Archive for April, 2011

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (April 18-24, 2011)

Friday, April 29th, 2011

MEDIA

Turmoil in the air waves; Despite the grumbling, public radio competition is good for Boston.” By Joan Vennochi. Boston Globe. April 21, 2011. Public radio not only wants taxpayer dollars to back it up. One local station manager also wants a monopoly. “This market did not need to have two public radio stations with the same format,’’ Charles J. Kravetz, general manager of WBUR-FM, lamented recently to the Globe about the competition his station now faces from WGBH-FM. Tell that to McDonald’s and Burger King, Home Depot and Lowe’s, Shaw’s and Market Basket, Target and Walmart. Any business would be happy if its rivals disappeared. But those wishes run up against an economic reality called capitalism. Competition is its core underpinning. It leads to fierce fights everywhere, especially in the world of Boston media. This is still a two-newspaper town, where The Boston Globe competes against The Boston Herald. Multiple local TV network affiliates vie with each other and Comcast-owned New England Cable News. A battery of talk radio hosts on WRKO-AM and WTKK-FM battle it out from morning to night. WEEI-AM, which once dominated Boston sports radio, is trying to stop a slide of listeners to WBZ-FM. Boston Magazine, Boston Common, and the Improper Bostonian are engaged in a vicious hunt for advertisers and readers. And, that’s just a slice of what’s happening in the traditional news media. Beyond that, there are other print and online options. Yet, Kravetz doesn’t think it’s fair that WGBH replaced music programs with news and talk shows similar to WBUR’s, and sometimes runs the same National Public Radio shows at the same time. “ . . . This is a zero-sum game,’’ he complained. “If either station flourishes, it will be at the expense of the other.’’ That attitude is a microcosm of the arrogance and insularity that has come to define the public broadcasting universe. It irritates even those who cherish its great journalistic contributions.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (April 18-24, 2011)

Friday, April 29th, 2011

PHILANTHROPY

Nonprofit Leverages Its Assets for Environment Organizations.” By Melanie Grayce West. Wall Street Journal. April 19, 2011. Challenging “not-in-my-backyard” complacency is the purpose of a unique nonprofit that works to improve the environment in New York. Ioby, which stands for “in our backyards.” is an organization with an online platform for recruiting volunteers and fund-raising for small environmental projects in the five boroughs. Local organizations—a community garden, for example—come to Ioby with a project. Ioby features the project on its website and donors and volunteers sign up to support the project. In turn, donors immediately get a letter noting the tax deduction for their gift and then can return to the website to monitor the project’s progress. Ioby’s website (ioby.org) functions in the same spirit as the paper sign-up sheet and donation box, except the volunteer recruitment and grassroots fund-raising efforts reach a much wider audience. Plus, community groups can skip the labor of developing their own online presence. They also gain the benefit of working with Ioby’s staff, which can connect different groups and people with similar needs to each other. “We’re interested in creating this thriving hive of activity around environmental causes. Instead of building online out, we’re interested in building an online tool that’s supports offline work,” says Erin Barnes, who co-founded Ioby with Brandon Whitney and Cassie Flynn, and now serves as the organization’s executive director. Since the site launched in 2009, Ioby has channeled about $100,000 in donations to environmental projects throughout the city. Gifts average around $35 and have been as small as 75 cents. Presently, Ioby is working with about 78 community groups on programs ranging from recycling used cellphones in Queens to providing gardening education for children in Brooklyn.

Kanye West’s Charity Closes.” By Stephanie Strom. New York Times. April 19, 2011. The charity named for the rapper Kanye West that was intended to reduce high school dropout rates has closed mysteriously. Its former executive director, Joseph Collins, sent an e-mail to associates last month, telling them that he was looking for a job because the charity, the Kanye West Foundation, had closed, and its phone has been disconnected. “I am reaching out to let you know that the Kanye West Foundation (kanyewestfoundation.org) has officially closed it doors after a successful 4+ years of programming and events,” Mr. Collins wrote in the e-mail, which was given to The New York Times by executives from two nonprofit groups that had worked with the organization. “It has been an incredible experience working with Kanye and the board to realize his mother’s vision and I am honored to have been given the opportunity to lead the Foundation.” Reached by phone, Mr. Collins declined to comment. “You’d have to get in touch with Mr. West,” he said. Efforts to reach Mr. West failed, however. Mr. West’s agency, WME Entertainment, referred calls about the closing of the charity to the performer’s publicist, Gabriel Tesoriero, but Mr. Tesoriero did not respond to e-mail sent to the address the agency provided. Nor did a representative for Universal Music, where Mr. Tesoriero works, return a call. Michelynn Woodard, listed as the organization’s chairwoman, did not respond to e-mails or phone messages. The charity filed tax forms as if it were a private foundation, but it does not appear to have been financed by Mr. West, instead raising the bulk of its money from companies and individuals with whom Mr. West does business.
Related story:
Kanye West goes quiet as mystery surrounds closure of his charity.” Independent (UK). April 22, 2011.

