Archive for January, 2012

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (January 23-30, 2012)

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

ADVOCACY & POLITICS

Two Ways to Play the ‘Alinsky’ Card.” By Elizabeth Williamson. Wall Street Journal. January 23, 2012. Newt Gingrich has repeatedly labeled President Barack Obama a “Saul Alinsky radical.” He raised Mr. Alinsky’s name in his victory speech Saturday night after winning the South Carolina primary. On Sunday morning, Mr. Gingrich asserted on NBC that Mr. Obama draws his political vision “from Saul Alinsky, radical left-wingers and people who don’t like the classical America.” Which likely raised a question for many Americans: Who is Saul Alinsky and why is he being invoked to argue there are fundamental flaws in Mr. Obama’s leadership?

So Who’s a Lobbyist?” Editorial. New York Times. January 26, 2012. (For story, go to Law & Public Policy).

Small Worcester group plays large role in online protest.” By Michael B. Farrell. Boston Globe. January 27, 2012. Fight for the Future, a small grassroots organization based in Worcester, became a leading figure in last week’s fight against two congressional bills meant to combat online piracy. The group played a key roll in coordinating a broad coalition of Internet companies in an online protest against the legislation, which had strong bipartisan support and the backing of media trade groups. It succeeded in delaying a vote on the measures and causing key cosponsors in Congress to drop their support.

Southern Baptist leader queasy over Newt’s casino haul.” By Jeremy Redmon. Atlanta Journal-Constitution. January 27, 2012. Gingrich should distance himself from casino gambling, said Richard Land, president of the Nashville-based Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the public policy arm of the nation’s second largest religious denomination. The SBC has more than 16 million members, according to denomination websites, more than 1.3 million of them in Georgia. A spokesman for Gingrich said the former Georgia congressman doesn’t gamble and would leave the issue for the states to decide if elected president. Several other Christian conservatives said that while they don’t support gambling, they don’t fault Gingrich, because he doesn’t control the pro-Gingrich Super PAC that received the contributions. Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire chairman and CEO of Nevada-based Las Vegas Sands Corp. –- which owns the Venetian and Palazzo casino resorts –- and his wife, Miriam, each contributed $5 million to the Winning Our Future Super PAC this month, according to news reports. “When you are so prohibitively in debt to one particular lobbying group, that is a great concern,” Land said. “And it will be a great concern to many Southern Baptists because we believe gambling is a scourge. It is the fastest growing addiction in the country. And we certainly don’t want a president who is going to promote it.” The Adelsons declined to comment through a spokesman.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (January 23-30, 2012)

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

ANIMAL WELFARE

Coop D’Etat: Farmers, Humane Society Partner On Chicken-Cage Revolution.” By Dan Charles. All Things Considered/National Public Radio. January 26, 2012. The Humane Society of the United States, a voice of outrage against all heartless exploitation of animals, is joining hands with the United Egg Producers, which represents an industry that keeps 200 million chickens in cages. This unprecedented partnership is asking Congress to pass a law (just introduced this ) that’s supposed to improve the lives of egg-laying hens. If passed, it would be the first federal law that takes into account the emotional lives of farm animals. Specifically, it would force egg producers to build new, roomier housing for hundreds of millions of birds. Ninety percent of America’s eggs are laid by chickens that live in long rows of metal wire cages. Each cage holds about eight hens, and they’re packed in pretty tightly. Each hen has, on average, 67 square inches — less than the area of a standard sheet of paper. But ever since cages became standard in the egg industry some 50 years ago, many people have been horrified by them. Despite their outrage, though, advocates of animal welfare weren’t able to do much against the cages. For egg producers, the cages made economic sense. They made egg production possible on an unprecedented scale, delivering cheap eggs to consumers. But over the past few years, the situation has changed dramatically. The shift started in Europe. In 1999, the European Commission approved a directive that orders egg producers to give their chickens almost twice as much room. The directive finally took effect this year, on New Year’s Day. Major food retailers, especially in northern Europe, have gone further, and now sell only eggs from cage-free operations, where hens run around loose in barns. Here in the U.S., California took the lead. In 2008, voters there overwhelmingly approved a proposition that the Humane Society of the U.S. drafted. “What Prop. 2 says is that laying hens must be able to stand up, lie down, turn around and fully extend their limbs. That’s it,” says Shapiro. The law takes effect in 2015. Does this mean that chickens have to be cage-free? Does it just mean bigger cages? How big is big enough? Regulators in California have provided no answers.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (January 23-30, 2012)

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

ARTS & CULTURE

Ailey Company Director Ends 16-Year Tenure.” By Pia Catton. Wall Street Journal. January 26, 2012. The executive director of the Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation will step down in 2013, ending a 16-year run in which she oversaw significant growth, the organization said Wednesday, Since taking the reins in 1995, Sharon Gersten Luckman racked up a list of accomplishments that have made the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater one of the city’s most solid, well-managed modern-dance companies. Under her leadership, the endowment grew from zero to more than $50 million. In 2005, its permanent home, the Joan Weill Center for Dance, opened on Manhattan’s West Side as a result of a capital campaign that raised $75 million. The annual budget grew from $9 million to $30 million. “We are in a stable position. We’re not rich, but we’re stable,” Ms. Luckman said in an interview. Among the reasons for that success was the development of the company’s highly engaged board of trustees. “It was very gradual, but it was also deliberate,” she said. “We made a concerted and disciplined effort to look for people who really cared about us. There are a lot of great fans of Ailey, but we tried to think it through and build a diverse board.” Ms. Luckman’s departure is part of long-range plan that she developed before overseeing the company’s search and transition to its new artistic director, Robert Battle. Newt Gingrich has repeatedly labeled President Barack Obama a “Saul Alinsky radical.” He raised Mr. Alinsky’s name in his victory speech Saturday night after winning the South Carolina primary. On Sunday morning, Mr. Gingrich asserted on NBC that Mr. Obama draws his political vision “from Saul Alinsky, radical left-wingers and people who don’t like the classical America.” Which likely raised a question for many Americans: Who is Saul Alinsky and why is he being invoked to argue there are fundamental flaws in Mr. Obama’s leadership?

