“Does Helping the Planet Hurt the Poor? No, if the West Makes Sacrifices.” By Peter Singer. Wall Street Journal/Reuters. January 22, 2011. Environmental protection often comes at the expense of the world’s poorest people, who struggle to meet their subsistence needs. Children carry firewood in the eastern Indian state of Bihar. All of us who are middle class or above in the U.S. and other industrialized nations spend money on many things we do not need. We could instead donate that money to organizations that will use it to make a huge difference in the lives of the world’s poorest people—people who struggle to survive each day on less than we spend on a bottle of water. For decades, that is what I’ve been advocating we should do. But this concern for the poor appears to be in tension with the need to protect our environment. Is there any point in saving the lives of people who will continue to have more children than they can feed? Don’t rising populations in developing countries increase the pressure on forests and other ecosystems? Then there is climate change. How would the world cope if everyone were to become affluent and match our per capita rate of greenhouse gas emissions?
“Does Helping the Planet Hurt the Poor? Yes, if We Listen to Green Extremists.” Wall Street Journal/Reuters. January 22, 2011. Bjørn Lomborg responds to Peter Singer.
“Parents bear the burden of surging private fees.” By Anna Patty. Sydney Morning Herald. January 23, 2011. The state’s richest schools are more out of reach than ever to ordinary families. In the 10 years since the Howard government introduced a funding system to make private schools more affordable, the most expensive schools’ fees have risen by about 100 per cent – against inflation of 37 per cent. The Howard government made assurances that its socio-economic status funding model, introduced in 2001, would keep a lid on fee rises. The model aims to allocate funding to schools based on the socio-economic status of the families of their students. But it uses census data to measure the average wealth of families in the areas where they live. This has drawn criticism of the funding for schools which draws some of their students from wealthy farming families, even if they live in relatively poor areas. Under its ”no losers” policy, the Howard government refused to cut funding to schools, even if they were entitled to less under the new funding arrangement. This has meant that more than half the schools funded under the system have received more than their strict entitlement. The Rudd and Gillard governments have maintained the $27 billion four-year funding arrangement, despite a federal Department of Education review finding it delivered $2.7 billion in overpayments. The inflated payments will grow to at least $3 billion by the end of 2016 if the current system continues.
“Mother called it quits at $31,000.” Sydney Morning Herald. January 23, 2011.
“Investment paid off for Marsha.” Sydney Morning Herald. January 23, 2011.
“NGO hopes to benefit from failure: A Canadian NGO has posted its shortcomings online in a bold attempt to learn from them and encourage others to do the same.” Guardian (UK). January 17, 2011. NGOs battle for media attention, devoting considerable effort and energy into getting that crucial eyeball contact. Usually that means making the message as stark and sensationalist as possible, with the implicit message that the NGO knows exactly how to sort out the problem – whether that is tax havens, Aids or educating 10-year-olds in Tanzania. So I’m full of admiration for a Canadian NGO that is breaking all the rules by publishing a failure report. Engineers Without Borders has bravely catalogued various mistakes in its projects. Project officers come clean in a series of snapshots of what they did wrong . So Owen Scott confesses that he thought he knew exactly what was needed in Malawi, where he was working on a water project. He secured the funding and got it sorted: an updated survey. But it only postponed the problem, which was that the district government didn’t have the money to regularly update the survey. Scott admitted “prioritising tangible activities” and effectively using money as bribery. This is brave stuff. Anyone who has ever worked in aid projects will recognise all of it. The confidence with which aid workers can think they know what they are doing, plunge in and make countless mistakes. But this is the knowledge that NGOs keep well clear of their marketing departments. It’s an ugly dishonesty that runs through almost all aid work, a painful underbelly to the very obvious idealism and good intentions.
CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL
“Vatican warned Irish bishops not to report abuse.” By Shawn Pogatchnik. Washington Post/Associated Press. January 19, 2011. A 1997 letter from the Vatican warned Ireland’s Catholic bishops not to report all suspected child-abuse cases to police – a disclosure that victims’ groups described as “the smoking gun” needed to show that the church enforced a worldwide culture of covering up crimes by pedophile priests. The newly revealed letter, obtained by Irish broadcasters RTE and provided to The Associated Press, documents the Vatican’s rejection of a 1996 Irish church initiative to begin helping police identify pedophile priests following Ireland’s first wave of publicly disclosed lawsuits. The letter undermines persistent Vatican claims, particularly when seeking to defend itself in U.S. lawsuits, that Rome never instructed local bishops to withhold evidence or suspicion of crimes from police. It instead emphasizes the church’s right to handle all child-abuse allegations and determine punishments in house rather than give that power to civil authorities. The Vatican early Wednesday insisted that its response to the Irish bishops was designed to ensure that guilty priests not avoid punishment and that all possible canonical crimes were also dealt with.
“Vatican Letter Warned Bishops on Abuse Policy.” New York Times. January 18, 2011.
“Did The Vatican Tell Irish Bishops To Protect Priests?” All Things Considered/ National Public Radio. January 19, 2011.
“Diocese abuser list long awaited; Lawyer criticizes ‘culture of secrecy’.” Boston Globe. January 20, 2011.
“India to tear down flats at centre of graft scandal.” No by-line. BBC News. January 17, 2011. India’s environment ministry has ordered the demolition of a block of flats in Mumbai that has been at the centre of a corruption scandal. It said the Adarsh Society building must be demolished within three months for breaching coastal protection laws. The 31-storey block was originally planned as a six-storey housing project for war widows. But flats were sold to politicians and military officers, allegedly at prices far below the market rate. The block, in an exclusive part of central Mumbai, exceeds the maximum height for buildings near the coast. “Out of three options the Ministry has decided to remove the entire structure,” said a statement from the environment ministry. Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh told a newspaper that he hoped the decision to demolish the building will set a “precedent” for cases involving violation of coastal protection laws. The state’s chief minister, Ashok Chavan, had to resign after it emerged that relatives of his had flats in the building. He denied any wrongdoing. The Adarsh Society case is one of several corruption scandals that have shaken India’s government.
“Adarsh society flouted CRZ, FSI norms.” Times of India. January 17, 2011.
“Lord Adonis criticises independent schools for not embracing academies Andrew Adonis, the former schools minister, accused independent schools of lacking courage to run academies.” By Greg Hurst. Times of London. January 18, 2011. Independent schools have been accused of failing their charitable duties by Lord Adonis, the former Schools Minister, for refusing to play a bigger role to support state education. Too many heads of independent schools preferred to “sit on the sidelines and carp” about standards in the state sector rather than risk their reputations by getting involved, he said. He was also critical of independent school governors, saying that many had missed an opportunity to breach the divide between state and private education by sponsoring academies. His attack is significant because Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has promised to continue with Lord Adonis’s policy and has privately urged headmasters of leading independent schools to back academies. In his first interview on the subject since leaving the Government after last year’s election, Lord Adonis said he “deeply regretted” that only a handful of independent schools had responded to his appeals to start academies. “I do not think the private school sector has risen up to its responsibilities properly at all. I think the majority of good private schools should be sponsoring academies and should be actively engaged in the opportunities which academies present,” he said. Although many independent schools have shared facilities and forged links with local state schools, he criticised them for lacking the courage to run state schools themselves.
“Campaign grows against cuts that would shut 375 libraries.” By Rob Sharp. Independent (UK). January 18, 2011. Anger against the funding bloodbath facing local libraries around the country swelled yesterday as key campaigners joined increasingly widespread protests against the cuts. According to the Public Libraries News website, updated by Cheshire-based librarian Ian Anstice, 375 branch libraries and mobile book-lending services are currently threatened with closure, the result of local authority budget cuts to be introduced in April. In recent weeks others speaking out for a public inquiry have included Joanna Trollope, Philip Pullman and Tony Christie. Labour leader Ed Miliband said on Saturday that his party would back campaigns to save libraries as “a place where community is built, as families get to know each other and form friendships”. Online, thousands of supporters pledged their support on Twitter by employing the #savelibraries hashtag. Broadcaster Lauren Laverne and author Neil Gaiman among those Tweeting their support.
