Archive for September, 2011

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (September 19-25, 2011)

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011


Koch-Funded Congressional Civil Justice Caucus Academy Gives Congress Big Freebies.” No by-line. Huffington Post. September 20, 2011. A recently-formed judicial “academy” funded by industry groups and conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch is offering members of Congress and their staff free meals and trips in order to “educate” the lawmakers on controversial pro-business reforms. The group is the Congressional Civil Justice Caucus Academy (CCJCA), launched earlier this year by the Law and Economics Center (LEC) at George Mason University’s School of Law. Despite being part of the university, the right-leaning LEC depends entirely on specially-designated donations which come from a core group of about 50 corporations and foundations, including The Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, Merck, Exxon, Eli Lilly, Altria, Wal-Mart, and the conservative Bradley Foundation. Unlike similar LEC programs for judges and attorneys, however, the CCJC academy is connected to Congress via the Congressional Civil Justice Caucus. The two groups share the same goals, but are separate entities. Formed in February of this year, the caucus is made up of Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats committed to promoting “a civil justice system that … advances job creation and economic growth.” For co-chair Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), that means a justice system wiped clean of “excessive and frivolous litigation” and “inefficient rules.” Goodlatte’s caucus co-chair is retiring Democrat Dan Boren (Okla.), who is joined by Republican House Judiciary Committee chairman Lamar Smith (Texas) as well as GOP Reps. Randy Forbes (Va.), Trent Franks (Ariz.), Paul A. Gosar (Ariz.) and Lee Terry (Neb.). On the Democratic side are Utah’s Jim Matheson, Minnesota’s Colin Peterson, Nick Rayhall of West Virginia and Loretta Sanchez of California. According to promotional materials, the caucus academy aims to provide “rigorous and balanced education programs on a range of civil justice issues for the benefit of the general public and members of the U.S. Congress and their staff.”

Perry has close ties to conservative foundation.” By Jackie Kucinich. USA Today. September 23, 2011. An Austin-based policy foundation controlled by conservative Texas businessmen and political supporters of Gov. Rick Perry has helped shape Perry’s policies in office and provided much of the intellectual foundation during his rise to the top of Republican politics. Perry’s connections to the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) are extensive. Its board of directors and staff read like a who’s who of Perry appointees to various Texas boards and agencies. Royalties from Perry’s 2010 book, Fed Up!, go to the foundation’s Center for Tenth Amendment Studies. He uses two pages of the book to praise TPPF, which holds the book’s copyright. “In its 21 years, the Foundation has helped make Texas stronger while defending the Constitution and demonstrating the harm caused by the excesses of Washington,” Perry wrote. Foundation officials participated in the book’s publicity tour, according to a 2010 edition of Veritas, the group’s quarterly newsletter. A page feature about the book, which includes a website address where the book can be purchased, describes a “whirlwind book tour” across the state with Perry “to help roll out” Fed Up! The book has sold 25,000 copies since its release in November 2010 – 12,000 this year, according to Nielsen Bookscan. The book sold 1,000 copies last week. The foundation, Perry spokesman Robert Black said, is “like the Heritage Foundation in Texas” and “always supports the governor and conservative lawmakers in general.”

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (September 19-25, 2011)

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011


For masterpiece, MFA will sell 8 in collection; Millions are needed to buy Caillebotte work.” By Sebastian Smee. Boston Globe. September 19, 2011. The Museum of Fine Arts plans to buy a masterpiece by the Impressionist painter Gustave Caillebotte called “Man at His Bath,’’ but to raise the funds it will sell eight paintings from its collection, including works by Claude Monet, Paul Gauguin, Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissarro, and Auguste Renoir. The works, valued at between $16.6 million and $24.3 million, were all gifts to the MFA. Deaccessioning, as the practice is called, can be controversial. It’s a balancing act for museums, which must downplay deaccessioned works’ significance in order to justify selling them, while doing the opposite to get top dollar at auction. But when it comes to the significance of the Caillebotte, there is absolutely no question. His best paintings are rare; many are still owned by his descendants. “It sounds vulgar to say,’’ said Malcolm Rogers, MFA director, “but every great museum in the world would want this picture.’’ The Caillebotte painting is from a private foundation and has been on loan to the National Gallery in London since the later 1990s. It depicts a man vigorously drying himself after getting out of a bath. The man is seen from behind, almost life-size. His clothes are folded on a chair; his empty boots and a wet towel are on the floor. When, during preparations for “Degas and the Nude,’’ Shackelford realized that the Caillebotte was for sale, he says: “I knew before I even asked that deaccessioning would be necessary.’’ The chances of obtaining funds from a generous donor were slim, he felt, because of the subject: a naked man. “It’s not an immediate sell. It’s such a tough painting that we didn’t see the likelihood of a guardian angel suddenly appearing,’’ Shackelford says.

MassArt unveils a $120 million expansion plan.” By Casey Ross. Boston Globe. September 20, 2011. The Massachusetts College of Art and Design, the oldest public arts school in the country, is pursuing a $120 million expansion and redesign of its campus along Huntington Avenue, joining a slew of colleges and museums whose building projects are rapidly redefining Boston as a hub for contemporary art. The college last night unveiled plans for a new design and media center and an overhaul of its public galleries, which, unbeknownst to many, house New England’s largest free exhibition of contemporary art. The plans are part of an expansion meant to give MassArt a higher profile in a district where new buildings and museum wings are not only expanding the area’s art institutions, but filling the landscape with striking architecture. The college has reached 90 percent of its fund-raising goal, with the help of a $30 million appropriation from Governor Deval Patrick’s administration. The project is unusually large and expensive for a small public college, especially one devoted to the arts. MassArt is raising most of the money from private sources – including corporations, individuals, and foundations – and from tax-exempt bonds.

Roadside Kitsch Is Fun, but Is It Art? Virginia Museum Sure Hopes So Ailing Facility Eyes Sculptor of Oddities; Bigfoot and the Exploding Outhouse.” By Rob Johnson. Wall Street Journal. September 22, 2011. Mark Cline’s fiberglass sculptures of giant ticks and man-eating dinosaurs are the sort of fare that a $66 million art museum would normally keep at arm’s length. But curators at the Taubman Museum of Art have approached Mr. Cline about showcasing some of his unconventional works. An artist of roadside renown, the 50-year-old Mr. Cline is the creator of towering figures that have beckoned for decades from the rural Virginia tourist attractions he co-owns: “Prof. Cline’s Haunted Monster Museum,” “Dinosaur Kingdom” and “Hunt Bigfoot with a Redneck.” What’s more, his carefully crafted beasts are fixtures at miniature golf courses far and wide. “I’m in Myrtle Beach, Orlando and Branson,” he says with pride. Mr. Cline is also recognized for his signature Styrofoam achievement: Foamhenge, a 16-foot-tall replica of Stonehenge, the wondrous prehistoric monument in England. “Mine might be around longer than the original because it’s not biodegradable.” None of this has won applause from the fine-arts cognoscenti. “Some will say that his work doesn’t belong in a traditional gallery setting,” says Brian Sieveking, a volunteer curator at the Taubman and an art professor at nearby Virginia Western Community College. He adds, “But the museum needs to broaden its appeal, and I can’t think of any folk artist who is more fun than Mark Cline.” For the Taubman, it may be an artistic risk worth taking. Designed by Los Angeles architect Randall Stout, the facility drew only about 29,000 paying visitors during the year ended June 30—or about half the crowd nearby Nascar races attract in a single day. Named for its main benefactor, Nicholas Taubman, retired chief executive of Advance Auto Parts Inc., the museum is currently running about $600,000 under annual budget needs, museum officials say, and reeling from layoffs. So the museum intends to diversify sharply from its permanent collections, which boast works from American landscape maestro Winslow Homer and abstract painter Robert Motherwell.

