Archive for April, 2011

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (April 18-24, 2011)

Friday, April 29th, 2011

ADVOCACY & POLITICS

Big Brothers: Thought Control at Koch.” By Mark Ames and Mike Elk. The Nation. April 20, 2011. On the eve of the November midterm elections, Koch Industries sent an urgent letter to most of its 50,000 employees advising them on whom to vote for and warning them about the dire consequences to their families, their jobs and their country should they choose to vote otherwise. Legal experts interviewed for this story called the blatant corporate politicking highly unusual, although no longer skirting the edge of legality, thanks to last year’s Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which granted free speech rights to corporations. “Before Citizens United, federal election law allowed a company like Koch Industries to talk to officers and shareholders about whom to vote for, but not to talk with employees about whom to vote for,” explains Paul M. Secunda, associate professor of law at Marquette University. But according to Secunda, who recently wrote in The Yale Law Journal Online about the effects of Citizens United on political coercion in the workplace, the decision knocked down those regulations. “Now, companies like Koch Industries are free to send out newsletters persuading their employees how to vote. They can even intimidate their employees into voting for their candidates.” Secunda adds, “It’s a very troubling situation.” The Kochs were major supporters of the Citizens United case; they were also chief sponsors of the Tea Party and major backers of the anti-“Obamacare” campaign. Through their network of libertarian think tanks and policy institutes, they have been major drivers of unionbusting campaigns in Wisconsin, Michigan and elsewhere. “This sort of election propaganda seems like a new development,” says UCLA law professor Katherine Stone, who specializes in labor law and who reviewed the Koch Industries election packet for The Nation. “Until Citizens United, this sort of political propaganda was probably not permitted. But after the Citizens United decision, I can imagine it’ll be a lot more common, with restrictions on corporations now lifted.”

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (April 18-24, 2011)

Friday, April 29th, 2011

ARTS & CULTURE

A Chastised Museum Returns to Life.” By Robin Pogrebin. New York Times. April 17, 2011. Just three years ago it looked as if the National Academy Museum and School, founded in 1825, might not make it. Years of operating deficits had led to heavy borrowing from its endowment and eventually to the sale of two Hudson River School paintings to cover expenses, an art world sin for which it received a rare censure: sanctions from the Association of Art Museum Directors. Board members resigned and other art institutions cut off loans to the academy and swore off any collaboration. But life as a cultural pariah ended in October when the museum directors suspended their sanctions in recognition of the academy’s actions toward better financial planning and management. And now it is preparing to reopen its complex, on Fifth Avenue and 89th Street, in September with a reconstituted board, increased financial oversight and an interior refashioned by a $3.5 million renovation. “The doors are reopening on a whole other world there,” said Bruce Fowle, president-elect of the academy board and the architect who oversaw the renovations. “We have a whole new financial structure and it’s all been handled in a very professional manner.” The academy dug itself into a hole by relying on income from museum admissions and its tuition for its art school without raising much from government sources or private donors, officials said. The December 2008 sale of the paintings from the collection, a process known as deaccessioning, raised $13.5 million to help with the deficits. But it was controversial because museums are viewed as public trusts — and given tax-exempt status — since they function as sanctuaries for cultural and historical artifacts.

Philadelphia Orchestra Makes Bankruptcy Move.” By Daniel J. Wakin and Floyd Norris. New York Times. April 17, 2011. A humbled Philadelphia Orchestra drew a prolonged ovation on Saturday evening after the final strains of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4, one of his sunniest works. Just hours earlier, its board of directors had voted to send the orchestra to bankruptcy court, declaring the move the only way to survive financial disaster. Philadelphia is not New York, with its abundance of musical organizations, said Mindy Pressel of Cherry Hill, N.J., who was in the audience: “This is what we have here for concerts.” Some in the audience took out their frustrations on orchestra executives. “They’re in trouble because of poor management,” said Edward Neifeld of Maple Glen, Pa., who wore a red Phillies sweatshirt. Inside the orchestra’s Kimmel Center home, there were many empty seats — possibly the result of a thunderstorm, though also indicative of a reason the orchestra is having financial trouble. In a program insert given to the audience on Saturday, management also blamed its eroded endowment, not enough donations, “operational costs,” the expense of financing its musicians’ pensions and the cost of vendor contracts. It praised the musicians for their sacrifices, pleaded for donations and urged the audience to buy tickets. “If you care, please do not abandon our orchestra now — embrace us,” the handout said. The decision to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy has sent ripples through the country’s major orchestras, many of which are struggling with money. Several, like Philadelphia, are also facing contract negotiations with their musicians. Allison Vulgamore, the Philadelphia Orchestra’s president and chief executive, sent a memo last week to executives of other major orchestras alerting them to Saturday’s vote. While orchestras have resorted to bankruptcy court in the past, none have been of the caliber of the Fabulous Philadelphians — an internationally famous ensemble that was the first American orchestra to visit China and counts Leopold Stokowski and Eugene Ormandy as past music directors. It is as much a national treasure as a local one.
Related story:
Philadelphia Orchestra To File Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.” Morning Edition/National Public Radio. April 18, 2011.
Details Emerge of an Orchestra’s Bankruptcy Plea.” New York Times. April 20, 2011.

Intiman Theater Cancels Season.” By Kate Taylor. New York Times. April 17, 2011. The board of the financially embattled Intiman Theater in Seattle voted on Saturday to cancel the rest of the 2011 season and lay off the theater’s staff, said Susan Trapnell, a consultant that the board hired late last month to lead a financial turnaround. Ms. Trapnell said that she had advised the board to take the step because it was not clear the theater could meet its obligations for the rest of the season. “I just thought we need to stop and regroup and figure out what it’s going to take to do next year and raise the money to do that, rather than kill ourselves to be back at zero in January,” Ms. Trapnell said. Some employees will be given two weeks’ notice, and some will be laid off immediately, with severance. The theater’s current production, of Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons,” will close on Sunday as scheduled. In mid-February, Intiman announced an emergency fund-raising campaign and said that it needed to raise $500,000 by the end of March and another $500,000 by September to stay open. On March 31, it said that, even though it had only raised $450,000 so far, it would continue the season. But only after that, apparently, did Ms. Trapnell have a chance to look closely at the theater’s revenue projections, which she decided were unrealistic. She said she made the recommendation to cancel the season now because actors were about to start arriving to begin rehearsals for Intiman’s next production, and she was not sure the theater could pay them through the length of the run.

Former hedge funder founds Museum of Mathematics; Ex-hedge funder to open calculus museum next year.” By Miriam Kreinin Souccar. Crain’s New York Business. April 17, 2011. A museum that promises to make calculus entertaining is coming to the Madison Square Park area. The Museum of Mathematics, a new nonprofit established by former hedge fund executive Glen Whitney, signed a lease last week for the ground floor and lower level, or 19,000 square feet, of 11 E. 26th St. It is scheduled to open in the fall of 2012.Mr. Whitney, a former algorithm manager at Renaissance Technologies, also taught math at the University of Michigan after he graduated from Harvard. He began working on the museum—or MoMath—two years ago, because he believes math can be more accessible. “If you go to a cocktail party, people are almost proud to say, ‘I was never any good at math,’ ” Mr. Whitney said. “We have a cultural issue with the way people perceive mathematics in this country, and it takes a cultural institution to solve a cultural problem.” In the quest to make math riveting, Mr. Whitney and his team of 10 staffers are developing 50 to 60 exhibits. One, The Ring of Fire, features a laser cylinder that reveals hidden shapes within the structure. It is already traveling to institutions around the country and will come to the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey this fall.

Mexican American museum a valuable new L.A. asset; People need to know the stories told at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, because they are the foundation of the city we inhabit today. But the museum made some missteps.” By Hector Tobar. Los Angeles Times. April 22, 2011. The oldest gathering place in the city now has the city’s newest cultural attraction. LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes is across from the old plaza downtown. It’s a museum and cultural center dedicated to Mexican Americans and Mexicans. “This is our culture. This is our story,” proclaims a large sign in one of the windows of the new center. “By 2040, Mexicans and Mexican Americans will comprise 50% of California’s population.” Many of the gathering places on or near the old plaza have been shuttered for years, including the nearby Italian Hall, where Emma Goldman once spoke, and most of Pico House, once the city’s finest hotel. If you visit the plaza on a weekday without tourists or churchgoers, the place feels half dead. In this seemingly forgotten corner of the city, LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes is something new and big. By sticking to her guns and pressing for years to get it built, Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina has made a loud, official declaration of the importance of L.A.’s original town square.