Donor of the Day: Helping Protect the Hudson River.” By Melanie Grayce West. Wall Street Journal. April 22, 2011. Louis Moore Bacon inherited his interest in preservation of the land and water from his grandfather. Mr. Bacon says he was taught that “stewardship of the environment and preservation of those things that are important to the people who live there, is actually good business.” For more than 15 years, he has supported the New York-based environmental organization Riverkeeper, an advocacy group that protects the Hudson River and the drinking water supply of the region. Riverkeeper works by enforcing current environmental laws as they are written and covers the whole of the Hudson River region, from the Adirondacks to the southern tip of Manhattan. Mr. Bacon, 54 years old and of Southampton, N.Y., is the founder and chief executive of New York City-based hedge fund Moore Capital Management. Through his Moore Charitable Foundation, Mr. Bacon has given more than $1 million to Riverkeeper, including a $100,000 gift this month. The most recent gift is to support Riverkeeper’s work to prevent the relicensing of the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan, N.Y. Riverkeeper advocates that Indian Point, about 25 miles north of New York City, should be shut down. The organization cites ongoing safety problems, the amount of radioactive waste stored at the facility, threats of a terror attack and troublesome evacuation plans as reasons for its closure. “It’s amazing that New Yorkers aren’t up in arms about it,” says Mr. Bacon. Riverkeeper, founded in 1966 and by local fishermen, began to tackle the heavy pollution of the Hudson River by targeting the corporations responsible for the pollution. It’s that “David versus Goliath” spirit, says Mr. Bacon, that initially inspired him to support Riverkeeper. He helped the organization expand its mission to include protecting the reservoirs that supply drinking water to New York City and the Hudson Valley.

Donor of the Day: Rebuilding After Restructuring.” By Melanie Grayce West. Wall Street Journal. April 23, 2011. In her professional life, attorney Corinne Ball works in corporate reorganizations and distressed acquisitions. As she puts it, she rescues companies for a living. In that work, she occasionally gets notes of thanks from employees who work at the companies that she’s helped to preserve. Those notes motivate her, but she adds that “for those that we can save there are always those that I couldn’t save. There is downsizing.” “If anyone knows the hardships of financial distress and job loss,” says Ms. Ball, “it’s those of us in the restructuring profession.” So, about three years ago, Ms. Ball made the personal commitment to do more. She began by volunteering with the Archdiocese of New York and contributing legal expertise and helping to raise funds. Through the work of the archdiocese’s Catholic Charities, Ms. Ball began to learn about the vast needs of New Yorkers. Catholic Charities works with about 90 human-services organizations around the city on programs that include hunger, homelessness, protecting children and immigrant issues. The organization works without regard to the religion of the organization or the population it serves. Ms. Ball, 57 years old and a resident of Rye, N.Y., is a senior partner at Cleveland-based Jones Day and leads the firm’s global restructuring practice. Notably, she led the team of attorneys that represented Chrysler in its bankruptcy case. She serves on the board of Catholic Charities and has recently contributed about $35,000 to the organization. Additionally, Ms. Ball launched last year a group called Catholic Renewal. That group of roughly 400 people in the restructuring industry—lawyers, investment bankers and accountants—is focused on feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless. With two events, Catholic Renewal has raised $100,000 for Catholic Charities.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (April 18-24, 2011)

Friday, April 29th, 2011

RELIGION

Rajneeshees in Oregon Pt. 2: Ambitious sect members lead poison attacks.” By Les Zaitz. The Oregonian. April 17, 2011. The Oregonian’s series on the history of the Rajneeshees in Oregon continues with “Thwarted Rajneeshee leaders attack enemies, neighbors with poison.” Reporter Les Zaitz, who wrote about the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh when he arrived in Oregon with thousands of followers, tells of the increasing frustration felt by the religious sect’s leaders. They became more and more frustrated by local officials who would not allow unregulated growth at Rancho Rajneesh, their compound in rural Eastern Oregon. The Rajneeshees wanted to be left alone to build their global commune. That ambition was being thwarted by regulators, politicians and nearby residents. Commune leaders fought back in ways large and small, public and clandestine. They did so in the name of their spiritual master, the Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. Ultimately, their retaliation against Oregon officials turned from petty to dangerous.
Related articles:
Rajneeshees in Oregon – Pt. 3: Importing homeless and poisonings in The Dalles to win an election.” The Oregonian. April 18, 2011.
Rajneeshees in Oregon Pt. 4: Paranoia reigns as official concerns about sect grow.The Oregonian. April 19, 2011.