With Help From Friends, Folk Art Museum Will Stay Open.” By Robin Pogrebin. New York Times. September 21, 2011. Having seriously weighed dissolving and transferring its collections to another institution because of financial problems, the American Folk Art Museum on Wednesday evening decided to continue operating at its current location at Lincoln Square in Manhattan with the help of financial infusions from trustees and the Ford Foundation. “We are confident that we’re embarking on a prudent course with the facilities that we have and the staff that we have,” Edward Blanchard, who was elected the museum’s new president on Wednesday, said in an interview. “I think we’re going to do some very exciting things.” Mr. Blanchard declined to specify the dollar amount of the donations that appear to have saved the day. The museum had come to a sorry pass, having defaulted on its construction bonds and moved into its old, smaller space near Lincoln Center. It sold its building on West 53rd Street to the Museum of Modern Art to pay off its debt; it has been closed since July. The museum’s staff, once at 50, is down to a dozen, and its budget is $7 million, down from $10 million in 2009. In a struggle made worse by the recession, the museum was unable to attract the crowds it had expected or the wealthy contributors it needed. Last year, as it ran a nearly $4 million deficit, the museum raised just $3.3 million from donors. Before the new building opened, consultants predicted it would draw 255,000 visitors a year by 2005. But this year, the museum, in its two locations, is drawing 160,000 a year.
Related story:
Relief and Optimism At the Folk Art Museum.New York Times. September 22, 2011.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (September 19-25, 2011)

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011


In Company Town, Cuts but No Layoffs.” By Andrew Martin. New York Times. September 24, 2011. Three things matter big in this flyspeck city just south of the Canadian border: hockey, walleye and Marvin. Not necessarily in that order. Yes, Warroad, nicknamed “Hockeytown, U.S.A.,” has sent six of its sons to the N.H.L. And the walleye plucked from Lake of the Woods are served for breakfast, lunch and dinner down at the Lakeview Restaurant. But Marvin — as in, Marvin Windows and Doors — is the commercial engine in these parts and has been since George G. Marvin arrived in 1904. So when times get tough at Marvin, as they are now, the 1,700 or so residents of Warroad hold their collective breath. But in this season of economic unease, when neither Washington nor Wall Street seems to have the answers, the descendants of George Marvin are going against the grain. Unlike so many other companies, Marvin Windows has neither laid off workers nor reduced health insurance benefits. And, its executives vow, it won’t. Marvin Windows might seem like a footnote in the nation’s economic ledger. It employs roughly 4,300 people, about 2,000 of them here, and has annual sales somewhere from $500 million to $1 billion. But what this company is doing — and, more to the point, what it is not doing — is worth knowing. Marvin Windows and Doors is a throwback to another era. For starters, it is a private company. No public stockholders are complaining that the latest numbers fell short, that the share price is down. What’s more, Marvin takes an old-fashioned, even paternal view of its role here in Warroad, where the Marvin family has run things for just about as long as anyone can remember. The company has cut employees’ pay and reduced perks like tuition reimbursement and 401(k) matching. Employees haven’t received profit-sharing checks in two years, nor have the 16 members of the Marvin family who work for the company. But, unlike its top competitors, Marvin has refused to fire people.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (September 19-25, 2011)

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011



Judge rules in favor of charter taking over two L.A. schools.” No by-line. Los Angeles Times. September 19, 2011. A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ruled Monday that the city school district can allow an outside group to run two long-struggling campuses. The teachers union had sued to stop the Los Angeles Unified School District from letting Green Dot Public Schools, a charter school organization, take over all of Clay Middle School in Athens and half of Jordan High in Watts. The other half of Jordan is operated by a nonprofit group backed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Classes have started at both campuses. Teachers union officials had claimed that the district needed the approval of the majority of permanent teachers at the two schools before giving Green Dot control, but the judge ruled that the district was “obligated” to take action under federal and state law. Teachers union officials said they planned to appeal the decision.


For-Profit Colleges Reaping Benefits From Veterans.” By Chris Kirkham. Huffington Post. September 22, 2011. As veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan use billions of dollars in federal benefits to pay for higher education, for-profit colleges are capturing more than a third of the money — about $1.6 billion — despite educating only a quarter of the veterans, according to a report released Thursday by a Senate committee. The analysis of the $4.4 billion in Post-9/11 GI Bill money doled out in the 2010-2011 school year shows that the largest for-profit college corporations were also among the largest recipients of veterans benefit money, raising questions about the ways veterans are actively recruited by institutions with poor graduation rates and high price tags. Eight of the 10 largest recipients of GI Bill money disbursed last school year were for-profit college corporations, including the parent companies for the University of Phoenix and ITT Technical Institute, dwarfing the amounts going to large state university systems such as the University of Maryland and the University of Texas. The amount of GI Bill money going to those eight companies surged between the 2009 and 2010 school years, jumping from $393 million to more than $1 billion. Veterans are attractive recruits for for-profit colleges because of the way GI Bill benefits are accounted for under federal law. Under a provision known as the 90/10 rule, the government requires that schools derive no more than 90 percent of revenues from federal financial aid dollars — a challenging requirement for some for-profit colleges that rely on federal student aid for a vast majority of revenues. GI Bill money from the Department of Veterans Affairs technically doesn’t count under the 90 percent category, allowing schools to count the money toward the non-federal 10 percent of revenues. As the amount of money allotted to veterans for college has drastically increased after the passage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill in 2008, many for-profit colleges have directed substantial resources toward recruiting veterans. Many of the large schools, including University of Phoenix and Kaplan University, have created separate recruiting divisions to seek out veterans and active-duty military personnel.
Related story:
Too Much GI Bill Money Going To For-Profit Schools?” All Things Considered/National Public Radio. September 22, 2011.
For-Profit Colleges, Vulnerable G.I.’s.” New York Times. September 21, 2011.


Buying Local, Feeding Needy, Till Fordham Calls a Halt.” By Matt Flegenheimer. New York Times. September 18, 2011. The project seemed tailor-made for a university brochure: Students promoting locally grown food. A soup kitchen taking in the leftovers. An aspiring lawyer, from bucolic Essex, Vt., making Manhattan feel closer to some green space. For more than 18 months, the farm-share program at Fordham University School of Law appeared to be fulfilling its mission: Students, as well as faculty and staff members, paid about $150 per semester to buy a share of a harvest from a farm in central New York. Yet despite its success, the group, Farm to Fordham, was officially shuttered last week — the culmination of a convoluted process that began in April, when security personnel refused to open the gate for a vegetable delivery. Over the next few months, the group’s founder, Michael Zimmerman, a third-year law student, tried to satisfy Fordham’s requests so it could reopen, but to no avail: on Wednesday, he was forwarded an e-mail from the university’s legal counsel, indicating that it would no longer allow the initiative. “Fordham cannot be placed in a position to break the law,” the message read, in part. Months earlier, the university had told Mr. Zimmerman that to maintain the program, he would need to secure a one-day catering permit each time the farm made a delivery. But the program was not a catering service; it was a community-supported agriculture network. And neither the State Department of Agriculture and Markets nor the city’s health department issues or requires permits for such networks. Bob Howe, Fordham’s director of communications, acknowledged that the permit requirement from the university amounted to “a Catch-22.” But the decision, he said, incorporated a host of other factors: the specter of infestation, concerns about honoring the university’s food service contracts, and the program’s potential interference with construction at the law school.

