Archive for November, 2010

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (November 15-21, 2010)

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

ADVOCACY & POLITICS

Aiming the Hydrant: What Malcolm Gladwell Missed About Online Organizing and Creating Big Change.” By Ben Brandzel. The Nation. November 15, 2010. Tools that enable ordinary citizens to catalyze collective action have never been more urgently needed for the survival of our democracy. January’s Citizens United Supreme Court ruling cleared corporations to secretly spend unlimited billions to swing elections through shadowy front groups like Karl Rove’s American Crossroads. Not surprisingly, the 2010 elections shattered all previous midterm spending records. This massive influx of corporate money is tearing through our democracy like a wildfire. Concerned citizens need to smartly utilize every resource we can find to help beat back the blaze. And that’s why Malcolm Gladwell’s October 4 New Yorker piece [1], “Small Change: Why the Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted,” which dismisses the role of online organizing in driving any significant progressive social change, has raised a serious alarm. Gladwell examines the grassroots tactics that have historically triggered major political change, and the organizing structures that made these tactics possible. He concludes that online organizing has no role in facilitating comparable activism today. “The instruments of social media are well suited to making the existing social order more efficient,” Gladwell writes. As he argues, all Internet-enabled activism only “makes it easier for activists to express themselves, and harder for that expression to have any impact.” Gladwell’s article has stirred up a lively debate amongst technology and social-change thinkers.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (November 15-21, 2010)

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

ARTS & CULTURE

Gresham arts foundation falls behind on payments to the city, which it still owes about $340,000.” By Steve Beaven. Oregonian. November 14, 2010. A Gresham nonprofit foundation, created four years ago to help raise money for an ambitious downtown arts center and plaza, is operating with no paid staff, has delayed payments to the city on a pledge of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and is nowhere near fulfilling its goal of bringing a performance theater to the historic downtown. Early on, plans for the Gresham Center for the Arts included a 375-seat performance hall, a gallery, studios and an outdoor amphitheater. The Center for the Arts Foundation later pledged a half-million dollars to help pay for part of the project. But the foundation has stopped paying on its pledge with about $340,000 to go, according to documents provided by the city. The foundation hasn’t made its monthly payment since August and has told the city it doesn’t intend to resume installments until April. Mike Hallgrimson, the president of the foundation’s board, said the group remains committed to paying off the pledge and helping to build at the site. And he indicated the foundation still hopes to build at the site. “Eventually, we’d like to have a facility,” Hallgrimson said. “I don’t see it in the foreseeable future.” Hallgrimson said the foundation’s shortfall is the result of a dire economy and financial pledges that didn’t materialize. He pointed out that other nonprofits are suffering, as well.

In L.A., a Star-Studded Arts ‘Happening’.” By Marshall Heyman. Wall Street Journal. November 15, 2010. In Los Angeles, a museum gala is much more of an event than in New York City. Maybe it’s because, on a weekly basis, there are so many more benefits in New York than there are in L.A. Maybe it’s because New York also happens to have so many more museums. In late September, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art celebrated the opening of an exhibition hall with such tabloid-friendly guests as Nicole Richie, Kim Kardashian and Teri Hatcher as well as entertainment by Christina Aguilera. (If any art institutions understand the value of coverage by Us Weekly, it’s the ones in Hollywood.) On Saturday, LACMA’s chief competitor, the Museum of Contemporary Art, threw open its doors for what it called “The Artist’s Museum Happening” with its own somewhat incongruous collection of celebrities. Many of them, such as Rachel Bilson, Mila Kunis, Kate Bosworth, and Ginnifer Goodwin, were invited and dressed by Chanel Fine Jewelry, which helped underwrite the event. Many of them—Ms. Bilson, Ms. Goodwin, Ms. Bosworth and Kristin Davis—brought their stylists, a particularly interesting phenomenon in Los Angeles. Some of them—Will Ferrell, Kirsten Dunst and Patricia and Rosanna Arquette—have actual ties to the art community. At last year’s MOCA gala, artist Francesco Vezzoli created an installation that involved a powerhouse if slightly-controversial-for-a-museum performance by Lady Gaga. This, no doubt, led to Ms. Aguilera’s invitation to LACMA a few months ago, but also left people wondering: now that Gaga fatigue has begun to set in, how would MOCA top itself this year? This is quite an art happening,” said MOCA’s founding chairman Eli Broad, referring to the terminology employed by the institution to advertise its event. Mr. Broad had spent last week in New York at art galas, including one at the Guggenheim and another at the American Folk Art Museum. “There’s no such thing as too much art,” said his wife, Edythe. “Only too many parties.”

Asian Art Museum reportedly in financial turmoil.” By Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross. San Francisco Chronicle. November 15, 2010. San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum is in dire financial straits and could be forced into bankruptcy if it can’t work out a new deal with its lender by Friday, according to knowledgeable sources. Our sources say the troubles started in 2005 when the museum’s directors, hoping to hedge against rising interest rates, restructured $120 million worth of loans to try to save millions of dollars. But now rates have hit rock bottom, and their lender, JPMorgan Chase, says it plans to close the Asian Art’s line of credit as of Friday – in which case, the museum would lose $20 million that it put up in collateral. That money reportedly is insured, but one source following the developments said losing the collateral would nonetheless spell calamity for the museum. It would still be on the hook for the $120 million in loans, but the repayment timetable would be sped up to five years from now. We’re told the museum’s current endowment amounts to just $60 million. “They could only keep up with the payments for maybe a year or a year and a half before they would have to close their doors,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not cleared to discuss the negotiations publicly.
Related story:
Money Woes Threaten Museum; San Francisco’s Asian Art Showcase Is Latest Institution Stressed by Soft Economy.” Wall Street Journal. November 19, 2010.

Yale returning Machu Picchu artifacts after nearly 100 years.” No by-line. USA Today. November 19, 2010. Peru’s president announced Friday that Yale University has agreed to return thousands of artifacts taken away from the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu nearly a century ago. The university issued a statement a few hours later expressing satisfaction at the results of its talks with Peru. The artifacts had been at the center of a bitter dispute for years, with Peru filing a lawsuit in U.S. court against the school. President Alan Garcia said the government reached a deal with Yale for the university to begin sending back more than 4,000 objects, including pottery, textiles and bones, early in 2011 after an inventory of the pieces is completed. Peru’s government had waged an aggressive international media campaign in recent weeks seeking to pressure the school over the artifacts. That included a letter from Garcia to President Obama seeking the U.S. leader’s help. Garcia said the agreement came after Yale’s representative, former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, came to Peru for talks on resolving the fight. “We are very pleased that Yale University has responded so positively,” Garcia said at the Government Palace.

Indianapolis Opens Museum to Honor Its Literary Native Son.” By Emma Graves Fitzsimmons. New York Times. November 19, 2010. In Kurt Vonnegut’s novel “Cat’s Cradle,” the narrator meets a woman on a plane who is delighted to discover that he is from Indiana. Holding his arm tightly, she tells him, “We Hoosiers got to stick together.” Mr. Vonnegut’s writing was filled with references to his Midwestern roots and to the tight-knit families he met growing up here. Still, some readers may be surprised that his memorial library is opening in his hometown, Indianapolis, and not on the East Coast, where he lived for most of his life. As the library welcomed the public for the first time last week, the author’s friends and family said that it belonged in Indianapolis, with which he had a complicated and not always complimentary relationship. Despite his criticism of the traditionally conservative city, this is where he developed his voice as a writer and learned the values expressed in his books. Tourism officials hope the library will draw visitors from around the world to a city known more for auto racing than its literary scene. The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, run as a nonprofit, resides in the historic Emelie Building downtown. Several of its rooms were donated by a local law firm — a beneficence that was not always recognized by Mr. Vonnegut during his lifetime. In “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater,” he wryly characterized the quest of a lawyer to be present “where large amounts of money are about to change hands.”

Galas Galore: From Museums to Aging Well.” By Priya Rao. Wall Street Journal. November 20, 2010. Snippets from celebrity-studded New York galas to raise funds for the 2010 National Soccer Team of Spain, Mount Sinai Medical Center, Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, the Parent-Child Home Program, Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the American Museum of Natural History.

Panel on Deficit Proposes Smithsonian Charge Fees.” By Kate Taylor. New York Times. November 16, 2010. Admission to the museums of the Smithsonian Institution (above, the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum), which is 70 percent federally financed, has long been free. That would change under a proposal by the national commission charged with reducing the deficit. In its draft report last week it recommended that the Smithsonian’s federal appropriation be cut by $225 million, or roughly 30 percent, and that the institution make up the loss by charging a $7.50 admission fee. The Smithsonian’s spokeswoman, Linda St. Thomas, said by telephone that the Smithsonian had studied the idea of charging admission several times in recent decades and rejected it. “The regents have said repeatedly we don’t want to charge admission because it then makes it difficult for all people to come and visit the collections, which in theory are held in trust for the American people,” Ms. St. Thomas said. She pointed out that because the Smithsonian is federally financed Americans are in a sense already paying to visit through their taxes.

Nonprofit may take over Oakland Museum.” By Matthai Kuruvila. San Francisco Chronicle. November 21, 2010. Oakland officials are considering handing over the reins of the Oakland Museum of California to a nonprofit foundation, ending the city’s control of an institution it founded 41 years ago. The museum on Oak Street near Lake Merritt is now operated jointly by the city and the Oakland Museum of California Foundation. But the city’s budget problems and the foundation’s success at raising money on its own have prompted officials to consider giving the nonprofit full control of the museum. “There may be a way to save the city some money, but also have the museum operate more effectively,” said Lori Fogarty, executive director of the museum and a city employee. The idea was initiated by the foundation’s board, said City Council President Jane Brunner. She and other city officials said discussions have not yet begun, but that the council would make a decision on any handover before it adopts the next fiscal-year budget in June. The city now pays about $6.5 million toward the museum’s $15 million annual budget, said Lance Gyorfi, chairman of the foundation. “We would still expect there to be significant financial support from the city,” but both the foundation and Oakland could save money by eliminating duplicate efforts, he said.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (November 15-21, 2010)

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

EDUCATION

CHARTER SCHOOLS

Charter schools passing test of time; Acceptance rises, enrollments swell as parents search for new options, different models.” By Steven Rosenberg. Boston Globe. November 18, 2010. With an increased emphasis on academic achievement, SAT and MCAS scores, and college acceptance rates, charter schools — which are publicly funded but operated independently of municipalities and school districts — are gaining favor among parents searching for rigorous academic workloads and curriculums tailored for the individual, which many traditional school districts can’t provide. Those who are skeptical of charter schools — which adhere to state educational frameworks but have the flexibility to create theme-oriented curriculums, such as art or technology — say they drain state funding that would otherwise bolster traditional schools. The latest numbers released by the state reveal a trend of mostly urban families embracing charter schools. Across the Commonwealth, charter school enrollment more than doubled in the last decade, rising from 12,518 to 27,484 this year. During the last 10 years, seven of the top 10 enrollment percentage increases have been in charter schools. During that time, six new charter schools have been established, bringing their total to 17 in the region.

