Archive for October, 2010

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (October 11-17, 2010)

Monday, October 18th, 2010



Case against Charter Schools Commission heads to state Supreme Court.” By D. Aileen Dodd. Atlanta Journal-Constitution. October 8, 2010. A pivotal case over money and power could chart the future for charter school approvals and unravel a network of state campuses. The second round in a case over the local control of public education will be heard Tuesday. Lawyers for seven metro districts head to the Georgia Supreme Court to argue that a state board is illegally opening and funding charter schools. Lawyers for Gwinnett County Public Schools and several other districts will ask the State Supreme Court to overturn a Fulton County Superior Court decision upholding the constitutionality of the Georgia Charter Schools Commission, and its authority to approve and fund charter schools including those local districts reject. “The Constitution specifies that public education is under the management and control of county boards of education,” said Thomas Cox, who is representing DeKalb and Atlanta Public Schools in the hearing. “To allow the state to say we are going to set up a charter school is basically undermining that local control.”


Degrees of Debt.” By Jeremy Dehn. Op-ed. New York Times. October 10, 2010. The Senate recently held hearings on for-profit colleges, investigating charges that the schools rake in federal loan money while failing to adequately educate students. Critics point to deceptive sales tactics, fraudulent loan applications, high drop-out rates and even higher tuitions. In response, the Department of Education has proposed a “gainful employment” rule, which would cut financing to for-profit colleges that graduate (or fail) students with thousands of dollars of debt and no prospect of salaries high enough to pay them off. As an adjunct professor who teaches at one of these vilified colleges, I wish I could say the critics are wrong. They’re not. The gainful employment rule is a step in the right direction, but it is only the beginning of what needs to be done.


Harvard to resume expansion plan; $50m gift will help fund new building.” By Hiawatha Bray. Boston Globe. October 15, 2010. Harvard Business School, which put its Boston expansion plans on hold because of the recession, is ready to start pouring concrete again. Yesterday, the school revealed that it will spend $90 million to $100 million on a new executive education center, plus $15 million to $20 million to convert an Allston building into a laboratory for innovation and entrepreneurship. “Together, they highlight a continued drive to invest in Boston,’’ Mayor Thomas M. Menino said at a news conference about the projects. Menino said the Harvard announcement is the latest about a series of building projects in Boston that demonstrate a recovery in the local business climate. The new building, to be named Tata Hall, will be funded in part by a $50 million gift from Tata Group, a technology and manufacturing conglomerate based in India. The gift is the largest Harvard Business School has ever received from a foreign donor. Ratan Tata, chairman of Tata Sons Ltd., attended the school’s advanced management program in 1975. “I’m delighted that we are going to be here in name and also in spirit,’’ he said at the news conference.

USC to announce two donations totaling $100 million; USC trustee and alumnus Ming Hsieh donates $50 million to fund a new cancer research center. The Annenberg Foundation gives $50 million to its namesake School for Communication & Journalism.” By Larry Gordon. Los Angeles Times. October 15, 2010. USC on Friday plans to announce two donations totaling $100 million that will fund a new institute for cancer research and a high-tech building for journalism studies. USC trustee and alumnus Ming Hsieh, whose Pasadena company, Cogent Inc., helped pioneer automated fingerprint identification, is giving $50 million. His donation will support nanomedical research — a field that works at the atomic and molecular level — to develop drugs and other therapies for cancer treatment. The other $50 million is from the Annenberg Foundation to USC’s School for Communication & Journalism, which bears the Annenberg name because of significant previous donations to the school from the family’s media business fortune. The latest gift will pay for a new 90,000-square-foot building with studios and newsrooms for the digital age, officials said. The donations, details of which were released to The Times in advance, are to be announced during Friday’s inauguration of USC’s new president, C.L. “Max” Nikias. Both donors said their gifts were aimed at showcasing the ways in which technology is changing academia and industry.

Princeton Endowment Posts a 14.7% Return.” By Geraldine Fabrikant. New York Times. October 15, 2010. At a time when many of the nation’s largest endowments have generated returns below 12 percent, Princeton University said on Friday that its endowment had returned 14.7 percent last year, bringing its total to $14.4 billion. Among the universities that had the 10 largest endowments at the end of the 2009 fiscal year, Princeton was the fourth-largest, with assets of $12.6 billion. Of the eight schools in that group that have already reported investment returns for the latest year, which ended June 30, Princeton has been outperformed so far only by Columbia University, which earned 17 percent on its current $6.5 billion endowment. Princeton’s average annualized return over 10 years is 7.9 percent, which puts it in the top percentile among the 428 institutions reporting in the Trust Universe Comparison Service. Among large universities, it is second only to Yale, which continues to lead with an average return of 8.9 percent. Harvard’s 10-year average is 7 percent.