University celebrates successful campaign; Yale Tomorrow, the Yale Corporation’s five-year fundraising drive, contributed $3.885 billion to the University’s endowment.” By Drew Henderson. Yale Daily News. September 19, 2011. The Yale Tomorrow conclusion celebration, held this past Saturday, gave donors the opportunity to visualize the impact their gifts will have on the University. As part of a presentation about Yale’s plans for the future, donors seated in Sprague Memorial Hall watched a video in which the camera flew through detailed mock-ups of Yale’s two new residential colleges, to be constructed in the upcoming years with funds contributed in part from the campaign. Yale Tomorrow’s most prominent volunteers and donors — those who contributed over $100,000 during the campaign — returned to campus Friday and Saturday for presentations and events designed to thank them for their support and give them a preview of its uses. The five-year fundraising drive brought in $3.885 billion in gifts to the endowment, money for construction projects and current-year funding for scholarships and student activities.
Related story:
Yale’s endowment ‘on track’.” Yale Daily News. September 22, 2011.

Stanford Bid Intensifies.” By Jacob Gershman and Joseph De Avila. Wall Street Journal. September 20, 2011. Stanford University, which is aggressively pursuing a chance to win city land and money from the Bloomberg administration, is in talks with City University of New York officials about teaming up on a bid to construct an engineering and applied-sciences campus on Roosevelt Island, people familiar with the matter said. Officials at Stanford, the out-of-town favorite in a city-sponsored competition for academic land and as much as $100 million in city support, met with CUNY officials last week at the Grove School of Engineering at City College in Manhattan to discuss a potential partnership, these people said. While Mayor Michael Bloomberg has signaled interest in wooing Stanford, the school is confronting some competitive push-back, particularly from rival universities in the area. “It strengthens their position to have local partners,” said one official involved in the process. Stanford is looking at a 10-acre strip of Roosevelt Island for a campus—one of several sites offered by the city—envisioning a faculty of 100 and a graduate-student body of 2,200. The school has pitched itself as a world-renowned incubator of venture capital and jobs that helped spawn one of America’s greatest tech clusters, Silicon Valley. It has an endowment larger than that of Columbia and New York University combined.

California: Tiny All-Male College Will Admit Women.” By Tamar Lewin. New York Times. September 19, 2011. Resolving decades of debate, the trustees of Deep Springs College, a tiny, free, all-male college in an isolated eastern California valley, voted over the weekend to admit women. In a Sunday e-mail to alumni, David Hitz, the president of the board, said the “earliest conceivable date” women might be admitted to the two-year liberal arts college is the summer of 2013, but added that it was too early to know whether that would be possible. The 26 students at Deep Springs, in Big Pine, have had unusual control over the college’s admission, hiring and curriculum since its founding in 1917. They are required to work at least 20 hours a week on the college’s farm or cattle ranch. Most graduates complete their bachelor’s degrees at Ivy League colleges.

Universities Seeking Out Students of Means.” By Tamar Lewin. New York Times. September 21, 2011. Money is talking a bit louder in college admissions these days, according to a survey to be released Wednesday by Inside Higher Ed, an online publication for higher education professionals. More than half of the admissions officers at public research universities, and more than a third at four-year colleges said that they had been working harder in the past year to recruit students who need no financial aid and can pay full price, according to the survey of 462 admissions directors and enrollment managers conducted in August and early September. Similarly, 22 percent of the admissions officials at four-year institutions said the financial downturn had led them to pay more attention in their decision to applicants’ ability to pay. “As institutional pressures mount, between the decreased state funding, the pressure to raise a college’s profile, and the pressure to admit certain students, we’re seeing a fundamental change in the admissions process,” said David A. Hawkins, director of public policy and research at the National Association for College Admission Counseling. “Where many of the older admissions professionals came in through the institution and saw it as an ethically centered counseling role, there’s now a different dynamic that places a lot more emphasis on marketing.” In the survey, 10 percent of the admissions directors at four-year colleges — and almost 20 percent at private liberal-arts schools — said that the full-pay students they were admitting, on average, had lower grades and test scores than other admitted applicants.

A $42 Million Gift Aims at Improving Bedside Manner.” By Dirk Johnson. New York Times. September 22, 2011. Carolyn Bucksbaum still bristles about an arrogant physician who brusquely dismissed her intuition about her ailment decades ago. It turned out she was right. The physician was wrong. Years later, Ms. Bucksbaum and her husband, Matthew, would come under the care of Dr. Mark Siegler at the University of Chicago Medical Center, a doctor they found compassionate and humble. “He goes by Mark,” Ms. Bucksbaum noted approvingly, “not ‘Doctor.’ ” Medical students, they thought, could do well to emulate him. Now, the Bucksbaums are donating $42 million to the university to create an institute devoted to improving medical students’ handling of the doctor-patient relationship. The Bucksbaum Institute for Clinical Excellence, to be announced Thursday, will be led by Dr. Siegler. If it seems like a lot of money for teaching good bedside manners, researchers point to many studies that indicate a good rapport between doctors and patients strongly correlates with favorable health outcomes. Nearly all medical schools teach the importance of listening to patients and showing empathy. But the Bucksbaum Institute is an ambitious effort to put compassion and empathy, as Dr. Siegler puts it, “on the same pedestal as science and technology.”

Harvard Endowment Jumps 21.4 Percent; Value Rises to $32 Billion, But Returns Underperform S&P 500.” By Gautam S. Kumar and Zoe A. Y. Weinberg. Harvard Crimson. September 22, 2011. Harvard’s endowment posted a 21.4 percent gain for fiscal year 2011, bringing the endowment’s value up to $32 billion, the University announced Thursday in the annual report of the Harvard Management Company. The gains are about 1.2 percent above HMC’s policy portfolio benchmark—the goals that the company’s investment managers set for themselves—for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2011. The increase from $27.4 billion at the close of the 2010 fiscal year is also nearly double the 11 percent rate of growth that HMC posted that year. But the returns fell 1.3 percent short of the returns of the S&P 500 Index, a standard used by many in the private sector, though HMC President and CEO Jane L. Mendillo noted that the S&P 500 Index might not be the most appropriate metric to judge HMC’s performance. “We don’t measure our portfolio return against the S&P—our goal is to add value over our benchmarks,” Mendillo said of outperforming the S&P 500 in an interview on Thursday. “Our priority is strong and stable long term returns rather than individual year performance.” Mendillo said that HMC’s board develops a comprehensive set of benchmarks for each of the asset classes through rigorous analysis and research of market conditions. The new value of the endowment brings the fund’s value closer to its pre-financial crisis levels, when it reached an all-time high of $36.9 billion. It also exceeds the growth benchmark of 8.25 percent that HMC seeks to maintain each year to provide funding for the University’s schools.

