Archive for July, 2010

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (July 19-25, 2010)

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

ARTS & CULTURE

“‘Theater Geek’ School’s Real Life Drama.” Weekend Edition/National Public Radio. July 18, 2010. For 35 years, in bucolic Loch Sheldrake, N.Y., Stagedoor Manor has been the place for pre-teen, tweens and teenaged performers to practice their craft. Host Liane Hansen talks with author Mickey Rapkin about the book, Theater Geek: The Real Life Drama of a Summer at Stagedoor Manor, the Famous Performing Arts Camp.

Richest cultural groups ID’d; Who’s up, who’s down in first-ever ranking of NYC’s institutions.” By Miriam Kreinin Souccar. Crain’s New York. July 18, 2010. It comes as no surprise that the Metropolitan Museum of Art is the largest cultural institution in the city. But who would have thought that the city’s three library systems—the New York Public Library, the Brooklyn Public Library and the Queens Borough Public Library—would all rank in the top 10 when measured by budget size, beating major landmarks like Carnegie Hall. The list—which ranks the top 100 cultural groups and is sponsored by Crain’s New York Business and compiled by the Alliance for the Arts—is believed to be the first such snapshot of the city’s nonprofit cultural institutions. Together, the nonprofits have an annual economic impact of $5.8 billion, according to the alliance. The organizations are ranked by the size of their operating expenses culled from the most recently available regulatory filings. The ranking leads with the Metropolitan Museum, with annual expenses of more than $309 million. The budgets of the others are much smaller. Only nine of the 100 have budgets of $100 million or more.

Changing focus to fit the times; Children’s Museum retools its exhibits for modern families.” By Joseph P. Kahn. Boston Globe. July 19, 2010. The challenges facing children’s museums these days are not so easily solved. The biggest? How to attract and engage young children and their families when leisure-time options are plentiful and competition includes the likes of Nickelodeon and Nintendo, the cineplex and Xbox. This summer Boston’s Children’s Museum, the country’s second-oldest, finds itself at a crucial point in its history, with fresh leadership on the way and a milestone anniversary on the far horizon. Three years ago, a $47 million renovation added 22,000 square feet of exhibit space to its South Boston Waterfront building, transforming the entire look and feel of the place, if not its core mission. From a building-wide “green’’ initiative to more hands-on, interactive exhibits — the three-story climbing structure anchored in its lobby being a prime example — the museum has added elements that appeal to a more youthful, attention-challenged audience than it catered to even five years ago.

Soros Group Boosts Arts.” By Erica Orden, Wall Street Journal. July 21, 2010. Billionaire hedge-fund manager George Soros’s Open Society Institute plans to announce Wednesday it’s awarding $11 million to New York City performing-arts groups, representing a significant expansion of his philanthropic endeavors and a much-needed boost for nonprofits hammered by the recession. Designed as a one-time initiative, the program will dispense gifts ranging from $65,000 to $250,000 to small- and midsize arts organizations throughout the five boroughs. Although Open Society Foundations, which include the institute, have given more than $211 million to arts initiatives around the world over the past three decades, Mr. Soros has traditionally directed the majority of his more than $7 billion of support at human rights, public health and justice programs.
Related story:
Soros Group Giving $11 Million to Arts Organizations.” New York Times. July 20, 2010.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (July 19-25, 2010)

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

EDUCATION

CHARTER SCHOOLS

Charters Derailed in Areas of New Jersey.” By Joy Resmovits. Wall Street Journal. July 19, 2010. New Jersey is preparing to announce the confirmation of at least six new charter schools this week, but proposed charters in Princeton, Teaneck and Flemington won’t be on the list, dealing a blow to a movement to widen school choice to affluent districts. A zoning technicality tripped up the Princeton International Academy Charter School, a Mandarin-immersion program that faced strong opposition from the three school districts whose students it would serve. When nearing an already-extended July 15 deadline for the state to approve the school’s certificate of occupancy before granting final approval of its charter, the districts raised legal questions about the charter’s variance request to occupy a Plainsboro seminary building. That, in turn, postponed a zoning hearing that could have given the school its certificate of occupancy. Last week, the commissioner of education declined the school’s request for another extension, forcing dozens of families to find an alternative for the upcoming school year. The decision comes about a month after Trillium Charter School, a school in Flemington, also had to stop planning prematurely. Trillium conceded its charter in June, when the state was concerned it would not have enough students registered to meet a deadline. “We learned that it’s hard to set one up unless you’re making it an alternative to a poor school district,” said Brian Chizever, Trillium’s would-be founder.

Charter Backers Flex Political Muscles; Helped by Wall Street Financiers, Advocates of the Schools Boost Funding in Albany, Closing Gap With Teachers Union.” By Jacob Gershman. Wall Street Journal. July 20, 2010. The charter-school movement appears to be catching up to the teachers union in political giving to Albany. With the help of hedge-fund managers and other Wall Street financiers, charter-school advocates gave more than $600,000 to Albany political candidates and party committees since January, according to the latest campaign filings. That’s more than twice as much as in prior reporting periods, according to allies of charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run. Pro-charter donations appear to have surpassed the $500,000 or so that candidates raised from teachers unions during the six-month period. The gap isn’t quite closed: Labor leaders, who are sitting on millions in political cash and have far more manpower, say they are waiting to see if lawmakers block education cuts before they unleash more money and roll out endorsements.

Charters Chief Steps Down.” By Barbara Martinez. Wall Street Journal. July 20, 2010. Victory Schools Inc., a for-profit charter-school operator, has hired away New York City’s charter-schools chief and is considering converting into a nonprofit. Michael Duffy, the director of the Department of Education’s Charter School Office, will join Victory, according to representatives for both the DOE and the company. Victory helps manage 16 charter schools with 7,000 students in New York, Philadelphia and Chicago. Mr. Duffy, whose title hasn’t yet been decided, is widely credited for accelerating charter-school growth in the city. He couldn’t be reached for comment. The future of Victory has been the subject of interest since the spring, when the New York legislature passed a law that essentially prevents for-profit charter schools from growing. The law, which also doubled the number of charter schools allowed in the state, said no more than 10% of the state’s charter schools can be for-profit. Victory operates nine such schools in the state. The company is considering becoming a nonprofit charter operator, but no final decision has been made, according to a person familiar with Victory’s plans.

