Archive for May, 2011

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (May 23-29, 2011)

Monday, May 30th, 2011


IRS To Take On Karl Rove? Tax Laws Could Take A Bite Out Of Secret Political Spending.” No by-line. Huffington Post. May 25, 2011. Top Republican political strategist Karl Rove’s method of secretly funneling unlimited contributions from big donors was so hugely successful in the 2010 campaign that Democrats are now trying to copy it. But his model may yet end up backfiring spectacularly. In one scenario, groups like Rove’s Crossroads Grassroots Political Strategies could find themselves subject to massive fines, ranging as high as 35 to 70 percent of the money they received in secret donations. In another scenario, their deep-pocket donors could be hit by a 35 percent tax on their contributions. Rove may well have found a way around the nation’s federal election laws. But now the key question is whether the Internal Revenue Service is willing to be assertive. Because if it is, then just like with Al Capone, it could be the IRS that gets him. In Crossroads GPS’s solicitations for money, the group describes itself as a tax-exempt 501(c)(4) organization, and due to a controversial loophole in federal campaign finance rules, the names of donors to those organizations do not have to be disclosed publicly. But contrary to popular belief, Rove’s group has not formally attained 501(c)(4) status. The group’s application, requesting the IRS to classify it as a “social welfare” group, is still pending. And while the designation is typically not much more than a formality — organizations routinely call themselves (c)(4) groups before they’ve been formally approved — tax and campaign finance experts contacted by The Huffington Post said the IRS could well deny Crossroads GPS’s application.

The Influence Industry: ‘Super PACs’ could test campaign finance law.” Washington Post. May 25. 2011. [For story, go to Law & Public Policy].

Conservative Group Wins Nonprofit Status From I.R.S.” By Stephanie Strom. New York Times. May 26, 2011. The Internal Revenue Service has granted nonprofit status to the group that brought down two senior executives at NPR and dealt a death blow to the community organizing group Acorn with videos of its employees giving tax advice to people claiming to be a pimp and prostitute. Project Veritas, a group founded by the videographer James O’Keefe, received the status from the I.R.S. in April, according to documents gathered by The Chronicle of Philanthropy through a Freedom of Information Act request. “It will help us expand as an organization and institution,” Mr. O’Keefe said in an interview on Thursday. He said the money saved with the status would help Project Veritas train and equip “an army” of citizen journalists to carry out its mission: “to investigate and expose corruption, dishonesty, self-dealing, waste, fraud and other misconduct in both public and private institutions in order to achieve a more ethical and transparent society.” The organization applied for tax exemption in August and received one request for further information from the I.R.S. before it granted approval. The Chronicle of Philanthropy has posted all of the documents the tax agency gave it, along with analysis. Mr. O’Keefe catapulted onto the national stage in 2009 when, armed with a hidden camera and accompanied by a partner dressed as a prostitute, he caught Acorn workers on tape offering advice about how to finance a brothel.
Related story:
IRS Grants Nonprofit Status To James O’Keefe’s ‘Project Veritas’.” Huffington Post. May 26, 2011.

Judge Voids Ban on Campaign Donations by Business.” New York Times. May 27, 2011. [For story, go to Law & Public Policy].

A Further Overreach on Political Money.” Editorial. New York Times. May 28, 2011. The spree of big-money political campaigning — and the corruption that comes with it — seemed guaranteed to worsen Thursday when a federal judge in Virginia ruled that corporations are now free to make direct donations to federal candidates. District Court Judge James Cacheris claimed his decision was consistent with the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United case. But his interpretation of corporate free speech rights goes much further — and strains all credibility. The Supreme Court specifically said that the Citizens United ruling was about allowing corporate expenditures through independent campaign groups. A separate Supreme Court decision from 2003, Federal Election Commission v. Beaumont, still stands and leaves no doubt that the ban on corporate donations to candidates remains the law. Judge Cacheris would seem to twice overrule Supreme Court decisions — a hierarchical impossibility as any law student should know. (A federal judge in Minnesota previously ruled that the ban on corporate donations to candidates still stands.) Of course, in politics there is the law of the land and there is the tireless frenzy for money. Whether Judge Cacheris — who issued his opinion, as he said, “for better or worse” — meant to blur the two remains to be seen. His decision deserves to be struck down on appeal for “equating apples and oranges,” as Mark Lytle, the prosecutor in the case, said of the judge’s overreach. Judge Cacheris’s ruling struck down part of an indictment accusing two businessmen of illegally reimbursing employees for their donations to Hillary Clinton’s campaigns for president and the Senate. They are charged with paying more than $180,000 to 43 fake donors in an effort to evade donation limits. Most of the indictment still stands, with a trial scheduled in July. Campaign money bundlers will keep pushing the limits wherever and however they can — and the integrity of our electoral system will pay the price. The courts need to do a far better job of pushing back.

A century of advocacy.” No by-line. Boston Globe. May 29, 2011.
1911 > The Boston NAACP is recognized as the organization’s first local branch.
1914 > The local branch persuades the Boston School Committee to remove a book containing racist language, Forty Best Songs, from schools.
1938 > The branch wins an extradition case preventing a fugitive from a Georgia chain gang caught in Boston from being sent back, a case that helped end Georgia’s chain-gang system.
1948 > Florence Lesueur is elected branch president, the first woman in NAACP history to lead a local branch.
1953 > The branch pushes the Meadows Restaurant in Framingham to hire a black waiter, marking the first time in the state that a major restaurant serving a white clientele had black and white servers working in the same dining room.
1960s > The branch battles with the city over segregation in its schools and in housing developments, and over a lack of code enforcement in privately owned apartments. Membership, at more than 5,000 people, is at its peak.
1972 > The branch files a lawsuit against the Boston School Committee over segregated schools, leading to the 1974 desegregation order by federal judge W. Arthur Garrity Jr.
1980s > The city’s housing authority, under legal pressure from the Boston NAACP, agrees to desegregate its developments in a landmark settlement.
1990s > The national NAACP removes the Boston branch president and assumes oversight of local operations. The branch later gets new leadership and sets out to rebuild its reputation.
2000s > The Boston branch fights to have minority leaders and minority-owned companies at the forefront during the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.
2010 > Membership is lagging, then Michael Curry, a lawyer, lobbyist, and NAACP insider, runs for branch president and wins over former state senator Bill Owens. Curry’s goal: reestablishing the branch’s voice.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (May 23-29, 2011)

Monday, May 30th, 2011


A Move by City Opera Has Potential, as Well as Possible Pitfalls.” By Anthony Tommasini. New York Times. May 22, 2011. After talking, fantasizing and plotting about it for years, New York City Opera is moving out of Lincoln Center. Immediately! Or so the company said on Friday in a stunning, if very sketchy, announcement from George Steel, the general manager and artistic director. This news came after intense meetings between Mr. Steel and the board to deal with the struggling company’s financial crisis and rake over the disappointing box-office receipts for the recently concluded season, Mr. Steel’s second. Concerned supporters of the company were expecting news on Friday. But all they were hoping for was an announcement of next season’s productions. Given the financial straits, it seemed possible that there would be no next season or that City Opera might even go under. There will be a 2011-12 season, Mr. Steel asserted, though once again a limited one of just five full productions, including two smaller-scale operas in modest stagings. As to what works these will be and who will be singing them, let alone the pressing question of where they will be presented, all those details are to come, Mr. Steel said.
Related story:
Singers’ Union to Opera: Halt.” Wall Street Journal. May 27, 2011.

Asia Society Appoints Two Leaders.” By Kate Taylor. New York Times. May 22, 2011. The balance of power between the United States and Asia has shifted dramatically since 1956, when John D. Rockefeller III founded the Asia Society to promote greater understanding of Asia in the United States. In response, the Asia Society is shifting its center of gravity from New York to its outposts in Hong Kong, Mumbai, Manila and elsewhere. As part of this effort, the Asia Society is for the first time naming two leaders of the board, one based in the United States and one in Asia. Henrietta Holsman Fore, a former chief of the United States Agency for International Development, and Ronnie C. Chan, a real estate developer in Hong Kong and China, will assume joint leadership of the board on June 10, taking over from Charles R. Kaye. Ms. Fore is the first woman and Mr. Chan the first Asian, to lead the board. Next year the Asia Society will open a new $52 million center in Hong Kong, which will include a museum, theater, cafe, event spaces and offices. The society’s president, Vishakha Desai, said in an e-mail that the decision to have two leaders was part of an effort to further develop programs, influence and fund-raising in Asia.

Artists try farmers’ tactic, selling community shares.” By Laura Collins-Hughes. Boston Globe. May 23, 2011. Andrew Galland is all in favor of buying locally. That’s one reason he purchased a share in a CSA: a community-supported agriculture program that, for a few hundred dollars, will deliver a box of fresh Massachusetts vegetables each week of the growing season to a drop-off near his house in Somerville. The 34-year-old software designer just signed up for another kind of CSA, too, but this one won’t bring him arugula or eggplant. His $300 share in Community Supported Art will get him three monthly assortments of locally created artworks — nine pieces in all, his to keep. CSArt, a new project of the Cambridge Center for Adult Education, is modeled on a wildly popular Minnesota art CSA, which has inspired groups in Chicago and Frederick, Md., to create their versions. And some glassmakers in Burlington, Vt., independently adopted the CSA form last year. The success of the Minnesota program is due in part to the fact that it’s based on something people understand, said Laura Zabel, executive director of Springboard for the Arts, one of the groups that developed it. “We pretty much took that model wholesale from community-supported agriculture,’’ she said.

National Pinball Museum to close.” By Lori Aratani. Washington Post. May 23, 2011. Just five months after opening its doors to delighted pinheads and wizards across the D.C. region, Georgetown’s National Pinball Museum is being forced to close. David Silverman, the Silver Spring man whose dream it was to share his pinball collection with the masses, said Monday that he has received a letter informing him that he will have to vacate his third-floor space at the Shops at Georgetown Park in mid-July. For more than three decades, Silverman dreamed of opening a museum to showcase his collection of more than 800 pinball machines and to share the history of a game that was first played by French aristocrats. After a story about Silverman appeared in The Washington Post, a leasing agent at the Georgetown center approached him with the idea of opening the museum at the mall. Silverman spent six months renovating a third-floor space that once housed an FAO Schwarz toy store and put up $300,000 of his own money to make the project happen. The National Pinball Museum opened in December. The museum features 200 pinball machines, some of which were available for visitors to play, as well as displays detailing the art and history of the game. Silverman also highlighted the work of game designers and artists. Silverman said he remains committed to keeping the museum alive.

