Archive for August, 2011

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (August 22-28, 2011)

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

ADVOCACY & POLITICS

Our view: Presidential race not the place for secret donors.” Editorial. USA Today. August 22, 2011. [For story, go to Law & Public Policy].

AFL-CIO to form super PAC.” By MacKenzie Weinger. Politico.com. August 22, 2011. The AFL-CIO is getting ready to pump even more money into elections by forming a super PAC and targeting developments in the states, the Associated Press reported Monday. The super PAC — which officials discussed at an executive meeting earlier this month and plan to seek final approval for in the next few weeks — would help the labor group direct funds to state battles where legislative efforts aimed at limiting collective bargaining and cutting union benefits are being considered. “As far as our ability to hold folks accountable for next year’s state legislative battles, we hope this will make a difference and that’s why we’re pursuing this,” AFL-CIO Political Director Michael Podhorzer told the AP. The plan is part of labor leaders’ focus on gathering donations and support beyond the federation’s traditional union base as it creates a year-round political machine. Super PACs, a result of the 2010 Citizens United v Federal Election Commission Supreme Court decision that removed many spending and contribution limits, can raise unlimited amounts of money from corporations, unions and individuals. These PACs cannot operate in connection with a political campaign.

The Influence Industry: ‘Candidate super PACs’ surge ahead in the 2012 money race.” By Dan Eggen. Washington Post. August 24, 2011. Until this month, Steven C. Roche was one of Mitt Romney’s most trusted advisers, helping the former Massachusetts governor raise tens of millions of dollars in his long quest for the White House. Now Roche has jumped ship to Restore Our Future, a “super PAC” dedicated to helping Romney win the presidency by raising unlimited funds from wealthy donors and corporations. The move, first reported by the Center for Public Integrity, illustrates the rise of yet another money-raising vehicle for the 2012 elections: “candidate super PACs,” which are emerging as de facto subsidiaries of the traditional presidential campaigns. Super PACs are technically independent of candidates and parties, and are supposed to abide by Federal Election Commission rules prohibiting coordination with campaigns. But many campaign-finance experts complain that the line is fast blurring into a distinction without a difference, in part because the FEC itself has loosened its regulations to allow much closer ties between campaigns and outside groups. The trend has accelerated since the Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that corporations could spend unlimited amounts of money on elections, experts said. “The candidate super PAC, which is new to 2012, is the most dangerous vehicle operating in American politics,” said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, who has led the push for campaign-finance regulations since the scandals of the Nixon era. “It is a way, in essence, for candidates to raise and spend unlimited money from wealthy individuals, corporations and labor unions for the benefit of their campaign. That takes you very close to unlimited contribution limits.”

Newt Gingrich’s former group, American Solutions, shutters its doors.” By Karen Tumulty. Washington Post. August 26, 2011. The vast advocacy and fundraising operation that former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) built after leaving Capitol Hill more than a decade ago has ceased to exist — a casualty of Gingrich’s decision to run for president in 2012. According to an Aug. 1 filing with the Internal Revenue Service, American Solutions for Winning the Future raised more than $2.4 million during the first six months of the year, but it spent almost $3 million. “It closed down” in July, said longtime Gingrich adviser Joe Gaylord, who had taken over the organization after Gingrich’s departure. “There’s nothing to say. We had difficulty raising money after Newt left. .?.?. We didn’t want to run the organization into deep, deep, deep debt. So we closed it down.” The closure of the organization was first reported by the Center for Public Integrity’s iWatch News. In its heyday, the group raised more money than any other such organization, collecting more than $52 million in its first four years. Nearly two-thirds of that, however, went toward fundraising, which made it an unusually expensive operation. The group’s donor base included more than 300,000 contributors who gave $200 or less, although it also had a number of wealthy benefactors, including casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who provided $6 million.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (August 22-28, 2011)

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

ARTS & CULTURE

Take the Money and Run.” By Lizzie Simon. Wall Street Journal. August 23, 2011. This summer, the New York Foundation for the Arts and the Andrew W. Mellon New York Theater Program handed out a combined $2.9 million to 31 New York-based not-for-profit theater companies and institutions. The grants are meant to help pay for general operations, an unsexy line item if there ever was one, and “the hardest type of funding to secure,” according to NYFA Executive Director Michael Royce. In light of the grants, we were curious to see how much box-office sales contribute to the overall budgets of the winning theaters, and found that none get the majority of their income from ticket sales. For almost half of them, it’s less than 10%. Mr. Royce said that since the theaters have largely artistic, rather than commercial, goals, ticket sales are not the singular, or even the most significant, measure of achievement. “Box-office success is not always the main factor that you look at when you evaluate a theater’s success,” he said. “How the audience connects—that’s where the success is.” To measure that success—and the potential for more—17 theater professionals attended between 14 and 18 productions in New York between November 2009 and June 2010, reviewing a total of 124 theaters for possible grants. A “robust and intense” panel process whittled the number down to 31. All of the grantees are more than nine years old, but “the choice wasn’t made to support older over younger,” Mr. Royce said. “What mattered to us was what was happening on stage and what they stood for.” Three years ago, the organizations awarded nearly $2.2 million to 33 companies.

Options Dim for Museum of Folk Art.” By Robin Pogrebin. New York Times. August 24, 2011. When the American Folk Art Museum opened its new building on West 53rd Street in December 2001, it was widely hailed as a sign of hope, both for the museum and New York. Here was evidence the city could recover from the terrorist attack of a few months earlier: a shiny bronze structure smack in the heart of Midtown that would be the first major art museum to open in Manhattan since the Whitney Museum in 1966. Today that building is owned by another institution. The museum has defaulted on its construction bonds, moved into its old, smaller space near Lincoln Center and is talking of dissolving and transferring its collections to another institution. The final outcome still is not clear. But the museum’s descent into financial trouble is a parable about how poor decisions and unfortunate timing can undermine even the most noble of ambitious undertakings.

A Dwindling Trust Puts Free Concerts On The Rocks.” By Felix Contreras. All Things Considered/National Public Radio. August 25, 2011. Perth Amboy, NJ’s long-running free concert series is just one program threatened by loss of funding as the Music Performance Trust Fund dries up. Perth Amboy, NJ’s long-running free concert series is just one program threatened by loss of funding as the Music Performance Trust Fund dries up. Over the next few weeks, we’re producing stories about the business of putting on free concerts, how they work and what they bring to their communities. Last week’s Weekend Edition Saturday story covered non-profit concert presenters in New York City. In the 1940s, when recording technology was relatively young, the Musicians’ Union worried that consumer preferences for recorded music would put live concerts out of business. They hashed out a deal with record companies to support a series of free concerts across the country, establishing the Music Performance Trust Fund in 1948. Under the terms of the sixty-three-year-old agreement, record companies would set aside a small royalty on every record sold to fund free concerts across the US and Canada, administered by a trust established by the American Federation of Musicians. The mid-1980s were the high water mark for sales of pre-recorded music and Performance Trust Fund concerts. In that decade, officials say the Fund supported almost 70,000 performances with a budget of $32 million. But as CD sales dropped and the record industry grappled with file sharing, the Performance Trust Fund’s share of royalties dwindled. Last year, the fund supported just over 2,700 programs with a little more than $2 million. In Perth Amboy, dwindling royalties have turned into dwindling performances. The Music Performance Trust Fund may be able to return for an encore. The Musicians’ Union and the record labels recently began negotiations over a number of issues, including a potential alternative to record sales as a source of income for the Music Performance Trust Fund. Meanwhile, performers across the country are anxiously waiting in the wings.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (August 22-28, 2011)