Bronx Zoo’s latest catch is its new CEO; The Wildlife Conservation Society, which runs four city zoos and the aquarium, tapped Cristian Samper as its new president and chief executive.” By Miriam Kreinin. Crain’s New York Business. January 23, 2012. The Wildlife Conservation Society announced Monday that it has hired Cristian Samper, director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, as its new president and CEO. He will begin his job on Aug. 1. Mr. Samper, an international authority on conservation biology and environmental policy, will replace Steven Sanderson, who is retiring at the end of July, after running the Wildlife Conservation Society since 2001. In his current post, Mr. Samper—who was born in Costa Rica and raised in Colombia—runs the largest natural history collection in the world and a museum that receives more than seven million visitors a year. During his nine-year tenure there he raised more than $150 million for new exhibitions, established a fellowship program and built new collections and laboratories. “Cristian’s strong background in conservation biology, sound management, and fundraising make him a perfect fit to lead WCS well into the future,” said Ward Woods, chairman of the Wildlife Conservation Society, in a statement. Museum and science experts said Mr. Samper had a good reputation in his field and is credited with turning the Smithsonian around after it went through a period of upheaval. But they said the job heading the Wildlife Conservation Society is very different than what Mr. Samper, 46, has done in the past. The Wildlife Conservation Society—which runs four city zoos and the aquarium—does not enjoy the cushion of funding from the United States government that the Smithsonian has.“It’s a much bigger task in terms of fundraising,” Mr. Friedman said. During Mr. Sanderson’s tenure, he expanded the Wildlife Conservation Society’s global conservataion programs into more than 65 countries; completed a $650 million capital campaign; and achieved 10 years of balanced budgets.

ICA effort raises $25m as museum looks to future.” By Geoff Edgers. Boston Globe. January 24, 2012. The Institute of Contemporary Art, just five years after opening its first permanent home, is flexing its newfound financial muscle. The ICA has raised $25 million toward a $50 million campaign, the bulk of which will dramatically boost its endowment. That’s key to stabilizing the museum’s future. The ICA has an endowment of just $9.9 million, a figure dwarfed by endowments at several other local museums. With a bigger endowment, the ICA will depend less on hard-to-predict attendance and the generosity of donors.

Seaport Museum Sets Sail, Again.” By Robin Pogrebin. New York Times. January 25, 2012. When the South Street Seaport Museum reopens on Thursday, after nearly a year of being closed, its new leaders will have tried to address some of the problems that had left it in peril. Visitors will find two floors of expanded gallery space, cleaned, updated and re-envisioned by a new team of experts. Perhaps more important, the museum has an interim plan to pay bills as it works to attract more visitors. Before the renovation, the Seaport Museum had spent a decade in arrears to the city’s Economic Development Corporation for rent and utilities, forcing board members to make personal loans to pay expenses. Trustees had resigned from the board; half the staff members had been furloughed; and exhibitions had been suspended. But in September the Museum of the City of New York came to the rescue with help from a $2 million grant from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. Since then the new leaders have pulled out all the stops to get the seaport institution in shape for visitors, at a cost of less than $500,000. Still uncertain is whether the City museum is prepared to carry the Seaport Museum long term — its grant provides for an 18-month period of evaluation — and how much help the city will provide going forward. “We are continuing our discussions with the museum with the goal of cementing a long-term agreement,” said Seth Pinsky, the president of the Economic Development Corporation. “We’re not there yet.” Annexing the Seaport Museum is expected to add $5 million to the Museum of the City’s $16 million annual operating budget, an amount the museum hopes to raise from earned and contributed income. The Seaport Museum staff now numbers 16 — half of whom are occupied with its waterfront — but will increase after the opening because of additional guards and other employees.

With $25 Million Gift, Signature Theater Has a New Name.” By Larry Rohter. New York Times. January 26, 2012. The Signature Theater is only going to unveil and move into its new home on 42nd Street next week, but it has already received one unusually generous housewarming gift: on Thursday the Pershing Square Foundation announced that it is donating $25 million to Signature, much of it to be used in a 20-year initiative to keep ticket prices affordable. “This is a game-changer for us, something hugely important to our long-term sustainability,” said James Houghton, Signature’s founding artistic director. “We’ve made this dynamic new center, the first theater arts complex of this size in decades, but this ticket initiative is critical in that it provides access for everyone.” Signature’s first production in its new location will be Athol Fugard’s “Blood Knot,” which opens Jan. 31 and runs through March 11, with all tickets priced at $25. Mr. Houghton said that thanks to the Pershing Square donation, he has been able to pledge that all tickets for all productions for the next 10 years will remain at that same price, with a further promise that ticket prices will remain at “accessible” levels for at least an additional 10 years.
Related story:
Signature Theatre gets $25M for new complex; The theater, set to open next week, will be renamed The Pershing Square Signature Center after Bill Ackman’s hedge fund.” Crain’s New York Business. January 26, 2012.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (January 23-30, 2012)

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

CORPORATE GIVING & SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

CORPORATE GIVING & SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

Goldman Sachs slashes charitable giving; The investment bank cut funding to Goldman Sachs Gives by more than three-quarters last year as its own profits suffered.” By Miriam Kreinin Souccar. Crain’s New York Business. January 23, 2012. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. cut its charitable contributions to its donor-advised fund by more than three-quarters to $78 million last year, amid a drop in profits. The smaller donation to Goldman Sachs Gives represents the second reduction in three years. The fund is solely supported by the bank and its partners. In 2010, $320 million was allocated for the charitable fund, down from $500 million in 2009. A spokesman for the bank said there was no formula for how much was put into the charitable fund each year, and he added that it was reasonable to assume the amount would go up during years with better performance. He declined to comment further. On Wednesday, Goldman announced that it reduced its compensation and benefits expenses by 21% to $12.2 billion in 2011 as revenue slid by 26%. The impact of the cuts to Goldman’s charitable fund may not be felt by nonprofits for some time, since money is pooled over many years. In 2010, more than $200 million was disbursed to a number of nonprofits, the spokesman said. A favorite cause of the fund is the Harlem Children’s Zone, which received $20 million in 2010 to help construct a new building for the Promise Academy Charter School in New York. The gift is the largest investment ever from Goldman Sachs Gives. Executives at the nonprofit did not return calls for comment. When times were brighter for the bank, philanthropic giving by Goldman Sachs through its foundation and its partners jumped 353% in 2010, to a whopping $315 million. That mostly came from the donations made by the donor-advised fund and the Goldman Sachs foundation. In 2008 and 2009, the investment bank put $600 million into the foundation for its two major programs—10,000 Women and 10,000 Small Businesses—to help entrepreneurs in developing economies and in the United States and Britain.”