Mark Zuckerberg at the Movies.” By Miguel Helft. New York Times. October 7, 2010. On Wednesday night, Mark Zuckerberg invited some 400 people to watch a movie. No, not that movie. This was Mark Zuckerberg the philanthropist, not Mark Zuckerberg the Facebook chief executive. And in line with his philanthropic giving in support of education reform, the movie was “Waiting for Superman,” a poignant documentary about America’s failing public schools. The screening was in Palo Alto, Calif., a few blocks from Facebook’s headquarters. The co-hosts were John Doerr, the venture capitalist, and his wife, Ann, along with Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, whom I profiled on Sunday, and her husband, Dave Goldberg, the chief executive of Survey Monkey. The event was organized in conjunction with a group of outfits that are pushing school reform like the New Schools Venture Fund, Citizen Schools, Rocketship Education and KIPP Bay Area Schools. If the screening was intended to get potential donors interested in the cause, the audience was just right. It was filled with Silicon Valley’s rich and famous like Scott McNealy, the former chairman of Sun Microsystems, Frank Quattrone, the investment banker, and a bevy of venture capitalists, private equity investors and senior executives from companies like Apple, LinkedIn and, of course, Facebook. While the problems with inner-city schools got the bulk of the attention in the movie, the link between education and American competitiveness, a message that has long resonated with the Valley’s tech elite, was also discussed by, among others, the sometime Valley nemesis Bill Gates.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (October 11-17, 2010)

Monday, October 18th, 2010


Eco-friendly volunteer events draws 100.” By John Stillman. Yale Daily News. October 11, 2010. About 100 members of the New Haven and Yale communitiesgathered Sunday afternoonon the New Haven Green for Work New Haven, an event to promote climate change awareness and educate the public about hands-on ways to get involved. Attendees gathered to work on a variety of sustainable and eco-friendly projects with New Haven and Yale organizations. The convention of about twenty local environmental action groups was a part of the greater Global Work Party. The work party involved many environmental groups, each bringing their own climate change solutions to the table. The day emphasized action, rather than just the conversation which characterizes many climate change awareness movements, said Lizzie Herskovitz NUR ’11, one of the event’s leaders. “What I especially loved about it was the positive, productive aspect,” Herskovitz added. “Instead of having a rally or saying how we think, let’s just actually work on this problem.” The host of the event, Act New Haven, focused on finding ways to take direct action for the environment.The organization exists to promote environmentalism around the Elm City.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (October 11-17, 2010)

Monday, October 18th, 2010


Brooklyn Stars Put On Their Dancing Shoes.” By Kerri MacDonald. New York Times. October 10, 2010. Cheryl Todmann is the creative force behind The Stars of New York Dance, a charity event in the style of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” that pits five community and business leaders from Brooklyn — each partnered with a bona fide dancer from a local company — against one another. For the winning couple, $5,000 will be awarded to the bona fide dancer’s company — all five companies have programs that serve children from low-income communities. The other four companies will still receive $1,500.

In California, Pot Is Now an Art Patron.” By Randy Kennnedy. New York Times. October 11, 2010. Nonprofit arts groups tend to spend much of their time scrounging for grants and praying for corporate largesse. But one art foundation taking shape on 120 acres in the high oak chaparral of Sonoma County has different kinds of worries these days: spider mites, bud rot and the occasional low-flying surveillance visit from the local Sheriff’s Office. This is because the foundation, called Life Is Art, recently began to reap a new kind of financing, in the form of tall, happy-looking marijuana plants. Late this month, with some help from the sale of its first small crop, grown under California’s liberal medical marijuana laws, the group plans to present an inaugural exhibition on its land, of sculpture and installation work by more than 20 visiting artists — some of whom will have helped bring in the harvest. The foundation’s hope is that income from succeeding crops will fully support such projects, in perpetuity, creating a kind of Marfa-meets-ganja art retreat north of San Francisco and a new economic engine for art philanthropy. At a going wholesale rate of $200 or more an ounce in the Bay Area for high-quality medical marijuana, it’s a lot simpler than raising money the traditional way, the project’s organizers point out. And — except for the nagging fact that selling marijuana remains a crime under federal law — it even feels more honest to the people behind Life Is Art. They see it as a way of supporting the cause with physical labor and the fruits of the land instead of the wheedling of donors, an especially appealing prospect in an economy where raising money has become more difficult than ever. “The whole game of finding support just started to seem so childish,” said Kirsha Kaechele, the foundation’s director, as she hauled a plastic tub of freshly harvested cannabis hybrid branches up a hill one morning recently on her rolling land just outside of Santa Rosa. “So I decided to grow up and became a marijuana farmer.”