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

EDUCATION

CHARTER SCHOOLS

D.C. charter schools have a ‘voice at the table’.” By Bill Turque. Washington Post. August 22, 2011. In his first round of school openings as the city’s chief executive, Gray said during a visit to Inspired Teaching that it would not bother him if charter schools surpass traditional public schools in enrollment. This is no small thing for a mayor who was elected with heavy support from unionized teachers — the kind who don’t work in the District’s charter schools. But Gray said he was looking for charters to have “a catalyzing effect” on the city’s 123 traditional public schools, whose 45,000 students returned to class Monday. Although traditional schools show more overall growth in test scores over the past five years, charters made slightly larger gains this year on city tests. At Achievement Prep charter school in Ward 8, 87 percent of students scored proficient or better in math and 60 percent in reading. The passing rates topped those of any traditional elementary school in Ward 8. Gray’s administration has asked a Chicago firm with close ties to the charter movement to study the distribution of schools — both charter and traditional — across the city to assess which communities are underserved. Officials say the study, by the Illinois Facilities Fund, could provide the basis for decisions to close underenrolled traditional schools and open more charters. “We very clearly have a spot and a voice at the table,” said Brian W. Jones, chairman of the D.C. Public Charter School Board.

California charter school association gets $15-million grant; The grant is the largest yet to the California charter schools group and the biggest of its kind from the nonprofit set up by the founders of the Wal-Mart Corp.” By Howard Blume. Los Angeles Times. August 23, 2011. The state charter school association has received a $15-million grant from the Walton Family Foundation to add 20,000 more charter school students in Los Angeles and 100,000 statewide. The grant, scheduled to be announced Tuesday, is the largest by far to the California Charter Schools Assn., and also the largest of its kind from the nonprofit established by the founders of the Wal-Mart Corp. The Los Angeles Unified School District has more charter schools — 183 last year — and more charter-school students than any school system in the country, and that growth spurt is poised to continue despite countervailing pressure from reduced education funding and political resistance from teacher unions and other critics. The charter association “has been very effective in a very difficult political environment where there’s very well-organized opposition to the growth of charter schools,” said Jim Blew, who heads the foundation’s education efforts. “And creating this growth with the restricted funding levels of schools in California also is very difficult.”
Charters are independently managed and free from some of the restrictions that govern traditional public schools, including having to abide by a district’s union contracts with teachers and other employees. Wal-Mart has opposed unionization in its own operations, but the Arkansas-based foundation does not require charters that it supports to do likewise, although most charters are non-union. The foundation also supports providing government funding to allow low-income students to attend private schools; such publicly funded vouchers are not legal in California.

Oregon online charter schools fought hard to lose enrollment limits, but end up with fewer students than limits allowed.” By Betsy Hammond. The Oregonian. August 23, 2011. The 2011 Legislature’s bruising political battle to remove enrollment limits on statewide online charter schools has translated into almost no practical effect. The state’s two large virtual public schools both reported Tuesday that they have enrolled fewer students than would have been allowed had the caps stayed. Oregon Connections Academy, a kindergarten-through-grade-12 online school that had faced an enrollment cap of 2,700, has enrolled slightly more than 2,500 students, roughly the same as last year, Principal Todd Miller announced. Oregon Virtual Academy, which grew by two grades and now serves students in kindergarten through grade 10, had faced a 1,400-student limit. So far, it has enrolled 960, said Head of School Jim Moyer. That’s growth for the school, which was limited to 600 students last year, but not as much as expected, Moyer said. But so far, interest is nowhere near that high, Miller indicated. He said several factors have limited new enrollment in Oregon Connections Academy, including little awareness of the school, whose only physical presence is in small-town Scio, where it’s based. Miller said many families and school system officials are unaware that the enrollment cap was lifted and that new students won’t be turned away or placed on a waiting list. He said the school also is off-limits for some families because an adult “learning coach” such as a parent or grandparent must be available to stay home with the student each day.

FOR-PROFIT SCHOOLS & COLLEGES

Party Ends at For-Profit Schools.” By Melissa Korn. Wall Street Journal. August 23, 2011. For-profit colleges are facing a tough test: getting new students to enroll. New-student enrollments have plunged—in some cases by more than 45%—in recent months, reflecting two factors: Companies have pulled back on aggressive recruiting practices amid criticism over their high student-loan default rates. And many would-be students are questioning the potential pay-off for degrees that can cost considerably more than what’s available at local community colleges. Undergraduate new-student enrollment fell 25.6% at DeVry’s namesake university in the quarter ended June 30. The company—considered by many industry watchers as one of the stronger school operators because of its portfolio of business, technology and health-care courses—had earlier forecast earnings growth for the current fiscal year but now expects relatively flat bottom-line results. Enrollment at for-profit colleges soared during the recession, amid heavy advertising that appealed to suddenly jobless people needing new skills. But while the advertising continues, a number of for-profit schools including Corinthian, Apollo Group Inc. and others have tamped down aggressive recruiting. They’ve cut back on recruiter bonuses based on factors such as how many students make it past their first term. Apollo, operator of the University of Phoenix chain, has been criticized for targeting injured veterans and homeless adults to fill seats. Earlier this month, the Justice Department and four states sued Education Management Corp., alleging the company’s compensation system for its admissions personnel violates the federal Higher Education Act because admissions employees had been paid based on how many students they recruit.

“University of Northern Virginia: What is it? Part 1.” By Tom Jackman. Washington Post. August 23, 2011. The main campus of the University of Northern Virginia, on Little River Turnpike in Annandale. The main entrance is in the back. (Tom Jackman – The Washington Post) Just because you’ve lived, worked or grown up in Northern Virginia doesn’t mean you’ve ever heard of the University of Northern Virginia. For many of us, our first notice was a recent immigration raid on the university’s Annandale offices on Little River Turnpike, just around the corner from the great 24-hour Korean barbecue joint Yechon on Hummer Road. So many questions. What is their team name? The Fighting Commuters? The Mall Rats? Do they have a rivalry with George Mason? Was their chancellor a “suburban sex-dungeon master”? And is the University of NoVa just a way for foreign nationals to buy a visa into the United States? An investigation by the Chronicle of Higher Education suggested that in March, possibly prompting the visit from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

HIGHER EDUCATION

UC income from tuition will surpass state funding for the first time; Propelled by budget crises, California is becoming more like other states in passing more of the burden of a college education on to students.” By Larry Gordon. Los Angeles Times. August 22, 2011. For the first time, the total amount that University of California students pay in tuition this year will surpass the funding the prestigious public university receives from the state. It is a historic shift for the UC system and part of a national trend that is changing the nature of public higher education.
Propelled by budget crises in California and elsewhere, the burden of paying for education at a public college or university, once heavily subsidized by taxpayers, is shifting to students and their families. At UC, the changes are prompting soul-searching among administrators, alumni, students and others about whether the 10-campus, 230,000-student system is at a crossroads. Some say the university must choose among facets of its long-standing public mission — to offer a widely accessible, moderately priced and high-quality education to California’s young people — as it supports itself increasingly through tuition, private fundraising and growing numbers of out-of-state students. “It’s a significant moment,” said Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president at the American Council on Education, an umbrella group for the nation’s major universities. Compared with other states that already have passed most educational costs to students, California historically has kept tuition low and provided generous support for higher education. But now, Hartle said, the Golden State is becoming more like others in the view that students are the main beneficiaries of a college education and should bear most of the cost.