FOR-PROFIT SCHOOLS AND COLLEGES

Plan would crack down on for-profit college industry.” By Mary Beth Marklein. USA Today. July 23, 2010. The Education Department, concerned that some students are graduating from short-term training programs with excessive debt and worthless degrees, is cracking down on the for-profit college industry. Under a proposal to be released today, vocational programs in which a large share of students don’t earn enough to pay back their loans would be required to disclose debt burdens and could become ineligible for federal financial aid dollars. The proposal covers training programs of less than two years that provide credentials for careers in fields such as the culinary arts, medical support and automotive technology. It applies to public and non-profit institutions, but the impact is expected to fall primarily on the fast-growing for-profit college industry in which, federal data show, students are more likely to borrow and to default.
Related Stories:
For-Profit Schools Update: Researcher on For-Profit Schools Says She Disclosed Tie to Investment Firm.” ProPublica.org. July 23, 2010.
For-profit schools could face restrictions; Proposed rules would tie federal aid to student loan defaults.” Indianapolis Star. July 24, 2010.
In Defense of For-Profit Colleges; They provide valuable training even as public university systems are slashing their budgets.” Wall Street Journal. July 24, 2010.
A boom in for-profit colleges may be a bust for taxpayers and students. Many drop out or find the programs aren’t accredited, a Senate panel reports. Fees, often twice as much as at public universities, are often paid with federal loans, with a high default rate.” Los Angeles Times. July 25, 2010.

PRIVATE SCHOOLS

At St. Ann’s, Increased Stability, but Also Controversy.” By Jenny Anderson. New York Times. July 20, 2010. St. Ann’s, the private school in Brooklyn Heights that has no grades, few rules and exceptionally good admissions to some of the country’s most elite colleges. But the school’s board had come to the conclusion that what St. Ann’s possessed in creativity, it lacked in professional management. It ushered out its founding headmaster and defining figure, Stanley Bosworth, and brought in new help. The successor, Larry Weiss, earned trustees’ praise for stabilizing the school — making sure it paid its bills, raised money and established a broader administrative structure — while also preserving its freewheeling soul. But in a school where creative chaos was exalted over systems and process, Dr. Weiss’s mandate alone was seen by many as a threat. Just what the school needed was passionately debated. Some wanted an insider, others a fresh set of eyes.

HIGHER EDUCATION

Yale Repertory Theater Receives $950,000 Gift.” By Patricia Cohen. New York Times. July 20, 2010. At a time when many artistic institutions have seen a drop in donations, Yale Repertory Theater announced on Monday that it had received a $950,000 gift from the Robina Foundation, a Minnesota-based nonprofit group. The gift will go toward supporting the Yale Center for New Theater, a program that Robina helped create in 2008 to promote the creation of new plays and musicals through residencies, readings, workshops and productions. James Bundy, the Rep’s artistic director, said in a statement that the grant would mean that new work can “reach a wider audience.” “Those activities will have a direct impact on the training of professionals in training at the School of Drama and on the field at large,” he added.

Artists Boycott Brandeis Museum.” By Randy Kennedy. New York Times. July 20, 2010. Three prominent artists whose work was to appear at the Rose Art Museum of Brandeis University in September have withdrawn, boycotting the show because the university has not pledged to reverse a decision made last year to consider selling parts of the museum’s permanent collection, The Boston Globe reported. The painter April Gornik told The Globe that she and the painter Eric Fischl, above, along with the video artist Bill Viola, decided not to take part in the show, “Atmospheric Conditions,” until the university makes a legally binding promise not to sell any works. In January 2009, as Brandeis’s finances eroded, its trustees voted to “transition” the museum into a teaching center and gallery, followed by “an orderly sale or other disposition” of its works to raise money for the school. It backed off that plan and recently said it was working with Sotheby’s to make money by lending works from the collection or entering into partnerships with other institutions. “Atmospheric Conditions” will be replaced with an exhibition of the work of the Pop painter James Rosenquist, who told The Globe that he opposes sales from the collection but does not believe boycotting the Rose is the right strategy.

Corporation Releases Univ-Wide Conflict of Interest Policies.” By Xi Yu. Harvard Crimson. July 21, 2010. For the first time in Harvard history, the Harvard Corporation has adopted a conflict of interest policy to address the financial interests of faculty members on a University-wide basis, officials announced today. Vice Provost David Korn led the committee that drafted the initial set of guidelines by which all schools across campus will be required to develop their own set of regulations for preventing issues of financial conflicts of interest. Each school’s own policy must be at least as rigorous as the ones provided by the Corporation, the University’s top governing board. “The trick is to be able to have a robust system for affording faculty opportunities to engage with the commercial world and at the same time not threaten in any way their own fundamental integrity or that of Harvard,” Korn told HarvardScience.
Related Stories:
Harvard puts tighter limits on medical faculty; Restricts involvement with health care industry.Boston Globe. July 21, 2010.
A Tougher Conflict Policy at Harvard Medical School.” By Duff Wilson. New York Times. July 21, 2010.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (July 19-25, 2010)

Monday, July 26th, 2010

INTERNATIONAL

AUSTRALIA

Abbott pledges school-fee rebates; Parents will be entitled to claim generous fee subsidies for sending their children to private and independent schools as part of the Coalition’s expanded education rebate policy.”By Jacob Saulwick. Sydney Morning Herald. July 21, 2010. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said he supported choice in education, and the $760 million boost to the tax rebate for school fees and other education expenses would help parents. Flanked by his education spokesman, Christopher Pyne, Mr Abbott – who was later mobbed by 100 schoolchildren in outer Brisbane – said it was important to reduce the pressures of the cost of living, including fees for schooling. “A very, very large percentage of parents at government schools these days face what are called voluntary fees,” he said. Under the Coalition’s policy, the current 50 per cent rebate would be lifted to $500 a year for each primary school student and $1000 for each high school student – and extended to private schooling.