Studies That Grade Charter Schools Rely on Imperfect Math.” By Carl Bialik. Wall Street Journal. November 20, 2010. Charter schools are getting very confusing report cards. Researchers have assessed the thousands of charter schools that have opened around the U.S. in the last two decades. The results from those studies are starting to flood in. But policy makers hoping to learn whether these scholastic experiments have been successful will be disappointed: Some studies say charter schools are outperforming their traditional counterparts. Other studies put charter and conventional schools on par, or even show charters trailing their peers. The chief explanation for the lack of consensus is that the prominent studies on charter schools rely on different methodologies—all of which have flaws. Education researchers face a big challenge: how to separate the results of charter schools’ educational techniques from the quality and motivation of the students themselves. So far, scholars have been only partially successful at making this distinction, other education experts say.

HIGHER EDUCATION

Donations pick up in 1st quarter.” By Alison Griswold and Drew Henderson. Yale Daily News. November 15, 2010. With less than eight months until the end of the comprehensive “Yale Tomorrow” development campaign, donations have almost doubled those brought in over the same period last year. Yale raised $159 million between July and October 2010 — the first quarter of fiscal year 2011 — compared with $89 million during the same period last year. The improvement results from national economic recovery and a final wave of giving from donors in the last year of the five-year campaign, said Inge Reichenbach, vice president for development. Yale had raised nearly $3.2 billion as of the beginning of November, she said, keeping Yale ahead of schedule to reach its goal of $3.5 billion. Vice president for development Inge Reichenbach has overseen a surge in donations. “Everybody had two difficult years with the recession and the global financial crisis,” Reichenbach said. “As of May we have seen a totally different level of activity.”

Million-dollar college presidents on the rise.” By Daniel de Vise. Washington Post. November 15, 2010. George Washington University President Steven Knapp earned $985,353 in pay and benefits in 2008, making him the best-paid chief executive of any private college in the Washington area, according to an annual survey by the Chronicle of Higher Education. Nationwide, 30 chief executives of private colleges earned more than $1 million in total pay and benefits in 2008, according to the report released Sunday and based on a survey of tax documents for 448 colleges. The million-dollar college president is a recent phenomenon. No president earned that much in 2004. Last year’s Chronicle survey found 23 seven-figure presidents. Industry leaders note that the vast majority of presidents earn far less; million-dollar pay is often the result of a lower salary padded with a large, one-time payment. “It’s X number of presidents out of 4,500 institutions. It’s half of 1 percent,” said Terry Hartle, senior vice president of the American Council on Education, representing presidents and provosts. “About half the people on that list have a very good reason why they earned that money.”
Related stories:
More Get $1 Million to Lead Colleges.” Wall Street Journal. November 15, 2010.
College chiefs’ salaries increase; More entering million-dollar ranks, survey says.” Boston Globe. November 15, 2010.

Harvard Expands Stock Investments.” By Elias J. Groll and Zoe A. Y. Weinberg. Harvard Crimson. November 15, 2010. Harvard University added to its directly held U.S. traded securities last quarter—helping fuel a 7-percent increase in the value of those assets to $1.54 billion—and the University made sizable new investments in its already large emerging markets portfolio. The University’s holdings were reported last Friday in a mandatory quarterly Securities and Exchange Commission filing disclosing Harvard’s direct holdings of U.S.-listed securities. Harvard manages a portion of its endowment directly and contracts with outside money managers for the remainder. The University increased its investments in exchange-trade funds that track the performance of the Brazilian, Mexican, South Korean, and other emerging economies. Investments in emerging market ETFs represent about 67 percent of the investments reported in last week’s filing. After its domestically traded securities portfolio declined in value earlier this year, the University broadly expanded its stock market investments last quarter with a variety of stock purchases in U.S. corporations. Like the broader market, the University endowment suffered heavy losses during the financial crisis beginning in 2008 but has recently begun to recover, posting an 11 percent gain in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2010, which brought the endowment’s value to $27.4 billion.

PRIVATE SCHOOLS

Nuns and NCAA Hoops; How Catholic schools do a better job graduating student-athletes.” By Mark Yost. Wall Street Journal. November 19, 2010. I’ve written much on these pages about the often problematic nexus of collegiate academics and athletics. Over the years, I’ve pilloried Kentucky and Memphis and their 30% graduation rates. By contrast, I’ve held up Catholic colleges like Notre Dame—one of the few schools where athletes have a higher graduation rate than the general student body—as examples of schools that refuse to accept academically unqualified students simply because they have good jump shots. My faith was shaken earlier this year when the New York Times interviewed Sister Rose Ann Fleming. She’s the feisty 5- foot-4-inch, 78-year-old nun who makes sure that the basketball players at Xavier University, a Jesuit Catholic college in Cincinnati, spend as much time in class as they do in the gym. Terrell Holloway, a sophomore guard at Xavier, praised Sister Rose in the Times article for keeping on him when he fell behind in a reading class during summer school. It forced me to ask myself: Are the Catholic schools, after all, the same as Michigan or Temple when it comes to what kind of athletes they admit? The short answer seems to be yes. The critical difference is that schools like Xavier are making sure that their players receive diplomas.

Board Floats Voucher Plan; In Wealthy Denver Suburbs, Trustees Debate Private-School Reimbursements.” By Stephanie Simon. Wall Street Journal. November 20, 2010. The school board in a wealthy suburban county south of Denver is considering letting parents use public funds to send their children to private schools—or take classes with private teachers—in a bid to rethink public education. The proposals on the table in Douglas County constitute a bold step toward outsourcing a segment of public education, and also raise questions about whether the district can afford to lose any public funds to private educators. Already hit hard by state cutbacks, the local board has cut $90 million from the budget over three years, leaving some principals pleading for family donations to buy math workbooks and copy paper. “This is novel and interesting—and bound to be controversial,” said Chester E. Finn Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative, educational think tank in Washington, D.C. Vouchers for private and parochial schools have been used in a handful of states to aid students who are poor, disabled or trapped in failing urban schools, but according to school-choice experts, they have never been tried in affluent suburban districts noted for high-performing public schools.

PUBLIC SCHOOL PHILANTHROPY

New Haven Promise not likely to send more New Havenites to Yale.” By David Burt and Emily Wanger. Yale Daily News. November 15, 2010. The redevelopment of struggling St. Vincent’s Hospital into a world-class health-care facility surrounded by luxury housing was to have been William Rudin’s deepest mark yet on his family’s real-estate dynasty, one of the New York City’s largest. But salvaging the project, the family’s most ambitious since the death of patriarch Lew Rudin, could prove one of the greatest challenges of its skyscraper-studded history. The project was thrown into turmoil last spring when St. Vincent’s, unable to withstand its financial burdens, sought bankruptcy protection. Now Mr. Rudin is quietly negotiating with the St. Vincent’s estate and its creditors, including GE Capital, to purchase the campus and partially resurrect the project. One big issue on the table: a price cut. Under the original 2007 deal, the family business, Rudin Management Co. would have paid $300 million for St. Vincent’s campus, converting four hospital buildings and demolishing four others, replacing them with town houses and apartment buildings. A lot has changed since then. There’s no longer a functioning hospital with which to negotiate, and the city’s residential market has come down to earth. Now Mr. Rudin wants to cut the price, according to people familiar with the matter, though they wouldn’t say what his new offer is.

Gates Urges School Budget Overhauls.” By Sam Dillon. New York Times. November 19, 2010. Bill Gates, the founder and former chairman of Microsoft, has made education-related philanthropy a major focus since stepping down from his day-to-day role in the company in 2008. His new area of interest: helping solve schools’ money problems. In a speech prepared for delivery Friday, Mr. Gates — who is gaining considerable clout in education circles — plans to urge the 50 state superintendents of education to take difficult steps to restructure the nation’s public education budgets, which have come under severe pressure in the economic downturn. He suggests they end teacher pay increases based on seniority and on master’s degrees, which he says are unrelated to teachers’ ability to raise student achievement. He also urges an end to efforts to reduce class sizes. Instead, he suggests rewarding the most effective teachers with higher pay for taking on larger classes or teaching in needy schools. “Of course, restructuring pay systems is like kicking a beehive” — but restructure them anyway, Mr. Gates plans to tell the superintendents in his talk to the Council of Chief State School Officers, which opens a convention in Louisville on Friday. “Rebuild the budget based on excellence,” Mr. Gates says.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (November 15-21, 2010)

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

FUNDRAISING

Valley charities ramp up for holiday drives amid the hard times.” By Lisa Fernandez. San Jose Mercury News. November 14, 2010. Times are tough. Needs are great. With the holidays approaching, Silicon Valley charities are launching new and creative efforts to stave off compassion fatigue. In an unprecedented marketing campaign, the Salvation Army this year is airing a PR campaign to ask for gently used furniture and clothing. And the Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties is organizing a “game” involving 120 companies with the hope of raising $11 million during the two-month holiday season — the most the food bank has ever sought. And those are just two nonprofits out of the many struggling to meet the growing needs of an equally struggling population. “All the nonprofits are having a difficult time,” said Emmett D. Carson, president and CEO of Silicon Valley Community Foundation. Carson said creativity in donor campaigns is especially needed now, but no matter what the medium, the underlying message should be to show that giving is “an opportunity to be a healthy community.”