New York Public Library: 100 Years Of Open Doors.” By Joel Rose. All Things Considered/National Public Radio. May 23, 2011. The marble lion “Fortitude,” one of a pair created by Edward Clark Potter in 1911, is seen at the main entrance to the New York Public Library on May 20. The marble lions — and the library they represent — have been photographed millions of times by an adoring public, and they’ve appeared in dozens of films and TV shows, including Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Ghostbusters and The Day After Tomorrow. The New York Public Library is not a modest building. The steps on Fifth Avenue lead up to a waiting room with grand marble columns — and zero books. Library President Paul LeClerc explains that the founders of the library were trying to send a message. New York has always been a ferociously ambitious city, even when there wasn’t very much to show off,” he says. “Those involved in creating this library wanted to create something that was on a par with the great libraries of the European capitals, especially London, Paris and Berlin.” Plus they needed to build something bigger and flashier than Boston’s library. Hence the majestic main reading room at the New York Public Library, which stretches for two city blocks. Beneath it lie the stacks, where the library keeps many of its 50 million items. The library is open to anyone, and you can ask to read virtually anything you want, no questions asked.

Bringing the World to America.” By Earle Hitchner. Wall Street Journal. May 26, 2011. By the time 70-year-old Robert Browning retired earlier this month as executive and artistic director of the not-for-profit World Music Institute, he had already spent more than half his life presenting concerts of international music and dance in New York. The numbers just since he and his wife, Helene, launched WMI in 1985 are stunning: an average of 60 concerts annually, with a cumulative total of more than 1,500 music and dance groups and soloists from more than 100 countries appearing in more than a dozen venues in or near Manhattan. The influence of WMI also extends well beyond the city through several U.S. tours the organization helped arrange for foreign artists. “It is rare to find someone who runs nonprofit gigs in such a thoroughly professional way,” said singer Karan Casey from her home in Cork, Ireland. “Consistently Robert has placed Irish traditional music in top-class venues, and this has made a huge difference to the musicians and audiences he has nurtured.” That nurturing began positively on Fourth Street in 1975 at the Alternative Center for International Arts. It was founded by Mr. Browning and his friend Geno Rodriguez in 1974, the year Mr. Browning immigrated to New York from London, where he had studied visual arts and went on to create kinetic, edgy installations using inflatable art with avant-garde musicians and dancers. That passion for bold, eclectic fine art, coupled with his interest in Indian, Spanish and British folk music, jazz, blues, and “the various extremes of classical music,” shaped Mr. Browning’s co-directorship of the Alternative Center. “It started as a gallery to give exposure to painters and sculptors outside the so-called SoHo arts scene,” Mr. Browning explained by phone from his Brooklyn home. “Geno and I realized a lot of recent immigrants living here were talented, if neglected, artists, so we held exhibitions for them. One day an Argentinean musician walked in and said, ‘This would be a great place to have a concert.’ I had no prior experience in organizing or promoting concerts. So I told the musician that if he and his ensemble could bring in an audience, I’d borrow chairs from nearby Washington Square Church and let them perform. They brought in 150 people, and suddenly I was in concert production. Later, when a Brazilian group also asked to perform, I was scared stiff we’d lose our shirts by paying $500 to set it up. They drew a standing-room-only crowd of 250, dispelling my anxiety.”

SFMOMA wing gently expands reach in early plans.” By John King. San Francisco Chronicle. May 26, 2011. The details are sketchy, but the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has released its design concept for a new wing that would double the size of the institution – a concept that aims to slide a block-long building into the landscape without causing a fuss. The expansion would stretch from Howard Street north to Minna Street behind the museum’s existing home, a length of 335 feet. The top height of 195 feet along Howard compares with the 163-foot peak of SFMOMA’s distinctive granite-rimmed skylight. But instead of a solid block, the architects envision something more like a weathered cliff that folds in on all sides to lessen the impact on views and not shade the museum’s popular sculpture garden. Dykers stressed that the concept is a work in progress. The material for the new wing’s skin hasn’t been selected. Architects are working with museum staff on how best to connect the new gallery spaces with the existing museum, a brick-covered box from 1995 that faces Third Street and was designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta. Still, the unveiling of what Dykers called “a preview of a preview” took place Wednesday with fanfare befitting a $250 million expansion that is shaping up as the city’s largest private development project between now and the planned opening in 2016. Along with images and a model, guests and the media had access to a buffet with cheeses, breads, a broad bowl of ripe berries and three California wines.

Survival Strategies for Orchestras.” By Vivien Schweitzer. New York Times. May 25, 2011. From the recent string of crises at symphony orchestras you might conclude that orchestral business models are as outdated as the musicians’ Victorian attire. The Philadelphia Orchestra filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April; the Honolulu Symphony and the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra recently folded; and musicians of the Detroit Symphony had their pay cut after a six-month strike. In a turbulent economy that has carried a wide range of organizations, including arts groups, banks and newspapers, to the brink, orchestras are being forced to re-examine their missions and structures to accommodate a changing fiscal and social landscape. “Music Makes a City,” an engaging documentary from last year about the Louisville Orchestra that was just released on DVD, offers an inspiring and cautionary tale of creative chutzpah and financial mismanagement. The orchestra, which itself filed for bankruptcy in December, was founded shortly after the floods that crippled Louisville, Ky., in 1937.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (May 23-29, 2011)

Monday, May 30th, 2011


Dress Giveaway Helps Poor Kids Achieve Prom.” By Karen Grigsby Bates. Weekend Edition Saturday/National Public Radio. May 21, 2011. The high-school prom is a costly American rite of passage. Most kids consider it a must, but prom is out of reach for many students from poor families. Recently, the Assistance League of Los Angeles held its annual prom dress giveaway, a reward to girls from poor or homeless families for their high academic achievement despite the odds. It’s not the apex of their lives; it’s a payoff for their hard work and a gentle encouragement to stick to their goals. NPR’s Karen Grigsby Bates attended the giveaway. It’s the season for the prom, a ritual that seems to get more expensive each year. NPR’s Karen Grigsby Bates recently visited a group of young ladies in Southern California who were getting ready for their Cinderella moment courtesy of some real-life fairy godmothers. Most weeks, this dressing room at the Assistance League of Southern California is filled with low-income, elementary school-aged children. They come to be fitted with free clothes and shoes, courtesy of a local nonprofit. But for one special day each year, it’s all about prom. And, says Goodman, while the dresses may look like mere special event clothes, they’re really much more than that. They’re rewards for girls who have excelled, despite extraordinary challenges.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (May 23-29, 2011)

Monday, May 30th, 2011



Charter schools boosted by strong support on Education Committee.” By Christopher Cousins. Bangor Daily News. May 22, 2011. Charter schools in Maine came closer than they ever have to reality Friday when the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee voted in favor of a bill that would allow creation of up to 10 of them in the next 10 years. Despite opposition by the Maine Education Association and the associations for principals, superintendents and school boards, nine of the committee’s members favor the bill sponsored by Sen. Garrett Paul Mason, R-Lisbon Falls. The latest version of the bill, LD 1553, “An Act to Create a Public Charter School Program in Maine,” has not yet been printed after amendments were approved Friday. Public charter schools, which have been rejected by the Maine Legislature 17 times in the past, are educational institutions that allow more flexibility on issues such as curriculum and schedule but are still held to precise standards in state and federal laws. They cannot teach religious practices and cannot discriminate against students or teachers. The concept of charter schools was supported recently by the State Board of Education. A poll by Pan Atlantic SMS in Portland, which was funded by the charter schools association, showed that more than 65 percent of Mainers support charter schools. “With bipartisan support, the Education Committee has recognized that public charter schools can help to improve education in Maine,” said Roger Brainerd, executive director of the Maine Association for Charter Schools, in a press release. “After a thorough public hearing, the Education Committee made changes to the legislation that made it stronger and builds a strong foundation for public charter schools in Maine.” But not everyone agrees, including when it comes to the issue of whether the measure was vetted thoroughly in a public hearing. Rep. Stephen Lovejoy, D-Portland, said of major concern is the fact that only a couple of legislators on the Education Committee were present for most of the public hearing — and both of them were charter school supporters. Members of the House of Representatives were absent from the May 11 hearing because of a special session called to debate a controversial package of changes to the state’s health care laws, which eventually passed and has been signed into law by Gov. Paul LePage.

L.A. County education officials OK Compton charter school; Celerity Educational Group’s petition to open a campus was rejected by Compton’s school board. But its successful appeal to L.A. County education officials means that a kindergarten through fifth-grade campus will operate in a neighborhood church.” By Teresa Watanabe. Los Angeles Times. May 26, 2011. Compton parents, stymied in their efforts to petition for sweeping changes at their low-performing elementary school, now have another choice: They can send their children to a newly approved charter campus instead. Celerity Educational Group announced Wednesday that its petition to start a school in Compton, which was rejected by the city school board, has been approved on appeal by Los Angeles County education officials. The group, which operates four schools throughout the area, plans to open the Compton program this fall for 220 children in kindergarten through fifth grade at a neighborhood church. Parents said they were jubilant to finally have another choice for their children besides McKinley Elementary School, where standardized test scores are rising but still rank in the bottom 10% of elementary schools statewide. The announcement marks the latest twist in the long battle over McKinley. The school has become a closely watched test case for the state’s new Parent Trigger law, which allows parents at low-performing schools to force staff and curriculum changes, school closure or conversion to a charter school. Charters are publicly financed, independently run schools. Parent Revolution, a Los Angeles educational advocacy group, helped organize McKinley parents to submit the state’s first Parent Trigger petition last December, asking that school management be turned over to Celerity. But the Compton school board rejected the petitions, saying that they were not properly drawn up. The group sued and a Los Angeles judge tentatively agreed, in part, with the board. Further arguments are scheduled for next month. As the parent group faltered on the legal front, Celerity moved forward with a separate and ultimately successful charter petition. Celerity founder and chief Vielka McFarlane said the new school will be named Celerity Sirius — after the brightest star in the night sky.