Gallaudet University adjusts to a culture that includes more hearing students.” By Daniel de Vise. Washington Post. September 24, 2011. The quiet campus of Gallaudet University in Northeast Washington was always a place where students could speak the unspoken language of deaf America and be understood. That is no longer so true. For the first time in living memory, significant numbers of freshmen at the nation’s premiere university for the deaf and hard of hearing arrive lacking proficiency in American Sign Language and experience with deaf culture. Rising numbers of Gallaudet students are products of a hearing world. The share of undergraduates who come from mainstream public schools rather than residential schools for the deaf has grown from 33 percent to 44 percent in four years. The number of students with cochlear implants, which stimulate the auditory nerve to create a sense of sound, has doubled to 102 since 2005. Gallaudet is also enrolling more hearing students in programs to train sign-language interpreters and teachers. Together, the changes are redefining a school that sits at the very epicenter of American deaf society. A new generation of deaf and hard-of-hearing children can study where they please. Changes in federal law have rerouted deaf students from residential deaf schools to mainstream public campuses, which are now obliged to serve them. Cochlear implants are gaining acceptance and changing the nature of deafness, although the deaf community remains divided on their use. The influx of “non-signers,” who can hear and speak or who read lips or text, may be necessary for Gallaudet’s survival. Yet it has sparked passionate debate on whether the university is becoming “hearing-ized” and whether deaf culture is slipping away.

An Improbable Unifier Presides Over Baylor.” By Reeve Hamilton. New York Times. September 24, 2011. Based solely on his brief tenure, Ken Starr might reasonably conclude that one of the annual summer duties of a Baylor University president is scrambling to preserve the Big 12 Conference. On May 31, 2010, Mr. Starr, the former federal judge and Clinton antagonist, pulled into the driveway of the Allbritton House, the official president’s residence of the roughly 15,000-student, private Baptist-affiliated institution here. He took office on June 1. The next day, he found himself in Kansas City, Mo., negotiating the preservation of the conference as two universities, Nebraska and Colorado, broke away. If that was a 400-meter dash, Mr. Starr said, this summer had been a marathon. Texas A&M’s effort to leave the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference threw the future of the region’s major athletic conference — which also includes the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma and Texas Tech University — in turmoil, and century-old rivalries in doubt. While the larger universities would be picked up quickly by other major conferences if it came to that, Baylor would risk getting left behind — a potentially devastating blow to its prominence and prestige. In the last major conference shake-up, in the mid-1990s, Baylor’s interests were protected by powerful alumni: Gov. Ann Richards and Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock. That luxury no longer exists. Athletic conference instability has easily been the most significant struggle of his first year, Mr. Starr said. Otherwise, the unlikely Baylor president has thrived beyond expectations — something that even those who opposed his appointment happily concede.


St. Francis Center an oasis near Redwood City.” By Carolyn Jones. San Francisco Chronicle. September 22, 2011. One of the Peninsula’s top-performing schools is also among the most selective. But it’s not money, good grades and alumni connections that get you in to the St. Francis Center. “We choose the poorest. The poorest of the poor. That’s it. That’s the only criteria,” said Sister Christina Heltsley, executive director of the center in the mostly Latino North Fair Oaks neighborhood near Redwood City. Every six years, the St. Francis Center selects 12 students – most recently from a pool of 52 applicants – to study together from kindergarten through fifth grade. While the students are taught, the center helps their parents with English and job skills. Along with the other services the center provides, such as food donations, the school has transformed one of the most forlorn areas in the Bay Area into a bastion of hope. St. Francis Center is about to expand. On Nov. 19, the center plans to open a $4 million gymnasium and study hall for teens, in hopes of providing a healthier lure than the local gang culture. When the gym is complete, the center’s empire will include, in addition to the school, 28 units of low-income housing, a food pantry, day care center, community garden, clothing shop, immigration services and classrooms for clients to learn English and study for the Graduation Equivalency Exam. All the services are free. The only restriction is that families cannot accept food or clothing more than once a month, to discourage dependency. The center’s $350,000 annual budget comes from private donations and grants. Nothing from the government, nothing from the archdiocese.

Detractors: Ind. Voucher System Promotes Religion.” By Kyle Stokes. Morning Edition/National Public Radio. September 23, 2011. Indiana’s new voucher program allows families with incomes up to $62,000 to take a portion of the funds that would have gone to a public school and convert it into a scholarship that can be used at a private school. The program has brought an enrollment rush at Catholic schools. Opponents fear the vouchers could siphon money away from public schools, and uses state funds to offer religious education.

New Head at Fieldston School Is an Unconventional Choice.” By Rachel Ohm and Jenny Anderson. New York Times. September 22, 2011. Sitting amid unpacked boxes in his office overlooking Central Park this month, Damian J. Fernandez, the new head at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, took a moment to reflect on Felix Adler, the educator and social reformer who founded Fieldston in 1878 as a tuition-free school for workingmen’s children. “My job is about delivering the promise of Adler in the 21st century,” Dr. Fernandez said. “I’m Adler with an iPhone, iPad and Latino accent.” After an unsettling and prolonged period without a permanent leader, the school has made a somewhat unconventional choice. If Adler had an innovative approach to education in the late 19th century — he believed that diversity enhanced education, that ethics should be taught alongside academics and that children learned by doing, not listening — then Dr. Fernandez may be a logical successor. His pedigree is distinctly not East Coast elite. Dr. Fernandez, 54, was born in Cuba and raised in Puerto Rico. He has never run a secondary school, and he last taught high school students more than 30 years ago, at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass. His most recent job was provost at Purchase College, part of the State University of New York system. He plans to spend a year getting to know the faculty, parents and students, facilitating discussions rather than imposing his ideas (“They’d shoot me,” he joked, referring to the faculty). But he has clear plans and goals. Academically, he hopes to strengthen the foreign-language program, to start students earlier and require fluency. He wants to strengthen the high school science and math programs, he said, “in a way that enhances creativity and problem solving,” and bring ethics — a core Fieldston subject — “back to its right fullness.”


A material loss for schools; Safety fears spur eviction of vaunted supply source.” By Geoff Edgers. Boston Globe. September 19, 2011. At ExCL, as it’s known, this is a familiar scene, as teachers, therapists, and others have stopped by for things they couldn’t afford to buy at standard art and office supply stores. For $40, ExCL members can haul off eight carloads of material a year. But as Schmidt explained to this teacher, this would be his last visit to the Latin Academy space. In August, the Boston Fire Department ordered ExCL out of the basement, citing a series of code violations and other issues that make the space a fire hazard. After a frenzied final week of sales, ExCL closed as a business on Sept. 2. Schmidt, one of the two full-time staffers, has been packing up felt, bottle tops, empty lemon juice containers, and other assorted objects ever since. The organization has to be out of the basement Sept. 23. They’re going to keep in storage as much as they can box up. The closing has upset many of ExCL’s 750 members, sparking letters and e-mails to school officials and Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s office. “I can’t believe they’re going to let this place go,’’ said Theresa Price-Frank, a retired teacher in Boston who had continued to pick up art supplies at ExCL and stopped by to help s taffers pack. “They have supplies that don’t come with the regular school budget. It saved me thousands of dollars over the years.’’ Founded in 1981, ExCL gets art and office supplies from businesses and offers them to members at cut rates. Since 1998, the organization – which also holds workshops for teachers and students on subjects ranging from bookmaking to origami – has been housed in the almost-8,000-square-foot basement of Latin Academy, a musty room that used to be a swimming pool. That rent-free space has been the subject of concern for the Boston Fire Department, which has cited ExCL for a variety of issues over the years.

