documents in the coming year that will affect ‘every country in the world’.”
Related story:
Julian Assange: WikiLeaks to release 1 million new documents.” CNN. December 21, 2012.

Charity’s insolvency leaves homeless people without support; Demise of People Can over pensions liabilities leads to fears of domino effect among charities.” By Patrick Butler. Guardian. December 21, 2012. Maff Potts, the former chief executive of People Can, who said he was shocked that some councils had not replaced services. Hundreds of homeless people with mental illness, addiction and debt problems are being left to cope without vital support services after a leading charity was forced into insolvency by its pensions liabilities. The winding up of People Can, which provided homelessness support services on behalf of several English local authorities, has shocked the voluntary sector. Pensions experts say its demise could trigger a domino effect, potentially driving hundreds of other charities providing public services into liquidation. Experts said charities at high risk of going bust included those dependent on public funding, or which have inherited expensive pensions liabilities after taking over the running of public sector services, including social care, leisure centre facilities, housing and academy schools. They say the pensions crisis will undermine the government’s attempts to outsource a bigger share of the public services provider market to smaller voluntary sector groups, leading to fears that only national charities, large housing associations and private companies will be able to run outsourced services in future. People Can employed almost 300 people and ran a range of services, including homeless hostels, housing support, domestic abuse projects, work with ex-offenders and schemes to help teenagers stay out of gangs.

Live debate: impact of the Social Value Act, 11 January 2013, 12-1.30pm.” Guardian. Join our experts on Friday 11 January to discuss what the social value act means and how social enterprises can win public sector contracts.” In January the Public Services (Social Value) Act will take affect. Chris White MP, who sponsored the act, has described it as ‘the biggest opportunity in decades for social enterprise’ and as a chance to change public services for the better. Social Enterprise UK chief executive Peter Holbrook has called for it to go further, while the Transitiion Institute’s Allison Ogden-Newton believes smaller, local social enterprises could be squeezed out at the expense of larger service deliverers. Join us on Friday 11 January to discuss: • the opportunities that the social value act presents for social enterprises; • what social enterprises must do to win public sector contracts;• why the act may not be social enterprise’s holy grail. Do get in touch if you’d like to be a panellist – email Joe Jervis for more details.

More Than Courage; The Cruse Bereavement Centre helps children cope with loss and needs your help.” No by-line. Times of London. December 22, 2012. There are not many tasks more harrowing than explaining the death of a family member to a child. That is the profoundly troubling task undertaken by the Cruse Bereavement Centre, which is one of the charities that The Times is supporting at Christmas. When one child in every classroom, on average, has lost a parent or a sibling, it is also vital work. The urge to protect children from their grief at bereavement is a natural one but for most children it is a prolongation of the agony. All the usual euphemisms for death only postpone the obvious question. As Philip Larkin wrote in his great contemplation of death, Aubade, “courage is no good:/ It means not scaring others. Being brave/ Lets no one off the grave./ Death is no different whined at than withstood.” But for all that courage is no good, the children helped by the Cruse Bereavement Centre show it in great measure. For some of them the death of a beloved grandmother, parent or sibling, almost always their first experience of the pain and finality of death, sends them into their shell. That is why good counselling can help.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (December 10-16, 2012)

Monday, December 17th, 2012

INTERNATIONAL

CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL

L.A. Times asks judge to stop redaction of priest abuse records.” No by-line. Los Angeles Times. December 10, 2012. A Los Angeles County judge is set to meet today with lawyers for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and victims of clergy sex abuse. The hearing before Superior Court Judge Emilie H. Elias comes three days after the L.A. Times filed a motion opposing the redaction of the names of high-ranking church officials in confidential church files set to be made public in coming weeks. The records, all pertaining to priests accused of sexual abuse, are being released as part of a 2007 settlement with more than 500 alleged victims. “The public is entitled to know which members of the hierarchy had information about the widespread molestation of children and what they did about it,” lawyers for the newspaper wrote. “Without this information, the public will not be able to assess the extent of institutional or individual knowledge of the abuse.”

L.A. Archdiocese personnel files could be released next month; A Superior Court judge has set a hearing for Jan. 7 to hear objections on releasing L.A.; Archdiocese files on its handling of child molestation allegations.” By Victoria Kim, Harriet Ryan and Ashley Powers. Los Angeles Times. December 10, 2012. After five years of legal wrangling, confidential personnel files of at least 69 priests accused of sexually abusing children in the Los Angeles Archdiocese could be ordered released as early as January, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge said Monday. Judge Emilie H. Elias set a hearing for Jan. 7 to hear objections to the release of what a church attorney said were five or six banker’s boxes of files relating to the archdiocese’s handling of child molestation claims, which could include internal memos, Vatican correspondence and psychiatric reports. The public release of the files was agreed to as part of a record $660-million settlement reached in 2007 between the archdiocese and 562 people who alleged that they were molested as children by clergy members. The process, overseen by a retired judge, was beset by delays and faced objections from an attorney representing at least 30 of the priests, who contends that his clients’ constitutional rights to privacy are at stake. The retired judge, Dickran Tevrizian, also ordered that all names of church leaders, including Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, who retired as archbishop last year, be blacked out in the files, saying the information should not be used to embarrass the archdiocese. Attorneys for The Times on Friday filed a motion opposing the redaction of church officials’ names, contending that the public has a right to know who in the hierarchy knew of molestation allegations and what they did about it. “Without this information,” lawyers for the newspaper wrote, ” the public will not be able to assess the extent of institutional or individual knowledge of the abuse.”

Catholic commission to advise on child sex abuse.” By Barney Zwartz. Sydney Morning Herald. December 12, 2012. The Catholic Church has set up a new Truth, Justice and Healing Commission to advise its bishops and run its dealings with the forthcoming royal commission on child sex abuse. It will be headed by two laymen, a retired Supreme Court judge as chairman and a prominent layman as chief executive, Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Chairman Denis Hart said today. Saying the church recognised it needed a sophisticated and coordinated response, Archbishop Hart has promised a new era of co-operation, transparency and honesty. So did both new appointments – Barry O’Keefe, QC, as chairman and Francis Sullivan as chief executive – whose first job will be to lift the commission’s membership to 10.

Praise for church cover-up admission.” By Barney Zwartz. Sydney Morning Herald. December 15, 2012. For the first time, a Catholic spokesman has acknowledged that the church in Australia covered up sex abuse, according to a reform group of Catholics. The group praised Francis Sullivan, CEO of the yet-to-be-formed Catholic Truth, Justice and Healing Commission, for admitting to the media this week that he was personally scandalised and disillusioned by the church’s history of cover-ups. Peter Johnstone, chairman of Catholics for Renewal, said on Friday the church had previously acknowledged that it had mishandled abuse cases, but not cover-ups. He welcomed this week’s announcement of the lay-led Catholic council to advise the bishops about sex abuse and co-ordinate the church’s response to the forthcoming royal commission. Mr Sullivan, who called himself a committed Catholic, said on Friday he shared the perception cover-ups were widespread in the church. Mr Johnstone, a former director-general of Community Services for Victoria, also described his group as committed Catholics, who wanted reform at the top. In October 2011 it sponsored an open letter to the Pope, signed by more than 8000 Australian Catholics, about the ”manifestly inadequate” church response to clergy sexual abuse. ”The church’s decision-making is too remote from the people. The church is very centralised on matters of importance, and the record shows that local bishops were acting under clear instructions in only reporting such matters to Rome and hiding them from civil authorities.”