For-Profit Colleges Spend Much Less On Educating Students Than Public Universities.” No by-line. Huffington Post. May 25, 2011. For-profit colleges devote less than a third of what public universities spend on educating students, even though the for-profit institutions charge nearly twice as much as their public counterparts for tuition, according to new federal government data released Thursday. Students attending bachelor’s degree programs at for-profit schools are also much less likely to graduate than students who attend public universities or private non-profit schools, concludes the report from the National Center for Education Statistics. One in five students graduate from for-profit bachelor’s degree programs within six years, compared to more than half of students at public universities. The new federal data lands amid fierce debate over the practices of for-profit colleges, which confront the stiffest government scrutiny in decades. The Obama administration has been crafting new rules aimed at preventing schools from promising more than they can deliver, in response to reports that many tout their training programs as stepping stones to lucrative careers only to set up students up for jobs whose wages will rarely keep pace with their resulting debt burdens. The for-profit industry relies heavily on federal student aid as part of its business model, but the industry is responsible for an increasing number of defaults in the federal student loan program. The Department of Education is expected to finalize the new rules within the next few weeks. The rules could limit federal student aid money flowing to programs at for-profit schools and some non-profit vocational programs that yield too many graduates who are unable to pay off their debts.

For-profit colleges see major gains in past decade.” By Mary Beth Marklein. USA Today. May 26, 2011. Undergraduate enrollments increased by more than a third, to 17.6 million, in the first decade of the 21st century, with the most dramatic growth occurring at for-profit colleges, a federal report out today shows. It was the fastest decade of growth since the 1970s. The for-profit higher education sector posted a number of highs — and lows— in other findings, including the highest average price of attendance after grants are factored in, highest average loan amounts and the lowest spending per student on instruction, according to the report by the National Center for Education Statistics. It doesn’t capture more recent enrollment declines among some of the largest for-profit colleges in recent months as the sector weathers scrutiny from Congress and the Education Department. But NCES commissioner Jack Buckley said the “remarkable amount of growth” — for-profit colleges enrolled 9% of all undergraduates in 2009, up from 3% in 2000 — can’t be dismissed. For-profit enrollments increased five-fold, to 1.2 million, at four-year colleges, and nearly doubled, to 385,000 at two-year institutions. “We are seeing a shift” that has “created additional opportunities … (and) brought to light differences in how students pursue and pay for that education,” he said, adding that higher education “may look quite different” in 2020, when enrollments are projected to reach 20 million.

Questions Follow Leader of For-Profit Colleges.” By Tamar Lewin. New York Times. May 26, 2011. In 2004, when Todd S. Nelson was chief executive of the University of Phoenix, the nation’s largest for-profit college, he signed a $9.8 million settlement with the Department of Education, which found that Phoenix had “systematically and intentionally” broken the federal rules against paying recruiters for students. Mr. Nelson is now chief executive of the nation’s second-largest for-profit college company, Education Management Corporation, or EDMC, and the Justice Department and two state attorneys general are intervening in a whistle-blower lawsuit charging that EDMC also violated the ban on what is known as incentive compensation. That practice encourages aggressive recruitment of unqualified students for their federal student aid. Given the cast of characters — along with Mr. Nelson, a half dozen former Phoenix executives are now at EDMC — the complaint against EDMC says that “senior management knows that the compensation system it administers violates the incentive compensation ban.” Phoenix never admitted any wrongdoing, either in the settlement with the Education Department or in a later $78.5 million settlement in the whistle-blower suit that had led to that inquiry. Education Management, which enrolls about 150,000 students at Argosy University, Brown Mackie College, South University and in its Art Institutes, has said it plans a vigorous defense.

DKE sanctions may prove difficult to implement.” By David Burt and Jordi Gassó. Yale Daily News. May 27, 2011. Even though Yale’s undergraduate disciplinary body has issued sanctions against Delta Kappa Epsilon resulting from an inflammatory public pledge chant in October, it is still unclear whether the University will have any sway over the future of the fraternity. Yale College Dean Mary Miller announced the outcome of the Executive Committee’s disciplinary proceedings against DKE in a May 17 email to students and faculty. ExComm has prohibited DKE — which, like most Greek organizations on campus, is not registered under the Yale College Dean’s Office — from recruiting new members or holding any events on campus for five years. Miller said in her email that DKE has been asked to register as a student group, and that Yale requests that the fraternity’s national organization suspend the Yale chapter for five years. But higher education law experts said DKE’s status as an off-campus, unregistered student organization could make it difficult for the University to sanction the fraternity as a group. “It’s a big challenge for modern universities to deal with the gray space between on and off campus,” said Peter Lake, director for the Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy at Stetson University.


NYU Expands Outside Village.” By Craig Karmin. Wall Street Journal. May 24, 2011. New York University’s efforts to expand its main campus in Greenwich Village have been curtailed by fierce local opposition, but the school is forging ahead with growth plans in Brooklyn and Manhattan’s East Side. NYU is also announcing that it has chosen the architecture firms Kohn, Pedersen, Fox Associates and EYP Architecture & Engineering to design a new 170,000-square-foot school on its First Avenue health corridor between 24th and 34th streets. The building will house a new bio-engineering program, an expansion of the dental school and the relocation of the nursing school from Washington Square. The new properties are part of NYU’s ambitious expansion plan to add up to six million square feet to the university by 2031 to coincide with its 200th anniversary. University officials say about half the new footprint will be around the campus’s core area by Washington Square Park, a prospect that has sparked heated opposition from many NYU neighbors who say the new buildings will flood the area with construction and other disruptions. Opponents scored a recent victory when NYU abandoned a controversial plan to add a 38-story building to I.M. Pei’s landmark three-tower plaza in Greenwich Village. Instead, the university shifted the proposed new tower, at a lower height, to a nearby site. Earlier this year, NYU also modified its requests for city land to expand the campus in the area. A Department of City Planning meeting on Tuesday to begin the process of assessing the potential environmental impact of NYU’s Greenwich Village expansion is already mobilizing local activists. “Let’s not let them have easy access to destroying our community,” Sylvia Rackow, a local resident, wrote in an email to her neighbors.
Related story:
Critics Fault NYU Growth Plan.” Wall Street Journal. May 25, 2011.

With $5 Million, Davis Founds NYU Institute.” By John Jurgensen. Wall Street Journal. May 24, 2011. The storied record executive Clive Davis can now officially be called an institution. With a new $5 million gift, he has created the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University. The donation marks the expansion of a department within NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts that he first endowed in his name in 2003 with a gift of the same amount. The program, designed as a pipeline into the industry for musicians, producers, managers and entrepreneurs, graduated its fourth class of students last week. Mr. Davis’s additional support will allow it to grow its enrollment (eventually to 80 students, from about 28), offer more scholarships, establish a feeder program for high-school students, and recruit additional faculty and guest instructors. Last year the program saw a 64% spike in early-decision applications, the highest percentage growth ever for a Tisch department, according to Mary Schmidt Campbell, the school’s dean. Mr. Davis said such benchmarks (and a solicitation from the dean) helped encourage him to renew his support, adding that his original goal was to create the equivalent of NYU’s film school, but in a field more typically associated with on-the-job training. A Brooklyn native and NYU graduate (class of 1953), Mr. Davis became the president of Columbia Records in 1967 after serving as the company’s chief counsel, cultivating talent ranging from Carlos Santana to Whitney Houston. The primary focus of the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music is to effectively train students for a business that has been utterly transformed in the last decade. It offers instruction from high-profile professionals (during the most recent academic year, one of hip-hop’s most successful producers, Swizz Beatz, had a residency and offered students one-on-one training) and places an emphasis on capstone projects in which students design viable business plans.
Related story:
Music Executive Giving $5 Million to N.Y.U. to Expand Music Business Program.” New York Times. May 24, 2011.

Banning DKE? Yale should make its own decision regardless of public pressure.” Editorial. Harvard Crimson. May 24, 2011. In response to the now-notorious incident this past fall—in which both members and pledges of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity publicly chanted offensive and misogynistic phrases on campus—Yale has decided to restrict the fraternity’s activities for five years. Members will not be allowed either to recruit or to conduct any other on-campus activities, and the organization will have limited access to the Yale name. Interestingly enough, however, this was not the university’s initial solution to the problem. In fact, Yale had originally decided to penalize only the students involved, although the nature of the penalties was unclear due to federal privacy laws. To be sure, the actions of the students involved were reprehensible on many levels, and we need not explain here why the respective chants of “No Means Yes!” and “Yes Means Anal!” have no place on a college campus or in any other space. As comforting as it is to know that disciplinary action has been taken against the fraternity, however, we aren’t sure that the most appropriate decision was made. In our view, the university’s previous decision to impose individual sanctions against the offending students was a more appropriate reaction than the recent decision to suspend the activities of the fraternity as a whole. In other words, by punishing those involved, Yale demonstrated that it holds individual members of its community accountable for their actions. But in suspending the entire fraternity in a very public manner, the university seems more interested in appeasing a bloodthirsty public than it does in dealing with the incident and its perpetrators in the most reasonable, appropriate fashion possible.

Professors to Koch Brothers: Take Your Green Back; No one ever questions George Soros money, but apparently this $1.5 million gift violates academic freedom.” By Donald Luskin. Wall Street Journal. May 25, 2011. Times are tough for state-funded colleges like Florida State University. After four years of budget trimming, FSU now faces an additional $19 million in cuts and a $40 million deficit. So it’s an inopportune moment to raise a stink over private donations of $1.5 million made three years ago. But that’s just what two FSU professors—Ray Bellamy of the College of Medicine and Kent Miller, professor emeritus of psychology—did earlier this month in an op-ed in the Tallahassee Democrat, arguing that the donations are “seriously damaging to academic freedom.” The piece set off a firestorm of warring newspaper editorials, blog posts and online petitions. What’s the beef? Like many large private gifts, the $1.5 million to FSU was given to endow programs in a designated subject specified by the donors. The professors’ problem in this case is the subject, the strings attached, and, most important, who the donors are. The subject being endowed, as described by the two protesting professors, is the “political ideology of free markets and diminished government regulation.” That’s an inflammatory way to describe a program which, according to its founding documents, is to study “the foundations of prosperity, social progress, and human well-being.” Such a program would seem to fit right into its home at FSU’s Stavros Center for the Advancement of Free Enterprise and Economic Education, which was founded in 1988. Then there’s the donors. One of the donors, according to the two professors, is known for his “efforts to influence public policy, elections, taxes, environmental issues, unions, regulations, etc.” Whom might they be referring to? Certainly not George Soros—there’s never an objection to that billionaire’s donations, which always tend toward the political left. No, it’s Charles and David Koch, owners of Koch Industries.