Gen Art hosting benefit to repay artists; The bankrupt production company’s nonprofit foundation will host a benefit to raise money for the artists and designers who got stiffed.” By Adrianne Pasquarelli. Crain’s New York Business. October 14, 2010. Ghosts and goblins won’t be the only dead returning this Halloween. Bankrupt film and fashion production company Gen Art is getting its own resurrection benefit on Thursday, Nov. 4. The Gen Art Foundation, the nonprofit that used to work arm-in-arm with for-profit Gen Art before the latter’s spring insolvency, is hosting the benefit, which is designed to repay those artists and designers who lost out during the bankruptcy. Gen Art alumni, including fashion designers from Duckie Brown, Twinkle by Wenlan, and Vena Cava, will be in the house, as will actors Edward Norton and Jeremy Renner. “Every dollar counts to an emerging artist,” said Ian Gerard, co-founder and chief executive of Gen Art. “To know that our business troubles had a negative effect on a group of young talent was unacceptable to us.” The company, which is known for championing celebrities like Zac Posen and Adrian Grenier early in their careers, is in talks with several financial partners, including Advanstar Communications and Ovation TV. As a partner, an investor would have to pony up somewhere between $250,000 and $500,000, to purchase Gen Art’s assets. Mr. Gerard expects an acquisition later this fall and says the brand would re-launch later this year. All proceeds from the November benefit will go to the emerging filmmakers and designers to whom Gen Art owes money.

$1b puts MGH in robust fund-raising health; Hospital on pace to set NE record in drive.” By Liz Kowalczyk. Boston Globe. October 15, 2010. Massachusetts General Hospital has raised $1 billion as part of a $1.5 billion fund-raising campaign — despite the tattered economy and turmoil in the hospital industry — putting it on track to set what is believed to be a New England record. The money will pay for Mass. General’s “Building for the Third Century,’’ a $579 million, 10-story glass and steel tower under construction and scheduled to open next summer. It will increase the number of hospital beds by almost 20 percent, add 19 operating rooms and include a modern, expansive emergency room to replace a dingy, jam-packed facility where patients often wait on gurneys parked in hallways. The campaign, which the hospital planned to announce today, would surpass Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s record $1.18 billion fund-raising drive, which concluded in September. MGH “has the cachet,’’ said Lynn Nicholas, president of the Massachusetts Hospital Association, many of whose members are laying off employees. “MGH has tremendous reach and offers many extra saves and care that would not otherwise be available. Naturally it would be easier for them to raise money.’’ Since the Campaign for the Third Century of MGH Medicine began in late 2005 — fund-raising drives traditionally have a quiet period before they are broadly publicized — the number of individual, foundation, and corporate donors to the Harvard teaching hospital has surged 20 percent, said Jim Thompson, vice president for development. Wealthy philanthropists — including Bill and Melinda Gates, Phillip and Susan Ragon, and Peter and Paula Lunder — have helped fuel the drive, giving 135 separate gifts of $1 million or more.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (October 11-17, 2010)

Monday, October 18th, 2010


AG’s limits on Caritas deal don’t go far enough.” Editorial. Boston Globe. October 11, 2010. In her decision this week to support the sale of Caritas Christi Health Care to the private-equity firm Cerberus Capital Management, Attorney General Martha Coakley didn’t go far enough to protect the future of the state’s health care system. Ideally, Coakley would have pressed Cerberus to explain how it plans to convert the struggling nonprofit hospital chain into for-profit facilities without using predatory measures that will disrupt the state’s fragile system of health care facilities; she would have convinced Cerberus to extend the time during which the firm must operate the hospitals to at least seven years; she would have demanded to know the terms of Caritas CEO Ralph de la Torre’s compensation; and she would have insisted that the state retain the power to review the hospital chain’s operation after the sale. She didn’t. Instead, Coakley added a handful of conditions to the sale that, in the end, seem unlikely to restrict the chain in any significant way.
Related stories:
Another OK near in sale of Caritas; Health agency’s staff supports deal; Officials want local services protected.” Boston Globe. October 12, 2010.
Catholic officials sign off on Caritas Christi sale.” Boston Globe. October 15, 2010.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (October 11-17, 2010)

Monday, October 18th, 2010


Profits from Salvo support addiction rehab.” By Emily Foxhall. Yale Daily News. October 15, 2010. Tucked behind a George Street parking lot marked by a Salvation Army clothing-and-shoe drop box is the Adult Rehabilitation Center. In this brick house, 45 recovering drug and alcohol addicts find sanctuary in the Salvation Army’s Christian-based rehabilitation program. 95 cents of every dollar spent on secondhand merchandise at the Family Store fund Salvation Army community support programs such as this one. “That’s how we are able to have folks here that aren’t able to pay for the program,” Philip Warren, who was hired as “Envoy” almost two months ago, said. “When you donate to the Salvation Army, you’re actually contributing to the effort … which takes wayward men in your very own community and helps them to get their lives back together.” (As an Envoy, Warran acts as supervisor of his branch’s budget, sales and residential services as well as serving as pastor.) The proceeds from Salvation Army stores allow all of the service organizations — disaster relief, elderly care and addiction rehabilitation — to remain self-sufficient.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (October 11-17, 2010)