Tour of duty: why culture needs a nanny state to thrive.” No by-line. Sydney Morning Herald. July 26, 2010. As the curtain goes up on Mary Poppins, director Richard Eyre tells Bryce Hallett why governments need to make sure the arts are accessible to all. The arts are a part of our life, our language, our way of seeing; they are a measure of our civilisation. The arts tell us truths about ourselves and our feelings and our society that reach parts of us that politics and journalism don’t.” The British theatre, film and opera director Richard Eyre, an advocate of public funding for the arts, expressed these sentiments more than a decade ago in a wide-ranging report about cultural ambition, arts education, programming, access and reach. ”If you give any subsidy to the arts you have to recognise that ticket prices have to be pegged or reduced, especially for those going to a play, opera or musical for the first time,” says Eyre, who directed the National Theatre between 1987 and 1997. ”A duty of arts companies is to educate the audiences of the future, initially from primary school [age], otherwise any government subsidy is not given in good faith but is appeasement.”

CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL

Pope grants broad powers to Legionaries delegate.” By Nicole Winfield. Washington Post/Associated Press. July 24, 2010. The pope has granted broad powers to the archbishop he selected to overhaul the Legionaries of Christ following revelations that the order’s founder led a double life. A decree approved by Pope Benedict XVI and published Saturday on the Legionaries’ website said Archbishop Velasio De Paolis can override the Legionaries’ own constitutions as he goes about reforming the order and purging it of its institutional abuses. The conservative order once hailed by the Vatican for its orthodoxy and ability to recruit priests fell into disarray starting last year as it admitted that its founder, the Rev. Marciel Maciel, sexually abused seminarians and fathered at least three children. In a May 1 statement, the Vatican said Maciel had built a system of power built on obedience and deceit that allowed his criminal and immoral misdeeds to go unchecked for decades. It said the Legionaries needed to be profoundly purified to survive, with the order’s essential spirit redefined, its founding constitutions revised and the systemic abuse of authority corrected.

Mo. Special Olympics ousts ex-priest over abuse.” By Maria Sudekum Fisher.
Washington Post/Associated Press. July 19, 2010. A former Roman Catholic priest who was part of a $5 million sex abuse settlement in Wisconsin two decades ago was suspended from a volunteer position with Special Olympics Missouri and has admitted some of the abuse. Mark Musso, president and CEO of Special Olympics Missouri, said the former priest, Tom Ericksen, 62, of Kansas City, was suspended indefinitely last week after the organization learned of the 1989 settlement with the Diocese of Superior, Wis. Ericksen admitted in an interview with The Associated Press on Monday that he had fondled three boys but denied having contact with a fourth child involved in the settlement. He said the settlement totaled about $5 million. “I just fondled and stuff like that,” Ericksen said during the interview in the lobby of his Kansas City apartment building. “But I can’t say I didn’t do inappropriate things. … But I never had sex” with them, he said. Ericksen also said he has not abused any children since leaving the priesthood, including Special Olympians.

CHINA

In The Land Of Mao, A Rising Tide Of Christianity.” All Things Considered/National Public Radio. July 19, 2010. We know that China has enjoyed a sustained economic boom but it’s also in the middle of a religious boom. An official survey shows that nearly one in three Chinese describe themselves as religious. Thats an astonishing figure for an officially atheist country, where religion was banned until three decades ago. Today, we begin a series about faith in China where we examine the links between wealth and religion. Beijing recognizes five official religions: Catholicism, Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, and the first subject of our series – Protestantism.
Related Stories:
China’s Divided Catholics Seek Reconciliation.” All Things Considered/National Public Radio. July 20, 2010.
Female Imams Blaze Trail Amid China’s Muslims.” All Things Considered/National Public Radio. July 21, 2010.
Beijing Finds Common Cause With Chinese Buddhists.” All Things Considered/National Public Radio. July 22, 2010.
China’s Leaders Harness Folk Religion For Their Aims.” All Things Considered/National Public Radio. July 23, 2010.

Yao Ming to lead charity game in Beijing.” Xinhuanet.com. July 23, 2010. Chinese basketball star Yao Ming will lead a charity exhibition game here on Saturday to raise funds for the Project Hope in China. The exhibition game, to be held in the National Indoor Stadium, will feature a host of NBA big names, including All-Star guard Steve Nash from the Suns, the promising star Brandon Jennings from the Bucks, Clippers’talisman Baron Davis, as well as Yao’s Rockets teammate Chase Budinger. The Chinese national basketball team are to take on the NBA-star team. “When I was in Houston I took part in some charity activities with the team, which really impressed me a lot. Charity activities gave me a sense of satisfaction and success,” said Yao in a pre-game press conference on Thursday. “So I also want to do something for my country, for children in Chinese rural areas who really need help.” In order to fulfill his desire to help Chinese children in need, the Houston Rocket center launched the Yao Foundation in 2008 and helped to build six Project Hope elementary schools in the past two years. Saturday’s game is a part of the Yao Foundation Charity Tour. The tour will also include a charity banquet on Friday night and another exhibition game in the city of Taipei next Wednesday.