Deal on CSU, UC foundation disclosures.” By Nanette Asimov. San Francisco Chronicle. May 26, 2011. State university officials, who have fought to keep secret the financial details of how campus foundations manage nearly $2 billion, have withdrawn their opposition to public disclosure under a compromise with public records advocates and state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco. The agreement, meant to protect the identity of most donors, means the public is a step closer to being able to scrutinize foundations like the one at California State University Stanislaus that hired former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to speak at a fundraiser last year but wouldn’t say how much it was paying her until a judge ordered the contract made public. CSU and University of California officials say they will no longer oppose SB8, introduced by Yee, which would require campus foundations and other “auxiliary enterprises” such as campus bookstores to operate under the California Public Records Act. CSU has at least 23 foundations raising money for its campuses, and dozens of auxiliary enterprises, all managing more than $1.3 billion. Under the records actt, UC has one foundation for each of its 10 campuses, all managing more than $600 million. Lacking nonprofit status, UC’s auxiliaries already fall under the records act. So do community college foundations because, as local agencies, they are subject to the Brown Act, which mandates that city and county meetings be public. But a foundation run through the state office of Community College Chancellor Jack Scott would fall under the records act for the first time.

Corporation Taps Three New Members.” By Zoe A. Y. Weinberg. Harvard Crimson. May 25, 2011. Three new fellows will join the Harvard Corporation in July, University President Drew G. Faust and Senior Fellow Robert D. Reischauer ’63 announced Wednesday—marking the first step in implementing the comprehensive program of Corporation reform enacted in December. Outgoing Tufts University President Lawrence S. Bacow, computer scientist Susan L. Graham ’64, and Boston businessman Joseph J. O’Donnell ’67 will join the Corporation, the University’s highest governing body. Their addition will give the Corporation more than seven members for the first time in its nearly 400-year history. The three new members were selected after a five-month search by the Corporation and three overseers, who reviewed at least 500 nominations. Two of the three members chosen Wednesday are local residents, continuing a trend that began with the selection of Boston lawyer William F. Lee ’72 as a fellow in 2010. Since his appointment, Lee has made a point of being present on Harvard’s campus. In the months before the announcement, some speculated that the expansion of the Corporation would also lead to more diversity in age and ethnicity among its members. However, Bacow, the youngest of the new members, is 59 years old, and all three are white. The Corporation undertook a review of its structure and functioning in 2008. In part, the impetus for the reforms was the precipitous drop in Harvard’s endowment, which led some faculty and alumni to call for the Corporation to become more transparent and accountable. Reischauer has said the reforms attempt to address these concerns.

New Fellowship Pays For College Kids To Drop Out.” All Things Considered/National Public Radio. May 26, 2011. Michele Norris talks with entrepreneur Peter Thiel about his foundation’s latest endeavor: a fellowship that encourages young people with big ideas to drop out of college and pursue their dreams. The “Twenty Under Twenty” fellowship provides $100,000 over a two-year period to each of the recipients. Their projects range from technological advances to new educational ideas. Thiel suggests that higher education is over valued. And he argues that sometimes the university setting is actually an obstacle to innovation. Thiel is a co-founder of Pay Pal and an early investor in Facebook. Universities and colleges are thought of as incubators of big ideas, places where students in labs or classrooms not only learn but think thoughts that end up changing the world. Then, there are the people who say higher education is overrated. Entrepreneur and venture capitalist Peter Thiel is one of them. He has deep pockets as a result of pursuing his own big ideas. Peter Thiel is a co-founder of PayPal and an early investor in Facebook. Now, he’s created a fellowship to give students under 20 years old a chance to ditch school and, as he says, begin to build the technology companies of tomorrow.

Return of Islamic College Raises New Questions.” By David Lepeska. New York Times. May 28, 2011. The American Islamic College, closed since 2004 when the state revoked its operating authority, is expected early next month to win approval to reopen. Supporters see the opening of the Chicago college, founded in 1981 in the Lakeview neighborhood, as an important step for Islamic instruction in the United States. But its detractors point to the college’s ties to a secretive and far-reaching international movement that has been accused of Islamism in some countries and of an overuse of non-immigrant work visas to hire foreign teachers in its schools in the United States. The movement, led by Fetullah Gulen, a Turkish religious leader living in self-imposed exile in rural Pennsylvania, supports scores of charter schools that have gained a reputation for academic achievement and a commitment to spreading Turkish language and culture. Yet the Gulen schools have caused widespread concern about possible manipulation of immigration laws and misallocation of taxpayer dollars. Mr. Gulen, an extremely wealthy and well-connected Turkish spiritual and political leader, fled Turkey amid charges of plotting to overthrow the secular government. He was acquitted of all charges in 2006. The college would become the second Islamic educational institution in the country to offer college-level credit. For Muslims in the area, it would be a rejoinder to those who depict followers of Islam as prone to extremism.


Catholic School in Harlem Is Closing Over Financial Woes.” By Jenny Anderson. New York Times. May 23, 2011. Rice High School, a Roman Catholic boys’ school in Harlem known equally for serious academics and excellent basketball players, announced on Monday that it would shut down at the end of the school year, after 73 years, because of financial difficulties. The board of directors voted to close the school after it became clear that it could neither attract enough students to make ends meet nor raise enough money to fill the gap. A statement issued by the board of trustees said, “The school hung on as long as it could to continue fulfilling its core mission of educating young men.” Student enrollment at Rice had dropped by 44 percent since 2003. Since such schools get a significant portion of their operating budgets from tuition, and Rice was at half of its capacity, administrators could not make ends meet. For years, the Christian Brothers, a teaching order dedicated to educating the poor that founded the school, had bridged the gap, providing $100,000 to $300,000 a year. But the head of school, Sister Patricia Ells, said this year that it could no longer do so. In early April, the chairman of the board of directors, Stephen Fitzgerald, said the school was trying to raise $5 million, in hopes of both erasing its $200,000 deficit and making up for the difference between the $10,000 the school spent on each student and the amount each one paid. The tuition was $5,750 a year, and 70 percent of the students received financial aid. At its peak, a decade ago, Rice had a $3 million endowment. But almost 40 percent of that was wiped out in the recent financial crisis, Mr. Fitzgerald said. By this year, the endowment had dwindled to $160,000, which was needed for maintenance of the school’s building, at 124th Street and Lenox Avenue, which costs about $425,000 annually.


Public Schools Charge Kids for Basics, Frills.” By Stephanie Simon. Wall Street Journal. May 25, 2011. Karen Dombi was thrilled when her three oldest children were picked for student government this year—not because she envisioned careers in politics, but because it was one of the few programs at their public high school that didn’t charge kids to participate. Medina City Schools are in deep financial trouble. To save their vaunted athletic and music programs, the district has enacted a policy that no one in the administration feels good about: Pay to play. WSJ’s Stephanie Simon reports from Medina, Ohio. Budget shortfalls have prompted Medina Senior High to impose fees on students who enroll in many academic classes and extracurricular activities. The Dombis had to pay to register their children for basic courses such as Spanish I and Earth Sciences, to get them into graded electives such as band, and to allow them to run cross-country and track. The family’s total tab for a year of public education: $4,446.50. “I’m wondering, am I going to be paying for my parking spot at the school? Because you’re making me pay for just about everything else,” says Ms. Dombi, a parent in this middle-class community in northern Ohio. Public schools across the country, struggling with cuts in state funding, rising personnel costs and lower tax revenues, are shifting costs to students and their parents by imposing or boosting fees for everything from enrolling in honors English to riding the bus. At high schools in several states, it can cost more than $200 just to walk in the door, thanks to registration fees, technology fees and unspecified “instructional fees.”

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (May 23-29, 2011)

Monday, May 30th, 2011


Returns for foundations, charities slip in 2010; Investment returns for nonprofits totaled roughly 12% in 2010, down from about 21% the year before. Private equity real estate was the only asset class that sustained losses, a survey says.” By Timothy Inklebarger. Crain’s New York Business. May 25, 2011. Foundations and charities reported investment returns of roughly 12% in 2010, below the 21% range reported in 2009, with private equity real estate the only asset class that sustained losses, according a Commonfund Institute survey. Foundations had an average investment return of 12.5%, while operating charities returned an average 11.6% for the 2010 calendar year. Foundations returned an average 20.9% in 2009, and operating charities returned an average 21.5% for the same year. According to a report on the survey, the asset class consisting of energy and natural resources, commodities and managed futures was the best performer, returning 22.1% for the year. Following were domestic equities, at 17.7%; distressed debt, 15%; international equities, 14.5%; private equity 11.3%; alternative strategies, 10.6%; venture capital, 9.4%; short-term securities and cash, 9.2%; marketable alternative strategies, 9.1%; fixed income, 8.1%; and private equity real estate, -2.5%. Other category returned 10.6%. The average asset allocation for foundations at year-end 2010 was 38% alternatives, 26% domestic equities, 16% international equities, 13% fixed income and 7% short-term securities, cash and other investments. John Griswold, Commonfund’s executive director, said that private foundations typically do not receive additional donations above money used to establish themselves and must use investments for both normal operating costs and to regain assets lost to the financial crisis.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (May 23-29, 2011)

Monday, May 30th, 2011


Precocious Power Brokers.” By Lizzie Simon. Wall Street Journal. May 28, 2011. The youth division of the Points of Life Institute, generationOn, on Thursday honored Laurie M. Tisch, Spike Lee and his wife, Tonya Lewis Lee, Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner and six young philanthropists ranging in ages between 7 and 17, who were dubbed Community Action Heroes. The evening raised more than $900,000. Mrs. Spitzer, in a figure-snugging white dress, admired her husband’s blue, iridescent tie. When Eliot Spitzer was asked if he’d had any philanthropic impulses as a child, he said, “I don’t want to pretend that I did. I was a typical kid.” The kids at this event were not typical at all. Max Wallack, 15, from Natick, Mass., is the founder of PuzzlesToRemember, which has collected more than 7,000 puzzles and distributed them to elderly patients with Alzheimer’s. In the past two years, Riley Hebbard, from Mechanicsburg, Pa., has shipped 18,000 toys to Lethoso, Zambia and Zimbabwe. She’s 7 years old. But these children aren’t just kind-hearted. They’re pint-size power brokers, each with his or her own website, business card and polished pitch. “I don’t even have a card,” said Sigourney Weaver. Perhaps the inimitable Mr. Lee had displayed comparable philanthropic impulses. “No,” he said, “as a kid in Brooklyn, I was just trying to get another piece of candy.”