Models Up to Doing Good; Donors Lose Their Dresses for Charity.” By Priya Rao. Wall Street Journal. November 16, 2010. Who says models are up to no good? One Frickin Day founders Elettra Wiedemann and James Marshall put that misconception to rest at Christie’s with the launch of Model Behavior, a Charitybuzz hosted online auction benefiting their nonprofit organization, which supports clinics and hospitals in Haiti and Rwanda. Stunners like Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Anja Rubik and Arlenis Sosa donated iconic dresses worn on the red carpet or runway to be auctioned off for the cause. Among the highlights: Shalom Harlow’s Bob Mackie coat worn to the 2009 Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute Gala and a vintage Dolce & Gabbana tuxedo given by Ms. Wiedemann’s mother Isabella Rossellini.

Refugees benefit from thrift store; Clothes Without Borders is run by New Haven’s Integrated Refugee and Immigration Services.” By Jenny Dai. Yale Daily News. November 17, 2010. Salvation Army is facing a new rival on its home turf. Clothes Without Borders is a thrift store that passes its profits on to New Haven’s Integrated Refugee and Immigration Services (IRIS). Opened in September at 900 Grand Ave., the shop was started by New Haven IRIS to increase the resettlement agency’s funds. The store sells second-hand family clothing donated to IRIS as well as household items such as picture frames and tea sets. Revenue from sales helps cover the costs of the resettlement agency’s childcare program, English learning program and helps subsidize refugees’ rent. Although the store lacks a customer base in the Yale community, students interviewed said they were intrigued by the initaitive. Although George calls the the store a risky endeavour, in the two months since its grand opening, Clothes Without Borders has generated at least enough money to keep the electricity on, paying rent and utility bills without fail. The real challenge that the shop faces is finding a manager who will run the shop so that it can generate the maximum amount of revenue George said, but added that he is optimistic about generating more revenue for IRIS programs. More importantly, he envisions the store as a “public education mechanism” where people come to buy clothing but also learn about IRIS and refugees.

Riley foundation raises $200M.” By Bruce C. Smith. Indianapolis Star. November 17, 2010. Defying the economic downturn that has curbed many other fundraising efforts, the Riley Children’s Foundation today will announce that it has raised more than $200 million in the past seven years — $25 million beyond its goal. It was accomplished with a combination of gifts as large as $40 million from the Simon family of Indianapolis and as small as the spare change at high school and college dance marathons, said Kevin O’Keefe, president of the foundation that supports Riley Hospital for Children. And it’s quite an accomplishment in these difficult economic times, said Bill McGinly, president of the Association of Healthcare Philanthropy, based in Washington. A recent study by his group found that donations to health-care-affiliated foundations across the country fell about 11 percent in 2009 to $7.6 billion, though children’s hospitals typically fare a bit better. Some of the money, about $58 million, is going toward construction of the $450 million, 10-story Simon Family Tower at 705 Riley Hospital Drive. Clarian Health is paying for the rest of the project. The first phase of the 10-story addition to Riley Hospital for Children is due to open in January. Most of the rest of the foundation’s money will pay for patient care and research into obesity, diabetes and cancer, including rare spinal tumors in children.

Food Bank to NYC: ‘Don’t make me beg’; Facing the prospect of feeding more than a million hungry people, the Food Bank for New York mounts a new holiday fundraiser; New Yorkers will be able to donate to the cause directly from their cell phones.” By Brian Chappatta. Crain’s New York Business. November 17, 2010. This holiday season, with about 1.4 million people turning to programs run by the Food Bank for New York City, the organization is appealing directly to residents through an emotional advertising campaign, “Don’t Make Me Beg,” which shows everyday New Yorkers who rely upon the Food Bank for their meals. The media blitz, appearing in newspapers, radio, Times Square billboards and elsewhere, cost little for the Food Bank, thanks to donations and pro bono work, said Lisa Jakobsberg, the organization’s vice president of marketing and business partnerships. She estimated the full cost of the campaign would ordinarily tally $500,000, but now the primary expenditure is on a reduced printer fee. Coupled with the emotional message is the Food Bank’s first use of a text-to-donate campaign; the campaign raised $2,000 on its first day and continues to draw donations. Ms. Jakobsberg said the low price point and the immediacy of the donation made the decision to launch a text-based initiative easy. “It’s everybody’s worst nightmare: You don’t have a job, you’re in line for a soup kitchen, and you don’t expect it,” she said. “We needed an eye-catching and compelling campaign to push out the text-to-donate campaign.” Ms. Jakobsberg said the goal is to have people see the advertisements and then have the immediate option of donating through their cell phones. She has seen that happen during the first few days of the initiative, when text donations increased by 400% after Food Bank appeals ran in amNewYork.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (November 15-21, 2010)

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

GIVING

Gifts fall short of prerecession totals.” By Erin Ailworth. Boston Globe. November 17, 2010. Charities — from big-name groups like Combined Jewish Philanthropies to community agencies like the Women’s Lunch Place in the Back Bay — report a bump in donations as they head into the year-end fund-raising push. The president of Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Barry Shrage, said efforts to reach longtime major givers pushed donations up modestly, from a low of $39.5 million in 2008 to $40 million last year. Donations could top $41 million this year, he said, still less than the $42 million raised in 2007. But fund-raising remains a challenge for numerous nonprofits, and many said it will take time for people to be as generous as they were before the recession.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (November 15-21, 2010)

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

HEALTH CARE

Steep Challenge for Rudin.” By Dana Rubinstein. Wall Street Journal. November 15, 2010. The redevelopment of struggling St. Vincent’s Hospital into a world-class health-care facility surrounded by luxury housing was to have been William Rudin’s deepest mark yet on his family’s real-estate dynasty, one of the New York City’s largest. But salvaging the project, the family’s most ambitious since the death of patriarch Lew Rudin, could prove one of the greatest challenges of its skyscraper-studded history. The project was thrown into turmoil last spring when St. Vincent’s, unable to withstand its financial burdens, sought bankruptcy protection. Now Mr. Rudin is quietly negotiating with the St. Vincent’s estate and its creditors, including GE Capital, to purchase the campus and partially resurrect the project. One big issue on the table: a price cut. Under the original 2007 deal, the family business, Rudin Management Co. would have paid $300 million for St. Vincent’s campus, converting four hospital buildings and demolishing four others, replacing them with town houses and apartment buildings. A lot has changed since then. There’s no longer a functioning hospital with which to negotiate, and the city’s residential market has come down to earth. Now Mr. Rudin wants to cut the price, according to people familiar with the matter, though they wouldn’t say what his new offer is.
Related story:
Hospital to Sell Remnants.” Wall Street Journal. November 19, 2010.

Transforming a Hospital Into a Gallery of Inspiration.” By Priya Rao. Wall Street Journal. November 15, 2010. As if the gloomy corridors and cold floors weren’t enough, the art generally displayed in hospital rooms tends to be of the generic, dull variety. But for the last 10 years, the nonprofit organization RxArt has attempted to change that by installing original, fine contemporary art by the likes of Jeff Koons and Frank Stella in various rooms of healthcare facilities. “There is nothing fun about hospitals,” said RxArt’s president and founder, Diane Brown, who will celebrate a decade in care Monday evening at the organization’s 10th anniversary gala at the Art Directors Club on West 29th Street. “We want to offer patients a chance to get out of their heads and not think about being sick.”

N.J. Hospitals Lag U.S.” By Suzanne Sataline. Wall Street Journal. November 20, 2010. New Jersey’s nonprofit hospitals are financially weaker than elsewhere in the country, with increasing competition, a growing number of patients relying on government programs and below-average cash reserves, a recent report said. Moody’s Investors Service cast a dim view of the state’s hospitals in a review released this week, finding that with so much competition, there will be “more closures, payment defaults, or bankruptcy filings over the next couple of years by hospitals that cannot manage expenses and invest in long-term strategies.” The median long-term debt rating for the state’s hospitals, a reflection of their chance of default, is Baa2, or an average creditworthiness. That’s two notches below the national median for hospitals with debt, or an A3. Moody’s rates about a quarter of New Jersey’s 72 acute care hospitals. Seven hospitals in the state rated at or above the national median, while 14 rated below. Among the hospitals with a below median score is Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital at Rahway. “It’s an extremely difficult environment that continues to struggle with the pressures of high unemployment, significant changes in insurance, increases in the uninsured and governments that are strained,” said Kirk Tice, president and CEO of the Rahway hospital, with a $120 million budget. Hospitals with average credit worthiness include Cooper Health System in Camden; Holy Name Hospital in Teaneck; St. Barnabas Health Care System in West Orange, the state’s largest; St. Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick and Trinitas Hospital in Elizabeth. Gary Horan, president and CEO of Trinitas, said about a quarter of patients get Medicaid and the number of uninsured and undocumented patients has climbed. Through cost cuts, this year’s $315 million budget will have a surplus, he said. The state’s residents frequent specialists, which also keeps costs climbing, said Joseph Lemaire, CFO of Holy Name. Officials with Cooper, St. Barnabas, and St. Peter’s didn’t comment. Despite a budget gap of nearly $11 billion in this fiscal year, Gov. Chris Christie awarded $665 million in charity care aide to the state’s hospitals, up $60 million from the previous year. The money helped offset the cost of treating uninsured patients. New Jersey hospitals compete with those a few miles away, and labor costs are higher than the national median. Poonam Alaigh, state health commissioner, blames too much competition. “Hospitals want to do everything under the sun,” she said. “Even though another hospital is a stone’s throw away.”

Lawsuit: Nation’s largest hospice did not provide a young mother with a ‘peaceful death’.” By Bruce Newman. San Jose Mercury-News. November 19, 2010. The family of a young Los Gatos woman featured in a Mercury News story about the painful death she endured after suffering from cancer has sued the nation’s largest for-profit hospice service, charging that it deprived the woman of a “peaceful death.” The lawsuit was filed in Alameda County, where Vitas Hospice Care has offices, and alleges that the hospice’s failure to inform her that she could receive “palliative sedation” to relieve her suffering was “reckless” and “inexcusable.” Michelle Hargett Beebee was 43 when she died late last year after being diagnosed with stage-four pancreatic cancer. The mother of three children, Beebee entered Vitas hospice service three weeks before her death. In December 2009, she was the subject of the final installment of the Mercury News’ award-winning “Life In a Year” series. “She was in unrelieved pain until she died,” Michelle’s father, Joe Hargett, said in a statement. “Michelle could have had the peaceful death she wanted had Vitas Hospice adequately treated her pain and informed her of treatments that were legally available to her. We don’t want others to suffer unnecessarily painful deaths like Michelle’s.”