INDIA

SC allows Centre to take over Bhopal Trust hospital.” By Dhananjay Mahapatra. Times of India. July 19, 2010. The Supreme Court on Monday allowed the Centre to take over the management of the Bhopal Memorial Hospital Trust running super-speciality treatment centres for the 1984 gas victims. The apex court also accepted the resignation of former Chief Justice A M Ahmadi as the chairman of the Bhopal Memorial Hospital Trust. BMHT has an interesting history. Pursuant to the SC orders, Union Carbide had set up a charitable trust in London on March 20, 1992 called ‘Bhopal Hospital Trust’ with Sir Ian Percival as its sole trustee. The MP government had granted, free of cost, approximately 80 acres of land for the construction of the hospital. UCC extended limited financial support by sale of its shares and the Centre augmented it by waiving capital gains tax thereon. Following the death of Percival, the “Bhopal Memorial Hospital Trust” was established in accordance with the apex court’s orders in 1998 with ex-CJI Ahmadi as its chairman. The Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre (BMHRC) became functional in July 2000. It has eight mini-centres. There are six hospitals, nine day-care centres, three Unani, three Homeopathic and three Ayurveda dispensaries run by BMHRC.

MEA wants IRS officers to monitor aid projects abroad.” No by-line. Times of India. July 21, 2010. The ministry of external affairs (MEA) has requested the finance ministry to depute a contingent of meritorious revenue service officials to monitor India’s aid projects to various countries worth thousands of crores of rupees. Foreign secretary Nirupama Rao has written a letter to revenue secretary Sunil Mitra in this regard seeking deputation of officers of income tax and customs for the purpose. Official sources said a panel of almost a dozen bright officials from both the income tax and customs department will be dispatched soon to the MEA which has taken the step keeping in mind “the increasing importance of economic diplomacy” in India’s foreign policy. Rao, in her letter written last month, has said with the fresh induction of such revenue officials, her ministry would have a “greater degree of economic and financial expertise at the policy-making level within MEA”. “With the increasing importance of economic diplomacy in the overall foreign policy framework of India, there is a requirement to instill a greater degree of economic and financial expertise at the policy-making level within MEA. This requirement is felt particularly in the two specialised economic divisions of the ministry…. investment and technology promotion division and the multi-lateral economic relations division,” she said in her letter.

UK

Slow take-up for academies despite push by Gove.” By Greg Hurst. Times of London. July 19, 2010. About 50 state schools are on track to become academies in September, far fewer than initially envisaged. A government adviser told The Times that 50 schools were sufficiently advanced in their applications to be approved for the start of the academic year. These were a mixture of secondary and some primary schools, the adviser said. Another batch may convert to academy status in October, with further groups being approved at intervals. The adviser said that the complexity of completing formal approval and funding agreements for new academies meant that only those whose preparations were most advanced would be ready by September. These figures will be a blow for Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, who is rushing through legislation to enable schools to become academies as rapidly as possible, provoking furious protests from Labour. The Academies Bill, which removes the power of local authorities to veto academies, was the first of the coalition’s programme. It has already cleared the Lords and will be pushed through the Commons in eight days. Special arrangements have been made to allow MPs to table amendments before its second reading today and its committee stage will be taken on the floor of the Commons, so that it can be law before September.
Related Stories:
Michael Gove defends academies push; Education secretary says scheme for schools to opt out of local authority control was debated during election campaign.” Guardian (UK). July 19, 2010.
Gove seeks to ram academies bill through parliament; Protests erupt that government is whisking through law to benefit well-off schools while those struggling face building cuts.” Guardian (UK). July 19, 2010.
Gove’s bill spells segregation and tax-funded madrasas; The academies bill is casual law-making by arbitrary diktat that will fail the poorest and fuel the rise of faith schools.” Guardian (UK). July 20, 2010.
Michael Gove’s schools could improve education for all children; Free schools could provide a link between school and family, giving disadvantaged children a greater chance of success.” Guardian (UK). July 21, 2010.

David Cameron breaks bank to fund Big Society idea.” By Roland Watson. Times of London. July 19, 2010. Hundreds of millions of pounds lying dormant in unused bank accounts will be used by the Government to bring David Cameron’s “Big Society” to life. The cash will be diverted to social action groups and charities, via a Big Society Bank, to deliver services where local people feel they have been failed by the State or local economy. It would allow communities to develop a local transport network, for instance, or take over the running of their local pub. Mr Cameron will name four areas today as the “great training grounds” to test how people can take more control over their lives. Liverpool, Windsor and Maidenhead, Sutton and Cheam and Eden Valley in Cumbria have all asked to test some of the ideas for “ultra local power” that Mr Cameron wants to be a hallmark of his Government. Civil servants will be told to help them to cut through Whitehall bureaucracy or show them where to turn to in the voluntary sector. The Prime Minister will travel to Liverpool to speak about his passion for fostering a new culture of voluntarism, philanthropy and social action.
Related Stories:
Cameron says ‘Big Society’ is not about saving money.” By Joe Churcher and Matt Williams. Independent (UK). July 19, 2010.
David Cameron begins big sell of ‘Big Society’; Four authorities, all volunteers, have been chosen to run services they think they can administer better than Whitehall.” Guardian (UK). July 19, 2010.
Cameron promises power for the ‘man and woman on the street’; PM says ‘big society’ plans will create communities with ‘oomph’ and denies programme is a mask for public sector cuts.” Guardian. July 19, 2010.
Is the street party the way to create a ‘big society’? As David Cameron’s project gathers pace, Rob Hastings reports from the cake-stall.” Independent (UK). July 19, 2010.
David Cameron’s ‘big society’: Partners in the vanguard – of confusion; Local partners in PM’s ‘vanguard communities’ say they have been given little or no information on what role will involve.” Guardian (UK). July 19, 2010.
David Cameron reveals ‘big society’ vision – and denies it is just cost cutting; PM: central control led to a ‘passive, soulless’ Britain; Labour warns of return to Victorian philanthropy.” Guardian (UK). July 19, 2010.
“‘Big society’ is a departure for Tories; For all the precursors it is possible to dig up in the domestic tradition, the ‘big society’ is really an American import.Guardian (UK). July 19, 2010.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/camerons-big-society-attacked-as-a-cover-for-spending-cuts-2030334.html