Sifting through the burden of misguided intentions.” By Eamonn Duff. Sydney Morning Herald. December 16, 2012. For 35 years, Noi Kameraniya has sifted through the goods that everyday folk push into charity bins. It has always been messy, mundane work but in recent times, it has become worse. In the past hour alone, she’s fished out soiled underwear, a stained pillow and a bag of fusty socks with more holes than your average tea bag. Welcome to Anglicare’s central sorting depot, where a dedicated team of employees and volunteers sifts through the contents of 220 charity bins dotted across Sydney. The bins exist to raise vital funds for community projects but, nowadays, a growing number of people treat them as dumping grounds. Charities such as Anglicare help tens of thousands of people across the country, whether it be through home visits, migrant and refugee support, hospital and health services, prison support, aged-care services, or employment assistance for people with intellectual disabilities. Clothing donations also help finance education for disadvantaged children, hostels for the homeless, suicide prevention counselling and overseas relief. Charities such as Anglicare help tens of thousands of people across the country, whether it be through home visits, migrant and refugee support, hospital and health services, prison support, aged-care services, or employment assistance for people with intellectual disabilities. Clothing donations also help finance education for disadvantaged children, hostels for the homeless, suicide prevention counselling and overseas relief.

CIVIL SOCIETY

“Encyclopedia of World Problems Has a Big One of Its Own; Chronicle of Woes From Alien Abductions to Dandruff Finds Itself Short on Funds.” By Daniel Michaels. Wall Street Journal. December 11, 2012. Anthony Judge’s career has been peppered with problems, from Aarskog Syndrome to Zoonotic bacterial diseases. In between, he tackled dandruff, ignorance, kidney disorders and sabotage. It later spawned an encyclopedia focused on world woes. Mr. Judge, now semiretired, spent more than two decades editing the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential, a 3,000-page tome with almost 20,000 entries. The compendium of quandaries doesn’t just list problems, it also faces one: money troubles. Its last print edition ran in 1995 and an online version is rarely updated. Yet its producers see potential to resurrect it. The encyclopedia was Mr. Judge’s brainchild when he helped run the Union of International Associations, a century-old grouping of groups that began in an effort to categorize all human knowledge. The Union, which is less a union than a research institute, tracks more than 65,000 transnational groups including United Nations, the United Elvis Presley Society and the Hell’s Angels. Its yearbook of them, first printed in 1910, now tops 6,000 pages of dense print in six hardcover volumes, for $3,080. The UIA also organizes conferences to help organizations such as the European Coil Coating Association and the International Congress on Ultrasonics promote themselves in the cutthroat businesses of organizing conferences and managing associations. It was the UIA’s knowledge of organizations that in 1972 spawned the encyclopedia, after Mr. Judge and a friend got infuriated by a think-tank report that reduced the world’s problems to just six issues. Mr. Judge believed his association of associations could better tackle the problem of problems because many groups exist to resolve concerns in areas such as health, human rights and development.

CUBA

Co-op Laws in Cuba Are Seen as Progress.” By Daien Cave. New York Times. December 11, 2012. The Cuban government authorized a wide range of co-ops on Tuesday, allowing workers to collectively open new businesses or take over existing state-run businesses in construction, transportation and other industries. The new laws published Tuesday are the latest step in a slow, fitful process of opening Cuba’s economy to free-market ideas. The latest announcement calls for the creation of more than 200 co-ops as part of a pilot program. If it grows, analysts said, the experiment could do more for economic growth and productivity than earlier efforts to allow for self-employment, or to reform agriculture. Co-ops that are run independent from the government could shift a large portion of the island’s economy to free-market competition from government-managed socialism, analysts contend, a change from earlier co-op efforts within state-run agriculture. “The potential is large,” said Richard E. Feinberg, a professor of international political economy at the University of California, San Diego. “The Cubans are looking for something in between the old state-owned enterprise and a pure free market. Cooperatives are an answer, so looking forward, they could play a significant role.” For some Cubans, the new laws will just legalize what is already going on in the black market. But the government also seemed interested in encouraging consolidation among small entrepreneurs. The new laws call for lower tax rates for co-ops than for self-employed workers. That means barbers or fishermen or carpenters who now work as individuals will have an incentive to join co-ops, companies in which each worker has a vote. The new laws also say that co-ops can be formed with as few as three people, and that in addition to converting state businesses into co-ops — with first preference given to workers already there — co-ops will be able to bid for leases of idle government properties.

MEXICO

“Nonprofit helps artisans in Mexico get the lead out.” By Bella English. Boston Globe. December 11, 2012. Neil Leifer left his Boston law firm two years ago after spending 20 years litigating cases involving children’s lead poisoning. He sued lead and lead paint companies and property owners and managers on behalf of children with lead poisoning. In 2008, Leifer cofounded a nonprofit that helps ceramic artisans from rural Mexico convert from lead-based to lead-free glazes. The Globe spoke with him in advance of the Dec. 15 pottery sale to be held at Thayer Academy in Braintree.

SPAIN

Spain’s Crisis Leads To Rise Of Grass-Roots Groups.” By Sylvia Poggioli. All Things Considered/National Public Radio. December 10, 2012. A year and a half ago, recession-ravaged Spanish society reacted to the economic crisis with the “Indignados,” a mass protest that inspired the worldwide “Occupy” movement. The “angry ones” are long gone from Spanish streets, but they’ve evolved into many grass-roots associations now filling the gaps left by the eroding welfare state, spawning a new form of anti-austerity resistance that embraces all branches of society, from those who have lost homes to foreclosures, to the entire judiciary. Hardly a day passes in Spain without a noisy demonstration by one sector of society or another. One day, it’s doctors. With drums beating, thousands of white-clad health workers protest government plans to overhaul the country’s highly respected public health system. “What they want to do is privatize the hospital, and we are here to just say we don’t want that to happen. We want that to stop because we think it has to be universal; everybody has to be able to go to hospital,” says Olwen Leaman, a young oncologist at Madrid’s Princesa hospital. Last week in Madrid’s Puerta Del Sol square, a professor teaches a lesson outdoors while students take notes, all as a means of protesting education cuts. “The Indignados gave birth to a myriad number of citizens’ groups that are channeling much of the protest and people’s sense of desperation,” says Assiego. “Without these groups, there would have been a social explosion.” In an unprecedented action, we’ve all joined together — judges, prosecutors, lawyers and clerks, from left to right. We feel this incompetent political establishment is trying to dismantle the basic pillars of Spanish society — health, education and justice.

UK

Church squares up for a fight over gay marriage.” By Ruth Gledhill and Laura Pitel. Times of London. December 11, 2012. The new Archbishop of Canterbury is on a collision course with the Government today as the Church of England and Roman Catholics dig in their heels over gay marriage. One of the worst crises between the Church and the State in decades is threatened as ministers publish their response to a public consultation on same-sex marriage. Bishop Justin Welby, who succeeds Dr Rowan Williams as Archbishop in the spring, takes the official Church line on the issue — that a redefinition of marriage will dilute its importance and integrity. His position is an added headache for David Cameron, who is already facing fierce opposition from within the Conservative Party. The Prime Minister called yesterday for a “reasonable debate” about the proposed legislation — as a Tory MP appeared to draw a parallel between gay marriage and the practice of taking multiple wives. Matthew Offord, MP for Hendon, asked the Commons: “Has the Government considered introducing other forms of marriage such as polygamy and if not, when can minorities who believe in such a practice expect their own consultation?” Mr Cameron urged all sides to temper their language, but heated exchanges in Westminster set the stage for continued confrontation.
Related stories:
“British Plan for Gay Marriage Would Exclude Anglican Church.” New York Times. December 12, 2012.
Church of England banned from offering same-sex marriages but all other religious organisations can ‘opt in’ for gay ceremonies; Gay marriage will be illegal in the Church of England and Church in Wales.” Independent. December 12, 2012.
“Church of England and Church in Wales protest at gay marriage ban; Archbishop of Wales says church was not consulted over ‘quadruple lock’, saying it had left the church ‘shocked’.” Guardian. December 13, 2012.