Facebook Funds Go to Teachers.” By Lisa Fleisher. Wall Street Journal. September 21, 2011. Some of Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift to the Newark school system will be given directly to public schoo lteachers, one year after the Facebook founder announced the donation, said three people familiar with the plans. The foundation that manages the gift will announce Wednesday a two-year, $600,000 program that provides $10,000 grants to teachers or groups of teachers who come up with innovative classroom programs, these people said. It’s one of the few programs so far to come out of the high-profile donation, which was announced on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” last year by Mr. Zuckerberg, Newark Mayor Cory Booker and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Mr. Zuckerberg’s gift has drawn scrutiny from some Newark residents who are skeptical of outside direction after years of state control for the city’s school system has done little to alleviate its problems. City and state officials will begin promoting the program at a news conference on Wednesday, including Mr. Booker, acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf, the new Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson and Greg Taylor, the new CEO of the Foundation for Newark’s Future, which is managing the gift. They will review the $6.4 million in grants the foundation has allocated so far—including the new teacher grants—and talk about the future of Mr. Zuckerberg’s gift. Some of the funding has gone toward opening new schools, extending school days and recruiting teachers.

Parents aren’t ready to quit on L.A. Unified; They vow to raise funds to pay for library aides whose jobs are on the line.” By Steve Lopez. Los Angeles Times. September 21, 2011. Lay off 227 elementary school library aides? Whack the hours of another 190 aides in half and eliminate their healthcare benefits? Lock up libraries in a school district desperate to lift literacy rates? Sounds like either a bad joke or a satirical take on the decline of civilization. But no: It’s the working plan for how to save money in Los Angeles Unified, as I laid out last week. The fight isn’t quite over, though. Some folks, who consider the library-demolition idea one of the dumbest things they’ve ever heard, are firing off letters of protest and working to derail the plan before cutbacks go into effect next week. “It’s just deeply, deeply wrong,” said Shelli-Anne Couch, who is scrambling to collect private donations and save her children’s library at Atwater Elementary School. “It’s just unfathomable, and where do you turn your firepower? Do I go hat in hand trying to raise money, or find some politicians whose heads I can bang together?” For now, she’s chosen the former. Couch, president of her school’s parent group, has launched an online campaign to raise $15,000, hoping to save the job of a library aide who works three hours a day. But as of Tuesday, Couch and Friends of Atwater Elementary School had only come up with $2,600. And it gets even more maddening: Last year, parents at the school raised $20,000 in grants and private donations to build a reading garden outside the library, an inviting little oasis with benches, redwood planters, an arbor, native plants and vegetables. Nice place to read a book, except that now the library may be closed. They’ve seen their library aide of eight years go from a six-hour daily schedule to a three-hour daily schedule to a layoff notice. Now it looks as if Mia Buis, who is much beloved by parents and students, judging by tributes to her, will be out of work after Friday, even though parents raised money specifically to pay her salary of about $12,000. The principal, Julia Charles, is just as frustrated as the parents. Because of union and district policies, she said, parents are sometimes allowed to fund a position, but not to designate a specific person for the job. That means that, despite the parents’ efforts, Buis won’t be allowed to fill the job because she has less seniority than some other aides. And Charles will have to petition the district to see if she can even get a replacement.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (September 19-25, 2011)

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011


Huge Yosemite trail project is latest example of parks philanthropy.” By Paul Rogers. San Jose Mercury-News. September 25, 2011. For the past five years, hundreds of workers with mules, chain saws and shovels have built new wooden foot bridges on Yosemite National Park’s backcountry hiking trails. They have rerouted popular paths to protect the roots of ancient sequoias in the park’s Mariposa Grove. And they have installed new signs, stone walls and rock staircases across the famed John Muir Trail. The $13.5 million job, which was completed this month, is the largest trail restoration project in Yosemite’s history. But most of the funding didn’t come from taxpayers; $10.5 million was paid for with private donations. In an era when federal and state budgets are stretched to the breaking point, donations are increasingly the lifelines in the maintenance of some of America’s most popular natural treasures. “Trails in Yosemite are the way people get to really enjoy the park, whether they are in the front country or backcountry wilderness,” said Mike Tollefson, president of the Yosemite Conservancy, a nonprofit group in San Francisco that funded the trail project. “The park service had gotten behind in maintaining those trails. We felt we could really help with that.” Similar donations are providing services that government once funded. Major national parks, including Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Acadia, have built visitor centers, education facilities and trails in recent years with private funds.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (September 19-25, 2011)

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011


At Celebrity Benefit, Children Are the Stars.” By Jen Wieczner. Wall Street Journal. September 21, 2011. It’s fairly common for a fund-raiser benefiting a children’s organization to feature a performance by the children demonstrating what they’ve learned, whether it be a song, a dance, or a yoga routine. But few have the scale and professional quality of the show at a gala Monday for Rosie’s Theater Kids, a charity founded by Rosie O’Donnell that provides arts and drama training to underprivileged New York City children. The 115 children on stage, ranging from sixth-graders to high school seniors, performed a Broadway-style medley complete with dance choreography and voices rivaling those of “American Idol” contestants. Afterward, a tearful Ms. O’Donnell high-fived the young performers as they took their bows. The event, which raised $1.1 million, was perhaps a taste of what viewers can expect from Ms. O’Donnell’s new talk show, premiering on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) next month. Ms. O’Donnell said she hopes have her young perfomers on the show as a reality segment, or to use them as going-to-commercial-break music. During the gala’s auction, Ms. O’Donnell disputed rumors that she and Ms. Winfrey were in a feud. She was about to sign her show over to NBC, she explained, when Ms. Winfreyflew to her house and spent four hours convincing her to take it to OWN instead. Meanwhile, Ms. O’Donnell was trying to persuade attendees to reach deeper into their pockets. Her auction co-host, radio personality Elvis Duran, goaded Ms. O’Donnell to go further with that theme, but with her new cable show to promote, she declined the opportunity. “I’m not doing penis jokes on OWN,” she said.

Actors, Artists Aid Haiti.” By Mike Vilensky. Wall Street Journal. September 21, 2011. Ben Stiller would prefer no one rip the Raymond Pettibon pastel on paper, “No Title (But the sand…),” valued at about $400,000 and currently stationed at “I’d prefer people buy it,” he added. “Buy the most expensive stuff and overpay!” The Pettibon piece is one of 26 works by 25 contemporary artists going on the block Thursday as part of Artists for Haiti, an auction with 100% of sale proceeds benefiting nonprofit groups on the ground in Haiti. Mr. Stiller and gallerist David Zwirner have led and planned the event. “We wanted to create a proper evening sale, regardless of what it’s benefitting,” Mr. Stiller explained on Monday at Christie’s. “That’s really who’s going to be buying this art: collectors. It’s a real auction!” If he were buying the works, the actor said he’d bid on the Pettibon pastel, the sculpture “Bikini (Desert)” by Jeff Koons, and the oil on canvas “Chor” by Neo Rauch. Mr. Stiller said he enjoyed getting an education in the art world. “It’s such a complicated world,” he said. “I know very little now, but I knew even less at the beginning of this. Jeff [Koons] was the first person who came on board. He said, ‘I’m going to give you a major piece,’ and that was our ammunition at the start.” The actor also relied on his art-savvy friends. “Steve Martin was instrumental in all this coming together,” he said. “I went to him first and said, ‘First of all, like, who’s good in the art world now?’ He’s a big collector.” Mr. Stiller now has some art in his home. “I have a Raymond Pettibon,” he said. “Not this one, which you shouldn’t rip. I have a smaller one, and a couple of Chris Ofili watercolors. So I’ve got the beginnings of an art collection. To be a good collector, I think, is a combination of having stuff you like and having it be valuable. I’m not really sure yet if that always comes together for me.”