A Lights-Out Charity Dinner.” By Jen Wieczner. Wall Street Journal. May 28, 2011. The mood before the Foundation Fighting Blindness’s Dining in the Dark event was similar to the atmosphere before the curtain rises at a show. Guests anxiously anticipated the main attraction—the room would go dark, entrees would be served and guests would eat without seeing for 30 minutes. The lights-out experience happens around the country, both to raise awareness for the blind and to enhance sensory perception of eating. This week, a dinner at the Ritz-Carlton Battery Park raised $450,000. Blind servers worked the room by way of a rope maze strategically laced around tables. Guests, sighted and not, came up with guidelines: fill your wine glass before dinner, never let go of your fork and, a controversial point, don’t be afraid to use your hands. One blind waiter, Rick Mendez, alleviated concerns about diners spilling on themselves: “Nobody is going to see you.” Diners were warned: turn cellphones off, or spoil it for everyone. But as soon as the lights went down, cellphone screens flickered like fireflies in the pitch-dark ballroom. At times it was light enough to make out faces and the silhouette of a steak. “New Yorkers do this more than anyone,” said James Minow, the foundation’s chief development officer, who has dined in the dark 25 times. (At a recent San Francisco dark dinner, no one violated, he said.) Guests floated concerns into the darkness: Without seeing, would they eat too much? A vegetarian wondered for a moment whether she might unknowingly eat meat (fortuitously, she ended up with pasta). When light returned, the dinner was quickly hailed as a success. “It was eye- opening,” said Debi Mittman, wife of the event committee chair Evan Mittman (who is blind). She meant that figuratively, of course.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (May 23-29, 2011)

Monday, May 30th, 2011


Documents show Oregon hospital association reaps benefits from 2009 tax deal.” By Harry Esteve. The Oregonian. May 25, 2011. As Oregon struggled to pay for health care for low-income families in the midst of a crushing recession, the association that represents hospitals quietly enjoyed a financial heyday. In 2009, the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems gave lucrative bonuses and pay raises to its top lobbyist Kevin Earls and its president, Andy Davidson, upping Davidson’s salary to more than half a million dollars. That same year, the hospital association negotiated a closed-door deal with Democratic lawmakers that allowed the state to raise taxes on hospitals to help pay for the state’s rapidly shrinking Medicaid program. Also that year, the association garnered a state contract worth more than $400,000 to help the state calculate and oversee the new hospital taxes. Much of this information came to light — some two years after the fact — only after an anonymous person slipped a sheaf of documents under the office door of Rep. Julie Parrish, a Republican from West Linn serving in her first session. Parrish and others at the Legislature say the behind-the-scenes deal-making and pay raises not only look bad to an already skeptical public but also stand out starkly against claims by legislative leaders that they are working toward greater “transparency.” “These contracts are not transparent,” Parrish said. “This was an important public policy decision on how we handle health care and only a small circle of Democrats knew about it.” Earls defended the work the hospital association does for the state and said the hospitals essentially bailed out the state’s faltering Medicaid program. He said his pay and Davidson’s are set by the association’s volunteer board, and the raises in 2009 were not tied to either the negotiations with the Democrats or the contract with the state.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (May 23-29, 2011)

Monday, May 30th, 2011


An Architect’s Fear That Preservation Distorts.” By Nicolai Ouroussoff. New York Times. May 23, 2011. Has preservation become a dangerous epidemic? Is it destroying our cities? That’s the conclusion you may come to after seeing “Cronocaos” at the New Museum. Organized by Rem Koolhaas and Shohei Shigematsu, a partner in Mr. Koolhaas’s Office for Metropolitan Architecture, the show draws on ideas that have been floating around architectural circles for several years now — particularly the view among many academics that preservation movements around the world, working hand in hand with governments and developers, have become a force for gentrification and social displacement, driving out the poor to make room for wealthy homeowners and tourists. Mr. Koolhaas’s vision is even more apocalyptic. A skilled provocateur, he paints a picture of an army of well-meaning but clueless preservationists who, in their zeal to protect the world’s architectural legacies, end up debasing them by creating tasteful scenery for docile consumers while airbrushing out the most difficult chapters of history. The result, he argues, is a new form of historical amnesia, one that, perversely, only further alienates us from the past. “Cronocaos” was first shown at the 2010 architecture biennale in Venice, the ultimate example of what can happen to an aged city when it is repackaged for tourists.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (May 23-29, 2011)

Monday, May 30th, 2011


An Outcry in Chelsea Over a 12-Story Shelter.” By Mosi Secret. New York Times. May 23, 2011. At an art opening in Chelsea last week, Erick Magangi stood next to the oil painting that he considered his best work. “I was trying to do an examination of the real world and the exotic world,” Mr. Magangi said, gesturing toward the work, an abstract with softly blended horizontal panels of beige and gray. Mr. Magangi, who grew up in Kenya on the shores of Lake Victoria, hopes to soon put down roots in Chelsea, a couple of blocks from where his work is on display. He is not moving to one of the neighborhood’s luxury high-rises or town houses, but to a towering homeless shelter in a renovated building on 25th Street that is scheduled to open within a month. He will live with hundreds of other homeless people, most struggling with addiction or mental illness, and some whose creations in art therapy classes are on display alongside his, at the TD Bank branch at 26th Street and Seventh Avenue. Muzzy Rosenblatt, the executive director of the Bowery Residents’ Committee, which offers the art classes along with other services for the homeless, and which will run the new shelter, thanked the 20 or so visitors at the exhibit for “opening your minds and your eyes and your hearts to the work and seeing the humanity in what we do.” But many in Chelsea are putting up a fight. Two days later, on the first clear day of the week, about 40 neighborhood residents, informally known as Chelsea Moms, assembled behind police barricades around the corner from the bank, outside the office of Christine C. Quinn, the speaker of the City Council, whose district includes the shelter. They waved placards — “Chelsea moms for responsible and legal shelters” — and chanted, “No more illegal megashelters!” and urged Ms. Quinn to do more than she had to stop it.

State lawmakers work to defund Planned Parenthood.” USA Today. May 25, 2011. [For story, go to Law & Public Policy]

Red Cross, Other Relief Groups Spread Thin: ‘The Disasters Just Keep Coming’ Red Cross.” By David Crary. Huffington Post. May 25, 2011. Confronted with an unprecedented string of tornadoes, floods and wildfires, the American Red Cross and other relief groups are scrambling to raise money fast enough to meet the demand for help. “The disasters just keep coming,” said Red Cross spokesman Roger Lowe, reporting that the organization has spent $41 million thus far responding to the seven-week onslaught while raising $33.6 million to cover the costs. Those figures were tallied before the latest violent storm system rampaged through a wide swath of the Midwest starting late Tuesday. No single one of the recent disasters – not even the cataclysmic tornado in Joplin, Mo., on Sunday – poses a challenge on the scale that the Red Cross confronted after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. However, Red Cross officials said the period that began March 31 is unique in their memory for the sheer number of major natural disasters in such a short span. During that period, the Red Cross has launched 29 separate relief operations in 22 states, responding to wildfires in Texas, flooding along swollen rivers, and the rash of tornadoes that have killed more than 500 people. More than 9,200 Red Cross disaster-responders have been deployed; they’ve served more than 2.1 million meals and snacks, and opened more than 200 shelters. Lowe said costs are running high in part because of the long-term effects of many of these home-destroying disasters. For example, he said 93 people were still living in Red Cross shelters in Alabama, where tornadoes wrecked their homes a month ago. “The public truly has been very generous, but the series of tornadoes and floods is really stretching our resources,” Lowe said. “The fundraising is not keeping up with our extended needs, and we don’t know how long we need to be providing shelter, food, mental health assistance.”

Children’s Aid to Sell Sites for $33 Million.” By Shelly Banjo. Wall Street Journal. May 26, 2011. Children’s Aid Society said Wednesday that it will sell two Greenwich Village buildings for $33 million despite protests from parents seeking to keep the nonprofit’s nursery school operating in the area. The developer who purchased the buildings said he will turn the site into a 60,000-square-foot luxury condominium project and begin construction in the summer of 2012. Plans to sell the Children’s Aid Society buildings first surfaced in December. “They’re not making more space in Greenwich Village, and everyone wants to live there,” said Raymond Chalmé, principal of Manhattan-based real-estate firm Broad Street Development. “But it’s a sensitive neighborhood so we’ll make sure to keep with its character and style. We’re not planning on building one of these crazy towers.” Mr. Chalmé declined to give specifics on how he would revamp the sites, which include 209 and 219 Sullivan St. However, he said initial plans include incorporating into the project one of the buildings designed by Calvert Vaux, the famed architect who helped design New York’s Central Park with Frederick Law Olmsted. He is considering using part of the space for some sort of community facility, such as a nursery school or day-care center. Broad Street Development isn’t the only real-estate developer building luxury housing in the area. Last month, a judge approved the $260 million sale of the Greenwich Village campus of the bankrupt St. Vincent’s Hospital, which will usher in 590,000 square feet of new residential space in the neighborhood. The Rudin Family, which bought the sprawling three-acre site along Seventh Avenue in April, plans 300 apartments and five townhouses there. For some in the neighborhood, the exodus of Children’s Aid Society represents the end of an era. The charity began running early-education, nursery and art programs at its Philip Coltoff Center in 1892. Parents say they are worried about where their children will go after the Greenwich Village center closes its doors at the end of the 2011-12 school year.