Big Hospital Clout Dictates Premiums.” By Sarah Varney. Weekend Edition Saturday/National Public Radio. November 20, 2010. Christina Anderson is loyal to her hospital and refuses to change her family’s health plan, even though it would save her family money. Anderson is unwilling to switch to a cheaper plan that doesn’t have access to her doctors and her local Sutter hospital. “I’ve been a Sutter patient for years,” she says. “I’m a loyal person. And I’m happy with Sutter.” What Anderson might not know, however, is how Sutter’s battle for market share in her corner of suburbia is affecting her bottom line. Hospital prices in the Sacramento region are among the highest in California, driven in large part by the negotiating clout of the hospital chain Sutter Health. Over the last decade and a half, Sutter has gradually accumulated hospitals and amassed a roster of doctors who contract exclusively with the company. Sutter is now one of the largest hospital chains in California with 24 acute care hospitals. Because Sutter dominates the market, major insurance companies, like Blue Cross and Aetna, can’t sell policies that exclude Sutter hospitals and doctors. That dependence means the hospital chain can dictate high prices.” In fact, according to government data, Sutter’s charges for a day of care are 37 percent more than the state average. Sutter’s CEO Patrick Fry says its costs are fair and that it pours a portion of its profits back into state-of-the-art facilities. Even still, the average stay at the Sutter hospital in Roseville costs some $30,000 — about $12,000 more than its closest competitor who offers similar quality of care. It’s impossible to say how much Sutter’s pricing influences the cost of health insurance in Roseville. The company’s price list is confidential. But what’s happening in Roseville offers a glimpse into how one large hospital chain can effectively dictate insurance premiums.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (November 15-21, 2010)

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

HUMAN SERVICES

Salvation Army reports donations down, demand up.” By Matthew Gomez. San Francisco Chronicle. November 15, 2010. The Salvation Army’s thrift stores survive on discarded toasters, couches and ottomans. But a severe drop in such donations over the past 18 months has officials worried about the prospect of closing more thrift stores, even while demand is soaring. Donations to the nonprofit’s thrift stores have dropped 20 percent in the past 18 months, a trend that’s worsened over the last few months. Army officials say they’re at a loss to explain why. “It’s unexplainable, to be honest with you,” said George Erickson, the organization’s director of retail. “Maybe it’s cheaper to clean and hang onto” these items instead of donating them, he said. Still, more people than ever are shopping at the stores, which have seen a double-digit increase in sales, Salvation Army officials said. And that has them worried that supply won’t be able to keep up with the demand, particularly during the winter months when people are often more focused on giving monetary donations to their favorite causes. Since 2008, the Salvation Army has closed two of its San Francisco stores, leaving them with five around the city. Profits from those stores benefit the organization’s Adult Rehabilitation Center, a program that helps clothe, feed and shelter people struggling to recover from drug and alcohol addictions and other problems. The $7.5 million-a-year program currently serves 137 people, who receive counseling and other services. About 83 cents of every dollar earned at the thrift stores benefits the center. “We need to be far more aggressive in going after that donation,” center director Jack Phillips said. “This is the worst that I have ever seen it.”

Requests soaring from families in need Agencies call demand unparalleled.” By Peter Schworm. Boston Globe. November 17, 2010. Charities and nonprofit groups that tend to the poor are experiencing unprecedented demand as the holiday season approaches and the nation’s severe economic troubles stretch into a third year. A Catholic Charities food pantry in Dorchester says it now hands out 12,000 pounds of goods each week, four times as much as it used to distribute in a month. The number of Massachusetts residents who are hungry or at risk of going hungry has jumped to 660,000, a 20 percent increase in a single year, according to Project Bread, an antihunger group. Statewide calls to a United Way help line, which steers people to assistance, have climbed by almost 50 percent. Calls doubled in hard-hit cities like Lowell, Lawrence, New Bedford, and Fall River. With the weather turning cold, the number of people seeking help with their heating bills has risen by 20 percent over last fall. At the Boston offices of Action for Boston Community Development, an antipoverty group that provides heating assistance, people are lining up around the corner each morning to apply. “The need is overwhelming, as it was last year, and the year before that,’’ said the group’s president, John Drew. “You take any basic need, and we have people looking for help.’’

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (November 15-21, 2010)

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

INTERNATIONAL

GENERAL

Schwarzenegger launches new climate-change group; The international organization of states and provinces intends to move ahead on the issue despite the failure to achieve a global climate pact in Copenhagen last year.” By Margot Roosevelt. Los Angeles Times. November 17, 2010. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday launched an international organization to tackle climate change with leaders from regional governments in Europe, South America, Africa, Asia and the United States. The failure to achieve an international climate pact in Copenhagen last year left many people discouraged, Schwarzenegger said, addressing several hundred delegates to a “climate summit” at UC Davis. But now, he added, “The sub-nationals should do their work…. The green revolution is moving forward full speed ahead without the international agreement.” Despite Schwarzenegger’s cheerleading, the signing ceremony for the Regions of Climate Action group, known as the R-20, had a lame-duck quality. Only one other U.S. governor, outgoing Democrat Jim Doyle of Wisconsin, was present for the signing in the half-empty auditorium; no provincial leader from China, Earth’s largest carbon-emitter, agreed to join the effort. Schwarzenegger officials had predicted that about 100 government leaders would sign the pact to cooperate on climate change; but in the 11 months since the governor first announced the initiative, only about 25 states and provinces have agreed to be part of the group. Besides Doyle, the group includes the governors of Michigan, Oregon and Washington.

BELGIUM

Catholics in Belgium Start Parishes of Their Own.” By Doreen Carvajal. New York Times. November 16, 2010. Don Bosco is one of about a dozen alternative Catholic churches that have sprouted and grown in the last two years in Dutch-speaking regions of Belgium and the Netherlands. They are an uneasy reaction to a combination of forces: a shortage of priests, the closing of churches, dissatisfaction with Vatican appointments of conservative bishops and, most recently, dismay over cover-ups of sexual abuse by priests. The churches are called ecclesias, the word derived from the Greek verb for “calling together.” Five were started last year in the Netherlands by Catholics who broke away from their existing parishes, and more are being planned, said Franck Ploum, who helped start an ecclesia in January in Breda, the Netherlands, and is organizing a network conference for the groups in the two countries. At this sturdy brick church southwest of Brussels, men and women are trained as “conductors.” They preside over Masses and the landmarks of life: weddings and baptisms, funerals and last rites. Church members took charge more than a year ago when their pastor retired without a successor. In Belgium, about two-thirds of clergymen are over 55, and one-third older then 65. “We are resisting a little bit like Gandhi,” said Johan Veys, a married former priest who performs baptisms and recruits newcomers for other tasks at Don Bosco. “Our intention is not to criticize, but to live correctly. We press onward quietly without a lot of noise. It’s important to have a community where people feel at home and can find peace and inspiration.” Yet they appear to be on a collision course with the Vatican and the Catholic Church in Belgium. The Belgian church has been staggering from a sexual abuse scandal with 475 victims, and the resignation of the bishop of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe, who last April admitted to years of molesting a boy who turned out to be his nephew. In the view of Rome, only ordained priests can celebrate Mass or preside over most sacraments like baptisms and marriage. “If there are persons or groups that do not observe these norms, the competent bishops — who know what really happens — have to see how to intervene and explain what is in order and out of order if someone belongs to the Catholic Church,” the Rev. Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, said. The primate of Belgium, Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard of Mechelen-Brussels, has already raised objections to the alternative services, calling them “unacceptable practices.” But he declined to respond to questions, maintaining a pledge to keep silent until December. He was engulfed in controversy this month after he criticized prosecution of elderly priests for pedophile acts as “vengeance” and described AIDS as a “sort of inherent justice” for promiscuous homosexual acts. For some Catholics in the ecclesia movement and academics at the Catholic University of Louvain, Archbishop Léonard is emblematic of a remote church disconnected from a flock that yearns for more relevant rituals and active participation.

CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL

Vatican government is a ‘train wreck’: Experts.” By Alessandra Tarantino. USA Today/Associated Press. November 16, 2010. If you are waiting for the Vatican to make clear, immediate and transparent responses to the ongoing global sexual abuse crisis, well, don’t hold your breath, two Vatican experts said Monday at a media seminar. Neither can you expect anything to come from the 30 minutes or so that the world’s cardinals will address this topic, among five topics on their agenda at their business meeting in Rome on Friday. The frankly grim visions of Vatican structure and function — in crisis moments and daily governance of a church of 1.2 billion people — came from George Weigel, biographer of Pope John Paul II and author of numerous books on the Church and John Allen, the National Catholic Reporter Vatican specialist for 15 years and a biographer of Pope Benedict XVI. They agreed there is, essentially, no media strategy, no war room, no one with a handle on reforming communications or, worse, reforming the governing structure itself. They spoke to reporters and columnists at this week’s Faith Angle conference sponsored by the Ethics and Public Policy Center on how the media has covered the 2002 explosion of the abuse crisis in the USA and the Spring 2010 sweep of the crisis across Europe. Vatican officials, Weigel said, “can appear to be dissembling or disinterested when there is no well-formed intent to deceive, they just don’t know what’s going on,” said Weigel. And their default position — no story is a good story — “is completely dumb.”
Related stories:
Vatican issuing guidelines on sex abuse to bishops.” USA Today/Associated Press. November 19, 2010.
Vatican Preparing New Guidelines to Deal With Sexual Abuse.” New York Times. November 19, 2010.
Vatican tells bishops to crack down on abuse.” Independent/Reuters. November 20, 2010.
Vatican to issue guidelines on sex abuse.” BBC News. November 19, 2010.