Don’t give the homeless money, call this hotline, says minister at charity launch.” By Charlie Cooper. Independent. December 11, 2012. Giving money or food to a homeless person won’t do them any good, the housing minister has said, as welfare charities launch a “homelessness hotline” billed by the Government as an alternative to hand-outs. StreetLink is a new national helpline for members of the public concerned about a rough sleeper in their area. Backed by 500 homelessness charities, operators will pass on information about a homeless person’s location and circumstances to support services in their area, which will then offer them targeted help. The scheme, which has been trialled successfully in London, Liverpool and Manchester since last year, is backed by the Housing Minister Mark Prisk who urged people to offer “a hand-up, rather than a handout”. “Most people know that giving money or food won’t help a rough sleeper find a home, get the healthcare they need, or simply put them in touch with the support available to make sure they don’t become entrenched in the lifestyle or living on the streets,” Mr Prisk said. The Government is providing £250,000 funding for the helpline. The number of people living on the streets has soared since the recession. According to the most recent official figures, nearly 2,200 people were sleeping rough on any one night in Autumn 2011 – up by a fifth in one year. The next set of annual figures, compiled by the Department of Communities and Local Government, will be released in February and some charities fear another sharp increase.

Change, Not Decay; The decline in Christian affiliation is a challenge to the Church. It should respond by embracing modernity.” No by-line. Times of London. December 12, 2012. Change, as Disraeli said, is constant. The decline in Christian observance in British society over the past century is a peculiarly striking instance of it. The 2011 Census suggests that this trend has lately accelerated. The number of Christians living in England and Wales has declined by four million in the past decade. The proportion of people describing themselves as having no religion has risen 10 percentage points to 25 per cent of the population. There are different ways that the Church, especially the established Church, might respond. One is to assert that the truths of Scripture and tradition are unaffected by shifting mores and patterns of religious affilation, and to proclaim them. The alternative is to accommodate itself to modern sensibilities. Either might be a plausible strategy but they are exclusive. And it is in the long-term interests of Christianity, and of British society, that the Church adopt the second course. The Church of England, in particular, should be truly a national institution and not a sect. A century ago, the connection between Church and society was strong. For most, affiliation was with the Church of England; for significant minorities, it was with the Free Churches or Roman Catholicism. The bond was not merely one of belief and worship, but also of schooling, recreation and voting behaviour. To be formally non-religious was a defiantly unconventional choice. That world has dissipated. Religious affiliation is now more diverse as well as less formally Christian. Whereas the number of identifying Christians in England and Wales declined from 37 million to 33 million in the past decade, the number of Muslims rose sharply, to 2.7 million.
This is the environment in which Bishop Justin Welby, Rowan Williams’s successor as Archbishop of Canterbury, needs to lead the established Church.

Less religious and more ethnically diverse: Census reveals a picture of Britain today; From the number of people going to church, to the number of children in the average household, a lot has changed in Britain since 2001. Charlotte Philby gets behind the numbers of the latest survey.” By Charlotte Philby. Independent. December 12, 2012 . Religion: Number of Christians down 12% in a decade. The number of people calling themselves Christian in the UK fell dramatically between 2001 and 2011. Christianity was the only religion to see a drop-off in membership, with a 12% decrease during those 10 years. The Methodist church described the results as “challenging but not discouraging” while the pioneering Christian group Fresh Expressions said “The church in England and Wales needs to find new ways of engaging those who no longer have, or never had any interest.” The British Humanist Association spoke of a “significant cultural shift” in a society where “[r]eligious practice, identity, belonging and belief are all in decline… and non-religious identities are on the rise”. The number of people with no religion at all in the UK has doubled since 2001. Islam showed the biggest growth in the country with 1.2 million – 5% of the population – calling themselves Muslims in 2011. That is up 1.8% in the past decade. Critics suggest this figure could be misleading, and in fact be a matter of more Muslims filling in the form properly. Birth rates among the Islamic community are not out of proportion with the rate of population increase.

Why civil servants make good charity trustees; When civil servants volunteer as charity trustees it is enriching for both the public and charitable sectors.” By Mark Gibson. Guardian. December 12, 2012. I’ve always been passionate about learning, which is why I was attracted to the Whitehall and Industry Group, the independent charity established to enable learning, promote understanding and share best practice between the public, private and voluntary sectors and where I have been chief executive for four years. Before this I was senior civil servant in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills for 30 years. I’ve also been fascinated to see what works best in terms of achieving learning between the sectors. Something that stands out for me is the value that can be achieved when civil servants volunteer as trustees of charities. There should be a lot more of this volunteering; the value to both sides is huge and the only cost is the time involved. There are some excellent examples, such as Matthew Hilton, a director in the Business Innovation and Skills, who is chair of the National Deaf Children’s Society. As a charity, we understand the need to find high-calibre trustees who add value and can shape a charity’s strategic direction and have helped a number of charities to recruit civil servants to their boards. A civil servant may not immediately sit at the top of a charity’s trustee wish-list; a big hitter from business with lots of commercial contacts might often be considered more desirable. However, civil servants can add just as much to charity boards. Most charities are involved in issues of public policy and civil servants understand this. Good governance is also very important to charities and civil servants understand this too. Civil servants may bring particular skills as lawyers or HR specialists but all will also be very bright, excellent at analysing issues and enthusiastic for the public good – which charities do so much to create. Most civil servants do want to make a difference, however hackneyed the phrase, and of course charities are established to do just this.

“How to maintain high standards as your organisation grows; It is important to keep volunteers and service users at the heart of what you do, says Keith Arscott
.” By Keith Arscott. Guardian. December 10, 2012. As the head of a charity which is expanding every day, both in terms of volunteer numbers and beneficiaries, I know how important it is to ensure that the same care and attention is put into looking after your stakeholders after you have grown, as it was when you were first starting out. Limited budget, lack of time, and too few staff can make this challenging for smaller organisations. But it’s still possible to maintain high standards. Many organisations are in danger of losing their personal touch when their operations expand. An organisation might be growing, but it is important that volunteers and service users know they are all still valued as individuals. When I first arrived at Contact the Elderly four years ago, I was instantly struck by how welcoming and passionate staff members were when dealing with volunteers and the older people – so much so, the term ‘older guest’ was coined as a more friendly way of referring to our beneficiaries. It’s a simple thing, but we know the older people appreciate it and it makes them feel as if they belong to their local groups. Since then, the number of beneficaries has increased to almost 4,000, and yet each of them is still a personal ‘guest’ of a group. We’re all really busy, it’s the nature of today’s world, so how many of us stop to pause for breath and give people a little quality time? When you receive calls from potential volunteers or beneficiaries and it looks they like they might not be eligible for your service or they’re looking for a different type of volunteering opportunity, why not spend a few minutes chatting, and equally important – listening to them – and signposting them to other organisations that may be able to help. On many an occasion such considerations will bring unexpected rewards and connections.