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (January 23-30, 2012)

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

EDUCATION

FOR-PROFIT SCHOOLS & COLLEGES

For-profit colleges under attack for treatment of veterans; Government agencies scrutinize companies for saddling students with significant debt and inadequate degrees.” By Gregory Karp. Chicago Tribune. January 23, 2012. For-profit colleges are coming under attack again, this time for allegedly preying on military veterans. Sen. Dick Durbin, D.-Ill., is scheduled to hold a forum on the issue in Chicago Monday and plans to introduce legislation later in the day that would eliminate the financial incentive for-profit colleges have to recruit veterans aggressively into pricey programs. It would also require schools to get more of their revenue from sources other than the federal government’s educational aid programs. Criticism of for-profit schools has heated up in recent weeks. Last week, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan sued Westwood College, claiming for-profit colleges mislead students enrolled in its criminal justice program, putting them deep in debt and saddling them with a nearly worthless degree for pursuing careers in Illinois law enforcement. Earlier this month, shareholders sued Career Education Corp., a large for-profit college operator based in Schaumburg, claiming company officials misled investors about job placement rates for graduates, which led to a scandal and contributed to a lower stock price. For-profit colleges are being scrutinized by Congress, the U.S. Department of the Justice Department for saddling students with crushing debt and questionable degrees that don’t lead to jobs in their fields of study. Much of their revenue comes from federal grants and loans. Military veterans are being aggressively recruited, critics claim, because of their lucrative forms of federal aid, such as GI Bill funds and Department of Defense tuition assistance benefits. That aid doesn’t count toward the 90-10 rule, which bars for-profit colleges and universities from deriving more than 90 percent of their revenue from the Department of Education’s federal student aid programs. The purpose of the rule is to ensure that for-profit schools, many of which are publicly held corporations, are not using taxpayer money as their sole source of revenue.
Related story:
Senate Legislation Targets Aggressive Recruiting Of Veterans By For-Profit Colleges.” Huffington Post. January 24, 2012.

Opposing view: Private-sector schools train U.S. workforce.” By Arthur Keiser. USA Today. January 26, 2012. About a year ago, Steve Jobs told President Obama that the United States technology sector was in desperate need of skilled engineers. His solution: keep up with the demand by utilizing vocational schools to train more Americans. Otherwise, he said, the United States will continue to outsource hundreds of thousands of jobs to China at a time when millions of Americans are still out of work. Vocational colleges, also known as private-sector colleges and universities, emphasize a career-focused education in a way that prepares their students to compete in a 21st century global economy. They ready their students to fill the talent void Steve Jobs was talking about, and they do it in a way that takes into account the needs of the thousands of students who attend these schools every year. A far cry from the one-size-fits-all approach of many public or non-profit higher education institutions, private sector schools offer flexible class scheduling, accelerated program completion plans and online courses — valuable tools in helping students, most being non-traditional, balance school, work, family and other responsibilities. Private-sector colleges and universities have also played a critical role in educating health care professionals, one of the few job sectors that saw strong employment statistics during the recession and beyond. These schools educated nearly 40,000 nurses at the last official count in 2009-10. And with the steady influx of retiring Baby Boomers in need of health care services, these schools are producing the next generation of health care professionals ready to tend to the growing population of new retirees. At a time when a post-secondary credential has become requisite for landing a job, private-sector colleges and universities are helping students gain the skills-based expertise that so many employers are seeking. More than ever, employers want to spend less time training new hires because resources are so scarce, making graduates of career-oriented schools so marketable. And while millions of students continue to attend standard liberal arts colleges, a new generation of non-traditional students such as working adults, parents, military veterans and others are taking Steve Jobs’ advice to heart by choosing to earn degrees at private-sector colleges and universities, and obtaining the skills and training they need to compete successfully.

For-profit colleges are no answer to high tuition.” Editorial. USA Today. January 25, 2012. Out on the campaign trail, Mitt Romney is recommending for-profit colleges as an answer to rising tuition. At least once he has lauded a particular institution, Florida-based Full Sail University, which is run by a major campaign donor. A closer look at the record of for-profit universities suggests that Romney needs to go back to school on the issue. The industry is plagued by institutions with low graduation rates and high loan default rates. As for costs, the average student at a for-profit college spends $30,900 per year for tuition and living expenses, according to the Education Department. That’s almost twice the $15,600 that students at public colleges spend, and considerably more than the $26,600 that students at private, non-profit colleges spend. How can the answer to expensive public and private education be another category that costs even more? The reason for-profit colleges won’t hold down higher education costs is similar to the reason that health care costs keep soaring, even though the medical industry is dominated by for-profit hospitals, for-profit drug companies, for-profit medical practices and for-profit insurance companies. In both education and health care, many customers are largely spending others people’s money, negating the usual effects of competition. A pharmaceutical company, for example, can sell a lot more of a drug, and charge much higher prices for it, if the cost to the customer is a small fraction of the total cost. Similarly, a doctor has a much easier time selling a patient on an expensive procedure if the patient only has a modest deductible or co-pay. Something comparable is at work in for-profit education, where more than 75% of colleges’ revenue comes in the form of federal grants and loans and the number of students is rising rapidly. In 2008, for instance, nearly 1.8 million students eligible for federal aid were enrolled at for-profit schools, a 225% increase in just 10 years.

HIGHER EDUCATION

Stanford Takes Online Schooling To The Next Academic Level.” By Steve Henn. All Things Considered/National Public Radio. January 23, 2012. Last year, Stanford University computer science professor Sebastian Thrun — also known as the fellow who helped build Google’s self-driving car — got together with a small group of Stanford colleagues and they impulsively decided to open their classes to the world. They would allow anyone, anywhere to attend online, take quizzes, ask questions and even get grades for free. They made the announcement with almost no fanfare by sending out a single email to a professional group. “Within hours, we had 5,000 students signed up,” Thrun says. “That was on a Saturday morning. On Sunday night, we had 10,000 students. And Monday morning, Stanford — who we didn’t really inform — learned about this and we had a number of meetings.” You can only imagine what those meetings must have been like, with professors telling the school they wanted to teach free, graded online classes for which students could receive a certificate of completion. And, oh by the way, tens of thousands have already signed up to participate. For decades, technology has promised to remake education — and it may finally be about to deliver.