CHINA

China ordains bishop despite Vatican objection.” No by-line. BBC News. November 20, 2010. China’s state-backed Catholic church has challenged the Vatican by ordaining a bishop without papal approval – the first such ceremony since 2006. Guo Jincao’s ordination was carried out in the north-eastern city of Chengde amid a strong security presence. Eight Vatican-approved bishops are believed to have been forced to attend the ceremony. China’s millions of Catholics are split between followers of Pope Benedict XVI and members of the state-backed church. Hundreds of people – including government officials – attended the ceremony, according to AsiaNews, a Vatican-affiliated missionary news agency that closesly follows religious affairs in China. The agency said that eight bishops, who were in communion with the Vatican, were also present. China’s state-back Patriotic Chinese Church has so far made no public comment on the ordination. China and the Vatican have had no diplomatic ties since the 1950s, when Beijing expelled foreign clergy. However, the Vatican and China’s state-backed church have since reached a tacit agreement on the appointment of new bishops, the BBC’s David Willey says. The Vatican warned earlier this week that it would regard any attempt by Beijing to force Chinese Catholic bishops, who were in communion with Rome, to attend the ceremony in Chengde as a grave violation of freedom of religion and of conscience. This would also damage relations between China and the Vatican, the Pope’s spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said.

FRANCE

The Louvre Takes Its Tin Cup Out.” No by-line. New York Times. November 20, 2010. Paris may have a claim on being the art capital of the world, but one of its most hallowed cultural institutions, the Louvre, has gone to the French public with its hat in hand. According to Agence France-Presse, the museum is asking the public to contribute money to help buy “The Three Grâces,” an exceptionally well-conserved 1531 work by the German painter Lucas Cranach the Elder. It is the first time in the museum’s 217-year history that it has sought contributions to buy a painting. Its owners are asking $5.4 million, but the museum has managed to amass only three-quarters of that. The painting shows three young women naked against a dark background, with the middle figure wearing a red hat. “It’s a work that is amusing, troubling and mysterious, as well as very sensual at the same time,” the Louvre’s president, Henri Loyrette, said in The Guardian.

HAITI

A School Fights for Life in Battered Haiti.” By Deborah Sontag. New York Times. November 14, 2010. A new plan for reforming Haiti’s weak educational system envisions a publicly funded network of privately managed schools, similar to what has developed in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. It calls for subsidies to and accreditation of the nonpublic schools that educate some 82 percent of Haitian students. But, like the Collège Classique Féminin (known as C.C.F.), many independent schools are in danger of collapsing financially before such a public-private partnership can be realized. They are struggling to reopen and stay open, to rebuild, and to retain student students and teachers. Forty-six years after its founding, C.C.F., a once-elite school catering to lower-middle-class girls who aspire to be the doctors, engineers and teachers of Haiti’s future, is fighting for its life. So are many other battered institutions, from hospitals to universities, during this limbo period before reconstructions begins. “You have to be really determined right now,” said Marie Alice Craft, another C.C.F. director. “If you’re not, the whole thing will fall apart, and we can’t allow that to happen. The adults are exhausted, but these kids deserve a future. We can’t let C.C.F. fail, just like we can’t let Haiti fail.” In the first week of October, Haiti’s reconstruction commission approved a $500 million Inter-American Development Bank project to reconstruct the education sector. That same week, the back-to-school date of Oct. 4 proved little more than “symbolic,” as Pierre Michel Laguerre, the Education Ministry’s director general, put it. With thousands of schools damaged or destroyed, hundreds of temporary replacements were still being built by Unicef, the government, the Digicel Foundation and others. Schools had to be cleared of rubble and of displaced people; families had to scrape together money for uniforms and fees.

Save Haiti from aid tourists; The ‘republic of NGOs’ is in a vicious circle of dependence and institutional infantilism.” By Rory Carroll. Guardian (UK). November 16, 2010. There was so much goodness packed on to the plane there was almost no room for me. I had a boarding pass but by the time I got to the gate every seat was filled. This was American Airlines flight 575 from Miami to Port-au-Prince and the passengers were on a mission to help Haiti. A volunteer agreed to take a later flight and I squeezed on. The front rows had people in orange T-shirts, further on there were blue ones and at the back lime-green, each with a Haiti-related logo. Instead of the in-flight magazine, people were reading engineering manuals, budget reports, the Bible and books with titles such as Touching Them Now and Forever. Spirits were high. We were on our way to another world, which would provide a sense of purpose, not to mention adventure. “Welcome aboard!” beamed the steward. Two hours later, as we trooped off into blinding Caribbean sun, the steward was still beaming. “Bye bye!” I was too depressed to smile back. During the flight I had been reminded by the passenger seated beside me how do-gooding outsiders can screw up Haiti. What made it all the sadder was the fact he was nice, decent and humane. It is harsh to identify Ed Hettinga and his group, Mission to Haiti Canada, as exemplars of an unfolding tragedy. Each member was coming on his and her own time and dime (air fare alone, £980) and was almost certain to improve the lives of some Haitians. Villains in Haiti’s suffering include France, which crippled its former colony with two centuries of immoral debt; the US, which bullied Haiti to cut food tariffs, swamping the country with US imports and destroying homegrown agriculture; donors who have welched on funding pledges; and Haiti’s political and business elite, cocooned in luxury and indifference.

INDIA

Sati temple in Haryana university.” By Deepender Deswal. Times of India. November 16, 2010. A sati temple on university campus! And people actually go there to worship after being granted permission by authorities of Chaudhary Charan Singh Haryana Agriculture University ( CCSHAU) at Hisar. The temple, symbolizing the now obsolete practice of burning of a woman on her husband’s pyre, is said to have been in existence before the construction of the university. However, the varsity allowed the family to use the approach path to the temple on certain conditions about a decade ago. In a reply under the RTI Act to Subhash, state convener of Haryana Soochna Adhikar Manch, the varsity authorities said the temple complex, spread over approximately 300 square yards, existed prior to the transfer of land to the university. They admitted that on a written request from a Hisar-based family, they allowed the use of a pathway leading to the temple. But the varsity put three conditions for the family to use the path —no addition/alterations or additional construction of any kind will be allowed in the area; permission to use the approach path will not entitle the family to any right of ownership and that the area earmarked for the temple as per revenue record — 300 sq yards — will continue as such without any encroachment. In 2004, the family again approached the vice-chancellor for permission to fix stones on the chabutara but he turned down their request. The family members regularly perform puja and other rituals at the temple. The ‘mundan sanskar’ (first hair cutting ceremony) of every male child of the family is performed at this temple, varsity officials said.

India Microcredit Faces Collapse From Defaults.” By Lydia Polgreen and Vikas Bajaj. New York Times. November 17, 2010. India’s rapidly growing private microcredit industry faces imminent collapse as almost all borrowers in one of India’s largest states have stopped repaying their loans, egged on by politicians who accuse the industry of earning outsize profits on the backs of the poor. The crisis has been building for weeks, but has now reached a critical stage. Indian banks, which put up about 80 percent of the money that the companies lent to poor consumers, are increasingly worried that after surviving the global financial crisis mostly unscathed, they could now face serious losses. Indian banks have about $4 billion tied up in the industry, banking officials say. “We are extremely worried about our exposure to the microfinance sector,” said Sunand K. Mitra, a senior executive at Axis Bank, speaking Tuesday on a panel at the India Economic Summit. The region’s crisis is likely to reverberate around the globe. Initially the work of nonprofit groups, the tiny loans to the poor known as microcredit once seemed a promising path out of poverty for millions. In recent years, foundations, venture capitalists and the World Bank have used India as a petri dish for similar for-profit “social enterprises” that seek to make money while filling a social need. Like-minded industries have sprung up in Africa, Latin America and other parts of Asia. But microfinance in pursuit of profits has led some microcredit companies around the world to extend loans to poor villagers at exorbitant interest rates and without enough regard for their ability to repay. Some companies have more than doubled their revenues annually. Now some Indian officials fear that microfinance could become India’s version of the United States’ subprime mortgage debacle, in which the seemingly noble idea of extending home ownership to low-income households threatened to collapse the global banking system because of a reckless, grow-at-any-cost strategy.

Adarsh scam could have been detected 2 yrs ago.” By Prafulla Marpakwar. Times of India. November 21, 2010. A week after Ashok Chavan stepped down from the chief minister’s post, it has emerged that the flat allotment scam pertaining to Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society could have been detected way back in 2008, had the then civic authorities taken note of a letter pointing out blatant violation of norms. According to official records, an NGO — National Alliance for People’s Movement (NAPM) — had filed a complaint letter on August 27, 2008. But the Mumbai collector, BMC and MMRDA commissioners, principal secretaries of the urban development (UD) and revenue departments and the head of the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) failed to act on the same. The MCZMA did take note eventually , but after a year. Interestingly, the authority had even drafted a demolition notice, but it was never served. In the complaint, NAPM’s Simpreet Singh asked why the defence authorities never objected to the high-rise building, which had several civilian members of unknown credentials owning saleable flats, despite the fact that it was just a stone’s throw from sensitive defence installations. “Under such circumstances … the construction should be stopped immediately,” Singh had said in the complaint letter. Singh alleged that BMC did not take action as the son of a senior civic official had cornered a flat at Adarsh. Same was the case with several senior bureaucrats in the UD department. The fact that high-level politicians as well as senior officials from the Mumbai collectorate also became members ensured that successive collectors turned a Nelson’s eye to the illegal activities and refrained from prohibiting construction . The MCZMA was also reluctant to initiate demolition procedures in view of the involvement of top defence officials , cabinet members and high-ranking bureaucrats.

LATIN AMERICA

Q&A: Community Radio Stations – Key Players in Expanding Democracy.” No by-line. Interpress Service (ips.net). November 16, 2010. Chilean journalist María Pía Matta, a feminist and staunch believer that communication is a universal right based on freedom of expression, is the new president of the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC). Matta was elected at the end of the Nov. 8-13 Tenth World Assembly of Community Radio Broadcasters in the Argentine city of La Plata, 56 km southeast of Buenos Aires, whose theme was bolstering the effectiveness of community radio stations to help achieve greater social justice. The more than 5,000 community radio stations that belong to AMARC on every continent should have increasing legal recognition, “because they are a key tool for expanding democracy at the local and global levels,” she says in this interview with IPS. Matta, a social activist and journalist who has been involved in alternative media from the start of her career, is head of La Morada, a Chilean NGO dedicated to improving the lives of low-income women. La Morada founded in Chile Radio Tierra, the first feminist radio station in Latin America. As vice president of AMARC, she was a prominent advocate of community radio in the region, where these alternative stations are growing and flourishing in a broader context of social and political reforms ushered in my left-leaning governments. She will now focus her experience on the global network of community broadcasters, while pressing for growing participation by women in community radio and in the leadership of AMARC.

