“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
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.