UCLA law professor opposes naming institute after Lowell Milken; Alumnus linked to Wall Street junk bond scandal donates $10 million to help found a business law institute. Lynn A. Stout says he is not ‘an appropriate model’ for students and will hurt UCLA’s reputation.” By Larry Gordon. Los Angeles Times. August 24, 2011. A $10-million gift to UCLA’s law school from alumnus Lowell Milken is stirring debate on the campus about the decision to name a business law institute for the former financier, who was linked to Wall Street’s junk bond scandal two decades ago. A prominent business law professor has raised objections to the Milken gift and to UCLA’s announcement this month that it will establish the institute in his name. But other law school faculty, along with top UCLA administrators, say they welcome the donation, noting that Milken was not convicted of any wrongdoing. As part of a 1991 agreement with federal regulators, Milken was barred from working in the securities industry but was not tried on criminal charges in the case that sent his older brother, Michael, to prison for securities fraud. In the years since, both Milkens have become prominent philanthropists and Lowell has been especially generous to education causes, including previous donations to UCLA. Concerns about the latest donation were raised by UCLA business law professor Lynn A. Stout, an expert on corporate and securities law, in a letter last month to UC President Mark G. Yudof and UCLA Chancellor Gene Block. Stout said the gift posed “serious ethical problems and reputational risks for UCLA” and could damage her own reputation as well.
Related story:
Milken’s Gift Stirs Dispute at U.C.L.A. Law School.” New York Times. August 22, 2011.

USC to seek record-breaking donation total; The university wants to add $5 billion by 2018 to the $1 billion given in the last year. The money would go to the school’s endowment and for new buildings, labs and research.” By Larry Gordon. Los Angeles Times. August 28, 2011. In what is said to be the largest fundraising goal in American academia to date, USC is launching a campaign to garner $5 billion in donations by 2018, on top of $1 billion given to the school in the last year. USC President C.L. Max Nikias said he was optimistic that the campaign, to be announced Sunday, would succeed despite the economic worries that even wealthy alumni may have about their investments. “Yes, we have to be mindful of the short-term economic uncertainties, but this campaign focuses beyond the next few months and next few years,” Nikias said. “I feel it is extremely important that we position the university to ride the first wave of economic recovery.” The formal kick-off will occur at a Sept. 15 campus ceremony and dinner. Half of the $6-billion total would be used to increase the university’s endowment in an effort to boost faculty hiring and student financial aid. The rest would go toward new buildings and labs and toward expanding research projects, Nikias said. Higher education experts said Columbia University has the single largest previous campaign goal on record, $5 billion, set after it reached its original $4-billion target. Next is Stanford University, which is concluding a plan that has raised $4.4 billion, exceeding its $4.3-billion goal. Harvard University is preparing a mega-campaign that some expect will be larger than USC’s, but a Harvard spokesman said no details have been announced.

PUBLIC SCHOOL PHILANTHROPY

Facebook Gift Spurs a Lawsuit.Wall Street Journal. August 24, 2011. [For story, go to Law & Public Policy].

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (August 22-28, 2011)

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

FUNDRAISING

T-shirts for charity; Emerging local artists and nonprofits will get a boost from SocialPakt.” By Miriam Kreinin Souccar. Crain’s New York Business. August 21, 2011. New York artist Elizabeth Haywood will design a limited edition T-shirt for the Humane Society of New York. But the tops won’t be shipped off to people who have donated to the nonprofit. They’ll be available online for just seven days at SocialPakt, a new Internet company that combines commerce and charity. The shirts will sell for $25. The nonprofit will get $6, the artist will get $3, and SocialPakt will get the rest. Each week will feature a different charity and emerging artist, with the hope of creating buzz for the campaigns. The business launches on Sept. 19. SocialPakt is the brainchild of Bailey Schroeder, an executive at Barclays who is leaving this month to run the company full-time, and Greg Mullens, a former Mets minor league pitcher who is currently in law school. The duo, who are engaged to be married, have raised about $400,000 for the startup. “We felt this could be a great way to give communities that struggle financially a way to get exposure,” Ms. Schroeder said.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (August 22-28, 2011)

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

HUMAN SERVICES

S.F. food banks struggle with major funding cuts.” By Heather Knight. San Francisco Chronicle. August 20, 2011. A volunteer passes out green beans at Hosanna Celebration Center, a Castro church that offers food from the S.F. Food Bank. The line has grown from 85 people five years ago to 350 people today, its pastor says. Hundreds of people form a line snaking down the side of the building, many having arrived hours before. They’re assigned numbers to ensure there’s some semblance of order after fights began breaking out in line many months ago. Once it’s finally their turn, the mostly elderly people eagerly claim their prize: a bag of bread and some fruit and vegetables. It’s the weekly, sometimes desperate handout at Hosanna Celebration Center, a Castro district church that disburses food from the San Francisco Food Bank each Tuesday at noon. But under new criteria set by the national Emergency Food and Shelter Program, scenes like this, which play out daily in San Francisco, aren’t enough to merit federal financial help. The city simply doesn’t have enough poor or unemployed people to qualify, and it has just learned it will lose out on $592,000 in federal money that helps fund the food bank and other social service programs. Funding for the national program was cut 40 percent by Congress in this year’s budget – from $200 million to $120 million. For the first time in the program’s 28-year existence, San Francisco won’t get any of that money. This year, a county qualifies for assistance if it or a city within it has at least a 14.4 percent poverty rate or an 11.5 percent unemployment rate. San Francisco’s rates are 11.3 and 9 percent respectively. While neighborhoods within the city would qualify, San Francisco doesn’t get any money – though wealthier counties with one poor city inside them do. The San Francisco Food Bank is losing $161,000, enough to pay for 483,000 meals this year

Planned Parenthood vs. The States: The Legal Battles Rage.” Huffington Post. August 24, 2011. [For story, go to Law & Public Policy].