Artistic Director of Seattle’s Troubled Intiman Theater Is Departing.” By Kate Taylor. New York Times. April 21, 2011. Kate Whoriskey, picked by Bartlett Sher to succeed him as artistic director of Intiman Theater in Seattle, is parting ways with that beleaguered institution, at least for now. Faced with a cash crisis, the Intiman board voted last weekend to cancel the rest of the season, which started just last month, and to lay off the theater’s staff. While the board hopes to reopen Intiman next year, Ms. Whoriskey said in a telephone interview that she is returning this weekend to New York, where she has an apartment, and will resume her freelance directing career. “I’ve never been in a position where I’ve had to tell so many people that they don’t have work, and it’s very hard,” she said. As to whether she would return to Intiman, she said that if the board reached a point where they wanted to rehire her, “I would be open to a conversation.” The president of Intiman’s board, Bruce Bradburn, said that the board was trying to regroup for now and didn’t know what Ms. Whoriskey’s future role would be. He said that she had offered various kinds of assistance in the efforts to rethink Intiman’s business model, including the possibility of holding a public discussion that she would participate in. “And of course if she’s back freelance directing again, we certainly would like to have her back to do a play,” he added. “We’ve just got to figure out over the next six months where we’re going.” Susan Trapnell, a consultant who is working with the board, said that it had a lot of work to do before they could hire Ms. Whoriskey, or anyone else, to run Intiman. “They have to be 100 percent behind their artist,” she said. “There’s no reason for Kate right now to sacrifice a career to bringing this theater back, unless she knows the theater is trying to come back or sees a way to come back” in a form that “can serve her vision.”

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (April 18-24, 2011)

Friday, April 29th, 2011

EDUCATION

HIGHER EDUCATION

Tracing the elite law cycle; Roughly 25 percent of Yale Law’s class of 2013 received undergraduate degrees from either Harvard College or Yale College; nearly 50 percent of the class went to schools in the Ivy League or Stanford.” By Nikita Lalwani. Yale Daily News. April 18, 2011. It didn’t take long for Olivia Luna LAW ’13 to notice that something was a bit odd about the other first-years she met at Yale Law School this fall. Luna — who studied history and anthropology at University of California, Berkeley in her undergraduate years — said she and her friends often joked that around half of their peers seemed to come from Harvard or Yale. Curiosity got the better of Luna, who said she set out to find whether the inside joke had some truth to it earlier this year. Using her copy of the Yale Law School Facebook, Luna took a tally and found that Yale and Harvard graduates made up roughly 25 percent of her class. When graduates from Stanford and the other six Ivy League schools were factored in, the percentage reached 50 — but Luna said she was amazed the number was that low. “My friends and I were mostly just curious to see the actual numbers,” she said of her motivation for counting her classmates. “I was surprised that Harvard and Yale made up only 25 percent, because I felt like they dominated the class.” Luna’s count, though far from official, seems consistent with an overall trend at YLS: Of the juris doctor candidates who are set to graduate next month, roughly 30 percent attended Harvard or Yale before matriculating at Yale Law. For those students who didn’t attend Harvard or Yale — and especially for those who didn’t attend any Ivy League school — it can be difficult to adjust to Yale Law, said Kevin Love Hubbard LAW ’12, who earned his bachelor’s degree from Pennsylvania State University. Making friends was trying at first, Hubbard said, as students from Yale and Harvard already seemed to know each other at the beginning of his first term. While Hubbard said undergraduate alma maters come to matter less as students spend more time at Yale Law, he still finds that his undergraduate pedigree has had an impact on him. Whatever these students may feel they have missed out on, Yale Law school tends to equalize opportunity for its alumni regardless of their undergraduate educations. Most Yale Law students enter another exclusive world upon graduation, where they are heavily recruited by the nation’s top law firms and law schools and often go on to shape the nation’s politics and legal framework.

Drew University gains strength after near-collapse; Broad-based professional support, a new board and financial aid may end a decade of upheaval at the Willowbrook school. The school may soon name a new president.” By Rong-Gong Lin II. Los Angeles Times. April 18, 2011. Cash-strapped Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science was in critical financial condition last year, at risk of seizure by its lenders. In the last few months, however, officials at the campus in the Willowbrook neighborhood, just south of Watts, say there’s cause for optimism. The university has pulled back from the brink of insolvency and is close to selecting a new president. The final candidate is Dr. David M. Carlisle, 56, director of the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. In that post, he has overseen the analysis of healthcare data and the monitoring of seismic safety at hospitals since 2000. Carlisle has strong roots in L.A.: He spent part of his childhood in Baldwin Hills, where his mother still lives; he did his medical residency at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center; he received a doctorate in public health at UCLA; and he was a professor of medicine at UCLA between 1992 and 2000. The choice caps a decade of tumult at Drew, which was established a year after the 1965 Watts riots to train minority physicians. The school began to fall into crisis in 2002 and was criticized for failing to have a “culture of accountability.” Drew never fully recovered after it was forced in 2006 to shut its residency program to train physicians. The loss of that program cut enrollment significantly, siphoning off a major revenue stream. Further complicating matters was the decision to construct a new nursing school, which opened last fall, without having a plan to pay for it. In September, a coalition of universities, hospital chains and the California Endowment teamed together to rescue the school. The existing board of trustees agreed to quit en masse, and a new board was appointed. That body included top leaders at UCLA, USC, Cedars-Sinai Health System, Kaiser Permanente and the California Endowment.

Shortage Threat Drives Texas Schools Hoarding Bullion at HSBC.” By David Mildenberg and Pham-Duy Nguyen. Bloomberg News. April 18, 2011. Dallas hedge-fund manager J. Kyle Bass helped advise the University of Texas Investment Management Co. on taking delivery of 6,643 gold bars, worth $987 million on April 15, now stored in a bank warehouse in New York. Bass, who made $500 million with 2006 bets on a U.S. subprime-mortgage market collapse, said managers of the endowment, known as UTIMCO, sought board approval to convert its gold investments into bullion this year. A board member, Bass, 41, said he was asked to help with that process. While Bass, a managing partner at Hayman Capital Management LP, said in an April 16 e-mail that “the decision to purchase and take delivery of the physical gold” was made by endowment staff members, “I helped where I could.” Gold futures touched a record $1,489.10 an ounce April 15 in New York before closing at $1,486. The Texas fund’s $19.9 billion in assets ranked it behind only Harvard University’s endowment as of August, according to the National Association of College and University Business Officers. Last year, UTIMCO added about $500 million in gold investments to an existing stake, said Bruce Zimmerman, the endowment’s chief executive officer. The fund’s managers sought to take delivery of bullion to protect against demand for the metal overwhelming supply, according to Bass. Bass, a Texas Christian University graduate who was named to the endowment’s board in August, is a former salesman with Bear Stearns Cos. and Legg Mason Inc. He said about 5 percent of his hedge fund is invested in gold. The endowment, which oversees funds held by the University of Texas System and Texas A&M University, has 664,300 ounces of bullion in a Comex-registered vault in New York owned by HSBC Holdings Plc, the London-based bank, according to a report distributed at a meeting in Austin.

How have budget cuts hurt us? (and could we have cut differently?).” By Alison Griswold. Yale Daily News. April 19, 2011. Though the global recession has ended, Yale has not recovered from losing more than $6.5 billion during 2008–’09. Since the financial crisis hit, administrators have pledged to protect what they view as Yale’s most central tenets: financial aid and the academic core. Yet as the University scrambles to trim its spending for the third consecutive year — trying to close a $68 million budget gap — it becomes steadily tougher to leave those components untouched. Cuts to staff, delays in academic hiring and salary freezes for top administrators were not enough to overcome the deficits Yale has faced each year since the crisis, so administrators have twice turned to the University’s reserves — extra income set aside for a rainy day — to make up the difference. Though those excess funds closed the gap in the first and second years after the recession hit, University Provost Peter Salovey says they are now essentially depleted. With those funds no longer available, the cuts have continued, and administrators’ determination to protect the central elements of the University — particularly the commitment to financial aid — has come at the expense of other aspects of the undergraduate experience. How well, then, have administrators coped with the recession and upheld the pledges they made three years ago? And at an institution that prides itself on dedication to the undergraduate experience, in what ways have the aftershocks of the budget shortfall affected students?