UK

Higher fees ‘will make more study in the US; Ivy League institutions such as Harvard have a large number of bursaries and scholarships.” By Joanna Sugden. Times of London. November 15, 2010. Rising numbers of British school leavers are choosing to take degrees in America attracted by generous bursary schemes, said a leading headmaster, as the cap on fees at UK universities is set to almost treble. Figures published today by the Fulbright Commission indicate that in the past academic year 8,861 students from Britain studied in the USA, up 2 per cent on the previous year. It contrasts with a 4 per cent decline in the number of students from other European countries crossing the Atlantic to attend college. Andrew Halls, headmaster of Kings College School Wimbledon, said he had seen a “quantum leap” in pupils’ interest in studying in America since higher tuition fees were announced the Government this term. “If the tuition fee comes in, parents and students are going to look abroad in a way that we haven’t seen,” he said. “There will be a great deal of resentment in the middle classes about serious university courses which the Government wants people to study but which are going to lead to such huge debt and higher interest rates. America is now looking much more viable.”

Catholic Church to unveil plans for defecting Anglicans this week.” By Ruth Gledhill. Times of London. November 16, 2010. The Roman Catholic Church will this week unveil proposals for the new church structure for defecting Anglicans as up to 50 clergy prepare to follow five bishops into the new Ordinariate. Catholic bishops from England and Wales are meeting in Leeds where they are “exploring the establishment of the Ordinariate and the warm welcome we will be extending to those who seek to be part of it,” said Bishop Alan Hopes, an auxiliary in the Westminster archdiocese. Bishop Hopes, himself a former Church of England priest who was received into the Catholic Church in 1994 after the vote to ordain women priests, has been appointed to oversee the Ordinariate, or extra-geographical diocese for ex-Anglicans. The resignations of the five bishops who announced their departure last week will take effect from Christmas. A source close to the defectors said at least 50 clergy had indicated their intention to go as well, “and that is just the first tranche,” he added. All the clergy and bishops will have to be re-ordained because the Catholic church teaches that, no matter how saintly or traditionalist a priest has been in his pastoral and sacramental duties, Anglican orders are “absolutely null and utterly void.”

Cable says Oxbridge, UCL and LSE threatened to ‘go private’ over fees; The Business Secretary said the top universities were likely to remain as public institutions.” By Greg Hurst. Times of London. November 16, 2010. A group of top English universities threatened to “go private” if the Government forbade them to raise tuition fees, Vince Cable said yesterday. He said Oxford, Cambridge, University College London and the London School of Economics were among those who said they would reject state funds and finance themselves through fees, research grants and endowments. Leading universities have always dismissed such claims. But Dr Cable, the Business Secretary, who is responsible for universities, told a conference of independent school heads that several were prepared to do so unless tuition fees were raised substantially. “One of the reasons we are doing this is precisely to head off Oxford, Cambridge, LSE, UCL and a few others from going private,” he told them. “If we had not opened up the system they would have a very strong incentive to do so. Whether we shall head them off, I don’t know.” He was speaking at the annual conference of the Girls’ Schools Association in Manchester, and was asked by Patricia Kelleher, headmistress of Perse Girls’ School in Cambridge, about suggestions that Cambridge would become a private university. Dr Cable said the top universities were likely to remain as public institutions. He said: “It’s a little bit like bankers who say if you’re going to put some kind of tax on us we’ll run away to Singapore. Universities have been playing this game with us — let us have unlimited caps or we’ll privatise. I don’t believe it. I think what we’re proposing is a fair settlement which will provide them with enough income to provide high quality education and which is also fair to the pupils.”

Diane Abbott demands inquiry into corporations’ role in health policy; Shadow public health minister ‘shocked’ by government move to include McDonald’s and others in plan to tackle health crises.” By Felicity Lawrence. Guardian (UK). November 15, 2010. Diane Abbott, the shadow public health minister, is calling for the health select committee to launch an inquiry into government moves to put McDonald’s, PepsiCo and food manufacturers such as Unilever and Kellogg’s at the heart of writing policy on obesity, diet-related disease and alcohol misuse in the UK. Abbott said she was “shocked” by revelations in the Guardian that the health secretary, Andrew Lansley, has set up five networks dominated by the food, alcohol and retail industries to write “responsibility deals” between business and government to tackle the crises of public health. She is writing to the select committee asking it to investigate. Leading public health experts joined Abbott in expressing deep concern about the government’s strategy of inviting industry to volunteer measures on public health instead of taking the lead with mandatory action. Professor Philip James, who was the lead adviser to the government on the setting up of the Food Standards Agency, and until recently chair of the International Obesity Task Force, said he was “scandalised” by the government inviting industry to help draft public health policy. “It is a major setback for the health of the nation. The sabotaging of public health by the food industry is universally recognised,” he writes in the Guardian today. The heart disease prevention expert Professor Simon Capewell joined the condemnation. He said the responsibility deals with business were a “cynical public relations smokescreen for industry interests”. Abbott accused the government of putting business interests ahead of public health. “I was shocked to discover that the health secretary is involving companies like McDonald’s and PepsiCo and big manufacturers in shaping policy on nutrition. There is a wealth of literature that shows that junk food and fast food is the worst kind of diet and rather than taking advice from people who peddle it we should be helping people avoid it. This government has already in just a few months sold out the interests of the nation to the interests of big business,” she said.

Community groups may be given power to buy public services; Government encouraged to go further than its existing plans to hand assets to communities and allow them to be sold.” By Allegra Stratton. Guardian (UK). November 15, 2010. The government is being advised to allow community groups the right to buy and run services such as libraries, ports, schools, hospitals, prisons and police stations. Paying homage to one of the former prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s most iconic ideas – enabling people to buy their council houses – leading Tory philosopher Phillip Blond yesterday called for its wholesale application to all state assets. The government already has existing plans to hand assets to communities but Blond’s proposals, in a report for Res Publica with Steve Wyler, extend much further in both type of asset that could be sold and the capacity for individuals to profit. At the weekend, the decentralisation minister Greg Clark issued guarded support for the plans. There is also speculation that similar ideas could be contained in the forthcoming localism bill, which will set out how power will be devolved from Whitehall to neighbourhoods. On Sunday, Clark said that community groups need to have more power to stop assets disappearing. He said: “For too long, people have been powerless as they watch community assets disappear.” The localism bill, Clark said, would have “at its heart” a “right to challenge”, which would “abolish the monopoly power of the state to dictate how services are provided”.

Don’t neglect schemes that build community spirit; Links within a community are vital in tough times, says Ted Cantle.” No by-line. Guardian (UK). November 16, 2010. There is a sense of inevitability about the impending impact of this new age of austerity. We all now expect unemployment to rise, services to be cut and individuals and families to face real hardship. “We knew it had to come,” is a common refrain. But there seems little by way of any serious attempt to mitigate the impacts and improve the resilience of our communities. These communities are today at greater risk. In the past, societies have coped with periods of crisis by drawing upon reserves of communal spirit and by using local institutions and collective activities which are particularly important in harder times. For many communities there are now no resources to draw upon. The decline of traditional bonds and especially the demise of local clubs and societies and the links with neighbours and within families themselves is often exaggerated, but is nevertheless real for many communities. This, combined with increasing pressures from lack of job security and economic uncertainty, creates a breeding ground for blame, tension, misunderstandings and extremism. Many community- based organisations, often funded on a shoestring and run by just a handful of dedicated staff and volunteers, provide some of the vital glue that holds communities together. Cutting off cash for grassroots groups may be an easy option but could be a false economy. Given the tendency for a blame culture to emerge in times of hardship – and we have seen the biggest rise in Far Right activity in recent years – now is not the time to lose sight of any local work which is building bridges between communities. On a simple economic level, all the anecdotal evidence points to how crucial decisions about investments by potential employers are made on the reputation of specific towns, cities and regions. Any potential for disruption is obviously bad for business, but so is any lingering sense of malaise or bad feeling about a place. Firms will simply avoid, or choose to move away from, areas where there are community breakdowns and that will mean greater economic divide and more investment required by government to support them. Perhaps just as important is the way that people tend to leave poorer areas as they succeed in getting a job or finding the wherewithal to do so. People will only stay in an area if they have a sense of belonging and believe it can support and provide for them. Poorer areas are often faced by the flight of financial and human capital. Keeping grassroots cohesion activity going will be essential as a means of seeing many communities through the economic downturn, helping groups worst hit by redundancies, and preventing individual problems becoming whole community tensions.
Related story:
Social problems need early action, says Community Links; David Robinson of pioneering London charity, Community Links, says early action is crucial to social regeneration and will save money in the long run.” Guardian (UK). November 17, 2010.

All schools can apply for academy status.” By Alison Kershaw. Independent (UK). November 17, 2010. All primary and secondary schools can apply to become academies – as long as they team up with an outstanding school, Michael Gove will confirm today. The Education Secretary insisted the plans would help drive up improvement in every school in England. It means a satisfactory school can apply, providing it joins up with an outstanding school. Earlier this year, Mr Gove wrote to every primary, secondary and special school in the country inviting them to apply for academy status. Schools rated outstanding by Ofsted were pre-approved and their applications were fast-tracked. According to new figures published today, 224 applications have been received since July. About 200 schools, including those in federations, have been given an Academy Order, and 80 have opened so far. A further 64 academies have replaced schools that were failing. Mr Gove will say: “We know that the best way of improving schools is by getting the professionals who have already done a brilliant job to spread their wings. That is why we are now allowing more schools to benefit by allowing all schools to apply for academy status, if they are teamed with a high-performing school.”