“Libraries: ‘Hands off our doors to learning‘.” Independent (UK). January 23, 2011.
“Westminster braces for student protests.” By Philippe Naughton. Times of London. January 19, 2011. Protests and walkouts were planned at schools and colleges around the country before a Central London rally beginning in Piccadilly and a march on Westminster. Leaders of the demonstration do not expect it to produce the kind of violence seen in successive protests against tuition fees last year, when students tried to smash their way into Parliament and attacked a car carrying the Prince of Wales and his wife. But the Metropolitan Police, which has arrested 60 protesters so far including one sixth former jailed for dropping a fire extinguisher off the roof of Tory party headquarters, was taking no chances: officers set up barricades around Parliament Square this morning. The EMA is a weekly payment of between £10 and £30 given to the poorest 16 to 18-year-olds, living in households earning under £30,800 a year, to help them stay in education. In some parts of the country around four-fifths of sixth formers are eligible for the payments. The Conservatives say that the scheme, which costs £560 million a year, is no longer affordable as the Government tries to reduce the deficit, but Labour is hoping to spark a Liberal Democrat rebellion in an Opposition Day debate in Parliament.
“Decision to scrap EMA ‘stacks the odds’ against poor, says Burnham; Young people see a government that is kicking away the ladder of opportunity, says shadow education secretary as he opens debate on decision to scrap the EMA.” Guardian (UK). January 19, 2011.
“NHS reforms: government unveils radical pro-market shakeup; The health secretary lays out plans to cull 24,000 management staff and let NHS hospitals, private firms and GPs compete for patients.” By Randeep Ramesh. Guardian (UK). January 19, 2011. The NHS will undergo a radical pro-market shakeup with hospitals, private healthcare providers and family doctors competing for patients who will be able to choose treatment and care in plans laid out by the government today. The dramatic shift aims to cull more than 24,000 management staff to reduce bureaucracy and also allow NHS hospitals to chase private patients as long as the money is “demonstrably” ploughed back into the health service. The cap on such income put in place by the previous government will be removed. The health and social care bill will abolish all of England’s 152 primary care trusts, which currently plan services and decide how money should be spent. Andrew Lansley, the health secretary, said the radical proposals would save the taxpayer more than £10bn over the next decade. Under the plans, GPs will be responsible for buying in patient care from 2013, with a new NHS commissioning board overseeing the process. GPs will form consortiums which will take control of 80% of the NHS budget, buying services from providers in the public, private and charity sectors. The health secretary claimed that his policy was already having an effect: with more than 28 milion patients covered by “pathfinder” consortiums mimicking the work of the new GP bodies. However, the proposals drew sharp criticism from the medical profession. The Royal College of General Practitioners said it “continues to have concerns about how the government plans to implement its proposals”.
“The head of corporate fundraising on getting money from companies.” By Jane Dudman. Guardian (UK). January 19, 2011.
“Big society plans raise concerns for parliamentary democracy; Civil service boss orders inquiry into impact of bill as critics warn providers may be less accountable.” By Polly Curtis. Guardian (UK). January 21, 2011. The head of the civil service has ordered an inquiry into the government’s localism reforms amid growing concerns that its “big society” plans risk eroding the basic democratic principles of transparency and ministerial accountability, the Guardian has learned. There are fears by those at the top of Whitehall that parliament’s fundamental right to hold the government to account for its actions is being tested by the scale of the coalition’s ambitions to devolve power from the centre to local communities and outsource services to charities and the private sector. Gus O’Donnell, the head of the civil service, has asked a senior colleague to investigate the democratic impact of the government’s localism bill, which is intended to end Whitehall’s domination of the political system and devolve power to local people. Sir Bob Kerslake, the permanent secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government, will investigate the “accountabilities issues” being thrown up by the plans. O’Donnell told MPs this week that the issue was “absolutely crucial” to the project’s success.