Administrators try out ideas at Yale-NUS; In designing Yale-NUS’s curriculum, administrators hope to combine elements of both Eastern and Western intellectual traditions.” By Alison Griswold and Drew Henderson. Yale Daily News. April 21, 2011. Administrators hope the new Yale-NUS College will provide them with a clean slate on which to redesign the liberal arts education. As administrators draft plans for the academic curriculum of the college that Yale is building with the National University of Singapore, they are thinking about ways to reshape the University’s traditional pedagogy. The environment of the new school will be more conducive to innovation than that of an established institution like Yale, administrators said, adding that it will be easier to justify similar changes at Yale if they succeed in Singapore first. “It’s an opportunity to think about all of this without the baggage and prejudices that hamper curricular reform and liberal education in the United States,” Sterling Professor of Law Anthony Kronman GRD ’72 LAW ’75, who has served as an advisor for the project, said in a March 31 interview. “We can draw on a relatively blank sheet the outlines of a program that would be Western, Asian, completely free and fresh.” The redesigned curriculum will span all of the school’s disciplines. Administrators are still deciding how broad individual departments at the small college will be, Yale College Dean Mary Miller said, adding that Yale-NUS may begin with “physical sciences” instead of separate departments of physics and chemistry. Designers of the project have long said they hope to merge “Eastern” and “Western” intellectual traditions at the new college, for example, by creating a “Directed Studies for Asia” to balance Yale’s longstanding expertise in Western civilization. But the sciences could see as significant developments as the humanities, with non-science majors required to take something like a year-long course on science fundamentals.

Is Yale University Sexist? Allegations about a ‘hostile environment’ for women could cost the university a half-billion in federal funding.” By Peter Berkowitz. Opinion. Wall Street Journal. April 16, 2011. Last month, 16 Yale students and recent graduates filed a confidential complaint with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights alleging that in violation of Title IX—which bans sex discrimination in schools—Yale maintains a hostile environment for women that denies them equal access to educational opportunities. The Office for Civil Rights has already begun to investigate. If it finds Yale in violation, the university could lose approximately $500 million in federal funding. Is the complaint really plausible? In the classroom, on the athletic fields and elsewhere throughout campus life, women at Yale are prospering. In 2010, female undergraduates outnumbered male undergraduates 2,663 (50.5%) to 2,616 (49.5%). Yale aggressively recruits, promotes and retains female faculty. Four of the university’s top eight administration officers are women. The dean of Yale College is a woman. So is the dean for special projects. More broadly, women’s gains in higher education over the past 50 years testify to the friendliness of the environment. In 1960, women earned 10% of doctorates nationwide; by 2009, they earned 52%. In 1960, women earned 35% of bachelor’s degrees and 32% of master’s degrees; today they earn 57% and 60%, respectively. In 1960, total fall enrollment in degree-granting U.S. institutions was 36% female; today it is roughly 57%. So what are the aggrieved Yale students saying? In a statement to Bloomberg News on April 1, complainant Hannah Zeavin, class of 2012, mentioned instances of alleged sexual harassment, including a march through the freshman quad on Oct. 13, 2010, in which Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity members and pledges chanted “No means yes. Yes means anal.” Ms. Zeavin also referred to an incident two years before in which fraternity pledges stood in front of the Women’s Center holding posters stating, “We love Yale sluts.” Such behavior is loutish, but it does not nearly meet the legal definition of sexual harassment. In Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education (1999), the Supreme Court held that to qualify as sexual harassment that creates a hostile environment, conduct must be “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it can be said to deprive the victims of access to the educational opportunities or benefits.” Isolated incidents of speech—however mocking, nasty or ugly—that do not involve direct threats of physical injury or extortion do not constitute sexual harassment.
Related story:
Shutter Fraternities for Young Women’s Good.” Wall Street Journal. April 23, 2011.

Law School Challenged Under Title IX.” By Caroline M. McKay. Harvard Crimson. April 22, 2011. Harvard Law School is currently under investigation by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights for alleged violations of Title IX—specifically, violations of part of Title IX that stipulate how a school should handle cases of sexual assault. New England School of Law Professor Wendy Murphy, who filed the complaint, says that Harvard Law School is one of many institutions across the nation that violates Title IX’s mandates regarding sexual assault. Murphy has also filed complaints against Yale University and Princeton University. The Law School acknowledged the investigation in a statement. “We are aware that the Office of Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education has been contacted. We defer to OCR for whatever comment they deem appropriate,” Law School spokesperson Robb London said in a statement. The OCR did not return calls requesting comment. Murphy said that the complaint was based on three main problems with the Law School’s policy on responding to sexual assault. According to Murphy, these three discrepancies in policy have yet to conform with new guidelines released by Vice President Joe Biden in conjunction with OCR. These guidelines make clear to institutions that sexual assault on campuses is under the jurisdiction of Title IX and clarify exactly how to handle cases in a “prompt and efficient” manner. Murphy cited the most important flaw in the Law School’s policy as its currently drawn-out system for holding hearings for alleged assailants. Murphy said that holding hearings quickly is crucial considering a potential victim is only covered by the rules of Title IX while she or he is still at the institution—at the Law School, for three years—and would potentially be forced to learn alongside his or her assailant while awaiting the hearing. Murphy said that another discrepancy was the Law School’s requirement for students who alleged they were victims of sexual assault to prove their allegation by “clear and convincing evidence,” which she said is contrary to the Title IX mandate and the standard in the justice system. Title IX states that the burden of proof must instead be a preponderance of the evidence, a lower evidentiary standard. She also said that the Law School has failed to provide a written timeline to outline how long a hearing would take, which is required by the Title IX guidelines.

PRIVATE SCHOOLS

In Private School Admissions, a Firm Creates Fans and Skeptics.” By Jenny Anderson. New York Times. April 18, 2011. For one Manhattan mother, finding the right private kindergarten for her daughter was a breeze. Getting in, she believed, would be a different story. Neither she nor her husband was from Manhattan. They knew no trustees at the school and had no connections. She did not even have a friend at the school to call. So she phoned one of the school’s board members, who gave her information about the admissions director’s personality, the school’s culture and the kind of tone the school looks for in the application letter. The trustee also looked over her essay. Then the woman handed over $1,250 for the advice. “If you don’t have the connections or experience to get information, it’s a fair way,” the mother said. She did not want her name or the name of the school, which admitted her daughter, published because she did not want to put her daughter in an awkward position. The mother found the board member through Aristotle Circle, a company that, depending on who is opining, is either leveling the playing field for unconnected families or profiting from the escalating arms race surrounding the private school and college application process. Whichever it is, it is about to get bigger: the company, founded in 2008 by two M.I.T. alumnae, now has eight full-time employees and just secured $2 million in venture capital financing. It first drew attention and criticism by creating and selling preparation materials for the exams used for private school admission and for public schools’ gifted programs. Widespread test preparation, aided by Aristotle Circle and its competitors, has been cited as the reason for a rapid improvement in student scores on certain intelligence tests.

PUBLIC SCHOOLS

In Public School Efforts, a Common Background: Private Education.” By Michael Winerip. New York Times. April 17, 2011. Ten years ago, the No Child Left Behind bill was passed by the House of Representatives, 384 to 45, marking the first step toward a major transformation of public education in America. The law has ushered in what its supporters like to call the “reform movement.” Each year since then, researchers have found new things to assess. The New York City Department of Education, a pioneer in the science of value-added assessment, can now calculate a teacher’s worth to the third decimal point by using a few very long formulas. (No word yet on whether department researchers have developed a very long formula to assess chancellors and mayors.) For a while it appeared that the Republicans were way ahead on the reform front, but in 2007, Whitney Tilson, a hedge fund manager and Democratic fund-raiser, founded Democrats for Educational Reform to help his party catch up. By all accounts, it has worked. Today, the consensus is that there is little difference between President Obama and former President George W. Bush when it comes to education policy. Nor is it easy to distinguish differences between the secretary of education under Mr. Bush, Margaret Spellings, and the current secretary, Arne Duncan. Those who call themselves reformers are a diverse group, men and women of every political stripe and of every race and ethnicity. But there is one thing that characterizes a surprisingly large number of the people who are transforming public schools: they attended private schools. Which raises the question: Does a private school background give them a much-needed distance and fresh perspective to better critique and remake traditional public schools? Does it make them distrust public schools — or even worse — poison their perception of them? Or does it make any difference?

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (April 18-24, 2011)

Friday, April 29th, 2011

ENVIRONMENT & CONSERVATION

EPA, eco groups at odds in climate change case; Who has the right to make the rules: the government agency or a federal court?” By Mark Sherman. MSNBC/Associated Press. April 18, 2011. — The Obama administration and environmental interests generally agree that global warming is a threat that must be dealt with. But they’re on opposite sides of a Supreme Court case over the ability of states and groups such as the Audubon Society that want to sue large electric utilities and force power plants in 20 states to cut their emissions. The administration is siding with American Electric Power Co. and three other companies in urging the high court to throw out the lawsuit on grounds the Environmental Protection Agency, not a federal court, is the proper authority to make rules about climate change. The justices will hear arguments in the case Tuesday. The court is taking up a climate change case for the second time in four years. In 2007, the court declared that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are air pollutants under the Clean Air Act. By a 5-4 vote, the justices said the EPA has the authority to regulate those emissions from new cars and trucks under that landmark law. The same reasoning applies to power plants. The administration says one reason to end the current suit is that the EPA is considering rules that would reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. But the administration also acknowledges that it is not certain that limits will be imposed. At the same time, Republicans in Congress are leading an effort to strip the EPA of its power to regulate greenhouse gases. The uncertainty about legislation and regulation is the best reason for allowing the case to proceed, said David Doniger, a lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council, which represents Audubon and other private groups dedicated to land conservation.