Monday, October 18th, 2010



Development: To Feed the World, Gov’ts Break New Ground with Civil Society.” By Marwaan Macan-Markar. Interpress Service. October 15, 2010. For over a decade, seasoned activist Sarojini Rengam’s efforts to storm the bureaucratic barricades at global food security meetings in Rome hardly produced any cracks. The tightly structured agenda at the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) gatherings she went to were unequivocal about where activists stood – in the margins. The likes of Rengam, the executive director of the Asia-Pacific branch of global green lobby Pesticide Action Network, were given limited time to air their concerns towards the end of the annual Committee of World Food Security (CFS) meeting. Moreover, this virtual postscript to the conference came after government policy makers had already drafted a final document. “Civil society organisations were often seen as environmental terrorists,” said Rengam of how groups like her Penang-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) and others from the global South were viewed by government officials who dominated the annual event hosted by the U.N. body in the Italian capital. But not any more. In an unprecedented nod toward civil society organisations, this year’s annual FAO event to shape global food security policy rolled out the welcome mat to some 150 activists who took part in the just-finished meeting – on equal footing with government delegates.


Anglicans warned church is on its knees.” By David Marr. Sydney Morning Herald. October 13, 2010. The Anglican Church in Sydney is in diabolical trouble. Already battered by the global financial crisis, the diocese is planning further savage spending cuts. The archbishop, Peter Jensen, told the annual synod on Monday: “The financial issues are grave.” One of the biggest and richest dioceses in Australia, Sydney leveraged its huge investment portfolio in the boom and sold when the market hit rock bottom. After losing more than $100 million, it was forced to halve its expenditure. “There was considerable pain,” the archbishop told the annual gathering of clergy and laity in Sydney. But it wasn’t enough. “In round terms, it seems possible that the amount of money available … to support diocesan works in the next few years is going to be reduced from the $7.5 million of 2010 to something like $4 million. Our major rethink of last year was only the beginning.”

Mary’s foundation offers kick-starts and care.” By Aaron Cook. Sydney Morning Herald. October 15, 2010. Imagine going to work each day and trying to live up to the example of a saint. That is what staff at the Mary MacKillop Foundation will face after Mary MacKillop is canonised on Sunday. From football for young refugees, to scholarships for trainee doctors who want to work in indigenous communities, the foundation’s aim is to continue MacKillop’s legacy by supporting small, life-changing projects, said its chief executive officer, Sam Hardjono. ”We help projects that aren’t well known, where people can’t get funding from other sources,” he said. One project to receive support is Football United, which provides social opportunities and leadership training for disadvantaged youth. Mr Hardjono said an important side effect of a small grant in 2006 was that it encouraged other charitable organisations to become involved.


Australia’s New Saint Also Dealt With Sex Abuse Scandal.” Weekend Edition Sunday/National Public Radio. October 17, 2010. This Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI canonized Australia’s first saint, Mother Mary MacKillop. In 1871, MacKillop was briefly excommunicated for insubordination after her order of nuns reported a case of child sex abuse by a priest. Liane Hansen speaks with James Martin, who, in a recent op-ed in the Catholic weekly, America, called MacKillop “a saint for our time.”
Related story:
Australia’s first saint overcame excommunication.” Washington Post/Associated Press. October 15, 2010.


Microlender Says Chief Was Ousted Over ‘Differences’.” By Vikas Bajaj. New York Times. October 12, 2010. SKS Microfinance, which recently became the first Indian microlender to sell shares in the stock market, should be enjoying a honeymoon right now. The company and its shareholders raised more than $350 million in an initial public offering in August by luring investors like the billionaire George Soros. The stock climbed 50 percent a few weeks after it started trading on Aug. 16. But the glow has started to dim. On Tuesday, the company’s chairman and founder, Vikram Akula, and two of its directors tried to deflect caustic questions from reporters at a hastily called news conference. The main one: Why did the company fire its chief executive so soon after its successful share sale? After refusing to provide an answer for more than a week, Mr. Akula said the SKS board had unanimously decided to fire the chief executive, Suresh Gurumani, because of “interpersonal differences” between him and other executives. He declined to provide details. Mr. Akula said the board felt that he and M. R. Rao, who was promoted to chief executive from chief operating officer, were the right people to deal with new competition that had cropped up in recent weeks and to rebut negative reports about microfinance.