Charity crisis: slump in value of £1m-plus donations; Total value of charitable donations worth £1m or more has plunged to lowest level since 2007, says Coutts.” No by-line. Guardian. December 9, 2012. The total value of charitable donations worth at least £1m has fallen to its lowest level since 2007, according to a leading wealth-management company. More than £1.2bn was raised through UK charitable donations of £1m or more in 2010/11, according to Coutts. That figure was down significantly from the pre-financial crash total of more than £1.6bn in 2006-7. The number of £1m-plus donations has increased from 193 to 232 over the same period, suggesting donations are getting smaller. A higher proportion of philanthropists (60%) were giving money to charities rather than charitable trusts, the report, produced in association with the University of Kent, shows. There has also been a surge in the number of £1m donors, with 130 identified, up from 73 donors the previous year. This figure includes individuals, charitable trusts, foundations and corporations, some of which made more than one donation worth at least £1m. Higher education, arts and culture and international development remain the most popular destinations for the largest gifts among donors. But support for environmental causes increased in 2010-11, and all types of charities attract some support from £1m donors, according to the report. There was a wider spread as 191 organisations received £1m donations, compared with 154 in the previous year. Organisations that received multimillion-pound donations tended to be the oldest universities, such as Oxford and Cambridge, or national arts and cultural institutions.

One out of six charities say they may have to close in 2013; Charities fall foul of public spending cutbacks and falling donations.” By Jamie Doward. The Observer. December 8, 2012. The UK’s flatlining economy is having a devastating effect on charities, according to research that suggests that two out of five face closure, with many set to disappear as early as next year unless things improve. A poll commissioned by the Charities Aid Foundation confirms that public spending cutbacks and falling donations are conspiring to devastating effect. The foundation warns that as many as one in six charities believe they may close in the coming year, while nearly half say they are being forced to dip into reserves. One in three say they fear being forced to cut services. The figures will make gloomy reading in Downing Street, which believes the third sector has a vital role to play in delivering the prime minister’s vision for his “big society”. The funding crisis comes as charities report that there is more demand for their services. “Times are tough and people have less money to donate to charities,” said John Low, Caf’s chief executive. “This, combined with significant public spending cuts and increased demand for charity services, is having a shocking effect on many charities, calling into question their very viability. Many organisations are having to dip into their reserves, cut vital frontline services and some are even concerned about whether they can survive in these toughest of times.” Charitable donations in the UK dropped by a fifth last year, according to an earlier survey by Caf and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, from £11bn to £9.3bn during 2011-12. As a result, more than eight out of 10 charities believe their sector is facing a crisis, with two in five (40%) fearing they face closure if the economic situation does not improve. Nearly three-quarters (73%) believe that they are unable to fulfil their goals, while one in four have axed staff. Smaller organisations are acutely feeling the effects of the prolonged recession, according to the poll. Research by Caf reveals that small- and medium-sized charities are facing spiralling losses. They reported deficits of more than £300m in 2011, compared with a surplus of £325m in 2007.

Riding High; Riders for Health is a charity saving lives through the art of motorcycle maintenance.” No by-line. Times of London. December 15, 2012. It is when things are bad that it is hardest to think about those for whom things are worse. When the winds of recession leave many in Britain feeling raw, it can be difficult to focus on the arithmetic of life and death in those corners of the world where life amounts to mostly different grades of rawness. It is in such places that even modest sums transform lives. In a Micawberish equation, Riders for Health, one of the charities supported by The Times in this year’s Christmas charity appeal, calculated that in sub-Saharan Africa disease plus transport to medical facilities resulted in saved lives: disease minus transport facilities resulted in death. The solution it minted could not be simpler, or its impact more dramatic: it provided vehicles — mostly motorbikes — to health workers. One of the countries in which Riders for Health operates is Zambia, where life expectancy is 43 years. When 17 per cent of the population is HIV positive, and when TB is the primary killer of those who are HIV positive, the speed at which sufferers are identified by rural clinics becomes, very literally, a matter of life and death. By using his Yamaha motorcycle to ferry blood and other samples from outlying clinics to the district laboratory in Chadiza for analysis — and then ferrying back the results — Piero Sakala, Riders For Health’s chief courier in eastern Zambia, can measure the results of his work in lives saved. The swift testing of sputum samples for TB, and the swift return of the results, can make the difference between one person requiring treatment and an entire village becoming infected. Over the past three years Sakala has collected more than 100 samples each month. On his motorbike. Your generosity can change lives for the better. Please give.

Tate director says not including arts in EBacc is a fatal mistake.” No by-line. Times of London. December 15, 2012. Nick Serota is the fairy godfather of modern art. He may not look like it with his austere posture, rimless glasses, tie and suit, but since he became director of the run-down Tate Gallery nearly 25 years ago, he has transformed British attitudes to art. Even he seems slightly amazed by his astonishing longevity. “Bankers, politicians, journalists all seem to move or be removed with frightening speed now,” he says. “One day they are distinguished, the next extinguished. But I think institutions can really benefit from having continuity. In art we tend to value the old as much as the new.” ir Nick is convinced that creativity is the only way Britain can survive now. “We are only going to compete worldwide if we continue to be so creative. It is the way in which we register ourselves. We are no longer important manufacturers of cars, the City is teetering but we haven’t given up the arts and we mustn’t.” After 25 years as the grand master of Modern Art, why does he think Britain is so creative? “Art is often made at a crossroads. It’s when ideas come together, cross continents and are traded that great art is produced. But Sir Nick is convinced that the Government is now making a fatal mistake with its proposed EBaccs, which exclude art and music. “As soon as you don’t include the arts in major qualifications that set you up for life, you are saying they aren’t important. Young people don’t recognise this separation between so-called academic and non-academic qualifications. They know they need both for jobs.” He can’t understand why Michael Gove hasn’t included the arts in the new qualification. “I am determined to change this. The whole arts world is horrified. “We are effectively going to give up art at 14, that’s terrible. The number of teachers will drop dramatically and schools will think of art in a secondary way. We will lose a generation of talent, in design, art, fashion, film, the theatre, music.”

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (December 3-9, 2012)

Monday, December 10th, 2012

INTERNATIONAL

AUSTRALIA

“‘An enormous relief’: accused paedophile faces court.” By Joanne McCarthy. Sydney Morning Herald. December 3, 2012. The former Catholic brother Bernard Kevin McGrath has returned to New Zealand from Sri Lanka a week early to face an extradition hearing to Australia on child sex charges. McGrath, 65, was granted bail in a Christchurch court on Monday morning while he considers his next move in relation to 252 child sex charges in Australia. News of his return to New Zealand was greeted with relief by the family of an alleged victim who had feared McGrath would not return from a Sri Lankan holiday where he was staying at a tea plantation. “It’s excellent news. This really is very good news and an enormous relief after all this time,” said the Central Coast father of an alleged victim who reported sexual abuse allegations to police two years ago.

Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, Mother of News Corp. Chief, Dies at 103.” By Rachel Pannett. Wall Street Journal. December 5, 2012. Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, mother of News Corp. Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch and one of Australia’s most generous philanthropists, died Wednesday at age 103. Following her husband’s death in 1952, which gave the young Mr. Murdoch his start toward building the global media empire he presides over today, Mrs. Murdoch devoted herself to good works. She supported more than 100 charities, with particular interests in the arts and in children’s health, and was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, one of Britain’s highest civilian honors, in 1963 for her services to social welfare. In 1989, Australia awarded her a similar honor, Companion of the Order of Australia, for service to the community.
Related stories:
Elisabeth Murdoch, 103, Matriarch of a Journalism Family.” New York Times. December 5, 2012.
A legacy of absolute goodness: Dame Elisabeth mourned.” Sydney Morning Herald. December 6, 2012.
My time must be running out, but I’m not going to waste a minute of it’.” Sydney Morning Herald. December 6, 2012.

CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL

Priest abuse files may be released without church officials’ names; At a judge’s direction, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles redacted the identities of members of the church hierarchy. But another judge has the final say.” By Harriet Ryan and Victoria Kim. Los Angeles Times. December 7, 2012, In its landmark $660-million settlement with victims of sexual abuse five years ago, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles agreed to make public the confidential personnel records of all priests accused of molesting children. Victims said the release of the files would provide accountability for church leaders who let pedophiles remain in ministry, and law enforcement officials suggested that the documents could lead to criminal cases against those in charge. After years of delays and legal wrangling, the files are set to become public in coming weeks.