“Cameron’s Big Society attacked as ‘a cover for spending cuts’.” Independent (UK). July 20, 2010.
But what if the Big Society doesn’t work? While the over-riding motive is not directly connected to our economic situation, lack of resources is why the vision is so limited.” Independent (UK). July 20, 2010.
The Big Society: a genuine vision for Britain’s future – or just empty rhetoric? Yesterday David Cameron laid out his flagship policy.” Independent (UK). July 20, 2010.
“Reality of the Big Society dawns on Liverpool; Jonathan Brown visits one of the pilot areas for Cameron’s flagship idea – and is met by bemusement and trepidation.” Independent (UK). July 21, 2010.
Christina Patterson: Is there room for art in the Big Society?
There isn’t much philanthropy in Britain. Where it does exist in relation to the arts, it’s largely about influence and image – in other words, the glamorous and hip
.” Independent (UK). July 21, 2010.
Matthew Norman: Quit the carping and give volunteering a go
Get Pickles cleaning bins, Fox delivering babies, May counselling prostitutes, and Osborne wallpapering care homes in Tatton. We know they’re busy. That’s the point
.” Independent (UK). July 21, 2010.
The ‘big society’ needs religion; The ‘big society’ will not work unless it is informed by religious ideas of free and reciprocal giving.” Guardian (UK). July 21, 2010.
Letters: Big issues for Cameron’s big society.” Guardian (UK). July 21, 2010.
Good Citizens: The Government has an ambitious plan for non-military national service. The test will be to see who signs up.” Times of London. July 22 2010.
Local charity cuts jeopardise David Cameron’s ‘big society’; Prime minister’s flagship idea at risk as reduced funding for community-based activity threatens to undermine local power.” Guardian (UK). July 23, 2010.
Power to the people in David Cameron’s ‘big society’, or a Robin Hood fantasy? Lukewarm reception for Tory leader’s vision of active communities.” Guardian/Observer (UK). July 25, 2010.

Ministers turn their attention to cutting old and superfluous quangos.” By Richard Ford. Times of London. July 19 2010. Ministers are being urged to axe redundant quangos as part of the Government’s multimillion-pound drive to cut Whitehall costs. It is believed that some organisations set up in the 1970s and 1980s have become superfluous after the many changes in the work of Whitehall departments. The move follows the announcement by Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary, that some bodies linked to her department would be cut as part of the drive to find 25 per cent savings. The money saved would be used for key services protecting the public from emergencies such as flooding, chemical spills or outbreaks of animal disease.
Related Story:
£8.6 million business quangos to be axed.” Independent (UK). July 19, 2010.

Culture department braces itself for redundancies of up to 50%; Jeremy Hunt has submitted plans to Treasury proposing deep cuts in staff and a move to smaller government building.” By Patrick Wintour and Mark Brown. Guardian (UK). July 20, 2010. Up to one in two of the staff at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport are to be made redundant as part of the cuts programme submitted to the Treasury by the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt. Hunt has also proposed moving out of the well-appointed departmental headquarters in Cockspur Street, just off Trafalgar Square, with the remaining staff finding room in a different, existing departmental building. In a move which will send a chill through the arts world, Hunt, who has proposed cuts of between 35% and 50% of all staff, believes he will not be able to win support for the coming deep cuts in arts and media budgets unless he leads by example. All government departments have been told by the Treasury to offer cuts of between 25% and 40% of total budgets. Some departments have failed to meet the Treasury deadline or are refusing to produce 40% cuts, saying it is not realistic to do so, and therefore a waste of time.
Related Story:
Let’s cut the arts budget; The knife should slice through marketing and development but leave the artists untouched.” By Mark Ravenhill. Guardian (UK). July 25, 2010.

Warburg Institute, Saved From Nazis, Faces Bureaucratic Threat.” by Martin Gayford. Bloomberg.com. July 21, 2010. A great cultural foundation that was saved from the Nazis is now under threat from a different, more insidious menace: the bureaucratic policies of modern British higher education. The Warburg Institute at London University is renowned throughout the scholarly world for its remarkable library, founded over a century ago. Yet today its existence as an independent entity is in doubt, and may be decided in court.
The story is a long and sad one. “Everybody has a feeling of disbelief that we have got to this point,” the director of the Warburg, Charles Hope, said in an interview. “The university has said that it wishes to change the Trust Deed, according to which the Warburg was originally handed over to the University of London in 1944, and is talking to its lawyers — and we are talking to our lawyers.” The founder of the institute was Aby Warburg (1866-1929), the descendant of a Hamburg banking family and an intellectual with a brilliance that led him to be compared to Sigmund Freud by art historian Ernst Gombrich. Warburg’s originality lay in seeing that art had to be understood in the context of the whole society from which it came. To this end he formed a library devoted to “the study of the science of culture,” especially the ways in which the heritage of classical Greece, Rome and other early civilizations had metamorphosed in the centuries that followed. Rare volumes on magic, the discoveries of Galileo, Arabic treatises on algebra, astrology and the lives of saints all found room on his shelves.

Methodist leader predicts ‘overthrow’ of Church structures; The Pope may be interested by the Rev Trevor Hoggard’s comments in Rome.” By Ruth Gledhill. Times of London. July 22, 2010. The minister who represents the interests of the world’s 70 million Methodists to the Vatican has predicted the “overthrow” and “collapse” of Church structures — both Anglican and Catholic. The disintegration will be followed by “turmoil, disintegration and panic,” the Rev Trevor Hoggard warned. Dr Hoggard, minister at Ponte Sant’Angelo Methodist Church in Rome, was preaching at the Anglican Centre in Rome at the invitation of the Very Rev David Richardson, its director. He also said there was no realistic hope, ever, of Christian unity. Canon Richardson, an Anglo-Catholic priest known for his studied diplomacy, had not expected such an apocalyptic message in the six minute sermon before a small congregation of mild-mannered Anglicans.