In Portland, Art Therapy and Other Lures for the Homeless; Is the city helping the destitute, or merely attracting more to its neighborhoods?” By Ethan Epstein. Wall Street Journal. May 27, 2011. Despite its sputtering economy, Portland, Ore., has seen a number of sparkling new hotels open in recent years: Starwood, Kimpton, JW Marriot and other luxury brands have all opened high-end properties in the city’s core since 2008. But perhaps no recent project matches the ambition and audacity of the city’s new Homeless Service Center, which will open this Thursday. Straddling Portland’s Chinatown and the Pearl District, a neighborhood of reclaimed warehouse spaces, the eight-story Homeless Service Center cost $46.9 million in city, county and federal stimulus funds to construct. It will contain 130 studio apartment-style permanent residences, 90 shelter beds, and offices for 50 staff members. Complimentary GED classes, haircuts and art therapy will be on offer. The building—replete with solar panels on the roof, bicycle racks out front, and a glassy atrium on the bottom floor—looks more like a luxury condo than a homeless center. Already, the waiting list for permanent studio apartments is 150 names, and the wait time to secure a cot is expected to be two months. Named the Bud Clark Commons in honor of Portland’s mayor from 1985 to 1992, the center is viewed as a triumph by the city’s political leadership. City Commissioner Nick Fish was integral in managing the project and says he is “thrilled” with the development. The center is ostensibly designed to move people out of homelessness permanently, and thus to fulfill Bud Clark’s 1986 call to “end homelessness in Portland.” Doreen Binder, director of the nonprofit organization that will manage the day-to-day operations of the center, says the mission is to “move people from the streets into safe, secure, permanent housing. Once that housing is obtained, [the organization] will continue working with each person to assure that they retain that housing.” It’s a noble mission. The trouble is there are no time limits for those living in the center’s studio apartment units. The job training, GED courses and writing classes that the center will offer will be entirely optional. The center’s taxpayer-funded yoga sessions and nutrition classes, meanwhile, will be available to anybody who shows up.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (May 23-29, 2011)

Monday, May 30th, 2011



Nascent Independent Unions Play Key Role in Arab Uprisings.” By Isolda Agazzi. Interpress Service ( May 28, 2011. In the Arab world, most trade unions are affiliated to governments, but independent labour organisations are starting to emerge. In Tunisia and Egypt they have been key in overthrowing corrupt regimes, while in Algeria and Bahrain they are trying to bring people to the street. For Arab unionists, the State must play its role to consolidate the economic transition, and privatisation is not the solution. “In Tunisia, we say that reversible jackets are out of stock. Some UGTT unionists who were affiliated to the RCD (the party of ousted president Ben Ali) have reversed their jackets and are now fully in support of the revolution. But the process has reached its limit,” Belgacem Afaya, secretary general of the General Federation of Health of Tunisia, a member of the UGTT, told IPS in an interview. The UGTT, the umbrella organisation of unions in Tunisia, played a central role in January in mobilising mass protests against Ben Ali, together with the association of judges and lawyers, students and cyber activists. Afaya and other unionists have come to Geneva for a meeting of Public Services International (PSI), the global confederation of public service trade unions. In the Arab region, the PSI has 36 affiliates in ten countries. “Most of the unions in the Arab region are close to the government and only two national federations have supported the recent revolutions: the UGTT in Tunisia and the brand-new federation of Bahrain, currently repressed by the regime,” Ghassan Slaiby, PSI sub-regional secretary for the Arab countries, told IPS.

Gates: Aid to Africa’s farmers helps.” By Mike Zapler. May 25, 2011. Microsoft co-founder and Chairman Bill Gates came to Washington on Tuesday with a tough ask even in the best of economic times: Washington, he said, needs to increase aid to help poor African farmers become more productive. It’s not only a matter of alleviating hunger and poverty, the co-chairman of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said in a speech at the Ronald Reagan Building. It’s a business imperative. Gates promoted the Global Agricultural and Food Security Program, an initiative his foundation is funding — to the tune of $1.7 billion — to essentially turn small African farms into mini-businesses. It’s the second-biggest program his foundation is funding, after a global health initiative. The goal, in essence, is to apply the innovative mind-set Gates brought to Microsoft to agricultural practices in poor nations. That innovation comes in many forms, Gates said. It involves engineering drought- and disease-resistant seeds, finding ways to give African farmers easier access to markets and teaching them new techniques to boost their productivity and protect the environment at the same time. Gates said Congress has dedicated $100 million to the Global Agricultural and Food Security Program, which he launched last year with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and the foreign ministers of Spain, Canada and South Korea.


Attendance record broken.” No by-line. Sydney Morning Herald. May 23, 2011. This year’s Sydney Writer’s Festival broke attendance records, with more than 30,000 tickets sold for the city events alone. There were queues in the city for free events and the suburban and regional program was also well attended. Box office takings met the budget target of $625,000, but fell short of last year’s record $700,000- plus takings, which were inflated by the high cost of tickets to Nine Lives. For the artistic director Chip Rolley, the highlights included appearances from Ingrid Betancourt, who spent six years as a hostage in the Colombian jungle, and Izzeldin Abuelaish, a Palestinian doctor whose daughters were killed during the Israeli incursion into Gaza in January 2009. ”People have told us they have never been so inspired by a writers’ festival,” Mr Rolley said. ”I’m walking on air.”

Voice of future ain’t nobody’s fuel.” By Sarah Whyte. Sydney Morning Herald. May 22, 2011. The political activist group GetUp will launch a national television ad campaign tomorrow to pressure Prime Minister Julia Gillard to invest in renewable energy or risk losing the support of its 450,000 members. The quirky one-minute ad takes swipes at Tony Abbott, Justin Bieber and the fossil fuel industries. It features Home and Away actor Alan Cinis as a ”polluting industry executive” and 12-year-old Jack Versace as the young voice of the future. Both actors are seen sitting in Ms Gillard’s office, pitching for funding on behalf of the renewable energy and fossil fuel industries. ”GetUp members have been very supportive of the government’s proposed price on pollution,” national director Simon Sheikh said. ”But if the government uses the carbon price revenue to support polluting industries instead of renewables like wind and solar, their plan may lose support from GetUp’s 450,000 members. The group is calling for the Gillard government to invest $2 billion of the carbon price revenue in renewable energy over the first 10 years. ”We know this is possible,” Mr Sheikh said. ”If the government fails to do this they will see their support further erode and what credibility they have left in regard to protection of our environment’s future will be gone.”

Curriculum head warns against axing religion.” By Michael Bachelard. Sydney Morning Herald. May 29, 2011. The soon-to-be-introduced national curriculum may not include a religious education subject. The soon-to-be-introduced national curriculum may not include a religious education subject. The man in charge of Australia’s national curriculum insists there is no problem with the way religious instruction is taught in Victoria, and warns that any moves to axe religion classes could drive parents out of the public system and into private schools. Professor Barry McGaw, the chairman of the national curriculum authority, told The Sunday Age: ”I don’t see anything wrong with a special religious instruction that operates precisely on [the current] grounds. If we deny any place to religion in public education and wish to make it entirely [secular], we are actually basing it on a particular world view. ”And the problem with that is that religious parents might opt out of the public school system, and that would not be a good thing.” Religious instruction classes, 96 per cent of which are Christian, involve volunteers teaching the doctrine of particular religions for 30 minutes per week in state primary schools. The program has become controversial, particularly since Evonne Paddison, the leader of Christian group Access Ministries, was reported as saying it provided a ”God-given open door to children … to go and make disciples”. Many who oppose the lessons, including academic Anna Halafoff of the Religion, Ethics and Education Network Australia, propose an alternative – introducing a new academic subject to teach children about the world’s religions as part of the curriculum.


Brazilian Companies Offer Education To Needy Kids.” By Juan Forero. All Things Considered/ National Public Radio. May 26, 2011. Brazil’s public education system handles 50 million students but, according to many, not very well. Private initiatives funded by thousands of Brazilian businesses have created a parallel education system. Thousands of Brazilian companies are now stepping in to improve public education for poor students. The idea is to help Brazil and its dynamic economy stay competitive with China and South Korea, where public education is a top priority. No one suggests that the private programs are an alternative for Brazil’s public education system, which educates 50 million children. But the private initiatives – particularly those developing new teaching methodologies – have been well received by government officials as they work to improve public education. And indeed, there are improvements in public education. Enrollment has risen fast. The budget grew more than threefold since 2003. Test scores have also inched up. But education researchers say the biggest challenge will be improving classroom instruction.


Censorship Inc.: Iran Vows to Unplug Internet.” By Christopher Rhoads and Farnaz Fassihi. Wall Street Journal. May 28, 2011. An Iranian engineer who helped design and run the country’s Internet filters says he subtly undermined some censorship until fleeing into exile. Iran is taking steps toward an aggressive new form of censorship: a so-called national Internet that could, in effect, disconnect Iranian cyberspace from the rest of the world. The leadership in Iran sees the project as a way to end the fight for control of the Internet, according to observers of Iranian policy inside and outside the country. Iran, already among the most sophisticated nations in online censoring, also promotes its national Internet as a cost-saving measure for consumers and as a way to uphold Islamic moral codes. In February, as pro-democracy protests spread rapidly across the Middle East and North Africa, Reza Bagheri Asl, director of the telecommunication ministry’s research institute, told an Iranian news agency that soon 60% of the nation’s homes and businesses would be on the new, internal network. Within two years it would extend to the entire country, he said. [IRANNET] The unusual initiative appears part of a broader effort to confront what the regime now considers a major threat: an online invasion of Western ideas, culture and influence, primarily originating from the U.S. In recent speeches, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other top officials have called this emerging conflict the “soft war.” On Friday, new reports emerged in the local press that Iran also intends to roll out its own computer operating system in coming months to replace Microsoft Corp.’s Windows. The development, which couldn’t be independently confirmed, was attributed to Reza Taghipour, Iran’s communication minister. Iran’s national Internet will be “a genuinely halal network, aimed at Muslims on an ethical and moral level,” Ali Aghamohammadi, Iran’s head of economic affairs, said recently according to a state-run news service. Halal means compliant with Islamic law.