UK

Standards fall as care operators get ‘too big to fail’.” By Charlotte Philby. Independent. December 3, 2012. Standards in social care are being undermined because the handful of private companies which dominate public sector contracts are now “too big to fail”, a new report warns. Outsourcing was supposed to drive up standards and cut costs, but the dominance of multinationals such as Serco and G4S risks harming vulnerable people, it claims. Britain faces “another banking crisis” in the care sector unless charities and social enterprises are given a greater slice of the market, according to the report’s authors. Peter Holbrook, the chief executive of Social Enterprise UK, who commissioned the investigation, told The Independent: “Britain’s most vulnerable people are suffering as competition and the delivery of efficient care is replaced by short-sighted bidding wars and low-quality service.” The outsourced market for public services has an annual turnover of £82bn, which is predicted to rise to £140bn by 2014. The report identifies the emergence of a “shadow state”, with a small number of companies taking “large and complex stakes in public service markets, and a great deal of control over how they work”. G4S, which made headlines this summer for failing to provide sufficient security at the Olympics, has contracts with 10 government departments and agencies and 14 police forces. Serco has dozens of private contracts, running everything from prisons to hospital facilities to council waste collection. “Its failure would cause extreme turbulence in public services. No business should be too big to be allowed to fail,” the report warns.

Scouts ready to broaden their church and admit atheists.” By Katie Hodge. Independent. December 4, 2012. Atheists could be welcomed into the Scout movement for the first time in 105 years, the association has said. The movement, led by TV adventurer Bear Grylls, is launching a consultation to see if members would support an alternative Scout Promise for those who feel unable to pledge a “duty to God”. For more than 40 years, versions of the oath have existed for faith groups including Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists, but this is the first time Scouts have considered an adaptation for atheists. The proposed changes are designed to increase diversity in the movement and enable more young people and adults to join. Leaders insist the existing Scout Promise – which also contains a vow of allegiance to the Queen – would continue to be used alongside alternative versions. Wayne Bulpitt, the association’s chief commissioner in the UK, said: “We are a values-based movement and exploring faith and religion will remain a key element of the Scouting programme. That will not change. “However, throughout our 105-year history, we have continued to evolve so that we remain relevant to communities across the UK. “We do that by regularly seeking the views of our members and we will use the information gathered by the consultation to help shape the future of scouting for the coming years.” Membership of the Scouts has risen during the past seven years from 444,936 in 2005 to 525,364 this year, figures released by the association show.
Related story:
Boy Scouts Atheist Oath Proposal Sparks Controversy In UK (VIDEO).” Huffington Post. December 8, 2012.

David Cameron backs gay marriage in places of worship as it is announced same-sex religious ceremonies WILL go ahead; Prime Minister insists religious groups would not be forced to conduct ceremonies but added he didn’t want gay people ‘excluded’ from marrying in places of worship.” By Nigel Morris. Independent. December 7, 2012. Plans for gay couples to be allowed to marry in churches or other religious buildings, as well as secular settings, are to be set out next week by the Coalition Government. David Cameron’s move delighted campaigners for marriage equality, but it will put him on a collision course with church leaders and many Conservative MPs who insist weddings can only take place between a man and a woman. Tonight the Prime Minister was warned he would split his party by trying to force through the move, which is backed by the overwhelming majority of Liberal Democrat and Labour MPs. The Government initially intended to legislate for same-sex marriage in approved premises such as register offices and hotels, but has now significantly widened its proposals. Under the revised plans, religious institutions would also have the right to marry gay couples, although Whitehall sources stressed that the planned legislation would make explicit that churches would not be forced to conduct same-sex ceremonies against their will. It is understood the change followed advice by Government lawyers that a blanket ban on religious weddings could be challenged in court, while a system allowing churches or other groups to “opt in” to conduct ceremonies would be legally watertight. Mr Cameron had told colleagues he wants to press ahead with legislation quickly, arguing the step is a simple matter of equality and fairness. It is expected it will be published by March with a view to becoming law towards the end of 2013. The Prime Minister said: “I’m a massive supporter of marriage and I don’t want gay people to be excluded from a great institution.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (November 26-December 2, 2012)

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

INTERNATIONAL

AUSTRALIA

Scrap time limits on child sex abuse cases, urges head of bishops.” By Peter Munro. Sydney Morning Herald. November 27, 2012. The head of Australia’s Catholic bishops says alleged child sexual abuse offenders, including members of the clergy, should be barred from using statutory limitation restrictions to escape justice for their victims. The Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, who is president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, which is meeting in Sydney on Tuesday, said all states and territories should abolish time limits on victims seeking compensation in civil proceedings. ”There shouldn’t be any artificial restriction on our society’s ability to redress such matters,” he said. ”The evil of sexual abuse is so serious and so awful that the only way in which the victims will come to any sense of peace is if their matter can be dealt with by the offender being brought to justice.” Archbishop Hart also called for mandatory reporting by priests of suspected cases of child abuse, in line with legal obligations on childcare workers, teachers and doctors. The issue will be debated at this week’s meeting of Catholic bishops, which will focus on the church’s response to the forthcoming royal commission into child sexual abuse. Priests should be required to report suspected cases of abuse even when the victim does not want to go to police, Archbishop Hart said. ”The bishops will be discussing how we, as a church, can move together and act truthfully and responsibly to aid the work of the royal commission,” he said. ”It’s a moment of truth.”

INDIA

Records back ‘foreign hand’ behind Tamil Nadu NGOs.” By Deeptiman Tiwary. Times of India. November 28, 2012. After asserting that anti-Kudankulam nuclear protests were being fuelled by the ‘foreign hand’ and putting several NGOs under scanner, the government released a data in Parliament that shows Tamil Nadu NGOs have received the maximum number of foreign contributions in the past three years. One TN NGO, that lent its support to the protests, is also facing a CBI enquiry for contributions received by it, says the government. The data shows TN received 10,119 contributions from across the world with total donations adding up to over Rs 4,800 crore between 2008 and 2011. Over 30,000 contributions were received by all across the country during this period with TN cornering more than 30% of contributions in numbers. In volume, however, it is Delhi-based NGOs that have received maximum contribution with TN holding the second position. Delhi NGOs received 4,297 contributions with total donations adding up to over Rs 5,800 crore. The data that was released in reply to a question over foreign contributions received by NGOs in the Lok Sabha also said that cases against 24 NGOs had been referred to the CBI while 10 NGOs were being investigated by state police. The government reply also said, “There were reports that certain NGOs were engaged in anti-national and political activities.”

KENYA

Kenyan NGO Pioneers HIV and Aids Phone Counseling.” By Isaiah Esipisu. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). November 27, 2012. Young people find discussing HIV and Aids and sexuality difficult.In Kenya, a non-governmental organization has made it easier for them by establishing a free tele-counseling service.

UK

Top tips: Attracting the best talent to your social enterprise; A round up of expert advice from our recent live Q&A on attracting the best staff to your social enterprise.” Guardian. November 27, 2012. Recently we ran a live Q&A to discuss how you can attract the best talent to your social enterprise. Hiring and retaining quality staff isn’t easy – especially given the need to find people with the passion and ambition to match your social enterprise as well as strong business acumen. So we’ve rounded up some of the best advice from our expert panel to help you with your recruitment. This summary coincides with the launch of Audience Match – a new technology-enabled service from Guardian Jobs which offers recruiters precise candidate targeting to ensure they have the greatest chance of hiring the best talent.