Class to donate $100K.” By Antonia Woodford. Yale Daily News. January 25, 2012. Students who applied to the Yale College seminar “Philanthropy in Action” were in for a surprise when they saw the course’s syllabus: members of the class would have the opportunity to distribute $100,000 to charities of their choosing. The course is the recipient of a grant from the Once Upon a Time Foundation, which gave between $50,000 and $100,000 to similar courses at eight universities this academic year, said Sam Lett, the foundation’s president. By allowing students to donate such large sums of money, Lett said the foundation hopes to motivate them to engage thoughtfully in philanthropy. He added that he would like to expand the initiative to additional schools in the future. “What is unique about this is that it’s not just a theoretical course in philanthropy,” Dean of Undergraduate Education Joseph Gordon said. “The students are actually performing philanthropy.” Maxim Thorne ’89 LAW ’92, who is teaching the seminar at Yale, said the course will first ground students in the history, political theory and economics of philanthropy, and then ask them to apply the metrics they learn for evaluating which charities to support. The class will also bring in prominent philanthropists throughout the spring. Students will interview the guests on camera through the Yale Media Center, and the interviews will be posted to Youtube and iTunes, Thorne said. Thorne had proposed teaching a college seminar on philanthropy before the Once Upon a Time Foundation independently approached Yale about providing money for students to donate. Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs George Levesque, who oversees the college seminar program, said the foundation’s grant opened up a “really interesting pedagogical opportunity” that would not otherwise have been possible. He added that the program intentionally did not advertise the $100,000 grant for the course so that only students “genuinely interested” would apply. Student demand for the course was high regardless: Thorne said he received 185 applications and more than 80 students emailed him or attended the seminar’s first meeting.

No student freedom at NUS.” By Walker Vincoli. Yale Daily News. January 26, 2012. My first impression of the country was a threat. No, not the customs form that reads, “Warning: death for drug traffickers under Singapore law.” Within two hours of landing, a security guard threatened me with arrest. My crime? Standing outside the airport subway terminal at 3 a.m., reading the schedule. When responding to concerns about academic freedom at the soon to be launched Yale-NUS College in March 2011, Yale University President Richard Levin made a measured endorsement, citing the “due diligence” Yale conducted and the “widespread sense that faculty in Singapore” enjoy academic freedom. I could ask how academic freedom exists for professors when, in two semesters as a political science student at the National University of Singapore, I have been taught by only one tenured professor. I could ask how professors have the freedom to judge their students’ work when they must instead follow departmental curves. However, having completed my second semester in Singapore through a joint program between the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and NUS, I will raise a different question. What freedom do students enjoy? It would be easy to challenge the residence halls’ blue laws, the continued prohibition on male homosexual acts under Singaporean penal code section 377A, the illegality of public protest and the casual jokes about fines and caning. It would be easy to ask whether the Yale Daily News will be forced to make the required $200,000 foreign publication security deposit and designate a local representative to be sued. It would be easy, but none of this was as troubling as my classroom experience. Yale’s apparent focus on the faculty and not the student overlooks the academic culture at NUS. Students change arguments, button their lips and absorb opinions from on high. Singapore is not a free country and NUS is not a free university.

At Yale, the Collapse of a Rhodes Scholar Candidacy.” By Richard Perez-Pena. New York Times. January 26, 2012. On Nov. 13, Patrick J. Witt, Yale University’s star quarterback, announced that he had withdrawn his Rhodes scholarship application and would instead play against Harvard six days later, at the very time of the required Rhodes interview. His apparent choice of team fealty over individual honor capped weeks of admiring national attention on this accomplished student and his quandary. But Witt was no longer a contender for the Rhodes, a rare honor reserved for those who excel in academics, activities and character. Several days earlier, according to people involved on both sides of the process, the Rhodes Trust had learned through unofficial channels that a fellow student had accused Witt of sexual assault. The Rhodes Trust informed Yale and Witt that his candidacy was suspended unless the university decided to re-endorse it. Witt’s accuser has not gone to the police, nor filed what Yale considers a formal complaint. The New York Times has not spoken with her and does not know her name. Witt, who is 22, is no longer enrolled at Yale. He completed his class work last semester, is working on his senior essay and has been training in California in preparation for a possible N.F.L. career, according to the Yale athletics Web site. Witt did not respond to messages left over several days on his cellphone, his Yale e-mail and his Facebook page. The revelations about Witt’s Rhodes candidacy being compromised are just the latest to muddy the inspiring picture of a scholar-athlete torn between brain and brawn. Days after Witt’s withdrawal, The Times reported that Yale’s coach, Tom Williams, had invented parts of his résumé, including a supposed Rhodes candidacy that he had dropped two decades earlier in favor of a chance at a professional football career — an experience that he said gave him a unique ability to advise Witt on his tough choice. Williams resigned in December.
Related story:
Witt ’12 accused of sexual assault, Times reports; Former quarterback Patrick Witt ’12 gained national media attention in November as he prepared to play in the Harvard-Yale Game.” Yale Daily News. January 26, 2012

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (January 23-30, 2012)

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

ENVIRONMENT & CONSERVATION

Small non-profit works to reduce massive sewage spills into San Francisco Bay.” By Paul Rogers. San Jose Mercury-News. January 23, 2012. Every year, winter rains like the recent storms that have soaked the Bay Area help fill reservoirs and perk up lawns. But they also carry an ugly downside, causing aging sewage systems to back up, overflow and malfunction, endangering human health and polluting San Francisco Bay. Last year, a staggering 17.5 million gallons of raw or partially treated sewage spilled in the nine Bay Area counties — enough to fill 26 Olympic-size swimming pools — and 95 percent of it flowed to the bay, lakes or streams. But with little fanfare, a small nonprofit group is steadily turning the tide. Over the past five years, San Francisco Baykeeper, with a staff of eight people, has filed 10 lawsuits under the Clean Water Act, seeking to force dramatic reductions in sewage spills. The group has won every one, securing settlements that are forcing 20 cities from the East Bay to Silicon Valley to invest tens of millions of dollars replacing miles of cracked pipes, boosting inspections and cleaning up their operations. “We have the worst polluters on a path to success,” said Deb Self, executive director of the San Francisco-based group. “It’s a quality-of-life issue. There shouldn’t be areas where there is sewage in the streets and playgrounds and flowing into the bay. These are not conditions we should have in this country.” The group took advantage of a 2006 law passed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that requires every public agency running a sewer system in California to file monthly reports showing how many spills their systems suffered and how much was spilled. The reports are tallied up in a database and posted on the Internet. Baykeeper began ranking the roughly 100 cities in the Bay Area by their rate of spills. It hired lawyers and began suing them under the Clean Water Act, one of the nation’s most powerful environmental laws — and one that gives regular citizens, rather than just government agencies, the authority to sue polluters.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (January 23-30, 2012)