Monks Embrace Web to Reach Recruits.” By Tanzina Vega. New York Times. April 17, 2011. The Benedictine monks at the Portsmouth Abbey in Portsmouth, R.I., have a problem. They are aging — five are octogenarians and the youngest will be 50 on his next birthday — and their numbers have fallen to 12, from a peak of about 24 in 1969. So the monks, who for centuries have shied away from any outside distractions, have instead done what many troubled organizations are doing to find new members — they have taken to the Internet with an elaborate ad campaign featuring videos, a blog and even a Gregorian chant ringtone. “We’re down in numbers, we’re aging, we feel the pressure to do whatever we can,” said Abbot Caedmon Holmes, who has been in charge of the abbey since 2007. “If this is the way the younger generation are looking things up and are communicating, then this is the place to be.” That place is far from the solitary lives that some may think monks live. In fact, in this age of all things social media, the monks have embraced what may be the most popular of form of public self-expression: a Facebook page, where they have uploaded photos and video testimonials. A new Web site (portsmouthabbeymonastery.org) answers questions on how to become a monk — one F.A.Q.: “Do I have to give up my car?” (yes) — and print ads announce that “God Is Calling.” Some monks will even write blogs. “If 500 years ago, blogging existed, the monks would have found a way to make use of it,” Abbot Holmes said. “Our power is very limited. In the end it’s God who is calling people to himself and calling to people to live in union with him. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t do our part.”

A Village With the Numbers, Not the Image, of the Poorest Place.” By Sam Roberts. New York Times. April 20, 2011. The poorest place in the United States is not a dusty Texas border town, a hollow in Appalachia, a remote Indian reservation or a blighted urban neighborhood. It has no slums or homeless people. No one who lives there is shabbily dressed or has to go hungry. Crime is virtually nonexistent. And, yet, officially, at least, none of the nation’s 3,700 villages, towns or cities with more than 10,000 people has a higher proportion of its population living in poverty than Kiryas Joel, N.Y., a community of mostly garden apartments and town houses 50 miles northwest of New York City in suburban Orange County. About 70 percent of the village’s 21,000 residents live in households whose income falls below the federal poverty threshold, according to the Census Bureau. Median family income ($17,929) and per capita income ($4,494) rank lower than any other comparable place in the country. Nearly half of the village’s households reported less than $15,000 in annual income. About half of the residents receive food stamps, and one-third receive Medicaid benefits and rely on federal vouchers to help pay their housing costs. Kiryas Joel’s unlikely ranking results largely from religious and cultural factors. Ultra-Orthodox Satmar Hasidic Jews predominate in the village; many of them moved there from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, beginning in the 1970s to accommodate a population that was growing geometrically. Women marry young, remain in the village to raise their families and, according to religious strictures, do not use birth control. As a result, the median age (under 12) is the lowest in the country and the household size (nearly six) is the highest. Mothers rarely work outside the home while their children are young. Most residents, raised as Yiddish speakers, do not speak much English. And most men devote themselves to Torah and Talmud studies rather than academic training — only 39 percent of the residents are high school graduates, and less than 5 percent have a bachelor’s degree. Several hundred adults study full time at religious institutions. The concentration of poverty in Kiryas Joel, (pronounced KIR-yas Jo-EL) is not a deliberate strategy by the leaders of the Satmar sect, said Joel Oberlander, 30, a title examiner who lives in Williamsburg. “It puts a great strain on their resources,” he said. “They would love to see the better earners of the community relocate as well to balance the situation, but why would they?” Still, the Census Bureau’s latest poverty estimates, based on the 2005-9 American Community Survey released last year, do not take into account the community’s tradition of philanthropy and no-interest loans. Moreover, some families may be eligible for public benefits because they earn low salaries from the religious congregations and other nonprofit groups that run businesses and religious schools. Nearly half of the village’s residents with jobs work for the public or parochial schools.

The Evangelical Adoption Crusade.” By Kathryn Joyce. The Nation. April 21, 2011. In late March Craig Juntunen told a group of Christian adoption advocates assembled at a Chandler, Arizona, home about his plans to increase international adoptions fivefold. Just over a year before, the world had been riveted by the saga of Laura Silsby, the American missionary arrested while trying to transport Haitian children across the Dominican border. But the lessons of that scandal seemed far from Juntunen’s mind as he described his “crusade to create a culture of adoption” by simplifying adoption’s labyrinthine ethical complexities to their emotional core. Juntunen, a former pro football quarterback and the adoptive father of three Haitian children, has emerged as a somewhat rogue figure in the adoption world since he recently founded an unorthodox nonprofit, Both Ends Burning. He has commissioned a documentary about desperate orphans in teeming institutions, Wrongfully Detained, and proposed a “clearinghouse model” that will raise the number of children adopted into US families to more than 50,000 per year. Juntunen acknowledges that many adoption experts find his proposals naïve, particularly in a year that witnessed scandals in Haiti, Nepal and most recently Ethiopia, where widespread irregularities and trafficking allegations may slow the once-booming program to a crawl. He met a chilly reception recently at the Adoption Policy Conference at New York Law School when he spoke alongside State Department officials. But Juntunen insists that his ideas for increasing adoption constitute a social movement, akin to the civil rights movement, and that the force of a growing “adoption culture” will help them prevail. In this expectation, he may be right. In Arizona, Juntunen was speaking with Dan Cruver, head of Together for Adoption, a key coalition in a growing evangelical adoption movement. The event was the first of the organization’s new “house conferences”: small-scale meet-ups bolstering an active national movement that promotes Christians’ adopting as a way to address a worldwide “orphan crisis” they say encompasses hundreds of millions of children. It’s a message Cruver also emphasizes in his book Reclaiming Adoption—one in a growing list of titles about “orphan theology,” which teaches that adoption mirrors Christian salvation, plays an essential role in antiabortion politics and is a means of fulfilling the Great Commission, the biblical mandate that Christians spread the gospel.

