“Gene Sharp, ‘Clausewitz Of Nonviolent Warfare,’ Amazed By Egypt’s Youth.” By Mark Memmott. Morning Edition/National Public Radio. February 23, 2011. He’s been called “the man who changed the world,” by the editorial board of the Boston Globe, and the Karl Von Clausewitz of nonviolent warfare” by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. As Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep notes, former Havard reseacher Gene Sharp has been an inspiration to young revolutionaries in countries such as Serbia and Egypt, where they used his manual From Dictatorship to Democracy and his book The Politics of Nonviolent Action to help guide them through what turned out to be successful — and peaceful — revolts against oppressive regimes. In a conversation with Morning Edition, Sharp talks with Steve about why dictators can’t stand up to a determined, organized, non-violent resistance.
“Mission Australia kept funds from staff.” By Ben Schneiders. Sydney Morning Herald. February 21, 2011. One of Australia’s biggest charities pocketed nearly $500,000 in public money meant to fund large pay rises for community workers, and has admitted it did not pay the higher salaries. Under cross-examination a top executive at Mission Australia, which had $289 million in revenue last financial year, admitted it received the money from the Queensland government after the 2009 equal pay decision but only paid workers the same rate as other states. If the staff had been paid under the Queensland equal-pay order, many would receive rises of between $1 an hour or $2 an hour or $2000 to $4000 a year, according to Mission Australia. The Queensland government gave money to community groups to fund a 2009 equal pay decision that gave Queensland community and social-services workers pay rises of up to 37 per cent over three years. That prompted a $414 million government funding boost. The decision to award such a big pay rise to a mostly female workforce has triggered an Australian Services Union-led national pay equity claim which is being heard in Fair Work Australia. That claim is regarded as the most significant equal pay case in Australia for four decades.
“Priests lose faith in their church.” By Leesha McKenny. Sydney Morning Herald. February 26, 2011. One priest said he learnt more about God from Alcoholics Anonymous meetings than the Catholic Church. Another compared the fervour of World Youth Day to the Hitler Youth. And a 47-year-old, whose only ambition had been to be a priest, said: ”Given the state of the church today, I look forward to the night when I go to sleep and just don’t wake up again.” Such were the varied, often frank and sometimes bleak views of Australia’s Catholic clergy revealed in an anonymous survey. The Charles Sturt University academics Chris McGillion and John O’Carroll approached 1550 active and 160 retired priests for their views on their lives and their church, and 542 took part in the written survey. The results, plus 50 face-to-face interviews, were the basis of their book Our Fathers, which revealed that many thought the Vatican was out of touch, bishops were bad managers and the future of the church was a cause of great concern. ”You’ve got a very representative group of mainstream priests responding,” said Mr McGillion, a former Herald journalist. What emerged was a priesthood in a professional crisis, rather than a vocational one, he said.
“The Essay: Holy disorder; Many Australian priests find themselves alienated from Rome.” Sydney Morning Herald. February 26, 2011.
“Microfinance guru Muhammad Yunus faces removal from Grameen Bank; Pressure on Nobel prizewinner to quit bank board but supporters say campaign is politically motivated by Bangladesh government.” By Jason Burke. Guardian (UK). February 21, 2011. Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel prizewinning economist and so-called father of microfinance, faces being ousted from the bank that he founded to help poor people in Bangladesh and across the developing world. Yunus, the managing director of the Grameen Bank, which has lent small sums to millions of deprived people to help them start or run their own businesses as a first step out of poverty since being created in 1983, has been caught in a bitter political battle in his homeland of Bangladesh. The campaign to remove Yunus, mounted mainly by politicians, is to intensify this week ahead of a key board meeting next Monday, which his supporters believe will involve an attempt to force the 70-year-old to quit as managing director. Last week, Bangladesh’s finance minister said Yunus should stand down following alleged irregularities in operations. Abul Maal Abdul Muhith called Yunus a “man of high standing and respect” but “now old”. The minister, who is 77, said: “We need to redefine the bank’s role and bring it under closer regulation.”
CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL
“Roger Mahony leaves a mixed legacy; Once seen as a possible candidate for pope, the cardinal’s career was derailed by the church sex scandal.” By Mitchell Landsberg. Los Angeles Times. February 23, 2011. In 1995, a book by a veteran Vatican-watcher took a crack at the ultimate Roman Catholic parlor game: Guessing the identity of the next pope. Only one North American made the list — a long shot, to be sure, but someone who seemed to represent the future of the Catholic Church in the United States. That lone American was Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles. By the time Pope John Paul II died 10 years later, Mahony was no longer being discussed as papabile — capable of becoming pope — not even as the longest of long shots. A lot had happened in the intervening decade. Mahony, who retires in the coming week as head of the Los Angeles Archdiocese, leaves a legacy that church historians will puzzle over for years. Once a shining star — perhaps the shining star — of the American church, his reputation suffered from his handling of a devastating sexual abuse scandal that shattered the lives and trust of many Catholics and led to the largest civil settlement by any archdiocese, a staggering $660million. Yet such were Mahony’s strengths that he remains respected, even beloved, by many in his flock who see him as fiercely devoted to social justice, willing to fight for progressive reforms in the church and motivated by a lifelong passion for easing the burdens faced by Latino immigrants. He also kept the archdiocese from financial collapse after the sex abuse settlement, an achievement that required tough and sometimes unpopular decisions. “I would say that, in the minds of historians in the future, they will look back on these 25 years as some very creative years, where the growth of the archdiocese was shepherded ably by him,” said Msgr. Craig Cox, the rector of St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo. “Certainly times of controversy and tension, without a doubt, but I think that history will look kindly on him.”
“Women at the Forefront of Grassroots Organising.” By Dahr Jamail. Interpress Service. February 24, 2011. Women are playing a leading role in a powerful social movement addressing natural resource protection, adaptation to climate change, and corporate accountability in this coastal village in El Salvador. Cristina Reyes is currently in her second term as president of the local community council in Ciudad Romero, located in the department (province) of Usulután, on the Pacific Ocean. Her work bringing electricity, potable water, roads and services for women to her area helped get her elected as head of the community council. Her life before this — and the lives of many others living in this area — reads more like an epic story of adventure, survival, and resistance. Reyes and her family had to flee their home village during the political violence that preceded the 1980-1992 civil war that claimed some 75,000 lives. After living in the jungle and caves with her sister while fleeing the U.S.-backed counterinsurgency forces, Reyes finally sought refuge in neighbouring Honduras. By then, various leftwing groups had joined together in the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN). She and her sister worked at a radio station run by the guerrillas, while working to assist and comfort women who had lost their husbands and children in the war. This led to her work in women’s organisations in the capital city of San Salvador, before she moved to the Lower Lempa River region in Usulután, where Ciudad Romero and other communities were built by former insurgents and refugees who returned to the country after the war. “We helped start food programmes, and now we’re working on improving electricity availability,” Reyes said. “And we have plans to build a hospital here.” Reyes is part of a broader social movement called La Coordinadora de Bajo Lempa y Bahía de Jiquilisco, a coalition of grassroots groups active in more than 100 communities in this region, which was declared the Xiriualtique-Jiquilisco Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Educational Organisation) in 2007.
“Shoe tycoon helps to foot the bill to save Pompeii with €25m gift.” By Michael Day. Independent (UK). February 21, 2011. An Italian shoe magnate is preparing to step in and help to save the ancient site of Pompeii from disintegration, following last year’s headline-grabbing collapses in key buildings. Diego Della Valle, the owner of the luxury shoe brand Tod’s, has said he “will give a helping hand” to rescue the ancient Roman city and World Heritage Site. In December, it emerged that Mr Della Valle had put his hand in his pocket and produced €25m (£21m) to help to save the Colosseum in Rome. “The businessmen and people of Naples have to grab the opportunity to involve themselves in the restoration of Pompeii. If it’s needed, I’m ready to lend a hand,” he was reported as saying in Il Giornale dell’Arte magazine. A spokeswoman for Tod’s told The Independent that Mr Della Valle was indeed ready help. Italy’s respected business newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore said recently that the only solution for Pompeii was a private sponsor. “Its management should be taken away from a state that has shown itself incapable of protecting it,” it declared.