Microsoft Moves to Help Nonprofits Avoid Piracy-Linked Crackdowns.” By Clifford J. Levy. New York Times. October 16, 2010. — Microsoft is vastly expanding its efforts to prevent governments from using software piracy inquiries as a pretext to suppress dissent. It plans to provide free software licenses to more than 500,000 advocacy groups, independent media outlets and other nonprofit organizations in 12 countries with tightly controlled governments, including Russia and China. With the new program in place, authorities in these countries would have no legal basis for accusing these groups of installing pirated Microsoft software. Microsoft began overhauling its antipiracy policy after The New York Times reported last month that private lawyers retained by the company had often supported law enforcement officials in Russia in crackdowns on outspoken advocacy groups and opposition newspapers. At first, Microsoft responded to the article by apologizing and saying it would focus on protecting these organizations in Russia from such inquiries. But it is now extending the program to other countries: eight former Soviet republics — Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan — as well as China, Malaysia and Vietnam. Microsoft executives said they would consider adding more. “We clearly have a very strong interest in ensuring that any antipiracy activities are being done for the purpose of reducing illegal piracy, and not for other purposes,” said Nancy J. Anderson, a deputy general counsel and vice president at Microsoft. “Under the terms of our new nongovernmental organization software license, we will definitely not have any claims and not pursue any claims against nongovernmental organizations.”


Students face unlimited fees for university; Mr Cameron has endorsed a more progressive student loans system in which lower paid graduates would be subsided.” By Greg Hurst. Times of London. October 12, 2010. Universities should be free to charge unlimited tuition fees but graduates should start repaying students loans later and over a longer period, a review recommended today. Fees of up to £6,000 a year would go directly to universities but above that figure they would pay a levy, rising for each additional £1,000, restricting their additional income.
Lord Browne of Madingley proposed a new system of loans under which one in five graduates in lower paid jobs would repay less than today but higher earning graduates would pay more. His proposals, following review of higher education finance lasting almost a year, will form the basis of a new system for funding universities from autumn 2012.
Related stories:
Cable on collision course with party over graduate tax; Vince Cable has concluded that a graduate tax would not be fair.” Times of London. October 10, 2010.
Tuition fees: Vince Cable battling to head off full-scale Lib Dem rebellion; Business secretary proposes early repayment penalty to prevent rich graduates paying less for their university education than those on middle incomes.” Guardian (UK). October 12, 2010.
Browne review: Universities must set their own tuition fees; The cap on student fees should be lifted entirely, says Lord Browne, and graduates will start repayments once they earn £21,000; Main points at a glance.” Guardian (UK). October 12, 2010.
Universities face closure as tuition fee rise favours elite; Fees of up to £6,000 a year would go directly to universities.” Times of London. October 13, 2010.
It’s every university for itself under Lord Browne’s funding system.” Times of London. October 13 2010.
Graduates who pay off their loans early may face penalty.” Independent (UK).
October 13, 2010.
Ancient Scots universities call for variable student fees; Michael Russell, the Scottish Education Secretary, has called for a Green Paper on higher education funding.” Times of London. October 13, 2010.
Universities to be hit by £4bn massacre of teaching funds; A £3.2 billion reduction in state funding for teaching is a cut of almost 80 per cent.” Times of London. October 15, 2010.
Browne review: Universities warned to expect £4.2bn cuts; Universities UK claims tuition fees proposals ‘confirm worst fears’ of massive cuts.” Guardian (UK). October 15, 2010.
Cambridge may go private in fees row; Top universities claim planned tuition fee rises are too small to secure their global standing and may seek to become private institutions.Times of London. October 17, 2010.

Multi-faith moan about youth is unjustified; The perception religion no longer appeals to the young is misplaced – just look at the positive results of interfaith action.” By Ian Linden. Guardian (UK). October 7, 2010. Question: “What is confirmation, Father?” Answer: “The sacrament of leaving the church, my child.” A bad Catholic joke but it has a ring of truth. At least it sums up the widespread perception that youth and religion go together like water and oil, or from the perspective of the young, like seabirds and oil slicks. I remember some years ago the venerable Ayatollah Kashani in Tehran complaining to a visiting delegation of which I was part, that youth were falling away, no respect for authority or religion, everything going to the dogs. You could have pirated the conversation and replayed it in Tel Aviv, Cairo or Galway without anyone noticing. So is this great, perennial, multi-faith moan really justified? It depends where you look. Scan the crowds at the annual Hindu Student Forum gathering in Leicester, the Greenbelt festivals, the big papal youth rallies, Muslim youth events, Alpha course conferences, and you get a different picture. Perfectly ordinary young adults interested in spirituality, in different forms of service overseas and at home, in the tough, demanding bits of their faith communities’ life, in finding out what their young contemporary co-religionists think about things that matter. Impressive numbers. No going to the dogs here.