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (August 22-28, 2011)

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

INTERNATIONAL

CATHOLIC SEX ABUSE SCANDAL

Men arrested on suspicion of blackmailing Italian priests; Men in Italy suspected of demanding money from up to 100 priests in return for keeping quiet about sexual encounters.” By Tom Kington. Guardian. August 22, 2011. Up to 100 priests in Italy were blackmailed by two men who used Facebook and Messenger to snare them, according to a police investigation. The men, who were arrested on suspicion of blackmail on 26 July, demanded up to €10,000 (£8,000) from priests in return for keeping quiet about erotic webcam sessions and real sexual encounters, reported Italian weekly Panorama citing judicial sources. After seizing contact lists and records of virtual sex sessions from the house shared by the men, Diego Maria Caggiano, 35, and Giuseppe Trementino, 30, police believe the priests targeted were sharing details of potential sexual partners through a private internet forum. Trementino has told investigators that he began to have sexual relations with a priest after a chance meeting last year while he was working for a courier company in the southern region of Molise. The priest paid Trementino regular sums of money and bought him a car but eventually reported him to the police. In the meantime, Trementino said a second priest contacted him through Facebook and invited him to spend three days in a hotel in Rome with him, offering him a train fare and €300 to buy cannabis, alcohol and condoms. Trementino claims he then began to receive requests for erotic webcam sessions from “tens” of priests. He added: “I would get up to five requests a day from all over Italy, even one from France. I felt I had ended up in a net of perversion.” Police suspect Caggiano, Trementino’s housemate, of demanding up to €10,000 from the priests for their silence, with one sending €7,000. Contacted by police, the priest said he put the money together from donations from parishioners whose houses he had blessed and by cutting back on the economic assistance he provided to the local poor.

Archdiocese Lists Priests Accused of Abuse.” By Abby Goodnough. New York Times. August 25, 2011. The Archdiocese of Boston on Thursday published a partial list of clergy members accused of sexual abuse, nearly a decade after a scandal erupted here involving widespread abuse by priests and revelations that the archdiocese had been shielding molesters for years. Victim advocacy groups have long pressed the archdiocese to publish such a list, a step that a number of other dioceses have already taken. Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley first suggested in 2009 that he would publish a list; diocesan officials said this week that it had taken two years to gather the necessary feedback and weigh complicated issues like the due process rights of priests whose cases had not been fully adjudicated. In an open letter, Cardinal O’Malley said he had decided to publish a list of 132 priests and two deacons “after serious and thoughtful consideration and prayer.” They include priests whom the church or courts have found guilty of sexually abusing a child, others who left the priesthood before or after accusations of abuse and dead priests who have been publicly accused of abuse. The list, published in a searchable database on the diocese’s Web site, also includes 22 current diocesan priests who remain on administrative leave while their cases are investigated. Separately, Cardinal O’Malley has listed 25 priests who were publicly accused of molesting children but for whom the archdiocese found the accusations to be unsubstantiated. “My deepest hope and prayer is that the efforts I am announcing today will provide some additional comfort and healing for those who have suffered from sexual abuse by clergy,” Cardinal O’Malley said in the letter.
Related stories:
Church names accused priests; AG, victim groups say list has gaps.” Boston Globe. August 26, 2011.
O’Malley’s sex-abuse policy: proof is in the implementation.” Editorial. Boston Globe. August 27, 2011.

L.A. prosecutors try to keep ex-priest locked up.” No by-line. USA Today. August 27, 2011. A notorious, child-molesting former priest, who avoided prosecution on all but two of a dozen sexual abuse allegations, could face an indefinite time in custody if prosecutors win a motion to commit him to a mental hospital. Michael Baker, whose case was at the center of a costly priest abuse scandal that rocked the Los Angeles archdiocese, was scheduled to leave prison after serving half of a 10-year sentence. But the district attorney’s office, acting under a provision known as Jessica’s Law, stepped in to block his release. In a petition filed in Superior Court, prosecutors said Baker is a sexually violent predator who would be likely to commit further crimes if released.

DEVELOPMENT

Q&A: NGOs Must Play Key Role in Rio+20 Summit on Sustainable Development.” Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). August 27, 2011. Jose Domingo Guariglia interviews Michael Renner, of Worldwatch Institute.

FRANCE

Wealthy French Push for Extra Tax on Rich; As Sarkozy Seeks to Plug Holes in Budget, Heirs and CEOs Say in Open Letter That ‘We Feel We Must Contribute’.” By David Gauthier-Villars. Wall Street Journal. August 24, 2011. France’s richest woman, who recently ran into trouble for allegedly evading taxes, said Tuesday she wished to stand by her country as it is going through hardships, urging the government to create a one-time levy on the nation’s most well-off taxpayers. In a call that echoes a recent message to fellow billionaires issued by U.S. tycoon Warren Buffett, Liliane Bettencourt, along with 15 other wealthy individuals, made the unusual plea for a special though “reasonable” tax. The message from the heiress to the L’Oréal SA cosmetics empire and other prominent members of les riches, the wealthy, comes as France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy is seeking ways to reduce gaping holes in the country’s budget without reneging on his electoral pledge not to raise taxes.
Related story:
France’s richest say: Tax us more.” BBC News. August 24, 2011.

INDIA

Civil Society Shows Its Muscle.” By Sujoy Dhar. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). August 22, 2011. In his Independence Day address to the nation on Aug. 15 Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh vowed to fight corruption, but nationwide agitations since then demanding an effective ombudsman to check graft showed an unconvinced public. Singh’s government appeared to have underestimated the public mood by arresting, the next day, Anna Hazare, 74, the face of a growing anti-graft movement focused currently on getting a strong Lokpal (ombudsman) Bill passed through Parliament. By the evening of Aug. 16, with crowds swelling around Tihar jail, the capital’s main prison, the government was compelled to release Hazare and concede to his demand to be allowed to sit on a fast at a public venue. It was after a first round of fasting by Hazare in April that the government set up a joint law drafting panel consisting of ministers and civil society members. However, when the government was seen to be pushing its own watered-down version of the draft, quickly dubbed the ‘Jokepal Bill’ by Hazare and his supporters, that a fresh and even more vigorous season of protest began. Hazare’s Jan Lokpal Bill (People’s Lokpal Bill) would bring even the powerful prime minister’s office and the judiciary under the purview of the proposed ombudsman law. On Sunday, an estimated 100,000 people gathered in the capital’s Ramlila Grounds, where Hazare is sitting on his fast, in a show of solidarity that reminded many of the days of India’s independence movement which peacefully ended the British colonial rule in 1947.
Related stories:
Indian protests; The fast and the curious.The Economist. August 22, 2011
A Gandhi Model Galvanizes India; Fasting, White-Clothed Hazare Was Tapped by Anticorruption Activists Looking for an Icon to Put Spirit Back in Fight.” Wall Street Journal. August 23, 2011.
Anna Hazare sticks to August 30 deadline for passage of Lokpal Bill.” Times of India. August 23, 2011.
Deoband distances itself from Anna Hazare’s movement.Times of India. Aug 23, 2011.
India Leaders Extend Olive Branch to Activist; Government Invites Aides of Fasting Activist, Calls All-Party Meeting to Seek Consensus on Anticorruption Steps.” Wall Street Journal. August 24, 2011.
Team Anna holds talks with government, presents fresh draft.” Times of India. August 24, 2011.
All-party meet on Lokpal Bill issue on, Pranab Mukherjee to represent Cong Agencies.Times of India. Auust 24, 2011.
Many in India See Danger in Hunger Striker’s Anticorruption Plan.” New York Times. August 23, 2011.
Hunger Shows its Power.” Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). August 25, 2011.
Team Anna mulls PM’s offer, conveys response to Deshmukh.” Times of India. August 25, 2011.
Make Lokpal a constitutional body: Rahul Gandhi.Times of India. August 26, 2011.
Impasse Lingers Between Indian Hunger Striker and Government.New York Times. August 26, 2011.
Govt draft agrees to all 3 of Anna’s conditions.Times of India. August 27, 2011.
India, Activist Stumble in Bid to End Fast.” Wall Street Journal. August 27, 2011.
Anna Hazare breaks fast after 288 hours, nation relieved.” Times of India. August 28, 2011.
Graft gives Brand India a hard time.Times of India. August 28, 2011.
Anna Hazare Ends Hunger Strike as Indian Parliament Agrees to His Demands.” Times of India. August 27, 2011.