Five myths about church and state in America.” Opinion. Washington Post. April 22, 2011. [For story, go to Law & Public Policy].

Fewer Jesuit priests this Easter, but more people learning Jesuit ideals.” By Michelle Boorstein. Washington Post. April 23, 2011. When John Langan came to Georgetown University in 1975 as a young Jesuit priest, he was one of 112 brothers from the Catholic order on campus. Jesuit Robert Drinan, a Massachusetts Democrat, was in Congress, and Jesuit John McLaughlin had recently been in the West Wing advising Republican President Richard Nixon. Today there are barely half as many Jesuits at Georgetown, the order’s flagship university. Gonzaga, a Jesuit high school in Northwest Washington, is down to 17, compared with 43 in 1970. There’s talk that St. Aloysius, a Jesuit parish in the District known for its social justice efforts, could close when the last remaining Jesuit leaves. And there are no full-time Jesuit staff members at the Washington Jesuit Academy, where the board chairman is Jewish. Jesuits are vanishing from the Washington area, where they established the first Catholic parish in the Colonies. When Langan’s fellow Jesuits gather Thursday for an annual post-Easter dinner at Georgetown, a topic of table chat will be transition. The regional Jesuit office is in the midst of merging with two other shrinking offices to create one that extends from Maine to Georgia. Looking at the Jesuits’ slip from public life is particularly poignant during Holy Week — when Catholics believe Jesus created the priesthood — and especially so in the Washington region, where Jesuits essentially laid the foundation for Catholicism in the English-speaking Colonies. As the first Catholic priests in the Colonies, Jesuits created the country’s first Catholic parish in 1641 in St. Mary’s County. American Jesuits call the D.C.-Baltimore branch of the order “the mother province.” Some of Washington’s most esteemed institutions are Jesuit: Georgetown University and Georgetown Preparatory School, Gonzaga College High School, St. Aloysius Gonzaga Church and the 10,000-member Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (April 18-24, 2011)

Friday, April 29th, 2011

SCANDAL

Greg Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea ‘inaccurate’ – CBS; Afghan school girls – 2011 Greg Mortenson’s foundation says it has established more than 170 schools.” BBC News. April 18, 2011. The best-selling book Three Cups of Tea, which follows the author Greg Mortenson’s mission to build schools across Central Asia, is filled with inaccuracies, a US documentary says. The CBS 60 Minutes report alleges that his charitable foundation took credit for building schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan which do not exist. The documentary also says Mr Mortenson uses the charitable group as a “private ATM machine”. Mr Mortenson denies the allegations. In an email he sent out to supporters and news organisations on Sunday before the programme was due to be aired, Mr Mortenson said the documentary based its claims on a single year’s tax return to the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The report “paints a distorted picture using inaccurate information, innuendo and a microscopic focus on one year’s (2009) IRS 990 financial,” the statement said. He also posted a statement on the website of the Central Asia Institute, the charitable organisation set up to finance and build schools across the region. “I stand by the information conveyed in my book and by the value of CAI’s [Central Asia Institute] work in empowering local communities to build and operate schools that have educated more than 60,000 students,” the statement says.
Related stories:
Author Greg Mortenson under fire after critical “60 Minutes” report; defends himself to VIP supporters.Washington Post. April 18, 2011.
Mortenson Investigation: Montana Attorney General Launches Inquiry Into ‘Three Cups Of Tea’ Charity.” Huffington Post. April 19, 2011.
Three Cups of Tea’ success has come crashing down amid questions and investigations.The Oregonian. April 21, 2011.
Author cancels event after ‘60 Minutes’ report.” Boston Globe/Worcester Telegram & Gazette. April 24, 2011.