Trafigura founder Graham Sharp’s £3m gift to Oxford university causes anger; Donation linked to scandal-hit oil trading company should be rejected, say Oxford students and teaching staff.” By Jamie Doward and Tom Rowley. The Observer/Guardian. July 25, 2010. Students and academics at Oxford are angry that their university has accepted more than £3m from a foundation established by a founder of the controversial oil trading company Trafigura. Graham Sharp was one of the three co-founders of the company, which on Friday was fined £840,000 by a court in the Netherlands for illegally exporting tonnes of toxic waste to west Africa. Sharp, who graduated from St John’s College, Oxford, in 1983, with a first-class honours degree in engineering, economics and management, retired from Trafigura’s operational business in 2007. He went on to found the Helsington Foundation, a Liechtenstein-based trust that has given £3.25m to fund a new summer school at the University of Oxford that will aim to help pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. On Friday, Trafigura was convicted of criminal charges over a 2006 environmental scandal, in which 30,000 people were made ill when the Probo Koala, a ship leased by Trafigura, dumped waste in Ivory Coast. Yesterday, students and staff at Oxford urged the university to reconsider accepting the donation. Peter Oppenheimer, emeritus professor of economics at Christ Church, said the university had a history of being “naive” when it came to accepting donations. “Oxford’s central fundraising effort has long been an undirected mess – they will happily take money from anywhere,” he said.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (July 19-25, 2010)

Monday, July 26th, 2010

LAW & PUBLIC POLICY

The ‘Tax Expenditure’ Solution for Our National Debt; The credits and subsidies that make the tax code so complicated cost big bucks. Reduce them by third and the debt will be 72% of GDP in 2020 instead of 90%.” By Martin Feldstein. Wall Street Journal. July 20, 2010. When it comes to spending cuts, Congress is looking in the wrong place. Most federal nondefense spending, other than Social Security and Medicare, is now done through special tax rules rather than by direct cash outlays. The rules are used to subsidize a wide range of spending including education, child care, health insurance, and a myriad of other congressional favorites. These tax rules—because they result in the loss of revenue that would otherwise be collected by the government—are equivalent to direct government expenditures. That’s why tax and budget experts refer to them as “tax expenditures.” This year tax expenditures will raise the federal deficit by about $1 trillion, according to estimates by the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation. If Congress is serious about cutting government spending, it has to go after many of them. For example, the Joint Tax Committee identified more than a dozen tax-based programs that subsidize education and training. These include small ones like the Coverdell education saving accounts (with a 2010 tax expenditure cost of $100 million) and much larger ones like the various tax credits for tuition (costing $11.7 billion). The hundreds of other tax expenditures include a $500 million annual subsidy for the rehabilitation of historic structures and a $4 billion annual subsidy of employer-paid transportation benefits.

No To Oligarchy.” By Bernie Sanders. The Nation. July 22, 2010. The American people are hurting. As a result of the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street, millions of Americans have lost their jobs, homes, life savings and their ability to get a higher education. Today, some 22 percent of our children live in poverty, and millions more have become dependent on food stamps for their food. But, not everybody is hurting. While the middle class disappears and poverty increases the wealthiest people in our country are not only doing extremely well, they are using their wealth and political power to protect and expand their very privileged status at the expense of everyone else. This upper-crust of extremely wealthy families are hell-bent on destroying the democratic vision of a strong middle-class which has made the United States the envy of the world. In its place they are determined to create an oligarchy in which a small number of families control the economic and political life of our country. The 400 richest families in America, who saw their wealth increase by some $400 billion during the Bush years, have now accumulated $1.27 trillion in wealth. Four hundred families! During the last fifteen years, while these enormously rich people became much richer their effective tax rates were slashed almost in half. While the highest-paid 400 Americans had an average income of $345 million in 2007, as a result of Bush tax policy they now pay an effective tax rate of 16.6 percent, the lowest on record. That is why I have introduced the Responsible Estate Tax Act (S.3533). This legislation would raise $318 billion over the next decade by establishing a graduated inheritance tax on estates over $3.5 million retroactive to this year. This bill ensures that the wealthiest 0.3 percent of Americans pays their fair share of estate taxes, while making sure that 99.7 percent of Americans never have to pay a dime when they lose a loved one. It also makes certain that the overwhelming majority of family farmers and small businesses never have to pay an estate tax.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (July 19-25, 2010)

Monday, July 26th, 2010

MEDIA

“Afghanistan war logs: Story behind biggest leak in intelligence history; From US military computers to a cafe in Brussels, how thousands of classified papers found their way to online activists.” By Nick Davies. Guardian (UK). July 25, 2010. US authorities have known for weeks that they have suffered a haemorrhage of secret information on a scale which makes even the leaking of the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam war look limited by comparison. The Afghan war logs, from which the Guardian reports today, consist of 92,201 internal records of actions by the US military in Afghanistan between January 2004 and December 2009 – threat reports from intelligence agencies, plans and accounts of coalition operations, descriptions of enemy attacks and roadside bombs, records of meetings with local politicians, most of them classified secret. The Guardian‘s source for these is Wikileaks, the website which specialises in publishing untraceable material from whistleblowers, which is simultaneously publishing raw material from the logs.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (July 19-25, 2010)

Monday, July 26th, 2010

MUTUAL BENEFIT ORGANIZATIONS

Private swim clubs struggling.” By Vikki Ortiz. Chicago Tribune. July 23, 2010. These are different times for the private community pool, which in its prime in the 1980s and 1990s easily filled 500 family memberships and kept a waiting list that lasted years. Today, thanks to advertising and a waived $100 initiation fee special, club officials will be happy to sign up about 400 families. Officials at Darien and other privately run west suburban community swim and tennis clubs – once the definitive places to send neighborhood kids splashing for the day– have struggled to stay viable as suburban life has changed. In unincorporated La Grange and Willow Springs, two popular private swimming pools closed in recent years. The Timber Trails Pool was torn down in 2006 when a developer converted the property into a now-unfinished town home complex. Willow Pool closed last year, a move some area pool managers attribute to the growing competition from Lifetime Fitness centers, park district water parks and other health clubs that offer swimming. And at the Downers Grove Swim and Racquet Club, membership is down about 100 families from the 650 family memberships from 8 years ago.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (July 19-25, 2010)