Quango bonfire to save no money for years; The £318m-a-year National Policing Improvement Agency is to be scrapped.” By Jill Sherman and Richard Ford. Times of London. October 14, 2010. A total of 192 quangos are to be scrapped by the Government and a further 118 merged, but substantial savings are unlikely to be made over the next five years. Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office Minister said that a further 171 of the present 901 public bodies would be reformed substantially, ushering in a “new era of accountability in government”. The total will be cut from 901 to 648. But as Mr Maude delivered his ministerial statement, the Cabinet Office website detailing which public bodies would be abolished crashed under the pressure of thousands of quango staff trying to discover their fate. Mr Maude declined to say how much money would be saved but Whitehall sources made clear that winding down the bodies immediately would be too costly on account of millions of pounds of liabilities. During the current spending squeeze departments will not be able to pay redundancy costs, pension liabilities or contract penalties for breaking long leases on properties. Mr Maude announced that a Public Bodies Reform Bill will be introduced this year to start the long-awaited bonfire of the quangos. But he made clear that many of their functions – together with many staff – would be absorbed into government departments. “Today’s announcement means that many important and essential functions will be brought back into departments, meaning the line of accountability will run right up to the very top where it always should have been,” he said.
Related stories:
192 quangos to be scrapped.” Independent (UK). October 14, 2010.
Three-quarters of health quangos axed.” Independent (UK). October 14, 2010.
Cull of quangos scaled back after lobbying.” Independent (UK). October 14, 2010.
Government scraps 192 quangos; Thousands of jobs will go in biggest shakeup of government the coalition has made to date; Full list of quangos being scrapped, merged or reprieved.” Guardian (UK). October 14, 2010.
Quango review sees five major bodies becoming charities; British Waterways, the Design Council, the National Endowment of Science, Technology and the Arts, the Theatres Trust and the School Food Trust all to join the third sector.”
Guardian (UK). October 14, 2010.

“Quango cull of health bodies is coalition’s third assault on NHS; Cuts follow abolition of 10 strategic health authorities and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.” Guardian (UK). October 14, 2010.

Government urges councils to stop giving tax breaks to Scientology; Communities secretary Eric Pickles says majority of the public does not want ‘controversial organisation’ to be given favourable treatment.” By Rajeev Syal. Guardian (UK). October 15, 2010. The government is urging councils across the country to stop giving hundreds of thousands of pounds in tax breaks to the Church of Scientology. The communities secretary, Eric Pickles, said a majority of the public did not want the “controversial organisation” to be given the kind of favourable treatment usually reserved for charities and questioned this use of public money. The church, which is not classed as a religion by the Charity Commission, was described as a cult by a high court judge in 1984. It is the first time a cabinet minister has intervened in the long-running row over the tax breaks for Scientology. At least four authorities have given tax breaks to the group, which counts a host of celebrities among its high-profile members.

Minor British Institutions: The Royal College of Art.” By Sean O’Grady. Independent (UK). October 16, 2010. In everything that could be described as art, from sculpture to fashion and vehicle design, the Royal College of Art has someone to teach it and something to say about it. It describes itself as “the world’s most influential postgraduate art and design school”, which may be a little immodest, but it has an impressive list of alumni, including James Dyson, Tracey Emin, Barbara Hepworth and David Hockney. It’s an informal, smelly sort of place, more workshop than studio, smelling of paint, petrochemicals and glass fibre. This, despite its somewhat plain premises, just by the Albert Hall in London which put its architecture to shame. The late prince consort would approve of its vocational bias, and the success many of it graduates enjoy in their chosen fields (and the benefits they confer upon our “knowledge economy”). It can trace it origins back to 1837, as the Government School of Design; in 1967, a royal charter granted it independent status.

Relax — these cuts are just a scratch; Every pound not taken from the taxpayer to fund the public sector is a pound more in the pockets of the private citizen, to spend as they want.” By Dominic Lawson. Op-ed. Times of London. October 17, 2010. Cuts? What cuts? In the last few days before George Osborne reveals to parliament the precise details of the coalition government’s expenditure plans, we have been drenched with leaks setting out increasingly hysterical claims of The End of the World as We Know It from the massed vested interests of the public sector. The bloated military establishment claims that we will be defenceless against as yet unidentified enemies; the security services imply that the chancellor is, in effect, an agent of Al-Qaeda. Yet the most blood-curdling military metaphors come from the world of high culture. Sir Nicholas Serota, the director of the Tate, has pre-emptively accused the government of destroying the entire national system of “cultural provision” with “the ruthlessness of a blitzkrieg” that will render Britain no longer “a civilised place to live”. The chancellor is Hermann Goering and the Treasury is the Luftwaffe, just because the amount of money provided by the taxpayer to the likes of Serota will be frozen, in cash terms, over the next five years. That’s right: the overall totals outlined in Osborne’s budget statement in June were based on public expenditure rising from £669 billion, in the last full year of the Labour administration, to £697 billion this year, and then falling slightly to £686 billion in 2015-16. In other words, at the end of Osborne’s “ruthless blitzkrieg”, spending will be higher than it was during Gordon Brown’s final year of fiscal incontinence.