University applications slump for second year after fees hike; Ucas: its latest figures suggest higher tuition fees are deterring some applicants.” By Greg Hurst. Times of London. November 28, 2012. Fears mounted that higher tuition fees have deterred young people from going to university after figures showed a slump in applications for the second consecutive year. Latest figures showed that 145,009 people applied for a British university course starting next autumn, down 8.4 per cent on last year. Applications last year were down by almost 13 per cent. The fall from British applicants was even greater as demand from overseas candidates, both from within and beyond the European Union, dropped by less than 1 per cent. Applications from candidates living in England dropped by 9.9 per cent, to 107,687 and there were big falls, too, from people in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales seeking university places. Although the deadline for submissions does not end until mid-January, the figures heightened concern that last year’s trebling of tuition fees may have a lasting impact on demand for university places.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (November 19-25, 2012)

Monday, November 26th, 2012

INTERNATIONAL

AUSTRALIA

Few know of religious exemption.” BY Markus Mannheim. Sydney Morning Herald. November 19, 2012. who have children outside of marriage, a survey says. The study also found an overwhelming majority – 89 per cent – back laws that would force such schools to publish their employment policies online and alert parents to them. Canberra-based think tank the Australia Institute polled more than 1400 people nationwide about their views on education. Overall, parents nominated location as the main factor in deciding on which school to enrol their child, though values and academic performance were most important to those who opted for private schools. Cost was the decisive factor for only 9 per cent of parents. The institute also said 78 per cent of Australians were unaware religious schools were able to discriminate on the grounds of marital status or sexuality. The exemptions, in federal and state legislation, allow religious organisations to sack employees, or reject potential recruits, if they do not conform with their beliefs.

CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL

Victims to be able to sue church.” By Phillip Coorey and Jacqueline Ma. Sydney Morning Herald. November 20, 2012. Victims of sexual abuse would be able to sue the Catholic Church for compensation as a result of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Child Sexual Abuse, legal experts say. And any victim of sexual abuse would be able to give evidence, if they wished. A discussion paper released late on Monday by the commission secretariat says the commission’s findings ”may extend to ensuring that there are no obstacles to the making of claims and that there is sufficient support for victims of abuse in pursuing those claims”. “The NSW government is keen to co-operate with the federal government on its royal commission and will consider the consultation paper. Presently, the church is classified as an non-legal entity for the purpose of compensation claims, which means victims cannot sue.

Cabrini Mass for personal apology.” By Julia Prodis Sulek and Mark Gomez. San Jose Mercury-News. November 20, 2012. failure at the diocese level” that gave permission to a convicted child molester to volunteer at the Saint Frances Cabrini parish festival last month. “I take full responsibility,” McGrath told the congregation from the podium moments before the service began at Cabrini, located on Camden Avenue in San Jose. “I pledge to you I will do everything in my power to make sure this doesn’t happen again.” Although the bishop said he hoped his remarks and a letter he included in the parish bulletin would “answer some of your questions,” neither explained how or why a letter was written and signed by someone at the diocese vouching for pedophile Mark Gurries. The 51-year-old engineer, married to a former teacher at Saint Frances Cabrini, was convicted just two years ago of “lewd and lascivious conduct” on a minor under 14 years old. He served nearly a year in county jail and remains on probation. The victim was a relative. “As a matter of record, it was a mistake that allowed Mr. Gurries to be a parish volunteer and to be present at the festival,” the bishop wrote in the letter included in the bulletin. “Our policy is clear: No one who has been found guilty of sexual abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult can be hired or allowed to be a volunteer that involves children, young people or vulnerable adults.” McGrath, 67, the bishop of the San Jose Diocese since 1998, said he was “deeply troubled, and I apologize to you that this policy was not followed.”

RUSSIA

As ‘Foreign Agent’ Law Takes Effect in Russia, Human Rights Groups Vow to Defy It.” By Ellen Barry. New York Times. November 21, 2012. Workers at the human rights organization Memorial arrived at work on Wednesday morning to see a phrase spray-painted across their office building: “FOREIGN AGENT.” Vandals scrawled the same words in giant, sloppy white letters across the door of For Human Rights, which represents citizens in disputes with the Russian police or prosecutors. The phrase, which to Russians evokes treachery and cold war espionage, was repeated many times on Wednesday, when a new law came into force requiring nonprofit groups that receive financing from outside Russia to identify themselves as “foreign agents.” The law was hurriedly passed two months after the inauguration of President Vladimir V. Putin, who has accused foreign governments of provoking the large anti-Kremlin demonstrations that began here last winter. The law has been accompanied by other measures discouraging interaction with foreigners, like expanding the legal definition of treason to include “providing financial, technical, advisory or other assistance to a foreign state or international organization.” Many groups like Memorial and For Human Rights have decided to defy the new law, despite the threat of fines, a forced shutdown or, if prosecutors choose to pursue a criminal charge, a prison sentence of up to two years. Oleg P. Orlov, Memorial’s chairman, said that accepting the “foreign agent” label would so undermine public trust that rights advocates would no longer be able to carry out work like monitoring prison conditions or researching disappearances in the restive North Caucasus. It is unclear how the Russian authorities will enforce the vaguely worded law, which will be overseen by the Justice Ministry. The requirement applies only to organizations engaged in “political activities,” like trying to influence public opinion or advocating to change policy. Various groups say they are poised to contest any penalties through the court system, in part to test the constitutionality of the new law.

TAJIKISTAN

Tajik NGOs Feeling Heat in Winter.” No by-line. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). November 21, 2012. As the leader of a civil rights-related non-governmental organisation, Dilrabo Samadova said she was used to getting hassled by authorities about her group’s activities. But recent government actions to put the clamps on civil society groups like hers in Tajikistan took her by surprise. Despite the fact that Tajikistan is one of Central Asia’s poorest countries, Tajiks used to consider themselves as better off than their neighbours because they had comparatively more room to operate and pursue their ambitions, Samadova explained. A few weeks before Amparo’s closure, instructions were sent to university heads by the Education Ministry, informing them that “conducting any kind of conferences, seminars, other gatherings, or meetings with students through international organisations is against the law.” In short, students can no longer participate in events sponsored by international NGOs, according to a copy of the order obtained by EurasiaNet.org. It is unclear what law the directive is in accordance with. The Education Ministry directive already has had a significant ripple-effect. Since the announcement, some NGOs, including London-based International Alert, have been pressured to cancel youth camps, while the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) saw upcoming language testing for international student exchanges nixed.

UK

How so many of Britain’s elite class all sat in the same elite classrooms?” By Greg Hurst. Times of London. November 20 2012. A few private schools educated one in eight of the most prominent people in Britain, according to research that will fuel debate on social inequality. Only ten schools produced 12 per cent of the country’s most senior businessmen, politicians, diplomats and leaders of the professions. Eton College accounted for 4 per cent of them, including David Cameron and Justin Welby, the next Archbishop of Canterbury. The figures were compiled by the Sutton Trust, an education charity, to mark its 15th anniversary. It analysed the school backgrounds of 7,637 people whose birthdays were listed last year in the Register pages of The Times and other newspapers. Nearly 80 per cent of the people who effectively run Britain attended fee-charging or selective schools: 44 per cent were educated at private schools, 8 per cent went to former direct-grant schools — fee-paying establishments with places funded by the state — and 27 per cent attended grammar schools. On average only 7 per cent of children are educated at private schools, which drops to 6.5 per cent if overseas pupils boarding in Britain are omitted. In ten professions or careers more than half of the most prominent figures were privately educated. They include national or local government (68 per cent), law (63 per cent), senior armed forces (60 per cent) and business (59 per cent). The field with the fewest privately educated leaders was the police, with only 13 per cent of chief constables and other senior officers. Fifty seven per cent of top police officers attended grammar schools. The study also looked at higher education. Of 8,112 people in Britain’s elite for whom details were found, almost a third (31 per cent) attended Oxford or Cambridge. A further 20 per cent were graduates of the next 30 most selective British universities. Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, told a conference in May hosted by Brighton College that the disproportionate success of people who were privately educated was “morally indefensible”.