Monday, July 26th, 2010

PHILANTHROPY

Donor of the Day: Giant Helps N.Y. Teens Meet Goals.” By Shelly Banjo. Wall Street Journal. July 20, 2010. Sinorice Moss wants to dare kids to dream of a better future. The New York Giants wide receiver is launching a program called Dare to Dream, which asks teachers and high school students to take a pledge expressing their goals, such as improving their grades by the end of the year or applying to college. It then rewards students when they achieve their goals. Throughout the school year, the foundation works with students to monitor progress and provides support to schools such as books and classroom supplies. Students who accomplish their goals will receive a certificate signed by Mr. Moss and other rewards, such as tickets to a game or a chance to speak at their schools.

Hedge Fund Managers in Tune With School Needs.” By Shelly Banjo. Wall Street Journal. July 23, 2010. Hedge fund managers Gordon and Paul Singer are bringing music back to New Jersey public schools. The father and son, who run New York-based hedge fund Elliott Management Corp., will be restoring instrumental music programs at the Nicolaus Copernicus and Jotham W. Wakeman elementary schools in Jersey City this fall through the VH1 Save the Music Foundation, a nonprofit that restores music education to America’s public schools. Since 2006, the Singers have given $500,000 to the foundation, enabling them to save programs in 17 public schools across New Jersey.

D.C. couple keeps son’s memory alive through foundation to help kids with cancer.” By Rick Rojas. Washington Post. July 24, 2010. Peter and Victoria Brown stood across from the Capitol building getting ready, looking over the list of members of Congress they planned to visit that day. First, they would meet with an aide to Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.). Then it was on to a meeting with an aide to Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) and a sit-down with Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). In more than six hours of meetings with nearly a dozen people, the Browns repeated the same talking points they now know by heart: Cancer is the leading cause of death in children; cancer is diagnosed in almost 13,500 children and adolescents each year; one of five will die of it. And Congress should appropriate $30 million in research money, they would say, to save these children. As Peter Brown told Van Hollen, “In a different world, maybe my son could have survived.” Peter and Victoria Brown of the District were among about 100 parents from across the country who visited the Capitol on June 22 as a part of the CureSearch cancer foundation’s Reach the Day event, in which parents and families of children with cancer lobbied for support.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (July 19-25, 2010)

Monday, July 26th, 2010

RELIGION

When Religious Institutions Fail: A Reflection for Tisha B’Av and Every Other Day.” By Brad Hirschfield. Huffington Post. July 19, 2010. The ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, which coincides this year with sundown on July 19, recalls the collapse of ancient Judaism’s central religious institution, the Jerusalem Temple. The First Temple, built by King Solomon and destroyed by the Babylonians, was, according to the Talmud, destroyed because the Israelites practiced idolatry, rape, incest, and murder. According to the same source, the Second Temple, destroyed by Rome, was destroyed because of casual hatred between people. The rabbis taught that in each case, a religious institution failed because of the failing of those who worshiped there. In that approach lies an important lesson for all people who look to those outside their own religious community to understand why the institution they love may not be doing as well as they would like.

Founders, Students Defend Islamic College.” All Things Considered/National Public Radio. July 18, 2010. The first Islamic college in the U.S. opened this summer in Berkeley, Calif. Conservative critics have already lambasted Zaytuna College as a center for “indoctrination,” but its founders say it’s about time the millions of Muslims in the United States have a center for religious studies.

In Italy, protecting immigrants crosses the faith line; The largest immigrant bloc in Europe is Muslim, and one of its biggest defenders is the Roman Catholic Church. The church doesn’t face the accusations of self-interest that it does in the U.S.” By Mitchell Landsberg. Los Angeles Times. July 19, 2010. Visually speaking, the John Paul II Canteen is more IKEA cafe than soup kitchen. Tucked away in a pleasant hillside neighborhood in Rome, it has clean lines, attractive furniture, track lighting and framed photographs, making it a welcome oasis for the immigrants who stream in daily from shelters, homeless camps and overcrowded apartments. Strolling down the cafeteria line on a recent day, canteen coordinator Maurizio deStefano boasted about the quality of the free food, which today included farfalle pasta and meatballs, spinach, boiled eggs, cheese, bread and apples. “The thing is,” he said, “there are so many Muslims that the menu often doesn’t have pork on it.” That may be sacrilege in some Italian culinary circles — no prosciutto? no spaghetti alla carbonara? — but it’s hardly unexpected, considering Muslims are the largest group of immigrants in Italy. Still, as the name suggests, the John Paul II Canteen is run by Roman Catholics, not Muslims. Therein lies an interesting dynamic.

More Baptist pastors adopt bishop title; Backers say promotion helps value leadership.” By Lisa Wangsness. Boston Globe. July 19, 2010. The Rev. John M. Borders III approached the pulpit at Morning Star Baptist Church on a recent Sunday wearing his usual suit and tie. He adjusted his glasses, as he often does, and proceeded to deliver to the packed sanctuary a thunderstorm of a sermon on a theme from Revelation. The only outward sign that something was different was the new ring on the pastor’s finger, a thick gold ring with a purple stone. It symbolized his recent elevation, in a ceremony in Memphis two weeks before, to the position of bishop. The title of bishop, accompanied by such emblems of authority, was uncommon among hierarchy-spurning Baptists until recently, but it is being adopted by a growing number of Baptist pastors, most of them African-American. Borders and other new bishops have acquired some of the ceremonial garb — croziers (pastoral staffs), zucchettos (skullcaps) and chasubles (robes) — that their spiritual forefathers left behind when they broke from the Church of England in the 17th century. Some, including Borders, have even embraced the doctrine of apostolic succession — the belief in an unbroken line from Jesus’ apostles to today’s bishops. The naming of Baptist bishops, which remains controversial among some traditionalists, is a departure for a church descended from the Puritans. Baptist denominations do not have strict hierarchies; congregations are independent churches whose pastors are hired and fired by vote of the congregation.