Government accused of ‘sleight of hand’ over tuition fees.” By Oliver Wright. Independent (UK). November 18, 2010. Thousands of the poorest graduates will be worse off under the Government’s higher education reforms because of a statistical “sleight of hand” by ministers, The Independent has learnt. The change means that graduates earning just £18,000 a year in today’s money will have to start paying hundreds of pounds a year to the Treasury when they leave university in 2016. When the Government announced the scheme earlier this month, Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, suggested that repayments would not start unless a graduate was earning at least £21,000 a year. Last night the respected economic think-tank the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) withdrew its assertion that up to 30 per cent would be better off following a clarification of the figures by the Department of Business. It is now thought that only 20 per cent of future graduates will benefit from the plans, with eight out of 10 graduates paying more than at present. Last night the National Union of Students (NUS) accused ministers of issuing misleading information and called on them to “urgently clarify” the situation. John Denham, Labour’s shadow Business Secretary, described the revelation as “astonishing.”

David Cameron – you’re undoing the ‘big society’ we were making; The voluntary sector could provide the growling engines of the ‘big society’. Yet coalition cuts are wrecking its infrastructure.” By Ally Fogg. Guardian (UK). November 18, 2010. Exactly six months ago, on 18 May 18 2010, David Cameron officially launched the “big society”, saying: “I profoundly believe that if we want real social change – if we want to solve our deepest social problems, whether it’s drug abuse, whether it’s problems of poor housing, whether it’s problems of deep and entrenched poverty, whether it’s the problem of children in care – it’s going to be [through] the voluntary sector, social enterprises … we have to involve your organisations, and work with you and through you.” Most of the public were unconvinced. But to me and many others who work in the voluntary, charity and community sectors, the new government’s aspirations seemed far from fanciful. We spend every day supporting Britain’s millions of volunteers as they work to improve the lives of those around them, helping those in need, strengthening communities, cleaning up neighbourhoods, perhaps taking opportunities to learn new skills and improve their own prospects in the process. Our reaction to the “big society” was not disbelief or mockery, but a slightly exasperated cry: “But that’s what we’ve been doing for years!” The coalition government did not create the big society. But within half a year they have gone a long way towards destroying it. Despite pleas from the prime minister and ministers for local authorities to protect the sector, charities and voluntary groups are currently being decimated by funding cuts. The big society is crumbling before our eyes.

Government spending: Britain’s reliance on private firms revealed; Whitehall struggles to wean itself off high-cost contracts as government takes unprecedented step of publishing its accounts.” By Polly Curtis. Guardian (UK). November 19, 2010. The scale of the country’s reliance on private companies to power the state is revealed today as the government takes the historic step of publishing its accounts for the first time. The disclosure of the majority of payments made by government departments over the first five months after the election reveals Whitehall’s struggle to wean itself off high-cost contracts – and a burgeoning industry emerging around the coalition’s reforms. It also reveals the lingering waste in the government machine, with civil servants sent on chocolate-themed awaydays, training for civil servants in how to have “difficult conversations”, and nightclubs rented for official meetings. Downing Street spent £55,000 renovating David Cameron’s offices after his election. The data includes 194,000 individual payments made by every government department between May and September this year. It shows everything from the student loan bill to the Whitehall phone bill, giving an extraordinary insight into the government’s books. Eton was paid £40,000 of taxpayers’ money to work with state schools, £1.17m went on in-cell TV for prisoners who have earned the privilege, and £6.6m on free coal for ex-miners. Publication of spending data was at the heart of the coalition’s promise to make government more transparent but today is the first time it has released figures relating to its own period in government. Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, said publication would force civil servants to re-evaluate their spending and encourage companies to undercut their rivals to reduce costs further.

School pupils plan national walkout over tuition fees; Thousands sign up for day of protest action over cuts; Facebook groups set up to rally support around Britain.” By Matthew Taylor, Paul Lewis and Bibi van der Zee. Guardian (UK). November 19, 2010. Thousands of schoolchildren and sixth formers are expected to take part in a national walkout on Wednesday as student protests over fees, which saw more than 50,000 people march in London last week, are stepped up across the country. More than 16,000 young people have signed up to take part in the “day of action” and student leaders are predicting sit-ins, demonstrations and occupations in protest at plans to raise tuition fees and scrap the education maintenance allowance [EMA]. At the forefront of the demonstrations will be thousands of school and FE students – some as young as 15 – who have organised scores of walkouts across the country. “The great thing about what has happened over the last week is that this idea of protest has embedded itself in the wider student community,” said Michael Chessum, 21, co-founder of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) which called the protest for next week. “All of a sudden there is a feeling that we do have some power that we can change things through peaceful direct action.” Facebook groups supporting the day of action have sprung up across the country, with pupils and FE students taking a leading role.

Inside Nick Hornby’s Ministry of Stories.” No by-line. Guardian (UK). November 19, 2010. Author Nick Hornby and art entrepreneurs Ben Payne and Lucy Macnab open the first Ministry of Stories centre in east London. Based on Dave Eggars’ San Francisco project 826 Valencia, the volunteer-run Hoxton Street Monster Supplies aims to inspire children in creative writing. It has already found favour with David Cameron and his ‘big society’ agenda. [video]

“http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/faith/article2814074.ece
.” By Ruth Gledhill. Times of London. November 19 2010. The Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England went into open warfare for the souls of traditionalist Anglicans today with the Catholic Church offering its own churches for defecting bishops and clergy. In a further move the Catholic bishops of England and Wales announced that the structures for receiving defecting Church of England traditionalists will be established by January — far sooner than expected. The Catholic bishops, still facing a multimillion-pound shortfall over the Pope’s visit, announced that a £250,000 fund is to be set up to finance the new Anglican Ordinariate. Individual dioceses are also to give cash to the defecting five bishops, 50 clergy and at least 30 groups or Church of England parishes expected to make up the first tranche of those taking up the Pope’s offer to defect. Catholic dioceses will have to find houses to serve as homes for the Anglican clergy and bishops, who stand to lose their vicarages and stipends when they cross over. The announcement came the day after the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, had indicated that defecting Anglicans would be welcome to remain in their parish churches under church-sharing arrangements.
Related story:
50 Anglican priests ‘to defect to Catholic church’.” Independent (UK). November 19, 2010.

Hard times are past as lottery aids Charles Dickens museum.” By Steve Bird. Times of London. November 20, 2010. The home where Charles Dickens wrote The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist is to receive £2 million from the National Lottery Fund. The Charles Dickens Museum will use the money to help it to house more than 10,000 books, documents and manuscripts relating to the author’s life. Dickens lived in the townhouse in Doughty Street, Bloomsbury, from 1837 to 1839, but after the success of The Pickwick Papers he moved his family to larger premises near Regent’s Park. The Doughty Street house was converted into a museum in 1925. Dickens wrote from a study on the second floor, which still contains the desk he used throughout his career. The lottery grant will be used to restore the building while doubling its exhibition space. The funding follows the controversial decision to give £10 million for a visitor centre at Stonehenge in Wiltshire despite the Government having withdrawn backing for the plan this year. Four other projects were given initial support by the Lottery Fund, the first step towards receiving a full grant.
Related story:
Dickens house finds generous benefactor in Heritage Lottery Fund; Property in central London receives £2m grant to renovate in time for bicentenary of author’s birth in 2012.” Guardian (UK). November 20, 2010.

The ‘Big Society’ crisis on Cameron’s doorstep–Special report: Across Britain, record numbers of vulnerable people are turning to Citizens Advice – just as the organisation faces cuts. Sean O’Grady finds the Prime Minister’s constituency among the hardest hit.” No by-line. Independent (UK). November 20, 2010. Britain’s Citizens Advice Bureaux face a funding crisis just as they are being hit with an unprecedented increase in demands on their resources, especially by people finding themselves in debt. Some are seeing their local authority funding cut by two-thirds at a time when the number of clients seeking help with debts, benefits and homelessness has as much as doubled. The West Oxfordshire bureau, in David Cameron’s constituency of Witney, is one of those badly affected. Speaking to The Independent, Gillian Guy, the chief executive of Citizens Advice, warned that there was definitely a risk to the most vulnerable from benefit changes that were being introduced too quickly, with “unintended consequences”. She also said cuts to legal aid would affect the bureaux. She urged ministers to “pause for breath” and delay implementing some of the most controversial reforms, especially to housing benefit. Consumers also face the biggest setback to their cause in decades, she warned, as Citizens Advice was under no obligation to take on the work of Consumer Focus, the soon-to-be abolished quango, as ministers had planned. Ms Guy’s social concerns centred on the “cumulative effect” of changes to housing and council tax benefit, which will prompt many people between the ages of 25 and 35 to share homes. She urged ministers to “please be cautious and delay or phase changes, to housing benefit in particular”. She said: “There isn’t sufficient evidence that all the cumulative impact of the different measures have really been looked at.”

Raising funds for worthy causes; Fundraising is a tough job but the reward of bringing hope to those who need it the most is worth the hard work.” By Liza Ramrayka. Guardian (UK). November 20, 2010. Professional fundraisers use their powers of persuasion to get donors – including the public, business, grant-making trusts and foundations, and lottery funds – to part with their cash. But skills shortages combined with spending cuts and a drop-off in donations are making this task increasingly difficult for the thousands of people whose job it is to bring in the money for organisations such as charities, voluntary and community groups, museums and galleries, sports clubs and universities. We examine the challenges facing today’s fundraisers and explores the skills needed to address them. With a Guardian/Institute of Fundraising survey highlighting skills shortages in middle and senior management, we look at what fundraising organisations are doing to attract new blood. What can professionals from the public and private sectors bring to fundraising? Where can these so called “sector switchers” go for advice and training? Our survey found that what fundraisers love most about their job is the challenge and the diversity it offers. Meanwhile, recruiters rate passion and commitment higher than a degree or fundraising qualifications. We ask fundraisers about their routes into the job and why they do it. For years, charity shops have helped students to update their wardrobes and music lovers to find rare vinyl. But charities are bringing these high-street fixtures into the 21st century to attract new customers. We discover how a more commercial approach is reaping rewards for charities such as Save the Children and Tenovus. Finally, we consider how social media such as Facebook and Twitter can help fundraisers reach new supporters. Can a tweet have the same effect as a telephone call?