Schools face cuts to pay for £1bn academies overspend; Funds for struggling schools slashed, report reveals.” By Richard Garner. Independent. November 22, 2012. Funding for struggling schools has been slashed to cover a £1bn overspend in the academies programme, a report reveals today. Spending on a range of education programmes – including improving under-performing schools – has been cut to provide unplanned extra funding for academies, according to the National Audit Office, a public spending watchdog. Leaders of the teaching unions reacted with anger last night, describing the overspending as “appalling” at a time when non-academy schools were having to tighten their belts. “There appears to be no limit to the amount of money this Government is prepared to pour into creating academies,” said Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. “When money in the UK is so tight, this unscheduled spending of taxpayers’ money is appalling.” Academy schools, which are funded directly from Whitehall and are independent of local authority control, were introduced under Labour but have been heavily pushed by Michael Gove. The Education Secretary has said he anticipates most schools becoming academies, although critics claim they are insufficiently accountable and hand too much power to school sponsors.

Pension commitments force charity People Can into administration; The charity, which helps victims of domestic abuse, ex-offenders and the homeless.” Guardian. November 20, 2012. A charity that helps victims of domestic abuse, ex-offenders and the homeless has gone bust after being overwhelmed by its pension liabilities, prompting a warning that the “tough environment” will see more charities go to the wall. People Can employs almost 300 people and runs programmes across the UK ranging from hostels for the homeless to schemes to help teenagers stay out of gangs. It used to be known as the Novas Scarman Group and was formed from the merger of several organisations including the Scarman Trust and PATH (Positive Action Training Highway). News of the charity’s problems comes days after a study showed charitable donations in the UK dropped by a fifth in 2011. PricewaterhouseCoopers, appointed administrators of the charity, said 17 employees in Somerset have so far been made redundant, and that “the charity’s pension obligations were the primary reason for administration.” Ian Oakley-Smith, the joint administrator, added: “Charities are currently facing a tough environment in which to secure funding for their services. These pressures are exacerbated for those with defined benefit pension schemes, which require further funding.” A combination of poor investment returns and people living longer mean many charities are struggling to cope with their rising pension obligations, and unless the economic environment changes to make these more manageable “we could expect further insolvencies in the charities space,” PwC said.

Anglicans told to seek help from mediators.” By Ruth Gledhill and Roland Watson. Times of London. November 21, 2012. Justin Welby, the next Archbishop of Canterbury, is under pressure to hire professional mediators to help to bridge the schism in the Church of England. Bishop Welby, who had a career in business before being ordained, is likely to seek outside help amid warnings that the Church’s refusal to accept women bishops could trigger an exodus from the pews and anger from society at large. He also faces calls from senior bishops to resolve the issue as soon as possible rather than wait, as opponents of reform want, until 2015 before it can be reconsidered by the General Synod, the Church’s parliament. The Church’s decision to block women bishops, by a wafer-thin majority of six votes on Tuesday, sparked anger and incredulity yesterday. Cameron told MPs: “I’m very sad about the way the vote went. I’m very clear the time is right for women bishops; it was right many years ago. They need to get on with it, as it were, and get with the programme.” The Prime Minister added that the Church needed “a sharp prod”. Rowan Williams, who steps down as Archbishop of Canterbury next month, said that the Church would lose credibility every day the issue was unresolved.
Related stories:
Mere Christianity: The Church of England has perpetrated a disservice to the nation and other faiths. It should reopen the issue of women bishops.” Times of London. November 22, 2012.
“‘Get with the programme’: David Cameron condemns Church of England decision to block women bishops; In a rare intervention into religious matters, the PM said he was ‘very sad’ about the outcome.Independent. November 21, 2012.
Cameron warns priests of turbulence after church votes no to female bishops; Backed by politicians of all stripes, prime minister urges Church of England to ‘get with the programme’ and reconsider decision.” Guardian. November 21, 2012.
Church of England Rejects Appointing Female Bishops.” New York Times. November 20, 2012.
Anglicans Vote Not To Permit Female Bishops.” Wall Street Journal. November 21, 2012.
Rip up rules to let women be bishops, says Carey; Lord Carey called on the Church of England to rip up the rule book.” Times of London. November 24, 2012.
Pressure piles on church to vote again on female bishops; Equalities minister Maria Miller says CofE must reform and ‘act quickly’ to reflect majority; Interview: ‘I hope the church has heard the strength of feeling’.” Guardian. November 23, 2012.

Movember: from idea in the pub to £184m charity fundraiser; Simple idea to get men to grow moustaches to raise funds for prostate cancer has grown beyond wildest dreams of originators.” By Sam Jones. Guardian. November 23, 2012. Very seldom does an idea seeded around a pub table prove to be clever, practical or long-lived; most start to wither around last orders and have all but died by the time the hangovers descend. Rarest of all is the bar-born vision that endures to save lives, raise millions for research and get men all over the world sprouting moustaches and openly discussing the threats to their testicles and prostate glands. But the Movember phenomenon has done precisely that in the nine years since a pair of Australian friends sat in a Melbourne pub and mulled the rehabilitation of the moustache. The idea was simplicity itself: grow some lip hair over the course of November to raise some money for men’s health charities. While the original 30 moustache-brothers – or Mo Bros – raised just A$300, they did manage to set the rules for the challenge and come up with a name for the enterprise through the ingenious shunting of the words moustache and November. The second Movember stunned all those involved by raising the equivalent of £21,600. It also revealed the extent of the shortfall in male cancer funding. “When we went and approached Prostate Cancer Australia with it, it was the single largest cheque they’d ever received,” says Justin Coghlan, one of the original 30 Mo Bros. “From that point forward, we were all blown away. I would have thought they had a lot more money than that. We assumed it would just be up there with the breast cancer [charities] of the world we’d been involved with through the women in our lives, that it would have equal standing. But it just didn’t.” Movember 2005 hit £507,000. The next year, it raised £3.7m, spread internationally and acquired its own slogan: “Changing the face of men’s health.”

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (November 11-18, 2012)

Monday, November 19th, 2012

INTERNATIONAL

AUSTRALIA

Care at Lulworth House was secondary, claims nurse.” By Rachel Browne. Sydney Morning Herald. November 12, 2012. A nursing assistant who worked at the exclusive Lulworth House aged care home has expressed her concern for the welfare of its residents, following allegations of three serious cases of neglect. The woman, who has more than 20 years’ experience as a nursing assistant, said she quit her job as a result of what she saw while employed there. The Department of Health and Ageing is investigating complaints that relate to three elderly residents who died between June and August. Their families claim they did not receive adequate care while in the Elizabeth Bay home, which is also home to Gough Whitlam, Neville Wran and Dame Leonie Kramer. ”I don’t rate Lulworth House very highly despite the prestige it tries to project to the public,” the former nursing assistant wrote in an email. “In my opinion St Lukes management was concerned more about money, and care was secondary. Despite the high fees charged, there was cost cutting for resident management. The place had a very high turnover of nursing assistant staff – the reason is the amount of workload when so few nursing assistants were employed on the floor.”