“‘House churches’ keep worship small, simple, friendly.” No by-line. USA Today. July 22, 2010. To get to church on a recent Sunday morning, the Yeldell family walked no farther than their own living room to greet fellow worshippers. The members of this “house church” are part of what experts say is a fundamental shift in the way U.S. Christians think about church. Skip the sermons, costly church buildings and large, faceless crowds, they say. House church is about relationships forged in small faith communities. In general, house churches consist of 12 to 15 people who share what’s going on in their lives, often turning to Scriptures for guidance. They rely on the Holy Spirit or spontaneity to lead the direction of their weekly gatherings. House church proponents claim their small groups are sort of a throwback to the early Christian church in that they have no clergy and everyone is expected to contribute to the teaching, singing and praying. They are more commonly seen in countries where Christianity is not the dominant religion. Organizers say they’re just starting to take off in the U.S.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (July 19-25, 2010)

Monday, July 26th, 2010

SCANDAL

Hospice accused of fudging IRS forms: OSHA complaint leads to pay revelations, lawsuit.” By Ed Stannard. New Haven Register. July 18, 2010. Connecticut Hospice appears to have grossly overstated the income of its top-paid medical staff, according to federal tax records and current and former employees. The lawyer for a former employee who is suing Hospice said the nonprofit facility may be trying to mask the amount of money spent on administrative costs, rather than patient care. Hospice’s Internal Revenue Service Form 990, which every nonprofit organization must file annually, lists four doctors and a reiki therapist as its highest-paid non-administrative employees for the 2007 tax year, and all were reported to have earned more than all but one of Hospice’s officers. However, Susane O. Grasso, the reiki therapist who served as director of complementary therapy, said she did not earn the $130,000 reported, and two sources on Hospice’s staff confirmed that two or more of the four doctors listed as working 40 hours per week did not work full time and did not earn the salaries listed.
Related stories:
Hospice amended IRS form, disputes article?” Editorial. New Haven Register. July 22, 2010.
Hospice releases tax form correcting salary error.” New Haven Register. July 21, 2010.

Sex-abuse case against rabbi raises larger issues.” By Michael Rezendes. Boston Globe. July 20, 2010. Two years ago, Michael Brecher came to prosecutors in Boston with a disturbing allegation: In the 1970s, he said, he had been molested by a rabbi who was teaching sixth grade at one of the region’s most prestigious Jewish day schools, the Maimonides School. One of Brecher’s classmates came forward at the same time. And last year, after reading news accounts of indecent sexual assault and battery charges filed against Stanley Z. Levitt, a third person said that he, too, was abused by Levitt. Now, court records show that Levitt might have tried to entice two more students into having intimate contact with him while they took showers in his Brighton home. Levitt has also faced allegations in Philadelphia, where he lived after leaving Maimonides. The case, with echoes of clergy sexual abuse incidents in the Catholic Church, is a reflection, scholars say, of similar abuse cases that have taken place in the orthodox Jewish community, where rabbis are held in high regard and the social penalties for criticizing clergy can be high. A number of prominent orthdox rabbis have faced charges, including Baruch Lanner, the subject of a 2000 expose in The Jewish Week, and Yehuda Kolko, who was featured in a 2006 New York magazine article.

Oregon Attorney General wants to shut down Veterans of Oregon nonprofit.” By Julie Sullivan. Oregonian. July 19, 2010. Oregon’s Attorney General wants a popular nonprofit that awards honorary medals to military veterans shut down for deceiving donors. John Kroger said that Veterans of Oregon telemarketers told donors their money would feed, house and provide medical care for homeless and ill vets. Instead, 80 percent of the cash raised over two years — about $500,000 — went to the Michigan telemarketing firm making the calls. The Department of Justice has sued the nonprofit veterans group and its for-profit fundraiser, Associated Community Services, saying it “spent nothing or only token amounts on the programs described” in solicitations. The state alleges that much of the remaining 20 percent went to founder John Neuman and his associates’ expenses for the $6 medals and travel to award ceremonies.

Consumer group: Insurers kept surplus while hiking premiums.” By Alison Young. USA Today. July 22, 2010. Non-profit Blue Cross and Blue Shield health plans stockpiled billions of dollars during the past decade, yet continued to hit consumers with double-digit premium increases, Consumers Union found in an analysis of 10 of the plans’ finances. Insurers must keep surplus money to ensure they can pay policyholders’ medical bills if unexpected market conditions develop. Yet seven of the plans examined held more than three times the amount regulators consider the minimum needed to do that, according to a report being released today by the non-profit consumer group. “Consumers are struggling to afford health coverage,” said report author Sondra Roberto. “Those funds could be used in some cases to mitigate these rate increases.” The report calls on state insurance regulators to scrutinize surpluses when considering rate increases and set maximum limits for surpluses. In most states, it said, regulators focus only on ensuring companies have minimum surpluses to be financially sound.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (July 19-25, 2010)

Monday, July 26th, 2010

SELF HELP & TWELVE-STEP GROUPS

Alcoholics Anonymous: 75 Years Of 12 Steps.” Talk of the Nation/National Public Radio. July 22, 2010. In 1935, Bill Wilson, a failed stockbroker and hard drinker, had a vision of God in a hospital room — and created what came to be known as Alcoholics Anonymous. Not everyone who tries AA quits drinking, and not even a majority. But contemporary medicine has yet to develop a better plan. Panel discussion with Brendan Koerner, contributing editor, Wired and Dr. Marvin Seppala, chief medical officer, the Hazelden Foundation.