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

GIVING

Gifts to Charity Far Above Average.” By John D. McKinnon. Wall Street Journal. January 25, 2012. Mitt Romney’s tax returns show he pays a relatively low tax rate and gives a relatively high percentage of his income to charity. President Barack Obama pays a far higher tax rate, but gives less. The numbers will be fuel for a debate over how much wealthier Americans should contribute in taxes. Conservatives argue taxpayers should be allowed to keep more of their money, which they in turn can distribute as they see fit. Liberals see the government as a more effective guarantor of the social safety net, and would prefer wealthier Americans bear the burden of supporting it. The experiences of the president and the man vying to face him provide fodder for both sides. Mr. Romney’s tax-return data showed that he and his wife, Ann, gave about $2.9 million to charity in 2010, and more than $4 million in 2011. That worked out to 13.8% of total income in 2010 and more than 19% in 2011. Those are the only years of returns Mr. Romney’s campaign made available. Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, gave about 13.6% of their income to charity in 2010, the latest year available. That was up from 5.8% in 2009. The Obamas gave between 4.6% and 6.2% of their income to charity between 2005 and 2008. Between 2000 and 2004, before the president rose to national prominence, the Obamas gave between 0.4 and 1.4%. The Obamas have typically paid a significantly higher tax rate than the Romneys: 25.2% in 2010 and 31.8% in 2009. That compares with the Romneys’ rate of about 14% for 2010 and just over 15% for 2011. Combining total federal income tax and charitable giving puts the two men on a close-to-equal footing. The Romneys paid 27.6% of their income to the government or to charity in 2010 and 34.6% in 2011. The Obamas paid 31.8% in 2009 and 38.8% in 2010.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (January 23-30, 2012)

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

HEALTH CARE

New think tank wants government to see gold in health technology.” By Olga Khazan. Washington Post. January 24, 2012. A new think tank launched in the District Monday with the goal of reducing the cost of health care through research and entrepreneurship. The West Health Policy Center is the latest project of Gary and Mary West, the two billionaire philanthropists behind the West Wireless Health Institute and the West Health Investment Fund, a pair of California-based organizations that develop and fund health technology products. The new center will conduct research on better reimbursement models, improved price transparency and “smart technology” — a field that includes mobile health monitors and other innovations. The center’s chairman, Don Casey, said one of the organization’s goals is to spur health insurers’ eventual embrace of mobile health technology as a money-saver. If they were used on a large scale, Casey said mobile health devices could manage chronic diseases by monitoring vital signs remotely and feeding the results electronically to doctors’ offices. Proponents argue it would be a cheaper and more effective alternative to pricey office visits that are triggered by “acute events,” like heart attacks or infections. “We will be churning out primary research that we look forward to bringing to policymakers,” Casey said. “We want to change the paradigm to a system that combines mobile health into a bundled payment for insurers. That would give us far better outcomes at a dramatically lower cost.”

With gift, Broad Institute to open ‘Cell Observatory’.” By Mary Carmichael. Boston Globe. January 27, 2012. Scientists are launching an ambitious effort to diagram how the human genome controls cells by tracing the chemical pathways it uses to send instructions zinging through them like balls in a pinball machine. The Broad Institute, a biomedical research juggernaut in Cambridge that is affiliated with Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, announced today a $32.5 million gift from the Klarman Family Foundation to open a “Cell Observatory.” The center will allow researchers from Boston and around the world to investigate the molecular contents – not just the genes, but also the many chemicals that interact with them – of different human cell types, using large-scale techniques available only in advanced labs.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (January 23-30, 2012)

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

INTERNATIONAL

AUSTRALIA

Tremendous privilege, says a champion of engineering.” By Carolyn Webb. Sydney Morning Herald. January 27, 2012. The new Young Australian of the Year says the non-profit program she founded to introduce girls to engineering has been picked up by four US colleges. Melbourne University engineering undergraduate Marita Cheng said that from next month, branches of Robogals will open at Caltech and Stanford universities in California, Columbia University, in New York, and the University of Arizona. Robogals will also expand Australia-wide the rural program that visited 1300 girls at 31 schools last year in Victoria. Ms Cheng, whose ambition is to be head of a robotics company, said it was a ”tremendous privilege” to be named Young Australian of the Year. She formed Robogals in 2008 when one of her Melbourne University professors, Jamie Evans, spoke of the lack of women studying engineering. From the first visit by Ms Cheng and three classmates to Lauriston Girls’ School, in Armadale, using Lego to teach robotics, Robogals now have 17 chapters in six countries, including the Netherlands and Britainx

BRAZIL

Community Radio Flourishes Online.” By Fabíola Ortiz. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). January 27, 2012. Community radio stations in Brazil are finding the internet and user-friendly information technologies to be valuable allies for their broadcasts, which focus on citizenship, social equity and human rights. Community web-radios are making great strides in this Latin American country where procedures for obtaining a federal government license to use a radio waveband are becoming ever lengthier and more bogged down in red tape, which blocks the emergence of new not-for-profit broadcasters. At present there are around 4,500 legal community radio stations in Brazil, and an estimated further 10,000 operating without a government license. Many unlicensed community broadcasters, having applied to the Communications Ministry for a concession which awaits approval, are forced to operate underground without authorisation. The license application process tends to drag on for between three and 10 years, and there have been cases of delays of up to 17 years, according to the Centro de Imprensa, Assessoria e Rádio (CRIAR, Centre for Press and Radio), which aims to democratise communications in Brazil and support social movements and organisations by providing training, advice and research for community radio production. “The Brazilian community radio movement is very strong, and has been going for some 20 years now. There is a serious shortage of technical know-how and of training on how to address human rights issues,” João Paulo Malerba, the executive coordinator for Brazil of the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC), told IPS.

DEVELOPMENT

At Davos, a Big Issue Is the Have-Lots vs. the Have-Nots.” By Eric Pfanner. New York Times. January 24, 2012. A year ago at the World Economic Forum here, Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, lashed out at what he saw as unfair criticism of the world’s financial wizards. “I just think this constant refrain, ‘bankers, bankers, bankers’ — it’s just a really unproductive and unfair way of treating people,” he said. “People should just stop doing that.” After several years of financial crisis, during which the word banker had become a catchall epithet for the undeserving rich, the global economy appeared to be on the mend. Perhaps the bankers, and the other millionaires and billionaires, could wear their pinstripes with pride again and get back to business as usual. Yet even as Mr. Dimon was speaking, a new wave of anger was welling up, one that, over the last year, would shake up old assumptions about the ultrarich, the middle class and the growing gulf that separates them. Today, the gap between the haves and the have-nots is no longer just a rallying cry to incite anticapitalist advocates. It has become a mainstream issue, debated openly in arenas where the primacy of laissez-faire capitalism used to be taken for granted and where talk of inequality used to be derided as class warfare.
Related story:
Davos 2012: Capitalism debate sets WEF agenda; World Economic Forum logo This year’s World Economic Forum in Davos takes place amid a gloomy economy.” BBC News. January 25, 2012.