Japanese pensioners volunteer to work in the stricken Fukushima plant; Tepco is struggling to recruit workers for the clean-up.” By Richard Lloyd Parry. Times of London. May 25, 2011. As emergency workers continue to struggle with overheating nuclear reactors, a group of Japanese pensioners are volunteering to risk their lives by working in the devastated Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant. The men and women, all of them retired, argue that young people should not endanger their health and fertility by exposing themselves to potentially deadly levels of radiation, and that the responsibility falls on the generation who built and benefited from Japan’s embattled nuclear power programme. The “Skilled Veterans Corps”, as the volunteers style themselves, have already recruited 180 members, aged 54 to 78, through a multilingual website created by Yasuteru Yamada, a 72-year-old retired engineer. “Our generation which has, consciously or unconsciously, approved the construction of the Fukushima nuclear power plants and enjoyed the benefits of the vast supply of electricity … should be the first to join the Skilled Veteran Corps,” he said. “Young people with a long future should not have to be placed in a position of having to undertake such a task. Radiation exposure of [the] generation which [will] reproduce the next generation should be avoided.” So far a thousand people have offered various kinds of support to the Skilled Veterans Corps, and 180 people have volunteered to go into the nuclear plant itself, including retired academics, crane and bulldozer operators, construction workers, welders, former members of Japan’s Self-Defence Forces and engineers.


Amnesty’s Tireless Vigil during South America’s Dark Night.” By Marcela Valente. Interpress Service ( May 31, 2011. – In the 1970s, with no Internet or social networking sites to get information out, Amnesty International managed to become a thorn in the side of the dictatorships of the Southern Cone of South America, several people who benefited from its advocacy work recalled on the occasion of the rights watchdog’s 50th anniversary. “Amnesty International played a key role in the release of prisoners of conscience in our countries,” 1980 Nobel Peace Prize-winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel told IPS. “I myself was one of those prisoners.” Pérez Esquivel, an Argentine human rights activist, was the founder of the Peace and Justice Service (SERPAJ). In 1977, the military regime that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983 arrested and tortured him, and held him for 14 months as a political prisoner. In 1961, British lawyer Peter Benenson wrote the article “The Forgotten Prisoners”, which was published on the front page of the London Observer newspaper on May 28, 1961. The article called for the release or fair trial of six detainees in different countries, who were described for the first time as “prisoners of conscience.” It was reprinted in newspapers around the world and became an amnesty campaign that marked the birth of the organisation. Delegates from Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States held their first meeting in July that year and decided to establish “a permanent international movement in defence of freedom of opinion and religion”. On Dec. 10, 1961 the first candle – which became the symbol of Amnesty International – was lit in remembrance and support of all prisoners of conscience, in the church of St Martin-in-the-Field in London. Pérez Esquivel describes the basic mechanism followed by Amnesty: “They adopted prisoners of conscience in a country and held global campaigns for their release.”


Dueling Corruption Claims Hit Soccer Governing Body.” By Alistair MacDonald and Javier Espinoza. Wall Street Journal. May 28, 2011. Soccer’s global governing body said it opened an investigation into claims that its president, Joseph “Sepp” Blatter, knew of alleged payments made to influence an upcoming election to head up the organization that runs one of the world’s most popular sports. The Fédération Internationale de Football Association’s move to investigate its own president—at the instigation of a rival candidate for the body’s top position, who is also under investigation—is the latest development to rock a global soccer world already plagued by corruption accusations. In December, FIFA awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments to Russia and Qatar, respectively, amid allegations—by former soccer executives and the media—of bribery and vote-trading in the run-up to the decision. Now, the organization is embroiled in a firefight ahead of an election for the FIFA presidency that finds the two main candidates—Mr. Blatter and Mohamed bin Hammam, a Qatari who heads the Asian Football Confederation—facing internal ethics investigations based on allegations they have made against each other. The current battle began this week, when U.S. FIFA executive committee member Chuck Blazer submitted a report to the organization regarding a meeting this month between Mr. bin Hammam, senior FIFA executive Jack A. Warner and members of the Caribbean Football Union, according to FIFA. That meeting was convened by Mr. bin Hammam to elicit support for his bid for the presidency, according to reports. According to FIFA, Mr. Blazer alleged that cash payments were made at the meeting to members of the Caribbean group. Mr. Blatter called for FIFA’s ethics committee to investigate. FIFA also says that Mr. Blazer’s report indicates that Mr. Blatter knew of the alleged payments at the meeting and ignored them, contrary to FIFA rules requiring him to report the matter. Mr. Hammam requested that FIFA’s ethics committee investigate Mr. Blatter for failing to report the matter
Related stories:
FIFA’s presidential election; Beautiful game, ugly politics; Pity the republic of football. It has a government much like many another.The Economist. May 26, 2011.
Britain tells Fifa to stop election; Sepp Blatter will come before the ethics committee on Sunday Steffen Schmidt.” Times of London. May 27, 2011.
Fifa crisis deepens as Sepp Blatter goes before ethics committee; President to be questioned on Sunday along with Mohamed bin Hammam and Jack Warner as bribery investigation widens.” Guardian. May 28, 2011.
Own Goal; The politics of world football is a shambles.” Editorial. Times of London. May 28, 2011.
Fifa president Sepp Blatter under investigation.” BBC News. May 27, 2011.
Turmoil at Fifa as two face bribe investigation; Sepp Blatter has been cleared of wrongdoing by the ethics committee.” Times of London. May 29 2011.
Sepp Blatter Cleared, Two Senior FIFA Officials Suspended In Corruption.” Huffington Post. May 29, 2011.


Donor is university’s choice as new Chancellor of Cambridge; Lord Sainsbury will become Chancellor unless a rival candidate gains enough nominations to force an election.” By Chris Smyth. Times of London. May 23, 2011. Lord Sainsbury of Turville is likely to replace the Duke of Edinburgh as the Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, three years after he made a donation of £82 million. The former Science Minister and Labour donor won the backing of the university’s executive council and will become Chancellor on July 1 unless a rival candidate gains enough nominations to force an election. The ceremonial position has been held by the Duke since 1977, but he told administrators last year that he would be retiring soon after his 90th birthday next month. Potential candidates have four weeks to find 50 nominations from academics and alumni with an MA degree or higher. If a rival emerges, a ballot of the university’s 150,000 graduates will be held in the autumn. In 2008 Lord Sainsbury’s Gatsby Charitable Foundation gave £82 million to support a new plant sciences centre, the Sainsbury Laboratory. A spokesman for the University of Cambridge said: “The nomination committee considered a long list of names before settling on his.” A spokesman for Lord Sainsbury said that he was “incredibly proud to be nominated”. Lord Sainsbury was chairman of his family supermarket business between 1992 and 1998, when he was appointed Science Minister by Tony Blair. He has donated more than £13 million to the Labour Party, but has not contributed since Ed Miliband became leader. The Sainsbury family wealth has been estimated at £960 million.

Congregations may desert Kirk if gay vote is passed; Traditionalists tried to block the appointment of the Rev Scott Rennie.” Nick Drainey. Times of London. May 23, 2011. The Church of Scotland faces losing whole congregations if it approves the appointment of gay clergy, an academic warned last night. Bill Naphy, from the University of Aberdeen, said that it would be “a very divisive issue” whatever was decided. The Kirk is holding its General Assembly this week and same-sex relationships will be discussed today. The topic was centre stage two years ago when traditionalists tried to block the appointment of the Rev Scott Rennie, an openly gay minister. The Assembly ultimately voted in support of the Aberdeen-based minister after a lengthy debate, but called for a commission to study the general issue “for the sake of the peace and unity of the Church”. Today’s debate will focus on the commission’s report. Professor Naphy, an expert in both the history of sexuality and Calvinism told the Politics Show on BBC One: “I think the Kirk is likely to take a very cautious approach. If they allow the ordination of gay ministers there will probably be whole congregations that leave. I think it’s less likely that whole congregations will leave if it goes the other way. It is more likely that individuals will walk away. “Either way the vote goes, there will be people and congregations who are likely to leave. But the very fact that the Kirk has spent two years debating an issue that relates to handful of verses in the Bible must seem a very peculiar thing for the Kirk to spend its time on.”

College slaps income cap on parents.” By Richard Garner. Independent. May 23, 2011. Parents with a joint income above £26,000 will be barred from sending their children to a state sixth-form college planned for the East End of London. The college will be one of the Government’s flagship “free” schools, offering places to bright inner-city children to help them to get into elite universities. It is being proposed by a consortium of five independent schools, including Harrow, and 16 comprehensives in East London which do not have sixth forms. Only pupils with five A* grades at GCSE will be accepted – in line with Oxbridge entry requirements.

David Cameron to relaunch troubled ‘big society’ project; Downing Street acknowledges that it has struggled to explain the idea to voters who appear not to have digested the message.” By Nicholas Watt. Guardian. May 23, 2011. David Cameron will launch his troubled “big society” for the fourth time on Monday as he describes the project as being more than a “fluffy add-on” for a government with greater ambitions than imposing the toughest spending cuts in a generation. Following an admission by the minister responsible for running the big society project that the government had failed to explain it, the prime minister will say the initiative runs through all the government’s public service reforms. It also explains why he wants to build a “stronger society” with families at its heart. Cameron will say: “You learn about responsibility and how to live in harmony with others. Strong families are the foundation of a bigger, stronger society. This isn’t some romanticised fiction. It’s a fact. There’s a whole body of evidence that shows how a bad relationship between parents means a child is more likely to live in poverty, fail at school, end up in prison or be unemployed in later life.” Downing Street acknowledges that it has struggled to explain to voters the big society, the central theme of last year’s general election campaign. It is intended to devolve power and to foster a greater sense of responsibility by loosening the role of the state. Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister who runs the project, admitted on Sunday the government had struggled to sell its message. “We may have failed to articulate it clearly and we’ll carry on explaining as best as we can,” Maude told Radio 4′s The World This Weekend. “I think people understand what is meant when we explain it and think that it is all a good idea.”
Related story:
Stand by for Big Society 4.0; David Cameron’s ‘big society’ strategy: if it it ain’t working – relaunch it.” Guardian. May 23, 2011.