Quimby buys historic Lunksoos Camps on Penobscot.” By Nick Sambides Jr. Bangor Daily News. April 19, 2011. — Writer Henry David Thoreau once canoed the East Branch of the Penobscot River and might have stood on the land that conservationist Roxanne Quimby will turn into an artistic and scientific center, she announced Tuesday. Quimby’s purchase of the 13.8-acre Lunksoos Camps on Friday likely will have no immediate impact on almost all of the recreational access sportsmen previously enjoyed, said Mark Leathers, a forestry consultant Quimby employs. That includes the Interconnected Trail System snowmobile trail that runs through the property and the land’s boating access to the river. However, hunting might no longer be allowed on the property, Leathers said. He declined to say how much Quimby paid for the land. Originally built in 1881, the camps consist of a lodge and four cabins situated on the east side of the river, 10 miles west of Sherman Mills, and is accessible by road from Stacyville. “It complements the rest of her holdings because it provides a starting point on the east side of the river to the west side of the river and because it is a commercial property adjacent to her large land holdings,” Leathers said Tuesday. “Now we don’t have to worry about an incompatible user” buying the camps. Leathers called the camp a future retreat for writers and artists but a statement released by Quimby’s group, Elliotsville Plantation Inc., said the camps also will serve recreational, artistic and scientific pursuits, including hiking, canoeing, skiing, bird watching, and research.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (April 18-24, 2011)

Friday, April 29th, 2011

FUNDRAISING

Ben Stiller behind NYC art auction for Haiti; Actor is partnering with New York art dealer David Zwirner on a benefit auction called “Artists for Haiti,” scheduled for Sept. 22 at Christie’s auction house.” No by-line. Crain’s New York Business. April 20, 2011. Ben Stiller is getting some of the biggest names in contemporary art to help Haitian children affected by last year’s earthquake. The actor and comedian announced Wednesday that he is partnering with New York art dealer David Zwirner on a benefit auction called “Artists for Haiti,” scheduled for Sept. 22 at Christie’s auction house. Some of the artists who have already donated works include Chuck Close, Paul McCarthy, Jasper Johns, Dan Flavin, Jeff Koons and Hiroshi Sugimoto. “Over a year after the massive quake in Haiti, there remains a huge need to rebuild and help the country,” Mr. Stiller said in a statement. “David and I are working to help raise funds so that the children of Haiti have an opportunity to receive the education they need to lead a better life and fulfill the potential of this vibrant and important culture.” Christie’s said the proceeds will support nonprofit organizations already working in Haiti, including Architecture for Humanity, J/P Haitian Relief Organization, Partners in Health and Grameen Creative Lab. Mr. Zwirner’s gallery will preview the artworks prior to the sale, in early September. The actor established the Stiller Foundation last year to help promote the education and well-being of Haitian children. It is currently rebuilding four earthquake-damaged schools in the Port-Au-Prince area. It also constructed permanent and temporary classroom structures after the January 2010 earthquake.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (April 18-24, 2011)

Friday, April 29th, 2011

GIVING

When you give to Mercy Corps and Medical Teams International, where does your money go?The Oregonian. April 20, 2011. Few events move the heart and pocketbook like a natural disaster. After the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan, millions of dollars began flowing to two local nonprofits on the front lines of disaster relief: Mercy Corps and Medical Teams International. But what exactly happens to the donations? How much goes to relief, how much to expenses? And what kind of relief? The answers are more complicated than you might think.
Both Portland-based Mercy Corps and Tigard-based Medical Teams are highly regarded, and both pride themselves on using as much money as possible on the people who need it. “They’re among the world’s two leading and reputable international relief organizations,” said Doug Stamm, chief executive officer of the Meyer Memorial Trust, which has given money to both. The charities also shared numbers; transparency is a key indicator of a charity’s reliability — and the only real way to vet how an agency uses its money. The information is particularly relevant amid questions this week about how much money author Greg Mortenson’s charity spent actually building schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Liz Grant, head of the charities division at the Oregon attorney general’s office, noted that the financial documents charities must file with the federal government provide general information, not details on every penny. In Oregon, Grant said, nonprofits aren’t required to open their books to the public or even audit their financials. But if they do audit, they’re supposed to file the documents with the attorney general’s office, where the public can gain access through a records request. Charities such as Mercy Corps and Medical Teams do even better, providing everything from audited financial statements to executive salaries on their websites.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (April 18-24, 2011)

Friday, April 29th, 2011

HEALTH CARE

2 big doctor groups may merge; Fallon Clinic-Atrius deal would cover nearly 1m patients.” By Steven Syre. Boston Globe. April 22, 2011. Two of the state’s largest private medical practices are in talks to merge into a giant doctor-run group that would care for nearly a million Massachusetts patients and significantly escalate the pace of health care consolidation throughout the state. Atrius Health, which runs the Harvard Vanguard system and four other doctors practices, is in advanced talks with Fallon Clinic, the Worcester-based medical group. “Fallon Clinic and Atrius Health are in significant discussions about how we can improve patient care together through an affiliation and hope to reach a conclusion shortly,’’ Fallon and Atrius said in a joint statement. Company executives declined to comment further. Patients would probably not see any disruption in their medical care if the practices merge. But a larger, combined organization may be able to provide more convenient medical services and could work with insurers to offer new kinds of heath care coverage to businesses with employees spread around the state. Atrius has 844 doctors and more than 717,000 patients, most of them members of Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates. Fallon’s more than 250 doctors care for nearly 250,000 patients at 20 Central Massachusetts locations. The Atrius-Fallon talks are taking place against a backdrop of furious consolidation in the hospital sector. Steward Health Care System, the former Caritas Christi group, acquired two additional hospitals recently and struck deals this month to buy two more. And other smaller Massachusetts hospitals are believed to be contemplating mergers and affiliations with larger institutions. Hospitals are also building bigger physician networks, affiliating with doctors or hiring them outright, funneling more patients to their institutions. Large physician networks at Steward, Tufts Medical Center, and the parent company of Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital are among the growing hospital-based doctor groups. A combined Atrius-Fallon would be a much different kind of health organization, however, built around doctors and big enough to negotiate aggressively with hospitals on reimbursement rates and shared financial risks.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (April 18-24, 2011)

Friday, April 29th, 2011

HUMAN SERVICES

An old charity finds hope in a new generation; A high school student who has spent his whole life trying to ‘change the conversation’ about domestic violence upstaged Halle Berry and Jamie Foxx at this weekend’s fundraiser.” By Sandy Banks. Los Angeles Times. April 19, 2011. I’ve been a fan of Jenesse since it was launched 30 years ago by five women who’d experienced domestic violence. It began as a bare-bones shelter and tiny thrift shop with a leaky roof, on 81st and Broadway. Now it’s a $3-million operation with programs scattered across South Los Angeles and Halle Berry as its biggest booster. Berry came to Jenesse 10 years ago to do community service for a traffic incident. It has been her mission since; she doesn’t just sing its praises in public but privately visits women and children to let them know “you can survive this.” She was also honored this weekend for enlisting a design team to renovate and decorate shelter apartments. They want to take the sting out of shelter living. “We hear so many woman say ‘I can’t leave. I’ve worked too hard for what I have; I’m not going to start over.’ We can’t have that be a reason to stay in an abusive relationship,” said Jenesse Director Karen Earl. “Our families deserve nice things, comfort, the understanding that someone cares. That helps empower them to leave. That’s the first step toward building a new life.”