Charity offers UK drug addicts £200 to be sterilised.” No by-line. BBC News. October 2010. Drug addicts across the UK are being offered money to be sterilised by an American charity. Project Prevention is offering to pay £200 to any drug user in London, Glasgow, Bristol, Leicester and parts of Wales who agrees to be operated on. Project Prevention founder Barbara Harris admitted her methods amounted to “bribery”, but said it was the only way to stop babies being physically and mentally damaged by drugs during pregnancy. Drug treatment charity Addaction estimates one million children in the UK are living with parents who abuse drugs. Pregnant addicts can pass on the dependency to the unborn child, leading to organ and brain damage. Mrs Harris set up her charity in North Carolina after adopting the children of a crack addict.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (October 11-17, 2010)

Monday, October 18th, 2010


Violinist Cancels Recital Over Detroit Strike Tension.” By Daniel J. Wakin. New York Times. October 11, 2010. Sarah Chang, internationally known violin soloist, meet Detroit, union town. Ms. Chang waded into a strike at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, agreeing last week to play a recital on Monday presented by the orchestra’s management. But she backed out over the weekend when orchestra members, musicians’ union leaders and players around the country complained. “My original intention to bring music to the community has been derailed, and I have been unwillingly drawn into an inner dispute that does not appropriately involve me,” she said in a statement on Sunday. She was flying from Detroit to California on Monday for a concert and could not immediately return a call seeking comment. The incident quickly acquired an ugly tone, further poisoning relations between management and the players, who went on strike on Oct. 4. The orchestra’s management cited what it said were harassing words and threats among the denunciations posted over the weekend on Facebook pages set up by Chang fans and by the orchestra, and in e-mail and phone messages sent to Ms. Chang, 29, herself.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (October 11-17, 2010)

Monday, October 18th, 2010


Income Inequality: Too Big to Ignore.” By Robert Frank. New York Times. October 16, 2010. People often remember the past with exaggerated fondness. Sometimes, however, important aspects of life really were better in the old days. During the three decades after World War II, for example, incomes in the United States rose rapidly and at about the same rate — almost 3 percent a year — for people at all income levels. America had an economically vibrant middle class. Roads and bridges were well maintained, and impressive new infrastructure was being built. People were optimistic. By contrast, during the last three decades the economy has grown much more slowly, and our infrastructure has fallen into grave disrepair. Most troubling, all significant income growth has been concentrated at the top of the scale. The share of total income going to the top 1 percent of earners, which stood at 8.9 percent in 1976, rose to 23.5 percent by 2007, but during the same period, the average inflation-adjusted hourly wage declined by more than 7 percent. Yet many economists are reluctant to confront rising income inequality directly, saying that whether this trend is good or bad requires a value judgment that is best left to philosophers. But that disclaimer rings hollow. Economics, after all, was founded by moral philosophers, and links between the disciplines remain strong. So economists are well positioned to address this question, and the answer is very clear.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (October 11-17, 2010)

Monday, October 18th, 2010


Los Angeles TV Station Severs Ties With PBS.” By Ian Lovett. New York Times. October 11, 2010. Tim Muskatell was weaned on KCET, Los Angeles’ flagship PBS station, where he tuned in for landmark programs like “Sesame Street.” Now 41 years old and without a cable subscription, he said he still relied on KCET for documentaries and shows like the “Masterpiece” series. But three months from now, viewers like Mr. Muskatell will have to look elsewhere for programming from the Public Broadcasting Service. As it announced on Friday, KCET is preparing to cut ties with PBS at the end of the year, when it will become the largest independent television station in the country — and leave the nation’s second-largest city, already without an NFL franchise to call its own, without a major PBS station either. After KCET drops PBS, the PBS flagship in the Los Angeles area will be KOCE in Orange County. Los Angeles residents have reacted to the plan with a mix of frustration and indifference.

Tides Foundation CEO To Fox News Advertisers: Drop Glenn Beck Or Have Blood On Your Hands.” By Sam Stein. Huffington Post. October 15, 2010. In an extraordinary move to nip the inflammatory commentary coming from Glenn Beck, the founder and CEO of the Tides Foundation (a frequent Beck target) has written advertisers asking them to remove their sponsorship of the Fox News program or risk having “blood on their hands.” Drummond Pike, who along with his organization was recently targeted by an assassin inspired by Beck’s program, penned a letter on Friday to the Chairmen of the Boards of JP Morgan Chase, GEICO, Zurich Financial, Chrysler, Direct Holdings Americas, GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, Lilly Corporate Center, BP, and The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc. In it, he detailed the alarm he felt over having a “person carrying numerous guns and body armor” attempt to start a “revolution” by murdering “my colleagues and me.” Pike doesn’t end there. Rather than chalking up the incident, frightening as it clearly was, to the deranged psychoses of its practitioner, 45-year old Byron Williams, he places the blame on Beck. And in coming to the conclusion that nothing short of financial insolvency will stop the Fox News host, he asks the network’s benefactors to take a stand or risk future violence.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (October 11-17, 2010)