“‘Big society’ tsar Lord Wei leaves post after less than a year; Cabinet office insists departure does not mark scaling back of project, but Labour say flagship policy is descending into farce.” By Polly Curtis. Guardian. May 24, 2011. Lord Wei, the man parachuted into the House of Lords to lead the government’s “big society” project, is to leave his post after less than a year. Wei, dubbed the big society tsar, is leaving to work for a charity. The Cabinet Office has scrapped his role and the Downing Street policy unit will now take responsibility for the programme. A Cabinet Office spokesman insisted that it did not mark a scaling back of the prime minister’s ambitions for the big society, saying that Wei had completed the work of developing the policy so there is no need to replace him. The news came just a day after David Cameron gave a major speech on the subject in what was widely interpreted as his fourth relaunch of the project, which has struggled to register with the public and faced cynicism from Tory backbenchers. Cameron thanked the peer for his “hard work” while Wei said he was glad to have played a “modest” role in the project. Labour said the flagship policy was descending into a “farce” with no one in government now responsible for it.

Better-off are urged to start doing their share for charity; Ed Miliband at Michael Faraday School in southeast London yesterday. He called for a fairer Britain.” By Anushka Asthana and Michael Savage. Times of London. May 24, 2011. Middle class and wealthy people give a lower proportion of their income to charity than the poor, ministers revealed yesterday, as they launched a drive to encourage Britain’s better-off to become more generous. Figures released by the Cabinet Office showed that the poorest 10 per cent of households in the country give on average 3.2 per cent of their income to charity while the richest 10 per cent give 0.8 per cent. Those in the middle give 1.1 per cent. The Giving White Paper, published yesterday, concluded: “We think there is significant potential for the better-off to give more.” It warned that while the UK was a “relatively generous society”, levels of giving had “flatlined in recent years”. David Cameron also urged the public to do more for charity. In a speech that critics called the fourth relaunch of the Big Society, the Prime Minister said that he wanted to “encourage a stronger culture of giving in Britain — with more people giving more money and, vitally, more time to good causes”. He emphasised that about 3 per cent of employees in Britain give to charity through their payroll, compared to more than a third in the US. He promised to boost the figure. Psychologists said that changing the culture was possible although it would be tough. George Fieldman, a cognitive therapist with an interest in altruism, said: “The notion of promoting a culture of generosity is difficult to do because people have an incentive to cheat. But it is quite possible to get some human beings to behave in terrible ways through social pressures and the reverse is also true.” Focusing on the well-off could be the key. Tom Hughes-Hallett, the chairman of an independent review into philanthropy and chief executive of Marie Curie Cancer Care, highlighted the fact that the wealth of Britain’s richest individuals had risen by 18 per cent this year but donations from the 100 top philanthropists fell by 33 per cent.

Anti-abortion group to advise ministers on sexual health policy.” No by-line. Times of London. May 25, 2011. An anti-abortion organisation has been appointed to a government advisory group on sexual health while the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), which carries out a quarter of abortions in England and Wales, has been excluded. Life, which is opposed to abortion in all circumstances and supports abstinence, will attend meetings of the Department of Health’s new Sexual Health Forum. The forum has been introduced as a replacement for the Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV, which was abolished by the Government last year. One of the abolished forum members, Ann Furedi, the chief executive of the BPAS, said last night that she was disappointed to have been “disinvited” to the new forum. “We find it puzzling that the Department of Health would want a group that is opposed to abortion and provides no sexual health services on its sexual health forum,” she told The Guardian. The Department of Health said that the BPAS, which has been providing pregnancy counselling for 40 years, had been offered joint membership of the new forum with Marie Stopes International — each would attend alternate meetings — but had declined the invitation. A department spokeswoman said: “To provide balance, it is important that a wide range of interests and views are represented on the Sexual Health Forum. Marie Stopes International and BPAS have similar interests. We offered them shared membership but they declined, and after careful consideration we concluded that it was not feasible to invite both organisations.” Stuart Cowie, Life’s head of education, said he was delighted the organisation had been invited by Anne Milton, the Public Health Minister, to “represent views that have not always been around on similar tables in the past”.
Related story:
Anti-abortion group drafted in as sexual health adviser to government; Coalition appoints pro-abstinence charity Life to key sexual health forum, while omitting British Pregnancy Advisory Service.” Guardian. May 24, 2011.

Care homes in the balance as Southern Cross struggles; Financial chaos of care home provider Southern Cross is a salutary tale for a government pursuing market-driven reforms.” By Anna Bawden and Richard Alcock. Guardian. May 25, 2011. Last week, the future of 750 care homes hung in the balance after the UK’s biggest care home operator warned that it may not have enough funds to stay in business beyond June. The saga of Southern Cross Healthcare shows what happens when private equity meets public service. After a series of arcane financial deals, the company is facing wipeout unless it can put together an agreement between the complex competing interests of creditors, property investors, bondholders, banks, shareholders and landlords, among them the offshore fund of the Qatari Investment Authority (QIA). Last week, its auditors, PricewaterhouseCoopers warned that there was “significant doubt” over Southern Cross’s ability to remain a viable concern. Latest half-yearly results show that Southern Cross made £311m losses.”In the event that the group does not reach agreements with its landlords and lenders, and no alternative finance is available, the group is unlikely to be able to trade,” PwC said. Meanwhile, 31,000 residents, their families and thousands of staff in its care homes across the UK are waiting to hear their fate.

Innocent smoothie maker says charity cash bottled for best interest rate; £520,000 in donations for foundation held back; Charity’s projects run ‘with due diligence’.” By James Ball. Guardian. May 26, 2011. The glowing image of Innocent, Britain’s biggest smoothie maker, has survived most knocks, including exploding bottles in 2007 and a Coca-Cola buyout last year. The company’s blend of natural ingredients and chatty branding, helped by a pledge printed on its bottles to donate 10% of the profits to charity, have seen off all comers. But perhaps proving that charity begins at home, Innocent has held on to £520,000 pledged to its charitable foundation in 2007, and has not donated a penny to that foundation since 2008. Most of the company’s charitable giving, which is also promoted on its website, is channelled through the Innocent Foundation, which funds development projects in the countries where Innocent sources its fruit. The foundation funds other charities working on sanitation, health care and microfinance. The charity has received no funding from Innocent in recent years as the company’s expansion drive across Europe, coupled with wider economic downturn, meant it delivered no profits between 2008 and 2010. Analysis of documents filed at Companies House and the Charity Commission reveal that Innocent also clung on to the lion’s share of the donation pledged to the foundation from 2007, a year in which the company made record profits and the parent company, Fresh Trading Limited, paid out £12m in dividends to Innocent’s directors and other shareholders. Innocent made a profit of £8m in 2007 and assigned £650,000 of this to its foundation. An additional £100,000 was given to Age UK, making a total contribution of £750,000 – a little short of the promised 10%. Innocent had, however, in other years, donated more than 10% of profits. However, £520,000 donated to the foundation was retained in Innocent’s bank account in the form of a loan from the charity, whose trustees are Innocent’s three directors: Adam Balon, Richard Reed and Jon Wright. Innocent says the money is owned by the foundation and was held by the company because it could garner twice the rate of interest offered by commercial banks. It accepts that if the company went bankrupt the charity would become one of its creditors, but says there has been no point where the company could not or would not pay that money if needed. A spokeswoman for Innocent said the company’s commitment to charity was “true and decent”. She said the foundation benefited by allowing Innocent to look after its money, explaining that Innocent’s bank account accrued more interest than that of the charity. She expressed regret that an “oversight” had led to no interest being paid to the foundation in 2008, and said the charity would be invoicing Innocent for the £5,000, which would have been accrued were interest charged at 2%.

Charity and volunteering; The government’s proposals to boost charitable giving are myriad but modest.” No by-line. The Economist. May 26, 2011. Critics called it the umpteenth relaunch of a failed idea. David Cameron insisted that he was fleshing out his vision of a more philanthropic, civically active Britain. Either way, the government’s white paper on boosting charitable giving, launched on May 23rd alongside a speech by the prime minister on “the space between the market and the state”, confirmed that he is not giving up on his theme of the Big Society. Many of his proposals look fiddly in isolation. The government, informed by research into behavioural science, hopes to “nudge” people into giving by making it possible to donate money through cash machines and introducing rewards for volunteering feats. There will be money—though, given the austere fiscal context, not much—for civic activity in poor areas, as well as for organisations that help to advertise and co-ordinate voluntary opportunities. The government, perhaps optimistically, hopes that lots of relatively small measures will add up to something big enough to rejuvenate Britain’s third sector. But critics wonder whether there is actually a problem to solve. Ministers say that the giving of time and money in Britain has “flatlined”, but the country still scores well by international standards. The World Giving Index, put together by the Charities Aid Foundation, an organisation that connects donors with charities, surveys 153 countries to find how many of their citizens had given money or time, or helped a stranger, in the past month. Britain is eighth, comfortably ahead of comparable countries such as France and Germany, and not far behind world leaders such as Australia and New Zealand.

“Editor-At-Large: The giving sector is a mess – and that’s being charitable.” By Janet Street-Porter. Independent. May 29, 2011. David Cameron wants us to give more to charity – an admirable goal most of us would endorse. Last week he talked of “nudging” the public into giving more by pressing a donation key at cash machines, or by “rounding up” the total when we pay a bill. Critics say that Dave’s Big Society is doomed, but I’m not so cynical. Most of us already participate in our own way – through village halls, and community groups – but we don’t want to be bossed about by government. We secretly suspect that Dave’s Big Plan will mean expensive project reviews and implementation documents written in Whitehall bollocks ordinary people can’t understand. If Dave wants to do something radical, he should appoint a management consultant to overhaul the entire charitable sector. Treat it like a business, ruthlessly streamline it and ensure that it gives donors value for money. He’s slashed the budget of the Charity Commission by 30 per cent – maybe he should cull the quango all together and replace it with a tougher control system.