“With Libya’s Megalomaniac ‘Philosopher-King’; In a tent in the desert, Gadhafi explained why he could never tolerate any challenge to his supreme will.” By Robert D. Putnam. Wall Street Journal. February 26, 2011. On Jan. 19, 2007, my wife, Rosemary, and I spent several hours with Col. Moammar Gadhafi in his tent in the Libyan desert, sipping tea and discussing sociology and political theory. It was a strange encounter at the time, and after the horrific events of the past week in Libya, it seems stranger still. Several months earlier a former student of mine, working for an international consulting firm that was advising the Libyan government on economic and political reform, had called to see whether I might be interested in traveling to Libya to discuss my research on civil society and democracy, particularly “Making Democracy Work,” my book on why democracy functions well in northern Italy but not in the country’s south. My hosts were willing to pay my standard consulting fee, and to be honest, I was curious. Col. Gadhafi fancied himself an intellectual, I was told, and considered his own “Green Book” an original contribution to political philosophy.
“How Do Libya’s Tribes Impact The Country?” All Things Considered/National Public Radio. February 25, 2011.
“LSE embroiled in row over authorship of Gaddafi’s son’s PhD thesis and a £1.5m gift to university’s coffers.” Independent/Reuters (UK). February 27, 2011. [For story, go to UK].
“Cameron: all public services should be open to private sector; David Cameron: “complete change is needed.” By Michel Euler. Times of London/Associated Press. February 21, 2011. Almost all public services could be opened up to private companies under plans being put forward by Prime Minister David Cameron today, who says “complete change” is needed to improve standards. The Prime Minister said that a new presumption that private companies, voluntary groups and charities should be allowed to bid to provide services would allow the Government to transform public services without having to legislate repeatedly to allow different providers to get involved. The changes, to be set out in a White Paper within the next fortnight, could allow non-public providers to run schools, hospitals and council services such as maintaining parks, adult care, special schools and roads maintenance. Outside providers would be offered payment-by-results contracts, increasing their earnings as the quality of services improves. Mr Cameron wrote in The Daily Telegraph: “We will create a new presumption – backed up by new rights for public service users and a new system of independent adjudication – that public services should be open to a range of providers competing to offer a better service. “Of course, there are some areas – like national security services or the judiciary – where this wouldn’t make sense. But everywhere else should be open to real diversity.” Mr Cameron said that the changes would release the public sector from “the grip of state control”, ending the era of “old-fashioned, top-down, take-what you’re-given” services. The Government hopes that the plan will reduce bureaucracy, improve quality and save money. But it is certain to be opposed by Labour, the unions and many users of public services.
“Some universities charging £9,000 may look rather silly, says minister.” No by-line. Times of London. February 21, 2011. Some universities that charge the maximum £9,000 annual tuition fee may look “rather silly” when students opt for cheaper alternatives, David Willetts, the Universities Minister, said yesterday. Elite institutions such as Oxford, Cambridge and London’s Imperial College are expected to be joined by less prestigious universities in imposing the maximum charge, amid fears that setting lower fees may saddle them with a reputation for offering “cut-price” education. But Mr Willetts said that for many courses there was no reason for charges above £6,000-£7,000, and said that the student charters being launched this week would provide young people with transparency about the education on offer so that they are able to make informed choices about whether proposed fees are value for money. “Certainly there will be in the student charters we are launching this week much greater expectation [on universities],” Mr Willetts told Sky News’s Murnaghan programme. “Universities are going to have to tell those customers what they are offering. I think there have been universities that haven’t provided the kind of proper teaching experience that students expect and if they try to charge anything approaching £9,000 for that, I think they will find that there are alternatives available for many young people.” Further education colleges are keen to offer degree courses at competitive prices, while other alternatives are likely to emerge, such as two-year degrees and courses linked closely to potential employers, said Mr Willetts. Universities should charge maximum fees only in “exceptional circumstances”, and the Office for Fair Access will require any that do so to show that they are making places available for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, he said. “I certainly hope to see a range of fees being set by universities,” said Mr Willetts.