UK

Royal charities lobbied ministers and officials, papers reveal; A number of charities set up by Prince Charles have called on the government to change policies on politically sensitive topics.” By Robert Booth. Guardian. August 21, 2011. Prince Charles’s charities have lobbied government ministers and senior officials to change policies on politically sensitive topics including VAT rates and regional development spending, according to letters and emails obtained by the Guardian. In a series of interventions that will re-ignite debate about the Prince of Wales’s alleged “meddling” in politics, charities set up by the prince in line with his social and environmental goals have called on the government to change policies. Business in the Community, a charity of which Charles has been president for 25 years, urged the business secretary, Vince Cable, to rethink a decision to scrap the Northwest Regional Development Agency, according to documents released under the Freedom of Information Act. In another case, the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment urged the local government minister, Grant Shapps, to incorporate greater community engagement in planning and promoted its own planning work around the country as something for him to consider in the national planning policy framework. Three months later the Department for Communities and Local Government awarded a £800,000 grant to the foundation to advise local groups on new developments. The communities department denied there was any connection between the lobbying and the grant to the Prince’s Foundation. The correspondence released by the government to the Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act comprises 17 emails and letters between five of the prince’s charities and ministers and officials in four government departments. It has prompted fresh concern that the initiatives could be used as a way of extending the prince’s political influence in a way that could cause constitutional problems.
Related story:
Letter on planning from Prince Charles’s office being kept secret; Admission the GLA is withholding correspondence comes after it emerged several of his charities had been lobbying ministers.” Guardian. August 22, 2011.

Day of reckoning as weaker schools face their GCSE test; Pupils at Marlowe Academy, Ramsgate, which replaced a failing school in 2005.” By Greg Hurst. Times of London. August 25, 2011. Hundreds of schools face being forced to turn into academies or enact sweeping changes to raise standards unless they achieve dramatic improvements in today’s GCSE results. Head teachers or governing bodies could be replaced and new academy sponsors imposed in schools where less than 35 per cent of pupils achieve at least a C grade in five GCSEs, including English and maths, or other qualifications. The threat raises the stakes for weaker secondary schools as GCSE results are published. They will be spared only if they can show strong progress by children with low prior attainment. Critics said that the target, raised by Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, from a 30 per cent threshold introduced by Labour, would encourage struggling schools to neglect brighter pupils and focus on “cramming” those on the C/D borderline. Schools whose results are just above the target will not escape as Mr Gove intends to raise the threshold again next year to 40 per cent and by 2015 to 50 per cent, although he has described the latter figure as an aspiration. Some academy groups that have taken over failing urban schools have signalled that they expect strong improvements in their pupils’ GCSE results, which would boost the Education’s Secretary’s justification for his uncompromising stance. But there is scepticism in some quarters about whether there are enough academy sponsors ready to take on the number of underperforming schools.

RNLI – Part of the big society for nearly 200 years; The RNLI is remarkable both for its volunteers and for the success of its fund-raising. Alice-Azania Jarvis reports.” No by-line. Independent. August 26, 2011. In the summer months, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution conducts somewhere between 30 and 40 rescues a day. This year they will save some 400 lives, launching 28-29 thousand rescues from the 235 RNLI stations across Britain and Ireland. Around the coast, there are 165 RNLI life guarded beaches. Indeed since their inception in 1824, when Sir William Hillary established the National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck, the RNLI has prevented in the region of 140,000 deaths. All this, famously, occurs without government funding. Tax breaks aside, the RNLI receives not a drop from the public purse. The overwhelming majority of RNLI boat crew – some 97% of their 5000-strong force – are volunteers. The remaining 1% is made up of mechanics and engineers. At a time when the charity sector is being cast out in the cold by government cuts, the RNLI is already there, leading the way by doing what they’ve always done, for almost 200 years. “Irrespective of the noise the politicians make about it, a lot of us have been doing it for a long time,” reflects Boissier. “The Big Society is here.”

Private investors could profit from projects aiding troubled families; Investors who put cash into ‘social impact bond’ will be paid dividends on successful projects, minister announces.” By Randeep Ramesh. Guardian. August 26, 2011. Private investors will be encouraged to fund intensive help programmes for troubled families under a trial launched by the government on Friday. Ministers want philanthropists, charities and other organisations to plough cash into projects for 120,000 families to reduce the number of days their children spend in care, lower the rate of teen pregnancy and cut the number of visits to hospital accident and emergency wards. Investors who put cash into a “social impact bond” will be paid a dividend for any successful project. Nick Hurd, the minister for the big society, says £40m could be raised by four bonds to be launched in pilot schemes in the London boroughs of Hammersmith & Fulham and Westminster and in Birmingham and Leicestershire. These areas contain more than 6,000 “troubled families”, leading such chaotic lives that taxpayers fork out more than £100,000 a year per family. But this cost can be shrunk by a dedicated team working intensively with the families to keep children in school, end domestic violence, force adults to kick drugs and drink and deal with mental health issues. Last week, in a response to the riots, David Cameron said all such troubled families would be helped within four years. Although such “family intervention projects” were introduced by Labour more than five years ago in the four boroughs now targeted by the government, ministers said fewer than 150 families had been aided. The first of the new schemes will be running by April 2012. Investors will take a share of savings made by the government in a four-year period. These profits could be substantial, with a pilot scheme in Westminster showing that £20,000 “invested” in a problem family could save £40,000 that would have been spent deploying social workers, police and child protection staff.

Independent schools make the grade again.” By Richard Garner. Independent. August 27, 2011. Britain’s top Independent Schools have extended their lead over state counterparts in terms of grade performance, claim figures out today. They show a 0.9 percentage point rise in the number of pupils gaining A* grades – to 19.1 per cent – compared with a national figure of 8.2 per cent. The data was supplied by the Independent Schools Council, which represents hundreds of schools at the top end of the market – such as Eton, Winchester, Westminster and Roedean. Their performance led to a call from headmistress Cynthia Hall, of table-topping Wycombe Abbey Girls’ School, for all leading universities to come clean and recognise the A* grade in their admissions process. She said: “It makes the system more understandable to students and fairer.”