New Birth settlement could be close.” By Shelia M. Poole. Atlanta Journal-Constitution. April 21, 2011. WSB-TV is reporting that mediation could be close to an end in the Bishop Eddie Long sexual misconduct cases. According to Tom Jones of WSB, the parties have held marathon mediation sessions and are close to an agreement. Four young men have sued Long, New Birth Missionary Baptist Church and the LongFellows Youth Academy alleging Long coerced them into having sexual relations. Last year all parties agreed to mediation. An agreement would avoid a lengthy and costly trial. If an agreement isn’t reached, the case could go to trial this summer. “We don’t have anything to comment about the status of the cases,” said Art Franklin, a spokesman for Long. The attorney who represents the young men could not be reached for comment. Jones reported that marathon sessions were suggested because some involved in the case didn’t want it go past Easter. WSB also reported there was apparently one major obstacle preventing a resolution but that appears to have been settled and both sides will are working on resolving the remaining issues. The sides met in February for mediation talks but an agreement was not reached.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (April 18-24, 2011)

Friday, April 29th, 2011

SOCIAL ENTERPRISE

Shop well, do good: Regional Habitat for Humanity chapter raises money for projects by selling donated building supplies at new ReStore in Lawrence.” By Karen Sackowitz. Boston Globe. April 21, 2011. “We have cabinetry, appliances, furniture, housewares,’’ she said, pointing each out as she whisked from the stock area to the showroom. “Anyone can come in here and find something that might just fit the bill.’’ Anne Strong manages the region’s first Habitat for Humanity ReStore, which opened March 31 at 4 Union St. in Lawrence. The shop offers surplus and gently used building materials, accessories, and other home improvement products for 50 to 70 percent off retail prices, organizers say. The proceeds from the Lawrence ReStore benefit Merrimack Valley Habitat for Humanity, the local affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, the largest nonprofit homebuilder in the world with a network of some 2,100 chapters. All materials in the ReStore are donated by community members, including homeowners who are remodeling, contractors, and both national and local retailers. The Lawrence ReStore is one of about 750 operating in the United States.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (April 11-17, 2011)

Monday, April 18th, 2011

ADVOCACY & POLITICS

The Anti-Immigration Crusader.” By Jason Deparle. New York Times. April 17, 2011. John Tanton had spent two decades planting trees, cleaning creeks and suing developers, but population growth put ever more pressure on the land. Though fertility rates had fallen, he saw a new threat emerging: soaring rates of immigration. Time and again, Dr. Tanton urged liberal colleagues in groups like Planned Parenthood and the Sierra Club to seek immigration restraints, only to meet blank looks and awkward silences. “I finally concluded that if anything was going to happen, I would have to do it myself,” he said. Improbably, he did. From the resort town of Petoskey, Mich., Dr. Tanton helped start all three major national groups fighting to reduce immigration, legal and illegal, and molded one of the most powerful grass-roots forces in politics. The immigration-control movement surged to new influence in last fall’s elections and now holds near veto power over efforts to legalize any of the 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States. One group that Dr. Tanton nurtured, Numbers USA, doomed President George W. Bush’s legalization plan four years ago by overwhelming Congress with protest calls. Another, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR, helped draft the Arizona law last year to give the police new power to identify and detain illegal immigrants. A third organization, the Center for Immigration Studies, joined the others in December in defeating the Dream Act, which sought to legalize some people brought to the United States illegally as children. Rarely has one person done so much to structure a major cause, or done it so far from the public eye. Dr. Tanton has raised millions of dollars, groomed protégés and bequeathed institutions, all while running an ophthalmology practice nearly 800 miles from Capitol Hill. “He is the most influential unknown man in America,” said Linda Chavez, a former aide to President Ronald Reagan who once led a Tanton group that promoted English-only laws.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (April 11-17, 2011)

Monday, April 18th, 2011

ARTS & CULTURE

Money Tight, Museums Mine Their Own Collections.” By Robin Pogrebin. New York Times. April 12, 2011. When the recession forced museums to cut back on expensive loan shows a few years ago, some worried that it would hurt attendance: With great works from around the world replaced by stuff hauled up from storage rooms, would art lovers’ hearts still flutter? Now, though, many museum directors are finding virtue in necessity. Shows built largely from in-house collections have drawn well, they say, and curators are introducing the public to unsung treasures. “If the recession has compelled us as museums in this country to focus even more intensely than we have in the past on our collections, that’s a good thing,” said Glenn D. Lowry, the director of the Museum of Modern Art. “Because they’re our primary responsibility.” Last year, for example, the Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition on Picasso, stocked completely from the museum’s own holdings, drew 700,000 visitors. And when the Los Angeles County Museum of Art opened its Resnick Pavilion last fall, it celebrated by showcasing its new collection of early European fashions. “The public doesn’t care whether you own it or borrow it,” said Michael Govan, the director of that Los Angeles museum. “They’re just interested in the presentation and the content.” Museums all over the country are now concentrating on their permanent collections rather than staging blockbusters that rely on borrowed works of art. A survey by the Association of Art Museum Directors this year found that nearly three-quarters of its members were planning shows based on their permanent collections, compared with a little more than half who planned such exhibitions in 2005.