Building for Burmese Boys.” By Lizzie Simon. Wall Street Journal. September 21, 2011. On Monday night at the Friars Club, the writer and activist Naomi Wolf hosted the Burma Ball, which raised $7,000 for the nonprofit Burma Relief to build a boys’ dormitory for orphaned refugees in the border town of Mae Sot, Thailand. The organization has already built a girls’ dormitory there. “Kids are being snatched off the streets and sold into sex slavery—I’m trying to put a roof over their heads,” said executive director Jeremy Taylor, a documentary filmmaker. Mr. Taylor is also a rather intense native New Yorker from East 86th Street. “Make sure it’s east,” he noted. He originally approached Ms. Wolf at a party at the Sundance Film festival in January. “A few emails back and forth and she said, ‘Sign me up’.” He’d also approached Ellen Barkin and Geena Davis at the same party, but to no avail. “I was hoping for a sisterhood,” he said, especially given that the region’s prodemocracy leader, the Nobel Peace prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi, is a woman. “I’m the type of guy: I say something, I do it.” The Burma Ball buffet was her second meal that day with humanitarians; in the morning she’d attended a breakfast for global women’s health. “My days are not usually like this,” she said, laughing. “But the more you’re exposed to these things, the more you see they’re related.”

Charity Ushers In Fall Galas.” By Mike Vilensky. Wall Street Journal. September 22, 2011. New Yorkers for Children threw its annual fall gala at Cipriani on Tuesday night, one of the most anticipated philanthropic parties of the year. “It’s the first event of the season, really,” explained Wall Street socialite Alexandra Lebenthal, who runs the financial-advisory firm Lebenthal & Co. “People put a lot of effort into making this ‘an event.’” Ivanka Trump, a co-chairwoman, was one of them. “Everyone’s back from the summer,” she said. “This is my first time dressed up, out of the house at night, and getting to see my friends at once, since my daughter was born.” This year, New Yorkers for Children was honoring New York Knick Carmelo Anthony. Designer Zang Toi said it’s one of only two events he attends annually, both with Julie Macklowe as his date. (The other is the Council of Fashion Designers of America awards ceremony.) “She’s my life-sized Barbie doll,” he gushed, of Ms. Macklowe, who was wearing one of the designer’s recent runway numbers that evening. “She’s beautiful, she’s blonde, and she’s so easy to dress. She fits samples perfectly. Plus, she likes to sneak out early as much as I do!” Ms. Macklowe’s shoes, which she bought just hours before the event, weren’t made by Mr. Toi. “I just walked into Christian Louboutin,” she said. “It was the last pair.” The children who the organization had worked with come from foster homes and had difficult family lives. William Bitter is now attending Hunter College in the bachelor’s/master’s program in economics and Christina Rodriguez is currently studying nursing at Stony Brook University. As New Yorkers for Children Executive Director Susan Magazine put it: “These are all fun, but what makes this gala special is that there’s not one person in this room who’s going to walk out and not know why they were here.”

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (September 19-25, 2011)

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011


With prices low, Habitat for Humanity snatches up five years’ worth of land.” By Elliot Njus. The Oregonian. September 18, 2011. After fever-pitch rate of building leading up to the housing crash, they left behind hundreds of lots waiting for houses, many taken back by lenders looking to unloand them — quick. That left one builder unusually suited to take advantage of the situation: Habitat for Humanity, the nonprofit that builds low-cost homes for low-income families. So the organization’s Portland branch launched a fundraising campaign and started snatching up land. In the last several months, the group has built up a five-year supply of land, enough for as many as 150 houses. It’s aiming to pump up its production by 50 percent. Habitat sells volunteer-built homes to families with income between 30 and 60 percent of the area’s median. The families, for their part, make a 1 percent down payment and put in 500 hours of volunteer work for the organization. They then pay a zero-interest mortgage to pay off the construction cost of the home. Cheap land can significantly reduce the cost of a home, but it’s been difficult for for-profit builders to take advantage of low land prices. Most were left without much cash by the housing crisis, and lenders have been reluctant to take on housing loans given the dearth of buyers and falling prices. Some of the Habitat sites were projects started at the peak of the housing boom, then halted abruptly at the crash. The largest, a site at Southeast 171st and Division Street, was a community of 65 lots where only the first 20 homes were built and sold. Habitat will build the remaining 45 for low-income families.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (September 19-25, 2011)

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011


It’s official: NYC hospital files for bankruptcy; Peninsula Hospital of Far Rockaways, Queens, and its nursing home affiliate enters Chapter 11 protection as a condition of its proposed purchase by a privately owned, for-profit health care shop.” By Barbara Benson. Crain’s New York Business. September 20, 2011. Another struggling New York City hospital has filed for bankruptcy. Peninsula Hospital and its affiliate, Peninsula General Nursing Home Corp.—which does business as Peninsula Center for Extended Care & Rehabilitation—filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Monday. They listed total assets of $34.6 million and $70.8 million in liabilities, as of May 31. On July 24, Crain’s broke the news that Peninsula, one of two hospitals serving Far Rockaway, Queens, was set to close 90 days after state officials confirm a closure plan for the 200-bed hospital. Some 1,000 workers were at risk of losing their jobs if the closure plan was implemented. Peninsula’s board spent the next weeks trying to save the hospital. The board solicited proposals and interviewed and negotiated with several groups interested in managing Peninsula’s operations and providing capital. Four groups submitted proposals. The Peninsula board recently struck a deal for the hospital and nursing home to be managed by an affiliate of Revival Home Health Care, a for-profit, privately owned health care group that provided an $8 million line of credit for the hospital. The bankruptcy was a condition of the transaction. The filing indicates that during the bankruptcy, the hospital and nursing home will not change their current nonprofit status. Todd Miller, Peninsula’s chief restructuring officer as of Sept. 1, said in his affidavit that Peninsula would break even or become profitable “through a change in culture, marketing strategies and by feeding off synergies with Revival’s related businesses.” He added that the hospital and nursing home—“with a new management team and fresh capital”—can boost revenue by attracting more patients. About 80% of the Far Rockaway population seeks health care services off the peninsula, and primarily use the hospital only for emergency services. Mr. Miller said new management would try to tempt residents with new offerings of cardiac services, more surgery capabilities and improved oncology services. He said Revival management believes “neither the hospital nor the nursing home were aggressively managed in recent years and that implementation of new procedures will result in significant savings, as well as increased revenues.”