Charity website investigated over loan to its founder.” By David Brown and Ruby Edwards. Times of London. August 27, 2011. A website that collects donations on behalf of thousands of good causes is under investigation by the charities’ regulator amid concerns about its financial management. The Dove Trust, which runs charitygiving.co.uk, has failed to file accounts covering the past four years after its auditors raised concerns about a loan made to its founder. The trust helps small and medium-sized charities to collect donations and reclaim Gift Aid from the taxman. It claims to have collected more than £3 million in donations last year and reclaimed hundreds of thousands of pounds of Gift Aid on behalf of 4,000 charities and individuals. The Charity Commission has opened a “regulatory compliance” investigation after its auditors warned in its most recently filed accounts that there was “significant doubt” about its ability to survive and highlighted debts owed by a company controlled by Keith Colman, the trust’s founder, who is also a trustee. Baker Tilly, the trust’s auditor, revealed in 2009 that the trust had lent Mr Colman’s company, ABC Financial Advice Centre, almost £200,000. It said that repayment was due within 12 months, but that depended on the company selling a property. Mr Colman confirmed this week that the property had been sold only last month but had produced a profit of only £40,000.

First group of 24 ‘free’ schools to open next month; Faith schools and advocates of Latin and yoga are among those chosen to receive state funding.” By Richard Garner. Independent. August 28, 2011. One school stresses the importance of yoga, a second insists its pupils learn Latin, and five different faith groups will get the chance to run their own state-financed schools, the Government has decided. Welcome to the brave new world of Secretary of State of Education Michael Gove’s flagship “free” schools – 24 of which will be opening their doors for the first time at the start of the new term next month. The successful candidates have been selected from 323 that applied to the Government for funding. They include a couple of existing schools which have converted to “free” status: the Maharishi School in Lancashire, which follows the beliefs of the former Beatles’ guru and introduces its pupils to yoga, and a long-established independent school, Batley Grammar, which has forsaken selection so that it can receive state funding. The religious groups include the first state-financed Sikh school, the Nishkam School in Birmingham; two Jewish primary schools in Haringey and Mill Hill, north London; a Hindu school, the Krishna-Avanti Primary School in Leicester; and a Church of England school, St Luke’s in Camden, north London, an area where there is a shortage of school places. The “free” school scheme has been fiercely opposed by Labour and teachers’ leaders. They argue that it could destabilise existing schools and make them unviable by taking away pupils in areas where there is no shortage of places. Andy Burnham, Labour’s Education spokesman, has, however, said he would be prepared to allow them to continue to operate if they have proved successful. The decision by the Government to turn down the bulk of the applications has soothed fears that ill-thought-out proposals could get the go-ahead in an attempt to maximise the impact of the scheme. The schools will be given the freedom to set their own curriculum and employ unqualified staff as teachers if they wish.

UN

Q&A: ‘Cooperatives Aren’t Charity’Kanya D’Almeida interviews BRIAN VAN SLYKE, founder of a worker-owned cooperative.” Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). August 26, 2011. As industrial production penetrates all corners of the planet and transnational capital gains have unfettered access to virtually every country and community, the United Nations has declared 2012 to be the ‘International Year of Cooperatives (IYC)’. Slated to be launched on Oct. 31 at U.N. headquarters in New York, the IYC should be a “reminder to the international community that it is possible to pursue both economic viability and social responsibility,” said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. While the high-level meeting will no doubt generate enormous awareness on the necessity of sustainable and alternative economies like cooperatives, many individuals and organisations have been working quietly for years to bring worker-owned enterprises to fruition. IPS Washington correspondent Kanya D’Almeida spoke with Brian Van Slyke, founder of the Toolbox for Education and Social Action (TESA), a worker-owned cooperative created to democratise education and the economy, while furthering the cooperative movement.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (August 22-28, 2011)

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

LABOR RELATIONS

Disgruntled Hershey Guest Workers Knew What To Expect, Says Non-Profit CEO.” No by-line. Huffington Post. August 25, 2011. Whatever their expectations were for their big summer in America, hundreds of young students from Eastern Europe and Asia wound up working on their feet all day in a chilly Pennsylvania plant, packaging Hershey candies for shipment, at a wage that some of them say wasn’t enough to break even on their journey. The students’ high-profile walkout last week and its subsequent uproar have prompted a State Department investigation into allegations that the working conditions were exploitative. But the CEO of the nonprofit that brokered the students’ J-1 visas said in an interview that the jobs weren’t all that bad — and that if they were, the students had been given fair warning of what the work would entail. “The vast majority of them are having a wonderful experience,” Rick Anaya, CEO of the Council for Educational Travel USA (CETUSA), said of the workers at the Hershey plant. “I think that the job is fine for the kids. I think it’s good for the kids to see and learn that this is how a factory runs in the United States.” The students had been employed by a subcontractor twice removed from Hershey, and when asked about the working conditions, all the companies who’ve benefited from the students’ work have foisted the responsibility on CETUSA, which arranged for the students to be here. An advocacy group called the National Guestworker Alliance has submitted a formal request to the State Department asking that it revoke its sponsorship of CETUSA, which, according to Anaya, helped bring 6,000 guest workers into the country this summer, in states from Florida to Alaska. Anaya said that his nonprofit ended up “at the bottom of the pile,” and that the pileup was instigated by American labor organizers who’ve been working with the most vocal of the disgruntled students. “I personally think the kids are being misled by the National Guestworker Alliance and the AFL-CIO,” Anaya said. “For some reason they’ve chosen to target this program. [The students] are being led astray.”

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (August 22-28, 2011)

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

LAW & PUBLIC POLICY

Our view: Presidential race not the place for secret donors.” Editorial. USA Today. August 22, 2011. Candidates have always found creative and questionable ways to raise the money they need to get elected, but some of the schemes being used to support the current crop of presidential candidates sound as if they were invented by organized crime. Allies of President Obama and a slew of Republican hopefuls are taking advantage of loose campaign-finance laws, a toothless Federal Election Commission and a 2010 Supreme Court decision that equated big money with free speech. The result? A system that Ohio political boss Mark Hanna would have loved in the wild, anything-goes campaign days of the 1890s. The credit for making hash out of the campaign-financing laws goes to both Democrats and Republicans. The Supreme Court opened the door to this mess with its 2010 ruling. A typically inept Congress was unable to find the votes to shut it. President Obama, a professed champion of transparency, and leading GOP candidates could stop these nefarious dealings with a few well-placed words. That none of them has done so speaks volumes. They want enough money to win. And, apparently, they don’t care how their supporters get it.