Math museum signs a lease for 19,000 square feet; The Museum of Mathematics will open at 11 E. 26th St. in the fall of 2012.” By Miriam Kreinin Souccar. Crain’s New York Business. April 13, 2011. The Museum of Mathematics, a new nonprofit cultural institution created by former hedge fund executive Glen Whitney, just signed a lease for 19,000 square feet near Madison Square Park. The museum, which is scheduled to open in the fall of 2012, will be located at 11 E. 26th Street in the ground floor and lower level. Mr. Whitney, a former algorithm manager at Renaissance Technologies who also taught math at the University of Michigan after graduating from Harvard, started working on the museum two years ago in an attempt to raise the field of math’s profile. In his quest to make math fun and captivating, Mr. Whitney and his team of 10 staffers are developing between 50 and 60 exhibits for the museum. One exhibit, called The Ring of Fire, is already traveling to museums across the country and will come to the Liberty Science Center this fall. It features a laser-lighted cylinder that reveals different shapes hidden in the structure. Cindy Lawrence, the museum’s chief of operations, said the exhibit has been very popular and elicits surprised reactions from kindergarten-aged kids up to graduate students. “Every museum is asking for it,” Ms. Lawrence said. “There is still demand in science museums for math content.” The museum, which calls itself MOMATH for short, recently received a $2 million grant from Google to help other science museums build exhibits from MOMATH’s designs. So far, MOMATH has raised $22 million of its $30 million capital campaign. Mr. Whitney expects the annual operating budget to be a little more than $3 million once the museum is fully operational. “We’re on a mission to change the way folks think about mathematics and their perception about mathematics,” Ms. Lawrence said. “America is pretty low in mathematics proficiency and we’re trying to change that.”

Philadelphia Orchestra May Declare Bankruptcy.” By Daniel J. Wakin. New York Times. April 15, 2011. Painting a dire financial picture, leaders of the troubled Philadelphia Orchestra said on Friday that bankruptcy protection was vital to its survival. The orchestra’s board was to vote on Saturday whether to seek protection under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code. Officials said concerts would not be affected. While orchestras have filed for bankruptcy before, either to reorganize or to dissolve, the Philadelphia Orchestra would be the most prominent in recent memory to do so, and such a move would be a striking sign of the difficulties symphonies and opera companies are facing these days. The decision comes as the players and management have been locked in difficult contract negotiations. It gives us a better chance of raising the investment funds that are needed to revitalize this orchestra over the next five years,” Richard Worley, the board chairman, said of a Chapter 11 filing. “We need a fresh start. We need to escape contractual entanglements that we cannot possibly afford.” The largest such entanglement, he said, was the cost of musician pensions, which amount to a total of around $46 million, a figure that the players dispute, saying the amount is only about $8 million. Orchestra officials said they were basically out of cash. Joseph Bondi, a financial consultant advising the management, said the orchestra could meet its bills for only about two more months. Mr. Bondi and the officials spoke in a joint telephone interview. A Chapter 11 filing would also presumably buy time with other business partners, including the orchestra’s landlord, the Kimmel Center. “It gives the company the opportunity to review all of its contracts,” Mr. Bondi said. According to figures provided by the orchestra, ticket sales and other revenue are expected to bring in $14.1 million this season. Annual fund-raising, gala proceeds and endowment income will bring in $18.9 million. The $33 million total compares with what the orchestra said was $46 million needed to run the orchestra. Even with additional, emergency fund-raising, the deficit is expected to be $5 million.
Related story:
Philadelphia Orchestra Board Approves Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Filing.” Huffington Post. April 16, 2011.
Philadelphia Orchestra Files for Bankruptcy After 111 Years.” Bloomberg News. April 17, 2011.

US museums face financial woes, get more visitors.” By Brett Zongker. Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Associated Press. April 17, 2011. After the Great Recession swept through, the Delaware Art Museum had laid off half its staff, cut salaries and lost crucial support from corporations. Yet attendance was up last year at the Wilmington museum, reflecting the same trend museums have seen across the country because of declining funding and increased demand from schools and “staycationers.” A report being released Monday by the American Association of Museums shows more than 70 percent of the nation’s museums were under financial distress last year because most saw government and corporate funding reduced from an already bad year in 2009. At the same time, half of the nearly 400 museums in the survey reported increased attendance and educational programs. The median admission price remained $7 for adults. “I think the survey results show a real commitment to the work of museums, that people would rather freeze hiring and lay off staff than reduce the service they’re providing to the American people,” said Philip Katz, the museum association’s assistant director for research. For many, budgets continued to decline for 2011. The national survey shows financial stress was greatest for museums in the mid-Atlantic states, from the District of Columbia north to Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey, in part because the region saw severe snow storms that shut business down for days and high unemployment in some areas. The region also has the highest concentration of museums, Katz said. Financial declines were least severe for museums in the nation’s midsection. Katz noted investment income was recovering from declines in 2009 and many museums expect 2011 to be stable or improve over last year. Still, some survey participants noted philanthropists had shifted their focus toward social services or other causes during the recession and have not yet restored their support for museums. In the survey, museums in the western states saw solid increases in attendance, and museums in the Southeast were least likely to see more visitors.