Planned Parenthood move could cost state $4M in fed funds.” By Heather Gillers and Shari Rudavsky. Indianapolis Star. April 22, 2011. The head of Indiana’s social services agency expressed concern Thursday that the state could lose all $4 million of its federal family planning money if lawmakers cut off funding to Planned Parenthood of Indiana. The Senate voted Tuesday to cut off support to Planned Parenthood as part of an anti-abortion bill. Supporters said they did not want to help fund an organization that provides abortions. Federal law, however, prohibits states from picking and choosing which providers can offer family planning services to Medicaid patients. Violating that law could jeopardize federal money for other family planning providers. Family and Social Services Administration Secretary Michael Gargano said Thursday he has asked the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services about the issue, and he expects a response today. But he’s concerned. “If funding is cut off, CMS could look at that, and that could jeopardize the other funding that we get from them around family planning services,” Gargano said. “That’s our concern — that they would cut those funds off.” Gargano said his agency has not taken a position on the bill itself. If it went into effect, Indiana would become the first state to prohibit Medicaid recipients from seeking care at Planned Parenthood.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (April 18-24, 2011)

Friday, April 29th, 2011

INTERNATIONAL

AUSTRALIA

Economists put $129bn tag on cut to research.” By Julia Medew. Sydney Morning Heraldhttp://www.smh.com.au/national/economists-put-129bn-tag-on-cut-to-research-20110418-1dlp5.html
April 19, 2011. Australia would stand to lose $129 billion and more than 1600 valuable researchers over the next eight years if the Gillard government cuts $400 million from medical research in next month’s budget, health economists say. A group of experts led by Professor Nicholas Graves, of Queensland University of Technology, said the $129 billion loss would come from increased spending on health as a result of less research into how to keep medical costs down between now and 2020. The economists said good health research reduced spending because it told policymakers what services to invest in for savings and why. Examples included research into the efficacy of cancer screening programs and ways of reducing hospital use. Without such research, Australia could expect to see healthcare spending grow by about 1 per cent on top of its annual average growth of 5.4 per cent each year. ”Since 1998, spending on Australian health services has grown each year by an average of 5.4 per cent. Expenditures of $107 billion in 2008-09 will rise to $226 billion in 2020 if this rate of growth remains steady,” the economists said. ”If spending increased 1 per cent more than 5.4 per cent due to poor health services decision making, then gross expenditures by 2020 will be $129 billion higher than $226 billion. ”There could also be worse health outcomes among the population.” Moreover, the group, from seven different Australian universities, said that if the $400 million savings were found in job cuts, Australia could expect to lose 1644 experienced postdoctoral researchers on salaries of about $81,000 a year. Given Australia’s economy was growing, they said any slight improvement in national debt as a result of the rumoured $400 million cuts to the National Health and Medical Research Council would not be worth it.

Opera Australia looks for a second act as audiences drop.” By Joyce Morgan. Sydney Morning Herald. April 21, 2011. Opera Australia’s audiences fell by 16 per cent last year, leaving the company $500,000 in the red and rethinking its future. The global financial crisis, a decline in tourists – particularly in Sydney – and an unwillingness by patrons to pay the high cost of tickets has seen the company’s mainstage box office drop 8 per cent from $32.9 million in 2009 to $30.3 million last year and attendances shrink from 286,000 to 240,000. It is the second year running the company has returned a deficit. It ended 2009 with a $900,000 red bottom line. The company’s 2010 program included the world premiere of Bliss and a controversial new production of Tosca. The results have left the nation’s flagship arts company signalling a change in direction. In a statement in its annual report, the chief executive, Adrian Collette, acknowledged that ”two operation deficits in succession make a compelling argument for change”. The company needed to broaden and deepen its appeal and could not simply market its way to a larger audience.

Religions and their followers find a safe haven.” Sydney Morning Herald. April 22, 2011. Overview of the Mandaeans, the Mar Thoma, the Ahmadiyya, and the Buddhists in Australia.

New breed of entrepreneurs turn profits to social ends.” By Sarah Whyte. Sydney Morning Herald. April 24, 2011. Business schools took a long hard look at themselves after the global financial crisis. Were they responsible for churning out ready-made ”millionaires by 30” who caused the mess? If one of the new subjects they are offering is anything to go by, then the answer is yes. Social entrepreneurship – the term used for conventional business models that deliver social or environmental returns – has been added to business schools across the US, Britain and, now, Australia. Cheryl Kernot, a former politician turned associate professor at the centre for social change at the University of NSW, is at the forefront of social entrepreneurship in Australia. ”Young people have been looking at how to harness a business with a social purpose, not just to generate their own wealth,” she said. ”[This is] a call to action to address the systemic failures of our traditional institutions.” There will always be a place for charity, she says, but social entrepreneurs use business principles to make profit and reinvest it in a social purpose. The School of Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) was established in Britain in 1997. Benny Callaghan, the Australian chief executive of its schools in Sydney and Melbourne, said he was witnessing a shift among the young generation towards giving back to the community.

CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL

Bishop in hiding as anger grows over abuse claims.” By David Charter. Times of London. April 19, 2011. The disgraced former Bishop of Bruges has gone missing from a French silent order after a furore surrounding a television interview in which he admitted child abuse. Roger Vangheluwe, 74, quit as Bishop of Bruges last year after confessing to paedophile activity with a young nephew many years ago. He had been ordered by the Vatican to leave Belgium and undergo “spiritual and psychological” treatment. But the case resurfaced after Mr Vangheluwe gave an interview with a Belgian TV station admitting to molesting another nephew but insisting that he did not consider himself a paedophile or a threat to children. His attempts to explain himself have plunged the Belgian Catholic Church back into turmoil and reawakened a child abuse scandal which saw an official investigation unearth nearly 500 cases of abuse by priests since the 1950s, including 13 victims who committed suicide. Mr Vangheluwe escaped prosecution because the alleged crimes took place beyond Belgium’s statute of limitations. He said that nothing untoward had happened in the past 25 years. But Belgians are now demanding to know why he was protected by his confessor and Yves Leterme, the Prime Minister, has called on the Vatican to administer a more effective punishment.

Judge orders Vatican to show files in abuse case.” By Nigel Duara. San Jose Mercury-News/Associated Press. April 22, 2011.

CAMBODIA

Govt Plans to Tighten Noose Around Civil Society.” By Irwin Loy. Interpress Service. April 23, 2011. A proposed law governing NGOs in Cambodia will impose severe restrictions on civil society groups and tighten control over public discourse, critics in this South-east Asian country say. International analysts and local groups have widely condemned Cambodia’s draft Law on associations and non-governmental organisations, arguing the proposed rules foist unnecessary restrictions on freedom of expression. Groups such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Global Witness have all called the law deeply flawed. At a donor conference in Phnom Penh this week, a U.S. official took the unusual step of publicly linking government restrictions on civil society to valuable aid funds from one of the country’s largest donors. “In these times of fiscal constraint, justifying increased assistance to Cambodia will become very difficult in the face of shrinking space for civil society to function,” Flynn Fuller, the Cambodia mission director of the American development arm, USAID, said at a meeting between donors and government. That summit was a private affair, but a copy of his speech was distributed to reporters by the U.S. embassy in Phnom Penh. Fuller warned that “an excessively restrictive” law could hurt the effectiveness of U.S. aid money. “USAID remains concerned about the necessity of the draft NGO law and the related implications for civil society organisations to operate freely in Cambodia…we strongly urge the Royal Government of Cambodia to reconsider the necessity of the draft NGO law, and if so, to adopt a law consistent with a commitment to expand, rather than restrict, the freedom of civil society organisations to operate.” Critics say the proposed law will give the government too much arbitrary control over who can form an NGO. A briefing paper released this month by the International Centre for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL) noted that the draft law would make it mandatory for NGOs to register and would thus ban unregistered groups

CHINA

Illicit Church, Evicted, Tries to Buck Beijing.” By Andrew Jacobs. New York Times. April 17, 2011. It has all the trappings one would expect from the capital’s most well-heeled and prestigious Christian congregation: a Sunday school for children, nature hikes for singles and clothing drives for the needy. Last year, the church, called Shouwang, or Lighthouse, collected $4 million from its 1,000 members to buy its own house of worship. But Shouwang, according to China’s officially atheist Communist Party leadership, is technically illegal. It is a so-called house church, which in recent years had come to symbolize the government’s wary tolerance for big-city congregations outside the constellation of state-controlled churches. The church has been a release valve for an educated elite seeking a nonpolitical refuge for its faith. That is, until now. Evicted yet again from its meeting place by the authorities, Shouwang announced this month that its congregants would worship outside rather than disband or go back underground. Its demands were straightforward but bold: allow the church to take possession of the space it had legally purchased. Officials responded with a clenched fist. On Sunday, for the second week in a row, the police rounded up scores of parishioners who tried to pray outdoors at a public plaza. Most of the church’s leadership is now in custody or under house arrest. Its Web site has been blocked. “We are not antigovernment, but we cannot give up our church family and our faith,” Wei Na, 30, the church choir director, said last week just before more than 160 congregants were corralled onto buses and detained. “Satan is using the government to destroy us, and we can’t let that happen.” The move against Shouwang, as well as other house churches, coincides with the most expansive assault on dissent in China in years, one that has led to the arrests of high-profile critics like the artist Ai Weiwei, but also legions of little-known bloggers, rights lawyers and democracy advocates who have disappeared into the country’s opaque legal system. The crackdown, now in its second month, was prompted by government fears that the Arab revolts against autocracy could spread to China and undermine the Communist Party’s six-decade hold on power.
Related stories:
Beijing detains illegal church members on Easter.” San Francisco Chronicle/ Associated Press. April 24, 2011.
Chinese police detain dozens at site of banned Easter service; Christians trying to gather at site of banned Shouwang church service in Beijing are led away by police.” Guardian/Reuters. April 24, 2011.
China detains Protestant Shouwang devotees.” BBC News. April 24, 2011.