Facebook Gift Spurs a Lawsuit.” By Andrew Grossman. Wall Street Journal. August 24, 2011. A group of parents, with the backing of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, is suing the city of Newark for failing to turn over correspondence related to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift to the city’s struggling school system. A member of the group, called the Secondary Parent Council, filed a request in April under the state’s Open Public Records Act seeking copies of messages between Newark Mayor Cory Booker, his staff and a long list of people, including Mr. Zuckerberg, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and various state officials. They also want messages exchanged between the mayor’s staff and some of the biggest players in the effort to overhaul schools around the country: Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates, hedge-fund manager William Ackman and the foundation started by billionaire entrepreneur Eli Broad. A spokeswoman for Mr. Booker, Anne Torres, said in a statement that there are no documents showing correspondence between the mayor and Mr. Zuckerberg. She didn’t specifically address the other documents requested by the parents group.”There is no secret here,” she said. Spending by the foundation started by the Zuckerberg donation “is public and has been made public.” Mr. Zuckerberg’s gift is a significant cash infusion for Newark’s schools, but has also sparked debate over how it will be used. The parents’ group says in its lawsuit that it wants to see copies of the correspondence because it has “a strong interest in insuring that appropriate public officials, rather than private individuals, decide how allocate the donated funds.” Newark denied the group’s request in July for reasons including being too broad, according to a letter from city attorneys to the parents group that was posted on the ACLU of New Jersey’s website.

Planned Parenthood vs. The States: The Legal Battles Rage.” No by-line. Huffington Post. August 24, 2011. The states launched an unprecedented avalanche of attacks against Planned Parenthood in their 2011 legislative sessions, but Planned Parenthood is battling back in the courts. Eighteen states have passed one or more measures to limit the services the family planning provider can offer. Four are already facing Planned Parenthood in what promise to be lengthy and expensive legal battles to defend their right to enact those laws. Legislators in five states — Indiana, North Carolina, Kansas, Wisconsin and Texas — defunded Planned Parenthood in 2011 because some of its clinics provide privately funded abortions. Planned Parenthood attorneys challenged three of those laws in court this summer, and judges in all three states — Indiana, North Carolina and Kansas — temporarily blocked their enforcement, unanimously ruling that state governments may not punish a particular health provider for offering a legal, constitutionally protected medical service. “If all of the judges are saying the same thing that we have been saying in all of these defunding battles, there really is very little doubt that it is illegal under many federal funding streams and unconstitutional to disqualify us from participating in these government programs,” said Roger Evans, Planned Parenthood’s attorney on the North Carolina case. Whether the states will take these rulings seriously is a different question, Evans told HuffPost. All three states are appealing the court decisions. Kansas is dragging its feet on restoring funding to Planned Parenthood despite having been ordered to do so immediately by a federal judge. Despite the first injunction against a defunding law — in Indiana — other states, such as Wisconsin and Ohio, moved forward with their own legislation.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (August 22-28, 2011)

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

PHILANTHROPY

Donor of the Day: Onsite Day Care For Track Parents.” By Pia Catton. Wall Street Journal. August
22, 2011. Thoroughbred horse racing in New York State moves between three tracks: Aqueduct in Queens, Belmont Park in Long Island and Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs. But 365 days a year, there are horses lodged at the backstretch stables of Belmont and Aqueduct, where employees arrive before dawn to clean stalls, feed the horses and groom them after training. Often, these employees – many of whom are recent Latino immigrants—are also caring for their children. Because the work day starts so early, many parents are without child care. For years that meant (and still does mean at many other tracks) that children come to work with parents and sleep in cars or hang around the stalls. But that changed in 2003 with the help of two racing enthusiasts, Michael Dubb and Eugene Melnyk, whose leadership created Anna House, a day-care center open every day for children whose parents are backstretch workers at Belmont and Aqueduct, which are less than 10 miles apart. In 1998, Mr. Dubb, founder of home building company the Beechwood Organization in Jericho, N.Y., learned from then-jockey Jerry Bailey about the track workers’ need for affordable, early-morning child care. Mr. Dubb approached the New York Racing Association, which governs the tracks and surrounding facilities, with plans to donate the construction of a dedicated facility. The Belmont Child Care Association was formed, and permits were sought. But funding for operating costs was still needed. At an annual fund-raiser during the Saratoga season—which will be held this year on Wednesday—the association found support from Mr. Melnyk, a Canadian businessman who breeds and trains thoroughbreds at his Winding Oaks Farm, in Florida and Kentucky. “They had the land, they had the approvals,” he said. “I just said, ‘How much do you need?’”

Mayor’s Charity Pipeline; Bloomberg Builds His Private Foundation’s Staff With Administration Stalwarts.” By Erica Orden. Wall Street Journal. August 23, 2011. As the clock ticks toward his exit from City Hall, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has begun to bulk up the payroll at his private charitable foundation by tapping at least one steady source of personnel: former administration staffers. Nine ex-city employees now work at Bloomberg Philanthropies, in addition to current First Deputy Mayor Patricia Harris. Outside her City Hall duties, Ms. Harris acts as the foundation’s unpaid chief executive and chairwoman. Mr. Bloomberg often has wielded both his political influence and private capital in the service of policies and organizations he supports, occasionally attracting criticism for blurring the lines between his public and private roles. The increasingly heavy migration of administration staffers to the mayor’s private philanthropic foundation comes as he continues to reach into his own deep pockets to back high-profile public programs. Mr. Bloomberg has pledged to give away most of his wealth through his charitable foundation, which he founded in December 2006. Its assets in 2007 totaled $1.4 billion, according to tax returns. By the end of 2009, it had grown to $2.2 billion, including the mayor’s $420 million contribution. While its early efforts centered on antitobacco initiatives, the foundation’s scope has broadened in recent years to include funding for education, environmental and immigration programs, as well as arts. Earlier this year, for example, it announced it would award $32 million in grants to 250 small to midsize arts and cultural groups in the five boroughs. That Mr. Bloomberg would populate the ranks of his private nonprofit with public servants comes as no surprise to longtime observers of his administration. “The mayor attracted a lot of private-sector people to public service, and the foundation has taken the best and the brightest of them,” said Dick Dadey, executive director of the Citizens Union.

Donor of the Day: Foundation Shifts Focus to International Exchange.” By Melanie Grayce West. Wall Street Journal. August 23, 2011. The Robert Sterling Clark Foundation has long supported groundbreaking efforts in reproductive rights and improving the management of cultural and public institutions in New York. Now the organization is focusing on promoting international exchange. It’s an effort that mirrors the personal interests of the founder. Robert Sterling Clark, who died in 1955, was born into a family of privilege. Mr. Clark’s grandfather, Edward, was the attorney of Isaac Singer and ultimately became a business partner in the Singer Sewing Machine Co. Among Edward Clark’s many legacies, is the development of homes on the Upper West Side, including the Dakota building at 72nd Street and Central Park West. Robert Clark took his fortune in a different direction. He joined the Army, which led him to China and inspired a passion for art. Later, he lived in Paris and began collecting 19th-century French masterpieces. The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass., is the permanent home of his collection. At the heart of Mr. Clark’s personal interests was an exploration of other cultures. Creating an international exchange through the arts is now a major focus of the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation. The foundation has awarded $1.8 million this year to arts organizations that promote international cultural exchange. The goal of the funding is to introduce American culture abroad and to introduce American audiences to cultures rarely represented in the U.S. The foundation is currently focused on exchanges between Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.