“Social workers to get new professional body – or maybe two; The College of Social Work will formally launch next year, but will the British Association of Social Workers launch a rival body?” By David Brindle. Guardian (UK). January 21, 2011. A social work college, which is being set up to bolster the profession in the wake of the Baby Peter scandal, has opened its doors to “founder members” who will help shape the organisation as it develops. But the recruitment drive threatens to be overshadowed by argument over the way the College of Social Work is being structured, amid speculation that the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) may be planning to launch a rival body. Creation of the college was recommended by the social work task force which reported to government on measures to reform the profession and rebuild its confidence and image after a series of scandals, culminating in the death of Peter Connelly in Haringey, north London. The college’s formal launch is scheduled for next year. But it is already established in shadow form and has now begun to invite applications for prospective membership from social workers, students and associates. Maurice Bates, interim co-chair of the college, said: “We are calling on social workers to help lead the development of the college and its membership services. It is a unique opportunity for social workers themselves to change the face of their profession.” Although full college membership is expected to cost £270 a year before tax relief, prospective membership is free and social workers who sign up will be eligible for all services as they come on stream. These services will include professional indemnity and public liability insurance, a magazine and peer-reviewed journal and, controversially, representation by public services union Unison. It is this aspect of the package that has most angered BASW, which fears its future will be jeopardised. Hilton Dawson, BASW general secretary, has written that the college is using public funds “to enable the trade union to compete with and potentially undermine an independent professional association”.
“Just who should be in charge of running Catholic schools?” By Christopher Lamb. Times of London. January 21, 2011. As the Government considers plans for faith academies, some schools remain at loggerheads with their diocese over the admissions policy. The Catholic Education Service (CES) is negotiating with the Government to develop a Catholic academy model, it emerged recently. The idea is that the schools would become academies but the Church would retain control over admissions, ethos, land and assets. Academies remove schools from local authority control, and Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, wrote to all schools in England and Wales last year asking them to consider switching to academy status. The idea struck a chord, and more than 100 Catholic schools registered an interest. For some Church leaders the idea of being free of state control, especially from those who might be hostile to faith schools, was worth exploring. Bishop Malcolm McMahon, OP, the chairman of the CES, applauded Gove’s idea. He was interested, he said, “because of course that was exactly how Catholic schools were founded — by local communities getting together, pooling their resources”. At present Catholic schools are funded by the local authority, with the Church picking up 10 per cent of the costs. The local diocese, run by the bishop, appoints a majority of the governing body of each school, controls admissions policy and owns the school’s land and assets. But it was for these reasons that Oona Stannard, chief executive of the CES, initially appeared to pull the plug on the idea of Catholic schools becoming academies. She told schools that becoming academies risked an “uncertain future”, saying that there was no guarantee that they could continue to control their admissions and select Catholic pupils. Ms Stannard was also concerned that, should a school become an academy, the ownership of the school’s land and assets would be transferred from the diocese into a new academy trust. To become an academy a school would have to gain permission from its trustees, which for a Catholic school are the bishop and diocesan officials. They would not consent, she explained, if this meant the diocese giving away land and assets.
“Private schools in bid to go free.” By Rosa Silverman. Independent (UK). January 23, 2011. A number of independent schools are set to scrap their fees and become “free schools” under plans brought in by the Government. Among those hoping to break with their past and enter the state school system are a 400-year-old co-educational Yorkshire grammar school and a small independent primary school in Warwickshire. The planned changes come after Education Secretary Michael Gove rushed through legislation shortly after the election to pave the way for parents, charities and businesses to set up independent schools within the state system. But the free schools idea has met with opposition in some quarters. The National Union of Teachers (NUT) warned the Government earlier this month to stop “playing with the educational future of this country” and scrap the plans. General secretary Christine Blower said the state-funded schools were “not wanted or needed” and claimed parents had not been given enough say on the matter. Defending the proposals, the Department for Education said free schools would give all parents, not just the rich, the option of a good local school with great teaching, strong discipline and small class sizes.