Sic Transit Gloria: A Bus Museum Fails to Gain Traction; Public Takes a Pass, Although 1955 Visicoach Is a ‘Babe Magnet’.” By Conor Dougherty. Wall Street Journal. April 16, 2011. Creating nostalgia for a form of transportation many people think of as grimy, crowded and low class isn’t easy. Just ask Ron Medaglia, president of the Pacific Bus Museum. Mr. Medaglia, a retired bus driver, has spent the past five years trying to raise money to build a home for the group’s 22 vintage vehicles. The Pacific Bus Museum in Fremont, Calif., is home to 22 vintage buses in various stages of restoration. “We think buses are the greatest thing since sliced bread,” Mr. Medaglia says. “The public doesn’t quite see it that way.” So for now, much of the museum’s collection sits parked behind the battered metal doors of a dank warehouse here. Touring the collection, Mr. Medaglia points out some of his favorites. There’s a 1955 Greyhound Scenicruiser, a sleek, silver bus whose features include a raised back cabin and a bathroom, which he says is to bus aficionados what the classic 1957 Chevy is to car buffs. Another favorite: A 1955 Flxible Visicoach with a shiny black and cherry-red paint job. “A real babe magnet,” he says. Many museums are dedicated to cars and trains, but only a handful mark the countless bumpy bus rides Americans take to school, around town and across the open highways. There’s the Greyhound Bus Museum in Hibbing, Minn., and the Museum of Bus Transportation in Hershey, Pa. The Henry Ford museum in Dearborn, Mich., has the bus that civil-rights hero Rosa Parks was riding when she refused to give her seat to a white man, sparking the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott. The Pacific Bus Museum has another way to raise funds and build excitement about buses. Several Sundays a year, the museum provides two classic buses to shuttle passengers between a commuter rail station and parking lot and another, very popular attraction in town: a railway museum. Passengers are asked to donate $1 for their bus ride.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (April 11-17, 2011)

Monday, April 18th, 2011

EDUCATION

HIGHER EDUCATION

Yale not alone in Title IX probe.” By Jordi Gassó. Yale Daily News. April 15, 2011. A federal investigation into whether Yale violated Title IX has been in the media spotlight since it was first announced two weeks ago, but similar probes at Yale’s peer institutions have gone largely unnoticed. At least four other universities and professional schools — including the University of Virginia (UVA), Duke University, Princeton University and Harvard Law School — are presently under investigation by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights because of Title IX complaints, DOE spokesperson Jim Bradshaw said. Legal experts interviewed explained that Yale’s case is not unique, given the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault incidents across universities. “The improper application of Title IX [when colleges handle] sexual misconduct cases is a pervasive issue,” said S. Daniel Carter, director of public policy for Security on Campus, Inc., a non-profit organization focused on safety on college campuses. Duke alone is now facing three open cases — two accusing the university of slow and inadequate action in response to grievances of sexual harassment, and a third accusing Duke of retaliating against a complainant who filed a prior complaint with the OCR. Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations at Duke, confirmed the Title IX investigations into his school, but deferred to the OCR for additional details. The OCR inquiries at Yale and the other four schools all stem from alleged violations of Title IX, which prohibits gender discrimination at educational institutions that receive federal funding. The OCR generally does not release details of investigations, Bradshaw said. Kristen Galles, a Virginia-based Title IX lawyer who has been litigating Title IX cases since 1993, said investigations usually go public only when the complainants opt to discuss their cases with the media. “[An investigation] at Yale might wake up a lot of schools to do something,” Galles said, explaining that OCR commonly “negotiates” with schools to find ways to comply with Title IX throughout the investigation.
Related story:
Title IX Resonates Beyond Yale’s Walls.” The Nation/Yale Daily News. April 11, 2011.
Is Yale University Sexist? Allegations about a ‘hostile environment’ for women could cost the university a half-billion in federal funding.” Wall Street Journal. April 16, 2011.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (April 11-17, 2011)

Monday, April 18th, 2011

HUMAN SERVICES

At Nursing Homes, Fears of a Budget ‘Armageddon’.” By Thanh Tan. New York Times. April 14, 2011. The Texas Legislature is faced with a budget challenge that has pitted the Republican majority’s desire to cut government spending against a vulnerable target: nursing homes. Should the Senate fail to amend House Bill 1, the general appropriations bill for the next biennium, Medicaid reimbursement rates for all providers in Texas would be reduced by 10 percent. Nursing homes would be hit even harder. The industry has crunched the numbers, and state officials confirm they could be short the amount they would need to fully cover provider rates by a total of 33 percent, or $1.2 billion. That discrepancy is caused by three major factors: less general revenue, anticipated case load growth and fewer matching dollars from the federal government. Nursing home advocates say the shortfall could lead to the closing of nearly half the state’s 1,100 nursing facilities and the layoffs of nearly 60,000 workers, resulting in the removal of nearly 46,000 residents. Leslie Stratton, executive director of Cedar View Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Austin, started making regular visits to the Capitol this session to lobby against the cuts. Ms. Stratton said that more than half of the 93 residents in her facility rely on Medicaid. “I don’t think they truly understand what we do on a day-to-day basis,” Ms. Stratton said of lawmakers. Most families “are not equipped to deal with the level of care that these elderly need,” she said. The care provided in-house ranges from feeding, changing and bathing residents several times per day to physical therapy and medical procedures like IV drips, dialysis and the use of negative-pressure therapy to treat open wounds like bed sores.