Bill Gates pushes ‘green revolution’ for small farms in developing world.” By Howard Schneider. Washington Post. January 25, 2012. After years that have seen riots over rice shortages in Asia and record low world reserves of staple crops such as wheat, software-billionaire-turned-philanthropist Bill Gates argues that there is a simple solution. In a new push for the Gates Foundation, the Microsoft chairman is focusing on basic research on crops such as cassava that hold little interest for the world’s agriculture multinationals but which are important for family farmers in some developing nations. With productivity gains leveling off for major crops, such as soybeans and corn, Gates — in an annual review of the foundation’s work — said that boosting the productivity of small farms may be key to a new “green revolution.” “The speed and productivity increases should rival that period,” he said in a recent interview, referring to the decades since the 1960s when the development of high-yielding hybrid crops, better pest and land management, and other advances led to plentiful supplies and falling prices of food staples. That era may be at an end, some food analysts said. Rising demand, slowing technological advances and limits on the availability of arable land may usher in an era of higher and more volatile prices, they said. The effect has been episodic. After rising to record levels in 2010, for example, food prices have moderated and are expected by the World Bank to fall this year. But the result can still be devastating to poor countries. This has led banks, government aid agencies and nongovernmental organizations to focus on finding ways to make poorer nations more self-sufficient in food production and less dependent on the ups and downs of world grain markets and weather patterns. Unlike the time-consuming methods once needed to create hybrid crops, Gates said, DNA sequencing should accelerate scientists’ ability to, for example, identify the genes that make cassava resistant to viruses. Gates and others have urged the world’s major economic powers to commit more money to the type of basic research needed to fund the breakthrough science that would expand production of crops such as cassava, sorghum and millet — second-tier plants that farmers in Africa in particular turn to when other, typically imported food becomes too expensive.

EDUCATION

Law School Deans from Around the World Discuss Globalizing Law Education.” By Juliet R. Bailin. Harvard Crimson. January 28, 2012. Deans representing law schools in China, Brazil, Canada, and France gathered at Harvard Law School on Friday to discuss the pressures facing law schools to reform curricula in response to globalization. The deans also focused on how the changing relationship between common and civil law will figure into the future of legal education. According to Christophe Jamin, Dean of the Sciences Po Law School in France, there have been no official changes in the way law is taught in France. But certain trends have emerged in legal education—more students than ever before are pursuing double degrees at multiple European law schools and within their own university. “The members of the bar seem to be very happy with the way we teach law in France,” Jamin said. “The pressure comes from in-house counsels [of corporations]. Globalization is very important for them…They want students to be able to speak with someone in China in the morning and with South Africa in the evening.” A number of the deans said that they are concentrating on integrating common and civil law education—two areas of law that are historically distinct but are currently being reevaluated as law schools attempt to bring their curricula into the 21st century. A number of audience members asked the panel why one should go to law school when one can practice law in France or China without having taken the Bar exam or receiving a law degree. Dean of Harvard Law School Martha L. Minow said that some states allow people to take the bar exam without a legal education, and that other states are exploring the possibility. “It’s an interesting question,” she said. Law schools in America control “a certain kind of access to an elite profession.” In the last several years HLS has implemented a series of reforms to its curriculum for the first time in 150 years, emphasizing problem-solving, experiential learning, and practicing law in global contexts.

HEALTH

A Rotary engine; Can a businessmen’s club eradicate polio from the world?” No by-line. The Economist. January 21, 2012. It is a year since the last case of polio was diagnosed in India. That is not enough to pronounce the country polio-free—three clear years are the conventional period required for that to happen. But it is a good start. And if India really is clear, then what was once a global scourge will now be endemic to a mere three countries: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. The number of people infected, meanwhile, has dropped from 350,000 in 1988 to 650 last year. All this is in large part thanks to the efforts of Rotary International. In 1985, after a successful pilot study in the Philippines, this businessmen’s club cum global charity announced a plan to eradicate polio by vaccinating every child under five at risk of catching it. The estimate then was that it would cost $120m. Some $800m of Rotary money later (plus a lot from other sources), the virus is still out there, but its remaining hidey-holes tell their own story: where civil disorder is rife, medicine is hard. On January 17th Rotary announced it had raised yet another $200m. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will contribute a further $405m, and the pressure will thus be kept up. John Germ, one of Rotary’s trustees, thinks that if all goes well 2016 might be the first year when no new cases are reported. That would, though, mean spending more than $1 billion a year between now and then. The inspiration for Rotary’s campaign against polio came from the eradication of smallpox. Like polio, smallpox was a viral disease for which effective, easily administered vaccines existed. And crucially, like polio, smallpox had only one animal host: Homo sapiens. In principle, then, extermination should be possible. The practice, however, has turned out rather different.

Gates Urges Support for Global Health Programs.” By Gautam Naik. Wall Street Journal. January 25, 2012. Bill Gates, the world’s second-richest man, wants more money. The co-founder and former chief of Microsoft Corp., who has recast himself as a philanthropist, doesn’t want the money for himself. Instead, as the world economic crisis drags into a fifth year and increasingly takes on the pallor of a chronic condition, Mr. Gates frets that some debt-straddled governments will reduce their financial support for health programs in developing countries. “I don’t see us getting the same type of [aid] increases that we had from 2000 to 2010—that’s just not realistic,” said Mr. Gates in an interview here on Monday. “The question is now whether we can sustain modest increases so that people, for example, who need AIDS drugs, are able to receive them.” Bill Gates tells WSJ’s Gautam Naik about the progress his foundation has made in fighting dangerous diseases in the developing world and argues that economic slowdown is no excuse for governments to reduce their commitment towards global health. On Wednesday, Mr. Gates will be at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, where he plans to exhort wealthy donors—especially governments—to keep funding a range of crucial projects in the developing world, from tuberculosis drugs and antimalaria bed nets to maternal care and vaccines. His plans to make his case by showcasing ideas, backed by his foundation, that have helped cost-effectively tackle problems in global health. These are tough times for global health aid. The boom years ran from 2002 to 2008, when double-digit increases in total spending were recorded each year, according to research done at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle, Wash. Although the economic crisis hit in 2007, it didn’t have an immediate impact; total funding for global health rose 17% from 2007 to 2008, for example. However, the level of annual increase fell to 4% from 2009 to 2011, according to preliminary estimates done by the institute and recently published in the journal Health Affairs.
Related story:
Gates injects $750M in troubled Global Fund.” USA Today. January 27, 2012.