Michael Gove’s plan to slash sports funding in schools splits cabinet; Education secretary’s proposal angers athletes and teachers; Nick Clegg and Andrew Lansley voice their doubts.” By Toby Helm and Anushka Asthana. Guardian (UK). November 20, 2010. A battle is raging at the heart of government over a decision by the education secretary, Michael Gove, to slash £162m of sports funding in English schools as the country prepares for the 2012 Olympics and bids for the 2018 World Cup. The Observer has learned that fears about sports provision being cut back dramatically in the state sector have been voiced in cabinet by the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, and the health secretary, Andrew Lansley. Gove’s decision to end all ring-fenced funding for sport – which would threaten most after-school clubs and severely reduce the number of trained PE teachers and sports coaches – has also caused dismay among MPs, leading athletes and the teaching establishment. Many sports co-ordinators have already been told they will not have a job after the end of the financial year in March. One senior figure close to the discussion said it was an “atrocious decision” that ran contrary to efforts to build an Olympic legacy – and to David Cameron’s vision of a “big society”. It comes just weeks before the prime minister travels to Switzerland to support England’s bid for the World Cup.

Michael Gove denies plans for Whitehall to directly fund schools; Education secretary appears to perform U-turn by saying schools will continue to be funded through local authorities.” By Jo Adetunji. Guardian (UK). November 21, 2010. The education secretary, Michael Gove, appeared to perform a volte-face today by denying plans to introduce direct funding for schools. Speaking on BBC1′s Andrew Marr Show, Gove said he was not planning to bypass local authorities in favour of funding all schools directly from Whitehall, as was reported in the Financial Times a week ago. Gove challenged the paper’s claims that he had spent months preparing plans to reform the system, and said he had always intended to fund schools through local authorities. It was reported last week that schools would no longer receive money at the discretion of local authorities, but would be granted a direct allowance in proportion to the number of pupils, with headteachers free to decide how to spend their budgets. In a draft white paper drawn up by Gove’s department, a proposed education funding agency would administer the direct funding programme from 2013. “The Financial Times ran a report of what they thought was going to be in the white paper,” Gove said. “Fair play to them, but the truth is that we will be funding schools through local authorities, as we do at the moment.” But the FT was quick to defend the story today, and accused the minister of throwing in the towel after facing criticism over the plans.

VATICAN

Church Evolves, but Roster of Cardinals Changes Little.” By Stacy Meichtry. Wall Street Journal. November 19, 2010. Pope Benedict XVI will convene a meeting of cardinals Friday to discuss the biggest challenges facing the church, ranging from religious freedom in oppressive countries to the sexual-abuse crisis. A day later, he will create 24 new cardinals in a Vatican ceremony, known as a consistory. While Friday’s meeting reflects the pope’s attempt to set the agenda for a global Roman Catholic Church, its College of Cardinals—the group responsible for picking the next pope—has limited reach. The college is still skewed toward Europeans, particularly Italians, even as the church’s 1.2 billion members span the globe and most of its new priests and faithful come from the developing world, especially Africa and Asia. The college will become even more lopsided on Saturday, when the number of Italian cardinals under the voting age limit of 80 will grow from 17 to 25—the same number of Italians that voted in the conclave that elected Pope John Paul II in 1978. Sixty-two cardinals will come from Europe, compared with 56 in 1978. The imbalance stems from church traditions that, though not written in stone, are hard for popes to break. Perhaps the biggest obstacle to change is the tradition that popes should limit the number of voting-age cardinals to 120. That makes it difficult for any pontiff, including Pope Benedict, to radically alter the college’s geographical scope in a single consistory.

WIKILEAKS

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/nov/18/wikileaks-founder-faces-swedish-detention-rape

“WikiLeaks founder faces Swedish detention over rape case; Sweden’s chief prosecutor asks for court order to detain Julian Assange on suspicion of rape, sexual assault and coercion.” By Matthew Weaver and agencies in Stockholm.
Guardian (UK). November 18, 2010.
Sweden’s chief prosecutor today asked for a court order to detain the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, for questioning in a rape case. The move could mean that prosecutors were preparing an international arrest warrant for the Australian, whose whereabouts were not immediately clear. A warrant for his arrest was first issued in August, but it was dropped within 24 hours when prosecutors said the accusations against him lacked substance. After prosecutors reopened the case Assange was questioned by Swedish police at the end of August, for about an hour according to his lawyer. At the time Assange issued a statement on Twitter saying: “The charges are without basis and their issue at this moment is deeply disturbing”. His supporters claim he is the victim of a smear campaign. WikiLeaks has angered the Pentagon by releasing thousands of classified US war reports from Afghanistan and Iraq. Assange travelled to Sweden in August to seek international legal protection for his website under Swedish law after WikiLeaks published 90,000 leaked documents about US military activities in Afghanistan from 2004-2010.
Related stories:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11785281

“Sweden seeks Wikileaks’ Julian Assange over rape case.” BBC News. November 18, 2010.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/19/world/europe/19assange.html?ref=todayspaper

“Sweden Issues Warrant for WikiLeaks Founder.” New York Times. November 18, 2010.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (November 15-21, 2010)

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

LAW & PUBLIC POLICY

Quincy sued over bequest; school says it’s owed $10m.” By David Abel. Boston Globe. November 17, 2010. A 116-year-old private school that has long benefited from the largesse of President John Adams has sued the city of Quincy, asserting officials mismanaged income from a trust set up after the nation’s second commander in chief donated land to the city. Officials from the Woodward School for Girls say the city owes it as much as $10 million. While city officials have offered to settle the case, school lawyers declined to discuss settlement negotiations and said they planned to continue arguing their case in court. The dispute, which went to trial this week in Brockton District Court, began in 2005, when school officials say the city failed to send the school its annual payment from the trust. The payments have varied since the school began receiving the aid 57 years ago, but amounted to as much as $40,000 in the city’s last payment in 2008. The trust dates to an 1822 bequest from Adams that required the city to use income from the land to build a temple and support a school. “No adequate accounting had ever been provided by the city to Woodward,’’ said Claire Papanastasiou, a spokeswoman for Bingham McCutchen, a New York-based law firm representing the school. “As a result, the community and Woodward have no understanding of how the city has managed these valuable charitable trusts during the course of the past 50 years.’’

Judge refuses to stop construction of Tenn. mosque.” By Lucas L. Johnson II. Washington Post/Associated Press. November 17, 2010. A judge refused Wednesday to stop construction of a proposed mosque in Tennessee that was opposed by some local residents who tried to argue that there was a conspiracy by Muslims to impose extremist law on the United States. Opponents filed a lawsuit claiming that Rutherford County planning officials violated Tennessee’s open meetings law when they approved the site plan for an Islamic Center in Murfreesboro, about 30 miles southeast of Nashville. Rutherford County Chancellor Robert Corlew ruled after closing arguments that he could not find that the “county acted illegally, arbitrarily or capriciously” in approving the plan. But much of the questioning from plaintiffs’ attorney Joe Brandon Jr. during seven days of testimony since late September was about whether Islam qualified as a religion. He pushed his theory that American Muslims want to replace the Constitution with extremist Islamic law.

Obama Signs Order To Reform Faith-Based Office.” By Adelle M. Banks. Huffington Post/ Religion News Service. November 18, 2010. President Obama signed an executive order Wednesday (Nov. 17) that reforms the White House’s faith-based office in a bid to improve transparency and clarify rules for religious groups that receive federal grants. The nine-page order reflects numerous recommendations made more than six months ago by a blue-ribbon advisory council charged with streamlining and reforming the office created under former President George W. Bush. “The recommendations that they’ve put forth make really concrete and tangible improvements to the government’s relationship with faith-based organizations,” said Joshua DuBois, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The executive order, however, does not address controversial questions of whether grant recipients can hire and fire based on religion. Administration officials have said those questions will be considered on a case-by-case basis. DuBois and others said the new order gives better legal footing to public-private partnerships. “It … clarifies that decisions about financial awards must be free from political interference or the appearance thereof,” DuBois said. In particular, the order reflects the council’s special concern about the treatment of people who receive social services from a religious group receiving federal funding.

The ‘Giving’ Season.” By David Nasaw. The Nation. November 17, 2010. It’s that time of the year. On November 7, the New York Times launched its ninety-ninth Neediest Cases Fund campaign. Three days later, in an article headlined “The rich are different from you and me. They give more,” reporter Jan Rosen summarized the latest Bank of America Merrill Lynch study of “High Net Worth Philanthropy,” which, like previous studies, praised the wealthy for their generosity (though noting that, in 2009, they gave a median of just 3.4 percent of their income to charity). In a second “Giving” article published that same day, Stephanie Strom discussed the status of the “Giving Pledge, a commitment by 40 of the wealthiest Americans to give away at least half of their fortunes, about $600 billion.” Queried on the “emerging debate” the pledge had stimulated “about the influence that wealth has in the country today and the fears that philanthropy is being used to bend public policy,” Strom noted that pledge signers like Bernard Marcus, co-founder of Home Depot, were dumbfounded by it. “All this money is going for charity to help people—what kind of numbskull would find something wrong with that?” Pardon me for acting the Grinch in this “giving” season, but I feel obligated to call attention to the fact that under current federal tax codes almost all of those who give (and itemize their deductions) are eligible for and receive a tax deduction of up to 35 percent. . . .

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (November 15-21, 2010)

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

MEDIA

Public-TV Station Gasps for Air.” By Lisa Fleisher. Wall Street Journal. November 20, 2010. Reporters and producers at New Jersey’s public television and radio network have found themselves in a peculiar role of late—lobbying the lawmakers they cover. The New Jersey Network, known as NJN, is scheduled to go dark Jan. 1 due to state budget cuts. Its nearly 150 workers received layoff notices this week amid last-minute private and legislative huddles to try to salvage a path forward. Options include a new non-profit collaboration with local universities or other public television stations. Meanwhile, reporters at the station were drawn into awkward conversations by lawmakers this week at an annual municipal convention, the biggest gathering of the year for local and state elected officials covered by the station. “It’s very uncomfortable to be put in a position of having to lobby the people I cover and talk about on television,” said Michael Aron, a longtime member of the Trenton press corps. “But the situation is dire, and as acting news director, I’m part of management, and I’m trying to preserve the core function of NJN, which is to educate.” The station, which launched in 1971, provides a mix of public TV programming—cartoons and cooking shows, as well as a lineup of news programming and documentary-style shows.