Food nurtures a community; Two men in Pasadena feed the needy and build a strong bond.” By Sandy Banks. Los Angeles Times. April 15, 2011. There’s a sign-in sheet at the door, with a note asking everyone to “Please limit yourself to one plate.” But nobody seems to be keeping track. Locals consider this dinner venue — the Jackie Robinson Center in Pasadena — the soul of a shifting community. Northwest Pasadena is best understood “if you think of South-Central in Los Angeles,” said Jarvis Emerson, director of the center, which offers everything from tutoring to drug treatment to aerobics for seniors, as well as the Wednesday night dinners. The meals are provided by the Pasadena Food Bank, a small group of local do-gooders. Dinner began in December with 40 guests; last week almost 200 showed up. I’ve visited twice and was struck both times by the eclectic crowd: families straight from work and day care, elderly women in jewelry and leisure wear, homeless men with vacant stares. “If you walk through the door,” said food bank board member Walter Jackson, “we feed you.”

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (April 11-17, 2011)

Monday, April 18th, 2011

HOUSING

Amidst Foreclosure Crisis, Proposed Budget Would Slash Housing Counseling.” By Paul Kiel. ProPublica, April 13, 2011. One of the primary sources of money for counseling agencies is a program administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The budget agreement would reduce that program’s funding from $88 million to zero. The effect on agencies would be “absolutely devastating,” said Judy Hunter of the Rural Community Assistance Corporation, a non-profit based in Sacramento, Calif. The HUD funding is “really the spine on which housing counseling programs exist,” said Bruce Dorpalen of Affordable Housing Centers of America, a national nonprofit formerly known as Acorn Housing Corporation. There are about 2,800 HUD-approved agencies throughout the country [3], which provide a range of services to millions of homeowners and prospective homebuyers free of charge. About half of the counseling sessions provided in 2010 were dedicated to helping those facing foreclosure, according to HUD. Meg Reilly, a spokeswoman for the Office of Management and Budget, said, “these were very tough choices to make.” Reilly pointed out that the agreement had left intact a $65 million fund devoted to counseling for foreclosure avoidance. Advocates said that fund has not come close to meeting the demand of homeowners facing foreclosure. NeighborWorks [4], which administers the fund, requested $113 million for 2011 but received just over half that amount. Counseling agencies offer traditional services such as financial reviews and budgeting, but they also increasingly have been called upon to help homeowners navigate the often-bewildering maze they face when trying to avoid foreclosure. The Treasury Department has relied on the infrastructure of agencies in running the administration’s mortgage modification program, referring homeowners to HUD-approved counselors through a national hotline [5]. The cuts would go into effect later this year. Agencies could seek other private or public funds to try to avoid layoffs, but some are already scrambling to make ends meet, advocates said. “What we’re seeing across the market is that both on the foreclosure front as well as with first-time homebuyers, funds to support housing counseling agencies are drying up,” said Bernell Grier, chief executive officer of Neighborhood Housing Services of New York City. The House is expected to vote on the proposed budget this week.

Another symptom of the downturn: Unpaid fees at housing associations.” By Jeff Manning. The Oregonian. April 16, 2011. Leland Jaquay, a gregarious 32-year-old, loves his role as president of the Fairview Terrace Homeowners Association. For most of his stint on the Fairview board, the issues were generally minor, mainly stemming from “the three P’s,” as Jaquay shorthands it, the pool, parking and dog poop. That allowed Jaquay to concentrate on what he liked most: the barbecue, the casino night and other social events that helped the east-Multnomah County development build a sense of community. But in recession-plagued 2011, the problems are deeper and grimmer. Fairview, like homeowners associations all over the state, is enduring a financial storm brought on by the economic slump and housing bust. Hard-pressed residents are not paying their HOA dues in numbers that professional condo managers say they’ve never seen. The delinquencies are depriving associations of a crucial revenue stream and forcing some to defer maintenance or levy special assessments on the paying neighbors to make up the shortfall. Fairview has increased its monthly HOA dues from $175 to $260. Yet it’s not been nearly enough to cover the shortfall, which now exceeds $180,000. Jaquay’s association, like many others, has chosen to file collections lawsuits against its own members and former members. HOA dues hit a growing number of Oregonians as they moved into condos and townhomes and other planned communities. Nationally, just over 2 million people lived in communities governed by homeowner associations in 1970. By 2010, the number was 62 million.