“China police blockading Tibetan monastery, say exiles
“2,500 monks under house arrest at Kirti Buddhist monastery in Sichuan province, according to reports relayed from scene.”
By Tania Branigan. Guardian (UK). April 18, 2011. Exiled Tibetans in Nepal stage hunger strike over Kirti monastery blockade. Chinese state media have confirmed reports of clashes between monks and police at a Tibetan monastery in Sichuan province, but deny it has been blockaded. The Global Times said “Chinese police intervened to control lamas that had stirred up trouble” at Kirti monastery in Aba county, western China. Tibetan exiles said armed police surrounded the complex last Tuesday and refused to allow monks to enter or leave. The Dalai Lama warned late last week that the situation could turn “explosive”. An article released by the Xinhua state news agency on its news wire this weekend – but not, apparently, on its website – said believers and vehicles were freely entering and monks could be seen outside. The report, headlined “Life normal in Tibetan Buddhist monastery in south-west China”, quoted a member of Kirti’s management saying it had “long ago formed a joint patrol team [with police] to prevent unspecified people from entering”. He added that “there couldn’t be any beatings” as staff at the entrance were very friendly. The International Campaign for Tibet said hundreds of residents gathered outside Kirti last Tuesday fearing authorities would forcibly remove monks for a “patriotic education” campaign after the self-immolation of a young lama. Citing exile sources, it alleged that security forces beat protesters and unleashed dogs on the crowd as they forced their way through to the monastery, surrounding it and preventing up to 2,500 monks from leaving. The Guardian has been unable to verify the claims independently. Exiles claimed that as of Sunday the complex had been blockaded and up to 800 officials had been carrying out the re-education campaign there. The religious affairs bureau in Aba, known to Tibetans as Ngaba, did not respond to queries. Last year the region’s authorities issued a notice pledging to “promote patriotic education in monasteries [and] reinforce management of religious affairs in accordance with the law”.
Related story:
Two die in clash with Chinese police at Tibetan monastery, activists say; Confrontation at Kirti monastery reportedly occurred during raid in which police took away 300 monks.” Guardian (UK). April 23, 2011.
Chinese police ‘raid Tibetan monastery’.” BBC News. April 23, 2011.

China Curbs Fancy Tombs That Irk Poor.” By Sharon LaFraniere. New York Times. April 22, 2011. Ever since Deng Xiaoping signaled in 1978 that it was fine to get rich, much of China has seemed hell-bent on that goal. But some local governments would like those who succeed not to lord it over others, at least when it comes to paying final respects. As of last month, in the cemeteries of this hilly megalopolis in south central China, modest burial sites are in. Fancy tombs are out. And in some places, so are fancy funerals. Plots for ashes are limited to 1.5 square meters, about 4 feet by 4 feet. Tombstones are supposed to be no higher than 100 centimeters, or 39 inches, although it is not clear that limit will be enforced. Sellers of oversize plots have been warned of severe fines, as much as 300 times the plot’s price. “Ordinary people who walk by and see these lavish tombs might not be able to keep their emotions in balance,” said Zheng Wenzhong, as he visited the relatively modest resting place of a relative at The Temple of the Lighted Lamp cemetery. That is apparently exactly what many officials fear. After a quarter of a century in which the gap between rich and poor has steadily widened, the wretched excesses of the affluent are increasingly a Chinese government concern. China’s income inequality, as measured by a standard called the Gini coefficient, is now on a par with some Latin American and African countries, according to the World Bank. Justin Yifu Lin, the bank’s chief economist, last year identified the growing disparity as one of China’s biggest economic problems. Li Shi, an economics professor at Beijing Normal University, said that in 1988 the average income of the top 10 percent of Chinese was about 12 times that of the bottom 10 percent. By 2007, he said, those at the top earned 23 times more. China’s long-term solutions to the divide include more market reforms, stronger social security programs, lower taxes on low-income families and tighter controls on illicit income. But while waiting for Beijing for all that, some local officials are looking for ways to gloss over the gap.

INDIA

PIL challenges inclusion of civil society members in Lokpal Bill joint commitee.” Times of India. April 18, 2011. A group of advocates on Monday moved the Supreme Court challenging the inclusion of five civil society members in a committee to draft the Lokpal Bill. Advocate M L Sharma and others have moved the court contending that inclusion of five civil society members in the committee, which also has five ministers, is constitutionally flawed as a parliamentary committee must comprise only members of parliament and no one else. It also assailed the inclusion of the father-son duo– Shanti and Prashant Bhushan.

Eviction notices to religious bodies.” By Jatin Takkar. Times of India. April 23, 2011. Local devout as well as managements of temples here are up in arms against the district administration for having served eviction notices to eight temples believed to be of ancient origin. The district administration earlier has given 10 days notice to managements of these temples to vacate the premises at their own. The deputy commissioner C Rajnikanthan reasons the court orders for serving the eviction notices. The managements have been asked to vacate the buildings which are other then original structures of the temples. According to official sources those additional structures have been illegally raised by the management by encroaching upon the government as well as private land. Some of the temple managements asserted that they were being harassed by the authorities for the reasons best known to officers in the district administration as well as the locals who have some vested interests. Temples, whose managements have been served the notices include Prachin Mahakaleshwar temple, Prachin Nabhikamal Mandir and Shivshakti Temple in Kurukshetra; Bhagwan Pashuram Mandir and Gita Mandir in Shahbad; Guru Ravidas Mandir and Peer Mazar in Ladwa.

Natives remember Satya Sai Baba for philanthropy.” No by-line. Times of India. April 24, 2011. The demise of Satya Sai Baba came as a deep shock for those are engaged in various social programmes launched by the godman through his trust in Andhra Pradesh. Prominent among the programmes started by the Sathya Sai Central Trust is Sri Satya Village Integrated Programme (SSVIP) under which 212 villages in East Godavari district were provided drinking water in a phased manner. Another programme, the Sri Sathya Sai Drinking Water Project (SSSDWP), launched on January 20, 2008, covers 25 tribal-dominated villages in East and West Godavari districts, an official of the project said today. “We are not in a position to accept the news of his (Satya Sai Baba) demise. We expected some miracle to happen and he will return and give darshan to his devotees,” he said. Following his deep attachment with this area, the spiritual leader had visited East Godavari for the maximum number of times than any other place, the official said, adding that members who are carrying out these social welfare programmes and the beneficiaries of these schemes were deeply affected by Sai Baba’s death on Sunday. Under SSSDWSP, safe drinking water is supplied to about 452 upland and tribal habitations which traditionally are dependent upon drying bore wells and natural streams for water, he said.

JAPAN

Civil Society Gaining Ground Following Quake.” By Suvendrini Kakuchi. Interpress Service. April 22, 2011. Civil society organisations in Japan have traditionally been on the sidelines in influencing mainstream policy, but the massive Tohoku earthquake and tsunami of Mar. 11 is becoming a catalyst for important change. “Thousands of people are joining our protests against nuclear power these past few weeks after the disaster. That is a huge change from the past when our activism was struggling for public attention,” said Sawako Sawaii, spokes- person for the Citizen’s Nuclear Information Network (CNIC), a veteran non- government organisation that has long campaigned against nuclear power. The rising popularity of CNIC is now the driving force behind regular demonstrations across the nation against Tokyo Electric Power Company, the operator of the stricken nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture. “I guess it takes tragedy for the public to wake-up to the crucial role that is played by civil society,” said Professor Akiko Nakajima, an expert on post disaster construction at Wayo Women’s University. “With confidence in the government eroding fast after the nuclear accident, people are no longer happy with officials at the helm.” Nakajima explains that civil society progress in Japan has been up against a long conservative history that placed priority on social harmony above individual interests – creating a society based on tightly knit rules that forced conformity to official regulations. But, with Japan now struggling to stop radiation contamination from nuclear reactors that officials had promised were fool-proof, the fragility of the old system as been exposed, Nakajima says.