“For peat’s sake: green groups seek compost tax to save British bogs.” By Ben Webster. Times of London. February 21, 2011. Britain’s leading gardening charity has clashed with powerful conservation groups over a campaign for a punitive tax on bags of peat bought by millions of gardeners. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, The Wildlife Trusts, Plantlife and Butterfly Conservation want the Government to impose a £1 tax per average bag of peat in next month’s Budget and then to raise the charge gradually until peat use is eliminated. The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) opposes the idea, despite accepting that extraction of peat is destroying wildlife habitats and contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. It says peat-free compost is inferior for some plants and defends the right of gardeners to use small amounts of peat. British gardeners use three million cubic metres of peat a year, or more than 60 million bags. A million tonnes of carbon dioxide are emitted annually by carving up ancient peat bogs, the equivalent of an extra 300,000 cars on the roads. Only 1 per cent, or 700 hectares, of England’s original, raised peat bog survives intact. These bogs are home to butterflies, dragonflies, insect-eating plants and important bird species such as skylarks, curlews and snipe. The bogs form at 1mm in depth a year. The Government agreed a voluntary target with retailers in 1999 for 90 per cent of “all growing media and soil improvers” to be peat-free by the end of last year. However, peat-free alternatives accounted for only about 60 per cent of the market last year.Mark Avery, RSPB conservation director, said: “A financial incentive is vital if we are to change the behaviour of consumers and encourage the horticultural industry to invest in alternatives. Studies have shown that good peat-free composts work just as well.” The RHS said that it preferred the voluntary approach. Dr Roger Williams, its head of science, said: “There are some plant groups where even we find it difficult to grow these plants well in peat-free growing media.”
“Cameron public services plan is ‘classic nasty party stuff’; TUC condemns prime minister’s proposal to open public services to private bidders as ‘naked rightwing agenda’.” By Allegra Stratton and Hélène Mulholland Guardian (UK). February 21, 2011. The TUC has accused David Cameron of “classic nasty party stuff” after the prime minister proposed to make all public services open to private sector bidders. The umbrella organisation for trade unions issued a strong rebuttal of the prime minister’s plans to “completely change” public services by bringing in a “presumption” that private companies, voluntary groups or charities are as able to run schools, hospitals and many other council services as the state. Writing in the Daily Telegraph about the plans, to be published in a white paper in the next fortnight, Cameron said he was seeking to end the “state’s monopoly” over public services, with only the security forces and the judiciary exempt. Private sector bodies will get an automatic right to bid for the bulk of public work. Many elements of the NHS could soon be provided by private firms, schools could be run by charities and mutuals could take over the provision of council services. Another basic principle will be that, where possible, the successful bidder should be local. The TUC general secretary, Brendan Barber, said the plan was a “naked rightwing agenda that takes us right back to the most divisive years of the 1980s”.
“Cameron: all public services should be open to private sector; David Cameron: ‘complete change is needed’.” Times of London. February 21, 2011.
“David Cameron to end ‘state monopoly’ in provision of public services; Government plans to give private sector bodies automatic right to bid for bulk of public work.” Guardian (UK). February 21, 2011.
“Gas and power markets are a ‘model for the health service’.” Times of London. February 25, 2011.