Donor of the Day: Full-Court Press to Help Children.” By Melanie Grayce West. Wall Street Journal. August 24, 2011. Above all, Tyler Ugolyn loved the game of basketball. He was a shooting guard for Columbia University’s varsity basketball team and, while in college, he started a weekly basketball clinic in Harlem for neighborhood children. He was known among his classmates as someone who could inspire others to attend church. He was a Celtics and Yankees fan, but would sometimes return to Ridgefield High School and cheer on his old high school team.His career plan was to work for a few years as an investment analyst at Fred Alger Management and then go to business school. On Sept. 11, 2001, he was working on the 93rd floor of Tower One at the World Trade Center. He died at the age of 23. Mr. Ugolyn, the retired chairman of Mony Securities Corp. and the current independent chairman of WisdomTree Trust, now oversees with his wife, Diane, and son, Trevor, the Tyler Ugolyn Foundation based in Ridgefield, Conn. The foundation’s mission is simple: renovate basketball courts and inspire in others a love for basketball. The foundation also supports clinics that not only improve on-court skills, but build character and inspire leadership. In partnership with local organizations, foundations, cities and the NCAA, the foundation has helped to renovate or build courts from Houston to Detroit to Springfield, Mass. The foundation contributes roughly $50,000 per project. The courts are all named “Tyler’s Court” and bear a plaque with the quote, “I just love playing the game.” The foundation also supports several basketball tournaments and the Tyler Ugolyn MVPs of Character Program at Columbia, a version of the clinic that Tyler started while a student at Columbia. The work is “all a continuation of what we thought our son would be doing,” says Mr. Ugolyn. “He always gave back to the community.”

Donor of the Day: Crafts Museum Gets Benefactor.” By Melanie Grayce West. Wall Street Journal. August 24, 2011. Nanette L. Laitman says that her love of crafts has followed a long path leading up to the establishment of the Museum of Arts and Design. The journey for Ms. Laitman has led to being among the largest benefactors to the museum. She has contributed millions of dollars toward the construction its home at 2 Columbus Circle and continues to support the museum’s endowment. But her interests in crafts made by American artists began simply enough. Decades ago, she was invited by friends to attend the opening of an exhibit on shoes at a museum that was a precursor to the Museum of Arts and Design. Ms. Laitman amassed her own collection during those trips—furniture and ceramics—and those pieces are all neatly displayed in her New York home alongside the, colorful modern needlepoint that Ms. Laitman has created for 50 years. She became involved in the board of the Museum of Arts and Design 20 to 25 years ago, “long before we even dreamt of Columbus Circle,” she says. More than the building, though, the Museum of Arts and Design has “given great credibility to the artists that were considered second tier up until now,” says Ms. Laitman. “People thought of the Craft Museum as pots and bowls that were done in your mother’s garage on Saturday. Now that image is gone and people have a great deal more respect for those artists that are not just painting pictures.”

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (August 22-28, 2011)

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

RELIGION

A Ramadan Story Of Two Faiths Bound In Friendship.” All Things Considered/National Public Radio. August 21, 2011. It’s Ramadan, the month-long holiday when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk as a way to cleanse the soul and reflect on their relationship with God. The faithful usually flock to their local mosques for prayer during the holiday, but last year, the Muslims of Cordova, Tenn., just outside Memphis, didn’t have a place to go. That’s when Pastor Steve Stone put an unusual sign outside his church. “It said, ‘Welcome to the neighborhood, Memphis Islamic Center,’” he laughs. “It’s been seen all over the world, now.” Stone invited the Muslim community to celebrate their holiday inside his church while their own cultural center was under construction nearby. It was the beginning of an unusual alliance that’s still strong a year later. Although the Memphis Islamic Center is now complete, the Muslim community keeps a strong relationship with Stone and Heartsong’s members. Once a month, they get together to help the homeless in their neighborhood, and there are also plans to build a new park that would sit on both congregations’ property. “We have different faith traditions,” Siddiqui says. “But at the same time, we know that we can get along, we know that we can work together. And we have respect for one another, because we are people of faith.”

Religion and the Bad News Bearers; The widely reported decline in women’s church attendance is implausible.” By Rodney Stark and Byron Johnson. Wall Street Journal. August 26, 2011. The national news media yawned over the Baylor Survey’s findings that the number of American atheists has remained steady at 4% since 1944, and that church membership has reached an all-time high. But when a study by the Barna Research Group claimed that young people under 30 are deserting the church in droves, it made headlines and newscasts across the nation—even though it was a false alarm. Surveys always find that younger people are less likely to attend church, yet this has never resulted in the decline of the churches. It merely reflects the fact that, having left home, many single young adults choose to sleep in on Sunday mornings. Once they marry, though, and especially once they have children, their attendance rates recover. Unfortunately, because the press tends not to publicize this correction, many church leaders continue unnecessarily fretting about regaining the lost young people. In similar fashion, major media hailed another Barna report that young evangelicals are increasingly embracing liberal politics. But only religious periodicals carried the news that national surveys offer no support for this claim, and that younger evangelicals actually remain as conservative as their parents. Given this track record, it was no surprise this month to see the prominent headlines announcing another finding from Barna that American women are rapidly falling away from religion. The basis for this was a comparison between a poll they conducted in 1991 and one they conducted in January of this year.

Presbyterians Meet To Consider Leaving Church Over Gay Clergy, Other Issues.” No by-line. Huffington Post. August 25, 2011. Less than four months after the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) made a historic and controversial move to ordain noncelibate, openly gay and lesbian clergy, a group of more than 2,000 disaffected ministers and lay people kicked off a conference Thursday that they say could lead to a breakaway church. The Fellowship of Presbyterians plans to continue its meeting Friday to discuss how to reform a denomination that the group’s leaders say has become “deathly ill” from declining membership, theological disagreements, increased bureaucracy and, most recently, the contentious debate over gay clergy. “We have come off track, and Presbyterians have become a declining part of American life instead of a vibrant, growing part,” said the Rev. John Crosby, who sits on the steering committee for the conference held near Minneapolis. “We have tried to create such a big tent trying to make everybody happy theologically. I fear the tent has collapsed without a center.” Crosby, who leads the 5,000-member Christ Presbyterian Church in Edina, Minn., is one of about a thousand pastors at the conference. The clergy, the elders and other lay people in attendance together represent about 830 Presbyterian congregations. Leaders of the conference have floated such options as creating an informal network of traditional congregations and pastors, organizing regional groups of congregations — what the church calls presbyteries — that would be based not on geography but on social and theological leanings, or creating a “new reformed body” — that is, a new denomination. Any significant structural change that included staying within the 2.8-million member Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) would require approval from the denomination’s General Assembly, which meets next June in Pittsburgh, and then from a vote by the individual presbyteries.