UK

Charities squandered money donated to cure Alzheimer’s.” By Mary Turner. Times of London. April 18, 2011. Rosemary Stevens said that watching her aunt’s lingering death from Alzheimer’s spurred her to become involved in charities seeking a cure for the disease. Tens of thousands of people responded generously to unsolicited letters from the charities seeking donations. But after a decade in which they raised more than £2 million it has emerged that only a fraction of this has gone to good causes. Ms Stevens, an accountant, has blamed the failure of the most recent venture on the Charity Commission’s decision to freeze its bank accounts amid concerns about how it was run. A damning report by the Charity Commission into the Alzheimer’s UK Research Education Care revealed Ms Stevens’s involvement in similar organisations and their links to businesses run by Frank Hill, also an accountant. The Commission’s report concluded: “The charity had become no more than a fundraising vehicle.” It criticised the charity’s trustees for having no control over its finances and little input in running the organisation. “The acting CEO was given a free hand to manage and administer the charity as she saw fit,” it added. “The charity sought donations from the public but had no coherent plan for using them for charitable purposes.” Ms Stevens has defended her involvement: “I have nothing to hide. I have personally done nothing wrong, other than to be naive.”

Church to act against excessive company bonuses.” By Alex Ralph. Times of London. April 16, 2011. The Church Commissioners, who manage the Church of England’s £5.3 billion investment and property portfolio, have said that they will vote against excessive pay in companies in which they hold a stake. A spokesman told the Financial Times that they would attempt to block any pay scheme in which managers received bonuses more than four times their annual salary. “The Church exists to spread the Gospel and the Gospel is about justice for everyone. That is why our ethical investment committee believes that people should be paid what they are worth, but not more than that. “[The Church’s] general approach is that it is sufficient for bonus schemes … to allow for performance awards of up to three times salary.” The Church refused to detail which companies’ pay it would seek to limit.

Urgent help is needed to save thousands of crumbling churches; Many churches have fallen into disrepair and ruin.” By Ruth Gledhill. Times of London. April 16 2011. The most comprehensive survey of Britain’s churches ever carried out has shown a “critical” number in desperate need of financial help. Nearly 4,000 of the nation’s 47,000 churches — 8 per cent — are in poor or very poor condition, needing an average of £80,000 spending each for repairs and restoration. The survey, to be published on Monday, has found that 1.6 million people take part in voluntary activities involving the Church, averaging out at 33 per church. The biggest area was community activities, followed by faith activities and then administration. The churches make up the bedrock on which the Government can hope to build its dream of a Big Society, the survey shows. The 47,000 churches, with their army of volunteers, compare with only 12,000 post offices and 10,000 English village halls. The National Churches Trust has found that church buildings play a key role in community activity, with eight out of ten used for other things besides worship. Those getting the best grant support, however, are usually the listed churches, which tend to be in remote rural areas and have fewer facilities. It is often the unlisted churches, which make up 60 per cent of the total, that are more modern and in urban areas allowing them to adapt more easily as cafés and community centres. More than half the churches in the survey, which covered more than 9,000 of the 47,000 churches, benefited from the Government’s listed places of worship grant scheme, introduced in 2001, which allows VAT to be reclaimed on some repairs. Nearly £15 million was reclaimed under the scheme in the past year. But the survey notes that listed buildings are “generally less well equipped.” Nearly a third of the 47,000 churches have no lavatories. Buildings without adequate heating, toilet or kitchen facilities are less likely to contribute to community activites, even though, when they are listed, they stand to benefit more from grant aid. Money for repairs comes from members of the parish, “friends” groups and events such as the annual “Ride and Stride” sponsored walks and cycle rides organised by country churches trusts with the support of the National Churches Trust.
Related story:
Why bishops vote on matters of state.” Times of London. April 15 2011.

Will the last person to leave the Church of England please turn out the lights; The Church of England is an institution in decline, with fewer worshippers than ever and dissent in its ranks. Could salvation come in the form of severing its ties with the State?” By Adrian Hamilton. Independent (UK). April 18, 2011. As the faithful look forward to Easter and the Archbishop of Canterbury prepares to officiate at the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, it may seem inappropriate to be discussing the future of his Church. But this Easter week, I can’t help feeling – more than ever – that the Church of England will not survive my children’s lifetime and quite possibly not even my own. It’s not the archaism of state occasions that makes me doubt the relevance of the CofE, nor the sight this Lent of a dozen or more clergy crossing the floor to join the Roman Catholics that has made me despair of its future. Nor is it the statistics showing an ever-diminishing number of English attending their services, although these are bad enough. It’s not even the spectacle of the Church wrapping itself in knots around the issues of ordaining women and gay bishops. These are certainly signals of an institution in decline; a community turning in on itself as its relevance diminishes. But the Church has been here before and revived. If that were all, one might envision – some of its members do – a leadership coming in to revive its fortunes, re-energise its priests and refresh its doctrines, as happened in Victorian times when Darwinian science and atheism threatened to overwhelm it. No, the real problem of the Church of England is the factor which no-one seems ready to discuss in public – its role as the established church of the country. For humanists and atheists, this is an outrage; a remnant of a political past that should be dispensed with as soon as possible.

Miliband warns on university places.” No by-line. Independent (UK). April 19, 2011. Tens of thousands of university places could be cut as the Government tries to make up a funding gap in its tuition fees policy, Labour leader Ed Miliband claimed today. He warned that the coalition’s controversial higher education funding reforms were “unravelling” as more universities than expected planned to charge £9,000 a year. Soaring fees meant that the new system may cost the taxpayer an extra £450 million a year in student loans – putting 36,000 university places at risk, Mr Miliband said. “This unfair and shambolic tuition fees policy is now unravelling,” he said. “It will cost taxpayers more, it will cost students more and it may cost thousands of young people their university places.” Analysis by Labour showed that 70% of universities which have so far declared their fees under the new regime were planning to charge the maximum £9,000. That included all of the elite Russell Group universities that have announced their plans – 13 out of 17. Drawing on House of Commons Library figures, Labour said average fees of £8,500 could create a funding shortfall of up to £450 million in 2014/15. At a press conference at Labour’s Victoria Street headquarters this morning, Mr Miliband accused Prime Minister David Cameron of breaking a promise that £9,000 fees would be an exception.
Related story:
Poor teenagers priced out as universities choose to charge maximum fees; Plans to increase university tuition fees have sparked mass protests.” Times of London. April 19, 2011.
Tuition fees will deter state school students, admits Cambridge; Documents submitted to Office for Fair Access are blow to government expectations on increased access.” Guardian (UK). April 23, 2011.

Disabled charity that helped Cameron’s son loses out in cuts.” By Joe Dyke. Independent (UK). April 19, 2011. David Cameron’s commitment to protecting disabled services in the UK has been criticised after a charity of which he is a patron had its funding cut by £250,000. The Kids charity helped the Prime Minister look after his son but has had its support reduced as a result of local government funding cuts. Last night, Mr Cameron faced further criticism after it emerged that an £800m grant for disabled services announced in December could be spent on other projects. Kids offers one-to-one care facilities to about 7,000 disabled children across the UK and helped care for David Cameron’s son, Ivan, who was born with cerebral palsy and epilepsy, until he died in 2009. Parents reliant on the charity criticised the Prime Minister for not doing more to protect its funding – although colleagues point out that could have been seen as an abuse of position.

NHS cuts expected to spark boom for private healthcare providers.” By Sarah Boseley. Guardian (UK). April 19, 2011. Some private healthcare providers predict a surge in demand for their services as cuts bite. One of the UK’s leading private hospital providers says it expects business to boom as NHS cuts bite, waiting times lengthen and those patients who can find the money decide to pay for treatment instead. Primary care trusts, trying to balance the books before they are abolished under the coalition government’s reforms, are already significantly restricting healthcare services , according to a survey of 500 GPs carried out on behalf of Spire Healthcare, the second largest private hospital group in the country. Although the 500 are only a fraction of the 39,000 GPs in the country, their responses are in line with other evidence that cuts are already being implemented. Most of the GPs who responded reported that they already faced offering a reduced service to patients.