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (September 19-25, 2011)

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011


Abiyoyo Closure Marks An Experiment’s End.” By Allan Appel. New Haven Independent ( September 20, 2011. For 30 years parents have been keeping alive a daycare coop called Abiyoyo. By month’s end that era will end—thanks to a tough economy and changes in the child-care landscape. That has brought a wistful air to the Westville center, where an experiment in family daycare has endured for more than a generation. Parents of preschoolers like 2 1/2-year-old Cole Perrone chip in an hour of labor of work at Abiyoyo helping staffer Jamila Epps (pictured above with Cole) teach kids their colors, their continents, and social skills. Not to mention having fun. Parents do the accounting and financial work for the center, serve as liaisons with staff, or take on toy cleaning detail, said Cristina Matos, who is one of three teachers, all long-time employees, and the director of the center for the past 21 years. The family atmosphere—sustained by a 1 to 4 adult to child ratio and the largely organic and vegetarian food (plus free diapers)—does not come cheap. It costs parents $1,300 a month for full-time care. Each fall for the past three years Abiyoyo has been unsure if the roster had enough children to meet costs. The center considered emergency measures to stay open. But they couldn’t find a solution to keep the doors open. Families started looking for other daycare options.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (September 19-25, 2011)

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011



ABC tackled over coverage.” No by-line. Sydney Morning Herald. September 21, 2011. An ”arts vacuum” has opened up at the ABC following staff cuts and programming changes that have ”banished” the topic from daily and weekly news coverage, according to Australia’s major arts organisations. In a submission to a Senate inquiry into ABC programming, ArtsPeak, a confederation of national peak arts organisations, said with the axing of ABC TV’s Art Nation and Radio National’s Artworks, the ABC was failing to ”effectively recognise that the arts were part of the everyday life experience and interest of the majority of Australians”. ArtsPeak said the ABC’s ability to exercise expert judgment about in-house and commissioned arts productions was severely compromised by job cuts. It recommended a freeze on staff cuts and a broadening of the ABC’s charter to oblige it to cover not just performing arts but also visual arts, literature, indigenous and media arts. The criticism follows a new ABC strategy to cut jobs and outsource internal production. The ABC’s director of communications, Michael Millett, said the ABC was committed to its charter obligation and had no intention of reducing its arts news coverage.

Scientology denies beating claims.” No by-line. Sydney Morning Herald. September 23, 2011. Chris Guider, who played for St George in the mid-1980s, gave up his sporting career at the age of 24 to join the church full-time. Mr Guider said after two and a half years he moved to the US, where he worked closely with David Miscavige. He alleged Mr Miscavige committed several acts of violence. “I found out that the leader of the church, David Miscavige, is basically a very toxic person,” Mr Guider told ABC Television’s Lateline program. “He’s a violent individual. I’ve seen him physically beat one staff member … who worked very closely with Miscavige for a lot of years.” Mr Guider said Mr Miscavige told him to hit a colleague, who was putting together a promotional video for Scientology. “Miscavige told me to beat the guy with the stick. I looked at him and I refused to do that. “He took that very, very seriously because I didn’t do what he wanted me to do.” Mr Guider said he was punished over the incident and sent to the church’s Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF) in Sydney for two and a half years. “It’s like prison except it’s worse. You don’t have television. You don’t have visitor rights. You can’t read the newspaper. You can’t read books. You can’t listen to music.” The Church of Scientology in Sydney said in a statement: “Chris and his wife Valeska Guider, both former long-term religious ministers of the Church of Scientology, are currently engaged in an ongoing action against the Church of Scientology with the Fair work Ombudsman (FWO).


Pope to Visit Germany Amid Turmoil.” By Laura Stevens. Wall Street Journal. September 22, 2011. Pope Benedict XVI plans to arrive in Germany Thursday on his first state visit to a homeland still reeling from a clergy sex-abuse scandal that has fueled an exodus away from the church. He is scheduled to visit Berlin, Erfurt and Freiburg over the course of four days and will address the public 17 times. The pope on Friday will visit the pilgrimage chapel Etzelsbach, left, where a cross was set up in his honor. Catholics account for roughly 30% of Germany’s population of about 80 million, but recent polls suggest the visit has not generated much enthusiasm. Such apathy, which church experts link to the abuse scandal in Germany, is expected to subdue attendance at some events, which are expected overall to attract more than 250,000 people. Last year alone, nearly 182,000 people officially left the German Catholic church, according to the German Bishops’ Conference, double the number that left in 2005. In that period, there were about 170,000 baptisms compared to nearly 300,000 in 1990. The abuse scandal in Germany came to light last year, resulting in scores of claims of sexual abuse of children in Catholic institutions. The scandal, as well as others like it across Europe, has threatened Pope Benedict’s central goal of reversing the decline of Catholic influence in Europe during his papacy. Many Germans would like Pope Benedict to address the church’s handling of abuse cases, including those in Germany during his tenure as the archbishop of the Munich Archdiocese from 1977 to 1982. The pope is expected to meet privately with abuse victims during his visit, but it isn’t clear what, if anything he will say about the scandal. The German Bishops’ Conference said it had no information on that.
Related story:
Pope ‘understands why Catholics are leaving Church’.” Times of London. September 22, 2011.


Grassroots Women Urge Rights-Based Development Path.” By Kanya D’Almeida. Interpress Service ( September 25, 2011. The streets around the headquarters of the world’s leading financial institutions – the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund – have been transformed into a canvas over the last three days. Emblazoned with this year’s signature slogan of the Bretton Woods Institutions, “Think Equal”, the sidewalks in DC are now home to the campaign of the world’s biggest bank that has, for the first time this year, placed the issue of gender at the centre of the development debate. “We’ve just released a World Development Report on gender that proves that ‘getting to equal’ for women is not just the right thing to do. It’s also smart economics,” World Bank Group president Robert Zoellick told a press conference here Thursday. “Women are the next big emerging market – how can the world reach its full growth potential if it fails to advance the prospects, energies, and contributions of half the world’s population – women and girls?” he asked. “Nearly four million girls and women in developing countries ‘go missing’ each year,” Zoellick stressed. “That’s like losing a Los Angeles, a Johannesburg, a Yokohama.” But while the WDR has been applauded for its efforts, many experts in the field, particularly those who have toiled in the grassroots against the impacts of neoliberal development, have concluded that the report offers much too little, much too late. For instance, “Why does the Bank only encourage us to ‘think equal’? Why not call for us to ‘act equal’ as well?” Bunker Roy, founder of Barefoot College, asked the Bank’s gender and development director Jeni Klugmen at a round-table discussion on Wednesday.


Farmowner held for ‘misusing’ Kalam’s name to promote his NGO.” No by-line. Times of India. September 19, 2011. An emu farm owner has been arrested for reportedly misusing former President A P J Abdul Kalam’s name and photograph to promote an NGO run by him. Police, acting on a complaint from R K Prasad, Personal Secretary to the former President, went to the farm owner’s house at nearby Perundurai on Sunday and arrested him. Cases have been registered against him under various sections of the IPC, including those relating to cheating and creating fake documents, police said. The farm owner was later produced before a Judicial Magistrate, who remanded him to 15 days judicial custody. Police said the man met the former President in Delhi some days back and got a photograph clicked with him. He had later informed the media that Kalam on August 14 inaugurated a Trust run by the farm, working on water conservation systems. However the Erode District Collector and Superintendent of Police received a written complaint from Prasad denying that Kalam had inaugurated such a facility. Meanwhile, the farm owner’s counsel B B Mohan said his client had already apologized to Kalam, expressing regret and claimed that the photograph and report had been published in papers without his client’s knowledge.