Director Quits After Changes at Global Fund.” By Donald G. McNeil, Jr. New York Times. January 24, 2012. The executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria resigned Tuesday, culminating two months of struggle over the future direction of the fund. Dr. Michel Kazatchkine, a French AIDS specialist who helped set up the fund 10 years ago and had overseen it for the last five years, said he was leaving because the fund’s board announced in November that it would appoint a general manager to oversee day-to-day operations and a new transition plan. That effectively reduced Dr. Kazatchkine’s role to that of chief fund-raiser and public advocate. “He felt there wasn’t room at the top for two people and the best thing he should do is step aside,” a fund spokesman, Jon Lidén, said. On Tuesday, the board named as general manager a retired bank executive, Gabriel Jaramillo. A Brazilian citizen educated in California, Mr. Jaramillo was on a panel that recently looked at the fund’s auditing controls, found them flawed and proposed a reorganization plan. He said his goals would be “to achieve maximum efficiency, accountability and concrete results that save lives.” The fund has had a hard time raising money in the last two years because of the global recession and corruption scandals. Although only a fraction of the fund’s grants appeared to have been stolen and the thefts were uncovered by its own inspector general, they took place in several countries. Some countries threatened to stop contributing unless reforms were made. In late 2010, after saying it needed a minimum of $13 billion, the fund was able to raise only $11.7 billion. In November, it said it would continue existing grants but make no new ones. In his annual letter to the world, drafted before Dr. Kazatchkine resigned and released on Tuesday evening, Bill Gates, founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, noted the fund’s troubles. “Given the places where the Global Fund works,” he said, “it was not surprising that some of the money was diverted for corrupt purposes.”

Only Civil Society Can Save Rio+20, Say Activists.” By Mario Osava. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). January 25, 2012. A repeat of the failure of recent conferences to negotiate an international climate change pact seems inevitable, said Cândido Grzybowski, the director general of the Brazilian Institute of Social and Economic Analysis (IBASE) and one of the founders of the World Social Forum, the largest global civil society gathering. Grzybowski based his pessimistic outlook on a number of factors. Chief among them is the economic/financial crisis in the wealthy nations, combined with the fact that this a year of elections in many of them, including France and the United States, moving international commitments to the bottom of their leaders’ agendas. He also blamed what he calls the limited convening power of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, particularly when it comes to environmental issues. Only strong pressure from civil society as a “unified voice” at parallel events to Rio+20 can potentially force clearer commitments out of the world’s governments to tackle global imbalances, beginning with “financial hegemony”, Grzybowski told Tierramérica. The Thematic Social Forum taking place Jan. 24-29 in the southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre will bring together representatives of social movements and organisations from around the world to prepare for their participation in the UN summit to be held Jun. 20-22 in Rio de Janeiro. The meeting in Porto Alegre is one of the many local forums or gatherings addressing a specific theme that are linked to the World Social Forum (WSF) and take place in even-numbered years. The WSF itself is now held every two years. However, according to Eduardo Viola, a professor at the University of Brasilia who studies the consequences of climate change on international relations, the WSF movement has lost strength and will be unable to attract the numbers needed for a march that could make Rio+20 more than a “mega-meeting” devoted exclusively to declarations and have a “major impact on Brazil” in terms of environmental awareness. Bringing together “a million demonstrators on the streets” is a “rather unlikely but not impossible” feat that could revive the impact of the original 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, which first brought environmental issues to the attention of the Brazilian public in a major way, Viola commented to Tierramérica.

INDIA

Decentralise power, Anna Hazare says at R-Day function.” No by-line. Times of India. January 26, 2012. Spelling out that his next phase of agitation would be to achieve “power for the people”, veteran social activist Anna Hazare today said time had come for the masses to enjoy the fruits of democracy. “Today power is concentrated in Mantralaya (secretariat)in Mumbai or in Delhi. There is a need for decentralisation of power,” Hazare said after unfurling the tricolour at the Republic Day celebrations in his village here in western Maharashtra. “Anna has indicated that so far the fight was for a strong Lokpal. That would continue. However, today he spoke about broadening the movement and making it a campaign to achieve decentralisation of power,” the Gandhian’s aide Datta Awari told PTI. The meaning of the word Republic is “power to the people.” However, that is not the case today, Hazare said.

BJP manifesto: Committed to building temple in Ayodhya.” No by-line. Times of India. January 27, 2012. Promising sops for every section of society in its manifesto for Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls, BJP today opposed 4.5 per cent reservation to minorities from the 27 per cent quota of backward classes even as it said it was committed to the construction of a Ram Temple at Ayodhya. The manifesto was released by senior leaders, including Uma Bharati, Surya Pratap Shahi, Kalraj Mishra, Mukhtar Abas Naqvi, Narendra Singh Tomar and Suddhendra Kulkarni at the party office here. On questions regarding a Ram temple at Ayodhya, state president Shahi said that the party was of the opinion that Hinduism was the life substance of the country, but due to vote bank politics it was being attacked by parties, including Congress, SP, BSP and the Left. “Construction of a grand temple is associated with the faith of crores of people of the country. Ram is the symbol of prestige, pride and dignity of the country. Unfortunately due to psuedo secularism and vote bank politics it is being opposed. BJP is committed to remove all hurdles in the path of construction of Ram temple,” he said.

UK

Bishops lead revolt over plan to cap benefits.” By Roland Watson and Jill Sherman. Times of London. January 24 2012. Liberal Democrat rebels helped bishops to tear up one of the Government’s key welfare reforms yesterday in a fresh threat to coalition unity. Peers, backed by Labour, inflicted a significant defeat over the proposed cap for household benefits, voting 252- 237 to exclude child benefit from the £26,000-a-year cap on benefits. Ministers, who saw off a separate Labour challenge to the cap in the House of Lords, said that the amendment undermined the Government’s efforts to make work pay more than a life on benefits. They vowed to reverse the setback, costing £130 million a year, when the Welfare Reform Bill returns to the Commons. The defeat came on a day when various parts of the Government’s public sector reform programme came under fire and backing for the coalition among voters was shown to be dipping. Yesterday’s defeat was the fifth for the Bill at the hands of peers in the past few weeks. It was the first time that Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, the former Lib Dem leader, has voted against the coalition, joining 25 other Lib Dem rebels. Ministers said that 310,000 people in 67,000 households would lose an average of £83 a week under the proposals.David Cameron said that the cap would “call time on these excessive welfare payments”. The NAO said that the £60 million work programme, which pays companies and charities to get the unemployed into work, risked “serious financial difficulty” because ministers have been over-optimistic about the numbers who will find jobs.
Related stories:
Peers reject universal £26,000 cap on benefits; Ashdown leads Liberal Democrat revolt over Coalition’s proposals for welfare reform.” Independent. January 24, 2012.
Lords reject plan for welfare cap to include child benefit; Cross-party alliance including Lord Ashdown votes to defeat government by 252 votes to 237.” Guardian. January 23, 2012.