“Big society bank aims to boost social enterprise; Will the ‘big society’ bank help social enterprises do bigger business, in the face of cuts?” By Randeep Ramesh. Guardian (UK). February 22, 2011. The Big Lottery-funded Taste Tideswell School of Food in Derbyshire is the kind of social enterprise that could benefit from having more private investment available. There aren’t many people who would bet against Sir Ronald Cohen. He foresaw one of the biggest shifts in business in the last century – the rise of private equity – and his insight made him a multimillionaire. Yet eyebrows were raised when one of Labour’s biggest donors was wheeled out by the coalition to front the “big society” bank, which aims to finance a revolution in how we can all come together rather than come apart in an age of savage public spending cuts. A compassionate capitalist who still supports Labour, Cohen views wealth as a force for good. He spent the best part of the last decade as chair of the Labour government’s social investment taskforce, calling for a bank to fund social entrepreneurs who wanted to fix Britain’s ills. While Labour backed his ideas philosophically, it could not do so financially. The credit crunch meant Cohen only got £75m for his bank before the last election. The Tory-led government, painfully aware that society’s needs were increasing at a time of shrinking public expenditure, offered a better deal: £400m for a big society bank, funded in part by unclaimed deposits lying in high street banks. Cohen accepts the big society bank “is not a substitute for the [government's spending] cuts” but will build up the skills and resources of intermediaries, providing funding to organisations such as the Charity Bank and Big Lottery Fund, which, in turn fund social enterprises. “The social state is not the private or public sector. It is something else.” For the 65-year-old, neither government nor business can solve the thorny dilemmas posed by a turbo-capitalism that creates islands of wealth in a sea of poverty. What will resolve tensions and build community cohesion, he says, are social entrepreneurs who can develop innovative solutions to problems of poverty and inequality.
“Fall in payroll giving takes wind out of ‘big society’ sails; Decline in the number of employees donating via payroll giving is a ‘worry for charities’.” By Jill Insley Guardian (UK). February 24, 2011. The number of employees giving money to charity through the government’s payroll giving scheme has fallen by 30,000 in the past year – yet another indication that David Cameron’s “big society” idea may never get off the ground. Payroll giving has decreased for the second year in a row, according to accountancy firm Wilkins Kennedy, with the number of employees opting to give directly from their gross salary dropping from 754,000 to 724,000. The number of payroll givers peaked at 758,000 in 2007/08, but has fallen as incresing numbers of workers have lost their jobs. John Howard, partner and head of charity and not-for-profit at , Wilkins Kennedy said: “A loss of 30,000 donors is a serious worry for charities as donations made through payroll giving have virtually no administration costs. This comes at a time when charities are feeling the strain from the government’s cuts to local authority spending. At the same time, the recession has increased the workload of many charities.” However, fewer people are actually giving more money: the total amount of money donated through payroll giving has actually increased from £104m to £106m in the past 12 months. Total charitable donations made by the UK public rose by £400m to £10.6bn in 2009/10, according to the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and the Charities Aid Foundation. Although the amount has not returned to pre-recession levels, the number of people giving to charity as a whole had risen by 2% in 2010 to 56%.