Deemed university scam gets bigger.” By Akshaya Mukul. Times of India. September 21, 2011. The deemed university scam of UPA-I has resurfaced again putting the HRD ministry in a quandary and forcing it to tell CBI that it should investigate the entire gamut of the case relating to the deemed status of institutions run by the Maharishi Markandeshwar Educational Trust in Haryana. CBI sources said, “We would now investigate the role of HRD officials, including a former education secretary.” The agency has already called senior ministry officials to understand the process of grant of deemed university status. Last month, CBI, while investigating the case of deemed university status under de novo (emerging areas of learning) to MM Engineering College run by the Maharishi Markandeshwar Education Trust, told HRD ministry that there was a need to investigate the role of former UGC chairperson Sukhdeo Thorat. It had sought the ministry’s approval for the probe. A senior CBI official said, “HRD ministry after sitting on CBI’s request for long has now asked it to investigate the entire sequence of events starting from the application of MMET for deemed university status under the de novo category just a month after the rejection of its earlier application right up to the notification of 10 institutions under MMET as deemed varsities.” According to CBI sources, HRD minister Kapil Sibal was not convinced with CBI’s “averment” on the involvement of Thorat. Sibal is believed to have told CBI that “reputations are hard earned” and, therefore, there was a need to “tread carefully”.


Patrick Butler’s cuts blog: Social enterprise: The NHS ‘big society’ gets a reality check; David Cameron gave staff-owned Central Surrey Health a ‘Big Society’ award. But its first attempt to win business in the NHS market has failed, triggering fears for future employee ‘spin-outs’.” By Patrick Butler. Guardian. September 19, 2011. Less than a year ago, the cabinet office minister Frances Maude visited Central Surrey Health (CSH), a path well-trodden by politicians anxious to see for themselves how social enterprise “spin outs” would transform the NHS. CSH, which provides community health services in the well-heeled areas in and around Epsom, Leatherhead and Dorking, was the first employee-owned NHS spin out, created back in 2006. It rapidly became an official flag bearer for social enterprise in health, a status eagerly endorsed by Maude, who declared it to be, inevitably, the “big society in action”: “The Coalition Government’s vision for a Big Society is about taking power away from bureaucrats and supporting people on the ground to get on with the job. There are thousands of front-line public sector staff who can see how to do things better. I think this can become a real mass movement that will result in better services at less cost. We all know there’s less money to go round these days but staff at Central Surrey Health show that more can be done for less.” The NHS big society vision has now received something of a reality check. It has emerged that Central Surrey’s first attempt at winning a competitively-tendered NHS contract has resulted in failure. The “preferred bidder” chosen for a five year, £500m contract for community services in south west and north west Surrey is a private company majority-owned by Virgin Healthcare, Assure Medical. All the heavyweight political support for spin outs – here’s a picture of the CSH founders receiving the first ever “Big Society Award” from the prime minister David Cameron – seemingly counts for nothing. You may say that is as it should be: it is quality that counts, not patronage. CHS, it seems, has indeed delivered substantial improvements in quality and efficiency, at least according to the Cabinet Office. But it is difficult to know far quality counted on this occasion, as opposed to price, and financial muscle.

Duchess to select favourite charities with royal approval ‘worth £1m a year’; Clarence House said there was no deadline for organisations that would like the Duchess to be involved Chris Jackson.” By Jack Malvern. Times of London. September 23, 2011. The Duchess of Cambridge is to spend the next three months choosing which good causes she is going to support, Clarence House announced yesterday. The decision will have a profound effect, with chosen causes potentially able to increase their revenues by up to £1 million, according to an independent expert on the charitable sector. Joe Saxton, former chairman of the Institute of Fundraising, said that the Duchess’s name as patron of a charity would make only a small difference, but her active involvement could be transformative. “Being at events, going to see what an organisation does, could be worth more than £1 million a year. I would be surprised if she would ask for money directly, but videos of her getting involved or talking to people would bring enormous publicity.” Clarence House declined to say how many charities were being considered, but said that there was no deadline for organisations that would like her to be involved. “The Duchess of Cambridge is using the next few months to get to know a number of charitable causes and institutions related to national life better, so she can make well-informed decisions about her future role,” a spokesman said. “She plans to meet a wide range of people and to make some private visits. This programme has only recently begun, and consists as much of meetings at St James’s Palace and private research as it does of visiting sites on the ground. There is no firm end date to this process so the Duchess will only make announcements about future patronages or formal links with charities and organisations when the time is right.”

Hopes of aid worker live on with parents, a year after her death.” By Lindsay McIntosh. Times of London. September 24, 2011. Pinned to the wall of John and Lorna Norgrove’s study is one of the last pictures of their daughter, Linda. Taken at her younger sister’s wedding in Scotland, it shows her beaming at the camera. Below, in a drawer, are documents of a very different kind. They are American military papers, setting out in grim detail the circumstances in which Dr Norgrove was killed in Afghanistan, just a few months later, during a failed attempt to rescue her from kidnappers. An aerial map of farm buildings on a sparse hillside is printed with dots to show the position of each participant in the operation. A red mark indicates the exploded grenade, thrown by a US Navy seal, which fatally wounded her. The room where they are kept — once used by Dr Norgrove’s father for his work as an engineering consultant — is now the headquarters of the Linda Norgrove Foundation. It was set up by Mr and Mrs Norgrove a fortnight after the death of their daughter last year to continue the spirit of the work she had been involved in, helping women and children in Afghanistan. That spirit has been translated into a course of action that is underpinned by a remarkable philosophy. Mr Norgrove, 61, describes it as “the opposite of blame” — an alternative to seeking a scapegoat or compensation, which might have been the conventional response, and instead attempting to build something positive. “We felt that our continuing what Linda was doing would transform a very negative experience for us,” he told The Times. “I think that was not only good for charity and people in Afghanistan I think it was also good for us at the time. Signalling their commitment to the foundation, they put in their savings as well as their daughter’s, amounting to £100,000, which was match-funded by the Scottish Government and added to by her employers, the aid agency DAI. The foundation has also raised about £127,000 through fundraising. They have spent something in the region of £30,000, but hope soon to be dispersing between £100,00 to £150,000 annually.

Atheist college to get Catholic neighbour; AC Grayling’s controversial New College of the Humanities will be joined by a private Catholic university college a short walk away.” By Jack Grimston. Sunday Times. September 25, 2011. The private university college set up by AC Grayling, the atheist philosopher, is facing a Christian challenger on its doorstep. A private Catholic university college, the first in Britain, is due to open just a short walk away from Grayling’s controversial New College of the Humanities. Both are modelling their degree courses partly on American liberal arts colleges, while also offering one-to-one tutorials, with serving academics at leading universities contributing many of the lectures. The founders of the new college, to be called Benedictus, have drawn many of their ideas from Cardinal John Henry Newman, the 19th-century Anglican convert and author of The Idea of a University who is being considered for sainthood by the Vatican. The college will “be faithful to the teachings of the Catholic church”, while open to all. It is based partly on Thomas Aquinas College, a Catholic liberal arts institution in California attended by Franz Forrester, a co-founder of Benedictus. Clare Hornsby, a Catholic writer who teaches at the Royal Academy of Music and who is masterminding the project, is soon to launch a campaign to find donors to back the project and will look for a site near the British Library. She says the college will “develop and enrich the cultural and educational life of our country” and “respond to Pope Benedict XVI’s call for a new evangelisation”. Grayling, its probable neighbour, has begun a speaking tour of schools to promote his £18,000-a-year college which opens next year and this month offered its first places. The college, whose professors include well known atheists such as Richard Dawkins and Steve Jones, has proved highly controversial, with critics deriding its founders as “money-grubbing dons”.