Live Q&A: Fundraising – measuring your ROI, Wednesday 1 February.” By David Mills. Guardian. January 24, 2012. Join our experts, from 1pm to 3pm, to discuss how you can measure your return on investment for fundraising In tough economic times, every department in a charity must be able to justify its spending – and fundraising is no exception. Put simply, fundraisers are being asked to raise more and more money, for lower and lower net costs. To be able to make informed decisions about which fundraising methods to use, charities need to measure their return on investment (ROI). In this live Q&A, we’ll explore how charity leaders and fundraising directors can measure the ROI for their charity’s fundraising functions – and how they can use the information to ensure that they’re adopting the most efficient and effective methods to raise money and meet their targets. In the live Q&A, we’ll look at: • Simple ways to measure ROI; • Using ROI information to determine priorities; • Where to get advice and support. You can leave your questions in the comments section below, or come back to join the discussion live from 1pm to 3pm on Wednesday 1 February. If would like to join our experts on the panel, email Kate Hodge.

Government wrong to deny crisis in social care funding, say charities; Minister’s claims that there is no cash deficit are wide of the mark when it comes to giving support to those who need it.” By Tracy McVeigh. Guardian. January 21, 2012. A coalition of 33 leading British charities have attacked the government’s failure to fix the social care system which they said is in “deep crisis”. In a letter published in the Observer today, they objected to the comments made by care minister Paul Burstow, who told the health committee last week that there is “no gap” in social care funding. Charities including the British Red Cross, Mencap, Scope, Macmillian, Age UK, Marie Curie Cancer Care, the RNIB and the Centre for Policy on Ageing, said thousands of people were being “let down” by the care system, just as demand for care is on the rise. They called for urgent reform along the lines of the government-commissioned Dilnot report, which was widely welcomed but the recommendations from which have not been picked up by the government. Michelle Mitchell, charity director of Age UK, said: “When Paul Burstow says that there is no funding gap this deliberately fails to acknowledge that additional money from central government and the Department of Health is considerably outweighed by the government’s 28% cuts to councils’ main grant. We know by what is happening every day on the ground that older people are not getting the care they desperately need. “The government has to be realistic about what it needs to do to create a decent system of care and playing the blame game isn’t going to help. “The care system needs urgent reform and extra money to create a fair and sustainable support system.”

Live Q&A: Is the future of green energy in the UK community-owned?” Thursday 2 February from 1pm to 3pm.” Guardian. January 25, 2012. A quiet revolution has started, as local communities the length and breadth of the UK come together to establish and run their own renewable energy co-operatives. Over 30 new energy co-operatives have been registered in the past four years, generating not only power but the sense of local responsibility, ownership and shared vision that can strengthen and empower communities. Relative to the UK’s current energy needs, the output of community- owned renewables schemes is presently a drop in the ocean. But c 25, such as Germany have shown that with political will and a supportive enabling environment community scale schemes can make a meaningful and lasting contribution to the low carbon transition. Our Q&A will consider: • How community-owned renewables are good for the community, investors, the environment and the co-operative economy; • The contribution that small scale renewables projects can make to the UK’s overall green energy output; • Whether community-ownership can increase public awareness and local acceptance of renewable energy projects; • The enabling environment how public policy could be doing more; • How to get a community renewables scheme of the ground – what support is out there? Bringing together experts from the corporate, co-operative and academic sectors, in their roles as funders, renewable energy producers and advocates, our panel will provide a wealth of insight on the benefits of community-owned renewables, the role it has to play in the UK’s green energy solution and the hurdles to the sector’s growth.

VATICAN

Corruption Scandal Rocks Vatican, Whistle Blower Archbishop Vigano Was; Transferred Against His Will.” By Philip Pullella. Huffington Post. January 26, 2012. The Vatican was shaken by a corruption scandal Thursday after an Italian television investigation said a former top official had been transferred against his will after complaining about irregularities in awarding contracts. The show “The Untouchables” on the respected private television network La 7 Wednesday night showed what it said were several letters that Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who was then deputy-governor of Vatican City, sent to superiors, including Pope Benedict, in 2011 about the corruption. The Vatican issued a statement Thursday criticizing the “methods” used in the journalistic investigation. But it confirmed that the letters were authentic by expressing “sadness over the publication of reserved documents.” As deputy governor of the Vatican City for two years from 2009 to 2011, Vigano was the number two official in a department responsible for maintaining the tiny city-state’s gardens, buildings, streets, museums and other infrastructure. Vigano, currently the Vatican’s ambassador in Washington, said in the letters that when he took the job in 2009 he discovered a web of corruption, nepotism and cronyism linked to the awarding of contracts to outside companies at inflated prices. In one letter, Vigano tells the pope of a smear campaign against him (Vigano) by other Vatican officials who wanted him transferred because they were upset that he had taken drastic steps to save the Vatican money by cleaning up its procedures.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (January 23-30, 2012)

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

LABOR UNIONS

Indiana Moves Closer To Right-to-Work Law.” By Jack Nicas. Wall Street Journal. January 25, 2012. The leader of the Indiana House Democrats, Rep. Patrick Bauer, conceded Tuesday that his party faces dwindling options to block passage of what would be the nation’s first right-to-work law in a decade, meaning the legislation is likely to be adopted eventually. The House Democrats sat out for at least the eighth day in three weeks on Tuesday, a day after the House Republicans voted down Democrats’ amendment for a statewide referendum on the bill. The proposed legislation would ban contracts that require all employees to pay union dues, whether or not they are union members. Supporters say a right-to-work law would lure businesses to Indiana. Opponents say it would weaken unions, leading to lower wages and worse working conditions.
Related story:
Indiana Right-to-Work Bill Advances.” Wall Street Journal. January 26, 2012.