“Conservative nostalgia for Victorian era is dangerous; The government’s promotion of Victorian values could destroy the summation of the era’s reforming spirit – the welfare state.” By Timothy Stanley. Guardian (UK). February 24, 2011. The promos for the upcoming public service white paper suggest that ideology is driving the government’s agenda. David Cameron has stated that his goal is to defund and deconstruct the welfare state, to “dismantle big government and build the big society in its place”. His ambition is radical in the purest sense of the word, for it is a conscious attempt to turn the clock back to the historical period for which he feels the greatest affinity: the 19th century. Victorian Britain was a land of laissez-faire capitalism and self-reliance. Government regulation was minimal and welfare was left to charity. With little tax burden and low labour costs, industrialisation turned Britain into the workshop of the world and created a thriving middle class. The state helped promote and safeguard trade through a bullish foreign policy that created a consumer’s empire. In 1839, we even went to war with China to force the Middle Kingdom to lift its ban on imported British opium. The Victorians matched entrepreneurship with a passion for civic engagement and voluntarism: the historical blueprint for the “big society”. Churches provided schools and hospitals, friendly societies offered support for impoverished members, co-operatives helped small traders keep afloat. Robert Owen built a model mill town in Scotland that guaranteed free schools and hygienic living conditions to refugees from industrial Glasgow. Sweetmaker Joseph Rowntree gave his workers doctors and a pension, and set up a charitable trust that is still transforming lives today. The Victorian era had a deep impact upon a certain Tory tradition, which remembers it as an epoch wherein wealth creation spurred civic virtue. Margaret Thatcher observed that during the 1800s, “not only did our country become great internationally, also so much advance was made in this country … As our people prospered so they used their independence and initiative to prosper others, not compulsion by the state.” Michael Gove has written: “For some of us Victorian costume dramas are not merely agreeable ways to while away Sunday evening but enactments of our inner fantasies … I don’t think there has been a better time in our history.”
“LSE embroiled in row over authorship of Gaddafi’s son’s PhD thesis and a £1.5m gift to university’s coffers.” By Jonathan Owen. Independent/Reuters (UK). February 27, 2011. Controversy over links between the London School of Economics and Libyan regime intensified last night, as it emerged that Saif al-Islam, the Libyan leader’s son, could be stripped of his doctorate. Amid claims that his LSE thesis may have been ghost -written, the LSE is investigating allegations of plagiarism and in a statement yesterday, confirmed a degree can be “revoked if there are substantiated concerns about the manner in which it was attained – for example if there is a later discovery of plagiarism.” The university is seeking “specific information” regarding “direct allegations” of plagiarism and is carrying out its own checks. After getting his PhD in 2008, Saif al-Islam made a controversial £1.5m gift to the LSE from his organisation – the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation (GICDF) – in 2009. It has emerged that Professor David Held, co-director of the Centre for the Study of Global Governance which benefited from the donation, and an informal mentor to Mr Gaddafi’s son, was appointed a trustee of GICDF in June 2009 – before the LSE formally accepted the £1.5m donation in July 2009. Last week, the LSE cut its ties with GICDF, refusing to accept any further funds beyond the £300,000 already received.
“Vatican blocks second term of Caritas head.” By Ruth Gledhill. Times of London. February 18, 2011. The Holy See has blocked the appointment of one of the most powerful women in the Roman Catholic church from serving a second term as head of its global development agency. According to The Tablet, the UK-based Catholic weekly, Caritas Internationalis “is reeling” after the Vatican took the highly unusual step of blocking Dr Lesley-Anne Knight from running for a second four-year term as the agency’s Secretary General. Caritas has pleaded with the Church’s Secretariat of State to grant Dr Knight the necessary nihil obstat or “no objection” she needs to serve a second term before the election takes place at the organisation’s assembly in late May in Rome. Caritas international president Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez of Honduras wrote to all directors of Caritas to inform them of the Vatican’s decision. He said Caritas leaders “expressed their incomprehension at the reasons provided” in a meeting at the Vatican and “reaffirmed their positive view of Lesley-Anne Knight’s work for Caritas and the Church”. Dr Knight, a Zimbabwe-born British citizen, has been a powerful advocate for ending poverty and for migrant rights but has been critical of the way aid organisations respond to disasters. After the Haiti earthquake she told The Tablet that aid organisations have “got to do better” in responding to major disasters and said rescue workers needed to cooperate rather than “trying to score points off one another”. She has also spoken out about the need to reorganise Caritas structurally in response to “the rapidly changing operating environment of the twenty-first century”. One official told The Tablet anonymously that Dr Knight may have been rejected because she been “critical of the Vatican machine, has made no secret of it and has failed to be discreet”.