Rich ‘should be forced to aid poor’.” By Gavin Cordon. Independent (UK). April 21, 2011. Rich and powerful people should be required by law to spend some time every year helping the poor and needy, the Archbishop of Canterbury suggested today. Rowan Williams said a return to the medieval tradition when monarchs ritually washed the feet of the poor would serve to remind politicians and bankers what should be the purpose of their wealth and power. Speaking on BBC Radio 4 Today programme’s Thought for the Day slot, he said the Bible made clear it was the duty of the powerful to ensure ordinary people were “treasured and looked after” – especially those without the resources to look after themselves. “What about having a new law that made all Cabinet members and leaders of political parties, editors of national papers and the hundred most successful financiers in the UK spend a couple of hours every year serving dinners in a primary school on a council estate, or cleaning bathrooms in a residential home?” he suggested. Alternatively, he said, they could walk the town streets at night as street pastors “ready to pick up and absorb something of the chaos and human mess you will find there, especially among young people”. Because the duty to serve would be compulsory, those involved would not be able to claim credit for doing it, he added. Dr Williams acknowledged that it might just be “a nice fantasy to mull over during the holiday weekend”, but insisted that it could bring genuine benefits. “It might do two things: reminding our leaders of what the needs really are at grassroots level so that those needs can never again just be remote statistics, and reminding the rest of us what politics and government are really for,” he said.

Archbishop of Canterbury says rich should help poor; Rowan Williams sends Maundy Thursday plea to bankers, politicians and editors to assist communities in need.” By Riazat Butt. Guardian (UK). April 21, 2011. The archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has called on the rich to help the poor to remind them of the purpose of their wealth. Bankers, politicians and newspaper editors should be legally required to spend a couple of hours every year working with the poor and needy to remind them of the purpose of their power and wealth, the archbishop of Canterbury has suggested. He made the comments on Maundy Thursday, the day of the Last Supper when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and when the British monarch honours deserving subjects. In his contribution to BBC Radio 4′s Thought for the Day slot, Dr Rowan Williams asked: “What about having a new law that made all cabinet members and leaders of political parties, editors of national papers and the hundred most successful financiers in the UK spend a couple of hours every year serving dinners in a primary school on a council estate? “It might do two things: reminding our leaders of what the needs really are at grassroots level, so that those needs can never again be just remote statistics, and reminding the rest of us what politics and government are really for.”

Church urges schools to slash places for believers; Schools have been accused of using faith criteria to exclude those from less well-off families to boost results.” By Joanna Sugden. Times of London. April 22, 2011. Thousands of families who attend church to secure places at popular Church of England schools face being denied entry under radical plans revealed today to overhaul admissions. The C of E is drastically revising its guidelines to limit the number of places offered to those from church backgrounds. It will be a significant blow to parents who attend services or help out with parish activities in order to get their children into high-performing faith schools, and could damage academic standards. The Bishop of Oxford, the Right Rev John Pritchard, chairman of the C of E’s board of education, said schools should end the bias towards children from religious homes even if it lowers academic results. He said: “Every school will have a policy that [it] has a proportion of places for church youngsters … what I would be saying is that number ought to be minimised because our primary function and our privilege is to serve the wider community. “Ultimately, I hope we can get the number of reserved places right down to 10 per cent.” Anti-faith-school groups welcomed his comments and said that such a move would help to end “discrimination” in faith schools. The C of E’s board of education will publish new guidance this summer urging its schools to be more inclusive and to “remember their core purpose”. Almost one million pupils attend C of E primary and secondary schools, which account for a fifth of the state school sector.
Related stories:
Church school admission plan hailed.” Independent (UK). April 22, 2011.
Church of England schools urged to offer more places to non-Christians; Bishop of Oxford urges CoE school heads to allocate no more than 10% of places to practising Anglicans.” Guardian (UK). April 22, 2011.

The Bishop’s Gaffe; The Church of England should not cut school places for the Anglican faithful.” Times of London. April 23, 2011.
Catholic schools vow to keep the faith when selecting pupils; The Catholic Church says it will not turn away Catholic children.” Times of London. April 23, 2011

Maggie’s bag to be big charity hit; The handbag that terrorised ministers is expected to fetch £100,000 in a sale of items donated by celebrity owners.” By Richard Brooks. Times of London. April 24, 2011. It could be the first Thatcher handbagging to be received with gratitude. The former prime minister is auctioning for charity the black Asprey bag with which she once held male cabinet members and foreign leaders alike in thrall. The bag, in its time almost as potent a political symbol as Sir Winston Churchill’s cigar, is expected to raise more than £100,000 for her chosen good causes when it is offered by Christie’s on June 27 in a sale of items donated by celebrities. Of all Baroness Thatcher’s bags, the one being sold was used most frequently by her for important occasions, such as summits with Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in the 1980s. Lord Archer, the novelist and former Tory party deputy chairman, who will be guest auctioneer at the event, said: “When I asked her to donate an item, she suggested the handbag, and I was delighted.” Last year, a half-smoked cigar abandoned by Churchill in a wartime cabinet meeting sold at auction for £4,500, while a set of his false teeth raised £16,000 earlier this year. Thatcher’s bag is expected to raise so much more because she used it both as a container for state papers and as an instrument of her assertive brand of femininity. Other items in the auction will include the ball from the 2003 rugby world cup final, signed by the victorious England players and donated by Lawrence Dallaglio, who was the No 8 on the team, and an Andy Warhol drawing of Princess Diana, given by Archer. The Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone has donated a free trip to next year’s Monaco Grand Prix, including a VIP guest pass with access to the grid area. Andrew Flintoff, the former England cricketer, is providing the chance for two people to caddy for two leading golfers — Charl Schwartzel, the US Masters champion, and Graeme McDowell, winner of last year’s US Open — at the Scottish Open in July.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (April 18-24, 2011)

Friday, April 29th, 2011

LAW & PUBLIC POLICY

Amish, state laws face conflicts.” By Judy Keen. USA Today. April 19, 2011. Padlocked doors on two homes and a schoolhouse in Cambria County, Pa., are symbols of the conflicts that can erupt between the nation’s 245,000 Amish and state and local laws. After months of negotiations between the Amish and the Cambria County Sewage Enforcement Agency, a judge in 2009 ordered that the buildings be closed until the owners comply with state rules requiring building and sewage permits. Outhouses were illegally emptied onto fields, prompting complaints. Donald Kraybill, a professor at Pennsylvania’s Elizabethtown College who has written several books about the Amish, says such clashes are not unusual, especially among the most conservative Amish settlements. “The more traditional the group, the more likely some kind of friction is,” he says. Most Amish, he says, prefer to keep their distance from modern culture, including governments. They don’t consider themselves outside the law, Kraybill says, but they have their own rules, which vary in each community. “Religious rights don’t allow you the right to pollute somebody’s water supply,” says Deborah Sedlmeyer, executive director of the Cambria County enforcement agency.

Five myths about church and state in America.” By David Sehat. Opinion. Washington Post. April 22, 2011. Liberals claim that the founding fathers separated church and state, while conservatives argue that the founders made faith a foundation of our government. Both sides argue that America once enjoyed a freedom to worship that they seek to preserve. Yet neither side gets it right. As we mark Passover and Easter, let’s end some misconceptions about religion and politics in America.

City sends ‘tax’ bills to major nonprofits; Aims to triple voluntary payments within 5 years.” By Michael Rezendes. Boston Globe. April 24, 2011. For the first time, Boston’s major tax-exempt institutions — its premier hospitals, universities, and cultural centers — are being asked to make regular voluntary payments to the city based on the value of their property to help offset the rising cost of city services and cuts in state financial aid. Although many of the city’s nonprofit organizations have been making so-called Payments In Lieu of Taxes for decades, this marks a major change to a system that feels to some organizations uncomfortably close to tax bills. Boston officials recently mailed letters to leaders at 40 major nonprofits asking them to pay up to 25 percent of what they would owe if their property were not tax-exempt. “We’re looking for fairness for Boston taxpayers and the nonprofits,’’ said Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino. “This isn’t something we drew up on the back of an envelope. It’s something we put a lot of thought into.’’ The new revenue-raising plan — the first of its kind in the nation — is based on the estimated cost of providing basic city services, such as police and fire protection, snow removal, and emergency medical treatment, which account for roughly 25 percent of the city’s budget. And it is designed to gradually increase annual financial payments to the city by the major tax-exempt organizations from the $15 million they paid this year to $48 million over a five-year ramp-up period. That is still significantly less than the $404 million nonprofits would pay if they were not tax-exempt. New assessments of the property owned by the city’s 40 largest major nonprofits show that its collective value is $13.6 billion, or the equivalent of more than half of the city’s commercial tax base, which is about $25 billion, according to Boston’s Assessing Department. But support for the plan — the product of a mayoral task force that included representatives from nonprofits — appears mixed among the organizations being asked to pay. Some nonprofit leaders voiced unequivocal support for the initiative during interviews with the Globe, asserting that their success depends in large measure on attracting visitors — students, hospital patients, and culture lovers — to a safe, well-managed city.