Islamic council linked to cash shift.” By Anna Patty. Sydney Morning Herald. November 16, 2012. “The shifting of money makes it harder to determine whether these schools are being operated for profit or not” … John Kaye. Private schools receiving up to $15 million in government funding each year have transferred large sums to the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, which operates six schools around the country and is the country’s peak Muslim body.
The chairman of the Islamic College of Brisbane, Mohammed Yusuf, said in an email obtained by Fairfax Media the ”AFIC arbitrarily withdrew $288,000 from Islamic College of Brisbane’s account without our approval”. In the email to fellow board members he also said: ”I think that all the council chairmen should ask for accountability and greater transparency before it is too late.”The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils accountant, Agim Garama, is the business manager for Malek Fahd Islamic School in Sydney, Australia’s largest Muslim school. The NSW government has demanded Malek Fahd Islamic School in Sydney repay $9 million in state funding on the basis that it did not receive services for money it gave to the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils. The former state Labor government amended the Education Act in NSW to prevent private schools from passing surpluses to their owners.

CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL

Church’s secret compensation deals.” By Jane Lee. Sydney Morning Herald. November 13, 2012. The Catholic Church has settled thousands of claims of child abuse outside of its internal complaints’ system, Melbourne Response, in an attempt to silence them, a victims’ group says. The Melbourne Response, and its national equivalent, Towards Healing, were launched by the church in 1996 to handle abuse complaints and give pastoral care to victims. The church has traditionally referred to both processes to argue that its approach to abuse has improved over time. In Good Faith & Associates’ director Helen Last told a state inquiry into child abuse on Monday that about 2000 victims had been through alternative ”portals” facilitated by the Catholic Church, which offered them larger amounts of compensation than they would otherwise have been entitled to. Victims of clergy abuse often struggle to make successful compensation claims in court because it is often many years before they report childhood abuse. The Catholic Church is also an entity that is immune from civil lawsuits.
Related story:
Church funding paedophiles’ legal defence.Sydney Morning Herald. November 16, 2012.
Australian Prime Minister Orders Sexual Abuse Investigation.” New York Times/AssociatedPress. November 12, 2012.
Child sex abuse far from confined to history, says psychologist.” Sydney Morning Herald. November 13, 2012.
Pell calls for facts not fiction on abuse.” Sydney Morning Herald. November 13, 2012.
Catholic brother, teacher on child sex charges.” Sydney Morning Herald. November 13, 2012.
Australia’s Catholic church welcomes child abuse inquiry; Archbishop of Sydney says church will co-operate fully with inquiry but claims extent of problem has been exaggerated.” Guardian. November 13, 2012.
Catholic Church’s secret sex files.” Sydney Morning Herald. November 17, 2012.

INDIA

Pass Lokpal bill or face another rally at Ramlila Maidan, Hazare warns govt.” Times of India. November 11, 2012. Social activist Anna Hazare has accused Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of “betrayal” on the Jan Lokpal bill and warned on Sunday of another protest if it was not passed before the 2014 general election. Addressing supporters after inaugurating his new office here, Hazare said: “If Jan Lokpal bill is not passed before the 2014 elections, we will hold another rally at Ramlila Maidan.” The septuagenarian said Manmohan Singh had betrayed him by not fulfilling his pledge to pass the anti-corruption bill in Parliament. “Our fight for Jan Lokpal bill will continue till it is passed by the government. I will campaign throughout the country and try to raise the conscience of the people. I will try to bring in a change,” he said. Taking a dig at politicians, Hazare said: “The country lacks leadership.” “The time has come to reach out to every house in the country and spread the message of anti-corruption. We have to work for a corruption-free India.” Hazare had on Saturday announced a new 15-member team and vowed to start a nation-wide campaign against corruption from Jan 30, the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

UK

David Cameron’s big society idea failed. Our alternative is already working; Your Square Mile, set up by a former CEO of the Big Society Network, aims to improve on David Cameron’s flagship idea.” By Paul Twivy. Guardian. November 13, 2012. In January 2010 I was approached by the then shadow cabinet – David Cameron, Francis Maude, Oliver Letwin and Nick Hurd – to get involved in “big society”. Steve Hilton, one of the prime architects of the idea, told me that the name and style of this movement had been partly inspired by the Big Lunch, the street party movement I had co-founded to bring neighbours together. They wanted to use my experience in helping to turn ideas into practical, on-the-ground realities. The decision as to whether to get involved or not was one of the most difficult of my professional life. My political experience and sympathies lay elsewhere. Yet I felt, as I still do, that David Cameron was, and is, sincere in his commitment to social good. The big society is also in many ways just a new rendering of ideas put forward by both Tony Blair (Giving Age) and Gordon Brown (the Council for Social Action). So, I agreed to be the CEO of the Big Society Network, which we launched three months later. I did so on the basis that the network would be an independent, challenging partner to government and that it would focus on helping citizens take practical action. The first aspect of this – the independence – turned out to be horribly naive, which I always half knew or feared would be the case. I realised very early on, from my hundreds of meetings with charities, community groups, councillors and the public, that to succeed, the big society needed to be very practical, very simple and backed by tangible investment and action. It became rapidly very clear to me that big society suffered from a number of intractable problems. It was seen as a figleaf for the shrinking state and spending cuts. Or as a cynical repackaging of the civic activity that has quietly kept British society intact for hundreds of years. It was party-political, ergo tribal and divisive. The farther away from London and the south-east one went, the more toxic it became.

Donations to charity fall 20% in a year, study finds; Charities ‘deeply worried’ by drop in giving after survey shows UK donations tumbled from £11bn to £9.3bn in 2011.” By Patrick Butler. Guardian. November 12, 2012. Charitable donations in the UK dropped by a fifth last year, as the tough financial climate took its toll on donors’ giving power, a study has found. Fewer people gave to charity, while the amounts they donated shrank, according to a survey by the Charities Aid Foundation and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations. The total sum given to UK charities fell by 20% in real terms, from £11bn to £9.3bn during 2011-12 – a cash fall of £1.7bn, and the largest in the survey’s eight-year history.
John Low, chief executive of the Charities Aid Foundation, said: “The drop in giving shown by our survey is deeply worrying for those charities which rely on donations to provide vital frontline services. Combined with public spending cuts this represents a potentially severe blow for many charities. Although more than half of UK adults gave to charity, the proportion of people donating to charitable causes in a typical month decreased from 58% to 55%. The median amount donated was £10 in 2011-12, down from £11 the previous year and £12 in 2009-10.

Public Companies; Bishop Welby is right to ask businesses to think hard about their purpose.” Times of London. November 15, 2012. The connection between religion and capitalism has a long pedigree. In famous books on the link between the two, Max Weber and R. H. Tawney both noted that the virtues of the Protestant religion were hospitable to the rise of the new form of economic production. Some of the best businesses of 19th-century Britain were built by Quakers. Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury designate, looks as if he is set to follow in this honourable tradition. As a member of the Banking Commission, Bishop Welby was highly critical of Stephen Hester, the chief executive of RBS, for the latter’s failure to understand, or at least to be able to articulate clearly, the wider obligations of his company beyond the simple one of a fiduciary duty to his shareholders. As 83 per cent of RBS shares are owned by the British taxpayer, the public interest is especially evident. But every company that enjoys a licence to operate in Britain has a set of public obligations too. Mr Hester was not denying this and it is a mark of how this argument has changed that few senior businessmen would dissent from the view that a company’s obligations are not fulfilled simply by obedience to the law. Before the banking crash, a narrow conception that the company was, before anything else, a vehicle for the pursuit of shareholder value, had become dominant. The idea of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) enjoyed a brief fashion — there was even a Minister for CSR for a while — but was never more than bolted-on philanthropy.