Monday, October 18th, 2010


Group Is Mother of Inventions.” By Jo Piazza. Wall Street Journal. October 11, 2010. The life of an aspiring inventor can be a lonely one, but in this city, where every subculture seems to have its own support group, creators have a refuge. The Inventors Association of Manhattan caters to the particular needs of struggling inventors, a group known to be secretive, paranoid and obsessive. The association was founded by Patrick Raymond in 2007 as a way to heal his wounds after his million-dollar idea—a shower-curtain extender that initially enjoyed strong sales and appeared on QVC—failed to make it big. Faced with sudden bankruptcy, the inventor slipped into depression. The Inventor’s Association of Manhattan is a support group of fledgling inventors. Here’s a look at some of the inventors and their patented ideas. “In the inventor’s community I was celebrated as Mr. Successful because I had a product that was in stores,” said the 41-year-old Mr. Raymond, who lives on the Lower East Side. “But I had a deep, dark secret: It failed.” Ashamed, he kept the story to himself for several months before deciding to come clean. When he did, the Inventors Association was born. The group meets monthly at a Midtown hotel, and it welcomes both aspiring and down-on-their-luck inventors. Failure, along with the need to temper expectations, dominates most conversations.

Mensa’s face is changing as it catches a young brain wave.” By Michelle Healy. USA Today. October 12, 2010. When Ada Brown went to her first Dallas Mensa meeting, she half expected it to be full of slightly awkward geniuses with pocket protectors. Instead, the former judge found a “lively, articulate cross section of people” she meets for dinner aspiring author workshops, parties and game nights, says Brown, now an attorney who joined Mensa as an undergrad at Spelman College. “Honestly, it doesn’t look like a convention out of Revenge of the Nerds,” she says with a laugh. “We do have that, but that’s not all. There’s a little of everything.” Brown, 34, is part of a growing and increasingly visible younger contingent of Mensa, the 58,000-member “High-IQ Society.” American Mensa says 42% of new members in 2009-2010 were ages 29-49; in the past decade, membership of people under 30 has grown 63%. American Mensa, now 50 years old, “is getting up there in age,” says national chair Elissa Rudolph, a Mensan for 35 years. But it aims to get “more people involved and younger people more involved,” she says.

Group Aims To Alter Final Clubs; Members of initiative promote more open social space.” By Danielle J. Kolin and Naveen N. Srivatsa. Harvard Crimson. October 12, 2010. Last Thursday night, nearly every Harvard undergraduate received an invitation under his or her door. But rather than arriving in an envelope emblazoned with the seal of one of Harvard’s final clubs, the paper flier invited each student to join them in “NOT joining a Final Club” and “NOT attending Final Club parties.” The invitation was an advertisement for a meeting Friday to discuss the role of final clubs on campus. Coordinated by a group of seven undergraduates who say they aim to make Harvard’s social scene safer and more inclusive, the unnamed anti-final club campaign wants administrators to do more to revitalize student life outside the clubs. The coordinators also said they hope to move students to action, asking them not to join final clubs or attend their parties. Additionally, the group plans to solicit stories from those who have had experiences with final clubs, as well as from those who shy away from them. “We want to give voice to those people on that side of things, making sure that people who are against final clubs or choose not to go to final clubs don’t feel isolated or alone,” said Tara D. Venkatraman ’11, one of the initiative’s coordinators. The groups’ opposition to final clubs is rooted in what they called the exclusive and unsafe nature of clubs that, they said, lack transparency.

Forest Hills looks to breathe new life into cemetery.” By Meghan E. Irons. Boston Globe. October 14, 2010. Many graveyards across the country are attempting to recraft their images, promoting themselves as parklike destinations rich in history and natural beauty, suitable for recreation and learning, not just mourning. Many have begun offering hayrides and concerts and hosting weddings. “We don’t lose sight of the fact that there are families with loved ones buried here for whom this is a beloved place,’’ said Cicely Miller, who heads Forest Hills Educational Trust, which has led the Forest Hills effort. “But we are expanding the community of people who come here.’’ A recent Forest Hills event featured historic foodies, including Ruby Foo, whose Hudson Street restaurant was among the first to offer Chinese cuisine to 19th-century Bostonians, and Samuel Stillman Pierce, whose Tremont Street grocery was the go-to shop for exotic items. Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge has also expanded programming, offering 100 classes, tours, and other events each year, from book clubs to gardening workshops. Each year, 3,500 of its 200,000 visitors participate in its public programs.